Browsing Category

And So It Is

And So It Is, Grief, Guest Posts

Grief Averted in Paris.

October 20, 2014
jennifersimpson-inParis

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jennifer Simpson.

I was lounging in bed listening to “Morning Edition” on my local public radio station. It was April 15. Tax day. But I wasn’t worried about that–I’d filed an extension. And I wasn’t awake enough yet to remember that it was the anniversary of my father’s death eight years earlier, though I’d remembered it in the days before.

When the phone rang I let the machine pick up. I hadn’t had coffee, but the message Joe left was more of a jolt than even the strongest espresso could have offered.

“Hi Jenn, this is Joe. [pause] Everything’s okay [pause] but I just need to update you on a situation about your sister.”

Debby has known Joe and his partner Mike since the 80s when they were in training together to become flight attendants. I’d spent the occasional Thanksgiving with them, shared countless dinners out, and celebrated a couple of monumental birthdays: Debby’s 40th, and more recently, Debby’s 50th.

His voice sounded calm, but Joe never calls me, so I knew something was wrong.

Potentially very wrong. Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Guest Posts, Jen Pastiloff

Share Your Manifesto.

September 28, 2014
942488_728746237159301_371855215_n

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

Hello from Canyon Ranch in The Berkshires of Massachusetts, where I’m the guest speaker this week!photo

My workshop in NYC at Pure Yoga was so beautiful yesterday. I did an exercise where everyone wrote their manifestos and spoke them aloud. I promised to post a segment on my site where people could post their manifestos so here it is. This is my manifesto that I wrote quite a few months back. Add yours in the comment section. I cannot wait to read them all! And yes, I think I will be back in NYC to do another workshop in March! Continue Reading…

And So It Is, healing, Video, Vulnerability

Video: Are You Willing To Surrender When Necessary?

July 22, 2014

Are You Willing To Surrender When Necessary?

Surrender!

I finally made a video again! Today’s vlog is on Surrender. Such a beautiful word, isn’t it?

Where can you surrender in your life? Where can you stop fighting or pushing?

I missed doing my videos. Feel free to share and post below your thoughts on surrender. Pants by Nina.B.Roze Active Apparel.and the “Write Like a Motherfucker Mug” by The Rumpus (Cheryl Strayed’s line from “Dear Sugar.”)  See you next weekend Seattle!

Continue Reading…

And So It Is, beauty, guest post

Personal Story in 100 Words.

July 15, 2014

Personal Story in 100 Words by Elissa Wald.*

Earlier this week, I was filling out an application for freelance work at a copywriting agency, and one of the sections said: “Tell us your personal story in 100 words.”

My answer was this:

“These are the aphorisms I live by. I wrote them all:

Suffering doesn’t build character; the resolve to wrest something redemptive from suffering is what builds character. Bitterness might be justified but it’s never attractive. You don’t have to feel the right thing, you just have to do the right thing. Lust makes us all ridiculous. The human heart is very perverse. Be as generous as you can: it’s the most selfish thing you can do. Ritual is at the center of spiRITUALity. Love letters are the point of life. With the right light, any window can become a mirror.”

 

*Note from Jen: What would your personal story be in 100 words? Post in comment section below.

 Elissa Wald is the author of "The Secret Lives of Married Women" (Hard Case Crime), "Meeting The Master: Stories of Mastery, Slavery and the Darker Side of Desire" (Grove Press), and a novel, "Holding Fire: A Love Story" (Context Books). Her work has also been published in several journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine.

Elissa Wald is the author of “The Secret Lives of Married Women” (Hard Case Crime), “Meeting The Master: Stories of Mastery, Slavery and the Darker Side of Desire” (Grove Press), and a novel, “Holding Fire: A Love Story” (Context Books). Her work has also been published in several journals and anthologies, including Beacon Best of 2001, Creative Nonfiction, The Barcelona Review, The Mammoth Book of Erotica, Nerve: Literate Smut, The Ex-Files: New Stories about Old Flames, and Brain, Child Magazine.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

image courtesy of Simplereminders and Bryant McGill.

image courtesy of Simplereminders and Bryant McGill.

And So It Is, Guest Posts

Late Bloomer.

June 16, 2014

LATE BLOOMER by Suzy Vitello.*

Suzyat2

So, today is my birthday. I’m 53. Yup. Fifty-fucking-three.

If I lived 100 years ago, I’d probably have false teeth by now.

And other hideous afflictions.

Thing is, in the possibility sector of my brain, I’m no different than I was as a teenager, sitting on my bed, staring at my red-and-white striped wallpaper, dreaming up various lives for myself.

When I was 22, living in Syracuse, New York, on year number five of school (I had this tendency to open up the class catalog and pick-a-major, any-major: English, Hindi, Anthropology, Communications, Dietetics. In that order. Just paid off my undergrad debt a few years ago), there was this long claw-foot bath soak where I dreamt up a life in which I’d change my name to Rose and live in Paris. Yup, pretty cliché.

But then the winter came, and Syracuse has this condition called “squalls” that last until May, and my second senior year there were lots and lots of squalls. So, one day, I picked up an issue of Cosmo. At the time, the magazine ran these features called “What it’s Like to Live and Work in ___.” February, 1984 the focus was on Phoenix. I read the piece in a café trying to wait out the squall, and in the twenty minutes it took for the sideways, pelting snow to abate, I’d decided that come graduation, I was moving to the desert. That’s right! A place I’d never even considered before, but hey! I was graduating with a degree in therapeutic nutrition, and there were lots of old people in Phoenix who might need a person to counsel them on low cholesterol diets. Certainly, I’d find a good job there, right?

I moved to Phoenix with my first husband and a mutt named Mandy in July of ‘84. July! In an un-airconditioned Dodge Colt. And, sure enough, I found employment. Of the minimum wage variety. A series of shitty jobs – the worst of which was as a cocktail waitress in a retirement community. The only “counseling” I did was to slap the liver-spotted hands of octogenarians who were pinching my ass.

When I look back on the three Phoenix years, I see them as this sort of interstitial purgatory. Despite having written since I was eight, during those young adult years in the desert, I cracked not one book or journal. I channeled my creative energy into banal stuff like stenciling borders on the walls of my house (remember that craze?), and making jewelry out of fimo clay (yet another craze).

