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Gratitude

cancer, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Heroes

Masks

October 31, 2015

By Joules Evans

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This is a tale of two masks, this mane and this zebra pencil. It’s a comedy about a tragedy. One of my own doing.

But first, a tale of two sons.

Act 1: Matt. Matt has always liked (and still likes) to dress up as his heroes and supmatt3erheroes. Davy Crockett. Indiana Jones. Andy (from Toy Story). Mario. Siracha hot sauce. Spidermat, I mean, Spiderman. The thing about masks is they hide our true identity. When Matt puts on his Spidey mask HE IS SPIDERMAN. Matt is underneath, but hidden. It’s a pretty epic mystery. Like how nobody spies Superman underneath Clark Kent’s glasses. But the other thing about masks is they can also reveal. When Matt puts on his Spidey mask he is revealing something about himself.  Inside, he is a superhero. In his own way, he is and has always been out to save the day, save the girl, save the world. In a sense, in essence, HE IS SPIDERMAN. Even without a mask. And he has been all his life. Once when he was 5 or 6, we were at his little brother’s baseball game and it started raining. My little superhero took off his mask, in this case the shirt off his back (but to me it was a superhero’s cape) and put it on the bleachers for me to sit on so I could stay dry.

Act 2: Mikeyy. Not surprisingly Mikeyy followed in his big brother’s steps as far as dressing up as mikey1superheroes. Superman. Michael Jordan. Michaelangelo. Daniel Boone to Matt’s Davy Crockett. Buzz Lightyear to Matt’s Andy. Luigi to Matt’s Mario. Batman to Matt’s Spiderman. One thing that was revealed early about Mikeyy was that he is and always has been a peacemaker. And later, when he sometimes ended up dressing up as the bad guys because all the good guys were all, already taken by everybody else, it revealed something else about him. Like when he dressed up as Voldemort for the midnight premiere of the final Harry Potter movie. Mikeyy shaved his head AND HIS EYEBROWS. What it revealed about Mikeyy is commitment to the nines. He was Voldemort that night. Not only did he win best costume, but everybody in the theatre wanted their picture with him. What it hid was this mama’s utter shock at seeing my baby boy bald all the way down to his eyebrows, since I’d just grown mine back from fighting cancer. It was like looking in a mirror. Like I was seeing my own reflection, back in time.

Act 3: It’s just hair. That’s what I tried to tell myself when I found out I had breast cancer and that the chemo was going to be an ultimate wardrobe malfunction and make my hair fall out. #tbt to August 20, 2008. THE superpowerinciting incident of all inciting incidents in my life, in which this mask was lifted. My cancer… (yes, mine. I own it; it does NOT own me. Or define me. But it is part of my story. My story. Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, beauty, Binders, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration

How To Sleep Alone

October 14, 2015

By Mallory McDuff

First, make your bed every morning, so you can anticipate the ritual of pulling down the quilt and sheets at night, just as you look forward to opening a beer while cooking dinner after work. If possible, sleep under a bright-colored quilt that has sentimental value, surrounding you with memories that tilt your dreams toward love.

To be more precise, sleep under a quilt hand sewn by your mother in the classic pattern “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” with hexagonal patterns repeated in bright pastels and primary colors. The quilt defies you to slump into depression and has graced your bed for the past 10 years.

Before she died at the age of 59 years old, your mother sewed those hexagons  – her first quilt ever – while you were busy having a baby, going to grad school, and sleeping with a man on a futon, under a tapestry from Goodwill.

But now you sleep alone under her quilt, and you cherish every hexagon, even the ones that are frayed around the edges, torn cotton from where your two daughters have jumped onto the bed, revealing white bunting underneath, like rabbit tails poking out where they shouldn’t be.

When you make the bed each morning, you think about finding someone to repair the quilt, maybe Lupe, the talented tailor and photographer who goes to your church. But you never call him. There’s always a more pressing task, like getting kids to school, grading papers, cooking dinner, and then it’s time to go to bed again. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Rooted Mobility

October 10, 2015

By Ashley Nicole Doonan

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines home as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” What if I disagreed with the Oxford University Press? What if I told you that home is something that you carry with you. Maybe you’ll roll your eyes and tell me to stop speaking in abstracts. Or maybe you, too, understand what it’s like to possess this internal shelter, built gradually as a result of the overabundance of physical homes.

