Tag Archives: Memoir

#19 – Guilt Chronicles

This is what guilt looks like.

Last Sunday, my daughter began a new semester of music class. She has been going since she was six months old. In the class, parents and their children sit in a circle and we sing songs, play musical instruments and dance, all lead by a wonderful music teacher.

When we pulled into the parking lot, my daughter was squealing. Her little squeals are a sure sign of her love for whatever or whoever she is squealing at. I am greeted with this happy squeal when I pick her up from school, her school teacher gets greeted with the same squeal as does her father when he gets home.

When we got to music class, she was running around, being very vocal and loud. I did not once tell her to be quiet but I stayed on top of her because there were a lot of new babies in the class. She would run up to the babies but never touched them nor was she threatening. However, I am Dominican and my first thought was about el que dira, what will people say?

There was a kid last semester who had to be dismissed from the class because he made other kids feel unsafe. The class is mixed age, from babies to five years old. The little boy was three. He was being a typical three year old but his mother never disciplined him. He threw a drum at a baby that luckily the baby’s father blocked with his hand. He would trip kids, hug too tight or hug without permission and played rough. The child’s mother was spoken to several times and my husband and I judged, I think everyone judged.  It wasn’t the kid that bothered me but how his mother laughed off his behavior, was dismissive of people’s concern about the safety of their children and never once told him to behave.  It was hard to enjoy the class when you have to be on guard. When he threw a triangle across the room, his mother was asked to leave. I felt bad for the little boy and even for his mom. The triangle is made of steel and could have sent someone to the hospital. I try not to judge people’s parenting style but like I said, I am Dominican and that mother’s behavior does not fly with me.

My daughter was in no way harmful or made anyone feel unsafe but in my opinion she was disruptive. My husband thought she was being cute which made me fume. He suggested that if I felt so terrible about Hudson’s behavior in the class, I should email the teacher letting her know how I felt.  I was annoyed that he couldn’t see how his child’s behavior could possible be experienced as troublesome by other parents. Then again, my husband is white and not concerned with el que dira.

I don’t think there was anything to discipline because what was I going to say to Hudson? Be quiet or stay still? I am not about to start making my daughter feel self-conscious or giving her complejos that will follow her into adulthood. I enrolled her in music class so she can be creative and express herself.

And that’s when the guilt crept in. I had been too busy during the week trying to win a Fitbit challenge with some east coast friends. Instead of letting my daughter run and play in the yard like I usually do, I contained her in the stroller so I could get my 15k-20k per day.  Was it my fault that she was so hyper at the end of the week? This was not normal behavior for her but it set me off, blaming myself for her needing to run around the class.

I’m trying to be better, to chuck her behavior to a fifteen month old being a fifteen month old. This week I will let her run in the park and see how she does in music class at the end of the week.

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# 15 – Pesadilla

My heart, fast beats punching my insides.

My body, a mixture of chills and sweat.

My breath, obstructed like someone holding a pillow over my face.

It took me a few seconds to catch up to my reality; my house, my baby and my husband next to me, sleeping peacefully.

Inhale, exhale, relax.

THANK YOU GOD.

My alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button. I gently pick up the baby, drape her on top of me and get lost in the smell of her hair as I stroke her back.

THANK YOU GOD.

Tomorrow is the seven year anniversary of the divorce from the ex.

April 27th, the day a judge in Santa Monica granted me my freedom.

The last time I saw the ex was eight years ago.

Unexpected sounds or noises still spook me.

I am anxious about running into him.

I still look over my shoulders because I don’t know where he lives.

The nightmares still haunt me.

# 13 – Virtual Children

I turned in my outline and plot breakdown for my pilot. I am taking an online television writing class. One of the story lines was inspired by a flash I wrote in 2015. I’m trying to keep up with the challenge of writing an essay a week during my lunch time but between the writing for the class and a recent death in the family, I have not done much memoir writing.  Since I consider this a blog of shitty first drafts, I’m going to share some older writing until I can catch up.

Virtual Children

I just found out that my husband has two adopted children, virtual children in the world of Skyrim.  “How long have you had them?” I ask, perturbed. “A few years, they have a pet fox and I give them gold coins whenever they ask for an allowance.” He says like this is the most normal thing in the world.

“So these fake kids, is this how you cope?” I ask trying to decide if I’m being funny, sarcastic or mad.

“Yeah, you know that. When I’m bored or stressed I play video games, why are you acting so weird?”

