An ex of mine became a believer in the message behind the book The Secret. You know, believe something is yours and it will be. Your thoughts can manifest things into reality. While I never really bought into this and thought he had been smoking too much weed, one of the things I really tried to engage with in February was positive thinking and countering negative self-talk as soon as it came up in the back of my head. While I think that it takes more than positive affirmations to change your life, I’m sure that buying into a “woe is me” mentality isn’t healthy.
So I reminded myself everyday that I’m a good mami. I’m a good partner. I’m a good writer. That there is enough time for me to do what I need to do. That there are enough resources for me. That my next home would have an avocado tree. That I’m a good daughter and that I deserve to have good things in my life.
But then sometimes life has other plans.
My titi, the youngest of my mother’s remaining sisters, was struggling with cancer that was quickly worsening. Hospital and home visits were spread among various family members until she passed away, exactly three years to the day that her mother died, a month shy of three years since another sister passed away from cancer. Dealing with death and the morbid logistics of death are hard enough. Throw in dysfunctional family dynamics. All I wanted to do was sleep but that is not an option with two kids and a long distance relationship to tend to.
So I pushed on. I didn’t make it to the next round of a fellowship I applied for. One writing gig I got excited about didn’t pay. The other writing offer I celebrated as a validation was put on hold because of the state of print journalism.
My relationship with my pareja is wonderful but so hard. My kids are great and doing well in school but my five year old never seems to shut up and my 14 year old is lazy.
Enter more negative self talk.
I don’t want to believe that I have a black cloud hanging over me or that everything in my life is destined to be hard/a struggle but damnit it sure as hell feels that way.
But I do have two more fellowships I applied for. I’m still healthy. I am loved and there’s a house with an avocado tree waiting for me.
My four year old is learning to read and write. A few months in Pre-K has made her interested in identifying the letters of her name, her sister’s name, my name. My journals and and notepads and filled with scribbles that look more and more like letters and words. Sometimes in between the letters are stick figures which together, in preschool hieroglyphics, tell a story.
I visited Poroto’s classroom yesterday and was impressed with ho quickly a group of 14 4 year olds adapted to new routines including sharing lunch at a communal table, borrowing books from the library, helping new classmates find their cubbies. There were of course things I didn’t like – like the counting of children by their assumed gender- it’s amazing and scary how quickly children are taught to identify themselves into two neat categories.
In this period of transition I feel like I’m learning how to read and write again as well. I am struggling with finding space and time to write. Despite the fact that my mother’s apartment is bigger than what Casa Mala was, the actual space to be creative- the quiet needed- has been hard to come by. I blame the additional distraction that cable tv offers everyone, myself included. I do have a dedicated desk space, something I didn’t have at Casa Mala. It’s been helpful as new opportunities to write for major publications open up. I’m still trying to organize myself. Many of my books are still in bins and will likely stay there until this transition shifts into another one.
There isn’t anyone to show me the new routines though. No one to hold my hand and no one to celebrate the letters of my name and what they create and will create. I have been creating alot lately – controversy, poems, performances. I’ve reclaimed writer as I try and claim space.
But I’m still learning to read and write and translate the signs the universe is whispering to my soul.
The kids just had their first full week in school. Poroto’s Pre-K is now a full two hours and 10 minutes and I didn’t write one damn post on this personal blog.
What the fuck? What happened to my euphoria, my joy, my looking at this extra time as a blessing and a gift?
Well I got a cold for one and having a cold while mami’ing, and tutoring and trying to maintain a long distance relationship means my ass was more tired than usual and no one wants to sit next to the sick girl in the cafe.
But I also will admit I got lazy, picky, and resentful. I would pass by the cafe and find it too crowded, too noisy (I lost my headphones and can’t afford to buy another pair right now), and I was feeling sick of drinking coffee and buying coffee. I wanted to write in a bar but there are no bars in the hood that are open when Poroto is in Pre-K and the ones that are don’t have wifi. So I would go to my mother’s house, drink rum and cokes and open my laptop but there at my mother’s (where I also tutor) I would get distracted. I would gather all my tutoring materials. Vacuum. Take out the garbage. Chat with the neighbor who thinks I should move back home. Watch bad reality tv because my mom has cable.
