Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Notice Red Flags by Molly Pennington

Art by Arna Baartz

My first husband once broke his neck by smashing head first into a brick fireplace. “I did it for you,” he told me. “That's how much I love you. Instead of hurting you, I hurt myself.”

“But you did hurt me,” I answered. “The bruises—”

“The bruises aren't from me,” he countered. “That's on you. Everything makes you bruise. You can't blame that on me.”

Brian (not his real name because he'll find me and sue me) had lots of pronouncements for me: I pushed buttons. I asked for it. I walked into fists. I bruised easily.

I have to tell you that I missed every red flag.

That's just it about the flags. They aren't red. They aren't obvious. They come in like whispers. Like the scent of lilies. They're shaped like chiffon hearts. They are the color of bubbles. They are apologies and proposals. Intensities in the dark. Pleadings. That you must give in to. For love. He tells you it's love. The flags are sinews of shame, stretching slowly, bending to an ache, then finally snapping sometime when you're pretty far away from anything you recognize as home.

In my case, our son was two. He was standing by the stove, watching us. He had always been way too pensive for a baby. Serious. Observant. Clingy.

“You bitch like a fuckin' cow,” sneered Brian.

I looked at my son. I met his eyes and his understanding, and finally, my Achilles tore. And just then, when I irreversibly had the fire to leave… it was all just beginning.

When I left, Brian argued. But not about our child. I don't think it had hit him yet. I was the one who took care of the baby after all. Why wouldn't I take him with me? Brian complained about our son anyway. “He doesn't like me. The kid prefers you,” he seethed.

“He's a baby,” I explained. “He doesn't have to give you anything. You give it to him. That's parenting.”

When I said this kind of thing Brian looked at me like I was an alien.

I was blindsided when I found out that he wanted our son. Not only that. He wanted him away from me.

I count fourteen custody hearings or events over the years. That doesn't include the four-day trial when our son was 12. Or all the psychological evaluations. Meetings with lawyers. Mediators. Court appointees. It also doesn't consider the divorce proceedings. The child support disputes. Usually before hearing officers. Or the final lawsuit—claiming I owed travel expenses from five years prior. I was served those papers a few months after our son turned 18. He was away at college. The lawsuit demanded nearly five figures in cash and also included a motion that I serve time in jail should I be found guilty.

I was not found guilty—so ruled the court, eventually.

Brian instigated each court battle, each hearing, trial and lawsuit—every single one. And I won them all. When I didn't willingly concede. I gave in as much as I could. I cut child support to just $200 per month. I gave him visitation on every weekend and holiday. I gave in as much as I could. To avoid expense and hassle. And the expense was considerable.

If you knew the amount you would probably vomit.

The amount is what it would cost to send two students to college. It's three times the amount of my highest-ever salary. And that was only to fight some of the battles. I didn't fight on child support.

Did you know that it costs thousands of dollars in lawyer fees to compel a person to release their tax returns?

Tax returns he's probably lying on anyway because he was always like that about money.

I gave all that I could. But I could not give him primary custody of our son.

“You'll never see him again,” said my lawyer. And I knew she was right.

Brian didn't care about the outcome of court. He was excited by the idea that I hated it. One time he called me in advance of a hearing with a custody mediator.

“I want to work this out,” he said.

“Me too,” I gushed. “Totally. I hate this conflict. It's bad for our son. I want to compromise.”

Then I got there. And it started. I had fallen. Again. I'm such a sucker when people act human. I believe in the best in them. I believed that even after years of lies, it was possible for him to become decent.

Forgive me for being such a fool because I've finally forgiven myself.

Only a few years previously Brian had told another mediator that I had been evicted from my apartment for prostitution. His lawyer said it so sheepishly. So apologetically.

“Her neighbors had to petition the landlord to have her removed.” Then he leaned forward and lowered his voice, but we could all still plainly hear: “Men coming and going at all hours.” I had neglected to bring a lawyer. I was alone. Sitting there for that.

I wasn't a prostitute in case you were wondering.

And no men ever came and went. I was the only graduate student with a child in a competitive doctoral program. I didn't have time for a social life, let alone a side job. I did move out of that apartment. At my own behest. It was a terrible place. I had to find it, secure it and move into it in about 24 hours. It was all I could find. Brian had confiscated my car during the night. A friend flew in to help.

