Browsing Tag

who are you

beauty, Guest Posts, Self Image

Teeth.

January 18, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Kate Hill Cantrill.

My eight year-old nephew, who is an Arab Israeli, thought I looked like a farm girl when I wore braids.

“Why do you wear your hair like that?” he asked. “I don’t understand why you’d want to look like a farm girl and you do with your hair like that, and your big teeth, and your spotted face.”

“Big teeth are better than no teeth,” I said. He covered with pursed lips his missing front ones.

Later, he poked his finger into my nose and asked me why I had no babies.

He and his two brothers came to America every summer to visit their mother’s side of the family. She and their father had met when they were both studying in Germany. The oldest boy planned to be a football star; although when the football star was in America he said ‘soccer.’. He would never speak English to an Arabic speaker, or vice versa. He learned early on that there are differences in this world, even though sometimes those differences perplexed him. In his Bedouin village in Israel all the married women had babies, and he didn’t mind really, he said, but he did wonder why I was married if I didn’t want babies. I told him it wasn’t that I didn’t want them; I just didn’t want them yet.

“What are you waiting for? You’ve been married since I was a baby. You’re old.”

“I’m thirty-five,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. That’s what he was talking about.

I told him I didn’t know what I was waiting for. He scrunched his face. This didn’t satisfy him; this was not an explanation he could chronicle in his head. He still had questions, but then he said he didn’t care anyway because if I had babies I couldn’t ride upside down roller coasters with him at Hershey Park. Maybe I could, but I’d have to find a sitter and I’d get tired a lot faster.

I believe I confused them. In their world girls were girls until they were mothers, but I was neither. Even when they came to visit America they came to Mennonite country Pennsylvania, where men did men things and women did women things; and these women things, for the most part, included having multiple children by they time they were thirty. It meant, for the most part, eschewing fashion for comfort and making other arrangements that enabled them to be anyone’s mother at any time it may be needed. A man craved a sandwich? Here was a mother. He needed his shirt cleaned? A mother. The childless daughter-in-law didn’t eat meat and therefore required a large bowl for the salad? Mother. Get your own bowl, the three boys must have thought. And wipe this steak sauce off my face while you’re up.

When I went for a run they asked, what for? You’re just going to get fatter anyway—look how big your arms are! I told them it was muscle, which it was, and then I flexed.

“Feel my guns,” I said.

“Those aren’t guns,” the oldest one said. “I’ve seen guns and I wouldn’t touch them even if they were guns.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re a girl,” he said. “Sort of.”

They were frenetic thinkers. One day the younger one pushed the heels of his palms into his eyes and declared that it was impossible to think of nothingness—true nothingness meant nothing: no air, no god, no blinks, no thoughts. The boys’ mother, my sister-in-law, who was fairly quiet like my husband and the rest of her family, laughed and mussed his hair and said her boys were growing up to be like Arab men—always talking, talking, talking—like they were jacked up on coffee and couldn’t keep their mouths from uttering all of their thoughts.

I wondered, though, if these seemingly pointless ramblings were really indications of my nephews’ extremely high intelligences, like in a cross-cultural philosophical sense that was way, way over my head. I wondered if their demand for answers regarding differences in ways of living was simply forced upon them by circumstance.

I was wearing a blue tank top and cut-off blue jeans and turquoise earrings one morning and the youngest one, the third nephew, walked up to me, flicked at the bottom of my shirt.

“Tell me you don’t like blue,” he said. “Just say it.”

I didn’t know what I was waiting for, exactly. Money? A book deal? Something that defined me before I was defined by my children? My mother fought to find herself after she birthed me and my two sisters; back then it was the renegade thing to do—find ways to separate yourself from your children—but to me, and to my sisters, it was painful. Find yourself, make your mark on this world before you have children—it’s what I thought my mother’s life had taught me, and I had always been grateful for the lesson. Although I didn’t believe I understood the number of years that might take, that search for oneself, that search for the spot on which one’s mark should be made.

Now that she is gray and soft, my mother says that children often point women in the right direction, but that felt wrong to me—using children as trail markers. I feared it might not happen either. I feared I’d simply lose myself, happily, inside of their needs. I did enjoy sitting next to my nephews, smelling the play in their hair, watching them kick at the dirt and wonder aloud how a bear’s teeth could reveal its age. They had just learned this and were going to talk to their dentist father about it when they got back to Israel.

