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courage

courage, depression, Grief, Guest Posts, Miscarriage

After The Miscarriage: A Letter to My BFF about my PTSD

December 14, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the trauma that can come with miscarriage.

By Jessica van Alderwerelt

There is so much I’ve wanted to say but haven’t been saying because it is hard for me to talk to you about what I’m going through, writing seemed easier. There are a few important things I have to communicate to you that have been going on because not saying them, I think, has created expectations that I am doing better than I actually am.

In hopes that you’ll understand me better, I’m going to share some pretty dark shit with you that I’ve been working on in therapy. I’m chipping away at making sense of my trauma but it’s a process that takes time and I will never be the same as I was before. I wanted to die. I wanted to stop the pain so much I was considering killing myself to make it stop. It was the scariest. Not only was it the immediate trauma related to my pregnancy loss but it dredged up so much past trauma, like my rape and my parent’s divorce, and my mom’s cancer (and my cancer scare), and my dad being absent for all those years. Trauma (and PTSD) is like that. It brings up all the stuff that felt the same, every time I felt robbed, scared for my life, abandoned, etc. Some days I physically cannot get out of bed because there is 2,000 pounds of weight bearing down on me. I can’t lift my arms or head. If I don’t have plans or obligations and no one is watching, I literally do not get out of bed to eat or shower or see the sun. Often for days at a time. I am debilitated.

Here is something I wrote in therapy. Maybe it’ll give you some insight into what I’m going through:

I wasn’t supposed to get too excited about my positive pregnancy test or tell anyone until I was sure and because so much can happen in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. For me, I experienced 12 weeks of sweating every night, hugging my belly, dreaming about my new future, celebrating to myself that I was finally pregnant.

I was so excited about what motherhood would bring– making plans for vacations to Iceland (where I honeymooned) with my little Olive and her daddy. I bought things for her room– my favorite being a beautiful, small hand-carved and painted wooden elephant that opens with a little latch securing a tiny hiding spot. She would have it on her dresser as a baby with a love note from me in it, she’d hide her diary key in it as a kid, put it on her desk as a teen to store her forbidden lipstick, and she’d move it with her to her dorm room to stash some pot– she would always have Ellie the elephant as a tether to home. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, courage, Fear, Guest Posts

Footsteps Follow: The Fear Came With Silence

December 13, 2015

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses the experience of having a stalker.

By Bianca Palumbo

Outsiders – they just don’t seem to understand.  I have been tiptoeing my way around for months, on edge.  I am experiencing something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. I have been followed, disturbed, and thrown off-guard by a man known only as my stalker.

It all started the year I was graduating from High School, 2014.  I was always actively pursuing new opportunities and working every event that I could.  What I never expected was the possibility of meeting a stranger who would someday haunt me.  No young woman can prepare for the endless nights of fear and unknowing that come in reaction to a stalker.

I have been independent for most of my life. I wanted to work whenever I could, joined clubs and sports teams, volunteered in the community, and that all excelled the day I earned by driver’s license.  It was the summer I was leaving for college that the first email came through.  My stalker had crafted a story about our romantic relationship and all of the bonds we have shared together. Meanwhile, I had no idea who he was.  I only realized where we met when he admitted to finding my information in a staffing email.  This was the first real time my privacy was violated – I felt I could trust no one.

I thought he would go away; thought it would all end on its own, but I was wrong.  For two years he has been sending me stories about our relationship.  His infatuation has become dangerous and I have become a victim to the act of harassment and stalking.  I no longer work too far from home and am nervous going anywhere alone.  My independence has been quickly taken away and I rely on others for personal safety. But, many people underestimate the situation throw my worries to the backburner.  The police and the judge questioned my reasoning to the point where I felt betrayed.  After endless explanations and pleas, it was hard evidence that turned the law around. Continue Reading…

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…

cancer, Compassion, courage, Guest Posts, Surviving

Sailing the Waves of Cancer: Living with a Disease That Won’t Let Go

December 4, 2015

By Betsy Hnath

It’s been four years since my diagnosis with stage II breast cancer: One and a half of them I spent in treatment, the other two and a half I spent dealing with the aftermath.

