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Converse-Station, Guest Posts, writing

The Converse-Station: Tim Tomlinson Interviews Stephen Policoff.

November 10, 2014


Poet, Short Story Writer & New York Literary Lion Tim Tomlinson Interviews Novelist Stephen Policoff

Welcome to The Converse-Station: A dialogue between writers. With the site getting so much traffic (my Facebook page is reaching over 16 million people!) I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Confession: I am totally biased with this one. I love these two writers dearly. They both helped me find my voice as a writer so many years ago when I was a student at NYU. Tim was one of my teachers and Stephen ran the literary magazine and published my first poem when I was still a teenager (and we joked that we were related since both or names ended in “Off”.) It is my great honor to publish this. And, to call both of these men my friends. 

The other day I was emailing with Stephen about his daughter (you’ll read about her below) and I felt overwhelmed with sadness. “Why does the world have to be filled with such pain,” I wrote to him. He replied,  ‘I always knew we would come to this but I never thought I’d have to do it by myself.
So it goes. Or as Kenneth Patchen observes, “Christ Christ Christ that the world should be cold and dark for so many.’ “

I hope this interview leaves you feeling the opposite of cold and dark as it did for me. Love, Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station.

Tim Tomlinson is a co-founder of New York Writers Workshop, and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. His fiction and poetry have appeared in venues from China and the Philippines to Toronto and New York. He is a Yoga Alliance certified (200 hr) instructor. He believes the easiest asanas are the hardest, and the hardest aren’t easy at all. He lives in Brooklyn, he teaches in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program.

Stephen Policoff won the James Jones Award for his first novel, Beautiful Somewhere Else (Carroll & Graf 2004). His memoir, Sixteen Scenes from a Film I Never Wanted to See, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in 2014. His second novel, Come Away, won the Mid-Career Author Award and will be published in November 2014 by Dzanc Books. Like Tim Tomlinson, he teaches in Global Liberal Studies at NYU, and edits their literary magazine The West 4th Street Review, where many years ago, he encountered Jen Pastiloff, then a poetic waif, and published her first poem. He lives in Manhattan with his two daughters.

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Guest Posts

The Nudist.

January 28, 2013

He sits across from me, his cock on a chair. Cutting and eating. I watch him, knowing full well that he is wearing no pants.

This is not unusual. I am not awed by his penis lying on the kitchen chair.

He doesn’t even bother to slice the bananas really thin. He just sort of slops them on the chunk of peanut butter and throws the other slice of bread on top. The son takes the sandwich and twists the bread downward because he won’t eat it unless the bread is smashed down into the peanut butter. He is very used to his father walking around without any clothes on. It doesn’t seem to phase him. He’s only seven so he probably doesn’t realize that its not the norm for his father to be making sandwiches for him while he’s wearing no pants, especially when I am also in the room.  (And the I is me, a friend staying at her friend’s apartment while the friend is out of tow

The man eats his own sandwich and most of his son’s, as he absently clips articles from auto magazines. He is making a scrapbook for his shop. He has an auto shop, which he originally started from the garage out of the house he grew up in. Now he is solely a Mercedes specialist, but back when he started I think he pretty much worked on anything with wheels. Like, even bicycles.

He is only wearing a blue work shirt with the name Roger written across it in red cursive.

I haven’t decided yet which is more disturbing: going around completely nude or simply wearing a shirt that barely comes to your midriff and a pair of socks? Actually, it is more subtle to be completely nude rather than stop abruptly right before the genitals, causing one an awkward moment before one can regain one’s composure and look away.  

Still, I haven’t decided which degree of nudity of your friend’s “partner”  is worse: partial or complete.

I know he is testing me. He’s waiting to see how long he can walk around naked before I actually say something about it. The more time I spend here, the more clothing he sheds. A while back he walked around in his underwear. Then he walked around in a towel. I can’t quite remember exactly when he made this bold transition to genital exposure.  

He’s waiting for me to acknowledge his nakedness, sitting here at the kitchen table, reading and cutting, going back and forth to the refrigerator, eating, sighing loudly. He gets up, goes to the refrigerator, peers in, sees nothing, looks at me to see what I’m doing. He sits back down and cuts more cars out of Auto World. Five minutes later he gets up and does the same routine all over again. Since his girlfriend has been out of town he hasn’t bothered to buy any new groceries. (How could he think something new has gotten into the refrigerator since he last looked?)   

I stare at the dishes and the other things in the kitchen. I don’t want to get up and leave because then Roger will think he has gotten my attention. And if I leave, then I have to say something to him, at least a “Goodbye Roger.”

If I have to say anything at all to him I know I will look down by accident. I want to make him think I could care less what he’s wearing or isn’t wearing.  I want him to think that I did not even notice his lack of pants.

 I have to remember to clean up the kitchen and restore it to its spotless condition. Roger said he talked to Claire and that she’d be home from Texas in 2 days. I wonder if he told her that he has been staying here with me. They are going through one of their “separations” so I don’t know why he came over the day after Claire left. 

It seems he has apparently moved back in. I bet when he called her he “forgets” to mention that he’s living here (with me).

