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Binders, cancer, Family, Guest Posts

Of Mice and Snow.

February 6, 2015

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By Mackenzie Cox.

It’s strange to think that Papa had sixty-five years of a life before me, because in my life, he was the fourth person to hold me.

Dad.

Mom.

My sister.

Papa.

Since he died, I’ve mourned as if I were some other person. I don’t really feel grief until it’s all consuming.

It’s a strange kind of yearning; not necessarily wanting my grandfather back, but more, being sad that he was ever cold, or lonely or hungry.

But above all, I mourn for a piece of himself he lost in France.

In the snow.

He had just turned eighteen when he was drafted into World War II. He wore glasses and weighed one hundred thirty pounds. Within two years, Papa was awarded a Purple Heart and a medal for “Courage Under Fire.” He was one of 500,000 American soldiers in the Battle of the Bulge, which put him in the city of Ardennes, France.

When I was little and learned that Papa had been in a war, I asked if he had killed anyone. He told me:

“Oh, hon, with the glasses I had to wear, I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. I had no idea what I was shooting at.”

Years later, I was reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Papa and I always talked about books. When I mentioned this one, he said something along the lines of,

“Those poor devils, they looked like skeletons.”

“Were you there?” I asked.

“I watched them come down from the hill,” he said. As to which hill, which concentration camp, I have no idea. I wish I had asked, but the way my grandpa looked, suddenly sunken into himself, his arms folded over his belly, I knew he wanted to change the subject. I loved him, so I did.

I do know that the American military liberated four camps. The one closest to the Battle of the Bulge was Buchenwald. It’s an alien feeling, imagining that my grandfather was one of the men to liberate Buchenwald. He would have been nineteen.

I want to ask him, “What happens to your soul Papa, in places like that? Did your innocence fall off of you? Or did it melt away with the snow?”

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.

 

*

My soul, my innocence, shattered. I stood in pediatric oncology with my family. I heard the doctors tell my sister that my 2-year-old niece had cancer. The sky above me cracked, gave way. It fell in sharp, dagger-like pieces exposing a black void. Unfair and untimely death was suddenly real. My niece was hooked up to an IV with chemicals dripping into her tiny body. I held the pieces of sky in my hands, not sure what to do with them.

My sister’s baby.

Gone. My naiveté. My innocence.

At some point, it happens to all of us.

*

Papa and I had one of those relationships where we just gravitated towards each other. We were amazed by each other. We adored each other. In every picture we are in, one of us is staring at the other, smiling.

He was there for every holiday, every birthday, every big moment. He had my first essay titled “Papa’s Dumb Boat” framed. He hung it on his home office wall, along with my other achievements, like the ceramic plate I colored in preschool. He titled the plate “A Vision in Purple” and displayed it, also, in his office. It’s like he’d been waiting for me and couldn’t believe we had found each other in this life. He always greeted me by saying, “There she is!”

*

My best friend called me. His voice was almost indiscernible. I rushed out of Geology lecture. Any strange number on my phone almost always turned out to be Sean, calling from Iraq. He was one of many Marines deployed during the Iraqi War.

Through sobs, he told me his friend had just died in his lap. Whatever Papa lost in French snow, Sean lost in Iraqi sand. I curled up in the corner of the hallway, mourning with him.

My best friend.

My brother.

“He looked just like me,” he said. “It could have been me. Same haircut. Same uniform. Mac, there wasn’t a difference between us, except that I was next to him.”

He would have been killed if he had stood one foot to the left. Just one foot to the left. It was gone. I was there with Sean. I wish I could have been there with Papa.

*

I couldn’t have been more than four. Grammy was making dinner. Papa had carried me upstairs to where Grammy kept her collectable mice.

They were simple. Just little cloth mice. I was only allowed to play with them if Papa played with me.

Papa would let me pick a few to play with and we would lie flat on the bright orange carpet and act out silly, mice-like stories together. Playing with Papa was special. He changed voices for each mouse and created dramatic plot lines that were appropriate for the costumes the little collectables were wearing. If it was a pirate mouse, Papa would say ‘shiver me timbers’ while covering one eye. If it was a mama mouse, she would be kind and attentive. Always running around the other mice asking how their day was. Afterwards we would eat dinner and watch the only movie I had at their house: Tiny Toons Summer Vacation.

When I graduated from college, Papa and Grammy picked out the mice with which I’d played with the most and sent them to me along with Tiny Toons Summer Vacation, as a graduation present. Eighteen years later, he still remembered.

That routine we had was special to him and he knew it was special to me too. We were special to each other.

*

There is a place. Some of us have it. My husband calls it a spider web. You feel something touch your web and it shakes your world. Your dreams go surreal and you wake up tired because you feel like you were out there doing something. You have the wind knocked out of you. You fall. You smell things that aren’t around you. When Sean collapsed in Iraq from exhaustion, I collapsed in my parent’s driveway from nothing. When a taxi hit my husband I went home from work with a blinding migraine. My life. Call it what you will. This is a part of me. People to whom I am close somehow ‘trip’ my web.

It works both ways.

People find me. Something inside me that’s deep and old recognizes them. The ones who find me tend to be very, very ancient souls. They find me. And we hold hands. For days, they stay in my head. No drugs, no weird séances or prayers needed. If I’m trying to reach someone, though, it helps if I am in that in-between space of awake and asleep.

It’s not a place for the living to be. It’s a place of echoes and memories. You can slip into a memory to talk to a friend, a relative, living or dead. But if you’re going back to the corporeal world, you only have a little bit of time before you must return.

*

It took Papa two years to die from lung cancer. One day in January 2014, Dad texted me from Papa’s hospice bed, letting me know that ‘it’ was finally close. Still, he wouldn’t let go. For days, we waited. He grew weaker, holding on. Waiting. I had visited two weeks prior. Papa and I had held hands and spoken a few words. But the person in the bed, the skinny person with a slowing brain wasn’t my grandpa. The grandpa I knew was always reading a book, doing a chore, eating too many sweets. This frail, skinny person, I simply did not know.

