Browsing Tag

musings

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, poetry

I Love You… But I’m Shy.

March 11, 2014

For Naomi Shihab Nye, who makes me want to be a better person.

The 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. I sometimes forget to write them down here in the blog but I almost always am on the hunt for them. Here’s the latest:

Poetry. Even the found poems, especially the found ones. As if they were left specifically for us. (Maybe they were?) Like the journal I found in my drawer tonight that someone had left at the restaurant I worked at for years. I’ve kept it all this time. I found it left under a table one night while I was cleaning up after my shift.

Some day I will live in the southe of France, wear espadrilles and a long silk scarf flowing behind me as I ride my bicycle to the beach

photo 1

So much time has passed since I found this old journal that I question now if I indeed wrote the words, but the handwriting isn’t mine and there’s these little drawings, which are most definitely not mine (at best I can draw stick figures.) But this gift, this poem(s) as it were, because it is a poem- who can question the image of a long silk scarf flowing behind a girl (who, according to the drawing wears a mask) and how that image will live somewhere inside me so that if I ever visit the south of France, which I have every intention of doing, I will conjure this mask wearing bicycle riding scarf trailing bicycle girl.

The next page:

I love you… but I’m shy.

More bicycles.

One of the riders is only a head. No body. This gift of poetry, which is everywhere if you look.

photo 2

Saturday night I went to a reading of Naomi Shihab Nye’s. (She’s actually the number one beautiful thing on this list.) Naomi has become a friend and what I most love about her, and there are many things to love, is her ability to be present and how she looks at the world with a poet’s eye, or rather, with a childlike sense of wonder. She talked about going to the library as a child and how you’d just let yourself wander until you found a book. You’d explore, as you weren’t going there for anything in particular. As adults, she said, we’re so directive. We make a beeline for exactly when what we want. There is a mission and a purpose and very little letting yourself get lost amidst a sea of books. She has that sense of wander and wonder.

Naomi and I

Naomi and I

My first love was poetry. I started writing stories as a child but when I got serious about it at NYU, it was for the love of poetry. C.K. Williams was the first poet I heard read.

I loved C.K. for how his poetry ran on and on. How it felt like he was talking to only me (isn’t that what all good writing does?) singling me out in a room full of shoelace-faced students—whispering into my freezing ears. Out of all the ears he could whisper to on a packed C train and he chose mine! This is what poetry can look like, he said. This is what words can do. And he conversed with me through his poems and taught me what was possible. If it weren’t for him (and a few other poets who crawled into my slowly-going-deaf-ears, right at that particular moment in time, I might still be riding the C train without the knowledge that words could change the world.) They could pummel and destroy and create and fascinate. I didn’t quite realize the capacity they had until those poets (Donna Masini, C.K. Williams, Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Sharon Olds, Stanley Kunitz) quietly, without so much as a word of warning, showed up during my 19th year on the planet. They marched in and planted their word-flags and even when they left, their flags remained waving for me so that no matter where I went, I had a place that felt like home.

Naomi Shihab Nye makes me want to scour the world for poems.

I went digging and found the journal in my drawer which is undoubtedly filled with other poem worthy artifacts. I remember when I found the journal at work that Saturday night in 2001, or whenever it was, how I thought I’d hit the jackpot. I peaked in the book and realized it was nothing confessional (I murdered someone or I’m having an affair.) It probably sucked to lose it but I doubt it was earth shattering (Geez, I hope it wasn’t)- most of it was blank, save a few drawings and dreams and clothing sketches.

photo 3

I stuck it in the safe at the restaurant. No one claimed it for a whole year so I finally went back and got my loot. Then I stuck it in a drawer for a good ten years. Until today. So that’s one (or more) of my beautiful things. The way art finds us. The way poetry is everywhere. Just like beauty. And bicycles with body-less riders and lists of places to go, well, can’t the mind just go wild on that shit nodding madly yes yes yes.

Opening my own notebook and seeing this list.

2014:

Italy

London. Meet Jimmy again.

Go To Hong Kong.

