Losing My Hearing: On Being Human.

Losing My Hearing: On Being Human.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

As long as I can remember, I’ve gravitated towards accessible role models. I’m not talking the people who are untouchable but put on a “look-how-down-to-earth-I-am-STARS-THEYRE-JUST-LIKE-US” demeanour for their fans. I’ve always been most interested in the women who you can just SENSE are onto something huge even if you don’t know exactly what everything is – who are doing big things because they feel called to do so – who aren’t concerned with the BS of what things look like, but are ALL-IN when it comes to what they FEEL like. Jennifer Pastiloff is one of those people to me.

Jen and I met back in 2011, at a party for a mutual coworker/friend’s birthday. I was the new kid on the block at the job, and I felt awkward and self-conscious about my childish desire to please others – a trait I felt I should have “outgrown by now.” Couple this with my gregariousness-masked introversion and intense preference for one-on-one conversations, and I was close to crawling out of my own skin. Please let them like me, I silently begged. 

I don’t remember much about that night, but I remember meeting Jen and spending almost the entire night talking to her. This, along with our mutual friend’s emphatic demo of his new water filtration system (#fitnessinstructorparties), would be my overarching memory of the evening.

She listened intensely. She spoke assertively. She was pure kindness. I’d found a kindred spirit – a new friend – and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I had this gut feeling that whatever Jen was up to, she was onto something big.

I soon learned that yes, Jen taught yoga classes at the same company I did…but she had a LOT of other things brewing. Between her writing, her activism, and her community building skills, she became a beacon for me of what’s possible when you own your talents – ALL of them. She was the first one who got me to really check myself and my anxious brain – Katie, is this true, or are you telling yourself a story? – when I casually said over dinner one night that I “knew” someone didn’t like me because *well look at all the evidence* (spoiler, there was very little evidence). She was one of the first people to champion my writing, and the person who told me to get specific yet relatable when it came to getting people on board with what I had to offer to the world. “People need a gateway that they understand; that they already know and relate to. Get them in the door with that, then blow their minds with what you’ve got to give.” She’s been using social media in a smart, supportive, and community-focused way since way before social media became something that should have a “strategy,” and she’s been supporting women and fighting for the rights of marginalized communities since way before others could see her do it.

That, to me, is one of the marks of a true leader: they make a difference whether you know about it or not.

Jen’s debut memoir, On Being Human, is set to release in Spring 2019, and it’s already getting massively well-deserved buzz. Centered around the touchstone stories Jen tells in her popular workshops, On Being Human is the story of how a starved person grew into the exuberant woman she was meant to be all along by battling the demons within and winning. It’s about how years of waitressing taught her to seek out unexpected beauty, how deafness taught her to listen fiercely, how being vulnerable allowed her to find love, and how imperfections can lead to a life full of wild happiness. The world is about to watch her explode. And so, before they do, I wanted to give you all a chance to meet her, so you too can say you knew her “way back when.”

Jen’s laughter is infectious and her personable candor is a breath of fresh air. Her down-to-earth humor gives you the feeling that you’re hanging with a girlfriend, not simply pounding out Warriors and Down-Dogs. No topic is off-limits with Jen, no issue too personal, no joke too irreverent. Her classes, workshops, retreats, and now BOOK all have one common theme: making your life truly happen. She believes that no dream is too small, no goal is unfathomable. As long as you can see it happening – it can happen.

I am honored to share this piece of Jen’s – about deafness, death, remembering, and rebirth – here today. I know you’ll love it.

WANT Jen:

jennifer pastiloff on being human

Losing My Hearing.

The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself.
—Charles Darwin, “Voyage of The Beagle”

 

After my father died, we left New Jersey with its death and dying and cold winters and fled to Southern California. We were the three of us in a station wagon—my mother, my sister, and I, and it was a simple case of “should we turn left or right?” Which, I’ve come to realize, is the way most of life works.

Door number one: you stay in college, wear turtlenecks, work in a university.

Door number two: you drop out of college, run for three hours a day, wait tables. (And turtlenecks, they’re the devil.)

Turn right: he does drugs “one last time” and dies.

Turn left: and there he is on the sofa in his frayed cutoffs and we never make the trek to California.

So a should-we-turn-left-or-right happens and we choose left instead of right and end up in Santa Monica, where we live next to a man, his two daughters, and their beagle, Darwin, whom they keep locked up in a cage.

Darwin was a mean little dog. But hey, I might be mean too if I was confined all day to a small metal prison inside a dark kitchen. His bark was anxious, filled with accusations. I can see now how lonely he must’ve been in that little box. The kitchen empty, the lights out, and Darwin sitting in his own piss. I’d be angry too.

~

I’m leading a yoga and writing retreat in The Galapagos Islands and no matter where you go, you hear Darwin’s name. Me? I can’t hear well, so I only catch the tail ends of sentences. Bits of words: tortoise, finch, North Seymour Island, sea lion, lava, Darwin this, Darwin that. It’s rumored Darwin rode on the backs of ancient tortoises. A cacophony of noise. Meaningless to my failing ears.

People say I don’t pay attention. You don’t listen. You’re an airhead, they say. I want to wear a sign that says “Don’t make up stories. I just can’t fucking hear,” but that may be too on the nose, so I usually just drop a few steps back until I am away from sound altogether.

It’s exhausting straining to make out what people are saying. I read lips, but that’s also sleep-inducing. Staring so hard at mouths making their O shapes or their various forms of joy or disgust, it can wear a person out. Sometimes I simply stare into space, because really, what else is there to do when you can’t hear and you’re tired of pretending?

I’m alone in a crowd of people, the bearer of silence among noise. Easily confused by the letters C and D and E. I think Tom is John. I hear my name when it isn’t called. Everything starts sounding the same. Everything starts to sound like nothing. I think of bursts of silence as holy things.

The name Darwin is spoken and I see that little dog trying to bark his way out of a cage. My own drifting off from groups is something like that. I bark my way out of a room until I am gone.

~

Our guide, Carlos, tells us to look up when we get to the South Plazas Islands. “There’s a frigatebird,” he says, and points to a bird soaring overhead. “Their bones are hollow and full of air. They don’t have to flap their wings, so it saves them energy.” He tells us that they often attack other birds. “They are mean birds.”

I think of Darwin the beagle and my own conservation of energy. And how subjective a word “mean” is with its latching-on abilities. You can slap that word, with its simple meat sound, onto just about anything. Mean bird, mean dog, mean girl. How it can cover what we don’t understand. A lazy slab of raw judgment.

Frigatebird. I hear “frig it.” Synonymous with “fuck it,” which seems fitting to me. These sky bullies with their reddish throat pouches that look like balloons.

I often make up my own words to get by in the world. I’ll write down what I think someone is saying and Google it later. Usually I’ve gotten it wrong, but Google will guess close enough and show me the right version without any judgment.

My evolution has been backwards—from hearing to not hearing.

When I can no longer hear sounds I will still hear colors. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

During my yoga class, I ask everyone what they want to let go of. Judgment, the word “should,” my anger at my family, are among a few of the things written. I ask my students to step outside onto the grass, under the coffee trees here at Semilla Verde. We stand in a circle, eyes closed, out in the rain in the mud of The Galapagos, and it feels like the right thing to do. One woman has tears streaming down her face. A cat walks by and also a giant tortoise. I think about turning left or right.

We stand in the grass in our bare feet and I ask, “Can you feel how connected we all are?” which sounds like some bad yoga teacher cliche. The cat stops in between us, the woman with the tears down her face looks up, and under the canopy of trees I try to memorize colors because when I can no longer hear sounds I will still hear colors.

One of the women on my retreat hands me a note folded into a little triangle. It says: “The truth is I’m in excruciating pain. The truth is I don’t know how to express myself. ” How misunderstood so many of us are—the woman with the the note, Darwin the dog, me with my bad ears.

~

I’ve bought each person a mini Ecuadorian bottle of champagne for Thanksgiving. (You’ve never really seen a star-filled sky until you’ve stood on the balcony of Semilla Verde Lodge in Puerto Ayora, Ecuador.) We go outside and clink to what we’re grateful for.

Our guide Che Che’s excitement at his job. “Hey guys! Look at that, the male sea lion is surfing!” To see someone so passionate about his job. I’m grateful for that. I want to be that,

This beautiful place,

Spending Thanksgiving with people I choose to spend it with for the first time in my life,

Ecuadorian champagne,

the iguanas.

We clink and drink and stare up at the marvel of a sky.

When we come back inside someone turns down the lights. For ambiance. And there I am at the head of the table alone inside all the noise. It’s too dark to lip-read. I’ve lost my only tool so I drift back to New York City in October. I’m at Le Pain Quotidien, having lunch with the poet Michael Tyrell. We’ve been friends a long time. We’ve traveled to China together, we both received a fellowship to study at Bucknell as poets for a summer. We call each other Bubby, and neither remembers why.

I ask him to read a poem so I can record it. “Mike, read something. I’ll record it and post it. People need to know your work.”

The café is loud and I can’t hear most of what he says between my hearing loss and the clanking plates, but I record him anyway on my iPhone. He’s a beautiful poet. He reads a poem called “Falling Stars” because, he says, that was all he had on him.

I’m not sure I

saw anything bright fall, from heaven.

My best friend calls them bad omens,

anyway, falling stars she calls them.

She sees bad things even in the sky, these days—

See those clouds up there, she says,

the government sprays them

to keep us under control.

I have a disease because of them.

There are fibers growing from my skin.

You don’t have to believe me.

I’m used to not being believed.

Last week she said she saw a man

licking a pay phone at the commuter station.

He did it quickly, guiltily—like a shoplifter.

But when he was finished he held his head high,

as if this, by whatever design,

was his lot, and nobody else’s.

As we sit in the dark and people begin spewing their Thanksgiving thank yous, one of the women says, “I’m grateful for the shooting star I just saw,” and I think of Michael’s poem.

I’m useless as the head of the table. The voices make their own little countries, each one its own little word map. Unable to make sense of the words, I close my eyes and decide I must be like the man licking the payphone in Michael’s poem. By whatever design, this is my lot, and nobody else’s.

The first time I acknowledged that my father was gone was Thanksgiving 1983. He had been dead since July 15, but somehow the empty chair at the head of the table that Thanksgiving was the first time I spoke of his absence. “Where is my father?” I asked.

That was the night my mother decided we’d leave New Jersey, our house, bad weather.

I think that perhaps words are overrated. Talking, unnecessary. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

Rob, the man who owns the house here in the Galapagos, is a lively Brit who’d gone to Spain to become a dive instructor. He’d somehow ended up owning a coffee farm in the Galapagos, where he now runs a hotel with his Ecuadorian wife and their two small children. He reads my latest work over my shoulder and startles me with his thunderous voice: “Your father sounds like me. Loud and farts a lot.”

I tell him I don’t mind that one bit and that I like loud people.

