Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gimme a New Year With Soul

I'm gonna ask Mr. Billy Preston to bring in my new year because I want to do this dance every day of 2010. I can twine and jerk, yes I can.

Give it to me, Agent Double O Soul. (This clip is from a movie so I urge you to stop watching after 1:40. That just me.) Ok, sock it to me good, Double O.

Ug, that's too good.

I offer some emotional fodder for those of you who are feeling and needing other things for 2010. Commonly, we need similar things in a fresh year; change, letting go, renewal, love, hope, simplicity. We might need them at different times, but our themes, I imagine, intersect. This is why even when these aren't my particular themes for the year, I feel deeply for them. I feel your paths, friends. They are often my path too. This song below was a lifeline for me during my Adventist days -- my christian stint as it were -- when I was 17, 18, 19. This song saved me more than getting dunked did, though the entire experience was unbelievably worthwhile. This song was solely about surrender, for me, and I didn't know to who or what I was surrendering, but I just needed to lay down my troubles somewhere for a while. I appreciated the help, more so than any of the church members would ever know. This song was sung in my church very similarly to this version and I'd sit in the wood pew, alone; I'd slump down and cry my eyes out. (You'll notice in the video that two of the singers become overcome with emotion in the end). Back then, I needed so much. I needed help then, so much, I didn't know where to start or who to ask, and this song let me set it all afloat, for a little time at least. On me, suffocating me, it was too much, but drifting away, it seemed more manageable. Though I don't subscribe to fundamentalism now, I'm still all for giving in to something bigger.

Needing change is a big new year theme. I don't feel this personally this year, but usually change comes anyway. This song is for you needing it. It's hard to beat Sam Cooke's version, but my girl Lauren stabs me. I miss her, but I honor however singing conventionally tortures her. She's done plenty for me in her short career.

My themes this year are about simplicity; the soulful renewal of all things simple. It's also about giving more. I figure I have to work on that one, every year, until it's all given away. Oh and I'm gonna work on my running game; maybe tighten up my music game.

As a good faith downpayment for my tightened music game, I offer the amazing Bebe and Siempre Me QuedarĂ¡ (I'll Always Keep)

Happy New Year, my friends. Here's to socking it to ourselves this year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas

I'm not one for religious exclusionary-ism, but I have a soft spot for the term Merry Christmas. And I mean that in the most simple and old-timey ways, when saying it was like a personal, sincere wish for all blessings to gush down on the listener's head. Like, an earnest Merry Christmas was a present wrapped in gold-leaf with a maroon velvet bow and the receiver's heart melted and humanity was restored. Man, the simplicity of Christmas moves me; that melancholy warmth -- what is that, that thing that intensifies in a darkened room pulsing with the multi-colored glow of lonely lights. It's the reflection of Christmas that gets me, the slowing and the thinking.

My mother was very susceptible to the holiday blues. It's understandable, really, especially for her, but I fought that even when our Christmases were the most spare and grim and she had fallen below the surface, unable to claw back up. I couldn't raise her up either. We have always been so disconnected, which is extraordinarily regrettable since it was just the two of us. So, I fought this particular brand of blues; even overfought if for years, which is an empty way of dealing. Eventually I found a place right atop the surface; between the cheer and the blues. I realize that ache is not necessarily painful, nor does it have to act as an anchor around my neck, but it is simply reflection. I think we also feel a collective opening of the human spirit, more so than usual, and this gives off a universal feeling of vulnerability. We unwillingly mirror the collective vulnerability and that connection seems too much, so unknown. I know it's good. I do.

But part of the sadness, I think, is caused by an instinct to shirk this raw motion toward kindness. We want it organically, but maybe we're too out of practice. Or maybe we succumb to it happily during the holidays and then we feel disenchanted if we've convinced ourselves that the feeling is fleeting, temporary. Back to the bustle, folks.

I love to drive around at night and look at the Christmas trees in windows. The very small, lopsided ones placed in apartment windows pang at me the most. A struggled gesture to be part of the spirit; to raise their own spirit possibly. I look way too much into these things, but that's why I love to drive around and speculate. Mostly, I just suck it in, the care taken, the prettiness; that damn, sad warmth. It turns me over inside.

I believe in miracles. Maybe not in the most literal sense, but isn't it all a miracle if you get right down to it? And I'm sucker for a Christmas miracle story. The words Christmas miracle kinda choke me up. I'll watch all movies built around the predictable Christmas miracle. Feed it to me with a spoon. I love it. My kids are too old to be in holiday plays now or sing in the little pageants, but wow, would those kill me. Once Maya was in a pageant at her old, beautifully eclectic and creative school and she sang, with other five year old voices, Iz's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. They signed the words with their hands as they sang so heartbreakingly pure. And it took every single fiber of me not to wail loudly during the performance. It was overwhelmingly beautiful. They were tapped into something beyond our recognition. I'm teared up thinking about it. That song was a miracle. Those kids rained down something perfect on us that moved us in ways we were not even aware of.

