time has been unforgiving recently. there is always something to be done. i gifted myself a week filled with nothing. and it’s so wonderful to witness how nothing can transform into unexpected, spectacular somethings. a special kind of alchemy.
claiming and reclaiming time is an act of liberation. when we free our time, labor falls away for something far more tender… connection.
when we free our time, there’s room for misunderstandings, and reconciliations, and purging, and clearing space for possibility. there’s room for romance, and listening, and board games with grandma, and laughter, and family. there’s space for imagination.
how arrogant to think we have mastered time. haven’t we learned that space and time are inextricably linked? somewhere between particle and wave — quantifiable at times, but generally misunderstood.
a wonderment…what kind of mysteries does time reveal when we free it of management? when time is for more than optimization or productivity? what happens when we surrender to time? allow for it to move through us, and emanate from us, and guide us to a different kind of knowing?
i’ve spent the majority of today contemplating what it means to be a member of a larger global community. i’m mourning today. i’m mourning the continued desecration of Black lives. i’m mourning the recent deaths and continued racism against Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian siblings. i’m still so heartbroken over the fact that i felt a collective exhale (even relief) on tuesday at 5:15PM, only to be thrust back into the realities of misogynoir and police violence that plague us. the deaths of Duante Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant are all weighing heavy on me. this week has been heavy. and to think or speak or write about earth day feels superfluous. but the earth is calling out. she has so much to teach us.
i’m fortunate to have always shared my home with a variety of different species — dogs, bunnies, hamsters, fish, turtles, all varieties of plants and insects.
for most of my young life, i remember feeling very distant from nature. when we were little girls, my cousin and i would run away screaming whenever we happened upon a roach or mouse in our homes. we took pride in being “city girls,” turning our noses up at nature outings and country living. we never knew the pleasure of sticking our hands in soil, or witnessing the majesty of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. i was content to physically distance myself from grass and trees, and found comfort in the concrete. the gray. the lifeless.
the nature that intrigued me then was the tropical. i thrived in sunshine, under palm trees, near vast beaches and rolling clouds. i always felt so invigorated when we visited my family’s motherland – Colombia. it was in Cartagena, Pereira, and Cali that i first knew the freedom and wonder of connecting with nature. one of my first memories of Colombia is from when i was about 6 years old. i was sitting in my mother’s lap as she caught up with one of her neighbors. and i was looking up at the stars for the first time in my life. i had never seen more than a handful at once, and all of a sudden there was an entire night sky bursting with starlight.
i turned to my mother and asked her if seeing all of these stars meant that we were in paradise.
this was the first time that nature filled and inspired. she hasn’t stopped since. my untrained eye began to appreciate the wonders of sunrises, of freshly planted tulips along Park Avenue in the spring.
at some point, i started more intentionally practicing love. and when i experience love, i can feel myself expanding. expanding beyond the walls of my home. when i’m in love, i want to walk endlessly. and those walks always lead me back to nature. and nature always leads me back to love.
over the years, this has looked like strolls through parks, hikes through woods and forests, walks along beaches. and i’ve found that the more connected i am with nature, the more connected i am with the people around me, and with myself.
this has been a serious challenge during the pandemic, one that we’ve been mitigating by bringing more life into our home. i’m grateful that throughout the course of my childhood, i was able to witness my grandmother caring for plants. i never truly understood their purpose beyond aesthetics until last year.
we slowly started bringing our own plants into our home, and i tried to mimic my Chaya’s lessons. many mistakes were made at first. it’s not easy to care for plants in a NYC basement apartment. i’m sad to report that some of these mistakes were irreparable. but i continued learning, and refused to give up on the little ecosystem that we were building.
cautiously, my family and i have ventured into the wild together to witness growth and blooming beyond our home. we’ve mainly restricted ourselves to NY. and then back in april, i had a whole week off from work. and i knew that if i stayed home, i would end up isolating. binge-watching reruns. and i needed to break out of that routine.
don’t get me wrong — as someone who’s neurodivergent and lives with ADHD, i LOVE my routines. but in order to live my most expansive, most brilliant life, i need to give myself room to break out of the monotony.
