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courage, Guest Posts, Home, Life

The Country Estate

October 3, 2015

By Stephanie Couey

The “Country Estate” is my home for five months.  I move in a few days after opening the lid of my then roommate’s white Cuisinart rice cooker, and having my face engulfed in a buzzing red swarm of fruit flies.  We fight about it.  I’m not even sure why.

My then-boyfriend, a jack-Mormon, picks me up in his dad’s work truck and listens as I vent about the fruit flies and the lingering trauma.  He highlights the fact that the roommate’s name is Sarin, the same as that of a lethal gas.  I don’t want to go there, and I’m not sure if I feel dirtier from the flies or from the fight, or from something else.

It is winter, and Nampa, Idaho is draped more in ice than snow.  The Country Estate, as we call it, is right next to an out of commission steam locomotive on its tracks, an enormous block of sculpted charcoal.  There is a silo so close by that we refer to it as “our silo” each time we drive back to the house.

The Country Estate is massive, yet chintzy.  It is an all-white two-story, in a style somewhere between colonial and warehouse.  The ceilings are made of porous tile, the living room, as well as the kitchen, is lit by fluorescent beams, and the floors are of ill-fitting linoleum bubbling up near the walls.

Me and my few things settle in upstairs, in the jack-Mormon’s room with muted green walls and a twin bed.  Heidi and Zeniff, the other inhabitants, aren’t home when I “move in,” but this isn’t the kind of house where people mind.

We call it the Estate because it is anything but.  We call it the Estate because it is surrounded by varying animals: goats, chickens, turkeys, and llamas.  We call it the Estate because we know it does not belong to us, but that we, for now, belong to it.

Here there is order.

The Jack-Mormon’s dog shits daily in front of the washing machine.

Each night we make tofu stir-fries with ingredients from local underpaid farmers and nearly-expired packs of tofu from Winco.  I introduce the jack-Mormon to Braggs Liquid Aminos, and he introduces me to putting a glob of peanut butter directly into the sizzling tofu and vegetables, letting it disperse into thick velvet liquid.

He’d come up behind me and breathe a gust of pot smoke down my shirt, his hair greasy.  We’d eat sitting on the floor with Zeniff, with numerous open beers, a bowl, and a guitar.  I cry during the Leonard Cohen songs, always in the same moments, ones like, “she broke your throne and she cut your hair,” and neither boy makes fun of me.  There’s something about being raised Mormon that makes them both sentimental in a way that respects crying.

In the time I live here, my grades slip a little, like they did when I was nineteen and aimless, but now I realize I wasn’t just aimless.  I realize I was comfortable.  And here I am again.  Comfortable.

At my first home, in California, I didn’t want to move forward because I didn’t have to, just as I don’t have to in this house, with the jack-Mormon, in Nampa, where it costs nothing to live and everyone’s family and everyone’s church is within a ten-mile radius, so no matter how much you’ve shunned any of them, home is never a variable, and at the time, the “Estate” is not a variable.

In this house, the jack-Mormon shaves his chest hair and legs with my Venus razor.  He holds me on the ratted couch as we watch the Elephant Man and Beach House music videos on repeat.  When his dad shows up, the jack-Mormon hides his stash, and I talk about my grades, my Honda Civic’s mileage, and my parents’ health.

Never does this feel like sinking, though I suppose it is.

We go for runs when the ice melts.

We sometimes go to parties in Boise, his being dirtier and druggier than the ones I’d been going to before we met.

We buy sodas up the street across from a carniceria, and when asked if we have the munchies by our attendant, I respond with eyes as red as stop signs that we have “the thirsties.”

Mostly though, we stay in.

I write a lot on a laptop with no internet connection.  He asks if I’m ever writing about him.  I say, “not really.”

We color in Little Mermaid coloring books, letting Ariel and Eric be us.  I squiggle some stretch marks over Ariel’s cleavage, write, “feed me” on her stomach, and give her more tired eyes.  Then it’s pretty close.

I ask myself what it is any of us really strive for, much like I did at age fifteen, only now with the presence of pure contentment I’d never had after youth.  If we are loved and fed and comfortable, isn’t that enough?  We are warm, healthy, creative, making music, writing, drawing, exploring and re-exploring Nampa.  Can we keep this contentment going?  After years on and off of anti depressants and in and out of therapists’ offices, “contentment” in itself is a swinging sunlit hammock – just enough motion, just enough light.

The Country Estate is my home for five months.  In the midst of asking myself questions about striving versus stagnation on a daily basis, the jack-Mormon gets arrested, after numerous other offenses, for driving under the influence of heavy doses of his father’s Xanax.  He is sent away without warning, his dark yellow urine left un-flushed in the downstairs bathroom, Apple Jacks spilled on the kitchen counter.

His family throws me a small birthday party with Reeses Pieces cupcakes, and I see the final Harry Potter movie with his nephew.  I begin to eat meat again, knowing the absurdity of my former lover upholding vegetarianism while in jail.

I move back to Boise.  I become president of an on-campus association, and I consider graduate school.  I write poems.  Sometimes I just speak poems on my long walk from home to campus.

I visit him in jail, past the fields of livestock and corn, until I don’t.

I stop asking the questions about contentment, and start once again asking the questions about identity, distinction, money, forwardness.  I stop asking about here or there, and decide that it’s all here.  I go from unceasingly gray to black and white.

When I later drive through Nampa and pass the train tracks, I see our old home, our silo, our rickety porch with half smoked cigarettes between the boards.  Perhaps this was a temporary distraction, but maybe it’s all a distraction.  I see the steam engine, black and still, and I drive on, newly obsessed with motion.

Stephanie Couey is an MFA poet and teacher at University of Colorado-Boulder. She is from Riverside, CA and Boise, ID.

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 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 with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

And So It Is, healing, Inspiration

Us and Them.

March 25, 2013

When I was thirteen we moved to New Jersey from California. We had moved to California from New Jersey. So essentially we were moving back to New Jersey. I was just about to start eighth grade and the words New and Jersey were the worst words in the English language to me. They were vinegar and all things rotten. They were my past. They were equal to the words No Flipping Way Am I Moving Back to New Jersey!

If you remember the myriad of horrors that make up middle school, you will recall that seventh grade is where you make the friends that you will have in the eighth grade. You come into seventh grade all nervous and geeky and somehow find a few fellow and nervous geeky kids to be friends with and then the summer happens and you come back for eighth grade all cool and teenagerish, thinking you have no work to do, that you made your friends. Thinking that you were the coolest in the school. (We rule! We know everything!)

Little did you know that starting ninth grade and high school would be a whole new game of terror, but hey, you’d cross that bridge when you came to it. For now, you were the oldest and the best and eighth grade was going to be a breeze.


So I wandered into middle school (otherwise known as Hell) with my bangs and my I hate New Jersey attitude to a whole slew of already formed cliques and friendships.

Luckily I’d had a really “popular” cousin who was a year younger, in the seventh grade. He wasn’t a blood cousin but someone we grew up calling cousin for some reason. People begrudgingly talked to me because I was the cousin of So and So. I was So and So’s not real cousin-cousin and thus was not completely ostracized as I might have been had I come in as nobody’s cousin at all. Thank God for not real cousin-cousins.

Eighth grade was a dark and moody nine months. I resented my mother for moving us back to New Jersey. I hated the weather and the way people spoke. When we first moved back we had to live with the not real cousin-cousins. All of us. Me, my mother and my sister, squashed with all our girl stuff and junk in this one little guest room at the top of the stairs that was usually used to store wrapping paper and boxes.

I had to take the bus to school whereas in California I had always walked. California was like the cool kid and New Jersey with its busses was the nerd.

No one talked to me during those first few weeks on the bus. This was way before cell phones or iPads, so there was nothing to distract you from the nobody likes me and I have no one to talk to so I will just sit and stare out the window or read. 

I read a lot.

I remember finally being invited out with the popular kids. Somehow. Probably because of my false relation to the not real cousin-cousin. Here’s what “going out” consisted of when I was in eighth grade. A bunch of us would go to someone’s house and go down the basement and someone would shut the lights and everyone would make out with each other. They called it “hooking up.” With everyone else in the same room, they slurped and sucked.

So it was all dark and hot in whosever basement we happened to be in and there’d be six or eight couples hooking up in/on whatever open space they could find. Including the floor.

Except me.

I forgot about this until last night while I was talking to my friend’s 12 year old daughter.

Let’s call her Sammy. Sammy is in sixth grade. Sixth grade is now middle school as opposed to in my day when it was still elementary school. Sammy is in the unfortunate landscape of middle school at 12 years old. She kept talking to me about this group called The Populars. Sammy isn’t in The Populars but rather the Middle of the Road group, as she called it. She’s kind of friends with everyone and she likes Minecraft (what is Minecraft? I had to ask and at this point in time, I am still unsure.) She has a crush on one kid and we text each other, but that’s it! she told me.

I am fascinated by the so-called The Populars. I told her I didn’t really remember any specifically popular kids. That’s when I had the flashback of those dark basement nights in South Jersey. I’d wanted to vomit right there in her house in the Washington mountains which was far far away in time and space from those horny basement nights but you could’ve fooled me. There I was, biting my nails in the dark, praying for the night to be over. Or praying for someone to ask me to hook up.

