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The Body

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, The Body

Night Run

May 23, 2016

By Maggie May Ethridge

I always hated running.  Running gave me rabbit ears, pink and tender, and set an ache roaring through my temples that eventually drilled deep into my ear drum, where I could then hear it beating a protest. Running made my thighs break out in large, itchy patches that I tore into, leaving long red scratch marks. Running gave me a side stitch and shin splints, a gash, a rash and purple bumps- yes, I understood Shel Silverstein’s little Peggy Ann McKay perfectly. I would and did dance for hours, lift weights, climb the Stairmaster, do yoga, pilates and hike- but I would not run.

I had birthed my last and fourth child three years ago. I was heartbroken inside my marriage and on the other side of the worst two years of parenting I’d ever experienced. I felt lost inside the needs of my large family. My weight had crept up. I wasn’t weighing myself- with two daughters, I have mostly avoided that dangerous pursuit- but I felt bloated, anchored and exhausted. In the afternoon or evening I would put on a workout DVD and give twenty or thirty minutes to movement. I still had the Kathy Ireland workout VHS from my twenties and a FIRM butt routine, and I enjoyed the ridiculousness of existence while squatting and thrusting in my living room.

One day I sat in my living room and looked at my tennis shoes and suddenly the total simplicity of running was as desirable as dark chocolate cake, orgasm, reading. I can pull on some shoes, step out of my house, and go wherever I want, I thought. Running requires nothing other than a place to run, and the will to do so. In that moment, I had both. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, courage, Fear, Guest Posts, The Body

Body Work

February 3, 2016
anxiety

By Lizz Schumer

I licked the blood off my finger without thinking. To taste what I was made of. My ear had left blood on my fiance’s T-shirt, and we didn’t know why. Startled, I stuck my finger in and considered the source. Every unconscious action is a self-discovery mission. Everything is a symptom of a syndrome caused by something that happened before.

Or I’ve done too much therapy, or not enough.

A scratch inside, turns out. There are answers everywhere, if we know the right questions.

“You don’t have an off switch,” my mother told me once. An inbred love of excess. I write like that, too. Voracious for language, asking the page questions and answering them back, and again, I ford down pages like rivers. My essays explore writing as if the answer is in the language, wandering downs sentences like wormholes, squinting into the darkness ostensibly swirling inside my own mind.

William Faulkner once wrote, “I know what I think when I read what I’ve written.” Faulkner’s luxuriance reads that way. I wonder what answers “The Sound and the Fury” gave him. If he ever found the end of the tunnel. His language leaves me lost for it, looking up from dog-eared pages to find sunset where afternoon had been and I’m bereft of time and place, belonging stolen by the universe imagination created. Through the looking glass words steal me, and I emerge mystified by my own world. My chest always seizes when I return to my own world. It’s been hostile since I can remember, demons hiding in the shadows collecting at the corners of my mind, if nowhere else.

Anxiety first chained me to its bosom when I was a child, facing the world for the first time. Yanked from my mother’s womb at 29 weeks, my parents signed a form to authorize an experimental treatment to get my little lungs to inflate. Doctors pumped cow cells into my body with a tiny, blue balloon and I gasped into the world. They transferred me to a clear plastic box for the first few months of my life, where I lived under glass for all to see, poked, prodded and examined every minute of my early days. Electronic blips and buzzing replacing those gentle coos of a normal human’s first hours; frenetic saviors where peace belongs. My baby album is Frankenstein, pages of my body engulfed to the nipples and knees by the smallest diaper they had, an improbably large needle sticking out of my skull. Tubes and wires snake from every orifice, and in some snapshots, a cartoonish hand sneaks into the frame: My mother. On an early video, my father slides his wedding ring over my foot and onto my upper thigh. My first garter, shackle.

Throughout my early years, I wailed and screamed before every class play, every concert, my belly full of a fire I didn’t understand. The idea of all those eyes set me alight, in a way I loved and hated all at once. Special demon, imperfect specimen under glass, the stage enticed and terrified every enigmatic cell. I shook and shattered with excitement my tiny body couldn’t contain. Teenagers can’t rail like children, so I painted my eyes black and rolled inward, writing feverishly through study halls, math class, after school. Pouring that shaking, stuttering soul onto pages black with melodramatic ink, I discovered the roads language could lead me down, the salve of pouring my quivering heart onto the page.

My earliest trauma roots in me like I always thought a watermelon seed would, growing in my belly and snaking through my limbs, into my brain and as I trace the language of my body back, back, back, I reach the edge of that glass box and see the baby inside, squirming under impossibly bright lights. Her head too big for her spindly body, I wonder if she misses swaddling, if that nakedness is why she loves to be held back together in flighty moments, if there’s comfort in breathing deeply after those first, desperate balloon-choked gulps. If everything in us is nurture and nature, if we’re all products of what we were going to be as much as what our worlds shaped us to become, those first few days seem all the more desperate. And yet, the days, weeks, years after fall into a sort of marching order, a tenuous thread stretching from gasping baby to screaming child, scribbling teen and shaking writer with her hand on a pen she trusts to uncover truths her scar-tissued heart has buried.

