unlearn fears

March 7, 2017

when your Mami told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees. my legs couldn’t support my body’s newfound emotions. i cried. i cried hard. i cried for the 28-other months that i held her while she cried after we read another negative result. i cried for the 28-other months that we either walked into a sterile exam room or met up with Doddie, filled with all the hope of creating a family on our terms. sometimes in the middle of work weeks we’d drive into the city and back on the same day, days in a row, just to try again. i cried for the over thirty injections i gave Mami every night for two-weeks (her abdomen filled with puncture bruises -i tried my best to be the most gentle nurse). i cried for the day we went in for egg retrieval and i sat in the waiting room alone, sending positive energies and calling you forth. i cried for the day when they did the embryo transfer but i was hospitalized the night before and wasn’t able to be there. i cried for the day, ten-years ago when i had a hysterectomy and said farewell to you from my own womb. but i cried mostly because Mami’s heart broke so many times before the day we finally received the good news. i was overwhelmed that the Happiness of You had finally come to heal our broken hearts.

and just as quickly, fear settled in.

how do i unlearn almost 39-years of learned fears? of doctrine and dogma? how can i make sure that i don’t teach you this? will i be a good parent? how can i make sure that you won’t hate anyone? especially me? will lack of biology affect our relationship? will you be bullied at school because you have two moms? will my family see you as one of us? will their religion get in the way of seeing you in all of your beauty? will they see us as a family? and why do i even care about what others think?

the layers run deep.

on december of 2007, Mamá had a hysterectomy. i still remember that day clearly. your Mami and i had not yet met. i seriously thought that the reason i was unable to have my own children was a direct result of a punishment reserved for me for being queer; for not being what the world wanted me to be. and so on that day when they removed the crib that i thought would one day hold you, i became womb-less and actually believed that i was less of a woman because the sum of my parts no longer added to the expected whole woman necessary to bare and raise children.

we have waited a long time for you. every heartbreak along the way has strengthened our Love for you. but before it strengthened us, it broke us into a million shattered pieces. when you Love someone the way i Love your Mami, and you know they want something so wholeheartedly, that every time they don’t get their wish, a piece of your heart experiences necrosis. it dies. it feels unrepairable. and it’s not that i didn’t want it as bad as Mami. it’s that i had already reconciled it in my head that you were no longer a possibility in my body, so i shut that down and hardened my heart. so when Mami and i were ready to start the journey to you, i chose to focus my energies on helping her bring your Light to this world. and each time we received news that we were not pregnant, i witnessed Mami’s pain and i couldn’t place it anywhere but inside of me. i didn’t want her to see my hurt and i felt that i needed to be stronger for her.

when your Mami and i met, one of our first conversations was around raising children. we talked about everything related to this , including and questioning if this was something reserved for “the others.” we struggled with questions around heteronormativity and whether we were trying to assimilate to “them” (as if parenthood is reserved for just one set of people). we struggled with the idea that if we went through with it, we’d have to find an environment where you would be safe and you could thrive and grow, happy and healthy… and safe again.

i feared the church. that place that watched me grow and screamed from the pulpits that i was an abomination. i feared what others said, that our Love was null in front of the eyes of god because “it wasn’t real.” i feared it would show up in places that would affect you and your emotional and spiritual development. i feared you’d hate us, or just hate me because the biology wasn’t there. And well, blood is thick and heavy and it weighs in. but it also flows…

i was immediately on defensive mode thinking that at school you’d be “the weird kids.” i was scared that anyone would harm you, either physically or emotionally. I for sure would catch a case and end up in prison because i already Love you like i have never felt Love before. if anyone even attempts to hurt you i will literally loose my shit. you see, your two little lives, are always be protected by my own and Mami’s as well. you should also know that you are officially covered under the insurance of our Love. that means that no harm will come your way that you are not equipped to handle. that means that you are always protected.

