Tag Archives: #52essays2017

# 16 – Toxic Masculinity Chronicles

Ever since the election there has been a rampant spike in toxic masculinity, at least it feels that way to me. I’ve been meaning to chronicle these but I’m too upset or weirded out when they first happen. I want to forget that I live in a world where the patriarchy rules, that these aggressions/transgressions are not my norm but they have been happening way too often for me to “forget” about them.

Yesterday I was about an hour late to work. My regular hours are from 6am to 3pm so there is always plenty of parking spots to choose from.  At 7am on a Monday, the first level of the lot was getting full.  I pulled into a three car parking spot. I was the second car and chose the middle space. There were other places I could have parked but I chose the one closest to the garage entrance and so did the guy who pulled in behind me. He saw that I was trying to park, he could have waited for me to be done and then he could have pulled into the third spot but no. With the two of us parking, it was hard to see where my lines were. I was still OK but his car, a giant SUV did not fit in the third spot that was designated for three compact cars.

I drive a large Prius but it still fits into a compact spot.

Mr. Giant SUV pulls out of the space because I would not have been able to open my door with his gas guzzler parked next to mine. As I’m walking away, I can see that he is trying to pull back into the spot. I don’t know what time he goes home but there was no way I would have been able to get into my car from the driver’s seat. There were other spots he could have parked in.
I walked back, knocked on his window as he was putting some pomade on his shiny bald head. I startled him. I pointed to my car. He looked and rolled down his window.

“What would you like me to do about it little girl.” Said the wanna be Lex Luther in an Australian accent that I’m sure has made many women swoon but it made me roll my eyes and take a deep breath.

“I’d like you to back out so I can park somewhere else and you can keep your one oversized SUV in the spots designated for two compact cars.”

“Well sweetheart, had you done a better job parking you wouldn’t be in this predicament.” He said, getting out of the car and heading for the elevator.

“If you dare go into that elevator and I can’t get into my car, I will call security and have your car towed.” He kept walking and saw me reach for my phone. I have Joe, the doorman on speed dial.

“Joe, some asshole is blocking me and is about to get in the elevator, he’s wearing a checkered pink and white shirt, can you please, oh wait, it looks like he’s going to move after all.”

I stood by my car as he moved his car to another spot. I took my car and moved to another spot as well. I was walking toward the elevator, I was not expecting him to hold the door, if anyone had seen him pressing the close door button, they would have thought he was getting electrocuted.

This was no way to start the week.

I reached for my phone and looked at pictures of my daughter, it made me smile.  As the day went on, I kept trying to block the incident out of my mind but I couldn’t.

I don’t know why this guy chose to park in the spot next to mine as I was parking my car.  Was he making a political protest by squeezing his Escalade next to a Prius and a Tesla? Or was it an insecurity issue? Wanting his big car parked next to two smaller, more efficient ones?

# 14 – Infertility & Self Loathing

When Matt and I were in Sydney for our honeymoon in 2010, I told him that I wanted to go back to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary with our future 3 year old.

After a year of acupuncture and a paleo diet, I got pregnant in 2012.

I had a miscarriage.

I decided to deal with the loss by focusing on the positive. I was happy that I got pregnant when it looked like it would never happen. I was hopeful because my body knew how to make a baby.

After seven months of trying and no rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage), we consulted with a fertility doctor.

2014 was the year that IVFs 1-3 did not take.

The 4th IVF in 2015 was somewhat successful because I got pregnant but at five weeks, I had another  miscarriage.

To deal with this one, I started planning where to go for our 2nd honeymoon/5 year wedding anniversary/vacation.  I broke down thinking of the three year old we did not have. I went in and out of my boss’ office every time the tears spilled, relieved by the lack of people at work that day.

I needed to do something to feel like I was helping the situation. I reached out to all my religious friends and had them ask their pastors/priests about adoption, in case they knew of anyone who wanted to give up a child.

I was desperate.

This was something so out of my control that not even two top fertility doctors (one in New York and one in Los Angeles) could  help me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong either.

I needed an answer, a reason, even if it wasn’t a good one,  something to help me move on.

I threw myself into my job and writing. I took two workshops at once, my free time was to be consumed with reading and writing.

I did not want to cry or dwell on the recent miscarriage.

What would the boy or boys have looked like?

Why did this keep happening to me?

What was wrong with me?

I decided that I would try one more round and that would be the last time I would put my body and heart  through the rigors of IVF. I made it my goal to work on being happy no matter what the outcome of the fifth and final IVF.

I would not be bitter if it didn’t work.

I would be grateful for having the resources to try.

In the end, I wanted no room for regrets.

