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Beating Fear with a Stick

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts

Snakes & The Things That Shut Us Down.

December 30, 2014
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

I went with my sister to take my nephew to school yesterday in Georgia. Ola Elementary School. We drove right up and parked in front like we were loading or unloading, which, I guess we were. Blaise gets excited by school. School! School! Schoolbus!

He’s in kindergarten, which he will repeat again next year. He has a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome and autism.

He loves school and cries the snot-running-down-the-face-kind-of-cry if he has to miss it for any reason.

Me? I hated school. I was reminded of that hatred yesterday morning as I walked the narrow little hallway to take him to the therapy room where he plays with the other kids who have special needs.

I smelled that same school smell and immediately felt nauseas there in McDonough, Georgia, a suburb just south of Atlanta which proudly hosts a church on just about every corner and sometimes even in the shopping center.

I haven’t been inside an elementary school in at least 25 years and yet that smell hit my nose like a familiar thing: a cup of coffee, the way the back of my hand smells, gasoline, my husband’s pillow. It was as if all at once I knew it like any of the other mundane things in life. The things of the everyday. As if my nose never forgot This is what school smells like! And the minute it registered the scent, like a dog, I was there, right up in it, tail wagging, crying that I didn’t want to go back. Don’t make me go!

I always preferred to stay at home with my parents then to go to school just as I preferred to hang out with adults when I was a kid. School was insular. It made me feel claustrophobic and lonely at the same time. As the school year would progress, I would make my way in the world, as people do, but still, I hated it.

Come September every year I would have the same anxiety. Don’t send me back.

In fact, I almost didn’t graduate high school because I was absent so many days. I suppose literally and figuratively although I am sure they meant literally. I hardly went.

Isn’t it just a miraculous thing how a smell can do that for us? Bring us right back to the third grade, sitting at our desk, pulling our thumb out of our mouth because someone finally said You shouldn’t suck your thumb at your age. Especially not in public. It’s the first time someone has pointed this out to you and you want to crawl under the desk, inside the desk. You want to disappear into your own mouth.

The things that shut us down.

Someone telling us we’re not good enough, or fat, or shouldn’t suck our thumb in front of other people. The things that stop us and make us go Maybe you are right. 

I worry about my nephew being shut down. I worry that as he gets older people will make fun of him and that it will slowly disarm him.

Little by little, we are eaten away by people. By life. By opinions. By defeat. Until we are hardly recognizable as that thumb sucking 8 year old.

I worry about that even though I know I shouldn’t.

Blaise and my sister were just on The Doctors on CBS to talk about Prader Willi Syndrome. People with PWS (as it is commonly called) never feel full. They literally feel like they are starving and can actually eat themselves to death. There are a whole host of other issues that come along with it as well but the food thing feels like the most torturous. The behavior issues, a close second. It’s a spectrum disorder too, as I suppose all of life is. So all bets are off.

The producers of the show sent my sister equipment so that she could videotape him every time he had one of his meltdowns. They would take the footage she sent and edit it for the show.

We cried when we saw the finished piece as part of the show. It was horrible to watch him begging for food and all the photos of him as a baby when he’d gained all the weight as they put it together slickly with foreboding music. I am glad they did it that way as it was probably more effective. We are visceral beings. We respond to scary music. We respond to kids suffering. We respond to things that make us feel vulnerable and helpless. We respond to big things.

Subtlety doesn’t go over well with the masses.

Apparently when Blaise saw the footage at school (they watched it in his kindergarten class) he said I a fat baby. 

He came from school and asked me to watch it on my computer, over and over. I watched him watch himself on tv and it seemed like he was having a surreal experience, which most of life is anyway. Is that really me? Is this really happening?

It’s like he is starting to become aware that there is a difference between him and other kids. He’s looking at himself with discernment and seeing a difference in himself, which he doesn’t fully understand. Just like with the rest of us. Perhaps he never will.

I see a difference in myself and yet I don’t understand it.

We’re not all that different. His 15th chromosome might be partially deleted but we’re not all that different. He knows on a guttural level that watching the show makes him sad even though he keeps asking to watch it over and over. Then suddenly: Off! Turn it off. Away!

Just like us. Eventually we all get sick of ourselves at one point or another.

