Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

I'm a sucker for love stories, love songs, romantic comedies, romantic dramas and even soap operas. Jim and Pam.  Carrie and Big.  Harry and Sally.  Mosquita y Mari. I root for the couple that can't seem to find the right timing only to end up together when they least expect it.  

We hear these clichés all the time - love finds us when we least expect it, love will come to us when we're ready, we have to love ourselves before anyone else can love us...and whaddaya know?

I fell in love when I least expected it...when I was ready...and not until I began to love myself.

This isn't love the way I thought love was going to be.  This is love, in the most complex sense of the word; it's complete love. This is the kind of love that has taught me to be compassionate and forgiving and to seek compassion and forgiveness.  It's the kind of love that is rooted in laughter and friendship and when we are infuriated with each other it's the kind of love that brings us back when we want to run.  It's selfless and selfish and human and beautiful and deep.  It's the kind of love that has seen us at our worst and has made us grow to bring out our best.

Yeah, it's that kind of love.

Please note that no where in that description did I use words like easy, perfect or seamless.  I've always sorta known that relationships take work but this shit is hard.  Commitment and love are a no-brainer, but thinking of another person, considering his feelings, building a life together, allowing him to be human and constantly reminding myself that he is allowed to have his own feelings is so much more consuming than I anticipated, not to mention the little day-to-day hard stuff: who is going to do the dishes? The dog had an accident. The toilet is leaking. We're out of tortillas? Why didn't you buy any?  Well, why didn't you buy any?

Interestingly enough, love is easy.  Liking him all the time is the hard part (rest assured, dear reader, that I am fully aware of the fact that he doesn't like me all the time either).  Love reminds me to stick around when I want to throw my hands up and be done with the whole thing.  Love reminds me of the silly inside jokes and how good his kisses feel.  Love reminds me that even when I don't like him, I love him.  Love reminds me that I am worthy of being loved, and that loving someone with my whole being is everlasting.....even when I don't like him because we're arguing, for the 1,000th time, about unplugging the blow dryer and remembering to close the bedroom window.

It's enough to make a person batshit crazy.

There is, however, that moment at the end of a long day.  We're in bed, watching re-runs of M*A*S*H on Netflix, and his hand is rubbing my back in a familiar way, in a way that only love knows.  Familiarity and security are what I spent so many years longing for, and I savor them.

This isn't a romantic comedy.  Our problems aren't solved in 24 minutes with a laugh track.  We don't share our most touching moments with an audience and to that end, I won't be chronicling our relationship through this blog.  I haven't written in over a year and recently, when talking with my comadre, she said "you have to finish.  You have to end the blog."  She was right.  While my journey isn't finished, this chapter has come to a close...but that doesn't mean I'm finished blogging.  On the contrary, I've just begun spreading my wings as a writer.  Follow me over to my new blog, dear reader.  Let's see where we end up next.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Once Again, Babies... Or, Daytripper

Last September, I was traveling to Lake Tahoe for work.  At the airport, I sat listening to music and reading my book, which is my typical regime when I fly anywhere - I always have a book in hand and I pass the time by getting lost in the words.  Sometimes I have a drink at the bar, or I check email or work on some writing.  When it's time to board, I pack up my headphones and book and I wait in line with my boarding pass.

While this all seems very mundane (and it is), my trip to Lake Tahoe got me thinking about how much of a luxury it is to only have to think of myself when I travel - or do anything, really.  I noticed a couple at the boarding gate with a baby.  She was adorable - she must have been about nine months old and she was all smiles and had big, bright eyes.  Her parents, on the other hand, looked absolutely exhausted.  Her father held her, a blanket, a teddy bear and a bottle.  Her mom held the diaper bag, carry on bag, and a few other items.  They did not have bright eyes and they looked, well, like crap.  When I settled in on the plane, put my music back on and read my book, I couldn't help but look up and stare at that precious baby (the parents happened to sit in front of me on the flight).  I heard a mysterious ticking sound and realized that my biological clock was going off, and although I kept hitting the snooze button, it kept ticking.  Loudly.

Baby Andrea, long before her commitment issues 

I have struggled with the idea of having a baby for years.  As a Catholic Chicana who is also the youngest of a huge family, I always assumed I would have kids - culturally, there isn't a lot of talk about "choosing" to become a mom.  I was raised with the belief that someday, I would get married and have a baby.  It wasn't until my early 30's that I began questioning whether or not motherhood was for me.  I wrote a blog about it back in 2011 and while I'm not as afraid of motherhood as I once was, I'm still not 100% sure that I'm ready.

