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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.

And So It Is, Mindwebs, my book

Every So Often The World is Bound To Shake.

December 28, 2012

Elizabeth Bishop knew it.

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,

and that every so often the world is bound to shake. 

I know it.

I know how sometimes you walk along and the pavement lifts up, right from under your feet, how it flips you in the air and you land on your head, your pockets empty, your hands cut from bracing the fall. I know how sometimes you walk along on the shore and it just reaches out and swallows you up, just like that. A mess of foam and salt and saliva and spit and you never even know what happened until you cough up sea and sand as you lay facing the blue blue sky in a land that all of a sudden feels unsafe and unknowable. I know how sometimes you walk along the dirty road  and the earth simply cracks in half, taking you with it and how it is dark and wet, and, until you come back up, and even then, you are unsure what happened. How the shaking even started.

You’ve been told the world is bound to shake but until it did you didn’t believe it, you simply strolled along as if you were unscathed.

You were never unscathed.

How can you defend yourself against this shaking? you might wonder.

You can’t. What you can do is armor yourself good. Stockpile your life with people who make you feel fantastic and lovable and books and favorite memories, even those memories you’ve changed and bettered with time. And all those disappointments you’ve suffered? Well, those aren’t armor. Not exactly. Those disappointments were shaking that’s already happened, the world shook for you during those moments and whether or not you realize it: you’ve already had practice.

If you are reading this, at one point in your life, you have lost someone, you have had your heart broken, you have not gotten something you’ve wanted, someone’s died, someone you love, most likely. If none of these things have happened yet, they will. Not a morbid thought. Not trying to scare you. Just telling you what Elizabeth Bishop told you in 1965 in Sandpiper:

The roaring alongside he takes for granted,

and that every so often the world is bound to shake. 

The world is bound to shake. It is. It cannot stay still. So, you’ve experienced some shaking already and maybe or maybe not it ill shake again. Armor yourself good. Buy extra paper towels and canned beans and flashlights and don’t get stuck in the hole. Crawl your way out with the flashlight and the friends who make you feel fantastic.

I was in 8th grade. We had moved back to New Jersey after living 4 years in California. My mom had left her second husband (whom I had hated and then grown to love, as is expected from any young girl who had lost her father and seen another man step in, faking it.) My mom had left him and we’d moved back to New Jersey and I wanted to kill myself. I hated the idea of New Jersey more than I hated New Jersey. It was cold and lame and stupid (hey, I was in 8th grade!) One day, my friend Jen from California (cool, awesome California!) called to tell me that my mom’s soon to be ex-husband (the stepfather I had finally grown to love and then left) had killed someone. Someone we knew. In self-defense.

The earth spilt in half and I fell in.

It couldn’t be possible. Someone I knew and had begrudgingly loved had taken a gun and shot someone in a door jamb. This can’t be I whimpered, swimming in mud and roots down in the rabbit hole. It would be. It did happen and I came out of the rabbit hole with braces (clear on top, metal on bottom) and begrudgingly started to like (maybe even love, just a little bit) New Jersey. The I did it in self-defense second husband of my mother really did do it in self-defense and eventually got out of prison. On good behavior. We wrote letters while he’d been there. I looked at them while I sat on the toilet, a teenager with braces and an ex-stepfather in jail. He got out and then a few years later, the sea came up and took me out again. The world shook another time when I got the call (me, again me, I get the news delivered to me yet again!) that the ex-stepfather died in his sleep. Quietly and without noise, he’d let his body slip somewhere else and for a moment when the sea swept me up, when the earth shook, I saw him. I saw him and asked him Why Why Why Why and he just hugged me and said You’ll find your way.

I cried and cried when he died, unlike my own father’s death ten years prior when I could barely mutter I don’t care for fear that if I did, the world would never stop shaking.

So I cried and cried and eventually the hole sealed up and the wave spit me back out and the dirt bloomed some flowers and I made my way back into the world, armored with all of it and none of it at the same time.