my beloved and i considered a lot of different places, but ultimately we decided on California for two major reasons: 1) i’ve never been to west coast/seen the pacific and 2) when E shared with me that Cali is home to the tallest and oldest trees in the world, i knew i had to visit them. and so we packed our bags and made our way to San Francisco.
it was strange to be traveling during the pandemic. and i’m still processing a lot of what we witnessed on the west coast. it was a bittersweet experience; easily one of the most important trips i’ve made in my lifetime. i’ll be touching on a lot of what i learned in future posts, but for today, i’ll be focusing on my new friends: the redwoods.
in every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
i didn’t know exactly what to expect when we drove the 90 minutes out to Muir Woods. i’ve hiked along the hudson, up by buttermilk Falls, in el yunque, in my local park. those experiences have all been satisfying in their own way. but Muir Woods is like nothing else i’ve ever experienced.
because of the pandemic, we had to book an appointment beforehand to visit the park. we were warned that slots filled up quickly, and they did, but we were able to secure a late evening appointment.as we drove along the winding hillside path to the national park, i’d ask E incessantly if every tree we passed was a famous redwood. you’ll know them when you see them. i couldn’t quite understand how tall the tallest trees in the world really could be. we finally parked the car, walked the mile to the entrance. the park wasn’t too overcrowded and we rarely ran into people along the path, which i am grateful for. because the experience was overwhelming at times. to be surrounded by so much life, by so much time and energy.
this was one of the first trees that we came across. it was love at first sight. i’m grateful that i was able to share these moments with E. as always, he was able to ground the experience in history and wisdom. this wasn’t just a walk in the park. this was transformative.
one of the first things that E said to me was: this is the closest thing we’ll know to gods. each one of these trees is over 2,000 years old. look at how much they’ve grown. think of everything they’ve witnessed.
2,000 years. 2,000 years of growing. of stretching. of nurturing. 2,000 years of witnessing. of resilience. what could these trees tell us that we don’t know? what wisdoms are they harboring deep within? can you imagine this guy as a sapling? as a seed? nature is slow, and it gets everything done.
the park is incredibly well preserved, but throughout we also witnessed trees and plantlife that had fallen over. we were told by a park employee that the trees survive all kinds of natural disasters & manmade disasters — earthquakes, fires. and life carries on. they keep climbing towards the sky.
so much of our beauty and growth and power is hidden. in the era of social media, so many of us have learned to only value surface-level beauty. it’s rare that we take the time to consider, acknowledge, appreciate everything that happens below the surface.
it’s strange to think about all of the details, the nuances and complexities, the histories that we’re missing because our days are so full. so rushed.
we’ve learned to only see with our eyes. what happens when we slow down and perceive and understand beyond what’s directly in front of us?
the redwoods shared so many lessons with me. they gently reminded me:
if you want to go fast, go alone. if you want to go far, go together.
there is no such thing as coincidences or imperfections when life is present.
when you are hurt, heal.
no matter the circumstances, nature always moves towards growth & healing. in the midst of so much trauma and harm, i believe it’s urgent that we take our cues from earth’s proclivities towards evolution.
do you remember all of the a-ha moments you’ve had this past year? remember how we all talked about our “new normals,” and we wondered how and if we would ever go back to our routines pre-pandemic? so much of what we called “normal” has been turned inside out, and we’ve peeled back the layers to so much harm.
we were brought together to feel the same global pains, to witness the fracas of the systems around us. illusions of health and peace and justice and prosperity dissolved before our eyes.
and what did we learn?
i can’t remember the bread recipes. or what times the train runs near my house. i don’t remember the scientific names of my plants. most days, i don’t even remember what day it is.
but i remember wondering about tomorrow. i remember my mother wiping down doorknobs and handles, and wondering: is this enough?
the wonder is what amazes me. when everything feels uncertain. unprecedented. wonder seems like a luxury. but it’s an active stretch across time. wonder is what comes before the imagination ignites.
when my father was dying, i wondered about his sisters. his mother. his grandmother. how did they survive? i wondered about the wisdom we lost, or what’s been buried in ritual or code or pride.
i remember asking my mother: what happens when a family unites? do we wait until death brings us together? or is there something else we might try?
we gathered the memories we thought we’d forgot. we alchemized our fears into hope. transformed our prayers into action. turned our doubts into trust.
