Let Go Or Be Dragged.

January 5, 2013

I am a fish. A stink ripped fish.

I am like a fish. Maybe an oily carp with a big fat hook stuck in my mouth.

That’s what I feel like when I get hooked. Except, unlike fish, I have no built in mechanism that dissolves the hook. That rusty hook just stays in my mouth and catches on other things, as hooks will tend to do. Its in their nature to catch things.

But I’m not a fish. Let me start over.

I am a human. A woman.

I simply get gut hooked and forget sometimes who I am.

Take today for instance. Someone, I have no idea who, commented on one of my essays that it sounded like I plagiarized Brene Brown. And also I’m tired of the blogs that are suddenly rehashing her research without crediting her work. There’s been an explosion of this since her research on vulnerability and wholeheartedness came out.

Hooked. Baited and hooked.

I read the comment (I should start to get in the habit of not reading them. There will in fact, be loads of people who “hate” my book. I won’t lie and say it won’t bother me so best to just not read them, right?) and right after I read the comment I got in a bad mood. I had been in a great mood before that. I felt the hook dig in and the skin in my cheek rip and bleed all over my day. Ruined. How could she say I plagiarized? I have someone doing that to me and it feels awful. I would never, could never, do this. How and why and how dare she or he or whoever and I love Brene Brown, I would never do that and I am repeating myself

and with a hook stuck in me and who cares anyway?

Pull the hook out. Pull. It. Out. Jennifer.

I remember being obsessed with this one professor I’d had at NYU. He wore leather jackets and washed his hands a lot and he smoked in class. Smoked! And I am not that old. He just smoked. In class. You weren’t allowed, it wasn’t the 70’s or 80’s. But he did it and I sat in the front row and usually had no idea what he was talking about but I had fantasies about him and signed up for his classes again and again. That was where I first learned of the anxiety of influence. The Anxiety of Influence, aside from an idea that permeates my existence, is a book by the esteemed Harold Bloom where he talks in very academic prose about how we are all basically influenced by someone else and that creates anxiety. Yes, he was talking about poets but I would like to suggest it is non-poets as well. It is people. How can we not be influenced, read: inspired, by others. So yes, Mrs. Fisherman who threw a hook in my mouth and then left me to die, I am influenced by Brene Brown but I did not plagiarize her, you nincompoop. What I wrote doesn’t even remotely sound like her. There’s that hook again.

The things that hook me. That hook us. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Look, the things that hook me that are good are what inspires me, and yes, Brene Brown is on that list. I get hooked easily. That’s why I write so damn much. I don’t get thrown back into the river all the time, so I sit at the computer with the hook in my mouth until its in my throat and then, all of a sudden, its gone. Its out in the world and I am better for it.

Then there’s the bad and the ugly. The anxiety. The jealousy. The comparing myself, not only to others but to earlier or different versions of myself. Look how skinny I was back then! Look what she can do! Its bad and ugly because I am not using it to inspire. I am using it to make myself small and pitiful and stinky as a dead fish.

Then there’s the really ugly. What fits in this category: the person who actually is plagiarizing me and how it turns my inside upon themselves until I am left with nothing but flailing hands and a high-pitched voice. The hook got in me so deep that I might die if I don’t rip it out myself with my bare hands.

So I do. I rip it out.

Perhaps why that comment got me today. The accuser is being accused? How ironic.

There will always be things that hook us. There will always be a line waiting out there at sea, sometimes so patiently that you forget it might try and kill you as it sits there with a beer and a boat and some sunburn.

Not all the things that hook us kill us. But they fester. I got hooked by a teacher who was way older than me and who had OCD and was bald. I was 19 or 20. I ate puffed air in class and sucked on it for long periods of time so it would last me longer as he talked about Thomas Hardy and here I am writing about him almost 20 years later. He hooked me.

What kills us are the hooks we let kill us. The hooks we let dig deeper and deeper into our flesh until they are part of us and we can’t remember where we began and where we end, we can’t tell the difference between our heart and a crappy piece of metal.

I want to choose more of the things that hook me. I am not a fish. I get some say in the matter.

Let go or be dragged.




Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

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No Comments

  • Reply Joyce January 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    <3 You are who you are, dragged or otherwise, I thank you, I read you and I feel, it makes me feel a lot more than I'm ready to, and I thank you

  • Reply Rachael January 5, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    I read that woman’s comment earlier Jen, and the hostility even got to me a little bit!

