Archives

Abuse, Guest Posts, Relationships, Young Voices

Swing

February 8, 2017
swing

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

CW: This essay discusses abusive relationships.

By Laura Zak

Nana had a swing in her backyard. And Dad said once it was fresh white, back when he was a boy, running off in the woods to see which of his friends could pee the farthest.

And when I was thirteen, the paint flaked off under my fingernails. And sometimes I let my fingernails scratch the metal just to hear them screech.

And my younger sister Jessica and I used to swing and eat Klondike bars. And Nana would squeeze herself between us, her feet skimming the ground. And once she told us “Girls, you never let a guy hit you.”

And I laughed because I thought she was joking.

That was five years after Britney released “Hit me Baby One more Time.” Nana still hated Britney for her song. We ate Klondike bars and Nana told us that if some guy ever tried that, just say: “listen bub, see my finger? See my thumb? See my fist? You better run.”

And my laugh was fresh white paint. Of course, Nana. Jessica and I knew better than to let guys pull back their fists, let them swing.

And I don’t know why Stanley kicked Jessica out that night. We were both living in Lubbock, our hometown, and she called, asking if I would pick her up. Her voice shook. She was only eighteen.

And I did pick her up, of course I picked her up, I ran out to my car, barefoot, jacket flying open. And my hands didn’t work well putting in the keys. And the street lamps were heavy and parking lot held more emptiness than anyone could bare as I drove fast fast to his apartment.

Jessica waited under a carport. Her eyes were small, her eyes were scared.

When I hugged her, she thanked me for picking her up. When I asked if she was okay, she said she was fine. She never said why she had all her clothes in her backpack or if this was the first time.

At first Mom and Dad liked Stanley okay. I met him when Dad cooked us all eggplant parmesan. Stanley was seventeen. He wore a button up shirt. He said lots of yes sirs and no ma’ams.

Jessica had told us he would be bringing his baby and he did. The baby’s eyes were small, her eyes were scared. She cried and cried and cried.

And once he left, Mom said told me she didn’t like how Stanley was not-even-graduated and had a baby. And I knew what Mom meant was not-even-graduated and no-ring-on-his-finger with a baby.

The first time she and Dad did it was their wedding night.

And when Jessica and I were fourteen, fifteen, we bought V-rings and promised we’d stay virgins until our wedding nights. And I know now the V-rings weren’t born for our minds alone.

But I don’t know when Stanley changed. When he went from being that sing-song motion on the backyard swing, to nails and nails and nails making the metal screech.

And once Dad made shrimp pasta for dinner. And Jessica and I stood in the kitchen, the fan ticking off its rocker.  And I remember the light spinning on her face. And under her eye, a yellow bruise.

And I asked her what happened. She said she fell going down the stairs.

And she’s never been good at lying. But I believed her because falling was too cliché, as unbelievable as Britney really asking some guy to hit her again.

Because, of course, Nana. Jessica and I knew better than to let guys pull back their fists, let them swing.

And one night at Nana’s house, Jessica locked herself in the bathroom. She thought everyone was sleeping. I heard her go and my eyes opened wide like street lamps. I was scared. So I snuck out of bed, crept to the bathroom door.

And her crying stopped my feet. And I listened to her cry, her sobs holding more emptiness than I could stand as she begged Stanley to take her back. Please please please please please, she said. Over and over and over.

I know there were many times she cried in a bathroom, please please pleasing Stanley not to break up with her.

And I still don’t know how or why they finally did break up. If she left him or if he kicked her out for good. I was in Costa Rica, living in a house fenced with barbed wire and glass, when Mom told me. When I came home, Jessica only told me they’d gotten a restraining order.

And once Jessica and I were dancing at a club called Heaven. Across the bright, drunken faces, she saw Stanley. Jessica said “we have to go now.” And we did.

And once, years later, Mom said “he almost killed my baby girl” and her lip shook.

And once, years later, under the fan blades and the light, Jessica told me that Stanley beat her. Sometimes it was just because she took too long putting gas in the car.

And I don’t know how to ask Jessica about the rest. So our silence rocks back and forth between us. And there are no streetlamps. Just an emptiness we’ve learned to stand. And my imagination colors in all the empty space with dull metal and broken glass.

Laura Zak calls Lubbock, Texas her homeland. She now lives in Moscow Idaho and has realized the most striking similarity between Lubbock and Moscow is their respective spots in their respective state’s panhandles. Laura enjoys to cook with pans that have handles, is in her third year at the University of Idaho’s MFA program studying creative nonfiction. If she had to describe her writing, she would say that she’s interested in exploring sexuality, desire, play, and magical worlds.

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts March 3-5, 2017.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Addiction, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Surviving

To The Girl Whose Mom Just Died From Drugs: It’s Not Your Fault

January 11, 2017
drugs

By Lisa Fogarty

Before you watched her unravel, bit by bit for all 17 years you’ve been on Earth; before she pulled the plugs on people and places until there was just an empty room and her in it; and long before she died from the complications of a debilitating drug addiction, your mother was a little girl with skinny legs and a laugh like a solar eclipse.

