Browsing Tag

sadness

Guest Posts, Young Voices

Becoming

July 21, 2015

By Melissa Black

You can find out a lot about yourself when you pay attention to what makes you cry.

Sometimes I’ll see something or hear someone say something that literally hits me so hard I break down right there, with no warning and no immediate explanation. I just start to heave, tears pouring down faster than I can make them. I start sobbing because something in me has been recognized, something that I’ve probably been ignoring or swishing away with my hand.

I watch and listen to a lot of interviews. There’s something almost addictive about listening to other people talk about life and how they live it; I want to know how people overcome themselves and learn to be alive without driving themselves crazy. Other people, particularly older and wiser women, seem to be infinitely capable of handing me pieces of myself that I didn’t know I’d lost. During one interview, the first I can remember that made me sob fiercely and unexpectedly, a phenomenally successful women shared with the audience what she would’ve shared with her sixteen-year-old-self if she had had the chance: Don’t worry, I’ve got this. You’re too young to be worrying about how it’s all going to pan out. Go have fun, go live, be carefree. I’ve got you. A powerful sadness erupted from me. I’d wished in that moment that someone would say that to me and mean it.

In a different interview, another woman expressed the most significant thing she had yet learned, she shared with us what she would have shared with her younger self in all of those years of searching: That voice in your head that tells you you’ve not done enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not enough of this or that, isn’t God. It isn’t Divine. It’s the critic in your head that never can tell when things are good and when a possibility of peace and self-compassion exists. I covered my eyes with my hands and I wept.

The most recent incident regarding this intense and sudden emotional outburst wasn’t from an interview, but from a lecture. This woman is so inspiring to me that she’s become intimidating – she’s like a phantom of a personal guru, always there to kick my ass into shape when I’m off chasing the tails of my fears. She spoke about forgiveness, belonging, home. My eyes are welling up at the mere thought of these words, the inner movement upon me before my fingers finished typing them out. Continue Reading…

Binders, death, Guest Posts

Gone To Feed The Roses

May 31, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Katherine Vaz

The home I share with Christopher Cerf, on Gerard Drive in Springs, was not spared Hurricane Sandy.  We were residing in our main residence in New York City when the water rose over the spindly, mile-and-a-half long cape bounded by Gardiners Bay and Accabonac Harbor.  Police cars blocked the entrance to Gerard, we read in the Times.  It was not safe to enter.

Aerial views made the spit of land look like the Loch Ness Monster surfacing—humps of spine, the creature mostly submerged.  A friend reported that our yard and patio were ravaged, but our house was unharmed.  After a spell came the news that my eighty-seven-year-old father had collapsed in northern California.  A day later, for the first time, I entered my childhood home without him greeting me with a blessing and kiss.  Content with his history books, his painting and gardening, he was a homebody; I sensed the vacancy as a prelude to loss.  At Eden Hospital, he cried out my name when he saw me, the daughter from far away. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts

295 North Toward Baltimore

April 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Lexi Weber

I want to tell you to stop being such an asshole. For all you know my hands are white knuckled around the steering wheel and I am sucking in tiny breaths in rapid succession. For all you know the height of this hill, the sharp turn around the corner, and the anticipation of Baltimore traffic below have paralyzed me with fear. For all you know taking the exit for 295 today feels like cliff jumping. Maybe if you knew, you would stop honking, stop yelling, stop riding my bumper around this narrow bend.

What if I told you that my grandmother is one of my earliest memories of love? I don’t remember what it was we were doing, but I remember that I was small enough to fit in her lap. Her long fingers were clasped around my back, my face was buried in her sweater and we were rocking back and forth. She was singing. That is one of the few memories I have of feeling safe. Now, nearly thirty, I still cling to the sound of her humming.

As we inch along toward the exit I am sweating through my fleece jacket and cautiously tapping the brakes. I want to tell you to just back off a little bit.

You only know that I have stopped my car on the Beltway and proceeded at 12 miles per hour. You only know that you have had the terrible luck of being stuck behind this white Jeep Cherokee at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I bet the lime green sticker reading Island Time really pisses you off. But I want to tell you that there is so much you don’t know.

You don’t know that I buried my grandmother yesterday. Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships

Dear Life: I Need Help Navigating Bouts of Depression.

February 27, 2015

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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the wonderful Naomi Elana Zener.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, see you next weekend (3/7 and 3/8)  in Atlanta for my next workshop!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Dear Life and the wonderful people reading this,

I am used to navigating through life through and with heartache. The past 8 years were full of relationships with heartaches. They have created my darkest moments and have thus been the creations of my lightest moments. I am finally done with them, and I am depressed. I don’t have anything to complain about, except for missing my family sometimes, who lives across the ocean. I feel like I have no purpose and no direction, and I don’t know where to start. I crave adventure and meaning in life. I love to inspire and help people, but I can’t do that unless I can help myself. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about life, but these bouts of out of the blue depression are starting to get old and I do not know how to navigate through and out of them.
Please help.