He was past his time. I asked Dad if they needed me. He told me to stay put. He said,

“Sweetie, he’s not here anymore. You stay where you are. Concentrate on school. I love you. We’ll have a wake or something in a year.” My family and I are not religious people. The most important thing to us was that Papa found peace. That his ashes were next to Grammy’s.

So we waited.

I didn’t sleep for days. I wanted Papa to find peace. I was feeling that deep hurt, when you know someone you love is suffering. I sat down to rest my eyes. I had to reach him. I had to tell him that he could go. In that place, where we are all connected, we can find each other. I could find him. I could see him. I could tell him to let go. I closed my eyes and searched.

*

I knew where he would be. He would be at our convenience store. When I was tiny and he was younger, we would go there, sit on our favorite bench, eat vanilla ice cream on cones and talk about what the clouds looked like. My feet wouldn’t touch the ground yet and I’d be wearing a baseball cap my dad had hurriedly shoved my hair underneath.

I found myself like that again. I found myself in Jelly Shoes and a frilly, white summer dress. I found myself unable to touch the ground with my feet.

I heard him.

He called to me from the parking lot.

“Hey! There she is!” He clapped his hands once before opening his arms wide, waiting for the flying leap. I gave it my all because it had been a long time since I was four and I missed being held by him. We hugged tight. The clock was ticking. I couldn’t hold my four-year-old form for long.

By the time Papa put me down I was already a preteen with dark eye makeup. Somehow he had dark hair. I had never seen him with dark hair.

He was getting younger while I got older. He was closer to death, to being born again, while I was still somewhere in the middle.

“You need to go,” I said through tears. It was just us, outside the store with the setting sun turning the sky orange and yellow.

“Oh, I’m fine, hon,” he told me.

I told him he wasn’t fine. That he was getting worse. I told him what he was living in; grown-up diapers, a nursing home and that Grammy was already gone. I told him his skin was paper-thin and he couldn’t even hold a toothbrush. I told him it wasn’t going to improve.

“You have to go. You need to leave.”

He just had to make that final leap. He needed to understand. I couldn’t hold my form any longer. The living, the truly living, are not allowed in that place, that web, for long.

He assured me he would go, but not quite yet.

He was getting younger than I had ever seen him, his 30’s, his 20’s. I changed height, weight, gained years, lost years, trying to stay with him. He held me tight over his large belly, which for some reason never shrank.

He hugged me at every age I have ever been.

He hugged my life.

When we let go, he was old again, getting older. The web was shaking, vibrating. A spider was approaching. It was time to go.

“Please Papa, you need to go soon. You’re not happy. I know you don’t want to, but please, let go! Don’t be afraid. I’ll love you forever.”

“I’ll go soon. I’m so proud of you, sweetie.” I told myself not to reach for him, to not make a move or cry because that might make him stay longer for me. I couldn’t stop my arms from reaching out anyway.

The spider grabbed me. It had me by the ankles and was dragging me back to the world where my real body was. I was twenty-six. Papa was old again. His white hair was back, along with his favorite grey sweatshirt and jeans. He walked heavily back to our bench, to watch a final sunset and imagine pictures in the clouds. Maybe he wanted to remember me the way I used to be, one last time.

*

When I was in in high school I wrote an essay called “The King of Clouds.” It was the last essay of mine Papa had framed in his office. Every time we spoke he would look at it, and tell me he was reading it. He loved reading about the clouds even though we had lived it together.

“Just beautiful, Mac. Just beautiful.” He meant the writing. Before he died, I received a letter from him containing a check for thirty thousand dollars. In painful, scratchy handwriting he scrawled, “This is for your school. I am very, very proud of you and I love you a bunch. Merry Xmas. Papa.”

There’s a reason why this was so profound to me. All through my childhood my grandma would re-gift me. I’d get a sweatshirt obviously too small for her. My favorite stuffed animal, Tiger, is only mine because Grammy gave it to my sister, who turned it down. Grammy wrapped it back up and gave it to me the following year.

Papa, on the other hand, snuck me Barnes and Noble gift cards.

He bought me books.

And school.

Reading and writing. He knew me. He knew me before I knew me. With Grammy gone, and Papa on his deathbed he was finally able to do what he had been waiting for: to give me everything I wanted. He was my King of Clouds.

*

I woke up to Mom calling my cell phone. I was back in my body, exhausted, puffy eyed. She told me,

“Papa died early this morning.” I told her I knew, because I did.

“I found him, Mom.”

“Did you?”

“I told him he could go.”

“I’m glad, sweetie. He was waiting for you.”

Was he really? He had said he was going to go soon. I found him at night and he died in the early morning. Someone else must have taken him the rest of the way to wherever we go. Whatever our souls turn into.

Who was he waiting for?

He was my fourth person.

Dad.

Mom.

My sister.

Him. I would have been waiting for him. Were his first three people already gone? Maybe he was waiting for others. Others I never knew because I only knew him as a beloved grandfather. I didn’t know him for most of his life.

*

Grammy passed away first. Papa and I stood at the threshold leading to my grandmother’s wake. We were holding hands. Maybe he offered to escort me. Maybe I held my hand out for him. Or maybe we had just been holding hands. My husband opened the doors for us, my cousins followed awkwardly. But it was him and me. The pair of us. Together.

He allowed me to lead him through the crowd of people. Old women in black approached my Grandpa, saying the usual things.

“God’s plan.”

“She was so special.”

“We’re so sorry.”

To each of them, he held up my hand, showing them how much love and support he had and said, “I’m in good hands.”

He was.

*

I mourn in the most honest way I can. My mind understands that he was old. He had lung cancer. This was expected and not a tragedy. This was a natural passing of life. I tell myself that, and a large black cavity that masquerades as anxiety grows inside of my chest. It isn’t until I’m closing in on a panic attack that I realize I need to cry.

I hope the person who saw his innocence melt away in French snow was there to take him the rest of the way. Who saw him after I did? Who did he wait on our bench for?

It’s moments like that, moments I wasn’t there for that make me selfishly jealous of anyone who ever knew him before I did.