I was already on my journey to gratitude and contentment when Matt got a new job that interfered with my plans for a second honeymoon on our fifth wedding anniversary.

I didn’t mope or complain. I was not going to have a depressing, miserable summer. I was getting better at coming up with plan E when A-D didn’t work.

I went on vacation with my girlfriends.

I had nothing to lose by trying to be happy.

In retrospect, it sounds like a piece of cake to switch gears and decide to be happy. It was not an easy task. This being a shitty first draft, I see where I need to fill in the details of the pain I was in to properly illustrate it.

Below is an excerpt from my journal.

Anger Stage of Grief: This is what self loathing looks like a week after  miscarriage number two from IVF number four.

April 2015 – I am angry; at myself for wanting this so fucking badly, at my body for not fucking doing this for me, at the pregnant bitch showing me her fucking ultrasound picture. I don’t give a fuck, keep your enthusiasm to yourself you stupid hoe bag. To the other one, nosey fuck, it’s none of your fucking business when my IVF is, I fucking hate you. Most of all, I really do hate myself right now. My fucking sister is telling me how brave I fucking am, how awesome my fucking body is for trying and trying.  No, I’m not brave, I’m a fucking idiot who doesn’t fucking know when to quit. My body is not fucking amazing, all I’ve gotten is two fucking miscarriages. I am obese with a bmi of 30 from  the anxiety, eating my feelings and the fertility drugs. I don’t feel amazing or maybe I do.  You know what I think of the word amazing? It’s overused and most people don’t know what it means. They glorify things that are not amazing, like parents who call their toddlers amazing for hitting milestones they should have hit months ago. In that case, yes, I am absolutely amazing, an amazing fucking loser.

After I wrote this entry, I screamed into a pillow and cried for about three hours. I did not let Matt or anyone see me like this. My heart, body and soul could not take it anymore. The physical and mental pain was exhausting and would probably kill me if I didn’t do something.

My daughter is now ten months old, the fifth IVF worked. I don’t know if it was the change in mindset or the odds finally being on my side. I am beyond blessed to have her. I do not take her or motherhood for granted.

I would like to think that if things hadn’t gone the way they did, I would have found a way to be content. Happiness is a tall order. Even when you get everything you want, there are too many horrors in the world for me to be truly happy.

 

 

# 11 – a Micro Essay About a Place

I left NY on a freezing Saturday evening in January of 2003.  A few hours later, I landed at the Long Beach Airport in Southern California where the temperature was 79 degrees.

I deplaned onto the tarmac, the smell of burnt wood infused the air. I inhaled deeply savoring its bitter sweetness. The warm breeze enveloped me like a mother greeting her long lost child.

“That’s the Santa Ana Winds” my sister said.

We rode with the top down in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The smoke stacks of Carson behind us resembled dancing ghosts wearing shiny amber necklaces.

“The highways are called freeways here and they are always crowded” she warned.

The never ending break lights ahead of us looked like a glitter explosion on a home made Valentine’s card.

The headlights on the opposite side twinkled brightly, similar to a curtain made of Christmas icicle lights.

A giant American flag loomed in front of a cloud of blue smoke outside one of the refineries.

I turned on the radio, The Doors and the RHCP welcomed me with California anthems.

“I love this place” I said to my sister.

Billboards, car dealerships and fast food restaurants lined the freeway. The Goodyear blimp, illuminated by a spotlight, flew above us. Everything was flat, no skyscrapers in sight. This was my first encounter with the parking lot otherwise known as the 405.

Ten years later I buy a house in Long Beach and commute daily to Westwood, traveling the same roads I did when I first landed here.  Every day I am reminded, without regret and full of gratitude, that I traded crowded subways at rush hour for the privacy of my car on congested freeways.

 

# 7 – Trolls & Bullies

I became familiar with the name Milo Yiannopoulos when he bullied actress Leslie Jones on Twitter last summer. I had a new baby and did not pay attention to the specifics of what was said. What I did read was terrifying and I felt for her. I didn’t want to imagine what it was like to be her; a woman of color in Hollywood, not a size zero, who was somehow getting all this backlash from Yiannopoulos and his troll brigade because she was one of the new female Ghostbusters and he didn’t like the movie. I am probably one of the few people who didn’t think the first Ghostbuster was all that, it had its moments, but it didn’t do it for me.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia that people crave, the film is highly overrated and I didn’t understand the excitement when the reboot was being conceived or the hate that followed when an all-female cast was revealed. Had the remake been directed by a woman, I would have made an effort to watch it on Video on Demand but as a new mother, I barely had time to brush my teeth let alone watch a movie. I wanted to support Leslie Jones and the other women in the film but it’s hard to show up when you are sleep deprived.