All the love,
Elly

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, loss

Proof of Loss.

January 12, 2015

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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Marchant.

When my husband comes home he walks right by the cradle in the laundry room, still drying from its hard scrubbing. His excitement makes him more unobservant than usual. He has news for me. He rushes in, past where I stand at the kitchen counter, already exclaiming before he sees what I am doing.

“The owners took me aside and gave me a raise. It’s supposed to be secret because I’m the only one. At their last meeting they discovered I’m responsible for 60% of the revenue and decided they should keep me happy.” His hands are on his hips. He is containing his exuberance.

“That’s great,” I say, genuinely happy but intent upon my task. “It’s about time.”

“Yeah,” he agrees and then looks up, I assume, for he goes very quiet. I am not looking directly at him, having turned back to my task on the counter. I sneak peeks at him from the corner of my eye as his silence continues. He is standing next to the dining room table he has appropriated for his ‘office.’ He has dropped his wallet, keys, and hat on the table, but stands staring at me. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, loss, Miscarriage

Finding My Vocabulary.

January 10, 2015

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By Carly Williams.

I’ve learned a new vocabulary.

Dead. Death. Dead baby. Stillbirth. Stillborn. Neonatal death. Miscarriage. Bereaved.

At times I surprise myself at the ease with which death rolls off my tongue.

This fresh plethora of words flows easily from my unsilenced lips, slips calmly from my soured mouth.

For some, my emerging voice rings discordant. I wear, for all to see, the dark grief of random loss. Who wants to look at me, when my son’s death reflects the frailty of all life? Who wants to hear a language they don’t ever want to learn?

Language spirals uselessly around the death of a child or baby. I watch as the eyes of observers dart around, in search of an alternative to my truth. There is no alternative.

My vocabulary is the truth, my truth. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, loss, motherhood, Pregnancy

Safekeeping.

December 31, 2014

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By Rachel Blumenfeld.

She asks me if I want her to take it back.  “No,” I say, in the way that means no but that also means that it’s slowly killing me, that sweater, hanging in my closet.  I can feel it even when the door’s closed, even when it blends in perfectly with all the other neutrals.  It doesn’t matter if I buy colors; I wear the same grays and browns I already owned.

“I might still need it,” I say, and I feel that now I’m making this a talisman.  Or a curse.  If I keep it, it means I will get to use it, right?  Or am I being too hopeful, and the fact that I have this sweater waiting for me will somehow prolong my wait to use it?  Is it like women’s favorite pants from high school that they keep in their closet, even after three kids and fifty pounds, swearing one day they will fit back into them?  How long until a sign of hope turns into a sign of pitifulness?

My friend, my loving, compassionate friend, asks me how best to support me.  She asks if it would be best not to talk about her situation for a while.  She makes sure to ask me every day how I’m feeling, and while I know that she truly does want to know, and does want me to be okay, deep down she’s thankful that this isn’t her.  She’s happy that the baby in her womb is still alive, that hers isn’t the one who died.

There were three of us, friends pregnant at the same time.  Due November 9, November 12, and November 20th.  Since about 30 percent of pregnancies end up miscarrying, it was statistically bound to happen to one of us, and it’s not that I’d wish this on either of my friends, but I know they both must be glad, to some extent, that it’s me who was chosen.

More than likely, the miscarriage was caused by a chromosomal abnormality, the culprit in up to 70 percent of prenatal losses.  In Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being, she writes that there are 8.4 million ways for two people’s DNA to combine.  I imagine the two strands of DNA dancing, the nucleobases seeking each other out, eyeing each other like two young lovers across a bar, moving closer, but still spinning and circling until they are close enough to reach for the other’s hand.  I see the cytosine reach out for the adenine, get rejected, and the party is over.  Without this merger in the middle of the line, none of the other bases can match up either.  They can’t get close enough with this gap looming between them. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, healing, Holidays

Dead Christmas Trees, Brain Injuries & Finding The Beauty.

December 29, 2014

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By Karen Pyros-Szatkowski.

When I lived in New York City after college, too many years ago, I’d be so saddened the weeks following Christmas walking by apartment buildings seeing the discarded, used up Christmas trees piled in front, waiting to be picked up by the garbage collectors. I was in no way a tree-hugging, save-the-earth activist back then, but for some reason, these trees, some still with tinsel on the branches, made me view the city as a morgue and a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness and despair would replace the holiday happy from a few days before. The trees of all shapes and sizes, some tall and skinny, others short and more full, ugly Charlie Brown trees, and beautiful prize worthy ones, whatever fit into the lives of the former owners’ apartment spaces, had now served their purpose and lay, most of them without bags, on the cold New York City sidewalks, atop their own fallen needles. They were once connected to and nurtured by the earth, then worshipped and adorned with beautiful decorations… a proud centerpiece in the apartments, the holiday, and now tossed out like garbage. Actually, that’s exactly what they had become. Garbage. Although I never, ever, bought a real tree after my first Christmas in New York, I certainly don’t make any judgment on those that chose the natural over the unnatural; that’s not what this is about. I know that for every tree cut down, others are planted and farms grow trees just for Christmas pleasure. It is not a moral choice for me; it’s an emotion. I know real trees look much more beautiful, fully decorated, than the artificial ones, and I do love the smell of pine, but the memories of those discarded trees piled many feet high like dead bodies awaiting their disposal left too much of an impact on me, too much of a sadness, not because of the waste, but because of the abandoned love. From the pedestal to the street. Beauty completely stripped to nothingness. Life to death.

