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Good Morning America, Guest Posts, Inspiration, travel, Travels

Aloneha! Honeymoon for One.

November 29, 2013

Aloneha! Honeymoon for One

By Malina Saval

It’s five days after my well-intentioned but delinquent boyfriend, Jake, has packed up his beat-up, burgundy Chevy —”I’m going to get my life together, I swear“— and moved from Los Angeles back to Phoenix to live with his parents. And I’m sitting all alone on a beach in Ka’anapali, a resort area in western Maui, trying to figure out how I can simultaneously go swimming and prevent my backpack with my travelers checks, credit cards and camera in it from getting stolen. My notepad is in there too, and a pack of blue Bic pens, because I’ve come on this trip to write the Great American Novel (or, at least, the Great American Outline).

Jake and I had only dated three months, but he was funny, sweet, and sent me giant bouquets of flowers with the money that he should have been spending on rent. He would have fit the bill so far as romantic getaway companions go. And yet, here I was, alone, surrounded on all sides by hordes of annoyingly affectionate honeymooners while spitting on my finger to wipe the caked sand off my pen cap.

It started with Drew Barrymore. I had read an interview months earlier in which Drew talked about treating herself to a week alone in Hawaii. She gushed about the vacation in that decidedly Drew-esque way, sprinkling her travelogue with words like “maaaagical” and “phenoooomenal” and “amaaaazing.” In Hawaii, said Drew, she had found her best friend, her soul mate, the person upon whom she could count most in this world: Herself.

It was Drew Barrymore that Drew Barrymore could count on.

A year or so later, after scrounging up airfare and hotel from my paltry-paying job as an associate editor at a small (now defunct) magazine, I’m sitting on my oversized beach towel, repeating the mantra It’s OK to be aloneIt’s OK to be alone until the hotel cocktail waiter, upon serving me my second piña colada of the day (and it’s only 10 a.m.), asks if I would like to see the hotel doctor.

I’m terrified, at 27, of winding up alone.

I had traveled alone before, several times, in fact, through Europe, the Middle East, Mexico. And yes, there were honeymooners there too, but there were also starving student backpackers and art museums and archeological ruins serving as convenient distractions. In Maui, there are just beaches to kiss on and waterfalls to kiss under and the ocean to kiss in.

And then there’s me. Drinking piña coladas at ten a.m. while repeating self-help mantras amidst the sound of gently rolling waves.

Then, late on day one of my solo Hawaiian holiday, I meet Javier and Keith, two single straight guys in their late thirties who were upgraded to a honeymoon suite after being mistaken for a gay married couple by the hotel management. Javier works for the Democratic Party in some vague capacity and Keith is a union leader who got to sit next to Barbra Streisand at the Democratic National Convention and touch her nails.

That night, Javier, Keith and I, the only three single people on the entire island of Maui, reap the glories of their honeymoon suite, star gazing on the balcony while drinking screwdrivers from the mini-bar and making out animal shapes in the navy-blue clouds. We laugh about the string of dysfunctional affairs we’ve all had—I come in first, with seventeen (eighteen?)—and by the end of the night, I slowly begin to rediscover the joys of traveling alone. The alcohol and jokes have done their trick and, for the first time since Jake left—and the dozen or so before him— I’m not panicked about turning 30 (in three years) and not being in a committed relationship with somebody that can take care of me.

The next morning, after walking to the local pharmacy for Monistat-7 (Jake left me with one souvenir), I inhale a breakfast of French toast soaked in cinnamon-vanilla egg batter and macadamia nut syrup, a Hawaiian specialty. After breakfast, I go snorkeling with Javier and Keith. We rent masks and flippers and spent hours gliding beneath the smooth, translucent blue water in Olowalu, just south of Ka’anapali. We spot tropical fish of every imaginable color, and I get to see what a yellowtail sushi roll looks like in its natural environment. I flap my arms up and down and push myself deeper and deeper toward the bottom (which, in this part, is only about 12 feet) until I am sealed off from the rest of the world. Everything falls silent, but not in its usual bad way.

That night, I sit at the hotel bar, writing on my laptop, while listening to a Jim Croce impersonator sing “Time in a Bottle.”  I’m surrounded by couples in love: a man in a white bowling shirt embraces a woman in a floral-print sarong; a twenty-something brunette with a huge diamond engagement ring links hands with her fiancé. At one point, an older couple approaches, asking what publication I write for and why am I here alone?

