Browsing Category

my book

Hearing Loss, loss, my book

Investigating Loneliness.

September 16, 2012

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and my teacher, Annie Carpenter, kept using the word investigate to cue us in the poses.

Investigate the backbend.

I liked the idea of being a detective when it came to my backbend, to the way my foot felt on the mat. I liked the way this verb felt in me, the way it rolled around and ended up in so many different landscapes. I planted the seed of investigation and what came up out of the earth of me was:

Investigating loneliness.

The old couple that lived next door to us for years in New Jersey, Kay and Jerry and how she got hit by a car in front of the church across the street and never came back from the hospital, staying there for months before she finally died of some complication. How he died of loneliness. How I think it must not be that hard. I’m investigating that.

Sometimes I sit in my apartment and get stuck there. Literally stuck. The quicksand of my desk chair. The sinking mud of my bathroom mirror.

The phone rings and the texts come in, the emails. All of it with its own little rythym of relevance: Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that! I stare at it them like little soldiers, these little missives and misfits and messages and patiently wait for it all to stop. Mesmerized by my ability to want to turn it all off, to make my nearly deaf ears a little more hushed. Noiseless as shock, I sit at my desk or in my bed and wrap myself in a feeling close to nothing.

What is this feeling? I have so many things to be done, so many people to call back, so many things I have let slip between the cracks of my mind and yet I can’t move.

Everyone is laughing and I might join is so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs frogs in throats. I might as well be floating on a piece of bark at sea with nothing but the clothes on my back and my thoughts to keep me from drowning. I have no idea what you are laughing at! I scream in my head as I laugh along, my hearing loss incapable of disguise. That feeling of laughing when you have no idea why everyone is laughing, that’s a kind of loneliness I want to tell you about also.

How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people? I imagine on my computer screen after this blog post, being sent in an email from someone feeling sympathetic somewhere. On the bottom, in the comment section below, platitudes like: You are never truly alone!  You may feel lonely but you are never alone! You are so loved.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago eating at Pasquals with my friends, the writers Emily Rapp and Chris Abani. We were chatting about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Emily’s baby is dying so these types of conversations are normal over Huevos motuleños. (This dish includes banana on top of eggs and while at first I thought the idea horrifying, I came around once I tasted Emily’s.)

Chris and Emily were saying that with sympathy people make it about themselves. Whereas empathy is truly about you, whoever you are. Makes sense. I agreed. That’s why sympathy doesn’t feel authentic, why it’s rejected like a banana on an egg. I don’t want sympathy.

I want a: Yea! Hey, I know what you mean. I have felt that as well. I get it. I understand.

That’s it. Enough said.

You can’t fix it. There is no fixing. I am investigating all the ways I feel lonely in a crowd,  what it feels like to be amongst the world and also completely not in it at all.

The thing is, I like being alone. I prefer it. I struggle to leave my apartment. I would rather read a book or write than go out and I have been this way since childhood. But much as I am investigating my backbend, I am looking into the intricacies of my aloneness and how it keeps me in my head and what a bloody bad neighborhood that really is.

I just read something by Iyanla Vanzant where she said “Who are you? Is not meant to be a question. It is meant to give pause for reflection. Who are you without whatever you hold on to?”

It is not meant to be a question but rather to give pause.

That’s what I am doing with this particular case, in my detective work, in my investigations. I am giving pause. I am not looking to solve the mystery, per se, but to look without judgement at the areas of my life I have hidden or buried.

I feel lonely often because I can’t hear. It’s a lonely world when you can hear sounds but have no idea what they mean.

So I understand how Jerry died shortly after Kay was hit by the car in front of the church because surely she was the only one who understood his sounds and what they meant.

What I have found in my investigation thus far is this: loneliness is the place we meet our hearts. And we hear our hearts for the first time. The beat slows down, the accelerated beat ceases and there is no panic or sadness or isolation only connection and  a deep knowing that you have waited your whole life for this.

In that moment, The Lonely Ones send their hearts out into the world to love and be loved, and maybe they will get broken, maybe not. But for a few minutes in the life of that heart there is nothing else but other hearts and their is a linking up which if you listen closely to it says the word Finally.

my book

What It’s Like To Really See.

August 26, 2012

It’s like a fisheye view where you can see everything at once: your whole future, unrelenting and nimble. As quick as an idea forgotten before its spoken.

You can see it all mapped out: irreversible veins raised and ready for puncture.

The geometry of your life: blue, ingrained, vainglorious.

It’s like how your eyes can adjust to things after an eyeful of sunlight, the inside of an apartment or a book. How you can see part of the moon when it isn’t really there anymore. That hanging sliver, white as pearl on black. It’s fullness still faintly visible: an illusion. The whisper of its former body. A palsied arc, the fingernail piece of moon that hangs like it’s missing something of itself, waiting out it’s own cycles.

