Browsing Tag

fear

Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

August 13, 2016
running

By Kate Abbott

I didn’t know it at the time, but my writing was born on the night I nearly died.   Maybe born is too strong a word but let’s just say I was incentivized by the horror.  Not the horror of what actually happened, but by what could have happened.

I am an ordinary mother.  I don’t suffer from any health issues, well except for my obsession with running, and my kids, thankfully, are well adjusted, at least most days.  I try my best to make my sons’ lives extraordinary and normal at the same time.

It started with a fifth grade science fair project.  After procrastinating to the last possible moment, my eldest came up with his concept: sleep deprivation.  He planned to keep his father up all night and take notes on whether there were hallucinations.   The only wrinkle: dad was out of the country until after the project was due.   No matter, I told my son, mom can step in.  I had an ulterior motive.   In a moment of madness known to afflict runners during post-race bliss, I had signed up for a 100 mile race.   This necessarily meant that I would be running, or if not running at least hopefully moving forward, for probably 36 hours.   An overnight training run was strongly recommended.

And that was why I was outside in the rain as Friday night turned into Saturday morning.  I was doing various loops around the neighborhood, checking in every 45 minutes to have my mental status assessed by my son, who was playing video games.  The idea was to compare the effects of sleep deprivation on a subject who was engaging in physical exercise with that of one who was engaging in a mental activity.   He’d compiled a list of math problems that we would do. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Vulnerability

Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot

February 15, 2016
22H

By Stephanie Couey

When I hold it, it feels nothing like a cock.  Not even a hint of cock in this piece of heavy black metal; a symbolism I had imagined would be solid and indisputable goes limp as I hold the grip with my palms, resting my fingers along the barrel.  As I hold it before firing, all I can think of, is unveiled violence, and how it doesn’t, at any moment, not even as the gun goes off and hits the target I’m aiming for, feel anything like power.

My partner, hopefully the last person I have to love, and I pull up into the parking lot of the shooting range with a plastic Wal Mart bag full of doughnuts and energy drinks.  He says something to me about this place being ripe with material, just as I’m thinking the same thing.  I feel myself slip into the role of slimy anthropologist, knowing I’m sure to get my fill of white right wing men to observe like animals.

The parking lot in Fort Collins, Colorado is unsurprisingly full of utility trucks and oversized family vehicles.  As we walk into the front room of the range, he emphasizes how important it is that it not be called a “shooting range” but a “gun club.”  He tells me this is a place where people go to find a community outside of their homes or jobs, not just to shoot guns.

If I can respect anything, it’s the need for establishing community, but I wonder if I can keep myself out of the way enough to be able to see the community, and not just see my own opinions mirrored back to me in a mosaic whose patterns I think I already know.  In the patterns, I’d see a row of men, shooting just after the Sunday morning service, gripping their loaded second cocks, discharging projectiles one after the other toward pieces of cardboard they envision to be terrorists, homosexuals, atheist academics, sexual deviants courting their daughters, or some amalgamation of all of them, and I could be right, but I could also not be. Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, Guest Posts

Sitting on the Same Side

February 8, 2016
bravery

By Beth Bornstein Dunnington

A disturbing thing happened at dinner the other night in one of my favorite restaurants in Hawaii. I was with my closest friend, and we hadn’t seen each other in a month because I’d been traveling. We had a lot to talk about and the table we were at (a table for two in the corner) was big, and we were too far away from each other. So I moved over to her side, a bench against the wall, to sit next to her… we had our heads together and were hunkered down in a deep conversation… and a fifty-something man with a big square jaw at the table next to us, who was there with two women and a baby, took offense to us sitting together like that and ordered me to go back to my side of the table.

It was shocking. Completely out of the blue.

He actually said, “You two have no class!” and “Go back to your fucking side, that’s why they HAVE two fucking sides!” There was so much background noise no one working at the restaurant heard what was going on, and we were on our own.

I did NOT go back to my seat on the other side of the table and it looked like a blood vessel was going to burst in his forehead, he was so enraged. I looked him in the eye and was not afraid, as crazy as this situation was. I stood my ground. I realized he must have thought we were a gay couple and that this was a small taste of what homophobia feels like. It blew my mind… really caught me off-guard. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts

On The Edge Of The Void

January 22, 2016
boy-562979_1920

By Tanya Slavin

Martin stands at the edge of a swimming pool, nervously shifting from one foot to the other, his whimpering becoming full blown crying the longer he stands there. I am waiting for him in the water, my arms invitingly outstretched, ready to help him in whenever he’s ready. I’m not pressuring him to go in, but the whole situation is: most of the other 4 year olds at this birthday party have been splashing happily in the water for a quite a while now, their happy babbling at stark contrast with his nervous wails. Some are already out of the water, getting ready to go upstairs to the birthday boy’s apartment for birthday cake and more fun.

