Browsing Tag

amy roost

Guest Posts, healing, love

Patchouli: An Untraditional Father’s Day Post.

June 15, 2014

Patchouli: An Untraditional Father’s Day Post by Amy Roost.

I was six. She was twenty-six. I was a chubby, dishwater-blonde tomboy. She was a tall, lithe, brunette model. I wore football jerseys. She wore patchouli. The only thing in had in common was a love for her boyfriend–my dad–which is saying something because he was not an easy man to love.

My dad was a type-A take-no-prisoners business man who cheated on my mom, probably from the day they met. He left my mom, my brothers and I one June day in 1968 with no warning. No explanation. Just a garment bag in one hand and a red and black electric shoe polisher in the other. He found me coloring in my room, at the pink and white activity table my grandpa had made me and said to me, as if I’d understand, “I’m leaving”.

“When are you coming home?” I asked.

“I’m not, sweetheart” was all he said. Fade to black.

And yet he had his moments, enough to make himself lovable, at least to those of us who were hardwired to do so. He brought dolls for me from every foreign land to which he travelled. And though he was a work-a-holic, he tried to make up for it—-in the only way he knew how–with large expenditures of money and extravagant gestures such as a family vacation to Aculpulco or a new bobble for my mom. I distinctly remember the night he came home later than usual with a box of Bazooka Bubble Gum for each of us three kids, and a bouquet of roses for my mom. My mom must have understood he was apologizing for some unspoken transgression. Maybe my brothers–six and nine years older–understood as well. I just remember thinking what an awesome dad he was for giving me a whole box of my favorite bubble gum, comics and all!

I also remember he’d sometimes sit on the fireplace hearth and play the acoustic guitar. (It’s no wonder I fell in love with Christopher Plummer when “Sound of Music” was released the following year). I always requested that he play “Drunken Sailor”. He’d strum the chords and together we’d sing. Sing it loud. I remember that. And the bubble gum. And the garment bag.

My parents eventually separated. My mom was awarded full-time custody and my dad had visitation every Wednesday evening and every other Sunday. I’m not sure if my dad’s having the short end of the custody stick had to do more with the times or because my dad never wanted any kids in the first place–or so my mother claimed.

Wednesdays we went to dinner. My mother instructed me to always order the most expensive item on the menu and so I developed a liking for lobster. I suspect my dad caught on because he began taking us exclusively to the Pickle Barrel–a local hamburger joint.

On Sundays we were supposed to spend the whole day with him, however, since he’d relocated to downtown and we were in the north suburbs, he generally didn’t pick us up until closer to noon. I’d wake up early, dress for the city, sit on the living room couch and wait. My brothers and I used to call “shotgun” whenever all three of us would go somewhere in the car, however, my dad made it clear from the start that I was to sit up front with him on our Sunday outings. No more calling shotgun. Shotgun belonged exclusively to daddy’s little girl.

Sometimes we’d go to Old Town and stop in at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, then stop for an oversized chocolate chip cookie at Paul Bunyon’s*, Other times he’d take us to a Cubs game. He would buy us peanuts on the way to our seats located on the first base side just behind the Cubs dugout and he taught me how to keep score in the program. I may very well have been the youngest girl to know what an infield fly rule was.

I heard his Lincoln Mark IV pull into the cul de sac just as a dog who is sound asleep hears the jingling of his master’s car keys. I looked over the back of the couch through the bay window to confirm. There he was! But wait, who was that woman with him…riding shotgun? I ran to get my mom. “There’s someone with daddy!” I shouted.

I remember my mom going outside. I remember going back to the couch and peeking through the curtains as my dad got out of the car. I remember how they stood face to face on the sidewalk with their lips both simultaneously and furiously moving. I remember my dad storming toward the front door. I remember the front door slamming and his calling “Amy Liz!”. I remember my mom coming in through the basement door. I remember my running for the steps leading down to the basement. I remember my mom reaching out and taking hold of my left hand as I scuttled down the stairs, and my dad coming down after me and grabbing my right hand. I remember becoming a human rope in their tug of war. And then I don’t remember. I don’t remember who let go first. I don’t remember falling.