I’ve been feeling similar emotions recently, but not due to Christmas trees. I feel so much pain and sadness, all around me and not all mine. Being so easily connected through social media and website magazines, Damon’s story has reached out past the community in which we live to a much larger audience. Because of this, I’ve been connected to many new friends and reconnected to many old friends, so many of whom are affected either themselves or through family members by traumatic brain injury, death, or just horrible diseases. In our pre accident life I never would have crossed paths with most of these people. In our pre accident life I would never have been able to so deeply feel their pain. So many have reached out to us to share their own stories, looking both for inspiration from our journey and hoping to add support to theirs. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, poetry

Grief Anniversary.

December 17, 2014

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By E.B. Wexler

“anniversary” implies that I do not have grief the other 364 days

I do.

But as the date approaches

I feel, slowly arising

The original grief

The breath sucked out of me when I got the news over the phone.

The early grief

Walking around in a daze, wondering where she went

How things would be now

 

She was 31

She was my “person”

And it was out of the blue.

I have not been the same since. And I don’t want to be…. Continue Reading…

death, Guest Posts, loss, parenting, The Hard Stuff

Dear Jerk: A Letter To The Father of My Kids After He Took His Own Life.

December 4, 2014

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By Erica Richmond.

Dear Jerk,

I drove Rain and Moxie to Dresden this weekend for your inurnment. Up until now I didn’t even know that word existed. I guess I should thank you for increasing my vocabulary.

While I’m at it, thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain cremation to our kids (I’m not sure it translates well into the afterworld but that was sarcasm). Difficult conversations seem to be a regular occurrence for me these days and I had to explain how your body could fit into such a little box. I told them that you had wanted your body to be turned into ashes before being buried. Rain’s eyes grew huge and he asked,

“HOW did they do that?”

Before I could even formulate any sort of appropriate and non-traumatic response he continued,

“Was it flame thrower or laser beam?”

God I love him.

When we turned down Trerice Street toward the Dresden cemetery I pointed out the high school we had both attended. Did I ever tell you about my first memory of you? It was here at my Grade 9 dance. You were in Grade 14 (that can happen when you leave town for a while to play hockey) and you ran past me across the dance floor with the Police and principal right behind you. Squeals of laughter and chants of “RUN HOOP – Don’t let them catch you!!” echoed over the early 90s dance music. You’ve never been boring.

Did you notice that Bittersweet Symphony started on my playlist as we entered the cemetery? It IS a bitter sweet symphony that’s life…. Well at least sometimes.

The ceremony itself was short and sweet. Hallelujah. You must have been as proud of Rain and Moxie as I was. They stood quietly between me and your parents and listened to the minister read a piece that one of your friends had written. I bet you chuckled when he even read the word ‘shit’. Did you notice that Moxie had chosen to wear the fancy black dress you had given her? Did you like the red roses they picked out for you?

After the service we went back to your parents’ house. The kids took off to play tag and the rest of us sat around the backyard eating sandwiches, drinking OV and sharing our favourite Hoop stories.

There are 2 things that you can be certain of:

  1. There are a never-ending amount of Hoop stories to be told.
  • You were (and continue to be) incredibly loved. As dark as your world had become for you I hope you had some understanding of how much you would be missed.

Continue Reading…

Grief, healing

Autopsies.

July 16, 2014

Autopsies by Michele Dwyer.

You haven’t quite experienced the truest, shittiest portion of your life until you have two autopsy reports in front of you…one depicting the details of your husband of 26 years who committed suicide, and the other depicting the details about your new love, the one who dropped dead 4 months after you met him, 16 months after your husband’s death. Physical details of the dead men that you have loved, and lost. My sarcasm shocks even me, it skirts around my fear that I am indeed going to break this time.

Each of these men, a medical examiner’s number now, each of them reduced to a toe tag and a plastic bracelet. Each of them dissected in the same building with the clinical precision and separation from the living that only a mortician could possess. I wonder if my love’s bodies were cut open on the same steel table. Cut open, organs pulled out, weighed and measured; body fluids given banal descriptions with lifeless colors such as brown, straw yellow, dark red, milky.