“I don’t write for anybody,” I tell them. “And I’m here because of Drew Barrymore.”

**

The next morning I stay in bed and watch a local cable access segment called “Hawaiian Word of the Day.” I repeat mahalo (thank you) and Maui no kai ‘oi (Maui is the best) until I am ready to practice them on the hotel maid. I get dressed and take a drive to famous Honolua Bay, where I bathe in the warm, clear waters. I’ve left my travelers checks and credit card in the room, and, anyway, that Visa’s been maxed out since college. I am growing bold and brave.

On day three, Javier and I decide to rent surf boards. The swells are low, and the waves are mushy, but I stand up on the board for what I’m sure is a good ten seconds (4.5 by Javier’s account) and throw my arms triumphantly up in the air. And fall off the board with a fantastic splash. Seconds later, I spot a shark, its mottled-blue fin cutting a cylindrical shape in the water. I shriek and flail my arms wildly like a bad B-movie actress, the theme song to Jaws drumming in my ears. I am moments away from becoming fish food. I am going to die on this trip.

The shark turns out to be a harmless sea turtle, bobbing playfully up and down for breath, and I make it to shore alive. But I am scarred by the experience. I am now officially afraid of sharks (sea turtles). I see a rock in the water and I think it’s a shark. I see my shadow, I think it’s a shark. Seaweed. Shark. Sailboat. Shark. I spend the next day swimming close to shore, alongside an elderly couple in rubber bathing caps, hoping that if a shark does attack, it’ll eat them first (I admit, this is very un-Drew).

Day four I hop from the heated pool to the foamy ocean. I observe people’s tan lines. I watch a man in a bathing suit that says BUDWEISER across the butt read James Michener’s Hawaii (Has he read Poland in Poland, I wonder?). For dinner I go to Burger King (money running low), and watch the sun set while I wolf down my chicken sandwich (no mayo). I sip my Coke and sit for a while, and it occurs to me that I’m not at all embarrassed to be seated at an outdoor picnic table eating a five-dollar fast-food dinner when the rest of the island (or so it seems) is in the throes of mad, first-class love. That night I even turn down an offer from Javier and Keith to go clubbing in Lahaina (We’re at that precarious point in a friends-you-meet-on-vacation relationship and I don’t want them to think we’re traveling together) and, instead, watch St. Elmo’s Fire on Pay-Per-View. As the credits roll, I apply refrigerated aloe vera gel to my brown-red skin, and fall fast, fast asleep.

My last day in Maui. Napili the bellhop insists I visit Hana, a rainforest on Maui’s unspoiled eastern coast. I take off in my red Chevrolet Cavalier rental (after searching over an hour for it in the parking lot among all the other red Cavalier rentals) and head towards Hana. Along the way I pass the plantation town of Pa’ia, a windswept beach favorite of windsurfers, and stop at Twin Falls, where I sample a pure sugarcane juice shake. I hike Twin Falls’s two twin waterfalls, sloshing my way through the swampy undergrowth as cool, fresh water flows over me, and snap a few self-portraits lest I come away from this trip without any photographic evidence that I was actually in Hawaii.

The road to Hana is video game-curvy, winding its way along jagged, thousand-foot high cliffs; the entire time I’m driving I feel like I’m going to vomit up my sugarcane shake. It’s 52 miles of one-lane roads and rickety bridges and I’m stuck behind an endless line of couples that pull over to make out at every vista and snap duck-lipped selfies. After two hours of managing not to retch, I decide to turn around. I suppose a co-pilot would have come in handy, because Hana is considered by some to be paradise on earth, but I don’t really care about where I haven’t gone. Right then and there, all I want is my hotel pool, an icy-cold Coke and a Dramamine.

It’s my last night in Maui and I’m sitting on the beach, waiting for the sunset. Balmy trade winds blow lightly through my hair. My skin is sticky from the salt water and I dig my toes into the cool, plush sand. I’m writing in my journal, awaiting that maaaagical Drew Barrymore moment when the sun turns white-hot and then fiery orange and then a flash of green and then—

Gone.

The next day I say aloha to Maui. After a short inter-island flight I am sitting in a Burger King in the Honolulu Airport. It’s 6:30 p.m. and my connecting flight to Los Angeles doesn’t leave until nine. I snack on McD’s fries and fill up my cup with ice and Coke (I have $18.67 left to my name); a bird is flying around the drink dispenser, flapping its tiny wings. Through the airport window the evening sky is muted blue with leaky streaks of pink and purple. I feel oddly calm, not un-like, I imagine, Drew Barrymore feels on a daily basis. There are no boyfriends to abandon me. No obligations to go clubbing. Just me. In the airport. Eating McDonald’s. Watching a tiny bird flap its wings.

