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Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

Stuck

June 13, 2021
throat

by Billie Hinton

There is something stuck in my throat. It happens two weeks after a holiday on which two of the people I love most in the world argue bitterly and stop speaking.

It’s a cold day; I buy cream of broccoli soup at the co-op, drive through the winter landscape back home, bare branches of oak and poplar, maple and hickory inked black against the pale pink overcast sky.

I drink the soup from its white paper container while standing in our living room, the soft white Christmas tree lights reflecting in the panes of every window, comfort and heart ache.

I’m in a rush to get to the barn, do the chores, push my thoughts out past this to where there’s nothing, just me mucking manure, listening for the quiet, healing snorts of horses eating hay.

Something fibrous touches my throat when I tip the container for the last swallow; it feels big, not something I should swallow, but the impulse is to choke it down, so I do, only in that moment realizing I am making a mistake.

My mother always said to eat soft white bread for something stuck and we don’t have that, but we do have sourdough, so I chew and swallow, trusting the bread to take the fibrous thing down with it. It doesn’t.

Drinks of water don’t help, nor do salt water gargles. Sometimes it takes awhile for the sensation of scraped throat tissue to fade, so I walk to the barn and do chores. Waiting, everything seems to irritate: cold air, the hay, the dust in the barn as I muck stalls. I try to forget the throat part of my body, aim my focus hard at the horses, the little donkeys, my daughter’s pony. I take a walk around our farm, finally go inside at dusk, prepare dinner, which I cannot eat.

Later, in bed for the night, eager for sleep and escape, it remains, something sharp and worrisome pushing against soft pink tissue that I imagine but cannot see.

Morning light, the thing. Still pushing.

The ENT who sees me as an emergency walk-in puts a scope through my nose, down my esophagus, and says she doesn’t see anything.

But.

Her equipment is old, she confides, and there’s a dark area she can’t really illuminate.

I seize on that darkness. It isn’t hard to do; with my two beloveds still not talking, my own grim view of what happened between them, I am already thinking the worst. They might never repair this jagged rift, the edge of which seems to reside inside my chest.

The doctor, a thirty-something quiet woman who seems perfectly competent but has old equipment, suggests I wait a month and have another scope if I still have trouble. A month seems like a very long time.

For 30 days I feel the stuck thing, ticking the calendar in my head, sometimes out loud as I walk the farm, using the month as a prescriptive number. It will be gone in 30 days. The doctor implied this. The stuck thing is also a rogue thing: it goes vertical, other times horizontal, sometimes it is rough and fibrous, other times a sharper object, painful, a reminder of everything in my life that is hard to swallow.

***

I stop eating solid foods, liquefy everything into soup, smoothies, still hoping to wash the stuck thing down, reducing the possibility of food piling up behind it, a logjam. How big is the space of a throat? My brain runs with this image of tight dark spongy tissue, narrowness crisscrossed with a piece of something that shifts but cannot go any further than it is.

I lose 10 pounds but the stuck thing remains.

Visualizations, eucalyptus oil in the steamy shower, opening things up, pulling white light through my name written in the sky above our house, into my forehead, down through my throat with a rush of energy in an effort to push the thing through and out.

Meditation, release, relaxation, acceptance, forgiveness, all the things I have taught to clients in psychotherapy sessions, reminding them that these are not miracle cures, but if they do them, the techniques will help. Little, methodical ways to manage grief, anxiety, fear, sadness, the unnameable feeling that accompanies a broken heart.

The thing is still there. Beloveds still not talking.

Almost unbelievably, I learn to tolerate both.

***

More than a month later, because it takes a long time to get an appointment, I walk into a huge university hospital’s ENT clinic. Their equipment is state of the art, the doctor a young woman from India who puts a scope in expertly and shows me live video of my throat.

My laryngeal tissue is pink and healthy, she is impressed.

She asks me to eat a big spoonful of blue jello; her assistant peels the foil lid off a container and offers it and a plastic spoon to me. I swallow tentatively, watch the gelatinous blue bolus slide down and disappear with ease.

You see how that went down, the doctor says. I nod. This is powerful knowledge, she adds, and I nod again, wanting this knowing to be more than just a swallow, I want it to grow larger, expand into my life and the lives of those I love. Powerful knowledge, letting things go. Swallowing pride.

