Browsing Tag

inspiration

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Mirror, Mirror

August 17, 2015
photo-1438109491414-7198515b166b

By Anna Quinn

I want to write about the visceral dissonance my head and gut absorb each day as I scroll through images on social media—the pumpkin martini recipes and beheadings in Iran and cute cat videos and acid thrown in children’s faces and new iPhones and thousands of faceless bodies—women, children and men blown to bits, continents away. I want to write about the strange juxtaposition of these things and try to make meaning of it.

But what I really want to write about is that recent video floating around Facebook—maybe you’ve seen it—the one where women are in a department store, and one by one they look into a mirror, and the mirror begins to talk to them and the mirror asks each woman how they feel about themselves and the women don’t feel so great—one turns her head away, another feels like a dog, another shrugs. Then, the mirror gives the women personalized examples from their friends and families of how they are an inspiration to others, how they are so beautiful on the outside and inside. The mirror says things like, You’re beautiful! You’re enough! And when the mirror says this—You’re beautiful! You’re enough! the women’s eyes well up and a couple of them cry. I watch the way the eyes and mouths and bodies of these women soften and release, and I cry too, because of what it means to be human.

But what I really want to write about is how, in my messy conflicted mind, when I place myself in front of the talking mirror, the mirror shouts, “There’s no fucking way you’re enough!” and I know the mirror doesn’t say this because I’m ugly or worthless or broken. I know the mirror says this because it knows I can’t possibly be enough when fucking courageous as hell journalists are getting their heads chopped off while I fall asleep in a queen-sized bed with Garnett Hill flannel sheets, and one in four children are on food stamps while I’m at Trader Joe’s questioning whether or not the spinach is really organic, the salmon really wild, when mothers and fathers with babies wrapped tight to their chests fight to cross murderous borders, fight to find Safety while I fight to lose that last ten pounds.

But what I really want to write about is how, when I get like this, some of my friends say things like; for god’s sake, Anna, settle the fuck down. You’re so intense. What’s with all the guilt! Stop apologizing for stuff. You are right where you need to be. Focus on all those positive vibrations! Don’t take yourself so seriously. We’re just a speck in the universe! Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration, motherhood

Knitting A Soul

August 12, 2015
3724660

By Bernadette Murphy

My twelve-year-old son, Jarrod, plays trumpet in a jazz group, and I’m usually the one to take him to the rehearsals in downtown Los Angeles. Often, I bring a knitting project to work on during the two or three hours he’s behind closed doors. A few other parents wait with me, though most drop their children and return later. The kids work with their jazz teacher in an almost completely soundproof room. When a piece they’re practicing becomes particularly loud, the slightest vibrations and melody slip through the soundproofing like smoke signals to let us know something wonderful is occurring in that little room. Hearing those sounds, I sneak up to the small five-by-ten-inch window and peer in.

I’m not the only one. Passersby, parents, people waiting for their dance classes to start: we all take turns jostling to watch preteen kids blow inspired, improvised jazz and blues. There’s something irresistible about watching people do something they love.

The rehearsals take place in a gorgeous performing arts school situated next to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a stone’s throw from the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the shadow of the amazing Disney Concert Hall, standing at astounding angles, huge sails of metal and concrete reminding Angelenos of imagination’s incredible power. The school is located in an area that’s both highly cultured and adjacent to great poverty; skid row is a few blocks away. It’s a place where art, music, and dance–self-expression of all forms–are actively encouraged and yet the implicit risk in such self-expression is tangibly present. The unspoken fear, at least among the adults, seems to be: If I give myself so fully to something I love, will I end up like that street-corner poet I passed while looking for a parking space? The woman was screeching her words at approaching vehicles, trying to call attention to her beliefs and experiences, only to be drowned out by the forward-marching parade of society. Or what about the homeless man outside MOCA, strumming his guitar, happy in his music yet oblivious to the rest of the world: Will I become like him?

One of the biggest dangers of giving in to art is that our values might change—or return to an earlier, simpler form. The perfect house, the right furniture, the great job, the designer clothes: Maybe those things don’t represent our hearts’ desires the way we thought. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves that we didn’t particularly want to know. Or maybe people will laugh at us. Maybe we won’t appear the way we’d like to.

