Browsing Tag

letting go

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Life, motherhood

A Sweet Ride.

January 7, 2015


By Liz Campbell.

One of the things I love about getting older is my ability to not give a #$@! when it comes to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about a whole lotta stuff, the big stuff, but finally I am reaching a place where I don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew that I had been inching my way towards this space, particularly since becoming a parent. Add to that some huge life events over the past several years, and you’ve got a nifty recipe with which to bake yourself a big fat humble pie.

In my younger years, how things looked was pretty high on my list. My appearance, my home, my car, all things that I felt needed to look ship shape. To have pretty things really was quite important to me. If I take the time to reflect on this, it probably came from a place of simply wanting to fit in and to look, and therefore feel, just like the others. It took some time for the penny to drop that striving for material things in order to keep up with the Jones’s, does not make for a satisfying existence.

As I got older, and life started to throw me some curve balls, worrying about how things looked began to fall by the way side. There were much bigger things that needed my energy and attention – sustaining meaningful relationships, overcoming loss, starting a family, raising children – all big grown up things…things that really mattered. And if I’m honest with myself, I think that getting to the space of not giving a #$@! about stuff came about partly because I was getting to be all grown up, but mainly because I had no time! Who’s got the time or the head space to worry about what car you drive or the latest fashion trend, when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or running on 2 hours sleep a night for months on end with not 1 but TWO colicky babies??! Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go

Summer in Canaan Valley.

November 15, 2014



By Jean Kim.

On an early summer day in 1988, PJ, our neighbor’s cat, went on a rampage.

Earlier that morning before the rampage, I had seen an adorable baby bunny frozen with fear, on the ground near our front door and next to some blooming azaleas. I’d never seen one so tiny, a fuzzy brown bundle you could fit in your hand but perfectly shaped. Its dark eyes were as still as its body, as they stared out in bewilderment.

The air was fragrant with June blossoms; it was the first truly warm day of the year, and it seemed everyone and everything in our suburban neighborhood was rousing to life. I had turned 14 a couple months earlier. Mom was gardening and said she’d seen another baby bunny.

Our amusement quickly turned to horror. PJ, a golden tabby, often strolled across the street to our yard. We noticed him darting around more quickly than usual. I heard my mother suddenly yell at him and try to chase him back. She waved a shovel. But it was too late.

Mom told me to wait in the open garage. (Overprotective as always, she still thought of me as a young child.) She scurried about the yard and was carrying something in her arms. She came over, and I saw she was holding two of the bunnies.

She said, “They’re the only ones left. There were more, but he ate them.”

Continue Reading…

cancer, death, Gratitude, Guest Posts

I Will Miss You Every Day of My Life.

September 18, 2014

By Kathleen Emmets.

Note from Jen Pastiloff: Kathleen showed up at my Kripalu Retreat a couple years ago and has since become a dear friend and a great source of inspiration for me. She is the one who created the Fuck It List, that I so often speak of. She sent me this and I knew I had to get it up on the site. Humbled.



Dear Jen,

Thank you for the beautiful way you teach people to express themselves. I wrote this in the voice you helped me to find.

I love you.

I stand at her bedside, holding her frail, smooth hand. She can’t speak today and her eyes, for the most part, remain closed. “It’s better this way,” I think to myself. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

How to Rebuild a House.

September 8, 2014

By Leah Tallon

Seven months ago, the house I had been living in with my boyfriend, Dave, and my miniature dachshund, Molly, burned to the ground while we were checking in for dinner reservations in downtown Milwaukee. We’d been gone all day, visiting his grandmother, applying to my dream bookstore, getting haircuts and, somewhere in the middle of all that, 20 minutes away, an electrical wire inside the wall of the office was sparking, the outdated cloth-covered wires catching fire after months, maybe years of luck finally running threadbare. The flames grew quietly in the center of the house and ate their way through family heirloom bookshelves full of paperbacks, an oriental rug, to the coat closet and the connecting wall to the living room, up through the ceiling to the bedrooms, to the roof. It filled the spaces between rafters under the floorboards and ripped through the basement ceiling. In one of my recurring dreams, I still hear Molly, my best friend for 6 years, scared and trapped in her kennel, barking while the smoke puts her to sleep and she dies alone until the firefighters can drag her kennel out into the clean snow. While support beams and walls crumbled, a friend of a friend posted on Facebook about the house closest to the park being a cloud of smoke, “There are fire trucks everywhere, they can’t find the owners, does anyone know who lives there?” A close friend saw the internet S.O.S. and called us, still 20 minutes away.

That’s where this essay that I don’t want to write starts but it’s not the real beginning. It’s not what this is about. There’s no beginning because I can’t find one.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration


August 16, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Dena Young.

I can remember just a few months back, sitting under a tree, lamenting the change of season.  Spring was shifting into summer and, though I love summer, I could already feel a longing for the early bloom of springtime.

This was the first year, maybe ever, I felt present every day, open to the new life unfolding.  I allowed myself to have my breath taken away at each turned corner, open to the surprise of a burst of yellow from the forsythia that always seem to appear first, then to the patches of pink tulips, drooping from the weight of their too-heavy heads.  I loved crossing the street and being charmed by the powerful scent of hyacinths and the voluptuous lushness of cherry blossoms. I let it amaze and astonish me.

And then I began to mourn it, even before it was over.

