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Archive for the ‘Trials and Tribulations’ Category

Don’t ever let your alter ego set you up on a blind date. Unless he literally comes blindfolded, and it’s just for one fun night.

Lucita Flores, my poetry alter ego, met a stellar guy in October. He was one of her clients at the Poetry Brothel, and he had come to listen to her read sultry poetry softly into his ear. He showed up late, around 3am, and spent the next couple of hours devouring her words. Even though he did not speak English, she read him all her poems in English once the Spanish ones ran out, just to keep him there longer. He did not complain, and his words of encouragement were equal for the English poems, even though quite frankly he could not have understood a single word. He wanted to sit there longer with her too.

Let’s just refer to this guy as “The Client”. And let’s just hope that he does not learn to read English any time soon, as he knows about this blog’s existence!

Lucita fell for him instantly. His curly locks danced as he shook his head. His round brown eyes stared at her lips, in order to catch every word. And, he was tall. She appreciates tall men. But since Lucita is not available for love, she wrote him a poem called “You Are Prohibited,” and then decided to introduce him to me, her alter ego.

The Client seemed fairly interested in the girl behind Lucita’s facade, and after a couple of weeks, Regan came forward and introduced herself over coffee. We spoke of our real lives and real dreams. We spoke in real words. Yet, somehow it still felt like fantasy, perhaps since I met him just a few weeks before moving to Mexico for five months. He was sweet and responsive. He liked literature, and food. When I had my tonsils out, he came to visit me, bringing along a backgammon board to keep me company. And during all those months in Mexico, we wrote to each other with quite a lot of thought and interest. So, I of course developed my expectations and excitement to come back to see him in person.

Now I am back and I have seen him in person. And he tells me he is in love with another girl, that things have changed with him since I left for Mexico.

Why can’t Lucita now step forward and take over for me? Why can’t I just say, “To Hell with it then!” and put on some fish nets and lipstick and hightail it to the nearest bar to flirt with a stranger? I am in all ways Lucita’s opposite. I am the one that wants to love badly – so badly that I put way too much effort into it. So badly that recently my friend Danny introduced me to his friend as, “This is Regan, she loves too much.”

I should know by now that fiction and fantasy are nice, but usually it’s just that. Fantasy. Made up stories from imaginative minds with invented characters and expectations. But I never learn this, as I am a storyteller. It is practically impossible for me to not dream up fictitious relationships, scenarios, erotic fantasies and my future as a (mid)wife and mother, all based on people that come randomly into my life. I have no control over these thoughts!

I should have known from the beginning that this could never work. A potential relationship that began with me meeting a man dressed up as a Mexican hooker in a bar, whispering him lies through painted lips, probably will not lead into anything but fiction and failure. Especially when the relationship was based on a passion for writing and story-telling. Words are powerful. And they leave a lot open for interpretation. And unfortunately, my inner interpreter has a wild imagination and always likes to see the glass as not empty or even half full, but rather full to the point of overflowing. I’m fabulous at convincing myself and everyone around me that the cup is indeed full. It is like telling a story.

Stories. I think I have become an expert at creating romance stories. The thing is, for me they feel like real life. And when the protagonist is feeling heartbroken, my heart hurts.

This is the first and last time I let Lucita set me up. I need a guy to fall for me just the crazy way I am, without all the charades.

Fantasy is very real, but unfortunately reality is not very fantastic.

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Even in the best of worlds the soul needs refurbishing from time to time.
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

Five months ago I found my usually bright and energetic soul suddenly empty, drained, lethargic, unmotivated, and asleep. After a fabulous year I could not figure out what had happened. Why did I have the sudden yearn to seek and discover, to mend and fix? To be alone, and to sing?

As usual the Universe threw me a bone, this time in the form of Mexico. I followed that bone instinctively, without much thought, just like the Wolf Woman in the Mexican tale La Loba. There are many versions of this ancient story, but here is the general gist as told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves:

“There is an old woman who lives in a hidden place that everyone knows but few have ever seen. She seems to wait for lost or wandering people and seekers to her place….She is called by many names: La Huesera, Bone Woman; La Trapera, The Gatherer; and La Loba, Wolf Woman.”