I do like him. He is about to move to mainland Gyuaquil so his daughter Iona, a dead ringer for Pippi Longstocking, can attend a good school with the kids of the “movers and shakers” of Gyuaquil. He says that he knows Iona will stay Iona, and that what has made her here in the Galapagos—all those morning walks with tortoises—will remain a part of her. I believe him.

I watch Iona pick flowers with the cook’s daughter, an Ecaudorian girl who speaks no English. Each hands me a bouquet of purple flowers yet neither says a word. Purple flowers in-hand, I think that perhaps words are overrated. Talking, unnecessary.

As a volcano erupts and empties its magma chamber, the surrounding rock will collapse into it and leave huge craters in the earth. On Santa Cruz Island, collapsed into the earth, sit Los Gemelos, The Twins, as they are called, two large craters that were once underground magma chambers. Rob’s love of the place is evident. He has taken my group here to explain about natural selection and Darwin, survival of the fittest, volcanoes and moss. I stand as close to him as I can so as not to miss anything.

When I was a child I used to make this weird sound when I concentrated. It was a miserable sound, a godawful droning noise, like one of those old tests that television networks used to broadcast (This is only a test…) For hours at a time, as I colored or read, I would make that sound as if I were alerting the world to something. People made fun of me for it. I forced the sound back into my body and locked it inside of my head.

 

After decades of living in profound denial, I finally accepted that I had severe hearing loss. The audiologist put me in a box, stuck a piece of white paper over his mouth, and asked if I could hear what he was saying with the paper covering his lips. I couldn’t. I understood then that I was going deaf.

Again I thought: words overrated, talking unnecessary.

In a box, locked up like Darwin the dog.

When the doctor said severe hearing loss on top of tinnitus, it occurred to me that the eeeeeeeeeee sound I had made as a child was my way of mimicking what I heard in my head. I was trying to get it out. I was trying to drown it out. Anything to make it stop.

The phrase adapt or die makes sense. I’ve adapted to the constant ringing in my head. When it becomes too much to bear, I adapt by drinking wine. Or by sleeping.

The key to evolution is remembering. @jenpastiloff Click To Tweet

During one of our designated beach days, while we do our best not to accidentally step on the gigantic iguanas all over Tortuga Bay, Rob tells us that some of the kids on the Galapagos Islands don’t know that they live on an island. They have no idea that there is ocean all around them, that there is geography beyond their bodies.

I remember Michael’s poem and the man licking the payphone. This is our lot, I think. Me, the payphone licker, the kids on the island. The frigatebirds. We do what we must to survive.

Snorkeling on Bartolomé Island, I would never know that I am hard of hearing unless I remind myself—and why would I? Why the constant need for reminders? So I just float there for a long time on the surface of the sea, listening to my breath as if through a can. I can turn left or right and it won’t make a difference. My ears, having evolved into something else, are no longer part of my body.

The key to evolution is remembering. The last line of Patrimony, Philip Roth’s memoir about his dying father: “You must not forget anything.” It plays in my head as I snorkel.

Underwater, I remember what causes me pain and how to avoid it. This is our lot, I say to the fish silently.

I remember Darwin the dog and the colors in front of me (aqua blue, tortoise grey, inky green) as if they have already vanished, my memory the only sure confirmation of their existence.

I remember my heart, and I hear it, maybe, probably, for the first time ever.

To preorder On Being Human, click here.
Follow Jen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, at @NoBullshitMotherhood, and at @GPowerYouAreEnough.
This post originally appeared here. 

Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

Braving The Wilderness: 4 Big-Time Takeaways From The Most Important Book Of The Year

Community Tips + Tools WANT Women

A couple weeks back, I got an email from the Community Manager at The Fullest, an online magazine I adore that’s dedicated to contemporary culture. It was short, sweet, and to the point: We’ve got a book club series we do in LA and NYC. Would you want to host one?

The answer was obviously an enthusiastic “YES.” (Possibly surrounded by every single celebratory emoji I could find on my keyboard.)

As the little kid who would get in trouble for staying up late to finish every single installment of The Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club, toted around all 1400 pages of Les Misérables in my eighth grade backpack, and would usually rather stay in with a trilogy than go out on the town, book clubs are MY JAM. Learning about different perspectives, stories, and revelations, then being able to discuss them with others, isn’t just satisfying to the inner binge reader in me: it calms a very specific social anxiety I sometimes get when I realize I’ve taken a conversation way past the surface-level and the others aren’t feeling it.

When I’m talking about a book I love, I’m unfiltered and all heart – and usually discussing it with people who are on the same page (no pun intended). Just like any worthwhile piece of art, discussing a good book brings out a part of me I sometimes hide in fear of not “fitting in” with those around me.

So when The Fullest told me I got to choose my own book to discuss, it was a no-brainer. If I was gonna go there, I wanted to really go there. I was going to choose the book ABOUT fitting in.

~

Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown (whom I oft refer to as HPB – High Priestess Brené) is hands down the most important read right now in our current cultural climate. In actuality, it isn’t only about fitting in – it’s about belonging. There’s a difference between the two, and the fact that so many of us are looking for the former and disregarding the latter is why I truly believe it’s the most important book of the year. Maybe the most important book of the decade. And maybe – no, certainly – the most important book for every single person to have in their hands right now. It could save relationships, save communities…and help us save ourselves.

