Browsing Tag

letting go

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Airplanes

August 20, 2017
plane

By Billie Hinton

1961

I’m being held in the arms of someone while my mother and father board a plane. We’re on the tarmac and they walk away and up the steep steel stairway into what appears to be a black hole. I push away from the chest I’m held up against, straining to follow the two people I know best in this world. The stairs roll away and the black hole closes and the plane moves away, slow and then fast. The black hole opens up inside of me; everything I know slips into the distance with that plane. I stop pushing and cave in to the chest, allow myself to be held, hot tears soaking into fabric that does not smell like anything familiar.

1985

In his small office my therapist sits too close for comfort, my knees and his a few inches apart. I find solace in the large window that looks out to trees and flowering shrubs. The wash of light through blinds is an escape hatch. He asks for my earliest memory. I tell about watching my parents leave in an airplane. He asks if I felt comfort with the person I was left with and I tell him I don’t know who that person was. It seems unfathomable that my parents left me with a stranger. How did you calm yourself? he asks and I tell him, I didn’t. I still don’t.

1988

In the office of my therapist, I write the final check for the final therapy session. His office feels larger now. The check number is 2001 and he comments that it has been an odyssey. I am moving to Texas to attend graduate school in clinical social work, inconsolable at saying goodbye to a man who has sat across from me several times each week for several years, knees inches away, wearing Birkenstocks which at one point I mocked, but have come now to love. After I leave I meet friends for lunch, still bereft at the loss of my thrice-weekly sessions, tears sliding down my cheeks at random between bites of food. One gives me his wristwatch to wear while we sit in the sun with take-out containers and iced tea in plastic cups. Comfort. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Letting Go

Ferris Wheels On The Nile

August 18, 2017
wheel

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

In  2012, I traveled to a country that had recently split into two. It was the last trip abroad I would take as a married woman, the last time I would spend with Zalmay as my husband.

I didn’t know this yet.

I arrived in Sudan with my eight-year-old son, Ibrahim; a year after South Sudan had become the world’s newest country.  Zalmay was the United Nations Resident Representative, an equivalent to an ambassador post. We were to join him in Sudan as soon as the youngest stepson graduated from high school in the spring.

The trip occurred a week after I had received the advance reading copies of my first book, a book about America’s fascination with ghosts.  The trip occurred as I was collapsing into pieces, struggling to solve my personal hauntings.

I had recently started to ache; a phantom pain, something between an itch and thick of type of heat. In efforts to ignore it, I organized closets, wrote long and insecure journal entries, and cleaned my 2500 hundred square foot home. No matter what I did, this ache was always present: like a soft spark that ignited when air made contact with my body.  The feeling was somewhat ethereal, and yet, it sat in my throat. The ache tasted like the wrong life, like I had somehow swallowed an accidental story. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Mental Health, sisters

Piece

July 28, 2017
beaten

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

Note: most names have been changed.

By Noreen Austin

Gere’ December 1993

My sister Gere’(Jer-ray) has been missing from her North Hollywood, California group home for several days. Raoul, her counselor, a stocky man, coiled with a black belt in martial arts, has the skills to survive in this socioeconomic oppressed part of town. He cares for the mentally disabled. His home is a place of refuge in hopelessness. But he can’t keep Gere’ safe after all, and he files a missing person’s report with Los Angeles County.

My father calls me in my Northern California home from his apartment in Southern California and explains, “She was badly beaten.” The police had interviewed Gere’. They told Raoul they had never seen anyone so severely beaten and still able to walk.

“She wasn’t taken to the hospital?” I ask.

“She bolted before the ambulance got there.” My father says.

