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Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Grief, Guest Posts, parenting, The Hard Stuff, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Deep Blue Secret.

August 10, 2014


By Deb Scott

I have to tell you my secret fast or I won’t tell it to you at all.

It is a secret that few people know, even all of you who think you know me.

Even my family, the ones who were there don’t know. I mean they know but I think they don’t let themselves remember.

The secret is about my daughter. My baby who died.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Vulnerability, writing

Survival. By Jen Pastiloff.

May 1, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.


I often think about the choices we make as humans and about how sometimes those choices, seem futile, naïve, masochistic. Un-human even. How sometimes, they lock us into a life we never imagined. You may want to pound your head into the wall (as I have done) upon looking back, say, at the choice to stay the night with an ex-boyfriend, who, when you ask if he can give you a ride to the Philadelphia airport the next morning, says, with a breath full of alcohol from the night before, “I’ll give you a ride to the airport for a hummer.”

The choice as to whether to give him a blowjob in exchange for a ride was simple one. Continue Reading…

Self Image, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Vulnerability, writing


January 17, 2014

It is my great great honor to be published in Mutha Magazine!


Here’s an excerpt…

Last night I remembered something a friend send to me, something to the effect of “Mirrors aren’t for reminding yourself who you are. Trust yourself. Mirrors are for checking if you have shit in your teeth.”

So I’d slip back into my past as a way to preserve myself. I know I existed back then. I shall go back and live there.

I’d end up with an ex-boyfriend standing in the snow watching it turn yellow with pee. There. I’ve not disappeared. I can see myself in snow. I can smell piss. I can feel the cold. I am alive.

How much we do to survive. The lengths we will go to not disappear.

I think a lot about what people do to survive in the world and how easy it is to judge them for it.

“She dropped out of such a good school and with such a promising future. She took a job at a restaurant and stayed there for over ten years with that education. She is with an ex-boyfriend that can’t even look her in the eye.”

Survival, all of it.

Click here to read the rest. I would be oh-so-flippin’-happy.
Abuse, Addiction, Guest Posts, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Shameful Little Secret.

December 22, 2013


By Janine Canty.

My son is a drug addict.

I’ve taken to practicing those words in the mirror. They feel unreal. They sound foreign, no matter how many times I repeat them. They taste bad. They actually taste bad. They smell like sour milk and unwashed skin. They feel like a snowstorm in July.

I love him enough to die for him. I love the part of him that named a gerbil “Blub Blub”, when he was three. I love the part of him that ran a gentle finger across my swollen abdomen, and quietly whispered “Baby Brutha”, when he was four.  I love the part of him that wrote a journal entry for his first grade class. He wrote:  “My cat, Mittens, has fleas. Mommy had to give her a bath.  Mommy swore a lot.”

Maybe it was because I dropped the F bomb in front of him. Maybe it’s because he was conceived in the backseat of a blue Dodge Dart with broken seat belts.  Maybe it was the tinny rendition of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” blasting out of cheap speakers. Maybe it was the sound of clothes slipping lazily off of skin. Maybe it was the boxed macaroni and cheese I let him live on when he was six. Maybe it was a cold night in November. When he watched me climb into a police cruiser without him. I didn’t look back that night. I didn’t see him standing there in a pile of brittle, dead, leaves. I didn’t need to see his face, to memorize it’s every pore.

Maybe it was bad luck, caffeine, or even a faulty gene pool. Maybe it was Bazooka bubble gum and beer. I remember when I was seven, how the rotary phone rang from it’s spot on a kitchen wall. My mother played with the pushpins on a cheerful bulletin  board, while she listened.  Her voice got smaller and quieter. Her body slowly folded in on itself. Assuming the fetal position. Protecting herself from the words.  My cousin, Jackie, a solemn boy with big eyes and soft curls, had been found laying on a Boston street. His blood staining the cement underneath him. His life light extinguished by a strangers dirty knife.  Drugs the adults whispered with red rimmed eyes. Drugs . They lowered their voices. Jackie was reduced to a shameful little secret, with that one word: “Drugs.”Life went on. Family barbecues resumed without him. Jello cake, sweating soda cans, and half smoked pall malls littered a picnic table. While my aunt sat in the shade, with her broken heart hidden behind a pair of  Walgreen’s sunglasses.When I was 23 the phone rang again. This time death had come on a beautiful summer day. My cousin Stephen silenced his demons with a piece of plastic tubing,  He ended his life on top of a mountain, with one push of a hypodermic needle. He was found among soft grass, and sharp boulders. His face looked peaceful. He didn’t leave a note. Whether it was on purpose was never decided.  Whether it was on purpose was irrelevant.  “Drugs”. again, it was “Drugs” Guilty whispers.  Shameful glances. Red rimmed eyes, and a closed casket. Stephen’s life reduced to it’s tiny, sad, ending.

