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Anxiety, Guest Posts

I’m A Meditation Teacher, And I Live With Anxiety

April 20, 2019
anxiety

By Megan Winkler

When you stand up in the front of a class or – in my case – sit at the front of a class, you’re the expert in the room. The pressure to be perfect is almost permeable for teachers. The same is true for meditation teachers, even though our job should be totally relaxing. There’s a lot of responsibility to the experience.

We are charged with creating a safe environment for complete strangers to take a few steps on the path of their personal transformation journey. We have to deliver our guided scripts in a calm, soothing manner. And we have to be prepared for just about anything: tears, snoring students who fall asleep, the kickboxing gym right next door suddenly starting up their class, stern and doubtful questions from participants, or the guy who got dragged to class by his girlfriend who rolls his eyes more than a sitcom teenager. (I’ve had ALL of these things happen in my classes.)

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve meditated yourself, by yourself. When you sit in front of a class – or even post a video online – there’s a ton of pressure to be flawless, perfect, and utterly expert in everything.

But here’s the catch: I’m not perfect. In fact, although I teach people how to overcome their fears and conquer anxiety, I’m continually battling it myself. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Didn’t it Feel Good?

April 18, 2019
good

By Rachel Cline

In the autumn of 1970, I was thirteen years old. Like seemingly everyone else in America, male and female—I had long, straight hair, parted down the middle. I sometimes wore a cowboy hat, but had trouble finding  blue jeans small enough to fit my child-sized frame. I lived in Brooklyn Heights with my brother (then nine and beneath my notice) and our divorced mother. My interests included Star Trek, The Monkees, Mad Magazine, and books that were deemed “too old” for me–that summer I read The Dharma Bums, The Godfather, and The Sensuous Woman by J.

We lived in a City-subsidized building and did not own a car or a color TV, but we were not poor—my brother and I both went to private school in Fort Greene. We also went to summer camp every summer for two whole months so that my mother could have some fun. That summer at camp, when not reading, I had been mildly and chastely in love with my brother’s counselor–a college sophomore with quotes from Tolkien markered all over his Jack Purcells. I remember him telling me that Henry and I must have great parents because my we were both so “cool.” At the time, I thought he meant “interesting and creative,” but in retrospect I suspect he was leaning more toward “bizarrely adept at acting like an adult.” Continue Reading…

Autism, Guest Posts

Don’t Panic, I’m Only Autistic; or Welcome to Autism Acceptance Month

April 16, 2019
autism

By Susanna Donato

Just over a year ago, on March 23, I was diagnosed with autism. By now, I’ve shared that information with many people in my life, including family, friends, and colleagues. Some of them, when I’ve explained, have said something along the lines of, “Oh! Yeah, you’re a little different, but I thought that was just a Susanna thing!”

Still, even though I don’t think “coming out” as autistic—sharing what’s essentially a medical diagnosis—is an obligation, I’m starting to feel a little lily-livered about posting resources and information and commenting on other people’s posts without sharing the reason I’m doing so or my perspective.

I’ve been reluctant to “go public” mainly because I don’t want people to judge me. When I told one friend, he took a step back and asked if I was OK.

I’m OK. I’m definitely OK. Autism isn’t contagious. It isn’t a deteriorating condition. And there are so many people like me. While the stereotype of autism may still be a boy with verbal and/or intellectual challenges—and don’t get me wrong, those individuals absolutely are present and deserve the same rights as anyone!—half or more have IQs that are average to above average, sometimes way above average. (Though non-speaking doesn’t mean non-communicative.) Lots of us are women, and a bunch are nonbinary or identify in other ways. And all of us, God willing, grow up and become adults. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parents

A Manual For Girls Who Struggle With Their Moms

April 14, 2019
fixed

By Amy Turner

    1. Do not be afraid. You will encounter therapists and gay men* who will nurture you in ways she never could . They will see you without judgement. This is because despite being big hits on Bravo, they have been forced to collectively shirk judgement /and or this is their job. Both work.(*Apologies for basic stereotype but when your best guy friend finds Sandra Bernhard more intriguing than Sandra Bullock, you’ll collapse, finally understood.)   

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Potty Training in a Typhoon

April 12, 2019
potty

By Melissa Kutsche

I scramble to fill pitchers, water bottles, and vases with water, creating a mosaic of receptacles on the kitchen counter. In the bathroom, I give the tub a quick scrub before plugging the drain. As cold water creeps up the side of the tub, I listen for chaos to erupt from the living room, where I’ve left the circus. My son is strapped into his bouncy seat, and my two-year-old daughter is sitting next to him, poring over board books. Naked. The typhoon has hit on Day 2 of what mommy bloggers call “potty training boot camp.” Like the kitchen counter, our living room floor has also been taken over, but by blankets – knitted, fleece, lady-bug-covered, and fringed. A plastic potty sits in the middle of the blanket patchwork.