A feather on the ground. Pick it up. Put it in your pocket. Let it armor you good. Go ahead. You will find your way.

simplereminders.com-pain-art-pastiloff-2000wfullsize-holstee-manifesto

healing, Mindwebs

Are You Depressed?

October 4, 2012

I feel like I am about to write copy for an anti-depressant commercial. Are you depressed? Trouble sleeping? Find you can’t focus? Find you feel like shit when you have no viable reason to, and in fact, anyone would think you insane for admitting it?

Depression confession from 10,000 feet: I have been struggling lately.

It’s like I am carrying a bunch of plastic (yes, plastic) shopping bags and they are digging  into my arm and cutting off the circulation and then they all start to get twisted up. Has that ever happened to you? (I know, most of you don’t use plastic, but you can imagine right?) There’s a lot of heavy things in the plastic bags and finding a way to carry them all with the skinny handles is nearly impossible and a more than a little frustrating. Its like at once I am carrying the plastic bags and I am the plastic bag hanging on to an arm for dear life.

So put them down for a moment. There in the parking lot. Since I am the plastic bag and also carrying it (stay with me on this metaphor for a moment) I am at once free and yet utterly alone, there in a parking lot.

And its a little overwhelming.

That’s what I have done. Or what I want to do. Trying to put down some of my load. In a parking lot. In a blog post. Anywhere really.

I suffer from depression. Or I have suffered. Which is it? Past tense? Present?

Let me be frank: I am slipping a little lately. So is it present tense? Maybe. Do I acknowledge it and then shift my thoughts, creating new mantras such as I am happy! I am free of depression! Or do I sit quietly on this airplane and contemplate it?

What does that even mean, depressed? Is it something I have been told (yes!) or something I know deep in the labyrinth of my body, in my DNA (also yes!)?

lab·y·rinth/ˈlab(ə)ˌrinTH/

Noun: A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.

An intricate and confusing arrangement.

(Sounds like the human mind, no?)

From the time I can remember I have felt a certain sadness that I could never explain to anyone, a dead part inside of me that made pretend I was sick and stay home from school (even in kindergarten) so I could eat cream cheese and olive sandwiches and watch tv with my mom. During college, I would leave NYU during the weekends to go back to Cherry Hill, NJ, a one and a half hour ride on the Peter Pan Bus, so I could be at home, safe from the slick world of New York City and all the food choices. And from feeling anything except hunger. Perhaps that is how I fell in love with anorexia, it allowed me to stop feeling such a nothingness. I replaced nothingness with anxiety and hunger but I no longer felt depressed, per se.

The point is, here I am on a plane flying to Miami. My life is great. I have nothing to complain about. I am happily married. I am successful. I am healthy. So, what is it?

What is this demon? 

This is what happens. I sit down and I can’t get up. I am superglued to my chair and I cannot go anywhere, I cannot do anything until the minutes turn into days and the days into years. Since I can remember dreaming I have had various forms of the very cliche tidal wave dream. So I sit in my chair, superglued there like that and the tidal wave swallows me. 13 years of my life passed in this salt water until I was spit back onto the shore and discovered my calling to which I responded as if it was literally calling me on my iPhone. Yes, I hear you, my dharma! I’m here. I’ve emerged from the depths of Hell and I am here to inspire and write and teach yoga and travel and be happy.

Except the thing is sometimes I feel like a liar.

Sometimes it’s like the anatomy of the impossible and I find myself on a chair, superglued there, glassy eyes, a deep nothingness setting in like it’s missed me and had to be close to my heart again.

What it feels like is that my insides are collapsing upon themselves boneless as wool. The outside of me is pushing its way in. The outside of everything is pushing its way in. The noise, the cars, the people, the fears, the future, the past.

What do you have to be blue about? a friend asked me on the phone a couple weeks ago.

Nothing. Not a damn thing. My life is amazing.

So what is wrong with my mind? Is it broken? Is there a hole somewhere? Can I fix it with yoga or prayer or rewiring my thoughts or wine or laughter or sleep or sex?