How much of me is that baby in a box is still me, squirming under the probing eyes and fingers of doctors, fellow patients who know me no better than myself which is to say, they don’t. Not except in the medical sense we know our flesh, our bones hold us together when emotion leaves us languid.

I wonder.lizz headshot

Lizz Schumer is a writer, artist and freelance editor living and working in Buffalo, N.Y. Her creative nonfiction and hybrid poetry centers around the effects of environment, economic climate and sociology on the self. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” was released by Black Rose Writing in 2013, and she is currently at work on her second book, “Biography of a Body.” Lizz‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Connotation Press, The Manifest-Station, Minerva Rising, Love Your Rebellion, Robocup Compendium, Wordgathering, Salon.com and many others. She can be found online at lizzschumer.com, @eschumer, Facebook.com/authorlizzschumer or via email to schumeea@gmail.com

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

beauty, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, self-loathing, The Body

The Pretty Machine

January 11, 2016

By Melissa Carroll

When I was little I had an armada of Barbie dolls: Princess Ice Skater Barbie, Safari Barbie, Bikini Beach Barbie. My childhood bedroom was filled with legions of busty blondes. When I was little I was a nerdy girl with a big nose, a girl who got picked last in kickball and faked headaches to miss gym class. At home, when I chopped Barbie’s hair off, I loved the chunked slice of kitchen scissors against her plastic strands. Sometimes I stabbed my Papermate pens into her face to give her blue freckles. Sometimes I curiously examined her, took her pink Velcro dress off, and rotated her stiff limbs in their sockets, plucking out a leg or popping off her head to inspect the plastic bulb holding her impossibly beautiful rubber body together.

*

Certain women in Burma coil brass rings around their necks: slender, braced. The rings weigh down their collarbones, which gives the illusion of an elongated neck. It’s a delicate deformation, the hush of bone and blood.

In Mauritania women are force fed camel’s milk, they are fattened like calves for slaughter. Each brimming calabash promises a man.

Women of North America slice their faces open, peel back skin like almonds boiled in milk—thin, slimy, translucent. They cut their nipples open and insert bags of saline, they paint their faces, bleach their hair, they stick their fingers down their throats.

*

I’m in sixth grade, playing in my backyard with my best friend Carly. We’re inventing a rain dance, clucking our tongues, which looks very much like the chicken dance. This time I’m the shaman, pumping my fists in the air, howling vowels at the sky. We laugh wild, unbroken little girl laughs, loud and crackling.

This is before we learn to laugh while trying to look thin, to laugh and pose for anyone who might be watching. This is when our games are simple and our hair is tangled. We are on the cusp of puberty, when our bodies still belong to us. We have no idea that soon, any minute now, we’ll be fed to the American Pretty Machine, like a wood chipper, arms and legs and brains and hearts on the glittering conveyor belt.

The Pretty Machine materializes into plastic surgeries and celebrity gossip rags and eating disorders and an oil slick of self loathing. It pumps young girls with the idea that being sexy is the most important thing in the world, that looking good equals feeling good. Girls are sent, completely unaware, through the machine and come out the other side shellacked and lacquered, shell-shocked and pretty.

* Continue Reading…

beauty, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, self-loathing, The Body

Weightless

January 1, 2016

By Kara Waite

Birth control didn’t make me fat, but the teacher who confiscated my pill pack said it was probably to blame for my weight. I wanted to tell her I hadn’t needed a prescription to pile on the pounds. Instead, I said nothing and went back to the county health department after school for another free sample. I needed it because my boyfriend, with whom I’d not yet had sex, said he didn’t like condoms. This was not, at the time, a red flag.

Even at fifteen, I was still, in so many ways, a little girl. Actually, I was never little. I burst out of my mother and into the world at a substantial weight of 7 lbs. 9 oz. (22 inches long), and save for a few periods of alarmingly rapid shrinkage, I’ve been growing ever since. In fact, these days my ass is easily twice the size it was back then – back when what I saw when I looked in the mirror was not “slightly pudgy” so much as Jabba the Hut.

The first time I went on a diet, I didn’t know it was a diet. I just knew that, instead of enjoying those shrink-wrapped slices of Velveeta out in the open, I needed to do it in my bedroom closet. I remember the way they melted and stuck to the roof of my mouth, the way they felt sliding down my gullet in un-chewed lumps after I’d wrapped them around filched Hershey’s Kisses and swallowed fast because I thought I’d heard someone coming.

