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Guest Posts, Self Image

Don’t be a Baby – Lessons in a Roy DeCarava Photo

April 8, 2020
decarva

By Trish Cantillon

Labor Day Weekend 1979 before we started ninth grade, my best friend Mery and I went to my family’s vacation home in Newport Beach. Since my parents’ separation it was where my dad spent most of his time, and by extension, my time with him. I assumed that since I was fourteen, I would be afforded some independence. I believed I’d outgrown the obligation to keep him company while he sunbathed on the front patio glistening with cocoa butter, a vodka cocktail always at arm’s reach. My plan was to spend those days laying out at lifeguard station fifteen, with afternoon bike rides down the boardwalk to the Fun Zone for Balboa Bars. We’d endure dinner with my dad, and whatever drunk personality he embodied, because his barbecued chicken was delicious. After dinner, we’d disappear upstairs to talk about boys and how great high school was going to be. This was my expectation.

Late Saturday morning, as we finished up bowls of cereal, Mery and I made our plans. My dad sat on a barstool at the counter: newspaper, coffee and vodka screwdriver in front of him. “I’m out of vodka. I’m going to need to go to the store before you head out,” he said, without looking up. His arm was in a sling from a shoulder injury and he wasn’t supposed to drive, though he seemed to pick and choose when he followed that rule. I was unsure what this had to do with us until he stood up, slipped his wallet into the pocket of his trunks and plucked the car keys from the dish next to the phone. “Come on, you’re going to drive me to Balboa Market,” he said.

“What? I can’t drive! I don’t even have my permit,” I replied, certain that once he realized that he’d back off.

“Oh, it’s fine. It’s just a few blocks. Come on,” he insisted. His tone got sharper. I was not in the habit of talking back, especially when he had been drinking, but this felt like a legitimate place to speak up.

“I’m not driving you to the store,” my voice quaked.

“Don’t be a baby,” he said. Me being a ‘baby” was an idea often directed at me, either in a lighthearted way, like when he’d sing, Yes, sir, that’s my baby on our bike rides, or, in this case, with anger and disappointment. It always made me feel small.

“No. Please don’t make me. I don’t want to.” He was silent, then looked at Mery.

“You wanna drive?” he asked. Mery looked at me and shrugged, as if to say, if you’re not going to, I will.

“Sure,” she answered.

“Atta girl,” my dad replied. I was dumbfounded. My grand gesture undermined in an instant. Mery didn’t see him as a bully trying to get his way. She hadn’t lived with that behavior her whole life. For her it was something cool; an opportunity to break the rules and have fun. I felt the heat rise inside me with nowhere to go but smiled as he handed her the keys. I followed them out the open front door.

Mery looked confident as she climbed into my dad’s loaner, a red Ford Granada. The jealous part of me was glad she wasn’t getting to drive his Mercedes 450SL. In abbreviated stops and starts, she backed the car out and pointed it in the direction of Balboa Market. From the sidewalk, I watched the surreal sight unfold slowly, like the final scene in a movie. Everything about it unrecognizable. My best friend behind the wheel of a strange car with my dad riding shotgun on an errand to buy vodka. I felt empty and deserted. I wandered into the house, unsure of what to do with myself. As the minutes ticked by, I began to question why I was so worked up about this in the first place. What’s your problem? It’s no big deal! You’re being a baby! I grabbed my beach bag, tossed in the Bain de Soleil, two cans of Tab, Seventeen Magazine and waited for them to return. Eager to pretend the whole thing never happened.

***

The tears came suddenly and completely. Before I was even aware, they were running down the sides of my cheeks. My husband Quinton and I drifted through the Museum of Modern Art that spring afternoon in the mid-nineties and happened upon the Roy DeCarava exhibit. I shuffled, along with the other patrons from one image to the next and came upon Graduation 1949. When I saw it, I was overcome with a sadness that’s hard to articulate. In Hyperallergic, Colony Little describes DeCarava’s work this way, “He transforms otherwise mundane moments into intriguing narratives with beguiling characters, extracting drama like no other.” The sadness I felt was familiar; an echo and I could instantly envision the life of this girl at this moment.

