Browsing Tag

mistakes

Divorce, Guest Posts, Marriage

Alpha and Omega

May 7, 2017
husband

By Pam Munter

Even now, all these years later, I have a recurring dream about driving alone around Madison, lost and trying to find my way home.  I am driving around hills, the lake always on one side. It all looks so familiar but I am not sure I am heading in the right direction.

When he was nine, my son and I flew to Madison, the coincidental location for a family reunion with people I had not seen since I was his age. Aaron was eager to see where he had been born so I took a photo of him by the Madison General Hospital sign, his arms cradled as if holding a baby. For me, his sweet spontaneous pantomime brought the backstory roaring back as if it had happened yesterday.

***

By 1972, I had been married for two years, living in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was doing a post-doctoral year in clinical psychology at Mendota Mental Health Institute. The husband had found a job as a social worker in a government agency. We agreed we wanted to have a child, hoping to time it to coincide with the end of my internship. There’s nothing like good planning and perseverance. By Christmas that year, I was pregnant. 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 By December, I’d withdrawn late from Personal Essay, had a D- in Intro to Sociology, and outright failed Biological Anthropology.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, motherhood

Rebound Tenderness

May 12, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Laurie Easter

I nearly let my child die.

There it is—the stark truth, according to my mother’s-guilt brain. It’s been many years since it happened, but this fact has bored into my psyche the way carpenter bees bore into wood, settling there like an egg in a perfect hole inches below the surface. I don’t talk about it with anyone, not even my husband.

This is how it would go if I could reverse time:

My twelve-year-old daughter comes home from the pizza parlor and says “My stomach hurts.” I quiz her like a professional, asking “Where does it hurt?” And even though she says “all over,” I ask more questions and run through a series of tests for appendicitis—despite the fact I have no medical training and only know now, in retrospect, what signs to look for.

I palpate the lower right quadrant of her abdomen, applying hand pressure slowly and gently with a quick release to check for sudden pain in that area. Rebound Tenderness.

OR

“How does this feel?” I ask as I palpate the lower left side of her abdomen, pressing down slowly and gently then releasing quickly to check for sudden pain in the lower right quadrant. The Rovsing’s sign.

OR

I have her lie supine and apply resistance to her knee as she flexes her right hip by raising her leg against the pressure of my hand. If she feels pain, I have her turn and lie on her left side and extend her right leg behind her to check again for increased pain with this movement. The Psoas sign.

Once I finish with any number of these procedures, intuiting the signs of acute appendicitis, I whisk her to the emergency room, where the doctors confirm my suspicion and prep her for surgery to remove the as of yet un-perforated appendix. They catch the appendicitis in the preliminary stages, and using Laparoscopy, they slice into her with a one-inch cut that heals into a barely noticeable sliver of white near her bikini line. She spends at most two nights in the hospital and is back at the gym, working out with her gymnastics team, in a couple of weeks.

Yes, that’s how it would go. Neat and clean and orderly.

This is how it went:

My daughter came home from the pizza parlor two days after recovering from the flu and said “my stomach hurts” to which I asked “where does it hurt?” She said “all over.” I worried I had let her go out too soon after being sick and thought maybe she was having a relapse. I tucked her in and said good night.

She slept until noon and complained about her stomach when she awoke; then she began vomiting. Her temperature was 101 degrees. She had no desire for food, but I made miso broth and herbal tea and encouraged her to drink as much as she could as often as possible so she wouldn’t become dehydrated. She spent two days in bed, getting up occasionally to go to the bathroom or lie on the couch in the living room. On that second day, she said she was feeling better and had relief from the previous stomach pain. But she was weak from the fever and vomiting and continued to rest in bed.

That’s when it happened.

Later that afternoon, I walked into my daughter’s room to check on her while she was sleeping. Her face, normally alabaster in complexion, had a sallow pallor. I knew this look. I had seen it once before. It was the look of death. Five years earlier, my friend, Teri, who had cancer, had this same sallow skin tone when she refused to go to the hospital to be treated for a common infection. We called the ambulance anyway. The doctors at the emergency room said that if we hadn’t brought Teri in, the infection, not the cancer, would have killed her. As I looked at my daughter’s face, this memory flitted across my consciousness like a butterfly alighting on a flower, only to rise into the air and flutter away.

That was the moment. The omen I did not heed. Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, Beating Fear with a Stick, Manifestation Retreats

What Will Never Go Up In Smoke.

February 22, 2013

It was hard leaving Maui today but not hard in the way it is to leave a vacation or a beautiful place. Hard in the way falling in love is after you’ve been hurt. The way you want to trust it and say Yes, come on in but you are afraid and that But I am afraid wells up in your throat like a stone and you can’t speak for it. And although you are happy you are also sad because you recognize this feeling of having something and yet not trusting you have it. Not trusting that it’s a thing to be had. It’s a football rushing at you and you’re going I got it! I got it! and then I don’t got it. All at once. If that’s possible.

The stone in your throat is hard, as stones tend to be (especially stones in the throat) which is the place things often get stuck, even if they aren’t stones. Even if they are people.

Stones and words and anger and all the rest. All the things.

Before we ended the retreat this morning, the girls gave me a necklace to say Thank You. One of the most beautiful necklaces I have ever seen and as I held it in my hands I thought how I shouldn’t look up at them because I probably wasn’t reacting in the way they expected of me (Tears? Emotion?) so I kept looking down at the gold chain, at the purple stone, at my ugly hands holding this beautiful gesture. Don’t look up, keep looking down. Don’t ever look up. (No tears? No emotion?)

Well, no. I wasn’t there. I was looking down on it all. A million hours passed and I finally looked up and they all had tears in their eyes and were nodding thank you’s. 

