Browsing Tag

fear

Beating Fear with a Stick, Child Birth, Guest Posts

The Value of Surrender

March 29, 2021
surgery

By Courtney Kubovcik

I remember the moment when I realized it was inevitable: the cesarean was going to happen, whether I liked it or not. If I could rewind 24 hours from that moment, I’d watch this scenario play out before me:

“Two centimeters,” the nurse said poignantly.

I let out a low, barely audible groan in exhaustion.

“You’re kidding me,” I said, my voice cracking.

I had left the hospital at one centimeter Friday evening after a two-day failed induction. Before my induction failed, I didn’t even realize that was a thing. I figured if you were induced, you went to the hospital and left with a baby. Evidently, I was wrong.

Now, midday on day three of the fresh attempt to evict the human that had taken over my midsection, the contractions were finally regular, for hours and hours on end it seemed.

While the contractions were regular, I—it turned out—was not. Most women will dilate when they are pumped full of obscene amounts of Pitocin, but not me.

I am stubborn, and my assumption is that this stubbornness travels deep into my biology. I imagine each of my uterine molecules laughing at the artificial hormones hissing, “You’re not one of us.”

My obstetrician was a face-talker. He stood two damn inches from my face the entire time he spoke. His breath smelled like peppermints as he peered at me.

He spoke in a way that conveyed that he knew that whatever he was going to say, I was going to fight.

“You don’t have to keep doing this.” He paused. “We can do the surgery, and you can meet your baby.”

The tears flowed, freely and openly. No, I insisted. We would keep going.

Three days and only two centimeters. Defeat hung heavy in the air. My salty tears drowned me in my despair.

From that moment, it would be another 24 hours until I would meet my son.

Even after I dilated a full 10 centimeters nearing the end of the following day, the face-talker said that he doubted my ability to deliver the baby safely.

“You’re too weak,” he said. “The baby isn’t descending properly.”

He was right: I was too weak to fight any longer. Finally, I consented to the surgery.

Instead of having a surgery that likely would have been textbook earlier in my labor, I had a recovery riddled with complications. Afterward, I felt like I had been hit by a god damn train. I hemorrhaged post-cesarean and could have lost my life. Thankfully, a couple of quick-acting nurses and a few blood transfusions saved me.

Beyond the hemorrhaging, I developed an infection that could have killed my son but luckily only got to me. After battling a dangerously high fever (104˚ F), I dealt with immobilizing edema from being pumped full of artificial hormones for four days.

How many times had I done this? Resisted something to the point of self-destruction. I had allowed my fear of the surgery to completely cripple me. Only after four days of labor and absolute exhaustion did I finally consent to the surgery that was likely inevitable from the beginning.

I refused to listen to my body. I fought against every indicator that told me I needed to stop. I forced it to comply, forced it to bend to my will. 10 centimeters, I would accept no less.

Except bodies don’t work like that, and mine had knowledge that my mind did not: my baby was sunny-side up. If born naturally, he would like likely gotten dangerously stuck or tore me irrevocably. I didn’t know this at the time, but my body did.

In a world where we are told to constantly force ourselves and our bodies to do what we feel it should, I am here to remind you of the value of surrendering. Fighting against the natural course of life, with its ups and downs, causes more harm than the actual ups and downs.

Instead of riding the wave through this down moment in my life, I fought it tooth and nail. This behavior did not end with this moment, and it took many more moments for me to see the truth: life can never “go as planned” because life is not promised.

It was in this truth that I found the freedom to roll with the punches, to take life as it comes, and to live each day with purpose and gratitude. With this insight, I now live my life knowing that both times of grit and moments of surrender come together to create a beautiful and fulfilling life.

Neither grit nor surrender is more valuable than the other. Life calls for different purposes at different moments. The real value lies in the discernment of when to utilize each. That comes with time, with practice, and with patience for yourself and others.

It was a hard lesson to learn, and one I’m lucky to have survived. The feeling of something has got to give is one that I have learned to pay attention to because often, it is a feeling that accompanies transformational moments in my life. I hope you too can begin to the see the value in letting go and in surrendering.

Courtney Kubovcik is a licensed social worker, transformational healing coach, activist, writer, wife, and mother. As a practitioner, Courtney uses embodiment techniques and integrative approaches on her mission to help men and women re-connect with their bodies and align with their souls. Courtney has a passion for social justice and has been serving vulnerable populations for nearly a decade. Without exception, Courtney believes that ALL people are worthy of health and abundance, and that we ALL have the potential for healing within ourselves.

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This past year has been remarkable, in the best and worst of ways. (Her)oics Anthology is a collection of essays by women about the lived pandemic experience. Documenting the experiences of women both on the front lines and in their private lives, this book is an important record of the power, strength and ingenuity of women. 

Pick up a copy at Bookshop.org or Amazon.

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Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Bullying, Fiction Fridays, Guest Posts

77, and Still

March 19, 2021
ribbon

By Ceresa Morsaint

It’s a chilly first night of Autumn, and she’s sitting on the bench hidden behind the playscape, where no one has to watch her cry. She adjusts the hat on her head, trying to keep her ears from freezing. She tries not to break her fragile nails, or agitate the arthritis in her right shoulder. And as she does, she feels a familiar ache in her arms, remembering the way she’d undo the ribbons in her hair, and leave the red, satin strips on the bench of the playground in her younger years. Mother would be so disappointed when she got home.

