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Binders, Grief, Guest Posts

I Never Expected to Grieve for My Mother

June 26, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Elin Stebbins Waldal

Lined up in the garage as if they are expecting us still are the dining room chairs of my youth. In all there are five. Yet now, as if in a dream, I see eight.

Eight wood chairs—each pushed under an antique table that, if you were not seated in the middle where the leaves met, touched the tops of your legs—three chairs on each side and one at either end.

But today there are five.

I close my eyes as if blocking the image of them here in the garage of my grown-up-life will erase the reality that these chairs equal in number those of us in my family of origin who are living.

There never were eight of us all at once.

One of the chairs stood empty. Empty in a way that occupied the space around me and shaped the backdrop of my growing up.

“Pain engraves a deeper memory,” Anne Sexton once said. As deep as an ocean I think with eyes still shut, my hands feeling their way across the faux bamboo back of a 19th Century chair.

The tips of my fingers search the woven thrush of the seat, the feel of which belies the hardness my butt once endured. I can almost feel the imprint of the thrush on the backs of my legs, traces of hours spent belly-up to the table bathed in candle light and the cacophony of voices, forks on dinner plates, and the occasional ring of the phone.

It seemed we were always at dinner—or at least the punctuated moments I remember best were at that table. Mealtime gatherings that spread out over hours, as opposed to the meals of today often swallowed while driving home from children’s games to this very garage. Continue Reading…

Don't Be An Asshole Series, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

I Can Grab My Belly Fat & Make It Talk. I Am Enough. PS- This Shit Is Hard.

June 25, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff

Hi! Gotta make this quick because I am packing to leave for Italy. I am leading a retreat there starting Saturday. I am not packed and I leave in two hours. I rule.

So, the demons have been back lately. I have been struggling. Who knows why? Free floating anxiety, not-so free floating, the kind that latches on and pulls me down real low to the earth, the kind that sits on my chest and won’t get off like a little bitch. Even when I call it a little bitch, it won’t get off. I have been watching Orange is The New Black and I’m all prisony. And yea, I too have a crush on the new girl on it. Ruby Rose. But I also have a crush on Pennsatucky and Black Cindy and Poussey and Taystee. And the whole show. I want to marry it! I am five years old. I love it so much that I want to marry it.

Anyway, the little bitch that is anxiety won’t get off my chest so my breathing is shallow and  I feel ungrounded, like I am floating, except that sounds kind of nice, and anxiety is not nice, so less like floating and more like a walking dead person. A walking panicky dead person. I hide it well. Probably not, actually. Ask any of my friends who get crazy texts from me.

In case you are new to my blog or my work, I had a severe eating disorder. It still haunts me at times. Anorexia and over-exercising. Like 5 hours a day exercising. Meh. (I probably could do that again if I could watch Orange is The New Black the whole time but nah. Gross.)

I posted this video on my instagram and challenged women (and men if they want to play too) to post a picture or video of their body using the hashtag #iLovemybody and #girlpoweryouareenough. My friend Maggie tweeted me this:
@JenPastiloff I think she’s just saying that you are awesome to accept yourself exactly as you are, when she can’t do the same.

Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, healing, Race/Racism

A Black Remembrance of My White Father.

June 21, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Erika Robinson

I have not shared this photo before. I have wanted to keep my father to myself, perhaps because, when he was alive, I had to share him with so many.

But it’s Father’s Day, and it is both nationally and personally a sober time. So I am giving all of us a gift by sharing my father once again.

My father left for college when he was only 16. He left for the big city from a farm in Nebraska, where he had no exposure to Black people.

There was no one whiter than my father, with his light eyes and hair, his aquiline nose, his Midwestern twang, and the way he said words like egg and roof. Tweed jackets with leather elbow patches and Oxford shirts were his uniform. He lent them a white guy cool by finishing his look with khakis and topsiders that he wore with no socks. He smoked a pipe. He loved Latin and classical music and German food. He was completely and unapologetically white.

My father was also the greatest man I have ever known. I described him to a friend recently: the way my father was committed to social justice and the cause of civil rights; the way he gave his voice, his body, his life force to the struggle for equality for Black people to the degree that he received letters of thanks during his lifetime from Martin Luther King, and to the degree that he was eulogized in Congress upon his death.

My friend said “Your father sounds as though he was very…optimistic.”

This friend of mine is a very polite young white man. I could tell from the pause between the words “very” and “optimistic” that what he’d wanted to call my father was “naive.”

Here is what my father was: he was grounded in his identity as a white man, aware of the privilege this status conferred upon him, and acutely conscious of the mantle of responsibility laid upon him to live a life of service to those upon whom society had conferred a different status entirely. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Video, Vulnerability

Face Your Shit.

