Browsing Tag

God

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Young Voices

Lips of My Childhood

March 19, 2018
man-child

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Deja White

DISCLAIMER:

Do not read this piece if you thought Lolita was a love story. Instead seek mental help.

Do not read this piece if you do not understand the dynamics of age differences. Instead imagine a nine year old who you know and love and put them into my position. Sickening right?

Do not read this piece if you think a nine year old can consent to anything. Instead find the nearest police officer and report yourself.

Do not read this piece if a girl’s body is the punchline of any joke you’ve told. You may find yourself being the subject of a joke yourself.

Do not read this piece if you’ve ever said “No means yes and yes mean anal.” Instead imagine what your life would be like in prison.

Do not read this piece if you can not respect my story because it might force me to use my black girl magic on you and put you to shame.

Please read this piece if there is a shred of kindness in any part of your body and share it so this doesn’t happen to any other nine year old girl. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Purple Ball Day

June 16, 2017
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By Maureen Langloss

One April several years ago, the grocery store near my daughter’s school displayed a bouquet of plastic balls in all shapes and sizes. Spring in round, inflatable form. A particular purple ball caught my eye as I passed to pick Ainsley up from kindergarten. Purple was Ainsley’s favorite color, her only color. The ball registered that first day. Enormous and impractical and unstore-able. I desired it the second. By the third, I was imagining it in my daughter’s tiny, growing hands. On the fourth, I couldn’t sleep with worry that this ball would be gone before I got to it, purchased by someone who wanted it more. But there it was still in the store window the next afternoon, practically glowing. Screaming “AAAHHHHHHHHH.”

I zipped the ball into a giant canvas bag, much like a magician hides the egg in his mouth. Ainsley filled to the brim with curiosity when she saw me carrying it. I opened the bag slowly, with great ceremony, as she peered inside.

“It’s Purple Ball Day!” I announced.

“Purple Ball Day!” she shrieked, like she already knew what that meant. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

Rebound Tenderness

May 12, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Laurie Easter

I nearly let my child die.

There it is—the stark truth, according to my mother’s-guilt brain. It’s been many years since it happened, but this fact has bored into my psyche the way carpenter bees bore into wood, settling there like an egg in a perfect hole inches below the surface. I don’t talk about it with anyone, not even my husband.

This is how it would go if I could reverse time:

My twelve-year-old daughter comes home from the pizza parlor and says “My stomach hurts.” I quiz her like a professional, asking “Where does it hurt?” And even though she says “all over,” I ask more questions and run through a series of tests for appendicitis—despite the fact I have no medical training and only know now, in retrospect, what signs to look for.

I palpate the lower right quadrant of her abdomen, applying hand pressure slowly and gently with a quick release to check for sudden pain in that area. Rebound Tenderness.

OR

“How does this feel?” I ask as I palpate the lower left side of her abdomen, pressing down slowly and gently then releasing quickly to check for sudden pain in the lower right quadrant. The Rovsing’s sign.

OR

I have her lie supine and apply resistance to her knee as she flexes her right hip by raising her leg against the pressure of my hand. If she feels pain, I have her turn and lie on her left side and extend her right leg behind her to check again for increased pain with this movement. The Psoas sign.

Once I finish with any number of these procedures, intuiting the signs of acute appendicitis, I whisk her to the emergency room, where the doctors confirm my suspicion and prep her for surgery to remove the as of yet un-perforated appendix. They catch the appendicitis in the preliminary stages, and using Laparoscopy, they slice into her with a one-inch cut that heals into a barely noticeable sliver of white near her bikini line. She spends at most two nights in the hospital and is back at the gym, working out with her gymnastics team, in a couple of weeks.

Yes, that’s how it would go. Neat and clean and orderly.

This is how it went:

My daughter came home from the pizza parlor two days after recovering from the flu and said “my stomach hurts” to which I asked “where does it hurt?” She said “all over.” I worried I had let her go out too soon after being sick and thought maybe she was having a relapse. I tucked her in and said good night.

She slept until noon and complained about her stomach when she awoke; then she began vomiting. Her temperature was 101 degrees. She had no desire for food, but I made miso broth and herbal tea and encouraged her to drink as much as she could as often as possible so she wouldn’t become dehydrated. She spent two days in bed, getting up occasionally to go to the bathroom or lie on the couch in the living room. On that second day, she said she was feeling better and had relief from the previous stomach pain. But she was weak from the fever and vomiting and continued to rest in bed.

That’s when it happened.

Later that afternoon, I walked into my daughter’s room to check on her while she was sleeping. Her face, normally alabaster in complexion, had a sallow pallor. I knew this look. I had seen it once before. It was the look of death. Five years earlier, my friend, Teri, who had cancer, had this same sallow skin tone when she refused to go to the hospital to be treated for a common infection. We called the ambulance anyway. The doctors at the emergency room said that if we hadn’t brought Teri in, the infection, not the cancer, would have killed her. As I looked at my daughter’s face, this memory flitted across my consciousness like a butterfly alighting on a flower, only to rise into the air and flutter away.

