Tuesday, November 20, 2012

life is hard.

Sometimes life is hard. It’s easy for people who are happy and whose lives are going well to tell you “it gets better” or “be thankful for what you have” or “it could always be worse”, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. And, it’s all things I know; I know how good my life really is. I know I’m blessed to have an amazing family and supportive friends and an internship that I not only like, but that I’m good at. I know that I’m lucky to be in the program I’m in and to have parents that allow me to live in their home when I can’t afford to support myself (yay for graduate school!). I know that I’m healthy and I have a reliable car and my own space and luxuries many others don’t. I know all this.

But, those aren’t the things that keep me happy sometimes. There are points in most of our lives where the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness creep in and attach themselves to the corners of our brains and all you can focus on is that. There are times when all the things we don’t have or aren’t experiencing outweigh all the things that we do.

Is it self-pitying? Hell yeah it is. Is it a negative attitude to have toward life? Of course it is. But, sometimes, it’s just reality. We can’t all be strong all the time. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how hard life is, because sometimes, it’s too easy to stop working hard or trying hard or remembering that life actually is good. It’s easy to stop remembering to make ourselves happy and to stop relying on other things and other people to do the work for us.  It’s easy for us to hold on to the control none of us have over our own lives. We take for granted the good things in life; the people, the moments, our health, our opportunities, the stuff we have. We go through these wonderful moments in life – moments we didn’t know existed or could exist or that would ever exist in the first place – but they’re fleeting. Feelings are fleeting; people can be fleeting, and we’re reminded once more why life can be hard.

It’s okay to feel sorry for ourselves once in awhile, because sometimes, it’s the only thing we can mentally do when life seems too difficult to go on. Sometimes we need the people who love us the most to rally around us and hold us up when we can’t do it ourselves. Sometimes, we need to get over trying to be adult or strong or prideful or independent and let others pick us up when we’re down and to help us pick up our burdens and move forward.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


