Browsing Tag

survival

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Crying Turned Me Into A Real Girl

October 17, 2015

By Janine Canty

Living with a cruel man for seventeen years teaches you that tears only bring more pain. Tears on habitually bruised and torn skin stings. Tears only feed a fire you can’t control and don’t understand. At first you might try crying in the shower or  over the sound of the washer. He watches in the shower. He’s deaf in one ear, but he hears over the washer.

He knows your hiding places and what your voice sounds like when it’s trying not to cry. He can see your tears before they form. He anticipates them before they fall. They are Mardi gras and Christmas rolled into one for him. Proof that he is right and you are crazy. Your wet eyes and begging give him fuel.. Pass him his manhood with your ravaged face. Slumped shoulders. Downcast eyes. A cup of black coffee. Extra sugar and shaking hands. I hate coffee. I taught this body not to cry in order to survive.

Numb is good. Numb is quiet. Numb is nirvana among the shattered green plates and ripped shirts. I kneel on broken glass with bloody knees. I hold a piece of glass in my palm. I wonder what it would feel like to open my wrist. To see my life flowing out onto the floor. Among the glass and cat hair. Turning the couple of cheerios the dustpan missed, red. My hair is tangled. Dirty and in my eyes. My face is aching  and dry. I wonder what my casket might look like. I wonder if my Mother will cry. I envy her if she still can.

***

I’ve become my own memory at 31. Have I stored up enough numb to end me like a broken sentence?  Pull the glass down my wrist. Let someone else clean my stain and non tears. Wipe the flesh that used to be a girl named Janine, away. The baby coughs once, then again, from a jenny lind crib. He’s had that cough a day too long. The house is chilly.

I touch the back of his head lightly with the hand not still holding a piece of glass. Like an admonishment. A reminder. A warning. I pick up a doll my daughter has kicked out of bed. I chuck it towards a cracked toy box. I’m cradling the glass in my hand gently, the way I once cradled them. I don’t cry when I sweep up the mess. I  wrap the glass carefully so none of the kids cut themselves. I’m not satisfied.

I slip my feet into the monsters slippers. I carry the bag to the shed behind the house. I push the lid down firmly on my non tears. My non-suicide.  My non-self. I get in the shower while he’s not there to see.

I don’t cry. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss

The Other Side of Loss.

January 21, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Rene Denfeld

I come from a family of suicides.

My older brother killed himself by eating pain pills and then putting a plastic bag over his head—just in case. My mother followed a few years later, willing herself out of this world. Cousins, siblings, nephews: dead. Even those who survive often bear the marks or memories of trying.

When someone you love kills himself or herself—and when it happens over and over again, as in my family—suicide becomes as ordinary as crossing the street. It becomes your hand on a glass of milk. It becomes you opening the mail, you going for a walk: see that bridge? See that truck? It becomes the freeway ramp you recall your brother made his first attempt to kill himself, driving the wrong way, desperate for collision. It becomes the plate of food you look at and see your mother, denying herself until she literally starved to death, a gasping skeleton clutching your hand in a bed, so devoid of fluids she could not cry.

When the people you love kill themselves, it becomes a common thing, a normal thing, and an everyday you-could-do-it-too thing. It haunts you. It asks, why not you? What gives you the right to survive? Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love

I Am A Woman Who Survived.

June 5, 2014

*Update: This post got The Manifest-Station awarded the “Freshly Pressed” Award! Brava, Janine! Jen here. I have a broken foot as many of you know, so I am giving the site all my attention right now. I am over the moon with the posts these days! Pinching myself! Today’s essay is one I hope you will read and share and help me make viral. This is so well-written, so important. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has known abuse- you are not alone. And you don’t need to stay. Janine Canty, you blew me away with this beautifully nuanced and heartbreaking piece.

