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

On parents, layoffs, and resume templates

Three years ago, my mom lost the job she’d had for 35 years — as a dental hygienist in my hometown. When she called to tell me she’d been let go, her voice was automatic, like the words were marching out of her mouth and she was trying to get out of the way.

Cuts, she said. Restructuring. Losses. Thirty seconds of corporatese to hide the rawest kind of fear and confusion — which, honestly, is hard to hear from your mom.

My parents have almost no savings. My dad has a heart condition that disappears his Social Security checks…


On seeing my mom as a whole person, not just a parent

Every Mother’s Day, I write my mom a letter. When I was little, I’d deliver it to her in bed, alongside coffee and a plate of poorly made eggs. In high school, I’d give it to her reluctantly, and in college it was accompanied by flowers or chocolate. However presented, the letter itself was always similar: it voiced appreciation for my mom as a mom — as if that function were the sole defining feature of her life.

Turns out, it’s not.

Here’s my mom on a Thursday night in 1976, standing on the side of the Wayland High School…


My 25-year journey with an album I just heard for the first time

We are the beneficiaries of a secular miracle. Right now, beneath our fingertips, we have access to more music than we could ever possibly listen to. And like most miracles, we take it entirely for granted. Of course we can listen to any music we like, anytime we like, at little or no cost. Was it not always thus?

Amid all this abundance, you’d think music would be devalued, a currency wiped out by its omnipresence. But music can surprise us with the ways in which something for everyone can also prove itself to be for us alone, the ways…


It’s been a rough year. Infuse your calendar with things you can look forward to.

My favorite book is a children’s book by Byrd Baylor called I’m in Charge of Celebrations. It is a perfect book, and if you don’t have it or haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and buy a copy right now. It makes a great present for any adult and for most children, so you won’t regret the purchase, and it’s only available in paperback, so it’s cheaper than a burrito.

The premise of the book is that the narrator lives in the desert, and she doesn’t celebrate regular holidays. Instead, she gets to choose her own holidays, and…


I love it but I wish I didn’t

Cigarettes are my best friend. We live together, work together, look up at the stars, walk along the beach, sit through sunsets, stay up late watching movies, and escape the world when we are alone. When I am sad, cigarettes pick me up. When I am happy, they never harsh my buzz. When things go wrong, they are where I turn first, and they’ve never abandoned me in a time of need. When I need to think, they help me formulate my thoughts. On hard days, no one bothers us if we need to take some time together away from…


So few interactions give us unbridled permission to imagine

Six months ago at Café Gratitude in Venice, California — while deliberating between an “I Am Immortal” latte and an “I Am Stellar” blue smoothie — a thought popped into my head and I blurted it out.

“I’m going to stop wasting money on psychics.”

Across the table sat my friend and fellow psychotherapist Sara, with whom I often compared notes on therapists, healers, bodyworkers, psychics, and spiritual teachers. “Totally,” said Sara. “I really can’t hear another prophecy about the man who’s coming and the perfect family I’m going to have with him. I mean, I’m 60 for god’s sake…


Finding out God. And finding out that I’m gay.

I first felt God in the textures of my childhood, nestled somewhere in the tough tweed upholstery of pale blue chapel pews, in the scratchy burlap lining the halls, and in the soft family room rug where we knelt in prayer every night. I felt Him in the cold, unforgiving metal of foldable overflow chairs and in the stringy net of a basketball hoop tucked away neatly for Sunday service.


Moments when ‘everything’s going to be ok’ isn’t true

Everything is going to be okay.

We whisper it to our children when they skin their knees or have a fight with a friend. We proclaim it to those who have lost their job, their partner, their health. We post it on Instagram, showcasing our optimism. We repeat it like a mantra to ease our own anxiety.

Everything is going to be okay.

We assert it to bolster our conviction that the pain is temporary or even inflated. …


There are so many ways we accidentally make ourselves feel bad

Do you remember that time something on your bike was broken, so the mudguard rubbed against the tire, creating a consistent and terribly obnoxious grinding noise whenever you pedaled? And then you thought, “Hey, I should fix this.” But then you thought, “Hey, I don’t know how to fix this.” And then you didn’t think about it anymore because you were preoccupied with life. Then you got back on your bike, and not only was it still making the grinding sound, but now it was impossible to shove backward, and the light fell off because the wire had been sanded…

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