My Soul is on Fire, Walker Ladd, Ph.D.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood where I never go.

My soul is on fire over there;
put in a place where it is safe to burn…
away from the children.

My soul goes there every weekend.
So Friday through Sunday it stays there,
out of my body. Invisible.

What would it take dear Lord to bring it back?
To house it in this hollow chest?
How would it feel inside my ribs? Would I dance? Paint?
Grow breasts where the scars sit? Would I finally feel like me?

Because I am withering here, dear Lord; I am dithering here, dear Lord.
Only motherhood keeps me moored here, dear Lord.

Parts of me rot and float away,
every Friday through Sunday.

I wasn’t done with the memories of
toddlers snuggling
and babies loving.
I wasn’t done with the
scent of my children growing.

On weekends, the smallest flash of a memory of those babies
dissolves my bones down to where
I live now.
Here now.

Here is me, dismembered from
that which ignites me into being,
sparks me into feeling.
Cut off from twenty years
Every Friday through Sunday.

My soul is on fire
in another room,
in another house,
across town,
in a neighborhood
where I never go.


Skin Stigma

The crepe around my neck. It is what categorizes me in the mirror: Fifty. It is the label of age. Turtlenecks push it all up around the jaw when I look down, giving me additional chins. Crew neck sweaters draw a circle around it as if to decree,

“Hear ye, hear yea…This woman is near 50 and no longer attractive.”

V-neck sweaters would be the clearest option. Draw attention away from the estrogen-deprived skin drooping down my neck. One problem: no boobs. The result is me hitching camisole straps up to my earlobes so that there is a triangle of fabric high enough on my chest to prevent students from seeing scars whenever I reach down to pick something up.

If I had had reconstructive surgery after breast cancer I would at least have a shot at being attractive, despite my age and neck. At least I could wear a v-neck sweater and rock it. For now, fifty festers under the neck skin,  secretly celebrating with the rest of my aging body.  My C-section scar parties with the stretch marks from carrying two babies., while double mastectomy rides shotgun on the way to the club.

Stigma is on my skin.  Tattooed back when I never dreamed I would have to apply for jobs that see tattoos as a sign of delinquency.  Jobs that look down their privileged noses at people wearing hearts on their sleeves. Jobs that speak of proper “attire” and frown upon jeans on a non-casual day. As if they hold a social standard of propriety through a ridiculous pretense of superiority based on pants.

In a long-term marriage,  enjoying my own privilege of not needing a full-time job,  I got tattoos that I never thought I would need to cover. Shame is on my arms, and my skin now hangs loose.  A short, grey-haired, tattooed, saggy skinned woman with too many degrees and no breasts. Oh, yea…that’s a profile for you! I’m surprised people are not throwing themselves at me on Ventura Blvd.

I had a dream last night that I had a love.  I fear it will never happen again. Who would be attracted to the train wreck of scars, stretch marks, and sagging neck skin? Crow’s feet, brown spots, jowls. It’s as if my skin lurching forward off the bones.  Stigma is on my skin. I have been fast-tracked into being a senior citizen. And I will post this and my sweet friends will say, “but you are beautiful” as if to fix my heart with words that don’t match my reality. Being pragmatic and truth telling has its drawbacks.

And while I see quite clearly that I have turned the Chico’s corner of life,  my integrity, and heart are flawless.  Compassion, humor, courage? I slay. All day.

Last night I had a dream I had a love.  I was wearing jeans.


Walker Ladd, Ph.D. is the Founder of Stigmama and can be seen aging and truth telling in the San Fernando Valley, California.

Summertime, and the living is easy? Vanessa Benson

All the moms at school: “Aren’t you so excited for summer break?”
Me: “ Honestly…… I don’t know” I shamefully whisper.

Am I the only mom whose blood pressure rises slightly when I think of the length of summer? It seems like every other mom is eagerly anticipating summer and having their kids home all the time. I love my kids so so much, but the idea of camp mom 24/7 is a little daunting to me. Maybe my mood is being heavily influenced by a combination of hormones, having 3.5 kids, ages 9, 7, 4, homeschooling two days a week and being up 5 times a night to pee because I’m 5 months pregnant.

I sometimes wonder if I’m cut out for this job. I know, its a little late now that I’m pregnant with number 4. But, my boys’ constant fighting and bickering and what I can only assume is them asserting their need for male dominance is so incredibly draining. It feels as if every time I think I have solved the most recent battle or conflict and gotten my boys to sign the latest peace treaty, I foolishly surmise I can finish the laundry when another volcanic kid erupts…..

”My brothers aren’t letting me play with them, (big tears and screams)” -the whining child

“He’s cheating, he’s such a liar! I wish I didn’t have a brother! I will NEVER play with him again.” -the prideful child

“I can’t help it if they don’t know how to play by the rules, I was just telling them what was fair”- the know-it-all child

So am I just not cut out for this? I think my general threshold of chaos times three is naturally low. It’s hard for me to roll with the constant screams and bloody injuries that need tending to. So I try and plan playdates and schedule activities. It seems like this is the only respite to solve or mildly alleviate sibling rivalry. That and TV.

As I sit here in the peaceful, quiet cool of the morning having my coffee (yes I drink a double shot latte every morning while pregnant) while the kids are all still asleep, I pray and ask God for the patience to not even make it through the day. I’m not asking for miracles, but just to not lose my mind or patience before 9 am. But then I remember that moms have gone before me and weathered the storms and even turned out decent human beings. I remember that there are great moments, swimming, playing cards with kids, hanging out with friends, watching them play unfiltered, unstructured, and the slower pace of summer. But am I “excited” that it’s summer? I’ll tell you after 9:00 AM!

Vanessa Benson
Author of: Out Came The Sun, My hopeful Journey Beyond Postpartum Depression