Before she left, she told me that Roger and the kids were going to be staying at his apartment. She said it would be nice for me to have the place all to myself for three weeks, but that I had to keep it neat. Then she gave me a little slip of paper, which I have since lost. The paper had Roger’s phone number to his new apartment on it. 

I don’t think I need his telephone number to get in touch with him.

He probably told Claire that he has been stopping by her apartment to check up on how well I’m holding the place up or to make sure I haven’t burnt the place down. I really should say something to him about why he is here.  

He makes me feel uncomfortable and young. 

 Maybe I’ll put it in a really subtle way, like, Hey Rog, I thought you and C. broke up? Weren’t you and the kids supposed to be staying at your new apartment while she was out of town? Why are you here? And why don’t you go put on a nice warm pair of pants?

I am a wimp. 

I’d rather sit here and feel uncomfortable than muster up the guts to question him. He probably told Claire that I left dishes in her sink, that I did not pick up after myself, that I drank her Japanese beer, and that I threw too much food down the garbage disposal and he had to help me fix it. When he told her he had to help me fix the garbage disposal, I bet he said he had to come over especially for that. There’s no way he told her that he simply rolled out of her bed, completely naked, when he heard a fork being ground up in the sink. 

He had not even bothered to put anything on as he reached his hand down into the disposal system and pulled out a fork and an avocado pit. 

I stare at the Japanese calendar on the kitchen wall for the thirteenth time, as I have done twelve other times this afternoon in order to avoid looking at Roger. I pretend I can read the Japanese lettering at the bottom of the calendar, which is probably nothing other than the artist’s signature. During one of Claire and Roger’s numerous separations, one that had actually lasted for a whole year, Claire’d had a Japanese boyfriend.  I think this calendar was a gift that boyfriend had given her on their first date. 

Roger will never marry Claire.

If he was going to marry her, he would’ve done so by now. They have been together for ten years. They have two children. He just isn’t the marrying type, he tells her. 

So Claire keeps that calendar hanging on the wall, hoping it will make Roger jealous. 

For ten whole minutes I stare at the month of July on the wall. It has now been August for twenty-eight days. 

I think Claire still hopes Roger will want marry her.

Roger stands up again. This time he wants to know, should he put the peanut butter away, or, would I like some?

I look up, completely forgetting my supposed absorption in the Japanese calendar, and find his crotch level to my head. No, no,  I tell him. Please just put it away.

After Claire returned home from Texas, she and Roger got into a big fight about respect and trust and stuff. I only caught some of it because I left to come back home a few hours after she got home from her trip.

That was a year ago.


I talked to Claire today. I just remembered her birthday was nine days ago so I called her. She tells me California is doing great, and, as usual, I tell her that someday she has to come visit me in New York.

Although I know she never will. 

She has this hang up about New York. She says she hates the East Coast. Often I remind her that she has never been to the East Coast. You have never been east of Oregon, I tell her. 

Roger has just moved out again. This time it’s for good, she said. She always says that this time it’s for good.  I held back from saying that that is what she said the last time. I hate when people say things like,“ I told you so.”               

All of a sudden, after I hung up with Claire, I get this incredible urge to call her back, to ask her if she still has that Japanese calendar. I can see that calendar before my eyes, with its picture of a garden and its Japanese lettering.

I should have just taken a long look at Roger’s penis when I had the chance last summer. 

Because I’m having trouble. I feel obsessed.

Every time I see a Japanese person, or eat Japanese food, I associate it with Roger. The Japanese calendar was the thing I stared at every time I didn’t want to look at Roger’s nakedness. 

I should have just looked and gotten it over with. 

She still has the calendar. She says she wants to stop playing games with Roger, that she admits she still has the outdated calendar hanging on the wall to make Roger jealous of her old boyfriend. 

She says she knows how much I liked it and that she is sending it to me. 

I thought women nudists would be easier on the eyes

I thought women nudists would be easier on the eyes

(written when I was 19 years old xo jen pastiloff)

And So It Is, courage, Forgiveness, healing

What Have I Done?

January 21, 2013

I used to live in this beautiful 1940’s apartment in Los Angeles before I moved to Santa Monica ten years ago. It was on a major busy street but nestled far back enough that once you were inside the apartment you couldn’t hear any of the noise from the road.

What you could hear however were my neighbors. 

One man would repeatedly scream Get the fuck out of my house so many times and with such passion that I often thought I was dreaming it. That maybe something had broken inside of my head and things had started to skip. Maybe my mind got stuck on that one sentence and it was trapped inside my dream. Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out!

He would stand outside our front door, red-faced and hyperventilating. He seemed shriveled, slightly polio ridden. (Through some mysterious force that constantly seemed to pull at me, this spastic neighbor and I were both from the same town in South Jersey, Cherry Hill.) I’d heard it in his accent and knew that nasal tonality that inhabits the voices of South Jersey folk. And also a certain sadness which recognized immediately.

She is a fraud he would scream in the courtyard. She’s left maggots! She ate all the cereal! She took an ice pick to my piano! My Piano!

