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katie devine

Guest Posts, Self Image, writing

Un-Grounded.

September 5, 2014

By Katie Devine.

Every night, at an interval of approximately ten minutes, the bed shakes violently. The first time it happens, I think it’s an earthquake. I lie in bed, roused from near sleep by the jarring movement, and have trouble remembering where I am. I don’t think Cape Cod has earthquakes, but I allow for the possibility. Or the other possibility that someone has run up the stairs to the patio outside the bedroom, powerfully enough to move the furniture. I never feel safe sleeping in rooms with doors that lead to the outside, and I hate that through the sheer-curtain-covered windowpane I can see shadows moving slowly. I don’t know if they are from leaves, or from the heavy-footed man who tromped up the steps to look in at me. The house next-door, with its menacing cracked window and abandoned sheets on the clothesline only fuels this fantasy. I turn my back to the door; what I can’t see can’t hurt me. And then the rocking begins again.

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Let Go Or Be Dragged.

January 5, 2013

I am a fish. A stink ripped fish.

I am like a fish. Maybe an oily carp with a big fat hook stuck in my mouth.

That’s what I feel like when I get hooked. Except, unlike fish, I have no built in mechanism that dissolves the hook. That rusty hook just stays in my mouth and catches on other things, as hooks will tend to do. Its in their nature to catch things.

But I’m not a fish. Let me start over.

I am a human. A woman.

I simply get gut hooked and forget sometimes who I am.

Take today for instance. Someone, I have no idea who, commented on one of my essays that it sounded like I plagiarized Brene Brown. And also I’m tired of the blogs that are suddenly rehashing her research without crediting her work. There’s been an explosion of this since her research on vulnerability and wholeheartedness came out.

Hooked. Baited and hooked.

I read the comment (I should start to get in the habit of not reading them. There will in fact, be loads of people who “hate” my book. I won’t lie and say it won’t bother me so best to just not read them, right?) and right after I read the comment I got in a bad mood. I had been in a great mood before that. I felt the hook dig in and the skin in my cheek rip and bleed all over my day. Ruined. How could she say I plagiarized? I have someone doing that to me and it feels awful. I would never, could never, do this. How and why and how dare she or he or whoever and I love Brene Brown, I would never do that and I am repeating myself

and with a hook stuck in me and who cares anyway?

Pull the hook out. Pull. It. Out. Jennifer.

I remember being obsessed with this one professor I’d had at NYU. He wore leather jackets and washed his hands a lot and he smoked in class. Smoked! And I am not that old. He just smoked. In class. You weren’t allowed, it wasn’t the 70’s or 80’s. But he did it and I sat in the front row and usually had no idea what he was talking about but I had fantasies about him and signed up for his classes again and again. That was where I first learned of the anxiety of influence. The Anxiety of Influence, aside from an idea that permeates my existence, is a book by the esteemed Harold Bloom where he talks in very academic prose about how we are all basically influenced by someone else and that creates anxiety. Yes, he was talking about poets but I would like to suggest it is non-poets as well. It is people. How can we not be influenced, read: inspired, by others. So yes, Mrs. Fisherman who threw a hook in my mouth and then left me to die, I am influenced by Brene Brown but I did not plagiarize her, you nincompoop. What I wrote doesn’t even remotely sound like her. There’s that hook again.

The things that hook me. That hook us. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Look, the things that hook me that are good are what inspires me, and yes, Brene Brown is on that list. I get hooked easily. That’s why I write so damn much. I don’t get thrown back into the river all the time, so I sit at the computer with the hook in my mouth until its in my throat and then, all of a sudden, its gone. Its out in the world and I am better for it.

Then there’s the bad and the ugly. The anxiety. The jealousy. The comparing myself, not only to others but to earlier or different versions of myself. Look how skinny I was back then! Look what she can do! Its bad and ugly because I am not using it to inspire. I am using it to make myself small and pitiful and stinky as a dead fish.

Then there’s the really ugly. What fits in this category: the person who actually is plagiarizing me and how it turns my inside upon themselves until I am left with nothing but flailing hands and a high-pitched voice. The hook got in me so deep that I might die if I don’t rip it out myself with my bare hands.

So I do. I rip it out.

