Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Resisting the Cave

So, there I was, laying down my parental wisdom (again) on my girl, Maya; giving a fab speech about high school drama. She's been in the thick of it lately with crushes & breakups -- her own and in the middle of her friends'. I was telling her not to get caught up in what other kids say and not to tell them too much of her own business because this only becomes fodder for them to exploit, and then Maya stopped my speech and said, "Mami, you don't like ANY drama at all. But I like a little bit of drama." This stopped me in my tracks for a minute because I've spent 14 years teaching her to have her own mind, and I admire her for taking me up on that piece of sound advice, but for a second I was bummed that her own mind was separate from mine -- just for a second I felt that. I'm allowed, right? I did not express that to her, of course. Then I was proud of her for being so honest and self aware.

And then I felt lonely.

I can't express enough how parenting is an all day, every day, every minute venture. It takes a type of dedication that wins medals and cash money and nobel prizes outside of the parental arena. And I'm getting to that stage of parenting where we are supposed to know how to gracefully pull back the intensity. Where we give them space to be themselves, ease up on our gas and so delicately not dump any of our own shit full-load onto their heads. We are told to be prepared for all of this and it's just supposed to be so seamless to shift gears and watch them drift away. I mean, I know we want this. I know it will happen. But ain't that a bitch?

It's that I like them so much. The three of us are joined together and do so much together. And it's time that I peel away from Maya a little, unnoticed, and let her text out her dramafied scenarios by herself and hang out in her room with her ipod, while I take up something else that will fill that intense parental-focus hole. Cage Boxing, maybe.

In the scheme of all things teenage, Maya really is a breeze. I'm fully aware and thankful. We've just had a series of independent baby steps lately. I shouldn't be surprised by how lonely it makes me feel. I'm just very attuned to how loneliness feels, I think, and it doesn't necessarily panic me, but makes me shrink back a bit. Like, loneliness or aloneness is supposed to be my natural state. Like, I come out of a cave to connect with people just a little bit and then burrow back down into my mind. Husband is out of town too and his work, in general, is beating him down big time, so with that, I feel exposed to how much emphasis I put on the girls especially when Maya and I go through these natural and smooth baby steps towards independence. It makes me question the time I've put in. Like, was/is it too much. Obviously not, but I guess it's natural to question every step we've made as parents. I second guess, sometimes, making their emotional state at all times the golden number one. It wouldn't have happened any other way though.

Objectively, I gladly sling shot these kids into the stratosphere and without a trace of my bullshit smeared on them. And I know, too, that it's ok to feel how I'm feeling even if it’s quietly (other than the blog!) and even if I want to fight the loneliness for once.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Begone Woe Tattoo

Hi Friends,

I've crossed over. I am the tattoo lady. I'm sleeve bound perhaps.

But this, this put a high bounce to my step when lately I've had a hard time catching a rhythm or any kind of spark. Here is my Begone Woe tattoo, right on the inner forearm. No hiding it now. Behold:

Bye woe, with her lil kerchief.
A petal on the bike wheel! Heartgush.

The details slay me. Look at the hem of her dress and her precious face, and the sash and the jewlery! I love her so much. And the details of the bike; the itty bitty shield thing on the frame. Happy Friday Familia. Feels good to be on the upswing again. Begone Woe! Come, Hope.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Impossible Motherhood

A couple days ago I read an article in the LA Times about a book called Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar. The title of the article was: Memoir of a former abortion addict. The by-line: In 'Impossible Motherhood,' Irene Vilar, now a mother of two, writes of what led her to have 15 pregnancies ended.

Vilar writes of her fifteen abortions.

I was sort of stunned when I read the title because as an adamant pro-choicer and a feminist (are we comfortable with this word yet? I am) I still felt squeamish and light-headed by this notion.

Before reading the article, I tried to imagine what would lead Vilar to this level of self-abuse. Standard and societal judgments leapt to mind. It's easy to dismiss someone as careless, ignorant, which I could not keep myself from initially feeling. When I stopped myself from this sort of judgment, I considered that we fight for rights period, right? We don't fight for rights to then judge the extent by which they are exercised.

