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i came across this post by writer anne lamott this weekend, and couldn’t help but feel the need to share. i’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how we aim for perfection, and feel we’ve failed when we achieve anything less. in the age of “pinterest perfect” – a phrase coined recently by one of my favorite bloggers, erin gates of elements of style – it’s really easy to feel like you’re not measuring up. like your home isn’t pretty enough, your thigh gap isn’t big enough, your outfits aren’t cool enough, your meals aren’t instagram-worthy.

the list goes on and on.

one of the things i love about reading blogs are that they are an escape. a pretty, cotton-candy colored, rose-tinted portrayal of life. one that’s lived in designer dresses and fancy shoes, one that involves perfect beachy waves and monthly getaways to mexico and kitchens that sparkle with marble and brass.

and one of the things i hate about reading blogs is the fact that all of the above, all that i love about blogs…it’s not attainable. it’s not even really real. blogs these days aren’t reality, they’re someone’s carefully curated feed of shiny happy things, shiny happy moments. and let’s be honest for a second: life is not full of shiny happy moments. i mean, sometimes it is. sometimes it’s glorious and wonderful and magical. but sometimes, it’s not. and most bloggers don’t chose to share those moments. they’re purveyors of pretty, not purveyors of angry rants about the ways in which life gets them down.

and i respect them for that, really, i do. they’ve made a conscious choice to show the good, not the bad. but my favorite bloggers are the ones that let a little bit of darkness in now and then (like erin gates, mentioned above, who inspired this post). erin recently participated in an episode of the lively show, and talked a lot about her perfectionism, and how it’s both worked against her and made her who she is today. the entire episode is worth a listen, but i found her examination of the “pinterest perfect” world we live in to be, by far, the most interesting portion of the show. because it’s true, isn’t it? we’re all on that seemingly endless quest for pinterest perfect, and none of us, and i mean none of us, will ever really achieve it. because it’s not real. life isn’t pinterest perfect. it’s messy and chaotic and full of all of the feelings. but that’s what makes it great. 

and if we keep holding out for pinterest perfect, and holding ourselves back from the doing the things we want to do – like lamott says above, if we keep holding ourselves back from going to the beach because we’ve got a big tummy and jiggly thighs – we’re limiting our lives, greatly. i don’t want to wake up when i’m 65 and realize i didn’t get to dig my toes into hot sand and feel the cool breeze of the ocean because i was embarrassed of how i looked in a bathing suit. i mean, i am embarrassed of how i feel in a bathing suit, but does that mean i should stop living? absolutely not. lamott is right.  i don’t want to be so strung out on perfectionism that i forget to have a big, juicy, exciting, interesting, creative life. that would be the saddest of fates, wouldn’t it? to get to a ripe old age and realize i hadn’t done so many of the things i’d wanted to do because i thought i wasn’t good enough to do them. i refuse. i refuse. do you hear that, inner monologue? i. refuse. 

now, if you’ll excuse me, me and my jiggly thighs have a beach trip to plan. 

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if i had to choose one store from which to singlehandedly furnish and decorate my home (and if i had an unlimited budget, of course), i’d choose jayson home. i’ve never been to chicago, but you can bet that when i finally make my trip to the windy city, jayson home will be my first stop. i’ve ordered a few decorative accessories from the shop here and there, including this enormous gold wishbone (love it), and the ever-popular athena tray, but i’ve yet to splurge on a pillow or piece of furniture. pretty much all of the items on this wishlist are out of my budget, but hey, a girl can dream, right? above, a symphony of gold and navy, with some leather and horn thrown in for good measure.

 

imageI’m currently blogging live from the tiny little screen of my iPhone out of the beautiful San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. It is pretty, the people have stories to tell, and I’m getting such a refreshing perspective on life. Be back next week with lots of rum and photos.

Hasta luego!

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run, don’t walk, to your local target store. that tote is farmer’s market perfect, and is only $35.  and you all know how much i love my deborah lippman polishes – that color screams summery totes. add a slouchy silk tank, boyfriend shorts, and giant karen walkers, and voila, you’ve got a foolproof, heatproof outfit for those days when it’s so warm out, you feel like you could pull an alex mack and melt. 

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i spent this past weekend outdoors, brunching at dos caminos and digging my toes into the warm sand at long beach. in return, i got a nasty sunburn that stretches down the back of my legs, making me look as though i’ve contracted a deadly skin disease. 

while sunday was a bit more mild, saturday was a mid-august style scorcher, and my black maxi dress didn’t do me any favors, lightweight as it was. if only i’d been wearing the outfit above (and eating ice cream, of course). 

