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Dear Life., death, Grief, Guest Posts

Dear Life: How Do I Feel Alive Again After Losing Someone I Love?

May 31, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackWelcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author Megan Devine (check out Megan’s earlier gorgeous essay on The Manifest-Station.) Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us! Here is the link to submit your question.

Dear Life,

So I’m less than two years from losing my boyfriend in a motorcycle crash (we had a real life planned and I miss thoughts of that life) and I feel like I should get a pass for the first year because I was a zombie.

Now, however, I’m “alive” again and I’m struggling to find my motivation. Is that normal? How do I start caring again? I just can’t get there, about anything.

Things I’m unaware of hit me at the strangest, most unexpected times and I constantly feel apologetic for it. I’m now a crier, and before this I’d been through so much that made me cry that I’d become immune to tears. But here I am, near tears when I don’t know they’re there and I find myself angry at myself for that. Help?!

 ~Motorcycle Widow

Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

Image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

Dear One –

Two years is so early. It’s just a blink, isn’t it. Somehow it’s both an eternity since you last saw him, and just a moment ago that he was here. Of course you had “a real life planned.” Just because you weren’t married doesn’t mean your life together wasn’t real or serious. But we do that, don’t we – justify and defend, because so much is taken from us: the world doesn’t always see a boyfriend or a partner the same way it sees a husband or wife. Be assured, please, my love, that your relationship was real, is real, and it makes perfect sense that you miss that life, and that tears are now commonplace.

You ask about finding motivation, and whether it’s normal to struggle at this point in your grief, in your life.

It is. It’s entirely normal. When sudden death erupts into your life, your whole way of understanding the world is rocked. Knowing that it can all disappear at any moment tends to change a person’s interest in things. Previous interests – even things you loved – can seem futile.

You aren’t the person you were before. This experience of love that you’re living has knocked you off course. When you gain your footing again – and that takes the time it takes – you’re going to be facing a different direction. You’ll have to find out how you fit here now, who you are in this new place.

Another thing to remember is that grief is intense: it’s physical and emotional and spiritual and all sorts of other things. It takes a lot of energy to grieve. The first year, as you say, is a zombie year. For many people, year two is worse: your systems begin to come back online, your gaze is just slightly lifted from your feet. The world has changed. You have changed. You are still changing. The world hasn’t righted itself, and you are just aware enough to know it.

You’re aware enough to know you aren’t where you want to be, and still broken-hearted enough to not be able to do anything about it.

That you want something different for yourself, even as you have no energy to find something different – that is the beautiful place. That’s the place to lean on.

If there is any glimmer of interest, any spark of light or fascination, capture it. Lean into it. Lean towards it. Hurl yourself to face in that direction, even if that’s the only motion you can make. Face what is good. Face what is love. Want that for yourself.

Get greedy for those moments when you drop into your core, when you feel – not “right,” but righted. Darling, if anything draws you – follow it.

It doesn’t matter what you might “do” with any of those fleeting sparks of interest. You don’t need to find your direction, your path, through the rest of this life. You only need to take notice of what draws you, right now, and follow it. As best you can. One tiny little glimmer at a time.

 

And sometimes, there are no sparks. The world is empty and boring and full of things that make you cry.

You want it to be different. It isn’t different. That’s annoying.

You can’t fake interest. You can’t just tell yourself to buck up and get on with it, throwing yourself into things that are empty and dry. It won’t work.

At the same time, you don’t want to be this way.

You don’t want to cry. You don’t want tears leaking out at every possible moment, making you splotchy and weepy and red.

At the same time, there’s not a damn thing you can do about that.

Being angry at your own broken-heart is such a tricky thing.

It turns into this giant, escalating storm: tears. Then angry at tears. Then angry at yourself for being angry, for being unable to come to yourself with love. Angry that this is what you’ve got now: a reason to have tears, and anger about tears, instead of the life you were living. You had a good life. Now you don’t. More tears. More angry at self for having tears. And on and on and on and on it goes.

Can you just notice it? I mean – catch yourself? A thousand times a minute if you have to?

Can you recognize when you are heaping on the judgment and anger and frustration at who you are and what this is?

What this is is a broken heart inside a deeply changed human, still alive in a world that doesn’t make any sense.

The path here is to honor that, somehow. To allow it, to let it be okay that everything sucks and there is no point. To somehow stop apologizing for having a sensitized heart.

It isn’t easy. None of this is easy.

And you are here, still, now.

You deserve a life that is honest and true, even – or especially – when what is true is pain. When what is true is the blank space: the places that haven’t filled in.

The road here, the ‘what do to’ here, is to want love for yourself, even when you have no idea what that looks like. Even when you have no energy to explore it, even if you knew what it was.

I don’t know if it’s possible; I don’t know if it will help.

But heave yourself in that direction. Turn yourself back towards love.

Moment by broken-hearted, weepy, disinterested moment.

As often as you can.

Let love carry you.

Love, Megan.

 

Megan Devine is writer, grief advocate, and clinical counselor. Her partner drowned on a beautiful, ordinary, fine summer day, and she’s stayed alive after that.

Megan is the author of the audio program When Everything is Not Okay: Practical Tools to Help You Stay in Your Heart & Not Lose Your Mind. Roughly every six weeks or so, she hosts a 30-day online community of writers and grievers in the Writing Your Grief e-course. If you want to talk about your grief, you can even pick a time on her calendar for a free 30 minute phone call. You can find all of this, plus weekly posts, resources, and the weekly letter, on her website, www.refugeingrief.com.

You can find more of Megan’s words on Huffington Post, Modern Loss, and Open to Hope.

Follow Megan Devine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/refugeingrief

 

Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

 

Megan Devine.

Megan Devine.

Jen is available for public speaking engagements or workshops via info@jenniferpastiloff.com. Submit to the site by clicking the Submissions tab up top. You can also submit your Dear Life question there or via the email address above. All of Jen’s events listed here. Next up:  Vancouver.

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.

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.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

Book Feb 14th, 2015 in London with Jen Pastiloff.

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Breathing Room.

May 30, 2014

Breathing Room by Lavinia Magliocco

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. I am no stranger to death. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Roman that I am, suicide is always an option.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In college I memorized Lady Lazarus and recited it to my poetry class. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. With great success. The words…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. ……were not strange to me at all, they rolled out of my mouth as if I had written them.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Exhaustion. Annoyance. Defiance. Live in me. Feelings….Inhale. Exhale. Pause……don’t belong to anyone. It is we who belong to them, temporarily, for better or worse, however long…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. …….it takes to feel them. Feelings are….Inhale. Exhale. Pause…. a landscape, and life does weird things with time and space. Some of us get stuck in one place for too long.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Breathe. Inhale. Living. Exhale. Dying. Pause. Die. Death. Over. Again. Breathe, in, out, pause.

I like thinking about dying. I liked Melancholia. I think we all wish sometimes we were on a collision course with an asteroid. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about things like bills, periodontal disease, and climate change. What’s cancer in the face of an asteroid? What a relief it would be for death to come with such timed certainty. One could let go and really live. Time is short anyway, but we stagger along, clinging to our fears, getting lost in minutiae. Live already! Is this living, this breath? Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

The big strip tease. When my skin was peeling off my legs in strips, like old wallpaper, I wanted to die many times. But I lacked courage, or a gun. I was married then, and didn’t want to scar my ex by leaving myself blasted and gutted in a bathtub, brains spattered on the wall, or blood drained into cooling bath water. They call it pyoderma gangrenosum – the skin peeling off and suppurating wounds thing – which is a ghastly name, evoking battlefields and dying. That was me – ex-bunhead, Crohn’s disease-ridden, pyoderma gangrenosum-bearing human, decomposing within and without. Skin and intestine are one and the same. I really did wish I could die.

Because it didn’t feel like living, then, that existence I had beyond which I could see nothing. Do you realize how much people live on the future? But what future could I have, I reasoned, when every day was a rush to the toilet, an explosion of diarrhea and guts, blood, skin oozing, hair falling out, bones sticking out, and exhaustion everywhere? Even the house felt exhausted.

Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

Crohn’s was called tuberculosis of the intestines, before Dr Crohn’s named it. Those nineteenth century heroines expiring of love and consumption – consumed, consuming. The etymology of consumption comes from the Latin – ‘con’ – altogether, with, and ‘sumere’ – to take up, use up, waste, eat up. I was being used up, consumed, by forces beyond my control. Eaten up, rather than eating. Annie Dillard’s deadly eating game, life is an eating game and usually we are the consumers. In this case, I was the consumed. But what I was being consumed for, or why, these were the questions I could not answer. When we breathe, we are consuming. But aren’t we also being consumed? Breath is fire. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

Life is consuming. And these days, don’t we consume and waste in a prodigious and inexorable rhythm of destruction? Eating and pooping our way to death, is this what we call life? I know something about pooping. I am the queen of poop. Fast forward to a hospital room about two decades after the pyoderma that didn’t kill me after all, a pompous doctor asked if I thought five bowel movements a day were acceptable? Acceptable? I would say desirable, after pooping twenty, thirty times a day and night? Are you kidding? Five is a celebration of health and fitness. I don’t care if you don’t find it acceptable or me acceptable because I decline your toxic drugs and do it my way, five is a beautiful number. My innards wouldn’t speak to him after that, and he was banned from my bedside. Off with his head, says the queen of poop.

When your innards are liquefying, when your skin is peeling off you, when the merest social interaction exhausts you, when sex is a distant memory and the only sensation below the waist is painful, do you call this life? Twilight zone, is this living, or is this dying? I asked myself this question many times. And, just as there are many kinds of living, are there not many kinds of dying? Even though I have come back to life, come back to stay, for awhile, at least, come back to this deadly eating game, I wonder.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In. Out. Pause.