“The sole work of La Loba is the collecting of bones. She is known to collect and preserve especially that which is in danger of being lost to the world…She creeps and crawls and sifts through the mountains and dry riverbeds, looking for wolf bones, and when she has assembled an entire skeleton, when the last bone is in place and the beautiful white sculpture of the creature is laid out before her, she sits by the fire and thinks about what song she will sing. And when she is sure, she stands over the criatura, raises her arms over it, and sings out. That is when the rib bones and leg bones of the wolf begin to flesh out and the creature becomes furred. La Loba sings some more, and more of the creature comes into being; its tail curls upward, shaggy and strong….and still La Loba sings so deeply that the floor of the desert shakes, and as she sings, the wolf opens its eyes, leaps up, and runs away down the canyon. Somewhere in the running…the wolf is suddenly transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon.”

I only came across this tale last night, while reading myself to sleep. And I dreamed of Mexico. And of wolves. And a wild woman resembling me running with the wolves. Today I woke up with a new insight to my Mexican experience. It makes sense now. I went there, was drawn there, to collect bones.

Mexico did something to me. I try to explain to people all the ways that I have changed in a matter of five months, but it never comes out right or I sound way too “New Age”. I feel more spiritual, and connected to nature. I feel more at peace with myself, and calm, no matter how brutal the storm. People now smile through their eyes and not so much with their mouths. I want organic compost and a vegetable farm. My brain is in dire need of constant stimulation. And I want to study midwifery.

So, what happened to me in Mexico? In Women Who Run With the Wolves, the author says one way that a woman can reach this “world-between-worlds” is through intentional solitude. If there was ever a time that I intended to be alone, it was in Mexico. Despite having an amazing group of friends in Oaxaca, I chose to spend the majority of my free time by myself – reading, traveling, writing, hiking. And yes, singing when no one was around. I wrote a blog about the first trip by myself, as I found it so difficult to be alone. There were friends that wanted to travel with me almost every weekend, and yet I tried to arrange plans by myself and scurried around their hints to accompany me.

Solitude was quiet and insightful. And I mostly found it in the mountains of Oaxaca. Julie Andrews was right when she sang that the hills are alive with the sound of music. In the mountains, the silence is so strong that all you can hear is the songs of your own head and heart. I sang and sang until the bones I had unintentionally come to gather formed a creature that came to life. From the tip of a mountain, I watched as this wolf creature took off running over the twelve layers of mountains in the distance, or down the long white sands of the Pacific Coast. Towards the end of my time in Mexico, I was conscious and aware when this live and vibrant creature transformed into a laughing woman running towards the horizon. She was me. All bones put together, the Wild Woman in me was set free. And damn, did it feel good.

Dr. Estes refers to this as the “crack between the worlds – the place where visitations, miracles, imaginations, inspirations, and healings of all natures occur.” She goes on to say that, “Though this site transmits great psychic wealth, it must be approached with preparation, for one may be tempted to joyously drown in the rapture of one’s time there. Consensual reality may seem less exciting by comparison. In this sense, the deeper layers of psyche can become a rapture-trap from which people return unsteady, with wobbly ideas and airy presentiments.”

I’m afraid I’m now in this consensual reality that she speaks of. I am no longer in Mexico. And I am no longer in intentional solitude. Suddenly, I just hear noise. Not music. And it is confusing. My bones are still strung together, but as I explain to people how I was sculpted in Mexico, I feel like my skeleton could disassemble at any moment. Perhaps it is part of the cycle. In order to collect bones, there must be bones to collect, right?

Either way, I want to keep this Wild Woman – the one that ran with wolves in my dream last night – alive for a while longer. She makes me feel good. And if she falls apart once again, then it’s back to collecting bones again I guess.

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Traveling alone is like dancing. At first you sit on the sidelines, sipping your beer nervously and watching as everyone enjoys themselves. Once the buzz hits, you sway softly from side to side hoping that someone will notice that you want to dance. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you are taken by the hand and led to the dance floor and a stranger smiles and swings his hips along with you. Other times you are destined to just sit there and watch as the world dances in front of you.

Partners change. Rhythms change. Just as you get the knack of it, the song changes and you start all over again.

For me, that is what traveling alone is like. When I said goodbye to my friends in Mexico City on Christmas Eve, and hopped on a 15 hour bus ride to Palenque to embark on my short journey through Chiapas, I was as excited as a single lady heading to the disco. Fresh clothes, neatly packed backpack and ready to take on the world.

