Browsing Category

Owning It!

Activism, Guest Posts, Owning It!

A Female Fighter

December 12, 2019
fighter

By Debra Des Vignes

As I drive from Indianapolis to the boxing gym, I feel my anger rising. My son’s farm accident is still fresh in my mind. And friends, I don’t even want to think about friends. At the gym, I’m one of only three female fighters. I’m 45, not old, but old for a fighter. Today, I’m headed to the gym. Working out, boxing, is how I alleviate my anger. While driving, I reminiscence.

Things happen in life, I know, even to the innocent, that we have no control over and that we can’t explain. No one knows why. It’s just life and its unexplainable ways. My son, Simon, was four when the accident happened. That morning, my husband and I were invited to have an early dinner at a friend’s horse farm, but first a tour of their beautiful property was suggested. I recall my son’s big, brown eyes, and his friend’s blonde ponytail. They held hands while the mother of our son’s friend rubbed the horse’s side. Suddenly, the horse spooked, no one knows why, and Simon’s body was flung mid-air. A child’s pained cry has a high, shrill, piercing sound that no mother wants to hear. Blood splattered the grass, the wooden fence and Simon’s ponytailed friend. Thank God that she wasn’t hurt.

My thoughts continue to revisit the accident as I pull over for gas and get back on the highway. It’s early evening and many are sitting down for dinner.

I remember sitting in the ICU – trauma – with my husband. Over the course of seven days and nights, I watch eye, throat and facial surgeons rush in and out to check Simon’s vital signs. I become numb, staring at a blank, white wall, day in and day out. I sit slumped at the edge of a chair, silently screaming inside, afraid to move. I feel empty. My thoughts are non-cohesive. I eat at the hospital cafeteria and shower in the room near where he lies in a medically induced coma. My anger is growing.

I become accustomed to the sounds of the trauma unit as I wait for the next doctor’s report. The sounds of feet pitter-pattering up and down hallways, alarms beeping, bells ringing, wheels of a carts squeak as they roll here and there, the hum and buzz of everyday hospital routines, are forever embedded in my mind. I realize the cold-heartedness of the world outside. Where are my friends?

On the radio, the broadcaster is talking about salmon invading nearby Eagle Creek Park and its 1300 acres of reservoir. I’m not interested, and I turn it off. Today, I’m only interested in getting to the boxing gym. I can feel the anger leave my body with each jab, hook and uppercut. Why do people find it strange when I tell them my idea of a good workout is boxing? Boxing is my passion and it entered my life at a time I needed it most. I was angry and wanted to hit something; anything in my path. The gym is my sanctuary.

As I drive, I think to myself, maybe I expect too much out of friends, but I don’t think so. I expect a friend to have my back in times of tragedy. After all, that’s what friends do. When Simon’s accident happened, his facial plate (maxilla) broke in half. I was devastated. After the accident, sadness gripped my heart. I worried myself sick about my son. I was completely overwhelmed as surgery after surgery had to be scheduled to repair his injuries. I had my husband, but I needed a motherly friend to lean on, to help me, to tell it would be OK. It was one of my darkest hours, and the friends I thought had my back deserted me. When I needed them most, they were off doing their own thing. That’s how it goes, but that is not how it’s supposed to be because I believe a true friend should have my back ‘til the bitter end.

A truck carrying livestock, cattle, passes me. He is going over the speed limit. I have never understood why people blatantly break the law.

I remember that I’m from the “easier” side of the tracks where dogwood trees give off the sweet fragrance of their white and pink flowers; a place where one doesn’t worry about the next meal or whether the power will be cut off, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my share of hard knocks because I have. Hard knocks have made me who I am. As a child, my mother’s alcoholism ruled the household and my father was strict. As an adult, Simon’s accident has dominated my life. Nevertheless, I’ve still managed to build a creative writing program for the incarcerated. Yes, I sometimes feel I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I’m a fighter who doesn’t give up a fight.

I remember my early days as a former reporter covering crime and courts for local TV affiliates NBC, CBS and ABC. I was filled with enthusiasm. I wanted to make a difference. As a reporter, I covered many stories involving prisoners, but often the prisoners’ side of the story was left out. I wanted to know those stories, so I got involved and became a prison volunteer. At first, it was a little intimidating.