It took at least a year to get on my feet. I moved again to a little house with an upstairs and A/C – on my teaching stipend. But Brian branded me a loser to anyone who would listen.

I look credible. I'm mild. Well-spoken. Conservatively dressed.

But so embarrassed. I mean, who marries the kind of person who would say these things?

That's a major theme in our culture. The belief that if it is said, then it must be true. Brian threatened a custody trial for years and then finally followed through. Though I had been on my best behavior to avoid it. To placate him. During my deposition, Brian's lawyer asked me why I “strip nude, get down on all fours, and howl at the moon.”

I do not, in case you're curious.

But he said it out loud.

Even after the prostitution allegation, I really did believe that we could compromise. I arrived to the mediation excited, ready for conciliation. As if we could finally move past it. I wouldn't have to say what was on my mind: “That was horrible. I forgive you. Let's move on.” My petition would be present, but unstated. Grace.

That was my mood when Brian began the detonation. Even our mediator seemed stunned. Brian has this way of speaking. His eyes narrow. His voice lengthens as if lies cause drawl. There is an undertow of wrath.

He alleged that I was abusing our son. He said that I was abusing our son in the same way that I had always abused him. Physical attacks. Emotional manipulation.

I couldn't help it. I cried. And I begged him to please stop lying. To please stop. Just please stop lying.

I didn't know then, but I know now, that a narcissist sees compromise as weakness. It points them not to truce, but to confrontation. And weakness isn't accepted as peacekeeping, but assaultive.

“Please,” I sobbed. “Please,” I said it again through choking tears. “Stop. Just stop. Don't do this.” I almost fell to my knees. And might've if not for the formal setting.

The mediator shifted, embarrassed. This was beyond his scope. The dynamic. The accusations. The strike and then entreaty. Nuclear dysfunction.

“I can't stop,” Brian told me. And he smiled.

“You're dangerous.” Then he turned to the dumbfounded mediator: “She's a dangerous woman.”

I have retained primary custody since the day that I left.

Twice, Brian failed to return our son after visitations, for more than a week each time. That's how long it took to rally my lawyer and a court of law to even begin to act. By then my son was returned to me.

Once our son burst into tears after Brian (with his parents) dropped him off and left. “I thought you didn't want me anymore!” my sweet boy cried. They had refused to allow phone calls. All contact was denied. Not by the courts. By Brian.

Whatever Brian threw—and it was truckloads of never-ending mud—none of it ever stuck. But everybody still had to gather and listen. Allegations are eventually proven baseless, but still, the words have been typed into documents, shuffled through bureaucracy.

I do not have any advice on how to get through it. If you've got millions for lawyers, then you are all set. Unleash them. While you're at it, get a solid therapist for yourself and your child. If your insurance sucks and if you've sold, mortgaged, liquidated and borrowed everything you can, then still, get the best attorney you can. The only thing left to do is endure it with whatever grace you have. It will feel like you don't have any, but you do.

Trust love. Even still after all this, trust love. Figure out your past. Get a degree in red flags that are actually, as discussed, the color and consistency of sugar water. Figure out their every nuance.

Think about your own life as a child.

In my younger days, there was a strange, almost dream-like period before these men (Brian was not the first) turned mean and mighty. I try to turn my memory back to the moments before that Big Bang, when I know, when I see… that they are going to hurt me.

It's always been the last thing I'm expecting.

Even the final lawsuit. I thought I was so used to it. So ready. Then my lawyer told me about the motion to send me to jail. It was ridiculous, of course. She would get it dismissed, of course.

You should know that he got me there. It stung.

I didn't realize that he still had it in for me. I'm sure it's just projection or some upside-down fucked-upped-ness like when he told me he broke his own neck to save mine. He knows he belongs in jail, or is in a psychiatric one, so he slaps that onto me. But I was caught off guard. There's a twinge of surprise, a catch in my breath, just like when I was younger, every time, before the storming.

An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy.

