Browsing Tag

growth

Guest Posts, LBGQ, Men, Race/Racism

Brothers, Do You Love Yourselves?

October 14, 2015

By Ernest White II

Fat faggot was what they called me from eighth through twelfth grades. It had been just plain faggot before then. And sissy and sweet thang and Oreo and mutt and sometimes halfbreed and once or twice even cracker. But it was fat faggot that stayed.

It stayed after I had graduated high school and lost 120 pounds, after I graduated college with honors and snagged a staffer position on Capitol Hill, after I finished my masters program and moved abroad, living and working as a college professor, then writer, in Colombia and Brazil and Germany and South Africa. It stayed no matter how much weight I’d lost, how many personal or professional achievements I’d accomplished, how many lovers I had, how many exotic trips—or psychotropic drugs—I took. Fat. Motherfucking. Faggot. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, healing

What I Salvaged From The Fire

May 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Hollye Dexter

 

When our house burned down in 1994, all three levels burned to the ground. There was not a trace left of the sofa, the dining table, the piano. And yet, my husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries. One of them used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.

I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second grade. This might have tipped me off that I was bound to become a writer. It was important to me then to document my comings and goings, important to me that someone knew I had woven straw placemats at my Campfire Girls meeting, or been chosen third for the kickball team at recess. Someone beside me had to know, and so it was my diary that became the witness to my life.

In addition to my diary, I’d taken to walking around town with a mini Hello Kitty notebook in the pocket of my plaid Dittos hip-huggers, in case I felt a sudden urge to write something down.

Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Self Image

Metamorphosis: A Growth Chart of Myself and the Natural World in Snapshots.

December 18, 2014


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By Melina Papadopoulos.

Like many eager young students, my understanding of metamorphosis began with the charming story of the caterpillar, almost always fairytale-like in its delivery. Its beginning urged me to sympathy, portraying the caterpillar as a lonesome, unsightly creature who spends his days lounging on dandelion heads or in the green shadows of jungle gym tunnels. By the end of the story, my eyes widened with wonder. After a long season of deep slumber in a self-constructed chrysalis, the caterpillar emerges, now butterfly, now winged, soaring, a beautifully fragile flourish of flight.

It is worth noting, however, that metamorphosis is not exclusively a mechanism meant for “upgrading biologically” in a purely aesthetic sense. To quote marine biologist Jason Hodin, metamorphosis is a “substantial morphological transition between two multicellular phases in an organism’s life cycle, often marking the passage from a prereproductive to a reproductive life stage.” But perhaps I would delve into the whole process more intimately, unravel it until every creature that metamorphoses can find itself between the growth spurts, the transitions of transitions.

Suddenly—

Tadpoles are tempted from the water with the promise of legs. Their metamorphosis begs for beginnings; a clutch of quavering eggs stares up from the murky shallows of the pond, like the many glaucomic eyes of a fitful sea monster. Metamorphosis aches for resolution. Before it can allow the frog to learn of the land, it must snuff out the youthful tail and sculpt all that remains into a more dignified asymmetrical rump.

More important, metamorphosis challenges old identities while new ones form beneath. In his book The Mystery of Metamorphosis, Frank Ryan explains that at one point organisms were classified only by their adult forms. He goes on to explain the major flaw of this classification system, “that many larval forms just did not fit in with the extrapolation of the tree of life based on the adults.” Such observation is astute because it acknowledges that an organism’s identity encompasses its whole life cycle, not just the end of it, after it has fully shed away its old skin, corrected its awkward gait. Life cycles shape children into adolescents, adolescents into adults, tissue by tissue, organ by organ. But it is a mere shaping and reshaping, not a rebirth, not a revival. In the hands of metamorphosis, everybody emerges with his own creation dust in his eyes.

In the hands of metamorphosis, nobody is ever complete.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, loss, love, Men, Relationships

Longing For Her.

December 1, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Tim Lawrence.

Our relationship ended in a myriad of contradictions, with love and uncertainty.

She had been my closest confidante for several years—my companion, my lover, and truly my very best friend. This was not a pairing of superficiality, it was the most profound love I’ve ever experienced. Prior to meeting her, I did not fully grasp just how extraordinary another’s happiness and wellbeing could become to you—how inextricably linked you could become to another person.

It was a gift I had avoided most of my life, never really allowing my romantic relationships to move into the territory necessary to achieve the sort of undeviating commitment most of us hope for. But this was different. And it awakened a part of me I had no idea even existed.