Many, many, years have passed since those events. Rotary phones have been replaced by fancy cell phones. My son has grown into a scabby looking transient. His hands shake. His once beautiful face is cracked,, and covered in tiny sores. He hides his eyes behind an oily string that was once healthy hair. The world looks at him and judges him for what he has become. Someone you wouldn’t leave alone around your pocketbook, or your child. When I hear “Ballroom Blitz”  start playing from my fancy cell phone, my hands turn to heavy ice.

While I rummage through my purse, grapple on top of a crowded bathroom vanity, or reach blindly in the dark to silence one of my favorite 70’s songs. I wonder if this is the time I’ll have to go identify the remains of my child in a freezing cold room while bland professionals  offer me horrible coffee, and whisper Drugs.


My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.”  Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook.  I fail at tweeting.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

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 annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Little Seal, loss, Steve Bridges, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Getting Made.

February 15, 2013

This time a year ago I was leaving Mexico.

I was on a boat. I was on a boat leaving Mexico and if I knew that it was the last time I would be seeing my friend Steve I would’ve asked the boat to turn around and I would have gone back and back and back farther. All the way if I could where nothing was blinding and everything was dark and still in the way things are right before they go bad.

A year ago I sat on a plane, like I am as I write this, and I ordered a glass of wine as I looked through my photos of the retreat and I laughed at the videos of Steve and thought How I love this man. How I love this man.

A year ago I came back from Mexico and laid on my sofa feeling pancake flat and Steve texted me I am laying on my friend’s couch and I can’t stop thinking about our trip. I wish we were back there. Wow. I wrote back me too and in my pancake way I stood up and put on shoes to go teach my yoga class but I knew something had shifted, something was gone, and maybe that was why I felt flat or maybe it was natural after a trip like that to feel so much I want to be back. To feel it so much in your bones that they won’t even carry you. They turn you into a pancake. Pancake yoga teacher. Nothing. Flat. Pancake person.

When he died, I texted him I want to be back. I want to be back even though I knew he was dead.

We made videos the night before we left Mexico. Like little time bombs with messages on them that we planned to watch in a year’s time. When it was Steve’s turn he looked into the camera and said, That was fun. Let’s do it again next year. Hell, let’s do it again next month.

He died within the month.

This morning I got the text that I had been waiting for, the one I knew would come today or tomorrow or yesterday. Ronan died. One of my best friends, the beloved writer Emily Rapp, lost her two year old son this morning as I zipped up my suitcase to head for the airport for my Hawaii yoga retreat. His suffering is over she wrote. His short and remarkable life she wrote. I am numb she texted me privately.

I am numb too. I am on a flight to Maui and I feel nothing. I am hungry. I am not hungry. I am sad. Am I sad? I feel nothing. Where does the pain go?

Its floating up here on the airplane and I am sure will make it’s way up to my seat if we don’t crash. What happened? How does a mind process this? (I will have the cheese omelette and not the cereal, please.) Ronan died and it’s for the best says the very best intentioned platitudes. My friend Robert Wilder held him for an hour yesterday. I asked him what it was like. Everything he said. It was everything.