Worse yet: Maybe we won’t be any good at what we love. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Johnny Cash, Eve, Me, That One Guy, and Maybe You

August 5, 2015
photo 3

By Nick Belperio

The statue was naked, and I was nine, and the first thing I thought was, Her privates are out in public.   In the hush of the art museum, I snickered like someone much younger, like a seven-year old.   Mom squeezed my hand, nodding at a small plaque on the pedestal.

“Can you read that, honey?”   The first word was easy.

“Eve,” I said and sounded out the rest.  “Dis…con…SOLE…eight?”

“Disconsolate,” she corrected, emphasis on the second syllable.

“What’s that mean?”

Mom regarded the statue for a long moment:  Eve towered over us, her smooth face pitched heavenward, a serpent twining her ankle.   “More than sad,” she said.

“Why’s she so sad?” I wanted to know.

“She was thrown out of paradise.  Cast out forever, along with her husband.  That’s why.”

I looked it up when we got home:  Adj., without solace or consolation; hopelessly unhappy.  Mom was right:  more than sad.   Nine year-old me shrugged, filing it away with the other big words I knew that no one ever used.

It came back to me thirty-some years later, during a typically sclerotic Los Angeles rush hour.  As I inched homeward on Pico Boulevard, I glanced in my rearview mirror:  the driver of the SUV behind me was crying.  Really crying.  White man in a suit, early fifties I guessed, and in the grip of a strenuous bout of weeping.  A woman in the passenger seat offered him tissues and awkward half-hugs, but he looked beyond comfort.  This guy was distraught.  Keeping my eyes on traffic was nearly impossible.

He bawled openly, his face red and contorted, the mouth gaping; every once in a while, you’ll see an infant wail with such abandon, but a stranger?  An adult?   Never:  It seemed extravagant, to give yourself up to sorrow so fully, a luxury somehow, and also unseemly:  this level of sadness usually insists on strict privacy.  He’s losing it, I thought.  Why doesn’t he pull over?  Doesn’t he know people can see him?

And that’s when the word first returned to me.  Presented itself, fully-formed:

Disconsolate, in my mother’s soothing voice.   Ah, yes.  Disconsolate, adj.:  illustrated—dramatized, in fact—right here in my rearview.  I watched greedily, until I turned my corner and left them.  I don’t remember the make of his SUV, or its color, or the color of his hair; but the anguish on that guy’s face, how pure and unmitigated it was, has never left me.   That I remember.  I recognize it, now that I’m in my fifties.

Aging, it seems, is an accumulation:  of years and then decades, of course; of knowledge and experience, sure; of grudges and injustices and mysterious bruises, certainly.   Sometimes aging brings wonder—Can you believe we’re in our fifties? my friends and I whisper incredulously.  We’re officially middle-aged!—and sometimes a kernel or two of wisdom.  Always, though—always—it brings loss of some sort; we know this.  Losses come, and sometimes they multiply; adulthood stacks sadnesses and disappointments like firewood out back.   Look at your friends.  Look at mine. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Yoga

The Girl I Meet on the Yoga Mat

June 16, 2015
1384358_10206839111284484_5524841111336245191_n
Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Janna Marlies Maron

Plank pose. I hold myself up with arms and feet. Blood pulsing through my biceps and I feel strong. Pull belly in and I feel healthy. Holding in plank pose I breathe in; I breathe out. I remember how hard it used to be for me to hold this pose. Just 15 seconds and I started to shake. I could not hold it the entire time and had to lower knees down for support. Today I do not shake. I hold until the teacher instructs us to release.

I pull hips up and back into downward facing dog and stretch heels down to the mat. Hands press the mat away; spine stretches. Again I recall what it was like when I first started practicing yoga. In downward dog, knees bent and heels up. Holding that position and I lost my breath.

I move through the poses and watch myself as if I am not me but another student in the class. I watch and remember what she was like when she first started to practice yoga. Not even when she first started, but when she was the most depressed after her diagnosis nearly three years ago. She felt weak and unhealthy. She spent half the class or more resting in child’s pose. She wondered why she was even there. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

Falling In Love With Flip

June 12, 2015
unnamed

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Judy Kirkwood

What happens when you’re not a dog person, but you are left with a dog?

