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Abuse

Abuse, Guest Posts

Blame

May 12, 2017
blame

By Jill Goldberg

The morning sun was streaming in through the big window, bright and nearly blinding. We were both sitting at the kitchen table; she was putting on her makeup, and I sat across from her, watching. My older brother was already at school, and my half-day school didn’t start until the afternoon, so it was just the two of us, together. She always put on her makeup, every day, at the kitchen table. She never, ever went a day without makeup. Her light-up makeup mirror was round and big and double sided, and her makeup, a mix of brands, was kept in a plastic food storage bag. As a wide-eyed five year old, I loved watching my mother’s daily makeup application.

Usually we would talk about plans for the day or something similar, but this time she wasn’t saying anything to me. I was talking to her about the doll I was holding, but she wasn’t responding. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. Her face looked different to me, but I didn’t really know what exactly was different. It was puffy somehow. Then I realized that she wasn’t actually putting on her makeup, she was holding an ice pack on her face and she was crying. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Social Media

Why I Don’t Just Unfriend Him

May 5, 2017
trauma

By Christie Tate

“You can just unfriend him.  At least hide his profile.”

This is good advice, advice I’d be well served to take.  I’ve just told my best friend about the latest offense my Tea Party pro-Trump second-cousin has committed on social media.  This cousin triggers me to the moon with his red state propaganda.  I haven’t laid eyes on him since my grandfather’s funeral in 1981.  I was in third grade.  I remember only that his face was wide and flat like the surface of the moon.  We share the same last name and a handful of relatives that I’m not close to.  We were “reunited” on Facebook a few months ago when my first cousin put me in touch with his daughter.

I didn’t know he was a pro-Trump guy at first.  The posts were all about his grandbaby and his beloved Texas Aggies.  Babies I can get behind 100% of the time; the Aggies I could take or leave.

Then, over the summer the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas erupted in gun violence and police officers were killed in the line of duty.  I posted something that was pro Black Lives Matter, and his response was racist, offensive, anti-Constitutional, and impossible to ignore.  I held my phone and in that tiny square for REPLY I told him why Black Lives Matter was important and that he was wrong about who was to blame for the violence.   I cited numerous incidents were young black men were killed at the hands of trigger-happy, racist police officers.  After I published my remark, I shook like someone soaking wet in a snow storm.  Had I just taken this man with my father’s smile to task?  Was I now in trouble?  I was 43 years old, sitting in the office where I work as a lawyer, shaking like I’d just thrown a Molotov cocktail through an elderly person’s window. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

The Gatekeeper I Couldn’t Leave: Why an Educated Woman Stays

March 24, 2017

By Joyce Hayden

No, I wasn’t poor.  I didn’t have five children.  I wasn’t disabled in any way.

I was college educated.  Privileged, white, middle-class.  Had parents and siblings who loved me.

Friends who cared.  I had a job and a checking account.  I had a car, or at least access to one.

It’s difficult to recount how love became control in such a short time.  Or how long it took for me to see it.  And then accept.  And then take action.

I’m not sure any of the reasons make sense of it.  But, it matters, because:

  1. Though I often doubted it on wind-lashed winter nights, I was never the only one. We are countless.  We are too often the silent countless.
  2. Too many of us continue to remain stuck, unable to put the first first down. To stop the ride.

Kevin was my partner on Magical Mystery Rides in our shiny orange Karmann Ghia on dirt roads through New Hampshire and Vermont.  He was smart.  He was funny.  He was street wise.  He was handsome.  He was an artist, a writer, a wood carver.  Using sharp metal tools and sandpaper, he could smooth the bones of a leaf fairy’s ankle skin soft in thick basswood.  That’s right: he didn’t carve stout orcs and wart covered trolls or guns and muscle cars. He carved leaf fairies and forest gnomes. And I  was in LOVELOVELOVE!

It’s true he was my gatekeeper.  My tormentor.  My abuser.

He accounted for every second of my time and every cent I made.

