Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station:
This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.
And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.
I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve?
I intend to carry on that legacy.
I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.
And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.
How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.
Melanie McNair has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Melanie. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.
At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”
Love, Jen Pastiloff
ps, I am writing this from the air as I head back from New York. The launch of my labor of love, my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshops, was this past weekend in Princeton and NY. It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I will keep you all posted on the next one. This movement is so needed.
Time Time Time
By Melanie McNair
- If one more person tells me it’s all for the best, I might resort to violence.
- In May, I was in New York, having a meal with some of my favorite women. My friend Jeanne was next to me and she asked in her quiet, thoughtful way what I was up to. I replied with the list of big life changes to come the following few weeks: graduate with an MFA, move to my hometown with the love of my life to start building a life together in a beautiful place, turn forty, marry the love of my life.
“Everything is coming up Melanie,” Jeanne said.
I winced. It didn’t feel that way even though I knew it was supposed to. There were other details. I was at the lowest I have ever been with my confidence in my writing. My brother and sister were not coming to my wedding. My father was coming, but that was all he would be able to do. He was absorbed with taking care of my stepmom—his second wife with cancer. My mother was long dead and I felt her absence keenly.
I didn’t want to lay this on my friend. Jeanne had lost weight since I had last seen her. The chemo she had undergone since before I had met her was a broken levee.
Besides, I still had the love of my life. Whatever happened, we would laugh before we went to sleep at night. We would always be okay.
- Three weeks before our wedding date, before our boxes had arrived in our new home, I opened my laptop when my fiancée was at work and saw that she had emailed a newly composed song to another woman. She had also told that woman she loved her. She had also made plans to be with that woman when she went out of town for a gig.
- I turned forty back up north where I went to take shelter with a friend while my ex stayed in my hometown with her parents. They had booked flights from Australia for the wedding and it was too late to cancel.
- The day after the Supreme Court’s ruling made marriage equality the law nationwide was to be our wedding day. That night I went to a Shawn Colvin concert. She apologized to the audience, saying that all of her songs were about breakups. I was the only one who clapped. It was a great show.
- My ex decided to stay in my hometown, too. It is small.
- My friend Jeanne died.
- I got a job and then another job—both part time. On my days off I worked to find someone to take over the lease in the place where we had moved because I could not afford it. I moved again last month to a place I can afford, spending every penny of the savings I managed to put together on a graduate stipend in the process. I found a roommate. Four months after filling boxes, I still have not unpacked most of my things.
- I have worked six or seven days a week for over two months now.
I am an introvert with insufficient time alone and very little creative idle time.
I am weary.
- That question of unworthiness is scratching away at the edges of my consciousness, looking for a place to come in to nest. Rejection triggers something akin to adolescence. It is awkward. The mirrors are warped and broken.
- All of this is to say, I need a little time and I need a little space and I need the company of kind women. I could probably manage to put together a few of these essentials on my own, but it would not have the same life-changing quality as an intentional mind/body/sprit retreat like yours.
- My writing practice since grad school consists mostly of note taking. I have ideas. I have excuses, too, good ones, for not doing more. But I want to play on team No Excuses.
- It has taken me almost three months to look at my computer without seeing her betrayal.
- I know it is essential that I rise out of this pit through writing. Emily Black knows something about this life saving writing practice.
- It is also essential that I fully inhabit my body where all that is true is distinguished from all that is false. If I had known I could trust that feeling in my gut sooner, I might not have been so stunned by the cruelty of others. Jen Pastiloff knows something about this body wisdom.
- Just to show that I have not lost my sense of humor or fallen completely into a steaming vat of self-pity, I have already begun planning a line of greeting cards for people going through periods of time where shit piles on shit. All of them include generous use of the word fuck. All I need is a few hours with a graphic designer and I will transform this bullshit summer into pure capitalist gold.
- It is all for the best. But the truth is that I currently have a gaping wound where my life was split open. I only know of two things that heal wounds like that. The first is time. The second is story.
- Everyone knows that beautiful scenery and openhearted women enhance both time and story.
Melanie …. I hear you ….. betrayal is fucking brutal.
Find your strength and hold it close …. never, never doubt it is there.
OH MELANIE, such stark eloquence. I am grateful you were awarded this opportunity you so clearly deserve. I look forward to witnessing more of your story. Congratulations sweet wounded soul!
Beautiful. Good luck Melanie and have a great time!
So well done. Speaking your truth is an amazing journey. I wish you much joy