Communicating

How do porcupines mate?

Very…. Very CAREFULLY

This was a line from a movie I LOVE.. the updated version of the ‘Thomas Crown Affair’.. a millionaire who sees a psychologist? And engages in criminal activity? And has a hot red-head come after him? And takes place at The MET? Yeah! That’s my kind of movie.

But as all movies that leave an impression, I think about the lines I remember and somehow am convinced of their purpose.. there is a lesson to be learned.

I am a porcupine… I have my quills ready.. ALL. OF. THE. TIME.. even when I do not feel threatened they are ready.

I know that it is a defense mechanism developed after many years of growth but because it has served me well, aside from it being exhausting, why deactivate?

I don’t trust easily.

Trust is powerful yet fragile and not many people with identity issues give it away successfully. I have made costly mistakes that have resulted in loss of friendships in my youth. I’ve learned that years of gained trust can be broken in seconds and then take twice as long to rebuild.

Yet with those same years, I have also learned the antidote…   Communication.

Communicating can create, build and strengthen trust. The absence, lack of or FEAR of communication will do just the opposite, it can and will destroy it. So how does one not so proficient at communicating experience trust in a relationship? Practice it.

I am in a relationship now. Unlike past relationships, I want this one to succeed.

I believe women have this feeling within them that tells them if the partner they’ve chosen is good. It comes from living that OTHER feeling that tells you when your partner is NOT.
There’s been a long list of worthless personalities that never inspired trust and I knew it and because I never trusted anyone, I didn’t care. But this dude is different.

Another lesson learned, observe a person’s actions alongside their words. Actions will prove or deny words and continued actions can motivate trust. And I must confess, I still don’t completely trust him, something he knows, but he has demonstrated time and time again that I can.
Maybe that’s another way to make way for trust.

As per communicating with my partner, I realize that I sit on my feelings. What I mean is that today, when something happens that doesn’t sit well with me, there are no immediate reactions. It lingers in my thoughts and I think ‘What just happened? Why would he do that or say that?’ It looks like I wear my teachers’ hat outside of the classroom. And I have learned that it can be good but if I sit on them too long, it isn’t good.

When I am in the classroom, for better communication, I don’t react right away. For the benefit of whomever is in front of me, not reacting right away gives me time to try to understand them, as well as gives them time to talk through or explain anything that could be misunderstood. This is my job… It can be DRAINING. But I do it because I care about my students and that makes it rewarding. When it comes to my colleagues, I can see it as professionalism…  again this is my job.

Who ever said this would be needed when in a personal relationship? No one told me…

With my partner, when I don’t open up about what bothers me, it doesn’t ‘go away’. It remains with the rest of my unsettled thoughts and spins into this tsunami that could take out a small oceanfront village, depending on how long it occupies space in my head.

In the past? I would just cut them out completely, no one was worth the agony, the worry, the anxiety, the awkward silences… you name it. But it is different today. He is different.

‘That’s what’s bothering you?’ he would say with a smile. And then go on to explain what he meant or didn’t mean…
The outcome hasn’t always been baby bottom smooth. We’ve had it out a couple of times, and the feelings of ‘I’m done!’ instinctively come up yet lately after the disagreements he says ‘you know I love you.’
That helps.

It’s hard being in a relationship.
It’s even harder, almost impossible when you don’t trust.

I’ve learned that all of the uncomfortable feelings that feed mistrust doesn’t have to exist, just as long as communication does.

Awakening Old Pain

I had to take Childhood Psychology in college for my teaching certificate (circa 1996) and there was a lesson that stayed with me. There are events in a child’s life that can change and sometimes dictate their future, the first time I dived into the term ‘trauma’. I learned at that time that things such as the death of a parent, a loved one is one of the major ones.

My reaction? Huh? What? It didn’t register.

It may seem obvious to many but because my grandmother managed mostly to make the loss of my mother seem less traumatic, I was able to ‘not feel it’ and not see it for what it was, trauma.

The other adversity children could face that can be taken as trauma is moving. I believe anyone could agree that children need consistency, routine, stability to feel safe and a sense of balance.

Imagine removing those variables, breaking the friendships they make, the support systems they create for themselves for whatever reason the adults in their lives see fit. Not all parents can be as successful at protecting a child’s perception like the Jewish dad that created a game out of moving to a concentration camp, but wait, no! That was a movie!

