Browsing Tag

courage

Guest Posts, Self Image

Don’t be a Baby – Lessons in a Roy DeCarava Photo

April 8, 2020
decarva

By Trish Cantillon

Labor Day Weekend 1979 before we started ninth grade, my best friend Mery and I went to my family’s vacation home in Newport Beach. Since my parents’ separation it was where my dad spent most of his time, and by extension, my time with him. I assumed that since I was fourteen, I would be afforded some independence. I believed I’d outgrown the obligation to keep him company while he sunbathed on the front patio glistening with cocoa butter, a vodka cocktail always at arm’s reach. My plan was to spend those days laying out at lifeguard station fifteen, with afternoon bike rides down the boardwalk to the Fun Zone for Balboa Bars. We’d endure dinner with my dad, and whatever drunk personality he embodied, because his barbecued chicken was delicious. After dinner, we’d disappear upstairs to talk about boys and how great high school was going to be. This was my expectation.

Late Saturday morning, as we finished up bowls of cereal, Mery and I made our plans. My dad sat on a barstool at the counter: newspaper, coffee and vodka screwdriver in front of him. “I’m out of vodka. I’m going to need to go to the store before you head out,” he said, without looking up. His arm was in a sling from a shoulder injury and he wasn’t supposed to drive, though he seemed to pick and choose when he followed that rule. I was unsure what this had to do with us until he stood up, slipped his wallet into the pocket of his trunks and plucked the car keys from the dish next to the phone. “Come on, you’re going to drive me to Balboa Market,” he said.

“What? I can’t drive! I don’t even have my permit,” I replied, certain that once he realized that he’d back off.

“Oh, it’s fine. It’s just a few blocks. Come on,” he insisted. His tone got sharper. I was not in the habit of talking back, especially when he had been drinking, but this felt like a legitimate place to speak up.

“I’m not driving you to the store,” my voice quaked.

“Don’t be a baby,” he said. Me being a ‘baby” was an idea often directed at me, either in a lighthearted way, like when he’d sing, Yes, sir, that’s my baby on our bike rides, or, in this case, with anger and disappointment. It always made me feel small.

“No. Please don’t make me. I don’t want to.” He was silent, then looked at Mery.

“You wanna drive?” he asked. Mery looked at me and shrugged, as if to say, if you’re not going to, I will.

“Sure,” she answered.

“Atta girl,” my dad replied. I was dumbfounded. My grand gesture undermined in an instant. Mery didn’t see him as a bully trying to get his way. She hadn’t lived with that behavior her whole life. For her it was something cool; an opportunity to break the rules and have fun. I felt the heat rise inside me with nowhere to go but smiled as he handed her the keys. I followed them out the open front door.

Mery looked confident as she climbed into my dad’s loaner, a red Ford Granada. The jealous part of me was glad she wasn’t getting to drive his Mercedes 450SL. In abbreviated stops and starts, she backed the car out and pointed it in the direction of Balboa Market. From the sidewalk, I watched the surreal sight unfold slowly, like the final scene in a movie. Everything about it unrecognizable. My best friend behind the wheel of a strange car with my dad riding shotgun on an errand to buy vodka. I felt empty and deserted. I wandered into the house, unsure of what to do with myself. As the minutes ticked by, I began to question why I was so worked up about this in the first place. What’s your problem? It’s no big deal! You’re being a baby! I grabbed my beach bag, tossed in the Bain de Soleil, two cans of Tab, Seventeen Magazine and waited for them to return. Eager to pretend the whole thing never happened.

***

The tears came suddenly and completely. Before I was even aware, they were running down the sides of my cheeks. My husband Quinton and I drifted through the Museum of Modern Art that spring afternoon in the mid-nineties and happened upon the Roy DeCarava exhibit. I shuffled, along with the other patrons from one image to the next and came upon Graduation 1949. When I saw it, I was overcome with a sadness that’s hard to articulate. In Hyperallergic, Colony Little describes DeCarava’s work this way, “He transforms otherwise mundane moments into intriguing narratives with beguiling characters, extracting drama like no other.” The sadness I felt was familiar; an echo and I could instantly envision the life of this girl at this moment.