Continue Reading…

Friendship, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings


February 11, 2014

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


I’ve ben thinking about the stuff we hold onto, the stuff we hoard as humans- the lamps and the photographs and the people, and the little pieces of paper everywhere (me, specifically. I do this.) I found this jotted on a paper tonight: She doesn’t let me put my hands in the potato chip bag or anything- I have fake nails. My one extravagance. And I’m wondering who is she, and why I had fake nails, and what kind of potato chips and why is this piece of paper on my desk in between a Virginia Woolf library book I never returned from 1997 and a bottle of sleeping pills. Hoarder! I want to yell at myself but don’t because who listens when you yell at yourself? The you that is yelling hoarder or the you with her hand in the potato chip bag?

Let’s say I am the chick with her hand in the bag and let’s say they are salt and vinegars. Let’s say I have my hand in the bag and my fingers are kind of wet because maybe I’ve licked them to pick up crumbs and the crumbs are stuck to my fingers and I suck them off. (Let’s say that.) So I hear hoarder! being yelled but still, I eat the salt because it’s so good, addictive really, and there’s no way I can not not lick my fingers to get that goodness off of them. I want it all. The chip crumbs in the bag’s skin and every goddamn remnant of broken chip itself.

An old friend has had a birthday party recently and didn’t invite me. I found out and felt hurt. It dawns on me that we aren’t really friends anymore, not in the immediate sense anyway.

I think about the letter I got from one of the guys I work with. He’s trying to get/stay sober. I work with a bunch of recovering addicts who pretty regularly blow my mind. This guy gives me a letter, and one of the lines says, “I remember how many friends I have neglected as the years have passed.”

I think of this old friend who didn’t invite me to her party and I recall what a shitty friend I was to her during my shitty years. [1] And I wonder if this is payback or my karma, (if you believe in such a thing.) I’ve seen too many “bad” things happen without any retribution, at least not in this life, to really know if I believe in karma or not. But really, what it comes down to, I think, is hoarding. Knowing when to let go.

My grandmother, before she died, had this lampshade wrapped in plastic. For as long as I could remember, that lampshade was wrapped in plastic with the price tag dangling from it. It was never dusted, so although it may have originally been white or beige, it had long since become brown, and the price tag hanging from it reeked of despondency. Like she’d given up somewhere but couldn’t muster the strength to dust the lamp or at least to take the price tag off. And it wasn’t an expensive lamp, it was some cheap K-Mart thing, some hideous thing that had probably been on sale in 1987. She sat and did her crossword puzzles, oftentimes all day. Just sitting there, only stopping to open a can of salmon or to go to the door and blow smoke out. She offered me salmon salad once as an adult, and I was naïve enough to think she meant a salad with lettuce and maybe a piece of salmon on top.[2]

But back to the lamp. That fucking lamp made me want to scream. Take off the pricetag, Gram. Throw it out. It’s hideous.

She didn’t listen. She, in all honesty[3], couldn’t hear. She didn’t have hearing loss (I’m the lucky one with that trait) but rather she couldn’t take in anything anyone was saying. She’d ask a question and talk right over you. After a while you didn’t answer and you all just sat there while she did her puzzles and the price tag dangled. Her sofa had plastic on it too. Anyway, that just gives you an idea. It’s not a character bashing. I didn’t like my grandmother and most likely she didn’t like me so don’t feel too bad.

These ramblings are mine. Locked in my head or on page, they are mine. Hoarding them, you can say. Although my attempt at sending them out into the world is the opposite of that. Here, take them away from me.  Take the price tags and the time she threw a towel on me while I napped because she didn’t have a blanket. Take it all!

How do we know when to let go? Well, the signs are all around us, aren’t they? [4] Your friend doesn’t ever reach out, but rather you are always the one to reach out? Why do we hold on to these things?

I think on some level we think that by letting them go we will cease to endure- our potato chip fingers will evaporate into notes on our desks lodged in between books and pills and then what? We won’t have mattered- we will never be the impossible beautiful things we imagine ourselves to be. But if we hold on to it all, every last friendship and memory and price tag on a lamp, then we will have somehow survived what it means to be human and the fleeting moment we get. What’s that line from that Eminem song “Lose Youself”- You better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance.

There’s a bit of truth in that.

Another guy I work with wrote: I remember my first girlfriend. Suzanne. She was Hispanic. She was beautiful. I wanted to sleep with her. We never did. I was in seventh grade.

I bet he holds on to that, that memory of Suzanne. Of course he does, he wrote it down all these years later and when he handed me the paper I could see there was a hesitation, like he was giving his Suzanne away. As if she would no longer be only his. In his imagination, in her seventh grade body and broken out face. He clutched the paper for a moment too long until I gave him the nod that said, “I won’t take her from you. You can keep her.”

They sustain us. Why else do we hold on to price tags on lamps and dead friendships? They trot us down the street when we feel like we have nothing. They pop up in our imagination and say, “Oh, but you do have something. You have this and this and this and this,” and even if you are completely deluding yourself- you haven’t talked to your friend in months or met her baby born last summer, you think, “this defines me, this keeps me in place.”

Well, I guess I’d like to call bullshit. Hoarder and bullshit! I’m calling it all. Why not? I’m  getting ballsier and less human and more human and all the things that aging does to us and I think about how pretending I loved my grandmother so people will think I am a good person is a façade. And holding on to every single thing that has carried me to this moment in time[5] is a like stealing. At a certain point, none of it is mine anymore.

[1] Shitty years: years between 21-31. Horrible self-deprecating, self-involved miserable years. Not a highlight in any friendship. Shitty years for friendships and for existence (mine.)

[2] but she meant a can of pink salmon, mashed with mayonnaise, split between three of us- her, my grandfather and myself. It was okay. Better than I expected.