Martin isn’t scared of the water. I take him to our local YMCA kids’ pool regularly where we splash and play happily. But the big difference is that the water in that familiar pool starts ankle deep, so he can move gradually, at his own pace, into deeper water, or stay at ankle depth if he chooses to. In this pool in our apartment building, the water starts waist-deep right away for someone his height. The other kids don’t care, but Martin isn’t comfortable plunging into that depth right away, so he stands there on the edge, scared and screaming.

I keep my hands outstretched and my voice positive and encouraging, when a sudden flashback obscures my cheerful attitude. In this recurrent nightmare of mine, I’m small and standing alone on the edge of a void that is formed by several missing steps in a stairway of my school building. Everybody else (all my classmates, teachers, my parents) have jumped over the void without giving it a second thought, and are happily on the other side, now encouraging me to jump over, their cheering voices ensuring me that it’s not that hard. But I am completely paralyzed by fear, and my knees begin to shake every time I try to make a step forward. I am certain that if I try to jump, I will fall into the void. So I’m standing there frozen and not jumping even though I desperately want to be on the other side with everybody else.

Alone, on the edge of the void, is where I spent my entire childhood. There was always ‘that side’ and ‘this side’, and a huge void in between. On that side were clowns and bouncy castles, noisy parties and dancing, being good at sports and being updated on the latest pop music, make up and girl nights out. ‘This side’ housed a comfy chair and a pile of books, being too sensitive and crying too much, and being scared of heights and elevators. It was understood and clearly confirmed to me by every trusted person in my life that ‘that side’ was the right one, and if you weren’t already there, you were expected to try hard to jump over. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Letting Go

Mama are you good at sports?

December 21, 2015
tennis-923659_1920

By Gina Sorell

“Mama are you good at sports?”

It’s a question said with a sweet mischievous smile, by my 4-year-old son. It’s the first days of spring and we are standing in a sunbeam in the backyard in the tall grass that has somehow managed to come back to life, just like us, after a winter spent under snow. I’m failing hilariously at catching the balls he throws me. This is our joke. He knows the answer is no, and when I say it, we both burst out laughing. I love watching him laugh, and even more I love that he knows that there is something I am not good at. I want him to know that not everybody is good at everything, or the same things, but they should try them anyway, and if they want to be good, they need to practice. It’s a lesson I needed to teach him early on as he seems to have inherited my same perfectionist tendencies, getting upset with himself if he can’t master something right away. I know this feeling. I danced for many years and perfectionism of all types was encouraged. After he laughs, I often follow up by saying, “I’m not good at sports, but mama can dance!” And then bust out my best Martha-Graham-meets-90’s-New-Wave-dance moves in a circle around him. See, everyone is good at something I am hoping to show him, with my flailing limbs, and now creaky knees that are happier bobbing side to side than up and down, and he often joins in.

But one day he changes up our routine and asks me with all sincerity, “But why? Why aren’t you good at sports?”

It’s a simple question that leaves me speechless. What do I tell him? The reason I wasn’t any good at sports, was because instead of being taught to practice, I’d been taught to be afraid. Sports was where a ball could break my face, smash my nose, knock my teeth out. It was that place where my widely accepted clumsiness, would be my downfall, a clumsiness that somehow didn’t apply to my passion or ability for modern, jazz, ballet and national dance.

“Um, I guess I just didn’t practice very much. But I did do other things, like dance.”

“And baseball?” Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Fear, Guest Posts

Footsteps Follow: The Fear Came With Silence

December 13, 2015
balance-335980_1920

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the experience of having a stalker.

By Bianca Palumbo

Outsiders – they just don’t seem to understand.  I have been tiptoeing my way around for months, on edge.  I am experiencing something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. I have been followed, disturbed, and thrown off-guard by a man known only as my stalker.

It all started the year I was graduating from High School, 2014.  I was always actively pursuing new opportunities and working every event that I could.  What I never expected was the possibility of meeting a stranger who would someday haunt me.  No young woman can prepare for the endless nights of fear and unknowing that come in reaction to a stalker.

I have been independent for most of my life. I wanted to work whenever I could, joined clubs and sports teams, volunteered in the community, and that all excelled the day I earned by driver’s license.  It was the summer I was leaving for college that the first email came through.  My stalker had crafted a story about our romantic relationship and all of the bonds we have shared together. Meanwhile, I had no idea who he was.  I only realized where we met when he admitted to finding my information in a staffing email.  This was the first real time my privacy was violated – I felt I could trust no one.

