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Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

This Is Us

I understood, even as a young girl, that I was much too much.

Alabama searching for shells on a barrier island, being perfect. Photo by author.

I was too wild, too exuberant, asked too many questions, and paid far too little attention. I stared out the windows of my elementary school and imagined myself hanging upside-down from the trees, staring back into the classroom. I would not hear the teacher calling my name. Gwen. Gwen! GWEN!

On the playground, I would run fast and peg balls at the boys, smacking them in the head with red rubber. I would make wild dashes to release my teammates from the jail at the end of the dodge ball court, screaming and whooping, imagining I was a cowgirl releasing…


The Medium Writers Challenge is now live and waiting for your entries

Human Parts has long been a place for stories that make readers feel, think, and, we hope, consider what it means to be a person in the world. If you’re reading this, maybe you’re a writer yourself — or have always wanted to try it. Well, let this be the sign you’ve been looking for!

The Medium Writers Challenge is now accepting submissions of your best personal essays on the topics of Reentry, Death, Work, and Space. Select one or more to write to, then publish your story on Medium with the relevant tag. (Just like with any post on…


HUMANS 101

Practical tools and tips for everyday living

Image: Okan Caliskan/Pixabay

I was 21 when I learned to meditate. After graduating from college, I moved into an ashram to study and practice the teachings of an Indian guru, Prem Rawat.

Five years later, he invited me to be a meditation instructor. After completing a three-month training program with a dozen other young people, I went on tour for four years throughout North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia, speaking at nightly meetings and helping people from all walks of life learn how to meditate.

After 49 years of practicing meditation as well as teaching, counseling, and observing others, I want to share…


Lived Through This

16 years ago, my entire life changed in an instant

Photo: Jr Korpa/Unsplash

No, this isn’t the story about the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a singularly miserable experience filled with pain and tears, frustration and depression. But if you’re looking for “sorrow porn,” look elsewhere.

If you read the title and thought, “That sounds like the worst thing that could happen to anyone,” you would be partially correct.

For some people, suffering a spinal cord injury and becoming a paraplegic or quadriplegic is the worst thing that will ever happen to them.

For me, it wasn’t.

For starters—spoiler—I survived. I’m here typing this in…


THIS IS US

Grandma, why do you have so much hand sanitizer?

Photo: Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

My great-grandmother saved Sweet ’N Low packets. Those little pink rectangles of currency now only found in very old, very sticky diners where rent is minimal and corporate interest in property nonexistent. In her lifetime I don’t think my great-grandmother ever purchased an artificial sweetener of any kind. She never needed to. There was always a healthy supply in whatever giant purse was within arm’s reach. If those ran out (they never ran out), there were old shoe boxes in cabinets serving as secondary stash. …


Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

The other day during a therapy session, I said suddenly, “Healing is hard.”

“It is,” my therapist, J, replied. “It can be scary to leave what we know.”

J asked me if I could elaborate on the parts of the healing journey I was finding more difficult. I wanted to say, “Everything,” but in that moment I was feeling a particular strain, the one that comes from the loss of relationships that no longer fit you.

I’m lucky to have many friends located all over the country. I’ve spent years feeling confident in the web of my supporters. They have…


A Memorial Meadow

Yellow poppy unfolding in early morning light
Eschscholzia californica

Last October, I stood in my seacoast yard, listening to the waves and grieving the death of my wonderful Aunt Kathy from pancreatic cancer. My landscaper pressed me for a decision about mulching a ledge-filled patch of earth with a tiny view of the water. It begged for something other than lawn, but I could scarcely listen to the man or the land.

I’d hit my breaking point. Five people left our circle during the year. None died from the virus. Without that point of contact with the frightful reality of the pandemic, against the background of global suffering, I…


THIS IS US

In a binary world, everyone who looks at me sorts me into “man” or “woman.” Everyone is wrong.

Pictured: Fluid, probably some genders. Photo by Giuseppe Famiani on Unsplash

“You look very much like yourself,” my husband told me. We were in a pool in Virginia, late at night, taking turns dragging each other through water as warm as blood.

I had no idea what he meant. My husband went to grad school to study Wittgenstein, at one point, and he has an academic’s habit of choosing a word located two doors down from the one you’d use in casual conversation. You can sit with his little poems forever without decoding them.

“You’re all sharp and spiny,” he said. “I can always tell exactly what you’re thinking when I…

Human Parts

A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

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