Simplereminders.com

Simplereminders.com

I Am A Woman Who Survived. By Janine Canty. Every October I wear a purple ribbon. It represents women who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents men and children who have lost their lives to senseless violence. It represents people who died too young, with most of their words still inside them. It represents the empty place at a table. It represents a voice forever silenced by familiar hands. It also represents endurance and survival. It represents the years I endured. The seventeen years I survived inside the basement apartment, and on a floor in my Mother-In-Law’s den, and in a pretty little brown house affordable because it was in a flood zone, and in the blue house with the failing septic system. That little piece of ribbon represents the times I was too afraid to speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. That little piece of ribbon celebrates the me I grew up to be. I earned that ribbon. I love that ribbon, and I hate that ribbon. It reminds me that we live in a world capable of beauty, and brutality. It reminds me of a hunger that can’t be curbed or controlled. It reminds me that I want my granddaughters to grow up believing that hands are gentle, and strong, and wonderful. They are things designed to caress, and to hold. They are designed to build foundations, and to express oneself with chalk, and ink, pencil, and crayon. To immortalize childhood in clay. Hands are not weapons. They are not a punishment. They are not something to be afraid of. They are not something to flinch from .I want them to grow up, and have homes where they never have to be afraid. To speak. Or move. Or cry. Or breathe. I want them to grow up to have partners who make them feel valued, and beautiful. I want them to look in the mirror, and see something besides despair. Or fear. I want them to see, and feel, taste, and experience their own beauty. I want them to believe in that beauty. Every October I stand with strangers, and with friends, and neighbors. I stand with policemen in the dusk, and the rain, and the wind. I walk alongside people with similar stories. I carry a candle in the dark. Sometimes I speak a strangers name. Always I cry for someone I never met. Every October I remember that I’m free and I’m alive, and I am humbled at what a simple gift it is to open my eyes in the morning. I am amazed at the sound of my own laughter. I am in awe at the singular joy found in hot water, and at the bottom of a shampoo bottle. After you’ve lived in the dark, the long lines at WalMart, and a walk through the supermarket, are friggin’ adventures. Like dancing under the rainbow. Every October I am a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. I look in the mirror, and the broken woman that I was, the one who walked down that driveway,in November of 2000, she’s a memory. She’s all about the things that happened to me. The woman in the mirror, the one you see at Wal Mart, and the dairy bar, and laughing over a med cart in the nursing home, she’s who I am. Who I became in spite of all the damage, and because of the damage. She’s all the parts that survived the run through fire, and came out on the other side, with new, unblistered skin. Every October the question inevitably comes up. The question I hate. The question I am beginning to think has no answer. “Why did you stay”? I’ve discussed this. I’ve sat on the nightly news. I’ve talked to the newspaper. I’ve talked to countless women and even a few men on a hotline. I’ve stood at a podium in the State House, and addressed legislature. I am a woman who survived 17 years with an abusive man. I am a woman who loves words. I am told I can be an eloquent speaker/ writer/ person/ whatever. I am not eloquent when it comes to that question. I don’t know why your daughter/sister/ niece/ cousin/ brother/ son, stays. I don’t know why some people grow up with hatred where a heart once was. A rage that overtakes the soul. I don’t know why people hurt people. There’s fear. I know about fear. Everybody who’s ever seen a spider, or a snake, knows fear. Everybody who’s ever stood up to speak in a crowded room, knows fear. Anyone who’s gotten married, given birth, or started a new job, has strapped fear on like an apron. Anyone who’s ever found an unexpected lump in the shower, knows what it is to sit in the shadows, with the icy fingers of fear. Fear of the unknown. It’s a biggie, right? Fear is a mountain full of mean. Fear freezes, and cripples, and destroys. Fear sucks. Fear is power and heat. If fear could be bottled, cancer would be cured, and there would be no more war. Every October I put on a purple ribbon, and