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Archive for the ‘Thirty’ Category

Peggy is a Whore

Peggy is a whore.

Peggy was that cute girl in class in the third grade whose decorated paper envelope hanging off the side of her desk, marked “Peggy” in red glitter and all my bitterness, was full of Valentine cards by the time the bell struck at recess. Jumping forward a few years, Peggy became that cute girl at the beach in a string bikini with all the surfers trying to catch the biggest wave while she looked on adoringly. At college, Peggy was that cute girl that … well, at college Peggy was actually just a whore. Moving into the mid-20s, Peggy was that cute girl that fell madly in love (probably with one of the surfers from her youth, where they met at their 10 year high school reunion). Peggy was then the cute girl who became a cute woman who then became a cute mother and … agh. Peggy is a whore. Go to Hell, Peggy. And take all your Valentine cards with you.

This is pretty much how I’ve felt about Valentine’s Day ever since the third grade. I was never without love, of course. My parents loved me. My friends loved me. But a candied heart with ‘KISS ME’ or ‘BE MINE’ just did not apply to them. Or to me for that matter. All the way from the third grade until I turned thirty years old, I never once celebrated Valentine’s Day (oh, except for that last-minute flight to New York with Anna and Ashley when we were 21 years old. Three bitter single college girls managed to sit in first class on a red-eye and polished off about 5 bottles of champagne before we even crossed over Colorado).

For the past few years I’ve always posted the Peggy is a Whore card on Facebook or in my Happy Valentine emails to friends. I gagged at the cheesy cards, and heart-shaped everythings, and wondered why is everything red when actually your heart is more like a blue color?

And then it happened. I started seeing hearts everywhere. It started a couple of years ago and has not ceased since. Heart shaped dog poo. Heart shaped cracks in the sidewalk. Heart shaped mountains. The list goes on, but in a way you cannot imagine. My discovery and consequential love for hearts has been an eerie but beautiful ride. In retrospect the I-see-hearts-everywhere phenomenon must have been the Universe telling me it was time to open my eyes and acknowledge hearts. First to see external hearts. Check! Then I started receiving hearts from friends, such as photographs of heart-shaped raw tuna in their skillet, or heart-shaped rocks brought all the way from Monterey to Barcelona. The Universe was telling me, okay, once you see and recognize them, they will come to you! And they did. People now tag me in photos whenever there is a heart in it. And it tingles my blue heart a strange shade of red. Slowly, painfully, I’ve become romantic against my will.

I do not find it a coincidence whatsoever that now the Universe has suddenly presented me with a real life beating heart. Perhaps it is a reward for not beating up Peggy. Or perhaps it was just time. This reward is not a photograph of a heart, as it’s 3D. I’m pretty sure it’s not a heart-shaped rock, because it breathes and holds my hand. And for the first time in thirty years, as I walk down the overcrowded bustling shopping street near to the date of February 14th, all I see are red hearts in the shop windows, and rather than wanting to throw up all over them, I stop and smile.

(This is so utterly disgusting. I can’t believe I am writing this.)

I don’t care if I receive a Valentine’s card this year. Peggy can have them all. Because there is just one beating, sweet candied heart out there that says ‘BE MINE’. And it’s only a quick bite (and bike ride) away.

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There is a new trend happening in my life, and it deals with accompaniment. For someone who really loves people, I am quickly realizing that accompanying another person, and perhaps more importantly, being accompanied by another person, is not as simple or natural as it seems. As if the Universe knew I was needing some help and preparation in the subject (it always does!) it simultaneously sent me both theory and practice in the form of a women’s circle.

I am in the process of training to become a doula, which is a woman who assists other women during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. The role of a doula is much more complex than that simple definition, and at some point I will write more about that. But for now the important thing to know is that the primary role of a doula is to accompany women (and often times her surrounding family) through the birthing process on a more emotionally supportive level, and to insure that the mother is in charge her own birthing experience.