Gere’ is 29-years old, has Tuberous Sclerosis, a gene mutation that causes tiny benign tuber-like tumors to grow onto the ends of the synapses in her brain. Autism, learning disabilities, hyperactivity, anger and defiance behavioral problems, ash-leaf shaped skin pigmentations, and seizures are a few of the symptoms of this condition. Some people with TS don’t have seizures. But Gere’s started when she was eighteen months. Each seizure causes brain lesions, which contributes to her cognitive decline. It’s easy for me to understand her confusion. The police are there to arrest bad people. The police are talking to her. It’s when the police leave the room to get some information from Raoul that Gere’ runs. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Letting Go

The Seven Stages of Alone

July 23, 2017
alone

By Jenna Tico

Like most roads to hell, it is paved with vision boards. Watered with four-dollar wine, and the metaphorical blood of the men who have “wronged you.” There is at least one volume of sad poetry; probably bought on impulse while waiting in line at the bookstore, impossibly dense text in one hand (“I’ll finally have time to read Kafka!”) and a cheap spiral notebook in the other. Later, you will label this your “INTENTION JOURNAL,” and stare at it each night before going to bed; with every intention of cataloging your intentions, but instead, watching four hours of Lifetime original movies. Which like most roads to hell, are paved with vision boards.

Stage One: Shock

It’s a Nicholas Sparks world, and we’re all just buying tampons in it; and at some point, you probably meant to be here. You probably caught a movie (or twelve) that taught you that, to live the life of your dreams, you must have one of two things:

  1. an easily accessible window, should John Cusack arrive with a boombox, or
  2. a self-induced period of solitude in your twenties; preferably in a rent-controlled apartment; preferably one with exposed brick.

And at some point, the sea of boyfriends inevitably parts; in its place, their echoey chorus of “I’m just not ready” and the expanse of that which you always thought you thought you wanted: Alone. With no end in sight. A space that, while sanctioned by sitcom, remains exhaustingly absent from the cultural consensus on womanhood. Everyone tells you to spend time alone. No one seems to understand, nor believe, that you are.  That the beast of your life leading up to this point, every dream you had for the people you’d loved, has sunk its teeth into your apartment. Noticeably absent of exposed brick. Likely missing several essential qualities, such as street parking, and glue. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Relationships

Lessons for When You Want to Not Want

June 12, 2017

By T.A. Burkholder

  1. Go two hours south to a small college on a hill because a boy you like wants to go there (though the boy won’t go there and the boy won’t like you back).
  2. Before leaving, dig with glee through dusty mounds of dead people’s clothes at the “dollar-a-pound” warehouse. In a sea of jeans and t-shirts, be the one in flowered polyester.
  3. Fall immediately and awkwardly in love with an unattainable, moody artist. Renew this heartbreak regularly with other unattainables.
  4. Stop shaving, stop wearing a bra and repair your glasses with duct tape. Pretend this is because you don’t care what people think.
  5. When you accidentally attract a boy who serenades you, don’t speak. When you show up at his door later, don’t say why. End the year untouched and return home for the summer to watch Jeopardy! with your parents.
  6. Blame everything on your tiny, isolated school and start fresh at a big, city university. As a joke or a social experiment or a cry for attention, tell everyone your name is Bob and stick with it the whole, mostly friendless year. In the fall, return to the gem-green grass of that first small school.
  7. As a joke or a social experiment or a cry for attention, shave your head down to the scalp. Keep it that way even when people call you Sinead. Keep it that way even after your mother worries that people will think she’s a bad mother.
  8. Smoke one cigarette a day while standing in your room singing along to the same Laurie Anderson song. We’re gonna save ourselves. Save ourselves.
  9. Promise yourself, on a regular basis, that today will be the first day of many when you find perfection in silence. No stupid questions. No wrong answers. No conversations that require the treachery of words.
  10. Threaten yourself on a regular basis with the fact that you know where your father keeps his gun.
  11. Instead of kissing the beautiful, complicated, black-haired woman you eat lunch with, pick a fight and never apologize.
  12. Streak frequently in groups both large and small, each time running back towards your clothes a little slower.
  13. Allow a mutual acquaintance to broker a hook up between you and a guy you don’t really like. For a few weeks, let the raw mechanics of your bodies bring you a tight, silent thrill. But remember, he doesn’t need to know your heart is raw and easily bruised. Or that your nerves are mostly burnt-wire black. Or that want – so close to need – winds through you like blood.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go

I’ll Speak To You Here

November 18, 2016
selfie

By Rachel McKay Steele

I’ll speak to you here.

The problem is that you understand everything.

Last night at a party I saw a man who looked like a man I had a crush on, for a long time, a long time ago. I knew it wasn’t him, but it could’ve been him because he had friends at this party. His group of friends are all so attractive and wildly successful in all their endeavors. It’s maddening. I was talking to the husband of the director, he is lovely and kind, and I’ve always loved their love story.