And that, mahalo, is enough.

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Malina Saval is the author of “The Secret Lives of Boys: Inside the Raw Emotional World of Male Teens” (Basic Books, 2009) and the novel “Jewish Summer Camp Mafia.” She has been a featured guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” Fox News, the Patt Morrison show and Tavis Smiley. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles TimesGlamourLA Weekly, the Jerusalem PostForwardVariety and “Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers” (Penguin, 2010). Her website is www.MalinaSaval.com.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Inspiration

Listen: This Is Your LIfe.

February 24, 2013

I am about to drown. There’s a tidal wave. I am in someone’s house or apartment and the ocean is rushing through windows and walls. There’s water rising. The fear is imminent. I am about to die.

I wake up. Sometimes I am soaked from sweating in my sleep and sometimes I am upright in my bed as if I’d never even laid down to begin with a few hours prior, as if I simply sat in bed with closed eyes and let the water come charging at me. As if I said I don’t need to lie down to drown.

Sometimes I wake shivering. When you sweat in your sleep you wake up freezing. A wet dog.

Maybe the water wasn’t actually my sweat. Maybe my dreams are so powerful that they sneak through whatever dream-barrier exits and enter my body like a thief. I taste it to double check. It’s salty. Sea water? Sweat? Who’s to say?

I wake up before I die each time. I remember those old myths I would hear as a kid. You can’t die in your dreams. I don’t know. Who’s to say? I am mostly drowning in them.

The cliché gets to me. How can I have such an uninteresting clichéd recurring nightmare? I am ashamed of my mind’s lack of creativity when it comes to this.

I’ve had this dream, or a version of this dream for as long as I can remember. I’m drowning.

I don’t understand where all this water is coming from or how I can stop it from swallowing me. I don’t understand the sky or the sea or which is which in these dreams. I look up and down but there are no clues as to which is the sky and which is not. It doesn’t matter. It’s after me.

Last night, as my husband kissed me, I started to have a panic attack. Babe! I snapped, are you trying to suffocate me? My heart started beating and I felt the water rising. I was dying and he wouldn’t stop until I pushed him away. I felt horrible immediately but the drowning was real I am not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t pushed him away.

His best friend and cousin died last week, the same day as Ronan. Ronan was 2 and a half and Amir was in his fifties. Ronan had been suffering and his parents had been watching him die for 2 years. Amir was driving a tow truck and had had a heart attack. He died before he crashed it into a parked car, his wife, in St. Louis, sat waiting for him to text him back.

I wasn’t there for my husband (or for Ronan’s mother Emily Rapp) as I was leading my retreat in Maui but I know it was incredibly hard for him. The wife flew out and wailed in his arms as he drove them around the city and to the coroner’s office and to eat Persian sandwiches in Westwood.

So last night, when he was kissing me, I got that he was expressing his relief that I was still a person in the world. That I had not gone and he would prove it by smothering me. I felt bad for saying that to him and he said Well, I was smothering you a bit.

He was.

The thing is, I always have a problem with kissing. I used to think it was an intimacy thing but it’s not. I don’t know what I believe in when it comes to past lives but I feel like I can’t breathe when someone’s mouth is on mine. I am dying. Water is rushing at me and I am falling into a pillow or there is a pillow on my face and finally Oh My God! I can’t breathe!

Don’t read into it too much. I wasn’t sexually abused or anything like that. I have to be kissed in just the right most perfect way so that I don’t feel like I am drowning.

Hugging makes me feel safe and kissing makes me feel like dying most of the time.

I woke up feeling so guilty this morning. Apologizing over coffee. Hugging my husband. Kissing his face. My husband understands me and hopefully didn’t take it personally but it was a pure unadulterated panic attack last night. The sea water was in my throat. My lungs collapsed. I was gone.

Why do we take on so much all the time? So many things that don’t belong to us. So many oceans.

That ocean rushing at me business, that’s my life. I think it’s going to eat me sometimes. Or sometimes I think I am trying to swallow it all at once and you absolutely cannot do that. It’s too much. You have to pause and breathe.

And breathe.

And breathe.