I was bullied in seventh grade. All the girls in my class stopped talking to me and one of the boys became physical; pinching, pulling my hair, leaving thumbtacks facing up in my chair. I hated my teacher for not stopping it. Back then I was sure she knew what was going on and didn’t care. As an adult I learned that she was going through a divorce, and maybe she was too preoccupied with whatever was going on in her life to have realized the level of bullying I was going through.

I was one of two new girls in my class, everyone else knew each other since first grade. I don’t know why but a group of girls who befriended me and the other new girl decided, three weeks into the school year to stop talking to me. Maybe I pissed one of them off but there was no explanation given, there was no gossip about it. It’s as if though they got together and decided that all the girls had to ignore me.

Luckily the bullying didn’t follow me outside of school because there was no texting or social media.  It sucked to be snubbed but I wasn’t devastated, I barely knew these people and I got to spend my lunchtime reading. That’s not to say that it didn’t hurt to eat alone but I had a high opinion of myself and felt superior to these girls because they didn’t like Wham!, Duran Duran or the Pet Shop Boys.

The next time I heard Yiannopoulos’ name was sometime in December when he got a book deal with an imprint of Simon & Schuster and a group or critics and celebrities called for a boycott not just of his book but of the entire Simon & Schuster corporation. My first thought was of Lilliam Rivera, a writer I’m acquainted with on Facebook and met once at a conference. Sometime last summer she announced that her debut YA novel The Education of Margot Sanchez was going to be released by Simon & Schuster in 2017.

Lilliam is from the Bronx and currently lives in Los Angeles. I met her briefly at Bindercon in 2015 and she was lovely. She was someone I could have easily been friends with growing up. The character of her book is a girl who has to work in her father’s supermarket for using a credit card without permission. I told her that I too had worked at my father’s supermarket, we bonded over that and marveled at how cool it was to talk about where we grew up on this side of the country.

I hoped her book would find a publisher because I wanted to see her character out in the world. I would have felt less alone if I had read books with a character like Margot Sanchez when I was in seventh grade. I hoped this boycott would not affect the sales of Lilliam’s book.  I’m sure that like in Hollywood, sales have a strong impact on who gets hired and I wanted this book to do well so that more women of color get signed to big publishing houses.

Earlier this month, this guy’s name was again at the center of controversy again when riots broke out at UC Berkeley. He had been invited to speak at the university but was later disinvited due to the protests against a prestigious university giving him a platform to spew his hate. I’m of the belief that I’d rather have these people on public record. It will easy to dismiss when he’s being considered for a position of power to overlook his Twitter trolling because “it’s just Twitter”.  I want to know who my racists are, I want their opinions challenged by smart people from the opposite side and I want a record that’s more reliable than a tweet.

This past weekend, I sat down to watch Real Time with Bill Maher, Yiannopoulos was the front of the show guest. I got the notes on my phone ready, expecting to write down my grocery list during his interview. When he came out on the stage, I was shocked at how young, cute, English and gay he was! Maybe it’s my own prejudice but I expect twitter trolls not to look like they could be friends with Harry Potter.

During the interview I learned that he was an editor at Breitbart, is openly gay but doesn’t hire other gays “because they are too busy partying and are always late”, only dates black men but yet he is a racist troll who calls himself a free speech advocate. I am all for free speech but some people seem to think that hate speech and free speech are the same, they are not.

Within minutes of his interview he was name calling Lena Dunham but Bill was very strict with him and told him he would not tolerate him bullying a member of the HBO family. Bill was firm with him and Yiannopoulos backed down which surprised me. It reminded me of something my friend Mari, a therapist, told me to do to stop the ex from harassing and threatening to hurt me.

“Tell him let him there is a man in your life now.”

I told Mari that I felt weird saying there was “a man” around when Matt and I had just started dating.

“Just do it.” She said.

I posted a picture of me and Matt on Facebook, new at the time and on Myspace, ensuring that my ex would see.  I was surprised when a few days went by, then weeks with no communication from the ex.

“Now that he knows there’s a man in your life, he’ll leave you alone, it’s typical of bullies.” She was right, the minute he got wind that there was a man in my life he stopped sending scathing emails and leaving abusive voice mails. To this day, I have not heard from him.

During the online Overtime segment of the show, Yiannopoulos joined the rest of the panel and basically called Michael Nance, a counter terrorism expert, stupid and said that transgender people were sick. I was still in shock over how a gay man could be so politically insufferable.  There was something in the way he laughed when he was called out on his hypocrisy.  That  nervous laugh was more than self-deprecation, it was self-loathing. As someone who has been there, I was able to recognize it in this guy. It made me wonder what was done to him to make him this way. I suspected some form of abuse turned him into an abuser. The way he talked about transgender people told me he had no empathy for others, let alone himself.

