Browsing Tag

life

Guest Posts, Life, memories

Departures

March 18, 2016
memories

By Andrew Bertaina

The world cares little for our departures. It spins and spins in the dark unaware that we are even here, spinning in that same dark. We are left to construct our own signs then, spin our own yarns about the moments that have marked us. We tell ourselves stories about first loves, parents, home, in order to give our lives structure, a foundation on which to build the architecture of the self. The meaning of our departures comes in hindsight, a postscript, leaving is not the car going down the driveway, the hand waving goodbye, it is considering, days, months, years later, what the leaving meant, trying to remember if you held your hand against the cold glass and what it meant that your mother didn’t cry. This essay is already a failure, an attempt to send myself a postcard from the future. I doubt I’ll have the sense to read it.

The last summer I spent in Chico, CA before leaving home was like any other: blazingly, soul-scorchingly, hot. It was the sort of heat about which people out east say, “It’s a dry heat though,” which is why I dislike almost everyone out east. The observation is made no less obnoxious by its veracity. The summer days in Washington D.C. are sauna-like, something to be endured, like watching golf on television. These relentless days always leave me longing for the cool California nights of my youth—crickets chirping and a light breeze prickling night’s skin.

Departing for college was the first of many adult severances. It felt like a pin prick at the time, an inevitable retracing of the steps taken by siblings and friends. They returned in the summers, strangers in a familiar land, stopping for a visit with the natives before returning to their new home. And yet, as the years have passed and college friendships and memories have faded, I realize that leaving Chico was a severance, an end to the era of a childhood and a farewell to my home, and to the idea of any place being home. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Loving The Life You Have

February 26, 2016

By Ginger Sullivan

I swear it happens weekly. I open my mouth and some clerk or new patient or person on the street asks me where I am from. I feel like a transplant from a foreign land.  Even though I left decades ago and have successfully eradicated the “ya’lls” and the “yonders” from my vernacular, my Southern upbringing comes through loud and clear. My move North did not erase my history. Although I try, hiding my background is impossible. My roots will not, cannot, be denied.

Here in the North, for obvious reasons, the South is not looked upon too kindly.   These arguments aside, my accent alone gives way to question, maybe even judgment, and I am left sitting in my shame. Am I stupid? Did I grow-up with backwater ideas hailing from the trailer park? Am I small-minded, racist, conservative and overly-religious? My impulse is to get busy trying to prove myself. “Don’t write me off!” my insides scream. See me. See past my inflection. Give me a chance. I can hang with you Yankee intellectuals. I am worldly. I am not a mindless Southern Belle. I can contribute value. I am good enough.

Ridiculous, I know. But it is my story. And some of the stereotypes are true. I grew up with guns in the house. My brother even shot one through the floor once. We ate our share of fried chicken and grits. One grandmother made amazing homemade biscuits that I still cannot duplicate. The other grandmother set a mean table and needed three black helpers – the gardener, the cook and the housekeeper – to manage her world. We said grace before meals and dressed for church every Sunday. The daily choice was sweet or unsweet iced tea, even for young children. We spend weekends canoeing or watching SEC football. And no woman worked outside the home. They (we) were considered marriage material, beautiful window dressing for our good looks, not our minds.

I think it was my heart that noticed first. From a young age, I was suffocating. It was death by disconnection. I wanted a bigger world that talked to me, stimulated me, expanded me. I felt alone and did not have the words or the know-how to identify my predicament, much less fix it. I was surrounded by superficial nicety and put together beauty, but my heart longed for authenticity. Will someone stand up and talk about what is really going on here? I could not do pretend. I assumed that something must be wrong with me that everyone else could masquerade and I just could not stomach it.

And then there was my intellect. To my parents’ credit, they educated me well, sending me to the best private schools available. Originally, I am sure that the Harpeth Hall School was founded as a finishing school for Southern ladies. A societal necessity. But, even the South could not remain too long in the dark. At some point, the school became a launching pad for well-to-do families to provide their daughters opportunity. I am grateful to this day that my parents had such foresight.

But even there, I was more backwoods than most. (I guess I didn’t fit in either to the plaid skirt, prep school world.)  I will never forget the middle school quiz bowl. The announcer read a series of vocabulary words to the competing panelists. The elected smarter girls on stage reeled off the definitions one by one, some of which I had never heard. And then the announcer said, “taxidermist.” The room grew silent. No one spoke. No one knew what that word meant. The announcer turned to the audience and asked if anyone knew what that word meant. I raised my then very shy hand. I knew what that word meant. Hell, we had a few on the family payroll that I knew by name.

