Browsing Category

Guest Posts

Guest Posts, love

How to Love Everyone in 8 Simple Steps

May 29, 2017
mother

By Michelle Riddell

“Simple, but not easy…” –The Big Book

Step 1: Love yourself. Love your strengths, love your flaws, love your effort when you fail and your giant streak of procrastination. Love your body at its fattest, its sickest, its weakest. Love your worst decisions, your selfish twenties, your break-ups and divorces. Love thirteen-year-old you whom nobody else could; love addicted you, promiscuous you, you at rock bottom. Love pregnant you, anxious you, infertile you—and do it so fiercely that self-protection is reflexive.

Step 2: Love your parents. Love what they gave you—be it twenty-three unmated chromosomes or the bounty of a happy and secure life. Love them whether they abandoned you, adopted you, or stayed and made it worse; love what they sacrificed for you, or took from you, or promised disingenuously. Love them because they’re frail and old and can’t hurt you ever again. Love them because they died before you had the chance to make things right. Love them because they’re here right now, supporting you as always. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, suicide

Prednisone at the Wheel: Losing my husband, but Finding My Way Home

May 28, 2017
prednisone

By Jill Stegman

I never imagined after nearly forty-two years of marriage, that I would be left on a strange street looking for a bus hundreds of miles from home.

But I had jumped out of the rental car my husband was driving, so intent on getting from one ravaged Youngstown, Ohio, each neighborhood even more boarded-up, shut-down, and depressing than the next. It was clear: we were a world away from Central California, where our two children had befriended tarantulas and lizards on our five acres of property.

“No, I’m not letting you drive,” he’d said, clamping his fingers more tightly on the wheel and speeding up to fifty in a twenty-five mph zone. My husband, Don, had gone from a clean, fit, REI-clad former surfer and cyclist with a smile for everyone to an unshaven and angry ghost of his former self, wearing a frayed t-shirt and sweatpants.

“Stop!” I screamed, as he picked up speed, the houses and street corners becoming a gray blur. “Let me out!”  I couldn’t believe this was the same man who had always been my protector for forty-two years of marriage. One thing for sure: he was not at the wheel Continue Reading…

Divorce, Guest Posts

Not My Happiest Place on Earth

May 26, 2017
divorce

By Heather Grossmann

Mickey Mouse ears and divorce. Probably not an association the relentlessly family-friendly Disney would appreciate, but — with apologies to Walt — one that was cemented for me during a summer years ago and resurfaced recently, when my dad unearthed some architectural drawings of the prenatal Epcot Center.

My complicated relationship with Epcot — well, to the extent that a geodesic sphere and a 5-year-old girl can engage in a “relationship” — began in the early ‘80s. Epcot was a pretty young thing on the eve of its international debut, a stunning 160-foot diameter dome hovering 14 feet in the air in Orlando, Florida. I was a cute pre-K kid on a post-divorce junket, a little thing awash in dreams of pirate boat rides and spinning teacups, 3,000 miles from my hometown of Oakland, California.
I had only just joined the ever-growing ranks of the “children of divorce.” This was the trendiest club in town at a time when the U.S. divorce rate hit its all-time high. But in an age when many parents followed up their separation announcements with a balm of Cabbage Patch dolls and Barbie playhouses, I had something going for me the other members of my not-so-exclusive fellowship did not: My father was the project architect on Epcot.
When my parents sat me down at our kitchen table in the summer of 1982 to say that their marriage was over, there was major upside to the news — the next day, I was going to the Magic Kingdom. I knew something “bad” was happening, but a trip to Disney World? Come on! What could be better than that?

As it turns out, a lot. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Photosynthesis

May 24, 2017
paralyzed

By Halle Murcek

I kept the aloe plant on top of the microwave, housed in a little ceramic pot painted with sunflowers, fine lines of yellow and orange, dots of brown and black so meticulous they could only be painted by hand.  The kitchen got just enough sunlight to feed our plant, our “love fern” as I jokingly called it, at first.  It was no coincidence to me that my own grandmother grew them as well as my boyfriend’s mother, both of which had such similar qualities it was uncanny: the need to nurture, a green thumb, an abundance of recipes, the best baked goods, always warm, soft and rich, a kitchen always emitting some kind of luxurious smell that would soon take over your palate.  Remedies of hearty homemade broths that simmer for hours, jars of dried tea leaves, baskets of fresh vegetables from a garden, bottles of lightly scented lotions and oils to always keep their skin as soft as half melted butter.  The need to nurture.