June 20, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff

Are you a facer or an avoider? Me? I am mostly an avoider but I work real hard, real hard, to be a facer. The TRH Policy: Try Real Hard Policy.

Facing our shit can be painful and uncomfortable and not very much fun, but in the long run it’s the avoidance that causes the pain. I am the Queen of Avoidance. Today I slept for 4 hours so I wouldn’t have to deal. What happened? Nothing. It was just 4 hours later than it was when I went in to “make my bed.”

What are your thoughts? Let me know after you watch the video.

Post in the comments below what you have been avoiding.

What you are ready to face.

What you are scared to face,

And anything else you f*cking want! Word.

I love you. xo Jen

 

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, travel

Be All In.

June 15, 2015
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Book Girl Power: You Are Enough now! Space is limited. Sep 19 Princeton! Sep 20th NYC. The book is also forthcoming from Jen Pastiloff.

By Jen Pastiloff.

I got up before the sun this morning. The room was dark and I didn’t know where I was. I am in a twin bed, I am shivering and sweating, the sun is not up, where am I? I’ve been grinding my teeth really badly. I unclenched my jaw a little and felt my plastic night guard in my mouth, but still, I couldn’t quite place where I was. It’s funny when that happens, isn’t it? You wake up and have no idea what day it is or where you are or if you are late to work or what the fuck? Do I even have a job? Am I still waitressing? Am I late for school? School? I am a grown-ass adult, I don’t go to school, where the fuck am I?

 

Okay, okay. I am in Aruba. I remember. Calm the fuck down.

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We are going on a sunrise hike and I have set my alarm for 5. Just 5 more minutes, I lie to myself. My mouth guard cracks inside my mouth. Are you kidding me? I still lay there with plastic pieces in my mouth, refusing to swing my legs over the edge of the small bed. This night guard that cost almost $500 and I just bit it in half. I still don’t get up. Just don’t swallow the plastic and die here on this twin bed in Aruba, Jen, I say to myself, and also, Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?

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Who clenches their jaw so hard they bite their night guard in half? What am I holding on to? I don’t panic though. I lay there calmly chanting don’t swallow don’t swallow and then make myself laugh because it reminds me of blow jobs and I feel like a teenager for laughing. Like when someone’s name was Dick and we’d laugh. Dick and blow jobs and plastic in my mouth. I better get up.

 

At least I can laugh because this piece of crap plastic is going to cost another $500 unless I want to crack my crowns. I recently got two crowns, one of which is gold. Classy.

 

*

 

Now I am on the plane. I am nestled against the window with the best $20 investment I have ever made (EVER): a pillow and blanket I purchased in the World’s Worst Airport otherwise known as Ft. Lauderdale.

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I went to Chili’s in my 3 hour layover and got a vodka soda and salmon. My waiter was very accommodating and gave me black beans instead of rice and when I asked for salsa, brought me a huge Styrofoam container of it and some plastic cutlery. It brought back visions of the people I used to wait on who would ask for plastic silverware. (I guess it was a germ thing?) It also brought back memories of those skinny women who would come in shaking and saying, It’s so cold, when it was 65 degrees, Can I get a hot water with lemon? I hated those ladies. I wanted to tell them to eat a sandwich. (They always ordered the Tuna Deluxe, no rice, no dressing, and they never finished it.)

Anyway, I took a bath in my salsa and drank my drink and ordered another because 3 hours. Ft. Lauderdale. I asked the lady at the table behind me if the chips were any good.

 

“They’re greasy but they’re okay. Have one.”

 

I reached over and had one. She was right. They were meh, at best. I would just eat my salsa out of the Styrofoam with my plastic spoon sans chips. This is my first time in a Chili’s. They play good music. I’ll give them that. Steely Dan, Hey 19. A little David Bowie.

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The hike was 5 hours long. We started before the sun came. Rooi Tambu, a long trail through a dry riverbed within the Arikok National Park of Aruba. I poured coffee into a plastic cup and spilled it all over myself in the car. The sun was still not up when we began.

 

I read a sign that explained that the dry riverbed was named after the sound of the tambu, a musical instrument used by inhabitants from African descent who were brought to Aruba to work as slaves. They used to hide in the dry riverbed to perform their dance rituals and play music, as it was forbidden by the Spanish catholic colonists who occupied Aruba from 1499-1636.

 

Isn’t it amazing how humans have the capacity for self-expression and creativity, no matter what? How art is so often born of brutal circumstances? How survival is contingent upon the making of that art? I bent down low to touch the earth, dirt on my fingers, on the backs of my calves, this is holy dirt, I thought, and wiped a streak on my face. The sun was rising. What was once forbidden flourished here.