Cue the chuckles from all the knowing parents... "You're never 100% ready" is the most common piece of advice I've ever been given.

I love my life.  I love going out to hear live music on a Tuesday night.  I love traveling to the Bay Area and I love performing poetry.  I love lazy mornings and naps on Saturday afternoons.  I love that I can get up and take a day trip with nothing more than a tank full of gas - or even something as simple as running to the drugstore for shampoo.  I love that I can spend a whole morning working on a blog and when I have to work late, I don't have to answer to anyone or negotiate time or a sitter.

The thing is, I don't go out and hear music on weeknights like I used to.  I don't get to travel as often as I'd like and while I would love to nap more often, I rarely get to steal 30 minutes to do so.  I like taking day trips but I don't do it nearly as often as I could.  I plan trips to Target and buy everything I need all at once - I rarely buy shampoo at the drugstore.  I may not be doing all the things I listed but I can if I want to.  If I become a mom, then the choice feels like it's taken from me.  As a mom, my priority is this tiny human who needs me for everything and while the thought of motherhood isn't as terrifying as it used to be, there is a part of me doesn't want to be tied down to someone who needs me for everything.

One would think that the answer would be simple - don't have a baby.  While that is the answer for some people, it isn't the answer for me.  Admittedly, there is a part of me that doesn't want to give up the life I live, but there is another part of me - a big part- that aches for motherhood.  When I found out I was pregnant last year, I didn't worry about giving up live music or happy hour with friends.  All I could think of was the baby I was carrying.  No matter that two minutes later the doctor informed me that I was having a miscarriage; for those moments that I was pregnant, I was the happiest, most protective mother in the history of the world.

I have given myself until my 36th birthday (in September) to really examine what motherhood means to me.  While I won't have to make a final decision by that day, I am purposely sitting down and having serious conversations about motherhood with people I trust.  Every person I've asked has been brutally honest and I appreciate that.  My friends C. and G. laughed when I told them I'm considering motherhood (their precious son is just over a year old).  They were coming off a night of zero sleep and looked at me like I was crazy.  My niece, who is four years younger than me, has a six year old.  She gave me a list of all the things that hard about motherhood (including practicing patience with a very slow moving child when all she needs to do is run into the store).  Another friend was honest in that she misses going out and having fun - sometimes, she just wants to stop and have a beer after work.  Yet another colleague talked about how hard it is to do the type of work we do (community organizing) and be away from her kids for long stretches throughout the day.

While all those stories (and so many more) sound like enough to scare me off from becoming a mom, each person I've spoken to has come to the same conclusion: as hard as it is, it's worth it.  Motherhood may not be rewarding every second of everyday, but "you have this really cool kid that you love with all your heart, and that is what makes everything else worth it."

I am careful to avoid having any romantic ideas of motherhood.  I try not to fantasize that my baby and I will spend blissful days picking daisies and then I'll read a story and the kid will sleep through the night.  I remind myself that I won't be able to just take a nap whenever I wish.  I'll have to remember that even if I have front row tickets to a concert, my kid could get sick and I have to miss out.  I try to be realistic in that motherhood will change my life forever.  I try not to fantasize that life will be perfect, because up to this point, it hasn't been.

The one fantasy I allow myself to have is based on a poet I saw in New Orleans years ago.  Sunni Patterson, who writes some of the most amazing poetry I've heard in my entire life, performed her words with her baby tucked into a sling that was tied to her chest.  Never mind that my baby might not want to be strapped to me while I read poetry; I allow myself to indulge in the delicious vision of having a baby tucked in close to me while I share my words.  The thought always makes me smile.

I don't know if I'll become a mom - hell, I don't even know if I can get pregnant again.  What I am sure of is that while there is no way I'll know what it feels like until I become one, I am surrounded by amazing moms (and dads) who will be there to guide and support me - and maybe watch the tiny human while I run to the drugstore to buy shampoo.

Next time: A History Written In Black Liquid Eyeliner 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Naked Miracles... Or, We're Off To See The Wizard

When we last left our heroine, she had just cut off thirteen inches of hair and suddenly had no idea who she was... 

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard.  Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." -- Dorothy on The Wizard of Oz. 