The past couple of months I have been attending women’s retreats and getting more engaged in my doula studies. Slowly I am learning that a doula’s job is not to help women in as much as to accompany them. It is a two-way relationship requiring trust, love, support and understanding. In the course and trainings we listen to the speakers and read our workbooks about the major topics, but mainly we sit there in a circle on the floor and share experiences and thoughts, and we encourage one another. Because that is a large part of what it takes to be a good doula and a good companion. It is extremely uplifting and each month I become more and more excited about the idea of accompanying women through one of the biggest moments of their lives. And also for the day that I get to live that moment as well, hopefully in the presence of my own doula. I am understanding more and more the need to be accompanied, and seeing the beauty in it.

To continue with the accompaniment trend I am currently experiencing, about two months ago I attended a women’s weekend retreat, hoping to connect with nature, myself and other women on a more spiritual and holistic level. Surprise surprise, the focus of the weekend was accompaniment. The retreat was organized by a doula, and therefore it had an emphasis on how to accompany mothers and women in general. That said, the lessons I learned most definitely apply to everyone outside of that circle, mainly because the lessons were more within me.

It was a full weekend of very intimate, and at times uncomfortable, exercises and really honest conversation, while again sitting in a large circle. What came as a huge surprise was that I learned how much I fear letting someone step into my personal space. These strangers, these women. And then through them I came to realize how much I block out people wanting to get very close to me, with a special attention on men.

In addition, I realized that having many people around me didn’t necessarily mean the same thing as being accompanied. I’ve been living far from home and family for many years now, and have been single practically my whole life. So I guess you could say I’ve become quite independent. Perhaps too much. I do depend on my friends quite a lot, it’s true. But I’m talking about a different type of independence. One in which most of my actions are based on my own needs and desires. I hope that the doula studies and practice will help me overcome that, since it will require a lot of adaption to adjust to a mother’s needs and schedule. Just imagine a woman calling me in the middle of night with labor pains. I couldn’t really turn off the phone, or say I was busy!

I’m a people person, but I like my personal space. It’s like Johnny in Dirty Dancing, when he is teaching Baby how to dance properly and he grips her arms in such a way as to create a calculated space between them. He tells her, “Look, spaghetti arms. This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.” I can’t think of any better way to explain it than this. I love to dance with people, but with a calculated space between us. And experience with dancing with men had showed me that whenever I went spaghetti on my partner, meaning I got soft and made myself vulnerable, then he stepped on my toes and danced away. Or vice versa. So I’ve been trying to hold the frame with more and more precision. Don’t let them in, keep it superficial, and you will be safe.

Now back to the women’s retreat. On Saturday night the organizers threw us a dance party. All the magical witch dancing instantly turned my strengthening frame into soppy noodles. I let my guard down in the presence and security of these 40 supportive (and topless) women. And right then, unannounced and arriving in a little blue convertible, waltzed right in…a man!

I just may be the only woman to meet a man at a women’s retreat. He was not actually part of the retreat, but had come as “entertainment” for the Saturday night, topless dance fever extravaganza. Imagine 40 hyper-sensual women feeling open and loose (I mean it more in the emotional way, but perhaps a bit in the physical sense as well). Then imagine three cute and fun guys showing up and being thrown in the mix. In the end I think they were more entertained than entertaining. To make an already long story just a wee bit shorter, after hours of dancing as a noodle, I somehow found myself curled up in a second set of big, strong noodle arms. There we were, laying on the floor of this old stone room decorated with colorful blankets and candles, with pictures of fairy-like women with flowing hair blue-tacked onto the walls. Next to us was a very endearing punki mother breastfeeding her adorable little boy, and on the other side a funny older women who laughed and mumbled to herself like a real witch in the dark corner. And we wrapped around each other for warmth on the cold floor under these colorful blankets listening to the pouring rain outside. I don’t know for certain what he was thinking, but I was thinking how comfortable I felt there in his arms, despite the strange circumstances. It just felt right.