An understanding of a lifetime, found, cherished, and cultivated slowly.

That’s what I wanted. And I had found it.

Until I lost it. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Out To Sea by Ally Hamilton.

December 24, 2013

By Ally Hamilton.

 

When I was seventeen I began dating a man who was twenty-one years older than me. My parents tried to stop me, but they have nineteen years between them, and even though they divorced when I was four, I was positive my relationship was different. Because I was seventeen and I thought I had all the answers. My previous boyfriend, who had been kind and sweet and awesome in every way, also tried to stop me. But he had moved across the country to go to college, and the truth was, I was heartbroken. I felt abandoned, even though he was talking about Christmas break, and calling every day. No matter; he’d left, and it stirred in me something old and raw and completely unhealed. So I let this guy who was so much older come at me with his cars and his boats and his private plane to his house in the Hamptons. He had a terrible reputation for cheating on everyone he dated. And I signed myself up for the task like I’d be able to fix that. Also, something inside me was believing the idea that I was the kind of person someone could leave. So who cared, really.

The first time we were together it was strange and sad. We flew out to his house, and went directly to the beach where we got in his speedboat. He drove us out to the middle of a secluded bay area. I knew he’d done it before, all of it. It was like some kind of ritual. Something to get out of the way. I knew he didn’t love me. That came a few years later, after he’d broken me and it was too late. But I let him have me, even though I felt nothing. I mean, I was hooked in, I was playing out all kinds of ancient history. But I wasn’t in love with him, and I certainly wasn’t loving myself. Not even a little. When it was over and I was swimming in the ocean, tears came streaming down my face, unexpectedly, without permission. I dove underwater, trying to wash them away, trying to wash the whole thing away. I don’t remember much else about that day, or that night. I think he spent most of the rest of the afternoon working, and I curled up in front of the fire with a book. I felt dead to myself, and also strangely satisfied that I’d done something so unlike me.

I stayed with him for three years. Once he had me, he kept a tight leash on me. It’s funny how people without integrity assume other people also have none. He was threatened by the guys at Columbia who were my age. He’d drop me off on campus sometimes and get upset if I was wearing lipstick, or tight jeans, or short skirts, or pretty much anything that wasn’t a sack. But he cheated on me regularly. He was good at it, I could never prove it, but I always knew when he was with someone else because it hurt. It hurt in the way that sends you under the kitchen table, holding onto yourself as you sob and wonder what the hell you’re doing in this situation, and why you don’t get out. But getting out wasn’t even possible at that point, because I was so attached to getting my happy ending. If I could just be perfect enough to get him to love me. If I could just hang in there long enough he’d finally realize I really did love him. Because after awhile, I did.

I began to see this insecure guy who felt he wasn’t enough, regardless of how many women he took to bed, or how much money he had, or how many sparkly, shiny toys. Nothing did it for him, not even the unwavering love of a good girl. I can’t call myself a woman when I think about this experience, because I wasn’t yet. I had a lot of healing to do, and a lot of growing, but I was very kind to him. And the longer I stayed, the more he gave me reasons to leave. For his fortieth birthday, I planned an elaborate surprise party. I rented a pool hall, had it catered from his favorite sushi place, and ordered dessert from an amazing pastry chef. I sent invitations to all his friends. I made a reservation at a new restaurant that had opened downtown that he was dying to try, and planned to take him to the pool hall from there. I ordered a bottle of champagne to be waiting at the table. It took me months to save up the money to pull it off.

A week before the party he confronted me in the kitchen in East Hampton. He told me he knew about the party, and he wanted to see the guest list to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anyone. At first I tried to deny there was a party, but he kept coming. He laughed at me. He knew it was at a pool hall. He wanted to know if I’d ordered food, and all the other details. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I stood there in that kitchen and I felt everything fall away from me. I felt like I was made of bones that could disintegrate into a pile of dust on the floor, that his housekeeper could just come along and sweep away, out the door, into the ocean, to meet up with those tears I’d cried the first day. I told him every last detail. He took away any shred of joy I might have felt at having been able to give him something. Three days before the party, he went to the restaurant I’d made reservations at a few months before. So that the night of the party, the only surprise was that sad bottle of champagne, waiting at the table.

