Browsing Tag

memoir

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts

How Not To Be An Asshole & “On Being Human” Giveaway

December 22, 2018

By Jen Pastiloff

I literally do not know how to not be an asshole I just own the URL www.DontBeAnAsshole.net. I think the answer is by being kind. Will you do something obscenely kind for someone today? Please let me know. In honor of my bday (it just passed so thanks for the wishes!) I do love you. I tricked you with the how to not be an asshole though. I am not sorry. Getting people to read things is hard. Meh. Continue Reading…

death, Grief

Last Call.

August 3, 2014

A Memoir by Laura C. Alonso

We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw material . . . when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.

~ C. S. Lewis

I called before coming that evening, asked if you needed something, anything you might have wanted. “How about fruit?” you asked. “Yeah, I’d really love some fruit.”

I drove over to White Hen, best fruit I’ve ever seen: golden bananas and enormous apples as smooth and red as blood. Three times the supermarket’s price, but I wanted to bring you the best. It had always been hard, you know? This was the least I could do.

Continue Reading…

Q & A Series, The Converse-Station

The Converse-Station: Alice Anderson interviews Maggie May Ethridge.

May 28, 2014

Hey there, Jen Pastiloff here. Welcome to the newest installment on The Manifest-Station. The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. (Thanks to author Elissa Wald for coming up with that name.) I am so excited by the idea of this series, I can hardly stand it. The readership on the site is so high that I figured it was time for something like this. Today’s interview is between two of my buddies, Alice Anderson and Maggie May Ethridge, and I couldn’t be more excited. I am a hardcore fan of both of these women and I think you will be too, after you read this. Magggie’s book came out today. You can buy it here. I hope you do. Smooches, Jen.

Alice Anderson

Alice Anderson

Maggie May Ethridge

Maggie May Ethridge

One Wild and Precious Marriage. An interview conducted by Alice Anderson.

I’ve been a fan of Maggie May Etheridge since the late-90’s, when I first became aware of her as a blogger with a knack for elevating the ordinary moments of life to a higher realm. I’m dating myself, but I don’t mind telling you that “Flux Capacitor” held an unwavering spot in my Myspace top ten. And I’m not alone in my admiration: a frequent comment on Etheridge’s blog is, “If you ever publish a book, I will be first in line.” Well, queue up y’all, the day has arrived! Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes from a marriage, a memoir of true love and life’s unexpected bumps in the road, is released today (by Shebooks, a curated collection of quality e-books written by women, for women.)

Atmospheric Disturbances is essentially a love story, with all the requisite complications and disasters. When Maggie and Mr. Curry (as she calls her husband throughout the memoir) meet, it is one of those universal pivotal moments when we first meet the eyes of someone we might love. Not the clichéd movie moment of love at first sight, but rather the soul-deep recognition of someone who’ll become part of you, who somehow already knows you. It’s that precipice, that moment before the moment electricity that carries Etheridge and Mr. Curry through the years of marriage and blending children and having two more and making a life. And then an unwelcome guest arrives at the table: mental illness. When Mr. Curry is diagnosed with bipolar, Etheridge asks: Am I welcome at the marriage table when my husband is lost to bipolar and my wedding band is being twisted in anxiety underneath the cloth? Less about the diagnoses of bipolar than the way we survive the rough times, Atmospheric Disturbances is about scaling the precipice, and somehow falling not into darkness, but into light.

Alice Anderson: There are two layers of “history” that feel like myth in this story. There is the history of childhood, in which you paint yourself as a solitary, lonely soul. And there is the history of the beginning of your relationship with Mr. Curry. Both have a kind of mythology – the way our histories can come to be a metaphor for our lives – and the “moral of the story” of the history with Mr. Curry seems to be the answer to the mystery to the childhood struggles. The cure, as it were. When he was diagnosed, did his illness feel like a slap in the face to the healing his presence in your life had so clearly provided? 