As time passes, and my emotional ship sails in relative equilibrium for longer stretches, I try to spend more time on the deck, taking in my surroundings, living in the moment. Then cancer sends up a flare in the distance and my attention is shifted: A random pain, tightness in my chest, or some extra fatigue. These bright, red burning lights remind me it is always there, hovering, perhaps waiting to attack again.

Sometimes cancer is a cannon, launching its missile close enough to graze my bow, as it has recently. When I hear that close friends, young friends, healthy friends have been diagnosed, I begin to sway. I know they will soon begin building their own ship and join the growing fleet that surrounds me of loving, faithful, undeserving patients. I mourn for their loss of the “old normal.” I know what it does to you.

I have to sit back and powerlessly watch during the excruciating 2-3 weeks it takes to learn everything they can about their enemy through scans and tests, and formulate their plan of attack. Nothing can be done to slow down or speed up that time.

I can tell them what I know from experience: that this is the worst of it, this first part. Shifting uncomfortably in scratchy, paper gowns as you wait in sterile, silent exam rooms; the inability to get the smell of hand sanitizer out of your nose; shaking hands with one doctor after another as he or she flips through your life, which has been neatly assembled onto a clipboard. How you can go from feeling normal to completely despondent, sometimes within the same ten-minute span. That ache, burning in your chest, as you inhale yesterday’s Suave when you bend down and kiss your children’s heads as they sleep, wondering how many more nights you’ll get to do it. I can prepare them and reassure them, but in the end they will sail through it on their own just as we all do. Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, courage, Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

Cut The Label

December 1, 2015

By Laurie Suarez

Today is December 1st. The start of the new month. The last month of ​the​ year. And today is the day a very important movement launches. It will be a small movement at first, but it will grow. ​M​y hope is that it will grow to be so big that it isn’t a movement at all, it is just the way ​we think.​

My name is Laurie Suarez and today is the official launch of Cut the Label®— the campaign I founded in honor of my daughter​.​ The aim of Cut the Label® is to end the practice of categorizing each other. Sometimes we assign a label without thinking, sometimes a label is assigned to be cruel. In either case, the result is the same: the person we label is reduced to quick categorization. But we are so much more than the labels we attach to each other. We are not ​just a​ ​Religion, a Sexual Orientation, an Addiction, a Disease, a Diagnoses, ​Formally Educated-Not, Republican-Not, Rich-Not.

We are so much more than that.

​​YOU ​are so much more than that.

A year ago today​ I had to face ​the​ ​world of labels ​the hardest way possible, through watching my child struggle. A year ago, my son told me that he can’t be my son anymore. That he knew ​in his heart and brain that he is a girl. I accepted this and understood that I quickly needed to learn about what we were now facing. I glued myself to ​the​ computer and researched ​LGBTQ and ​Gender Dysphoria. ​The medical community has recognized ​Gender Dysphoria​ as a condition that can be diagnosed and addressed. One of the ​biggest struggles ​to anyone who has Gender Dysphoria is ​feeling valued​ as a human, and not feeling defined by​ labels and terms that are used against them when they move around in the world.

​The son​ ​I raised for nearly 14 years ​is in the process of transitioning to the self she knows she is​, my beautiful daughter.​ Being a teenager is hard enough, and to layer the complexities of Gender Dysphoria onto it makes the struggle much more painful. ​I couldn’t possibly be more proud of her. My daughter ​has struggled, but she is ​t​he bravest ​person ​I know​. No doubt, she deserves to be a part of a world that sees her for the person she is and ​​not a label​.​

​T​his is why I started focusing on the world beyond my daughter.​

​After I sank into a world of acronyms and labels, it occurred to me that I have missed opportunities to meet someone who could have been my friend due to a preconceived label. Staying away from certain people due to a label attached to them is unfair. There are good people everywhere and if someone is an A**hole (and as Jen Pastiloff says #dontbeanasshole) it has nothing to do with religion, sexual orientation or any other label. Some people are just A**holes. But just because some may act that way, it doesn’t mean that everyone who is of the same religion, or sexual orientation, or whatever is that way. Period. My daughter ​is and will always be loved as part of our family, but she has a long journey ahead.

​The mission of Cut the Label® is to participate in the spread of kindness and love for Humanity.

