“He said he’d beat the crap out of me if I didn’t.” After a celebratory dinner of fried chicken, beans, and tortillas the room fell silent as Maureen* told her story. She proudly showed the progress with glossy photos of sessions one, two, three, and four. She explained how Mario was removing her tattoo. Soon the mark made on her chest would no longer be a daily reminder of her abuser and her trauma. Mario, a short muscular man with a giant curly ponytail, spoke next. He choked up explaining how he used to tattoo gang members. How he heard Blanca talk
Category: NEXT: An Empowerment Series
Attorney and life coach Susan Koenig guides, supports, and inspires you on the journey of creating a life you love.
We argued about the garlic in the guacamole. He stormed outside. I stood at the second-floor bathroom mirror; my shaking hand focused on my mascara. I heard the front door open. His is footsteps coming up the stairs. He opened the door, punched me in the stomach, and spoke calmly. “Now you can tell your friends I abused you.” I was young but I was strong, confident, and independent. On the outside. In my home, I justified the purchase of a two-dollar tube of lipstick. I defended why I wanted to see a movie with a girlfriend. I stayed with a man
First I was confused. Later I silently disagreed. Then I started to question. “You support a lot of people,” my friend said. The conversation moved quickly past my subtle bristle, but my recurring trait of wanting to be right itched like a prickly tag inside a sweater. My children are grown. My parents are dead. I am not a caretaker for anyone. My love Kevin is as much a support to me as I am to him. My mild annoyance and urge to argue lingered. Margo visits our terminally ill friend Joyce week after week. Mary Helen has fed the
“Either somebody who loves you did it or something mystical is going on,” Megan said, turning her head to the side as if to say, “You tell me.” My coworker had noticed what was happening in front of our office. “Either way, I’m glad,” I smiled. While doing repairs last fall, the utility company pummeled the flower box in front of our office. Gratefully, they emptied all the soil, placed new blocks with precision, and replaced perennials I’d planted over the years—-roses, coneflower, salvia. Weeks later, in a corner of the box, large heart shaped leaves appeared out of nowhere.
He gave up his hippie acreage with gardens to move into the middle of the city with me and mychildren. There he planted tulips and tomatoes anew. When the kids were grown and we movedfrom house to apartment, he grew kale in raised beds on the rooftop and raspberries andpumpkins in the country. He spent one summer managing a community garden for fun. Johnalways grew a garden. He took breaks from digging and watering to sit and savor the multitude of shades of green. I’dwillingly weed nonstop in the Nebraska heat I’d grown up with. I completed chores, crossingthem off
For months I knew it would arrive, and now it has. It would be special, sad, and I wasn’t sure what else. Now that September’s here, I escape my procrastination at looking. It’s my month of many anniversaries. The major milestones and markers of my life’s journey make a list that includes: Became a lawyer Became a mother Became a widow The universe seems to know that the impending arrival of autumn is my special time for a change of seasons. In falls past I could see neither their full meaning nor their foretelling of my future. How being admitted to the bar would lead to founding a wholehearted
She reached for a second tissue. “Sorry about all the tears,” she said. Some people pour their morning joe for a pick me up. I go for my Megan. Our always steady and ready office manager Megan isn’t ruffled by a crashed computer or an overflowing toilet. Still, on this morning, she dabbed the tiny silver ring in her nose as the drops kept falling. It was Lily’s first day at a new school. Across town. Where she knew no one. A school where she would be different and feel alone. While Megan knew all was well for her child, crying could not be avoided. Soon she let out a deep sigh. This week social media fills with shining faces of innocence leaving us for places unknown. Caretakers capture the moments to
Choosing to be alone for days is not an obvious extrovert choice. Yet for over a decade I’ve taken a solo annual retreat. I don’t go far, but I do go away from home where I am tempted by the dazzling distractions of unorganized drawers and the unfinished anything. My yearly ritual is usually in winter, the season of slowing down, anticipating the new year, and hoping the arrival of spring can be trusted. As usual, I marked my calendar for January. But the universe had its own plans. I postponed until summer. This time away is to look back,
Maybe you have one. Your “Go-To Spirit Lifter.” Joyce is mine. When my mind was a mess, Joyce listened with the same compassion she’d give to a 7-year-old at the elementary school where she was a counselor. Her infectious laugh leaves you wondering why you ever thought you had something to cry about. Just before the pandemic we celebrated (There is a lot of celebrating when you are with Joyce) her birthday with a glorious sail on a Florida bay. My next visit I don’t expect she’ll remember me. Joyce was diagnosed with a rare and rapidly progressing brain disease.
Sometime before the sunlight snuck around the sides of the bedroom shades a delicious sounding summer rain began to fall. The darkness told me I need not rush out from under the comfort of my cotton quilt. I listened. I fell back to sleep with the peace of knowing the purple clematis would get her daily drink without me. The back yard’s newly sewn grass seeds would be grateful, too. At 6:22 the seven o’clock train announced its arrival in the distance, sounding the same whistle I’ve heard since I was a child. The window ledge pigeon and her two babies were silent, but the birds whose songs I vowed in the spring to learn but haven’t yet, sang good morning. Time to wake up. The wheels of the cars of the early