We were friends, but more like cousins. She’d sit on her twin bed cross-legged and stare into my eyes with feline expectation. She wasn’t another aloof victim of my generation’s casual contempt for everything. She was a mental vagabond who once got homesick after a weekend away, which should have been our first clue that this world would never give her what she needed. She was too thirsty to be happy, but had a fat laugh that stayed nourished throughout her life-long drought, a laugh independent of joy and one that made the entire room quake with the force of her freedom.

Before she saw too much, your mother was almost infuriatingly naive at times, hiding cigarette butts and cheap trinkets from boys in an Aldo’s shoebox beneath her bed. She stashed dollar bills in there, too, and no matter how desperate she was to split a $4 calzone from the pizzeria on Lefferts Boulevard, she’d let us both starve before touching the money she was saving to buy a Ferrari. On the weekends I slept over we watched Friday Night Videos and I made fun of her for shushing me when sappy songs came on. One Saturday afternoon in October we got caught in a rainstorm. She was 14 and failing math class. “Let’s stay out!” she shouted with a laugh that had grown threatening enough to challenge the sky. We roamed through the neighborhood like stray cats, sticking our heads under drainpipes. She had a way of making you feel like there was no better way to spend your last day on Earth than washing your hair in cold rain. Continue Reading…

Adoption, Family, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Living the Mother

December 28, 2016

By Anne Heffron

My mother asked for me to read Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes at her funeral. I cried when I got to the last stanzas, not because they rang true, but because I felt devastated that, even from the grave, my mother wasn’t telling the truth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

This is the story I grew up with: after my mother had gone to Smith, she’d gone to New York and had gotten a job as a fact checker for Reader’s Digest. She listened to Kennedy give his “ask not what your country can do for you speech” and was inspired to do something she felt would help the world, and so she joined the Peace Corps and went to Nigeria. Shortly after arriving, she wrote a post card to a friend that described the conditions of Ibadan:

Dear Bobbo: Don’t be furious at getting a postcard. I promise a letter next time. I wanted you to see the incredible and fascinating city we were in. With all the training we had, we really were not prepared for the squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions rampant both in the city and in the bush. We had no idea what “underdeveloped” meant. It really is a revelation and after we got over the initial horrified shock, a very rewarding experience. Everyone except us lives in the streets, cooks in the streets, sells in the streets, and even goes to the bathroom in the streets. Please write. Marge. P.S. We are excessively cut off from the rest of the world.

 

The next day there was an uprising because my mother had dropped the card instead of getting it into the mailbox, and a Nigerian student had found it. The Nigerians protested the Americans and my young mother almost brought down her beloved President’s cherished organization.

My mother was sent into hiding and then flown home where my father met her at the airport and asked her to marry him. And so supposedly that was her happily ever after moment.

Continue Reading…

Current Events, feminism, Guest Posts

The Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland

December 20, 2016
survival

By Amy Reardon

“You are blocking everyone’s progress!” I screamed. It was 8am and the construction worker was backing his pickup truck onto the sidewalk, blocking my running path and making it impossible for cars to pass on the street next to us. Rush hour in Denver, the morning after Election Day, and he was everything that was wrong with the world. The air was thick and still with smog.

I had my next line ready and waiting for his response.

“The women of this country are pissed, and you had better get used to it!” I planned to say, but I didn’t get the chance because after my first salvo, he stepped out of the truck in jeans and work boots. He lifted up his hands.

“I’m really sorry, ma’am, I just have to unload the drywall,” he said, and I could see from his face he was not out to bury the women of this country after all.

The day before, on Election Day, I awoke absolutely 100% sure we would be electing our first female president. That morning I floated outside for my run and looked up at the blue sky and white puffy clouds. Today everything changes, I thought. Today begins a new conversation on the global stage, one in which the President of the United States calls out anyone in her path who dismisses, interrupts, overrules, condescends, mansplains*, excludes, objectifies, usurps, negates, demeans, shoots down, shuts down, steals from, shames women for their biology or otherwise bangs on with the same old tired tags, emotional and weak. The leader of the free world will systematically reject the devaluation of women and give birth to a new model of behavior that will slowly permeate our homes, schools and institutions, like water runs under a door and slowly floods a room.

I imagined dinner tables, office water coolers and Starbucks coffee shops across America, where it would become commonplace to quote our president’s candid responses to pompous windbags who publicly dismissed her ideas. This would open the door for all of us to do the same. As I ran along listening to Sia’s voice sing “Titanium” on repeat – I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away – I jumped up and punched a fist into the air.

All day Election Day, I walked around in this magical new world. My back was straighter, my head higher, my shoulders open. I made eye contact and grinned at the people in the elevator. I felt empowered to take up space because I knew, KNEW, our new president would have our backs. When a tall, broad shouldered man in a suit and tie barreled down the sidewalk outside my office in my path and refused to move his line, I held mine. His shoulder slammed into me as he passed, and I smiled at my feet and thought, no dude, we share the sidewalk now.

