Browsing Tag

paris

Guest Posts, writing, Young Voices

The Broken Container

December 13, 2016
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By Raisa Imogen

Last year, I was in Paris during the terrorist attacks, and I don’t know how to tell that story. Similarly, I don’t know how to tell the story about Trump’s recent election. But there seems to be a strange and shivering thread between the two events. Both violent, painful, chaotic. Yet Paris was somewhat contained. This election is not, the common mantra being: “we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

We tell stories to make meaning of trauma, to contain pain so we can better examine it and give it value. But sometimes we are in such distress that the container cracks. We can no longer write or speak in the same way, we can no longer contain the pain or carry it comfortably.

Paris: the cherry glow of sirens, the bitter cold, windows slamming shut, a vacant Eiffel tower. Alternatively: my friend who calmly held my hand, the family member who made a quiche, a café filled with people drinking champagne the next day.

Either it becomes a story of horror and fear, which you’ve already heard, or a story of healing and bravery, which feels mawkish and insincere.

I think we dislike narratives which exist in gray, uncertain space. We want them to have logic, to land on one side of a binary — tragedy or comedy, conflict resolved or broken open, a character whose biggest desire is fulfilled or wrenched from them completely. Climax, falling action, resolution.

But trauma, especially when it first occurs, isn’t a neat and tidy narrative. Sometimes there is no narrative at all.

The New Yorker recently featured a piece where sixteen writers weighed in on the election. As my friend Marie Scarles observed, “There are so many different versions of why Trump won, and so many ways for us to imagine the future. Should we pay more attention to poor whites? To Muslims? To women? To LGBTQ? To racists? To immigrants? All seem urgent, but none can be held as the be-all-end-all.”

We are searching for a straightforward answer, an immediate ending so this can be over and done with.

After the election, hunched over my carrel in the library and unable to write, I got a text message from my father: “Trauma turns us into animals, which means story-telling turns off. We revert to fight, flight or shock.” But sometimes, maybe our storytelling tendencies shutting down is a good thing. Maybe it allows us to survive. Narratives can be healing, but they can also be dangerous.

By attending to many different perspectives, perhaps a new story will eventually arise, something both nuanced and messy, something which contains many strands. Perhaps it will be a story of hope, but a particular kind of hope, which Rebecca Solnit describes as, ”an ax you break down doors with in an emergency… [it] should shove you out the door.”

For now, we are living in uncertainty. The story is that there is no story, at least no singular one. Which means there is no singular conflict, no one resolution. I wish I had a coherent story to tell about Paris, but I don’t. For me, the container is still broken open, as it is now for America post-election. This means we must listen to each other, and listen carefully.

raisa-tolchinsky

Raisa Imogen was born in Portland, Oregon, grew up in Chicago, and is currently studying at the University of Bologna in Italy. Her poetry can be found at www.raisaimogen.net and at The Kenyon Review.

 

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

 

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Guest Posts, Travels

Chasing The Other

October 16, 2016
trip

By Rae Pagliarulo

I spotted a payphone on the rainy sidewalk and hurried inside, slamming the Plexiglas door behind me. It felt good to have the persistent drizzle off my face, to give my pounding feet a break from the never-ending avenues. My polka-dotted rubber boots had each sprung a leak, and all day long I had walked in two personal puddles. People walked by the phone booth holding hands under big umbrellas. They laughed as the taxicabs splashed water near their feet, and crossed the labyrinthine streets without looking. Every other person in Paris seemed so effortless, so comfortable. They had woken up here. They knew where everything was – the deli, the convenience store, the pharmacy, and the coffee shop where a friend was waiting. I had no friend waiting. I had a payphone that would charge me forty dollars to make a five-minute call to my mother.

I jammed my debit card into the slot and dialed my mom’s number carefully. After one too many trills, my mother’s voice rankled the receiver, sounding much too far away. I interrupted her cheery greeting with panic. “Mom? Mom, it’s me! Hi!” She screamed into the phone, asking me a ton of questions – how were the Parisian streets? Was the city as beautiful as she’d heard? Did I see the Seine? Did I drink wine, or meet anybody nice, or see the Eiffel Tower, or eat amazing food? Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Grief, Guest Posts

Down The Rabbit Hole Into Paris: Healing After The Death of My Sister.

November 29, 2014

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By Kate Sutton.

I was sleep deprived, having not slept a wink on the plane. It had been an eight hour red eye and although I had tried too sleep, I couldn’t. Thoughts racing through my head. Love, loss, anniversaries. It was all painfully there. A huge hole in my heart that didn’t want to heal.