So I text Are you at a bar in K town wearing a straw hat? And later that man breezes past me saying, Excuse me I love Justin Bieber, on his way to the dance floor.

Later, I met a French colorist who didn’t understand what I meant when I said the bar looked like a jalopy had a love child with a Colorado ghost town, but he that he liked that I said it. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts, parenting

The Ride

September 19, 2016
fears

By Tanya Mozias Slavin

He went on that ride with his Dad. At first I was sure he wouldn’t go. I stood behind the fence and watched them get seated and strapped in, watched the guard lower the safety restraint on them for extra security.

Oh how I hate roller coasters. I hate them precisely because you’re supposed to love them. Because every time I admit to myself that I hate them I get this nagging feeling of inadequacy in my stomach, as if some cheerful somebody is about to come over to me any moment, cheerfully grab my hand and pull me with her saying in the most caring cheerful determined and supportive voice you can imagine ‘Come on! You are gonna have fun!’ And will maybe add ‘Don’t be scared!’ And to the sound of lazy applaud of those still waiting their turn to ride, I would drag after her feeling clumsy and non-fun and somewhat guilty for being a burden – because surely she can be simply having fun but instead she had decided to take care of me – but totally unable to say, even to myself in my head ‘LEAVE ME ALONE I DON’T FUCKING WANNA HAVE FUN!’ What’s the problem to just let a person be! Maybe they are having fun standing there and watching other people hanging upside down in the air and dangling their limbs like little helpless insects!

But I digress. All I wanted to say was that I was sure Martin wouldn’t want to go on that roller coaster ride. Because he is just such a cautious boy and he really doesn’t like speed or any other kind of adrenaline inducing activities. I mean he even hated slides until he was almost four years old. And I’m NOT the one to cheerfully grab his hand and pull him towards whatever he is scared of. Because SEE ABOVE. In fact, that was the silent promise I made to myself the minute the mere possibility of motherhood appeared in front of me in the form of a little plus sign on a pee stick: NO CHEERFUL HAND GRABBING. He is allowed to be whatever he is and I will never be the one to coerce him, in however subtle and positive way, to be what he is not.

And yet, as I was standing there watching him take the seat beside his Dad, and with this focused but calm expression on his face raise into the air for his first ever roller coaster ride, I couldn’t keep wondering: was I unintentionally enabling his fears all this time? Was I, in my desire to give his fears space and validate them, inadvertently helping them to be stronger than they needed to be? I didn’t think I was. Yes, I offered him to hide behind me if there was a dog coming toward us and I felt him getting tense, because I didn’t want him to jump onto the road in fear. Yes I never insisted on him getting even his toe in the swimming pool when he was scared of the water. But I also made sure he spend enough time around dogs and swimming pools, and always said things like ‘When you are ready, you’ll be able to do it’. I had never been an overprotective parent. But maybe I wasn’t doing enough to help him be ready? Did he just need a little nudge in the right direction? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

The Last First Day

September 13, 2016
school

By Bernadette Murphy

The alarm goes off at 6 am.  It’s a sweltering Monday in August, the first day back to school for my daughter, Hope, and the last time I’ll ever oversee this annual routine.  Hope will start her senior year of high school today.  This time next year we’ll be leaving her at a dorm on a university campus yet to be determined.

For the past 21 years, I have been overseeing these back-to-school mornings, taking pictures of my three kids as they hoist on new backpacks filled with freshly sharped pencils that smell like sawdust, packed alongside clean binders and pristine notebooks, as they lace overly bright fresh-out-of-the-box tennis shoes, adjust new school uniforms and comb fresh haircuts.  My oldest, Jarrod, finished his Bachelor’s degree a year ago and is now in his first real job.  My middle son Neil is about to start his junior year in college and has been living away from home since we dropped him at his dorm three years ago.   And now, Hope’s a senior.

My job as a mother – a job that has consumed and thrilled and exhausted and tried and awed me for more than 23 years — is coming to an end. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Vulnerability

Letting Go

September 2, 2016
control

By Alejandra Brockmann

I am controlling.

I like to know where my life is going. I like stability. I always have plan B. I prefer to have a job with a steady income per month. I like to have money in my bank account. I am attracted to men that will not break my heart.