Fast forward multiple decades. I have not lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line for a very long time. But when I get a chance to visit, there is a part of me, deep at the cellular level, that awakens and says “home.” Maybe it is the sound of the katydids or the sweet smell of freshly mowed green grass. My long ago emotions, tied to the place of my upbringing, rise with a vengeance and demand my sentimental attention.

Through the years, I have managed to willingly claim a part of the South in me. The art of setting an elegant table is important to me as is taking casseroles to my fallen-ill neighbors. There is something polite in my child’s  “yes ma’am” and “no sir” that just sounds better than a sheer “yeah.”  Dressing up a word to make it more kind goes a lot farther than aggression just because I can.  Thus, maybe my Southern training wasn’t all bad. Maybe there is something there I can redeem and even want to hold onto.

Undeniably, like it or not, it is my story. I often find myself saying, I am not sure I like the path I took to get here, but I like the me now. And, I would certainly not be the me now without having spent 18 years wading barefoot in the creek and watching my Dad chase cows in the backyard.

Our life is like a blank wall, waiting to be filled with a 12′ x 12′ mural.   Our experiences, stories, pain and joys are painted on there somewhere. We can try to draw over them or around them or make them into something else, but they cannot be expunged. We are the sum total of all our life’s encounters.  The good news is that our life’s artwork is not complete until our journey ends. We can always add more to our mural which can transform the entirety of the composition. We are a continuous work in process.

I don’t know about you but that works for me. It engenders hope. It fortifies self-compassion to fight off my shame. It allows me the ability, on a good day, to fully embrace the life I have now. I am reminded of that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song – “If You Can’t be With the One You Love, Love the One You’re With.” I may not have the life I wanted, the life I dreamt of, but I am going to learn to love the life I have.

So, pass the biscuits and pour the iced tea. I’m gonna dig in, into all of it. Every last bite.

FullSizeRender

Ginger M. Sullivan practices psychotherapy to pay the bills but her real joys are her two children, her pug and her writing. As a self-proclaimed fumbling human being, she expounds on the underbelly of life – all things raw and real – that others might continue on their journey to become their highest, best self. She joined Jen Pastiloff at Jen’s Tuscany retreat during the summer of 2015. This is her fourth time being published on The Manifest-Station.

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

Family, Guest Posts

Home Free

January 31, 2016
family

By Rachel Schinderman

We bid on a little green house on Franklin Ave and went about our lives.  We weren’t going to get it anyway.  I could do a tour of Culver City and point out all of the houses we tried to buy and were out bid on.  No matter, put it out there and then forget about it, there were other things to tend to.  There was a new baby coming in a month and a half.  This apartment in Santa Monica had been good to us.  It would still be good to us.

But still I really wanted a house.  I grew up in an apartment building in New York City.  I loved it.  I rode my bike though our hallways and went on adventures up and down our elevator.  I didn’t know anything else.  I didn’t know that children played outside until their parents called them in.  And now knowing it, seeing it right in front of me, I wanted it.  It seemed so adult, like the thing to do.  The truth was, my son would not know anything different, just like me on West End Ave, where fun was when the mailman let me help him.  But if I’m honest, I wanted a yard for the ease of having my son just run around in the back so I would know exactly where he was and would’t have to schlep him to the park constantly.  The park, the park, I was a little over the damn park.  I wanted laundry at my fingertips, not down a flight of stairs and a pocket full of quarters.  I wanted to paint a room or scratch a floor and not worry what someone else might say.  In short, I wanted to be a grown up.  Even with a husband, a son and another child on the way, homeownership seemed like it would validate my experience. I wanted a place that would serve as the other character in the stories of our children’s childhood.

Two days after seeing the little green house on Franklin Ave, after dropping my son, Benjamin, at camp, my water broke while I was getting a mani/pedi.  I waddled with the paper still in my toes to check in the bathroom and then hurried out the door nervously calling my husband.