Again I thought, ‘moving’?? I’ve moved about 5 times before graduating high school! and at 22 when I was taking this class had already moved twice after leaving my grandmothers’s place at 17.

I had been on an identity journey since I was little. I maintained that not knowing a parent leaves many questions unanswered about ‘self’. So many little things, the details, the minutiae makes the greatest connections between you and who you come from. And not knowing can be painful. Living day in and day out without knowing keeps the pain alive and I made it my companion while I tried to discover who my mother was.

All I had was pictures of her, a small suitcase of her belongings, and half truths.. People either had nice things to say or nothing at all. Never had a conversation about her with the man I call dad on social occasions and my grandmother had little to say.

I made peace with the fact that I will never know the whole story of who she was and at the same time struggled with the question, ‘If you don’t know your parent, your mother, your father, or your family how complete is your self-portrait?’

I’ve learned that it does not mean you CAN’T complete it on your own, without that knowledge. Everyone can claim who they are without anyone else’s say, anyone’s input or feedback. You have the power to do that. And NO ONE has the right to tell you what you can and cannot do. No one can determine your worth nor has the right or power to tear you down.
This I teach to my students.
When I address them, I add – Not even if those people are the adults in your life.. and I include parents.

Sad truth is that when I give this ‘sermon’ (as I’ve been known to give in my classroom) some students nod.. the students nodding know what I mean. To exist in a household where the adults that care for you hurt you instead, happens.

I’ve been taken to that place lately in my own home, or where I currently live I should write. I am 45 but when the verbal wars ignite, I am transported to that age again. And although emotional scar tissue served its purpose, not being able to feel when you grow up in the ‘hood’ comes in handy, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel today. As a kid I would shrug it off and keep going. Have adults yell and scream commands one moment and act as if nothing ever happened the next, evolves into you participating in the madness or being invisible to avoid being caught in the crossfire. I learned to do both.

I managed to get out, educated myself and traveled as far away, for as long as I could and after 18 years came back.. I planned to stay longer to care for my grandmother but that is proving unsuccessful. And so the stressful thoughts of ‘moving’ flood back.. Only this time it feels like I am forced to mourn my grandmother before it’s time..

I sat in this thought and realized why it hurt more than I thought it would. My grandmother had been everything to me. She has been my mother, my father, my defender and it feels like she’s being taken away from me.. I felt like a helpless child who’s mommy would never come back……. again.

And so two old pains that I managed to overcome resurface.. after all these years. That’s the funny thing about trauma, pops up when you least expect it!
I could blame COVID yet another lesson learned is laying blame where it belongs and giving credit where it is due. Forces you can’t control can never justify your cruelty and thanks to the chaos I am re-welcoming relocating.
No hay mal que por bien no venga‘.

Words never really mattered

‘Tu eres una Mierda! Tu eres nada! Tu no tienes nada! Tu no tienes a nadie!’

translation – ‘You are shit. You’re nothing. You have nothing. You have no one.’

These words were yelled at me while I fed my grandmother. The words came from her daughter.. her eldest daughter, what can classify as an aunt.

‘Why are you insulting me?’ ‘Are you listening to the things you are saying?’

‘Yes!’ she replied, ‘porque tu te crees demasiada mierda y tu no eres nadie!

translation: because you believe yourself to be hot shit and you are no one

I continued feeding my grandmother as I raised my voice, ¡Soy alguien! Sé lo que valgo, sé quién soy, y no tener dinero ni casas significa nada. Esas no son las cosas que dicen cuánto valgo como persona. ¡Usted está equivocada!

translation: ‘I am someone! I know my worth, I know who I am, and not having money or houses means anything. Those are not the things that say how much I am worth as a person. You are wrong!

‘No me abra tu boca!’

translation: ‘Don’t yell at me!’

But I did. I yelled back and louder than I ever have.
Unfortunately, that was my childhood normal growing up. Verbal violence was the way to communicate in the house I escaped at 17 and came back to live in as an adult. And I had enough.