Some questions the book brought up for me:

When do you feel the biggest sense of belonging? The weightiest pressure to fit in?
Where in life can you write yourself a permission slip to be yourself?
Do you trust others? But more importantly – do you trust yourself? Like, really, truly. Do you TRUST yourself? In what ways can you trust yourself more?
What truths are you telling yourself that might actually be of your own making?
Why, as an introvert, can big groups sometimes feel more comforting than one-on-one experiences?
Where does dehumanization exist, and how can you combat it?
Why are we all so lonley and doing so little about it???

Considering that what ended up being a two-hour book club discussion wasn’t nearly enough time to dig into every single powerful point (and that I’d planned for the discussion to last, oh, 45 minutes or so), starting to dive into all of them on here could result in a whole other book itself (Braving Braving The Wilderness?). So I’ve narrowed it down to some of my favorite points made, and some of the most universal of the universal truths Brené so beautifully lays in front of us to do with them as we will. And man oh man, I hope we do Good with them.

If you read ONE book this year, make it this one. Here are four of my top takeaways:

braving the wilderness brene brown

1. True belonging is the exact opposite of fitting in. One of the reasons this book gets awarded the Katie Horwitch Award (patent pending) for Most Important Book Of The Year is this world-rocking thesis statement. The book begins with a Maya Angelou quote that pissed Brené off:

You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.

True belonging, Brené learns, is about belonging to YOURSELF first and foremost. True belonging is being fully yourself wherever you go, and being called to stand alone. True belonging “doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

Fitting in, then, is the exact opposite. Fitting in is trying to mold yourself to fit a situation, a clique, a stereotype – whatever it is that will make you less like YOU and more like THEM. This simple yet ridiculously profound difference explains a lot. Mainly why so many of us feel so shitty even when we feel we’ve acclimated to whatever group we hoped to become a part of. It’s why so many of us are so lonely even when we’re far from alone. We belong to everyone…everyone else but ourselves.

I’ve been in the “self-improvement”/wellness/mind-body/whatever-you-want-to-call-it world for a while now. I’ve heard the phrase “Belong to yourself” before. That statement alone wasn’t revolutionary to me. But the dichotomy of belonging vs. fitting in WAS. And when I thought deeply about the phrasing and jumbled the words a bit, I noticed something I’d never thought of before.

I belong to me.

To me, I belong.

In my opinion, I belong.

True belonging is about full possession of yourself, sure. But it’s also about BELIEVING in your capacity to belong wherever you go.

True belonging doesn't require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

2. Don’t study the moment. Be in it. One of my favorite little snippets of storytelling in Braving The Wilderness comes when Brené is about to go on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. She’s walking down the street with her manager, Murdoch, the night before, and he calls her out on how “not-present” she just was at dinner with the Super Soul producer.

She says to him:

Brene: ‘I’m doing that thing I do when I’m afraid. I’m floating above my life, watching it and studying it, rather than living it.’

Murdoch: ‘I know. But you need to find a way to stop and bring yourself back here. This is a big deal. I don’t want you to miss it. Don’t study the moment. Be in it.’

That HIT me. Hard. How many times have we completely missed out on experiencing greatness – big deal, big-ass things – because we were too preoccupied dissecting the moment? How many times have we unknowingly lost love because we were so busy analyzing every little gesture, glance, and word to see if it matched up with our preconceived definitions? How many opportunities have we failed to seize because we were too busy trying to be what we oh-so-carefully deduced the opportunity demanded of us? How many Big Deals have we missed because we were too busy studying them and not enough time being IN them? It hurts my head to think about all the potential moments I’ve missed in the past because I was too busy dissecting them or too preocuppied with “Am I worthy? How do I make myself worthy?” Big-ass things are only big-ass things when we trust ourselves enough to live within them. Otherwise, they’re just a bunch of Somethings that once happened at Some Point.

Don't study the moment. Be in it. - #BravingTheWilderness by @brenebrown Click To Tweet


3. Silence leads to storytelling.
 Yup. Boom. I’m a pro at this. I’d just never heard it put SO succinctly.

I am an expert storyteller, and I bet you are, too. We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks – not because we’re all masochists, but because we’re trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Maybe you weren’t chosen to work on a project because your manager needs you to have availability for an even greater task that’s coming up a few months down the line – but without asking a simple question or two (spoiler, try “Why?” to start), your brain probably decides it’s because you’re ill-equipped or pissed someone off. Maybe your friend didn’t call or text you back because they’re going through a tough time and feel overwhelmed – but without checking in, you might assume it’s because you did something wrong. Maybe your date let out a long SIGH at the end of the night because they got a text from their manager on their day off – but without asking, I bet you assume it’s because they’re sick of spending time with you.

These are all just small examples, but small examples turn into big stories. And the big stories we weave for ourselves are made up of multiple threads of actual or perceived truth upon actual or perceived truth. Every story we tell informs the next action we take  – and sets the stage for how we’re going to react to the next thing that comes our way.

Our lives are our collection of stories. So what kind do you want to tell?

We tell ourselves stories to fill in the blanks - not because we're all masochists, but because we're trying to make sense of the broken pieces. Click To Tweet

4. Bullshit is in a whole other ballpark than Truth and Lies – which is why it feels so wrong. I always thought there were two options when it came to communication: telling the truth or telling lies. But it turns out, most of what I was referring to as Lying was actually something else. Bullshitting.

Brené describes truth and lies as opposing players in the same game. BS, however, completely disregards the game. She quotes Harry Frankfurt’s book On Bullshit and says, “It’s helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth.”

She goes on to say we use bullshit to talk about things we don’t understand. To be a part of a conversation based on what you guess “your people” think about it. And it’s what creates black-and-white ideaologies of You’re Either With Us Or Against Us.

