The other day, I found myself watching the movie “Julie & Julia” and in it, the narrator (Julie) is inspired to start writing a blog because of her great admiration and respect for the famous chef, author and television personality, Julia Child.
So much of this movie resonated with me… both women found themselves “stuck” in their lives and simply made a bold and courageous decision to do something about it. They each chose something they were passionate about and challenged themselves to pursue a finite goal. They ran into various obstacles and resistance and yet they found a way to press on and, in doing so, also discovered new and amazing opportunities which they would never have dreamed were possible. Each of them had the support of a loving and committed marriage which allowed them to get through tough times and disappointments and yet remain focused on what mattered most.
Part of why I share this is because I guess I’ve been thinking of going back to writing for some time now but, truthfully, I was waiting to hear if God wanted that, too. I’ll get into that later on, but first I want to expand a bit more on why the movie inspired me so much.
So… yeah… the blogging part. It was very interesting to me that the narrator gave herself a finite goal. She didn’t just sit down one day (like I did) and start writing without having any idea, from week to week, what topic she would be writing about. Instead, she chose to write for exactly one year… 365 days… about her experience preparing all 524 of Julia Child’s recipes from her book “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”.
I found that amazing.
I mean… it’s so simple and you have a built-in guideline for every post! I’m intrigued by that idea but I’m not sure if/how I may apply it to my blog. Perhaps I’ll have more clarity by the end of this post. In the meantime, I’m just happy to be back at it 🙂
The other thing that I loved was how truly passionate both women were… especially Julia. I had no idea how instrumental she was in revolutionizing the way American women cooked in the early 50’s. She grew up with a cook who served her family and she did not learn how to cook herself until she met her husband. Once married, she found herself in Paris when her husband was stationed there for work. She had no job and nothing to do and she had fallen in love with French cuisine so she decided to learn how to cook it as a way to pass the time. Against all odds, she managed to be accepted and to graduate from the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school (one of the few women of her time to have that honour) and, through serendipity, went on to become the great inspiration she was to so many. She reached people through her passion and she changed lives.
Without knowing the details, one would think this was a well-choreographed pathway to success and yet her career as a chef, cookbook author and TV show host was not something she grew up wanting and looking forward to. Rather, it was a gift she discovered she had which simply grew out of following her passion for food. As she described it to the New York Times, her first meal at Rouen in Paris was “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me”.
And I guess that’s a huge part of why I really connect to this story… because, for Julia, her love of food was a spiritual experience and she was “all in”, no matter where it took her. It wasn’t for selfish reasons or about fame or money or power. She invested in her passion 100% and allowed herself to be led but it. In time, it became her “calling” and she ultimately found her unique purpose, changing the lives of American housewives in the 50’s and for half a century more. This would never have happened if she wasn’t prepared to risk something, challenge her beliefs about what was and wasn’t possible and let herself be guided.
Which brings me back to God.
For most of my life, I believed that it was up to me to Do, Be or Have what I wanted. A”choreographed pathway”, if you will, with Yours Truly as the choreographer.
I spent a lot of time imagining what all these things might be and even more time figuring out how I could control the outcomes. I had gone through a lot of hard stuff growing up … poverty, abuse, trauma, disappointment, poor judgment and failure… and I had done a lot of work on myself in an effort to heal my wounds and correct my mistakes.
My wounds, however, still managed to follow me well into my 50’s.
Not so long ago, when I was an avid follower of New Age philosophy I believed (and taught) that everyone deserves to be happy and to have whatever their heart desires. Like me, pretty much everyone I knew and had counseled felt ripped off, “not enough” or broken in some way. We all coped with it differently and it showed up in our lives in various ways… some through addictions, others through unhealthy relationships and others still were simply in denial. Many of us were able to rationalize our choices and behaviours to avoid feeling shame or taking responsibility for them. In an effort to “bypass” the painful work of being honest with ourselves and moving outside of our familiar comfort zone, we often created pseudo-healthy lifestyles to make it seem that we had a model lifestyle.
What we all had in common was that we were (consciously or unconsciously) still fixated on trying to heal our wounds from childhood and to find a way to meet the needs which could not be met growing up. For many of us who were on a healing journey, we didn’t want to dig too deep or stay in the “hole” for too long. We felt we had been through enough and we just wanted to be happy. We had spent SO much time being hard on ourselves… we felt responsible, overwhelmed, ashamed, judged, disconnected and unloveable. We just wanted to feel better and we didn’t believe we should have to (or simply didn’t want to) sacrifice anything in return.
Enter: New Age Spirituality.
How refreshing it was, especially for those who had grown up struggling against the dogma associated with organized religion. We loved it when we were told that “Life is supposed to be fun” and that we could make up our own rules for happiness. What a relief to be taught that a meaningful and happy life was as easy as meditation, vision boards, energy crystals, horoscopes, psychics or daily affirmations. How wonderful that there was an emerging community of like-minded people out there who were focused on nature, abundance, and health!