Rabbi Herschel Schacter

Rabbi Herschel Schacter leading the Shavuot prayer service for survivors in the Buchenwald camp in Germany in 1945.

i’ve always been weirdly, slightly obsessively into the holocaust. it sounds crazy, i know, but hear me out. my parents were raised by jews who had relocated to brooklyn from poland and russia a good ten years before the nazi party rose to prominence, so i’ve never had any personal connection to holocaust survivors. my mother used to tell me the story of her grandpa nathan, who came to america on a big boat at the small age of seven, clutching to the railings of an enormous ship as the ocean waters churned beneath him. nathan was sent to america by his parents, who fled russia during the pogroms of the early 1900s. my entire extended family, as far back as i can remember, was out of europe before world war I, and long before world war II. but they left behind friends, and neighbors, and lives – lives that would be shattered by the nazi regime just a decades later. my grandfather fought as an american soldier in world war II, and liberated a few of the smaller camps. as the head of his unit, it was his job to write letters home to the families of all the soldiers who lost their lives during battle. in addition to having to answer to the deaths of his troops, he also had to answer to the deaths of his people – to walk into those camps and see body after body, life after life, taken away.

i knew my grandfather as a stern, rather angry man with a violent streak. one night, at dinner, i put my elbows on the table. he reached across and rapped my knuckles with his butter knife, hard. “we don’t eat like that here!” he said. my mother pushed her chair back so fast it flew into the buffet behind her, and told her father if he ever laid a hand on me again, he could kiss his relationship with us goodbye. he nodded, but didn’t apologize. my memories of him are few and far in between. in photos, he can be seen smiling, but my recollection is that he did very little of that. he was plagued by the demons of the war; on D Day each year, he sat in his armchair and smoked his pipe all day long, speaking to no one. according to my grandmother, when they first met, he was a different man. indeed, his letters to her from abroad are long, romantic accounts of the rolling hills of germany and the long overnight train rides. they’re written in perfect slanting script, and contain no mention of the german mistress he took up while he was there. my grandmother’s favorite set of china was one that was reportedly given to my grandfather by this mistress; i don’t know if my grandma ever knew of its origin.

all of this is to say that while no one in my immediate family was a holocaust survivor, they were all deeply affected by it in their own ways. one has to wonder what it was like to be a nineteen thirties housewife deep in the heart of brooklyn waiting for your american husband to come home, knowing that he’s fighting a war against a behemoth that wants nothing more than to rid the earth of everyone like him. i never asked my grandfather what he saw at the camps, mostly because i got the sense that he wasn’t quite able to talk about it.

perhaps its because of my lack of connection to any survivors that i’ve always devoured any holocaust literature and material i can get my hands on. as a teenager, i read every work of historical fiction i could find on the topic; when i decided one day i’d be a writer, i told myself that i’d write the stories of survivors, to ensure that when they passed, their stories would live on. a rather lofty goal, looking back on it. when survivors spoke at my temple, i sat with bated breath, with hot, salty tears dripping down my cheeks and dotting my dress.

i continue to read every bit of holocaust literature i can find, and admittedly finished jodi piccoult’s newest book, the storyteller, on a crowded metro north train that probably wondered why i was sniffling loudly while i turned the pages. (sidenote: if you’re a jodi fan, you need to read this book). so, you can imagine that i was beyond taken by this new york times obituary of rabbi herschel schacter, the man who brought word of freedom to the jews of buchenwald. i beseech you to read the entire thing for yourself, and i dare you not to cry while you do so. but i was particularly moved by the passage below, which tells a story so symbolic of the holocaust and the damage it did to all those who lived through it. i could read this passage again and again – but then i’d be sitting at my computer in an open workspace crying to myself, and let’s face it, i don’t think my office would be too happy about that.

but seriously, please, read the whole thing. it’s important to remember the past, and i think the power of the written word is a pretty good tool to help us do so.

from rabbi herschel’s obituary:

In Buchenwald that April day, Rabbi Schacter said afterward, it seemed as though there was no one left alive. In the camp, he encountered a young American lieutenant who knew his way around.

“Are there any Jews alive here?” the rabbi asked him.

He was led to the Kleine Lager, or Little Camp, a smaller camp within the larger one. There, in filthy barracks, men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi, in his unfamiliar military uniform, with unmistakable fright.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” Rabbi Schacter cried in Yiddish, “ihr zint frei!” — “Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free!” He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. He was joined by those Jews who could walk, until a stream of people swelled behind him.