While this message is not new it cannot be overstated. We can make this world a bit “Gentler” by sticking together, let’s stop pulling each other apart into categories. Ask me my name, get to know me. I can always tell you more about me, my culture or religion and so much more if we decide to chat. But, please don’t stay away from me, my daughter or anyone else because of a label. We all deserve to be recognized and valued as a Human first.

J​ust step away from ​assigning labels​ and​ stuffing people into categories​ and smile at a stranger today.​​ I promise you it’s not difficult. ​Together, we can do this. Together, we can make a world a more accepting place for everyone.

​Cut the Label® wants to give transgender Humans and ALL ​Humans ​​hurt by ​discrimination​ion​ due to a Diagnoses, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Political choice, Culture, Disease  – t​he ​most Gentle ​world possible. On this day, December 1st, ​2014, ​I learned I ha​ve​ a ​3rd daughter.​ I feel honored to help guide her and to promote the message of Love and Acceptance.

Thank YOU for your friendship.

Learn more about Cut The Label® here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Facebook here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Instagram here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Twitter here. 

Also, listen for Cut The Label® on 97.8 LA Mega in New York and 100.3 Z100 also in New York. 

And don’t forget to follow #GirlPowerYouAreEnough on Instagram — because YOU ARE ENOUGH!

 

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.

Compassion, courage, Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

Keep Calm and Carry On Being American: But Do We Remember How?

November 30, 2015

By Aine Greaney

One summer night in 1987, an American man I knew took me to one of those big-venue country music concerts.   It was just six months after I had immigrated here from Ireland, and the gig was somewhere south of Albany, New York.

Since my wintertime landing at JFK Airport, I had seen and enjoyed a small slice of snow-bound USA, but that trip to the country music concert was to be my first safari into big, full-blown Americana.

I may be fusing memory with nostalgia here, but that night, I remember feasting on those sights and traits that, back then, I tagged as “American.”  Though we were miles away from cowboy-country, many of my fellow concert-goers were in full regalia–lots of John Wayne Stetsons and red `kerchiefs and fringed jackets and pointy cowboy boots.

***

Then there was that all-American smileyness—a party sense of shared bonhommie.  Also, before and after concert night, it was a very safe bet that, had I been hungry or thirsty or suddenly fainted, at least 80% of those folks would have turned good Samaritan and come to my aide.

That warm New York night, I would never have guessed that, 28 years later, I would find myself at another summertime concert at another outdoor pavilion–this time with my American husband and on Boston’s waterfront.

Of course, 28 years have brought lots of personal changes and life lessons. The first and best expatriate lesson:  The minute you think you’ve pegged America–this huge, polyglot country where many people’s grandparents were born in another country–you are already wrong.  It’s hard to say what makes Americans American.

However, last month in Boston, I would need to have been drunk or distracted not to have noticed that America has, to quote from W.B. Yeats, “changed utterly.”  For starters, we have all grown cautious.  We have learned to keep our mouths shut. We have learned new and sinister meanings for heretofore ordinary sights and phrases. Continue Reading…

courage, Family, Fear, Guest Posts, motherhood

(Dis)connections

November 29, 2015

By Lisa Porter

Daisy loves to wear wings and fluffy dresses. When she encounters someone that she deems to be filled with interesting energy, she hugs without asking, or requests a hug and invites engagement in a world full of disengagement. She admires beautiful hair, mermaid tails, cute babies, and dresses that are ‘just like a wedding.’ Her conversations are most frequently with an old sewing machine, the ‘dipper’ (stars), and the crows in the fig tree. She doesn’t abide boundaries based on social norms. Daisy is 11. She is one of the most awake beings that I know. Living with her has forced me to be curious about the brain and the concept of plasticity. Because of Daisy, I believe in everyone’s capacity to change, adapt habits, and learn to communicate without words. She has converted me into a missionary, preaching the overlooked wisdom of the sensory system, as I observe her struggle to manage all of the typical sensory input that I unconsciously process.