So maybe there is no past life drowning and no claustrophobia. Maybe there is just I am not breathing because if I breathe this will all go away or if I breathe this will all come so fast and I won’t be able to control it.

You cannot control the ocean.

I save myself in my tidal waves dream but oftentimes I can’t save my sister or my mom. My dad is never in them. I don’t know if it means I have forgotten him or that he doesn’t need saving. Regardless, he is absent. I save myself but I cannot save my family from the ocean.

You cannot control the ocean or the life or the family.

You cannot save anyone.

I shoot up in my bed and feel my arms and they are there and my husband’s body and he is awake because I am awake. I’ve had a nightmare. Everyone is drowning. I can’t save anyone.

The magic words: I love you. You are not drowning. You are safe. Do not worry about anything. You are safe he says.

Yesterday I sent out a newsletter which wasn’t really a newsletter but rather my essay I had written on the plane Friday night called What Will Never Go Up In Smoke. It went viral on Facebook and I thought I would share with my mailing list. I got some heartfelt and beautiful responses. One woman said that my writing always made her want to do better. (Wow!) Then, I got an email from someone in the spiritual community that simply said one word. Unsubscribe. (Wow!)

And there it is. I am about to drown. There’s a tidal wave. I am in someone’s house or apartment and the ocean is rushing through windows and walls. There’s water rising. The fear is imminent. I am about to die. I can’t wake up because I am awake.

I am awake.

I breathe. I breathe and after a while the fear is gone. The hurt is there but the fear is gone. It didn’t kill me, that one little word. It felt mean and hurtful but I didn’t die. I sat staring at my phone feeling embarrassed but I didn’t die. I pinched myself a little and it was as it always was: I was human. I was still there on my bed, my messy blankets and pillows and books and I was still human. I hadn’t been turned to stone by that word nor had it suffocated me.

The fear must have gotten trapped in my body as it was looking for a way out. Last night when my husband was kissing me and I felt like I was drowning, it was because the fear had nowhere to go.

My body was afraid it would always know that fear.

But then he is saying You are safe.

And I was. I was in my bed, safe. And the word unsubscribe was just a word and the ocean was 9 blocks away and anyone I love has to save themselves and fear is a goddamned bastard.

The imminent fear. Of drowning. Of people not surviving. Of what others think. Of breathing. Of living. Of dying. It’s everywhere, really. If you look.

It’s as big as the ocean and beyond and it will get you if you stop paying attention.

Listen: that is your breath. Listen: that is my breath. Listen: that is the wind.

Listen. This is your life.

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Awe & Wonder, Beating Fear with a Stick, Manifestation Retreats

What Will Never Go Up In Smoke.

February 22, 2013

It was hard leaving Maui today but not hard in the way it is to leave a vacation or a beautiful place. Hard in the way falling in love is after you’ve been hurt. The way you want to trust it and say Yes, come on in but you are afraid and that But I am afraid wells up in your throat like a stone and you can’t speak for it. And although you are happy you are also sad because you recognize this feeling of having something and yet not trusting you have it. Not trusting that it’s a thing to be had. It’s a football rushing at you and you’re going I got it! I got it! and then I don’t got it. All at once. If that’s possible.

The stone in your throat is hard, as stones tend to be (especially stones in the throat) which is the place things often get stuck, even if they aren’t stones. Even if they are people.

Stones and words and anger and all the rest. All the things.

Before we ended the retreat this morning, the girls gave me a necklace to say Thank You. One of the most beautiful necklaces I have ever seen and as I held it in my hands I thought how I shouldn’t look up at them because I probably wasn’t reacting in the way they expected of me (Tears? Emotion?) so I kept looking down at the gold chain, at the purple stone, at my ugly hands holding this beautiful gesture. Don’t look up, keep looking down. Don’t ever look up. (No tears? No emotion?)

Well, no. I wasn’t there. I was looking down on it all. A million hours passed and I finally looked up and they all had tears in their eyes and were nodding thank you’s. 

There’s been a mistake. This can’t be for me. I shall float away and keep looking down (no tears, no emotion yet.) But I look up and they are still there nodding their thank you’s in the most knowing way, as if we have known each other our whole lives and this moment was simply a confirmation.

There’s been no mistake. The necklace and the thank you’s were for me so I put it on and touched it repeatedly. Sharp and smooth and tiny enough to fit in my fingers. I pressed hard into it to pull me back into the yoga room there at Lumeria. But still no emotion because I didn’t trust my body was sitting there on that floor or that the floor wouldn’t cave in.