(I remember now that these were my husband’s wishes and I’d just written them down for him.) We were in San Francisco. We’d just had some pizza. It was December and we were in San Francisco at some over-priced restaurant targeted for tourists. I had a glass of chardonnay and the wine gave me that rush of what was possible so I said to him, What should we do, you know? This year, with my pen poised and my little notebook out. Where do you want to go? So I am looking at this next to this old notebook I found at The Newsroom on my waitressing shift and I’m thinking how the same we are. So many of us. How we dream and dream and want and want and how we write things down in little notebooks and maybe we leave them behind or maybe we take them. Maybe we never go to any of the places we dream of going, but maybe we do. There’s so many of us with so many wishes and places and notebooks that surely there is a varied lot- some who make it to the other side of their dreams, some who make it as far as the ink on the paper and some who never have the courage to write it down. I’m thinking there’s all sorts.

Anyway, funny that I have these two books open and both are lists of places to go.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

I wonder if the girl who lost the notebook at The Newsroom ever went to the places she doodled. Her name is in the front cover. Back then we didn’t have Facebook to look her up but now I suppose I could. But I won’t. It would be awkward. If she reads me (wouldn’t that be a funny thing?) maybe she’ll recognize her drawings and her words. And maybe she will shoot me an email saying, “Yes, I made it. I am here in the south of France on my bicycle with a long scarf flowing behind me.”

The joy of quiet. Something Naomi said last Saturday. She loved my essay I wrote about my hearing loss on The Nervous Breakdown, and it struck me hearing her talk of the joy of quiet, that she, along with myself, must think of bursts of silence as holy things. The moderator, Lisa Napoli, asked Naomi how she finds quiet in the madness of the world. Oh, it’s to be found, she said in so many words. And I thought how the quiet is in itself a found art.

I am so unwilling to let myself get quiet most days and combined with the constant ringing in my ears, it seems as if my head is a carnival of sound. Nonstop chatter. I decided I must excavate quiet, I must unearth it and actively look for it as I do with the 5 Most Beautiful Things Project. Beauty Hunter. Hunter of Quiet. I’ve begun making it a project, seeking quiet wherever I can, because surely we all deserve the joy of quiet.

I have been walking to the beach. I have been meditating. I have been listening. It’s nice.

**

Today, a couple kids were yelping loudly so I said, “What’s the excitement?”

“He’s my cousin!” one shrieks, pointing to another, obviously very proud of this relation.

“She is too!” Pointing to another, younger girl, thrilled to be able to point this out to me. That such excitement about family exists. We are related!

Can you imagine being somewhere and jumping up and down to tell someone This is my mom! This is my brother! This is my Uncle! She’s my sister! It was sweet. And I wondered how long they’d stay close. I am not particularly close to any of my cousins. And just then, one of the kids face planted and havoc ensued.

** 

I sort of lost track since I’m rambling, but I think I am at number 5.

photo

#5 then, my friend Angela Patel who is a gifted writer and who sent me this book the other day when I was feeling like shit. I had been struggling with depression and anxiety and she sent this wee book in the mail, so small I thought the package was empty. It’s called The Do-It-Yourself Guide To Fighting The Big Motherfuckin’ Sad by Adam Gnade. The timing was impeccable. And this little book, surely there are parts where I feel as if I wrote it (again how similar we are! So many of us walking around trying to fight the big motherfuckin’ sad in our lives.) I mean, have you read my friend Maggie May Ethridge’s piece on my site called Sad Fish? It’s one of my favorites and I have taken to reading it aloud to people like some preacher on a street corner. Hey you! You! Over there! In the red jacket! Listen up.

I think that maybe finding the beauty and the quiet is the poetry. And the things we notice when we are the denizens of such particular states of grace will allow us to harness our joy in such way that every so often we’ll feel as if we are on a bicycle somewhere in the south of France, some scarf trailing behind us and nothing existing but that which is waiting to be found by us and has perhaps been waiting forever.

******

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and 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 NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London. 

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Musings & Ramblings from London.

February 20, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play & a story & a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets. ~Virginia Woolf.

Hello from London. I’m at a bookstore in Putney that I like to come to when I am in town (Waterstones.) They are already wiping down tables and stacking chairs but it’s quiet. All the moms (mums) with their babies have left and only the hardcore bookstore people remain (read: a woman reading a tabloid, a young girl staring off into space, an older man doing crosswords and man with a shiny face listening to his cell phone and nodding as if he’s getting directions.)

Today's beautiful things in London.

Take the guy on the train, for instance. He must’ve felt some peace with that Rubik’s cube in his hand, some comfort must have been derived from all that furious twisting. He didn’t even look down at the cube- didn’t have to. He recognized the colors, as if by touch it seemed and it must’ve put to bed some anxiety he had. Whereas just watching him gave me anxiety. I hated those things in the 80’s. Still do.