Molly Pennington is a writer, a mentor, a speaker, a wife and a mother, and a lover of insight and whimsy. Her default setting is perpetual cheer, but she doesn’t shy away from the wounds of the world. To Molly, nothing is more vital than social justice. She believes that perception and compassion are curative. Molly is here to make the world a little less mean. Instead: smarter, brighter, better. You can find out more about her at www.mollypennington.com.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Single mother, single daughter by Karen McLaughlin

Art by Arna Baartz


just us two
she and me
no awkward third in our skippy-hop dance

parenting requires partnership
one child
one adult

we seesaw
fulcrumed by our mutual dependance
she, my sun; I, her earth

our jokes bewilder them
our made-to-measure language lands as gibberish
our clear collusion confuses

holding the wild and safe space for each other
we are
unaccountable (except to ourselves)
free-range (queens of the snuggle zone)
creators (making the world we need)

unwitting rebels

daring to be

without a he

Karen McLaughlin is a homeschooling mother, writer and singer from Northern Ireland, currently flying her kite in the winds of Donegal. She enjoys mooning the patriarchy, conversing with trees and spending quality time with her very needy sofa.

An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's Time To Fight Back Against the Systemic-Historical Violence of Male Governance By Nile Pierce

Art by Arna Baartz


Beyonce thinks girls run the world. I like her optimism, but it’s off-base. If women ran the world – if it was really true that we run the fucking world – 3.5 million female children in Turkey wouldn’t be in contractually-arranged rape relationships (child ‘marriage’), and the pregnant girls of Boko Haram wouldn’t have been abducted, impregnated, left alone to fend for themselves, and shamed by their community. We would be fucking safe from rape, from abuse, from misogynist social policies. We wouldn’t be scared for the safety of our children. We would be able to make more and better choices for ourselves and our families. We wouldn’t be marginalized and shamed for enjoying motherhood. We wouldn’t be fucking oppressed like biblical fucking slaves.



We are in the fucking wilderness.



If you’re a woman and you decide to have a baby, good luck. It’s not easy to navigate the array of social (let’s just call it ‘bullshit’ for the moment) bullshit and expectations surrounding the experience. If you’re a single mother, the level of bullshit is increased ten-fold and navigating it all is much more intense because you are alone. That being said, It’s not always difficult being a single mother. But for a vast majority of single moms, it’s fucking hard. And it’s lonely, and isolating. Women that have the privilege of having a partner (whether that partner is male or female) have help. This means they have financial help in most instances, and that kind of help goes a long way toward relieving a lot of pressure and helping other things in their lives, such as physical and mental health for example. Having someone else around that you can trust to care for your children when you are sick or tired, is an amazing thing. You can rest. They can rest. However, many of us don’t have that privilege. We just go and go and go and go. All of us have to make difficult decisions to make things work financially. Sometimes to the detriment of our relationships with our children and ourselves. We women have to make choices. But the choices that we are ‘presented’ with by society are not fair. Not by a fucking long shot.



The truth is, we are controlled. By men. I’m not going to waste time dragging in statistics here to prove this point but if you want to google some feel free. Take a look at the ratios of men to women in positions of power all over the world and you’ll get a better idea of how controlled we are. From presidents of countries, to corporations, to town hall and city council boards, we are controlled in every which way imaginable. Because we are rarely in positions of power, men make the majority of decisions that affect our lives in both public and private ways. They rely on their own male understandings of reality when they do this – which is obviously highly problematic considering how many of them are religious fundamentalists and think that the pains of childbirth are our punishment from God for tempting Adam in the garden. This is literally what they think. They also think that we are all objects to be fucked. This is what they think. The porn industry is as successful as it is because our society has normalized its acceptance. Women need to wake the fuck up to what this is doing to us and our daughters. And our sons.



We have children on our own terms. But even when we do, the only options ‘offered’ to us are options created by men in power. We are not consulted for policy that affects our livelihoods and existence. We are forced to pay tax on necessities like tampons and fucking menstrual pads. Our social, sexual, emotional, and financial resources are continually extracted by men in power for their own benefit and it needs to stop. These extractions are violent because they are forced and they are against our will and against our intuitive intelligence. Forced extractions do not equal choice, just as forced ‘sex’ does not equal sex – it equals rape. This must stop. Our resources are valuable and we must protect them.