He loves school because, so far, everyone there loves him. None of the kids bully him and no one rejects his hugs. No yet anyway. He gets to hang out in the therapy room and jump on a bouncy castle and make crafts and learn letters.  B. B is for Blaise.

I was not happy as a child and my first memories of kindergarten didn’t involve jumping on bouncy castles. I went to a Jewish day school where it was Hebrew all morning and English all afternoon. It was some serious business. Even in kindergarten. I couldn’t handle the anxiety school instilled in me.

I wanted the safety of my house and my cream cheese and olive sandwiches.

Things got worse after my dad died. The school was terribly small, only a handful of kids in each class, and I felt exposed and ashamed. Everyone knew I was fatherless. And that I sucked my thumb.

I was glad when we moved away to California for 4th grade.

I didn’t hate school as much once I left the yeshiva school in Jersey but I was never one of those kids that couldn’t wait for summer to end. I used to get depressed on Sundays because the next day was Monday. I couldn’t even enjoy Saturday nights because I knew the next day was Sunday, which meant Monday was right there, jaws open, waiting to eat you alive.

School shut me down. I didn’t feel smart. Maybe I couldn’t hear back then either? I can’t remember. I just remember hating it.

The things that shut us down.

As I was walking through Ola Elementary School yesterday morning I thought how happy I felt that I would never have to be back in school. I would never again have to deal with that shutting down, with that pressure. (Enter foreboding music and slickly edited images.)

Maybe nothing will ever shut Blaise down? Maybe he will keep wanting to hug everyone even though everyone might prove to be an asshole sometimes.

I was on the plane when I started this piece, as I often am when I write, and, I got stuck, as I often do when I write. I closed the computer and my own eyes watching the back of my eyelids butterfly their way into quiet.

We landed and I turned on my phone.

An email came through from a man named “Kevin” accusing me of not crediting people and not having integrity and how he should call me out in front of all my Facebook followers and how he wasn’t a fan of ego and Good Luck to me. 

Good luck. It seems like the two worst words in the English language when someone says it and really means “Fuck You.”

Who was this man? Who didn’t I credit? What’s he talking about? Is it even a real name or email?

It wasn’t until last night, in the middle of the night, as I lay awake in a river of I Can’t Sleep did I realize how profound it was that the email came in when it did. Sure, I was upset. Look, I literally want to crawl out of my skin and wail when I feel like people take my own work. I want to email them and sue them and say It’s not fair! But I don’t. I breathe and write. Then I write more.

The email came in and shut me down. The things that shut us down.

I went to teach my yoga class and felt ungrounded and sloppy. I was an alien and everyone stared at me with my two heads. I was tired and mean and shut down.

How quickly I was back in the third grade, thumb in mouth, then under my me in shame. How I would have cut my thumb off if I could’ve. How quickly that email brought me back to school. To being shut down.

The things that shut us down.

So Kevin: Good Luck to You. And yes, I mean “Fuck You.”

Look, don’t worry, I’m over it. I almost shut down. My impulse was to hide. To stop writing for a while. To stop sharing. To cut my thumb off.

You know why I won’t shut down? I have the choice. We always do. Who or what are we going to give the power to? This “dude”, if it even was a dude, didn’t even say what he was referring to. And yet I was going to accept it as a truth? As some validation that I am a bad person? No. My choice is No. My choice is I will not shut down. 

It’s okay to get angry once in a while. Does that make me a bad yogi? Then so be it. Get angry and then let it go. As I did. But, refuse to shut down. Get angry and get it out of your body like a snakebite. Suck that venom out and know that it was you who handled the poison like a champ.

If anyone tries to shut you down you must deal with it as you would a snake bite. Sometimes it’s: It’s not poisonous, keep walking. Sometimes it’s: I don’t know what to do. And sometimes it’s: I am getting this out of my body as fast as possible and running far far away because I know it will try and kill me if I let it.

You get a choice. The snake can’t help its nature.

The snakes will always be there but if we step over them and around them and keep going, we hardly notice because they mostly leave us alone.

I think there might be caves though, where all the shut down people live. They live alone in dark holes of the earth and wait for everyone to say It’s Okay before they come out. They never speak and they hardly look up. They are scared and frail but every once in a while when they do look up, they see a light in the sky and remember what they once were.