I do remember the scrape I had on my knee the next day. I remember kicking and screaming while my dad carried me out to his car then pushed my head down and forced me into the back seat. I remember the model’s name–Michaelann. I remember the pungent scent of patchouli in the car. To this day, I remember that scent. And if tomorrow someone wearing patchouli were to get on an elevator I was riding, I’d frantically press every button for every floor in a desperate attempt to free myself from the grip of my childhood.

 

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

 

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. 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 Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

Next workshop is London July 6. Book here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Posts, parenting

You Are Not Alone: A Message From a Mother To a Son.

April 28, 2014

You Are Not Alone: A Message From a Mother To a Son. By Amy Roost.

I received a text from my son in the middle of the night. It read, “I love you.” My first thought was to text back are you okay?!, but then I remembered he’s on mile 26 of a marathon. He’s delusional.

In a week, he’ll take his GRE. In two weeks, he’ll turn 22. In four weeks, he’ll ceremoniously drop the rough draft of his senior thesis (entitled “Graviton in Type 2a String Theory Quantum Chromodynamics”) into a bonfire, then hand the final draft to his advisor. In five weeks, he’ll take finals. In six weeks, he’ll walk across a stage and be handed a diploma. In eight months, he’ll begin a PhD program in theoretical physics.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re reading this, son, do as I say, not as I do. Proceed one equation at a time. Take in each moment as it comes appreciating it all the more in light of the moments you rode in on.

***

When you were nine weeks a fetus, I rejoiced to hear your heartbeat. When you were 11 weeks a fetus, I sobbed when that heartbeat went radio silent and an ultrasound showed no sign of your embryonic self. The obstetrician offered his condolences. He advised me to go home and have a margarita and if I didn’t miscarry you over the weekend, to come back on Monday for a dilation and curettage.

I didn’t follow any of his advice. Instead, I held on. Correction: We held on. Two weeks passed before my next appointment. The ultrasound technician and I both took deep breaths as she placed the cold doppler wand on my belly. She waved it back and forth searching and searching, then, magically, there you were, heartbeat and all.

It wasn’t until you were born that we discovered what that early fuss had been about. You had birth defects, several of them. A nine-hour surgery followed by three weeks in intensive care addressed the most serious one. There was another surgery 9 months later, followed by another and another and another. There were the hospitalizations for one pneumonia after another; and a pulmonary embolism; the trips to the ER for anaphylaxis. The calm. And then the storm — two brain surgeries, a cranio-cervical fusion, traction, pain, recovery. Of course you remember all of this better than I do.

But do you remember that warm summer day at Trap Pond in Delaware? You were 17 and had recently shed your body cast. We woke early and set off for a morning of canoeing. As we glided across the glassy surface of the pond and wended our way through clumps of cypress trees, we saw a Great Blue Heron balanced on one leg, a family of turtles sunning themselves on a rock and a bald eagle soaring overhead. It felt as if we were looking at the world through 3D glasses, so intense was the life force around us.

Do you remember how on our drive back to the beach house that day, we blasted the car stereo while listening to our favorite Mumford and Sons CD? How when the song “Timshel” played, there was that one lyric — death is at your doorstep and it will steal your innocence but it will not steal your substance. You are not alone in this. How when we heard this, we cast each other knowing glances. And how I then started to cry. And you did too. And you reached over with your left hand and placed it atop my right hand. And you left it there while we drove. Not speaking a word. Do you remember that day?

I do. Every moment.

***

Now might be a good time to reread the poem “Sonnets to Orpheus Part Two, XII“. It was one of those–along with the Mary Oliver and Wallace Stevens’ poems–I gave to you when you graduated high school. Do you remember Rilke’s advice?

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking

often finishes at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation

it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming

a laurel, dares you to become wind.

In other words, when you finish this marathon, you will end at the starting line again. Therefore, it is pointless to evade the full intensity of this process you’re going through. Embrace it. Dance with it along the time-space continuum you know so well.

‘Enough with the poetry and the spiritual’, you say?. Okay. Then let me offer you something tangible: It’s the middle of the night. You’re there. I’m here. At this moment, your life is gritty. And you’re feeling alone and think no one gets what it is you’re going through.

