Browsing Tag


Guest Posts, courage, Letting Go

Ferris Wheels On The Nile

August 18, 2017

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, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

The Lesson Leaving Taught. (No Bullshit Motherhood Series.)

October 8, 2016

Note from Founder Jen Pastiloff: This is part of my new series called No Bullshit Motherhood. Raw, real, 100% bullshit free. If you have something to submit click the submissions tab at the top. You can follow us online at @NoBullshitMotherhood on Instagram and @NoBSMotherhood on Twitter. Search #NoBullshitMotherhood online for more.

By Chris J. Rice

My ten-year-old son stood beside his father in the front yard of my now empty house. My son had a scowl on his face. Looked away from my packed car, down at the ground.

Dark-eyed boy with a skeptical furrowed brow.

“Come here,” I said. Called him over to my driver-side window.

He stuck his head in for a kiss, and I whispered in his ear: “You’re going to miss me. And that’s okay. It’s okay to have a dream. Never forget that.”

He nodded as if he understood. “Bye,” he said, then turned around and ran back to stand with his father.

I put my Datsun in reverse and took off. Moved to Los Angeles to attend graduate school. And I didn’t take my child along. I left him with his dad for the duration. I told them both it would only be a few years, though I knew it would be more.

I sensed it would be forever.

A formal acceptance letter came in the mail and I made a decision. Put my books in the post, my paint box in the trunk of my yellow Datsun B210, and drove headlong into whatever came next. Sold most of my stuff in a big yard sale: the vintage clothes I thought I’d never wear again, the leather couch and chair I’d bought dirt cheap off a moving neighbor.

I didn’t have much left after the divorce.

I said it. My ex said it too. I love you. But he didn’t mean it. And for the longest time I didn’t get that. Just picked up the slack. Made things happen. That’s how it was. Okay. Just okay. He would get angry. Couldn’t seem to manage. Fury popped up like every other emotion. Yelling. Disparaging—things like that.

I missed my son like mad. We talked by phone regularly. I flew back on holidays. He came to visit on spring break, and for a few weeks every summer.

Seven years passed. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, courage

Going Away, Again

June 24, 2016

Part 1 of this essay was published at:

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…

Binders, Forgiveness, Guest Posts

The Ghost of You

March 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Piper Selden

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”  ― Salman Rushdie

Serenity House, Room 114. Hidden on a hillside among Santa Barbara’s majestic coastal oaks. The slick ad reads like a vacation destination. It is not. Serenity House is a hospice facility, a place people go when they can no longer live at home. It’s a place people go to die.


In my mind’s eye, the door to Room 114 is closed because I wasn’t there when you died, when they blessed your body and anointed it with oils. When the ghost of you didn’t haunt me.

In my deepest dream-space, you are still alive in that room. Heart pounding, I know my biggest fear is beyond the heavy oak door, and I must enter alone. I press the cold metal handle and walk inside.

You are there, propped in bed and shirtless, not dressed in a jewel-toned silk shirt, like the ones you used to wear. I place blessed salt on your chest. You, for purifying, salt of the earth, my father. And me, for salting the dark field of my childhood. I don’t want to go back. I can’t.

Enough salt, enough tears. We’re free to love and forgive now in new spirit bodies. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts

The Seat: On Domestic Violence.

December 9, 2014


By Candace Roberts.

“Somehow I’ll manage to get through this day, too.” I thought to myself. It was a Monday. I had a full day of blocked lecture hours ahead of me. Ancient Greek History—8:30-10:20a.m., Women and Law—10:30-12:20 and Buddhism—12:30-2:20pm.

“Please, God, let this go by quickly.” I said under my breath. I knew it wouldn’t though and the day’s forecast was adding to my anxiety.

Seattle has flippant weather, sometimes. People that don’t live here usually have a grim view of the Northwest. No thanks to the media, Washington has the reputation of a dreary, depressing, state with consistent downpour. One day I’ll write about the beauties of this weather as they are magnificent and are never given enough credit. But this Monday’s ambience lived up to all of Hollywood’s generalizations. There wasn’t a break of sunlight as it was January and there was a constant airy midst that throughout the day would, at random, turn nasty for a minute. What a little tease, pouring for just a minute. Aside from the rainfall, it was freakin’ cold to the bone.

