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Hearing Loss

Binders, Guest Posts, Hearing Loss

Owning—And Rocking—An Invisible Disability

September 10, 2016

By Caroline Leavitt
Shortly after I have my son, I am mysteriously ill with a rare blood disease for almost a year. The meds they give me are toxic, some of the treatments are experimental, (a surgeon uses a robotic arm to glue my veins shut, letting me watch it all on a big screen), and when I finally begin to get better, the doctors tell me there might be lasting side effects. I might bloat out and look obese. (I beach-ball out so my comfort fashion is mumuus, but after a year, I can slide on my skinny jeans again.) I might lose my hair. (Chunks roll off my head and onto my baby, but it sprouts back curlier and stronger than before.) My skin might turn gray. (It does so that people on the subway bluntly stare, but it, too, comes back to normal). And I might lose some hearing and that wouldn’t come back. Sigh. That happens.

At first, because I’m so busy getting well, and taking care of a brand new baby, I don’t notice I lost anything. Not until another six months later, when I’m a giving a reading with two other novelists in front of a packed audience, and one of the other writers nudges me. “They asked you a question,” he says, nodding towards the seats. Panicked, I search for a person standing up, head tilted, waiting. I haven’t heard a question at all, and lucky for me, the person repeats it loudly. Still, I feel my cheeks fire with shame. I can’t look at the other writers, and even though they ask me to lunch afterwards, I make up some excuse.

I tell no one about that day. Instead, I begin to be hyperaware of my hearing and I sink into despair. I’m deeply ashamed. I don’t know anyone who has a hearing issue except for my mother-in-law, who is in her 80s. Comics make fun of hearing loss. People think you are being deliberately stupid. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Hearing Loss, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings

Losing My Hearing.

January 10, 2016

By Jen Pastiloff

The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself. —Charles Darwin, “Voyage of The Beagle”

After my father died, we left New Jersey with its death and dying and cold winters and fled to Southern California. We were the three of us in a station wagon—my mother, my sister, and I, and it was a simple case of “should we turn left or right?” Which, I’ve come to realize, is the way most of life works.
Door number one: you stay in college, wear turtlenecks, work in a university. Door number two: you drop out of college, run for three hours a day, wait tables. (And turtlenecks, they’re the devil.)

Turn right: he does drugs “one last time” and dies. Turn left: and there he is on the sofa in his frayed cutoffs and we never make the trek to California.

So a should we turn left or right happens and we choose left instead of right and end up in Santa Monica, where we live next to a man, his two daughters, and their beagle, Darwin, whom they keep locked up in a cage.

Darwin was a mean little dog. But hey, I might be mean too if I was confined all day to a small metal prison inside a dark kitchen. His bark was anxious, filled with accusations. I can see now how lonely he must’ve been in that little box. The kitchen empty, the lights out, and Darwin sitting in his own piss. I’d be angry too. Continue Reading…

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

Betrayals. By Jen Pastiloff.

June 9, 2014

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

 

Well, there’s the big one.

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

Hearing Loss, loss

Bursts Of Silence As Holy Things. An Essay on Losing My Hearing.

February 15, 2014

Hello from London! I have an essay up on the wonderful site The Nervous Breakdown. I would love if it you read it and comment/share. It’s the first time I have really tried to put my hearing loss into words.

tnb-pill

excerpt:

After decades of living in profound denial, I finally accepted that I had severe hearing loss. The audiologist put me in a box, stuck a piece of white paper over his mouth, and asked if I could hear what he was saying with the paper covering his lips. I couldn’t.  I understood then that I was going deaf.

Again I thought: words overrated, talking unnecessary.

In a box, locked up like Darwin the dog.

When the doctor said severe hearing loss on top of tinnitus, it occurred to me that the eeeeeeeeeee sound I had made as a child was my way of mimicking what I heard in my head. I was trying to get it out. I was trying to drown it out. Anything to make it stop.

The phrase adapt or die makes sense. I’ve adapted to the constant ringing in my head. When it becomes too much to bear, I adapt by drinking wine. Or by sleeping.

Click here to finish reading. 
Snorkeling_young_woman-1024x768

Beating Fear with a Stick, Hearing Loss, Inspiration

Rare and Fragile Birds.

December 27, 2012

Here in London. Just arrived from the countryside of England. More specifically, a quaint little town that looks like you think England should look like with its cobblestone and sloping streets and shops. Not stores- they call them shops. We were in the countryside visiting my brother-in-law and his wife and son. We were all there: my husband, me, my in-laws. I actually adore them aside from the fact that I am more outspoken than they probably like, except when I’m not, when I am the me that I am most days, which is, to put it plainly: an introvert.

I know, I know. You are smirking. You are shaking your head. I have an easy-as-Sunday-morning time being in front of groups, being the leader, being the center of attention. Being the writer and the observer. But when it comes to really being with people, eh, not so much.

