The Heart Wants

There are some things in life that can’t be “figured out” or rationalized. Feelings are like that. The heart wants what it wants and despite your attempts to merge your mind and your heart to have the same road trip, the heart takes over and drives the car off road onto an unchartered nature trail. I can’t tell you how to feel, but your heart can.

My heart is powerful and overwhelms my ability to reason. I love without thinking first and then realize later that my hands are covered in my own blood. It isn’t easy to love this way but it was the way I was born and the way I am. I feel things deeply, and when I say that I love you it’s because I love you. I mean those words, which pour out of my mouth but originate from my chest.

What’s the difference in saying these words if the way that I love can’t be understood? It’s fierce and bold and unashamed. And yet it scares people with its truth and passion.

I won’t let being misunderstood stop me from loving wholely.

It’s who I am to love vehemently.

I can’t tell you how to love and you can’t tell me how to either.

Let there be blood on my hands, so long as it’s mine.


Guest Post: Surviving All or Nothing Friendship – Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

Surviving All or Nothing Friendship

By Shawna Ayoub Ainslie

Hi. I’m Shawna, and I’m a survivor. I have all or nothing tendencies, and that doesn’t often make me the best friend, except when I’m the BEST friend. Like I said, all or nothing.

As you can imagine, it has taken me most of my adult life to learn how to set proper boundaries (raise your hand if you’re a survivor too, amiright?) and maintain them. I do the best I can. Living means learning. And one life skill I’m learning is when to take a step back.

For six years, I was a BEST friend to a truly exceptional woman. We did all the things together, even set a weekly “playdate” for just the two of us. We talked about parenting, shared sorrows and joys and laid plans for personal triumph. It was an amazing exchange of compassion and love.

We hit road bumps. They would skew our course a little bit, but with some practice and a commitment to communication and conflict resolution, we smoothed the road every time. Until my son’s differences got in the way of us supporting each other’s ability to reach our personal bests.

We had no plans to be perfect moms. Bad Moms has us pegged. We had no desire to be problem-free individuals. I had my own struggles and she had hers. We accepted each other as we were at any given moment.

Part of that included our kids playing together and us helping them practice compassionate conflict resolution. But my kiddo, it doesn’t click for him yet. He’s brilliant, loving and athletic, but some social skills remain beyond his reach. And the social interactions he was having with my friend’s kids were destructive to their sibling relationship. It had to stop.

My friend very apologetically set a boundary. No more of my kiddo at her house. It made perfect sense. It was the right choice for all the kids. It was the right choice for her. But it broke me.

First it was one crack in my heart. It spread throughout my whole body. I have three kids, but most of my time and energy goes to my first child. Tending different needs in a neurotypical world is a full time job. When you’re a survivor and your kid’s needs double as your triggers, it’s maybe 100 full time jobs. And my bestie was my main support sometimes even before my spouse. With her, I never had to shoulder the burden alone. So while it was the right choice for her, her kids and mine, that boundary was incredibly destructive to me.

It wasn’t my friend’s fault. The need of the many outweighed the need of the one.

I couldn’t get over it.

I’m still not over it.

All or nothing.

All my compassionate communication skills failed me. I couldn’t tell her I was sad or angry or that I understood because my feelings were so big they were lit matches angling toward the threads of our relationship. I wanted to burn it all down. And I almost did. I wrote it out and shared my heart on the page with her. She was far more hurt than I expected.

I still don’t understand. I don’t even know if I want to. Our relationship has changed. We aren’t mom friends anymore. She made the request. And because I’m still healing from being shattered by the need for distance from my child, and because he is still most of where my energy goes every day and therefore a huge portion of my identity, the friendship we have feels lean. My brain knows the boundary was not meant as a rejection, but my heart can’t accept that as truth.

Sometimes it still hurts enough for me to cry. I want to open up and share. Being a mom is hard even without neurodivergence. Having mom friends to talk about parenting struggles with to is critical to success. Support is everything. At that point, she was the only person I trusted fully with my story. Then it no longer felt safe to share that story, so I locked it away from all friends. I locked my heart away from her.

All or nothing.

I’m learning to give in pieces. I’m learning not to overcommit myself or my friends. That’s a big part of this. I brought a lot of assumptions into our relationship that I now recognize as either unfounded or unfair. Now, I’m learning to have friendships based on fun rather than depth. I’m slowly learning how to re-allow depth.