I could you tell you about what I called at age three “the big blue house”—the only home that I knew for the first six years of my life. I could tell you about the Easter-lilac painted walls of my bedroom and my Barbie-themed wallpaper. I could tell you about the canopy bed that I received at age four, informally known as my fortress. I could tell you about the picture window in the living room where the sunlight flooded in at dusk upon the grey sofa. I’d curl up on that sofa for long naps and suck on the middle and index finger of my left hand—an infantile habit that I couldn’t seem to break. I could tell you how my almond-colored eyes lit up each afternoon when my father returned home from work. I would shriek “Daddy!” and eagerly leap into his broad arms, wrinkling the carefully ironed creases of his suit.

I could tell you what it’s like to lose everything when you’re too young to comprehend that loss. I could tell you what it was like to smell the lemon-scented disinfectant and listen to the vacuum do its final sweep of the living room, as the realtor impatiently waited in her ebony pencil skirt and overpriced stilettos for us to clear out the last of our things. I could tell you that at six years old, I kissed the speckled-black carpet before I exited the house for the final time. I could tell you how I stubbornly threw myself across that carpet and begged my mother to let us stay; the warm tears flowed generously down my face. I could tell you about the perfume that my mother wore that day, Estee Launder, and how that smell was the only familiar thing to me after we left the house.

I could tell you about the silent heartbreak in my mother’s expression as she carried me down the steps of the sapphire-blue porch on that humid July afternoon. This was same porch that was long enough for me to learn to ride my first bicycle on. But it was somehow shorter that day. Too short. I could tell you about the heaviness of the July air in that moment. Air too heavy to breathe in comfortably—I could have sworn we were ten times closer to the equator than I’d ever been. I could tell you that Matchbox Twenty’s “Long Day” blared through the speakers of our tawny minivan as it stalled down the paved driveway for the last time.

***

I could tell you about the apartment complex in Gloucester that we resided in for less than a year thereafter. I could tell you about the sea breeze that seemed like a permanent fixture of the residence. The air was not heavy, but salty. My mother would often bring my brother and me on walks down to the nearby pier because there was more to see there than there was within the cold, white walls of our apartment. I could tell you about the strangers that I’d occasionally see in the corridors of the building. I could tell you about the key card that we used to enter our room—equip with one and a half bathrooms and a kitchenette with black-and-white checkered floors. I could tell you that this residence was never technically my “permanent address.” My mother shuttled me thirty minutes to attend school and dance practices at “home.” I could tell you how at the tender age of seven, I knew to keep this place a secret; I understood that “living under the radar” meant that we might not lose everything all at once. I could tell you about the chlorine filled pool adjacent to our building and the metallic silver elevator that led us to our room. I could tell you what it’s like to spend a year in what was more a like a hotel than a home. Continue Reading…

Don't Be An Asshole Series, Gratitude, Guest Posts

What Doesn’t Kill You.

December 1, 2014

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By Jen Pastiloff.

I wrote this for Thanksgiving but hey, it’s still close enough to Thanksgiving. It’s “Cyber Monday.” Who the hell uses the word “cyber” anymore, anyway? Happy Cyber Monday! Another reason to shop! This is America!

This was my T-Day post:

Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful. Two of my friends just lost their sisters two days apart, right before Thanksgiving. This little boy, Benny, the one I posted about a few weeks ago (click here to donate), is legally blind, has Prader Willi Syndrome like my nephew Blaise, has had fifteen surgeries on his back, and now, just last month, had an accident that left him paralyzed. Happy Thanksgiving.

Not.

But the thing is, and I mean, this really is the crux of my forthcoming book Beauty Hunting – we must find the good in the bad, we must find the slivers of beauty in the pain, we must find what we have to be grateful for. Otherwise – life is torturous and ugly and mean and filled with pot-holes.

I created this series I’ve written about called “The Don’t Be An Asshole” series or otherwise known as The DBAA Series, whereupon I make fun of myself. I call myself out. I hope to lead by example and remind us all not to take ourselves so seriously, because hey, life sure can suck at times already. Why should we add to that suckiness?

