Browsing Tag

aging

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Life, motherhood

A Sweet Ride.

January 7, 2015

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By Liz Campbell.

One of the things I love about getting older is my ability to not give a #$@! when it comes to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about a whole lotta stuff, the big stuff, but finally I am reaching a place where I don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew that I had been inching my way towards this space, particularly since becoming a parent. Add to that some huge life events over the past several years, and you’ve got a nifty recipe with which to bake yourself a big fat humble pie.

In my younger years, how things looked was pretty high on my list. My appearance, my home, my car, all things that I felt needed to look ship shape. To have pretty things really was quite important to me. If I take the time to reflect on this, it probably came from a place of simply wanting to fit in and to look, and therefore feel, just like the others. It took some time for the penny to drop that striving for material things in order to keep up with the Jones’s, does not make for a satisfying existence.

As I got older, and life started to throw me some curve balls, worrying about how things looked began to fall by the way side. There were much bigger things that needed my energy and attention – sustaining meaningful relationships, overcoming loss, starting a family, raising children – all big grown up things…things that really mattered. And if I’m honest with myself, I think that getting to the space of not giving a #$@! about stuff came about partly because I was getting to be all grown up, but mainly because I had no time! Who’s got the time or the head space to worry about what car you drive or the latest fashion trend, when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or running on 2 hours sleep a night for months on end with not 1 but TWO colicky babies??! Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Thank you for Listening.

December 27, 2014

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By Amy Yelin.

My father listened. That was his job. He was a psychiatrist, like Bob Newhart on TV, and as a child I thought this made him an important man. A celebrity even. Why else would he have his own parking spot?  Two spots, actually, both with signs that read: Reserved for Gershon Yelin, MD. Violaters Towed at Their Own Expense.

Sometimes we’d visit his office after a shopping trip or picking up books at the library in Port Chester, New York. My mother would park in one of those special spots, right next to his car, and then I’d feel important, too, like a regular Amy Carter.

My father’s office was in a typical 1970’s brick office building, with a dark hallway that smelled like menthol. I noted the numbers as we walked down the hall until we reached the door labeled 2G. Then, despite my mother’s insistence to only ring it once, I’d push the buzzer repeatedly,

My father opened the door just a tiny bit, the chain still on. “Who is it?” He’d say, pretending to be suspicious.

“It’s me…Amy!”

“And me,” my mother said, playing along.

“Whaddya want?”

After I rang the buzzer a few more times, the door flew open and my father greeted us with a happy but subdued, “Well hellooooo’

No one was ever there when we visited. No patients in the giant waiting room. No receptionist at the reception desk.  My father’s actual office, with nothing more than a desk light on, was a stark contrast to the fluorescently lit waiting room. The window blinds were always drawn almost to the bottom, resembling two sleepy eyelids, letting in only the tiniest slivers of light. Several pipes waited in an ashtray on his desk, and a standing globe, possibly the only fun thing in the room, beckoned me every time. I’d make myself at home in my father’s black leather chair, close my eyes and then spin that globe hard and see where my finger would land.

“Here’s where I’m going to move,” I’d announce upon opening my eyes. “New Zealand!”

“Bon voyage,” my father would say.

My father is 86 now. We talk on the phone at least once a week, but only see each other around Thanksgiving, when my dad and his second wife Terri fly up to New York from North Carolina for their annual medical appointments. We drive down from Boston and meet them at their favorite hotel, The Renaissance, not far from where I grew up. It’s a bizarre sort of family reunion, but it’s ours. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Guest Posts, Self Love

Happy Birthday To Me

December 22, 2014

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By Ellyn Oaksmith

I don’t know why I picked 47. Maybe, just maybe, I am getting wiser. This was the year I made my birthday about love. All kinds of love: sisterly, romantic and that most important love, that shores up women approaching the rocky shoals of middle age: my friends. My sister kicked it off by quietly asking me if she could throw a mid-week gathering for me. Wine and cake, six o’clock to eight o’clock. At first my mind scrolled through a list of motherly duties: homework patrol, soccer, carpool, piano lessons, riding lessons… How could I carve out time on a weeknight to drink wine with my girlfriends?

It was as easy as saying “Yes.” Keeping the guest list small was easy: it would just be a small group of women with many connections: book group, volunteering at the school, our children, all living on the same suburban hill. My sister baked a cake and opened wine. There would be cheese and crackers for those who would miss dinner. She’d keep it simple. I was surprised at how excited I was. Little did I know the reserves of joy this gathering would unleash.

Each day I logged onto the Evite.com to see who had responded, my heart warming with each yes. By the weekend every single woman who had been invited was coming. I was Sally Fields at the Academy Awards. “You love me. You really love me.” My inner eleven year old, terrified that no one would come to her party, was silenced. Bring on the cupcakes.

My birthday was on a Sunday, the party, the Wednesday before. By Monday I was aglow, smiling at strangers, buying treats for my kids at the grocery store, paying attention to the things I love about my husband, enjoying dinner together instead of living for lights out. I was Gene Kelley in “Singing in the Rain,” spinning my umbrella over my shoulder, enjoying the slap of raindrops on my face. Did I mention that I live in Seattle?