Having control makes me feel safe, loved, and empowered. I know it is a false sense of love and empowerment, but still knowing this, it is difficult to surrender it. It’s like comfort food, or a hot coffee in the morning, I just can´t seem to let it go.

I don´t remember much about my childhood, but I remember feeling unsafe in the world. My parents fought a lot; I imagine that had something to do with it. The year I was born, my father was studying his MBA with a debt growing everyday. He couldn´t afford a baby in that moment, but my mother disagreed, so I was born. She tends to get her way; control runs in the family.

I was 28 when I married, and three years later I got pregnant. I decided that my pregnancy was going to be perfect; perfect for me involves biking, eating sushi, and not listening to my doctors, as I never do. I don´t like doctors, don´t trust them. I know how this may sound, but I thought I could create my entire reality however I wanted it. I was wrong.

After 8 months of pregnancy, I planned my birth. I had very clear and specific goals and requests. Here were the main points:

  1. Calm ambient, soft music.
  2. Natural birth (no epidural).
  3. Hold my baby after birth; bonding with both parents is crucial.
  4. Stay at home during labor, but go to the hospital for birth.
  5. No drugs for the baby, or for me, unless its an emergency.

Additionally, I had a serious conversation with my unborn baby. I asked Alex to be born before or after the actual due date, so that family members coming from Mexico could meet him, but not be present the day of the birth. I wanted to have bonding time just the three of us for at least 1 day.

Everything was ready. I had everything under control. How could anything go wrong?

***My due date was February 13th 2015. I began having contractions the night of February 10th. I was up all night trying to manage the uncontrollable pain, I was sure the baby was coming in the morning. At 6:00 a.m. my doula (a birthing adviser) came to check me.

“You are not in labor. Your body is closed. Go walking and have a normal day,” she said.

Normal day? Normal day?!?!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me? Yea right! Because she didn´t have a seven-pound baby stuck inside her body.

But ok, I walked, half-dead, but I walked.

The second night came and the pain was worse. She checked me again and told me there was nothing to do, my body simply wouldn´t open, I had to go to the hospital in order to consult with my doctor. I cried on the way feeling frustrated, devastated, exhausted after being kept awake for 2 nights. I thought: How could I have a baby after this? I feel like I had two births already. And I have to push at some point? How? From what I watched in the movies, that was harder than running a marathon. I was so scared.

When I got to the hospital my doctor said,  “Ok, you tried your natural way, it didn´t work. Now its time to try my way.”

“But what are you going to do?” I replied.

“I am going to break your water and give you Oxytocin to induce labor. You have to let me do things my own way ok?”

“Ok,” I replied. But internally I kept asking myself how could everything have gotten so out of control?

After breaking my water, 24-hours passed, but I never dilated, so I had to have a C-Section. My doctor rolled my bed to the operation room. I saw the lights on the ceiling passing one by one. I cried the whole way, feeling like I failed my baby and myself.

In the operation room, everything was white. There were more than eight people there. Why were there so many people? I thought. They were speaking loudly, about ordinary topics. One doctor with glasses was saying that he was going to play golf on Sunday. They were acting like I was not there— like they didn´t see me. I felt invisible.

I asked the doctor if I could hold my baby as soon as they got him out. But the doctor replied, “That is not an option, we are in the OR and our only concern is the safety of you and the baby. We will check him first.” He said it so casually. He could not understand that he was taking away my moment of bonding with my baby. He was taking the baby´s first experience in this world. Instead of feeling the warmth of his mother´s chest, he was going to be examined by a bunch of stupid white-coated doctors.

In that moment, I lost it; I experienced my first panic attack. The anesthesiologist screamed at me “Stop moving!” and then to my doctor “Doctor can you control your patient please?”

I couldn´t breath, I couldn´t stop shaking and crying, I couldn´t speak. I wanted to tell them to wait, so I could convince them. I knew I could convince them; but it was too late; my baby was already on his way out to the world. I heard him cry, the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I didn´t know babies could cry so beautifully, all the other babies cry horribly. My heart slowed down, my breath became normal again, I couldn´t do anything else now, but surrender.