Maggie May Etheridge: Absolutely it did. The slap in the face that I render Mr. Curry in the memoir was a direct reflection of the internal experience I was having a shocking pain, unexpected and heartbreaking. Our marriage before he became sick was so life affirming, so healthy, and so beautiful that I had felt I was over one part of my life – the part where I felt alone in the world, cut off from kindred spirits – and on to the other, and I expected that whatever challenges came our way (which they did! poverty, disease, yes we have done both) we would meet them together, with this relationship as our backbone. When Mr. Curry became ill I was left alone to deal with it, because the person I know retreats when he is sick. Sometimes when he is really ill, I imagine his brain, inflamed and irritable, swollen up around the real person he is, trapping him. Bipolar is an absolutely ugly, brutal disease and the way it can destroy a person’s life breaks my heart over and over. Witnessing other people with this disease who do not have family support is tragic; they become completely lost. Bipolar is like cancer in that there are many treatments but no one can tell you if they will work or if they do, how long they will keep the thing at bay.

Alice Anderson: You mention your gratitude that he allows you to talk about his diagnoses at all. Can you talk about how Mr. Curry came to agree to you writing this material? I love the line about him wanting to allow you to do what you do, which is to tell the truth. But you seem to have left out the specific details of those difficult waves in his bipolar – was this intentional? Did you have to draw a line in the sand in what you would not talk about regarding the waves of his bipolar phases? 

Maggie May Etheridge: I absolutely drew a line in the sand and left out most of what happens. When I was writing this, I was drawn toward expressing with the words, the sentences, the emotions of feeling estranged from your lover, of feeling abandoned, hurt, confused, guilty – drawing up those emotions around a few sketched details vs. a diary where I write out many specific experiences and then clearly state how I felt, how he felt.

Originally when I began writing about this, it was online on my blog Flux Capacitor. I had asked in 2009 if I could write about it and he said no. I respected that. Over time, he approached me and changed his mind. I think this was because we could not afford a therapist for myself, and he was very ill, and I needed something and he gave it to me. I wrote about this on my blog and the relief was immense. Not only was I able to express myself, I was able to connect with other people who were, for one reason or another, struggling in their marriages. And I found that even people with more solid and healthy marriages would come forward and say they loved the writing, because even the best of marriages have the darkest of nights.

Alice Anderson: One thing I felt most when reading this is that it is a love story. Do you agree? In what way did you (if you did) want the love to overshadow the trouble in the piece? 

Maggie May Etheridge: I had no intentions when I wrote this except for to stay true to my inner voice, my experience of the world, and to leave out or later erase things that felt wrong, cruel to my husband or my family. I deeply love my husband. We were best friends for years before we married – both of us had children in other relationships, children that have known each other since they were born. We met as teenagers and he was in love with me a long time before I realized I was in love with him. Falling romantically in love with someone you already have a deep trust and friendship with is thrilling in all ways – not only are you incredibly passionate and excited, like all new love, you also have the deeply satisfying knowledge of their personhood. This is why, when my husband became sick, it was such a shock. I knew him, and then it seemed overnight, I did not.

Alice Anderson: You talk about the way we view love and marriage in our culture as something that is supposed to be painless, over the rainbow lovely. You manage, in your writing, to infuse even the most difficult parts of the story with a visceral love that feels real and true and fierce. I’ve found that sometimes “trouble” can bond me to a lover. Do you feel the trouble (meaning the rough times, the bipolar phases, the struggle) in your marriage has increased the passion? The loyalty? 

Maggie May Etheridge: No, I really do not. I think the passion and loyalty that comes though in this memoir was built before he was very ill, and in the times when he has not been. The person that is truly beautiful. He is loyal, intelligent, funny, charming, gentle – so gentle – open minded, the hardest worker you will ever meet and aware of the brevity and beauty of life. The love I have for him is from this man, this person. This is so powerful that it carries me during the long stretches when he is ill – because I do not believe that love is just an emotion. I deeply believe that real love is a commitment to support and cherish a person regardless of your emotions. This does not mean I don’t believe in divorce, but I believe how you divorce – your side, nothing else – is also an extension of that original love and commitment.

What the trouble in our marriage has done, the pain, is to make me deeply question and investigate what it means to be a person. What does it mean to love someone? What is the line between loyalty and self-flagellation or martyrdom? If a person has a brain disease, and all markers of that person disappear and leave behind new markers, is this the same person? How do you take care of yourself while taking care of someone who is attacking you without knowing what they are really doing? What is the meaning of commitment, of honor? What do I want my children to see and learn?

The pain has also caused a great deal of guilt in my part. The guilt at times has been the worst part of the entire disease for me. Guilt that I cannot fix him, no matter how many vitamins or supportive words. Guilt that I feel so furious and hateful toward him when he is sick. Guilt that sometimes I have to choose between taking care of the kids and him, and I always choose the kids. Guilt that I want so much for myself.

