Who’s going to want me?
So much of it all boils down to that, doesn’t it?
Who’s going to want me now that I am _____. Put whatever you want in the blank. Go ahead.
Now that I am: Fatherless. Fat. An orphan. Old. Broken. Divorced. Handicapped. Widowed. Left. No Longer Have Perky Tits. Deaf. An Amputee. An Athiest. Sober. A Alcoholic. Lonely. Honest. Motherless. Childless. With Children. Ugly. Bald. Go ahead, put your word in.
You may wake up one day at 5:33 in the morning and shoot up out of bed as if from a nightmare where your car was flying off a cliff and you may find yourself once again muttering those words. Who’s going to want me now that I’m dead?
You’re not dead though. You woke from the dream. See, you are sitting right here, your head matted with sweat, the back of your neck hot and cold at the same time and you are reading these words and nodding along and you are very much alive.
There’s this line from my favorite Robert Lowell poem, Night Sweat, the last line of the poem:
If I cannot clear the surface of these troubled waters here,
absolve me, help me, Dear Heart, as you bear
this world’s dead weight and cycle on your back
He wrote about having nothing to write about, a variation on the good old Who will want me is Who will read me? How much dead weight we carry. Look how much.
My friend Steve Bridges died last year. His sweet little maid found him on his couch like he’d fallen asleep watching television. She’d tried to cover him with a blanket at first until she realized what the reality was. I don’t ever wish that I’d been her that morning, covering Mr. Steve with a Mexican blanket only to realize that no matter he’d always stay cold.
She’d worked for him for years, they’d sat in his kitchen while she cleaned and he wrote and laugh and laugh and she’d loved him. So when she realized he wasn’t sleeping but dead, her sweet little heart must have stopped and I would wager a bet it has been beating a little differently since that morning. Perhaps that thought came rushing at her one morning in her own bed, Who’s going to want me now? Who will make me laugh in their kitchen?
When he died, I kept teaching my yoga classes, but I would have to turn around so that my back faced the class. I would cry and then wipe the tears and tell them to take a vinyasa or do child’s pose. Sometimes I just let the tears fall because the truth of the matter is that they expected nothing less than for me to take him right into class with me that week. They commended me for my willingness to show them my suffering and heartache because they had felt it too, and sometimes we actually need to remember that feeling, that raw my gut is ripped out feeling so we wake the fuck up. We all woke up that week or two after he died.
Steve and I hadn’t known each other terribly long. Oh, but we had. (Isn’t that such a yoga teachery thing to say?) We had known each other our whole lives so when we met it was not a thing. He started coming on my retreats and I referred to him as my brother and he referred to me as his teacher, his agent, his sister, his friend. We loved each other, we did. With Steve, I never felt the ghost of Who’s going to want me now?
Yes, I am married. It’s beyond that even. It’s a cellular level instinct that goes way behind the logical, the rational, the explainable, all the way to the center of the Earth where it pierces and shrieks.
He listened to me. He saw me in a way few others have ever seen me. When he died, that shriek howled from the depths of the world and knocked me over, right in the middle of the street. It was impossible. Impossible that he was dead. I tried crawling my way through the dirt and mud towards that sound coming from below but I was stuck, reeling from the explosion, I was stuck. I couldn’t get him back.
Before he died, the last conversation we had actually, was in Mexico. It was the last day of my retreat and we sat eye to eye as everyone else took pictures of themselves doing various yoga poses below on the beach. He told me that he wanted a family. He said something to the effect of I can’t leave the earth without having a child. In the movie version, I will insert some foreboding music there so we know its foreshadowing and that he will never ever have a child. We should know this when the music plays and the two people sit eye to eye above a Mexican beach as happy as they’ve ever been with such a knowing that the Who’s Going to Want Me Now? is so far in the past, because, to have found a tribe like this, nothing could ever go wrong, all was good in the world. All was safe.
I didn’t get over his death but I kept going. It’s what we do. Someone dies and you keep going. That is Choice A. Choice B is you die. I did not die nor did I want to, to so I kept going. Eventually I felt a little less sad because, Time, that ruthless beast, does that. It softens you in some places and that the same time ages you and hardens you but mostly it dulls the pain. Believe me on this. If we remembered all our visits to the dentists and all our heartbreaks with clarity we would have rotting mouths and we’d all be alone in our rooms watching The Bachelor.
This morning I popped up at 5:33 in the morning. I am on England time so it is 8 hours ahead. I popped up and Who’s going to want me now clamored me over the top of the head. I was reading an article on The NY Times about the incomparable George Saunders’ newest book. He is 54 and started publishing at 37. I thought: Oh, Ok, Good. I’m ok. I am around that age.
I have not published anything yet. No books, no short stories. I am Saunders age when he wrote his first book and what have I done so far? I have been a waitress for decades and now a yoga teacher and here it is. Drumroll, it’s coming: Who Is Going To Want Me Now?
Right over the fucking head like a bat.
