everyday_is_a_learning_opportunity

Life is a lesson: 5 things I learned last week

Live

Performance Art
I’ve seen some performance art. Not a lot, but some, and I finally have to confess that I don’t get it. After attending the Outside In Exhibition on Friday at the National Museum of Mexican Arts (I highly recommend it), my friends and I headed to the Pilsen Art Walk for the Chicago Art District’s, 2nd Friday. One of the exhibits we saw was a performance piece. I tried to look serious and pensive, as if I was considering the piece as a representation of society’s… okay, yeah, fuck it. I had no clue.  My friends and I walked out after a few minutes, and I confessed that I had no clue and kudos to people who do.

girlsdancing

I kissed a girl and I…

Mi Vida Loca

I finished watching The L Word over the holiday weekend. A fact that I shared with a friend earlier today. I almost didn’t tell anyone because an admission such as that one can potentially be accompanied by judgments and misconceptions. But really, who the hell cares who thinks what of it?

Just last year or maybe the year before, my sister asked me if I was gay. I’m not quite sure what made her ask, and I didn’t question her, just simply answered no. I guess I figured that people were thinking it, and I appreciated that someone was brave enough to actually ask the question rather than just let it  hang there in their mind. I might, in their shoes, question it too. After all, an unmarried woman of my age with very few lasting relationships under her belt might make me wonder a little too, I guess.

So I enjoyed the show, but after a while it became predictable. It seemed that the show was trying to make a point about no woman being 100% straight. Every ‘straight’ girl who appeared on the show would eventually give in to sapphic desires. I could be wrong, maybe this wasn’t their intention, maybe it was just meant to show women unsure of their sexuality that there’s a place somewhere for them. Whatever.

I shared this with my friend, who then asked if I’d ever been hit on by a lesbian.

“Yes, yes I have. Funny story, in fact.”

You wouldn’t think that Salt Lake City, Utah would have a large gay population, but it does, or at least did in the late ’90s. I was living in a house with two friends, T and Maria, or at least I think her name was Maria.I have to admit that I don’t know if that’s right, though I remember her clearly. Our six-pack-a-night drinking, angry, roommate who one night, during a Halloween party, came out to the backyard holding a toilet seat, lifted it in front of her face, and screamed at the top of her lungs “WHO BROKE THE MOTHER FUCKING TOILET SEAT?” as we all burst into uncontrollable laughter because her angry, red face was in line with the hole of the seat she was holding up in front of her face. She moved out soon after that episode and never spoke to us again, or at least not to me.

Months before that, in the spring, she’d come home and asked us if we’d be interested in being part of a bowling team for a few weeks. They needed three people and wouldn’t it be fun to just hang out, bowl, and drink beer for a few weeks. All in our 20s, we were never ones to turn down a party. We were in. We showed up at the bowling alley the next week ready to drink and laugh, and there they were… a bunch of lesbians. The butch kind. Huh???

What the fuck were we gonna do?? Who were our drunk asses going to flirt with?

We did what we went there to do and bowled, and to our surprise, as the weeks passed we got to know the ladies in the other teams and had a blast. Soon enough we were invited to hang out with them outside of bowling night.

“Come meet us up at the Paper Moon” they said.

We got ready that night as if it were any other night of clubbing. Heels, revealing club wear, makeup, the works. We were going to party with the lesbians! Our false bravado slowly leaving us as we walked in the door. This was a different world all together. We were overdressed and stuck out like sore thumbs. The three girls who talked themselves into front of the lines at clubs every weekend were all of a sudden feeling like the uncool. Our backs against the wall, unsure of what to do after we walked in.

Our friend came and got us, she showed us to a table, got us drinks, and then made us dance. T and I headed back to the table and sat; a bit more relaxed, but still unsure about the night. She turned to me and said “Oh my god. I have to hide.”

“Why?”

“That girl walking our direction. She was checking me out while we were dancing.”

“Oh shit” I thought as the girl approached our table. I looked at T feeling bad for her. We didn’t want to insult anyone in this new place and neither of us knew what to do. The girl stood in front of me, leaned across the table looked directly at me asked, “Do you want to dance?”

Having no idea how to say no, I blurted a barely audible, “Okay.” I looked at Tanya, her face now relaxed, her eyes wishing me luck.