So, do me this favor: Place your hand over your heart. Can you feel that? Me too. In this moment of self doubt and exhaustion, know that I am with you. You are not alone in this.

*This essay originally appeared on The Huffington Post

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Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

*****

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, Modern Loss, xojane, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner.

March 26, 2014

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner. By Amy Roost.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. I send my editor a column knowing full well that most of the intended audience will never read it. And for those who do take the time, many won’t care and many more won’t like what I have to say.

And that’s fine because I don’t measure success by the number of people who read or like what I write. Rather I consider myself successful if what I share eases the way for just one reader.

And so it is with this hope that I share a story of abuse and recovery.


Between the ages of approximately 5 and 8, I was sexually abused by my brother nine years older than me. He told me he would kill me if I ever spoke a word of his transgressions to our parents. I believed him and followed orders until I was 16.

Our family was gathered for dinner. My brother waited in prey until the most opportune moment when he made a cruel remark about my ass being too big for my chair. It was not the first time he’d substituted verbal abuse for his previous physical abuse, but for whatever reason on this occasion I snapped and ran to my bedroom crying. My mother came to console me but it was no use. I was so hysterical that she wanted to take me to the hospital. I refused. I wailed. I screamed. And finally, I spilled the truth.

She was devastated, as any mother would be who learned that in the anguish and self-absorption of her divorce she had not protected her child. She did not question my story; she did, however, ask me to keep my story “our secret”.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was going through a depressive episode in graduate school, that my mother finally confronted my brother, insisting he apologize for his actions. I vividly remember taking his call: Standing in the kitchen of the brownstone where I lived in New York City staring out a window at the Chinese restaurant below, I heard his small voice utter the words “I’m sorry.”

I’d had dreamed of this moment for years and the satisfaction I’d derive from hurling expletives his way. Instead what I felt was tremendous relief from the heavy veil of secrecy having been lifted and hearing by abuser acknowledge the truth–a truth the veracity of which I ‘d begun to question myself, so long had it remained dormant.

Sexual abuse survivors — and there are millions of us, men and women alike — will recognize this statement. As well as the narrative I’d constructed around my childhood trauma that went something along the lines of: “If you’d kept away from him it never would have happened.” “It was your fault for not telling your parents.” “You liked the attention and let it continue to happen.” Such was the guilt and self-loathing that had become deeply etched in my psyche.

Through counseling and the love of a select few I trusted with my story, I healed in fits and starts until a day not long ago when my whole perspective shifted.

I was babysitting a neighbor’s 5-year-old daughter. We made animal shadows on the wall and she squealed with delight every time I used my best ventriloquist’s voice to make the shadows “talk.” We laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. She looked up at me concerned and reached to wipe my tears away. “Don’t cry,” she said. “It’ll be OK.” And that’s when it hit me: the 5-year-old me could no more have caused what my brother had done than this innocent loving child next to me could cause harm to herself.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. Many of you will think this story TMI. But perhaps one person will recognize her experience in what I’ve shared and feel more connected, less lonely. It is for her that I write.

Amy Roost is executive director of Silver Age Yoga and a multi-dimensional freelancer.

Click photo to connect with Amy.
Click photo to connect with Amy.

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a retreat to Ojai, Calif in May and again over Labor Day weekend. http://jenniferpastiloff.com/Yoga_Retreats_With_Jen_Pastiloff.htmlAll retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up are workshops in Dallas, Seattle then London!! Book here.

 

Gratitude, Guest Posts

Enough Is As Good As A Feast. By Amy Roost.

February 22, 2014

Enough Is As Good As A Feast. By Amy Roost.

I know a young man. From the age of 5 he was raised in the foster system, moving from home to home.

Last year, at the age of 18, he was “emancipated,” meaning he cut his ties with the courts and they with him. Since then, he was accepted into a group home, graduated high school, started classes at Palomar College and got a dishwashing job. Then he slipped up — got in some trouble. Whether he’s to blame, it’s hard to know. The good news is no charges were filed and his record remains clean. The bad news is he lost his job while he spent time in the county jail.