I thought he would go away; thought it would all end on its own, but I was wrong.  For two years he has been sending me stories about our relationship.  His infatuation has become dangerous and I have become a victim to the act of harassment and stalking.  I no longer work too far from home and am nervous going anywhere alone.  My independence has been quickly taken away and I rely on others for personal safety. But, many people underestimate the situation throw my worries to the backburner.  The police and the judge questioned my reasoning to the point where I felt betrayed.  After endless explanations and pleas, it was hard evidence that turned the law around. Continue Reading…

Family, Fear, Guest Posts, Home, Women

Not Now, Not Yet: An Essay on Aging and Eccentricities

December 7, 2015
Rear view of little girl holding bunch of flowers behind back with her mother and grandmother looking at her

By Terah Van Dusen 

I want to cry. No, I am crying. I want to scream, “Listen here, family—no more going crazy. Not now, not yet. No more cancer. No more tranquilizers for widows. No more meth for the good time guys.”

When I was a little girl, they brushed my hair until it was cotton soft. They bathed me and powdered my skin with white dust out of a yellow vintage disk. When I napped, I would wake and eat one of those orange crèmesicle pops from the freezer. I was pampered and lifted up as a child by my two great aunts who served as mothers—then released back into the wild where I lived with my father.

It was the ease of a single father home. Harmonious. There was plenty of solitude and we owned two pet rabbits named Snow White and Rhada.  We hauled our water up in buckets from a spring at the end of our unpaved street. There were cassette tapes and I had the boom box all to myself. There were long days of lounging and reading and dancing alone, my father working outside. There were quiet father-daughter dinners lit by kerosene lamps. There was dreaming of my far-off long-lost mother and sometimes crying. There was the youthful yet wise knowledge that that was normal (crying). There was the thinking that everything was going to be OK—it was what I’d been told, time and time again. There was being told I could become anything I wanted to be. There was being lied to. There were underlying addictions. There were dreams…and as I grew older there were dreams that were dying hard and fast. It wasn’t pretty.

I am almost thirty now and I am angry. Everything is not OK. I am torn—to lie or not lie to children? Luckily, there are few around, so I need not be worried that one might ask me “Can I really be anything I want to be?” or “But it’s all going to be okay in the end, right?” Hopefully I won’t ever have to say: “No, chile, actually shit gets worse. Much worse. Much, much worse. The mind gets worn like an old shoe. One day you find that you’re just trying to hold it all together. You will never, ever be an astronaut. Or even a manager of anything. You might not even be chosen for marriage. You may become obese or addicted to internet porn, likely both.”

My great aunts husbands both died early on and do you know where that leaves a woman whose greatest strength and ability was to nurture? It leaves her wandering aimlessly with a tray of refreshments with nobody to offer them to. It leaves her facing her own self, which she is not accustomed to doing. It leaves her tripping over somebody else’s clean, folded laundry that’s been sitting there for years. It leaves her in a large, old home with old man drawers and neckties and an old man’s favorite snacks gone beyond stale in the cabinet, a recliner still situated in the corner, a used faux-leather neck massager, a stack of old man Time magazines, bi-focals, a framed photo of an ex-wife, who died of cancer. I am telling you a sad story about old people who used to be very, very beautiful. Beauty queens n’ shit. Car models. Upper management gone crazy or ill. The fate of all of us. My job: to write it down. My job: to not lie to children.

I am the great niece. I tip toe in the shadows. I notice all the shrines and the way my one aunt still talks as if my uncle is sitting right there with us. Take away the men and the children and you get an old woman who used to be a damn good woman and wife but is now so shamed by her belongings, tea cups and sweaters and what not, that she sanctions off entire parts of the house with big heavy curtains and clothes pins. She covers tables full of piles of mail and paperwork with plastic picnic table cloths and when the lightbulbs in the chandeliers go out, she doesn’t replace them. But I get it. All of it. All of these “things” made perfect sense for a family, for a mother, for an aunt. But not for a widow. To say my aunt has a hard time letting it go would be putting it lightly—the mansion is her shrine to her past. But I love her and respect her maybe more than I do the other women. Because she is kind. She is the kind one. She is the crazy one, but she is the kind one.

On my drive down the Oregon coast for a weekend Mother’s day visit with my great aunts, I get to thinking I hope she didn’t sanction off my room. Not that it has any of my personal things in it—although it does have a few: a piggy bank, a Barbie coloring book, a flower crown from when I was the flower girl in a wedding. My dad has a bedroom down the hall. My other aunt occupies the loft bedroom. My deceased great uncle Ray still has a room too, adorned with elk décor and plaid.

My room is all white lace curtains, teddy bears, rose patterned bedspreads, paper dolls and ballerina slippers. It reeks of that innocent girl that I maybe possibly once was—if I stretch way back into my memory. Someday I will inherit the wooden four-post bed and the vintage stationary desk. A small framed photo of me is displayed on the nightstand—I am in the third grade, wearing my favorite Disney sweatshirt, I am smiling and hopeful. I haven’t been beaten down yet. (Though I have been beaten down a little.)