She offers whole graham cracker squares and tells me to eat them quickly, an entire cracker in one bite, the way you would if you were having a snack, she says.

I balk, tell her I don’t eat entire crackers in one bite, the image in my head is that of a stubborn, frightened horse.

She urges, like a mom might, assures me she’s a doctor, can save me if I choke, though she knows I won’t.

I try to explain that it’s not choking I’m afraid of, not that I might die, but that I might have to live with this thing forever, the feeling of it, the sharpness, the lack of control.

It will be okay. She is lovely even in the harsh light of a medical clinic exam room, her brown skin rich and deep, dark eyes full of care and confidence. I wonder where her family is, if she’s married, are there children. Whether they talk to one another.

I cram the cracker in and chew, swallow quickly and watch as the tan lumpy blob slides down without a hitch.

This is important, she repeats, pointing to the screen. You see there’s nothing there, right? She moves the scope, illuminating every shadow. This is state of the art equipment. There is no darkness here.

I nod, because I see the clear passage that is mine, but even so, I feel the stuck thing lodged like an invisible lump, hard to swallow, heart in my throat, stuck in my craw.

***

She turns off the machine and removes the scope. I know you feel something, but trust me, she says. Eat regular meals, no more liquid shakes. How much weight have you lost, she asks. 20 pounds. You need to move past this. The longer you go the worse it will be.

Walking in and again when I leave, I pass a huge wall-sized display in the ENT clinic hallway, crammed with actual objects that have been removed from people’s throats. A toothpick with a green cellophane decoration, a car wash token, large baby diaper pins, the pop top from a sardine can, a belt buckle. Things no one would imagine putting in one’s mouth, much less try to swallow. How satisfying it must be to have such things removed and held out to you, pinched between forceps, no question the ordeal is done.

A week later, still stuck, I call my homeopathic doctor and share the saga. She prescribes a remedy for grief. A month passes. I cancel the return appointment with the ENT because I already know what she’ll say. Powerful knowledge.

My weight is down 30 pounds.

I read online about people who have lived years with things stuck in their throats, every test done that can be done, procedures far beyond my own two ENT scopes. They believe doctors missed the stuck things, know without doubt something is there. Some schedule procedures in which their esophaguses are stretched.

***

Another month passes. I feel better, less sad, but the thing in my throat remains. I’ve lost 40 pounds, still eat soup, scrambled eggs and sandwiches with soft fillings. Nothing fibrous. I leave the celery out of tuna salad, refuse anything toasted, broccoli is verboten. Sometimes at night, when I’m trying to fall asleep and my mind races with remnants of conversations I’ve had with the two who won’t speak but communicate through me, the mysterious object seems to grow larger. I sit up, read, drink water, gargle salt water. I take another dose of the homeopathic remedy, as if it might spark an instant and miraculous cure.

Nearly every day I stop in the barnyard while horses and donkeys and pony watch, raise my arms to the sky, imagine yet again writing my name in white light across the blue or gray day, or the dark velvet of a starry night, envisioning the light streaming through the center of my forehead, down my throat, my body, my legs into the earth beneath. Grounding. Safety. Clearing all stuck things.

When I feel something in my throat, I invoke the live video of the blue jello going down, the graham cracker blob, the perfectly functional, visibly clear passageway.

***

Late one night, when I can’t sleep because the thing is overpowering my ability to ignore, I read about a man who also had a stuck thing. He too had every test, saw in live video that nothing was there. He’d had a rough time with his boss, big stress, and eventually determined that his vagus nerve had been activated. He had his vagus nerve stimulated, says it was only when he resolved the original problem with his boss that his throat cleared, that anxiety and depression medications often prove useful in cases like his. Like ours.

I’m a psychotherapist, I talk out loud while walking the farm, administering soothing words and self-hugs, research to affirm the facts. Maybe I should get Zoloft, or Prozac. Can medication do what I cannot? I read neuroscience, excitable nerve cells.

Mine are excitable for sure, but I’m starting to have multi-hour spans of time when I don’t feel the thing in my throat. I let my mind go there, slowly, almost sneaking to think the thought: it’s gone. Later it returns, sharp, fibrous, vertical, horizontal. I feel it when I swallow, feel it when I don’t. How can something that is not truly there feel so real? What triggers the sensation that it’s there, then not? Maybe this will be the rest of my life, monitoring the position and pressure of something inside my body that is not actually present.

