Browsing Tag

writing the body

Guest Posts, Writing & The Body

Stuck

June 13, 2021
throat

by Billie Hinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning light, the thing. Still pushing.

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

But.

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

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

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

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

***

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

I lose 10 pounds but the stuck thing remains.

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

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

The thing is still there. Beloveds still not talking.

Almost unbelievably, I learn to tolerate both.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

My weight is down 30 pounds.

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

So much joy.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Fiction Fridays, Guest Posts

The Women Are Waiting

May 28, 2021
women

by Arya Samuelson

It always starts with a woman. Plunging into a clawfoot tub, burning her skin in waves. Or poised at the edge of her bed, head turned as if to pose for a portrait – only nobody else is there. What about the woman gazing at the rice fields, straw brim hat shielding her eyes from the feverish sun? She is not of this place and that’s why she has come. Because she feels freest in places where she has no history. (No history except colonialism, whispers a voice inside, which she swats away like the mosquitoes that form a curtain along the river.) A woman living inside a girl, furious and desperate because she can’t tie her shoes; the knot is slipping and she’s screaming inside, surrounded by a hovering crowd of her brother’s friends.

These women are waiting. Their story awaits. Hearts beat wildly, skin pulsing with the desire to be carried away on the boat of narrative that will give their lives, their pain, a purpose. The boats with engraved names like Plot or Character Development or Foil. Many will wait for a yacht to dock and hope for a big pay-off, others prefer a fishing boat (an ensemble drama,) while some settle for a sailboat: a self-published journey. It’s only the bravest and most foolish who dream of Transformation, the solitary ship that travails the rockiest, most violent waters. Capsizing is the deal you must strike. Body buckled beneath the current, black seaweed twisting your ankles. Heartbursting, striving for surface and a life beyond it. Survival is not a guarantee. Better to board the cruise boat that sails alongside and raise a cocktail glass to those morons. Sure, you only exist in glimpses – everyone’s attention fixed on Transformation, betting on the odds as if this were a horse race – but at least you’ll get to have some fun.

How to obtain passage on such a ship? Theories abound. Some say you need to cause a scene, shriek in the captain’s ear, and if it comes to this, grip your hands around his neck. Others whisper about underground bidding wars, where tickets are auctioned in exchange for unspeakable deeds. But another way is to climb inside an image – a woman plucking flowers, or lighting a house on fire, or climbing inside a bathtub and sing the words that resound at the core of your pelvis. Just stay there, resting inside the frame or moving your limbs when the impulse strikes, entirely and completely yourself, until someone walks by with a thousand questions. A passer-by so moved with wonder they’ll invite you onto their ship. Though you must wait for the right person, someone who won’t treat you like a circus monkey or glaze over your words. Wait for the person who will instead feed you fresh bread and crisp apples, who leaves a bowl of silence after each question, waiting to be filled with your voice.

Arya Samuelson is a writer currently based in Northampton, MA. She was awarded CutBank’s 2019 Montana Prize in Non-Fiction, which was judged by Cheryl Strayed. Her work has also been published in New Delta Review, Entropy, and The Millions. Arya is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at Mills College and is currently working on her first novel. She is proud to be part of Lidia Yuknavitch’s Corporeal coven of writers.

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Megan Galbraith is a writer we keep our eye on, in part because she does amazing work with found objects, and in part because she is fearless in her writing. Her debut memoir-in-essays, The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book , is everything we hoped from this creative artist. Born in a charity hospital in Hell’s Kitchen four years before Governor Rockefeller legalized abortion in New York. Galbraith’s birth mother was sent away to The Guild of the Infant Saviour––a Catholic home for unwed mothers in Manhattan––to give birth in secret. On the eve of becoming a mother herself, Galbraith began a search for the truth about her past, which led to a realization of her two identities and three mothers.

This is a remarkable book. The writing is steller, the visual art is effective, and the story itself is important.

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

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Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option

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Click here for all things Jen

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

I Made Peace With My Body And Found My Soul

December 15, 2019
body

 By Lisa Poulson

The house, above the village of Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt, is set on a hill overlooking the whole Luberon valley. Climbing roses cling to its traditional Provençal stone exterior. In California, a plant with just one or two flowers seems in ill health, but here a single blush rose on a vine by the front door feels like beautiful simplicity.

