Browsing Tag

truth

Guest Posts

I Don’t Buy The Whole “Love & Light” Thing.

January 15, 2016

By Stephanie Birch.

I don’t buy the whole love and light thing. Not all the time.

I think we can get so caught up in love and light that it becomes exhausting. There’s nothing liberating about choking on “light” and feathering “positivity” when you’ve not begun to uncover the buried parts of you. Collecting quotes to push down weathered stories and experiences is not something that necessarily radiates light. Often, it masks the disguise of experiences stacked in the history of your makeup. There’s an endless parade of corralled happiness and bliss-chasing that leaves the dark locked in pretend existence. That’s the thing about darkness, it’s always ahead of the light.
**

I used to be a quote collector, like nuts to a squirrel scooping up positive affirmations. As a yoga student, I often followed a teacher’s cues to “let go” in “love and light.” It was always so poetic and sometimes sounded like regurgitated myths that I could, in fact, be loving and light if I simply let go. If…

My brain would agree and I would nod, like a dutiful student, with brief sprints only to fall back into old thoughts, patterns, and beliefs. Like an addiction, I searched and hoarded for words that held little weight and much less responsibility. That’s the thing about collecting quotes, they belong to another. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Getting Older is Everything. Don’t Believe The Lies. A Message To Young Women on Jen Pastiloff’s Bday.

December 12, 2015

By Jen Pastiloff
For as much as I talk about telling the truth, I still get butterflies when sharing my age. My friend Michelle Filgate had an essay in Buzzfeed yesterday about how she used running to treat depression and then she got injured. She interviewed me and it said, Jen Pastiloff, 40 years old, and I sat up and had a moment where I thought how could they have gotten that wrong? I am so not 40 years old.

But I was. Yesterday.

Today, I am 41.

It mortifies my mother-in-law that I tell people how old I am. Especially here in LA, we are not “supposed to” do that.

Youth is a commodity! You’re not “supposed to” age!
I call bullshit.

Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Fear, Guest Posts, Surviving

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING BREAST CANCER: THE STAGES OF MOURNING A DIAGNOSIS

November 19, 2015

By Judith Basya

DENIAL

Though Denial may present gradually depending on how and when you discover your lump, it begins in earnest when the radiologist reading your mammogram looks at you funny. Nah, it’s nothing, I’m fine, you think while waiting three-to-five business days for the biopsy results. Your aunt, two great-aunts and three cousins have all had breast cancer, but they’re not immediate family. The lump must be Cheerios that went down your bra the wrong way or something—the kids really need to start pouring their own cereal.

SHOCK

Denial is aided by distraction: Your phone dies—I mean breaks, sorry—a bird poops on your arm (when you can’t shower for forty more hours after the biopsy), your daughter gets bitten by a dog, and you get a ticket for that illegal left turn you’ve been making daily. You’ve practically forgotten about the lump when you scramble to your follow-up and the word malignant hits your eardrum, followed by other scary words such as invasive, surgery and chemotherapy—honestly, though, why are you surprised? Because tomorrow’s your birthday?

BEWILDERMENT

While the news tries to sink in, you’re busy making appointments for tests and with specialists, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The surgeon won’t see you until you’ve had an MRI, but you can’t schedule an MRI until your insurance company OK’s it. Though nobody doubts they will OK it, that’s how these places work and offering to pay upfront won’t help. It’s byzantine. It’s insulting. Welcome to cancer.

RAGE

Seriously? Four hours and thirteen phone calls to schedule one goddamn MRI? And the earliest available slot is in three weeks? You want to know if the cancer has spread beyond your breast, and it’s like they’re waiting for it to spread so they can be certain. If in the midst of all this your partner isn’t responding pitch-perfectly to your ranting texts, remember s/he isn’t to blame for our abysmal medical system.

FREAKOUT

If you’re lucky—statistics are on your side, at least—when you know more about your particular cancer this low point will pass. But for now you have to live with it—live with the idea of death, ha, ha, the human condition. This isn’t the everyday version. Think Thelma and Louise going over the cliff, except it’s dark, raining and the cliff is indeterminate.

WHY ME?