Part of me hadn’t wanted to go to Paris. But, as I stepped off that plane and breathed in the French air, I was struck with the sudden sense of freedom. It came as a shock. It was a feeling I hadn’t expected.

The last two months had been a calamity of vomiting, drinking, vomiting, drugs, binging, vomiting, blacking out and more bingeing and purging. All in an attempt to forget the emotional pain I was in, which was only made more brutally aware, as I approached the first anniversary of my sister’s death.  Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, travel, Women

Things That Didn’t Happen.

October 21, 2014

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By Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Why not February?

 1)  That day I landed in Paris, alone, no French to pout my lips, anti-gay protests spilled into the streets, shooting rapids of hatred. Queers had to navigate them, no oars. When I walked down Avenue Henri Martin to find an open store, I looked like what I was: an MEC-bedecked North American dyke, shapeless as a continent. Two men radared in. Vitriol tones a language; it hatcheted towards me on streams of spittle. The guy closest shoulder-checked me and I stumbled into a wall, scraping limestone.

Then they were gone, and I still needed oranges.

2)  A week later, Rue de la Pompe, arrondisement 16, outside Casino supermarket. Serrated needles of rain raking sideways. No umbrella, just a thin-wire pull-cart I needed to pile with groceries if I wanted to eat, launder, shampoo.

A Roma girl hunched on the street, no coat, one-shoed, hair divided into oleaginous shanks functioning as eavestroughs. Shoulders heaving. One foot maimed, red, shaped like a soup bone, the socket of a cow’s tibia. A paper begging cup exhausted by rain crumpled under left knee.

Trafficked, I thought, tears and misery the tools of her job. But beyond that: something immediate. Maybe, later, when she was picked up again, the gratitude of Stockholm Syndrome or familial bonds or simple lack of options would keep her in her place, but for now, dropped to the Paris pavement by her pimp or aunt or older brother, she was the picture of all that was wrong and nothing that was right.

My anger in Paris was a simmering thing, small at first, then growing. It was at first the size of the palm of a hand laid against a hot burner, but it flared. It was that worst thing, that touristic thing, impotence with a strangling desire to “help.”

“Madame, ça va?” I said as I pressed soggy pastries, fruit, hidden money into her hands. Nothing that would make it better. Nothing that would buy her options.

What do I want with pastries? her eyes said. Are you kidding me? She was right; I was an asshole in any language.

Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Grief, Guest Posts

Grief Averted in Paris.

October 20, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jennifer Simpson.

I was lounging in bed listening to “Morning Edition” on my local public radio station. It was April 15. Tax day. But I wasn’t worried about that–I’d filed an extension. And I wasn’t awake enough yet to remember that it was the anniversary of my father’s death eight years earlier, though I’d remembered it in the days before.

When the phone rang I let the machine pick up. I hadn’t had coffee, but the message Joe left was more of a jolt than even the strongest espresso could have offered.

“Hi Jenn, this is Joe. [pause] Everything’s okay [pause] but I just need to update you on a situation about your sister.”

Debby has known Joe and his partner Mike since the 80s when they were in training together to become flight attendants. I’d spent the occasional Thanksgiving with them, shared countless dinners out, and celebrated a couple of monumental birthdays: Debby’s 40th, and more recently, Debby’s 50th.

His voice sounded calm, but Joe never calls me, so I knew something was wrong.

Potentially very wrong. Continue Reading…

Delight, Inspiration

Who Is Your Hemingway?

August 1, 2012
A MovEable Feast.

I want to hang out with Ernest Hemingway. I want to walk with him to the Musee du Luxembourg and then have good things to eat with him.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. ~ Ernest Hemingway to a friend, 1950.

Now, I was not lucky enough to have lived in Paris a young man, Hell, I am not, nor will I ever be, a young man. Or a man period, for that matter.  And I will never be lucky enough to sit down and drink a chilled Algerian wine with Hemingway, or Hem, as his friends called him. Surely we would have been friends. I will never walk with him to Sylvia Beach’s library and discuss words and pictures, whisky and James Joyce. And for that I am truly bereft.

I know he shot himself early one morning over 50 years ago and perhaps that is also another reason I feel the connection as I too have known the dark night of the soul, and the swing of the mood, the blurring of the facts. I know I am idealizing his life but that’s ok. That’s what we do with people we choose to carry with us. We take the magic parts of them and light them up so bright that anything else is unseeable.