It wasn’t until my dog, Flip, was 15 years old that I realized I loved him. After my divorce, 5 years ago, I would jokingly say to my sons that Flip was my husband now. But the truth was that I had only just tolerated Flip for much of his life. I didn’t fall in love with him until he had a bad case of fleas: not the first time, not the last time, but the in-between time.

Although constant and caring, I was so detached in my relationship with Flip that until last year I believed he was a Yorkshire Terrier, even though he weighed 20 pounds. Watching a youtube Animal Planet video one night it dawned on me that Flip wasn’t a Yorkie at all, despite his bill of sale. He was a Silky Terrier. The giveaways, besides his size, were how he had always lifted up one paw in a quizzical manner when he looked at me, and how one ear often was up while the other flopped down (hence the name my younger son gave him).

In addition, I woke up one day and realized Flip was a year older than I thought. I had been so caught up in other things in my life – things I can’t reveal, except for my husband’s infidelity, which became pretty obvious – that I had lost track of Flip’s age, which was at the far end of his breed’s lifespan.

I should mention he is a handsome, dapper dog, who attracts attention even though he has an enlarged liver that makes his belly look as though it needs to be reined in with a waistcoat. I’ve always thought he should be wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and ruminating on a small Calabash pipe, which would fit neatly in the space where he is missing his two lower front teeth. Like most dogs, he is on a mission when he is on a walk, looking for aromatic cues and clues and behaving accordingly. Everyone stops to admire him. But I never felt proprietary about his looks or charm. He was sort of a legacy pet. Mine by default. Or so I thought.

We had trouble bonding because it took so long to potty train him. We failed at crate training because he barked so much that his saliva pooled on the floor of the kennel and made it slippery plus rusted the metal grate he attacked for hours. He shredded pee pads. I had to take him to a pet therapist because he wouldn’t stop peeing and pooping in the house. He relieved himself next to her desk as she was asking me what the problem was. Although I had some success in training him with treats to go outside, which he expects every single time he potties to this day, my husband’s strategy to save our wood floors and carpeting was to train Flip to void in the concrete basement of our home. I never went down there.

A family dog for the first 10 years of his life, bought for our 10-year-old son, Flip ran around the grassy common area of our suburban home, a blur against the tree line, swing sets and sandboxes. He was so lively that he jumped back and forth, straight up like a young goat, over Magic, our lame black lab, who sat calmly for Flip’s stunts. Sometimes if Magic was off-leash (it seemed unlikely he would move far since he dragged his back legs on the ground when he tried to run), Flip would spirit him through the woods into the next subdivision or down the railroad tracks. Flip came back while Magic usually ended up in a ditch until someone called thinking he had been hit by a car and we picked him up. Once Magic died, Flip became more aggressive with other dogs so I really couldn’t let him off the leash too often to fly around our big yard.

While I fed Flip and let him in and out all day, he took long evening walks with the man of the house. I appreciated the break from doggie care until I found out that those leisurely walks with Flip were an opportunity for my husband to talk on his secret phone with his girlfriend.

When we separated after a 35-year marriage I decided to move away from my Midwest home and start over in the small Florida town where my younger son had relocated. My soon-to-be ex had no desire to be burdened with a dog while ironing out his relationship problems with the other woman. Drained and empty, I didn’t know if I could afford to take care of Flip either financially or emotionally. I thought about putting him up for adoption. But with behavior problems and, of course, his inconsistent pottying how could I be sure he would not be mistreated by a stranger?

In the end, I packed him in the car along with the few things I was taking from my old life. For the first few months, Flip and I had a gypsy existence. First I stayed on a farm in Georgia while I helped an author write a book. Because there were a number of rescue dogs running around the house, all female, which made Flip want to constantly mark his territory, I spent the days with Flip tethered to my belt as if I were Mother Superior and I had a very long rosary dragging the floor with a dog at the end of it. Then I stayed with friends and family whose allergies or own pets made it imperative to board Flip at different kennels.

