saturday mornings

January 28, 2017

Saturday mornings smelled like pancakes and mistolín at our place. The record player only played boleros. The kind that had you pausing between cleaning and grabbing whatever was near you that you could turn into a microphone and sing at the top of your lungs: “Dueño de ti, dueño de nada…no soy yo, ese a quien tu le dices mi dueño…” My mother lived a lot of those songs. She would sing them like she wrote them.

“Los sabados son de limpieza y oficio,” Mami would say. As she wrapped her hair in a pañuelo, rolled up her pant legs, and slipped on her chancletas.

Saturday morning my brothers and I would wake up to the sound of Mami talking to her plants as she watered them. She’d have a couple of boxes of cereal sitting on the kitchen table with bowls and spoons. We’d serve ourselves a bowl of conflei’ con leche and sat our little nalgas in the living room floor. She’d make pancakes and eggs. Manny, David, and I would sit and watch our morning cartoon marathon.

While we did that, Mami floated around. Sometimes she was in her room, other times she’d sit and watch TV with us. She’d start writing a list of what needed to get done. And she would start cleaning her room. At 10am we knew we had to shut the TV off and start picking up our rooms.

Mami only knew how to deep clean. There was no half-ass cleaning. You either cleaned the shit outta’ something or you didn’t. She cleaned everything and she enjoyed it. She liked to move things around and make things pretty. She played with colors and themes and figurines. She would reorganize closets and drawers, change bed sheets and bathroom curtains. Mami could’ve ran a business on cleaning and organizing. My mother would make our tenement apartment feel like a 5th Avenue suite.

Once the house was clean, we had to run errands: from the cashiers check place to Con Edison to paying the guy at la bodega who let you take fiaó, she had a running To-Do-List. The routine was important for her. It kept her feeling grounded.

We’d get on the train and head to downtown Manhattan. My little feet running alongside her long strides; I held her hand tightly. She’d look at us and smile. And that is how she confirmed what we always hoped would happen at the end of errands. We knew she was going to take us to our favorite place. Our anticipation and excitement grew exponentially. We were three kids: 11, 10, and 6-years-old, so our excited energy was pretty intense.

Mami would stretch dollars just so she could take us to Playland. This was one of our all-time favorite treats. She would give us each $5 to play .25 arcade games. That was 20 games each. For my brothers, that lasted much longer than for me. But it wasplayland-rgb-1985-copy the look on Mami’s face that made me happiest. Because for her, in that moment, she was responsible for the happiness and well-being of three little lives. And in that instance, on that particular Saturday, she didn’t feel like she couldn’t provide. She didn’t feel like she didn’t have enough. No. In that moment, as our smiles grew our faces, we gave her the happiness and peacefulness of a perfect day.

Saturday morning… José José is belting El Triste and I start to clean and understand in a different light why my mother cleaned the way she did while she listened to these songs. There was some soul-cleansing happening at the same time she dusted and mopped. I’ll make sure to find a way to treat myself at the end of this day… I’ll find a way to paint smiles on the faces of others.

#52essays2017

 

 

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dye the narrative

January 4, 2017

this past fall i participated in a writing course. i did it as a way to “return to my writing.” my writing and i had a break up. and i had been in this “writer’s block” for some time that turned into days and later months. then years. it felt like an eternity since i had been able to put something together that i was proud of; something that i could read and feel good about.

created and facilitated by Vanessa Mártir, i signed up for the course: Writing Our Lives. The semester finished in early December. on the last day of class we workshopped each other’s work. we were proud of what each person had put out. and at the end, we hugged, and went our separate ways. we’ve been keeping in touch with each other. the internet makes it easy.

last week, Vanessa posted on FB that she wanted to challenge others to take on something she had done in the closing year: write one essay per week in the year 2016. she did it. literally, she wrote an essay. per week. for one year. when i read her post asking folks to consider challenging themselves,d my initial thought was like, “eta’ tipa ‘ta loca o le patina el caco’?”