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Addiction, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts

What Happens When You Live Next To Your Worst Nightmare?

September 22, 2014
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Renata Youngblood.

I had a good conversation with my meth-addict neighbor the other day.

You see, something switched in me when there was yet-another raid next door last Thursday. I’ve seen the tweakers come and go for a while and at times it bothered me, but for the most part I felt only a compassionate sadness for the lives wasted in addiction. I’m even guilty of finding humor in some of the characters we’ve witness showing up in broad daylight barely able to walk to the door of this partially painted, infinitely haunted, next door monstrosity.

But something definitely switched inside me at 5 am last Thursday when I was up with my hungry baby and heard the visiting tweakers rifling through their car right in front of my house.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts

Cleared for Landing.

September 21, 2014
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By Petra Perkins.

“You ready to go up?” I examined my reflection in the aviator shades of an Air Force captain who was to take me for a ‘discovery ride’ in a small airplane. He looked official and solid, like Captain America — wings on his epaulets, a clipboard for a shield. I would go up with him.

“So, you ready?” he asked, again.

I shook my head. “Yes.”

I had fear of flying…  “Aviophobia,” he said.

An airplane accident had cruelly changed my life. I was a nervous passenger before it happened, but afterwards it was painful for me to fly. Long distance business travel was required in my job. I didn’t tell Captain America that my husband and son had been killed in a plane crash.

Here I was at the very airport where they took off together for the last time. This was the last place on earth I’d ever imagine finding myself. Rod, 17, was almost a high school graduate. Terry, my high-school sweetheart, had been my husband for 20 years. They’d built an aerobatic airplane in our garage over eight years and tested it months before they left on a trip — their tragic, final takeoff. The propeller had sheared off on a landing approach. I’d always wondered if Terry could have somehow recovered, though pilots told me no one could have. The question continued to haunt me.

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Abuse, Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts

Why We Stay: One Woman’s Lens Into The Psychological Layers of Suffering Abuse.

September 16, 2014
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By Kirsten Ott Palladino.

The country is abuzz about abuse again, and the talking heads and twittering fingers are asking why people stay in abusive relationships. Why is Janay Palmer Rice standing by her man even though he punched her in an elevator and dragged her body out? (And then she proceeded to marry him one month later.) Why did Rihanna have such a hard time leaving and subsequently going back to Chris Brown, even after the world saw her blood-crusted, bruised face after Brown crunched his knuckles into her eye socket? Why did Tina Turner take Ike Turner’s slaps and punches again and again?

Guess what? You’re not the only person to wonder this. People currently in abusive relationships and those who have successfully escaped them ask themselves that very same question. Why do/did I stay?

In order to truly understand the answer to that question, it’s helpful to think of abuse, whether it’s physical, sexual or emotional, as a series of tiny subconscious extensions of permissions. Each time he hits you or she tells you you’re worthless and you—for whatever reason—don’t take a stand right then and there that you will not tolerate such abuse, you’ve made a docile statement that it’s OK to treat you this way. Of course, it’s not OK and you don’t want it to happen—you never did and you never will. But each time it happens and there is no serious repercussion for the abuser, they are granted more permission and you’ve given them more rope to tug you around with, much like a master with a dejected mutt on a leash.

For victims of abuse, the internal question often is “How did I get here?” and one part of the puzzle is all of those tiny permissions.

So there you are, a scared, frightened pup on a leash, right? But that’s not all of who you are. You might be brave at work, pumping your fist in the air and demanding your employees follow the rules. You might never lead on about the troubles at home when hanging out with your girlfriends, and possibly even telling elaborate stories about what a good man you’ve got, how he spoils you like a princess. Or you’ve been so desecrated for so long that you no longer recognize your former spirit and you walk around with empty eyes, shoulders slack, wondering when you’ll have the courage to just walk out into the middle of the street and let a bus hit you because that would be easier than leaving.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Vulnerability

About Knowing What I Don’t Remember.

August 26, 2014
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By Kit Rempala

I’ve never been “normal” – if that word means anything at all. I see and speak to dead people. On occasion I read people’s minds and have prophetic dreams. Souls and emotions are as tactile to me as the fur on my cat’s back. I hear messages in nature, be they from water or fire or wind or earth or the moon in the sky or the rustling of leaves. I feel everything.

So, to sum things up: I’m pretty darned good at believing in things I don’t see, things I’ve never seen, and things that can’t be seen. Sometimes, I worry I’m too good at believing.

I never believed I’d been sexually abused until my therapist asked me. I thought I’d answer “no” and the session would move on. But instead she asked me another question, one I’d never expected: “Are you sure?”

What did that mean, am I “sure?” How could I not be? How could I not know? How could anyone not know?

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Beating Fear with a Stick, cancer, courage, Free Stuff, Guest Posts

Cancer Is a Bitch. But Wait! There’s Good News Too.

August 21, 2014
Joules-Evans

Shaken Not Stirred: A Chemo Cocktail. A Comedy About My Tragedy. By Joules Evans. (hint: good news follows.)

Hi beloveds, Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station. There’s a lot going on here with us trying to get the new site launched (eek! Thanks Carla White) but…it is very important to me that I get this post up asap as my dear friend Joules Evans wrote it. I met Joules when she drove from Ohio to Massachusetts to attend my Kripalu retreat last February.  (Yes, I am doing it again and it’s filling up fast!) Anyway, we have become buds, and, truth be told, I am obsessed with her and her book Shaken Not Stirred.. A Chemo Cocktail. The kindle version is FREE TODAY and tomorrow to celebrate 6 years aka 2190 fucking awesome days since hearing that damn word. each and every one a GIFT. even the hard ones.<< Joules words. That is the good news. To celebrate she made her book free for two days. Please get it and take the time to read what is below. Have your mind blown. Seriously guys, her book is moving and funny and divine.  I love this woman to the end of the earth and back. This post is an excerpt of her book. Please get it. And get it for people. And spread the word. And fuck cancer!

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Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, R Rated, Sex

I Chose The Wave.

August 20, 2014
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By Amy Botula.

Leave it to high school juniors to determine what their English teacher needed. I was invited to the School of Rock Showcase only to discover later my students had appointed themselves yentas. It had taken 14 years to happen, this gesture of match-making. Not when I was teaching elementary school in a mostly Mormon community, still in my twenties, and reminding parents to refer to me as “Ms.” Not when I taught middle school and was settling into my thirties. But now, at 40, courtesy of three shaggy punk rock kids.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, healing

The Things I Couldn’t Name.

August 18, 2014
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By Janine Canty

I was five or six the day I let my mother’s jade necklace fall out of a window. One minute it was there. The next it disappeared into thin air. Like a cheap magic trick It was early evening right before the streetlights come on. Homework was being cleared off of dining room tables. The ugly landing outside smelled like sausage and Del Monte carrots. Inside of apt.3, on the second floor, I was bored. Frightened and angry. Emotions cooked inside of me like soup. I couldn’t name them. I couldn’t control them. I hadn’t asked for them.

The rest of the world was getting ready for dinner. Mothers were burning palms on gravy steam. Fathers were arriving home with shirt collars loosened. Armpits an oval of sweat.

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Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Guest Posts

Trigger Finger: An Essay on Gun Control.

June 17, 2014

Trigger Finger: An Essay on Gun Control. By Kirsten Larson.

My father was gone two weeks when a man I didn’t know was my mother’s new boyfriend pushed the butt of the .22 rifle on my right shoulder and with his big, dirty fingers folded my slender 4 year old finger onto the trigger. He cupped his left hand around my left hand, squeezed it under the stock and raised the barrel toward a paper he’d nailed to a fir tree a few minutes before. When he took his hands away the barrel fell pointing at the ground a few feet in front of me.

We were in deep snow up the side of a mountain almost to the timberline near Kalispell, Montana, where we lived. My Mother had driven my brother and I to shoot guns with her “new friend.”

I was shivering mostly because of the cold. But also I didn’t know anything anymore about my life, the randomness with which things change and happen: a new house, my dad gone, my mom unpredictable.

I’d never seen a gun. I didn’t know anything other than I was supposed to hit the bulls-eye. I didn’t know what a bulls-eye was. What I knew was that this man was not my father, but he and my mother were drinking whiskey out of a short brown bottle and looking at each other like she and my dad had once looked at each other.

