Monday, December 14, 2015

The Quietest Year

2015 has been my quietest year on this blog since I started posting years ago. Busy year and quiet year, moving into this adult phase of living, partnership, solid plans and growth. Oh the growth is a motherfucker, this year wasn't easy in many places, I had quite a few dark days, probably more like weeks and months wherein I cycled downward into a grief I didn't understand. It wasn't a specific. I know biochemically I'm prone to depression and anxiety but this felt more, to quote a friend, an initiation. I came out softer and wiser. This artist/seeker/bruja/storykeeper/dreamer path is humbling as fuck. And also ecstatic. I wouldn't trade it.

The writing this year has been the best of my life. I have stories bubbling up in me that feel channeled at times. I look back at the writing and think "Wait, what? I wrote that?" I'm publishing more. I'm finally at peace with a struggle I've been struggling with for years. I had so much fear and impostor syndrome over being a writer outside of academia, community college dropout, no MFA, no piece of paper telling the world I followed a set of rules that spit me out on the other side "writer." This year I'm grateful I don't have any of that shit, I wouldn't be writing the stories I'm writing had I gone down that academic path. It wasn't for me and I think a program would have hurt me.  I'm sure it makes lots of people happy but here, in the sidelines and with a partner in an MFA program I see the writing on the wall. There will be a backlash against MFA programs and I think, the idea of college/university in general. I call it.

H is wonderful and happy in his program and he works his ass off. I work my ass off too, but in different ways. We're both writing a ton, sharing work, celebrating each success, nodding at the small disappointments and moving along, in our love/life/passions. I wouldn't be writing the stories I'm writing if it weren't for our late night balcony conversations. Wine, wind in the bamboo, Meow-Meow the alley cat back and forth between our feet. H and I go places in those conversations, not always, but often enough that I've come to count on them for sparks and inspiration. Stories and poems are born with a line one of says, with a memory tossed around, with wormhole talks that take us places we didn't even know we wanted to go.

The other day my sister called me to come over to her house. She had a story for me, one of the first stories I wrote in 1990, I was 11 years old. I wrote about becoming a butterfly but almost no one saw me and if they did, they called me a liar. Oh sweet little 1990 Lizz, impostor syndrome even then, invisible, wanting to see my wings/beauty/uniqueness recognized. In the story I fly up to a cloud and sit on it to cry. A blue jay comes and asks me not to cry anymore and tells me to eat a piece of cloud if I want to turn back into a little girl. The bird flies away. I eat the cloud and transform back into a child and go home. When I get home my mom hands me a butterfly made of crystal and tells me a blue jay dropped it off.

I laughed and cried when I read the story, remembering how invisible and ugly and sad I felt at that age, trying to cling to the invented magic of childhood, the secret world I inhabited because this world was too much for my tender heart.  And oof, the blue jay, the messenger dropping off a reminder to me of who I really was. I was in the myth of it, even then. Confirmation this is a long path, a long game, and worth it.

This year I restarted Brujas y Bellas Writing circle. What a gift to cycle back to. ByB back in the day met on Tuesday nights, mostly girlfriends and we drank wine and read poems and bitched and cried, chismeando and joyous. This time I structured it more, meeting Sundays during church hours, our holy time for writing and sharing. The group was mostly women of color, diverse in background. We had everything from a high school student to academics to elders and spiritual teachers. Every single one wanted to write. I structured it so that we had time to check in with each other, clear space, write, share and dialogue. (Being in a relationship with someone who teaches arts facilitation was invaluable in structuring it, thanks H!) When the session finished last week we were all sad to let go. It was something to look forward to and we all connected. I'm going to start it up again in January.