Perhaps why that comment got me today. The accuser is being accused? How ironic.

There will always be things that hook us. There will always be a line waiting out there at sea, sometimes so patiently that you forget it might try and kill you as it sits there with a beer and a boat and some sunburn.

Not all the things that hook us kill us. But they fester. I got hooked by a teacher who was way older than me and who had OCD and was bald. I was 19 or 20. I ate puffed air in class and sucked on it for long periods of time so it would last me longer as he talked about Thomas Hardy and here I am writing about him almost 20 years later. He hooked me.

What kills us are the hooks we let kill us. The hooks we let dig deeper and deeper into our flesh until they are part of us and we can’t remember where we began and where we end, we can’t tell the difference between our heart and a crappy piece of metal.

I want to choose more of the things that hook me. I am not a fish. I get some say in the matter.

Let go or be dragged.

common_carp

let-go-or-be-dragged

 

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

healing, love

What Love Does.

December 11, 2012

Have you ever felt it? That Don’t leave me pang right square in your chest, in that place you didn’t know existed until you did?

In yoga class, someone is pressing your shoulders down in savasana (final resting pose) or rubbing your back as you are in child’s pose, and you never want them to leave, as if a possibility existed in some corner of the world where you two could exist like that: as giver and receiver in some dark space? How it almost feels like the first time you have ever been touched in your whole life. You feel that safe.

That wide open.

This is why most of us love being touched in yoga, especially during passive poses, when we are nothing but a receiver, a net for love. When else do we let our guards down that much? I know I don’t.

Yesterday I got a massage as treated to me by my friend Katie for my upcoming birthday tomorrow. This massage was much needed because apparently a train had been running through my head and had crashed behind my eyes, leaving me a broken heap of steel and muscle. I had subbed out my 4 pm yoga class and couldn’t leave the dark of my room until the massage appointment.

There’s a point early on in a massage where I start to obsess about when it is going to end. As early as two minutes into it. This won’t last long enough. Same when someone touches me in a yoga class, my own shoulders pinned down like some kind of stuck thing and I think I know you are going to leave. You are going to get up and go and my shoulders are going to fly back up and I might even fly away with nothing holding me in place any longer. 

Last night, about three minutes into my massage, I felt myself drifting and then catching myself right on the cliff of pleasure wondering how much time was left. Push me off the cliff, dammit! 

How can I worry about when something is going to end when it is barely just beginning?

In Bali at one point very early in our trip, I looked around at the pool and our house in Ubud with all the little flowers on the towels and the fried cassava in bowls by our feet and I’d said I am sure going to miss this place. My husband, as if I was insane: We haven’t even left yet! It was as if it was the first time I’d noticed that fact. Oh, we haven’t left yet, have we? We are still here. We are still safe. So I’d eaten a “cassava chip” which was oddly like a “potato chip” and sat back to enjoy the way it felt, the salt and the greasy crunch and the way it made me thirsty and I wondered if everyone worried that there wasn’t enough.

Am I terrified of being comfortable? Because it won’t last?

Nothing lasts. Not forever anyway. When a teacher comes over to me and that end of a yoga class to press down on my shoulders or rub my head I always ask can you stay there? sometimes out loud, sometimes not.

That is the crux of it all, isn’t it? Can you stay there? can you not go? Can you make me feel safe?

I want to make people feel that way and I think that I do, at least in some small way, that blanket of limbs and touch and non-judgement and fireplaces and glasses of wine and unparalleled listening skills and here I have you. I am not going anywhere.

I used to think I wanted things to last forever.

I remember my first boyfriend Danny, my first serious love and one of my only serious loves, and how he would call me from his dorm room in Boston and how I would lie in my bunk bed at NYU and ask him to tell me that we would last forever. He wouldn’t. A smart move. And we didn’t.

After four years, he broke up with me one February like someone with no balls! How dare you do this over the telephone after so many years? So naturally I got on the Peter Pan bus, a teary eyed skinny and freezing mess, schlepping all the way to Boston in the snow so he could break up with me to my face. And who am I kidding? I am sure a part of me (most of me) wanted to beg him not to break up with and to tell me that he’d made a mistake. I arrived and knocked on all his friends’ doors until I found him. They’d all had that part sympathy and part I am so glad I am not that guy look.

