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

queens v. jester-kings

November 1, 2012

i was born a Queen.

a long beautiful
lineage of Queens
who had to be kings
in castles
filled with jester’s
who played at being kings.

jester’s who silenced their voices
with side splitting punch lines
no jokes.

jester-kings who forget the strongest
piece on a chessboard is the Queen.
but who know…
that we are so powerful
it scares them enough to castle
behind three pawns.

while they dictate our moves
tell us where we need to be
how we need to play by the rules

check.

i am Queen.
the game starts and ends
when i say it does.

you have for too long
thought this game was about you.
setting parameters
trying to restrain
my strength
my voice
my choice.

jester-kings
your days are counted
the game is changing
Queens will rule again.

but don’t worry
we won’t pay you less for equal work
we won’t put viagra up for legislation
hell, we won’t even expect you to cook and clean.

trust.

this game
is about to get real.
so get your crooked rooks
and your bullshit bishops.

all i need is a few Queens
to do all the work
you and your pawns
have failed to do throughout
the history of your existence.

check. mate.

un-broken

April 24, 2012

i am broken
but i am not shattered.

repairable, in fact.

i am stronger
at the parts
that cracked
because they know, now
how to reconnect.

healing bones,
tendons rebuild,
nerves reconnect.

the broken heal.
the body remembers.
the soul is stronger.

break down,
build up.
the edifice is fortified
reinforced
and forced to realize such wondrous truth:
the body can handle so much… more.

so really,
i am not broken
i am just strengthening the core
of a warrior heart.

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.

i had a meeting with a life coach last week. it was nothing like what i was expecting. but i will write about that at some other point. i want to share part of the homework i was given -or as she called it “soul work.”

the assignment was to write every day for ten minutes from the flow consciousness of little Sarahí (five-years-old to be exact). i couldn’t edit. i couldn’t go back and move anything. it was just ten minutes of non-stop writing as if little Sarahí had been given a crayon and told to go at the walls with confidence.

i’ve always been a good student. so i did my assignments. though i don’t have to submit it. this was just for me. this was tough. a lot harder than i thought. i mean, i am a writer. it’s what i do when i am not working for that job that pays the rent. so i thought this would be “simple.”

so i wrote. and i cried. and i wrote some more. and i cried. i was angry. i laughed. a lot. recalling and reliving moments that reminded me that i had a horrific and beautiful fifth year. and i laughed. and cried.

if we can look at a part of our life for ten minutes and put ourselves in that exact moment, you can savor bitter sweet events. you can smell the air of the times. hear the sounds like classics. you can see smiles. faces. clothes colors. but the only thing you can’t do is touch.

i couldn’t touch little Sarahí. that was the most difficult part of this assignment. i couldn’t hold her. i wanted to hug her. to tell her that everything would be so much different at thirty-three. that the moment was just a moment. but i couldn’t. and the truth is the moment isn’t just a moment. because little Sarahí remains a five-year-old in that time and space for an eternity.

so instead i did what i always do to heal… i wrote to her:

Dear Little Sarahí,

I am sorry that the first thing you think about in this five-year-old moment is that day. I am sorry you carry it in your backpack like it was essential for your walk. None of it was your fault. Not a single part. Let it go little Love. Set your Self free.

I wish you could see your brightness.

Your spirit shines much brighter than the darkness of that day. I wish you knew that when you walk into a room, darkness dissipates. What a beautiful brilliant child you are! Abuela always told you that your light would win the world over; she’s right. It’s your “golden ticket.”

Remember sunny days. Randall’s Island. Night pool. Handball. Softball. Best cousins ever. Church. Sleepovahs’. Central Park. Third Ave. Summers with Manny and David. Dinners with abuela. Christmas. Great Adventure. Action Park. Pigtails. Bofi. Castle Greyskull… surely these days weigh so much more than that day.

You have an amazing ability to recall so much and you will use it when you get older to heal and tell your story. But keep smiling and shining. You are so much light to the infinite power.

Love,
Big Sarahí

it is difficult to forgive a time and space you didn’t have control of. it is even more difficult when you feel at fault for that something. but to begin the healing process we must first give the event light, forgive the Self for being hard on the Self, and then let it go. often times we hold on to something so hard, we think it’s holding on to us. we think it’s holding us hostage. when the reality is, we’ve been holding it hostage.

there’s a freedom in freeing your Self from yourself.

…and so begins my process.

safe

December 9, 2011

i don’t know if you know
but the only time i felt safe
was when you were around.
i knew nothing could happen to me.

you were my he-man.
always defeating the skeletor of my fears.

the saddest day of my life was
that august day of 1986,
when you and Manny left.
i knew i wasn’t safe without you.

i loved the summer.
the warmth of your arrival,
was the highlight of my year.

i tagged-along. sometimes i annoyed you,
(that’s what little sisters are supposed to do).
you held on to my pigtails
making motorcycle sounds.
you watched over me. i loved when we played.
wiffle-ball with duck-taped plastic bats.
chasing squirrels. handball. night pool. shoe-shine girl.
and forts. you made the most amazing forts.

you were my boot camp.
those times you were “mean”
was your way of getting me ready for life.

life has given us years. distance has kept
us apart for the majority of our lives.
but we have always been a part of each other.

life has been hard on you.
and you always come out on top.
your strength amazes me
(i wish i had a little more of it).

your Love… it weakens me.
your humor makes me laugh ‘til my belly hurts.

today, i celebrate the gift of your life.
your light shines so brightly David Anthony!

i am lucky to call you my brother
and blessed to have you as one of my best friends.

