exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time

Month: July, 2016

Maria Madden

Maria Madden


Date of Interview: July 22, 2016

Name: Maria Madden

Age: 27

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Location: Washington, DC


If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

I would be a golden retriever. They’re just so dog-gone beautiful. I would love to be able to cultivate those types of relationships and bring a lot of joy. I like to, and I guess kind of aspire to, be a friend.

Are relationships something that you’re passionate about?

Sure. Yeah, i would say, especially right now they’re one of the most important things in my life. And I feel very blessed to have had a lot of good ones. They’re necessary and the foundation of everyone’s life. They are what sustain us, what brings us joy, what helps us to grow. I’ve had a lot of different kinds of friends, and all of my friends have taught me a lot. I’ve had friends that I’ve felt like were my sisters, who I shared everything with and who made me a better person. I’ve had friends that have hurt me a lot, not because they try to, but because they were hurting a lot. And I learned a lot about what it means to be broken in my brokenness, and see more of that. Friends that still challenge me to set good boundaries. And also people that have done great things that have inspired me. Some that have incited a little bit of a complex in me ::laughs:: of feeling a little inferior sometimes… But all have been my teachers.

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?

The relationship that I’ve built with my nephew, Sean. And when I call and I hear him scream, “MARIA!” That… that is something that brings me the greatest joy. And I would say that, if I were to talk about things that I have worked to build in my life, he would be my biggest accomplishment.

What is something that you feel like you have or are struggling with?

I would say that my biggest struggle right now is being able to accept that I am not perfect. Which is hard. And I guess… right now I’m really focusing on not being afraid of that. Kind of being able to look the monsters in the face, to look at the things I might not be happy about, with myself. Or things that I’ve felt that I’ve failed in. And learning how to hold them all.

Do you believe in God?

Yes. I think I believe in God because I’ve seen him. And I do refer to Him as “Him,” that’s kind of my perception because he became a person in my view of the world. Yes, I believe in God, because God is love, and I see a lot of love in this world. I see him in each person that I meet. Something that I’ve reflected a lot on recently is Mother Teresa and how she saw Jesus. And things that she described, distressingly described, is that it’s hard to see it in people and… God is the source of all good. So the good I see, in seeing people sacrifice for others, I see reflections of where I believe we all were created. And I don’t mean to offend anyone by pronouns, it’s just part of my tradition.

Are you religious?

Yes. For me, religion gives me direction. It would be hard for me, I think, to have faith or believe in God, if that’s how you would define it, without having a way to do it. So religion is like… Faith is the belief, and religion is the “how” for me. Religion gives me a venue to seek God. And to worship him, to have a relationship.

Ben Schurr

Ben Schurr


Date of Interview: July 9, 2016

Name: Ben Schurr

Age: 31

Pronouns: He/Him/His

Location: Washington, DC


What are you passionate about?

Music. I guess music, primarily. I guess a general appreciation of life. And I know that sounds really vague, but like, seeing value in the experience of being alive. Like really appreciating every experience you have, and trying to see value in it, in an overall valueless world. And just, human rights. A lot. Just because, I don’t know, I feel like people… there’s so much pressure. Like people are just being pressed up against one another now. And ignoring each other, and I find that to be overwhelmingly upsetting.

Do you think where you grew up or the way you were raised has an impact on these passions?

Yeah, I grew up in Philly which is, I don’t know, it’s weird. It’s like cold and aggressive. And there’s just generally a climate of like, I feel like everyone who comes out of Philadelphia has PTSD. You’re really having to deal with a lot of different stuff and really extreme personalities, in EVERY capacity. Whether it’s people you know, people you don’t, there’s just this level of intensity there. But there’s also a sense that you can really disconnect yourself from other people very easily. Because you kind of have to, to not be overwhelmed by the amount of intensity and inequality that exists. The way all of that manifests there is really interesting.

What are you most afraid of for yourself?

I am most afraid of… I was in the hospital for a little while and they found a mass in my chest. And hopefully thats just mold related or something, which it’s seeming like it is. So that’s… once that became a real thing, there were a couple weeks where I was thinking “Oh my god”. I’ve never been confronted with anything as scary as that. Definitely re-calibrated my brain and my perception of everything. Stopped drinking, started eating better, and started valuing a lot of things more. I think that’s where my first answer came from, is from this experience.