I never thought I would have to keep defending myself to my family after all I have lived. I thought that because they knew my story, my struggles, witnessed my pain, they wouldn’t hurt me, but I was wrong.
She had this look of hate in her face that I just can’t erase.. my family hates me.
That wasn’t new. I grew up as a ‘recojida‘, what many refer as the ‘step-child’, and many never let me forget it.. this person was one of them.
‘You should’ve never taken that one in’ she told my grandmother in my presence about deciding to raise me after her sister, my mother died when she was 21, ‘look at how she repays the favor’.
When I came back from living in a foreign country after 5 years, I asked my grandmother to move back and her response was, ‘I’ll ask your aunt’. It was her apartment but she had to ask her daughter’s permission. The verdict? ‘Your aunt said she doesn’t want people living here.’

And ironically there are many things that she did and has done that could make you believe I am a liar. She can be a kind, generous, loving person yet that day, the hate that emanated from her mouth destroyed all of it.

When you grow up in a household where the ability to communicate does not exist, it’s like living on a terrain filled with hidden land-mines.. you don’t know what will set one off. Some children grow up to avoid, just avoid to feel peace, some children grow up to forget, repress or deny what is real or what happened and some children just build scar tissue and toughen their hearts and live by the thought, if those that I call my family treat me this way, what can I possibly expect from the world?

These are dangerous ways to begin the rest of your life.. and all because of the choice of words or absence of them. My past taught me the importance of choosing the right ones and offering kind ones over none at all. I was able to remove myself from using them to hurt mostly because of what I do.. you cannot face a child with anger in your heart and believe you will say the right thing.

When I have a student, a child before me I see me.. I see the once fat and sad, misfit teenager that lived with fear yet fearless and wanted nothing else but to be loved and belong.. and I talk to her and I choose the words she needed. She may have survived a world where words never really mattered, but the teacher she became today knows they do.

Words do matter.

Fuck it.

My first language is Spanish (romance language), therefore my sentence structure will be awkward to some ‘English only’ readers.. don’t judge

I was programmed. And so have you, programmed to believe, so many things..

Many of those programs have served me.. yet the others have buried me..

I was taught to keep silent about anything that happens to me at the hands of a man as a child…. because its my fault.
Imagine, you have a daughter… and she’s molested and you BLAME HER

Yes, that happens, in too many homes, in too many cultures, in too many countries.

I was molested when I was 8 years old… The predator lived on the 2nd floor of the same building where I live today.. He’s not there but his family still lives there.. A BIG lesson on ‘individuality’.. He attacked me… not his family.

Blame lays on him not his tribe.

That was the first time I experienced thoughts of SUICIDE. I experienced ending my life at EIGHT YEARs OLD…. just to put things into perspective.

I did not stay silent. After that happened.. when he tried to buy my silence.. It ate at me..

It happened after school (4 PM) and my breaking point was bedtime (9 PM)

I sat on this wooden chair in the kitchen, it is still there…. I love that chair.

My grandmother combed my hair and I told her.. with my eyes closed, because I was scared, it was my fault… an 8 year old little girl was culpable of a pedophiles actions

Just some perspective for those that have daughters

The next thing I heard was a BANG – our front door – she went to the second floor and confronted this man.
She believed me.. she defended me… THAT stayed with me.
I was 8 years old and my grandmother believed me.

But what about those that don’t speak up? The defenseless.
What about all of those little girls that are preyed upon, touched in a way that stirs up anxiety, assaulted or worse and fear takes over because they believe it is their fault?

Two out of three girls under the age of 12 will be sexually molested and that is NOT the worst part of that tragic statement. The tragedy is that too many of them will NOT be believed by their guardians. These children will be made to believe it is their fault, even more so if the predator exists within the family.

Because my grandmother believed me it gave me a sense of security and protection from the world. If anything ever happened to me, I can count on her. I know I wouldn’t be the same person if she wouldn’t have believed me.

Fear was the seed that this man planted at that moment in my 8 years but I didn’t let it grow the moment I spoke up.. that courage does not exist in every child and that is why I write:

Fuck it. I will believe every child. I will protect the defenseless.

Believe your children, do not let fear grow in their little lives.

Grateful Immigrant

We are born with the ability to reason, maybe for our benefit first, but no less to reason.

We are born with the ability to cry out for what we need when we are hungry, when we are in pain and when we want what is not in our grasp.

