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Owning It!

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Owning It!

When Girls Make Noise

November 27, 2016
noise

By Kari O’Driscoll

“Do they make noise when you walk?” my 16-year old daughter stands next to me in the shoe store. She and her sister are my fashion experts. I never buy a pair of boots or a purse without consulting them first. I laugh out loud, not because it sounds like a ridiculous question, but because I completely identify with it. In that instant, an image of my two girls playing dress-up as toddlers fuzzes into my mind. Their arms filled with tulle and satin, they ferried outfits from the carpeted playroom to the hardwood floor of the kitchen, emptying the dress-up box trip by trip because that was where the plastic princess shoes made a really satisfying clop, clop, clop.

“Children should be seen and not heard,” was a phrase often repeated in my childhood home, except it seemed as though the boys were somehow exempt. They were encouraged to rough-house and wrestle, yelp wildly through a game of Cowboys & Indians, holler affirmations and pump their fists in the air when they won a game of H-O-R-S-E. The girls were expected to sit quietly and color and if we made any sort of exuberant noise we were shushed post-haste.

By the time my mother and father divorced, I was well-versed in the expectations of silent servitude. My job was to anticipate what needed to be done and do it without protest or inquiry. I learned that chatterbox was decidedly NOT a compliment, that challenging house rules, even in a calm voice, would earn me a belt slash across the backside, and that my charm and value rose in direct proportion to how well I conformed and made peace between my siblings. I was a good middle child but also the oldest girl. When Dad left and Mom went back to work full time, I became the one doing the shushing, reminding my little sister Katy to raise her hand in class if she had a question, perfecting the laser eye that would still her lips at the dinner table, installing an inner monologue in her head designed to help her determine whether her input was important or necessary or if it was just noise. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts, Owning It!, Sexuality

The Coming Out Post

June 23, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Renée Greiner.

I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.

I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.

And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.

I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.

But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Jen's Musings, Owning It!

Here’s What The F*ck I Am Going To Do About It.

February 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

 

By Jen Pastiloff.

For Lidia Yuknavitch, my teacher, my heart sister, my friend.

I haven’t blogged in a while so here I am. Hi, hello, hi. I’m in Los Angeles, here at home for a few days before I hit the road again for more workshops.

A few weeks ago, I led a retreat in Ojai, California, with Lidia Yuknavitch, who wrote The Chronology of Water. The Writing & The Body Retreat. And yes, it was everything you’d imagine- and then some. And yes, we are doing it again in September.

In my own workshops, I ask people to write about the things that get in their way and the fears they have and what they are afraid of. I ask them to write and share about all sorts of things. That’s why the subtitle is On Being Human. It is not a “writing” workshop, per se, although there’s writing. Mostly, it’s about what it means to be a human being. They laugh and cry and let the snot fly, as I like to say.

And then I always ask this: Now what? Now what?

So you wrote about it and shared it out loud and you may “want to be a writer” and you may not, no matter really, what really matters is this: what now?

Writing and sharing is hard, and I think a pretty big deal, but you can write until you are blue in the face and go on retreats and camps and workshops and whatever but what are you going to do?

This is where I get stuck.

I talk a good talk.

But then I sit here and stare out the window all day.

So, when Lidia gives a prompt that is so similar to what I ask except she asks it in her Lidia-esque way, I know that this woman is my heart. She asks the group what was main thing was that was getting in their way. I participated in this one.

What was getting in my way? She asked us to write down the first thing we thought of.

Okay, done.

My own self gets in my way. Me.

Then she gave this exact prompt, and this is really where I knew I loved her for life, “And here’s what the fuck I am going to do about it.” We had five minutes.

This is what came out of it for me. This is my Now what?

Continue Reading…

beauty, Binders, Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!, Self Love

The Other Plastic Surgery.

February 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Bir. 

There’s a face I’m sick of seeing, and it’s not the rearranged mess of a scandalized Hollywood star. It’s a face I confront in every reflective surface—the bathroom mirror, the screen of my smartphone if I tilt it just so. Perhaps this face may even appear superimposed on that of a celebrity of a certain age, if I pause while zipping along through my Facebook feed.