You cannot save anyone. All the love in the world won’t get the job done. You can’t make someone faithful or kind or compassionate or sensitive. You can’t make another person happy. They are, or they are not. You can harm yourself. You can allow yourself to be abused, mistreated, neglected and betrayed. But I don’t recommend it. A healthy, happy, secure person wouldn’t have been on that boat with him in the first place. Of course, he preyed on a seventeen year old, and when I look back on it I have all kinds of compassion for myself. But it took me years to get there. And a lot of yoga, and a lot of therapy, and a lot of weeping and writing and reading. Anything you repress, or run from, or deny, owns you. It owns you. And if you don’t turn and face that stuff down, you’ll call it into your life in other ways. The truth wants out. Your heart wants to heal so it can open for you again. Whatever is in your past does not have to define your future. But it probably will if you don’t do the work to liberate yourself. We have such fear. We think these things will overwhelm us, that we won’t survive. But what you won’t survive is the not facing it. That’s the part that kills you. That’s the part that makes you feel you could be swept away in the wind. Looking at your stuff hurts. It’s painful and deeply uncomfortable, but if you trust yourself enough to lean into all that pain, you’ll find it loses its grip over you. If you let yourself weep out the searing heat from those wounds, your whole being can take a real, deep breath, maybe for the first time in ages.

You can forgive those who let you down, who didn’t or couldn’t show up for you the way you would have liked or the way you deserved. You can forgive yourself for choices you might have made that were harmful to you or others. When we’re in pain, we don’t tend to treat ourselves well, and sometimes that also spills onto the people with whom we’re closest. But life can be beautiful. You can close the book on the old, painful story that was just a replaying of your past. And you can start working on this new creation that gets to be your life after you’ve healed. Not that the old pain won’t show up from time to time when you’re feeling triggered or tested or vulnerable, but it won’t grab you and knock you off your feet and show you who’s boss. Because it won’t be boss anymore, it won’t rule your life. You’ll just see it for what it is, an echo of a very old story that came to completion. It can’t be rewritten, it is what it is. But you get to decide where to place your energy and your attention. And I highly recommend you direct it toward love. That’s your happy ending, although it doesn’t end. You get to keep choosing it every day. If you do that, you’ll never find yourself sailing out to sea with someone who doesn’t know how to do anything but hurt you. Your own ship will have sailed. And maybe someday you’ll pass your seventeen year old self, weeping in the ocean next to your ship and you’ll pull her on board and show her your future. Which holds so much joy and gratitude and meaning and fulfillment, maybe she’ll weep there on the deck with you, not in sadness, but in relief.

If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated and you need help, feel free to message me. Sending you love. Ally

allyeyesopen

 

Bio: Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer who streams online yoga classes all over the world. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, which has been featured in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor for The Huffington Post, a wellness expert at MindBodyGreen, and writes an almost-daily blog at blog.yogisanonymous.com. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle. She believes everyone can benefit from some regular time on a yoga mat.

**Jen Pastiloff has over 30 online classes at Ally’s studio Yogis Anonymous. Click here.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

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Click poster to order book!

 

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

Dear 16 Year Old Me.

November 11, 2013

Below is an exercise I do at my retreats. I was so touched by Marika Delan’s letter to her younger self that I had to share here. Marika was the winner of my #5mostbeautifulthings contest & attended my Labor Day Manifestation Retreat as the prize!

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Dear 16 year old me,Let’s not sugar coat it. We aren’t going to live forever, so let’s just get right down to the important stuff.Do I have your attention now?  Because I have secrets for you that can only be learned via a DeLorean in a lightning storm.

Time isn’t waiting for you or me.

You make everything so complicated and you are wasting all these moments, all this time!
Yes, older, wiser you might seem to be a little bitchy,  but you mistake my urgency and passion for harsh reality which you clearly aren’t ready for. I guess that’s why you skirt around it as if it were an ice rink.  You could use a little tough love, in fact, you could use a whole lot of it and thank God you meet some people along the way that love you the hard way.

You don’t even love you yet, but I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. What you don’t understand is you can’t get by without it. You can’t fake this one. It seems indulgent and selfish to you. You think that if you love others it will be enough, but that is an illusion. You won’t know how to love completely until you learn how to love yourself. You’ll want to scream by the time you are my age, you will have heard this so many times, but heed my advice, the sooner you get working on this one, the better.