Lips that I’ve kissed described as ‘unremarkable’. Mouths that formed my name, that spoke of love and hope and futures to me, now described as having ‘no abnormalities’, meaning – nothing special here. Necks that I’ve wrapped my arms around, kissed and breathed their smells in thru my nostrils, burying my head into their safe places, now described as nothing more than ‘neck’. The parts of my men that steadied my feet solidly on the ground with their love, I now tread so softly around fearful that the recent descriptions of them will taint my locked away life.

Each beautiful body placed on a cold steel table, witnesses present and identified, medical students with clipboards and plastic blue gloves ready to outline and organize parts of the men that I’ve cherished. Bodies that made me catch my breath to look at them, now only corpses, rigor mortis noted, the scheduled 0900 autopsy.

Hearts were removed first, weighed and dissected. Hearts that I lovingly listened to beating as I lay on the strong chests that held them. Chests that I traced my fingers upon, maybe even tracing over the spots that would be sliced with a scalpel.

Eyes, four of them brown in color, with irises that measured in diameter the same, sclera that was clear. Those eyes once twinkled to look at me, with smiles and love in them. Eyes that sometimes had tears washing over the sclera, for all of the reasons that make eyes do exactly that.

Scars from surgeries that I knew the stories of, a deep cut on one finger that was described as ‘recent’. I had looked at that cut, I remember telling him that it didn’t need stitches when he’d asked. I wonder, now that he’s dead, and a surgeon has described it as ‘deep’, I wonder if I was wrong about the stitches. I wonder why I’m wondering.

The dura of two brains that had read me stories, gray matter that built me bird houses, fences, kitchens from scratch. Brains that knew what was wrong with my car, what was wrong with me, and could fix us both. Brains that I loved as much as their beating hearts.

My sarcasm leaves. My sadness takes over, the familiar exhaustion from the craziness of it all: two men, two deaths, two years, two autopsies, two boxes of momentos. Their deaths start again to do battle with my life. My white flag goes up one more time. I want my men back. I am prepared for the fallout that would most assuredly present itself should the universe grant this request. I would move far away, I would leave this place, leave them, if only they would take another breath and cough back into life. I want them to walk this Earth again, upright and strong like I remember. I want them off the steel table. I don’t want their bodies cut up.

A medical examiner tore thru my people, my persons, my significant others, my husband, my boyfriend, my family, my life. He examined their outsides, the insides, but he missed the goddamned point. He missed the pieces of the parts, the stuff that was mine, his, ours. He mangled what gave me love, he cut through my sacred ground.

I’m left now with the stuff of sterile reports, and my self-induced gut twisting confirmation that these men are indeed dead, are indeed never coming back as whole people ever again. They’ve been cut up, sewn back together, and the Wizard of Oz is just some fucked up pipe dream, for real.

I knew that. I really did. But now I find myself questioning this: just how much more witnessing of my love can I take.

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Michele Dwyer, RN, IBCLC, has worked as a registered nurse in obstetrics for the past 26 years in Central New York state. Her husband took his own life on October 22, 2012, leaving her and their three children to slog through a life that up until that day, had seemed pretty ordinary. Michele has always loved to write, but writing has now taken on new meaning: self-preservation while maintaining sanity.

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Guest Posts, Letting Go, loss, love

Blue Is The Color of Sad.

December 17, 2013

Blue Is The Color of Sad. By Amy Ferris.

 

She must have a window seat.

This, she promises, is her last phone call for the night, reminding me one more time, it must be a window seat. I tell her I will do my best, the plane seems awfully full, and since it’s a last minute booking, it might be hard. “If I tell you I want a window seat, get me a window seat.”

This phone exchange was not long after her being diagnosed with moderate stage of dementia. She had some scary moments – unsettling, jarring, and horrifically confusing moments.

A Bat Mitzvah in Scarsdale, New York spurred her into a travel frenzy – wanting desperately to go, stay for few days, and see her family – her sisters, her nieces and nephews. I managed to work it out so a car service (a very kind man who lived on her street) would come and pick her up, drop her off at the JetBlue terminal, and make sure there was no seen or unforeseen problem. I paid the guy to wait an extra half-hour. She was still driving at that time, having just rammed her car into a fire hydrant. A glaring sign that she should never be behind the wheel ever again. “It came out of no where,” she said, “One minute I was sitting there, minding my own business, and the next minute, there it was, crossing the street.” What do you say? Really? “Ma, it can’t walk, a fire hydrant doesn’t walk.” You say nothing, but think plenty. I thought, “Oh shit, it’s really not so far downhill.”

I call the airline, JetBlue, and speak with a reservation agent, who had just the right combination of humor and sympathy and could not have been any more cordial or kind. She promised they will do whatever they could to accommodate my mom, but she needed to remind me that the plane was in fact full, and hopefully someone will be able to move if there was not a window seat available. I ask her if there is a ‘companion’ person who can help my mom get settled. Help her with the boarding pass, and the other unexpected frustrations that may arise. Yes, she says, someone will help my mom. I can only hope and pray for my mother to come ‘face to face’ with kindness. I think of all the times I gave up a window seat for an elderly person, or a pregnant woman, or a wife who wanted to sit next to her husband. I am hopeful, based on my own generosity, in situations like those.