I am not looking for advice. I am talking about a deep guttural voice with a trajectory to nowhere that I have to conquer on my own like I am in a battle zone. And I am. With my life.
I do not know who will want me. I can let that stop me and not write my book and not try to publish it or I can write it and have a deep knowing that someone will take it and if they don’t, they don’t. I will then keep going. I will not use it as some sort of empirical proof to say See? See? No One Wants me.
Every time someone has left me (there’ve been two major ones, three if you count my father), I have questioned who would ever want me again as if they were the only two men on the planet and I was an untouchable.
Someone did want. Many did. Not just men and not just sexual. You are reading my words. You want me. But screw all that. Here’s the kick in the pants I was talking about the other day: I want me.
Most days. Most days I want me and from there I go. I go from there armed with my self-love and my husband and my indefatigable urge to write write write.
Then there are days like today where I wake up and my heart has fallen out and rolled somewhere under the bed next to some old birthday cards and a shoe. I have to crawl around in the dark and move through some dust, but I find it and screw it back in. It happens. It’s bound to do that once in a while because there is some ancient agreement I must have signed long ago before I knew I was signing it. I ripped up the agreement but there are days when the memory of the signature is strong enough to stop me in my tracks and have me say to myself Just Who Do You Think You Are?
Finally I am getting to it. The point. Who do you think you are? Go back to your blanks. Fat, Legless, Manless, Childless, No Longer Young, whatever it was you signed to on that contract, I want you to scribble it out. Get a black magic marker or some other stinky kind of pen and scribble it out at least a hundred times. Then, leave it blank.
You think 38 years old sums you up? You think divorced says it all?
You can’t define yourself in a word. You are a world, Dear Heart.
A little clip of Steve and I.
Jen, This is a gorgeous piece! It really spoke to me. I have two books in progress and five others in various stages of planning because writing is what I can still do after several disabling conditions weaseled their way into my body. So, I write. So, I play but who will want to read me and I tell that annoying little bitch to shut up and let me be. It does not mean I am less anxious it just means I am doing my part. If this really is the destiny I feel it is, readers will come. Of course, that only encourages the what if I am wrong questioning which sends me looking for support and advice from my collection of Sages and once in a while I find someone new. Thank you for being here today.
wow. seriously. just make your first book a copy of your blog for F’s sake, because really, it’s done already. get it under your pj’ so you can have it out of the way. so you can have an inkling of an iota of certainty zillions of people love you.
start making notes on the next one now. here’s an idea for the preface … one sentence: “Thank you, I love you too, just as you are.”
YES! ummmhmmm. i want ME- when that hits you… when you realize at 37, 45, 52 (i rediscovered me at 52) ~ yes, there is a me (not just an I -that selfish ego voice, not just a mom, wife, daughter, teacher…) and you realize me is the heart and soul and love you manifest, then me is free…maybe too “yogi” for some, but dammit it’s true
wow. thank you you amazing you.
“You can’t define yourself in a word. You are a world, Dear Heart.” I think you should consider running next election term to become the first woman president =) But then again we don’t necessarily need titles such as “President”, “Being a “published Author”, “Being the most successful business person” to define who we are. Yes, It’s nice to be known for something, yet I’m starting to learn and thankfully at a young age (I’m 24 yet feel like I’m going on 34 at times lol )that it’s pretty cool just to be known for being someone. It’s nice to be known for inventing the IPOD, IPAD, IPHONE. And I’m sure it was for Steve Jobs, who didn’t just see himself as “Mr. Apple.” He’s left a legacy of not only some of the best technology we’ve ever seen in our lifetime, but he was what I like to call a “good soul.” I’ve read so many great quotes he’s had to say. So yeah, I think to be known as someone who is nice, genuine, considerate, compassionate, loving. All of which I would say definitely describes you as well Miss Jen =) are pretty admirable qualities to have. You may not have “published” a book yet, but as we know nothing happens over night. Your working on it and you seem like a pretty determined young woman (Yes 38 is the new 28 =) I know I don’t know you that well (even though I feel like I have for quite a while) but I have no doubt in my mind that you will achieve what it is you want for yourself and your life. Look at all you’ve already accomplished. I haven’t been much of a reader lately, but I honestly enjoy reading your articles (and for me to read something other than my school textbooks says A LOT! LOL) However, I do want to start reading more. And write. I totally understand your love for writing. It’s quite therapeutic and such a great way to express oneself.
I see so many of your “tribe” (love that by the way!) liking and commenting on everything you have to say. That says a lot. There’s thousands and thousands (and I’m sure it will only continue to grow for you) of people who want you in their lives and who want to hear what you have to say. What you have to say resonates with so many of us, because it’s so honest and authentic. You have a way of making it feel okay to not have it “all together” and that although we may struggle with personal obstacles, we can get through them. We can indeed come out on the other side of the “dark tunnel” and eventually see the sunshine again. I know I’ve said this to you before, but I will say it again. I’m thankful for having you as a part of my “facebook world” lol Yet, I always like to say “I’d rather be your friend than your friend on facebook.” lol. But I also see you as someone I can look up to (kind of like a mentor or teacher), because I happen to see a lot of myself in you. I know that I’m only 24 years old…but I can only hope to be in your mindset and see life the way you do at the YOUNG age of 38 of course haha.