I would rather be alone, in my head, with my books, with my words and thoughts. So many thoughts. Thoughts thoughts thoughts. I battle it. I am a rare bird. I am weird. I love people and I can’t stand them all at once.

I like the idea of them mostly.

The truth is, or at least the truth for me now and perhaps the truth that has always been there, is that I can’t hear. Especially in groups. It is far too much work to understand and to try and keep up so I go far away into the land of my head where I am safe and its quiet and I can be alone and not be badgered with questions I can’t hear anyway. I feel dumb mostly. I feel like a child in a roomful of adults who pretends to understand their language and their nods and their tssk tssk’s but really just understands what it feels like to be loved by them in a way that doesn’t need language just an arm around the shoulder, a hand on the forehead, a smile to acknowledge yes, we know you are here.

I am lazy and not very domestic. No, no please don’t think I am being hard on myself. I am not. (I am in many ways but not in this way. This is fact.) Last night I offered to help clean up after dinner. This is what women do, right? This is how we bond. This is what we do. Right? Right?

I picked up some plates and shoveled old food into the garbage but beyond that no one would let me do anything. Later, my mother-in-law made a big deal of of my offering to help (she was just trying to be nice, I think?) Jen even offered to help. It was good. Right, Jen? You offered to help clean up?

I am sure she was just making conversation and at the same time trying to make me feel good and useful but I couldn’t help but think I am a strange animal in a foreign land and even when I am home I am a bird among the fish. I am a bird with one wing. I am a rare and fragile thing.

Maybe not that fragile but my fierce independence (not as fierce as I like to imagine) makes me cringe every time I am doted on. You ok, Jen? You ok? You ok?

You ok?

It is so much easier for me to be alone. They are all out right now and I am alone. Hooray! I am at my best! I am happy! I can write! I don’t have to try and pretend to hear or be someone I’m not! Yay! Freedom! but if I want to migrate with the rest of the birds I must manage conversations and learn how to do things like cook and clean and pay my bills and do my taxes. Right? Right?

Right?

There is an Iranian custom called Taarof which is basically to say you keep offering someone something no matter what. Tea? Cookies? Tea? Cookies? Have the first bite of my pizza even though I’m starving? Have my jacket even though I’m freezing?

It drives me crazy. Not because of the inherent politeness it implies but rather the opposite. It always strikes me as something that actually doesn’t want to be done. Right before I got married, one of my husbands family members explained to me that you offer it without really wanting to give it or something to that effect. I tuned out because I got so angry. I have had enough of that my entire life. This morning, as we waited for the train to come back to London, I told my father-in-law that it was not singular to the Persian culture. I said it was Yiddish and Jewish too. It was a Jewish mother quality. Offer me food until I turn blue in the face with No, Thank you’s. 

They asked me what the Yiddish word for it was. I said there was no specific word but that it was known as: guilt.

And yes I have had enough guilt to kill a horse, as my mom would say. My mom with all her funny phrases (thanks Mom!) I have killed enough horses in my day. No more guilt.

So I am a little more opinionated when I am. And when I’m not, I am quiet and in my head. I am a writer. Whose mostly deaf. What else can I be? I can’t hear most things that are said so I prefer to be in the company of my brain, thank you very much.

I am a snob. No, not with people. I mostly love people. Or like I said, the idea of them. With food. I am a snob with food.

I realize when I am with my family here in England who are all so easy and so busy taarofing and who could care less where or what we eat. Me? With all my past food issues and obsessions with it, I can’t just eat anywhere. (Of course I can!) I make a scene in my head. I sulk in my head (and probably a little out loud) that we have to eat at a place where you have to get mayonnaise and ketchup and salt in little packets. And you have to order at the bar. The bar! My husband asks if I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth sometimes to make fun of me. No, quite the contrary. Sometimes we counted pennies (not an exaggeration) to buy a can of tuna. Not always no, but in the worst case scenarios we did or my mom made something called mush. Mush was a mix of brown rice and lentils and whatever else we could literally mush together. So, why the snobbery now, Jen?

I have control over my food, that’s why! (Want a cliche? There. I gave you one.)

I get pleasure out of deciding where to eat. Out of making a production of where to eat and what to order and what kind of wine to have. When I feel ordinary and trapped I truly feel like a rare bird, starving and in need of nourishment. How can you expect me to eat this wilted lettuce and fried fish?

Yet I do. I eat it and I survive and am probably made better for it. Why should I be dictated by my food choices and my bad hearing? I will eat this fried fish and wilted lettuce and enjoy the company, even though I can’t really hear much of what is being said and I will learn how to slither into the world like a bird does when it must eat. I’ll swoop down and take what’s offered because that’s how life works sometimes. You can’t always sit in a corner and draw pictures with words in your head while the rest of the world carries on, trumpets for mouths.

You can sometimes. Just sometimes.