I understand as I arch the small moon of my lower back, pressed into a groove of a kayak afloat in the Pacific Ocean just north of Santa Monica that: All things converge into this one point.

This point where past culminates with present and future and time stops thinking about what to do next.

Everything floats as time takes a breath and lets you live for the first time in your life without the words Something else must be done. My life isn’t enough the way it is.

Maybe my father is somewhere in Malibu, fishing and alive as ever. Maybe all I get with the people I love are minutes, or, at best, a week well spent, a Friday afternoon, a bottle of wine in a garden.

Can I ever truly understand that no one stays with you forever?

That yes, the reflection will be there again, your face will still be in the medicine cabinet mirror in the morning, but that so much will have come to pass and you won’t even know it as you scuff the floor in your tired socks and sit down to cereal.


healing, Inspiration, my book

Hunting For Unicorns.

August 26, 2012

By Jen Pastiloff.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with unicorns.

I had this big unicorn book, a coffee table kind of book with shiny pages that felt smooth when I ran my hands over them. Again and again, smoothing over my unicorns. I would pick up the book and smell the pages. It had this new book, magazine-like smell that I couldn’t get enough of. I would pick which unicorn was my favorite. Some days it was the white one on the beach in a place I imagined to be Australia, others it was the two unicorns in the field of flowers.

One day someone told me they were just horses with a horn glued on their heads. I refused to believe this. I would pick up the book and bring it closer to my eyes and inspect. I couldn’t see any evidence of forgery. They must be real.

When I was 7 I had a diary with a picture of unicorn on the front. I put a felt sticker of a unicorn on the front and inside were 7 unicorns stamped in pink ink. I opened the diary recently to see that it said: I ripped out the pages before these because I wrote dumb things. This was in 1985. I looked closely and indeed they were frayed edges like the pages had been yanked out! What had I said?

Those pages floating in the Garbage Can of Dumb Things somewhere in 1985. In 2012 they would be in the Stream of Profound Things. I would look back at them and say: How fantastic! Look what I wrote when I was a kid. Look how thoughtful I was. Or: Look how much pain I was in. Whatever I had written I would look back upon it with awe and fascination and would use it as science and fact. It would help me uncover the mystery of why I was the way I was and it would give me material for my book. But I threw those parts of my life away. The “dumb parts.”

How may dumb parts of my life have I thrown away altogether?

How many have you?

What could I have said that I thought was so dumb?

When my father died I refused to cry. Maybe I wrote that I felt sad and then regretted that so I ripped it out? Being vulnerable was never easy for me. I thought it dumb to show how I felt. That it meant I was weak.

I will hunt for my old pages. I will search for those words. The basis of the unicorn myth perhaps arose because at one point people literally hunted for them. They searched in field and forests, calling out in the dark to these fantastical creatures. It was believed that it really existed somewhere at the edge of the known earth. Thus the mythologizing began.

So the hunt for the unicorn was much like my hunt for my pages. I am sure they existed. I believe that they exist somewhere at the edge of the known earth and that if I call to my ripped out pages in the dark edge of a forest, they will return. They will enter my sleeping mind, a unicorn made real by determination, and when I wake they will be there again like they never left. There will be no gaps in my diary, no holes in my memory, no unknown unicorns.

What is legend? What turns into memory? Which pages have you ripped out of your life thinking they didn’t deserve to exist? Which unicorns?

I wish I knew what happened to that beloved unicorn book. If I close my eyes I can still feel how smooth those pages were. It’s funny which things our memories choose to hold onto. Which sensations, which pages, which books, which people. Sometimes I would take those pages and rub them against my legs or my face like a talisman. I would let their magic wear off on me like the cold end of a rabbit’s foot or a lucky penny. The pages were always cool as if they lived in a separate magical world. No matter what the weather was in my room the pages stayed cold as snow.

I stopped believing in unicorns and I gave the book away. Or I threw it away in The Garbage Can of Dumb Things. I stopped believing that things would work out for me, that good things would last and that unicorns were a real part of the world.

A real part of the world. 

Real parts of the world were: my father’s death, we were moving away from New Jersey, I knew how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism (I would tell you this upon first meeting you and proceed to spell it), I had a red Huffy bike.

Not real parts of the world were: My father, unicorns.

I couldn’t remember what the book was called for the life of me until today. What I could  remember was how it smelled and which unicorn was on which page. So today I googled: Unicorn coffee table book from the 1980’s and what do you know? There it was! My beloved book. Unicorns I have Known. 

I am thinking back on all the unicorns I have known.

