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There Are No Words To Describe This

Grief, Guest Posts, parenting, The Hard Stuff, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Deep Blue Secret.

August 10, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Deb Scott

I have to tell you my secret fast or I won’t tell it to you at all.

It is a secret that few people know, even all of you who think you know me.

Even my family, the ones who were there don’t know. I mean they know but I think they don’t let themselves remember.

The secret is about my daughter. My baby who died.

Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, Birthday, There Are No Words To Describe This

Heartwarming Amazing Video On My Birthday!

December 12, 2013

Hello there! Today is my birthday and this is the best gift ever! You all helped raise the money to get my nephew Blaise, who has Prader Wili Syndrome and autism, his service dog. Here is Blaise with Simba. “My doggy, my baby!” Blaise says. It’s just too cute. Thank you all so much. Thanks to Dogwish for Simba. For more on Prader Willi click here. 

Please share and comment on this video on Youtube so people know how much is possible through social media, and, how important service dogs and animals are 😉

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.

 

poetry, Steve Bridges, There Are No Words To Describe This

What I Learned From Steve Bridges 1963-2012.

March 9, 2012

Last night my friend stopped by and as we sat on the floor of my house, she asked me “What do you think you learned from Steve? What did he teach you?”

In case you didn’t read my earlier posts, my dear friend Steve Bridges died suddenly in his sleep last Saturday morning. Click here to read about him and see photos and videos.

Although I had thought a lot about this all throughout the week, it wasn’t until Annie asked me and I had to say it aloud that I got very clear on the things I had learned from him.

Not from his death but from his life.

He taught me to love my life.

As we were laughing and boarding the plane to Mexico for my retreat in January, he looked me in the eyes and said ” I have a great life, Jen.”

He truly loved his life and lived joyously.

He taught me to be present.

He taught me to listen.

I wrote a poem called One Rose To Another years ago but I think I am going to read it at Steve Bridge’s memorial as it feels fitting.

It gives me the chills when I go back and read it now:

One Rose To Another by Jen Pastiloff

This is how you live when you are close to death.

As I do: as through the dappled light of a linen curtain.

I am the most beautiful now I have ever been.

The sun hardly touches me.

But enough is enough.

I’ve had my sun, my moon, my loves infinite as promises-

I get enough light now that I am perched here at this brink.

Pulling farther away from my lover, from my own body.

We’ve lasted longer than expected.

I have few regrets.

Had the stages of my life been clear to me all along

instead of in a flash when my heart finally sprung awake-

that slight palpitation as I flushed a pink so perfect

the earth even took notice and stopped breathing for a moment,

my own insides balking at my beauty.

I regret its taken me so long to see it.

All that I love is right here with me-

We have a little time left my love,

this puddle of water we’ve been breathing

is not quite gone

we have some time left in this glass bottle.

This is how we live when we are close to death.

As I do.

Dreaming quietly of the seed dropping,

that first morning, that first breath as our lungs opened,

our petals still just a thought under soil.

The words: I am the rose, and by extension, all that is good in the world

still part of the sky, the rain, dew.

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

“I regret it’s taken me so long to see it.” 

I never want to look back on my life and say that.

This is what I learned from Steve.

He looked at his life and said “I love my life. I have a great life.”

Like it says in the poem I wrote, he taught me that I am: the rose, and by extension, all that is good in the world.

My connection with him ran so deep because he saw my “I Am” before I saw it myself.

Now you can see what a gift he has given me indeed. Why I have finally come up with a title for my book: I Am-ness.

We did the I Am-ness exercise at my workshops and retreats he attended.  Someone declares what they are in the form of: I am _______. This is followed by staring in someone else’s eyes for 3 minutes with that truth.

His “I am” was: Love.

Like in the poem, he taught me that “I am the most beautiful now I have ever been”.

Right now.

Thank you, Steve. I too am love.

I realize this now.

Until we meet again.

I’ve got some work to do here.

loss, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way, Uncategorized

Letters To Steve, After His Death.

March 5, 2012

Steve Bridges as Bush. He was the best!

 

When I was 19 and at NYU, I wrote a poem called “To My Father, After His Death”.

On Saturday morning, someone who I referred to as my brother and whom I had a connection with that could never be explained in words, passed away in his sleep. He was 48. Steve Bridges was the kindest and the funniest man I had ever known. Besides my own dad Mel, who, to this day if you go to Philadelphia and say the name Melvin Pastiloff people who sigh and say ” Mel was the funniest human being I had ever known. Still. To this day. And he died in 1983.”

My dad was 38 when he died. Steve was 48.

 

Steve and I.

These past few days have been filled with new grief on top of old grief.

Yesterday I taught my Sunday morning class at Equinox, lovingly dubbed “Yoga Church” by the yogis who show up every Sunday. The theme was gratitude. I asked them to pick a person they felt grateful for, alive or passed on. Someone who helped them be who they are today, someone who guided them, who taught them, who loved them.

When the hands came to prayer, as they do so often in my class, the mantra was to be “Thank you __________.” That person’s name being the blank.

Mine was “Thank you Steve”. I told my students all about this funny man who did impersonations of the presidents. My class always has laughter but yesterday I told them I needed more laughter than normal. They delivered.

When I played ” Your Song” by Elton John, everyone sang on cue.

It was truly church. I kept thinking I don’t know how I’ll make it through. I had to turn my back at least 6 times as I wept. I turned back to the class and wiped my tears and saw a roomful of the most connected and alive people I have ever seen.

That’s how I made it through.

Thank you, my tribe. Thank you.

And in getting the following email from someone who had never taken my class before, I realized how powerful and needed yesterday’s class was indeed. How human an experience it was, and how it was not just about sadness and death at all, but life.

“Dear Jen, I mentioned that I had been moved to tears several times. Something happened today that I hope will continue for the rest of my life! The person I chose to be grateful for was actually myself. I spend a lot time judging and criticising myself and I’m trying to change (which is what brought me to yoga today), so I thought I’d try some self love. I think I cried every time we did a sequence on our own to the music. When you asked us to think of that person holding us up, I pictured a few versions of myself dancing around me on my mat and lifting me up at different times. It was so beautiful. I thanked myself for being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, etc. I found myself calling me all the nicknames I have for everyone else I love. I “hiya’d” and kicked the shit out of that negative voice, diets, and melanoma. I’ve always felt at war with my body and I don’t think I can live another day in that mind set. I feel so blessed to have stumbled into your class today. Your energy and philosophy were exactly what I needed to feel and hear. I felt a shift take place and I am so grateful and so inspired. I feel like I could go on and on here but hopefully I’ll see you on Tuesday and I’ll thank you again in person.”