On a day she thought would be free from disappointment, she put on a happy face when things didn’t turn out as she hoped. She walked alone to her own graduation, through a decaying Harlem neighborhood and an empty lot strewn with trash. She gathered the sides of her beautiful white dress into her hands and lifted the hem so it wouldn’t drag. Everything she reasonably expected for the day had disappeared; except her fancy clothes and accoutrements. She would look the part, even if she didn’t feel it.

Graduation, 1949 exposed an interior life I had long kept at bay with a smiling face and cheerful demeanor. The physical representation of the young girl alone spoke to a deep abiding loneliness. I grew up in a large family and found myself most comfortable amidst the attendant noise and chaos that accompanied that life. I loved falling asleep listening to my brother’s music down the hall and my sister’s hairdryer in the bathroom. However, because I am the youngest by seven years, I often found myself alone. In those moments when life was quiet, I was consumed with a melancholy I could not name and didn’t understand. Distracting myself with elaborate imaginative play, TV and food, I felt a little less blue.

When I was ten new neighbors moved in next door. It was a Friday afternoon and a last-minute change in plans meant I would not have the standard-issue divorced kid weekend with my dad. My mom had a date so I would stay home with the housekeeper who spoke little English. I had the house, and, most importantly, the kitchen to myself. A few days earlier I had talked my mom into letting me buy a fancy Bundt cake mix I’d seen advertised on TV. Because we weren’t the type of family that baked cakes and had them around our own house, I had to have a reason to bake it and a somewhere for it to go. I told her I thought it would be nice to take to the new family next door.

With the family room TV on in the background, I put all my baking supplies on the counter: cake mix, egg, oil and water. I put an apron on over my t-shirt and shorts and when I was ready to begin preparing the cake, I silently called “action” on the imaginary TV show I was starring in. I carefully walked through each step of the recipe explaining the process and offering my valuable tips for the make-believe audience at home. When the cake was finished, I drizzled the packaged icing over the top (the whole reason to buy this cake mix), saved some for myself for later, and proudly displayed the finished product, with great personality and flair, to an invisible camera. I then walked it to the neighbor’s house and rang the bell. A petite brunette woman opened the door looking surprised to see a chubby blonde ten-year-old stranger holding a cake.

“I wanted to give you this to welcome you to the neighborhood,” I offered the plate to her.

“Oh, well, that’s very nice,” she replied, taking it from my hands, ‘Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. It’s kind of a neighborhood tradition,” I said, puzzled by how quickly the lie flew out of my mouth.

“Hope you like it. Bye.” I turned and stepped off her porch.

Back at home, I polished off the leftover batter that clung to the sides of the bowl and the beaters. I fixed myself a boiled hot dog and large bowl of buttered popcorn for dinner, then settled in for a night of television, interrupted only by a move from the den to my room upstairs. Tucked in bed with the portable black and white TV perched on the end of my desk so I could still see it while lying down, I watched The Rockford Files and waited for sleep to take over. Sometime in the middle of the night the white noise, or the National Anthem that preceded it, woke me up. The TV station’s final sign off for their broadcast day brought with it a profound sense of dread and flickers of panic. I was all alone. No one or no thing left to keep me company.

***

Aside from what was obvious in the light, the darkness and shadows in Graduation, 1949 said plenty to me about a literal childhood fear of the dark and an adult fear of the unknown. In Reading the Shadows-The Photography of Roy DeCarava, Ruth Wallen maintains, “The shadows house the riches as well as the dangers. DeCarava’s persistent focus on life in the shadows demands that they be read in a new way, as fertile ground full of possibilities.”