Why you? Because you should have eaten better. Because you should have taken more vitamin D. Because you enjoy a glass of wine. Because you smoked in college. Because you were one of those Moms who pulled her shirt down from the top when breastfeeding in public, shame on you. Because you don’t always buy organic. Because after a religious upbringing you became an atheist. Because you are riddled with guilt. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Illness, Letting Go, Vulnerability

Beneath The Glass

November 12, 2015

By Lauren Randall

I spend most of my time dreaming.  The most gratifying vision I have is of life on pause.  I dream of the world completely stopping for everyone other than me.  What will I do in this static world?

Sleep.  I will sleep.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

I dream that this sleep will take away everything: the fatigue, pain, neurological damage and every ‘red herring’ that cannot be quantified by the medical community.

I will wake to my ‘old body,’ my teenage body, the one I so shamelessly took for granted.  The body I binged and purged from out of hate, the body surreptitiously stuck on the other side of the glass.

I didn’t think much about chronically ill people back then.  I never wondered about their nostalgia for health, that intense pining their imagination could make so palpable.

For them, life could be this immensely beautiful view through a cracked and clouded windshield; every day spent futilely trying to clean it off from the inside.  Despite the irrefutable knowledge that all that shit is just out of reach, the thought of doing nothing from the other side of the glass likely felt even more deceptively tragic.

I do that a lot.  I refer to ‘them’ without including myself.  I try to clean the glass from the inside knowing it will never fully penetrate the brown decrepit haze.  I am enlightened enough to know that real acceptance –seeing beauty within the cracks and dirt– is where true healing and happiness will lie for me.  But I cannot escape the fight, the quest to see the entire scene.  Sometimes that makes me feel beautifully hopeful, sometimes that makes me feel like I am wasting what is left. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Compassion, Guest Posts, Holidays, love

Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

November 11, 2015
Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut

By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Mother Night

Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut.

This is the second letter I have written to you, and it comes twenty-six years past the first. Thank you so very much for writing me back, that long time ago, and thank you for the self-portrait. It’s a treasure.

You would have been ninety-two this November eleventh. The world has missed you for these eight years you have been gone, and so have I.

I was sick when I wrote you in nineteen eighty-nine, and didn’t know how much longer I might remain in this earth orbit, rotating, with you, around our sun.  Expressing thankfulness to the people who had encouraged and inspired me seemed a timely act. You were the first on my list and I didn’t get to number two.

I began reading your books after seeing you on the stage of Landreth Hall at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. It was my birthday in nineteen-eighty-four.  I was an art major earning a teaching degree with an English minor.  You wrote on a blackboard, diagraming the shapes of stories on a graph, and comparing to each other. Tall and lanky, you paced across the stage, pointing at the board with your long fingers protruding from the cuffs of your tweed jacket. You lectured like our English teacher, not the acclaimed Kurt Vonnegut, the “Primal Scream” of the Peacenik” generation. In conclusion, you demonstrated that William Shakespeare was as good at telling stories as any Arapaho. That was my first laugh at your sly, impudent jokes. A sharper wit never graced that stage, nor did a greater humanitarian.

I didn’t die. I learned to live with what would chronically ail me, and I went forward with life, with a growing family and the help of modern chemistry. You and I have this in common: the clear realization of biochemistry’s role in who we are and how we live.

Thank you for updating me on your son, Mark. I knew Mark, back in the days when we were crusading for orthomolecular medicine together and it’s use in treating mental illness as a disease, not an emotional state caused by bad mothers and such. Mark wrote a good memoir about his trip in and out of schizophrenia called The Eden Express. It was also a book about our generation, and personal to me, because much of his story was my story, too.

Mark believed that orthomolecular medicine saved his life, and I believed it saved my first husband’s life as well. We spoke in schools, prisons, even before state legislatures, asking that they take orthomolecular treatment to their populations. In the end, we all found it less of a Eureka phenomenon than we had once believed, but many people were greatly helped, and it got the psychiatric medical community’s attention, which led to major advances in understanding and treating mental illness. Continue Reading…

courage, death, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration, Vulnerability

#MyLifeMatters

November 10, 2015

By Klyn Elsbury

A few nights ago, I was wrapped in a blanket, lying on top of an RV off of a scenic overlook in Utah staring up at a sky full of endless, scintillating stars. The air was cool and crisp, delightfully tickling my lungs as they adjusted to the altitude. A handsome man with a beautiful soul was holding my hand and pointing out Venus to the south. Together, we were dreaming about the future. Something that until Orkambi came, I had all but given up on.