“What the heck happened?” I think in shock, every single time, because the face glaring back at me does not match my memory of what my face looks like. The skin at the corners of eyelids and lips is creased, slack; the purplish sacks under the eyes are increasingly puffy and swollen, almost like bruises. My nose, which has always been large, is gleefully launching into a mid-life growth spurt, veering off-center to one side and becoming bulbous and shiny, like Santa’s.

This is the other plastic surgery. It’s the kind that rearranges your face in totally unexpected ways. This surgeon of mine should be taken to court, I grumble, but I didn’t hire him. Or is it her? Perhaps they work as a husband-wife team, the practice of Mother Nature and Father Time. They are certainly not exclusive; in fact, it’s impossible not to get a referral. And they’re quite generous with appointments, happy to work your countenance over again and again. They really don’t make any compromises, those two. Try as you might, these practitioners will always be in your health network.

 

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

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. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

 

The handiwork of Drs. M. Nature and F. Time is understandably a concern for anyone whose career demands fresh, fussed-over faces. Thank god I’m not a glamorous media figure, because even without a long, expensive vacation to Camp Nip’n’Tuck, the shifting topography of my head is, to me, as startling as Renée’s, or Madonna’s, or Kenny’s, or Nicole’s.

That’s because the face I unfailingly expect to greet me from a mirror is perhaps circa 1999, or maybe 2004, or maybe not from any specific era of my life except an idealized past. Who knows what I’m idealizing, because, at a still-spry 38 years, inside I feel more confident and sorted-out than I ever did when my skin cells still had snappy elasticity. After a few seconds adjusting to the very human lady blinking back at me in those oh-so-unbeautiful morning minutes after rustling out of bed, I just sigh and call a truce.

I went to my husband for a sympathetic ear, and also to gauge the waters of our marital relations. Alas, my vigilant team of plastic surgeons also did a number on my breasts and abdomen. The stomach is quite fit if I flex it, something I only do if I’m scrutinizing my profile under the unflattering florescent lights of a dressing room. Otherwise, the unflexed tummy flesh and skin are rubbery and malleable, like Silly Putty. As for my breasts, once I stopped nursing my young daughter, they vanished; my cup size is essentially –AA. This is the one session with Mother Nature and Father Time that’s made me feel youthful, because now the only place I can find bras that fit is in the little girl’s section at Target.

Still, men like boobs. One evening, at bedtime, I worked up enough courage to ask my husband, “Are you still attracted to me even though I’m so different now?”

“What?” he said, distracted. I’d disturbed the constant, anxious reverie about his receding hairline. As if he has time to think about where my boobs went! Isn’t that what internet pornography is for?

So I dropped it. In fact, no one seems to notice the havoc my plastic surgeons have wreaked on my face. Sometimes, if I go months without running into a friend, they’ll even say, “You look great!” And I, in turn, am pleased seeing their glowing, radiant selves, and I don’t even think about scrutinizing their expanding pores or multiplying crow’s feet. Maybe that’s because their faces are not stretched in high definition across a television that spans an entire wall in our living room. Maybe because the energy inside someone when you see them in person has so much to do with how you perceive the physicality of that face.

While trapped in the snaking line of the express checkout at the grocery store yesterday, the cover of a Prevention magazine caught my eye. “Stop aging!” the headline blared. I’ve flirted with capsules, lotions, and masks, and I can vouch that it’s not humanly possible cease the steady march of the Other Plastic Surgery. We all know there’s really only one way to stop aging, and that’s to die. I’d rather keep on living, with this ever-dynamic face. I found it looks years younger when I don’t scowl at the mirror.

 

servicesSara Bir is a chef, food writer, and usually confident parent living in Ohio. Her essay “Smelted”, from the website Full Grown People, appears in Best Food Writing 2014. You can read Sara’s blog, The Sausagetarian, at www.sausagetarian.com. This is her second essay on The Manifest-Station.

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body? To get into your words and stories?  Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.  "So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff's Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing." ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Do you want the space and joy to get back into your body?
To get into your words and stories? Join Jen Pastiloff and best-selling author Lidia Yuknavitch over Labor Day weekend 2015 for their 2nd Writing & The Body Retreat in Ojai, California following their last one, which sold out in 48 hours. You do NOT have to be a writer or a yogi.
“So I’ve finally figured out how to describe Jen Pastiloff’s Writing and the Body yoga retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch. It’s story-letting, like blood-letting but more medically accurate: Bleed out the stories that hold you down, get held in the telling by a roomful of amazing women whose stories gut you, guide you. Move them through your body with poses, music, Jen’s booming voice, Lidia’s literary I’m-not-sorry. Write renewed, truthful. Float-stumble home. Keep writing.” ~ Pema Rocker, attendee of Writing & The Body Feb 2015

Featured image courtesy of Timothy Krause.