But here’s my point:

I’ve been stop-start writing since third grade. As a kid, I first learned the word prosaic, a term my mother ascribed to my first work of lyricism. I offer said poem herewith:

Spring

Spring is when the flowers bloom.

With snow gone, there’s lots of room.

Birds chirping while building their nests.

When mother-bird takes her turn, father-bird rests.

The tip-tap of rainfalls,

the sound of mate calls,

is spring.

While my mother critiqued the piece, finding nothing poetic in it at all save for the onomatopoeic tip-tap, my third grade teacher, a square-shaped, red-headed battle axe of a woman named Mrs. Angle, held the effort up in front of the class, and read it out loud as though it were coated in honey. I enjoyed an entire week of popularity. Mrs. Angle, having scolded me for daydreaming on my report card, redeemed me by pronouncing me a Writer!

My mother, however, wanted me to try again. And, bless her heart, she was right. But I never did return to that poem, instead, I moved to prose, and never looked back until, in Freshman English at Syracuse, I was asked to write a paper on Eliot’s Prufrock. That may have been my first real immersive experience with a body of work, and was cause for another teacher-fawning moment—which, I must admit, I lived for.

But with all of that praise comes the fear of failure. When someone loves something you did, you’re bound to disappoint them next time. So I took up with science and home economics (to this day, I’m the shittiest cook I know, and forget about the other domestic arts) and became a nutritionist. All the while, stories stewed inside me. Through much of my twenties, I scribbled things on scraps of paper, which I often destroyed, thinking that I might die in an accident, and they’d be found. And read!

At twenty-eight, as a young widow with two babies and a small pile of cash, I moved to Portland and jumped into the deep end. Teachers or no, I learned how to write for an audience that included myself. I began to submit my stories to journals and to get them published. I won some awards. I went back to school for an MFA and won more awards. But I just couldn’t crack the “book” thing, and I had to admit to myself that part of the problem was, I was still wanting to turn that Spring poem into something my mother would like.

A few years ago The New Yorker ran a piece by Malcolm Gladwell, Late Bloomers. The article tossed around a lot of preconceptions about genius and talent and precocity. One of the most interesting points was based upon research done by an economist from the University of Chicago named David Galenson, who undertook the challenge to disprove assumptions about creativity and age, particularly the idea that poets and artists peak young. What he discovered was that prodigies don’t tend to engage in open-ended exploration, and that they are typically concept-driven; they have an idea, and then go for it, rather than painstakingly researching the way many non-prodigies do. In the article, Galenson is quoted as saying, about late bloomers, “Their approach is experimental. Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental.”

In other words, late bloomers are nerdy, and tend to follow a depth of inquiry ad nauseam. Ergo, they might have a manuscript or two in Rubbermaid tubs in their basements.

I took solace in that article. And a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to write something all the way. Something that brought me back to the dream. The idea of possibility and wonder. A snippet of 50+ years of quirky humanity in the form of a character and setting that reflected a piece of myself I was willing to share. And I had to absolutely get over the idea that validation only comes when everyone loves your art. But before I could overcome that, I had to admit that I’d been holding back because of it.

My debut book came out in January, and another one is being published in a couple of months.

For me, all the meandering has been part of my process. I’m a percolator, who drips many false starts into the carafe. Undrinkable sludge. So many versions of various lives. So many manuscripts on floppy discs in landfills. But the kernel of truth lives inside of failure. Oh, I know, that’s quite a platitude. I feel icky even writing it, though I firmly, firmly believe it.

I’m fifty-three. I think I have twenty more novels in me. At least.

And my grandmother is about to celebrate her 102nd birthday, so there’s that.

 

Suzyat52

_______

About Suzy Vitello: As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group” (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. THE MOMENT BEFORE is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson, and teaches workshop and classes periodically. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.

 Poster by SimpleReminders.com Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info


Poster by SimpleReminders.com
Pre-order their book (which I am in!!): www.SimpleReminders.info

 

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and author Emily Rapp will be leading a writing retreat to Vermont in October. Visit  jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

 

*Jen met Suzy when she flew (broken foot and all) to Portland to take a writing workshop with Suzy and Lidia Yuknavitch. Jen is totally obsessed and madly in love with with Suzy and recommends all writers to take a class with her. New Yorkers! Suzy has a workshop in Warwick NY on September 5/6. You might also find Jen there. You should go. Just sayin’.

 

And So It Is, Eating Disorders/Healing, healing, Hearing Loss

Betrayals. By Jen Pastiloff.

June 9, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

 

Well, there’s the big one.

My father coming home with chocolate covered marshmallows for me on July 14, 1983 before changing into his hideous frayed jean shorts and a yellow Cancun t-shirt with the faded sun across it. Then, on July 15, smoking his last cigarette and quietly exiting out of his contract as a parent without so much as a goodbye. Death doesn’t always allot for goodbyes. I get that. But still, a betrayal, nonetheless. Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, writing

Tips and Ass. By Amy Ferris.

April 23, 2014

Tips And Ass. By Amy Ferris.

talk about ONE song bringing back a flood of memories.
rubberband man

welcome to my memory.

once upon a time, like many, many, many years ago, i danced topless for one night.

years ago.
years.
ago.

for one night.

i was working a temp job which i got from a temp agency, and i was asked by the temp agency to not return to my temp job as in “don’t ever, ever come back.”

long story. bad experience.
i also waitressed.
then the restaurant closed.

it was the universe telling me i needed to expand my horizons.
you know, be bold, audacious, be big, huge … jump.

leap. go for broke.

the thing i loved about waitressing was the tips. i loved that at the end of the night i had cash. a tiny little wad of cash. and so, i thought, “geez… what kinda job can i get with tips?”

after a few weeks (okay, maybe days) of trying to find another waitressing job… (waitressing was HOT back then, and most folks i knew waited tables), a bulb went off. albeit, a dim one…

“i know, i’ll try topless dancing.”

before you go to the whoa, whoa, whoa place — dancing topless is in a completely different (okay, slightly different) category than say stripping, and/or lap dancing. you needed an agent to get a topless gig. my very first, and only ‘dancing’ agent, was right out of central casting: heavy-set, her lids coated with baby blue eye-shadow. a long strawberry blonde wig. she was tough, she was crude, she said “youse” a lot, and …

… she got me a job dancing topless at juniors in brooklyn.

juniors in brooklyn i asked with excitement? are you kidding me, juniors… oh my god, you got me a job at juniors in brooklyn? i was so excited, i could barely contain myself.

no, no…no… not that juniors, whatdya nuts? she said, this a joint, a bar, a small little fucking bar… that’s a famous cheesecake place.

hmmm, i said really two places in brooklyn named juniors? that seems kinda … you know, weird.

you want the job she asked cause i have other girls dyin’ fuckin’ dyin’ to dance.
tips and a meal. that’s what you get. tips and a meal.