You can sometimes jettison back and forth between worlds but if you want to be married (as I do, as I am) you must somehow learn to eat greasy fish and chips in a diner that used to be an Opera House (a real life Opera House!) And it’s actually not that hard. You open your mouth. You take a bite. You chew. You swallow. You sip your wine. You listen the best you can with the ears you got and you take another bite. You dip your fry in the mayo from the nasty plastic (stop judging, Jen!) packet. You try your best to understand and when you don’t, you don’t.

It’s not that different from any other married person’s life, hearing loss or not. Man or woman.

So I am a little weird. I am a little snobby with my food and I suck at cleaning. I like to be alone more than not. So what? I am not so special. I am not that rare.

When I start to feel too rare and fragile and special I know that it is time to re-renter the world of People. I will not feel guilt for my wacky ways (they aren’t even that wacky) nor will I make excuses.

But I will compromise.

Birds don’t travel alone. They flock together.

When I start to separate, my wings outstretched, flying high above everyone, looking for things to write about and feeling more than a little sorry for myself, I will look for the nearest ledge, perch on it and wait for an opening. There will be an opening and I will slip in. I will do what I need to do to be a part of the world.

Hearing Loss, loss, my book

Investigating Loneliness.

September 16, 2012

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and my teacher, Annie Carpenter, kept using the word investigate to cue us in the poses.

Investigate the backbend.

I liked the idea of being a detective when it came to my backbend, to the way my foot felt on the mat. I liked the way this verb felt in me, the way it rolled around and ended up in so many different landscapes. I planted the seed of investigation and what came up out of the earth of me was:

Investigating loneliness.

The old couple that lived next door to us for years in New Jersey, Kay and Jerry and how she got hit by a car in front of the church across the street and never came back from the hospital, staying there for months before she finally died of some complication. How he died of loneliness. How I think it must not be that hard. I’m investigating that.

Sometimes I sit in my apartment and get stuck there. Literally stuck. The quicksand of my desk chair. The sinking mud of my bathroom mirror.

The phone rings and the texts come in, the emails. All of it with its own little rythym of relevance: Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that! I stare at it them like little soldiers, these little missives and misfits and messages and patiently wait for it all to stop. Mesmerized by my ability to want to turn it all off, to make my nearly deaf ears a little more hushed. Noiseless as shock, I sit at my desk or in my bed and wrap myself in a feeling close to nothing.

What is this feeling? I have so many things to be done, so many people to call back, so many things I have let slip between the cracks of my mind and yet I can’t move.

Everyone is laughing and I might join is so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs frogs in throats. I might as well be floating on a piece of bark at sea with nothing but the clothes on my back and my thoughts to keep me from drowning. I have no idea what you are laughing at! I scream in my head as I laugh along, my hearing loss incapable of disguise. That feeling of laughing when you have no idea why everyone is laughing, that’s a kind of loneliness I want to tell you about also.

How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people? I imagine on my computer screen after this blog post, being sent in an email from someone feeling sympathetic somewhere. On the bottom, in the comment section below, platitudes like: You are never truly alone!  You may feel lonely but you are never alone! You are so loved.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago eating at Pasquals with my friends, the writers Emily Rapp and Chris Abani. We were chatting about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Emily’s baby is dying so these types of conversations are normal over Huevos motuleños. (This dish includes banana on top of eggs and while at first I thought the idea horrifying, I came around once I tasted Emily’s.)

Chris and Emily were saying that with sympathy people make it about themselves. Whereas empathy is truly about you, whoever you are. Makes sense. I agreed. That’s why sympathy doesn’t feel authentic, why it’s rejected like a banana on an egg. I don’t want sympathy.

I want a: Yea! Hey, I know what you mean. I have felt that as well. I get it. I understand.

That’s it. Enough said.

You can’t fix it. There is no fixing. I am investigating all the ways I feel lonely in a crowd,  what it feels like to be amongst the world and also completely not in it at all.

The thing is, I like being alone. I prefer it. I struggle to leave my apartment. I would rather read a book or write than go out and I have been this way since childhood. But much as I am investigating my backbend, I am looking into the intricacies of my aloneness and how it keeps me in my head and what a bloody bad neighborhood that really is.

I just read something by Iyanla Vanzant where she said “Who are you? Is not meant to be a question. It is meant to give pause for reflection. Who are you without whatever you hold on to?”

It is not meant to be a question but rather to give pause.

That’s what I am doing with this particular case, in my detective work, in my investigations. I am giving pause. I am not looking to solve the mystery, per se, but to look without judgement at the areas of my life I have hidden or buried.

I feel lonely often because I can’t hear. It’s a lonely world when you can hear sounds but have no idea what they mean.

So I understand how Jerry died shortly after Kay was hit by the car in front of the church because surely she was the only one who understood his sounds and what they meant.