Hunger. A sign of life. Lose hunger, and you lose desire, and desire is what draws us forward, desire for something, someone. Desire for a taste, an experience, a possession. Possessed by desire, is that not a sign of life? Of living? Passion. Back to the age of Romanticism. Consumption, the romantic’s disease. All I wanted was to live an extraordinary life. An aversion to the ordinary is a kind of disease, a hubris of grasping. Hungry ghost. As if this world were not enough as it is.

Fast forward again. Or am I going backwards? Where did It begin? When? Now the hunger is not for food that suppurating intestines lose as soon as it arrives, but for something else. Some certainty. Some reason for everything. Call it spiritual hunger. I was going to satsang. Listening to my teacher made me remember something from long ago: a sudden dropping of the veil, a recollection of who I am beyond this flesh. After hanging around awhile, I signed up for her Tantra Foundations course to receive instruction for a basic practice. The strangest thing happened. The last day of this four day course, I was possessed by demons. Every fear, every hunger, every anger I ever had shook me that night like a mad prisoner rattling his cage. I couldn’t sleep. In desperation, I begin to chant Lam – the seed sound I’d learned for the first chakra. Lam. Lam. Lam. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

I looked upon my father dying. When the time came, he let go. He let go, just like that. The man who couldn’t let an insult pass, let himself go with an exhalation. Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

We come into the world covered in blood, mucus body liquids, having solidified for nine months in a chamber inside another being. With the first breath, our breaths are numbered. Inhale. Exhale. What came before, the life that led to this letting go, was that easy? My father, orphaned. War. Occupation. Making his way in a foreign country. What’s easy? Breathe. In. Out. Pause. His hand in my hand. My hand on his head. My father, the corpse. Here. Gone. One little Indian left on the bed, breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Eternity.

One year of meditation and I began to lose all taste for life, for what passes for living in this culture: Eating. Fucking. Shopping. Movies. Nothing. Nothing appealed and I felt awful. Nothing satisfied me. She warned me this would happen. So of course, at first, I congratulated myself. But then, I felt loss. I felt bored. I began to panic. This wasn’t what I wanted. What did I want? To self-realize? What did that mean? Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Panic. In. Out. Pause. Panic.

So I got into a relationship, fast. In. Pause. Pause. Pause. In.Out.In.Out.In.Out. My ambivalence a metronome. The pause was lost. I swung helplessly from one tick to another. In.Out.In.Out. This is living, right? Fucking in out in out. Is this living? This anxiety that comes out as passion, is this it? In.Out. Faster. More. Better. More. Deeper. Somehow it just keeps moving, it keeps moving just beyond reach. It being love. It being success. It being being good. It being anything but what’s here. This wanting. In.Out.In.Out. This is not it.

Crashing against the shoals of what I thought I wanted, I was dying another kind of death. The death of illusions is painful. Abandoning hope that there’s any kind of salvation or escape from what Is, the inescapable-ness of reality – feels crushing. As long as there’s clinging to a shred of hope that it might be other than That – there’s suffering. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. To hold on and not let go is to explode. Whatever I think I am – let go. Let go. Let go. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

I used to think there was an explanation for everything. This was my father in me, the scientist and epistemologist. Now I’m not sure. How can I be, when it’s clear that even what I call me is an aggregate of so many odds and ends that will eventually dissolve and die? And even worse, these pieces are often made of resistance. At every moment, some part of me is resisting being, is resisting what Is, as if that were even possible. One reads about saying “yes” to everything – like the mystic film-maker and disciple of Anandamayi Ma, Arnaud Desjardins chanting “yes” on a stretcher on his way to hospital while having a heart attack. This is not so easy to do. Ego will co-opt this and say yes to coconut cream pie, apple turnover, and rugelech – it’s all yes, right?

But this Yes is the courage to say yes to uncertainty, to say yes to non-existence, to say yes to pain while in the midst of it. And this is not so easy. This defies explanations. This defies interpretations. This defies any attempt to arrange facts and organize events to create meaning, to create an illusion of control – which is what looking for causation is. Tick Tock. The clock. The Breath. The song is Now. Now. Now. Inescapably Now.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Resistance is futile. But I try anyway. A life of resistance – a resistance training of sorts. It makes you stronger. Until you die, of course. One day I met my QiGong teacher, he looked me over – I could feel his dark eyes sussing me out – one warrior to another. One of the first things he said to me, privately was, “I am a divided man.” Because of course, he could see my own divided-ness. For him, it was between the world and the monastery, he was one of the few westerners who learned to fight with Taoist monks in the Sun Monastery in Beijing. He was healed by a teacher called Master Lao, like Lao Tzu, Lao meaning Old Man. I did not have a Lao to heal me. I was buffeted around among middle aged doctors with pills and prescriptions of brand new poisons to try to tame my desire, my fire, my ravaging illness. They never sussed me out.

So I learned QiGong from this beautiful divided warrior. At first I didn’t know what I was doing. I turned everything into a balletic exercise. I did that for three years. Faithfully.

Then, right before he left to go back to China, he drew the sword. He slew me, this beautiful dark-eyed warrior. The warrior and the dancer. On some level, we understood: death is good. Death is clean. Death makes space for a new path, a fresh start. We sat in a bare room on a wood floor. He told me – inhale, exhale, pause – all the ways I’d missed the mark. Another strip tease, he peeled the layers of my arrogance back. I came, a ripe fruit, and left exposed pulp. I wanted to curl up in a ball and wail. I wanted to cry for all the ways my mind betrayed my body. I wanted his love, his approval. He cut me down without glory.

Sometimes I imagine this room without me. A time when I will be gone and someone else will live here. Exhale. Pause. Birth and death come with body fluids. It’s messy. ‘Oh that this too too solid flesh should thaw melt and resolve into a dew.’ Inhale. Exhale. Pause. If only death really were the end. But after the exhale, after the pause, one must begin again. Inhale. You can’t stop it. You can’t just exit after the exhalation. You have to come back and start breathing. Even after letting go.

But what comes back? What comes back Is. What comes back is awareness. What comes back is consciousness. And under that, energy energy energy constantly in flux. In. Out. In. Out. Coming. Going. Coming. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. How many times I die in this life matters not a whit. What matters is what that death feeds. This deadly eating game is only deadly if nothing grows back.

Maybe on some knife point of annihilation, the ecstasy of birth inescapably awaits. Breathe. Avatar, altar, candle. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

There are moments when I know that gone is just a breath away. Know not in my head, but with heart knowing, being knowing. The ordinariness of it takes one’s breath away. Gone is right here in every moment. Gone. Gone. Gone. Kafka wrote: “The meaning of life is that it stops.” Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

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Lavinia Magliocco scribbled her first poems on the back of a piece of cardboard around age 4. Then ballet captured her. After attending North Carolina School of the Arts and School of American Ballet in NYC she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and those dreams were temporarily derailed. She got an English Lit degree at University of Cincinnati and wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirerer, Antenna Magazine, Clifton Magazine, and unobtrusively while employed as a travel agent. After prolonged illness and a surgery, she returned to the barre again at twenty-seven, and with the help of Pilates, proceeded to defy expectations by returning to dance on the stage and eventually landing a job at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in NYC, where she danced for six years. After moving to Portland in 1998 she established her Pilates studio, Equipoise- enlightened exercise LLC and continued to teach dance for Oregon Ballet Theater, Portland Festival Ballet, and other venues. She’s completing her book, As the Tutu Turns, and working on a performance art piece. She is stoked to have met Jen at Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello’s The Writer’s Voice workshop.

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Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas.

Guest Posts, parenting

You Are Not Alone: A Message From a Mother To a Son.

April 28, 2014

You Are Not Alone: A Message From a Mother To a Son. By Amy Roost.

I received a text from my son in the middle of the night. It read, “I love you.” My first thought was to text back are you okay?!, but then I remembered he’s on mile 26 of a marathon. He’s delusional.

In a week, he’ll take his GRE. In two weeks, he’ll turn 22. In four weeks, he’ll ceremoniously drop the rough draft of his senior thesis (entitled “Graviton in Type 2a String Theory Quantum Chromodynamics”) into a bonfire, then hand the final draft to his advisor. In five weeks, he’ll take finals. In six weeks, he’ll walk across a stage and be handed a diploma. In eight months, he’ll begin a PhD program in theoretical physics.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’re reading this, son, do as I say, not as I do. Proceed one equation at a time. Take in each moment as it comes appreciating it all the more in light of the moments you rode in on.

***

When you were nine weeks a fetus, I rejoiced to hear your heartbeat. When you were 11 weeks a fetus, I sobbed when that heartbeat went radio silent and an ultrasound showed no sign of your embryonic self. The obstetrician offered his condolences. He advised me to go home and have a margarita and if I didn’t miscarry you over the weekend, to come back on Monday for a dilation and curettage.

I didn’t follow any of his advice. Instead, I held on. Correction: We held on. Two weeks passed before my next appointment. The ultrasound technician and I both took deep breaths as she placed the cold doppler wand on my belly. She waved it back and forth searching and searching, then, magically, there you were, heartbeat and all.

It wasn’t until you were born that we discovered what that early fuss had been about. You had birth defects, several of them. A nine-hour surgery followed by three weeks in intensive care addressed the most serious one. There was another surgery 9 months later, followed by another and another and another. There were the hospitalizations for one pneumonia after another; and a pulmonary embolism; the trips to the ER for anaphylaxis. The calm. And then the storm — two brain surgeries, a cranio-cervical fusion, traction, pain, recovery. Of course you remember all of this better than I do.

But do you remember that warm summer day at Trap Pond in Delaware? You were 17 and had recently shed your body cast. We woke early and set off for a morning of canoeing. As we glided across the glassy surface of the pond and wended our way through clumps of cypress trees, we saw a Great Blue Heron balanced on one leg, a family of turtles sunning themselves on a rock and a bald eagle soaring overhead. It felt as if we were looking at the world through 3D glasses, so intense was the life force around us.

