Browsing Tag

mindfulness

Guest Posts, healing

Fast Forward, Pause, Rewind

November 12, 2016
exhale

By Lauren Jonik

My body curls next to the large speakers on the floor of my parents’ living room. The texture of the green rug rubs my bare leg as I am unable to resist movement. Music floods from the turn table on the stereo. I want to climb inside and spin around. The heat of the summer of 1986 envelopes the room, but the fire coming from within is stronger. I am ten years old, filled with joy, impatience and a holy yearning.

The days are long—torturously, deliciously long. Word, melodies and imagery are everywhere, overwhelming my senses. I feel the world intensely, but the earth grounds me. I need the gravity of the grass and dirt under my bare feet to pull me down into the space where I can endure daily life. I ride my bike on an empty street, around and around in circles pretending I’m going somewhere. I already know that we all are. Only the methods of transportation vary. I examine the petals of dandelions and small purple wildflowers I never learn the name of. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life, Women

What She Learned

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kim Valzania

When she was 5 she learned that when a boy hits you on the playground what it really means is that he likes you.  Richard belted her in the arm at the top of the slide.  She didn’t cry and she didn’t tell the teacher.  But boy did it hurt, and it left a bruise.  Her little friend whispered, “he likes you” but when she told her daddy he said that if it ever happened again, she should make a tight fist and hit Richard back, only harder.  “Right in the nose is always an option.”

When she was 6 she learned that even a daddy is afraid sometimes. She discovered just how fast her daddy could run.  A lying, little, sneak of a neighbor falsely declared that her brother had fallen into a well, up in the woods.   Her daddy, her terrified hero of a daddy, could have qualified for the Olympics that day.  And he almost had a heart attack.

When she was 7 she knew for sure that she wanted to look exactly like Barbie when she grew up.  She practiced by walking around on her tip toes.  She wanted to have the tiniest waist, and a closet full of clothes.  She wanted to live in a dream house, play at the beach, and drive a red corvette. Today she is living proof that those dreams can and do come true.

When she was 8 she learned that if she cut her hair super short like a boy, everyone would start thinking she was a boy and everyone in the neighborhood (even her own family!) would start treating her like a boy and she herself would start acting like a boy.  She even got into a dirt-pile scuffle that involved a bit of rock throwing with above-mentioned lying, sneak of a neighbor.  It was fun for a while.

When she was 9 she learned how to hurt her little sister’s feelings.  All she had to do was tell her she smelled like a cow, refuse to play with her, mess with her animal collection, and slam the bedroom door in her face.  She was wild, mean, and a little bit violent.  Do make note that she later apologized for said bad behavior.  Sometimes being a boy wasn’t easy.

When she was 10 she became suspicious that her daddy would ask her to go ice fishing with him just so he could legally put out more tip-ups and bring home more fish.  When she realized this was indeed true, as in he didn’t deny it true, she was okay with it.  Sort of. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Reflections on a Friend’s Suicide.

June 18, 2014

Reflections on a Friend’s Suicide by Susan Lerner

Fifteen years ago, as a newcomer to Indianapolis, I packed my tots into the minivan and drove to a playgroup, desperate to meet other moms. Among the mothers was a stay-at-home dad. Toddlers wobbled across the floor, babies gummed Cheerios, and the dad and I chatted. We lived in the same neighborhood. Over the course of the next few months we began to bump into each other outside the confines of the playgroup—at the neighborhood playground, at Little Gym birthday parties. The dad, his wife, and son, came to kiddie get-togethers in my basement. They came for dinner. The father let me read a screenplay he wrote. When the time came to send our tikes to school—the neighbors chose public, while my husband and I picked private—our paths gradually diverged.

