Browsing Tag

lessons

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, Holidays

Living—No, Thriving—in America

December 1, 2017
lessons

By Barbara Solomon Josselsohn

How do I know if I should say Merry Christmas? Do I ask people about their religion so I can buy the right wrapping paper? What do I give my building’s super? My daughter’s swim coach? My son’s piano teacher?

It’s Thursday morning in early December and I’m seated with two other volunteers in a small classroom in a church, fielding holiday questions from young Asian moms who are new to this country. Their husbands have blended into their new surroundings easily, their professional positions offering plenty of opportunities to perfect their English and engage with American co-workers and clients. The same goes for their children, who pick up English quickly and bond seamlessly with schoolmates, the way young kids often do. It’s different, though, for my students, whose chances to connect with their American counterparts are limited to fast-paced PTA meetings and brief, spontaneous encounters at the supermarket. Learning English is hard, but even more difficult is mastering the labyrinth of customs, routines and traditions that American moms navigate daily with ease. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Sex, Sexuality

The Near Miss

July 19, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lindsay Miller

When I was in high school, I dated an appalling-in-retrospect string of men five years or more my senior. I met most of them at the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was where my friends and I spent our adolescent Saturday nights. The twentysomething men who hung out there treated us like adults, or what we imagined that to mean at fifteen: they smiled and nodded thoughtfully when we spoke, leaned in as though our every stray thought was fascinating. They made us feel respected, intelligent, mature.

I knew, abstractly, that older men who dated younger women – not women but girls, high school girls, girls not even old enough to drive – were creepy and better avoided. But for some reason it never occurred to me that that applied to my own life. The guys my friends and I dated made it seem like there was nothing strange about men in their twenties sexually pursuing teenage girls – after all, we were so old for our age. We were so wise. They had never met girls like us, girls who knew so much, girls who understood them so well. They told us this over and over, every one of them, like reading from a script: You’re so cool. You’re so different from all the others. When I was young, I didn’t understand that as an insult, lifting girls up in the singular while putting us down in the plural. I was dying to feel older, which I accomplished by wearing impossibly short skirts and sky-high platform shoes, carrying a tiny knife disguised as a tube of lipstick in my purse and feeling sly and dangerous. I wanted to feel desired, and the men I met were more than happy to comply – to tell me I was beautiful in my Hot Topic bustiers, breasts hiked to the collarbone, boots laced up to the knee.

On Saturday nights in high school, my curfew was five a.m. I told my parents that I spent those early morning hours hanging out in a diner with my friends, girls a year or two older than me who would drive me home. Some nights that was true. Some nights, though, I caught rides with men I’d never met before, circled the city endlessly or found places to park where the streetlights didn’t reach. Or my friends and I ended up back at someone’s house, one of those horrible shared houses that all men in their twenties seemed to live in: broken furniture, cigarette butts in beer bottles, nothing in the refrigerator. We sat awkwardly on lopsided couches making tense small talk while one girl or another disappeared into a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, giggling, hand in hand with a man five, seven, ten years her senior.

When I was fifteen, I dated a man named Michael. He was twenty-three and already divorced, had fled the state of Texas to get away from his ex-wife, who he said had broken his heart so badly he didn’t know if he could go on living. I found this tragically romantic, imagining I might be the one to heal his wounded soul. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a rose, already wilting. He offered to buy me a cell phone so that he would be able to hear my voice whenever he wanted.

Later that year there was Steven. I don’t remember exactly how old he was, but he must have been at least twenty. The night we met, he pulled me away from my friends, around the dark side of a building into an alley where he pushed me up against a wall and kissed me so hard it made my teeth hurt. In the gray early morning hours, he took my friend Jocelyn and me back to his apartment, where we sat on the edge of a filthy couch watching Steven and his roommates smoke cigarettes and complain about their jobs. I can see now that their lives were small and grimy, with little joy besides driving fast and listening to loud music, playing pool in bars where the very air felt gritty and making out with girls too young to know better. But to me, back then, it seemed glamorous and important. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts

Dear Students

June 9, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Marissa Landrigan

Dear Students,

There was one semester where I almost flunked out of college.

It was the first semester of my sophomore year–I’d always been a good student, and had managed to get through my freshman year with good grades, while also doing all the silly experimental stuff you’re supposed to do as a freshman. For some reason, the weird transitional college breakdown happened to me a year late.