Guest Posts, healing, Owning It!, Truth

Stuff.

September 17, 2014

By T. Chick McClure

I’ve lost access to my mom behind an ever-expanding tsunami of STUFF. She is a collector of things. But, not for curio cabinets. My mother lives inside a mountain of trash, dogs, cockroaches and filth. She is insulated, befriended, comforted, shut-out, shut-in, imprisoned, and rendered invisible by STUFF. She is unreachable and at times I am devastated by our lack of connection. Because, in some ways, it’s like she’s died already. Like I only get to have conversations with her in my head, imagining how she might laugh in response to something dumb I’d share with her. The way we did before she started accumulating. I miss her. I call her on the phone. She never calls back. Holidays come and she’s not with me. I worry that ONE day, SOMEhow, SOMEone is going to track me down to let me know they found her, lying on a half-inflated air mattress, piled on all sides by worthless STUFF. Her remains, liquid, I imagine, guarded by starving dogs, as she seeps into all that useless STUFF surrounding her.
Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Owning It!

What’s in a Name?

August 25, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Antonia Malchik

My friends call me Nia. Since I left college and people started calling me by my legal name, the one my mother chose because her favorite book at the time I was born (so the story goes) was Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, “my friends call me Nia” is what I end up telling them, eventually. Once we get to know each other well enough that having them call me “Antonia,” like a stranger, feels odd.

“Nia” is not a nickname that’s easily explained like Katie or Jenny or Jess. It requires a story, a narrative—where it came from, its genesis. When I started working at real jobs, in offices where I was an employee or freelancer or temp, I had to make a choice: was I going to be in each office long enough to warrant erasing my legal name in favor of the one I’d used my whole life? Explaining made me squirm, like flinging open window into my interior person so strangers could peer around inside. Continue Reading…

beauty, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Owning It!, Self Image

I Like This Picture of My Cellulite: A 19 Year Old’s Journey To Self-Acceptance.

June 4, 2014

Dear Readers, Jen Pastiloff here. The post below was written by a 19 year old student. I love that I have teens following the site! I am developing a series for young writers to express themselves to accompany my new book “Girl Power: You Are Enough.” It is my great honor to be a platform for these beautiful voices. We want you to be heard. We are listening. See you all next workshop And at the workshop for girl- Girl Power: You Are Enough, which launches in September, 2015. Make sure you are following me on instagram and snapchat at @jenpastiloff!!

IMG_6719And I Like This Picture of My Cellulite by Victoria Erickson.

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A Young Woman’s journey to self acceptance and appreciation.

Now, I’m not the cute blonde on the left but rather the more prominent, jean-jacket covered, cellulite charging, woman to the right.

And the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture was how HAPPY I look: I’m jubilant, radiant, fresh home from my first year of college and ready to celebrate with my hometown best. And I should’ve stopped there. It could have been enough to admire the photograph, to rejoice in the photographer’s ability to capture the joy and carefree art of two friends catching up after a year apart. It should have been.

But instead, I let my subconscious take over. I let that little voice in the back of my head tell myself that “I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t enough…or rather I was TOO much. I let the brainwashing, nerve damaging thoughts seep in and overwhelm my mind, allowing the thoughts to poison my spirit. My mentality went from You look HAPPY!! to Yeah, you look happy…but why? you’re fat. Followed by, don’t believe me? Just look at that lump of cellulite you call a leg take over the shot and deplete the image of any beauty there may have been.

And the smile faded.

The disgusting part? I let it. I let my stomach sink, my chin drop, my eyebrows furrow, and my spirit shrink. I let the negative thoughts brew until they reached a dangerous boiling pointing as I asked myself Why didn’t the photographer just edit that out?! and What should I do?! As I wondered if it would be best to try to edit the cellulite myself, crop the picture from the waist down, or just “hide” the photo from my timeline all together?