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We continued to walk until we reached the coastline. I climbed up on the rocks and tried to do a yoga pose but it was slippery and I was scared so I stood there with my arms in the air as my friend Yulady took a picture. I was wearing a tank top that said Be All In and was I ever. My feet were aching, my skin was filthy, I was soaked from a wave that had crashed on the rocks, but my god, was I all in, knee-deep in, waist-high in, up to my neck in, I was in, and I would keep going in, deeper.

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I thought of Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey as I stood on that rock

 

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

 

I read that poem a lot in my yoga classes so I could almost hear my own voice speaking it. God, I’m so dramatic. I climbed down off the rock, pleased with myself that I got up and did the hike instead of sleeping, that I stood on a wet rock on the beach and heard a poem in my head as if the sky was talking to me, as if I hadn’t been laying in bed just a couple hours before with plastic pieces in my mouth and a deep confusion as to where I was in the world, as if the clouds were reminding me to go out and make art, no matter what, make art, create, stand on rocks, recite poetry, get up and climb on rocks and forge your way through the world and do not be confused as to where you are: You are here. You are here. You are here.

 

 

Yeah, I was all pleased with myself. I am not a hiker. I hopped down onto the sand and laughed at myself for thinking the clouds could talk. Then I remembered that the minute I stopped believing the sky could talk, I was dead, I was no longer a poet, I no longer had an imagination, I would no longer make art despite the unflinching pressing of time on my body- that if I believed the sky went quiet, I might as well swallow the pieces of plastic and confine myself to a life of quiet choking, of relentless blockage, a life of words being stifled in the back of a throat. I would suffocate. So yes, the sky can talk and I can fucking hear it despite my near deafness. I can hear it and I am all in.

 

I am happy I came on this hike. I fly out in a few hours, to go home to L.A. and this will tucker me out for the plane. It will stay with me for days on end, the Manzanilla trees and the crabs with the big eyes, who looked dead until you got close and they scurried away. The way the ghosts of the music-makers from long ago lingered like any good art will. Art does not disappear. The clouds do talk.

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My friend Yulady and her husband Gerry are also with me on the hike.

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Yulady had breast cancer and now has a colostomy bag. She doesn’t complain. She made a video for me the other day where she says, I poop in a bag, and yet, she doesn’t complain. I learn from her.

My legs hurt so I squat down and my friend Mike says, No pooping, Jen. This makes me laugh and I think how poop jokes always do. Like swallow and the name Dick. No pooping, Jen.

 

Yulady has to poop in a bag. She is my inspiration. Amazing, like I said, how art is so often made through brutality? She tells me that life has not been easy for her. But she doesn’t complain. I want to rub her skin and take some of her back with me to Los Angeles.

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I complain that my feet hurt and I have get home to finish packing. That I am hungry. That I am getting sunburned. I tell myself to shut the fuck up.

 

We finally finish the hike and get back to the house.

 

I thought about how I got quiet during the walk. Real quiet. It was nice. It was needed. How unquiet we are sometimes. Me. I am. With the constant ringing in my ears and my own chatter and the nonstop information and distraction of social media- how unquiet. During the hike, you couldn’t look up because of how rocky and uneven the earth was and that was okay.

 

One foot in front of the other, paying attention, getting quiet. How needed it is. I got soaked as I sat on that rock and I thought life is good. At least in this moment.

 

It’s good to get quiet. My legs covered with filth from the walk, my hair tangled with sea water, salt on my skin. Maybe I’ll stay like this a little longer. To remember.

*

 

I place my broken night guard carefully in its blue container and put it at the bottom of my backpack. I wonder if I can superglue it?

At the airport the long is long and women with heavy blue eye shadow and t-shirts that say Aruba: The Happy Island wear too much perfume. My bra strap breaks in line and my boob starts to hang out. I ask a stranger to fix it. (Not my boob. The strap.)

She kindly does. She is flying to New York with her husband. They have arrived at the airport almost 5 hours early. I, on the other hand, am worried I will miss my flight and my bra has just broke.

 

Two hours later, I make it though all the lines and my bra strap breaks again. I get in line at the Happy Bar and order a white wine, which he gives me in a mini bottle with a Dixie cup of ice. I take it to the gate. Thank you, Happy Island, for allowing me to walk through the airport with a plastic cup of wine. In the States, we can do no such thing.

 

Night guard breaking, bra strap busting, what next, Jen? Your head going to roll off?

