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healing

Guest Posts, healing, Regret, Relationships

The Horsey Set

January 29, 2016

By Lisa Romeo

You knew. You knew I was 19. You knew you were 32 and married and the father of two children. You knew I was attracted. I wonder if you knew my attraction (which I didn’t even understand at the time) was fueled so much by your position (your celebrity almost) in that rarefied air we both breathed, in that world we both pranced through – you with ease, me with longing – that dazzling playground scented with horses and money and blue ribbons, with Hamptons houses and equestrian estates and show horses that cost more than my father’s house. Did you know that?

When you flirted with me in the horse show office, when you accidentally brushed against me in the stabling tent, when you waved at me from the rail, when you winked at me from under your hat brim on the sidelines of the polo field, did you know that I thought it was about me? Did you know every time I saw you across a field, across a barn aisle, across the table at a fundraiser, that I wondered if you were there because I was there and not because you were always there? That I didn’t understand it was about you and what you could do, get away with, possess, mark?

You knew, I think, that I couldn’t enter that world, not completely, on my own, with my marginal riding skills and small trove of not-always blue ribbons and my father’s money that seemed so endless on our split-level cul-de-sac, but so puny compared to what the horsy daughters of billionaires spent on their third-string jumper.

Did you know you’d get me, from the start? Did you know I would forget myself, lose my compass, imagine there was a good reason for doing the thing I knew I shouldn’t be doing? Yes, of course you knew, because that was your game, though I wouldn’t know that until you were long gone and I’d meet other young single girls you’d tempted before me, after me.

Did you know that when everyone seemed to know about us, and looked the other way, that I’d think at first that was exciting, edgy, and intoxicating? Of course you knew that, it was part of your charm, as much as your not-so-elegant looks and not-so-refined laugh and not-so-trim physique (though you kept that garbed in preppy pinks and greens, web belts and logo polo shirts). Continue Reading…

depression, Family, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Ritual

January 25, 2016

By Kate Fries

When my husband travels, my sons and I have pancakes for dinner.

It’s a ritual that transcends space and time. We’ve repeated it in different spaces as my kids have grown up.

I am listening to iTunes in my kitchen, bopping along to Rilo Kiley. It could be 2006 or it could be 2015. In 2006 we are in a suburb of Chicago, my kids play on the floor while I measure ingredients and wash fruit and the cat snakes her way around my ankles. We have just returned from a late summer walk. We talk about the “yucky mushrooms” we saw growing on neighborhood lawns and our upcoming trip to Disneyland. I am tired in this moment, dreading the witching hour without my husband to tag team with me, but we are happy.

Now, in 2015, we’re in Central California and my kids can help make dinner but they’re just as likely to be found lounging in front of the TV. The meal is the same, their requests are the same.

(“Can you put blueberries in the batter? Can we have whipped cream on top?”)

There was another house, another city, in between Chicago and here. There was a too-small kitchen and a window that looked out on the rosemary that grew abundantly in the backyard. I could watch my kids ride their scooters on the deck while I mixed and poured and flipped and sang along with the radio. That was the house I loved, despite its too-small kitchen and aging appliances. It broke my heart to leave.

But here we are in a new city, a new house. I grieve the loss of those former lives and years. I try to embrace what we’ve been given here. I try to heal myself as I come out of a fog that has lasted too long. There’s a dog now, instead of a cat, and I am working outside of the home so these evenings of solo parenting are more somehow more chaotic than they were when my kids were needy toddlers. My kids don’t chatter about Thomas and his friends or roll their Matchbox cars around my feet, they’re absorbed in handheld games, they’re reading Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. They talk about algebra and avoid talking about girls. And I am a little older and a little sadder than I was in Chicago.

I know I will miss these days, too.

I plate our pancakes, do a little shimmy in time to the Rilo Kiley song coming from my computer’s speakers. I sing along to the part I like best:

“You’ll be a real good listener

You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful

You’ll be happy.”

Caught up in the music, I raise my spatula in the air, triumphant. I sing across time to my Chicago self and my Bay Area self in those other kitchens and tell them all of this will be okay.