Do you remember how on our drive back to the beach house that day, we blasted the car stereo while listening to our favorite Mumford and Sons CD? How when the song “Timshel” played, there was that one lyric — death is at your doorstep and it will steal your innocence but it will not steal your substance. You are not alone in this. How when we heard this, we cast each other knowing glances. And how I then started to cry. And you did too. And you reached over with your left hand and placed it atop my right hand. And you left it there while we drove. Not speaking a word. Do you remember that day?

I do. Every moment.

***

Now might be a good time to reread the poem “Sonnets to Orpheus Part Two, XII“. It was one of those–along with the Mary Oliver and Wallace Stevens’ poems–I gave to you when you graduated high school. Do you remember Rilke’s advice?

Pour yourself out like a fountain.

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking

often finishes at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation

it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming

a laurel, dares you to become wind.

In other words, when you finish this marathon, you will end at the starting line again. Therefore, it is pointless to evade the full intensity of this process you’re going through. Embrace it. Dance with it along the time-space continuum you know so well.

‘Enough with the poetry and the spiritual’, you say?. Okay. Then let me offer you something tangible: It’s the middle of the night. You’re there. I’m here. At this moment, your life is gritty. And you’re feeling alone and think no one gets what it is you’re going through.

So, do me this favor: Place your hand over your heart. Can you feel that? Me too. In this moment of self doubt and exhaustion, know that I am with you. You are not alone in this.

*This essay originally appeared on The Huffington Post

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Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

*****

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

Guest Posts

Control. By Laura Bogart.

March 23, 2014

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

Control. By Laura Bogart.

Joy Division was my adolescent love. The wry despondency of Ian Curtis’ lyrics affirmed my teenage suspicions that simply putting one foot in front of the other (as my guidance counselor so helpfully suggested) was a Sisyphean endeavor: “Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders/Here are the young men, well, where have they been?/We knocked on the doors of Hell’s darker chamber/Pushed to the limit, we dragged ourselves in.”

Then there was the music itself: blunt and muscular, but with a sinewy sharpness that drove me deep, drove me home. It inspired drawings of molten Hellscapes and angels in black leather jackets that I’m glad I’ve lost between moves; what lingered was the sound it gave to the inchoate rage I felt when I heard my father set his briefcase down in the living room, to the dread that hissed through my room when I heard him come up the stairs.

If it were going to be the kind of night he’d apologize for, he’d flip immediately to the weather channel, with its constant promise of Biblical winds and damning rains. I’d steel myself through mindless repetition, re-writing the same lines in my notebook: “I’m ashamed of things I’ve been put through/I’m ashamed of the person I am.”  My redemption, I decided, would be to make art like Curtis’: beautiful yet ugly, wrenching yet effortless. I charcoaled hulking men with haunted eyes. In our quieter moments, the moments I’d cling to when I needed to forgive him, my father would gently open my bedroom door to watch me draw.

“I always wanted to be good at something,” he’d say. His voice belonged to the college lineman who did what his coach said and ran until he puked, but still never got scouted. When I was little, I could forget that he was the man who slapped me for spilling the saltshaker; he was the man who brought me marbled notebooks and prints from the Italian masters. By the time I’d found Joy Division, he was just the middle-aged man who mockingly crooned, “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go (damn it)” as he knotted his tie.

“You never make me anything I can frame anymore,” he’d say. “All this dark shit.”

I read about Curtis’ epilepsy; how the twitching, flailing dances that mocked his condition sometimes conjured his fits. “For entertainment, they watch his body twist,” he sang, his voice sharp and sad and thick with regret. “Behind his eyes, he says ‘I still exist.’” Those three words became the essence of art: I lied about how I got those bruises and why the sleepover couldn’t be held at my house, but whatever I put on paper was true.

“You could go into advertising.” That’s what my father said when I told him I’d be getting a master’s in creative writing. He worked with statistics, numbers that had been caged and tamed; for him, work was only meaningful when its purpose was evident. Highway billboards and forty second spots between Monday Night Football and the eleven o’clock news: My livelihood dependent upon oversized ads for oversized sedans that would be forgotten one exit over and cat food jingles that high-schoolers would YouTube until they were just stoned enough to wonder if cat food just, like, tasted like tuna, only, like, spicier.

“There’s a reason,” I said to my father, “That they say ad nauseam.”

Still, those last six months of my grad program turned into a blitzkrieg of resumes. Not writing. When I wasn’t refreshing my email or cold calling under the pretense of “following up,” I was at my kitchen table, drafting columns of bills and the numbers needed to pay them. I’d become my father, scowling over a yellow legal pad and chewing a black ballpoint pen. He’d been the source of so many worries, but a roof over my head hadn’t been one of them.

“Welcome to the real world,” my father said back. “We’re all bored. But we’ve all got bills.”

When a friend asked me if I wanted to see Anton Corbjin’s Ian Curtis biopic, Control, I said I was too broke even for a matinee. That much was true, but it wasn’t the whole truth. That movie poster—a black and white portrait of the spectrally handsome young actor playing Curtis—unsettled me. His eyes are rapacious with hunger; they reminded me of all I’d loved about making art. But his lips are caught between a pucker and a sigh.

I wouldn’t see the movie for a few years, after I’d ended up at a small career consulting company that published magazines to promote its overpriced (and under attended) conferences. Hours of my life ticked away as I inserted semi-colons into the stories of people who were actually doing what they wanted to with theirs.

Channel surfing demanded so much less of me than any kind of art; I lost my lines to the unique state of frazzle and fatigue that a bad workday induces. Though I kept a sketchbook on my lap, I’d only managed the iris of an eye in an hour. I was starting on the lashes when I saw the scene that made me feel as utterly, unequivocally understood as I had when I’d heard the real Ian Curtis wail, “In arenas he kills for a prize/wins a minute to add to his life/But the sickness is drowned out by cries for more/Pray to God, make it quick.”

Curtis is in his living room, lost in the notebook perched on his knees, his face in that soft yet furrowed look of inspiration. His flow is broken when his young wife—who, in those earlier scrappy-love courtship sequences, wore her leather and her faux-fur and her sly spirit of up-for-anything with pride—calls him to bed, but only because he has work in the morning. She’s wearing a housedress that even my thick-ankled Italian grandmother would’ve deemed too frumpy. His expression—resignation (she is right, technically) and frustration (but he was so close to the perfect word)—flickers across his face like a matchstick that won’t quite catch.

My father would call me during our mutual lunch hours. Now that I packed a sack lunch every morning and cursed my way through rush hour traffic, I was no longer a punk kid who needed disciplining. I was someone who could finally understand him: his gripes about assholes who didn’t clean the coffee pot and assholes who made the coffee “like muddy water;” secretaries who didn’t relay messages and bosses who expected you to read their goddamn minds. My father, who used long car rides to expose us to Simon and Garfunkel, Sinatra, and Springsteen because “you can’t get everything you need to out of just one song, you need to hear it all;” my father, who rhapsodized about riding the subway to see Dylan. Back when it was just him: No wife, no children. Just the slow sway of the train thrumming through his body.

“So how’s the job?” he’d ask, and I’d reply that it was, you know, a job. He’d laugh and say, “You’ll get used to it.”

“How’s the boss?” he’d ask. The CEO had the doughy, dumpy build of an overindulged toddler—and the temperament to match. He jokingly (but not really) insisted on being called “boss.” Minutes after he’d fire someone, he’d send out company-wide emails with inspirational quotes: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there” was a favorite.

“Still a prick,” I’d say.

“He’s the prick who signs your checks.”

When I was a teenager, delusions of grandeur were as much a balm as the Bacitracin my mother rubbed between my shoulders. I was not who my teachers, my bullies, my parents said I was. My molten hellscapes would be in the Guggenheim, and I’d be the star of a cover spread in Poets & Writers analyzing my short fiction (which was filled with serial killers and teenage agorophobics) before my twenty-second birthday. I’ve never asked my father where he thought he’d be at twenty-two, twenty-five, thirty. I’m afraid he’ll say something that will make me see myself in that young man on the subway, humming Guthrie and looking forward to wherever he was going. I don’t want to know all that he gave up once my mother, the woman he’d only been dating for a few months told him, casually, between bites of her salad, that she was pregnant.

“There’s what you have to do,” I imagine he’d tell me, “and what you love to do.”

Whenever I’d leave that downtown office building where I lost eight hours of my day (nine, counting the drive there and back), I’d see the punk girls getting off the bus. They wear everything I used to wear: ratted black jackets and strategically slashed t-shirts. More than once, I’ve seen that classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” shirt I bought from the Hot Topic: A marble angel swoons against a parched cemetery lawn. If I wore that shirt now, the heft of my breasts would twist that angel’s face into a Munchian scream.

They’d lift their eyes from the text they were reading or the cigarette they were lighting and stare back at me. They saw me shuffling from the office to the parking garage, brandishing a thermos and briefcase like all the other shirt-jacketed and be-pantyhosed masses and must’ve thought—as I had—that the lure of the “good job” wasn’t status or even security; it was just the dulling lull of sucking your thumb.

Now, the sound that lingers with me every time I’m tempted to turn the laptop off and veg out to Intervention or leave my watercolors in their box to let the talking heads on MSNBC tell me what I already believe doesn’t come from a song, it comes from Control.  It’s a small sound from the scene before Curtis hangs himself. After yet another epileptic fit hurls him to the floor, he slowly sits up, rubbing the top of his head; the word “ow” breaks from his lips. It is a child’s helpless cry, the cry that we’ve been told being strong, being competent, being grown-ups, means we have to suppress.