“I lost them playing tag!” She’d cry.

“Why do I even bother with the ribbons, Maria? Always ripping your stockings and losing your ribbons. You should be ashamed!” Her mother would curse in her Northern Irish accent. It made her laugh sometimes.

She wonders if her mother knew then what was really going on. Older boys don’t like girls with ribbons in their hair. She watches the swingset sway back and forth in the Autumn wind, and everywhere she goes, she only sees him. Her socks, now warm and fuzzy, were once long and laced. She tried visiting without them once. He didn’t like it.

“You look younger with your socks on. Keep it that way,” he smiled. She didn’t understand. But it made him happy, and so she kept wearing the long, laced, knee-high socks provided by angry catholic nuns from school. His words made her skin crawl.

“He can’t hurt me now,” she says. The words leave her lips and twirl in the air like loose paper. She says it, but why can’t she feel it?

“He’s dead, Maria. He can’t hurt you now.” She says, again. She still does not feel it.

From a distance, there is a crashing sound. A clank, maybe a thud. She jumps so hard, she nearly falls off the park bench and onto the cold cement floor.

“Christ, Maria.” She says to herself, “Should be over this by now. It’s only been 67 years, you old fool.” And though she says he can’t hurt her, he can’t even touch her, she’s still afraid. What if his ghost comes to haunt her? What if he’s playing dead to trick her into letting her guard down again?

“No,” she whispers “I’m too old for him, now.” Older boys don’t like girls with grey in their hair.

Ceresa Morsaint is a writer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She studies American Sign Language and writes for a small newspaper, The Siren. Her work has been published in The Book Smuggler’s Den and The Scriblerus. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and reading Frank McCourt novels with her cat, Burt.

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This past year has been remarkable, in the best and worst of ways. (Her)oics Anthology is a collection of essays by women about the lived pandemic experience. Documenting the experiences of women both on the front lines and in their private lives, this book is an important record of the power, strength and ingenuity of women. 

Pick up a copy at Bookshop.org or Amazon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Click here for all things Jen

Fiction Fridays, Guest Posts

Follow Me

November 20, 2020

By Cameron L. Mitchell

She didn’t know he was such a troubled sleeper until after they moved in together.  He’d had a problem with sleepwalking for as long as he could remember, he said.  Even on the best of nights, he tossed and turned.  She slept like a rock, on the other hand, drifting off almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.  They had other differences, of course, like any other couple, but they felt hopeful, like they could overcome anything.  Before long, she couldn’t imagine her life without him, though she worried about the sleepwalking issue when he brought it up.  He made light of it, but there was an edge to his voice she didn’t trust.

At first, the incidents seemed minor, occurring only occasionally.  She’d wake alone in the early morning, figuring he was in the bathroom.  Instead, she found him asleep on the couch, and he looked surprised when she finally woke him – and unable to recall how he got there.  Another night, the blaring sound of the television woke her, hours before dawn.  She walked into the living room to find him kneeling before the screen like a child mesmerized by his favorite cartoon.  But his eyes were closed and his face was blank; she found it unsettling, the way he was clearly asleep, sitting up like that, his face set aglow by the light of the screen.  She switched the TV off but didn’t try waking him, having heard it was dangerous to disturb someone in the midst of a sleepwalking episode.  Carefully, she nudged him down to the floor, taking a pillow from the couch for his head.  The next morning, he’d returned to his place beside her in bed.  When she told him about the night before, he laughed, saying it was ok to wake him.  She would remember next time.

And there would be a next time.

There were also long periods when everything seemed fine.  He wasn’t much for spooning since he rarely stayed in the same position for long; yet, when their bodies intertwined as one, it was a treat – even if he later pushed her away, hard enough to wake her.  Sorry, he would say the next morning with that guilty look upon his face that made her think of him as a child caught doing something wrong.  It was that look of unyielding innocence that made her love him.  She loved so many things about him.  The way he quickly averted his gaze and blushed when she caught him staring at her from across the room.  The way he made her feel like more than the sum of her parts, never less.  The way he leaned on her, the way he needed her.  The way she saw herself reflected in his wide, blue eyes, dotted with specks of green and brown – she could get lost inside his ocean of delicate colors.

But were there things she missed?  In bed one night, while gazing up at the ceiling, he said a funny thing.  Do you ever wish you could be someone else?

What do you mean?

I see people on the street, on the trains, and I imagine their lives, he continued.  Their past, the way I can’t see it on their faces, whether it’s good or bad.  They aren’t dragging it around like this big, heavy piece of luggage, you know? 

She thought about it for a moment.  Maybe falling in love is like being another person.

How?

Being able to love someone, to make room for them when you weren’t sure you could, she tried to explain.

He turned to her, smiling.  How’d I get so lucky?  He kissed her on the forehead.  Soon, they fell asleep – she fell asleep, anyway.  He struggled the way he always struggled.  She now wonders why she didn’t ask more questions to see if she could pry loose those secrets he held so close.  Things might have turned out differently if she’d tried harder.