Oof. LOL to how many pages I dogeared and underlined in this chapter.

I always tell my husband, Jeremy, that his biggest strength and biggest weakness is that he’s able to see all sides of any situation. For the LONGEST time, this frustrated the hell out of me. Just agree with me! I’d silently stew. Don’t you think that’s just HORRIBLE?? I’d ask, words loaded, out loud. I couldn’t get over that he just wouldn’t choose a point to be for or against.

I grew up around adults who jumped to conclusions fast and expressed opinions even faster – and I have what used to be painful memories of being “put in my place” and silenced when I tried to see all sides.

I know I’m not alone in that kind of upbringing. Because look at our country. Look at our world. We wouldn’t be this way if we weren’t, generation after generation, either overtly or passive-aggressively either silenced or forced to pick sides. We are living in Bullshit Nation.

The solution to this? Brené says we need to call out bullshit…with CIVILITY. “Speaking truth to BS” doesn’t mean pointing fingers or placing blame. It means disagreeing respectfully and getting curious about where opinions and information come from.

It's helpful to think of lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth. - @brenebrown Click To Tweet

While Jeremy’s see-all-sides and ask-all-questions approach can be frustrating when I just want him to show me he has an opinion that’s all his own, I know he’s right. Our opinions can be loaded. And there is no way we can evolve into the people we want to be – individually or collectively – if we give up on each other and don’t get curious about how those opinions came to be in the first place. There is no way we will ever find a sense of belonging if we keep choosing a culture of Fitting In.

I say it on the WANTcast all the time, and I’ll say it here again for the people in the back: I truly believe that curiosity could change the world. And with the help of Braving The Wilderness, it just might.

 


Thank you to The Fullest for asking me to be a part of your book club! To get involved with The Fullest, click here.

WANT Yourself:

Have you read Braving The Wilderness yet? What are your top takeaways from the book? If you haven’t read it yet, was there something in this post that piqued your interest? Should I host another discussion of Braving The Wilderness either in-person or on IG Live?????


Subscribe to The (Good) Word to receive the latest posts, news, and updates from womenagainstnegativetalk.com:



A Love Letter To The Inclusive Woman.

A Love Letter To The Inclusive Woman.

Body Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women Work

The woman who walks through life with open arms. The one who laughs the loudest, focuses the feelings, who looks you in the eye like you’re the only one that matters.

You know her. She’s the steady rock on the shaky ground. She’s the shaky hand with the steady gaze. She’s the one who breaks first and shows you her wounds, then also shows you how to repair them – and then later when you’re hurting, you remember the one who showed you how to move through it all instead of around it.

She’s the inclusive woman.

Inclusive is infectious.

Inclusive is knowing loneliness and instead of putting up walls to protect yourself from hurt, plowing them down to make sure you feel WITH people, not AT them. That’s what walls always end up doing, anyway. Breaking the WITH, driving the AT. Handball courts. River dams. The red rubber ball bounces back even harder; the water smacks the sides and breaks up the otherwise steady current. Or worse, stops it altogether, so all you see is glassy nothingness. A mirage that folds over itself as if to say, Nothing to see here. Forget what’s under the surface, that flow never mattered anyway.

To be inclusive is to let go of the cynical crutches that are so easy to lean on when we’re scared or unsure. It’s to invite people in with a hug and a smile, to keep your wits about you but give everyone a chance. It’s to banish the “prove,” disarm the doubt, and raise that second eyebrow to meet the other and turn judgement into joy.

Raise that second eyebrow to meet the other and turn judgement into joy. Click To Tweet

The exclusive has standards to be met and hoops to jump through. The exclusive asks you to “earn” their time, their trust, their attention. The exclusive is the fabulous in-crowd and the fabricated Instagram captions; the stuff that makes you FOMO and fear that you’re just not welcome there. Somehow, though, you still feel you should try.

And yet underneath the exclusive facade of wild self confidence and sky-high standards is a person who just longs to be loved. They have forgotten that the way to get love is to give love, the way to belong is to invite in the world, and the way to be seen is to look inside yourself for validation. The exclusive creates cliques and mocks others and has checkboxes to be filled before giving the green light.

Living in the exclusive is no way to live. Because when you only let in some, you really let in none. When you censor yourself for most, you limit yourself for all. You’re looking to protect yourself and you’re looking to be safe, but in the process you’re telling yourself to always stay on the lookout for the enemy. Exclusive is where judgement breeds, where rifts are dug, and where even true love can turn sour.

And yet INCLUSIVE can sting, too. It can claw at your skin and slap you in the face. The more accepting you get, the more truth you see. The more truth you see, the more accepting you’re challenged to be. It’s like the universe or whatever is haunting and heckling you. Ya think you’re so altruistic huh? Ya think you’re sooooo empathetic? Well try THIS on for size, why dontcha?! (and yes, the universe sounds like a 1920s mobster in this scenario.)

Inclusive can feel like walking on fresh-polished marble wearing brand new socks, each mini-step feeling slipperier than the last. Fighting for control is useless and will keep you in one place. The only way to move forward is to make each step deliberate, strong, grounded, and sure.

Life opens up when you open up to it. Click To Tweet

But the tradeoff to resisting the fight and strengthening your step is that life opens up when you open up to it. And people open up when you open up to them. Not always, but most times. Not immediately, but eventually. And as they come around, they’ll bring others along with them. And so on, and so on. We say we’re sick and tired of seeing people display tropes of the human experience instead of experiencing the experience itself – but it’s got to start somewhere.