I start to think about living with this thing. With my throat. Being in between two people, holidays and celebrations incomplete because they won’t be in the same place anymore. I imagine a life that includes two of every holiday.

Maybe neither are as bad as I think they will be.

***

In the spring it’s decided; I’ll travel with one of the beloveds to California, 9 days down the Pacific coast. There is still no direct communication between the two, but feelings have shifted and mellowed; I have hope that the silence between them might not last forever.

We revisit old haunts, the place I lived as a graduate student during my final clinical internship, the gorgeous vistas down Highway 1, Santa Cruz to Los Angeles, where I lived as a young woman for a year, a long evening with my best friend, meeting her husband and sons, she meeting mine.

So much joy.

I’m still careful about what I eat, but no more liquid-only meals. I chew my food with precision, try to forget everything when I swallow, trust that the healthy throat tissue and muscles will manage their tasks.

The powerful knowledge of the graham cracker video remains with me, but I’ve also learned something even more powerful. When I feel the sensation, I can make it disappear with my mind.

I don’t know how it works. I feel the thing in my throat, then I relax something. It’s not an actual muscle that I relax, more like a mental muscle, a silent gesture. I bestow a sort of forgiveness, time traveling back to the moment before anything was wrong at all. When I do this, the sensation disappears.

Do we have the power to heal ourselves but don’t even know it?

***

It’s been years since the thing in my throat hijacked a winter and all of a spring. I can’t name the day it left for good. I don’t know if there was ever anything truly stuck, if something in the cream of broccoli soup nicked my throat tissue and started the ordeal, or if the entire thing was related to what in hindsight feels like two seasons of pure heartbreak.

I know the phrase, she carries her heart on her sleeve, and the other one, her heart was in her throat. I know the feeling of actual tight searing pain that seizes my throat when I’m upset, tearful, emotionally unwound. It makes sense that the vagus nerve could be activated and take months to resolve.

What I also know is that the mind and the body are powerfully connected. Our bodies can take upsets and hang onto them, creating symptoms that mimic disease and disorder, defying laboratory testing, procedures with state of the art machines, resulting in mistaken diagnoses, no diagnoses, puzzlement on the faces of doctors.

And beyond this, our minds can learn, in what seems a miracle unto itself, to let these things go.

The vagus nerve registers heartbreak and gut-wrenching feelings.
-Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
-The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Billie Hinton is an award-winning writer and psychotherapist who lives on a small horse farm in North Carolina. She keeps horses and bees, studies native plants, and wrangles cats and Corgis. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, Not One Of Us, Manifest-Station, Riverfeet Press Anthology, Streetlight Mag, Longridge Review, and Minerva Rising, among others.

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You know it’s an amazing year to be a reader when Emily Rapp Black has another book coming. Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is remarkable. In this book, Emily gives us a look into how Frida Kahlo influenced her own understanding of what it means to be creative and to be disabled. Like much of her writing, this book also gives us a look into moving on (or passed or through) when it feels like everything is gone.

Pick up a copy at Bookshop.org or Amazon and let us know what you think!

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Are you ready to take your writing to the next level?

Two of our favorite writing spaces are launching new opportunities for working on your craft. Circe Consulting was formed when Emily Rapp Black and Gina Frangello decided to collaborate on a writing space. Corporeal Writing is under the direction of Lidia Yuknavitch. Both believe in the importance of listening to the stories your body tells. If you sign up for a course, tell them The ManifestStation sent you!

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

Life Cycles

September 9, 2019
rhythms

By Abby Braithwaite

I lift myself off the front seat of my car and dig into the pocket of my jeans to extract four off-brand ibuprofen. I pick out the pocket lint and toss the pills into my mouth, chasing them down with the dregs of my son’s water bottle, chilled from a night forgotten in the car.

I’m in the parking lot of not-my-doctor’s office, waiting for a midwife I’ve never met to remove the last piece of birth control I’ll ever need — assuming I can avoid divorce and widowhood for the next decade. I’ve done my time on pills that turned me psychotic, and a few rounds of IUDs that made my cycles flare up and down, and ultimately disappear. With this last, the tiny plastic Mirena, my uterus was so damn sure she was done hosting babies that she sucked the whole contraption up inside a few years ago, string and all. An ultrasound confirmed the device was in place, no immediate action necessary, so I left it there.