On a day she thought would be free from disappointment, she put on a happy face when things didn’t turn out as she hoped. She walked alone to her own graduation, through a decaying Harlem neighborhood and an empty lot strewn with trash. She gathered the sides of her beautiful white dress into her hands and lifted the hem so it wouldn’t drag. Everything she reasonably expected for the day had disappeared; except her fancy clothes and accoutrements. She would look the part, even if she didn’t feel it.

Graduation, 1949 exposed an interior life I had long kept at bay with a smiling face and cheerful demeanor. The physical representation of the young girl alone spoke to a deep abiding loneliness. I grew up in a large family and found myself most comfortable amidst the attendant noise and chaos that accompanied that life. I loved falling asleep listening to my brother’s music down the hall and my sister’s hairdryer in the bathroom. However, because I am the youngest by seven years, I often found myself alone. In those moments when life was quiet, I was consumed with a melancholy I could not name and didn’t understand. Distracting myself with elaborate imaginative play, TV and food, I felt a little less blue.

When I was ten new neighbors moved in next door. It was a Friday afternoon and a last-minute change in plans meant I would not have the standard-issue divorced kid weekend with my dad. My mom had a date so I would stay home with the housekeeper who spoke little English. I had the house, and, most importantly, the kitchen to myself. A few days earlier I had talked my mom into letting me buy a fancy Bundt cake mix I’d seen advertised on TV. Because we weren’t the type of family that baked cakes and had them around our own house, I had to have a reason to bake it and a somewhere for it to go. I told her I thought it would be nice to take to the new family next door.

With the family room TV on in the background, I put all my baking supplies on the counter: cake mix, egg, oil and water. I put an apron on over my t-shirt and shorts and when I was ready to begin preparing the cake, I silently called “action” on the imaginary TV show I was starring in. I carefully walked through each step of the recipe explaining the process and offering my valuable tips for the make-believe audience at home. When the cake was finished, I drizzled the packaged icing over the top (the whole reason to buy this cake mix), saved some for myself for later, and proudly displayed the finished product, with great personality and flair, to an invisible camera. I then walked it to the neighbor’s house and rang the bell. A petite brunette woman opened the door looking surprised to see a chubby blonde ten-year-old stranger holding a cake.

“I wanted to give you this to welcome you to the neighborhood,” I offered the plate to her.

“Oh, well, that’s very nice,” she replied, taking it from my hands, ‘Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. It’s kind of a neighborhood tradition,” I said, puzzled by how quickly the lie flew out of my mouth.

“Hope you like it. Bye.” I turned and stepped off her porch.

Back at home, I polished off the leftover batter that clung to the sides of the bowl and the beaters. I fixed myself a boiled hot dog and large bowl of buttered popcorn for dinner, then settled in for a night of television, interrupted only by a move from the den to my room upstairs. Tucked in bed with the portable black and white TV perched on the end of my desk so I could still see it while lying down, I watched The Rockford Files and waited for sleep to take over. Sometime in the middle of the night the white noise, or the National Anthem that preceded it, woke me up. The TV station’s final sign off for their broadcast day brought with it a profound sense of dread and flickers of panic. I was all alone. No one or no thing left to keep me company.

***

Aside from what was obvious in the light, the darkness and shadows in Graduation, 1949 said plenty to me about a literal childhood fear of the dark and an adult fear of the unknown. In Reading the Shadows-The Photography of Roy DeCarava, Ruth Wallen maintains, “The shadows house the riches as well as the dangers. DeCarava’s persistent focus on life in the shadows demands that they be read in a new way, as fertile ground full of possibilities.”

My mom was thirty-nine when I was born in 1965, which, then, was considered late. I was the fifth child who came seven years after the fourth. Growing up I was conscious of the fact that she was older and quickly attached myself to a fear of her death. In its early state, it was born from panic that if something happened to her, I’d have to live with my dad. After he died when I was fifteen it was simply the prospect of losing her that was devastating. Then, as I got older, it became more acute. I’d fret if she didn’t answer the phone or if I got a busy signal for more than an hour. I monitored every sniffle or cough that lingered. I read obituaries to check the average age of the old people that were dying. I didn’t want to think about life without her, or what it would feel like, so I tried to manage what I could not control.

She was a life-long smoker of unfiltered Pall Mall reds. She had a glass of wine and a cocktail every night and considered her vanilla ice cream a good source of calcium. She did not look after her health but managed to appear healthy. From 1978 to 2003 her only visits to a doctor were via the emergency room for a twisted ankle, a broken wrist and finally a broken pelvis. The extended gap in her health care was precipitated in 1978 by an irregular brain scan that doctors incorrectly presumed was a tumor. From that point she adopted the philosophy that doctors make you sick. By 2003 and the fractured pelvis, some legitimate, long-ignored, health issues were unmasked. She spent eight weeks in the hospital and rehab with a few touch and go all-nighters in the emergency room. In the darkest moments, I tried to talk myself into being okay with the fact it might be her time, but quietly sobbed at the thought. On top of knowing I would grieve losing her, I wasn’t sure how I would get through it.

Mother-daughter relationships are complicated by nature and ours was no different. Its complexities, however, were not typical. I never sassed her, talked back, or crossed her. Her emotional support was the only thing I felt I could trust and rely on as a young overweight girl with an alcoholic dad, who just wanted to feel good about herself and fit in. And she relied on me as a companion and ally, her number one booster and cheerleader. For her, my being “the baby” made her believe she appeared young to her peers, even after she had a handful of grandchildren. When she lied about my age to an old friend we ran into, she told me “They don’t want to know how old you are, it will make them feel old.” But an identity of “the baby” made me believe, by its definition, that I was not capable as an adult. This idea seeped into my fear of her death. Could I handle it? Or would I be an inconsolable mess?

In 2012, after several years of declining health, and several remarkable rebounds, my mom let us know that she was ready to not be here anymore.

“I want to be knocked out,” she said. Sitting up in her bed at the assisted living home she’d been in for a couple years, sipping the Bloody Mary my sister had fixed for her.

“You mean, like go to sleep and not wake up?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered. Her mind was sharp, but her body was frail and, quite literally, shutting down. Less than twenty-four hours later, after the first dose of morphine had calmed her breathing and her nerves, my brothers and sisters and I gathered in her room. We’d been told she’d get a dose of morphine every four hours. The hospice nurse would be back in a day to check on her. I stood near the doorway and observed the scene for a moment and then felt compelled to go sit on the bed next to her. I rubbed her hand, remembering how much I loved the liver spots I thought were freckles as a kid. I could see and feel that she was slipping away, life draining from her body. It was not terrifying. It was not beautiful. It was a somber experience punctuated with inexplicable odd, humorous moments and a peacefulness that’s hard to describe. I felt no fear.

I realized, not long after, I had been present with her when she found out my dad died, when she broke her pelvis in 2003, when she fractured her back in 2010 and finally on the day she died. I had been moving from light to shadow and back to light endlessly but needed to fully experience the thing I feared most to appreciate what was possible in those shadows.

It’s been over twenty years since I first experienced Graduation 1949, it still evokes the same deep melancholy from the first time, when I may have believed I conjured an imaginary life for this young girl on her graduation day, but I what I really did was ascribe my own to her.

Los Angeles based writer and native Angeleno, Trish Cantillon has published personal essays on The Fix, Refinery 29’s “Take Back the Beach,” The Refresh, Storgy, Brain Child Magazine Blog and Ravishly. Her fiction has appeared in Gold Man Review and Berkeley Fiction Review.   She works for Dream Foundation, the first and only national organization providing end-of-life dreams to terminally ill adults. 

 

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Abuse, Guest Posts

F*ck Self-Help

October 21, 2018
By Zoe Brigley

Because I work and teach on domestic violence, people sometimes write to me unexpectedly with their own stories. They are usually women (though abuse does happen to men and non-binary folks too), and often they have questions about whether a partner’s behavior is abusive. Very often it is.

Sometimes these can be liberating stories. A woman once wrote to say that finally, after ten years of an abusive relationship, she had left, and her life had changed irrevocably. Food was more flavorsome, smells were more vivid, colors luminous, as if she had been imprisoned in grey world.