I didn’t know what to expect when I entered the prison for the first time. The stereotyping of prisons and prisoners left me wondering, “Would I be robbed, raped, or stabbed with a handmade shank?” The clinking and clanking of metal gates sent cold chills up my spine. I moved through several layers of prison guards. Their keys jingled and jangled as they unlocked gates and doors. At every entry, I had to flash my prison volunteer badge. I began questioning my sanity asking myself, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” I could be killed, I thought.

***

When I arrived at the designated location, it was nothing like I expected. The classroom was like any other classroom, and its occupants, although prisoners, like any other group of students. All my fears had been in vain. One of my first classes was a victim-impact class. I wanted to know how prisoners felt about victims. Amazed by the raw talent in the room; I laughed and cried at their answers to questions. I didn’t know any victims of a violent crime but I’d hope he or she would show remorse like the men did in the room that day. I was so moved that I worked to build a creative writing program for prisoners inside the facility. I remind myself that that writing program is now in three Indiana correctional facilities.

Another truck passes me as if I’m standing still. It is carrying frozen foods. I look at my speedometer. I’m going the speed limit.

I remember that I’m an older fighter who constantly needs ice packs for pain and old wounds. Today, I brought frozen, green peas because they were convenient. In a fight, it is imperative that a boxer controls both physical and emotional pain. Physical pain can be controlled by frozen peas, but emotional pain brought on by life (people), well, that is a whole different matter. As a fighter, I know that thoughts can create emotions that impede performance in the ring. Reason has it that if I can’t control my thoughts, I cannot win the fight. Emotions originate in the mind where vital nerves alert spirit and soul to feel one way or another. Consequently, as a boxer, I must be the gatekeeper of my mind’s door, keeping everything negative out, otherwise I’m a dead duck in the ring. It took me years to learn that.

The yellow Shell gas station sign ahead tells me I’m nearing my destination. I have about ten more miles before I reach the turn that leads to the boxing gym.

I remember one day at the gym several male fighters took an interest in me. They asked me where I was from and where I went to school. I’m about 5’5 with curly, short, hair, and I wear little make-up. At first, I thought it was innocent chatter, but then I sensed resentment in their demeanor. I was a female fighter in what was traditionally a male dominated sport and they didn’t like sharing “their” ring with a female. That resentment was later confirmed when a fighter in the ring treated me as if I were wounded, stray dog too injured to be worthy of his time. I got the message and they soon got mine because I’m a fighter, and I don’t back down because resentment rears its ugly head.

As I turn off the main highway onto the dirt road that leads to the boxing gym, I dread this road because it’s filled with deep potholes. I believe that someday this road is going to be the fault of me being stranded out here to fend for myself. Off to my left, I see glowing, red embers from a small trash fire outside a rarely seen house on this road. As I pull into the parking lot, I notice puffy, gray clouds that hang over the gym, a bad omen, but I hope not. The gym building is unmarked and ugly. It’s a dreary looking place on the outside. I park my car and gather my gear.

I approach the gym’s front door and hear yelling from a coach within that alarms even the birds resting in the nearby spruce trees. I enter and look around to observe the pecking order. Amateur fighters can be territorial. They lay claim to everything: punching bags and lockers. One can tell the elite boxers by the way they carry themselves, moving with purpose after years of discipline. They are admired by most in the gym. I hear fans suck out recycled, damp air. Rap blares out of a stereo. The heavy punching bags hang in unison. They are the only signs of order in the gym.

I find my place and prepare to fight as I wait to be paired with a sparring partner. I tuck my hair in and tighten my glove straps. We will fight six rounds. Each round will last five minutes. I’m ready to release some anger. I hear distant war cries of ongoing matches and the sound of ring-side bells.

Today, I’m going to kick somebody’s ass or I’m going to get my ass kicked. Either wayas a female fighter getting a good workoutI win.

Prior to establishing a prison writing program, Debra Des Vignes had a 10-year career as a journalist in Television News getting her start at KABC-TV in Los Angeles, California before traveling across the country working at various TV stations covering crime. Creative writing is her passion, especially flash fiction. She has served in various leadership communications roles for nonprofit organizations across the country and her story pitches have garnered national media attention in U.S. World & News Report, CNN, Miami Herald, The Washington Times, and more. Debra received a degree in political science from California State University Northridge.

Upcoming events with Jen

****

THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!

