Browsing Tag

self worth

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, R Rated, Sex

I Chose The Wave.

August 20, 2014

By Amy Botula.

Leave it to high school juniors to determine what their English teacher needed. I was invited to the School of Rock Showcase only to discover later my students had appointed themselves yentas. It had taken 14 years to happen, this gesture of match-making. Not when I was teaching elementary school in a mostly Mormon community, still in my twenties, and reminding parents to refer to me as “Ms.” Not when I taught middle school and was settling into my thirties. But now, at 40, courtesy of three shaggy punk rock kids.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

If You Have (Or Have Had) Toxic Relationships of Any Kind, Read This Now. By Karen Salmansohn.

March 21, 2014

By Karen Salmanshohn.

poster-desperation-or-determination.jpg

Warning! This story includes a naughty word – however –  this word is necessary  – because its shock-value is what catapulted me to change my life. I share this naughty word now with only the most loving intentions – hoping it might be an empowering caffeinated jolt to any sleeping spirits out there!

About a decade and a half ago I used to joke that for me all dating should be re-named ‘blind-dating” – and instead of saying I was “seeing someone right now” – I should be more honest, and say, “I’m dimly viewing someone.”

I remember I was once “dimly viewing” this particular guy. I’ve written about him before  (here in an article about good compromise vs. bad compromise) . I explained how every time I said this guy’s name, my girlfriends would sing the theme song to Batman. Not because this man looked great in black Spandex tights. No, no. It was because he was a bad man.

“Dadadadadadada Bad-man! Bad-man!” my girlfriends would sing, right after I’d finish telling a particularly bad Bad-man episode—of which there were many.

Let’s call this ex of mine “Bruce Wayne” – to protect his not-so-innocent secret identity.

Today I want to share something I never told you about Bruce.

Ready?

Bruce’s “dadadadadada bad-behavior” began very early on – a few weeks into our relationship.

Yep, right out of the gate Bruce displayed what I felt were highly controlling and paranoically jealous behaviors.

Yet I continued to date him.

I even went away with Bruce for a week long vacation in Turkey – where we had a very big fight one evening.  I made a silly joke to our Turkish waiter – who then laughed – and touched my shoulder before he left our table. Bruce then became convinced that I was flirting with this Turkish waiter. He specifically wanted to know if I’d rather be dating this waiter – a man who could barely speak English – plus lived well beyond a 5,000 mile radius of my zip code. I kept reassuring Bruce I was not the teeniest bit interested in this Turkish dude – yet Bruce refused to talk to me for a full two days of our vacation!

When I came home from vacation, I sought out therapy. I found a nice older psychotherapist, named Sid, who eventually became like a “grandfather from another great-grand-mother.” I adored Sid.

“You’ll never believe what Bruce said/did last night,” I’d begin each and every therapy session. And then I’d launch into another “Dadadadadadada Bad-man Episode”!

“Bruce said he doesn’t want me to have brunch with girlfriends on weekends anymore – unless he comes along.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t want me to take an evening painting class – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t want me to go to the gym  – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t like it when I come home happy from work – because he worries I enjoy work more than him! He actually became angry the other day because I came home so happy!”

Each week I’d tell Sid story after story – quickly followed by rationalization after rationalization – always explaining why I should stay with Bruce.

“You know what your problem is Karen?” Sid asked me one session.  “You’re so smart, you’re stupid.”

I laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You are able to over-think things so much – that you wind up talking yourself out of what you already know.”

“So you think I should break up with Bruce?” I asked.

Sid sighed loudly. “I’m a therapist. I’m not supposed to tell you what to do. But if you want my honest opinion… I can’t believe you’re gonna stay with him, when he’s an asshole.”

“Wow! I can’t believe you just called Bruce an a***hole,” I said. “But you’re right, he is an a**hole.”

“Actually, I didn’t call HIM an a**hole! I called YOU an a**hole. You heard me wrong. I said, ‘If you continue to stay with Bruce, then YOU are an a**hole.’”

“What? I’m not the a**hole! Bruce is the a**hole!”

“At this point, Karen, if you stay with Bruce knowing what you know – then YOU are the a**hole.”