Other stories are less comforting. I spent a month writing back and forth with a friend on Facebook living in another country. Her abusive boyfriend had dumped her, except she wasn’t really dumped: it was more a test to see how much she would put up with before he took her back. We talked many times about working to forget him, and to create a new life. Then one day on Facebook, she posted a photograph of the two of them on vacation, relaxing at a beachfront hotel. She stopped writing to me then, and while I hope that she is happy, I can’t help thinking about what I could or should have done to help her. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Letting Go

Ferris Wheels On The Nile

August 18, 2017
wheel

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

In  2012, I traveled to a country that had recently split into two. It was the last trip abroad I would take as a married woman, the last time I would spend with Zalmay as my husband.

I didn’t know this yet.

I arrived in Sudan with my eight-year-old son, Ibrahim; a year after South Sudan had become the world’s newest country.  Zalmay was the United Nations Resident Representative, an equivalent to an ambassador post. We were to join him in Sudan as soon as the youngest stepson graduated from high school in the spring.

The trip occurred a week after I had received the advance reading copies of my first book, a book about America’s fascination with ghosts.  The trip occurred as I was collapsing into pieces, struggling to solve my personal hauntings.

I had recently started to ache; a phantom pain, something between an itch and thick of type of heat. In efforts to ignore it, I organized closets, wrote long and insecure journal entries, and cleaned my 2500 hundred square foot home. No matter what I did, this ache was always present: like a soft spark that ignited when air made contact with my body.  The feeling was somewhat ethereal, and yet, it sat in my throat. The ache tasted like the wrong life, like I had somehow swallowed an accidental story. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Tricks Between Past and Present

October 5, 2016
assault

TW: This essay discusses sexual assault

By Marion Ruybalid

I’m back in a town where I once attended college. Just a few streets away, there’s a house propped up on stilts. It’s a familiar home, but sometimes I wish I’d never been inside. If I didn’t know the layout, then I wouldn’t have known him. Perhaps the roast chicken dinner he prepared in beer before our trip to the symphony would have never happened and maybe the first time I experienced sex would have been with my husband.

I blame myself for looking in his direction and being caught up in his charm. Others thought he was attractive. I didn’t disagree.

We met at church. I considered it a safe place to meet people. When I offered to give him Ralf, my rat from my psychology behaviorism class, I never thought of it as a romantic gesture. He appeared at my dorm room with a cardboard box. In search of Ralf, a janitor informed me that all the psychology rats had died over Thanksgiving break because nobody remember to feed them.

I wondered if this guy thought I already knew Ralf was dead? When we found out the news he smirked at me. Somehow, he was under the impression that I wanted him. I tried to piece together what turned our meeting into a date. We went to sip apple cider at the student union building. Did that make it a date? I paid for it because they only took student cards and cash. Was that a dating gesture? Maybe, but I never intended it to be. Continue Reading…

Alcoholism, courage, Guest Posts

I Have To Leave You Now

August 22, 2016
alcohol

By Natha Perkins

The truth about my relationship with alcohol is something I’ve managed to avoid for years, I’ve basically refused to look at it. I don’t even really want to examine it right now, but it’s been up. It’s been calling me to hold it in my hands, turn it over and really look at it. It wants me to examine the texture and the flavor and the way it feels settled in my body. It wants to be seen.

Like everything else in my life wants to be seen. Like I want to be seen. And so, rather than pretend that I don’t hear the call, or avoid the request and just have a glass of wine instead, I will delve in.

I’m ready to face some uncomfortable truths. I’ve self medicated with recreational drugs and alcohol for years. The drugs lost their appeal to me in my late twenties though, and for that I’m grateful. Once I had children, the drugs were no longer logical to me and the truth is that they never made me feel as good as they seemed to make other people feel. But alcohol, that was sustainable. Socially acceptable. Everyone was doing it.

I was never a heavy drinker. Just a few glasses of wine at night. I wasn’t the girl at the party who was passed out, or even slurring for that matter. Thanks to a few dismaying experiences in high school that triggered a lifetime of shame and embarrassment (stories for another time), I learned  that binge drinking was not my thing; being completely out of control was unacceptable. But a little buzz, yes. Something to take the edge of an exhausting day off, yes. Something to help me numb the pain and help express the incinerator I had burning inside of me, yes. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts

To Be Beautiful You Have to Suffer

August 21, 2016
dance

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

I was dragged to Ruth Skaller’s Ballet Studio for Girls the year I was seven. I had never expressed any interest in dancing. But earlier that year, I’d had surgery on my eyes, and someone suggested that dancing might help my coordination.

