Tag Archives: divorce

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

14 May

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

The rise and fall of my emotion is punctuated with bouts of extreme joy and maddening sadness on this day.

Your excitement, hardly contained, explodes into a dazzling smile that reaches your eyes – like shining angels that guide my way.

“Cookies! We made you cookies and a cake! It’s a surprise but it’s a cake.”

It’s a reminder of everything good in my life. Seeing the two of you grow up is piercingly beautiful, hauntingly sweet. I see your smiling faces start to grow sharp with the angles of pre-pubescent youth and I gasp.

Where has the time gone?

I held you to my chest and your body would rise with each breath.

Rise and Fall

Now I hold you close as you cuddle up to me but I can’t breathe with the weight of your growing bodies on my chest.

Where has the time gone?

Am I doing right by you? The happiness of holding you close makes me break down inside and weep openly within the confines of my conscious as it weighs heavily on me that I only give you myself. Will you be fine?

Rise and Fall

We get home and you take my hand, running up the stairs to show me your beautifully hand crafted decorations on the sugar cookies you have baked with your tia. Colors of happiness – light hues of green, pink and baby blue.

“A cake, we made you a cake!”

A strong palette of dark chocolate with accents of light pink mini hearts: a reflection of your own spirits. And I know that you are not just fine, you are wonderfully enveloped in my blanket of love.

Rise and Fall

Day by day. Smile by smile.

Rise we will.

Mother may I?: When will women stop asking for permission?

21 Mar

It’s 2013 and women have not made up their mind as to what it means to be a feminist; whether we want to be celebrated for our achievements professionally, for the social good, as a mother, or as all three – whether we should be working outside the home and whether we should be telling other women how to live their lives according to our individual epiphanies for the holy grail: defining our version of a perfect work/life balance while being excellent mothers. We haven’t stopped wanting validation on how to live our lives within our desired parameters, in many ways we have not stopped asking, “Mother May I?” when shaping our role as women.

It seems we always have a need to espouse our personal beliefs and best methods for parenting unto unsuspecting innocent bystanders and expect them to join the madness of bullying and peer pressure until the world realizes that our mothering skills and choices are superior over anyone elses, as seen in recent stories.

I have no qualms about sharing what works for you personally; stories of self-discovery and joy are always welcome but blanket statements on who should be doing the majority of child rearing and house chores based on the belief that one gender is “innately” better at parenting makes me want to hurl, literally, on their kitchen floor.

I won’t make any attacks on either Kelly Makino, a non-profit employee turned SAHM, or even journalist Lisa Miller; the media tends to spin these gold nuggets of controversy into a frenetic storm so that you can’t help but go into the story already with an arsenal of prejudices. Ms. Makino is in her every right to CHOOSE the lifestyle that best complements her objectives as a mother, good for her and her family for coming to a compromise for the benefit of their vision of family bliss.

But to brand this personal choice made by two women as a trend of an emerging feminist domestic goddess while Dad goes off to work and gets a break from Mommy and the Kids is insulting. Not only because it lacks substantial research (Lisa Miller couldn’t find a third mom to prove her case?), scientific backing of statements made that women tend to have stronger “motherly” instincts than their male counterparts, baseless statements that women tend to be more efficient in the domestic realm (didn’t Lisa mention Ms. Makino’s dirty dishes in the sink?), and also irresponsible in ignoring an actual growing trend: the single parent and same-sex parents. The Boston Globe states that 1 in 4 children in the US is raised by a single parent. The numbers for same-sex parents are harder to identify as given the political and social climate in many cities, this is not a statement nor figure that is highly publicized.

I have friends who are same-sex couples and make wonderful parents, sharing both the responsibility and the joy of child-rearing without thinking about dividing the tasks based on gender identity roles. One parent might have more responsibility due to a higher flexibility at work while the other focuses on higher earning but no one stops to think about who was born with better pre-disposed patience and parenting sentiments.

In terms of the single parent, be it mother or father, how can you dictate that you are being selfish for pursuing a career and relying on supplemental childcare to carry your household forward if you are the sole bearer of that responsibility? I am a big fan of Sandberg’s “Lean In” initiative and I subscribe to the thinking that women’s rights is far from over, we are nowhere near an egalitarian society. I firmly believe that women should always have a personal choice to seek the lifestyle that brings them the most peace of mind and fulfillment and to have the right to define what their role will be in life without fear of judgement from others, especially from other women.