As he passed a mound of corpses, Rabbi Schacter spied a flicker of movement. Drawing closer, he saw a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror behind the mound.

“I was afraid of him,” the child would recall long afterward in an interview with The New York Times. “I knew all the uniforms of SS and Gestapo and Wehrmacht, and all of a sudden, a new kind of uniform. I thought, ‘A new kind of enemy.’ ”

With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schacter picked the boy up. “What’s your name, my child?” he asked in Yiddish.

“Lulek,” the child replied.

“How old are you?” the rabbi asked.

“What difference does it make?” Lulek, who was 7, said. “I’m older than you, anyway.”

“Why do you think you’re older?” Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling.

“Because you cry and laugh like a child,” Lulek replied. “I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?”

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the other night, i attended a lecture put on by the alumni association of my school featuring a psychology professor who has been teaching at skidmore for 33 years (he is, as he puts it, “teetering on the edge of senility”). he gave a version of the same speech he gave five years ago, when i first went up to skidmore for accepted students day – one about ‘the self’ (quite the lofty term) and how it develops. he started out by running a bit on how crazy it is that we don’t remember being born. we don’t remember being one year old, or even two years old, in many cases. when we finally do figure out that we exist, not just physically but figuratively, our perceptions of ourselves are undisputedly colored by others’ perception of our self. it’s no wonder then, that little girls (and boys, but i think this is moreso the case with girls) create their personality based on how their classmates treat them, that the one child who has to sit alone in the cafeteria thinks her self worth might be a bit less than that of the peers who sit, laughing and trading stories over ham sandwiches, at a chock full table in the middle of a checkerboard tile floor. 

solomon argues that our initial self perception is dictated by how our parents treat us. next, it’s our teachers, and as we age out of middle school, it switches to our peers. perhaps you’ve heard the joke about going to therapy? when in doubt, blame your mother. it’s probably her fault. per solomon’s thesis, it just might be true. of course, it’s not all about our parents, our teachers, our peers. at some point, we have to figure out how to dictate our self worth based on how WE see ourselves, instead of on how others see us – but it’s certainly an interesting take on how our self esteem develops, isn’t it? 

it can be incredibly hard, as an impressionable teenager, to go against the grain – to not go with the urge to match your behavior to everyone else’s. to be part of the herd, so to speak. i recall that from the moment i stepped through the doors of middle school, i wanted nothing more than to be exactly like a girl named lauren. like me, lauren had developed early – except her curves were deposited in all the right places. she had a chic bobbed haircut, and her blonde bangs fell over her eyes when she leaned forward in math class. all the guys would lean forward with her. i told myself maybe if i purchased the jeans she purchased, if i cut my hair like hers, if my sun in magically worked with a blow dryer instead of natural summer sunshine, i just might get the attention she got. of course, this was ridiculous, and impossible. lauren had been blessed with genetics i didn’t have. her jeans sat perfectly on her hips, mine bunched at the seams. her hair was perfectly straight and silky, mine was mousy orange blonde (thanks to too many summers of the aforementioned sun-in) and an ugly, wavy texture. little things like this convinced me she was better than me.

i’ve struggled with my self esteem for as long as i could walk and talk, and it took me through high school and into college to finally feel right with myself – like i could hold my head high when i walked through campus, like i was worthy of good friends, and a good life, and love and happiness. i’m not sure what happened in my younger years that convinced me i was so unworthy of the things that any well-adjusted person should expect (though i could name a few incidents that stick in my brain like glue still today), but it took me a REALLY long time to say to myself, “you’re worth it.” (thanks, l’oreal, for the tagline)

even today, at the ripe old age of 27, i still have moments where i sit on my bed with my cat and think, “i’m a spinster at 27. i have no true friends (this isn’t true). i have no one who loves me (this is also not true). i am a failure (you got it – not true).” and i have to shake myself out of those moments, because somewhere, deep down, i have figured out that i’m worthy – and that it’s okay that i don’t look like everyone else, act like everyone else, do what everyone else does. i wish i didn’t have such moments of self doubt, but i’d like to think everyone has them sometimes, right? we all go there from time to time, even when there’s the little angel on our shoulder telling us, “you’re being ridiculous. eat a piece of chocolate and CHILL.” 

but in those moments, the sentiment in the image above is good to have around – because sometimes, we forget how great we are. we’re oblivious to how wonderful we can be. how beautiful, how funny, how insightful. we forget that we have something to offer to the world, even if it’s not what someone else has to offer. and that’s the point, isn’t it? we all have something to offer that no one else has. that’s what makes us ourselves. and that’s a beautiful thing.