Browsing Tag

light sender

Contests & Giveaways, manifesting, Tribe

Build Your Following.

March 26, 2013

Hey my beloved Tribe,

This is a video interview I did with my dear buddy Chuck Peterson last summer that was  previously for sale but I am posting it here FREE because I love the bleep out of you.

If you are looking to build your following at all, check it out. I hope you find it useful. Love you guys. PS, have you done any of my classes online at Yogis Anonymous? Here they are. Use code jenp10 and get 10 free days!!


Feel free to share this! I am headed to the east coast April 1-9. Massachusetts, NYC, Philly and NJ. Stay tuned xo jen

And So It Is, How To, Inspiration

The Best Things and The Worst Things.

February 25, 2013

The best and the worst things.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes they get muddled together and maybe some words switch places and then one day you don’t know which is the truer one? The best and the worst things of our lives sometimes so intertwined that the father dying gets confused with the doughnut and the baby being born becomes the ghost. The best and the worst things climbing the walls of your mind and some days the one that makes it out alive is a hybrid of all that ever was.

The best and the worst and the days in between.

Yesterday I asked my Facebook Tribe to fill in the blanks. Here’s what I wrote:

The best thing that someone has ever said to me was ______. The best thing I ever said to me was _______. The worst thing I ever said to me was _______. Be honest & brave. 

I forgive you. It’s going to be okay. I don’t want to be alive anymore.

When I grow up I want to be you. I am proud of my body. I suck at being a mother. 

You are an inspiration. You deserve everything life has to offer- you are good enough. You aren’t good enough to be loved.

Those were just a few of the responses.

How quickly we can end up in the very worst storm. How easy it is to get trapped on the very worst island. How familiar it is to be with the very worst things.

The very worst things for me have been things I have said to myself. The worst things that happened were the death of my father and the other losses and trauma I have suffered, but once you move through them (and you do!) you find the second best very worst things come from your own brain. Your own brain, that Godammned traitor! Your brain who you stood by all those years and helped through the loss of your father and the news that your nephew had a rare genetic disorder.

Your brain, which you thought was on your side but which turns out to take no sides at all.

The best things. How they cannot be trusted like the worst things. The worst things loom over them like a fat bully by a set of lockers. You think you can win? You can’t. I will always win. I am bigger and stronger the voice by the lockers will say as it reminds you of all the worst things that are possible. You are nothing. You are a mess. You are never going to finish. You deserve to die.

If you made a list of the best things and the worst things could you bear to look at it?

Would the You aren’t good enough get mixed up with I am proud of my body? Would you not know which one to trust? Oh, the very best things and the very worst things. Vying for space. Would the You are an inspiration shirk under the weight of I don’t want to be alive anymore if you hung them on your wall above the sofa?

This is what happens with life, I suppose. There is so so much. There is so much to being a person in the world and we have to choose what we hang on the wall above the sofa. We have to choose what makes our top ten and what we pass on to our children over breakfast.

Imagine this for a moment: You are making eggs. You think, or maybe you even speak I suck at being a mother and your child gets his or her plate and takes less eggs than you would like (they never eat enough!) and they hear you (because that’s what kids do whether you speak it aloud or not) and now your very worst thing is hanging above the sofa and everyone knows it and sees it and stands around it like it is really there. When it’s not. It’s in the eggs and it’s in the air and your child will never acknowledge he or she heard you but they will swallow runny yolks and wonder why you suck at being a mother and maybe they will look for signs of such suckiness. Maybe they will prove to you that you suck at being a mother since that’s what’s hanging over the sofa. And then your very worst thing becomes the truth and most valued object in the house and people come over and sit on the sofa and try not look up at what you have hung above their heads.

Okay, that won’t happen. I hope not, at least. But it is so easy, isn’t it?

All the years I hated myself. I thought I was a monster. My very worst thing is all I spoke and so the monster lived with me. We shared a space and I fed it or starved it and it reminded me how ugly and fat I was and I showed people as often as I could. I am disgusting the monster/me would say to them.

My algorithms were off.