My grandmother was the one to inform me that my weight was problematic. “You need to watch what you eat,” she told me. This made some sense because, unlike the mouth she was always telling me to watch, my food was at least something I could see without looking in the mirror. So I took her advice literally and started making artwork with my lunch. I’d bite my crackers and turkey into shapes – Christmas trees, my initials, a basketball and a hoop. I watched and I watched and I watched. I squinted and studied and nothing happened.

Well, except that I, of course, ate my creations and got fatter.

It wasn’t just that I was fat. I was tall, too, but no one cared about that. The day we got weighed in P.E. the entire class gathered round the scale, watching the nurse slide past eight-five, past ninety, past ninety-five, not stopping till she hit one hundred and six. It was of no interest that I was taller than any of the boys, taller, in fact, than even the nurse. No one wondered or worried about the view from five-foot-two. My weight, on the other hand, was the source of much preoccupation and discussion.

“One hundred six divided by two is fifty-three,” said my best friend, “you’re two of me.” It didn’t occur to her that this was the wrong thing to say and it didn’t (fully) occur to me either – not then, anyway.

The next week, the circus came to town and we went with her mother and my grandmother, two women who wore their bony asses like Olympic medals. They bought us each a bag of peanuts and, because I was ungraceful in addition to chunky, I dropped mine. I begged for another bag, but my grandmother said no. I asked my friend to share, but, being eight-years-old, she also said no. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts, healing, The Body

Lick ‘em On

October 24, 2015

By Jane Ratcliffe

I reached toward my bowl of oatmeal.  Before me, I noticed a pair of hands.  Faintly red with raised blue veins, they floated in the shallow morning light.  I drew a sharp breath.  I lived alone.  The doors were locked.  Who could be in my house?  Unnerved, I kept watching the hands.  The colors glowed, the skin like the bark of a young tree.  Then I recognized the ring: an oval diamond set amidst tiny dots of turquoise and topped with a bright ruby.  My ring.  Therefore, my hands.

It was March, 2008.  These were my first moments of brain injury, although I didn’t yet know this was what was happening.  It was like watching my life on a high definition television screen. I was in my body.  Everything around me was vibrant and precise.  We were just in two separate worlds.

***

Exactly a decade earlier, on March 9th, 1998, I was temping in a furniture showroom in New York City, helping the owner with some office work.  A huge wooden tabletop hung over the manager’s desk.  I was there for a week and each day I said to her, “Aren’t you afraid that’s going to fall on you?”  She laughed.

Nevertheless, I wouldn’t go near her desk.  Until the end of the week, when I daringly strode over to get a stamp and, bam, the rope snapped and the tabletop fell on my head.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I said, laughing so hard tears rolled down my face.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I said again, as my vision shut off, then returned.

“A tabletop fell on my head,” I repeated, as now my hearing went, then returned. Continue Reading…

Family, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, infertility, The Body, Women

This Is Infertility

October 12, 2015

By Hillary Strong

“There they are!”  Betty, the technician, proclaims.

I blink. I stare at my husband. We both give her tight smiles. She’s wondering why I’m not crying. Not just crying, but ugly crying, where snot pours down my face, and I need an entire box of Kleenex to mop up the emotional refuse. She’s wondering why I’m not breaking out the horns and streamers, dancing naked while strewing confetti all over the exam room, watching it fall like snow over the stirrups, the tubes of Vaseline and boxes of Latex gloves, eventually drifting down to the bleach infused tiled floor.

She’s moving the wand around and gesturing towards the screen that to me looks like two Rorschach blots encased in static. My husband is squinting at the monitor. “What do you see?” I want to ask him. “A unicorn? A spider? Two caterpillars?

“You must be excited” Betty says, as she slides out the ultrasound wand that had been shoved into me with robotic efficiency. “Scoot your butt down, legs open, no down further, knees apart”, Betty had choreographed the weird dance of our weekly appointment minutes earlier. “What no flowers? I thought. “No dinner?” Just wham, bam, intravaginal ultrasound. Betty takes off her plastic gloves, drops them into the trash, and scribbles on my chart. “I will print out some photos for you guys to keep,” and with a click of a button, my uterus and its contents appear in neat, glossy, squares curling unto themselves like the receipt from a cash register.

“I’ll let you get dressed,” she says, and the door clicks shut.  Only then does my husband place his hand in mine, our fingers chilled from the air conditioning, and we stare at the pictures, poring over them like they are people we should know but can’t recognize.  It’s like she placed an enormous chocolate cake in front of us, and we told ourselves we could take a tiny little taste of the icing.  It feels decadent and a bit taboo and as our eyes pore over embryonic images of our children, we savor the deliciousness, for we know it could be as fleeting as sugar on the tongue.