Eulogy For an Aging Book Guy

November 20, 2017
book

By Timothy Eberle

I’m thinking about giving up my identity as a “book guy.” (Which doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on reading per se; simply that I’m considering no longer so aggressively inserting that particular pastime into my outward facing persona.) And not because “book guy” has somehow become any less gratifying a façade – if anything, my affection for its particulars have only strengthened with time. (I love the thick-rimmed glasses, the t-shirts adorned with faded images of out-of-print novels, the smug sense of superiority I get to feel as I stare over the spine of “Infinite Jest” on the subway – the teeming mass of my fellow commuters immersed in the decidedly less-worthy diversions of “iPhones,” “newspapers,” and “not desperately trying to impress a train-ful of strangers with a faulty air of intellectual authority.”) The honest truth is that I actually really like being a book guy; it’s simply that, as time progresses and mores shift, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify the “book guy persona” as anything resembling efficacious. (For one thing, I’m finding that, past a certain point, people are unwilling to tolerate the use of a word like efficacious in what was, up to that point, casual conversation.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, at some point over the last several years – a time which was for me primarily spent agonizing over the decision as to whether or not taking up pipe-smoking would be seen as a bit too “on the nose” – television has apparently become really, really good. Not to overstate the fact, but the near universal consensus appears to be that we’re living in what can only be described as a new golden age of the medium, with legitimate auteurs reshaping the television landscape through a groundbreaking combination of breathtaking cinematography, innovative storytelling, and an eagerness to confront even the most pressing social issues of the day. Which is – of course – objectively good for humanity.

But it’s objectively terrible for me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Owning It!

When Girls Make Noise

November 27, 2016
noise

By Kari O’Driscoll

“Do they make noise when you walk?” my 16-year old daughter stands next to me in the shoe store. She and her sister are my fashion experts. I never buy a pair of boots or a purse without consulting them first. I laugh out loud, not because it sounds like a ridiculous question, but because I completely identify with it. In that instant, an image of my two girls playing dress-up as toddlers fuzzes into my mind. Their arms filled with tulle and satin, they ferried outfits from the carpeted playroom to the hardwood floor of the kitchen, emptying the dress-up box trip by trip because that was where the plastic princess shoes made a really satisfying clop, clop, clop.

“Children should be seen and not heard,” was a phrase often repeated in my childhood home, except it seemed as though the boys were somehow exempt. They were encouraged to rough-house and wrestle, yelp wildly through a game of Cowboys & Indians, holler affirmations and pump their fists in the air when they won a game of H-O-R-S-E. The girls were expected to sit quietly and color and if we made any sort of exuberant noise we were shushed post-haste.

By the time my mother and father divorced, I was well-versed in the expectations of silent servitude. My job was to anticipate what needed to be done and do it without protest or inquiry. I learned that chatterbox was decidedly NOT a compliment, that challenging house rules, even in a calm voice, would earn me a belt slash across the backside, and that my charm and value rose in direct proportion to how well I conformed and made peace between my siblings. I was a good middle child but also the oldest girl. When Dad left and Mom went back to work full time, I became the one doing the shushing, reminding my little sister Katy to raise her hand in class if she had a question, perfecting the laser eye that would still her lips at the dinner table, installing an inner monologue in her head designed to help her determine whether her input was important or necessary or if it was just noise. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Owning It!, Sexuality

The Coming Out Post

June 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Renée Greiner.

I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.

I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.

And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.

I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.

But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen's Musings, Owning It!

Here’s What The F*ck I Am Going To Do About It.

February 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

 

By Jen Pastiloff.

For Lidia Yuknavitch, my teacher, my heart sister, my friend.

I haven’t blogged in a while so here I am. Hi, hello, hi. I’m in Los Angeles, here at home for a few days before I hit the road again for more workshops.

A few weeks ago, I led a retreat in Ojai, California, with Lidia Yuknavitch, who wrote The Chronology of Water. The Writing & The Body Retreat. And yes, it was everything you’d imagine- and then some. And yes, we are doing it again in September.

In my own workshops, I ask people to write about the things that get in their way and the fears they have and what they are afraid of. I ask them to write and share about all sorts of things. That’s why the subtitle is On Being Human. It is not a “writing” workshop, per se, although there’s writing. Mostly, it’s about what it means to be a human being. They laugh and cry and let the snot fly, as I like to say.

And then I always ask this: Now what? Now what?

So you wrote about it and shared it out loud and you may “want to be a writer” and you may not, no matter really, what really matters is this: what now?

Writing and sharing is hard, and I think a pretty big deal, but you can write until you are blue in the face and go on retreats and camps and workshops and whatever but what are you going to do?

This is where I get stuck.

I talk a good talk.

But then I sit here and stare out the window all day.