My mom was thirty-nine when I was born in 1965, which, then, was considered late. I was the fifth child who came seven years after the fourth. Growing up I was conscious of the fact that she was older and quickly attached myself to a fear of her death. In its early state, it was born from panic that if something happened to her, I’d have to live with my dad. After he died when I was fifteen it was simply the prospect of losing her that was devastating. Then, as I got older, it became more acute. I’d fret if she didn’t answer the phone or if I got a busy signal for more than an hour. I monitored every sniffle or cough that lingered. I read obituaries to check the average age of the old people that were dying. I didn’t want to think about life without her, or what it would feel like, so I tried to manage what I could not control.

She was a life-long smoker of unfiltered Pall Mall reds. She had a glass of wine and a cocktail every night and considered her vanilla ice cream a good source of calcium. She did not look after her health but managed to appear healthy. From 1978 to 2003 her only visits to a doctor were via the emergency room for a twisted ankle, a broken wrist and finally a broken pelvis. The extended gap in her health care was precipitated in 1978 by an irregular brain scan that doctors incorrectly presumed was a tumor. From that point she adopted the philosophy that doctors make you sick. By 2003 and the fractured pelvis, some legitimate, long-ignored, health issues were unmasked. She spent eight weeks in the hospital and rehab with a few touch and go all-nighters in the emergency room. In the darkest moments, I tried to talk myself into being okay with the fact it might be her time, but quietly sobbed at the thought. On top of knowing I would grieve losing her, I wasn’t sure how I would get through it.

Mother-daughter relationships are complicated by nature and ours was no different. Its complexities, however, were not typical. I never sassed her, talked back, or crossed her. Her emotional support was the only thing I felt I could trust and rely on as a young overweight girl with an alcoholic dad, who just wanted to feel good about herself and fit in. And she relied on me as a companion and ally, her number one booster and cheerleader. For her, my being “the baby” made her believe she appeared young to her peers, even after she had a handful of grandchildren. When she lied about my age to an old friend we ran into, she told me “They don’t want to know how old you are, it will make them feel old.” But an identity of “the baby” made me believe, by its definition, that I was not capable as an adult. This idea seeped into my fear of her death. Could I handle it? Or would I be an inconsolable mess?

In 2012, after several years of declining health, and several remarkable rebounds, my mom let us know that she was ready to not be here anymore.

“I want to be knocked out,” she said. Sitting up in her bed at the assisted living home she’d been in for a couple years, sipping the Bloody Mary my sister had fixed for her.

“You mean, like go to sleep and not wake up?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered. Her mind was sharp, but her body was frail and, quite literally, shutting down. Less than twenty-four hours later, after the first dose of morphine had calmed her breathing and her nerves, my brothers and sisters and I gathered in her room. We’d been told she’d get a dose of morphine every four hours. The hospice nurse would be back in a day to check on her. I stood near the doorway and observed the scene for a moment and then felt compelled to go sit on the bed next to her. I rubbed her hand, remembering how much I loved the liver spots I thought were freckles as a kid. I could see and feel that she was slipping away, life draining from her body. It was not terrifying. It was not beautiful. It was a somber experience punctuated with inexplicable odd, humorous moments and a peacefulness that’s hard to describe. I felt no fear.

I realized, not long after, I had been present with her when she found out my dad died, when she broke her pelvis in 2003, when she fractured her back in 2010 and finally on the day she died. I had been moving from light to shadow and back to light endlessly but needed to fully experience the thing I feared most to appreciate what was possible in those shadows.

It’s been over twenty years since I first experienced Graduation 1949, it still evokes the same deep melancholy from the first time, when I may have believed I conjured an imaginary life for this young girl on her graduation day, but I what I really did was ascribe my own to her.

Los Angeles based writer and native Angeleno, Trish Cantillon has published personal essays on The Fix, Refinery 29’s “Take Back the Beach,” The Refresh, Storgy, Brain Child Magazine Blog and Ravishly. Her fiction has appeared in Gold Man Review and Berkeley Fiction Review.   She works for Dream Foundation, the first and only national organization providing end-of-life dreams to terminally ill adults. 

 

Upcoming events with Jen

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Uncategorized

Joy.

September 2, 2012

Joy by James Vincent Knowles.

I know what joy feels like.

I do, I really do.

I too recall what it’s like to not recall it all.