My happiness has always seemed precarious and hard-won when others seem to have it abundance. Where we are right now—enjoying this exact moment in my newest kitchen, the one I never asked for but got anyway—is a victory. If my kids are listening to the lyrics I sing at all, I hope they understand I am trying to be my best self for them.

The pancakes are gluten free because that’s how we roll these days. We’re out of syrup tonight so we top our pancakes with Reddi-wip. Things are different and things are the same. Both can be good.Kate_Fries-DSC_5081

Kate Fries lives in Central California with her husband, tween sons, a labradoodle puppy, and a cat who came with the house. A full-time journalist at a mid-size California newspaper, her work has also appeared in Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Mamalode, and Club Mid. She can often be found running and listening to comedy podcasts.

 

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 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.

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

Family, Guest Posts, healing

A Tree With Deep Roots

December 28, 2015

By Jennifer Fliss

They say that when you become a parent, you either copy your own parents or go in the exact opposite direction. Instead of vodka bottles and guns and anger, I would fill my family’s house with crafts and dinner and warmth. Instead of skittering cockroaches, an occasional errant spider, which we would gently catch in a jar and release outside.

Our cat would be a part of the family and not casually thrown against the wall. I would have a cat to begin with. I would allow a small creature, and later a larger more dependent creature into my house, knowing I have never experienced living in a reliable and safe environment. Would I know how to do it?

Our doors would not have holes the size of fists. We would not have CPS and the police at our door night after night. We would not have to watch the volume of our screams because we would not be screaming. Neighbors would not look askance at us in the morning.

My husband and I are taking down a great big poplar tree in our yard. Well, we aren’t; we are hiring professionals. It is a tall specimen, probably one hundred feet tall. It stands sentinel over the neighborhood, watching guard over our house huddled beneath it. When we moved in, the inspector said it had to go.

Poplars have an extensive and shallow root system. The roots can grow outwards to a distance of two or three times the tree’s height. It could fall and take out our neighbor’s garage at the very thought of a storm. In a gust, its branches could shoot to the ground and impale someone walking by. It could creak and moan and then crash down into our daughter’s bedroom. It had to go. Of course taking down a great tree such as this one is not cheap, nor easy. After every wind storm we would look up at the beast and marvel that it was still upright. Its trunk and upward facing branches, nearly as tall as the tree itself seemingly too scrawny to uphold anything, no less act as protection.

This yellow leafed menace stands in a corner behind our house, not five feet away. Its roots surely have spread under our house. Surely there is some support it is providing. It is not only a danger. Right? Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Letting Go

Mama are you good at sports?

December 21, 2015

By Gina Sorell

“Mama are you good at sports?”

It’s a question said with a sweet mischievous smile, by my 4-year-old son. It’s the first days of spring and we are standing in a sunbeam in the backyard in the tall grass that has somehow managed to come back to life, just like us, after a winter spent under snow. I’m failing hilariously at catching the balls he throws me. This is our joke. He knows the answer is no, and when I say it, we both burst out laughing. I love watching him laugh, and even more I love that he knows that there is something I am not good at. I want him to know that not everybody is good at everything, or the same things, but they should try them anyway, and if they want to be good, they need to practice. It’s a lesson I needed to teach him early on as he seems to have inherited my same perfectionist tendencies, getting upset with himself if he can’t master something right away. I know this feeling. I danced for many years and perfectionism of all types was encouraged. After he laughs, I often follow up by saying, “I’m not good at sports, but mama can dance!” And then bust out my best Martha-Graham-meets-90’s-New-Wave-dance moves in a circle around him. See, everyone is good at something I am hoping to show him, with my flailing limbs, and now creaky knees that are happier bobbing side to side than up and down, and he often joins in.

But one day he changes up our routine and asks me with all sincerity, “But why? Why aren’t you good at sports?”