Alice Anderson: How did you choose the title, Atmospheric Disturbances, Scenes from a marriage?

Maggie May Etheridge: I am devoted to titles. I love, love a great title and have my own ideas of what a great title is. When this phrasing rung in my head, I just fell in love with the words. It perfectly fits the memoir, which are literally scenes from our marriage.

Alice Anderson: The last line in the piece, “And wait for him” is incredibly sad, the reader feels your isolation and pain. In any way do you feel like you’re losing your sense of self when you’re in that prolonged time of waiting? Have you found a way to weather those phases with less pain over the years? What do you do to hold your sense of self steady? 

Maggie May Etheridge: I feel a loss of self, yes, primarily I think because we have four children and they are the focus of my life. When he is ill, and I am parenting, there is very, very little left for self-expression of any kind. This can be absolutely brutal. Holding my sense of self steady comes from two places- connecting through books, writing, poetry, friends and learning, and living up to my own moral obligations. When I am working hard, engaged emotionally with my kids, meeting my responsibilities, moving toward patience, kindness, humility, devotion – then I feel strong and connected to every human being who has come before me who has done something very difficult or painful and remained true to their ideals. What gets me through the worst of life is when I can look back and feel satisfied that I can be proud of myself, that I did my best, that I loved well. In the end, when you lie down in bed at night, this is the comfort. Because we cannot control anything else, and sometimes we cannot even control ourselves. So if most of the time, we are doing the best we can, loving well, then we can be satisfied we are making a good life and that the people we love know and feel loved.

Alice Anderson: Speaking of love, I love the various locations in the book – they’re all sort of quintessentially California. The parks and basement clubs and convenience stores and burrito joints and even Mr. Curry’s truck traversing the edge of the Pacific. I found myself “seeing” the story as I read it, with the sort of a burnished SoCal light cast on average places. You elevate the basement club and the average neighborhood park with your language, the way a sunset elevates an otherwise simple cloudy sky. If you were to have a book party, which of these locations would be closest to your heart, the perfect location to celebrate the messy, lovely, wild love that unfurls across the pages of this book?

Maggie May Etheridge: A Cali. bookstore on the beach, where we’d all drink coffee and then disperse outside for a walk. I love California, I love San Diego. I am originally from Jackson, Miss. and the two places have meshed together in my person. I am deeply aware of my Southern roots and spent a lot of time in Miss. growing up, visiting my grandparents back there, including my 4th grade year – we lived there and I went to school. I absolutely love Southern writers. They speak closest to my experience of the world, slightly surreal, odd, infused with magic, terror, love. When I write scenes of suburban life, I often feel echoes of the impression that John Irving’s The World According To Garp suburbia left on me, that heightened sense of place.

Alice Anderson: In the scene where you break the window, Mr. Curry seems like the stable one in the relationship, coming to the rescue. There is an old Southern saying that any marriage can last forever as long as only one person is crazy at a time. Agree? When Mr. Curry is in a bipolar episode do you feel required to “buck up” and be the strong one? It seems he picks up the slack of this when he’s doing well. You speak of “not keeping score” but do you feel that it all evens out? How is does the burden of mental illness affect the balance of a marriage?

Maggie May Etheridge: I absolutely have to buck up when he is ill. We have children that need stability and love and when he is ill, they need it more than ever. When he is well, he absolutely picks up the slack. In some ways, he’s more even-keeled that I am when he is well! His nature is gentle, kind, patient.  But no, the balance does not even out. This disease has ravaged more years of our marriage than it has left untouched. Not everyone experiences it this way – some people are more responsive to medication than Mr. Curry has been. We have tried many different medications, therapies – at one point I researched and found ‘the’ premiere bipolar expert here in San Diego, a professor and writer and lecturer who only sees a small amount of clients for $500 a pop, and we scraped the money out of our sad account and he saw this man. Nothing has ‘worked’. The longest reprieve has been a year and half. Right now, he is doing gluten free, and that has made him healthier, maybe more clear headed, but not ‘well’.

Alice Anderson: I noticed you quoted Mary Oliver’s “one wild and precious life” in one scene – your voice is very poetic throughout. The language is taught and plain, yet elevated and opaque, much the way Oliver’s language is in her poems. You seem to be taking Oliver’s poetic advice, which is to “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Why was it important to you to tell this story?