She is picked up at the designated time. She is standing outside her condo with her suitcase and an overnight bag, having packed enough clothing for a month. “Maybe I’ll stay for a few extra weeks, “ she tells me the night before when she lists off all the clothing she’s bringing. I can hear in her voice something I never heard before: loneliness.

She gets to the JetBlue terminal, she checks her suitcase outside with baggage claim, and – I am told by the neighbor/car service driver – hands a crisp ten dollar bill to the lovely bag handler, telling him he is a lovely, lovely kind man. He deeply appreciates her gesture. Little does he know that the remaining eight or so crisp ten dollar bills that she has tucked ever so neatly in her wallet will make their way to others who smile, offer her hand, let her get ahead in line, help her with her carry-on. She makes her way up to the counter, where a ticket should be waiting for her. Yes, there is a ticket, but she must go to the gate, in order to try and get a window seat. This gives her great joy.

She goes through the whole scene – again, I am told by the neighbor/car service guy – the taking off of her shoes, the removing of her belt, the telling a joke or two about her hip replacement, and how it reminds her of the old days in Las Vegas when someone won at the slots, it was a sound filled with ‘good wishes.’ “No More,” she says. “It’s a phony sound, it has no heart. Gimme back my shoes.”

The car service guy cannot go any further with my mom. The rules. The companion person from Jet-Blue now meets her, thankfully.

There is no window seat available. She has an aisle seat. It appears that no one wants to give up a seat. I am horribly sad by this lack of generosity for this old, frail woman, and dare I say, embarrassed, because this old frail woman is my mom. This is where I get to envision the whole crazy scenario. My mother throwing a shit storm of a nut-dance, hauling a racial slur at the African American flight attendant, and then, if that wasn’t enough, causing another passenger who was somewhat overweight to breakdown and cry. “You know how fat you are, you should have your own zip-code.” The administrator later told me on the phone, it was like an unstoppable chaotic ruckus. I am sad. I tell her that my mom has dementia. It comes and goes, but mostly it’s coming these days. I give her all the broad strokes, my dad had died, she’s living alone, we know, we know, it’s time to get her settled, she’s stubborn, she’s independent, and there’s the whole question of what to do now? Move her, or does she stay? And she’s always been much more strident and righteous and defiant. Not going gently into the good night. Not one iota.

She leaves the airport, and manages to get back to her condo by renting a car, even though she is forbidden to drive. I would just love to meet that Avis rental person who gave my mom a red Mustang to tool around in.

She calls me in hysterics. She wants me to fire every single one of those nasty, bitchy flight attendants, and pilots. And the co-pilot, he’s as much to blame. And where is her luggage? Her goddamn luggage? I bet they stole it. They stole it and you should fire them, the whole lot of them. I find out from the very cordial and patient rep, that her luggage is on its way to New York. I am in Los Angeles on business; my brother is at a birthday celebration on Long Island. Nether one of us expected this hailstorm. I try to deal with the airport bureaucracy and arrange for my mom’s luggage to make its’ way to Fort Lauderdale within 48 hours, barring no glitches.

My mother refuses to speak to anyone. She feels duped and lied to and the fat girl should have gotten up. “My God she took up two god-damn seats.” And then she said, “I always, always have to sit at the window.” Why, I ask her, why? She hangs up on me. Typical. Some things never change.

We moved my mom to New Mexico where she was about to start living in an assisted living home. Good care. My brother researched, and found a lovely place that would make her feel just like home. I managed to get her a window seat. As the plane revved up it’s engines and was about to take off, my mom took my hand and squeezed it, staring out the window – watching the plane disappear into the gorgeous white clouds – and after a few long, long, moments, she turned to me, and said: “Up hear, in the clouds, I can dream all I want.” Then she pointed to two clouds, almost inter-wined, and she said with such joy: ‘See that, see that, they’re dancing together. You can only see this kind of magic from a window seat.”

It’s was here that my mother had always been able to see and feel and imagine clouds dancing, forms taking shape, lovers kissing, the intertwining of souls, and as her hand pressed up against the window, she could feel the kindness of Heaven.

amy_ferris
Amy Ferris: Author. Writer. Girl.

Book: Dancing at The Shame Prom, sharing the stories that kept us small – Anthology, Seal Press (2012) co-edited with Hollye Dexter
Book: Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis, Seal Press (2010)
depression, Guest Posts

Sad Fish.

December 3, 2013

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Maggie May Ethridge

In the news:a father, a mother at sixteen, a thirteen year old charged as an adult, a dog trapped in the sewer system, these five men, this famous singer, faulty wiring, a family torn apart by this devastating lie, a baby, a toddler, a car accident, a horrible accident no one could have predicted it it just happened, a man who did something good for a woman, a man who did something bad to three women, a horrible accident everyone predicted it still happened.