Last week we had lunch and caught up. He told me about his girlfriend: She’s outgoing, works as a carpet cleaner. Her dad died last year from alcoholism. Her mother likes him. He also told me where they live — in the back of a broken down van in Carlsbad.

They have a friend who lives in a house around the corner from where the van is parked. She lets them keep food in her refrigerator and use her shower. They’re eligible for food stamps, so they at least have food.

We had pizza for lunch and he took the leftovers to go. I drove him to the mall to get him a new skateboard deck. The van needs a fuel pump so the skateboard is his primary mode of transportation for now. We went to Costco so I could pick up a few “staples,” like wine, Pellegrino, aged cheddar, tomatoes. I bought him a case of ramen and some Cherrios. As we were loading things in the back of my car a $1 bill fell from his pocket onto the ground. He was pleasantly surprised.

As we waited at a stoplight on the way back to his “place,” we saw a woman standing on the corner with a dog and a sign that read “God Bless. Anything Helps.” The young man reached down into his pocket and handed the dollar bill to me, “Here, give this to her.” I rolled down my window and did as he told me. He then leaned across me and asked of the woman, “Are you hungry?” “Yes,” she said. The young man then reached into the backseat and grabbed the box with the leftover pizza and handed it out the window to the woman. I was surprised by both gestures, but especially the pizza because he’d already called his girlfriend on my phone to tell her he was bringing home dinner.

As we pulled away, the woman asked me, “Are you taking good care of him?” I said I was and she said, “Good. I’ll pray for you.” I told her I’d pray for her too.

When we were down the road a ways, the young man said, “Do you know who that was?” Surprised and wondering what I missed, I answered, “No.”

“That’s my girlfriend’s mother,” he told me.

A little further down the road we saw an older man rolling up the sidewalk in a wheel chair. The young man said, “That’s Danny.” I said, “Oh, how do you know Danny?” He said, “I help him get around when he needs pushing. I know most of the homeless people in Carlsbad. We all look out for each other.”

As I process the interaction in the warmth of my home overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. One thing I am sure of is that a young man who is struggling to make his way in the world and helping others make theirs schooled me in a few of the heavenly virtues, namely liberality (a nobility of thought or actions) and humility. I’m also sure that enough is ofttimes as good as a feast.

On this, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the War on Poverty, may we all learn to share what we have, our leftovers, and found dollar bills. And no matter what we possess, be it a feast or just enough, may we all look out for each other.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in New York City on March 15. Book here.

Guest Posts

Be Your Own Rockstar.

January 14, 2014

By Amy Roost.

While attending “The Evolution of Psychotherapy” conference with my husband, I rubbed shoulders (if only in the elevator) with several of the greatest minds in the field–Erving Polster, Jeffrey, Zweig, Sue Johnson, Harriet Lerner and Harvel Hendrix to name just a few –persons I wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with were my husband not a psychologist.

Surprisingly, the conference also featured a keynote address by Alainis Morrisette. I was excited to hear her speak since hers is a name I do recognize given that she’s a rock star and given that I’ve listened to her feminist anthems countless times. It turns out Morrisette is also an incredibly articulate advocate for mental health.

The morning after Morrisette spoke, I was standing in line at a hotel lobby Starbucks; three young women, likely graduate students, stood behind me. They were all atwitter about someone sitting nearby. “Should we introduce ourselves?”, one asked. “No, that would be rude”, another replied. “I’m going for it!” the third one said.

I tried to spot who it was they were referring to, even hoped it was Morrisette. Imagine then my surprise when the bravest of the three woman walked toward a table where Salvador Minuchin–a 92-year old pioneer of psychotherapy–was sitting alone enjoying a cup of joe. As the intrepid scout approached his table to introduce herself, Minuchin stood up to take leave. Startled, the woman lost her nerve, made a hasty u-turn and returned to her friends who stood snickering behind me.

We’ve all been there. In the presence of someone we admired so much it made us nervous.

