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Blue Monday

bluemondayThose who came before me lived through their vocations

From the past until completion, they’ll turn away no more

And still I find it so hard to say what I need to say

But I’m quite sure that you’ll tell me just how I should feel today, “Blue Monday,” New Order

I had a rough day at work earlier this week.  It was overwhelming. It wasn’t so much the written work that I was having to do because I finished a huge project on Friday. It wasn’t decision-making because yesterday’s events didn’t require anything too difficult. I was short-staffed, down three key employees. It was the  level of need that I sensed or that was needed by parents and students. Credential programs never teach you about self-care, how to strike a healthy work-life balance, and how to handle the emotions that arise when families are sharing their needs and problems with you. Those lessons you learn from experiences or if you’re lucky, good mentors.

I have made a career out of being patient and professional no matter what challenges I’m facing. This has been especially true as an administrator. As a teacher, I often wore my heart on my sleeve.I can’t justify everything I did because it was often dependent on my mood; there were times I was self-involved and less focused on best serving my students and their families. As an administrator I have learned to be more thoughtful about my decisions and actions. The criticisms I received as a teacher,  specifically about my inability to hide how I really feel, were helpful as I transitioned into greater leadership roles. However, it has been inwardly challenging to be calm in many of the situations that I face. Embodying grace under pressure often means internalized pressure. So I broke down once I got home. Rambo and M comforted me with reassurance of their support and love.

I did make it to the gym that night. I had been tearful. By the time I walked into the gym I had pulled myself together. My coach gave us quite the workout. It was physically grueling. It was exactly what I needed to remind myself what I am capable of doing. When things get rough, I can push through them.  What is important is to keep moving and to breathe. As I do with most of my workouts, I lift all those weights in my life and from work. I crunch, step, swing, and power through each set. Though I am nowhere near my previous levels of strength and fitness, I got through the evening and felt better for it.

I told Rambo I wanted to quit my job. I have to take it one day at a time. I will rely on what won’t fail me. I am blessed to have my health, my commitment to myself, and the love of my family. As my running coach once told me, tough times don’t last but tough people do.

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Storm

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This #transformationtuesday was one of setbacks.  As I commuted through a rainstorm, I felt hopeless and helpless.  At work, I was in charge for the day while managing ongoing crises and beginning the annual round of state testing.  After having been horribly shrill with M for the second morning in a row, I cried as I drove through traffic over the East Bay hills.

Those moments of feeling completely overwhelmed make me question my plans and goals. I don’t know if I should pursue them. I don’t know if I’m ready for a bigger leadership role. I want to feel like I’m making a difference for the community I serve. But there are other goals that are closer to my heart. I want to write.   I want to be a good mom. I’m in the middle of the storm. I’m trying to seek the eye and maintain hope. It’s hard for me to believe I can move forward calmly, peacefully, and successfully; I don’t know that I have the strength.

I accept that I will experience these trying moments.  Like the day when I pictured myself sitting in the desert with the sun bearing down on me, I feel the rain pouring down on me. It makes me feel cold and unsure.  Entiendo que son cosas de la vida; knowing that doesn’t make those times any easier.

Days in the desert

During the second week of Lent, I had to reassess my progress with my Lenten challenges. Bagging up items I no longer need was going well. There are fewer items to discard though my house still looks cluttered. My writing is going well in producing drafts. I haven’t managed time well for revising and publishing. I spent four hours doing a week’s worth of posts. I have to come up with a new system or I have to let go and accept this will be the process. In terms of more prayer, I’m listening to gospel music daily. I’m not being diligent about doing my spiritual reading or truly taking time out of my day to pray.

Today’s prayer was for a better relationship with my daughter. While she may get upset by what happens in her school friendships or in dance competition, the biggest influence on her life is the relationship with her parents. When we’re hard on her, it hurts her. It’s a busy time of year with dance competition, Carnaval prep, and Lenten activities at my daughter’s school.   Busyness and multitasking keeps us from diving into each moment. I’m notorious for multitasking, especially at work when multiple devices are on.

I need to manage my time and stress levels. I’m working on a job search. My taxes haven’t been done. Work has been hectic. This is no one day Ides of March phenomenon; it’s been difficult for months.  Adult and youth behaviors show a lack of boundaries, self-control, and common sense.  It’s taxing to manage all of that.  On the home front, the 4th member of our household, my mother in law, arrives this week. That will change the family dynamics. The kitchen will be cleaner but I may have more interpersonal challenges.  My schedule may be called into question more often than usual.

Lent is a time of struggle. I’m put to many tests daily. I have to face them day by day, hour by hour. I really want to do minute by minute because I’m not enjoying the moments. There’s no quick fix. I have to sit in the desert hungry, thirsty, irritated, and tired and let the sun beat down on my head.