The disabilities emerged slowly. She missed milestones, started wearing glasses at four months, had eye surgery at seven months, didn’t crawl, and didn’t walk until she was almost two. I remember the day when it really sunk in…the day that she started at a school for two year olds with special needs. We had moved from New York City to San Diego for my academic job when she was a newborn. This change was supposed to open the ‘perfect’ chapter in my life, transitioning from the professional theater to the academic and making room for this baby. Instead, and on the day that she started at a ‘special’ school, sadness took me hostage. I remember thinking, anything other than her intellect. Today, she is officially labeled with an intellectual disability, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. In terms of how American society traditionally measures achievements, potential, and quality of life, she is ‘less than.’ All of the words that begin with ‘dis’ sting with the stigma of ‘less than.’ Disappointment, dismay, disparage, disarray, disgust, disrepair, disillusion, disregard, dismantle, disruption.

The completely normal pregnancy, birth, and first few weeks of her life, led me to believe I had a shot at a typical parenting experience. I remember asking at the moment Daisy was born, ‘does she have ten fingers and ten toes?’ And indeed, she does. I knew parenting would change me forever, just not like this, not like this. Nine years after that first day at the special school, my worst-case scenario is now my daily life.

My husband and I took a trip to Berlin when Daisy was about five. Until then, I had never fully understood that during the Holocaust, those with disabilities were killed first and without delay. The Nazis dismissed them as worthless and unsalvageable. I remember that realization as a moment of deep clarity about the intensity of the struggle ahead. This was a time to transform into a warrior who could advocate for my daughter, leading us into the battle. Continue Reading…

courage, Fear, feminism, Guest Posts, Women

On Being an Unnatural Woman

November 20, 2015

By Leah Wyman

I’m walking in the the rainforest, debating whether or not to put in my iPod headphones to ease my jitters.

For a country with “Pura Vida” as its motto, Costa Rica can be an anxiety-provoking place for somebody who’s a borderline agoraphobic.  But here I am, covered in mud, my clothes sopping with sweat, swatting at bugs and moss, feeling all kinds of outdoor unknowns prickly all over me. I’m exhausted, I’m lost in the wilderness, and I’m grappling with the surreal situation I find myself in.

I had followed the map closely, I thought, but got turned around as to whether to climb up the creek bank or down the creek bank to get to the waterfall I was seeking. To most seasoned outdoorsmen (or just anyone who gets the concept of how rivers work), this wouldn’t be a mental struggle.

But hell if I knew—and downstream seemed conceptually like less of a labor. No guide, no common sense–just the great outdoors and me, scaling rocks and branches, sloshing my boots into deep pools, petrified of snakes, and talking to myself through this anxious situation.

You’re doing real good Leah, reeeeeeal good. You got this. I sputtered, spooked by weird animal and bug sounds and the rustle of leaves. I threaded the headphone cord in and out of my fingers. Maybe a little Katy Perry telling me I was a ‘Firework’ would spur me on.

Nature has always known its relationship with me: respectfully guarded but also utterly hysterical. It’s moved past dubious and now it feels like fact: the environment and its inhabitants are tickled by me. Mother Earth needs amusement like the rest of us, and I feel like the laughingstock of the terrestrial community.

As with most suburban brats, anything remotely wild in my past happened in zoos.

With my class at the primate exhibit at Brookfield Zoo I was standing completely unawares when I suddenly felt a nasty, mealy, putrid paste being flung repeatedly at my face and body. One of the so-called majesties we were admiring with awe had just thrown its shit at me. Gorilla feces all over me. In my hair, in my eye, all over my new sweater from the Gap, which I’d gotten for Christmas, which I really liked.

I was crying and humiliated while my teacher tried to wipe soapy water through nooks and crannies of cable knit. Mrs. Scott walked me to the zoo store and picked out a nerdy t-shirt with a baby otter that exclaimed “I Otter Be at the Brookfield Zoo!” for me to wear the rest of the day. (God bless you, Mrs. Scott). Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Fear, Guest Posts, Surviving

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING BREAST CANCER: THE STAGES OF MOURNING A DIAGNOSIS

November 19, 2015

By Judith Basya

DENIAL

Though Denial may present gradually depending on how and when you discover your lump, it begins in earnest when the radiologist reading your mammogram looks at you funny. Nah, it’s nothing, I’m fine, you think while waiting three-to-five business days for the biopsy results. Your aunt, two great-aunts and three cousins have all had breast cancer, but they’re not immediate family. The lump must be Cheerios that went down your bra the wrong way or something—the kids really need to start pouring their own cereal.

