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being human

Activism, Guest Posts

Interdependence Day: A Letter on the Occasion of my 37th Birthday

April 12, 2017
independent

By Chris Shorne

I have been loved from the time I was small. Before my sight was unblurred I was seen and touched. Someone picked me up. Then another. Lips kissed my forehead. Before I knew what was forehead what was mouth. Before I knew there was a body and its inextricable parts and that this part was mine, I felt the sensation. Something new, something already. All the organic wires of a body were firing and firing together when eating came with touching, with the warmth of another human body spreading through this that I would come to know as my own, separate, human body.

It is not my mother who is the writer, but me. Still, she writes some abstract things in the form of dark lines on a white page and it aches me. That center spot of my chest—what is that?—grips. And so, compelled, I write. And I’m not sure it is me who is the author here. I’m not sure there has ever been a singular author. It hurts a little, to be loved like this. I don’t know why. Everything I’ve ever learned has led me up to this: I don’t know why it is I who have been so blessed. But I’ll take it.

Here I go. Yes, this is the biggest thing I’ve done. Being an international human rights accompanier in Guatemala. Standing alongside people walking into harassment and threats and jails, walking anyway, to maintain their land, to claim their culture. It is my big and it is so much less than the work the Guatemalans are doing. But I get to stand with them, walk alongside them for a little while. And, for me, it is big. “This is huge, Chris,” my ex-girlfriend used to say. I loved that. Even when it wasn’t huge, I loved it, because it meant what was happening with me was important. It meant she saw me as important. Continue Reading…

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

Comfortable In My Humanness.

December 16, 2013

Comfortable In My Humanness by Emily Beecher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RETREAT a poem by Emily Beecher

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we stand

tall

as the hours pass

we spill hot anger and resentment

forcing our hearts to sweat in stillness

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we cry

silently

touching the sweet earth,

our bodies bent like willows

surrendering to icy storms

We reawaken our passions

like buds opening to bloom,

slowly, carefully, then freely

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we dance

loudly

to the songs of our youth

later, skinny dipping

under the ripened Vermont moon

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

We abandon our self-consciousness

replacing it with connection,

rediscovering our selves

before packing them away

Like antique cars restored to former glory

so are we

rebuilt anew

amongst the trees of orange and gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, writing

On Discovering You Are Still Human.

December 9, 2012

Here’s a promise I make to you, my Tribe. I will always be: honest, vulnerable and my most unadulterated self, without any fluff or bullshit to lead you into thinking I am any better or worse than I really am, (as if those words actually mean anything.)

If you don’t like it, this pledge to be me, as it were, you probably haven’t “liked” my blog and aren’t reading this. And that’s ok, I don’t feel rejected. In fact, I probably don’t even know and neither do you. (It’s better that way.)

But for those who have connected with me, and me to you, listen up. This is for you. I am committed to what I have started which is: a call to arms, a rally cry, a demonstration of what it means to be real person, not a shadow living in the peripheries, not a status update, not a perfect yoga teacher or daughter or wife or any of the words that could move in quietly after the word perfect but rather a human being with faults and cracks and and histories and mistakes. I do not have a lesson plan for this. What I know to be true is that human beings forget that we are all human beings, so sometimes, when someone reminds us, when they literally shove an example in our face like a crumpled up coffee stained map and we have no choice but to pull over in the car and stop on the side of the road to read the map with its coffee stink and fingerprints and out-of-dated-ness, we somehow find our way.

Someone else’s journey can help us along, sometimes, on our own. It doesn’t always get us to where we are going. Like I said, the map is probably out of date, having been shoved under the passenger seat of someone else’s car for Lord knows how long, but its something.

Its something.

I was in a great mood this morning even though I drank too much cheap red wine at a party last night. (Human attritube #1: I drink and teach yoga and have a spiritual practice.) The thing is, with cheap red wine, you do not have to drink much for it to be too much. Nonetheless, I woke up happy and inspired and knew I would teach a fantastic yoga class. And so it is. Happiness is decided beforehand. I heard that recently and fell in love with it. I decided beforehand. My class will be one of those classes where I have to stop myself from thinking that This is a fluke. This can’t be possible that this many people come to my class and are so open, so willing to listen and shift. I am going to have to wait tables again tomorrow because this must be a dream. I am not even that good at yoga.