Back on the road, Flip was my steady companion in a changing landscape. We were on a journey together and he rose to the occasion, holding his bladder during an interminable traffic jam outside of Atlanta, and not barking when I left motel rooms to search for food for us.

As I was cobbling together a new life in Florida, Flip had a terrible bout with fleas. I’d never met a flea and suddenly they were crawling all over my animal. I was more worried about me getting fleas than about Flip having them. I got rid of them, but saw Flip as a flea carrying host whose silky hair was a golden meadow for creepy things I didn’t want close to me.

The next time Flip got fleas was less of a panic. I knew it was normal in Florida. Against my space being contaminated by a chemical bomb that might exacerbate my asthma and his panting and wheezing, I chose to comb and bathe him faithfully, with the addition of dog flea pharmaceuticals. Every day I spent hours attending to the little devils that hopped around in his hair making him bite himself. I was as devoted to grooming him as any ape, chimp, or monkey mother. As an old dog, age 15, his skin was covered with benign tumors under his hair and I had to be careful not to scratch their surface and make them bleed. I felt so sorry for him I gave him little massages, listening to him groan, sigh, and cluck like the gray squirrels on our morning walks. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, Self Love

Don’t Should On Yourself.

May 16, 2015
1236020_10153239303960573_761477157_n

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Rachel Pastiloff

I don’t think it is just a “mom” thing or a “woman” thing, although I do think that mothers are susceptible to the “should epidemic.” I know how often I feel that pressure. I recently had, as Oprah would call it, my “a-ha” moment.

What if I let go of all the “should” in my life?

I am a mother, a wife, a health coach, a blogger, a friend, a sister and a daughter. I am no different from you in that many of you out there also juggle wearing different hats. I sometimes find myself at the end of the day saying things to myself like, “I should have gotten more work done,” or “I should have cleaned the house,” or “I should have gotten to the gym,” or “I should have not yelled at the kids this morning.”

The Should List.

I don’t know who writes the should list. I don’t know where it originated. I just know that I am often shackled by this master of all lists that I need to be checking off everyday. I find that the should list leaves me feeling defeated, less than, and often times as if I have failed.

I don’t want to feel like that anymore.

What would my life look like if instead of my should list I celebrated everything as a victory, instead of focusing on the should list that I didn’t accomplish?

I declared yesterday the first day in my victory revel.

I got out of bed, I am magnificent. I got my children out of bed and fed them breakfast. Yes, I am awesome. My kids got to school with clothes on, socks and shoes and underwear that isn’t on backwards. I am a superhero, yes it’s true. I kissed both of my kids goodbye and told them I loved them, I am on fire today.

What if that is all that I did that day? What if that is all that I was capable of accomplishing?

When you see everything as a victory it takes away from all your perceived failures.

I am still a damn good mom, even if at the end of my day I could say that was all I did that day. I can still feel that my day is complete. When I go to sleep tonight I will think to myself, I did such a great job today at what I was able to accomplish, and not feel a sense of shame from what I feel I should have done better. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Relationships

Twenty Years of Solitude

April 20, 2015
photo-1429000263672-1b8b4008d2f7

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Banigan

Barrel-chested and bull-necked, Will had cerulean blue eyes that offset the safe, sturdy gravity of his body and made me feel as though I were drowning. They were the kind of eyes described in novels as being washed out, like the sky. If I had grown up in the middle of the rainforest, and Will’s eyes had been the first blue eyes I ever saw, I would’ve thought he was either a god or on his death bed.

I was 20 years old and despite it being only our first date, Will was already my favorite person. We sat at a candlelit table in a restaurant in the basement of the Italian Workman’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin. Two bottles of wine in, I stared into his eyes and recalled a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“It’s about a man and woman who meet every night in a dream and recognize each other by repeating the phrase, ‘Eyes of a Blue Dog.’ But upon waking, the woman can’t remember what the man looks like. She writes their phrase throughout her town, but the man can’t remember anything from his dreams, and they walk by each other like two ships passing. I can’t imagine anything sadder.”