What do you think of death?

That switches… I mean, it’s inevitable. It’s a shared experience. We’re all gonna go there. We’re all going to spend more time there than we did alive, from my understanding of it and my beliefs in it. So most of the time, I feel fine about it. But that’s probably because I’m not acutely thinking about me… leaving. Like my consciousness leaving my body. But I think it’s really funny a lot of the time… most of my jokes are about death. And whenever people piss me off I say, “Well, it’s not like you aren’t gonna die. We’re all gonna die, so you might as well just take it easy.” I’m a pretty hardcore atheist, but I’ve had a lot of… more spiritual experiences the older that I’ve gotten. I was barely raised Jewish, hardly raised Jewish. I don’t have any indoctrination really, with it. I don’t know. I guess I’m going to find out at some point. As time goes on and the more time I spend alive, I’m sure I’ll have different understandings of death. I just feel like it’s evolved into this thing where there are times that you think about the fact that nothing can be created or destroyed, you’re just going to drift… And you think about the parts of yourself, like your skin and your hair… Your nail clippings that have already drifted from your body and the thought of, “Well, I’m not going to do that at all.” What’s it like if you’re totally not connected? But I don’t know. Maybe I need to go on a iowaska trip. Maybe that’s what is in order… ::laughs::

What do you think of relationships, platonic, sexual, and otherwise?

I have a lot of thoughts on that. I think that relationships are… obviously they are crucial. And I feel like I’ve had a very unique sensation being- I’ve been a touring musician for about eight or nine years, so it’s a different level of relationship when you’re in a band. ‘Cause it’s potentially a two to how ever many people are in the band, mainly sexless marriage. I’ve been in bands where that wasn’t necessarily the case. Um, for myself or other people in it, but you develop this relationship that is gonna be a better understanding of how my friendships should be. And how my romantic relationships should be and how blurred that is. Because it’s all about the way you connect with people. And certain people will bring out certain elements of yourself and themselves and when you’re really gelling together you are autonomously disappear for a bit and become this, uhh… I guess this transmission of energy. And I think that we’ve unfortunately been sold an idea of what is supposed to be valuable. Like, a romantic relationship is number one, friendships are after that, then your co-workers are below… Kind of like different levels of love. That this is a thing… the first thing you need to do is realize how ridiculous this is. Your relationships with your housemates for example. I live in a group house and it’s like a family. A traditional family unit is probably the closest to that. When I’m on tour, it’s kind of the same case. I feel like a very maternal figure role in that, or somewhere between that, it doesn’t have to be binary, but I feel a parental role. I think that’s the best way to put it. Then, other times, when I’ve been in bands, or just playing in someone else’s band, I take on a different role. I’m kind of like the bratty little kid. And relationships can all be that way and the key is to know that every relationship is unique and you can bring that out in every person. It’s important to deconstruct your perceptions and just see things for how they are, and see that person and allow it to be that way.

Crisely Melecio-Zambrano


Date of Interview: July 8, 2016

Name: Crisely Melecio-Zambrano

Age: 25

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Location: Washington, DC


What are you passionate about?

A lot of things. Sometimes I think too many things, but that’s not the case. I’m passionate about people. And loving people with my whole self and a few weeks ago I wrote a mission statement and the basis of it, I don’t remember it word for word, but the basis of it is that I am loved and most importantly by God and that roots me to love others around me, especially the “other-ed” pieces in other people around me. Something that I feel really passionate about, is loving the broken parts of people and allowing that to teach me how to love the broken parts of myself. And that coming from a place of being first loved by God. And experiencing that love through the people around me. And I think out of that comes all my other random passions of like, yeah, music and dance and being outside and being… myself. And helping others be themselves. I think comes from that place of wanting other people to know that they are loved for being who they are.

Do you think that your upbringing impacts that?