“We have the biggest house in the village,” the youngest one said. “It gets dusty but not as dusty as other people’s tents do. The wives are always sweeping, sweeping, sweeping.”

I cringed, bit my tongue with my front teeth.

“You’re my Uncle Scott’s wife,” he said, as if he noticed my teeth pressing down.

“I’m married,” I said, “but I’m not a wife.”

“What?”

Never mind, I said. That was stupid.

This one was the most affectionate of the three, but when his brother jammed his finger into my nose, clenched his teeth and asked again about no babies, this one tried to copy him but missed and poked my eye. It hurt but I didn’t know how to react until later when I decided that I should have grabbed their hands and taught them something about manners; but I didn’t really know my place there, and truly I was too distracted by their questions, and all the many questions that followed that one: why? why not? when? who are you?

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Kate Hill Cantrill’s writing has appeared in many literary publications, including Story Quarterly, Salt Hill, The Believer, Blackbird, Quick Fiction, Mississippi Review, Swink, and others. She has been awarded fellowships from The Corporation of Yaddo, The Jentel Artists Residency, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the James A. Michener Foundation. She has taught fiction writing at the University of Texas, The University of the Arts, and The Sackett Street Workshop. Kate’s first collection of short stories, Walk Back From Monkey School, was recently published. She lives in Brooklyn.

All of Jen Pastiloff’s upcoming events listed here.

healing, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, Truth

Promises & Lies.

January 8, 2013
beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

Promise. The word itself is sleazy. Hard at first, then sizzling out at the end like something that can’t last. A snake. A word that can’t get up off the ground.

You promised though.

You promised.

I promise you.

We promise.

I promise. 

Hsssssssss. Promisssssse.

**

In 1983 we lived in Pennsauken, New Jersey, after having moved from Philadelphia a couple years earlier. Across the street from our house was a little store called Kirk’s Newsroom. The store itself a tiny animal, nestled next to an appliance repair shop and a Jersey highway called Route 38.

There was nothing pretty about it. We bought American cheese there, thinly sliced, and egg nog in December. Kools for my dad, Almond Joys, sometimes a newspaper. I played PacMan in the back in the dark little room where there were two video games shoved against a wall.

We had a “house account” at Kirk’s Newsroom. My dad would send me across the street to get him a hard pack of Kools, cheese, and half-n-half. I don’t remember what Kirk looked like besides having a mustache and a thin face, he was always behind the counter. Put it on my dad’s account I’d say like a lady to the mustache behind the counter. And can I get a hard pack of Kools?

I think about that now and how a child could never walk into a store and get a pack of cigarettes and also, do house accounts even exist anymore? It was the early 80’s however and most things were possible until they weren’t.

I hated that store. It felt dirty and old and every time I was sent there to retrieve things I’d felt as if I was being delivered into the arms of a rat. Go, my child! Go straight into the den of vermin! Be gone now! Come back with cigarettes and cheese. Don’t let the snakes eat you!

Kirk was nice enough, I guess. He’d leave egg nog on our doorstep around the holidays. We’d wake up and a frozen carton would be there waiting for us or we’d open the door and step on it, not knowing it had been there. Either way, I hated the place like I knew it would kill us in the end.

And it did.

I’d flushed a pack down the toilet because I’d been so angry that he’d promised to quit smoking and hadn’t. He’d promised! I was ballsy and triumphant at 8 years old. I’ll show him! Flush.

He smoked 4 packs of menthol cigarettes a day. Now that so much time has passed, I often wondered what has turned to myth, as so much does, but, nonetheless, he chain-smoked a shitload of very-bad-for-you cigarettes daily. He was not happy with the flushing incident, he did not think it was cute. You are being bad and making me not feel good. Now, please go get me a pack of cigarettes across the street.

Did he really say that?

You’re asking me? As if. As if our minds can be relied upon. As if history doesn’t fold in upon itself and change over time. As if our memories are safe. As if Time hasn’t ravished them and then polished them before putting them back into the wrong compartment.

You always break your promises! I hate you.

The end.

He died that night, and yes, that was the last thing I ever said to him. I. Hate. You.

Things and people I have tried to blame it on: Kirk: the bastard who sold cigarettes and newspapers. Myself: I killed him with my words. I was bad and made him not feel good. Speed: his heart, his poor heart racing to keep up, a fist in his chest, pumping five times faster. Downers: the confusion his heart must have felt daily, up and down, up and down. My mother: why couldn’t she save him? God: God hated me and this was proof. The woman he’d had an affair with: if he’d never met her this would never have happened. Promises: if he’d never promised to quit smoking, I would never have told him I hated him and the night would have played out differently. He would not die. I would not walk 17 times around the block in an effort to not cry. We would not pick up and move to California. We would be safe.