He didn’t look anyone in the eyes. Ever. Not even anywhere remotely near your face which was disturbing and creepy. But this one morning. This wonderfully otherwise perfect Los Angeles Sunday morning, with his lip cut and bleeding and his curly hair flying around his chubby red face, there was something. His eyes stopped roving and focused on something. 

Maybe he saw the point ahead of him, that point of utter loss. He was stupefied and panicked. 

The kind of panic when you realize you really are alone and that she did eat all the cereal.

He understood then that all the Get the fuck out of my houses took their toll. He had prayed for that woman to be gone. He had screamed it into the air. But I saw it in his motionless eyes. That fear. That what have I done?

I was happy when I finally moved from that place even though it had been inexpensive and huge with gorgeous hardwood floors and charm like nobody’s business. Those years are what I refer to as The Dark Years. They all blend in, gray and dank in their lack of happiness. Years of nothing on top of nothing. Years of picking at my face and talking about what I should do but couldn’t seem to get out of bed to do. I slept almost all the time. I starved myself all day and would get up in the middle of the night and eat in my sleep. I had hated waitressing but didn’t know how to stop. Like it was some kind of addiction I was in the throws of. 

 Which, of course, it was.

The Dark Years. 

And throughout those very dark years, there were these neighbors I was terrified of becoming. These screaming hate-filled red-faced people who loved and abused each other and wanted their lives to be anything but what it was.

I would lie there listening to them scream and see myself as a waitress for the rest of my life and then maybe I would eat all the cereal and take an ice pick to a piano and maybe someone would find out I was a fraud too.

The What have I done? some unspoken code between my neighbor and I. Even though we never made eye contact, we were from the same town in South Jersey (weird!) and we had this pact. This Oh My God, I’ve made a mistake like a car we’d loved but had long died and yet sat and sat in the driveway as if one day it would be able to go back up the hill.

We’d wimper silently and sometimes not silently: How can I get it back to the way it was? 

Well, here’s the good news and the bad news: You can’t. You can’t ever get it back the way it was.  

I remember lying in my room in that old apartment and thinking How can I get it back? How did I even get here? I would be here the rest of my life. Who could I blame it on? Who put me here, dammit?

Before I had moved into that apartment I had been still living in New York City. My mother had recently moved back to California (for the second time in our lives) and I had come to visit. Having lived there as a kid for a few years I still had a lot of friends in Los Angeles, so when I came to visit my mom and sister I also planned on seeing my friends. 

I had borrowed my mom’s car and took off to go to my friend’s little party despite the anxiety I had. I hated driving. And I hated parties (still do, but for different reasons.) I was afraid people would try to make me eat. I had anxiety as I drove my mom’s Isuzu Trooper or mini-van (one or the other) down the street looking for my friend’s address. (This was before cellphones.) 

I couldn’t find the building and my anxiety became a steamroller. I hit the steering wheel and cried as steam poured from my ears and I bit my fingers. I hate driving! See! I suck at it! 

I remember pulling up to a building I thought sounded like maybe that had been the address? 7890? 8790? 6790? I don’t remember (and can you even imagine a world with no cellphones during a crisis like this?)

What do you do? Well, you park and knock on a door.

The door opened and a very cute and very gay man answered. This was not my friend’s house the tears in my eyes told him before I could mutter I am lost. He asked if I wanted to use his phone.

Yes please.

He proceeded to show me around his beautiful (so stylish) apartment and then to the phone (a real wall phone.) 

I called my friend and was told that I was the three blocks north. I thanked him, told him he had a beautiful apartment and that his boyfriend (who was away working as a flight attendant apparently) was very very lucky.  

And off I went to the party which I probably hated because I probably ate food that I simply ate to make it look like I wasn’t starving myself which I very much was. The lies! The lies!

How did I get here? What have I done? 

Almost a year after that I left New York City. People used to ask why I moved to L.A. when I was half-heartedly trying to be an actress. Did you move here to be an actress?

I would say yes because it was easier but the truth was a No No No. I moved here because I had nowhere else to go. I was dying in New York. I had no choice, don’t you see? But I would nod and say Yeah, totally.

In New York I had been severely anorexic, lonely, depressed  and also very quickly going crazy. My mom had moved back to California and I wanted to feel safe so I fled New York to be with her. Clearly it wasn’t to pursue an acting career but once people started to assuming that I decided it was my best bet. Yes! I came here to be a star!

For a while I lived with my mom in a one bedroom apartment where she slept in a closet (I am not kidding although I am horrified) with a little bed on the floor and I took the master (and only bedroom) I was 21 or 22 and apparently okay with my mom sleeping in a closet/room? It lasted only a few months until I moved into the apartment on the busy street. The beautiful 1940’s apartment on the busy street.

It speaks volumes of my mother though, that little sleeping in the closet living situation. 

You like this necklace? I will give it to you. It’s yours. You want the bed? I will sleep in the closet. (That’s my mom.) 

