Browsing Tag

anger

Guest Posts, loss, Surviving

Cross Purposes

June 1, 2018
cross

By Aimee Ross

A cross has stood in that field for three years.

Three years since he smashed into me and the girls in my car that summer night. We were on our way home from dance camp.

The girls escaped the wreck with minor injuries. I barely survived.

He died.

Fifteen minutes from home. We were almost home.

Dear Zachary,

 I’m writing this letter to you because I feel like I have to, even though I don’t know you and never will. I can only know my version of you, and to be honest, it’s not good.

 I know you were the driver of the red Mini Cooper who ploughed recklessly into the side of my gray Saturn Aura that warm July night. I know you were only nineteen, and not one of my former students. And I know that doctors declared you “brain dead” the next day in a room near mine at Cleveland Metro Trauma Center.

The cross was first pushed into the earth less than two weeks after the accident. My mom, who drove past the site twice daily on her way to and from the hospital, was infuriated by it. She thought it was made of Bud Light boxes. I’d been past the site since then a few times, but I had never stopped. I never wanted to be in that space long enough to think.

Until now.

After the accident, visitors told me rumors about you. Even my own daughters. They knew people you partied with. They also warned me of your Facebook memorial page, but I didn’t listen.

I looked too soon.

You—the party boy with swag—were loved, and by many. They called you Zach. Throwing bangers, getting baked, and blowing smoke at the camera consumed the posted memories and fuzzy photos.

 Something kept telling me to visit the scene.

And I needed closure.

So, armed with notebook and pen and ready to record the epiphany I was sure to have, I drove there alone one mid-summer afternoon. I expected to cry, feel relief, be cleansed. The trauma would finally make sense.

As I approached the busy state route’s intersection, I noticed the warning signs of road construction—at least I wouldn’t have to worry about traffic. I parked along the berm across from the site, realizing I had no intention of leaving my vehicle anyway. I would just be here, feel here.

A friend of your mother’s told me you had trouble with the law, and I know your driver’s license had been suspended at least twice before. You even spent time in a detention home. I wonder if other rumors about you and your buddies playing a very dangerous driving game to earn points for traffic violations were true.

Beyond the intersection, a cross made of two perpendicular skateboards—not beer boxes—jutted crookedly out of a grassy slope. The ground climbing from the ditch to the tilted cross was still scarred. Dry brown gashes in the earth, like my three-year-old wounds, littered the rise where energy from an inelastic collision was absorbed. The scars, evidence of an outside force. Inertia disrupted.

 And then there’s your family. Good people, I heard. I know you had dinner at home with them that evening. You asked your dad for the car, the one titled to him but given to you, so you could go to a friend’s house. You were on your way when you crashed into us. I also know your family loved you. Just moments after finding out you had passed—after being asked about donating your organs—your father and sister hugged my brother. They cried, said they hoped I would “pull through.” I imagine your mother was broken in a corner, lost in a sea of tears. I know your parents—an older, more settled couple—adopted you and your sister from another country far away. Maybe they couldn’t have their own children. Now they can’t even have you.

Why did he run the stop sign? How fast was his car moving?

 The most devastating thing I know about you, however, isn’t that you disregarded a stop sign or might have been speeding that night. What’s most devastating is that you were driving under the influence. The highway patrol officer who came to inform me I was the “victim of a crime” said so. They don’t know how fast you were going, but they do know that you had marijuana and benzodiazepine in your bloodstream.

And then the toxicology report. I researched. Benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication, can induce everything from euphoria to a hypnotic state, just like the recreational drug marijuana. Together, the two would have produced an amplified high, as well as an amplified tranquilizer effect. He might have been so high he didn’t know what he was doing. He could have been asleep at the wheel.

Why did you do that, Zach? Why?

Did you smoke pot and do drugs so often you drove stoned all the time?

Did you forget you had family and friends who loved you, a whole life ahead of you?

Did you think you were invincible, maybe even above the law?

But none of that matters. The outcome is the same.

Three beautiful girls, teenagers on the dance team I advised, were riding with me on the way back from dance camp that evening. I couldn’t protect them from you. You could have killed them. You almost killed me. I believed my daughter, also on the team, had left ahead of us, but in fact, she was only moments behind in a different car. You could have killed her that night. The thought makes me sick. I love her, just like your parents loved you. Our worst fear as parents happened to them: you didn’t come home.

I stared at the cross, thinking about what onlookers would have witnessed that July evening. A car shooting from the darkness and crashing into another. Impact in the intersection. Crunching metal, shattering glass. A body catapulted through a car’s sunroof and against the unforgiving road, as momentum propels both vehicles over a ditch to rest less than twenty feet apart. Airbags deployed, windshields buckled, a smoking engine. Four trapped inside mangled metal. Passersby stop, phone calls are made, and moments later, the chaos to save lives ensues. The scene is flooded with light, engulfed in disembodied voices, and swarming with firemen, ambulances, and highway patrol.