[3] fact: she never once listened when she asked a question. This is not for sake of storytelling although it makes a good story. It is fact. I am hard of hearing but my grandmother never once heard a word I’ve said in the entire time I knew her.

[4] That’s a sign. Stop being ingnorant.

[5] Many things carried me here. Death, loss, joy, trauma, friendships, starvation, stupidity, creativity, balls, fear.


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!


click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

And So It Is, Guest Posts, Making Shit Happen, Manifestation Retreats

Are You Full Of Things That Aren’t Serving You?

January 13, 2014

One of the women from my last retreat wrote this, and, with permission, I am sharing. 

*                                                           *                                                      *

Okay, I am not a writer or a poet but I am compelled to put in writing the changes already taking place in my life not 48 hours after closing circle of Jen’s retreat. Going into the retreat this past week, I was stuck. Really, really stuck. Scared of connecting with anyone because I already felt completely depleted.

Isolation was the only thing that felt safe.

I found this retreat because I was looking for space to find my true authentic self again. Throughout the retreat thoughts, images, and a feeling of who I was “before”, started to emerge.

Jen’s words “begin again”. Jen asking “How will you serve?” Her words “what do you need to let go of?” These stuck in my mind and I found myself unable to sleep thinking about them.

Then Jen said something life changing thing for me, “You have to let go of things you don’t want to make space for what you do.” It clicked.

I was full of things I needed to let go of leaving no room for the things I wanted. I am kind of amazed her words stuck like they did considering at the time I was trying to keep up with the whole Vinyasa’ing thing. But I heard her and I watched others let go of their fear and then I felt myself begin to let go of my own.

I could then begin to hear what my heart had been saying all along, “I want connection”, “I want my purpose to be revealed to me”, “I want to use all of my gifts.” I hit Fawntice’s gong on the New Year’s Eve and sent it that sound, that vibration out -knowing opportunities for connection were all ready on their way.

Which brings me to yesterday morning….

Scouring Facebook for more photos from the retreat, missing my new friends already, I noticed a post on a local mom’s board from a 17 year old girl who is due to have a baby girl in 3 months.

She posted, asking for help. Clearly scared, with no job and only a few baby clothes. She was asking for any used baby items to help her prepare for the baby admitting she didn’t really even know what she needed. I smile a deep soul smile. Jen’s voice “how will you serve?” echoed. Not even 48 hours after the Manifestation Retreat and in front of me on the computer screen was an opportunity for connection.

Of course I could just donate baby things since I have a 6 month old baby girl. But I also have gifts. I am a trained birth and postpartum doula but I have never used the training.

I wrote her and offered all the baby essentials I have to give but I also offered support. I offered love and connection. She was thrilled and was willing to meet today. There are so many excuses I could have and would have given myself for not reaching out in this way, I am a recent single mother to 3 kids under 5, I don’t have business cards and should go to school and get more training first. More schooling and a complete website with business cards, tend to be my favorite excuses.

But reaching out is beginning again, it’s letting go of fear and it is one way I can serve someone else. So I did it.

Jen reaching out to me, and a room full of beautiful others inspired me to reach out.


I was going to end this here but what happened today at the meeting with the girl was so moving I have to share.

I spent an hour with her at a coffee shop just talking. It took an hour of letting her talk to get to her real problem. She doesn’t have a safe place to live and she doesn’t have enough food eat. It was midday and she had not had food since lunchtime the day before. I could tell she didn’t want me to know this. She went from being in AP classes, playing 3 sports, performing spoken word poetry and running girls empowerment workshops to doing independent study because she didn’t have enough money to take the bus to school and eat.

I started with getting her lunch and a bag of groceries. Next up: cooking classes and diaper changing 101 at my house. This girl was meant to be in my life. She’d realized we crossed paths at a bus stop 3 months ago and had a short conversation.

I didn’t need a website to connect with her and make a difference. I just had to let go of my shit and say yes.

Thank you Jen and each one of you for putting me in a place where I could open my heart to this girl. It is just a small thing, but it’s the beginning.

This is going to be a great year.


To learn more about retreats with Jen or to book one, click here.

And So It Is, Letting Go

And Then It Was Time To Let Go.

June 19, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff

And then it was time to let go.

It should be the name of a season. Or a day of the week, at the very least. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Then It Was Time To Let Go.

And then it was time to let go and I felt my arms floating back to the sides of my body like weightless things and all that I had been clutching fell onto the floor where I watched them fight a little then give up, as things tend to do.

I’ve been on this mission to get on Oprah. Her SuperSoul Sunday show. At my last retreat, the transformation was so profound, the connection was so deep, I knew: Oprah must know of this work. I couldn’t think of anyone else with the utter scope and reach of Oprah.

I wanted Oprah. I decided it. I made it so.

I told everyone and a campaign was started and people were tweeting Oprah and her people and I could feel the buzz of This is happening in the air, at least through the ether of the internet. And that buzz felt good. It felt like the excitement of your dream hanging between you matter and you don’t matter.

Everyone wants to think they matter.

And don’t they? Doesn’t that guy that hangs out in the parking lot of Whole Foods with the sign that says Anything Helps matter? Even though you can’t look at him anymore because he’s been there for years and come on, it’s been years, why don’t you have a job, Man-In-Whole-Foods-Parking-Lot? But he matters and we give him food or a couple bucks or maybe not, maybe nothing, because we have been giving him money and food and guilt for what seems to be too long and he has had that same sign for years and then it was time to let go.

But he does matter.