I followed the girl to the dance floor and we danced. I spotted our hostess across the floor and danced in her direction. The girl leaned in and asked if I had a girlfriend. “I’m not gay” I tried to yell over the music. “Then what are you doing here?” I stepped closer towards my friend, grabbed her arm and pulled her towards us. “I’m here with her and some other friends.” She looked unconvinced and I contemplated how to make an exit. Thankfully, the music changed. It was a slow song. “Thanks for the dance” I said as I started to walk away.

“What? Where are you going?”

“I’m going to the bathroom.”

I turned and walked away and headed to the restroom. Once in the stall, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d made my escape. I’d return to my friends and tell them the story. I opened the door and walked out of the stall and standing there waiting was the girl.

I was in a sitcom. This was some Jack Tripper/Three’s Company kind of scripted hilarity. She could not possibly have been standing right outside of my stall door, could she?

She could. She was. She asked me to go dance again. I said thank you but no in the nicest way I could think of. She wasn’t happy, I wasn’t either. Being manhandled at clubs I was used to, being followed into the bathroom I wasn’t. I left the restroom and quickly walked back to the table and told my friends about what just happened.

“She’s harmless. Just a little aggressive when she wants someone.”

“Whatever!”

That was not our last night at “The Moon”  and “The girl” only bothered me one more time. A night about two weeks later, when I had invited the guy I was dating to meet us, She gave up after we made out in front of her.

We spent almost every weekend there during that summer. It was a break from the usual pressures we felt getting ready for the weekend. Our heels, club wear, and uncomfortable shoes took a hiatus as we enjoyed nights of just dancing and laughing with friends with no need to dress to impress.

We had some crazy nights, and on one of those nights I even kissed (a peck) a girl and realized that no, I didn’t really like it. Anti-climactic, no?

The thing I hold dear to my heart and mind from that summer is the fact that we didn’t let our fear of the unknown stop us from experiencing something that was different from what we knew. Because of that we made some lifelong friends whose lives take the very same twists and turns all of our lives take. They love, they lose, and they hope, and in that aspect their lives very much mirror some parts of The L Word. 

So as I sat and watched the series and the Scandal-like drama unfold for the ladies of the this weekend, I was reminded of days gone by and just how rich and full of experiences my crazy life has been.

thinksay

5 things that should not be left unsaid

Mi Vida Loca

It was late summer/early fall of 2002. My younger sister had been in the hospital for weeks and the doctors were unable to tell us why. She’d given birth prematurely to my nephew, and had slipped further into whatever it was that was making her sick, making her eventual recovery require the relearning of things we take for granted, such as feeding herself. I was spending my days at work, my evenings with her at the rehabilitation center, and my weekends caring for my nephews, her sons: A 1 year old and a newborn. Her prognosis was unsure and we prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.

To say it was a difficult time would be an understatement, but somehow we all managed. I walked around in a daze; a combination of a mind full of worries and lack of any meaningful rest. I constantly felt like I was in one of those scenes in a movie in which the character is standing frozen in time, while everyone else is rushing around her. I was there, but not.

Then one day I stood at the train platform, in the same daze, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a person move suddenly. I turned quickly in time to see a man fall into the tracks. I let out a scream. He laid on the tracks, not moving, while several men worked on rescuing him. They managed to get him back on the platform and the rest happened in a blur of CTA employees, paramedics and a crowd of people.  Eventually, I got on my train and left, my eyes filled with tears and I felt as if I’d just been woken from a long and deep, but unrestful sleep.

I never saw the man move and with everything happening in my own life, didn’t really have time to check the news for any updates, but it stayed with me. For some reason, in spite of what I’d been experiencing for months with my sister,that incident made me face the reality that life is fragile. That one moment in time had the power to change everything. Weirdly enough, it was cathartic. It was all at once a feeling of responsibility and freedom. Knowing that life was short, I was responsible for making the most of it via my actions and words, and because I was obligated to do so, I felt the freedom that comes when you can do and say what you feel.

I went on a ‘say what I feel’ binge. While on a work trip to Italy, I sent an email to my friend, revealing my feelings for him. For the next few months, whatever emotion I was feeling, I shared. I didn’t want to leave anything important unsaid. I was the annoying “I love you” drunk girl, without the drunk.

10+ years later–my sister living a healthy and productive life– I have found something of a middle ground, but still remember that period in my life and still hold on to the importance of being honest and forthright with the people I care about, not only for them, but selfishly, so I don’t have to live with regrets.whatif

Of course, not all of it is about the deep I love yous or I’m sorrys, often it’s the simple things that we keep to ourselves that we should say.  Things such as…

Compliments
Doesn’t it seem as though humans find it easier to criticize each other than to share positive feedback? We walk by another person and admire their hair/outfit/shoes/eyes/smile/etc… and leave that sentiment nestled uselessly  in our thoughts, rather than pass it on to the person who would appreciate it most.