See that’s precisely what I had wrong. I was waiting for our first female president to give me permission to take up my own space. Girlfriends, we are never going to be treated as equals while we expect someone else to do it for us. HRC has never waited for anyone to give her permission to do anything. Do you think the dictators and despots of the world wanted to meet with a female Secretary of State? No. But she got off her airplane in whatever crazy corner of the world she had business, walked her pantsuit into his golden palace or high-security bunker or mountainside retreat and took a seat at the table. Every day of her life.

We women did not invent this mindset, the idea that someone else was going to protect us and fight our battles: it’s called a patriarchal society. Now, this is the point in the conversation where I always lose my male friends. They immediately move into fight-or-flight mode, assuming I’m accusing them of something, and I am not. We built this society together, in farm houses and covered wagons and log cabins and bedrooms and boardrooms, for better or for worse, generation after generation after generation.

Anthropologists suggest the roots of the patriarchy began about 6,000 years ago, when humankind moved from the egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies into agriculture and domestication. In a patriarchy, the male steps in as head of the house, providing for and protecting the women and children. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

It took the defeat of my long-time hero to realize my mistake: when I wanted my president to fight for my station in life and then turn around and hand it to me, I was doing it again. The day we lost the election was the day I formally withdrew my participation in the patriarchy. Today I ask you to join me.

As such, I present the Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland. Think this plan might not be for you? Read on, sisters.

Raise your hand if like me, you crave approval. Remember when kind old grandpa patted you on the head and said run along and be a good girl, and you beamed up at his wrinkled face and wanted to please him so bad you seriously asked yourself, how can I be a better girl?

How many times have I started to pitch an idea at work and been interrupted by a boss who thought he knew more so I deferred and left a great plan unexecuted because I didn’t have the nerve to push back and take the floor again? A million.

A million times I have handed over my voice and my authority to the men around me. It was so easy. I was busy. I had more important things to do, like the serious work of getting my family through the day. Having an opinion amidst the blowhards and one-uppers just didn’t feel like my job. They can have the floor, I thought, how arrogant. And in this silent negotiation, I handed over my leadership, my authority and my voice to the men around me.

Look at how boys are raised: they are pushed out on sports fields and jostled and told to be tough, argue and compete.  Girls are still, to a certain extent, raised to be nice, to get along, to smile, to be the helpers. The boys are told they will have to steer the ship, and they may be thrown into the cold water without a lifejacket so they better figure it out. Girls are offered the choice to opt out.

Ladies, I’m here to suggest we can do better. My favorite author Cheryl Strayed says you only have until you’re 30 years old to blame your parents for what is wrong with your lives, after that it’s on us. So if you’re 30 and you’re not like my friend KB who is president of a global company … if you’re not like my friend Tiffany who just survived a mortal illness to come back and be a mommy again and inspire her entire community with jokes and goodwill … if you don’t identify with the term nasty woman or you’re not sure you need to be a feminist … or if you just really want to be liked, then you might be like me, and sister, I suggest you read on.

Five years ago, I was reading the book, “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman, and I encountered a sentence that moved me to stop writing about other people’s ideas and start writing about my own. He predicted that because women’s lives have changed so much over the last 200 years, the era in which we live is one in which “new institutions, moral systems and practices will begin their first tentative emergence.”

Previously, women had no choice but to spend 100 percent of their lives bearing and raising children, then they died. Then came the industrial revolution, food become plentiful, medical care saved lives and birth control allowed us to step off the baby treadmill. As a result today’s woman now spends only 10 percent of her life bearing and raising children. It is not an exaggeration to say that women’s lives have been transformed. Add to this the good work of the feminists, and we find ourselves in a Consolidation Generation. It’s our job to sort out the new role of women after two centuries of change.

Today I ask you, are we going to allow the patriarchy to define these new institutions, moral systems and practices, or are we going to define them ourselves? It’s time for us to stop being complicit in giving away our own voices, our own authority and our own place in the world.

Now let’s be smart about this. I’m not suggesting an outright revolt against the patriarchy, but what if we simply outgrew it?

Goodness knows the men we love are in consolidation too. They’re expected hold up their own end of our twisted social bargain while at the same time being emotionally intelligent, politically correct co-parents, and somewhere in between getting down on one knee to spring diamonds from their pockets. Our little boys are being medicated because they don’t act more like girls and warned if they’re not careful, they might just become a rapist.

I’m done being nice and keeping my mouth shut. It’s not working. So as American society tilts back toward its patriarchal roots, I present the Good Girls Guide, six simple steps for survival in our new status quo.

Step 1: Find fulfillment.

Whatever interests you, whatever you love, whatever you are good at: get better at it. Practice, read books, listen to podcasts. Find experts to follow who excite you and fill your mind with ideas that move you to closer to mastery. Know more about these ideas than anyone else in the room.

Step 2: Use your voice.

Win arguments on these topics, every time.  Fight to the end because when you assert your opinion, you claim your place on the leadership committee, and that is where we need to be. Have one or two or three or four topics in which you are the master – be they mergers & acquisitions or global warming or potty training or neighborhood building codes or software development kits. Speak up every time. The world needs your voice.

Step 3: Take up space.

