breathing anger

February 8, 2017

I’m trying to breathe in a world whose air is toxic.

I can’t even fucking write because every time I turn to the page I just want to burn it. How the hell do we tell our children that this world is anything but about to implode? How can I look at children in the eye and possibly utter a word of affirmation when this shit-show is on loop?

History repeats itself in the wombs of our daughters.

When I was a little girl, I had all the hope of a new life. I always sought ways to make people smile, or feel better, or anything that I thought would brighten their day. I thought that if I did my part, in time, things would get better. I grew up in NYC, in the 80s. During the height of both the AIDS epidemic and the crack vials that lit up the concrete ground my little feet walked on. But I was surrounded by Love and I was a firm believer that Love wins.

But Love doesn’t win folks. In fact, it loses more every day.  And don’t ask me to keep the faith because faith walked out of this world when that little girl was raped. Faith died at the hands of genocide and wars and corrupt governments and world hunger and poverty. Faith died when men decided to put money and power over people.

Recently I was asked how I felt about everything happening with this new evil circus in town. I expressed myself pretty clearly. I spoke about my fears and my concerns. And as I spoke my voice was shaking, I felt tears in my eyes and I swallowed them whole as the person responded to MY EXPERIENCE with shit like, “you need to breathe.” Privilege will come in dressed in white trying to tell you to breathe like yo’ ass ain’t got a set of lungs screaming at you that what you’re breathing is hurting them. I had to walk away otherwise I’d be calling my wife for bail.

Que cojones tiene la gente. I have a right to be disillusioned and scared and even fucking furious cuando me de la maldita gana. I have to a right to say that I don’t believe Love wins and that I’ve lost faith. You don’t have a right to tell me to relax around the issues that are directly and indirectly affecting me and mine. Your words are unsolicited and unwanted.

I get it USA. I get that you have NEVER witnessed the atrocious realities (many of them created by your policies) the rest of this world has lived through but fuck you. I don’t need to experience something directly to understand its impact on humanity. I don’t need an international organization commercial highlighting malnourished children to know that hunger pangs are real and these children exist. I don’t need a campaign to raise funds to get clean water when I bathe myself daily in these hatred infested water that continue to fill our bodies with lead. Somebody turn this shit off.

You want me to write from a place of hope? Give me something to be hopeful for that is tangible. Give me a hope I can breathe into. But until then, don’t tell me to relax and breathe like I’m on a fucking yoga mat, wearing lulu lemons and sippin’ Starbucks frappes.

This world is imploding. My children are watching… our anger is the only thing tangible in my skin.

#52essays2017

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

 

 

untitled

January 24, 2017

You know that feeling you get when you feel something eerie approaches? It’s a feeling that something bad is going to happen. It’s the feeling that sits in the back of your throat like heavy metal and then plunges like an anchor to the center of your chest?

Last week my partner described me as someone who is conflict averse. I nodded in agreement but it didn’t quite sit with me until later that evening. It made me feel some type of way when I thought about it again. I wasn’t mad at her for the comment, I was mad at myself for being that person, for so long. It’s not that I didn’t know this about myself but that I heard it out loud that triggered a series of memories.

My parents are both conflict averse. They’re peacekeepers. They’ve always said that “la gente se gana con cariño.” And so I’ve always managed to avoid conflict, even at the cost of walking away with zero fucks to give about not having engaged because it takes two to fight and my biggest battle has always been with myself. So I don’t feel the need to add another. I am the type of person who will never escalate a situation. I’m the complete opposite. If an argument or a disagreement is brewing, I start thinking immediately about how I can diffuse it before it reaches any level of discomfort or awkwardness.

The very few times I have ever exhibited a hint of conflict initiated by me, I was immediately told that it “doesn’t suit” me. I was told that anger wasn’t something that I was known for. That in fact, I was known and admired for the opposite. I was told that people have always known me to be pretty steady in character and mood; that my temperament is very relaxed even in times of stress.

I have always thought that for the most part, there wasn’t a valid reason to get worked up about things. Life is too short. I’d rather spend my days here in peace. And conflict is messy. And it takes up energy and it exhausts you spiritually and emotionally and physically. Conflict will leave you feeling defeated and deflated. Conflict is that word that by nature invokes tension. It makes the heart feel scared and confused. It makes the soul weary and the Spirit fatigued. So no, I don’t do conflict because who the hell wants to feel all that heaviness? And this is why I will do everything in my power to find my way out of the potential conflict so as to not have to feel that anchor in the center of my chest.

Pero conflict has come to me.

And it has done so in the most spiritually damaging way. This situation has me feeling anger so strongly that for the first time in a long time I feel hatred. And my thoughts lately are filled with an anger that has me outside of my skin and I no longer fit in it.

I sit with conflict in this body that feels too much. I have to figure out how to put it to work for me because right now it just feels like puro odió. It feels like hatred and evil. It feels like violence. It feels like defeat. It feels like struggle.

But I read somewhere that conflict and growth go hand-in-hand. That growth is impossible without conflict because conflict is the catalyst for change. But change is unsteady. It could also be good or bad.