So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are things.

When they’re not. They are hallucinations. They are non-existent. Or maybe they are just long gone. Over and done. Maybe they once were things, but they have longed since stopped being things and now are just that happened once or I turned left instead of right.

I turned left instead of right and there I was at Lumeria in Maui leading a retreat with a gorgeous group of women but if I’d turned right I would’ve been __________.

That’s right. Blank space. Who knows. So many blank spaces.

Look right there. There’s one. And there. Another.

Not mistakes. Not things. Just that happened. And then that happened.

It was hard leaving today because I was afraid to leave what we created.

Then, just like that, one of the girls said she had a letter to read. She had written a letter to the group which was moving and brave and lovely. She turned to me and said Jen, your dad would be so proud of you. And just like that: emotion. Magic. Just a few words and the idea of a man long dead in his physical body and bam! I am re-rooted back into the world as if I had always been there.

A double rainbow appeared after we finished our closing circle and we all ran out onto the lawn and pointed and snapped photos and cried a little because it was, again, like falling in love. What if we never see something this beautiful again? How can we make this stay?

I am afraid that was it for me. I am afraid that I will never have that again. I am afraid that. I am afraid of.

I am on the plane, where I do most of my writing, wondering if I turned right instead of left would I have even been to Maui? (Who knows but most likely, no.) Would I be on this plane sitting next to a sweet but loud nut-eating Russian couple? Could I ask the pilot to steer us back, and, if he agrees, would it be the same? Could I stay as safe as I felt this week with all my women during my retreat? (Probably not.)

I feel for my necklace and repeat So many things we think are mistakes. So many mistakes we think are really things and my necklace lays over my heart and doesn’t move or suggest it knows the difference so I decide to make a list. Mistakes and Things.

Mistakes:

~Dropping out of college with one year left after I had won an award for having highest GPA at my school within NYU (Oh, that’s a thing. Things and accolades and this and that which I think makes me me but in reality is just a thing signifying nothing.)

~Filing taxes for the wrong year.

~Saying yes when I meant no.

~Saying no when I meant yes.

~Saying nothing.

~Saying too much.

~Overpacking.

The rest I can’t write here because the Russians might read over my shoulder and that makes me nervous.

Things.

My necklace the girls gave me this morning.

The airplane I am sitting on.

The book in my lap.

The glasses on my face.

There are too many things in the world to list them all.

I feel for my necklace and think if it could grant me one wish it would be to hear perfectly. Then I think I would like to change that wish to I would like to be here perfectly.

If I am here perfectly I can see that dropping out of college wasn’t a mistake but it was my left turn and if I hadn’t turned left I would be _______.

And the filing taxes bit, eh. The IRS will figure that one out.

The rest, the yeses and no’s and the overpacking aren’t so much mistakes as they are ignoring my gut in the way I used to ignore my hunger. I hear you and I don’t care. 

It was hard leaving today because I am not yet perfectly here.

I worry. I send vessels and ships into an imaginary future stockpiled with fears and toilet paper and anxiety. I worry that I will never have this again. This being what I had there on that island. That it was a fluke. That there wasn’t a group of women who flew from all over the world connecting in the way everyone dreams of connecting or maybe there was but it was a blink and it will never be back as things we love sometimes choose to do.  I am happy. This is working out. You are alive. I love you.

Then Poof! Up in smoke. That’s what the things we love sometimes do as unfair and shitty as it seems (and as it is.) That’s what the life we love sometimes does. It just goes.

And yet and still, I am happy they gave me a necklace with such texture because I can press it into my thumb and have it bring me back on the same ship I sent off into the future with toilet paper and regret. The necklace can send me sailing back into my seat on an airplane with the smell of nuts in the air.

I keep looking at the letters everyone wrote me this morning. I had everyone write down the 5 most beautiful things they saw in each person so each woman left today with a pile of letters.

The one thing in every one of my letters, the common thread of beauty that all the ladies saw in me was, one word: Inspire.

I can’t go anywhere on this airplane. I can’t float away because I am already floating up here in the sky and I am trapped next to the Russians in my window seat so I must sit with that word. Inspire, inspire, inspire.

What does it mean? I ask my necklace like a crazy person.

I actually didn’t think I was crazy until the necklace answered back. It said it means keep speaking your truth and you don’t need a degree from NYU to inspire. 