I turn off the faucet and pray we won’t have to drink the bathtub water. Back in the living room, my son, only five weeks old, has fallen asleep in his bouncy seat. When he is older and doing the two-year-old version of American Ninja Warrior around our house all day, every day, I will miss these moments of his confinement. My daughter, the one without any pants on, is now over by her play kitchen. “What are you making, sweetie?” I ask the little chef, recently promoted to big sister. This week’s specials have been treats like blueberry-tomato tea and banana-corn soup. Instead of responding to my question, she lifts up her hands and looks at them with eyes gaping and lips curling. It’s getting dark, and I squat down for a better look. It’s the classic game of “Poop or chocolate?” I lost. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, travel

Tearing off the Supermom Cape

April 11, 2019
buddhist

By Dena Moes

“SIXTY THREE!” I shouted at my husband Adam and daughters Bella and Sophia. They had wandered into the kitchen expecting me to serve a meal one Saturday afternoon like I always did, with a smile and cloth napkins, most likely Genetically Modifed Organism-free and locally sourced.

“Do you know what that number is?” I asked, staring into their surprised faces. The girls, ages thirteen and nine, shook their heads, eyes wide.

“That is the number of times I feed you each week. Can you even believe it? Sixty friggin three. That is three meals a day for three people, seven days a week. And it is not even counted as a job. It is extra, taken for granted; on top of my actual paying job, plus laundry, paying the bills, keeping up the house, and arranging and chauffeuring all your damn activities.”

“What’s with her?” Bella asked Adam as I stormed out of the kitchen and into my office. I opened my laptop to scroll Tripadvisor.

Adam and I were plotting to rent out our house and spend a year India, visiting family, traveling, and learning. In the meantime, this unexpected thing was happening to me. Now that I knew we would be breaking the routines of our American family life, my patience with them and my belief in their absolute necessity dwindled. I had been holding down so much for so long. Sixty-three meals a week for thirteen years of parenting and I don’t even like cooking.

*** Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood

Is Motherhood the Loneliest Time of All?

April 9, 2019
playgrops

By Claire Fitzsimmons

“I need new friends.” That’s what I was thinking as I sat in a café in San Francisco in the middle of the afternoon. I was on my own. Soup and salad. And my two month-old son on my lap.

I expected to feel a lot of things when I had a baby, but not lonely. My childless friends were all at work. My family was all the way in the UK where I’d left them a few years before. It was just my husband, myself and our son, Sam.

I needed mummy friends. But how to do this when my boobs were leaking, I was grumpy from no sleep and I had nothing to say that didn’t begin with my child’s name? I’d tried a couple of things already that clearly weren’t working. I walked through my neighborhood smiling clumsily at new mums. I sat in the playground looking approachable, hoping I’d get picked up. A local playspace had the prospects of a nightclub; tea had replaced vodka tonics and circle time the dance floor. I made eye contact, feigned interest, but it wasn’t happening.

As I was in the United States, this was clearly the moment to be proactive and to join a playgroup, which have become as necessary here to modern parenting as baby yoga, birth announcements and Bugaboos.

I’ve never been on a blind date and I’m not a natural joiner, but I found myself turning up, late (as I always am now), to a playgroup formation convened by my local mother’s group. Faced with a room of 60 women, some with babes in arms and each filled with the bubbling expectancy of new relationships, this was speed-dating, mummy-style. Continue Reading…

Divorce, Guest Posts

The Perfect Blue: A Restless Bird, a Good Dog, and The End of a Marriage

April 7, 2019
blue

By Wendy Cohan

I drive too fast from Missoula, west through Spokane and the scablands of Eastern Washington, through the industrial maze of the Tri-Cities, along the other-worldly beauty of the Columbia Gorge and on into Portland. I drive up to our family home—painted a color that we worked so hard to choose: the perfect blue. Now, my husband and I face the task of going through our remaining belongings, separating his life from mine, over the next five days.

I’m staying at my friend’s empty house, just up the street, to limit any awkwardness and to give myself some private time and space. I play it cool: I’m helpful, generous, and not too inquisitive about his new life and new love. Although it’s difficult, I avoid playing “Do you remember?” too much. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, spirituality

Anomalous Events that Rattled My Skepticism

April 4, 2019
amma

By Marlena Fiol

“Why are we even together? All we ever do is fight.” I sat in a heap on the floor at the foot of our staircase. Ed stomped down the stairs, passed me without stopping, and left the house.