I try all. Trust me. I sleep like a dog in summer. I drink wine. I do yoga. I teach yoga! I am mindful of my thoughts (most days.)

It’s not enough. I must dig deeper.

What is triggering me? What situations am I putting myself in? Who am I surrounding myself with? What am I allowing myself to think and say after the words I am?

I must get a hammer and chisel away at the bone until I find the piece I am looking for. It is that part of me that sometimes goes missing. The stray piece that feels like smiling isn’t a chore, the piece that wants to answer the phone and talk, the piece that gets up off the chair and does things out in the world, things with other people even.

I am not saying it will ever go away 100% or that I even want it to. Claire Danes character on Homeland (my obsession) got her brain zapped. She literally got electric shock so she could deal with being bipolar. (No, I would never do that and no I am not bi-polar.)

This rogue part of me is where art is born and where I write. But enough is enough. I am driving the boat. Me! Not my so-called depression. Not my sadness. Not my mood. Not my apathy. Not my ego.

Aphrodite and the other Greek gods were not the only ones who had split personalities. We all do! (Or at least I do.)

Here is the truth: There are two of me. (Possibly three or four.) As it was with others before us.

The battle in me looms like an uncertain diagnosis, luckily I am armored with my bow and quiver. Some days I sway, these passions of the heart- so fickle, so tenuous. These feelings of sadness, of emptiness will be taken down by me and my bow and arrow.

Until then, I will leave you with this.

Today I feel good. Right now I feel good. My life is amazing and I am happy.

Right now, in this moment, there is no missing part of me.

There is nothing missing.

And So It Is, Mindwebs

A Subtle Lie.

September 28, 2012

So delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe. That’s one definition of subtle.

I’ve been thinking about the word subtle and the power of it. Tonight as I taught my beloved gentle yoga class, I had everyone lie on a bolster in a twist. I told them that they wouldn’t feel much. 

That it was a subtle stretch but that often the subtle things are the most powerful.

Aren’t they?

The subtle truths, subtle lies. The subtle way things change and then one day we wake up and everything we thought we knew, gone. Just like that. No more father. No more job. No more summer. No more Sunday. No more morning. It seems as if it is always all of a sudden, this sliding into something else.

One day someone just dies or leaves or quits their job and although it may feel like a sudden dynamite, a grenade thrown into your life as you make buckwheat pancakes, really it was a subtle breaking down, a slow deterioration of all things knowable. It was a subtle knowing that this is not working for me and I must go. A chipping away at what was once there.

The subtle things are the most powerful except often we don’t pay attention.

The way someone look at us, their eyes softening in the way someone in love might lower their lids, a slight hesitation to leave your face so soon, because what if it wasn’t there the next time they looked? They couldn’t take that risk so they let their eyes linger a few seconds longer before looking down at the menu and saying Yes, I will have the trout. 

The subtle way someone stops looking at us, their hands counting places they wish they’d been, their eyes looking for something in the room to focus on, something solid and unchanging.

The subtle signs of aging. Around the eyes, the mouth. All of it so quiet. At the same time so determined.

The subtle way my sister and I swung from the great white flab hanging from our grandmother, our Bubby’s arms. And while she drove, sometimes lapsing into Yiddish, how we played with it like language, palpable and subtle, growing in our anxious hands.

Loving every minute of it, this curious feel of age, of skin that had been through more winters than summers. Letting it slip like liquid through cracks between our fingers. Wishing we would get old just by sitting in that car, by playing with her deteriorated years. Years which swung, somehow transformed into flab on the backs of her arms.

That couldn’t have happened overnight. It was a subtle transformation just as the one which led us to want to stop aging. No wait! Slow down! Do not turn me into my ancestors!

The subtle lies we tell ourselves until they are no longer a gentle tap on the shoulder but a brick wall of hard rain. The subtle way the words I am not smart enough, I am ugly, I am not thin enough, I am never going to be able to finish all sink into the potholes of a mind, the words hardening until the soft mud of them fills every crack and only a sledgehammer can break them apart.