Continue Reading…

Birthday, Guest Posts, love

FIFTY-EIGHT AND COUNTING.

December 20, 2014

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By Lesléa Newman.

I have been waiting all my life to turn 58.

Well, not all my life exactly. Just the last 48 years, ever since I turned ten. That was the year my best friend, Vicki brought over a wooden Ouija Board with the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes,” “no,” “hello” and “goodbye” painted on it in bold black script. I still remember the day we sat cross-legged on the carpet of my bedroom facing each other with the board and our future between us. We asked the Ouija Board typical ten-year-old-girl questions: Would we get married? (Yes for both of us which proved correct: Vicki married a handsome man named David and I married a handsome woman named Mary). Would we have children? (Yes for Vicki who happily raised three magnificent children; no for me, who happily raised a pride of magnificent cats). And then bravely and stupidly I asked the Ouija Board: “How old will I be when I die?

Vicki and I held our fingertips lightly against the wooden heart-shaped marker as it slid across the board slowly, stopping first at the “five” and then at the “seven.” “Fifty-seven,” I crowed, thrilled to learn I’d live to a ripe old age. At the time, fifty-seven seemed beyond ancient. Why, my mother wasn’t even that old! It was 1965 which meant that I wouldn’t turn 57 until 2012, a year that sounded so far off and futuristic, it couldn’t possibly ever arrive.

I don’t remember ever consulting the Ouija Board again. But I do remember how its premonition popped into my head when death almost came to call. I was home alone slicing a leftover baked potato into rounds to fry up for breakfast. I popped a piece into my mouth without thinking about it until it landed flat across the top of my windpipe, sealing it tight as the lid on a canning jar. But I’m not 57 yet, I thought as I leapt up, raced to a neighbor’s house and frantically pounded on her door. After my neighbor performed the Heimlich maneuver, and the piece of potato flew out whole and landed with a splat against the wall, I thanked her and calmly strolled home, as if she had just given me a cup of tea instead of the rest of my life. She didn’t understand how I could remain so unrattled. But I was only 23. According to the Ouija Board, I still had 34 years to go.

Over the years, there were other brushes with death: a car accident here, a bumpy flight there. And then there was that time when I foolishly followed an electrician’s advice and stuck a raw potato into the socket of a broken overhead lamp to see if the switch was on or off. It was on, the potato sparked and fried, and I almost did, too (what is it about me and potatoes?).

And then I turned 57.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014

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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, healing, Women

Letter To My 13 Year Old Self (From My 70 Year Old Self.)

November 17, 2014

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By Alma Luz Villanueva. 

Dear Alma Luz at 13 (aka Super Girl),

I see you’ve stopped eating, the sight of your ripening breasts, the patch of pubic hair, announces you’re becoming a girl. No, a woman. When you began to bleed between your legs; when you climbed to the top of the ten story building scaffold, sunset, all the men gone. Only silence, bird wings, the Bay Bridge lighting up like Xmas, spanning the deep water. Exit to la mar where you used to swim with your swim team at sunrise (yes, an ice cube). Mission Playground, the pool, you borrowed the scratchy swimsuit, but finally the mean-ass swim coach brought you a swimmer’s suit. Thin, your freezing girl nipples exposed, your shy V- but you could swim smoother, faster. The scratchy swimsuit bloated up like a sponge, the mean-ass coach yelling, “Ya got lead in yer ass, head down, up, breathe, swim like yer drowning!” You always laughed, which pissed him off. The other girls were scared shitless of him, his yelling voice. You’d heard that voice before, your insane, drunk stepfather (the bad one, not the good one you’d finally meet)- and you knew you could grab a weapon to defend yourself, or just heave yourself out of the pool. “Go fuck yourself, Mike!” And never return, leaving the thin, swimmer’s suit behind. You had your pride.

So, when you began to bleed at 12, at the top of the building scaffold, silence and bird wings, you remembered your beloved Yaqui Mamacita’s words and warning (in Spanish)- “When you begin to bleed between your legs, niña, you’ll become una mujercita, which means someday you’ll have children from your own bleeding womb. There’s pain, but you must bear it, never forget. The joy and sorrow of being a woman. Your strength and courage lives in your womb, niña, even now, never forget.” And how you heard Mamacita’s voice in the wind, “Never forget” (the power of words), and you slid down the steel so fast your palms were bleeding when you touched earth. Continue Reading…

Books, Guest Posts, Women

Marrying George Clooney.

September 14, 2014

By Amy Ferris.

The chapter that started it all…

Please raise your hand if you have ever had a fantasy of marrying George Clooney.

I have taken a poll among my many curiously deranged, off-balance girlfriends who very often find themselves dancing, or in some cases, swaying, to the beat of their own iPod in the middle of the night.

Each one, honest to god, has a similar fantasy. Mine goes like this. Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Guest Posts

Late Bloomer.

June 16, 2014

LATE BLOOMER by Suzy Vitello.*

Suzyat2

So, today is my birthday. I’m 53. Yup. Fifty-fucking-three.

If I lived 100 years ago, I’d probably have false teeth by now.

And other hideous afflictions.

