10 Year Cycles

Nostalgia has always been a haunting presence in my life. Too often let my mind wander into the what ifs and I hone in on key moments, key people. At age 41 you’d think I get over this nasty little habit, stop feeding the bad spirits so that they recognize they can’t have a home in me but then again at age 41 you see the cycles so much more clearly.

Tragedies, history, trauma – I have come to believe are all cyclical and I wish that all the therapy and self care in the world would wipe that truth away – allow for clean endings and even neater beginnings pero la vida no es asi.

10 years ago I was writing about politics from a somewhat safe distance. My (measly) paycheck depended on it but in a different way than now. I could write about who was running for president, family separations at the borders and within, the politicians on both sides of the aisle talking out of both sides of their mouths and the nonprofits that propped them and their policies up – the same nonprofits that were once in lust with the likes of media makers (ahem bloggers, err journalists) like me with little repercussion except for counter posts, canceled contracts, blocked access to alleged insider information.

10 years ago I was equally as careless (or carefree?) about writing about my romances, my motherhood, my lack, my want, my desires. It was the the death knell for relationships but also the opening of other realizations about what (for better or for worse) I was capable of.

10 years later I have become capable of things I only dreamed of – I fantasized about moving west with/for a chain of lovers and here I am, in a house in Los Angeles . 10 years ago, the same non-profits ,whose practices I disparaged , are now part of my day to day.  10 years ago I imagined what it would be like to not fund raise (now crowdfund) for basic needs. I don’t have to imagine but there are still basic needs unmet.

I still haven’t written that damn book(s) -although I’m working on it. I still haven’t finished school – although I’m working on it. I still haven’t found that safety that romantic/sexual love was supposed to bring. That I think I’ve given up on. I’ve provided a decent life for my daughters but have also put them at great risk and now I seek a different type of safety. A different kind of security that can only come through deep heartache and learning from that heartache.

I’ve always given few fucks about certain things like rules, expectations but now from a place of precarious comfort and privilege I give even less fucks. I still have deep desires, deep hopes, and deep expectations of what I am capable of. I have proven to myself that jumping in the pool ( to steal a baby daddy’s quote) , holding my breath and hoping I will surface yields some progress but also costs so so much.

So 10 years later- the first day of a new month, when the veil between this world and others is transparent I don’t just ask the spirits, what they would do, but I ask my past self. And the answer is clear – as Audre Lorde said – it is better to speak. We were never meant to survive and yet here we still are. IMG_20181027_170314715_HDR

The Wormhole of Memory

Image by David Samuel

I have not been good at blogging. It’s not for a lack of things I want to say/write about. It’s a lack of wanting to share them. Which is strange because I didn’t used to have a problem with sharing and when I decided to start blogging again this year I wanted to share more. But I have found that as I’m working on my first memoir project, the writing work of going inward and backward, there is a conflict between that and and blogging writing.

 

I’m grateful for all the digital footprints I have left. They are useful as I reflect, remember and one day my manuscript will be a book and it will be public and people can dissect and disagree and digest. But this process of going back has me being more cautious : fact checking and memory checking, because yes the memory does need to be checked.

 

Before there were blogs, before there were bulletin boards, before there was livejournal there were regular journals and I have kept these for as long as I can remember. They are lined with images cut out from magazines and newspapers reflecting my interests and curiosities (as well as maturity). Some of them are lined with hearts and arrows and whoever was the object of my desire at the moment and whatever nickname they gave me and the names I gave them or what I called them : Nene, Stupid Married Boy, la Lengua, el Chileno, El Cubano, El Colombiano, etc etc etc. As I got older I began to put an index in the front inside covers : No more hearts around names but there were names, significant events, important places, and the date the journal was opened and closed.

 

But these handwritten musings, recollections, reflections are one sided. I’m grateful for processes that the memoir class I enrolled in have me engaged in. I’m questioning my recollections and writing notes as to who I need to ask to verify. My feelings aren’t up for debate but other things could be. But then there are people I will never ask. People I don’t ever want to speak to again or if I did speak to them could unleash a regression or worse – an obsession with nostalgia that I am prone to.

 

Cue the internet. My father never told me much about his childhood so I don’t know much about what La Trocha, Vega Baja is like. This led me to googling that then to googling his former jobs to confirm memories and scandals. Then I googled his wife and then found my half siblings – one who lives in Los Angeles. I found weddings and babies and whole life without me, my sister, my children.

 

I expected to be sadder or angrier than I was. I was both those things but in a very matter of fact way that 20 some years gives you.