He matters. Maybe he had a wife once or a kid and a house with a broken door and a job at this store that sold tiles, but who knows, we’re busy, there’s a line of cars trying to get out of the parking lot and if everyone stops and rolls down their window to give him their version of anything then everyone will be late and the traffic will get jammed but be not mistaken; he matters.

When our dreams hover right there at that spot where they feel as if they could go this way or that, and, this way means: I’ve made it, I am somebody. And that way means: I am invisible, most start pushing for this way. For the I made it. I matter.

I decided to let go of the Oprah thing because I realized that if it was going to happen I had to let it go. And then it was time to let go.  Winter, spring, summer and then it was time to let go.

I am not sad nor do I feel stupid for asking everyone to help me with this dream although I had a few seconds of Who Do You Think You Are, You Don’t Matter this morning.

Imagine if we all regretted everything we pursued? We’d be in a lake of regret, swimming in shit.

To be unattached, untethered to outcome. To be swimming in the truth of who you are versus the idea of who you are. What you hear when you swim the illusion of who you are: You are worth something. You did it! You won! You are the best!

I get attached to things.

I’ve had this sofa for over 15 years. My mom had it custom made in the mid 90’s and it got passed on to me.  It was my prized possession and almost everyone I know has slept on it, cried on it, had sex on it.

The thing is, this couch is old now and the cushions are deflated and sitting on it is a lumpy experience which leaves me angry. I wish we had more money. If we had more money, we’d get a new couch. If we had more money we’d matter.

Money = matter. Money = mattering. In our minds. Deep in the recesses of our cavernous minds we have created this lie.

So my friend offers me her couch because she is moving. It’s a nice couch too. After months of planning and going back and forth on if it would be worth it because to get out current couch out we have to throw it over the balcony due to its size. We agree to take the friend’s sofa so we hire some guys whom we pay one hundred dollars and two Bud Lights to in order to move it (throw it over balcony) for us.

They put the old sofa in the alley after they strip it of the cover and cushions.

I’ve had anxiety all day.

Did I make a mistake? Was my old couch better? What have I done? Does the new one even look good in our apartment? I’ve fucked up. Again. I want my sofa back. 

I went to the alley and three young kids were smoking weed on it. Should I try and bring it back up to the apartment? Have I abandoned my child? This couch was like  a child. What have I done?

I sat on the new(er) couch and I felt my arms floating back to the sides of my body like weightless things and all the things I had been clutching fell onto the floor where I watched them fight a little then give up, as things tend to do.

Goodbye old sofa. I’m going to let the guys enjoy smoking weed on you. It’s time. I am not going to try and get you back.

And then it was time to let go.

We matter with our signs asking for anything at all and our pleas to Oprah and our dreams. We matter as we climb the stairs to our apartments and adjust to the shock of a new sofa sitting there and how sitting down on that sofa will feel awkward at first then comfortable and then finally, there’ll come a time when we won’t remember anything else but the way this feels. (Was there ever anything else?)

Our memories are so short-termed like that once we let go.

How do you know when it’s time to let go then? When that particular season is upon us?

You know because your arms get heavy. Something sits in your chest and you can’t name it but you find yourself clinging to it as if it is a nameable thing.

All those heavy objects knocking about in your chest.

There’s not much we need to hold onto. It takes ages to realize the sofa is on its last leg. It takes lifetimes to realize that all the accolades and all the signs we carry, that they don’t mean much.

Then it was time to let go.


The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for May 25th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

healing, loss, love

Natural Losses.

May 1, 2013

By Jennifer Pastiloff

One of the girls from my yoga class waited for me last night after it had ended. She wanted to chat. S is a sweet girl and I feel protective of her. She found me at the height of her anorexia and in the last few years has come a long way.

Last night she was visibly upset.

Many months ago she’d told me about how her best friend had been blowing her off, how she was being left out of the friend’s wedding and its subsequent planning. She hadn’t known what she’d done wrong and it was eating away at her like something deadly and invisible. Over time it breaks down the healthy cells and even though you can’t see it you know it’s rushing through you with a map to your heart.

Continue Reading…

Inspiration, loss

Whatever Makes You Happy and an Obituary.

March 14, 2013

I’m a bag lady. I’m a stuff person. You know, the kind that always has the big bag and the hands buried in the big bag looking for something or other. The kind that always has an indentation in their shoulder where the big bag (that is far too heavy as far as bags are concerned) digs into the shoulder. The kind that always leaves a trail and is always knocking something over because there’s so much stuff around them. The kind that people are always saying Sheesh! You have so much stuff.

When I worked at the restaurant, the guys in the kitchen used to put things in my bag. Melons and cast iron skillets and bottles of hot sauce. I wouldn’t realize until I got home because my bag was already so heavy and filled with unnecessary things like shoes and bottles and hardcover books. Sometimes I’d be happy because hey I needed a cast iron skillet but mostly I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed. That I walked around with so much that I didn’t notice when someone added their own stuff to my life.

That’s how it is though, isn’t it? When you have a lot of crap it takes a while to notice that more is being added, however slowly. When your life is fairly crap-free (nobody has a crap free life but for the sake of this essay let’s pretend there are people who exist in the world that have less crap-free lives) you notice fairly quickly when something doesn’t belong to you? Hey, this cast iron skillet? Not mine. This guilt? Not mine. This hot sauce? Not mine (but I’ll keep it.) This shame? Not mine. This drama? Not mine

It’s hard to not realize you have the cast iron skillet before it’s too late. Once you get all the way home with it you might as well keep it right because, let’s face it, it’s kind of embarrassing to come back with it explaining that you didn’t steal it, that someone stuffed it in your big bag and you just didn’t notice. Or maybe it’s not embarrassing and you just want to keep the cast iron skillet because you think you should have one. Maybe you think you deserve one. That’s what we do right? I know it isn’t mine to take on but I’ll keep it because I probably deserve it.