I don’t recall if Will responded. My eyes misted, and, drunk, we left. He took me to his small walkup apartment and we sat in his living room and talked about our dreams. I was still figuring mine out, which meant I had no real idea yet what I was doing with my life, but Will was in college and had already set course. Surrounded by books about Latin American politics and discussing his need to gain a higher level of fluency in Spanish, he grew animated when talking about a future that would take him far away from Wisconsin.

“I’m going to work in Central and South America.”

I waited for him to tell me more, but instead, he kissed me, and we soon fell into his bed. He was everything I wanted: adventurous, hilarious, and intense. In the dark, with only the light from a streetlamp shining across his broad chest, he stared at me through his wide, azure eyes.

When eventually I turned to sleep, I felt a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had grown up having daddy issues because of an absent, alcoholic, gambling father, struggled with my own drug addiction, and just generally had difficulty with men. In the back of my mind, I grappled with the idea that I was unworthy of love.

As Will curled up against me, I thought: Come morning, he’ll be like the man in the Garcia Marquez story – he will have forgotten all about me.

At the first signs of daybreak, I unwrapped myself from Will, quietly collected my things, and slipped out the door, vowing to cut off our communications to prevent the pain of him leaving me.

Yet I couldn’t quit Will. Not entirely.

Over the years, he moved to Indonesia, to England, to Colombia, to Minnesota. But he always came home, and occasionally, I’d run into him at some bar or another. We’d make small talk, have a drink or two, and inevitably end up in bed together. Each time, I felt that what we had would last forever. We spoke of getting a cabin in the middle of Oregon. He invited me to visit him wherever he was living. Yes, I said, yes to all of it. But then dawn would break, and I’d disappear like a forest creature into the crepuscular fog.

One day, I received a letter sent from Colombia. “You would love the rainforest,” Will wrote. “Pink dolphins swim alongside my boat in the river. They are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I miss you.”

I kept that letter in a drawer for years, pulling it out occasionally to stare at his words and examine every curve of his handwriting for hidden meaning. Pink dolphins…He missed me… What did it all mean?

The years moved along. I had a series of relationships, bore a child with an abusive man, and then, just like that, decided I had had enough and finally started to pull my life together. Will moved to New York, and I ended up there too, to finish a degree in art history. He helped me move into my apartment in Greenpoint, and that evening, after I had tucked my daughter into her new bed, we sat on my front stoop drinking beers in the rain. It was that night, while listening to Will laugh, that I realized how hopelessly in love I was with him. And as sure as I knew anything, I knew that he loved me, too. My heart cracked wide open as we kissed.

The next morning I woke in a panic. My old fear filled me. He’d leave me. He always did. I heard my dad’s voice in my head: “Good things never last.” And another voice rumbled even deeper: “Leave. Run. Don’t look back.”

Life became more complicated. Will and I lived in two parts of the city about an hour apart, but my university was only a few blocks away from his apartment. We should’ve created many New York memories together, but even when he had a bad injury to his Achilles heel that left him largely immobile, I visited him only once. My dad had recently had his first heart attack, and my daughter’s father was giving me grief. I felt depleted, shaken, and alone. Every night I’d sit surrounded by books on the couch in my apartment and just cry, rocking myself to sleep. Despite wanting to be there for Will, I felt incapable of opening myself to him even as I watched him hobble around on his crutches. Something was wrong with me for not being able to be a good friend – I knew that much – but my heart, like a stagnant pond, stood still.

I dated other men. Men who risked less, who stayed put more. I moved in with a boyfriend, a man who – although a little wild – wouldn’t rush off to nearly die of snakebite or dengue or whatever other horrors I imagined Will might encounter in the rainforest. Unlike Will, my boyfriend was a man who didn’t believe in anything fantastic.

“Do you know that there are such things as pink dolphins?” I asked.

“Sure,” he quipped, barely looking up from his computer. “And unicorns, too.”

Of course, when a person goes against what her heart desires, life has a way of teaching lessons the hard way.