One night, after I’d been living in the big beautiful apartment a couple years or so, my roommate M. and I had dinner at our next door neighbors. There were this fantastic gay couple with a dog and a washing machine. They also loved us in the way gay men love cute and single twenty something women. You have the best boobs! I love what you are wearing. OMG your boyfriend is so cute.

We loved them.

So, here we were hanging at their extremely well decorated place, drinking wine and laughing and I get the strangest deja vous. The kind where the ground lifts up and you have to grab the edge of the table and your wine spills over and you don’t even notice because you are so immersed in the I have been here. I don’t know how I got here but I have been here.

I turned to one of the Boyfriends and said I’ve been here. 

Yes, you have many times, Jen. Keep drinking girl! 

Me:  Last year. I was lost. Remember? I was still living in New York. I knocked on the door and you let me use the phone.

 One of the Gay Boyfriends: No that wasn’t you. That woman was like 40 and really skinny and miserable looking.

It had been me. 

I was a lot thinner last year. And I was unhappy. But I wasn’t 40, you asshole! I joked as I cleaned up my spilt wine, and of course, spent time obsessing that he meant that I was fat. I was much thinner then? What did he mean? I didn’t care about the miserable comment but the really skinny part slayed me. Much thinner? Much?

How did I get here I remember thinking. How did I get here? How did I get pointed to this building? To this moment?

To this life?

Everything is always against the odds.

The fact that I got lost and ended up there, at that very building that I would eventually live in. Not only that I ended up at that particular building that night, but of all the apartments I had knocked on their door: the only people in the building I had become friends with or even seen the inside of their apartment.

I’d also had no intention of leaving New York. It was a last ditch effort to save myself before I faded away into dusty bones on some street corner in Manhattan, my hair falling out and my face apparently aged beyond my years. I end up living at this random building. How can this be? 

How did I end up here? What have I done?

It chose me. I had been driving along in my mom’s Trooper (or minivan) and it called me. Come, come in your awful little Boy Scout pants made for a 12 year old and pale face. Come, leave your life as you know it in New York City. It will take you many many years to get where you are going but this is the first detour. The first stop. Come.

So I went. 

I would listen to my locksmith neighbor scream at his wife or not-wife and hate myself for sleeping until 11:30 am and I would wonder How did I get here? When really I knew. I knew that I had been chosen. How many apartment buildings in Los Angeles and I end up at this one with a friend of a friend of a friend who had found it and needed a roommate. I had been plucked out of my life in New York because I probably would have died if I hadn’t. Or maybe not. Maybe I would be fantastically rich and happy. Either way I needed those Dark Years and that screaming neighbor and my years of donning an apron.

I have a compass now. I know who I am. I can look back. I have a map. Here is where I was and here is where I am now, my little map says. 

I had been waitressing at the same job for about 12 years when the What have I done? creeped in and couldn’t find its way back out. What have I done? I thought I would be somebody? I’ve wasted so much time? I hate L.A. Why do I even live here? What have I done? I’m old now.

 I would take someone’s order for a veggie burger and it’s all I would hear: What have I done What have I done What have I done What have I done Do you want avocado on that and anything to drink What have I done?

My whole life led up to it. The first what have you done? after my father died. The last words I spoke were I hate you, Daddy.  

I couldn’t undo it. What have I done? Oh, what have I done?

When my neighbor had said that it couldn’t have been me that had come to the door the year before because that girl had been so thin my initial response had been What have you done, Jen? You’ve let yourself go. How could you? What have you done and how can you get it back?  

There is no getting it back.

After 13 years of working at the restaurant and after so many years of being mad at myself for failing I realized one day, or throughout the course of many many days, that its okay to never get it back the way it was.

I was always meant to get lost at that building and then move into that building. I was always meant to cry in my room and ask Why Why Why I’m too smart for this shit as I put my apron on again and again over the screach of my neighbors screaming Fuck Yous at each other.  

Here it is. Thirty years after I said my first What have I done? Here it is: It’s okay.

This will not determine the rest of your life. You have a choice right now in this moment. What will it be?

So. What will it be? Asking the questions is a good thing and I wish for you, and for me, and for all of us, all that we never stop asking the questions. How did I get here? What have I done? And then look closely , with a magnifying glass so you can see all the cracks and bugs and little hairs. Really be willing to see. Start to contemplate. Then ask more questions. Then get a really good microscope and go deeper. What have I done will lead you to different places on the map until you get to where you are now.

Please, when you start to get close to finding some answers, or more questions for that matter, please do not judge. Put down the ice pick and stop screaming and simply say I love you right into the microscope even if it makes you feel a little crazy. By doing that you’ll start to see the map move under the lens. Where there were rigid lines and boundaries on the map there will be moving molecules and big empty spaces.

That’s your moment. Right there. Look down and for the first time see that no matter what you have done you are not stuck. Your map is moving. The lines are no longer there. You are free. You can go. 

And know that no matter what you have done it doesn’t matter anymore because it got you here. And here is where the rest of us are. Start from here.
Nothing can be undone but what can be done, what can be started, is love. Start with love. Now. Go.
At the end of my life when I ask What have I done? one final time, I want to answer: I have done love.