“We need to go,” my mother said.  The urgency in her voice alarmed me and I immediately tried to figure out how alarmed I was supposed to be.
“Who was that?” My sister asked as my mom threw her Nokia cell phone into her purse and started pulling on her own pants, the clothes she was trying on in a pile under the dressing room mirror; a forgotten heap of denim, silk florals, khaki, and cotton stripes.
“It was Dad.” She smashed her syllables too close together and it was making my heart beat faster than normal.
Mom was putting her shoes on and gathering her purse. I stood in the middle of the dressing room still holding on to the pristine, white platform flip-flops that I had been waiting to purchase, the promise of owning them the only thing getting me through the tediousness of watching my mother try on clothes. My best friend came to my house wearing them and the habitual instinct of being jealous of everything she wore and owned and did created a want – a need – in me to have a matching pair.
I looked down at the flip-flops in my hand as Mom sprinted out of the dressing room, hoisting her purse on to her shoulder, her car keys already clutched in her white-knuckled hand.
“Can I still get the flip flops?”
The only answer I got was her running into the women’s section of Mervyn’s with my sisters following her quick steps.  I continued to stare at the flip-flops as I felt them fall onto the poorly carpeted floor, the last size seven in the entire store left in that room with the heaps of summer clothes frozen in crumpled piles of desire.
To this day, those flip-flops haunt me. The question that became rhetorical wades around with the loss and grief and anguish that props up the memory of that day. The look on my mother’s face, the way her olive skin transformed into paste and her eyes into dusty pieces of beach glass, the way her voice stopped sounding assuring and confident and turned uncertain and child-like, this is what I think of when I remember how my 15-year-old world suddenly became very adult.
The car ride doesn’t exist anymore; in my memory, we flew on the backs of imaginary birds from the Mervyn’s dressing room straight to the hospital that doesn’t exist anymore, the empty building housing the ghosts of that day. Mom drove up to the emergency room parking lot where a man was standing behind the entrance railing, tears streaming down his face as he choked on his own sobs. He sounded like a little boy and his broken face uncomfortably captivated me. I looked into the eyes of this weeping, dark-faced man and thought how much he looked like me when I cried.
It was a few minutes later when I realized that man, the man with the wet, distorted face, was my father.
“He’s gone.” My father choked out the words in between giant, toddler sobs and I had to look away.
My immediate thought was to one of my grandfathers; which one, I can’t remember, but the oldest people you know are seemingly the ones to die first. Neither one of them was sick, so it must have been some kind of sudden ailment; a stroke, a heart attack, a brain aneurysm.
            “Vince. He’s gone.”
Initially, I didn’t know what Vince he was talking about, for he couldn’t be talking about Uncle Vince, the hardly middle-aged man who just had a baby. The man who color-coordinated his closet and bought his one-year-old daughter a dustpan and broom instead of toys. The man who was healthy and active. My dad’s baby brother.
There must have been some kind of miscommunication. Mistaken identity. Morbid joke. False information. But, when we entered the emergency room and I saw Aunt Christina howling like an injured puppy, the walls closed in on me and I understood the gravity of this moment, of this death, and I knew this was real. This was happening. This happened.
When people die, your mind immediately rewinds through the memories you have of that person, going through each moment like a flipbook, one of those souvenir kinds you buy at stores; a series of snapshots made into a tiny book and when you flip through each page in a rapid manner, the pictures appear animated. It only takes a few seconds. This specific flipbook started with a memory of sitting on my uncle’s lap in our living room and ended with a silent car drive where I didn’t say I love you before I got out, for no reason at all except that I didn’t think to. I was sorting through each moment, each individual snapshot, forcing the pictures to stop moving: The time my family stayed in his house in Pasadena and he had no food, so we binged on chocolate covered macadamia nuts – a gift someone brought him from Hawaii and the only remotely edible item in the house, the time we went to Disneyland and he signed my autograph book before any of the characters did, the time he called the house and when I answered with the standard, Hello?, he responded with, Is your refrigerator running?, and continued with the outdated joke that made him laugh more than it made me laugh.
           This was the man, who at 14 years old, passed out while in my parents’ wedding from nerves. Don’t lock your knees like your Uncle Vince did, I was told more than once when participating in any kind of occasion where I would have to stand in front of a group of people. The man who dad looked out for after grandma died because he was the baby of all six children. The man who dad golfed with and the man who dad helped move from Southern California to Northern California. The man whose children we would all later help raise and then all say goodbye to when they moved out of state.
That Vince. That Vince was gone.
And, now we were here in the waiting room of a sterile smelling room that was decorated in rough, cheap carpet and out-dated wallpaper. I looked around and saw my parents and cousins and aunts and uncles and then I saw Uncle Vince’s 4-month-old son wailing in the car seat on the couch. I looked into his dark eyes, glossy with tears, and saw so much of my uncle in him. Here we were, a decade apart, but both of us possessing the same eyes, brown and misty, brimming with tears that hadn’t quite found their way down either of our cheeks. I was crying just as much for him as I was for myself, knowing he may never cry over his dead father in his life because he was too young to even understand what it meant to lose him. His two-year-old daughter sat next to her baby brother, looking confused. She couldn’t understand why her mommy was so upset, but I don’t think she understood that her daddy wasn’t going to come home later, either. I don’t think either of them could understand that their 6-year-old half brother saw his stepfather fall and hit his head in his front yard and die and that he would never forget it.
Neither of them could understand, but I could, so I kissed Isaiah in his car seat and sat Sophia in my lap, holding on to them as if that made up for the fact that their father just died.
That day is made up of a series of snapshots, bound together in their own flipbook. I can see the front yard of their house through the large window in their living room. I can see the cement walkway that pours into the driveway and I can see the wide patch of grass where he knelt down to garden and where he died. I pretend I can see the small pool of blood on the edge of the planter where his head hit it, where he fell over when his heart stopped, the last thing to leave his body before his body became empty. I can see the taxi pull up to the house and I see Aunt Christina meet her mother as she opens the door of the taxi, my aunt’s back to the window. Her mother stands in front of her and after a few seconds, her face crumples the way that slept-in sheets do and her head shakes and they hug and I stop looking because I start to feel like I’m watching someone’s diary being played out.
I can see my grandfather’s face, damp and pale, and I do not recognize him. The grandpa I know was dark and strong, but this man looked fragile. He walks in to my aunt and uncle’s house surrounded by my dad and his brother and it’s as if he cannot stand on his own and I realize he’s crying.
I remember looking at old photographs my dad’s sister found of my grandpa and grandma’s wedding and making jokes about how they had the “Mexican” faces – stoic and serious. There were no smiles, no hugging, no looking into each other’s eyes. It was like a business transaction. My dad continued to tell me it was just how it was; my grandpa never said “I love you”, and it wasn’t because he didn’t, it was just because that’s not how he showed love. My grandfather instead worked no less than two jobs his whole life, giving my father a world in which he never knew they were poor, even though they were.
This same man was slowly melting in the foyer of my aunt and uncle’s house, crying and saying it should have been him.
I again looked away, the moment too exposed to experience and it was that moment when my eyes scanned the living room of my aunt and uncle’s house when I realized this was now just my aunt’s house and that I could no longer handle the tears and crying and grief that was filling up every corner and crevice of it and that this house would always be where I saw my grandfather cry for the first time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