all of these fears, my little big Loves, are just fears based on my upbringing. this world will try to teach you things that you will need to unlearn real quick. i will do my absolute best to make sure you don’t learn those lessons that come from a place of other people’s void or ignorance.

the truth is always in Love.

this world you’re coming into is pretty scary nut beautiful. and it is going to try so fucking hard to show you otherwise. this world will want to make you think you are something other than Loved. some will never see us as Family, some will want to make you think you don’t belong here or you are something different than your peers but i will raise you to know and understand that you are perfect, whole, and complete as you are.

you come from a deeper Love. you come from a place of Hope and Faith. you come from Fight and Struggle. you come from Joy and Peace. your existence is powerful beyond measure. your existence is a revolution all its own. ignore the noise of other people’s fears projected on our lives.

we are Familia. punto.

when your mother told me we were pregnant, i went down on my knees and an overwhelming gratitude filled my entire body. you became not one but two heart beating reminders that fears dissipate when i surrender to Love..

 

#52essays2017

 

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This year started very nicely. I set some reasonable goals. Some I met, others I didn’t. But I was always aware that while we have plans, the Universe has others. So I am not disappointed in the ones I didn’t reach this time around or the ones I had to alter. I say this constantly, “Life is not linear.”

My health dwindled a bit but I paid attention to it quickly enough to avoid any set-backs. I started working out, eating healthier (trying to be more mindful of what I put in my body so that I may fuel it with foods that nurture it), and talk-therapy.

I dated on and off. I took on some “old behaviors” and I tried to force many parts of it into something that I have always wanted. It was never labeled. There were so many parts of it that were so uncomfortable and I didn’t voice it, say it, or express it. Instead, I pushed.

I pushed until I couldn’t anymore and realized that I wasn’t happy. Things should happen naturally, right? This certainly wasn’t. And so when I let go and finally decided to really let go (since there were several attempts), I learned so much about myself and I opened up to the Universe. I decided to wait for what I deserved; for what I was really seeking/needing/wanting in a partner –it’s amazing how quickly the Universe can turn things around for you once you get out of its way.

Along came Her. I wasn’t even looking. As a matter of fact, I was pretty much done (though my Loved ones will always tell you that I could never be done). But with confidence and certainty, I have found my twin flame. Without hesitation or reservation. Perfectamente a mi medida. Tal y como se la pedí al Universo.

I strengthened friendships. In particular three people whose lives I wanted more of in mine. I wanted more of their light. And I have found them to be so instrumental to getting through some tough days this year. Their constant support, encouragement and their way of “keeping it real” when they needed to nudge me was perfect. Friendships evolve. They morph. If they morph their way out, so be it. If they evolve into something stronger, embrace it. Either way, celebrate it.

I decided to start my journey to nursing school; to change careers entirely. I enrolled in pre-requisite courses and have been holding my own after 12-years of being out of the academic setting. If finals go as planned, I will have aced both classes this semester and have already registered for the next. I have also started applying to programs. This has been an interesting experience, especially the part where you write your personal statement. I am amazed at how much I have learned about myself along the way. Every step I have taken has brought me to this place and I am ever so blessed and thankful because even the things I labeled as “mistakes or missteps” where actually not at all. Everything is in Divine order.

This year I made the most difficult decision of my life. I had to decide to put my sweet Beagle to sleep. She was suffering from congenital heart failure. It’s no wonder to me it was her heart that gave out; there was so much LOVE in her. It has been an emotional roller coaster of days since August 31. The lessons the four-legged Love taught me where plenty. Here are a few:

  1. Find the perfect spot where the sun hits your body gently… feel its warmth on your skin.
  2. Greet people as if you haven’t seen them in years.
  3. Forgive instantly. Like NOW.
  4. Enjoy treats.
  5. Nap every day.
  6. Cuddle hard.
  7. Give unexpected kisses.
  8. Bark at the mailperson; all they do is bring bills anyway.
  9. Keep Loved ones company. Especially during difficult times.
  10. Sit in silence. Your presence speaks for itself.
  11. If you’re happy, wag your tail.
  12. Love unconditionally; without reservations, restrictions or fear.