It’s a simple question that leaves me speechless. What do I tell him? The reason I wasn’t any good at sports, was because instead of being taught to practice, I’d been taught to be afraid. Sports was where a ball could break my face, smash my nose, knock my teeth out. It was that place where my widely accepted clumsiness, would be my downfall, a clumsiness that somehow didn’t apply to my passion or ability for modern, jazz, ballet and national dance.

“Um, I guess I just didn’t practice very much. But I did do other things, like dance.”

“And baseball?” Continue Reading…

Abuse, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Things the Missing Would Tell You

December 12, 2015

Trigger Warning: This brief essay deals with child abuse.

By Keema Waterfield

Halfway through my first pregnancy I imagine my mother, age 19. She is unwed, the weight of my future self putting a bend in her back, widening her hips. The ghosts of her childhood trail behind her like lost buttons: all those years with her brother, the powerlessness, the shame, the guilt, the angry mother, the denial. That black place the hurt goes, overflowing. A baby sister she can’t protect looking at a lifetime of worrying at those same choppy waters.

How my mother’s heart must have ached at the thought of me.

It isn’t hard to imagine.

My own ghost is a man we knew by the name of Ray, but whom we later learned was wanted in fourteen states, give or take. He had one eye and a gun, both of which he laid on me in my top bunk somewhere around my third birthday, his pants around his ankles. Mom away for a few days, picking up furniture. My baby sister in the bottom bunk making a noise in her throat that no person of sound mind could hear without offering comfort.

I think of Ray when I hold my growing belly on dark mornings after another visit to the bathroom. I think how ponderous the shape of sorrow is. How little it takes to upend a childhood, like a table on its side: dishes broken, food soiled, water glasses emptying themselves onto the hardwood floor.

At dinner now the table is upright and the lamplight has grown reluctant listeners, but there is still a world of missing children out there. Missed. Misused. If you’re lucky and some part of you makes it back people tell you slow down, be a kid, but the missing learn early that childhood is a mercy only sometimes granted, and dessert is offered only to those who suffer gently.

I’ve been thinking about silence lately, how much it makes me want to break open all the windows in the world and scream. Because I know now what my mother knew then: the missing don’t have a say.Keema_Waterfield-Author_Photo

Keema Waterfield is a 2011 MFA grad from the University of Montana’s nonfiction program. She has been published in Pithead Chapel, Redivider Journal, Understory, and the Anchorage Press. The title essay from her forthcoming memoir “Inside Passages”, won the 2011 Cross Genre Award at Mason’s Road.

Join Jen 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 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.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Eating Disorders/Healing, Eating/Food, Guest Posts, healing

Tales of a Food Restrictor

December 10, 2015

By Anne Falkowski

At 45, I made the decision to face my disordered eating. It was a dark creepy crawly which followed me around for more than half my life. (It’s not unusual for women in their 40s or older to have untreated eating disorders for twenty, thirty or even forty years.

I decided it was time to let go.

I could do this. But I needed help.

I called the experts and landed in an office the color of fog and ocean. The colors of healing. This was a place for anorexics, bulimics and eating disorders not otherwise specified (like myself).

There was a large rubber plate of fake food next to the tissue box. On this fake plate was a mound of beans, a thick slice of bread, a pile of broccoli and an unidentified piece of meat. I liked to run my fingers over the beans and feel their lumpiness.

It was in this ocean room, while I fingered the beans, when Mark, the therapist, told me I was a food restrictor.

“Are you sure? Wouldn’t I be thin if I did that?”

As always, I was hyperaware of my body which refused to be the size I wanted it.

“Well, not necessarily.”

His hand reached up to touch his tie. Mark always wore a shirt and tie. He was twenty years younger than me. At first his youth threw me. How could a clean cut baby-faced twenty something counsel me, a middle aged woman, who had been dealing or not dealing with disordered eating probably as long as he had been alive?

He told me that we cannot pick the bodies we want.

I wanted to be slim, slender, thin, and bony.

“It doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to choose our bodies.” He held my gaze. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Illness, Letting Go, Vulnerability

Beneath The Glass

November 12, 2015

By Lauren Randall

I spend most of my time dreaming.  The most gratifying vision I have is of life on pause.  I dream of the world completely stopping for everyone other than me.  What will I do in this static world?