Algorithms are essential to the way computers process data. As it is with us.

What, you think you are that different than a computer? I know I’m not. Input, output, send, delete, process, store. All of it. The same.

I have filed things in the wrong places and then when I went to look for them I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I took what I could find and hung it above my sofa. Right there on the wall.

This is how the dictionary defines algorithms: a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation.

I hate math. I went to a therapist as child because of my math phobia but I am going to break it down for you in my math-phobic way.

The greatest divisor is our minds. How we process it. It messes up the very best things and the worst things and muddles them in such a way that it becomes finite. That’s that. That’s the truth. That’s just the way it is. Forever and ever and ever.

Repetition of an operation. Well, that’s life for you, isn’t it? This wheel keeps on turning. You keep going around and around and repeating the same things. People are born. They die. They say things. Things happen or they don’t. You keep hanging things on the wall above the sofa.

I am looking for a system that organizes itself but I am not sure that will ever happen. I think I need to keep manually separating the very best things with the very worst and the beauty from the garbage.

Euclid was the ancient Greek man who invented the algorithm and geometry as we know it. His name literally translates into Good Glory. I like that. I get that he was all into numbers and stuff, but, I think there was something more. I think perhaps he was teaching us in his way about how to live in the very best way with the very best things in all our good glory.

May you live in all your good glory and keep reminding yourself the best things. Over and over.


xo jen


And So It Is, Awe & Wonder, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

In The Voice of Someone Who Loves You.

February 19, 2013

**This essay is dedicated to all my Manifestation Maui Retreat Tribe members.

I am on Maui contemplating lost continents and lost lives.

It’s rainy and windy and mostly gray. Ronan passed away the day I flew here. He was almost three and he was suffering, badly. It was time. But, just because it was time doesn’t mean it made sense or it was fair or you didn’t want to pound your fists on a table and watch the shells and lamps fall onto the floor in millions of pieces and it also didn’t mean that you didn’t want to step on the broken glass with bare feet so you could feel something akin to being broken.

I got on the plane anyway, despite the sad news. I had a retreat to lead in Maui. People paid thousands and thousands of dollars to be there with me, and besides, me not going wouldn’t un-lose any lives. There’s that.

When I landed on the island my husband texted me from Los Angeles to tell me that his cousin and dear friend had had a heart attack as he was driving and died right before he crashed the car.

Lost lives. 

Yesterday morning, in the Manifestation workshop at my retreat, I asked my group to pick someone who loved them. They sat their on their mats and got misty eyed and nodded their heads to signal me that they had the image of that person in their minds, that their person had been picked.  Now, I said, write a description of yourself in the voice of that person. 

They read them aloud. One said this: 
Kelly you are beautiful, strong and important. You don’t need to change to be accepted. You are enough – good enough – kind enough. I love you for your compassion. You are beautiful and strong. You don’t need to struggle so much with who are. You are enough just the way you are. You aren’t how much you lift or how much you workout or how skinny you are. You a beautiful – you are strong – you are enough. You need to just believe it yourself. Love, Dad.

People started writing. Some sobbed. After the pens came down I asked why it had been so hard for them.  A woman in my group said because he believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. 

The things that break me. One: people saying Your dad would be so proud of you. A knife in my gut. It’s a here take this blade right in your heart. It’s always been that way and I have surrendered to the fact that it may always be that way.  

One of the girls on my retreat who is here from South Dakota told me at dinner last night that her 17 year old son was having a hard time. Melissa Shattuck showed me the text message she’d sent him: 

Only in stillness every day do we touch the realm of infinite potential, that space of our highest self. What are your intentions….put them into that space where you are in a deep state of quiet and calm. Talk and listen to the Universe/God in this way. Let it know what you want and that you want it with every cell of your being…..and then sweet heart you let it go…..the Universe/God will bring it to fruition at just the perfect moment and has a grander plan for our lives than you or I could ever think of….You are loved and adored and treasured!! And I think you are the most amazing person. And you’ll do it. You’ll live the life of your dreams… doubt about it. You are good and you are deserving, so deserving of everything you want. Much Love… Mom. 