I would tell those punk girls, my sixteen-year old self among them, that this cry, the culmination of so many disappointments—from the day job that blots out your creative thoughts yet can’t quite pay all the bills, to the lover who leaves you, not with the passion of slammed doors but with a long sigh—this will be your undoing, but only if you let it.

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Laura Bogart is a Baltimore-based writer whose work has appeared in Salon, The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Prick of the Spindle and Spectre (among others). She’s currently at work on a novel tentatively titled Your Name is No. 

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.  

She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Guest Posts

Setting Free The Bears.

March 5, 2014

By Maggie May Ethridge (who, truth be told, Jen has a total girl crush on.)

When life is hard, then harder, then fossilized into a shell over your skin so tight and so fragile it breaks with the smallest tapping of the new thing trying to be born, then there are things that must be done. Firstly, right yourself. Are you sleeping enough? Your mother told you. Your doctor told you. Even your Uncle Alfred who farted and belched loudly after turkey dinner told you – you must sleep enough, or simply nothing works just right. Your brain is your gateway to reality. If you close off the energy force the gateway will not work, and your entire perception of reality will be tilted, see- just so – just enough to make you slightly wonky. I’m already wonky on my own, born and bred, and need no help in that direction.

Next, are you eating healthy? Every meal should be protein, veggie, healthy carb (nothing white, but brown rice, multigrain breads). Eat in intervals that feel natural to your body. Drink water. You don’t like a shrively pruney lemon looking face, do you? Well you don’t want your brain this way either. Drink. Then there are the essential caretaking measures: shower, shave, scrub your pits. If, because of lack of hygiene, you happen to randomly and repeatedly catch a whiff of your own sour stench repeatedly during the day while trying to interact with other life forms, you might find you like yourself a little less. ‘ Anyone worthwhile, ‘ you might think ‘ would not smell like pig ass when they have a perfectly available and working shower, equipted with the latest modern miracles like razors and soap. ‘ Shower. Lather. Make large, ridiculously cheerful bubbles, and sing. I recommend singing a rap song in operetta. I do, and it makes me happy.

Also, don’t forget to wear clean clothes that fit well. Now you are fed a nutritious meal, showered and shaved, dressed and standing tall. Let’s begin by setting the mood. Music Please… and

Flowers. Pick some, buy some, just get em, anyway you can, and spread them around your places. Your places are usually work, home, maybe a lover’s apartment, or your psychotherapist- wherever you spent a lot of time. Put them there.

Also, while I’m on the subject, be Naked. Often. Get in touch with your body, as a living breathing beautiful form, not just as a clothes hanger or food hamper. Have Sex.

If you have no one to have sex with, have it with yourself. Do something
that feels good, and feel good about it. See? Your 8th grade Religious Studies
teacher was wrong about masturbation, because I have neither 1. pimples nor 2. scales on my hands.

Take every opportunity to Dance * yes dance, dance i said, not only you sexy people, all you sly muthas, just get out there and dance- Dance, I Said!* Salt and Pepa knew. So should you.
I dance in the shower ( not while soaping and singing. that might get tricky. ) I dance in the car. I dance at work, to the amusement of my co-workers ( Yes you, Stephanie and Heather ) I even hurt my right butt cheek dancing to Michael Jackson in the sun room two days ago.

Remember White Nights? How could you not want to tap and leap your way into life!

 
Now we are somewhat refreshed. Here is where we begin to think of how we can be of Service to one another. To the people around us. I had my son at 19, and learned one of the greatest lessons of my life in his birth: acting in behalf of another human being is one of the greatest healing actions available to us. Not the daily ‘allowances’ that we make for one another- these things that we confuse with service to our friends and family but really are only small ways to drive ourselves crazy- the constant yes when no is meant, the answering of phones at any occasion or time, the need and demand for availability ( IM, Chat, Facebook, Phone, Cell, Email), this kind of thing. To care and love in a healing way means that we keep our eyes open for the person who needs and desires it. This is stopping when a flustered, near tears elderly lady cannot find her money and paying for her coffee, taking on a mentor role in a young person’s life, volunteering an an Assisted Living Facility or Pediatric Unit at the hospital, making dinner twice a week for the family of someone undergoing cancer treatments- these and million other actions are what unite us as a people and bring peace and meaning to our lives.

Then there is the indomitable Spirit. As a writer and poet and passionate person in general, I have only once in my adult life felt disconnected from my spirit, and I fought tooth and nail to regain my whole. I believe that literally the act of holding your head up is a physical way to pull the strings of the spirit. I will NOT look down at the fucking ground. Everything we do to nourish our spirit is reflected back eventually. I am a huge believer in taking positive action even when you cannot see the results. The lack of results is a facade. Holding your head up, repeating marching orders to yourself ( you will be able to do this, yes ), reading about the particular issues you have in life, talking to friends, a therapist, service – it all becomes part of the gust of spirit that will eventually blow through you and lift you back up where you belong. So,

finding what nourishes the Spirit is an important part of growing up. Am I grown up yet?

Bears

Can I Set Free The Bears?

Next time we will discuss:
Drinking
Vacationing in ill-mowed and unkept squares of green (otherwise known as my backyard)
The in-house prescription for cheer
Sticky notes of love (not what you might think)
Animals and their furry hairy magic
and
Children make good clowns, there for your amusement.

Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.

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Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

 
Beating Fear with a Stick, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: I’m Tired Of Being Afraid.

February 28, 2014

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. Today’s question is answered by author Gayle Brandeis.  Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Send an email to dearlife at jenniferpastiloff.com or use the tab at the top of the site to post. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

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Dear Life, I’m tired of being afraid. 

And I mean afraid in every sense of the word.  I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of being robbed.  I’m afraid of being raped.  I’m afraid of being murdered.  I’m afraid to walk to my car alone at night.

I’m afraid of being alone.  I’m afraid of dying.  I’m afraid that when I die I’ll be all alone in that moment.  I’m afraid of history erasing me and no one will know that I lived or who I was.

I’m afraid that Heaven might not exist.  Or that God might not exist.  Or at least in the way that I think He does.  I’m afraid I won’t be good enough to be with Him.  I’m afraid I won’t make it into Heaven if it is there.  I’m afraid there’s nothing after this life.

Oh, how I want to cling to this life just like I’ve wanted to cling onto anyone who has ever loved me.  I want to hold it firmly in my hands and never sleep because it might leave me.

I’m afraid to take a chance.  I’m afraid.  Do you hear me?

I AM SO AFRAID!

I am afraid that I am wasting my life and I don’t know how to change it.

I work two retail jobs.  I’m a full-time assistant manager at an electronics store and a part-time sales consultant at a jewelry store.  I have one day off a week where I’m either cleaning house and running errands or I sleep in and then watch Netflix all day.  Either way I don’t feel rested.  I don’t feel happy.  The sucky thing is I barely make enough to pay my bills.  I don’t know how people can live alone.  Or travel or live unconventional lives.  I am draining away.  I am stuck in this hamster wheel of a meaningless life.  And I see other people on their hamster wheels next to mine.  We never touch or talk or get off of it.  I JUST WANT OFF!

In small moments I feel magic.  When I sit in my kitchen in the quiet sunshine or when I lie down next to my dog on the floor.  When I look up at the stars or see my breath in the winter air.  When I hear a really good song on the radio or cry really hard that snot runs down my face.  I sigh and think this is life.  But those moments are so fleeting.  I don’t feel real except in those moments.

I want to feel real all the time.  I want to LIVE life and not merely exist.  Why do I have to work 2 jobs?  Why can’t I travel?  Why can’t I do lunch with my girlfriends whenever I want?  Why can’t I go to Italy and eat pizza and gelato like Elizabeth Gilbert?  Just… Why can’t I!?

I hate that an unconventional life is unconventional.  I hate that my dad said quitting my job to go on a month long road trip with my best friend was irresponsible.  I hate that he says I have to wait until I retire to do things like that.  I hate that after I did it and it took me 9 months to find another full-time job and went into quick spiraling debt that he thinks he was right.  I hate that I need money.

I hate that I’m afraid to quit again.  That I’m afraid to not pay my bills on time.  That I want to be an entrepreneur but I don’t know what I’d do and I’m afraid.

I am so afraid.

I don’t know what to do.  But I’m sick of being afraid.  How do I stop?  How do I start?  What do I do?

Sincerely,

I just don’t want to be afraid anymore.

***

Dear I just don’t want to be afraid anymore,

I hear you.

I’m afraid, too. As I write this to you, I am in a lull between pain. The pain comes and goes like labor, like something’s squeezing me with sharp, hot talons. This is a chronic issue–it flares up every few months; I am lucky that it’s not more frequent, that it’s not something I have to live with daily. When the pain does come, my first response tends to be fear. I am scared I am going to feel the pain forever. I am scared I am not going to survive it. I am scared of the vomiting that usually accompanies it. I am scared the pain will thwart any attempt to function in the world. But sometimes I am able to get beyond this fear, to get to a calmer, clearer place inside myself, where I can ride the pain with detachment, where I know it will pass and I will be okay. This time, I have been calling upon a handy tip I learned in childbirth class: to stop labeling pain pain. To think of it, instead, as an “interesting sensation.” This helps quite a bit. When the pain comes, I don’t clench my body in fear (which, of course, only makes the pain worse.) I try to breathe–breathing is important, in pain, in labor, in life–and chant “Interesting sensation; interesting sensation” inside myself. This allows me to reframe the pain, to look at it with some measure of curiosity, even with a sense of wonder. It keeps me from getting too attached to it. It helps me remember that the pain is not me, that I don’t need to give it so much power.

