Remembering How to Pray by Heidi Fettig Parton

Remembering How to Pray

Posted Posted in Blog

By Heidi Fettig Parton

In the middle of September, you are in the backyard on your knees. You are not praying, but perhaps you should be. Bended knees can lift up, bended knees can kill.

The world, heavy with sorrow; you persist.

Using your gloved hand, you dig out still-green clover and dandelions where they encroach on your garden. Yet, these have no lesser claim to the earth than the marigolds, squash, and beets.

Your grandmother pickled beets on the North Dakota plains. Those ruby circles were heaped in an unwelcome pile on your dinner plate. But all things, even taste buds, evolve. Now beets taste like the dark soil of memory. Their earthy flavor roots you to a lineage come and gone.

You turn the soil over, awakening the freshness of tepid air after a rain, uncovering thick, long earthworms in the clumps of rich earth. Earthworms have not eyes, but light receptors, alerting them to darkness and light.

Whenever you encounter an earthworm trapped in the center of a concrete sidewalk in the morning sun, dried out but still wriggling, you use a foraged stick to gently lift the struggling worm to a dew-covered patch of grass.

You know the aching pull of home, the pain of displacement, however brief. Is this still my country, you ask?

Like muddied worms, your vision is impaired. Perhaps by clouds. Perhaps by the hazy smoke of fires out West reaching your landlocked Midwestern town. This year has seemed a tunnel with no end. You imagine growing your own receptors of light to lead you through.

Here on your knees in the garden, you tap into a small, nascent shift toward the sacred interconnectedness of all things; you reach for that ancient circle of belonging.

You are made of clay and love and delight. Remember this. Scooping handfuls of dirt, you fortify your soul for the tasks awaiting you in the future, where you will slowly wind your way, where you will—upon arriving—bend your knees in prayer.

About the Writer:
Heidi Fettig Parton
received an MFA in creative nonfiction from Bay Path University in 2017. Her writing can be found in many publications, including Assay Journal, Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog, Angels Flight, literary west (AFLW), The Manifest-Station, and The Rumpus. More at

What It's Like by Deirdre Mahoney

Emerald Blog: What It’s Like

Posted Posted in Blog
The Emerald Blog :: Writing Inspired by Ireland

Every summer, Bay Path University’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction writing offers a weeklong Writing Seminar based in Dingle, a town nestled on the Atlantic coast on the western shore of County Kerry, Ireland. Each day throughout the week, Seminar Facilitator Suzanne Strempek Shea gives participants a prompt to encourage writers to investigate new ideas and topics in their writing. During August 2020, we’ll publish our Emerald Blogs to showcase the diverse work developed from responses to Suzanne’s prompts.

From Suzanne Strempek Shea

Several of the workshops in our annual Summer Writing Seminar workshops are generative, and Deirdre Mahoney made the most of the opportunity to create in a 2018 workshop with Dinty W. Moore titled “Literary Nonfiction: The Truth, Artfully Arranged” during her second time with us in Dingle. Daily prompts in the workshop focused on detail, character, voice, and other key craft elements, but Deirdre doesn’t know the exact one that sparked this honest and artful essay. All of its readers can be grateful for her candor and for the strength it took to retrieve these moments so keenly.

What It’s Like

by Deirdre Mahoney

What It's Like by Deirdre Mahoney

He hovers over the Keurig machine trying to make a teabag produce coffee.

Is he brushing his teeth these days? No toothbrush in either bathroom or by the utility sink in the basement. Putting folded clothes away, I discover his plastic toiletry case poking out from under a pile of hand-knitted socks in the top drawer of the dresser. It contains five or six toothbrushes, all seemingly new and recently opened. Does he un-package a new one each time he brushes his teeth? When did that start? Why haven’t I noticed?

