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Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee

Julie's favorite books »


Be Here Now.

Last year I had a meltdown.  After spending the spring working myself into the ground, I fell apart.  It was a fast, frightening slide; it was a painful and messy time with plenty of crying in the bathtub. 

But, oh, the grace.  I had friends to love me well and co-workers to prop me up and a counselor to help me hear my own voice again.  And although I have zero desire to return to that place, I find myself so very grateful for all I gained as I slowly climbed out of that valley: minute by minute, step by step, day by day.  I came out of that time with more clarity and more wisdom.  I was able to root out bad thinking that had surreptitiously planted itself in my mental garden.  I re-learned how to tend myself, how to disentangle from the vines of my responsibilities, my tasks, my neatly checked off to-do lists.  I remembered my worth is more than what I do, even in my most cherished roles.     

So at the beginning of this year, I was wary of the dreaded New Year’s Resolution.  As a recovering achievement addict that metric always appeals to me, but I am more than what I accomplish.  I’m enough today.  And as Emily McDowell put it, “The Old You has survived every terrible day, every hard thing, every awful circumstance, and every heartbreak you’ve ever felt.  The Old You is a fighter.  And that’s worth celebrating.”  So I went into the new year with gratitude: goodbye, 2018.

But my little yogi heart still wanted a mantra, a focus point.  And so, this: Be Here Now.

Easy to remember, challenging to execute.  But I’ve held that thought close to my heart as I’ve learned what it is to be present.  In the messy, sad moments: be here now.  In the joy, in the beauty: be here now.  In the endings and beginnings and changes that are constantly flowing, a never-ending parade of creation and loss: be here now.   

So here are the three pieces of my new mantra, the foundations that make presence possible.   


What brings you joy?  This is my favorite question, gifted to me by my friend last year.  It’s natural to ask it now, but at the beginning it was challenging.  My mind couldn’t land: it was a cyclone of worry and fear and confusion.  When you’re feeling the weight of life, stillness can seem nearly impossible, which is precisely when it’s most necessary.  But you can start at the beginning: take good care of the basics, feel your feelings, eat some vegetables.  When your energy is sapped, you suddenly get very intentional about what you do because it’s all you can do.  But how lovely to get a glimpse of the essential, to see the house stripped down to the studs: the supports, the beams, the weight-bearing walls of our lives.  To identify what truly qualifies as necessary is a gift (and it’s so much less than I would’ve supposed).  Let the rest remain as rubble after the demolition – you didn’t need it anyway.     


Finding space for stillness: LOL.  We talk about work/life balance and about letting things slide: these are valuable conversations in a modern world that functions as a giant treadmill set at a sprinting pace.  But when you happen to be a person to whom practically everything feels important, this feels nebulous and slippery.  So you may figure it’s better to just keep doing everything and run yourself into the ground, making sure that everyone’s needs are met but forgetting your own.  This is, at its core, where I found myself last spring.  It wasn’t intentional martyrdom.  It was my infinite expectations refusing to reconcile against my finite time and energy.  I figured I would rest when I was finished with everything. 

Spoiler alert: everything will never be finished.  Being adequate means I’ve done enough for the day, I am enough for the day.  It’s an active question to stop my little overachieving brain: is this adequate?  (The answer is usually yes.)  The most important part of my life is to be me, the me who’s seen and loved and known and was created for a purpose.  The me who understands how to rest in a world that screams PRODUCTIVITY IS KING.  Be adequate, then do something that brings you joy.     


I don’t go back and read my old posts (as evidenced by my discovery of another piece called Be Here Now from 2016, but whatever, lessons are hard to learn).  I wrote one nearly two years ago titled Nobody Move.  I described the feeling of consonance in a perfectly composed photograph: please don’t move.  Let me capture this moment, this emotion, this sublime, heart-rending joy.  And that thought is valid.  What’s not productive is the fear that can whisper, “What if this is the end of this joy, this wonder?”  Intrusive thoughts are a real thing and they’re filthy, lying thieves. 

But as I’ve learned to see them for what they are, they’ve lost their power.  Everything changes, and thank God it does.  Every season has its darkness and light: even last year had plenty of dark comedy moments.  I do wish life weren’t so terribly fragile, like a delicate blown-glass ball swirling with prisms of color.  It’s so unprotected.  I’d like to put it in a custom padded storage case.  But if it’s not exposed, with the sunlight to illuminate its spectrum, without the rain to polish its radiance, the wonder of it all will cease.  Its beauty only exists if it’s exposed, and exposure brings risk. 

Be Here Now.  Out of all the pictures we took last year, the one above is one of my favorites, taken while waiting for the light to change on a rainy day in Paris.  What’s precious isn’t the memory: it’s the life inside the picture, inside the thousands and thousands of pictures of our lives over the last twenty years.  What if every deep, pure moment – the lovely, the awful, the transcendent – didn’t pass, but instead was added?  What if I didn’t need to fear losing those moments or letting them slip by, but instead I trusted that they would embed themselves in my heart, growing me into the woman I’m meant to become, a woman with a strong back and an expansive, wild heart?  

If nothing is wasted, then I’m free to be here now.  All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well, said St. Julian of Norwich. 

So Be Here Now.