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bucket list

Binders, Guest Posts, Race/Racism

Creep Parade: Not One For The Bucket List

June 11, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Shani Gilchrist

Most people—Americans, anyway—have imaginary checklists with grand items they tick off one-by-one as they go through life. Visit Paris — check! Go bungee jumping — check! Run a marathon —check! When asked about my own bucket list I have to struggle to think of more than two items, and they’re not your usual wishes: kayaking with killer whales in Vancouver Bay and attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Truthfully, I only remember the kayaking part when trying to come up with a creative answer to the bucket list question. But Davos is a real dream for me. Unfortunately no one on the inside has any reason to send me an invitation, but I’m usually in a different part of the Eastern Alps when the world’s luminaries are convening in Switzerland. Usually, I’m tagging along with my husband for an annual medical congress he attends in the tiny village of Alpbach, in Austria.

Alpbach is quaint and cute and everyone remembers you when you return because outside of the tourists, almost everyone there is related. It takes about five minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other, but it’s an enjoyable five minutes amongst preserved, unified, traditional wooden buildings. Each roof peeks cozily from beneath a quilt of pristine snow, and each chimney lazily exhales a steady stream of smoke from a fireplace inside. Every year the staff at Der Alpbacherhof Hotel patiently suffers through my broken German. They give me wry, knowing smiles when I stumble through the haze of my jet lag into the breakfast hall just as they’re about to shut it down at 10:30am.  Every year the same dog wiggles his way toward Aaron and me for a pat as we walk up the hill toward the glass and metal marvel that is the Congress Centre, a meeting space that is the area’s lifeblood. Because of the timing of the annual meeting and the seemingly misplaced, ultra-contemporary structure, I dubbed the trip “Mini Davos” the first time we went.

This year my husband made an unusual move and signed up for a second conference following the Alpbach congress. I’d been told we were going to Innsbruck. Instead we went to Igls, another small village that is located five kilometers and several decades away from the Tyrolean capitol.

There were signs upon our arrival indicating that we wouldn’t be experiencing the warm hospitality we’ve become accustomed to in the state of Tyrol. My husband checked into the hotel while I organized our things in the car, trying to fully wake myself from the nap I’d taken on the drive. When we walked back through the front door once he’d come to help me, we busily walked toward the elevator, but the woman working behind the front desk came running from it to interrupt our path.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!” she said, putting out her arm to stop me from walking through the elevator door. “This is for guests only!”

Still foggy from my nap, I wasn’t alert enough to be anything but confused for a moment. There was a tinge of familiarity to the unfriendly greeting, but I couldn’t quite place it. All I knew was that I didn’t like it, and I silently raised an eyebrow at the woman as Aaron waved his keycard in front of her and informed her that we were heading to our room. By the time we reached the third floor I was fully awake and haughtily ticked off, realizing that the receptionist had—at best—assumed I didn’t match her assumption of what the wife of a white American businessman should look like. At worst, she’d thought I was a hooker. Once we’d unpacked, I took a page from my mother’s book of make-the-bitches-eat-their-hearts-out. I changed out of my ski jacket and thermal top and into some cashmere, put makeup on for the first time that day (we’d stayed up so late drinking wine with friends the night before!), and completely ignored the woman when we passed her on our way out to find some lunch, cheerfully calling “Grüss gott!” to anyone else we passed in the lobby.

Grüss gott. The phrase means “may God greet you.” In Austria and parts of German Bavaria it’s customary to give this blessing to people as you cross their paths. At busy times of the day in Tyrolean villages the air undulates with a continuous line of these greetings as everyone nods and acknowledges everyone else. In more cosmopolitan areas Grüss gott is used in more direct interactions, such as when entering a store or meeting a friend. The phrase represents much of what led Aaron and I to fall in love with Austria. Grüss gott feels like a friendly reminder to slow down. It feels like a wish to know the people around you. It feels similar to a sort of American Southernism that highlights the region’s unhidden quirks and long, drawn-out conversations. Perhaps this is why we felt so welcome the first time we visited Alpbach. We felt something akin to the warm space within the bubble of friends and family we’d built in South Carolina that kept us from moving away, despite the many signs that we should probably live elsewhere. At home, we were like welcome strangers. The same seemed true in Austria.  It seemed that every Grüss gott was sincerely given as a wish for good luck and well-being. On that first trip we visited friends in Salzburg once the conference was over. It was Aaron’s birthday and we dined and sipped local wine while trading stories of outdoor adventures and shopping. We returned to the hotel feeling warm and happy, as if God really had greeted us in Austria, bestowing grace and fellowship upon us.