I remember working as the events coordinator for a large independent bookstore. It was my job to greet, entertain (in the “green room”) and introduce all the authors who came to the store for book signings. Over the years the A-list included Colin Powell, John Irving, Hilary Clinton, John McCain, Billy Collins, Frances Mayes, Alexander McCall Smith, and Carl Hiassen. I was rarely nervous meeting such big-name celebrities, and even when an attack of the butterflies did set in, I was able to maintain my composure.

That is until I sat next to Stephen Colbert. For anyone who is not familiar with Colbert, he is a political satirist and, in my opinion, a comedic genius who will go down in history as one of the great American commentators, in the same company as Mark Twain, Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor. While he coined the term “truthiness”, he is paradoxically known for having delivered a speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner that was one of the most courageous speak-truth-to-power exhortations since Lenny Bruce’s rants about the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

I was in the company of Mr. Colbert for two hours, paging through to the title page of his book and passing it to him for his signature so as to expedite the line. I’d been through this routine numerous times making small talk with Pulitzer Prize winners and leaders of the free world alike. However, on this occasion, I was, for the first time, completely dumbstruck and tongue tied because Colbert is my rock star, as surely as Salvador Minuchin was the young woman at Starbucks’ rock star.

We all have a rock star (or two) in our lives. Someone who we dream of meeting; someone whose achievements humble and inspire us to be our best selves or do our best work. In those dreams we are not speechless. We are witty, charasmatic and engaging.

So how sad that the Starbucks woman couldn’t screw up the courage to introduce herself to Minuchin, or that I wasn’t able to take advantage of being in close proximity to Colbert, a man I admired in large part for his ability to speak his own truth. She and I left so much on the table and we walked away with the regret that comes from failing to grab the brass ring, and the stale dream of how the conversation with our hero might have transpired had we only found our voice. How Minuchin might have advised the young woman on her career path or how Colbert might have replied to my question about how his Catholicism has influenced his politics or whether he ever heard from President Bush after his Correspondents’ Dinner speech, or how he might have advised me to make my own writing more satirical.

What stopped both of us from speaking to our heroes was a fundamental lack of self worth. A failure to believe that we had anything compelling to offer. Maybe also a fear that our advances would be rejected and leave us feeling foolish–a small risk when you consider the potential payout.

My friend Dana did take the risk. When I conveyed the Minuchin story to her she recalled brazenly emailing her hero, the author Jean Houston, asking for guidance on her PhD dissertation. Houston, who is a highly regarded (and demanded) speaker on the topic of human potential, not only emailed Dana back with advice but invited Dana to keep in touch so they could pursue further dialogue.

Since I’d never heard of Salvador Minuchin until recently and I haven’t assigned him any superhero powers, I would have no problem–being the extrovert that I am–introducing myself to him. But sit me down next to Stephen Colbert and, I imagine, a handful of others–Bruce Springsteen, Mary Oliver, the Dalai Lama– and I do a complete mind f*ck on myself.

Maybe Colbert would have found me fascinating? Perhaps he would have wanted to hear about the travails of parenting chronically ill child or about my impressions of his home state of South Carolina, or about my six weeks spent in the Soviet Union, or my grandma’s sour cream raisin pie recipe. Who knows?

No one knows, that’s who. And no one ever will so long as I fail to embrace my own worthiness. My own inner rock star.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

 

Guest Posts, healing, loss, love

What My Dog’s Death Taught Me.

November 22, 2013

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By Amy Roost.

Last week, my husband and I took our 13-year old yellow lab, Tiki, to the veterinarian…for the last time.

Ever since she’d been diagnosed with bladder cancer a few months ago, I’d been bargaining with God (I’m not religious, mind you). First, I asked God to allow Tiki to survive until I got back from a trip to Toronto. She survived. Then I asked God to allow her to survive until my oldest son came home from college for fall break. She survived. Most recently, I asked that she be allowed to survive until Christmas when my younger son was due to return home. But as her steady decline quickened its pace it was clear I’d bargained all my chips away and there would be no Christmas miracle. So I changed tactics and selfishly began praying that she would die peacefully in her sleep so that I wouldn’t have to put her down. But she didn’t die in her sleep. Why would she?   Even if her body was was no longer working for her, she loved life too much to give up. But signs that the inevitable was near were there no matter: The click, click, click of her nails as she paced across the the slate tiles in our home woke me night after night; and the fur around her eyes turned dewy as if she was suffering from a fever. And then, despite all my magical thinking and best attempts at praying, she let us know with one large pool of blood-filled urine that there was precious little life left to wring from her body.

