Monday, December 12, 2016
Trust in Faith by Deb Lecos
Many people in homes of differing cultures are frightened, wondering if this year’s stories can finish with happy or at least hopeful endings. That’s because when life is a bag of coal soaked in ice water, in sub-zero temperatures, belief is hard to come by.
This is where faith comes in, along with a sprinkling of that fairy dust called trust.
I live in a mostly black and white world, a realist with a surprising twist. Under my “prove it” exterior, buried behind a load of cynicism, is a heart that has been on a life-long quest for miracles.
As a youngster hope wasn’t tossed in my breakfast cereal or found in a half-eaten box of Cracker Jacks while I indoctrinated into the American societal dictums. My upbringing lacked magic, aside from the rote expounded upon in Catholic Church on Sunday. In a pew, as a reflection of the stained glass windows twinkled back in my Patent leather shoes, I pondered hell and damnation. Heaven seemed out of reach for a girl prone to backtalk and rule testing.
By age thirty-two I was angry, heart-broken and certain there were no miracles with or without of church. In that, my sixth year of marriage, I had suffered my sixth miscarriage. Doom had settled in to take root. Then on December 12th, while in a cab touring Mexico City, I encountered other people’s faith.
The cab my husband and I are seated in slows as the street narrows with a steady stream of people walking, with some crawling on hands and knees, toward a set of ornate gates. I lean into the driver.
“Where is everyone going?”
Reverently, softly the man says, “To visit the Our Lady of Guadalupe, it is the day of the miracle.”
He proceeds to tell us about a meeting that occurred soon after the discovery of the New World.
Walking along a hillside an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego came across a young woman surrounded by a bright light, who said she was the holy mother. After a series of conversations, the woman asked Juan Diego to collect nearby Castilian roses and carry them in his cape to a local bishop as proof of her visit. After doing this, in front of the bishop, the roses spilled to the floor, leaving behind an impression of the woman on the fabric. The full story may be found here.
Centuries later that fabric is still displayed at the site where Juan Diego met the Saint de Guadalupe. The land inside the enclosure has had many structures built since 1532 in an arc on the hillside. After the driver finishes speaking, we ask him to let us off in front of the gates.
While we get our bearings, a crowd moves toward the most recently erected building for mass. Dozens of children, dressed in all white suits and gowns of organza and tulle congregate in the middle of the plaza. Many of them carry poles adorned with multi-colored flags.
Moving away from their celebration, we take a long curving set of flagstone carved into the side of the hill. It is necessary to sidestep parishioners deferentially crawling up the steps or those who are so infirm they are carried by others; some of the millions who come here seeking miracles.
When we reach the top, the air swiftly turns cooler under a dense canopy of vegetation. The plateau is small, with only a cart selling religious bric-a-brac and an old church snuggled into the stone crevice. My husband and I wander into the church’s dusky interior lit by candles behind red glass.
Slowly we shuffle deeper into the hushed chapel, with the only sound the soft echo our steps produce. Childhood teachings of Catholicism remind me what to do. I dip my fingers in holy water, crossing myself and kneeling between two strangers in front of a figure of the saint. Among the power of conviction owned by the parishioners, I throw a Hail Mary pass. Please help me find peace.
I am bemused, not knowing why I’d done what amounted to praying. My husband and I leave the church to stand on a landing jutting out over the common area. The children are now corralled in a jumbled line for Sunday Service. They look like snowflakes jostling in silence. The air is motionless. A strong breeze suddenly blows their brightly colored flags stiff.
The wind behaves erratically with swirling gusts, the little girl’s dresses puff up like fluttering wings and a flock of pigeons flies up toward the sky. My breath catches in my throat as I hear the faintest whisper.
A month later I became pregnant and two clusters of cells hung on through great difficulty. I nearly miscarried twice and both times it required great trust not to quit. One doctor said that the twins would have mental and physical deficits if I carried to term. She must have been short on faith. Today the babies are twenty-three years old and smarter and fitter than I will ever be. Yet I still need to remind myself that belief isn’t a ritual, a doctrine, a law, a rule, or even something that I can get verified on the internet.
As people all over our world struggle with the events of this moment in time, I ask that we begin to trust in our humanity. Because it is there where we will find our commonality and hope for the future. But hope is a wish unless it is combined with action that is infused with the intention of a humane existence for all life.
May we have faith in the grace of our humanity.
Blessings to you and yours through the remaining days of 2016 and as we head toward our continually unfolding story.