Or maybe it was just a habit he had. Maybe he liked to twirl the Rubik’s cube on trains- maybe that was just his thing? That’s the beauty of it really, what I am getting out with today’s beauty seeking. How we all have our thing.

How just looking at the Rubik’s cube from across the aisle of a train sends me back to 1983 (a particularly shitty year) and reminds me how bad I am at some things (puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, board games, math) and yet it appeared this guy was in no way anxious. In fact, it seemed that the multi-colored cube relaxed him. How beautiful is that? This guy, sharing a pancake from a plastic package labeled PANCAKES with the girl next to him was utterly un-phased by something that, for me, would have given me hives.

photo

Everyone engaged on their devices and cubes and pancakes and I thought how beautiful it is that we all find comfort in different things. Thank God. Because imagine if we all twirled Rubik’s cubes all day long, if we all had to constantly be reassured by the words, “It’s going to be fine?” Imagine if everyone had to masturbate to relieve stress all day, every day? How tedious our train rides would be.

The guy with the pointy little moustache and the plastic cube wouldn’t even be a thing to behold- it would be that ordinary.

I guess the beauty is in how weird we all are in our own spectacular pancake eating Rubik’s Cube way.

**

I was saying something as we were walking in Chelsea which ended with the word “love.” I can’t remember what I was saying exactly, and I guess it doesn’t matter, because the word love appeared right then over a doorway. A pink doorway with the word LOVE written in white above it. I thought about the person who lived there taking taxis and what they would tell the driver.

“What’s your address, Miss?”

“Love.”

Or having a party and telling people, “When you find Love, you know you’ve arrived.”

Love lives here. And there love was. There was love. What you speak is seeking you. All these things popped in my head but mostly I thought, “cool fucking door,” so I snapped a photo and instagrammed it. It did very very well. It got many, many likes. Which gives me insight into what people are looking for-not that I didn’t know really. I guess it never ends, does it? The search for love. The amazement at having found it. The knowledge that oftentimes it’s right over our head.

I wondered what kind of personality lived there because I really couldn’t imagine coming home to my husband splattered in pink paint and saying, “Pasti, look what I did. I painted the door pink and wrote LOVE at the top.” (Although while I was away for two weeks in the fall lecturing at Canyon Ranch and leading a retreat, he did in fact paint the kitchen a kind of burnt orange.)

photo

**

Without people you’re nothing. There’s a truth in that.

Right?

Portobello Road, Notting Hill (would you believe I have never seen that movie?)

220px-NottingHillRobertsGrant

I stopped and snapped a picture of a painting etched onto the side of a building of a man playing guitar and singing.

photoThe background was yellow and he stood in a sort of relief away from the yellow and red circle with the star inside of it. The quote said, “without people you’re nothing” and then his name and the dates he lived and died. I assumed it was his quote, the guy painted  in black who white wore a patch that said Ignore Alien Orders. Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash.

I Googled it later and found out that it was indeed his quote.  There’s a truth in the fact that we need people. I mean, Hey, I love to be alone. More than being with people quite often, which is a mixture of being an introvert (despite leading retreats and workshops, the core of who I am is an introvert,) not being able to hear well, and lastly, the writer in me. (Can’t write when you are in a crowd of people talking.)

But so much of what I teach and what I believe is based on this quote, so thanks Mr. Joe Strummer. Thanks, Joe. Can I call you Joe?

I suppose you could live on an island alone and be fine, for a while. Or if you like to read, you could be the only one on the planet in a sea of books. But after awhile you’d want to die from loneliness. Truth.

Speaking of living on an island alone, did you see the latest celebrity mean tweets? Celebrities read mean tweets people have written about themselves. It’s hysterical. Tom Hanks read one that says “”Whatever. Tom Hanks is a whiner. Oh boo hoo, so you have a tropical island all to yourself. Fuck you. You. I have a turtle sandbox, bitch.”

Yea, you need people. We all need people.

That painting and the quote struck me as beautiful. It was kind of a stark day and then all of a sudden this burst of yellow appeared with a true sentence. I had just been trying to write and thinking of Hemingway’s quote “write one true sentence.”

I couldn’t even think of one. And there it was. Right there. So I wrote it down.

If somebody ever mean tweets about me (which I am sure they have and they will. I am at @jenpastiloff if you want to!), do you think Jimmy Kimmel will have me on the show to read it?