And there was merch! SO MUCH MERCH! From Buddhas to jewelry, from divination cards to T-shirts… and retreats! Let’s not forget the retreats! (Believe me, I know. I did it all)
So, what’s my point?
Well, for starters, I’m not, in any way, passing judgment on anyone who has found these things to be helpful. I have spent almost half my life dedicating myself to the pursuit of healing and well-being and a very large part of my motivation is to help others by teaching them what I have learned. As it happens, the road I’ve traveled has had many twists and turns and I’ve loved things, been passionate about things and believed in things which later turned out to be unhelpful, unhealthy, wrong or even put me at risk, in some way.
Because of this, one of the things I have learned about myself is that, sometimes, in order to really know if something is right for you or not, you have to go “all in”.
Some things you just can’t learn from a user’s manual or from someone else’s experience.
Some things require RISK.
Some things you just have to DO. COMPLETELY. And with PURPOSE.
And that is why I was inspired by “Julie & Julia”. Both women are an ideal example of this.
Not everyone would consider themselves on a “spiritual journey” (like me) and even fewer would say that they believe (like I do) that God is behind everything. Even so, I think most people would be able to relate to the themes in this film and I believe we all benefit from regular, honest, self-evaluation.
For some (including me) this feels risky… and even scary… but unless you’re prepared to fully immerse yourself and invest 100% in something, you will never have a complete 360-degree perspective of whether or not it’s right for you.
And I tend to jump in with both feet with everything I do.
In a recent interaction with God, he actually said to me:
“My child, you are one who is blessed with an appetite for challenging situations.”
That made me laugh.
Choosing to be “All In” doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made the right choice or that it requires a permanent commitment but it does allow you to get as much first-hand experience as possible, which is always the most valuable.
And that’s the way it is for me with Spirituality.
Even when I was growing up and I “belonged” to no specific faith, I knew God. Nobody taught me about Him. Nobody influenced me in one way, or another and I knew next to nothing “about” Him. I just “knew” Him… like an operating system that works silently in the background: You may not be able to understand why or how it works and you rarely think about it even being there but, still, you can see the evidence of it in your everyday life. Similarly, you are free to make choices but each choice/click/update has consequences and outcomes. So, too with God. His set point is Love and that never changes but our choices trigger consequences… and while God always forgives us, He would be a negligent Father if He didn’t let us suffer the consequences in order to learn.
[By the way… “consequences” is not a bad word. We spend so much time trying to avoid negative consequences but they can be the greatest blessings of all… because they correct us… if we’re wise enough to learn from them.]
So, getting back on track…
Looking back, I realize that my “set point” was always with God. Whether I talked to Him or not, He was in the background and the God I know now is the same God I’ve always known. Even when I was a “New Ager”, I used the term “Universe” but I knew in my heart I was referring to my God and only used that term because it was trendier and I felt it would alienate fewer people. (Let’s be honest… as we all strive to adapt to the ever-changing politically correct guidelines in our society, referring to God as anything more than an exclamation or euphemism isn’t really widely practiced anymore).
For years, I was convinced I was benefitting from these New Age practices. I did notice certain improvements in some areas but I see now that I was mostly keeping myself busy by creating a newer, cooler, trendier “identity” rather than creating lasting change in my life.
Through my training as a Psychotherapist, I did learn the value of identifying my unhealthy patterns and my tendency toward codependency within my relationships (which is all valuable information) but in spite of my efforts and assuming that, as a therapist, “I should know better”, I still felt unsatisfied and incomplete. I managed to cope pretty well, most of the time (with the help of my New Age distractions) but when I was vulnerable, for whatever reason… stress… illness… triggers… grief… upheaval… I still found myself hitting the bottom, yet again, and went right back to my core wounds and old patterns as if I had done no work on myself at all.
During these times I remember weeping and writhing in bed, crying out to God to please help me get past this. I was so sick of finding myself back in that place, over and over again. I was tired of hearing myself complain about the same 3 fundamental issues… relationships, finances and body image for my ENTIRE LIFE. No matter how well I was coping on a mental or practical level (when things seemed okay) or how well I hid it when they weren’t, those things were never even close to being resolved for me, emotionally.
And this brings me back to the importance of being “all in”.
I was “all in” as a New Ager… so much so that I was an authority and mentor. I learned a lot and I passed along what I learned.
I was so far into it that I didn’t even realize it wasn’t working.
It wasn’t until one of my sons was on his own Spiritual Journey that my beliefs were challenged.