What’s it like to hold a dying baby for one hour? One hour in a short life is like ten years in a normal life span. (What is a normal life span?) What’s it like to hold a dying baby for ten years? He got to feel his last little oomphs right there in his arms (imagine that!) and hold his small fingers (maybe he intertwined them in his own?) He got to brush a few hairs from his eyes and pass him back to his grandparents or his mom and he got to feel a life right there in his arms which would disappear in less than 24 hours into That’s it and It’s over but he got to hold that and stop time for ten years because in a dying baby’s life one hour is equal to ten years. He got to do that and I am glad for that. I love him for that. For being there for Emily and Ronan when I couldn’t.

It makes you want to stop lying.

Why lie when this can happen? When a person can be born and then just like that It’s Over, It’s done. He’s gone.

Why tell untruths as if people care?

I keep having this recurring dream where I am driving and the brakes don’t work. The other night I had it again. I was driving in Philadelphia, over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The brakes wouldn’t work. I tried pressing my foot into the brake and it only accelerated the car which wasn’t even my car. I swerved in and out of lanes so I wouldn’t hit anyone. It was all my untruths rushing at me. In the dream I somehow made it to safety and pulled out a paper where I had put a big X through a box that said “Brakes.” I had shut them off myself.

The greatest lie that was ever told was that you are safe. It’s the lie I still want someone to tell me though. (Say it to me?)

Say it to me.

Other lies have been both monumental and petty but with the news of a baby’s death comes a yearning for honesty. There is nothing else. I love you to all the people I love. I don’t care to all the things I don’t care about, and there are as many as the things I do care about. I am happy. I am not happy. All of it. Truths and lies and some half way in betweens.

Once, on a road trip, there was a deer along Route 70, just outside Cody, Wyoming. His eyes, the color of headlights. He recognized me immediately. (He was no stranger to regret and he spotted mine immediately ). And with his four chambered stomach and eyes on the sides of his head, I knew his type too. The cautious, the time-takers, the digesters.

Unlike him: I am impulsive as a flood.

But we knew each other, me and that deer. For the ten years or two seconds he stood there in the road in front of our car.

A basic law of the universe: the implications of what’s been said always mean more than what actually has been said. My deer understood this algebra, this economy of language and therefore didn’t say much. Me: I spit it out as I feel it when and if I feel it. Unlike my deer, I do not contemplate my cud.

I love you! I love you!

The lies I have told have mainly been to myself but others have been to save face.

There is no more of that. Do you get what I am saying? It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks because once you have held Ronan in your arms for ten years or one hour you see that what is important is the life we make, right here and now. You may not have been the one holding him in your arms for ten years but you get the metaphor. You get the as if. You can almost smell Ronan in his baby old man smell.

The life you make here and now. Not the lies or the I dropped out of college because I was half dead and freezing but I will lie about it so you don’t judge me. No one cares. It does not matter. It’s the life you make here and now because after you get the text that he dies you realize that all you ever had were the moments of holding him, the minutes with Steve in Mexico, the half-seconds with people you love.

I don’t know how fast it feels at the end, but my guess is that it feels like ten years.  Or maybe 6 months. Maybe less or more. But it won’t feel like much. It will feel like all you had were breaths and moments and a few snapshots with the sun in your eyes there like that. You will squint to remember the way the light felt in your eyes, to recreate that, and, everything else that was blinding and bright and yours.

I love you. The words alive like velvet antlers. Words made of bone. They need a way out! I must speak them. I must tell no more lies. The life that you make here and now. Here and now.

Words: make, here, now, love. Remember them.

The old deer had made it through once more, one more near miss across an ocean of cars, a scuffle of rain and a sky full of mistakes. He’d found a pair of eyes (mine!) to lock into before going back into the world, alone and foraging.

It makes you want to stop lying, to climb onto the wing of the plane and hang there if you knew you could and sob and swing and fall into clouds like you would if you were a cartoon and could always be safe in a cartoon-world. You could sleep on a nimbus cloud and wake up and ten years will be ten years rather than an hour. It makes you want to stop lying and run into the arms of all your beloveds (your lucky if you have a even a handful) and tell them to keep you there. Hang on to me, tight like this. Tight like this. Keep me here. It makes you want to admit that lying is worthless and dirty and that nothing matters, not really anyway so might as well buck up and say I love you or I don’t love you or I am so broken or I wish you didn’t die or Yea, I get that your spirit is with me forever but God-damn-it I want your body. Forget the spirit! I will trade it for your body and smell and fingers. It makes you want to forget everything and remember everything with equal measure. It makes you want to cry for days and beg the gods or the scientists or luck to leave you alone and leave everyone alone that you love. It makes you want to live like you were meant to all along even in the moments of self-hatred. It makes you all these things.