 

I sit down next to a big guy who is partly in my seat. He sleeps with his head pressed into the tray table in front of him, from takeoff to landing, while his wife absent-mindedly traces the hair on his legs with her French manicure, as she reads a paperback. He lifts his head only once, to turn around and yell at (I am guessing) sons, “There’s enough room back there. Knock it off.

 

In Ft. Lauderdale I somehow have to go through security. Again. Fourth time in one day. I am so cold that I feel like one of those women who ask for lemon water. I am freezing. I buy a pillow and blanket in the airport shop and attempt to find a place to eat. This brings me to Chili’s. The Ft. Lauderdale Airport really does blow. (Ha ha blow jobs again.)

I am sad to leave Aruba. I wish I took more photos. I close my eyes and rest my head on the table at Chili’s and start to make art in my head. I rearrange words and create sentences out of fragments of stone and wind and blue, blue water. I remember a poem I wrote 12 years ago.

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I am in awe of the things that cause change.

 

The forces, natural and apocryphal, that cause us to evolve-

The catalysts, those things working in our favor-

The impetus for us metamorphose, to mutate and transform.

Whether being trapped inside the earth in heat so blasting

A Guatemalan volcano has to spew its ashy breath-

Or having an old friend come to stay for a week.

 

We change.

 

We change shapes and figures over and over again.

We exchange one body for the next, one precious

Stone for a different one.

One pleasure for another.

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I wonder about the things working in my favor. How I have been changed by this trip? By the Rooi Tambu? By other people’s pain and how their music settled into the bones of the earth so that when we walk over it, our feet touch their hearts. I wonder where my waiter is with my drink. I wonder why I clench my teeth so badly. I wonder what life would be like if I went all in, like really all in, like I stood on that rock as if I could never slide off. As if nothing could stop me. I wonder what being all in felt like. I checked to see if my boob was tucked in, if my bra strap was hooked. Yes. I was all in. I made myself laugh. This is important.

I wonder if I will make my flight.

I do.

I get home eventually.

Meanwhile, I cuddle in my blanket and pillow next to a Chinese man with a mask over his mouth. He eats peanuts and I eat salsa out of Styrofoam and I think that both of us are all in. He nods at me as if to say hello with his eyes and I turn my head to the clouds out the window of the airplane because they are speaking. Of course they are. I must get quiet to hear them. Shhh. Goodbye.

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You can sign up for the Girl Power: You Are Enough workshop here for Sep 19 in Princeton or here for Sep 20 in NYC. You can get the Be All In shirt via my Girl Power partner-in-crime Lara Heimann.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for June 20th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. 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 June 20th cleanse. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the new season of spring. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015. It is LIFE CHANGING!

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Lying to Ourselves.

June 11, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

Hi, from Aruba. Whoa! I am in Aruba.

I.

Am.

In.

Aruba.

I’m trying to blog more in an effort to remember details. So hi. Here I am.

I have this chalkboard in my room at home where I have written YOU ARE A WRITER: SO WRITE! because I don’t carry a notebook, thinking (naively) that I will remember that man with a speedo, a selfie-stick and a beer precariously taking a photo on the edge of a cliff in Aruba, and how I thought about my mom’s second husband Carl because the speedo man had his beer in one of those cooler things which I just had to google “What are those foamy things you put a beer in to keep it cold?” because I couldn’t think of the name of them (apparently they are called Koozies) and Carl used to drink his beer out of said Koozies. I have been thinking about Carl a lot because there are cacti everywhere here on the island and he collected them- had hundreds in his yard at home. He only drank Coors and I keep seeing Coors ads here so I think maybe, in some way, his spirit is here, and I wonder if he had ever been to Aruba but I can’t ask him because he is dead a long time now and that man in the speedos looks like he may fall into the ocean because of his dumb fucking selfie, so I want to write this stuff down but because I don’t carry a notebook or jot things down. I memorize it until I sit down here, at the table by the window, the wind blowing on my back, and I think if only I had a table at home where the wind blew on my back like this, I would really write, I would really get shit done.

Right.

Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to lie to ourselves?

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Carl, if you were here, dude, you’d go crazy for the Bringa Mosa Bush and the Yatu Cactus. Also, we hardly wear shoes here and you’d love that. You hated shoes. Especially when you ran on the beach, which to me is just about the worst thing in the world. I tried to do yoga on the beach yesterday and I felt like I ran a marathon, it was that exhausting. My hands kept sinking deeper and deeper into the sand and I had nothing solid to balance on so I kept falling over. You used to run with Monet on the beach at sunset. I miss Monet. Every West Highland Terrier I see is him. We used to call him MoMo. You didn’t, but my sister and I did, especially after you and my mom got divorced and we moved back to New Jersey. MoMo and the cats, Runt and Tiger. And when I drank beer I high school, I thought of you because you were the only person I knew that had drank beer. I don’t recall my father every drinking so lord knows where I got my affinity for it. His thing was speed. Anyway, you’d love it here. So would Monet. There’s so many dogs everywhere. And cactus plants.