SHOCK

Denial is aided by distraction: Your phone dies—I mean breaks, sorry—a bird poops on your arm (when you can’t shower for forty more hours after the biopsy), your daughter gets bitten by a dog, and you get a ticket for that illegal left turn you’ve been making daily. You’ve practically forgotten about the lump when you scramble to your follow-up and the word malignant hits your eardrum, followed by other scary words such as invasive, surgery and chemotherapy—honestly, though, why are you surprised? Because tomorrow’s your birthday?

BEWILDERMENT

While the news tries to sink in, you’re busy making appointments for tests and with specialists, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The surgeon won’t see you until you’ve had an MRI, but you can’t schedule an MRI until your insurance company OK’s it. Though nobody doubts they will OK it, that’s how these places work and offering to pay upfront won’t help. It’s byzantine. It’s insulting. Welcome to cancer.

RAGE

Seriously? Four hours and thirteen phone calls to schedule one goddamn MRI? And the earliest available slot is in three weeks? You want to know if the cancer has spread beyond your breast, and it’s like they’re waiting for it to spread so they can be certain. If in the midst of all this your partner isn’t responding pitch-perfectly to your ranting texts, remember s/he isn’t to blame for our abysmal medical system.

FREAKOUT

If you’re lucky—statistics are on your side, at least—when you know more about your particular cancer this low point will pass. But for now you have to live with it—live with the idea of death, ha, ha, the human condition. This isn’t the everyday version. Think Thelma and Louise going over the cliff, except it’s dark, raining and the cliff is indeterminate.

WHY ME?

Why you? Because you should have eaten better. Because you should have taken more vitamin D. Because you enjoy a glass of wine. Because you smoked in college. Because you were one of those Moms who pulled her shirt down from the top when breastfeeding in public, shame on you. Because you don’t always buy organic. Because after a religious upbringing you became an atheist. Because you are riddled with guilt. Continue Reading…

courage, death, Fear, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration, Vulnerability

#MyLifeMatters

November 10, 2015

By Klyn Elsbury

A few nights ago, I was wrapped in a blanket, lying on top of an RV off of a scenic overlook in Utah staring up at a sky full of endless, scintillating stars. The air was cool and crisp, delightfully tickling my lungs as they adjusted to the altitude. A handsome man with a beautiful soul was holding my hand and pointing out Venus to the south. Together, we were dreaming about the future. Something that until Orkambi came, I had all but given up on.

I dropped out of college because I started getting hospitalized several times a year, and I believed I would never live long enough to pay off my student loan debt.

I moved to California from Florida for a career in biotech/pharmaceutical recruiting so I could be closer to the companies that were developing the very drugs that would keep me alive. That would give me hope. When I started getting hospitalized every 4 months, I made the choice to leave my corporate career and preserve my lung function via exercise, diet, and adherence to prescriptions that managed the symptoms. I tried to get in on every clinical trial for Orkambi, before it was even called Orkambi, but time and time again I was denied because my lung function was too unstable.

He squeezed my hand excitedly, “did you see that?” referring to a shooting star that emblazoned an almost pitch black night. My heart skipped a beat. I shut my eyes and made a wish that one day, someday soon, I would be on this drug. I opened my eyes to see him smiling back at me.

For the first time in a long time, I believed I would have a future again. I was the first person in clinic the day after Orkambi was approved. However, they couldn’t write a prescription because I needed to go on IV antibiotics first. My lung function was around 50%. It was my 3rd round of IVs this year alone.

Meanwhile, one of my girlfriends locally who got approved for the drug, posted on Facebook that for the first time in years, she woke up without coughing. I can’t imagine a morning where an alarm clock wakes me up instead of a violent core-shaking, gut busting cough.