The phone rings less than three feet from where he sits with his eyes closed. He doesn’t flinch. A diminished sense of smell was one of the earliest symptoms; that occurred well before memories began to recede. Recently, I’ve noticed that items within eyesight don’t always register. He doesn’t see the carton of milk on the counter, his shaving cream on the shelf, the TV remote in the basket I ask him to hand to me when it’s time for Jeopardy! Surely the phone’s jarring ring should elicit a response. Does the ringing not register? Is he confused about what to do? Is this what lack of motivation—a common behavior listed in the literature—looks like?

Although he no longer reads them, I still carefully choose fly-fishing books for holidays, birthdays, and no-particular-reason gifts. It’s a three-decade habit. 

I arrive home from campus on a chilly April evening to find him sitting in the dark wearing polarized sunglasses to watch the evening news. I kiss him on the forehead and scan the kitchen counter. Taking two stairs at a time, I head to our bedroom and check the bedside table. No luck. I dash back downstairs and recheck the living room before heading to the basement to scout the folding table where he’s been arranging stones he discovered on beaches in Leland and Northport, Michigan. Again, no luck. “If I were his eyeglasses,” I ask myself, “where would I be?”

The answer: anywhere.

I trail up to bed late and find him asleep in the Levis, flannel button-down, wool pull-over sweater, and striped socks he wore all day. And the day before. I pop the tank out of his CPAP machine, fill it with distilled water, and adjust the finicky face mask, repositioning the Velcro closures around his ears. I tap the start button and crawl in next to him, but before I turn off the bedside lamp, I pass my hand over his face to feel his breath.

He’s taking the dogs for a quick walk, he announces. Faithful friends Zelda and Phaedrus fixate on his every move, then agitate when he retrieves a single leash and walks alone out the back door toward their regular route

As we drive 30 miles from Traverse City to Northport, he’s content and quiet until we round a curve and the view of Lake Michigan is no longer obscured. He points to a mirage on the water, a number of illusory islands in the distance. “An archipelago,” he offers.

“Do you think they’re real, the islands?” I ask, downplaying my surprise at his use of archipelago, a specialized term, the kind of word once a natural part of his lexicon.

“Well, you see them too. There’s your answer,” he says.

After we return home, I mention his previous reference to an archipelago. He has no idea what I’m talking about. I coach him. I reference our drive earlier in the day, mention him pointing to what looked like islands in the bay. I want him to recall the setting. He can’t but he’s amused by the idea of a mirage, an archipelago, by something he noticed earlier and now can’t remember, even with my prompting.

He mows part of our front lawn and part of the neighbor’s. Task complete.

I hear him at the front door chatting with unfamiliar voices and intervene. Should I post a “No Solicitation” notice on the cedar siding? Is it time to stash the checkbook and remove the remaining credit card from his wallet?

It’s Father’s Day 2018, and I have forgotten to pick up a card. Don’t worry, I tell myself. He won’t notice.

He’s antsy for a bike ride, but the sun will set within the hour and the mid-summer sky threatens rain. I suggest putting it off until the following day, hoping that sounds like a casual request. Recently, I’ve seen frustration when I crowd his independence. I’m seeing it again, so I cave. “Maybe keep it close to home, just to Garfield and back,” I say, mentally calculating the 15-minute round trip. When a soft rain begins to fall a half hour later and there’s still no sign of him, I begin to worry. As I consider how the combination of drizzle and dusk might disorient him and how I have enabled this insanity, I move into batshit-crazy-full-on panic.

My rational friend Rachel, who’s visiting for the evening, guides me to her car. While she drives, I scan the streets and alleys. Twenty minutes later we spot him biking toward home from opposite the direction we discussed earlier. It’s clear I can no longer trust his ability to keep with a plan. Rachel and I race home, repark the car, and return to sitting and chatting as if we’ve been doing so all along. Alerting him to my alarm doesn’t make sense. Frayed synapses are the problem here, not staunch willfulness on his part. Best to let him enjoy the evening without upset while I consider options to avert future disasters.  