But I did just read A Moveable Feast and felt as if I was there in Paris. I imagine it to be so and that is most definitely what he was aiming for and what he was so gifted at. I am sure that is why my friend gave me the book and insisted I read it before I went to Paris. I didn’t. I read it over a few days last week and fell into a reverie, and a slight romance with Hem, and all the usual suspects like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. And a longing to go back to Paris where I just came from.

I found myself wondering how I ended up in the wrong era?

How anytime Hemingway and his friends spoke to one another they said each other’s names often. It makes everything glisten and sound important.

A moveable feast. I love that notion for what it suggests. I have always been prone to nostalgia, perhaps to a fault, carrying my friends with me on slips of paper and photographs, letting them fade a little but never so much that I couldn’t see where they were. Perhaps this explains my love of Facebook. Of connection.

Why should one’s feast be stagnant and confined to one place?

I say we make more moveable feasts. That maybe we become our own moveable feasts so that when we move, when we pack up the boxes that contain of our lives, we have that feast in us and can spread it out buffet style wherever we go. Ernest Hemingway understood this. Perhaps this is why he wrote. I will never lose you he might have said to his feast over some chicken with his first wife Hadley.

I have my own private feasts.

Wherever I go, there they are. My tribe. I don’t meet strangers anymore as I have said so often, I only meet old friends. My tribe has proven moveable and it never takes long to find them where ever I am. It only revealed itself as this way once I realized that I could take it with me, that it was inside of me. For a long time I believed that my feast was stuck in one place and that place was way beyond my scope of imagination.

What I am saying is this: I am a moveable feast.

He says in the book: When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

There are so many worlds within that one paragraph I could travel to. First of all, the idea that there is no problem except where to be happiest is simply delicious. That my   only concern could be: Where to go hang my heart, where to go sip my Muscadet in the sunshine or eat oysters? Where can I go keep being happy today? 

People: the population that most often causes us pain and suffering and delight. Yes, delight as well, admittedly. That the only thing that could spoil a day was people is quite funny. Nowadays, we are so dialed in. Okay, I am so dialed in. So over-connected.

How to get away from letting things in that don’t belong in my brain or on my calendar or my computer screen is a concern Hem didn’t have back then. He didn’t have to think about shutting down Facebook or texting someone back or tweeting or getting stuck in traffic with other people.

Except for the very few people that were as good as spring itself. I have my own little list, steadily growing in size as I grow in years. It’s more than a few, but hey, I am sure I know more people than Hemingway did by sheer virtue of social media. I am not sure that is a good thing.

I want to spend more time with my list, with my few people that are as good as Spring itself. I want to spend more time with Spring itself. I want to go back to Paris with my pen and my eyes and let them do the work and then take it back with me wherever I go, much as Hemingway attempted to.

Wherever I go I will be home because I will take with me my own moveable feast. I will be on my Awe Tour all the time, taking notes and adding them to my repertoire, which includes: Ernest Hemingway, and my favorite people and memories. Wines that I love and songs too, pictures I took and people I thought I have forgotten but haven’t, books I have read and sentences I remember from where I do not know. And miracles I have been privy to or part of all along the way. Things I am not proud of alongside my greatest accomplishments, the talisman I wear around my neck and a paper scrawled with all the things that would fit on it which bring me wonder. All of these things will be part of my movable feast and as I get older it will grow, and it will shrink, and it may grow again but it will always be movable unless I forget that it is.

And I will never forget.

I will carry Hemingway in my breast pocket or the equivalent of that, maybe on my iPad or Kindle, and I will reach for him if I start to feel like I am being swallowed by nothingness or everythingness or Facebook.

I will pour myself a glass of something red, get a nice pen, and maybe some nice stationery for Hemingway’s sake, and I will neatly write out all the things that are included in my moveable feast. For as long as it takes.

Who and what is in your box? In your own moveable feast?