That was the moment. The omen I did not heed. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

Requiem for a Fallen Catholic.

February 12, 2015

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By Trish Cook.

Confession

I hate going to church. Especially funerals. I am only here in the hopes that my presence will comfort a hurting friend, not because I believe in this bullshit.

Sit, kneel, stand, cry.

Remember how losing a parent is like a having a body part amputated. How long the numbness where they used to exist lasts, how searing the pain is once the feeling returns. Remember why, ever since my dad died decades ago when I was twenty-four, I havent been able to sit through a religious service without getting angry, teary.

More pomp, more circumstance, more hollow promises.

Prayto whom, I do not knowthat my friend John, who has just lost his father and is the reason I grudgingly sit, kneel, stand, and cry today, finds comfort where I no longer do.

Wonder, as I have so many times since my own fathers funeral: Why would a loving God let us walk the earth so wounded? Lie so battered? Allow us to become so bruised, each and every one of us?

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.

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.

  Continue Reading…

Dear Life., Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Dear Life: I’m Emotionally Out of Steam & My Solace is Food.

February 4, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by author Kim Kankiewicz.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, I will see you in NYC and Atlanta next month for my workshops!

logo

Dear Life,

I am struggling and would love your insight.

I would love nothing more than to find my purpose, get in tune with who I really am in the universe and find a way to love myself but feel drowned in the demands of every day life. Between my job (teacher for kids with special needs) my husband, my two kids, and my animal rescue work, it is all I can do to stay afloat emotionally. I am grateful to have so many opportunities every day to nurture others but there are those times that all I want to do is curl up in a corner, close my eyes, plug my ears, and just float away somewhere where I don’t need to give any more. Is that sefish? Is that wrong?

My solace is food, but in the opposite way that it was when Jen Pastiloff wrote about her anorexic years. I cannot control my eating. When I eat, I don’t have to think or give. Eating is something just for me, something safe, something that fills me. I now have passed the dreaded 200 lb. mark and the shame is overwhelming. I have tried every diet known to man and nothing works long term.

I struggle with my spirituality and my belief in who God is, what my life means, what my purpose is in this world. I want to have some solid ground under my feet, to not question whether my life is good enough, whether I am fulfilling my purpose. I have loved the few yoga classes I have taken, but going to classes is hard, as my husband and I work full time and with the kids, homework, sports, etc. it seems there is no time.

I know I need to make a change but have no idea where to start. I don’t know how to learn to love myself when all I feel is shame in my appearance, and resentment that I don’t have the ability to travel to different places, to learn the things I want to learn about, and to take the time to figure out my “higher self”.

Please know that I love my family, my career, and my rescue work dearly but I am emotionally out of steam. I need to recharge my batteries in a serious way and take charge of my inner and outer health. As I said though, I have no idea how to begin.

Any advice would be extremely helpful…
Thanks,

Struggling

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.

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.

Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Saying Disgrace

January 23, 2015

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By Tanya Jarvik.

The night my father orders my thirteen-year-old son to say the blessing on the food, Everest initially tries to opt out: “No, Grandpa,” he says, “I’d rather not.”

“You sat in my chair, which means you have to say the blessing,” my father insists.

Everest looks around the table, looking for a possible savior among us: his sister, two-year-old Ravenna, who is picking up her peas one at a time and popping them into her mouth; his parents, neither of whom seems disposed to intervene; his grandparents, who have already folded their arms.  “Okay, but you’re not gonna like it,” he mutters, clasping his hands in front of his chest.

“O Great Spaghetti Monster,” he begins, all of a sudden projecting like he’s auditioning for Hamlet, and immediately I’m thinking, oh fuck, the family dinner’s shot to hell, because this is not the way it’s supposed to go. Believe me, I know how to say a proper Mormon blessing on the food, having said one – let’s see, once every four or five dinners from age three to eighteen, so say three years, times three sixty-five, which comes to seven hundred, plus…so yeah, like eleven hundred times. Give or take. Dear Heavenly Father, thank thee for this food. Please bless it, that it will nourish and strengthen us. Thank thee for…some other stuff, such as ‘the loving hands that prepared this meal’, and please grant us…some other stuff it’s okay to want, which is to say, nothing excessive, nothing controversial, nothing inappropriate, nothing personal, namejeechristamen.

That’s how it’s supposed to go. That’s the formula for a blessing that would meet my parents’ approval. But I didn’t teach my son how to pray properly – and I didn’t teach him how to fake whatever keeping the peace might require him to fake. Why? Probably because I’m a bad daughter and a bad mother. If you want proof, it’s right here in the smartass pudding: I seem to be raising the kind of kid who would sooner compose an impromptu ode to the Flying Spaghetti Monster than make even a pro forma bow to the god his grandparents worship. All through Everest’s bizarre address to Heavenly Pasta, I’m riffling through his phrases, listening for an echo from my childhood, but there’s nothing there I recognize, nothing my parents would find even vaguely prayer-like and therefore nominally acceptable. Everest says something about delicious gobs of cheese, something about sauce simmering in the sky, and something about oodles of noodle-y appendages. Then, abruptly, he stops talking. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

The Bullshit Bargain.