“I’m the a**hole?” I repeated this word out loud –  a word as opposite in content as a mantra could ever be – but alas, more powerful than any mantra I’d ever used.

This word “a**hole” became my wake up call!

Sid was right. If I stayed with someone who was so very toxic to my well being  – then I became the A**hole to me – for allowing this soul-crushing, freedom-squelching relationship to continue!

“Listen, Karen,” Sid said,  “at this point in therapy we are simply wasting time talking about Bruce – and how messed up he is. Quite frankly, you are only using stories about Bruce to distract yourself from your real issues – and the important inner work you have to do on yourself. It’s time we talk about the white elephant in the room: your wounds! There’s obviously something very wounded inside of you, that you feel the need to stay with Bruce – when he is so toxic.”

Although this story happened well over a decade ago, I think about it often. I particularly think about it whenever I’ve found myself starting to enter into what I intuit might be a toxic relationship –be it in love, business or friendship.

I feel if we’re not careful we can all find ourselves wasting a lot of precious tick-tocking time complaining about how badly someone is behaving towards us.

I believe we need to stop asking questions like:

“Why is this person treating me this way?”  

“Why did this person do that crappy thing to me?”

“What is wrong with this person?”

“Are they an a**hole?”

“Are they a sociopath?”

“Are they a narcissist?”

“Isn’t this person simply just a terrible person?”

The really important questions we should be asking instead are:

“What did I miss in the vetting process that I allowed this person into my life?”

“What is wounded inside me that I choose/chose to stay with this person for as long as I do/did?”

“How can I grow from this experience – so it doesn’t repeat itself into a bad pattern?”

“Do I want to make this a story about how I was a victim – or how I became a victor?”

“Do I want to waste my time, thoughts and energy on toxicity or use it for a higher purpose?”

“Aren’t I wise and strong for how I moved on to be with better people and live better days?”

If you’re presently caught up in telling stories about the toxic misbehaviors of someone – the time has come to stop getting caught up in name-calling, contempt and blame.

The time has come to recognize you’re just distracting yourself with all the drama, chaos and static!

Yep, the more you stay with and/or complain about a toxic person, the more you’re merely delaying doing the important inner work you need to do – to heal your wounds, expand your limiting beliefs, and show yourself far more love and respect.

All of this time expended on them could be time spent on expanding you – growing who you are!

My lesson/your lesson: Don’t be an a**hole to yourself. Stop staying with (and/or complaining about) toxic people. Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around  people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self.

TWEET THIS NOW:  If you have (or had) toxic relationships of any kind, read this essay now –  via @notsalmon

Want to enjoy a happy, safe-feeling, committed love relationship? Check out the tools in my OPRAH.com recommended Prince Harming Syndrome. I offer free excerpts too! Click here now! For a limited time Prince Harming Syndrome is discounted – to only $9.99 – as a convenient ebook – you can download onto your computer or ipad, Kindle, Nook – anywhere you can read a PDF– and you can start reading it right away! Grab it now – while it’s still discounted! More info, an FAQ and praise can be found by clicking here now!

I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read this list Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool! I LOVE it when you share – because I love to find out about my community! Plus, many thousands of peeps read these essays – so, what you share could be a helpful inspiration for someone else! xo Karen

click Karen's poster to connect with her!

click Karen’s poster to connect with her!

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Dallas followed by Seattle and London. 

 

courage, Guest Posts, healing

I Sleep With My Buck Knife.

January 27, 2014

By Alma Luz Villanueva

It all began with my full-blood Yaqui Indian grandmother, Mamacita, from Sonora, Mexico, who raised me in San Francisco. I was five years old and used to the living situation being mainly her and I; with my mother going to work, coming home late after playing piano bar (her second job). She was a trained classical pianist, but as she put it, she could also swing. My mother, Lydia, was a young Mexican woman during the racist 1950s, playing piano in a bar to a bunch of drunk men. I can’t even imagine, but with her out-going, playful personality she enjoyed the attention, and the tips. And so, my uncle from Mexico was visiting- a judge. My other uncle was a professor. They both went to university, but their sister, Mamacita, stayed at home with her curandera/healer mother, and trained as a curandera, midwife. My great-grandmother, Isidra, owned a boarding house and a laundry, and was known as a curandera. She was married five times (all of this pretty rare for the late 1800s, Mexico), and her favorite saying was, “Each time a better man!” The matriarchal line in my family bred strong, rebellious women, it seems. That Yaqui Indian blood.