Absolutely. I think that that is where I was first loved. It’s where I first experienced being accepted. That shaped me tremendously. I come from an extremely tight knit family. I am one of six kids and I grew up Catholic and continue to call myself Catholic, most of the time. And I love the word Catholic because it means universal and I think that my parents and my family helped me see it that way. Faith has a way of inclusion and a way of seeing goodness. They were the ones who really helped me see that. And they also… My parents are really gifted at teaching me through their actions. Not very much of like… “Here’s this doctrine” even though, it’s funny, my parents are seemingly very different people. My mom is VERY heart centered, and loving and generous and it’s very evident as soon as you meet her. People over and over again tell me “I’ve never met anyone like you’re mom! She’s so open and this angel!” And you know, the way that she shows her faith and her love in God is through that. And she says that herself, that she has always seen God as love and that was it for me. And the other pieces of religion and spirituality helped root her in that. And my dad is someone who, when you first meet him, seems to be more distant and more intellectual. I’m not sure if that’s actually the case, but it seems like that when you first meet him. And he’s also someone who we could go to if we ever had a question about our faith. Especially the teachings of the church. He knew them back and forth and would tell us, “yeah, okay, you have a question about this, look it up, ask it”. It really encouraged us to be curious about what we were experiencing. Or like, “We went to mass today and there was this reading and it made me really upset. Tell me about it! What do you think of this?” I really loved that those conversations were encouraged in my family. They also, it was so much with how they loved people and loved on people. They were so generous. Everything that they had… and first and foremost loved us, so well. They showed us over and over again how important we were to them. I think we’ve grown a lot in that as a family and we continue to learn from those experiences.

What do you feel is a struggle for you?

So many things… Hmm… I think one of the biggest struggles and learnings for me is, and probably this is true for every human being… but of accepting myself. When you said that, I was thinking of external struggles, but I think so much of that comes from, yeah, I think if I’m having trouble accepting someone else it’s probably because it’s striking a cord with something I haven’t accepted in myself so ends up being “RAHHH! This person!” but really it’s like “Ahh, this piece inside me that I can’t wrap my heart or head around!” You know? And I have learned sooooo much about accepting who I am through a lot of ways, I think as a kid, was very much loved and accepted by my family and I think at the same time, I really struggled because I couldn’t see myself in it. I have always been really observant, a really observant kid, always watching everything and trying to take everything in. So I had a really good picture of everyone else, and could never understand my part in that. I knew I was a part of it, but I just couldn’t… And so I, I think because of that, struggled to see my importance. Yeah! I think that was the main part of that. Asking, “Am I a part of this, do I have a role in this? I know I am, but am I actually?” I think that’s a part of being human, sometimes not being able to see yourself.

What do you think of relationships, platonic, romantic, sexual, or otherwise?

What do I think of relationships…? What life IS about. Or what I see life as being about. It’s relational. We don’t make sense isolated, because we’re not. As much as we could feel that, or try to be. We are so connected to everything. Relationship, it’s life! It’s like this breathing thing. I think we see it all over the place. I’ve been thinking a lot about… so I grew up near the ocean and the ocean to me is a heart place, that’s where my soul is happy, and where I understand things the best, I think. I’ve been thinking a lot about how life is so much like that. I mean, the waves are always coming and going. And that’s the seasons there. You know, you see… I like trees too ::laughs:: but when you see the relationship with nature and the way that we as humans connect with each other, I think that so much of that is this learning, and then learning and then relearning that we are connected. And then living out of that, in whatever way we need to and in whatever way that connection is for us… For me it’s such a daily thing, since relationships are constantly ebbing and flowing. Like this person is my friend. This person is my partner. This person is my parent. This person is my cousin. It’s this constant ebb and flow and in daily moments it changes, and in these daily moments and being in the present and saying like, where is it that we are called to be with each other right now? It could be as simple as a smile walking down the street to a stranger, or it might be a conversation together in a bathtub. ::laughs:: And I think that’s hard sometimes because it’s never clear… Or maybe as defined. Like, This Is How You Are Supposed To Act In This Particular Situation. Like, noooo, there’s not a book on that! And even pressures from upbringing or society or expectations… It’s so lived in the moment by moment. Timing, and if we’re open, or if we’re not, or if we can’t be open and figuring out what that comes from. I think relationship is the STUFF. The stuff of life. I think this is also why faith for me is so important. I experience God as a relational God. We are in this together. You are suffering with me, you are rejoicing with me and with my people. Like we’re in THIS. And that’s it.

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