but i thought about it -i literally slept on it. and i asked myself that damn question that we hate when others ask, “are you a writer?” “what qualifies you to claim the title?” “have you published anything?” the more i repeatedly asked myself these questions, the more frightened i became. often, we let others determine who and what we are. when they ask these questions, we feel inadequate because we may not meet other people’s definition of a writer.

well f*ck that. i’m a writer because i say so. my story has been published in every single step i have taken towards my truth.

i decided that i’m taking on the challenge. why? cause i’m crazy. and by crazy i mean that i know how difficult it is to write just one essay. i here i just committed to write one per week. but you know what? this SERVES me. it FEEDS me. it allows me to connect with my communities.

i write because for too long our collective stories have been silenced, omitted, and erased. our stories are too powerful and too poignant. they are needed so that we may dye the “dominant narrative.”

for too long our communities have been silenced. we have been slaughtered and the stories written said we were the ones wielding the knives. we’ve been maimed and the newspaper headlines read that it was our hot blooded temperament that created the war. even our screams have been attributed to hysteria. to some sort of “glitch in our system.”

John Leguizamo wrote an article about the detrimental effects of the “exclusion” of our communities and the “message it sends to every Latino child.” He writes about the importance of making our lives visible.

my writing is visibility and accountability. i am here to tell my story and empower others to tell theirs, so the OUR narrative reflects us in our truth. for too long they have colonized our tongues and twisted our story to create fear and hatred. the inaccuracies have portrayed us in such negative ways that we started to believe what the stories wrote about us. even our grandmothers, whose souls were untouchable, yielded to the narrative and died believing we were somehow broken.

i am here to write my story. because the power it holds is immense. i will take on this challenge because los muchachos necesitan saber nuestra verdad. they need to know that we are legendary. they need to know that we were, are, and will always be here.

our stories, the account of our events, our experiences are unique. they stand out because we stand up. i refuse to allow others to tell my story or my people’s story.  so i’m here. with pen in hand, blank pages in my notebook and a lifetime of stories to share because i am invincible not invisible.

i accept the challenge as a creative battle. with the ultimate prize of reclaiming our stories so that our children can know of the pen warriors that came to tell our truth.

#52essays2017

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image from pbs.twing

reflection: holding the space

November 16, 2014

Holding the Space

Holding Me in the Light

i have spent the last two years preparing and then going through a very intense accelerated nursing program. i’ve said it countless times, this has been the most challenging academic experience of my life. but it has also challenged other aspects of my life: spiritually, emotionally, even physically; i have been beaten. actually, my ass has been whooped. every experience we have during the course of our lives is bound to change us, no doubt. but along the way we have a few some highlighted events that we can say were so pivotal to how we move forward from that point on, that we count them as beautifully treacherous.

two weeks ago, i took the NCLEX. it is the state board exam to certify you as a registered nurse. before i continue sharing that part of this story, i feel the need to share that i haven’t been the best test taker in the world throughout my life. if you ask me a question, i can either answer it or not. if you ask me a multiple choice question, i prefer not to answer. testing is not my strength. certainly the North American way of testing needs an overhaul because all students are not created equal and we should all be tested how we learn. but alas, that will be another fight.

back to two weeks ago…

i went in on a Monday. at 8am. i didn’t study at all the day before. i took a xanax early that morning. i had my coffee and two bananas. on my way i chanted, i prayed, i meditated. about 15 minutes to arriving i played music. really loud. in hopes that i would shut the noise of my difficulty testing. i was prepared to answer every question. i didn’t care how many questions this “smart test” would ask, i just wanted it to tell me that i passed. four hours. thirty-two minutes. two-hundred-sixty-five questions. test was over. and i had to wait forty-eight hours.

do you know how long forty-eight hours are?