I want to find him, so many years ago, shivering in French snow, stinking of piss and blood. I want to find him and hold his hand and let him know that no matter what he sees, no matter the repercussions, he’ll be a great grandpa. That after he sees those poor devils come down from that hill, after he suffers in a hospital, receives medals for it and lives for another forty years, he’ll have a granddaughter. And they’ll ‘play mice’ together.

I want to be there with him.

Be cold with him.

Be afraid with him.

But I can’t. He wouldn’t know to look for me there. It’s not where our story started. I envy the person who was special enough to take him the rest of the way. I mourn for the bits and pieces of him I never met. Never will meet. I mourn for the pieces that fell off of him along the way.

Somewhere in the snow.

Mackenzie Cox is an MFA candidate at the University of California, Riverside.

 

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.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. Click the photo above.

Featured image courtesy of: paraflyer 

 

cancer, Guest Posts, healing

A Doorway To Love.

December 26, 2014

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By Lavinia Magliocco.

This is not a piece about victory over cancer.

This is not to talk about fighting. This is the way I found through a thorny path. With gratitude, I dedicate it to my teacher, Shambhavi Saraswati.

There’s always a test. A scan, biopsy, and of course, the waiting period, during which time you try to pretend you’re not waiting. You try not to think about it. Cancer’s scary for many reasons, one being that both disease and cure decimate the body. sometimes, it’s not certain which is more fatal.

It’s not that I haven’t thought of dying. Truth is, I can’t stop thinking about dying.Years ago, my innards were ravaged with inflammation while skin peeled off my legs like strips of old wallpaper – I could barely walk up a flight of stairs. I had to give up the one thing I loved. When the future held nothing but more illness, I thought: maybe I’ll just slit my wrists, lie down in a hot bath, and die. Even so, thinking and strategizing how I might go didn’t prepare me for this: death may come not by my choice. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, motherhood

My Mother’s Hands.

November 12, 2014

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By Denise Barry.

Growing up, I didn’t really look like anyone in my family.

Adults would study me and proclaim that I must have come from the Milk Man. When I was mad at my family, for whatever reason, I’d use this as a tool to feel sorry for myself, casting myself as the outsider.There was, however, no denying that I had my mother’s hands. My three sisters had long, beautiful fingers, like our father’s. I, on the other hand (literally), had my mother’s short, stubby fingers. Back then I refused to see the resemblance. I was afraid that if I looked like my mother, then I would act like her too. My mother was part traditional/part tyrannical. At least to my child’s eye. She cooked, she cleaned, she baked chocolate chip cookies. But buried deep in the pocket of her apron there was a sadness, an insecurity and a loneliness so extreme it manifested in many ways. She was easy to anger, hard to please and in need of a lot of attention.

As a little girl I was always trying to please her and be her favorite, even if it meant tattling on one of my sisters. I needed to be deemed the “good” daughter. As a teenager I rebelled. I wanted my mother to know how much she’d disappointed me. As an adult, I craved her time and attention: a lunch out, a day of shopping, a visit to my house for a coffee chat. But my mother flatly exclaimed she preferred to stay home.

Years after I was married, I was able to bury the need for my mother. I focused on my own family, pretending it was enough.

On the very day my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, everything within me changed. It wasn’t about me any more. I didn’t care how she had made me feel once upon a time. I only cared about how she felt, and how to get her through this.

Continue Reading…

cancer, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: How Do I Knock Down The Walls Cancer Has Built Around Me?

November 9, 2014

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By Joules Evans.

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column. Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer. Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s question is answered by Joules Evans, author of Shaken, Not Stirred. A Chemo Cocktail.

Have a question for us? Need some guidance? Click here. Please address it as if you are speaking to a person rather than life or the universe. Need help navigating through life’s messiness? Write to us!

 

Dear Life,

I’m 32 now – 30 & 31 were filled with having double mastectomy, painful reconstruction, chemo and radiation. I’m starting heal my mind, to get back into the swing of life and letting myself look at possibilities I haven’t in years – seizing the day, romantic possibilities.

I like a boy – it’s crazy, it’s been a long time. How do I knock these fucking walls down and start acknowledging I do deserve something great in my life. My body is literally what is left of a battlefield. I look at myself in the mirror and feel so broken and impossible to love. I worry so much I will open up to this guy I will be completely and utterly rejected.. and even more broken than I started out. Help.

Love & light,
BC Survivor

Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Love In The Time of Drought.

September 28, 2014

By Cheryl Klein.

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1. Sunday Story

A couple of weeks ago, I said to AK, “Can we talk about The Hospital List again?”

She said no. I’d just had minor surgery, and she felt like we needed to deal with that first. I felt like she was making excuses, blaming me and my difficult body. More about that in a minute.

This morning, one of the hottest this summer, we went for a hike in the foothills of Los Angeles. I was excited because most Sunday mornings, she goes hiking with her therapist buddies and leaves me behind. Today I had her undivided attention and I didn’t want to squander it, although I knew from past experience that Hospital List conversations were risky. She might prefer to discuss Attachment Theory with her colleagues than act out real early-childhood issues with me. Continue Reading…

cancer, Grief, Guest Posts

After My Sister Died I Became Holey.

September 25, 2014

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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 Sep 17-24, 2016 by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

By Jessica Yaeger.

Hi! This is me, Jessica. I’m a rectangle. (So- I’m not talking body types here, but just random shapes for the sake of my illustration!)

 

pic1

 

This is my amazing sister Vanessa. She was a triangle (& see the V?).

 

pic2

 

This is a hole I have in me. I got it when Vanessa died of stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer.

 

pic3 Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, healing

Falling Hair.

September 25, 2014

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By Sue Lick.

Reddish-blond fur swirled in the air as we groomed the shedding dog. In a single stroke, the comb was filled with yellow fluff. I released the fur to the wind, watching it drift across the deck and the lawn.