October 27, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

I got sick as I was leading my retreat in Italy a couple years ago. Really sick.

Sick like you get once every ten years sick, sick like you forget what that kind of sick feels like until you actually are that sick kind of sick.

I lost my voice and the left side of my face swelled up. I couldn’t inhale without coughing out green mucus and I wanted to vomit every twenty minutes. I couldn’t breathe through my nose and my throat was so sore it felt like I was swallowing sand every time I so much as opened my mouth.

So here I am in Italy, leading a retreat with twenty-five people and sick like Hell has frozen over.

So what do I do?

I bargain with God.

Please God. Please if you help me get through teaching this ninety minute class without dying or passing out I will never again ______ or I promise I will ________.

I am not religious at all but I realize when I get that desperate, when I feel as if my life is truly on the line in some way, I realize, in hindsight, that I think if I promise to be “good” for the rest of my life then nothing bad like this will happen to me again. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss, love, motherhood

What Is Gained After Insufferable Loss.

January 24, 2014

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By Stacey Shannon.

I hide these tears from my husband and kids. It upsets the kids, unsettles them, to see me cry.  My husband, who loves me, but who never properly dealt with his own grief, is not able to respond to the quivering blob of bottomless need that replaces his normally stoic and capable wife each year at this time.  This upsets me–but then most everything upsets me right now.  I am short with my darling dears.  Then berate myself for not holding them close and treasuring them instead.  They are, after all, the babes God allowed me leave the hospital with.  

But, now, it’s a rainy Monday morning, my darling dears are at school, my husband, at work and I am on the couch, still fighting a stomach thing that has been dogging me for two weeks.  I call the doctor to explain the problem and as I am made to list and thus face, the pain, inconvenience and other indignities I’ve suffered for the last 10 days, it is too much, something snaps and the tears will not be stopped.

Who are these tears for?

They are for my raven-haired first born.  Why she was allowed to leave here without knowing how very much she was loved and wanted, I can’t comprehend.  When I think of the things she missed, that we missed as a family, I can only shake my head.  I’m sorry her last day on earth was spent on the surgeon’s table instead of in my arms.  I’m sorry I let them cut her satin skin and crank open her impossibly tiny chest.  I guess we made the only decisions we could at the time, but, now, knowing the outcome, I wish I had said “no” and spent her last days holding her warm little body, letting her feel my love for her. Covering her angel skin with mommy-kisses and tickling her tiny feet.  I would have rocked her and sang her all the lullabies I’d been storing away like so many Christmas ornaments wrapped in tissue paper.  I didn’t have the chance to do any of these things until it was all over. I hope she doesn’t hold it against me.

And, they are for me, the girl I used to be.  The girl I was 12 years ago who never believed, no matter what the doctors said, that my baby would not come home with me. I was the one reassuring everyone around me.  I was keeping every one’s hope afloat.  The possibility of my baby dying never once computed with me until it was all over.  It took us a year and half of trying, in earnest, to conceive her.  “God wouldn’t make us wait that long, give her to us, then take her back after 3 days.  Where is the sense in that?  Of course we will take her home, of course we will.  She will come through this day-long surgery just fine and we will take her home.  This is just another test–He just wants to see how much we want her.”  That girl? The one who was so sure she understood the order of the universe? She doesn’t exist anymore.  And I miss her.  I cry for her broken heart, as I would cry for anyone else’s.  She left a piece of her heart back there in that bitter and grey January.  I see it now, that lost piece of her heart, as one sees the broken bits of muffler in the rear-view mirror as the car it was once an important part of,  inexplicably, continues to chug on down the interstate.

I keep a list in my head of all sorts of things I lost in that moment.   Topping the list: consciousness.  I’m pretty sure, as the surgeon came into the waiting room and said, “I’m sorry folks….”, that I passed out, perhaps for only a few seconds as I slid, sweating and shaking, out of my chair and onto the floor –I was 3 days post-partum, wounded and bleeding, and I remember thinking, “Why does this shit always happen to me?”

I lost all faith in God. Fear not, Readers Dear, the Big Guy and I are tight these days.  But in that moment: I was done.  I hated Him and I was convinced He hated me.  The spiritual rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet, and it took many tears and alot of time before I was able to put my world view right again.

