An Earthquake Shaking the Mind’s Ground Zero: What is Real?

The first letter on a blank page is sometimes the hardest one to trace. Overwhelmed with emotions, thoughts so powerful your fingers begin to surf the keys of your laptop. Your eyes look for clarity and find the irony of smoke from the incense, straight up to the ceiling at first glance, gradually transforming to curls of chaos before reaching its destination. Your ear drums soothed by guitar and soft voices. You look up to see the smoke dance around your head like a discreet child trying to make you smile. The smell soothes your open wound.

Sometimes reality is hard to conceptualize. On the train tracks of your own train, do you ever question everything you never questioned? Are you truly happy or do you pretend to be, so well that you begin to believe it? I stopped believing in justice a long time ago, maybe when I gave up my dream to become an attorney, and I came to the realization that life is just life. The wind blows and dominoes collapse, a car speeds into another and two lives are lost, a wave rises too high and takes a village. It isn’t about being positive or negative, but about accepting the existence of all without judgement.

On a personal level, author Ruiz will make the argument that we are perfect just the way we are and when we change, it is to express the love we feel for ourselves. Change is not a prerequisite to self-love. The same concept applies to life, death, and all that comes in between. He preaches intrinsic value without using the term. You love you, why? Because you are you. You were part of a tragic episode? You take the experience and let it fuel spiritual growth.

Why mention justice? It is only too often that we hear someone protesting “it’s unfair!” Yes, I say we, because you and I are not all too different. People want to belong, “we” expresses that I accept you within my thought process as an audience and as another mind exploring these thoughts I share. As a reader, you come closer to my mind and heart than some people I see every day.

Look up! Red light blinds your eyes. Foot on the brake pedal. Abrupt stop. Let your mind go blank, your lungs fill with a sigh of surprise, and the adrenaline pump through your veins. Remember, accidents are by nature unpredictable. Distractions on the road can be fatal. Along the same logic, lack awareness in present moments and your life will pass you by. “Death isn’t sad. The sad thing is that most people never live at all” (Dan Millman).

Back to the subject at hand. Do you practice your wisdom? Writers know very well how to preach. Deep down in your heart you may choose to agree with me (or even disagree) on the existence, (or nonexistence), of pure justice. You may have other beliefs or standards. Do you ever question them? Do you ever contradict your words with your actions? We are emotional bodies, not always logically synchronized with our beliefs.

I didn’t protest, “it’s unfair,” I didn’t think it either. Instead, this time, I just thought “it’s unfortunate.” My heart felt the similar pinch and I sighed in disappointment. How could one person take everything you ever thought to be true and make you question your self image, the one thing you are suppose to confidently know? There is nothing more powerful than the words of someone who knows the strategy to manipulate the thoughts that create your reality. The mind is founded on a belief system, but even the hardest soil can be shattered by an earthquake.

They say words only weigh as heavy as you let them, yet how much power do you really have? He accused me of being incapable to love. Used a metaphor here and there, in between expressed that “maybe your narcissistic tendencies and BPD will forever mask who you truly are.” Yet reassured me that “we are at peace.” An email sent from an account that has now been deleted. I could not have replied if I tried. Message delivery error. I paused, before letting a wave of emotions take over, placed my feet back in the present moment, “I am happier today than I was months ago.” That realization alone gave me peace to admit that his words had only one purpose, make me feel belittled. My best friend laughed as his ridiculous statements, rolled her eyes at his attempt to once again hurt the person he has claimed to love. I felt relief that all communication bridges had been burned to pieces and drowned in the dark river of yesterday.

A peaceful separation only because I made a commitment to myself, to love the breaths and gifts I was given. Without a tear of goodbye because my life is better without someone manipulating my emotions. However, I also finally understood the fear that creeps up. I am not afraid to love, nor to trust another with my heart, I am only fearful that my mind may lack the clarity to distinguish reality and misconceived conceptions of others or those he made me believe.

Memories

It was 2010, I was carrying a moving box. My mom and my sister were laughing about the crazy road trip to Virginia. The sky was a bright blue and the sun shone happiness into the souls of the anxious freshmen moving in. “You know, you’re going to change a lot these next few years… you’ll wake up one day and be so surprised by how different you used to be,” my sister had preached to me. I smiled with pride and naively disregarded her claim. I knew who I was, that wouldn’t change. Or so I thought. Stubborn, I remained. Determination never left my personality traits.

