exploring vulnerability and transparency one bath at a time



Name: Emily

Age: 29

Pronouns: She/They

How often do you bathe or shower?

::Laughter:: it varies! I can often get away with every other day. I’ve been more active lately, so I probably shouldn’t be doing that… but I usually bathe after doing something super active. In the winter I bathe like, twice a day because I get super cold.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Oh, man… I would be an angler fish. They’re really scary-looking ::laughter:: which I vibe with. They have these huge lights on their heads and big teeth everywhere and the females are way bigger than the males. They also have this really weird, really intense mating mechanism where the males latch onto the females and become parasitic or something? Which is a scenario I relate to on a deep, personal level.

What are you passionate about?

I think my biggest passion is connecting with other people. I’m a huge people person, I love people and making new friends. I’m really big on fostering connections with others. I’m studying to be a social worker right now. I feel like it’s the right field to be in if you’re a very people-oriented person and love to make connections. I want to be a helper of some sort and it’s the right field for that. Also, I belong to a bunch of different communities in the city. I do a lot of networking. I could talk forever about the things I’m passionate about, but that’s a big one.

How do you engage with self-care while being extremely social?

Yeah, I don’t know… living alone helps a lot. I think that, if I had a roommate, I would have a lot less energy to socialize. I also go long stretches without socializing and stuff. I have a bunch of things that fill my time. Like I said, I’m in school, working on a Bachelor’s in Social Work. I sing in the May Festival Chorus, which is the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony, so that keeps me pretty busy 9 months out of the year. I climb once a week and do physical therapy 3x a week. Yeah. It’s a lot.

What do you mean by “climbing”?

I go to a climbing gym in Sharonville called Rock Quest and I have an instructor there who belays me, which means she’s the person who controls all the ropes and makes sure that I’m safe up there. It’s all indoor…if you’ve ever seen a rock wall with those funny looking, different colored shapes—it’s that kind of thing. But a whole room of it, with different levels of difficulty. You can do bouldering in the middle, which is climbing without any kind of equipment… there’s rocks on the celling, which I think is really insane… maybe someday ::laughter::.

How did you get into rock climbing?

I had done it a few times as a kid, at summer camp and stuff like that. I went a few times in high school and I tried once, shortly after high school and just could not do it. At all. And then, I lost a large portion of my mobility in my mid-20s and I have struggled with needing to feel strong. Climbing makes me feel really strong; it makes me feel, for the first time in my life, that I’m athletic. There’s finally something athletic that I’m capable of. Which is a really amazing feeling. I feel like it has bolstered my confidence a lot. I also struggle quite a bit with being in the moment—I have a lot of anxiety and am often dwelling on either the past or the future in some way—and climbing literally forces you to be in the here-and-now, and I really appreciate that about it.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

That’s a hard question for me to answer. I have a tendency to hold myself to able-bodied standards, which is a huge trap and something I should absolutely not be doing because I’m not able-bodied, never have been, never will be. So sometimes I have to sit down and remind myself: “HEY! You can drive a car. You live on your own. You have all these different groups of friends, you can take yourself to your appointments, and you take yourself to class. You’re doing it.” It’s a pretty cool feeling when I’m able to stop and recognize what an independent life I’ve created for myself. Independence is really important to me.

What is something you would like able-bodied people to know about you?

Oh Jesus, that is so hard to answer. There are so many things!! ::Laughter:: Ummm… It’s hard. It’s hard to know how to answer that because… I feel like people either constantly under-estimate what I’m able to do, or in a weird way, over-estimate me. I think a lot of people look at me and think “Oh, her legs don’t work. Whatever, that must be it”. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. I have spina bifida and hydrocephalus, which means I was born with my spine coming out of my body, and my cerebral spinal fluid—there’s a blockage in my brain, so it doesn’t circulate properly. I have a magnetized valve in my brain that keeps me alive. I’ve had roughly 30 hours of bladder work done, four brain surgeries and it’s so much deeper than people understand. But at the same time, I’m pretty “high-functioning” for someone who has been through all of that. So it’s tricky. I find myself wanting to tell my entire medical history to everyone I meet so that they’ll understand. I don’t know if people are afraid or don’t know what questions to ask, but I don’t feel like I get enough questions, and I LOVE getting questions. Questions, to me, show that people want to understand the way I work. Which is really import to me.

What is something you still struggle with?