I was only 34 weeks.  When I arrived at my OB’s office, she checked me and tested the liquid slowly dripping from my body.  It was not a big gush, more a constant drip.  It did not test positive for amniotic fluid. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Home, Life

The Country Estate

October 3, 2015

By Stephanie Couey

The “Country Estate” is my home for five months.  I move in a few days after opening the lid of my then roommate’s white Cuisinart rice cooker, and having my face engulfed in a buzzing red swarm of fruit flies.  We fight about it.  I’m not even sure why.

My then-boyfriend, a jack-Mormon, picks me up in his dad’s work truck and listens as I vent about the fruit flies and the lingering trauma.  He highlights the fact that the roommate’s name is Sarin, the same as that of a lethal gas.  I don’t want to go there, and I’m not sure if I feel dirtier from the flies or from the fight, or from something else.

It is winter, and Nampa, Idaho is draped more in ice than snow.  The Country Estate, as we call it, is right next to an out of commission steam locomotive on its tracks, an enormous block of sculpted charcoal.  There is a silo so close by that we refer to it as “our silo” each time we drive back to the house.

The Country Estate is massive, yet chintzy.  It is an all-white two-story, in a style somewhere between colonial and warehouse.  The ceilings are made of porous tile, the living room, as well as the kitchen, is lit by fluorescent beams, and the floors are of ill-fitting linoleum bubbling up near the walls.

Me and my few things settle in upstairs, in the jack-Mormon’s room with muted green walls and a twin bed.  Heidi and Zeniff, the other inhabitants, aren’t home when I “move in,” but this isn’t the kind of house where people mind.

We call it the Estate because it is anything but.  We call it the Estate because it is surrounded by varying animals: goats, chickens, turkeys, and llamas.  We call it the Estate because we know it does not belong to us, but that we, for now, belong to it.

Here there is order.

The Jack-Mormon’s dog shits daily in front of the washing machine.

Each night we make tofu stir-fries with ingredients from local underpaid farmers and nearly-expired packs of tofu from Winco.  I introduce the jack-Mormon to Braggs Liquid Aminos, and he introduces me to putting a glob of peanut butter directly into the sizzling tofu and vegetables, letting it disperse into thick velvet liquid.

He’d come up behind me and breathe a gust of pot smoke down my shirt, his hair greasy.  We’d eat sitting on the floor with Zeniff, with numerous open beers, a bowl, and a guitar.  I cry during the Leonard Cohen songs, always in the same moments, ones like, “she broke your throne and she cut your hair,” and neither boy makes fun of me.  There’s something about being raised Mormon that makes them both sentimental in a way that respects crying.

In the time I live here, my grades slip a little, like they did when I was nineteen and aimless, but now I realize I wasn’t just aimless.  I realize I was comfortable.  And here I am again.  Comfortable.

At my first home, in California, I didn’t want to move forward because I didn’t have to, just as I don’t have to in this house, with the jack-Mormon, in Nampa, where it costs nothing to live and everyone’s family and everyone’s church is within a ten-mile radius, so no matter how much you’ve shunned any of them, home is never a variable, and at the time, the “Estate” is not a variable.

In this house, the jack-Mormon shaves his chest hair and legs with my Venus razor.  He holds me on the ratted couch as we watch the Elephant Man and Beach House music videos on repeat.  When his dad shows up, the jack-Mormon hides his stash, and I talk about my grades, my Honda Civic’s mileage, and my parents’ health.

Never does this feel like sinking, though I suppose it is.

We go for runs when the ice melts.

We sometimes go to parties in Boise, his being dirtier and druggier than the ones I’d been going to before we met.

We buy sodas up the street across from a carniceria, and when asked if we have the munchies by our attendant, I respond with eyes as red as stop signs that we have “the thirsties.”

Mostly though, we stay in.

I write a lot on a laptop with no internet connection.  He asks if I’m ever writing about him.  I say, “not really.”

We color in Little Mermaid coloring books, letting Ariel and Eric be us.  I squiggle some stretch marks over Ariel’s cleavage, write, “feed me” on her stomach, and give her more tired eyes.  Then it’s pretty close.

I ask myself what it is any of us really strive for, much like I did at age fifteen, only now with the presence of pure contentment I’d never had after youth.  If we are loved and fed and comfortable, isn’t that enough?  We are warm, healthy, creative, making music, writing, drawing, exploring and re-exploring Nampa.  Can we keep this contentment going?  After years on and off of anti depressants and in and out of therapists’ offices, “contentment” in itself is a swinging sunlit hammock – just enough motion, just enough light.