during that time i thought about the last two years (one-year of prerequisites and the brutal twelve months of nursing school). the frustrations. the anger. the doubts. “what if?” became my question of uncertainty. what if this was not the right path? what if i failed and had to go through it again? would i even want to? who would i disappoint other than myself?

my friends? family?

and that was my moment of breakdown. that was the point where i said out loud: “i’m exhausted. and i don’t know that i can do much more.” and i cried. hard. by myself in the shower.

on Wednesday of that week, i could pay $7.99 to get my results. i told my wife (a clinical social worker) to do it for me. i was heading to work. i didn’t want to know when she was doing it or how or anything… i knew she’d figure out a way to tell me whatever the news may be.

i was at work. around 10ish AM i decided to check my phone (as i normally do) and my wife had texted me eight times: You passed baby! you passed! i knew you would!!! i leapt from my chair, my fellow nurses, medical assistants and providers congratulated me. i felt this urge to run a marathon. in a tutu. yes, that’s how freakin’ giddy i felt. and then i started calling the people who matter: my #TeamSarahi received a group text, my former classmates (now friends), professors and family.

as i made each call, i could literally feel my Friends “lighten up.” i could feel that they were holding the space for me; they were holding my anger, my frustrations, my fears and my doubts as if it were their own. and it was. i was never alone in this… i felt that my happiness was their own. and it was in each of those phone calls that i learned the real lesson of nursing school: those who care will hold the space for you and with you. they help carry it because we are extensions of each other in every instance. the people who matter will listen, encourage, and root for you through all of your battles. and should you feel the heaviness almost unbearable, know that those people are feeling and carrying it with you. and your victory is multiplied exponentially.

my dear Loves, may i always prove to be the kind of friend you’ve been to me.

carta para mi madre

May 12, 2014

a mi madre en la ocasión de mis 36 primaveras,

gracias por juntarte con el viejo. y enredarse. y entrelazarse en un Amor tan bello. pues fue el regalo de ese Amor que se abrió para darme vida.

gracias por velar sobre mi. por la curita’ que tanto me hacia creer que sanaba cualquier herida. gracias por los juguetes. por aquellos sacrificios que nunca sabré hiciste. gracias por las noches de desvelos. por los sobresaltos. gracias por darme aquel último bocado de tu boca, porque yo quería un poco mas. gracias por la ropa y los zapatos (aquellos que tanto detestaba ponerme). gracias por tus abrazos. por protegerme. a veces hasta de ti.

gracias por creer en mi. en mis sueños. por dejarme explorar. por alimentar mis curiosidades. por darme alas.

gracias por los desacuerdos. por los momentos de tensión. por los desacuerdos. porque fueron esos momentos donde sin saberlo, más nos acercábamos.

hoy celebro mi vida como una extension de la tuya. y aunque sigo mi propio rumbo, lleva esencia de ti. lleva características tuyas: esfuerzo, empeño, valor, fe, resistencia, espíritu luchador…

de tu vientre llevo aquello flujo que no deja de protegerme. aun fuera de ti, sigo adentro.

ya sabes, si tuviese que nacer de nuevo: solo de tu vientre, solo de tu sangre, solo de tu Amor.

te amo.

tu hija. siempre.

rie y descansa

May 9, 2014

a mil millas de distancia…

en tu casa. en aquel sillón
en el mismo sitio donde te deje.
con el recuerdo de aquel beso abrazando mi mejilla.

yo queria seguir jugando a las locuras contigo.

y es que contigo Manita, yo vuelvo a ser niña
jugando a la imaginación sin pensar que esta vida
me llama a ser adulto y tener responsabilidades
que se hacen monótonas y aburridas… hasta hartan!.

y nos hacen olvidar que la vida es solo un momento.

ese momento donde puedes cantar a toa’ boca
una canción fuera de tono, sin importar quien nos escuche
o como luzcamos, porque lo que importa es la risa y la sonrisa.
lo que importa es el momento donde puedes, tan solo por un instante
vivir en la alegria.