Ruth Skaller was a tall, olive-skinned woman of indeterminate age, whose classes were filled with giggling girls she whipped into line with the snap of her voice. Through a series of barre exercises, we would sweep our Capezio slippers over the polished pale wood floors, plié, rond de jambe, relèvé, to the strains of haunting, melancholy piano music on the Victrola that only years later would I recognize as Chopin. Mrs. Skaller would stand before the mirror, lower face cupped thoughtfully in her hand, humming as she turned out muscled legs beneath her skirt drapery until she had choreographed our next steps. We would line up, and then, like drifting dandelion fluff — or lumbering elephants — cross the room on the diagonal, spinning and spotting, pirouetting our way dizzily across the studio.

Often the next class would arrive while we were in progress. Taller, lankier girls would perch on the painted radiators, or sweep into the dressing room behind the studio, a gray affair of cubbies and wrought iron bars over narrow dusty windows that faced an unpaved alley. Swinging rectangular black plastic ballet boxes with pink Barbie-faced ballerinas painted on the front, they would click open the vinyl snaps to remove leotard and tights, then open cunning spaces at the bottom which concealed the soft shoes, or, for the lucky ones, pale pink satin toe shoes with wooden toe blocks. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts

An Open Letter to My Childhood Abuser (I Choose Me)

August 15, 2016
abuser

By Mariann Martland

Dear You (the one who stole my childhood),

Time creeps in without me noticing, and suddenly it’s morning again and you’re not here. Yet, you are. You’re always here. You’ve always been here.

I don’t mean to think of you. I mean to live everyday with purpose, meaning and intention, but it’s so damn hard since I began to recall the dark magic you played on my life – it was so very dark.

I feel a tapping on my eyelids, reminding me that I’ve not slept all night, but it seems pointless now. Nothing will change when they reopen:

You’ll still be gone and you’ll still be here, living in my mind. I will feel just as exhausted, for the terrors of the night play hard. Continue Reading…

courage, depression, Guest Posts

I Fought For You

July 3, 2016
love

By Robin Rivera

I’m lucky lately when I don’t go immediately back to bed after giving a morning stroll through the kitchen wondering aimlessly.  My hormones are raging, I’m exhausted, and my bed is the safest place for me. I’m a month and a half pregnant, scared, insecure, and experiencing chronic depression, which I previously thought would never happen to me. I thought my darkest days had been left long ago in the beautifully deceptive streets of Beverly Hills. Oh, my glamorous alcoholic porn star days were hellish tainted with sex trafficking, corruption, and spirit crushers. I thought those were my darkest days.

I was wrong. That darkness, that gut wrenching pain, that out of control lost feeling is back, and I am fighting everything and everyone like a cat clawing its way up and out of danger. One day, I literally felt like I was drowning in hell with no one to turn to. While screaming in my car after being turned away from some self-help meeting for being late, I crazily broke my phone hoping the rage would somehow exit my body this way.  I was in overwhelming emotional pain. I was so desperate for relief from the trauma I was reliving somatically. My partner couldn’t support me for whatever reason, and I felt so alone and abandoned. Like what it might feel like to watch your child be murdered in broad day light & your screaming for help and everyone sees you, but no one lifts a finger. Yes, that’s how I felt a couple weeks ago, but about my own self. I’m still recovering from that day with embarrassing scars to prove what I am going through is deep enough to penetrate all layers of my happiness and hope. I’ve been searching for the lesson in this all… feeling paralyzed with fear and exhausted by anxiety. There are people screaming they love me, but it sounds like the faintest pen drop only muffled by my debilitating resentment for this experience.

I have everything good in my life I thought I’d never have. A really handsome, brave man trying to love me, my chance at stopping the cycle of abuse in my family, a prestigious college degree, a magical relationship with my six-year-old daughter…yet my self-destructive patterns have shown their ugly face again. This time with vengeance. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving

The Shivers Take me Hard

June 26, 2016
suicide

TW: This essay discusses suicide and suicidal ideation.