So, when Lidia gives a prompt that is so similar to what I ask except she asks it in her Lidia-esque way, I know that this woman is my heart. She asks the group what was main thing was that was getting in their way. I participated in this one.

What was getting in my way? She asked us to write down the first thing we thought of.

Okay, done.

My own self gets in my way. Me.

Then she gave this exact prompt, and this is really where I knew I loved her for life, “And here’s what the fuck I am going to do about it.” We had five minutes.

This is what came out of it for me. This is my Now what?

Continue Reading…

beauty, Binders, Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!, Self Love

The Other Plastic Surgery.

February 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Bir. 

There’s a face I’m sick of seeing, and it’s not the rearranged mess of a scandalized Hollywood star. It’s a face I confront in every reflective surface—the bathroom mirror, the screen of my smartphone if I tilt it just so. Perhaps this face may even appear superimposed on that of a celebrity of a certain age, if I pause while zipping along through my Facebook feed.

“What the heck happened?” I think in shock, every single time, because the face glaring back at me does not match my memory of what my face looks like. The skin at the corners of eyelids and lips is creased, slack; the purplish sacks under the eyes are increasingly puffy and swollen, almost like bruises. My nose, which has always been large, is gleefully launching into a mid-life growth spurt, veering off-center to one side and becoming bulbous and shiny, like Santa’s.

This is the other plastic surgery. It’s the kind that rearranges your face in totally unexpected ways. This surgeon of mine should be taken to court, I grumble, but I didn’t hire him. Or is it her? Perhaps they work as a husband-wife team, the practice of Mother Nature and Father Time. They are certainly not exclusive; in fact, it’s impossible not to get a referral. And they’re quite generous with appointments, happy to work your countenance over again and again. They really don’t make any compromises, those two. Try as you might, these practitioners will always be in your health network.

 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

 

The handiwork of Drs. M. Nature and F. Time is understandably a concern for anyone whose career demands fresh, fussed-over faces. Thank god I’m not a glamorous media figure, because even without a long, expensive vacation to Camp Nip’n’Tuck, the shifting topography of my head is, to me, as startling as Renée’s, or Madonna’s, or Kenny’s, or Nicole’s.

That’s because the face I unfailingly expect to greet me from a mirror is perhaps circa 1999, or maybe 2004, or maybe not from any specific era of my life except an idealized past. Who knows what I’m idealizing, because, at a still-spry 38 years, inside I feel more confident and sorted-out than I ever did when my skin cells still had snappy elasticity. After a few seconds adjusting to the very human lady blinking back at me in those oh-so-unbeautiful morning minutes after rustling out of bed, I just sigh and call a truce.

I went to my husband for a sympathetic ear, and also to gauge the waters of our marital relations. Alas, my vigilant team of plastic surgeons also did a number on my breasts and abdomen. The stomach is quite fit if I flex it, something I only do if I’m scrutinizing my profile under the unflattering florescent lights of a dressing room. Otherwise, the unflexed tummy flesh and skin are rubbery and malleable, like Silly Putty. As for my breasts, once I stopped nursing my young daughter, they vanished; my cup size is essentially –AA. This is the one session with Mother Nature and Father Time that’s made me feel youthful, because now the only place I can find bras that fit is in the little girl’s section at Target.

Still, men like boobs. One evening, at bedtime, I worked up enough courage to ask my husband, “Are you still attracted to me even though I’m so different now?”

“What?” he said, distracted. I’d disturbed the constant, anxious reverie about his receding hairline. As if he has time to think about where my boobs went! Isn’t that what internet pornography is for?

So I dropped it. In fact, no one seems to notice the havoc my plastic surgeons have wreaked on my face. Sometimes, if I go months without running into a friend, they’ll even say, “You look great!” And I, in turn, am pleased seeing their glowing, radiant selves, and I don’t even think about scrutinizing their expanding pores or multiplying crow’s feet. Maybe that’s because their faces are not stretched in high definition across a television that spans an entire wall in our living room. Maybe because the energy inside someone when you see them in person has so much to do with how you perceive the physicality of that face.

While trapped in the snaking line of the express checkout at the grocery store yesterday, the cover of a Prevention magazine caught my eye. “Stop aging!” the headline blared. I’ve flirted with capsules, lotions, and masks, and I can vouch that it’s not humanly possible cease the steady march of the Other Plastic Surgery. We all know there’s really only one way to stop aging, and that’s to die. I’d rather keep on living, with this ever-dynamic face. I found it looks years younger when I don’t scowl at the mirror.