Everyone else would be making out and getting their boobs felt or unbuttoning their pants and I just sat alone in a chair in the dark.

I had blocked this memory out until Sammy started talking about The Populars. 

You see, it was like I had been invited in but then made to wait outside.

You can come you can’t really part of us.

You can sit in the dark and listen to us kissing and sucking each other’s faces though, if you want. 

I literally sat in a rocking chair and waited for the night to end. Sometimes I had a cat on my lap. Sometimes I just sat there and cried quietly. I am not sure why I even said yes to going in the first place. The only thing I can think of is that I wanted to be accepted so fiercely, to not have to sit on the bus staring out the window by myself, that I was willing to sit in the dark while a whole bunch of horny thirteen and fourteen year olds slobbered on each other.

Let me tell you what this made me feel like. ShitWorthlessUglyPatheticLoser.

You name it.  Yet, every time they asked me to “go out” I said yes, despite knowing that I would sit alone in a chair and not be made out with, but rather made to listen to humping noises. There was no actual sex involved but there might as well have been. It was humiliating and yet I kept saying Okay, sure, I’ll come. Thanks for asking me. Thanks for letting me be your friend.

Why didn’t any of the boys ask me to make out? I don’t know. I was awkward, sure. During the summer between eighth and ninth grade I blossomed. Beyond that, it was a simple equation of Us and Them. I was not a Us. I was a Them that had been granted access but not love. Not acceptance.

I had been let in to hang on the sidelines but not allowed to play on the field. I was an invisible. I was a body on a chair in a dank basement in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I was never seen.

They were too busy kissing the same faces to notice a new one.

All that changed in ninth grade and that is all fine and good and a big F*ck You to all the boys who ignored me because by 9th grade I was being paid attention to by the older guys and I couldn’t care less about the ones in my own grade.

I just posted something about this on my Facebook page. I am fascinated by how many of us experienced some version of being either left out or of being the leaver-outer.

Someone posted: Jennifer, I am often amazed at the breathtaking way you have shared your pain and joy….so I will take heart from your courage and share with you my “left out story” My best friend from junior high that I absolutely loved and adored dumped me the summer between junior high and high school for a new friend with better connections to the “in” crowd. There we were, starting a new school year with our lockers right next to each other as we had planned and she would barely talk to me. The only answer I got from her, after I begged to know what had happened, was that “it wasn’t me, it was her.” I’m sure that was true. I was never going to be one of the “cool” crowd…at least that was the reason I came up with since she wouldn’t tell me for certain what happened. That didn’t help ease the pain for me much at the time and I went into overdrive trying to “fix” the situation by blaming myself and trying to figure out what I had done wrong to lose her friendship. I know now that wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation, but I will admit that even now, the mystery of “why did she drop me?” still stings a bit when I think it.

Reading that and listening to 12 year old Sammy talk about The Populars brought back that feeling of wanting to be accepted, of saying Yes to things I didn’t want to do because I thought they would make me loved.

I don’t know who the girl is that wrote that post on my Facebook but I want to ask her for a glass of wine and take the slight sting away. But I know that’s me wanting to fix it. I want to go back in time and befriend her younger self and say It wasn’t you at all. And the cool crowd stinks. It’s the nerds and the geeks that end up being the ones we want to be with when we grow up. They are the ones who invent iPods and Macs and write awesome books. But I don’t know if I knew all that back then so I will leave it at my thirty something self telling her adult self: The “cool people” still suck. I am sorry that you had that hurt and I hope that you found a way to heal and to love better for it.

Sammy told me that The Populars were mean and talked behind people’s backs and didn’t listen to the teachers but that everyone put up with them and was sort of scared of them.

Oh, the fear. The fear of being unlovable or not wanted. The fear of being ostracized or not picked for the team or sitting in the basement alone in a sea of couples. The things we do to not have to face that fear. To feel just a little tiny bit loved.

I try in my small ways to cultivate acceptance and love. Why do you think I call my students and the people in my workshops and retreats my Tribe? It’s like I am saying You! You over there, by the lockers! You in the basement on that chair! You on the bus! You! Come over here. You are part of something. There is no “us” and “them.”

But hey, it exists. Who am I kidding?

It always will exist, that Us and Them. The Populars. The Rich and the Poor. I can see that just by talking to a 12 year old and by looking at Facebook and even by watching some other yoga teachers.

What I can do, however, is my best. I can hope that I set an example of what it means to love one another without fear and to be inclusive and loving.

If you’re on the outside looking in, first ask yourself, do I even want to be on the inside? 

And then ask yourself what the inside even is? And if it is something that polarizes or leaves people feeling unwanted then say Hell No and Thank you but I will stay here on the outside, and, in fact, I am done looking in.

And then move away from the glass.

If you are on the inside, here’s a word to the wise: The Populars suck. You are being The Populars right now by making an inside and an outside. Erase that invisible line you’ve created between yourself and everyone else before it erodes everything and becomes impossible to erase.

Once you step out from the cocoon of the inside you will see there is a whole world of wacky and loving people waiting to ride the bus with you. Problem is, when you are living in that insular bubble you’ve created, you might as well be back in that basement in New Jersey. And you might as well get over the fact that you are going to keep swapping spit with the same people over and over, for the rest of your life, until you get out of the cage you are living in.

Do your best to bridge the distances. There will always be some distances. We cannot possibly make out with every person in line, but, we can offer our kindnesses. We can say Hey you! Yes, you, sitting all alone in that chair in the basement while everyone around you is making out, why don’t we turn on the lights and look at you.

And you know what? The Us and Them gets smaller until it’s usandthem and then the them gets dropped and it’s just us. And you realize it’s always been just us.


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


March 18, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff


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

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

Beating Fear with a Stick, healing, Inspiration

Taking Things Personally.

March 12, 2013

By Jen Pastiloff.

Yesterday someone asked me if I was pregnant based on a photo they saw of me. She asked if maybe she missed my Facebook announcement about it.

Nope. There was no announcement. Nope. I am not pregnant.

I wanted to say I’m just fat, I guess. But I know I’m not fat and I only wanted to say that to make her feel bad for asking so I didn’t say it. I just said that I wasn’t pregnant and asked why was she asking. She said it must have been a bad angle in a photo.


Continue Reading…

And So It Is, How To, Inspiration

The Best Things and The Worst Things.

February 25, 2013

The best and the worst things.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes they get muddled together and maybe some words switch places and then one day you don’t know which is the truer one? The best and the worst things of our lives sometimes so intertwined that the father dying gets confused with the doughnut and the baby being born becomes the ghost. The best and the worst things climbing the walls of your mind and some days the one that makes it out alive is a hybrid of all that ever was.

The best and the worst and the days in between.

Yesterday I asked my Facebook Tribe to fill in the blanks. Here’s what I wrote:

The best thing that someone has ever said to me was ______. The best thing I ever said to me was _______. The worst thing I ever said to me was _______. Be honest & brave. 

I forgive you. It’s going to be okay. I don’t want to be alive anymore.

When I grow up I want to be you. I am proud of my body. I suck at being a mother. 

You are an inspiration. You deserve everything life has to offer- you are good enough. You aren’t good enough to be loved.

Those were just a few of the responses.

How quickly we can end up in the very worst storm. How easy it is to get trapped on the very worst island. How familiar it is to be with the very worst things.

The very worst things for me have been things I have said to myself. The worst things that happened were the death of my father and the other losses and trauma I have suffered, but once you move through them (and you do!) you find the second best very worst things come from your own brain. Your own brain, that Godammned traitor! Your brain who you stood by all those years and helped through the loss of your father and the news that your nephew had a rare genetic disorder.

Your brain, which you thought was on your side but which turns out to take no sides at all.

The best things. How they cannot be trusted like the worst things. The worst things loom over them like a fat bully by a set of lockers. You think you can win? You can’t. I will always win. I am bigger and stronger the voice by the lockers will say as it reminds you of all the worst things that are possible. You are nothing. You are a mess. You are never going to finish. You deserve to die.

If you made a list of the best things and the worst things could you bear to look at it?

Would the You aren’t good enough get mixed up with I am proud of my body? Would you not know which one to trust? Oh, the very best things and the very worst things. Vying for space. Would the You are an inspiration shirk under the weight of I don’t want to be alive anymore if you hung them on your wall above the sofa?

This is what happens with life, I suppose. There is so so much. There is so much to being a person in the world and we have to choose what we hang on the wall above the sofa. We have to choose what makes our top ten and what we pass on to our children over breakfast.

Imagine this for a moment: You are making eggs. You think, or maybe you even speak I suck at being a mother and your child gets his or her plate and takes less eggs than you would like (they never eat enough!) and they hear you (because that’s what kids do whether you speak it aloud or not) and now your very worst thing is hanging above the sofa and everyone knows it and sees it and stands around it like it is really there. When it’s not. It’s in the eggs and it’s in the air and your child will never acknowledge he or she heard you but they will swallow runny yolks and wonder why you suck at being a mother and maybe they will look for signs of such suckiness. Maybe they will prove to you that you suck at being a mother since that’s what’s hanging over the sofa. And then your very worst thing becomes the truth and most valued object in the house and people come over and sit on the sofa and try not look up at what you have hung above their heads.