my father’s first steps were miracles. i’m not sure what combination of luck, eucalyptus, ginger teas, prayer, bone broths, family, and friends did it…but my father is still with us in this iteration of life. he’s working and healthy and looking forward to his next chapter.
what did we learn in this year? there’s a lot i could write. but for me, the unlearning is guiding me.
how many times have you heard: “we are in unprecedented times”? is it a phrase that you’ve allowed to roll off your tongue? i know i have. and at some point, i started to wonder….what even is time?
we’re all out here waiting. and i’m not sure for what. we’re waiting to graduate. or to feel better. or to have children. or to break up. we’re waiting for the next time we can travel. we’re waiting for the value of stocks to rise. or to drop. we’re waiting to lose weight. we’re waiting for love. my dad’s currently waiting to retire. he’s counting down days.
what even is waiting when we don’t understand time? we’ve found a way to quantify and commodify the entirety of our lives. every minute is scheduled and we let the seconds slip by. because we’re waiting. for the weekend. for a phone call. or the next meeting. or for that package to arrive.
i was raised Catholic. i’m not a practicing Catholic. i haven’t been to church in ages, and can’t quote bible verses. but i do believe in something. i’m just not 100% sure what. i do think there is some truth to all religions. but these truths have been buried in doctrine and i think its up to us to sift through the muck.
according to my memories of Sunday catechism — the creation story is based in this idea that God created man in his image. i’m still sorting through what that means exactly. but the word that sticks out to me in this particular moment of time is created. if we were created in the image of something — God, or the universe, the stars — then weren’t we created to create? isn’t this a law of physics: a being creating stays creating?
so what does this tangent have to do with time? i’m still sorting it out. but what i know is that time is not what we imagine it to be. what if time in fact behaves like light, existing in duality as both particle and wave? what if time doesn’t exist outside of us? what if it passes through us like a wave and we are simultaneously a particle of time?
you are an embodiment of time.
can you imagine being that expansive?
you are the past, the present, and the future. the alpha and omega, and everything in between.
you exist in this duality: you are a creator and an embodiment of time.
when you see yourself for what you really are….does it make sense to wait?
it’s finally warming up outside, and i feel like i’ve been calling spring into my life since the pandemic first started a year ago. i’ve been waiting and aching to soak in sunshine and florals and rooftop mimosas. but, as we know, New York came to a full stop last year. i visited the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens once in may or june with my mom, and the experience was eerie. and not spring-like at all. for the first time i can remember, the gardens were almost completely empty, desolate. we were told that, like the rest of the city, the gardens had to close because of the pandemic, and so a lot of the seasonal planting and cultivating that normally takes place didn’t happen. it was surreal.
and what exactly happens when the seasons don’t arrive the way we expect? as my mother and i made our way through the dormant gardens, i thought to myself: does spring still come even when there are no flowers to bloom? what is spring without flowers? and that’s exactly what 2020 often felt like for me; a lot of: “can this be without _____?” without. without. without. can NY be NY without Broadway? without restaurants? without brunches? and tourists? who am i without…a job? school? a romantic partner? a specific friend?
at some point, my piscean tendencies led me to this conclusion: in order to confront the without, i’d have to look within. but that’s so esoteric, it’s painful. i found my attention wandering constantly, and because i was home, i found my sight settling on all of the things around me.
is there a better way to bring spring energy into your life than some spring cleaning? personally, i prefer sundresses and mimosas, but i’m always down to try new strategies. like so many others, i was and am OBSESSED with Marie Kondo. i’ve read her books, binge-watched her show. but no matter how hard i tried, i just couldn’t bring myself to implement her methods. i won’t tell you how many times i’ve piled all of my clothes on my bed, asking myself over and over again “does this spark joy for me?” the process is difficult. and exhausting. and honestly, some days tidying up just felt like an insurmountable task.
most days, i felt like i was Sisyphus and all my clutter was my rock. no matter how much time and energy i dedicated to “the life-changing magic of tidying up,” the clutter always seemed to re-appear, bigger and more suffocating than before.
i couldn’t quite put my finger on why i was having such a hard time. and then early this year, while i was visiting with my mom, i noticed a book on one of her shelves– The Abundance Project. i’d never noticed the book before, and my mom has no idea where it came from. i don’t know why this impulse rose up in me, but i decided that i needed to read that book.