Larry Wilmore held him accountable, and told him to “Go fuck yourself”. It was gratifying to see the bully put in his place but he just laughed it off.

A few days after the Real Time segment aired, Yiannopoulos resigned from his job at Breitbart, lost his book deal and a speaking engagement at The Conservative Political Action Conference. None of this happened because of his appearance on the show but from comments he made on a video defending pedophilia. Is the far right so desperate they will embrace anybody and hail them as a celebrity? Why are some liberals so easily baited into focusing on the actions of a little troll instead of paying attention to the atrocities being inflicted by the biggest troll of all?

I fear for myself and other people of color in the current social climate. Yes, I’m light-skinned and most days I pass when I’m with my white husband and even whiter baby. Other times, I don’t blend and have been asked for my nannying rates. While annoying, it’s not scary for a clueless person to ask a stupid question. It was one thing to be bullied in junior high, I grew up, I got therapy, I am fine. Hopefully my daughter will never know bullying. I’m afraid I won’t know how to protect her when meanness can go viral so quickly. How do we stop cyber bullying when the current people in power are the biggest bullies of all?

***

I was supposed to post this on 2/24/17 but I left my iPad at work. I had not saved the latest version of it to the cloud. Instead of beating myself up about it, I let it go, what was the big deal about posting on Friday vs. Monday? I’m already two weeks behind on the #52Essays2017 challenge, two extra days was not going to make a difference I thought, until it did.

Over the weekend a woman I respect posted a picture of an art installation in a public space in her town. The post was about gentrification and outside artists/hipster art invading her community. Most people who chimed in agreed with her comment and had harsh words about the installation, myself included. “It looks like a Sasquatch trap”, I said. It got a few “likes” but something was bothering me. I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, a friend of the artist replied to the thread and explained what the piece meant to her friend who was born and raised in the community but had gone away to art school, moved back to the community and is enjoying some international success. I couldn’t finish reading. I made myself sick. Yes, art is subjective and I stand by my opinion but no one asked me. I became one of those people who joined the brigade without thinking.

I’m usually pretty good about checking myself before replying or posting something online, sometimes I over think it and apparently, other times, I don’t think at all. The original post was not trolling, or bullying, she had a valid point about gentrification. In my way of showing support for one person, I became an asshole to another. The woman who made the original post engaged the friend of the artist in a civilized conversation, she apologized for her initial reaction. I took the coward way out and deleted my comment. That conversation was not for me to begin with, I am not part of that community.

It was physically easy for me to delete the comment. Maybe no one noticed, maybe someone did. I am going to continue to think about this without beating myself up, and consider it a lesson in progress.

# 4 – El Reguero

I’ve been trying to smudge my house since my daughter was born. I am a firm believer that your space needs to be immaculate before undertaking the ritual of space clearing. I did not have time to do a thorough house cleaning while I was on maternity leave. Contrary to what some people believe, maternity leave is not a vacation, you don’t have much free time because babies are a lot of work.

My husband is a chemist so the house was always laboratory spotless but now that we have a baby the house is for the most part, a mess – clutter everywhere; a baby swing, a little gym, a jumperoo, a high chair, a bassinet that functions more as a hamper/toy chest because my daughter sleeps on the bed with us, all in the middle of the living room.

The house is not up to our pre-baby clean standards. Since being back at work, neither of us has the time to mop the floors on a weekly basis. The priorities are; staying on top of laundry, a clean kitchen, a clean bathroom and changing the sheets and towels twice a week.

Now, there’s the stack of mail on top of the dining room table that needs to be sorted into piles; junk mail, important mail; to be filed; to be paid. Once the bills get paid, they move to the’ to be filed’ or ‘to be shredded’ pile. I have a load of documents that needs to be shred. If you’ve had the misfortune of credit card fraud or identity theft, you too will have a mountain of paper in need of shredding because throwing out even one envelope with your name on it fills you with anxiety.

Every room in the house can use a few hours of deep organization.  This is not something solvable with a cleaning lady. What I need is time to purge. To give away stuff, have a garage sale.  The house needs the full Marie Kondo.

When my friend Teri moved to Chicago she gave us her new sectional sofa. Matt has always wanted a sectional, I think they take up too much space. This one is three big pieces that closes off the living room and blocks off the nonfunctional fireplace that I decorated with whimsical pieces; mermaids, angels, Dominican Jesus.

Since I was a teenager, my adult goal was to live in the Pottery Barn catalogue.  When the sectional moved in, my PB sofa was temporarily moved to the garage. Matt wanted the sectional in the living room instead of the back room that is supposed to be the family room.  After four years in the house, the family room only gets used as a gateway to the back yard.