And Koozies. (I wonder why they are called that?)

I think sometimes I am afraid of remembering.

I should start writing things down more though because details, they’re everything. I think my mind can store it all, the way that boy with the braces from Houston was collecting rafts in the pool to build a bridge and run across, how proud he was of his achievement, and the way the woman who worked at the hotel bent down by the edge of the pool, a You are making my job more difficult pair of eyes, the way she stooped to collect the glass candles so we wouldn’t break them, her mouth a line of blame. Meanwhile I can’t even remember what I did last week so I should totally start taking notes.

Maybe I am afraid of remembering.

I remember sitting on the floor of the airport in Dallas a few days ago and how there was a little girl in a chair next to me with a sweatshirt on that said Birthday Diva. I asked her if it was her birthday. She had just turned 13 and had these huge stuffed animals on her lap. Her mom snapped photos of her as I sat on the ground and charged my phone. A man talked to me but I have no idea what he said. I wonder how often I lie to myself.

My sister is not feeling well back in the States, in Georgia. I don’t know how to not experience it in my own body. With her, or my mother. I do not know how to separate them from myself. I do not know how to not feel guilty.

I have moments- sitting here, the wind, the perfect Aruban wind and my God, is it ever fucking perfect, I would marry the goddamned wind if I could- sitting here with my coffee and the wind on my back, the sun burning the little patch of skin that is exposed, I do not feel guilty. I feel settled in my body, my ears are ringing as usual, but I am writing and the tinnitus can’t stop me, not when I am truly in it.

I so rarely get truly in it, not lately anyway. This past year I have hardly written a word. Right now though, I don’t feel guilty or like an appendage of anyone else- I am not aware of my hearing loss, or my family, or how dare I be happy because I am in it, waist-high, swimming in the bluest water you have ever seen. I am writing. I hate that hashtag (maybe because I so rarely write) but here I am #Iamwriting and so I am spared the responsibility of my guilt and how it weights me to the bottom of the sea where not only am I deaf, but I can’t breathe. So, there’s moments, brief ones, where I float and I sit on airport floors and watch Birthday Divas, everything still ahead of me, a possibility, not yet a disappointment. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

On Fighting Cancer The Second Time Around

June 9, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Shauna Zamarripa

In 2007, things were going really well for me. I had just gotten my residential real estate license and was killing it despite the fact that the market was in the crapper. Back then, I had learned quickly that foreclosures and short sales was where the money was at, so I speedily obtained my CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) designation and was off to the races. And man, oh man, was I winning. I was the preferred listing agent for several banks and acquisition companies. And business?

Well….business was GOOD.

It was also right around this time that I had begun blogging for major websites like Yahoo, CNN Money, MSN Money and even found myself smack dab on the front page of Realtor.com.

And that made business even better.

I had begun developing my own model on how to use blogging for lead generation and business building. And it was going GREAT….until the other shoe dropped.

I got sick. Really sick. I had gone in for my annual OBGYN exam. A few days later they called to tell me the results were abnormal. When I went back in for more tests…that was when I found out I had cervical cancer. Stage 3.

I was 29 years old.

I was devastated.

Upon hearing the news, I went home and didn’t get out of bed for two days. I didn’t say anything to anyone, and many people even close to me didn’t know what I was dealing with. I refused to ask for help. I refused to let anyone know how hard it hit me.

I went to my next appointment alone (which I was fine with), as they begun freezing the cells. It hurt like HELL. But I powered through. Then? That’s when they started the chemo. And while I didn’t think anything could have been worse than what I had already endured, that was. Far worse.

There were days I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. I never told anyone. I totaled three cars in a year, thanks to my stubbornness, but didn’t lose my life. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. Some….because I didn’t want to, others because I just couldn’t. I was too tired. I was nauseated and exhausted. I could barely function. I was fuzzy and lost.

It was at this point that I had to give up my real estate career and focused on blogging full time. I was too sick to do much of anything else at the time.

But, as I got better, the more I wanted to blog and the less I wanted to do real estate. By 2010, I was healthy again. I felt like myself again. The steroids and the depression medication, however, caused me to gain a LOT of weight over the past couple of years. But I fought that back off as well. I worked out, ate right and lost it all. By 2011, I was looking a LOT better.

