Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:
This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.
And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.
I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?
I intend to carry on that legacy.
I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.
And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.
How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.
Lisa Gray has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. The retreat is sold out. Thank you to every single woman who applied. We will do more!!
I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was. Especially with my own history.
At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”
Love, Jen Pastiloff
ps, I just returned from New York. The launch of my labor of love, my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshops, was this past weekend in Princeton and NY. It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I will keep you all posted on the next one. This movement is so needed.
A Heavy Heart
By Lisa Gray
To say what you are seeing out loud makes something real. When I first noticed something, I chose my words carefully.
“My daughter is cutting back.” Always someone who ate with gusto, the behavior change seemed a bit of a relief. “My daughter used to have no off button. She’s finally paying attention to when she is full,” I confided to a friend.
But then a well-meaning acquaintance chimed in. “She’s finally growing up! Finally got outta that chunky phase. Thank god, right?”
I did not reply.
At Christmas, I found her crying in front of a small cinnamon roll. She ate it, but later she went for a hike in the snowy forest. She was gone for ninety minutes.
At Easter she decided to ban all sugar from her diet. Her eyes scanned food labels. She drank water and started running after each meal.
One evening, I found her in her room hanging things on her wall.You can do this! Try harder! Less is more! Bold black capital letters covered the neon post-it notes. I looked closer and then lifted them off the white erasable board. Underneath the post-its was another goal written in tiny script but no less direct. 99 pounds! You will!
I fell to her bed, she turned toward me, and then she fell too.
“I’msorry!I’msorryI’msosorry! I want it to stop!” Her tears and words, a hot frantic rush. “I can’t make it stop! I can’t make it stop! Please! Make it stop!” The terror in her voice twisted my heart and yet all I could do was hold her. I crawled into her bed and curled my body around hers before she finally fell asleep. She was disappearing.
I walked around in a daze longer than I should I have. I stopped in our hallway one day and it was so quiet. I said out loud to no one, “My daughter is sick”. The tender space of silence encouraged me so I said it again.
“She is sick.”
I hated that this was true, but I told my husband and he knew too. Once we said the words out loud to each other, the ones we had both been ignoring, we could get help.
And so we did.
We took back her life by feeding her. Our progress was marked on charts and graphs with a color-coded number system that tracked our journey toward recovery. These numbers were based on the simple science that caloric intake was essential to survival. I kept scraps of paper in the kitchen with my mad-dash calculations always aiming for a higher number. Every week, she’d step on the scale. Depending on what the scale said, we’d adjust our strategy which usually involved coconut and flaxseed oils and Hagaan Daaz ice cream. A gateway from one life to another was created through mixing and chopping and pouring and blending.The loosening of her shoulders, the relaxed posture around food, the absence of decision-making around what and how much to eat took the power away from her monster. Every bite swallowed felt like a tiny miracle.
The days became months. The half pound gained became two, then five, then eleven and eventually eighteen.
There have been lies and screaming and hugging and crying and mountains of guilt and stony silences and sleepless nights when my brain felt on fire.
Every day is different, but things are better.
Today, I don’t have to measure as much. I see my daughter grab a bagel and yogurt without thinking, without studying the label for fat grams and calories and sugar. My heart explodes. I am full of gratitude and amazement. She is alive! I give her a small smile. Her brow lifts and she offers only, “Huh?” before heading to her room.
But I am tired. I am so tired from the inside out because guarding my heart takes effort.
In my head I think she is well, but my heart still wonders. I have carried the weight of my fear for almost two years. It is too hard to speak those words out loud so, for now, I remain silent.
My name is Lisa Gray. I am a mother, writer, and educator. My work has appeared in The Huffington Post, a variety of Minnesota news outlets, and on my blog RestlessGrayGirl. I am currently working with The Red Boot Coalition, an organization that is designed to foster compassionate listening.
I have spent the past three years surviving loss, unemployment, my daughter’s illness, and an extended family trauma. This essay is a small attempt for me to begin my own recovering process.
Thank you for this opportunity to share what is in my heart.
Featured image courtesy of Tiffany Lucero.