There’s a café at the co-op in my neighborhood where I steal time in the early morning, just me with my thoughts and my laptop. I justify the self-indulgence as self-care, but self-care sometimes dissipates as I observe a couple, regulars, folks like us. The “us” we once were. He orders and pays at the counter, then brings their coffees to the table close to the window where she sits waiting.

“How can I help?” he asks. Brown spots in the yard signal that the grass needs extra water during the summer’s relentless scorching weather. My to-do list is long this day, so I welcome his offer. He listens closely as I point to the backyard and say, “Move the sprinkler a few feet but don’t let the water hit the sidewalk. Keep the water on the grass.” He leaves the room and goes somewhere, not outside.

He still makes our bed each day. I take note of how well, as if his bed-making skills parallel the progression of the disease.

It comes out of nowhere. It always does. The sense of dread. The panic. The future. The when. The what ifs. What if I can’t make it work? What if I have to make unimaginable decisions? What then? What if I get it wrong? What next?

Then I hear the words of our elder attorney—who refers to me as “dear,” and I let him.

“Just put it to bed,” he said the last time I called him with more questions and worries. He said what I needed to hear. It clicked. Just put it to bed. I’ve done what I can to prepare. Time will run its course. The disease is fatal. The progression continues. I can’t control the outcome. None of us can.

Just put it to bed.

About the Writer

Deirdre Mahoney is on the English faculty at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan. Currently, she is working on a collection of narrative essays based on her experience of living with and caring for her late husband who died from complications of younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Write with us in Dingle next year, July 31 to Aug. 8, 2021. Contact for full information.

We welcome submissions to Multiplicity Blog (nonfiction prose of 1,000 words or fewer, poetry, and photography) all year. Click here for more details on submitting to Multiplicity Blog. From September 25-October 30, we are also accepting submissions of brief true stories and reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement (100 words or fewer) for “Multiplicity Commons: Readers and Writers Respond to Black Lives Matter.” Click here for more details on submitting to Multiplicity Commons.

Secrets of the Deep by Fabrice Poussin

Secrets of the Deep

Posted Posted in Blog

By Fabrice Poussin

From the Photographer:

There is nothing more awe inspiring than the wonders and power of the earth, which grants us the privilege of its nurturing for but a few decades.

This image, like so many taken in the vicinity of Yellowstone Park, is an homage to the earth’s power. Standing in the center of what could be the most powerful dormant volcano on this planet is nothing if not humbling.

Simple in its clear beauty, a burst of boiling water links us to the inner workings of our planet and the universe. This image balances the purity of color and water with the potential destructive forces that lay below us. What appears to be a mere photograph of a little hole in the ground is in fact about the unsuspected forces encompassed within the incredible life-giving and life-altering world we are fortunate to call home.

Secrets of the Deep by Fabrice Poussin

Secrets of the Deep

About the Photographer:
Fabrice Poussin
teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review and the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.

Mysterious Girl by Jenee Rodriguez

Mysterious Girl

Posted Posted in Blog

By Jenee Rodriguez

I adore a mystery.
Now, at 26,
I never felt more like one in my life.

My past is in the clear water,
and I say thank you each day
for the things I thought about
at 16, 18, 20, 21.

Mistakes have become memories,
some universal heartbreaks,
some minimums—
But I am no longer hard on myself for them.

I only look back
to try and tell me something,
to tell you the words that burn inside now:
I love you no matter what.

I don’t have to be afraid to look anyone
in the eye. Thank you, past me, for staying strong.
You kept me alive.

I became beautiful because of you.
I won’t let you forget that.

From the Writer:
To all my young girls: loving hard is your real power, and patience is everything. One day you will look back and remember all your bravery and boldness, how you went through the floods and flames, and how ready you were for the better things in life. — Jenee Rodriguez

Stop Fat Shaming Me-I Can Do It Myself by SJ Griffin

Stop Fat Shaming Me–I Can Do It Myself

Posted Posted in Blog

By SJ Griffin

Every fat person will tell you that no one has been there for them like food has. Not my girlfriend, my dog, or even my mom compares to what I feel with food. But there’s loathing in that relationship too. I moan pleasure and pain into each bite I take. Every time I eat, I either say “I love myself” or “I hate myself,” but I always feel both.