If we have a baby, we are forced to return to work. Frustrated with being forced to return to work, we are forced to play the capitalist game - which is essentially a misogynist game that places more value on the accumulation of capital than on the building of a strong and healthy society. Enmeshed within this system, rife with a variety of damaging liberal feminisms disguised as progressive politics that are patriarchally oppressive in nature to women, we are forced to perform male-sanctioned 'work' and neglect caring for our children. We are forced to make 'choices' that hurt. We are forced to literally go against our nature and our instincts, to leave our children in the care of strangers who we are not allowed to personally vet; we are forced to trust the state and its policies and practices in the governance of our lives and that of our children. We are forcefully placed between a rock and a hard place:



  1. Between slaving away in a bullshit capitalist economy that devalues our motherhood and our work at home through a variety of misogynist social mechanisms constructed to oppress and erase us - or -
  2. Staying home and having our maternal work devalued through a variety of misogynist social mechanisms.



WE. ARE. AT. WAR. With ourselves, internally, and with the patriarchal structures of society, externally. We are at war with ourselves internally because the external social mechanisms and forces of misogyny press down upon us, press down upon our minds and our hearts, twisting our emotions, making it hard to know what to do with the 'choices' we are forced to accept, realizing that in this system, the 'options' available to us are not really choices after all, and so we are made angry, we are deeply hurting, we are made to feel like we have given up, like we are not contributing enough if we choose to stay at home with our children, we are made to feel like we are weak, non-contributing social leeches, unable to perform like everyone around us, according to male capitalist expectations.



FUCK THAT.



We are not fucking slaves. Not to capitalism, and not to patriarchy. Our children are not pawns to be used in the misogynist accumulation of capital. We are not slaves. Our children are not slaves. We owe it to ourselves and to our daughters and the future of our world to stand up to this systemic-historical violence and take our fucking power back. We will no longer allow male-dominated systems and patriarchal regimes of rationalisation to govern us through oppressive rules, policies, agendas, and misogynist practices. We will no longer allow men to dictate what options are available to us. We will no longer accept male-constructed realities of capitalist 'choice' as the only options on our table. We will no longer tolerate the extraction of our natural resources. We will create our own structures of power and governance. We are going to dismantle this system and make it work for US. We are going to make it work in the name of Goddess, in the names of all of the mothers who have gone before us and been abused, violated, devalued, marginalised, mistreated, raped, maimed, oppressed, and silenced. We are the lifeblood of this world. We have always been. They depend on us. Without us they literally wouldn't exist. They owe it to us to listen. And if they don't, we will fight back.



We will shame them. We will publicly call them out on their bullshit. We will not take 'no' for an answer anymore. We are stronger than what we may appear. We are a force more powerful than any government, policy, or religion.



We are going to change the world.

An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God anthology, Single Mothers Speak on Patriachary.


Nile Pierce is a secret academic and artist currently living and working in Glasgow, Scotland. Her first poem was published when she was 7 years old, albeit under a different name. She has been writing and doing spoken word for many years and has amassed a trove of poems that now number into the thousands. She is a proud single mother and loves her child more than anything else in the world. You can find her social commentary on feminism and single motherhood at magnadea.org 


Thursday, August 25, 2016

£4 billion - the current outstanding child maintenance bill by Louise Pennington

Painting by Lucy Pierce


£4 billion.

This is the outstanding arrears of child maintenance owed in England and Wales. According to a report by the charity Gingerbread called Missing Maintenance, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) estimates that only £467 million will ever be recovered.1 This leaves nearly one half of single parent families, the vast majority headed by women, living in poverty.

The current Conservative government is in the process of closing the Child Support Agency (CSA) to replace it with the Child Maintenance Service, which charges women £20 for the privilege of opening a file and then a sum each month if some semblance of the maintenance is actually paid.2 The new vaunted system has seen only 53% of the families registered receiving maintenance with 90 000 people having not paid during one three month period. There is already nearly £53 million in unpaid maintenance. Many of the families will receive only negligible amounts of money, as the DWP does not require the full maintenance to be paid in order for the account to be registered as compliant. Realistically, a father of 4 earning £70 000 a year can pay only £5 a month and still be included within the 53% statistic.3

Equally problematic is the fact that the Child Maintenances Service is actively writing to the primary caregivers to request they ‘forgive’ the debt owed by non-paying fathers4 - as though the primary caregivers of children, who are overwhelmingly women, can neglect to pay rent, council tax and the credit card debts they rack up buying groceries knowing these debts will be 'forgiven'. As Polly Toynbee makes clear, 
 