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

The Irrelevants.

January 16, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff

I have often felt as restless as the earth, as afflicted. As inconsolable.

This is to all the I am irrelevants: You’re not.

Some irrelevant things might be: getting into a perfect crow pose in a yoga class, finding a grey hair, your jeans, what kind of car you have, whether you like to have sex with men or women (or both.)

This is to all the people who howl at the moon how lost they are, how bad they suck, how little they have to offer. This is to the voices that speak in a languages that love doesn’t understand. A language that sounds like this: I am nothing, I do not matter, I don’t fit in. This is a language that often can’t be translated and when it is, it is found out to be gibberish. Bullshit. Untruths.

This is to you all.

I drove across country when I was 18 years old with my mother and her boyfriend at that time, as well as his two kids. We had a minivan and I sat in the back reading books and eating dried peaches. I read Love in The Time of Cholera twice on that trip. I prayed that somehow I would get left back on the trip and not have to start NYU in the fall. That I could stay back in the Rockies somewhere and get fat and let myself sink into oblivion. I prayed and prayed in the back of the minivan in my little cut-off red shorts as I bit my nails off. Please let me not me found.

I was starving myself to such a degree that I hadn’t menstruated in years. I remember being in Cody, at this steak house with everyone. I had asked the waitress to take a can of vegetarian chili into the back and open it for me while everyone ordered off the steakhouse menu like polite people. I dreamt of a knife through the fat of a nice juicy sirloin, some well done barbecued ribs, mashed potatoes pats and pats and pats of butter streaming off the plate as I ate my canned chili cold.

I thought about sending a postcard to my boyfriend who had already left for Boston saying: I am laughing with bear trappers who eat bear meat and wear bear coats. I am in the Black Hills of South Dakota trying to catch a big fat trout hook right through it’s mouth, cleaning it. Digging into it and cooking on an open fire, singing songs of the land and the Dakotas. I am in the Rockies high up, high at the top- summer and still snow caps the very top walking stick guiding me through the crooked trails around each bend.

You’ll never never find me in a motel room in Toronto on the water above a German restaurant, eating beets marinated in sugar and knockwurst. Teeth and lips stained red. You’ll never find me, licking the sides of an ice cream cone. You’ll never find me at the fish and tackle store in Yellowstone.

I had finished my chili that night and gone to bed in a tent as was the protocol on our trip. I never did send that postcard but I wrote it out and kept it as a bookmark in case I did want to send it, eventually.

Years later I found the postcard in between some pages of Love in The Time of Cholera.  I thought I had wanted to get lost but it was the opposite. I wanted to be understood. I wanted to be left alone with my books and my words and I wanted to understand why I hated myself so much. I wanted someone to look at me and say You are not irrelevant. You are not bad. You do not need to disappear.

I was trying to do a disappearing act, as it were. If I starved myself enough I would eventually evaporate. I would turn into ether. I would become the moon.

This is for you, Dear Hopeless Ones. I am you. Don’t you see it? I was there. I was one of the: I am nothings, I am hopeless, I am bads.

What a crappy club to be part of.

It’s a mean club, full of liars and storytellers and petty thiefs.

Its like this. You have caught glimpses of your life. You, who think you are irrelevant, you have reached out for love, and on occasion, been able to grab fistfuls of its beauty. If you look closely, you can see your life all mapped out. Irreversible veins raised and ready for puncture. The geometry of your life: blue, ingrained, vainglorious.

It’s like how your eyes adjust to things- the inside of an apartment after an eyeful of sunlight. How you can see part of the moon when it isn’t really there anymore: hanging sliver white as pearl on black, it’s fullness still faintly visible, an illusion. A palsied arc, the fingernail piece of moon that hangs like it’s missing something of itself, waiting out it’s own cycles. It’s like that. You have to wait out your own cycles.

The moon is never missing any of itself. We just can’t see it. You are like that too.

I can see it. You are all there. You are not irrelevant, you are not nothing, you do matter, you do fit in. I can see all of it.

You may have to wait out your own cycles too. You may think you want to get lost among the bear trappers, but even then, I will be able to see you. You can never disappear. You can never become ether.

You are as relevant as the moon. And beyond.


Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.


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

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

Inspiration, loss, Manifestation Retreats, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

I Have Not Died.

December 1, 2012

I don’t remember much of China.


To not be cold, Please let me get warm, I remember this. To stay in my hotel room and watch the ice skaters on the Houhai Lake from 16 floors up, Please I promise I will eat if I don’t die from frostbite. Am I dying? I remember that.

That’s really all I wanted at the time: to not be cold. (I was always so cold.) To dream of what I would eat. More white rice than I had ever allowed myself to have in the past . I didn’t trust any of the food, (not just there but anywhere during that period of my life, and especially in China where I had no idea what I was eating except it was in a brown sauce). I will just have white rice I would ask someone who looked like they spoke English to translate for me. More white rice. So much white rice. It’s all I saw when we rode in the backs of buses in search of temples and people living on houseboats in Suzhou. All I wanted was to be warm like it was a life or death situation, which is how it felt to me during all those years I was starving myself, and, which in actuality, it probably was. All I can remember about those years is that I was always freezing, nails purple, lips blue, hands cold. China in Janary was brutal. I was freezing and hungry and my eyes were closed during most of the trip because if I opened them I would have to see.