It makes you.

Emily and Ronan. Order her book by clicking the picture.

Emily and Ronan. Order her book by clicking the picture.


Please read this by Robert Wilder asap. Mindblowingly good.


Click poster to order Simplereminders new book via,

Click poster to order Simplereminders new book via,

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany.She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Inspiration, loss, Manifestation Retreats, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

I Have Not Died.

December 1, 2012

I don’t remember much of China.


To not be cold, Please let me get warm, I remember this. To stay in my hotel room and watch the ice skaters on the Houhai Lake from 16 floors up, Please I promise I will eat if I don’t die from frostbite. Am I dying? I remember that.

That’s really all I wanted at the time: to not be cold. (I was always so cold.) To dream of what I would eat. More white rice than I had ever allowed myself to have in the past . I didn’t trust any of the food, (not just there but anywhere during that period of my life, and especially in China where I had no idea what I was eating except it was in a brown sauce). I will just have white rice I would ask someone who looked like they spoke English to translate for me. More white rice. So much white rice. It’s all I saw when we rode in the backs of buses in search of temples and people living on houseboats in Suzhou. All I wanted was to be warm like it was a life or death situation, which is how it felt to me during all those years I was starving myself, and, which in actuality, it probably was. All I can remember about those years is that I was always freezing, nails purple, lips blue, hands cold. China in Janary was brutal. I was freezing and hungry and my eyes were closed during most of the trip because if I opened them I would have to see.

I think about that trip a lot, and my years living in NYC. If only I had been awake! How different my life would be. If only I had paid attenion. Where was I?

I don’t know where I was. Somewhere beween living and dead. Closer to dead.

But I haven’t died.

I am still here.

I am now closer to the living.

In 11 days, I am turning the age my father was when he died in. I was 8 years old and I knew for sure this is when people die. Yet here I am. Here I am in my pajamas and a glass of wine, listening to the muted rain competing with the ringing in my ears and wondering if other adults stay in their pajamas at 6:30 on a Saturday night and how could I be an adult when I don’t know how to do so many things? 

And then I come back. Come back, Jen. Come back. To the land of the living, come back.

Here I am. I have not died.

I kept hearing that line in my head and I wanted to write it as we took off from Taipei to Los Angeles but I thought that if we crashed I would have caused it. See, if Jen had never said that, if she had never assumed that we would be safe, we would be fine. It is her fault. So I didn’t write it then. But now here I am in my pajamas that belonged to my grandmother who died less than a year ago. I didn’t have any feelings for my grandmother, (hold off on judging please), so when my mom gave me the pajamas: Jen, take these, they’re new. Never been worn, I had no issue. I needed some pj’s. I have no sentimental I miss my gramma so much every time I wear them. They are my pajamas and if I didn’t know they had been hers I wouldn’t know. There aren’t any ghosts or messages within the fabric or any secret keys to forgiveness in the little flowers. They are kind of tacky and I love them for that. I write well in them.

So I am in a dead woman’s pajamas on a Saturday evening but I did not die.

I am here.

I am having a hard time being back from Bali. I taught two classes this morning then came home, put on said pajamas and curled back in bed. I hit decline every time the phone rang. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want the trip to end, I want to stay in the safety of being away from responsibility, from fear, from I have to’s.

When we went to China we stopped in Alaska on the way. It was dark and looking out the windows of the airport were fields of snow or at least that is how I like to remember it. I wrote postcards and leaned against the glass as we waited for the flight to China. Flying to Bali made me remember these things as if I tucked them away and forgot where I put them. Oh, there you are, years of my life! Ah! Age 20-30, there you are. I thought I had lost you.

Maybe it all comes rushing back at you like they say in the movies. Maybe your life comes rushing at you whether you are dying or not. Maybe this birthday is like a re-birth. I mean, I survived it. All those years I planned on being gone by 38. No, not consciously, but in the deep recesses of my sadness and the place where my poems are born, where I drowned myself in yoga, in those kinds of places.

Maybe your life comes rushing at you and you better be prepared or you will miss it again. I think the second chance is really the last chance. If you survive. I mean, if you make it past your due date, (which I have, so to speak), and you miss your life again because your eyes are closed. Well, that’s your fault, Kiddo.

But hey, who’s missing anything?

I am here.

The flight from Bali was much better than the flight from China from what I remember although, again, I don’t trust my memory. I could have flown first class for all I recall (I didn’t) but I was so checked out, so hungry, so tired and old at 21 that I wouldn’t have realized it.

Each place you go, you take a piece of that place with you to the next.

Whether the place is literal or not. Whether it is pain or joy or a child or darkness or heartbreak or love or your 20’s. You take a piece of it with you whether you realize it or not. In China, I saw women who would not be broken by the cold. Women who lived on dingy boats on a freezing river. Eventually, when I stopped being cold and started eating I realized I had taken a piece of their tenacity with me. And from Bali a sense of commitment to their offerings, how seriously they take what they give. And how I do the same.

I have not died yet. I am here to share with you my journey which is about to start. I have crossed over to the other side and I am taking with me all the things I want to which include the places I have been and the people and the cold and the places I think I went but can’t remember. They are mine to not remember. I am taking all of it because I realize at this threshold of life and death that what makes us is not just blood and bone but what we have seen, where we have been, who we have loved, who we have hurt, where we are going and what we know we can do.

I know I can do this. I can go beyond where I thought I would ever go with grace and dignity and when I finally get there, wherever my dad is, if I ever get there, I will have earned it. And it will be my time. And I will tell him all about my adventures and how 38 is not really the age all people die. How young it really is and how although I am sure he is happy, wherever he is, he missed out on so much.

But that’s neither here nor there.

For now, I am here.

I am among the living. 





loss, poetry, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

What Can I Tell You?

November 13, 2012

What can I tell you that you don’t already know?

I don’t know. I don’t know what you know.

I know what I know.

(I also don’t know what I know and know what I don’t know that I know.)

We cannot experience anything other than our own experience, I’ve been told. So, what can I tell you?

I can tell you how when I was 17 I stole a lot of underwear, and a few bras, from Victora’s Secret at the Moorestown Mall in New Jersy where my friend Ameila was working. My friend D and I. We then added up the cost of all the lingerie and realized that we had commited grand theft. I might still have one of the bras. But maybe you know this. I don’t know where you go when you die besides gas stations.

Maybe you can see it all and you shook your head when we did this and lit up a cigarette, alreaydy knowing the outcome. Which was: nothing happened. We didn’t get caught and I don’t know if we even felt bad. D and I worked at a sporting goods store called Modell’s and we would have our friends come up to the register and not ring them up for Umbros and Champion sweatshirts.

I can tell how you when I was 19 I applied to for a fellowship for poets at Bucknell University. For “Younger Poets”. Only ten people in the nation could win and I didn’t see the point in applying, in sending in my poems at all, because I never won anything, only bad things happened to me. Urged on by my mentor at the time, Donna Masini, I sent my poems in and won the fellowship. I won it! I got the sacred fellowship and a retired NFL football player turned poet who was actual quite lovely was our writer-in-residence. I spent a summer starving myself and writing and running through cemeteries in the rain and reading poems in an old church in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Only ten in the nation and I did it. I defied the odds and overturned the ruling that God hated me. But maybe you knew? Maybe you in fact, did that? Maybe you had a hand in that?

I can tell you how I got pulled over once when I had been drinking. The cops called for backup and I went and sat on the side of the freeway and prayed to you: Daddy, if I have ever had to call in a favor now would be the time. Please. Help me. And you did. So, I guess I don’t need to tell you that? But maybe you don’t know this one: after that night you saved me, I swore I would never ever have a sip and drive again. And I did.

I can tell you that. I have had some sips since.

I am not perfect.

I can tell you that but you know that. I am quite sure of this. I wasn’t perfect even when you were here. Remember when you used to quiz me on the names of the hockey teams for each state? I could never get them right.

What can I tell you that you might not know?

Maybe you aren’t really dead.

I always knew that if I kept looking, kept driving, I’d find you. I didn’t think it would be here though, that you’d be pumping gas in Kansas. You still smoke, I can tell. The way your shoulders hunch over gives you away. When you push nozzles into canals, into the backs of cars, you heave, your shoulders roll. Your stomach reaches closer to your back,toward smooth pink scars.

Daddy, you look smaller, shirking into yourself like that.

Silently pumping gas, coughing occasionally, scratching your sunburned bald spot. I watch you from the shoulder of I-7o through dead bugs on my windshield. There is a small convenience store attached to the gas station.

You enter it and when you emerge I see the bulge in your pants. You’ve bought Kools: your brand of cigarettes and stashed them in your front hip pocket, next to an Almond Joy.

I see you still squint, smoke, have bad posture, eat Almond Joys. Quiet as ash, you in the Kansas of Colorado, one foot almost in each state. The moment you noticed me must have been when you straightened your back up, crushed your half smoked cigarette and smiled. You know I can’t come any closer.

I can’t pull into the station, roll down my window and touch your face.

But what can I tell you? I will tell you anything you want to know.

How long it took me to find you? How many years I was lost? How I am about to be the age you were when you left? How I know this isn’t you but how I need it so badly to be and how much it means that you let me believe it is. How your gifts never stop coming through? I can tell you that.

How although you ripped my heart out at 8 years old I have never forgotten and I have used every bit of you up and turned you into art whenever I have had the oppotunity. Though the facts that remain are greying with age, they are no less relevant than they were all those years ago. Nor are you.

I can tell you that I am a better person than I have ever been and that it feels foreign and exhilarating in the way being recognized feels after a lifetime of being invisible.

Some days I love you and some days I hate you and how does that make you any more special than a father that is here on this earth in his chair watching his show with his glasses on his chest? It doesn’t. You are not invisible is what I am saying.

That I can tell you.

healing, loss, my book, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Chicken Bones In The Throat.

November 9, 2012

The things that get lodged in us.

Those that need dislodging like a chicken bone in the throat.

How some things get stuck. And others, not so much. Other things in their own river-like way flow through us and by us and if it weren’t for a photograph we might forget them completely. (My 20’s! Certain men I’ve dated! 7th grade! Books I have loved and forgotten.)

Things that get stuck: certain sentences and the way someone looks at you, the beat of a song whose words have long since vanished, the way it felt to be young, how your father died.

Last night as I was working on my book I called my mom to ask her some questions about my dad and how he died. I wanted to know precisely the cause of death and which drugs he took and exactly how many cigarretes he smoked a day. I wanted the facts as if the facts can turn into something soft and malleable, as if they can change if you hear them enough. They do, don’t they?

I thought my dad died of a heart attack until one day when I was 13 my mom told me that he’d had a stroke. From 13 until last night I’d thought he’d had a stroke. My mom said last night that it was not a stroke at all. Oh, the confusion. How did he die, dammit? I need to know exactly what went down on that night in July, 1983.

So Mom says it was this mouthful of ugly words: Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

Which is caused by blockages which can be caused by the unfathomable amount of cigarretes he smoked daily or the speed he took. Same thing Whitney Houston died of.

Then Mom tells me this bit of news which is now forever stuck and will not be dislodged. Ever. She told me that the hospital had told her he had vomited and choked on his own vomit and that was how he died. Offical autoposy said, however, Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

I want to unhear this.

Is it possible to do this? I, of all people, should be entitled to this gift with my profound hearing loss. It must be how my friend Emily Rapp felt when the doctors told her that her son Ronan had Tay Sachs Disease and would die.

It’s a mistake! This shouldn’t be! This was an accident. This wasn’t any “meant to be” bulllshit yogis are so fond of saying. The way I see it, this was a f*ck up.