My husband and I spread sheets in the back the car and lifted her onto the seat. We drove to her favorite bridle path where we thought we’d take her for a short walk before heading to the vet’s office. However, as soon as she picked up the scent of that old familiar trail, her nostrils flared and she caught her last second wind. We walked nearly a mile, further than she’d walked since 2010 when she blew out her knee chasing a raccoon across our deck. We passed by a corral where we used to stop every day and feed the horses carrots. I clicked my tongue and a black and white mare left her feeding trough to come greet us. I had nothing to offer her and thought as soon as she realized I was empty handed she’d go back to her supper. Instead, perhaps sensing something, she raised her muzzle over the fence and placed it on my shoulder. Leaning the side of her head against my face she breathed a warm, soft exhale onto my cheek and neck. I surrendered into this beast’s tender embrace of my sorrow.

The mare then did something even more unexpected. She raised her head back over to her side of the fence and bent down to where Tiki’s own muzzle was poking through the chain links. She touched her nose to Tiki’s through the fence. Just like God’s finger reaching out for Adam’s, she seemed to communicate, one animal to another, “take this moment, this beauty with you to the other side so that you may remember how good life was.”

Several dog-loving friends advised me to arrange for a home euthanasia but unlike other dogs, Tiki never seemed to mind doctor’s visits. Besides, I’ve been taking my pets to see Dr. Singh since 1997, and he and and his staff were extended family to me.  We were greeted with a sad smile from the receptionist, and Tiki was escorted to her usual examining room. She stood patiently while the doctor felt her bladder. He confirmed we were doing the right thing. As he and his assistant led Tiki out the  exam room to go place the catheter in her leg, my husband silently reached over and took my hand. I sat still, attempting a breathing technique I’d learned from years of practicing yoga, hoping it would help me through what was about to go down.

The assistant returned with Tiki and spread a fleece blanket on the floor. She and I knelt down and Tiki obediently followed my guide to lie down. The doctor came back into the room with two needles, the first containing a general anesthetic, the second a large dose of phenobarbytal which would stop Tiki’s heart. He placed the first needle into the catheter and began squeezing the pink fluid into Tiki’s vein. I thought to myself, “it’s not too late, I can still change my mind!”. Instead I simply cradled Tiki’s head as it slowly descended to the floor. Just as the assistant had warned me, her eyes did not close. I couldn’t bare to watch as Dr. Singh inserted the second needle but I knew he had because Tiki’s amber-speckled, soulful brown eyes began to cloud over. I said aloud to no one in particular, “the eyes are the window to the soul”. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the doctor place his stethescope on Tiki’s chest and listen.

Some time later, a few seconds, an hour–who knows?–I heard the doctor whisper, “That’s it”. With his words, I exhaled, realizing I too had stopped breathing (not exactly the breathing technique I’d been angling for). The room then fell silent and Tiki’s spirit–as evidenced by her fully occluded eyes-left the auditorium.

For the rest of this story, you’ll have to scoot over here a little closer.

Closer still. As if I’m your mother on her deathbed about to whisper my parting words of wisdom. Yes, it’s that important.

Okay. That’s good. Now, listen up:

No one ever waited for an envelope to arrive in the mail. No long-distance lover. No warrior’s child. No one.

What we wait for is the letter. Not the envelope.

As I looked upon Tiki’s motionless blonde fur; her barrel-chested body that once bounded through high chaparral in search of rabbits; as I looked at her sweet face that never growled at the hi-jinks of our two-year-old grandson or winced at the pain I know she’d suffered most recently–what I understood, and internalized for the first time, was that our bodies are the envelope, not the letter.  What made Tiki who she was, a sweet-natured, strong-willed, immensely loving, loyal and constant companion was NOT her body, the envelope, but rather what was inside the envelope. Her spirit…the letter.