The sleepwalking episodes came to feel like games of hide-and-seek.  He’d quietly disappear from bed, and then she’d search the apartment until she found him.  They laughed about it.  But as the incidents occurred more frequently, they also got stranger.  Despite sleeping so peacefully herself, she woke one night with a gasp, turning to find him gone.  It’s like her body sensed his absence and responded before her mind was able to catch up.  She found him in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor with his toothbrush.  He pulled away from her touch, mumbling in protest.  She gripped his face with both hands, urging him to stop.  No, he insisted.  Not until it’s done.  With more determination than she’d ever seen in him while awake, he continued scrubbing, getting down between each tile to clean the dirt away.  She eventually gave up, returning to bed without him.  The next morning, there he was by her side, smiling.  She told him about the scrubbing, and he laughed at the absurdity of it all.  They laughed together until it almost felt ok.    

Another time, she couldn’t find him anywhere.  Again, she woke with a start, keenly aware that the weight of his body beside her was gone.  Throughout their apartment she walked, calling his name.  He wasn’t standing in the dark living room corner like last time, nor was he sitting on the cold bathroom floor, scrubbing away.  When she pulled the shower curtain back, he wasn’t there either.  Back to the bedroom, she checked the closet, she checked under the bed – nothing, nowhere.  Roaming back and forth through the apartment, she started panicking.

And then a small sound came from the kitchen, a rustling that might have been a mouse beneath the sink.  She raced in and pulled the cabinet doors open.  There he was, crammed inside.  She yelled for him to wake up and started tugging at him when he wouldn’t.  She gripped his shoulders, yanking until she finally pulled him out.  He hit the floor with a heavy thud, waking immediately.  Again? he asked, startled.   

Again, she answered.

Huddled together on the floor, they soon broke into laughter, marveling over the fact that he’d somehow managed to fit himself inside such a small, cramped space.  She carefully checked him over, running her hands across his chest, his back, his arms – it didn’t seem like he’d gotten anything hazardous on him from all the cleaning products and insect sprays.  She found a few scratches on his back, but nothing else.  Still, he went off to shower, just in case.  She went back to bed.  She didn’t fall asleep again until he returned to his place beside her, his hair damp, his skin warm.  Even then, it took her much longer than usual.  She was beginning to understand what it felt like to be a troubled sleeper.

Not as troubled as him, of course.  With the sleepwalking episodes escalating, so were the nightmares that often accompanied them, though he claimed he couldn’t remember the dreams at all.  He said he’d never been able to remember his dreams, which struck her as odd.  She recalled her dreams in such vivid detail she sometimes wasn’t sure if something had really happened or if it had just been a dream.  This was made worse by the fact that her dreams were so dull.  If they were more outlandish, it’d be easier to distinguish them from reality.  But most of her dreams involved everyday events, like maneuvering through passengers while riding the train to work – or just being at work in general, warming her lunch up in the staff break room.  His dreams were different.  Dark and terrifying, they left him sweaty and shaking, but he could never recount anything beyond the vaguest of details.  Someone after me, he might say.  Or something from his childhood, a period of time he never spoke of, though she gathered clues here and there – something about a father who hit, something about a mother who hid.  She had her theories, but he never offered any confirmations or denials.    

The two of them laughed together less and less.  More sleepwalking, more nightmares, all occurring more frequently.  With each incident, it became clearer that something was happening.  Something big, she felt sure.  He seemed lost and only half-present most of the time, desperate to find something – solace, perhaps, or maybe just a good night of sleep.

You know me better than anyone, he said in bed one night, staring up at the ceiling like he could see something she couldn’t.  But what does that mean?  Does anyone ever really know someone else?  Can they see through all the bullshit, deep inside another person’s heart?   

He sounded angry.  His questions were big, and she didn’t have answers.  She didn’t think anyone would.

I wish you could know some things, he continued.  Things about me.

What things? she said, her voice cracking.

Nothing, he moaned, covering his face with both hands.  It’s no use.   

He was so frantic and upset.  She tried soothing him, but she feared this not knowing that he spoke of – she feared he was right.  There might be things they couldn’t overcome no matter how well they worked together.

As he got worse, so did her dreams.  They became nightmares, haunting her long after they ended, ruining her once peaceful slumber.  He appeared regularly, always at a distance.  In one dream, she was lost in some dark, cavernous place, dusty and devoid of life, the air thick and stifling.  All was deadly quiet.  When he appeared, she called out to him, but he turned away, fleeing.  She followed, stumbling over rocky, uneven trails that looped around, leading nowhere – leading back to where she started, again and again.  Until she rounded one corner and almost crashed into him.  He stood before her, staring at her with dark eyes she didn’t recognize.  He held his arm out, insisting she take a look – all across his forearm, there were cuts that opened up like little mouths crying out in pain.  He clenched his fist, pushing his arm closer, like he blamed her for the wounds.  But he would never do that in real life, when he assured her she was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

In the dream he shook with anger, opening his mouth and screaming in silence – sweat dripped across his brow, the veins at his temples throbbed with each beat of his racing heart.  She woke so startled it took a few moments to catch her breath.  This time he was there beside her, twitching around in his sleep.  She pushed back a thick strand of hair that was stuck to his sweaty forehead.  She checked his arms for new cuts but found none.  Only faded scars from the self-inflicted wounds from another time, long before they met.  He’d admitted that he cut himself during a particularly rough period right after college.  He said it was something he’d never do again, explaining it was never about wanting to end his life.  It was just a release – or did he say relief?