This need for an immaculate house is not about keeping up with the Joneses or para que la gente no diga. We rarely have people over. We live in Long Beach, a good 20-40 miles away from most of our friends in Los Angeles and my sister in the San Fernando Valley. Other than the obligatory Noche Buena party we don’t have many guests over.

My clean and clutter free house is for me to enjoy. It has to do with me being a control freak and also being one of four kids who never had her own room. A clean house that when my filmmaker friends come over and ask “can I shoot here?” makes me feel good. As a filmmaker, I know what a crew does to a house while they are shooting, my answer is always no.

The house used to be under my control because I had time to dedicate to it. I work forty five hours a week and spend about two hours a day commuting. Now, when I get home, my time is for my daughter.

I would love some flexibility at work. Like two days where I work four or five hours instead of nine. I’d be happy with a half day once a week or even every other week.

It is my controlling nature that makes me great at my day job. I’m an Executive Assistant to Masters of the Universe. I get paid very well to keep them organized and on schedule, it’s not something that can be done part time or half assed. I love my job, I love being in control but I would also love a little time to keep myself organized and on schedule.

***

The clutter is seeping into my relationship with my sister. I should be better about getting together, by the time the weekend rolls around the last thing I want to do is drive thirty plus miles to visit her. We made a date to meet at LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art. We were going to celebrate Matt’s and Ayden’s birthdays. Ayden, our Goddaughter was turning two. I stood my sister and her kids up! What kind of person stands up their two and four year old nieces! The girls were looking forward to seeing Hudson and to give Matt a present they had made for him. I slept right through the date, did not wake up until 11:00am and completely forgot to meet them.  I was so ashamed and disgusted with myself, I spent the week beating myself up about it.

I have to make some changes.

I will start with writing. As of now, I can dedicate my lunch time to putting together these weekly essays. I want to find two hours to work on my memoir on weekends because Matt is there to help.  There’s always something to do at home. A few weekends ago, I organized my daughter’s clothes that no longer fit her; I gave a lot away and stored what I want to keep for her. I sorted the clothes into two vacuum sealed bags; from new born to three months and from three months to six months. There went six hours of writing but now, I don’t have a giant bin full of baby clothes in the family room.

I can’t blame the not writing totally on the messy house. I have a flash drive with all the writing I’ve done in the last three years. It was not a functional system.  The work was categorized by workshop date so I had about twenty folders with four to eight pieces of writing.

I spent two hours today reorganizing my work. I created four folders in a new flash drive; Young Adult Memoir, Fertility/Trying to get Pregnant, Current Memoir, and Flash Pieces. I labeled each story by name and added what chapter I can find it in my memoir in progress. I also backed everything up into the cloud. The new system will make it easier to finish the second draft.

***

The essays on this blog are shitty first drafts at best. This is week four. I will continue to make time for this writing challenge of  #52Essays2017. Now that I’m back at work I am not able to take the weekly writing workshops so I need to stay accountable and generate work. I used to think that I didn’t have enough words in me to dedicate to weekly writing and to my memoir. Now that I don’t have time, I realize I have so much to say, so much I want to share. Little by little I will get there.

My daughter has already outgrown the swing and her baby gym. Those are now in the family room waiting to be stored in the garage in case one of the three frozen embryos turns into baby number two. Now, in the middle of the living room there’s a giant mat made of interlocking foam blocks with the letters of the alphabet in each block.  There is a baby fence around the mat so Hudson has room to crawl without hurting herself. At least Matt mopped the floor before he laid down the foam. I’m not going to be hard on myself about the baby stuff all over the house. I wanted this baby more than I’ve wanted anything in my whole life. I need to get used to the extra stuff that comes with that. I’m giving myself another two weeks, regardless of the state of the house, I will open up my windows, burn some sage and palo santo and invite new energy in and kick the old energy out.

# 3 – Election Results

The essay below is an unfinished first draft (everything here is a first draft). I am too close to the current events I discuss here to go further with it now.

My husband the pacifist, the feminist, who in our almost eight years together has never raised his voice to me, yelled at me.

We’ve had disagreements, like the primaries, he was Team Bernie, I was Team Hillary.

We always remained respectful, tried to see things from the other’s perspective, not to change minds but to better understand.

Matt yelling at me shook me to my core, it brought back memories of my previous relationship. I resisted the urge to yell back.  I was driving, on our way to pick up our daughter from daycare.

“We should have a bucket of popcorn handy for every time he does something stupid and laugh our asses off from the comfort of the California bubble.” I said, trying to make light of how to deal with the incoming administration.

It was not my best moment but it worked for me before. Joking my way out of a life threatening situation was one of the ways I survived an abusive relationship, therapy was another.