Fred ran a nubby rubber glove across Sadie’s back, emptied the fur from the glove, and rubbed her again until the dog squirmed away. Tufts of the pale stuff stuck out around her hips and butt as she walked to the edge of the deck, stepped off and continued across the lawn. She raised her right back leg and peed, then trotted to the hole she had dug under the garden shed, pawing her way in until all that showed was her waving tail. Fur lay in soft puffs on the deck and the lawn. Strands clung to our clothes.

“That’s how Mom looked,” Fred said.

Our eyes met. Oh God. Unconsciously, I stroked my own thick dark hair, which I had just paid $25 to have professionally trimmed and thinned.

When I left for California three weeks earlier, curly white hair covered Helen Lick’s head like a cottony crown. While I was gone, she started chemotherapy. After just one treatment, her hair had started falling out in clumps. We had no idea it would happen so soon.

As we brushed the dog fur off our clothes, Fred told me what I had missed.

Yesterday, when he took his mother to Corvallis for more chemo, they stopped at a wig shop and purchased a head of synthetic hair. It looked like something you’d see on a model in the Sears catalog, gray and white, kind of windblown, he said. The $190 they spent included a wire wig rack, a bottle of wig shampoo and three turbans. The shop, Healing Hands, specialized in cancer patients. The proprietor, Jeanie something, oozed kindness.

Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, Letting Go, motherhood

A Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Mother/Daughter Bond.

September 22, 2014

By Lockey Mitten Maisonneuve.

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As she lay in bed dying, Marlene told her daughter Kathy, she could see a door opening, beyond it she saw flowers everywhere, Marlene said “it was beautiful.” Kathy whispered “it sounds like you have a beautiful place to go with a lot of people who love you waiting for you, it’s okay to go.”

I had the privilege of participating in Marlene’s final days on this earth. I would go to her house and help her through guided meditations. She liked the full-body scan kind with white light covering her entire body. At the beginning of one of our first sessions, she was weeping and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. She just kept trying to hold it together. I finally said “if you are trying to not cry in front of me, it’s not working, just go with it.” She did. She allowed herself to cry as she settled in to meditate. I guided her through, she wept, I reminded her to breathe, she relaxed, I guided, she became soft.

After the meditation, she was a bit frantic about needing to write letters to her three adult children and her grand children. She was in too much discomfort to write, so I offered to write the words she spoke. As I wrote the words she needed to say to her children I understood how loved her children are. After we completed the letters, we sat quietly for a moment.

Continue Reading…

cancer, death, Gratitude, Guest Posts

I Will Miss You Every Day of My Life.

September 18, 2014

By Kathleen Emmets.

Note from Jen Pastiloff: Kathleen showed up at my Kripalu Retreat a couple years ago and has since become a dear friend and a great source of inspiration for me. She is the one who created the Fuck It List, that I so often speak of. She sent me this and I knew I had to get it up on the site. Humbled.

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Dear Jen,

Thank you for the beautiful way you teach people to express themselves. I wrote this in the voice you helped me to find.

I love you.

I stand at her bedside, holding her frail, smooth hand. She can’t speak today and her eyes, for the most part, remain closed. “It’s better this way,” I think to myself. Continue Reading…

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

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!

Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Breathing Room.

May 30, 2014

Breathing Room by Lavinia Magliocco

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. I am no stranger to death. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Roman that I am, suicide is always an option.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In college I memorized Lady Lazarus and recited it to my poetry class. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. With great success. The words…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. ……were not strange to me at all, they rolled out of my mouth as if I had written them.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Exhaustion. Annoyance. Defiance. Live in me. Feelings….Inhale. Exhale. Pause……don’t belong to anyone. It is we who belong to them, temporarily, for better or worse, however long…. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. …….it takes to feel them. Feelings are….Inhale. Exhale. Pause…. a landscape, and life does weird things with time and space. Some of us get stuck in one place for too long.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Breathe. Inhale. Living. Exhale. Dying. Pause. Die. Death. Over. Again. Breathe, in, out, pause.

I like thinking about dying. I liked Melancholia. I think we all wish sometimes we were on a collision course with an asteroid. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about things like bills, periodontal disease, and climate change. What’s cancer in the face of an asteroid? What a relief it would be for death to come with such timed certainty. One could let go and really live. Time is short anyway, but we stagger along, clinging to our fears, getting lost in minutiae. Live already! Is this living, this breath? Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

The big strip tease. When my skin was peeling off my legs in strips, like old wallpaper, I wanted to die many times. But I lacked courage, or a gun. I was married then, and didn’t want to scar my ex by leaving myself blasted and gutted in a bathtub, brains spattered on the wall, or blood drained into cooling bath water. They call it pyoderma gangrenosum – the skin peeling off and suppurating wounds thing – which is a ghastly name, evoking battlefields and dying. That was me – ex-bunhead, Crohn’s disease-ridden, pyoderma gangrenosum-bearing human, decomposing within and without. Skin and intestine are one and the same. I really did wish I could die.

Because it didn’t feel like living, then, that existence I had beyond which I could see nothing. Do you realize how much people live on the future? But what future could I have, I reasoned, when every day was a rush to the toilet, an explosion of diarrhea and guts, blood, skin oozing, hair falling out, bones sticking out, and exhaustion everywhere? Even the house felt exhausted.

Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

Crohn’s was called tuberculosis of the intestines, before Dr Crohn’s named it. Those nineteenth century heroines expiring of love and consumption – consumed, consuming. The etymology of consumption comes from the Latin – ‘con’ – altogether, with, and ‘sumere’ – to take up, use up, waste, eat up. I was being used up, consumed, by forces beyond my control. Eaten up, rather than eating. Annie Dillard’s deadly eating game, life is an eating game and usually we are the consumers. In this case, I was the consumed. But what I was being consumed for, or why, these were the questions I could not answer. When we breathe, we are consuming. But aren’t we also being consumed? Breath is fire. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

Life is consuming. And these days, don’t we consume and waste in a prodigious and inexorable rhythm of destruction? Eating and pooping our way to death, is this what we call life? I know something about pooping. I am the queen of poop. Fast forward to a hospital room about two decades after the pyoderma that didn’t kill me after all, a pompous doctor asked if I thought five bowel movements a day were acceptable? Acceptable? I would say desirable, after pooping twenty, thirty times a day and night? Are you kidding? Five is a celebration of health and fitness. I don’t care if you don’t find it acceptable or me acceptable because I decline your toxic drugs and do it my way, five is a beautiful number. My innards wouldn’t speak to him after that, and he was banned from my bedside. Off with his head, says the queen of poop.

