Browsing Tag

ernest hemingway

Inspiration, Jen's Musings, Truth

What is Most True.

December 30, 2012


By Jen Pastiloff. From December 2012, London.

There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true. ~ Ernest Hemingway

I am only about halfway through Tiny Beautiful Things but certain things gets stuck, as things do, and one of them is Cheryl Strayed’s connection to the truth. To what is most true.

Sugar, her voice in Tiny Beautiful Things, seems to keep directing the people who’ve written her towards one place, and one place only. And that place is The Valley of the Most True.

Here’s what is true: Family is hard. Family is full of dirty tricks and history and You did that and How could you’s?

I have a small family of 3 people. My mother, my sister and myself. At one point there was more people and at one point less (my sister has had children) but the core nucleus is us. Tight-knit, protective and defensive, self-reliant and totally and utterly dependent.

And I would run in front of a bus for any of them. My sister has two kids, one of whom has special needs (Prader Willi Syndrome) and the other has more energy than a banshee on crack. He is gorgeous and lovely, but, truly, if you left him alone, he would swing from chandeliers and climb the walls naked and eat sugar from the bowl. That’s just who he is. And he’s perfect. Just wildly alive.

The other, with his rare genetic disorder, could literally eat himself to death if not watched, so a lot of vigilance must take place.

There’s a lot of back and forth as there is in any family, a lot of movement and progress and then: nothing.

Days of backward movement, even years of back peddling and Haven’t we been down this road and How are we here again? and I thought you changed. No, I thought you did. The ebb and the flow of any natural pattern, a family being no less a pattern than the weather or the way we react to holidays. They change. They stay the same.

They’re hard.

It took a lot to unravel me but when it happened my limbs flew about and scattered everywhere and it took some time to collect them but what was never found was the heart. The heart was never found.

All these years I’ve been searching.

What is also true: Marriage is hard.

Tonight, at a pub in London, my husband and I somehow started chatting about what would happen if one of us cheated.

I would walk away. That’s it, he said.

That’s it? You wouldn’t fight? Me.

No. Him

Marriage is hard. There is so much compromise. How can you say you would just walk away? I thought. And then I said it out loud.

I sipped my wine in the pub overlooking the Putney Bridge and wondered How we can be opposite and work? and yet we do. And my family: Where did I come from? How can we be so opposite and yet, so the same and after thirty some odd years how I am still triggered by the same shit and will it be this way with marriage as well?

I sipped my wine and ask my husband how he can be so final? 

How can you walk away and know that it was the truth?

What if it wasn’t? What if it was a lie and a mistake?

It’s all true.

As Hemingway said. It was a lie and a mistake and deserves walking away but who ever gets what they deserve? is what I am asking?

Look, I am not cheating and neither is he, but I know that I would fight and beg and scream and kick, just like I do with my family. It’s all hard.

Easy is: text messaging and complaining and drinking wine, but family- family and marriage, those are hard. Hanging out with your in-laws, and conversely, judging them, comparing them to your own little nexus of a family as if they are qualitative things to be measured with a spoon.

I am reading Tiny Beautiful Things in pieces (if I read it all at once it will be over and I will never again have that first time experience with it) while I am here in London and as I walk down the High Street and listen to the click clack of my boots I think about what is most true in my world.

That’s how it works doesn’t it? There aren’t really ultimate truths.

What is true for me. Right now. And in the realm of true, in that filthy and gorgeous jungle, as it were, what is more true: that or that or that? If you had to choose a tree in the jungle which would it be? You have three and you must choose one. That or that or that?

And so it goes. It’s hard. Like I said.

But not that hard. Because once we face what is true we usually decide to stay. Or not.

It’s when we are not facing what is true that we get stuck.

I am staying with my family and my husband and his family and all the rest and I may take breaks every now and again, little breathing stints out on the roof like I’m dodging out for a smoke, but I will always come back, and if need be I will fight and beg and kick and scream, because no one said it would be easy. Yes, I have heard that cliche and I have lost my heart somewhere along some Jersey street for it, but I will stay because I have looked into the truest light and taken it head on like a warrior.

My heart was never found, but the thing is, it left an imprint. It left a soft imprint and when I hold the light up to it I can see it like it’s still there pounding away. I don’t know where it went, but, as most, or rather, all true things go, it doesn’t matter where it went because what I know is that it is there in my chest pounding like a motherfucker, beating the shit of my life, pumping the hell out of my blood, and telling my bones to Keep Going, Keep Going, Keep Going.

December 2012.

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.

Jen 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 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.


Delight, Inspiration

Who Is Your Hemingway?

August 1, 2012
A MovEable Feast.

I want to hang out with Ernest Hemingway. I want to walk with him to the Musee du Luxembourg and then have good things to eat with him.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. ~ Ernest Hemingway to a friend, 1950.