Some 90% of CSA cases have now been transferred over to the CMS, but only 13% of mothers affected have decided to pay the new fees and apply to the CMS: the DWP must be pleased, as it had publicly estimated that 63% would pursue their claims. All the pressure in official letters is to deter mothers. The £20 fee may be a mild block, along with charging fathers 4%, but the evidence suggests mothers just give up when prodded by these letters.5

Charging mothers to use the Child Maintenance Service is simply a way for the government to abdicate responsibility. They are very clear that the sole purpose is to force more parents into dealing with child maintenance themselves. In doing so, they have refused to recognise the reason why men, and it is overwhelmingly men, refuse to pay maintenance: it is both a punishment and a form of control over their former partners. This is male entitlement writ large by men who do not care about the welfare of their children.

We need to start calling the refusal to pay maintenance what it really is: financial child abuse. Forcing your children to live in poverty because you cannot be bothered to support them or refusing to punish the mother are not the signs of 'good fathers'. It is the hallmark of an abusive father.

It is not difficult to implement child maintenance policies that are effective and ensure that men cannot hide their assets. Placing the Child Maintenance Service under the heading of HM Revenue & Customs so that child maintenance is garnished directly from the salary of the non-resident parent. This coupled with actual punitive policies for those who refuse to pay, such as a fee for every missed payment, interest accrued on outstanding payments, and the use of enforcement agents (bailiffs) to confiscate personal property, and, potentially, criminal proceedings would see an immediate increase in the number of men who start to pay their maintenance.6

There is a quote bandied about in discussions of child contact and child maintenance that says 'children aren't pay per view', as though children were nothing more than a possession to be passed about. As with Women's Aid campaign, Safe Contact Saves Lives, we need to stop talking about children as possessions and start talking about children's rights.7 Children have the right to live free from violence. Children also have the right to live outwith poverty.

The erasure of men's financial responsibility for their children, supported by government policy, is an absolute disgrace. It is, simply, state sanctioned child abuse. 

This is an excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy

Louise Pennington is a feminist writer and activist who works for the campaign organisation Everyday Victim Blaming, which challenges media misrepresentations of domestic and sexual violence and abuse. 


References:
 
1 Report: Missing Maintenance. Gingerbread: Single Parents, Equal Families. (June 2016). PDF: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/uploads/media/17/9809.pdf
2 ‘Use the Child Maintenance Service or Child Support Agency’. https://www.gov.uk/child-maintenance/overview. Accessed 29.8.16.
3 ‘How we work out child maintenance: a step by step guide”. Child Maintenance Service. (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/325219/how-we-work-out-child-maintenance.pdf) Accessed 29.8.16.
4 Polly Toynbee. ‘Why the silence on the scandal of unpaid child maintenance?’. Guardian. (16.5.2016). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/16/silence-scandal-unpaid-child-maintenance?CMP=share_btn_tw. Accessed 19.5.2016.
5 Polly Toynbee. ‘Why the silence on the scandal of unpaid child maintenance?’. Guardian. (16.5.2016). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/16/silence-scandal-unpaid-child-maintenance?CMP=share_btn_tw. Accessed 19.5.2016.
6 Canada also includes the suspension of drivers licenses and passports as part of their maintenance enforcement programs. http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fl-df/enforce-execution/pwo-pqp.html. Accessed 29.8.2016.

7 ‘Child First: Safe Contact Saves Lives’. Women’s Aid England/ Wales. https://www.womensaid.org.uk/childfirst/ Accessed 29.8.16

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Simpatico by Arna Baartz

Painting by Arna Baartz

art
the samurai
a language born of soft nib
trailing sticky rouge
pressing up
off the floor
art answers to my wild driver
cuts corners, sliding sideways
unravelling
this tiny golden soul from the ribbons of a patriarchal past
ovarian ribbons, wet, sliding ribbons, sweaty, perfumed ribbons
ribbons wrapped tightly, stripping through my naked body
like art
a thoughtful sword
ribbons that hold my breath shallow when it should be deep
that blister my waist when they should kiss
that maul my power
when it should open in awe
this art is determined
deliberate
necessary
to loosen fear defined boundaries
to unwind and clarify
to sooth
to alight upon me in shades orange and pink and bring us
into rhythm
together
a symbiotic climax
momentary
simpatico
a taste of the sound of leaves
on the painted wind of time

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Goddess of my Own Damned Life by Trista Hendren

"Goddess of Deliberate Creation" by Arna Baartz

An excerpt from Hearts Aren't Made of Glass - out today!