It would be impossible to count the days and months that added up to years of living in real or expectant fear.

As a result, sometimes the rebel in me needed to yell and I would start something.  Purposely press his buttons, even though it would have been so much easier to walk away.  Like the time I gave a co-worker a ride to the restaurant, and after our shift, she finished first, she went to the nearby bar, the bar Kevin had forbade me to enter, and I had to go fetch her for her ride home.  Would it have been just as easy to say No, when he asked if I’d gone to the bar?  Of course.  But some nights I was tired of so many rules, so many seemingly ridiculous demands. Rules made from possession and jealousy.  So instead, I stood my ground.  In my purple mini skirt, my bare legs, left hand on my hip, I threw my long blonde hair back and said “Yes. Yes, I did go in.  I had a beer.  Then I got Shari and we left.  What’s the big fuckin’ deal?”  Well, I should have known not to turn my back and walk away.  I had carpet scrapes on my knees and elbows, cauliflower shaped bruises on my chest for weeks after that.

But the main reason I didn’t shake a fist and run, grab the keys and speed away, was this:

He was the first human being I ever told that I’d been molested as a kid.  He said exactly what I needed to hear, and feared I never would.  It was Christmas time, two months after we met.  We’d just bought a tree together at Faneuil Hall one snowy night, threw it in his pick up, and half drunk, pulled and pushed it up the three flights of stairs in my Brookline apartment building.  When it was standing up right in the red metal base, and a couple strings of colored lights adorned the branches, Kevin motioned me to his lap, and although I can’t recall what prompted me to say so, because we’d already been having sex, but I confessed that I’d been molested.  I didn’t dump the full trilogy on him.  I just told him about one time when I was 12, lying on the gurney, alone with Dr. Palmer in the examining room on Hinsdale Drive.  I don’t know why, but I needed Kevin to know.  To know then, two months in, not in two years or 20.  And Kevin, seeing me turn red in the telling, probably feeling my body stiffen, contract, pulled me closer and said something to the effect of, “I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t change anything.”  And for a sparkling moment, I too thought, “Right.  It doesn’t matter.”  But it did.  It did for years.  It made me feel wrong, feel guilty. As if I’d lured the doctor, as if I’d seduced him, though that word was not part of my vocabulary back then.  But Kevin’s consolation helped ease my mind.  Helped me put the PTSD on the back burner for awhile. That might seem insignificant, but for me, who had held the secret for years, Kevin’s response was a tremendous gift.  I was accepted, not blamed, as I had anticipated.

Perhaps one incident of molestation wouldn’t have mattered, wouldn’t have misshapen me so poorly.   But when they are spliced all together, from the babysitter’s foster child, to the family doctor, and the uncle, the years of fear, of hide and seek and trying to stay as invisible as possible, the ages 5 to 12,  then it’s clear why that girl only felt safe in shadows. She was home alone at the house on Dixon Drive while the rest of the family went to Uncle Bob’s every weekend. She wiggled her way out with babysitting jobs she lied about having.  Alone from Friday night til Sunday afternoon, keeping herself awake with Sgt Pepper and The Animals, until the sun came up, then sleeping til noon.

By the time she found a man who loved her, despite the sexual abuse, by the time she found a man she felt she could have consensual sex with, she, me, I, was 25 years old.  He loved me.  He accepted my flaws.  My past.  My body of what I then believed to be “damaged goods”.  He wanted me.  And that made me feel safer than I’d ever felt in my life.  Ever.  Why would I leave that?  How would I ever find that again?

When things got tough, after words and name calling thrust through the air like swords, after wine bottles missed my head and smashed to pieces on the floor, I had one focus:  To get us back to those early days.  The magical mystery days.  The sitting on his lap, loving me despite days.  We had it all once.  I was convinced we could have it again.  That was my goal.  If I just did xxx; if I would stop doing zzz.  If, if, if, I could get us back there.  Kevin gave me everything I’d never had.  What I interpreted as complete passion and devotion.  No judgment.  He knew about me and he wanted me with him.  He never used my past against me.  Not once.  Not the way my own mind used it against myself.