I heard his car back out of the garage. “I hate you!” I yelled at the walls.

We had met three years earlier, when I interviewed for a position at the University of Colorado. Shortly after I joined the faculty, our bodies found each other. We were complete misfits. I loved to sing; he couldn’t hold a tune. I loved to cook; he had no interest. He spent money without a thought; I saved money for that rainy day. He was a health nut, addicted to aerobic exercise of any kind, especially riding a bike; I had never owned serious sneakers in my life. Red high heels were more my style.

Our bodies didn’t care. Just being in the same room with Ed sent shivers up and down my spine. We sat through faculty meetings, casually pretending to be distant colleagues, but all the while, I fidgeted in my seat, trying unsuccessfully to ignore his electrifying presence across the room. Continue Reading…

Adoption, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Adoptive Parents are A**holes, Too

March 31, 2019
adoption

By Gina Sampaio

We didn’t exactly set out to have five kids. We had a girl, we had a boy, we had a vasectomy. Then we had a foster baby boy and adopted him. Then his birth mother had another boy whom we fostered and adopted and then a girl whom we also fostered and adopted.

Um, you know you can say no,” my friend said when she found out about the baby girl. “I know. But I can’t.” I replied.

But does that automatically make us really good people? Or does that just make us…suckers? Aren’t we actually just baby whores or, maybe more accurately…gluttons for punishment?

Because here’s something I realized after a four-year break between infants: there’s a lot about babies that really sucks. And the novelty of being woken up multiple times per night wears off just a little bit quicker with each kid. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, The Body

Her Skin, My Skin

March 29, 2019
skin

By Niyati Evers

My mother discovered she was ill a few months after I was born. The way the story was told to me many years later, my mother had sat down in her favorite lounge chair in our living room and by the time she got up, the entire chair was covered in blood and poop. She’d been too ill to look after me, too sick to breastfeed me, too weak to hold me in her arms. A few months after my birth, while my mother was in and out of the hospital and my father was working full time to provide for our family, it was my Nana who mostly took care of me.

My older brother and sister were teenagers by the time my mother died. I was the toddler who’d been left behind. A toddler with the same dark hair and the same light blue eyes as the daughter Nana had lost. Because Nana had been my surrogate mum so soon after I’d been born, when Nana lost her husband and her only child, I was all Nana had left in the world. Nana lived to be with me and I lived to be with Nana.

There was a short gravel road that led from our backyard to Nana’s back garden, so short it only took a minute to walk from our house to Nana’s. I spent time with Nana almost every day of the week but each time I went to see her I was so overcome with excitement I did not walk but ran as fast as I could. Even if I stumbled and fell and my knees were covered in little gravel stones I just got right back up and I didn’t cry because I knew that in just a few seconds I’d be back with Nana. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Miscarriage

Letters to a Lost Child

March 26, 2019
baby

By April Vázquez

June 23rd

Dear New Baby,

I’m writing this within days of your conception, if it’s worked. We had talked about trying for another child next year, I’d thought in January or so, but something just came over me. It’s exactly like when we tried for Dani: we had a plan (to wait until Daisy was a year old, in July), but I felt something indescribable, in February of all months, and just knew it was time. And it was. Dani came along the first time we tried. Then this month it happened that way again; if anything, I’d been slightly nervous about having THREE little ones. But then boom, I just knew. And I was able to convince your daddy, I suppose because it all worked out so beautifully last time, with healthy little Dani. You’ll come in the spring, March if it worked on the first try. And if not, well, then later, in April or May…

I put my Virgin Mary necklace on again, the one I wore through my previous pregnancies, and I’m going to do a test around July 10th, the day of Daisy’s birthday party. You’ll be Scarlett Fiona or Saul Francisco, and I think I’ll call you Cisco if you’re a boy. Cisco Houston is one of my heroes. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

Platter of Oranges

March 17, 2019
oranges

By Amy Sayers

I notice it right away, the platter of oranges. Big juicy naval oranges with pock marked skin. Thickly skinned. A few of the leaves, oval and glossy make a mandala on the red plate. Sandra, the architect in New York, potted orange trees in her loft. The scent of the white flowers were dazzlingly fragrant.

Oranges. Highly valued for their vitamin C content. Maybe they’re snacks for later. I could just peel one and put the peelings in my glass of water and savor the potent oil resting in the glands of the skin. I wonder if they’re organic but they had no stickers and I’m hungry and salivating over plump and juicy orange sections.