You know that feeling you get that something eerie approaches…

the fire

January 12, 2017

​Most days I wake up completely exhausted. It’s not the exhaustion from not having slept enough but more like that spiritual exhaustion you get from not being able to quiet the noise in your head or the angst in your heart.

I’m an empath. I feel everything. Everything. Absolutamente todo. So when I read/see the news about what’s happening around the world or right down the street, I can’t separate myself from it. I don’t have that “outta’ sight outta’ mind” mentality. In fact, the reality that I am not there to help exacerbates my anxiety.  

Then there is this country I live in. A place my Puerto Rican grandmother came to in hopes that her family would have better opportunities; this place that didn’t witness my birth but has watched me grow since the age of five.

Based on where I grew up I wasn’t supposed to succeed. But I took advantage of many of those opportunities Abuela envisioned and some she never even imagined. 

I’ve lived in this country since I was five. I have lived through six presidents. Though I only recall five of them. My maternal family has never really been political. And one of my first memories of any political talk was abuela telling me that she never pulled a lever that said republican candidate because “esa gente no nos quiere mi’ja.” I never understood why they didn’t like us. And when I asked why, she pointed to her brown skin and said, “Porque a Dios le placio hecharnos sazón.” I loved how she said it too. So much pride in her voice –it made me feel strong. Like I was untouchable. Pero right now I feel everything but fuerte.

A fire is coming.

A fire that most of us have never witnessed. One that many thought would hopefully never come again. And I am trying to manage my sentiments and temperament around it but the reality is, this fucking sucks. For years I was an idealist. I was that little girl who always found a way to make things better. I was that teenager full of energy and a fire that blazed not to burn but to provide warmth and light.

My first career was in politics because I believed I was going to change the world. I had a fourth grade teacher tell me that I was going to be the 1st female Latina president because I never gave up. I believed that if we remained honest with each other we could overcome our differences and find the common ground in Love. But Love is hokey for many and for the Powerful it is a five letter word that grows in their bank accounts along with their hatred.

This world may want to change but the Powers that be are ruthless and heartless. Those muthafuckas’ could give three shits about any of us. That includes about most of you who voted for Voldemort.

The fire is still coming. 

And I’m trying to keep my shit together, you know? I’m trying to hold on to hope but I find myself holding on with these arms that cramp every time I hear or read another headline. I’m struggling not to let hatred enter my heart. But that has become increasingly difficult as well. While I don’t promote violence, I get why folks wanna’ hurt somebody. In my head, the idea of taking a bat and swinging for the fences is sometimes appealing because I wonder if it will take away some of this anger that’s brewing inside me like lava in a volcano that has never erupted.

I know that there are better ways to deal with this. I know I could use my writing as a weapon of mass reconstruction. I know that I could use my profession to build meaningful relationships where we can engage in conversations that can truly heal. Pero coñaso eta’ vaina no ta’ facil, no. It makes me feel helpless and hopeless. And I have never felt that way even in my darkest days –and rape is pretty fucking dark. 

So I am trying really hard to stay centered. I wake up every day and do my best to create positive changes. I ask myself, what can I do differently to uphold Love and healing, to bridge communication, to encourage conversation and promote community? But it is becoming more and more difficult to keep this once untamable Spirit fired up. The noise in this head when everything is quiet gets louder with the passing of each day.  

For now, I plan to do the only thing I know: imma’ hold on to the Love from my wife, my parents, my beautiful nieces and nephews, my siblings, my friends… I am gonna’ hold them closer. Because Love may be hokey for some or money in a bank account for others but to me Love is the only thing that is anchoring my sanity. Y anyway, Abuela said that Dios me hecho sazón. So let it burn asarozo’, because it is in the heat that we release our true essence. We thrive in the fire. We are fire. And we are here to burn. 

#52essays2017 

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

No.

June 7, 2016

A mother asked her daughter to forgive her perpetrator.

you say forgive him like you’re telling me to change my shoes or something.

you say forgive the man who raped me when i was 5-years-old. that i should forgive him for myself, not for him. as if this was some magical act that would heal that little girl and erase the memory of the pain between her tiny skinny legs.

you say forgive him because god has forgiven me.

Lady there is no fucking way in hell that i would even consider it so much as a thought.

there is no God in rape.

there is no God in taking your dick and forcing your way into a 5-year-old’s body.

No. no Lady. i will not forgive him now or ever. he doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

i will tell you that every time i read another rape headline, i wish i could be the person to carry out the punishment.

i will tell you that i watched that Scandal scene where Olivia Pope kills her perpetrator over and over and over. and i was scared at how good i felt after watching it.

i have imagined me, a wooden bat and Fran in a room many times. except i didn’t kill him. death is easy. i want that cabrón conscious. fully awake for what i’d like to do to him.