“I mean, is this how you cope because we don’t have a kid, like if if this cycle doesn’t work and I don’t get pregnant, are you going to buy your virtual children an exotic animal and give them a gold coin? Or are you going to spend the rest of your life in the computer hanging out with them?” I say and now I’m owning my anger.  I knew there was a reason I did not like him playing that game, I knew there was something that did not feel right but I wasn’t about to tell him to stop playing.  Three Christmases ago I bought him Rocksmith, a music video game that teaches you to play guitar and bass.

I was happy when Rocksmith became the favorite and Skyrim was temporarily forgotten.  He was spending a lot of time learning to play the bass but that didn’t bother me, it made me happy that he had a healthy way of dealing with the stress of his long commute.  Rocksmith is still his favorite way to relax along with learning Spanish on Duolingo but since the miscarriage four months ago,  I’ve noticed that Skyrim has made a comeback.

Matt thinks I’m blowing things out of proportion because making stuff up, especially things that you want in real life or things that don’t exist is part of the fun of video and role playing games.

I feel a little crazy for letting this get under my skin so much. I know that what bothers me about Skyrim is that it gives Matt an escape to something I haven’t been able to give him.

# 10 – Grief & Depression

Grieving Mami was more difficult than I anticipated. I had six years to prepare but I was not ready. Each day greeted me with a new reminder that my mother was dead.  How many times would I dial her number before I remembered she was gone? How many times would I crave her bacalao, albondigas and carne mechada before realizing that their flavor, aroma and comfort died with her.

I planned to visit my God-mother in the Dominican Republic the summer after Mami died. Consuelo was Mami’s best friend, Papi’s sister and the one responsible for their union.  The day I bought my plane ticket Papi called to tell me she was dead. Cancer got her too. The rest of my life will now be filled with the regret of unanswered questions and one sided conversations with Mami’s ghost.

My grief morphed into depression. The more I tried to stop it, the deeper down the maelstrom I went.  Driving on the freeway felt like an unseen hand was squeezing my throat while another one pinched my nose. I started driving on the exit lane to not add claustrophobia to my anxiety cocktail. I self-medicated with food and Netflix binges. I lost my desire to read, to hike, to see friends. I gained fifteen pounds.

My life became robotic; get up, drive to work, eat, work, eat, drive home, eat, Netflix, eat, sleep five hour, repeat.

My worse fear was that the darkness could lead me to commit suicide or get addicted to drugs even though I’ve never had thoughts of suicide or an addictive personality.  A medicine cabinet full of Vicodin that I rarely used and did not know how to properly dispose of should have assured me that I would not go there.  I excel at worrying about everything including things with very little chance of happening.  I asked my husband and sister to keep an eye on me just in case.

A few years earlier my therapist diagnosed me with anticipatory anxiety because I always think of the worst case scenario, I need to be prepared for it, have a plan, just in case. I thought I was ready to let Mami go while she was dying but I was not prepared for my her death or the aftermath.

I am an optimist, always finding light or a shimmer of hope to guide me through difficult times. After spending half of my adult life witnessing the strongest person I knew battle cancer, suicide and drug abuse were not options for me.  I knew my mother and aunt were dead but self-awareness did not make the darkness go away.  Is this what the road the Cuckoo’s Nest was like? Was I, to quote Ozzy, “on the rails of a crazy train?”

I learned to function with depression. I have a hard time asking for help, in hindsight, I should have gone back to therapy to deal with the initial grief and loss.

My friend Rachel, whose mother has been dead for over a decade, once told me that you never get over the loss of the person that loves you the most in the world. She made me realize my sorrow was normal. When  “the person that loves you the most in the world” dies, you are left with an emptiness that can never be filled.

I gave birth to my daughter almost three years later. My due date was on her  birthday.  I know my baby is a gift from Mami.  She came out of my womb with a piercing cry that rippled through me like a high voltage current. The intensity of the moment made me miss my mother more than I ever had.

# 9 – Fibroids & MRI

It didn’t occur to me to freak out the day before when my legs were in stirrups in Dr. V’s Park Avenue office.   He and Matt were discussing a New York Times article while my vagina was in front of his face.  This was probably the closest I’d come to a threesome, I thought as Dr. V jammed the wand in and out trying to get a better look at the fibroids outside my uterus. He looked concerned. “It doesn’t have the round shape of normal fibroids.” He said.