Thing is, in the possibility sector of my brain, I’m no different than I was as a teenager, sitting on my bed, staring at my red-and-white striped wallpaper, dreaming up various lives for myself.

When I was 22, living in Syracuse, New York, on year number five of school (I had this tendency to open up the class catalog and pick-a-major, any-major: English, Hindi, Anthropology, Communications, Dietetics. In that order. Just paid off my undergrad debt a few years ago), there was this long claw-foot bath soak where I dreamt up a life in which I’d change my name to Rose and live in Paris. Yup, pretty cliché.

But then the winter came, and Syracuse has this condition called “squalls” that last until May, and my second senior year there were lots and lots of squalls. So, one day, I picked up an issue of Cosmo. At the time, the magazine ran these features called “What it’s Like to Live and Work in ___.” February, 1984 the focus was on Phoenix. I read the piece in a café trying to wait out the squall, and in the twenty minutes it took for the sideways, pelting snow to abate, I’d decided that come graduation, I was moving to the desert. That’s right! A place I’d never even considered before, but hey! I was graduating with a degree in therapeutic nutrition, and there were lots of old people in Phoenix who might need a person to counsel them on low cholesterol diets. Certainly, I’d find a good job there, right?

I moved to Phoenix with my first husband and a mutt named Mandy in July of ‘84. July! In an un-airconditioned Dodge Colt. And, sure enough, I found employment. Of the minimum wage variety. A series of shitty jobs – the worst of which was as a cocktail waitress in a retirement community. The only “counseling” I did was to slap the liver-spotted hands of octogenarians who were pinching my ass.

When I look back on the three Phoenix years, I see them as this sort of interstitial purgatory. Despite having written since I was eight, during those young adult years in the desert, I cracked not one book or journal. I channeled my creative energy into banal stuff like stenciling borders on the walls of my house (remember that craze?), and making jewelry out of fimo clay (yet another craze).

But here’s my point:

I’ve been stop-start writing since third grade. As a kid, I first learned the word prosaic, a term my mother ascribed to my first work of lyricism. I offer said poem herewith:

Spring

Spring is when the flowers bloom.

With snow gone, there’s lots of room.

Birds chirping while building their nests.

When mother-bird takes her turn, father-bird rests.

The tip-tap of rainfalls,

the sound of mate calls,

is spring.

While my mother critiqued the piece, finding nothing poetic in it at all save for the onomatopoeic tip-tap, my third grade teacher, a square-shaped, red-headed battle axe of a woman named Mrs. Angle, held the effort up in front of the class, and read it out loud as though it were coated in honey. I enjoyed an entire week of popularity. Mrs. Angle, having scolded me for daydreaming on my report card, redeemed me by pronouncing me a Writer!

My mother, however, wanted me to try again. And, bless her heart, she was right. But I never did return to that poem, instead, I moved to prose, and never looked back until, in Freshman English at Syracuse, I was asked to write a paper on Eliot’s Prufrock. That may have been my first real immersive experience with a body of work, and was cause for another teacher-fawning moment—which, I must admit, I lived for.

But with all of that praise comes the fear of failure. When someone loves something you did, you’re bound to disappoint them next time. So I took up with science and home economics (to this day, I’m the shittiest cook I know, and forget about the other domestic arts) and became a nutritionist. All the while, stories stewed inside me. Through much of my twenties, I scribbled things on scraps of paper, which I often destroyed, thinking that I might die in an accident, and they’d be found. And read!

At twenty-eight, as a young widow with two babies and a small pile of cash, I moved to Portland and jumped into the deep end. Teachers or no, I learned how to write for an audience that included myself. I began to submit my stories to journals and to get them published. I won some awards. I went back to school for an MFA and won more awards. But I just couldn’t crack the “book” thing, and I had to admit to myself that part of the problem was, I was still wanting to turn that Spring poem into something my mother would like.

A few years ago The New Yorker ran a piece by Malcolm Gladwell, Late Bloomers. The article tossed around a lot of preconceptions about genius and talent and precocity. One of the most interesting points was based upon research done by an economist from the University of Chicago named David Galenson, who undertook the challenge to disprove assumptions about creativity and age, particularly the idea that poets and artists peak young. What he discovered was that prodigies don’t tend to engage in open-ended exploration, and that they are typically concept-driven; they have an idea, and then go for it, rather than painstakingly researching the way many non-prodigies do. In the article, Galenson is quoted as saying, about late bloomers, “Their approach is experimental. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.”

In other words, late bloomers are nerdy, and tend to follow a depth of inquiry ad nauseam. Ergo, they might have a manuscript or two in Rubbermaid tubs in their basements.

I took solace in that article. And a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to write something all the way. Something that brought me back to the dream. The idea of possibility and wonder. A snippet of 50+ years of quirky humanity in the form of a character and setting that reflected a piece of myself I was willing to share. And I had to absolutely get over the idea that validation only comes when everyone loves your art. But before I could overcome that, I had to admit that I’d been holding back because of it.

My debut book came out in January, and another one is being published in a couple of months.

For me, all the meandering has been part of my process. I’m a percolator, who drips many false starts into the carafe. Undrinkable sludge. So many versions of various lives. So many manuscripts on floppy discs in landfills. But the kernel of truth lives inside of failure. Oh, I know, that’s quite a platitude. I feel icky even writing it, though I firmly, firmly believe it.

I’m fifty-three. I think I have twenty more novels in me. At least.

And my grandmother is about to celebrate her 102nd birthday, so there’s that.

 

Suzyat52

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About Suzy Vitello: As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group” (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. THE MOMENT BEFORE is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson, and teaches workshop and classes periodically. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.

 Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info


Poster by SimpleReminders.com
Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and author Emily Rapp will be leading a writing retreat to Vermont in October. Visit  jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

*Jen met Suzy when she flew (broken foot and all) to Portland to take a writing workshop with Suzy and Lidia Yuknavitch. Jen is totally obsessed and madly in love with with Suzy and recommends all writers to take a class with her. New Yorkers! Suzy has a workshop in Warwick NY on September 5/6. You might also find Jen there. You should go. Just sayin’.

 

Friendship, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Hoarders.

February 11, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

 

I’ve ben thinking about the stuff we hold onto, the stuff we hoard as humans- the lamps and the photographs and the people, and the little pieces of paper everywhere (me, specifically. I do this.) I found this jotted on a paper tonight: She doesn’t let me put my hands in the potato chip bag or anything- I have fake nails. My one extravagance. And I’m wondering who is she, and why I had fake nails, and what kind of potato chips and why is this piece of paper on my desk in between a Virginia Woolf library book I never returned from 1997 and a bottle of sleeping pills. Hoarder! I want to yell at myself but don’t because who listens when you yell at yourself? The you that is yelling hoarder or the you with her hand in the potato chip bag?

Let’s say I am the chick with her hand in the bag and let’s say they are salt and vinegars. Let’s say I have my hand in the bag and my fingers are kind of wet because maybe I’ve licked them to pick up crumbs and the crumbs are stuck to my fingers and I suck them off. (Let’s say that.) So I hear hoarder! being yelled but still, I eat the salt because it’s so good, addictive really, and there’s no way I can not not lick my fingers to get that goodness off of them. I want it all. The chip crumbs in the bag’s skin and every goddamn remnant of broken chip itself.

An old friend has had a birthday party recently and didn’t invite me. I found out and felt hurt. It dawns on me that we aren’t really friends anymore, not in the immediate sense anyway.

I think about the letter I got from one of the guys I work with. He’s trying to get/stay sober. I work with a bunch of recovering addicts who pretty regularly blow my mind. This guy gives me a letter, and one of the lines says, “I remember how many friends I have neglected as the years have passed.”

I think of this old friend who didn’t invite me to her party and I recall what a shitty friend I was to her during my shitty years. [1] And I wonder if this is payback or my karma, (if you believe in such a thing.) I’ve seen too many “bad” things happen without any retribution, at least not in this life, to really know if I believe in karma or not. But really, what it comes down to, I think, is hoarding. Knowing when to let go.

My grandmother, before she died, had this lampshade wrapped in plastic. For as long as I could remember, that lampshade was wrapped in plastic with the price tag dangling from it. It was never dusted, so although it may have originally been white or beige, it had long since become brown, and the price tag hanging from it reeked of despondency. Like she’d given up somewhere but couldn’t muster the strength to dust the lamp or at least to take the price tag off. And it wasn’t an expensive lamp, it was some cheap K-Mart thing, some hideous thing that had probably been on sale in 1987. She sat and did her crossword puzzles, oftentimes all day. Just sitting there, only stopping to open a can of salmon or to go to the door and blow smoke out. She offered me salmon salad once as an adult, and I was naïve enough to think she meant a salad with lettuce and maybe a piece of salmon on top.[2]

But back to the lamp. That fucking lamp made me want to scream. Take off the pricetag, Gram. Throw it out. It’s hideous.

She didn’t listen. She, in all honesty[3], couldn’t hear. She didn’t have hearing loss (I’m the lucky one with that trait) but rather she couldn’t take in anything anyone was saying. She’d ask a question and talk right over you. After a while you didn’t answer and you all just sat there while she did her puzzles and the price tag dangled. Her sofa had plastic on it too. Anyway, that just gives you an idea. It’s not a character bashing. I didn’t like my grandmother and most likely she didn’t like me so don’t feel too bad.

These ramblings are mine. Locked in my head or on page, they are mine. Hoarding them, you can say. Although my attempt at sending them out into the world is the opposite of that. Here, take them away from me.  Take the price tags and the time she threw a towel on me while I napped because she didn’t have a blanket. Take it all!

How do we know when to let go? Well, the signs are all around us, aren’t they? [4] Your friend doesn’t ever reach out, but rather you are always the one to reach out? Why do we hold on to these things?

I think on some level we think that by letting them go we will cease to endure- our potato chip fingers will evaporate into notes on our desks lodged in between books and pills and then what? We won’t have mattered- we will never be the impossible beautiful things we imagine ourselves to be. But if we hold on to it all, every last friendship and memory and price tag on a lamp, then we will have somehow survived what it means to be human and the fleeting moment we get. What’s that line from that Eminem song “Lose Youself”- You better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance.