Then there are those that care for us or are obligated to care for us and they teach us to say ‘Please and Thank you’ in response to those needs being met.

That lesson is lost on some… NOT that it wasn’t taught, maybe it wasn’t enforced.. maybe some little ones were so cute.. too cute and their ‘please and thank you’s’ were overlooked.

And therein lies the seed of entitlement.

My grandmother told me a story of a young Dominican girl that came from her war-torn country that gave her nothing’. 

‘But when I came to this country, everything I have is thanks to it.. everything YOU have, everything you will BE is thanks to it.’

So it goes without saying this ugly child learned the value of ‘Please and Thank you’ 

I believe in leading by example and although she never said please nor thank you to me, nor any of her children, a fact that will ring true in many a Hispanic family, I will always remember the day as a teenager when she told me that story.. more like a Tweet if it existed then. 

I stayed at home on a Tues. Election Day and my grandmother who never exits the house, if only to go to the bodega or church, came to the kitchen bare-handed and I asked her, where were you?

‘Fui a votar’

Me: Huh??

‘Yes’, she said. ‘I went to vote’… I don’t remember for who, didn’t even care to ask. The fact that she participated was a pleasurable shock.

That action taught me ‘gratitude’. 

Today

It’s July in NYC and Covid is ‘gone’.

And Covid is not gone… the restaurant below my apartment building abides by the social distancing rules. People wearing and not wearing masks.

I bump into the proprietor of Solace, Dominican entrepreneur realizing his American dream and throwing in the towel as he tells me about the wears of restaurant entrepreneur’s in the aftermath of Covid..

as I sit at Lyn’s place, a ‘healthy eating’ spot that took over the once Mexican spot right below the apartment my family has lived in for nearly 50 years..

‘I’ve been in this for far too long, to not know what’s coming’.. that’s what I heard.

My daughter just graduated high school, I’m done. This is the providers mindset..

A father looking to cash out because his obligations have been met. I will never know what that’s like.

But I do know that as a woman of Dominican descent it gave me great pleasure to see one of ‘my own’ prosper in my neighborhood.

‘I went to PS 192 and IS 195 and G. Dubs (the natives call George Washington High School ‘G. Dubs’) and I appreciate hearing what you’re saying but I’m tired.’

‘When you look like me, there’s so much weight on your shoulders.’

Translation = I can pass for Black and as such, the cards are stacked against me and the obstacles are not fairly adjusted. Whereas a White proprietor can be more fortunate with the roadblocks, I will not.’

The death of George Floyd ignited a movement which the young continue to brave and even though I may not completely understand restaurant business despite the lessons passed on by the person I call father, I know it isn’t easy. Passion is not the only factor that will see you through in the kitchen, yet I have this unmovable faith in our young. 

‘Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times.” 

‘I can’t afford to give up. I must let our students know that they can, even if you’re tired, and rightfully so, they must know that it’s worth fighting. They too must believe that they can realize their dream.’

The cards may still be stacked but we gotta ‘vote in’ a new dealer while changing the rules of the game.

I look around my neighborhood and it surely has changed… and so have I.

I never was what you think of when you hear ‘Dominican’. 

New students still think I’m Asian when they first see me, and so my appearance may break stereotypes as soon as I open my mouth.

I’m the ‘exotic cheese’ eating, PBS, ‘Frasier’ and ‘Columbo’ rerun watching, once in a while ‘Good Times’ grabbing, ‘fix your face’ teaching, no bullshit tolerating, gossip hating, all Latin loving, specific hip hop listening, mask wearing, traveling sapiosexual.

It is hard living in my skin in this time of Covid.

I am who I am

I’m a Latin American woman, born from a Dominican woman and an Ecuadorian man.

My DNA is spread out through an ATLAS of so many cultures, which compels me to reflect on who I am, really?

COLOR = DNA

I thought I was what my grandmother’s told me I was or who they believed they were and where they came from; as a child I believed them.

As a young girl I walked the streets of New York City in the cage I called my body. Looking to be loved for any accomplishment, ignoring all stereotypes established about me. Fair skin, curly hair, artistic girl in a Dominican family… that’s called a ‘pass’. But I was always fat, that, in a Dominican family revoked your ‘pass’. So my rebellious act? Love EVERYONE and identify with EVERYONE and not give a fuck about their thoughts and acceptance.