Life is like that. The things we take. The things handed to us that we walk around with as they dig into our shoulder and cause us pain and yet we say No, I’m fine. I got this. I can carry it all. It’s mine.

As for me, I carry around a lot of stuff because it makes me feel at home. Chaos is comfortable for me. I like mess. I’m a klutz and mess suits me! It’s just the way I am.

That’s a lie. I don’t know why I lug so much junk around except that it’s been the way I’ve lived for as long as I can remember. My mother is very organized and neat now (how!?) but when I was little I remember her sticking dirty dishes in the oven to hide them or putting them in a black trash bag out in the yard because she was very depressed. I am going to hold onto to my shit and the dirt and the gunk! It’s like it ran in my family.

I think sometimes that if I carry it all around for everyone to see I will be safe from having to change or move forward. I think if I carry it around I won’t forget. There’s so much I have forgotten. (What did I eat last night? What was the book about I just read? What did Ronan’s nose look like? What did my father’s voice sound like?)

If I carry it all around with me I will forget nothing. At any given moment I can reach for what I need. You think I’m talking in metaphors, I know. I am but I’m also talking in everythings. It’s everything. The shit turns into the shit. The shit on your shoulder turns into the shit on your heart and it hardens and then you can’t scrape it off.

Me telling the truth: I don’t want to scrape it off. I want to remember. I will carry it around forever so I never forget. In a big red bag, I will schlep everything around.

Today I saw an obituary online for a man I never met and it made me all at once miss him (?) and miss my father.

Harry Weathersby Stamps

December 19, 1932 — March 9, 2013 

Long Beach

Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.

He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.

He excelled at growing camellias, rebuilding houses after hurricanes, rocking, eradicating mole crickets from his front yard, composting pine needles, living within his means, outsmarting squirrels, never losing a game of competitive sickness, and reading any history book he could get his hands on. He loved to use his oversized “old man” remote control, which thankfully survived Hurricane Katrina, to flip between watching The Barefoot Contessa and anything on The History Channel. He took extreme pride in his two grandchildren Harper Lewis (8) and William Stamps Lewis (6) of Dallas for whom he would crow like a rooster on their phone calls. As a former government and sociology professor for Gulf Coast Community College, Harry was thoroughly interested in politics and religion and enjoyed watching politicians act like preachers and preachers act like politicians. He was fond of saying a phrase he coined “I am not running for political office or trying to get married” when he was “speaking the truth.” He also took pride in his service during the Korean conflict, serving the rank of corporal–just like Napolean, as he would say.

Harry took fashion cues from no one. His signature every day look was all his: a plain pocketed T-shirt designed by the fashion house Fruit of the Loom, his black-label elastic waist shorts worn above the navel and sold exclusively at the Sam’s on Highway 49, and a pair of old school Wallabees (who can even remember where he got those?) that were always paired with a grass-stained MSU baseball cap. 

Harry traveled extensively. He only stayed in the finest quality AAA-rated campgrounds, his favorite being Indian Creek outside Cherokee, North Carolina. He always spent the extra money to upgrade to a creek view for his tent. Many years later he purchased a used pop-up camper for his family to travel in style, which spoiled his daughters for life.

He despised phonies, his 1969 Volvo (which he also loved), know-it-all Yankees, Southerners who used the words “veranda” and “porte cochere” to put on airs, eating grape leaves, Law and Order (all franchises), cats, and Martha Stewart. In reverse order. He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time. It is not lost on his family that he died the very day that he would have had to spring his clock forward. This can only be viewed as his final protest. 

Because of his irrational fear that his family would throw him a golf-themed funeral despite his hatred for the sport, his family will hold a private, family only service free of any type of “theme.” Visitation will be held at Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home, 15th Street, Gulfport on Monday, March 11, 2013 from 6-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Jeff Davis Campus) for their library. Harry retired as Dean there and was very proud of his friends and the faculty. He taught thousands and thousands of Mississippians during his life. The family would also like to thank the Gulfport Railroad Center dialysis staff who took great care of him and his caretaker Jameka Stribling.

Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.

I didn’t go to my father’s funeral as I have written about in earlier essays. My sister and I weren’t allowed. It’s a decision my mother was coerced into by some “loving” friend or relative who knew better than she did in her 34 year old grief stricken body (!)

I carry that decision around with me in my godforsaken big red bag on my shoulder. I carry that not being able to go to my father’s funeral on my right shoulder and rarely do I put it down.

So I see this obituary written by a loving daughter and I get kind of mad because I wanted to write one for my dad. But that’s not why I am really mad if I tell the truth and as you know I am committed to ABTTT (Always be telling the truth.)

I am mad because I wanted him to live until 80 like this man in the paper did so I could say funny and endearing things about him that I stashed away and carried in a big red bag for my whole life. I only have 8 years of things I carry around, dammit.

I am going to do one anyway, since I never got the chance and all. Maybe I can put it down after this? Maybe I will unload a bit. (I doubt it. I want to keep this one and keep carrying it around.)

Melvin David Pastiloff April 27th 1945-July 15th 1983.