By now you know the Divine experience ( and I do not use the word Divine lightly here) I shared in Mexico on my last retreat. It was a smaller retreat and we bonded in a spectacular way that continued way past the trip’s finale. We wrote emails to each other  starting with ” Dear Fabulous 13″ daily.

Although Steve came with me on the last 3 retreats I hosted, it was in Mexico that I realized how much I loved this man. In my life, I have yet to experience feeling this way about another. It is not romantic or sexual.

After my class yesterday I came home to emails from the Fab 13. They had written letters to Steve after his death. Immediately I thought of my poem I wrote as a teenager to my dad.

I wanted to share those letters with you because in them you will get a glimpse of the love we shared, you will get a glimpse of who Steve Bridges really was, and, trust me on this: even a glimpse of Steve is enough. He was love.

———-

Steve, buddy –

 

I only knew you for a few days in Mexico.

I spoke to you at length only a few times.

 

So why is there a hole in my heart?

Is it because I watched you bring light and laughter to our whole Xinalani family?

Or because I saw your gentle soul shine through in little kindnesses?

Or because I watched the joy bubble out of you and all of us around you, our cup truly running over?

Or is it because our new-found family is just that, new-found, and already we have lost a brother?

Yes, all of these.

 

But also: I regret not talking to you more.

I regret not going for that one last beer.

Most of all, I regret that I will not see you the next time we are in LA, nor have

All those future times and lost conversations.

 

And yet.

When I met you, I had “Gratitude” written on my arm.

And you had Joy on written on your face.

And if I only sit in my sadness, and feel loss, and regret, and pain,

Then it’s just all about me again.

What kind of Gratitude is that?

 

If meeting you meant something,

If the hole in my heart means someone wonderful was here, then

I must return to Gratitude

I must look at the shape of that hole and say “Wow!

How lucky am I to have met this guy?

How improbably fortunate!”

 

Of course I am sad and bewildered

That you have left us so suddenly.

But if that is all I feel then I have missed the point.

I have missed your point, and the point of what we all

Discovered together in Mexico.

 

All of us are comforted in sadness

And strengthened in Gratitude

By the Fabulous 13

(And so we remain, though we are

Down a good man)

For you helped define us

And you remain in our hearts.

 

For some reason, it was time for you to go.

I don’t begin to understand, but

I am so very grateful

To be one of your last new friends.

 

Thank you. Love, Gregg.

We love you Steve.

Dear Steve,

Wow… All I can say is that you have profoundly affected my life.

Especially the day after I precariously fell down the stairs backwards. You said to me, “Amy Jo, you are our miracle. You’ve reminded us that life is so precious and it can be over in an instant. Thank you.”

Especially when I stared into your eyes for three amazing minutes during yoga, and what I wrote down afterwards was: Steve= powerful, being, creator of love, confidence, kindness, strong… Power… I felt my power in his: The next day I said to you “ Steve, All I saw was power. It was amazing. I saw no fear.” And you looked at me with those brilliant blues and kindly said “Thank you”.

The entire seven days I spent with you are seven of the most magical, precious, healing days of my life. Thank you for your honest, humble, hilarious, kind presence within them. I will cherish those moments forever.

I’ve had a few very close people in my life pass away and always during and after their death there is a magical doorway that opens to the cosmos, a magical gift of enlightenment. And now in hindsight I can see that that doorway is also open and present before a soul passes, because in Mexico we all shared that light. We all bathed in your departure. Thank you, we have been gifted by your journey.

Love, light, peace, happiness, and god speed my friend. You will be dearly missed.

Amy Jo

having a blast with Steve

There are more letters. I will add them in a second post. Please add yours to the bottom in the comment section.

Steve told me that Mexico was the best time of his entire life. I believe in some way he was meant to experience this love and this family we created, before his passing. His greatest wish was to have a child and a family.

I believe he got a taste of that.

I am heartbroken beyond words but looking at the photos and videos makes me laugh with tears in my eyes. Let’s continue to honor the man I knew as my brother.

Now, before you do anything. Before it slips into a cliche again, stop and close your eyes and get present to the fact that life is really precious. That you never know what will happen and that each moment is a gift. Before it turns back into a cliche, get up and go hug the person in the next room. Go tell someone how much you appreciate them. Go let yourself feel, and fall in love, and be vulnerable. Go say YES! Spend a day with someone you want to spend the day with. Laugh out loud, even at a dumb joke. Sing. Dance. For God’s sake, go live your life.

I love you.

I love you Steve Bridges. I do not understand your passing but I understand you taught me things I am still comprehending. You taught me to be joy. And to feel joy. As you did.