I scour underneath the bed for a box. I’m looking for a slip of paper on which I wrote a long time ago in kid-scratch “I want to be a Writer or a Dancer when I grow up.” Alarmingly, I cannot find the paper—but instead of getting bent out of shape I calmly tell myself that paper or no paper, I still want to be a writer. And maybe someday I will be.

I pull the large, blank-page artist’s sketch pad I write from out of my suitcase, kick off my pink slippers, and crawl into one of my many childhood beds. I intend to write about pointing fingers—at each other and at ourselves. I intend to question: why did it get so hard after the men died? Shouldn’t it have gotten easier? Less housekeeping, dick sucking?

I thought it would be a good idea: a reunion with my women kin. But I’ve got my grandmother who is the eldest and though she has really got her head on straight, she’s quick to judge, she’s somewhat of a sloppy drunk, and she tells me the same stories from my childhood over and over and over again. And whenever someone else is talking she’ll whisper to herself “Oh get on with it,” while smiling a fake smile and bouncing her leg impatiently, waiting for her turn to talk. “Be nice!!” I finally snap back at her, “I am talking now.” Then I regret it—cause… surely nobody would talk to their grandmother this way.

We’ve got our younger aunt who has fought cancer twice now and might be facing a third diagnosis in an altogether new part of her body. She’s beautiful. She smokes. I thought she would’ve quit by now. A quiet confession: I smoke too. But surely I’ll quit. Surely I’ll quit before I get cancer.

We’ve got my great aunt, the one I’ve told you about, who is so isolated in this old house and so fucking eccentric that she might genuinely be going mad now—for the first time I witness her throwing objects at the wall in anger or, in the middle of a task, throwing a stack of papers up in the air and just walking away.

She can’t. They can’t. They can’t go crazy. They can’t get cancer. Everything will be OK in the end is the biggest crock of bull I think I’ve ever heard. I want to scream NOT FAIR. NOT YET. NOT AT ALL. PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER!
These are the women who taught me how to floss my teeth, how to say “So very nice to meet your acquaintance.” These are the women who told me when I got boobs, “There are a lot of wolves out there,” with a head nod and a knowing eye and I knew they were talking about men. And boy were they right. This made it easier to meet a man, think “Wolf” and just walk away. These are the women. These are the women. You can’t. You can’t take them yet. I’m not yet thirty. I’m still quitting smoking.

As the ladies carry on in fragmented, tortured conversation, I sit on the floor and cry. I try to stop but I can’t. I try to be strong like I will have to when they’re not only crazy and drunk but bedridden too. I am the child. They are the mother. We don’t want to go crazy. We don’t want to lose each other. We don’t want to be unappreciated, and then died on. We don’t want to be cheated on, and then died on. But we don’t want to be victims, either. We don’t know what we want exactly, but we know what we don’t want. And yet with every year we face the inevitable—the house clutter, the mind fucks, the cancer. I feel it too. I get it.

The younger aunt hugs me before bedtime, she holds onto my shoulders and whispers with great conviction “I know, growing up sucks.” I feel a hard sob rising up from my core. Suppressing it sends a violent tremor from my feet to my head. “I don’t cry at home,” I tell my aunt reassuringly, “I must be PMSing or something.”

I wonder where my strength ran off to, where all of our strength is hiding. Maybe it just…ran out. Maybe it died. Or maybe it’s hiding behind all the life stuff—the tea cups, the sweaters hung over the backs of chairs, the lace curtains and vintage bureaus, the magazines, the pinstriped button downs of old, dead uncles, the bottle caps, bottled waters, dusty, the driftwood, vintage aprons, and “art supplies.” Maybe it’s in that one closet. Or in the other one. Maybe we put it “somewhere extra special.” It’s bound to show up somewhere. We ask ourselves, “When was the last time you saw it? And where?”  We laugh and drink and poke fun at each other slash snap at each other. They won’t last forever…but at thirty I feel like I will. How can I be this far gone this early on? Do you just feel crazy when you’re around crazy people? Are we just artists? Is this what it is to be eccentric?

No more going crazy.

Not now, not yet.

Too soon.

again

Terah Van Dusen is a writer and aspiring memoirist. She is the author of two self-published books: Poems by a Horny Small-Town Gal and Love, Blues, Balance: A Collection of Poetry. She has been published in two anthologies by Cool Waters Media in Chico, California. Terah lives in Eugene, Oregon and writes the blog Bohemian Dreams at terahvandusen.wordpress.com.

 

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

 

 

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

courage, Fear, feminism, Guest Posts, Women

On Being an Unnatural Woman

November 20, 2015
leah wyman

By Leah Wyman

I’m walking in the the rainforest, debating whether or not to put in my iPod headphones to ease my jitters.