**

I was talking to my friend who’s recently moved out of her huge house. The house she’d lived in was one of my favorite houses. I spent a lot of time there sitting at her big kitchen table looking out into the yard. I asked her at dinner if she missed her old house and she said she didn’t. I dipped my chip (French fry for my America brethren) in mayo and told her I envied her a bit for that because I couldn’t even let go of the house I lived in while I was in high school.

How do some people break attachments? How do you let go? (How how why why how how?)

I it was all a bit too many hows and whys for dinner in a pub so we ordered gin and tonics (and that was a beautiful things because I thought I hated gin) and we talked about Dallas Buyer’s Club. I still can’t get over that movie. She hasn’t seen it yet so I went on and on and oh, as it turns out I don’t dislike gin. Maybe I did at one point? But I don’t anymore. I won’t say I love it but I enjoyed my drink and our dinner. Maybe people change.

I haven’t seen her new flat, but the description of it, especially the way she described the light coming in and how the Thames looked from her balcony, was enough to sustain me. I am a sucker for the way light falls on desktops or slants across the room. Give me light or give me death, I will proclaim when buying a flat or a home.

Watching someone gracefully move from one space in their life the to the next without the kicking and screaming that so often accompanies change is a beautiful thing. Easing into the phases of our lives as opposed to clinging to what we had, well, I’ll drink to that. Cheers.

**

I see lone shoes a lot.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one seeing them because, come on, how often are people dropping their shoes? Don’t they notice? Does it fall off their foot? Out of a suitcase? Maybe it’s a sign meant only for me, but I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be a sign for.

I see lone shoes a lot and mostly they are baby shoes. I don’t know anybody else that sees as many single shoes on sidewalks or in the middle of the road. Today’s lone show in the gutter in London was not a baby shoe. It was an ugly white tennis shoe that frankly, I would’ve also abandoned (although I would’ve dumped the right as well and not just the left shoe.)

In Battersea, outside the French café where my husband and I had walked in the rain to get coffee, the storyteller in me came alive. Whose shoe is that? What happened to him/her? Maybe I could write a whole short story around the white shoe in a puddle? Would I make the shoe the main character? Or maybe like the common thread in a book of short stories, the one thing that connected all the stories, or all of life?

I came home and tried to write one true sentence about the shoe.

I came up with a few.

There was only one shoe. A single solitary shoe for a left foot.

The mouth of the shoe was stretched out as if maybe the person who wore it had wide feet.

The shoe was ugly.

Wait, what if that’s not true, that it’s ugly? That’s not the truest truth of the shoe. What if the others things weren’t true, as well? What if everything could be looked at in this way, as if we studied a thing for clues about what it meant about our lives? About truth?

What if every shoe had a story?

What if we were all storytellers?

(What if what if what if why why why how how how.)

Part of me wanted to pick it up because it made me feel lonely seeing it there by itself.

I came home and thought shoes don’t have feelings. But then I thought if they did have feelings, they would tell us to stop moving, that they were tired, and felt like they had no say in the matter. They would say they were hurting.

Point is, if you look the right way, everything has beauty. Even a wet shoe without its mate lying in the street.

Even that.

photo

Jen will be back in London Feb 14th, 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

 

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.

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

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

5 Most Beautiful Things, Jen's Musings, travel

Jen Pastiloff’s London Adventures.

February 19, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life? ~ from The Swan by Mary Oliver

I took on a new private client in L.A., which I don’t really do anymore, and I gave her an assignment. Send me your 5 most beautiful things every day was the assignment. She said that she would but asked if I would send mine back for posterity.

I lecture about my 5 most beautiful things project in all my workshops and retreats, but I’d kind of fallen off the wagon of writing them down myself.

So here I am in London. Trying my best to be a beauty seeker. A relentless beauty hunter. What better way than to jot them down in my typical rambling fashion? So I will. I’ll post them. My musings, as it were. And it may interest you, and it may not. But hey, my eyes are open. Maybe you’ll be inspired in some way to look at that guy next to you, the one with the plaid shirt and the cane, the one with the really long fingers and bushy grey eyebrows and see something beautiful in him. But even more than how beautiful it is the way his right foot rests on the leg of the table and his hands cover his eyes as if he’s about to cry, it’s the beauty of the moment and how full it is and how it will never ever be again. Because look, already it’s gone.