Continue Reading…

Don't Be An Asshole Series, Gratitude, Guest Posts

Happy Thanksgiving Or “Don’t Be An Asshole” Day!

November 27, 2014

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By Jen Pastiloff

Happy Thanksgiving! I realize many of the readers of this site are not in The U.S. so I have also named this holiday The Don’t Be An Asshole Day because really, what better day to not be one? To be grateful? It’s a perfect day to NOT be an asshole.

Last night I was talking to one of my most cherished friends (Annie Sertich) about the joys of getting older. I am being a bit sarcastic (crows feet, drooping eyes, receding hairline, ext) but hear me out: I am very grateful to get older. My dad did not get that. He did get to say, “Wahhh, poor me, I am turning 40.”

Getting older is a joy. Even if sometimes the things that happen to our bodies and skin and hair and all the rest don’t feel like it. It’s an honor. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love

Thanksgiving Challenge.

November 27, 2014

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By Jean Klein.

A few weeks ago I was involved in a conversation about challenge. I was quick to say I don’t feel the need to be in competition with anyone. I later realized I was wrong. I need to challenge myself everyday to be the best person I can be. To love, care, and respect everyone. To be gentle, and kind.

So one of my challenges to myself this Thanksgiving is this: To contact family and friends that I will not be able to see for the holiday by phone. To TALK to them, to tell them you love you. To LISTEN to them. To hear their voices.

While I understand social media and text has its pros and cons I believe we have forgotten what it is like to speak to each other and listen. We, myself included are to quick to message someone, post something on their wall, or tweet. Or, just send a quick text.

I want to challenge everyone to take a few minutes this Thanksgiving to pick up your phone, not to post, tweet, or text, but to CALL someone. Call your friends or family members. Let them know you are thinking about them and that you love them. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration

The Opposite of Apathy.

October 30, 2014

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By Jenna Tico.
When you step off the plane in Rwanda, the air smells of fire. That’s what they don’t tell you; they, meaning the countless guidebooks delineating which sandals to buy (orthotic, waterproof), which bug spray to slather (to DEET or not to DEET?), and how—in moments of inevitable gastrointestinal agony—to avoid bringing home any parasites. Handmade paper beads, yes: parasites, no. Yet for all of their guidance, not a single text captures the feeling of landing on African soil, the pungent earth squishing beneath your sandals (orthotic, waterproof) as the nighttime air clicks with voices and insects. Not one of them speaks of the smell, of the sticky-sweet heat that seeps into your pores as you step on the tarmac, knowing full well that you’ll never again feel what you felt like Before.For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a traveler’s soul. Before I ever left the United States, gathering passport stamps like badges of love, my brain had one foot out the door: and before long, that pull became inseparable from volunteerism abroad. At a Liberal Arts college, the only thing more common to hear than “God, I’m so TIRED” was the ever-present game of charity poker: I see your volunteer trip to Haiti, and raise you an orphanage-building in Chad. For a young girl who knew only that I needed to go—and from that forward motion, hopefully enact some positive change—this was a strange phenomenon. Moreover, it was stifling: to disentangle desire from the pressure to look good in a letter, smiling-but-not-smiling as a smattering of indigenous children sit stoically by, was daunting. Tongue-in-cheek articles glared up from The Onion, “6-Day Trip to Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture!” and I lost what I’d not known I’d had: Truth. Clarity. Innocence, and the genuine drive to connect.

So I did what I always do: I danced. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, Wayne Dyer

What Gets Us Into Trouble.

October 25, 2014

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By Jen Pastiloff.

“It’s the things that we know FOR SURE, that just ain’t so, that get us into trouble.” ~ Wayne Dyer.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer is one of my greatest teachers.

Back when I was still waitressing and utterly miserable- I would get off my shift, and I would go, stinking of food and self-loathing, on these walks by the Pacific Ocean here in Santa Monica. I had Wayne Dyer on my iPod (after years of my mom’s insistence, and my adamant refusal, to read his books) and I’d walk and walk and walk and listen to the same recordings over and over again as I did my goofy speed walk with my dorky arm swing. I’d go faster and faster, as if I could end up eventually leaving myself behind.