The chic and spare interior is layered with thick coats of pale plaster that curve around me as I walk up two flights of stairs to my room. It’s my first time in Provence, with six girlfriends in this wild, raw and beautiful part of France.

There are wide, cool terracotta tiles, a velvety duvet and no curtains in my bedroom, which is on the third floor of the house, facing the valley. After I settle in and unpack, my friends and I have our evening meal at a long, rough hewn dining table under a tree on the patio. It’s the first week of May. A hint of the Mistral rolls through the hills. I haven’t felt this peaceful in a long, long time.

The next morning, the barest hint of dawn through my uncovered windows wakes me. I smell the remnants of my Diptyque Pomander candle before I open my eyes. I turn my head toward the window and, drowsy and semi-conscious, am immersed in exquisite beauty.

It’s a little chilly as I sit up in bed to watch tender pink light emerge from a piercing bluish fuschia, to see the tall trees shift from shadowy black to darkest teal, to see the rows of lavender on the hill opposite our house emerge from the darkness. The mountains beyond the hills are a Pantone palette of dark to lighter slate blues. Birds are singing. The wind is soft. This dawn is as delicate and rich as Venetian velvet.

After several minutes of watching the colors change and the light bathe the whole scene, a voice, insistent and gentle at the same time, says, ‘If you didn’t have a body, you wouldn’t be able to experience any of this beauty. Not one bit.’

Sitting in my sleep-warm bed, bathed in this exquisite sunrise, I feel peaceful enough to simply accept this truth about my body without argument. As the sun’s light turns the trees green I roll this idea around in my head, thinking about what beauty means to me. Everything. Beauty means everything to me. I’m almost breathless as I absorb the blindingly simple truth that I can only experience beauty through and because of my body.

I am 56 years old. I’ve had a fraught relationship with my body since I was a tween. And yet, in this moment, seduced by the serene Provençal beauty all around me, I reorder what I feel and believe about my body, what it is for, what it has given me, why it’s a miracle.

 ***

It’s been a long and grinding road. I was 10 when I first doubled over with burning pain on both sides of my gut. It wasn’t until my twenties that I got a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which gave me a name but not a solution for the boiling distress that turned my body into an incomprehensible ‘other’, a caustic alien that delighted in causing havoc on dates, before job interviews, at baseball games.

At 30, the man I loved was killed after the Coast Guard helicopter he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic. We had been engaged for two weeks. Grief came in molten waves that would growl and stretch, enveloping every part of me. I never knew when my body would start sweating and shaking, drowning me in unbearable sorrow. When grief descend my only choice was to submit to being ravaged.

About a year after my fiancé died I went on a date, thinking it was time to “move on.” But at the end of the evening when he leaned in to kiss me I panicked. Another man having access to my delicate mouth was more than I could bear. I ran up to my apartment and burst into tears.

In the midst of this emotional disarray I accepted a job offer in Silicon Valley. Just 15 months after my love died, I left New York City and all of my friends behind. In a strange place, with few friends, tons of work pressure, and carrying a mountain of grief, I turned to food, the most reliable and consistent comfort I knew, and buried myself. I gained 75 pounds in six months.

My gut tormented me, I came down with mononucleosis, my head raged with migraines. I felt trapped inside a body that hurt and humiliated me daily. With bitter self-hatred, I told myself that this body, this alien saboteur, was a billboard for my weaknesses as a person. I didn’t deserve amity with my body, I wasn’t strong enough or good enough to be free.

By the time I was 35 I was emotionally numb, physically miserable and nearly 100 lbs overweight. I was in New York on an exhausting business trip. I stumbled into my hotel room and collapsed against the side of the bed in my underwear, my short legs splayed out in front of me. I stared at my undressed body in the wall of mirrors that were the closet doors. I watched my piles of flesh undulate as I breathed in and out. I forced myself to face everything in the mirror. My legs, my belly, my double chin. My lip curled in revulsion as I stared into deadened eyes. I hated everything about my life. My job. My body. Myself.