Then I read the article. The complexities of Vilar are so entangled that simple judgments of her are trite, insignificant. I have not stopped thinking about her. One publisher -- one of the 51 who had first rejected the book -- said that the memoir was too painful to publish. The reason the book finally did get published was because it is intelligently written even if her story hangs in the balance of an undeniably complicated issue.

Vilar's abortions were a protest of sort; self-abuse as revolt. That is my interpretation, and this thought hurts me. Much of Vilar's revolt seems subconscious, a sickness that she was unable to stop for a long time. She explains it like another other addiction. When I learned more of the complexity of her rebelliousness against her ex-husband (she was 16 and he 50 when they met; he insisted they have no children) and even more compelling, her familial and cultural history, Vilar's story became a multi-generational, gender-encompassing tragic flood.

Vilar grandmother was Lolita Lebron, the Puerto Rican nationalist who moved to NY in the 1950's - leaving behind her family -- and then shot up the U.S. House of Representatives, wounding five congressmen. She was convicted of trying to overthrow the US government and served 25 years in prison. Lebron left behind Vilar's mother in PR, an infant at the time of the shooting. Vilar's mother eventually killed herself by jumping from a moving car while 8 year old Vilar tried to hold her back. Several factors contributed to Vilar's mother's severe depression: Being abandoned by Lebron, her cheating husband, and a coerced, unneeded hysterectomy at age 33.

Here's a passage from the article:

"Puerto Rico, at the time, was a living laboratory for American-sponsored birth control research. In 1956, the first birth control pills -- 20 times stronger than they are today -- were tested on mostly poor Puerto Rican women, who suffered dramatic side effects. Starting in the 1930s, the American government's fear of overpopulation and poverty on the island led to a program of coerced sterilization. After Vilar's mother gave birth to one of her brothers, she writes, doctors threatened to withhold care unless she consented to a tubal ligation.

These feelings of powerlessness -- born of a colonial past, acted out on a grand scale or an intimate one -- are the ties that bind the women of Vilar's family.

'If there is something that is intersecting across generations -- my grandmother, my mother and me -- it's the issue of control," said Vilar. "I chose a very private drama to show my problem of control, my mother chose a personal one, not as intimate as mine, and with my grandmother, it was the ultimate political control.'"

I'm so heavy-hearted about the depth of this story especially as the book starts to kick up a duststorm for the Pro-Life movement. They use Vilar's story as an argument for them, an example of how we women cannot control ourselves. Women must need governmental parenting. The push for their own agenda demeans any significance in relation to our historical damage. This is not to say Vilar has nonchalantly experienced her abortions. Many were followed by suicide attempts. If she is brutally honest about her experiences, she is also very humbled by the feminist movement which kept abortions safe and legal in the US. She is alive because of the movement, she says, because she would have aborted anyway, by any means. Her addiction and struggle with self-determination and control may have been a painful revolt, but they were still exclusive from the positive gains that the feminist movement championed. Vilar's revolt was strictly personal, yet it still makes me think of our long history of oppression. I feel it so deeply with her story.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the book because I think it will be kept pretty low key, except by Pro Life advocates, which is unfortunate. Pro Choicers seem to be fairly mute on Vilar's story, but I could imagine that the basic battle to keep abortion laws in place is difficult enough without having to debate Vilar's situation.

Here's the LA Times article here if you want to read a bit more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gonna Ramble Myself Out of a Rut

John Wooden was a little ahead of my time though I still bow down to him as the basketball god that he is. He turns 99 tomorrow. He might be waiting around for another UCLA championship, but he'll be well past the century mark if that's gonna happen. Though Wooden is rightfully revered, Chick Hearn was the old basketball dude who I loved. I pretended he was my grandfather when I spent plenty of nights alone, watching Laker games of the Showtime era on our thirteen inch black and white TV that got three channels. And one of those was channel 9! Thank god; home of the Lakers and home of the voice of Chick Hearn, my fantasy grandfather and long-time Laker announcer. Inches from the screen (because that shit was still kinda snowy) I'd eat toasted almond ice cream by the bowlful, enraptured by the drama that was playoff basketball of the 1980's. Man, I would laugh at Chick's sayings (THE JELLLOOO'S JIGGLING!) and whoop at the TV when the Lakers kept my hope buoyant. Chick Hearn was the only celebrity that got a tear from me when he passed. He was good company for a lonely kid.