She is always with me. I still find her hairs all over the house, the car and my clothes. But I hope to be to my friends and family, what Bailey thought of me –loyal, full of Love and fun.

I am not setting any resolutions this year. I am not setting goals. I am simply letting go of all that is not conducive to my spiritual, emotional and physical growth (that may include people folks).

I am keeping my arms wide open. Because if I simply walk with purpose and if everything I want and need I already have… then 2013 is the year to bring all of it forth.

Ashe.

as  i have been battling lately with depresion and disconnection for some time now, i made a conscious decision to take some steps towards walking out of the “darkness” we can sometimes fall into. i started with a trip to new york city. after all, though i was born in santo domingo, dominican republic it was new york city that raised me and taught me about coming out of “darkness.”

that weekend i decided i would only visit family. i started at my cousin’s place. just me and him and the x-box. we caught up. he showed me the new sneakers he got for his son. we laughed hard as we watched a comedy show. he had to go, had a date with his wife and didn’t want to be late. i kissed and hugged him goodbye and he reminded me, “yo, yajaira remember we more than cousins. fo’ real. you my sister, ma.”

i smiled all the way to my other cousin’s house. she always has a bed for me, she says. and so bailey and i showed up, there we were met with the Love and laughter of Familia (it makes me happy that to them my canine companion is family as well and they always expect us both). we started with cafe bustelo and pan con mantequilla. it’s the perfect beginning to some of the most amazing conversations.

i saw my cousin’s granddaughter. who is wise beyond her years. though i was not surprised shem being the off-spring of my cousin. i laughed with her kids and learned about police academy and nursing. my cousin now has a part-time job with the mets to make extra income. and then my aunt showed up and the second cup of bustelo was poured.

because i have been writing my book (who is taking me on an amazing ride), i decided to ask my aunt some questions. i asked, a bit nervous to hear the response but ready because i have been wanting some answers. fully aware that some of the things i might learn will change my life forever. we talked. and she shared. and the more i knew, the more i wanted to know. i started to understand myself in a different light. i started to make connections to patterns, and behaviors and my heart started feeling lighter. and while we didn’t get to everything. we got to enough to give me time to digest and process.

then my cousin and i decided to visit more family. off we went. and we walked into our cousins’ new apartment (real estate in new york is fortune) and i felt pride. because well, we are making life better for ourselves slowly but surely. my other aunt was there and there we laughed and laughed some more and caught up on life. the good, the bad and the ugly.

the following day we went to visit another cousin. and there we did more laughing. shared some intimate stories that connected us deeper. we ate. we drank. we cried. we shared youtube videos. we laughed ’til our jaws hurt.

i drove back to ct with new york city in my rearview mirror. and said thank you to my Home. no matter how long i go without coming back, the Familia loves me like city lights love time square.

that weekend something was going on back in ct. my cousin was sick. and i headed to her place. i had never seen her like this. we were all on edge and felt helpless. nothing could be done. it needed to “ride out.” so we waited. held her hand. and trusted in each other to take care of the necessary things. we are Family.

this weekend i decided to disconnect entirely from the “matrix” (no phone. no FB. no email -with the disclaimer that my mother new where i was if she needed to find me).  i have spent time with my cousin. talked about a lot. made her laugh in the emergency room. and then we came Home. clear broth and gatorade. and i served it up with extra Love for healing. as many times as she has healed me, this pales in comparison.

she is my strength. she has been my anchor. she is Home.

Familia is Home.

returning Home is where we replenish the Soul. i am thankful to have this space and time with them. it is the perfect way to begin to walk out of the “darkness.” surrounding your Self with Familia and Love.

apartment 5e

February 10, 2012

on the day of your death
pack lightly

because the only thing
that goes with you
are memories and Love.