TIPS!

this juniors was a small corner dive bar in brooklyn, honest to god, just a couple of blocks from hell & high-water.

and for the record: i didn’t wanna be a ‘professional’ dancer. just as i never wanted to be a professional bowler. it’s just, i loved dancing, and i figured, what the hell, i’ll make a few bucks… a few of my friends – okay acquaintances – were dancing topless at night, and going on auditions during the day. i was young. i was wild. i was adventurous. i was also a size 3, and was very happily & thoroughly delighted to be a size 32 A cup. i was small. i was firm. and no, i could not twirl my breasts counter clockwise to save my life. but there i was – a ton of make-up, my long curly hair falling in front of my blue mascara-ed eyelashes – dancing, shaking, trying desperately to be sexy, while dancing on top of – THAT’S RIGHT, ON TOP OF – the bar in HEELS as the song rubberband man played over & over & over & over again on the juke box.

i was sweating, i was dancing, and yes, yes…i was a freak show with royal blue mascara dripping down my hot pink cheeks.

i was one of three girls dancing that night.

the two other girls – women – had 8 x 10 framed glossies in the front window, with x’s and o’s and kisses, their names signed on their glossies. their breasts were big, huge, and man, could they twirl. holy shit, could they twirl. they could bend and twirl and these women wore sequins and pasties, and their hair was sprayed and didn’t move. not one inch. not one hair on their head moved when they danced the night away.
they did not sweat.
their names were barbie & sissy.
they were professional dancers.

they made a lot of money that night. they were able to grab the bills – and yes, hold the bills – between their breasts. in their cleavage. and then they would twirl & dip & dance with the money. they laughed & twirled, and they could sing along with tito puente.

i had no cleavage.
i made no money.
i didn’t give a shit about rubberbands.
and i didn’t know who tito was.

i had to borrow money to get home.

barbie & sissy went on to sell their sequins thong’s and pasties on e-bay. they made a fortune.
and, yes, they probably even collect residuals from their breasts.

my agent fired me. she called me and told me that since i couldn’t pick up the cash with my cleavage i had no future in topless dancing.

hmmm, i thought, let me see if i can do something with this useful information and so…

… i learned how to pick up pens & pencils.

and that’s how i got my first literary agent.

 

Image

Amy Ferris: Author. Writer. Girl.
blog: www.marryinggeorgeclooney.com
Book: Dancing at The Shame Prom, sharing the stories that kept us small – Anthology, Seal Press (2012) co-edited with Hollye Dexter
Book: Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis, Seal Press (2010)

*****

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, Salon, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Modern Loss, xojane, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

 

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner.

March 26, 2014

All I Need to Know About Self Love I Learned from a Kindergartner. By Amy Roost.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. I send my editor a column knowing full well that most of the intended audience will never read it. And for those who do take the time, many won’t care and many more won’t like what I have to say.

And that’s fine because I don’t measure success by the number of people who read or like what I write. Rather I consider myself successful if what I share eases the way for just one reader.

And so it is with this hope that I share a story of abuse and recovery.


Between the ages of approximately 5 and 8, I was sexually abused by my brother nine years older than me. He told me he would kill me if I ever spoke a word of his transgressions to our parents. I believed him and followed orders until I was 16.

Our family was gathered for dinner. My brother waited in prey until the most opportune moment when he made a cruel remark about my ass being too big for my chair. It was not the first time he’d substituted verbal abuse for his previous physical abuse, but for whatever reason on this occasion I snapped and ran to my bedroom crying. My mother came to console me but it was no use. I was so hysterical that she wanted to take me to the hospital. I refused. I wailed. I screamed. And finally, I spilled the truth.

She was devastated, as any mother would be who learned that in the anguish and self-absorption of her divorce she had not protected her child. She did not question my story; she did, however, ask me to keep my story “our secret”.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was going through a depressive episode in graduate school, that my mother finally confronted my brother, insisting he apologize for his actions. I vividly remember taking his call: Standing in the kitchen of the brownstone where I lived in New York City staring out a window at the Chinese restaurant below, I heard his small voice utter the words “I’m sorry.”

I’d had dreamed of this moment for years and the satisfaction I’d derive from hurling expletives his way. Instead what I felt was tremendous relief from the heavy veil of secrecy having been lifted and hearing by abuser acknowledge the truth–a truth the veracity of which I ‘d begun to question myself, so long had it remained dormant.

Sexual abuse survivors — and there are millions of us, men and women alike — will recognize this statement. As well as the narrative I’d constructed around my childhood trauma that went something along the lines of: “If you’d kept away from him it never would have happened.” “It was your fault for not telling your parents.” “You liked the attention and let it continue to happen.” Such was the guilt and self-loathing that had become deeply etched in my psyche.

Through counseling and the love of a select few I trusted with my story, I healed in fits and starts until a day not long ago when my whole perspective shifted.

I was babysitting a neighbor’s 5-year-old daughter. We made animal shadows on the wall and she squealed with delight every time I used my best ventriloquist’s voice to make the shadows “talk.” We laughed so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. She looked up at me concerned and reached to wipe my tears away. “Don’t cry,” she said. “It’ll be OK.” And that’s when it hit me: the 5-year-old me could no more have caused what my brother had done than this innocent loving child next to me could cause harm to herself.