For a country with “Pura Vida” as its motto, Costa Rica can be an anxiety-provoking place for somebody who’s a borderline agoraphobic.  But here I am, covered in mud, my clothes sopping with sweat, swatting at bugs and moss, feeling all kinds of outdoor unknowns prickly all over me. I’m exhausted, I’m lost in the wilderness, and I’m grappling with the surreal situation I find myself in.

I had followed the map closely, I thought, but got turned around as to whether to climb up the creek bank or down the creek bank to get to the waterfall I was seeking. To most seasoned outdoorsmen (or just anyone who gets the concept of how rivers work), this wouldn’t be a mental struggle.

But hell if I knew—and downstream seemed conceptually like less of a labor. No guide, no common sense–just the great outdoors and me, scaling rocks and branches, sloshing my boots into deep pools, petrified of snakes, and talking to myself through this anxious situation.

You’re doing real good Leah, reeeeeeal good. You got this. I sputtered, spooked by weird animal and bug sounds and the rustle of leaves. I threaded the headphone cord in and out of my fingers. Maybe a little Katy Perry telling me I was a ‘Firework’ would spur me on.

Nature has always known its relationship with me: respectfully guarded but also utterly hysterical. It’s moved past dubious and now it feels like fact: the environment and its inhabitants are tickled by me. Mother Earth needs amusement like the rest of us, and I feel like the laughingstock of the terrestrial community.

As with most suburban brats, anything remotely wild in my past happened in zoos.

With my class at the primate exhibit at Brookfield Zoo I was standing completely unawares when I suddenly felt a nasty, mealy, putrid paste being flung repeatedly at my face and body. One of the so-called majesties we were admiring with awe had just thrown its shit at me. Gorilla feces all over me. In my hair, in my eye, all over my new sweater from the Gap, which I’d gotten for Christmas, which I really liked.

I was crying and humiliated while my teacher tried to wipe soapy water through nooks and crannies of cable knit. Mrs. Scott walked me to the zoo store and picked out a nerdy t-shirt with a baby otter that exclaimed “I Otter Be at the Brookfield Zoo!” for me to wear the rest of the day. (God bless you, Mrs. Scott). Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Beating Fear with a Stick, depression, Fear, Guest Posts

Passion

November 6, 2015
fire abstract background

By Alexis Donkin

Passion is painful. When I first discovered it, I cried, like that time I watched Hotel Rwanda, and walked back to my dorm room in shock. Safe in my room, I locked the door, held onto my chair, and collapsed, in a crumpled heap, weeping until there were no tears left. I think it was hours – hours of weeping.

Yes, passion was too painful. It was depressing. It was too much that I ran from the whole enterprise. It was better to feel nothing than to feel passion. So I doused my flame. I choked out its air, and I drew. I painted. I sculpted. I avoided the news. I ignored anything real around me, because if I didn’t, I was at risk of sinking into a deep pit.

For a long time I was just pieces of previously burnt, compressed, wood. Cold. Charcoal untouched by heat. Not yet fuel, everything was superficial. Everything was simple, and I was easily swayed by ideas. Without principle, without a standard of measure, it was easy to float about, carelessly moving from one place to the next. Until time caught up with me, forcing the issue. Time forced me to confront myself.

I was thirty. I had misgivings, but I had that intense need to breed. The kind of need that suffuses your entire body, that comes up at awkward times in awkward places, that persists like an aching hunger. And the hunger sharpened horribly any time I saw a pregnant body – a beautiful baby. Even an ugly baby. And the worst was a father and child.

I would see that, and my body would destroy every thoughtfully constructed, logical argument against parenthood. It would counter the financial hardship, the question of health care, of college several decades later. It would counter, roaring, with the most fundamental raw uterine bellow – BABIES!

The first chance we got, we made good. The second I felt it was possible, I aban Continue Reading…

cancer, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Heroes

Masks

October 31, 2015
matt1 (2)

By Joules Evans

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This is a tale of two masks, this mane and this zebra pencil. It’s a comedy about a tragedy. One of my own doing.

But first, a tale of two sons.

Act 1: Matt. Matt has always liked (and still likes) to dress up as his heroes and supmatt3erheroes. Davy Crockett. Indiana Jones. Andy (from Toy Story). Mario. Siracha hot sauce. Spidermat, I mean, Spiderman. The thing about masks is they hide our true identity. When Matt puts on his Spidey mask HE IS SPIDERMAN. Matt is underneath, but hidden. It’s a pretty epic mystery. Like how nobody spies Superman underneath Clark Kent’s glasses. But the other thing about masks is they can also reveal. When Matt puts on his Spidey mask he is revealing something about himself.  Inside, he is a superhero. In his own way, he is and has always been out to save the day, save the girl, save the world. In a sense, in essence, HE IS SPIDERMAN. Even without a mask. And he has been all his life. Once when he was 5 or 6, we were at his little brother’s baseball game and it started raining. My little superhero took off his mask, in this case the shirt off his back (but to me it was a superhero’s cape) and put it on the bleachers for me to sit on so I could stay dry.