Okay, that won’t happen. I hope not, at least. But it is so easy, isn’t it?

All the years I hated myself. I thought I was a monster. My very worst thing is all I spoke and so the monster lived with me. We shared a space and I fed it or starved it and it reminded me how ugly and fat I was and I showed people as often as I could. I am disgusting the monster/me would say to them.

My algorithms were off.

Algorithms are essential to the way computers process data. As it is with us.

What, you think you are that different than a computer? I know I’m not. Input, output, send, delete, process, store. All of it. The same.

I have filed things in the wrong places and then when I went to look for them I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I took what I could find and hung it above my sofa. Right there on the wall.

This is how the dictionary defines algorithms: a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation.

I hate math. I went to a therapist as child because of my math phobia but I am going to break it down for you in my math-phobic way.

The greatest divisor is our minds. How we process it. It messes up the very best things and the worst things and muddles them in such a way that it becomes finite. That’s that. That’s the truth. That’s just the way it is. Forever and ever and ever.

Repetition of an operation. Well, that’s life for you, isn’t it? This wheel keeps on turning. You keep going around and around and repeating the same things. People are born. They die. They say things. Things happen or they don’t. You keep hanging things on the wall above the sofa.

I am looking for a system that organizes itself but I am not sure that will ever happen. I think I need to keep manually separating the very best things with the very worst and the beauty from the garbage.

Euclid was the ancient Greek man who invented the algorithm and geometry as we know it. His name literally translates into Good Glory. I like that. I get that he was all into numbers and stuff, but, I think there was something more. I think perhaps he was teaching us in his way about how to live in the very best way with the very best things in all our good glory.

May you live in all your good glory and keep reminding yourself the best things. Over and over.


xo jen


healing, loss, writing

In Case You Also Hate Goodbyes.

February 11, 2013

I haven’t had that many goodbyes to speak of, but I can tell you straight off the bat that I am not a fan.

They feel final and long, drawn out. Overdone. Severe as winter and hard as bone or something like that. Something that can’t be chopped into smaller pieces or fed to the dogs. At least the goodbyes that I have known were like that. Awful in their lack.

I have never stopped saying them either. Goodbye to my father, goodbye to this or that. I am always saying goodbye to you and yet here you are.

Here you are.

Of all the people that left me, none of them said goodbye. My father, gone. Up in a whiff of smoke. Boyfriends, like they’d never even existed in the first place. Men in the ether. Friends who vanished. No goodbye, no note, no I’ll see you around. 

Last week at the airport I saw this little black girl in the back of a mini-van, hair in braids and little plastic barrettes. Her father, (I am guessing) came off the same flight as I did from Boston. He opened the back door and leaned in, up close to her face. She started to cry. She was so happy that she actually started to shake and cry.

The kind of emotion you see in those moving YouTube videos where the father returns from Iraq or Afghanistan and surprises his kid at school. He walks into the kid’s second grade class and as they are writing letters on the board he speaks his kid’s name. The kid drops the chalk and the eraser and his shoulders shake before he turns around because he thought he might be saying goodbye to his dad yet here his dad is. Right here in his classroom on a Monday in winter. He cries the happiest tears and runs and hugs his dad. The little girl in the back of the mini-van was like that boy with the chalk. Maybe she thought she’d never see her dad again, if it was even her dad, and yet here was, his big face peering into hers and his suitcase filled with presents from Boston or wherever.

I thought for sure he would climb in and sit in back with her. He didn’t though. He got in the front and turned to face her and she wiped the tears and the woman driving the mini-van drove them off. Goodbye.

The dirt river feeling in my stomach when I leave London and my husband stays back to be with his parents. That piece of the river that doesn’t move, stagnant water sleepy and half-frozen and useless as a complaint. That’s my stomach on that flight from Heathrow. Gurgling and moving the bits of trash upriver and downriver and back up again as I sip a wine and watch England fade away. Goodbye.

What if it’s the last time I see you I say out the window to England, to my father, to the men in the ether. 

What if it is? What if it is? Then what? Then what? So many questions. 

Before the men who left me slipped into the oohs and ahhs at my sudden givings over to pain, to confusion: Wait! Where is my father? (I am always dreaming of my ghost-limb, my old battle wound, gaping.)

Oh Night! Take me back! I yell often to the wing of the plane but not loud enough for anyone else to hear. Just a whisper-yell.

I want to be back in the world between the headboard and the wallpaper, where my head presses to the vent and voices from the den travel up into my ears as small as baby fists.

Sail me into time! Maybe the hot tail of a meteor or a field somewhere in South Jersey. Say 1983. 

Drop me into a world before men: the Pre-Man Era. A glitch in time before men started in on me, before their fingers started in-all over me.

Before any could leave or not say goodbye.

Goodbyes suck. They insinuate this is it. They suggest No more.

Here is an open letter saying Goodbye for all the future goodbyes headed my way.

Dear whoever you may be,

Goodbye. I may have loved you and I may not have but this here is my goodbye in case you decide to leave or die or whatever. In case you forget. In case you thought I didn’t need a goodbye. Take mine as an offering. Take this as a small gift and know that you served me in some way. Just your presence in my life did that. I hope I served you just as well. We may not be able to see it now, what the good of it all was but still. Maybe you won’t even hear this goodbye. Maybe you died in your sleep. But still. I think somewhere you can hear it. I will sail this letter off and if possible I will literally stick in into your palm. If that is not possible I will deliver it in some way, even if that means through my imagination. I will make it short and simple and easy as a summer day. Imagine that? Goodbyes like butterflies. Goodbyes like falling. Like falling into the empty space in between rifts of a song. Imagine that? Goodbye, whoever you are. In case your forget. Or I forget. And if you come back and it’s me in the back of that min-van I will cry because for the longest time I might have thought you’d never come back.

 And yet. There you are.

But in case you don’t: goodbye.



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

How Kindness Works.

February 8, 2013

I got in a car accident the other night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one:

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

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

We find what we look for.

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

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

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

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

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

Find what you are looking for.

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

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

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

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

I wanted to fail.

I wanted to prove that people suck. Even me.

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

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

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

I don’t suck. 

I am kind. 

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


courage, Things I Have Lost Along The Way


January 18, 2013


By Jen Pastiloff.

Lie to me. 

That’s what I might have well have said by saying I don’t look like I gained any weight, right? It’s going to be okay, isn’t it? You are not having sex with anyone else, right? 

Tell me what I think I want to hear.

Some people like it straight. They want to be told what is. They want what is and what can be without any embellishments or I will make you feel betters. State the facts, please.

Not me.

I want to be appeased. Make me believe I am safe.

Recently, I decided that the truth is a much better version of the truth than a lie.

In my late twenties I had this boyfriend, the one who wouldn’t let himself be called “boyfriend”. I loved this not-boyfriend boyfriend . I went on the birth control pill for this not-boyfriend boyfriend. We’d been together a year, albeit a year where I was unsure of my standing with him beyond the fact that I knew I loved him and that he made me feel like I was crazy. Birth control pills meant no more condoms and that made the not-boyfriend boyfriend happy.

The first thing I remember about the garbage bag incident that red wrapper invading me with its plastic face. Everywhere I looked: red. His carpet, red, the inside of my eyelids, red. The (unfortunately for him) clear plastic trash bag had fallen over. Inside, grays and whites of innocent I will not hurt you trash, and then there it was: a Lifestyles condom stuck to a chicken take-out container. Nothing but the torn red of the wrapper visible through the clear plastic trash bag.

Of course I will take out the garbage on my way out.

The significance of images, powerful enough to place two people right there inside my mind, naked on a bed. Maybe they’re in a dark room, the blue glow of the television bobbing on the wall. The woman with him (not me), imagined as perfect and leggy.

And then there he was on top of me. All I could see were red Lifestyle wrappers like sheep jumping fences. Rows of them. One condom, two condom, three…


(Wow, all that work you’re doing, for nothing! All that huffing and grunting

and straining and pushing and pulling and I am not even here with you. I am an eyeball in a trash bag searching for clues of infidelity.) 

 I am lying to you. I am not here. Only my body is.

But as long as you have my body here, does it matter that you don’t have my mind too? 

I wondered how many women lied in this way? Making love to someone with their body

while their mind drifts I’m fat, who else is he having sex with, what can I eat for dinner? I wonder what time the movie starts, do I even love this guy? I wish he would hurry up, why would he want to have sex with anyone but me? Why don’t I satisfy him, Am I not enough? I’m not good enough for him, what’s wrong with me? I’m fat. Shit, I never called my mother back. I have to remember to pay the electric bill., Damn it, is he done yet? I am good enough for him, he’s not good enough for me….. No, not like that, like this!  I can’t even say that to him because he will get offended. Maybe I should try being with a woman. No, I couldn’t do that. He is such a selfish lover. I wonder what time it is, I wonder if I could fit into those jeans? Did I shut the stove? What day is it? Do I smell bad? I wonder if he thinks I smell bad? He smells kind of musty. It’s so gross when a guy smells bad. Is he done yet? Man, what is he doing? Does he think he is King Kong? Why does he play so many video games still? What? Is he five? I’m tired, Ouch, that hurts, what is he doing? I wonder if they have a class for men to become better lovers at The Learning Annexx?