My bestie? We still have a great time together, especially when it comes to books or movies. We both just had to take a big step back to get to a place where we can enjoy each other. I’m working hard at inching toward her again. What we built was no small foundation. It was massive and beautiful. I’ve never experienced a friendship as powerful and long-lasting as ours except with my spouse. She brought me out of a cocoon and watched me butterfly. I’d like to think I offered her the same. Six years of unconditional love (now seven) is no small potatoes. Especially between women who have repeatedly been hurt by women.

There are still mountains to climb and the path feels jagged, but I’m moving through the obstacles the best I can. Right now, what we have is nothing compared to what we had, but it is friendship. It’s not everything, but it’s also not nothing, and that is plenty for me.


Shawna Ayoub Ainslie is a writer and coach who teaches expressive writing for release and recovery. This post is part of her Survive Your Story Guest Exchange. Her work has appeared in Huffington Post, Mogul, Stigma Fighters, Role Reboot, [wherever] and The Manifest-Station among other places. When she’s not editing Open Thought Vortex Magazine, you can find on TwitterFacebook or hosting #LinkYourLife.


I didn’t know where I was going when I dove into that lake. The water wasn’t clear either, which didn’t help. Nevertheless I curved my back and arms and threw my body head first into the murky water. It seemed like the thing to do. I needed to leave where I was, because there wasn’t anything left for me there. When my body hit the water I felt the coolness wash over me. It was refreshing and scary to be one with this massive body of ambiguity. Still I pushed myself through it and then I saw you. You were struggling, arms flailing to stay afloat. Your face was beautiful. Your eyes met mine, and I knew what I had to do. I swam toward you. My hand reached toward you and you grabbed it. We floated together for a moment. I knew you weren’t a strong swimmer. Part of me was strong, I knew how to swim but only because I’d taught myself that staying still was dangerous. But you stood there frozen, holding my hand like it was a foreign object.

“Come with me.” I begged you.

You silently shook your head and pointed toward the shore, which was far. I squeezed your hand so you’d remember what it felt like, but ultimately I couldn’t stop you. You released my hand, and my body and then it was I who struggled to stay above the water of indecision.

“Goodbye.” I said in my mind as I watched you swim toward the other shore. I knew what was waiting for you there, but there was not point in telling you because you were already underwater.


The Internet is Like High School

I just came back from BlogHer 16, which was a fantastic experience. I won Voices of The Year, and was able to read my blog post about being disabled in front of a largely supportive group of my peers. That was a fantastic experience. However, I won’t pretend that my interactions with everyone at the conference were full of rainbows and happiness. I am a mostly friendly person, who is overly anxious and enthusiastic about life. I talk to everyone and have no filter. I’m aware that my personality doesn’t go with everyone’s, but I make a concerted effort to be understanding and nice to the people around me hoping against hope that they like me.

That being said, when I compliment someone on their outfit and they have no visible emotion on their face when they say “thank you” and they cannot make eye contact with me, it feels like they are dissing me. When I try to talk to you, and you give me monosyllabic answers and look at your shoes, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you hate my guts, which reminds me so much of my high school experience. I’m not cool, I’ll never be cool and that’s what makes me, me. I hide in bathrooms when I’ve been around people for too long, which is a change from the pile of coats I used to bury myself under as a child. I don’t ever want to be afraid to sit at someone’s lunch table. Maybe I’m socially inept, but I would like to believe that we could at least try to be kind to each other. It doesn’t take a lot to say “thank you” to another human and perhaps engage them in conversation about something else. You never know what you might learn about your fellow human if you gave her a chance.

The funny thing is, the more that person ignores me, the harder I try to get them to like me and recognize my awesomeness. It’s counterintuitive, because obviously this individual doesn’t give a shit about me or my overly anxious nature. He/she doesn’t care that I want them to like me. I care too much, and it’s hurting my brain.

These interactions that I’m speaking to are in person. When people slight each other online it takes an entirely different form. I post a Facebook comment on your status and you intentionally ignore me, but respond to other people. Ouch, that hurts. I’m certainly guilty of not being meticulous about getting back to every single person on social media, but it’s relatively obvious when someone is intentionally ignoring you.

Similar to high school, the Internet has cliques and I try hard to just be a person and talk to everyone. The funny thing is that people want to pretend that there are no inner circles, but let’s cut the shit. There are those things and I want to break them down and make trapezoids out of them.