What I have found in my investigation thus far is this: loneliness is the place we meet our hearts. And we hear our hearts for the first time. The beat slows down, the accelerated beat ceases and there is no panic or sadness or isolation only connection and  a deep knowing that you have waited your whole life for this.

In that moment, The Lonely Ones send their hearts out into the world to love and be loved, and maybe they will get broken, maybe not. But for a few minutes in the life of that heart there is nothing else but other hearts and their is a linking up which if you listen closely to it says the word Finally.


Hearing Loss, Self Image

Dreaming Perfect.

June 10, 2012

Last week I had this dream I was perfect.

I was tall and leggy. I had sweet, brown-colored skin and light eyes.

I had perfect hearing.

There was no ringing in my ears, so when you told me things like: Your coffee is getting cold or My name is … or I love you ~

I understood you.

I was happy in this dream.

Of course, I didn’t realize I was happy.

I woke up and tried to get back into the dream, but, as you know, that is impossible.

I almost got there, but in the new version of the dream I was short and fully deaf, instead of partially. Everything else was the same as the first dream.

I thought about the dream all day.

I realized later that day that maybe I wasn’t happy in the first dream, after all. Maybe I had just assumed, in that brief moment when I woke by my alarm, and I couldn’t get back, that I had been happy, since it’s our nature to assume that what we can’t have is better.

I have gotten over my height, my skin color, my weight, and the fact that light eyes got passed over on me.

I have not fully accepted my hearing loss.

Oh, what it would be like to hear a whistle!

A bird. Ice clinking in a glass. The television. My own yoga teacher. My own breath. Someone saying my name as a whisper.

As I sit here and listen to the ringing in my ears that never goes away, I fall into a state of meditation, as if my tinnitus were actually a constant “Om” in my head instead of torture.

Then it hit me like a ton of bells ringing. This package of me, the sum total of all my parts, is greater than my hearing loss. I am normally terrified of equations, but as soon as I stop and think about the mathematics of myself, I know that I have accepted my loss indeed. I realize that this profound hearing loss, which causes me so much pain and aggravation—so much sadness and loneliness—also causes me so much love.

I had never thought of love quite like that. As if it were an effect that had been caused by something. I always thought it was just something like the weather—it just was. Like love just appeared one day like the wind, and we accepted it as Nature just doing its thing, running its course. We don’t question love most days. I love my mother, I love my husband, I love my students. It just is. This I know.

But there is a cause and effect.

My hearing loss has caused me love because people have been drawn to my compassion, which is my loss transformed. I have been able to turn my deafness into my grace, and that grace has opened me to love I never dreamed possible.

So today I change my mind. I accept this thing about myself that I once hated. By doing that I allow other things about me to shine. Those things, like my sense of humor and my touch. My vision beyond what my eyes can see, and my kindness. My philosophy of “If you fall you must laugh” was born out of not being able to hear. You can’t take life too seriously.

I mean, how can you, when you can’t hear most of it?

My hearing loss has allowed me to laugh at myself, which in turn has allowed others to laugh at themselves.

What a gift!

I had a dream last night and I was me in the dream. Regular old me. Mostly deaf, kind of clumsy, hazel eyes, pale skin, silly. In it, someone leaned over and asked me if I was happy.

I laughed and said Of course I am happy. Why wouldn’t I be? Now pour me another glass of wine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~
**Post originally appeared on Positively Positive where I am proud to be a regular contributor.

Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga®  weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013. 

 

Daily Manifestation Challenge, Hearing Loss, Self Image

Who Are You? The DMC: Daily Manifestation Challenge.

May 30, 2012

Yesterday, a girl came up to me before my class at Equinox and told me that my sister Rachel’s blog is her saving grace; that she feels she is on the same journey as my sister. That she is, in fact, a little obsessed with 3 Words for 365. So am I, I thought.

So am I.

I felt proud, happier than if it was my own blog she was talking about (which, due to my hearing loss, I thought she was at first!)

Serendipitous too, as I had just started this guest post for my sister’s blog. It was a gentle nudge from the Universe to get writing.

The past few days I have been in my bed, with the blanket over my ice-pack covered head.

Sound fun?

No, I didn’t think so.

Unless you are a vampire.

I haven’t suffered from one of my migraines since last May. Then BAM! Without warning I got one on Tuesday night.

I felt the panic set in.

It makes it hard to talk. To see. To focus.

I slur a bit.

Like I said: not fun. Unless you’re drunk, then these symptoms might feel a bit more celebratory.

I cancelled my private yoga sessions on Wednesday and Thursday due to how bad I was feeling.

I called Frank Gjata, who has become my life coach and dear friend, and before I knew it, I was lying in the dark, my throbbing head screaming Get off the Effing Phone, while the rest of me was off having a profound life changing moment. (That’s Frank for you, folks.)

What he does.

LCM. Life. Changing. Moments.