Armed with a degree from an Ivy League in an area of study I didn’t ultimately want, and a job in finance I only took to pay back student loans, my grandmother grew very ill, my father had another heart attack, and my stable, safe boyfriend left me. In the midst of it all, I realized I wanted – more than anything – a life filled with adventures and purpose. I become a freelance writer and started to travel the world. I took my daughter out of public school and together we climbed mountains in Switzerland and Iceland, ran out of money in the Algarve, and went deep into the Peruvian Amazon to some of the same areas Will had visited.

Throughout the years, Will and I continued to satellite around each other, always in tidal lockdown despite the distance between us.

“You know how I feel about you,” he said. “You know how I’ve always felt.” Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships

Dear Life: I Need Help Navigating Bouts of Depression.

February 27, 2015
tumblr_mqq4ivpL641st5lhmo1_1280

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the wonderful Naomi Elana Zener.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, see you next weekend (3/7 and 3/8)  in Atlanta for my next workshop!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Dear Life and the wonderful people reading this,

I am used to navigating through life through and with heartache. The past 8 years were full of relationships with heartaches. They have created my darkest moments and have thus been the creations of my lightest moments. I am finally done with them, and I am depressed. I don’t have anything to complain about, except for missing my family sometimes, who lives across the ocean. I feel like I have no purpose and no direction, and I don’t know where to start. I crave adventure and meaning in life. I love to inspire and help people, but I can’t do that unless I can help myself. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about life, but these bouts of out of the blue depression are starting to get old and I do not know how to navigate through and out of them.
Please help.

All the love,
Elly

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Men, parenting

What Happens When a Guy Gets Bullied For Years? The Dadvocate.

February 5, 2015
10371455_1592307147673790_544802949727076944_n

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Andy Malinski.

Oftentimes, men intimidate me.

I’ve spent a lot of time very uncomfortable around men. A group of women makes me feel much more at ease than a group of men. Why? The surface answer is that I’m not the typical guy. Although I enjoy a baseball or hockey game, I’m not a big sports fan and don’t follow any teams of any sport; I much prefer music and theater (and even when it comes to music, I’ll take Beethoven any day over any rap artist). I’ve taught my wife terms like valance and duvet and Mirepoix.

The deeper answer is that I’ve experienced some intense bullying in my 35 years and so my hope, through The Dadvocate, is to reach out to men and help establish healthy ways to express emotion and bond with wife and baby. Fearful about having a boy who might, someday, have to endure what I did in grade school, our midwife asked me, “Why wouldn’t the world want another you?” That’s a big motivator, right there, to do all I can for him, for my family, and to try and reach out to others with what I have experienced and learned from over my years.

Bullying started for me around 1st grade.  At that point it was the “fatso” name-calling on the playground.  When I was in 4th grade, I was out riding my bike one afternoon enjoying a beautiful New Hampshire afternoon when a group of bullies from school approached me.  They destroyed my bike, throwing pieces of it into the woods as I stood there, helpless, not knowing what to do.  Once they left, laughing, and were out of sight, I picked up all I could and made my way home, holding back my tears as long as I could, carrying a wheel and a seat, scared more about having to tell my parents that my bike was broken than I had been bullied.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Julien’s Castle: The Way of Grief.

November 26, 2014
photo-1415356838286-df6fd593e8b3

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Nancy Sharp.

He was young and French. Perhaps he didn’t understand. “I said I’m widowed,” loud enough this time to make myself perfectly clear. “Okay. So?” he asked, with a bemused smile.

“And I have three-year-old twins.”

I expected him to run. Hadn’t I frightened him away?

“What are you doing here,” he wanted to know, the crisp night air making smoke between us as he spoke. We stood under a streetlight, the din of a raucous Oktoberfest party at Zum Schneider, an indoor Bavarian biergarten in lower Manhattan, still in earshot.

It was a curious question.

I might have told him any number of things: that I was only escorting my friend Lisa that night because Lisa was missing Germany; that I didn’t even drink beer; that my command of the French language centered around ten high school phrases; and, that I was too old for him, which if he only stopped to look, he would see.

The eye sees what it wants to.

“No, really, what are you doing here?” he asked again, sweeter this time.

He seemed to be looking through me. It was piercing without being lewd.

The heat of his gaze embarrassed me and I blushed.

“How old are you?” I blurted out.