Writing: It’s a numbers game. Many of you will think this story TMI. But perhaps one person will recognize her experience in what I’ve shared and feel more connected, less lonely. It is for her that I write.

Amy Roost is executive director of Silver Age Yoga and a multi-dimensional freelancer.

Click photo to connect with Amy.
Click photo to connect with Amy.

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Click here to connect with Amy.

***

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a retreat to Ojai, Calif in May and again over Labor Day weekend. http://jenniferpastiloff.com/Yoga_Retreats_With_Jen_Pastiloff.htmlAll retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up are workshops in Dallas, Seattle then London!! Book here.

 

And So It Is, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, loss, love

Nothing Is Just One Thing. By Elizabeth Crane.

February 6, 2014

Nothing is just one thing.  By Elizabeth Crane.

1557540_10202067927553994_1142040033_n

The last few days have involved a combination of gratitude and morbid reflection.  The inevitable losses that result from addiction somehow still never fail to shock me, though I have not had a drink in nearly twenty-two years and I’ve seen more than a few people die at this point.  It wasn’t until the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman that I thought about how many there have been – which turns out to be too many to count – I keep thinking of others.  Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t, and for me, most of the times, I just don’t want to.  I’ll make up reasons why this one or that one is an exception so that my friends will all live forever, or at least until after I go first.  The people I’ve met in recovery are some of the most phenomenal people I know; some have come back from homelessness and prostitution to build lives they could once barely imagine.  My own drinking story is less dramatic; think of your most self-pitying girlfriend and add in a bunch of booze (whatever was available/free) and poor decision-making and that’s about as interesting as it gets. When I quit, I had reached a point where I imagined going on like that for the rest of my life, maybe never even missing a day of work at the job I hated and for sure never having any more money than I did then (which was in fact, substantially negative), or a relationship that lasted longer than four months, and I saw a way to change that worked for me.

When I was newly sober, Phil was part of a crew of my closest friends.  He wasn’t my closest friend, I want to be clear about that.  We had many delightful conversations, but we weren’t I’ll call you when I get home kind of friends.  We were close with a lot of the same people (who I did call when I got home), and I often saw him on a daily basis.  That was two decades ago.  But it was a critical time in my life.  I cannot overstate how much each person in that group meant to me, then and now; we were part of a greater thing, and we all helped each other whether it was deliberate or not.

Over the years, many in that group moved away from NY, including myself.  In Chicago, I found a new group of people to break my daily bread with, and as we built our new lives, we all had less time to gather every day.  I have kept in touch with those who aren’t close by, and we’ve always found ways to keep tabs on each other, pre-social media and pre-email.  We used the phone.  We wrote letters!  Crazy.

I’m not getting to it here.

It’s been twenty-two years.  Countless individuals have helped me change my life, countless more help me keep it changed.  But there’s a special place in my heart for the people I met at the beginning.  And losing one of them feels different – shocking, frightening, heartbreaking, cause for a broad, unbidden life review.  The short version is that it’s good now, life.  I’m happy and well, I have meaningful work and healthy relationships with people.  I’m also married to a sober person, and yet it’s not until just now that I’ve stopped to really consider the flip side of that.  We continue to do what we need to to maintain our sobriety, but it is part of our makeup to want to drink or use.  Relapse happens.  There’s a lot of talk in the media right now that makes me want to scream, the idea that we can just suddenly decide to not drink or take drugs, and that it’s a moral failing somehow when we can’t.  We drink and take drugs because it’s what we’re wired to do.  I’ve said many, many times that I think it’s just incredibly hard to be awake and conscious in the world.  Shitty things happen kind of non-stop.  People die.  That’s just the deal.  Spectacular things happen too, which is the part of the deal that makes the other part of the deal worth shaking on.  But the feelings associated with the relentless input of life can often present themselves as unbearable, and plenty of people can have one beer or one hit off a joint and resist taking another.  Alcoholics and addicts don’t have that luxury, not in my view, but we’re really, really good at making up stories about it.  Maybe I should just speak for myself.  I’m really good at making up stories about it.  “Oh, I never crashed a car.  Oh, I never drank as much as so and so did.  Oh, it wasn’t really that bad.  Oh it’s been a long-ass time now, I’m older and wiser and sure it will be different.  Oh, I’ll just take one extra painkiller, just this once – it’s prescribed!”  And so you have one, but for an addict or an alcoholic, as they say, one is too many and a thousand isn’t enough.

I’m still not getting to it.  Maybe I don’t even know what it is.

So Phil died, and our friends are crushed, and I’m in shock and yet I feel lucky and amazed that I’m here.  I don’t know how I got to be this age.  (My thirty-fifth high school reunion is this year.  Wha-huh?)  That’s shocking too, because not many people get to be this age without a lot of losses.  Both my parents are gone now.  I’ve been back in NY for a couple of years, where I grew up, where I drank and where I quit, fueling my bittersweet nostalgia for that time of early sobriety in particular, crossing Columbus Circle with eight or ten friends through rain and slush and sunshine to our favorite coffee shop; we had a big round table in the window that was almost always held for us.  I think of all those guys – and it was a guy-heavy group, though I had many sober women friends too – and how I had crushed on almost all of them for one five minutes or another even though I was in no position to be seriously involved with anyone at that time – and according to some greater plan, wouldn’t be for another ten years.  (It worked out right.)

Maybe there’s nothing to get to.  Oh yeah, gratitude and morbid reflection.  I think we exist in a culture where we still think in black and white so much of the time.  So and so should have not taken drugs, obvi.  This is right, that’s wrong.  You’re happy or you’re sad and if you’re sad you should get happy.  But that’s not my human experience. I exist in a place where I feel at once profoundly conscious of what I’ve been given in this life, and also how quickly that goes.  I feel grateful, giddy, on occasion, at the bounty that’s been given to me, but it’s not mutually exclusive of feeling impossibly sad.  They coexist, more or less constantly.  I’d much prefer an easier, softer way.  I haven’t found one yet, but I have found one that works for me.

***

Elizabeth Crane is the author of the story collections When the Messenger Is HotAll This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her work has been featured in McSweeney’s The Future Dictionary of America, The Best Underground Fiction, and elsewhere.

