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Guest Posts, motherhood, parenting

You’ve Got it All Backwards.

January 27, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sarah Kurliand.

The other day I was driving to the Franklin Institute with my 3 ½ year old son, X. Our windows were down to let in the crisp, fresh air per his request. As I slowed to stop at the corner, I noticed an older man standing there. We locked eyes for a moment and I smiled, as I do to everyone. And he went on, “Heyyyy guuuurl. How you doin? You lookin’ mighty beautiful today” , and I went on my way. In total, it lasted about 5 seconds.

I looked in my rear view mirror at my beautiful son, as I waited for the questions to come flooding in. I racked my brain thinking of interesting ways to spin this so he could understand it. I could see his wheels turning… 

X: Ma, who was that man? Why he say ‘Hey gurl’ like that? You know him?

Me: I don’t know who that man was X.

X: Then why he call you beautiful?           

Me: I guess he just wanted to tell me what he thought.

A few silent moments went by. I have learned through my few short years of motherhood that this is his processing time and to just be quiet because more was on its way. And then like clockwork.

X: It’s very weird Ma, his words sounded like nice words but he was not a nice man.

And there it was. The biggest truth bomb anyone had ever laid on me. Without even seeing this man, my three and a half year old little baby could tell simply by the tone in his voice that even though yes, he may have used kind words, he was not indeed, well meaning.

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.

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Inspiration, my book, Owning It!

The Undoing of Yourself.

December 2, 2012

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. ― Joseph Campbell

My original ancestors must have been beautiful.

I have traced of them, healed scars, visible only after being pointed out. And I don’t usually point them out, just so you know. There’s one on my neck, however, that I am pointing out to you. A red line that looks like a hickey until you look closer and ask. I was 16 when I had it removed and the last thing I remember is them asking me Do you have a boyfriend? I didn’t at the time and I thought This is not working! The anesthesia is not working and I am going to feel when they cut into me and

That was that. I woke up and the lump that I had ignored for years was gone and along with it the diseased lymph node that had been living in my neck for as long as I could remember, and, which I ignored profusely until a guy I was (sort of) dating, that way you “date” when you are 15 and 16, wrapped his arm around my shoulder and touched my neck. He asked me what it was which made it real. Until then, I could pretend it was my imagination but as soon as he said Baby, what is that lump on your neck? I went into a panic. I am going to die. Oh my God, am I going to die?

The way we can ignore something and let it silently torture us and not until another points it out do we acknowledge the realness of it. I am making this up. This is not real.

This is not happening.

There’s also less visible ones like the one on my head where the point of an iron came down after my cousin bit me in the thigh. I didn’t feel it until I saw the iron lying on the floor next to me, on top of all the dirty laundry. Then I got scared and cried and thought I was going to die with all the blood on the leggings and underwear and socks.

I remember riding on the back of a bus, going from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where I had a fellowship at Bucknell University, to Philadelphia where my boyfriend would pick me up with my own car. I had lent him my car because I wouldn’t need it for the month I was at my fellowship but sitting on the back of that empty bus I wished for my sweet car. If I’d had one wish it would have been to have my little grey Volkswagen Fox so I wouldn’t be so swallowed by the night pressing its black body into the morning in those towns. I could tune in to the road or the traffic or nothingness but there on the back of the bus I saw how darkness never let up, just kept pressing down. The buildings so used to that darkness that any light made them cringe and sink further in. They would turn their tar faces from the sky and droop bloated toward their floors. I saw myself in them and couldn’t stand it. The ride felt like it was 17 hours. I hated those buildings.

I sat on the back of that bus and thought of my ancestors and of my Bubby and my father. And Shetland ponies. How they’d been trained to trudge in coal mines, through dark damp spaces, weight on their small backs, taking fast uneven paces and how they’d been used to it. I imagined the sound of their steps. (What else was I to do on that million hour bus ride?) Hooves hitting hard ground and how they must have sounded like the tongues of sewing machines, clicking to my mother, keeping her company as she worked all night in basements, the television on mute. My mother with pins in her mouth, fingers pinching the fabric in place.

I thought about what coal mining could do for me as I sat on the back of that bus, not being able to drive or change the radio station. What else could I do?

The lift, descent of a hammer, breaking open dark parts of the earth, splitting what’s solid. Cracking. The pattern of days. Falling into one another the way all things without change tend to.

The original ancestor of these ponies gradually grew over centuries, changed forms over and over, emerging from swamps to enter coal mines. Like him, I could adapt to living in muck I thought. To traveling and feeding in marshes and swamplands.

I could get used to anything. 

And I have.

(Ask me what it’s like to have gotten used to hearing loss.)

I too have changed forms. Emerged from dark wet tunnels, basements, buses.

Capable of all kinds of change.

My ancestors were short and stocky, at least on my father’ side, and I see parts of me when I look at old photos. My hands are thick and I notice this more often than I care to admit as I am adjusting someone in my yoga class, in savasana, my hand over their heart. How can I have such ugly hands? until I feel the person’s chest heave remining me of my task at hand which is simply to be here, be here now. Be the net. Be the love. No one cares if you have fat little hands or long hand-model fingers in this moment. Be here now.

