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Right on schedule

lemonade-e-juice

“He’s a God you can’t hurry,

You don’t have to worry;

He may not come when you want Him

But he’s right on time, right on time. “Traditional Gospel hymn

I have refused to give up on this Advent. (Last year’s Advent of struggle ) As expected, I have been put to the test during this season. On one hand, I have a wounded dragon heaving its last toxic breaths.

wounded_dragon_by_vandervals

Vandervals’ “Wounded Dragon”

On the other, there is the prospect of yet another round of hoping for a leopard to willingly change his spots.

lolita_car

The guy on the right is the inspiration for The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”

(Truth be told, I’m not waiting at all but I’m loyal to a fault and I will do as directed, even if I get a little Ben Linus on occasion.)ci-59798115230130361

I had a moment yesterday when I wavered, when all my anger, frustration, and indignation threatened to cloud my mind and fill my eyes with tears.  But I remembered to breathe, pray, and hold tight to my commitment to this Advent.  I moved forward in more ways than one.  Yesterday, I made a choice.

I’ve already owned my penchant for pettiness. Shoot, I even have the casual Fridays t-shirts to prove it. My pettiness is amusing at times, other times worthy of criticism. But it hasn’t held me back in the way my lack of self-confidence does. Oh sure I’ll dance on stage or on the streets with little practice. I’ll take the mic and put together a speech on the fly. But my career has been stifled by my inability to see myself as a leader.  I have worked for twice as long as several peers who are at the helm their own ships.  Yesterday, through the darkness of my emotions, I found the strength to own that my time has arrived. It is my time to lead, guide, and shepherd. I have vision, purpose, and integrity; now I am emboldened by the courage to stand alone.

At the end of a stressful workday or any day for that matter, I have to answer to myself, my family, and my God.  How have I been the best version of myself today?  How am I going to be the best version of myself tomorrow?  Soon, I will live out the answers to these questions in the spotlight.  My mistakes will be my own.  My decisions will be my own.  I will struggle and fail but I will learn.  That in turn will help me grow in the woman I was born to be.

While I may be tempted to take Hot Sauce out my bag and mess up a window or two, I can’t let others’ tomfoolery make me resort to my worst self.  I am finally going to fix myself some long overdue lemonade.beyonce-car

These hands will have to stick to prayer and to getting my paperwork together for my next job.  God will continue to give me the strength and patience.

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Revealing relapse

“There is trouble in the air, destruction is everywhere
And men are being trampled beneath the soil
And nations, great and small, have now begun to fall
Oh come let us go back to God, go back to God”  written by Thomas Dorsey, as sung by Donnie McClurkin

When I talk about backsliding, I often mean it negatively.  When I backslide, I’m going to back old, often negative, habits and ways of thinking. Like every normal person, I have times when I’m disciplined, motivated, and therefore feeling and being successful.  If I “relapse” into past behavior, it is usually because I’m exhausted, demoralized, and struggling physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  Life goes in cycles.  It’s never a journey of point A to point B.  So why do I hold myself to that unrealistic black and white thinking?  What if “going back” has its benefits?

Para los que me conocen, y’all know I’m often goal-driven. I take on reading challenges, savings challenges, and prayer challenges. I train for half-marathons and for street performances of various choreographies.  I do weeklong class hops, novenas of daily masses, 40 day fasts, and multi-week fitness programs. But I don’t always complete these goals to the best of my ability.  Sometimes I don’t complete them at all.  Then I spend some time beating myself up about those failures.  Fortunately, time and life experience has taught me to seek humility.  Life has taught me that failure is a good time to turn back to God.

I said it.  As important as my faith life is to me, God doesn’t always come first. “Well, I guess we won’t go to Mass Carnaval weekend because I’m not about to sit in church in my costume.”  God doesn’t always fit on a busy schedule.  While I thank God when I’m succeeding, I spend less time with Him while I’m busy working towards that success.  I’m going, going, going.  Literally and figuratively running.  A quick grace over a rushed meal. Half a rosary done on the commute from one family activity to another.  I don’t build in time for devotion.

It is in times of struggle and failure that I truly give myself over to God.  When I’ve been diagnosed with illnesses, I have stood with God.  When I’ve struggled with work situations, I have had long, emotional conversations with God.  When I have lost loved ones, I have found comfort from God.  Where human motivation and individual goals waver, God is constant.