“The past must be examined closely, I believe,
before we can leave it there.”
-Alice Walker


One might wonder why I chose to publish this book—particularly after reaching a good spot in my life.

I had planned to wait until my children were grown and try to put all of this behind me in the interim. However, even after nine months of bliss in Norway, I still was not feeling well.

I kept reverting to old patterns, long after I knew intellectually how to live better. The past, it seemed, wouldn’t die without me taking a good long look at it.

Upon reflection, I realized that I had often chosen (on some subconscious level) to be around dysfunctional people who created constant drama. It was my way of avoiding the trauma in my childhood—and dealing with it.

When I came to Norway, there was no more drama. Anders is practically a saint, having never said one unkind word to me or my children over the last five years. Even when I tried to create an argument with him, he would respond with love.

I no longer had any distractions; so I plunged myself into my work. I self-published four books and a calendar within my first year in Norway.

While working on New Love, I had some painful realizations and unblocked some of my repressed memories of childhood abuse. I burst into hysteric sobs several times on Anders' shoulders. I began doing some critical reading of my own—some of the same books I was recommending to others via my work. The Courage to Heal, The Body Keeps Score and Trauma and Recovery were a big help to me.

If I were to write out a narrative from my twenties, it would be quite lively and long, but none of it would have any particular meaning or make much logical sense. I had a lot of fun, if you can call it that. I lived out of a premise that I was “liberated” from my fundamentalist Christian background—by what I don't know—I suppose you could call it “liberal feminism.” I theorized that I was taking back my body from those who had tried to steal it from me in my earlier years. Giving it away to everyone else certainly wasn't reclaiming it for me though. I had to find ways to repossess myself in ways that truly were liberating and healthy.

My great grandmother used to tell me, “If you don't have any regrets, you haven't lived!”

I have plenty of regrets, and I've certainly lived an interesting life thus far. (Sometimes a bit too interesting.) But I have learned, and grown, and died and bloomed again.

I regret deeply how I treated my first husband at the end of our marriage. Although he forgave me long ago and encouraged me to forgive myself—I often wonder now how much I was punishing myself all those years in the karmic belief that I somehow deserved to pay.

There is no logical reason why I should have ended up with my second husband. We never fit. Even if I was terribly misinformed about addiction and naive about drugs, people were always puzzled about how we ended up together. Some have theorized it was about the money. I don't think so. When he was at his best, he treated me like a princess. And there was something completely irresistible about that.

However, being a princess is a trap. It is only by discovering the Goddess within us that we can heal and thrive.

Raising my daughter caused me to re-think everything about my life and how I had been raised. Five years ago, sick with “princess culture,” I angrily wrote on my Facebook wall:
Do you want your daughter to be a Princess or a Goddess? Princesses usually have no mother, are forever submitting to their father and spend all their time looking good for and finding “Prince Charming.” Goddesses are powerful in their own right and can do whatever the f**k they want! #ChangeHowYouSpeakToYourDaughter
Painting by Arna Baartz

It took me a few years to transfer that to myself—and realize how deeply ingrained princess culture was for me growing up in the seventies and eighties.

Despite decades of feminism, every sort of self-help book, an MBA, and a strong career, I remained trapped in a view of myself as helpless. I was still waiting for my Prince to come save me.

That belief only buried me deeper into sinking sand.

Becoming the Goddess of my own life was about stripping everything away and starting from scratch. I left my money, my credit, my “good looks,” my career, my house, my car, my cell phone, my pride, my core beliefs, and every toxic relationship behind.

In short, it was over a decade of hell.

I spent a lot of nights crying myself to sleep and divorcing myself from people, places and things that no longer served me. What emerged was my Goddess-essence. I can't say that life is always easy or perfect, but I am finally in a healthy and loving relationship—and my children finally have an opportunity to heal and thrive.