“Oh my God, is it cancer?”  I asked, as I squirmed almost pushing the wand out.

“No, no, it’s benign it just looks different, you need to have an MRI tomorrow so I can have the results before the surgery. They may need to come out.”

We flew all the way from Los Angeles to have a laparoscopy to see if I had endometriosis, I wasn’t expecting fibroids or an MRI.

I didn’t freak out about the MRI then, I’ve had plenty of them due to my low back issues and even a brain scan when I fainted a few years before and hit my head on the marble floor due to the stress of being in a shitty marriage with my first husband and my mother’s then recent cancer diagnosis.

I was a veteran of MRIs so I thought nothing of having one the day before the surgery until of course, I got there and saw that it was a closed MRI. What kind of uncivilized hospital was this?  I started to panic when I saw the thin white tube I was going into. Maybe it would be OK, it was a pelvic scan, as long as my neck was out of the machine I’d be OK but this machine may as well have been from the middle ages or the 1980s. The technician kept sliding me in and when my chest was in the machine I started to freak out.

“OK when does it stop, it’s a pelvic exam, you don’t need to push me in all the way.”

“Yes I do” he said.

“Why’? I asked.

“Ma’am it’s just the way it is, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to”. “Yes she does” Matt said with a force I’ve never heard in his speech before. “Lucy, you have to do this , Dr. Vidali needs to know what these fibroids are doing, you have to do this, for us.” Matt has never begged me for anything the way he did at that moment.

“Ok, Ok” I took a deep breath.

“Go ahead” I said to the technician.

When he wheeled me all the way in, my eyes and my forehead were the only things out of the machine.

“I can’t do this” I said.

He pulled me out five times and then he lost his temper.

“Ma’am, I have three MRIs scheduled in the next two hours”

“Can you give me a xanax or something?” I asked.

“No, you should have thought of that yesterday and asked your doctor for a prescription.”

“Can my husband stay with me?” I could hear the man’s impatience giving me the side eye.

“Fine” he sighed, his annoyance stunk up the room.

“Just so you know, once we start, if you make me stop, you will be billed for the whole thing. Do you understand?”

I nodded like a scolded school girl. I was going to go through with this MRI, for me, for Matt and for the stupid baby we want to have.

“Keep your arms on your side or over your chest, and don’t move” I barely fit in the machine and all I could think of was my mother’s funeral, her white casket, her white dress, her laying still with her arms over her chest.

In I went as Matt stood over me, I felt his breath and told him he was too close. I focused on his Sinatra blue eyes as his tender hands caressed my hair. Tears of terror, tears of mourning and tears of gratitude flowed freely as I tried to calm my breath. The noise cancelling ear plugs were not working. Matt’s sweet voice whispered words of encouragement as the loud beeps, clanks and bangs drowned him out. I read his lips “I Love You” “You’re doing great” “THANK YOU” it was a mantra he repeated over and over as my tears cascaded down my temple. I was glad he was there because without his support I was ready to give up and forget about wanting a baby and buy a beach house in Ventura or a cabin in Big Bear.

# 8 – Letter to Filmmaking Workshops for Women

Dear Filmmaking Workshop for Women Selection Committee:

            I was thinking about applying to your workshop a 2nd time because I am starving to make a new film but the reality is you won’t accept it. Therefore, I will save myself the $100 application fee and the anxiety of filling out another basic application. I will not be applying for your fellowship this year.

When I first applied, I made the mistake of being honest in my application. I said that Allison Anders was one of my favorite directors and that her film Gas Food Lodging is what inspired me to be a filmmaker. At your open house, someone said they loved David Lynch and the collective response from the selection committee was that David Lynch would not get accepted into your film school today. I’m sure Allison Anders would not get accepted either but I submitted my application hoping my passion and my project would be of interest to you.

I was ecstatic when my friend Laura was one of the runners up. We met for dinner after her interview to celebrate her victory. I was sure she wowed you with her knowledge of Cassavetes and French New Wave not to mention the strength of her fantastic script.

She plopped in front of me like a deflated balloon at our favorite BBQ joint.

“It’s all bullshit” she said with a disappointment I’ve never seen or heard in our ten year friendship.

“What do you mean?”

She said that everything was going well, thought she had it in the bag until one of you asked what director’s success she wanted to emulate.  “Who did she want to be?” In true Laura fashion, she said she wanted to be herself and then you made her name the filmmakers she admired; “Goddard, Truffaut”  but the three of you shook your heads, looked at her with pity and asked her to try again.