But my husband got a vasectomy last fall, and I’ve decided to let my body return to its natural rhythms for a few years before it shuts off, to join my adolescent daughter as she learns to navigate womanhood on her end, and I get ready for crone-hood on mine. With my husband snipped and sperm count tested, I made an appointment to get the IUD removed. My doctor, a family practitioner, doesn’t have the tools or techniques to go in and get it, so she sent me to the big clinic I left ten years ago because it was so cold and impersonal. They were able to get me right in, so I dropped the kids off at school this morning and now I wait in the parking lot.

It’s time, I know. I swapped my mini-van for a Chevy Bolt last spring, graphic novels and granola bar wrappers have replaced board books and Cheerios in the back seat, and the other night I found myself saying, “If you guys are going to be so unappreciative, you can make your own (damn) dinner,” and the kids fed themselves on cereal, eggs and leftovers.  My daughter, almost thirteen, started her period more than a year ago; her developmental disability means she needs more support with it than another girl her age might, so we talk a lot about menstruation in our house, and her nine-year-old brother learns more every month about the trials of puberty for girls. Though they’re both peanuts on their growth charts, my kids aren’t little anymore, and there’s a lot to be said for this era of near self-sufficiency.

Five years ago we talked about having another baby, but my husband was worried about my health after two complicated pregnancies. After I spent a year getting in shape before trying again, our third child came to us in the body of a fully-formed 14-year-old, the daughter of an old friend. She lived with us almost four years before returning home last December, her time with us eating up any reserves of energy we had for another kid; the conversation about babies was off the table.

***

And so, here I am in the parking lot, not ready to go inside. Part of my hesitation is purely physical, as this removal could be pretty uncomfortable. When my doctor mentioned a “crochet hook-like tool” I knew ibuprofen would be on the menu. But there’s something else, too. I should have gotten over my grief back in September, with the vasectomy. But the surgery went so fast I didn’t even get three lines down in my journal before my husband limped back into the waiting room, ice pack down his pants. We were supposed to have a lot of sex over the next few months, to get any live genetic material out of his system while I still had protection. But then I broke my leg and wasn’t much interested in touching anyone, so he was left to his own devices. When he took a sample to the lab three months later, he was deemed sterile. I didn’t grieve then, either. So why can’t I get out of the car?

***

I remember sitting in birthing class in our midwife’s living room before my daughter was born, discussing our fears around childbirth; I wasn’t afraid of pain, or complications for myself or the baby. No, I was afraid I would reach what I deemed the **pinnacle of feminine physicality, and blow it. Not be able to birth a baby through sheer physical prowess, not be able to open myself to the primal force childbirth and push this being out of the center of me. I’ve never understood or strived to obtain the * feminine, but physicality? That’s been a thing. Always pushing to keep up with my big brothers. Finding my currency at recess by being picked with the boys for kickball and Red Rover; I found it easier to join the testosterone gang on their terms, rather than try to decipher the arcane language of flirtation, attractiveness, seduction. I had lots of boy friends but never a boyfriend, until college. And even then, and beyond, I never really figured out the game, finding myself at staff retreats in my twenties, my 5-foot tall self competing with the 6-foot tall dudes with arms as big as my thighs on the high ropes course, impressing them with my prowess, joining them for jocularity and beer in the bar, while my friends flailed and flirted and later bedded them. I never could figure out what I was missing, why I was always alone.

Now I had fallen in love with a man who loved me anyway, and conceived a child with him in the throes of a wild abandon I have only experienced one other time (three and a half years later, the night we conceived our son). I was six months pregnant and fully embracing the biological imperative of procreation; I wanted to push that baby out. But instead my body reacted against her. I got pre-eclampsia, we induced labor to get me well, and the baby’s heartrate fell through the floor, and she came into the world under a surgeon’s knife in a sterile operating room. We were just happy that I was healthy and the baby was here, and we went about the business of becoming parents. In the coming days we would learn our daughter had an extra 21st chromosome, and suddenly everything seemed more important than how she came into the world.

But we would have more kids, I would have another chance to reach this mythical milestone. Hah. Kid number two sat up like a little Buddha in his cozy womb, and try as we might we couldn’t get him to flip over; once again I found myself in an operating room, another surgeon with his knife at my midsection, and our boy was born, butt to the ceiling. This time, I was mad and sad and not distracted by anything but how unfair it was that I had been robbed, again, of the opportunity to prove myself a woman. My sweet boy was suckled on milk with a tinge of rancor, but he made it through; we all survived a few dark months of post-partum disorientation, and in the depths of my heart I planned another chance that never came.