I know what it’s like to put it off, to work & work & try to fight & work some more towards that which one hopes will matter, & to take the little free things in life to be all one’s allowed to enjoy, & in between those little things, the smile here & there or moments shared with a stranger you hope will become a friend one day.

But joy itself, that’s an entirely different thing, is it not, than hopes & wishes & dreams?

It’s a feeling from dawn to dusk & throughout the night, that the smile you see in the morning comes from that part of you so thoroughly deep inside your core that nothing can wipe it away.

You sing & dance & move a little differently everywhere you go & give a little extra shake to everything you do & say.

Yes, yes, joy is delicious, the best of all the things we feel me thinks; it’s not something one forgets or thinks might be true, it’s the most real thing of anything that’s real with a me or a you.

It is, however, something that one can lose sometimes, for one reason or another. I wonder now & again if that feeling will ever come back or if it’s gone now, forever

There are those who say they know for sure you cannot get joy from another. But I do not know that nor do i agree at all. Else how is it that when we choose to give joy to someone else, we see their entire being light up & then we feel right off our smile began to glow inside them first? And then we hear the voice of real happiness float across their curled up smiling lips?

So joy then it seems to me is something we give each other. It’s the one gift that must be given & is always free & never taken.

It lasts & lasts forever in our memory. It permeates all around us & percolates back & forth in a joyful exchange that at times has ups & downs … until that special moment in time that’s spent with more-than-a-special friend who takes us by surprise. And that is when, there & then, one finds out joy is always & only here & now & it’s full of grace & gratitude, all the time.

So that’s what I think about where joy comes from, in connections of all sorts to be sure, but especially when it’s with that special one, true, who takes us & makes us sing & dance & shows us we’re their special one too, the one that gives us joy all day & night no matter where we’re at, who never allows us to feel blue. The special deep core hum, infinite ohmmmmm……, vibrating, resonating friend, who’s willing to shout: oi, oi, oi-! hey! I fucking love you~!

 

`~~~~~~~~~~

***To connect with the multi-talented James Knowles through Facebook click here. He is a gifted photographer and author and I am honored to call him a friend.

To book a photography session with James please email: James Knowles <paparazzo1@mac.com>

Here is a sampling. It’s a video he put together from his photos for me from last week’s karaoke yoga class (which was shot at Yogis Anonymous for the British tv show Lorraine and starred Rod Stewart’s wife. Thus the Rod song!)

It brought me so much joy I had to share with you!

courage, Guest Posts

Guest post by James Vincent Knowles: On Courage.

February 16, 2012

This guest post is so real, so beautiful, so honest. Makes my heart ache a bit. Love you Jim and thank you……

James Vincent Knowles

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

COURAGE BY JAMES KNOWLES

*Benjamin Franklin said courage had something to do with owning one’s faults & having the resolution to mend them. If that’s true, then maybe I have a little bit.

It’s rather difficult to determine if one has courage. It’s easier to see courage in others.

I can, however, tell a story and let others be the judge.

I’ll begin with my faults.

Not the superficial ones. The character faults. The deep faults. The faults which have hobbled me all my life in one way or another:

Niceness. That’s a big fault. I looked “nice” up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Originally meant, “ignorant.” Uh, oh. Yep. We still use it that way if you ask me. I mean, what does THIS mean: he’s a nice guy / she’s a nice girl?

Gullible. Easy. Clueless. Not hip. Not dirty. Innocent. Unpretentious. (You get the idea.) Being nice can cause a lot of pain. It certainly has for me.

Helpful. That’s another big fault. I like to help people. No, that’s not completely honest. I LOVE helping people. Especially if i’m able to do so without attaching expectations. Without expecting reciprocation. Altruistic help. This one has plagued me all my life. It’s really a combination of being nice with the additional problem of boundary awareness. I help people then they ask for more then I do it then they ask for more then I do it and then what happens? I go past where I ought to have done & / or don’t set proper boundaries and then what? Little bits of expectations seep in. Little bits of resentment squeak through. And before you know it, helpfulness has turned ugly. That’s a real fault. It’s a hard thing to learn for a nice guy.