When your innards are liquefying, when your skin is peeling off you, when the merest social interaction exhausts you, when sex is a distant memory and the only sensation below the waist is painful, do you call this life? Twilight zone, is this living, or is this dying? I asked myself this question many times. And, just as there are many kinds of living, are there not many kinds of dying? Even though I have come back to life, come back to stay, for awhile, at least, come back to this deadly eating game, I wonder.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. In. Out. Pause.

Hunger. A sign of life. Lose hunger, and you lose desire, and desire is what draws us forward, desire for something, someone. Desire for a taste, an experience, a possession. Possessed by desire, is that not a sign of life? Of living? Passion. Back to the age of Romanticism. Consumption, the romantic’s disease. All I wanted was to live an extraordinary life. An aversion to the ordinary is a kind of disease, a hubris of grasping. Hungry ghost. As if this world were not enough as it is.

Fast forward again. Or am I going backwards? Where did It begin? When? Now the hunger is not for food that suppurating intestines lose as soon as it arrives, but for something else. Some certainty. Some reason for everything. Call it spiritual hunger. I was going to satsang. Listening to my teacher made me remember something from long ago: a sudden dropping of the veil, a recollection of who I am beyond this flesh. After hanging around awhile, I signed up for her Tantra Foundations course to receive instruction for a basic practice. The strangest thing happened. The last day of this four day course, I was possessed by demons. Every fear, every hunger, every anger I ever had shook me that night like a mad prisoner rattling his cage. I couldn’t sleep. In desperation, I begin to chant Lam – the seed sound I’d learned for the first chakra. Lam. Lam. Lam. Inhale. Exhale. Pause.

I looked upon my father dying. When the time came, he let go. He let go, just like that. The man who couldn’t let an insult pass, let himself go with an exhalation. Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

We come into the world covered in blood, mucus body liquids, having solidified for nine months in a chamber inside another being. With the first breath, our breaths are numbered. Inhale. Exhale. What came before, the life that led to this letting go, was that easy? My father, orphaned. War. Occupation. Making his way in a foreign country. What’s easy? Breathe. In. Out. Pause. His hand in my hand. My hand on his head. My father, the corpse. Here. Gone. One little Indian left on the bed, breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Eternity.

One year of meditation and I began to lose all taste for life, for what passes for living in this culture: Eating. Fucking. Shopping. Movies. Nothing. Nothing appealed and I felt awful. Nothing satisfied me. She warned me this would happen. So of course, at first, I congratulated myself. But then, I felt loss. I felt bored. I began to panic. This wasn’t what I wanted. What did I want? To self-realize? What did that mean? Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Panic. In. Out. Pause. Panic.

So I got into a relationship, fast. In. Pause. Pause. Pause. In.Out.In.Out.In.Out. My ambivalence a metronome. The pause was lost. I swung helplessly from one tick to another. In.Out.In.Out. This is living, right? Fucking in out in out. Is this living? This anxiety that comes out as passion, is this it? In.Out. Faster. More. Better. More. Deeper. Somehow it just keeps moving, it keeps moving just beyond reach. It being love. It being success. It being being good. It being anything but what’s here. This wanting. In.Out.In.Out. This is not it.

Crashing against the shoals of what I thought I wanted, I was dying another kind of death. The death of illusions is painful. Abandoning hope that there’s any kind of salvation or escape from what Is, the inescapable-ness of reality – feels crushing. As long as there’s clinging to a shred of hope that it might be other than That – there’s suffering. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale. To hold on and not let go is to explode. Whatever I think I am – let go. Let go. Let go. Candle. Altar. Avatar.

I used to think there was an explanation for everything. This was my father in me, the scientist and epistemologist. Now I’m not sure. How can I be, when it’s clear that even what I call me is an aggregate of so many odds and ends that will eventually dissolve and die? And even worse, these pieces are often made of resistance. At every moment, some part of me is resisting being, is resisting what Is, as if that were even possible. One reads about saying “yes” to everything – like the mystic film-maker and disciple of Anandamayi Ma, Arnaud Desjardins chanting “yes” on a stretcher on his way to hospital while having a heart attack. This is not so easy to do. Ego will co-opt this and say yes to coconut cream pie, apple turnover, and rugelech – it’s all yes, right?

But this Yes is the courage to say yes to uncertainty, to say yes to non-existence, to say yes to pain while in the midst of it. And this is not so easy. This defies explanations. This defies interpretations. This defies any attempt to arrange facts and organize events to create meaning, to create an illusion of control – which is what looking for causation is. Tick Tock. The clock. The Breath. The song is Now. Now. Now. Inescapably Now.

Inhale. Exhale. Pause. Resistance is futile. But I try anyway. A life of resistance – a resistance training of sorts. It makes you stronger. Until you die, of course. One day I met my QiGong teacher, he looked me over – I could feel his dark eyes sussing me out – one warrior to another. One of the first things he said to me, privately was, “I am a divided man.” Because of course, he could see my own divided-ness. For him, it was between the world and the monastery, he was one of the few westerners who learned to fight with Taoist monks in the Sun Monastery in Beijing. He was healed by a teacher called Master Lao, like Lao Tzu, Lao meaning Old Man. I did not have a Lao to heal me. I was buffeted around among middle aged doctors with pills and prescriptions of brand new poisons to try to tame my desire, my fire, my ravaging illness. They never sussed me out.

So I learned QiGong from this beautiful divided warrior. At first I didn’t know what I was doing. I turned everything into a balletic exercise. I did that for three years. Faithfully.