When I was a kid, the good, color TV we had was in my parents' bedroom.  We didn't have cable or a VCR or even an Atari system.  I wasn't really aware that we were "missing out;" as it was I watched a lot of TV.  I was a big fan of Tom and Jerry, I Love Lucy, Sesame Street, the Cosby Show, and even 20/20 (I used to beg to stay up past my bedtime to watch it).  Every year there were two major events on TV that got my whole family excited.  One was the prime time showing of the movie Grease and the other was The Wizard of Oz.

I remember sitting on the floor and marveling as the film transitioned from sepia tones to full technicolor.  I was afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys, and I remember feeling complete terror when the Wizard left in the hot air balloon and left Dorothy behind.  "How is she going to get home?" I wondered.  I felt so relieved when Glinda the Good Witch showed up and taught Dorothy that she had the power to get herself home all along - but she had to learn for herself.  As she clicked her heels together and repeated "there's no place like home...there's no place like home..." I marveled at the fact that she was transported home.  I didn't really get it when my mom said that she was dreaming the whole time - in my mind, Dorothy went on a search, got lost along the way, and then got to go home.  

As I wrote last week, I started a novena to Saint Anthony in order to find "the One."  I've spent so many years searching for happiness and fulfillment in others (especially romantic relationships) that I never dreamed it could be in me all along.  I decided to relinquish my trauma and choose the miracle and realized that I am the miracle, therefore I choose me.   I finally see myself and I have a sense of joy within that I have craved my whole life.   This same sense of joy and freedom led me to cut off 13 inches of hair and now that I've learned to blow dry it correctly and my hair isn't in shock, it looks pretty damn sassy and cute.

Short hair selfie

I didn't feel so cute the first few days after cutting it.  I didn't regret cutting my hair, per se, but I wasn't prepared for how naked I felt.  I was afraid and insecure and I felt ugly and enormous.  I felt like people were staring at me as though I had a dragon tail or perhaps a second nose.  I ran my fingers through my hair and felt like I was missing a limb.  All the joy that led me to cut my hair was suddenly fighting with the creeping doubt that was taking over again.  I suddenly could sympathize with Samson, the Biblical character who had a pretty impressive head of hair.  When it was cut, he lost all his strength.  Cutting my hair meant I lost everything that made me special.  I felt like I lost my identity.

For years, I arrogantly held the notion that I didn't hide behind my hair.  I wore it pulled back all the time, and I rarely had my hair in my face.  I scoffed at the idea of hiding behind one's hair - I am a performer and community organizer - I am always speaking in front of people and I do so confidently.  Hiding isn't an option for me.  What I didn't realize is that there are lots of ways in which one can hide, and I was hiding behind the idea that my hair made me special.  In my mind, I was attractive because of my long hair.  If someone wanted to talk to me or date me or sleep with me it was because I had waist-length hair.  If someone complimented me, or found me to be funny or talented, it had to be because of my hair.  With all that hair gone, who was going to find me attractive?

Who was going to want me?

Short hair also made me realize that I felt a sense of security when it was long.  I felt like my long hair hid anything I didn't like about my body and with it gone, I felt exposed and naked.  I didn't want to leave my house and when I did, I wanted to wear sweaters or a coat (it was 70 degree weather, there was no way I could hide in my clothes).  I began to panic - "what did I do?  Why did I cut it?  I didn't need my hair this short!"

Yes, I do need it this short.  I had to cut my hair to finally see myself completely.  I had to stop hiding behind my hair, my insecurities, my past traumas, my body and the ridiculous notion that I am anything less than worthy of love and happiness.  Cutting my hair made me see myself and made me face my new reality: everything I am is everything I need.  The whole time I was running from relationship to relationship, making deals with the Universe, searching for my perfect partner, I was avoiding myself.  I didn't have a problem facing trauma; I didn't want to face the fact that I was healing and yes, I was finally in a better place.  I wanted to keep running because it's so much more familiar to be wounded than to be healed.

I finally got to a point where I couldn't outrun myself anymore.  I no longer have anything to hide behind.  I've stepped into the light and I see myself clearly.  I still don't always like what I see.  I don't always feel like I'm enough for myself.  I have moments when I still get lonely for a relationship, or I want to start running from myself again.  There is no perfect formula for healing - but the constant that remains is that I know I am my own anchor.  Anytime I begin to search elsewhere for happiness, I remember that it's within me - "if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard."

Short hair, long hair, single, in love, running or standing completely still:  I am my own miracle, and this miracle loves her sassy, short hair.