I finished a story yesterday that gutted me. Dark and vulnerable, I had to get up and walk away from the computer at times. But I love it, I do. I have quite a few stories in the chute right now, some start and fizzle out but others are patient, waiting for me to be ready for them. Every day I'm more ready.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Whole 30 Complete, now give me my corn

Today H and I finish our Whole 30 thing. It both feels like it lasted way too long and it flew by. 30 days cigarette-free is a record for H. H got all the benefits, he's glow-y as fuck, has lost all the bloat, beer weight, and has toddler-like energy. I did not get all the benefits, even though I did lose some bloat. I have hives on my face, so lovely, and crazy eczema all over my legs. I've been exhausted and pretty damn cranky/weepy. So it goes. We learned some habits and unlearned a few more. My ancestors are riled up, showing up in my dreams like: "Puta, we are the people of the motherfucking corn, eat your corn."

Tonight I drink wine. Tomorrow I eat corn.

I did learn I can be the queen of willpower. Mom made tamales chiapanecos, and I didn't eat one. Probably because she made pasteles at the same time and I gorged on those, with atypical carb-starved wildness. The family had a birthday dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant and I didn't eat anything with soy or black beans or sugar or cornstarch, a miracle.

Glad it's over. Though the entire family is doing the Whole 30 again in November, I'll probably join them. Thought it might be more like the Whole 20 because if anyone thinks I'm not going to have stuffing they have another thing coming.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Whole 30, Day 5

My angry busker isn't angry or busking anymore. I guess it must be true that nicotine only lives for three days in the body and after it passes, the cravings are emotional. I, on the other hand, am still living with a sugar monster on my back, especially at my morning coffee.

Coffee is something I've been drinking my whole life. I used to spend a lot of time with my Puerto Rican grandparents when I was a little girl and coffee was part of our morning rituals. I'd sit on the high, wicker-backed chair at the counter while my grandmother brewed coffee and my grandfather sliced French bread. I loved our mornings together, they're some of my favorite memories from childhood. My grandparents had a chicken coop out back and my sister and I would go out in the mornings to find the shit-covered eggs, still feather-warm, and bring them int the house. While the coffee was brewing my grandmother would put a small, enamel pot filled with milk on and watch it carefully to make sure it didn't bubble over. I remember her sticking her finger into the pot to catch the skin on the top of milk and licking it off her finer. I tasted it once and hated it. She'd pour coffee into a mug for me, stir in heated milk and then pour in coffee. Heaven. My grandfather would sit next to me and dip pieces of bread into my sugary coffee and feed them to me. I loved the taste of sweet, milky coffee. Even as an adult, that first sip of coffee, the acid balanced out with sugar, reminds me of being deeply loved.

So emotional attachment to sugar. My parents didn't really have a lot of sugar in the house, because my sisters and I would attack and destroy it, we weren't allowed soda or candy. It didn't matter too much because we lived in such a Mexican neighborhood and Mexican candy isn't too sweet. It is spicy and salty and that was, and probably is, my favorite flavor. Even now, at 36, I have bags of Mexican candy squirreled away here at the apartment. 

Last night I was what H and I called "Roam-y." I was restless, un-still. All I wanted was to roam, in my thoughts, in my body. I wanted dark chocolate, something artisan, probably salty. Instead I munched on cashews and self-hated. I'm still having trouble falling asleep. The weather has been stupidly hot and humid and I have hated the feeling of my own skin touching my own skin. Yeah, not normal. I've been spreading out like a starfish so my legs don't touch each other, so my arms don't touch my body. Showering multiple times a day. I'm tired a lot, physically, even though I feel mentally sharp. My body still aches.

Eh, it'll pass. I know this first week is supposed to be the most challenging as my body adjusts to the shifts in my consumption. Next week will be better. I'm heading to Chicago for a few days to see a friend and will have to plan my meals while traveling, and have no deep dish pizza, which doesn't sound that appealing anyway. As long as I can have a Jibarito  (without cheese or mayo) I'll be ok.

Also, H is amazing at this. He is so damn good, to me, as always. Making me breakfast, coffee with coconut milk, packing my lunch every day. Now, even over three years into our relationship I look at him sometimes and think "Who ARE you and why are you so incredible?" 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Whole 30 Day 3

(haven't blogged in a while for various reasons but here, this is something.)