I spent the weekend in his apartment in Boston curled in a ball and sobbing and when he put my spaghetti limp body on the bus back to New York City, he hugged me for 3 solid minutes, (again I had hope, Maybe he won’t let go.) He did let go and that was the last time I saw him for years. And that was that. We didn’t last forever and I am glad he refused to give me that promise, even as a lie,  because I would’ve thrown it in the river with him and then jumped in after it.

I do want to be touched. (Don’t we all?) But more than that, it’s what is behind the touch, what’s under the fingers and the skin. How the touch makes me feel, and even though I know it won’t last forever, what it will, even is just for that moment, connect me to the world and hold me in place.

What’s behind everything is love. Whether it is a fear of it, a desire for it, a Fuck you I don’t believe in love or a giving away of it.

Some form of love is what beats our hearts and what carries us through those broken moments in the snow of Boston. Its what we all want and why when someone puts their hand on that spot on our chest or forehead (how do they always know the exact spot I need to be touched?) that we want to put our own hands on top of theirs and whisper in some secret language of the hands, Yes, this feels right. Yes, you can stay. Yes, I love you too.

And then your eyes open and the lights are back and you put on your boots or your sandals, depending on the weather, and your leave the yoga class. And you may get off that bus in NYC after a miserable 8 hour ride in the snow from Boston and you may forget that vow to love and how good it felt but it is there and it will always be there.

If you let it exist as if it belongs to you. As if you deserve it.

You do.

love

Guest Posts, healing

Confessions of an Imperfect Life.

November 9, 2012

This is another follow-up post to The “What Happens When You Admit Out Loud That You Are Scared” post by my anonymous blogger. If you haven’t read it yet, click here and read it before you proceed.

Ok, now we can proceed.

She is no longer anonymous. Her name is Katie Devine. And, based on the outpouring of love and support she has started her very own blog called Confessions of an Imperfect Life.

 

I asked her how it felt to have been so open and vulnerable and this is what she said…

Two weeks ago, after an amazing Manifestation retreat in Ojai, I sent Jen an email expressing my frustrations about not being able to open my heart fully at the retreat–or in my everyday life. It revealed feelings I had never expressed, in words I had never written or spoken out loud. Jen posted it anonymously on her blog, asking the question “What Happens When You Admit Out Loud You Are Scared?”. It was my heart, raw, open and exposed.

So here’s what happens, if you’re me:

PANIC: Holy crap, what did I just do?!?! What is everyone going to think?

(Immediately after)

RELIEF: I don’t have to keep this all inside. I don’t have to be “strong”. I don’t have to be alone.

(Immediately after that)

SUPPORT. COMPASSION. EMPATHY. I am NOT alone.

LOVE.

LOVE.

LOVE.

The outpouring from strangers, from friends is almost overwhelming. People I have never met offering hope, insight, hugs, and love has humbled me. I could never have imagined the kindess of strangers would turn towards me in such a powerful way. It has, quite literally, changed my life.

The other thing I have learned from this experience? Not everyone understands. Some friends I have opened up to prefer fun Katie, who entertains with crazy stories, and doesn’t cry at dinner in the middle of a restaurant. Who are uncomfortable knowing that there is another layer buried beneath. And it’s sad. But then there are the friends who know to hug you while you are crying at dinner, admitting that you have problems with food and you still can’t even really say the words out loud, who make you feel like it just might be worth it.

This is just my first step. I have started blogging to try to work through some of these issues, but I have not yet shared my blog with many of my closest friends or any of my family members. I haven’t even been able to post a link to my Facebook yet. I’m working towards living more openly with everyone in my life. I will get there.

 So what happens when you admit out loud that you are scared? As one reader so astutely and eloquently offered “life softens”. And it has. Conversations have gone deeper, interactions are more thoughtful. Not having my guard up all the time has given my head the space to really listen, my heart the room to really love, and my soul the freedom to begin to heal.

Thank you. For encouragement, for acceptance, for advice, for love. I read every reply many, many times and have imprinted them on my brain and on my heart forever. I hope that I can someday impact someone else’s life the way each of you have impacted mine.

Please connect with Katie and follow her blog here.

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