I think about that trip a lot, and my years living in NYC. If only I had been awake! How different my life would be. If only I had paid attenion. Where was I?

I don’t know where I was. Somewhere beween living and dead. Closer to dead.

But I haven’t died.

I am still here.

I am now closer to the living.

In 11 days, I am turning the age my father was when he died in. I was 8 years old and I knew for sure this is when people die. Yet here I am. Here I am in my pajamas and a glass of wine, listening to the muted rain competing with the ringing in my ears and wondering if other adults stay in their pajamas at 6:30 on a Saturday night and how could I be an adult when I don’t know how to do so many things? 

And then I come back. Come back, Jen. Come back. To the land of the living, come back.

Here I am. I have not died.

I kept hearing that line in my head and I wanted to write it as we took off from Taipei to Los Angeles but I thought that if we crashed I would have caused it. See, if Jen had never said that, if she had never assumed that we would be safe, we would be fine. It is her fault. So I didn’t write it then. But now here I am in my pajamas that belonged to my grandmother who died less than a year ago. I didn’t have any feelings for my grandmother, (hold off on judging please), so when my mom gave me the pajamas: Jen, take these, they’re new. Never been worn, I had no issue. I needed some pj’s. I have no sentimental I miss my gramma so much every time I wear them. They are my pajamas and if I didn’t know they had been hers I wouldn’t know. There aren’t any ghosts or messages within the fabric or any secret keys to forgiveness in the little flowers. They are kind of tacky and I love them for that. I write well in them.

So I am in a dead woman’s pajamas on a Saturday evening but I did not die.

I am here.

I am having a hard time being back from Bali. I taught two classes this morning then came home, put on said pajamas and curled back in bed. I hit decline every time the phone rang. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want the trip to end, I want to stay in the safety of being away from responsibility, from fear, from I have to’s.

When we went to China we stopped in Alaska on the way. It was dark and looking out the windows of the airport were fields of snow or at least that is how I like to remember it. I wrote postcards and leaned against the glass as we waited for the flight to China. Flying to Bali made me remember these things as if I tucked them away and forgot where I put them. Oh, there you are, years of my life! Ah! Age 20-30, there you are. I thought I had lost you.

Maybe it all comes rushing back at you like they say in the movies. Maybe your life comes rushing at you whether you are dying or not. Maybe this birthday is like a re-birth. I mean, I survived it. All those years I planned on being gone by 38. No, not consciously, but in the deep recesses of my sadness and the place where my poems are born, where I drowned myself in yoga, in those kinds of places.

Maybe your life comes rushing at you and you better be prepared or you will miss it again. I think the second chance is really the last chance. If you survive. I mean, if you make it past your due date, (which I have, so to speak), and you miss your life again because your eyes are closed. Well, that’s your fault, Kiddo.

But hey, who’s missing anything?

I am here.

The flight from Bali was much better than the flight from China from what I remember although, again, I don’t trust my memory. I could have flown first class for all I recall (I didn’t) but I was so checked out, so hungry, so tired and old at 21 that I wouldn’t have realized it.

Each place you go, you take a piece of that place with you to the next.

Whether the place is literal or not. Whether it is pain or joy or a child or darkness or heartbreak or love or your 20’s. You take a piece of it with you whether you realize it or not. In China, I saw women who would not be broken by the cold. Women who lived on dingy boats on a freezing river. Eventually, when I stopped being cold and started eating I realized I had taken a piece of their tenacity with me. And from Bali a sense of commitment to their offerings, how seriously they take what they give. And how I do the same.

I have not died yet. I am here to share with you my journey which is about to start. I have crossed over to the other side and I am taking with me all the things I want to which include the places I have been and the people and the cold and the places I think I went but can’t remember. They are mine to not remember. I am taking all of it because I realize at this threshold of life and death that what makes us is not just blood and bone but what we have seen, where we have been, who we have loved, who we have hurt, where we are going and what we know we can do.

I know I can do this. I can go beyond where I thought I would ever go with grace and dignity and when I finally get there, wherever my dad is, if I ever get there, I will have earned it. And it will be my time. And I will tell him all about my adventures and how 38 is not really the age all people die. How young it really is and how although I am sure he is happy, wherever he is, he missed out on so much.

But that’s neither here nor there.

For now, I am here.

I am among the living. 





healing, Mindwebs

Are You Depressed?

October 4, 2012

I feel like I am about to write copy for an anti-depressant commercial. Are you depressed? Trouble sleeping? Find you can’t focus? Find you feel like shit when you have no viable reason to, and in fact, anyone would think you insane for admitting it?

Depression confession from 10,000 feet: I have been struggling lately.