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The 365 day a year challenge

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Tank says it all: Better sore than sorry

As I move forward with my 4 challenges in 40 days, there is a goal I didn’t set for the 40 days. An ongoing goal is my fitness challenge.

I have struggled with my weight and my relationship with food for my entire life. As experienced by many people, food has been an emotional outlet. This continues to be an area with which I struggle but over the years, I’ve gotten control of it. I eat healthy and cook regularly despite my busy schedule. It’s easy to cook two or three meals on the weekend. Often I haven’t had time to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Sometimes I forget to get that one ingredient that’s going to make a meal hearty or tasty. In the past few years, my weight has yo-yoed.  Since joining my new gym, I have maintained my weight loss and made gains in muscle tone and strength.  I didn’t always have those specific fitness goals. I always wanted to lose weight and be fit. This is the first time I care about being stronger and being toned, not simply because of Carnaval or other performances but because it’s good for my body.

I have struggled with health issues. Last year was the first year in three that I didn’t have major surgery. The summer before that, I was diagnosed with gallstones and had my gall bladder removed. Before that I had a rare inflammatory condition that affected my breast tissue and required  invasive surgery. I medicate for IGM daily. It was frightening. I continue to be very scared. I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer and heart disease. Health fears are constantly in the back of my mind. My daughter is the reason I wouldn’t want anything to compromise my health. Being a mom inspired me to become more healthy in my 40s than I was when I was younger.

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Walking lunges with Bulgarian bag.  Photo by M.

In December, I joined a new gym. My samba sisters, specifically those who’ve attended this gym, inspired me. I had often flirted with the idea of taking on a fitness challenge there but I was intimidated. I am not a weight lifter. During my first two years in college, you could find me at the gym lifting weights. When I first started teaching during my 20s, I did weight training with a personal trainer. So it had been decades. It’s not been something I’ve been drawn to do. I like to run. I like to dance. I like cardio. My new workouts have required me to change my way of thinking and to push myself hard. It’s not easy. I struggle. I am smaller and slower and weaker than a lot of people. I gauge myself against myself so that if I can do something I was never able to do before then that is meeting my goal. This week at samba, we did abs and pushups and other muscle work. In the past, I would cringe and groan, “I can’t do this.” It came much more easily. My teacher passed me and said, “Well you train all the time.” One of my samba sisters who inspired me in my fitness journey told me I looked great. She is committed to fitness so her compliment meant so much to me.  It felt good to receive reassurance and validation from those I respect and love.

Fitness is not a 40 day challenge. It is a fun mental and emotional outlet which will extend my life. While I like that my clothes fit more loosely, I love that I am modeling health and wellness for my daughter.  She comes to the gym with me at least once a week and watches me sweat it out. Getting a thumbs-up from her is great motivation. Fitness will continue to be an everyday challenge and a lifelong goal.

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Boy, bye; How I stopped being so scared of evil

 

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Illustration in my Children’s Bible

The Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent describes Jesus’s temptation in the desert. Jesus is tempted by the devil.  The devil is an instigator. He is manipulative especially as he constantly seeks to gain power. Going after Jesus is evidence of the arrogance, narcissism, egoism that comes with being evil. Jesus is able to resist. He is all powerful. Jesus demonstrates the strength and authority needed to resist temptations that we all experience. We all want to attend to our immediate needs. I’m starving so let’s turn these rocks into bread. We want youth, physical strength, and immortality. I’m going to drink my liver into disease because it feels good. Because I’m young, I’ma be all right. We want wealth and power.  Life owes me these things.  Jesus rises above those desires. He sees the ultimate goal. The 40 days have been a test. They’ve been physically hard but he has stayed faithful and strong. He is preparing for what is going to be more difficult. He is finding the discipline before he begins his ministry. Jesus does not fear the devil and sends him away like the nuisance he is.

I grew up very fearful of the devil (What I learned watching The Exorcist). I was much too young(six!) to learn about possession, that the devil was a real entity that could take over a person. It made me much more fearful than my daughter is at that age.  On the other hand, I grew up as a spiritual child. I was drawn to the Bible. I was reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Luke at age 7 because I wanted to do so. One reason I haven’t exposed to her more horror movies or pop culture interpretations of the devil is I find them scary. About 15 years ago, I made a survey and asked my friends when they first saw The Exorcist and what were its long-term effects. I continued to do other readings about exorcism. Those fears stuck with me.

r12mwvNow I’m older and I have had life experiences with different facets of evil. I’m not fearful because I know good prevails. I’ve done a lot of writing about my thoughts as I “exorcised “a “devil.” (My second career as an exorcist) I gained a lot of strength from those experiences. I may laugh when I say “the devil is a lie” and “not today, Satan” but those are true statements. I have been able to look at that evil, at that enemy, to look it in the face and say I’m not afraid of you. That’s powerful.

