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Guest Posts, Relationships, The Body

Giving Birth to Yourself; the inception of Other

October 23, 2017
story

By Charlotte O’Brien

My lover meets me after work with a kind of vibrating tension I recognize as two parts anxiety one part defensiveness. She isn’t late, but I am trying not to be angry that I haven’t heard from her until several minutes before her arrival. She and I work in a university town within a five-block radius of each other and she tends to summon me when it suits her. The nature of our relationship is such that we are seizing whatever moments we can together. And, despite the fact that we see each other as often as possible we are always saying goodbye to each other on street corners, in parked cars, in university bars. Although I understand her summoning as something as simple as desire, often I feel unhinged by it. Both of us are half-waiting for the other to withdraw completely.

We walk towards the bar at the far end of campus because this is a place where we can be ourselves together. I am in love with her. I have been since the beginning, when she walked past me on the street five years after I’d kissed her one night in a different city at a grad school party in a university dorm room. She is also in love with me, but our home lives are such that it’s difficult to simply name the thing we want and then act on it. We have made deals, compromises, and promises neither of us are certain we can keep. Both of us are afraid. We each have a lot to lose. But, it seems even strangers can tell that we’re in love. Whenever we’re together in places where we can be ourselves, people we’ve never met before are compelled to approach and tell us that we’re cute together. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Hang On Little Girl

October 20, 2017
girl

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world need you.

By Sara Bartosiewicz-Hamilton

Wouch…a cross between whoa and ouch.

 

I obviously don’t do this task often enough…but, as the queen of spreadsheets to keep myself organized, I’ve been working through some work that’s been patiently waiting. I’ve been working in the spreadsheet for almost an hour. My eyes just caught a glimpse…the last time I was in this spreadsheet: 8/29/16.

 

Whoa…almost a year ago…holy shit…quite literally, a week before my whole world would cave in…wouch…

 

I tried to remember what I would have been doing at that point last year…I stopped. Why relive the painful summer we had? To most people, the day they found out you killed yourself is the day of trauma for them. For us, it had been building up to your grand finale for a couple years – no one wants to acknowledge that…it’s easier to just embrace one single day of trauma and pretend we hadn’t been living in hell long before.

  Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts

Dropping By To See What Condition My Depression Is In

October 18, 2017
election

By Amy Gesenhues

My nose is crooked. It happened the Thursday before election night last November. I was walking my dog in the dark, looking at my phone and not paying attention. I tripped and fell face first into my neighbor’s brick mailbox so hard it broke my nose. It hurt like hell and made my face into a bloody mess.

I’ve been going back to that night, replaying the events between then and the following Tuesday when the whole world felt like it collapsed in on so many of us, unable to make sense of the election results. I’m trying to pin-point the date my latest round of depression began. As if that’s something you can do — trace a line of sadness, your very own trail of tears back to a moment in time, the same as you would go about finding the last text from someone you love.

Depression is a tricky mother fucker. Mine starts as a slow drift into the what-does-any-of-it-matter-abyss. There are always signs along the way that I never catch until long after I’ve passed them. Obsessively thinking about everything I’ve done wrong. The friends I’ve lost. All the wrongs done to me (or so, I tell myself). I buy more and more books, but read less and less. I sneak handfuls of Nestle chocolate morsels throughout the day – a stand-in for the Camel Lights I gave up ten years ago. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

Hey Parents, Chill Out

October 16, 2017
chill

By Jackie Boeheim

I was at the park the other day with a group of moms and we were discussing various topics on preschools, pacifiers and bedtime routines. I was becoming very stressed out, second guessing myself as a parent and breaking out into cold sweats. In fact, as I looked around the group, all I saw were panicked faces of worry filled moms.