It’s like I am carrying a bunch of plastic (yes, plastic) shopping bags and they are digging  into my arm and cutting off the circulation and then they all start to get twisted up. Has that ever happened to you? (I know, most of you don’t use plastic, but you can imagine right?) There’s a lot of heavy things in the plastic bags and finding a way to carry them all with the skinny handles is nearly impossible and a more than a little frustrating. Its like at once I am carrying the plastic bags and I am the plastic bag hanging on to an arm for dear life.

So put them down for a moment. There in the parking lot. Since I am the plastic bag and also carrying it (stay with me on this metaphor for a moment) I am at once free and yet utterly alone, there in a parking lot.

And its a little overwhelming.

That’s what I have done. Or what I want to do. Trying to put down some of my load. In a parking lot. In a blog post. Anywhere really.

I suffer from depression. Or I have suffered. Which is it? Past tense? Present?

Let me be frank: I am slipping a little lately. So is it present tense? Maybe. Do I acknowledge it and then shift my thoughts, creating new mantras such as I am happy! I am free of depression! Or do I sit quietly on this airplane and contemplate it?

What does that even mean, depressed? Is it something I have been told (yes!) or something I know deep in the labyrinth of my body, in my DNA (also yes!)?


Noun: A complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.

An intricate and confusing arrangement.

(Sounds like the human mind, no?)

From the time I can remember I have felt a certain sadness that I could never explain to anyone, a dead part inside of me that made pretend I was sick and stay home from school (even in kindergarten) so I could eat cream cheese and olive sandwiches and watch tv with my mom. During college, I would leave NYU during the weekends to go back to Cherry Hill, NJ, a one and a half hour ride on the Peter Pan Bus, so I could be at home, safe from the slick world of New York City and all the food choices. And from feeling anything except hunger. Perhaps that is how I fell in love with anorexia, it allowed me to stop feeling such a nothingness. I replaced nothingness with anxiety and hunger but I no longer felt depressed, per se.

The point is, here I am on a plane flying to Miami. My life is great. I have nothing to complain about. I am happily married. I am successful. I am healthy. So, what is it?

What is this demon? 

This is what happens. I sit down and I can’t get up. I am superglued to my chair and I cannot go anywhere, I cannot do anything until the minutes turn into days and the days into years. Since I can remember dreaming I have had various forms of the very cliche tidal wave dream. So I sit in my chair, superglued there like that and the tidal wave swallows me. 13 years of my life passed in this salt water until I was spit back onto the shore and discovered my calling to which I responded as if it was literally calling me on my iPhone. Yes, I hear you, my dharma! I’m here. I’ve emerged from the depths of Hell and I am here to inspire and write and teach yoga and travel and be happy.

Except the thing is sometimes I feel like a liar.

Sometimes it’s like the anatomy of the impossible and I find myself on a chair, superglued there, glassy eyes, a deep nothingness setting in like it’s missed me and had to be close to my heart again.

What it feels like is that my insides are collapsing upon themselves boneless as wool. The outside of me is pushing its way in. The outside of everything is pushing its way in. The noise, the cars, the people, the fears, the future, the past.

What do you have to be blue about? a friend asked me on the phone a couple weeks ago.

Nothing. Not a damn thing. My life is amazing.

So what is wrong with my mind? Is it broken? Is there a hole somewhere? Can I fix it with yoga or prayer or rewiring my thoughts or wine or laughter or sleep or sex?

I try all. Trust me. I sleep like a dog in summer. I drink wine. I do yoga. I teach yoga! I am mindful of my thoughts (most days.)

It’s not enough. I must dig deeper.

What is triggering me? What situations am I putting myself in? Who am I surrounding myself with? What am I allowing myself to think and say after the words I am?

I must get a hammer and chisel away at the bone until I find the piece I am looking for. It is that part of me that sometimes goes missing. The stray piece that feels like smiling isn’t a chore, the piece that wants to answer the phone and talk, the piece that gets up off the chair and does things out in the world, things with other people even.

I am not saying it will ever go away 100% or that I even want it to. Claire Danes character on Homeland (my obsession) got her brain zapped. She literally got electric shock so she could deal with being bipolar. (No, I would never do that and no I am not bi-polar.)

This rogue part of me is where art is born and where I write. But enough is enough. I am driving the boat. Me! Not my so-called depression. Not my sadness. Not my mood. Not my apathy. Not my ego.

Aphrodite and the other Greek gods were not the only ones who had split personalities. We all do! (Or at least I do.)

Here is the truth: There are two of me. (Possibly three or four.) As it was with others before us.

The battle in me looms like an uncertain diagnosis, luckily I am armored with my bow and quiver. Some days I sway, these passions of the heart- so fickle, so tenuous. These feelings of sadness, of emptiness will be taken down by me and my bow and arrow.

Until then, I will leave you with this.

Today I feel good. Right now I feel good. My life is amazing and I am happy.

Right now, in this moment, there is no missing part of me.

There is nothing missing.

poetry, Self Image, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

An Identity Crisis.

July 23, 2012

An Identity Crisis

We may ask ourselves: Who is this person? while watching the lover pull a hair off their tongue or wiping their upper lip with the back of their hand or eating a bowl of oatmeal on the edge of the bed to catch the news or drinking a dark beer at M’Lady’s in SoHo.