(Human attribute #2: I am a really good yoga teacher (at least I think.) No, I know. And, I am actually not that good at yoga. Whatever that means. (Read: I can’t balance for 2 minutes in the center of the room in a handstand and I don’t know all the sanskrit and I can’t put my leg behind my head and I still think triangle pose is hard.)

It wasn’t a dream. My class was packed and the room almost moved in synchronicity (almost never happens, especially in the early Sunday morning class. Come on! It’s Sunday morning for Chrissakes.) The room was bursting with love (cliche, notwithstanding, it was so love filled and in sync it could have been a parody.) The theme was related to my 5 Most Beautiful Things Project and how beauty connects us.

How if we let it, we can channel it.

May I always be a channel of beauty. For beauty. May the beauty I see be who I am. May I always see the beauty. I am sure I uttered that somewhere in between vinyasas and backbends.

You must understand, I teach at a gym. A gym! Yes, it is the very high end Equinox, but still, a gym. I teach at a gym and the people (my Tribe) who come to my class are so into what we are doing, they let me be who I am (a human) and I let them be who they are. It is astounding sometimes and perhaps why I feel like its a fluke. How can this be happening at a gym? What shift is taking place in consciousness? My class is NOT easy but it is by no means asana (posture) based. And yet it is packed.

So I am feeling good and on purpose and probably my ego is a little on fire and someone signed up for my Maui retreat and also Ojai based on my writings, so yea I am feeling gooood. Until I check my email and get a rejection email from a literary site I wanted to write. I will call it “R.” I say literary because it is not like the inspirational sites I usually write for. It’s a bit more cynical, more witty, less woo woo. I wanted it because then I would be a real writer. 

(Human attribute #3: I struggle with the notion of being a real writer even though I know that is a made up term. What’s a real writer? One that isn’t plastic? That’s not made from Coke bottles or cereal boxes? What is a real anything? What is a normal anything? These terms don’t exist and yet I strive for someone to name me. Name me a writer, call me “writer”, please? Award me with that.)

(Human attribute #4:  How no matter how much self work or inner work I do, rejection still hurts. It may not hurt for as long but it still does.)

All of a sudden I shut down. Just like that. One email later, I crawl back into my unmade bed (Human attribute #5: I don’t make the bed. Not a lot) and feel sorry for myself and also angry and also that I couldn’t write and why bother when I am just going to get rejected and how snooty “real writers” are and how I am just seen as a yoga teacher and who the Hell am I anyway?

So I get up and write.

Why? It is cathartic to me and because, my hope is that when I share some of the things I go through that make me feel very very human and raw, sometimes you will relate. Ah! I don’t feel so alone as you lay in your own unmade bed. That’s it. I am hoping that by passing you my old dirty coffee stained out-of-date map that you will take it with a grain of salt, with love, and with the notion that I am most undoubtedly NOT Superhuman. That I still think rejection sucks and it hurts but that I got over it quicker this time (I did. I actually feel better now.)

(Human attribute #6: I write because I have to. It’s what I do with the pain. With the rejection. And with the love. It’s what I have to do.)

To the site “R” who said that the piece is not for us, well, that’s okay. It’ll find a home. It always does, doesn’t it?

When our hearts get broken and we think we will never love again, not ever, this is the last time, I am swearing off love! we do and we do and we do.

(Human attribute #7: I am doing very well but that I still have fits of feeling unworthy based on someone’s opinion. Case in point, “R” rejects me and I fall apart. And sometimes, despite “overcoming” anorexia, I still have days where I feel so fat but that mostly I am happy to be here in my skin as Jennifer Pastiloff.)

And that if I continue to allow myself to decide on my happiness ahead of time that the moments of happiness will far outweigh the moments of feeling like I am doing it wrong, that I have made a mistake.

Here’s to being human, guys. I am raising my glass to yours. Cheers.

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