I passed her phone back to her and let the knife stay there in my heart.

I went and meditated the next morning in a group sitting.There was this man there, Claudio, who apparently was “enlightened.” Now, I am not sure what that means but this man was special. He looked into my eyes for about 5 minutes straight without blinking. His mouth did these little twists and turns at the corners so it looked like he was going to cry and then a smile would sweep across his face as big as an ocean and he spoke something about oceans and being the ocean and not the wave and sitting in infinity. I didn’t really understand and yet I did.

Lost lives.

I started crying when he looked into my eyes because I felt safe and loved and his face turned into my friend’s Steve’s face who had passed away last year.

Lost lives.

Lemuria, the lost continent of the Pacific and I am here and there are no more lost lives when I look into Claudio’s eyes. He is saying we are the ocean. There is no separation. 

So when I asked my retreat folks to write those descriptions of themselves in the voice of someone who loved them you see, it was like asking for the infinity. There is no separation.

Their voice is my voice is your voice is the ocean is the baby is the I behind the I and then who is the I?

I am here thinking of lost lives and lost continents and lost beliefs. When did I lose this belief in myself? some of the people here have asked me. Not so much me as they are asking the wind and the lawn and the journal in front of them. It’s not lost, I tell them.  Nothing is lost. You are right here, where you always were, I say pointing to the place where they know their heart should be but where some think there is nothing but a windy hole. 

I am leading my retreat at a place called Lumeria in Maui, on the north shore of the island. 

Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical lost land located somewhere between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Stories of Lemuria vary, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean.  An ancient civilization which existed prior to the time of Atlantis simply disappeared. Gone. Lost lives. Lemuria is also sometimes referred to as Mu, or the Motherland (of Mu). At its peak of civilization, the Lemurian people were both highly evolved and very spiritual. You can’t help but feel that here. You are infinite in all directions, says Claudio, and even though you have no idea in God’s name what that means you understand and know it to be true.

Concrete physical evidence of this ancient continent is difficult to find just as you may feel that any concrete evidence of you may be hard to find. Who is the you? Who is the I? Where are the lost lives? You may scribble in your journal or think in your mind which is always thinking thinking thinking.

(Look harder. Listen closer.)

Those descriptions written in the voice of someone who loves you, you might read them and think this person they are speaking of has sunk into the sea. This person does not exist anymore and in fact may never have existed. It may be a myth. You know nothing.

It is the concrete evidence.

Continents can move and float on the surface of the ocean so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same? Maybe you simply shifted or some geographical error occurred or maybe it wasn’t an error at all, maybe you forgot where you were? Maybe you were lost at sea. But see that description there? The one you wrote in the voice of someone who loves you? That is your map. You are no longer lost. You are no longer one of the lost lives or lost continents. You are here I say pointing to the place where your heart actually is. The place where I will now take the knife out of because my father wouldn’t be so proud of me.

It is not a hypothetical thing. He is proud of me. He is. The would be makes it myth. The would be makes it legend. It is fact. He is proud of me. As I am proud of me. My voice is his voice.

I don’t know if Lemuria existed or not but I am here at Lumeria and I fancy the idea. I am contemplating all that was lost and all that thought it was, but wasn’t lost at all. That place, right there. Your heart.

The ocean is the I is the heart is the you is the everything. 

I hope the son of the woman gets the text message she sent him and prints it. I hope he he saves it so one day when I ask him to write something about himself in the voice of someone who loves him, he can reach for it in his pocket and say I have it right here. In fact, I memorized it.

It is the ocean is the I is the everything is the love.

It will never have been lost. I hope that for him.

For all of us.




Beating Fear with a Stick, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing

Beating Fear With a Stick. Must Read of the Day.

January 24, 2013

With permission I am sharing this letter I just received. I will leave it anonymous. Please please reply in the comment section to this lovely person and let her know how NOT alone she is. How surrounded by love she is. How beautiful every single part of her is. Love you guys. Thank you for being a part of my Tribe. Thank you.

Hey Jennifer! 