The fleshy green body of our plant was still young but already stealthy.  I liked to think having greenery around kept my lungs healthy, recycled the old stuff I inhaled and exhaled through the apartment.  I imagined oxygen swirling and undulating like the clouds on a weather map you saw on the news.

Nick would meander into the kitchen each morning, sleepy-eyed, bare chested and stunningly pale, stretching toward the light that came in bands through the blinds.  With his toothbrush in his mouth he would approach the pot and press his callused fingertips into the soil, black as the grit permanently imbedded beneath his short fingernails from working long ours over a grill, feeding it, tending it then scrubbing it clean. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Glow in the Dark

May 22, 2017
afraid

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.

By Cristy Shaner

For the first twelve years of my life, I went to bed afraid. As a child I was always squinting at shadows, searching for something sinister in the dark, feeling certain that soon I would be hurt, irreparably and forever.

I was afraid to close my eyes because I believed something might reach out and touch me when I wasn’t looking. I only succumbed to sleep after hours of staring at the ceiling, and sometimes not even then. Occasionally I would stay up until pale daylight broke through my bedroom curtains, and then, finally feeling at ease, I would rest. I knew, on some level, that my fear was nonsensical, but that didn’t stop me from fearing. Instead I kept quiet and clutched terror to my chest like a treasured secret—I was all alone with it, and that was all I knew. I grew up believing the world was a dangerous place, especially when plunged into darkness. I dreaded the unknown for so long it became a force of habit: everything was either a threat or a trick.

I fall asleep in the dark easily now, but I rarely sleep through the night. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Tough Conversations

English Club: A Story of Gang Rape, Trafficking, And A Dragon

May 21, 2017

CW: This essay discusses rape and sex trafficking. For survivor support, contact RAINN for confidential online and phone support, https://www.rainn.org/get-help.

By Katie Ottaway

For three years all I remembered was the tea. The tea wasn’t even that good.

I was abroad teaching English, and planning a summer of pre-dissertation research.  My classes were in the evening, and it was not uncommon for my students to bring friends to audit.  In the few minutes before I commenced my advanced English class, I overheard a conversation that a handful of my male students were having in their local language.  I didn’t catch it all, but I understood that they were talking about me, and my class, and falling asleep.  They were discussing whether or not I would make the cut.  There was some discussion of numbers.  At the time, I naturally assumed that they were critiquing my pedagogy, maybe discussing if their new foreign teacher was hot or not, and talking about finances as most students do.  I didn’t like the fact that they were talking about me within a few feet of me, thinking that I couldn’t understand, so I spoke to the class in their language for the first time.

After class, one of the students approached and asked if I had understood their conversation.  I bluffed a little, and replied that I had understood enough of it.  His eyes widened, and he assured me that they were talking about a different class and a different teacher.  He only returned a couple times, and never made eye contact.  His friend, G, who was privy to the conversation maintained good attendance, and even became somewhat of a teacher’s pet. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Miscarriage

Water Baby

May 19, 2017
MISCARRIAGE

CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Hanna Bartels

It started with red and it ended with water. And in between, I waited at the Starbucks counter and I rested my fingertips on the contour of the beginning. A habit, a protective hand. But the baby beneath that barely there bump stopped growing the day before. My baby was now just my pregnancy and the next day would be just blood and tissue.

I rubbed my thumb against an angel pinned to an impossibly small blanket in my pocket. Over a bead of blistered plastic at the bottom of the left wing where the mold opened too soon and hot resin seeped out.

When someone you know dies, you mourn the loss of them. Their smell, the sound of their voice, how your days transform without them. But when you lose a pregnancy, your life doesn’t change at all. Your belly should swell, your house should fill with bouncers and swings and carriers and bottles and dirty diapers. But instead, you drink your coffee and the world spins on its axis.