That is why I stayed for another five years after the first time he hit me.  I never thought I’d find that initial approval and tenderness.  Someone like me doesn’t throw love and acceptance away very easily.  Not when it took 25 years to find in the first place.  Not when I was convinced and repeatedly told I’d never find it again. Not when the man I loved would stop for birds that lay wounded at the side of the road, take them home, try to nurse them back to health.  He did this even though the birds, despite his eye drops of water, despite him staying up with them all night, despite the worms and bugs, would inevitably die.

When Kevin brought me into his world, it was fun.  It was the three of us together.  Kevin, me and our black lab Crystal.  It felt like a fairy tale.  I don’t care what it looked like from the outside; from the inner circle of us three, it was playful, it was adventurous, it was loving, it was camaraderie, it was thick as thieves joy.  And that’s it.  When it comes down to it, that’s why.

We finished each other’s sentences.  We knew each other from the inside out.  We knew each other’s deepest secrets.   One night I was driving home from my waitress job at Daniels in Henniker, NH.  It was early November. I was driving slow.  Really slow. My grandfather had just passed away, and on top of that, our favorite dishwasher, a kid who studied at the local college, had been killed a few hours earlier in a car wreck on black ice.  So I was driving 30 mph in a 55, on a sharp curve near Lake Todd, when a car came flying around the bend, tires squealing, and he wasn’t slowing down.   And he was in my lane…about to hit me head on.  What they say is true:  I saw my life flash before my eyes.   I thought I was dead.  I thought I was going through the back windshield.  I thought I was a nano-second away from becoming star dust.  But I turned my steering wheel to the right, quickly and sharply, and my car stalled in the ditch.  Mr. 100 Miles Per Hour kept going, fast as hell in the wrong lane.

I was shaken when I arrived home.  Legs like mush as I climbed the long flight of stairs to our house.  The second I opened the door, Kevin bolted over to me. I shrank back.  He grabbed my biceps and shook me.  “Where’ve you been? Where’ve you been??”  I couldn’t speak; I was still in shock from the close call and confusion of Kevin’s fear disguised as anger.

“Ten minutes ago,” Kevin said, “I felt in my entire body that you were in mortal danger.  I felt your heart stop.  I called the restaurant and you’d left.  But you should have already been home.” We lay down together on the couch.  There’d been many nights I’d come home to him yelling at me for being so late.  I was used to that.  It was normal everyday life.  But this night I knew we were connected in a way I’d never experienced with another soul.  I had nearly died.  He had felt it.  He knew it.  How does one turn her back on that  kind of love?  There were more days like that than there were filled with fists.

When I love someone, I see their potential.  I’m too often blinded by it.  I know the goodness in them.  I couldn’t leave until I saw that potential fade.  Until I’d watched him throw all his chances and potential out the window.  I couldn’t leave until I realized in my bones, not just understood in my mind, that nothing I’d ever done was enough to make him hit me.  I couldn’t leave until my love had turned to pity, my respect to disgust.  No one but me could carry me to that moment.  No one could tell me it was time to go and expect me to act.  People tried.  They told me I deserved better.  People saw who he was.  They saw who I was.   But I couldn’t leave until I could see it: see who he was; see who I really was.  I stayed until I realized he was never going to change.  I stayed until I realized that I wanted and deserved something better.  I stayed until I believed that the next time he really might kill me. I stayed until I finally believed I had the right to open the gate, put the key in the ignition, and go.

Former English Professor, Joyce Hayden, recently left her job to complete her memoir The Out of Body Girl. An artist and writer, Joyce’s work can be found on her website: joycehayden.com

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Abuse, Guest Posts, Relationships, Young Voices

Swing

February 8, 2017
swing

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

CW: This essay discusses abusive relationships.