 I don’t know if there really is truly a simple or even possible way to express the joy that I had in being in your Atlanta workshop. I will have to start with a simple…Thank You.

You asked how I found you and I think the real answer is…I ordered you into my life, as I am doing, but was not aware, I’ve always done, with all things in my life. I am building what I call, my own guidebook, navigating my soul, through this human experience, to continue to evolve. I’m asking for clear direction, not just change. I am “doing”, to try and get clear in my life, to find my calling,

“Why I am here? How should I serve? Why should I serve?” –my purpose. I don’t believe in the sort of atypical dictionary definition of coincidence: ‘A remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.’ I rather think that, the coincidences show up in our lives as whispers, as jolts to remind us of where we are in our thoughts. Maybe it’s best defined as, “What you think about, you bring about in form, as ordered by ones thoughts and intentions”. In my definition of coincidence, it makes sense to me as to why I found you. I am a lover and believer of quotes, that words matter, that the intention behind the word is even greater. I am thankful that Karen Salmonsohn followed me one day on my twitter account, and that I returned the follow by finding her on Facebook, and then seeing a posting she made one day on Facebook about you, that brought me to you, and to meeting you in your beautiful, transformative workshop on January 20, 2013 in Georgia. 

I was hesitant and scared to begin, really begin the practice of Yoga, to let my breath out, to learn how to breathe, maybe for the first time. I knew from my past experience of 9 months of school to become a certified Massage Therapist, that bodywork can break a person open. It did for me, when I was in massage school. I left broken…broken completely open and apart, a shell of myself. I ended up in the hospital after attempting suicide while in school. This is much easier to write then it would ever be to be able to share in person, and only the close people in my life know of this happening in my life. I guess I trust you, which is kinda of crazy because I barely know you, but somehow, I felt you…I felt you this past Sunday!

We did an exercise in the early part of our teaching while in massage school that I will never forget. We went around the room placing the palms of our hands against another persons hands, while standing looking into the eyes of the other person, and saying the words, “I see you”. It started slowly, we began with standing for just a few seconds in front of the other person and then, with each person we moved to, the time we spent holding palms to palms increased. The instructor would say, “ok, move to the next person”. As the seconds built between each meeting, my comfort level built. I didn’t feel a connection with most, but there was one girl that I felt an immediate connection with, almost a peace, an utter knowing of safety and only good intention from, and I felt this jolt and feeling that she could see right through me. It was the first time in my life I knew what I was feeling, and that is was okay, yet I was also completely aware of what that would mean to be around her… I couldn’t hide my “shit”, as you might say ;), if I’m around her. This ALWAYS scares me to the core, and makes me feel a push and pull from this type of person. I’m intrigued by their knowing; however, frightened by what it may conger up in me and bring out of me, that could leave me vulnerable, not able to function, feeling too vulnerable and confused, not feeling grounded, open to another breakdown, that I may not be able to handle and recover from. Typically I just end up never interacting with such an individual that I feel this connection with because, they feel invasive to me, too curious about me, and that just kind of just freaks me out.

At the end of class, when I approached you to thank you, I felt you could see right through me. Just like the girl from massage school. When I broke down crying, once again, I knew I had to get out of there. It was too much. I felt all the women looking at me thinking, “Wow, she’s a real mess! I might have cried in class myself although, I can tell her crying is coming for a much more confused, complicated place. I wouldn’t want to become friends with that one with a ten foot pole. “

I knew that taking your class meant I would cry. I knew that taking your class meant people would see me broken again. I knew if I didn’t want that to happen, I would have to resist showing emotion as much as possible, which may also make me seem less open, but I may have to appear this way in order to protect myself from a breakdown. But, then of course, in truth… I also knew, that’s just not me, to able to completely hold back emotion when I feel someone might be ok with me showing it. And, so… it happened. I felt disconnected from myself, scared and embarrassed that I cried and was not in control of my feelings, when I stood and read my thoughts in front of everyone and, when I met you at the end of class. I felt like a failure, because to me, it was not just me crying, it was me showing that I was having another mini breakdown.