There’s a bit of truth in that.

Another guy I work with wrote: I remember my first girlfriend. Suzanne. She was Hispanic. She was beautiful. I wanted to sleep with her. We never did. I was in seventh grade.

I bet he holds on to that, that memory of Suzanne. Of course he does, he wrote it down all these years later and when he handed me the paper I could see there was a hesitation, like he was giving his Suzanne away. As if she would no longer be only his. In his imagination, in her seventh grade body and broken out face. He clutched the paper for a moment too long until I gave him the nod that said, “I won’t take her from you. You can keep her.”

They sustain us. Why else do we hold on to price tags on lamps and dead friendships? They trot us down the street when we feel like we have nothing. They pop up in our imagination and say, “Oh, but you do have something. You have this and this and this and this,” and even if you are completely deluding yourself- you haven’t talked to your friend in months or met her baby born last summer, you think, “this defines me, this keeps me in place.”

Well, I guess I’d like to call bullshit. Hoarder and bullshit! I’m calling it all. Why not? I’m  getting ballsier and less human and more human and all the things that aging does to us and I think about how pretending I loved my grandmother so people will think I am a good person is a façade. And holding on to every single thing that has carried me to this moment in time[5] is a like stealing. At a certain point, none of it is mine anymore.


[1] Shitty years: years between 21-31. Horrible self-deprecating, self-involved miserable years. Not a highlight in any friendship. Shitty years for friendships and for existence (mine.)

[2] but she meant a can of pink salmon, mashed with mayonnaise, split between three of us- her, my grandfather and myself. It was okay. Better than I expected.

[3] fact: she never once listened when she asked a question. This is not for sake of storytelling although it makes a good story. It is fact. I am hard of hearing but my grandmother never once heard a word I’ve said in the entire time I knew her.

[4] That’s a sign. Stop being ingnorant.

[5] Many things carried me here. Death, loss, joy, trauma, friendships, starvation, stupidity, creativity, balls, fear.

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

 

click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

courage, Guest Posts, healing

I Am (Not) 43 & Fabulous.

January 5, 2014

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

By Wendy Jackson.

 

I had my second back surgery shortly after I turned 40. 

I knew I needed it and that cortisone shots would not be on the menu when I lost feeling in my right foot and it turned in at a awkward angle that I could not unbend on my own.  I could not wiggle my toes. And it hurt like a motherf*cker.

I was not upset that I needed the surgery.

My first one was not terrible and my recovery was unremarkable.  At 40 I had just run my first 5k and was determined to be that woman who ages gracefully and looks better with the years. I wanted to be that woman in MORE magazine with the caption “This is what 40 looks like”.

I was most upset that I was going to miss the annual girls get away (read: drinking, laughing, sleeping, dancing, eating fest) on the river. It’s an amazing little place, with the best view, and to be surrounded by love and laughter all weekend- it’s something I look forward to. The girls offered to take me immediately from the hospital and nurture me on the dock all weekend with promises of good behavior, plenty of painkillers, and the best bed in the house.

My doctor and husband said no. (It should be noted that my husband considered it, he knew how crushed I was to be missing it.)

I assumed of course, that I would exit the hospital good as new with a few prescriptions and a stern “no driving for 6 weeks” as I had before.  A few weeks of physical therapy and we are back on track to being 40 and Fabulous.

But when the doctor came in after surgery and asked if I could wiggle my toes, I could not.  When he asked if I could ‘feel this’, I didn’t feel it . And when I tried to straighten my foot from that awkward angle, it wouldn’t.  And when I asked the doctor to tell me when it would all come back to normal, he couldn’t.

So I did what any normal person would do-I cried.

I cried in my bed, on my couch, and in public. I cried after a full day of shoe shopping, my dear husband trying to find me cute shoes to fit over this hideous leg brace I had been fitted with. I cried in the shower, the howling kind of cry that you don’t want to share. I slipped so deeply and so quickly into this desperate place, that I didn’t notice it.  Or maybe I did. I don’t remember. I just know that I blamed it on grief and the normal, totally acceptable grieving process when you lose something or someone. And I was losing a part of me.

I was losing the part of me that rocked platform, spiked or chunky heels. The me that loved to dress up, and felt sexy, and beautiful. I was losing the part that could chase my kids around the yard and up the stairs as I pinched their bottom and they laughed. I was losing the woman that just ran 3.2 miles and felt powerful and renewed. I was losing the girl that walked effortlessly on the beach, the boat, the dock, the cobblestone sidewalks downtown.

Suddenly my husband was offering me his arm, not in that romantic, Victorian way, but in that way you offer aid to an elderly woman crossing the road.  I was losing freedoms I never imagined-stand up paddleboarding, my step classes, and yes, my yoga.

And that is how I justified the crying, the depression and the hole that I was in. I don’t need medication, this is normal, I kept saying. Until the day I admitted to my husband that there were days when I would drive over the rivers that surround this city, so beautiful and serene, the most peaceful views I have ever seen-and think ‘if I just turn the wheel really hard, really fast, I could go over the edge’.

But I already had, hadn’t I? By just thinking that, by actually saying that, I had stepped off of grief and into something entirely different.