He asked me: Why now? Why do you think your migraine is coming back now?

I wanted to yell I don’t know and I don’t care. I just want the pain to go away.

He asked me to describe what I was feeling.

I said: throbbing. All I could get out. One word. Throbbing.

He suggested how perfect that was because it was actually how I was living my life.

On, off.

On, off.

Stop, go.

Stop, go.

Why did he have to be so spot on?

I told him I was feeling guilty that I gave up so much work the last few days. I said ” Who am I to give up $200 an hour jobs? I didn’t even make 200 A DAY when I was waitressing?”

He says: Exactly. Who are you?

There it is. That question.

“Who are you?”

(Just for the record, I hate when things get turned on me.)

I got it. Here we are back to my favorite exercise in my workshop. The “I am ____” exercise.

I realized that I keep myself so busy and run down because there is this mantra running through my head. You know how I love a mantra.

The mantra is: Who am I to ever say no to something?

Who am I to ever allow myself to say No to something?

What a question!

How many times a day do we say yes to things because we don’t feel we deserve to say no? Or, because there might not be another time to say “yes”? Or because the only way we know how to live is to keep ourselves busy all the time? Or because we feel guilty?

The list is endless.

I decided to fill in my “I am ___.”

I am: a successful writer. I am: a loved yoga teacher. I am: financially abundant.

I am: powerful. I am: A connector. I am: healthy. I am: well.

Who are you?

Last week Frank helped me realize how I was speeding through life ( again with the on, off, stop, go) and that helped me stay not present.

In fact, I got a speeding ticket on my way to his house. Just for fun. So I had proof I was speeding.

It wasn’t that fun, to be honest. I cried.

He also helped me get clear on how my hearing loss, “my not being able to hear” was related to my “not being able to be here.”

I hope this doesn’t sound too airy fairy, too woo-woo.

But the reality is, I don’t care if it does.

I am: someone who is independent of the good opinion of other people.

Is my migraine gone? Mostly. I wouldn’t be able to write if it was fully with me. There is enough of a remnant though for me to remember who I am.

Enough of a subtle pulsing and slight nausea to have me stop and take a breath. To have me pause and ask myself “Do I want to say yes to this next thing?”

Because the truth is: I get to choose.

Somewhere along the line I forgot that I get to choose who I am.

I forgot who I was and thought I was someone who would always be broke and who always had to say yes to any and every job or offer that came my way.

I forgot that I am worth it, and I get to take care of myself, especially when I am not feeling well. Especially when I am laying in a dark cell with ice over my face. Especially then.

Keep going, don’t stop, keep pushing, it’s never enough.

These mantras are broken and no longer serve me so I am throwing them away with my migraine if you don’t mind.

I would love to hear what your mantra is.

Just who do you think you are?

Sorry it’s been so long since a DMC was out, folks! In the comment section below, answer the question: Who Are You?

***This originally appeared in my favorite blog 3wordsfor365.

Guest Posts, Hearing Loss, Inspiration

You Never Know Who You Are Touching. So Keep Going. Keep Going.

May 28, 2012

I reposted my blog called “What Are You Up Against?” yesterday. In it, I talk about how we are all up against something. Mine happens to be hearing loss.

Someone who takes my classes regularly emailed me this today and it was so moving to me that I had to share. Take a minute and read. My heart goes out to her son.

Keep going guys. Even when you think no one is listening, keep going. Someone is listening. They always are.

Sometimes they just don’t hear it for a while, is all.

Hi Jennifer,

Wow. I just read your post “What Are you Up Against?”. You mentioned your hearing problems in class but I never knew the details. Wow.

As you say…BAM. Your post hit me really hard.

My 7 year old Jackson has intermittent hearing and a life full of ear problems. He’s had 8 surgeries…3 major surgeries and 5 sets of ear tubes. Rare conditions that caused multiple hospitalizations. At age 5.5 we couldn’t get an infection in his left ear to clear and a rare condition called mastoiditis developed. The infection went into the bone behind his ear, at the base of the skull.

I won’t even explain the surgery and treatment it required. I do remember sitting in the hospital looking at him with his head completely wrapped in bandages, a small section by the left ear blood tinged, thinking…what the F_ _ _ is going on here.

He was just finishing preschool and I discovered that he got by during his last year by reading lips. His teachers would say he was extremely bright and successful. But as I observed him I realized that for 2 years straight he had the exact same routine (circle time, bathroom, snack, recess, work time…) and he could follow it in his sleep.

He couldn’t hear ANYTHING.

He became the leader on the playground, always organizing all the games. Why? Because he couldn’t hear what anyone else was saying. If he was in charge then he knew what to do. Every time I uncovered something else my heart sank.

Fast forward two years later to today…Is he a different person because of it? Absolutely.

And he’s only 7.5.