Bio

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, courage

For Women Who Apologize All The Time.

February 5, 2014
For a chance to win the necklace I am wearing follow @jenpastiloff and @ashapateldesigns on instagram and go #beautyhunting!

By Jen Pastiloff.

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

**trigger warning. Sensitive material contained in this piece. Mention of sexual assault.

Relentless Over Apologizing.

A few years ago a man I knew walked into the café in NYC where I was having lunch with a friend, and before I realized what was happening his hand was on my breast. “Damn, Look at those things,” he’d said with a fistful of my boob.

We chatted for a few moments about irrelevant things- yoga, weather, eggs, before he walked away and sat down at his own table. My friend was dumbfounded, the most natural response, I suppose. She was shocked that he’d grabbed my breast like that. In public, no less. I was embarrassed and made excuses for him. That’s just how he is. He doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just a flirt. He’s harmless.

Did I think it was okay on some level? Did I not want to embarrass him? Why was I the one who felt embarrassed when he was the asshole feeling me up? Was I flattered in some creepy shitshow way? Why hadn’t my friend said something right then as he’d had my breast in his hand like it was his? And would I have said something, if the situation was reversed and it was her breast and not mine? Oh, the shame. The hot shame on my face and my arm hairs standing on end, I felt incompatible with my own body as I pushed my eggs around in a soup of Cholula sauce. Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Ramblings

Being A Person Is Hard. And Lovely & Amazing.

February 4, 2014
Being A Person In The World Is Hard. But Also Lovely & Amazing.

My ramblings from the sky. Boston Logan Int’l > LAX.

Thinking of doing this as a spoken word piece so please read it in your head like that. Maybe with music, like a kind of rap.  Or maybe in “The Poet’s Voice” with violins in the background like you’re at some poetry slam and I’m taking too long on the stage. I don’t know. I’m just on the plane, toying with some ideas at around 30,000 feet…

Being a person in the world. Here’s what it’s like- it’s like you get into the wrong car and end up crying in the backseat because the driver has a thick accent from somewhere you can’t place and you’re nearly deaf and that combination is lethal. And he doesn’t know his way around the city (why drive a cab/Uber, you may wonder?) and you end up circling the underground parking lot of a rental car place instead of the hotel you’d specified. Your life comes down to a pinpoint of a thought, a prick so sharp that you wonder how you’ve survived being a person in the world this long. That thought is: Look what happens when I try and save a few bucks: I die in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot in the back of a Hyundai. And it’s not any kind of prejudice against Hyundai because you yourself drive one, and have for years now. It’s a Fuck me, this is not how I wanted to go.

But at the same time, you know you won’t die, or at least most of you knows you won’t die (not right then anyway) but the complicated person you are (which is no more complicated than anyone else who is being a person in the world) wants to convince yourself of this because in the same breath you say I hate drama, I want ease, Just get me to my hotel on Commonwealth Avenue, the other breath is inhaling the situation like it’s crack and even though you’ve never smoked crack (or meth, or coke, or any drugs) you know (all too well) the addictive power of these drugs and situations like this. I am a person who is very upset right now. Who can’t breathe. Who just might die here in this parking lot in the back of car being driven by a man who is lost. It’s like that, being a person in the world. Lost, all of us.

Although on various days, the alarm clock goes off and you can’t hear it. Or maybe you’re hard of hearing. Or maybe you didn’t set it in the first place and you stay in bed a few extra hours, or Hell, maybe all day, and then you feel guilty about that in all your typical person-ness. But on some days the alarm sounds and you know that the pain you’ve assimilated into your body won’t attack its own cells on that day, like maybe it’s chilling on that particular Wednesday in July or March. And on those days, being a person in the world is a little easier.

But really, it’s always something.

Some lady on the plane upset because you sneezed on her, really really upset as she knits and watches MSNBC on mute and rubs her left hand on her left thigh to get your germs off. And even though you sneezed, you are certain you didn’t sneeze on her. (Except the 2% chance that you did. And that’s also what being a person is like- never being 100% sure.) What can you say besides sorry? So you say sorry and realize that being a person in the world is fuckload of I’m sorries. So many sorries. Sorries by boat and sorries by plane (and by Hyundais.) So many sorries even when you’re not. It’s like that sometimes.

Being a person is like knitting. You kind of have to pay attention and you also kind of don’t. Sometimes you can get by like that. Half in, half out. Half there, half not. Half knitting, half watching the news. You can kind of watch MSNBC and shift farther and farther away from the bitch who sneezed on you on the plane until you realize that if you go any farther to the right you’ll push your husband out of his seat and into the aisle. It’s like that. Layered and complicated and full of yarn and you either love to knit or hate it.

It’s eating with a Bolivian in Boston. She’s beautiful and alone and a plate of gnocchi and perhaps a glass of white wine sit in front of her. And you wonder if the gnocchi are good. It’s always questioning if you are about to make the right choice. She says here, try one. It’s sometimes like that- you just say yes, yes, okay. Yes, yes, okayAnd you reach your fork across the table to try a stranger’s gnocchi and why not? She says that she’s Bolivian but her grandmother was Italian and the custom where the grandmother was from is to eat gnocchi for luck on the 29th. You say But it’s the 30th. (That’s what being a person in the world means- you point out mistakes. You correct them.) Yes, but it’s close enough, the beautiful Bolivian in Boston says. So you all eat gnocchi and talk about the mystery that is dating and Boston and you think maybe I will always eat gnocchi on the 29th. I like that plan. Being a person means you have grand ideas like always eating gnocchi on the 29th, and that you make plans and promises when a little wine is coursing through you on a snowy night.

It can also be like this: you hunch your shoulders way up, as if that gesture will protect you from future pain.

As if any gesture can protect us from future pain.

And even when you share about your baby dying, and how you never talk about it, there you are talking about it. Being a person in the world means you say what you never do as you stand there doing it. And your shoulders stay there because in some way you think maybe it will happen again if your shoulders drop down and relax, as if they are the thing that is holding you up in the world. It means confusion. It means being wrong (especially about how your hunched up shoulders protect you or prevent pain.)