be here now.

I read a book for school by Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face) in which she describes spending many months in a hospital. One of the stalls in the bathroom she liked to use had the phrase “Be here now” carved into the door. She contemplated the meaning of what that phrase meant and what the author of the graffiti might have meant when she (or, I guess it could have been a he, as well…) carved it. She admitted that she had no idea what it meant, not just to the author, but also in the general sense. There is a moment later in the chapter when she experiences a moment where “Be here now” applied, where she was attempting to get up from the cold, hard floor of her hospital room, and in order to get herself up from the floor and back to her bed, the only thing she could do was be in that moment and focus on nothing else but getting up.

When I was reading the book, I had no idea what “Be here now” meant, either. In all honesty, “Be here now” seemed like one of those spiritual, cliché phrases, the ones people throw out in situations where they don’t know what to say. It’s like when people say, “Everything happens for a reason” when someone experiences a huge loss, or when people say, ”The grass isn’t always greener” when someone doesn’t get what they want. But, then as I was talking to someone – someone much wiser than I could ever hope to be – and I expressed to her my desire -- my need -- to focus on my life as it is in this moment, to stop stressing about what’s happening tomorrow or next week or next month, to stop worrying about all the things that I can’t control, she looked at me and said, “Be here now.”

It was one of those moments that you read about in books or that you see in all the unrealistic romantic comedies, but, that moment in Lucy’s book came back to me and it hit me, what those words really meant; what Lucy understood in that moment.

It’s the thing I’ve been trying to do for the past few months and it’s also the thing I’ve never been good at. My whole life has been made up of moments of stress and worry, trying to control my life and control everything around me to make sure things happen the way I feel like they need to or the way I feel I want them to. When my life makes a turn in a direction that scares me, my instinctual response is to let the fear and worry consume me. I never saw my life as it was, but only how it was going to be or how it should be or would be.

I’ve spent the past five months being consumed. I worry about where my life is going. I worry about not being where I hoped to be or where I want to be. I worry about being behind in life. I worry about how long I will have to wait or if I’m waiting for absolutely nothing. I worry if everything I understood to be real is, in fact, not at all real.

But, I don’t want to live my life that way anymore. I want to see what’s in front of me and embrace it. I want to work hard on the things happening in my life right now and not focus my energies on things that aren’t happening and may never happen. I want to love who I am now instead of trying to create the person I will be.

Now, if only understanding how to do it was as easy as understanding what it means…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