By Laura Zak

Nana had a swing in her backyard. And Dad said once it was fresh white, back when he was a boy, running off in the woods to see which of his friends could pee the farthest.

And when I was thirteen, the paint flaked off under my fingernails. And sometimes I let my fingernails scratch the metal just to hear them screech.

And my younger sister Jessica and I used to swing and eat Klondike bars. And Nana would squeeze herself between us, her feet skimming the ground. And once she told us “Girls, you never let a guy hit you.”

And I laughed because I thought she was joking.

That was five years after Britney released “Hit me Baby One more Time.” Nana still hated Britney for her song. We ate Klondike bars and Nana told us that if some guy ever tried that, just say: “listen bub, see my finger? See my thumb? See my fist? You better run.”

And my laugh was fresh white paint. Of course, Nana. Jessica and I knew better than to let guys pull back their fists, let them swing.

And I don’t know why Stanley kicked Jessica out that night. We were both living in Lubbock, our hometown, and she called, asking if I would pick her up. Her voice shook. She was only eighteen.

And I did pick her up, of course I picked her up, I ran out to my car, barefoot, jacket flying open. And my hands didn’t work well putting in the keys. And the street lamps were heavy and parking lot held more emptiness than anyone could bare as I drove fast fast to his apartment.

Jessica waited under a carport. Her eyes were small, her eyes were scared.

When I hugged her, she thanked me for picking her up. When I asked if she was okay, she said she was fine. She never said why she had all her clothes in her backpack or if this was the first time.

At first Mom and Dad liked Stanley okay. I met him when Dad cooked us all eggplant parmesan. Stanley was seventeen. He wore a button up shirt. He said lots of yes sirs and no ma’ams.

Jessica had told us he would be bringing his baby and he did. The baby’s eyes were small, her eyes were scared. She cried and cried and cried.

And once he left, Mom said told me she didn’t like how Stanley was not-even-graduated and had a baby. And I knew what Mom meant was not-even-graduated and no-ring-on-his-finger with a baby.

The first time she and Dad did it was their wedding night.

And when Jessica and I were fourteen, fifteen, we bought V-rings and promised we’d stay virgins until our wedding nights. And I know now the V-rings weren’t born for our minds alone.

But I don’t know when Stanley changed. When he went from being that sing-song motion on the backyard swing, to nails and nails and nails making the metal screech.

And once Dad made shrimp pasta for dinner. And Jessica and I stood in the kitchen, the fan ticking off its rocker.  And I remember the light spinning on her face. And under her eye, a yellow bruise.

And I asked her what happened. She said she fell going down the stairs.

And she’s never been good at lying. But I believed her because falling was too cliché, as unbelievable as Britney really asking some guy to hit her again.

Because, of course, Nana. Jessica and I knew better than to let guys pull back their fists, let them swing.

And one night at Nana’s house, Jessica locked herself in the bathroom. She thought everyone was sleeping. I heard her go and my eyes opened wide like street lamps. I was scared. So I snuck out of bed, crept to the bathroom door.

And her crying stopped my feet. And I listened to her cry, her sobs holding more emptiness than I could stand as she begged Stanley to take her back. Please please please please please, she said. Over and over and over.

I know there were many times she cried in a bathroom, please please pleasing Stanley not to break up with her.

And I still don’t know how or why they finally did break up. If she left him or if he kicked her out for good. I was in Costa Rica, living in a house fenced with barbed wire and glass, when Mom told me. When I came home, Jessica only told me they’d gotten a restraining order.

And once Jessica and I were dancing at a club called Heaven. Across the bright, drunken faces, she saw Stanley. Jessica said “we have to go now.” And we did.

And once, years later, Mom said “he almost killed my baby girl” and her lip shook.

And once, years later, under the fan blades and the light, Jessica told me that Stanley beat her. Sometimes it was just because she took too long putting gas in the car.

And I don’t know how to ask Jessica about the rest. So our silence rocks back and forth between us. And there are no streetlamps. Just an emptiness we’ve learned to stand. And my imagination colors in all the empty space with dull metal and broken glass.