The Country Estate is my home for five months.  In the midst of asking myself questions about striving versus stagnation on a daily basis, the jack-Mormon gets arrested, after numerous other offenses, for driving under the influence of heavy doses of his father’s Xanax.  He is sent away without warning, his dark yellow urine left un-flushed in the downstairs bathroom, Apple Jacks spilled on the kitchen counter.

His family throws me a small birthday party with Reeses Pieces cupcakes, and I see the final Harry Potter movie with his nephew.  I begin to eat meat again, knowing the absurdity of my former lover upholding vegetarianism while in jail.

I move back to Boise.  I become president of an on-campus association, and I consider graduate school.  I write poems.  Sometimes I just speak poems on my long walk from home to campus.

I visit him in jail, past the fields of livestock and corn, until I don’t.

I stop asking the questions about contentment, and start once again asking the questions about identity, distinction, money, forwardness.  I stop asking about here or there, and decide that it’s all here.  I go from unceasingly gray to black and white.

When I later drive through Nampa and pass the train tracks, I see our old home, our silo, our rickety porch with half smoked cigarettes between the boards.  Perhaps this was a temporary distraction, but maybe it’s all a distraction.  I see the steam engine, black and still, and I drive on, newly obsessed with motion.

Stephanie Couey is an MFA poet and teacher at University of Colorado-Boulder. She is from Riverside, CA and Boise, ID.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Guest Posts, Inspiration

See Me In September.

September 11, 2015

By Beth Levine.

I’ve seen a few sunrises since the days when I eagerly picked out my first-day-of-school outfit or packed the car to the roof for the ride back to college. So why, when September rolls around, do I still feel that rush of expectation, of the excitement of new possibilities? While most people are grabbing at the last BBQs of summer, I am eagerly anticipating getting back into action. For me, New Year’s isn’t in December–it’s Labor Day.

It is coded into my DNA that September means getting back to school and friends, and picking out new clothes, pencils, erasers and books. (Yes, I know, I am dating myself. These days it would be new iPads and laptops.) The smell of new textbooks and the knowledge that the path of my next nine months lies within them. Would my teachers be nice? Who was in my classes? But most of all, when I was a school kid, September was the time when the slate of the previous year was wiped clean and there was the chance to start all over. Maybe this was the year I wouldn’t feel like a monstrous dork, maybe this was the year (dare I say it out loud?) a boy would notice me and the world would recognize my immense genius. Hey, why not think big? Anything was possible.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Mirror, Mirror

August 17, 2015

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…

Guest Posts, Life

Step By Step

August 14, 2015

By Ginger Sullivan

It is hard to believe over 30 years have passed. I was a spry young thing. The mysterious underdog. Everyone worried if I ate enough. And why on earth would anyone be up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, dressed and out the door regardless of the weather?

Sometimes, I look back on those days and question my own sanity. What was I running from? Was I that intolerant of my own feelings? Was I masochistic to my own burgeoning body as a young woman? Was I trying to prove something to someone? Reflecting on those days, I often feel sadness and regret for all that I missed out on. The normalcy of adolescence. The girly-girl stuff. The endless giggling about sissy stuff that I passed up as superficial or uninteresting. And yet, there are the moments when I look back on that time with gratitude. I appreciate the life lessons that those experiences have embedded in me. After all these years later, I often find myself tapping into whatever it was that kept me going mile after mile.

As a nationally ranked, award-winning long-distance runner, I was a force to be reckoned with. When I started out, I just ran as long and as fast as my legs would carry me. It wasn’t until later that I learned that even the boys had a hard time keeping up with me. I moved through the system – elementary school track team, summer Junior Olympics, middle school cross-country. I was voted most valuable runner as a freshman on the varsity high school cross-country team. I was ranked nationally as a top miler, hitting sub-five minutes time and time again. I was awarded trips to national meets in California. The mailbox was filled with college scholarship interest. I won enough medals, trophies and ribbons to wallpaper a good-sized room.

But then, I grew up and in running years, I grew old. My knees creaked and cracked and could no longer bear the weight of the repetitive pounding. There were no more trophies to earn or newspaper reporters interested in talking to me. It was just me … facing life, without the constant pressure to perform and the corresponding glory of another race won. I had to find normalcy in the everyday that was not timed, recorded, applauded and rewarded.