His eyes, red burning slits. All I could see was that condom wrapper. Obsessed by a red remnant that was most certainly not my remnant, I couldn’t move. I was that paralyzed with not wanting to know the truth. You love me, right? You love me, right? Right? You love me?

My mind can be made to believe anything.

I’d known this all my life but the trash bag incident finalized it for me. Everywhere I looked I waited to be convinced of  I love yous and You’re safes and nothing bad will happens and I am not going anywheres.

My face in his pillow (do I smell another woman? Whose hair is that lying there?) The red wrapper actually turned into a body and that body turned into his body and his body in someone else’s body. Metamorphosis. Isn’t this, the chain of events, absolutely astounding?

How quickly the mind latches on to what it wants to believe is the truth. How little it takes to seal the deal.

You love me, right?

This logical procession of things is survival of the fittest. Except the fittest know how to survive, they know how to dispose of any evidence instead of asking me to pick it up with my own two small trembling fists. The fittest aren’t as stupid as you I thought as I waited to be convinced that the condom wasn’t his, that he didn’t know how it got there, that he swore it, that he loved me and was sorry.

I used to think reality was relative and irrelevant. Tell me what I want to hear. Tell me it wasn’t yours. Make me believe. 

Mine, and perhaps yours too, is a mind that filters everything through a vicious process of hypothetical situations, of beautifully formed sentences, of what ifs. Images left in a room of the brain to ferment will create an alternate universe where no matter what time it was with my not-boyfriend the time in my head was a red red world where he was having sex with someone other than me.

You love me, right? It wasn’t yours, right?

That really was the end of the not-relationship although it probably ended before that if I don’t lie to you. Of course he convinced me that it hadn’t been his condom. That it had been old or that it was his cousin’s and I’d nodded and said okay and shook from the I’m going be sick adrenaline in my body but I’d stayed. And I stayed. 

And for as much as I wanted him to lie to me to make me feel better in the moment, I’d known the truth all along. 

We always know the truth.

If he hadn’t lied, if he’d just said Yes, yes it’s mine and I am sleeping with someone else. Or, aren’t you at least glad I am using protection? I would have had to leave him. The lies gave me permission to stay. They gave me permission to hate myself more. The lies got me off the hook.

I am writing this from an airplane where I get some of my best (read: distraction free) writing done. I just ran into a man on the plane, who, along with his wife, sent me to Atlanta 6 years ago to visit my nephew when he was newborn and in the NICU. There were complications and he was having his little tiny blonde head scanned. He couldn’t eat. He was floppy. I didn’t even know what a floppy baby was back then. He might not survive were words nobody wanted to speak. They’d been my regulars at the restaurant where I’d worked for years. As I walked away with tears streaming down my face to get their Arnold Palmers they’d decided they would send me to Atlanta the next day. You have to be with your family. No discussion will be had. I simply had to say yes, they’d said over turkey sandwiches. And so I did.

Six years ago I went and held my sweet floppy buddy for the first time, once he was released from the hospital in Georgia.

 When I walked onto the plane this morning, the husband was on the flight, because you know, the world is really quite small like that. It’s so small that people who did for you the kindest things will pop up on airplanes Houston. He’d tried to jog my memory as if it needed jogging. As if I could ever forget them and what they did for me when I was a destitute waitress with a sick nephew. He kindly asked So, everything turned out okay then? With your nephew?

The lies. The lies when he was born and until he was two years old, when he finally got diagnosed with Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism. The subtle lies. The bold faced ones. To ourselves mainly. He is just taking his time. All babies develop differently. He’s fine. 

 When of course we knew. But how much safer it felt to be nestled inside a world where there is nothing wrong then thrown out into the wolves and the world of missing chromosomes. The wolves would eat us. Let’s stay safe. The baby’s fine. There is nothing wrong. He is healthy. Swimming with sharks was safer than telling the lies, but what did we know? We were scared, and I, for one, was used to lying to myself. It was not a foreign country. It was home.

I’d said to the kind husband It did turn out there was something. He has a rare genetic disorder. That is actually where I am going now. It’s hard, but he’s doing great. I will never forget what you and your wife did for me back then. I think of you all the time.

We hugged and took a photo together and I thought about how many people have done kind things for me along the way and how many untruths I have told myself about not deserving them.

Watching my friend Emily Rapp deal with the impending death of her baby boy I see how liberating the truth really is.

She could flail her arms and curse God and fate and Tay Sachs. She could tell lies about herself and her luck and what is in store for her (she might do this on occasion, she is a human being, after all) but the truth is what seems to keep her tethered. Without the truth she would float away into You’ll get over its and He’s going to be in a better place and everything happens for a reason. 

The truth of what is happening now and now and now. 

That is all there is.

She, nor any of us, knows what is going to happen beyond his death and that is the truest true. What keeps her writing and breathing are the sure facts of what is true now and now and now. In the moments her son has a tube in his nose for medication and some fluids. In the moments he sleeps and in the moments he is choking and in the moments she sits down to write when maybe all she wants to do is beat her fist at the sky and scream but she writes anyway.

If you face what is so, you will be the roar that wakes up the sun. You will be the day and the night and then the day again because it is the one thing no one can take away from you. The truth of what is will make you the strongest mountain lion. 

The truth will set you free some say. The truth hurts.

I don’t know, I think lies will set you free too. They will unglue you so much that you will have no idea who you are anymore as you float above everyone else with your own set of facts and knowledge. The lies hurt more than the truth but in that slow and painful death kind of way. 

The truth hurts too, at times. But, it’s what keeps you knowing this one very important fact: who you are. The fact of who you are in the world.

The truth was that I was a girl who didn’t love herself enough to leave someone who hurt her again and again. The lie was that it was all I deserved. The truth was that my nephew has a chromosome missing and he could possibly eat himself to death if not carefully watched and cared for. The lie was that nothing was wrong. The truth is that Emily loves her son and that yes, he will die. The lie is that anyone knows what that means for her or for him.

We think we are protecting ourselves when we lie to ourselves or when we have someone lie to us. Oh, our sweet unquiet minds, so prone to crave safety. So willing to cling to what is not real, to trade in lovers who don’t love us, missing chromosomes, death.

11 years ago my childhood friend came out to California to visit me after having hiked the Appalachian trail for 6 months by himself. I remember thinking it was the craziest thing I had ever heard, and also being slightly jealous because I knew I didn’t have the balls to do that at the time.

I might have the balls now.

I am the mountain lion.

I have finally been able to turn on the light and invite it in. The Truth, shivering and lonely. And unafraid. 

My friend had told me he’d started with a huge backpack and that by the end it was almost empty. All the weight he’d shed during the hike. He said he’d gone to find himself and I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know any guys that talked like that. Find himself? Find the truth?

I asked him how he’d managed though, at the end, with almost nothing in his pack? Didn’t he need stuff?

Nothing is lost when you dump the untruths. It’s the letting go, the starting out with so much weight and ending up with water and a sleeping bag.

The truth is your sleeping bag. It’s your water.

It’s what carries you the rest of the way from here.

It’s what says Yes, I do love you and I have been here all along. Waiting.

It’s what takes your quivering body lying there in the corner of your kitchen floor and picks it up. It’s what turns you into the strongest mountain lion.

Speak the truth. 

You know what? Fuck that.




Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.


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

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

click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, healing

The Irrelevants.

January 16, 2013

I have often felt as restless as the earth, as afflicted. As inconsolable.

This is to all the I am irrelevants: You’re not.

Some irrelevant things might be: getting into a perfect crow pose in a yoga class, finding a grey hair, your jeans, what kind of car you have, whether you like to have sex with men or women (or both.)

This is to all the people who howl at the moon how lost they are, how bad they suck, how little they have to offer. This is to the voices that speak in a languages that love doesn’t understand. A language that sounds like this: I am nothing, I do not matter, I don’t fit in. This is a language that often can’t be translated and when it is, it is found out to be gibberish. Bullshit. Untruths.

This is to you all.

I drove across country when I was 18 years old with my mother and her boyfriend at that time, as well as his two kids. We had a minivan and I sat in the back reading books and eating dried peaches. I read Love in The Time of Cholera twice on that trip. I prayed that somehow I would get left back on the trip and not have to start NYU in the fall. That I could stay back in the Rockies somewhere and get fat and let myself sink into oblivion. I prayed and prayed in the back of the minivan in my little cut-off red shorts as I bit my nails off. Please let me not me found.

I was starving myself to such a degree that I hadn’t menstruated in years. I remember being in Cody, at this steak house with everyone. I had asked the waitress to take a can of vegetarian chili into the back and open it for me while everyone ordered off the steakhouse menu like polite people. I dreamt of a knife through the fat of a nice juicy sirloin, some well done barbecued ribs, mashed potatoes pats and pats and pats of butter streaming off the plate as I ate my canned chili cold.