There’s been a mistake. This can’t be for me. I shall float away and keep looking down (no tears, no emotion yet.) But I look up and they are still there nodding their thank you’s in the most knowing way, as if we have known each other our whole lives and this moment was simply a confirmation.

There’s been no mistake. The necklace and the thank you’s were for me so I put it on and touched it repeatedly. Sharp and smooth and tiny enough to fit in my fingers. I pressed hard into it to pull me back into the yoga room there at Lumeria. But still no emotion because I didn’t trust my body was sitting there on that floor or that the floor wouldn’t cave in.

So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are things.

When they’re not. They are hallucinations. They are non-existent. Or maybe they are just long gone. Over and done. Maybe they once were things, but they have longed since stopped being things and now are just that happened once or I turned left instead of right.

I turned left instead of right and there I was at Lumeria in Maui leading a retreat with a gorgeous group of women but if I’d turned right I would’ve been __________.

That’s right. Blank space. Who knows. So many blank spaces.

Look right there. There’s one. And there. Another.

Not mistakes. Not things. Just that happened. And then that happened.

It was hard leaving today because I was afraid to leave what we created.

Then, just like that, one of the girls said she had a letter to read. She had written a letter to the group which was moving and brave and lovely. She turned to me and said Jen, your dad would be so proud of you. And just like that: emotion. Magic. Just a few words and the idea of a man long dead in his physical body and bam! I am re-rooted back into the world as if I had always been there.

A double rainbow appeared after we finished our closing circle and we all ran out onto the lawn and pointed and snapped photos and cried a little because it was, again, like falling in love. What if we never see something this beautiful again? How can we make this stay?

I am afraid that was it for me. I am afraid that I will never have that again. I am afraid that. I am afraid of.

I am on the plane, where I do most of my writing, wondering if I turned right instead of left would I have even been to Maui? (Who knows but most likely, no.) Would I be on this plane sitting next to a sweet but loud nut-eating Russian couple? Could I ask the pilot to steer us back, and, if he agrees, would it be the same? Could I stay as safe as I felt this week with all my women during my retreat? (Probably not.)

I feel for my necklace and repeat So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are really things and my necklace lays over my heart and doesn’t move or suggest it knows the difference so I decide to make a list. Mistakes and Things.

Mistakes:

~Dropping out of college with one year left after I had won an award for having highest GPA at my school within NYU (Oh, that’s a thing. Things and accolades and this and that which I think makes me me but in reality is just a thing signifying nothing.)

~Filing taxes for the wrong year.

~Saying yes when I meant no.

~Saying no when I meant yes.

~Saying nothing.

~Saying too much.

~Overpacking.

The rest I can’t write here because the Russians might read over my shoulder and that makes me nervous.

Things.

My necklace the girls gave me this morning.

The airplane I am sitting on.

The book in my lap.

The glasses on my face.

There are too many things in the world to list them all.

I feel for my necklace and think if it could grant me one wish it would be to hear perfectly. Then I think I would like to change that wish to I would like to be here perfectly.

If I am here perfectly I can see that dropping out of college wasn’t a mistake but it was my left turn and if I hadn’t turned left I would be _______.

And the filing taxes bit, eh. The IRS will figure that one out.

The rest, the yeses and no’s and the overpacking aren’t so much mistakes as they are ignoring my gut in the way I used to ignore my hunger. I hear you and I don’t care. 

It was hard leaving today because I am not yet perfectly here.

I worry. I send vessels and ships into an imaginary future stockpiled with fears and toilet paper and anxiety. I worry that I will never have this again. This being what I had there on that island. That it was a fluke. That there wasn’t a group of women who flew from all over the world connecting in the way everyone dreams of connecting or maybe there was but it was a blink and it will never be back as things we love sometimes choose to do.  I am happy. This is working out. You are alive. I love you.

Then Poof! Up in smoke. That’s what the things we love sometimes do as unfair and shitty as it seems (and as it is.) That’s what the life we love sometimes does. It just goes.

And yet and still, I am happy they gave me a necklace with such texture because I can press it into my thumb and have it bring me back on the same ship I sent off into the future with toilet paper and regret. The necklace can send me sailing back into my seat on an airplane with the smell of nuts in the air.

I keep looking at the letters everyone wrote me this morning. I had everyone write down the 5 most beautiful things they saw in each person so each woman left today with a pile of letters.

The one thing in every one of my letters, the common thread of beauty that all the ladies saw in me was, one word: Inspire.

I can’t go anywhere on this airplane. I can’t float away because I am already floating up here in the sky and I am trapped next to the Russians in my window seat so I must sit with that word. Inspire, inspire, inspire.

What does it mean? I ask my necklace like a crazy person.

I actually didn’t think I was crazy until the necklace answered back. It said it means keep speaking your truth and you don’t need a degree from NYU to inspire. 

Now, did the necklace say that? I don’t know. Maui is a sacred and magical place and they bought it there, so maybe it did? Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief for moments at a time so I can get over the I can’t believe they mean me. I can’t believe this will last. I can’t believe in my own happiness. I can’t believe this is my life.

Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief and let my necklace remind me of its heritage. How it traveled through the hands of some gorgeous women who love me as I love them. How it hung in a store and when it caught their eyes it spoke to them. (So they told me.) It literally spoke to us, Jen. 

Maybe my necklace isn’t a thing at all. Maybe it’s a reminder that happiness is possible for me and those I love fiercely. And maybe, when the necklace is gone, however necklaces go, the reminder will remain: That I deserve to be happy. That I don’t have to be afraid. That one day, some incredible women who I led through a life-changing journey, walked into a store in Wailea and wiped the sand of their feet so they could find something to thank me. A thing, something, they said knowing they would never find that thing, so they wrapped up their love in a purple stone on a gold chain and we all understood that it would never go up in smoke.

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