All the magic I have witnessed and then denied it’s very existence? All the miracles I have forgotten about or simply ripped out of my life like the pages of a diary, as if they were irrelevant or symptoms of stupidly. Symptoms of believing in magic.

How dare I believe in magic? I thought. Look where it gets you, you stupid Unicorn, I yelled.

I would like to be able to say that I believe in magic again.

I am getting closer to that truth. I am still out here wearing a headlamp, searching for unicorns after having given up on them for years. The thing is, about these unicorns, about this kind of magic: it will wait. It will be there to greet you with such a powerful surge of light that you will need take off your headlamp and sit down under a tree as you watch the light spill across the forest of your life like it had been there all along.

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

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

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human.

my book

Details of A Life.

August 23, 2012

I can’t remember the details of my life.

They go by, a fast car, a blur, a streak of blue or grey, a whiff of hair out the window, something out of the corner of an eye, not so much seen as remembered.

I am writing a book. An outline, my old friend, the big editor in NYC tells me. An outline? How do I outline my life? Do I get a piece of paper and draw a thin line of across it, a faint streak in charcoal or pencil outlining the places my heart has stopped beating for moments in time, tracing the years my eyes closed and opened again? An outline.

Birth. I was born. It was cold. December. Philadelphia. I came two months early. Just before Christmas I entered the world, a purple storm. I have been told that as my mother pushed me in a carriage one day in South Philadelphia, a woman spit on my head. I don’t remember this but I have been told the story so much that I think I remember this. This is the danger of being told stories. You start to think the story is the truth. And it might have been. But really, who knows? Who knows. The woman could have easily not spit on my head or called me ugly, or she could have spit on me. Either way I am not remembering the actual saliva and feeling of hatred dripping down but the rather the words have imprinted on my memory creating their own little room. Replete with a bed and a desk and a typewriter.

My sister was born. We moved to New Jersey. Across the bridge to South Jersey where people were moving. We moved to a street called Drexel Avenue. I remember that. I remember the store across the street from our house had a PacMan machine and a Frogger video game. You could buy things and put them on your tab at this store. I was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7, and I could walk in, play PacMan, get a pound of American cheese thinly sliced, and a hard pack of Kools for my father. I could just tell the man who owned it, Kirk, to put it on our tab. He left egg nog on our doorstep at Christmas. Now do I remember these things because I was there or because I wrote poems about them? Either way, here they are, in the outline on this Etch-A-Sketch of my life.

My dad dies. It’s 1983. Still a faint outline I am working on here, you must rememberr. Maybe it’s in chalk, pencil, something light. We aren’t at his funeral, my sister and I. We were somewhere but since I never wrote a poem about it, I don’t know where. Did we disappear, two little girls slipping into a crack in time long enough for a funeral for a very loved man to be held? Maybe. I do not know where we were. I will have to leave that out of my outline.

See the thing is, when writing a book, you have to have notes to look back on. I took no notes. My notes are in my head and my head is as unreliable as a sock.

Every sock I own has gone missing, leaving it’s partner in a ball with nothing to do but sit and wait. Eventually you get so desperate that you take that lone sock and put it with another lone sock, if it’s lucky. But you can’t count on that. Sometimes that sock sits forever by itself, sulking because it’s by itself and can’t understand what that means.

I am relying on my memories and my imagination. I know we write to remember and maybe I just do not want to remember. Maybe that? Maybe I am lazy. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I thought I would remember.

Don’t we all?

I am not sure the answer but I do know that it’s time to do this, to finally answer that calling that has been with me since I was a kid living in that house on Drexel Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey. And yet, here I am at a loss. How do I begin? What do I call upon? How can I do this?

Where does everything go? I yell at the computer.

Everything that happened to me, every person, every book I read, every toothache, every conversation with my dad, every triumph and heartache, every pizza: where is it, where are they? They happened. They existed.

I thought I would remember.

Maybe that’s why I never journaled. But shouldn’t I be able to call upon them in a moment’s notice? Don’t they belong to me? Don’t they work for me? Where have they gone?

Where has my father’s laugh gone: that laugh that creeped up the vents into our room and made us giggle because it sounded like a sheep? Where has that sound gone? Is it floating around somewhere in space where I can go capture it in a bottle and put it by my computer so when I need to describe it I can unscrew the lid and listen. Oh, how I would listen!

Perhaps that is how we keep going. If we remembered every detail we would never hold someone’s hand again, we would never kiss again, or go to the dentist. But does the forgetting mean that we can’t call upon it when needed. Can I sit quietly and remember the details of my life as they happened so I can write them on paper and send them out in the world?