As a young adult, my struggle with weight was my only focus. It made me blind to every other struggle but never blind to anyone in pain.

Pain was my connection to those around me.

As an adult I began to form my identity based on what I lived and not based on what other’s told me, suggested, believed me to be. The test was to be convinced while practicing compassion for those that didn’t understand nor accepted me.

As a teacher, I became the student. My students taught me so much especially my Black girls.. I won’t include Brown girls because I grew up in a household of them.. I will thank my aunt Esther for filling my space with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and my aunt Carmen for The Supremes and The Commodores and the Jackson 5.. yes we were Brown but we weren’t Black and my students taught me about that, as much as I thought I knew.

‘You don’t understand, Ms.’

‘But I do’

‘No Ms. You don’t understand.’

It is different. I had to accept it and sit in it and understand.

I reflected on all of our field trips to the many locations where I took all of my children. Every store, every museum, every space.. Why were my Black girls approached differently than the rest? Why?

You have to LIVE it to understand. And so when they spoke of their feelings to me, I stopped with the ‘maybe’s’ and listened and accepted their feelings, knowing I could never understand their PAIN.

And their PAIN was another tie that connected us.

I also accept that with all of the LOVE I may demonstrate to them, some will still question my motives and be merciless if I make one mistake. They are young and forming their characters and deciding who they will become, I hope compassion will be in their arsenal and ultimately see people’s hearts and be so much better in their world than this world has been to them.

I am a better teacher, a better person thanks to them and every one of my children.

Every day, every moment, every experience, every friend, every enemy, every family member, every teacher, every adult as a child, every employer, every job, every country visited, every stranger encountered has shaped who I say I am. And the beauty of that, is the unwavering determination I stand on, so strong no one can convince me otherwise.

Remember

WRITTEN August 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Its o.k. if you don’t know what to do, its best to make a decision when you do know than when you are not sure..
Its o.k. to love somebody so so so much but always love yourself even MORE.
Give time time – Dale tiempo al tiempo.. Things that are meant to be will happen naturally, not when they are forced..
Remember what you are worth and how wonderful you are; the person that will be yours will never need to be convinced NOR reminded.
Always look everything and everyone at face value, almost everything is EXACTLY as you see it, then thereafter ACCEPT it if you want it without expectations of change.
Faith and prayers DO work even while all else fails.
Don’t allow failures of the heart to change it, allow each fracture or tear or broken piece to heal and grow stronger. And choose wisely when giving your heart again, the next person should care for it as if it were their own.
Give yourself time with everything, there is no harm in thinking things through.
Enjoy yourself and your time and the things you do, create a little world of your own.
Don’t be afraid to let someone new in and trusting them just a little. They just might be what you were looking for and have the courage to hold on and not let them go.
If you were wrong, again, its o.k., as my mom says, ‘there are more people up ahead‘.
The right Love will come along.