mientras nuestro hermano (tan tranquilo el doroteo’),
apoya nuestras locuras y nos mira de reojo como quien dice,
“lo que me ha tocado.” el también me enseña una lección: el descanso
que hay en la paz. el me enseña la importancia del silencio. de tomar
un receso del ajetreo de la vida.

son ustedes dos un regalo del Universo.
son un recuerdo importante de reír y descansar
para darle vida a la vida.


en tu casa. en aquel sillón
en el mismo sitio donde te deje.
con el recuerdo de aquel beso abrazando mi mejilla.

yo queria seguir jugando a las locuras contigo…
y luego descansar con nuestro Hermano.

I believe this about Nursing…

I believe that there is no coincidence that nursing (a profession created by women) has had to prove itself over and over to be fully recognized as such. If say, JOHN Nightingale had written the book “Notes on Nursing,” there would be no doubt about whether our job (supported or not by evidence-based practice) was a profession.

Still…

I believe nursing is the leading profession in building relationships with people. I believe when a nurse looks at an obese patient, we see someone who has become a victim of a system that super sizes meals that leave people starving for real food; for foods that heal.

I believe nursing is teaching. It is engaging in meaningful conversations about the realities, the truths about people’s lives and their struggle beyond high blood pressure or the disease that’s wrapped around their bones. Sometimes… what’s really crippling a patient… is a simple lack of human touch.

I believe that there is no coincidence that hope is a nursing diagnosis. As “hokey” as some may find it, hope is the only thing left …when there is nothing left. And, should a patient find herself on the edge of being hopeful, it is the nurse that pulls her through to believe that while there may not be a cure, we can always heal.

I believe nursing and presence go together like hands in sterile gloves because we know that here, that now; this moment is the only real time we have… to stop.
To ask the hard questions.
To listen.
To hold a hand.
To sit in silence.

You see, pressure ulcers of the heart exist, they’ve been eating away at the flesh of our emotions, interrupting our mental health status, affecting mind, body and spirit. Nursing is fully aware that angina could be related to a broken heart. Nursing knows that there are spiritual ailments greater than cancers.

Nurses know that human disregard is contraindicated to healing.

I believe nursing helps the patient realize the difference between “take care of yourself” and “care for your Self.” Nursing educates the patient, makes them aware of the control they have over their lives, and helps patients regain their autonomy.

We have the responsibility of helping patients find their voice in one of the most vulnerable settings in the world. That is powerful beyond measure.

And should a patient not have the ability to speak, nursing is ultimately the advocate that stands grounded in protecting the patient with everything she can. Including her Life.

Submitted to the RWJF NCIN essay contest.

dis-ease

January 22, 2014

We are all born with dis-ease. creative medicine

Dis-ease is an illness that weakens our creative immune system. These maladies can include our thoughts of lack and limitation, our insecurities about our body, what may or may not be in our bank accounts, what others may think of us… it’s a long list of ailments that if left untreated, can lead to chronic pain and ultimately leave us creatively paralyzed.

What are the dis-eases affecting you lately? What are the places that you need to treat with your creative medicine? Our bodies have healing properties; we are fortunate that both the treatment and the cure are within us.

Mine is writing.

Others paint, sing, workout their bodies, dance, play a sport, practice yoga or do a combination of treatments. I have found that when I stop writing, when I don’t adhere to my “medication regiment,” I become ill. My symptoms increase both spiritually and physically. I begin to question myself, my body aches for no reason and my overall health weakens me into a state of indifference.

So why is it, that having both the treatment and the cure within us, do we find it so difficult to “take” a dose of what can begin to make us feel better? For me, it’s about an infection that we are susceptible to during a flare-up of the dis-ease. I call it bacterial bullshit. A microorganism that makes us believe that dis-ease is a state we need to live in because after all, we are born with it.

There are so many days I doubt my writing. I believe my medicine is ineffective. But unlike man-made medicines, your body doesn’t become resistant to your dose of creativity. And you can always alter the dosage by adding an adjuvant medication. Give your creative medicine reinforcement.

