Hope has always been a ubiquitous and elusive character on the inner stage of my life. I admit that mostly, I’ve been quite skeptical of her. Over these past fifteen years, I’ve adopted a vaguely Buddhist view that hope is a form attachment to a certain preferred future; fear’s undeniable and constant companion. It is said that we fear that which we believe will cause us pain, and hope for that which we believe will bring us pleasure. Yet my recent life experience shows it’s not quite that straightforward. This skepticism has been punctuated by momentary glimpses of other ways of relating to or defining hope: the way it has kept so many peoples alive through devastating circumstances of inter-generational trauma and systemic oppression; the occasional definition of hope which unhooks it from the attachment to a particular outcome;* during the time in the months after Rafael died and I had to figure out new ways forward; when we conceived Ramona and I felt hope dart in, briefly.
When I was young(er) and I lost something, the instant I realized said thing was no longer in my possession I immediately spiraled into an obsessive panic. I felt the urge to FIND the thing and to find it NOW. If, after wildly riffling through all my belongings and scouring my immediate surroundings I did not find the thing, I widened the range of my search. I probed every possible nook and cranny and even occasionally interrogated innocent bystanders to see if they had seen or taken the thing. If still I had no luck and saw that I would be forced to accept the fact that my precious thing was indefinitely gone, I would move into Phase II of the Lost Things Mania: REPLACE THE THING. I would look for the quickest and cheapest way – quick being more important than cheap – to get a new pen or pair of sunglasses or piece of jewelry. You see, what I really wished was to erase from memory the very idea that that thing had ever gotten lost in the first place.
Well, this little blog project, ‘In the Name of Rafa,’ just turned one. It’s hard to believe. Throughout these twelve months, I have done my very best to share thoughts, experiences and feelings boldly and humbly from the heart. Many things have happened: deaths and births, travels, workshops… and all kinds of feelings from love to exhaustion, from rage to elation, with the constant presence of deep sadness and deep gratitude; life’s two palms gently against one another in reverence.
I’m just back from South America, where I co-hosted my first grief workshop for parents whose children have died. Because I promoted the workshop amongst all of my networks in the region, especially to mothers who I knew had had miscarriages or stillbirths, many people asked me how it went. Honestly, it was magical. Not so much the workshop itself, but the process of planning this experience and particularly the days leading up to it that I spent with my doula, Julieta.
Well, life is still just a fucking roller coaster, ain’t it? In any given moment I might be feeling prfound gratitude for the innumerable gifts that Rafa gave us all with his fleeting existence, and the next I’m crying in an airport, surrounded by toddlers. One afternoon I may be indignant and angry about all I’ve ‘been through’ this past year and the next I find myself in a lethargic, depressive state, asking: why I am still here? Through it all, one constant that I keep discovering is the tendency to compare and measure. I’m quite curious about the persistent and perseverant nature of comparisons: why do they appear as part of my daily thinking?
Recordar es bastante constante en estos tiempos. Pensar: “a esta hora el año pasado, estaba… estábamos…”. El último día de trabajo. Las fotos de la panza. Pintar el cuarto del bebé. El baby shower. Llegó la dula. Cita con las parteras en la casa. La última clase del curso de amamantamiento. Los suegros de visita. El pozo de recuerdos, remordimientos y nostalgia me dificulta estar presente en 2019. Siempre he sido así con los detalles que pasaron en cierto día, en cierto año… incluso a una hora en particular. Se siente como una bendición y una maldición al mismo tiempo –este año más que nunca.
It’s pretty constant now. The remembering. My thinking: “At this time last year, I was… we were…” Last day of work. Belly photos. Nursery painting. Baby shower. Doula arrives. Midwives’ appointment at the house. Last breastfeeding class. In-laws come for a visit. The pull of memories, regrets and nostalgia make it challenging for me to stay present in 2019. I’ve always been like this about the details of what happened on a certain day, in a certain year… even at a particular hour. It feels like a blessing and a curse – this year more than ever.