Procrastination. Ugh. Who doesn’t know about this one? Well, maybe Clark Kent & Cliff Michaels. Maybe Jennifer Pastiloff. (haha… kidding~! I know Clark Kent procrastinates~!). That’s about it. Rest of us procrastinate. Some more than others. Thing about procrastination though … something even my nice, helpful, lazy self has noticed, when we’re really happy, doing what we love, living our dream, we do not procrastinate. We tackle the big, dirty jobs straight up & straight away, all the while knowing the enjoyable stuff is there waiting for us when we’re finished. You know it’s true. So why do we not live that way all the time? But okay. First we need find that flow. That thing we LOVE so much it makes us want to take out the trash before that first cup of coffee / kale juice in the morning.

Talking. Oh boy. I love to talk. Particularly with people i like. People who’ve got time to talk AND listen. People who are interested & interesting. Mind you, i’m talking about conversation, discussion, sharing. Balanced, animated, open, real, honest, non-judgmental, fun talk without meanness. Measured and blended it can be an elixir made of nirvana. As intimate as the best sex you’ve ever enjoyed and as noisy. Yeah, talking is definitely one of my faults. But okay, I’ve become a pretty good listener along the way as well. Listening isn’t a fault though so I’m not listing it as one here.

Thinking. Bwuahahaha~! If one more person tells me I think too much I’m going to walk to Antarctica. Effffffffffffff me~! Now this one is a real problem. Then again, maybe I just need to be around people who appreciate thinking?

I used to not think as much & i wasn’t any happier.

In fact, without thinking, what would we be? Animals? Alien life forms? And how would one person be any different than another if we couldn’t think for ourselves? Also, if thinking is so bad, why are we always asking others what they think? Gotcha there.

But okay. I’m listing it as a “fault” because so many people tell me i think too much. I think I know what these people mean when they tell me that. What they mean is, I’ve not explained myself concisely enough to pique their curiosity or they mean that they don’t care enough to hear what I’ve got to say or they mean they simply don’t like the stuff i think about.

It’s all too much to think about.

Resolution to mend them.

I think that word “resolution” means “a decision to do or not do something.” Sometimes not so easy, is it?

Niceness. Well, okay. I’m a curious guy. And I can read. So when something bad happens as a result of my being too nice I educate myself. It’s hard to not be nice. But it doesn’t mean ya gotta be mean. That’s not a complete resolution. I’m still nice.

But now i’m kinder, gentler & more patient. & curiouser. But most importantly, nicer to myself. Learning to nurture my self. Now THAT takes a lot of courage~!

Helpful. Well, this one is easy to fix. Be MORE helpful but help myself first. Sounds a lot like that love thing.

You know that one, “love yourself first in order to know / have / receive / give love.”? Well, okay, I’m still working on that one as well.

Aren’t we all? I am beginning to see a pattern in all these as I write this.

Procrastination. This is that “just do it” thing, right? Crap. This one can be really hard if one isn’t sure what to do I’ll have to come back to this one.

Talking. I’m screwed on this one. I thought I resolved it by moving 200 miles from LA … alone. Of course I did this because I’d completely self-destructed. Or at least I thought I had. I’d blame it on someone else but what good would that do? Besides, it wouldn’t be self-destruction if it was someone else’s fault! I will say this … running across Jennifer’s blog just might have shut me up a bit. That is, it shut up some of the negative conversations I was having with myself. Which of course, made me think. For instance, about how some of the things … no, all of the things Jen posts tend to inspire, enlighten, encourage & heal. It certainly does these things for me! Interesting. I’ve never met Jennifer. I’m not a real yoga dude. I’m a total beginner. A procrastinating, lazy one at times. I find myself far from where I belong (Santa Monica). But I had to leave town. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Take that back. It was THE hardest thing i’ve ever done. Not the move. I’ve moved 37+ times in my life. It was leaving in total shame. Wrung out. So entirely twisted, crushed, hurt, embarrassed, and, well, let’s just say pretty much completely distraught, dazed & confused. The worst~! Oh wait. How does this resolve the fault of talking? haha… I am just using it as a device to talk about myself. 🙂

Thinking: I’m not quite ready to admit this is a fault. Guess I’m still in denial. Either that or maybe by thinking a lot I’ve come to the conclusion that if one thinks about the right stuff, thinking a lot is good.

