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Archive for the ‘Trials and Tribulations’ Category

Last night I had a moment. These moments happen from time to time, usually every few months when the buildup of the world’s news stacks on my heart and brain until I just cannot withstand it anymore. I don’t really know what true depression feels like, but in these moments I can taste what I assume it could feel like. Helplessness. And then I feel rage, true rage with the blood boiling and all. And then sadness that we live in a world so full of hatred, and killings, and racism, and selfishness. I lose faith in mankind, which is out of character for me. Part of me wants to completely stop watching / listening to the news or even looking at people’s comments about such on Facebook. I’m sure it would make me feel better. But then, if I’m not paying attention, if I am not participating, then am I turning my back to people who are suffering and if I were in their place would I want the world to turn their back on me? Or ignoring movements and decisions and votes that could potential directly affect me too? When in doubt, cry.

Yes, it was that kind of moment. They happen about twice a year. The kind that calls for chocolate caramel fudge ice cream and an episode of The Cosmos to put things into perspective again.

So I found it very interesting that at yoga tonight, my teacher opened the class talking about this great storm that is blowing our way (San Francisco schools are actually closing tomorrow, yep California). She then spoke about how the world and all the catastrophes (human, environmental, etc) are like the big storm. It’s overwhelming and powerful and we just have to ride it and respect it. Then she read this quote:

“PEACE. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of all of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

She alluded again to the storm, and reminded us that in the middle of every storm is an eye. If we, as individuals, can find inner peace inside of that eye, inside of our storm, inside of our crazy Earthly horrors, then we are making progress. It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. It just means that inner peace is the true struggle, and perhaps if more people in the world fought for that sort of peace, their own peace, maybe some of the fighting and seriously ugly side of human nature could stop.

So that is what I am going to try. To find the eye somewhere in this uncontrollable storm, and find calmness in my heart there. Hopefully that will somehow in the bigger scope of things and our cosmos, make a difference. At the very least, I think it will help me stay away from the ice cream aisle.

eye_of_storm

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There is something about writing that is very therapeutic.  It is a way to take that jumble of messy thoughts swirling about up there and to place them into some order (the Virgo in me prefers organized chaos).  I’ve kept journals my whole life, and go through long periods of dedicated writing followed by long hiatuses where I don’t write at all.  As I read through these old journals and posts, I realize there is a pattern.  I tend to write when I’m needing to work things out, when my heart is hurting, when I want to manifest something, or when I suddenly find myself in a moment of change.

To take it a step further, I choose to put these thoughts in a public space for anyone to read because I feel like this will somehow manifest what I’m trying to figure out, that somehow by ‘putting it out there’ and making myself exposed and more vulnerable that the answers will then find their way to me.  So far, it has worked pretty well =)

It has been a long time since I’ve written in this blog.  A few years back I went through a fairly big life transition, be it the Saturn Returns phenomenon around age 30, or just the early-life crisis of an illegal, broke, single immigrant trying to find her way.  During this period, I felt such a strong urge to write, whether it was in a journal, in this blog, or writing poetry for the Prostibulo Poetico.

It seems that after the year of struggling, soul searching and personal growth my life just fell into place.  I was offered reliable work and income, finally got my residency after 10 years of trying to make that happen, discovered my passion for birth and began my path as a doula, moved into my own flat, and experienced my first mutually loving romantic relationships.  In the past couple of years my life has become comfortable and reliable, not to mention totally awesome and fulfilling and FUN, which is exactly what was needed after a few unstable years of feeling like I was falling with no safety net.  As a result, I weened off writing in a very unintentional way, and this blog went off the radar.

Photo by Catherine Mansart

Photo by Catherine Mansart

Perhaps it’s because I work in threes, and because the cyclical nature of life enjoys keeping me on my toes, three years after my past transformation and now at the magical age of thirty-three, I am very aware that a new transformation is beginning.  For a couple of months now the Universe has been throwing me some signs that a) something needs to change, and b) the time is now, or at least soon-ish.  I see the signs.  I get that this process is happening, and I have some idea as to what needs to change, but there are many uncertainties.  That very familiar urge to find some quiet solitude, and to write down and share feelings and realizations as they come along, is back with a vengeance.

The sweet news is that I believe change is good.  And even better, this time around I feel much more positive about this inevitable change, as now I have a stable base below my feet as a starting point.  I can leap more confidently without fear of falling too hard. Overall I am very happy and feeling good about myself and the opportunities ahead.  This time there is no rush or immediate pressure looming over me either, so that allows me a little time to work all this out.  This is all dandy!