I dropped out of college because I started getting hospitalized several times a year, and I believed I would never live long enough to pay off my student loan debt.

I moved to California from Florida for a career in biotech/pharmaceutical recruiting so I could be closer to the companies that were developing the very drugs that would keep me alive. That would give me hope. When I started getting hospitalized every 4 months, I made the choice to leave my corporate career and preserve my lung function via exercise, diet, and adherence to prescriptions that managed the symptoms. I tried to get in on every clinical trial for Orkambi, before it was even called Orkambi, but time and time again I was denied because my lung function was too unstable.

He squeezed my hand excitedly, “did you see that?” referring to a shooting star that emblazoned an almost pitch black night. My heart skipped a beat. I shut my eyes and made a wish that one day, someday soon, I would be on this drug. I opened my eyes to see him smiling back at me.

For the first time in a long time, I believed I would have a future again. I was the first person in clinic the day after Orkambi was approved. However, they couldn’t write a prescription because I needed to go on IV antibiotics first. My lung function was around 50%. It was my 3rd round of IVs this year alone.

Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends locally who got approved for the drug, posted on Facebook that for the first time in years, she woke up without coughing. I can’t imagine a morning where an alarm clock wakes me up instead of a violent core-shaking, gut busting cough.

“Wow!” We both said in unison at yet, another shooting star. Who is lucky enough to see two of them in one night sky? Just moments apart? Surely this means there are good things to come. Waking up without a cough became my second wish. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, courage, Guest Posts, Inspiration

More Than Enough

October 18, 2015

By Ali Ludovici

As you are, in this moment, you are enough.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to succumb to self-doubt, to the nagging voices in your mind. It is easy to fall to the comparison trap. To forget that you are beautiful in your individuality; incredible as you are. You are needed, wanted and loved.

I have struggled for much of my life with feeling inadequate. There was always someone better, more talented, more skilled. There was always someone more intelligent, more beautiful, seemingly more deserving. I sought out external validation. Without their validation I couldn’t trust, couldn’t believe that I was enough. Without approval, I worked harder, tried to be more perfect, more of what they were looking for. I would lose myself to this need to please. I would lose myself to the persona I took on. I would lose myself, thinking who I was wasn’t enough and that I should become someone more, someone better.

  1. I approached the teacher’s desk after class, shame overwhelming me. I wanted to know why I hadn’t received a higher grade. My grade 5 teacher seemed floored. She told me I should be proud of myself; I had received 85% as my final grade. I started to cry. Proud? Proud of what? I had set my standards to 90% and until then, I hadn’t ever not reached that standard. People now expected remarkable grades from me. I had let them down. I was a disappointment.
  1. When I saw her skate, flawlessly, landing jumps I still struggled with, spinning in tight little circles and with such grace and speed. She was mesmerizing where I was graceless. She was talented where I struggled. I would never compare.

Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, beauty, Binders, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration

How To Sleep Alone

October 14, 2015

By Mallory McDuff

First, make your bed every morning, so you can anticipate the ritual of pulling down the quilt and sheets at night, just as you look forward to opening a beer while cooking dinner after work. If possible, sleep under a bright-colored quilt that has sentimental value, surrounding you with memories that tilt your dreams toward love.

To be more precise, sleep under a quilt hand sewn by your mother in the classic pattern “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” with hexagonal patterns repeated in bright pastels and primary colors. The quilt defies you to slump into depression and has graced your bed for the past 10 years.

Before she died at the age of 59 years old, your mother sewed those hexagons  – her first quilt ever – while you were busy having a baby, going to grad school, and sleeping with a man on a futon, under a tapestry from Goodwill.

But now you sleep alone under her quilt, and you cherish every hexagon, even the ones that are frayed around the edges, torn cotton from where your two daughters have jumped onto the bed, revealing white bunting underneath, like rabbit tails poking out where they shouldn’t be.

When you make the bed each morning, you think about finding someone to repair the quilt, maybe Lupe, the talented tailor and photographer who goes to your church. But you never call him. There’s always a more pressing task, like getting kids to school, grading papers, cooking dinner, and then it’s time to go to bed again. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

Girl Adrift

October 9, 2015

By Julie Butler

I learned how to be a girl from atop a coffee table.