“Pull the trigger,” he yelled.

The gun exploded in front of me with the loudest noise I’d ever heard. I was thrown back onto the hard snow. Pee soaked hot through my tights, warming my icy thighs. The shame of being touched by a strange man, of peeing like a baby in front of a man who was not my father, was far worse than the pain in my arm from the gun.

I didn’t know enough to be afraid of the gun. I didn’t know about death.

***

I did know what death was in 1980 when the .30-6 my mother bought for my 16 year old brother discharged in our house. I was 17, upstairs in my room reading. The sound of a car accident the sudden merciless slamming of metal and glass was the sound of that gunshot.

You don’t know how your body responds to terror until you’ve known terror. I freeze. I lose my voice. An iced knife straight up from my solar plexus.

The absolute still that followed that gunshot. I heard first my mother’s voice, then my brother’s and knew they were alive. Then I could move. When the fear let go of my heart, sweat coated my entire body from my scalp to my shins.

My brother had been playing with the gun, didn’t know it was loaded, aimed it at the lathe and plaster wall and pulled the trigger. The result was a black-rimmed hole about 10 inches diameter.

Didn’t know it was loaded.

My mother bought the gun for him because he was a boy raised without a father. All of us raised without fathers and the ways we try to make up for that loss.

Guns and what they stand for.

A year or so later, shortly after I moved out, my mom told me the police took the gun from my brother when he and his friend were hunting too close to people. I never heard another thing about it.

***

The other side of a gun. Valentines Day, 1989, 8:15 AM, I was a single mother waiting with my chatty 3-year-old son at the bus stop for the #19 bus, which was late. Another woman sat reading the paper, waiting. When you don’t have money for a car, you wait a lot.

Waiting for a late bus involves me staring at incoming traffic, willing the bus to show. So I wasn’t paying much attention behind us. When I turned I saw a man less than half a block away walking toward us. He looked like my brother, first thought. Second though, something’s not right.

I found my son’s hand and pulled him close. The man walked up, hands in his pockets, and asked, “Do you guys know where the nearest police station is?” I turned again to look down the street holding my son next to me.

The other woman answered, “I don’t think there is one close to here.”

Don’t tell me you can understand how I must feel about what happened next, because you can’t. Unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine what it’s like to have a gun pointed at you by a stranger with dead eyes, your baby right there.

That frozen terror again.

He screamed, “Give me your money.” Had to move. Dropped my son’s tiny hand. Dropped my purse. Picked it up. Gun there. Hands shaking, pulled all of the money I had out of my wallet. All three dollars. The other woman crying. Handed him all of her money, two dollars.

Gun pointed at us. Only one small movement to death.

He said, “I’m sorry.”

He said, “I’m a piece of shit.”

He said, “I thought you were lawyers or something.” Then he turned and calmly walking back from where he came from.

The police took a report.

He took five dollars. He took all we had.

***

You won’t like what’s coming next. You will judge me, a small child in the house and all: I learned how to shoot, got a gun, and started carrying it. A lady Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. I carried it every day for nearly two years after a man with dead eyes pointed a gun at me; me holding my three-year-old son’s hand.

The gun was in my home when, at 2:00 AM, someone rattled the door handle and then walked stealthily around and looked in the windows. I was not tempted to shoot him, instead I called the police.

I had the gun in my purse when I was doing laundry at a public Laundromat one evening. A man walked by several times, looking through the plate glass windows at me and out to the parking lot, me, the parking lot; a lion stalking its prey.

I was wearing jeans and a white sweatshirt. Again that feeling – something’s not right. He came in, pulled the glass door behind him. Just him and me for as far as I could see. His eyes pinpoint, shaking hands, not right. Asked if he could pay me for an hour of my time. An hour of my time. Knowing the gun was there in my purse I stood up straight, hands on hips, told him to get the fuck away from me.

I was carrying the gun when someone exposed himself to me as I got off the bus one night after work. He followed me around the block in his car. I thought about the gun only after calling the police with his license plate number. He was caught and punished. He was 19.

I don’t know what offense might make me decide to kill another human being. Certainly nothing I own is worth someone’s life. I stopped carrying the gun.