So what does any of my crap have to do with courage? Not sure. This is what flowed forth from me today. I have faults. I’m willing to admit them. I’m willing to mend them. I admit I will need help along the way. But most of all, this is about shame & how it takes courage to look at it. To be vulnerable.

I left town in shame. Obliterated by shame. Almost dead from shame. Beyond comprehension shame. Little did I know I was yet to be shamed enough. There was tons more shame coming and it boy oh boy has ever been heaped upon me. Throughout all this I’ve continued learning, reading, thinking and talking. And okay, even praying & meditating. I procrastinated on everything but that which I believed mattered most … love, understanding & empathy. Love. Understanding. Empathy. And oh boy did I learn some stuff about niceness. And helpfulness. And procrastination. And talking. And thinking. Oh boy. Oh man. Oh boy.

I got vulnerable with myself. (I’m not sure one can do that but i have been doing it). Jen’s blog posts have helped me a LOT. Helped me see the authentic me. Jen’s blog & two real friends. One new one friend & one old friend. The new friend encouraged me to be myself. The old friend gave me a little tiny bit of empathy & understanding. Lifesavers, all. Jen’s blog has been incredibly inspiring. I say that a lot. I feel inspired by all the stories on you blog, Jen. So refreshing. Real. Like coming home or something.

So okay, I’ve been looking at myself deeply. I was feeling so worthless I wondered if I was alive. In fact, as I look around my space it looks as if a total loser lives here. But at least now I know that’s because this isn’t home. This is just a place to sleep and think. This is a place I can be totally vulnerable with myself, let myself see my self. Bardot. Die before you die. Tranquility. Calm mind. Quietude.

Screw the decorating.

Two years ago I owned a paparazzi photo agency. Yes, I know. That makes me a “bad guy”. 

8 months ago I quit. Sold everything I own, car, cameras, furniture. I also decided I’m an artist. Maybe a writer. I’ve since realized I am a dam nice guy. That I enjoy helping people. That I need to be connected to others, preferably people who have empathy. I need to connect and feel that sense of belonging we all need. To be around people, doing things which get my juices flowing. Be a part of something which gives me energy so that I don’t procrastinate. Connect with others who think, maybe even others who enjoy talking, nice people, helpful people, doing things that matter.

When I left LA I was screwed up. I’m telling you right now. But deep down I knew, despite the crap, the shame, and the embarrassment, it would be worth it. Letting go of everything. Leaving town. Being alone. I had zero idea of what might happen next. Still don’t. Although I am postulating & imagining & envisioning & praying & writing & thinking & every once in a while, I can even SEE and FEEL what i want my life to be like. All I know is I quit everything and even though much of what caused my shame & confusion & disconnection & pain was still happening, I have continued to think (and think with more clarity), continued to be nice, learn, grow (I hope), and talk about it, even if only with myself.

And yes, somewhere along this journey, this story line, a door opened. I ran into a person I’ve never met. The Universe connected me with Jen’s blog & all the beautiful, authentic, empathic, compassionate, real, joyful, encouraging people with whom she is connected. Vicariously through this blog I’ve been inspired and enriched.

I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable, to be my self and i’ve found myself gaining strength and feeling human again. Healing, if you will. And for that I’m so grateful~! So is that courageous? Doesn’t really feel like it. It just feels real.

Namaste.*

Inspiration, Q & A Series

Joe Longo Photography. The Manifestation Q&A Series.

January 21, 2012

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series. 