Then, 2012….tore my world apart. Secrets, lies and devastation took me down a rabbit hole that I would wish upon no one. Ever. And, even though I was cancer free, I wasn’t sure I wanted to live anymore. Yet, as I looked into my all three of my daughters eyes, I realized that wasn’t an option. They still needed me. So? I stayed. All the while never telling the people I should have told about much of my struggle. Because it just wasn’t their business. But, moreso because, when you go through hell, you just don’t want to talk about it anymore. Because you’ve felt it, you’ve dealt with it, and it became this part of you that you would rather forget than remember.

And that’s okay. You’re allowed to do that.

2012 saw a final separation of myself and my husband of 17 years. 2013 had me falling in love again. It also saw me through a house fire that nearly claimed my life….and something that created a lot of change. I remodeled my house and moved the (now 19-year-old) twins out and moved myself and the 13 year old in with the man, the love of my life, a man who, in 2014 I married – despite my saying repeatedly I would never get married again. And 2015 brought back an old friend…my cancer.

Except this time, things were different.

When they told me I needed more tests, something in me knew that this time was going to be worse than the last one. And even though everyone said “I would be FINE,” I knew (somehow) that this time wasn’t going to be as easy.

Fuck.

I hate when I’m right. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, The Hard Stuff

A Misguided Hunt for Answers

June 6, 2015
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Sensitive material. Mention of rape/sexual/assault.

By Leila Bruch

I was desperate, so I called his cell phone three times in under an hour. I knew he was free. He was probably watching the phone blow up and crowing to all his roommates that the crazy bitch from a few weeks ago was looking for more.

Next, I sent a text: “You need to call me because we have a problem.” I’ve watched enough TV to know how to use a possible pregnancy to get a recalcitrant man on the line.

Lo and behold, my phone began to ring.

Once his name, “Do Not Answer,” appeared, my stomach turned on me. My brain followed suit, and pleaded for me to let the phone ring. My rage steeled the weaker parts of myself as I answered and spat, “You are one sick fucker.”

On the other end of the phone, my rapist was silent.

“When was the last time you got tested?” I snarled.

I didn’t feel remotely bad about the false pretense. I knew I wasn’t pregnant because the morning after he assaulted me, I ran across Saturday traffic dribbling both ways on a six-lane highway to buy Plan B.

This occurred back when Plan B was only available behind the Pharmacy counter, so I marched to the back of the CVS and muttered my request to the sneering white-coated pharmacist, who passed me a clipboard. I bent my head low and copied my driver’s license number, name, and other probing details on the first open line. All the while, I could feel the pharmacist’s eyes on my unwashed hair.

I pushed the clipboard back when I finished. After she examined the information I provided against my ID, the pharmacist picked up the slim rectangular box by two clawed fingers and dropped it into a bag. I swiped my card for the fifty dollar fee, and when it cleared, I clutched the bag and ran back across the street. I already knew what to do with the two tiny pills; it wasn’t my first time taking Plan B. It was, however, my first time taking Plan B without being certain I’d had inadequately-protected sex.

That’s one of the problems with sexual assault – sometimes, you don’t know what has been done to you.

~

Three days before the pills and several weeks before the call, I was in a group of undergraduate women beginning a semester away from campus with a tour of the library at one of the universities in Washington, D.C.  As we stood around the library’s entrance, we talked awkwardly about our course load, the things we missed about campus, and the internships we’d just started.

Across the hallway stood an attractive Hispanic man with a wide smile. I noticed him, and he noticed me. It didn’t take long for his fixation to become the topic of spirited conversation. “He’s cute,” someone squealed. “Oh, my gosh, he’s coming over here!”

The man sauntered over and offered his hand as he introduced himself as Arnaldo.* He asked for my number and I wrote it on scrap of notebook paper.

Later that night, Arnaldo and I spent an hour on the phone, talking about our families and his career aspirations after law school. When Arnaldo asked if he could take me out the next day, I agreed.

The next evening, plans shifted from a date to kebabs and cards. Arnaldo came to my apartment with three of his friends. I invited the two women in my group who weren’t returning to campus that weekend to join us, and we all wandered across Jefferson Davis Highway to the Kebab Palace.

During dinner, I noticed that Arnaldo’s personality was different than it had seemed on the phone. The night before, he’d talked about family and school, and now he was waxing poetic about his love of partying. I didn’t have much interest in the D.C. party scene, so I zoned out in favor of considering the various items on my weekend to-do list.

Before long, the whole group trooped back to my apartment. Soon, they were all crowded around my dining room table. One of Arnaldo’s friends dealt cards while another explained the game and the third opened a twenty-four pack of cheap, canned beer.

Meanwhile, I escaped to my room, where I scoured my email for a message I’d been expecting from my internship coordinator.