Fucking promises.

There is a promise when a baby comes into the world as you hold them for the first time. I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe. But how can you know that?

How dare you promise anything?

 

When I lived in NYC I used to promise myself nightly that if I didn’t die during the night I would stop abusing laxatives. I didn’t die and I would do it the next night and the next and the next in my little single apartment owned by NYU Housing. I would take 10 laxative tea bags and put them in a few ounces of water until it was  brown sludge. Sometime in the middle of the night as my eyes were wildly dilated from the diet pills I was taking, my stomach would begin to gurgle and I would rush to the bathroom and pray Don’t let me die.

I couldn’t even keep a promise to myself.

I promise I will do better.

Can you remember all the promises you’ve made to yourself? I can’t.

What is a promise called when you don’t really mean it? When you just say it to get you to the next tier? Is it a lie?

I lied to myself over and over.

Maybe you’re cringing or maybe you pity me. Maybe you don’t care at all since promises to ourselves are the worst kinds of promises because no one is holding us accountable. Or perhaps you’d pick up your own coffee cup, the one right after you’ve sworn off coffee, and nod with I promise I will do better before you put it back down and go off to brew another pot. The newer lies I tell myself stacked on top of the old ones all along the edges of my life in places nobody would care to look. All the years I lied to myself about not wanting to be a writer. The lies I told myself about who I was. The lies themselves innumerable and ugly. What’s most scary about these lies we tell to ourselves is their proximity to the truth.

Such a strange sense of satisfaction being so close to the truth. Holding it in your hands like a thing with weight, until you realize that lies are slippery and wet, unholdable at best, and that they have no weight. They carry nothing but themselves.

They will not carry you.

I couldn’t keep up with the promises I told myself.

Every year that I stayed at my waitressing job was another year I had promised and failed to: go back to school, to try and get acting work, to do something, to get out finally from waitressing, to make a change, to stop hating myself so much, to stop starving myself all day and only eating at night. There were so many promises, all as empty as I wanted to feel at night when I would lie in bed and make sure my ribs were protruding by pressing into them hard like something I wanted to make disappear.

I had lost faith in promises, their meanings slippery as the years I had stayed at the restaurant. All through my 20’s and I couldn’t tell you one year from the next until all of a sudden I was 30 and then 31 and then Oh My God, I promised myself I would be Something by now. I would be Somebody.

Who was I promising anyway? It sure wasn’t God. I’d mutter the promises to myself or write them down on random slips of paper and then scribble them out and throw them away so nobody would see. After my father died, I had decided that God hated me. I constantly searched for evidence of this. Bad things happen to me, I’d think. I walked around waiting for that fact to shake up my life, to turn up at a street corner and snatch me away.

Bad things happen to everyone sometimes.

That is what I now know. This too is innumerable and ugly, as so many things often are. But it is also a testament to life, one that we are born into whether we like it or not. As soon as we are held for the first time by our parents, as soon as they whisper into our new soft baby heads: I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe.

Promises are tricky: when they break, when their shells crack and they fall all over the kitchen floor like a fallen glass, your heart goes along with it. Be careful when you pick up the glass to throw it away that you don’t throw a little bit of your heart away. It can happen like that. And then the digging and searching through garbage to find what remains.

I spent years digging through crap to find my missing parts.

Don’t make a promise you can’t, or (don’t intend to) keep. I say this to myself as well as to you. I write it here, and instead of secretly scribbling it out and crumpling it up so nobody can read it, I share it with you. Stop lying to myself I write, on my mirror in red lipstick. Don’t make promises to yourself that you know you won’t keep just so that you can  slump yourself on the floor validating how rotten you are and how bad you suck, yet again and yet again and yet again.

Don’t do it.

I always know when I am lying to myself, that’s the thing. Always. I always knew I wouldn’t stop taking the laxatives even as I promised that if I didn’t die on the toilet, I would never ever do it again. 

I knew I would do it again.

So, what is the point of the promises that know themselves so well, that know they are untrue things?

I think they actually think they are keeping us safe.

My father thought if he told me he’d promised to quit smoking he’d be safer than if he said I never want to stop. I love smoking. It makes me happy and I don’t want to quit now.