I locked the gun in the cedar box I’d received as a graduation present years prior and then packed the box away with the few letters I received from my father as a child, and family photos. I locked it away to protect my son. I locked it away because I didn’t know how to get rid of it without putting it in someone else’s hand. I purposely lost the key to that box.

The presence of the gun came up for the last time in 2006.

People who say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle,” those people, they’ve never had more than they can handle. I had more than I could handle, but that’s another story.

I was depressed; the kind of depression that feels like weights hanging off all four limbs. Depression where comfort is the constant thought of the ending the pain. It was like that. Although I had a suicide plan, it didn’t include the gun. But, a man I was briefly seeing was concerned. He broke the lock on the cedar box, took out the gun and locked the trigger with a trigger lock he’d purchased. He kept the key when we stopped seeing each other a few months later. The gun is gone now. I will never own another gun.

***

By both circumstance and choice I’ve lived the majority of my life without my father and without a male partner. The guns I have known seem to be a replacement for the protective presence of my father, and later, a male partner. The gun I owned made me believe I was safe.

None of us are safe, male or female. But most people I know personally who own guns do so for self-protection. It’s complex.

I take the regular precautions most people take. I trust my instincts. Look people in the eye.

I worked hard at a corporate job and made good money. Since I have made better money I no longer live in crime-ridden neighborhoods, no longer have to take the bus, no longer go to the Laundromat; I have not been the victim of a crime in a long time.

What I paid for that safety was too much; creativity, time with my child. But that’s yet another story. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t have made the same decisions; I’d leave myself vulnerable to have back the opportunities I gave up thinking enough money would insulate me.

In the debate about guns, so many on both sides seem to have simple answers. As usual we have two ways of conversing: the luxury of outrage and the luxury of stubborn insistence. But we all agree, something must be done.

The sort of fear I lived with is erosive to the soul in a way that defines lives. Learning to live a good, authentic life not ruled by fear: for me, that’s gun control.

 

 Kirsten Larson lives and writes near Portland, Oregon. She studies writing both at Antioch University as an MFA student, and in Tom Spanbauer’s basement as Pond Scum. She loves to read and ride her bike. She met Jen at a writing workshop in Portland with Suzy Vitello and Lidia Yuknavitch.


Kirsten Larson lives and writes near Portland, Oregon. She studies writing both at Antioch University as an MFA student, and in Tom Spanbauer’s basement as Pond Scum. She loves to read and ride her bike.
She met Jen Pastiloff at a writing workshop in Portland with Suzy Vitello and Lidia Yuknavitch.

 

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 Manifestation Retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next workshop is London July 6. Book here.

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Guest Posts

Hold It All.

June 13, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Ally Hamilton.

When I was 12 years old a guy grabbed me on my way to ballet class. I was walking in the same door I’d walked in for years on West 83rd Street, with my hair in a bun, and my tights and leotard under my jeans, and this young guy walked in ahead of me. The door opened right onto a narrow, steep staircase. At the top of the stairs to the right was the ballet studio. I could hear the piano. I can tell you, even at 12, or maybe especially because I was still so young, I had a vibe. An intuition. I remember the feeling of something being off, and I probably did exactly what he’d hoped I would do. I passed him on the right and started racing up the stairs. But he grabbed me from behind and put one hand over my mouth and another between my legs and told me not to move and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. For a minute I froze. Panicked with the taste of tin in my mouth. Fear undiluted. His hand over my mouth as he started fumbling with his jeans, and all I heard, like an explosion inside my head was, “NO”. Not that I understood exactly what he was trying to do, just that animal part of me, of you, of all of us, that part knew. And then I bit his hand and screamed and threw my elbow into his ribs as hard as I could. He let me go immediately. I don’t believe he expected a fight. I faced him, still screaming, tears and adrenaline and a racing heart, and backed up the stairs, right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot, fast. I remember his face, and I remember being shocked that he looked as terrified as I felt. Eyes wide so I could see more white than anything. He took off down the stairs and when I saw he was out the door, I turned and raced/crawled up the remainder of the staircase as fast as I could. I busted into the office, hysterical, unable to speak, but the guys there, the dancers, they knew. I just pointed and they took off, and three girls who were in the company ran to me and held me until I could speak. Not that I could fully make sense of what had happened. They weren’t able to catch up to the guy, and I don’t know what happened to him.