Next time: Once Again, Babies.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

On Becoming Andrea.... Or, Crowning Glory

I cut off 13 inches of hair.

While I didn't cut off all 13 inches in one sitting, over the course of two months and two hair appointments, I cut off over a foot of hair.  I feel free and sassy and light - and completely naked and exposed.  Needless to say, I'm confronting some feelings that I had no idea existed within.

My hair was short in my early 20's and I began growing it out to spite my ex.  The result of my spite was a beautiful head of hair - it was long, nearly to my butt, straight, thick and shiny.  I received a lot of attention because of my hair and I was proud of it.  I trimmed it twice a year and stopped dying it about three years ago.  I planned to have long hair for the rest of my life.  I pictured myself as a refined elder with a long braid or hair in a bun.  I liked my long hair and never thought of it as a burden.  What I didn't realize was that my hair was carrying a lot of the past into my present.

In January, I began a novena to Saint Anthony.  I was very specific in my prayer - I wanted to find a good, healthy, strong relationship.  I felt like it was time to buckle down and pray to find my "one."  Three weeks into my novena, my dear friend L. was visiting from San Diego and we had several very deep, soulful discussions about my journey and I realized that I was carrying a lot of energy in my hair - old energy that I no longer needed.  I made a hair appointment for the day of the new moon (and lunar new year) and my stylist cut off eight inches of hair.  I really loved the feeling of my hair being shorter but it was still just below my shoulders and essentially looked the same - if one wasn't paying attention, one didn't notice that my hair was shorter.

Over the course of my novena, three very important things happened.  First, I met a man (we'll call him Ojos Verdes) that took my breath away upon meeting.  He was so beautiful that I literally gasped when I saw him - I felt like I had been hit by a thunderbolt.  Our very short experience lasted about three weeks and I learned that he was battling some demons that were not mine to deal with.  As quickly as we began, it was over.  I ended things with him and didn't feel the usual feelings of devastation and rejection that I used to feel after a break up (hence he only gets a paragraph and not a whole blog post - this is what we call progress).  While I had high hopes upon meeting him, the reality of him was all wrong for me and I was able to move on without much thought and no regret.

Second, I was in my first stage production called Hembras de Pluma.  Hembras translates to woman or feminine, and pluma is a feather or a pen, hence Women of the Pen.  The play was comprised of nine short plays and monologues written by a collective of women of color (myself included) who also starred in our own pieces.  The eight women I worked with taught me so much about what it means to bare my soul in front of an audience.  While I've been performing poetry for 20 years and was in a band for four years, I always have had something or someone to hide behind.  When I perform poetry I can focus on the words on the page and shut out the audience.  My poetry book is a security blanket of sorts, and it was intimidating to memorize a ten minute piece and stage it using movement and props. I was telling a story that included my body as much as it did my voice.

I was terrified when we began rehearsals.  Writing the piece was a great experience, but acting it out was another story.  My director, who is a gifted and seasoned actress and director, very gently guided me through the process and created a safe space for me to explore my character.  While the piece I wrote is my true story, I had to step outside of myself and become a character.  I never thought I would be able to memorize my piece and deliver it, but before I knew it, it was opening night and there I was on stage, performing in front of family, friends and complete strangers.  I had no anchor; there was no piece of paper to hide behind.  I didn't get to stand behind a podium and there was no mic stand to steady myself.  I wasn't hiding behind the band and all their loud instruments.  There was a stage, a few props and me.

I loved it.

Being a part of Hembras pulled me into the light.  Stepping outside of myself allowed me to finally see myself through a clear lens and not through the shroud of insecurity and trauma that I have been trying to get out of for years.  What I saw is a woman who is whole and complete and loved and capable of loving.  I saw a woman who leads a full life and isn't defined by her relationship status or whether or not she is desired.  After all these years, the concept just be finally made sense - just be Andrea.  I come with battle scars, heart break, books full of poems, tattoos and a big laugh.  More often than not, I speak without thinking and even when I do think I rarely sugarcoat anything; I cry when I hear sad love songs; I tell my mom almost everything and I love to dance.  I geek out on music.  I'm intense and direct and when it comes to crushes, I freeze up.  I almost never can tell if someone is interested in me and am always surprised when someone asks me out.  I hate making the first move but will do it if I'm interested enough in someone.

I am learning to just be all of those things and so much more.  I finally see who I am, and I am so happy to be getting to know Andrea and better yet, happy to love her.