You taught me to be ME. The MOST ME.

~~~~~~~

I will keep you all posted on a memorial. I spent the day with his parents yesterday and I can safely say that seeing his father weep was enough to crack my heart open. We went to church and the minister who knew Steve well got us into a huddle, like we were about to play football, and said a beautiful prayer for Steve, as we all cried and hugged. We stayed for the service which was all about love and being kind to ourselves. This same minister will deliver Steve’s memorial per Tom Bridges request ( I can see why) and as soon as I know details I will pass them on.

For more videos of the beloved Steve Bridges visit his site. He was very well know and highly esteemed. He was the best of the best.

http://stevebridges.com/

setstats
setstats

TO MY FATHER, AFTER HIS DEATH (written age 19)
I knew that you weren’t really dead.
That if I kept looking, kept driving,
I’d find you.
Didn’t think it would be here though,
that you’d be pumping gas
in Kansas.You still smoke.
I can tell.
The way your shoulders hunch over
gives you away.
When you push nozzles into canals,
into the backs of cars,
you heave, your shoulders roll.
Your stomach reaches closer to your back,
toward smooth pink scars.
You look smaller,
shirking into yourself like that.

Silently pumping gas, coughing occasionally,
scratching your sunburned bald spot.

I watch you from the shoulder of I-70
through dead bugs on my windshield.
There is a small convenience store
attached to the gas station.
You enter it,
and when you emerge
I see the bulge in your pants.
You’ve bought Kools: your brand of cigarettes.
Stashed them in your front hip pocket,
next to an Almond Joy.

I see you still
squint, smoke,
have bad posture,
eat Almond Joys.

Quiet as ash,
you in the Kansas of Colorado,
one foot almost in each state.

The moment you noticed me
must have been when
you straightened your back up,
crushed your half smoked cigarette
and smiled.

But you know I can’t come any closer.

I can’t pull into the station,
roll down my window and touch your face.

~jen pastiloff 1994

Q & A Series, There Are No Words To Describe This

Dying To Be Me. The Manifestation Q&A Series: Anita Moorjani.

February 6, 2012

Welcome to The Manifestation Q&A Series.

 I am Jennifer Pastiloff and this series is designed to introduce the world to someone I find incredible. Someone who is manifesting their dreams on a daily basis.

There are no words to describe this, which is why that is one of the categories I have filed this interview under. I met Anita Moorjani in October when I went to see my great teacher Wayne Dyer speak in Pasadena. Through a series of events which prove to me the divine guidance of love and the power of manifesting, I ended up not only at the lecture, but as Dr. Dyer’s guest with his daughter. I happened to be sitting next to a beautiful woman who as it turned out would be speaking at the event. Not only did she speak, but she cracked my heart open. I sobbed for hours after I saw her and heard her story. Not with sadness, but with a clarity and an understanding and a yearning for love. I do not want to talk too much about her because I want you to see for yourself who this woman is to me. She is now, next to Wayne Dyer, one of my great teachers and spiritual guides.

On 2nd February 2006, Anita Moorjani experienced what most of us never have!

She crossed over and came back to share what she learned. Doctors at the hospital had given Anita just hours to live when she arrived at the hospital that morning, unable to move as a result of the cancer that had ravaged her body for over three years.

Below she shares with us what she learned and her big beautiful heart. Please get her book as soon as you can. Dying To Be Me, Anita’s book, goes into great detail about what it means to live authentically and fearlessly and how it is imperative to love ourselves fiercely.

I love this woman and am counting the days until I see her and Dr. Dyer in San Jose! Join me?

Get ready, my sweet Manifesters……


Anita and I in Pasadena, California after she and Dr. Wayne Dyer spoke

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you most proud to have manifested in your life?

Anita Moorjani: Healing from cancer! By far that is the most important manifestation of my life! But I am also incredibly proud to have written a book! I never thought I could write, so it feels really surreal to realize that I have actually authored a book that is being published by Hay House! What a dream come true!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is the greatest lesson that you have learned from having a near death experience?

Anita Moorjani: The biggest lesson I learned was how important it was to love myself and be true to myself. That is the most important lesson from my NDE. I had always thought it was selfish to love myself and meet my needs before others, but I learned that if I do not love myself, I will not have enough love to give others because I cannot give others what I myself do not have. The more I love myself and have my own needs met, the easier it is for me to be generous with others.

I used to be a people pleaser, and always put others first, and was often afraid of being myself. I was always trying to be someone I was not, and would always become drained from doing and doing for others. And I always thought it was selfish to pursue my own needs when others were more needy. But I now understand that it’s not selfish at all to have my own needs met first, and in fact, I am here to be myself. And when I am self actualized, it makes me healthier, happier, more generous and less needy. I also understand that if we constantly try to be someone we are not, the planet will be deprived of who we really are!

Jennifer Pastiloff: I have a list of rules. See below. What would some of Anita’s rules be?

Anita Moorjani:

1. Don’t take life seriously;

2. Eat chocolate;

3. Realize YOUR OWN MAGNIFICENCE!!

4. Eat more chocolate;

5. Enjoy life and do what brings you joy;

6. Make your everyday choices based on what makes you FEEL good, rather than what you THINK you should do or what others think you should do;

7. Live your life out of passion and love, rather than out of a fear of failing and displeasing;

8. Start each day listening to “Dancing Queen” and singing along with it;

9. Laugh at yourself every single day! (The more you practice this one, the sooner you will achieve nirvana).

10. Every time you look in the mirror, remind yourself that you are a perfect child of the universe who is here to be true to yourself. Your only purpose is to be yourself. To try to be anyone else would be depriving the universe of who you really are.

11. Don’t worry too much about “getting it right”. When our only purpose is to be our self, we cannot get it wrong!

12. Start each day with a clean slate, leaving behind the emotions of yesterday. Each day is a blank canvas, on to which we can paint anything we desire! So it’s our choice whether we paint our canvas with joy, love and laughter, or with fear, anger, regret, anxiety, and worry.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  Who/what inspires you the most?

Anita Moorjani: The people who inspire me the most are the ones who make the greatest magic on our planet without realizing that they are making magic. The unsung heroes who receive no recognition, fame or monetary rewards for what they do. People like the lady in our community who rescues abandoned and unwanted dogs, and feeds and homes all the dogs that no one else wants; the parents who adopt special needs children who they know no one else will adopt because they are going to give them a challenging life; or the nurses who deal with terminally ill patients with the utmost care and concern, and can still remain cheerful and upbeat for the sake of their patients. There are many such people who have woven themselves into the fabric of our society, yet most of us don’t even notice or recognize them. They have become all but invisible to us, and whenever I come across someone like this, it is both inspiring and humbling.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  I teach many of my classes to the theme of gratitude. If you could say thank you right now to one person who would it be?