A lot of distress and worry over a photo. A photo that did nothing more than capture the image presented before itself. And that’s when I realized, when you look at this photo, you might see the sorrow of imperfection, the impression of one (or two) many visits to the all-you-can-eat-University cafeteria as I did at first glance.

Or rather, you might see a young woman jubilant with friendship and conversation as I have now chosen to.

That’s the wonderful part! I decided that it is what I -independent, strong & mighty me-decide to see, feel, and believe that counts.

Because I’m nineteen and I’ve had enough. No more to comparison and emotional affliction. No more distress caused by preconceived notions of body image. No more to any of it.

So what did I do? I decided that I loved the picture. I decide that it was a wonderful snapshot of my friendship and that image truly captured the essence of a rain kissed stroll- flaws and all! And most boldly, I decided to share it.

That’s right. I decided that I love this honest and flawed picture so much so that I am going to embrace it, celebrate it, and yes, share it. Because I decided I would fight my demon and embody it because I didn’t -and don’t- have the time or energy to let it wear and tear me down anymore. Because it’s not important. And more so, because I hope when you look at yourself, whether in reflection or spirit, you do the same.

Because we’re better than that.

And because it’s actually ok to look at a photo and say yes, “I like this picture of my cellulite.”

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Photograph referenced in article, taken by Atiim Jones Photography

Victoria Erickson is studying Journalism, Art History, and Studio Arts at the University of Iowa. As a student journalist and becoming adult she is trying to the find the balance between learning and leading.

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

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers! Sep 17-24, 2016. Please email info@jenniferpastiloff.com to book. 

 

 

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.   Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

healing, Owning It!, The Hard Stuff, Video, Vulnerability

A Video About Guilt Wherein I Tell It To F*ck Off.

May 19, 2014

Eff Guilt. With my dirty hair, bad lighting, no makeup, and a big ass glass of wine, I send you a video I did on one take. Because that’s how I’m rolling right now. Free. Or, as my friend Kathleen Emmets would say, “F*ck it.”

Here is the blurb I wrote on guilt:

Sitting here with my broken foot has allowed me a lot of time to think. I’ve been thinking about guilt and how so much of my life has been swaddled in guilt. The last words I said to my dad when I was 8, and he was 38 were: I hate you. Then he died. Just like that. I mean, there were a few hours in between where I jumped on a bed and my aunt babysat while paramedics tried to revive the life back into him but basically the time between those words and his death was minimal. I felt guilty. All my life, my “go to” emotion is guilt. I take off work, I feel guilty the whole night. I feel guilty for this or that. It’s work for me to let go of guilt. It’s an old old deeply imbedded seed.
So, I’m laying around, pretty much immobilized because of my foot. And I’m bummed. I won’t lie to you. Why would I? I’m a truth teller. I’m bummed, but get this- I feel oddly calm and present. You know why? For the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel like I SHOULD be doing something else, I SHOULD be somewhere else, that I have to go, go, go. Because I can’t. I truly cannot move right now so I have to be still. Normally, if I lay around with pajamas on, I feel guilty. I do it but I feel guilty about it. But right now I am freed of any guilt and I feel good about that. I have space to write and create, even though I am a little sad. What I realize, even though I already knew this obviously, is that guilt is a trap. It immobilized me way more than any broken foot could.
I am so tired of it. It keeps you from being here. It keeps us locked in a land of SHOULDS, and I SUCK.
When my foot heals, I will remember this moment of absolute freedom- this moment of knowing that the only possible place I can be is right here. Yes, I am forced (literally forced) to learn this knowledge the hard way but you reading this? You don’t have to break your foot to release yourself from the prison of guilt.
If you f*cking like something, like it. And be done with it.
The prisons we build for ourselves are far stronger than any casts on our feet.
So, I don’t feel guilty that I should be out enjoying this gorgeous sunny day.
I don’t feel guilty that I am not out exercising.
I don’t feel guilty that my hair is ten days unwashed.
I don’t feel guilty that I feel frustrated.
I don’t feel guilty that I am sitting all day.
I don’t fel guilty that I took a week off of work.
I hope you understand the freedom I am talking about here.
It took a broken foot for me. For you? Just do what you’re gonna do. And let that, be that.

