Julie Guyot Studio

This Is Not Us

Julie Guyot
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My therapist likes to use T.V. shows and movies as therapeutic tools, using certain scenarios to compare them to what we’re talking about. They might include some family dynamic or friendship or social situation that can be used as a teaching tool. Since I was raised on television and movies, I totally love this about her. The only problem is that we do not have the same taste in movies or television shows. It usually goes something like this:

Her: Did you ever watch Star Trek?

Me: Nope. Did you ever watch Madmen?

Her: No.

Her: Did you watch Friends?

Me: I’ve seen it before but I’m certainly not a fan. Have you seen The Leftovers?

Her: No. Did you ever read or watch Harry Potter?

Me: Definitely not.

We finally found common ground with the only network show that I’ve watched in years when she asked me if I was watching “This Is Us.” Yes! As a therapist, she kind of geeks out over the complete therapeutic package that this show can provide for both a viewer and a therapist. One can choose from topics such as adoption, eating disorder, alcoholism, abusive father/husband, drug addiction, death, racial and cultural discussions and of course, lots of love. She’s in heaven. If you’re caught up on the show you know about the culmination of the entire show’s emotional roller coaster that was finally shown this season in the form of a crockpot shorting out and ruining everyone’s life thereafter.

So you can imagine my terror when in the middle of the night before my 47th birthday, I was awoken by a slightly digitized female voice calmly saying, “There is smoke in the hallway.” This wasn’t enough to fully bring me out of my slumber but the ear piercing beeping that followed and my husband shooting out of bed slowly brought me around. There she was again, “There is smoke in the hallway.” This time I got up and put my shoes on, thankful that I had left them near the bed the night before. As my husband was putting on his pants I thought to myself how my reoccurring irrational fear of ending up on my neighbors’ lawn completely naked, asking them to call the fire department (and also can I borrow some pants) was totally paying off as I was already wearing pajamas. I immediately thought of the crockpot but ours was safely unplugged and tucked away in a cabinet as it’s only used once a year to make hot cider at the holidays.

I imagined that I’d go out into the hallway and the entire house would be on fire, “This Is Us” style. My husband had already tested the doorknob for heat and opened the bedroom door by the time I was up so I went to let the dogs out of their room. I still wasn’t awake. By the time I got into the living room, my husband was already telling me there was no smoke. He went outside and walked around the house. No smoke. He went up in the attic. No smoke.

There is no smoke in the hallway.

I looked at the clock and it read 4:00 and I said, “I thought it was later, I never would’ve let the dogs out if I knew it was 4:00.” My husband said, “Are you still asleep because you’re not making any sense.” By the time he came back to bed I was fully awake, on my phone, googling “Nest smart smoke detector malfunction” because I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep if there was a remote chance that there was real smoke in the hallway. It turns out that this is a thing that happens with the first-generation Nest “smart” smoke detector. One man wrote a whole blog post about it (go figure) and it happened to him at exactly 4:00 a.m. as well. Unfortunately for him it continued to happen randomly over the next few weeks. You have to contact the Nest company and ask them to replace it with a second-generation model. Needless to say, this did nothing for my sleep that night.

I recently had to switch my business bookkeeping system over from my Mac computer to a cheap little P.C. My bookkeeper is very happy about it. I am not. In the process, she gave me a flash drive to save my files onto and told me I must keep it in a location that was separate from my computer in case of a fire. I put it in my workbag thinking that if there were a fire at home I would obviously be grabbing my bag on the way out the door. I can tell you for a fact that the last thing on my mind the night of the false smoke alarm was that flash drive.

I’m not sure what it means to have such an abrupt and panicked beginning to my 47th year. I know that it means I still have my husband and my stuff and my dogs and my house and my second-generation Nest smoke detector. I know that it means that I’m still here and I’m alive enough to have panic attacks to warrant a therapist where we can sit and compare real life to television shows and if that’s what I have, it’s enough. But I'm telling you right now, if I have to completely re-build my business books from scratch on a P.C. with no receipts and no backup, I’m retiring. 