I lost a future.  To best explain what I mean,  I can only say that I spent much of my mental energy reconciling what existed with what I thought my existence would be.  These moments of reconciliation would come upon me in many places.  In the grocery store, I would look down at the empty seat in the shopping cart and think, “there should be a baby there.”  At Christmas I delighted in my little 1 1/2 year old niece, who was such a comfort to me, then sneak out of the room to dab at my eyes, because my baby should have been there in a pretty Christmas dress to match her cousin’s.  At support group I broke down, sobbing, saying, “I shouldn’t be here, I shouldn’t be here.”  The other ladies there, also grieving, rushed to reassure me that I did indeed belong there.  My friend Donna, who gained her own understanding of the situation the hard way, gently explained my tears to the others saying, “She means she shouldn’t be HERE because she should be home taking care of her baby.”  Rocking and clutching my sides, I could only nod and sniffle.  “None of us should be here.”, said another girl, and she, of course, was right.

I didn’t know it then, but in that moment was the beginning of the end of a friendship.  I had a friend at the time, who, having chosen to be child-free, simply was not able to relate to my grief.  She made me, if you can believe it’s possible, even more miserable than I already was. Let me tell you, there are few things more pitiful in this world than a young mother with aching, empty arms.  She couldn’t understand why I couldn’t shoulder her unending problems and listen to her go on and on.  AND, BE FUNNY!  She actually asked me, “Where did my friend Stacey go?”  If we had been in the same room I probably would have, well, I don’t know what I would have done.  As it was, I spat out across the phone lines, “HER.   BABY.   DIED!”  The words tasted like bile and I couldn’t believe I had to actually vomit them out for her.  Eventually, I learned, as I hope anyone who survives a life trauma learns, that I had to show her my back as I turned to face those who did “get me.”

I am happy to report, when I look back on that time, I believe I gained, if not more, than, at least as much as, I lost.  The PA Posse as an example, (read “Wine for My Horses, Chocolate for My Girls” to learn more about the Posse)  and other new relationships. New character traits: strength, patience, peace, etc..  And, a close, personal relationship with my new boyfriends:  Ben and Jerry.   I’ve never been fond of the whole “when God closes a window He opens a door, yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah”.  The universal, mathematical  truth of it is that once a vacuum is formed, it will soon be filled.

We all lose our innocence. If we are lucky, we gain wisdom in it’s stead.

Click photo to connect with Stacey Shannon.

Click photo to connect with Stacey Shannon.

Stacey’s first daughter, Faith, would be 14 years old this month.  In the space created between then and now, she and her husband have been blessed (through much blood, sweat and tears) with another daughter, age 10, and a son, age 8, who was the sweetest of surprises.
Stacey Shannon is a life-long reader/amateur writer whose most exciting accomplishment, before today, was to have been chosen as a finalist in Real Simple Magazine’s First Ever Simply Stated Blog Contest in 2011. To see her entry: http://simplystated.realsimple.com/2011/08/31/finalist-stacey-shannon/
She is president of her children’s PTO and is her church’s librarian. She has been married to her first husband for twenty-one years, and is the mother of two school-age children, both budding writers.  You can find her blog at:  http://insomniachamster.blogspot.com/
Join Jen Pastiloff in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015.

Join Jen Pastiloff in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

And So It Is, Awe & Wonder

So Much Depends.

August 12, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff

Let’s say it’s like this: He leans over to talk to me. We’re at an airport. Let’s say we are at an overpriced fish place in the Los Angeles International Airport. Flight’s been delayed five hours. Imagine that both of us traveling to the same place: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He leans over to tell me he’s been married 58 years and that he and his wife normally share dinners and would I like half of his? He lost 4 of his fingers on his right hand 45 years ago on a rotary lawn mower, has an adopted son who is 6 foot 10 and he’s a Christian. He told me to keep talking to God before he passed me half his trout.

He told me he’d “just met so many nice people at the airport.” He’d been there since 6 am. It was now 6 pm. While I was huffing and puffing at all the time wasted he was looking around for the miraculous in the mundane, in the faces of people searching flight status boards or shuffling through security, begrudging the fact that they had to take off their shoes or remove their laptops.

When I told him I was a Jew he grasped his heart as if the fact was astounding enough to actually pain him. One of our neighbors was Jewish and they were just the most wonderful people, he’d said. I laughed (it reminded me of when someone says “I like gay people. I have a friend that’s gay) and told him I wasn’t a practicing Jew. He reminded me that I was one of God’s chosen. I wondered if there were any Jews in South Dakota but didn’t ask him. I knew there was at least one family, his neighbors, The Wonderfuls.

I drank my wine as I watched him carefully cutting his fish and smiling as he scrolled through his cell phone (a Blackberry.)

The man has on this light red raincoat and as my red wine slides down the back of my throat, I think of William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
 chickens.

He leans toward my table. This is a picture of my beautiful wife.

So much depends on how we react to things.

His fingers, for example. How did he react 45 years ago when he was showing his father the newest features on the rotary lawnmower and the blade just sliced his four fingers off like they were irrelevant as dead grass? Nothing more than meat under a glass case at the butcher’s. Hurry, I’m a rush. I’ll take a pound of American and a pound of provolone. Slice it thin, please.  He told me that when he’d lost them he quickly had to learn to laugh about it. I guess I’m going to have to learn to pick my nose with my left hand now.