 Your parents must miss you desperately. I imagine they didn’t know about your regular drug use. I wonder if they were shocked, horrified maybe, to find out. I’m sure they have forgiven you by now, though—you were their only son.

 It is quiet here today at this place. Peaceful, even. Bright sunshine, a gentle breeze, midsummer warmth. The perfect setting for something—anything—to offer understanding. Redemption maybe. A setting to offer forgiveness.

But I am finding it difficult to do.

I am alive, but another mother’s son never went home.

We all make mistakes and poor choices. I know this. And if you had lived through the accident, maybe you would have apologized. You probably would have been sorry, too. If you had lived through the accident, maybe you even would have changed. You probably would have stopped being reckless, too. But maybe your life ended because of how you chose to live it. Maybe change would not have been possible for you. I don’t know.

I wait.

I don’t want to hate you, Zach.And I don’t want to be so angry . . . still. I even want to try to forgive you.

Nothing happens. I don’t even cry. I slide the pen back in my purse, toss the notebook to the front passenger seat, and head home. If only the intersection had been closed three years ago. If only we had taken another way home. If only he had been sober. If only he had stopped at the intersection’s sign. Then we would not have had our path crossed. T-boned. Crushed.

But I just can’t yet.

 Four lives altered forever, another life lost.

Sincerely, Aimee, the woman whose life you changed

A cross marks the spot.

Aimee Ross is a nationally award-winning educator who’s been teaching high school English at her alma mater in Loudonville, Ohio, for the past twenty-six years and an aspiring writer for as long as she can remember. Her first book, Permanent Marker: A Memoir, was just published in March 2018 (KiCam Projects). She has also had her writing published on NextAvenue.orgwww.lifein10minutes.com, and www.SixHens.Com, as well as in Beauty around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia (ABC-Clio, 2017); Scars: An Anthology (Et Alia Press, 2015); Today I Made a Difference: A Collection of Inspirational Stories from America’s Top Educators (Adams Media, 2009); and Teaching Tolerance magazine. You can find Aimee online at www.theaimeeross.com.

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Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Young Voices

How to Make Peace with a Dead Woman

September 21, 2016
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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 Jessica Domer

How to make a peace with a dead woman. Step One: Have a psychic medium give you messages from your dead mother and grandmother. Step Two: Go to a really good therapist. Step Three: Do a lot of yoga and meditative chi running. Step Four: Write an essay.

When I was five years old, I saw my mother for the last time. She walked out the door, leaving my father, brother, sister and I in her wake. When I say my mother walked out on me, I mean she quite literally shut the door as I was looking in her eyes, pleading her to stay. She said nothing. And I knew, in that moment, that I would never see my mother again. It turned out that, although I was a young girl, my intuition was correct. My mother died several years later without ever returning to visit. She died as we were planning a trip to come see her on her deathbed. She died the day before her birthday, which I always felt was an irony that was suited to be the last scene of her very unfulfilled life. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Binders, courage, Guest Posts

Fuck Us Harder.

March 10, 2015

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By Cade Leebron. 

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or rape which may be triggering to survivors.

the prequel

survivor. I don’t feel like a survivor of anything. Sometimes I think that one girl died on a bed in a dorm room on her third day of college; she died in his bed while he was fucking her, raping her, whatever. Another girl was born in her place and she rose, gasping, like a phoenix and ran from the room. She was a virgin. Nobody had ever fucked her, raped her, whatever. She was brand new, and she stumbled to a different dorm room and collapsed on the floor and then eventually crawled into the dead girl’s bed and fell asleep and in the morning she took a shower.

testimony

Three and a half years later, in April of my senior year, it still feels like a lie to call myself a survivor, I still don’t feel like I survived at all. I’m sitting on a carpeted floor, the institutional carpet leaving an imprint of its texture on the bottoms of my thighs, and I look around and start to speak to the people on all sides, unsure of which way to look. It feels wrong to start my sentence with as a survivor, but I say it anyway.

We are here, at this meeting of the Wesleyan University Student Assembly, to have a community discussion regarding sexual assault on campus and the role of fraternities, if fraternities should be dismantled or co-educated in order to combat rape culture, if fraternities contribute to rape culture at all. I turn to look at the back of the room and I see rows upon rows of massive men, fraternity brothers. They are just so much bigger than me that it is shocking. Why do they get the chairs? How did they get so big? I have seen them in the dining halls, their plates piled high with what would be several meals for me, but they didn’t seem so large then. Now here they are, massive men sitting in comically small chairs, perhaps those chairs were meant for small and fragile people like me who are instead down here on the floor. I don’t usually feel small. And I do know why they got the chairs, it is because they got here first, and I know what this must look like: they care more, we the women don’t care enough, we showed up a little late. The truth is that we didn’t show up late, we were here, wandering around the student center and avoiding entering this particular room, getting coffee and pretending to text, doing anything to not come here until the last minute. We were hesitant, maybe a little afraid, they were not. But we are here now, I am here. And so I say things, I add my voice to this war that’s happening very politely in this room, I say, according to the transcript, to the members of fraternities: if you care about women, why don’t you want to share this with them?

