Photo by NASA on Unsplash

I spend a lot of time thinking about the years I spent all-in with evangelical Christianity, mostly because I spend a lot of time writing about them. Often, my focus is on my personal history and how the messages I received shaped me, both then and now. There are a…

A need to scoop out every square inch
of fat and softness from inside my skin
floods me, like how you can’t help scraping
the last fingertip of peanut butter out of the jar.

My hands, detached and ghostly, wrap
relieved around my own tautening body
as it narrows and wanes. My firm grip folds me
into a packed wad, scrunched up like a spitball,

small as not-even-physically possible,
squeezing hard, engaging my core. I get high
off of every millimeter by which I can reduce myself
in space. The pressure on my palms from holding

my own mass compacted, evolution undone,
telling me how well I’ve smashed my substance
down is orgasmic. This is how to deal with anger.
This is how I make it work.

Two parents,
only in their twenties
at first, before everyone
believed in therapy.

A church.

The television
(but I turned out alright.)

Family friends
who fed us Kix and carob and
on whose swing set I sliced open
the gentle pad of my pinky finger. …

If my life is a ship
I’m too often below deck.
Can’t see what’s rocking,
can’t measure the waves

by any gauge set. I think
I’m gonna be sick
in the heart,
in the guts is where

I was taught truth is. But
seeing is believing (I also heard
someone say) so I clamber
to the crow’s nest. Look

how small the waves are,
how far away from land
you really are.

God showed up in my kitchen last night
while I was chopping Brussels sprouts.

At first I thought it was my husband, but he
usually says hello.

Then I worried I’d cut my finger,
but it was only a flash of red nail polish

dark enough in the kitchen light to look
like something coming from a vein. Thankfully

everything that was supposed to stay inside me
stayed inside me, especially since God was there.

That would have been embarrassing. To be so exposed
in front of God. Can you imagine?

According the story I grew up with, the world started in a garden. It was a perfect place, full of lush vegetation, inhabited by two innocent people and every kind of animal.

Well, it was almost perfect. One of the animals — the snake — had a plan to trick…

I light a candle every morning
before I begin to write.

An offering

to someone, maybe me,

just in case there’s magic in the
flick of the match, the catch of the wick,
the silent smoldering I don’t even notice
once I step into my mind.

I have a collection of scents,
just waiting to burn.

Dainty containers of perfumed wax
placed semi-thoughtlessly
on various shelves around the house.

These days I’m melting through
the insides of a mason jar called Christmas Thyme, its
parchment-paper label held snug with a piece
of twice-wrapped twine.

In the far corner of my desk
is a postcard
I once liked enough to frame.

It says, “Get Shit Done”

with a very serious black font.

“I know,” is what I say
every morning as I begin to write.

Is it good to have five
Pieces going at once?
Three essays and two
Poems (including this
One). The books tell me
To follow inspiration and
Also to avoid distraction.
They tell me to write
Every day and also for
A certain amount of time
Every day and also a
Certain amount of words
Every day. They tell me
To take breaks and…

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Four years ago I started my blog Weird Name by writing a bunch of essays about losing my religion. Literally, I used R.E.M.’s …

Learning I Need to be Nice to Myself (Despite All Messages to the Contrary)

Looking down through the aquamarine waters surrounding the Cyclades.

If you were to create a bar graph comparing the frequencies of the different types of compliments I’ve received over the course of my life, the column for “polite” and all its synonyms would tower over the other affirmations like the Burj Khalifa soars over Dubai.

When my mother took…

Grete Howland

Grete is a writer and educator living in Portland, OR. She writes about growing up in Evangelical Christianity and finding freedom on the other side of belief.

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