Expression over Repression: A weekend with Jen Pastiloff & Lidia Yuknavitch

Two weeks ago, I sat across from a friend at lunch and said, “All signs point to – get your ass to Portland.” You see, I had the coveted workshop ticket, purchased last summer the morning they went on sale, and I had the Airbnb reservation (a property of a friend’s friend, my only connection to Portland, and conveniently located one block from the workshop – evidence of the magic already in progress), but didn’t yet have the plane ticket. He agreed and was even willing to support it by buying the plane ticket: You need to go to Portland. Yes, now. Now of all times.

I had left my day job four weeks prior. My love relationship had fallen away unexpectedly a week later. I had left my job to be fully IN my business – embodying all it stands for. But I was in TRANSITION, to say the least. Was it “smart” to fly to Portland? Was it “reasonable?”

Although this post is more about what happened IN Portland, I will interject here a reminder, that there will be moments in your life where you have a hunch that you need to do something, and you can either say a big YES and buy that expensive plane ticket or you can say a weaker “meh” and pass it up, only to realize later (or never) that that may have been your gig. Portland taught me, among other things, to say YES.

Lidia Yuknavitch wrote a memoir called The Chronology of Water, which was monumental in my life two summers ago and remains a favorite. It is her story, written, and yet I saw myself in it in big ways. She also lost a daughter in her early years, and she writes “from the body” the story of how that shaped everything thereafter. Her organization is called Corporeal Writing and this workshop; Writing and the Body. The workshop is offered at least once annually and is co-designed and led by yoga teacher/writer/activist/human Jen Pastiloff, who, years ago made an impression on me with her “ENOUGH” messages to women. She also has a blog where she showcases other women’s voices. Here is my own story on the Manifest Station from late last year.

So, wow, these women are amazing humans.

Yes. I needed to be there. Yes. I needed a swift ass kick into fully embodying this transition in my life. Yes. I needed to witness a room full of women dancing, doing yoga (while singing), owning their fears, owning their regrets, and TELLING THEIR STORIES. Yes. I needed to witness the strength of Jen & Lidia holding space. Yes. I needed to trust new friends. Yes. I needed to say YES.

I said yes. The whole trip, I said yes.

I practiced surrender, practiced not making plans. I practiced setting intentions and saying yes when all the different doors opened. I said yes to owning exactly what was going on for me. I said yes to raising my hand, when Lidia asked if there was anything that needed to be spoken in order that we feel complete, and I shared a story I’d written about this last love relationship, the one that had been so sacred yet had also been, in hindsight, repressed. The relationship had not been public for reasons I tried to support, and therefore, the secrecy had also seemingly afforded him permission, in the end, to disrespect me, the relationship, and the feminine (inside me, inside himself, inside all of life itself), by abandoning it. And of course, that also meant that I was abandoning and repressing myself and the feminine as well. That story was living inside of me, hidden and confused and so mixed up with all the emotions of repression. Women know this feeling – there are things we have agreed not to speak, and I believe, collectively. So with a shaking voice, I read it, and a room full of women witnessed it. And in that moment, I understood in my bones the power of creating safe space to share stories, something I have been trying to incorporate as a part of Embodied Breath. I trusted before that it is needed, this permission, and now, I have experienced it.

Here I am. Being vulnerable AF.

