This daily #OneGoodThing was dedicated to celebrating extraordinary women I know in December. Many of the 31 bold, beautiful, brave women featured shared stories of perseverance after abuse, addiction, miscarriages, illness, and loss. They represent various fields and backgrounds, and I admire each for their passion and strength. The series was so deeply inspiring that I felt it needed to live on as a weekly feature in 2020. Each Monday, I’ll introduce you to another incredible superhero—including artists, businesswomen, union organizers, nurses, writers, teachers, movie makers, designers, reporters, and all-around badasses. It’s about finding the extraordinary in each of us!
Carrie Manner is a full-time writer for a newspaper and publishing group in Northern Minnesota. Her work has appeared in many publications and platforms, including the Associated Press (AP), MPR, U.S. News & World Report, Girlfriends Northern MN magazine, the One Love Foundation, and others. She also copywrites, freelances and volunteers on various committees and boards where she lives. In her spare time, she likes to read, bike, kayak, paint, meditate, travel and enjoy good conversation over coffee with friends.
1. What did you want to be “when you grew up?” I wanted to be a writer before I even knew how to read. I have these great memories of my father reading bedtime stories about trolls living under bridges or pet bunnies turning into vampires at night. My imagination would stir as I’d sit with notebooks and crayons, writing and illustrating my own books about alien abductions and young runaways striking out on their own. Though I would flirt with the idea of going into psychology as a young adult, writing was my first love.
2. What makes you the most proud of yourself? Finishing a manuscript always feels like a huge accomplishment, but nothing compares to the feeling of receiving a call or thank you note from someone because my work helped them in some way. Those are the big moments for me. Helping others find hope or to feel seen/heard is when I am most in my purpose.
3. What darkness have you overcome? How did you find strength? We all have our own collection of demons. The first half of my life had joy but was punctuated with painful periods of financial hardships and emotional turmoil that stemmed from abusive behavior happening in my environment. As a teen, I “escaped” by falling into the rebellious trappings of experimental drug use, binge drinking, self-harm and other outlets I’m not proud of. I also used food, yo-yo-ing between overeating and trying to starve myself. I even thought if I could overcompensate in areas like extracurricular activities, I might not feel so empty inside. Despite all the blessings in my life, of which there were many, it was hard not to get swallowed up in the toxicity I saw. Suicidal ideations came and went and I lived with clinical depression. Finally, in 2005, I was a young adult living on my own when some very poor decisions landed me at my personal rock bottom. I realized if I wanted to break away from the abusive patterns that had felt “normal,” I’d have to fight to become a healthier version of myself. Someone who would make better choices and create a different future.
To do this, I relied heavily on the support of family. I don’t know what I’d do without my parents or my three amazing sisters. I also found strength in my spiritual life. Though I gave up religious pretenses long ago, I’ve never been able to stand in nature and not feel beautifully diminished in the loving presence of something much, much bigger. Nature. God. Energy. Source. The universe. Call it what you will. All I know is that it’s about connection.
And so through writing, self-care and the on-going support of my incredibly patient husband, I’ve been able to repurpose all those painful experiences into a foundation of understanding, which I use to try and reach others going through similar situations. The darkness is no longer a “shameful” chapter of my past; it’s a building block that held many hard-fought lessons and made me the person I am today.
4. Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? Typically you’ll find me sipping coffee, playing a few hands of Smear with my husband at the kitchen table. That, or I’m blasting my favorite podcasts while I tidy up the house — cleaning is cleansing for the soul.
5. What makes you smile the most? Pure, unadulterated silliness. I love being around people who laugh loudly, joke often, and don’t take themselves or life too seriously.
Bonus: What advice would you give your younger self? I would tell myself that no one has it all figured out. We’re all just winging it, so relax, girl. Also, there is more to life than boys — but I know I wouldn’t listen to that last one.
Today’s #OneGoodThing is sharing this extraordinary woman and one of my writing buddies through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Carrie Manner, with all of you! We are stronger together, so let’s shine a light on our extraordinary sisters! If you’d like to participate or nominate a woman to participate, please send me a note or leave a comment! What was your #OneGoodThing today? Please share in the comments! Kindness is Everything.