Now, I was not lucky enough to have lived in Paris a young man, Hell, I am not, nor will I ever be, a young man. Or a man period, for that matter.  And I will never be lucky enough to sit down and drink a chilled Algerian wine with Hemingway, or Hem, as his friends called him. Surely we would have been friends. I will never walk with him to Sylvia Beach’s library and discuss words and pictures, whisky and James Joyce. And for that I am truly bereft.

I know he shot himself early one morning over 50 years ago and perhaps that is also another reason I feel the connection as I too have known the dark night of the soul, and the swing of the mood, the blurring of the facts. I know I am idealizing his life but that’s ok. That’s what we do with people we choose to carry with us. We take the magic parts of them and light them up so bright that anything else is unseeable.

But I did just read A Moveable Feast and felt as if I was there in Paris. I imagine it to be so and that is most definitely what he was aiming for and what he was so gifted at. I am sure that is why my friend gave me the book and insisted I read it before I went to Paris. I didn’t. I read it over a few days last week and fell into a reverie, and a slight romance with Hem, and all the usual suspects like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. And a longing to go back to Paris where I just came from.

I found myself wondering how I ended up in the wrong era?

How anytime Hemingway and his friends spoke to one another they said each other’s names often. It makes everything glisten and sound important.

A moveable feast. I love that notion for what it suggests. I have always been prone to nostalgia, perhaps to a fault, carrying my friends with me on slips of paper and photographs, letting them fade a little but never so much that I couldn’t see where they were. Perhaps this explains my love of Facebook. Of connection.

Why should one’s feast be stagnant and confined to one place?

I say we make more moveable feasts. That maybe we become our own moveable feasts so that when we move, when we pack up the boxes that contain of our lives, we have that feast in us and can spread it out buffet style wherever we go. Ernest Hemingway understood this. Perhaps this is why he wrote. I will never lose you he might have said to his feast over some chicken with his first wife Hadley.

I have my own private feasts.

Wherever I go, there they are. My tribe. I don’t meet strangers anymore as I have said so often, I only meet old friends. My tribe has proven moveable and it never takes long to find them where ever I am. It only revealed itself as this way once I realized that I could take it with me, that it was inside of me. For a long time I believed that my feast was stuck in one place and that place was way beyond my scope of imagination.

What I am saying is this: I am a moveable feast.

He says in the book: When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

There are so many worlds within that one paragraph I could travel to. First of all, the idea that there is no problem except where to be happiest is simply delicious. That my   only concern could be: Where to go hang my heart, where to go sip my Muscadet in the sunshine or eat oysters? Where can I go keep being happy today? 

People: the population that most often causes us pain and suffering and delight. Yes, delight as well, admittedly. That the only thing that could spoil a day was people is quite funny. Nowadays, we are so dialed in. Okay, I am so dialed in. So over-connected.

How to get away from letting things in that don’t belong in my brain or on my calendar or my computer screen is a concern Hem didn’t have back then. He didn’t have to think about shutting down Facebook or texting someone back or tweeting or getting stuck in traffic with other people.

Except for the very few people that were as good as spring itself. I have my own little list, steadily growing in size as I grow in years. It’s more than a few, but hey, I am sure I know more people than Hemingway did by sheer virtue of social media. I am not sure that is a good thing.

I want to spend more time with my list, with my few people that are as good as Spring itself. I want to spend more time with Spring itself. I want to go back to Paris with my pen and my eyes and let them do the work and then take it back with me wherever I go, much as Hemingway attempted to.

Wherever I go I will be home because I will take with me my own moveable feast. I will be on my Awe Tour all the time, taking notes and adding them to my repertoire, which includes: Ernest Hemingway, and my favorite people and memories. Wines that I love and songs too, pictures I took and people I thought I have forgotten but haven’t, books I have read and sentences I remember from where I do not know. And miracles I have been privy to or part of all along the way. Things I am not proud of alongside my greatest accomplishments, the talisman I wear around my neck and a paper scrawled with all the things that would fit on it which bring me wonder. All of these things will be part of my movable feast and as I get older it will grow, and it will shrink, and it may grow again but it will always be movable unless I forget that it is.

And I will never forget.

I will carry Hemingway in my breast pocket or the equivalent of that, maybe on my iPad or Kindle, and I will reach for him if I start to feel like I am being swallowed by nothingness or everythingness or Facebook.

I will pour myself a glass of something red, get a nice pen, and maybe some nice stationery for Hemingway’s sake, and I will neatly write out all the things that are included in my moveable feast. For as long as it takes.

Who and what is in your box? In your own moveable feast?

Who is your Hemingway? Your light post when it gets a little too dark to remember where you have been?


***For Laura Donnelly