I’m sure that’s not how I said it, I know I said something about how siblinghood can be just as meaningful as brotherhood, how coeducation is a viable option, and something about how as a survivor, I feel safer in co-ed spaces, but I don’t remember exactly how I said it and the transcript is available online. It’s accurate enough.

I know that in the context of the world, a big place almost entirely full of crime and genocide and war and hatred and dead or abused children and terrorism, if you believe CNN, this is a very tiny little battle in this carpeted room. This is a group of college students at an extremely liberal liberal arts college arguing over whether or not men get to have clubs and call them fraternities and not let women join. And if we the women don’t fight against it, if we let these fraternities continue to exist, let men be together in this way, are they more likely to rape us? And are there enough of them for it to matter? Only three campus fraternities own houses. This whole situation feels artificial and surreal. We are having a conversation facilitated and policed by members of the student government and the administration. We are not allowed to laugh at each other or speak out of turn. A woman speaks, she says that the president of a fraternity called her a slut at a party recently. In response, the president of that fraternity introduces himself and then calmly attempts to explain it away, he says she was dancing inappropriately at his fraternity and that’s why he called her a slut, she was just dancing that way, dancing like a slut. As if this is justification. As if we should not notice that he is white and she is black and he is policing her body and the way it moves in his privileged space. We are shushed by student assembly members for booing him and then we sit quietly, chastised, waiting our turn, as the meeting continues. The minutes make no mention of this incident. The administrators, the supposed adults here, sit in a row of chairs against the windows to the right, they are silent. My campus therapist is among them, sometimes we make eye contact and then look away. This is a very orderly kind of pain. And it has become the reality, the vocabulary of my life. I’ve gotten so sucked into it, using these words, triggered, survivor, rape culture, so easily that someone might think it’s what I actually mean.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

Requiem for a Fallen Catholic.

February 12, 2015

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By Trish Cook.

Confession

I hate going to church. Especially funerals. I am only here in the hopes that my presence will comfort a hurting friend, not because I believe in this bullshit.

Sit, kneel, stand, cry.

Remember how losing a parent is like a having a body part amputated. How long the numbness where they used to exist lasts, how searing the pain is once the feeling returns. Remember why, ever since my dad died decades ago when I was twenty-four, I havent been able to sit through a religious service without getting angry, teary.

More pomp, more circumstance, more hollow promises.

Prayto whom, I do not knowthat my friend John, who has just lost his father and is the reason I grudgingly sit, kneel, stand, and cry today, finds comfort where I no longer do.

Wonder, as I have so many times since my own fathers funeral: Why would a loving God let us walk the earth so wounded? Lie so battered? Allow us to become so bruised, each and every one of us?

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that’s it! Summer or Fall 2015.

  Continue Reading…

death, Guest Posts, loss, parenting, The Hard Stuff

Dear Jerk: A Letter To The Father of My Kids After He Took His Own Life.

December 4, 2014

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By Erica Richmond.

Dear Jerk,

I drove Rain and Moxie to Dresden this weekend for your inurnment. Up until now I didn’t even know that word existed. I guess I should thank you for increasing my vocabulary.

While I’m at it, thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain cremation to our kids (I’m not sure it translates well into the afterworld but that was sarcasm). Difficult conversations seem to be a regular occurrence for me these days and I had to explain how your body could fit into such a little box. I told them that you had wanted your body to be turned into ashes before being buried. Rain’s eyes grew huge and he asked,

“HOW did they do that?”

Before I could even formulate any sort of appropriate and non-traumatic response he continued,

“Was it flame thrower or laser beam?”

God I love him.

When we turned down Trerice Street toward the Dresden cemetery I pointed out the high school we had both attended. Did I ever tell you about my first memory of you? It was here at my Grade 9 dance. You were in Grade 14 (that can happen when you leave town for a while to play hockey) and you ran past me across the dance floor with the Police and principal right behind you. Squeals of laughter and chants of “RUN HOOP – Don’t let them catch you!!” echoed over the early 90s dance music. You’ve never been boring.

Did you notice that Bittersweet Symphony started on my playlist as we entered the cemetery? It IS a bitter sweet symphony that’s life…. Well at least sometimes.