Maggie May Etheridge: I think Oliver’s poetic advice is the intention behind my writing. As I mentioned before, I originally started writing about our marriage with the intention of just letting some of the pressure out, which is what writing does for me (usually. sometimes my novel makes me insane with pressurized words that won’t inflate correctly.)

Alice Anderson: You talk in this book about the way Bipolar is an invisible illness, how people can’t see it, don’t rally to help the way they would something more visible and concrete. I think this is a universal feeling for those who have an invisible illness and it’s worse for one for which there is no cure, because people grow weary and feel that after a given time, the person should “be better” or “cured,” even if there is no cure. Did you feel compelled to bring this into the light? Do you have a sense of advocacy on behalf of families who suffer with the way bipolar can wreak havoc?

Maggie May Etheridge: I see myself as an advocate for mental illness awareness in general. I have anxiety and have suffered with various forms of this my whole life, and mental illness of all kinds runs rampant in my family history. With bipolar specifically, I think of an acquaintance who once told me that I should not separate Mr. Curry from bipolar the illness, that essentially I was fooling myself, and yes it is a disease, but it’s who he is, also. I sat on that for some time, rolling it around in the muck of my experience and reading. It’s not true. And really, it’s the essential devastation and greatest point of pain for people who have this disease: the true person they are is not recognized, they are seen as their illness. Can you imagine people saying, “Hi, I’m Amy and I am cancer.” the way they would say, “Hi this is Amy and she is bipolar’”? No. Bipolar is an actual disease of the brain that can be seen on MRI’s. I have lived with my husband for over a year where he was not ill, and he was a whole and complete person with no signs of the behaviors that arise when he is ill. He may get lost in the disease, but I will never see him as an illness, and I consider it my cherished duty to always retain awareness of him as the person he is when not ill, to honor that person who I have promised to love. I think of this when he is ill: if he was trapped in isolation in prison, faultily accused and deemed guilty, would I leave him alone? Or would I slip notes in the door, say prayers, smooth his hair when he slipped by me in the hallway? Love is not powerful unless you infuse it with a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is simply to hold on to the truth, no matter who else forgets.

Alice Anderson: Thank you for talking with me about Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes from a marriage. If you had to sell this book with only one word, what would that one word be?

Maggie May Etheridge: Marriage.

Alice Anderson: If I had to sell it with just one word, I’d choose: beauty.

Click book to purchase.

Click book to purchase.

 

Maggie May Ethridge is a writer, poet, and novelist close to completing her second novel, Agitate My Heart. Her work can be found in various online and print publications including Diagram, Role/Reboot, the Nervous Breakdown, and the Huffington Post. Originally from Mississippi, she resides in San Diego with her husband and four children. She blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor and can be found on Twitter @FluxCapacitor74 and Facebook. Her essay “What Do Wives Do?” was included in the Equals anthology 2013.

Alice Anderson is a poet and writer whose poetry collection, Human Nature, won both the Bobst Prize from NYU and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s Best First Book Prize. She is featured in the anthologies On the Verge: Emerging Poets and Artists in America, and American Poetry: The Next Generation. An adjunct professor and single mama of three, she is at work on a memoir, The Season of Ordinary Time. In 2009, Anderson suffered a traumatic brain injury and has learned how to walk, write, speak, and read again. You can find her on Facebook, as well as on Twitter and Instagram @AlicePoet.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. 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 (Dallas, London, Seattle, Sioux Falls, Atlanta  etc.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Beating Fear with a Stick, my book

Fear of Flying

September 24, 2012

Here I am in the air, headed back to Los Angeles from Atlanta. Having internet in the sky is still a novel idea to me and one that makes me feel like a wizard wedged in between 22D and 22F.  I’m a word wizard up here, a magician in the clouds and yet I feel like I have nothing to say. Like I have said it all. Some days are like that. I am a vessel of ideas and words and firecrackers and other days, a body in a chair, a body in the car, a body going through the motions.

So I post on Facebook and say: I’m going to write a post from the plane. What Should  write about? And I acknowledge that I am distracting myself from writing my book. #Distractingmyselffromwritingmybook.

Someone tweets me that I should write about fear of flying and another procrastination.