Oh god. So many things! I have always really struggled to navigate academia. Which is why I’m still in it ::laughter::. I’ve dropped out twice and this is my third time, in undergrad. Third time’s a charm, I’m hoping. I have a lot of learning disabilities, but not ones that are super well known or clear-cut. I struggle a lot with motivation, planning, focus, processing. All that sort of nebulous stuff that is what it takes to be a successful person in the world ::laughter::. That’s all stuff I have a really hard time with. It’s been really difficult, knowing how to navigate that.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, sexual, familial, otherwise.

That’s a good question…I’ve been single for five and a half years, so my love for platonic love has strengthened more than I ever could have possibly imagined. I would love to be in a romantic relationship, but I could probably get by on platonic love for the rest of my life.

How has your understanding of platonic love changed?

I didn’t have friends for a really long time. Growing up, it was really challenging to form lasting connections with good people who had my best interest at heart, and weren’t going to fuck me over. I do have two really close friends, one from elementary school and one from middle school, but they’re major anomalies. Most of my current friends, I’ve met in my 20s. I always thought romantic love is what has been missing from my life, but then I made friends and it was like… “OH! This is what has been missing from my life, this is what I needed. Awesome.”



Name: Courtney (my real friends call me Corky)

Age: 23

Pronouns: She/Her/It

How often do you bathe or shower?

Ummmm. Every other day, usually. Unless I’m feelin’ extra lazy. The it’s like, once a week.

If you were an underwater creature, what would you be?

A manatee. They just look so happy all the time. Nobody fucks with them. They just eat and float all day- sounds like an ideal life to me. 

What are you passionate about?

Fooooood. I like to eat food, I like to cook food. I’m not a super deep person ::laughs::.

But I am passionate about my sobriety. Complete and utter demoralization happened. I was waking up in my parents’ bed when I didn’t live there. I was thinking like, “Why did I come here and not go to my own bed?” I would ask them what happened and they would say something around “you came here at four in the morning, crying your eyes out, saying that you don’t know who you are or what to do with your life”. They would ask me if I wanted to go to rehab and I would dip. I was 15 when it started. The second time I ever drank, I woke up in the hospital with a catheter in me. With hypothermia. Alcoholism runs in the family. I’m an alcoholic. I always knew. I kind of used it as fuel. Like, I’m an alcoholic, I’m gonna do what alcoholics do best- drink themselves into oblivion on the daily. Then a physic change happened and I started thinking like “Imma do what alcoholics shouldn’t do”, which is drink. I don’t really know how it happened. I was smoking my last blunt before heading to rehab and started thinking, “this is so superficial. It’s not enjoyable anymore”. I now have relationships I always dreamed of having and even cooler i’m capable of being a good friend, daughter, sister ect. 

What do you feel accomplished with?

My sobriety. It’s pretty much all I got ::laughter::.

What’s something you still struggle with?

Definitely a relationship addict. I struggle with being alone. I have so many wonderful friends and bad ass family but crave validation from men. Mmmmmmm I just… I’ll let any guy who gives me attention into my life. Then convince myself that I’m in love with them. I’m not a person yet! It’s fine. Give me a break ::laughter::.

What are your thoughts on platonic and familial relationships?

They’re great. They’re the reason to be alive. Yeah. The people I surround myself with big time affect me. I notice that, if someone I’m hanging out with is going through a body complex, I’ll start having a body complex. If I hang out with someone inspiring, I’ll leave feeling inspired and try to be inspiring for others. 

What does support mean to you?

Listening. Unconditional love. They’re both things I’m working on, they aren’t skills I naturally have. We’re working on it- the unconditional love thing. It’s a process, it’s weird ::laughs::. It’s recognizing that others are going through shit in their own lives too. I can’t judge their journey. They’re in a different spot that I’m in and neither are better or worse than the other. And I shouldn’t judge anyone. Everyone deserves love. It’s enlightenment!!! Even Hitler deserves love. He’s sick, he needs help.

Elle Mae Mitchell

Elle Mae

Name: Ellie Mae Mitchell

Age: 27

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers 

How often do you bathe or shower?

Probably not as often as most people. I wash my body about once a week, I haven’t washed my hair in eight months. I’m a fan of water rinses. Just water. I feel like outdoor showers are under-utilized, just a rinse off can make me feel so much better. If I have the opportunity to shower outdoors I’ll do it. We are planning to build a solar-bag outdoor shower with bamboo so we can rinse off. If I’m in the garden, I don’t want to come in and use the tub or shower if I don’t have to. 