I get snide remarks, sideways glances, “well-intentioned” advice to scale back on my multiple commitments. As a single parent the onus is on me, and only me, to advance my family financially, emotionally, and to create a thriving environment for my two girls so they can grow to be happy (in whichever way they choose to achieve that satisfaction from life).

I have a full-time career that is demanding but also highly satisfying to my professional goals, my social network, my ability to push myself, and let’s face it, to my ego as well. I am highly involved in a non-profit, in a growing parent group that I founded almost five years ago, I am committed to my writing, to furthering my education, to being a good daughter and sibling, and to my social life. My children do not even make the list because items on lists are essentially line items, all of the above, can come and go and change over time; but not my commitment, love and care of my children. They are as part of me and essential and naturally occurring as breathing. They give me life, motivation, kindness, happiness, the ability to admire humanity – they simply are part of me.

I live my life the way it makes me happiest. I try not to judge others for what they choose but I do hope we can all agree on this: embrace who you are and your version of happiness and celebrate the ability to choose how to be a woman in modern society and what kind of mother you want to be including whether you want to be a mother at all.

Moving Forward

20 Jan

How do you balance your own dreams and ambitions with those of the collective good? The collective good being: your family, your people, and for those so inclined, society as a whole. How do you balance any dreams with the reality of a failed attempt? How do you move forward when life seems stalled or worse yet muted?

When I was a kid I thought anything was possible. I was living in low standards (in quality of life, expectations, and interaction) that I drew up my own world of existence. When I try to recall memories, many of them are of me just sitting, lying, standing – alone, lost in thought. A loud buzzing is in my ears as I lose track of time and wake from my fantasy to find that hours and sometimes only seconds have passed.

The hours spent dreaming were my escape from my life. My time spent reading and writing were a respite from admitting where/when I was living.

And in these dreams with limitless skies I saw myself as an attorney, as a businesswoman, as an inventor – with an empire that would spread its wings in Boyle Heights and provide a higher quality of life to its residents: to teenage moms, to boys on the cusp of being lost to drugs/gangs/apathy, to immigrant parents providing for a better life. I dreamt of a world where I wrote my way to the top, sharing my stories, and then my profits to this community. Buying a beautiful house for my parents and siblings; making enough money so my parents could stop their backbreaking work; financing the education of my siblings so they could escape the soul crunching cycle of poverty; realizing these goals would make me happy I thought.

Yet along the way my heart wasn’t strong enough, my mind became weaker, and I dreamt longer and longer. My escape became a necessity and I would lose track of time, lose track of my goals and ambitions, until I just lived. I breathed, I ate, I woke and I slept. I loved with an immature sense of what this meant or what it would bring.

And those goals became silly notions meant for another. My self-questioning became louder, a feverish pitch of self-doubt that drowned out any positive thoughts and immobilized my inner sense of worth.

A failed marriage, an unaccomplished degree, and single motherhood at 23.

It seemed the only dream I had “accomplished” which I couldn’t even take credit for was growing into an attractive woman. As a child, I had wished daily to be beautiful, graceful, to possess the ease of human interaction – the ability to connect and feel with others, but this desire was misguided as I did not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy connections in relationships.

I was in a downward spiral that was quickly finding its way to the bottom. I had no sense of where I could go from there, of what life meant anymore if not my definition of a perfect loveable family.

But with pain, failure, and darkness comes revelation. You cannot hide from yourself when all that is left is you.

So I took the shreds of my motivation and began a painstakingly slow mending process. I recognized my faults, which were many, and realized that no matter how sympathetic a past I had, it did not constitute an excuse for where I had landed.

And 5 years later you find me here, full of life.

I didn’t give up on life. I placed one foot in front of the other and though I had many missteps, I keep walking forward. And I feel a sense of pride in my life; I have two young daughters that grow lovelier every day, I have a career that I enjoy and brings me a sense of fulfillment, and I am ready to go back to my restarting those childhood dreams – even if that only means coloring the life of my loved ones with my happiness.