We keep hitting road bumps where he is thrown back into a 2 month period of infections and not hearing. I have driven all over LA trying to figure out the root cause. The best surgeons tell me they don’t know and they hope he will grow up with no long term damage but we don’t know for sure.

Jen, my heart goes out to you. I watch Jackson on the soccer field after the coach tells him to do something… he immediately looks over at me with a look of pain. It doesn’t matter how many times I talk to the coach they still get in his face and say, “Jackson! Why are you not listening to me??!”. If I were him I would run off the field crying. But he swallows hard and keeps going.

If only I had that perseverance. Jen, I admire you deeply for your ability to keep going.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You see hy teaching is so comforting to me? Why standing up in the front of the room is so much more empowering for me than when I am in my teacher’s class and I cannot hear a word and I feel lost and disempowered?

I am so grateful for this 7.5 year old to remind me of who I am and why it’s so important to keep going.

Delight, Hearing Loss, Inspiration, manifesting

Life By Me.

April 24, 2012

I got interviewed for an amazing website called Life By Me and the post went up today.

They asked me which word was most meaningful to me at the moment and I said, yea, you guessed it: manifest.

Sophie Chice is brilliant for coming up with the concept of the site.

And just an FYI, I didn’t write the piece but rather it’s excerpts from my words.

Surf around too because there are some incredible folks on it and some heavy hitters.

Click picture to read post on LIfeByMe.

jennifer pastiloff: inspiration seeker. laughing yogini. true listener.Jennifer Pastiloff is a lover of life, laughter, poetry, yoga, and a really good glass of wine. She created Manifestation Yoga, which is all about causing serious breakthroughs in life without being too serious.

Click here to read. 

Hearing Loss, loss, There Are No Words To Describe This

Memorial.

March 19, 2012

It poured on Saturday.

The sky opened up and dumped down in long slow strokes, before it sped up and cracked onto the sidewalk its big fat dirty teardrops of rain.

Of course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt fitting.

 

I woke up to a tapping on my ceiling and half-asleep I had thought someone was knocking. The grey sky depressed me which seemed a bit impossible being that I was already depressed in the way Old Jen would have been, ( how I think of the earlier, more screwed up version of me) rather than the new yoga-teacher version of myself ( I write with a wry wink and a tongue in the cheek).

I looked out the window and realized that nobody was knocking but the sky whispered I should crawl back in bed and forget whatever it was I had to do, whatever it was I said I’d be. Including teaching yoga. Including a memorial.

I taught my two classes, of course.

I went to the memorial, of course.

My body was aching tremendously. It was like I had taken this last loss of Steve, and every other loss I have ever suffered and stuck them inside my muscles and shouted “Go!”

I sat in the front.

Not by choice. Because my hearing has been worse than normal lately and I was afraid I would miss a word, a story, an intonation.

I still missed quite a bit but I heard enough.

It was the most beautiful memorial I had ever been to.

In fact, for someone who has suffered so much loss, it was only the second one I have ever been to. The first was my stepfather (my mother’s second husband) who died when I was 18, one week shy of graduating high school. We flew to California from Jersey and I sat on the beach in a long flowered skirt in my 91 pound body and threw a rose into the ocean for him as I wept like I couldn’t for my own dad ten years prior.

Grief unearthed is as inevitable as air.

I sat there last Saturday, in my aching body filled with screaming people trying to come out, and, as I wiggled to try and quiet them up, I started to drift to past lives.

My own past lives.

Like my father’s past life.

He passed in 1983.

I watched and listened to these gorgeous faces as they openly broke their hearts for us on a podium with stories of Steve’s humanity, his humor, his humility. His kindness. (And boy was he kind!)

And, as it went, I drifted to 1983. I was at my father’s memorial.

 

He was the funniest man anyone had ever met and the stories they told! Oh, the stories they told!

Only I hadn’t been there.

My sister and I were not at my father’s memorial or funeral because my mother had thought it was the best thing to do at the time.

Who knows, maybe it was?

If I was 34, and my husband, who I was just about to divorce, dropped dead and left me with two small girls, I would probably think moving to Fiji and selling my kids down the river would be a good idea. Who knows?

Grief is mean and calculating and tricky and gossipy and ugly and stupid.

So, during Steve’s memorial, in the moments when my beloved hearing loss got the best of me and all I saw were moving mouths, I simply went back to 1983 and sat in and listened to them talk about my dad.

I realized how important this ritual is.

I walked up to his larger-than-life photo on the stage, propped next to a surfboard and a Dallas Cowboys jersey (he loved both equally) and I said Goodbye Steve. I loved you. I love you friend.

Do I blame my mom for the fact that I did not get to do that with my dad?


Nope.

It has simply reminded me of why I love connecting with people. Why I love doing what I do.

I have no problem connecting with my father.

Am I insane? No. 

Am I hippy-dippy? Actually, no and I wish I was a little more so.