The warped angel was a reminder: I was pregnant once, and now I am not.

***

Four days before, I’d noticed a spot of red on my toilet paper.

I rummaged through my medical file, searching for the number the nurse had first starred and then circled at my first prenatal appointment.

My mother-in-law called down the hall, good morning and cheerful, asked if she should make coffee. She was in town for a cousin’s wedding and my husband, a surgical resident, was at the hospital.

Just one second, I told her, I’ll make it.

I pushed aside flour and sugar in my cabinet to reach the coffee I hadn’t touched in months.

I just had some spotting, I told her as I scooped ground beans into the filter. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, writing, Writing & The Body, Young Voices

Yesterday I Bled Brown Blood: Writing The Future

May 17, 2017
venus

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.

By Demetra Szatkowski

I hand you my pain one piece at a time
sometimes all at once
messy unsure convolutedness
And you make sense of it

and hand myself back to me

healed

***

Venus in my first house. Venus in my house of self. Venus saying, who are you, how do you relate to yourself, how do you see yourself, how do you let others see you.

Today I woke up and bled brown blood. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

When “Yes” Means “No”: On Trauma

May 15, 2017
trauma

CW: This essay discusses sexual abuse and trauma . For survivor support, contact RAINN for confidential online and phone support, https://www.rainn.org/get-help.

By Kit Rempala

One of the most beautiful and terrifying things about trauma is its relativity.  It changes from person to person.  My therapist says trauma is a defense mechanism – it shields us from the exiled emotions which well up to the surface every time our minds touch upon the permanent bruise which houses memory of the initiator.  She says defense mechanisms are not our weakness; they are powerful tools that indicate just how strong we are in the face of adversity.  She says although the initiators and their actions are not a part of us, the defense mechanisms – the traumas – are a part of us.  And no part of us is bad, or defines us.

But what do we do when cases of trauma are not so clear-cut?

I should have known.  I should have listened to my friends.  I should have listened to my instincts.  I believe in the core, primal, animalistic intelligence preserved in the human condition – the one that, when it prompts us to “Run!” is usually correct.  I’m a smart woman.  I am college-educated, I come from a well-adjusted upbringing in an upper-middle-class home, and I very rarely question my own judgments.  And then there are other times…

I met “D” when I was nineteen.  I had scarcely dated, and so I jumped at the opportunity for another’s attention, to feel desirable and wanted.  He seemed like a nice enough guy: polite and witty.  But even on our first date my neighbor’s dog growled at him as we walked to his car.  I shrank away from his hulking form in the passenger’s seat, and again during the movie, and again on the way home.  When I kissed him goodnight my apprehension was eclipsed by his powerfulness, the way he pulled me so tightly to him and pressed his lips so hard against mine.  It made me feel small in a way I never had being 5’11” tall.  My body shook, but not with the butterflies from a new connection. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Didn’t Want to Exist Today

May 14, 2017
chest

By Sarah Dwyer

I didn’t want to exist today. It’s not that I wanted to hurt myself or remove myself from the Earth forever. I just didn’t want to exist—just for today.

I got up to get ready for work, took a shower, and forced myself to blow dry my hair while tears dripped down my red, blotchy, scrunched up face and tightness pulled across my chest. I had this infuriating desire to do a handstand into a somersault—or to burst every inch of bone, muscle, and organ out of my skin. I didn’t just want my insides to escape my body, I wanted to be the one to initiate the explosion, to be in control of the process–to  push the button. 3, 2, 1…be free.