Just then, his hand reached out in the dark and grabbed her arm, gripping it hard enough to frighten her.  The next day she’d discover a ring of bruises.  She tried pulling away, she tried to wake him, but he held tight.  For a moment, she wondered if she was still lost in her nightmare.  With one more heave, she managed to escape his grasp, stumbling back.  He remained in place, eyes closed, arm out, his hand waiting to clutch her again.  She watched his fingers slowly open and close around nothing.    

Eventually she turned away, deciding it’d be better to sleep on the couch.  The next morning, that’s where he found her.  I think I owe you an apology, he said, bending down before her.

For what?

I don’t know.  He looked confused.  He averted his gaze, catching sight of her arm.  What happened?  Where’d you get those bruises?

I don’t know, she answered.  Did he know he was the one responsible for leaving her marked?  Was he apologizing for that?  Or was he apologizing for something else, like the way he’d behaved in her dream, blaming her for all his pain?

That was ridiculous, she told herself.  He probably felt guilty for driving her out of bed in the middle of the night.  Her dreams and nightmares weren’t some shared experience.  They belonged only to her.

Always waking to find him gone left her exhausted.  One night, she chased after him in yet another dream, though the setting was different this time.  He was on the other side of a green meadow surrounded by trees.  Between them, the tall grass gently swayed in the breeze.  Birds chirped in the distance, and a pleasant, sweet scent filled the air.  The greenery surrounding them was almost too green; it gave off a faint luminescent glow, subtle but mesmerizing.  The colors of this particular dreamscape had a depth unlike anything she could find in the real world.  Lush and alive, this place was so unlike the dusty landscape of her previous dreams that she thought it symbolized a breakthrough.  It felt like the answer to a question neither one of them knew how to ask.  He casually waved at her, just like he would in real life, happy to have spotted her.  Before turning around, he waved again, beckoning her forward.    

She followed but couldn’t quite catch up.  No matter how quickly she moved, a steady, even distance stretched between them.  Out of the meadow and into the woods, he led her up a hill towards a dark hole in the ground – a cave, its opening obstructed by large rocks.  He didn’t turn back but walked on, determined to discover whatever waited inside that deep black void.  He tried pushing one of the rocks out of the way, but it wouldn’t budge.  He shoved his arm and leg inside, trying to enter, but he couldn’t quite make his body fit.  Hanging there, half of him was no longer visible.  She wanted to scream for him to stop but found herself paralyzed, unable to move or utter a single word.  Darkness filled the sky as heavy drops of rain started to fall, pelting her face and arms.  The sudden downpour washed away the vibrant colors.  She lost sight of him as the world turned black.    

She snapped awake, convinced she still had work to do.  She had to stop him.  It came as no surprise when she looked over and saw he was missing yet again.  She pushed the sheet away and jumped out of bed, ready to turn the apartment upside down to find him.  But she tripped over something before making it out of the bedroom.  Turning around, she found him lying in the floor at the bottom of the bed, half his body burrowed beneath it.  She backed up to the wall near the door, slowly dropping down until she was sitting on the floor.  Unable to stop herself, she started laughing.  The wild, maniacal sound was loud enough to wake the dead, but he remained in place, sound asleep.  Her laughter quickly gave way to a bout of uncontrollable sobbing.  The hot, wet tears falling down her face released the immense pressure that had been building inside her head.  She calmed down, pulling herself off the floor to sit on the bed.  She stared down at his leg still sticking out and felt a sudden urge to kick him, hard.  That small flicker of rage disappeared before it could grow into something dangerous.  I love you, she whispered, no matter what you decide.        

The next morning, she woke to his smiling face, hovering over her.  I had the best dream last night.

She rubbed the sleep from her eyes.  What was it about?

His gaze shifted up towards the ceiling.  I don’t know, but it was good, he said in a light, airy voice.  Like I finally figured things out.

He offered no further explanation, and she didn’t feel the need to ask for more.  A few peaceful weeks drifted by without a single sleepwalking incident.  They traded places – he slept easily, she didn’t.  The dark circles left his eyes and reappeared beneath hers.  Each night, she found it harder to sleep.  She couldn’t relax, she couldn’t let her guard down for a second.  She wouldn’t allow herself to be lulled into a false sense of hope that their troubles were over.  She felt it coming, their day of reckoning; it lingered around every corner, poisoning the air she breathed with an unmistakable sense of doom.  She imagined toxic fumes rising from the depths of that cave in her dream.  That dark place was still calling out to him, even if he seemed happier than he’d ever been.  She knew better, so she kept watch over him, waiting.

And then it happened.  He disappeared.

She knew it as soon as she woke to the emptiness beside her.  When she’d fallen asleep, he’d been there, his presence a palpable thing – all she had to do was reach out and touch him.  She could rest her hand across his chest, feeling the way it moved up and down.  With the weight of his body against the mattress, she knew he was there without having to touch him.  It was an undeniable fact.  But his sudden absence was just as absolute.  This time, she knew he was gone.  She could feel it deep down, on a cellular level – she was alone in the apartment they shared.

Still, she searched for him, just to be sure, flipping every light on along the way.  First she looked under the bed and in the closet, then she started her walk through the apartment.  He wasn’t in any of the corners he’d been in before.  She didn’t find him sitting on the bathroom floor, nor did she find him hiding in the tub.  Nothing in the kitchen either, not even in the cramped space of the cupboard.  In the hallway closet, again, nothing.  She dragged out the small step ladder to check the storage space above the closet – it was large enough to fit a body, but she didn’t find him there either.  She’d done all this before, searching for him, except this time, there was no tremor in her heart, no secret rush that came with the anticipation of finding him at last.  This time, she knew she wouldn’t find him.  The search was largely perfunctory, yet she repeated it, checking every possible space, over and over again.  It was like doing load after load of laundry and expecting something other than clean clothes at the end of each cycle.  Actually, it was worse than that since her efforts yielded nothing at all.