Act 2: Mikeyy. Not surprisingly Mikeyy followed in his big brother’s steps as far as dressing up as mikey1superheroes. Superman. Michael Jordan. Michaelangelo. Daniel Boone to Matt’s Davy Crockett. Buzz Lightyear to Matt’s Andy. Luigi to Matt’s Mario. Batman to Matt’s Spiderman. One thing that was revealed early about Mikeyy was that he is and always has been a peacemaker. And later, when he sometimes ended up dressing up as the bad guys because all the good guys were all, already taken by everybody else, it revealed something else about him. Like when he dressed up as Voldemort for the midnight premiere of the final Harry Potter movie. Mikeyy shaved his head AND HIS EYEBROWS. What it revealed about Mikeyy is commitment to the nines. He was Voldemort that night. Not only did he win best costume, but everybody in the theatre wanted their picture with him. What it hid was this mama’s utter shock at seeing my baby boy bald all the way down to his eyebrows, since I’d just grown mine back from fighting cancer. It was like looking in a mirror. Like I was seeing my own reflection, back in time.

Act 3: It’s just hair. That’s what I tried to tell myself when I found out I had breast cancer and that the chemo was going to be an ultimate wardrobe malfunction and make my hair fall out. #tbt to August 20, 2008. THE superpowerinciting incident of all inciting incidents in my life, in which this mask was lifted. My cancer… (yes, mine. I own it; it does NOT own me. Or define me. But it is part of my story. My story. Continue Reading…

beauty, courage, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

This Space

October 5, 2015
Image of happy woman with white fabric running down meadow

By Sarah Miller Freehauf

I once filled this space, this body, this dispensable cavity with food—rows of black and white cookies & TV & bedtime. I once filled this space, this body, this dispensable cavity with pills & space where no food was allowed to touch. I once ran on a treadmill for three miles in this space, this body, this dispensable cavity. I moved 200 pounds of this space, that body. After—a man came to me with a smile and asked how many miles did you just run? A man came to me with disbelief and asked how many miles I just carried that big space, that big body, that big dispensable cavity.

My mother used to say you better watch it. My father used to tap and smack our bellies and call us belly-women and I hated him in that moment though loved him deeply every other. My brother used the toothbrush more often than I did. My brother used to feel the praise of coaches and mother and father on how he was trim and good and how that boy body was all Midwestern man. My brother was worse off than I. He ate salad, he dispensed it, he ate salad, he moved his large baby fat ridden teen body until some man at the gym said something to him in disbelief—something that sounded like you are good.

I kept running and moving that space of mine and eating things of the earth and everyone in disbelief said how many miles did you just run? How many pounds did you manage to rid? Everyone in disbelief including the man at the gym and our father and my brother—skinny and in shape and everyone proud of him—everyone in disbelief asked how many miles and pounds did that space, that body, that dispensable cavity rid?

And then because that space is dispensable, because of shame, because of fat stored in a place that it is supposed to be, because everyone in their disbelief—I cut my chest. I let a man cut my chest, I let a man remove, in his disbelief, eleven pounds of fat. I let everyone say in disbelief—your body looks better, looks good, looks healthy, looks small. And this body still has the anchor scars and the cookie scars and rotted esophagus to prove that all the disbelief was believable.

And now I run and men watch. And now I run and my mother says good. And now I eat things of the earth and others say how.

Now—I run. I move my body, my space, my figure, my form and most days it is still not enough. But my body moves and that is good. The moving is mostly enough.

Freehauf-headshot

Sarah Miller Freehauf is the Founding Editor of Teenage Wasteland Review–a literary journal just for teens, Editorial Assistant for Divedapper, a reader for [PANK], former Managing Editor for Lunch Ticket, and recently received her MFA in Poetry from Antioch University, Los Angeles. More importantly, she teaches high school English and Creative Writing in the Midwest. Her most recent creative work can be found in Stone Highway Review & Poemeleon.

 

 

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

 

beauty, Guest Posts, Inspiration

The Fat Girl’s Benediction

October 1, 2015
Eat Diet Keys Showing Fiber Exercise Fat And Calorie Advice Online

**A note from Jen: A version of this essay was originally published on one of our favorite sites, “The Rumpus.” We are thrilled to share it here, with all of you.**

 

By Tabitha Blankenbiller

On the morning I’d had enough of my body, Twitter was quaking over Colleen McCullough’s obituary. It stated that the wildly accomplished writer was “plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth.”  Who knew someone could be full-figured and brilliant? My friends were livid. I was disgusted. And I was panicked. What if I careened off the road, right now, in these revolting stretchy pants that aren’t fooling a goddamn soul? Let me die painfully, shamefully, without kindness or honor. Don’t let me die fat.