Happy birthday He-Man!

me and my best friends

hands

November 9, 2011

i look at my hands
and i see yours.

new lines on them every day
reminding me that time is passing
and our bodies begin to show
the contour lines of life.

i see your face every morning,
as the mirror’s reflection stares:

i am your daughter.

i have your eyes, your smile,
your eyebrows, your nose,
even your long toes.

then i look within…
i am so much of you.
an extension, almost continuation
of all that you are.

there was a time when i disliked
the image… there was a time
i wanted to deny the reflection.

the wonder years can lack so much wonder.

but today…

i am proud to be the daughter
of the strongest woman in the world.
proud to be an extension of a Love
that is infinite. proud to be an offspring
of a spirit that does not give up and a soul
that has never given in.

you have been through so much
and remain faithful.
you have lost everything
and remain thankful.

your words of advice
are unlike any other.

i looked at my hands
this morning… they look exactly like yours for a reason:
to remind me of my own strength.

may i

October 5, 2011

may i let go
of all that keeps me.

may i learn
to sit still
with all that is
unanswered.

may i find
peace within
faith without.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011

cooking lesson

August 21, 2011

“jamas le niegues a alguien tres cosas:
un vaso de agua, un plato de comida,
el uso de un baño.”
-Doña Juana Rivera

in 1985.

my abuela juana was a Mother. to her eleven children, forty-six grandchildren and a little six-story tenement building that sat in the middle of a spanish harlem, new york city block in the 12 o’clock shadow of the taino towers.

218 e. 122nd street.

on sundays my abuela cooked. and when i say she cooked, i mean she had the cucharones banging on calderos, el horno encendio’ making music in that kitchen to the rythmn of my aunts chatter and chismes. while the men played domino talking pelota y lo’ yankis o los mets… and the kids ran up and down las escaleras.

sunday was another way of saying family. if we weren’t at randall’s island, we were at abuela’s or at Titi Isabel’s. but cooking was happening. and so was eating. and Love.

when it was time to eat… my grandma would lead us in prayer and she would always say something along the “… y que aquellos que no tienen de comer, encuentren el camino a mi cocina.” (…and may those who do not have a meal, find their way to my kitchen).

cooking lesson 101: we are responsible for each other (blood related or not).

this is something that has always stayed with us… as the cousins have all grown older, we always tell each other, “stop by there’s always a plate for one more.” and we remember abuela. it was never a lesson that we were taught in the sense of sitting us down to tell us… it was just a natural way of nurturing.

between the pernil, el pollo, arroz con gandules, ensalada de papa, y escabeche de mollejitas we realized we had enough to fill our bellies and our hearts and those around us.

…you’d always see a few of us bringing somebody else. “this is my amiga from school…” you didn’t even have to finish saying her name, who she was related to, how she got here… when she was already being handed a plate. and then someone shouting, “quien falta de comer?”

abuela fed more than just our bellies. she fed our hearts with a sense of responsibility that lives in each of us eighteen years after her physical body left us. but her presence is still present in our meals.

feeding the collective familia is not just culture… it’s a commandment. food is just food if it has no nourishment that goes beyond the one it provides the physical body.  if you cannot feed the soul, don’t even bother to cook.

on sundays and every day… may i always feed souls.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

writer’s note: a special thanks to Marvin Bings and Antonio Robles for inspiring my sunday muse.

homecoming

April 9, 2011

at the dock
we waited
anxious
excited
happy
relieved.

one long horn sounds…

tears filled our eyes.

it’s the sound that lets us know
you,
are
home

and you are.

you are their home.
your presence
is home.

i realized it when she ran to you
hugged you. holding on to you.
not wanting to let go. she cried.
she couldn’t help it. in your homecoming
she was also home.

you looked at them
noticed how much they’ve grown:
how she’s inched closer to the skies,
how his facial hair is softly showing,
how the little one has so much to say.

and then… with the tenderness of a gentleman
you kissed your wife.  she, all the while waiting patiently.

that’s how she’s been since you’ve been gone
waiting… patiently.
holding the family together. missing every minute of you.

her strength deserves a uniform flanked with ranks
that admirals have yet to receive.
i watched her during your time away.
she fought wars here. launched her own missiles at days
that without you, seemed eternal.
she earns a medal of honor
for strength and courage
under fire without a crew.

your homecoming…is theirs also.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

writer’s note: welcome home walker-herrera family. thank you for your service and sacrifice.