Procrastination, well I wrote the book on that one, so surely I could write a blog about it. But, fear of flying? I am not scared of flying.

Not anymore.

Or so I thought.

I used to have heart palpations every time I was on a plane and there was turbulence. I thought for sure that my time was up, I was dying, this was it. Then, I started to fly more and more and one day you wake up and that fear is gone. The things we get used to! People dying. People leaving us. Flying! Wi-fi in the air! We can get used to anything.

With time.

I started to think about it as I sat here in my middle seat (which I grumbled about of course, because in my mind I should be flying first class.) I don’t know why I think that but I got offended when they changed my seat and stuck me here in the middle as if they should have known better. Then I got over myself. For the most part. I still don’t like it but I have wi-fi. There’s that.

I am sitting here squashed and thinking about fear of flying and I realize that I am scared still, of heights, of expanding past what I think I am capable of.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago visiting one of my best friends you’ve heard me talk so much about: the writer Emily Rapp. Now Ms. Rapp is one of the best writers, living or dead, I have come across so when I am around her, well, I feel more like a real writer. Whatever that means. So I am with her in Santa Fe, Emily and her dying son Ronan (he has the incurable Tay-Sachs Disease) and she says something about me being a writer. I can’t remember what but I do remember I said I want to be known as Jen the writer not Jen the yoga teacher.

I realize that. My dharma, my purpose, my calling, whatever hippy dippy or non woo-woo word you want to use for it, well, I am not sure teaching yoga is that for me for me. But who decides?

Does it matter what I am known for?

These are all questions I ask myself as I buckle into my seat and get ready for take-off because you know once you are soaring there is little you can do to change what is behind you. Even though I have spent most of my life thinking I can change the past, and alternately, living there.

Does it matter if I am known, period?

It does if I want to write a best-selling book. So where is it? I write daily. Where is my book? I write blog after blog and some that I really love but my book is the the thing in the sky I am scared of. What if I write it and? There are a million ways to finish that sentence.

What if I can’t finish it?

All the what if’s are like turbulence and here I am up in the air trying to balance a cup of coffee. It keeps spilling and I have to refill.

What if I tell the story of who I am and they see me?

Who is “they”?

The fear of flying is so great that it sometimes keeps us grounded. Wayne Dyer has this great saying which I may butcher but it goes something like: Flight wasn’t discovered by  contemplating the staying on the ground of things.

So why are we so scared of flying?

I think it boils down to death. We are scared we are going to die. We are going to crash. (It feels somehow blasphemous to be writing about crashing and death while sitting on a plane.)

Let’s break it down?

How can I crash with my book?

I can expose myself. I can write a flop. People might hate me.

Okay, there’s that.

So what?

So what?

I need to do it anyway. My calling ( I imagine a deli and a man behind the counter calling my number) is to be a writer. A connector. A communicator. A healer. All of it. So yes, I use yoga to get my people in the room. I also use writing. I use whatever I can, whatever method I can travel by. Sometimes, in NYC, I take the bus. Look, I will get there how I need to get there unless my fear of flying debilitates me so much that I stay locked in my room playing on Facebook.

Why are we scared of success? Why do we need to apologize for it? (Okay, read: me.)

Usually when I saw we I mean me. I can only ever talk about what I know.

This I know: I am here in the sky in a chair and I am ready to tell the story of who I am. I am not scared of this plane crashing oddly enough just of my own light allowing to live the life I want. And why is that scary?

It comes down to worthiness.

I am a writer. I am flying. Look, I haven’t crashed yet. It’s only my fear of it which is keeping me filled with anxiety white fingernails.

Is the fear real?

You tell me.

I will tell you this. All of my fears originate in my mind which is a breeding ground for trouble. I love my mind but i will be damned if I have it control me and my piloting skills.

I am flying this motherf*cking plane.

I am a writer. We are what we say we are.

I am flying.

**Love to hear your thoughts below. Who are you? Where are you scared of flying? Of your own light?

** as a side note, my book agent came to my sold out workshop at Pure Yoga in NYC last week and every person went up to her and told her how excited they were to read my book. There’s that.

healing, Inspiration, my book

Hunting For Unicorns.

August 26, 2012

By Jen Pastiloff.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with unicorns.