Regardless, transformations are never easy and I am having a difficult time right now trying to find out what exactly is happening and how to react to it.  So until I figure it out, and eventually react, I’m guessing my journals will get some more love and attention.  My lovely friends will unfortunately have to endure some of my head rants – sorry guys.  And maybe, if I’m not too lazy, this blog will become more present again and hopefully will work its magic to put me on the right track.

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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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Sitting in front of the computer screen at work today, with just a slight trace of a hangover from last night’s festivities, I dreamed of a turkish durum with goat cheese. In the US, ‘greasy spoon’ is more like Mexican food takeout or Burger King. But here in Barcelona it’s kebabs and family all the way.

I have been forced to watch my few pennies these past couple of months, which means I’ve been eating at home without indulging too much in restaurants or take away food. But today, with 1,60 EUR in my bank account and just 4,78 EUR of spare change in my wallet, I decided to splurge and give in to my durum needs.

Paying in exact change, with not enough left over for even a drink, I took my warm durum to the plaza to sit on a bench in the breeze beneath the trees to enjoy this special gift I was allowing myself today. A reward of sorts.

There were two Spanish punkis also sitting there enjoying the breezes of the plaza, them and their 2 grungy looking dogs. The large black dog lifted its nose as I unwrapped my seasoned chicken wrap, and instantly came to my side. She stared at my food, snout just about a foot away. I spoke to her softly, in Spanish, saying sorry sweetie but you can’t have any. She didn’t budge. I spoke to her again, now using words like “no” and “go away” and looked over to her owners, the punki couple, hoping they would call back their mutt. Finally the guy comes walking over and I think, great. He’ll come get his dog and let me eat in peace.

Much to my surprise, rather than pulling the dog away he instead approached me, also stood about one foot away from my food, and asked if he could have a bite of my durum. He was hungry, he told me. Now, on occasion and when I actually feel that someone’s situation is less fortunate than mine I sometimes do give my food to people. But this guy did not appear to be struggling in any way, shape or form. He was a young Spanish guy wearing a theatrical cap and striped tights. And I really really really wanted my food today. I kindly, with an uncertain smile, said that I did not feel comfortable allowing him, or his dog, to bite into my food. Sorry. Now please go away. He did. And finally took the dog with him.

His girlfriend had been drinking from the fountain in the plaza, and three bites after her boyfriend left me, she then came over to me and asked for a euro.

And then the shit hit the fan.

Smile-less and now speaking in a fairly loud voice, I put the durum in my lap so as to have my hands free to wave around to make my point more clear. I spoke loud enough for not only her boyfriend and dogs to hear, but I’m pretty sure the attic apartment dwellers in the plaza could also hear me. And this is what I said:

“I have 1,60 EUR in my bank account right now. I used the last 4,78 EUR that I scrounged up in small change at the bottom of my purse in order to buy this durum. I am working part-time, don’t have unemployment benefits from the government, or rich family members that give me allowances so that I can dress like a clown and steal from people in nice plazas who are actually trying to get off their lazy asses and make some hard-earned cash. Don’t you dare ask me for anything else. Now, please, all of you leave me alone and let me finish off this juicy, delicious durum in peace!”

Needless to say, the punkis left me in peace. A couple people walking by stopped and stared for a few brief moments. But I didn’t care. The juice from the sauces was running down my arm, and I had still have a few enjoyable bites left, dammit. I stared at them while I took my last bite. I licked my fingers and smiled and rinsed my hands off in the fountain before walking away from them.

A couple hours later, while walking home from work, I saw two guys trying to rob a girl on my street. She was sitting down on a ledge with a traveler’s backpack and her purse. One guy was trying to distract her with a map and his buddy came around the back and gently pulled away her purse and started to walk away slowly. I shouted at them, the girl jumped up and went after the buddy with the bag. He ended up dropping the bag and the two guys walked off, not without first giving me some major dirty and threatening looks. With her bag in hand, she screamed after them, “Rob the rich you assholes!” Turns out she was not a tourist after all. She lives on this street and was just back from holiday. Having lost her keys, she was locked out and sitting there worrying about what to do.

Dear punkis and thieves of Barcelona: Don’t fuck with me on a bad day. Punk me and I’ll punk you back!