You. Yes, YOU. The person sitting right next to me. You are not your Louis Vitton purse, your Brooks Brothers suit, your BMW, your tinted mascara, your low lights, your perfectly sculpted abs or your bulging pecs. That’s all envelope. Okay, so maybe your envelope is velum, or embossed or made of artisan handmade paper. Or maybe it got lost in the mail and your envelope is crumpled and stained around the edges. I don’t know and I don’t care. What the people who know you love, what they enjoy, what they crave, what they will miss when you are gone is the letter. The contents. The meaning. The spirit. The YOU.

 1328_1023322255733_9486_nHer multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors. Click here to connect with Amy.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being.  Click photo to book.   "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

 

Guest Posts

Jumping To Conclusions & Racism. By Amy Roost.

July 26, 2013

 Jumping To Conclusions & Racism. By Amy Roost.

In remarks he made last Friday in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in Florida, President Obama asked to us all to “do some soul-searching…be a little bit more honest,”  and ask of ourselves “am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?”

That very same night…

I was picnicing with friends at a concert in the park when I noticed a black man with a beautifully sculpted physique. As I admired him, I caught myself thinking “he must be a professional athlete”. I say “caught myself” because I recognized the thought was a stereotype and knew that had the man been white, I probably would have thought something more along the lines of “he must work out a lot.”

When George Zimmerman saw a black boy wearing a hoodie walking through a neighborhood that had experienced a spate of break-ins, he thought to himself “he must be a criminal”. Unfortunately, for Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman did not catch himself.

Because most stereotypes have a kernel of truth to them, they can be useful shortcuts for making sense of the world around us. But as anyone who has ever spent time cooking knows, shortcuts can sometimes lead to disastrous outcomes.

Prior to my parents adopting me, they adopted Rebecca, who they discovered–weeks after bringing her home from the hospital–was half black. For years I’ve wondered how my father and our family minister could have argued for returning Rebecca to the adoption agency and how my mother could have capitulated.

All these years later, I’m beginning to understand. It’s bad enough that people stereotype an adoptee; it would have been even more difficult to have been the brother, mother or father of a half black child in an all white suburb of Chicago in 1961. I see now my father was not just being callous. He was also being realistic, trying to protect us from prejudice that would have surely come our way.

We’re still struggling with the issue of racism in this country, and many of us still can’t assimilate a biracial family into our world view as evidenced by a recent Cheerios television ad depicting just such a family and causing so much invective on Cheerios’ YouTube channel that the comments section had to be turned off.

Directly on the heels of the Cheerios ruckus came news of a man in Virginia who was questioned by police for allegedly kidnapping children from a Walmart. The children were biracial. Turned out the children were also his.

These types of incidents are what my father feared would be directed at his family. His antennae were no doubt much more sensitively attuned to the potential for the destructive impact of prejudice having lost nine of ten aunts and uncles in the Holocaust. He learned the hard way that common sense and goodness do not always prevail over hatred and evil.

Stung by the loss of Rebecca and seeking redemption for her complicity, my mother became active in the Civil Rights movement. She made headlines in Deerfield, IL leading picket lines at a de facto segregated housing development, and later marched in Selma, AL alongside Martin Luther King. Until now, I’d scored her as the winner, and the brave one in the family’s drama. And she was brave indeed.  I saw my father as the loser in this exchange and the coward.  Maybe I was wrong.

Now that I have the wisdom to understand the complexities of the situation, I ask myself what if my parents had kept Rebecca rather than returning her to be placed in another home. For starters, my older brothers probably would have been teased and called names. My mother would have been the recipient of scornful sideways glances in the grocery store. Rebecca would likely have been shunned and bullied and possibly accosted by a neighborhood watch patroller. My father would possibly have lost business, and certainly face, in his community.

As a parent myself, I “get” why my father didn’t want to serve as a civil liberties test case that early in the game.  It would have been a rough uphill battle even today let alone then. I also “get” why my mother lost something of herself when she lost Rebecca, and why she went looking for it as a Freedom Rider.