you see, here’s another thing i’d been struggling with: i barely read in 2020. anyone who knows me knows that reading is a must in my life. books follow me everywhere. there was a time when i chose to read over sleeping…and i LOVE sleeping. but mix a pandemic with job hunts and ADHD and anxiety…and well. my books started collecting dust. fortunately, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche had recently blessed us all with this gem: “if you want to read, then read!”
and so The Abundance Project made its way to the top of my to-read list. i’m not familiar with Derek Rydall’s other works, but this particular book felt enjoyable, i won’t do a full book review here (maybe another time), and i’ll also admit that i did have some qualms with some of his ideas, but i will share a few bits of wisdom that especially resonated:
much of [the clutter we keep] is unresolved emotional material; a futile holding on to your lost youth and better days; an act of self-preservation for some future lack when you’ll need those twenty boxes of sterile wipes you bought at the Dollar Store! it’s also a form of control, a way to feel like you exist–a means of giving weight, literally, to your existence.
Rydall (2018), The Abundance Project, p. 93
Derek Rydall read me for filth. but he doesn’t stop there. he goes on to talk about the process of clearing away the clutter. he talks about acknowledging that our things carry energy too. and when they just sit there, existing as monuments to our pasts or the dreams we’ve abandoned, they prevent our energy from flowing.
when we clear the clutter, we’re breathing new life into our spaces. but here’s the trick: because we live in a capitalist, consumer society, our instinct is to fill our spaces back up again. because we’ve learned to identify ourselves with the things we own. think about it…everyone is selling something these days. it’s easier than ever to get everything delivered directly to you. and we’re all buying. whether it’s cars, clothes, subscriptions, plants, books, degrees, stocks, environmentally-conscious straws, masks, games, furniture …(i could literally go on for days)…we’re all buying. so Derek invites us to resist that urge. to instead learn to sit in and with the emptiness. why? because an empty space is very much a blank canvas…a place where possibilities become endless: “There’s a reason the Bible describes the promised land as a desert, because it’s not filled up with a bunch of old stuff. It’s pure potential, where anything is possible” (98).
on their own, these passages ignited something inside of me that i haven’t experienced before…something akin to desire. i deeply wanted to experience emptiness, expansiveness, possibilities. and so i emptied. i started with my closet, and soon found myself reimagining all of the spaces i exist in. (even the virtual ones.) and let me tell you, embracing empty spaces has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. because suddenly, i’m engaging with these spaces. my imagination comes to life. i’m able to open myself, to expand into these spaces. i am vast.
i can feel potential and possibility swelling all around me.
and now, dear reader, i’d like to ask: do empty spaces scare you?
an open letter to the woman who decided to body shame me at the gym during my workout –
before you felt the need to attack my body and my psyche with your words, i overheard you say that the gym is what you live for. and i’m glad. your sweat is your gold.
i understand that to someone like you, my body is offensive.
it’s the site of joys and loves most people won’t ever know.
my waist is more than enough for little arms to wrap around. children cling to it and find comfort. when they bury tear streaked faces in the softest part of my abdomen, they’re reminded — no matter what the world’s told you, right now, with me, you’re safe. this is home.
when my friends hug me, they press close to my chest. because when something’s this warm. this expansive. it’s like being held by the skies.
my love trades their ties for my thighs because what they sow here triples in growth.
i’ve judged my body more harshly than you or anyone else ever could, done more damage than your words would ever do.
and it still carries me to all of the places i need to go.
i want you to know — purpose has always lined my bones. my body’s a reflection. my skin shifts. trembles. because i am thunder. and downpours. i am seismic. eruptions. my body spills in the most offensive ways because my cup runneth over. there are blessings in each of these folds.
i know my body is offensive. controversial. majestic. alluring. ineffable. masterpieces are.
when the news broke on Friday afternoon around junot’s alleged sexual misconduct, my immediate response, like many people’s, was anger. i was about 12 when i first encountered junot’s drown, and although i couldn’t wrap my mind around all of the literary themes, the character development, the narrative arc…i fell in love with the world that junot created. because for the second time in my life, i found characters who felt like family, and i felt that finally, our stories were being told (the first time was with sandra cisneros’ the house on mango street…because yes, Latina writers have been here the whole damned time).
as i read through zinzi clemmons, carmen maria machado, monica byrnes, and alisa valdes’ accounts of their interactions with junot, i could feel the anger and betrayal towards him giving way to a more surprising emotion — shame. because as they recounted their stories, i found myself poking holes, and defending a man who undoubtedly has caused far too many women a great deal of discomfort, pain, and suffering.
but the most difficult realization i’ve had over these past few days is that my brand of feminism does not end with a desire to empathize with or condemn junot.
the reality is this: i’ve sat in classrooms with men like junot. i’ve been in spaces where i’ve called men like him my brothers. i’ve witnessed other women (my sisters) protect and lift up these men. i’ve watched men build their legacies on these women’s backs. and most shameful of all: i love men like junot.
junot is my hermano. my tío. my primo. i’ve pulled all-nighters with junots. i’ve held junots’ hands during funerals. i’ve sat with junots in doctor’s offices and hospitals. and yep – i’ve even helped men like junot with their laundry when their depression was so severe that they barely had the energy to eat. i understand that as an individual, and as a woman, i am complicit in the perpetuation of misogyny. junot has been my mirror this week. and i’ve seen the ways that i’ve hurt women, simply by accepting misogyny as a fact of life.
i’m the worst feminist of all. because i love deeply. i love women like zinzi for their courage. for their truth. and i love men like junot for their vulnerability. and their deep (and reparable) flaws.
a number of his fresh critics have come out to denounce his writing as blatantly misogynistic. and i am certain they are right. but this is the same misogyny that i grew up with, the same misogyny that i still grapple with as a thirty year old. should these stories not be told? are they somehow less worthy of being told because junot’s truth is inconvenient? and yes… painful.
when i speak with my creative friends around their processes, one thing is always clear to me: we all pour our hearts and souls into our work. many of us are using our crafts to make sense of the world around us. some of us are exploring the possibilities of transforming the world we live in; others are imagining entirely new spaces altogether. the most influential writers allow us to walk around in their skin… to feel the pain they’ve felt. and the pain they’ve caused. isn’t that exactly what junot accomplished?
is it possible, as a woman of color, a latina, a feminist, for me to empathize with the survivors of junot’s abuse and junot? and what does that say about me? recently, i came across a beautiful article by aya de leon (recommended reading: reconciling rage and compassion: the unfolding #metoo moment for junot díaz), and i am so grateful that i did. we can all choose to dismiss junot, crucify him, berate him, as he’s done to so many others. is that justice? will that undo the harm he’s caused? is it so far-fetched to believe that when he said that he takes full responsibility, that he is listening and learning — that maybe he means it? can we hold junot accountable AND give him a chance at redemption? is it possible that junot might be a part of our solution? could healing and growth for our communities include junot, zinzi, carmen, monica, and alisa? or will we be satisfied with writing another man off as a disappointment? in condemning men like junot — our brothers, uncles, cousins, professors, doctors, lawyers… are we condemning ourselves?
i would like to imagine a future where my daughters feel empowered. safe. protected. is it terrible that i’d like the same for my sons?
It doesn’t matter that my father is Afro-Latino. Or that I grew up in East New York. Or, as one of my friends recently pointed out, that I have “ethnic features.” It doesn’t matter that that I firmly stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. Or that my closest friends are Black.
The reality is: I’m a light-skinned Latina and I have benefitted from racist structures.
This does not make me less of a Latina, less of a minority. Nor does it make me a bad person.
Owning the identity of Latina and furthermore, of feminist, writer, and ally does mean that I have a responsibility to be aware of my own privileges. It is only through this self-awareness that we can begin to uplift and empower all Latinxs, people of color, and marginalized individuals.
My mother is a white Latina – pale skin, green eyes. Growing up she had blonde hair, though now she chooses to wear it jet black. She met my father in East New York, Brooklyn in the mid 80’s when she was 20, and it must’ve felt something like love. To say that I never thought about race growing up would be a flat out lie. Race politics existed early on in the comfort of my home.
I spent the majority of my youth and adolescence around my mother’s family. Mostly white Latinxs, and generally very willing to assimilate. And I remember as a child when my mom would say to me coyly, “we’re visiting your father’s family today,” when in fact we were heading to the zoo.
I would laugh. Because I was 6 or 7 or 8. And because I thought that this kind of joking was OK. I didn’t understand how insidious the words were because in my 6 or 7 or 8 year-old mind, I knew that my mother loved my father. He was our hero, the family bread-winner. We built our lives on his back. What hurts me most now as an adult is that I have no recollection of my father’s reactions to these comments.
Throughout my adolescence, these kind of underhanded remarks continued. My mother would say things to relatives or friends about “mejorando la raza;” about her “contributions” to bettering the “Colombian race.” With time, I’ve learned to call her out on these jokes – or rather, her poorly veiled racism. To be clear, I don’t blame my mother. This is how she was raised. This was socially acceptable — a vicious cycle I’m here to break.
The ways in which the Latinx community turns its back on Afro-Latinxs don’t stop with white Latinxs. In fact, I was recently having a conversation with my father around his blackness. He started the dialogue by saying:
“Soy negro…pero no tan negro.”
I’m black…but not that black. His immediate reaction was to distance himself from blackness: a learned self-hatred that — for lack of better words — broke my heart.
In addition to the colorism, and outright racism that I grew up around, I also grew up with my own identity constantly affirmed. Racism exists in the Latinx community. Being a “minority” does not exempt anyone from participating in racism. In many Latinx communities, whiteness is glorified, which goes hand in hand with the historic and violent erasure of black bodies. And simultaneously, mestizaje has been fetishized. Being mixed – brown skin, loose curly hair, “ethnic features” has been hailed by media outlets as “exotic,” “sexy” … all of the words that come to mind when you think of J.Lo or Maluma, for example. I cannot begin to imagine all of the ways that I have unknowingly been affirmed while others have been denied their identities. I know that on the novelas – there were always women who resembled me (even if it was Betty la Fea). I don’t remember longing to see a Disney princess who looked like me. I rarely felt invisible growing up (if anything, I felt all too seen, a topic I’ll explore in the future).
Why is any of this important? The experience of being a minority is not monolithic. Being Latina does not mean that I will “get” everything about being a woman of color, and it absolutely does not qualify me to speak to all of our experiences. Last year, Salma Hayek was involved in a brief but heated controversy involving Jessica Williams (see Amy Kaufman’s take on the account here). I’ve always been a huge Salma Hayek fan, and her exchange with Jessica Williams was a serious eye-opening moment for me. Because I’ve been Salma. And I have made the mistake of trying to speak on behalf of, and even speak over marginalized populations, of representing Black and Brown voices, of being the optimistic voice of reason when it comes to issues of racism.
I am guilty of participating in the very problematic politics of white feminism; of inadvertently silencing others and thinking that I have the answers, when in fact I don’t even know what the question is.
And I know that so many women who look like me, and women who are blonde and blue-eyed are out there shouting JUSTICE! when in reality, we are part of the problem.
Recently, I read an article on whiteness and Latinidad (I’m Blonde, Blue-Eyed and Tired of Defending my Latina Identity), where the author explores how a racial slur (“spic”) towards one of her classmates launched the exploration of her identity and ultimately her career. Never once does she talk about her classmate’s response to the epithet. Instead she takes the time to tell us about all of the ways that she has contributed to the Latinx community, how she’s been there to listen to the stories of Latinxs like Julio when no one else cared. Massive eye roll. I’m glad that Serena is able to embrace her Latinidad and that she’s found a way to give back, but I couldn’t help but feel that this article only served as an ego rub (“my tia ensured that I can cook riquisimas empanadas better than the best of them”). This kind of self-indulgence coupled with the very real conversation around uplifting Latinxs feels whiny and tone-deaf to me, especially when Afro-Latinxs are actively denied not only their Latinx identities, but in many cases their humanity (ever hear of Trujillo, Serena? Please tell me again about how the “bro” calling you white hurt your feelings).
And THIS is the biggest problem: women like Serena, like Salma, like me — we’re quick to make these conversations around race, around identity, around social justice all about us. Like somehow we’re the experts, but in fact we’re co-opting other people’s stories, while at the same time we ignore, and even silence their voices.
It has taken me a long time to admit these truths to myself. And it’s a process that I’m not done with yet. In the words of Roxane Gay: ‘Privilege is relative and contextual. Few people in the developed world, and particularly in the United States have no privilege at all…It may be hard to hear that, I know, but if you cannot recognize your privilege, you have a lot of work to do; get started.”
Ignoring our privileges, and even denying them, only serves to perpetuate existing structures of oppression. We cannot claim to be supporters of social justice movements without acknowledging the ways that we have individually benefitted from social injustice.
I firmly believe that in order to enter productive dialogues around the difficult topics of politics and human rights, we need to first take a long, hard look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. This doesn’t mean comparing your experience to the person next to you, or trying to figure out who’s had it worse. But instead, it’s admitting that we don’t have all of the answers, and sometimes the best way to fight is to listen.
There’s something so magical about New York in December. The whole city is buzzing with the excitement of the holidays. Everything is bright and glowing; I don’t even mind the freezing temperatures or the obnoxious tourists because when December arrives, all of the the things that I hate about living in NY dissolve into this general air of merriment.
And of course, that sense of euphoria is accompanied by one important behavior: consumption. When December rolls around, we’re spending, eating, imbibing more. Our joy is correlated to our role as consumers — the more we spend, the happier we are. The higher the price tag on that gift for that special someone, the more she’ll know how much I love her.
When January 2nd rolls around, the magic dissipates, and we’re counting the days for the next big reason to spend: a birthday, another holiday, a wedding. We have been conditioned to equate spending with happiness.
My mother has this wonderful saying; whenever we have a surprise guest over, she’ll say “le vamos a tener que hechar más agua a la sopa,” which translates to: we’ll have to add more water to the soup. Back in Colombia, when you’re cooking a meal it’s customary to make a little extra, just in case you have an unexpected guest knocking at your door. Even in the poorest households, you always make sure to cook a little extra rice and beans, or you add water to the soup to make sure that everyone has a full belly at the end of the night.
This is the spirit of generosity I was taught as a child: give even when it seems impossible. And this is how I love.
Don’t get me wrong. I love spending on my loved ones, and I definitely love receiving as well. This is not meant to be a critique of our consumerist culture – not directly at least. What I have noticed is that our ability to give has been reduced to objects that will inevitably collect dust and be forgotten.
We live in a time when it is so easy to become complacent when it comes to one another. We don’t need to be selfish with our love or our time. Of course, I do not mean that we must always overextend ourselves. We do need to protect our energy after all. At the same time, we should not allow our acts of expressing love, of giving to be reduced to a price tag.
For 2018, I’m challenging myself to give authentically, to connect more deeply, to stop buying love and instead dig deeper and give it.
I love sex. I love everything that has to do with sexual expression. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve had my share of shitty experiences. But overall, I look forward to the teasing, the anticipation, the shared intimacy, the orgasms (hopefully)! I even loved sex before I started having it. As a girl who relied so heavily on language for self-expression, I couldn’t wait to connect with my high school sweetheart on a physical level. I remember spending the days leading up to our first time doing all sorts of research, mentally and emotionally preparing for the act, and when the day came…well. That’s a story for another day. Needless to say, I was hooked.
I never imagined that I would go down a path of abstinence, especially as a 30 year old, especially after sex dictated so many of my relationships for the past 13 years of my life. But when my husband and I decided to separate last year, I figured that this was the perfect time for me to … enjoy my own company, so to speak.
I remember telling one of my closest friends about my plan and she asked me the real hard hitting question: why would you do that to yourself? And I can’t tell you how many times over the past year I’ve asked myself the same question…when my high school BFF messages me pictures of our favorite adult star crushes, when an old flame offered to fly me across the country, when that ridiculously sexy bartender asked for my phone number, or when my current crush leaned in for a kiss (yes, a crush – how retro, I know. And yes, I chose to abstain from kissing too). On those occasions, I could feel my will power wavering, and I wondered why the hell I committed to a year. Wasn’t a month long enough? Two? Six?
Before I continue – I have to be totally honest. I did slip up once over the course of my 365-day quest. In the immortal words of Beyoncé – “I get filthy when that liquor get into me.” Too much wine and too many months of sexual build up, and abstinence was out the window.
But, I forgave myself, recommitted and reaped some amazing benefits along the way. There are a ton of articles floating around out there about the detriments of not having sex for an extended period of time, and I’m here to call bullshit. Choosing abstinence in 2017 was one of the best choices I’ve made.
Understanding My Desire
Before my husband moved out, we attended an orgasmic meditation training hosted by OneTaste (check them out!). I won’t go into detail about the experience here because honestly, I still don’t have words for it. And really, you should experience it for yourselves. All I can say is: it was AMAZING.
Months passed, and I was still thinking about that day at OneTaste. I remember chatting with one of my good friends about it. A note about my friend – we’ve never met, which somehow makes it sooooo much easier to talk about all of these messy topics in full color. So, I felt truly comfortable sharing my deepest secret with him: as much as I’ve always loved sex, I’d never seen fireworks. I get off on the performance of sex, on getting other people off. But when it comes to my own pleasure, I was always shy about it. I get tense before the big O, and I guess I was always afraid to let someone see me “lose control.” I described it to him like this: Sex always felt like a balloon filling with air, but I never knew what would happen if the balloon finally popped.
With his enthusiastic support, he gently guided me through my first real exploration of my own body. It was fucking terrifying, and I’m so grateful to him for metaphorically holding my hand as I opened the floodgates of my desire.
I’ve always lived in theory. I hide behind my intellect because it’s easier to be smart than it is to be intimate and vulnerable. When I decided to get out of my own head, I found myself finally in tune with my body, responding in new ways to all of its needs and desires.
I hide behind my intellect because it’s easier to be smart than it is to be intimate and vulnerable.
And yes, I am able to bring myself to orgasm (even multiples) in a single session, but more importantly, I know what my body wants, when it wants it, and how to satiate all of its desires.
Feeling Sexier than Ever
I’ve never doubted my appeal. And I’m in no way coming from a place of cockiness. I’ve just always understood that I’m relatively attractive (I’m sure the double d’s play a major role in this).
But when you spend time with yourself, learn to love up on yourself, learn to know what your body needs, and are so connected with it…well, I’ve been blowing my own mind recently. I don’t feel just “relatively attractive.” I feel like I’m dripping in my sexuality. I feel downright beautiful and confident. And even though I’m not having sex, I have that glow about me all the time.
Now – I’m sure that at this point it might feel like even when I’m not having sex, it rules me. But that’s not the case. In fact, I’m finding that sex has shifted for me. It’s no longer about a performance of bodies. Sex has taken on a whole new role in my life; it’s become about understanding, self acceptance, self love, and growth for me.
I’m finding that sex has shifted for me. It’s no longer about a performance of bodies. Sex has taken on a whole new role in my life; it’s become about understanding, self acceptance, self love, and growth for me.
This newfound self-awareness is not limited to my physical desires. I’m finding myself so confident in my choices, so in love with my journey, with my body, with my self, that I no longer need outside validation in order to feel attractive, or smart, or sexy. I dress and speak and move how and when I want. I’m taking risks, exploring the world outside of my comfort zone, and I’m calling all of the shots. What could be sexier than that?
There’s a part of me that thinks I might’ve been a sex-junkie. If I wasn’t having it, I was talking about it, or watching it, or thinking about it. Suddenly I had this void in my life and I really had no idea how to fill it. I was so used to bingeing on touch. And for the first few months of this little experiment, all of that sexual energy was just building up inside of me. I found myself getting agitated easily. When you have so much energy just sitting there, you get restless. I wasn’t sleeping well, lost all kinds of focus. And then, sometime in March, I started writing.
A friend of mine once said: “all art is based in sexual energy.” Super Freudian, I know. But I could not agree more.
“All art is based in sexual energy.”
I started writing a poem a day. And slowly that has been evolving into something more, something deeper. In less than a year, I’ve filled two notebooks with poetry, stories, musings. It got to the point that I decided to share some of this stuff with the world, because the words and ideas just keep coming.
And my exploration hasn’t stopped with my writing. I’m finding myself expending more of this energy that’s living inside of me on all sorts of activities that have inspired me at different points in my life – swimming, reading, learning a new language. Like I said earlier, I’m connected with my desires now in such a way I’m finding inspiration at every turn.
It has been an incredible, eye-opening year, and I cannot wait to see where this path of self love, acceptance, and awareness leads me next.