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Two months ago I lost my voice. And I still have not managed to recover it. I sound hoarse, which works fabulously for reading poetry, but the sexy raspy thing is now just annoying and uncomfortable. Every single time I speak on the phone, a client or friend asks me if I’m sick, hung over or exhausted. My answer is, “No, I’ve just lost my voice, that’s all.” But they are beginning to not believe me. And I am having my own doubts too.

I used to lose my voice all the time, but I often attributed it to lack of sleep, partying, shouting, and smoking. My chronic tonsillitis did not help much either. But my tonsils were removed eight months ago, which is also when I consequently quit smoking, and my partying has been reduced to intimate dinners with friends and relaxing on the beach. I sleep about eight hours a night.

So what the Hell is going on?

This morning I went to see my ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat doctor). He is the sweet, older Catalan man who removed my tonsils last year, and who I think is always trying to set me up with his son. After a thorough examination, which triggered my gag reflex and I almost threw up all over the guy, he tucked his little flashlight and tongue depressor away and told me, “Your vocal chords are a bit red and inflamed, but there is nothing really wrong with your … throat.” He put his hand on my shoulder, tilted his head sideways, and then added, “The problem is with the pianist in your head.”

Now, I realize I have a lot going on inside my head. But a pianist? I instantly had the vision of a small little figure, dressed in a black tailsuit, encouraging his fingertips to make love to the white and black keys of a grand piano shining brightly in my frontal lobe. Once the musical notes danced their way out of my ears, I registered the kind doctor’s words, awoke from my little daydream, and said, “¿cómo?

According to my doctor, there is a pianist living in my head. And my vocal chords are his grand piano. Supposedly he is up there composing and banging around on the keys. Passionately. Ruthlessly. And with no intermissions. Dr. Torres Esteban told me that my wild, unsettled head was the cause of my voice cracking. And then he wrote me a couple of prescriptions to help with the inflammation, told me to refrain from speaking altogether for a couple of weeks, plugged my cell phone number into his iPhone, and told me he would call me in September to arrange for me to see a logopedia (a speech therapist) to help train me to speak properly again.

For someone who speaks a lot, this is all very worrying.

On one side, I’m being told not to speak. But then there is the other theory – that I need to get something off my chest. Over the past few weeks I have had two friends and a holistic doctor all give me another source for my voice loss. Apparently I have a secret. A deep, dark secret that I’ve kept so well hidden inside, that not even I know what it is. Apparently when there is something inside us that we don’t voice, our voice can actually break down until we speak that secret. I have spent a good part of this week thinking about what secret I could possibly have. And I’m drawing a huge blank.

Pianists and deep secrets are nestling up together inside me. I would love to get rid of them both…but first I guess I need to identify them. Until then, I will attempt to not speak so much (yeah right), will down my little pills every eight hours, and will continue working on my “You Can Do It! List” until hopefully all my little worries diminish. Once all is (not?) said and done, and my voice is back to its normal cadence and tone, I will look forward to singing something other than Tracy Chapman and Chavela Vargas in the shower.

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This week kicked off with Memorial Day on Monday. For most North Americans, this day means a three day weekend of BBQs to welcome the warm summer days and longer evenings. It also means that it is now officially acceptable to wear white pants in public.

For any foreigners that may not be familiar with this holiday, North Americans celebrate Memorial Day to commemorate U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service.

But I now have a new reason to celebrate Memorial Day: to commemorate both my Dad (who passed away two years ago on June 5th) and my Uncle Mike, who just passed away this past Monday. On Memorial Day.

Grandma Bernie on her 90th Birthday

They were brothers, the only two boys of my Grandma Bernie, who at 92 years old has now outlived her ex-husband AND her two sons. My father was 63 years old when he passed away. Cancer. My uncle was 62 years old. He was paraplegic, also suffered from cancer and other ailments. And they passed away in the same week. This week of Memorial Day.

This Watson Memorial Week.

I spent the first anniversary of my Dad’s death in the fisherman village of Cadaques, on the northeastern coast of Spain. I remember sitting in the Casino cafe, watching the water and writing about my Dad. Coincidentally enough, tomorrow, on the second anniversary of his death, I will once again find myself in Cadaques. Perhaps my Dad, who’s ashes were cast to sea off the Coast of San Diego, swims to visit me each year in this mystical pueblo. We visited Cadaques together, exactly two years to the date previous to his death, on the beginning of a two week European vacation. He got up early, and went to the sea for his morning coffee. He took pictures of pigeon’s nests that he found, and the boats. This weekend I’ll keep an eye out for nests. And I will have a coffee on the coast along with him.