123 e. 112st
apartment 5e
Titi Isabel’s tight three bedroom apartment
fit Love, laughter, sixty-two people
and still had space leftover for healing.

i remember the sound of our young voices.
i can still smell Titi’s sazon in the air.
i remember exactly the corner
where abuela always sat.

we cheered
when the families would come in
one-by-one we paraded
(macy’s had nothing on us).

her apartment decorated for christmas
at the beginning of october
(she still does it).

we were Home.

in Yanqui’s room
we’d sit and talk
teenage stories
that at the time
seemed so intense
and real -and secretive.

in the hallway
we played baseball
for 12 innings.

we’d have “showtime.”
dress up and go into the living room
to make aunts and uncles laugh
(abuela would smile the entire time)
as we imitated each of them at church
or doing something particular to each of them.
no one was saved from our wisecracks
-not even our parents.

we filled our bellies with food
digested it with laughter
and went home Loved and Loving.

if we could just hold a single moment…
if only we could just be still in that space for one more breath.

Writer’s Note: Titi ‘Sabel, gracias por ser y estar. Gracias por sacarme los piojos, por librarme de par’ de pelas de Mami, por cuidarnos, por estar presente… te quiero mucho y me quedo corta.

gestation of a book

January 26, 2012

for three years.
three long years…

i’ve been experiencing
morning sickness.
throwing up the words
of my childhood,
into this book.

my swollen hands
can’t hold a pen long enough
to wait for this embryo
of letters to take the form of words.

this lyrical fetus
grows…
but the chapters
drown in water retention.

so i am giving birth to pre-mature poetry…
before the umbilical cord strangles this piece of me.
hoping in an incubator,
truth will develop in the lungs of this poetic child.

will & testament

January 12, 2012

on may 3, 1993
abuela had her homecoming.
at the time of her death,
eight of her eleven children
were alive.

they headed
to her one bedroom
apartment on the 4th floor
of 1295 amsterdam ave.

her silver spoon collection
had airline logos. so did
some of her plates.

she had seventeen jars
filled with buttons.
she fastened love
on coats, and hats, and gloves
that kept us warm.

each of her daughters
kept one of her batas.
my mother kept a red wool
bandana she wore around
her head all-winter.

one of my uncles
just wanted the cassette tapes
where she recorded herself
singing church music.

they found ten dollar bills
wrapped in napkins in all sorts of places:
in pockets, in books, in vases.
almost a thousand dollars…
it was used to fly her body
to Puerto Rico.

my mother kept a hairbrush
(hairs included). the siblings split
up photo albums. her rocking chair
was the most coveted item…
her “favorite” son got to keep that.

trinkets. figurines. plants.
pots. pans. mugs. furniture.
they all wanted something
tangible to hold on to…

when our parents die
there are no assets to discuss.
no lawyer who will ask
to sign the dotted line.

our inheritance is debt.
the heirlooms
are untangibles:

memories. lessons. Love.

i’ve forgotten the sound
of my grandmother’s voice.
‘cept i remember the raspiness
of it like an old friend.

i remember her words.
no matter how harsh their truth,
her advice was always gentle.
i cannot forget her faith,
it was unshakeable.

if it took a while to see better days,
my grandmother created them
through laughter.

she had a noncupative
will & testament:

her will was that we remain a close family.
her testament was the way she lived her life:
humble. honest. faithFULL.

may i always honor her will and may my life be an extension of her testament.