“Twenty-seven. And you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

He cocked his head to the right, reddish-brown curls sweeping his ear. He was fixing hard on my face, his hazel eyes flickering under the street lamps.

“Twenty-nine.”

“That works.”

And yet, crisp jeans and glossy lipstick did nothing to mask what little identity I felt beyond widowhood, even now, nineteen months after Brett died. Had he not been so boyishly handsome, I might have been the one to walk away. Dropping the Widow-Bomb on a twenty-seven-year-old was bound to burst this flirtatious bubble so what exactly was he waiting for?

I was certain he would leave, perhaps even stagger backwards and say, “Well, nice meeting you,” heels moving quickly as he politely returned to his drunken friends. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014
tumblr_neyf56NHIg1sfie3io1_1280

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black
By Caroline Leavitt

When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.

Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No,” she said. “I did.”

As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.

And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Men

Dear Me: A Beautiful Letter To A Man’s Younger Self.

November 21, 2014
5712229637_0808aab445_o

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Peter Tóth.

Hi Peter,

It’s me, your 36 year old self.

How are you doing?

I’m writing to you from Nottingham, UK. Yeah, I know, you might want to ask how did I get here. But that’s not important. I’m here as a result of many decisions, almost all of them still unmade by you.

It’s shortly before 7 in the morning and I’m sitting on a George Street bus stop, waiting for the Nottingham City Transport bus line number 10, going to Ruddington, where I work. You haven’t really worked yet and I cannot lie to you that it’s always great, but work is good, it will be good for you. You’ll meet many people at work and/or while working. People are good. It takes an effort to convince myself of that sometimes, but I truly believe they are.

But I’m not writing this letter to tell you what I’m doing, what you’ll be doing in 20 years time, because even if you would somehow read this letter, you probably wouldn’t become exactly who I am now anyway, as you would hopefully read this carefully and you will avoid some mistakes that I have made. Although it’s these mistakes that got me where I am, doing what I do and I neither can, nor I want to complain about it, so let’s cut this hypothetical bullshit of what would, or wouldn’t be.

I won’t be telling you what to do and what not to, what I decided to tell you is this: Whatever you’ll be doing, just enjoy it more, enjoy it as much as you can. I’m looking back and I don’t think I regret doing anything. I also don’t regret not doing anything. But what I regret is not fully enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it. Not being completely present, focused. Not paying attention. Not being in love with what was surrounding me, not being in love with what’s within myself.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, writing

Un-Grounded.

September 5, 2014
Katie_Devine-sunflower2014-2

By Katie Devine.

Every night, at an interval of approximately ten minutes, the bed shakes violently. The first time it happens, I think it’s an earthquake. I lie in bed, roused from near sleep by the jarring movement, and have trouble remembering where I am. I don’t think Cape Cod has earthquakes, but I allow for the possibility. Or the other possibility that someone has run up the stairs to the patio outside the bedroom, powerfully enough to move the furniture. I never feel safe sleeping in rooms with doors that lead to the outside, and I hate that through the sheer-curtain-covered windowpane I can see shadows moving slowly. I don’t know if they are from leaves, or from the heavy-footed man who tromped up the steps to look in at me. The house next-door, with its menacing cracked window and abandoned sheets on the clothesline only fuels this fantasy. I turn my back to the door; what I can’t see can’t hurt me. And then the rocking begins again.

Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, motherhood

In Gratitude for a Long Career. By Jeanne Faulkner.

April 2, 2014

Like Jennifer, I’ve worked for decades in the service industry. I worked as a nightshift labor and delivery nurse for ten years followed by another ten years on day shift. Like waitressing, you never know who your next customer, AKA patient, will be.  It’s a crap shoot and among the biggest challenges of the job. You take care of whomever you’re assigned to care for, whoever walks in the door and with whatever doctor or midwife is on duty for that patient.  Our job, whether we like our patient or not, is to serve, guide and shepherd them through their labors and births, but it’s not isolated to serving just the patient. Nurses also serve their family, friends and baby, their doctor or midwife, and the other nurses and staff members who are part of the maternity unit.