I thought about sending a postcard to my boyfriend who had already left for Boston saying: I am laughing with bear trappers who eat bear meat and wear bear coats. I am in the Black Hills of South Dakota trying to catch a big fat trout hook right through it’s mouth, cleaning it. Digging into it and cooking on an open fire, singing songs of the land and the Dakotas. I am in the Rockies high up, high at the top- summer and still snow caps the very top walking stick guiding me through the crooked trails around each bend.

You’ll never never find me in a motel room in Toronto on the water above a German restaurant, eating beets marinated in sugar and knockwurst. Teeth and lips stained red. You’ll never find me, licking the sides of an ice cream cone. You’ll never find me at the fish and tackle store in Yellowstone.

I had finished my chili that night and gone to bed in a tent as was the protocol on our trip. I never did send that postcard but I wrote it out and kept it as a bookmark in case I did want to send it, eventually.

Years later I found the postcard in between some pages of Love in The Time of Cholera.  I thought I had wanted to get lost but it was the opposite. I wanted to be understood. I wanted to be left alone with my books and my words and I wanted to understand why I hated myself so much. I wanted someone to look at me and say You are not irrelevant. You are not bad. You do not need to disappear.

I was trying to do a disappearing act, as it were. If I starved myself enough I would eventually evaporate. I would turn into ether. I would become the moon.

This is for you, Dear Hopeless Ones. I am you. Don’t you see it? I was there. I was one of the: I am nothings, I am hopeless, I am bads.

What a crappy club to be part of.

It’s a mean club, full of liars and storytellers and petty thiefs.

Its like this. You have caught glimpses of your life. You, who think you are irrelevant, you have reached out for love, and on occasion, been able to grab fistfuls of its beauty. If you look closely, you can see your life all mapped out. Irreversible veins raised and ready for puncture. The geometry of your life: blue, ingrained, vainglorious.

It’s like how your eyes adjust to things- the inside of an apartment after an eyeful of sunlight. How you can see part of the moon when it isn’t really there anymore: hanging sliver white as pearl on black, it’s fullness still faintly visible, an illusion. A palsied arc, the fingernail piece of moon that hangs like it’s missing something of itself, waiting out it’s own cycles. It’s like that. You have to wait out your own cycles.

The moon is never missing any of itself. We just can’t see it. You are like that too.

I can see it. You are all there. You are not irrelevant, you are not nothing, you do matter, you do fit in. I can see all of it.

You may have to wait out your own cycles too. You may think you want to get lost among the bear trappers, but even then, I will be able to see you. You can never disappear. You can never become ether.

You are as relevant as the moon. And beyond.


And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick, Light Senders

Light Sender.

January 15, 2013

Click to connect with my partner in this project Karen Salmansohn

Light Sender.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,

“and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine. 

~Mary Oliver When I am Among The Trees.

So why are you not letting yourself be filled?

Why are you not yelling from mountaintops who you are?

Climb that mountain. Go on. Get up there. You were born to do this, and the sooner you realize this fact, that you are among the trees, that you were always among the trees, that there wasn’t a day in your life that you were not among the trees, the sooner you send your light out and light up the world. It comes from you.

The thing is, when you send it out, you can literally feel yourself being refueled with all that golden light. Or purple. Or whatever color you imagine the light to be because light isn’t a color. It’s what’s inside you. It is what you are made up of even the times when you felt that you had no light inside of you, that all you had inside of you was a ball of pain and mud and heartache.

Get up there on that mountain. Yell into the wind what you are willing to send out into the world. Send it out in a little vessel. Send it out to anyone who will listen, anyone who needs to be inspired by someone like you. You, who’s willing to get up there on a mountaintop.

I offer you my light.

I send it out to you and hope that you can feel it on your back, or maybe on your head, an energy which if it could speak would say to you: I got you.

It’s right there with you as you are reading this, as you are making eggs for your kids, as you are sitting by your father’s bedside and reading him stories, as you turn off the lamp by your bedside and roll into an emptiness where a body used to be. All of it. It’s yours. Take it. It will never extinguish.

I didn’t trust was any light inside of me for a long time. I will not share my words with the world because there’s nothing worth sharing, I would think as I combed the streets of NYC like some kind of starving warrior. A darkness akin to dying lived inside of me. Light was something woo-woo that yoga teachers and the like spoke of. I had no idea of any such light.

I couldn’t imagine my darkness ever brightening so I succumbed to it like a slave, hackled by my own sludge and shit. The chains I dragged around were heavy and unwieldily but I managed them because to let go would mean I would have to face the fact that there was indeed a light inside of me, that underneath the chains was a small but steady light. I carried around the chains for years and kept myself all to myself. You can have none of me because there is none of me worth having. 

When I was in my early twenties I lived in mid-town Manhattan in a hotel next to a fire station. NYU housing was overflowing so they’d stuck me in a weird hotel right out of The Shining. If the red light on top of the fire station was flashing it’d meant there was a fire, growing or dying somewhere between Thirty-first and Seventh and Fortieth and Sixth. Stations were frequent: the trucks had trouble making it through traffic. Taxis never moved out of the way.

Nights I would hear the firemen pass their time. While waiting for fires to ignite they’d play basketball. The dribbling kept me awake, but they only played between fires so games didn’t last very long. And I’d felt safe. If ever there were a fire they’d be there in a flash.

I’d lie in my hotel bed counting dribbles while thinking of poems I could write about them. I never did though. I never got out of bed and grabbed a paper and wrote the poem about the firemen or the basketball or how weird it was to live in a hotel with crusty towels. Instead I laid in bed and wished I had a cheeseburger so I could smell it and pick at the lettuce or pickles. I would have never eaten the actual burger or the bread but the smell of it was enough to finally kill my hunger pains. I’d pass my time dreaming of food while the firemen threw balls to pass theirs. Were we so different? I thought, all of us waiting for something?

Waiting for the fire to change us.

I also lived next to a fire station while I was in high school in New Jersey. The men in my neighborhood, all fire fighters. When that siren went off in the middle of the night I’d imagine of my friend’s fathers slipping out of their mothers and into bulky fireproof suits. And I’d dream that same dream: our house burning and I am on a ladder in the yard. I am seven, saving everyone. I am pulling them all up the rungs, my mother, my father, my sister. I could never save myself. I’d stay at the bottom of the ladder and be eaten by black smoke until I woke.

In New York, I used to watch the firemens’ feet talk to me and ignore their voices. The feet give it all away. Nervous and fidgety. Pressing the earth for ideas as if language can split the pavement, enter their bodies like heat through their feet and make them whole.

As if language was strong enough to crack the earth, as if it could be kept underfoot. As if words could form themselves and penetrate through bone, into the blood, and out the mouth. As if it were as comfortable, as controllable as fire.

What I found out was this: language can crack the earth. It can spilt the pavement. It has! It has opened up and swallowed me. I can’t stop writing now for the life of me. For better or worse, it has cracked my darkness, and I can’t stop sending my light out into the world with a clear knowing that whoever receives it will be just the right person in need.

What I am telling you is that if you climb that mountain, which I am hoping you will choose to do, that your light will spread across a page of the night and no matter how many fireman put down their basketballs to come and put it out, your light can never be extinguished.

It was always there. You may have just been tied to a ladder. You may have been inhaling smoke. You may have been starving yourself or drinking too much or failing out of school. Whatever it is, or was, the light is there inside of you and it is your birthright to send it out. You absolutely cannot hoard it.

Writing might not be your thing. I don’t know what your thing is. It might be that you are a great mother. You are an incredible friend. You are an artist. You cook a mean chili. You are kind.

Whatever it is, you have to let us know. We are here waiting with the rest of the trees.

You have to get up out of the bed and write that poem instead of laying there dreaming of dying and hamburgers. You have to unshackle yourself from the chains around your ankles, because, quite truthfully, you put them there. You have the key. You have to climb the mountain and throw the key from the top as you yell Here I am. This is where I stand.

Sit down on the top up there. After all, you climbed all the way up. You did that. Not me. Not your past. You, here and now. It was a steep climb and you almost fell, but you didn’t. Go on and sit down. And when the trees ask you to stay awhile, tell them: Yes, yes I plan to. In fact, I have always been here. I have always been the light.

Tell them that.

Although its nothing they didn’t already know. Even when you didn’t know it yourself. You have always been there.

You are a beacon of light.

healing, Inspiration


January 13, 2013

I used to see this therapist when I was in 5th and 6th grade. I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was kind, and he would abide by my silly laws of I will talk if you ____. 

He let me bring friends to my session. I would talk for 30 minutes without them and then he’d let me bring them in for the remaining 30. He would take me across the street to this candy store and buy me these wax filled Cola candies that I loved (and sometimes gummy bears). He let me play board games in our session and also this weird leap frog game with little plastic pieces. I thought I was way too cool to go to a psychologist and I would tell my friends that my mom made me go. I would clarify that it was not a psychiatrist. Somehow that made a difference to me at the time. As if I was less damaged.

I never opened up to him. Not once.

I hated him for it.