She collapsed across the couch, wondering what to do.  Nothing came to mind.  Her mind, in fact, was totally blank.  After a few moments, she looked over at the hallway leading to the front door.  She leapt up, rushing over.  It was locked – even the chain lock had been latched into place.  She’d been in the habit of using it ever since his sleepwalking started getting worse.  She opened the door and peeked out, but the eerie silence of the hallway felt like a warning; at this late hour, the air was different.  She didn’t belong to the world out there, yet she took a few hesitant steps forward anyway.  The floor felt icy cold against her feet.  Where are you? she whispered, calling out his name.  She knew he wouldn’t answer, just as she knew he hadn’t left this way.  With a shudder, she backed up and shut the door, locking it.  Glancing over at the kitchen, a new thought struck her, one that had never occurred to her before: the fire escape.

She ran to the kitchen, stopping at the window.  It was covered by a retractable gate that couldn’t be opened without first removing the padlock.  She pulled open the drawer where they kept an assortment of odds and ends, looking for the key.  Frantically, she yanked the drawer out, spilling its contents across the floor – the sound of everything falling and clanging together was harsh and loud, destroying the uneasy silence.  The noise made her want to run through the apartment, shattering each light fixture with a hammer and screaming until someone answered.  Instead, she searched through the mess, finally finding the key.  She unlocked the padlock, removed it, and opened the gate.  As expected, the window was still locked.  Even if it hadn’t been, the fact that she found the key proved that he hadn’t left by way of the fire escape.  Though improbable, he could have climbed out the window, reaching through the gate to put the padlock back in place, but then he wouldn’t have also been able to lock the window from the outside.  And as far as she knew, there was only one key to the padlock, which she held in her hand.

She went through the apartment checking all the windows, just to be sure.  The one in the bathroom was too small to fit through.  One of the windows in the living room had bars over the outside, and it was locked anyway; the other one held the air conditioner.  In their bedroom was the last window – the last possible means of escape.  She found it unlocked, but the screen was still in place.  She pushed the window open, seeing if she could slide the screen up.  It wouldn’t budge.  They lived on the fifth floor of a walkup, so he couldn’t have leapt from the window and survived.  Besides, she would have heard him if he had gone out the bedroom window.   

Now she knew for sure.  Somehow, he’d found a way out that couldn’t be explained.    

She spent the rest of the night in a fugue-like state.  By morning, she saw that the mess in the kitchen had been cleaned up, though she didn’t remember doing it.  She called the police – eventually, she filed a missing person’s report, but no one seemed to take her seriously, especially when she insisted that he disappeared by unnatural means.  They told her people up and left all the time, that she must have been mistaken about the chain lock being in place when she woke that night.  Despite everything that had happened, she didn’t feel sad, exactly – she felt drained.  It would take a while to muster the energy for sad.

In a follow-up, the police asked if he was suicidal.  No, she answered in a quiet, dispassionate voice, remembering the scars along his arms, how they opened up and screamed at her in a dream from what felt like so long ago.  As far as she knew, he wasn’t suicidal, but, over the sleepless nights since his disappearance, she started doubting herself more and more.  Could the chain lock have been unlatched that night?  She held the image of it locked in place like a snapshot in her mind, but with the lack of sleep and growing anxiety, the picture became distorted.  Dreams seeped into reality, days were hardly discernable from night.  When she managed a few hours of sleep here and there, the one thing she couldn’t bear was the fact that he had gone missing from her dreams as well, which quickly became as empty as her reality.  After disappearing, he never made a single appearance in any of them.  She waited for him there on the other side, hoping he would give her a sign.

During the day, she carried on, though she couldn’t manage to leave the apartment.  They’d stopped calling from work.  Friends had stopped calling too.  There was no one left – no one but the delivery boys who brought her what she needed to survive.  One can order anything, she discovered.  She ordered cases of wine, guzzling entire bottles down at night as she stumbled though the apartment, talking to him.  Talking to no one.  She took pills to fall asleep at night and drank entire pots of coffee to wake up each morning, laughing at her new routine.  She didn’t have to leave the apartment at all, though she knew things couldn’t go on like this forever.  The only thing that kept her going was the need to find him.  There was a hunger in her belly, urging her on – like a deep, bottomless hole, it swallowed everything else.  She couldn’t resist, even if she wanted to.

She studied lucid dreaming online but couldn’t make it work.  She thought of sleepwalking and how that might lead her to him, but it wasn’t something you could just force yourself to do.  She thought of him all the time, longing for the way things once were, when she slept so easily and they laughed about the things they couldn’t control.  She spread out across the living room floor, letting her mind wander.  She pictured herself walking down a long, dark tunnel, musty and damp, going on for miles and miles, twisting this way and that; long after losing track of time – walking so far that time ceased to matter – she imagined that tunnel opening up at last, revealing a light so bright it was blinding, though its warmth was strong enough to set her free.

Alone in their apartment, she imagined all sorts of things.