We all want to be safe.

If I didn’t tell myself all those lies I would have easily sank to the bottom of the ocean. By telling myself the lies, I became equipped with a temporary life jacket. I am safe in the world right now because starting tomorrow I will stop abusing myself. Starting tomorrow I will ______. Starting tomorrow I will not _______. 

Tomorrow would never come. I would carry on doing what I did until I finally did sink to the bottom of the ocean. I finally had my breakdown. There weren’t any more promises I could think of that hadn’t broken me.

I got up and took off the platform shoes I had been wearing for over ten years to pretend I was tall. I waitressed on concrete for over ten years in really really bad platform shoes. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and put on some nice supportive sneakers. It took a while to get used to my frame of reference being 5 inches shorter but I did it and when people balked at me You are a midget! I had no idea you were so short I just smiled and fought every urge that said Dig those shoes out of the trash and put them back on as soon as possible. 

I didn’t ever put the platforms back on.

Eventually I stopped taking the laxatives and abusing myself. Eventually, after over 13 years, I left the restaurant. Eventually I admitted that I did not want to be an actress.

It wasn’t because I promised myself. It was because I finally woke up one day and realized that lying was harder. That who I am was far more beautiful than who I was pretending to be or promising I would become. I woke up and said Enough. And then I said it over and over and over Enough Enough Enough.

I didn’t want any more promises or lies. I wanted what was rightfully mine, my birthright, as it were, and that was the knowledge that I was whole. That I wasn’t missing any parts.

It’s true that there are many things in life that are innumerable and ugly and inconceivable. But it is also true that what is on the other side is a whole world of glittering NOW.

There is nothing to promise NOW. You and I are here now. I am writing this now and you are reading this now and we are here and alive and what else could matter? What future based promise could possibly touch that irrevocable fact?

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to 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.

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.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

 

 

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Daily Manifestation Challenge, Hearing Loss, Self Image

Who Are You? The DMC: Daily Manifestation Challenge.

May 30, 2012

Yesterday, a girl came up to me before my class at Equinox and told me that my sister Rachel’s blog is her saving grace; that she feels she is on the same journey as my sister. That she is, in fact, a little obsessed with 3 Words for 365. So am I, I thought.

So am I.

I felt proud, happier than if it was my own blog she was talking about (which, due to my hearing loss, I thought she was at first!)

Serendipitous too, as I had just started this guest post for my sister’s blog. It was a gentle nudge from the Universe to get writing.

The past few days I have been in my bed, with the blanket over my ice-pack covered head.

Sound fun?

No, I didn’t think so.

Unless you are a vampire.

I haven’t suffered from one of my migraines since last May. Then BAM! Without warning I got one on Tuesday night.

I felt the panic set in.

It makes it hard to talk. To see. To focus.

I slur a bit.

Like I said: not fun. Unless you’re drunk, then these symptoms might feel a bit more celebratory.

I cancelled my private yoga sessions on Wednesday and Thursday due to how bad I was feeling.

I called Frank Gjata, who has become my life coach and dear friend, and before I knew it, I was lying in the dark, my throbbing head screaming Get off the Effing Phone, while the rest of me was off having a profound life changing moment. (That’s Frank for you, folks.)

What he does.

LCM. Life. Changing. Moments.

He asked me: Why now? Why do you think your migraine is coming back now?

I wanted to yell I don’t know and I don’t care. I just want the pain to go away.

He asked me to describe what I was feeling.

I said: throbbing. All I could get out. One word. Throbbing.

He suggested how perfect that was because it was actually how I was living my life.

On, off.

On, off.

Stop, go.

Stop, go.

Why did he have to be so spot on?

I told him I was feeling guilty that I gave up so much work the last few days. I said ” Who am I to give up $200 an hour jobs? I didn’t even make 200 A DAY when I was waitressing?”

He says: Exactly. Who are you?

There it is. That question.

“Who are you?”

(Just for the record, I hate when things get turned on me.)

I got it. Here we are back to my favorite exercise in my workshop. The “I am ____” exercise.

I realized that I keep myself so busy and run down because there is this mantra running through my head. You know how I love a mantra.

The mantra is: Who am I to ever say no to something?

Who am I to ever allow myself to say No to something?

What a question!

How many times a day do we say yes to things because we don’t feel we deserve to say no? Or, because there might not be another time to say “yes”? Or because the only way we know how to live is to keep ourselves busy all the time? Or because we feel guilty?