The trophies are now packed away, gathering dust in a box in the basement. And I certainly have good stories to tell my children. However, the best showing I have for all that hard work are the internalized experiences that provide a constant supply of resources and reflections as my mid-life has taken on a different race – one that needs just as much stamina and strength. My life these days is like strapping on a backpack loaded with bricks, day in and day out. Some of those bricks are long-term challenges that need daily tending and care, with no immediate outcome or relief in sight. Others are shameful mistakes I have made and represent one step, one day at a time, climbing out of a hole I dug myself. Yet, just like that ten-mile training run, I start. One foot in front of the other. And then another. And then the next one. There is no end insight. You just do what you know to be right, mile after mile, day after day.

Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

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

August 5, 2015

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, Life, Women

What She Learned

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kim Valzania

When she was 5 she learned that when a boy hits you on the playground what it really means is that he likes you.  Richard belted her in the arm at the top of the slide.  She didn’t cry and she didn’t tell the teacher.  But boy did it hurt, and it left a bruise.  Her little friend whispered, “he likes you” but when she told her daddy he said that if it ever happened again, she should make a tight fist and hit Richard back, only harder.  “Right in the nose is always an option.”

When she was 6 she learned that even a daddy is afraid sometimes. She discovered just how fast her daddy could run.  A lying, little, sneak of a neighbor falsely declared that her brother had fallen into a well, up in the woods.   Her daddy, her terrified hero of a daddy, could have qualified for the Olympics that day.  And he almost had a heart attack.

When she was 7 she knew for sure that she wanted to look exactly like Barbie when she grew up.  She practiced by walking around on her tip toes.  She wanted to have the tiniest waist, and a closet full of clothes.  She wanted to live in a dream house, play at the beach, and drive a red corvette. Today she is living proof that those dreams can and do come true.

When she was 8 she learned that if she cut her hair super short like a boy, everyone would start thinking she was a boy and everyone in the neighborhood (even her own family!) would start treating her like a boy and she herself would start acting like a boy.  She even got into a dirt-pile scuffle that involved a bit of rock throwing with above-mentioned lying, sneak of a neighbor.  It was fun for a while.

When she was 9 she learned how to hurt her little sister’s feelings.  All she had to do was tell her she smelled like a cow, refuse to play with her, mess with her animal collection, and slam the bedroom door in her face.  She was wild, mean, and a little bit violent.  Do make note that she later apologized for said bad behavior.  Sometimes being a boy wasn’t easy.

When she was 10 she became suspicious that her daddy would ask her to go ice fishing with him just so he could legally put out more tip-ups and bring home more fish.  When she realized this was indeed true, as in he didn’t deny it true, she was okay with it.  Sort of. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, imagination

A Series of Imagined Exchanges With My New Financial Advisor

April 5, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Susan Harlan.

 

“As you’re falling asleep, I’m going to take over your brain.”

“Are financial advisors supposed to do that?

“Yes.”

 

“So what are you hoping to get out of this meeting?”

“Well, my car broke down, so I have to get a new car.”

“And you’d like to discuss options.”

“Yes. I’d like to figure out what I should spend and come up with a budget for the future. But mostly I’m just depressed because I really loved my car. I attached all sorts of significance about where I am in my life to that that car.”

“I see.”

“Her name was Beryl.”

“You named your car Beryl?”

“Yes. Because she was an old lady. She needed an old lady name.”

“Well, we’ll do our best to come up with a plan.”

“I’ll probably still be sad.”

“Probably.”

 

“So where do you feel that you are in your life?”

“Could we maybe start with some smaller questions?”

“Sure.”

 

“I’ve entered all of your information into this budget spreadsheet.”

“Thank you.”

“We can go through it all. Bills, discretionary expenses, what-not.”

“So you can just plug in the numbers and it adds it all up for you?”

“Yes. That’s the idea.”

“That’s very cool.”

“I think so.”

“And if you change a number, it adds it all up again?”

“So you haven’t ever used Excel?”

“I think there was this time that I was working on this thing…well, no.”

 

“Let’s look at discretionary spending that can be cut, and then we’ll turn to your monthly bills.”

“Are you going to judge me?”

“No.”

“You may regret saying that.”

 

“So what is this eBay expense, for example?”

“That was for a couple of afghans.”

“How many?”

“It might have been as many as four. All told.”

“You could probably do with fewer afghans.”