The subtle way depression can return after such a long absence like it had been there all along, sitting in it’s favorite chair, reading the paper. Oh me? I’ve been here for a while. You just haven’t been able to detect the the signs. I’ve been precise and delicate but you haven’t been paying attention. Can I stay?

Here’s what you say: No.

And then enough pussyfooting around. Man up!

Pay attention. See the signs. Life will sneak up on you if you let it.

As my dear Mary Oliver says in Mockingbirds:

how the old couple

had almost nothing to give

but their willingness

to be attentive–

but for this alone

the gods loved them.

What I am saying is this:

Be attentive.

There is no such thing as subtle.

healing, Inspiration, Mindwebs

Ghosts.

September 22, 2012

I was driving down Main Street in Santa Monica last week and I thought I saw my mom’s second husband. My stepfather Carl.

He died in 1993.

A week before I graduated high school we got the call that he died in his sleep, a call so unexpected that you move the phone away from your ear to look at it and make sure it is really a phone and that its really a voice on the other end saying Carl died in his sleep last night. So we boarded a plane and flew from New Jersey out to California to help go through boxes and pictures and things that had belonged to him. My mother and Carl had divorced a few years before. Looking back I can see what a complicated beautiful mess this relationship was, what a complicated beautiful mess all relationships are really.

Why were we the ones to fly out and sort through a dead man’s stuff? I think now, from the vantage point of 20 years too late.

I am here now in Atlanta, just outside of Atlanta actually, down south in McDonough, at my sisters, where we just finished a fundraising walk for my oldest nephew who has Prader Willi Syndrome. PWS, as its called, is a rare genetic disorder with a host of shit that goes along with it but the most well known and unfair is the feeling of starvation the people who have PWS experience.

Blaise, my nephew, was eating out of the trash can tonight.

You catch him and he hugs you right away because he knows how to manipulate. Like we all do. It’s heartbreaking to think that he has to manipulate for food. The other kids today at the walk ate like they were never going to see food again whereas with Blaise we have to be constantly vigilant. He can literally eat himself to death. He can have a piece of banana. He can have just more snack, just one more, then that’s it, really that’s it, this is the last one.

My mom and my sister and me get together. And we fight. We are transported back in time and every reaction is a reaction to something in 1993 or in 1978. And Blaise is in the garbage eating banana peels.

All relationships are complicated beautiful messes.

Filled with ghosts.

We flew to California in 1993 a week before I graduated and went through pictures of Carl’s ex-girlfriends and then we spread his ashes out in the ocean in Malibu. I was so thin that people thought I was dying and I quite liked that. It made me feel something and nothing at once. Pretty much how most people feel when someone dies anyway.

Last week I saw a man on the corner, leaning into the light post, waiting for the Walk signal. He had a wetsuit on, a beard, barefeet, surfboard. I almost got into an accident right there on Main. Carl? It wasn’t him. Surely it couldn’t be. We went through his things and we drove to Malibu and read poems about him as his brother rode out on a surfboard and left him out there on a wave.

But God it made me miss him. It made me remember. Maybe that is why we see ghosts? So we don’t forget?

He would run to the beach barefoot. Then he would come back to the condo we were living in and chase me. I hated how he smelled after his run. You have b.o! I would yell and he would laugh and laugh and run around the sofa and try to catch me in his barefeet. I would laugh too even though I was equally mortified.

What if we had no ghosts?

What if every moment we were, we just were? What if there was no prior? No history? What if you could just be with your family and not be transported back into childhood with all of its ghosts?

The bare feet are what got me with that man on the corner the other day. That and the red beard. The signs were all there. Remember me! 

The ghosts are alive and well here in Atlanta. Maybe that’s what drives my nephew to the trashcan to find food. My younger nephew Maddock looks just like my father Mel. He asks us Why he died? Why Grandpa Mel died?

Tonight he came in and tattled on his brother Blaise (who had taken my iPhone and called certain friends 40 times) that Bwaise is cawwing people.