I realize that my father, and my beloved soul brother Steve, for the brief time they were both in my life, taught me how to be human. They taught me: what it means to connect to someone. To reach over and touch someone’s forearm, to look into their eyes and laugh so hard that I think my insides my fall out of me if I don’t grip my stomach and pray, to be made so alive by their presence that I wonder if I have made them up.

Maybe I have made parts of them up?

Maybe that’s what we do to people to make them fit.

I can make up as much as I want now that they are both gone.

In fact I will.

I am making up that I was at my dad’s memorial and all the stories people told made me laugh so hard I cried, like at Steve’s. And that Steve and my dad are writing comedy sketches up there and when I get there I will have a part in one, maybe two of them.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad Mel at his memorial but I know that other people did. I was there this weekend for Steve and other people who loved him could not make it, so this is for them:

It is ok.

They forgive you and love you.

And it doesn’t matter.

Close your eyes and connect.

They are right here.

 

Forgiveness, Hearing Loss, Inspiration

Love Yourself, Accept Yourself, Forgive Yourself

March 7, 2012

“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia 

You mean I am a source of many wonderful things?

Yes. Actually you are. Own up to it.

Leo has it right.

1. Love yourself.

Despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourselfLove yourself.

Tattoo it on your brain.

I can think of so many reasons why you should love yourself, but here’s just one: It is incredibly dull and uninspiring to be around people who do not love themselves.

I spent many years being anorexic and feeling like I was a monster. I’m sure I was not much fun to be around and I also know that I didn’t book any of the acting jobs I was trying to land. It is very challenging to hire someone or love someone who fights you by holding up a mirror of hatred toward themselves.

Here’s my challenge for you today: Take a picture of your face and remember that in 10 years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were. Be amazed now.

Identify something about you that you may not adore and find a way to at least laugh at it or like it, even a little bit.

I have profound hearing loss; in fact, I am almost deaf and wear hearing aids. I have ringing in my ears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Does it drive me mad most days? Yes. However, it is here to stay, and I have learned that I can make light of it or sit home and feel sorry for myself because I am missing out on what feels like everything.

Either way the choice is mine to make. I have also learned that because of my hearing loss, my other senses are highly attuned. I am more compassionate because of it. I am a healer.

I have turned something I don’t necessarily “love” having into another piece in the puzzle of me, and part of why I love that puzzle.

Instead of thinking “I am an incomplete human being because I can’t hear perfectly,” I think “I am an incredible human being with a profound sense of touch and understanding and a huge capacity for love. I am also awesome at reading lips. So there.”

What can you love about yourself today that you may have struggled with before?

Can you find a way to cultivate the opposite? According to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33, “When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy.”

2. Forgive yourself.

I lead a meditation in my workshops on forgiveness, and every time, without fail, people start crying. Almost everyone in the room will have at least shed a tear. This leads me to believe that we are all indeed connected, a union—which is what the word Yoga means.

The human experience is so similar, and yes, I know the details are vastly different, and that the devil lies in the details, but, we still share the same weight on our shoulders. That weight would be diminished if we chose to forgive instead of harboring guilt or anger.

People cry most in my workshops when we do the meditation on forgiving yourself. Most likely it’s because we are hardest on ourselves.

What can you forgive yourself for today?

I forgive myself for saying “I hate you” to my father right before he died when I was eight years old. I carried it around for many years and let it color my life a dark airless color.

I forgive myself for not being perfect.

This shift occurred was when I was finally able to let go of my eating disorder. We often hold ourselves to impossible standards and end up feeling bad.

Ask yourself honestly, “What can I forgive myself for?” 

Sometimes it takes simply saying it aloud or writing it down to realize that you actually no longer need to bear the brunt of it.

3. Be good to yourself. Do things that you inspire you daily.

Make a list. Grab your iPad or your notepad or even your hand and draw up a list of things you can do today to make you feel good.

Keep adding to the list. Forgive yourself if you skip a couple and love yourself no matter how long or short the list is and how much you accomplish on it.

You will not be graded or tested on this list.

My list involves a lot of laughing.  My “Feel Good” list also has: my yoga practice, teaching yoga classes, writing, a long leisurely dinner with friends, having a great glass of wine, staying up all night reading a book I cannot put down, being with kids who have special needs and teaching them yoga, poetry, Modern Family, skyping with my nephews, and the list goes on.

Do something every single day that makes you feel good, whether it is changing your thought patterns or taking a bath while reading a magazine in the tub.

Maybe it’s getting an extra hour of sleep or staying up late and watching Pretty Woman for the 50th time.

Pleasure and joy are highly underrated and beating ourselves, up highly overrated. Flip it! Cultivate the opposite.

One of my main rules as a yoga teacher is that if you fall, you must laugh and take down your neighbor, which cultivates a sense of humor, and hopefully a little joy. You need at least a little joy daily. Sprinkle it on your cereal, slip it in your downward facing dog, add it to your pinot noir.