Out of boredom, she took the step ladder and climbed into the storage space above the hallway closet, finding that it really was big enough to fit a body.  Her body.  She crammed herself inside, pulling the doors shut to welcome the darkness.  She waited in silence and isolation, hoping to slip away to that secret place where she could find him.  In minutes or hours, she fell asleep, floating along in the darkness that held her.  Sometime later, she woke with a mind so clear it seemed like a miracle.  She had her answer at last, so she kicked the doors open, letting in the faint light.  She crawled out of that space, ready to find him.  She’d go looking for that tunnel, and that tunnel would lead her to where she needed to be.  Never had she been more certain of anything.        

A night had passed in that dark space, so she had to wait for the day to fade again to get started.  Once evening arrived, she lined up the bottles of pills he’d collected.  There were natural remedies, prescribed medication, and over-the-counter sleeping aides.  He’d tried everything.  And so would she.    

It would take the deepest, longest sleep to find him.  She needed help getting there, so she took a handful of the pills and washed them down with a glass of wine.  She had to go further this time.  She had to go further than she’d ever gone before, because he was worth it.  Being together again was worth it.    

As she started nodding off, a shadow of movement flickered across the room.  Its shape looked familiar.  Though it disappeared in an instant, she smiled anyway, feeling perfectly content.  She knew he was nearby, waiting for her to follow.   

Cameron L. Mitchell is a queer writer who grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. His work has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Queer South Anthology, Literary Orphans, Gravel Literary Magazine, and a few other places. He lives in New York and works in archives at Columbia University. Find him on Twitter: @CameronLMitchel

 

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Guest Posts, Hope, Young Voices

Hope, The Minotaur

August 5, 2019
hope

By Amanda Loeffelholz

Hope. I spend a lot of time trying to understand it. On one hand, it kept me alive and still does. On the other, I’m not sure if that constitutes it as good. Hope is heroin for the masochist. It provides the justification for repeatedly putting oneself in painful situations under the guise of waiting for the probability of one percent, the one scenario that never happens. Hope never involves the expectation that something will happen. Hope is the barely hanging on, the prayer opposite the barrel of a gun.

What is the one percent anyway? What we all want so desperately that we put a piece of ourselves on the line for it, aware we may never get it back? What we close our eyes and kneel at pagan alters for against all odds? Something is behind the whisper in an otherwise empty room, the clenched fists and the held back tears. The one percent is not situational. It transcends what an individual merely hopes for. It is the thing that cannot be given up on, the thing that is shameful to need and impossible to disregard. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Young Voices

Lips of My Childhood

March 19, 2018
man-child

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.

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 Deja White

DISCLAIMER:

Do not read this piece if you thought Lolita was a love story. Instead seek mental help.

Do not read this piece if you do not understand the dynamics of age differences. Instead imagine a nine year old who you know and love and put them into my position. Sickening right?

Do not read this piece if you think a nine year old can consent to anything. Instead find the nearest police officer and report yourself.

Do not read this piece if a girl’s body is the punchline of any joke you’ve told. You may find yourself being the subject of a joke yourself.

Do not read this piece if you’ve ever said “No means yes and yes mean anal.” Instead imagine what your life would be like in prison.

Do not read this piece if you can not respect my story because it might force me to use my black girl magic on you and put you to shame.

Please read this piece if there is a shred of kindness in any part of your body and share it so this doesn’t happen to any other nine year old girl. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Glow in the Dark

May 22, 2017
afraid

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 Cristy Shaner

For the first twelve years of my life, I went to bed afraid. As a child I was always squinting at shadows, searching for something sinister in the dark, feeling certain that soon I would be hurt, irreparably and forever.

I was afraid to close my eyes because I believed something might reach out and touch me when I wasn’t looking. I only succumbed to sleep after hours of staring at the ceiling, and sometimes not even then. Occasionally I would stay up until pale daylight broke through my bedroom curtains, and then, finally feeling at ease, I would rest. I knew, on some level, that my fear was nonsensical, but that didn’t stop me from fearing. Instead I kept quiet and clutched terror to my chest like a treasured secret—I was all alone with it, and that was all I knew. I grew up believing the world was a dangerous place, especially when plunged into darkness. I dreaded the unknown for so long it became a force of habit: everything was either a threat or a trick.

I fall asleep in the dark easily now, but I rarely sleep through the night. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga Taught Me I Could Stare Down Fear

April 24, 2017
yoga

By Amy Moore

I grew up as a painfully shy, introverted girl in a family with three brothers.  Like many others, my parents were held hostage by their own demons which left them unable to function in a capacity that a child needs as they’re growing up.  At home, it was best to be quiet, obedient, and almost invisible as an effort to keep the calm among the chaos.

As a kid, I sat on the sidelines observing others living life and unable to get past my anxiety to be able to participate in many activities or make many friends.  My life remained similar as I grew into a teenager.  My emotional pain manifested into numerous unhealthy habits, the most profound was my body image.  In early adolescents, I began my journey with anorexia and bulimia and suffered with it secretly for years. Maybe in a sense I was trying to disappear, to go unnoticed and unseen through life.