Sleep.  I will sleep.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

I dream that this sleep will take away everything: the fatigue, pain, neurological damage and every ‘red herring’ that cannot be quantified by the medical community.

I will wake to my ‘old body,’ my teenage body, the one I so shamelessly took for granted.  The body I binged and purged from out of hate, the body surreptitiously stuck on the other side of the glass.

I didn’t think much about chronically ill people back then.  I never wondered about their nostalgia for health, that intense pining their imagination could make so palpable.

For them, life could be this immensely beautiful view through a cracked and clouded windshield; every day spent futilely trying to clean it off from the inside.  Despite the irrefutable knowledge that all that shit is just out of reach, the thought of doing nothing from the other side of the glass likely felt even more deceptively tragic.

I do that a lot.  I refer to ‘them’ without including myself.  I try to clean the glass from the inside knowing it will never fully penetrate the brown decrepit haze.  I am enlightened enough to know that real acceptance –seeing beauty within the cracks and dirt– is where true healing and happiness will lie for me.  But I cannot escape the fight, the quest to see the entire scene.  Sometimes that makes me feel beautifully hopeful, sometimes that makes me feel like I am wasting what is left. Continue Reading…

courage, death, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration, Vulnerability

#MyLifeMatters

November 10, 2015

By Klyn Elsbury

A few nights ago, I was wrapped in a blanket, lying on top of an RV off of a scenic overlook in Utah staring up at a sky full of endless, scintillating stars. The air was cool and crisp, delightfully tickling my lungs as they adjusted to the altitude. A handsome man with a beautiful soul was holding my hand and pointing out Venus to the south. Together, we were dreaming about the future. Something that until Orkambi came, I had all but given up on.

I dropped out of college because I started getting hospitalized several times a year, and I believed I would never live long enough to pay off my student loan debt.

I moved to California from Florida for a career in biotech/pharmaceutical recruiting so I could be closer to the companies that were developing the very drugs that would keep me alive. That would give me hope. When I started getting hospitalized every 4 months, I made the choice to leave my corporate career and preserve my lung function via exercise, diet, and adherence to prescriptions that managed the symptoms. I tried to get in on every clinical trial for Orkambi, before it was even called Orkambi, but time and time again I was denied because my lung function was too unstable.

He squeezed my hand excitedly, “did you see that?” referring to a shooting star that emblazoned an almost pitch black night. My heart skipped a beat. I shut my eyes and made a wish that one day, someday soon, I would be on this drug. I opened my eyes to see him smiling back at me.

For the first time in a long time, I believed I would have a future again. I was the first person in clinic the day after Orkambi was approved. However, they couldn’t write a prescription because I needed to go on IV antibiotics first. My lung function was around 50%. It was my 3rd round of IVs this year alone.

Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends locally who got approved for the drug, posted on Facebook that for the first time in years, she woke up without coughing. I can’t imagine a morning where an alarm clock wakes me up instead of a violent core-shaking, gut busting cough.

“Wow!” We both said in unison at yet, another shooting star. Who is lucky enough to see two of them in one night sky? Just moments apart? Surely this means there are good things to come. Waking up without a cough became my second wish. Continue Reading…

death, Family, Forgiveness, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Regret

And I’m Sorry

November 5, 2015

By Stacy Jo Poffenbarger

Six years. Six long years. I waited and hoped and prayed and managed the instability while you looked for a way to find yourself. To forgive yourself. To reconcile your own past and face your own demons.

Everytime the phone rang or the text message sound went off. Every month that went by without a word.

Every time you said it was over, you were done. You loved me but not enough. You needed to be free.

And yet, I waited. Six long years. I looked after your mom while you were away. Behind your back. Taking her grocery shopping on Sundays and out to dinner on Wednesday’s, just so she wasn’t so lonely. I don’t even think she liked me very much, but she missed you and there was our common ground.

When she died, you called for me, and I was there to help pick up your pieces, drunk and broken.