Then, right before he left to go back to China, he drew the sword. He slew me, this beautiful dark-eyed warrior. The warrior and the dancer. On some level, we understood: death is good. Death is clean. Death makes space for a new path, a fresh start. We sat in a bare room on a wood floor. He told me – inhale, exhale, pause – all the ways I’d missed the mark. Another strip tease, he peeled the layers of my arrogance back. I came, a ripe fruit, and left exposed pulp. I wanted to curl up in a ball and wail. I wanted to cry for all the ways my mind betrayed my body. I wanted his love, his approval. He cut me down without glory.

Sometimes I imagine this room without me. A time when I will be gone and someone else will live here. Exhale. Pause. Birth and death come with body fluids. It’s messy. ‘Oh that this too too solid flesh should thaw melt and resolve into a dew.’ Inhale. Exhale. Pause. If only death really were the end. But after the exhale, after the pause, one must begin again. Inhale. You can’t stop it. You can’t just exit after the exhalation. You have to come back and start breathing. Even after letting go.

But what comes back? What comes back Is. What comes back is awareness. What comes back is consciousness. And under that, energy energy energy constantly in flux. In. Out. In. Out. Coming. Going. Coming. Inhale. Exhale. Pause. How many times I die in this life matters not a whit. What matters is what that death feeds. This deadly eating game is only deadly if nothing grows back.

Maybe on some knife point of annihilation, the ecstasy of birth inescapably awaits. Breathe. Avatar, altar, candle. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

There are moments when I know that gone is just a breath away. Know not in my head, but with heart knowing, being knowing. The ordinariness of it takes one’s breath away. Gone is right here in every moment. Gone. Gone. Gone. Kafka wrote: “The meaning of life is that it stops.” Inhale. Exhale. Gone.

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Lavinia Magliocco scribbled her first poems on the back of a piece of cardboard around age 4. Then ballet captured her. After attending North Carolina School of the Arts and School of American Ballet in NYC she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and those dreams were temporarily derailed. She got an English Lit degree at University of Cincinnati and wrote for the Cincinnati Enquirerer, Antenna Magazine, Clifton Magazine, and unobtrusively while employed as a travel agent. After prolonged illness and a surgery, she returned to the barre again at twenty-seven, and with the help of Pilates, proceeded to defy expectations by returning to dance on the stage and eventually landing a job at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in NYC, where she danced for six years. After moving to Portland in 1998 she established her Pilates studio, Equipoise- enlightened exercise LLC and continued to teach dance for Oregon Ballet Theater, Portland Festival Ballet, and other venues. She’s completing her book, As the Tutu Turns, and working on a performance art piece. She is stoked to have met Jen at Lidia Yuknavitch and Suzy Vitello’s The Writer’s Voice workshop.

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Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. 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:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas.

cancer, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

As I Disappear: My Battle With Anorexia During Cancer Treatment.

May 15, 2014

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By Kathleen Emmets.

“She’s so thin,” I say to myself as the familiar sense of envy creeps in. I notice her jeans billowing around her legs and am filled with self loathing. “How did I allow myself to gain the weight back?” In the past year, I have gained 25lbs and hate the sight of myself in a mirror. These thoughts would be somewhat normal for any woman to think, I guess. Most women I know have issues with their body. Except I know it is beyond fucked up for me. See, I’m sitting in Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital for my two month check up, and that woman I’m staring at, well, she’s undergoing chemotherapy; just like I’ve been for the past three years.

Somewhere in my mind I know these thoughts are wrong. That’s a lie, actually. These thoughts are completely normal to me. I just know they would be perceived as wrong by others, so I say nothing. When I was first diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2011 and the doctors were running a battery of tests on me, I saw on my chart that I fell within the normal weight range for my height. I always have. But charts be damned. In my mind, I’ve always been fat. “Well”, I said to my sister as I was about to begin chemo, “I’ll finally lose those stubborn ten pounds I’ve been struggling with for years.” “That’s looking at the bright side,” she replied. Clearly we not only share genes but also a morose sense of humor.

As the months passed, my weight slowly began to drop. It wasn’t too drastic initially though. I would hear other patients complain how they couldn’t keep weight on and, like in the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’ I half jokingly think, “I’ll have what she’s having” But, there is nothing funny about this, I know. I was fighting for my life and yet…and yet…I secretly loved to feel my bones protruding. In bed alone, I would run my hands across my jutting hip bones with a sense of relief. I stood in the mirror looking at myself naked and thought, “I’m finally skinny.”

When I was prepping for a surgery where a pump the size of a hockey puck would be placed under my skin to delivery chemotherapy directly to my liver, I asked the doctor if it would be very noticeable. He said because I was so thin it would definitely show but wouldn’t be too bad. After he left the room I turned to my husband and said, “Did you hear that? He said I was thin.” My husband just stared at me as I gave him a half smile.

I began to shop often. It was a thrill to get a size XXS, to see my clavicle deep and hollow. I embraced this thinness. Even as I was losing my hair. Even as I was throwing up and paralyzed by the chemo induced neuropathy. I found my hands sliding over those jagged hip bones again, following the curve on my concave stomach. It was the one bonus I found in cancer treatment.

Two years in, my medication was switched up. This new pill regime didn’t make me sick, didn’t cause me to lose my appetite. Slowly, my weight crept back up. My breasts became full again, my stomach a little more rounded. “Fuck”, I thought, “I can’t get fat again.” My size 2 jeans became a size 6. The weight came back at a steady pace. Once again, I could pinch my hips and feel skin. I began my food deprivation technique again. An egg for breakfast, lettuce for lunch, fruit for dinner. 2lbs gone…5lbs gone…8lbs gone. Yes. It’s working. I’m back in control. Except, I’m not in control at all. And this time, people are taking notice. At dinner my husband asked me why I wasn’t having bread, or meat, or much of anything really. “You’re spiraling again,” he said. I went home and dropped to my knees on my bathroom floor in a fit of tears. How can I continue to hate this body? The body that successfully fought off cancer. The body that brought my wonderful son into this world. The body that has been caressed and made love to. How is it that I am still here in this place of self loathing?

