"Julie" is Dead
“Julie, The Cruise Director, is dead. She cannot attend the meeting.”
I scratched those words onto the pages of my journal and when I did, tears began to fall. ‘Tiny messengers of the soul,’ Emily Freeman calls them. My body and soul knew it was true and the pronouncement needed to be made. It was a good cry, the kind of grief you have when something is already gone and you finally acknowledge it.
When I say "Julie the Cruise Director is dead," I’m not talking about the actress Lauren Tewes from the late 70’s TV show, “The Love Boat, ” but rather her character which had become an icon for me over the years. Julie was a name I had given to myself in certain settings, the person that would fill the awkward vacuum and carry conversations when new people gathered, talking to diffuse nerves and make people feel comfortable - mainly me. My inner Julie would absorb the sharp comment at a family dinner table or make a joke to lower tension when someone else’s temper flared. Julie said yes to most everything anyone asked her to do. Julie worked to keep everyone happy, remaining calm and smiling even while the boat was sinking. I used to say this way of being was part of my personality, but it wasn’t. It’s a false self. A spiritual director tried to tell me that last summer but he hurt my feelings and ticked me off and invaded my psychic space and so I clung to Julie even more tightly for awhile, though she was already sick and dying.
I do have an outgoing personality. I gravitate toward the quiet guy against the wall (I married him). I’m intrigued by people; I enjoy them. But Julie went way beyond enjoying people. Julie’s job was to keep everybody entertained, occupied, and happy. When the show opened and the cast of characters was introduced, Julie’s smiling face appeared with the words, “Your Cruise Director.” Yours. She belonged to us, the passengers and the viewers, and our needs and wants were her job description. She was the manager of emotions on her small floating world. Pleasing people was her job.
That’s not a part of a personality; that’s an addiction and it will take you down. It might be what got me into trouble initially on January 6th. About fifteen minutes before I was attacked, while walking on the other side of the neighborhood, a man with a small boy in the car stopped across the street. He appeared to want to ask me for directions. But rather than just speak from his open car window, he attempted to step out of the car. My gut instinct didn’t like that, but my brain said, “Be nice. He has a child with him. He just wants directions.” Two cars passed between us, preventing him from stepping out of the car. A third car pulled between us on his third attempt to get out of the car. It was my neighbor, thankfully, who thought the situation looked odd enough to say, “I”m going to pull over and wait right here.”
The man started to introduce himself, then stopped, and only told me the name of the child whom he ordered back into the car when the boy tried to come around from the passenger’s side. He asked me for a street that I’d never heard of and all I could was tell him it was not anywhere in that neighborhood. I told him to go to the traffic light and take a left on the main thoroughfare. Beyond that I could not help him.
Once my neighbor saw him leave and I said I was fine, he went his way and I continued my walk. One mile later and fifteen minutes later, I was jumped from behind by a man that got out of the passenger’s side of a car. I’m not sure if the man circled the neighborhood and swapped the child for another accomplice or called someone staked out on the other side and told him to look for the short woman in the gold sweatshirt headed south, but I’ll never believe it was unrelated.
My body, my intuition, instinct, gut brain, (call it what you will) tried to warn me. My head said, “Be nice to him. Nobody commits a crime with a seven year old in the car. Don’t assume sinister things.” The police later told me, “Always listen to your gut. You don’t owe him nice.”
What happened that day is an extreme example, but that’s usually what it takes to get through to me. Not only did I not ‘owe nice’ when my God-created body was trying to tell me I was in danger; but desiring to please people, keep them happy, manage their emotions and manage their impression of me as a kind and gracious person - that is a destructive force that leads to living a lie. It’s an idol, actually, a fear-of-man, peace-at-all-cost god that demands allegiance.
True transformation comes when we meet each other authentically. The fragrance of Christ is released in our brokenness; that is how we truly connect. That sometimes means awkward silences, painful confessions, and hot tears. The meeting that Julie couldn’t attend this week was one of those. I needed to show up as myself, not sugar-coating as we are so prone to do in this part of the world. I needed to hear the truth and speak the truth. Julie would have said, “It’s OK,” even if it wasn’t or well before it got to OK. Julie wouldn’t risk offending that man that my gut said wanted more than directions. Julie wouldn’t carry pain or risk being misunderstood until the right time came to talk.
Julie wouldn’t let her life change because that might mean big hairy dogs lying on her dining room rug.
The first blog I wrote after I got Grizzly I mentioned a prayer I’d prayed one morning with him: “What truth is coming to liberate me embodied in this shiny coat and running on these giant paws?”
‘Be willing to let your life change.” I heard. That was the message coming to me as I looked into the brown eyes of my big black dog. I’m not sure what all that entails, but my false self “Julie” and my dog, Grizzly, didn’t get along. Maybe she was allergic to his authenticity. She’d been getting sicker and weaker since January 6th, basically on life-support.
Yesterday, I pulled the plug. I let her go.