I couldn’t care less about who’s who in Internet land, just like I didn’t care about popularity in high school. I like people that I can have deep conversations with. I enjoy lack of small talk and an influx of real talk. So let’s stop being dicks and be nice to each other. We are all breathing the same oxygen and releasing the same carbon dioxide. Most of us wear shoes when we go outside, and a lot of us eat broccoli. I know we can find some things to talk about if we try hard.

I’m not better than you, and you’re not better than me. We are humans; humans that exist in the computer and also we walk around in the world. Before you write a sarcastic response to someone on the Internet, remember that they are a person with feelings. They have the capacity to feel anger and hurt. Be careful with your words before you make word salad.

I’m not sure how to end this thing, because I am extremely jet lagged. Keep being yourself and if someone is mean to you, give them a hug. If you’re scared to give them a hug, then smile at them. Wait until they look at you before you smile at them. You want the person that you are smiling at to remember that you smiled at them.



The Story Isn’t Over

The story isn’t over. There’s an intermission and I’m hungry but there isn’t a concession stand. I have to listen to the grumbling in my stomach for this indeterminable amount of time. I’m tired, starving and probably dehydrated. How long is the intermission? It doesn’t say on the program. Nobody seems to know. They are all busy talking to each other and laughing about how it might end or should end. I don’t want it to end. I thought it was going to go on forever. It feels great to watch it unfold and see the nuances. The creases in his smile, the way he sounds when he laughs subtlety, just enough to let me know that he got the joke, I want to see those parts.

It’s over temporarily and I don’t know when Act II begins.

Nobody wants to talk to me about Act I anymore. They said they’ve seen it and it’s great, but they’re ready for the second part. They are patiently waiting. I’m impatiently waiting. I’m fucking hungry damn it. I didn’t know this intermission was going to take so long. I remember the part of the play when they stood together on stage and the lights dimmed. He looked at her like there was no one else in the room. He held her face and she let herself be held by him in every way. The audience was silent as they watched these two characters frozen in time, drinking each other in. He told her softly in her ear:

I have to go. I’ll come back for you. I don’t know how or when, but I will.

Her face changed. It was full of fear and disappointment. A tear fell down her face as he turned his back and walked into the darkness. She collapsed to the floor in the fetal position. 57 birds flew over her head circling her; letting her know that her sadness was palpable and if she wanted to she could fly away from this place.  That’s how Act I ended and I can’t breathe, I can’t see, I can’t anything until I know that that isn’t how it ends. I refuse to let it end this way. She is broken and destroyed and that is not the end of this play. It can’t be.

Where is the playwright? Is he here? Someone needs to take responsibility for this tragedy. I didn’t realize that’s what I was watching when I bought my ticket.

I’m writing a letter to him.

He needs to explain what he was thinking.

I’m going to sit here in this lobby, hungry and sad while I wait for Act II, writing a letter to this incompetent quack who ruined a perfectly beautiful love story.


What I Want Matters

I ordered sushi for lunch today. I was too tired to make anything and I wanted to treat myself because I deserve it. When it arrived it had two kinds of rolls, one of them was an Alaska Roll and the other one was something that I didn’t recognize. Apparently I had ordered this kind of roll before because I clicked “re-order” on my delivery dot com order. I started to eat my lunch and I thought

I’ll try this mystery roll because it’s here anyway.

As soon as I bit into the roll I thought:

I hate this. It’s gross.

Then I thought:

I should eat it because I paid for it.

I sat with that for a moment and then I was interrupted by my mind, which said:

Fuck that! I don’t have to eat that shit. It’s gross and I don’t like it and just because I paid for it doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my taste buds and happiness to eat some shit that I find reprehensible.

Then I realized something deeper about this encounter. I do this in my life frequently. I feel as if I should do something. I should sacrifice my own happiness for the sake of another person. That person is hurting and I should stop my own feelings and thoughts so that they can feel better.


Just like I have the right NOT to eat that disgusting maki roll, I have the right to express myself. I have the right to make my needs known and to ask for what I want. What I want matters. What I feel is valid and true. My feelings, wants and needs can co-exist with another person’s wants and needs. I have the right to be angry. I have the right to be disappointed when things don’t work out like I thought they would. I have the emotional right to say “hey, you hurt me.” I can say those words if I feel them. I’m tired of eating my feelings because someone else MIGHT be offended by my words. If they don’t like what I have to say, that is their right. I still have the right to say the thing that I feel and I will say it.