I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

I first met today’s guest through the powers that be, also known as: Social Media. I noticed someone named Joe Longo was sharing my blog and tweeting my stuff so I checked him out. I come to find out he is an incredible and passionate photographer and yogi who shoots a lot for Dhyana Yoga, my home studio in Philadelphia. Dhyana Yoga is my family and apparently Joe Longo is their family, so the way I see it, Joe and I were family. Before we even met.

We finally met. I was right. It was like we had known each other lifetimes.

We literally had 5 minutes, just 5 minutes to take some pictures and he snapped some of my very favorite pictures I have of myself. To know Joe is to love him.

In an elevator at Dhyana Yoga West Philly where I will be teaching again Wed March 28.

I am very excited because he lives in Pennsylvania, but is planning a west coast tour to do shoots and we plan on having a yoga photo party. Yes, you read right. I mean, if I can do karaoke yoga, I can do a yoga partay!

Seriously, this guy is the real deal. I love him like a brother. Some of his answers blew me away and some humbled me tremendously. Joe Longo is inspiring, in a word. Please get to know him, and, if you can, book a session with this guy! 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?

 

Joe Longo: There is so much to be proud of and thankful for, including manifesting my inclusion in this Q & A. I am so inspired by everything you’re doing. Thank you for kicking ass. Life is blowing me away. Even as I type, your (Jennifer) Facebook status reads: “My dreams are becoming a reality faster than I could have ever dreamt.” with a link to your blog about Wayne Dryer being on the Manifestation Station. I am so happy to be living this life I have created

I am most proud of following my passion of photography and teaching yoga and being able to unite them both.

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson that you have learned from being a yoga teacher? from your own personal practice? from being a photographer?

 

I love this guy. He truly emanates love!

Joe Longo: I’m learning something new in every class, but mostly I have learned to be grateful for the opportunity to share this practice with the world.

From my personal practice to photography, I’m learning how to let go of fear. I have been practicing yoga for about ten years and for about nine of them, I feared going upside down. All I could see was me falling on my head over and over and over again. Either way, I didn’t try. Whenever I was in class and the teacher asked us to do handstands, I would take a break, have some water, and chill out in child’s pose. Then one day last year, a good friend said, “I thought you we’re an athlete.” At that moment, my practice changed. My life changed.

I remembered, “I am an athlete!” and I was letting fear get in the way of who I truly am. Now, all I want to do are handstands. I’m still getting over the fear, but now I love falling on my face. I’m learning the same thing from photography. I was shy and quiet. But now, I talk to new people every day; not only do I have to talk to them, I make them feel comfortable on the other end of the camera. I believe, too often, we allow fear to control us so much, it changes our whole life. That athlete comment shook me out of a deep sleep. I woke up knowing I needed to be as awesome as I possibly could be, and I needed to love myself again. Do you remember when you were a kid and all the grownups would say you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you? Then all of a sudden we grow up and forget this; we think we’re not supposed to be awesome. Really?… Really!… Really?… I say be awesome! Kick ass! Do what you love and let everything fall into place. God, The Source, The Universe, whatever you want to call her/him… They have your back.. If you believe in yourself, be grateful, share your love with the world, and the universe will get your back. But YOU must BELIEVE!

Jennifer Pastiloff: I have a list of rules. See below. What would some of Joe Longo’s rules be?

Joe Longo: Joe’s Rules

1. Believe in yourself

2. Love yourself

3. Love everyone

4. Be Awesome

5. Give back

6. Give back some more and don’t let anyone know it was you

7. Inspire people. In the words of Yogi Bahajan: “Be the light house”

8. Sing

9. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from doing what you love

10. Stop listening to the mind and start listening to the little voice inside of you, that voice that keeps you breathing and your heart beating when you’re sleeping. That voice will never lie to you.

 

Jennifer Pastiloff: Who/what inspires you the most?

 

Joe Longo: You! The light you shine is contagious. I see how you inspire people and it makes me want to inspire people. People following their dreams inspire me.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I teach many of my classes to the theme of gratitude. If you could say thank you right now to one person who would it be?