Potentially embarrassing situation
Just about a week ago I met up with a friend for an art show, and as we were walking around she stopped and whispered that I had a booger hanging out of my nose. She had hesitated telling me, but didn’t want to leave me walking around like that. It was actually the post of my new nose ring that had peeked out of my nostril, but I appreciated the fact that this new friend would be that honest with me. We should never let anyone walk around with anything that might potentially embarrass them.

I like you/I don’t like you
I won’t go into my usual diatribe about how much dating sucks, but we single people all know it does. Partly, I believe, is because no one can be honest about their interest or lack thereof. Women can’t say “I like you” for fear of seeming too needy or forward, and men don’t seem to be able to say “I don’t like you”  for fear of making you cry (you won’t, we don’t break, get over yourself!). We give way too much meaning to those phrases, when in reality all they mean is you either intrigue me or don’t intrigue me enough to continue getting to know you.

No
I no longer believe in saying yes unless I mean it. I don’t do things I don’t want to do, because an insincere yes will often lead to resentment. Try it, just say no. You’re allowed.

Our truth
My friends know that I am the friend who rarely tells them what they want to hear. Just as easily as I can tell someone I love them, I can also tell them they’ve upset me. I expect the same in return, but more than it being what I expect, it’s because I have to live with me, and in order to do that I have to feel that I am free to be genuinely me. I want to be trusted. If I won’t let you lie to yourself about the guy you’re dating, then you can trust that I will tell you if your butt looks big in those jeans.

But–disclaimer here–I also recognize that what I say is my version of the truth and understand that sometimes (often?), truth can be relative.

Some people believe that there are things better left unsaid, and I don’t disagree. There are thoughts that should belong to us alone as they are too valuable to share, but those are few. In sharing we can find freedom from “what ifs.”

What are some things you’re leaving unsaid? What is stopping you? What do you get from not sharing it/them?

words

The self-indulgence of words

Mi Vida Loca

Last week, hours after publishing and sharing the post, Love letter to my body, I saw a friend. At that moment, my mind was  on the task at hand, so I was confused when he made a comment about me and my body. He was joking? Poking fun at me? I wasn’t sure what. Moments later it dawned on me and I said something in regards to the blog post. Was that what he was referring to?

I was “all about my body now” was the premise of his joke. I explained that he’d gotten it wrong, what I’d written wasn’t about that at all, in fact quite the opposite. The jokes continued, and as I tend to do when I don’t want to come off as too sensitive, something Ive accused of being, I joined in on the joke. In fact, probably even took it further than I intended in preservation of my feelings, and was laughing at myself.

Days later, and the question of “Why would he use my words against me in that manner?” still lingered in the back of my mind. We have mutual female Facebook friends who take and post photos of themselves regularly, that I can’t help but see he ‘likes,’ so what’s the difference. I use words to talk about myself, others use photos. Was it simply a matter of his perception? The fact that  he doesn’t find me physically attractive and therefore understand why I would not only think so, but ‘say’ it out loud—a sure sign he didn’t read or maybe didn’t understand what I wrote. Or is the actual act of putting thoughts and images into words seen as the ultimate act of self-indulgence?

That’s the question on my mind today.

By nature, I am an introvert. People who know me would argue the validity of that statement because introversion is often equated with shyness, and I am rarely shy. In fact I am quite opinionated and outspoken, I have no problems speaking in front of groups, and in the right (or wrong as some might see it) circumstances, I’ve been known to talk a lot. While it can be coupled with it, introversion isn’t shyness. In my youth I was deathly shy and as adult I still have moments when it surfaces, but those moments have to do with the discomfort that comes from a need to be alone with my own thoughts in order to recharge, which is the basic definition of introvert.

As a child, being shy, being an introvert, and living in a family of loud people, it was easy to fade into the background, but I was also extremely smart, sweet, and quite cute, so I existed somewhere within the same realm of my siblings. As I grew older, that began to change. My childhood cuteness began to fade, and my peaceful nature and intelligence were either ignored and accepted as a given, or used as the measuring stick for my siblings, a fact they resented. The mature one, I was the caretaker while they were allowed to be carefree. While I wasn’t quite invisible, I did feel that it was easy for people to see past me, and disregard my needs and feelings.