I had this big unicorn book, a coffee table kind of book with shiny pages that felt smooth when I ran my hands over them. Again and again, smoothing over my unicorns. I would pick up the book and smell the pages. It had this new book, magazine-like smell that I couldn’t get enough of. I would pick which unicorn was my favorite. Some days it was the white one on the beach in a place I imagined to be Australia, others it was the two unicorns in the field of flowers.

One day someone told me they were just horses with a horn glued on their heads. I refused to believe this. I would pick up the book and bring it closer to my eyes and inspect. I couldn’t see any evidence of forgery. They must be real.

When I was 7 I had a diary with a picture of unicorn on the front. I put a felt sticker of a unicorn on the front and inside were 7 unicorns stamped in pink ink. I opened the diary recently to see that it said: I ripped out the pages before these because I wrote dumb things. This was in 1985. I looked closely and indeed they were frayed edges like the pages had been yanked out! What had I said?

Those pages floating in the Garbage Can of Dumb Things somewhere in 1985. In 2012 they would be in the Stream of Profound Things. I would look back at them and say: How fantastic! Look what I wrote when I was a kid. Look how thoughtful I was. Or: Look how much pain I was in. Whatever I had written I would look back upon it with awe and fascination and would use it as science and fact. It would help me uncover the mystery of why I was the way I was and it would give me material for my book. But I threw those parts of my life away. The “dumb parts.”

How may dumb parts of my life have I thrown away altogether?

How many have you?

What could I have said that I thought was so dumb?

When my father died I refused to cry. Maybe I wrote that I felt sad and then regretted that so I ripped it out? Being vulnerable was never easy for me. I thought it dumb to show how I felt. That it meant I was weak.

I will hunt for my old pages. I will search for those words. The basis of the unicorn myth perhaps arose because at one point people literally hunted for them. They searched in field and forests, calling out in the dark to these fantastical creatures. It was believed that it really existed somewhere at the edge of the known earth. Thus the mythologizing began.

So the hunt for the unicorn was much like my hunt for my pages. I am sure they existed. I believe that they exist somewhere at the edge of the known earth and that if I call to my ripped out pages in the dark edge of a forest, they will return. They will enter my sleeping mind, a unicorn made real by determination, and when I wake they will be there again like they never left. There will be no gaps in my diary, no holes in my memory, no unknown unicorns.

What is legend? What turns into memory? Which pages have you ripped out of your life thinking they didn’t deserve to exist? Which unicorns?

I wish I knew what happened to that beloved unicorn book. If I close my eyes I can still feel how smooth those pages were. It’s funny which things our memories choose to hold onto. Which sensations, which pages, which books, which people. Sometimes I would take those pages and rub them against my legs or my face like a talisman. I would let their magic wear off on me like the cold end of a rabbit’s foot or a lucky penny. The pages were always cool as if they lived in a separate magical world. No matter what the weather was in my room the pages stayed cold as snow.

I stopped believing in unicorns and I gave the book away. Or I threw it away in The Garbage Can of Dumb Things. I stopped believing that things would work out for me, that good things would last and that unicorns were a real part of the world.

A real part of the world. 

Real parts of the world were: my father’s death, we were moving away from New Jersey, I knew how to spell antidisestablishmentarianism (I would tell you this upon first meeting you and proceed to spell it), I had a red Huffy bike.

Not real parts of the world were: My father, unicorns.

I couldn’t remember what the book was called for the life of me until today. What I could  remember was how it smelled and which unicorn was on which page. So today I googled: Unicorn coffee table book from the 1980’s and what do you know? There it was! My beloved book. Unicorns I have Known. 

I am thinking back on all the unicorns I have known.

All the magic I have witnessed and then denied it’s very existence? All the miracles I have forgotten about or simply ripped out of my life like the pages of a diary, as if they were irrelevant or symptoms of stupidly. Symptoms of believing in magic.

How dare I believe in magic? I thought. Look where it gets you, you stupid Unicorn, I yelled.

I would like to be able to say that I believe in magic again.

I am getting closer to that truth. I am still out here wearing a headlamp, searching for unicorns after having given up on them for years. The thing is, about these unicorns, about this kind of magic: it will wait. It will be there to greet you with such a powerful surge of light that you will need take off your headlamp and sit down under a tree as you watch the light spill across the forest of your life like it had been there all along.

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

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

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.

my book

Details of A Life.

August 23, 2012

I can’t remember the details of my life.