Medication. Reiki. Accupuncture. Therapy.  It is hard to say which one helped me the most.

I stomped my feet and said ‘enough!’ and tried everything at once. I chucked the brace in the back of the closet and vowed to retrain my leg and my body. I sold, donated and gave away my shoe collection and vowed one day that I would wear heels again. I went back to the gym and tried my yoga-failing miserably, but I tried.

I told my husband to hold my hand, not take my arm. I still had 9 months of 40 left-plenty of time to get back on track…

But just months later there was a car accident, not my fault, and when the car stopped everything was muffled, and my ears were ringing terribly. The ER said it was ‘temporary, it happens, don’t worry’. But it wasn’t, and three days later I had the volume on the TV at 32 and I knew it was not good. So off to the doctor, and the ENT and the audiologist I went.

Bilateral sensorinueral hearing loss. Threshhold shift. Permanent.

I laughed. I actually laughed as I heard it, thinking Really? Is this real?’After the leg ordeal, can this really be happening to me? As I sat in the doctors office while they put goo in my ear to take an impression for hearing aids, tears streaming silently down my face, I saw myself walking toward that hole again.  It is dark, and comforting, and it was calling me.  I had just turned 41. This was not how it was supposed to be.

They say that God (or the universe, or whatever you believe in) keeps giving you the same test until you learn the lesson. What lesson was I missing? Why was I being punished? Was this karma? What had I done to deserve this? How on earth did I get here, how did I become this broken person? I was off my meds, and I was trying to make sense of this, and couldn’t. I was determined to push through it, on my own, to be stronger, to be a fighter, and I could not let go of that picture of myself in my head that I had when I turned 40. I kept going back to that place-but it was all different now. I felt as though I was made of glass, and that at any moment, I would shatter and just disappear.

Today, I am 43. Three years of changes, challenges, tears, anxiety, depression, medication. Three years fighting with my doctors, my lawyers, my husband, my friends, and myself.

I kept trying to get back on an earlier path, not realizing it was long gone, washed away years before.

I keep looking at that one picture, that one moment- I was forty and fabulous, and I didn’t even know it.

And there is the lesson.

I wanted THE job, THE body, THE friends, THE life that I thought by 40 I should have. But I had it all along and I didn’t take the time to see it, let alone be thankful for it.

I wasted so much time, so much energy, so much love and life trying to go backwards so that I could move forward, when all I really needed to do was sit still. I needed simply to be present and see everything around me, to feel and acknowledge what I was feeling and then let it go.  I didn’t have to fight everyday, I just had to put down my baggage, take a deep breath, and move forward.

Fabulous according to Webster’s Dictionary means:  resembling or suggesting a fable :  of an incredible, astonishing, or exaggerated nature. It lists related words as : fabricated, fantastic (also fantastical), fictional, fictitious; fanciful, imaginary, imagined, invented, made-up, make-believe, pretend, unreal.

So no, I am not 43 and Fabulous.  I am 43 and Free. And strong. And authentic.  And honest, happy, loved, present and peaceful.

And that is much, much better.

Wendy Jackson is a mom, wife, lover of life and laughter, books, music and writing. She recently attended Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s writing retreat to Vermont. Book the 2015 retreat here.

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Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Birthday, Delight, Guest Posts

Top 10 Life Lessons Learned In My 48 Years by Lynn Hasselberger.

May 1, 2013

I woke up today and…voilà! I’m 48 years old.

Born in the middle of the night, two weeks late, I violently entered the world at nine and a half pounds with a huge pile of dark hair on my head. (I got stuck, my mom hemorrhaged and, well, we’re all still alive to talk about it).

Gaping at the large feet and hands attached to this red thing that was supposed to be a baby, my mom was convinced that I was going to be a replica of my six foot one, large-boned aunt (sister to my dad, who is small boned).

My parents couldn’t agree on a name, so I remained nameless for a day or two. Referred to as the baby or, more hopefully, “Baby.” (I need to ask more questions about this fact that I learned only a holiday or two ago after my mom drank one glass of wine too many. Sorry, mom, this is my story. And it’s actually pretty humorous. I’m not trying to call you out as a bad mom).

Eventually they agreed upon Lynn. My dad’s name is E. Leonard and, at the time, they called him Lenny (the  initial “E” for  Elmer, so Lenny was definitely the better choice).

In my early years, family referred to me as Lynn Anne. Later, you can imagine the confusion. If you can’t, allow me to explain: Lenny got older and became Len. I didn’t like to be called Lynn Anne, so, thusly (I’ve always wanted to use that word in one of my posts!) I morphed into Lynn. During my teen years, when people phoned for my dad and I answered, trouble ensued. “Is Len there?” they would ask, pronouncing my dad’s name as (you guessed it!) Lynn. “This is Lynn,” I would say. “No Len!” They’d insist, still pronouncing my dad’s name as Lynn.

To top it off, I have an Aunt Lynne and a cousin Linda. Hey, it was almost worse. I could have been Cressie—my grandma (my  dad’s mom) wanted them to name me after her deceased sister Cressida.