I have dug deeply over the past three years. I’ve gone on spiritual journeys, meditated with shaman, prayed to saints. I’ve done the work to deal with the cancer, but not with the real issue, which is why do I continue to hate myself? How is it that someone who fought so hard to live, still just exists in a body that she despises? What was this all for if the internal struggle continues to be unbearable? I am living while so many of my friends have died from this disease. I am cancer free while so many still fight. And yet…and yet…my mind still whispers toxic thoughts. “Be small,” it says. Small is safe. Small means I’m in control. And after three years of having limited control over my body, it’s nice to be in the driver’s seat; even if I don’t know where I’m headed.

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Kathleen Emmets is an avid music lover and yoga enthusiast. She believes in seeking out the good in all things and being her most authentic self. Her articles have appeared in MindBodyGreen, Do You Yoga, themanifeststation.net and Elephant Journal. She writes about her experience with cancer in her blog, cancerismyguru.blogspot.com. Kathleen lives in East Norwich, NY with her husband and son.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above!

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat Sep 17-24, 2016. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 19th, 2016. Click the photo above.

Beating Fear with a Stick, beauty, Books, cancer, courage, funny, Guest Posts, healing

Shit Happens. To Everybody.

February 13, 2014

My Road Trip to Kripalu by Joules Evans.

A few months ago I was up late counting sheep, when some shit I’d been dealing with must’ve hit the ceiling fan over my bed and started splatting all over the sheep, spotting them like 101 Dalmatians. Which kinda felt like a spoiler alert to the sleeping game I was trying to win. So I stopped counting shitty sheep and I prayed a little. Which is probably what I should’ve been doing about my shit in the first place instead of kicking it around a bit, and then, kicking myself for making such a mess. I’m assuming we all know how messy metaphorical shit can get when you kick it around. Now, I know I’m not supposed to go assuming, but I figure it’s legit in this case, since there’s no such thing as a shit vaccine. I don’t think there is a sequel or grown-up version of the children’s book, Everyone Poops. But I could see it being called something like, Everybody is Full of Shit. Well, at least, I know I am, on a pretty “regular” basis.

Anyway, after all of that ruckus I sort of pulled it together a bit. I wasn’t in the mood to go back to counting sheep quite yet so I woke up my computer, and Googled: “yoga, writing, cancer, retreat” to see where it would lead. Yeah, that third word is some of the shit I was dealing with. The first two are a couple of ways I try to deal. And the last word sounded like a good thing to do when you’re up to your sleepy eyeballs dealing with your own shit.

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poster by Jen’s friend Karen Salmansohn. Click to connect with Karen.

Google threw down an article Jen wrote for LIVESTRONG called “7 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat”.  No shit.  This was my introduction Jen Pastiloff and her Manifestation Retreats. It didn’t take me long, after falling head over heels into the lovely vortex that is Jen’s tribe, from the Gateway of that LIVESTRONG article, to Facebook stalking her, and then staying up all night watching her YouTube channel, to realize (become enlightened;) that Manifesting is aka Making Shit Happen, in Jen speak. Which, translated, meant that of course I had to go. I hadn’t tried manifesting my shit before so I thought I’d give it a “swirly”.

I’d already practically nodded my head off, agreeing with her 7 reasons I should go on a yoga retreat. As if, in fact, my body was, literally, saying YES. So I booked the next available Manifestation retreat, which meant packing up my shit for a road-trip to Kripalu in January. I don’t usually buy gifts for myself but this was a gift I needed to give myself. I saw it as the perfect diving board into 2014—a gift, which, 5 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer, I never even imagined. It was time to re-imagine, cast a vision, set course, and dive in. Head first. No tiptoeing about it.

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When I first walked in the door, I had a pretty intense moment of truth. I didn’t know anybody. And, I’m actually super shy. Luckily I have blue hair, so I don’t think anybody noticed my knees shaking like green Jell-O when I walked across the room like Gumby and plopped down to join the tribe 40 women sitting in a circle, like lotuses blooming. As bold a display as it was a beautiful bouquet.

“If you knew who walked beside you at all times on this path which you have chosen, you would never experience fear or doubt.” Jen kept repeating this quote as we went around the circle introducing ourselves to one another. Over the weekend we got to know who walked beside us. We unrolled our mats, unpacked our shit, turned it on its smelly ear in down dog, wrote down the bones, made them dance, shared our stories and our dreams, tore up our excuses, became friends, and each other’s fans. We spent the weekend as beauty hunters, making lists and lists of our #5mostbeautifulthings. This is one of the most. fun. games. EVER. We shared our beautiful things, but we also shared our shit—because love is messy like that sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

Shit happens. To everybody.  Except when you’re constipated. And then you just sit on the toilet reading Leaves of Grass for what feels like forever; meanwhile shit’s just taking its own sweet time while you’re sitting there waiting for the shit to go down. Oh, shit’s gonna go down. And sometimes it’s going to hit the fan.

Shit happens. But so does beauty, and what if it hits the fan? Does it leave a beauty mark or make a beautiful mess? Sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand but sometimes you double down or play a wildcard and beat the dealer. Sometimes you’re up shit creek but at least you’re on a boat. You may not have a paddle, but at least you’re sipping red wine in your flippie-floppies with your girls on deck. Anything is possible. Even making good shit happen. Which is pretty much what a Manifestation Retreat, what Jen Pastiloff, is all about.

Post road trip to Kripalu, I’d have to say, that the shit that drove me there, and the beauty I came away with, are two sides of the same coin. I put so much pressure on myself to not waste this gift of life, but to hopefully leave a beauty mark—that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I put so much pressure on myself not to waste a second of the gift of time that I’ve been given, but to spend myself, paying forward the gratitude I feel all the way down to my yoga toes—by making it count that I was here. This is what keeps me up in the middle of the night. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a single breath, but sometimes I forget to breathe. This is why I drove to Kripalu. I don’t ever want to take for granted the gift of a heart that beats, or forget what it beats for. This is why I drove to Kripalu.

Jen summed it up best when she wrapped up our time together with these words, this mantra: “At the end of your life, when you say one final ‘What have I done?’ let your answer be, I have done love.”