 But look at that position – in between those two supportive warriors, with the eyes and love of each woman in the room holding me. Lidia Yuknavitch herself had her hand on my back, y’all.  Women supporting women in expressing themselves instead of repressing themselves.  Yes.  Yes. Yes. YES.  At one point on the first day, after this vulnerable moment, Lidia is talking to us and she says something like, “We are every woman. We are ALL of us. Telling the story IS the thing that will bring you back to life. It is the thing that someone else needs to hear. There is a woman right behind you that needs your story.”  And then I burst into tears.  Because I got it – all of these “yeses” and this trip to Portland. I needed to hear Lidia Yuknavitch tell me what she knows about story sharing – what her book did for me. I needed to remember, deep in my core, that this story of my life is the one that needs to be shared. Among others – among all the stories. This story, of placing a daughter for adoption, of never believing I was enough, of striving like hell for approval outside of myself, of wanting love so badly but guarding myself protectively against it, of remembering my own femininity, of continually fighting against the repression of voice such that now I am prepared to stand behind any woman going through the same process – Yes. This story needs to be shared.  How do you know if a story needs to be shared? If it feels repressed, that’s how. If it’s begging to be let out.  My daughter (the one I surrendered in an open adoption) starts college this fall. For years, all the talk has been about what she’s going to decide to study. In the last few years of working as a school administrator, all the time, I gave less and less and less fucks about what we were studying and put more and more and more emphasis on the people we were raising and becoming. Until eventually, I had to let go of education altogether.  My daughter, and your daughter, and your sister, mother, granddaughter – THEY are the ones coming behind us. THEY need a NEW STORY. In sharing our stories NOW, we create a new story. And we live into a different future, where voices are expressed rather than repressed. Where the feminine herself is expressed instead of repressed.  And then, I said one more yes, to a big ol’ tattoo in dedication to this purpose – I will no longer perpetuate repression, be afraid to hold space for what is difficult to speak, or deny any of the parts of the feminine divine. I will integrate shadow and light, I will look at what is difficult (and help others do the same) in order that we might grow, I will celebrate what arises from the shedding of skin. (That was a tattoo hint right there…)  This is Embodied Breath, this is the work of my life. I am here. This transition these last six weeks, this trip, has birthed me anew. Death, rebirth. In order that we get to the rebirth, we need to say Yes.  I will spend my lifetime encouraging this YES in all who feel the desire to step into themselves more fully, more divinely, to share their story, to celebrate their own becoming. I will tell the story, because I am a woman with a voice, who holds a continual and close examination of this life, and I know that we are generations of women (and men) who need to hear more truth.  Thank you Portland, Thank you Lidia & Jen & all the women, Thank you, dear opportunity to say Yes.  YES.  (March 29, 2018)

But look at that position – in between those two supportive warriors, with the eyes and love of each woman in the room holding me. Lidia Yuknavitch herself had her hand on my back, y’all.

Women supporting women in expressing themselves instead of repressing themselves.

Yes.

Yes. Yes. YES.

At one point on the first day, after this vulnerable moment, Lidia is talking to us and she says something like, “We are every woman. We are ALL of us. Telling the story IS the thing that will bring you back to life. It is the thing that someone else needs to hear. There is a woman right behind you that needs your story.”

And then I burst into tears.

Because I got it – all of these “yeses” and this trip to Portland. I needed to hear Lidia Yuknavitch tell me what she knows about story sharing – what her book did for me. I needed to remember, deep in my core, that this story of my life is the one that needs to be shared. Among others – among all the stories. This story, of placing a daughter for adoption, of never believing I was enough, of striving like hell for approval outside of myself, of wanting love so badly but guarding myself protectively against it, of remembering my own femininity, of continually fighting against the repression of voice such that now I am prepared to stand behind any woman going through the same process – Yes. This story needs to be shared.

How do you know if a story needs to be shared? If it feels repressed, that’s how. If it’s begging to be let out.

My daughter (the one I surrendered in an open adoption) starts college this fall. For years, all the talk has been about what she’s going to decide to study. In the last few years of working as a school administrator, all the time, I gave less and less and less fucks about what we were studying and put more and more and more emphasis on the people we were raising and becoming. Until eventually, I had to let go of education altogether.

My daughter, and your daughter, and your sister, mother, granddaughter – THEY are the ones coming behind us. THEY need a NEW STORY. In sharing our stories NOW, we create a new story. And we live into a different future, where voices are expressed rather than repressed. Where the feminine herself is expressed instead of repressed.

And then, I said one more yes, to a big ol’ tattoo in dedication to this purpose – I will no longer perpetuate repression, be afraid to hold space for what is difficult to speak, or deny any of the parts of the feminine divine. I will integrate shadow and light, I will look at what is difficult (and help others do the same) in order that we might grow, I will celebrate what arises from the shedding of skin. (That was a tattoo hint right there…)

This is Embodied Breath, this is the work of my life. I am here. This transition these last six weeks, this trip, has birthed me anew. Death, rebirth. In order that we get to the rebirth, we need to say Yes.

I will spend my lifetime encouraging this YES in all who feel the desire to step into themselves more fully, more divinely, to share their story, to celebrate their own becoming. I will tell the story, because I am a woman with a voice, who holds a continual and close examination of this life, and I know that we are generations of women (and men) who need to hear more truth.

Thank you Portland, Thank you Lidia & Jen & all the women, Thank you, dear opportunity to say Yes.

YES.

(March 29, 2018)