When 7th grade came and I went to the middle school, which might as well be called the middle level of Hell, he’d started working at my school. I would see him in the hall and walk by him like I had never met him before. He’d say hello to me and I would cruise past as if I had no idea he’d been talking to me. I never once acknowledged him.

I had stopped seeing him the year before after 6th grade had ended. I called my mother tonight to remind me of him and she couldn’t remember much except that he was helping us in some way. He was either not charging us or was billing us through some weird system where we weren’t actually paying.

He’d wanted to save me. And he’d failed.

Except tonight in yoga, the first time I’d moved my body in a while if I tell you the truth, which I am committed to doing, I realized that he had saved me. That what I’d needed at that time wasn’t someone to force me to talk but to let me be. He did that. He let me be without a word. He let me do whatever I’d wanted and express my disdain at having to go see him and he’d let me eat candy and be mad. I really just wanted to be mad.

I wish I could remember his name so I could look him up, maybe on Facebook even, and thank him.

So much of my life has been spent being ashamed.

I had this boyfriend in high school. My first love. I loved him like you can only love that first one. In that way that seems so small and ridiculously large at the same time when you look back on it twenty years later. That I am going to be with you forever and I will die if you leave me and I will never leave you and I will go to the same college as you and we will get married even though most of you knew it wouldn’t ever end up that way. The part of you that felt it was larger than the other parts and outweighed the facts and the This won’t lasts.

My mother (G-d bless her) would let him sleep over. We were in high school! I think about this now and cringe and, at the same time, bow to my mom for trusting me like that. I wouldn’t even lock my door. She just wouldn’t come in if he was over. Like we were 30 somethings. Because her trust in me was so big, I lived up to it. I was an adult at 17. I was serious and proud and in love with someone who stayed in my room on school nights.

When I would see him in school though I would walk by him like I didn’t know him. I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. I knew I was doing it and I would beg myself as I saw him coming down the hallway Jen, reach out. Hug him. Hold his hand. Do something. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

It was like I was drowning in the Lake of Shame. I couldn’t let anyone see that I could feel anything. I was stone. I would walk by him and we’d silently agree that it was the normal thing to do. To be in shame, as it were.

I was ashamed of any feelings I had. I tried to starve them out of myself most days.

Twenty years later I am a pretty affectionate person. I still battle it though. With my family, my mother and my sister, for example, it’s hard. I wall up. I am a solid thing and I will not collapse and you can’t make me either.  

Where does this shame stem from? What elephant have I shot in the wake of my growing into a woman?

I have always been sad. Look at my childhood photos. I never smiled. I was always asked why are you so sad, why don’t you smile, what could be so wrong? To which I didn’t know the answer until I did. Until so much heartache and heartbreak fell upon me that I wanted to bop people over the head and ask them How dare you ask someone how they can be so sad when you have absolutely no idea what it is like to be them? Maybe their father just died? 

I was always ashamed of my grief and my sadness. I would not talk to any therapist. When my dad first died and I was maybe 8 or 9, I had gone to a therapist in Philadelphia and when she’s asked me how I felt, the best I could do was scribble on a 3 by 5 card with 5 different colored pens and then write This is How I Feel in all capital letters.

That was the best I could do.

And everyone was always tssk tsssking me about how sad I looked.

I was ashamed. I was ashamed of anything I felt. Sadness, love, sexuality.

It makes sense now when I think back on how I ignored my first boyfriend in the hallways at school. I loved him so much and I could not let anyone see that. I would walk by him in my cute green leather vest and Doc Martins and overly skinny body and not even look in his direction. I wouldn’t even nod. And he loved me still.

How guilty I felt!

Eventually I learned how to reach for a hand. How to hug. How to be vulnerable.

I have always had a grief stamp on my forehead, even before my father died, as if my body knew what was going to happen and had prepared me. As if my mind had known all along and was simply waiting, which is perhaps the worst thing in all the world. I have always had a certain sadness and grief and have always been made wrong for it until recently.

I write about it and so many people say Yes Yes I get it. I understand or me too!

Am I validated all of a sudden? Is it okay to be sad and happy at the same time? Well, yes. It always was okay. The thing is, when you find a tribe, as I have done, it feels as if all along you had reason to feel such sadness. That were a slew of others like you in the world just waiting for you to say Our Place Is Here. Just waiting for you to crack open the pattern of days, splitting what’s solid and finding that underneath it all, underneath the shame and sadness and grief is love.





healing, Jen Pastiloff, Jen's Musings, Truth

Promises & Lies.

January 8, 2013
beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Jen Pastiloff.

Promise. The word itself is sleazy. Hard at first, then sizzling out at the end like something that can’t last. A snake. A word that can’t get up off the ground.

You promised though.

You promised.

I promise you.

We promise.

I promise. 

Hsssssssss. Promisssssse.


In 1983 we lived in Pennsauken, New Jersey, after having moved from Philadelphia a couple years earlier. Across the street from our house was a little store called Kirk’s Newsroom. The store itself a tiny animal, nestled next to an appliance repair shop and a Jersey highway called Route 38.

There was nothing pretty about it. We bought American cheese there, thinly sliced, and egg nog in December. Kools for my dad, Almond Joys, sometimes a newspaper. I played PacMan in the back in the dark little room where there were two video games shoved against a wall.

We had a “house account” at Kirk’s Newsroom. My dad would send me across the street to get him a hard pack of Kools, cheese, and half-n-half. I don’t remember what Kirk looked like besides having a mustache and a thin face, he was always behind the counter. Put it on my dad’s account I’d say like a lady to the mustache behind the counter. And can I get a hard pack of Kools?

I think about that now and how a child could never walk into a store and get a pack of cigarettes and also, do house accounts even exist anymore? It was the early 80’s however and most things were possible until they weren’t.

I hated that store. It felt dirty and old and every time I was sent there to retrieve things I’d felt as if I was being delivered into the arms of a rat. Go, my child! Go straight into the den of vermin! Be gone now! Come back with cigarettes and cheese. Don’t let the snakes eat you!

Kirk was nice enough, I guess. He’d leave egg nog on our doorstep around the holidays. We’d wake up and a frozen carton would be there waiting for us or we’d open the door and step on it, not knowing it had been there. Either way, I hated the place like I knew it would kill us in the end.

And it did.

I’d flushed a pack down the toilet because I’d been so angry that he’d promised to quit smoking and hadn’t. He’d promised! I was ballsy and triumphant at 8 years old. I’ll show him! Flush.

He smoked 4 packs of menthol cigarettes a day. Now that so much time has passed, I often wondered what has turned to myth, as so much does, but, nonetheless, he chain-smoked a shitload of very-bad-for-you cigarettes daily. He was not happy with the flushing incident, he did not think it was cute. You are being bad and making me not feel good. Now, please go get me a pack of cigarettes across the street.

Did he really say that?

You’re asking me? As if. As if our minds can be relied upon. As if history doesn’t fold in upon itself and change over time. As if our memories are safe. As if Time hasn’t ravished them and then polished them before putting them back into the wrong compartment.

You always break your promises! I hate you.

The end.

He died that night, and yes, that was the last thing I ever said to him. I. Hate. You.

Things and people I have tried to blame it on: Kirk: the bastard who sold cigarettes and newspapers. Myself: I killed him with my words. I was bad and made him not feel good. Speed: his heart, his poor heart racing to keep up, a fist in his chest, pumping five times faster. Downers: the confusion his heart must have felt daily, up and down, up and down. My mother: why couldn’t she save him? God: God hated me and this was proof. The woman he’d had an affair with: if he’d never met her this would never have happened. Promises: if he’d never promised to quit smoking, I would never have told him I hated him and the night would have played out differently. He would not die. I would not walk 17 times around the block in an effort to not cry. We would not pick up and move to California. We would be safe.

Fucking promises.

There is a promise when a baby comes into the world as you hold them for the first time. I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe. But how can you know that?

How dare you promise anything?


When I lived in NYC I used to promise myself nightly that if I didn’t die during the night I would stop abusing laxatives. I didn’t die and I would do it the next night and the next and the next in my little single apartment owned by NYU Housing. I would take 10 laxative tea bags and put them in a few ounces of water until it was  brown sludge. Sometime in the middle of the night as my eyes were wildly dilated from the diet pills I was taking, my stomach would begin to gurgle and I would rush to the bathroom and pray Don’t let me die.

I couldn’t even keep a promise to myself.

I promise I will do better.

Can you remember all the promises you’ve made to yourself? I can’t.

What is a promise called when you don’t really mean it? When you just say it to get you to the next tier? Is it a lie?

I lied to myself over and over.

Maybe you’re cringing or maybe you pity me. Maybe you don’t care at all since promises to ourselves are the worst kinds of promises because no one is holding us accountable. Or perhaps you’d pick up your own coffee cup, the one right after you’ve sworn off coffee, and nod with I promise I will do better before you put it back down and go off to brew another pot. The newer lies I tell myself stacked on top of the old ones all along the edges of my life in places nobody would care to look. All the years I lied to myself about not wanting to be a writer. The lies I told myself about who I was. The lies themselves innumerable and ugly. What’s most scary about these lies we tell to ourselves is their proximity to the truth.