***

So here I sit, a few days from 44 and a tiny bit reluctant to declare that this old body is done generating new life. The last two times I went off birth control, we made a baby in a matter of minutes, but this time I’m becoming fertile again for no reason other than my nostalgia for natural rhythms.

It’s time to go inside. As I unplug my phone, I notice a pink bread tab stuck in the bottom of the cup holder. I pick it up, fiddling it in my fingers, feeling heat rise from my crotch to my cheekbones. Thanks to an off-the-cuff comment in a marriage counseling session, bread tabs became the **token in our sexual economy, and they appear EVERYWHERE. My husband and I came into the marriage with wildly different intimacy needs, and the chasm between us was widened by pregnancy, and this hang up of mine that my body let me down in childbirth. And so, for our tenth anniversary we gave ourselves the gift of marriage counseling. We worked on boundary issues (his), control issues (mine), rejection issues (his), control issues (mine) and tried everything from assigned sex days (**Fucking Tuesday, you choose the inflection) to, somehow, bread tabs. If he handed me one before six pm, I could accept or decline. If I accepted, I was committing to sex that night, even if I just wanted to lie down and sleep. He had the worst timing, handing me a tab the moment I cleared my lap of dogs and kids and inhaled my own space for the first time all day. Other days I would accept, fully intending – wanting — to follow through, and then renege when I was just too tired. I started to throw away every bread tab that came into the house, while he snatched them up from other people’s kitchen counters.

But in the last few months, for the first time in our 15-year relationship, I have initiated intimate encounters almost as often as he has. He blames his vasectomy, convinced it has lowered his libido, a dose of emasculation good for our marriage, not so good for his ego.

I credit the two months I spent in bed recovering from surgery on my broken leg, relinquishing control of the household. All fall, I listened to my husband getting the kids up and out the door every morning, working with the babysitter to keep us fed and cared for, running the show with a strength and grace I had never seen in him – never ever allowed him to show me, with my relentless gathering in of every important and trivial detail of running our home. So we fell into some twisted version of ourselves, a partnership that worked, in its way, but that wasn’t true. Even after three years of marriage counseling, open and honest counseling, where we cut incredible paths back toward each other, there remained an impenetrable thicket when it came to sex, and we surrendered to this as a truth of our marriage.

As I lay there throughout my recovery, incapable of anything more tangible than being present, I watched my husband step up and in, not as a father, because he’s been an incredible dad since day one, but up and in to a confidence and competence that I am ashamed to say I may have been unwilling to see. And it’s sexy.

I smile and put the little pink piece of plastic back in the cup holder, thinking I should hand it to him later. Letting the flush move through me, I climb out of the car and walk across the sunny parking lot into the clinic.

***

As it happens the midwife is wonderful, finds the IUD string with nothing more invasive than an oversized Q-tip, and sends me off with a warning that, with the device removed, I could start bleeding at any time, there’s no way of know where I am in my cycle, and I spot a bit over the next couple days. On Sunday, my husband texts me while I’m out in the studio — ** Black underwear days. Our daughter has started her period again, and he’s digging through the bathroom drawers to find all the blood-absorbing Thinx panties, making sure they’re stocked and clean for her week ahead. I make sure they don’t need me, and step outside to pee in the woods. Whoops! Seems my body has noticed the IUD is gone, and I’ll be bleeding with my girl this week. Better dig out the Diva cup and remind myself how this whole process works. It’s been awhile.

Abby Braithwaite lives in Ridgefield, Washington, where she sometimes writes from a converted shipping container in the woods overlooking the family farm. Her essays on parenting, escape, and disability have been published in the Barton Chronicle, the Washington Post and the Hip Mama blog, as well as a handful of non-profit newsletters. She shares her home with her husband and two children, and whoever else is passing through

Guest Posts, Self Image, Writing & The Body

Powerful Child

March 10, 2019
swim

By Monica Welty

Strong currents of chlorinated, blue silk push against my body and I push right back. I also pull. We work with and against each other: me pushing forward, the water sliding back along my body. Spiraling and bubbling in my wake and then calming until I flip and come back again, heading in the opposite direction. I cup my hand to grab a swirling ball, like a wizard’s spell in his open palm. On land, water cupped in my hand drips down between the crevices of my fingers but in the water, I grab hold of it and use it to my advantage.