The conversation prompted me to call my own mother and relay the chatter that happened at the park. “I just don’t know if I have my son in the right preschool,” I said. “The one I attend has a smaller class size, the one I toured yesterday has more complex activities…” my mother started laughing. Wait, let me correct that statement, my mother interrupted me with a bout of laughter. Does she not understand how serious this is? My mom finally told me to just chill out, have a glass of wine, paint my toenails and stop worrying so much. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parents

Fathers

October 11, 2017
fathers

By Acacia Blackwell

My mother told me that my father had the sweetest breath in the world. This was a man who chews tobacco and has been known to go for weeks at a time without brushing his teeth. “And you have it too,” she said. She leaned her face close to mine. Millimeters. The kind of proximity reserved for mothers and lovers. She said, “Breathe on me.” My mother closed her eyes and inhaled my breath like she was breathing in a part of my being. The way I inhale my lover’s armpits, craving the raw, human intimacy of sweat. “Yep,” she said, opening her eyes, “sweet breath and too much gums in your smile. You are your father’s daughter.”

Father’s daughter. Fathers’ daughter. Fathers. Daughter.

Once, when I was almost but not quite yet a legal adult, I managed to piss my mother off in the way that only teenaged daughters really can. She seethed but for the first time I didn’t back down from her rage. I raged back. Her glare receded—a softening—and she offered only a resignation that, “You are me. And your father. But you might be more of somebody else than both of us combined. He didn’t bring you into the world, but he clearly brought you up in it.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, suicide

Mental Illness is a Terminal Disease

October 8, 2017
suicide

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world need you.

By Kellie Julia

The picture above is of three of my most favorite people, 2 are gone. My gram died at 93 of natural causes. My son died at 31 and there was nothing natural about it.

I gave my son’s phone away this week to someone who really needed it. It seems like an easy enough thing to do but I cried for hours after. I saved the last text message I had from him which said “I love you too”, that was 5 days before he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. That was 5 months ago.

I still wonder what would have happened if I had gotten to his house 5 hours earlier than I did, what if I would have begged him to please hold on just one more day. No matter what I did or said for many years I could not take his pain away. Believe me, I tried. Do I find comfort in knowing that he is free of pain, yes. Would I rather have him still in pain but here with me instead, yes. Do I feel that is selfish of me, yes. Many suicidal people believe that the world would be a better place without them. Is it? No! Mental illness is a terminal disease and it should be treated that way. Continue Reading…

Bullying, Guest Posts

Bullies, Then and Now

October 6, 2017
bullies

By Linda Wisniewski

George, my elderly neighbor, is not well-liked. He has a reputation for being a grouch, but in the six years we’ve lived in our townhouse community, my husband and I have tried to be friendly and cordial with everyone. When George-from-across-the-street said that Sam-from-next-door hated him because he was Jewish, and that Sam’s wife Gert was crazy, I said we wanted to get along with all our neighbors. For six years, I smiled and made nonpartisan sympathetic noises while Sam and George badmouthed each other. My husband counseled them, both men in their mid-eighties, to calm down before they had heart attacks. But this week, their feud entered my personal space.

My husband and I were about to get into our car for a day out, when George ambled by. We had a pleasant conversation about a bed he was buying his dog when out of the blue, George wheeled toward Sam’s garage, right next to ours, and shouted, “What the hell are you lookin’ at?” Sam was merely standing in his garage, perhaps giving George a dirty look. And for me, it was childhood all over again.

My dad verbally berated my mother, my sister and I for all kinds of minor transgressions.  “What the hell” was a common prelude to a string of insults. My mother was a lousy cook, my sister and I made noise with our forks. My mother “had no friends.” I “had no boyfriend.” Honestly, the stuff he came up with to yell at us for almost makes me laugh today. Almost. Because it still hurts. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

When Death Keeps You Alive

October 4, 2017
life

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world need you.

By Lisbeth Welsh

“Adrian died yesterday.”

I was 11.

“Adrian died yesterday.”

Adrian was 20.

He seemed like such a grown up to me then.  Now I’m staring 40 square in the eye. I realize how short his twenty years actually were. My last memory of him is the top of his legs.  I stood looking out of my parents upstairs landing window. His gold Ford Sierra was parked outside.  I looked down from above, his torso and face obscured by the sun visor.

“Lets go see Adrian.” My friend Sara said.