Uncle Mike

My Uncle Mike had suffered quite a lot over the years, so I feel assured knowing that he really is much better off now. He used to fight for his life, but when my Dad died my uncle sort of threw in the towel as well. Everyone noticed a change in his health and character, and there was no bringing him back. He has slowly been getting worse and spent the last year in a hospital. So I really mean it that he is now resting in peace.

My Grandma Bernie visited Mike just 20 minutes before he died. He was in a coma. Mike’s wife, my aunt Tomomi, held his hand when he came to very briefly. She asked him if he saw Bob, my Dad. And he reacted and tried to say something. Who knows what he saw, or what he was trying to say, but I know that my sister and I like to picture them back together now. Wherever they are, I imagine them playing football and my Uncle Mike is back to running on two legs that work again.

There are no other living males in my immediate family on my Dad’s side. My sister now has a new last name. I feel like Tamenund, in The Last of the Mohicans. I’m the last Watson. For this reason, I hope to always keep my last name and somehow pass it down to my kids one day. We’ll see…

To both my Dad and Uncle Mike – I love you both. I promise to celebrate you, and not mourn. After all, during Memorial Week white pants is the new black veil.

My Dad

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What is it with fish? This past year has been full of marine life anecdotes, and now I have a new one.

My good friend Carme first gave me the nickname “Dori”, just after the movie Finding Nemo hit the big screen in Spain (a couple years after hitting the big screen in the US, of course, since everything in Spain is delayed usually by decades). If you are not familiar with Dori, she is a blue Regal Tang fish with a really bad memory. She is constantly lost and foggy on the details.

At first I was offended. Dori is not the sharpest tool in the shed. My memory is not really too sharp either, and I can easily be distracted by “Squishy” or any other bright, shiny objects. I often feel lost and I occasionally make friends with sharks, who although seem tame are actually out to eat me alive. That said, Dori is my favorite character in the film. As Carme brought to my attention, she is the optimistic, caring and sociable character that brings comic relief to a somewhat rather tragic and sad story (the opening scene is horrific). Though a bit naive and ditzy, she definitely has a sunny take on life that is contagious and admirable.

I am grateful to Carme for the compliment, and for really showing me the good side of my personality. Sometimes I feel like I’m just swimming along with no particular destination in mind, talking to random strangers along the way and finding myself in a swarm of unexpected jellyfish, though hardly ever sensing the danger.

But right now I feel like I DO have a destination, but I am coming across quite a few obstacles. I truly want to start the path to becoming a midwife, and to having a secure life in Europe, but it looks like I need to patient a while longer. The intensive three-year midwifery program I want to study in England is impossible, as they only accept EU citizens (since midwifery programs are fully funded by the British government). A bit of a setback, but I opted for Plan B – to take the much longer, tedious Spanish route of a 4 year nursing school program in Catalan + 2 years of midwifery. And then I found out I missed the entrance exam date by five days so cannot apply until next year.

In addition, I need a job. My company no longer excites me, and no longer is supporting me financially. But due to issues with my (lack of) work visa, finding a stable job in Barcelona is proving to be difficult. The idea of some security and stability in my life sounds dreamy, but I wonder how it will happen.

I am aware of the jellyfish surrounding me at the moment, and I should be much more concerned than I am. Oddly enough, however, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life. It is so strange. I’m hurdling obstacles much more smoothly and calmly than ever, and really feel positive and strong. Of course I would like my current troubles to work themselves out sooner than later, but I am also very much aware of the fact that “opportunity’s favorite disguise is trouble.” What is now seeming troublesome or working against me, will most likely prove itself to be a blessing in future retrospect. My life has a remarkable way of doing what is best for me, and it usually just takes some time to realize why each event and each relationship presents itself.

And so, like Dori, I just keep swimming. And guess what? Swimming can be really fun! This whole blog came about this morning because I caught myself whistling the tune from the film while making coffee. And it made me laugh. And it also now makes me want to head to the beach on this sunny Barcelona day for a real swim. I am not going to be able to resolve my pending problems on a Sunday in Spain, so I may as well go out and enjoy the day.

click here to watch video

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