Who is your Hemingway? Your light post when it gets a little too dark to remember where you have been?

~~~~

***For Laura Donnelly

Delight, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats, Travels

Re-Entry into Awe and Wonder.

July 17, 2012

Confession: I am having the blahs.

I am back from my the retreat I led in Tuscany and my post-retreat vacation in Paris, with an empty feeling like I came back a shell, having left the meat of me somewhere in Monteriggioni, inside the walled city, perhaps eating gelatto or maybe in a field of sunflowers as the light splays down on them in such a way that my eyes burn, not so much with pain, but with an overwhelming sense of wonder.

One of the things I asked my retreat attendees (a fantastic group that I am still pinching myself over) was to carry their journals around them with during the day, whether they were in Siena eating a slice of pizza or in Florence with the ghosts of Ponte Vecchio, long dead but still floating around with their gold and jewels somewhere just above the ether. I asked them to carry their Awe and Wonder Journals and jot down every singe thing that cause them to feel awe or wonder. Whether it was a conversation with someone who didn’t speak a word of English or the way the Tuscan hills looked at 9:30 at night as the sun was going to bed or a piece of Pecorino cheese and the way it lingered in the mouth waiting for the perfect splash of chianti to join it before descending.

It didn’t matter how big or small the things were that they were jotting down. What mattered is that they were paying attention. To the things that made them feel alive, to the things that made them stop and say Wow.

I wonder how many things we miss because we feel we have seen it before or simply because we are looking at the wrong things to wake us up. I want more things to stop me in my tracks. I want more things to make me ask questions. I want more things to make me feel connected to something bigger than myself, longer standing than myself, and way beyond what I can ever understand. Those type of things.

Whether it is a a piece of pizza in Rome or a moody sky in Paris. Whether it is the high ceilings at the Ebbio and how they have been there for 800 years or the way the olive oil tasted and how time seems slower there as if it has nowhere to be.

So I asked them to be filled with awe and wonder and to bring their journals around so they wouldn’t forget.

It’s easy to forget. Or to not look in the first place.

One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems (you know my obsession with her) in The Mockingbirds.

It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
 
but their willingness
to be attentive–
 

Their willingness to be attentive!

That’s it, right there. Are you willing to be attentive? To allow yourself more moments of awe and wonder and inspiration and grace?

I came back and feel empty because in some way I believe that is only possible when I am away. That when I am back here, in my normal life, in the real world, I must go back to feeling like the same old me.

Sure, my retreat was a cocoon of love and safety. I got terribly ill, sicker than I can remember being, and despite that, I felt safe and free and happy. I want that back, yes. Sure, the food tasted different and the sky lingered longer than it does here and I didn’t have to deal with emails and bills and traffic and making breakfast and Facebook.

But what I realized there in Tuscany and Paris, and now in hindsight, sitting here with my too strong coffee and feeling nostalgia, as I am prone to feel (is it any wonder I love Facebook?) is that: I can be Italy anywhere. I can be Paris anywhere.

What I mean is: I do not have to escape to feel alive. I do not have to get away to remember the beauty around me or inside of me, to pick up small tokens of beauty wherever I am, on the sidewalk or in a conversation. I simply have to allow it.

I simply have to take out and Awe and Wonder Journal and pay attention.

No I won’t have the same treasures here. I won’t be able to duck into a Parisian cafe in the rain and snap photos of the macarons or take the train and watch buildings speak their stories of defense and heartbreak and disintegration from centuries or eat Brie and actually enjoy it because it does taste different in France and the wine in Italy. The wine in Italy is it’s own treasure.

But, I brought 25 people with me to Italy. I got sicker than I have ever been and they stood by me and not for one moment let me feel as if I was letting them down, or they were disappointed or this was anything other than exactly what they dreamed of.

I did that. I attracted 25 people who got along perfectly as if they chose each other, who laughed together in Italian cities, who stayed up late and painted fingernails and drank Limoncello and wrote in their journals what they would do if they weren’t afraid, who swam in the Mediterranean and then had a picnic with tomatoes and cheese and hard boiled eggs and ate it happily with their hands. There were no cliques, there was no negativity, there was no complaining. I brought these people with me. From here.

So, if that is the case, it would make sense to say that I could bring them anywhere. I could have the same experience here in Santa Monica or in New York City or Mexico or my sofa. It wouldn’t matter.

All I have to do is keep being who I am and the right people will show up.

And then pay attention.

And then be awe.

Be wonder.

**Click here to see some amazing shots on my site of my amazing retreat.

 

Guest Posts

Manifest-Station Message of The Day.

July 16, 2012

Manifest-Station Message of the Day for 7/16/12

Things We Forget #1: Instead of getting caught up in who doesn’t like you, get caught up in who does. Much more interesting.

Remember this amazing, oft overlooked sweet little fact.

Say this to yourself: I choose to get hooked by those I love and who love me.