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

Can I be an aquatic plant? Because hornwort. Hornwort is a submergible plant, it was actually the first plant in space. It’s this feathery thing that lives all underwater, doesn’t have any roots and floats around, clinging to other plants. It’s a natural oxygenator and it’s one of the backbone species in evolutionary submergible plants. It’s a very old plant. Hornwort. I feel like a woods witch when I say it, like “HORN-wort!” You know? Like, where’s my HORN-wort? It’s in our pond too. It’s one of my favorite plants. I would be totally be a plant.

What are you passionate about?

Oh, well, all plants. Growing things has been a part of my life, my entire life. Growing up on a farm, growing your own food, growing your own medicine. It’s very inherent to my own architecture in what I do with energy work. Plants rule my life, in the best kind of ways. Music too – being a musician. Being a songwriter and being able to tell my story in ways that other people can interoperate independently, it’s such an amazing way to heal with others and connect with strangers. To play music for them. I can really connect with people that way. I feel that music is a big part of my language, how I interact with people. I started when I was four or five. I played classical piano most of my life, then I quit piano when I was 16. I picked up the banjo when I was 18 and have been playing banjo for almost ten years. Trying to learn the trumpet right now.

Has music supported your personal growth?

So, I just played a songwriters-round the other night and it’s not often that I play solo. To play solo, I had to pull out some of my older songs that I haven’t played in a long time. Thinking about growth, in the way of what I’ve written and what I’ve chosen to create in a physical… creating a time portal, in a song. Because, I can always go back to that moment. And other people can create their own time experience with that emotion, with what they feel through the song. So with growth, it’s interesting to look at old songs and feel those feelings again. Sometimes, it’s like, what the fuck was I thinking? Why did I feel that way, it’s so silly! But that’s the beauty of time, I guess. Being able to look back and recognize the growth and move forward.

What is something that you struggle with?

A lot… I think right now, motherhood. Motherhood, parenting, is hard. I have a two year old and I love him deeply. Patience! Patience is what I struggle with. I’m a very impatient person, that’s what it’s all boiling down to. He’s learning patience, which is the irony of all of this. He’s stubborn and he’s learning and I’m stubborn and I’m still learning, as the mother and just… Patience. Patience with partners, patience with myself and learning patience while trying to guide another person through this world. Patience is something I’ve been struggling a lot with lately. 

What is your biggest accomplishment?

My child. Ezra. That’s what it feels like. Being able to… I don’t know, that’s a tough question ::laughs::. But as a parent, that’s been the most life-changing thing that I’ve ever done. To bring another person in this world. The way that he makes me feel is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. Seeing him thrive and learn and grow through family-love-energy… I think it’s him.

What was your conception of motherhood before Ezra?

Kinda different. I probably thought I knew more than I should have ::laughs::. I really thought that I had a plan, like, no TV and all organic. I wanted the best environment for him at all times. Then… the birth was so fucked up. It was horrible and traumatizing and was not what I was expecting at all. I had an emergency C-section after 30 hours of natural labour. I thought I was going to have a water-birth, but then he was cut out of my body. It was intense, it was really traumatizing and that humbled me INTENSELY. I thought I knew, and that first moment was like, “You don’t know nothin’”. And that was really cool and harsh and important to learn that. All of this… it’s like a token you hold. It’s with me all the time, like, with each new experience I can use it as a check-point. It allows me to step back and ask “is your ego in the way, are you trying to encourage them to thrive”. Which reminds me of how all human beings act, whether lovers or friends or whatnot. Like, are you lording or inhibiting someone else’s growth from your own personal selfishness or ego or whatever.

What are your thoughts on relationships? Platonic, familial, sexual and otherwise.

Human beings learn and thrive from experience. It’s how we communicate so much through body and through language. Most of those interactions are between people themselves. It seems like… I’m such an emotional person, I get attached so easily. Whether intimately or emotionally, relationships are intense but they’re vital. They’re essential to growth and to learn empathy and to continue to grow. Learn to love stronger. I don’t mean to sound like a dirty hippie, but like, empathy and love is so important in a harsh world. We need more of that, we need more empathy to understand one another. 

What is your love language?

I affiliate with the Queen of Cups, and that would be the love language that I give… I’m an empath and a mother and a healer. Filling other people’s cups is really important to me. Giving gifts and making things for people. I love giving time to show someone I care. I’m a very physical person too. I thrive on touch, the little things. Little actions. Physical & intentional, like slow river.


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