If you out there right now thinking that your feelings don’t have a right to exist – STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY.

Feel your feelings.

Speak your truth.

And for fuck’s sake put the sushi down if it’s gross.



When the truth is told and you hear it but you don’t really hear it.

Then you hear it so hard that your ears burn. They are on fire with the words. You hear so much truth that your stomach feels like it’s going to explode with the root of the problem. Only there isn’t a problem because you are the problem. You have put yourself in a position where the only solution is to stop talking. You aren’t good at being silent because you talk A LOT and words come so easily and freely and you thought you were wanted but it turns out you are actually someone else.

You don’t really know who you are. I don’t know who I am and all I want to do is eat ice cream and not feel anymore. That’s what happens when you love so hard that you forget yourself.

All this time I’ve been talking about you and I actually mean me. I am not the person I thought I was. That person fell down on the road and there’s a gaping hole in her leg. What happened? She didn’t think before she leapt into something that made no sense.  That’s the way life is. It makes no sense to anyone.

I feel numb because I’ve felt everything for so long that my body and my brain need a break and they are giving it to me for some reason. For some reason, I hate that phrase because there is a reason but I can’t seem to locate it.

Does anyone have that reason? I need a reason over here. Seems everyone is living reason-free these days.

I’m allergic to logic these days and have been operating on emotions. I need a shot of common sense.

I looked inside my heart and it’s cluttered and scary in there. I can’t figure out where the doors are and if there are any doors at all. All I see are open windows.

He Didn’t See The Rainbow, But I Did – Part 2

Evan did always know what Bryan was thinking. Whether he was scared, sad, or angry, Evan could read Bryan’s thoughts. It was both comforting and disarming at once. One day they were walking in the woods, near their house. Bryan stopped in his tracks. Evan turned to him and said:

“I know you’re afraid. But there aren’t any bears in this part of the woods.”

Bryan was irritated. He was comforted by the fact that Evan knew what he was thinking, but wanted to keep his fears and secrets to himself. He didn’t articulate any of these thoughts to his brother. They kept walking down the dirt trail. They were headed in the direction of the waterfall. There was a cliff that Evan wanted to climb. As they were walking Bryan had second thoughts about the whole excursion.

“I’m not sure I can make it to the top.” Bryan confessed. “I’m afraid of heights.”

Evan laughed, and moved his fingers through the grey streak in his hair, pushing it aside like it was a nuisance to him.

“You need to face that fear, bro. I’ll be there with you.”

Bryan didn’t say anything. He swallowed audibly and sighed. He knew that his brother was right. He needed to face his fear. But the idea of climbing to the top of a cliff was overwhelming and scary. Still, there was something about Evan that made it difficult for people to say no to him. He was engaging, charismatic, and he drew people into his world with his words. They continued walking down the trail. Bryan’s breathing was labored, sweat began to develop on his brow. He was beginning to panic.

What if I can’t make it up the cliff? What if I have an anxiety attack? What if I die before I make it to the top?

“Can you stop thinking so loudly?” Evan told his brother. “Dude, Everything is going to be fine. You’ll see.”

Bryan sighed. The two brothers walked onward. Bryan tried to distract himself by looking at the tall Redwood trees they passed as they walked through the woods. He imagined that they were all part of the same tree family; each tree was related to its tree sibling. There were brother trees and sister trees and somewhere deep in the woods were their tree parents. They were looking after the family from a distance. Bryan’s thoughts were interrupted by Evan’s voice:

“Look bro!”

Bryan looked and saw through the clearing and saw what Evan was point towards. It was a high cliff in the distance. It looked insurmountable.

“You can do this.” Evan said turning to his brother.

“I can’t.” Bryan confessed.

“Yes, you can.” Evan confirmed.

Bryan took a deep breath in. Evan grabbed his brother’s hand and looked into Bryan’s eyes, which were deep grey.

“I won’t let go. No matter what I won’t let go. I won’t let you fall.” Evan told his fearful twin brother.

“Okay.” Said Bryan. “Okay.”

They walked onward in the direction of the cliff. Evan did not let go of Bryan’s hand. cliff

%d bloggers like this: