Saturday, October 29, 2016

Election Season

I identify as Latina, second-generation immigrant, bisexual, a sexual assault survivor, in PTSD remission, a Methodist Christian, a Mindful Meditation practitioner, an artist, and a professional in the public provision of services many believe should be private (education, low-income housing, healthcare, etc). I am marrying someone who likes and loves me exactly as I am and encourages me stay true to myself. I encourage him in the same way. We do not completely align politically. One the amazing things about marrying a person who is not exactly like you is your community becomes even more wildly diverse and interesting than it was before. I thought my life was an adventure before. Now, I truly have friends from every walk of life. Some people in my life don’t like every aspect of who I am but love, encourage, or are polite to me anyway. I am lucky at this point in my life that I do not experience blatant hate because of who I am, in an up close and personal way, though I did in my younger years. Avoidance of hate is a huge reason why I am cautiously vocal. Truthfully though, I am one of the lucky ones. Some people experience extreme hate all their lives, and some die at the hands of it.

Some of the attacks I see in the news feel very personal and triggering, because of who I am and my history. But I get that people with similar experiences to mine are not the only ones hurting. I realize the Obama administration was not easy on small business owners, national security enthusiasts, and more. I get that government is often inefficient. I know how intensely difficult disrupting the status quo is. I have empathy for people who are reeling from all the change in this country. It is a different world than it was eight years ago.

Regardless of where you stand politically, fear of and animosity towards difference gets us nowhere. The aggressive vitriol is the piece that really breaks my heart in this political climate. Many of you are friends with me though you may not have known all of the above aspects of my identity. I think transparency and owning difference but recognizing we still have relatability is key to moving forward. May we please accept difference is a part of life, and we are going to disagree on some things, but please be respectful and believe we still abide by a code of honor and common human decency anyway? How boring would the world be if we were all the same?    

Photo from The Urban League of Greater Atlanta

Right now, though the election climate may have us biting our tongues to not lash out hurtfully (and granted I fail at this sometimes too—when my fiancé told me his ballot choices, I descended into negative head space pretty quickly and felt triggered), I think it is teaching us an important lesson to listen and consider how we stem the tide. To simply see who can call each other an “ist” the loudest accomplishes nothing. But to dare to destroy false, over-simplified dichotomies is where the healing work happens of relating to each other, despite any aspect of difference: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, professions, socioeconomics. As someone who claims minority status in several areas, I don’t want to exacerbate further hate by simply labeling discriminatory individuals as villains and thinking my work ends there. As someone who understands that I am privileged in areas of education, the ability to chameleon to almost any community I choose, and the ability to pursue the career I want, I recognize not everyone has the same access and choices, and I need to be empathetic to those who feel oppressed and restricted.  Why is seeing life from other perspectives not the norm? What makes rigid thinking so widely prevail, especially recently? Why do we not connect and relate as humans, and how can we change this trend?  
I am trying really hard to fit into the new small town in which I live and find people I connect with. I am also trying to honor my values and boundaries. What are my values? I honor family and commitments. I share my life with authenticity and honesty. I care to be compassionate to people and love them exactly as they are. I care to make a contribution to the world, to live collaboratively in community, and to be there for people. I want to be adaptable to things as they change, to grow and be humble enough to admit when I am wrong. I want to be responsible, purposeful, passionate, and creative in my endeavors. No one can take those values away. It is important for all of us to remember our values now, at a time in the world when people are so busy losing touch with their values and going on the attack.

My career dream in college was to be a provider of humanitarian relief in third world countries, working for the UN. My life took a twist for less international and more federal level work. After college, I was a progressive activist, feminist, urban chic young nonprofit professional in DC. I romanticize those days. Oh, I would have been so vocal about polls, stats, and ramifications of this election from my office on M St.

Then my career took another twist, for the clinical and individual level, and here I am working in small town USA as a social worker, devoted to children in need.