The sound of Arnaldo closing my door startled me. He walked across the room, turned me around, and shoved me against my desk. He kissed me, and I pushed him away.

“Hey, don’t do that,” I said. “I don’t want to kiss you – I barely know you.” I laughed, trying to take the sting off my rejection.

Arnaldo pouted and loitered in my room for a few minutes while I puttered around with my laptop. “Are these your friends?” he asked, pointing up at a series of photo collages taped to the white wall above my bed.

“Yeah.”

“And that’s your family?”

“Yep.”

As I walked to my door, he grabbed my waist and kissed me again. This time, I wasn’t laughing. “I’m serious, Arnaldo. I don’t want you to kiss me. Not tonight.”

Arnaldo trailed me with a hangdog look that stuck around too long.

These should have been my first clues, but I was naïve about Arnaldo’s intentions. I let him stay.

The next day, when I told an ex-boyfriend about what eventually happened, he got hung up at the same crossroads. There was a long silence, which he broke by saying my name. That’s when I knew I was in for a ration of shit; he only used my name when he was disappointed. “Why did you let those guys into your apartment?” he asked. “You hardly even knew them. What did you expect?”

In a few weeks, my ex’s retraction and apology came via Facebook message. “I just finished taking sexual assault training. I realize you didn’t do anything wrong. What he did was wrong. It was not your fault.”

Part of me still didn’t – still doesn’t – buy it. I had invited the rapist in with all his friends. I could have kicked him out at the first sign that he didn’t take “No,” as my real answer. The truth was that I hadn’t.

Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing

Gutted

June 1, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Elaine Gale

I am going to trust my gut.

The same gut I ignored in my late twenties when my bipolar, unmedicated, ex-boyfriend got addicted to Xanax, popping more than a dozen a day. I remember the first time it happened, the day he pushed me so hard, my glasses came off my face; they went one way and my body the other, both crashing to the floor. This scene was followed by shock, apologies, promises, new agreements, and lavish gifts.

It was the first tolerated misbehavior in a year of the intolerable, a relationship that finally ended when he announced—still off medication—that he wanted to start going to the local shooting range, a relationship that ended when he bought a Glock and set it on our garden-green bedspread, daring me to leave him for good.

I did. That very day.
I left the house so fast, I didn’t have shoes on.
I never came back.

I loved him, but I loved myself more.

However, the relationship had chipped away at my dignity so much, I didn’t recognize myself. I licked my wounds for several years in the Sonoran Desert, a wounded half-coyote, half-girl, healed by the smell of creosote and sage, and by the relentless warmth of that Tucson sun and a community of women who intervened and relentlessly loved me back to myself.

Love is an intervention.

I am going to trust my gut. Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

The Struggle Is Real: Body Love.

June 1, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff

Body image. Self-love. The struggle is real. Or can be. I keep seeing that hashtag everywhere. #Thestruggleisreal. In this case it is.

But it doesn’t have to be.

What if we embraced our bodies? What if we loved our bodies, belly rolls and wrinkles and grey hairs and our butts and our teeth (even the one that’s missing because you never got an implant, Jennifer.) What if?

The struggle is real. Especially for me, having dealt with severe anorexia and exercise bulimia (I used to work out for four to five hours a day. Really.) But maybe it is for you too. I shared this video on my Facebook (the one below) and it got over 70 thousand hits in a few days. So I guess the struggle is real for more than a few of us. I’m not that special. (Isn’t that just a wondrous epiphany- when we realize that we aren’t that special? It’s so freeing! Weeeee! I am not alone in my fucked-upedness.)

What if our bodies became our best friends? As my friend Wren Thompson-Wynn wrote here on this very site, “My body. It’s the only one who has been with me and experienced everything with me through my entire life. No one knows me like my body does. She really should be my best friend. So why don’t I let her be?”

I realized that in writing Girl Power: You Are Enough, and in leading these workshops, that I have to be held accountable. I have to walk the talk, as they say. whoever “they” are, the powers that be, the ones who watch over you and call you out for being full of shit. I can’t sit here feeling my stomach fall over my waistband and have it send me into a panic induced slump of feeling worthless. That rabbit hole is hard as hell to emerge from. I lived in it for years. I wore platform shoes and waited tables on concrete floors as I secretly grabbed my fat rolls and vowed, “Tomorrow I will not eat. Tomorrow I will be good.”

I saw a video last week that broke my heart. This 37 year old woman, Rachel Farrokh, was begging people to help her raise money so she could get treatment for her anorexia. She weighs 45 pounds, her husband has to carry her up and down the stairs because she is so weak. As I watched it, I said, “I was never that bad.” And I wasn’t. But it’s not hard to imagine. That rabbit hole. There it is again. Just a little more and I will be happy. Just a little more and I will be in control. Just a little more and I will be perfect. Just a little more and I will be enough. <<< BULLSHIT.