*Also posted on +Huffington Post
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Photo Composition By Sandy Giordano
Privilege exists even when we think it doesn't.
I've got a ton of hardship stories in my back pocket that I've pulled into conversations when faced with someone else's circumstances. In my grubby life collection, I know I've had it bad. But that doesn't give me license to measure mine against anyone else's. Even so, there are times I've done it anyway.
"They shouldn't...if it were me...why are they so....how can they feel that way...how dare someone say I'm privileged? I don't feel privileged!"
I'm Mexican-American but look like a tub of margarine.
I live in suburbia without encountering much violence.
I live in the United States.
I'm considered from the outside, a white woman, an American woman.
My religious beliefs are not targeted by other religions.
I survived abuse.
I didn't get lost in my wounding until I died.
My sexual connection via my love or my identity is not targeted.
I, nor my family members, are ignorantly accused of being a "societal problem".
I'm not forced to live under intransigent, institutionalized, and unacknowledged racism.
I don't have a life-altering disease, nor do my family members.
I have enough money to buy groceries.
My husband is a partner and considers me a partner, not a subject.
I don't live under a dictatorship.
The country I live in is not under siege.
I'm not homeless.
My kids didn't have to walk to school through dangerous neighborhoods.
I've got health insurance.
A bank authorized me to take out loans for my kids to go to college.
After suffering sexual harassment/assault at work I was able to start my own business.
I had to raise rates and managed to stay in business.
I choose not to focus on what I don't have, what I may never have.
Every morning I wake up and don't have to experience racism, misogyny, abuse, hatred, hunger, loss, illness, financial hardship, danger, or the threat of any of these things, even if I may have previously experienced one or more of these things; I'm privileged.
As I write these words that are considered "privileges" I become enraged...which is a frequent state these days. Why the fuck should it be a privilege to eat, remain unharmed, able to care for ourselves and those we love, feel healthy and have access to healthcare, live in safety and comfort, without the threat of bombs, subjugation, racism, hatred or fear?
Why the fuck?
These are not privileges, these are inalienable rights and that is the awful truth of our global moment. #ProtestUntilThereIsNoReasonToProtest
May we each try to see the world through the eyes of other people we know and have never met and may our compassion and understanding heal ourselves and our tribe. Peace.
Friday, June 17, 2016
One day a woman magically wakes up with twins. They come on the same day without instructions.
They turn a regular boring life into a cosmic maelstrom, changing everything.
She is no longer who she thought she was but something better....though she didn't know it at the time.
In fact she thought she was worse because everything she did seemed wrong and stupid.
Then the twins grew up. They went out in the world.
And she is this better thing but the twins are no longer there to remind her that life is....better.
So. She tries to remember...the giggles long past midnight, the pb and j cubes clenched in tiny fists, rubber toed sneakers smacking against the seat back, sweaty smelly feet pressing against her chest and big slobber lips against her face when they learned to kiss.
Everyone tells you to stay in there during the maelstrom, never drift or get lost, that you'll soon miss it all.
But no one says how.
I'll tell you. I can tell you now. Now that the maelstrom has past. I didn't know then, but I do know now.
Be who you are, not someone else's version of you or a better version of a mother or a father.
Be who you are and what they need from you.
Be in those sweaty, crazy moments as close to who you are--as you have ever have been.
Because one day they will fly and you will be me.
I bless you with the opportunity to fly as they fly...free of regret and filled with the awareness of everything.
Thursday, April 7, 2016
When a girl who grows weepy over a well twined metaphor goes wordless, it is well, unusual.
I completed a memoir about my childhood. It wasn't a fun, lighthearted romp through old snapshots, instead a gruesome reveal of pain, trauma and sexual abuse.
There are many who encourage leaving the past in the rear view mirror. I would agree, unless the images are still reflecting. The reason for writing about childhood is simple, tell the stories until they stop hurting and begin healing.
Yesterday was decreed as final additions, edits and read 'til it's done Wednesday. At 10pm, I walked away from the computer without a word. I had none, no words or descriptors for my feelings.
There were plenty of emotions, but no names or swirls of letters to dance them out to be read. They continue to be motionless, stilled in existence, until perhaps one day, they will fly.
Photo credit~ ME & Mad Isle
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Let's assume that life happens like a pinball machine. A whacked ball travels without instruction, willy-nilly hitting impediments, eventually ending in a hole to begin again. A tiny orb is hit into action (birth), smacks against obstructions (random life) and then disappears (death).