When Adrianne Rich said, “You must read and write as if your life depended on it,” she was certainly speaking to me. There was a least a year that I did little more than the basics of caring for my children. The rest of the time, I spent reading everything I could—and then cried my eyes out writing out my pain and loss.

Working with Arna on New Love was a healing journey for me as well. I come from more of a radical feminist perspective while she gets me to embrace some of the more woo-woo stuff that helps with my own healing. While we were finishing that book, I realized I needed to go back to my past and un-bury some of the trauma I had stored in my body.

I went back to an anonymous blog I had kept as a means to leave my second marriage. I was shocked at how much I had blocked from my memory.

I thought I had written perhaps about 150 pages altogether on my blog. Going through it and taking out the highlights, I ended up with more than 800 pages. My mind was blown away at all the things I had blocked out.

When I began this book, my back literally felt as if it were breaking every day.

I wrongly assumed that writing it would be a simple, cut and dry process. It was the hardest of all my books for me to complete. I cried a lot. I lost my shit several times. I realized that I truly am a warrior Goddess.

Mona Eltahawy said that,“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters.” Claiming this is harder than one would think. My life does matter—and so does yours.

This book is dedicated to anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, addiction or abuse. It is my attempt to break the cycle that has plagued me most of my life.

I release this book, not with malice, but with the hope that it will help other women get out of hell sooner than I did. Abusive relationships cause immense suffering to the body, mind and psyche long after they are over. And we do not help our children by passively remaining in them.

May we all heal, grow and prosper. And may our children find better ways to celebrate “this thing called Life.”

-Trista Hendren, an excerpt from Hearts aren't Made of Glass: My Journey from Princess of Nothing to Goddess of my Own Damned Life - out today!

Trista with first massive 'Proof' Copy


Brief Description: Trista Hendren candidly shares her journey from "Princess of Nothing" to Goddess of her own life. Hendren exposes the perils of traditional recovery programs to women and gives her own anecdotes on how to blissfully recover from abuse, codependency and patriarchy. 
320 pages.

"Trista Hendren's story, grounded in the particular details of her life, transcends the personal, and beautifully.” -Donna J. Snyder, author of The Tongue Has its Secrets

A Critical look at "Self-Help" by Trista Hendren

Painting by Arna Baartz


After spending the better part of 15 years working toward “recovery,” I have to wonder why the onus is on women to recover instead of on men to stop abusing us in ways that necessitate recovery.

Self-help is obviously an industry; one that is primarily targeted at women. And what do we need the help for? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being female—although we are certainly made to feel that way from birth.

In my case, I was seeking self-help to recover from male violence.

We know statistically, if we look, who is committing violence on this planet—and it is primarily the male species. Why don't men stop verbally, physically, sexually and financially abusing females?

Men not only get away with this on a massive scale—while often still being lauded as “good men”—but females are then left with the mess of trying to recover from their abuse.

In retrospect, I would advise my younger self to be much more selective about what sort of people I gave any of my time or energy to. And there would be fewer males in that mix.

While we cannot completely protect ourselves from rape and murder, we do know now from looking at patterns that most abuse happens at the hands of men who know us—perhaps who even claim to love us. I think we should—both individually and as a community—cut these men off completely.

I used to think that all male-female relationships had some element of abuse in them. I had built up defense mechanisms since childhood to protect myself from that. I now know after being in a relationship without abuse for the last 5-6 years that it is not actually a component of all relationships. I have had to replace my unhealthy behaviors with new ones—which is not always an easy or automatic task. Embracing Goddess has helped me through that.

Goddess has been a guilty pleasure of mine for the last twenty years, although it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I was able to fully embrace Her. She had been hidden and demonized throughout my childhood in a way that took me a long time to get over.

Once she was fully unveiled, there as no turning back on the rage that I felt and the power that slowly returned to me. This awakening cost me several of my primary relationships. Despite the loss that I felt, I could not revert to the person I once was. I had to live in the power that I intrinsically knew instead of pretending to still be weak.

Goddess does that. Once your eyes have been opened to what has been suppressed, you cannot close them again. She empowers you in a way that no "self-help" anything can.

-Trista Hendren, an excerpt from Hearts aren't Made of Glass: My Journey from Princess of Nothing to Goddess of my Own Damned Life - out tomorrow!!