Friendship, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love, Inspiration, Video, Women

To Have a Friend Like This: On Friendship, The Holocaust & Survival.

March 18, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

Hi guys, Jen Pastiloff here. I don’t post my own stuff too often these days, but these videos, holy Wow, mother of all cups of coffee. Please do yourself a favor and take a few moments and watch these videos. Please. One of these women is a Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is so utterly inspiring to me that it brought me to my knees. I want to have that kind of love. It’s an honor to the guest speaker again here at Canyon Ranch. What a great honor and privilege. Thanks for watching and sharing these videos. May we all listen more. May we all pay attention to the stories inside of us and inside of others, because, do not be fooled, we ALL have one to tell. Listen. This is beauty hunting.

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Binders, death, Guest Posts

The Standalone Gift

March 18, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Teri Carter.

I first saw the chair in a catalogue, the kind we all get too many of with thick red and green pages, the kind that land in our mailboxes before the holidays with a thud, the kind of shiny wish-book that draws us, even if reluctantly, into its pages in search of the elusive perfect gift.

The chair caught my eye. It was almost Christmas, my mother’s last, and she was so puffy and swollen from the steroids she hated to see herself in the mirror. She mostly complained about not being able to cook, that she “couldn’t even stand up long enough to boil soup.” She’d tried pulling up a chair but the sitting/standing/sitting/standing routine wore her out, and she’d cried on the phone with me, “I feel like I’m just waiting.” When I saw the chair I saw a solution: this adjustable, portable, ladder-like contraption was just what my mother needed. I got out my credit card and dialed 1-800.

No matter our age, it’s so hard to understand what our mothers need. Looking back, I wonder if I ever stopped staring into my own mirror—worrying about some weight I’d gained or a bad haircut or the wrong clothes—long enough to care. There would be time for that later, right? Later, there would be time?

When I was eight, I discovered my single mother was having an affair. Let’s call him Jack. Jack was married with two little kids and worked nights as a delivery driver for Purolator, a FedEx-like company, and he lived in our very small town in a nice ranch-style house you could see from the main road. Sometimes my mother and I would drive by on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to see if he might, by chance, be outside mowing the lawn or washing the car or even throwing the football with his son. Jack never waved, never acknowledged my mother or me in any way, and we didn’t wave either, but I swore I could see Jack tip his head a little and I felt my mother slow the car just a bit and, with that slowing, I felt the electricity that passed in the space between them. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Do you want to be well? Lessons from Grief.

March 17, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Vanessa Mártir.

When my brother Carlos died in June of 2013, I did two things: I threw myself into my writing and I started devouring stories and essays, anecdotes, blog postings, anything and everything related to grief. I was looking to make sense of this senseless loss; how my querido hermano finally succumbed to his fifteen year heroin addiction at the far too young age of 41.

(Cheryl Strayed’s “Heroin/e” quickly became a favorite I revisited many times. Then there was her essay “The Love of my Life” and David Sedaris’s “Now We Are Five” and so many more that I can’t even begin to list.)

I wanted proof that I wasn’t going crazy. Something to explain the knot in my throat that I couldn’t seem to swallow or cry out or scream through.

I needed someone to tell me that this grief would pass because it seemed impossible that it could. That the vise grip it had on my throat would loosen.

I needed to know that I would survive this feeling of dying. The tiny little deaths I endured daily when people who did not know how to handle my grief said things that felt more like knives than comfort (“you’re strong, you’ll be okay” “he’s in a better place now” “everything happens for a reason”); when I heard Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car or smelled his cologne on a passing stranger; or that time I swore I saw him in a crowd and I freaked, ran toward him, only to have this stranger look at me like I was a lunatic. The thing is, in that moment I was. I was losing my shit.

I was terrified that I would forget him, his voice, that mischievous twinkle in his eye when he came up with a scheme that would make mom scream and chase us.

I was desperate for people to know who he was. Not just the heroin and how he lost himself in it and stole and manipulated. I wanted them to know him when he was my Superman, how he loved and believed in me, what he taught me about love and life and survival, and how so much of who I am, my fierce, my “fuck that, I got this,” I owe to him.

During the holidays of that year, I went into a really dark place. If I had to pick a day when it started, I’d say it was Thanksgiving. I shot out of bed, completely unable to breathe. It was like my breath was caught in my trachea. I was choking on my grief. All I kept thinking was: He should be here. He should be here. Carajo, he should be here. I called my aunt who is very much a surrogate mother to me. I couldn’t even talk. All I could do was sob into the phone. “Come over,” she said. “Come over right now.” I woke up my daughter who stared at me with those huge, expressive eyes of hers that tell you exactly how she’s feeling—she was scared for her mama. We ran the three blocks to aunt’s house in our pajamas. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth. Later that day, one of her boys (I don’t remember which one) came with me to pick up clothes. My aunt made sure we weren’t alone. I didn’t get home until late into the night.

It was after that that I picked up a chair and sat in my grief. I went willingly into an abyss I was scared I would stay in or wouldn’t know how to claw out of. (I’m picturing that scene from Silence of the Lambs when Buffalo Bill lowers a bucket into that torture pit chamber of his and you get a glimpse of the blood and fingernails and scratch marks on the wall.) That’s when I started reading everything I could get my hands on about depression, how grief can trigger it, the dangers, the menace.

Despite this, I didn’t acknowledge my depression until sometime in February, when the blackness started to ebb and I could see light on the edges. It was blue and shadowy, almost grey, like powder. What mattered most was that it wasn’t all black. It symbolized hope.

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Guest Posts

S–t

March 14, 2015
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By Peter Selgin.

 

“What is toilet training if not the first attempt to turn

a child into a civilized member of society?”

—Rose George, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable

World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

 

Tube: a hollow elongated cylinder: especially one to convey fluids. People are tubes. This is about the human gut and what passes through it.

Twenty-five years ago I was diagnosed with a supposedly incurable condition known as ulcerative colitis. About five out of every thousand people have it. The disease causes inflammation and ulceration of the large intestine, resulting in bouts of severe bloody diarrhea. Left untreated, UC can be extremely debilitating. But even the best treatments often fail, leaving no choice for victims other than surgical removal of all or part of the big gut and the unglamorous prospect of a colostomy bag.

Until recently for the better part of those twenty-five years I’ve been in remission, with relatively minor digestive complains and no flare-ups. All that changed, or seemed to, not long ago after a routine colonoscopy, at a follow-up visit with a nurse practitioner (the doctor who’d done the exam was on vacation). She told me my disease was not only as chronic as ever, but—despite few symptoms—active. What I’d chalked up to bad digestion was the resurgence of an incurable and potentially devastating disease.

The nurse practitioner’s verdict left me distressed and depressed, contemplating a return to the regimen of draconian (and mostly useless) diets and drugs whose side effects were as considerable as their efficacy, and that offered only some relief, but no cure.

So I did what many do these days when confronted with a nasty diagnosis: I went online. For two nights running, I stayed up searching for the latest treatments for ulcerative colitis. Since my last flare-ups, a couple of new drugs had come on the market, each with a laundry list of dastardly side effects, none offering more than the possibility of remission.

Then, after hours of nocturnal research, I came across something that not only caught my eye, but that made me wonder if I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming, something so bizarre, so outrageous, it would have been right at home with the most transgressive works of surrealist cinema and literature, with Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou and Bataille’s “Story of the Eye.” A procedure known as an FMT—a “Fecal Microbiota Transplantation.” A shit transplant.

 

Treating diseases with fecal matter isn’t new. It dates all the way back to the 4th century, when, according to Chinese medicine doctor Ge Hong, patients were fed a yellowish broth (“yellow soup”) of fecal matter to cure them of food poisoning and severe diarrhea. Among the many “cures” for the Black Death was one that called for lancing the buboes of the afflicted and applying to them a poultice of tree resin, roots of white lilies, and dried human shit. In the early days of steam-powered vessels, when boilers and pipes exploded routinely, human shit was used as a salve and applied to the burns of Irish trawler crews.

Shit transplants, on the other hand, are a recent innovation. Just over fifty years ago, in 1958, Dr. Ben Eiseman of the University of Colorado published a report in which he described having cured four patients of their life-threatening intestinal disorders using enema solutions of donated “healthy” feces. Since then, similar procedures have resulted not only in complete remissions, but in actual cures for people suffering from supposedly “incurable” bowel disorders, in particular Clostridium or C. difficile, a disease attributed to the destruction of necessary intestinal flora resulting from overuse of antibiotics. The procedure has also been used to treat those suffering from other autoimmune diseases, including asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. The treatment bears quick, if not instantaneous, results, costs little, can be done on an outpatient basis, and poses minimal risks.

All this I learned propped up in my bed long after midnight, my iPad glowing in the dark. Imagine, I thought, walking into a doctor’s office with a nasty “incurable” disease, only to walk out a few hours later with someone else’s shit inside you, cured. It seemed too good to be true.

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cancer, death, Guest Posts

On Blue Skies and Loss.

March 14, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Chelsea Nolan.

It was winter when he called me. We talked daily so it was no surprise, but this time it was different. He said he had something to talk to me about but he wanted to do it in person this weekend. I was with my two best friends who didn’t know what to say. But I knew.

It was cancer again. I knew it the second I heard the sound of his voice, the way he told me everything was okay with a soft edge to his words. It was cancer, it was worse this time and everything was about to change.

He was diagnosed on February 10th and he told me on Valentine’s Day. Even though it was six weeks before, I consider that the day I lost my dad in so many ways. The father who carried my bags out to my car, bought me groceries, repaired holes in the wall, changed my oil, asked me about dates I was going on. The dad who would drop everything if I asked him to, let me beat him in chess even though he was so much better. The dad who took care of me. The dad who gave everything he had for everything I was going to be. From that day on it was me who took care of him.

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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. It is LIFE CHANGING!

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