Sometimes I exist as just one big olde emotion always trying to act like I’m not, while complete torture and anxiety exists within. I am very self deprecating. I know its what keeps people not wanting to be my friend, along with being too complicated. I know as soon as women see this in me, they run.

Believe it or not, even with all my sharing and rambling right now, I have been hesitant and scared to write to you. I feel you might be “change” and I’m frightened what “the change” could mean and bring for me, if I can handle it, if it’s right for me. I shared a little about your workshop with my bestie today, and she is the one that said I just need to write to you…to try and see what it may bring. 

I am always a seeker, but I have moments when I just want to hide, turn inside of myself and not interact with anyone, not be seen, because I don’t feel worthy of being seen or heard. I’m so in and out of this right now. I’ve been lost for most, if not all, of my whole life. Stuck!!!! Especially since the time of the suicide attempt in. My main mantra in my head goes as follows: “I’m too ugly! My face with all of my acne scars is sooooo ugly. I did this to myself! Why??? I picked and still pick. I created this mess. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror without gasping. What happened to me? I could have been beautiful. I’m not good enough! Why even try? I don’t know if I will be able to handle it, if what I am working on or was working on, takes off. I don’t know if anyone would ever like me or want me enough to really become a friend in my life, once they see all of me, other than the two real friends, not acquaintances, that I currently have. I am trying very hard, to make friends with women, but it’s been a struggle to turn acquaintances into friendships. I think they just see me as weird, confused, and too much trouble. I’m nothing, that’s why I should just let go.”

Then, there is the other side of me that says, “Hell no, don’t try and tell me who I am!!! If I want it, I can get it, but I have to know it’s what I really, really want in my life because, I will give it everything!!! Every part of me, my whole heart, all my energy, all my will. I always want to be the best at what I pursue, my OCD kicks in, and I seek perfection, which makes me vulnerable and open to become broken once again and, I don’t know if I will be able to, once again, pick myself up. Why am I so insecure? Why not me? Why do I see myself as always less than? Why do I feel I’m not worthy to be in any space that I am in? Why do I fear people? Why do I feel not worthy of being in any public place, as if everyone is looking at me saying, “Why are you here?” Fear, why so much fear?! How can I truly, for real….really understand and tackle this constant insecurity and fear, and know that I am ALWAYS enough, just as I am. Be comfortable with myself, love myself, and know because I am…I am worthy of all things.” I have had moments where I am lifted, where I feel loved, and know this and feel this for myself, and good things come in. I know it’s where I can be and need to be, it’s just hard to crawl out of the rabbit hole again, when it feels so familiar to just keep falling, since it’s what I know, where I feel protected…safe, yet completely unfulfilled and unhappy in this hole. The good thing is now, I’m trying to really hold on, to ask the right questions for myself, and find the answers that I am hoping will propel me forward, give me my life back, and help me to know and do my purpose. 

I’m not currently employed. I have a significant other of many years, who has been supportive of me, most of the time. In the times that he has not been supportive, he has every right to feel this way, my struggles are deep and profound, and they are way too much to ask of anyone to carry, or feel the need to carry and fix. We struggle a lot in our relationship together, and as of late, we are now coming to a crossroad, and things are clear that we are going to need to break-up, or change most ways we interact with one another & the directions in our lives, if we want to stay together. I feel like I’m barely functioning, once again in my life. I worked soooooooo hard to get out of this place, and now I’m fighting, to not completely sink in again, into the hole. There it is, my truth. I am doing and looking for answers, and your workshop definitely sparked more questions for me to ask and seek answers to for myself. Thank you again!! I felt privileged to be able to attend your workshop and be in the presence of like minded people, and to be able to meet the woman that inspires me with each and every word she writes. You have a gift!!! Don’t ever stop sharing! My wish for you…that you also take time for you. I know how draining it is to help and want to help so many. You deserve your time to refuel, to recenter, and connect to you, without the noise of what is swirling around you. I hope you have placed this time for yourself in your journey. You deserve every millisecond of it!! 

LOVE to you!!!


Awe & Wonder

The Point of it All.