The cold welcome in Igls didn’t prepare us for what the friendly night receptionist, who grew up on the other side of the valley, described as a “weird, creepy parade” that the town puts on every three years. It’s called Tyrolean Fasching, which, in this case, seemed like a redneck Alpine carnival gone wrong. The men dress up as grotesque peasant women who dance, hoot, holler and drink copiously as they lead a procession of tractors hauling miniature log cabins atop flatbed trailers into town. When the parade is over, the cabins are deposited in the village square and each one contains a different kind of discotheque. But I’m jumping ahead. By the time I realized that much I was already experiencing the feeling of being not being safe in Europe for the first time in my life.

The drunk, grotesque cross-dressing men knew everyone lining the streets except those of us who were in town for the conference. Unlike many of my friends of color, I don’t tend to notice when I’m the only brown-skinned person in the vicinity unless someone is making an issue of it. It wasn’t until one of the drunkest of the monster-like peasants lurched at me for a raunchy hug that I became aware of the fact that I was the only non-white person around. Suddenly, I felt like I was a target.

As the parade carried on, two more peasants lunged for hugs and gropes. Aaron, his British co-worker and I were laughing nervously, unsure of what to make of the situation. I started hiding behind my male counterparts whenever it seemed like I’d caught the eye of another parade participant. The final two men, who would have failed any sobriety test despite the fact that it was noon, were the most determined, and they were the ones who caught me off-guard. I was talking to a couple from the conference when I realized I wasn’t going to get away from the peasant who was suddenly in my face. As I shrank away from his hug I felt two quick raps at the backs of my knees from a surprisingly heavy walking stick carried by his friend. I tried to keep myself from falling to the ground by grabbing my husband’s arm, which was holding a cup of hot gluweïn. As we stumbled, the stick-bearer’s even drunker friend pulled up his petticoat, revealing that he wasn’t wearing anything beneath it and that he’d taken special care to French-braid the hairs of his nether regions. I shrieked and covered my eyes as I hit the ground and gluweïn splashed onto my jeans. I think Aaron may have spit or hurled out the bit of spiced wine that was in his mouth. As the men laughed heartily and moved on, I wanted to burn my eyeballs with whatever mixture of lighter fluid and flint I could find.

The experience was gross and slightly funny, and very unnerving. Even though Aaron and I exchanged tense laughter as we recounted what had happened, neither of us felt right about me leaving the hotel alone for the rest of our stay. I’ve traveled to Europe many times, but this was the only time I’d felt unsafe.

***

Apparently this was just another part of a running theme in my life—a revelation of the cushioning that often surrounds many of my life experiences, intentional or not. The little Tyrolean village we return to each year isn’t necessarily an Alpine utopia of acceptance. We repeat the same steps each time we arrive in Alpbach because we have such a wonderful experience there. By repeating those steps we’re less likely to encounter the unpleasantness we did in Igls.

The truth of the matter is that Austria has been steadily gaining a reputation for racism and xenophobia over the past two decades. In August 2014 the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy published a report stating that 52% of blacks living in Austria have been abused or harassed on public transportation because of the color of their skin. The study also states that 47% of the black population had experienced harassment in the street. Up until this latest trip to Austria I’d remained blissfully ignorant of such growing national attitudes because while my husband was conferencing, I was busy insulating myself into a mode of retreat. I’d sleep in, mosey downstairs to breakfast, go for a walk, then spend the day writing in a cozy corner of the Albacherhof’s lounge. When Aaron and his colleagues were done for the day they’d join me at my perch and we’d order a round of drinks. The Alpbach days were sustained by a mixture of solitude and curated sociability. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Birthday

Bucket List

December 3, 2011

I know.

Bucket List sounds like that movie. The one a few years ago with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman that you probably saw on an airplane. And it has connotations of dying.

But that’s not what I am talking about here.

At least not for me.

This post is a LIFE LETTER. A LIFE LIST. A I-am-living-this-year-and-every-year-as-if-it-is-my-last-list.

My father died at 38 years old when I was 8.

It sucked. It sill sucks. Still makes me sad but I manage to get through it by writing and laughing and teaching and doing yoga and letting myself experience what I need to daily without judgement.

Naturally, even though it was on a subconscious level,  I assumed people died at 38. I don’t think I was aware I even had this belief. But, on a cellular level, somewhere deep in the most Jennifer parts of Jennifer, I simply vanished after 37 years of age. In my imagination. I could not, for the “life” of me, visualize a future for myself.

It gave me anxiety to think about.

I have never been much of a planner. This will come as a surprise to those that know me these days, as every day is booked and I have to plan out even a year in advance for most things. I definitely didn’t get delivered from the Stork in this fashion.

Planning scared the bejesus out of me especially when it came to the future. My future.

When we are children our world revolves around us little people. It should be that way. When my father died, on some level I thought it was my fault. I was 8. It’s what we do. Just as some kids think it is their fault when their parents divorce. It’s common. It’s expected when you’re a young whippersnapper to be the center of the Universe. You are.

It’s also common to form your inherent beliefs of yourself and the world at that young age. This is fine and good, except when it isn’t.

Case in point: your father dies at age 38 and you assume that is when life ends in general.