Which leads us to the third big thing that happened over the course of my novena.  I began the novena with the hopes of finding a relationship, but what I found at the end was so much more profound.  The novena lasted 13 weeks and I prayed it every Tuesday.  I prayed to find a good, solid, loving relationship.  When I met Ojos Verdes in February, I thought "yes!  This is what I opened up the novena for!" and I had high hopes.  When things didn't work out, I kept praying my novena but my intention changed.  Rather than ask for a good, solid relationship I began to ask for guidance on my path.  One afternoon, I came across an intention that really spoke to me: "I relinquish all regret, trauma and resentment.  I choose the miracle."  I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to my desk at work; I repeated this mantra during hot yoga.  I repeated it during my novena.  I made up my mind that I was going to choose the miracle, even though I had no idea what the miracle entailed.

On the last day of my novena, I let out a big sigh and I felt a sense of peace.  My journey began with seeking a relationship and ended with a peaceful sense of self.  Later that day I had a hair appointment.  While I meant to go in and trim my bangs and clean up my layers, I realized I needed to cut the rest of my hair off.  I asked my stylist (whom I have been with for 14 years now - he is the person who helped me grow my hair out) to cut it all off and he cut another five inches.  We were both so excited and exhilarated and I felt completely free!

The next day in the shower, when I washed my hair, I was thrilled that there wasn't much to wash.  Blow drying was a bit of an adventure (I had no idea how to blow dry my short locks) and the reaction I received was mostly positive (except for a few friends who were less than thrilled that my long hair was gone).  I didn't regret my hair cut, but I wasn't prepared for the feelings that came up as a result of cutting my hair...

To be continued...

Next time:  Naked Miracles  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Done... Or, Other Things That Make Me Tired

One of my nieces was born when I was in kindergarten at a Catholic school in Albuquerque.  I was so excited that when it was circle time, I burst open like a piñata with the news that my sister had given birth early that morning.  My teacher, Sister Annette, asked the baby's name and I froze.  Her sweet little name was suddenly a long, foreign sound.   Her name, which in Spanish means "little angel" was suddenly a source of shame for me and I heard my own tiny voice squeak out "Angela" in a jumble of hard, English consonants and vowels.


There was another time that my mom was speaking Spanish to me at the grocery store.  I must have been about five years old and she was holding up two items in front of  me.  She asked "cual quieres?" which translates to "which one do you want?"  I remember standing there, silent, until she asked me in English.  I don't know if she just assumed I didn't understand her or if she conceded, but we never spoke about it and now, when I talk about that memory, my mom doesn't even remember.

My generations before me were always on the land that is now New Mexico - beginning with Pueblo, then Spanish land, then Mexican, the a US territory and finally a state.   Although they were US citizens, my parents were punished for speaking Spanish in school.  Their names were changed to "American" names by their teachers.  As a result, I am not fully bilingual although I understand Spanish completely, I often find myself tongue tied when it's my turn to speak.  There is pain in my reality as a New Mexican Chicana who was taught that I'm not Mexican yet I've never really felt "American" either - or at least, I haven't in a very long time.

I became an activist when I was 14.  The vice principal of my middle school saw that I needed some direction and introduced me to a woman who was taking a group of young Chicanos to the mountains for a weekend.  Billed as a leadership-building weekend, what I received was an induction to the Chicano Movement.  After that, I devoured any bit of history I could from the Movement of the 1960's and 70's.  I read books, watched documentaries, attended marches and learned one truth: justice does not serve people of color in the United States.  Any time it does, it comes after a long, arduous fight and years of sacrifice, violence and even death.  I signed up for the fight a long time ago and while I should be used to injustice (and the hope that comes with each victory), I'm never ready for the sting of losing and this summer, I was stung repeatedly.

Libertad by Ester Hernandez, 1976

First, comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate.  While this was supposed to be cause for celebration, there was a big amendment added just before passing the bill: militarization of the US/Mexico Border.  Militarization of the border creates more violence for the people who are crossing and criminalizes them.  I feel like I have this argument all the time - people say "well, they're illegal because they're committing a crime."  Really?  I've never heard the news media or every day people use the term "illegal bank robber" or "illegal Wall Street broker."  Crossing the border without proper documentation isn't even a misdemeanor offense; why militarize the border?  Why treat an entire people as if they are terrorists?  Let's just say it: because they are Mexican (or Latino - many people who cross the US/Mexico border are from Central and South America).  If the anti-immigrant politicians and pundits were truly concerned with "securing our borders," then why not militarize on the Canada side?