I suggest you do something similar when you are beset by fear. As the fear starts to clutch your ribs, take a deep breath and try to label it an interesting sensation. Gaze upon your fear with the eyes of a researcher and a bodhisattva all at once; dissect it with curiosity, but also with compassion. What is this fear–does it have a color, a texture, a scent? Why have you given it so much currency in your life? When you start to look at it in a more detached way, you will start to gain power over it rather than let it hold power over you. You will be able to let it go more easily. Fear creates a buzz in the brain, a clatter in the heart; when you find a way past that, you can reach the deep, quiet well inside yourself, the place that knows what you need, what you need to do. The place that’s beyond convention. The place that’s simply true.

Today, I was thinking about what I could share with you that might be of help and three perfect Facebook status updates appeared in my feed, all in a row. These updates felt like getting a cherry cherry cherry in a slot machine, like I had hit the jackpot just for you. The first was from our own Jennifer Pastiloff–it was a sign, white with plain red letters and a red border, like a street sign (or, in this case, like a sign you’d see at a campsite); it said “PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE FEARS”. Remember this; heed it–think of your fears as bears; if you keep feeding them, they’ll keep hanging around, growing bigger and more vicious with each scrap you throw their way. If you stop feeding those fears, they’ll eventually slink off into the woods and leave you alone. You are giving these fears so much of yourself right now; you are feeding them with the energy and time you could be using to build a life more in line with your deepest desires (and it really feels as if one of your deepest desires is to be free–free from convention, from expectation, from the daily grind. Freeing yourself from fear is the first step toward all of that.)

The next update was a quote from Jack Canfield, shared by Elizabeth Gilbert. Canfield said “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Over the image, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Forza, forza, forza!”, which in Italian means “Power” but can also mean “Go! You can do it!” Even if you can’t eat gelato and pizza in Italy like her (and–who knows?–maybe you’ll find a way someday!) you can take this from her right now. Forza. When you break through your fear, everything you want will be waiting for on the other side.

The third was this wonderful quote from Anais Nin, on what would have been her 111th birthday: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” You are letting fear shrink your life–remember that you have the power to make your world expand again. You’ve done it before. You did a brave thing, quitting your job and taking your road trip. I hope you have some fabulous memories from that trip that can help cancel out your father’s voice, at least some of the time; cherish those memories, and the courage it took to take that journey. Try not to let your father’s disapproval blunt you or make you cower from your own sense of adventure–instead of worrying about your parents’ expectations and being beholden to the generation before you, think about being beholden to the generation that comes after you. Even if you never have children yourself, ask yourself how you want to be remembered by future generations. Do you want girls growing up today to see a woman governed by fear, or do you want to show those girls that it is possible to live a fearless life even when one is inside the hamster wheel? And it *is* possible, you know. There are ways to be unconventional even within a conventional life. You can bring more meaning and fun and wildness into your day even if you keep your current jobs. It’s all about paying attention and finding moments of hilarity and connection and grace. It’s all about cultivating more of those moments of magic you already own, even if fleetingly, when you look up at the stars. Letting go of fear will help you tap into more of those moments. Fear contracts you, makes it hard for you to see the world around you with open eyes and an open heart; when you get beyond the fear, beauty rushes in. Be a beauty seeker. Take Jennifer Pastiloff’s advice and write down five things you find beautiful every day. This in itself can save you. The more moments of beauty and humor you find, the more fear will loosen its grip on your heart.

And it wouldn’t hurt to take some practical steps toward making real changes in your life: you say you want to be an entrepreneur, but you don’t know what you’d do. Do what you can to figure that out. Write lists of things you love, things that get your heart pumping, and imagine what sorts of jobs could spring from them. Do research. Take classes. Spend time in nature. Make things with your hands. See what speaks to you most clearly, what calls you most deeply. See what you can do to make it work. And take a self-defense class–it may help alleviate your fears of being attacked if you know how to attack back.

As for your grappling with your faith, I can only begin to imagine the deep fear that comes from questioning one’s long-held beliefs. I’ve never believed in God or Heaven, myself, at least not in the traditional Judeo-Christian conception, and I feel for you as you struggle with this profound dilemma. But I also ask you to ask yourself that if this is all there is, is that really so bad? In a way, doesn’t it make this time that we have here on this beautiful, complicated planet all the more precious? History may erase us, but at least we have this moment, and if this is all we have, why not put everything into making the very best of the time we are given? Sure, we have to face pain and fear and crappy jobs and the scourge of money, but we also get to face the sunrise and the feel of the dog’s fur under our fingers, and great music and art and life’s glorious absurdities. Let’s relish those things, those moments. Start with this very moment. Take a deep breath. Take a few more–let yourself settle into your own skin. Let fear evaporate; let it rise from your shoulders like steam. What do you notice? What is around and inside you right now that is gorgeous and surprising? If you take time to notice these things, you’ll feel your innate sense of wonder grow instead of your fear. You’ll find yourself smiling more. You won’t worry so much about being alone because you’ll find that you’re great company, yourself. You’ll find yourself ready to take more chances, to step into a more expansive and courageous life. Fear is just an interesting sensation. You don’t need to give it more power than that. I am taking my own advice right now as another pain comes on–breathing, breathing, breathing through it, seeing it with detachment, knowing it will pass. Knowing beauty surrounds me even in the grip of the attack.

You have the power to change, and your desire for change–desire I can feel thrumming right off the page–will help fuel that transformation. To start, all you need to do is take a deep breath, find that clear, quiet well inside yourself and move from that place, not the skittish, frantic place of fear. I have all faith in you. You wouldn’t have written to “Dear Life” if somewhere inside of you, you didn’t have faith in your own ability to change. You can reach beyond your own fear, and when you do, a more spacious, joyful life awaits, even if none of the external realities of your life change. You can do it. I know you can. Forza!

With love and solidarity, Gayle Brandeis

Gayle Brandeis grew up in the Chicago area and has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old. She is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds(HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change, Self Storage (Ballantine) and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Holt). She released The Book of Live Wires, the sequel to The Book of Dead Birds, as an e-book in 2011.

Gayle’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies (such as Salon.com, The Nation, and The Mississippi Review) and have received several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelley Peace Poetry Award, and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her essay on the meaning of liberty was one of three included in the Statue of Liberty’s Centennial time capsule in 1986, when she was 18. In 2004, the Writer Magazine honored Gayle with a Writer Who Makes a Difference Award.

Gayle teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Antioch University and lives in Riverside, CA, where she is mom to two adult kids and a toddler.

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Please note: Advice given in Dear Life is not meant to take the place of therapy or any other professional advice. The opinions or views offered by columnists are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed physician or mental health professional. Columnists acting on behalf of Dear Life are not responsible for the outcome or results of following their advice in any given situation.

Mother's Day Retreat! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this May for a life-changing weekend retreat. May 8-10th. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book. "Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing. She listens. She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you. Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening. And what her kind of listening does is simple: It saves lives." ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Mothers Day Weekend 2016, May 6-8! Join Jen Pastiloff in Ojai, Calif this New Years  for a life-changing 3 day retreat.  No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. Click photo to book.
“Here’s the thing about Jen Pastiloff, folks. Here’s the revolutionary thing.
She listens.
She listens with an intent focus, a focus that follows your words inside you. Because she has hearing problems, she watches your lips as you speak, and she plucks the ash of your words from the air and takes it inside herself and lays it beside her heart, where before too long your words start beating as if they were strong, capable, living mammals. And then she gives them back to you.
Boiled down, this is the secret to Jen’s popularity. She can call what she does Beauty Hunting–she is for sure out there helping people find beauty. She can start a campaign called “Don’t be an asshole” and remind us all to stop a second and please, please, please be our better selves. She can use words like attention, space, time, connection, intimacy. She can ask participants to answer questions like What gets in your way? What stories are you carrying around in your body? What makes you come alive? Who would you be if nobody told you who you were? All of that is what it is. But why it works is because of her kind of listening.
And what her kind of listening does is simple:
It saves lives.” ~ Jane Eaton Hamilton.

 

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. 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 the next cleanse in May. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

 

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

To Heal the World We Must Heal Ourselves. By Bryant McGill

February 12, 2014

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By Bryant McGill.

I was born in the deep south, in Mobile, Alabama, also known as the Azalea City because of the vibrant landscapes colored by these beautiful flowers. I had been adopted away from an abusive family situation, and had almost died twice as a toddler. I grew up on a small, dirt road in the country, and my family had few resources, so college was seemingly not an option. I had no connections, no education, few positive role models, and making matters worse, my self-esteem had been crushed through years of secreted childhood bullying and abuses, which would take me decades to overcome. What I remember the most about my childhood is constant fear — and “good food.”

I was raised in a culture of quietly “polite” judgments; a pressure-cooker of seething hatred, prejudice, violence and ignorance. But hey, the catfish and fried chicken were amazing! I was never really taught about healthy eating. To the contrary, my cultural inheritance was learning to “treat yourself” at “special occasions” by gorging on every horribly delicious food you can imagine. I don’t want to get into the greasy, buttery, deep-fried, fatty, sugary, meaty, barbecued details here, but let’s just say if gluttony really is the second deadly sin, then I knew a lot of people on their way to hell. With no knowledge of positive psychology, real foods or healthy lifestyles, time took its toll on me, and the invincibility of my youth diminished as my gut and waist-line expanded.

Much later in life, I found myself living (dying) in a suburban basement, like a hunchback shut-in, not leaving for months at a time because of embarrassment and chronic pain. It was really bad, and sad. I had no one to help me with my plight. I cried out for help to those closest to me, but my pleading was met with cold detachment and uncaring. There was a time when I was really worried and afraid that I was going to die, because I was so unhealthy. I could not even walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. I was truly and frighteningly, unwell. I was on my own and I was debilitated. I felt old and tired, and I could see the grave rapidly approaching. My body had become an entombment of fat covering the pain and loneliness of a broken heart and spirit. Hope and life seemed very distant.