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xo Jen. ps, I am only doing ONE workshop in LA. June 7th. I have only a couple spots left so book asap here or email barbara at jenniferpastiloff.com to sign up. 

Jennifer Pastiloff 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.

Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Owning It!, Self Image

Comfortable In My Humanness.

December 16, 2013

Comfortable In My Humanness by Emily Beecher.

What Happened When I Went To A Retreat in Another Country With People I Didn’t Know….

I was, quite frankly, FREAKING OUT!!!!!

My normal hairdresser had left the salon so I was trying someone new. Someone she recommended. Someone who had just dyed my hair the completely wrong colour. It was too dark, too purple-y red, not copper-y and very much completely not me. I hated it. I hated the way it made me look. I hated the way it made me feel. In less than 72 hours I was getting on a plane to fly to Vermont for a yoga and writing retreat led by two incredible people I respect immensely. And my hair was ALL WRONG. What would people think of me? Would they think this is how I WANTED my hair? That this was the way I normally look? That this was the real me? There was only one thing to do. I had to cancel.

I mean it wasn’t just the hair – I hadn’t been away from my daughter for more than 48 hours since she was born (four years ago) and she’d JUST been up all night with a bit of a cough which was clearly going to turn into something like pleurisy if I went away, and really? What was I thinking? Me at a yoga retreat? With my fat post baby (ahem) body? Bending and stretching and being all zen and tree like surrounded by tall, long, lithe, young, obviously all blonde, glamazons who could do headstands for hours on their immaculate pony tails whilst I had trouble touching my toes because my boobs and belly created a formidable Berlin wall between my upper and lower body. And it’s not like I’m really a writer anyway. I didn’t even know I could write until a couple of years ago but I hadn’t written for myself anything more than a grocery list for months. What delusion had I suffered to make me book this retreat?

Actually, I knew the answer to that. Devastation. Five months previously a project I had been working on, a musical about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, had imploded. Spectacularly. I was betrayed by people I called friends, my professional reputation was tarnished, I lost my life savings and almost three years of hard, unpaid work, my sense of determination and belief in myself demolished. I was a wreck. I literally wanted to die. Broken, I had booked a trip back to Canada to spend time with my family and put some distance between the raw chaos of London and my wounded self. It was there, late at night, I read about the retreat. I fired Jen an email, essentially saying that I didn’t do yoga so how much of the yoga/writing retreat was about yoga. She responded saying its not at all yoga yoga-y, she thought that I was funny and she’d decided I was going. She thinks I’m funny? I booked it.

And now here I was, with hideous hair and a plague infected child and with some distance from the show’s collapse I could clearly see how I must have been delusional when I booked it.

I told my best friend that I was going to cancel it and he looked at me, shook his head and told me to shut up and get packing. Not usually one to do what I’m told, I’m so grateful I did.

My flight was the first sign that something was different. This was the first time in four years I was flying without a child attached to me. Anyone who has suffered the particular circle of hell that is flying with a child will understand what this means: an intoxicating freedom of choosing a movie you want to watch and not having to repeat “Please don’t kick the nice man’s seat” eight hundred thousand times. Just to make sure I didn’t forget how much of a luxury this experience was on all four of my flights the seat next to me was always empty. Just me and my phantom child flying 3000 miles to take a few days off, to do something for myself. Even if I didn’t look like myself.

Somewhere around 35000 feet in the air I made the decision that I would NEVER mention my hair while I was on the retreat. I mean if I was constantly apologizing for my hair I wouldn’t really be able to apologize for not being bendy or a good writer, which were, I figured, even worse things than my fucked up hair. I would just pretend that this was actually me and maybe they wouldn’t notice.

They all noticed my hair. In fact I think, over the four days almost every person at one time or another, whether in person or in creating our lists of Five Most Beautiful Things, told me how they loved my hair. The first time it happened I had to forcibly choke back the apology of how this wasn’t the way it was supposed to look. But then the magic happened. Or rather, twenty-two magical people happened.

I noticed it the first evening, in the hot tub, drinking wine (this really was my kind of yoga retreat!) when an absolutely stunning girl with a smile to rival the moon tried to tell me, through the guise of of an off hand appology/explanation how she couldn’t really be in her new relationship, couldn’t let herself be loved by this amazing man because of all the things that were not right about her. Things I couldn’t even contemplate seeing in her because all I saw was her beautiful smile and welcoming warmth.