Laura Zak calls Lubbock, Texas her homeland. She now lives in Moscow Idaho and has realized the most striking similarity between Lubbock and Moscow is their respective spots in their respective state’s panhandles. Laura enjoys to cook with pans that have handles, is in her third year at the University of Idaho’s MFA program studying creative nonfiction. If she had to describe her writing, she would say that she’s interested in exploring sexuality, desire, play, and magical worlds.

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts March 3-5, 2017.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
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Abuse, Guest Posts

My Last Halloween

October 31, 2016

By D. Michael Whelan

When I was younger, I loved Halloween. I think it was getting to play dress up, pretending to be something else, something of your choosing. Every day of my life I was pretending to be something else just to stay safe. I was pretending not to be gay, because my parents knew, but warned me what would happen if I told anyone else. I was pretending everything was okay at home. That home wasn’t actually a warzone, where I had to match wits with a mad woman, just to be allowed to eat, sleep or stay inside. Beatings were unavoidable, but I became a master at figuring out how to work with them, so they inflicted minimal damage. I learned how to figure out my mother’s moods and what made her tick. I was strategic, sometimes making sure the beatings weren’t big, but when she was on the edge I knew she would have to blow completely in order for me to be safer as the night wore on.

See, I was always pretending. I was always lying. I was always someone else. I was the bright and lazy student, because not doing your homework because you were playing one of your mother’s psychological games did not fly. I was the student who didn’t appreciate his parents, because whenever the police were contacted about said abuse, it just made things worse. I was defiant, but only because I intended to survive. I was a liar, but never a liar about the things people thought I lied about. I was too crafty, too good at lying – people never knew what I was lying about. They never did either. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Revolutions Have Started this Way.

October 9, 2016

By Heidi Hutner

 

Since the release of Trump’s leaked and lewd bus tapes, the Internet has been abuzz with the topic of misogyny and violence against women. Amid Friday night’s Twitter conversations, author Kelly Oxford shared the story of her first sexual assault and then requested others to share theirs. By Saturday evening, more than 9.7 million women tweeted their first sexual assault tales, according to Oxford.

One of these was mine:

My sister’s 19-year old boyfriend (naked in my sister’s bed) told me to take off my clothes. When I refused, he bullied and shamed me. I was eight.

 

While woman continue to tweet #notokay, many Clinton opponents on the left argue across social media that the eleven-year-old Access Hollywood footage of Trump was leaked “just” to divert attention from the recent Wikileaks of Clinton’s emails. Many claim, Trump’s behavior, while deplorably sexist, pales next to Clinton’s bad deeds.

 

These opponents state, however, that their dislike of Clinton has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman or that she’s old—yes, ageism and sexism go hand-in-hand. As Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes, “A woman her age is supposed to be invisible. But Hillary Clinton, who is 68, refuses to disappear — and there is no shortage of people who despise her for it.” Many Clinton opponents say the ‘feminism question’ on all counts—whether about Trump or Clinton—is just a diversion from more important issues.

  Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

An Open Letter to My Childhood Abuser (I Choose Me)

August 15, 2016
abuser

By Mariann Martland

Dear You (the one who stole my childhood),

Time creeps in without me noticing, and suddenly it’s morning again and you’re not here. Yet, you are. You’re always here. You’ve always been here.

I don’t mean to think of you. I mean to live everyday with purpose, meaning and intention, but it’s so damn hard since I began to recall the dark magic you played on my life – it was so very dark.

I feel a tapping on my eyelids, reminding me that I’ve not slept all night, but it seems pointless now. Nothing will change when they reopen:

You’ll still be gone and you’ll still be here, living in my mind. I will feel just as exhausted, for the terrors of the night play hard. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

Of Mice and Memory

June 6, 2016
abuse

By Avery M. Guess

Dealing with the consequences of abuse looks a lot like this:

You go into your kitchen one morning and pull the small frying pan out of the bottom cupboard—the one to the right of the stove, one of the two or three in this rented house’s kitchen you have to close just right if you want the latch to catch—because you are determined to eat better and save money and because you love egg sandwiches with cheese for breakfast.