#iamlove

That’s all.

(Except for the part where I express my gratitude to Jen, Kripalu, and the tribe. Peace, love, and namaste. *bows to your unapologetic awesomeness. Xoxo.)

About Joules: I’m a Christ follower. I wear a pink bracelet that says survivor. I think cancer is a bitch. Been there. Done that. Had to buy a new t-shirt. But… I also think God is good. He’s been good to me. I just finished writing a book: SHAKEN NOT STIRRED… A CHEMO COCKTAIL about the cancer chapter in my life. Right now I’m in the midst of editing it and pursuing publication. I’m having the time of my life. I am an INFP. My hub is an INTP (also Buzz Light-year by day.) We have three ridiculous amazing kids who wake up and make me feel blessed. We call them “the Redheads”. After 16 years of homeschooling, we’ve all graduated and I’ve since retired my red pencil and grade-book. Between college, mission trips, internships and world travels, are three all in the process of divebombing out of our cozy little nest aka “the Evanshire” and stretching my apron strings till they snap. Next fall we will singlehandedly be keeping afloat the University of Cincinnati. I love my fam, Vineyard Cincy, writing, red wine, black coffee, good books, cooking, the smells of my hub’s pipe and freshly cut grass, star-gazing (clouds and sunsets too), peanut butter and chocolate, Shakespeare plays, long walks, long talks, playing Scrabble and tennis, popcorn and a movie, traveling, following my Redheads following their dreams…. I don’t like anything besmirching my peanut butter.

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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 (where Joules will also be!) over Labor DayAll 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 is a workshop in London, England on July 6. Book here.

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

Thank You, You Didn’t Break Me.

February 8, 2014

**trigger warning. Strong content that might be upsetting to some. Mention of sexual abuse. Strong language.

By Lockey Maisonneuve

“Thank you to the people who built me.” Jen Pastiloff read these words from an essay she wrote at Kripalu last weekend during her Manifestation Retreat®.

Thank you. You didn’t break me.

I was tingly when I heard these words. Why? Because Jen created the space for me to powerfully, and without anger, share my gratitude and flaunt my resilience to the people who built me.

We were invited to write a Thank You letter to everyone we ever met, the loving, supporting people who showed us grace and dignity, the people who were careless with our heart, the people who bullied us and those who showed us beauty. This letter was best described by Angela Patel, a retreat participant.  She called it a Thank You/Fuck You letter. “Thank you releases it, while fuck you holds it in.”

When I started writing my letter, I wasn’t sure who would receive the thank you or the fuck you. I just started writing, and thanking and fuck-youing. It all came together in one beautiful, colorful, abstract, authentic, thank you/fuck you landscape.

After I wrote this letter, I was shaking.  All over. My legs, my arms, my chest, my fingers, my heart.  Then I was asked to read my letter aloud.  Really Jen??

I trust her. So I read the letter.

I stood there reading, not even realizing what I’d written until I tried to speak the words out loud.  There was no time to prepare them for what they would hear, no time to make self-deprecating comments, or a joke to avoid being present to this moment.  I just had to stand in the uncertainty that I could be vulnerable and would not crumble into a pile on the floor.

As I read my letter I realized I was getting exactly what I came for.   I was being vulnerable. I was standing in uncertainty. I did not use my humor to deflect the situation like I normally do. I was authentic. I was raw. I was humbled.

My audience held the space for me to express things I’ve never said out loud. Once again, I made it through. I did not crumble. I am whole (and kinda awesome.)

I am forever grateful to Kripalu and the amazing space they provide, Jen Pastiloff for being the space of transformation for the planet, and everyone of the women I hugged, laughed and cried with.  I am in awe of every one of you.

My Thank You/Fuck You Letter inspired by Jen’s essay and assignment (click here to read it.)

Thank you to the kid who poured breadcrumbs on my sister before school.  Thank you to my sister for pushing me away.  thank you to my family for telling me repeatedly “She is the strong one.” Thank you to Andrew for hiring me as a bar tender and telling me during the interview that he knew I was lying about having experience as a bar tender.  Thank you to the rapist who punched me in the face.  Thenk you to the man who pulled me out of the shower after sneaking in to the house.  Thenk you to the man who held me down, thank you to my father who laughed as he counted the money men paid him to rape me.Thank you to the lady who worked in the bakery who bartered babysitting services in exchange for free breakfast.  Thank you to me for my ingenuity at the age of 12.  Thank you to my children for teaching me how to love unconditionally.  Thank you to me for getting up every time I fell. Thank you to cancer for allowing me to see that “someday” is a myth, the time is now.  Thank you lululemon for making yoga pants mainstream.  Thank you Jean, for saving me.  Thank you Ed for firing me, I hated that job.  Thank you personal training career for teaching me that I do have something to offer. 

PS. As a public service announcement, if you are planing on attending a retreat with Jen, which I highly recommend, don’t bother wearing mascara. It will be gone by the end of the first Elton John song and for the rest of the day, you will be wondering if it’s all over your face.   🙂

Lockey is a yoga instructor and survivor of cancer and child abuse. Sharing her story and practicing yoga saved her life. When she let go of both the cancer and the secret of abuse she was able to heal in both mind and body. Lockey openly shares her cancer and child abuse experiences to help others in what ever they are surviving in their lives. Lockey has been profiled in Shape Magazine  WABC-TV, News Channel 12.  She is a montly contributor for PositivelyPositive.com. And writes blogs for SheKnows.com and MindBodyGreen.She is featured in The Ultimate Guide to Breast Cancer by the Editors of Prevention Magazine.  Recently she presented a vidoechat for the GE Healthcare Breast Cancer Mosaic. She is a monthly contributor on PositivelyPositive.com.

At Kripalu in Massachusetts last week (Feb 1, 2014.)

At Kripalu in Massachusetts last week (Feb 1, 2014.)

Lockey and Jen at Jen's Bali retreat last year.

Lockey and Jen at Jen’s Bali retreat last year.

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. Be prepared to go deep if you go sign up for a retreat. And also to laugh! A lot.