DO NOT ASK PERMISSION. DO NOT ANNOUNCE YOUR INTENTION. DO NOT GET MAD. DO NOT EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO GIVE IT TO YOU. Just take your space: it was yours the whole time. It was never someone else’s to give. Does this scenario sound familiar? You sit down in an airplane seat and the guy next to you has his whole arm on the armrest, and even though you wanted some armrest, you put your hands in your lap, and you sit there and fume. Stop doing that immediately. Put your arm on the armrest. Hold it there, right against his arm. I’ve tried it, and I assure you, he will share. No talking, no blaming, no asking, no apologizing. JUST TAKE IT. You had it all along.

Step 4: Ask for what you need.

Boys are raised to go out and get what they need. They don’t feel bad and they don’t apologize. If there are five Popsicles and five people, and you are one of the five people, don’t wait until everyone has had one to see if they might want a second. Have a Popsicle. It’s more fun when we all enjoy Popsicles together. If we don’t show our families and co-workers how to treat us, then they get to decide what we deserve.

Step 5. Do not ask for permission.

It is not theirs to give you. If women are going to be treated equally we have to stop asking the world for permission. The power was yours all along. Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “No one can make you inferior without your consent.” Today, we stop giving our consent. In 1992, Gloria Steinem wrote a book in which she called upon women to take all the freedoms they had been given from the feminist movement and step into their own power. Girlfriends, this was 25 years ago. What are we waiting for?

Step 6: Elevate other women.

Sheryl Sandberg and Sallie Krawcheck and the ladies of the White House staff are right when they challenge us to make simple choices every day to support each other, like “amplifying,” the act of repeating other women’s ideas to recognize their contribution. Recently a friend told me a female executive officer at her company came to her to inquire about the leadership bios posted on their website. She wanted to know, shouldn’t the new male officer joining the firm be featured ahead of her? The answer to this question is no. We must also help each other claim our space.

If you’re still wondering whether the Good Girls Guide is for you, here’s a test. Has a father, boyfriend, husband or boss ever called you sweet? If your answer is yes, I suggest it’s time to have a look in the mirror. Sweet is dessert. Dessert is optional, full of empty calories. If people are calling you sweet, I ask you to consider whether you may have handed over your power.

I know what you’re going to say now. We’re tired. And what’s wrong with wanting to be liked? We have to do everything and walk the dog and clean up after the sick child and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Do we really do have to collaborate and make equal contributions and take our rightful share of the armrest too?

And to this I say yes, we do. When the Good Girls of America stop choosing to be dessert, I do believe we will never, ever again have to watch the world’s champion for human rights concede an election. We will never have to sit by and sob while she assures our daughters that they are valuable, powerful and deserving. Our daughters will already know that. Good Girls of Trumpland, let’s get started.

*Credit: Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”

ar-photo

 Amy Reardon is a writer in Denver, CO. She is at work on a novel about how women interact with each other via the Stanford University School of Continuing Studies Online Writing Certificate Program. Amy can be found on Facebook.

 

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

 

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Guest Posts, Patriotism

My Patriot Problem (explained in movies)

November 11, 2016
movies

By Debby Dodds

A loud thumping on the door seemed indistinguishable from the thundering pounding in my own head. All I could think of was that scene in Sixteen Candles with Long Duck hungover, moaning on the ground “…the Donger need FOOD!”

Florence, Italy I told myself as I surveyed my pension bedroom through the watery slits that had previously been my eyes. I slid out of bed and crawled to the door.

In 1992, I wasn’t the wine drinker I am now, so the few glasses I’d had with my new Italian friends tortured me mightily that morning after.

I was backpacking overseas with a new boyfriend, en route to Sardinia where we’d planned to stay with my old boyfriend, with whom I’d never officially broken up. In retrospect, that might have had something to do with my imprudent imbibing the night before.

I opened the door a bit and peered through the crack I’d allowed.

“Your Vice President is an IDIOT! He cannot even spell POTATO! HA!” A fiercely triumphant Roman in a red banana-hammock bathing suit stood outside my door gesticulating with his finger at me.

I pinched the bridge of my nose to try to quell my raging headache. “Carmen? From last night, right?” I vaguely remembered him heartily guffawing at my stories in the common area of the B&B around 2am. I’d been making him guffaw, telling him stories about working at Disney World. He especially enjoyed hearing how some American tourists made it their mission to “drink around the world,” sampling beer or wine at every country pavilion when visiting Disney World’s Epcot Center, but my goal had been to “date around the world” when I worked there, as every country from England to Morocco was staffed exclusively with cast members hired from that country. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Guest Posts, The Body

Nearly

October 27, 2016
weight

By Gavin Colton

173lbs. I just played my final collegiate game. A heavy feeling of “what now?” sinks in in the shape of tears and lingering hugs with players and coaches.