I never dated anyone else. Never once strayed. I waited patiently, through the lies, the promises and the times you found comfort in someone else’s bed.

Some said I was a fool. Or a girl in love.

***

Then one day you came around. You were done running. You loved me enough and proved it with a ring. We started to build a life. Together. The three of us. You took my son with you to teach him to build a house. To learn to work with his hands. And then to the bar to bond like a man. I was so mad. You told me you and he were friends, buddies, pals. And he told me he thought you were funny and smart and cool. He was happy we were together. That I finally had the love I waited for. He told me he was relieved because he didn’t want me to end up all alone. And I was happy. Finally truly happy. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Intimacy, Relationships

Cripples

November 1, 2015

Note from Jen Pastiloff: This is a work of fiction. The Manifest-Station will publish fiction now, on occasion.

By Jane Eaton Hamliton

I hadn’t wanted a damn cripple on the crew to begin with.  Any damn cripple.  Not a damn cripple named Mike Pinkle or any other damn cripple, so naturally Pinkle was made my partner, orders of the co-ordinator.  We’d both come in late.  There were forty-three of us, and damn cripple Mike Pinkle was to be my partner during the Long Beach oil spill clean-up.

The first sight of that Vancouver Island beach was one hell of a thing.  I shoved my Honda stick into ‘P’ and took off out of the parking lot toward the six foot waves at a ninny-speed run, stumbling over the logs and deadwood using my hands, across all that thick white sand to the surf line.  The water was as purple and violent as a bruise.  It pounded inside my breasts and legs like some fierce man.  Oh shit, I thought.  Goddamn shit.  Water, blurring out into a flagstone sky.  I’d never seen so much damn sea at once in my life.  It excited me.  It made me want to fuck.  I was standing up to my ankles in yellow gumboots with the water sucking and smelling of muggy blood and all I wanted to do was fuck.  But then I heard my goddamn car horn blow.  I turned and remembered the cripple.  And the rake.  The pitchfork.  The industrial strength green garbage bags.  What I thought was I could use the pitchfork to kill the goddamn cripple and the industrial strength green garbage bags to dispose of his body; the rest of the crew would just figure he was a bag of oil muck.  Which thought made me remember why we were here–the oil dump off the coast of Washington State.  Now I noticed oil everywhere; broken rainbow slicks on the water to the south, clumps strangling the bulbous heads of bull kelp, even a barely recognizable dead gull to the right of my boot.  All that pretty show and all that oil–I had to hold back tears.  I was almost grateful for the diversion of the goddamn cripple in the parking lot.

Or at least I was until I had to watch that pathetic half-man haul himself into the chair I unfolded for him out of the trunk.  I couldn’t stand to look at him, so I piled him with the rake and pitchfork and the bags, which he held like they were nothing.  I dumped on a thermos of coffee for good measure.

The chair was electric.  Fancy dancy.  My idea–I’d heard he’d been in a car wreck with a drunk driver–was that he’d landed a settlement of ten mil or so.  My idea was that he was set for goddamn life.  A condo in the Bahamas.  Large screen TVs, a jacuzzi.  Big fat fucking deal.  I was supposed to feel sorry for him?

He sailed down a concrete path in the rain like some alien robot.  Then he beached in the sand.

I went around the front of his chair and yelled in his face.  My fists were going.  I said, “Listen, buster, let’s get this straight.  You better realize I don’t like you.  You’ve got no business being out here and you freaking well know it.” Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, healing, Yoga

My Love Letter To My Yoga Teachers

October 30, 2015

By Alexa Shore

At 44 years old, I never thought I would get cancer. I never ever thought I would get it twice.  I never thought my yoga practice would save my life.

I knew something was wrong. I felt nauseous, had food cravings, felt as if my hair was falling out— was I pregnant? I went to the doctor to get a blood test and physical examination. I was handed a slip for a mammogram the following week.  That weekend, I went for a hike. I felt a lump. I went back to the doctor.