Anita Moorjani: This one is easy – it would have to be Dr. Wayne Dyer! You would not be interviewing me right now if it weren’t for him, and I am so grateful to him for believing that everyone needs to hear my message and giving me the opportunity to share my message with the world! He has been such a huge support in getting my book published and out there, and the universe could not have conspired to bring me to the attention of a better or more suitable person than Wayne!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What is one message you would pass on right now to someone looking to manifest their best selves? Especially after seeing you in Pasadena with Dr. Dyer and hearing what you went through, I know that your message is one that is very important for us.

Anita Moorjani: My message is very simple – JUST BE YOURSELF! Always be true to yourself, and you will attract what is truly yours! There is nothing more to it than that, really. The more we try to be someone we are not, the more we are pushing away what we truly deserve.

The only reason we deny our own truth is out of fear – fear that who we are is not deserving, not good enough or inadequate in some way. This fear will push away what we truly deserve. All we need to do is to be our self fearlessly, and we will attract what is truly ours!

Jennifer Pastiloff:  Tell us about your journey with Dr. Wayne Dyer, who is also a guest on The Manifestation Q&A Series, and happens to be my greatest teacher.

Anita Moorjani: This was an amazing, and synchronistic journey, which I have written about in great detail in my book. Wayne discovered my story – which was brought to his attention by a lovely lady named Mira Kelley – at the exact moment when I was ready to share my story with a broader audience. After reading my story, which Mira printed off the internet to show him, Wayne felt compelled to track me down and help me publish a book on my story. It took a staggering amount of synchronicities for my story to reach Wayne’s hands, and finally become a published book, in such a short frame of time!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What brings you the most joy? Your joy list, as it were.

Anita Moorjani: Seeing others helped by my story! Nothing makes me happier than for others to feel that hearing of my experience has helped them in some way to heal their hearts. It makes my journey through cancer so much more worth while. I don’t want others to suffer the way I did, and hope I went through what I did so others won’t have to!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What are you manifesting for 2012?

Anita Moorjani: I am hoping that together, we can manifest a world without irrational fears! Although I understand that some fears may be healthy, as they may keep us safe from harm. But as a race of people, we have become pathologically fearful, and it is now a serious disease that is devouring us and our planet. Fear not only feeds illnesses like cancer, and wears down our immune system, but it is also at the root of our violence and terrorism. We have become a fear-based society. Our behaviors and decisions are all based on our fears, rather than our passion or desire for a more joyful and fruitful life. Our medical systems, laws, governments, etc, are all fear based and fear driven, rather than stemming from a desire to do good for ourselves, our community, and the planet. Because of this, our emotions are constantly in a state of fear! I would love to be the catalyst that makes people aware of this, and makes people see things differently. Our only responsibility is to see it in ourselves, and change it in our own self. When we can do that, we will see the world change.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Can you tell us a little about your journey. Let’s say who you were 15 years ago as compared to now.

Anita Moorjani: 15 years ago, I was afraid of everything. I used to be a people pleaser, and would try very hard to fit in, and would be afraid to show my true feelings. I felt I had to work hard at being liked, and would not be considered a good person unless I did things to deserve it. I used to believe that I had to work harder at being more spiritual, a better person, etc. And I always felt I didn’t measure up to other people’s expectations. Now I realize that we are all spiritual, whether we realize it or not! How can we not be, as we come from spirit and return to spirit? And my only responsibility is to be myself, and if that’s my only responsibility, then I cannot fail! And if we are not being true to our selves, then the universe is deprived of who we came here to be.

I also used to be very particular about everything I ate, not because of a love for myself or a caring for my body. It was because of fear of what these foods would do to me. I was very afraid of cancer, and believed that everything caused cancer, from microwaves, barbecued foods, red meat, plastic containers, pollution, sunshine, etc. I now realize that it’s the emotions I feel about the food that has more effect on me than the food itself. I can choose to eat conventionally healthy food, and as long as I am doing it because I love my body and life, and want to live long and healthy, then that’s the effect the food will have on me. If I eat it out of fear, because I am afraid of cancer, I am just sending fear based energy through my body, regardless of whether the food is healthy or not.

Even if I eat a piece of chocolate or dessert, I eat it because I want to enjoy the sensation of eating it, and enjoy every bite.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Where can we find more of you and your book?

Anita Moorjani: My website is www.anitamoorjani.com. It is kept updated with all my latest video uploads, as well as upcoming speaking engagements.

To order my book, the best place would be Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401937519/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=dytobeme-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1401937519

In my book, I go into a lot more detail, particularly about my illness, what emotions I feel caused it, and what emotions I feel healed it.

Jennifer Pastiloff: When was the last time you laughed at yourself?

Anita Moorjani: I think I laugh at myself all the time! My husband and my closest friends know me well enough now to know how important it is to be able to laugh at ourselves, so we do it all the time now! I am now able to laugh at myself really easily at what I used to at one time perceive as my inherent “flaws”. I laugh at my human-ness, and no longer beat myself up when I fail, goof up, can’t keep up, fall down, am criticized, and so on. I now realize that if all we have to do is be ourselves, we can’t get it wrong!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What would say say about the theme of “Forgiveness”, a big one in my classes.

Anita Moorjani: For me, this is an interesting one. My NDE has really changed my focus on forgiveness. In that NDE state, the love for myself was unconditional, and I realized that I was one with everyone.

Prior to my NDE, I used to think that I had to forgive people if I perceived they had wronged me or hurt me in some way. I now realize that there is nothing to forgive. People don’t hurt others intentionally – they only do so out of their own pain. Or when we perceive hurt where there is none intended, we are perceiving hurt out of our own pain. If I am able to love myself unconditionally, and realize that we are all One, that is, part of the same Whole, then it becomes easier to love and accept others unconditionally. And when I can do that, I realize there is nothing to forgive. If we are One, then forgiving others is the same as forgiving myself.

And when I can live from a place of total acceptance for self and unconditional love for self, it becomes much easier to live from that place of unconditional love and total acceptance for others. And when we are in that place of acceptance for all, we realize that there is nothing to forgive. Everything is as it should be.

Jennifer Pastiloff:  When can we expect you back in the U.S.?

Anita Moorjani: I will be back in the US in March. I will be speaking with Wayne Dyer at the San Jose “I Can Do It” conference hosted by Hay House on March 17/18. Am really looking forward to it – to meeting all the lovely people there again! And I just love being on stage with Wayne. I just love his presence! He has such a wonderful way with his audience and his guests!