Wayne was my company.

I memorized his lectures on those sunset walks. I knew when I walked by a certain palm tree, Wayne would be saying, “Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You,” and when I got to the incline that led down to the beach, he’d be talking about squeezing an orange.
He said when you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out. So, we are squeezed, by life, by traffic, stress, whatever it is, if vitriol comes out, if anger and meanness and ugliness come out, then that is what was inside of us. No matter who does the squeezing. Like orange juice. Doesn’t matter who squeezes it, it will still be orange juice. I thought a lot about what was inside of me and how I blamed a lot of other people/things for what was being squeezed out.

I had to walk the same route, listen to the same lectures. These were the things I could count on. Palm tree, sky, clouds, sun setting, orange, squeezing, don’t die with your music still in you, park bench. Continue Reading…

cancer, death, Gratitude, Guest Posts

I Will Miss You Every Day of My Life.

September 18, 2014
touch

By Kathleen Emmets.

Note from Jen Pastiloff: Kathleen showed up at my Kripalu Retreat a couple years ago and has since become a dear friend and a great source of inspiration for me. She is the one who created the Fuck It List, that I so often speak of. She sent me this and I knew I had to get it up on the site. Humbled.

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Dear Jen,

Thank you for the beautiful way you teach people to express themselves. I wrote this in the voice you helped me to find.

I love you.

I stand at her bedside, holding her frail, smooth hand. She can’t speak today and her eyes, for the most part, remain closed. “It’s better this way,” I think to myself. Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, How To, Inspiration

The Many Dangers of Complaining.

August 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Karen Salmansohn

Everybody talks about the importance of appreciation – how it’s such a big-time happiness booster. Truth be told, appreciation very much deserves all the attentive, flattering PR it receives!

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But today I’d like to discuss with you the dangers of appreciation’s extreme opposite: depreciation. First of all, let me state clearly that “depreciation” is not simply the absence of appreciation. It’s actually the presence of focusing on problems, flaws and disappointments. Some standard definitions of depreciation: to lessen the value of; to belittle; to represent as being of less merit. There are a lot of people out there who are depreciators – walking around, looking for things to complain about – even when they have many reasons to rejoice. They speak in sentences that begin with “but” or “if only” or “what if.” As a result, depreciators wind up devaluing a lot of good stuff they should be feeling quite giddy about! By decreasing the value of what’s around them – they decrease the love, joy and inner calm they feel in their lives.   Continue Reading…

depression, Gratitude

Jen Pastiloff in Grazia Magazine Talking Candidly About Depression.

July 19, 2014

Hey there, Jen Pastiloff here. I’m finally settling back in after almost 3 weeks away (Paris, Italy, London) although I am about to head out again to Seattle to lead a couple workshops. Thankfully, my broken foot is healed up, finallllllly. My Manifestation retreat in Italy was fabulous on all counts and my workshop in London blew my mind, just as the February one did! (Two sold out workshops in London 5 months apart is a dream come true for me and I sit here with my cup of coffee pinching myself.) I can’t wait to be back this winter for another workshop. I love London. Like, a lot.

Anyway, while I was in London, Grazia Magazine issue with a feature on me hit stands. Eeeek! It’s a bit misquoted and I never ever call myself a “happiness coach.” Also, it was an interview but they wrote it in the first person (!!!????) (I did NOT write it) so that was kind of weird, but…. all in all, it is incredible to have had this opportunity.

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I feel tremendously grateful to have a platform to speak my truth and also to talk about things many are afraid to (including myself at times.) I was definitely scared before this article came out and when I first read it squatting at a news stand at the Sloane Square Tube Station in London, just as I was terrified I wrote that first essay on depression back in April for xojane. But ultimately, I am excited by what is possible and the reaction this piece (and my opening up on the subject) is getting. I am receiving hundreds of emails from people all over UK and Ireland and France, etc. So, as scary as it is and was to be so open and vulnerable, I am standing tall and proud.

The article is not online as far as I know but if you live there, as many of you do, it is the one with Lily Allen on the cover.  Thanks Grazia Magazine!! Thanks also to Jenni Young for the photo of me they chose to use. My workshop is all about telling the truth about who you are so hopefully you will be able to make one at a city near you soon.