*

187lbs. I lean over the open refrigerator door and stare at the food, healthy and unhealthy, through a teary glaze. Winter break has always been heavy for me, emotionally and physically. My teammates, athletic trainer, and coaches would joke about how much weight I would gain over the break. It was always in good fun – everyone knew from past seasons that by the end of January, I would be back at my “fighting weight” and aesthetically ready for the beaches at our Spring Break destination. But this January feels different. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Race/Racism

I’m Worth More

October 21, 2016
race

By Emma Burcart

My earliest childhood memory is a lesson about race. My dad was going to the local YMCA to work out and I wanted to go with him. As a young child, I had been a swimmer. It’s not something I remember, but I’ve seen enough pictures to prove it: the bikini on the field trip to the fire station, the one piece worn over tights and a turtle neck in cold weather. I wanted to swim and my dad knew how much. When he told me I couldn’t go, it didn’t make any sense. He said we’d have to go with my mother; she could explain our connection. He told me that people wouldn’t believe he was my dad because he was Black and I was white.

Before that day I knew about race; I wasn’t blind. I saw that my dad and grandparents were a different color than my mother and me. It didn’t matter that we weren’t related by blood; there were enough step-parents and blended families that my situation wasn’t unimaginable. What I didn’t understand was the importance of race in the world outside of my family. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, memories, Young Voices

I Miss The Bad Times

October 12, 2016
memories

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Alyssa Limperis

I said goodbye to one of my best friends from college today. He’s leaving NYC and moving west to go to Law School and be closer to his family. I feel sad. Maybe because I knew him when my dad was alive. Maybe because he’s one of the first people I go see when I have something to say. Maybe just because I want more late night, ice-cream-filled hangs. I’m sad to see him go. I’m sad that time keeps moving forward. After losing my dad, I want to hold tightly to everyone I love. I don’t want anyone to leave. Bryan represents my prior life. A life where I was scattered and free and waitressing and not quite sure where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. He represents a time when I was depressed and lost. More than half of our hangs have been me crying to him. I spent so much time with Bryan worried about the future. Upset about the present. Hanging on to something from the past. I spent a lot of time on my phone. A lot of time in my head. I found out he was leaving a week ago and time slowed down. I instantly wanted to spend every minute with him. Digest all of his advice. Appreciate the profound comfort of sharing each other’s company. When time suddenly became limited, I wanted to freeze it and not let it escape. I wanted to go back and relive all of our times together. I suddenly yearned for feeling lost and uncomfortable and unsure. I wanted to be back to the time when I was deeply depressed. I wanted to go back to working doubles at a restaurant and slumping on his stoop in exhaustion on my way home. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Shame

Ancestry of Shame

September 25, 2016
shame

By Elloa Atkinson

I am a descendent in a lineage of shame.

I grew up in a house and a body filled with shame of various colours and flavours, from mild blush pink to angry blood red. The generations who came before me passed the shame along from parent to child, wrapped carefully in the folds of pivotal childhood memories like it was a precious family heirloom.

The shame was toxic and suffocating, yet never spoken aloud.

To name it would have provoked dismissive scorn and mocking tuts, whispered judgements of being “over dramatic,” “ridiculous” “selfish” or “stupid.” Those messages — messages which are as intense as I am — reverberate around inside me even as I write about it.

The first time I remember feeling uncomfortable in my skin was when I was very young. I’ve thankfully remembered over the last 14 years of personal inner work that there was magic in me, but there was also strangeness too — a wariness, a watchfulness, a mistrust in the world and the people in it, a belief that I didn’t quite fit, that I didn’t belong.

By the age of seven, I had begun to feel distinctly awkward in my skin. Stick thin and lanky, I was all bones and angles. I had experienced the gut-wrenching heartbreak of begging my alcoholic mum not to go to the pub, pouring my tiny heart out all over the floor, and her not staying. I had experienced head lice that made mum shriek in disgust, and had been at the mercy of my awkward, jangling limbs kicking a football the wrong way up the pitch at school, prompting my classmates to get angry with me.

I became inwardly rigid, scared and nervous and watchful around other people. There eventually came a point when all this stuff couldn’t just keep building up anymore; it needed somewhere to go.

From the age of around 11 onwards, my life was like a chaotic cocktail of anorexia, social anxiety, uncontrollable blushing, binge drinking, blackouts, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, perfectionism, achievement, chaos, stealing, under-performing, over-functioning, bingeing, spending, self-harm, recklessness and fear.

My body became the enemy, especially when I entered puberty.

It betrayed me on a daily basis, as inescapable as prison. I was powerless. Things kept happening to it, things I couldn’t direct or make sense of. My friend Jenny’s boobs appeared out of nowhere but mine were nowhere to be seen, unless you count the tiny ‘breast buds’ that promised so much and delivered so little. Instead, my body cut countless stretch marks into my inner thighs, then my bum, then behind my knees and even onto my calves. When mum told me they were irreversible, I was so horrified I nearly vomited. How could this be happening to me?

It wasn’t just my body that I hated though; it was me. I hated the way I behaved around my friends. Desperate to fit in, yet never feeling like I really did. Wishing I had the cool, calm confidence of some of the girls at school, yet knowing that the only time I ever felt like that was when I was intoxicated and even then, I couldn’t avoid making an idiot of myself. Aching to feel something other than the perilous uncertainty I felt when I turned the smooth round doorknob of my tutor group classroom each morning, never knowing what would greet me on the other side. Just like at home. Never knowing if the kitchen door would be open (meaning mum would be there), or if it would be closed (meaning the wine would have already started and the monster would be there instead).