“Wow!” We both said in unison at yet, another shooting star. Who is lucky enough to see two of them in one night sky? Just moments apart? Surely this means there are good things to come. Waking up without a cough became my second wish. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Gratitude, Guest Posts, writing

Navels Are Natural

November 8, 2015

By Caroll Sun Yang

Do you, you feel like I do?                                                                                           

Do you, you feel like I do? — Peter Frampton

Being an artist is like being a wrung out rag, making and mopping up messes, bunched up in the corner, oft hung to dry, wearing history on our sleeves, smelling of our own mammal ripeness and occasionally being thrown in with the real wash. We who soak in alphabets, images, and sounds know that all arts demand that we uphold a fundamental oath to act as shaman, seers, provocateurs, infants terrible, politicians, romancers, therapists, charmers, jokesters, witches, pioneers, maniacs, hookers… and all of this sexily to boot. If we fail at these tasks, oh arduous hours flecked with blessed golden play, then our lives will seem utterly wasted. Our creative callings failed. Leaks in the hot tin roofs. Ancient toilets stopped up. Lives less lived. Muzzled. We are about to blow!

If I seem melodramatic and insecure, it is because I am. In this lowly state, I let my mind wander off to pasture. Chewing the cud, metaphorical green juice dribbling down my shirtfront, prostrate in bed, covered in ancient fawn quilting à la Salvation Army, cats fighting at my feet like warm lumps of tangling frisk. My gut consists of Mr. Pibb carbonation dancing with a cheap chile relleno burrito all laced with psychotropics. I burn. I feel strong. Full of jitterbugging ideas jostling into place. Visions. Sounds. Alphabets. Maybe my aura is finally lava.

I am typing on a cellular QWERTY pad, words tumble after one another on an eerily lit screen sized smaller than a maxi-pad (great metaphors abound), my skull and brain propped up on two pillows, growing heavier with each word, double chin at attention, heartbeat slowing to a meditative rate, legs like dumb sticks. My life has been reduced to thumb typing essays on the same devices that boisterous MTV and Tyra Banks reality show participants showily make use of. Their devices announce: “Meet at the holy hell wrecking ball platform wearing sneakers and bathing suits at 8 a.m.! Get ready for a raunchy, mad blast! Today is elimination day.” Or “Be fierce! Today you will walk the runway for anonymous couture designer, winner will be treated to anonymous jeweler’s jewels and full body massages!” My humble cell announces no such sport. At 8 a.m. I am usually shuttling children to school, teeth unclean, sunglasses hiding yesterday’s raccoon eyes, donning paint splattered tee and torn pajama bottoms, breasts swinging free, naked feet, throttling through any drive-through Starbucks. My text messages read like this, “Where r u?” to which I might respond with “Ded.” Or on a decent day, “Writing. XO.”

I run with a pack that the uninitiated might describe as “eccentric” or “off” or “bat shit crazy”. We artists do not pace in straight sober lines, solving problems like accountants, optometrists or soldiers do. We professional imaginers pace the ground raw in drunken lines, darting in and out of reality, occasionally leaping from the sheer thrill of “breaking through”. We inventors, theorists, artists, writers, musicians… struggle, but in the name of what exactly? Exactly.

We are generally benign, somewhat opinionated, obsessive nerds. While the universe propels forward, infinite events occurring simultaneously, we feel caught in its sway. It is our job to mark time/space in unique ways while attempting to engage others. Sometimes we will fail at this; many hours will be lost to intense examinations of life, but some hours we will make magic- magnificently warping perceptions. On days when I feel especially wrung out, halted and alone- I seek out my fatherly path pavers. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, storytelling, writing

Finding My Voice

November 7, 2015

By Kathy Bernier

All those years when I was trying to find my voice, and come to find out it has been inside me all along.  It was the thing I was trying to get away from and it would never let me go.

It’s the deep gritty mud that clings to my rural roots.  It’s hair on my legs, and the sound of coyotes calling from way down back on a hot summer night with all the windows open, and the taste of the first spring radish.

It’s breathing in the warm sweet barn smell first thing in the morning, and looking out the bathroom window at the dark silhouette of the fir trees when I get up to pee at one in the morning, and wishing there were enough money in the checkbook to just pay somebody to do stuff and take a day off from worry once in a while.

It’s squeezing my eyes tight and pretending it’s the glare of the sun when I help load the yearling goat that I delivered on a stormy night last summer into a crate headed for the slaughterhouse, repeating the tired old “you can’t keep them all” mantra and knowing it was the only way and refusing to let myself hear the panic in his bleating while I try to swallow the panic in my soul.