Back in the reality of our non-forest-dwelling lives, nearly two months later, I am still feeling comfortable in his arms. But it’s difficult for me too. This whole getting comfortable bit. I am trying really hard to learn how to accompany, and to be accompanied, in this new and developing relationship. Each new step, each new emotion have me momentarily shaking from the inside out. What is particularly challenging is trying to find a balance between me, the independent girl I’ve been for so long, and this new woman I’m slowly becoming that now has to think about someone else all the time, whether I want to or not. In the doula course we learn that every woman is different and therefore it is important to allow each one make her own decisions, express her own thoughts and needs. One woman may prefer that her husband massages her back and another one cringes at the thought of being touched. And as a doula you need to adjust to her, to accompany the woman and her needs, and to be understanding. I think it is no different in a romantic relationship. Not everyone is the same, and I cannot expect this person to be like me, or to act or react in the same way as I do. Nor can he expect that of me. So we have to adapt a bit, and understand and respect each other’s needs.

I’ve surprised myself at how easily I’ve allowed this person to come into my personal space. And how much I love having him there. And he’s surprised me with his understanding when I suddenly freak out and straighten out my noodles into a tight frame between him and me when he gets too close. Space. And his understanding again when five minutes later I call him back in, slightly frenzied. He must get dizzy but he keeps walking towards me in a straight line. He’s cool like that.

It’s all a learning process I guess. I’m grateful for learning this new skill, accompaniment, which will not only help me to one day assist women through their pregnancies and birthing experiences, but that is right now also allowing me to experience something sweet that I’ve only seen in the movies or heard about from my friends. I guess thirty is better late than never.

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There is something really attractive about not being tied down to any specific place, job, man, apartment, child, car payments or anything else. It is the way I’ve been living my life for the past eight years and I do not regret a single second of it. That said, and perhaps it’s the whole turning thirty thing again, but suddenly I have this enormous urge for the “S” Trinity: Stability, Security and Sex (I mean, Savings. I got distracted for a minute, sorry). That said, stable and secure sex wouldn’t be bad, either.

I assure you that my ties will be always be loosely fastened. I’m looking for stability, not to be cemented to the floor. There is a difference. Stability. Just something to justify why I continue to make Barcelona my home. Don’t get me wrong. I love this city. Barcelona has treated me finely over the years and until the past year has more or less provided me with everything I needed at the time. But when you are living ‘under the table’ in a country that for some reason won’t allow you to pay its taxes, despite how hard you beg and plead to do so, it is really hard to feel stable and secure. I want in!

Security. It is difficult to find a job and I have not had a source of stable income in years. If it were not for sweet, generous friends running successful businesses that do their best to give me some work here and there, I would have been shit out of luck many years ago! Work apart, it is unnerving to pass customs while traveling, for fear they will deport you. Which is a problem when you travel a lot! It doesn’t matter how many years the government extends the retirement age, since you don’t have social security to begin with. You can’t rent videos at the store or rent an apartment in your name. Someone tried to break into my house last year and I think, what if he had succeeded? What if I were robbed? Would I call the police and risk that they ask to see my papers? I’m not sure.

Savings. What’s that? I think I have some change at the bottom of my purse or a drawer somewhere…

I have thought a lot about leaving Barcelona over the past couple of years. These past six months, in particular, I’ve been brainstorming my exit route and options. But, as usual, once you decide to leave a place you really start to appreciate the things you love about it. And I’ve realized these past couple of months that I do really love Barcelona and my life here. I feel so healthy and alive most of the time. I love the schedule and the way that food is the center of everything. I love walking and biking to get from point A to point B. And having it be socially acceptable to arrive late. The sun is usually shining. I love that the butcher calls me guapa as he hacks away at carnage. I love that I had my tonsils removed and was kept in a hospital for four days and never received a bill. I love that old women stroll by arm in arm and still walk up five flights of stairs in their old age. Keeps them strong! I love that the sea is just a few blocks from my house, and amazing countryside is just a short train ride away. I love that even though I’m far from home, I get so many visitors because this city is amazing and people want to come here! This list could go on and on and on.

So. I’m thinking that if I were able to achieve two out of the three components of my “S Trinity” I could justify staying a while longer. If I had to pick two, I’d take Security and Savings. But how much longer can I wait for that to happen? I’m willing to give it a bit more time, but maybe not too much longer. In the meantime, I’m just going to try to love loving this city and perhaps the city will reciprocate that love and provide me with what I need to stay here.

Barcelona, I love to hate you at times, but really I love to love you. Help me out here. Throw me a bone, in the form of a “S” please. Thank you.

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