I am thankful to all of you, this site’s readers and followers and to those who stand up for their own truths. May we all keep telling the truth. Always.

ps, The site has been on fire lately with 18-20k hits most days. Please send submissions in to Angela Giles <angela.mg.patel at gmail dot com> or <Melissa at jenniferpastiloff dot com> with “Submissions” in Subject Line. Due to the overwhelming number of submissions, Angela and Melissa cannot offer feedback but they are always grateful to read your words.

pps, I would love to open the comments section to a discussion about depression or mental health. If you have struggled with it or do currently struggle, I’d love to hear what you have to say below. Love in buckets, Jen xo

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Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Gratitude, Jen's Musings, Manifestation Workshops, Mindwebs, Vulnerability

Don’t Judge Your Pain. Or Anyone Else’s.

June 2, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

I broke my foot three weeks ago.

I intend to mine that break for any and all material so watch out. It sucks so I at least better get some “life lessons” out of it.

I haven’t been able to put any weight on my right foot due to the break and, because I have severe carpal tunnel, the crutches have slayed me. I have barely been able to move. I’ve alternated between this chair (I’m sitting at my desk and have done for so long that my arse is numb), my bed (many many hours), and the sofa (I’ve stained it like a toddler would and indented it as if I hadn’t risen from it in 35 years.) Chair, bed, sofa. Chair, bed, sofa. I also have a terrible injury in my left leg and have laid off doing any exercise on it for years so I have no strength in it. So basically, I have only one leg to hop on and that leg is kind of crappy. Wah. I know it could be worse but my God, I have been feeling low.

My friend who has also broken her foot and struggled with anorexia texted me yesterday that the inner torture of a break cannot be comprehended. For me, it’s been the inner torture as well as the physical. It’s scary to write because I am 100% clear it could be worse and I feel like who am I to talk about pain? I know nothing of pain. Look at So and So. Or So and So. Now, they are in pain. They know pain. Who am I to speak of such things?

But the thing is, most people do that all the time, so everyone walks around swallowing their pain. They eat it and they fake a smile and go on with their day. Keep calm and carry on.

Way too much time to think. Way too much time to look on Facebook and make up stories and get caught up in my head. Way too much time to think about irrelevant things. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written a few essays and worked on my book Beauty Hunting and read a few books but the bulk of the time has been spent wallowing and feeling stuck and broken and then being mad at myself for wallowing and feeling stuck and broken.

The truth. I hesitate to write it, but hell, I have a reputation of being a truth teller, so here it is: I had been struggling with depression (and written copious amounts about the struggle as you guys know) before the break. So the break kind of sent me into a tailspin.

I had gone off my antidepressants last year and a lot of my “stuff” came up with this break. Imagine: being immobilized and having nowhere to “run” to. Having to sit with it all.

Not. So. Easy.

A few days ago I posted something on my Facebook. I woke up the next day with what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover.” I wanted to delete it but didn’t because it seemed to strike a major chord with folks. And because I was telling the truth and I know that’s important.

Here is what I wrote:

Feeling grateful for the people who’ve been supportive during what has been a shitty ass motherfucking time for me. Feeling equally disappointed by the people I have yet to hear from. Not even a text or an acknowledgment. Which makes me question why I give a shit? Why do we let ourselves create expectations of people based on how we think we’d act? I understand that people have short memories. Also, that it’s easier to be with people who are “doing great, everything’s fine,” but my God, what an eye-opening experience this has been. I am sure I will write a piece on it, but meanwhile, a public thank you to the people who notice when another person is in pain. Truthfully, that’s the kind of person I am drawn to anyway: the kind who pays attention. May I always pay attention. And, may I be willing to be with someone even if it’s messy, even if feel like they are broken. Thank you. You know who you are. Nothing, and I mean nothing, goes unnoticed with me. I may have bad ears but I hear it all.

Here are a couple little lessons I learned:

1) If you are in pain, let people know.

2) If someone is in pain, reach out. Even a text. A card. A nod. Some form of acknowledgement. Anything. A balloon. A cookie. Wine. (I like wine.)