We can spend days philosophizing about what true happiness means and what we need to possess it. We can spend an equal amount of time debating whether the singular task of making ourselves happy contributes to the improved happiness of the collective; I believe that it does. By being a happy mother, daughter, sister, friend, and partner I am bringing that positivity into the lives of those connected to me. By sharing my stories, I hope you feel the hope that has carried me through daily and how this hope has changed as I have gotten older. I once thought happiness would come when I married and had children, a family to love me and receive my love.

But I learned that you can’t smother the darkness, you can’t swallow the bitter memories, you can’t hide from the gray that is nestled inside you and lures you into endless sleep; you have to face it in order to bring a sense of peace and happiness into your own being.

Imagine that you are in your dark hole, surrounded by darkness that eats at your perceived happiness away, that chips at your will to live, that hammers you down when you try to move forward, that suffocates you when you try to take a breath of hopeful air. You are left slumped on the ground choking on the hurt, the pain is so strong it keeps you pinned to the floor and no matter how hard you try to ignore it; the ringing in your ears makes it impossible for you to function at a higher level than mere existence. It becomes a sub existence and time passes by, passing you by.

But there is a ladder amongst this darkness. Barely visible at first but you feel it with your hands as you wander around unrelenting in your desire to escape. Each rung on that ladder brings you a different memory – a painful shameful moment in your life; and in order to move past a rung you have to come to terms with it and the implications it has caused in your life.

If you were abused, you need to know that you did nothing to invite this undeserved attack onto yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You do not have something in you that can elicit this behavior in others toward you. You may have been repeatedly abused, by many, but you need to realize that it is not your fault. You were a victim but over time and with a lot of work you can heal and stop living like one.

Whatever hard reality was or is your life you have two choices, same as anyone else; climb the ladder or cower in the false safety of your known darkness. Don’t beat yourself up for decisions and choices you made, even if you ended up hurting others. You have to learn to forgive yourself and push forward. If you don’t, your “reality” (your self-inflicted continuation of that twisted world) will always remain your captor.

I’m not credentialed to tell you how to get better, I can only share what I have gone through and have done to get to a better place. One thing I can tell you, when you climb high enough up that ladder, you will savor the ease with which you keep climbing and you will begin to shed your old tattered self and embrace the new stronger, happier, and more productive self.

I am not at the top of the ladder; I don’t know what I will find when I get there. But I do know that I am relishing the journey upward and that I am improving this world a little with my own sunshine brightening this beautiful new day.

Runaway

18 Dec

Oh I try to stay away
in my own quiet darkness
I plot 
To runaway

It’s too good
Too kind
Too normal to be real

Isn’t it sad?

I can’t accept that I deserve this
Or at the very least 
Accept that I don’t deserve
constant pain

It’s all so very bleak inside
The cobwebs that linger in the corner
They remind me of those years

Clinging to me
They refuse to disappear

It’s all so hideous
So very sad

Don’t you see?
Isn’t it clear?
Runaway

Let me be
So much easier to bear this pain
Neatly tucked behind the smile of a promise
That the year end is near

Year after Year
The end is near

Why don’t you just
Runaway?

 

Series of Non-Moments

27 Nov

The glow of the downtown skyline below me, so close I can almost step over the edge of the hill and walk over to it, but such a distant world from me. 

I look down at my evergreen ribbed sweater top and pull the sleeves over my tight knuckles and crouch down near the dead grass.  The cool air feels good against my cheeks.  The frost is coming, I can feel the weather turn as it nips at my cheeks and the edges of my ears.  But the burning of my eyes from all of the crying is all I can feel at this moment; the ugliness of the most recent fight still weighs me down and forms a pit in my stomach.

The cramping in my legs forces me to get up and as I inhale sharply I realize I haven’t been breathing.  I keep doing this; suspending reality and letting time slip by as I fall into my non-dream world.  I can’t even tell you what I think or don’t think about during these moments, but it scares me that I kept doing it more and more.  A series of unaccountable non-moments is preferable to the waking moments that I keep walking back to.

We lived in a tiny two room illegal unit carved into the side of a cliff and had to walk twenty steps up and down each time I would ascend or descend into our out of our self-created hell.  I opened the door and found him sitting by the dining table, mirror red-rimmed vacant eyes looking right back at me.  I don’t bother to acknowledge his presence and walk past him into the bedroom.  How depressing these walls are, seemingly pushing in all around me, inching closer and closer with each passing day.

We thought we had been happy once but when I try to think of what we spoke of, of what we shared in thoughts and likes, or even if we relayed dislikes, I can’t come up with a single conversation we had. 

Wherever we’d go, they would ask if we were siblings.  Tall, with dark thick hair, lightly bronzed skin, and striking features – there’s worse to be compared to.  I don’t think we saw anything beyond each other, at least nothing real, other than skin deep.  I thought I saw a shared pained past, an inner struggle to contain demons, a desire to move forward and work towards a new life with each other.  The last one is what bit me in the ass, that was just a projected shared trait, a one-sided fantasy that never took any real root in our relationship.

I didn’t drink then.  That wasn’t until I wanted to drown out the pain of failure. 

He didn’t drink much either, I figured (hoped) he didn’t like it and only did it socially but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the case once we were married.  Once we were married… How could it change so drastically? 

Back in the bedroom I changed into a t-shirt and crept into bed.  As I heard the sound of the light switch flick off I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.  I heard his shuffling as he stepped out of his clothes and slipped in beside me and I concentrated on willing myself to sleep.  As the bed shook from his silent sobbing I squeezed my eyes tightly and gripped the blanket so my eyes wouldn’t accidentally give me away.  But as I felt him slither towards me I quickly fell into my non-dream moments and slipped away..

Stop Feeling Guilty

19 Nov

I tend to do it myself.  I feel guilty, constantly. 

I had a great conversation with an unexpected source recently; I will admit (shamefully) that up until a year ago I did not realize that this woman had any depth to her.  I wrote her off as a beautiful woman with no substance nor intelligence.  After listening to her countless cries of attention through dieting tips, conquest stories, and her endless grooming I found myself speaking about an author series that I was attending.  And the unexpected happened.  She knew exactly who I was speaking of and she asked if she could be my +1.  This was over a year ago and I still feel stupid, rude, and naive for judging her exactly as I have been unfairly judged. 

Recently we had a follow up conversation about growing up in Boyle Heights, in East LA, in Westlake…  Growing up as an attractive female with 0 self-esteem and what that brought down on us but in a more insightful slant –  the root of what our reactions were stemmed to.  As she described what she went through: feelings of rejection, judgement, constant criticism from adults as a child (bullies); I began to understand more of what I felt, of what I did, of who I was, as I heard her tell her stories.

She is an incredibly striking woman with piercing green eyes and a hell of a personality and yet she had soft heart, a vulnerability that her surroundings did not respect, much less notice.  She is extremely intelligent, observant, and insightful – yet she receives no credit or acknowledgement for her innate gifts, qualities that she has retained despite her challenges.  She lives life thinking she is wrong, misunderstood, defective…

As I heard of what she witnessed as a child, of what she went through growing up, of what was unsaid but I could so palpably feel it that I could practically hold it with my fingertips…I understood her pain.  A pain that is so deeply rooted that it takes a hell of a strong person to face it in order to start healing; facing it means accepting that you were unloved, overcoming it means knowing that you are not un-loveable.  I saw this in her.  I heard it in the crack of her voice as she tried to remain composed and to the naked eye she was –  fine. She was perfectly fine.  But I was there; I knew better.

As she unfolded her worries before me I found the common theme of Guilt.  Guilt pervades all those who have succeeded in improving their lot in life while still being surrounded by negative influences. 

But it made me Angry.  Angry that life could be so cruel to her (and countless of you lovely women and men) and still invade her being with a sense that she did not deserve to find inner peace whilst her family was still in such a state of disarray.

It really upset me because I constantly feel that way.  Guilty.  Guilty when a guy wants to pay for dinner.  Guilty when my career is taking off.  Guilty when my children are doing well in school.  Guilty when I am spending money on myself.  Guilty when I am spending money on extracurricular activities for my kids instead of funneling it elsewhere.  Guilty when I want to for once, get taken care of.  When for once I would like to relax and feel vulnerable, and feel like a woman who wants to be shielded from worldly problems.  I want to know what it feels like to be sheltered.  I want to feel like what it feels to be taken care of without having to feel like I have to be the strong independent woman I have always been. 

I love who I am.  But just because I am strong does not mean that I am not soft as well.  I am strong and independent because there is no other way nor any other choice for me.  If not me then whom?  Who would step up to be the head of the household in my life?  No one.