On and on it went, layer after layer of shame building up within me like grease and grime accumulating on a kitchen counter until one day you can no longer tell the original colour and texture of it.

I didn’t know back then that I had been born into a family that had, for generations, produced functioning alcoholics, mother-daughter abandonment, secrets and abuse. I knew the odd story here or there about certain family members, and knew about the abuse my mum had experienced as a child, but I had no idea that I was sort of predestined to have a bunch of ancestral crap land on my shoulders, crap that would become beliefs, which would lead to behaviours, which would shape a whole way of life.

Recently I learned that the egg that was to become me was inside my mother’s body when she was inside her mother’s womb. The pioneering work of epigenetics is shedding a whole new light on the concept of multi-generational transmission of trauma. To think that what my grandmother was experiencing when pregnant with my mother could have a direct impact on me is quite astonishing.

Of course, as a little girl I didn’t have the words or concepts to begin to understand what I was experiencing. It leaked out through stories and drawings and phobias and feelings: a crippling fear, a haunting sense of being fundamentally flawed, the sick feeling in my tummy and my bones that something was terribly wrong with me.

For a long, long time, I didn’t know that anyone else on the planet felt like this. I thought it was just me.

And then, aged 18 and three quarters, I hit my first real rock bottom and entered recovery.

Recovery taught me a new language. It was the language of connection, identification and belonging. The relief of discovering that there were people — a lot of people — who felt the way I felt, was incredible. I listened intently and poured my heart out in darkened church halls, the tears never seeming to end. The first twelve months were the hardest, but each stage brought its own challenges and rough seas.

I learned about this strange new thing called “boundaries” from Melody Beattie, Pia Melody and my therapist. I cried thousands of tears in workshops and groups run by Clearmind International Institute. I stepped up into leadership within that organisation, learning how to hold the space for others to process their childhood wounds. For a number of years, my relationship with my family grew distant as I did the daily work of coming home to myself — work which I will write more about in the next three posts. There were months, years even when I barely spoke to my mum. There were times when I felt greatly misunderstood by my family, times when I felt desperate to get away from them, and times when I longed to connect even though I didn’t fully know how.

In the last few years, learning a bit about my family history has played a huge and pivotal part in my journey of coming home. I’ve discovered a family I never knew I had, both in terms of actual people I had no idea about, and in terms of the people I thought I knew but didn’t: both my dads (biological and my dad who brought me up); my mum; my five amazing half-siblings; my grandparents.

I’ve learned that the generations that came before me had their own great triumphs and breakthroughs, but also that my family history is full of loss, sadness, pain, and more loss — as are many people’s families. The endurance of the human spirit is truly astonishing.

Studying my family history for a genogram presentation (essentially a family tree — births, marriages, deaths — plus losses, addictions, neuroses, abuse, dreams, hopes, wishes and relationship patterns) during a counsellor-training program gave the experiences I’d lived through context.

The study helped me see that everything I lived through as a little girl and a young woman, right through to today, did not occur in a vacuum and was not solely of my own making. That in turn helped me forgive myself (something which I have found is both a process and a series of events).

Learning about my mother’s childhood, and her mother’s childhood, and catching a glimpse of her mother’s before her helped me integrate the realisation more deeply that I am truly not alone. Learning about the abandonment on my father’s side of the family helped me understand why he had left my mum when she was pregnant with me.

Gaining the awareness that I am part of a great tapestry of interwoven human lives has paradoxically given me enormous freedom from the bondage of what I inherited.

Today I feel connected to all the women and men who had come before me, and right there, in a state of true connection, is the one place where shame cannot survive. As I uncover the secrets in my family’s legacy, I come to a deeper understanding of the places in my own life where I was driven to secrecy through shame.

And as the days, weeks, months and years pass, I continue on my path, deepening my connection to myself. For me, that also means deepening my connection to my family, coming to see that what is not an extension of love contains a cry for it. I understand and respect that many people cannot be in relationship with their family of origin. For me, being an active member of the system is the right decision. It is one of the gifts of adulthood to be able to exercise the right to make this decision. Today I choose to be part of a new legacy and a new lineage, breaking the chains that bind.

I no longer identify as being “in recovery.” Today this is simply how I live: as consciously, honestly and lovingly as possible. And bit by bit, I continue to learn how to come home to myself.

Elloa_Atkinson-Elloa_Atkinson_-_High_Res-138

Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project. A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years’ experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles
12109010_10153307028458406_4053769942114712730_n

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 2 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff at her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human in London Oct 1st and Dallas Oct 22. Click the links above to book. No yoga experience needed- just be a human being! Bring a journal and a sense of humor. See why People Magazine did a whole feature on Jen.

 

Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

Check out Jen in People Magazine!