He told me: Bwaise called Grandpa Mel.

Did he?

I don’t know, the signs are all around us. The ghosts never want us to forget them so they send missiles and food in trash cans and memories and red beards and other things to wake us up. The trick is, the real work is, to not pay too much attention to them.

To just acknowledge them with a nod, and keep on keeping on.

It’s funny, I have been wanting to write about this since I saw my dead stepfather’s ghost on the street in Santa Monica last week, and then tonight someone who took my classes religiously and then moved away sent me this blurb he wrote:

God give me the strength and the energy to be the superhero that I am today. And give me the insight, to see the signs, that point the way to the light.

Then he said:

YOU ARE A SIGN HOLDER, JENNIFER. YOU TOTALLY POINT THE WAY.

Maybe I am somebody’s ghost already.

They are everywhere.

Eating Disorders/Healing, healing, Mindwebs

The Art of Being A Worrywart.

September 3, 2012

When I was a kid my nickname was Worrywart.

Really.

I used to say things like Do you think it matters? Is it going to be okay? over and over, to anyone who would listen. It didn’t matter what I was talking about, what the it in question was, it just mattered that I was appeased. I really didn’t care for the truth either, I just wanted to be told it was all going to be okay. And then I didn’t listen. I just kept on worrying and asking the same questions.

I obsessed. I bit my nails down to nothing. I wrote little notes to myself on papers I would crumple up as soon as I jotted down my secret language on them. I would write the first letter of every word only so if the sentence was “Am I going to get in trouble for not reading that book for school” I would write “AIGTGITFNRTBFS”.

It was a language only I understood. And maybe my sister. Years later I would find little notes with the same secret language that were not in my writing, but in hers, and although I think she must have gotten it from me, this secret language, she claims it was a weird talent she made up all on her own.

I used to use that secret language when I was anorexic to write down all the things I ate.

Rice cakes

honey

apple 

seaweed

would be: RCHASW.

I knew exactly what it meant when I read it. Even years later.

It was a craft, a skill, a profession that honed, this worrying business. This secret language.

During the years when I was losing weight rapidly, when I was deep in the throes of anorexia, I would ask people, anyone: Do I look fat? Do I look different than I did last week? Have I gained weight?

And the kicker is that I never ever wanted them to say yes. Never.

I wanted to stay in my secret language land and my land of worry warts. It was like a kingdom of pain and although I hated it, I wanted to stay. I felt safe there with my first letters only of words, with my bitten nails and repetitive thoughts.

It started when I was young although I am not sure what age exactly. I remember having a recurring dream that our house was on fire and I that I saved everyone but my sister. Never my sister. I was climbing a tree in the dream and then it would end like that. Always. Each time.

Maybe the worrying started before my dad died. Maybe after. The nickname started after he died, I do recall that, when we moved to California and I would collect soaps and line them up on the shelf in my room I shared with my sister. We had a hamster and bunk beds and at night I closed my eyes and tried to forget everything about my life pre-hamster and pre-bunkbeds.

As I got older the worrying turned into a full time job. I would sit in the library at NYU for hours counting my hunger pains and staring at the book on American Literature without reading one sentence, or rather reading the same one sentence over and over for four hours. I would write down in my secret language all the things I ate or didn’t eat that day and then obsess over how I would finish my homework when I hadn’t even started and I had been sitting here for hours. Then I would obsess that I wasted time. Then the sun came up. To do all of this well, as I did, was a true art.

To have the world fooled, that I had it together, was a skill unlike any other.

My eyes gleamed over and under them were soft dark circles which suggested that I spent the night awake and eating in my sleep as I did often because I was starving. Anything really. Anything I could get my hands on. Cat food. Muffins. Anything.

To be so good at something took time and practice and I didn’t have much time for anything else, mind you.

You never forget how to be an artist.

I still obsess, I still turn things over in my mind so much that they lose their meanings and become dog bones so chewed upon that there’s nothing left to do but keep chewing.