 

servicesSara Bir is a chef, food writer, and usually confident parent living in Ohio. Her essay “Smelted”, from the website Full Grown People, appears in Best Food Writing 2014. You can read Sara’s blog, The Sausagetarian, at www.sausagetarian.com. This is her second essay on The Manifest-Station.

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Featured image courtesy of Timothy Krause.

Guest Posts, healing, Owning It!, Truth

Stuff.

September 17, 2014

By T. Chick McClure

I’ve lost access to my mom behind an ever-expanding tsunami of STUFF. She is a collector of things. But, not for curio cabinets. My mother lives inside a mountain of trash, dogs, cockroaches and filth. She is insulated, befriended, comforted, shut-out, shut-in, imprisoned, and rendered invisible by STUFF. She is unreachable and at times I am devastated by our lack of connection. Because, in some ways, it’s like she’s died already. Like I only get to have conversations with her in my head, imagining how she might laugh in response to something dumb I’d share with her. The way we did before she started accumulating. I miss her. I call her on the phone. She never calls back. Holidays come and she’s not with me. I worry that ONE day, SOMEhow, SOMEone is going to track me down to let me know they found her, lying on a half-inflated air mattress, piled on all sides by worthless STUFF. Her remains, liquid, I imagine, guarded by starving dogs, as she seeps into all that useless STUFF surrounding her.
Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Owning It!

What’s in a Name?

August 25, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Antonia Malchik

My friends call me Nia. Since I left college and people started calling me by my legal name, the one my mother chose because her favorite book at the time I was born (so the story goes) was Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, “my friends call me Nia” is what I end up telling them, eventually. Once we get to know each other well enough that having them call me “Antonia,” like a stranger, feels odd.

“Nia” is not a nickname that’s easily explained like Katie or Jenny or Jess. It requires a story, a narrative—where it came from, its genesis. When I started working at real jobs, in offices where I was an employee or freelancer or temp, I had to make a choice: was I going to be in each office long enough to warrant erasing my legal name in favor of the one I’d used my whole life? Explaining made me squirm, like flinging open window into my interior person so strangers could peer around inside. Continue Reading…

beauty, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Owning It!, Self Image

I Like This Picture of My Cellulite: A 19 Year Old’s Journey To Self-Acceptance.

June 4, 2014

Dear Readers, Jen Pastiloff here. The post below was written by a 19 year old student. I love that I have teens following the site! I am developing a series for young writers to express themselves to accompany my new book “Girl Power: You Are Enough.” It is my great honor to be a platform for these beautiful voices. We want you to be heard. We are listening. See you all next workshop And at the workshop for girl- Girl Power: You Are Enough, which launches in September, 2015. Make sure you are following me on instagram and snapchat at @jenpastiloff!!

IMG_6719And I Like This Picture of My Cellulite by Victoria Erickson.

1d274906138129-today-cellulite-140617-blocks_desktop_medium

A Young Woman’s journey to self acceptance and appreciation.

Now, I’m not the cute blonde on the left but rather the more prominent, jean-jacket covered, cellulite charging, woman to the right.

And the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture was how HAPPY I look: I’m jubilant, radiant, fresh home from my first year of college and ready to celebrate with my hometown best. And I should’ve stopped there. It could have been enough to admire the photograph, to rejoice in the photographer’s ability to capture the joy and carefree art of two friends catching up after a year apart. It should have been.

But instead, I let my subconscious take over. I let that little voice in the back of my head tell myself that “I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t enough…or rather I was TOO much. I let the brainwashing, nerve damaging thoughts seep in and overwhelm my mind, allowing the thoughts to poison my spirit. My mentality went from You look HAPPY!! to Yeah, you look happy…but why? you’re fat. Followed by, don’t believe me? Just look at that lump of cellulite you call a leg take over the shot and deplete the image of any beauty there may have been.

And the smile faded.

The disgusting part? I let it. I let my stomach sink, my chin drop, my eyebrows furrow, and my spirit shrink. I let the negative thoughts brew until they reached a dangerous boiling pointing as I asked myself Why didn’t the photographer just edit that out?! and What should I do?! As I wondered if it would be best to try to edit the cellulite myself, crop the picture from the waist down, or just “hide” the photo from my timeline all together?

A lot of distress and worry over a photo. A photo that did nothing more than capture the image presented before itself. And that’s when I realized, when you look at this photo, you might see the sorrow of imperfection, the impression of one (or two) many visits to the all-you-can-eat-University cafeteria as I did at first glance.

