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…
Content warning: Graphic descriptions of injury
If you ever need hand surgery, you should try to get it done in Japan.
At least that’s what the hand surgeon at Mass General Hospital told us right before he spent 10 hours trying to reattach my husband’s severed left index finger.
The surgeon’s tone was cheerful and matter-of-fact as he talked with us. We were sitting on a cot in the emergency room on a Friday night. Jared had been working on a project at our house when his hand got sucked into the blade of a table saw by a loose…
When you turn 50, if you’re normal and not pathologically overly positive, you fall into a depression. Regrets hit harder; the knee you busted trying to impress a boyfriend 20 years ago hurts more; and you start obsessively checking your retirement account and panicking.
But there are benefits too, mostly of the I-don’t-give-a-fuck variety. Dramatic friends no longer keep you up at night, you have no shame in declining plans, and because you’re entering that invisible stage society reserves for women who can no longer reproduce, no one comments on your looks anymore.
Or so I thought. Hello, my name…
My oldest brother is much younger than I.
He was 19 years old when he was killed in Vietnam. I was 13. At the time I felt the sorrow was too much to bear and I would crumble. But here I am five decades later, standing on the precipice of old age while my big brother remains forever young.
My perspective has changed a thousand ways since 1970. Things happened that I could never have imagined possible. For one, I met a man who befriended my brother in the army. That contact eventually led to a score of others who…
“You go on in there and talk to yo Daddy.”
My mother is whispering but emphasizes the word “talk” with a squeeze of my hand as if she thinks some sort of deep revelation between my father and I will break a levee between us, setting free a long-ago dammed-up river of love. I’ve come back to Ohio and am standing in the nursing home where my father lies dying in bed just down the hall. I don’t even want to be here to tell you the truth. I feel little to no connection with the man lying in that…
It was 1987, my freshman year at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The First Intifada had just begun. Young Arabs with keffiyehs around their necks stood at a long table near the cafeteria’s exit, a Palestinian flag hanging behind them.
“Sign the petition! Free Palestine!”
They terrified me; I walked by as fast as I could. To me, a keffiyeh stood for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Palestinians weren’t human beings, they were terrorists. Right in front of me, in real life.
I wasn’t alone. The main student cafeteria, the Marvin Center, had its own imaginary Green…
I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell. — William Tecumseh Sherman
“Do you still think about war?”
I let my finger hover over the keyboard after I fire off the text message. I expect the responses might be slow or nonexistent, but a green bubble appears.
“I swore I would never be this person, and yet, I think about it every day,” my old…
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. …
For several years in my twenties, the main thing I did was itch. And scratch.
The “itch cycle,” they call it. Irritants cross the skin barrier, causing the sensitization of immune cells. When you scratch, your nails damage the surface barrier of the skin, allowing more allergens to enter. And thus more itching. And scratching. And itching again. This is why it’s a cycle.
As an affliction, itching seems so trivial. A minor irritation to the skin. It isn’t a broken leg or cancer. Those are ailments you can deploy surgeons and research toward. No one calls 911 over an…
In Chicago, on a May morning so bright it teased tulip heads from their sleep, I nearly killed a man I’d never met.
I had just dropped off my daughters at school and was headed to work. I turned off the radio, unable to focus on it anyway. Even though I functioned and appeared fine on the surface, the combination of a new divorce, a new boyfriend, and my children’s emotional needs had turned my brain into a tangled mess of anxiety and grief that needed a daily combing out.
So, on that short little car trip, I did what…
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