“They were all different colors.”

“Still.”

“Yes, I probably could.”

“And this eBay charge?”

“Vintage cocktail glasses.”

“I see.”

“They were etched.”

“Right.”

“And a yarn painting.”

“What’s a yarn painting?”

“Well, it’s just really a painting, but you know – made from yarn.”

“Right. These could probably be cut. I see a certain amount of money going towards household expenses.”

“Yeah, I get it.”

“Are there other purchases along these lines we can talk about?”

“Well, that one is for a garden gnome named Baudelaire, and that is for a concrete deer and duck.”

“I don’t necessarily need to know about the exact objects – just the category.”

“The gnome is French.”

“So ‘Housewares’?”

“Sort of. But he lives on the porch.”

 

“These are the kinds of purchases you’ll want to be careful about in the future.”

“Yes. I get tempted to buy things when I’m bored.”

“Are you bored a lot?”

“That’s a difficult question to answer.”

“We can come back to it.”

 

“Do we need to factor a gym membership into the budget?”

“No. Absolutely not.”

 

“How much does your dog cost you per month?”

“About $100.”

“So I’m putting that in.”

“Does that make her a very expensive dog?”

“She’s fine.”

“Even a budget dog?”

“Sure.”

 

“Okay, moving into other recreational expenses. Here, we have Netflix. That’s discretionary.”

“Only if you want me to die the death of the wretched.”

“So Netflix stays.”

 

“Let’s take a look at your monthly food expenses. You may not realize this, but you’re spending a lot on groceries.”

“I can imagine that to be true. I eat a lot.”

“I’m sure we can find a way to make some cuts. What’s this bill for?”

“Vermouth.”

“This whole bill is for vermouth?”

“Well, yes. Sweet vermouth.”

“Was it for entertaining? I can put it under ‘Entertaining.’”

“Sort of. I just found a shop that has some very nice vermouths.”

“What are they for?”

“Manhattans.”

“We may want to cut back on the Manhattans.”

“That’s very upsetting, but I get it.”

 

“I see a number of charges per week for $7.36. What is this?”

“Five Guys.”

“The hamburger place?”

“Yes.”

“If we add these up, you have quite a lot of them every month.”

“Hmm. How many are we talking?”

“I’d really rather not say.”

“I understand. I’ll try to eat more sandwiches.”

“Please do.”

 

“So we’ve been talking a lot about patterns in the past. Let’s turn to your long-term financial goals.”

“Sounds good.”

“How do you see the next couple of years? What would you like to be able to do?”

“Well, I want to but a ramshackle, old farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley and fix it up.”

“Farmhouses are nice.”

“Preferably something with a wood-burning stove and peeling wallpaper. Maybe some nice tile.”

“Anything else?”

“I’d also like to fix up a vintage Airstream trailer and then drive it around the country with my dog.”

“This are noble goals, but maybe we could think more in terms of paying off educational debt.”

“Oh, right. I thought you meant, you know, home improvement goals.”

“We can work out a plan for how much money you should put towards your debt, and that will help you to reach these goals. Eventually.”

“Okay.”

“Any other long-term goals?”

“Well, it’s not really related to paying off debt.”

“Okay.”

“I’d like to move back to New York City and be able to go out to lunch everyday.”

“Everyday?”

“Yes, like how all the expat writers went out to lunch everyday in Paris and ate lobster and drank white wine and talked about books. I’d like to have that life.”

“That does sound nice.”

“But without the wars and the misogyny.”

“Naturally.”

 

Susan Harlan is an English professor at Wake Forest University, and her work has appeared in venues such as The Guardian, The Toast, The Awl, The Morning News, Jezebel, Roads & Kingdoms, and Public Books.

Chicago! Join Jen Pastiloff at her first Chicago workshop Aug 22nd! Book early! " It's story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen's booming voice. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home." ~ Pema Rocker

Chicago! Join Jen Pastiloff at her first Chicago workshop Aug 22nd! Book early!
” It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home.” ~ Pema Rocker

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 1st cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

death, Guest Posts, healing

An Unfinished Life

April 1, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Rachael Koenig.

When my sister calls me in the morning much earlier than she usually does, I know there is something specific she wants to tell me, and I am proved right as she shares the news of the death of a successful young comedian and writer the day before. She knows his sister well. I am not familiar with his name, but I know why she called to tell me.