Remember to carry your sadness inside.

Do not bury it. Carry it. Remember to let it go occasionally and watch it fall apart at your feet. Remember to dance on its grave. Allow time for slow motion, disco, modern and robot dance maneuvers. Remember to lift the corners of your mouth enough to prevent an entire day of What’s wrong? Remember everyone has an answer to that question. Constantly address the present moment, like Hey what’s up PM? What’s happening? You chill? Check out the PM’s dress, manner, body language and if the PM is a dirty rat bastard, address it with the steely, dignified acceptance and enduring faith of someone you wish you are, someone you read about in a Robert Parker or Joyce Carol Oates novel, and are sure you will become more like if you just keep pretending.

Wear appropriate shoes. Find something small that is beautiful and carry it with you, like a rainbow keychain, a necklace of gold, your nails in chevron stripes. Glance at it all day. When The Sadness becomes a fish flapping nastily on the riverbank, reach back deeply into your throat, pull it out, flog it repeatedly while cursing in a loud and vigorous manner until breaking a sweat and becoming red of face and neck. When properly flogged, sternly yet quickly lecture The Sadness on it’s proper place in your life, being a good example for the children, remembering how much you actually have, that you are not special, Sad Fish, just another Sad Fish- actually a lot LESS sad than many in the river, and shove the flat and emasculated fish back into your gut, where it will hopefully remain meek and subdued for quite some time, or at least long enough to get you through this thing you have to do or  that other thing that must be done, or the kids are in bed.

Possible containment of The Sadness through medium glass of wine, which will either bring forth unencumbered weeping- therefore preventing public doing so- or giggling ridiculousness.  Let is be made clear that giggling and ridiculousness are both highly desirable and should be sought after as much as possible.***Do not make mistake of assuming the drink can kill The Sadness, and fall into the wishitwere’s. The drink cannot kill The Sadness, but when misued, can feed the Sad Fish until it is bloated, enormous and agitated, unable to be properly sorted, flogged or carried. The Sad Fish may, in this case, with scales of liquor and beer, lay eggs. In this case, you are truly fucked, until you make your way to a vigorously practicing AA meeting, rehab, or a spiritual experience.***Consume as much material as possible re: survival. Include: children’s stories, YA fiction, poetry, French films, 80’s and 90’s American dramatic films, any marvelous novel, classical, gospel, folk, alternative music, memoirs, certain TED lectures and face to face discussions.  Consume as much happiness as possible and is available.

FATAL MISTAKE: to begrudge happiness because you are angry/disenchanted/hurt/exhausted/sickofit or the worst of all: feeling sorry for yourself. FSFY is a known killer, causing Sad Fish to lay eggs, causing normal living humans to become the walking dead.  Unable to appreciate or acknowledge the good things and people around them out of a stubborn sense of being singled out in life for pain or fear of losing focus on the shitty things and/or people’s sympathy for them, FSFY causes severe uglification and decay of the soul, slowly poisoning a person until they vomit up their Sad, Dead Fish, and eat it while hissing brains, brainsssssss.

FSFY must be avoided at all costs. Better to become a Sickeningly Positive Person than a FSFY.

FSFY’s do not get great sex, great friends, family that likes them or even dogs that adore them. FSFY’s are toxic to normal human beings and are not allowed past the sitting room. Think ridiculous thoughts that make you chuckle to yourself, even if you must look around nervously afterward, feeling stupid and wondering if anyone heard you. Lay in grass in sunshine. Take hot baths and read. Watch hilarious movies and shows. Be around children often. Help someone else, every day. When you want to growl, bark or bite at your family or friends, slap yourself, begin again. It’s exactly like your damn mother told you: practice, practice, practice. No one becomes great at being sad without a shitload of effort.

Remember The Sadness is going to be a part of your life, forever. Why? Was that you, in the corner with the green headphones, ear piercing and energy drink who asked that? Because you were the lucky winner of life. You got chosen to be alive. Life is a package deal. It comes with The Sadness. It begins the first time we feel the sharp and salty tang of loss, yearning and frustration as an infant, and let out a wail.

Have sex you wanted to but were afraid to. Do yoga. Stretch. Instead of walking to your car, skip. You will feel ridiculous. And better. You will find those two words often go together; if you want to feel better, you have to be willing to be ridiculous. Take out your Sad Fish, put glasses and a hat on him, and dance with his short rubbery little arms in yours. Carpe Sad Fish! Later he’ll be so tired you will have an hour of peace. When you wake up every morning, slap water on  your face and say to your reflection ‘ Well, you ain’t no prize. ‘ This keeps you in check, and lessens possibility of FSFY.

Then smile at yourself and say “Well, on the other hand, you ain’t a piece of shit, either.”