Melvin Pastiloff, known lovingly as Mel The Jew on the street corner of 6th and Wharton in South Philly where he hung out with Johnny Boy and Sticks, died on a humid night 30 years ago. He was survived by his wife Barbara, who at one point he loved very much, but at the time of his death, had thrown a shoe at and they were planning to divorce. He was also survived by his two little girls Rachel, 5, and Jennifer, 8. 

He was known to be a the funniest man in the world. Or at least in Philadelphia and the tri-state area. He loved a good practical joke such as the one time he smeared chunky peanut butter all over the toilet seat when company was over and called everyone into the bathroom to say “Looks like Jennifer, smells like Jennifer, tastes like Jennifer.” Jennifer was a baby then and this story was relayed by said company. He was also known to moon at any public event. He would put his ass in any window to liven up any party.

He loved one particular pair of cut off (ugly) jean shorts that he changed into almost nightly after his day at the job selling fancy men’s suits. He smoked 4 (!) packs of menthol cigarettes a day (wouldn’t touch a Marlboro. He was a KOOL man) and he took his coffee with cream served to him in bed (a tradition carried on from his mother).

He didn’t know how to blow-dry his longish hair or shave so that was one thing that would have been sucky about divorcing but he died so that never happened but just to give you an idea of who he was in the mornings, it’ll get left in here. He drove a brown Cutlass and once hit a homeless man who did more damage to the car than the car to the man (!)

He had a laugh like a sheep and loved the t.v. show M*A*S*H. He liked flounder and waffles with chocolate ice cream and was known for always asking for Jello for dessert after a big Italian holiday meal. He didn’t know where the glasses were kept in the kitchen. He sang You Are My Sunshine every night to his daughters. Sometimes Jennifer first, sometimes Rachel. He had a bad singing voice but a lovely singing voice.

He served in the army and almost went to Vietnam but came home because his father was dying of cancer. He had a bald spot on the top of his head and it was always sunburned. He looked young and old at the same time. 

He had a bad back but would sit in the yard and carve sticks for his daughters anyway. Sometimes he would fart and blame it on his daughters thinking it was funny. (It was funny.)

His one regret was that he wanted to be a stand-up comedian and he wanted to meet his grand-kids. He loved hockey and made his daughter Jennifer memorize every team from every city (in the U.S.) He also loved boxing and Sugar Ray Leonard. He smelled like leather. He loved his mother (and her brisket) like a good Jewish son and sadly he had to put in a nursing home just before he died on July 15, 1983.

He was a sonofabitch for dying when he did and pretty much everyone that knew him agrees on that and that they love and miss him still all these years (!) later. 

I carry it all around from room to room because if I put it down I might forget.

I will keep carrying my father’s memory. After all, the sonofabitch went and died at 38 so I got very very little, but I will carry it with me always.

I am getting tired though. You would too if you had as much shit on your shoulder as me. (Maybe you do?) I will no longer carry what doesn’t belong to me. Frying pans and someone else’s agony? No more. I looked into the backseat of my car tonight and saw the piles of papers and yoga mats and shoes and straps and wrappers and bottles and I thought Why are you carrying this around like you are afraid if you let it go it will leave you with nothing?

I have all I need. So do you.

Take an assessment of what is on your back and in your car and in your heart and imagine what it would be like to be free of it. Look, if I imagine myself free of my dad’s memory I want to vomit. So thank you very much but I will keep that one. The rest though? The guilt and the drama that doesn’t belong to me or that once belonged to me? Goodbye. I am putting you back with the cast iron skillet and melons that aren’t mine.

What? You think as you get older the weight gets lighter? It doesn’t. It gets heavier and heavier until you are buried in a pile of it and you can’t even reach to the front door to get the pizza from the delivery guy and he’s just out there waiting like it was a prank.

Put it down. Let it go. You don’t need what isn’t yours. You don’t need what you think you need. You don’t need a big bag there on your arm and a houseful of boxes.

What do you need?

Here’s a list I made for you.








Wine (!)



Whatever makes you happy.

Whatever makes you happy.

Whatever makes you happy.

I wanted to write it three times for emphasis.

That was the point of the whole essay, it just took me a while to get to it. Go write this somewhere: What makes me happy. Write them down. Carry them if you want. Keep looking for those things.


Beating Fear with a Stick, loss, my book

Who’s Going To Want Me?

January 6, 2013

Who’s going to want me?

So much of it all boils down to that, doesn’t it?

Who’s going to want me now that I am _____. Put whatever you want in the blank. Go ahead.

Now that I am: Fatherless. Fat. An orphan. Old. Broken. Divorced. Handicapped. Widowed. Left. No Longer Have Perky Tits. Deaf. An Amputee. An Athiest. Sober. A Alcoholic. Lonely. Honest. Motherless. Childless. With Children. Ugly. Bald. Go ahead, put your word in.

You may wake up one day at 5:33 in the morning and shoot up out of bed as if from a nightmare where your car was flying off a cliff and you may find yourself once again muttering those words. Who’s going to want me now that I’m dead?

You’re not dead though. You woke from the dream. See, you are sitting right here, your head matted with sweat, the back of your neck hot and cold at the same time and you are reading these words and nodding along and you are very much alive.

There’s this line from my favorite Robert Lowell poem, Night Sweat, the last line of the poem:

If I cannot clear the surface of these troubled waters here,

absolve me, help me, Dear Heart, as you bear

this world’s dead weight and cycle on your back

He wrote about having nothing to write about, a variation on the good old Who will want me is Who will read me? How much dead weight we carry. Look how much.