That makes perfect sense unless it's taken into account that I married the same guy I had several past lives with, a bird once pooped on my head when I was losing it over something stupid and the events of this past weekend.
In three days a post I wrote was instantly published on elephant journal, a previous ej essay was ranked top ten views for the week, I was accepted as a columnist for that same web magazine and a post I'd submitted a month ago was put in the subject line of the elephant journal Sunday email edition.
Perhaps other people have these types of things happen in clusters, I don't. And as far as writing is concerned, it has been more me pushing a herd of pachyderms up Mount Everest. The gory details are rather gory.
I've been denied publishing time and again in not very thoughtful or kind ways. The rejections have sounded more like someone's mother berating a mulish teen for her slovenly ways. I've been told rhetorical questions are a big no-no, but I'm having a particularly good weekend.
So what changed?
I went into history and started deep-cleaning my mental house. In previous posts I've explained the method for EMDR, Eye Motioning, Desensitization and Reprocessing. In shorthand, I had a PTSD episode, went to a therapist and started hunting monsters. Not figurative bogeymen, but real life f*ck wads that prey on children.
What I believe is that my pinball hit obstacle after obstacle until I let go of the benefits of surface clean.
Surface Clean: From the outside everything looks good, move on already the past is past, hardcore healing takes time and that hole beckons just around the corner.
I'm in the seventh month of a difficult-to-keep-staying-in-there process that is planting elephants in my life. They're really cute, have several fun opportunities and they've certainly changed my pinball game for the better.
Bring it on Universe--I'm no where near ready for the hole. Let's have some fun.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Sometimes a gift is unknown, a traveler from another time winding up on the right doorstep. These are treasures that pass from hand to hand until a precise moment connects an object, to the person that it will bring sublime joy.
A beautiful young woman, on the brink of motherhood, hears me exclaim over her childhood tea set.
"Oh! I had a set of these. Well they really weren't mine, an older cousin loaned them to me when she outgrew them. Then when her daughter was born she asked for them back."
Holding the tiny cup, l remember the day the china was returned. Playing tea using lukewarm Lipton is one of the only sweet memories I carry with me from growing up.
I do not share this at that time because in several hours a precious little girl will we born, a child who will be loved in ways that I was not. The young woman, in the midst of a brief respite in her eventual 33 hour labor, watches my old-little girl face light up, as I finger the delicate china.
A few weeks later, we see each other again, the bright fresh baby in a carrier alongside. In her hands my young friend has a gift. She smiles with a knowingly.
"I thought this would be exactly the right thing to say thank you."
Holding the fragile cup I welcome the sweet memory home.
Friday, February 12, 2016
I'm sure everyone has Stupid Sh*t Day. It doesn't seem to be a topic that anyone else brings up, but I know I can't be the only one who has woken up to dog puke, a gargantuan dust bunny that is blocking the sunlight, Christmas decorations that haven't been put away yet (oops that one is probably only me), and a basement storage room that has gotten so out of control that it threatens to kick them to the street.
Welcome to hiatus or better put, welcome to what happens when I don't look too closely because if I do I'll have to do something about it payback day. My husband is conveniently out of town on the exact Thursday that I am forced to see the dust bunny.
The Godzilla of dust bunnies. One that's reproducing full born off spring. In multiples. Every second of every minute. My house is overpopulated by hopping, floating, disgusting dust blobs that are made up of...dog hair. Dog hair, dog snot, dog puke, dog piss, dog poop and dog skin. Yeah, I have those kind of dogs.
Pi our rat terrier, is having a complete allergy tantrum. It has been going on for seven months. If he's not scratching, he's licking or biting or chewing himself to death, leaving body parts all over the place. Fur balls for dinner, as a garnish or as a decorative element on my clothing. I believe more of him is in me than me. If we did a DNA test of my cells, I'd be part Pi. The biggest part.
So my wake up call was in the form of puke from Pi's partner, Maggie. She very delicately and precisely with one long gack maneuver, purged the entirety of her stomach contents next to my bed at 2 AM. As I stumbled for paper towels, my feet slid on Godzilla. Afterward when I got myself settled back under the covers, it was necessary to ply dog hair from my nose and between my lips. Rolling over to commiserate with my husband, I remember that he is in California. Probably in mid sip of a frosty margarita, gazing at the roaring ocean under sparkling night stars.