Such a strange sense of satisfaction being so close to the truth. Holding it in your hands like a thing with weight, until you realize that lies are slippery and wet, unholdable at best, and that they have no weight. They carry nothing but themselves.

They will not carry you.

I couldn’t keep up with the promises I told myself.

Every year that I stayed at my waitressing job was another year I had promised and failed to: go back to school, to try and get acting work, to do something, to get out finally from waitressing, to make a change, to stop hating myself so much, to stop starving myself all day and only eating at night. There were so many promises, all as empty as I wanted to feel at night when I would lie in bed and make sure my ribs were protruding by pressing into them hard like something I wanted to make disappear.

I had lost faith in promises, their meanings slippery as the years I had stayed at the restaurant. All through my 20’s and I couldn’t tell you one year from the next until all of a sudden I was 30 and then 31 and then Oh My God, I promised myself I would be Something by now. I would be Somebody.

Who was I promising anyway? It sure wasn’t God. I’d mutter the promises to myself or write them down on random slips of paper and then scribble them out and throw them away so nobody would see. After my father died, I had decided that God hated me. I constantly searched for evidence of this. Bad things happen to me, I’d think. I walked around waiting for that fact to shake up my life, to turn up at a street corner and snatch me away.

Bad things happen to everyone sometimes.

That is what I now know. This too is innumerable and ugly, as so many things often are. But it is also a testament to life, one that we are born into whether we like it or not. As soon as we are held for the first time by our parents, as soon as they whisper into our new soft baby heads: I will care for you. I will be here. You are safe. We are safe.

Promises are tricky: when they break, when their shells crack and they fall all over the kitchen floor like a fallen glass, your heart goes along with it. Be careful when you pick up the glass to throw it away that you don’t throw a little bit of your heart away. It can happen like that. And then the digging and searching through garbage to find what remains.

I spent years digging through crap to find my missing parts.

Don’t make a promise you can’t, or (don’t intend to) keep. I say this to myself as well as to you. I write it here, and instead of secretly scribbling it out and crumpling it up so nobody can read it, I share it with you. Stop lying to myself I write, on my mirror in red lipstick. Don’t make promises to yourself that you know you won’t keep just so that you can  slump yourself on the floor validating how rotten you are and how bad you suck, yet again and yet again and yet again.

Don’t do it.

I always know when I am lying to myself, that’s the thing. Always. I always knew I wouldn’t stop taking the laxatives even as I promised that if I didn’t die on the toilet, I would never ever do it again. 

I knew I would do it again.

So, what is the point of the promises that know themselves so well, that know they are untrue things?

I think they actually think they are keeping us safe.

My father thought if he told me he’d promised to quit smoking he’d be safer than if he said I never want to stop. I love smoking. It makes me happy and I don’t want to quit now.

We all want to be safe.

If I didn’t tell myself all those lies I would have easily sank to the bottom of the ocean. By telling myself the lies, I became equipped with a temporary life jacket. I am safe in the world right now because starting tomorrow I will stop abusing myself. Starting tomorrow I will ______. Starting tomorrow I will not _______. 

Tomorrow would never come. I would carry on doing what I did until I finally did sink to the bottom of the ocean. I finally had my breakdown. There weren’t any more promises I could think of that hadn’t broken me.

I got up and took off the platform shoes I had been wearing for over ten years to pretend I was tall. I waitressed on concrete for over ten years in really really bad platform shoes. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and put on some nice supportive sneakers. It took a while to get used to my frame of reference being 5 inches shorter but I did it and when people balked at me You are a midget! I had no idea you were so short I just smiled and fought every urge that said Dig those shoes out of the trash and put them back on as soon as possible. 

I didn’t ever put the platforms back on.

Eventually I stopped taking the laxatives and abusing myself. Eventually, after over 13 years, I left the restaurant. Eventually I admitted that I did not want to be an actress.

It wasn’t because I promised myself. It was because I finally woke up one day and realized that lying was harder. That who I am was far more beautiful than who I was pretending to be or promising I would become. I woke up and said Enough. And then I said it over and over and over Enough Enough Enough.

I didn’t want any more promises or lies. I wanted what was rightfully mine, my birthright, as it were, and that was the knowledge that I was whole. That I wasn’t missing any parts.

It’s true that there are many things in life that are innumerable and ugly and inconceivable. But it is also true that what is on the other side is a whole world of glittering NOW.

There is nothing to promise NOW. You and I are here now. I am writing this now and you are reading this now and we are here and alive and what else could matter? What future based promise could possibly touch that irrevocable fact?

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

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.

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.


Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.



Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Contact Rachel for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here.

Beating Fear with a Stick, loss, my book

Who’s Going To Want Me?

January 6, 2013

Who’s going to want me?

So much of it all boils down to that, doesn’t it?

Who’s going to want me now that I am _____. Put whatever you want in the blank. Go ahead.

Now that I am: Fatherless. Fat. An orphan. Old. Broken. Divorced. Handicapped. Widowed. Left. No Longer Have Perky Tits. Deaf. An Amputee. An Athiest. Sober. A Alcoholic. Lonely. Honest. Motherless. Childless. With Children. Ugly. Bald. Go ahead, put your word in.

You may wake up one day at 5:33 in the morning and shoot up out of bed as if from a nightmare where your car was flying off a cliff and you may find yourself once again muttering those words. Who’s going to want me now that I’m dead?

You’re not dead though. You woke from the dream. See, you are sitting right here, your head matted with sweat, the back of your neck hot and cold at the same time and you are reading these words and nodding along and you are very much alive.

There’s this line from my favorite Robert Lowell poem, Night Sweat, the last line of the poem:

If I cannot clear the surface of these troubled waters here,

absolve me, help me, Dear Heart, as you bear

this world’s dead weight and cycle on your back

He wrote about having nothing to write about, a variation on the good old Who will want me is Who will read me? How much dead weight we carry. Look how much.

My friend Steve Bridges died last year. His sweet little maid found him on his couch like he’d fallen asleep watching television. She’d tried to cover him with a blanket at first until she realized what the reality was. I don’t ever wish that I’d been her that morning, covering Mr. Steve with a Mexican blanket only to realize that no matter he’d always stay cold.

She’d worked for him for years, they’d sat in his kitchen while she cleaned and he wrote and laugh and laugh and she’d loved him. So when she realized he wasn’t sleeping but dead, her sweet little heart must have stopped and I would wager a bet it has been beating a little differently since that morning. Perhaps that thought came rushing at her one morning in her own bed, Who’s going to want me now? Who will make me laugh in their kitchen? 

When he died, I kept teaching my yoga classes, but I would have to turn around so that my back faced the class. I would cry and then wipe the tears and tell them to take a vinyasa or do child’s pose. Sometimes I just let the tears fall because the truth of the matter is that they expected nothing less than for me to take him right into class with me that week. They commended me for my willingness to show them my suffering and heartache because they had felt it too, and sometimes we actually need to remember that feeling, that raw my gut is ripped out feeling so we wake the fuck up. We all woke up that week or two after he died.

Steve and I hadn’t known each other terribly long. Oh, but we had. (Isn’t that such a yoga teachery thing to say?) We had known each other our whole lives so when we met it was not a thing. He started coming on my retreats and I referred to him as my brother and he referred to me as his teacher, his agent, his sister, his friend. We loved each other, we did. With Steve, I never felt the ghost of Who’s going to want me now? 

Yes, I am married. It’s beyond that even. It’s a cellular level instinct that goes way behind the logical, the rational, the explainable, all the way to the center of the Earth where it pierces and shrieks.

He listened to me. He saw me in a way few others have ever seen me. When he died, that shriek howled from the depths of the world and knocked me over, right in the middle of the street. It was impossible. Impossible that he was dead. I tried crawling my way through the dirt and mud towards that sound coming from below but I was stuck, reeling from the explosion, I was stuck. I couldn’t get him back.

Before he died, the last conversation we had actually, was in Mexico. It was the last day of my retreat and we sat eye to eye as everyone else took pictures of themselves doing various yoga poses below on the beach. He told me that he wanted a family. He said something to the effect of I can’t leave the earth without having a child. In the movie version, I will insert some foreboding music there so we know its foreshadowing and that he will never ever have a child. We should know this when the music plays and the two people sit eye to eye above a Mexican beach as happy as they’ve ever been with such a knowing that the Who’s Going to Want Me Now? is so far in the past, because, to have found a tribe like this, nothing could ever go wrong, all was good in the world. All was safe.

I didn’t get over his death but I kept going. It’s what we do. Someone dies and you keep going. That is Choice A. Choice B is you die. I did not die nor did I want to, to so I kept going. Eventually I felt a little less sad because, Time, that ruthless beast, does that. It softens you in some places and that the same time ages you and hardens you but mostly it dulls the pain. Believe me on this. If we remembered all our visits to the dentists and all our heartbreaks with clarity we would have rotting mouths and we’d all be alone in our rooms watching The Bachelor.

This morning I popped up at 5:33 in the morning. I am on England time so it is 8 hours ahead. I popped up and Who’s going to want me now clamored me over the top of the head. I was reading an article on The NY Times about the incomparable George Saunders’ newest book. He is 54 and started publishing at 37. I thought: Oh, Ok, Good. I’m ok. I am around that age.