So, I’ve never been a big fan of my name. Except when it turns into Lynnie, a nickname that some friends use on too rare an occasion.

Forty-eight years later—my baby fat dispersed properly with the exception of my knees where it seems to collect—I am who I am today. Lynn Hasselberger. (Side note: Just a few days ago, I celebrated my 20th anniversary. Before marriage, I was plain old Lynn Johnson. I could not wait to get married in order to jazz up my boring name. When I met my husband, I immediately thought: Nope, he’s not the one. I mean, Hasselberger?)

I’ve survived many struggles—from eating disorders and infertility… to (gulp) infidelity—and enjoyed quite a few triumphs, blessings and overall good times.

I’m wiser now (quite possibly, most of that wisdom came during the last eight years) and am learning to accept the fact that I’m aging. A fact I found difficult to accept only two years ago.

Enough about me! Here are the ten top things I learned so far:

1. Rich or poor, happiness comes from within. I’ve struggled with finances along the way (and still today after my husband’s two and a half year unemployment—he’s been working for over a year now!—unexpected medical expenses and the investment into my business that was never and never will be returned, and that we’re still paying off) and enjoyed “better” times when we were both working full time, each making six figures. I wasnot happier when we had more money, but we were able to eat out a lot, travel… and when something in the house broke we could fix it immediately with the only stress being which contractor to choose.

I’m happy for the most part right now. Give me some more money and my shoulders will soften, we’ll sleep easier and we can finally take that real family vacation that doesn’t require camping at someone’s house. A slight tick in happiness will probably occur but can only be sustained with what’s in our hearts.

And if we start making oodles of money, we’d be smarter with it. I wouldn’t buy that $250 pair of shoes (they lasted more than 10 years, so you could say it was a good buy) but I would treat myself to a massage and cleaning service weekly.

2. We have to accept ourselves, not try to be what other people think we should be. Over the years I’ve heard that I have to calm down my hair, my lips are too thin, I’m too thin, I need to loosen up and get out more (okay, I’d like to change that about myself), I’m too quiet, I should be this or that.

I’ve also imagined what others might think of me and what they think I should be. And tried to fit in. Not wild enough? Not fun enough? Not smart enough? Not pretty enough? Not successful enough?

Source: google.com via Kelly on Pinterest

I used to try to prove I was those things in order for others to like me more.

But now I think: So the f*ck what? I am me. If you don’t like me as I am, move along. Nothing to see here.

Or deal with this:

I’m not a big fan of large groups and big, loud parties. My hair is at times frizzy or just tossed into a ponytail. I can be quirky. I  don’t watch reality shows. I find it important to continue to learn and be open-minded. I do the best and love as much as I can and forgive you no matter what (unless you kill my cat or do something even more heinous, but even then…). I will  show off my big ugly feet with their weird long monkey toes and even paint them a crazy color on occasion. I will get stressed at laundry. I will run outdoors as long as my legs and body will cooperate. I will mostly eat healthy food. I will tell you if I’m feeling low or about what bugs me. I will utter non sequitors often. I will wear my pj’s some days when I work at home and occasionally nag. I will be quiet at times. I will be cautious if I don’t know you well enough yet. I will stop at one or two drinks. I like to be in bed reading by 9 p.m. I will turn down your invitation sometimes not because I don’t appreciate you but because I simply feel like hanging out at home because I’m just worn out. My house will not be spotless and I can’t guarantee shaved armpits on a daily basis. I’m spiritual but not into organized religion and you’ll never witness me squashing a spider. I’m a tree hugger and believe humans are accelerating climate change by emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than the oceans and vegetation can absorb, throwing off they way the climate system would work without our interference. And unless you’re a climate scientist, you can’t convince me otherwise. I voted for Obama.

And I’m okay with that. If you’re not, then so be it.

Source: Uploaded by user via Elizabeth on Pinterest

3. Aging isn’t bad. It’s a badge of honor. Every day we wake up is truly amazing. I have to admit, I tried “filler” on my face a couple years ago. I was a) trying to mask the horizontal lines that were forming around my lips and b) at battle with my thin lips. Since they were already poking me with a painful needle, I allowed them to fill in the crease above my chin and soften my laugh lines. The changes made me feel more attractive (after all the nasty swelling and bruising vacated my face) but didn’t make me feel any happier.

I was in a mid-life freak out zone at the time. Thanks to my husband’s layoff, my adventure into unnatural fillers was put to an end.

We’re all getting older. That means wrinkles, getting tired faster and finding long hairs in weird places. In preparation for the years ahead, I’m learning to embrace these facts. Although I’m a bit concerned about howmenopause will tamper with my mood and wreak havoc in other unknown ways.

Self-disclosure: I cover my grays, though, and that’s something I haven’t found the courage to walk away from. It may take me another 10 years or more. But definitely, by 70, I will let my hair go.

P.S. Fillers and hair coloring are not good for us or the planet. I am admittedly not a 100 percent flawless tree hugger.

4. Holding onto anger is worse than whatever caused the anger in the first place. It ages us and wastes our energy. Forgiveness is key.