January 16, 2013

I write and I write and I will keep writing and the reason why?


I love emails like this. This was sent after reading last night’s essay called Light Sender. 

Dear Jennifer,

This morning felt wrong. I realized that if I let myself, I could really sink down, down, down into sadness and loneliness.

Almost every night I get a twinge of it, and I shake myself. I kiss Mattie (my son) or I lay down with him and I ignore the inclination to dive headfirst into the pit of negative emotions I’ve got swirling around. It’s exhausting to keep myself above it.

This morning I almost had to pull the car over, the sadness gripping me like a band constricting around my chest.

I am torn. I think…I think if I didn’t have Mattie, I’d be in it. I’d float in it and write about it. But I can’t allow that. The writer in me craves it, though. I always write best when I’m feeling a terrible emotion, or a blissful one. I can’t seem to feel the happiness any more, and so the sadness is calling me home. But I don’t go, because I have a son who needs a mother who can show him how to be happy and healthy. And so I’ve been teetering on the edge of this, balancing myself between duty and misery.

Enter Jen Pastiloff, the magnificent writer Yogi who has been showing me the way out of this. I’ve been following you on Facebook, reading the blog posts that you share, and absorbing every one of them. This morning though I was dangerously close to collapsing in on myself, and I read what you posted today about light, and about darkness. You even posted it with an excerpt from Mary Oliver, who is my favorite poet.

Well today you wrote, “The chains I dragged around were heavy and unwieldy by I managed them because to let go would mean I would have to face the fact that there was indeed a light inside of me…” and I was floored. I mean, bowled over. I think it’s the first time I’ve realized that maybe I’m afraid of happiness. Afraid of losing it, and afraid of beings someone other than who I am right now.

I wanted to thank you for your words today. It isn’t better, or fixed, but it’s a beginning. A way out.

Aleister Crowley said that “the breaks manifest light.” Well, I’ve been broken, and just barely holding myself together. Maybe what I need is to let the light shine through those cracks and cast off this old way of being – so sad, so tired, so alone. Thank you for writing so openly and honestly, and thank you for inspiring me to move beyond coping with depression and find a way to actually deal with it. Heal it. Thank you.



Keep going Light Senders. Keep going. Keep shining. I am here. I got you. Lauren and all the other Tribe members out there, I got you.

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick

Light Sender.

January 15, 2013

Click to connect with my partner in this project Karen Salmansohn

Light Sender.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine. 

~Mary Oliver When I am Among The Trees.

So why are you not letting yourself be filled?

Why are you not yelling from mountaintops who you are?

Climb that mountain. Go on. Get up there. You were born to do this, and the sooner you realize this fact, that you are among the trees, that you were always among the trees, that there wasn’t a day in your life that you were not among the trees, the sooner you send your light out and light up the world. It comes from you.

The thing is, when you send it out, you can literally feel yourself being refueled with all that golden light. Or purple. Or whatever color you imagine the light to be because light isn’t a color. It’s what’s inside you. It is what you are made up of even the times when you felt that you had no light inside of you, that all you had inside of you was a ball of pain and mud and heartache.

Get up there on that mountain. Yell into the wind what you are willing to send out into the world. Send it out in a little vessel. Send it out to anyone who will listen, anyone who needs to be inspired by someone like you. You, who’s willing to get up there on a mountaintop.

I offer you my light.

I send it out to you and hope that you can feel it on your back, or maybe on your head, an energy which if it could speak would say to you: I got you.

It’s right there with you as you are reading this, as you are making eggs for your kids, as you are sitting by your father’s bedside and reading him stories, as you turn off the lamp by your bedside and roll into an emptiness where a body used to be. All of it. It’s yours. Take it. It will never extinguish.

I didn’t trust was any light inside of me for a long time. I will not share my words with the world because there’s nothing worth sharing, I would think as I combed the streets of NYC like some kind of starving warrior. A darkness akin to dying lived inside of me. Light was something woo-woo that yoga teachers and the like spoke of. I had no idea of any such light.