“Think commercial success, don’t you want to be successful?” one of you asked.

“Yes I want to be successful, like Sydney Lumet, I mean he directed Serpico and Dr. Strangelove – success for me would be to direct without being pigeonholed, work in different genres.”

That’s as far as she got because one of you cut her off. “You can’t work in different genres, you need to pick one?” She knew she wasn’t getting in so she spoke her mind.

“I don’t want to pick one, I’m currently working on a comedy but my last film was very experimental. It’s hard to pick one thing when you’re starting out.” That’s the last thing she said when one of you politely ended the interview.

Your desire to turn female directors into the next Judd Apatow, are well intentioned, I guess. But you need to try harder because the films that get made during the fellowship are not winning any awards or getting into good festivals. Speaking of festivals, maybe you should take a cue from the programming department at your Film Festival. They curate a nice mix of diverse, commercial and experimental films from all over the world.

I will apply again when your selection committee has more diversity. Why are there two men and one woman judging the application process for a workshop tailored to women filmmakers? Perhaps you can expand your selection committee to include two or three programmers from your festival and at least one filmmaker, preferable a filmmaker of color.

Regards,

Lucy

PS – Laura directed a feature film she co-wrote, here is a link to Rich Kids.

https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/rich-kids#updates

PPS – I am going to make another short film this year

PPPS – Laura and I have kids now but we will continue to make films

# 6 – Pots & Pans

Nine years ago, I was living paycheck to paycheck in a fancy Brentwood apartment complex with a nice gym, tennis courts and a sparkling swimming pool. Our apartment was typical of West Los Angeles; ample living room with a counter separating it from the kitchen, a bedroom on each side of the living room, two bathrooms, cottage cheese ceilings, itchy beige rugs and a small balcony with sliding doors outside the living room.  Ours was not remodeled like the newer units and anything visible was mostly his; Star Wars posters and memorabilia were the main source of decoration with some musical instruments neither one of us played sprinkled in for variety. My books or anything that was mine was relegated to the empty bedroom/office space.

I was the only one who paid rent because I was the only one who worked. My ex thought he was going to be a rock star and refused to get a job because it would interfere with whatever it was he did during the day.

My rent then was more than my mortgage is now, granted, I live in Long Beach, hood adjacent by about four houses but it’s affordable and I get a tax break from Uncle Sam.  Unlike my ex, Matt has a good job and prefers to live within or below our means and that suits me just fine.  Now, I get to live well, keep money in the bank and save for important purchases or medical treatments not covered by insurance.

I like to shop, preferably on my iPad from the comfort of my Pottery Barn sofa.  It was one of the things that kept me temporarily sane during my battle with infertility.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve lusted after a 6 piece, Caribbean Blue, cast iron, LeCreuset cookware set.   You can get it at the outlet for around $600 instead of the $900 it costs for the more popular colors.

During the first five Christmases of my marriage, I took selfies with the pile of money I got from my bosses and parents. I arranged the bills in the shape of a hand held folding fan and sent the photos of me and my Benjamins to my sisters so one of them can ask if this is the year I’m going to bite the bullet and buy my cookware set.

Every Christmas I drove to the outlet where I stood outside the store looking through the window, salivating over cookware like Holly Golightly outside of Tiffany’s. It caused me great anxiety that I couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on something I’ve wanted so badly.  I imagined the roasts and braises I was going to make and hoped I could persuade myself to make the purchase but I always walked away before the impulse to buy it kicked in.

I know how to spend money so I don’t understand why I can’t bring myself to buy the cookware. Why am I so fickle when it comes to my pots and pans? Is it that now that I can afford it, I don’t have the need to own it? If that’s the case, why do I drive to the outlet every year expecting to make the purchase?

At first, it was because I had spent too much trying to get pregnant, then I got pregnant and it was about saving for the baby. Now the baby is here and I still want it but I would be guilty for spending so much money when I already have pots and pans. Money that can be put into her bank account.  I almost sent a friend to buy it for me thinking it would ease the guilt but then my inner voice told me that the fancy cast iron cookware will not make my sancocho taste any better.

I still dream about my Caribbean Blue dutch oven set. Maybe I will buy it next time I’m at the Outlet or I’ll be happy looking at my reflection in the window seeing how far I’ve come.