I hope for something better in my world, and in yours. I hope that one person somewhere, just one, will understand. One person will see, that if they are being terrorized within the four walls of their home, it’s as much a crime as a mugging on the street. I hope for more education for teachers, and volunteers, and the police force. For judges, and employers, Parents, and children. Victims and survivors. I hope for someone more eloquent than I, to explain this in a few simple words. I hope for just one person to believe that they don’t deserve to close their eyes beside fear each night. They don’t deserve to wake up afraid of what the sunshine in a new day will bring. Every October it’s 1978 again. I am 13, and in a brand new town. I have eyeglasses, and a haircut that I hate. I have a little sister that could give the breck girl a run for her money. I want thin thighs. I want to be able to jump over the hobby horse in gym. I want to grow up to be a writer. Or an actress. I want to be everything I’m not. Confident and beautiful. I want to live in New York. My first kiss from a boy hurts. My skin turns angry colors underneath his hand. He demands a kiss, and I obey without thinking about it. Because my arm feels like it’s going to snap. Because I am afraid in a way I have never been before. Because I am 13, and I don’t know any better. I don’t see things like respect, and self love as viable options for myself. Afterwards, he laughs. Maybe this is just the way boys are. Maybe this is normal. Maybe I’m as abnormal and weird as I feel at 13. I am addicted to the ABC Afterschool Specials. They talk against drinking, and drugs. They warn about strangers touching you in a private place. Everyone gets a happy ending in 45 minutes. What’s not to love, as the credits roll, and the Bee Gees sing “How do you mend a broken heart”? It’s 1981. I have acne to go with my chubby thighs. I’ve never conquered the hobby horse in gym. Crowded locker rooms, and scratchy towels that smell like other people’s sweat, are never going to be my thing. I’m courting an eating disorder while scarfing down Town Spa pizza. I want to live in Europe. I want to drive a sports car with the top down. I want contact lenses. I want not to be sixteen, with chubby thighs, and acne. The boy next door plays the guitar for me, with deceptively gentle hands. He tells me I’m beautiful. I believe him, as I nurse bruises his teeth have left against my mouth. I have seen my father on his knees. I have seen my parents ready to kill one another over a can of flat beer. I have seen my father in handcuffs, and packing a suitcase. I’ve seen him walking away, and I’ve seen him coming back. I am never getting married. I am never having babies. It’s 1983. I am 18. I put on a borrowed wedding dress. I walk down the aisle, towards the boy next door. I’m carrying a bouquet in shaking hands, and a baby in my belly. My mother has stopped crying long enough to put on a kick ass purple, Mother of the Bride, dress. She looks stunning. She also looks cold and dazed. My sister is crying softly beside me. She tells me how romantic it is, as she holds my bouquet while I’m sick. She asks me if she can have my stereo and posters. She asks me what it feels like. I ask her to shut up. My father puts down the Rosary he’s held for 3 weeks, to walk me down the aisle. He looks like he’s craving that flat beer. I’m just enough of a Catholic girl to understand that I disappointed Jesus by having condomless sex before marriage. I’m just enough of a Daddy’s girl to be devastated at the look on my Father’s face during our shared, silent, march down the aisle. I am 18. I am married. I have never cooked a meal. I have never driven a car. My sister is barely 15. She dances too closely with the 20 year old best man. she catches the bouquet, and finds herself lost in her first pair of brown male eyes. My groom has been drunk since 10 am, when he drove to the church listening to David Bowies “Modern Love”. His arm was dangling out a window. An early December sun was in his eyes. My future was nearly derailed by a rusted out red Chevy running a light. Later, he gave thanks under an altar as he kissed me. He tasted like Listerine, and Michelob, and Copper.   