Dreading your next session means you’re probably doing something right

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

There’s a state park in Iowa where, with only the slightest bit of preparation, you can feel yourself die a little bit with each descent.

On my first effort at cave exploration, I encountered points so low and tight I had to smash my small frame through the guts of a muddy creek, soaking every inch of my clothing, just to fit under a 8-ton rock. A rock attached to a mountain. A mountain that, with just the right seismic activity, could have pinned my face forever into the earth. Have I mentioned the darkness?

We like to think about…

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A gentle guide for the heartbroken

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” my client Anna* whispered into the screen, tears tracing lines down her cheeks. She was clutching her phone to her heart. It was filled with pages of emails, texts and unsent notes she’d written to her former partner, who was abusive. “I don’t know how to let go. I guess I just want to ask him: did he ever really love me?”

Anna’s response is not an unusual one. As a counselor for survivors of domestic violence, I hear this question, in various forms, from every client. Survivors of abuse want to know…

Because rewriting the past means celebrating the now

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I spent my 17th birthday at home, alone.

It was 1999, back before Facebook — so no prompted happy birthday messages or cake emojis every hour. There was no texting either, just a phone base on a wall with a long, curly cord that rang once when my grandmother called.

Because my hometown had a burgeoning population of 250, and because my childhood home was eighteen cornfields outside of that town, this particular birthday felt especially secluding. I remember skimming the scum off the above-ground pool, still in my pajamas, balancing my toes on the edge.

My parents, sister and…

How a little self-talk rewriting can flip your point-of-view

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“Imagine this,” Nina* says, taking off her glasses and leaning into the screen. “You are swiping through dating profiles. You are reading the messages they send you. But here’s the difference: you know, deep within, these people are contacting you because they want a job.”

My therapist pauses for emphasis.

I lean in too.

“But this isn’t just any job. They are here because they want the best of the best. They want a job at Harvard. No, Google! And being Google, you’re only going to accept the best of the best.”

Nina knows I am low on self-esteem fuel…

It’s all about boundaries and protecting my kids

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I pride myself on being an open book. I’ve written about sensitive topics like a partner suddenly dying, a miscarriage, and living in a commune. But there are other subjects to which I only make vague references or give only the information necessary to get the point across.

Some people find relief pouring out their souls on their personal blog or Facebook. In a crisis, vulnerably sharing your pain to ask for prayers, support, or financial help can be an opportunity for real healing and growth. Everyone wants a community to stand with them in their toughest times.

But when…

I endured pain in the arms of someone I loved. This is the new path I’ve chosen going forward.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash
  1. Love doesn’t feel like pain or look like violence.
  2. Love feels like mutual respect. It is demonstrated through shared power.
  3. I am worthy of being loved by someone who loves in a healthy way.
  4. Perfection is not the goal in a human or in a relationship. The goal is kindness that is consistent and reliable.
  5. When someone shows me who they are, it’s in my best interest to believe them the first time.
  6. I’m better off operating in the reality others present for themselves — not the hoped-for reality I have for them.
  7. I don’t need to prevent a crisis…

Reflections on an Easter like no other

Photo by Courtney Christine, April 4, 2021

I’m not the kind of person who sees symbols in everything, but it was impossible to miss that this morning’s sun on Lake Michigan was a big, red, upside-down exclamation mark. Someone else pointed out that it looked like the “i” on the logo The Incredibles wear. However you looked at it — starting out as a red ball, then turning exclamatory, then becoming so bright you couldn’t look at all— it was worthy of beholding.

For decades, my church has held a simple sunrise service on Easter Sunday. It starts at 5:45 in the morning with a few quiet…

Breaking the habit of giving up power, a few words at a time

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I have an embarrassing problem. A problem that pokes its tiny stupid head above the surface when I least expect it.

Recently I was walking my dog around the block, admiring the snowdrops coming up in my neighbor’s lawn. Suddenly both Ginger and I had to jump and scatter to avoid collision, because a biker barreling down the sidewalk finally looked up, swerved, and just barely missed us.

Stunned, I shouted out the first words that came to me —


In a moment of heart-stopping shock, before righteous anger set in, before I had time to think through a…

Can you trust your gut when it gives you the green light to forgive and move forward?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I once had a friend who oozed sweetness when the two of us were alone. I should have paid attention when she talked at length about herself. She shared her experiences, her family, her dreams for the futures — never asking about mine. I was hooked on her good qualities: her love of foster children, her adventurous spirit, her biting wit.

When we were in the company of other people, she morphed into someone else altogether. Suddenly all her jokes were at my expense. She pointed out my tendency to stumble over my words, which only made me stumble harder…

Lived Through This

Thanks to my dad’s profession, the unmentionables were part of regular conversation

Microscopic view of human cancer cells.
Microscopic view of human cancer cells.
Photo: PansLaos/Getty Images

I had to get used to unmentionable subjects as a kid, because body fluids and odd animal injuries were discussed over dinner the way some people talk about weather or distant relatives.

My dad is a country veterinarian and took emergency calls in the kitchen; pretty much everything was on the proverbial table. I have a distinct memory of my dad cutting his steak while assessing a client’s cow’s prolapsed uterus, the long, twisty phone cord draped around two of his children’s chair backs. We kids kept eating, kept up our chatter, but Mom put her fork down in disgust…

Courtney Christine

Storyteller. Solo parent. Social worker. Published in Forge, Human Parts, and more. Lover of frisbees, ukuleles, and lists of threes. I’m on FB @courtneycwrites

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