Jennifer Pastiloff: What would you say to the 16 year old Anita?

Anita Moorjani: I would say, “You are perfect the way you are! You don’t need to change for anyone else! You don’t need to feel that you have to do things to prove yourself! You are loved unconditionally. You are a perfect child of the universe, and your only purpose is to be yourself.” I would make sure that the 16 year old Anita feels that she is loved unconditionally, regardless.

Jennifer Pastiloff: I was most moved by the love of your husband. Can you share a bit about that?

Anita Moorjani: My husband has always loved me unconditionally. He really is a lovely man, and what I didn’t realize in the beginning was that all I had to do was love myself unconditionally too, and merely by doing that, I would be able to love him unconditionally as well! However, instead of just basking in his unconditional love for me, prior to my cancer, I had always felt I had to do things to make it up to him, for loving me so much! I was always trying really hard to make it up to him for loving me so much. I never realized that I just had to “be” rather than constantly focus on “doing”.

When I first got married, I had always thought that I, as a woman, would be the one to teach him about the meaning of unconditional love. But through my illness, I realized that he was the one teaching me.

My husband is my soul mate, and I am always grateful for him, and the way he cared for me through my illness. He believes that was his purpose in this life – to see me through that.

Jennifer Pastiloff: Thank you. I love you xoxoox

Anita Moorjani: Thank you, and love you too!!! xxxxxx

Jen’s rules:

1. Be Kind.

2. Have a sense of humor especially when it comes to yourself

3. Write poems, even if only in your head

4. Sing out loud, even if badly

5. Dance

6. If you don’t have anything nice to say… you know the deal

7. Find things to be in awe of

8. Be grateful for what you have right now .

9. Duh, do yoga

10. Don’t worry. Everyone on Facebook seems like they have happier and funner lives. They don’t.

11. Tell someone you love that you love them. Right now.

12. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. No such thing.

13. Thank the Universe in advance.

Follow Anita on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Anita.Moorjani

 

 

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

*Featured image courtesy of Simplereminders.com

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

Subscribe for more: www.bryantmcgill.net

 

Little Seal, There Are No Words To Describe This

That Which Brings Me To You. By Jen Pastiloff.

October 6, 2011

This is an older piece I wrote almost 3 years ago. Ronan passed away peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 15th at about 3:30 am in Santa Fe. He was surrounded by friends and family. 

October 6, 2011. Which Brings Me To You.

That which brings me to you. Here I am in Santa Fe, sitting on a love seat. Next to me, a sweet baby is propped up on pillows as I write, drool sliding down his chin, eyelids heavy and soft, purring like a cat every so often. A sweet dying baby.

Which brings me to you. It caught my eye, that book on the shelf in the office converted into bedroom, equipped with an air mattress for me on the floor.

Tay Sachs is that which brings me to you.  A dying baby is that which brings me to you, Santa Fe.

Ronan with his mom’s book Poster Child across his chest

It is cold here. Colder than I expected. There is an energetic shift in my bones that I recall from many autumns in New Jersey and New York. As if the person within the person of me comes out and takes over during this time. The person wears my clothes and looks like me. She is a more somber and introspective, melancholy. The light patterns change, the air demands attention and the sky meets you at the front door as you open it for a moment of season. They get season here, whereas L.A. lacks that. I appreciate the season as it demarcates the eras of my life. Without them, my life becomes one long weekend. Such is life in L.A.

The season here, however, is the same it has been since Ronan’s diagnosis.  I can tell the weather in their little adobe house has been winter dark for the last 9 months. December dark. Losing light at 4:30 pm and dead trees kind of dark.

Ronan is peaceful. He doesn’t know what is happening to him. It is hard for me to conceptualize that soon, could be months, could be a year or more, he won’t be anymore.

Right now he sits next to me in a plaid shirt, sitting in what looks like a lotus position, and just is.

I sound like such a yoga teacher when I say that. He just is. He doesn’t fuss except when he is very tired or his head flops over to one side, which it does quite often. His presence is comforting, the knowing he is sitting there next to me, like a fat baby Buddha making little hiccuppy noises every few minutes. He’s here now. In time, a short time, he won’t be. The mathematics of this equation refuses to register in my head. He’s here now and everything feels good on this brown couch. The rise and fall of his chest is a reminder of what is constant in the world, of kisses and baby things and deep full breaths of mountain air after you’ve been trapped in a dirty city way too long. He is so peaceful it is hard to imagine that with his death will come such an uprising, such pain, such a loss, that the word peace will have long left the English vocabulary.

The word ‘peace’ will be come extinct along with ‘fairness’.

It is colder than I imagined here. We went out to breakfast today with Ronan to Mavens. Emily, with her one leg, was one of the most dedicated yogis (and spin class addicts) I had ever met, and right away I knew I would be her friend. It was fast like that. Love at first sight, if you will.

At Mavens, I had a traditional Mexican breakfast of sorts and while Emily went to the restroom I snapped 15 pictures of Ronan with my iPhone. I pretend that if I take a lot of pictures and write about him enough that he won’t ever stop existing. A friend of mine emailed me yesterday and told me to “steal away a little of their pain.”

I wish I could.

Ronan gets startled easily. I crack my knuckles, a nasty non-yogic habit. A dirty disgusting habit I acquired at eight years old  when my dad died, in an effort to be like him. I crack my knuckles and Ronan startles. He may be dying but his intuition is still spot on. He cries when he is tired or hungry or annoyed or I crack my knuckles. I should stop doing it in honor of him.

His face is stunningly beautiful. So much so, that yesterday at a coffee shop in Santa Fe with Emily, I told her that maybe he was an angel. Corny, I know. The face of an angel  stares back at you when you look at this baby. No judgement, no fear, no lines of pain and a life lived, just beauty and quiet contentment.

We went into town while he was napping and looked at the chile shops and turquoise. I bought chile fudge and a watermelon juice and some dragon leggings. They have literal dragons breathing fire on them. It felt apropos.

Nothing makes sense so why shouldn’t I buy dragon tights and a watermelon juice on a freezing day?

I used to think perfect didn’t exist. Not the word, not even the idea of something so without faults that there was no room for growth or improvement. It does exist. He is sitting next to me. Whining just a little, so I know he is here. He won’t improve or grow. This moment is who he will be forever in my mind. He is perfect.

I felt embarrassed after my meltdown at the airport when they wouldn’t let me on my flight. I had thrown a fit. I went into a rage. Now as I sit here on this cold Santa Fe day, as Emily is teaching her university freshman writing class, I realize that I was right to fly into a rage. I get to have this moment on this couch, in this room, all by myself with a perfect purring baby. I was robbed many moments when I was rerouted to Dallas. I want those moments back.

Emily and Rick’s whole life is going to be filled with wanting those moments back. With wishing to never have gotten rerouted. I know I threw into that rage for them. I was indeed trying to take just a little of their pain away.

I sit here with Ronan as he snores lightly. It is a calming sound, one I could listen to forever, knowing Ronan was right here.