But there was something still in me; a dream I had always dreamt of living a beautiful life. I had a calling in my heart; a great calling for a great work. But, to carry out my calling I would need strength and vitality, both things that seemed so far away. I longed to be free of the bodily pain, stiffness and decrepitude. I remember when I was just a little boy running around bare-foot on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere Alabama. I may have been a hick, but I could run! At dusk, often on my way home, I would run bare-foot through a five acre field of dew-covered grass. I was running wildly on the tips of my toes with such speed, that all I could hear was the loud winds blowing in my ears. I felt like Mercury, or an Indian brave, and my energy seemed inexhaustible. I could run like the wind; feeling my power rushing through me. I wanted that joyous, youthful vigor and spring back.

One of the first steps to achieving wellness for me, was learning humility. To abuse the gift of life and one’s own precious body is a form of extreme arrogance and self-hatred. So one of the keys for me was reacquainting myself with the beautiful gifts that exist, for those who have respect, gratitude and appreciation for all that is available to heal and sustain our bodies. I also made a very deliberate decision that I wanted to live life with health and vigor. I decided I wanted the energy and vitality to do and experience all of the wondrous things in life that are available to all people. I wanted the strength and stamina to lead a life of activity, exploration and true excellence. Ultimately it came down to me deciding whether I wanted to advance toward the grave in a state of decrepit stupor, or rise and advance in life as a fresh, vital being, full of youthful energy and joy.

In my quest for understanding, I realized something very important one day. That the human body is an unfathomable and miraculous microcosm of divine order. The intelligence, complexity and order of even a single cell rivals that of a large modern city. Our bodies love us! Just think about it. The universe within–your trillions of cells all cooperate in a grand orchestration to serve and heal you. Your cells work around the clock in total unison and harmony cleaning, repairing, restoring and nourishing your entire physical being. Every person’s body wants nothing more than to cooperate with them in achieving optimal health. But I realized that I was at WAR with my OWN body. I was waging a terrible war of violence against my body by bombarding it with stress, toxic environments, lack of sleep, and the most terrible and dreadful toxic foods known to man, otherwise known as, the modern American diet and lifestyle. When you are obese, you are chronically diseased and you are moving toward the grave at a rapid pace. My body had become completely addicted to heavy greases, oils, animal fats, highly refined carbohydrates, sugars, salts and an endless array of toxic chemicals. All of these self-inflicted bodily assaults kept my body’s own rescue and repair mechanisms overloaded and unable to keep up with my deteriorating state.

Even through my pain I worked toward my heart’s highest calling to be an instrument of healing for the world, but little did I know, that those whispers were really calling for my own healing. As destiny would have it, I found myself catapulted onto the world stage, and was given a rare opportunity to be a voice of reason and peace for the voiceless. However, with the opportunity came a humbling lesson. I was advocating for world peace, but I was waging a violent war against my own body. I was speaking about poverty and starvation, but I was eating more than my fair share. I was a hypocrite. This epiphany laid open my pride to the providence of self-love as I invoked the sage wisdom of Gandhi to become the change that I wanted to see in the world.

I discovered that simply by getting out of my own body’s way, and letting it do its job, and cooperating with my body, IT would heal itself from the dreadfully debilitating sickness of obesity. To lose weight I did very little outside of gentle and peaceful cooperation with the inherent wisdom and intelligence of my own body. Through meditation and gentle cooperation, the body will heal itself with little or no effort. When we are at peace with ourselves the total expression of that true peace includes our outer being; our body. Losing weight and being healthy is so simple and easy. Your goal should never be weight-loss, but rather to have true health and respect for the gift of life.

I know intimately the deep struggles and perseverance it takes to reclaim your health, because I have been there. This is not theoretical for me. I have personally lost over 100 pounds and shrank my waist from a size 48/50″ to 30″. I freed myself from all medications and healed all of my dis-eases: extreme obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, bad cholesterol, extreme acid reflux, candida, stiffness, glaucoma, arthritis, bursitis, knee and joint pain, gout, angina, insomnia, breathlessness, fatigue, chronic back problems, post nasal drip and sleep apnea. I believe I have extended my life by decades, reversing my heart condition, and clearing my arteries. I healed myself with totally natural methods, and I now have the energy, vitality, stamina and flexibility of a healthy twenty-year old.

What one person can do, another can do. You can reclaim your life and get back on track to becoming your full potential. It is never too late to love yourself again. Don’t give up. You can accomplish almost anything, if you really want it. Let me be your proof that it is possible. Start educating yourself and learn how to take proper care of yourself through self-love. I will be here to support you with the best information I can provide, to help you on your journey. The unification of the mind, spirit and body is the triad of focus that gives one the clarity and resolve to deliver. I have used these, and many other techniques to completely transform my body and my life. My strength, vitality and health are important parts of my secret to how I live a life of activity, exploration and creative excellence. And now, it’s your turn!

“The only hope of transforming the world from the ‘tsunami of violence’ is for each of us to Become the Change We Wish To See in the World. Bryant McGill shows us the way.”

— Dr. Arun M. Gandhi, Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi

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Bryant McGill is a Best-Selling Author, Speaker and Activist,
In the Fields of Self-Development, Personal Freedom and Human Rights. More at www.bryantmcgill.com.

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click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

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.

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.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

courage, Guest Posts

Having The Courage To Start by Lynn Hasselberger.

May 31, 2013

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The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started. ~ Dawson Trotman

This place called stuck… I’ve been here before.

I’m not fond of it. I don’t like how it feels—ensnared by a trap.

I set the trap myself. I know it. I admit to it.

I work hard to escape, grasping out into the world for the right inspiration. Waiting for the right mood, the right time.

I know what I have to do but can’t make myself do it. As if it will entail chewing off my arm.

I see others doing it, exuding passion in what they’re doing. And I remain here in this spot. Running furiously, trampling my dreams but not getting anywhere. The drama of it all!

Procrastination. Fear. Fatigue. Anxiety. Worry that it won’t be perfect or good enough.

We’ve all been there. I know because I’ve asked people. Yes. It happens to the best and brightest of us.

But why and how in the world do we get out and get moving into that groove that feels so good? The groove that once we’re in it, it feels like we never left. The one that seems so out of reach sometimes.

Groove. I want to be in it. I want to be groovy.

was in a groove, working as an editor. Busy busy busy. Editing. Connecting with people; connecting other people to people. Writing. Doing.

The downside was that this work was sapping me of energy. It was also keeping me from my consulting work which a) allows me to pick and choose what I work on and b) helps pay the bills. Sure, I got paid for editing, but it was 50-75 percent less than I could make consulting. Ouch! My son needs orthodontia ($5500). We have about 10 dying ash trees (thank you, emerald ash borer!) that will need to be removed professionally lest they fall on our house ($500 to over a thousand per tree). Yada yada yada.

The job was also, in my mind, eating up any free time I could utilize to write more. And to keep up with those silly things we must take care of in life.

I resigned about a month ago. It wasn’t easy, but I had to do it. And now I’d have all the time in the world to focus on what I reallywant to do. Hell, now I could even put time aside to clean out the linen closet and that damn kitchen drawer where matches,  toothpicks and other miscellaneous items dance together in chaos. Oh, the humanity! I could finally address these pressing issues and fold the laundry promptly after its removal from the dryer. I could investigate refinancing our house. The sheet hanging out of the linen closet taunting me like a razzing tongue would be tidied up. I would be oh so organized!

The only one telling me what to do was me. No pressure!

Guess what? I found the linen closet could wait. My writing could wait (and it would have to since I contracted another serious bout of writer’s block, which may be contagious). The laundry would remain unfolded until the next six loads forced me to free up the laundry baskets.

And it waited, but not without a price. These to-do’s jammed up my head. I scolded myself. I became paralyzed—what am I supposed to tackle first?! No pressure? Wrong!

Having less to do meant, ironically, that I got less done. And I tried to be okay with that: “I’m on sabbatical,” I told myself and others. Sabbatical would be cool if it meant traveling to distant lands, meeting new people or taking an art class. But in my case, it meant more lap time for the cats.

I missed the ongoing conversations with my co-workers and my inspiration fizzled. The pile of to-do’s grew and I just didn’t feel like doing.

I wasn’t on sabbatical, I was idling (a word I hate).

“Enjoy this time,” I yelled at myself.

It wasn’t working! I wanted to do something, but couldn’t. (Or was it that I wanted to want to do something?)

If you’re like me—and this has, no doubt, happened to you in some form or you wouldn’t have read this far—you berate yourself about not getting started on something. Anything. Just to begin.

Days turn into night turned into days…. with each passing hour, I asked myself what was stopping me. I’m stopping me. I analyzed myself. If I’m stopping me and I’m asking myself why I don’t do something, how is it really me stopping myself? Am I schizophrenic? There’s the half lazy ass I turn into after a five mile run (no trouble getting in that run or yoga class. For others, getting into an exercise habit feels impossible). This lazy ass persona is bullied by the task master who asks, “What the f*ck is the problem?!” And there’s the mediator in me saying, “Just go with it. This is how you feelTask master: put down that whip.” Then, “You’re a hard worker. You’re creative. You’re funny. You’re driven. Maybe you just need this time to chill.” And the lazy ass says, “I know, but it doesn’t really feel good to chill. Yet I can’t stop doing this chill thing. I’m mad for chilling and I’m mad that I can’t enjoy the chill.What now?” And the task master points to the long list of wants- and needs-to-do. The things that could move me toward my dreams.

In a study published by the Journal of Consumer Research, it was found that those who believed they had already made progress towards their goal were twice as likely to achieve it than those who thought they were starting from scratch. ~ Christina Curtis, Psychology Today

I read and I read and I read. Articles. Books. Blogs. About inspiration. About acceptance and breathing. About love and being. About writing. About being, not doing.