Gotta love my man's timing. Today is Stupid Sh*t Day and he's out of town.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
I'm necessarily reminded again and again that not everyone thinks like I do. In terms of a hiatus this is readily apparent. My husband has "had to" hiatus, meaning he lost his job several times during his twenties and thirties. He's the kind of guy who doesn't like having someone tell him what to do, so it took him a few tries to find exactly the right position. Like having a job with a boss who let's him figure his own shit out. Thankfully, he's happily employed while I'm on a break to write a book.
Which brings me to my point about people doing things differently. When my husband was between jobs, twice for six months, he did things like clean the garbage cans, vacuum the inside of the cars, separate the nuts from the bolts, make intricate dinners and plan meals for the entire week.
That kind of itinerary would have me back to work lickity-split. Cleaning the garbage cans sounds positively medieval and separating the nuts from the bolts would literally break the hemispheres of my brain in two. Cooking or planning to cook goes without saying, but if you need a metaphor, plucking my eyeballs out with a toothpick comes to mind.
This hiatus, my first ever, is being spent writing a book. Not a fun book about faeries and magic, but a difficult, introspective one about childhood abuse. As the pages flow I'm looking out the window onto our wooded property. For two days straight two enormous red tailed hawks have been stalking a wee squirrel (well not so "wee", he's been dining quite well on the birdseed I put out for the birds). Yesterday the chub master was pinned to the side of tree, while the birds of prey moved in for the kill.
I watched the story play out, similarly to the one I'm writing about two much more powerful individuals, holding the life of a smaller person in their grasp. Knowing that my interference would only set the birds onto another target or delay the inevitable, didn't matter. I went outside in my slippers to interfere. The hawks left immediately, while chubs waited until the coast was clear.
After being the hero in someone else's story, I made chocolate chip cookies. Which I hope I don't have to explain is way different than making dinner. They turned out perfectly perfect. I ate three in a row with a glass of milk. It was a "hell yeah" reward for giving chubs another go at the bird feeder.
At the end of this day of hiatus I have 12 pages written, temporarily saved the life of a squirrel, pissed off a pair of hawks, ordered take-out sushi and did not touch the inside of a single garbage can. I'm thinking that all is pretty damn well in my neighborhood.
Monday, February 8, 2016
A hiatus is for facing what is easily unfaceable when otherwise engaged with matters of earning an income. How to make $$$, how much $$$ to make, do I have enough $$$, is there ever enough $$$ (?), what happens to the $$$ between Monday and Sunday (?), those $$$ sure take up a lot of time!
On hiatus, with no $$$ to think about (because then I would think about the $$$ I'm not making), I am able to be with what is real. Not that incomes are wholly unimportant. They just don't matter in the big picture.
THE BIG PICTURE.
Who I am, who you are, what is happening in the world and whether or not I can do anything about anything. That's the big picture. It's what impacts a singular viewpoint. So the big picture matters. A lot.
When I'm consumed with daily matters of hoo-ha I tend to get myopic and overindulged in cupcakes. Not literal cupcakes, but the kind of cupcakes that make me feel nestled in my toddler bed with a blanky. Like puppy videos, a couple of extra glasses of wine and mindless ditty's designed to make me believe all is well everywhere.
All is not well everywhere. It never is. That doesn't mean it's a good thing for me to avoid looking, hum loudly and plug my ears to escape the knowledge or lie to myself by saying "well at least all is well in my neighborhood" or "not knowing is better than knowing". Not knowing is not better than knowing.
There have been thousands, perhaps millions of times I've looked away on purpose. Like when I covered my eyes from seeing violence, maimed bodies and starving animals or when I forgot most of the horrible parts of my childhood.
Not looking doesn't mean nothing happened. Not looking means forgetting. Not looking means not doing. Not looking means staying as is. Not looking means stagnation. Not looking means being afraid. Not looking means avoiding the knowing. Not looking means hiding. Not looking means never healing. Not looking means not witnessing. Not looking means not looking.
Forgetting the horrible parts of my childhood made my adult life, lifeless. All the breath of my existence was utilized in forgetting, nothing was left for living. I didn't realize this until I was forced to look backward.
I held my gaze in place, even during the horrendous re-remembering, because not to do so would be continuing to give the abusers my power. Abusers live large in the dark. They welcome darkness and the ability to hide who they are from the light and from themselves.
It was one thing to have an abuser take my power. At such a young age I didn't realize it was happening. But as an adult, minus a toddler bed, I'm fully aware that by not looking I'm giving away what is mine.
Awareness is f*cked up and amazing.