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Young Voices

How to Make Peace with a Dead Woman

September 21, 2016
peace

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Jessica Domer

How to make a peace with a dead woman. Step One: Have a psychic medium give you messages from your dead mother and grandmother. Step Two: Go to a really good therapist. Step Three: Do a lot of yoga and meditative chi running. Step Four: Write an essay.

When I was five years old, I saw my mother for the last time. She walked out the door, leaving my father, brother, sister and I in her wake. When I say my mother walked out on me, I mean she quite literally shut the door as I was looking in her eyes, pleading her to stay. She said nothing. And I knew, in that moment, that I would never see my mother again. It turned out that, although I was a young girl, my intuition was correct. My mother died several years later without ever returning to visit. She died as we were planning a trip to come see her on her deathbed. She died the day before her birthday, which I always felt was an irony that was suited to be the last scene of her very unfulfilled life. Continue Reading…

Book Excerpts, Guest Posts

Book Review: Asana of Malevolence

September 6, 2016
asana

By Kelly J. Riibe

The dark back-stories for the players in Kate Abbott’s thriller, Asana of Malevolence, could all have their own novellas. Each character has a crippling past that continues to haunt them as they try to move forward in life in order to find forgiveness for themselves and the others who have hurt them.

This is Abbott’s second novel, and as an instructor of yoga she introduces and writes about the discipline in a way that makes it almost a character in itself. Through yoga, Sharon, Amy, Evan, and Sean were able to find peace from different traumas and begin a road to recovery. For them the retreat to “The Garden” was meant to be a celebratory excursion in which they could grow in their yoga spirit and find a calming reassurance to life’s dark side. However, upon arrival they soon realize the retreat is being led by a manic leader with cult-like intentions.

Phoebe and Moses are hikers on a backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail when they encounter Sharon, Amy, Evan, and Sean trying to escape. Phoebe and Moses understand the feeling of loss, and immediately want to help these damaged souls who are fighting their past guilt, while simultaneously trying to come to terms with the hijacking of what was supposed to be a peaceful yoga retreat. It is heartbreaking to read that yoga aided each of these characters in processing their past grief and sadness, but then ultimately led them to a destination that offered only torture and fear.

The retreat leader, Larry, is a power obsessed man with an evil past. He will stop at nothing to control others. He feeds on weakness and vulnerability, which makes all those within Abbott’s story targets for his wicked plans. Larry’s relentless pursuit to make others serve him casts a long dark shadow over “The Garden” and the spirit of yoga.

“The Garden” is a rich backdrop to the story’s plot and Abbott describes it beautifully. The solitude of the area and the long distance of trails and wooded paths, cause the main characters to participate in an involuntary game of hide and seek with deadly consequences for being found. The characters must make tough decisions in their attempts to escape the reach of evil that is extending from what was once a calm and serene place. Very few locals live near the “The Garden”, but those who do prove to be worthy allies.

Unbreakable bonds of friendship are formed quickly in Asana of Malevolence, especially as the characters face acts of violence. The need to escape is urgent from the very start of the book. However, the ability to trust others is tough for many in this story due to their history of struggles and heartache. The characters grapple with seeking help that could ultimately put innocents in danger’s way. Throughout every chapter, a person is being tested, while having very few options in terms of survival.

Inner strength, and a little help from the paranormal, guide all of the characters in this page-turning read. Their quest to flee Larry’s control and also escape their own demons will keep readers engaged until the end.

****

Excerpt from Asana of Malevolence:

Sean had a rumbling in his left ear.  He could feel the ground beneath him and the sun beating down on him.  He tried to open his eyes but the light was blinding.  He wasn’t in any pain.  The last thing he could recall was someone injecting something into his foot.  But he didn’t feel high, or like he was coming down from something.  Maybe he was actually dead and the blinding light was heaven.   But he didn’t believe in God.  Something soft brushed against the left side of his face.  He reached up and something bit his hand ever so gently.

He forced himself to open his left eye.  It wasn’t quite as bright now because something was blocking his vision.   He heard an unmistakable meow and closed his eyes as tightly as he could.  Definitely dead.  That corny Rainbow Bridge poem had turned out to be true.  How else could Titus be there?   Reluctantly he opened both eyes this time.  Titus was still there, staring him in the face and purring.  Sean pulled himself up into a seated position and the cat hopped onto his lap.  He petted him and examined him closely.  White-tip on the tail, one paw missing a toe and that terrible Titus breath.

Sean looked around him.  Somehow, heaven was a dirt road in front of a double wide trailer.  Funny version of Saint Peter’s gate, but who knew?  The double wide appeared abandoned but suddenly the door popped open and an enormous woman with waist length grey hair stepped out, the little porch sagging under her weight.

“Are you God?” Sean asked.

For some reason, God found this extremely amusing.  She threw her head back and laughed uproariously, exposing remarkably white teeth.

“Oh, no, Sugah,” she gasped as she tried to stop laughing.  “Farthest thing from God is old me here.”   Another peal of laughter.

She stepped down onto the ground and waddled over to Sean.

She peered at him closely.  Sean wondered if she needed glasses.

“Mah name is Prudence.  Whatcha got there?  A cat?  Cute looking thang but they makes me sneeze.”  Prudence immediately sneezed twice as if to make a point.