Next, the US Supreme Court struck down key points of the Voting Rights Act.  Essentially, all of the work that was done 50 years ago to secure that poor people and people of color would be able to vote was undone with a ruling by the Supreme Court.  Instantly, states (particularly in the South) began putting voter restrictions into place and redistricting districts to push underrepresented people further into the margins.

Finally, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

My mom often talks about where she was when President Kennedy was shot.  My sisters were babies and my mom was at home.  She said the whole country came to a standstill as they watched the coverage.  I've had similar experiences - the Challenger Explosion (a TV was brought into our classroom), the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, and now, George Zimmerman's acquittal.  Something changed inside of me at the moment I heard the verdict.

The not guilty verdict was my tipping point.  I was getting ready for a gig with my band when a friend sent the news in a message.  I was dumbfounded and immediately changed the TV to the news, where the words NOT GUILTY splashed across the bottom of the screen and George Zimmerman was happily hugging his legal team.  My anger consumed me quickly as I listened to commentators and read endless Tweets and Facebook status updates.  Knowing I had to go on stage and perform filled me with dread and even though I put on a smile, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I gave up on the notion of "liberty and justice for all" a long time ago, but I still had a glimmer of faith in the justice system.  Surely, I thought, there had to be someone who would protect all people impartially and with fairness.  That glimmer is gone.  The day after the verdict there was a rally in Albuquerque.  So many people were hugging and trying to make sense of the verdict, the murder and the sense of injustice we felt.  In retrospect, I felt lost and alone.  I saw a mentor who guided me through a lot of my activism when I was a younger.  I cried when I saw him.  "I'm done," I kept saying between sobs, "I'm just done."

It's true, I am done.  I'm done pretending that systems are going to change if we work within them.  I'm done trusting politicians and the legal system.  I'm done sending peace and light and hoping for a better world.  I am done with the idea that if we work hard and are patient, then systems of power will open up to benefit all people.

I am not done believing in my community.  I see such good work come from everyday people.  I see innovation, hard work and sacrifice.  I see people who don't give up.  When my neighborhood flooded in July, people came together to clean up and check on each other.  I see parents making neighborhoods safer, cultural workers creating change through storytelling and art, and people volunteering to teach other adults how to read.  Each tiny effort is working toward a larger movement.

Now, more than ever, communities have to fend for ourselves.  Assaults on women's reproductive health, voter suppression, tax breaks for wealthy corporations and zero regard for a healthy environment are among the countless fights we face every day.  It's exhausting, but if we don't do the work, no one else will.  Our broken Congress and other corrupt systems have proven that they do not have the peoples' interest in mind when they make decisions.  I'm done waiting for them; we will move forward.

People often say "love it or leave it," meaning love the US or leave.  I do love this country - so much so that I  want to help make it a country where ALL people thrive; where healthcare is a basic human right and all people are paid fair wages.  I love this country enough to want to see it truly be the land of the free, home of the brave.  I have every right to be here.  I am rooted to this land and regardless of who is the controlling state, my roots run deep.  I will not be moved.

George Zimmerman is walking free, voting will become harder and people of color and poor people will be the hardest hit. I don't see a comprehensive Immigration reform happening anytime soon.  While I am done waiting for our "leaders" to create change, I am inspired by my community and the hard work they do every day.

We are continuing the fight.

Which side of history will you be on?

Next time: Knocks Me Off My Feet 

Author's note:
A big huge thank you to Colorlines Magazine for being one of the only news sources I can trust.

Also, muchismas gracias to Ester Hernandez for allowing me to use the image Libertad.  Her work speaks a truth that inspires the soul.  I first saw this image in a Chicana Studies course and it is one of my favorite pieces.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I'm single.


There is nothing to say about the latest break-up that I haven't said before.  There is no reason to tell the story or wax poetic about the relationship and our demise.  The relationship was becoming toxic and I walked away before I became consumed by the poison.  I feel like there isn't much more to say beyond that, or maybe there is but I am too exhausted to tell the story.

My heart is in tact and I am not lost in self-doubt or feelings of rejection.  I don't feel sick to my stomach nor have I felt the need to go straight to bed after work.  I cried quite a bit the first few days and haven't felt the urge since.  I've felt sadness and some anger, but mostly I am consumed with exhaustion.  I don't know if I am up for examining, mourning, healing and moving forward.  Again.