So I will attempt to jot down my beautiful things everyday. I’ll do my best to post them somewhere. For posterity. Sometimes more than five. Five was just a number I thought was doable. Tweetable. A number we could all manage. Oh, only 5 beautiful things? Easy. I got this.

Shoes and tubes and kids. Here’s a beautiful thing (although it’s perhaps more than one solid thing): I was on the tube wearing my fancy-ish sneakers- the ones with the studs and chains. They’re blue leather, and besides the few coffee stains on them from too much wear, they make me feel good. The tube was crowded so I shared the pole with this little girl of about about 5 or 6 years old. She had on heart socks with gold-tipped sandals and I thought the contrast between her little fancy foot and mine, with the yellow pole in between, seemed artsy. And ironic. So I took a picture.

I showed her and she approved. I took a second photo. (Just in case.)

photo copy

She had a mini-pencil in her hand and started to write in the air. I asked her to write her name. She did, although I’m not sure what it was because from my vantage point it was backwards. Plus, I am not sure she could even spell.

I imagined her writing poems in the air.

She stuck the pencil in her mouth and hid behind her mom’s leg.

My husband noted that I was good with kids. “Pasti.” He calls me Pasti, short for my last name Pastiloff (which I kept,) “Pasti, you’re good with kids.”

“Yea, for 5 minutes,” I replied.

I said I was sort of envious of people who’d gone through it all already. Who had kids and didn’t have to go through the whole rigamarole and shlepping of being pregnant.

“We’re old,” I reminded him.

We went to a Whole Foods on Kensington High Street (so American of us!) and I ordered a jacket potato with tuna. The lady behind the counter opened the potato and stared blankly at me. “Tuna,” I reminded her.

“We are out of tuna. Have the beef.”

“I don’t eat meat. I ordered the potato because I wanted the tuna,” I said as she threw away the potato. (I would’ve eaten it if I would’ve known she would chuck it.)

I told her to make me a veggie burger instead.

“May I have mayo?” I asked.

I think I might have rolled my eyes a little when she said that they had no mayo. Anywhere. In the whole of Whole Foods. I felt very American again.

I wished to have the little heart-footed girl’s pencil with me at that moment so I could write my name in the air.

The veggie burger was old, like a hockey puck made from lentils.

I ordered a chardonnay to wash down the dryness as I watched for children with cute shoes or pencils and other beautiful things.

**

I tried to change my flight coming home before I even got here. I won’t have enough time I thought. Eight days is not enough. Which is absurd, really. It is enough but it’s like when food comes and I’m hungry- It won’t be enough to fill me up, as if I’m Oliver Twist or grew up as some street urchin who never had enough food. (To be clear, I always had enough food except when I was starving myself and that was by my own volition.) I’m not going to have enough: a common refrain. Virgin Atlantic told me that to change my flight to come home the day after I had originally booked would be 5,000 pounds. My ticket was only about 1,300 pounds so I could fly back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times with that cost. I declined the switch. I tweeted Virgin Atlantic that I was terribly #disappointed in their #service and how #ridiculous it was (as if my tweet would make a difference.) It just seemed outrageous to me. 5k pounds!?! Anyway, we get this flight attendant and it was like the Virgin Atlantic gods were trying to make up for my dismay.

He’d walk up to our seats with this shit-eating grin and pull things from behind his back like some kind of magician in the sky. “Here, here’s the good stuff, from upper class,” he’d say as he handed my husband a tumbler of some very fine scotch and me a nice pinot noir. He did it a few times too. He kept coming over to chat with us and couldn’t get over the fact at how familiar I seemed to him. “Well, I’m famous on the internet,” I joked. He asked when my return flight was and when I told him February 23rd, he squealed, “The 11 am flight? I’m on that!”

yhst-13942113699170_2269_5350151

And so I felt happy and that things were right in the world again and that I owed Virgin Atlantic a follow-up tweet. And I kind of imagined that with him flying back and forth, LAX> Heathrow 4 times might not be so bad. He’d have kept me amused and liquored up on that 4 times roundabout. And that was a beautiful thing.

At my workshop on Saturday in Hammersmith there were a bunch of Americans and two of them were flight attendants for United. They said they always, no matter what, find someone to over-serve. I was happy we’d been those people on my flight. We made the cut!

photo copy 2

**

My workshop. More than 50 people in a city- Hell, in a country- I don’t live and have never taught. As I was talking about the 5 most beautiful things, a rainbow appeared and someone (it was actually one of the flight attendants) interrupted me to point it out. I tried to take a picture, but the minute I did it disappeared. That’s beauty for you, isn’t it? You can’t capture it. You’ve got to pay attention to it, yes. Let it move you, yes. But to try and hoard it or hold on to it? Well, you’ll stand there empty-handed and wishing for a ship that’s already sailed.