God made a mistake. God has made many mistakes. he was one of them. the four men who raped you, they were a mistake as well. and so is every single rapist. mistakes made by your god. mistakes disguised as, “oh look at how much stronger you are. you survived.”

you have no idea how fucking difficult this is. you say you do, but you don’t.

you don’t know what it’s like in this head or how heavy is this heart. you don’t know the years of therapy i’ve got sitting on that couch trying to make sense of senseless, fucked up, shit.

thirty-three years ago Fran decided it was ok for them to rob me of my innocence. and not ONE FUCKING day has gone by that i don’t think about it. thirty-three years. and every day the headlines rape me all over again. every day this world reminds me of the fear that little girl felt that day and so many other days after that… i carry that shit in  my heart, so heavy at times i get chest pains. and anger sits on my throat.

so no. no Lady. i will NOT forgive him. if your god wants to take on that bullshit, he can.

blasphemy is the only unforgivable sin?

you mean to tell me your god is more concerned about how i speak about him than about one of “his creations” raping a 5-year-old?

no. i’m all set Lady. but you… you figure out a way to forgive yourself for asking your daughter to forgive that fuck face when neither you nor your god, were there to protect her.

aún no

July 27, 2015

llevo lágrimas sentadas en la repisa de mis pupilas
se me empañan los ojos de dolor.
aún no he recobrado lo que perdí aquel jueves.

solo llevo enojo
oprimido y exhausto.

infinite love

March 18, 2015

As performed at BAAD! Theater on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Bronx, NY

I have ten minutes to tell you about lesbian love.

Me quedan minutos para contarte… explicarte… sobre el amor de mujer a mujer. ¿Y como te digo? Eta’ vaina no e’ to’ le que pintan. Y yo reconozco -y me encanta- que el choque de dos almas femeninas conlleva una pasión por si sola que no requiere explicación para la que lo vive.

How can anyone condense in ten minutes the life and death of an infinite feeling?
How can I summarize the still lingering effect of my first girlfriend’s grape flavored bubble gum kiss? I still remember her perfume… I can still smell it, as strong as the scent of our fear for what we had just discovered that day.

It is difficult to place in time what the feeling of my college girlfriend’s hands in mine felt like, as we walked through Boston city streets… enjoying the freedom to do so, fully aware of the sacrifices so many made…. that we may enjoy that moment.
When we grasped hands and she spun me around fast and we became little girls as we twirled and twirled.
She and I are still intertwined.

There is not enough time to describe in detail the first time an older woman taught me, not just how to make love to her, but how to make love to my self.
She outlined the edges of my skin, found the place where I surrender, and then stopped.
Tan solo para saborear ese momento, donde ella fijo su mirada en mí, y vio en mis ojos el deseo insaciable de mis antepasados.

There could never be enough hours to explain the astronomical fall of me… into her. It’s as if I had fallen into an abyss. I am floating in fear and excitement.

The only thing that fell harder than me, was my heart. It plummeted

Y como dejarle a las manos del tiempo un corazón hecho pedazos? Es que es imposible en cuestión de minutos poderles decir que el día que ella decidió no seguirme, sentí exactamente cuando el lado izquierdo de mi corazón se contrajo… (me imagino) para detener el adiós de sus labios y no correrlo por mis venas.

No sé si me queden suficientes segundos para por lo menos comenzar a decirle que se me retuerce el estómago. That the butterflies in my belly have turned into knots. I’m tangled in despair. There is a tragedy in Love running out of time or worse… you running out of my Love.

The love lived between women is so intense, that we are never fully disconnected from an old love if we hold on to the things that were beautiful. We are bound to each one of those moments for the rest of our days.

Los restos de nuestros Amores nunca descansan en la paz del olvido. El verdadero Amor es infinito… hace un ocho del sexto sentido. And I am left with a number of emotions that multiply in the silence of the night.

I’m certain that I have but nano seconds left to tell you that the way our Love goes… it never goes.

Y me acuerdo… que en el tiempo, hay Amor pero en en el Amor… no hay tiempo.

sebastian no. 14

December 11, 2014

you sleep.
i stare at your face.
the sunset of your childhood
draws a shadow right above your lip
-your body is growing

i heard the pitch
of your words when we played earlier tonight.
biology is tuning the chords of your voice…
i hope you always speak from your Heart.

and as your bones stretch your body
may you grow comfortably into your skin
because you are indescribably beautiful my Love.

i hope you forgive.
especially your Self,
‘cause along the way,
you will fall.
hard.
‘spart of life.

please remember:
you will always have to live with your Self.
when alone,
make sure you’re in good company.

there is a lot of ugly hate in this world
but Love is prettier than ugly
and stronger than hate.

may the core of everything you do be
rooted in Love.

you are so much Light to the infinite power.
you are brilliance. pay attention.
stay awake.

sometimes
people are mean.
rest assured.
nothing they say is really about you.
it is,
a reflection of their journey.
send them light.

contrary to what the world
is showing you today,
Love will trump hatred.
this world is not all cruel.
Love is winning.

your Love has expanded the walls of my chest,
my heart no longer fits this body.

this world needs you to continue creating
Love everlasting.

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.