They go by, a fast car, a blur, a streak of blue or grey, a whiff of hair out the window, something out of the corner of an eye, not so much seen as remembered.

I am writing a book. An outline, my old friend, the big editor in NYC tells me. An outline? How do I outline my life? Do I get a piece of paper and draw a thin line of across it, a faint streak in charcoal or pencil outlining the places my heart has stopped beating for moments in time, tracing the years my eyes closed and opened again? An outline.

Birth. I was born. It was cold. December. Philadelphia. I came two months early. Just before Christmas I entered the world, a purple storm. I have been told that as my mother pushed me in a carriage one day in South Philadelphia, a woman spit on my head. I don’t remember this but I have been told the story so much that I think I remember this. This is the danger of being told stories. You start to think the story is the truth. And it might have been. But really, who knows? Who knows. The woman could have easily not spit on my head or called me ugly, or she could have spit on me. Either way I am not remembering the actual saliva and feeling of hatred dripping down but the rather the words have imprinted on my memory creating their own little room. Replete with a bed and a desk and a typewriter.

My sister was born. We moved to New Jersey. Across the bridge to South Jersey where people were moving. We moved to a street called Drexel Avenue. I remember that. I remember the store across the street from our house had a PacMan machine and a Frogger video game. You could buy things and put them on your tab at this store. I was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7, and I could walk in, play PacMan, get a pound of American cheese thinly sliced, and a hard pack of Kools for my father. I could just tell the man who owned it, Kirk, to put it on our tab. He left egg nog on our doorstep at Christmas. Now do I remember these things because I was there or because I wrote poems about them? Either way, here they are, in the outline on this Etch-A-Sketch of my life.

My dad dies. It’s 1983. Still a faint outline I am working on here, you must rememberr. Maybe it’s in chalk, pencil, something light. We aren’t at his funeral, my sister and I. We were somewhere but since I never wrote a poem about it, I don’t know where. Did we disappear, two little girls slipping into a crack in time long enough for a funeral for a very loved man to be held? Maybe. I do not know where we were. I will have to leave that out of my outline.

See the thing is, when writing a book, you have to have notes to look back on. I took no notes. My notes are in my head and my head is as unreliable as a sock.

Every sock I own has gone missing, leaving it’s partner in a ball with nothing to do but sit and wait. Eventually you get so desperate that you take that lone sock and put it with another lone sock, if it’s lucky. But you can’t count on that. Sometimes that sock sits forever by itself, sulking because it’s by itself and can’t understand what that means.

I am relying on my memories and my imagination. I know we write to remember and maybe I just do not want to remember. Maybe that? Maybe I am lazy. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I thought I would remember.

Don’t we all?

I am not sure the answer but I do know that it’s time to do this, to finally answer that calling that has been with me since I was a kid living in that house on Drexel Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey. And yet, here I am at a loss. How do I begin? What do I call upon? How can I do this?

Where does everything go? I yell at the computer.

Everything that happened to me, every person, every book I read, every toothache, every conversation with my dad, every triumph and heartache, every pizza: where is it, where are they? They happened. They existed.

I thought I would remember.

Maybe that’s why I never journaled. But shouldn’t I be able to call upon them in a moment’s notice? Don’t they belong to me? Don’t they work for me? Where have they gone?

Where has my father’s laugh gone: that laugh that creeped up the vents into our room and made us giggle because it sounded like a sheep? Where has that sound gone? Is it floating around somewhere in space where I can go capture it in a bottle and put it by my computer so when I need to describe it I can unscrew the lid and listen. Oh, how I would listen!

Perhaps that is how we keep going. If we remembered every detail we would never hold someone’s hand again, we would never kiss again, or go to the dentist. But does the forgetting mean that we can’t call upon it when needed. Can I sit quietly and remember the details of my life as they happened so I can write them on paper and send them out in the world?

After my father died and we moved to California we were happy. For a while. Then we moved back to New Jersey. Things are a blur here. I was hungry all the time in high school, I remember that, but I can’t remember how the hunger felt as it ate my stomach, that high I had as I felt empty, empty and more empty. I was so empty I remember thinking I wasn’t in the world anywhere but I must have been because here I am, still here. I can’t really remember that emptiness.

So I will have to sit quietly and beg the details to come back. I will bribe them. I will be nice to them and I will pay attention to what they tell me.

