There’s no shortage of people – and perhaps you’re one of them – who believe that if they only had a flawless face, the perfect body, the right car, the dream job, a full bank account, and a blissfully stress-free lifestyle that Happiness would be theirs for the taking and they could bask forever in the love, acceptance and admiration of others. Accordingly, they try every diet on the market, subject themselves to plastic surgery, engage in daily reinvention exercises, and race around to speed-dating venues in order to find the perfect soul mate who will validate their existence. Sadly, these obsessions reflect our national obsession with “Instant Now” – be it the quest for short cuts, quick fixes, or thinner thighs in 20 minutes. As a colleague of mine is wont to observe, if there was a magic pill that would give people everything they thought they needed to have to be perfect, the inventor of said pill would be an overnight gazillionaire. Since no such pill currently exists, the best investment you can make in your future “newness” is a copy of Danielle Pashko’s debut book, Smile At Your Challenges. Pashko – a former New York model and expert on yoga, massage, holistic nutrition and healing modalities – embraces a reader-friendly approach to improving oneself by accepting that happiness is truly an inside job.
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Q: It’s often said that appearances can be deceiving. Have people ever looked at you and remarked, “What kind of challenges could you possibly have? If you’re pretty, life will always be blissfully easy.”
A: I get that all the time. People think I’ve lived a charmed life based on my appearance and judge me in 15 seconds.
Q: As an adolescent and a teen, what was the defining incident that most strongly honed the survival instincts you would need as an adult?
A: Losing my mother and not having a father to protect me made me realize I was alone in this world. I knew if I made poor decisions I’d probably be on the street.
Q: What attracted you to the field of health and wellness and how did you first break in?
A: My mother’s early illness was my first introduction to health and wellness. Her best friend Beverly turned her on to meditation, visualization, holistic remedies and esoteric concepts. I was meditating by age 12 and followed a holistic lifestyle from a very young age before it became trendy.
Q: In a perfect world, a person who eats their vegetables, exercises regularly, practices yoga, drinks green juice and goes gluten-free would never have a day of sickness in their lives, much less a catastrophic illness. As someone so conscientious about maintaining good health, what was your reaction when you were diagnosed with thyroid cancer?
A: Strangely, I was not surprised. I was always scared of cancer due to the fear that was instilled after my mother’s early death. I was convinced that I’d experience some form of cancer by the time I turned 31, the age she was diagnosed. And guess what?…I got sick at 31. Did I will it? It’s a lesson to consider that our thoughts have energy.
Q: What role does spirituality play in your ability to deal with life’s pot holes, speed bumps, detours, and occasional careening off of unexpected cliffs?
A: Spirituality is the only way to stay sane. Although, it’s not a pretend philosophy for me. I believe our souls all have a lesson and chose the incarnation and body that we exist in. If we can view things as divinely orchestrated and not as a punishment, we can always figure out why we had to experience the pain. It just may not happen while we are experiencing it. Believing that YOU are in control instead of a higher power unfortunately leads to suffering. Nothing is random…
Q: Is there an age-related correlation between attitude and expectations and is it different for women vs. men?
A: For women, 40 seems to be like a very scary number. I think men hit it closer to 50. Although there seems to be more pressure on women than men to be married, beautiful, and have children than the pressures that men face.
Q: When expectations aren’t being met, there’s a general tendency to be grumpy about it and walk around with a glower and a frown. Encouraging people to smile at their challenges – as your new book title recommends – sounds like it’s much easier said than actually done.
A: I like to use my mother as that example. She was dying of cancer, but always wore a beautiful wig, full face of makeup, and dressed to the nines on a very limited budget. She never wanted anyone to feel bad for her. I took the lead from her.
Q: How much does our mental state affect our physical health?
A: Attitude is everything. Anxiety, nerves, depression, etc. will slowly kill us. I think those emotions are even more dangerous than sugar and processed foods – which I completely advise against.
Q: As many parents these days can attest, the “heroes” that their offspring zealously worship and want to emulate insofar as fashion and behavior are more likely to be celebrities whose popularity is a manufactured image. What’s your message about the danger of losing your uniqueness – at any age – when you try to imitate rather than create?
A: When you are not natural, authentic or yourself, it reads as fake. People can see right through that. We attract our soul mates, friendships, and even business relationships by being ourselves. Being like everyone else is so boring – why would you even want that? I love being different, it’s one of my best qualities.
Q: Does this carry over to dating relationships as well?
A: Yes, you can pretend to be someone else to get the guy or girl of your dreams. Then when the real you comes out – guess what? Now you are married to someone you are totally incompatible with. There’s nothing worse!
Q: If your next walk on a beach turned up a brass lamp from the Arabian Nights, what would be the most important wish you’d want its resident genie to grant you?
A: It sounds funny, but that I would always be healthy and not have to work so hard on it. I am grateful every day when I feel good. I can just imagine where I’d be if I didn’t take care of myself.
Q: So tell us what inspired you to put your life lessons into a self-help book and pursue publishing?
A: Honestly, I’ve never met anyone with a life anything like mine. (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad) Friends would always joke and say I need to write a book or movie script. As a professional counseling people on health and wellness, the unique chapters of our life can’t be ignored. Most people don’t just wake up being sick and I question how I came to my own health struggles. We need to realize where our physical problems stem from. The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. To be truly healthy, we need to work on all of it.
Q: Who’s your target reader for this book?
A: The book appeals to women age 20-50, although I’ve received some very interesting feedback from men and have applied some of these tools to their lives.
Q: Did you work from a preliminary outline or just let the ideas flow as you went along?
A: I tried to work from an outline but have to say so much was just intuitive.
Q: What was the hardest chapter for you to write?
A: The hardest chapter to write was probably “Age, Attitude and Expectations.” Most of the chapters were based on personal experience. I kind of embrace my age so it’s not something that I have struggled with.
Q: And the easiest?
A: The easiest chapter to write was “You Don’t Have To Wear Your Pain”. It’s a little strange because it reads as the most emotional, but it’s where my journey started.
Q: What would you say are the three major takeaway lessons from Smile At Your Challenges?
A: We are stronger than we think. Shit happens but you can’t let it cripple you. You’re not a victim.
Q: Like many new authors, you opted to go the self-publishing route. What was the journey like for you?
A: You have to be really on top of promoting yourself and social media. Although, for me I like that I’m spreading the word organically without a marketing team. It’s exciting to hear nice reviews that I didn’t pay for!
Q: You also have your first book-signing coming up. Brava! Tell us the details.
A: Yes, I’m doing an event the end of May to talk about the book and why I wrote it. I don’t think even many of my friends know these details of my life or philosophy. It’s really exciting to share.
Q: So what’s next on your plate?
A: I’m going to roll with this book for a few more months and see what opportunities come from it.
Q: Where can readers learn more about you?
A:They can visit my website pashkowellness.com
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: Don’t be a stranger. I’d love to hear feedback from readers!