Or rather, you might see a young woman jubilant with friendship and conversation as I have now chosen to.

That’s the wonderful part! I decided that it is what I -independent, strong & mighty me-decide to see, feel, and believe that counts.

Because I’m nineteen and I’ve had enough. No more to comparison and emotional affliction. No more distress caused by preconceived notions of body image. No more to any of it.

So what did I do? I decided that I loved the picture. I decide that it was a wonderful snapshot of my friendship and that image truly captured the essence of a rain kissed stroll- flaws and all! And most boldly, I decided to share it.

That’s right. I decided that I love this honest and flawed picture so much so that I am going to embrace it, celebrate it, and yes, share it. Because I decided I would fight my demon and embody it because I didn’t -and don’t- have the time or energy to let it wear and tear me down anymore. Because it’s not important. And more so, because I hope when you look at yourself, whether in reflection or spirit, you do the same.

Because we’re better than that.

And because it’s actually ok to look at a photo and say yes, “I like this picture of my cellulite.”

rain-edit-1

 

1503811_10152221305128006_1609959954_n

Photograph referenced in article, taken by Atiim Jones Photography

Victoria Erickson is studying Journalism, Art History, and Studio Arts at the University of Iowa. As a student journalist and becoming adult she is trying to the find the balance between learning and leading.

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! Sep 17-24, 2016. Please email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book. 

 

 

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.)

 

healing, Owning It!, The Hard Stuff, Video, Vulnerability

A Video About Guilt Wherein I Tell It To F*ck Off.

May 19, 2014

Eff Guilt. With my dirty hair, bad lighting, no makeup, and a big ass glass of wine, I send you a video I did on one take. Because that’s how I’m rolling right now. Free. Or, as my friend Kathleen Emmets would say, “F*ck it.”

Here is the blurb I wrote on guilt:

Sitting here with my broken foot has allowed me a lot of time to think. I’ve been thinking about guilt and how so much of my life has been swaddled in guilt. The last words I said to my dad when I was 8, and he was 38 were: I hate you. Then he died. Just like that. I mean, there were a few hours in between where I jumped on a bed and my aunt babysat while paramedics tried to revive the life back into him but basically the time between those words and his death was minimal. I felt guilty. All my life, my “go to” emotion is guilt. I take off work, I feel guilty the whole night. I feel guilty for this or that. It’s work for me to let go of guilt. It’s an old old deeply imbedded seed.
So, I’m laying around, pretty much immobilized because of my foot. And I’m bummed. I won’t lie to you. Why would I? I’m a truth teller. I’m bummed, but get this- I feel oddly calm and present. You know why? For the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel like I SHOULD be doing something else, I SHOULD be somewhere else, that I have to go, go, go. Because I can’t. I truly cannot move right now so I have to be still. Normally, if I lay around with pajamas on, I feel guilty. I do it but I feel guilty about it. But right now I am freed of any guilt and I feel good about that. I have space to write and create, even though I am a little sad. What I realize, even though I already knew this obviously, is that guilt is a trap. It immobilized me way more than any broken foot could.
I am so tired of it. It keeps you from being here. It keeps us locked in a land of SHOULDS, and I SUCK.
When my foot heals, I will remember this moment of absolute freedom- this moment of knowing that the only possible place I can be is right here. Yes, I am forced (literally forced) to learn this knowledge the hard way but you reading this? You don’t have to break your foot to release yourself from the prison of guilt.
If you f*cking like something, like it. And be done with it.
The prisons we build for ourselves are far stronger than any casts on our feet.
So, I don’t feel guilty that I should be out enjoying this gorgeous sunny day.
I don’t feel guilty that I am not out exercising.
I don’t feel guilty that my hair is ten days unwashed.
I don’t feel guilty that I feel frustrated.
I don’t feel guilty that I am sitting all day.
I don’t fel guilty that I took a week off of work.
I hope you understand the freedom I am talking about here.
It took a broken foot for me. For you? Just do what you’re gonna do. And let that, be that.

10254999_10152251679895914_5170766015583879149_n

 

xo Jen. ps, I am only doing ONE workshop in LA. June 7th. I have only a couple spots left so book asap here or email barbara at jenniferpastiloff.com to sign up. 

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas.

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Owning It!, Self Image

Comfortable In My Humanness.

December 16, 2013

Comfortable In My Humanness by Emily Beecher.

What Happened When I Went To A Retreat in Another Country With People I Didn’t Know….