Twelve other people sit around the table, chatting noisily. All couples. Most of them have smooth ivory skin, one woman is black. Clearly I am the oldest woman. I pull on my chin to erase the lines drawn down to my mouth and fidget in my chair.

“Today we’re going to talk about the treatment. From biology to process and what to expect.” Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

I Am A Man And I Am A Survivor

March 13, 2019
assault

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 Arturo the Cuban

I am a man who is the survivor of sexual assault perpetrated by a man when I was a child.

Someone who was a member of our family so to speak. He was my mother’s common-law husband for ten years. He was the reason I disappeared from home around the age of 11. He was the reason I became a street kid until the age of 16.

I never spoke out. Not as a child anyway. There was the fear of embarrassment that comes from being raised in a tight-knit Hispanic family. I would later find out that I wasn’t his only victim. He also tried to perpetrate the same acts on my cousin who was much older. My cousin beat his ass. He told everyone. My mom’s so-called marriage was done and we moved a couple cities over.

It was then that I came out and spoke to some close friends at the time. We were a tight-knit community of hardcore kids who spent most of our time between the Lower-East Side of Manhattan, The World Trade Center, and Washington Square Park in New York City. We took care of each other in order to survive in a city that was not only harsh, but violent at the time.

I would go home every few days or so. Make an appearance. Let my brothers and my mom know I was alive. It was on one of those trips home that one of my closest friends came with me and beat the living shit out of the perpetrator. Did it stop him from ever doing it again?

I would find out later that it did not.

It turns out that the only thing that could stop a monster like this was death. He is dead. Not because his life was cut short, but because several massive strokes and heart attacks would inevitably take his life. He died after living more than ten years with a bag of shit attached to him, pissing himself. He died after spending decades moving all over the country for what I assumed was to avoid detection. Out of fear of being ratted out. I know this because my youngest brother shunned our biological father and considered this sick fuck his dad.

He called him Pop.

God I hated that shit. But as a kid I didn’t want to destroy the image in my younger brother’s head of what a father is. He treated my brother well. As far as I could tell anyway. I remember asking both of my brothers, in a roundabout way if they shared similar experiences. I didn’t go into detail as they laughed it off. As I suspected, I was alone. At least for awhile.

My father wasn’t around much. So I felt that for my brother to have a father figure was a good thing despite the evil only I knew lurked within this man.

The three women he was with after my mother, spoke of him raping them. His daughter too. For the first time in my life I felt a kinship with some of his other victims. I spoke to them and they encouraged me to speak out. But I didn’t. At the time I felt like maybe they were using me to get back at him. Revenge. I was just a teenager at the time. A very confused one at that.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Kids” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Those kids in the movie didn’t just represent my life. They were a part of it. Some of them were my friends. I wouldn’t get involved in drugs or alcohol until later in life. At the time I was a straight-edge kid. No drinking. No drugs. No cigarettes. None of that. Well, except some weed. I’ll admit I sucked at being a straight-edge. But we all shared so many commonalities when it comes to sexual assault.

It was then that I tried to speak out. Nobody in my family heard me. I was just some street kid who was perceived as some junkie bum who slept on park benches. It was a tactic that was used to ruin my credibility. I was confused they said. Looking for attention they said. Looking for some kind of out for my bad decisions. All of us were treated the same way. It was a time when no matter what a child, male or female, would say, the word of the perpetrator would be taken over that of the victim.

Because of that I lived my life with resentment towards my mother, my brothers, and everyone else who ignored me. At the same time I was to preoccupied with being a part of a community of street kids that took care of each other. We had older brethren, as we called them, that helped look after us. They showed us how to eat, bathe, survive. Occupying empty warehouse space. Squatting. Buildings that were abandoned as the city skirted bankruptcy.

No one ever came to check on these places. We lived in abandoned factories occupying an entire floor. For as bad as it was, we had each other. We made the best of it and had some really great times. Most of those friends are gone now. Dead. Drug overdoses, suicide, murdered. All a result of struggling to cope as they all got older.

I survived.

I survived with a sense of guilt. I wasn’t there. Forced to move away and live with my biological father. A move that would save my life. The guilt overcame me not because I felt that I was to blame. But because the city was in recovery mode and the sanctity and security that came with being a street kid was quickly disappearing. My street family was dying and I was nowhere to be found. A ghost thousands of miles away. No contact. No connection. None of it.

I miss them. I always will.