As the hours passed I repeatedly tripped over the same message. These incredible people who shared stories of loss and pain didn’t see their own strength and beauty – only the reasons why they were never enough. They hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t given enough, weren’t nice or accommodating enough, weren’t beautiful enough, weren’t deserving, were too fucked up, too selfish, too hurt or angry or beaten down or useless. Given the way we spoke about ourselves you would have been forgiven for expecting the room to be full of broken, grey, miserable people. But it wasn’t. It was full of smiles and encouragement and hugs and a collection of the most brilliant laughs I’ve ever heard. Then a little tiny seedling planted itself in my brain… if these people were so wrong about themselves – could I be wrong about me?

As Jen repeatedly reminded us with the Marianne Williamson quote “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” And Emily made us write our truth in feverishly bursts that forced us to pour our words out onto the page as quickly as possible so we could outrun our built in editors, that seedling thought started to flourish and grow.

I settled into myself. I dressed for dinner (I mean if there wasn’t a chance of a child pouring food all over me then dammit I was going to put something nice on). I didn’t put make up on to do yoga. (I know right?) I stopped prefacing every piece of writing I read out with “well this isn’t very good but…”

On the last night some of us had an impromptu kitchen dance party. I was still in my sweaty yoga clothes. My immaculate blow dry replaced by my crazy natural curls. My face bare. I didn’t think about it as we sang Call Me Maybe and danced and lassooed each other. Someone took pictures. A week or so after the retreat, when I was back to my old life, trying not to apologize for who I was, I received a facebook email telling me the pictures were online and I was struck by a lightning rod of panic. But, but, but I didn’t have make up on and I wasn’t holding in my stomach and I wasn’t trying to have my best side captured and my hair – oh god my hair was frizzy and that terrible colour and now someone has produced photographic proof of how hideous I am. (It doesn’t take long for all that good work to be replaced by bad habits!)

It took me over a week to look at those pictures. Over a week, and half a bottle of wine. Ready to be repulsed I hovered over the mousepad until finally, I clicked. Then cried. Then laughed. I didn’t see a hideous person, I didn’t see my belly or fat arms, I didn’t see purple-y frizzy hair or a lack of polish. I saw love. Big, fat, giant smiles of joy and play and LOVE LOVE LOVE. Love for each other, love for the opportunity to share, to listen, to be understood and even, maybe, a little bit of love for ourselves.

Opportunities like this are precious – even though we know we’re changing at the time, the true value of what we are experiencing is only truly shown in time. As Elizabth Kubler Ross once said “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

Our retreat was the proverbial bellows to my tiny light. Now, two months later I write this changed. Striving. Opened. Comfortable in my self. Comfortable in my flaws. Comfortable in my humanness. No longer FREAKING OUT. And full of love. Whatever my hair looks like.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp's retreat in Vermont.

Emily and some of pother retreat go-fers at Jen Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s retreat in Vermont.

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people ;)

Arriving at the airport in Vermont, waiting for the other retreat people 😉

THE RETREAT a poem by Emily Beecher

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we stand

tall

as the hours pass

we spill hot anger and resentment

forcing our hearts to sweat in stillness

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we cry

silently

touching the sweet earth,

our bodies bent like willows

surrendering to icy storms

We reawaken our passions

like buds opening to bloom,

slowly, carefully, then freely

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

we dance

loudly

to the songs of our youth

later, skinny dipping

under the ripened Vermont moon

Amongst the trees of orange and gold

We abandon our self-consciousness

replacing it with connection,

rediscovering our selves

before packing them away

Like antique cars restored to former glory

so are we

rebuilt anew

amongst the trees of orange and gold

Emily Beecher lives in London and most recently attended Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp’s writing retreat in Vermont. 

Emily is a film & tv producer, writer, actress and proud single mama to her precocious two year old daughter.

Her acting work includes the cult classic short film Making Juice: The Making of JUICE (Charlie Productions) as well as appearing in Coma Girl (Vista Films), The Power of Love (Script Stuff), The Paper Trail (Hot Little Biscuits) and presenting Plugged In! and Are We There Yet? for Rogers Cable in Canada.