I didn’t react well to the flight delay. I’d felt entitled and ornery. Ornery is a word that makes me think of old people but my hair is greying (not for much longer, I swear) and I had my glasses on and a face free of any makeup, so I felt like an old person. An ornery old person. Sometimes with my hearing loss, I would mistake horny for ornery. I tend to imagine each word containing parts of the other, like distant relatives.

Doesn’t this airline know how busy I am? Huff. Don’t they know I am trying to write a book proposal? Puff. I made a stink and rolled my eyes and couldn’t believe I had to wait. The flight was meant to leave at 2:40 pm (it didn’t leave until 8:30 pm.) I even thought about going home and canceling my workshop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I couldn’t cancel the workshop. People were driving 14 hours from Canada! They were coming from Minnesota! I couldn’t cancel simply because I had to wait a few (okay, 6) hours at the airport. I got my meal voucher from Allegiant Air. (I had also never heard of this airline before this trip. For good reason, apparently.) The meal voucher was for eight dollars which made me chuckle. because really, what can you get for eight dollars besides a half glass of wine or two Snickers bars and a pack of gum? With 8 dollars  (okay $7.69) I bought a New Yorker magazine so I could read the latest by Joyce Carol Oates and a story on the Steubenville rape trial and Twitter. (When did the New Yorker get so pricey?)  I took my eight dollar voucher and with a huge chip on my shoulder, a chip weighing as least as much as a small man, I headed to a restaurant to sit and sulk.

So much depends.

So much depends on where we are. Where we are born. Where we park our asses down to eat a meal. Where we sit to write. Where we lay our head at night. Where we find ourselves on a map changes the course of everything, and whether it’s literal and full of pushpins and highways and mountains, or an emotional one, you better believe that life is an exercise in mapmaking.

I get led to a table for one. There are two men on each side of me, also eating alone. Let’s say I get led to the bar. It then becomes a whole different story. The map is then green instead of red, perhaps.

So much depends on so much.

I was content on being pissed about my wasted time, all the while wasting more time. I got no writing done, no reading done, nothing productive to speak of. So when this older man leans his body towards mine and says something I can’t really make out but which sounds like something to the effect of I’ve been married for 58 years, you know, I smile.

Here, an opportunity for you to connect. Here, someone to talk to. Here, someone offering you his food. Here, some fish.

A red jacket. A red wheelbarrow.

So much depends on where you look.

I loved him immediately. He became my grandfather, my priest/rabbi, my meal ticket, my companion, my cartographer, my reminder to pay attention. He also wore hearing aids (like me! He also became my twin!) He was my fellow conspirator against the hearing world. I heard this story about a man who, after 40 years, finally got a pair of hearing aids, he told me, and ever since he’d had to change his will twice, he laughed. I’d thought he was going to tell me that the man gave the hearing aids back because not hearing had been better.

So much depends.

The fact is, when you can’t hear well you have to pay attention. Closely. You see that lady three tables over licking her fingers and although you can’t hear the slurp, you imagine the suck and the little quack it makes, and the man across from her? You see him eating his chicken sandwich without chewing even though his back is to you. You can tell by the way his jaws move from behind. You can see all this while your ears prick for any sound at all, and, when no sound arrives, your eyes scan the room and notice every painful exchange, every empty gesture, every goddamned chicken finger being picked up and put back down by every child in the world.

There’s nothing you can’t see when you can’t hear so you have to be really careful where you sit or you will see it all.

So much depends on where you sit.

His name was Dick and the thirteen year old in me wanted to laugh when he told me his name. He said dick! Haha, he said dick! He gave me his card and wrote down my name on the bottom half of his own meal voucher for eight dollars, which he tore off and put in his front pocket, next to a pen. Would we ever see each other again? Let’s say: no. Let’s say we leave it at that.

And that that is enough. One of those rare moments in life when we say I don’t need more than this.

The having had it happen. The exchange of two human beings in an airport enough to sustain you for a while. Let’s say that’s the case here.

He pays his bill and shakes my hand. I have a styrofoam container of fish sitting in front of me like a gift and I will remember him by it. The man who gave me half of his dinner. The man in the red jacket with the missing fingers.

He leaves his jacket behind so I reach over and grab it. I drape it over the back of my chair knowing I’ll see him on the plane and can give it to him then. I’ll carry the fish he gave me in one hand and his red coat in another.

For a few minutes I feel calm, as insular as a cave, as sturdy as the land I would soon be visiting in the southwestern part of the state of South Dakota. I am as protected as the Badlands I would be at in just two days time, that rugged terrain I’d dreamt of seeing again ever since I first saw them at 18 years old on a cross country drive I took in a mini-van. Mako Sika, translated as “land bad” or “eroded land”, my beloved Badlands, which beckoned to me with their otherworldliness and various personalities (how human of them!) I was part of them and no one could come close to me in the safety of my red vinyl jacket. I was on the interior.