In the era of body positivity and PC culture, I have an idea what “healthy society” thinks of fat people, but they’re afraid to say it. They think we’re lazy, excuse-making, energy-depleting whiny asses who are secretly jealous of skinny people. We stuff our faces with frozen pizza and McDonald’s French fries and all things gloriously easy and American. We like to use our tragic pasts and sob stories to excuse our slovenly ways, while taking up space and energy on a quickly dying Earth.

Here’s something worse than healthy society can imagine: what I really put my body through. I am constantly destroying my body. I’ll starve myself the whole day so I can pig out at night, stuffing my stomach until the acid reflux floods up my gullet. I love eating until the feast is over, when I’m bent over, praying for death because my stomach hurts so much, when I’m lying in bed while my girlfriend rubs my swollen tummy in clockwise circles.

But in the age of body positivity, I have to love—no adore—my body through it all. If I don’t, then I’m fat shaming myself. I’ve had friends lie to me. “You are not fat,” they say, “You’re beautiful.” (Hey, fat people, you can be both.) I’ve had friends slap me (hard) when I called myself fat, like it was a bit for a sitcom. When I complain about my thunder-blubber thighs ripping the inseams of my jeans again, those friends bark “shut the fuck up.”

I am jealous that skinny people can walk in a store and find their size in anything. I’m jealous that they can drive through the Walmart parking lot without being called a “fat fuck” by a bunch of guys carrying six packs. I’m jealous that they can ignore that guy in the corner of the classroom who ironically called me (the only fat person in the room) “scary fat” while our class analyzed Hunger by Roxane Gay.

Why should I take verbal beatings from my enemies and my friends?

Since weight is considered a medical concern, many people say I should trust my doctor’s opinion. Surely a medical practitioner who has sworn to “do no harm” must be completely logical and unbiased about this sort of thing, right?

When the doctor enters the examination room, she glances at me, then back to her clipboard, then asks, “Why are you here?”

“I need to have my prescription refilled,” I say. “Metformin.”

“Were you taking that for diabetes?” she says.

Her eyes don’t move from her clipboard.

“No,” I say. “PCOS.”

“Ah,” she says, finally looking up. “I figured you must have something like that.”

I don’t ask because I know the signs of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS: facial hair, rough skin, excess body hair, thinning hair on the head, mood swings, headaches, fatigue. This doctor couldn’t have noticed all of those from a half-second glance. But I must have something to explain my fatness.

The doctor tells me I need to exercise and lose weight as she sticks her hand up my vagina for a pap smear. I can’t help but take it personally when she’s got her whole head up inside my most private, holy area—when I already feel as uncomfortable as she can possibly make me—and she tells me I’m not good enough.

I simply nod every time the doctor says I can lose “the weight,” as if it’s a separate entity I can just leave behind, like it hasn’t consumed my whole life.

I didn’t know I was the biggest person in my kindergarten class until my crush slapped the “fat” insult into my chubby cheeks, like red stamps that said “worth” on one cheek and “less” on the other. I never thought about my weight until then, but after that moment, the glass bubble shattered.

I had appointments with nutritionists, I couldn’t fit in the school uniforms, I couldn’t do the same things my friends did (PE was a nightmare). Middle school and high school were the worst. I never got a date, never got asked to dance (although that’s partly because I’m queer). The whole middle school mocked me for months after I was publicly “rejected” by a boy I didn’t even like because a rumor spread that I did. Apparently, they felt I had to be punished for thinking a fat person could find love.

I still feel inadequate. My girlfriend has to constantly assure me that she finds me physically attractive, though I shouldn’t have to count such validation toward my self-worth. Sometimes, when I masturbate or have sex, I suck in my stomach and pretend I’m skinny just to feel pretty enough, to feel good.