carnival rides

There are times really late at night when I’m driving down the road, headlights bouncing off the tarred freeway, night engulfing my car, and I have the urge to press on the gas pedal as if my shoes are full of rocks. I want to go fast; to roll down all my windows and feel the wind on my face, in my hair, sucking down my throat and filling my lungs. I wonder, how fast do you think I can go? I want to feel like I’m on a rollercoaster; maybe like Space Mountain, sitting in the dark, eyes shut, hands up, screaming with joy, not pain, feeling the darkness and the wind swallow me whole. Can I go as fast as Space Mountain? I want to see the stars go by, turn after turn, hill after hill. I want to see the streetlights fly by, so fast they look like one long streak of yellow and white. I want to go faster than any of those roller coasters go, faster than a NASCAR driver. I want my speedometer to reach its capacity and start vibrating because it can’t go any farther. What would happen if I slammed my foot on the gas? I want to wonder if I will go so fast that my car will spin out of control like one of those scrambler rides at the carnivals.
I’ll wonder while I’m spinning if I will think I’m dying; if I will think that this is the last moment of my life and try to see my life flash like they always say it does. I wonder if your life really does flash before your eyes – if I’ll see myself as a baby, as a child, as a teenager, as an adult, and I wonder what I’d see. I wonder if I’d see my mom and dad and my sisters and grandparents and my best friends. I wonder if I’d see elementary school parades, senior prom, college graduation, my niece’s birth. I wonder if I would see you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

what's love got to do with it?

I used to think that song was so stupid because I was naïve enough to think that the Beatles were right -- that all you need is love.

I love the Beatles – and I hate to burst all the Beatles-lovers bubbles – but they lied.

Sometimes, love has very little to do with it. Sometimes love isn’t enough to save someone or to save a relationship. Sometimes love can’t keep two people together because sometimes the hurt and pain and insecurities that the world has shown us are so much bigger than that love.

Loving someone who loves you (or at least says they do) but can’t get it together enough to make a relationship work is one of the worst feelings a person can go through (aside from death, cancer, or AIDS, although I’ve never had cancer, AIDS, or been dead, so really, I can only base this conjecture off of experience). Having someone run away from his or her life because he or she can’t deal and leaves you with the aftermath sucks. And, what sucks even more is loving that person so much, that even though you’re on the path where you know you need to be – establishing a career, figuring out who you are and where you want to be – you can’t stop worrying about him or her. You care about that person so much that you still pray every night that they are happy and healthy. You still want him or her to be well and to take care of him or herself and to find out why he or she ran away in the first place.

Everyone always says love is the greatest thing, but sometimes, it’s the most lonely, hurtful place. Sometimes love is hard. Sometimes it means not getting anything in return. Sometimes love is the worst thing – sometimes it means caring about someone that may or may not care about you and loving someone who can’t see or feel that love in return. Sometimes it means letting the songbird fly, hoping that it will find it’s way back eventually.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

single and i don't WANT to mingle.

Can someone tell me why being in a relationship is the only important thing people seem to think happens in my life?

The first question anyone who hasn’t seen me in awhile asks is always, “So, are you seeing anyone?” or “Do you have a boyfriend?” The minute I say no, their smile goes away and they respond with a sad and disappointed, “Oh.”

And then the questions stop.

I always wait for the next question – trying not to be annoyed that that was their first question to begin with – but they never come. What about, “How’s school going?” or “Have you been published yet?” or “Do you have a job or internship?” or “What are your plans once you graduate in nine months?” But, no. There are usually no more questions, or if there are, they’re generic and non-specific.

For starters, I’m only 28; it’s not like I’m single and 45 and hoarding cats. (Anyone that knows me knows I’m a dog person, anyway.) 28 isn't old and it isn't the start of my ovaries drying out.Who I am isn’t caught up in my relationship with another person (i.e. a man); my worth is wrapped up in what I think of myself, and for the first time almost ever, I’m focusing on MY future and the things I want to accomplish and on the person I want to be. And, I’m starting to get excited about my future. (Albeit scared; but mostly excited.)

I’m getting a master’s degree after spending seven years in my undergraduate career, wasting three of those seven years on a major I hated (and that started to make me hate myself) and that I tried to pretend I loved and was good at. Because I hated most of those seven years, I promised myself I would never go back to school. But, I made the decision to go to school because I wanted to. (And, might I add, I’m doing really well and working hard for once.) I was just offered an internship that I really wanted for a magazine that only has eight or so people on staff, and I’m really proud of myself. (And that’s something I don’t often feel or say.) I’m learning a lot; it seems small to say, but I always skated through my education, doing well enough to look decent on paper and to not fail (well, before my undergraduate years, that is), but for once, I enjoy learning, whether it’s in a formal setting or outside of it. I’m helping to raise my niece, and not only is it fun and she’s cuter than most other people’s kids (sorry guys), but I don’t think I’ve ever learned more about motherhood, my sister, being a sister, or about myself.