That song is like Christmas; an intense version maybe. It's so sweet, it hurts. It's hopeful, but possibly unrealistic. It's ideal and what does ideal have to do with reality? Unless you believe in miracles.

Merry Christmas, and I mean that in the way where a torrent of blessings is dumped on your head and the warmth is overwhelming in a soul-clearing kind of way and the beyond-the-woods clarity of the universal thread motors your boat and brings you the best of things like love and acceptance and more love and peace and kindness. Cheers to the vulnerability, man.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Husband called his dad a couple days ago to check on him. Big Papi said, "Just sitting here watching the game with Mom." And that's all he said about that. So Husband called Mama Luz the next day to get the full scoop and she said, "I told that fucking bitch from the laundromat to stay away from my man!"

And both sentences -- watching the game with Mom and I told that bitch -- mean the same thing: We love each other very much and we're working this out. Big Papi could have easily said, "Still in the car." And Mama Luz could have easily said, "I told that bitch she could have him," but they didn't. We're encouraging them to talk it out instead of glossing this over. They said they are. They said they want to visit us in February and we're jumping up and down to make that happen. We're just waiting to hear when the school year has a break for Mama Luz. She drives the school bus.

* * *

Monday was the anniversary of Mama's death. The date - Dec 7 - burns lows at the bottom of my psyche, like an eternal last light of a dying kerosene lamp. That date is kind of like my birthday, like, when I randomly hear someone say my birth date, I get a jolt of recognition. I get a current from Dec 7th too, the mention of it or anything related. I said to Husband, "My grandmother passed away today." He said, "I'm sorry, baby." I calculated the years. "It's been 27 years now. That's weird. 27 years is a long time." He said, "I'm sorry." I said, "But 15 is a hard age to lose the only person who liked you." I laughed. He said, "We like you, baby. You have big fans in this house!" I said, "Oh, I know, papi. Thank you."

For the splitest of seconds, I thought maybe Mama had something to do with bringing Papi and me together though, really, I don't believe in that. And I believe in a lot of wonky spiritual, unseen shit. I believe our cherished dead can protect us in subtle ways. I believe in the power and spirituality of nature. I believe in god, a flowing energy that connects anything living -- including plants and animals -- externally and internally. I really believe in that form of god. I believe in prayer even if its sole power is to make us feel better. I believe in good and bad luck, to an extent. I believe in the santos for the same reason I believe in prayer. I believe in not crossing other people's god because not only is that disrespectful, it's bad luck. And their god is probably from the same source as your god anyway. I think karma is overrated and misunderstood. I think karma just happens and it's ironic and missing the point to strive for it. You do good to just do good and you don't do bad because it's hurtful and bad. Then karma might happen. I believe in doing good. And I believe in the power of myself because I'm connected to that god source, and this is why I don't think Mama had anything to do with bringing my husband and me together. I did that. But she did teach me how to love. I love him well because of the smallest amount of time I got to be with her. And because of me, of course. Man, it was so short though, that time with her. It was a fraction of my big life and I am still so affected by the infinite spec of love she poured over me. I admit that most times I think of the absence of her, especially our painful seperation when she was alive, and I was wracked with a child's panic caused from being apart from her. I starved for the attention she gave me and felt quietly gutted out when I couldn't get it enough. I resorted to sad, old-soul tactics – and being an old soul is overrated too because a child is only told that when they dig too deeply into themselves to extract what they lack on the outside, what they need so badly, so they dig to tap into that god source for self comfort and this makes the eyes immediately age. So as I kid, I believed I could talk to her in my mind; I caved over the panic to calm myself down and I made it into a glowing pool, a bright and secret source of love. I stored it, and waited. I waited until a ton of years later when I was able to dump it on my girls, my Husband. Turns out, the pool keeps going, it doesn't run out. Just grows and grows. I did that.

Thank you Mama. Thank you for starting the pool-source and for teaching me that kindness and gratitude never run out either. I miss you so much.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ancient Lessons In Coupledom

I thought a long time before writing this because it hurts. And it's not my story. But in a way, it could be and is often any couple's story.

Mama Luz kicked Big Papi out of the house a week ago. She called us to tell us that they were done; it was over after 33 years. To say that we were floored is sparkles and sunshine compared to how we felt. We were stomped and pinned, breathless. Tears exploded out of us. They had been a united, anchored boulder in our eyes. They were not perfect, but perfect for each other certainly. They championed each other, for god’s sake, and this idea of championing is so comfortably key to a relationship. Not long ago, friends had put that notion to words and we believed it so fiercely, didn't we? From the just-married, to those seeking love, to me who has been married almost 12 years. I absolutely believed it a cornerstone. But it was not enough. It is not enough.

Husband's and my faith in love, in coupledom, in foreverness diminished greatly in the wake of her words. How does anybody make it, we thought. We looked at each other and with no hesitation clung to each other, said I love you's a hundred times as our understanding of a solid relationship crumbled and slid away from us. I suppose we could have questioned ourselves, but even more we felt, fuck it, we'll be the last couple standing then. In our instant and gut reaction to each other, we didn't know many details of their demise. All that became important was that our belief in each other was real because nothing else was, it seemed.