Anyways thanks again for writing this great article.You know, I actually lost my dad when I was 9 years old. He had melanoma cancer. I can definitely relate with you in regards to losing your father and steve. Losing anyone we care about is always hard, even if we only knew them for a short period of time. But like you said, sometimes we meet people in our lives that we may have not known for a while, yet we feel like we’ve known them for a lifetime. I’ve also lost other family members and people I’ve cared about in my life. Even though it’s been many years since my dad passed away, I do at times think about how unfair it is. (I know they say the past is the past and that we need to live in the moment.” I totally agree with that statement. But I think it’s okay to feel the way we do. In fact, I think it’s completely normal and understandable. I thought of it when I read the beginning of your article. “Who’s going to want me now that I am…. fatherless.” Yes, my mom did re-marry and I’ve had my stepdad in my life for over 14 years. We get along now much better than we used to lol but I know that he can never take the place of my dad.
Yet, he’s started to fill a bit of that “void” within my heart that I still continue to feel about the loss of my dad. He’s shown me love. Many people in my life have. And it helps. As The Beatles say, “All you need is love” =) Many things have helped, like surrounding myself with the good “tribe” of people I have in my life (surrounding myself with love) doing things that make me happy, and always reminding myself that even though my dad’s presence may not be here with me today, his spirit will always continue to live within me, just like your dad’s and steve’s spirit will continue to live within you. You write about your dad and how much he meant to you all the time, and express how you feel to your clients and friends on facebook. Your reaching out and helping others who may have lost a loved one. Maybe because of something you’e said someone’s day is a bit better than it was. We never know who we may be impacting in our lives with a simple word or act of kindness. And because of your dad you are the person you are today. We get to read your inspirational and wisdom filled articles everyday =)
your writing is so … alive. yea, that’s it. alive. it seeps into me. it has become more than words, though. it’s not scary. it’s not smiley face writing. it’s soulful & kind at the same time. it feels like an open heart is speaking through a friend’s luscious lips over lunch or tea or someplace fancy you have time to be yourself. familiar & special & unique all at once. and yes, of course, beautiful too. definitely beautiful.
Oh, Jennifer Pastiloff… Where have you been, that I have not found you until now?
Where have I been?
Thank you for writing with a real voice.
My eyes are listening deeply to your written words, soaking them up- and I hear them as mine.
I feel so connect-y… I love that… Thank you…
Jennifer, I know you get this all the time, but this has come at a vital time for me. Lately I have been working on not just quieting that voice within me, not just beating it down or vanquishing it, but talking it ’round, trying to convince it that it’s on the wrong track. Who’ll want me in time for me to have children, because I only have a few good years left for that? Who’ll want me now that my always unnaturally perky breasts suddenly decided to start acting their age after all, just after I became single again, when I needed them the most? Who’ll want me for who I am and not just who they think I am, or what they think they can get from me? Who’ll want me now I’m middle-aged, and no longer sought-after as I was when I was young and unavailable? Who’ll want a comic book-reading, vegetarian atheist with little concept of the passage of time and a pronounced social awkwardness and a slowness to warm to people in person? I don’t get these thoughts often, fortunately. When I do, the sensible, loving part of my brain takes over and uses logic and compassion to calm me. When I get those thoughts, they’re usually worsened by my intolerance of the fact that I should still entertain such thoughts, even for a minute. I’m learning to accept that I have these concerns, and while they may have a basis in reality, they are not me. The fear is not me. The things I fear are not me. There are people who love me. There are people who find me interesting. Moreover, I am one of these people now. I may not end up with what I think I absolutely want, but I like what I have and who I am. I’m sure I’ll like what I get and become, too, no matter what it is. Things always then out for the best for those who make the best of how they turn out. Thank you for sharing your heart and thoughts, even your concerns. It lets the rest of us know that we are not alone and not nearly as strange as we think we are.
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So much to think about. So true. So many “who will want me’s at 64 with a knee replacement and silver hair or I rock sounds so much better. Thanks for being so insightful.
You tell it like it is, you speak your truth and all its humanity, it’s gorgeous, inspiring, we can see ourselves in you, we can see the ultimate love we all are. This is an enormous gift. You WILl publish your book. And I’ll be the first to buy it. Thank you, dear heart. Thank you, sister.
love. you’re the best! 🙂
Jen, I find you quite incredible! Thank you for your gifts that you so openly and wholeheartedly share with us!
Our souls are on the same frequency Jennifer Pastiloff. With you every thought and word you add splendidly to the fabric of humanity and the Universe. What you do or don’t do is irrelevant. That you ARE is enough.
Thank you Jen. (“Who’s going to want me when I’m ___scarred. deformed. abnormal.___”)