It’s 1989. I have 3 beautiful babies. I have bruises, but they’re in places only I can see. I have a voice growing rusty from lack of use. I answer to names you wouldn’t call an animal. He tells me I’m ugly and fat. I believe him. I don’t have a split lip or a broken bone to show a doctor. This is so clearly not the Farrah Fawcett, “Burning Bed” depiction of abuse. I believe it’s not abuse. My children who’ve never known any other life, believe it. My parents live with it. The few friends I’ve held onto from high school, are driven away by it. My world has diminished to the size of a small bedroom in the back part of my husbands childhood home. I still don’t drive. I don’t yet have a high school diploma. I don’t have friends. I have fear, and 3 beautiful babies, and bruises in places only I can see. It’s 1989, and I’m pregnant again for the fourth time in 5 years. I am 6 months pregnant. I am fat and slow, and I disgust him. I am never fast enough for him. His arm catches me across the chest. Later he’ll say it was an accident, and he never means to get that upset. None of it will matter. All that will matter is the chair I fell over. An ugly green chair, with a rip in the vinyl. Stuffing poking out like cottage cheese. I could be as fat and awkward as the day was long, and maybe, just maybe, that was why my little boy died inside me. None of it mattered after I saw his sweet, silent, face. My little boy died, and he took my belief in happily ever after with him. My baby died, and I hated myself. I hated my husband, and that ugly green chair, and that arm. It’s 1995. We return to the little blue house with the failing septic system. We’d been younger in that house. Calling naivety happiness. How I needed to believe it could be. We ate moose track ice cream out of green Tupperware bowls. We had returned to a familiar place, as different people. Fear lived beside me as unseen as a mosquito in a windstorm. Crippling, freezing, powerful fear . It didn’t show up all of a sudden, it didn’t announce itself with fireworks. It was quiet and insidious. Like mold. It was stale air, and molecules. It wasn’t to be questioned, it just was. I carried fear like a tired child. It was as much a part of me as my arms and legs, and my lazy eye. You can’t play the game if you don’t know what the rules are. You can’t question yourself when you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. When all you’ve known is fear, fear becomes love.. When the body begins dying, the heart turns into a selfish Mofo. It pulls the blood away from the extremities. It hogs all the blood. So that it can continue to beat. So that it can survive. The body becomes colder. It becomes numb. As a medical person, today, I call that mottling. Back then I wouldn’t have known enough to call it survival. My body was amazing, as all bodies are. It allowed itself to become numb. I became numb, I survived. It’s 2000, and something. I’m working in the nursing home. I’ve rediscovered parts of myself I’d forgotten all about. My love of words, and writing. My love of card games, and scrabble, and walks in a warm rain. I am a work in progress. Forgiving myself is still a jigsaw in the making. It’s October. I put on a purple ribbon. I sit on the evening news. People call me brave because of the crap I’ve been through. People called me brave, because I didn’t lay down and die, but at one point I wanted to. I wanted to lay down and die. I wanted to cease existing. I wanted to cease hurting. That’s what strong armed the fear. That’s what numbed me, and then brought me back. My desire to die was where I found my will to live. That’s where I found the capacity to love myself. To forgive myself for things that were beyond my control. That’s where I found the strength to walk down that driveway. Don’t ask me why I stayed. I can’t answer that. Don’t ask me why your sister or neighbor, or friend stays. I can’t answer that. Not in black and white. Not in simple words. It’s individual to the person. Like hair color. Do I suspect fear? The all knowing, all powerful, crippling, freezing, fear? Yeah. I suspect it hides behind the curtains. It keeps company with the shattered dishes. The broken dreams, and the bruises no one else can see. Don’t ask me why I stayed. Ask me why I left. Then put on a purple ribbon, and carry a candle beside me in the dark. 67117_10151138515472569_450235920_n My name is Janine Canty. I have been writing since age 11 when a teacher told me I had “talent.” Writing has always been a tonic for me. Being published is a pretty little dream I keep tucked away in a safe place. I am not a professional writer though the passion for it has stayed with me like a campfire. I make my living as a CNA- Med Technician in a busy nursing facility in a tiny Northern town almost no one has ever heard of. I dabble in blog writing, and all things Facebook. I fail at tweeting.   Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature writing/yoga retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. To submit to The Manifest-Station email submissions@jenniferpastiloff.com. Next workshop is London July 6. 

Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, Manifestation Retreats

Thank You Big.

November 20, 2013

Bali… One Year Later…..

By Lockey Mitten Maisonneuve

A year ago this month,  I left my two children, my husband and my job for an 11 day adventure. I went to a Manifestation Retreat led by Jen Pastiloff in Bali, Indonesia.  As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, The retreat dates included Thanksgiving.  So not only was I traveling half way around the world, I was also missing Thanksgiving with my family.   It was the first time in my life that I did something solely for myself and I was determined to not only go, but for this to be a life-changing trip.

The process of getting ready to go in and of itself was a transformative experience.  In preparing to leave my family and go to the other side of the planet, I was doing what any guilt-ridden, control freak mom would do;  I was trying to plan for and create plans and contingency plans for every possible, albeit unlikely, scenario that might occur in my absence.  I quickly turned this amazing opportunity into a problem, for me and everyone around me.

I always knew I was a control freak and that mommy-guilt was my achilles heel.  But isn’t “knowing” our stuff really the “booby prize”?  It’s when we can actually observe our stuff holding us back and in the moment and consciously choose to make the change – that’s when we get the real prize.  Having this experience in front of me allowed the space for me to observe where guilt and control stop me, and that I can let go and be okay with the situation.

From the very moment my friend and I boarded the plane to fly to Hong Kong for a 19 hour layover, our first leg of the trip, then a 4 hour flight to Bali. The first thing I learned is that a 3 hour flight is very, very different from a 19 hour flight.  Let’s just say that putting a hyper active woman in the middle seat in the back of the plane for a 19 hour flight was not the best idea.  My sincere apologies to the man who sat on the aisle seat in my row. While my friend slept like a baby on the flight, I couldn’t sleep. I had to ask this man to move so many times, we quickly went from polite smiles, to dirty looks and muttering under the breath. Lesson learned; I will never not have an aisle seat on a plane again (it’s sort of a public service.)

During our short stay in Hong Kong, I discovered noodle dishes. Let me just say I would happily get back on a plane for 19 hours just for a bowl of noodles. I just wouldn’t sit in the middle seat.  While enjoying a breakfast of noodles and shrimp a thought occurred to me;  for the first time in my life, I am in a country where I know exactly one person; my friend who is sitting across the table from me.  That’s it.  One person. I’ve never felt so isolated and empowered at the same time.  I knew anything that would happen would be left for us to handle.  I decided then that I would flow like water throughout this trip. I wasn’t going to try to be in control, nor would I feel guilty if I did or didn’t want to do something.  I didn’t want either my friend or me to feel obligated to have to do (or not do) something just because the other one wanted it.  It was a liberating feeling to know that we were on our own.

We met some of our fellow retreat-goers at the airport in Bali.  We got to know each other along the drive to the Soulshine Villa, where we would be spending the next week together. I don’t want to sound all woo woo, but from the moment I met the people I would living with for the next week, I felt a connection to them.  Each of the 19 people attending this retreat had their reasons for being there some shared with the group and some were private. But all 19 of these people touched my life in such a way that I think about them every day.

From the very first day we were a cohesive group.  Due to the time change, we all woke up very early (between 4 and 5am), we would gather in the reception area for tea, some would watch the sun rise, some would be catching up with relatives at home, some would be chatting.  We got to know each other in these early morning hours.

Jenn would lead us in morning yoga at 7am.  I should point out that yoga with Jen is not your average yoga.  There are the traditional asanas (poses), meditation and music (I can’t listen to Elton John or the Notorious B.I.G. without thinking of Jenn).  What Jen brings to the table is unique in that she creates a theme for her class, forgiveness, gratitude, love… she reads relevant poetry, then invites class participants to journal about their thoughts on the theme for the class – in between the poses.  Somehow the mix of the out door yoga studio overlooking rice patties, the monks chanting in the distance, the thought that I was doing yoga in the same place that Michael Franti does yoga (he owns the Soulshine and I am, by far, his BIGGEST fan), she creates a space of safe, self-reflective discovery.

Walls are broken down.