Because sometimes we get lost in the bustle of it all. And these questions might come fast as a sigh of relief and they may vanish as fast as the beer glides down the throat, the hair comes off the tongue, the sweaty upper lip smooth as butter puckers into an


We might get in our cars, make faces at ourselves in the rearview mirror, eat our breakfasts in the bathroom to save time and sweat with our lovers and then one Tuesday we realize that the person we once were has changed so many times over, has fallen into the groove, into the pattern of days, is as predictable as the setting sun

so we may ask ourselves: Who is this while watching our lover pull a hair off their tongue or wiping their upper lip with the back of a hand

and it might feel answered, we might think we recognize them.

That we know who we are.

So we go on and make more faces in the mirror, changing the natural shape of our mouths or seeing what our eyes would look by pulling our hair too tight, and we might keep driving,

keep walking

keep drinking,

keep eating,

nothing truly stops, ever,

bury the father,

clock into work,

tell them that you love them if that’s what they want to hear,

clock out,

keep going,

we might feel almost sure we’ve got it,

that we are in control.

Keep going to bed, keep waking up.

Don’t stop, don’t ask,

buy the birthday cards,

celebrate the years,

don’t move from where you are,

trade one relationship for the next

go to bed,

wake up

You’re still there.

Look: you’re still here.

***This piece was written when I was 20 years old 
Eating/Food, poetry

Things That Break Easily. More on Anorexia.

July 22, 2012

I wrote this when I was 19. Clearly I was in the throes of anorexia.

                                    Things That Break Easily

What is Inevitable: The window men having to come and install a new window to replace the shattered one.

They smell of bacon but are kind and helpful. They ask no questions.

They Have Seen It All.

In and out, noiseless as shock.

They cart away broken shards, slinging glass like water ,

Commenting: close those tree branches come close to your window,

good glass like this could scratch easily, even break with wind.

Maybe someone should think about cutting that tree down.


What can a body achieve?

What limits can we really take it to?

I was a tree!

I stood all night looking in my own room

dipping on, the wind pulling me this way and that.

I watched neighbors drink and knit in my new tree body

as a pile of sticks curled and slept in my bed.

But even this, this is not much.

I couldn’t unearth myself,

I couldn’t slither out of bark

and into the apartment across the way.

I could not become timeless.

Or as heartbreaking as the man hunched over his piano with the random tufts of hair.

Not into my past or anyone else’s present,

I could only slip into the earth.

I could not fit my body in the head of the sewing needle.

Looking out at the world through nothing but a perfect steel slit. 

Perfection is Perspective.

Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Travels

How Long Before We Feel That Alive Again?

July 21, 2012

               Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.

                                                            – Margaret Lee Runbeck


                        We are what suns and winds and waters make us. ~ Landor

Suzhou, China. I went to China with the NYU Scholar’s Program I was in.

The flight back from China and I am so close to Hui I feel his breath on my neck. Over the engine, over all the cranky people folded into seats too small for their rice-filled bodies I almost don’t hear him tell me his secret:

Always smile, Never worry.

But when his hot breath settles on my left cheek, I understand what he is saying-

A potion for your stomach, for your chi

through that yellow smile of his.

He presses a small bottle of Hui’s Chi Liquid into my palm.

I have a lot of poison in my body he can tell this just by looking at me, he says.

I am seduced by people like him: Clairvoyants.

Hui, what’s going to happen to me?

His shoulder pressed into mine and I don’t mind. I like Hui.

I am safe up here in the sky with my smiling clairvoyant.

He is thin, a slip of a thing, and I wonder if large numbers of people spend their entire lives crammed on boats, earning their living moving goods and people over the lakes does that mean that Hui and I can survive up here in the sky in this airtight cabin?  Forever?

Coasting over clouds, viewing everything from such a height that nothing seems so bad anymore.

We would be so far removed from it all. Our perspective would change accordingly.

We had ridden together on the houseboats in Suzhou as old women pushed water out of their way, the geography of their bodies as various as that of their land: dense and vital to the earth.

Those women understood the interaction between a natural environment and human patterns; they have broken the code.

They know who they are, what they must do.

They will not be broken.

What has made me?

Which materials am I built from?

Have I been broken?

Hui and I had sat on the boat shivering, slapped by the January air. A kind of cold you can never prepare for.

The personality of the cold there on the Suzhou River strong willed and ancient.

Upon returning to New York we will have a new understanding of temperaments, of tenacity.

It was that kind of cold.

The kind to teach us lessons, to trigger our memories when we are feeling slack and numb to the world- the kind of cold to wake us from sleep and remind us what it means to be alive and sliding down a river in China on a dark and dreary dinghy.

Trace decay hypothesis is where information in the long term memories decays with time. This will not happen in our minds!

Our fate is sealed! The cold has entered us!

Whether we will remember it isn’t the question.

It’s: how long before we remember it again?

How long before we will feel that alive again?


In Shanghai. Me on the end.

**This piece was originally written when I was about 21 years old.