But then.

I have not published anything yet. No books, no short stories. I am Saunders age when he wrote his first book and what have I done so far? I have been a waitress for decades and now a yoga teacher and here it is. Drumroll, it’s coming: Who Is Going To Want Me Now?

Right over the fucking head like a bat.

I am not looking for advice. I am talking about a deep guttural voice with a trajectory to nowhere that I have to conquer on my own like I am in a battle zone. And I am. With my life.

I do not know who will want me. I can let that stop me and not write my book and not try to publish it or I can write it and have a deep knowing that someone will take it and if they don’t, they don’t. I will then keep going. I will not use it as some sort of empirical proof to say See? See? No One Wants me.

Every time someone has left me (there’ve been two major ones, three if you count my father), I have questioned who would ever want me again as if they were the only two men on the planet and I was an untouchable.

Someone did want. Many did. Not just men and not just sexual. You are reading my words. You want me. But screw all that. Here’s the kick in the pants I was talking about the other day: I want me.

Most days. Most days I want me and from there I go. I go from there armed with my self-love and my husband and my indefatigable urge to write write write.

Then there are days like today where I wake up and my heart has fallen out and rolled somewhere under the bed next to some old birthday cards and a shoe. I have to crawl around in the dark and move through some dust, but I find it and screw it back in. It happens. It’s bound to do that once in a while because there is some ancient agreement I must have signed long ago before I knew I was signing it. I ripped up the agreement but there are days when the memory of the signature is strong enough to stop me in my tracks and have me say to myself Just Who Do You Think You Are?

Finally I am getting to it. The point. Who do you think you are? Go back to your blanks. Fat, Legless, Manless, Childless, No Longer Young, whatever it was you signed to on that contract, I want you to scribble it out. Get a black magic marker or some other stinky kind of pen and scribble it out at least a hundred times. Then, leave it blank.

You think 38 years old sums you up? You think divorced says it all?

You can’t define yourself in a word. You are a world, Dear Heart.






A little clip of Steve and I.


Go! Run! Now Is Your Chance! By Jen Pastiloff

January 5, 2013

Go! Run! Now Is Your Chance! By Jen Pastiloff

I just finished watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the plane. I read the book  ten years ago after one of my childhood best friends, Shana Feste, said I would love it. I did. I’d loved it so much I scribbled in it and dog-eared the hell out of it and gave it away and got it back again. It was my absolute favorite book for a while. Until I forgot it. When the movie came out, I’d wanted to see it, remembering I’d loved the book but not what it had been about or any details. I do that. With people, books, family. I know I loved you but I can’t remember what we ate. I can’t remember where we went or why I loved you but I know I loved you.

I just watched it sitting here on the plane headed back to Los Angeles from London, and I cried more than I have in a long time.

I kept pausing the film to stare out the window, partly because I was embarrassed to be sniveling like that on the plane and partly to ponder why I was crying so much. The scenes that hit me weren’t necessarily sad scenes. Just so reminiscent of pain I’ve felt in my own life, of how hard family can be, of high school and how much I hated myself and only a few friends recognizing that hatred.

A couple of my best friends, two men who have been my friends since we were 14 years old, (how weird to call them men), have been reading my writing lately and both have sent separate emails apologizing for not understanding me better, not loving me harder.

One of them, J, sent me this after my essay Betrayal in which I speak of shitting myself. yes, you read that last line correctly.

Never knew, but I kind of like it in a way. It’s like I’m getting to know you even better after all of these years and getting to look back at your life and think about who we were then. It’s a blessing.

More proof that you’re a real writer: you actually managed to craft a serious story about shitting your pants, a subject almost exclusively relegated to the realm of comedy. I speak your name, JP.

I remember being with my mom the night before she died and her body was failing her so she was wearing an adult diaper. We had brought Jonah, who was weeks old at the time, to see her and after she had an ‘accident’ she looked down at him and said, “You come into this world in diapers and you leave in diapers.” She always had that sardonic kind of wit–right until the end.

There’d been a few emails from the guys but that one got me right there in the gut, next to the place my dad resides and also my friend Steve. I’d known J’s mom and I’d loved her. The day she died I took a picture of her to my yoga class (it was before I was a yoga teacher) and placed it next to my mat and then during savasana, over my heart.

Both male friends had sent emails apologizing.

No apology was needed. We were young and they were boys. Boys who turned into fine men. They were never the sensitive poetic types who did musical theatre or read during lunch hour, these guys were the “popular” (such a vicious word), boys who played sports and who drove the girls crazy. They were smart and funny and I’d loved them. I still do. They have families and their children are smart and funny. These guys still care about me (as I do them). They read my blog, for Chrissakes. We met when we were 14 years old. And. They. Read. My. Shit. That’s friendship. So yea, maybe they didn’t “get” me fully when I was taking 12 diet pills a day and slowly dying in high school from starvation. But that’s okay. They get me now.

Life is an ongoing battle of getting one another.

I do not cry that much these days. When my dad died I stifled my tears and didn’t cry at all so that part of me felt broken for a long time. When it came back, an angry faucet that would not be fixed no matter what- a constant drip. I spent years sobbing and then alternately years where, again, I didn’t cry at all. Nothing would phase me and I would wonder Am I dead? Why can’t I feel things?

I am broken I would say to myself in acting class when I couldn’t muster any sadness.

I cried in so many scenes in this film just now. I see why my friend Shana (who is now a screenwriter and director herself) told me so many years ago to read this book. She is a writer who can create such moving dialogue, such real and moving dialogue, that you wonder if she hasn’t just sat in a chair her whole life in various rooms in various houses and just studied people without them knowing.

How can she know people so well? She does. She gets it and that’s why she sent me the book years ago. That’s why she is making a living as a very successful Hollywood screenwriter and director. People want to be reminded of what it is like to be moved, to be human. She does that. She recognizes that quality on others as well, thus the sending over of The Perks of Being a Wallflower all those years ago. The book I’d forgotten but which still sits at the very top of my book shelf. Shana was a wallflower in school and she is one of the most brilliant people I know. I am a wallflower disguised as an extrovert and the book was like finding our Tribe of Wallflowers, with all its faults and loveliness and welcoming it home.

I am stuck in the 80’s. Most people who take my yoga class know this and either love it or have learned to accept this fact. This film played all my most favorite music. The Smiths, The Innocence Mission, the Cure, New Order. All my make me sad and make me feel please make me feel songs were rampant.

There were moments were I cried for Charlie (the protagonist) and his love for Sam. Because where will it ever go? I see young love and it breaks my heart because I know it won’t last most of the time. My Broken Button alarms.

Broken! broken! broken!

Why can’t I just look at it and love it because they are loving it. Why must I look at it and think How sad, it isn’t going to last. They are going  to get older and one will leave the other. They will marry other people. They think “this is it”. But its not.

Here it is: Things that don’t last. The ever penetrating theme in all I do. The fear of it going away. The title of my own 80’s mixtape (remember those?) “Things That Don’t Last.” Like totally. Play this in your room at night with the door shut. Play this on your walkman.

Things that didn’t last for me: fathers, first loves.

I ate my vegetable curry (not bad Virgin Atlantic!) as I finished the film. After it ended I just stared at the black screen for a while. I didn’t want to watch another film, I wanted to stay in the reverie. I wanted to indulge in this feeling something.

I know some fathers last and some first loves last. But what can you do? You live and write from where you are. From your island. From your desk. From your heart.

Look at what affects you in a book or a film or a relationship. Usually it is because it is striking some oft-stricken little cord in the dungeon of your psyche where you have maybe hung a sign that says Broken or Dead or Asleep.

When I see scenes in films where there is a father and daughter, I cry. Sometimes when I go out with my friends and their fathers I cry. Its that little piece of me that says This lasted for you and not for me

or I miss my own dad or

Grieving doesn’t have an expiration date so yes, yes I am still sad..

The reason I well up with the young love or the scenes that make my heart recognize itself is because I want to protect them. I want to shield them all from the pain and the hurt and all of it. Go! Run! Now is your chance!

So the movie ends and I finish my little red wine and they take my food tray away and I buck up.

Go! Run! Now is your chance!

Except I am older and wiser now so here it is.

Go: Go live and fall in love and be young and do whatever the fuck you want as long as you don’t intentionally hurt someone else. It may last and it may not. Do it anyway.

Run: Run straight into the arms of the people who love you regardless if it may not be forever. Nothing is forever. Run towards. Not away. Towards!

Now is Your Chance: Now is your chance to realize that you are NOT BROKEN. You may have been hurt and your heart may have been shattered into ten thousand pieces but you are whole and you are perfect.

Pre-order Simplereminders new book by clicking the poster above.

Pre-order Simplereminders new book by clicking the poster above. Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert for the quote. To order a signed copy of The Signature of All Things from Two Buttons click here. signed copy of The Signature of All Things from Two Buttons click here


Jennifer Pastiloff, Beauty Hunter, is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif. over New Years. Check out 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 (2 spots left.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.