 

Joe Longo: This question really made me think. I have to thank everyone who has ever come into my life. Good or bad, they all helped me get to where I am today. I thank you all!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is one message you would pass on right now to someone looking to manifest their best selves?

 

Joe Longo: Know that you already are your best self, believe that you’re awesome and you’ll be awesome. My friend Mike Barata has this great little saying, “You have two choices in this life. You can choose to suck or you can kick ass. Which would you prefer?”

I prefer kicking ass and you should, too.

When you believe in yourself, the universe will get your back. When you follow your passion and listen to the voice inside with an open and grateful heart, everything will fall into place.  

Jennifer Pastiloff: What brings you the most joy? Your joy list, as it were.

 

Joe Longo: My dog Timber… singing, cold weather, fireplaces, friends, family, teaching, learning and then some more learning, photography, yoga, nature, and inspiring people who believe in themselves. 

Jennifer Pastiloff: What can we expect Joe Longo to manifest in 2012?

 

Joe Longo: For 2012, I am manifesting some creative photography work with fun inspiring people and companies. Doing a photo shoot with Ellen Degeneres because I have a feeling she would be a lot of fun to photograph. Getting a photo agent, a book, A Yoga Photo Party Tour.. Yoga workshop on an island (well this is happening just not talking about it yet…hehe…stay tuned.) Developing a large kickstarter yoga photo project with a huge gallery showing, limited edition book and a creative photo layout in Yoga Journal. Oh, and let’s not forget co-teaching a Kundalini / Vinyasa manifestation class with you! 

Jennifer PastiloffCan you tell us a little about your journey. Giving up your 9-5 job to pursue your dreams…..

 

Joe Longo: It has been a long journey, from failing my first photography class to getting my first professional photography gig. For some reason, I left my passion of photography to follow the standard path. You know, the 9-5 401K joy crushing real world work force path? After about 10 years, I started to wake up and realize this was not the life I wanted. I had a failed marriage, a 9-5 job making good money and I was miserable. Sounds great… I was working with people who somehow we’re able to just follow the standard, show up for work at 9 and stay till 9… The crazy thing is they expected me to sit in my cube just like them and do the same damn thing.

Yada yada yada, I woke up one morning and decided it was time to plan my escape. I made a little sign that read “I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER” and put it on my bathroom mirror. I know sounds so cliché, but I looked at that note every day. I was already doing some freelance music photography. I had been practicing yoga for a couple of years, and had a lot of good friends that were teaching. After about a year of having this note on the mirror, it hit me. START PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR YOGA FRIENDS! It was also at this time I had decided to enroll in a Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. I had a new job managing a customer support department for a small software company. I thought everything was falling in to place. I recall thinking to myself, “I got this job. I’ll be able to pay for the training. I’ll save some money and in a year or so, quit the day job, teach yoga and be a photographer.” It sounded like a great plan, until about two months into the teacher training. While on a trip to Vermont with some friends, I received about 50 phone calls and 150 emails from my “great” new job. Something in me changed.  Maybe it was almost being taken out by carbon monoxide poisoning the night before, but a fearlessness showed up in my life.

I arrived at the cabin around 11PM and by 11:30, I decided I was never going back to that job again. Crazy, I know. I got home on Superbowl Sunday, called my boss, and quit. I told him I could not live this way anymore. He asked what I was going to do; the first thing I said was, “Photography.”

The rest, as they say, is history…

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Follow Joe on Facebook here. https://www.facebook.com/JoeLongoPhotography

Joe Longo Website http://joelongophotography.photoshelter.com/

Joe on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/joelongophoto

Dhyana Yoga ( I will be teaching here Wed March 28. Sign up asap. West Philly Studio.)

http://www.dhyana-yoga.com/

My family in Philly. My home studio there: Dhyana Yoga. John and Dhyana, shown here, are the owners. They are expecting their first child late April 2012. Mazel Tov!

Jen’s rules:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Watch Modern Family

10. Duh, do yoga

11. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

12. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

13.. Take more pictures.

14. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. no such thing.

15. Thank the Universe in advance.

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