It’s giving myself the okay to say words like shit and even the eff word out loud even though I love God.  I know he’s listening, but he hears them whether they’re in my heart or in the air, so what the hell.  I guess that’s what the voice is, really.  It’s the words that God put inside me.

It’s not words I chose, I can tell you that.  I wanted my words to be all smooth and polished and chic and sophisticated.   Every one just right, every one pithy and impeccable with the swoop of a cartoon princess veil and a rock star chef and an Olympic giant slalom skier oozing from their pores.  Edgy in a cool hipster round-framed glasses kind of way. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Intimacy, Marriage, religion

The Vigil

November 2, 2015

By Julia Park Tracey

Nobody likes a scarlet woman. That’s what they call you when you have an affair with a priest. That’s what he calls me sometimes, joking, “Maybe we should stone you.” Sometimes, affectionately, he calls me, “The Woman at the Well,” for the Biblical story of the woman who was living with a man who was not her husband. Once we began our congress, he read his canon law book, citing where he had entered into a state of concubinage and was therefore in breach of his promise of celibacy. As his concubine, I am his accomplice in sin, and thus, upon our attempted marriage, we become excommunicated – not by any pronouncement with trumpets or fanfare, but automatically, without hesitation, like the toast that comes with your Denny’s breakfast.

He doesn’t hold it against me, much, how I took him from the priesthood, until later, when he realizes what he has given up. We rather celebrate it, something kindred to Romeo and Juliet, how our love transcends the laws of man – but surely not God. Why would God bring us together, if He hadn’t meant it to be thus? After some deliberation, a year or two of dalliance, the priest decides he cannot continue living a lie. He has spent almost every night in my bed, creeping toward the rectory at midnight, then at two, then four, then six a.m. as the months pass. He begins to get sloppy. I visit him in his quarters,  the parish rectory, which we have dubbed The Erectory. The other priests cannot help but see and notice that he is never there. But there is a brotherhood, a Code, and no one tells. There are whispers, but no cataclysm so far.

One night we drink too much, flail among the bedsheets, and I fall asleep in his arms. When the sun begins to seep across the room, I startle awake and pull on my crumpled dress and heels, eschewing my stockings and jewelry. It is a pretty picture of a woman who has been well tossed and tousled, make no mistake. As I reach for the doorknob to tiptoe out, I spy a note on the floor, pushed underneath the door.

There was a fire last night. No one was hurt. Just thought you should know.

It is signed by the pastor. Continue Reading…

cancer, courage, Guest Posts, healing, Yoga

My Love Letter To My Yoga Teachers

October 30, 2015

By Alexa Shore

At 44 years old, I never thought I would get cancer. I never ever thought I would get it twice.  I never thought my yoga practice would save my life.

I knew something was wrong. I felt nauseous, had food cravings, felt as if my hair was falling out— was I pregnant? I went to the doctor to get a blood test and physical examination. I was handed a slip for a mammogram the following week.  That weekend, I went for a hike. I felt a lump. I went back to the doctor.

My oncologist said I was “lucky” after being diagnosed with “early detection” aggressive HER2+ breast cancer. Lucky?  That I have cancer? The second time I got breast cancer, I heard the words again. I finally got it. Both times, yoga had taught me to be so aware of my body, that I knew something was wrong. The second time around, I had the voice to speak up and say something was wrong – again. I caught my own breast cancer, twice, before it could metastasize to my brain, bones, liver and lungs.

I was healthy and I practiced yoga. I was not immune to cancer. People asked me questions about diet, environment, and personal habits to try to understand why I got cancer, and then, why it came back. I wanted to understand too.  I was told by one doctor “cancer creates change” I began to think …

I am a single mom, love my children, my family, my friends, my work, yoga, sunsets, and dancing. Change what? My body was strong; my mind positive and optimistic. So I sat and thought. How is Alexa? Did I truly have balance? Did I make time for me while juggling everything I did for everyone else?  Was I stressed? Did I feel resentment that I did not have time for myself? I bought gifts for myself and traveled to amazing places, but what about me? My spirit? Is this why I got sick? Could I have actually enabled cancer to grow? Continue Reading…