“No not tonight.”

I was 11. He was 20. How would I know ‘not tonight’ would turn into ‘not ever again?’ How could I know that I was staring at him in the exact seat he would die in the next day? I will spend the rest of my life wishing I’d run out to that car.  But I was 11. It wouldn’t have re-written history. I know that.  I know that because I have spent years battling my own monsters.  Twenty years. No more than the amount he survived.  From eating disorders to self-harm to depression and anxiety.  With no self-respect and little self worth. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts

Walls

October 2, 2017
walls

By Cheryl Jacobs

I never know when it’s going to happen, the sensation of pressure on my body, trapped, breath catching in my throat, desperate to escape. It makes me feel crazy.

I pay attention to traffic, think about what time I leave, the roads to take, all to avoid Los Angeles congestion.  I don’t like the feeling of being caught, pinned in.  But this morning I have an early therapy appointment and, as soon as I make the turn onto Olympic Blvd., I see only bumper-to-bumper traffic.  I ease my car in, all the while talking to myself.

“Relax, breathe, it’s okay, it will ease up soon.”

But it doesn’t.  I’m caught in the middle of three lanes of traffic moving slowing forward, connected by some unseen muscle keeping us tightly joined.

My car inching along, stopping entirely for minutes at a stretch, I feel the unwelcome tightening of my body.  The feeling of entrapment rises up, no exit, no exit, no exit, acutely aware of the hardness of the metal surrounding me, pressing, leaving no room to move left or right.

Panic rises like vapor, choking me. Continue Reading…

Child Birth, Guest Posts

A Choice C-Section: Delivery after Sexual Assault

October 1, 2017
c-section

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Shannon Frost Greenstein

I wanted a C-section.

You might be looking at me incredulously right now. I mean, major surgery while you’re conscious? Months of recovery? Not being able to clutch your child to you immediately? No matter how much you adore your partner, it still stings to see them get to hold the baby first, am I right, C-section Mamas??

But from the moment I peed on the stick and saw a faint pink line, a pervasive thought was, “Oh, Jesus, I don’t want to push my offspring out through my vagina.”

I know that’s the evolutionary procedure. I know so many women have survived it, and endured it, and that it is very nearly a rite of passage and an empowering experience for the female sex. But it just seems like a bad design to me. I’m guessing, and you can back me up here, Natural-birth Mamas, that it hurts a hell of a lot.

But there’s more to it than that. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

The Shoemaker

September 29, 2017
circles

By Nina Uziel-Miller

Not too long ago, I was sitting in Katherine’s chair as she told me all about cutting her son’s hair for the first time.  She said her little boy, while very cute, had been going through life practically blind, and so she knew it was finally time to do the deed. She explained that she had the “great idea” to do it in the bathtub because then he’d have nowhere to run.  Only he squirmed and splashed and shrieked like crazy. I will never understand what makes first haircuts so scary to kids, but according to Katherine, her son was in a state of abject terror. Rather than abort the mission, she forged ahead and speedily hacked away at him with her newly sharpened scissors until all that remained was a jagged, uneven fringe of barely bangs just below his hairline. That and a soaking wet bathroom.

As Katherine, who happens to be my excellent hairdresser, shared her story, she pulled strands of my own hair across my face, measuring and trimming until she was completely satisfied (no crooked cut for me) and then she pulled out the blow dryer. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

A Reluctant Dance

September 28, 2017
dance

By Diane E. Baumer

Plastic and expressionless, they lay in a pile, haphazardly tossed in with the fluffy pink elephant, the snow white Dalmatian with dark black spots, and the bright orange snake with the long red tongue named after my uncle Don.  Of my treasured dolls, my favorite was Chickenhead.  Her indelicate name came from my grandfather, who had aptly described her ratty coarse brown stand-up hair, the product of months and months of being grasped in a tiny hand and dragged along to every engagement that could ever be considered important in a 6-year-old’s life.

