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

Self Improvement

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Humans 101

Discontentment begins and ends in your head

Recently, I sat with my wife in our back garden, a small fire burning in front of us, smoke curling up, the earthy smell of peat hanging in the cool air. I looked up at the stars and planets, sparkling bright in the clear, pitch-black evening sky. A peaceful feeling wrapped me like a warm blanket. I felt so good.

After about an hour, my wife said she wanted to go inside. Seconds after she left, my mind kicked in: “Why is she going in? She should stay out here with me. If we were on a date, she wouldn’t…

This Is Us

And I’ve got a plan to make it happen

I can’t shake the feeling that no one really cares for me. I worry that everyone I know is just tolerating me until I go away or eventually die. This may or may not be true, but wherever I go, I can’t escape the feeling.

It’s possible that what I’m feeling isn’t completely personal to me. It may just be run-of-the-mill, normalized indifference in a world that has grown increasingly distant and isolated. I can’t really tell.

Lived Through This

We all need a witness, even in our darkest moments

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…

Humans 101

Many of us neglect our own needs to avoid seeming self-centered — and then we wonder why we’re so unhappy

Portrait of a person—wearing a bob haircut, big dark sunglasses, and an orange knitted sweater—looking to the left side of the image in a very dark space. Reflected in the sunglasses is an open window showing a sliver of blue sky on each lens.
Portrait of a person—wearing a bob haircut, big dark sunglasses, and an orange knitted sweater—looking to the left side of the image in a very dark space. Reflected in the sunglasses is an open window showing a sliver of blue sky on each lens.

In my early twenties, the subject of “selfishness” came up frequently in my therapist’s office — specifically, my fear of being selfish. In my attempts to avoid selfishness, I was living in its opposite — and equally self-centered — extreme: self-negation.

My therapist explained it like a thermometer: Boiling hot was selfishness. Freezing cold was self-negation. And somewhere in between, right around the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, is a self-caring and responsible zone (which involves moving through a challenging zone of self-doubt that lies between 98.6 and ice).

“I feel like you’re freezing to death. I’m trying to…

This Is Us

I don’t forgive her — but I learned to set my own boundaries and live my life

I’ve hated my mother since I was five years old. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but the dislike I have for the woman who gave birth to me is pretty strong, too. Over the past 15 years of my career, I’ve written about my relationship with my mother and the lack thereof, and the question I receive more often than any other is, “How is your relationship with your mother now?” …

Humans 101

Life becomes less devastating when you learn to celebrate the tough stuff

Well, well, well. Here we are, in the throes of a pandemic with no end in sight, surrounded by a million reasons to hate life—job loss, homelessness, illness, fear and anxiety, stress, stress, and more stress. Many of us are being put through the wringer right now as we try to juggle working from home with homeschooling kids, “occasional” day drinking, and a desperate need for personal time and self-care. Looking around, many of us can probably name 10 things to hate right now.

As an eternal optimist, however, I like to look at the other side of pessimistic coins…

Remember: You are the hero or heroine of your journey

Joseph Campbell, author, teacher, and mythologist, might best be known for explaining the hero’s journey in his celebrated book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s a journey we all must take. It’s not an easy path, and the goal isn’t a pot of gold at the end (or a sexy spouse, sports car, house, etc.). The goal is self-actualization. And it’s not a selfish pursuit, because the wisdom you acquire is shared with others to make your community and the world a better place.

It starts in the ordinary world. Here, everything is “normal.” Or at least, normal to…

Humans 101

Start by recognizing the three Ps

Have you ever felt yourself on the verge of a downward spiral? I’ve been there.

What kind of mother can’t get her baby to sleep?
There must be something wrong with me.
If I don’t get some sleep soon, I cannot continue to function.
Will this sleep drought ever end? I can’t take it anymore.

These thoughts swirled in my brain as I felt myself on the precipice of a sob fest. My baby had been teething and struggling with sleep, and I’d had just nine hours of sleep in 72 hours. …

This Is Us

Overcoming a speech impediment at 22

When I was around eight or nine years old, my brother and I asked my mom for advice on how to blow a bubble when chewing gum. All our other friends were able to do it, but we just couldn’t quite figure out the movement you needed to do with your tongue. My mom looked at us and said, with some sadness in her voice, “Unfortunately, you’ll probably never be able to blow a bubble.”

Like so much of my childhood, my memory of this moment is hazy. I remember exactly what she said, but not how we responded to…

This Is Us

Confidence, discernment, and sexiness develop over time

Many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties, my boyfriend at the time was explaining his categorization of women. Apparently, it was shared amongst his friends. It went something like this: Women between the ages of 20 and 25 were considered “gazelles.” He described them as being like “a deer in headlights.” They were naive and a little bit useless. Women 25 to 30 were “bobcats.” They were playful, fun, and, most importantly, agreeable. This, apparently, was the most desirable age range. Women in their thirties were “cougars.” They were on the prowl to find a mate. They were…

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