I still influence positive change, though my life is so different from what I expected. An advantage is that one-person-at-a-time scope of influence feels much more real, tangible, and able to be observed than the massive change I cared about before. Connection happens, not among a social media audience, where we yell the loudest or insult the most deeply, but in small settings where we dare to be genuine and push ourselves to accept others in their genuine moments too. Let’s get out of a culture of fight or flight and choose to engage our executive function collectively. What are we afraid of? How can we relate? What is progress? What values do we share? What values of yours can I respect, even though they are not mine? Definitions of empathy and generosity look different to different people, so how can we mutually prioritize them here?     

Photo from Making It Better

I care about affecting positive change in the world. Experiencing more micro level changes than systemic level in my life is an adjustment. However, with the micro level comes a sense of belonging and relationship I would not trade for the world. We set roots in the minutiae. The attention to detail, the ritual we build, the depth of connection we create—that is where we cultivate appreciation for diversity, not in reading about it or posting statuses about it. Societal values are built of a multiplicity of mundane, day-to-day priorities of microcosms, and we need to push our miscrocosms to consider viewpoints outside our own, to welcome difference of thought, if we ever want to see a shift. In short, we need to accept the cacophony, even when notes clash, clang, and even hurt to hear.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Confidence in The New Year

2015 was full of some big lessons about confidence for me. I have some goals going into to 2016. In a nutshell they are write more, read more, workout more, cook more, and plan a kickass wedding. I am also in the initial planning phases of a side holistic wellness private practice, with a timeline and business plan yet to come. I can do it all, and I say that with confidence.

I moved in with my fiancé in July 2016, around the time of my last blog post. To say life was an adjustment would be an incredible understatement. My life changed completely. Not all of the adjustment was graceful, despite my overwhelming theme of bursting with joy in 2015. Here are some of the things we overcame.

My fiancé and I have different parenting styles. It took a lot of conversation to figure out why, but we did figure it out. We learned we have different primary values of parenting. My fiancé believes parenting is a protective role, and home should be a safe place to land and relax. I believe parenting is a teaching role, a limited amount of time to equip a child with skills of independence and coping. But once we realized that both these primary values are love-driven and are complimentary to each other, we were much better at parenting together. We now lean on each other and ask each other for advice on how the other person would handle a situation.    

When I moved to my new small town, I had difficulty adjusting to leaving the city I was from, and I went into culture shock. There is a homogeneity to my new town. It is hard to find anything subversive or any diverse culture. However, after much effort, I found a winery at which to become a member, a progressive faith community in which to participate, and book club in which I meet my social and intellectual needs with other women who are well-traveled and transitioned to this new town after careers elsewhere. It took patience with myself through the adjustment and with the time it takes to find quality connections, but this little town is starting to feel like a home.

Also, I did P90X and lost 15 lbs! Sure, then I gained 3 lbs back, but now I am renewing my fitness efforts.

The key to all of these things is if I did not choose to believe I could co-parent with someone who had been doing it for much longer than I have, make a home out of a small town, or get in shape, I could not have done any of these things. I had to learn and really accept that I am sufficient to meet these challenges, motivate myself to be as healthy as I can, and build enriching community, to keep working towards thriving in the midst of challenges. 

But really, deep down, to even get out of the gate, I had to believe I could do it first. And that belief required a choice, that regardless of what happened or how tough it got, I would not give up. I was not confident I could excel. I was simply confident I could endure. I could remain present, dust myself off when I failed, and keep taking one step forward. That confidence was enough to help me believe I can even get better, with practice.  Confidence is not naivety about what we are capable of doing. Confidence should be a humble, devoted, beautiful thing. It comes from a simple willingness to adapt to challenges, come what may, and then a commitment to hold ourselves accountable to continue to attain progress.

So as I look at 2016, I say with confidence, I will write more, read more, workout more, cook more, and throw an amazing party (our wedding) where I commit to be there for my boys forever. I am excited about the endless possibilities of what the New Year holds and of how we all will grow and adapt. Savor the newness, and fondly remember those moments where you defied odds and proved to yourself you could continue to adapt in the face of something difficult.    