Although I was physically and mentally unhealthy I longed to be a healthy strong person. I read and researched everything that sparks my interest, which is exactly how I came to find yoga.  When I started reading about yoga I was fascinated about the stories of health and healing that so many people experienced. However, it didn’t seem possible to me.  How could stretching and breathing change your entire life? Regardless of my reservations, I felt drawn to learning more.  I wanted to know more about the practice peacefully displayed on DVD covers and magazines. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts, Illness

The Rainbow Laundry Project

November 6, 2016

By Alison Moncrieff

It was a week I thought I’d have alone in our house, but camp plans fell through for my boy and my girl was home with a  cold. It was mid-August, hot and dry, and my children, decidedly not at camp or elsewhere, bounced off the walls like a couple of Superballs, like Boing Putty or Bouncy Clay. After bouncing, they dug holes in the back yard, filling them with water they diverted through aqueducts they made from PVC pipe. They experimented wildly with staples and spices, inventing power-food recipes for rainbow2imaginary creatures with the ability to fly and heal. They had healing, escaping death even, on their minds. They painted in acrylics on the walls of their bedrooms. (Yes, I said it was okay!)

We were nearing the end of the week. I was anxious, short-fused. Come September, I’d be having brain surgery to remove a benign but growing tumor from my right frontal lobe, and I was preoccupied with that. More like terrified. I was only just getting my bearings since my mom died the year before, and the thought of brain surgery was daunting even before I remembered I’d have to go through it without her. And what if I died? This was the level of my fear. I tried to counter it with positive facts about the good odds of my survival and how brain surgeons really know what they are doing, etc.  Those things didn’t exactly calm me down. When I told my kids about the surgery, my daughter (5) asked first about the details of the operation (“How do they get in there to take it out?”), then she asked if I was going to die. My son (8) sat close in with wide eyes. I stayed upbeat. I trotted out the positive facts about the good odds and capable surgeons, and I told them about Egyptians doing brain surgery thousands of years ago. I considered that I was lucky to be able to give them the answer I did. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts, Illness

Embracing Imperfection

November 4, 2016
hug

By Meg Pier

“If you have special circumstances, please tell us,” announced a sign at the registration table.

I felt a combination of relief and skepticism, an internal tug of war between hope I’d get what I came for–and certainty I wouldn’t.

“I’m sure everyone thinks their circumstances are special,” I babbled to the attendants. “But my mother is dying and things aren’t finished between us. I got here late but it wasn’t my fault. I really, really need a hug.

And I wanted it from no less than someone considered by millions to be a divine mother.

Hindu spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi is also known to her followers as “Amma,” or “Mother” in the Indian dialect of her native Kerala. Amma’s ministry is hugging people, which she considers a manifestation of her darshana, or divine vision. Through a series of world tours over the past three decades, the rotund guru has embraced more than 36 million people—roughly the same number of people who have seen the Rolling Stones in that time period.

When I had happened to hear that the mystic would be practically in my back yard in a few days, I thought, “What the hell.” As a lapsed Catholic who was struggling to believe in anything, I needed whatever help I could get.

My mother had been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer that had claimed half of one of her lungs five years earlier. I loved my mother deeply but her frequent brushes with death had left me so exhausted, addled and angry that at times I felt about to spontaneously combust. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts

Change is supposed to be good, right?

November 3, 2016
change

By Lisbeth Welsh

If you want something to change, then you have to make a change.  And that’s what I did.  I made a massive change, uprooting my life from Las Vegas and returning to LA.  After almost 2 years in the neon desert, I (thought) I was ready to return to my beloved Southern California.  To be back near the ocean and the beach and away from the blistering heat and soul-less sin city.  And so I moved.

I am fortunate that I currently have a job that I can do anywhere so there was no big new job to pin it on, no date of any relevance just a lull in my schedule that gave me an opportunity to pack up me and my dog and reposition us back ‘home’.  But coming home has not been so easy.  My friends and sense of community are here but my family, are not.  They’re still thousands of miles away in the UK.  My prior home, is managed by a rental company who have out priced me in my rental budget since I left.  So, not for the first time in my life I’ve had to pick myself up like a random little pin and drop myself in the middle of a map and begin to rebuild and reboot my life. Continue Reading…

Fear, Guest Posts, parenting

The Ride

September 19, 2016
fears

By Tanya Mozias Slavin

He went on that ride with his Dad. At first I was sure he wouldn’t go. I stood behind the fence and watched them get seated and strapped in, watched the guard lower the safety restraint on them for extra security.

Oh how I hate roller coasters. I hate them precisely because you’re supposed to love them. Because every time I admit to myself that I hate them I get this nagging feeling of inadequacy in my stomach, as if some cheerful somebody is about to come over to me any moment, cheerfully grab my hand and pull me with her saying in the most caring cheerful determined and supportive voice you can imagine ‘Come on! You are gonna have fun!’ And will maybe add ‘Don’t be scared!’ And to the sound of lazy applaud of those still waiting their turn to ride, I would drag after her feeling clumsy and non-fun and somewhat guilty for being a burden – because surely she can be simply having fun but instead she had decided to take care of me – but totally unable to say, even to myself in my head ‘LEAVE ME ALONE I DON’T FUCKING WANNA HAVE FUN!’ What’s the problem to just let a person be! Maybe they are having fun standing there and watching other people hanging upside down in the air and dangling their limbs like little helpless insects!