Hope, my specialty, is kinda waning lately. I'm not sure what it is. I mean, I kind of know, but it's the kind of know that I'm not good at talking about. If I talk about it or complain about it or let it in too much, then what? I dunno. Good, healthy complaining is not what I'm good at. I get frustrated and embarrassed. I get self conscious. I feel weak. Suck that shit up, y'know, because then what? I take a road so high, I'm out of sight. I'm on high, lost road. Where am I?

I took the girls to a couple more writing workshops at 826LA over the weekend. They were split in different groups on different days this time; more in their own age group. Mina's was back in Echo Park. While she wrote about Creatures of the Future, Maya and I went to the second-hand store across the street and browsed. I tried to convince Maya to get a navy corduroy jacket from maybe the 80's that had a huge sew patch on the back of the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. On the front, in yellow, the name Andrea was embroidered and underneath was her title (I don't remember it now) in the Agricultural department. Then I tried to convince Maya that bowling shirts used to be the main reason we went to thrift stores back in the day. I held up a shirt for her to try on, and she said, "I can't wear that shirt. It says Lorraine on it." I was like, Yes! That's -- you want to -- Lorraine! It says Lorraine, dude. She wasn't having it. But she did go for the old blue Boy Scout shirt with the many patches. So, I got through a little. On Sunday, Maya's workshop was called "Secrets & Lies." Nice! It was about telling truth through lies through dialogue. How cool is that? This workshop was at the Venice location, in an upstairs office of the SPARC building. SPARC is the creation of Judy Baca. Baca has been the premiere, political muralist of Los Angeles for three decades. This is the building my mother worked at for years in the late 70’s, early 80’s. SPARC used to be the old jailhouse in Venice and I remember as a kid loving that some offices were actual jail cells, with bars and everything. While Maya was in workshop, I wrote a bit. But then I wandered the halls of a closed SPARC, swearing it used to be bigger and still awed by it. I didn't have my camera, but I took a few photos with my phone. Baca's work is still so relevant and interesting and phenomenal. She exudes power, mainly. Power in dissent. Power in cultural and gender self acceptance. It's the feeling I had there as a kid; these halls makes one feel powerful:

Here's some outside:

Usually, I would feel waves of inspiration from these, but I don't. I feel a warming, a homecoming, a deep resonation for sure, but I'm worn out. I wanted to curl up at the foot of the Goddess Tree painting and feel nothing. I guess the comfort was good. But inspiration is lost on me right now.

It's raining. We've waited for rain since June around here. There has been no rain since then, and the anticipation of the cooler weather and the bluster -- and the rain -- was temporarily uplifting. The rain is nice, but not as good as dancing around the house yelling, "Rain is coming!" It's been a long time since I've heard the syncopated clank of the roof drains and the constant ringing of Molly's wind chime. It's nice. I don't feel much more.

We watched a movie called Chocolate. It's a Thai movie about an autistic teenage girl who could pick up martial arts moves just by watching them -- then it was time to avenge her mother! It was awesome. The movie had some of the best fight scenes we've seen in a long time. The film was on the cheesy side - it's martial arts flick -- but seriously, that girl kicked ass, Muay Thai style. Mina watched it twice. One of the best fights, though one of the shorter ones, was between the girl and the bad guy's pawn who was more severely autistic for Battle Autism. The boy fought in a series of unpredictable twitches and B-boy moves. He wore Run DMC glasses and an Adidas track suit! The girl was taken aback until she picked up his moves - because that's her power! She was so good.

Writing a novel jammed in limited amounts a time -- and in the time that is the leftover dregs of the day – feels a tad futile and insignificant. It feels rushed and tangled. But maybe I'd think that with all the time in the world too. Plugging away . . .

I'm getting a new tattoo in a couple weeks. I'm excited, but because of how I'm feeling, I'm worried about it too. Like, maybe it's too much money to spend on fancy skin decoration. But it's going to be super dope. But as I get older, is it lame to keep getting tattoos? Don't answer that. I know how I would answer that, but still. I dunno. Then I think, maybe I should get a full-body tattoo because I think that looks better than old lady skin. I dunno.

I'm ok. I'll feel better soon. Got to, right? Where my high road at?