Now, did the necklace say that? I don’t know. Maui is a sacred and magical place and they bought it there, so maybe it did? Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief for moments at a time so I can get over the I can’t believe they mean me. I can’t believe this will last. I can’t believe in my own happiness. I can’t believe this is my life.

Maybe I need to suspend my disbelief and let my necklace remind me of its heritage. How it traveled through the hands of some gorgeous women who love me as I love them. How it hung in a store and when it caught their eyes it spoke to them. (So they told me.) It literally spoke to us, Jen. 

Maybe my necklace isn’t a thing at all. Maybe it’s a reminder that happiness is possible for me and those I love fiercely. And maybe, when the necklace is gone, however necklaces go, the reminder will remain: That I deserve to be happy. That I don’t have to be afraid. That one day, some incredible women who I led through a life-changing journey, walked into a store in Wailea and wiped the sand of their feet so they could find something to thank me. A thing, something, they said knowing they would never find that thing, so they wrapped up their love in a purple stone on a gold chain and we all understood that it would never go up in smoke.

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Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Five Days.

February 21, 2013

photoThis morning, during my retreat here in Maui, we were talking about the ways in which we stop ourselves from having what we want. Our excuses, if you will. One of the girls here, an incredibly beautiful and inspiring woman named Melissa from South Dakota, shared with us a whole bunch of her excuses. (We all have so many, don’t we?) One of them was that she didn’t want to take up other people’s time and another was that what she said didn’t matter.

She had written something apparently that she wanted to share but (insert excuse here.)  I asked her to read it aloud, telling her we had all the time in the world. (We did. We do!) There were a few other excuses of hers that I won’t bother to share because, quite frankly, they don’t matter. What matters is that she got the courage and read this letter she had sent her friend who’d been having a hard time and didn’t think she could make it through. She read this piece aloud and I will spare you the emotion that took place in the room but what I won’t spare you is the piece. I asked her to send it. She is a gifted writer. To hear her read this out loud was a moment I will never forget and I wanted to share because I think it is by far, one of the most stunning things I have ever witnessed. I want you to read this raw and brave and awe-inspiring piece. Please connect with her or leave comments at bottom. I bow to you, Melissa Shattuck from South Dakota. 

Five Days by Melissa Shattuck.

I lived in hell for five days once.

At least it felt that way.

It started when they told me my baby was dead at a routine appointment. And it began to end when they finally removed her from me.

Five days later.

Why they thought it would be more beneficial to see if my body would naturally deliver has remained a mystery to me. I’m sure there is some logical reason. But, it was as though it was not odd to ask me to carry a dead body within me.

The first night I slept well from the exhaustion of it all. But I don’t think I slept after that. The nightmares that they had made a mistake and were going to steal my healthy, live baby from me were more than my mind could handle. And so I would lay there for hours at a time deciding who was to blame. Lack of sleep makes me crazy. Lack of sleep for days on end makes me into a monster.

My husband. My husband is to blame because we had a fight the night before the doctor appointment and it must have been too much stress on me. Wait. It’s the dogs’ fault. The fight had started when I told him it was overwhelming taking care of the two dogs when I was so exhausted from the pregnancy. Ok. That’s absurd. Fine. It’s my fault. I should have handled my emotions better, should have been tougher and sucked it up, should have rested more, should have eaten better, should have taken better care of myself, should have loved everyone more, shouldn’t have bought all those maternity clothes (jinxed it), shouldn’t have allowed myself to feel stress, shouldn’t have been angry ever, shouldn’t have made so many mistakes in my life. This had to be karma for something.

Yes. Me. I am to blame. I am the reason my baby is dead.

God. God is to blame. Nothing happens without God’s permission or ok. I hate God for causing me all this pain.

And on and on it goes. The patterns play in my mind for all these days. And noone it seems can understand. The people are all to blame. They keep saying well-meaning but seemingly stupid things like, “There was probably something wrong with the baby, so it is for the best this way.” “You will be able to try again.” “We can never know God’s plan.” “At least you have Alex. Think of all the peopel that are never able to have any children.” “The baby’s soul has already served it’s purpose.” “When you have another baby someday, this will be the soul that will come back.” The people drive me crazy. So now I hate me, my husband, the dogs, God, and all the people.

And all this time I have a dead body in me. A baby I had felt move once. We don’t tell Alex, who is 6, that any of this is going on yet. If I can’t bear the idea that I have a dead child within me, how could he handle knowing this? And so, in all his sweetness, he comes up to me several times and hugs me so he can hug the new baby that is one the way.