All the grown kids -- Husband, his sister Baby Luz and me -- have taken shifts on talking it out with them, mainly with Mama Luz because she's more vocal – lord, is she vocal. We take turns relieving the high-pressure steam that is her volcanic emotion, and Husband works on luring the petrified and frozen and near non-existent emotion buried so deeply in his dad. Husband is chipping away in a way that makes me well up with pride. He is a progressive and well-adjusted man saving his father. It's so beautiful it hurts. At the surface, there was an indiscretion. This time by him. In the past, by her. But the thing that drew the line -- a line which has cracked into a gapping chasm after decades -- is the most simple and complex of couple problems; communicating real feelings. She bulldozes. He withdraws. Both styles hem each other up. Over the years, they've glazed it all over with pleasantries and the mundane day to day. He retreats to the TV and she fixes the house. Talk of intimacy, of appreciation, of basic and deep love became cemented and trapped under the glaze. I think many couples are just a few quiet nights from getting here; a few sexless weeks, months, years and then it seems too hard to go back. Each year made it harder on them. Until last week when he decided to get shit off his chest in what he felt was a strong way -- a putting-the-foot-down kind of way -- and it came out so rusty and awkward and hurtful, like he was vomiting sharp rocks. And that sparked her to come back with her raw force, so hurtful and fierce. He tried to match her thunder, but that's not his strength because he was usually the balance of calm and love. She's the action and passion. They don't weave their strengths together anymore we found out.

What is the championing worth if after we've beaten back the hurtful world we can't tell each other how wonderful we make each other feel, how beautiful they look, how sexy they are, what do you need mami/papi, I love you. I'm crying typing this because it hurts to know they've gone so long without this.

Big Papi is sleeping in his car, in the NY winter. We cancelled our Puerto Rico trip to help them (I know -- more on that later. In short, it seems ridiculous to spend all that money on a vacation when family is in severe crisis and needs help.) We were ready to pay for a motel for him, but he refused. We stopped insisting when we realized he was punishing himself. And he knows her well because it's been the only thing that has cracked her so-tough veneer. Her conversations go from fuck that motherfucker, which we expect, to "At least he took his blanket," and "At least it's not that cold tonight," which almost brings us to tears. Old fashioned penance is working some sort of magic on her. And our hearts are breaking each time we talk to them and realize how much they still love each other. But they’ve mistreated each other; their silence the biggest abuser. If they can only crack the glaze, move mountains of resentment, forgive, talk, weave, love again. I'm not sure they'll get there yet, but there's hope. When I was talking to her a couple days ago, when she was spewing F bombs and yelling shit to me that I didn't ever want to hear about him, I told her that she didn't deserve to feel this hurt and I know she was angry, but we had hope for them; we knew there was love, that they need to talk it out more, get counseling. She said she'd cut him if he came by - sigh. It was the first seed planted about hope and she went bananas on me, screaming, "I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT OVER THERE, BUT WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU EVEN TELL ME TO THINK ABOUT GOING BACK TO THAT MOTHERFUCKER?? IF YOUR HUSBAND DID THAT TO YOU---" And on. I don't take this personally because I know that's just how she communicates, but I know I had to get forceful back. I yelled back that Hell yes, I'd be fucking angry and all his fucking shit would be on the lawn too, but I would want someone to tell me to just consider the years we've had, consider talking it out. To my surprise, she got quiet for like one second. Then I broke the news that he was sleeping in his car. And she quietly said, "Good."

My husband has been a hero. He had to track his dad down to talk it out. Big Papi is mortified by the whole thing, reeling in confusion, wishing he never opened his mouth or strayed. He wishes it would all go away now. He wants to come home; he wants his wife back, but Husband told him he can't have it like he had it. He shouldn't want it how it was and it will take a lot to work it out. My husband gave him such sound advice on how to be a fully realized man. The role reversal, son teaching father, was emotional. He was a beacon of light, a savior to a man who could have easily cocooned himself and faded away to crushing loneliness, poverty, sadness, nothingness. He said, "Dad, I'm your only son and I need you. I need you to talk more. We need it. Mom needs it." And Big Papi bawled his eyes out and so did Husband. The last conversation was a gem too, but more in a get-your-shit together kind of way. I heard things like, "That's your woman. Go get her, and treat her like your woman should be treated." I was like, goddamn, baby.

Anyway, it's all broken down to be built back up into something better and much more solid and loving, if they're both willing. There's so much shit through which to traverse though. I don't envy the work ahead of them if they wish to take it on, but god, we hope they do. The thought of them losing their loves while in their sixties is painful. But in the end, it is not our relationship to save. We can help them see some light, some hope, help pay for counseling. We can let them know that we want them to fight. Husband gave tremendous advice, but it will be their work that saves them. I can only work on loving my man the best I can, talking to him, appreciating him, staring at him like he's the last biscuit on a desert island, and of course, still championing him until the wheels fall off.