 

But  there were also happier wormholes, like finding pictures of my piano and ballet teachers (yes, I took ballet and piano) and the studios where I went every Saturday Morning for much of my childhood. Despite the trite joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice), those studios aren’t there anymore. My piano and ballet teachers have long died and my father and his kids, my half-siblings went on with their lives without me. It’s not something to be sad or angry about. It just is or rather it just was.

 

 

Access

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After 20 years of mamihood, I should be less surprised by the hoops various systems make you jump through in order to be “engaged”, “involved” or whatever other term these systems use to judge “parental involvement”.

But I’m still shocked, even as I go through the hoops with all the privileges that I have: language, citizenship, a certain level of education, a certain level of experience.

The latest adventure involves the Los Angeles Public School system and the hoops needed to jump through in order for me to chaperone my child on an overnight field trip.

Part of me gets it. We all want to ensure the safety of our children. But to be this level of “volunteer” within the LAUSD system means submitting oneself to physical examinations (to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis), submitting oneself to fingerprinting (to check my criminal record) and filling out a form that asks for my social security number and country of citizenship.

I don’t have much doubt I will “pass”, be determined to be healthy and moral enough. But those who can’t even read the application? Those for whom submitting to fingerprinting is too much like the biometric checks when they came to the US, were in various types of jails? Those who don’t have social security numbers? Those who see the question about citizenship and wonder what if this is used for something other than for just me wanting to be with my kid at an overnight trip?

Better to not “participate” at all but then risk becoming considered not engaged, not interested, not participatory enough.

Every Monday there is an assembly at my kid’s school. The routine is always the same. Pledge of Allegiance, some patriotic song, announcements, awards, and the school song. When I attend I’m the only parent (that I can see) who doesn’t do the pledge or sing the patriotic song.

But I submitted my fingerprints

Milagros

After a 9 hour operation inside her head, My titi opened her eyes last evening and started singing. She recognized her sisters, her nieces, and her daughter. She said she was happy Obama was president and sent love to my toddler. She knew her name, the year, where she was, and she knew that she wasn’t gonna cook a damn thing for Thanksgiving. She flirted with a nurse, telling her she was “hot”. She told us she saw angels and grandfather and tias who have passed. My abuelo wrapped his arms around my mother and we all wept joyfully and breathed.

Cada dia es un regalo y este regalo es para ti hoy, Titi A.

I Do Not Live, Work, breath in the Abstract : This is Real

Yes, last night was historic. As much as I wanted to bask in it, feel it, cry for it, and jump for it, it was hard.

For the past few days I have been in the middle of a family crisis. My dear tia/madrina, the one who was always just down the block from me my whole life, una segunda madre, was diagnosed with a rapidly growing brain tumor. I have spent countless hours in the same hospital where I gave birth to Miss Poroto, pero now filling out papers to make medical decisions for a single mother who worked her ass off her whole life even when she should have been resting. She pulled me close to her in the hospital bed and in between incoherent comments, she told me the color flowers she wanted at her funeral, that she didn’t want to be incapacitated, that she had let people down, that she was in debt, to take care of her only daughter whose eventual one day wedding she would miss, that she wouldn’t see Miss Poroto grow up and damnit would she be able to vote in this historic election. Si she worrie

As I write this from my apartment, surgeons are operating on my titi. Looking into her brain that they mapped using dye, looking at what doesn’t look good.

Yesterday, as I blogged all day and almost all nite on the election, I was called in to be on live tv to discuss the election. I told them I would pero only if they had someone there who could help me with the kids. My familia was at the hospital, el chileno was working. The tv network agreed. As the car service that was sent called to tell me they were downstairs, Poroto took a huge shit. In the car over from Queens to brooklyn, Poroto vomited all over herself and me. I walked into the tv studio with a half naked toddler and me smelling like regurgitated fruit. I tried to control Poroto as I was made up for tv and tried my best to scrape off quickly drying bits of vomit. A producer whisked Poroto away as I went into the studio to discuss the election, Latino vote, immigration, and blogging. A fellow panelist, a professor asked what I blogged about while we were on break. I told her Latino issues and the mami’hood. As I explained the mami’hood concept to her, I mentioned that I was covered in toddler vomit.

So you don’t write from the abstract, this is what you are living.

No I don’t do anything from the abstract. I do not have that luxury.

As I left the set and the fantasy world of tv punditry I got to play in for an hour, my sister called me to tell me that even after the operation, the prognosis for my tia didn’t look good. Days. We are looking at days.
Once at home, with the toddler asleep and washed up, I paced, smoked cigarettes, drank and blogged as Obama became the president elect. I worried about upcoming speaking events, money, trips and death. And I cried along with the rest of a nation, although probably not for the same reasons.