I catch myself now. I catch the thread of the thought and rip it before I trip over it and fall down the rabbit hole.

There was the year when I was 18. I was obsessing on something so much that it ate that year whole. That year disappeared in the way that some years do and the only way I can  reconcile any of that year is sometimes in a dream or in a photograph. Gone. Annihilated. Poof. Eaten up by worry.

Truly it’s an art, I tell you. Not everyone could be so good at it.

The thing about worry, the real tricky thing is this: it begets nothing, nothing but more of it. And it’s addicting, a drug in its own right. You know it’s bad for you and you want to stop, or maybe you don’t, but you can’t. It satisfies some deep craving where you’ve been broken, and nothing else does that, not yet at least, not that you’ve found. So you keep doing it, you keep slipping until you are so far gone that nothing makes sense anymore except your secret language filled with broken letters. That place where you worry is like a safe nest and even though all the things you obsess over will most likely never happen, nor do you want them to, it somehow feels safer to be in there, in that cracked world where you can spin and spin and never have to look at what is really happening outside of your mind.

So yes, worry is an art. A skill and a commodity. The more you collect it, the more value it will have. Until eventually it is all you have. Walls of your worry. Looking back they will demarcate the eras of your life as if they really happened.

Sure, I still want someone to tell me it will all be okay. My great big fantasy. I like to feel safe, yes.

Sometimes I still obsess like a parrot with a three word vocabulary, but mostly I catch myself in these moments and open the door to the cage and fly away.

I allow myself my humanness. I astound myself at my own humanness at times, in fact. But I refuse to be swept up in the arms of this clever nonsense. No Thanks, I say, I am just passing through.

 

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 http://www.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.

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Daily Manifestation Challenge, Manifestation Retreats, Mindwebs

Who Would I Be If Nobody Told Me Who I Was? The I Am Question. Daily Manifestation Challenge.

October 14, 2011

What a powerful question! Who would I be if nobody told me who I was? 

I first heard Wayne Dyer ask the question at one of his conferences. Who would you be be if nobody told you who you were? in his shorts and cute little flip-flops. Holy Sweet Baby Moses, I don’t know the answer. I don’t know who I’d be. 

At that time the question blew me right out my seat. I came back fully inhabited as somebody else.

You mean I get to decide who I am? I get to say who I am in the world rather than simply letting someone tell me? What the what?

For a long time I let the people around me dictate who I was. Sure, I was dealing with depression but the constant reminder that I should smile more, that I was so sad all the time actually had the effect of keeping me in that space. Eww. So I decided that was who I was. Sad and depressed. Woe is me Jen P. And that was that about that.

I also have a severe hearing problem and before people knew that fact they would think I was an airhead, someone who was eternally checked out. You kind of start to believe it after a while. I’m just a dingbat. Enough people tell you what and who you are and what do you know? You start to decide it’s the truth! You start to accept that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Ain’t so! You get to decide as many times as you like just who you are. I was a waitress kind of pretending to be an actress and now I am a yoga teacher and a writer. Not pretending.

And guess what else? I decided that I am not an airhead, I simply CAN’T HEAR!

Despite what the world told me about who I was and my character I chose differently.

I just love that Einstein quote above. It makes me feel sad for someone so close to me who was abused and believed that they were worthless for a very long time.

As I said in my poem “How To Make A Life” you get to decide over and over, as many times as you like, as many times as your socks, just who you are.

I lead an exercise in my workshops and retreats where I have people finish the sentence I am _____.

You cannot finish the sentence with: I am fat, I am broke, I am tired , hungry, bored etc.

It has to be something powerful. Something that you truly believe you are despite all the buts and ifs. If you’ve thought of yourself as ” just a mom” for years (and I know many who have thought themselves that even though the “just” makes me cringe), especially if you have done that, this exercise is profound.

You are the one making the rules.

You get to finish your I am-ness with whatever you like.

Why not? You are the creator of your world.

So here’s who I am. At least today: I am a healer. I am a writer. I am inspired. I am inspiring. I am powerful.