But I digress. All I wanted to say was that I was sure Martin wouldn’t want to go on that roller coaster ride. Because he is just such a cautious boy and he really doesn’t like speed or any other kind of adrenaline inducing activities. I mean he even hated slides until he was almost four years old. And I’m NOT the one to cheerfully grab his hand and pull him towards whatever he is scared of. Because SEE ABOVE. In fact, that was the silent promise I made to myself the minute the mere possibility of motherhood appeared in front of me in the form of a little plus sign on a pee stick: NO CHEERFUL HAND GRABBING. He is allowed to be whatever he is and I will never be the one to coerce him, in however subtle and positive way, to be what he is not.

And yet, as I was standing there watching him take the seat beside his Dad, and with this focused but calm expression on his face raise into the air for his first ever roller coaster ride, I couldn’t keep wondering: was I unintentionally enabling his fears all this time? Was I, in my desire to give his fears space and validate them, inadvertently helping them to be stronger than they needed to be? I didn’t think I was. Yes, I offered him to hide behind me if there was a dog coming toward us and I felt him getting tense, because I didn’t want him to jump onto the road in fear. Yes I never insisted on him getting even his toe in the swimming pool when he was scared of the water. But I also made sure he spend enough time around dogs and swimming pools, and always said things like ‘When you are ready, you’ll be able to do it’. I had never been an overprotective parent. But maybe I wasn’t doing enough to help him be ready? Did he just need a little nudge in the right direction? Continue Reading…

Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

August 13, 2016
running

By Kate Abbott

I didn’t know it at the time, but my writing was born on the night I nearly died.   Maybe born is too strong a word but let’s just say I was incentivized by the horror.  Not the horror of what actually happened, but by what could have happened.

I am an ordinary mother.  I don’t suffer from any health issues, well except for my obsession with running, and my kids, thankfully, are well adjusted, at least most days.  I try my best to make my sons’ lives extraordinary and normal at the same time.

It started with a fifth grade science fair project.  After procrastinating to the last possible moment, my eldest came up with his concept: sleep deprivation.  He planned to keep his father up all night and take notes on whether there were hallucinations.   The only wrinkle: dad was out of the country until after the project was due.   No matter, I told my son, mom can step in.  I had an ulterior motive.   In a moment of madness known to afflict runners during post-race bliss, I had signed up for a 100 mile race.   This necessarily meant that I would be running, or if not running at least hopefully moving forward, for probably 36 hours.   An overnight training run was strongly recommended.

And that was why I was outside in the rain as Friday night turned into Saturday morning.  I was doing various loops around the neighborhood, checking in every 45 minutes to have my mental status assessed by my son, who was playing video games.  The idea was to compare the effects of sleep deprivation on a subject who was engaging in physical exercise with that of one who was engaging in a mental activity.   He’d compiled a list of math problems that we would do. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Vulnerability

Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot

February 15, 2016

By Stephanie Couey

When I hold it, it feels nothing like a cock.  Not even a hint of cock in this piece of heavy black metal; a symbolism I had imagined would be solid and indisputable goes limp as I hold the grip with my palms, resting my fingers along the barrel.  As I hold it before firing, all I can think of, is unveiled violence, and how it doesn’t, at any moment, not even as the gun goes off and hits the target I’m aiming for, feel anything like power.

My partner, hopefully the last person I have to love, and I pull up into the parking lot of the shooting range with a plastic Wal Mart bag full of doughnuts and energy drinks.  He says something to me about this place being ripe with material, just as I’m thinking the same thing.  I feel myself slip into the role of slimy anthropologist, knowing I’m sure to get my fill of white right wing men to observe like animals.

The parking lot in Fort Collins, Colorado is unsurprisingly full of utility trucks and oversized family vehicles.  As we walk into the front room of the range, he emphasizes how important it is that it not be called a “shooting range” but a “gun club.”  He tells me this is a place where people go to find a community outside of their homes or jobs, not just to shoot guns.

If I can respect anything, it’s the need for establishing community, but I wonder if I can keep myself out of the way enough to be able to see the community, and not just see my own opinions mirrored back to me in a mosaic whose patterns I think I already know.  In the patterns, I’d see a row of men, shooting just after the Sunday morning service, gripping their loaded second cocks, discharging projectiles one after the other toward pieces of cardboard they envision to be terrorists, homosexuals, atheist academics, sexual deviants courting their daughters, or some amalgamation of all of them, and I could be right, but I could also not be. Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, Guest Posts

Sitting on the Same Side

February 8, 2016
bravery

By Beth Bornstein Dunnington

A disturbing thing happened at dinner the other night in one of my favorite restaurants in Hawaii. I was with my closest friend, and we hadn’t seen each other in a month because I’d been traveling. We had a lot to talk about and the table we were at (a table for two in the corner) was big, and we were too far away from each other. So I moved over to her side, a bench against the wall, to sit next to her… we had our heads together and were hunkered down in a deep conversation… and a fifty-something man with a big square jaw at the table next to us, who was there with two women and a baby, took offense to us sitting together like that and ordered me to go back to my side of the table.

It was shocking. Completely out of the blue.

He actually said, “You two have no class!” and “Go back to your fucking side, that’s why they HAVE two fucking sides!” There was so much background noise no one working at the restaurant heard what was going on, and we were on our own.

I did NOT go back to my seat on the other side of the table and it looked like a blood vessel was going to burst in his forehead, he was so enraged. I looked him in the eye and was not afraid, as crazy as this situation was. I stood my ground. I realized he must have thought we were a gay couple and that this was a small taste of what homophobia feels like. It blew my mind… really caught me off-guard. Continue Reading…