Maggie May Ethridge is a novelist, poet and freelance writer from the deep South who has lived most of her life in San Diego, CA. She has an Ebook coming out in January with the new publishing company Shebooks ” Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From A Marriage ” and is completing her second novel. She has been published in magazines both on and offline in places like Diagram, The Nervous Breakdown, Equals Record and blogs regularly at Flux Capacitor.

The tattoo was sent to Maggie by a Flux reader who used Sad Fish to get through a dark year and ended up putting the words on her body- an ultimate compliment: The enduring faith of someone you wish you were.

SADFISHTAT

 

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 barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com 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 barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com 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.

loss, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Uncategorized

Letters To Steve, After His Death.

March 5, 2012

Steve Bridges as Bush. He was the best!

 

When I was 19 and at NYU, I wrote a poem called “To My Father, After His Death”.

On Saturday morning, someone who I referred to as my brother and whom I had a connection with that could never be explained in words, passed away in his sleep. He was 48. Steve Bridges was the kindest and the funniest man I had ever known. Besides my own dad Mel, who, to this day if you go to Philadelphia and say the name Melvin Pastiloff people who sigh and say ” Mel was the funniest human being I had ever known. Still. To this day. And he died in 1983.”

My dad was 38 when he died. Steve was 48.

 

Steve and I.

These past few days have been filled with new grief on top of old grief.

Yesterday I taught my Sunday morning class at Equinox, lovingly dubbed “Yoga Church” by the yogis who show up every Sunday. The theme was gratitude. I asked them to pick a person they felt grateful for, alive or passed on. Someone who helped them be who they are today, someone who guided them, who taught them, who loved them.

When the hands came to prayer, as they do so often in my class, the mantra was to be “Thank you __________.” That person’s name being the blank.

Mine was “Thank you Steve”. I told my students all about this funny man who did impersonations of the presidents. My class always has laughter but yesterday I told them I needed more laughter than normal. They delivered.

When I played ” Your Song” by Elton John, everyone sang on cue.

It was truly church. I kept thinking I don’t know how I’ll make it through. I had to turn my back at least 6 times as I wept. I turned back to the class and wiped my tears and saw a roomful of the most connected and alive people I have ever seen.

That’s how I made it through.

Thank you, my tribe. Thank you.

And in getting the following email from someone who had never taken my class before, I realized how powerful and needed yesterday’s class was indeed. How human an experience it was, and how it was not just about sadness and death at all, but life.

“Dear Jen, I mentioned that I had been moved to tears several times. Something happened today that I hope will continue for the rest of my life! The person I chose to be grateful for was actually myself. I spend a lot time judging and criticising myself and I’m trying to change (which is what brought me to yoga today), so I thought I’d try some self love. I think I cried every time we did a sequence on our own to the music. When you asked us to think of that person holding us up, I pictured a few versions of myself dancing around me on my mat and lifting me up at different times. It was so beautiful. I thanked myself for being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, etc. I found myself calling me all the nicknames I have for everyone else I love. I “hiya’d” and kicked the shit out of that negative voice, diets, and melanoma. I’ve always felt at war with my body and I don’t think I can live another day in that mind set. I feel so blessed to have stumbled into your class today. Your energy and philosophy were exactly what I needed to feel and hear. I felt a shift take place and I am so grateful and so inspired. I feel like I could go on and on here but hopefully I’ll see you on Tuesday and I’ll thank you again in person.”

By now you know the Divine experience ( and I do not use the word Divine lightly here) I shared in Mexico on my last retreat. It was a smaller retreat and we bonded in a spectacular way that continued way past the trip’s finale. We wrote emails to each other  starting with ” Dear Fabulous 13″ daily.

Although Steve came with me on the last 3 retreats I hosted, it was in Mexico that I realized how much I loved this man. In my life, I have yet to experience feeling this way about another. It is not romantic or sexual.

After my class yesterday I came home to emails from the Fab 13. They had written letters to Steve after his death. Immediately I thought of my poem I wrote as a teenager to my dad.

I wanted to share those letters with you because in them you will get a glimpse of the love we shared, you will get a glimpse of who Steve Bridges really was, and, trust me on this: even a glimpse of Steve is enough. He was love.

———-

Steve, buddy –

 

I only knew you for a few days in Mexico.

I spoke to you at length only a few times.

 

So why is there a hole in my heart?

Is it because I watched you bring light and laughter to our whole Xinalani family?

Or because I saw your gentle soul shine through in little kindnesses?

Or because I watched the joy bubble out of you and all of us around you, our cup truly running over?

Or is it because our new-found family is just that, new-found, and already we have lost a brother?

Yes, all of these.

 

But also: I regret not talking to you more.

I regret not going for that one last beer.

Most of all, I regret that I will not see you the next time we are in LA, nor have

All those future times and lost conversations.

 

And yet.

When I met you, I had “Gratitude” written on my arm.

And you had Joy on written on your face.

And if I only sit in my sadness, and feel loss, and regret, and pain,

Then it’s just all about me again.

What kind of Gratitude is that?