So I remind myself not to feel guilty.  I deserve happiness.  I realize I will never have a childhood again where I can hope to feel cared for in that manner but I do some day want to feel the sense of comfort of knowing that I can rely on someone – completely.  And I will not feel guilty because I would care for that person right back.

So stop feeling guilty. 

Stop over thinking your future.  Life is life and it will continue to happen whether you allow it to or not, whether you plan for it or not.  Be the strong person that you are but give yourself merits for what you have overcome and what you have worked out for yourself.  You are incredible, special, and beautiful.  Anyone would be lucky to have you.  Why?  Because you have chosen to embrace life regardless of what it dealt you early on and you DESERVE to expect happiness.  It’s a good reminder for us all.

Stop feeling guilty.

Letter to my Dear Eliza on her 7th Birthday

13 Nov

When I see your face, your uninterrupted innocence, and feel the silkiness of your cheek when you rub it against mine in affection I am mesmerized.  I am awestruck and grateful for the simplicity in your joy and outlook in life; by your dreams full of cotton candy clouds, rainbows bursting through the sky, pink princesses leading the world; and your mommy loved above it all. 

You hold my hand, tilt your head to the side, giving me one of your crooked half smiles that can’t contain itself and I am filled with a radiating warmth that makes the world around me livelier.

 I work hard instilling a joy for life, an appreciation for everything around us; whether it is observing the morning dew glittering on a blade of lime green grass or sitting quietly taking in the fiery and purple hues of our LA sunsets.  I pray, in my own way, that you take what happiness you can from each moment in life and that these moments become a permanent state of happiness for you.

Each time I threw a penny in a wishing pond, each time an eyelash fell and we pressed it against our fingers, every birthday cake wish since I’ve had you two, I have fervently wished that you grow to be Happy and Kind – wonderful women.

 Along the way of finding ways to improve your chances of a better tomorrow, I have found bits and pieces of happiness myself.  As I looked for a better education for the two of you, I found a way to use my skills to volunteer and received a higher sense of fulfillment.  As I pushed you into the arts, I became immersed in a colorful world of music, acting and dance. 

 We have grown happier together.  We have grown stronger together.

 Today you are seven years old. 

 I was 21 and a mother of two with a growing sense of dread and an urgent need to raise you on my own before you were marred with witnessing what I did as a child.

 No one knew what went on nor do they need to know.  I set out with the two of you and we carried on as three.  It is the hardest decision I have ever made.  Not because of what I needed but for fear that I was being weak by not putting up with a bad situation so you could have your father. 

 In many ways I have never been a child but more of a half adult.  I experienced life’s travails and physical exigencies while still trapped in a child’s body.  Like a Matryoshka doll, I forced forward the strength of an adult to appease the need of others when inside I was physically and deep down, emotionally, still a child. 

But since the first moment I laid eyes on you, I Loved you.  You were my renewed link to life in many ways, my dear.  With time, I have found my own place, independent of you two, I discovered self-love.  But what remains unchanged are the tears that threaten to spill from my eyes, the ache in my chest, in my soul, when I think of you and the love I have for you. 

 I say all this in tribute to you; to the strength that you have as a seven year old, to have lived through the many low’s that life dealt us in the past but retaining only the good.

 You take heart in the beauty of dying embers even when the fire burned.

 Your eyes, full of honest and raw adoration looked up at me and thanked me for a weekend that reminded you of how special you are.  I will never forget what you told me that night.  I share it in hope that it inspires the formerly unloved to focus on the care and love of their own children instead on love that was not received. 

 The night was bitingly cold but we happily lingered in the moment as we walked back from your birthday dinner.  I took your small fingers in my hand and caressed them with the magic that hung, suspended in the air.

 You stopped and looked up at me, your eyes shining with tenderness, and asked me,

 “Mommy, you know how you can happy cry?”

 “Yes?”

 “When you read me your card, you made me happy cry.”

 —The contents of said birthday card will remain private because I whispered those words, meant only for you, into your ear—

 “Iza, you’re making me happy cry now.”

 “Thank you Mommy.” And you hugged me tightly.

 That in a life continuously assaulted with the love for Things, with the need of bigger, better, brighter!, you chose to focus on and appreciate the love that I show you, made my wish come true.

 

 

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