You see what looks like a mouse turd. You wonder how it got there—how there could be a mouse in your kitchen that had previously only harbored black ants and four (maybe more, but definitely four) termites prior to your landlady spraying for them while you were out of town at a writing conference in Tennessee.

You step on the garbage lid opener and dump the offending turd, clean the pan, cook your egg. Sooner than later that day you are pretty sure it wasn’t the poop of a rogue rodent you saw, but your imagination playing tricks on you. You see something in everything. Patterns that aren’t there. This was nothing. Never mind the now half-remembered odd sounds coming from the same cupboard over the last couple of weeks. Sounds you also dismissed because they came like memories—only every so often and gone before you could recognize them as something real, something tangible. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

19 Years (and 2,000 Miles) Beyond Sweaters and Smiles

May 4, 2016
abuse

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses abuse.

By Lindsey Fisher

Nineteen years have passed since I left him, a decade since he last tried to contact me — time enough that I can almost forget the sound of his voice, can almost imagine that the things he did to me happened to someone else long ago and far away. Except that they didn’t. They happened to me. On October 23rd, I published an article on Vox.com about my recovery from the violent relationship that consumed my teenage years. Two weeks later, my former abuser reemerged, like an unwelcome ghost from the past, to make good on his decades’ old threat to me: just like he said he would, he denied everything.

I had left his name out of my article, scoured it of identifying details about him, his family, where we grew up, our school. He was so far removed from my life that revenge was beside the point. I wanted to use my story to help others, to take a terrible thing that happened to me and make some good come from it. To that end, I think I was successful: my article was shared several thousand times on social media. Teachers and parents wrote to say that they would use my story to help guide the teens in their lives toward healthier relationships. A friend used my piece as a springboard to come forward about the abusive relationship she had endured in her twenties. A college junior reached out to share that my past was hers, too. She had felt alone, as if no one else had been through what she had, but my story gave her hope that she would find her way to a happy, healthy adulthood. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Mental Health, Relationships, Trust

I Should Hate You, But I Don’t: Loving and Letting Go of a Pathological Liar

February 12, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay deals with the damage caused by a pathological liar. 

By Ashley Gulla

I didn’t think I could survive you.  I didn’t think I could find my way out of that dark, black hole I found myself in a few years ago.  Even when you couldn’t take it anymore and quietly slipped away from me, I had no idea how to surrender.  I don’t know the pain of losing a child, so it may have been ignorant of me to think, but the death of “us” left an aching, empty space I imagine was comparable.  Or at least I did when I was in the process of letting go.  Because I wasn’t just letting go of you, I was letting go of my innocence, and that was a heavy price to pay for loving you.

That empty space still exists but it’s different now.  It’s just as vast as it ever was but it’s not nearly as dark or scary.  Those parts of me — my fear, my insecurities, hopelessness and obsessiveness — don’t hurt to touch anymore.  I’ve stared the monster that lives in my head straight in its eyes, and I’ve learned to be friends with her.  I, even some times, find myself lost in that emptiness, with a sense of appreciation and humor, over that the fact that I’m still standing after everything.  And some days, standing would be an understatement.  I’m dancing, flying!  Other times, not as often as before, I’m crawling.  But I’m still here, and I’m happy.

I don’t miss you.  I don’t wish things were different.  And for the first time in the last three years, I’m happy you’re not the one surprising me at work, or finishing my sentences when I can’t find the right word, or wrapping your arms tightly around me as we both fall asleep.  I cringe remembering how foolish I was.  How much trust I instilled in you.  How I hung on every single word, when I knew better.  And I always knew better, but I desperately wanted to know different.  I recognize now how desperately I wanted you to be different.  And how unfair that truly is.