 

If meeting you meant something,

If the hole in my heart means someone wonderful was here, then

I must return to Gratitude

I must look at the shape of that hole and say “Wow!

How lucky am I to have met this guy?

How improbably fortunate!”

 

Of course I am sad and bewildered

That you have left us so suddenly.

But if that is all I feel then I have missed the point.

I have missed your point, and the point of what we all

Discovered together in Mexico.

 

All of us are comforted in sadness

And strengthened in Gratitude

By the Fabulous 13

(And so we remain, though we are

Down a good man)

For you helped define us

And you remain in our hearts.

 

For some reason, it was time for you to go.

I don’t begin to understand, but

I am so very grateful

To be one of your last new friends.

 

Thank you. Love, Gregg.

We love you Steve.

Dear Steve,

Wow… All I can say is that you have profoundly affected my life.

Especially the day after I precariously fell down the stairs backwards. You said to me, “Amy Jo, you are our miracle. You’ve reminded us that life is so precious and it can be over in an instant. Thank you.”

Especially when I stared into your eyes for three amazing minutes during yoga, and what I wrote down afterwards was: Steve= powerful, being, creator of love, confidence, kindness, strong… Power… I felt my power in his: The next day I said to you “ Steve, All I saw was power. It was amazing. I saw no fear.” And you looked at me with those brilliant blues and kindly said “Thank you”.

The entire seven days I spent with you are seven of the most magical, precious, healing days of my life. Thank you for your honest, humble, hilarious, kind presence within them. I will cherish those moments forever.

I’ve had a few very close people in my life pass away and always during and after their death there is a magical doorway that opens to the cosmos, a magical gift of enlightenment. And now in hindsight I can see that that doorway is also open and present before a soul passes, because in Mexico we all shared that light. We all bathed in your departure. Thank you, we have been gifted by your journey.

Love, light, peace, happiness, and god speed my friend. You will be dearly missed.

Amy Jo

having a blast with Steve

There are more letters. I will add them in a second post. Please add yours to the bottom in the comment section.

Steve told me that Mexico was the best time of his entire life. I believe in some way he was meant to experience this love and this family we created, before his passing. His greatest wish was to have a child and a family.

I believe he got a taste of that.

I am heartbroken beyond words but looking at the photos and videos makes me laugh with tears in my eyes. Let’s continue to honor the man I knew as my brother.

Now, before you do anything. Before it slips into a cliche again, stop and close your eyes and get present to the fact that life is really precious. That you never know what will happen and that each moment is a gift. Before it turns back into a cliche, get up and go hug the person in the next room. Go tell someone how much you appreciate them. Go let yourself feel, and fall in love, and be vulnerable. Go say YES! Spend a day with someone you want to spend the day with. Laugh out loud, even at a dumb joke. Sing. Dance. For God’s sake, go live your life.

I love you.

I love you Steve Bridges. I do not understand your passing but I understand you taught me things I am still comprehending. You taught me to be joy. And to feel joy. As you did.

You taught me to be ME. The MOST ME.

~~~~~~~

I will keep you all posted on a memorial. I spent the day with his parents yesterday and I can safely say that seeing his father weep was enough to crack my heart open. We went to church and the minister who knew Steve well got us into a huddle, like we were about to play football, and said a beautiful prayer for Steve, as we all cried and hugged. We stayed for the service which was all about love and being kind to ourselves. This same minister will deliver Steve’s memorial per Tom Bridges request ( I can see why) and as soon as I know details I will pass them on.

For more videos of the beloved Steve Bridges visit his site. He was very well know and highly esteemed. He was the best of the best.

http://stevebridges.com/

setstats
setstats

TO MY FATHER, AFTER HIS DEATH (written age 19)
I knew that you weren’t really dead.
That if I kept looking, kept driving,
I’d find you.
Didn’t think it would be here though,
that you’d be pumping gas
in Kansas.You still smoke.
I can tell.
The way your shoulders hunch over
gives you away.
When you push nozzles into canals,
into the backs of cars,
you heave, your shoulders roll.
Your stomach reaches closer to your back,
toward smooth pink scars.
You look smaller,
shirking into yourself like that.

Silently pumping gas, coughing occasionally,
scratching your sunburned bald spot.

I watch you from the shoulder of I-70
through dead bugs on my windshield.
There is a small convenience store
attached to the gas station.
You enter it,
and when you emerge
I see the bulge in your pants.
You’ve bought Kools: your brand of cigarettes.
Stashed them in your front hip pocket,
next to an Almond Joy.

I see you still
squint, smoke,
have bad posture,
eat Almond Joys.

Quiet as ash,
you in the Kansas of Colorado,
one foot almost in each state.

The moment you noticed me
must have been when
you straightened your back up,
crushed your half smoked cigarette
and smiled.

But you know I can’t come any closer.

I can’t pull into the station,
roll down my window and touch your face.

~jen pastiloff 1994

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