She conceived and produced the documentary/concert series Voices for Bulembu which raised over $1 million for the Bulembu charity in Swaziland. She has created commercials for Hasbro, Activision, Universal, Nintendo, Warner Brothers, Mattel and Nickelodeon. Her corporate film clients have included the Labour party, Amicus, TUC, and Shelter.

A published writer, Emily helped with the creation of blush magazine (Canada) and has consulted on several video games, film scripts and the Patient Zero comic book series.

After stepping away from the world of media to indulge in all facets of motherhood Emily is incredibly thrilled to be back with her new baby, The Good Enough Mums Club.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, Owning It!

Avoidance.

March 18, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff

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You know how when you ignore something it just goes away? Like your hearing loss or grief or your toothache or the fact that you hate your job so much you want to pull all your hair out?

Oh, right. It doesn’t go away. It crawls into your ear and gets louder and you get more deaf and your tooth rots and the grief settles in and stays. And the job? You wake up and that summer job has turned into the 13 year job at the same restaurant. That’s what happens. Continue Reading…

And So It Is, Forgiveness, Inspiration, Owning It!

How Kindness Works.

February 8, 2013

I got in a car accident the other night.

I was driving to teach my yoga class and just short of making it there I saw a car in front of me stopped. I stopped in time so as not to hit the car. The car in back of me however, slammed into me. The first word out of my mouth was Fuck and then my body shook.. My phone flew under the brake and the car got stuck in reverse and started rolling backward and tapped the car that had smashed into me and then a pretty woman cop was at my passenger window and mouthing something as she mimed a motion that probably said Roll down your window or Calm down. I shook harder. She came over to my side and got in (I must have gotten out at some point) and she got the car unstuck and moved it to the side of the road and the other drivers and I congregated on the curb. I was trying to call Equinox to tell them I had been in an accident and couldn’t get there to teach my yoga class but the guy cop was yelling at me to get off my phone and that he had been doing this too long or something like that. I couldn’t hear. I could hear but I couldn’t listen rather. I was gone. Somewhere else.

When she slammed into me maybe I died or maybe I floated away but when the cop said that no one was injured so he wouldn’t take a police report but that we had to get each other’s information I just nodded Uh-huh and shook. I was the only one panicking. And I kept saying I am sorry because we had all been in an accident and wasn’t that the polite thing to do? No one else said I am sorry so when I came home and told my husband I started to obsess that once again I had screwed up. I had opened my big mouth and because of being a people pleaser I was going to be at fault. I was going to jail. I was wrong. I messed up. Someone crashes into me and I apologize?

I haven’t been able to get out of bed for two days. I was depressed and my back hurt terribly from the impact. I was feeling sorry for myself and vulnerable and terrified to drive. Something this small rocked me so hard I thought. What exactly am I made of?

Why did I apologize? Apologizing denotes guilt. I was the only one that said I am sorry. I also noted that night the irony that I was the yoga teacher and the most freaked out. They were both so calm as if they’d had many car accidents and this was just another rung on the bedpost. The girl who hit me, her hood was smashed badly, and yet she seemed bored and un-phased. Me? I drifted into oblivion when she crashed into me and headed straight for my bed where I have yet to emerge.

It takes such little to shake me. My iPad gets lost or stolen (I will never know) and I have an accident and poof! I am bed-ridden, lost, scared of my shadow as well as the rain and the cars on the road and the idea of waking up in the morning, of being up with the lark.

While I was lying in bed yesterday and feeling this overwhelming sense of what’s it all for anyway? I posted on my Facebook the following question:

What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

I don’t know why I asked it. I was in a foul people-hating mood. Maybe that is precisely why I asked it. Maybe I needed a reminder of kindness.

So I am laying in bed and the heat is blasting even though it wasn’t cold and I live in Southern California, and I am sweating and freezing and I start to cry reading the responses from my Tribe on Facebook.

Here’s one:

Nicole Markardt I was in a horrible car accident when I was 18. My back broke in 2 places, lying on a beach after the car rolled off of a bridge. A man ran through traffic… ran down rocks to the beach and back into traffic to flag down anyone that could call an ambulance ( pre cell phone). He gave me CPR. He even brought me flowers in the hospital. His name was Gabriel. Like the archangel. He cried when he saw I survived. I believe in the kindness of strangers.