Eventually I lost the weight, but I couldn’t love and happily inhabit my complicated and demanding body, where the alien still reigned. In my 40s my career grew and grew, but inside my body was one long repressed scream of rage and frustration. I wanted to swear, to smash things, to scream and shake, to quiver and whimper with passion, to drown in and be intoxicated by love and lust. None of those things happened. Because I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a proper Mormon girl does not do these things.

I could have gone to the gym every day to expel that pent up desire, anxiety and anger. But a completely numb body is easier to manage than a body that is partially awake. A body that is awake and vibrant and beautiful wants things. Things a Mormon girl can’t have. So instead my weight yo-yoed. My gut burned. And then I got eczema – the skin on my palms became raw and started to peel off. My spirit was choked in a body I refused to love. I was a broken soul.

***

During the next decade I patronized several spas, worked with a cornucopia of health practitioners and healers, tried so many elimination diets. Sometimes I looked better, sometimes I felt better, sometimes I had beautiful moments of connection with my body, usually at an expensive spa after a luxurious treatment. But back in my real life, every time there was a new injury, every time my IBS flared up, every time I gained weight, I blamed the alien, the mute and malevolent force inside me who seemed determined to hurt and undermine my every effort to heal. I saw no way out.

But in late 2016 the movie Arrival hypnotized me. The heroine, a creative, accomplished linguist, was asked to interpret the language of aliens called heptapods. I drank the movie in, read Ted Chiang’s The Story of Your Life on which the movie is based. I thought and thought. What if my body is like a heptapod, a benevolent and complex organism with miraculous gifts to give? Was it possible that within my body I’d find a wisdom that would transform me if I could just learn to speak and listen to its language?

***

That late spring morning in Provence, watching that glorious sunrise, was the first time I heard and understood a sentence in heptapod. ‘It’s your body that gives you the gift of all of this beauty.’

For decades, I had only seen what was wrong and broken – I thought my body was 90% a disaster. I did not see that the things I love – color, art, music, flowers, the scent of perfume, the feel of cashmere on my neck – only come to me because I have a body. My body isn’t a crucible of humiliation and frustration, it is a miracle.

I let the slow and pure beauty of Provence work on my nervous system. Everything there taught me the simple joy of living in a body in the world – fresh goat cheese drizzled with new olive oil and tiny flowers, earthenware vases filled with hardy irises, fields of red poppies shimmering in the breeze, baby green leaves on grape vines that aren’t manicured into antiseptic perfection.

At the end of a week there, after several more ravishing sunrises and sunsets, after living among a people whose lives are bound up in the beauty of the land, I came home to California with a changed heart.

There’s a calmness between my body and me now – the anger and shame have been replaced by a patient, warm affection for the wise heptapod who is teaching me a new way to live. I am learning what it feels like to move through the world with a partner – a wise and remarkable heptapod who has always been with me, every moment of my life. I am whole.

Lisa Poulson is a voice in favor of the complex beauty of female power. She is the descendent of fiercely resilient pioneer women who crossed the American plains with their children – even after their husbands died along the way. She is a successful Silicon Valley PR veteran and a woman who survived her the death of her fiancé four months before their wedding day. Lisa lives in San Francisco, where she spends her free time absorbing and creating as much beauty as possible.

Upcoming events with Jen

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THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Breeze

November 15, 2019
breeze

By Lisa Poulson

As I walked out of the grand lobby of the apartment building onto Riverside Drive, a soft, plangent breeze lilted across my face, swaying my hair. Equal parts summer humid and fall crisp, the breeze coming off of the river felt so delicious on my cheek that I had to stop, close my eyes and drink it in. For nineteen days, my skin hadn’t tasted a touch that delicate, that present, that sublime.

Nineteen days before I found my fiance in the ICU after the Coast Guard helicopter he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic. We had been engaged for two weeks.

As I walked into the hospital room he was still and barely breathing, his face so swollen and bloodied it was only his eyelashes I recognized, his body so broken it was only his fingertips I knew. No other fingertips traced my face the way his had.