As I roller-coastered through the backroads, I tried to remember the last time I was in a house of God. Not since my last visit to the United Methodist Church of Wilsonville. Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It has been 1,011 days since my last confession.

Two years since my last visit and nothing about the church’s Tuesday night Weight Watchers meeting had changed. The same woman who had taken my information four years ago still stood behind the multi-purpose room’s kitchen counter. On these Tuesday nights, us Eaters Anonymous members shuffled in with our weekly food trackers. We made whatever sacrifices we could: unzipped boots and kicked off sneakers, running to the bathroom to purge ounces from our bladders. The truth flashed onto the scale, evidence of a “good” or “bad” week. The line corralled next to a table selling dinner plates with patterns depicting proper meat-to-starch-to-vegetable ratios and serving spoons to ensure you only scoop half a cup of brown rice (white rice is evil). Miniature scales to make sure you did not accidentally grab four ounces of almonds instead of three. Keep on track. One day at a time. Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts

Dear Life: Am I Falling In Love or Running Scared?

August 7, 2015
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Dear Life,

About five months ago I met this amazing man and we kind of fell into a long distance relationship. I am in grad school in the US and he’s in the UK here he owns his own business. He’s smart, achingly kind, adventurous, funny, charming and empathetic. I’m really attracted to him. He’s basically everything I’ve been looking for in a partner and then some.

Yet here is what is happening: I feel like squirming, like a fish in a net. I find myself rocked by doubts. But they are usually not about him- but about me. I am constantly worried if he likes me, if he finds me boring, if he’s going to wake up one day and realise being with me is too much work and I’m not worth it.

I spent my spring break with him where we went away to this romantic little weekend in the countryside and instead of feeling a calm sense of peace with him all I felt was panic. Panic that he would be bored, panic that I was not interesting. I couldn’t shake it. I was wracked by anxiety.

I also find myself nitpicking with him. For example, I worry that when we discuss ideas we only discuss them for 20 minutes- not an hour like I used to with my ex. I want him to tell me, with words, how he feels about me like: all the time. Even though he SHOWS me in a million different ways.

There’s a lot I could tell you about myself to provide some background context on who I am and why I feel this way. I guess the important thing is, I know my shit. I know what I do in the world that is incompatible with falling in love and I’ve come a long way in terms of being able to manage that same shit. I’ve struggled with anxiety, I’ve had a loving albeit chaotic childhood and I’m a very type-A, high achieving person. And I feel that today, after a LOT of work, I’m starting to feel OK with who I am.

I know that I have a hard time feeling vulnerable and truthfully, I know he does too. I know that I tend to keep one foot on the ground and I SO want to change that. And I feel like I could fall in love with this new person if I would just let myself. But here’s what I don’t know:

Is my anxiety self inflicted, is it a product of our long distance or is it because something is fundamentally not right with us? How can I possibly know when I feel unsure in any relationship that I’m in? How can I not throw away a good thing?

I want to trust my gut, but my gut and my anxious spiraling brain can sometimes feel like the same thing and only one is worth paying attention to.

Yours,

Falling in love or running scared?

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts

After Striking A Fixed Object

July 22, 2015
latoya.83

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By LaToya Jordan

I was jerked awake by the swerving of the car as it raced towards the median. I remember the sound of hands, my aunt’s hands; she pounded the steering wheel trying to make it stop spinning, make the car stop moving. I screamed, we all screamed. I sucked my teeth, said this isn’t happening, can’t be happening. Silence right before impact, the screams of metal and voices vacuumed out of the car; so quiet only heartbeats remained. 

The vehicle rolled approximately three times, the first roll was a barrel roll, driver’s side leading, after striking a fixed object.

I woke with the belief that my skin was made of ice, a chill, a chatter deep inside my bones. Grit in my mouth. I spit the grit, pieces of my teeth in my hand and I wanted to be on a warm beach holding a handful of sand. I wanted to let the wind take the sand from my hand and be left with tiny white slivers of seashells. There was a lot of blood, my blood, and there was a woman’s voice. When I stared at the blood soaking the tissue or towel or blanket she told me to press the something to my face to stop the bleeding. I thought I was going to die a virgin. It was cold and dark though it was morning. Someone cocooned me in blankets. The only light I saw was when I looked up. My mother screamed. Helicopter blades sliced open the sky. The man in the helicopter had warm eyes and he was on the beach with me and we held flecks of shells in our hands. It was so easy to speak to him through my eyes, to be intimate with a stranger when I thought I might die. He tried to start an IV and the needle hurt. I was bleeding from my face, spitting out teeth, and my body was numb, yet the needle hurt.

11/29/97 treated for SHOCK/TRAUMA

This will sting a little, the doctor said. Needles into the gashes to numb. He pieced my face back together. A stitch, a stitch, another stitch. A radio was on in the background. My brain sometimes adds details to the story that weren’t there that day, like the song on the radio was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” for Princess Diana. She died in a car crash on August 31, 1997. In this created memory I say to myself, at least I can be sewn back together.