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Life is good these days

Hello, after a two year long silence. I spent a couple years listening more and talking less. I completed grad school, where most of my writing efforts went. I am pursuing a career utilizing my clinical training. I moved to a beautiful country getaway, where I feel centered and refreshed every day. After 6 years of single & independent style dating, I have a live-in partner with whom I am building a life. Thinking about what improved in life over the past years and what I learned, these 7 principles emerge:  

  • Keep it simple. Focusing on the present and daily connection with a few people is simple but really allows for deep, rich moments. It makes life endlessly interesting.
  • Have clear values and a sense of self that setting and others’ perspectives cannot strip from you.
  • Independence is great. But stop trying to do it all on your own. Actually trust people and allow them into your world. Most people are awesome.
  • Be willing to be humiliated. Own your ineptitude. Stop trying to impress. Enjoy failure as a learning experience.
  • Laugh all the time. At everything. Life is hilarious.
  • Stop sweating the small stuff. It’s really just about your own hang-ups over your own internal struggle. No one else really sees your struggle or makes it a big deal if you don’t.
  • Be you. Be weird. Insist on creatively flourishing. My partner calls it “not letting me wilt.” Feeding my creativity has been abundantly helpful to my feeling of contribution to the world.     
Photographer: Gustavo Lacerdas, Albinos Series

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Authenticity and Justice

So much of changing hearts and minds in the policy realm is about relating things in a personal way to people. Obviously, the first step in that is being willing to get a little real, to put yourself out there and be willing to connect to people, uncomfortable as it may be.

Messaging which pulls at heart strings is the science of effective civil rights campaigns. The research is there. I felt very motivated to be authentic and have some harder conversations post Trayvon Martin and post the Texas reproductive rights debacle, knowing a little vulnerability could go a long way. It felt good to speak from my own experience, and people responded well. 

Authenticity is most productive when done correctly. It is not simply word vomit at people. These past few weeks have taught me a lot about existential authenticity as responsibility to be transparent about one’s own role in every situation, which is so vastly different from the perspective that authenticity is being transparent about one’s feelings and desires. Sometimes our feelings and desires are inauthentic when lined up next to reality. They are based on refusal to acknowledge who we choose to be or the roles we merely accept, instead of utilizing our voice and choice. It takes integrity and commitment to fully engage and assess, how did I land myself at this point in my life and what steps should I take from here? But with that level of authenticity comes autonomy and clarity to make choices which make us feel more fulfilled. It’s quite endlessly freeing. It makes justice on any level seem feasible.

It’s why we dress in orange and cheer when we know the opposition will still vote terrible policy into law. Because simply the use of our authentic voice, about what this policy does to women, has power. It has a ripple effect. New campaigning will happen in this state, recognizing there is a progressive presence. Judicial review will poke holes in the improperly conducted legislative process. We are, ever so slowly, putting a dent in creating a more just, loving, equal world for ourselves and for others.       

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Travels with My Community

I am three years old to this community. My first year was the stuff of which rainbows and unicorns are made. It was magically amazing. I totally grasped gift economy and wanted to give all of myself to all of you. My second year was hard. I signed up for too much stuff, and I kinda wrecked myself in the process. Being all things to all people failed. This, my third year, was meaningful and eventful, yet reasonable. I realized I have been here long enough to allow myself to be known quite deeply by some, and I feel comfortable just being me. I’m starting to overcome my fears, to allow myself to set roots, for the first time in my life.

My Intention going into this weekend away from the default world: “Slay My Beast of Fear.”

It was not an easy slaying. Fear reared its ugly head this weekend. I realized what I am most afraid of is making decisions that are not-quite-right-enough and cause me to lose people I care about. I’m a subtle and diplomatic person in most of my life, which means I’m not really the person wrecking shit in terrible ways. But I can still alienate those I love without intention.

I had some great moments of connection and facing fear.
  • Giggling is its own therapy in the face of trauma. EL, TPM, and ASC, thanks for making it happen.
  • Being willing to be a little punchy, tired, and broken in front of people can allow for adorable connections, A&NC and KY.
  • Sometimes walking away from your comfort zone means literally wandering through a thunderstorm a little lost and alone, but sometimes there is nothing else to be said or done within your comfort zone, and the next step is putting yourself in the eye of the storm.

