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Photo by Beth Jnr on Unsplash

“Truth. The real truth only comes years later, when finally one day your body feels safe enough to feel it.” Tom Spanbauer

I am every girl I have ever been. They live inside me like a choir. The believer. The invalid. The seductress. The victim. The fighter. The heretic. The forager. The survivor. Uncivilized. Hungry. Angry. Wild.

As I sit with my mother while she is in hospice care, I think of all the girls I have been, and wonder if my mother knew any of them.

I keep thinking about Sippi, about how the summer we were nine, my friend Lorett and I rescued a baby duckling and nurtured him back to health along the Mississippi River. …


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Photo by William Christen on Unsplash

Grammie asks me to promise I’ll never grow old, stroking my blonde hair reassuringly, as if I’m a reluctant dog. She tells me I remind her of her youth, but she doesn’t specify why. I know very little about Grandma Ivy’s early life, and even less about who she was when she was my age. When I was growing up, she would come from the East Coast to visit once every other year, and with her brightly dyed red hair, long glossy fingernails and tall black boots, I thought she was hipper than any grandma I’d ever met. Unlike other old people, she didn’t talk about her past, which made her sound unencumbered and undeniably cool. …


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“It is not as if what is true, right, urgent, and necessary is a light, and what is harm is darkness. They are both darknesses; they are both lights.” ~ Anne Boyer

There are only a few phrases my father has ever spoken aloud to me.

“I love you” is not one of them. “Never depend on a man” is.

And I don’t, in fact, rely on men for emotional sustenance, for income, or for praise. Sometimes, men provide these things for women, but sometimes they don’t, and I resist disappointment like a used handkerchief.

Back when we were all small before our family fell off the ledge, my sisters and brother and I shared a bedroom in the only house we would ever own: a soon-to-be foreclosed 800-square foot shelter bordering the city dump. Back when we lived on dreams and loans, I used to rise early, when it was virtually silent, to watch my father get ready for work. …


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Photo by Shazmyn Ali on Unsplash

“A healer is someone that triggers healing powers within you”

― Thabiso Monkoe

Several years ago, I began practicing yoga at a local gym. I was a busy woman, juggling a full-time ascending career and a burgeoning bundle of children’s activities. I was also battling chronic back pain, so I conceded to what, at the time, was a gargantuan gesture of self-care. I signed up for a yoga class.

I rushed into the gym once a week to get my stretch on, and then I would rush out to proceed with the obligations of my overbooked schedule. When it came time for the final resting pose at the end of class, I would roll up my mat and leave. …


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“It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.” — Thoreau

Buddhist teachings invite us to accept suffering as foundational to human existence.

But sometimes it’s easier to acknowledge other people’s pain than our own. And especially during this season of holiday giving, it can feel more relevant to show up for other people than for ourselves.

The irony is, of course, that when we don’t show up for ourselves, we can’t truly be present with another.

Most of us bustle around shopping and cooking and meeting the perceived needs of others. This may be generous, but it also serves as a way of maintaining control. …


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The Breeze at Adobe Max, Los Angeles, October 2018

“Pathmaker, there is no path. You make the path by walking. By walking, you make the path. ”

— ANTONIO MACHADO

At the end of 2017, I made a promise to myself that I would join a conversation I’ve been listening to for 30 years, a conversation between writers who have the temerity to put their words on pages and their pages into our hands. I admire professional writers more than almost anyone on the planet, because they have the courage to be publicly wrong, and to put their insides on the outside for us all to judge. …


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Michelle and Zephyr

The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.

— RITA MAE BROWN

I have been watching The Handmaid’s Tale.

Even if (especially if) you’ve read the 1985 book by Margaret Atwood, I encourage you to give the series a try. Because this creation is more than speculative fiction. The characters are made up, but Atwood has confirmed repeatedly that every event depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale has happened somewhere at some time in recorded history.

Offred’s narrative is presented in the context of a present-day post-revolution segment of The United States, but the methods of organized oppression illustrated in this society aren’t hypothetical. Gilead is not a prediction. …


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photo by Hector Solorzano

Perhaps, after all, we shouldn’t take our lives so personally, shouldn’t think of them as the monologue of busy and insistent and separate selves. Perhaps we are made up of landscapes and events and memories and genetics; of the touch of those we hold dear, our oldest fears, the art that moves us, and those sorrows on the other side of the world that make us weep at the breakfast table.

— JOAN SUTHERLAND

Recently, in Colorado, at 4:30 in the morning, I needed a ride to the Denver airport. The Uber driver who arrived was a young bearded man, in stained jeans, an oversized flannel shirt and a baseball cap, his car dirty and full of empty cans of Red Bull. It was dark and I wasn’t sure I was getting into the right vehicle, but it was the only car out there with lights on, so I put my bag in the back seat and climbed in. …


What I Learned Pole Dancing

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Photo by Andrija Bloom

For the past few months, I’ve been training with a woman we call J. She’s an accomplished athlete, dancer, performer and business owner, and every time I see her, she pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Last fall, I agreed to dance burlesque and pole with her troupe. Two weeks before the show, right before I knew she was delivering the program to print, I came to my senses and realized I wasn’t ready. I spent hours drafting the perfect text message, apologizing to her for inconveniencing her, assuring her that she could take me off the program and adjust the performance timing to accommodate this beneficial change, thanking her for taking a risk on me, and then apologizing three more times, in different ways, to assure her I knew I had been delusional when I had initially agreed to do this. …

About

Michelle Dowd

Writer covering environmental justice, holistic health and relationships; Author of Forager, forthcoming with Algonquin. MichelleDowd.org

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