“Sing us a French song,” Dad would call to me as visitors sipped tea in the living room.

My mother would shift uncomfortably, offering up an argument to discourage the performance, “It’s nearly her bedtime.” Sometimes, she would slip into the kitchen to freshen the pot, abandoning me to his insistence. I don’t know if she was aware that I didn’t want to sing, or if she felt the second-hand shame like I could.

Dad would ignore her weak protest, lifting me in my Mary Janes onto the impromptu stage. He was always too eager, too enthusiastic. “Sing the one you sang last week… Do that little dance,” he’d press, stepping back expectantly. I rarely put up resistance. I did not want to appear disobedient or whiney or disagreeable with those adult eyes on me. “Do it for Daddy.”

I blushed for him more than for myself. He needed it. He wasn’t enough without my song. Perhaps he didn’t have enough witty things to say to the visitors. Duty put breath in my kindergarten lyrics and exaggerated gestures. I tossed out my own boundaries to him as flotation. I could feel him relax and smile contentedly if I remembered all the words, but I couldn’t bear to watch him, watching me for long. I soaked in his desperate, overcompensating need, rather than a father’s pride.

I felt embarrassed by the visitors’ mild dismay as Dad clumsily interrupted conversation with my act. I felt humiliated when they were not as impressed with my talent. Of course, any child in Madame Bisnaire’s class could have done as well. We all knew Banana Bateau. We all shook our tushes at the chorus. It felt phoney. It felt invasive. It felt guilt-ridden because he could so love and admire me while he couldn’t love himself. But, it was the bargain I made to be his girl. It’s what I learned to do to be anybody’s girl. Continue Reading…

beauty, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Life

The Idea of Being Enough, or a Credit to My Kind

October 6, 2015

By Ashley-Elizabeth Best

I am stuck in myself, indulging the constant loop of compare and contrast. Growing up poor and with a single mother of five I struggled to prove I was more, that I could be different than my family and transcend others’ assumptions about me. I’ve always been a self-improver and work tirelessly at my imperfections. There are many incidents from my childhood that have stayed with me and for a long time made me feel I could never be anything than what I was then—a tired and unhappy kid helping to raise her four younger siblings with her struggling mother.

Every Sunday we stuffed a stroller full of dirty laundry in garbage bags to push downtown to the laundry mat. To get to the laundry mat we had to pass a dental office a fellow classmate’s parents owned. Most Sundays he earned his allowance mowing the lawn in front of the practice. I’ll never forget the look on his face every time he saw us five kids and our mother pass by with our stroller, something between pity and a recognition—I know who you are and what you’ll be. So I performed the smart poor girl who has potential, but as one classmate said within my hearing once, she’s either going to get pregnant or go to university.

I measured ‘enough’ in all the wrong ways for years, for decades. I had terrible anxiety, agonized over everything I said to others—did they think what I said was stupid? Was I stupid? Can I post that on Facebook, is the grammar right, is the structure right? Was my performance making me good, making me enough? Mistakes terrified me—someone like me could not afford to make mistakes.

Everything up to my early twenties was done because of fear. When I moved away from my family to attend university, the constant fight for their survival and well being left me empty and lost. I started taking creative writing classes and slowly began to grow a feeling of possibility, that a life of my own was worth fighting for, and that maybe writing could help nurture my growing confidence and independence from my former dependents.

Years later, after school, working, serious medical problems, and constant little tragedies which have befallen my family, I am still poor, but now know I am worthy and that my life is meaningful. I have a poetry book coming out and am deeply at work on a novel. I have a life of my own despite and because of my family. I am enough for myself and my pen. It took me a long time to realize self-worth is something I could earn through self-compassion.

I do not dare to compare myself to others, I no longer look for evidence that I am inferior because of my past. I look forward knowing life is a sequence of feelings, some will last and most won’t. They are all a performance of singular parts acting as a whole in the absence of a frame. I am not a credit to my kind, I am a credit to myself. I am enough. I am. Author Photo
Ashley-Elizabeth Best is from Cobourg, Canada. Her work has been published in Fjords, CV2, Berfrois, Grist and Ambit Magazine, among other publications. Recently she was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Her first collection of poems, Slow States of Collapse is forthcoming with ECW Press. She lives and writes in Kingston.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

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.