After checking him to make sure he was healthy and safe, they handed me my son. I hold him on my chest just how I wanted. It stroked me how tiny he was, given the size of my belly. At the beginning he was awake and moving, but after they wrapped him on a blanket he fell asleep, I guess it was a big fight for him too.  That moment was perfect. I was in the recovery room with my baby and my husband, just the way I wanted. I could barely hold him in my arms, I was so tired, but it was beautiful. That perfect moment lasted about 10 minutes. Then all of the sudden, I saw my mom and dad walking towards me.  They were so exited because they had skipped security to get into the recovery room, which of course, was completely forbidden. It was not what I wanted after 10 minutes of having my new baby with me, but at the end, they were my parents and I was very happy to see them. Then ten more people arrived. My whole family and Rodolfo´s family joined us.

Now, it was too much to take— so outrageous, that I couldn´t deal with it. I passed out, completely asleep. The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was my beautiful new baby boy Alex, being passed around like a football while every one of them took a picture holding him. After 15 minutes of coming to this world, when he was supposed to be with his mother and father adjusting to his new environment.

I thought that Alex’s birth was the most horrible and challenging experience I ever had. I was wrong; it got worst. After being sleep deprived for three days, I had to feed the baby every three hours, day and night. We had 10 people in our tiny room for five days waiting to hold the baby. They had come from Mexico, so I could not tell them to go home. I was the mother, the host, the cow, and the wife. In addition to an open wound trying to heal.

I finally went home, and my friends came to visit. Every time I told the story of my birth, I cried. Until one day, I went to my room looking for something. I was sitting in my bed, alone, when I found the cardboards —Every year on my birthday I buy big cardboards and colored sharpies to write my wishes for that year. And there it was, my first wish: “I want a perfect birth.” And I thought: Stupid perfect birth my ass!

In that moment, a thought came to my mind. It was not a normal thought; it was like a whisper coming from within, an intuition from my soul. A very soft but clear question:

What if my birth was indeed perfect?

So I looked at my birth plan and I compared it to reality. I noticed that every single point I requested, happened in the exact opposite way. This was not a coincidence. It was too exact:

  1. No people – Everyone there.
  2. No drugs – 30 hours of drugs.
  3. Calming ambient – 10 people arguing in the OR
  4. Relaxation and love – Panic attack
  5. Fast labor – Three days labor and birth
  6. Baby and mom bonding – No bonding at all.

In that moment, I realized that this was an opportunity to surrender and trust life. I did get “The perfect birth.” Just not the one I expected.

I have a son now; and I have the choice to repeat the same patterns that I experienced when I was a baby. My other choice: Let go and trust. What I want more than anything is for Alex to feel safe in the world in order to be free. Free to find his own path in life; free to make his own mistakes; free to create his own personality; free to find his essence–his soul. As I release myself from my grip I am releasing him.

Today, I strive to love him with an open heart, as I learn to love myself with an open heart.

Because in the end, I ask for perfect, but I don´t know what perfect is. So I choose to let go. I choose to trust. I surrender control.

Alejandra_Brockmann-IMG_5472

Alejandra is a woman and a mother. This essay is her first published work.

Her favorite quote is:

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.
If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”
Lao – Tsu

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 2 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first 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.

Join Jen Pastiloff at her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human in London Oct 1st and Dallas Oct 22. Click the links above to book. No yoga experience needed- just be a human being! Bring a journal and a sense of humor. See why People Magazine did a whole feature on Jen.

 

Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

Check out Jen in People Magazine!

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Letting Go Of My Mother

July 19, 2015

By Vivki Mayk

After my mother died, the long silence of my 60-mile commute was the hardest part of the day.  I think I missed her most then, after years of talking to her on my cell phone as I sped along, on my way home. We’d gossip about my Aunt Betty or compare notes on Dancing With the Stars. Now there was no sound except rubber meeting macadam or the latest report from NPR.

Sometimes I’d suddenly dissolve into tears, the shaky sobs triggered by surprising things. Dionne Warwick singing “What’s it all about, Alfie?” on the radio once set me off so completely, I’d had to pull over when I heard the line “Is it just for the moment we live?” That hokey question was my reality now, the reality of adjusting to the loss of someone who’d been part of my life for so long – but in the end, not long enough.

