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elise ballard

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Madonnas.

January 6, 2015

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By Mark Liebenow.

I can’t take the damn lethargy today, and rather than drag around the house on my day off grieving my wife, and feeling bone-assed sorry for myself, I try something new. I haven’t done anything new since she died nine months ago.

Driving to Lake Merritt in Oakland, I sit on a bench, and give myself permission to enjoy the warm sunshine. I still feel guilty if I enjoy anything that Evelyn no longer can, like I’m betraying her by not wearing hair shirts and eating gruel. It sounds illogical, but not much makes sense when someone you loved with all your being is ripped away. She was only in her forties.

Evelyn used to come here on her lunch breaks, and being here helps me feel close to her. Normally Northern California is rainy and cold in early January, but today the sun is out and it’s in the seventies. I lean back and watch the world stroll by in its urban variety, and remember how it feels to smile.

Two young boys chase each other around the palm trees, playing hooky from school. An older man dances as he jogs along to music on his iPod. A woman in a black and yellow dashiki walks by looking proud, and several mothers with young children point out the palm trees, seagulls, and the mallard ducks. The mothers remind me of Ev’s compassion. Although we had no children, she took care of her friends like a mother — sending notes of encouragement when they didn’t get the job they wanted, talking to them on the phone late at night when they were depressed, and going to console them when a parent died.

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And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick

Like Forgetting. By Jen Pastiloff.

May 28, 2013

Like Forgetting. Jen Pastiloff.

 

Were you afraid?

I was. At first.

Why?

Because I knew I was dying and I wasn’t finished.

With what?

Living.

Then why did you let yourself die?

I didn’t know I had a choice.

Did it hurt?

Not in a way you will understand. 

Well, what did it feel like then?

It felt like forgetting. Like my life was slowly pouring out of me as I lay there grasping at it with invisible fingers. I watched it fall out of me as if it had never happened. It was that fast, the undoing. And, just like that, it was gone. I was undone. I saw you at age 38, my same age, and I understood your own forgetting and how difficult it was to keep a life going when there was no body anymore.

I understood my body was going. My arms numb, my head heavy, my eyelids caked shut. I understood my body was disappearing and I was afraid for what that meant.

I was afraid of who I’d be without my body. And how would my grandchildren know the sound of my voice and Oh my God, they wouldn’t. 

So what did it feel like? It felt like forgetting. Letting go of the body is an effortless thing unless you fight for it and that’s what I did. I fought. I fought to bring my body back. But I was too tired. I gave up fighting when I understood.

What did you understand?

That you might forget small details but that you’d carry my legacy on. And that you and Mommy and your sister would know that I loved you and did the best I could. And that maybe I was finished? How can anyone really know anyway?

Did you? Do the best you could?

I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. No.

Why is it so hard to do our best? 

Because we forget.

*   *    *   *   *    *   **

I started to imagine this conversation between my father and I as if he was having a glass of wine here with me, after my friend said “ I don’t care about dying” when she stopped by yesterday. My great big regret in life is that my father and I never got to be adults together. We never got to watch a rerun on the sofa with some wine. He never sent me a text message. He never saw me with laugh lines.

My friend and I had been talking about death and she blurted that out nonchalantly. I don’t care about dying.

“What do you mean, you don’t care about death?” I asked back. “Do you mean that you aren’t afraid to die?”

She said that she wasn’t.

I am. I am very much afraid to die.

I think about my father’s death a lot. Was he scared? Did he know it was happening? Did he know before it happened, as many people have suggested? He gave away his prized possessions. His signed hockey stick from the Philadelphia Flyers. He made jokes that he was about to die. Did he know? Did he too say to someone on a sofa somewhere I don’t care about death as he loosened his tie?

My friend said she lives her life in such a way, that were she to die tomorrow, her affairs would be in order. Would there be anything left unsaid? Anything left undone? She said she checks herself daily. She lives as if, were she to die the next day, nothing would be unfinished.

*    *    *   *    *    *

Were you afraid?

I was. At first.

Why?

Because I knew I was dying and I wasn’t finished. 

*     *    *    *    *

My friend gets things done. She writes books. I talk about writing books.

(Maybe it’s because I am scared of dying and she isn’t?)