I love the muffled world under here. Even though I can’t breathe, it feels as if my chest is heaving like a track and field sprinter. Even though I can’t feel the sweat pouring off me, the salinated beadlets are instantly dissolving into this chemical-laden universe. Even though I feel as sleek and strong as any sea mammal, my skin, my temples, my thighs are pulsing and burning from the hot blood flow of my movement. Until I turn my head to put my ear to the bottom of the pool, all I hear is a tamped down world and the heavy breathing I am not doing. Then, I hear my quick gasp for air, my lifeline, the moment that both fuels me and slows me down. Back into muffled bliss, I feel more keenly the splashing water on my forearm and elbow as they leave the water momentarily in my flurry. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Writing & The Body

Claiming the Right to Cherish My Body

March 8, 2019
cherish

By Signe E. Land

Soaking in the tub on Christmas Eve, I studied my naked body. My two sons were on a trip with their father, and I live by myself, so I had plenty of time to reflect on the noticeable weight I had gained after a recent surgery. My breasts had grown larger and were pleasantly round with a fullness they hadn’t had for a very long time.  My stomach and sides had grown thicker too.  I considered some pros and cons of the weight gain. Pro: my butt was rounder, not as flat.  Con: my butt was not as perky.  Pro: my breasts were larger, pleasingly heavy when I weighed them in my hand.  Con: I had a little pot-bellied tummy.  Pro: I felt surprisingly more grounded in my body.  Con: I had to buy new jeans.

In the past, I had always abdicated judgement of my body to others.

Now single, for the first time I was the only one experiencing my body; I was the only one who would decide if the changes were good or bad, ugly or beautiful. In the past, partners had taught me that a fit, trim body was acceptable and loveable, though they had said they would love me “even if” I gained weight, whatever that meant. Judgment of my body was for others, including my mother, for whom my body had never been quite right: for her, I had always been too heavy or too thin. Now, as I considered my new curves and softness, I was surprised at the lack of horror and shame I had always felt before when I had gained weight.

As I considered my new body, a word popped into my mind along with a question: Cherish.  Do I cherish my body? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

Her Own Beast

December 19, 2018
animal

By Natalie Singer

Once there was a girl who had a wild animal. She had never touched the animal but she knew deep inside her body and her soul that it was hers. She didn’t remember when she first understood she had an animal, maybe she was 12 and it was her first summer away at sleeping camp and she stayed in a canvas tent on a metal cot made up with a sleeping bag and old threadbare floral sheets that felt soft when she rubbed them between her fingers with three other girls including one named Frankie who peed her bed. Frankie peed her bed but she also showed the girl how to peg her jeans tight around her mosquito bitten ankles and hide her candy in a lockbox under the cot so the counselors wouldn’t find it and how to whisper late into the night without getting caught while the July rain drip drip dripped on the dirty canvas roof of the wooden platformed tent. Maybe she met the animal then, that summer, at the summer camp in the mountains with the tents among the pines. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality, Writing & The Body

The Vagina Monster

July 10, 2017

By Amy Bond

I took my first pole dance class the same day that I started law school. The instructor, Stacey taught us a move called the Vagina Monster, where you lay back, toes pointed to the ceiling, and then shuffle sideways, butt cheek to butt cheek waving your legs. The effect makes it look like your vagina is ravenously hungry and going to eat someone. It was raunchy as fuck and I loved it. By the end of class, we made something of a contest out of who was the nastiest bitch in the room, and it ended with all of us laughing uncontrollably, our heads resting easily on each other’s bellies in a pile of womankind solidarity. I left feeling strong and unapologetic.

There, for the first time, I met women who celebrated their bodies, and delighted in the weird shit we discovered we could do with them. I hadn’t seen sexuality like that before, which surprised me because I used to be a sex worker. From the women I met in pole dancing, I discovered a form of sexual expression utterly different from the kind I’d learned before.