You are beautiful so stop wasting so much energy hating yourself.
And isn’t a physical thing, although you could stand to take the bangs down an inch or two. Then again it was the 80’s, so the obligatory tower of tease is the only way I found you in this age range as I sifted through yellowed and stuck together photos.  It isn’t your first bad hair and it won’t be your last. (p.s.- never try to color your hair red in your dorm room. Just. Don’t.)

But true beauty isn’t superficial. It goes to the depths. You already know this, you just haven’t learned to dive that deep.  You haven’t learned to internalize this message because you have a checklist of things you think you must become in order to be loved. It’s all bullshit.  You haven’t learned yet that beauty is being what you already are and owning it like one day someone secretly let you watch the time-lapse security footage of God building you. One knit, one purl. One knit. Two purl. The evidence right before your eyes of your creation, of being stitched together with deliberation and care; all in careful preparation for your future as a torch bearer. So it isn’t about your hair and makeup. Next time you look in the mirror, open your still unlined eyes.

You will have to bear witness to both the beauty and the pain one day so take it all in and tuck it away for later. You’ll be sorry that you didn’t write more down (don’t lose those teenage angst-filled journals!)  You will regret that you didn’t use words more often to capture the moments you are having right now so that we can remember them together one day when you are ready. There are a lot of lessons and gifts in those things that you think “ruined” you. Those are the things that made you, but only time will reveal these things to you, so just live while you can where you are.
Learn how to be wherever you are.

Don’t close your heart when it gets crushed—and it will.
Keep loving anyway.

You will be sad beyond words like you were when we were 10, and some days you will pray that you be left to die, but those days will pass and you will know and revel in your aliveness like you did when we were small.
Don’t lose hope while you wait for that day to come. Better yet, don’t wait for that day to come. Go find your happy and hold on to it. Don’t let anyone steal it from you.  It’s already in you, buried beneath all the fear that holds you back. Beneath that pile of dirty laundry are the things that keep you from singing out loud. That keep you hiding in the back row hoping no one will call on you even though you know the answer to the question.

Keep trying to answer the ones you don’t have the answers to, just don’t get hung up when they don’t come easily or they aren’t the ones you had hoped for. The questions will lead you back to where you began and you’ll wonder why you wasted all that time being sad.

You’ll feel life rushing through your veins again when you hear that first heartbeat on the ultrasound, when you hold your flesh and blood in your arms.When you look in their eyes and see their smiles and hear their belly laughs echoing through the halls (yes, you will have children and not end up a cat lady, so dear Diary, you got that one wrong. You got a lot wrong, but that’s ok- that’s part of the gig.)

You’ll feel it when you meet your true love and follow the signs and know without a doubt that the Universe conspired to bring you love when you opened your heart again. He will breathe life and light back into you just when you had started to believe that there’s no such thing as true love.
He will show you there is.

You’ll feel it when all you are bursts forth after having hidden it away for so long.
So don’t hide your light.

It will light the paths of others when their light has grown dim, just as others will light yours when you are sure it’s gone out.  When you finally make it out of darkness you won’t want to spend any more time there. If you keep love at the heart of everything you do, it will follow you wherever you go because time has shown me that it always comes back to us.

Stop being afraid to be who you are and that alone will not only keep you going, but it will allow others the freedom to do the same. Keep that at the core of everything you do and it will never steer you wrong.

The things you think are signs. They are. Don’t ignore them. It’s how you’ll find the love of your life. Look for them. Listen to them. They are words off the page penned by your inner voice. The one that knows why she is here and what she came to do.

Never stop seeking answers.  Your never-ending curiosity will open the next door. Your quest for understanding will lead you to the threshold of your truest essence and therein you will finally see what you could never see before.

If you want others to see it, you will have to take the risk to be yourself. If you don’t take that leap of faith into who you already are, you’ll spend your life as an impostor.  You will spend your life searching for me. You won’t know what you are searching for… but it will be me, the girl, now the woman you left behind.

You won’t be what you are meant to be until you fully embrace who you are right now (it’s what you will still be when you get to be my age, just you wait and see)

Now, go think on that one for 23 years.

And when you come across someone named Jennifer Pastiloff, a crazy wise yogi/writer/teacher/manifestation guru, follow her.  She will help you begin the next chapter in our book of transformations.  She will make you write this letter after losing touch all those years ago. She will help you find me when I thought we were lost forever.

Until we meet again.

Love,

39 year old you

The Layers

By Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

wherever I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.Thank you Jennifer Pastiloff for sharing Stanley Kunitz and so much more with me. Thank G-d,  I am not done with my changes….

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