And so the only question really is, how bad do you want it? Enough to open? Enough to let go?

The way to banish the exclusive is to be the inclusive. The way to open what’s closed is to turn your own key. We’re all just looking to do our very best with this life we’ve been handed – and your “very best” only floods in when your dams have been blown open and washed away.

 


Subscribe to The (Good) Word to receive the latest posts, news, and updates from womenagainstnegativetalk.com:



WANTcast 043: On Woke Wellness, Feminist Fitness, Having Hard Conversations, and The History of “Happiness” with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

WANTcast 043: On Woke Wellness, Feminist Fitness, Having Hard Conversations, and The History of “Happiness” with Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

Most Popular Posts the WANTcast WANT Women

Today’s guest is one of the coolest chicks I know (and you too, soon!), and a conversation that’s a LONG time coming: scholar/writer/teacher/activist Natalia Mehlman Petrzela.

 

natalia speaking on our how to activate your inner activist” panel in 2017


Natalia is a historian of contemporary American politics and culture and is currently writing a book on American fitness culture. She is the author of Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture, and the co-host of Past Present Podcast, a show that turns hindsight into foresight by examining what’s going on in America today through a historical lens. Natalia is Associate Professor of History at The New School, a co-founder of wellness education program Healthclass 2.0 and a Premiere Leader of intenSati, a fitness class that combines cardio with positive affirmations to make the ultimate uplifting workout. 

In this episode we talk about talking to kids about what’s going on in our country/world in an “appropriate” way, where our quest for happiness and “following your bliss” really came from and if it’s actually serving us, making wokeness more than a gimmick, locker room talk (no, not in THAT way), feminism/activism’s place in the wellness industry, and so, SO much more. 

WANT Natalia:

Listen on iTunes | Listen on Stitcher | Download | Support the pod by shopping on Amazon

Maybe the next phase of happiness + fulfilment is a more realistic assesment of it. - @nataliapetrzela Click To Tweet
What you do in the fitness studio is a low-stakes template for what you can do out in the world. - @nataliapetrzela Click To Tweet
Finish this sentence: I want to be strong SO THAT I CAN... Click To Tweet

Show Notes:
Website
Past Present Podcast
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
Choose Love, Not Fear in 2013
How “Empowered” Speech About Your Body Might Mask The Same Old Issues
Derek Beres (introduced us!)
Gerren Liles (asked an awesome question!)
Photo cred: Elena Mudd

 

Like this episode? I’m so glad! Sign up for The (Good) Word, WANT’s weekly email group, at womenagainstnegativetalk.comleave a review on iTunes (the more reviews and five-stars, the more our message is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram (and tag Natalia and I so we can send you love!). Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!

 

Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:

5 Empowering Books By Women I Can’t Freaking Wait To Read In The New Year (Plus Two That Haven’t Even Dropped Yet!)

5 Empowering Books By Women I Can’t Freaking Wait To Read In The New Year (Plus Two That Haven’t Even Dropped Yet!)

Community Tips + Tools WANT Women Work

Last year, I did something I’ve wanted to do since I was in elementary school: I joined a book club.

 

Okay, the book club consisted of two people. One of them being me. The other being my husband.

But still. We met. We read (Gloria Steinam’s My Life On The Road, fyi). We discussed.

It was a freaking book club, okay??

 (was it really, though…)

Whether it’s multi-colored lists posted on Instagram Stories or conversations IRL, one of the most popular, most reoccurring resolutions I tend to see within my community is something so simple it feels almost silly:

Read. More. Books.

Unlike goals attached to career, success, physicality, or relationships, reading more book is one of the most non-labor-intensive goals you can achieve. All you need is basic elementary school level comprehension skills, and you’re good to go. You don’t need to invest tons of money, you don’t need help from anyone or anyTHING else – heck, you don’t even need to do anything besides literally turning a PAGE to see signs of success!

So why don’t we do it? Why, if reaching goals is so gratifying, don’t we pick up the damn book and turn the page?

Some hypotheses (and solutions) I’ve drawn:

PROBLEM: Carrying around a book. When I lived in Los Angeles, this was no excuse for not reading more books. I had a portable storage device – aka a car. I was able to lock my latest page-turner in the glove compartment, stash it under my seat, or throw it in my trunk for later. But now that I’m in NYC and walk, cab, or take the subway everywhere, my backpack space is precious. Plus, like almost everyone else…I’m a little too tethered to my phone.

SOLUTION: Read on your phone or device. If you’re short on space or don’t want to literally add to your load, “reading more” is as easy as hitting Download. I know, I know, it’s not a physical BOOK – but your goal is to read more books, not possess more books, right? I LOVE physical books – underlining, dogearing, and making sweet notes from my husband or long-ass to-do lists my makeshift bookmarks. But I also know that sometimes it’s more important to focus on the goal and not get so hung up on the ins and outs of how we get there.

PROBLEM: Reading without a goal in mind. Sometimes we think more about WHAT we’re going to read instead of WHY we’re going to read. But reading just to read is like watching a movie just to watch a movie: eventually, you’ll just zone out.

SOLUTION: Get clear on what you want your takeaways or experience to be. Do you like to learn, escape, think, discuss…or a combo of these things? We all read for different reasons. Think of the books you love most. How are they structured? How do they “sound?” Why did you love them so much? Choosing a genre isn’t enough: go one step further and look into things like the voice used (is it in first or third person? narrative or ___?) and how the book is structured.