The Whole 4 Hour Diet

Julie Guyot

Last Christmas my four year old niece, Scarlett, was making out her list for Santa by using the weekly toy store flyer. She circled the items she wanted with a crayon. There was a picture of a giant stuffed unicorn with a little girl standing behind it. Scarlet circled the unicorn and then put an X over the face of the little girl. After laughing until I cried, I realized that Scarlett was an expert at setting goals. According to the *S.M.A.R.T. goals setting acronym, the S stands for be specific. I don’t know how much more specific she could get. There was no way she was going to wake up on Christmas morning with another child playing with HER giant stuffed unicorn! 

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I didn’t fare so well this January while setting my New Year’s Resolutions. I was neither specific, nor did I have any goals of my own in mind when I was scrolling through Instagram on January 2nd and noticed that an acquaintance was doing this thing called The Whole 30 Program and I thought, okay, I’ll do that too. I had no idea what it was but I was in! I gained 15 pounds last year so whatever it takes, right? After a quick google search I found The Whole 30 website but decided to skip reading about the science behind it and just got right down to the "what I can’t eat" list. It turned out to be pretty extensive but I looked for some recipes, made out a grocery list and headed to Whole Foods. I came home with pounds of cauliflower and after hours of trying to rice it without the proper equipment, I put together a broccoli and cauliflower “rice” casserole for dinner. (According to The Whole 30 Program-do not consume: any sugars, grains, alcohol, beans, dairy and anything baked even if it’s lies within the parameters of these ingredients.)

I am married to a man who hates casseroles. In fact, he hates them so much that when speaking about them he drops the first letter off the word. I wait until he’s on a business trip and make a batch of Tuna Noodle Asserole for myself. Why I would choose to start a seriously restrictive diet with something that he didn’t like even in its non-diet form is beyond me. Have I mentioned that I hadn’t even consulted him about this Whole 30 thing? He just came home from work and I announced that I was doing it. I rolled my eyes when he asked me what the science behind it was.

When I first met my husband I was a vegetarian and sometimes vegan. I’ve been around the block when it comes to cooking with restrictions. One Christmas I gave my entire family sour dough starter in jars and these vegan cookies that I had made that basically tasted like sand. I know. But at the time I thought it was really great. Don’t worry, this year my sister got me back by giving us all cans of jackfruit from Trader Joe’s. It’s kind of ironic because apparently, jackfruit is highly sought after by people on The Whole 30 Program. They claim it can be doctored up to pass as a substitute for pulled pork. If you believe that, I’ve got a really good vegan cookie recipe for you.

In addition to 7 previous years of vegetarianism, I’ve been gluten free for the last 6 years for health reasons. I’m such a picky eater that I didn’t eat a vegetable until I was 25 years old. So my husband looked at me when I showed him the list of foods that I couldn’t eat on The Whole 30 Program and he said, “There is so much you already can’t or won’t eat so you picked the most restrictive diet ever? This seems unattainable.” Ahhh...the A in the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting acronym.

I dished us both out some Broccoli and “Cheddar” Cauliflower “Rice" Asserole and rolled my eyes at him again. Then I proceeded to hold back my tears as I tried to eat that crap. “Rice” my asserole. There was nothing about this dish that resembled rice or cheddar. It was watery and the broccoli was mushy and I suddenly remembered from my vegan days that on no planet does nutritional yeast resemble cheese. In the end I had lasted four hours from grocery shopping to quitting The Whole 30 Program.

So, my husband asked me, “Exactly what is it that you want to get out of this?” After I had a slight meltdown, we both decided that the goal this year is to eat more vegetables, cook at home more often and make better food choices when we go out to eat. So, I threw out the rest of the coconut oil, chia seed, almond butter and unsweetened cocoa bites I had made earlier in the day and then once again on Instagram I came across a glorious vegetarian website that has recipes that actually taste good. I used the leftover cauliflower to make these amazing tacos and we both agreed that we didn’t miss the meat a bit and that they tasted great and filled us up at the same time.