Chickenhead lived with the rest of my dolls and stuffed animals in a tall cardboard box tucked in the corner of a closet in the master bedroom that spanned the front of the house; my parents’ bed was in the center of the room, and I slept at the foot, in a kid-sized bed, complete with railings so I wouldn’t fall out.  I’d sometimes crawl in the closet during the day, or late at night when I couldn’t sleep. With the door closed, it was dark as night and it was so quiet it would almost shut out the tense but hushed quarrels from the living room.  It was child-small, but comfortably cozy, filled with that woody smell that comes with old houses and hardwood floors.  I did all my thinking and wondering and worrying there, even though my mom said I was too young to have anything to worry about.  The way I saw it, though, she only had me to look after.  I had her and Chickenhead and Mrs. Beasley and all my other dolls to protect.  I remember one morning when dad was home and we were sitting on the red couch in the living room – mom called it a divan in those days – and he took my doll dressed in the pretty pink gingham dress and threw her against the wall, laughing.  I watched her, eyes wide and unblinking, tumbling through the air in slow motion, skirt flying up and exposing her shamefully.  She hit the wall with a thud and slid down, landing in a heap on the floor, unmoving.  My dad’s laughter echoed in my head, as I sat there, horrified.  “That,” he said, “is what happens to little girls when they misbehave.”  He tousled my hair.  “But you’re a good girl, aren’t you?”  My chest felt tight; I couldn’t catch my breath. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Miscarriage, No Bullshit Motherhood

New Baby Smell

September 22, 2017

CW: This essay discusses miscarriage.

By Sami Peil

It was 8:52 on a Wednesday morning. Wednesday, December 11, 2013 was the first time I heard her heartbeat. Seeing her tiny heart beating as she wiggled around was the biggest relief of my life. It was too soon to determine her sex, but I had a guess that we were having a daughter. When I got to my car I burst into tears—thankful, prayerful tears of relief and love and joy. I hadn’t realized that I was so worried until after. Baby had just been hiding when the doctor couldn’t find the heartbeat two days before.

Since that day exactly one year ago, I have looked at my little girl’s picture every morning. I have the image memorized: At the top it says 12/11/13 8:52 AM 12w5d, and below is the only picture we’ll ever have of our Alaska Eileen—her profile in the grainy grays of the ultrasound. The hospital didn’t offer pictures from the scan 19 days later when we discovered, on the same black and white screen, that our baby had died. No heartbeat. We waited three weeks for the pathology report that confirmed my feeling that she was a girl and left us with no answers about why she died. We received her ashes a few days later. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Sexuality

Ripe: Flaunting My Desire

September 20, 2017

We have been thrilled to publish work by Andrea Jarrell, and are even more thrilled that her memoir, I’m The One That Got Away, has been released to such high acclaim. Below is a reprint of an essay that found its way into the book…enjoy!

By Andrea Jarrell

When I was ten, my mother declared me old enough to stay on my own between the time school let out and the time her Buick Skylark would roll up from work, tucking in behind our modest apartment near the Pacific Ocean. She tested me first, made me run a mock fire drill and a bad-guy-at-the-door drill. After passing her gauntlet, I was liberated from my babysitter, the muumuu-wearing, horn-toenailed Mrs. Carmichael.

Although we never would have referred to me as a latchkey kid (my mother forbade me to wear a key around my neck), that’s what I was. During those witching hours growing up in 1970s Los Angeles, I banded together with other untethered children. We dared each other to jump from my second story bedroom window into thick ivy below. We roamed the neighborhood on our bikes, stole candy from the supermarket, and tried out the confessional box at St. Bernard’s even though we weren’t Catholic.

But sometime during sixth grade, that daring girl I’d been just the year before turned inward. Unlike my classmates, I’d begun to look more woman than girl. Boys who had once been friends accused me of stuffing my bra; they taunted and grabbed me. Too much engine under the hood for the girl I was, I didn’t know how to respond. I was ashamed of their attentions mostly because my body seemed to be complicit, revealing new desires I wanted to keep secret. Only after school was out, left to my own devices and free to discover the rev and purr of my body, could I appreciate my full breasts in the mirror. Continue Reading…