You never arrive at the destination of “Yes, I am finally here. I finally love myself,” by starving yourself. NEVER.

I hope she gets the help she needs, I really do.

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So I made this video on set (aka my living room) and people went crazy for it. I wanted to barf a little as I was making it and immediately after but I posted it anyway. You can watch below right here.

 

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, healing

What I Salvaged From The Fire

May 26, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Hollye Dexter

 

When our house burned down in 1994, all three levels burned to the ground. There was not a trace left of the sofa, the dining table, the piano. And yet, my husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries. One of them used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.

I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second grade. This might have tipped me off that I was bound to become a writer. It was important to me then to document my comings and goings, important to me that someone knew I had woven straw placemats at my Campfire Girls meeting, or been chosen third for the kickball team at recess. Someone beside me had to know, and so it was my diary that became the witness to my life.

In addition to my diary, I’d taken to walking around town with a mini Hello Kitty notebook in the pocket of my plaid Dittos hip-huggers, in case I felt a sudden urge to write something down.

Continue Reading…

Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

I Am Androgynous & I Want To Talk About Body Image.

May 25, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Wren Thompson-Wynn

This morning I watched Taryn Brumfitt’s video. I have watched her video more than once and read her words over and over again. I applaud her as I know many women do. However, I wondered (as I do every single time I watch body positive videos and read body positive articles) why their message doesn’t seem to translate to me. Why don’t I feel what my head tells me I should which is: Your body rocks! I look at my soon to be wife and think my god, she is stunning. There isn’t a thing I would change about her. And I know with fierce honesty that as her body changes through life, I will always be attracted to her physical beauty.

But why does this not translate to me? Then, I realized something. Women like me are kind of left out of the body positive equation. Not intentionally, but because no one notices.

I am androgynous. I identify as androgynous. This is not the same as gender fluid. I identify female in every way, but I prefer to express myself in androgynous ways. Every time I wear women’s clothing, I feel like I am in drag. Flip side to that coin is every time someone calls me “sir” it bothers me (I get extremely embarrassed for the people around me). I began to wonder how that affects my body image. Then, I started looking at what visibility androgyny, specifically for women, has in society. Every single image I found was of waif thin women. There were no “normal” sized androgynous people: male or female. And it occurred to me with the force of a jet plowing into my very ample chest: curves “give away” your gender. Being a regular size and having curves means that others see me as a masculine lesbian, not as an androgynous person. I hate the word “butch.”

My androgyny has always been a liability. In lesbian relationships, my partners have always liked that I am more masculine. However, if I pushed the line of gender expression too far, they felt I was trying to pull them into a illusory hetero coupling. They all left (though J calling it quits was because I was an ass). An ex was transgender. We began our relationship long before his transition. My androgyny helped him anchor into an identity (lesbian) that at least got him a smidge close to who he felt he was. Once he was able to accept his true gender, he transitioned. With every step of his transition, our relationship was easier to navigate the more socially accepted feminine I was. When I would wear skirts and makeup and tight girly shirts, he was nicer to me. When I would hang out in my jeans and tshirts and cut my hair, the more distance and tension and anger existed. The more androgynous I was, the more true to my own self expression I was, the more emasculated he seemed to feel because the more “butch” he felt I was…not androgynous. I hated my body. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Sabotage!!

May 22, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

I warned you that I was going to start blogging again so here I am. Friday night. Feeling kind of disgusted with myself over how disorganized I am, how bad at time management, how messy. If you knew you wouldn’t be my friend anymore. Wait: Are you my friend? Will you be? Gah, I am so needy.

Sometimes I worry that the really earnest people who read me, that they won’t get my sense of humor. But I can’t worry about that, right? < Needy. needy. Right, right? It’s weird because I have this big following (again, barf at the term following) of love and light and namaste people who, when I post the “Don’t be an asshole” videos will say things like: You are not an asshole, Jen. You are human.

Totes. I know this. I know I am not an asshole but I kinda am. We all are kinda assholes, at least sometimes and if you aren’t in on that joke, you are missing the big joke of life. The big joke of life is that we absolutely cannot take ourselves so seriously because we are just not that important. (Cue: Jen, we are so important. We matter.)

We do matter. We are enough. But you know why I tell my yoga peeps not to take themselves seriously, especially at 7 a.m.? Because it is so fucking boring,

It is really boring. Ever hang out with someone who takes themselves really really seriously?

Excuse me while I pour myself a stiff drink because even the thought of that is just. too. much. Continue Reading…