My walls-breaking-down moment was during a forgiveness-themed class. To understand this, I have to provide a bit of background. When I was 12,  I was abused by my father and some of his friends.  Even sharing this is part of my life is a testament to what Jen provides.  Previous to this retreat I would never have told anyone this, let alone writing it in a blog!

In this forgiveness-themed class, Jen asked us who in our lives we could forgive.  At first I did what I always do when I’m asked this question, I thought I’d try (again) to forgive my father.  I started writing the same things I’d written in therapy and on my own. I was getting the same result – I just wasn’t ready to forgive him.  Then, it occurred to me; I never wrote to the other men who abused me. In this letter I verbalized what they took from me, how deeply I hate them and what I have become in spite of what they did to me. I wrote that I am free of them, all of them, they will never have control over me again.

As I wrote this letter, I didn’t realize I was crying until I saw that my paper getting wet.  For some reason this seemed funny to me. I couldn’t stop laughing. Then it was over.  No drama, no anger, no nothing. For the first time in my life I experienced truly letting go. This was also the first time I was able to be in a room full of “strangers” and feel peace.

After class I walked out with Jen, I shared my experience with her.   She turned to me with a smile and said (almost to herself) “huh, you just never know who is going to be in your class.”  We hugged. It was the response I needed to hear.  She didn’t judge me, she didn’t give weight to the experience or get emotional.  She gave me the space to process my feelings in a whole new way.

Throughout the retreat we practiced yoga twice a day, we ate breakfast and dinner together and explored Bali during the day.  The space at the Soulshine seemed to become part of our group as well. (In full disclosure I have to admit that I loved the Soulshine before I arrived simply because of who owns it.) But, in truth, I believe that space provided the opportunity to transform 19 strangers in to a family.  The staff is a living example of the culture of Bali. This culture is one of gratitude, community, spirituality and genuine love. This culture and the space we lived in infused itself with our family of 19.

Throughout our time in Bali we shared, expressed gratitude and loved one another.  We celebrated Thanksgiving, we rode elephants, we saw monkeys, we spoke with Michael Franti on the phone, and I may (or may not) have eaten cat at a restaurant.

I am grateful for every moment I spent in Bali, at the Soulshine, with my family of 19.  I am grateful for what it took for me to get there and for everything I’ve learned since my return.

Thank You Big.

69399_10151279700165914_1181333887_nIMGP474074256_10151292461755914_387362756_n15981_10151292462015914_91820546_n148199_10151292450540914_1611417359_n

Lockey began her fitness career as a personal trainer in 2004.  In 2006 after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Lockey underwent chemotherapy, bi-lateral mastectomies with saline implant reconstruction and radiation.  During this time, she saw a real need for recovering cancer patients to exercise.  Not just for the physical rehabilitation, but also the mental aspect of regaining control over their bodies.  She believes that if you gain a little more strength and a little more flexibility in your body every day, you gain a little more strength in your soul to continue on.After completing specialized exercise training through the Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Lockey created ‘MovingOn’, a rehabilitative exercise program for cancer patients. With the creation of the MovingOn program, moving through her own experience of survivorship and discovering yoga, Lockey soon learned there is more to MovingOn than simply moving the body.  It became time to share a long held secret that could no longer be hidden.  Lockey shared her story on Positively Positive, of being sexually abused as a child.  Sharing her story and practicing yoga saved her life. When she let go of both the cancer and the secret of abuse she was able to heal in both mind and body. Lockey openly shares her past with cancer and child abuse to help others in what ever they are surviving in their lives.Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio, and blogs. Print:  Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, Overlook Magazine and ParkPlace Magazine.  Television: The Couch, News12 and ABC7. Blog Contributor:  SheKnows.com and MindBodyGreen.She is featured in The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer by the Editors of Prevention Magazine.  Recently she presented a vidoechat for the GE Healthcare Breast Cancer Mosaic.

 

**To go on a retreat with Jen visit jenniferpastiloff.com