3) Never feel like you shouldn’t say something because why would your voice matter? Because that person already has a lot of support. Because you think you will be a burden. Because you don’t know what to say. (I got a few texts from people that said they didn’t reach out because they thought I was probably inundated. Or that they didn’t matter.)

4) Pain is pain. Even though I am not dying and I don’t have cancer or whatever else it may be, I have still been going through a hard time. That’s not nothing. Don’t judge your pain. Or anyone else’s.

5) Be willing to be with people even if they are not fine, good, happy, perfect, rainbows, unicorns.

6) Notice your tendency to pay attention to the one who doesn’t text/call/like you rather than the loads that do. Notice that.

(I have an exercise in my workshop I call “The 1 and 100.” I ask the room if there’s a room with a hundred people and they all love you except one, who do you focus on? Yup. Most say the one. Notice how this exemplifies say times one million when you are stuck on your ass for weeks on end with a broken bone. Notice that.

7) It sounds corny but Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers said “look for the helpers.” So yea, do that. Pay attention to them.

8) Kindness matters. Teeny tiny minuscule baby kindnesses. Or large as the sea kind of kindnesses. They matter. Act like they do.

9) Empathy. Compassion. Those words.

Being human is tough at times. But it’s what we signed up for. That’s why I do what I do. That’s why my workshop is called The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. The On Being Human part is really my concern. May we all work on that a little more.

May we always pay attention to what makes us so.

So, I’ll not only NOT delete my status update but I will share it here. And I will probably have a vulnerability hangover again tomorrow. But I’ll nurse it, ever so slowly, ever so gently, ever so lovingly.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat Sep 26- october 3rd. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Join Jen Pastiloff  and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen.

April 24, 2014

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen. *trigger warning. Mention of rape.

This is inspired by a piece written by Jen Pastiloff and is now an exercise in her signature Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human®. Click here to read.

I’d been on retreat with Jen before. She’ll read some of a “Thank you, Fuck you” piece she wrote (it’s brilliant). She’ll walk, as she reads aloud, through the space between the yoga mats where we’ll sit. Most will sit in frozen appreciation of her work while some will continue their own letter she’d already have asked us to write. Her voice, the way her hearing loss affects her annunciation (making her words more pure, almost as if they come directly from her soul), will ring in my head days later, long after the retreat has ended. I’ll be sitting at my desk on Wednesday morning at 10am, striving to be productive at a job I hate, but her voice will play on repeat. The part about thanking the women, the ones whose voices got real high when asking for more salad dressing, will almost scream. You’ll be pulled back to that room. Lindsay Lohan. Organic eggs. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Normally I wouldn’t write a letter to the good and bad stuff in my life. Especially the bad. I’ve spent the better part of my life numbing out the bad stuff (it doesn’t work). But, when the person asking is Jen Pastiloff you take a leap of faith. You trust her. You want more of what she has. She’s got an aura of amazingness. Anything is possible when she’s around. I hate trying to give her a title. While she’s a teacher, yogi, writer, retreat leader, creator of Manifestation Yoga™ and a host of other things, she does each with such an unorthodox approach. It’s this unorthodoxy that speaks so loudly to her tribe. She manifests, or “Makes Shit Happen” (as she calls it), magic. This petite, yet silently strong, woman with thick dark hair to her lower back, porcelain perfect skin and a contagious laugh, is a magician.

Continue Reading…

Gratitude, Guest Posts, motherhood

In Gratitude for a Long Career. By Jeanne Faulkner.

April 2, 2014

Like Jennifer, I’ve worked for decades in the service industry. I worked as a nightshift labor and delivery nurse for ten years followed by another ten years on day shift. Like waitressing, you never know who your next customer, AKA patient, will be.  It’s a crap shoot and among the biggest challenges of the job. You take care of whomever you’re assigned to care for, whoever walks in the door and with whatever doctor or midwife is on duty for that patient.  Our job, whether we like our patient or not, is to serve, guide and shepherd them through their labors and births, but it’s not isolated to serving just the patient. Nurses also serve their family, friends and baby, their doctor or midwife, and the other nurses and staff members who are part of the maternity unit.