Her candor on the subject sent me spinning into my brain and its big questions looming there next to the mundane thoughts about when Homeland was coming back on and how I didn’t know what to eat for dinner.

How can such things live in close proximity?

Life and death are like that though, aren’t they? So close to one another.

Here you are living one minute and then here you are saying goodbye to your 8 year old daughter for the last time. The time span is so short between the two events that it feels impossible, a scientific impossibility! And yet, it’s not. How can this be? you shout at anyone who will listen and anyone shouts back How can what be? How can death live in such close proximity to life? How can someone die that you love just as you were getting to know them? How can babies die and mothers and people that you love? Is that what you mean? And you nod yes yes and anyone says back It was always going to be this way.

We live in these glass bubbles and every so often they pop and the rest of the world rushes in at us and we realize it was always that way. That the glass was an illusion. It just takes some of us longer to break the glass.

My friend thinks people make too much of a big deal about death.

I know I do.

Look, I get that the person’s spirit and memory and all that resides in my soul or wherever, but, truth be told, I would rather be able to rest my hand on their arm, to sit and look them in the eye, to be able to have a glass of cabernet with them. I would. Maybe I am too sensory or maybe I am just honest? Maybe it’s all of it?

I don’t understand it and I don’t know what comes after but my God, when someone is ripped from your life, how do you go on making the bed and the breakfast as if it’s just another Monday?

I don’t know, but we do. We do again and again and again. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t trade the breakfasts and the bedspreads to have the father back, the beloveds back.

I’m scared to even write this piece. Typing the word out.  D-E-A-T-H. What if some hocus pocus superstition states that if you talk about it that it will happen to you.

Well, it will. Eventually. All of us. Every single one. No one escapes alive.

So why are some of us so afraid of it? How is my friend not afraid? How am I so afraid? What stuff is she made of? What am I not made of?

Last week I became obsessed with the story of Zach Sobiech. He had a rare bone cancer and at 17 found out he had one year to live. There was a short documentary on him (he passed away a week ago) which I watched three or four times, each time riveted. His message You don’t have to find out your dying to start living haunted me all week as his song played on repeat in my head. He wrote a song called “Clouds” for his girlfriend about the fact that he was dying and it went viral on YouTube. The day after he died it was number one on iTunes.

I can’t stop singing the lines of the song “It won’t be long now. It won’t be long now.”

I am not obsessed with death or anything macabre like that. I want to not be afraid.

I want to write the books and not just talk about writing the books. I want to do my best. I want to not forget. I want to ask myself If I died tomorrow would my affairs be in order? Anything left unsaid? Anyone I didn’t say I love you to that I should have?

To all the people I love: I love you.

To my father whom I said “I hate you” to right before he died: I love you.

To myself: I love you.

I suppose if we lived as if it won’t be long now, we’d really get shit done. We’d love harder. We’d write the books. We’d show up.

Why is it so easy to forget what it means to be alive? Why is it so easy to be afraid?

 

When I was little we belonged to this swim club in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. There was this giant pool and snack bar and chaise lounges (this was back when people still drowned themselves in oil and baked in the sun.) There was a pair of diving boards over in the deep end. You had to have a band to show you were ready to be in the deep end. The red band. You had to take a test for it and everything. It was some serious business. I remember after I finally got my red band how I climbed up to the high dive. My father waited down below, waving at me to go go go. Jump. Go. I saw the red band on my ankle and remember thinking What if I hit my head on the board and die? What if I drown? What if I

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And then nothing but quiet. There must have been a moment when I decided to jump. There must have been a moment while I glided through the air a million miles above my father who weeks away from dying. There must have been a moment before my head shattered the water but I don’t remember any of it. I just remember breaking through into the air gasping I did it! And then climbing the ladder again to do it one more time. There was no memory of the fear until I got to the top again and my stomach came into my throat. But I did it again and again and each time the fear dissipated until it was a forgotten thing and it was as if I had always been a world class diver. I was an Olympic medalist that day.

It’s okay to be afraid.

But at some point we crack the water and swim, despite that fear, and it’s glorious. It’s quiet under there, a quiet that is comforting, like a companion you don’t have to say anything to while driving.