Sometimes we jump into things without thinking first, without doing the research, without asking ourselves what we really want to get out of it and definitely without a plan. But there is always room to fail and to start over. Even if you’re only four hours in.

(*SMART goal setting acronym: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time sensitive)

May all your goals this year be SMART!

-Julie

"Everything was exactly the same as the day I arrived, except for me." *

Julie Guyot
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“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” 
― Marcel Proust

Ever since we moved to The South 13 years ago, I have felt like I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to fit in. It’s as if I’m a teenager, trying to get that popular girl to let me into her circle but instead I stand at the edge, flirting with the "in crowd" but never fully figuring out how to navigate the system or even what the rules are. In the end it turns out that I don’t have the beauty or the breeding to ever be part of the culture here. It was nice to spend a week at home for Christmas in the Midwest where everything is a bit more casual. My “Y’all” turned back into “You Guys” in the blink of an eye. No one really cares what outfit you’re wearing or who your family is. It was glorious. But damn was it cold outside. It turns out you CAN go home again but just make sure you bring a heavy coat, an extra pair of pants to wear under your jeans and some anti-freeze in your windshield wiper fluid. Nostalgia is a beast.

Despite the frigid temperatures, the holiday itself was nice. My husband gives the greatest gifts, even during a holiday when we agreed not to buy gifts for each other because we have to buy a new refrigerator. He is a good gift giver because he pays attention. Whether it’s something I say in a passing remark or a story he’s heard from my past a billion times, he takes it in and puts it in his pocket to be added onto some secret list, only to be pulled out of his brain weeks or months or years later. He wraps it up himself and sticks it under the tree.

This Christmas was no exception as he gave me the greatest gift ever: the entire collection of all four seasons of “China Beach”, my favorite TV show when I was 17-21ish. I’ve been waiting years for it to finally be released. My husband is younger than I am and he’s never seen it so I’ve obviously been building it up for years and he’s started watching it with me.

Let’s just take a moment to reflect upon April 26, 1988, the date that the pilot show aired. I was dreaming about my Junior Prom the following month. My hair was pretty big. There was certainly no internet, no DVR, and no binge watching. You had to wait an entire week in between episodes of TV shows and if you couldn’t be there to watch in person, you either tried to figure out how to record it on the VCR or you just missed it and life was a little bit sadder. Back then TV was a true commitment. My American History teacher had suggested to our class that we might want to watch this new show that was coming out about the Vietnam War and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my class (including the teacher) who actually watched the pilot show and I made it my life’s commitment to be there in front of the TV one night a week no matter what. This meant that eventually when my Junior Prom date turned into my longtime boyfriend, he came over to watch it with me in my room (with the door open, of course) on that little crappy black and white television that I had talked my parents into letting me take upstairs and that made me feel so wonderfully separate from the rest of my household.

Fast-forward 30 years. The production value is pretty low. The special effects are amateurish, at best. After watching 18 hours of Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War” I realize that some of the plot lines are ludicrous. But we’re three episodes in and I’ve cried five times. I keep telling my husband to remember that it’s 30 years old and remember that it’s network television so no swearing and no realistic violence. I’m apologizing for the fact that this thing that I loved so much isn’t perfect. It’s totally flawed and a bit fluffy and I love it anyway. Maybe I should’ve kept it to myself to devour in secret while he was at work so I could bask in the glow of nostalgia without having to worry if he was having a good time. He doesn’t carry the baggage that my 17-year old self had. He’s seeing it through adult eyes that have read a ton of historical non-fiction about so many wars. Me, I’m just hanging out on my twin bed with my little black and white TV with a box of tissues and a bowl of popcorn, waiting for my high school graduation so I can conquer the world and do all the grand things. 

-Julie

(Full disclosure: My husband thinks that a Proust quote is a little too heavy but I really just googled quotes about nostalgia and this is the one that spoke to me. I'm not sitting around reading Proust in all of my spare time.)

*Title quote from Colleen McMurphy's character in "China Beach".