Source: Uploaded by user via Lynn on Pinterest

5. When sh*t happens, you’ll know who your true friends are. How? Because they’ll still be around. And if they disappear, it’s probably for the best. (A couple years ago, I told a person I considered a good friend that I was feeling depressed. I never heard from her again. She didn’t return my messages and even disconnected from me on LinkedIn!)

Absorb the goodness your friends (and even your enemies) have to offer while they’re in your life… you’ll be better for it.

Source: via Tanith on Pinterest

6. Exfoliation is important.
Not only are my feet f*ckin’ ugly, they’re dry. It wasn’t until sometime after college that I learned about pedicures and exfoliation. I treat myself to a pedicure at the turn of every season and otherwise exfoliate my feet right here in the comfort of my own home. I also exfoliate the rest of my fine self with loofah during most showers. Afterward, I apply raw shea butter mixed with an essential oil. Quite the process and not something I have time for every day, believe me!

On a more positive note, I appreciate my feet. Although they can’t dance and are often clutzy, they have served me well all these years. I think they, in turn, appreciate the exfoliation.

7. I am not meant to drink more than two drinks. I try to tell this to people when they say, “Oh come on, have fun! Have another drink. Live a little.” (Who knew peer pressure would live on past the age of 15?) Believe me, by avoiding a third drink, I  will have more fun tomorrow and the next day. Drinking one drink is actually enough. And to think, back in college and into my twenties, I partied hard most days of the week. How did I graduate, much less survive? Now drinking just makes me sleepy and wakes me up in the middle of the night.

8. I don’t have to do anything.

This has been my new mantra for the last few days ago and I hope I always remember it. I had been waking up anxious, thinking of all the things I had to do that day. I’d write down the top three things that really had to get done—although, honestly, the world would have carried on without me completing those things—and put all the rest on a longer list which I could pull from if I happened complete the three things and found myself looking for something to do. Invariably, all the tasks plus worries about finance and other stuff I had forgotten to put on the list would jumble around in my head and paralyze me.

Recently, my husband and I spent two nights in the city for our anniversary. It took quite a bit to get myself out the door and onto that train (we don’t do much to avoid spending money!) but once I was at the hotel, clothes put neatly away in the drawers, everything I had to do left my mind. Well, not all at once. But by day two, I was carefree. We didn’t go around the city spending money like drunken sailors. We ate and walked and took in the scene. I even gave breakfast to three homeless men.

Nothing fell apart during those two days. I had fun!

This led to an epiphany. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to wake up to thoughts of what I have to do that day. I don’t have to stress  about anything.

Telling myself I don’t have to do anything—a simple mind trick, similar to believing in fairies who will clean the kitchen and bathrooms in the middle of the night—has reduced my stress. And I’m more productive. My mind is clear. I’m approaching my life differently, from a place of abundance—look how full my life is! I have a family that I love, which leads to a couple of messes and extra laundry. How great is that?! How lucky am I?

I just have to follow my passion. My passion doesn’t have to be on a list.

Yes, I have responsibilities, but waking every morning with all them crashing against each other inside my skull until I can put them on a list and begin cramming them into a day just doesn’t work.

I don’t have to do anything. And my mind believes that! My anxiety? Extinguished.

I sure hope my mind doesn’t realize what I’m up to!

Source: oprah.com via Lynn on Pinterest

9. Food is fuel and medicine. Exercise makes me feel better.

It’s quite simple. I’ve written about my strange and evolving relationship with food, with self-medication disguised as a sugar tooth and eating disorder. Now I know—healthy food and exercise makes me feel better. And, please, I do eat crap once in a while including a pint of ice cream every week.

10. Time flies and every moment is a reward for this thing we call life.

Even the most unpleasant, f*cked up days are a gift.

I go through periods in my life, when it feels like time is slipping away and I feel myself grasping at it as if I could slow it down or stop it  altogether.

But squandering moments or stressing over our perceived lack of time is a waste of energy. I know this from experience. Chasing time is exhausting work!

I’ve decided this very moment to expand upon my mind trick (#8) and tell myself I have all the time I need. Ha! It’s also all the time I’ll ever have available to me. It is precious.

We need to embrace the good and the bad. After the bad, it could get worse, but then it will get better. Or… it might not. But no matter what happens, odds are in your favor that there’s someone else out there who’s experiencing something worse.

In the moments we have, we need to find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. Inspire by sharing our passions. Or simply smile at someone, wave at our neighbor, support a friend when they’re down. Sign a petition for human rights or the planet.

Be grateful for this moment. And the one that just passed.

Live the moment. Get to know it. Learn from it. For it will inevitably be whisked away before you can say “Time flies!” (By the way, time does not fly if you’re serving it.)

And then we die.

Of course I’ve learned much more. But 10 is a nice round number.

The rest I’ll leave up to your imagination.

P.S. I’m grateful to everyone in my life and I hope to enjoy many more moments with all of you.

Happy birthday to everyone!


 

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, reading and writing, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. The founder of myEARTH360.com, Lynn also writes for her blog I Count for myEARTH. She’s a treehugger and social media addict who you’ll most likely find tweeting excessively and obsessively (@LynnHasselbrgr@myEARTH360and @IC4ME) or posting on facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

**This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal and is reposted here with permission.
The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.