It was there though, that rainbow, and it appeared just as I was telling those 50+ people about the most beautiful things project like it was a nod to what I saying, an agreement- yes, there’s beauty everywhere, it seemed to say, and everyone saw it as if it only existed for us right then in that moment. Who knows, maybe it did?

It was a beautiful workshop. Who knew the Brits were so open? Maybe it was a sign- the rainbow at the beginning of the workshop? Or maybe it was just them. Maybe it’s just who they were. I guess not everything needs to be explained away.

photo

**

Last night after I sat in Le pain Quotidien off Kensington High Street for hours doodling This is the world. You are a person in the world. The world is full of pain. Each pain has it’s own singular kind of beauty and other weird poemy lines on the colored pieces of paper they had at the table, I stood on the sidewalk and tried to poach their wifi.

photo

They had closed (I actually didn’t notice they were putting chairs on tables because I’d been so into my work) and I had no way to get ahold of my friend who I was meant to meet. So I stood outside in the cold, in front of the closed café and stole their wifi. She’d said they were going to go somewhere near Sloane’s Square but I had no idea where nor how to get there. I finally gave up on trying to get in touch with her and decided to take a bus towards Sloane’s Square. I really really had no idea where I was going but I was happily lost, partially because I saw the Whole Foods I’d been at earlier and a bunch of shops that I recognized (as if that was somehow a compass) and partially because I felt the itch to write and what that happens I become like a thief, using anything for inspiration. So the man I asked how to get to Sloane’s Square? He’ll show up somewhere, here, or in a poem or story. Wait- here is.

He told me which street to turn left on then right then walk this way then, here is running after me. How sweet, he’s running after to me to tell me he’s given me the wrong directions. He goes on and on and I’ve lost him after about 4 seconds but I listen as best as I can with my deaf-ish ears and his accent and smile. He says, “Got it?”

“I’m going to take a taxi,” I say.

He howls as if it is the funniest thing he has ever heard.

**

My taxi driver was lovely. He kept asking me if I was tired. “Long day?’ he asked. I was yawning a lot.

“No, not really. I was just staring at the computer screen for a long time.”

And I thought about all the pain the world, and how maybe I should put my seatbelt on as I slid across the backseat, and how maybe he had his own singular pains and how maybe they were beautiful.

The Battersea Bridge- the lights on the bridge lit up the sky and I almost took a picture, but then I remembered the rainbow. So I just held it there in my eyesight first, then in my heart, and finally in my imagination, where it will change a bit, with time, and perhaps with this beer I am drinking in this pub in Putney as I write this. Because things change once we claim them as ours, don’t they?

I put my seatbelt on. A few minutes later we arrived at the Overstrand Mansions in Battersea where I’m staying. I got out and muttered the words tube, beauty, taxi, lights, man, lost, bridge, and wondered what would happen if I tried to string them together.

 

Jen will be back in London for a Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human on Feb 14th. Book now as their are only a few spots left.
waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

waiting for my beer in Notting Hill on Portobello Road today

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.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

And So It Is

Being A Person Is Hard. And Lovely & Amazing.

February 4, 2014
Being A Person In The World Is Hard. But Also Lovely & Amazing.

My ramblings from the sky. Boston Logan Int’l > LAX.

Thinking of doing this as a spoken word piece so please read it in your head like that. Maybe with music, like a kind of rap.  Or maybe in “The Poet’s Voice” with violins in the background like you’re at some poetry slam and I’m taking too long on the stage. I don’t know. I’m just on the plane, toying with some ideas at around 30,000 feet…

Being a person in the world. Here’s what it’s like- it’s like you get into the wrong car and end up crying in the backseat because the driver has a thick accent from somewhere you can’t place and you’re nearly deaf and that combination is lethal. And he doesn’t know his way around the city (why drive a cab/Uber, you may wonder?) and you end up circling the underground parking lot of a rental car place instead of the hotel you’d specified. Your life comes down to a pinpoint of a thought, a prick so sharp that you wonder how you’ve survived being a person in the world this long. That thought is: Look what happens when I try and save a few bucks: I die in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in the back of a Hyundai. And it’s not any kind of prejudice against Hyundai because you yourself drive one, and have for years now. It’s a Fuck me, this is not how I wanted to go.