I realize that in the first few weeks of a break-up, there is usually a feeling of unwillingness to open ones' heart.  Again.  Read through the past 3 years of this blog and you'll find plenty of entries about break-ups, sadness, healing and starting all over.  Again.  This time, however, I feel different.  I don't have a feeling of hopelessness.  I don't feel like I can "never do this again."  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  I know I can I meet someone, date, perhaps even fall in love.  As I learned when I was with F., I have an incredible capacity to love someone whether or not they love me back.  Even better, I know I love myself - enough to walk away from a relationship that I may not have walked away from in the past.

Love isn't my issue.  I have realized that I don't know how to trust someone else, and worse, I don't know how to trust myself.  I don't trust that I can make good decisions.  I haven't allowed past hurts to heal completely and the wounds keep opening.  I have a lot of work to do in those areas.   Beyond the realization that I don't make good choices when it comes to partners (again, read the last THREE YEARS OF THIS BLOG and that is evident), I realize I have been reckless with my heart.  My very good friend L. said something very important to me - she can't control how others treat her, she can only take care of herself and take care of her heart.  She made it very clear that she can't be reckless with her heart.  I am just beginning to understand what that even means.

When I close my eyes, I see what kind of relationship I want.  I know what I want in a partner and what I would want our life to look like, but I've never put much thought into what kind of partner I'd like to be.  By no means have I thought of myself as perfect, but in the back of my mind I've always thought that as long as I have the right partner, everything else about the relationship would just fall into place.  I used to think as long as I had a boyfriend, I'd be fine.  Then I fine-tuned my belief that as long as I was someone good then I'd be in a good relationship.

I was still waiting to be saved.

I've written extensively about having boundaries, realizing my self-worth, and being open to love.  I've exhausted the themes of conquering fear and self-doubt.  I've written countless blogs about lessons I've learned and all of it is relevant and important to my journey toward being a healthy adult.  Learning to take care of my heart and focusing on the kind of partner I want to be are just a part of the journey - one I am happy to be on.

That said, I'm still exhausted and not in the mood to share my life with anyone any time soon.  I know I'll meet guys and date, but the bulk of my energy is elsewhere.  I just moved into a new place (un-related to the break up) and work is busy, fulfilling and rewarding.  Right now, my family is taking more of my time than they have in the past, and I am reconnecting with friends.  I'm working on exciting writing projects.  I don't feel the need to fill the void that a break-up usually leaves.  I'm not sure what is different this time, but I feel strong and secure and I feel like I'm in charge of my life.  I feel like I can learn how to trust myself and others.  I am solid in knowing I can take some time and rest before continuing on my journey (a few years ago I would have been deathly afraid that if I didn't get right back on that horse, I'd miss my chance).

So it goes.  I will take these lessons and move forward.  Again.

Next time: Other Things That Make Me Tired 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On Being Fine... Or, Two Minutes of Happy

I don't know how to be in my body after this little being has been there. 

In all reality, it wasn't even a fetus.  It was an embryo, no bigger than a poppy seed.  In all reality, I only had a few minutes to feel like I was pregnant before the doctor said that he was worried and I immediately felt afraid.  The blood came quickly and while it wasn't bad at first, it was bad by Saturday and by the time I went to the hospital for followup I knew it was over.  In all reality, _______ and I have only been together for two months, I'm traveling to Tucson and New Orleans this spring, moving into my little house in June, etc. 

In all reality, my brain doesn't get a say in this one.  I am utterly heartbroken.* 

If someone asked me to sum up how I've been feeling for the last few months, the first word that comes to mind is isolated.  I've completely spun myself into a cocoon and as I slowly emerge from it, I realize that I didn't know that I was so far away.  Everything around me was still functioning and I imagine I was as well - I was got up and went to work every day; I hosted two poetry events and even played a gig with my band.  I attended birthday parties and hung out with my compañero**, family and friends.  I was fine - at least, that's what I kept telling myself and everyone around me - except for the fact that in early February, I found out I was four weeks pregnant and within three days of finding out, I had a miscarriage.