I know I have lots of work to do in the next few months. I will make my faith life part of that work.  Going back to God is wonderful.  Staying with Him must be a goal. 2eec7f06e6a3add42dfda620cb60b94d

Surreality check

Lynchian: refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter. David Foster Wallace

It has been a while since I needed to escape reality through television shows.  Usually I watch TV shows that parallel my family life like Blackish or Fresh off the Boat (TV show parallels), serve as bonding time with M as with Top Chef or Chopped Junior, or feed my craving for intelligent horror, The Returned
 Definitely in my Top 5 of Best TV shows EVER
Last week offered the return of my beloved The X-Files

Rambo met me at my parents’ house so we could watch the premiere with my dad.  Due to recent events
(and nope,  not at home), I decided to Netflix and chill with one of my all-time favorites, Twin Peaks. 
You may wonder how a spooky, surreal telenovela (folks who are insulted by the comparison need to check out Cuna de Lobos and El Maleficio; telenovelas aren’t always big hair, big fights, and big weddings) from the 90s could serve as an antidote to reality. 
Bad but badass villain; she’s my secret Patronus
Ernesto Alonso serving in El Maleficio; must find on Netflix stat 
Twin Peaks hasn’t lost its edge over the decades; it is as creepy, funny, and mind-boggling as ever. From its lovely yet nightmarish soundtrack to its iconic images, I felt transported to that small town where not one thing is as it seems.  On a Saturday afternoon following what has been a mentally challenging week at work, it was the right counterpoint. 

I have learned, after years of hard work (and, as I like to joke, thousands of dollars), that my thoughts and emotions are best checked.  In other words, I can’t let my mind wander.  #icant.  So after this week of bizarre and confusing events, I could not sit around and think about them for too long. I seriously compromised my health and my career at one point in my life.  I realized I had to learn how to heal. I committed to change.  I know I thrive through routine, discipline, and spiritual practice.  I train for half-marathons. I train for Carnaval. I pray the rosary daily. When I’m really good, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. My schedule and calendar, sometimes the cause of controversy with certain family members and friends, is full, mostly with cherished events and activities.  This is on purpose. This is deliberate.  I made a commitment to health that will not waver.  So, when faced with others who haven’t yet learned that important lesson and perhaps never will, I need a break.  Why not be entertained while being comforted? 

Reality can be daunting.  Indulging in some fiction that is somewhat stranger than the truth helps me.  As for confronting those strange truths, I am grateful that I now have the mental strength to face them all.  I also  have the experience to know I can’t do much to help those who do not.  (Marsupium crotalus epidemic)

The plague on all our houses

I know your pain.  My hand has been ripped to shreds.  My back hurts from all the puncture wounds.  My hand spins when I think of all the time expended, all the words unheeded, all the energy I could have spent on my family, myself, even household chores.  Most of us have suffered from this condition at one time or another; in fact, many of us will continue to battle it for the rest of our lives. The scientific name is Marsupium crotalus, more commonly known as rattlesnake in pocket. (See also being played, taken for a ride, used and abused, bamboozled, or doormat syndrome.) 
The condition is symptom-free at its onset. After initial contact with the viper, the patient may not notice any negative changes. They may interact with the infected reptile for months, even years, before the bite occurs.  Marsupium crotalus is the result of the slow-acting toxins released from the snakebite.  Marsupium crotalus may include the following symptoms: chest pains, headaches, stiff neck, clenched jaw, back spasms, depression, anxiety, anger, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other physical and emotional complications. While treatable through a regimen of self –care, including therapy, it can recur through a person’s lifetime.
You may wonder why anyone would willfully put a rattlesnake in one’s pocket. There are a number of reasons why someone would take such a risk. The person may suffer from empathy, the need to nurture, hope in someone’s untapped potential, or consistently feel the urge to help others. Many people want to “pay it forward” in an effort to give back to the community at large. Occasionally, people who have pre-existing conditions may have compromised immunity to Marsupium crotalus. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the rattlesnake will successfully sublimate its instinctual need to attack. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt.
I too have Marsupium crotalus.  My therapist asked me a few months ago how one recognizes a rattlesnake.  I said the rattling tail is the giveaway.  She pointed out that the rattlesnake gives fair warning. I agreed that I don’t have any good reason to pick up the damn thing. The snake, and all the snakes I have known, revealed from day one what it was. The key is learning to head in the other direction when I hear those cascabeles shaking. 

I have previously written about my failings in helping others. (betrayal blues) I have been disappointed and devastated by the negative outcomes of helping relatives, professional colleagues, romantic partners, and friends. I wish I could say I am completely healed from Marsupium crotalus. After all I have experienced, some of which has been chronicled in previous writing, I thought I was cured. The last several months have taught me that I still need to work on being aware, assertive, and self-protective.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a resource to someone who is struggling. I can’t control how the person I help will respond. I can control how far I will go in offering my support. Sometimes the best choice I can make is the one to walk away, to not engage, and to care from a safe distance. 