But I also remember every single night I cried until I had nothing left inside, not because you were unfaithful, but because of the cat and mouse game you played with me.  Because story after story after story was just another way to manipulate me to feel a certain way:  jealous, insecure, guilty, afraid, secure, happy, loved.  I became a shell of myself trying to sustain a relationship that wasn’t sustainable.  The very spirit of who I am and why you loved me, which I believe you did, was missing.  Or, hiding really.  Scared.  Angry.  Hurt.  Broken.  Shaking somewhere in a dark corner, away from the world.

I lost myself in the process of trying to hold you to a standard that just wasn’t possible.  To say my heart was crushed would be putting it lightly.  I was not only learning how to accept that “we” were never going to be, but more importantly, how to trust myself again because in the midst of trusting you, you taught me not to trust myself.  With every reassuring lie and false promise, you convinced me that my intuition, logic, and understanding of the world was wrong.  I knew better.  But I wanted to know different. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Things the Missing Would Tell You

December 12, 2015

Trigger Warning: This brief essay deals with child abuse.

By Keema Waterfield

Halfway through my first pregnancy I imagine my mother, age 19. She is unwed, the weight of my future self putting a bend in her back, widening her hips. The ghosts of her childhood trail behind her like lost buttons: all those years with her brother, the powerlessness, the shame, the guilt, the angry mother, the denial. That black place the hurt goes, overflowing. A baby sister she can’t protect looking at a lifetime of worrying at those same choppy waters.

How my mother’s heart must have ached at the thought of me.

It isn’t hard to imagine.

My own ghost is a man we knew by the name of Ray, but whom we later learned was wanted in fourteen states, give or take. He had one eye and a gun, both of which he laid on me in my top bunk somewhere around my third birthday, his pants around his ankles. Mom away for a few days, picking up furniture. My baby sister in the bottom bunk making a noise in her throat that no person of sound mind could hear without offering comfort.

I think of Ray when I hold my growing belly on dark mornings after another visit to the bathroom. I think how ponderous the shape of sorrow is. How little it takes to upend a childhood, like a table on its side: dishes broken, food soiled, water glasses emptying themselves onto the hardwood floor.

At dinner now the table is upright and the lamplight has grown reluctant listeners, but there is still a world of missing children out there. Missed. Misused. If you’re lucky and some part of you makes it back people tell you slow down, be a kid, but the missing learn early that childhood is a mercy only sometimes granted, and dessert is offered only to those who suffer gently.

I’ve been thinking about silence lately, how much it makes me want to break open all the windows in the world and scream. Because I know now what my mother knew then: the missing don’t have a say.Keema_Waterfield-Author_Photo

Keema Waterfield is a 2011 MFA grad from the University of Montana’s nonfiction program. She has been published in Pithead Chapel, Redivider Journal, Understory, and the Anchorage Press. The title essay from her forthcoming memoir “Inside Passages”, won the 2011 Cross Genre Award at Mason’s Road.

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

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

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

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

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Surviving

Stranger Savior: Escaping Abuse

December 6, 2015

Trigger Warning: This piece deals with physical and mental abuse and contains graphic language. 

By Candace Roberts

We train our kids to know, “stranger-danger” these days, but my escape from my abuser finally happened by a “stranger-savior”. In a gas station parking lot, I watched the stranger mouth, “monster” as my abuser was ferociously banging my head into the driver side window. I was in the driver’s seat and his hand was reached from the outside with a firm grip on my long dark brown hair. I was in shock and couldn’t believe what was happening.

The woman clung on to her cell phone and called the cops. I saw her mouthing the report off to the dispatcher. She backed up and drove away horrified. That was the first time and the last time I ever saw that angel. I wish I could have thanked her.

I was horrified, too. But, ironically not for my life or safety, rather for my reputation and knowing that I would be embarrassed if any one else saw me in that situation. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Self Image, Sexual Assault/Rape

Encounters On A Train

November 3, 2015

By Yana Walder Cook

Sensitive material is contained in this essay. Mention of rape/sexual assault.