Just whose f*ck up, I am not sure, nor do I want to guess, but it was definitely some kind of mix-up. I mean, choking on vomit and dying? How can this be fair at all? One minute you are in your bed watching an episode of M*A*S*H on tv and the next your are drowing in your own bodily fluids? In what world can this happen?

How can death be that easy when life isn’t? 

To dislodge means to leave a place previously occupied. This is what happens with death.  (I imagine.) You dislodge yourself from your body. And that’s that. If it weren’t for the things that stuck, things like your smell, or rather the smell of an old leather wallet and how it has become your smell, and your sheep’s laugh, that high cackle and how it would run around the room before it landed back in your throat. Other things that stuck: the song You Are My Sunshine keeps you here, maybe not in body but certainly in heart because that’s where the pain is when the song is heard, no matter when or where. That rusty dagger is stuck in the heart since you used to sing that song every night, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing because certainly some things need to get stuck in us or we might forget who we were.

I asked my mom to send me an email with all the facts she could remember being that most of mine are old and broken down having been told so many times since I was eight years old that they lost their functionality sometime around 1990-91.

Another sentence that stuck:

He used up his body.

How can I make that sentence go away? What is behind the sentence is more what I want to go away and that is the reality that my father used up his body in a way that suggested that the novelty of it was over, that the use of it was no longer needed, that in essence it was worth nothing. That it was trash. What else do you think of when you hear those words, which are nothing short of true: he used up his body. Depleted. Bankrupt. Drained. Empty.

So things get stuck in me. Maybe because I am a little bit obsessive. But aren’t we all?

What gets stuck are the things that shock me back into breathing, that slap me in the face until I realize this fact: It could be me.

How easy it is to do really. To let yourself slip.

No, maybe you don’t smoke and maybe you don’t do any drugs but maybe you talk to yourself in such a way that it chips at you day after day until there is nothing left. Until you are used up.

Maybe the things that get stuck are there so we pay closer attention to the facts. Had my father, I doubt he would have killed himself. Oh, you think he didn’t kill himself in some way? Look closer.

I revise my earlier statement about wanting to dislodge these things. I will never be able to unstick these thing and that is fine. You want to know why? Because I am writing a book and my greatest wish is for at the very least a few things to be stuck so I can remember long enough to get them on paper.

Secondly: some things must always be stuck in me so I remember that I am not unfailing. As painful as some things are and as much as we want them to not have happened, they did. They will always have happened.

They existed somewhere in the world, in some space time continuum, and they are some small molecule of us, even if they happened to our ancestors before our birth. The way we react to the world is in drect relation to the stuck things within us.

The way we listen to a song. The way we fall in love. The way we look at our children. If we even have children.

All of it.

The stuck things make us who we are. They help us remember where we have been.

by Jenni Young of course

Self Image, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Keep Going. Don’t Look Back.

August 10, 2012

We never know where we will find our history, where we will discover what has formed us, what we will find while farming tomatoes or doing yoga.

Who needs a history anyway? I find myself saying except I am writing a memoir, and when one writes a memoir, one need to go back and unleash the dragons and all the locked boxes.

As I write my own book I remember all my relationships, all my loves, all the deaths, all the things that happened.

All the stories.

I once loved someone who liked to sculpt vases as gifts. The pounding of the clay, the pulverizing; the creation and inevitable destruction of matter.  The process of his sculpting was inevitable as any ritual. It was like watching women pound acorns with long rocks. Holes the size of nickels were created by the repetition, that repeated impact of stone against stone. It was meditative to watch. I can only imagine what actually doing it must have felt like.

Perhaps like creating your own life as you go. Perhaps it felt like that.

Or perhaps it just felt like sculpting.

As I write my tale, I think of him sculpting red clay into things of mythic beauty. Then letting it dry and crushing it into the earth. To be reshaped, over and over. This natural desire towards achievement he had. That we all have.

What turns into memory? I wonder as I wade through old places in my mind turned yellow with time and a certain forgetting.

Around 300 BC, the Olmec Civilaztion vanished for reasons that vanished with them. Poof! Gone from the Gulf Coast in what is now South Mexico.