Over all those years and thousands of patients, I’m grateful most patients were lovely and I thank them for allowing me the honor of being at their births. I’m humbled at how accepting they were of receiving my care and mindful that the work we did together was intimate, difficult and sometimes life threatening.  I thank them for their trust.  I’m thankful to the mothers who reached for my hand, asked for my help, took my suggestions and eventually allowed me to rock their babies so they could get some much needed sleep. I’m grateful to the fathers who tended to their wives or girlfriends with such tenderness that they taught me how these mothers needed to be cared for.  Thank you to all the grandmothers-to-be who stroked brows, sang songs, rubbed backs, reassured and mothered their daughters through their labors. You taught me that mothering never ends and in fact it grows stronger as we help deliver the next generation.

Some patients, or more often their family members, were by any definition, horrible – violent, criminal, addicted, filthy and sometimes even obscene. To them I say, “Thank you for teaching me that all people deserve care, compassion and respect; that there’s always a point of connection and that no matter what their life was like in the past, almost all still love their children, even when they can’t care for them. Thank you to the patients who called me “bitch” and to those who called me “doctor.” Neither label was accurate but I thank them for making an attempt to reach me on whatever level they could.

Thank you to the patient who tried to bite me when I could not give her an epidural.  When a moment later, your daughter was born and you lay cooing at her in your arms, you taught me that pain is more powerful than civility, but when the pain is gone, humanity returns. Thank you to the man who threatened his wife and me with a beating we both “deserved,” if we didn’t hand over his son before police could arrest him for child abuse.  He taught me that despite his violence, hostility and demand for control, his love for his baby was overpowering and unreasonable, but it was still love.

Most of the dozens and dozens of doctors and midwives and nurses I worked with were among the best people I’ve ever met and many I count as my friends.  I thank them inspiring and motivating me, comforting and supporting me, for joking around and bringing snacks and sharing their stories through 12-hour nights. I thank them most of all for having my back and always being one call away when a birth turned into a crisis.  A few of my coworkers were bitter and angry, lazy and misguided and I thank them for teaching me that our work demands excellence, compassion and a higher standard.

Thank you to the mothers who faced their births with tears and screaming and the ones who managed each contraction in absolute silence.  Thank you for the “natural” mamas who rode their “surges” with intensity like a surfer rides waves. Thank you to the epidural mamas who decided pain wasn’t part of the package they signed on to deliver. Each one took control of her experience and took care of her own needs and I’m grateful to them for doing so.

Thank you to the little brothers and little sisters who were so excited and anxious to meet their new siblings they wet their pants, burst into tears and buried their sticky sweet faces in their fathers’ necks. They taught everyone in the room just how powerful this new relationship would be.  A sibling will witness your life, share your fun and misery, defend you, pretend with you and get you in trouble.  They’ll be there with you ‘til death do you part and in some small way, the little brothers and sisters understand how overwhelming this commitment will be.  Thank you to the new mothers who then handed their brand new baby over to me, took their older child into their bed and cuddled them until they felt secure again. Thank you for not doing what too many parents do – yell at their child for acting like a baby and tell them they’d better get over it because they’re not the baby anymore.

Thank you to all the patients who busted mythology wide open – to the room full of bikers all burly and gruff whose appearance and demeanor were aggressive and scary.  Thank you for sitting in a circle on the floor and passing the new baby from one bearded, tattooed, Harley-gristled man to the next, each delivering a small blessing and a stuffed animal for their beloved new baby.   Thank you to the stripper who was losing custody of her baby for taking out your nipple piercings and breastfeeding your daughter for the one night you two would have together. Thank you to her friends who surrounded her with love and swore to all that was holy to them that they’d get that baby back if it was the last thing they did.  Thank you for the patient who had no arms who held her baby to her breast with her legs as skillfully as any two-armed mama would do.

Thank you for the 20 years I spent at the bedside and for the million stories my patients provided me.  I learned a lot and will forever be grateful for that opportunity to serve.

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Jeanne Faulkner is a nurse, writer and maternal health advocate. She writes for fitpregnancy.com, Every Mother Counts and is co-author of The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion. Learn more about her at JeanneFaulkner.com and check out her YouTube channel here.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. 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 Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.