I love stories, stories of everyday people, people we may meet on a bus, our neighbor, the barista at a cafe or someone at the grocery store. I feel I learned a lot from talking to them and listening to their stories. Stories that build connections not separations, stories that are inspiring or even at times may sound mundane but a lot to learn from. Stories of these amazing everyday people touch me and inspire me, I hope they will inspire you too. This time, we have Anita Lang from San Francisco.
I met Anita when we were both living in the Outer Sunset district in San Francisco,
we were neighbors. She and her twin daughters, who were fifteen at the time, lived in the apartment right above us. She had just graduated from ACTCM (American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine) in San Francisco, one of the oldest and best TCM/Eastern Medicine School in the country. She was learning to be an Acupuncturist and herbalist - quite a change from her previous life when she had worked as a stock broker in N.Y.C. She got divorced when her daughters were about ten years old and managed to maintain a very pleasant and amicable post divorce relationship/friendship with her ex husband. We all know how complicated and difficult life can be- but this amazing lady managed to revamp herself and her life as a single mother. She went back to school for four years, learned a new craft and set off on a new career path. A lot of us tend to hold on to deep grudges after dealing with a cheating husband and have a hard time letting go of negative feelings or resentment. We can really only find happiness again after we consciously decide to let go and move on. Some people hold on to toxic emotions, even after a divorce. She didn’t. She chose to move on and reinvent herself in the process. When I think of Anita, I think of how graceful she was and still is in handling any given difficult situation in her life.
So Anita, where were you born and where did you spend your youth and how did you end up in NYC? I was born in Paris, France, but grew up all over the place. Morocco, Germany and the South of France. I then came to the US at 17, after passing my baccalaureate, to go to Smith College in Massachusetts. While in College, I interned for the now defunct Bear Stearns and ended up getting a job with them in Paris and then moved to New York.
Before you decided to learn Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, had you ever had Acupuncture done for yourself? What made you fall in love with Eastern Medicine overall? Yes, I had gotten acupuncture and taken herbs when my kids were young as I kept getting recurrent sinus infections. After a particularly bad year when I had to take antibiotics for the 4th or 5th time, I thought to myself that there had to be another way to deal with recurring sinus infections. I explored my options and settled on trying acupuncture.
I went to see the same doctor for a few weeks and while in his good care, I didn’t have another sinus infection for years. That led me to explore what else acupuncture could help with, and I discovered that it was a full system of medicine dating back 3,000 years. It can pretty much treat anything. I was hooked and decided to explore its benefits. And here I am, ten years after graduating, passing my State Board exams, having studied in an Integrative Eastern/Western hospital in China for two months and proud to report that I have a thriving practice in SF with a waitlist at almost any given time.
Please share with us your previous job or jobs before becoming an Acupuncturist. Oh dear, how far back do you want me to go? In high school and college, I worked as an interpreter at the Cannes Film Festival. I worked for a marketing company selling the 1st alcohol free beer in France. And, as previously mentioned, I worked on Wall Street. Then I quit wall street and went to work for the photo editor at Mirabella Magazine, which, sadly, no longer exists. That about sums it up...
Did you have another career in mind before deciding on Acupuncture? I would have loved to be an MD and acupuncturist, but felt that I was too old to go back to school for 10-12 years. The 4 years of acupuncture school seemed long enough! If I had all the money in the world, I’d be a photographer full time but I’d also love to do something with woodworking or go to culinary school as I love to cook.
You created “Driftwood Acupuncture” soon after graduating, not many people will start a business soon after graduating but you didn’t just start it, you made it a successful business and career. How did you do it? Wow, thanks, that’s a tough one. I guess I just always envisioned myself being successful. Failure was not an option as my e-husband fell onto hard times and I didn’t get alimony or child support from him. So I just HAD to make it work. I was also very lucky in that some of my early day patients spread the word to their friends and colleagues and before I knew it, I had a 2-3 weeks waitlist to get in.
And recently you launched a new online business selling gift/sympathy box on Shopify, would you like to share with us the name of the company and the website? What made you start this new venture? Gladly, thanks for asking about that. It’s my new ‘baby’…:-) My new company is called Perfect Friends Gifts and my Sympathy box is called “Good Grief”. My business partner (she’s a Naturopathic Doctor) and I felt that while there were a million sympathy gifts/ gift baskets/ boxes out there, none of them were geared towards actually helping people cope with hardship in a ‘healthy’ and ’natural’ way. Most of the existing ones are comprised of edible goods (cookies, cakes, fruit), cards, candles etc…none of them have products that can help someone cope and heal from the inside out. And that’s exactly what we want to bring to people’s attention: there are healthy ways to help one cope with Grief or hard times.
