How to practice gratitude even when it sounds like a dumb idea

Photo by OSPAN ALI on Unsplash

You know when you’re having a really bad day and that crystal healing lady from your office points out over Zoom that self-pity is a “very dark energy”? Or maybe it’s that irritatingly “spiritual” friend who meets your very legitimate complaints about life with questions like, “But what are you grateful for?”

Listen, I am not here to retraumatize you.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to lure you in from the cold and then suggest in a slightly condescending tone that you “should” be grateful for what you have. (In fact, I regularly hiss at people who say stuff like…

Following my unmet needs home to my inner self

The Cookie Monster meme I saw on my Facebook feed yesterday stopped me dead in my tracks. I realized, in that sickening moment, that someone (besides my mom) had been keeping tabs on my cookie consumption. That’s not the cookie policy I agreed to, Mr. Zuckerberg. But seriously, I can’t be the only one struggling with unhealthy habits during quarantine. And instead of shaming myself for needing comfort, I want to use these habits as an opportunity to turn toward personal growth.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about and are reading this for a friend or whatever…

A poem inspired by my dharma name

The empty boat is flooded with moonlight. Image by George Desipris via Pexels.

On Thursday, I was an empty boat.

Nothing fancy.

An old rowboat

smooth and porous from use.

Suspended on still waters,

a lake you’d recognize

from the cavernous

depths of your own mind.

In the quiet, I heard Grief

tiptoeing around

the perimeter of belonging.

An unwelcome guest

that calls for me

in wispy recollections

and in sleep.


I’ve ignored the call.

Brushed away the needy hands

pulling at my pant leg.

Not today

I’ve told suffering, scoldingly.

Too much to do

I explain, rushing past.

No time.

But seeing suddenly

how Grief suffered in her exile,

I ran…

You, too, can be a spiritual superhero! Image by cottonbro via Pexels

Staying Sane (and Maybe Even Spiritual?) During the Coronavirus Lockdown

So it’s the end times. I have to be honest when I say this is not how I expected it would go down. In my fantasy, we’d all be huddled around cozy trash can fire in our fingerless gloves with a single aim: barbecuing small rodents.

Maybe that’s a little too Terry Gilliam. But you have to admit that life has gotten crazy in an especially weird way since COVID-19 came on the scene. And to be housebound with too much anxiety and not enough toilet paper just isn’t the kind of apocalypse I was expecting.

But hey, I guess…

Taking unmet needs into my own capable hands

Let’s get… spiritual? Image by Oleg Magni via Pexels

Allow me to set the scene. I’m watching porn by myself in the near-empty apartment I used to share with my ex. I slip my right hand under the waistband of my pants with a single, deft maneuver. I bite my bottom lip, tense my legs, and go to work.

If that sounded even a little bit sexy, it’s only because I’ve omitted certain crucial details. But I want to go on record here to let you people know what’s actually going on behind the scenes.

Yeah, there’s that pic of the hot chick up top and I tricked you…

What happens when your only solution becomes a problem?

What’s the problem? Image by Pixabay via Pexels.

I walked past a bar once and there was a sign out front. In careful chalk lettering it said, According to chemistry, alcohol is a solution. I smiled to myself. I haven’t had a drink in six years but I can always recognize my people.

I started drinking as a 13-year-old because, well, being 13 really sucks. (In case you’ve since forgotten, feel free to poll any 13-year-olds in your life and they’ll be quick to remind you.) …

All parts belong. Image by Pok Rie via Pexels

Heartbreak is a trustworthy companion, an honest guide. If I let it, my broken heart carries me home. It leads me back to my real belonging, to my true place in the shape of things.

For me, a broken heart is deeply physical. The initial shock like a punch to the gut. The air leaves my body. I feel my belly drop the way it does in a speedy elevator descent. Instead of breath, I find a deep ache just below my solar plexus, the pressure of emptiness squeezing from within. …

When things fall apart, let them. Image by Polina Zimmerman via Pexels.

If you saw me mid-breakdown, you might be tempted to cross the street. Yes, there will be snot bubbles and tear-streaked makeup and no, in this moment I don’t care that my face is scaring people into assuming unexpected, new paths to their destinations. The emotional dam of chronic illness feelings has broken and the too-muchness of everything is flooding my system. But this is actually a good thing.

I’ve lived with Lyme disease for years, so I’ve gone through the cycle I’m about to describe more times than I can count. Yes, including many a snot-bubble breakdown (single file…

What happens when we take gender identity into our own hands and hearts?

Buckling under the pressure of feminine hair bows and matching dresses.

I used to be afraid of women. There was something so threatening about their softness, some way they could see into me that men just couldn’t. I feared that if I were seen in this way, the careful framework I’d erected to protect my squishy insides would be forever undermined. Without this hard exterior, I’d be like a sea creature without a shell, writhing pathetically in the blistering sunlight before curling up gracelessly to die.

This fear placed real relationships with women squarely outside the realm of possibility.

On top of this, I didn’t quite feel like a woman myself…

Monk’s hands in gassho featuring nail art.

I never knew how anxious I was until I took Klonopin. Well, that’s not exactly true. I had finally talked my then-psychiatrist into a prescription for benzos by complaining tearfully for months about my continuous panic attacks and the constant, ruminating fear that had wormed its way into my life like an insidious and calculating parasite. It wasn’t a lie, just an exaggeration.

It was an exaggeration because my panic attacks weren’t constant, yet. They were even more distressing because of their cruel unpredictability. At least constant panic would have simplified the decision-making process.

Actually, by the time the anxious…

Ella Marcantonio

I like words and stories. I like how art helps us reflect on and process the messiness of being alive. And there’s nothing I love more than a floofy pup.

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