PROBLEM: Finishing the damn thing. (there’s a that’s what she said joke somewhere in here.) Whenever I put down We get hung up on completing the task instead of taking the journey.

SOLUTION: Cut yourself some slack. What are you most likely to finish? Are you even concerned with finishing? Does “reading a book” = “finishing a book” to you? If so, cool – but then you need to choose books you’re likely to finish. Look at how the book is structured. Is it super short? Broken up into bite-sized bits or spread out over an arc? Do you prefer shorter reads, or do you like a long, winding story? Do some research, ask your local bookstore employees (they work there because they love books, after all!), and choose a read that’s not only a genre or topic you’re interested in, but a style and structure that resonates.

And…this might be a controversial stance…but if you get honest and you’re not really that tied to finishing a book, don’t let that stop you from picking it up altogether. I personally am VERY tied to finishing novels and memoirs, books I read to escape or empathize – but not research-driven or self-improvement-style books I’m reading to learn something from. That doesn’t mean I like them any less, I’ve just gotten what I need at the time and can come back later. No shame in that game!

If you’re like me and looking to up your literary game this year, grab a friend, sibling, or significant other and start your own two-person book club. Need some suggestions? Here are five books written by women I freaking can’t wait to read this year – plus two that haven’t even come out yet! – that you might like, too:

Braving The Wilderness by Brené BrownHigh priestess Brené is at it again. This time, she’s talking about what it means to truly belong – in our communities, in our organizations, in our culture – in an age of increased polarization. Brené’s style is thoughtful and witty – personal where it needs to be and academic where it needs to be. I just love her and cannot wait to dive into this one. GET IT HERE

The Power Of Meaning by Emily Esfahani SmithI first found Emily Esfahani Smith’s work last summer in Quartz. After going down the rabbit hole that is Google, I loved how most of her writing centered around the notions of success, fame, and true fulfillment. She draws on historic and literary examples as well as extensive research to answer her One Big Question: if a happy life is a meaningful life, then how do we create meaning? I’ve already started The Power Of Meaning and I’m in love. GET IT HERE

200 Women Who Will Change The Way You See The World by Geoff Blackwell + Ruth Hobday, Photography by Kieran Scott
This stunning book is half coffee table piece de resistance, half interview series. Coupled with gorgeous photography, this book features some of the most inspiring interviews from some of the most game-changing women in all fields. GET IT HERE

Extreme YOU by Sarah Robb O’Hagen
Sarah Robb O’Hagan has seen it all. From climbing the corporate ladder at places like Virgina Atlantic and Nike to becoming the CEO of Flywheel and formerly Equinox (yep, where I teach classes), she’s seen it all. Although we never got to meet in person while she was with Equinox (hi, Sarah!), I always heard wonderful things about this Wonder Woman…which is why I was THRILLED when I learned she was releasing a book sharing her badassery with us all. In Extreme YOU, Sarah dives in and digs deep on what it means to be an “Extremer” by developing ALL parts of yourself – quirks included – to hone your potential and lead a life of greatness. GET IT HERE

It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadenet
Amanda de Cadenet was one of my main role models in my twenties when The Conversation launched, and continues to be a HUGE source of motivation and empowerment for me now (I even got to speak on a panel she led back in 2015 at SXSW). I’ve always admired her ability to connect with others, to ask the kinds of questions that exist between the lines, and to tap into the down-to-earth, beautifully flawed humanity of everyone she interviews. In It’s Messy, she’s shining that same kind of light onto herself, proving that our experiences as women are way more universal than separate. GET IT HERE

 

Feeling overachiever-y? Put these two on your reading list for later in the year when they launch:

Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save The Planet by Ashlee Piper
Ashlee has been featured on WANT multiple! times! and is a bona-fide badass in the eco-friendly space. You’d be cray not to sign up for pre-order.

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff
Jen has been a dear friend of mine for years now and is one of my absolute favorite writers. SO excited to see this beautiful piece of work she’s been manifesting come into existence. You can bet I’ll be sharing more about this when it’s share-able – for now, keep your eyes peeled.


WANT Yourself:
What books are you looking foeard to reading this year? I’m always looking for new, exciting, fascinating books to add to my shelf (or my newly downloaded reading app)…tell me what you’re loving! Also, can I join your book club?

Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:

5 Fem-Powered Podcasts You Should Be Listening To (…that AREN’T by NPR.)

5 Fem-Powered Podcasts You Should Be Listening To (…that AREN’T by NPR.)

Community Most Popular Posts Tips + Tools WANT Women Work

Look.

I am NPR’s self-elected fan club president.

In a storm of biases and opinions, I can count on NPR to fill me in on what’s going on in the world, open my eyes to opinions that might not entirely match my own, and challenge me in all the very best ways. When everyone is talking about the new Taylor Swift album or the latest musical trend, NPR (and specifically, their LA-based KCRW) is busy introducing me to new, innovative musicians I might not have heard of otherwise.

Books. Theatre. Culture. Society. NPR and its affiliate stations offer up alternatives to mainstream everything and I am HERE FOR IT.

However…do a quick search of “best podcasts” and you’ll be hard pressed to find a roundup that’s not dominated by NPR-produced shows. I love me some Invisibilia and How I Built This (two of my fave NPR shows – I even mentioned the former on my first must-listen list back in 2015), but NPR-produced podcasts are just one small slice of the pod pie. You wouldn’t just watch TV shows that appear on ONE channel, would you?