The visiting uncle played a game with me- he’d begin to quote a song, “Luna, luna, come la tuna, hecha la cascara y come la tuna!…Moon, moon, eat the fig, peel the rind, eat the fig!” When he’d catch my five year old self, he’d tickle me until I screamed and cried. I hated it and now I realize he was also touching me all over my little body. Mamacita would come and rescue me, telling him to leave me alone; that I didn’t like the game, stop it. Then I would hear the song, “Luna, luna, come la tuna…” He was very huge and fat, and I dreaded those big, fat hands tickling me, touching me. “…hecha la cascara,” so I ran to the large dining room table covered with a tablecloth, which was my secret hiding place. I kept all of my art supplies there: crayons, paper, coloring book, my baby scissors. His big, fat hand reached for me, “…y come la tuna!” I was ready. I stabbed him with my baby scissors.

My mother, Lydia, took me once to the bar where she played the piano at night. She sat me in a booth with a coke and a sandwich. I was around seven, taking in the darkness of the bar, mostly men. I remember thinking it smelled really bad and there were no windows. Mamacita always had an open window for the wind in our apartment, as we were on the second floor. I watched my mother walk to the piano, a light shining on her black hair, making it sparkle, and her red lipstick smiled. I used to wake up, at that age, to her playing beautiful music on our rented piano. My favorite, Moonlight Sonata, she told me. I used to love to sneak up and watch her because her face was so peaceful, not rushed, worried, angry. In the dark bar, full of men, she began to play Moonlight Sonata and they began to yell things at her. She said, “This is for my daughter, then I’ll play whatever you want.” So they shut up and she played, and some of them clapped and yelled. She was peaceful for those moments, and then she played something fast and her red lipstick smiled but I knew she’d rather play her morning songs. During the day she was a medical secretary and once in a while she had a doctor boyfriend, but no one married her. She was a hot tamale. Who played Moonlight Sonata. Trained as a classical pianist by her minister father; Lydia played for church services. But she was still a hot tamale.

When I was ten she married an Irish guy who sang My Wild Irish Rose whenever he got really drunk after payday. I didn’t live with her because he was so mean, abusive. My grandmother and I lived in a room with a little kitchen, but it was home because she always had her altar, fresh flowers, pan dulce still warm from the corner store, in the Mission, San Francisco. My mother was pregnant. He was drunk. I was visiting. He locked me in the bedroom; the door made of glass panels. I heard and saw everything. He began to beat her, ripping her clothes off, her huge belly exposed. She screamed like a woman fighting for herself, and her child, as he started to choke her. The wise voice (I call it) said, “If you don’t do something, you will always remember this.” I was a skinny ten year old, but I thought I was tough, beating up boys who called me ‘spic, dirty Indian’ (they saw my grandmother). The girls wouldn’t talk to me, but the boys tried to bully me, and I beat their asses up, laughing. I remember. So I put my skinny fist through the glass, not one scratch, opened the door, grabbed his favorite marble ash tray and knocked him out. I was really trying to kill him and as my mother ran to him, worried he was dead, the wise voice said, “Look well.”  It was after midnight. I put all of my stuff in a paper bag and left, taking three buses to my aunt’s place in the projects. My grandmother was staying there for a few days. I think of one of my four children out at midnight in the city, taking three buses to safety, and I’m reminded of that ten year old’s courage. Mamacita used to say, “Tienes coraje, niña…You have courage, child.”

When my first two children were three and one, we lived in the worst projects in San Francisco. I was eighteen and fully aware of the nightly dangers. My Jamaican neighbor told me, “Girl, you never be out there bringing in your wash after the sun goes down, they be raping women here every damn night.” I rigged up an alarm system with empty cans on the window sill downstairs. The bedrooms were upstairs and I slept with my biggest butcher knife. The cans crashed to the cement floor. My babies continued to sleep. I slid down the stairs, knife in hand, and saw a hand reaching through my window. I stabbed it, blood, scream, gone. I called the police, they came, and one of them returned demanding to be let in. I refused. I stayed on my couch all night facing the broken window, waiting for the cop’s hand to come through.