The anti-fat-shaming culture was founded by fat people, most significantly fat Black women, reclaiming pride in their bodies, but now it’s “cool” for skinny PC people to appropriate the movement without upholding its tenets. Society isn’t changing as much as it seems to be on Twitter and Instagram.

I’d like the privacy to explore my own fat-shaming and the damage that has been done to my body without thinner people telling me how I should feel about myself.

About the Writer:
SJ Griffin
(they/them) is a queer, trans, fat writer and editor based in North Carolina. They have a BA in psychology, BFA in creative writing, and certificate in publishing from UNC-Wilmington. You can find more of their work in Motherwell, Crab Fat Magazine, Semicolon Literary Journal, Mookychick, Marias at Sampaguitas, and more. Find them on Twitter @born2blossom.

Three Poems by Austin Metze

Three Poems by Austin Metze

Posted Posted in Blog

Looking down

By Austin Metze

Leaning in over the swamp’s edge
I’m drawn to an anomaly—
intensely dark pulsing water,
like an oil spill in the shape of an archipelago;
Long Island viewed from 10,000 feet,
early morning commuters beginning to stir.

A mass of frog embryos,
having just crossed over into life,
embrace each other in an inky mass,
then break out blindly like bumper cars
rhythmically waving spermy tails.

Nearby, rafts of eggs float looking up
with dazed black-yoked eyes
cast blindly to the heavens.

The mother to this life spill
sits by my feet,
a Buddha frog
in contemplation of her creation,
witness to galactic birth.

I’ve been looking down a lot, at
floating islands of pale blue flowers,
stone snapshots of river flow—
I’m starting to see down and up
as different versions of themselves. . .
but who is watching me?
Certainly not the frogs.
Birds show little interest,
practicing avoidance with both eyes.
They think that I can’t fly

After a rain

By Austin Metze

After a rain
the world stands in place,
sedated by its presence—
it’s holy water
that falls upon us.
There is no other kind.

To a fallen tree

By Austin Metze

What do you miss most about standing tall?

Feeling lofty

My shadow stretched before me
it’s changing lengths from west to east

The shape of limbs I sense but cannot see

My leaves giving sound to the wind

Taking a long slow drink after a summer rain

Is there anything good about lying on the earth?

Yes, returning to my roots

About the Writer:
Austin Metze
is a poet, essayist, painter, and book designer. His work has been published in Weeklings Literary Journal and Tiny Seed Literary Journal. He has self-published three chapbooks: Crow’s Blood, Hudson Street, and I Tried To Show My Dog The Stars, as well as a book of essays, When Life Calls You Out, It’s Usually Onto A Highway.


My Bones Are Blue by Amber Pierson

My Bones Are Blue

Posted Posted in Blog

By Amber Pierson

My bones are blue, creaking and
Clacking as I amble my way through
Life, twisting and turning, upside down
And backwards. My blood is green,
Sloshing and toxic, poisonous, seeping
Through my skin, burning any hands
That reach too close. My heart is gray,
Melancholy, thump, bump, beating,
Beating in my chest. Pushing my tainted
Blood and pounding against my ribcage.
My skin is purpled, bruises, bangs, and
Veins trace unreadable patterns along
My body, too tight and too loose, not
Magazine-ready. My lips are yellow,
From too many cigarettes and too much
Coffee, pumping more toxins through
My system. My breath leaves on a gust
Of red, releasing anger and malice, then
Pulling in a breeze of soft pink, love and
Lightness, threatening the sin swirling in me.

About the Writer:
“My Bones Are Blue” is emerging writer Amber Pierson’s fourth published poem. Her goal as a poet is to write poems that inspire unique images and that twist emotions into something new and unexpected. Amber lives and writes in Cortland, New York.

Slip Sliding Away by Pat LaPointe

Slip Sliding Away

Posted Posted in Blog

By Pat LaPointe

Before every holiday, we’d have what my family called the “boob hunt.” Sounds perverse, but it’s not. It was all about my mom’s famous fried chicken.