We usually know why relationships or people vanish. Sometimes. Although with time that why often becomes a memory as well.

We invent what we have to.

With time, we might wonder Did I invent him? Did I invent her? Did I make up that ten year period of life in my imagination? Where is the proof that it existed? Somebody prove to me that I was a waitress for ten years, I demand it! Did I invent my father out of thin air? Did he really march us up the stairs to bed and yell “Hut 2-3-4, Hut 2-3-4”?

I wonder about the architecture of love and loss. The commodity of it and what remains after the concrete has been whittled away. The skeletons that get left after the meat is devoured. The blueprint is still there, but even the foundation has crumbled.

Everything must be rebuilt.

I am in awe of the catalysts that cause us to mutate and transform. Whether being trapped inside a volcano or having an old friend come to stay for a week on your sofa. Whether it’s having the rug yanked out from under you or losing your job of ten years or being dumped or your child dying before you. Whether it is selling your book or getting a promotion or deciding you actually don’t want to be an actor after all. We change. In ways big and small, measurable and unseeable to the naked eye, we evolve.

We change shapes and figures over and over again. We exchange one body for the next, one precious stone for a different one. One pleasure for another.

Jade used to be the most valuable stone in the world but over time its value diminished. Who can explain why the value of something increases or decreases? Or why we fall in love with someone, as quick as the pressing of your face into their shoulder blade as you ride on the back of their motorcycle, the wind slapping you with confirmation- Yes! This is love! Or a moment like the one when you watch them sleep and a surge of protectiveness knocks you awake. You want to make sure they take the next breath, and the next.  You want to watch them forever.

Who can explain why, like jade, love’s value decreases, unaccountably? And then one day all that is left is a little piece of red clay. Who can explain that change?

Who can explain why that same person you wanted to watch sleep forever, that night, there on your couch, the rise and fall of their chest a steady reminder that you were safe, that there was some consistency in the world, why this same person makes you want to beat your fists against their chest and take back time?

Which parts of our lives have shaped us the most?

Which loves? Which fingers on our cheek, which heartbreaks? Which parts of our lives have caused us to lose little pieces of ourselves?

Where do we find our history when there is nowhere left to look but forward?

You find what you remember. What’s left inside of you as you lie your head down on the pillow at the end of the day and every vein in your body pulses in a language that says Keep Going, Don’t look back.

Keep going.

Don’t look back.

poetry, Self Image, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

An Identity Crisis.

July 23, 2012

An Identity Crisis

We may ask ourselves: Who is this person? while watching the lover pull a hair off their tongue or wiping their upper lip with the back of their hand or eating a bowl of oatmeal on the edge of the bed to catch the news or drinking a dark beer at M’Lady’s in SoHo.

Because sometimes we get lost in the bustle of it all. And these questions might come fast as a sigh of relief and they may vanish as fast as the beer glides down the throat, the hair comes off the tongue, the sweaty upper lip smooth as butter puckers into an


We might get in our cars, make faces at ourselves in the rearview mirror, eat our breakfasts in the bathroom to save time and sweat with our lovers and then one Tuesday we realize that the person we once were has changed so many times over, has fallen into the groove, into the pattern of days, is as predictable as the setting sun

so we may ask ourselves: Who is this while watching our lover pull a hair off their tongue or wiping their upper lip with the back of a hand

and it might feel answered, we might think we recognize them.

That we know who we are.

So we go on and make more faces in the mirror, changing the natural shape of our mouths or seeing what our eyes would look by pulling our hair too tight, and we might keep driving,

keep walking

keep drinking,

keep eating,

nothing truly stops, ever,

bury the father,

clock into work,

tell them that you love them if that’s what they want to hear,

clock out,

keep going,

we might feel almost sure we’ve got it,

that we are in control.

Keep going to bed, keep waking up.

Don’t stop, don’t ask,

buy the birthday cards,

celebrate the years,

don’t move from where you are,

trade one relationship for the next

go to bed,

wake up

You’re still there.

Look: you’re still here.

***This piece was written when I was 20 years old