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Father Tomas is played by Rebelde cutie Alfonso Herrera

On a related note, while dealing with real-life drama, the TV show, The Exorcist, premiered on Fox. While it wasn’t a ratings hit, it was a critical hit and a hit in my household. We watched it every week and analyzed it. I connected it back to what I was living. I found parts of it hilarious. I would argue it is better than the original novel and original film.   Those were good but the TV show’s acting and writing took it to another level. Geena Davis was brilliant. The show explored what is happening in the church regarding the role of lay people, the role of women, and the behind the scenes politics which you may not know about if you haven’t been involved in ministry. I like that the show spoke to the power of family and faith.  As I wait along with other fans to learn if the show will get renewed, I would recommend binge-watching on Hulu or Fox. Don’t be too scared.  Y’all know who wins and who always will.

Watch Season 1 of  The Exorcist

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Jesus saying “Largate!”

 

Literally back on the mic

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Though I began writing fiction at 9, I started writing personal reflections in my monthly column in La Voz de Berkeley when I was at Cal. I then created a blog, Mujer Hollering, inspired by that column, and more recently, my blog, Mujer Evolving. While writing fiction is a long-term goal, my #40blogsfor40days challenge is a great opportunity to share my work and honor my voice.

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I have suffered from writer’s block for many years partly due to time management. So am I going to complete this writing during Lent?  I decided to solve the problem this year by beginning my blogs as voice recordings. During my morning commute, I have been recording five minute voice memos to capture my thoughts. There’s plenty of writing material whether it’s personal experiences, music, TV, or themes I have pondered.  The commute has allowed me time to do some uncensored reflecting. When I’m at the computer, I get stifled by the desire to wordsmith or produce a clear and concise piece in a short amount of time.  Drafting differently gives me a chance to voice my ideas.

Then it is time to transcribe. I don’t type it word for word. I do some revision as I go. Sometimes I stop the playback as I tend to speak quickly.  I don’t want to lose any key ideas. Once it’s transcribed, I read it. I start the editing process. I take out repetitious phrases. I rearrange paragraphs. I add topic sentences, details, commentary, and transitions. I was an English teacher for thirteen years so I have those skills to help me produce a polished piece of writing. The verbal rough draft and more intense editing process has allowed me to produce work that is much more coherent. I’m excited that this may be an opportunity to fully commit to writing on a more regular basis.

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Fighting temptation

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Mama Mary will knock you out

The devil is busy.  Ash Wednesday was unbelievably tough.  After a challenging day, I was pushed to my limit at the very end of the night.

I am involved in an ongoing and tense correspondence which is a direct result of someone else’s actions.  The person responsible for the mess is someone who has created lots of problems for me in recent years.(An epilogue) While this person is no longer physically around me, I’m resentful I have to resolve the aftermath. In the latest exchange, the person affected by the poor decisions told me (and two colleagues!) how we should handle the situation. Though I was livid, I responded in my usual way. I was polite, clear, and firm as I clarified my understanding of the problem and how I would be handling the situation. I didn’t reveal that this was that other person’s fault. Why shift responsibility when I’m being held accountable? The good news is that my message seems to have been received both literally and figuratively.

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I’m often tempted to take the low road. There’s a part of me that fantasizes about telling people off and putting people in their place in the most explicit, vehement, and aggressive way possible to really mandarlos a volar. Yet that type of behavior goes against my nature, my upbringing, and the values I hold dearest:  integrity, compassion, community, altruism, and mercy.   I try not to be petty and passive-aggressive; this is one of my greatest sins. It’s very hard for me to express my anger with someone. I struggle to come up with a way that’s going to be in line with the rest of the way I live my life. So it’s kept under wraps.  My true feelings get expressed in my writing or my body language, the side eye, the tone in the email or in my voice.  I vent with others who may be removed from the situation but that type of venting (aka gossip, another of my sins) goes against the values of community, compassion, and mercy. I have to stay true to myself.  I can’t give in to my worst self. My evil Kermit may seem hilarious but in real life, that side of me will wreak havoc. Though I have struggled through years of emotional and spiritual work, I wrestle with this temptation every day.

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Lent reminds me of my mortality, my weakness, and my need for a clean heart. It’s my will power and my willingness to be part of the solution. I am here to do right.  There’s a whole lot of wrong in the world. Each day, I experience misplaced, misdirected, misunderstood, and misguided pain and anger that those around me do not know how to manage. Sometimes I don’t know how to handle their emotions or my own. Yet every day, I see love and compassion. I stay strong. I remember that my focus is to be a better version of myself for my own well-being but more importantly for the growth of my child. She has so much potential to be an amazing woman someday. I need to do what I can to help get her there. The Lord is testing me this Lent as He should. I am challenged to be strong and brave, and to take comfort in the Lord.  Miracles don’t happen without faith and discipline. That’s the truth about many tests that I have faced. They result in growth, peace, and happiness. At the end of this season of struggle, there will be resurrection.

A.D. The Bible Continues