It means getting up every day and finding things to laugh at, things like how you are sure you did not sneeze on that lady on the plane. Now that’s funny- how much of a big deal she made! Then you laugh at yourself for the things you yourself make a big deal of and how maybe someone else is swinging their leg off their own bed and looking for things to laugh at so they can make it through their day. And maybe they think of you. Maybe you were the lady who insisted the sneeze landed on her.

Being a person in the world is kind of like playing the slots, maybe the Wheel-Of-Fortune at some bad casino in Henderson, Nevada, and realizing that you are never going to win, except maybe a couple dollars here and there, which you keep putting back in the machine.

It’s like going to bed and trying to remember one  good goddamn thing that happened that day and remembering seven (oh, the thrill!) Or trying to remember one good thing and coming up with zero, zilch, nada, so you go to bed with the song zero zilch nada in your head. A song you made up.

It’s is like this: you make up songs and words and whole lives sometimes. Look at this life I’ve made up: isn’t it great? Or, look at this life I made up: I am a horrible garbage person. Somewhere in the middle is most likely what personhood most resembles, with the pendulum swinging more to the former. For most, certainly not for all.

Being a person in the world is fucked up and hard and terrible and wondrous. It’s lovely and amazing. It’s a movie title and songs- it’s like being in a song! Except when it’s not. When you’re trying to get your special needs kid to stop pulling his own hair out, to stop tearing his own skin off. Then it’s not like a song. It’s like a trap you can’t get out of until you do.

And sometimes you never do.

It’s like this: the world is a world of faces looking at you- hungry, expectant, broken, bored, believing, lost- and sometimes the face is your own. In the mirror, your own face believing and not believing, depending on the day. That’s being a person in the world. It’s like seeing the words “Back away fatty” on the fridge and getting insulted until you remember you wrote those words, your kids can’t read yet so no harm there you think. And it works, and you back away, and you think how easy it is to trick yourself when you are a person in the world.

MV5BMTQ5NjIyOTI4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNDA2Mzg5._V1_SY317_CR2,0,214,317_

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 

And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing, Manifestation Retreats

The Changing of a Life by Katie Devine.

January 30, 2014

 It happens to be Katie’s birthday on January 30th, the day of this posting!)

I walked slowly, accompanied only by the broken disc in my spine and a fuzzy Vicodin hangover, to Cedars Sinai Hospital for back surgery.

I can hear how it sounds when I tell people now about my solo venture. Strange, desperate, crazy even, though I suppose it felt normal then, or at least like the best option I could come up with at the time. I had only been in Los Angeles for two months, and had no “in case of emergency” person programmed into my phone, or into what was supposed to be my new, perfect life. I had left New York feeling defeated by a city that I could never make feel like home, only to end up feeling beaten again, just by a different coast.

Two weeks earlier, I had taken a cab to my first-ever emergency room visit, because I was too embarrassed to call an ambulance for help while sobbing in my sunny, yellow and white kitchen. As I cried in the backseat of the taxi, not-so-silent tears running down my cheeks, the cab driver seemed nonplussed, as if he had seen it all before, as if there was nothing original about me, especially my pain.

So when my scheduled surgery date arrived, I chose to walk the half-mile to the hospital instead. I remember calling my mom, across the country in New Jersey, straining to hear her voice over the traffic noise on Third Street in a city where no one walks, trying to reassure her that I was fine. I was testing myself, perhaps, proving I could still walk a half-mile, before going under the knife and whatever would happen there. They make you sign a release form that says you might not walk again. It also says you might die, but you can’t dwell on that.

A nurse, who smelled faintly of antiseptic and rubber-soled shoes, checked me into pre-op before the doctor arrived and asked who was waiting to bring me home after surgery. No one is waiting for me; I’ll be fine, I told her resolutely, silencing her questions. She didn’t inquire further; she just looked at me sadly, as though being alone was the real tragedy rather than that broken fragment of disc floating around my lower back.

There is a difference between the look that says Oh you poor thing, going into surgery, and Oh you poor thing, going into surgery, and you’re alone.

She didn’t realize that alone is what I know. It’s where I’m comfortable. Loneliness has been a faithful companion to me, the kind of loneliness that comes from never showing anyone your truest self, because you’re sure if they saw the real you, they would run the opposite direction and you would be alone anyway.

The weeks following surgery were mostly spent in a self-imposed solitary confinement, on my couch, watching trashy TV or just staring out the window. June gloom, they call it in Los Angeles, where a cool mist hangs over everything, sometimes allowing a hazy sun to shine through in the afternoons, but not that summer. That summer the darkness never lifted, outside or inside. It pressed down on me like a lover whose weight was crushing the breath and life out of me, but from whom I didn’t know how to escape.

At night, I would cry. Because I thought I might never feel better. Because I feared I would never be able to run, or practice yoga, or do anything I wanted to do, ever again. Mostly because I worried I would feel this alone forever.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t know how to accept the help that was offered. How could I let anyone know what was really going on, that I was not fine?

Who was I to ask someone to save me?

*******

I wonder if I have ever felt like I was good enough.

There have been glimpses, here and there, certainly. Maybe for a few longer moments, like the time in the sixth grade when I got to play one of the leads in the school musical, and had the most lines in the show (I counted). There was me, center stage, with my ill-advised bangs, and braces, and acne, and I think I even had a perm, and my costume was my own souvenir t-shirt from our trip to Florida with something scrolled across the back in neon.

I must have bragged about my stardom more than once. A family friend made some remark to the effect of, “well, aren’t you proud of yourself” with her eyebrows raised, and I knew instantly that this was a bad thing, being proud of myself, or maybe just talking about it. I can still feel the flaming in my cheeks and the burning pit of shame in my stomach.  And I immediately was knocked back down to not good enough, remembering that I hadn’t even gotten the role in the first place. I had only gotten it because someone dropped out or got sick and they needed someone else to fill in and I was available since I hadn’t made the cut the first time around.

