A bracing, powerful roundhouse kick of a personal essay that swings between a martial-arts sparring session and a fraught partnership—each brutally taxing in different ways. Spare and blunt, but all the more affecting for it. This is one you’ll be thinking about for days to come.

Pain is easier to bear than anguish, I’ve learned. I poke at the blossoms of purple that splatter my thighs and savor the pain. I’m not alone. We all show off our swollen fingers and compare scars. We reshape our muscles. We rewire our thinking. We’re turning from daughters and nurses and chaplains and wives into warriors.

I imagine the front door swinging open and I stride inside, swollen with confidence, transformed into someone who won’t take shit any longer. A mom who can shield her children from chaos and only let their father’s love filter through. Because he loves them, I know this to my core, as much as he can care for anyone. I don’t yet understand the bruises even love inflicts.