I continued to talk about it (to myself, mostly) and ask myself why. Or why not.

I dwelled upon this lack of passion and beat myself up over it. I should be writing. I should be exploring the world around me (limited funds, but I could use my f*ckin’ imagination, couldn’t I?!). I should I should I should. Why am I not listening to myself, I’d ask myself daily. What’s wrong with me? Where did my creativity disappear to? Who stole my motivation? Who stole my rudder? People say I can write—some have even expressed how I’ve inspired them—why can’t I write daily like some writers do? How do they do that? What’s wrong with me? Yes. These are the things that I’ve said (and say, past and present tense) to myself and I’m now putting to paper.

Please note: I’m a self-starter. Hire me to do help you with marketing and I won’t just do it, I will likely exceed your expectations.

Remind me about the laundry and I’ll just sigh. Tell me to write and I freeze up.

For you, it may be something else you’re trying to get to but can’t seem to muster up the energy to take that first step.

The beginning is the most important part of the work. ~ Plato

Beginning is also the hardest part. If I’d only just plop a few words down on paper, it would count as beginning. I scroll up and see that I’ve written. Hey, I’m writing!

I started by thinking about how difficult it is to start sometimes and by doing so, I had something I could write about—express—in that moment. What I was feeling in that moment was distress over not writing (or not cleaning the damn linen closet, or not calling the bank about refinancing options) and telling you, dear reader, about that experience. Hoping that you’ve been in my shoes so you can relate and I can know I’m not alone. Hoping there’s a writer or a linen closet cleaner wannabe who made it to point B by simply starting. Then I can breathe and know there’s hope for me.

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.  ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It can be problematic when the list of things to do is lengthy (have you ever heard anyone talk about a short to-do list?). Even when we check one thing off of that list, chances are there’s another one or five things that come up. That’s life. And wouldn’t life be boring if we had nothing to do?

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. ~ Lao Tsu

I really want to write. I want to call myself a writer. I’d love to be a published author in the real sense, as in, an actual book. Who cares about all the other stuff? The linen closet is perhaps a symbol of my cluttered mind, something I need to clean out one sheet (one experience, one story, one word) at a time.

Fold one sheet today, possibly two tomorrow. Or by folding one sheet, since I’m there, I may be inclined quite naturally to pick up another and fold it.

Since I’m in my blog, I write this. I explore the difficulty of starting by pouring the jumble of thoughts onto paper (or in this case, channeling them through my fingers via keystrokes onto the computer screen). Explore, write, think, write. Unfold.

We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. ~ Calvin Coolidge

Hell, I say by George, it’s working!

Getting started is beginning. Beginning feels hard until we do it. Fear must be what holds us back. Fear of what? Writing gobbledy-gook? Being laughed at? Not being good enough? Getting lost in the groove? F*ck you, fear and false starts. I’m starting now. And I’m starting tomorrow. And the next time I feel starting is impossible, I will breathe and let myself be.

Beating ourselves up won’t make us start.

What made me start was this. Starting. Having the courage to begin.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

~ T.S. Eliot

And then, to end. To say, “This is good enough.” And let it go so we can move along to the next thing. The next breath. The next inspiration or bout of fear.

The Hardest Part:

Lynn Hasselberger-60

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, reading and writing, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. The founder of myEARTH360.com, Lynn also writes for her blog I Count for myEARTH. She’s a treehugger and social media addict who you’ll most likely find tweeting excessively and obsessively (@LynnHasselbrgr@myEARTH360and @IC4ME) or posting on facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

Birthday, Delight, Guest Posts

Top 10 Life Lessons Learned In My 48 Years by Lynn Hasselberger.

May 1, 2013

I woke up today and…voilà! I’m 48 years old.

Born in the middle of the night, two weeks late, I violently entered the world at nine and a half pounds with a huge pile of dark hair on my head. (I got stuck, my mom hemorrhaged and, well, we’re all still alive to talk about it).

Gaping at the large feet and hands attached to this red thing that was supposed to be a baby, my mom was convinced that I was going to be a replica of my six foot one, large-boned aunt (sister to my dad, who is small boned).

My parents couldn’t agree on a name, so I remained nameless for a day or two. Referred to as the baby or, more hopefully, “Baby.” (I need to ask more questions about this fact that I learned only a holiday or two ago after my mom drank one glass of wine too many. Sorry, mom, this is my story. And it’s actually pretty humorous. I’m not trying to call you out as a bad mom).

Eventually they agreed upon Lynn. My dad’s name is E. Leonard and, at the time, they called him Lenny (the  initial “E” for  Elmer, so Lenny was definitely the better choice).

In my early years, family referred to me as Lynn Anne. Later, you can imagine the confusion. If you can’t, allow me to explain: Lenny got older and became Len. I didn’t like to be called Lynn Anne, so, thusly (I’ve always wanted to use that word in one of my posts!) I morphed into Lynn. During my teen years, when people phoned for my dad and I answered, trouble ensued. “Is Len there?” they would ask, pronouncing my dad’s name as (you guessed it!) Lynn. “This is Lynn,” I would say. “No Len!” They’d insist, still pronouncing my dad’s name as Lynn.

To top it off, I have an Aunt Lynne and a cousin Linda. Hey, it was almost worse. I could have been Cressie—my grandma (my  dad’s mom) wanted them to name me after her deceased sister Cressida.

So, I’ve never been a big fan of my name. Except when it turns into Lynnie, a nickname that some friends use on too rare an occasion.

Forty-eight years later—my baby fat dispersed properly with the exception of my knees where it seems to collect—I am who I am today. Lynn Hasselberger. (Side note: Just a few days ago, I celebrated my 20th anniversary. Before marriage, I was plain old Lynn Johnson. I could not wait to get married in order to jazz up my boring name. When I met my husband, I immediately thought: Nope, he’s not the one. I mean, Hasselberger?)

I’ve survived many struggles—from eating disorders and infertility… to (gulp) infidelity—and enjoyed quite a few triumphs, blessings and overall good times.

I’m wiser now (quite possibly, most of that wisdom came during the last eight years) and am learning to accept the fact that I’m aging. A fact I found difficult to accept only two years ago.

Enough about me! Here are the ten top things I learned so far:

1. Rich or poor, happiness comes from within. I’ve struggled with finances along the way (and still today after my husband’s two and a half year unemployment—he’s been working for over a year now!—unexpected medical expenses and the investment into my business that was never and never will be returned, and that we’re still paying off) and enjoyed “better” times when we were both working full time, each making six figures. I wasnot happier when we had more money, but we were able to eat out a lot, travel… and when something in the house broke we could fix it immediately with the only stress being which contractor to choose.

I’m happy for the most part right now. Give me some more money and my shoulders will soften, we’ll sleep easier and we can finally take that real family vacation that doesn’t require camping at someone’s house. A slight tick in happiness will probably occur but can only be sustained with what’s in our hearts.

And if we start making oodles of money, we’d be smarter with it. I wouldn’t buy that $250 pair of shoes (they lasted more than 10 years, so you could say it was a good buy) but I would treat myself to a massage and cleaning service weekly.

2. We have to accept ourselves, not try to be what other people think we should be. Over the years I’ve heard that I have to calm down my hair, my lips are too thin, I’m too thin, I need to loosen up and get out more (okay, I’d like to change that about myself), I’m too quiet, I should be this or that.

I’ve also imagined what others might think of me and what they think I should be. And tried to fit in. Not wild enough? Not fun enough? Not smart enough? Not pretty enough? Not successful enough?

Source: google.com via Kelly on Pinterest

I used to try to prove I was those things in order for others to like me more.

But now I think: So the f*ck what? I am me. If you don’t like me as I am, move along. Nothing to see here.

Or deal with this:

I’m not a big fan of large groups and big, loud parties. My hair is at times frizzy or just tossed into a ponytail. I can be quirky. I  don’t watch reality shows. I find it important to continue to learn and be open-minded. I do the best and love as much as I can and forgive you no matter what (unless you kill my cat or do something even more heinous, but even then…). I will  show off my big ugly feet with their weird long monkey toes and even paint them a crazy color on occasion. I will get stressed at laundry. I will run outdoors as long as my legs and body will cooperate. I will mostly eat healthy food. I will tell you if I’m feeling low or about what bugs me. I will utter non sequitors often. I will wear my pj’s some days when I work at home and occasionally nag. I will be quiet at times. I will be cautious if I don’t know you well enough yet. I will stop at one or two drinks. I like to be in bed reading by 9 p.m. I will turn down your invitation sometimes not because I don’t appreciate you but because I simply feel like hanging out at home because I’m just worn out. My house will not be spotless and I can’t guarantee shaved armpits on a daily basis. I’m spiritual but not into organized religion and you’ll never witness me squashing a spider. I’m a tree hugger and believe humans are accelerating climate change by emitting more carbon into the atmosphere than the oceans and vegetation can absorb, throwing off they way the climate system would work without our interference. And unless you’re a climate scientist, you can’t convince me otherwise. I voted for Obama.

And I’m okay with that. If you’re not, then so be it.

Source: Uploaded by user via Elizabeth on Pinterest

3. Aging isn’t bad. It’s a badge of honor. Every day we wake up is truly amazing. I have to admit, I tried “filler” on my face a couple years ago. I was a) trying to mask the horizontal lines that were forming around my lips and b) at battle with my thin lips. Since they were already poking me with a painful needle, I allowed them to fill in the crease above my chin and soften my laugh lines. The changes made me feel more attractive (after all the nasty swelling and bruising vacated my face) but didn’t make me feel any happier.

I was in a mid-life freak out zone at the time. Thanks to my husband’s layoff, my adventure into unnatural fillers was put to an end.