Love doesn’t keep score

April 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM

That passage along with the entire definition of Love can be found in the Bible..
The answer to all conundrums can be found in the Bible..
It’s just that ALL gets lost in translation..
Or conveniently avoided or ignored
But I never ignored that – ‘Love doesn’t keep score’
So how does a single gal decide in today’s world..
Old school gal in the digital age where it seems as if you can ‘order a tailor-made guy’ online.. Not really but ‘soñar no Cuesta nada‘..
At least it offers you a chance to narrow your choices down and avoid what you don’t want.
Black, White, Latino, Asian, 30’s-40’s.. Blue Collar, White Collar, college grad, college drop-out, thinker, do-er, works with his hands, Gets paid to think, limited vocabulary, Shakespearean speaker, single, divorced, with or without children, just starting or starting over.. They are ALL out there but..
Boys will be boys and men will continue to say what they must, in order to get what they want.. And some of us gals too..
Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those that recognize our faults and maybe because I don’t ‘play dumb’ is because I’m still single..
That need to feel that ‘God-forsaken’ ring on that finger doesn’t rule my every move when it comes to men and never will, so maybe I will remain single..
But now as I have been frequenting a younger than moi, White Collar, Irish American, Single, College Grad that dabbles in the Arts, the literary kind of course (cause God Loves to have a laugh or two at my expense) I have found him to be emotionally unavailable. So I have been what I am NOT.. Patient..
And if you know and love me, you know that that one quality is Not one that I possess, but I have been practicing it out of Love..
Yes, Love..
As we get older Time becomes more and more valuable.. And for me it’s just become even More valuable so the little, unaccounted, indefinite, not promised, precious moments that I have, I invest them well or at least try to, and so he has become a part of my Time…
Even if I sometimes didn’t feel the same in return..
And then there was yesterday..
Blue Collar, older than moi, Irish American, Works with his hands and Loves it, Single and dabbles in the visual arts (cause God still wants to crack up) I have found him to be ready.. But then again, I pity a man that isn’t at 40..
He spoke of many things that scared and delighted me. All the things girls secretly think of.. and would never admit..
And I felt ‘rushed’ in so many ways.. But the thrilling kind that races through you when you’re on the down slope of a roller coaster.. But I feared it as well..
Cause I’ve always been ‘that’ in a pair, the ‘hurry hurry, let’s go’ and I’ve been secretly craving someone to slow me down.. And that’s what the young one does.. His ways has instilled patience and even if it is something I don’t want, it is something I need..
God tends to give you what you need.. Even if it isn’t what you want.. Great Father isn’t he?
So now what?
What do I do?
Those who know me.. And judging by what you have read, what would you suggest?
Even if you know I will do as I please in the end..
What’s the score?

Top of Form

 

Snow in October..

October 31, 2011 at 11:30 PM

Meet me at Cafe Reggio at 3 pm tomorrow
A man that can tell me when and where to be with absolution is a man I can adore, respect and fear

and so I did – meet him
and so I do – adore him
and so I will – fear what started last night

The snow began around 11 and I stared in amazement at its downpour from my window
small white shadows flurried down and as the minutes went by turned into giant flakes

What a day? Out of all days… why today?

But if I don’t go? Will he take it as a sign that I wasn’t that interested… when words couldn’t express how interested I was
And if I do go and he doesn’t?…

Just GO

and so I did
at least it will be memorable because of the snow in October
arriving early I sat to wait and expected him not to show up

bzzzz-bzzzz  – ‘Where are you?’ – ‘I’m waiting for my date’ – ‘oh o.k., I forgot’ – ‘Well, I’ll give him half an hour to show up, if not I’m out.’

‘Oh stop! He’ll show’ – ‘oh you know guys, they can be assholes! Oh wait! Here he comes! Gotta go!’

MWHe stood tall and all I saw was his blues eyes
He was covered in small white flakes that quickly disappeared with the warmth of the room
He looked around and I wondered if he remembered what I looked like but then his eyes met mine and the search was over

My heart wants to go deeper

Every woman’s heart wants to believe that the first encounter will be magical and that as soon as your eyes meet his, he will realize that you are what hes been searching for, this unique phenomenon like snow in October… (sarcastically) unbelievable!

The thing was, the ‘thing’ is, that this wasn’t our first encounter
We had met a while ago with our words..

The honest unassuming exchange of words happened between us and that was when I first met him..
That was when my heart began to beat faster
when I read his words..
therefore to have him before me was just the added stimuli that made my heart race
because he turned out to be all his words were

I just maintained this prayer within me that afternoon and evening that he continue to be just that
and that his colors not turn after the sun went down or rose again
that he not be this amazing crazy event that happens once every 50 years, like snow in October
and
he hasn’t
yet
I’m cautious, I’m back on American soil and I’ve chucked that hard learned Italian lesson about ‘Passione

Lasciati Andare ROSA, lasciati andare‘ – (la-sha-tee  an-dah-re)

Tran: Let yourself go!

and I’m so scared and I’m not scared of the aftermath either
Habit is kind of a miraculous thing like snow in October
but
if I treat this
like snow in October
this can be this eyeopening
chilling
exhilarating moment
that can leave me breathless
doubtful yet wanting to leave the safety of my four walls
looking for needful things to keep warm
wanting to know if anyone else is feeling this enjoyment
because it has been so long
and even if those flakes will never fall again in October
I will savor every second till they hit the ground
stick
clump
and melt
and evaporate – beginning the cycle

for the snow to come

M. Woods