September 2010, late evening, it was dark. “I’ll do it if you do it,” I said. We smiled at each other and headed to the college’s lake. “Who goes first?” “I’m ready” “Oh wow that was fast” “I’m jumping in!” Laughter traveled through the Virginian trees as the cold water gave us chills everywhere. We were free mermaids with our partners loving our spontaneity. The inner tube as our only cover, perhaps clothes would have kept us warmer.

September 2012, 6:00 A.M. The music was blaring into my soul, the multicolored lights danced with the drunks, and I smiled in ecstasy. Spain was exactly what I had desired, freedom, Spanish music, and charming men. He twirled me like it was the last dance of our life. I closed my eyes to feel every sensation… The joy of being single never felt more refreshing.

April 2013, early morning, the sun peeked from under the ocean and the waves calmed the earthquakes from my internal struggles. A tear escaped my eyes and I slowly smiled. God always knew that beauty brought me peace. On the north tip of Africa, I knew the air was magical, something about the Mediterranean gave writers inspiration and lovers hope. Tunisia’s all-encompassing beauty gave travelers an experience that the lens of their camera couldn’t capture, but that would never leave the depths of their heart.

January 2014, we were covered up in gloves, scarf and heavy coats. Laughing so hard, I couldn’t help noticing her beauty. She was a pure soul, my best friend. “You lean on me and I lean on you,” we had said to each other. “I don’t know what I would do without you,” we had repeated. Skiing down the snowy slope, she looked behind to make sure I wasn’t rolling like a snow ball. The sun was setting, God painted the sky pink and orange. Giggling, we stopped at the bar for a shot and hot chocolate.. how classy! We were nervous that our university’s outdoor program would catch us. Creepy guy whispered “I like your style,” we looked at him, and turned back to the bar laughing. Skiing tipsy is off my bucket list.

May 2014, a windy bright morning. I held my diploma in my hands, honor cords around my neck and cried like a child leaving her mother the first day of kindergarten. The last day is just as overwhelming and scary as day one. We shared tears in the midst of laughter at our silly sensitivity. I knew I hadn’t loved a friend so deeply, she had been my sister, my psychologist, my partner in crime, and I had given her the deepest parts of my heart and shared the most profound thoughts. Friendship is peaceful. Love is sweet.

February 2015, a cloudy morning in Texas. I sat typing at my computer. John Mayer sang “Daughters,” I sat cuddled in my jacket. Comfort, peace, soothing music… Art communicates so much. It wasn’t just his words, but also the acoustics. The sensations, the memories, like a flash in a movies. A moment before your life ends, clips of the best and worst moments. Climatic. I sat, heart broken, how crazy to see my life unroll chaotically, my internal avalanche. My best friend as my constant. The sun as my point of reference. Never undermine our similarity to snakes. We wear many skins over the years. Today I hardly know who I am. Tomorrow, I hope to be a pianist, a writer, a salsa dancer, an entrepreneur, and fluent in five languages. Until tomorrow arrives, my motto is Do Something Every Day to be One Step Closer to Your Dreams.

Life will flash in front of you if you don’t seize the moment.

No Regrets, Just Pure Freedom

They say to never regret a thing because given what you knew and who you were at the time, you wouldn’t have done it any other way. If it felt right, if you followed your heart, then you’re doing just fine. If it didn’t feel quite right and you steered away, well done! Your future self will high five you. We dodged that bullet.

Life was never meant to be easy. Mountains will rise up in front of you, create obstacles you must overcome. You’re supposed to climb and fight. Anything worth fighting for is worth having, they say, including self respect and happiness. At times it will be foggy and dreary, the lack of visibility will have you wonder what the future holds. However, one thing is true, you are the one driving to your own destiny. You’ll be influenced by loved ones and others in your life, but ultimately the choice is yours. Every single choice…. Is yours… The awareness of such control is both terrifying and liberating.

In retrospect, I have no regrets. I’ve been loved and hurt, but the pain always made the love sweeter. I’ve grown to be grateful for every minute others give me. You never know when the doctors may announce he has cancer, or the police announce she died within seconds after the collision. People make me happy. Death makes me grateful for life.

I won’t forget looking into his eyes and just feeling a dark presence, like it wasn’t right at all. Call me Olivia Pope but my gut has yet to prove me wrong. My heart had been torn so many times I could no longer trust. But then I almost did, until the feeling crept up and a voice whispered “don’t do it.” So I listened. I followed my heart as it has never led me down the wrong path. Something’s you have to learn and they are painful too, but meant to happen nonetheless.