I’m saddened that as a society we’ve not come farther in the past half century. That we are still jumping to conclusions about others based on the color of their skin. I’m ashamed to admit I still occasionally catch myself resorting to coarse stereotypes as shortcuts in my own life. My hope is that the Trayvon Martin case will teach us all to pay closer attention to our own reflexive assumptions about others and begin to take the high road even if it’s not the shortest route.

 

TrayvonMartinHooded

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

 

Guest Posts

At My Worst.

July 19, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Amy Roost.

Jennifer Pastiloff’s work has inspired me to be more authentic in my own writing. Below is my bravest piece of writing yet. It will be published in a local newspaper on Thursday and they have the rights to it for 10 days afterward. I need to tell you a brief story about how it came about:

A young women (a former high school classmate of my son) was killed at 4am last Thursday morning when the car she was a passenger in was t-boned by a fire truck. An open container of alcohol was found in the car and the driver (who survived) was a 44-year old man. If you’re interested in the details, you can access it thru this link: http://www.pomeradonews.com/2013/06/20/one-killed-when-fire-truck-vehicle-collide-in-poway/

What disturbed me was not just the tragic end to a young woman’s life but the comments at the bottom of the article about the accident, essentially blaming the victim and showing great insensitivity toward the girl’s family.

This column was inspired by the reaction of some in our community to her death and it is dedicated to her memory.

 

AT MY WORST By Amy Roost.

At my worst I drove my car when I’d had too much to drink; I called my kids names; I had an affair.

At my worst I let my ailing aunt’s phone call go to voicemail; I yelled at a customer service representative for a company policy she had nothing to do with.

At my worst I drove without insurance; I tattled on my brothers; I brow beat an employee.

At my worst I gossiped about friends; I stole a rabbit’s foot from 7-11; I pretended I’d read a book when I hadn’t.

At my worst I didn’t brush my kids’ teeth for a week; I played hooky from work; I yelled obscenities at my husband.

At my worst I made my children late for school so I could stop at Starbucks for a coffee; I talked during a movie.

At my worst I drove with bald tires; I didn’t send a sympathy card; I got in the “15 Items or Less” line when I had twenty items.

At my worst I failed to pick up after my dog; I had an abortion; I went on vacation instead attending a dear friend’s funeral.

At my worst, I jumped a long line at a freeway exit ramp; I stole money from my dad’s coat pockets.

At my worst, I looked the other way when I saw a mother slap her child in the grocery store; I told a white lie for having missed a friend’s birthday party.

When I meet my maker, I’m sure I’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do. Who knows, I might even be sent back for a “do over” or reincarnated as a tick? However, if she’s been paying attention, my maker will know that, at my best, I was loving, tolerant, understanding and kind.

Marilyn Monroe once told an interviewer “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” The same applies to me. My life is full. Full of mistakes. Full of love. Full of gifts. Full of catastrophe to paraphrase a term coined by the stress-reduction and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Full catastrophe living does not mean disaster–it means living in acceptance of the whole of life, saying yes to the enormity, the full range, of our life experience. There are major crises in everyone’s life. And, yes, there is death and disaster. But there are also all the good deeds and offerings that, along the way, add up.

There are fires and floods, open containers of alcohol in your child’s car and strained marriages. There are pregnancies that go horribly wrong and also children who won’t clean their room. Refrigerators that leak. Jobs that are menial and bills we can’t pay. There are lovers and there are lonely nights. There are crushed expectations. Melted eyeglasses. Traffic. Toothaches. At our best we respond well to these tests. At our worst, not so well.

Those who know me well, and who know that at my best I have contributed value, would never condemn me based solely on what I did at my worst, nor would I them. They would accept that none of us is perfect, we have all been at our worst and we have all been at our best. As such we are all human and works in progress. Hopefully, we learn from the worst growing in strength and wisdom. Hopefully, we can stop ourselves before condemning another’s worst and instead dance together through this full catastrophe–dancing each other, as Leonard Cohen would say, “to the end of love”.

 

 

 

airport skepticismHer multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

 

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 19th. Book here.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here.

 

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.

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