“This is Titus.”  He pointed at the cat.  The entire conversation seemed absurd to him but he kept going.  “And I’m Sean.”

“Nice ta meetcha,” Prudence said, extending her hand and hauling Sean to his feet with surprising strength.

Prudence looked him up and down.

“What happened to your other shoe?  You only wearin one.”

He could only shrug.  He was dead, after all.  Why would he need shoes?  Titus jumped off his lap and darted up the road and into the bushes.  The cat emerged shortly with Sean’s other Nike.

“Well don’t that jest beat all?”  Prudence chortled.  “He a smart one.”

Her face turned serious as she asked him what he had done to piss off that no account who dumped him in front of her house.   Prudence had heard the car but hadn’t ventured outside because she thought it might have been the owner of the double wide, come back to kick her out again.   When she finally peered out the window, Sean was on the ground and a silver car was disappearing in a cloud of dust.

“I though you was dead,” Prudence concluded.  “You wasn’t movin, hardly even breathin.”

“You mean I am not dead?”

“No, Sugah, you right here wit me.  Live as can be.”

“Well, I’m supposed to be dead.  That guy, he shot me up with something that should have killed me.  I’m an addict.”

“Maybe that jest give you more tolerance.  You bring dat cat wit you?”

“No.”  He opened his mouth to explain that the cat had been his some years ago and was probably dead but he realized that information would only add to the confusion.  Instead, he asked how far they were from Charlotte.

“Oh, fity, hunnerd miles or so, I expect.”

“Is there a bus, or a train station around here?  I need to get back there.”   He patted his pockets.  For some reason, Chad had not taken his wallet or ID.  Maybe he wanted Sean identified.  He felt a sudden stab of worry for Mary Alice.  He hoped Betty had gone to find Mary Alice when Sean hadn’t shown up at the agent’s office.

“My nephew, he live up the road aways, past where the blacktop start.  He might could give you a ride.”

“That would be great.”   Sean reached down to put his shoe on and felt a wave of lightheadedness so strong that he had to sit down quickly.

“You ok?   Maybe you needs something to drink or your sugar low.  Dat happen to me a lot.”

Prudence lumbered up the steps of the trailer and came back with a carton of orange juice and a box of powdered donuts.  Sean gulped and chewed and he did feel better, although he was sure he would be crashing in thirty minutes.

“So, how far up to your nephew’s place?” he asked at last.

“Oh it fur nuff.  I ride you up dere.”

She disappeared around the side of the trailer and then he heard the sputter of an engine.   She reappeared around the side of the trailer riding an ancient motorcycle with a side car.

“Now make sure you brings dat cat wid you.  I don’t need anyone else beggin me for food at my door.”

Sean eyed his chauffer.  She appeared remarkably comfortable.  Sean got into the sidecar and Titus hopped up beside him.    Prudence tore down the dirt road, rattling Sean’s teeth.  The engine belched exhaust but it ran fine.   About fifteen minutes later, the dirt turned to blacktop and there were houses visible.    Prudence turned into the driveway of a small white ranch.  The door to the house opened and two kids ran out.

***

Asana of Malevolence is available now through the publisher at: https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/fiction/asana-of-malevolence/ and on Amazon here.

Kelly J. Riibe is a freelance writer, blogger, and full-time mother to three kids. She has been published in Nebraska Magazine, Heels on a Farm, MockMom, and is the co-writer for the blog:www.familyfootnote.com.

Kate Abbott is a mother, runner, yoga instructor and recovering attorney who delights in writing from the dark and bright sides of the heart. Her first novel is Running Through the Wormhole. Asana of Malevolence is her second novel. Her writing has appeared in Mamalode and Sammiches and Psych Meds.
Email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book this online experience.

Email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book this online experience.

 

1508069_10153560824560914_4746311828457884339_n-1

Guest Posts, motherhood

Building Walls, Or A Guide To Mothering

September 5, 2016
child

By Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser 

When one of my kids hurts: I want to make everything better. I’ve felt that way since they were tiny. Pat the backs, rub the tummies, and kiss away the tears.

Help isn’t so simple as a desire to offer it, though. I’ve learned this the hard way. You are only as happy as your most unhappy child. That’s a cliché that proves, in so many ways, correct. To grasp someone’s unhappiness is to develop not only empathy, but also strong holding muscles. In order to bear sadness yet not bow to it or get wholly bowled over by it, muscle walls must remain sturdy.

When my kid hurts, I don’t feel like holding strong. I feel like disintegrating into a powdery pulverization of sadness right alongside my child. I can’t cave in like sand at water’s edge every time a wave crashes. When someone’s hurting there are too many waves for everyone to disintegrate every time. Someone has to just hold—what? I guess to hold an understanding of the rhythms until that tossed about person can find a new place to stand, a little further from the ocean’s edge. Feelings require many things, and one is the ability to ride them out.

For a long time, my body leapt into fight or flight—adrenaline burst impulse of panic whenever I became aware of how deeply my child suffered. Flooded, I couldn’t calm my own fears. Continue Reading…