Hell.

I can’t stay in the house the entire five days. It’s become my prison. And so I escape and am not prepared for people to touch my belly and tell me how adorable it is. I want to scream at them, “The baby is dead!” Instead I say “thank you.” I go back to my prison and want to die. Five days is an eternity.

My body does not naturally got into labor. So they will have to take her from me.

~

A funeral home offered to cremate the body for free. We have to buy the urn. We do this hoping it will bring us some comfort in light of the fact we will never hold her. After the procedure I get a call that the tiny urn we bought is not big enough for all the remains and would we like to purchase something else. It seems incomprehensible to allow any part of my baby to go anywhere but with me, so I say yes. I will buy the small silver cross I saw that sits in the pretty glass case as well. Looking back that call seems very strange to me. But then it was all so surreal. The same with the small ceremony we held at a church. Our attempt at closure.

My body reflected the state of my mind. I couldn’t let go and looked pregnant still over a year later. People asked me all the time if I was expecting. “No,” I would laugh. “I just haven’t been doing my sit-ups lately.” And then I would go back home and cry. I believe I will never recover from this. Never say never.

One day it seemed as I kept moving through my days, my blaming began to let up. It had to. It felt poisonous to hate. And so, instead I just felt empty. Which for me was a step up from the pain. And it was in the emptiness I think that I opened to healing.

Looking back, I wonder if that’s forgiveness for me. And my body reacted in kind and began to let go too. I didn’t look as pregnant anymore. What or who did I forgive? All of it I guess. And I have no words for how it happened.

I don’t know if that makes sense. I don’t recall trying to forgive anyone or anything specifically. That didn’t work for me because I thought I was failing when I was still angry. I just remember opening in the quiet emptiness to another way….

Some people seem to think they know where she is now or what the purpose of it all was. I don’t have a clue. And I don’t need to anymore. There are things that are much bigger than me and my limited mind at work. And so to me, my precious angel, Gabrielle, will be 10 this year. Somewhere out there.

Or maybe just in my thoughts and in my heart.

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Connect with Melissa by leaving a comment below. Melissa is the editor of The Manifest-Station. 

Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Kripalu Center For Yoga & Health, Tuscany. She is also leading a Writing + The Body Retreat with Lidia Yuknavitch Jan 30-Feb 1 in Ojai (sold out) as well as Other Voices Querétaro with Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

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And So It Is, Awe & Wonder, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

In The Voice of Someone Who Loves You.

February 19, 2013

**This essay is dedicated to all my Manifestation Maui Retreat Tribe members.

I am on Maui contemplating lost continents and lost lives.

It’s rainy and windy and mostly gray. Ronan passed away the day I flew here. He was almost three and he was suffering, badly. It was time. But, just because it was time doesn’t mean it made sense or it was fair or you didn’t want to pound your fists on a table and watch the shells and lamps fall onto the floor in millions of pieces and it also didn’t mean that you didn’t want to step on the broken glass with bare feet so you could feel something akin to being broken.

I got on the plane anyway, despite the sad news. I had a retreat to lead in Maui. People paid thousands and thousands of dollars to be there with me, and besides, me not going wouldn’t un-lose any lives. There’s that.

When I landed on the island my husband texted me from Los Angeles to tell me that his cousin and dear friend had had a heart attack as he was driving and died right before he crashed the car.

Lost lives. 

Yesterday morning, in the Manifestation workshop at my retreat, I asked my group to pick someone who loved them. They sat their on their mats and got misty eyed and nodded their heads to signal me that they had the image of that person in their minds, that their person had been picked.  Now, I said, write a description of yourself in the voice of that person. 

They read them aloud. One said this: 
Kelly you are beautiful, strong and important. You don’t need to change to be accepted. You are enough – good enough – kind enough. I love you for your compassion. You are beautiful and strong. You don’t need to struggle so much with who are. You are enough just the way you are. You aren’t how much you lift or how much you workout or how skinny you are. You a beautiful – you are strong – you are enough. You need to just believe it yourself. Love, Dad.

People started writing. Some sobbed. After the pens came down I asked why it had been so hard for them.  A woman in my group said because he believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. 

The things that break me. One: people saying Your dad would be so proud of you. A knife in my gut. It’s a here take this blade right in your heart. It’s always been that way and I have surrendered to the fact that it may always be that way.  