That semester, Fall 2002, I remember four of the classes I was enrolled in, though it must have been more: Personal Essay, Persuasive Argument, Intro to Sociology, and Biological Anthropology. By December, I’d withdrawn late from Personal Essay, had a D- in Intro to Sociology, and outright failed Biological Anthropology.

This isn’t actually a story about how it’s important to take your education seriously, and what an enormous opportunity college is — though you should, and it is. This is a story about how I seriously fucked up, and ultimately, it was ok.

This is a story I’m telling you in hopes of countering the voices you’re probably used to hearing, often from your other professors or people who finished college decades ago, the voices that say you’re not working hard enough, or, life’s hard, so suck it up, or, worse, I don’t care that you’re having a hard time, or, even worse, the silence, the disbelief that comes along with ignoring what a hard time you’re having.

Here’s the big secret you won’t hear many professors admit, though I don’t know why: We all had a hard time, all of us, at one point or another. For many of us that hard time happened in college, when our world had been turned upside-down, when we didn’t know who we were or where we were going, when it didn’t feel like there was anyone else who understood.

So I’m going to tell you my story because I want you to know that I understand. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts

My Two Step Program.

March 18, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amy Turner.

Getting dressed to go take dance lessons at The Broken Spoke tonight I put on a silk dress and look in the mirror. I am in Austin, visiting from Los Angeles. That’s what I do. I visit the places I had imagined an ‘us’.  Where he was from, where he traveled for work, where he wanted to take me. For some reason, we don’t get there. But when we break up, I go.

The trips, I expect to work like leeches, ridding me of longing and restoring me to health. According to the ancient Greeks, bloodletting restored balance. But there is always a point, weather in Paris, the Sierra Nevadas, or now, Austin, where I wonder why I have to do this. People use leeches medically because of ineffective draining. I visit these places, hoping I can empty myself of the fantasy, hoping that as much as it stings, I will let go. It is both indulgent and purposeful. J. talked about Austin, talked about us coming here, to this place, The Spoke, to dance.

The last time we danced was after the Thanksgiving, when I made a salad that cost seventy dollars because I wanted to impress people. It sat on the serving table untouched, a buffet wallflower. Back at my house the mandolin I bought to get the fennel epidermally thin sat in a drawer and mocked me for the rest of the year. We brought the salad home and when we slow danced in my living room, none of it mattered. I couldn’t two step and J smiled and told me he wanted to take me to the Broken Spoke. He said that would make him happy.  I pretended like it was a little thing, but I tucked it in my brain book, a pressed flower I could take out and marvel at when he went back to Texas. A  man wanted to take me dancing. I had told him I didn’t want to fall in love with someone unavailable. He went back to Texas. I hoped he would return, but when we spoke a few months later, he had a new girlfriend. I never learned to two step, so… here I am. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Do you want to be well? Lessons from Grief.

March 17, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Vanessa Mártir.

When my brother Carlos died in June of 2013, I did two things: I threw myself into my writing and I started devouring stories and essays, anecdotes, blog postings, anything and everything related to grief. I was looking to make sense of this senseless loss; how my querido hermano finally succumbed to his fifteen year heroin addiction at the far too young age of 41.

(Cheryl Strayed’s “Heroin/e” quickly became a favorite I revisited many times. Then there was her essay “The Love of my Life” and David Sedaris’s “Now We Are Five” and so many more that I can’t even begin to list.)

I wanted proof that I wasn’t going crazy. Something to explain the knot in my throat that I couldn’t seem to swallow or cry out or scream through.

I needed someone to tell me that this grief would pass because it seemed impossible that it could. That the vise grip it had on my throat would loosen.

I needed to know that I would survive this feeling of dying. The tiny little deaths I endured daily when people who did not know how to handle my grief said things that felt more like knives than comfort (“you’re strong, you’ll be okay” “he’s in a better place now” “everything happens for a reason”); when I heard Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car or smelled his cologne on a passing stranger; or that time I swore I saw him in a crowd and I freaked, ran toward him, only to have this stranger look at me like I was a lunatic. The thing is, in that moment I was. I was losing my shit.

I was terrified that I would forget him, his voice, that mischievous twinkle in his eye when he came up with a scheme that would make mom scream and chase us.

I was desperate for people to know who he was. Not just the heroin and how he lost himself in it and stole and manipulated. I wanted them to know him when he was my Superman, how he loved and believed in me, what he taught me about love and life and survival, and how so much of who I am, my fierce, my “fuck that, I got this,” I owe to him.