I’ll also never forget flying to Washington DC to see a man I have considered my best friend for over two years now. I literally escaped the darkness to walk into the brightest light and most positive energy. The way he held me was different, so passionate. It was peaceful and loving. Something I had been lacking when I was sinking into an emotionally abusive relationship. The way he kissed me after we made love reminded me that such sweetness existed in life. The giggling until my cheeks hurt and the intellectual conversations filled my heart with life. It wasn’t a relationship, but the interaction was full of love. We just cared for one another and we treated the other with respect and a desire to make each other smile.

You can do without some people in your life. It’s not hard to justify if they don’t treat you right. It’s simple. You’re worth more. But there are few souls that capture your heart and you cannot let go despite another man trying to steal you away, you are frequently reminded of who really has your heart in their back pocket.

Given one last chance to see him, I turned it down and let the one man, who broke my heart a million times, slip in between my fingers into the hands of another woman. My heart sighed of relief, high five to future me. She can take care of him and enjoy the emotional wars. I was not placed on earth to make a man happy. Partnerships should never be one sided.

I continued my stroll on this earth, the sun rose with peacefulness showing me all the light that I couldn’t see the night before. I heard birds trying out for the local choir and felt peace at least. I am as free as Lana Del Rey.

One day at a time

Something died the night of January 22nd and the early hours of January 23rd. The darkness engulfed earth leaving the moon as the only glimpse of hope. Silence pierced my ears as the night blinded my sight. They say peace comes after the war, once the dust is surfing craters and the broken pieces are dismantled. Such sense of sanity is never a given and never attained without effort.

The absence of noise only torments the soul, fills the mind with unanswered questions and thoughts that the heart does not want to hear. There comes a time in life when swimming against the current and struggling fiercely leaves you crippled. You can’t fit in a box. You can’t try to love and be there for someone when loving yourself is a constant battle. A moment of pause. Breathe slowly.

Secretly, your heart seeks comfort and words of wisdom all around you. “So why do you live at home? What happened six months ago?” The 50-something year-old man told me a snippet of his story “3 years in a drug-alcohol abusing center.” I was surprised. I began to see him with color. He wasn’t just a man I hardly knew anymore. Now he was a man with a story and with mental strength. “How did you do it?” I spoke with a broken heart, confused and lost in my own world, “one day at a time, that’s how I still do it,” he replied. Human beings are colorful. All with a story. All with a mountain in front of them. The elderly lady that I was checking out at the register spoke to her friends about her cancer. I’m sure for her it is all about one day at a time too… Live for just another tomorrow.

So… One day at a time, they say. One rising sun, one rising moon, one cycle of 24 hours. The shadow on earth rotates, light penetrates, then escapes to someone else’s world and darkness settles. Survive it all. The ups and the downs. Daytime and nighttime. Limit the struggle to today…

TCKs with a Desire to Escape

I seek an escape. My words ask to be heard by any ear that is present, hence driving my love of writing to the strangers who read. When you feel others have left you, it is only natural to feel you want to leave. Home remains just a dusty crater. I sat at the bar of Denver’s Airport and when he asked “where is home?” I could only reply “What is home? But a concept.” He paused, took a sip of his drink, and smiled.

Escape comes in many forms. The mind can travel miles, dream, and desire. The body can be transferred throughout geography in a car, train, plane. All it takes is typing in a few numbers from a card that leads to a decrease in your bank account or an increase in your credit card balance. It’ll get paid off in time at no penalty. Why worry? Book it! Fly! Drive! Leave! You know you will return with so much certainty it makes the escape a little less sweet.

Psychologists say Third Culture Kids (a TCK is a child that was raised in a culture that represents neither his mother nor his father’s culture) suffer from unresolved grief. In adulthood, this loss often reemerges and they struggle to find an appropriate coping mechanism. I’ve always wondered how being a TCK (a gift and a curse) and the absence of my father have made me who I am or who I am not. Dr. Perry says that “daddyless daughters… often make the huge mistake of allowing others to define them.” With pain, I can agree to this statement. In the absence of true stability (I question whether such even exists), it is expected for a young girl to struggle to find the answer to “who am I?” It is easier to become who others say you are. Perhaps living for the pleasure of making my mother, my only stable parent, proud was a form of an escape by avoiding the real question.

On the one hand, my sister changed her hair color a million times and refused to fit any label, in any box, a true chameleon. On the other hand, I reflected everything my mother wanted for me, down to the exact salary my mother wanted me to earn post-graduation. However, in the process, I lost part of me, though I don’t believe it was for the worst.