My insides warm from wine, the red jacket a heart on the back of my chair, holding the world in place. Knowing it’s there enough to keep me sane.

So much depends on a red jacket.

Ah! You found my jacket, he rushes back up to my table.

So much depends.

Yes. I was keeping it safe.

Let’s say it ended like that.

We finally boarded the plane. A few rows up, he sleeps, while my legs shake uncontrollably (too much wine and coffee and too little sleep) and I rest my head on the shoulder of a stranger.

Do you mind if I lean my head on your shoulder?

The stranger was on his way back to Iowa. Football scholarship. Young. Polite. Kind. No, I don’t mind. Lean on me, he says.

So much depends on where you sit.

So much depends.

Let’s say two days later I am standing on the edge of the world, at Pinnacles Overlook right by Route 240 at The Badlands National Park, and let’s say I wished that right then and there I could ask that man in the red jacket if this is what he meant by talking to God?

**This essay is dedicated to Melissa Shattuck for having the chutzpah to get me to South Dakota. And to Dick, naturally. Red wheelbarrows. All of them.

(a p.s. to the story: after I posted about it on my Facebook, through the serendipitous nature of the universe, a woman commented: “The man in the red jacket is my dad!”)

Find the miraculous, even in the mundane.

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Dick. The man in the airport.

Dick. The man in the airport.

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Jen will be back in South Dakota May 28th for one workshop. Click here to book.

 

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Five Days.

February 21, 2013

photoThis morning, during my retreat here in Maui, we were talking about the ways in which we stop ourselves from having what we want. Our excuses, if you will. One of the girls here, an incredibly beautiful and inspiring woman named Melissa from South Dakota, shared with us a whole bunch of her excuses. (We all have so many, don’t we?) One of them was that she didn’t want to take up other people’s time and another was that what she said didn’t matter.

She had written something apparently that she wanted to share but (insert excuse here.)  I asked her to read it aloud, telling her we had all the time in the world. (We did. We do!) There were a few other excuses of hers that I won’t bother to share because, quite frankly, they don’t matter. What matters is that she got the courage and read this letter she had sent her friend who’d been having a hard time and didn’t think she could make it through. She read this piece aloud and I will spare you the emotion that took place in the room but what I won’t spare you is the piece. I asked her to send it. She is a gifted writer. To hear her read this out loud was a moment I will never forget and I wanted to share because I think it is by far, one of the most stunning things I have ever witnessed. I want you to read this raw and brave and awe-inspiring piece. Please connect with her or leave comments at bottom. I bow to you, Melissa Shattuck from South Dakota. 

Five Days by Melissa Shattuck.

I lived in hell for five days once.

At least it felt that way.

It started when they told me my baby was dead at a routine appointment. And it began to end when they finally removed her from me.

Five days later.

Why they thought it would be more beneficial to see if my body would naturally deliver has remained a mystery to me. I’m sure there is some logical reason. But, it was as though it was not odd to ask me to carry a dead body within me.

The first night I slept well from the exhaustion of it all. But I don’t think I slept after that. The nightmares that they had made a mistake and were going to steal my healthy, live baby from me were more than my mind could handle. And so I would lay there for hours at a time deciding who was to blame. Lack of sleep makes me crazy. Lack of sleep for days on end makes me into a monster.

My husband. My husband is to blame because we had a fight the night before the doctor appointment and it must have been too much stress on me. Wait. It’s the dogs’ fault. The fight had started when I told him it was overwhelming taking care of the two dogs when I was so exhausted from the pregnancy. Ok. That’s absurd. Fine. It’s my fault. I should have handled my emotions better, should have been tougher and sucked it up, should have rested more, should have eaten better, should have taken better care of myself, should have loved everyone more, shouldn’t have bought all those maternity clothes (jinxed it), shouldn’t have allowed myself to feel stress, shouldn’t have been angry ever, shouldn’t have made so many mistakes in my life. This had to be karma for something.

Yes. Me. I am to blame. I am the reason my baby is dead.

God. God is to blame. Nothing happens without God’s permission or ok. I hate God for causing me all this pain.

And on and on it goes. The patterns play in my mind for all these days. And noone it seems can understand. The people are all to blame. They keep saying well-meaning but seemingly stupid things like, “There was probably something wrong with the baby, so it is for the best this way.” “You will be able to try again.” “We can never know God’s plan.” “At least you have Alex. Think of all the peopel that are never able to have any children.” “The baby’s soul has already served it’s purpose.” “When you have another baby someday, this will be the soul that will come back.” The people drive me crazy. So now I hate me, my husband, the dogs, God, and all the people.

And all this time I have a dead body in me. A baby I had felt move once. We don’t tell Alex, who is 6, that any of this is going on yet. If I can’t bear the idea that I have a dead child within me, how could he handle knowing this? And so, in all his sweetness, he comes up to me several times and hugs me so he can hug the new baby that is one the way.

Hell.