During the holidays of that year, I went into a really dark place. If I had to pick a day when it started, I’d say it was Thanksgiving. I shot out of bed, completely unable to breathe. It was like my breath was caught in my trachea. I was choking on my grief. All I kept thinking was: He should be here. He should be here. Carajo, he should be here. I called my aunt who is very much a surrogate mother to me. I couldn’t even talk. All I could do was sob into the phone. “Come over,” she said. “Come over right now.” I woke up my daughter who stared at me with those huge, expressive eyes of hers that tell you exactly how she’s feeling—she was scared for her mama. We ran the three blocks to aunt’s house in our pajamas. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth. Later that day, one of her boys (I don’t remember which one) came with me to pick up clothes. My aunt made sure we weren’t alone. I didn’t get home until late into the night.

It was after that that I picked up a chair and sat in my grief. I went willingly into an abyss I was scared I would stay in or wouldn’t know how to claw out of. (I’m picturing that scene from Silence of the Lambs when Buffalo Bill lowers a bucket into that torture pit chamber of his and you get a glimpse of the blood and fingernails and scratch marks on the wall.) That’s when I started reading everything I could get my hands on about depression, how grief can trigger it, the dangers, the menace.

Despite this, I didn’t acknowledge my depression until sometime in February, when the blackness started to ebb and I could see light on the edges. It was blue and shadowy, almost grey, like powder. What mattered most was that it wasn’t all black. It symbolized hope.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, parenting

You’ve Got it All Backwards.

January 27, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sarah Kurliand.

The other day I was driving to the Franklin Institute with my 3 ½ year old son, X. Our windows were down to let in the crisp, fresh air per his request. As I slowed to stop at the corner, I noticed an older man standing there. We locked eyes for a moment and I smiled, as I do to everyone. And he went on, “Heyyyy guuuurl. How you doin? You lookin’ mighty beautiful today” , and I went on my way. In total, it lasted about 5 seconds.

I looked in my rear view mirror at my beautiful son, as I waited for the questions to come flooding in. I racked my brain thinking of interesting ways to spin this so he could understand it. I could see his wheels turning… 

X: Ma, who was that man? Why he say ‘Hey gurl’ like that? You know him?

Me: I don’t know who that man was X.

X: Then why he call you beautiful?           

Me: I guess he just wanted to tell me what he thought.

A few silent moments went by. I have learned through my few short years of motherhood that this is his processing time and to just be quiet because more was on its way. And then like clockwork.

X: It’s very weird Ma, his words sounded like nice words but he was not a nice man.

And there it was. The biggest truth bomb anyone had ever laid on me. Without even seeing this man, my three and a half year old little baby could tell simply by the tone in his voice that even though yes, he may have used kind words, he was not indeed, well meaning.

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

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

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Self Image

The Single Girl’s Saga. What I learned After 5 years On The Dating Scene.

December 14, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Brittney Van Matre

After my 10 year relationship ended, 10 years too long and a lot of angst culminating to the anti-climactic ending, I slowly began dating. I was not ready to be emotional entrenched with someone new; however, this realization didn’t quench my desire. I thirsted to find love in another. And therein began my 5 year saga on the dating scene.

I watched from afar while my best friends fell in love, flaunted sparkling diamonds, bought gorgeous gowns, and painstakingly planned every detail of their “big day”. “Why couldn’t I find a love like that?” I asked myself as I purchased my sixth bridesmaid dress, this time in lavender. Another ugly dress to be worn one night, and one night only. All these frocks were destined for a life of dust collection; soon-to-be second hand store merchandise where they’d likely be purchased as Halloween costumes.

Of course I was elated for my friends’ obvious good fortune; however, I was simultaneously in despair over my own ill-fate with love. My supposed inability to land a good guy of my own easily transitioned to second guessing everything about myself from my appearance, to my personality, to my choice in Facebook profile pictures.

My impatient quest for love included embarrassing words like coercing, manipulating, forcing, controlling, and dramatizing. I endured many years of unnecessary heartache while trying to work for a love that was not yet meant for me. I became more obsessed with the idea of a relationship than I was with any person themselves. Essentially, my ego was in complete control. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death.

February 10, 2014

5 Lessons from My Father’s Death

By Bethany Butzer.

When my stepfather Paul was twenty-two years old, he was shot in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun by his friend who was trying to kill him. He survived, but his injuries left him completely blind. After being shot, Paul got into AA and started to turn his life around. Over the next twenty-five years, he sponsored many people who struggled with addiction and gave talks at local community centers and jails in an effort to help people improve their lives.