Day 3: That lovely just hit by a bus feeling is all up in me today. Second night of tossing and turning, turbulent dreams filled with ex-lovers and the ex-lovers of former friends leading me through the deserted streets of places we used to live. Everyone else who writes about this Whole 30 writes about meals and bloating, food prep and energy levels, I am engorged with metaphors, of course.


H and I decided to W30 after seeing my parents, sister and bro-in-law complete it last month. They were all dewy, flat-bellied and bright and we too wanted that self-righteous glow in our eyes as we turned down the offered brownies. Yes, we are (were?) ridden by the beasts of grain, sugar, dairy and alcohol but also, we smoke. Yuck! Ew! Nasty! Yes, all of that. But we’ve justified our relationship with tobacco by weaving it into our love story, long nights on our balcony surrounded by smoke and poetry, wine stained mouths. Cigarettes smoked on rooftops, rebel postured, all last-century glam; we hang in the green smoking section of our local bar where the really interesting conversations happen. But I want to live a long life composed of deep breaths and I want the same for H. We’re struggling.


The first day was okay. I’m not as addicted to the smoke as H is, I‘ve gone for long periods without any butts in my life. H, on the other hand, smokes like a film noir sad guy. He decided he needed something to distract himself when the cravings hit, he chose juggling. It’s like living with a busker on the edge of a breakdown. He juggles a tennis ball and two lacrosse balls in our living room while clenching a popsicle stick between his teeth for the oral fixation. I sit on the sofa and plan imaginary vacations and brood while he drops balls and yells.


The first night was hellish. We always enjoy an evening libation and both tossed and turned all night, sheets got twisty. We growled at each other several times in the night, not the good kind of growls. We woke up droopy, exhausted but determined to go it another day. Lots of juggling. Lots of deep breaths and avocados. Lots of me peeking at the “before” pics on my phone and wondering when I allowed myself to make the decision to only buy pants with elastic waistbands.


God, we’re eating a lot of eggs. And this whole no dairy or sugar in our coffee is for the birds, but I get it. The other meals are easy enough, I happen to be a great cook so I’ve whipped up spiralized zucchini noodles, ghee and caper whitefish, frittatas that would made Martha wink and other edible things that don’t taste like Pinterest. I know the food is supposed to be the focus but everything I read talks about the food hardly anyone talks about the FEELINGS. I’m experiencing motherfucking turmoil.


Last night, the end of Day 2, we were beasts. We ate. H settled in to get his teaching notes finalized, he starts teaching today, a lit class and a creative writing class, plus he starts the last year of his MFA. I brooded, I have discovered I am exceptional at brooding. I am also exceptional at draping myself all over the sofa in various positions that convey malaise. Very 19th century heroine of me. When we tried to go to bed all of our small aggressions coalesced and we were snappy with each other. My body was aching, H threw out his neck. We decided to sleep in separate rooms so our various physical maladies wouldn’t collide in the night. I kept rearranging my pillows like a frantic gerbil in a new cage. I was angry at my sheets for wrinkling beneath my body, didn’t they know how fragile I was? Then into dreaming, another night of all my cravings showing up as specters from my past. I bellowed at my alarm when it went off, like a baby mastodon watching it’s mama get sucked into a tar pit.


Another day. Yay veggies. I want a thick cup of honeyed yogurt, but I’ll settle for coconut milk and chia pudding with raspberries. I want to devour a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips but I’ll crunch my teeth on jicama instead. I want to swirl mouthful after mouthful of dark, red wine but I’ll squeeze lemon into hot water instead and think about letting go. I want to put my legs up on our balcony railing and light an American Spirit, inhale that first delicious lungful and exhale it as a prayer to the stars, watching the smoke shape itself into disappearing faces as it makes its way up to the heavens, but instead I’ll just breathe. Letting go sucks, but I’m pretty sure holding on is worse.