But even an introvert wants to be noticed. It’s human nature to want to be seen. The hard work we put into being fit, looking pretty, making money, getting good grades, being financially successful is at least in part due to wanting others to see you. To, if even for only a moment, be seen for those things that make us stand out among the rest of the billions with whom we share the planet.

I was the smartest kid in my 5th grade, my classmates, knowing I never had extra money for treats, would buy them for me in exchange for helping them cheat. That was until we got caught, and I was no longer an asset to them. It’s not that I didn’t have friends, I did, but I was really just the smart, quiet girl. My birthday came along that January and my teacher didn’t mention it. Not long after, for our creative writing assignment, I wrote a story about a girl whose teacher had forgotten her birthday. She pulled me aside and asked me why I hadn’t reminded her. My 5th grade self didn’t know how to respond, but thinking about it now, maybe I didn’t want to have to remind anyone that I was there or that I was more than a one-dimensional cardboard cutout of a well-behaved girl with good grades that no one had to ever think about unless prompted to do so.

And so maybe that’s when and where I learned it, the use of words to show the world that I am more than just a one-dimensional person, body part, or thing.

I am a woman of contradiction.

A woman of few words yet many thoughts.

An old soul growing younger each day.

I am simply complex.

Analytical in my creativity,
the left brain working with the right brain.

A seriously funny, social introvert.

I am not beautiful outside,
but I am mesmerizing inside.
From I am

I don’t believe that my brain is the most interesting thing about me, and know that my looks isn’t what will capture the heart. So I choose words to present myself to the world because they capture the complexity of my beauty in a way that no photo ever can or will.

If that is self-indulgence then I am guilty of being what makes me and all of us only human.

girlfriends

All I need to know in life, I learned from my girlfriends

Moments
girlfriendsWhen we were young our friendships were primarily based on geography. Our circle of friends usually consisted of other girls (maybe even boys) that we saw on a regular basis. We may not have necessarily had anything in common besides the fact that we lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, worshiped at the same church, etc… Basically, most of the people in our lives were relationships of convenience.

As we grew up and our world expanded, that changed. We didn’t just look at proximity when befriending someone, we began to look at personal qualities and also, maybe selfishly, what they could do for us.

As adults we either maintain our childhood friendships or put them in one of two categories; those we keep in touch with via the annual holiday card and those who we never hear from again. They were left in our past to make room for what I, and am sure many others, like to call our Girlfriends.

Girlfriends aren’t just friends who are female, they are your Girls. They are the women you count on each and every day. They are the women you tell your secrets to knowing you won’t be judged. They are the ones who you can always count on for the truth, yet are willing to lie to you until you’re ready to hear it. They are the women who have seen you cry and either helped wipe your tears or told you to suck it up.  They are the ones that with whom you can always choose to agree to disagree.

Our Girlfriends aren’t just made up of women who are geographically convenient, in our adult lives, they are made up solely of those women who, whether near or far, we choose to allow into our lives, those who we relate to, understand, and with whom we feel an indescribable bond.

Our Girlfriends, our Girls, are those who were and are born out of the moment when, as C.S. Lewis said about friendship…
“… one person says to another: “What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.”

I ♥ NYC!

Mi Vida Loca

A new friend who writes here took on the challenge of writing something, anything for 30 days during the month of April: National Poetry Month. I thought it would make for an interesting challenge so I decided to take it on as well, though I am five days late. I got a few of our Being Latino writers involved to help with accountability as I am notorious for breaking promises to myself, but too embarrassed to not come through for others. As CCO, what better way to help develop our writers’ skills than to take them on this journey with me.

The preceding is merely an introduction, my journey begins below…

________________________________________________________________

I was in New York City a few weeks ago. Though I had been there for a long weekend a few years ago, this trip was different. I was feeling first-date butterflies. As crazy as it may seem to an outsider, to me the nervousness made perfect sense. I had fallen in love with a group of people over the internet and I was finally going to see them in person.

Would I like them? Would they like me? Would they think I’m cute? Was I prepared for potential real-life lulls in conversation that aren’t so evident in online communication? Most importantly: What would I wear)??? I was a mess of emotions and thankful that at least, unlike a real date, the question of a kiss was not a factor.

To share the details of my weekend here would be to diminish its beauty. Suffice it to say, it was perfection. The love I felt for this group of people before meeting them was merely a drop compared to the love I feel for them today and I am officially changing our status to ‘in a relationship.’