But at the same time, you know you won’t die, or at least most of you knows you won’t die (not right then anyway) but the complicated person you are (which is no more complicated than anyone else who is being a person in the world) wants to convince yourself of this because in the same breath you say I hate drama, I want ease, Just get me to my hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, the other breath is inhaling the situation like it’s crack and even though you’ve never smoked crack (or meth, or coke, or any drugs) you know (all too well) the addictive power of these drugs and situations like this. I am a person who is very upset right now. Who can’t breathe. Who just might die here in this parking lot in the back of car being driven by a man who is lost. It’s like that, being a person in the world. Lost, all of us.

Although on various days, the alarm clock goes off and you can’t hear it. Or maybe you’re hard of hearing. Or maybe you didn’t set it in the first place and you stay in bed a few extra hours, or Hell, maybe all day, and then you feel guilty about that in all your typical person-ness. But on some days the alarm sounds and you know that the pain you’ve assimilated into your body won’t attack its own cells on that day, like maybe it’s chilling on that particular Wednesday in July or March. And on those days, being a person in the world is a little easier.

But really, it’s always something.

Some lady on the plane upset because you sneezed on her, really really upset as she knits and watches MSNBC on mute and rubs her left hand on her left thigh to get your germs off. And even though you sneezed, you are certain you didn’t sneeze on her. (Except the 2% chance that you did. And that’s also what being a person is like- never being 100% sure.) What can you say besides sorry? So you say sorry and realize that being a person in the world is fuckload of I’m sorries. So many sorries. Sorries by boat and sorries by plane (and by Hyundais.) So many sorries even when you’re not. It’s like that sometimes.

Being a person is like knitting. You kind of have to pay attention and you also kind of don’t. Sometimes you can get by like that. Half in, half out. Half there, half not. Half knitting, half watching the news. You can kind of watch MSNBC and shift farther and farther away from the bitch who sneezed on you on the plane until you realize that if you go any farther to the right you’ll push your husband out of his seat and into the aisle. It’s like that. Layered and complicated and full of yarn and you either love to knit or hate it.

It’s eating with a Bolivian in Boston. She’s beautiful and alone and a plate of gnocchi and perhaps a glass of white wine sit in front of her. And you wonder if the gnocchi are good. It’s always questioning if you are about to make the right choice. She says here, try one. It’s sometimes like that- you just say yes, yes, okay. Yes, yes, okayAnd you reach your fork across the table to try a stranger’s gnocchi and why not? She says that she’s Bolivian but her grandmother was Italian and the custom where the grandmother was from is to eat gnocchi for luck on the 29th. You say But it’s the 30th. (That’s what being a person in the world means- you point out mistakes. You correct them.) Yes, but it’s close enough, the beautiful Bolivian in Boston says. So you all eat gnocchi and talk about the mystery that is dating and Boston and you think maybe I will always eat gnocchi on the 29th. I like that plan. Being a person means you have grand ideas like always eating gnocchi on the 29th, and that you make plans and promises when a little wine is coursing through you on a snowy night.

It can also be like this: you hunch your shoulders way up, as if that gesture will protect you from future pain.

As if any gesture can protect us from future pain.

And even when you share about your baby dying, and how you never talk about it, there you are talking about it. Being a person in the world means you say what you never do as you stand there doing it. And your shoulders stay there because in some way you think maybe it will happen again if your shoulders drop down and relax, as if they are the thing that is holding you up in the world. It means confusion. It means being wrong (especially about how your hunched up shoulders protect you or prevent pain.)

It means getting up every day and finding things to laugh at, things like how you are sure you did not sneeze on that lady on the plane. Now that’s funny- how much of a big deal she made! Then you laugh at yourself for the things you yourself make a big deal of and how maybe someone else is swinging their leg off their own bed and looking for things to laugh at so they can make it through their day. And maybe they think of you. Maybe you were the lady who insisted the sneeze landed on her.

Being a person in the world is kind of like playing the slots, maybe the Wheel-Of-Fortune at some bad casino in Henderson, Nevada, and realizing that you are never going to win, except maybe a couple dollars here and there, which you keep putting back in the machine.