And here I am, Dear Manifesters, about to turn 37. I’ve made it pretty far, I’d say.

So this year, the year between 37 and 38 is to be filled with life. Since my father’s life ended at 38, I am going to enter my 38th year with the most BAM and the most LIFE.

Here is my letter.

Dear Age 37,

I am very excited to meet you! I can hardly wait.

I didn’t think I would be. For a long time, up until recently even, I would lie about my age. Mainly because I was an actor, and well, that is what actors do. But I think I also lied because I was scared about getting older. My dad never got to get older, so I falsely assumed that was to be my lot in life too.

Things have changed for me in the last few years and somewhere along the way I have lost that fear. My life has gotten better and better, and in fact, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my 20’s. Not that you offered. I’m just saying. I am happy here. Now.

This next year will be very powerful and I just wanted to let you know I am glad you are here. I already love you very much. 

We are going to travel around the world together. We are writing a book. We are going on Good Morning America. We are teaching workshops all over the world. We are laughing more than we ever thought possible. We are thinking about having a baby soon. We will probably wait until 38 gets there though. So don’t go starting any rumors.

I know your cousins “Ages 17-31” don’t think I liked them very much because of the way I treated them. I doubt you will ever see them again, but if you do, could you apologize for me? I don’t want to go back and tell them myself, but I truly am sorry I didn’t appreciate them as I appreciate you.

You Dear 37, look so much better than I imagined you to look. I am really proud of you.

Anyway, we have 10 days until you arrive but i just wanted you to know that you are very welcome in these parts.

Oh, and one last thing. Buckle your seatbelt. It’s going to be one helluva ride! See you on December 12th!

Love, me xo 

So my “Bucket List” isn’t a list of things I will do before I kick the bucket. It is a list of things I do before I turn 38 when my dad passed and I mistakenly assumed, as child, that life ended. I am living this year as a testament to my father. As a loving memory and a G-damn party in his honor. He may not have gotten past 38 but I am making it up for him. Daily.

Watch out world.

PS, All I want for my birthday is for you to buy a Manifestation t-shirt. All money is going to charity! I am committed to finding a cure for Prader Willi Syndrome and Tay Sachs. Here is the link. Help me have a happy birthday by giving back. 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO OWN A MANIFESTATION TEE? http://manifestationyoga.com/what-does-it-mean-to-own-a-manifestaion-t-shirt/

Delight, Guest Posts, Inspiration

She’s Got Cans! Guest Post by the Author of The 365 to 30 Blog.

November 9, 2011

The following is a guest post by my student Kate, who has now become a dear friend. I started following her blog (‘stalking’ would be a more fitting word) and I knew instantly that she was someone I wanted to know better. I am so inspired by what she is doing in 365 to 30. She is truly taking the bull by the horns and living the life she has imagined for herself. She is manifesting her dreams and sharing them with us daily. And let me tell you, her dreams rock! Here is a taste of why I love Kate McClafferty so much. The fact that she is stunningly beautiful, inside and out, is an added bonus. 

www.365til30.com

 When Jennifer asked me to write a guest post for Manifestation Station, I was beyond excited considering I love Jennifer…I love her blog…I love her spirit…I love her humor and I love her honesty.

Like Jennifer I am a firm believer that we can manifest our deepest desires, dreams and destinies if we set our mind to it.

Why do I believe this?

Because I have been living it for the last 120 days.

Four months ago I started a project entitled 365 til 30 and I have been changed by the experience.

You see four months ago I was feeling BLAH. I had a good case of “poor me” and I was totally indulging it. A few days before my 29th birthday, I was sitting at lunch with my best girlfriend going on and on about everything that was wrong with my life. I didn’t own a house…I didn’t have a savings account…my career wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I felt like I was being punished for some reason.

I was just totally depressed by it all. Actually, I was exhausted from it all. I was tired of comparing myself to other people. I was tired of feeling less joy in my everyday life because I was so focused on what was missing instead of focusing on what I had to be thankful for. I just hated the way I felt and I knew I had a part in creating my reality. I felt heavy and I couldn’t handle feeling that way anymore.

So in an inspired moment I wrote a list of 10 things. These 10 things represented things I wanted to experience, accomplish and manifest. I admit, some are silly but some mean so much to me that I would just explode with delight if they happened. 

All I knew is that when I looked at the list I couldn’t help but grin. I saw the life I wanted. I saw my deepest desires in writing.

I wrote the list from a joyful place. I wrote the list from a silly place. I wrote the list from a grateful place. I wrote the list from a “it is totally possible and has already happened!” place.

In 4 short months I have been amazed by what is possible when you take an active role in manifesting your destiny.

I am not trying to say that every day has been easy or that some days I haven’t felt discouraged. But, I can tell you this…I have never felt so inspired or alive.

I have also never felt so sure that everything is unfolding exactly as it should.

Kate McClafferty

www.365til30.com

 

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