The details of my life are intricate and complicated and at the same time easy and wonderful, sad and happy, full of mistakes and fuck ups and moments of Yes. 

I spoke to someone on the phone this morning. My friend, Jimmy Knowles, someone gifted in too many ways for one human to be gifted, and he said, for the third time to me: Take notes during all of this. Take notes.

So what’s my problem? Why can’t I? What is my aversion to seeing the details of my life as they happen scrawled in chicken scratch in front of me like a grocery list, milk, bread, you are born, someone loved you, coffee, you became a yoga teacher, rice, you write a book.

I will face the details. I am no longer scared to look at them rather than simply try and remember them. As much as I think it is harder to write them as they happen, the opposite is true. It is much harder to try and remember someone you loved that died too soon rather than looking back at the words you wrote about their smile, their bald spot, their love of waffles.

It’s much harder to try and make it up.

How much we must make up.

How many details to stay alive.

The awesome Simplereminders.com made this poster for me!

my book

The Extraordinary Patience of Things.

August 9, 2012

Possibility is patient. 

Other things that are patient: Death. Sometimes. Other times, not so much.

Sometimes it comes and grabs you in your cut-offs and yellow I Survived The Bermuda Triangle t-shirt at 11:01 in a Tuesday in July. It grabs you as you take your watch off to put it on the nightstand next to your cigarettes. Like it can’t wait a moment longer. Other times, it lingers patiently knowing it will find you when needed, wherever you may be, and that there’s no hurry. For it to take you now, in a flash, would be rash and unfair. Sometimes it is a patient thing waiting in a corner until the time is right. Like most things, it can’t always be just one way.

The patience of your voice. How sometimes it takes years to find, until one day you do and on that day you walk in a room knowing fully who you are in the world. The voice that has so patiently waited for you fills you with your personality, your you-ness. You may not feel it rejoice but it does. Having waited silently in a corner for you that long without making a peep. It throws a little party in your soul and although you may think it is just excitement or too much coffee, it is your voice, moving in finally. For good.

Heartbreak. Heartbreak is patient. It doesn’t give a shit where you have to go or who you have to be. It doesn’t care. It is patient. It takes it’s times and does what it needs to do quietly, methodically, slowly. It crawls. It stops time and waits for the people to cross and the cars to go. It’s that patient.

Pain. Oh, the patience of anguish. It waits for you at night and is there for you in the morning no matter how slow you amy be moving that day and how long it takes for the coffee to kick, your pain waits in your body. Or your heart. Like a loyal friend you’ve had since childhood and no matter how neglected that friendship is, it still stands, your pain calls every once in a while and patiently waits for you to answer.

Wisdom is patient. Sometimes it takes forever to arrive. Sometimes, and hopefully this isn’t true for you, it never arrives.

Dogs. They love. Endlessly. Without asking for much, they jump on you when you arrive no matter how long you’ve left them.

I have also discovered the patience of miracles and how when you wait for them they will show up, often in disguise but there nonetheless. 

Other patient things: Yoga, and how it meets you time and time again. Love, even when you have sworn off it for the Goddam last time. A breathtaking set of words and how they sit patiently and marinate in your mind until they are part of you entirely. Healing, which can wait until you are blue in the face before it sits down and makes itself at home. A good glass of wine and how it lingers and develops a nose, a body, a personality.

When you think of all the things that are patient it is truly remarkable to think that it is usually ourselves that are the impatient ones. It is me that wants it now. It is me that wants my book written and published.

And for what? isn’t the journey part of the joy? Mustn’t it be?

I remember thinking as an actor how unhappy I was and knowing that if I booked a lead on a tv show I would still be unhappy. I knew that. So, in essence I was admitting that the journey stank. That I hated it.

I love my journey now. So I must have patience. There is so much possibility within these pages. Possibility is endless in it’s patience by definition.

Poetry is patient, love is patient (although I think that is from the Bible, and if so, then love is also kind.)

My life is patient. It has waited for me this long.

My God then, it can wait a little longer. It can hold it’s horses and take a seat next to love and poetry, sunsets and the cycles of the moon, and my husband, who is so very patient.

My life can patiently unfold as I write my book and live beat to beat.

Possibility will unfold, shyly or like a thunderbolt, unexpected and without rain.

Anything good is worth waiting for. 

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