This natural dis-ease is our inner self in conflict with our outer self; a battle between who we are and who we want to be. If our body has already given us the treatment and cure for it, then we need to give our creative body its medicine. Daily. STAT. Medication adherence is crucial to symptom management.

Write. Sing. Dance. Yoga… you can never overdose on creative medicine. Actually, your overdose spills into those around you and you are able to heal others as well. It’s why people show up to poetry slams, theaters, concerts, museums and other creative spaces.

We are all in need of daily doses of creativity, of those things that remove us from ourselves and move us toward our Self.

If you’re experiencing dis-ease and your symptoms are present, I encourage you to make a promise to write one word today, sing one note today, dance one step today…

Today. Now. The quicker you take the medicine the quicker you will begin to heal.

matters of the heart

October 30, 2013

tomorrow i get to go the cardiologist. something is happening with my heart. they’ve been running some tests. the ECG showed that my heart is “working twice as hard.” i’m not even sure what that means. i mean, everyone’s heart should work twice as hard given the global state of affairs. but i guess for these purposes, my resting heart rate is too high and dangerous.

i’m in a very intense accelerated nursing program. when i write very intense, i mean to tell you that it’s a program unlike anything else i’ve ever imagined. i mean to tell you that even with a master’s degree (that sits in a closet space somewhere), this has been the most challenging academic experience of my life. it feels like i was dropped of in the middle of a foreign country, where i don’t understand the language, the culture, the geography… and i must learn to navigate. quickly.

so i work. hard. and i sleep. little. and i cry. today i cried… i’m still crying. because i want my heart to be ok. i want school to be ok. i don’t just want to get through this, i want to thrive through this. i hold high expectations of myself (sometimes to the point of self sabotage; which is never healthy).

and for the most part the only ones who “get this” are the amazing thirty-seven brilliant souls i get to walk this journey with. all of whom are dealing with life and its side bars.

there is something to be said about going through a very intense part of your life (academically, professionally or otherwise), adding to the mix your daily living experiences and then the surprise element of “oh shit” (insert any possible thing you were not expecting).

how is it that we do it?

how do we survive when the challenges amount to an almost unbearable point? to that point where you say, “it. is. not. fair.” sometimes even to the point where you question whether the decision you made to answer the call was the right one. the moment you commit to walking in your truth, you can be certain that life will happen exponentially.

i am realizing this: i am here because i am.

i am here because this is exactly where i need to be. in this moment, with these challenges and questions. with these fears and doubts. i am here.

i am an electrical impulse. i am blood and oxygen delivery. i am rhythm and beat.

know that you will take on challenges and challenges will take on you. but if you really want to reach the goal(s) you set, you must accept what the cardiac world calls, “regular irregular.”

allow yourself to experience the fullness of every unexpected moment. it is in the unexpected that we stretch and strengthen the muscle of our core.

inside-heart_1008_990x742

step. wait. dance.

July 3, 2013

“La costumbre pesa mas que el Amor.”

Abuela passed away twenty-years ago. But she is such a powerful presence in my life that there are days I swear she is still here. I talk to her like a prayer. And she talks back to me like an old friend. Over the last few days two of her frequently used quotes have come up in conversations. I’ve shared them with others in an effort to summarize two very real and raw truths: First, comfort weighs more than Love. Second, no one dies on the eve.

We can get so comfortable with something/someone that we will stay in that place (regardless of how detrimental it is to our health, or how it keeps us from walking towards our Truth) because simply put, we’re comfortable. We stay put because we know it. We can navigate it because we’ve been swimming in it for so long that we have come to accept it as our truth. We are so accustomed to something/someone that we will not move from that place because, well, “I’m used to it.”