This will sting a little.

There’s a part of the brain that controls fear called the amygdala. It is almond shaped. My amygdala has a super power. It transforms every car I ride in into a gray Mercury Sable GS with 82,876 miles on it. It sends me back to the New Jersey Turnpike on November 29, 1997. I get to be 19 again and again. My amygdala rewired my body; my right leg now directly connected to fear. Whenever I’m a passenger in a car my leg pounds the floor in search of a brake. Sometimes I have to hold my thigh to calm my leg. I don’t have the power to turn this off. The motion is like a breath, like a heartbeat. I don’t know how to make my stomach feel like it is not being jerked, like it is not heading towards a median, like it is not flipping over three times across the highway after striking a fixed object. I don’t know how to make my brain shut up.

When in cars I talk to my amygdala.

I hush it.         (but the vehicle rolled three times)

I rock it.          (but the first roll was a barrel roll)

I tell it             (but it struck a fixed object)

everything

is going

to be okay.

(But I can’t forget)

The first time I saw my face in the mirror, I thought, “Frankenstein made a new monster.” A line of stitches, from the right side of my mouth and down across my neck. These new mouths sewn tightly shut but they mumbled so loud.

This will sting a little. Pink skin bubbled out of my scar like lava, forming a new tough skin. A pink protrusion. When the bubbling stopped, I looked in the mirror and saw someone that was not the real me, an evil twin. How would people know this wasn’t the real me?

On physical examination there are two very distinct and two very minor scars of the right side of the face. The distinct areas are at the lower facial border at the angle of the mandible and on the left upper neck. The larger of the scars is 4.5 x 1 cm in size, this crosses the mandibular angle. The prominent scar of the left neck is 4 x 1.2 cm.

Prominent. A few synonyms: protruding or sticking out or

keloid. Defined as irregular or abnormal scar tissue. Also defined as when your body becomes wet pavement after the rain and a slimy and thick pink or brown earthworm crawls across your skin and settles in, this spot is comfortable. Or you are a tree and your body grows berries, skin fruit that hangs at the site of your ear piercing or your belly piercing or your acne scars. You, with your irregular and abnormal skin fruit for all to see, bulging.

This will sting a little. I covered my mirrors, borrowing something I learned from Jewish friends, sitting shiva for my former self. Here lies a pretty 19-year-old girl. Who will ever love her?

And the sting kept stinging. Not a little. It held venom that paralyzed me. It was hard to get out of bed. I managed to go through the motions for college classes but my average dropped because sometimes I felt like the cracks in my face had been super glued back together, another fall would destroy me. I raged. I wrote pages of stinging words: I’m a monster and no man will ever want me. I got lost inside the sting; I couldn’t escape its grasp. I was too afraid to tell my friends and family how I was feeling. I let them see a stronger version of me, window dressing to hide the pain that ate me from the inside out.

There, in the mirror, is a gray car that flipped three times. There, in the mirror is the bloody face and broken body and all the things I remember and all the things I don’t. There, are the things beyond my control. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face and sometimes the accident is there. Good morning, car accident. How are you today?

How many people will be in car accidents today? I don’t know, but every time a person is killed in a car crash in the U.S. their body is marked on a list of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In 2013, 32,719 people died in car accidents. That’s 89 people dead a day. They’re probably still counting the bodies from 2014.

Raise your hand if you’ve been in a car accident. Raise your hand if you were nervous or terrified about getting back into a car after that accident. Raise your hand if your heart beats fast just thinking about getting into a car. Raise your hand if you never drive. Raise your hand if you are a prisoner of that road or street or stretch of highway. Are they counting our hands? I wish I could see your hands. I wish I could calm your legs when you press those imaginary brakes. You are my people. Are you scared? Are you scarred? How do you cope? Is it meds? Is it meditation? Do people tell you that you should get over it already? Sing this song to the get over it people:

            scar tissue that I wish you saw

            sarcastic mister know-it-all…

            with the bird I’ll share this lonely view.

42,013 died in car accidents in 1997. 115 people in the U.S. probably died on November 29, 1997. I was not one of them.

I was not one of them. Not anymore, not normal. I didn’t want the normals to look at me because they would see my scar, two very distinct and two very minor scars of the right side of the face. All the normal people who knew me, their eyes changed. I saw sorry, I’m so sorry in their eyes. I saw them remembering the old me. (This lonely view.) With them I tried to wear the I’m still the same person hat. I wore real hats. I wore my hair combed in my face. I wore a scarf to cover my neck and mouth when I went outside. Don’t look at me, my eyes pleaded, don’t look at the very distinct bull’s eye on my face.

I wasn’t prepared for how much words from strangers would sting.

You’re pretty, still, he said. Continue Reading…