Fast forward to the high Sierras where I lived for five years in my mid-thirties, giving birth to my fourth child. My youngest, beloved son.  During the summer months I backpacked out with friends to the most beautiful, glacier lakes. Once in a while I went by myself, with my wolf dog, Zeke, a true companion. My oldest son gave me a Buck Knife for my birthday, telling me, “Carry this with you for bears or whatever, Mom.” And I did, strapping it to my belt. I put it under my sleeping bag pillow, touching its leather casing once in a while, Zeke curled at my feet, aware. During the night I’d climb up to the Mother Rock, as my friends and I called her, taking my sleeping bag with me to sleep in one of her crevices. It felt like a cradle. The stars floated in the wide, silent lake, as earth/sky held me. This was the first place I felt no fear to be outside, alone, in spite of bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes. If they harmed you it was for self-defense or plain old hunger; there was no cruelty involved. This was the first place I heard the silence and the sound of the sun rising, a deep hum.

I remember my seventh grade gym teacher telling us girls, “If you’re ever attacked, don’t fight back, you’ll get hurt worse, maybe killed.” I remember how angry that made me, but I didn’t say anything, to the teacher. Later I told my best friend, “I’d rather die than be raped, so I’m fighting back, fuck that shit.” She laughed, thought I was being funny. Before I moved to the Sierras, I took kung fu lessons from a five foot woman from China, June, in Santa Cruz, California. She always paired me up with the biggest man in the class to do the exercises with. I finally asked her, after three classes, to be paired with another woman. June looked at me, smiling, pointing to him, “That’s you, inside.” Later she taught me killing blows for a week, just her and I. I’ve traveled to many places by myself and her lessons make feel a little safer, as I don’t pack my Buck Knife for Paris, for example. I do pack my Swiss Army Knife, so maybe I could open a bottle of wine to calm down an attacker (haha).

Now I live in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, by myself (with its challenges, a woman alone), returning to teach and visit family, friends. My Buck Knife rests on my night table, its handle poking out of the leather case. When I stabbed my pervert uncle, his huge hand reaching for my five year old self, I drew blood. He yelled angrily as my grandmother ran into the room, and I ran to hide behind her skirt. “Give her to me, look what she’s done! Give her to me!” (This is all in Spanish.) “I told you to leave her alone! Now you will!” “She’ll be a bruja like you, is that what you want?”

I felt her body quiver, with silent laughter, as I held onto her skirt tightly. He never followed me with that song again during his last days, and I stayed close to my grandmother. If she had given me to him, I would not have become who I am. A woman who sleeps with her Buck Knife, and a woman who would use it if I had to. That gym teacher was wrong- fight back. As June said, while teaching me killing blows, “You and I, we are eagles.” We are whole human beings, willing to fight for our lives, and willing to love so deeply. Those we choose to touch us.

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www.almaluzvillanueva.com

Alma Luz Villanueva’s fourth, newest novel is Song of the Golden Scorpion. Eighth book of poetry, Gracias, to be published in 2014. Teaches at Antioch University’s MFA in creative writing program, Los Angeles. Lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the past eight years.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She will be leading a Manifestation 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.

healing, love

What Love Does.

December 11, 2012

Have you ever felt it? That Don’t leave me pang right square in your chest, in that place you didn’t know existed until you did?

In yoga class, someone is pressing your shoulders down in savasana (final resting pose) or rubbing your back as you are in child’s pose, and you never want them to leave, as if a possibility existed in some corner of the world where you two could exist like that: as giver and receiver in some dark space? How it almost feels like the first time you have ever been touched in your whole life. You feel that safe.

That wide open.

This is why most of us love being touched in yoga, especially during passive poses, when we are nothing but a receiver, a net for love. When else do we let our guards down that much? I know I don’t.