I grew up in post-Soviet Union Collapse Ukraine. In 1990s, being a female teenage girl was a hazardous liability. I watched girls disappear into the dark underbelly of nightclubs, human trafficking and drugs and did my best to escape that. All through middle school I bartered potatoes for English lessons. The year twin towers fell I turned 16, and given one lucky break, I found myself in Boston with a United States Green Card. I ended up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts where I slowly healed from years of scarcity and violence. I diffused into the scenery and went to the ocean every day, until my writing and my love of travel brought me face to face with the reality of human trafficking again.

I met a Ukrainian girl on a night train in Italy; it was 2011. I was travelling from Vienna to Venice. My laptop sat open on the table between us and she watched me typing at it until it got very dark. She ordered us each a glass of steaming black tea and a cookie.

“I have a story for you,” she said at around midnight. “It is a story of hundreds of girls like me; half of these stories will have died with the body they belonged to, And those stories that survived will never see the light of day because of the shame and stigma and the powerlessness…”

Listening to her was like looking fear right in the face, but there she was sitting across from me, so I knew the story was going to end well somehow. She was like quiet ash, beautiful, sad, soft-spoken, transformed by life into fine mincemeat. Here is Sefi’s story.
***

When this story began her name was Serafine. The name was given to her presumably by her mother.. at least that was her hope. She knew she was born outside of Kharkiv in Ukraine, but she never met her mother because for one reason or another she could not keep the baby and gave up Serafine at the hospital. This story began when she was 14 years old. That day in November of 1999, she got busted for smoking, which was prohibited. At the orphanage of 200 kids between four and seventeen years old, her only reprieve was smoking a cigarette in the outhouse above a hole in the floor over a pile of shit. Hiding away, she thought about how it was even possible to feel this alone even though she shared her bedroom with 18 other girls her age. And she thought about how painfully cold it will be to go pee in this outhouse in about a month. No indoor toilets at this orphanage. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

La Llorona

October 29, 2015

By Alma Luz Villanueva

I lived in Santa Cruz, California, for sixteen years while my youngest son grew up, became a surfer, a runner, and went off to university. So, when I heard that eight-year-old Madyson Middleton was missing from the Tannery Arts Center, where she lived with her mother, I immediately began to worry in a personal way. Also, one of my granddaughters is exactly Madyson’s age, and I was to find out later that she knew Maddy from school. And so, the night of July 26, 2015 I kept checking for updates- was she found yet. Then I finally gave up, went to sleep after midnight. I kept seeing her large, beautiful, child eyes, awake when I checked the clock, back to dreaming. In the very pit of my stomach, where the truth lives, I knew she was no longer alive- but I refused to believe it. And her mother, her young mother- I imagined what she was going through. Her beloved child missing.

I felt the horror in every cell of my body like small fires. And I remembered myself at seven, an older thirteen year old friend saying it was okay to go to the park by ourselves. Buena Vista Park, San Francisco, the early 1950s. I was wearing a brand new dress and twirling around because I thought I was beautiful, special, in my brand new dress. My grandmother had made large curls on my thick, dark hair, held by barrettes- I remember they matched my dress, soft pink. I never left the street by myself, my grandmother, Mamacita, watching me from the window as I rode my Hopalong Cassidy bike with rainbow streamers on the handlebars. She’d yell my name, “ALMA,” and I had to answer like a song we knew together. Alma means Soul, and she’d often say (in Spanish), “Tu eres mi Alma…You are my soul.”

When my older friend, Peggy, and I got to the playground area we had swinging contests to see who could go higher. Of course, she was stronger as her feet pierced the sky much higher than mine. But I didn’t mind, I remember I was just happy to be swinging with my new dress blowing around me. I remember wondering if Mamacita was calling my name, waiting for me to sing back to her. I remember wanting to go back suddenly, like a pain my eight-year-old stomach. Continue Reading…