Growing up, I was raised Mormon, and I believed that the absence of desire was what made me good. When I was 19, I moved to LA to be an actress, and maintained a long distance relationship with a Mormon man. We planned to get married in the Mormon temple and he was good like I was good; a virgin, pure. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, memories, Writing & The Body

The Arctic Front

June 26, 2017
arctic

By Tiffany Lee Brown

We were reshaping language. Making it fit better. Breaking it into chunks, discrete pieces. That’s what acid does: it lets you see all the infinitesimal pieces of everything, the air’s live molecules, the shivering motion of protons, electrons, neutrons as they fly through their individual atoms. At the same time, it lets you see the big things: the stars, the way the molecules connect all living creatures together, the breathing of trees against darkness.

We were reshaping language not just because it made us laugh, but because it brought new meaning to things, new clarity. And so the fire was no longer the fire. It was the Bright Flickering Orange Thing, as in: I’m freezing, but I can’t move right now. Would one of you feed the Bright Flickering Orange Thing? And someone would put a log—the Severed Guts of a Tall Being With Bark For Skin—into the big wood-burning stove with its open front, our only source of heat in this borrowed house.

All around us, Cold White Stuff muffled the forest and Cold Hard Stuff confounded the roads. It was twelve degrees Fahrenheit outside, in a region accustomed to mild winter days of low clouds and eternal drizzle. Every so often cold air—Arctic air—would come down from Alaska and get socketed in somehow. That’s what we were experiencing: an Arctic front.

Lee observed the Small Furry Clawed Mammals of the house and pointed out their qualities to me and Will. This grey one here, he decided, this grey one is named Steve. Check Steve out. He rules the world! Continue Reading…

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

Yesterday I Bled Brown Blood: Writing The Future

May 17, 2017
venus

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Demetra Szatkowski

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

and hand myself back to me

healed

***

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

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

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Writing & The Body

Livor Mortis

March 29, 2017

By Megan Collins.

My first husband wanted to pee on me. I kid you not. He wanted me to dress down to my skin and lay in that cold vessel of a tub with the drain stabbing me in the head so that he could piss all over me. Can you imagine? I did. I could die. My tombstone a metal faucet with an inscription in scum, ‘Here lies girl who once was. Wild. May daffodils grow in her stead’. I tell you this so that you know what the face of death looks like when she’s staring at you from across a cafe; the grocery store. What the separation of body and a spirit look like walking around in human skin. It is a body covered in piss owned by a man you despise, with the life spirited away.

 

For the record, I told him I would not. That even the thought of it made me feel dirty and disgusted. So he told me I was a stuck up cunt and that the reason for his late night voyeurism of underage Asian girls and naked, male, jock on jocks with throbbing veiny dicks was because I was stifling his sexual exploration. Continue Reading…

depression, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

A Tale of 19 Wet Towels or How I Failed to Shed My Skin

March 23, 2017
towel

By Ella Wilson.

1. Birth

Every time in my life that I have had the opportunity – that is to say I have been in the presence of a huge coming or going or leaving or starting, a massive adding on or taking away – every time I have had the chance to step out, to leave behind, to shed, to transform, to butterfly, to snake – every time I could have showered off the detritus of some time in my life that lay heavy on my skin. Every time I could have grown, instead I wet-toweled.

2. Starting school

Here is how you wet-towel. You take the thing you might have stepped out of, a skin, a time, a loss, a tiny pair of pants, a hit in the face. You take that thing and you wrap yourself in it.

3. Suicide attempt age 12

You shiver at first because the wet towel makes you cold. The weight of it makes you slow. After a few days you start to smell old and nothing seems like a very good idea.

4. Puberty

Shame is sticky and the antidote to transformation.

5. Losing my virginity

Shame tells you to hide, unfortunately the tools it gives you for hiding promote shame on shame. Shameless self promotion.

6. Leaving school

When you would rather not be seen it is preferable to hide in anything you can find.

7. Leaving home

8. Getting a job

9. My father dying

When my father died I did not notice. This is not because I was not paying attention exactly, in fact I paid so much attention, maybe too much. Nursing him from when I was 13 to 22. But something can become normal, like someone being ill, like thinking someone won’t really die. So I slept on his hospital floor for months. I swabbed his throat with little pink sponges. I knew the nurses names. He died. I wanted to stay on the floor. I wasn’t ready not to have a father. I wore his clothes. I didn’t cry. I did not become fatherless. I just became personless.

10. Moving to America

11. Being hospitalized for anorexia

12. Getting married Continue Reading…