Last year my son, Sam, began his freshman year at the same high school our neighbor’s son attends. Sam joined the Quiz Bowl team. At that time my neighbor’s son, then a sophomore, had been on the team for a year, so my neighbor became my go-to person whenever I had a question about a Quiz Bowl event, which was often. The late afternoon competitions precluded most parents from attending, and sometimes the stay-at-home dad and I were the only ones in attendance. We settled into our molded plastic chairs, munched on the team’s snacks, and whispered to each other, trying to answer questions as we watched our kids compete.

Just before Thanksgiving, my friend killed himself.

I had no idea he was suffering is the thought that looped through my mind. It seemed true enough—we’d known each other a long time but weren’t close; it didn’t come as a surprise that he hadn’t confided in me. But how could I not have noticed he was dangerously depressed?

I had no idea he was suffering. At first I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, but before long it fell away and I saw the situation through a more honest lens: I did have an inkling that my friend was emotionally fragile; I just never allowed myself that thought. To admit that he was struggling would have made me uncomfortable, not because emotional distress was a scary unknown, but because I knew it well.

During my worst anxiety attacks I’ve faked calm. Tried to pass. Desperate to conceal my anxiety from others and myself, I worked hard to push it into a dark corner of my psyche. What I didn’t realize until after my neighbor’s death is that I kept a subtle distance from him because he reminded me of my secret. My reaction to him was a reflection of how I felt about myself. My friend was, for me, a mirror.

About a week before his suicide, I went to a yoga class where the teacher spoke about the concept of abiding. She read a book written by her childhood friend, psychiatrist Christine Montross. In “Falling Into the Fire,” Dr. Montross writes about extreme pathology. Her patients compulsively swallow household objects, subject themselves to serial cosmetic surgeries as a result of body dysmorphic disorder, are haunted by obsessive homicidal thoughts. The author examines these illnesses within the context of her patients’ narratives, seeing their symptoms as fallout from loss and trauma. At the end of each chapter Dr. Montross writes about her own life, illustrating the commonality between her patients’ experiences and her own. “Falling Into the Fire,” —part exploration of mental illness, part memoir, and part exegesis on the human condition—is a strikingly honest book written with compassion and extraordinary heart.

Montross explores the importance of abiding, “of being with patients as they suffer.” She writes that although she may not be able to provide her patients a quick cure, she can walk with them on their journeys and work with them to understand what’s causing their distress. In one section, Montross counsels a depressed woman whose child was killed in a car accident. In order to abide with this woman’s anguish, Montross sees that she, too, could lose her child through a circumstance over which she has no control. “I could lose my home, my financial security, my safety. I could lose my mind. Any of us could.”

Montross relays what a therapist once told her, that we all live beneath a veil of vulnerability, as if we and our loved ones will live forever. When catastrophe strikes, this veil dissolves and we are faced with the fact that we are all “perched on a precipice.” We like to think of those who suffer from mental illness as “other.” Montross’ stories illustrate that despite our different ways of coping with the pain and vulnerability of being human, we have the same needs: to be understood, to be loved.

I wish my shame about my anxiety hadn’t stopped me from reaching out to my friend. My heart breaks when I contemplate the magnitude of his anguish, so colossal that it drove him to leave his family, and this world, too soon.

Now that my friend is gone, all I can do is to try to find, from within this tragedy, meaning. His memory will be a reminder that what I—and others—go through, however painful, is not shameful. I now understand how important it is to offer an ear, to sit with someone’s suffering. My friend is gone, but his memory, for me, is a reminder to abide.

*This essay originally appeared in Word Riot Magazine.

My pic

Susan Lerner is a student in Butler University’s MFA in Creative Writing program. Her work has appeared in Word Riot, Monkeybicycle, JMWW, Bluestem, and The Believer Logger. Susan lives in Indianapolis with her husband, three teenagers, and dog, Mischief. In her spare time she posts book reviews at http://booklerner.blogspot.com.

 

courtesy of Simplereminders.com. Click to connect with them.

courtesy of Simplereminders.com. Click to connect with them and pre-order their book.

 

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 Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and 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. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (3 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

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