My oncologist said I was “lucky” after being diagnosed with “early detection” aggressive HER2+ breast cancer. Lucky?  That I have cancer? The second time I got breast cancer, I heard the words again. I finally got it. Both times, yoga had taught me to be so aware of my body, that I knew something was wrong. The second time around, I had the voice to speak up and say something was wrong – again. I caught my own breast cancer, twice, before it could metastasize to my brain, bones, liver and lungs.

I was healthy and I practiced yoga. I was not immune to cancer. People asked me questions about diet, environment, and personal habits to try to understand why I got cancer, and then, why it came back. I wanted to understand too.  I was told by one doctor “cancer creates change” I began to think …

I am a single mom, love my children, my family, my friends, my work, yoga, sunsets, and dancing. Change what? My body was strong; my mind positive and optimistic. So I sat and thought. How is Alexa? Did I truly have balance? Did I make time for me while juggling everything I did for everyone else?  Was I stressed? Did I feel resentment that I did not have time for myself? I bought gifts for myself and traveled to amazing places, but what about me? My spirit? Is this why I got sick? Could I have actually enabled cancer to grow? Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

A Room Of My Own

October 28, 2015

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

The summer after graduate school, I accepted a job as a copywriter at a well known publishing firm. I had been recruited and hired by a woman named Serena, a blonde, cooly professional woman, who praised my work lavishly. I loved my job. But two months later, Serena was inexplicably fired. They replaced her with a shrill, sarcastic woman named Crystal, who’d once worked for – and been fired by – Serena, and so she took an instant dislike to anyone Serena had hired. Especially me. I believed my work was good; I was dilligent, always met deadlines, and the editors consistently praised me. Yet each week Crystal would summon me to her office, and catalog what she labeled as my professional failings. Some nights, weary and ready to weep, I would finally pry myself from the vise-hold of that office, and Crystal would look pointedly at the clock. “Running out early again?” she would say.

I couldn’t wait to get home. My cat would meow plaintively as soon as she heard my key in the door. Some nights, when I was just too tired to cook dinner, I’d go to the freezer, shave off a slice of frozen Sarah Lee chocolate cake, sit by the window and listen to a scratchy recording of  Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I was dismal that winter. I had just lost my beloved Aunt Jeanette, and Dvorak’s sonorous second movement, a beautifully melancholy melody based on an old spiritual called “Going Home,” spoke to my sadness. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, sisters

The Hole Truth

October 27, 2015

By Janet Reich Elsbach

I am looking for my sister.

They say grief is a bottomless pit but that doesn’t mean you are always falling down into it.  Other activities are possible.  You can toddle around the perimeter, peering down into it.  You can hang off a ledge, partway down, and take in some of the sights.  You can just generally pretend, sometimes, that you are moving intentionally.

The next day you may find yourself in a free-fall again, but at least you’ve had that little other experience, where it seemed more like an exercise in free will.

I am looking for my sister everywhere.  If I look for her, seek her out, then seeing her can’t take me by surprise, or so goes my crafty thinking.

“I’ll be a bird for you,” she said, right before she died, to our mother. Really, it was a kindness to my mother, who badly needed a rope tossed her way in that still, sacred moment right before the big wave crashed.  My sister could not have chosen a better totem, neither for its resonance with my mother, who’s very tuned in to birds, nor for its plain availability. Who goes a day without seeing a bird? Every time you turn your head: there’s a bird!  There she is! Oh, so sorry, were you not at that moment wanting to fall down a hole?  Yeah, well–here’s your bird.

No birds in the grocery store.  Safe in there.  Except up the produce aisle comes a person who has not heard, somehow, after all this time, and who booms out his question: “is your crazy sister still riding horses?”  He turns to his friend.  “Endurance rider!  A hundred miles—OUCH, right? Ha, Ha.  Ha.” And I just have to pretend the broccoli is birds until that little humorous moment blows past, and then feel bad—for some reason I must feel bad—when I have to break the news that she is possibly still riding horses, depending on your belief system; most days I hope so and some days I am full of doubt. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Room Full Of Wounded

October 26, 2015

By Larry Patten

My questions were casual.