We were all survivors who no one gave any credibility to. But when I look around I still see some of us in the real world. Some are quite successful. An actress. The front-man of a world renowned Hardcore band. An author. And me. A still struggling, but not starving, artist.

I’ve had my share of successes too. From a semi-popular underground band, to a studio musician for many popular artists, to a government contractor. If you know my story, all that came crashing down four years ago after a mild stroke.

I’m a survivor.

But today I struggle As millions of other people are. Listening to the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and how all these men treated her, talked down to her, and dragged her name through the mud undoubtedly brought out some very hardcore feelings for many women (and men) up to the surface. Everything that has happened surrounding Dr. Ford is emblematic of the suffering all sexual assault victims struggle with. My wife included.

I’ve never written about what happened to me and like Dr. Ford I’ve never really talked about it to anyone but my wife and my former therapist. I didn’t do so because I never felt like I had the support of anyone other than my wife.

When Terry Crews came out about the assault against him, I almost had the courage to do this but I just couldn’t. Instead I reached to him on Twitter and told him that I believed him and that I got him. I did so without ever revealing what happened to me. He responded with gratitude and thanks. I didn’t share my story out of fear. I saw what so many other men were doing and saying to him. I was disgusted. I wished I had that strength.

Today is different. After hearing Dr. Ford’s testimony and seeing how people were treating her online I became angry. Some of my closest friends and even family spent more time victim shaming her than listening to her. I found myself in a deep debate defending a girl I barely know.

She is the daughter of someone I once considered a friend. She joined in the conversation about victim shaming and sharing her story only to be shamed and treated like complete shit for not speaking out sooner. One of the people shaming her was mutual friends with the perpetrators of her assault. Yet he rose to their defense (while claiming he “never heard” of anything happening to her) by saying the same shit over and over again.

“You should have come out sooner!”

“You’re not a victim until you file a police report!”

“Waiting 30 years ruins your credibility!”

As I fought tooth and nail defending her she left the conversation. I imagine it was too much to bear. She kept talking to me via text and I continued to support her in every possible way I can.

I just kept getting angry and went on the attack. I lost my composure. Started hurling insults and fighting back against what I kept referring to as rapist apologists. I called them every derogatory name under the sun. I was in a fit of rage. I probably shouldn’t have gone that far, but I did and I don’t care.

Because I’m a motherfucking survivor.

Then I told her. The girl I was defending. I told her I was sexually assaulted too. By the time all that was over. She was thankful. Grateful. I felt good about what I did. At least for a little while

Then it all started to sink in. The words of Dr. Ford made my anxiety explode. Crippling depression also started to set in. I had the shakes all night as I tried to hang out with the wife and kids binge watching Trailer Park Boys. I needed to laugh. I just couldn’t. I mostly faked it and tried to enjoy our family time. After all that’s what kept me going until now. Living for the moment and trying to repress those horrible memories.

A day later, here I am. Shaking from the nightmares of what happened to me. Shortness of breath as I write this to finally tell my story. I need to. I have to let it out. I cannot bear witness to this any longer by myself. I need support. I need to give support. We all do. We need to be here for each other. Encouraging others to speak up. I have no family support aside from my wife.

The last time I brought this up to my mother, she asked that I not mention it to my brother for fear of causing a rift in my broken ass family. It was never mentioned again. Terry Crews’ story is what gave me the courage to tell my mom. But her response led to me to feel so much shame that I shut up about it. AGAIN She wants to protect my brother and his image of the perpetrator.

But what about me?

The man is dead. Never brought to justice. Fuck him. If my brother doesn’t want to acknowledge what happened to me at the hands of the monster he holds so dear, then fuck him too. After 33 years since the last time I was assaulted, it’s my fucking turn to speak my truth. I will hide it no more. I will not be silent to the appeasement of anyone else.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I love you. But I just can’t anymore. I can’t. I’m doing this for me, for my friends, for my wife, and every other woman and man out there that struggles with these thoughts. These horrifying memories. I’m doing this so I can move forward with MY life and so that I don’t live under a cloud of shame anymore for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I’m sorry mom, but fuck that shit. It’s nothing against you, but we are at the dawn of new age. I love you with all my heart. But you need to understand that I AM A SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.

I’m taking my life back from him.

The dead man.

May he rot in hell.

Arturo is a front-line anti-racism activist, essayist, and upcoming author; advocating for equality, justice, and accountability. He is a married father of three young men and a stroke survivor. He is currently working on a series of books focusing on social issues and racism in America. Arturo is also a freelance journalist.

Continue Reading…

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