Careful to avoid the IVs as I reached for his hand, I found that it was still warm. But the Coast Guard said he had been underwater for fifteen minutes. Was the soul I deeply and eternally loved still inside of that mashed and broken body? Would those fingertips ever come back to me?

Marc lay in the hospital bed, never opening his eyes, never parting his beautiful lips to say a word.

On the third day, the swelling from his injuries decreased enough for the doctors to do an EEG. When they said there was “no organized brain activity,” it was clear what that meant. Marc’s mind and soul were gone, even if his lungs were pushing air in and out on their own. I left the hospital with a leaden heart.

On the fourth day, his lungs stopped doing their work. He slipped away on his own, before dawn.

At the cemetery, when the hearse opened and I saw the coffin, I almost lost my capacity to stand. How could the strong, beautiful body I loved be in that box?

Two weeks after the funeral I was still in a stumbling, useless daze. Grief came in molten waves that flowed into my body with no warning, drowning my senses and suffocating my capacity to reason.

Sometimes it came when I woke in the morning and realized anew that he was gone. Sometimes it seized me in the middle of the afternoon at work, or in a restaurant, or on the train. When these waves overtook me, my mind and my senses would desert me as the heat rose from my gut or my heart. I would no longer be able to hear what people were saying to me, comprehend time or speak. The grief would growl and stretch, enveloping my whole body and subsuming my brain. I would shake, or sweat, or cry, or all of the above when it had possession of me.

***

I couldn’t be in my apartment because it was too full of his absence. He was not standing in the kitchen making us dinner, he was not sitting on the sofa inviting me to lay my head against his chest, he was not kneeling beside me to pray aloud with profound gratitude for our relationship at the end of the day. He was not there to nurture my quiet, budding hope of a life filled with love.

I did not go to work. I did not cook. I did not do laundry. I stayed with friends, barely able to breathe in and out. The competent 30-year-old I used to be was lost.

But there on Riverside Drive, nineteen days later, a moment of unexpected grace reached through my grief. I closed my eyes as the nerves under my skin awakened to the delicate sensation of the tender breeze.

My skin didn’t understand why it hadn’t been touched. I hadn’t realized how lost and hungry it was.

I opened my eyes to the afternoon sun glowing over the Hudson, my heart full of compassion for the mute grief of my body. I hear you, I said. I will care for you.

Lisa Poulson, is a San Francisco-based tech veteran. She has her own business as a communications coach and is reinventing herself as a writer. Lisa can be found on twitter as @thelisapoulson.

Upcoming events with Jen

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THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

 

 

Guest Posts, Heroes

Please See Me

August 23, 2019

By Karen Pyros and Damon Szatkowski

I’m 17.

I never grow up.

My brain is broken.

My thoughts are sometimes stuck or sometimes pour out so quickly my mouth can’t keep up,  and all the words don’t come out right or sound all jumbled as though I don’t have coherent thoughts. But I do. Please have patience.

My limbs aren’t all that limber; some don’t move at all. My brain is broken and affects all that.

But I’m not dumb.  My mind is perfect.  I can read, I can write, I am probably still smarter than many of you. I was classified as “gifted” once.  But you wont see it if you don’t listen.  If you don’t take the time to know me.  If you think I’m disabled through and through. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Trauma

MY GHOST BODY’S THOUGHTS

November 29, 2018
ghost

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault and eating disorders

By Cyndie Randall

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”
– Fred Rogers

“Survivors feel unsafe in their bodies. Their emotions and their thinking feel out of control.”
– Judith Lewis Herman

The carpet was bitter this morning. It jammed itself between my toes – the first resistance – and burned the skin on my knees like tiny pin pricks.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I never say “Amen” without remembering the empty, sweaty hands I’ve held in countless circles of healing.

Several complex galaxies were pushing on my back by the time I stood up, each so heavy that I went looking for my daughter and apologized to her immediately.

“Why are you sorry, mama?”

My body told me I’d be crawling back into bed after tea, so I answered her by giving an advance on the second apology.

The third one came a few hours later – “Oh my! Sorry!” The clock read 1:30 p.m. and I was still wearing a tattered nightgown when her friend bounced up the driveway and to our door. Continue Reading…