I couldn’t imagine my darkness ever brightening so I succumbed to it like a slave, hackled by my own sludge and shit. The chains I dragged around were heavy and unwieldily but I managed them because to let go would mean I would have to face the fact that there was indeed a light inside of me, that underneath the chains was a small but steady light. I carried around the chains for years and kept myself all to myself. You can have none of me because there is none of me worth having. 

When I was in my early twenties I lived in mid-town Manhattan in a hotel next to a fire station. NYU housing was overflowing so they’d stuck me in a weird hotel right out of The Shining. If the red light on top of the fire station was flashing it’d meant there was a fire, growing or dying somewhere between Thirty-first and Seventh and Fortieth and Sixth. Stations were frequent: the trucks had trouble making it through traffic. Taxis never moved out of the way.

Nights I would hear the firemen pass their time. While waiting for fires to ignite they’d play basketball. The dribbling kept me awake, but they only played between fires so games didn’t last very long. And I’d felt safe. If ever there were a fire they’d be there in a flash.

I’d lie in my hotel bed counting dribbles while thinking of poems I could write about them. I never did though. I never got out of bed and grabbed a paper and wrote the poem about the firemen or the basketball or how weird it was to live in a hotel with crusty towels. Instead I laid in bed and wished I had a cheeseburger so I could smell it and pick at the lettuce or pickles. I would have never eaten the actual burger or the bread but the smell of it was enough to finally kill my hunger pains. I’d pass my time dreaming of food while the firemen threw balls to pass theirs. Were we so different? I thought, all of us waiting for something?

Waiting for the fire to change us.

I also lived next to a fire station while I was in high school in New Jersey. The men in my neighborhood, all fire fighters. When that siren went off in the middle of the night I’d imagine of my friend’s fathers slipping out of their mothers and into bulky fireproof suits. And I’d dream that same dream: our house burning and I am on a ladder in the yard. I am seven, saving everyone. I am pulling them all up the rungs, my mother, my father, my sister. I could never save myself. I’d stay at the bottom of the ladder and be eaten by black smoke until I woke.

In New York, I used to watch the firemens’ feet talk to me and ignore their voices. The feet give it all away. Nervous and fidgety. Pressing the earth for ideas as if language can split the pavement, enter their bodies like heat through their feet and make them whole.

As if language was strong enough to crack the earth, as if it could be kept underfoot. As if words could form themselves and penetrate through bone, into the blood, and out the mouth. As if it were as comfortable, as controllable as fire.

What I found out was this: language can crack the earth. It can spilt the pavement. It has! It has opened up and swallowed me. I can’t stop writing now for the life of me. For better or worse, it has cracked my darkness, and I can’t stop sending my light out into the world with a clear knowing that whoever receives it will be just the right person in need.

What I am telling you is that if you climb that mountain, which I am hoping you will choose to do, that your light will spread across a page of the night and no matter how many fireman put down their basketballs to come and put it out, your light can never be extinguished.

It was always there. You may have just been tied to a ladder. You may have been inhaling smoke. You may have been starving yourself or drinking too much or failing out of school. Whatever it is, or was, the light is there inside of you and it is your birthright to send it out. You absolutely cannot hoard it.

Writing might not be your thing. I don’t know what your thing is. It might be that you are a great mother. You are an incredible friend. You are an artist. You cook a mean chili. You are kind.

Whatever it is, you have to let us know. We are here waiting with the rest of the trees.

You have to get up out of the bed and write that poem instead of laying there dreaming of dying and hamburgers. You have to unshackle yourself from the chains around your ankles, because, quite truthfully, you put them there. You have the key. You have to climb the mountain and throw the key from the top as you yell Here I am. This is where I stand.

Sit down on the top up there. After all, you climbed all the way up. You did that. Not me. Not your past. You, here and now. It was a steep climb and you almost fell, but you didn’t. Go on and sit down. And when the trees ask you to stay awhile, tell them: Yes, yes I plan to. In fact, I have always been here. I have always been the light.

Tell them that.

Although its nothing they didn’t already know. Even when you didn’t know it yourself. You have always been there.

You are a beacon of light.