I've written several versions of this blog.  I wrote out all the details of finding out - going to the doctor for what I thought was a urinary tract infection (which I did have) and walking out knowing I was pregnant - and possibly miscarrying.  I wrote about the medical ordeal and wrote a long description of the emergency room and the characters that were there.  I wrote about sitting in a nearly empty church on Holy Thursday almost two months after the miscarriage and having an argument with Creator asking why? Why would you let me be pregnant if you were going to take it from me?  How could you?  You knew how scared I was of that happening - why would you do that to me?

I haven't been able to finish this post because I am still figuring out how to be fine.

I had a chemical miscarriage, which my doctor described as something wrong with the embryo and my body rejected it.  "It happens to about 25% of pregnancies," he said, "it's just that no one talks about it."   While my compañero, mom and the rest of my family and close friends responded with a lot of kindness and tenderness, as quickly as the miscarriage happened, I wiped away my tears and told everyone I was fine.  I blamed my sadness on the hormones and once those leveled off, I told myself to shake off the pain that I felt deep beyond my heart - it seeped deep into my womb and washed over me like sheets of cold rain.  I convinced myself that I was being dramatic - I was only four weeks along and didn't even have a chance to adjust to the idea of being pregnant.  My Catholic-Chicana sensibilities told me that there are people who have suffered much more than I had, and therefore I had to get over it.

Hummingbird Warriors

Obviously, nothing about me was fine.  I've always looked at pregnant women's bellies with longing, but after the miscarriage I was jealous of pregnant women to the point of resentment.  I was angry all the time and I couldn't walk through the baby section at any store (I still can't).  My compañero, who showed so much patience and kindness and continues to do so, didn't know how to reach me because I kept my feelings bottled up.  My snapping at him and distance allowed me to be angry because, as usual, anger is what shields me from pain.  I realized at one point that the miscarriage felt the same as a break-up.  I've been through enough break-ups to know there would be some real feelings I would have to accept, but I wasn't ready to face the fact that I felt broken.  Even though every doctor reassured me that my miscarriage wasn't an indicator of not being able to carry a baby to term, I felt defective.  As was the case with other heart-breaks, I felt like damaged goods.  I felt far away - and I almost felt better that way.  This was a hurt I didn't understand, and I tried to talk myself out of it.  I kept telling myself that it just wasn't my time and hey, at least now I know I can get pregnant.

None of that mattered, however, because I wanted this pregnancy and this baby.

A few weeks after the miscarriage, I went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment.  The clinic, which is a women's reproductive health clinic, was much nicer and calmer than the emergency room I had been at a few weeks earlier.  The doctor I saw once again explained what a chemical miscarriage was, but she also said "just because you weren't that far along doesn't mean you don't get to be sad."  I felt tears well up that I quickly swallowed and just nodded.  She left the room so I could change into a hospital gown and as I lay back on the exam table, I noticed there was a mobile hanging above me.  Little paper hummingbirds floated above me and I felt a brief moment of happiness and peace.  I took a picture of them because I wanted to remember them.

The Mexica (otherwise known as the Aztecs) believed that hummingbirds were the spirits of warriors who died in battle.  I have always loved hummingbirds but when I learned this, my respect for them grew even more.  I even have a hummingbird and the word "guerrera" (warrior) tattooed on my right bicep.  If I was writing a fiction piece, that would have been the moment that my character would have had an epiphany about her loss, but in real life, it took some time to realize that not only was I a warrior but so was the little spirit that was intertwined with my own.

When I sat in a church on Holy Thursday, I asked Creator why, but when my anger quieted, I found myself having a conversation with that little spirit.  I apologized for not communicating sooner and I thanked it for coming to me.  In a flood of tears I released everything - the baby, my anger, my fear, my sorrow.  I allowed myself to be torn wide open by my own emotions.  When I spoke with my compañero about it, I could almost hear the relief in his voice and he said I even looked lighter.

I still find myself feeling angry sometimes.  I fantasize about being pregnant and sometimes feel impatient about our decision to wait - my compañero and I decided that we need more time together to cultivate our relationship.  I'm afraid of miscarrying again.  I'm afraid that it was a fluke and I'll never get pregnant again.  I'm afraid that I'm waiting too long.  I don't know how to not be afraid and I'm fine with that - only this time I'm really fine and not telling myself that I am in order to survive.

I am a warrior and while I am forever changed by having a miscarriage, I can only move forward.  Completely afraid and brave all at once.

Next time: Mean Girls 

*This is text from an email I sent to my dear friends D. and B. about a week after the miscarriage
**Compañero literally translates to companion, but it's the term I use for my boyfriend