We’re all getting older. That means wrinkles, getting tired faster and finding long hairs in weird places. In preparation for the years ahead, I’m learning to embrace these facts. Although I’m a bit concerned about howmenopause will tamper with my mood and wreak havoc in other unknown ways.

Self-disclosure: I cover my grays, though, and that’s something I haven’t found the courage to walk away from. It may take me another 10 years or more. But definitely, by 70, I will let my hair go.

P.S. Fillers and hair coloring are not good for us or the planet. I am admittedly not a 100 percent flawless tree hugger.

4. Holding onto anger is worse than whatever caused the anger in the first place. It ages us and wastes our energy. Forgiveness is key.

Source: Uploaded by user via Lynn on Pinterest

5. When sh*t happens, you’ll know who your true friends are. How? Because they’ll still be around. And if they disappear, it’s probably for the best. (A couple years ago, I told a person I considered a good friend that I was feeling depressed. I never heard from her again. She didn’t return my messages and even disconnected from me on LinkedIn!)

Absorb the goodness your friends (and even your enemies) have to offer while they’re in your life… you’ll be better for it.

Source: via Tanith on Pinterest

6. Exfoliation is important.
Not only are my feet f*ckin’ ugly, they’re dry. It wasn’t until sometime after college that I learned about pedicures and exfoliation. I treat myself to a pedicure at the turn of every season and otherwise exfoliate my feet right here in the comfort of my own home. I also exfoliate the rest of my fine self with loofah during most showers. Afterward, I apply raw shea butter mixed with an essential oil. Quite the process and not something I have time for every day, believe me!

On a more positive note, I appreciate my feet. Although they can’t dance and are often clutzy, they have served me well all these years. I think they, in turn, appreciate the exfoliation.

7. I am not meant to drink more than two drinks. I try to tell this to people when they say, “Oh come on, have fun! Have another drink. Live a little.” (Who knew peer pressure would live on past the age of 15?) Believe me, by avoiding a third drink, I  will have more fun tomorrow and the next day. Drinking one drink is actually enough. And to think, back in college and into my twenties, I partied hard most days of the week. How did I graduate, much less survive? Now drinking just makes me sleepy and wakes me up in the middle of the night.

8. I don’t have to do anything.

This has been my new mantra for the last few days ago and I hope I always remember it. I had been waking up anxious, thinking of all the things I had to do that day. I’d write down the top three things that really had to get done—although, honestly, the world would have carried on without me completing those things—and put all the rest on a longer list which I could pull from if I happened complete the three things and found myself looking for something to do. Invariably, all the tasks plus worries about finance and other stuff I had forgotten to put on the list would jumble around in my head and paralyze me.

Recently, my husband and I spent two nights in the city for our anniversary. It took quite a bit to get myself out the door and onto that train (we don’t do much to avoid spending money!) but once I was at the hotel, clothes put neatly away in the drawers, everything I had to do left my mind. Well, not all at once. But by day two, I was carefree. We didn’t go around the city spending money like drunken sailors. We ate and walked and took in the scene. I even gave breakfast to three homeless men.

Nothing fell apart during those two days. I had fun!

This led to an epiphany. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to wake up to thoughts of what I have to do that day. I don’t have to stress  about anything.

Telling myself I don’t have to do anything—a simple mind trick, similar to believing in fairies who will clean the kitchen and bathrooms in the middle of the night—has reduced my stress. And I’m more productive. My mind is clear. I’m approaching my life differently, from a place of abundance—look how full my life is! I have a family that I love, which leads to a couple of messes and extra laundry. How great is that?! How lucky am I?

I just have to follow my passion. My passion doesn’t have to be on a list.

Yes, I have responsibilities, but waking every morning with all them crashing against each other inside my skull until I can put them on a list and begin cramming them into a day just doesn’t work.

I don’t have to do anything. And my mind believes that! My anxiety? Extinguished.

I sure hope my mind doesn’t realize what I’m up to!

Source: oprah.com via Lynn on Pinterest

9. Food is fuel and medicine. Exercise makes me feel better.

It’s quite simple. I’ve written about my strange and evolving relationship with food, with self-medication disguised as a sugar tooth and eating disorder. Now I know—healthy food and exercise makes me feel better. And, please, I do eat crap once in a while including a pint of ice cream every week.

10. Time flies and every moment is a reward for this thing we call life.

Even the most unpleasant, f*cked up days are a gift.

I go through periods in my life, when it feels like time is slipping away and I feel myself grasping at it as if I could slow it down or stop it  altogether.

But squandering moments or stressing over our perceived lack of time is a waste of energy. I know this from experience. Chasing time is exhausting work!

I’ve decided this very moment to expand upon my mind trick (#8) and tell myself I have all the time I need. Ha! It’s also all the time I’ll ever have available to me. It is precious.

We need to embrace the good and the bad. After the bad, it could get worse, but then it will get better. Or… it might not. But no matter what happens, odds are in your favor that there’s someone else out there who’s experiencing something worse.

In the moments we have, we need to find a way to make a difference, no matter how small. Inspire by sharing our passions. Or simply smile at someone, wave at our neighbor, support a friend when they’re down. Sign a petition for human rights or the planet.

Be grateful for this moment. And the one that just passed.

Live the moment. Get to know it. Learn from it. For it will inevitably be whisked away before you can say “Time flies!” (By the way, time does not fly if you’re serving it.)

And then we die.

Of course I’ve learned much more. But 10 is a nice round number.

The rest I’ll leave up to your imagination.

P.S. I’m grateful to everyone in my life and I hope to enjoy many more moments with all of you.

Happy birthday to everyone!


 

Lynn Hasselberger lives in Chicagoland with her son, husband and two cats. She loves sunrises, running, yoga, chocolate, reading and writing, and has a voracious appetite for comedy. The founder of myEARTH360.com, Lynn also writes for her blog I Count for myEARTH. She’s a treehugger and social media addict who you’ll most likely find tweeting excessively and obsessively (@LynnHasselbrgr@myEARTH360and @IC4ME) or posting on facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.

**This post originally appeared on Elephant Journal and is reposted here with permission.
The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

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…

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Death & Meaning by Brendan Bonner.

April 11, 2013

Death and Meaning

by Brendan Bonner

Flying back to New York, 37,000 ft. over some state between here and there, I thought that no matter what I was going to experience back at my parents house, I would remain present for it. I would be responsible for my being there. I wanted my physical presence to make a difference. I knew that it would probably not be pretty, to witness what my father was going through, that it would be something I had never seen before, the death of my father, but I knew that to look away would not be living well, it would not be the courageous thing to do. I wanted to keep my eyes open as the lion charged. I wanted to experience all of it.

My father had been diagnosed a few years earlier with Parkinson’s disease and four months prior to this plane ride, he’d had his second and third strokes. For the last week he was incapacitated and when awake, in full dementia. I landed, got to my parents house, put my bag down and rolled up my sleeves. The next seven days I bathed him, changed his diaper, put cream on his bed sore and read him poetry with the whole time remaining as present as I could to his decline, which was quick and accelerating each day. I said that I wanted to remain present; I wanted to experience everything. He spoke nonsense up until Wednesday and for two and a half days he was silent. With this I was familiar. He was not much of a presence in life, the sort that would be in the corner reading at any family gathering. He assumed no role of sail or rudder in my life and any fatherly advice he may have given was now locked up away in that failing brain of his.

He died with only me in the room, holding his hand. He stopped breathing for, I don’t know how long, then inhaled deeply and let the final breath out. I said that I wanted to remain present; I wanted to experience everything. I kept watching to see what happens; what happens when your father dies in front of you, the father that wasn’t much of an influence, the father that I desperately wanted a connection with, the one man I thought could help me find meaning in life. But….nothing. He died. That is it. No openings in the sky, no lights shining down upon his face, no bells ringing. What happened was that his body could no longer support the energy that animated it for seventy-five years, and with one last exhale, he was no more.

My father did not survive his physical death. The “perfect storm” of biology, energy and consciousness that was my father will never be on this planet again and that is what is so difficult to be with, to be present to and experience. This world is inherently meaningless and it doesn’t mean anything that it doesn’t mean anything. Most would find comfort in this, yet it has been like a bucket of cold water being dumped on a blissfully sleeping child.

Of course, I could be wrong about what happens after death. We could be transported to some other reality, our consciousness in tact, to live out a better existence than this one, playing harps and an eternity of Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey at our disposal but I don’t think so. When we die, we die. Period. When death comes, there is no negotiating, no bartering for time. Death comes for everyone, no matter if you were a saint or an S.O.B. What we do in this life, inherently, has no meaning.

I have struggled to find purpose throughout my life, strained to live my life well, as a “nice guy,” saying “bless you” post sneeze, holding doors open for those lagging behind, thinking that it would, at some moment, mean something. I have seen what the end looks like and it is not pretty. I said that I wanted to remain present; I wanted to experience everything but to what end? For what purpose? All inquiries and questions and subsequent answers are cathartic, at best. They only lead me back to “what’s the point?”, a very unforgiving abyss to stare into. And yet, most times, I come back to that I am here, now. We are here, now. I am, we are in this moment, right now. How this moment and subsequent ones play out is entirely up to me. And there is another human being sitting next to me who is not that different and is probably struggling with the same things, right now, in this moment. All that I can promise myself is the validity of this moment, because right now, I exist. I am responsible for that and that alone.

But, I struggle.

~~~

Brendan and his dad.

Brendan and his dad.

Brendan. Click photo to connect with him.

Brendan. Click photo to connect with him.

 

Brendan is a dear dear friend of mine an I encourage you to connect with him here. Please leave comments to this beautiful essay below so he can see them and respond accordingly. Thanks, tribe, xo jen

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