And then I remembered that I also didn’t make the choir that year either, the special choir that you had to audition for that got to go to Hershey Park at the end of the year. You could smell the chocolate in the air all the way from the highway, and the ones who made it would get to spend the whole day running around the park, eating chocolate and riding roller coasters before they got on stage to sing “Sunrise, Sunset” and “Candle on the Water” in a competition that would award trophies to the winners.  I got to go anyway that year, at the last minute, because someone else dropped out, or got sick, and they needed someone to fill in.

I resigned myself to being the fill-in, since I never seemed to be good enough to be what I wanted: the first choice.

******

So I adapted. By following things that came easily, that involved less risk, that were safe. But always looking over my shoulder for that voice that would tell me that I wasn’t good enough.

And what you look for, you find.

When the soccer coach suggested that I wasn’t likely to be a starter on next year’s team, I took it as a cue to stop playing. I’m not good enough.

When the algebra teacher said, “well, I’m not trying to make you feel stupid”, I accepted that I was doomed to fail algebra. I’m not good enough.

When I was dumped, from yet another failed relationship. I’m not good enough.

When the voice teacher said “you’ll never be one of the great opera singers”, I said ok, and thank you and I guess I’ll transfer into the business school. I’m not good enough.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me that it might not be true.

When the refrain of I’m not good enough plays on an endless loop in your head, you start to hear it in surround sound. It becomes easier to just not try. You can avoid rejection if you never open yourself up enough to be rejected.

You reject yourself before anyone else can.

Until you meet someone who doesn’t allow it anymore.

******

Another surgery, nearly four years later. This time I can drive myself, to the dentist’s office where my gums will be fixed. The nurse here gives me that Oh you poor thing look, but it’s not the one I had dreaded, full of pity and judgment. There’s just simple empathy this time. I settled on my couch afterwards, anxiously prepared for a repeat performance of lonely, party of one.

Except, this time, things are different. I am different.

The evidence was all around me. There was my friend, outside my house that first night with a balloon and cookies for me, unexpected and uninvited, but not at all unwelcomed. And then the next day, another friend stopped by to visit and eat ice cream and remind me that I wasn’t at all alone. Yet another friend offered to bring me soup or mashed potatoes, and checked in on me regularly. And the next day it happened again. All at once, there was no room for loneliness on my couch.

And in the spaces between visits, there was no crying this time, no gloom. Instead, there was reading, thinking, writing. Not ever knowing if it would be good enough but doing it anyway. Coming to understand that maybe, just maybe, there is no good enough.

What was closed is now opening. What was dejected is now hopeful. What was empty is now filling, slowly but surely.

This is what happens, I think. This is what happens when a life blossoms.

******

You asked me to tell you how my life has changed and I couldn’t tell you.

You asked me to write about what was different and I couldn’t find the words.

But I can point. To what was before, and what is now.

This. THIS is how a life is changed.

A single email, sent to you in desperation, late one night, that opens the floodgates.  The unearthing of the art that opens my heart, and fills my soul. Five retreats, each of them moving me closer to the life I didn’t even know I always wanted. The self-confidence, and also humility that comes from traveling to foreign lands, bringing experiences that forever alter my perspective and expand my thinking. The safety that exists within a supportive tribe of people, who allow for trial and failure, and picking myself back up again and doing better next time. The stripping down of relationships, often painfully, to their core, in order to rebuild them, this time from a place of truth. The forming of new ones, for all of the right reasons this time.

The softness brought on by vulnerability, after so many years of the hardness of I’m fines. Learning to actually say, out loud, I’m not fine. Countless yoga classes, with mantras like kindness and gratitude, which brought about the gradual quieting of that I’m not good enough refrain, no longer looked for or heard in surround sound. Posing in downdog atop a horse, unsure of what it looked like, or what might happen next, but feeling both free and grounded instead of my usual anxiety. The awareness and acceptance of the need for help, and the grasping for it when it arrives. Taking risks, small ones perhaps, but risks nonetheless. The sighting of beauty all around me, where before there had been blindness.

The right person, at the right time, answering that desperate email, believing in you, and in who you can become.

This. This is how a life is changed.

***

Katie chronicles her journeys on her blog Confessions of An Imperfect Life. Her work has appeared on sites including Thought Catalog, XOJane, The Manifest-Station, MindBodyGreen, Medium and Rebelle Society. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

1170709_609099799130090_1025431958_n

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. 

And So It Is, Gratitude, Making Shit Happen

A Thank You Letter to The A-Holes, The Kind Ones & The Ones in Between.

January 25, 2014

By Jen Pastiloff.

I had this moment the other day where I was washing dishes, pumping soap onto the sponge, and maybe the water’s been running for five minutes, maybe it took me that long to pump the soap to wash one plate because I started crying. There I was crying into the sink and I couldn’t help but think that it was cliche enough to be in some sort of chick flick. Girl washes dishes during moment of proverbial breakdown. Except it wasn’t really a breakdown.

Well, it was sort of. Anytime you let a faucet run and stand there sobbing with a sponge in your hands is sort of a breakdown, right?

It was more of an Oh my God, I’m standing here. And just a few years ago I wanted to die momentI thought I’d be locked into a life of shuffling my feet in a restaurant, of eating my food out of a take-out box while I stood with my head leaning against the paper towel racks and coffee cup lids in the server station as a busboy named Raymundo rubbed my shoulders. A few of the tears were for some of the wrong turns I’ve made, which, who’s to say if they were wrong or not? Who’s to say that if I stayed in NYC and gotten an MFA that I’d be some professor at some university, writing my 8th bestseller, drinking brandy out of a shot glass from a Jackson Hole, Wyoming tourist shop? Sometimes, to torture myself, I like to think that my turns have been wrong, but hell, I don’t know. I’m just trying to do the dishes.

It was a moment of disbelief, and dissociation, because as I was washing the dishes in my own kitchen I was also washing the dishes at the restaurant I’d worked at, where I never once washed dishes. But suddenly I was there in the back, the dishes piled high, and I was from Oaxaca, Mexico, where most of the guys in the kitchen were from, except three (who were taller by heads.) I was washing dishes back there and no matter how many I did, the pile got higher and bigger, and the food crustier and harder to remove. I had a strong hose and an industrial dishwasher but I kept getting smaller under the growing pile.