I was, quite frankly, FREAKING OUT!!!!!

My normal hairdresser had left the salon so I was trying someone new. Someone she recommended. Someone who had just dyed my hair the completely wrong colour. It was too dark, too purple-y red, not copper-y and very much completely not me. I hated it. I hated the way it made me look. I hated the way it made me feel. In less than 72 hours I was getting on a plane to fly to Vermont for a yoga and writing retreat led by two incredible people I respect immensely. And my hair was ALL WRONG. What would people think of me? Would they think this is how I WANTED my hair? That this was the way I normally look? That this was the real me? There was only one thing to do. I had to cancel.

I mean it wasn’t just the hair – I hadn’t been away from my daughter for more than 48 hours since she was born (four years ago) and she’d JUST been up all night with a bit of a cough which was clearly going to turn into something like pleurisy if I went away, and really? What was I thinking? Me at a yoga retreat? With my fat post baby (ahem) body? Bending and stretching and being all zen and tree like surrounded by tall, long, lithe, young, obviously all blonde, glamazons who could do headstands for hours on their immaculate pony tails whilst I had trouble touching my toes because my boobs and belly created a formidable Berlin wall between my upper and lower body. And it’s not like I’m really a writer anyway. I didn’t even know I could write until a couple of years ago but I hadn’t written for myself anything more than a grocery list for months. What delusion had I suffered to make me book this retreat?

Actually, I knew the answer to that. Devastation. Five months previously a project I had been working on, a musical about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, had imploded. Spectacularly. I was betrayed by people I called friends, my professional reputation was tarnished, I lost my life savings and almost three years of hard, unpaid work, my sense of determination and belief in myself demolished. I was a wreck. I literally wanted to die. Broken, I had booked a trip back to Canada to spend time with my family and put some distance between the raw chaos of London and my wounded self. It was there, late at night, I read about the retreat. I fired Jen an email, essentially saying that I didn’t do yoga so how much of the yoga/writing retreat was about yoga. She responded saying its not at all yoga yoga-y, she thought that I was funny and she’d decided I was going. She thinks I’m funny? I booked it.

And now here I was, with hideous hair and a plague infected child and with some distance from the show’s collapse I could clearly see how I must have been delusional when I booked it.

I told my best friend that I was going to cancel it and he looked at me, shook his head and told me to shut up and get packing. Not usually one to do what I’m told, I’m so grateful I did.

My flight was the first sign that something was different. This was the first time in four years I was flying without a child attached to me. Anyone who has suffered the particular circle of hell that is flying with a child will understand what this means: an intoxicating freedom of choosing a movie you want to watch and not having to repeat “Please don’t kick the nice man’s seat” eight hundred thousand times. Just to make sure I didn’t forget how much of a luxury this experience was on all four of my flights the seat next to me was always empty. Just me and my phantom child flying 3000 miles to take a few days off, to do something for myself. Even if I didn’t look like myself.

Somewhere around 35000 feet in the air I made the decision that I would NEVER mention my hair while I was on the retreat. I mean if I was constantly apologizing for my hair I wouldn’t really be able to apologize for not being bendy or a good writer, which were, I figured, even worse things than my fucked up hair. I would just pretend that this was actually me and maybe they wouldn’t notice.

They all noticed my hair. In fact I think, over the four days almost every person at one time or another, whether in person or in creating our lists of Five Most Beautiful Things, told me how they loved my hair. The first time it happened I had to forcibly choke back the apology of how this wasn’t the way it was supposed to look. But then the magic happened. Or rather, twenty-two magical people happened.

I noticed it the first evening, in the hot tub, drinking wine (this really was my kind of yoga retreat!) when an absolutely stunning girl with a smile to rival the moon tried to tell me, through the guise of of an off hand appology/explanation how she couldn’t really be in her new relationship, couldn’t let herself be loved by this amazing man because of all the things that were not right about her. Things I couldn’t even contemplate seeing in her because all I saw was her beautiful smile and welcoming warmth.

As the hours passed I repeatedly tripped over the same message. These incredible people who shared stories of loss and pain didn’t see their own strength and beauty – only the reasons why they were never enough. They hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t given enough, weren’t nice or accommodating enough, weren’t beautiful enough, weren’t deserving, were too fucked up, too selfish, too hurt or angry or beaten down or useless. Given the way we spoke about ourselves you would have been forgiven for expecting the room to be full of broken, grey, miserable people. But it wasn’t. It was full of smiles and encouragement and hugs and a collection of the most brilliant laughs I’ve ever heard. Then a little tiny seedling planted itself in my brain… if these people were so wrong about themselves – could I be wrong about me?