This week, I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of the best self-hosted, self-produced, female-driven podcasts you should be listening to right now. Because what most people don’t realize when they listen to the glossy episodes produced by both large organizations and one-woman-shows alike is that there is a LOT of work that goes into podcast production.

From scheduling and recording a thoughtful show, to making your guest(s) feel comfortable enough to open up to you, to the literal hours of editing that are done just to normalize the sound levels and omit any dragging “ummmmmmm”s, each minute is meticulously crafted to create the best possible experience for the podcast’s listening community.

Podcasts take a lot of work to get from the mic to your ears – and when you’re a team of one (maybe two if you’re lucky), you’ve gotta love it enough to make that work worth your while.

Here, five podcasts (by women!) you should be listening to if you’re not already – I can promise you you’ll hear the love coming through loud and clear:

For the mindful foodie (or mindful foodie-wannabe), try…The Actor’s Diet Podcast

What I love about The Actor’s Diet Podcast, an extension of Lynn Chen‘s site by the same name, is that it’s rarely just about the food. Because really, food is rarely just about the food, right? It’s about our heritage, our history, our families and our memories. It’s about how we relate to our bodies and how we interact with the world. Oh, and this isn’t your typical food-centric podcast where it’s all about the chefs and culinary whizzes – expect to hear from actors, musicians, bloggers, and all types of creatives (along with Lynn herself, who is a blast to listen to – you can check her out on the WANTcast here and here for proof!). LISTEN HERE


For when you need some company on your hour-plus commute, listen to…Let It Out by Katie Dalebout

Katie, as a podcast host and as a person, is genuinely one of the most curious, engaged people you will ever meet. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and her episodes are typically over an hour long because she is SUCH a good, present listener that she always finds one more amazing question to ask or interesting place to take the conversation. And she listens to everyone equally – from Danielle LaPorte to the owners of her favorite coffee shop, she treats every single person like her best friend (who she has also interviewed, ps). I adore this woman, and listening to her podcast while I’m stuck in way-too-slow traffic makes me feel like I’m hanging out with her IRL. LISTEN HERE


For a docu-style inside look into the book publishing world (and what the path to achieving a big-ass goal really looks like behind the scenes), try…The Cookbook Deal

OG MVP (most-valuable-podcaster) Jessica Murnane wrote a book last year. It was also the craziest year of her life. And she documented it ALL. You don’t need to be an aspiring author to get totally sucked into this binge-worthy podcast – I may or may not have recently re-listened to all eight 20-ish-minute episodes in succession over the weekend – but if you ARE interested in learning about all the twists and turns that happen behind the scenes when you see someone out there accomplishing amazing, big-ass professional goals, you’ll be hooked after the first few minutes. This podcast is SO important for those of us who are go-getters and goal setters: we aim high and we think things need to be perfect. When things don’t run smoothly, we think we’re probably failing, because no one ever talks about the hard parts. When we scroll through Instagram, it can seem like everyone else’s plans are unfolding without even so much as a hiccup. In true Murnane style, Jessica keeps it real and bashes any sort of notion that the road to success is easy-breezy. Like the saying goes, things rarely go the way you’ve planned. Listening to Jessica navigate these insane twists and turns in real time (and with SO much grace) is a serious lesson in resiliance and persistance. LISTEN HERE

For the bride-to-be who isn’t all about That Wedding Industry Life, you MUST listen to…Bridechilla

Bridechilla has been a godsend ever since I found out about it from WANT Woman Jennifer Dene (thanks, Jen!). I only wish I had started listening before we got engaged! Aleisha McCormack covers everything from out-of-the-box ceremonies and what happens “When Vendors Go Bad” to overcoming wedding stress and creating your very own “Fuckit Bucket” (you’ll have to listen to learn what that is). Aleisha and her fellow Bridechillas have helped me navigate our upcoming wedding with so much mindfulness, ease, and humor – because being a Bridechilla isn’t about not caring or not having an opinion. It’s not about ditching traditions just because they’re “stereotypical.” Being a Bridechilla about recognizing that your wedding day is about YOU and your partner, and celebrating this new chapter in your life together in a way that is the most meaningful to you two. Whether that includes chair covers or not. Aleisha, totally hitting you up to be on the WANTcast in Season Three. Just a heads up. LISTEN HERE



For the activist who also loves pop culture, try…Tamarindo Podcast

When my former neighbor (< full disclosure) Brenda Gonzales first talked to me about wanting to start a podcast focusing on Latinx social, cultural, and political issues, I knew it would be a hit just because of her personality. What I didn’t realize is how much I, someone who is not a member of the Latinx community, would get out of it on a weekly basis. Each week, Brenda and her co-host Luis Octavio discuss politics, food, music, and life, all through a Latinx lens. They’re absolutely hilarious (waiting for them to have their own morning show, Regis-and-Kelly style), whip-smart, and have introduced me to SO many concepts and issues that I never knew about. And this is, I think, my favorite takeaway from Tamarindo. It’s made me realize how much I DON’T know about things that don’t affect me, and helped me combat the effects of that ignorance/white privilege by actively seeking out more information on issues that affect ALL variations of people no matter the race, gender, religion, etc. You might start listening for the music or pop-culture breakdowns…but you’ll stay for the eye-opening conversations about ways our country (and world) can be a better place for EVERYONE. LISTEN HERE

Looking for more? Here are 7 of my favorite podcasts that’ll make any crazy-long commute actually enjoyable.


WANT yourself:
What are some of your favorite female-driven podcasts out there? Why do you love them? And – here’s a bonus – who would YOU like to hear on Season Three (dropping January 2018!) of the WANTcast??