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Bearing weight

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Ash Wednesday was a dark day.  I had hoped to attend morning mass but as with many weekday mornings, we ran late and I scolded my daughter.  I dropped her off at my parents’ house, her face troubled, and her eyes downcast.  My workday was a blur of marijuana smoke, distraught parents, frayed nerves and nagging self-doubt. As the day wound down, we learned that across the nation, a fellow high school experienced a terrible tragedy.  I went to church in hopes of getting out from what the day had been. When I walked stiffly and silently into evening mass, I felt weak.

My dance teacher recently noticed that I carry tension between my shoulders. She noted that my heart is open but that I’m carrying so much.   As an educator, as a mother, and as a friend, I have worked on carrying less, to work on carrying myself. The weight that can be overwhelming sometimes. I do it all. I take care of others and myself.  There are days like Ash Wednesday when I feel I have to take care of many people and those days wear on me. Those are the days I wish someone would take care of me. I stopped wishing for that when I didn’t find it; I’m glad I learned to rely on myself. It also deepened my faith.  I know that God takes care of me. He gives me the strength to get through rough days, to stand tall and strong.

I tell myself better a strong back than a weak spine. But that stiff back makes it hard to truly dance.

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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!”

 

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

Can-do attitude

When I was a little girl, my father worked in a food canning factory.  Canning plants could be found all over the Bay Area back in the day: the Shasta soda plant we saw on the drive across the San Mateo Bridge 812f141d-5bac-40e1-b164-8e391df5afb8_d

or the smells associated with various foods being processed in Hayward or San Leandro.  In my own home, an elderly neighbor taught my mother how to can jams and jellies.  This personal history with canning has been lost on me.  canning-button-026I have lost my ability to can.

When did this happen?  When this 45th Republican regime came into power?  When the third white boy from Peyton Place Bay Area cussed me out at work?  There was some kind of perfect storm this fall. sean-beanWinter isn’t coming, y’all.  It came. Ya llegó.

I have fought back in the usual way. I have been focusing on getting fit.  I have continued to dance. I have taken refuge in TV shows and books.  But my signature patience has worn thin.

Given the current state of the state, lacking patience may be a good thing.  It’s time to stop suffering like a santita and get into warrior mode.

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My favorite saints carry swords. Saint Barbara

My fear is that I’m taking it out on the wrong people.  I have become much less patient with my partner and my child.  Y eso no está bien.

Rambo was and is a soldier. He can take my stank attitude for the most part. He also has no problem checking me when I get to be too much.  M, on the other hand, is sensitive.  Don’t let the sass and side-eye fool you. My daughter is sensitive and I am the person who has the capacity to hurt her feelings the most.  She has told me so.  I am committed to being the great mother she deserves.

So while I’m freezing, it’s time to power through this change of seasons. winter-is-coming-1050x600While I may not be able to can with the trifling behavior of spoiled teens or the shenanigans occurring on a national scale, I know damn well there’s nothing to stop me from being my best self.  I can and I will.

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Year of milagros

“They don’t always happen when you ask

And it’s easy to give in to your fears…

A small but still resilient voice

Says hope is very near…” From “When You Believe”

Nearly five years ago, I organized a musical variety show with dance performances by family and friends for my 40th birthday party.(Turning 40) Originally I had planned to do a lip sync duet of one of my favorite diva power ballads, “When You Believe” but the number was eventually shelved. mariah-carey-whitney-performed-when-you-believe-duringThis particular Oscar-winning song is a favorite not only because it features two great singers, Whitney and Mariah, in all their diva glory; it’s also an uplifting anthem from one of Rambo’s favorite Bible-inspired films, The Prince of Egypt. The movie follows a young Moses as he realizes his call to deliver his people. The lyrics adequately capture the struggle to remain faithful to your mission and purpose in the face of challenges. It isn’t a theme song for a 40th birthday; it’s a theme song for any year and any occasion.

I have been pondering those song lyrics in the last day or so. Because despite moments straight out of the Twilight Zone 15727206_236100280160973_5711380463324119652_nand the very real tears I shed for Prince and Juan Ga, 14191976_10154684379132784_285972347186439489_n

this was a year of miracles.  It is a miracle I didn’t undergo major surgery this year. It is a miracle I didn’t put these hands on certain individuals. It is a miracle I fought and ultimately vanquished an enemy.15676564_10155117829802784_4985360818320789856_o This is not hyperbole. It is real. It happened. Prayers were answered. I experienced miracles. 191-jesus-casting-out-demons

No fue fácil. I can’t deny this has been a year of new challenges, ones I continue to confront daily. There are days when I weep, curse, and waver. As I have shared in previous posts, I pray. I pray at my desk at work. I pray in doorways. I pray in my car as I pull into parking spots. I pray before phone calls or face to face conversations.  Prayer will continue to be a source of strength. As the title of this blog indicates, I push myself.  I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone personally, professionally, emotionally, even physically this year. When I’m struggling to lift a weight or run that length, I think of my challenges, of those people and situations that are testing me. I push like hell. I may not be as strong as I want to be but I am not weak.  I refuse to be.

I can’t get on the forget 2016 bandwagon. Every phase of our lives brings us pain, sorrow, success, and joy. It is my choice to receive and make miracles.

Wayward shepherd

 

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“’And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.’”  Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino

As I did exactly a year ago(An Advent first), I began my Advent fast after evening Mass. The morning has been one of silence: the silence of a smartphone used merely as phone and not social media device, the silence involved with a nutritional cleanse, and as hoped annually, the silence of prayer. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for the first time in months.   It felt wonderful to be grateful and to be still.  However, soy realista and I own who I am.  This will be a struggle as it was last year(Ruining Advent.)  It’s possible that by tomorrow, my emotions will get the best of me and my thoughts will run ragged.  Como decia Cantinflas, ahi esta el detalle.

My biggest challenge isn’t my compulsion to be online.  It is my propensity for negative emotions and thoughts.
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Gossip, sarcasm, and shade throwing may be humorous and entertaining but they also allow me to give voice and free reign to anger, resentment, and meanness. As evidenced by this year’s Kermit meme of the moment(and I do love me some Kermit, My love of Kermit memes), everyone struggles with their dark side.
73291699 I’m not the only one who feels that the f@#*ery is too much at times.  But I’m the only person who can control how I act and think given the situations and people around me.

Recently, within hours of declaring myself unwilling to deal with negative online conversations about the election(Holding the door open,) I became engaged in an online debate about immigration with someone I’ve known since the eighth grade. In the past, we’ve been able to respectfully disagree.  This time, I couldn’t believe the angry tone that was taken. While I pointed out facts, my acquaintance responded with vitriolic statements. When I realized I couldn’t argue with logic and reason, I took the step of silencing the discussion by blocking my account.

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I flirted with the idea of sharing screen shots of the conversation or of composing a blog about the situation.  I’m glad I didn’t follow through on those actions. I would have gained nothing other than temporary satisfaction.  While I’m hilarious when I’m petty,  I do more good when I keep those cruel thoughts quiet.

The daily struggle will be one mostly within me.  I will have to be mindful and purposeful.  Every day, I will have the opportunity to be my best self.   Every day will be another day to sustain the peace offered by silence and compassion. May I fast from the noise of anger.

After the battle

So we took on the dragon.  While I don’t know if it’s slain, I know it’s languishing in its respective corner.

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Dragon

Meanwhile, I’m over in ours laid out.  Tired.  Spent.

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Me

Because, like the days following a half-marathon or the ressaca do carnaval, the days following a confrontation with an enemy are long.  In that time, te pondras a pensar.  You will ponder many things. I ponder my integrity and my identity.

Confrontation isn’t in my nature.  I’ve gotten better over the last decade about standing up for myself.  But I struggle with not becoming what I am fighting. I don’t want to be cruel, judgmental, resentful, or vindictive. I don’t like wishing the worst for others. While doing so may feel satisfying in the moment, it drains me in the long run.  I would rather heal and help.

So how do I sustain myself? I go back to the familiar and the beloved.  My child.

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Family costume 2016: 50s Flashback

Books.

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With the fabulous and hilarious Luvvie Ajayi

Laughter.

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Photobombed at Grace Jones 

Time outdoors.

Dance.

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Flash Mob Tribute to Prince, September 2016 

Family traditions.  My faith.

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My running club: Mis antepasados y muertitos queridos 

I turn back to that which feeds my soul and that which reminds me of who I am. I am a mujer constantly evolving.

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17 year old sideeye 

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Fox in Socks at 44