I share this with you because it exists in this world, and because it happened. Clearly, it could have been a lot worse. I hope it was never worse for someone else who didn’t scream, or couldn’t fight. And I hope he found the help he desperately needed. I believe if someone had photographed my face and his as we stared at each other, they would have looked incredibly similar. I believe he was as shocked and sorry about what he’d done as I was. He looked like an animal with his leg caught in a trap. There are people who are deeply troubled, who need help but don’t get it. Because they fall through the cracks. Or are able to hide their pain from the people closest to them. Or maybe those people are in denial. I don’t know what his story was, but I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t a good one.

The reality is this world can be incredibly violent, but it can also be achingly beautiful. If you want to be awake, you have to hold it all. I’m not a fan of this amazing pressure to be positive every waking minute of the day. Not everything is positive and light. Some things will rip your heart right out of your body with no warning and no logic. People who demand that you be light every minute are running from their own shadow, and it’s only a matter of time before it bites them in the a$$. My thoughts did not create that experience, it was completely outside my frame of reference. There are people who would point to karma, or God’s plan, or everything happening for a reason. I don’t know about any of that for sure, and neither does anyone else. What I do know is that sometimes horrendous things happen to beautiful people. Maybe someday it will all make sense and maybe not. Until then, the truth is we live in a world with darkness, and incredible light. To deny one is to forsake the other. It’s not about being positive, it’s about being authentic. Open. Real, raw, vulnerable. It’s about understanding sometimes you will be so scared out of your mind you’ll crawl up a staircase backwards, not even fully knowing what you’re racing from. And sometimes you will be blinded and amazed by all the beauty, all the gifts you’ve been given, the taste of gratitude like sugarcane in your mouth, and the feeling of sunlight like it was poured directly into your heart. Don’t worry about being positive. Just be awake. Hold it all.

Sending you love, for real. Ally

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

photo by the talented James Vincent Knowles

Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer whose work reaches hundreds of thousands of yogis around the world via her online yoga videos and social media following. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, a premier source for online yoga videos, which has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Magazine, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, CNN and more. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station and creator of The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. Up next is Vancouver (Jan 17) and London Feb 14. Click here. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff's online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

Click to take any of Jen Pastiloff’s online classes at Yogis Anonymous.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 7th. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 7th. Click the photo above.

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

I Am A Woman Who Survived.

June 5, 2014

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

Simplereminders.com

Simplereminders.com

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

Beating Fear with a Stick, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats

My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen.

April 24, 2014
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My Thank You Letter. By Ingrid Cohen. *trigger warning. Mention of rape.

This is inspired by a piece written by Jen Pastiloff and is now an exercise in her signature Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human®. Click here to read.

I’d been on retreat with Jen before. She’ll read some of a “Thank you, Fuck you” piece she wrote (it’s brilliant). She’ll walk, as she reads aloud, through the space between the yoga mats where we’ll sit. Most will sit in frozen appreciation of her work while some will continue their own letter she’d already have asked us to write. Her voice, the way her hearing loss affects her annunciation (making her words more pure, almost as if they come directly from her soul), will ring in my head days later, long after the retreat has ended. I’ll be sitting at my desk on Wednesday morning at 10am, striving to be productive at a job I hate, but her voice will play on repeat. The part about thanking the women, the ones whose voices got real high when asking for more salad dressing, will almost scream. You’ll be pulled back to that room. Lindsay Lohan. Organic eggs. Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Normally I wouldn’t write a letter to the good and bad stuff in my life. Especially the bad. I’ve spent the better part of my life numbing out the bad stuff (it doesn’t work). But, when the person asking is Jen Pastiloff you take a leap of faith. You trust her. You want more of what she has. She’s got an aura of amazingness. Anything is possible when she’s around. I hate trying to give her a title. While she’s a teacher, yogi, writer, retreat leader, creator of Manifestation Yoga™ and a host of other things, she does each with such an unorthodox approach. It’s this unorthodoxy that speaks so loudly to her tribe. She manifests, or “Makes Shit Happen” (as she calls it), magic. This petite, yet silently strong, woman with thick dark hair to her lower back, porcelain perfect skin and a contagious laugh, is a magician.

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.

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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.