At some point you just dive in and eventually you forget that you were ever scared of the plunge.

Letting go of the body is an effortless thing.

So you just climb up there in your little one piece bathing suit and jump. Letting go of the body. You float in the water without a body for a few moments or a million years and realize that it won’t be long now.

Except often, the moment we come up for air we forget again.

We forget what it felt like to be unafraid of floating. Of letting go.

*    *   *   *   *   *   *  *    *   *

Well, what did it feel like then?

It felt like forgetting.

~~~~~

 
 
 
 

 

Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book: http://www.SimpleReminders.info Subscribe for more: http://www.bryantmcgill.net

Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book: http://www.SimpleReminders.info Subscribe for more: http://www.bryantmcgill.net

 

She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (4 spots left.) Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Guest Posts, How To, Inspiration, manifesting

Epiphany on Vision Boards. Guest Post by Elise Ballard.

May 23, 2012

Elise Ballard’s inspirational book. Click to order through Amazon.

The following post is by my soul sister Elise Ballard. I met Elise in NYC where we attended Oprah’s LifeClass together. Elise and I both write for Positively Positive and she happens to be the author of one of my favorite books, Epiphany! We met in NYC and have been connected ever since. It was meant to be, there is no doubt about that. This morning, during a phone chat, Elise shared with me that she had created vision boards and put exactly what she had wanted on them. And you know what? She got those very things. Look at the photo of the book above, folks. That book is a result of a seed in her imagination first, and then yes, a load of hard work. 

The theme in class this week is imagination and the mantra is ” I am already there” so our phone call felt so timely. As does our friendship. (Also, stay tuned because Elise and I are hosting a Twitter contest where you can win a spot at my October Manifestation retreat and a copy of her signed book!)

She shared with me the following post she wrote 2 years ago and I knew I had to share.  You all know my love of the vision board. We even do them at my retreats and workshops. I hope you are as inspired by her post and her success as I am. And yes, she will be featured soon in The Manifestation Q&A Series.

Elise and I at Radio City Music Hall in NYC with Oprah

For All Those Vision Board Doubting Thomas’s by Elise Ballard.

elise-ballard

I never put much credence in Vision Boards (this is a link to a great article about them) but I kept hearing how amazing things were happening for friends of mine and reading about them so I thought, “What the hey – I need all the help I can get at this point.” It was September 2009 and I had been working for almost an entire year developing this project, writing the book proposal and creating and launching my site. We were about to submit to publishers and I had no idea what would become of me. (I suppose I still don’t but at least I have the book release to look forward to and it will definitely live in the world now – back then, it was completely unknown what would happen.) So I did a Vision Board and put images of things on a piece of poster board that I desired or wanted to happen, just as my friends and Martha Beck instructed me to do . WITHIN DAYS, things started materializing…it was wild! And within a month, I had a book deal for Epiphany with a major publisher (Random House) who wanted the book to be exactly the way I’d always envisioned it and for the exact advance I knew I had to get to make it happen.

Check this out: (Note: These are not great photos ahead, but I think they’re decent enough that you’ll be able to see what I’m saying. And I don’t know why my mock up Epiphany Book Cover is torn, but again, you’ll get the gist.)

This is what I typed/mocked up put up on my Vision Board last Sept.

And this is what the cover of the galley of my book looks like that is going out to press and to my contributors:

IT’S THE SAME FONT AND PRETTY MUCH THE EXACT SAME BLUE AND ORIGINAL TITLE.

THE LESSON LEARNED: Don’t be so impatient and such a worry-wart, silly grasshopper, things eventually come around. (And VISION BOARDS work!)

I’ve probably done about 3-4 Vision Boards throughout the past year and things always happen from them. I always recommend at least trying VISION BOARDS – even if it’s just to see what happens…Why not? Encourage the magical aspects of life – it makes it all that much more exciting and fun.

Here is another great post Elise shared about vision boards a few days ago.

Here is Elise’s TED talk. Talk about inspiration!

About Elise Ballard

Elise Ballard is the author of Epiphany! a book of inspirational stories, aha moments and exclusive interviews from Random House Publishing.

Follow Elise on Twitter

Follow Elise on Facebook.

Buy the book Epiphany! by Elise Ballard.

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