Bathtubs are a rarity in Oaxaca. I can count on one hand the number of tubs I’ve seen here in the past decade. Yet some years ago I decided I wanted to be able to immerse myself in water (at least partially) and partake in this healing and relaxing ritual from time to time. I went to the fancy, evil grocery store and bought one of those large, opaque Tupperware tubs. I remember pulling it into the aisle and sitting down inside of it to make sure that I would fit.Continue reading The Tupperware® Tub
I remember the very moment I read Dr. Kay’s message. It was one of those rare nights when my husband went to bed before me. Though I would say that there was nothing “normal” about that time after Rafa’s birth. After the ceremony and the departure of my family. After that cleansing time at the ocean. Everything was rare. I was walking up the stairs, headed toward bed and reading messages on my phone. I was almost to the second floor when I came to Dr. Kay’s message. Carlos Alvarez (a.k.a. Dr. Kay) is our dear friend who was living across the ocean in South Africa when all of this took place. Over five weeks had passed since Rafa’s death and the texts, voice messages and emails were no longer as overwhelming as they had been at first. Roughly translated, the message read:
I used to love that old R.E.M. tune “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” You know the one:
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine
Some weeks ago, I started singing those lines in my head. Apart from the chorus, the rest of the song is a rapid rattling off of what seems – at times – to be nonsense and at other moments, profound political commentary. That’s what life has felt like these past three months: crazy, intense things happening too quickly to even fathom ‘keeping up’ with them. Flying around the world from one continent to the next with fleeting days at home between trips.
There have been many things to write about and I have composed the first lines of more than one post in my mind. But, the beginning of the year seems to be the time that “In the Name of Rafa” hibernates. And that’s okay (at least that’s what I keep trying to make myself believe).
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.
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?
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.
Not quite sure why I’m here today. Over the past months, I’ve come to the blank page with a question, theme, feeling or relationship in mind. But today I am in a place of not knowing what will come out here. You see… there’s actually so much. I’ve been chewing on a number of things these past months. It has been a time of rich learning, growth, reflection, connection, meaning-making and meaning-breaking. A time of much movement all over this hemisphere.
I heard that some of my friends have been struggling with the last piece I posted here. That makes sense. People were not really sure “what to do” with what I shared. I know that my families of origin and choice want to offer me their consolation and support. And I said I didn’t want to talk about it. That I didn’t want to be hugged. And I didn’t. I was fucking pissed when I wrote all that. I’m still angry. AND, that was a moment. It has come and it has passed. I am somewhere different now. Where that is, I’m not really sure. But I’m ready to talk about it… a little.
I have a somewhat strange practice that I do at the beginning of each year. A while back, a friend of mine told me about las Cabañuelas: in some Oaxacan communities people believe that one can learn something about the upcoming year by paying a bit more attention to what happens in the first twelve days of January. Each day corresponds to an upcoming month. I like the idea of seeding intentions or understanding better what one could expect of the year, simply by being more aware during its first days. And so, since 2015 I have been writing monthly intentions for the year between the first and twelfth of January.
But since Rafa’s death, time is different – I no longer live it as a mere instrument to mark the passing of specific events. Though I’d like to still believe that time is divisible, limited, linear… I no longer believe it’s that simple. I now experience linear time as a trick. When I turned to the month of December in my calendar this year, I read the intention there, shook my head and laughed cynically. It said: “Enjoy the moments of feeling good and wellbeing. It is a time to celebrate a wonderful, magical year.”
Below that, in pencil, I wrote myself a note in response: “Fuck you, former self.”