It’s like going to bed and trying to remember one  good goddamn thing that happened that day and remembering seven (oh, the thrill!) Or trying to remember one good thing and coming up with zero, zilch, nada, so you go to bed with the song zero zilch nada in your head. A song you made up.

It’s is like this: you make up songs and words and whole lives sometimes. Look at this life I’ve made up: isn’t it great? Or, look at this life I made up: I am a horrible garbage person. Somewhere in the middle is most likely what personhood most resembles, with the pendulum swinging more to the former. For most, certainly not for all.

Being a person in the world is fucked up and hard and terrible and wondrous. It’s lovely and amazing. It’s a movie title and songs- it’s like being in a song! Except when it’s not. When you’re trying to get your special needs kid to stop pulling his own hair out, to stop tearing his own skin off. Then it’s not like a song. It’s like a trap you can’t get out of until you do.

And sometimes you never do.

It’s like this: the world is a world of faces looking at you- hungry, expectant, broken, bored, believing, lost- and sometimes the face is your own. In the mirror, your own face believing and not believing, depending on the day. That’s being a person in the world. It’s like seeing the words “Back away fatty” on the fridge and getting insulted until you remember you wrote those words, your kids can’t read yet so no harm there you think. And it works, and you back away, and you think how easy it is to trick yourself when you are a person in the world.

MV5BMTQ5NjIyOTI4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDA2Mzg5._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 

And So It Is, Mindwebs

A Subtle Lie.

September 28, 2012

So delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe. That’s one definition of subtle.

I’ve been thinking about the word subtle and the power of it. Tonight as I taught my beloved gentle yoga class, I had everyone lie on a bolster in a twist. I told them that they wouldn’t feel much. 

That it was a subtle stretch but that often the subtle things are the most powerful.

Aren’t they?

The subtle truths, subtle lies. The subtle way things change and then one day we wake up and everything we thought we knew, gone. Just like that. No more father. No more job. No more summer. No more Sunday. No more morning. It seems as if it is always all of a sudden, this sliding into something else.

One day someone just dies or leaves or quits their job and although it may feel like a sudden dynamite, a grenade thrown into your life as you make buckwheat pancakes, really it was a subtle breaking down, a slow deterioration of all things knowable. It was a subtle knowing that this is not working for me and I must go. A chipping away at what was once there.

The subtle things are the most powerful except often we don’t pay attention.

The way someone look at us, their eyes softening in the way someone in love might lower their lids, a slight hesitation to leave your face so soon, because what if it wasn’t there the next time they looked? They couldn’t take that risk so they let their eyes linger a few seconds longer before looking down at the menu and saying Yes, I will have the trout. 

The subtle way someone stops looking at us, their hands counting places they wish they’d been, their eyes looking for something in the room to focus on, something solid and unchanging.

The subtle signs of aging. Around the eyes, the mouth. All of it so quiet. At the same time so determined.

The subtle way my sister and I swung from the great white flab hanging from our grandmother, our Bubby’s arms. And while she drove, sometimes lapsing into Yiddish, how we played with it like language, palpable and subtle, growing in our anxious hands.

Loving every minute of it, this curious feel of age, of skin that had been through more winters than summers. Letting it slip like liquid through cracks between our fingers. Wishing we would get old just by sitting in that car, by playing with her deteriorated years. Years which swung, somehow transformed into flab on the backs of her arms.

That couldn’t have happened overnight. It was a subtle transformation just as the one which led us to want to stop aging. No wait! Slow down! Do not turn me into my ancestors!

The subtle lies we tell ourselves until they are no longer a gentle tap on the shoulder but a brick wall of hard rain. The subtle way the words I am not smart enough, I am ugly, I am not thin enough, I am never going to be able to finish all sink into the potholes of a mind, the words hardening until the soft mud of them fills every crack and only a sledgehammer can break them apart.

The subtle way depression can return after such a long absence like it had been there all along, sitting in it’s favorite chair, reading the paper. Oh me? I’ve been here for a while. You just haven’t been able to detect the the signs. I’ve been precise and delicate but you haven’t been paying attention. Can I stay?

Here’s what you say: No.

And then enough pussyfooting around. Man up!

Pay attention. See the signs. Life will sneak up on you if you let it.

As my dear Mary Oliver says in Mockingbirds:

how the old couple

had almost nothing to give

but their willingness

to be attentive–

but for this alone

the gods loved them.

What I am saying is this:

Be attentive.

There is no such thing as subtle.