After my father died and we moved to California we were happy. For a while. Then we moved back to New Jersey. Things are a blur here. I was hungry all the time in high school, I remember that, but I can’t remember how the hunger felt as it ate my stomach, that high I had as I felt empty, empty and more empty. I was so empty I remember thinking I wasn’t in the world anywhere but I must have been because here I am, still here. I can’t really remember that emptiness.

So I will have to sit quietly and beg the details to come back. I will bribe them. I will be nice to them and I will pay attention to what they tell me.

The details of my life are intricate and complicated and at the same time easy and wonderful, sad and happy, full of mistakes and fuck ups and moments of Yes. 

I spoke to someone on the phone this morning. My friend, Jimmy Knowles, someone gifted in too many ways for one human to be gifted, and he said, for the third time to me: Take notes during all of this. Take notes.

So what’s my problem? Why can’t I? What is my aversion to seeing the details of my life as they happen scrawled in chicken scratch in front of me like a grocery list, milk, bread, you are born, someone loved you, coffee, you became a yoga teacher, rice, you write a book.

I will face the details. I am no longer scared to look at them rather than simply try and remember them. As much as I think it is harder to write them as they happen, the opposite is true. It is much harder to try and remember someone you loved that died too soon rather than looking back at the words you wrote about their smile, their bald spot, their love of waffles.

It’s much harder to try and make it up.

How much we must make up.

How many details to stay alive.

The awesome made this poster for me!

my book

The Extraordinary Patience of Things.

August 9, 2012

Possibility is patient. 

Other things that are patient: Death. Sometimes. Other times, not so much.

Sometimes it comes and grabs you in your cut-offs and yellow I Survived The Bermuda Triangle t-shirt at 11:01 in a Tuesday in July. It grabs you as you take your watch off to put it on the nightstand next to your cigarettes. Like it can’t wait a moment longer. Other times, it lingers patiently knowing it will find you when needed, wherever you may be, and that there’s no hurry. For it to take you now, in a flash, would be rash and unfair. Sometimes it is a patient thing waiting in a corner until the time is right. Like most things, it can’t always be just one way.

The patience of your voice. How sometimes it takes years to find, until one day you do and on that day you walk in a room knowing fully who you are in the world. The voice that has so patiently waited for you fills you with your personality, your you-ness. You may not feel it rejoice but it does. Having waited silently in a corner for you that long without making a peep. It throws a little party in your soul and although you may think it is just excitement or too much coffee, it is your voice, moving in finally. For good.

Heartbreak. Heartbreak is patient. It doesn’t give a shit where you have to go or who you have to be. It doesn’t care. It is patient. It takes it’s times and does what it needs to do quietly, methodically, slowly. It crawls. It stops time and waits for the people to cross and the cars to go. It’s that patient.

Pain. Oh, the patience of anguish. It waits for you at night and is there for you in the morning no matter how slow you amy be moving that day and how long it takes for the coffee to kick, your pain waits in your body. Or your heart. Like a loyal friend you’ve had since childhood and no matter how neglected that friendship is, it still stands, your pain calls every once in a while and patiently waits for you to answer.

Wisdom is patient. Sometimes it takes forever to arrive. Sometimes, and hopefully this isn’t true for you, it never arrives.

Dogs. They love. Endlessly. Without asking for much, they jump on you when you arrive no matter how long you’ve left them.

I have also discovered the patience of miracles and how when you wait for them they will show up, often in disguise but there nonetheless. 

Other patient things: Yoga, and how it meets you time and time again. Love, even when you have sworn off it for the Goddam last time. A breathtaking set of words and how they sit patiently and marinate in your mind until they are part of you entirely. Healing, which can wait until you are blue in the face before it sits down and makes itself at home. A good glass of wine and how it lingers and develops a nose, a body, a personality.

When you think of all the things that are patient it is truly remarkable to think that it is usually ourselves that are the impatient ones. It is me that wants it now. It is me that wants my book written and published.

And for what? isn’t the journey part of the joy? Mustn’t it be?

I remember thinking as an actor how unhappy I was and knowing that if I booked a lead on a tv show I would still be unhappy. I knew that. So, in essence I was admitting that the journey stank. That I hated it.

I love my journey now. So I must have patience. There is so much possibility within these pages. Possibility is endless in it’s patience by definition.

Poetry is patient, love is patient (although I think that is from the Bible, and if so, then love is also kind.)

My life is patient. It has waited for me this long.

My God then, it can wait a little longer. It can hold it’s horses and take a seat next to love and poetry, sunsets and the cycles of the moon, and my husband, who is so very patient.

My life can patiently unfold as I write my book and live beat to beat.

Possibility will unfold, shyly or like a thunderbolt, unexpected and without rain.

Anything good is worth waiting for.