Accept that you are indeed the source of many wonderful things. If you need help remembering what they are from time to time, keep making your feel good lists. Keep coming back to the love that is inherently yours. It is your birthright. And so it is.

Whatever it takes. Just do it.

A student told me after she returned from my July Ojai retreat that she wanted to live her life every day as if she was still on the retreat. And why shouldn’t she? What a revelation! What a revolution of the mind. 

Be good to yourself. You will train other people to do the same.

And guess what? If they aren’t good to you, you will still have your old standby who is always good to you: YOU. Pretty much what matters most at the end of the day. You being good to you. The rest will follow.

Remember the 90’s En Vogue song, with the lyrics “Free your mind, the rest will follow”?

It will. So get up and dance.

***This originally appeared on the Tiny Buddha site.

Hearing Loss

The Born Identity.

February 11, 2012

I sleep a lot.

When I was in Philly, I stayed with my friends in Chestnut Hill. Their 5 year old Jack thought something was wrong with me because he had to pry me out of bed in the morning. “Is it because California has a different time zone?” he asked me.

He’s pretty smart.

It’s kind of always made me feel ashamed how much I like to sleep. How much I need sleep. Busy people, successful people, (at least the ones I know), do not take marathon naps like I do.

It dawned on me lately why I require so much. Why I get so tired.

I work hard.

Yea, yea, we all work hard.

I work hard in a different way. I realized in the last few days, as my hearing has gotten much worse for whatever reason, that I have been wanting to hibernate more than usual. I have been avoiding the phone.

The reason?

It’s too much damn work.

I have to struggle to hear and keep up and make sense of what’s going on.

No, I am not fully deaf.

My hearing is distorted and I have tinnitus. I hear sound but I cannot make out what that sound is, for the life of me.

Imagine talking underwater. Imagine someone talking with a sock over their mouth.

I cannot watch tv without subtitles. I cannot hear what you say unless I look at your mouth.

It gets old. It gets boring. I get very tired of having to tell people. I get really over myself at making bad jokes about it.

I get scared that it will get worse and worse.

I try not to get scared that it will get worse and worse.

(The truth is, any worse and I will be 100% deaf.)

So I go to sleep.

It is exhausting putting forth so much energy simply to hear someone tell you their name.

So I sit here and watch The Bourne Identity with the sound turned down because I actually find it soothing, and, like good company, it doesn’t have to say a lot, just knowing it’s here is enough. Plus I have seen it 17 times.

More than anything it frustrates me. I want to hear, I work hard to hear, but frankly, whether I work hard or not, it doesn’t make a difference. It just makes me exhausted.

I am going to work less.

I accept that I cannot hear perfectly and if I miss a thing or two, well, then I miss a thing or two.

The energy I exert to be part of the world is taking it’s toll on me and whether my ears can hear it or not, I am in fact very much part of the world.

It’s taken me quite some time to understand my fatigue.

Why my friends can go and go and teach 4 yoga classes and keep going and why I need to crawl in bed and pass out? What stuff am I made of? Yikes, how am I going to be a mother if I have to rest so often?

Well, the fact of the matter is: I will have to work less in the irony of all ironies.

I must lessen the struggle. Practice radical acceptance that the things I am meant to hear will be revealed to me even if someone has to pass me a note like we are in 8th grade or text me. I have to stop pretending that I can hear and then spend 5 minutes replaying the sounds in my brain so I can make sense of them.

And if I need to sleep a little more to be the best teacher I can be, then so be it.

Now Indiana Jones is on. Still on mute. I have seen this one many times, as well.

I guess the reality is, that my life, much like these films I can watch and enjoy on silent mode, can be enjoyed without so much noise. I can probably sit back and relax a little more because whether I admit or not, I probably know what is going on. I have to trust a little more and maybe just get a really good translator.

My own born identity is that of a healer.

The older I get and the longer I have had to deal with this hearing loss the closer I get to fulfilling my destiny. I am an empath. I am a healer.

I do believe this is largely due to my struggles with hearing. It has allowed me to fine tune my other senses and become highly aware of what it means to be human.

Does it suck sometimes? Yes.

Do I feel really tired a lot because I spend 90% of the time trying to figure out what the f*ck you just said? Yes.

Do I miss jokes? Yes.

Do I miss what the yoga teacher says? Yes.

Am I happy? Yes.

Am I grateful yes?

Am I love? Yes.

That’s what it is. I trade a bit of fatigue and some struggle and some deafness for a pretty awesome life and a heightened sense of compassion.

I’ll deal with it.

Just please don’t whisper, talk to me while upside down or while in another room.

In turn, I will give up the fight and realize that when I really really need to hear you, I will.

I will find a way to hear and the things I don’t, well, my guess is that they weren’t meant for me anyway.

Just a hunch.