So we have a small inhaler that boosts your immune system. When people are grieving or stressed out, their immune system is lowered and they tend to get sick more easily. There is a box of soothing tea called “a cup of Calm”…how perfect is that name? and some French bath salts that contain magnesium amongst other beneficial minerals to ensure that one’s body gets to relax as well.
We have also included Dr Bach’s Rescue Remedy pastilles that are great to have in your purse, car or anywhere really. It has been around for decades and is still a wonderful product to help one overcome emotional trauma with a tasty little pastille. Another product we’ve included is a a sublingual spray called “Grief Relief” that a lot of people find really helpful to help them cope with sadness, grief, stress or anxiety. It is made of flower essences and is all natural.
And last but not least, there is a book that we printed called “the little book of Calm and Peace” that comes with markers. There is an uplifting quote on one page and a mandala on the opposite page. Coloring has been shown to calm the mind, slow down one’s heart rate and relieve stress as you have to let your mind go while coloring. So there you have it in a nutshell. People keep telling us how much they love it as our box is great not only for Grief, but for any difficult life situation such as divorces, break-ups, loss of a job or property, loss of a pet, an illness, etc. People never know what to get someone, and our mission is to make it easier for you to let someone know that you care…even if the right words don’t come to mind. Hope you’ll find our website informative (and don’t forget to look at the Blog on there with a number of useful tips). www.perfectfriendsgifts.com On a personal note, do you mind sharing with us, what and how did you decide on getting a divorce? Did you try a separation before the divorce? How did you handle the situation? Did you straightaway consulted a lawyer or mediator? Well, it’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. I found out my then husband was cheating on me. He initially said it was purely platonic and would I have a problem if he saw his ’new’ friend once in a while. I said, no. Not while we are married. I am not going down that road as we’ll just end up back right where we left off, as open marriages don’t work unless you both agree to those terms from the get-go. Someone always ends up getting hurt as even if things start off as purely physical, emotions always end up being an issue for one of the two people involved. We were separated fro two years.
During that time, we tried couples therapy for a few months, and it didn’t get us anywhere as he tried to convince me to be ‘open minded’ and accept the new terms of our relationship. I stayed true to my initial thoughts of “hell no!” and we stopped going. He did tell me after therapy that he was going to stop seeing her. Well that didn’t happen….I left to go to my 20th college reunion with my girls and had a suspicion he might see her while we were conveniently away on the east coast. I told him that if I found out they’d seen each other, I’d file for divorce the day after I got back. And that’s what happened. She came to SF and I filed for divorce the next day. No regrets. I’ve moved on and tried to rebuild a life for myself whereas his life is still in shambles.
How do you keep your friendship so peaceful and amicable? Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely times when I cried and times I wanted to strangle him...but I tried to keep in mind that he was the father of my children and that at one point we were in love. He is and always will be a part of my life as he is a good man. He behaved stupidly, and he knows it. If he could, he would absolutely undo his wrongs. It’s now been over 14 years and we’re still friends. Apart from work and business, what do you do for pleasure? I love being in nature and going on hikes. I also love to read, going to the movies, gardening and cooking. And of course, I love to take pictures wherever I go. The last time we met, which was ages ago, you were still on the dating scene, have you met someone you love to spend your time with? yes, yes I did….! I dated online here and there after my divorce, but never met anyone with whom i connected. I didn’t have any terrible experiences, but no great ones either. So, a little over 5 years ago, I went online again after having taken a break for a year and I met someone within the 1st hour that I had signed on. He liked me and I liked him. We texted the next day. Spoke on the phone for a while the day after that. Met for dinner the day after and that was that! I saw him walk into the restaurant (we had decided to be brave and meet for dinner not just coffee after our phone conversation) and I immediately liked him. We talked non-stop for the next 2 hours. Saw each other again 2 days later for dinner, and two days after again…. and that was that….we’ve been together since and it’s been a wonderful journey. He actually moved in with me over a year ago. Let me tell you…that wasn’t an easy decision as after 14 years on my own, I was very happy being on my own. But he’s such a wonderful man and so respectful of my space and need to still do things on my own, that he’s made it easy to live together.