Psychologists say that parents will often tell their TCKs that they will be fine, will make new friends. It struck a powerful memory. Arrived home from a long day at school, my mother was in the kitchen and casually asked me “France or the States?” It wasn’t a joke. She really wanted me to decide. I chose the United States only because the high school system would be easy enough for me to not struggle. I began to tear up when she hugged me and said “You’ll be just fine.” Those words rang in my ears for so many months and still do today, six years later. But the truth is, I’m still not “just fine.” I can breathe just fine, I’m physically healthy and I can laugh for longer than most people I know, but in the depth of my soul, I am still very much not fine.

That same man who sipped on his drink disappeared from cell phone network about two days after we met. It is still a mystery to me where he might have gone. In the small amount of time we did converse, the interaction was strange in a comforting way. Have you ever spoken to someone and felt like they knew more about you than you ever told them? One quote stuck with me. He said “children who learn to speak different languages at a young age generally develop more over active multifaceted brains by default so in turn they’re more in-tuned and sensitive to their surroundings.” Then he continued “I sometimes sincerely wished I didn’t speak anything but English and was born and raised in Milwaukee and afraid of flying.” I smiled. I can’t say I hadn’t wished something similar before. Until such reincarnation, I will continue to escape, discover the wonders of the world until I fill the dusty crater of forgotten memories.

 

 

Dead Leaves

Everything that is created, dies. Autumn shows you that leaves cannot resist their season of death. Discolored, dry, you can hear them crisp when the steps of life stomp on them. Fallen leaves seeking refuge under the tree that gave them birth. Sometimes the end brings you back to where it all began, to who you were before life happened.

The one challenge we face is lack of understanding. Why do things work the way they do? Why does every living organism die? We seek answers to questions that keep us awake at night. The answers are never truly discovered. Either we find peace in knowing the answers do not exist, or we make ourselves believe any answer to get some sleep.

Peace, unfortunately, is not found easily. I struggle to understand sometimes how some people manage to always remain calm and at peace with the changes of their world. Like a jelly fish, they float above water despite any waves that crash into them. They find their way back to their home. That’s what I want. A Google maps itinerary to go home, wherever that may be. And perhaps I won’t return home until that very last day.

So you tell yourself you’re OK, because you can’t afford to fall apart. You’ll only end up on the sole of someone’s shoe during an early morning in fall. You just try to remember that every dead leaf, gives room for a fresh green leaf in Spring. Life. Death. A vicious cycle. A dangerous game to play.

Inspired by Becker’s Quote

He gave me a present in the shape of a square, not too heavy, and told me to wait for the next morning before I opened it. A thin piece of wrapping paper was keeping my eyes from the true sight of this gift. When the sun rose again, I woke in excitement for the new discovery. It was black and white, but with a soft cover. The book cover had a white comma with a black background and no words. I opened it to read the first word “quotable.” It was a simple coffee table idea, a book of quotes. “Read one page before you begin your day and record your reflections at the end of the day, repeat this exercise every day,” he had instructed. I was touched to realize that he was encouraging my love of writing as a means of growing personally through daily reflections. It was no secret that this man, once my perfect stranger, had become my best friend and lover.

And the reflective writing began…

“If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind.” – Irving Becker 1993

Who hasn’t been around that one person they cannot stand? You can hardly handle the way they behave, smile, or even breathe. This quote is a wake up call, a reminder that disliking someone changes your entire perspective of them in their every action. Notice how the quote says two separate things, but I focused on the first part? Why is that? Because the first sentence tends to be associated with a defensive reaction when directed to a particular person as advice.

Take for example the last person that you vented about. There must be one person that happens to irritate you so much you confide your frustration in someone else. Now imagine that person did not just listen to you, instead they replied “the way he holds his spoon will make you furious.” Your first reaction would be irritation at this person for trying to enlighten you rather than just listen to you. Perhaps you will deny the truth and follow with a conditional statement “If only he/she would do this or not do this, I wouldn’t have a problem with him/her.”

However, the quote, when first read, does not instigate a defensive reaction because it is not directed at any one particular person. Moreover, the balance of positive and negative perspectives gives the reader a deeper reflection on the words. By “negative” perspective, I mean the first part of the quote that our own negative feelings towards someone clouds our thinking into finding irritation in anything that they may do. By “positive” perspective, I mean the second part of the quote “if you do like him,  he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind” because this realization is ridiculous yet rings true to many of us. The opposite perspectives make this quote more believable and less likely to be brushed away by the reader.

That said, one cannot take the words literally as even my favorite person in this world can irritate me by turning his plate over into my lap. Becker writes figuratively, yet with great imagery. For those readers who take everything literally, did you picture you’re least favorite person holding a spoon?