Rick comes and takes him to feed him his lunch. Ronan smiles slightly, but it’s there. A smile. He is still here. He can purr and cry and smile every so often. The science fiction like reality of what is happening to him is still far enough way, locked outside in the October New Mexico sky, pummeled to smithereens by his ability to still smile at his daddy.

That which brings me to you is death, yes.

But that which brings me to you is also your life, sweet Ronan. It is your presence in the world, which right now, at this moment, is as spectacular as a million meteor showers as you lie on your back outside and watch the night explode into light.

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

Ronan passed away peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 15th at about 3:30 am in Santa Fe. He was surrounded by friends and family. In March of 2014, Emily and soon-to-be husband Kent Black welcomed Charlotte Mabel Eliot Black into the world.

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There Are No Words To Describe This

Little Seal.

October 4, 2011

The following is a copy of my dear friend Emily Rapp’s blog post. I felt compelled to share it on my blog because I want each and every one of you to read it. Read it and share it. And share it again. I am flying to Santa Fe in an hour to be with them. Stay tuned for my own words on my trip, although they may just be empty and filled with air. 

Look at Ronan's sweet little hands

 

The Weight of Things  (originally published in The Nervous Breakdown)

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,

A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,

Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we

may see and remark, and say Whose? – Walt Whitman, from “A child asks, what is the grass?”

 

I am kneeling in the garage, sorting through a black garbage bag stuffed with Ronan’s outgrown baby clothes. I have promised to give them away to a friend of a friend who knows a friend who is raising a little boy on her own. I want to do this good deed; it makes me feel good to think about trotting off to the post office with a taped up box full of clothes for this woman I’ll never meet, a boy I’ll never know. But as I sort through the onesies printed with dogs and dinosaurs and stars, a green onesie with “Organic Baby” printed over the outline of a leaf; a cream-colored onesie with “I Am a Magical Child” printed in cursive over a picture of a unicorn and a dragon; a shirt that reads “Mr. Happy” and that I remember Ronan wearing on a day when he screamed for 24 hours straight; tie-dyed onesies with matching hats and missing socks and hand-me-down onesies and bear and lion and jungle animals onesies; blue and yellow t-shirts covered in stripes and stars and balloons; a fox sleeper in the orange, white and black colors of my junior high cheerleading outfit (foxes are an underused animal on little boy baby clothes); tiny striped shorts and long pants with more puppies and pandas; jean jackets and Osh Kosh overalls and corduroy jeans and cargo pants (what does a baby do with pockets?); the Pooh t-shirt with matching Pooh pants (yes, there was a poop joke); shirts that say “Doggone Fun” and “Surfer Baby” and “Handsome Like Daddy” and “There’s a Nap in my Future” and button-up shirts and polo shirts in different shades and textures and patterns and prints; a pale yellow cotton one-piece with a collar and a fire engine stitched on with a door that actually opens and closes, real snaps at the neck, even a little fabric flap for the firehouse dog who is wearing a red hat (this last outfit belonged to my brother), I shut the plastic bag and weep. I feel as though I have just peered into the deep pit of a grave. I can picture Ronan in every little outgrown outfit: the skinny-legged, newly born red-faced alien Ronan; the round bowling ball face five- and then six-month Ronan; the one-year-old Ronan with the light already fading, just a bit, from his eyes. The floppy toddler Ronan who is now double the size of these clothes and dying fast from Tay-Sachs, this ridiculous disease with no treatment and no cure. I could not give them away. Not yet. I’m not ready to let those clothes loose to live another life on another baby’s body. I’m not ready to even let them out of the bag, as if they are dangerous and if released might wing away and wound someone. I want them for myself. I want to get in the bag and eat the clothes like some starving animal, some desperate creature. I scold myself: these are just things, nothing more. Just objects, and, even more importantly, items other people need. I still can’t do it.

This is a sentimental moment, I guess. On a sympathy card there might be a bunny, a lovely, red-and-gold painted sunset, the dark silhouette of a bird flying over a beach, a shiny horse running free, a dreamcatcher and a hawk doing something symbolic. I don’t like this moment with the clothes any more than I like sympathy cards or funerals, which so easily and lustily dip into sentimentality. I feel dangerous, churning. This sentimentality masks a deep and terrible rage. Bunnies=Rage. The murderous kind, the bite-your-lip-until-it-bleeds kind, the kind of anger that makes you exhausted and yet howling for more, like a belly that can never be filled. The only appropriate card for this moment, on my knees in the garage, is an empty one, maybe one that screams when you open it – one great, long keen. Some deep-noted dirge; some furious, melancholic song full of discord and drums. The responses I found most satisfying – like a bell ringing out the hour — after Ronan’s diagnosis were these: I am so angry; I am thinking of you with grief and rage; I don’t even know what to say I am so angry; it is so unfair; I am sick to my stomach with sadness and anger; BLOODY UNFAIR!; I LOVE YOU and also, WHAT THE FUCK? RAGE! Sympathy cards are about as useless as candy cigarettes – just give me the real thing. I’d so much rather have an email that says something brutal and terrible and true than a sympathy card made of special-grade parchment and that’s soft to the touch, even the edges gently serrated and decorated with loathsome, uniform birds (there is a standard sympathy card bird; it’s like clip art) flying peacefully into the distance and a super shitty rhyming poem inside. (I do not even dare type them here for fear of expanding their odious reach.) I’d rather have this poem, “Matins,” by Louise Gluck, which is the one that comes to mind while I’m bawling into a plastic bag full of Ronan’s old clothes. I look it up later:

You want to know how I spend my time?

I walk the front lawn, pretending

to be weeding. You ought to know

I’m never weeding, on my knees, pulling

clumps of clover from the flower beds: in fact

I’m looking for courage, for some evidence

my life will change, though

it takes forever, checking

each clump for the symbolic

leaf, and soon the summer is ending, already

the leaves are turning, always the sick trees

going first, the dying turning

brilliant yellow, while a few dark birds perform

their curfew of music. You want to see my hands?

As empty now as at the first note.

Or was the point always

to continue without a sign?

Why can’t that poem, that little missile of grief, come printed in a card? I’d happily weep over it or frame it or burn it up in some meaningful ritual fire. When I open the pastel envelopes and see the birds and the sunsets and the birds scrolling into the gentle sunset, I chuck them straight away. I don’t even wait to see who sent them and I don’t care if this is cruel.

Who knows if I would feel so unaccountably devastated about giving away outgrown baby clothes if Ronan were not dying. I know plenty of moms who’ve blubbered as they’ve sorted through baby clothes; even if their child is a teenager, sulking grumpily in his man cave and playing video games and trying to watch porn or smoke pot when his parents aren’t looking. In any case, the baby stage is lost, gone for good.