“You’re ruining my Advent” and other excuses

I began my Advent retreat faced with new challenges. Rambo had left for his own retreat out of the country. The situation at work went from bad to worse. Within one day of setting a goal of engaging deeply in spiritual reflection and gratitude, I was mentally cussing out this person and that person.  By day 2, I had coined “You’re ruining my Advent” as my rationale for the recurring anger and frustration. Even during prayer, I found myself praying for Jesus to take control not out of faith and acceptance but because my mind was going negative places. I had missed the point.
Saint John of the Cross wrote about the “dark night of the soul”, an experience of great suffering and confusion that tests one’s strength and faith. I have lived through many dark nights due to emotional struggles, physical illnesses, family crises, and work-related conflicts; I cannot say that my recent experiences are a “dark night” experience.  However, I gave in rapidamente to negative thinking, to resentment, judgment, self-righteousness, all those thought patterns and ways of talking about others that get in the way of my faith and my growth. I’m quick to throw ajos y cebollas all around. While I know that I cannot control others and that I can control my own reactions, I chose to lose control, if only behind people’s backs and in my mind.  Nobody was ruining my Advent without my permission and involvement.
Brett’s birthday fell on the second to last day before the winter break, during the 3rd week of Advent. I logged into Facebook to change my profile picture to commemorate this day. As often happens when I think of Brett, I was reassured. 
 My Advent has been filled with love, love from M, love from Rambo (via Skype), love from my samba family, love from my boss, and love from the speakers and writers at Dynamic Catholic.  Even that one person who gets on my last nerve on the regular showed me love;  this sometime nemesis turned out to be my secret Santa. I had sent a mean text about this individual minutes before when my colleague approached me.  When I heard the news, I laughed at the irony and the lesson. Despite our differences and occasional skirmishes, this person had spent two weeks giving me thoughtful gifts. As we shared a hug, I scolded myself for being close-minded and resentful, for not showing mercy. 
Advent is about waiting. It is the period of waiting in darkness for the light of dawn.  I struggle with my own darkness, whether it is the darkness of depression or the darkness of anger and anxiety.  I wrestle with that darkness; I may have to crawl towards the light.   I won’t be stopped.  
Morning at Machu Picchu, July 2014. Photo by me.

La leyenda de SuperMama -Or- the blessing of a busy schedule

Recently, I posted a Facebook status update about a typical hectic Saturday which included a multiple-mile training run, a Dance Party appearance, and packing up favor bags for mija’s birthday party.  A friend commented “So it was a slow day?”  I laughed and then probably went back to my multi-tasking. 
There was a time in my life, specifically a decade ago, when, because I was a committed girlfriend (aka pendeja) in a long-distance relationship (aka estupidez to the tenth degree), I did not do much.  My club kid days/phase had ended; there were no more early Wednesday morning (house music at 2am!) trips to San Francisco or any more Sunday afternoon tea-dances followed by Thai dinners.  If my girlfriends were busy, I often spent Friday nights and Saturdays at home, reading or doing housework. Once the relationship fizzled, I spent lots of time blogging. Within five years, my life went from boring to outright loca(there’s a reason I relate to Mariah, Britney, and Demi and it’s not because I’m a pop star diva)and I had to re-evaluate how I lived.  Being busy in a positive, productive way saved my sanity. 
Time is not my great enemy.  My schedule may seem overwhelming to folks.  For me, it is purposeful.  I make time for family, exercise, learning, and dance.  Those are the priorities.  They help me regulate my emotions, tolerate distress, and improve my relationships.  Then there is work and housework.  During all of my activities, I work on mindfulness, on appreciating every moment in all its complexity and simplicity.  I hope that my daughter learns that a strong woman can do and be many things.  I hope she sees that taking care of myself helps me take care of her, her father, and others in my life. 
Let’s get one thing clear.  I cannot do it all. I may do my leisure reading while my daughter enjoys ballet and tap lessons.  Learning a dance routine for a flash mob means the laundry may not be folded for a few days. The freezer may come to the rescue for a meal or two a week (you best believe I store leftovers and bring out family favorites when I’m too busy to cook.) My mom sometimes scolds me for making too much time for fun and not enough time for household chores.  I have been embarrassed when my suegra visits during a particularly busy time and sees a messy house. So I would rather make happy memories than make the bed. I can make a game of putting away laundry or doing the dishes.  The whole familia pitches in when the clutter gets too out of control.
Then there are those events which are not on the schedule.  Bedtime story time.  Family dinner at the kitchen table.  Best of all, we have what our daughter calls happy family, sweet little moments when the three of us share a group bear hug.  These are the times that truly matter.