Sarah’s blunt answers weren’t.

“Sarah” is a pseudonym. I know several nice Sarahs, and this pretend Sarah certainly fit into the nice category. To further protect confidentiality, I’ll dub her friend as “Aspen.” Both women were in their mid-twenties, assistants on the staff where I did physical therapy for a troublesome left knee. They comfortably joked with patients, shared encouraging words, and often took extra moments to make sure those of us in therapy knew the whys and hows of what we were doing.

On this day, Sarah was the one reminding me which exercise was next. She brought me the yellow flexible ball to help stretch my lower body, and later set the timer for how long I should move my limbs back and forth, side to side. I usually bantered with her, though sometimes I silently plowed through the series of exercises.

When finished with the yellow ball, I asked Sarah a casual question that led to her blunt answers.

“Aspen told me she started working here because you recommended her for the job. Is that true?” (See . . . just a casual conversation with a casual question.)

Sarah grinned. “Right. She graduated from college and didn’t know what to do next. I told her she should give this a try.”

“How’d you and Aspen meet?” (Still casual, right?)

Sarah paused. Or did she? Did I later, recalling our spontaneous exchange, add a pause?

“Aspen was good friends with my fiancé. He died a couple of years ago.”

Just like that.

Sarah, always vibrant and bubbly as she helped the patients, had quietly disclosed some of the worst news in her young life. We continued talking while others around us worked their shoulders or knees or hands, all trying to recover from damaged bodies. In brief, hushed sentences, Sarah told me about her fiancé dying in a motorcycle accident, and how important that her caring family and friends (like Aspen) had been and continued to be. I mentioned my work at a hospice in bereavement support, where I spent time with those mourning the death of a loved one.

I suspected Sarah had other conversations like the one with me. While she may have extended our chat after learning about my job and sensing my “expertise,” her initial response was to just another one of her patients with a cranky knee. I wondered if her sharing had once included tears or that she simply never volunteered any information. But now, if someone asked about her life—to get to know her better, to deepen a potential relationship—had Sarah decided to let people hear the hardest truths? I think her honest, unadorned words were like sentries on a castle wall, warning about an approaching threat. After all, many of us dread conversations about death. Everyone who has had a loved one die like Sarah has probably experienced strangers, co-workers, and even “close” friends abruptly changing the subject. Worse yet, some people literally avoid the subject and the grieving person.

Her fiancé had died because of the negligence of another driver. Once a soldier in Afghanistan, he’d survived a tour-of-duty only to return home, dying on a tree-lined suburban street on a sunny day. He and Sarah had hopes and dreams, but now she told his (and her) terrible story to me. One day alive. The next day . . .

Sarah thanked me for listening. She smiled, guileless and unwavering. Still with that smile, Sarah told me to get started with my next exercise. Tough woman.

A few moments later, she swung by the raised table where I was finishing leg lifts. She whispered, “See the guy over there?”

I nodded. He looked to be in his early seventies. He was lean, seemingly in good shape. However, as he stepped up-and-down on a platform, I detected a hitch in his right knee. He, like me, was grappling with a leg injury.

“He lost his wife a week-and-a-half ago,” Sarah continued in her whisper. “So, so sad.”    Lost. Gone. Died.

I did my final leg lifts. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the lanky man with the slight weakness in his right knee step up-and-down. Up-and-down.

Sarah departed to assist a newly arrived patient.

Some injuries are easily seen. Others are invisible. Some injuries, with hard work, will heal. Others remain, a hitch in the soul.

Lost. Gone. Died. The room was filled with the wounded.

Aren’t all rooms?

Larry Patten_3 (1)

Larry Patten  is a writer, a United Methodist minister and currently serves as a Bereavement Support Specialist at a hospice in Fresno, California. He has had essays published in his local newspaper (Fresno Bee) and national magazines like Spirituality and Health. Along with working on a novel, he maintains www.larrypatten.com (musings about faith) and www.hospice-matters.com (thoughts about dying, death, and grief). 
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