It doesn’t quite hit me yet as I talk to her on the phone.  “Oh my God, how terrible,” I say, “I can’t even imagine,” which is something that comes out of one’s mouth automatically when discussing these things, but I correct myself when I realize I CAN imagine, because it happened to us. And, then I think to correct myself again, because it happened to HER, our second sister, but I realize I was right the first time, because it’s still happening to us.

I google the comedian and read about his successes. Writing and producing hit television shows. Famous friends and peers. Regular columns on comedic sites and youtube clips of standup shows. I read his articles and watch his clips. He is hysterical and talented. A life to be envied. And I think what I always think  – what potential; how tragic; what an unfinished life. Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: Awfully Successful or Dirt Cheap Happy?

March 28, 2015

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

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, I will see you in Princeton and Philly in a couple weeks! Philly is sold out but NJ has 5 spots. I am so excited that so many of you are coming to my summer Tuscany retreat. We are almost at wait list so book soon if you want to join!

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

 

Dear Life,

I’m 24 years old, moved away approx. 4500 km from home in Southern Ontario to now Edmonton Alberta when I was 19 years old. I’m confident to say most the important parts of life that are taught in young adolescent years were experienced all on my own such as managing bills, budgets, savings, work, career, education, debt, travel, vehicles, rent, and every other responsibility under the sun because I had to, I had nobody, it was sink or swim for me. As well as trying out first hand how to eliminate negativity in my life, keeping my priorities straight, staying on track and knowing who and who not to trust in my life; I have taught myself with no direct coaching.

I see this as a self-reward, an accomplishment, and independence. I don’t need anyone else to be proud of me, because I’m proud of myself. I work hard for all the things I have. I’m graduated with my Business Management Diploma, have several years experience in related fields, and worked for well-known companies in an industry that runs this whole world. I love my determination, my drive, and my goals. I have pushed myself to the limit, and I’m not done. Nowhere near done…but I feel as though I’m heading in the wrong direction, or that I have to keep trying for something bigger and better. But what exactly am I after? I don’t know.

I feel I have followed the same path everyone else takes, and that’s the path to unhappiness. Like I’m working hard for myself to be happier tomorrow than I am today…everyday. The stress of wanting to be more successful, make more money, knocking tasks off my never ending to-do list, being on time, paying my dues, which are all involved with living your life (which I’d say I was always pretty good at)… is exhausting, and stresses me out until finally a little birdie comes and tells me everything is going to be okay, money and success is just an illusion and you shouldn’t think that that’s going to make you happy tomorrow.

So I begin to worry less about everything I used to take so seriously, the things that have got me to where I am today, and I start appreciating what I have now, the people in my life, and start being and acting like a whole new person with a whole new positive outlook on life that’s free of the world’s everyday bullshit for lack of better words. A person who values life, a better person in my opinion. A person who doesn’t freak out when their cell-phone bill isn’t paid off, or when the Wi-Fi turns off or one of those people who take out my anger on other people for shit your soul doesn’t need–which I do. My determination, and my drive to keep stabilized and to move forward diminishes, and my goals are less significant to the point where even my body loves me more for it and everyone notices as well. But it only lasts monetarily till the point where I realize there’s no premium gas in my 2013 BMW.

The stresses of life brings me down, the need to be ahead brings me down, the race brings me down, realizing life isn’t about material things and money brings me down, not having material things and money brings me down, not knowing what I want or where I’m going brings me down, and reflecting on it all brings me down. Not to a state of depression, but a dangerous state of not caring about anything, and making decisions my “on-track” self would slap me for, such as careless BUT… Free Soul decisions and free soul attitude as though I’m escaping, and only then do I feel like this is what life’s supposed to be like. Happy everyday. I’m depressed only when reality settles it’s sickness back into my veins. Viciously.

I’m young still, I have endless options, I don’t have kids, I don’t have pets, my relationships with men are always on my sleeve because I’m unpredictable, I don’t even know what I’m doing sometimes, and most the time the biggest decisions that I make are last minute and as a result. And I love it. Spontaneous, a not well-liked attribute by those who have ever gotten too close to me, they know only of me leaving and creating chapters in my life, I don’t think the know what it’s like to have a burning desire to change life’s routine. And they definitely don’t know what the consequences are.