One of the girls on my retreat who is here from South Dakota told me at dinner last night that her 17 year old son was having a hard time. Melissa Shattuck showed me the text message she’d sent him: 

Only in stillness every day do we touch the realm of infinite potential, that space of our highest self. What are your intentions….put them into that space where you are in a deep state of quiet and calm. Talk and listen to the Universe/God in this way. Let it know what you want and that you want it with every cell of your being…..and then sweet heart you let it go…..the Universe/God will bring it to fruition at just the perfect moment and has a grander plan for our lives than you or I could ever think of….You are loved and adored and treasured!! And I think you are the most amazing person. And you’ll do it. You’ll live the life of your dreams…..no doubt about it. You are good and you are deserving, so deserving of everything you want. Much Love… Mom. 

I passed her phone back to her and let the knife stay there in my heart.

I went and meditated the next morning in a group sitting.There was this man there, Claudio, who apparently was “enlightened.” Now, I am not sure what that means but this man was special. He looked into my eyes for about 5 minutes straight without blinking. His mouth did these little twists and turns at the corners so it looked like he was going to cry and then a smile would sweep across his face as big as an ocean and he spoke something about oceans and being the ocean and not the wave and sitting in infinity. I didn’t really understand and yet I did.

Lost lives.

I started crying when he looked into my eyes because I felt safe and loved and his face turned into my friend’s Steve’s face who had passed away last year.

Lost lives.

Lemuria, the lost continent of the Pacific and I am here and there are no more lost lives when I look into Claudio’s eyes. He is saying we are the ocean. There is no separation. 

So when I asked my retreat folks to write those descriptions of themselves in the voice of someone who loved them you see, it was like asking for the infinity. There is no separation.

Their voice is my voice is your voice is the ocean is the baby is the I behind the I and then who is the I?

I am here thinking of lost lives and lost continents and lost beliefs. When did I lose this belief in myself? some of the people here have asked me. Not so much me as they are asking the wind and the lawn and the journal in front of them. It’s not lost, I tell them.  Nothing is lost. You are right here, where you always were, I say pointing to the place where they know their heart should be but where some think there is nothing but a windy hole. 

I am leading my retreat at a place called Lumeria in Maui, on the north shore of the island. 

Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical lost land located somewhere between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Stories of Lemuria vary, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean.  An ancient civilization which existed prior to the time of Atlantis simply disappeared. Gone. Lost lives. Lemuria is also sometimes referred to as Mu, or the Motherland (of Mu). At its peak of civilization, the Lemurian people were both highly evolved and very spiritual. You can’t help but feel that here. You are infinite in all directions, says Claudio, and even though you have no idea in God’s name what that means you understand and know it to be true.

Concrete physical evidence of this ancient continent is difficult to find just as you may feel that any concrete evidence of you may be hard to find. Who is the you? Who is the I? Where are the lost lives? You may scribble in your journal or think in your mind which is always thinking thinking thinking.

(Look harder. Listen closer.)

Those descriptions written in the voice of someone who loves you, you might read them and think this person they are speaking of has sunk into the sea. This person does not exist anymore and in fact may never have existed. It may be a myth. You know nothing.

It is the concrete evidence.

Continents can move and float on the surface of the ocean so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same? Maybe you simply shifted or some geographical error occurred or maybe it wasn’t an error at all, maybe you forgot where you were? Maybe you were lost at sea. But see that description there? The one you wrote in the voice of someone who loves you? That is your map. You are no longer lost. You are no longer one of the lost lives or lost continents. You are here I say pointing to the place where your heart actually is. The place where I will now take the knife out of because my father wouldn’t be so proud of me.

It is not a hypothetical thing. He is proud of me. He is. The would be makes it myth. The would be makes it legend. It is fact. He is proud of me. As I am proud of me. My voice is his voice.

I don’t know if Lemuria existed or not but I am here at Lumeria and I fancy the idea. I am contemplating all that was lost and all that thought it was, but wasn’t lost at all. That place, right there. Your heart.

The ocean is the I is the heart is the you is the everything. 

I hope the son of the woman gets the text message she sent him and prints it. I hope he he saves it so one day when I ask him to write something about himself in the voice of someone who loves him, he can reach for it in his pocket and say I have it right here. In fact, I memorized it.

It is the ocean is the I is the everything is the love.

It will never have been lost. I hope that for him.

For all of us.

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