Over all those years and thousands of patients, I’m grateful most patients were lovely and I thank them for allowing me the honor of being at their births. I’m humbled at how accepting they were of receiving my care and mindful that the work we did together was intimate, difficult and sometimes life threatening.  I thank them for their trust.  I’m thankful to the mothers who reached for my hand, asked for my help, took my suggestions and eventually allowed me to rock their babies so they could get some much needed sleep. I’m grateful to the fathers who tended to their wives or girlfriends with such tenderness that they taught me how these mothers needed to be cared for.  Thank you to all the grandmothers-to-be who stroked brows, sang songs, rubbed backs, reassured and mothered their daughters through their labors. You taught me that mothering never ends and in fact it grows stronger as we help deliver the next generation.

Some patients, or more often their family members, were by any definition, horrible – violent, criminal, addicted, filthy and sometimes even obscene. To them I say, “Thank you for teaching me that all people deserve care, compassion and respect; that there’s always a point of connection and that no matter what their life was like in the past, almost all still love their children, even when they can’t care for them. Thank you to the patients who called me “bitch” and to those who called me “doctor.” Neither label was accurate but I thank them for making an attempt to reach me on whatever level they could.

Thank you to the patient who tried to bite me when I could not give her an epidural.  When a moment later, your daughter was born and you lay cooing at her in your arms, you taught me that pain is more powerful than civility, but when the pain is gone, humanity returns. Thank you to the man who threatened his wife and me with a beating we both “deserved,” if we didn’t hand over his son before police could arrest him for child abuse.  He taught me that despite his violence, hostility and demand for control, his love for his baby was overpowering and unreasonable, but it was still love.

Most of the dozens and dozens of doctors and midwives and nurses I worked with were among the best people I’ve ever met and many I count as my friends.  I thank them inspiring and motivating me, comforting and supporting me, for joking around and bringing snacks and sharing their stories through 12-hour nights. I thank them most of all for having my back and always being one call away when a birth turned into a crisis.  A few of my coworkers were bitter and angry, lazy and misguided and I thank them for teaching me that our work demands excellence, compassion and a higher standard.

Thank you to the mothers who faced their births with tears and screaming and the ones who managed each contraction in absolute silence.  Thank you for the “natural” mamas who rode their “surges” with intensity like a surfer rides waves. Thank you to the epidural mamas who decided pain wasn’t part of the package they signed on to deliver. Each one took control of her experience and took care of her own needs and I’m grateful to them for doing so.

Thank you to the little brothers and little sisters who were so excited and anxious to meet their new siblings they wet their pants, burst into tears and buried their sticky sweet faces in their fathers’ necks. They taught everyone in the room just how powerful this new relationship would be.  A sibling will witness your life, share your fun and misery, defend you, pretend with you and get you in trouble.  They’ll be there with you ‘til death do you part and in some small way, the little brothers and sisters understand how overwhelming this commitment will be.  Thank you to the new mothers who then handed their brand new baby over to me, took their older child into their bed and cuddled them until they felt secure again. Thank you for not doing what too many parents do – yell at their child for acting like a baby and tell them they’d better get over it because they’re not the baby anymore.

Thank you to all the patients who busted mythology wide open – to the room full of bikers all burly and gruff whose appearance and demeanor were aggressive and scary.  Thank you for sitting in a circle on the floor and passing the new baby from one bearded, tattooed, Harley-gristled man to the next, each delivering a small blessing and a stuffed animal for their beloved new baby.   Thank you to the stripper who was losing custody of her baby for taking out your nipple piercings and breastfeeding your daughter for the one night you two would have together. Thank you to her friends who surrounded her with love and swore to all that was holy to them that they’d get that baby back if it was the last thing they did.  Thank you for the patient who had no arms who held her baby to her breast with her legs as skillfully as any two-armed mama would do.

Thank you for the 20 years I spent at the bedside and for the million stories my patients provided me.  I learned a lot and will forever be grateful for that opportunity to serve.

Image

Jeanne Faulkner is a nurse, writer and maternal health advocate. She writes for fitpregnancy.com, Every Mother Counts and is co-author of The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion. Learn more about her at JeanneFaulkner.com and check out her YouTube channel here.

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.