I choose to surround myself with Yes people rather than No people. Yes!

Since I have the choice, why would I stick a hook in my mouth that would cause me pain? I don’t need to go fishing today.

This applies not only to friendships but to dating and Facebook and anyone you choose to give your energy to.

Tweet me #iChooseLove by clicking here 

hanging with my friend Sami in Paris.

Forgiveness, Travels

Guilt-Away.

July 11, 2012

Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse. 

That’s how Wikipedia defines Guilt.

I arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris from Pisa to discover that of the two bottles I had (over)packed in my orange suitcase, the red one cracked and broke in my (over)packed luggage. Mind you, I had missed the actual wine tasting in Tuscany at the winery because I had been ill so someone got them for me per my request because of my FOMO, as my friend Sara Lieberman, author of The Handbags Tale,  calls it.

FOMO= Fear Of Missing Out. I just had to have Italian wine! I couldn’t possibly leave Tuscany without chianti, could I?

I sat on the floor of the airport in my long white dress and new Italian boots as I opened the case to check the damage. Immediately glass and red wine exploded everywhere. People stared. I didn’t care. My clothes were drenched in red wine!

My new clothes.

My white clothes.

My silk.

My gifts. 

My white bras.

I was upset, naturally, but I actually sort of laughed. My number one rule is: If you fall you must laugh.

Or tried to laugh, despite having no actual voice from being sick. At this point I had been sick ten days and I knew that I was being tested in some way.

Ok, I thought, it’s just stuff. Just stuff. Things and stuff. And broken glass.

Needless to say, I was frustrated because I hadn’t listened to my intuition which strongly whispered to me as I packed in Tuscany: Jen, give those bottles of wine away as a gift. You do not have room. Plus, it’s dangerous putting wine in your suitcase. Plus, if one was to break you know it will be the red one. 

I ignored my intuition and it came back laughing at me. Wearing a burgundy and chianti broken-glass colored shade, it snickered at me for being such a fool.

Arriving at the Le Bristol, the fanciest hotel I have ever set foot in, I immediately ask the concierge if they can take the clothes to their in-house dry cleaner. They assure me in lovely French accents that red wine is very hard to remove but they will do their best. 

Merci.

As a side note, I am traveling with my childhood babysitter who I was reunited with after her only son was killed at age 19 in a drunk driving accident in Northern California.

This put my dilemma in a file called IRRELEVANT very quickly.

I let it go.

It’s just stuff. Stuff and things. 

The dry cleaners got almost all the wine out for a small (big) fortune and I was happy. But non-attached. I had made peace with the wine and the wine debacle.

The few stains that remain will remind me of this trip, this moment in the not-so-straight line of my life.

As I was looking for ways to get red wine out I stumbled across Wine-Away. 

So I invented something called Guilt-Away.

Would you like a bottle? Or a case?

As I led my retreat in Italy with 25 people I got very ill. Sicker than I have been in years. So sick that I couldn’t speak. So sick that at one point I really thought I was dying. That kind of sick.

At first, the guilt I felt was insurmountable. How could I have brought all these people here and let them down? How could I let this happen?

My brain goes to the path of guilt because it is the path of least resistance. Just like our bodies take the path of least resistance, so do our brains. I have spent many years of my life felling guilty, which is a dirty broken thing that presses into the corners of your soul like a sky in December descending for the day. The last words I spoke to my father before he died where “I hate you” so naturally I have spent much of my life feeling as if I caused his death, or at the very least, should be punished.

So here I was in Italy with that same familiar pull of guilt. So heavy, it weighs down your boat and sinks you before you can even get out to sea and observe the horizon in the distance to allow you some clarity. Once you get to the bottom it is too late; you have sunk and everything looks cloudy and muddy and water gets in your eyes and up your nose and you can’t breathe.

You get the picture.

As I sat on the cold airport floor in Paris I realized that along with Wine-Away I would like to always carry Guilt-Away so whether wine spills or Guilt starts to call me, I have my defense. I will spray it away like it never existed. Maybe there will be a slight remnant but it will be so faint that it will just be a memory rather than a reality.

State the facts, speak the truth. 

(Iyanla Vanzant taught me that. Memorize it.)

Fact: I got very very sick. Very very very sick.

Truth: My retreat had an amazing time and Kylee Lehe (who I have been mentoring) taught 3 beautiful classes and was given an opportunity to really rise to the occasion. I had been overworking and was run down.

Story: I should feel bad because I got sick and let everyone down. They had a miserable time because I couldn’t babysit them. I was boring.

Things always go wrong.

I got sick because I was being punished.

Guilt-Away: I take my bottle of Guilt-Away and rid myself of any of the story. The story is what keeps us stuck in the dry Desert of Guilt with no water or air.

I can breathe again now.

I am sitting in my hotel room in Paris and using my Guilt-Away to clean up any remorse I have over not feeling 100% and being able to go out and explore. Any guilt I have at sitting here and staring out the French windows. Any guilt I have about doing anything other than what I am doing at this very moment.

What will you use your Guilt-Away for? Share below anything you need Guilt-Away to remove or clean up. 

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