My friend Steve Bridges died last year. His sweet little maid found him on his couch like he’d fallen asleep watching television. She’d tried to cover him with a blanket at first until she realized what the reality was. I don’t ever wish that I’d been her that morning, covering Mr. Steve with a Mexican blanket only to realize that no matter he’d always stay cold.

She’d worked for him for years, they’d sat in his kitchen while she cleaned and he wrote and laugh and laugh and she’d loved him. So when she realized he wasn’t sleeping but dead, her sweet little heart must have stopped and I would wager a bet it has been beating a little differently since that morning. Perhaps that thought came rushing at her one morning in her own bed, Who’s going to want me now? Who will make me laugh in their kitchen? 

When he died, I kept teaching my yoga classes, but I would have to turn around so that my back faced the class. I would cry and then wipe the tears and tell them to take a vinyasa or do child’s pose. Sometimes I just let the tears fall because the truth of the matter is that they expected nothing less than for me to take him right into class with me that week. They commended me for my willingness to show them my suffering and heartache because they had felt it too, and sometimes we actually need to remember that feeling, that raw my gut is ripped out feeling so we wake the fuck up. We all woke up that week or two after he died.

Steve and I hadn’t known each other terribly long. Oh, but we had. (Isn’t that such a yoga teachery thing to say?) We had known each other our whole lives so when we met it was not a thing. He started coming on my retreats and I referred to him as my brother and he referred to me as his teacher, his agent, his sister, his friend. We loved each other, we did. With Steve, I never felt the ghost of Who’s going to want me now? 

Yes, I am married. It’s beyond that even. It’s a cellular level instinct that goes way behind the logical, the rational, the explainable, all the way to the center of the Earth where it pierces and shrieks.

He listened to me. He saw me in a way few others have ever seen me. When he died, that shriek howled from the depths of the world and knocked me over, right in the middle of the street. It was impossible. Impossible that he was dead. I tried crawling my way through the dirt and mud towards that sound coming from below but I was stuck, reeling from the explosion, I was stuck. I couldn’t get him back.

Before he died, the last conversation we had actually, was in Mexico. It was the last day of my retreat and we sat eye to eye as everyone else took pictures of themselves doing various yoga poses below on the beach. He told me that he wanted a family. He said something to the effect of I can’t leave the earth without having a child. In the movie version, I will insert some foreboding music there so we know its foreshadowing and that he will never ever have a child. We should know this when the music plays and the two people sit eye to eye above a Mexican beach as happy as they’ve ever been with such a knowing that the Who’s Going to Want Me Now? is so far in the past, because, to have found a tribe like this, nothing could ever go wrong, all was good in the world. All was safe.

I didn’t get over his death but I kept going. It’s what we do. Someone dies and you keep going. That is Choice A. Choice B is you die. I did not die nor did I want to, to so I kept going. Eventually I felt a little less sad because, Time, that ruthless beast, does that. It softens you in some places and that the same time ages you and hardens you but mostly it dulls the pain. Believe me on this. If we remembered all our visits to the dentists and all our heartbreaks with clarity we would have rotting mouths and we’d all be alone in our rooms watching The Bachelor.

This morning I popped up at 5:33 in the morning. I am on England time so it is 8 hours ahead. I popped up and Who’s going to want me now clamored me over the top of the head. I was reading an article on The NY Times about the incomparable George Saunders’ newest book. He is 54 and started publishing at 37. I thought: Oh, Ok, Good. I’m ok. I am around that age.

But then.

I have not published anything yet. No books, no short stories. I am Saunders age when he wrote his first book and what have I done so far? I have been a waitress for decades and now a yoga teacher and here it is. Drumroll, it’s coming: Who Is Going To Want Me Now?

Right over the fucking head like a bat.

I am not looking for advice. I am talking about a deep guttural voice with a trajectory to nowhere that I have to conquer on my own like I am in a battle zone. And I am. With my life.

I do not know who will want me. I can let that stop me and not write my book and not try to publish it or I can write it and have a deep knowing that someone will take it and if they don’t, they don’t. I will then keep going. I will not use it as some sort of empirical proof to say See? See? No One Wants me.

Every time someone has left me (there’ve been two major ones, three if you count my father), I have questioned who would ever want me again as if they were the only two men on the planet and I was an untouchable.

Someone did want. Many did. Not just men and not just sexual. You are reading my words. You want me. But screw all that. Here’s the kick in the pants I was talking about the other day: I want me.

Most days. Most days I want me and from there I go. I go from there armed with my self-love and my husband and my indefatigable urge to write write write.

Then there are days like today where I wake up and my heart has fallen out and rolled somewhere under the bed next to some old birthday cards and a shoe. I have to crawl around in the dark and move through some dust, but I find it and screw it back in. It happens. It’s bound to do that once in a while because there is some ancient agreement I must have signed long ago before I knew I was signing it. I ripped up the agreement but there are days when the memory of the signature is strong enough to stop me in my tracks and have me say to myself Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Finally I am getting to it. The point. Who do you think you are? Go back to your blanks. Fat, Legless, Manless, Childless, No Longer Young, whatever it was you signed to on that contract, I want you to scribble it out. Get a black magic marker or some other stinky kind of pen and scribble it out at least a hundred times. Then, leave it blank.

You think 38 years old sums you up? You think divorced says it all?

You can’t define yourself in a word. You are a world, Dear Heart.






A little clip of Steve and I.

Forgiveness, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, Letting Go

When You Finally Forgive.

December 29, 2012

I suppose almost everyone who writes is afflicted some of the time by the suspicion that nobody out there is listening ~Joan Didion


Its like this: You get on the bus, you get off, you get on. Its red. Its blue. It doesn’t matter what color it is.