My therapist, who was caring and professional, chastised me for making her laugh when I made light of my ex’s behavior.

“He tried to cut the brakes off my bike with a pair of rusty scissors.  You should have seen him in his Yoda underwear, his man boobs shaking the more strength he used to cut the brake cable.”

She tried to suppress a giggle.

“You can’t say it like that.” She said.

“Say it like what?”

“Like a stand-up comic. Your delivery is funny. Why do you do that?

Blank stare from me.

“Whenever you talk about him, you somehow make it sound funny. Do you know why you do that?” She said, back in therapist mode.

“Oh, ha! Maybe it’s the Neil Simon in me.” I said, pleased with myself.

We both laughed and then, she remembered her place.

“That, what you just did, you need to stop it.”

After the divorce I opened up to my brother about the relationship with my ex.

“I should have known to run for the hills when he called his mother a dirty whore.” I said. My brother, mortified for a few seconds, proceeded to crack up like he did when we were kids watching a Police Academy marathon. I was hoping he’d say something along the lines of “Do you want me to find that animal con ropa and kick his ass?” Or something along those lines.

“I’m glad you find my misery funny.” I said, stomping my way out of the room.

“Oh Come on, can you imagine one of us calling Mami a cuero sucio?

No, I couldn’t imagine, I busted out laughing too, it was absurd. Mami would have killed the brave soul who would have dared say such a thing to her. No Dominican kid would ever disrespect their mother that way. We were raised with buenas costumbres or good habits, the proper meaning is lost in the translation. It’s more than good habits or good manners.

“If you don’t want me to laugh, you shouldn’t have said it that way.”

I’m sure if I dig enough, I can come up with plenty of times when I hid my pain in subconscious humor. Malas costumbres die hard.

There is no comparing my husband with the ex. Matt listens and takes his time before answering, usually saying “I understand” when he does. If he doesn’t, he asks questions and then sits with your answer. He is empathetic, kind and generous. He does not interrupt, he does not mansplain.

***

The night of the election, we ordered Thai food, I dressed Hudson in her “Future President” onesie and we sat in front of MSNBC.  We weren’t smug or felt it was in the bag. We knew it would not be an easy victory and there was a chance that Hillary could lose. When Iowa went Republican, the newscaster Brian Williams let out an audible sigh that pierced my heart and rippled through my entire body. I knew it was over but hung on to the hope of a miracle.

Matt let out a cry that sounded like a wounded animal being kicked in the head. I felt dizzy, as if I was on a roller coaster ride with no end in sight.

“How can this be?” Matt said in a quiet scream, face palming and burying his face on his hands.

Hudson was so freaked out she nearly jumped out of my arms. I wasn’t sure if she was reacting to Matt or me. My daughter startled me into regaining my composure. She was crying, not the easily recognizable cry of hunger or a wet diaper. This was the second time I witnessed her experience fear.

When she was three months old, I put her on the stroller in the kitchen so I could make a smoothie. When I turned on the blender, her lower lip pouted and she started crying, big globs of wet, chunky tears, my baby had never done that. I turned off the blender, took her out of the stroller and walked out of the kitchen ready to forget the smoothie.  As I soothed and calmed her, I decided to teach my daughter to face her fears. I walked in to the kitchen with her in my arms.

“This is the blender, it makes mommies food. I’m going to turn it on, and it’s going to make a noise, it’s OK, mommy is right here.” I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead.

I was skeptical and hoped that I was not about to traumatize my baby. I turned on the blender, I left it on for a few seconds.  Hudson stared at it and then at me.

“See, everything is fine. I’m going to make my food, OK.”

On election night, my daughter was five months old. She was smiling and happy until she sensed the anxiety of the adults that are supposed to take care of he.

“We need to figure out a way to deal with this, look at how it’s affecting her.”

Matt took her from my arms and anchored himself to her. Neither of us knew what to say, how to soothe or calm.

“How are we going to get through the next four years?” He asked.

I didn’t know the answer then and I don’t know the answer now. I turned off the television and changed Hudson into her pajamas. I flung the Future President onesie across the room, wishing I could do the same to the misogyny my daughter will experience in her lifetime.

I barely slept that night. My daughter’s whimpers woke me right before the climax of my nightmares; before my body hit the ground from a fall, before the orange monster got a chance to squash me, before the serial killer’s axe decapitated me. Each time, I would wake up to soothe her so she could soothe me.

The only thing I could compare the election and its aftermath is to September 11. I am experiencing the same fear I did then; waiting for the other shoe to drop.

***

 “How can you normalize his behavior that way? Why would you say something like that?” My husband yelled.