I feel my path can go one of two ways.. awfully successful, or dirt cheap happy. I would love to figure out a way to balance the two to a perfect equilibrium.

Signed, Awfully Successful or Dirt Cheap Happy?

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

 

Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships

Dear Life: Is This The End of My Relationship?

March 10, 2015

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 MaryBeth Bonfiglio.

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, I will see you in NJ & Philly in a couple weeks at my Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human! NYC sold for March 21st is sold out. 🙁

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now. Space is limited.This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now. Space is limited.This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Dear Life,

I met my current husband when my daughter was 14. We met online. His profile stated clearly that he wanted to meet someone without children. She was not a child anymore. She was a teenager and perfectly able to stay home alone on my date nights. He agreed to date me, and after the third date, we continued. Eight and a half years later, we are still together and married.

Should I have seen the early warning signs? Should I have noticed how she bristled in his presence, how he became awkward and uncomfortable in hers? Should I have paid more attention to that first major fight they got into about how much cheese she wanted to buy when we went on that first trip together to Santa Fe, the nausea that ensued for me, the migraine? My body was being very clear with me, but I ignored it.

She was 16 at the time, and I chalked it up to her never wanting to accept anyone else in my life.  I never moved him into our house. To this day, we still live apart due to work circumstances. To this day, we live apart due to more than that when I’m truthful about it.

She’s 23 now, and things are worse than ever. She’s learned to stand up for herself. She notices the language of control. She hears the cadence of judgment. She will not abide with his way of being. Recently, her car broke down and she called to get my help with the situation. While I was speaking with her, he had a suggestion. She heard him in the background, and told me to tell him that this was between us. He would not be quiet. He persisted. So, I handed him the phone. It was the biggest mistake I could have made. He kept trying to tell her his suggestion, while she was trying to tell him that it was a bigger problem, but he wouldn’t listen to her. Then he said, “You never listen to me!” She hung up on him.

Emails have ensued between them. He feels he’s owed an apology. She has, but with an explanation for how she was feeling, which he did not accept. I think he needs to drop it, and move on, but that’s not his way.

I’ve seen him lose many friends over these eight and a half years over smaller infractions. And now he’s got my daughter in his cross-hairs. My inclination is to step in front of his aim this time. This is my daughter. Yes, she hung up. But it’s not black and white. This time, I cannot, and I will not take his side.

I keep asking myself if this is going to be the moment, or the situation that will wreck this relationship. I don’t know if I can continue to be with a person who has burned many bridges with friends, and is now ready to sever ties with my daughter over this incident. No, it wasn’t the first time they’ve had a fight, and it wouldn’t be the last, but the absolutism of this argument, has me feeling sad and sick. She could get over it and move on for the sake of the situation, he could not.

At the end of the day, she’s my kiddo, and I love her more than life itself. He’s my current guy in a long line of long term relationships. He’s someone whose crazy matched my own in many ways. We get each other and it’s comfortable. We also have this great set up where we live apart during the week so I get my alone time, something I cherish. But not being able to share my joys and sorrows about the life of my one and only child with my partner seems like a gulf I cannot bridge. What about holidays? What happens when she gets married or has a child?   He can’t just break up with my kid!

The older I get, the more I realize that I can live the rest of my life on my own if I had to, something I don’t think I thought I could do eight years ago. It all seems to go back to that online post that I failed to pay attention to. Why do we so often fail to pay attention to the biggest signs even when they are spelled out so clearly? Is this the end?

Signed, Is This The End?

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

Requiem for a Fallen Catholic.

February 12, 2015

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

By Trish Cook.

Confession

I hate going to church. Especially funerals. I am only here in the hopes that my presence will comfort a hurting friend, not because I believe in this bullshit.

Sit, kneel, stand, cry.

Remember how losing a parent is like a having a body part amputated. How long the numbness where they used to exist lasts, how searing the pain is once the feeling returns. Remember why, ever since my dad died decades ago when I was twenty-four, I havent been able to sit through a religious service without getting angry, teary.

More pomp, more circumstance, more hollow promises.

Prayto whom, I do not knowthat my friend John, who has just lost his father and is the reason I grudgingly sit, kneel, stand, and cry today, finds comfort where I no longer do.

Wonder, as I have so many times since my own fathers funeral: Why would a loving God let us walk the earth so wounded? Lie so battered? Allow us to become so bruised, each and every one of us?

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

  Continue Reading…