And yes, they are just clothes, but just as the body carries physical and psychic weight, so do things: a favorite shirt of the beloved, obvious objects like wedding rings, but also random things given and received: a map my best friend made for me ten years ago that shows me the way from the train station to her house; the lyrics of a song written on a napkin that I sang at her wedding outside London, the paper growing damp and gooey in my sweaty palm; my DUKE sweatshirt that I stole from someone’s brother in high school and wore superstitiously for four years during finals week; a creamy flowered blouse that reminds me of France and a steamy night spent necking in a Strasbourg car park with that blouse in a pretty ball on the floor. Mouse-sized menorahs and engraved cigarette holders found in the corners of tenements and on display now under glass at the Tenement Museum in New York City, precious items that were tucked into underwear or satchels or shoes and that crossed continents and made it through the gauntlet line of checkers at Ellis Island (early, less technologically advanced versions of today’s snarky TSA agents) to be found, decades later, abandoned, in a corner. And things mattered more then, too, because people had fewer of them. Things are charged, they act as gateways, and we want to believe they give us access to the person who once inhabited them. We want to believe that they are doors to other worlds, portals to unknown stories that we intuit even if we don’t know them for certain or for sure. I have a cheap dress – blue polyester with red and white piping on the bottom and the sleeves – that puts me chain smoking in my office in Geneva on a blazing hot spring morning, the view across the garden thick with pink blossoms. My Doc Marten boots were my Ireland boots, trekking boots; I literally wore them out, the back soles were finished. When my mom was given her mother’s old cameo necklace from her cousin when we visited her farmhouse in Kansas on one of our summer cross country trips, she said “Oh,” almost mutely, amazed, her eyes filling as she turned the necklace over in her hands like a piece of delicate lace. I saw her seeing it on her mother’s throat, her mother who had been dead for 40 years and had been given this piece of jewelry, now falling apart, by an old boyfriend that was not my mother’s father, who was also dead. I restrung the necklace and wore it at my wedding to Rick. Things matter, things endure when people and relationships do not. Things: simply lasting, then/failing to last: water, a blue heron’s/eye, and the light passing/between them: into light all things/must fall, glad at last to have fallen. (from “Things,” by Jane Kenyon).

In Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, David Eagleman’s stunning, playful, and at times devastating book, he imagines all sorts of after-death scenarios: comical, heart-wrenching, unfair, unbelievable, wonderful. Here’s a snippet from Graveyard of the Gods, one of my favorites:

You begin to realize that the gift of immortality applies to things we created, as well. The afterlife is full of cell phones, mugs, porcelain knickknacks, business cards, candlesticks, dartboards. Things that were destroyed – cannibalized naval ships, retired computers, demolished cabinetry – all return in full form to enjoy and furnish the hereafter. Contrary to the admonition that we cannot take it with us, anything we create becomes part of our afterlife. If it was created, it survives.

Just after I turned fourteen, when we were moving from Wyoming to Nebraska, before my parents found a house to buy we stayed in rented rooms at the top of an old museum attached to Bethphage Mission, a residential home for mentally retarded adults, although I believe they were in the process of changingretarded to delayed. The museum had clearly not been visited in years, maybe decades, because although it was of historical interest, I can’t imagine anyone pulling first off the interstate and then off the dirt road to learn about the history of nursing care when this facility had been a straight-up mental asylum and not an assisted living home. And if they did, they’d be out of luck, because the museum was apparently open for exactly one hour each week, when the door was simply propped open with an old book. There was no entrance fee and anyone could have taken off with what was inside: mannequins with 1960s beehives modeling nurse’s outfits from the 1940s that glittered with dust when the hazy fall light fell through the dirty windows; cobwebs stretched across pointy chests as if they were part of the fabric pattern or bras worn on the outside of blouses. Old shoes – once-white clodhopper nursing shoes, one pair of fancy lace-up boots, a pair of square-toed, ratty heels – were piled in a corner. Carefully I roamed through those empty rooms, walking slowly through the bones of those other stories, scaling some falling-apart ladder of time. I felt I should hush my footsteps although I was alone, as if I were disturbing the things, which might have a life of their own. The rooms felt populated. A few windows were open and the air was typical of autumn in the Midwest – crisp and expectant, things turning and falling and changing – but no season was going to penetrate these unvisited and neglected rooms. You had to stick your nose out the window like a dog riding in a car to get a whiff. My breath practically echoed. I walked in the museum to scare myself, as a distraction from other concerns. “What are you DOING?” I’d hear my mom call from the top of the stairs leading up to our “residence.” I was fourteen; I ignored her. “We’re having beef stroganoff for dinner,” she called into the silence. “You’ve got ten minutes,” she said, and I heard the door click shut.

There were books and made-up beds, and a “model” of a room where “treatments” had been administered. An old wooden cabinet marked with a sign that read “surgical tools,” had apparently been plundered. The creepiness of the museum almost made it impossible for me to sleep above it; I was certain that all those things down there were alive. Those mannequins moved I told my dad. At night they walk around and do stuff! The feet of one of them moved an entire inch! I measured! The other story was that someone was outside in the prairie, a stolen scalpel in one hand, preparing to run up the stairs and plunge it into our unsuspecting hearts, one by one. Who would ever find us in the middle of nowhere Nebraska at the top of a museum that was NEVER OPEN? We never saw a single resident, as the museum faced the street and the “campus” was on the other side of the building. This was the end; I just knew it. We were toast. My middle-of-the night histrionics were draining my parents’ energy and robbing them of sleep. “You’re not a child!” my dad said, exasperated, all other logic having failed to convince me that we weren’t about to meet some inevitable and gruesome end. “Don’t let your imagination run away with you!” But run off it did, and I went with it. The need to find a house gained greater urgency.

I also got my period for the first time in the cold, institutional-feeling bathroom attached to our “rooms” (two twin beds in three plain, identical-looking rooms); and so I’d walk around, fingering the outfits on the mannequins, smelling the cold dust, slowly eating peanut M and Ms from a one pound bag, feeling the inside of my body buck and kick in a way that was painful but not wholly unfamiliar. I was a woman now, apparently, for whatever that was worth. In one dim corner of the museum, on a slightly raised stage stood an old-school crib with rockers on the bottom and a faded, ruffled top. Displayed on nearby tables were yellowed baptismal gowns, tissue-paper-thin, with matching hats, puffy like the tops of muffins, that were worn by some baby long ago, a baby who had lived and died probably hundreds of years before I walked by munching chocolate and bleeding. I sat in the empty, claw-footed bathtub and wrote mournful letters to my friends in Wyoming and yelled at my parents through the door. Then I got mono and slept in the car while my parents shuffled in and out of potential houses. Much to everyone’s relief, I no longer wanted to move or haunt what I was sure were those haunted rooms full of haunted things. Things with life, things with stories, things that breathed in their own lifeless yet very real way.

Things, things, things. I am a collector of things. I have a storage room full of books, a box full of artificial legs, old cotton cloth Esprit bags full of scattered photos from junior high, me sitting in clumps of girls at pizza parties and sleepovers, sticking out my chest in an effort to look busty and gregarious. (I was flat-chested and miserable). At least ten jewelry boxes stuffed with cheap and ruined jewelry, rhinestones and crystals and rusty charms shaped like tigers and elephants. Boxes of letters and three boxes of all the cards I got as a kid when I was in the hospital. A box of prom dresses and bridesmaids dresses, more boxes full of journals and math workbooks and yearbooks and notes that I passed and that were passed to me in junior high and high school. Someday, when my parents move out of their house and clean out their basement for good, I’ll have to reckon with my pack-rattish self. But not yet.