I’d grieved slowly. First came the sadness tempered by relief after the months of watching her small frame implode from cancer.  Absorbing her loss was not something that happened all at once on the day she died or even when I collected her cremated remains. I let go of her by inches and days – cleaning out her apartment, hauling carloads of kitchenware to Goodwill, carting her designer clothes to a resale shop.  Bit by bit I was acknowledging, with every box packed and carted away, that she wasn’t coming back.

My daughter acknowledged that finality much sooner than I. On the morning of my mother’s memorial service, she’d turned to me, her grief raw. “Grandma’s gone, and she’s not coming back,” Katti had sobbed, reminding herself – and me — that this was permanent. My mother was not at her timeshare or away for the weekend. Still, it had taken me months to begin going through her belongings. To do that affirmed what my daughter knew, what we’d all known from the moment of her death. She wasn’t coming back. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, Letting Go, motherhood

More Faithful Than I Intended To Be

June 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Leslie Kendall Dye

I traveled around a great deal…I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something…Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music…I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! -Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

At 12 pm the line starts forming outside the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey. Hundreds of children wearing bright costumes and clutching their parents’ hands stare at the posters in the window announcing the arrival of the Australian children’s band, The Wiggles: a quartet consisting of one ballet dancer, one opera singer, one classical pianist and one guitar-playing musical encyclopedia.

I hold my little girl on my hip as we wait to have our ticket scanned. We squint in the late September sun. Fall has not arrived; we’re sweating in our dress-up clothes. She has qualms. She says she might prefer to see them only on DVD. Will they be too big? Will they look directly at her? Will she be asked to join them in dancing? Alas, I assure her, we must stay in our seats. She smiles brightly and crookedly and I feel a shiver pass through her. She’s excited to see Emma Watkins up close even though she doesn’t know what up close is, really.  We enter the cavernous theater and she sees the sets that are so familiar from youtube uploads of other Wiggles concerts.

You always get butterflies in a theatre. Every neuron in the brain tingles: something big is going to happen.

Today also marks my mother’s 75th birthday. She was supposed to go to the theater as well. Her boyfriend has tickets to see Cabaret. Instead, she is in the Close Observation unit of a hospital. She’s been delirious all week; her thyroid is riding a roller coaster.

Later I will wrap my mother’s legs in a heating pad, sing a surreal happy birthday with the hospital nursing staff—they have birthday cakes in case—coax her to eat half a sandwich and beg the on-call doctor for more pain medication.

When I tell my mother I have to leave to put my baby girl to sleep, she will grip my arm wildly.  Please don’t leave, she’ll say.  I’ll kiss her goodbye until tomorrow. She reminds me of my daughter, who clutched me so tightly today as the concert began that she cut off my airway.

My mother follows me. At the concert I watch my daughter dance with toddler-abandon and try to scale the stage to join the cast. And there is my mother, at my shoulder. My mother was a dancer. My mother was on the Broadway stage. My mother is having a birthday in a hospital today and I am a state away.

And she is right there, at my shoulder. I’m watching my child in the thrall of her first theater experience. She is so much like my mother when my mother was a young girl. I am so much like my mother, too. My daughter’s fresh-from-the-bath curls that I’ve combed for the show are the same curls that my mother combed on my head. When I look at my daughter, I now see what my mother sees–feel what my mother feels—when she looks at me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

Hate.

April 7, 2015

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

By Jen Pastiloff

So, I am going to start posting more of my (totally high-production level) videos here since they are spreading like wildfire on the interwebs and my Facebook page. I take requests too! Any topic you want tackled? I have fun with these, I try and laugh at myself, I don’t take myself too seriously and I do my best to tell the truth and to tell it like it is. I do my best to not be an asshole. Sometimes, I am. Naturally.

Anyway, today’s is based on request. I blended three requests together because, well, I can. This one seemed to touch a lot of my Facebook tribe so I hope it resonates with you, as well. Walking around with hate in our hearts is so damn exhausting, if nothing else. Watch the videos and leave your comments below.

These are totally off-the-cuff, impromptu, in my living room. I push all my shit out the way so you can’t see my mess. Tricky, huh?

Love, Jen Continue Reading…

Binders, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Little Seal, loss

Cartography for Mourners.

March 2, 2015

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

By Emily Rapp. 