It’s trudging along down the Putney High Street in London. Its speeding down the expressway in New Jersey. You’re on it. That’s the point.

You’re on it and you are always getting on and getting off and taking bags unless you have none but the day you have none hasn’t happened yet, so you get off or on with your bags and you find a seat and you go where the bus takes you. Again and again.

You didn’t know when you got on (not at first, anyway) where the bus was going. But when you see the other passengers, when the lady next to you tells you she talks more, I talk a lot, since my husband died. He was 82- you know. You know exactly where this bus is going.

You tell her: It’s ok. That you will listen.

So you listen.

Here’s what she says: We were married a long time, four kids, nine grandkids. He had an affair, twice. I forgave him. You ever forgive someone like that? Do you know what it’s like just to outright forgive someone like that?


There was the time in ninth grade when you walked in and your best friend was kissing the guy you were sort of dating (but totally loved!) and you forgave her. That same guy, whom you reunited with ten years later, after seeing a video camera on his desk the whole two weeks you stayed with him in Philadelphia, you nervously suggested: Why don’t we, you know, video ourselves the last night I’m here? Then watching the tape he sent in the mail (in the mail!) and Oh My God I can’t believe I’m watching this and then realizing that the last night wasn’t the last night at all, but the first and the second night and every night thereafter.

He’d recorded the entire two weeks without your knowledge. A fluke that you happened suggested it that last night. But what if you hadn’t suggested it? He would have still been recording you those other nights and what then? A betrayal you don’t know about- a betrayal nonetheless. Or is it?

If a betrayal falls in the forest and no one knows, does it make a sound? If he records you having sex without your knowledge and you never find out, not when you are thirty, or forty, or say, even on your death bed- does it affect the natural order of things? Have you been betrayed if you know not of it? Does the betrayal still exist?

It was your idea he’d said, you wanted to do this, when you confronted him with all the gumption you possessed in your late twenties. And you forgave him, but you didn’t really, you didn’t know what else to do, you’d never done anything like this before and maybe this is the punishment you got for wanting to be intimate with someone you thought you (totally!) loved by fucking in front of a video camera. Maybe this is what you got? All your kisses and blow jobs recorded without your knowledge and maybe you didn’t forgive at all but rather, stuck that little VHS tape in your back pocket so you could throw out the window of the bus, down into the river? Maybe you didn’t think you had a right to be angry, or that you deserved to have a voice? Maybe you thought you were the one that had to say I’m sorry? So many maybes when we look down the barrel of the past.

Watching yourself on that dumb mailed VHS tape and thinking: That is me.

That is me and that is me, and right there? That is me, without me knowing its me. 

What an asshole, you think.

You have permission to throw him down the river, although with time the asshole-ness will fade and you will shake your head at the outrageousness of it all, and the I can’t believe I got that upset-ness of it all. He will still be an asshole although he may be less of an asshole now that he has kids and has grown up a bit, but that is neither here nor there, is it? He betrayed you and you forgave him, but not really. Not fully, not until you throw him from the bus in the rain and watch the stupid VHS tape drown in the dirty river while people watch and wonder what did that chick chuck from the bus window?

And you think that if they knew you were throwing away anger and resentment and betrayal and not speaking up for yourself and drunken sex that they would understand and clap there on the sidewalk but the truth is that there are no people- no one really cares, they are all too busy fussing over their own scandalous sex tapes and lies and misgivings, and in fact, you threw nothing from the window at all. You just stuck your head out for a little air.


Then there was the woman your father was screwing. Before he died. She’d done it with other men as well. You knew. So young, seven years old, and you knew. You know her name (but you won’t say it, not so many years later, not here,) because she probably has her own grandkids now, it was so long ago. She could be like the woman sitting next to you on the bus, for all you know. She could be chatting up a stranger on a bus, trying to talk to anyone who would pay attention. Isn’t that what most of us spend our lives doing anyway? Someone please listen to me? Pay attention.

She started like a cold. No big deal. Then all of a sudden, a full blown flu, like a I think I need to leave my wife and kids flu except that isn’t how you and your mom and sister are left. You are left in the he dropped-dead-in-the-middle-of-the-night-by-choking-on-his own-vomit kind of left.

You forgave that. At least his death.

The woman, the affair, and let’s face it, his death- they’re still with you on the bus with all your other shit.


On the way to London my suitcase cracked. The airline damaged it and claimed responsibility. They offered to replace it and send over a new suitcase. I was tempted to say: No, I don’t want to take anything back. Let me leave it all. Every last thing. All my dirty underwear and sweaters and mismatched socks. Who needs it anyway?

My husband: Babe, you need it. You need a case.

Literal, logical, loving husband.

I told the woman all of this on the bus. The beautiful black woman who was 80 but looked 50. The woman whose husband had been with her all of her life (but cheated twice that we know of) and had just died. And now she was left talking and talking and who was listening to me now? she often asked no one in particular, in bank lines and bus stops.


New suitcase came. Black with purple satin inside. Like I was royalty. My old case was orange and plastic with wine stains from when a bottle of red wine cracked in it in Paris. It was ugly and stained. And broken. But hell, if I wasn’t sad to see it go. How I wanted to fix it, salvage it, and drag it on and off every bus for the rest of my life.

The old woman on the bus says: Take your shit back with you. Take what you need. Leave the rest.

I lean over and touch her nonchalantly. She’s real.

She says: Get off.

This is your stop.

Or maybe she didn’t say that. Maybe she didn’t say any of that. Maybe it was just time.


The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to 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.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.