  • I can dance to anything, especially with RIG. Stay there, and be with the music.
  • Trust is falling asleep in the middle of all your friends, while they are laughing and talking. Friendship is recognizing that even if I’m tired and cranky, I’d still rather be up and with old friends and new friends, than alone and sleeping.
  • Heavylifting, strenuous activity, creativity, and volunteering are some of the best ways to connect to and find my people. It’s also good for seeing those who tag out, don’t help, and aren’t my tribe-folk.
  • Realizing what you built together feels like home is worth the aimless escapade through the woods which makes you want to return to that home.
  • Old scenes which live through time and repeat themselves have so much value, AF& CR. "We all seem to need the help of someone else to mend that shelf of too many books."
  • Being genuinely happy for people as they move on with their lives without you, in front of you, is one of the best gifts you can give and one of the most freeing experiences you can have.
  • Recognizing which friendships you are unwilling to let fall by the wayside is super important. They are few and rare. Fight for them.
  • Sometimes it takes incredible amounts of patience and discernment to have the new experience you are craving. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until dawn, the morning before people leave.
  • The return to minimalism after hedonism feels so good. Feeling at home in all situations is a gift. We really can be the same people in all circumstances and beat to the same rhythm.
  • Sometimes the people you miss will surprise you, so try to end on good terms with as many people as possible. The end may only be for a season.
  • Purge that fear, and let it burn.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Letting Go of Expectations

Starting off a morning with a fresh round of meditation and yoga just does something for you, doesn’t it?

Things that were totally insurmountable seem attainable.
Productivity is possible.
The air seems fresher.
Distractions are diminished.
Discord and conflict kind of melt away.

Okay, maybe that’s just me, in a state of glorious hippie. Toss in some hula hooping, and I have a pretty rockstar day ahead.

There is something to this, though, this idea of centering the mind and refreshing the body to have more energy. Also, Buddhism teaches us to shed expectations, to approach the world with more neutrality. Meditative practices and exercises can result in a more graceful flow to the day generally.

Currently I have been on a quest to have fewer needs, to remove disappointment as a factor in my life. The key expectation I had to shed was to stop expecting to please people. Do the best you can, and remind yourself you did what time, ability, and other circumstances allowed, and don’t be attached to someone else’s result of satisfaction.  


Monday, March 25, 2013

My Happy List

An exercise in happiness I hear a lot of my friends discuss recently is how to be present with nine happy things in the midst of anything you find stressful or worth complaining about. I hope to make it a habit, but in this particularly uncertain time, when my restless cacophony is clanging loudly, I thought I’d give it my first attempt. This website explains how to be present and do this exercise effectively.  

So what I am thankful for:

  1. I am thankful for the smell of coffee in the morning.
  2. I am thankful to live in a city I love with people I love, who make Austin the first place I have ever considered setting roots.
  3. I am thankful my immediate family is in my life, and I get to watch my niece grow up.  
  4. I am thankful that I date a cuddly man. Physical affection is his love language, and it is the most de-stressing thing ever to be around a man who is totally content to just curl up next to me and is certain he would rather be by my side than anywhere else.
  5. I am thankful I have intellectually stimulating options of ways to spend my time always. I am never bored.
  6. I am thankful for a cat who thinks I’m great no matter what I do and sometimes just purrs when I walk into a room for no other reason than she feels happy and safe in her environment.
  7. I am thankful that I get to work outside and with horses, while still totally putting my degrees to use. I have the unicorn job.
  8. I am thankful that I am spiritually enriched so easily. Slow breaths, sex, sunshine, hula hooping, horseback riding, dancing, etc all make my internal stress diminish and my sense of interconnectedness and wonder through movement replace it.
  9. I am thankful to have a clean, comfortable apartment with a duck pond a couple yards away.

So my tiny little stressor of 10) time management feels a little more okay knowing how much joy there is my life. Well, it's not quite that simple, but I am going to get this list going in my brain's thought rotation. And as always, joy will win out.