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Long time no see

Taking a blogging break, obviously. But all is well and fruitful. I have a piece up at XOJane today. Check it out.

http://www.xojane.com/family/it-happened-to-me-i-grew-up-jehovahs-witness

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

notes on this last travel



Little check in.

Got back this past weekend from travel. Switzerland, Istanbul and moments in Italy. The details are boring but the trip was bookended with stressful situations. The middle was lovely. I came home after 58 hours of travel, exhausted, emotionally drained and in a bottomed-out place of joy, delirium, and gratitude. I was overwhelmed with relief at finally being home. I cried over home, I lost sleep over home. I was ready for home the last few days of my trip unlike I have ever been ready for home before. I absolutely support unions and their right to strike, but wow, the Air France strike really threw a wrench in my peace and tainted my magical time in Istanbul with the shit-storm that was getting home.

Lessons learned. I am not the wanderlust-drunk kid I used to be. In my head I had this idea of myself as someone who was always ready to take off alone. The desire for exploration still exists in me, no doubt it always will. But at 35 I'm rooted. I missed my family, I missed H. Almost everywhere I went I wished I could have shared the newness with someone I loved. My beautiful friend Sonja came out to meet me in the middle of my trip and we shared some wonderful moments, getting lost on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, conversations on rooftops, laughter, food, witnessing a Turkish street fight. I am grateful she showed up, unexpected, that we were able to carry our friendship from one continent to an other, and literally, when we crossed the Bosphorus, another. Her friendship is a gift.

Mostly I wanted H. I wanted to gape with him over the details in the mosaics. To slide into the easy depths we inhabit, discussing the emotional archaeology of place and memory, to get at the poetry and four secret-sacred questions we ask about anything that matters to us or the world we experience. I wanted to contemplate stones with him and invent stories, compare ghosts and surprise each other with little gifts the way we do in our daily lives. Love is good. I am grateful.

People asked me why Istanbul and I had to answer truthfully: vampires. I was obsessed with vampires as a teenager, all the Anne Rice books, Dracula, etc. I read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian years ago, a genius mystery about Dracula. The parts that truly stuck with me took place in Istanbul and I knew I had to visit one day. The opportunity came and I took it. The city didn't disappoint. It is a place I have to revisit, and next time I'll get out of the city, head South.

Favorite moment: I was at the Hamam, a traditional Turkish Bath. I was at Çemberlitas Hamami, an over 400 year old building. It is said Florence Nightingale used to bathe there. I was exhausted, Istanbul is a walking city and my legs were beat, feet covered in blisters. I went in late-afternoon for a scrub and massage. As I lay mostly naked on the huge marble slab in the main room I began thinking about all the women throughout the centuries who'd also bathed there before; an ache began in me, that beginning tingle of poetry or insight. When it came time for my scrub, a middle aged Turkish woman began lathering and scrubbing me, my eyes were closed and I gave in to the rhythm of hands, soap, pressure. The hamam was silent except fort the sound of running water and occasional slap on hand on skin on marble. Then the woman bathing me began singing a Turkish lullaby. Her voice was sweet and echoed throughout the entire chamber, melancholic. It lulled me into my body, I wanted to cry with joy or nostalgia, it grounded me for first time in days. A perfect moment of beauty.
There was another perfect moment but it was so perfect it seems blasphemous to share.

Much love to the folks at Second Home hostel. The most emotionally generous and kind folks I met. They made my trip so much easier, and the hostel was a great place to come home to each night. The rooftop was beautiful, the rooms clean, the breakfast filling. I highly recommend them if you ever want to get to Istanbul and stay in an economical, clean and centrally located place.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

as sands through the hourglass. . .








Busy summer: travel, work, love, new baby niece. Biting through writing and growth, sleeping full nights for early mornings. Cooking for love and friends. Self-care practice. Focusing on process, presence.

Heading back on to the road in a week and a half, will post my notes, images and thoughts here:





More eventually.