At that moment, I was (and I still am) physically incapable of both doing a handstand into a somersault and exploding, so, naked and sobbing, I climbed back into my bed, pulled my tangled sheets up to cover myself haphazardly, and lay there on my back with the sun shining brightly through the shade and curtain in my window. Continue Reading…

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…

Guest Posts, Truth, writing

Escaping Loneliness

May 10, 2017
loneliness

By Michael Wayne Hampton

“Loneliness, and the feeling of being unwanted, is the worst poverty.” – Mother Teresa

Introduction:

I’ve felt an essential loneliness throughout my life, and from the time I was a child I’ve struggled to feel the safety, understanding, and love that I imagined could be found in emotional closeness of others. Whether this defining emotion for much of my existence has its roots in a childhood where I often felt disregarded, out of place, threatened, and alone, in my neural biology living with Bipolar II, a psychiatric disorder which leads 17% of those it impacts to commit suicide, or is the result of all the unnamable psychic forces which shape one’s life is hard to quantify or define clearly. What became clear was that the continuation of this all-encompassing grief, as severe depression for the initiated moves far beyond sadness, had escalated to not only threaten my life, which it had nearly taken before, but had grown to the extent that I was left to either submit to the waves of hurt which battered me, or find a way to live and create. At the midpoint of my life survival, rather than living, had become purposeless and too much to bear. The comforts of religion, the rational accounting of all I have to live for, did nothing to inspire me to do more than live out each day distracted by work of social media until the night came where I could drink my sense of self away to sleep. In the last six month my ever-present loneliness, the sense that I was worthless and unloved, threatened not only my life, but my ability to create art, which in many ways I cared much more about than my own life. To move beyond the aching of questions unanswered, the silence that never left, the ghosts I carried, I turned to books to study how to exist. Stoic philosophy, social psychology, and Eastern religious traditions helped me form, and continue to form, a framework to evolve into a person who can do the work he felt he was born to do without the necessity for external support or acclaim. It’s a work in process, multi-faceted, and includes a number of various but cohesive personal lifestyle, physical, and psychological processes and projects, but in this essay I will focus briefly on the nature and impact of loneliness on the artist’s life, how ancient philosophy, theology, and modern psychology can aid an artist in moving past their personal loneliness no matter its roots, and present concrete principles that can be incorporated to escape the sense of loneliness toward the goal of better engaging in creative Flow states. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

I Was A Mother Waiting To Make The Call

May 8, 2017
call

By Mallory McDuff

I waited until I was three months pregnant to tell him about the baby. Then he died three days after my phone call, when my six-year old daughter shared the news of a baby sister in her future, squealing her delight in a high-pitched voice that sounded like a toddler, although she was quite pragmatic and focused for a first-grader. What drove me to call on that day rather than later in the week, when it would have been too late? And why was I devastated by his sudden death but comforted by his support of this unusual pregnancy?

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” my mother always said, describing the twists and turns in our lives that both confound and amaze us. This phone call to my father was definitely a mystery, one of those encounters I could never have predicted, even if I’d written the script in advance.

For starters, I’d gotten pregnant while separated from my husband, separated for nearly three years, as we avoided the eventuality of the end of our marriage, much like we often waited until the last minute to do our taxes. While we waited for something to happen (a move, an affair, a sudden desire to teach English in Japan?), I got pregnant, much to my joy-filled delight. We were separated, but not separated enough, I learned to say to anyone who questioned the timeline. Hearing that quip, people stopped asking questions, which was the intended outcome. This conception came several years after we ended a second pregnancy due to a genetic disorder affecting the baby, a gut-wrenching decision made from a foundation of love in the midst of a crumbling marriage. Continue Reading…

Divorce, Guest Posts, Marriage

Alpha and Omega

May 7, 2017
husband

By Pam Munter

Even now, all these years later, I have a recurring dream about driving alone around Madison, lost and trying to find my way home.  I am driving around hills, the lake always on one side. It all looks so familiar but I am not sure I am heading in the right direction.

When he was nine, my son and I flew to Madison, the coincidental location for a family reunion with people I had not seen since I was his age. Aaron was eager to see where he had been born so I took a photo of him by the Madison General Hospital sign, his arms cradled as if holding a baby. For me, his sweet spontaneous pantomime brought the backstory roaring back as if it had happened yesterday.

***

By 1972, I had been married for two years, living in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was doing a post-doctoral year in clinical psychology at Mendota Mental Health Institute. The husband had found a job as a social worker in a government agency. We agreed we wanted to have a child, hoping to time it to coincide with the end of my internship. There’s nothing like good planning and perseverance. By Christmas that year, I was pregnant. Continue Reading…