I’m staring at a signed poster of Bruce Springsteen. It’s Born in the U.S.A., Bruce. White t-shirt, blue jeaned, red capped, Bruce.  Fighting the good fight. “I’m clothed now, so at least I’m not disgracing the flag”, I say aloud, and consider it a victory when my husband smiles and shakes his head slightly. I stare at the plastic vagina on the desk in front of me, and resist the urge to open and shut it, make it talk, like a puppet. Months ago, it might have been an elephant in the room, something that would have made my husband and I snicker like prepubescents in health class, or if playing the bourgeois, something that would have been examined like a coffee table book. Now, after months of being indoctrinated with anatomy lessons we hadn’t exactly volunteered for, I regard it like a paperweight or desk lamp. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing, The Body

Dancing With The Darkness.

February 25, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Sian Ewers.

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung

And everything hurts.

It aches. All of it.

Every cell, fiber and atom that makes up my being.

Mind, body and soul thrown into a bowl, mixed, stirred, and formed with hands and words.

I want it all.

I want the bones, the protruding sharp edges, want to feel them beneath my skin, no meat or flesh to cover.

I want the blur, the navy blur of a fuzzy mind that is starving, buzzing with success.

I want the sunken cheekbones; the ones that make my lips look bigger. The ones that make people tell me my eyes look googly.

I want googly eyes.

I want the falling of hair, the outcome, the prize – the proof that I’m winning.

I want my calves to shrink, the muscle to melt and my thighs to never for any reason touch.

I want the pride. The knowing. The pit of my stomach tightness from no food and triumph.

But everything hurts and the control, the power, is the only thing melting now.

 

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Self Image, The Body, Women

On Being Naked.

February 17, 2015

 

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

 

By Christine Molloy.

I have always felt awkward in locker rooms. I mean, REALLY awkward. So much so that since I left high school, I have not changed my clothes in one. This is pretty impressive considering how many gym memberships I have had and that in the last several years of going to my current gym, I have been in the gym pool hundreds of times.

I had a strategy for these pool trips though. First of all, I live five minutes from my gym and yes, that is as awesome as it sounds. So I would towel dry off, throw some ratty clothes on over my suit, and head home. Maybe twice I went down to the locker room to use the toilet. Maybe.

In the dead of winter, when it was too cold to do that, I would switch to another form of exercise and just not deal with the locker room issue. However this winter is much different because I have been battling foot injuries in both my feet and on top of a nasty autoimmune illness, the pool is really the only good exercise I can get at the moment. And, I enjoy it. I especially enjoy the hot tub before and after!

The locker room at my gym was recently renovated and has two showers and three or four toilet stalls. There is a sauna, lockers, and benches. That’s it. Which means there are no changing rooms, unless you use the shower and it is rare for one of those to be open. And here is where we get to the root of my problem with locker rooms:

People will see me naked.

Hey, we all have our hang-ups.

There’s no changing room, no cubicles, not even a more secluded corner of the locker room to tuck away my less-than-perfect body into. Total exposure of a body that many times, I even have a difficult time looking at. One that has the dreaded apple shape, cellulite, and just stuff hanging everywhere. You know how women start to complain about how as they get older, their breasts begin the downward descent into hell and they miss their perky boob days? Yeah, not me. My boobs started at the place that most women dread going to.

I know, I know. I have had people tell me that the other people in the locker room are so focused on themselves that they are not even bothering to look over at me. They are all thinking about their kids or pre-planning their work day in their head. I think that is true for some, but I am not buying that explanation for everybody. People are curious. It is just human nature.

I have not always hated my body and even now, I don’t always look at it in a negative way. But I definitely need more balance and more positive self-talk. This body has seen me through some serious shit and on two different occasions, brought me back from the brink of death. This is the body that has survived cancer, round after round of prednisone and so many other toxic medications, a daily battle with an autoimmune illness, a heart procedure, blood clots in my lungs, and a neurological condition that almost paralyzed me. After going through these experiences, you have to garner some respect for the body that gets you through day after day; but I still criticize my body. I think that is probably the main reason why I do yoga; by doing poses, it helps me focus on not only my strength, but also on the life force inside of me. Yoga reminds me of what I am capable of and the good that my body can do.

But it does make me wonder, when exactly did this start for me? That feeling that my body wasn’t good enough? That I wasn’t good enough? I do know with absolute certainty that there was nothing in my childhood that made me feel ashamed of my body. According to my mom, as a toddler, it was hard for her to keep clothes ON me! And in my household growing up, being naked was not a big deal. We all walked naked from the bathroom to our rooms and back and once the teenage years came for me and my brother, the walking became a fast streak! And a T-shirt for me. As a kid, neither one of my parents every pressured me about losing weight and I was never told that I was ugly by either one of them. Even well into my adulthood, my dad has never mentioned one word about my weight or my eating habits, although on occasion he has tossed a positive compliment my way when a weight loss has been noticeable. Dad, you did well!

Continue Reading…