But, mostly, for the first time in my life, I’m thinking about a future that I want for myself. I’m not making plans that will keep me where I think I’m needed or where it will be easiest for me or where I feel like I’m supposed to be. I stayed close for my undergraduate career because I was too scared to really leave home, and I stayed close for my graduate career because I didn’t want to leave my family, especially when my sister found out she was expecting. (I should say this: I don’t regret the decision I made to accept admission to Saint Mary’s. Not only do I love my program and the people in it, but I also feel like the program is exactly what I wanted. And, I do not once ever regret being here to watch my niece grow up and to be a part of raising her. I love her beyond what I could ever put on paper and if I had to make the choice again, I’d make the same one every single time.)

I have never been more excited and proud of where I’ve allowed myself to be. Most people know things have been rocky the past couple months, (whether or not you know why is a different story) but these past couple months have also opened my eyes to the things in my life I had been missing and setting aside and ignoring. As hard as these few months have been – and as hard as they continue to be – I know that even if I am single, I’m not afraid to tell people I am. I’m not ashamed to not be in a relationship and I’m happy to be in a place where I am the only person to worry about and to be able to take care of myself and my future 100%.

So, if you ask me, the answer will be, no, I’m not in a relationship, and I don’t know when I will be “the next” to get married and if I will be “the next” to get married and honestly, I’m okay with that.

“When did being alone become the modern equivalent of being a leper?”
            -- Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City, “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?”

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Brain Stew.

It seems the issue of same-sex marriage has become the Christian vs. Non-Christian war, and the new enemy – or ally, depending on which “side” you are on – is Chik-Fil-A.

Let me start by saying this: I am a Christian. I have grown up as one; my parents raised me in a home where Christ was the center of it all and as an adult, I have found my own place in my own Christian faith.

But, while I am an avid follower of Christ, I’m also in support of gay marriage. (Let me pause while all the conservative Christians pick their jaw up off the floor.) Why? Many would ask and do ask me that question. Well, it’s simple. I believe in the most basic of Christian beliefs: LOVE.

It seems public Christianity has become about segregation and judgment. There are some that seem to think that as “followers” of Christ, their job is to condemn other people when their beliefs don’t match. I find this to be horribly ironic. Aren’t we taught as Christians that only God can judge us? Aren’t we called to love our neighbor as ourselves? Aren’t we instructed to follow as closely as we can in God’s footsteps? And, was it not Jesus, when he was walking on this earth, who hung out with the most hated of people? He was the one who spent time with tax collectors and ate dinner with prostitutes. He didn’t come to earth and wag his fingers in their faces and tell them they were evil and condemn them to an eternity in hell. He didn’t protest at their places of employment and tell them how wrong they were and how right he was. He loved them. He showed them love. He stood by them when others wouldn’t. 

I cannot understand why anyone on this earth thinks they are so special that they have the right to do what even Jesus would not. Has we become so arrogant that we think we know better than God?

The latest Chik-Fil-A debacle is only the latest way Christians are figuratively peeing on their territory, claiming something they have no claim over. Christians do not own this world; this world was given to us by God, for all his people to live on. Whether or not we believe same sex marriage is biblical or right or wrong or we don’t care, it’s not our job to create a world of hostility and segregation and oppression. It is our job, given by God, to tell others about Him; to show love to others, to embody Christ, to live our lives in the manner of Jesus, and to stand behind our brothers and sisters when the world is against him or her.

So, that is why I am in support of same sex marriage. Because I believe they have the same right as I do as a human to be with the person he or she loves, despite what my Christian faith says and what I follow. I believe tolerance goes both ways and that they have the right to believe what they do just as much as I have the right to believe what I do. I believe that I am no more right in what I believe as someone else does and it is not my place or job to take away someone else’s legal rights because I think they are wrong.

And I believe our job is to embody love and not hate.

“Let us stop just saying we love people. Let us really love them and show it by our actions.” -- 1 John 3:18