I looked around and saw that almost everyone, at least the girls anyway, were dressed like me- going for the standard wardrobe pick for Seattle winters. Ugg boots sloshing about, velour sweats tucked in, and a big Northface rain coat with the hoodie tied up under neck. No matter how rough the night before was for the typical college girl, no one really cared about committing fashion faux pas because no one wanted to feel the cold rain. Oh yes, and everyone was bookin’ it to class as fast as they could without looking like that one idiot actually running. Let’s be realistic, we have all been “that guy” before and probably not for the last time either. Whether we were running or not, it was the combination of wet, cold Seattle winter and sweaty college kid that inevitably created a class room environment that was simply gross.

Seated and feeling a hot mess in my unbearably hard, public University, sad excuse for a desk-slash-chair, I realized that the dang chair was actually kind of a problem underneath my bum. Early Greece at 8:30 am was not on my prioritized list of troubles, in fact I don’t remember a single thing that was said in class that day. My body was there…my mind was not. It was traveling methodically through the day that lay ahead of me. This day of scheduled sitting.

“Okay 570 minutes of class—did it before, I can do it again. Forty-five minute commute to work,—same shit, different day…totally do-able. Sitting in my wheelie chair at work for 5 hours— you’re getting paid, deal with it.”

My self-talk that day was not inspirational. It was hardly the usual positive vibe I mentally set myself up with, but it was completely necessary because I needed to distract myself. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

On Being Left.

June 22, 2014

On Being Left by Shari Simmons.

I am left handed. Very left handed. If I had a stroke and lost use of my right side I would still function fairly well. I guess I would consider myself a left thinker too, although lefties use their right brains, as I understand it. I’m not sure what a left thinker is exactly but it seems to fit how I feel sometimes.

I like being a lefty, minus a few inconveniences like right handed computer mice, and scissors and having no one want to sit next to me at a crowded dinner table. But it’s part of who I am; a little quirky, a little left of center if you’ll pardon the pun.

But that’s not really the left I’m referring to here. There’s another “being left” that is also a big part of who I am.

When I was eight years old my dad left. Well, he left my mom, and technically not my brother and me. At least that’s what they told us. But the fact that he packed all his stuff and moved out sure felt like he left to me.

He left my mom for another woman, and two years later he left me for another state. California to be exact, which was 3000 plus miles from my house in Maryland. Again he said he wasn’t leaving me. He had to go; had no choice.
“For a job.”
“There are jobs here.”
“I looked and couldn’t find one. California is beautiful and it’s warm and sunny all year round.”

I’m sure he had said he thought I was beautiful at some point, although I couldn’t admit to being warm and sunny all year round. That was a tough one to compete with. That and all the movie stars and palm trees, which California was also full of according to my dad.

“You’ll come visit every summer. You’ll love it. We’ll miss you.”
And he left. And I cried. Again.

And so my brother and I hopped on our first airplane by ourselves that next summer. My mom cried and loaded us down with about eight peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each and various snacks for the five and a half hour plane ride.

He was right. It was warm and sunny and there were palm trees but as hard as I looked I never found a movie star.

At the end of the summer, as we headed back to the airport to go home, it felt as though he was leaving us all over again, even though we were doing the actual leaving this time. And so we left. And I cried. Again.

I got used to the summer visits but never to the leaving part. Every time I cried and every time I felt as though I was being left again. What did California have that I didn’t? Well, my dad, for one.

I grew up and went to college and fell in love and got married. I took all the precautionary steps so that I wouldn’t get left by my husband like my mom had. I communicated my feelings about not wanting to be left. He said the same. I became the wife I thought he wanted me to be and the mother I knew I could be.

And in all the precautionary steps I took, I missed the biggest one. I left myself. I lost myself. And he left me anyway. He didn’t leave my children though. That’s what he told them. He left me for another woman, and because we weren’t right for each other, according to him. I think that’s better than being left for another state. Better than being left for a piece of land with sun and palm trees.