I wanted to believe in the kindness of people again. Someone used my iPad on Monday so it obviously wasn’t coming back. Someone crashed into me and whether it was an accident or not did not say I am sorry. So many crap things happening and if I keep looking I will keep finding them. 

We find what we look for.

I broke into my ex-boyfriend’s apartment once. I used a credit card to unlock his door and let myself in.

He forgave me eventually. We had a big fight and he called me crazy and told me to get out but, eventually, we made up and went on to have about 2 years of more of the same, minus the “breaking in” with the credit card.

I didn’t think of it as breaking in at the time. He’d never use keys to let himself in his own apartment. We would come back to his place and he would slide a credit card through the space between the doorjamb and the door and voila! The door would open. It made him proud how easy it would be to rob his place. 

I had never thought of it as breaking in until he said that. I simply thought I was being cute. How could it be breaking in when the credit card was the way we always got in the door? The credit car was the key!

Except I knew. I knew he would be upset. I knew he never wanted me to stop by un-announced or call him my “boyfriend” but I did it anyway. I had such an adrenaline rush as I was sliding that card through the crack in the door that my whole body shook  like it did in the accident but worse.

Find what you are looking for.

I knew I could possibly catch him cheating. He was in bed though when I slid the credit car through the door and walked in. Asleep. He jumped up when I crawled in next to him and called me crazy and said that I broke in and that I needed to get out.

Look for someone to disappoint you hard enough and they will.

On some level, I knew he would react exactly how he did, but, since there are always two of us (at least) I ignored Voice #1 and went instead with Voice #2 in hopes I would catch him fucking someone else or doing something awful and I could say Uh-huh! People suck. You let me down. I knew it! People will fail you. See?

But he was asleep and he kicked me out and eventually we made up and went on to have a disastrous coupe of years but I think back on how I really let him down. His rules may have stank and he may have been a jerk but who was I to let myself in when he never gave me that permission, no matter how cute I thought it would be?

I wanted to fail.

I wanted to prove that people suck. Even me.

Yesterday I laid in my bed and posted that question on Facebook because I needed a reminder of the good in the world.

That’s why I said I was sorry when I was in the middle of the accident sandwich. I wasn’t at fault but I thought it was the human thing to do. The kind thing to do.

I don’t know. I don’t know if kindness counts much in the legal system but I stand by why I said it. Not all people suck. Some do. Can I say that as a yoga teacher? ( I just did, so I guess so.)

I don’t suck. 

I am kind. 

And there is a lot of kindness around us. It moved me to read about the things people posted on my Facebook and it reminded me how all we have to do is hear about it, read about, witness it, and kindness will live inside us. We don’t even have to be the one the kindness is meant for specifically, and yet and still, it will live somewhere within us as if it was meant for us specifically. That’s how it works.

BTCLOGOfinal

Beating Fear with a Stick, depression, Owning It!

Stop Judging So Much. By Jen Pastiloff

January 4, 2013

I wrote this a year and a half ago but it felt timely to repost. ~ Jen Pastiloff

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Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info

Click to order Simplereminders new book. simplereminders.info

 

The layers upon layers of judgments we hail at people all day. At ourselves. Morning and night.

I can’t believe you would do that.

I would never do that if I were them.

My family wouldn’t do it that way.

What are you wearing?

She is a good person.

I am ugly.

I am not smart enough.

Maybe you don’t do it.

I do. I judge all the time.

As I click clack my boots down the sidewalk in a hurry. As I waste time on Facebook, or sit on a plane, as I am now, my mind is full of misgivings and they did it wrongs. Its full of I am doing it wrong, I look fat/bad/ugly, I am stupid, this woman is walking so slow, that man looks like this, she looks like that, they must be a nice person, they are rude, a cacophony of noise all at once, and in between it all, moments of I feel good/happy, I am safe, I am not my body.

There are many parts to me. To all of us. We know this. There is the me that teaches my workshops, a combination of a Jewish/Baptist preacher in a Revival tent who likes to sing and dance and downward dog and read poetry and who knows damn well that we can manifest the life of our dreams if we change our thoughts and is spiritual and knowledgeable in the ways of the body, the heart, the mind. And then there is the other me who is also me, here and now. Drinking a shit ton of wine and wearing glasses and reading like I may never be able to read again.

Continue Reading…