The list is endless.

I decided to fill in my “I am ___.”

I am: a successful writer. I am: a loved yoga teacher. I am: financially abundant.

I am: powerful. I am: A connector. I am: healthy. I am: well.

Who are you?

Last week Frank helped me realize how I was speeding through life ( again with the on, off, stop, go) and that helped me stay not present.

In fact, I got a speeding ticket on my way to his house. Just for fun. So I had proof I was speeding.

It wasn’t that fun, to be honest. I cried.

He also helped me get clear on how my hearing loss, “my not being able to hear” was related to my “not being able to be here.”

I hope this doesn’t sound too airy fairy, too woo-woo.

But the reality is, I don’t care if it does.

I am: someone who is independent of the good opinion of other people.

Is my migraine gone? Mostly. I wouldn’t be able to write if it was fully with me. There is enough of a remnant though for me to remember who I am.

Enough of a subtle pulsing and slight nausea to have me stop and take a breath. To have me pause and ask myself “Do I want to say yes to this next thing?”

Because the truth is: I get to choose.

Somewhere along the line I forgot that I get to choose who I am.

I forgot who I was and thought I was someone who would always be broke and who always had to say yes to any and every job or offer that came my way.

I forgot that I am worth it, and I get to take care of myself, especially when I am not feeling well. Especially when I am laying in a dark cell with ice over my face. Especially then.

Keep going, don’t stop, keep pushing, it’s never enough.

These mantras are broken and no longer serve me so I am throwing them away with my migraine if you don’t mind.

I would love to hear what your mantra is.

Just who do you think you are?

Sorry it’s been so long since a DMC was out, folks! In the comment section below, answer the question: Who Are You?

***This originally appeared in my favorite blog 3wordsfor365.
And So It Is, poetry, Self Image

The Intimacy of Bats or When Did You Know Who You Really Were?

May 20, 2012
The Intimacy of Bats
 
It comes down to this:
 
Even at 15 years old I knew who I was.
 
Who I was on my mother’s bed, who I was as I lay startled to see a bat hovering near the ceiling fan as I made out in the way a 15 year old will make out with her 17 year old boyfriend.
 
That proving that a 15 year old can and will move her body like a 17 year old.
 
With my keen understanding that everything is a sign for something else,
I should have understood then that under the graph of thin meshwork, under muscle strips covered by bat skin was a map of my life.
 
A prophet, my future in the fabric of its wings, and  I was blind-sided.
 
I completely missed it.
 
In the Orient, bats are a symbol for good luck.
Here in the West, they’ve suffered a serious image problem.

I appeal to the lost.
 
I appeal to creatures who have to overcome darkness to get what they deserve.
 
What I love about bats: their invisible sound, bouncing off objects, returning as echo. Leaving as one thing, coming back as another.  They’ve mastered the art of taking.
 
Do you think they just give away their noiseless sounds?

They always get them back, and like some exclusive insider’s club: these sounds are too high-pitched for humans to hear.
 
For example, one sound could be I love you and we wouldn’t hear a thing.

What I have in common with bats:
I too have suffered a serious image problem.
I am haunted by myths.
I know the art of taking.
I return as  an echo.

I rely on echolocation, a seeing based on hearing.
 
I am part bat.
 
I listen for signs, I hunt in the dark.
I have been sulfur at the tip of torches, I have leapt to fire
when another flame came close, but finally I have found my way. Finally.
 
So I listen close,  for signs.
I listen as hopefully as blood draws to the surface I listen.
I am looking for that kind of reaction

And as silently as we watched those hairless pale yellow wings become as still as our answer to the moon.

What will we answer the moon?

The artist is what he is because of the time and place where he lives.
Be the artist now, be the artist here, in this time and place.
 
The intimacy of bats has escaped evolutionists but I am sure we could learn from these winged things.

How to listen closely, how to love what at first looks frightening. 

It comes down to this:

People fear most what they understand least.
 
Take love for example, God, death. Take honesty, cruelty, kindness even.
Take bats, those shy creatures, so misunderstood. They love quietly, haunted by myth.

At a very young age we decide who and what we love.
 
Then later, much later, tell it to the moon!
Tell it to the bats, tell it to anyone who will listen,

just who it is that you are, 
 
and why if you hunt here in the dark, if you listen close enough, you can hear your life, the wings a suggestion that you will make it,
 
that you are already there.

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