I can’t stay in the house the entire five days. It’s become my prison. And so I escape and am not prepared for people to touch my belly and tell me how adorable it is. I want to scream at them, “The baby is dead!” Instead I say “thank you.” I go back to my prison and want to die. Five days is an eternity.

My body does not naturally got into labor. So they will have to take her from me.

~

A funeral home offered to cremate the body for free. We have to buy the urn. We do this hoping it will bring us some comfort in light of the fact we will never hold her. After the procedure I get a call that the tiny urn we bought is not big enough for all the remains and would we like to purchase something else. It seems incomprehensible to allow any part of my baby to go anywhere but with me, so I say yes. I will buy the small silver cross I saw that sits in the pretty glass case as well. Looking back that call seems very strange to me. But then it was all so surreal. The same with the small ceremony we held at a church. Our attempt at closure.

My body reflected the state of my mind. I couldn’t let go and looked pregnant still over a year later. People asked me all the time if I was expecting. “No,” I would laugh. “I just haven’t been doing my sit-ups lately.” And then I would go back home and cry. I believe I will never recover from this. Never say never.

One day it seemed as I kept moving through my days, my blaming began to let up. It had to. It felt poisonous to hate. And so, instead I just felt empty. Which for me was a step up from the pain. And it was in the emptiness I think that I opened to healing.

Looking back, I wonder if that’s forgiveness for me. And my body reacted in kind and began to let go too. I didn’t look as pregnant anymore. What or who did I forgive? All of it I guess. And I have no words for how it happened.

I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t recall trying to forgive anyone or anything specifically. That didn’t work for me because I thought I was failing when I was still angry. I just remember opening in the quiet emptiness to another way….

Some people seem to think they know where she is now or what the purpose of it all was. I don’t have a clue. And I don’t need to anymore. There are things that are much bigger than me and my limited mind at work. And so to me, my precious angel, Gabrielle, will be 10 this year. Somewhere out there.

Or maybe just in my thoughts and in my heart.

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Connect with Melissa by leaving a comment below. Melissa is the editor of The Manifest-Station. 

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (sold out) as well as Other Voices Querétaro with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Click to order Simplereminders new book.

Click to order Simplereminders new book.

Daily Manifestation Challenge, Gratitude, Self Image

What Do You Love About Yourself? Daily Manifestation Challenge

October 16, 2011

Today’s Challenge is a Love Note.

To Yourself.

When I teach kids, special needs or not, and I ask them the question What do you love about yourself? it’s easy for them to answer. It’s like saying yes to cake or staying up late. A no brainer. They have a long list even.

It’s especially inspiring to me to watch the kids with special needs answer this. One of my girls, who is autistic and blind, answered ” my life!” when I asked her what she loved about herself.

She loves her life even though she can’t see a damn thing!

I know a few people I would like to have her hang out with. I would hire her as their teacher and have her show them what self-love and gratitude looks like, in the dark, with no mirrors or television.

I ask my adult students What do you love about yourself?

Dead silence.

Crickets.

Tumbleweeds.

What the hell did she just say? 

Or they pretend I was not talking to them.

Yes you. I am talking to you.

I am not suggesting that you to be conceited or arrogant or think yourself better than anyone else. Quite the contrary. Do you have any idea how inspiring and contagious and humbling it is to be around someone filled with self-love? They never come across as “cocky”.

There is an inherent difference between being arrogant and truly loving yourself. Just think of this: The guy you went out with and maybe even slept with who didn’t call you ever again after he said he would; he’s most likely arrogant. The person who looks at the reflection of themselves in the window instead of looking at you as you speak is arrogant and, frankly, kind of rude.

That’s not self-love we are talking about. These aren’t the people we look to and think Wow, I’d love to live my life like that. I aspire to be that way. The love they have for themselves is overflowing and now I love myself even more! 

I went and saw my mentor Wayne Dyer speak in Pasadena Friday night as his daughter Skye’s guest. She sings at his events. It was a dream come true for me and something I have manifested into my life. He spoke of the the God within each of us. One of the most profound things he talked about was the fact that the only place in the Bible where God is named is the Old Testament. And God’s name is….. I AM.

I am.

Wow.

God is in every single one of us then? 

Yes.

This is not blasphemy. It is finding the part of you that is birthless, deathless and never changing. Call it God, call it what you like, call it “I” even. It is the “I am” in you. In plainspeak, it is the most YOU part of you.

People are often scared to love themselves. I know, I get it. I didn’t love myself for a very long time and even went to great lengths to abuse myself, emotionally and physically.

It’s as if we have been raised by a pack of wolves and told never to love ourselves, at least not openly, or other wolves will eat us.

With children there is no stigma. I taught the kids at the Prader Willi Research Conference of Saturday and we sat in a circle and I asked ” What do you love about yourself?” There was a fight over who would answer first. They all wanted to tell me.

Can you imagine adults being this way? Authentically? Why not? What are we so afraid of? What the tribe will think? The wolves will get us? We’ll sound stupid?

Probably.