Why would I say something like that? Because the new president triggers me. I wasn’t trying to normalize deplorable behavior, I was falling into old patterns. Had Matt spoken in his normal voice he would have sounded like my old therapist.  Maybe my old therapist wanted to yell at me instead of calmly telling me that “you can’t stay with him, he will kill you.”

I have come to terms with the guilt and shame I felt after I left the ex.  I can openly admit, on most days, to most people that yes, I was in an abusive relationship. I know why and how I got there.

I worked very hard at making sure that the next person I ended up in a relationship with was not a similar version of my ex. I could do that because with good therapy and a strong support system, I felt those things were in my control.

The results of the election is not something I had power over. It doesn’t make me feel better that he lost California, it makes me feel like I don’t count, like my voice and my vote don’t matter.

I was contemplating a social media diet starting with Twitter but when I accepted the challenge to write  #52Essays2017 I decided to use social media to make my voice heard. I have not done much sharing of essays, mostly due to time constraints . I will get there. My voice, my writing matters.

# 2 – Longing for Mami

The cobalt-blue blanket with the red trimming and a thousand little fuzz balls that Mami made for my nephew, the one I stole from his closet because I wanted to feel close to her when I was home in California and she was dying in New Jersey, the one I gave my sister when I was declutering and then took back after Mami died, shelters me and my baby when we lay in bed listening to Stevie. I hum My Cherie Amour and Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday before her afternoon naps.  We listen to the songs on my Spotify playlist before bed time.

The chenille fabric is no longer soft,  it thins in the middle as if it has been shaved. The small hole in the corner seam of the red trim has gotten bigger. It still smells like Mami, and the house in Jersey that is no longer ours; It’s Fabuloso and sofrito and Tide and albondiga con moro de habichuela negra.   It’s Ivory soap and Lancôme moisturizer and Elizabeth Arden youth restoring ceramide capsules. Skeptics would say it’s all in my mind, but my nose knows.

I lay on my side so I can watch Hudson thrash and toss before she settles down, her head laying on the crook my arm. Sometimes she falls asleep on top of me, other times her head rests on my shoulder. My upper body is knotted. I should see my chiropractor more often but I don’t have time. I want to spend as much of my waking hours and all of my sleeping time holding my baby.

Her eyes, Sinatra blue like her father’s, in the dark with only the hallway light coming in from under the door, look brown like Mami’s. Most nights I feel her gaze through my daughter’s eyes.

By the time Stevie sings the last notes of Yester Me, Hudson’s eyes flutter shut for the night. I bury my nose in her head trying to smell the last of the delicious baby smell that is slowly evaporating.  I do the same with the blanket and pray that the smell never leaves.

***

I hid behind big, dark, Jackie O type sunglasses at Mami’s funeral. My eyes, no matter how hard I squeezed or how many memories I replayed, refused to cry.  The days after she died was the first time I was able to sleep soundly without sleep aids. My eyes looked like an airbrushed advertisement for expensive eye cream.

What was wrong with me? Who doesn’t cry at their mother’s funeral? Why did I always have to be the weird one?

Not even the memory of the sunglasses purchase made me cry. Me and Mami, five years earlier at the Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet at the Bergen Mall, a distraction before one of her chemo treatments. I was broke and going through a nasty divorce from an unemployed, wannabe musician who was threatening to sue me for alimony. The designer sunglasses cost $95, money I did not have because all of my money went to maintain the Brentwood lifestyle my then husband sucked us into. I could barely afford the trip from Los Angeles to New Jersey, I did not have $95 in my bank account but Mami insisted. She put them on me like she used to with my prescription glasses when I was a little girl. She fixed my messy hair, turned me towards the mirror and smiled.

“Te vez come una millonaria.” She said, as I marveled at the ability of these sunglasses to make me look like a million bucks. I loved the power to hide my reality behind them. I insisted that I couldn’t afford them.  She paid for them even though she was in no position to spend the money. Her health insurance had denied the claim for one of her PET scans and now owed the hospital about fifteen thousand dollars.

“Pagame cuando salgas de ese albatross” she said. I wished I had given Mami back the money after I got rid of the albatross but she never asked me for it and up until her funeral, I had forgotten.

I sat in the family pew, our section was in the front, against the wall, between the casket and the rows of guests. My husband held my hand. I looked the part of the grieving daughter as long as I did not take off the sunglasses.

I was not ready or willing to let go. I was busy not dealing, being in denial was easy. I continued my life in California pretending Mami was still alive in New Jersey.   I did not delete her from my phone. Each time I called my husband or one of my siblings I would see her picture icon along with the rest of the family members on the  favorite contact section. I did not erase her voice mails and would listen to them when I wanted to hear her voice. My delusion went so far that I would forget she was dead and call her cellphone a few times a week only to be shocked to reality when my nephew’s voice or voice mail answered because he took over her number.