The power of grief to derange the mind has in fact been exhaustively noted.

– Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Maps to Anywhere (Numerous)

I hate maps. I can’t read them, understand them, interpret them, or follow them. I have a whole drawer full of maps and pop-up, fold out street guides for various cities, and although I take them with me when I visit these places, I never consult them. Instead I tote them around in my shoulder bag, my purse, my backpack, and ask people on the street for directions.

 

Map to a Funeral (Hidden)

It is mid-winter in downtown Chicago, and my parents, sitting in the two front seats of a rented mini-van, are huddled over a paper map. Exhaust billows in gray and black streaks past the windows. Commuters look shrouded and miserable, hurrying over frigid sidewalks in the rapidly fading light. I’m in the back seat with my ten-month-old daughter Charlotte, who is strapped in her car seat, babbling and cooing. She doesn’t know this is a terrible blizzard in rush hour, or that someone – my father’s mother, my grandmother – has died. We are driving from Chicago to Pontiac in a storm that feels as thick and relentless as the sound of the word blizzard on the radio, which is turned up high. People are frenzied, worried and watchful, the way people love to be about extreme weather conditions.

My grandmother has died at 93 after refusing food or fluids for two weeks, which is some kind of record. My son, at three years old, lasted only a few days with the same restrictions. Ninety years difference – a literal lifetime – between their ages at death. I struggle to understand what this means or how to absorb it, but generate no cogent thoughts.

Beyond the city limits the interstate is a blur of red and blue emergency lights, car blinkers switching on and off in irregular patterns that compete with the holiday hangers on who leave their Christmas decorations up after the new year. The drivers in the cars stopped on either side of us are reading newspapers spread out over the steering wheels or tapping into their phones, having given up changing lanes. One woman is slumped over, face in her hands, weeping.

My daughter poops her diaper, and I unstrap her from her safety restraints and change her in the unmoving car. My parents are bickering. My brother is waiting at the airport. We’d gone to Soldier’s Field to see the Aquarium, but ended up looking at twenty-year old exhibits of stuffed animals: antelope and bears in permanent yawn, taxidermy tails stalled mid-air. I crammed us all into a photo booth in our last fifteen minutes, because I had an enormous glass of wine for lunch and because we need to laugh.

“We should never have gone.”
“Who could have known we’d get stuck in a blizzard.”

This conversation continues on endless repeat, my parents trading lines between them until I threaten to throw the diaper into the front seat if they don’t change the subject. “Don’t think I won’t!” I shout, and feel like a teenager on vacation with her parents: petulant and trapped, self-righteous and unhappy.

We make it to O’Hare and pick up my brother and my nephew. My dad argues with the security guard, telling her that the airport is designed to be confusing. I tell him this is certainly not true. Through the open van door I toss Charlotte’s diaper into a curbside trashcan.

An hour from O’Hare, far from any lights, wind, snow-thick, swirls white and erratic over the roads mainly clear of cars but still treacherous. My dad drifts between lanes, floats across medians. “You’re fucking scaring me!” I shout when he crosses a road without looking in both directions. My brother glares at me for cursing in front of his ten-year-old son.

We stop at a town outside Chicago, at a sports bar, where six men wearing orange vests sitting at a table turn to stare at us when we walk through the door. We have been in the car for nearly ten hours. When I tell my friend Gina, a native of Chicago, where we ended up for dinner, she tells me she’s lived in Chicago her entire life and I’ve never even heard of that fucking place.

A waitress accidentally spills a beer on my father’s lap.

“This day is shitballs,” I tell him, and hand him a stack of napkins.

“Yep,” he agrees, but he’s laughing. He leaves the apologetic waitress a generous tip.

 

Map to a Church (Unnecessary)

The route to my grandmother’s funeral service is a straight line from the hotel to the church down a road lined with two-story houses, all fenced yards and large wooden porches, the sidewalks stacked on both sides with fresh snow that blows away in sporadic blasts of arctic wind to reveal weeks-old snow covered in soot, stamped with boot and paw prints and pieces of dog shit. The church is near the town lake, where a group of geese huddle together looking stunned and miserable on ice the same color as the wall of cold sky that seems almost low enough to touch the frozen water. I think they’re geese. I know they’re not ducks. I’m not a poet. I don’t know my birds. I don’t know an elm from a poplar. I’m a little bit better with flowers. I know a blue spruce because there was one in my yard in Santa Fe, and it was the one pop of color on the gray winter day two years ago when my son died.