Alone, I found myself buried just beneath the surface, and told myself never to leave again. My mom, who had always been my brave inspiration and rock and best friend in life, helped me through being left by my husband, just as she had been there when I was left by my dad.

I could see the physical pain on her face of not only watching me go through what she did, but reliving her own pain of being left.

I poured my feelings out to her and she poured hers out to me, as though we were sharing the same pot of heartache tea. And life had a way of finding a new normal. The empty spaces were filling in and raising my two daughters were the main fillers.

If I were to be asked what my biggest fear in life is, one would think it would be being left. In actuality my biggest fear is the fragility of life. Being left may be a part of that, but it’s the bigger thing that anything can change at any moment. The train can be derailed by the smallest crack in the track.

My own train derailed one December afternoon in the form of a phone call from my mom where she painfully forced herself to tell me she had pancreatic cancer. I sucked all my breath in and I don’t remember it ever coming back out.
“That’s the bad one.”
“No I think it’s early. I can beat it.”
The crack in her voice betrayed the conviction of her words.
I cried. I didn’t want to but it just happened.
“I will beat this. I will.”

And she certainly tried. For a year she fought and fought and then, in the simplest of terms, she lost the fight.

And in the most incomprehensible of all situations I could imagine, she left me. I know she didn’t want to or even mean to, but that is still what happened.

She left. She left her husband. She left her children. She left my children. She left me. And left or right, everything in my brain felt wrong. A pain in the left side of my chest, where my heart should be felt like an empty, gaping hole.

And so, as it so often happens whether you want it to or not, another new normal formed. One without my mom but with my beautiful daughters beaming light out of the darkness. People say only her body left me but not her spirit. I think that may be true because I feel her at times, but it doesn’t make me feel any less left.

A few years after my mom’s passing, my stepdad who was kind and loving enough to raise me as his own during the non-summer months and in the absence of my real father, left me as well after suffering a fatal stroke one summer evening. He had promised my mom that he would look after the girls and me (a symbolic gesture as I was in my 30s at the time), but I suppose the pain of my mom leaving was too much and he went to be wherever she was. At least that’s what I like to believe.

The loss of my stepdad brought on a feeling I wasn’t expecting at the age of 40. Despite my father and stepmother still being alive, albeit 3000 miles away, I suddenly felt orphaned. The two parents who raised me were gone. I felt alone. And sad. And angry. And left.

And so I’m forced to think and write, with my left hand and my right brain, why have all these people left me? Did I do something wrong? (Ok, my ex-husband may have something to say on that matter.) Sure, there are some positive things I’ve done with my life that perhaps I wouldn’t have done had all these people not left, but in the case of my mom and stepdad, I would hate to think they had to sacrifice themselves in order for me to stop procrastinating something. Certainly that would be a high price to pay for laziness or unseen opportunity.

But I’ve also noticed that although people have left me, others, while not taking their place, have entered my life in a way that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible before. Lovers and parental figures who, for good or bad, have kept me company during a sometimes lonely journey. The pain is still there, but so are the smiles, the laughter, the love.

And so I have stopped asking “why?” because one, I don’t think I will ever get an answer, and two, if I did, I don’t think I would like it.

I’ve just had to learn to accept this as part of who I am: I am a mother, a lefty, a writer, a massage therapist and a health nut who has been left more times than she would care to count. However, this also means that there are a few empty seats next to me if anyone would care to take a load off, and casually discuss the abstract and obtuse topics of life, love and yes, being left.

Shari Simmons is a freelance writer and massage therapist who enjoys writing about personal journeys and holistic health issues. She is a self-proclaimed health nut who isn’t afraid to admit to occasionally putting gummy bears and Oreos on her fro-yo. She lives outside of Philly with her two daughters.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen leads  her signature yoga/writing Manifestation retreats all over the world. Next one with availability is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation Workshop is London July 6. Book here. Seattle July 26/27.