 

“bendicion”

it is the first and last word
Puerto Rican and Dominican children (young and old)
say to their elders (i am uncertain if it’s true
of other Latin American countries).
it is said to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents,
or any other elder (not necessarily blood related).

it’s an “obligatory” salute. a sign of respect.

it is to me, one of the sweetest words.

the response is even sweeter:

“Dios te bendiga”
“Dios te cuide”
“Santa”
“Dios te acompañe”
“Dios te haga una muchachita buena”

and it is usually followed by
whatever descriptive affection
they have for you:

“mi hija.
mi santa.
negrita.
mi amor.
mi cielo.
mi reina.
cabezona (my uncle’s favorite).”

at the sound of it
i am overwhelmed
by their Love.

it is never said in anger.
but even if angry, the blessing is
always given.

i am constantly making sure
my nieces and nephews
say it to me. i encourage my siblings
and cousins to make sure their children
do not forget.

it is the blessing that has kept us safe
even in harms way. it is the blessing that heals
us when we’re ailing. it is the blessing that lifts
our sad spirits.

yesterday, i sat at the dentist’s office,
a young woman walks in and sees her aunt.
smiling she says, “bendicion mi tia bella.”
to which her aunt responds, “ay mi querida sobrina
dios te me bendiga. que gusto verte.”

i smiled.

those words hold so much power
in my life.
i know when the elders in my family
pass on… it is the sound of this blessing
in their voice that i will miss most.
i know it is one of the many words
i will miss out of my parents’ mouth.

bendicion.

it is the word you say to receive their blessing
and God’s protection. its history is biblical,
but it is spiritual at its core.

to me… it’s the shield of Love
my elders keep me wrapped in.

one question

November 29, 2011

seriously.

don’t take life so seriously.

life is fragile. short. time is not on our side. love is.

and in the end… that is the only thing we take with us.

so give it. freely. honestly. wholeheartedly. without reservation.

and receive it. without hesitation.

don’t worry about the damn bills. the next gadget. or making that paper.

none of it is worth a damn thing.

spend time with your family. laugh more with friends. treasure the treasures.

don’t hate. don’t hold anger. don’t be so quick to judge.

do your part to be a part of those who have left a legacy of a more just world.

stand up for the things that matter. stand down for the matters that don’t.

paint. write. sing. dance.

create spaces filled with tenderness.

ask yourself just one question:

if i knew i was going to die tomorrow, what would be most important right now?

the answer you give, is how you should live your life every day.

superpower

November 27, 2011

everytime i am in your presence
you shower me with the purest Love.

the way you looked at me
when you saw my face… the excitement
in your eyes vanished the worries right outta’ me.

and each of you hugged me…
excited to see your favorite Titi Feisty.

the honesty of your innocence
is uplifting.

we watched movies. happy feet
had me dancing in the movie theater
with you… your buttered popcorn fingers
held my hand.

we headed home to watch more movies.
superheroes flying and fighting… as your father,
(my brother) told us the history of marvel comics.
i saw him in the light of our childhood years.
time flies faster than Thor on the rainbow bridge.

if you all knew the super power you have
to bring complete happiness to my life.

you’re right ñingo, if i could have a super power… it would be to stop time
and go back and forth between it.

today, would be on loop.

reflection: dreams delayed

November 22, 2011

i have been thinking about this coming holiday.

i am having a hard time this year with it. i read somewhere that mercury is in retrograde and things might be a bit off. and the news always tell of stats that remind us how this is a really depressing time for many people. in trying to make sense of my current emotional state, i seek answers.  this has nothing to do with the holiday or mercury’s position. i am just missing one thing:

my very own family.

i have family. my siblings. my parents. cousins. aunts and uncles. we are thousands of miles apart. still, we are family. and the memories we made years ago are still with me.

but i want my own family. i want to build a home. create memories. hang them on picture frames. make traditions that my kids will talk about…

i’ve been sitting with this. writing about it in my journal. talked about it with some friends over dinner tonight. and then i came across a blog where the blogger was expressing a similar sentiment.

i suppose a good number of us get to that point in our lives. that place where we realize we want our own family. it is easy to feel at a lost.  or like we haven’t done something right if what we want hasn’t yet arrived.

but instead of questioning what i might be doing wrong… i allowed my self to feel and listen. and i learned something and made peace with it rather quickly: it is not yet time.

i am thankful for dreams delayed. it will be that much sweeter. i will be that much stronger.