Since Ronan’s diagnosis six months ago I have begun adorning myself: a ring for every finger, an engagement ring that was my husband’s grandmother’s; a wedding ring from the same year – 1932 – that Rick and I found in a pawn shop in Los Angeles and that fit me perfectly – “a princess fit!” the saleslady cried gleefully, and the Cinderella sound of that pleased me; the claddagh ring I bought the day I arrived in Dublin in 1994 for five Irish pounds, pre-Euro; the ring my mother gave me for college graduation, interlocking loops of Celtic knots; a ring that says joy love hope recently purchased at an airport shop in Phoenix, hoping the words would rub off the silver and into my skin; a ring that’s a long sheath of silver with slits where the skin shows through; a dragon ring for my thumb. Around my neck a locket with Ronan’s hair and a picture of his face tucked inside, his birth date 3/24/10 engraved on the back below his cursive name, a gift from my mother for Mother’s Day. A silk chord swinging with my box of holy dirt, my Buddha, my Santa Nino charm from Chimayo, New Mexico, my power animal gorilla charm that a friend retrieved with a bobby pin when it fell off its chain and down a drain in Palm Springs. I want to close things around my wrists, shackle my hands. I need to feel weighted, close to earth, anchored. I don’t want to want to leave it.

Things matter, things count. I took the last/dusty piece of china/out of the barrel./It was your gravy boat/with a hard, brown/drop of gravy still/on the porcelain lip./I grieved for you then/as I never had before. “What Came to Me,” Jane Kenyon

In Spain, at a two-week writing residency in June, my leg develops an annoying squeak. I take off the piece that covers the knee, clean it of dust and dirt, put it back again, it still squeaks. I leave it off although it rips up the covering hose and any long pants I might wear. It looks like a cat has been at me, perhaps the two that fight horribly every night outside my window after dinner, their battle meows like human screams. I let the hose and pants rip; I’m tired of making noise when I walk through the silent farmhouse rooms with their black and white checkered floors that smell of lemons and foreign bleach. When I look down at my knees there’s a big sticker on the end of the metal knee that warns DO NOT TAMPER WITH. The knee cover seems to weigh ¼ of an empty coffee mug if my hands are accurate scales. Franz Kafka, skinny insomniac, on August 31, 1920, a Tuesday, went to a doctor in Prague and wrote “neither he nor the scales find me improved.” We weigh and tweak and size up. Decision-making language.

The Swiss sweep the homes of their citizens each year and count bullets to be sure the weapons haven’t been fired by any members of the peaceful, civilian army; the neutral moderators of the neutral army take out the neutral bullets and hold the neutral bits of steel in their hands. In 1994 a piece of a Viking ship was found near my apartment building in Dublin, which meant one less crane would be obscuring the skyline as the archeologists arrived with their books and enthusiasm, their special shovels and precision tools. There’s a pool of dark and tepid water in a wet well in Dublin castle that has been sitting there since A.D. was in the single digits. In one legendary story, Mary Shelley was given Byron’s dehydrated heart – by then a handful of powdery dust – in an envelope. In Victorian times you didn’t send a letter to your beloved through the post, you sent a lock of your snipped hair, like a pressed flower or a leaf plucked from a tree. The world of things seems to make people accessible; it’s what hierophany is all about, stones and other natural objects as portals to another world, another life. For a full year after my divorce I drove around with my engagement ring freed from my finger and rattling around in the glove compartment of my car before I felt ready to pawn it with a friend at my side at a seedy, sprawling shop in South Austin that I’d driven by three times in the previous six months. Once I actually managed to enter the parking lot and park for a minute before driving away. The ring was small and light and made me enough money to get my first small tattoo, a tiny, colorful flower carved in a place I hoped my mother would never see it.

Things. We adorn, we bedeck, we festoon. We search and select gifts for our beloved. I saw this and thought of you. A ring from Paris, a scarf from Wisconsin, a hand-knit sweater with your name on a tag stitched inside, a tattoo sleeve stretching from shoulder to wrist. A clutch of coins from countries you’ve visited, currency that’s useless in your own country that you can chuck into a big plastic bin for charity in airports in Madrid, London, Berlin. Marks, shekels, pounds, euros, francs, pence, lire, Canadian dollars.

When I see a mother walking on the arroyo path near my home in Santa Fe with her baby in the front pack I think she’s what, maybe eleven pounds? The premature nine-month-old twin girl in Ronan’s swimming class weighs seven pounds. The woman who sat next to me during a turbulent plane ride in the 90s, back when flying absolutely terrified me, said, “It’s virtually impossible for these planes to fall out of the sky. They weigh too much to fall.” (Too big to fail!) An artificial leg weighs between ten and fifteen pounds; an artificial foot weights about four or five; the “model” legs (like model homes) that are lined up along the walls of a prosthetist’s office are often lighter, the ones that hang from straps and pulleys in the back rooms, the ones for real people, are the weight they should be and of course these weights range – they are as individual as the people who wear them. When I was 18 I weighed 95 pounds; when I was breastfeeding Ronan I weighed 110 pounds; in Geneva I weighed 132 pounds; when I was married the first time (and the second time) I weighed 118 pounds. Now I weigh 120 pounds. Ronan weighed 6.5 pounds when he was born, and doubled his weight within the first three weeks of life. Now he weighs almost 24 pounds. An earthquake kit has water bottles, a transistor radio, a bright orange vest, energy bars, and weighs about 6 or 7 pounds. A baby tooth is practically weightless. When bald 6.5 pound Ronan was weighed next to a 12 (!) pound baby with a full head of hair at Cedars-Sinai in his first 24 hours of life he looked miniscule, a little terrified worm unearthed from the ground. When my St. Bernard hit 85 pounds the vet put him on a diet. A bag of outgrown baby clothes weighs 5.4 pounds. Grief weighs nothing but you still have to drag it around.

 

Emily and I last May

EMILY RAPP is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir. A former Fulbright scholar, she was educated at Harvard University, Saint Olaf College, Trinity College-Dublin, and the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She has received awards and recognition for her work from the Atlantic Monthly, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation, the Jentel Arts Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Valparaiso Foundation. She was the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University and has received a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Sun, The Bark, The Texas Observer, Body & Soul, Good Housekeeping, and many other publications. She has taught writing in the MFA program at Antioch University-Los Angeles, where she was a Core Faculty member, UCLA Extension, the University of California-Riverside Palm Desert Graduate Program, the Taos Writers’ Workshop, and the Gotham Writers’ Workshops. She is currently professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is currently at work on a novel and a new memoir,Dear Dr. Frankenstein, which chronicles her life with her infant son, who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease. Excerpts from the book can be found at http://ourlittleseal.wordpress.com and you can visit her at www.emilyrapp.com.