    But, I read manifestation, mindfulness, and self-help “stuff” almost daily. I even read about it and work on it so much myself that I began to write. And the truth is, a lot of what everyone out there writing about is the same. A lot of it sounds the same, and may even sound EXACTLY like someone else, even though we have no intention of copying them. The difference is we write about it in our own little way, and there are so many people in this world that they will read it and interpret it in exactly the way they need to at the moment. And so, all of the “repeated” information is exactly perfect and exactly where it needs to be, said by who needs to say it, and read by who needs to read it. All that matters is our integrity in our own words, and the humility to admit when allow someone to erk us, even when we know better.

    Thank you for writing. <3

  • Reply Diane Astourian January 5, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    I disagree with whoever wrote that comment. Brene Brown’s work is wonderful, but she doesn’t have a monopoly on being open and vulnerable. You don’t even come close to plagiarizing… everything you write is deeply personal. This woman is making it sound like being genuine is so un-human that everyone else doing it is being unoriginal. And that’s pretty sad.

  • Reply jamesvincentknowles January 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    geeze-oh, Jennifer. you’re funny like one of those talking fish toys that sing when you press their button. cute, funny & fun. fun that lingers. have you seen one? think of it now. makes me laugh out loud, the awesomeness of the idea. which, btw, you to do a lot … have awesome, distinctive, unique ideas.

    I would yell at you if you could hear me right now, “change your belief, Jennifer!”, because I am quite certain the number of people who will hate your book won’t even be enough to fit on your yoga mat. your own heart is what hooks me. it’ll be that way for those who read your book, as well. they’ll all get hooked on you & in & through your writing, me thinks you have the magic to overcome your anxiety of influence. I mean, just look at how frequently you overcome it already with everything you write~!

  • Reply emily b January 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I very much needed to read this tonight, as I’ve been struggling to pull a very sharp hook of my own out for months (it’s a big one). Thank you for the inspiration – what strength this gives me!

  • Reply Christine Arden January 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I’m home sick today so have spent the day reading. This is the second essay of yours I read today. Love your vulnerability expressed so vividly. My advice: take what is useful from criticism and let the rest drift off like smoke in the wind.

  • Reply AshtangAl January 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    You are loved so much more than you are not, and I don’t care what anyone says, you my dear ROCK!

  • Reply pixelrites January 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    When you come from a space of Love, as you do, it shows, it’s authentic. Whoever says otherwise, well it’s their loss and the wonderful comments you receive should outweigh those few negatives. Best wishes and I say stay away from the shallow waters … x

  • Reply Rachel January 6, 2013 at 1:05 am

    Hey Jen,

    I’m a newbie to your blogs, and signed up for the daily notices a few weeks ago. I swear you have some sixth sense for what I’m feeling that day. Especially this post, I won’t bore you, or anyone else, with the long boring story, but I found myself feeling hooked on the past. I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart (or maybe from my toes. that sound grander doesn’t it?) for all of your posts. These have been a way to help keep myself in check. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your honesty with what you post, and how you always hit the nail on the head. I just wanted to say a great big thank you! 😀


  • Reply CleanCalmConditioned January 6, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Believe in your own word, Jen, not anyone else’s.

  • Reply Jean January 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm


    Your writing is genuine, personal and unique, unlike anything I have ever read. You give 100% to your readers. Let go of the unfounded criticism and rejoice in being wonderful, artistic, compassionate you!



  • Reply OneHotMess January 6, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    As a woman who was raised fly fishing in Montana, keep a pair of wire clippers handy at all times. Snip off the barbed end and the rest of the baby slides out easily, and painlessly. Then throw the damned thing away. After you’ve trimmed the hook of it’s barb, it is worthless and useless. It probably was before, too, but now you can get those hooks out more easily. 😉

  • Reply Tina May 7, 2014 at 11:56 am

    I couldn’t agree more – I’m hooked by a lot!!! Good bad and sometimes scary. I’m there now. I’m aware if it and I feel better for just that. But I’m working on finding my attraction to the hook- do I seek it out? Some times I think I do but other times it’s because I care and I can’t stop myself from being hooked by someone or something that I love. I guess what I am learning is to take control of my hooks and be aware of how I get dragged and how long I want to sustain the drag. I needed this today! You hooked me and you do almost daily. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your soul with the world:)

  • Reply christine breit May 7, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    you might not be reading these anymore, (i still would be, couldn’t help myself)….but i responded to your piece on survival last week here and my gf Marta Tracy told you how much I appreciate your brutal honesty and how it’s something I can relate to. I completely need to read this from someone that appears to have it all together. Scratch our surface a bit and see the flaws. Not everyone is that brave. You are and I applaud it. thanks so much for these…..

    • Reply JenPastiloff May 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      I do read it and I am humbled. Thank you. xx

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