The ceremony itself was short and sweet. Hallelujah. You must have been as proud of Rain and Moxie as I was. They stood quietly between me and your parents and listened to the minister read a piece that one of your friends had written. I bet you chuckled when he even read the word ‘shit’. Did you notice that Moxie had chosen to wear the fancy black dress you had given her? Did you like the red roses they picked out for you?

After the service we went back to your parents’ house. The kids took off to play tag and the rest of us sat around the backyard eating sandwiches, drinking OV and sharing our favourite Hoop stories.

There are 2 things that you can be certain of:

  1. There are a never-ending amount of Hoop stories to be told.
  • You were (and continue to be) incredibly loved. As dark as your world had become for you I hope you had some understanding of how much you would be missed.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014

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By Caroline Leavitt

When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.

Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No,” she said. “I did.”

As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.

And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, travel, Women

Things That Didn’t Happen.

October 21, 2014

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By Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Why not February?

 1)  That day I landed in Paris, alone, no French to pout my lips, anti-gay protests spilled into the streets, shooting rapids of hatred. Queers had to navigate them, no oars. When I walked down Avenue Henri Martin to find an open store, I looked like what I was: an MEC-bedecked North American dyke, shapeless as a continent. Two men radared in. Vitriol tones a language; it hatcheted towards me on streams of spittle. The guy closest shoulder-checked me and I stumbled into a wall, scraping limestone.

Then they were gone, and I still needed oranges.

2)  A week later, Rue de la Pompe, arrondisement 16, outside Casino supermarket. Serrated needles of rain raking sideways. No umbrella, just a thin-wire pull-cart I needed to pile with groceries if I wanted to eat, launder, shampoo.

A Roma girl hunched on the street, no coat, one-shoed, hair divided into oleaginous shanks functioning as eavestroughs. Shoulders heaving. One foot maimed, red, shaped like a soup bone, the socket of a cow’s tibia. A paper begging cup exhausted by rain crumpled under left knee.

Trafficked, I thought, tears and misery the tools of her job. But beyond that: something immediate. Maybe, later, when she was picked up again, the gratitude of Stockholm Syndrome or familial bonds or simple lack of options would keep her in her place, but for now, dropped to the Paris pavement by her pimp or aunt or older brother, she was the picture of all that was wrong and nothing that was right.

My anger in Paris was a simmering thing, small at first, then growing. It was at first the size of the palm of a hand laid against a hot burner, but it flared. It was that worst thing, that touristic thing, impotence with a strangling desire to “help.”

“Madame, ça va?” I said as I pressed soggy pastries, fruit, hidden money into her hands. Nothing that would make it better. Nothing that would buy her options.

What do I want with pastries? her eyes said. Are you kidding me? She was right; I was an asshole in any language.

Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

What You Will Learn From This: Living With Head and Brain Injury.

October 6, 2014

By Jane Ratcliffe.

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1. Some people will refuse to believe that there’s anything wrong with you. They will accuse you of pretending to be sick for attention, even though you had plenty of attention in your life before the table top that was mounted on the wall fell on your head (or you got in that car accident, et cetera). They will counsel people not to help you, they will explain to them that helping you with your myriad terrifying symptoms is akin to enabling a drug addict; help will only encourage you to fake your illness longer. What you will learn from this: You’ll learn how to swaddle the voice that spends hours (and hours) each day defending itself to your accuser in soft, warm blankets and hold it to your breast rocking it gently like the frightened baby that it is. You will learn how to hear your soul and spirit shouting to you through the (temporarily?) out-of-whack channels of your brain, calling out over the cries of the baby, that your naysayer’s truth is not your truth, no matter how forceful their voice is. You will slowly excavate Your Truth from the dark, neglected chambers of your heart. You will discover how to let others say what they will about you while you’re still sick and heal anyway.

2. Most people will believe you, but they won’t really “get it”—so they’ll drift away until you’re better. Or they’ll get it, but you’re like a drowning person grasping at anything stable—and just because they don’t have head or brain injury doesn’t mean they’re consistently on steady ground. So they may drift in and out depending upon circumstances. This will hurt, but you’ll reflect upon your own life and all the times somebody else’s suffering was too much for you to carry. Or the times you judged someone’s suffering as symptomatic of character flaws—some of which were annoying enough that you secretly considered that perhaps they deserved their struggles, that if they were better people they wouldn’t have these struggles and, really, it wasn’t up to you to fix that mess. And that just as you have been put aside now, so too did you put aside others. What you will learn from this: Compassion. We are all suffering. You haven’t been singled out. Listen. Watch. Study others. No one is without fear. You will learn to hold their fear in your cleaned-up, cleared-out heart, and you’ll discover that the compassion you generate for their fear has the power to dissipate your fear as well. And likewise, the compassion you learn to generate for yourself (because you need it more than you initially realize) makes it easier to be present to another’s suffering which, well, makes it easier to be present to your own. And so on.

Continue Reading…