My exercise in the workshop is a bit harder. You say it aloud and then pick someone in the room and tell them your I am-ness before you look in their eyes for 3 minutes straight, without saying a word. It’s no joke! Some people weep. Some laugh. Some want to crawl out of their skin and beat the sh*t out of me.

But all know that the person looking in their eyes sees them exactly as who they said they were.

I am.

Who are you?

Be brave.

I dare you.

Today’s Challenge is the question: Who Would You be if Nobody Told You who you were? YOu can add your response below in comments. I encourage you to finish the sentence I am ________. Fill it in with something powerful and inspiring. 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Mindwebs, Self Image, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

A Parable

October 8, 2011

On the way back from Santa Fe yesterday I sat on the plane looking through my computer at some old notes. Some from 10 years ago, and frankly, I didn’t recognize the person who had written the words on my screen. In some dark recess of my soul, sure. Some dusty region of my being, yes maybe. In some moldy corner, the remnants of that girl still exist, but holy sh#t, am I glad she is gone! I am glad she no longer owns the lips that touch my coffee cup every morning. I am glad her brain was replaced by the one I am now in possession of.

I was reminded of the lyrics to Amazing Grace:

I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Truthfully, I was a little sickened as I read some of my old stuff. I got out my little compact mirror from my bag to make sure my face was still there.

It was.

I felt an ache for the girl whose words I was reading. How could that have been me? Me, who is a successful yoga teacher and loves herself ( most days.) Surely this is some kind of mistake and I picked up someone else’s computer. Horrified, I put the stolen computer back in my bag.

I took it back out of my bag. It is indeed mine. I own it. I am the sole owner of those crappy insecure negative journal entries. My name is Jennifer and I am a recovered negativaholic. I am a recovered jerk junkie. I am a recovered low self esteem user. I am a recovered I-think-I’m-fat-aholic as well as exercisaholic.

How did I have time to be so many things? I must have been so busy.

In fact, I wasn’t.

How could I have been busy with all my mental energy being taken up on what was wrong with me?

I bring it up now as a parable.

Against all odds, I came out on the other side. I killed the witch and I am living happily in my home with my seven little men. Ok, that’s a fairy tale, but you get the point.

And, they may not be seven little men, but I did marry one amazing man.

This parable has a moral as most parables do. (At least that’s what Wikipedia told me as I was confused between parable and fable. I have no talking animals so I suppose I am a parable.)

A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. Though the meaning of a parable is often not explicitly stated, the meaning is not usually intended be hidden or secret but on the contrary quite straightforward and obvious.

The universal truth: everything I was telling myself I firmly believed ( I was fat, not good enough etc) and yet wasn’t the truth at all.

In fact: it was a big fat lie.

The setting: my mind.

The action I took after many years of starving myself and being depressed and dating someone who didn’t appreciate me was: I changed my thoughts.

It took time. It took a lot of time, some yoga and a great man. It took also: finding my bliss. It took learning how to manifest what I want into my life without being attached to the results.

The meaning of this parable is obvious: You get to decide who you want to be. You get to believe it. Or not.

For a long time I was looking to be saved. I wanted security. I wanted nothing to change and no one to leave. Sigh. I wanted what stays.

Bigger sigh.

I used to feel like I was always losing and gaining weight, that I was a constant up and down, a monster, that I was literally unrecognizable from the day before (that bitchy and unreliable “Body Dysmorphia“.) I was obsessed with the idea that I was always changing. I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to stay the same and never ever change. I wanted to be safe.

Forever.

So I look back at the old me without being too naive in realizing that it has been the same me all along. I learned whatever lessons I had to learn and am still learning, sometimes over and over again. If I let myself, I could easily slip into her skin. My skin.

But I ask you, why on earth would I want to? She may be ten or fifteen years younger but I am wiser and kinder. I now love myself deeply. Like my beloved wine, I have gotten better with age.