Later in his life, Paul started to suffer from chronic pain in his feet, due to nerve damage caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. His doctor prescribed Oxycontin—a powerful and highly addictive painkiller. Paul quickly became addicted to the medication, and over the next two years, he slowly wasted away before my eyes. He rarely got out of bed, seldom ate, and even stopped joining my family on Christmas morning.

Eventually, my mom left him. She refused to enable his destructive and addictive behavior.

Two months later, on October 25, 2007, Paul let out his final breath. He died alone on his bedroom floor. He was only fifty-five years old. And he was the only father I’d ever known.

Paul taught me five important lessons about life.

I work with these lessons every day, and I hope you will, too.

 Be Grateful

Growing up with someone who couldn’t see helped me appreciate the things we often take for granted, like our senses. Paul often had to ask me if his socks matched. He couldn’t pull a can out of the cupboard and know what it was. He couldn’t drive a car. He couldn’t take in a sunset. He once brushed his teeth with A535 (a cream for arthritis/joint pain) and ate a spoonful of dry cat food because he thought it was cereal. (We laughed about this at the time, but I think I’ve made my point!)

He never knew what I looked like. Instead of seeing with his eyes, Paul saw with his heart.

Be thankful for your ability to see. Not everyone is so lucky.

 Stay Strong

After being shot in the face and blinded, many people would give up. They would turn to a victim mentality, with “why me” playing continuously in their head. And while I’m sure that Paul experienced these thoughts at times, he was a striking example of how the human spirit can rise up and triumph over adversity.

Instead of playing the victim, Paul took his experience as a sign that he needed to turn his life around. He got sober and started inspiring others to do the same. He learned how to play the drums and joined a band. He got into weight lifting and worked out every day.

When tragedy strikes, pay attention to what the universe is trying to teach you.

 The Power of Forgiveness

One of the main tenets of AA is forgiveness. This meant that Paul needed to forgive the man who shot him. How on earth could you forgive someone who blinded you for life? I’m not quite sure how, but Paul did it.

One day, Paul was at a gas station with a friend who told him that the man who had shot him was at one of the other pumps. Paul asked to be led over to the man. He then hugged him and told him that he forgave him for what he’d done.

Paul taught me that holding onto anger and resentment doesn’t do anyone any good. These emotions eat you up inside and weigh on your shoulders. Forgiveness isn’t about the other person—it’s a gift that you give to yourself.

Who do you need to forgive?

Say What Needs to Be Said

Before Paul died, I had an opportunity to drop by his house to confront him about his addictive behavior. I was scared, so I drove by and reassured myself that I would talk to him the next time I visited my hometown. Instead, I decided to write him a letter, tape myself reading it, and mail him the tape.

He died two weeks later.

My letter didn’t arrive on time. I missed my chance.

From this experience, I learned the importance of telling people what we need to tell them. Don’t shy away from a confrontation because you feel awkward or uncomfortable. You never know when you might lose your opportunity.

 No One Is Perfect

Ultimately, Paul taught me that we all have our scars. We carry around personal demons that we struggle with from time to time. And that’s ok. We can’t expect ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, to be perfect.

Paul was a complex man. His heart was the same size as his temper—huge. He was rough, soft, kind, cruel, wise, and naive all at the same time.

I have fond memories of his kind side. The times we went for walks together and skated on ponds. The times he made me soup when I was sick. I’ll always remember how he loved to blare Bruce Springsteen and the tone in his voice when he would say to me, “You can do it, Grasshopper!”

Paul had his faults, and, like all of us, his faults were part of the package. His imperfections made him who he was. If he hadn’t been through what he’d been through, he never would have been able to motivate others to change their lives.

Realize that you are perfect exactly as you are, even with your imperfections.

I hope you take these five lessons and apply them to your life. That way, even though Paul isn’t around anymore, he can continue to inspire others.

As Helen Keller so aptly put it:

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”

I’d like to leave you with a two-minute YouTube video that I made in honor of Paul. Another remarkable thing that Paul did was create and maintain a garden, complete with beautiful ponds, in our backyard. I remember him pulling weeds at 11:00 p.m. because, for him, it didn’t matter whether it was sunny or dark outside!

You’ll see Paul’s amazing garden in the video below:


Bethany Butzer, Ph.D.
Author ● Speaker ● Researcher ● Yoga Teacher
Are You Ready To Create A Life You Love?
www.bethanybutzer.com

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on Feb 15th. Book here.

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