My ancestors knew me as I rode on the back of that bus all those years ago, perhaps even rode along with me, a few rows ahead. Just as they know me now. They have built me and formed with me with discarded pieces of heartache and hardship and love and geography and food.

My grandfather on my mother’s side (the only one I have ever met) is obsessed with our genealogy, making maps and taking trips to town to visit the Native American Tribal Center. He is a proud Native American and I always sort of scoffed at his pride. Ok, we are related to Pocahontas. Okay, Pop I would say as a teenager.

I get it now though. This privilege of understanding, of unscrewing your limbs and draining your own blood in search of answers and questions. This undoing of yourself to find the us and the we. 

This What has built me? looming every time you react in a way that surprises yourself or breaks your own heart.

In the afternoon of my life ( I am not sure if that is a thing or if I am even there. I may be in the morning or the twilight or the night but I sure like the way it sounds. So.) In the afternoon of my life I realize now why I turned away for so many years.

I did not want to know.

I did not want to understand why a certain sadness found its way into my face in photographs, why I am inexplicably drawn to a certain stories and people and moments in history. Why being Jewish and Native American and all of it felt like one big Who gives a shit as I counted the grapes I would allot myself for the day.

If I knew where I came from I would be accountable. I would have to turn my face upward and take on the challenge. As it stood, I did not want to know so I kept looking down until I was underfoot and broken.

I am not my past.

But I want to know. Were I came from. Whose blood courses through mine? Who in my family was in the Holocaust? Was my grandmother’s brisket really all it was cracked up to be? Does addiction really run in my family?

(Many. I am not sure. Yes and yes.)

I will not be defined by it but I will look upon it as a duty, this privilege, before I let it was away and disappear like it never existed.

My dad and I at the Jersey shore.

My dad and I at the Jersey shore.

Inspiration, Manifestation Workshops


April 5, 2012

I was born in Philly.

I spent the first few years of my life there then moved over the bridge to Pennsauken, NJ. Then a lot of stuff happened and my dad died and my mom moved my sister Rachel and I to California to start our lives over. Then a lot of stuff happened and after about 4 years my mom decided she wanted to move back to NJ. Then a lot of stuff happened and when I was 20 my mom and sister moved back to California. I came out a year or so later. The end.

Oh, and my mom dates Neil Diamond after she moves back to California when I am around 21.

A brief history of the Pastiloff family as told by me.

I go back to Philly quite often now and teach at my home studio there: Dhyana Yoga.

It’s a deep connection I have with this city. One filled with sadness and nostalgia and  memories both real and made up. One filled with ghosts and places my father visited and streets he stood on corners of.

In South Philly, back in the day, everyone had a nickname. My dad’s was: Mel the Jew.

Yes, you read right.

My uncle, who isn’t really my uncle at all, was Johnny Boy. He is still called that by many.

I walk around the city and imagine Mel the Jew with a cigarette hanging from his lips and wonder what he would think about what I am doing now.

Tonight in L.A., as my whole class laughed at something I said, something corny, a small part of me high-fived my dad in Heaven because he would be so proud. He would be most proud of my sense of humor and my ability to connect with others. He wouldn’t care about much else.

He might care that I married a Jew, which I didn’t.

No harm no foul, right?

Part of my reason for going back to Philly is to stay connected to my father.

This past workshop in Philly at Dhyana was oversold. It was mat to mat to mat.

I really felt like I had come home.

I booked a photo shoot with my talented friend Joe Longo. We drove to Philly from NJ before my workshop and landed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I used to watch Rocky with my dad. The same dad, Mel the Jew dad who made me memorize each city’s hockey team. The same dad who mooned people at holiday parties.

I stood on the steps of the museum with Joe and I looked out at this city of my father’s and felt a deep ache for him, for all the years I missed with him, for how different I think my life would be. I realized how far I have come as I looked out at at this city with different eyes.

My eyes are the same, come on now.

It’s a metaphor.

I see the world through different eyes now, through a different lens than I used to when I actually lived here. I used to be scared, sad and depressed. I looked down from the steps of the Museum and felt good, I felt happy in my skin and my body and although I missed my dad and what may have been, I felt confident that I was actually where I was meant to be.

A feeling I had never had before.

I did this shoot for my dad.

I wanted to lay in the grass he walked in. I wanted to stand on the sidewalks he knew. The buildings he leaned against I wanted to touch.

Here I am in Philadelphia, the city of my birth, the city of my father (and mother’s) birth.

I have come home.

Does that mean I will stay?

No. It means I can always come back and feel this connection.

Joe immortalized it for me.

There are well over 120 shots so I will just add a few.

We had a blast!

Of course I am wearing my favorite Tanya-b clothes in the pics. I am an Urban Legend for Tanya-b and I live in her clothes. Check the site out here.

And of course the tattoos I wear are from Conscious Ink where I am “Ambassador of The Ink.”

To book a shoot with Joe Longo please contact him here.

I will be back at Dhyana Yoga in a few months so stay tuned to my blog.