He had gone through a few rough years so I was happy he was looking for something greater than himself. I did my best to teach him what I knew, hoping that he would embrace the same things that I believed. I soon discovered, however, there was a fundamental difference between his motivation and mine. He wasn’t on his journey because he wanted to “fix” something like I and so many others like me had been. He was on his journey to find the Truth.
HUMONGOUS DIFFERENCE (Just sayin’…)
So, one day, a couple of years into his journey we were having one of our many, intense philosophical discussions. He had learned an incredible amount during this time and invested every waking moment in his pursuit of Truth. Quite honestly, had he been in University, doing the kind of skilled research he has done (and continues to do), and how he comprehends it and is now able to express it, he would have a PhD by now… no joke.
Anyway, I was still hoping he would eventually land where I wanted him to land… in comfortable “New Age Wonderland” with me.
On this day, however, he asked me a question which changed my life.
“Mom, all I’m suggesting is that you ask yourself why you believe what you believe.”
And, being who I am, I said (to myself):
“Ok, I’m up for that challenge.”
Little did I know what would unravel after I pulled that thread…
Suffice it to say that, from that moment on, all my beliefs were put into question. I knew that, in order to really learn the Truth and have an answer to this question, I’d have to go “all in”. In my commitment to meet my child’s question with integrity, I had to challenge myself to be as honest and transparent with myself as possible…. and I was not proud of what I came to realize.
The painful truth was that my choice to identify as a card-carrying “New Ager” was more about the fact that it was convenient, trendy and fringy than it was about true faith or real transformation. It didn’t require any real work or meaningful sacrifice of any kind and it was a very, VERY good distraction.
So, from that moment on, I knew I had to hold myself to a new standard and begin to ask myself deeper questions about what was True. And, to be clear, I’m not talking about MY truth. I’m talking about THE Truth which (I now believe) is with God.
It has led me to a much narrower path which requires greater sacrifice, a stripping down of my identification with my “self” and less focus on past wounds and material things which I once thought were important. I have learned that “Self-Love” is a very ambiguous (and misleading) philosophy and I am currently in the process of re-evaluating that, too. When I created the Self-Love Society around 2012/13, that term was barely used and now, only 5 years later, it is EVERYWHERE.
[I feel it is important to share my new perspective on this so I think my next post will be dedicated to clearing up any misconceptions about Self-Love, based on what I have learned through my own experience and what is supported by scripture. Because of my commitment to being “all in” regarding my Judeo-Christian faith, these are the only standards I currently use to determine what is True.]
Unlike New Age practices, this is really hard work and requires full commitment, discipline, and hard boundaries.
Faith is hard sometimes.
Like, REALLY hard.
And people often don’t get it, which can be even harder. (I’ll write more about that part of my journey in an upcoming post).
Sounds fun, eh?
Yet, strangely, it feels amazing… and SO purposeful.
But, hey… I’m a “grown-up” now.
I’m accountable for how I live my life, not just for my sake but because I want to be a living example to those around me. I can’t afford to be sloppy or self-indulgent anymore. It’s a waste of time and the cost is just too great.
And here’s the good news…
Remember those 3 fundamental issues… relationships, finances and body image? By the grace of God, I’m watching them be resolved in miraculous ways. Things I could not fix myself… thoughts and behaviors I could not control or things I used to feel such shame, pain and anguish about… are simply disappearing, one by one (literally) from one day to the next… and have never returned. I’ve done my part by making the mature choices I never had the courage (or was too lazy) to make and God has done the rest.
Finally, I feel whole for the first time in my life.
A perfectly, imperfect, loveable whole.
As you can imagine, there is MUCH more to this story (especially regarding the Truth about what New Age Spirituality actually is) so I’ll address that another day but I will come full circle and leave you with this:
I believe that God was and is behind everything. He was there for me, He was there for my son and I believe He was there for Julie & Julia. We can choose to live our lives the easy way, neglecting Him while He sits quietly in the background… loving us, forgiving us, wanting us to be closer to Him OR we can choose to be “all in” with Him and let Him show us what He’s really like. That’s not something anyone else can show you. You have to experience it for yourself., in your own way.
So, go ahead. conduct your own little experiment, like I did. Pull a thread and see what unravels…
I welcome your thoughtful comments and the sharing of your own experiences. I’ll do my best to answer your questions with full integrity.
May you always be a blessing…
TRACY B. RICHARDS
Tags: 365 Days. 1 Year, All In, Blog, Calling, Challenging Beliefs, Clarity, Commitment, Cooking, Courage, disappointment, Focus, Goals, God, happiness, Inspiration, Julia Child, Late Bloomer, Le Cordon Bleu, Marriage, Meryl Streep, movie, New Age, New York Times, Obstacles, Opportunities, Paris, Philosophy, Purpose, Resistance, Risk, Rouen, Serendipity, Soul, Spirit, Support, Women, writing