Mom believed every holiday should include a dish that celebrated our heritage. While we appreciated the concept, it took the us years to convince her that the Pilgrims didn’t serve lasagna at the first Thanksgiving. With her special fried chicken, she found a way to make the classic Southern dish into something consistent with our ethnic heritage by adding Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs.

A typical boob hunt started with Mom sending Dad out to shop for chicken breasts. Now we’re not talking about just any breasts. Mom specified that she wanted only “Dolly Parton” breasts, not “Twiggy” ones. Dad would often have to shop at several grocery stores before he’d find 24 perfect breasts that would satisfy her requirements.

In his later years, when Dad could no longer drive, I became his boob-hunt partner. We’d check the poultry in each store and quietly (we hoped) comment on whether the breasts were Dolly enough. Of course, Mom was the final decision maker. Any breasts she deemed too small were sent to the freezer and Dad and I went out again.

On the morning of the holiday, Mom always woke at dawn. She would fill three or four bowls with milk and eggs, in which she’d soak her chosen Dollies. After a few hours, she would spread waxed paper on the table and cover it with Italian breadcrumbs. Then she would coat the breasts and arrange them neatly on the sheets of waxed paper until they were ready to fry.

My sister JoAnn and I were in charge of preparing the side dishes: mashed potatoes that Mom insisted must have globs of melting butter on top, sweet potatoes with extra marshmallows, and bowls of buttery corn.

Mom’s kitchen was small, and she wasn’t the neatest cook. Knowing that, JoAnn and I added our own secret tradition to the chicken-frying ritual. On the morning of each holiday, one of us would call the other.

“Have you got your socks?” one sister would ask, on the verge of laughing.

“Wouldn’t go without them,” the other sister would respond, unable to keep from giggling.

By the time JoAnn and I arrived, the whole house smelled like Colonel Sanders’s Italian cousin had moved in. Mom would have chicken frying in several pans, with oil squirting and splattering everywhere. Breadcrumbs fell onto the greasy floor, building a layer of uniquely slippery footing. My sister and I skated around the kitchen creating what we called our “breaded socks” as we slid through the crumbs and grease.  As Mom aged and became more careless in her chicken preparation, there would be actual footprints on a breadcrumb-and-oil “rug” on the floor.

Mom’s gone now. My middle-aged siblings and I, concerned about fats and cholesterol, choose baked chicken breasts that are more Twiggy than Dolly for our holiday dinners. The amount of butter in the potatoes has dropped drastically, the sweet potatoes are often served without marshmallows, and buttery corn has been replaced by green salad.

We congratulate ourselves for making healthy choices, but when we sit down for dinner, we all wish for one more holiday with Mom, her Dollies, and our breaded socks.

About the Writer:
Pat LaPointe
is the editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter. She is also a contributing editor to the anthology The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. She has counseled victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Pat is past president of Story Circle Network and she conducts writing workshops for women online and onsite. Her essays and short stories have been published widely and she is currently completing her first novel (forthcoming in late 2021).

Finding You by Erin Hall

Finding You

Posted Posted in Blog

By Erin Hall

I come to you when I visit home. I press my index and middle fingers into my lips, and gently touch them against the smooth marble edge. I tell you about the traffic—so many idiots in the left lane, it would have driven you mad—and trace my fingers, sticky from my lip gloss, along the etching.

I wonder if mom notices, but I’m careful. I angle the armoire door just as she always leaves it—slightly, but thoughtfully, open—as if that door was the barrier instead of time.

Stepping onto the patio, I see you outside, sweeping the pool vacuum in melodic, almost therapeutic, strokes up and down the pool’s curved walls, stopping only to slide the loose cuffs of your sweatshirt up your sun-drenched arms.

You’re folded headfirst into the boat’s engine hatch, your legs twitching against the taut, ashen leather of the bench seat, the sharp clang of your tools against the metal hull echoing up the hill.

You’re seated quietly on the deck, legs outstretched on the chair, tasting deep breaths of humid air and sips of iced tea as you survey the backyard with worry drifting far from your shoulders.