Guys, it’s like this. Sometimes you can see everything at once. Your whole future mapped out, veins raised and ready. This is the geometry of your life: blue, irreversible, ingrained. It’s like how your eyes adjust to things, how you can see part of the moon when it isn’t really there. It’s like that with your mind. Adjust to the belief that you are f#*king awesome. See everything at once. All your glory.

The moon’s fullness still faintly visible, a whisper in the ear of the hard arc that hangs like it’s missing something, a part of itself. Waiting out it’s own cycles.

Except you’re not missing anything of yourself, nor were you ever.

Go grab a camera and take a picture of your face.

Frame the photo.

Make a note to self that says: ” Dear Self, Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

Mindwebs

Bad News Bears

September 13, 2011

I had this revelation this morning: I am always waiting for bad news.

For The bomb to drop.

For The sh*% to hit the fan.

That things are not going to work out.

I wake up around 7:30 am to see 4 missed calls from my sister. Immediately I think someone has died. It is 3 hours earlier in Atlanta last I checked. I listen to the voicemail messages and realize it is my 4 year old nephew Blaise, the one who has Prader Willi Syndrome, ” calling his friends”. He also says for me to come over and that he wants his schoolbus. 

Sigh of relief. No one has died. 

That is an extreme example of the feeling I am referring to, but one everyone can relate to. When a family member calls at the crack of dawn, isn’t that all of our biggest fear, that they are calling with bad news? Unless you hate your family, but that, dear readers, is another blog entry entirely.

Someone says to me ” I need to talk to you.”

I think “What have I done?” “Am I in trouble?”

I come to find out they just wanted to share that they got a new job, that they started a yoga practice and thought of me, that they got engaged, that they have fallen in love or learned to speak French. Whatever it may be, it is never what my subconscious immediately decided when they first said ” I have to talk to you.” I had already decided someone died or I was to be fired or jailed or someone didn’t like me or I messed up or some other piece of information that suggested I was a bad person.

Not all news is good news. We all know that. But who am I to be expecting this wasteland of horror? Somewhere deep inside me I am still an 8 year old who was just told her father had died in the night.

Ah! There it is!

No wonder. I will blame it all on my father’s death. The end.

Not so fast.

I know better. I have to do a little rewiring, a little reprogramming, a little meditation, some more yoga and writing, but I am most certain that I can shift my thinking so that I can begin to expect the best, instead of the worst. Some bad news when I was 8 years old surely cannot dictate the fact that the rest of my life will be filled with nothing but the same?

I do wonder why so many of us live like that, though?

Let’s be brutally brutally honest here. ( A horrible expression if you ask me. Let’s pummel each other with truth! Let’s beat the crap out of each other while NOT lying!).

I talk a great talk, but, at the end of the day, I am still struggling with releasing my past and my old fears that a big bad dark future filled with bad news is waiting for me. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but enough that I decided to take a good look inside and clear out some of those mindwebs. Cobwebs of the mind, old dirty dishes stacked up in the corner of your soul.

Why should I not expect miracles? They have certainly been showing up for quite some time in my life now? Why should I not expect to keep being as happy as I am right now, rather than expecting that it surely can’t last, no one gets to be this happy, for this long?

Well, excuse me as I ask myself something:

” Well, why the F%CK not?”.

So next time my phone rings at 4 a.m. I will for sure think that it’s someone calling to tell me that they love me instead of a hurricane blowing my family’s home while a tidal wave outside my door waits. Metaphor or not, the tidal wave is my constant nightmare.

Next time a change presents itself in my world, I will not assume it is a bad change. Next time I am dealt a card I know not what to do with, I will breathe and know with utter certainty that the answer is on it’s way.

I am taking my future back. With all of it’s glory and perfectly imperfect moments of happiness and utter joy. Sure there may be bad news again, but it will be as unexpected as falling in love, and I will surely deal with it with as much grace and spontaneity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You’ll be Happy to Know that the Universal Law that Created Miracles Hasn’t been Repealed.” ~Wayne Dyer

Challenge:

Where can you expect more miracles in your life? Can you keep your past in your past? Can you invite good news in more often?

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