I’ve been there. Sitting in it. Forcing it, in an effort to make it what it could never be because the minute we stop doing what we Love or walking in the direction of the things we Love, we begin to resent ourselves, others and everything around us. We become stagnant. We are angry and we question the questions, and the noise in our heads doesn’t stop because we know that the only question that needs to be answered is, “What is it that I am so afraid of that I rather stand in the discomfort of my comfort zone than to step out and walk towards Love?”

If we walked away from comfort and into Love we would realize that we are brilliant! We would see our life turn in the direction we have been wanting it to turn towards but were too afraid because comfort carries weight. A weight that increases each day we choose to remain in the place that we know simply because we know it.

The moment we decide to step out of that comfort zone, the Universe calls forth a shift in our lives that resembles what I felt is a rebirth. Except this time, it wasn’t my mother pushing me out into the world… this time, I came to my own on my own. I put one foot in front of the other and stepped forward. I took a deep breath of the new air that surrounded me and cried. I cried the weight of my comfort out of me.

And after all the crying was done, I looked around and asked, “Y ahora que?”

“Nadie muere en la vispera.”

So now what? You stepped out and forward. It feels great. But what next?

It’s just one foot in front of the other. Except now, there is purpose and intent. Now you are walking in the direction of your Truth… your dreams and your goals. Now you walk with confidence. Even in the uncertainty or in the moments where you have to wait, here is the other Truth, “Nadie muere en la vispera.” Things will happen when they happen, not a second before or after.

Waiting is not standing still in one place. It doesn’t mean you stop walking, it means you walk toward your Truth gathering experiences to strengthen you for the next shift. The eve is the place where we ask, “Am I ready? and do I have what I need?” The eve is the place where nos vestimos de armadura.

Along comes the shift. The shift allows you to take the lessons of the eve into the break of dawn.

The hardest part of all of this, you have already done. Stepping out of what you know is an absolute beautifully frightening decision to make. That step, was what brought you to the shift and from the moment you committed to stepping out of your comfort zone the Universe began to shift everything in your direction.

You called forth the change.

You deserve to walk towards your Truth.

Your resolve and commitment to your Self is so powerful that any shift can only bring you peace.

The instructions are easy: step. wait. dance.

“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” ~Mother Teresa

Are you feeling exhausted? I mean, really exhausted. Like, if one more thing should fall on your shoulders you will either cry or burst into rage. And it doesn’t matter that you’re the always-happy-optimistic-you’re-gonna’-change-the-world-kinda’-person because today… today, the world is changing you.

And you say that you don’t want to help another person, or give any more of you because you ain’t got anything left. Yo ‘toy jarta coño! You are feeling crucified at the crossroad. You’ve reach the intersection of i-wish-a-mutha’-f*#@%-would and por-mi-madre-santa-que-si-me-pasa-algo-mas… You feel complete exhaustion. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially, every aspect of your life is being challenged. How can you possibly keep your head up? If you dig any deeper the ground above you will bury you alive.

And so some of us pray. Others chant, meditate, reflect, sing… we find a way to speak to the Universe.

In this moment I pray for Stillness and Peace…

If the Universe brings me to it, it will get me through it.
If the Universe brings me to it, it will get me through it.
If the Universe brings me to it, it will get me through it.

It is ok to say you can’t help anyone right now. It is ok to rest. It is ok to say No. It is ok to cry, to breakdown, to breakup, to surrender to the fact that you are Human. Surrender to the concept that we do not have to be happy all the time or at everyones disposition or available to our family and friends when they need us. We can say NO. I can say NO.

This collection of “things that keep happening” is a reminder to just be still with your Self.

Take care of you right now. Not for a day or a week. Allow yourself ALL the time you need. You cannot possibly care for anyone if you are depleted. Focus your energies on YOU. Pray for YOU. Take care of YOU.

Believe that you deserve a YOU that is healthy in every aspect of your life. That may require surrendering this idea that we need to always be available to those things and those people who “need” us.

When you really look at it, you’re not turning your back on them, you’re turning towards your Self.

This is simply and necessarily Self care.