Yesterday I got a massage as treated to me by my friend Katie for my upcoming birthday tomorrow. This massage was much needed because apparently a train had been running through my head and had crashed behind my eyes, leaving me a broken heap of steel and muscle. I had subbed out my 4 pm yoga class and couldn’t leave the dark of my room until the massage appointment.

There’s a point early on in a massage where I start to obsess about when it is going to end. As early as two minutes into it. This won’t last long enough. Same when someone touches me in a yoga class, my own shoulders pinned down like some kind of stuck thing and I think I know you are going to leave. You are going to get up and go and my shoulders are going to fly back up and I might even fly away with nothing holding me in place any longer. 

Last night, about three minutes into my massage, I felt myself drifting and then catching myself right on the cliff of pleasure wondering how much time was left. Push me off the cliff, dammit! 

How can I worry about when something is going to end when it is barely just beginning?

In Bali at one point very early in our trip, I looked around at the pool and our house in Ubud with all the little flowers on the towels and the fried cassava in bowls by our feet and I’d said I am sure going to miss this place. My husband, as if I was insane: We haven’t even left yet! It was as if it was the first time I’d noticed that fact. Oh, we haven’t left yet, have we? We are still here. We are still safe. So I’d eaten a “cassava chip” which was oddly like a “potato chip” and sat back to enjoy the way it felt, the salt and the greasy crunch and the way it made me thirsty and I wondered if everyone worried that there wasn’t enough.

Am I terrified of being comfortable? Because it won’t last?

Nothing lasts. Not forever anyway. When a teacher comes over to me and that end of a yoga class to press down on my shoulders or rub my head I always ask can you stay there? sometimes out loud, sometimes not.

That is the crux of it all, isn’t it? Can you stay there? can you not go? Can you make me feel safe?

I want to make people feel that way and I think that I do, at least in some small way, that blanket of limbs and touch and non-judgement and fireplaces and glasses of wine and unparalleled listening skills and here I have you. I am not going anywhere.

I used to think I wanted things to last forever.

I remember my first boyfriend Danny, my first serious love and one of my only serious loves, and how he would call me from his dorm room in Boston and how I would lie in my bunk bed at NYU and ask him to tell me that we would last forever. He wouldn’t. A smart move. And we didn’t.

After four years, he broke up with me one February like someone with no balls! How dare you do this over the telephone after so many years? So naturally I got on the Peter Pan bus, a teary eyed skinny and freezing mess, schlepping all the way to Boston in the snow so he could break up with me to my face. And who am I kidding? I am sure a part of me (most of me) wanted to beg him not to break up with and to tell me that he’d made a mistake. I arrived and knocked on all his friends’ doors until I found him. They’d all had that part sympathy and part I am so glad I am not that guy look.

I spent the weekend in his apartment in Boston curled in a ball and sobbing and when he put my spaghetti limp body on the bus back to New York City, he hugged me for 3 solid minutes, (again I had hope, Maybe he won’t let go.) He did let go and that was the last time I saw him for years. And that was that. We didn’t last forever and I am glad he refused to give me that promise, even as a lie,  because I would’ve thrown it in the river with him and then jumped in after it.

I do want to be touched. (Don’t we all?) But more than that, it’s what is behind the touch, what’s under the fingers and the skin. How the touch makes me feel, and even though I know it won’t last forever, what it will, even is just for that moment, connect me to the world and hold me in place.

What’s behind everything is love. Whether it is a fear of it, a desire for it, a Fuck you I don’t believe in love or a giving away of it.

Some form of love is what beats our hearts and what carries us through those broken moments in the snow of Boston. Its what we all want and why when someone puts their hand on that spot on our chest or forehead (how do they always know the exact spot I need to be touched?) that we want to put our own hands on top of theirs and whisper in some secret language of the hands, Yes, this feels right. Yes, you can stay. Yes, I love you too.

And then your eyes open and the lights are back and you put on your boots or your sandals, depending on the weather, and your leave the yoga class. And you may get off that bus in NYC after a miserable 8 hour ride in the snow from Boston and you may forget that vow to love and how good it felt but it is there and it will always be there.

If you let it exist as if it belongs to you. As if you deserve it.

You do.

love