As Jen repeatedly reminded us with the Marianne Williamson quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And Emily made us write our truth in feverishly bursts that forced us to pour our words out onto the page as quickly as possible so we could outrun our built in editors, that seedling thought started to flourish and grow.

I settled into myself. I dressed for dinner (I mean if there wasn’t a chance of a child pouring food all over me then dammit I was going to put something nice on). I didn’t put make up on to do yoga. (I know right?) I stopped prefacing every piece of writing I read out with “well this isn’t very good but…”

On the last night some of us had an impromptu kitchen dance party. I was still in my sweaty yoga clothes. My immaculate blow dry replaced by my crazy natural curls. My face bare. I didn’t think about it as we sang Call Me Maybe and danced and lassooed each other. Someone took pictures. A week or so after the retreat, when I was back to my old life, trying not to apologize for who I was, I received a facebook email telling me the pictures were online and I was struck by a lightning rod of panic. But, but, but I didn’t have make up on and I wasn’t holding in my stomach and I wasn’t trying to have my best side captured and my hair – oh god my hair was frizzy and that terrible colour and now someone has produced photographic proof of how hideous I am. (It doesn’t take long for all that good work to be replaced by bad habits!)

It took me over a week to look at those pictures. Over a week, and half a bottle of wine. Ready to be repulsed I hovered over the mousepad until finally, I clicked. Then cried. Then laughed. I didn’t see a hideous person, I didn’t see my belly or fat arms, I didn’t see purple-y frizzy hair or a lack of polish. I saw love. Big, fat, giant smiles of joy and play and LOVE LOVE LOVE. Love for each other, love for the opportunity to share, to listen, to be understood and even, maybe, a little bit of love for ourselves.

Opportunities like this are precious – even though we know we’re changing at the time, the true value of what we are experiencing is only truly shown in time. As Elizabth Kubler Ross once said “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Our retreat was the proverbial bellows to my tiny light. Now, two months later I write this changed. Striving. Opened. Comfortable in my self. Comfortable in my flaws. Comfortable in my humanness. No longer FREAKING OUT. And full of love. Whatever my hair looks like.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp's retreat in Vermont.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s retreat in Vermont.

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people ;)

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people 😉

THE RETREAT a poem by Emily Beecher

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we stand

tall

as the hours pass

we spill hot anger and resentment

forcing our hearts to sweat in stillness

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we cry

silently

touching the sweet earth,

our bodies bent like willows

surrendering to icy storms

We reawaken our passions

like buds opening to bloom,

slowly, carefully, then freely

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we dance

loudly

to the songs of our youth

later, skinny dipping

under the ripened Vermont moon

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

We abandon our self-consciousness

replacing it with connection,

rediscovering our selves

before packing them away

Like antique cars restored to former glory

so are we

rebuilt anew

amongst the trees of orange and gold

Emily Beecher lives in London and most recently attended Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s writing retreat in Vermont. 

Emily is a film & tv producer, writer, actress and proud single mama to her precocious two year old daughter.

Her acting work includes the cult classic short film Making Juice: The Making of JUICE (Charlie Productions) as well as appearing in Coma Girl (Vista Films), The Power of Love (Script Stuff), The Paper Trail (Hot Little Biscuits) and presenting Plugged In! and Are We There Yet? for Rogers Cable in Canada.

She conceived and produced the documentary/concert series Voices for Bulembu which raised over $1 million for the Bulembu charity in Swaziland. She has created commercials for Hasbro, Activision, Universal, Nintendo, Warner Brothers, Mattel and Nickelodeon. Her corporate film clients have included the Labour party, Amicus, TUC, and Shelter.

A published writer, Emily helped with the creation of blush magazine (Canada) and has consulted on several video games, film scripts and the Patient Zero comic book series.

After stepping away from the world of media to indulge in all facets of motherhood Emily is incredibly thrilled to be back with her new baby, The Good Enough Mums Club.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, Owning It!

Avoidance.

March 18, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

You know how when you ignore something it just goes away? Like your hearing loss or grief or your toothache or the fact that you hate your job so much you want to pull all your hair out?

Oh, right. It doesn’t go away. It crawls into your ear and gets louder and you get more deaf and your tooth rots and the grief settles in and stays. And the job? You wake up and that summer job has turned into the 13 year job at the same restaurant. That’s what happens. Continue Reading…