This is a thank you letter. To the restaurant I worked at for thirteen years and all the f*cked up people I waited on, all the wonderfully peculiar and quirky customers, all the lovelies, the broken heartededs, the over tippers , the assholes. Thank you all. I wish I had written more down from that era but I was half dead and all, so it was hard to pay attention to anything other than my survival and table 32 and 43. I do think, however, that you all left imprints in my DNA, and I kind of pray for this daily, because without those imprints, I have no proof that I existed. I have no funny scripts written down. I have no journals of all the times you were rude to me or said awkward things like, “Is there something wrong with your ovaries? I have a feeling you have a cyst. I can feel that by your energy,” or the exact words you said when you insisted on buying me a plane ticket to see my newborn nephew across the country since I’d approached your table with black mascara running down my face and a hiccup in my breath and you thought maybe the baby would die, but you didn’t say that, you just said, “We are buying you a ticket to Atlanta. Go.” And I did. I didn’t write the details down so whether the snow fell as I landed in Denver on a layover to Atlanta is really quite debatable. I choose to think, however, and this again, is purely for my own sanity and survival, that everything we experience is somewhere in our DNA without us having to document it all incessantly.

I don’t know if you said, “My wife sent me here to eat organic eggs. Do you have organic eggs. She said organic eggs.”

“Our eggs are organic,” I might’ve said. Staring at your Huevos Cancun, you might have said “I think there was some confusion here but I am eating it. Look at me eating this. I am enjoying this experience. It’s unusual but I’m enjoying it. Now, give me more coffee.”
Maybe I said, “Maybe you should stop drinking coffee and see if it helps that skin rash of yours.”
“No. Till death do us part.” You. You said this. I am sure of this. Thank you for that. Years later. Thank you. That’s in me somewhere, those words and that image of you and a gross rash. In my immoderate collection of words and phrases that are buried somewhere under other words and phrases and parking tickets and Facebook status updates, these lines are there.

“The problem with being old is you can’t get an erection.” Thank you for saying that, old man. I couldn’t make up something that good. In my memory, you are enjoying your organic eggs for eternity.

“Now, where’s my coffee?” you said. Although I can’t be sure without my notes and since I have none…

In my kitchen I’d cried and put too much soap on the sponge. I wondered if I was that professor drinking brandy from that weird Wyoming glass, would I be happier? Would I have written down all the moments that led me to whatever moment I was in, in my professorship or famous authordom? Maybe. But wouldn’t I at some point still weep at the sink?

Perhaps.

Thank you to my past. Thank to all the weirdos and inappropriate old men and to all the kind people. Thank you to my co-workers, the ones who escaped and the ones who still haven’t. Thank you to those that believed in me and thank you to those that didn’t (in the words of Tina Fey at the Emmy’s to her haters, “Suck it.”) Thank you to the talent manager I met at the restaurant who told me to lose ten pounds. Thank you to the guys in the kitchen who would make me food when they weren’t allowed to. Thank you to the douchebag, who, just because you had a hit t.v. show, thought you could humiliate me. Thank you. I loved running into you recently when you couldn’t place me and said, “It’s so good to see you. You look great. Really great.” Thank you to the director (F*ck it, I’m naming this one- thank you to Kevin Smith, also from New Jersey, for always always tipping 50% or 100% of your bill. Every. Single. Time.) That helped. Thank you to the lady who told me she thought I would’ve made something of myself by now. Thank you to the people who paid attention. And those who didn’t. Thank you to the women who couldn’t ask for what they want, who let their voices get really high as they sing-songed, “Um, can I like get extra dressing?” Thank you. Thank you to the person who told me my pants had a big slit in the back and that my ass was showing. Thank you to those who made me laugh or sit down at the table like I was an equal. Thank you to those who asked me not to sit down anymore at the table. Thank you those who said I looked good. Thank you to those who asked, “Have you put on weight?” Thank you to the lady who asked if I had herpes. Thanks to the guys who asked me out and thanks to those I went out with. Especially the one where we went to that producer’s house for a Christmas party, the one that referred to me as that cute Jewish girl. Thanks to Lindsay Lohan for speeding down the street and and crashing into Raymundo, my friend, shoulder massager, and favorite bus boy, as I was taking a turkey meatloaf to table 50 on the patio and he was parking for work. Thanks to the famous songwriter who always always asked for plastic forks and knives.

All of it. It’s in me. I don’t know where or when it will emerge or if I will remember but My God, it’s gotten me here. I think I realized that as I was washing that lone plate the other day and the truth in that moved me to cry. It wasn’t a sad cry. I didn’t end up that professor and I haven’t written seven books yet (or any books.) The crying over the sink was maybe a tiny bit self pity if I’m really honest, and f*ck it, why wouldn’t I be on my own blog?

But then the self pity gets batted away (daily) with the sleeve that isn’t soaking wet and soapy, and I realize that somewhere in me those experiences and memories have an inner life, and somehow, despite the pathetic head banging in the walk-in freezer at the restaurant, I made it. I recreated myself.

The truth though is that that man is a little bit right, you can’t get erections as easily when you’re old. And the guy I worked with, that teddybear of a man, who was also a gangster (true story), the one who told me that he’d had to “handle” a child molester in prison when he’d lost a game of cards but that it was no big deal, just business, he’d said, and the people, all of them coming and going and coming and going; they built me. Just as my mother and father did and father’s death did and my years at NYU did and my anorexia years did and the yoga did and my teaching did and if you can tell me that an MFA would’ve built me better, well, I’ll be damned!

Anyway, that’s why I cried. All of it: an honoring, a pathetic who am I? moment in my kitchen, an overwhelming gratitude for the people in my brain, and now, in my genetic makeup. A pat on the back to myself. An emotional high five. Whatever it was, I finally finished washing that one stinking dish and walked away from the kitchen.

I sat on my living room floor and rolled back until my head hit the carpet. I stared up at the ceiling of my apartment and wondered who I’d thank in 15 years. Thank you apartment, thank you ceiling, thank you sink. Thank you everything that is anchoring me to this.

Thank you.

100_2835-300x225

1/25/14

Jen will be leading a Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October.