The resentfulness came when I was trying to work. I would look at my calendar and my emails and realize that I still had to reject all the invites to cover events as media because I didn’t have enough time in the middle of the day to drop Poroto off at school, go into Manhattan, cover the event, and then to come back to pick her up. So many of the Fashion Week events were happening on school nights and as a single mami (yes I have a pareja pero it’s complicated) I’m responsible for dinner, checking homework, ironing clothes for the next day, waking the kids up, making breakfast etc.
When I was going through both rounds of the NYC pre-K application process, I engaged in fantasies of Poroto being a full day Pre-K program and I would have my days back. I dreamed of getting a part time job so I wouldn’t be so broke. Pero no one is going to hire me for an hour and a half a day.
So I’m still broke, still without enough time. I know a part of me just needs to get over this. Figure out some sort of routine that works and that allows me to write/be productive in the hour and a half I really have to work and hope that the rest of it will fall into place.
I’m contemplating a break pero I don’t know exactly what from or how. I’m tired, physically and emotionally. Two weekends of rallies/marches in a row along with the usual hustle of single mami’hood and tutoring work remind me that despite the fact that a friend in the movement says I look like a college student, I am approaching my mid-30s.
Emotionally, I am trying to figure out patterns in my life that I keep on repeating and how to stop them, especially when they leave me feeling so gross afterwards. For example, during a surprise visit to casa mala by an ex-lover/partner in various struggles, we got to talking about bad relationship habits, especially among heterosexual Latino artist/activists. We both admitted how we fall into stereotypical machista roles in “taking care” of our partners. Partners are supposed to take care of each other pero what when the taking care of is one-sided or falls into the fucked up expectations of what mujeres are supposed to do for their hombres. When both are activists/artistas and both are doing critical important work, why does the mujer make the shared bed, cook the breakfast, serve the breakfast, clean up and el hombre is left to do his work? It is something I am guilty of allowing and I have to question where is that line of supporting fellow artists/activists so that they can do their important work and sacrificing your own shit because of internalizing fucked up gender roles? You know that saying behind every great man is a greater woman? Pero si los dos are in the same fight, doing parallel work, why should anyone be behind the other?
Yesterday after a marcha/rally in the Mala’hood, some gathered in a casa for some after protesta food and drink. Someone commented that women need to go in the kitchen to prepare the food so los hombres could go in the sala to chill. A few of the mujeres hemmed and hawed and made comments back and never mind that it was the mujeres who were behind this particular event, pero in the end, the mujeres ended up in the kitchen and los hombres en la sala (there were two hermanos who did go to the kitchen- so props to them). I don’t hate on la cocina or on the important work that mujeres do there, not just in terms of preparing sustaining foods but in terms of passing down history and plotting our own work. Pero porque siempre nosotras en la cocina and on the streets? Creo que I would love nothing more than to have an hermano in the struggle preparar me una comida or even mejor for us to prepare that meal together, sustaining ourselves and passing down history and plotting.
Pero creo que the absence of this and my own guilt in having perpetuated this means that for now, I remain soltera except for the pedacitos de companerismo that I bring into my life by invitation only and sometimes all I really want/need is a thank you and some mutual respect.
Some deal explicitly with Latino issues, some don’t. Some are funny, some are creative, some are activists, all are uniquely amazing, inspiring women who, we think, are some of the best at what they do.
I am especially honored by some of my company on the list, including dear mami amiga, Noemi Martinez of Hermana Resist. As a single mami media maker, I appreciate what Noemi does and understand the struggle it is to express yourself in a given medium with no source of funding and with kids yelling, learning, laughing and getting sick as your background soundtrack. Which is why I am asking you to help my mami hermana.
It’s not a sexy image I know, pero the other morning I was sitting on the toilet reading the introduction to a poetry collection.I didn’t get very far before I wanted to toss the book into the bowl. Yes, I know introductions and blurbs are supposed to sing the praises of the author/poet/artist. Pero all I read was cliche, likening the poet to Moses, a prophet. Ay and it’s not that I hate the poet pero why is there always this move to raise our male artists up to the level of prophets and holy men as if their gift is something of divinity that should be worshiped? Quizas it’s that I have experienced and seen how women poetas, writers and other artists aren’t lauded in the same way. Aren’t supported in the same way. I mean what’s the reason that the latest book release events have been for books by men with women playing the music, translating, filming, women who are artists in their own right. Where are their books, films, albums?