What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life? Sneaking out at night of our “western” hotel in Moscow in 1985. It was still behind the iron curtain and foreigners were not allowed out alone unaccompanied by a tour guide or russian official. I was there while studying in Vienna during my junior year abroad program with a few friends i’d made at our school.
So we snuck out, took the subway to Red Square and drunk little airplane bottles of Vodka. There you have it….me at my most defiant!! ha ha! But I bet you want to know how this escapade ended? Well, we made our way back to the hotel as it was much too cold to stay outside for more than a little while and were greeted by two HUGE bouncer type gentlemen at the door of our hotel. They interrogated us, searched us and finally let us go up to our rooms. And by the way, each floor and each corridor of the ‘western’ wing of the hotel had a guard sitting at a desk keeping track of every person coming or going on the floor. Do you have a favorite poet, philosopher or artist or maybe all? How do I narrow it down?? I love some many in each category. I’ll say that one of my favorite poets is Arthur Rimbaud. He’s french. And I also really like Mary Oliver.
I really like Tich Nat Han and Pema Chödron for buddhist philosophy. I am not buddhist but love their teachings. And lastly for artists…Georgia O’Keefe and many of the impressionists for paintings.
If you could go out on a date with anyone in this world, who would it be? And why? I assume that by ‘in this world’ you mean that they have to still be alive, correct ? If so, then I’d have to say Bernard Henry-Levy. A contemporary french philosopher. A) because he’s brilliant B) because I find him terribly sexy. Do you have one influential moment in your life? It’s like an aha moment or the deciding factor of who you are today. I think it wasn’t a moment that was defining for me, but rather something I did. When I was 6 years old, I had so much energy that my parents put me in a Judo class when we first moved to Germany. Very quickly, I became fascinated by the discipline and rules one had to follow while on a dojo. The respect we had to pay our teacher. I loved it. It gave me confidence. It kept me fit and agile. I did judo for half my life and then continued with various forms of martial arts. I have trained in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Muy Thai, boxing etc..All those disciplines taught me that we always need to thrive to be better but to always remain humble.
Favorite food? Restaurant? Easy- favorite restaurant: L’atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris Favorite foods: Probably Italian, French, Mexican, Hungarian and Japanese
Photography seems to be a passion of yours, when did you start taking pictures as a hobby? I got my first camera on my 7th birthday from my parents. It was a generic point and shoot camera, but it was so much fun. That was the beginning of my passion for photography. I haven’t stopped taking pictures since.
If you could have one super power, what would it be and why? Hmmmm….it’s a toss up between being able to see the future, so that I can help others (and myself) and being invisible (for the same reasons)
Do you believe in life beyond our planet? Do you mean is there life somewhere out there in the universe? Or is there an afterlife? I’d say yes to both. We can’t even begin to wrap our heads around the enormity of the universe (or multiverses), so it seems small minded to think there might not be life somewhere else. What kind of life, I have no idea, but we can’t be the only ones out there.
Us humans always seem to have clashes and we can’t seem to achieve peace. What do you think the problem is and how do you think we could achieve world peace? Let women run the world, there’d be a lot less conflicts and wars…:-) All kidding aside, I think that if we managed to even out the disparity between the haves and have nots and if we managed to end world hunger and poverty in most parts of the world, we’d have a much better chance at all getting along. However, even if we put all of our differences aside, I think there would still be conflicts over natural resources and the financial advantages that come with it. And likewise, I fear that some day soon, we will have major areas of discord over water….
Lastly, what would be your best advice to all the women out there who are going through the pains of a separation or a divorce? Believe in yourself. You are strong and you are resilient. You control your life. It is YOUR life after all. Do not stay in a bad or toxic relationship for the wrong reasons: fear of being alone, money, safety, for the children, for appearances and what will other say, etc…
I have heard so many times from friends around me that they stayed too long in a bad relationship because the kids were too young or they didn’t want to rock the boat for them. Guess what? If you are happy and well-adjusted, your kids will be too. Kids are so resilient. They’ll adapt to whatever their new circumstances will be because they’ll have you and they know that they are safe and being loved. It’s the old oxygen mask analogy: you have to put the oxygen on you first before you can get your kids the oxygen masks. If you don’t get oxygen, you won’t be much use to anyone.
Thank you so much for sharing with us your story.
PS- We are also showcasing Anita's photography on our Gallery section. Don't forget to browse her beautiful photos by clicking on the link below. xoxo