“Don’t they migrate somewhere warmer?” I ask. “Those geese or birds or whatever?” Nobody answers me. At the church, my brother and his son leap out of the car and sprint across the parking lot. The frozen lake reminds me of another frozen lake in Minnesota where I spent one weekend listening to Joni Mitchell records and writing bad poetry (I didn’t know my birds then, either) with a group of college girlfriends; another frozen lake in Wisconsin where I watched five continuous hours of CNN on the first anniversary of 9/11. Both events seem whole lifetimes ago, memories connected to my current life by delicate filaments that show their strength in the strangest moments.

I pick my way across the parking lot with a bundled Charlotte in my arms. Inside people are milling about in front of a funeral board: pictures of my grandmother as a young girl on the farm, on a horse, in the early 1940s with my father in a cute suit, standing in front of a flat white house, with her parents, who are expressionless and shaped like barrels.

My grandmother was cruel to me, and I am not sad that she is dead. I feel like 93 is a pretty good run. She was rarely sick. She had friends and was comfortable.

My dad speaks first, and he tells the congregation that his mother once told him that he could have searched the whole world over and he never could have found a better wife. This is for my mother, to whom my grandmother was also cruel.

The minister gives a dorky eulogy about salvation that doesn’t happen “in the big city,” but instead in “a little church in the prairie.” His language feels vaguely pornographic to me, all this talk of being “chosen” and “choosing,” and my grandmother saying yes to God, again and again she said yes. I can’t stop thinking, sitting in the back pew nursing my child where nobody might happen to see my breast, that there’s no way this guy voted for Obama.

The only time I feel moved is when my second cousin’s husband sings a solo, halting and occasionally off-key version of Beautiful Savior at the lectern. He struggles through all of the verses without looking up. In front of him, on a table decorated with flowers, my grandmother’s ashes are in a simple black box.

After the funeral we eat fried chicken in the church fellowship hall. My grandmother’s sister introduces me to a man who is clearly suffering from dementia.

“This is Emily,” my great-aunt says. “She wrote a book about her baby who died.”

“Who are you?” he asks. “Did somebody die?” He looks around the room. Someone is slowly releasing a Jell-O mold onto a plate in the kitchen. A woman in an apron dumps more chicken into a bowl on the buffet table.

“My grandmother died,” I say. “Lois died.”

My great aunt is frustrated. “Listen,” she says, tapping the table in front of the man.

He looks at her, then at her hands. “Yes? Who are you?”

“I’m Emily,” I say.

“She’s a writer,” my aunt continues, “and her first book is all about…well,” she says, and flaps her hand in the air. “You tell him how you was made wrong.”

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Life, motherhood

A Sweet Ride.

January 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Liz Campbell.

One of the things I love about getting older is my ability to not give a #$@! when it comes to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about a whole lotta stuff, the big stuff, but finally I am reaching a place where I don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew that I had been inching my way towards this space, particularly since becoming a parent. Add to that some huge life events over the past several years, and you’ve got a nifty recipe with which to bake yourself a big fat humble pie.

In my younger years, how things looked was pretty high on my list. My appearance, my home, my car, all things that I felt needed to look ship shape. To have pretty things really was quite important to me. If I take the time to reflect on this, it probably came from a place of simply wanting to fit in and to look, and therefore feel, just like the others. It took some time for the penny to drop that striving for material things in order to keep up with the Jones’s, does not make for a satisfying existence.

As I got older, and life started to throw me some curve balls, worrying about how things looked began to fall by the way side. There were much bigger things that needed my energy and attention – sustaining meaningful relationships, overcoming loss, starting a family, raising children – all big grown up things…things that really mattered. And if I’m honest with myself, I think that getting to the space of not giving a #$@! about stuff came about partly because I was getting to be all grown up, but mainly because I had no time! Who’s got the time or the head space to worry about what car you drive or the latest fashion trend, when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or running on 2 hours sleep a night for months on end with not 1 but TWO colicky babies??! Continue Reading…