***

I started IVF treatments five months after the funeral, I needed to be in a state of Zen and happiness but even if I blocked my mother’s death out of my mind, my body knew.

I finally got pregnant one year and four months after she died thanks to IVF number four.  Unfortunately, it resulted in a miscarriage so bloody it made the elevator doors in the film version of The Shining look tame by comparison.

Two months after the miscarriage I went on vacation with my friend Teri. Actually, I invited myself on the trip she was planning with her sister and a family friend.  I was desperate to escape. Matt had recently switched jobs, taking time off was not something he wanted to do.  I treated myself to a first class ticket. After years of putting travel on hold because “What if Mami dies while I’m in the middle of nowhere” or “What if I get pregnant and don’t want to travel”, I was ready for a good time.

Teri’s sister took care of the planning, all I had to do was get there.  There, was casita with a private swimming pool and a butler at the Fairmont Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen.  I arrived the day after Teri and her sister, sunglasses in tow looking like a millonaria.

One night after dinner, relaxing in our private pool, Eugenia, Teri, their friend Susana and I were sipping wine, enjoying our privilege.

“You know, if this next round of IVF doesn’t work, I’m done. If I don’t get pregnant, Matt and I will be OK. We will travel, maybe buy a beach house in the Dominican Republic.” I said, resigning myself to our possible fate as a childless couple. I was no longer going to let infertility stop me from enjoying life.

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” Teri asked.

The aha moment didn’t have time to register because within seconds of her saying that, we heard a swishing, chattering sound that turned out to be a bat. It flew into our space making us scream like horror movie characters about to meet the boogeyman. Teri and I ducked into the pool while Susana accidentally swatted the bat making it squeal and flap its wings above us longer than it probably intended to.

Two days later, I flew back home by myself. I was listening to music, my playlist on shuffle.

Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday blasted through my headphones. The first time in years I had heard the song.

What happened to the world we knew

When we would dream and scheme

And while the time away

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

“How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?” echoed over the lyrics.

Teri felt like an oracle delivering a message in the form of a question.

 Where did you go that yesterglow

When we could feel

The wheel of life turn our way

Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday

 “How do you expect to get pregnant when you haven’t grieved the loss of your mother?”

It was somewhere around the second verse of the song that images of me and Mami flashed like they do in the movies when a character is about to die.  In a span of a few seconds, every memory played in fast motion. I started sobbing and gasping for air. I tried to be quiet, to control it. The flight attendant rushed over to me, asked if I was all right. All I could do was nod and breathe.

The images slowed down; Me as an infant on top of Mami’s stomach as she did sit ups. Me as a toddler sticking my index finger in the corner of her eye trying to fish out the eyeliner gunk. Me stretching Mami’s ear lobes trying to pull out her hoop earings. My childhood, adolescense and adult life with my mother played nostalgic like an old song.

I was grateful that the cabin was not crowded and the few passengers on board all had their noise cancelling headphones on. The flight attendant kept coming back to check up on me and bring me water during my four hour crying binge.

***

The fifth and final IVF was scheduled for September 18th, 2016.  I spent last summer grieving, hiking, cooking, reading, writing, spending time with my husband and my nieces Onabella and Ayden who were three and one, I needed all the baby energy I could get. I got massages regularly, saw my chiropractor and acupuncturist weekly, tried to meditate and lastly, I booked four reiki sessions with a healer/poet/activist who taught me about the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.

I Love You, I’m Sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank You

Love

Atonement

Mercy

Gratitude

From Wikipedia

“Ho’oponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone”.

I used the prayer to make amends with my mother.

Mami, I love you so much

I’m sorry I was not a better daughter

I’m sorry I never paid you back for the sunglasses

Please forgive me for all the nights you spent desvelada, waiting for me to come home

Please forgive me for all the times I made you worry when I was married to the albatross

Thank You for always being there,  siempre resolviendome whatever problemas I asked for your help with

Thank You for all the sacrificios you made for me

When I got a positive pregnancy test four days after the embryos were transferred, I knew I would have my THB (Take Home Baby). I entered the date of the transfer in a Due Date App. According to this app and later confirmed by my Obstetrician, my baby was due on Mami’s birthday. I know like I know that two plus two is four that my daughter is a gift from my mother.

I am still grieving, I think I will always grieve. I have accepted that she is dead, I am no longer in denial about that. Giving birth has added a new dimension to the longing I have for my mother. So many times I wish I could pick up the phone and call her.

Hudson and I lay in bed, covered in the blanket, we listen to Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Jose Luis Peralta. Every night  I hope to dream with her, every once in a while I do.