I stand there watching, the sounds of summer rising as a choir around you—the soft lap of water against the seawall after a boat cuts the canal, the low groan of its motor lingering, the hum of a mower as a neighbor grooms their yard, and birds whistling into the breeze.

I wiggle my toes against the brick, delighting in the coarseness and warmth from the afternoon sun, and I open my eyes.

The skimmer mounts the pool steps and gurgles, spitting water onto the pavement. The boat hoist is empty—a mass of seaweed, driftwood and trash nesting between the bunks like a heavy, tangled memory. The chair is gone. The iced tea is in the fridge. And you are upstairs, in the armoire, in the marble box.

About the Writer:
Erin Hall
is a writer and communications professional in Royal Oak, Michigan. She’s been hard at the public relations grind for nearly 15 years, but has always considered herself a writer first—ever since she scribbled short stories under the lamp on her childhood nightstand at all hours. She previously wrote for her hometown newspaper, Michigan State University’s (now defunct) Big Green Magazine and Chicago Now’s blog network; she has been recently been published in the Detroit Metro Times. You can find some of her personal musings at

Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans by Maria Smith

Four Years, Eight Pairs of Jeans

Posted Posted in Blog

By Maria Smith

Eight pairs of jeans became a source of mental agony for me when I moved from Colorado Springs to South Carolina in 2016. I got fixated on the idea that I needed to fit into a certain size, and I obsessed about it, especially once I could no longer fit into my four pairs of expensive Lucky Brand™ jeans.

The first year I lived in South Carolina, all eight pairs fit, but by my second and third year there, the jeans began making their way from the velvet hangers on the low rack—where I keep all the clothes I wear most often—to the top shelf of my closet. I put the Lucky jeans in one pile and the remaining jeans in a second pile. Every time I was in the closet and looked up, I’d sigh with exasperation. I blamed the problem on the stress of living in the South. My husband and I moved here to be closer to my mom, to make up for all the years we lived far away from her—but I never liked heat and humidity.

By our fourth year in South Carolina, all eight pairs were neatly folded and both piles were stacked together up high in the top shelf of the closet. Every so often, I’d take them down and wonder if I should try them on.

“Should I hang onto them?” I’d ask my husband. I always followed that question with a second one: “Do you think I’ll ever fit in these jeans again?”

My husband would always shake his head and say, “I’m not answering. It’s suicide for a husband to talk about his wife’s weight.”

“Wise man,” I’d mutter underneath my breath.

I admit I got hung up on a few pounds, but I’m four feet and ten inches tall. Three to five pounds might not seem like much, but on a petite woman like me it feels uncomfortable.

It took me the full four years to get somewhat comfortable living in the South. Then, two months ago, I received a phone call on a Sunday morning that my mom had passed away in a tragic car accident. I never got to see her body. I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Sadly, that’s what it took for me to stop obsessing about my precious jean collection. I tried them on one more time, but nothing had changed. I still couldn’t zip them up. This time, though, I  threw all those jeans into a black trash bag. The next day, I tossed the bag into the trunk of my car, determined to donate them as quickly as possible.

I gave all eight pairs of jeans to the thrift store of the Palmetto Animal League, a local animal shelter. Bringing them there filled me with overwhelming gratitude. Helping out animals in need by giving up something so material helped me see that, in the grand scheme of things and in my life, those jean were irrelevant.

In the end, I realized the emotional growth fits me far better than the jeans ever would have.

About the Writer:
Maria Smith
is an aspiring writer and artist who spent 16 years serving as an officer in the Air Force Reserve, where she achieved the rank of Major. After being honorably discharged due to illness in 2010, she enrolled in the University of the Rockies in Colorado Springs, CO, completing her doctorate in psychology in March 2014. She earned her MFA from Bay Path University’s Creative Nonfiction Writing program in July 2019. Maria is originally from western Massachusetts; she currently lives in Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband, Terry.