By Brenda Taulbee

It is February and 2am and I am standing in the Holiday gas station, you know, the one on the corner of Higgins? I slipped I say into the telephone that Kelly, the late night attendant, hesitantly handed me. My cell phone is a lump of useless in my soggy pocket. Kelly has long, beautiful hair that he keeps pulled back. He likes microbrews and taking his mother to craft shows. We’ve chatted the handful of times I’ve stumbled in just before bar hour to pick up a 30-rack of cheap beer. Something to fuel the after party and take the edge off morning.

Can you come get me? I ask the phone and my girlfriend on the other end of it. The homeless man who saved my life nervously peruses the candy bar rack. Kelly eyeballs him from behind blocky glasses. If it weren’t for me he’d have run him out already. His long fingered hands splay across the glass case of Scratch ‘Em and lottery tickets like two fat spiders. On the other side of the receiver her voice is forever ago. I didn’t think I was trying to kill myself that night, but I guess that’s the story. The thing and the thing beneath it. The thing being a river, and me quickly becoming the thing beneath it. The stepping itself was easy. One second ground beneath me, the next nothing. All that dark water sucking eager at my heavy winter clothes. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts

Going Away, Again

June 24, 2016
leaving

Part 1 of this essay was published at: https://www.themanifeststation.net/tag/melissa-ballard/

By Melissa Ballard

 One Month Before Going Away

  1. Think about going away. Do this without your stomach churning, your heart pinching, and your limbs tingling because you have found a daily medication that helps your brain function the way it’s supposed to, without sedating you or making you feel light-headed. And now, finally, all the other things you’ve done to manage anxiety including, but not limited to: therapy, meditation, yoga stretches, and positive-self talk are really working.
  1. Look forward to going away. Remind yourself it’s something you want to do, will most certainly enjoy and, anyway, worrying in advance serves no purpose, as you know. While it’s true you still prefer being at home, it’s nice to have a change of pace, and who knows what you’ll discover.  Remind yourself that for much of your life, and especially the last six years, you’ve known these things in your head, but you haven’t been able to feel them in your body.

Continue Reading…

Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, Young Voices

What Jen Pastiloff’s Retreat is Like: According to a 22 Year Old.

January 21, 2016

By Haley Jakobson.
Imagine you are 22 and freshly graduated and suddenly sucked into the city of New York like a vacuum, dust pounding into your ears and grit clouding your eyes. Imagine that you feel very alone, despite your dad being a ride away on the 6 train and your college friends scattered around Manhattan like bread crumbs. Imagine you are depressed with a heavy coating of anxiety, a strong nail lacquer that you can’t chip off with the underside of your fingernail. And now you are at work, and despite all of these things, or maybe because of them, work still bored you and you find yourself scrolling through the vortex of your Instagram feed.

This is when you find her. Somewhere buried beneath the yoga pictures that intimidate you and the dogma that comes with them that sometimes bites you from inside the screen, somewhere beyond the pictures of Saturday night snapshots that might have been forgotten otherwise, and hungover Sunday brunch photos you were invited to be a part of but were too sad to join – you find her. She says: “girl power you are enough.” She says “fuck.” A lot. She says, “don’t be an asshole.” Well, duh, you think – and then remember how often you forget this. You read on. Continue Reading…

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

Footsteps Follow: The Fear Came With Silence

December 13, 2015

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

By Bianca Palumbo

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

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

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

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

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, Surviving

Stranger Savior: Escaping Abuse

December 6, 2015

Trigger Warning: This piece deals with physical and mental abuse and contains graphic language. 

By Candace Roberts

We train our kids to know, “stranger-danger” these days, but my escape from my abuser finally happened by a “stranger-savior”. In a gas station parking lot, I watched the stranger mouth, “monster” as my abuser was ferociously banging my head into the driver side window. I was in the driver’s seat and his hand was reached from the outside with a firm grip on my long dark brown hair. I was in shock and couldn’t believe what was happening.

The woman clung on to her cell phone and called the cops. I saw her mouthing the report off to the dispatcher. She backed up and drove away horrified. That was the first time and the last time I ever saw that angel. I wish I could have thanked her.

I was horrified, too. But, ironically not for my life or safety, rather for my reputation and knowing that I would be embarrassed if any one else saw me in that situation. Continue Reading…

cancer, Compassion, courage, Guest Posts, Surviving

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

December 4, 2015

By Betsy Hnath

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

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

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

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

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