Some may not even be able to think of one thing they love about themselves. It takes practice and a willingness to see the parts of you that at first may not seem like the “best” parts. My hearing loss for instance. It used to make me despise myself but now I feel as if it has made me more compassionate and a healer.

One of the boys this weekend told me he loved his artwork. One said he loved his life. One loved her smile and her belly.

I am still waiting for the day where I say ” I love my belly.”

One of the boys had this tshirt on:

What makes you uniquely you and not Joe the Plumber or your mom or the person texting in the car next to you?

Today’s Daily Challenge is to make a list. You don’t have to check it twice. You just gotta live it! Each day write down at least one thing you love about yourself. No crossing it off, just adding on. For the rest of your life.

In the comment section below, if you feel brave enough and inspired, leave your “Love Note” as it were.

I love my injuries because they have allowed me to be a better yoga teacher.

I love my heart and it’s capacity to love.

I love my hearing loss because my other senses, such as my touch, are that much stronger.

I know it will get hard at times. It gets hard when you are out of work or in a bad mood or feel like you have gained weight or hurt someone or they have hurt you or you have gotten sick. I know it’s hard. Trust me, there are days when I yell and cry and scream “Fu*k you Ears!”

I curse. Get over it.

I am still spiritual but I do curse and drink wine and coffee. And I love that about me, Damnit!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I Am that I Am:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I Am that I Am (Hebrew: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‎, pronounced Ehyeh asher ehyeh [ʔehˈje ʔaˈʃer ʔehˈje]) is a common English translation (JPS among others) of the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for His name (Exodus 3:14). It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah. Hayah means “existed” or “was” in Hebrew; “ehyeh” is the first person singular imperfect form and is usually translated in English Bibles as “I will be” (or “I shall be”), for example, at Exodus 3:12. Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally interpreted to mean I am that I am, though it can also be translated as “I-shall-be that I-shall-be.”[1


Daily Manifestation Challenge

The DMC: Daily Manifestation Challenge. FAITH.

October 13, 2011

Ah, Faith.

You gotta have it.

 

 

I cheated on my fears, broke up with my doubts, got engaged to my faith and now I’m marrying my dreams.

Today’s Daily Manifestation Challenge is about Faith. I actually asked a friend who is going through a hard time what my challenge should be today. In particular, her baby boy is dying from Tay-Sachs Disease.

She gave me a list.

I will slowly work through the list. Day by day. As she does.

So she is struggling with Faith.

I get it. I struggle with it a lot too.

Wikipedia says:

Faith is trust, hope and belief in the goodness, trustworthiness or reliability of a person, concept or entity. It can also refer to beliefs that are not based on proof (e.g. faith that a child will grow up to be a good person) . Religious faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition, “things will turn out well in the end,” can be enjoyed in the present and secured in the future. The concept of faith is a broad one: at its most general ‘faith’ means much the same as ‘trust’.

I get it: how can she trust in the Universe when her baby is being taken away from her? How could one ever have faith in anything again after that?

It’s a tough one. But the alternative is grim. If you lose faith or hope or trust or whatever word most aptly describes ‘faith’ to you, it becomes a slippery slope.

A slippery slope until you become simply a shadow of who you once were.

Take a look at your life and where faith plays a part. When do you experience faith or a lack thereof? For me, I feel faith in myself when I can clearly see that something I have said or done has helped someone have a breakthrough in their life in some small way or when one of the kids I teach yoga to with special needs learns how to Om. I feel faith in myself when I realize that I have found my bliss and the world is conspiring in my favor. I have faith in my nephew Blaise who struggles with Prader Willi Syndrome when I see how many strides he is making daily. The list goes on.

I used to think God hated me.

I decided that at a young age because a few things happened in my life that I could not comprehend. I did not understand what having faith meant for a long time. I had faith at a young age it and what good did it do? My dad still died at age 38.

I realize now that faith is renewable. At any given moment I can restore it.

I have found things that allow me to experience faith and I revel in what that feels like. I trust in things again. I allow myself to believe. Not just in myself but in human nature and kindness and love and all things that I once had lost faith in.

It is not always easy.

 

         To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
         St Thomas Aquinas quotes 

Faith and trust , in my universe, are much the same. At the moment, I am out of words to offer my dear friend Emily who is losing her baby. I do, however, have faith in her talent and humor and kindness and beauty and courage. I have faith that her book will sell and help many others who are experiencing similar grief.

Today’s Daily Challenge: You Gotta Have Faith!

In the Comment Section Below write where you have faith in your life or where you are lacking it. Where you may be struggling with faith. Or simply what Faith means to you. Can you renew your sense of faith in yourself? In love? In your career? In the Universe? In wherever it may be that you are lacking it? Can you offer someone else some glimpses into faith, someone who may be struggling? It’s not always easy, these daily Manifestation challenges. But they will get you to take a look at your life, and, if it’s applicable, make a shift or two.

Are you ready?

  
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
Mother Teresa 

 

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