The art that inspires me, the words that sing to me, the music that speaks to me isn’t something other worldly created by demi-gods. This diosa is inspired by humanity like an exhausted, overwhelmed woman typing in the dark next to a snoring toddler.
I’ve written a few posts on some of the invisibility/silencing that I experienced at NN09 and that happens quite often actually in so called progressive spaces, even how some of this erasure was deliberate, on my part and on the part of others. Pero there is a third invisibility/silencing that I won’t write about here, except to write thatI won’t write about it here. It’s the only way I can feel remotely good about the self-censorship I am functioning under. The self-imposed gag rule goes against my nature and instincts. Pero that’s what pen and paper are good for, that’s what poetry readings and presentations are good for. There are poems and stories and images drawn out con palabras that will be spilled onto public floors from my mouth and then gone except in the minds of some and well if the presentations are recorded I guess (which I suck at setting up pero I should get some video of me reading).
It’s funny the things we don’t write about, talk about, show. Even the things that everyone knows. Family secretos and mentiras we tell ourself to make ourselves feel good, less guilty, carry less blame. Pero we know. We know who knows and how and if that not knowing carries meaning or changes anything (or not). It’s the avoiding of conversations and the questions you don’t ask because you don’t want the real answer even though las respuestas are acted out right in front of you in signos and codes and motion and sound.
Ay I’m happy I’m going to a book release event tonite. I plan on sitting with a glass of vino, or at least trying to if I end up bringing my kids. If you see me there and I am with my kids, please tale em for a walk around the block or something. I’ve got poems that need to be fed some cabernet.
The program seeks to promote artists of color working in any
visual, literary, and/or performance-based media, who display
artistic excellence, are committed to an artistic career, and
are under-served, under-recognized or under-represented in
the mainstream. Must be permanent residents of Illinois, Indiana,
Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, or Wisconsin.
The $4,000 award may be used at the artist’s discretion; however,
receipt of the award is contingent on the artist’s completion of
a month-long residency. Deadline August 15, 2009.
Last night was one of the best readings I have been at. I sent Walter Mercado sized and styled love to Charlie Vazquez, whom I met when he sent me a libro to review and then came to a reading I was a part of and lastly invited me to participate in last night’s PANIC! reading at Nowhere in Manhattan. I send all of that again to him, to the other readers: Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Karen Jaime who inspired me so much, to the audience who was so respectful and warm, and to my new friends, like Matt and Basil, who made me laugh so much that my chest hurt, who made me dance improvised bomba y plena.
I was so nervous. An audience I wasn’t familiar with and one new piece that I had been sitting with for weeks that started as a letter then morphed to an essay and then transformed into a three part poem that released so much. You know that tired metaphor of poems being babies we carry in our heads, painful pregnancies of growth until they are given birth to via the pen and for me, the mouth? It’s true. I was grateful to release that bastard love child into the open ears of last night’s crowd.
I was reminded why I began to write and read poetry. More than just an exercise of wordplay, it is an attempt at something bigger, at reaching something bigger, some community which to a chica with borrowed citizenship status and the privileges and pain that come with it, means alot even if it only comes in moments, momentos como anoche and other nights that remind me that mis palabras tienen valor in multiple languages and multiple mediums.
Mucho mucho amor to every syllable that brings me back to those moments and creates them over and over again.
Soy pura mujer: Esa chica walking into the bar that you couldn’t resist, la madre de tu hija x2, twitterputa, blogfresca, Puerto Rican poeta. I am honored to have a tiny pedazo of me inside Just Like a Girl:
Just Like A Girl is a rough-and-tumble, sassy, kick-ass travelogue through the bumpy, powerful, action-packed world of GIRL. A world where girls and women know how to pick themselves up and brush themselves off. These are the clever girls. The funny girls. The girls who know there is no sin in being born one.
Tonite in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, home of many Malaventuras, join editor Michelle Sewell and contributors Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Maegan “la Mala” Ortiz, Sara Herrington, Jade!, Ellen Hagan, Tanisha Christie, Penelope Laurence, and K. Coleman Foote for a sizzling, provocative, and boundary pushing reading.