I arrived to Palenque on Christmas Day; a cold, rainy day in the jungle. I had planned on heading out to the see the Mayan ruins, but due to the rain was encouraged to snuggle up in my little cabana over the creek. “What a great time to write in my journal, or read!” I thought. Pen in hand, Casa de los Espiritus by my side, I sat there in the silent jungle and enjoyed the serene and the solitary peace. That is what I came for after all.

My beautiful, long-wished for moment lasted about 40 minutes and then I was desperate for some company. Rather than enjoying the privacy of nature that I came here for, I took a bus back in to town to find an internet café so I could get in touch with my friends and family. Needless to say, I felt like a failure on first day traveling alone. Note to self: next time bring someone.

That night I decided to try on my social pants and headed to Don Mucho’s Restaurant for dinner. There were a few free tables to sit at. The others were full of loud groups of friends getting tipsy, and couples getting snuggly. I strategically selected a table in close range to the bar (where perhaps other lonely souls would dwell) and checked out the menu.

I find eating alone extremely difficult. It is not enjoyable, I eat too fast and then I don’t really know what to do when I finish. Drinking, on the other hand, seems to work out just fine when in awkward situations with no one to talk to! Note to self: order another one.

A few micheladas into the night and I started to loosen up and tap my feet. If you want to make friends while traveling alone, it is key to make eye contact with people as they walk by. Smile at them. The most likely scenario is that they smile back and walk on – kinda like being the white girl on the sidelines of a Cuban salsa club. But to be honest, this tactic ended up making me quite a few…ummm… acquaintances during my stay in Palenque.

Within a few hours at this restaurant, I met some very interesting people: a Mayan descendant who offered to give me a spiritual cleansing of some sort (I nicely declined and offered to listen to his drumming instead), the author of the books Breaking Open the Mind and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, which deal with the use of psychedelic drugs and their influence on Mayan superior knowledge, and a Mexican world-traveling vagabond that brought me a bag of fruit to my cabana at 5am, surely with other intentions than giving me vitamin C. For some reason all seemed inclined to pass me some friendly words of advice: that I was distrusting, full of fear, and sleepy. Note to self: never talk to strangers.

Of course, without my pocket-sized friends Kate and Emilie there to boost my self-esteem, my first night of adventure turned into a long night of tossing and turning and worrying – why did these strangers all think I was so reserved and closed? I think the opposite of myself! True, a foreign girl sleeping alone in the jungle should and must take her precautions! But they hit on something and made me realize that I do have an inherent fear and I do always doubt people’s intentions. And yes, perhaps I have been a bit sleepy this past year on an intellectual level. Note to self: rid of the fear, put my brain to use again and let down my guard!

Don’t get me wrong – they were nice and I did like them. But if we had been on the dance floor, I’d say those were the guys with good moves, but stinky breath and bad B.O.

Luckily, partners changed and over the course of the next few days I met some truly brilliant people, including but not limited to: a doctor living in a Zapatista community, who looks exactly like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean (!); a Spanish musician who made an instrument out of water pipes and somehow produced beautiful songs; lovely Caro that learned quickly that I didn’t like eating alone and invited me to join them at meal time; an adorable couple from Berkeley that also got excited when “Pump Up The Jam” blasted in the club on New Years Eve; and most importantly, all the nameless indigenous people I came across everywhere I went. I wish I knew their names and their stories.

By the end of my short journey, I felt comfortable, confident, open, AWAKE – and I zip lined hundreds of feet in the air above a waterfall, just to help kick that fear factor from my system.

Suddenly, being alone was easier. I DID start writing in my journal over morning coffee in the colorful streets of San Cristobal. And I wandered the streets at night, filming old couples dancing in the plaza and children inventing games with palm leaves. Suddenly, making buddies was also effortless and there was someone from all walks of life ready to join me in activities from all walks of life.

You may know how to dance salsa, but when cumbia comes on things get a bit complicated and you trip all over yourself and the guy dancing with you. It’s humbling, at times embarrassing or frustrating, but mostly inspires you to dance more! With practice, you DO get less patosa.

In summary, this is what traveling alone is like for me – a traveler’s dance that only with time, patience and confidence can twist and turn you in ways you never dreamed. And in one week I shall embark on another lone journey for a short 5 days…destination still to be decided, but it’s not the location that matters. It’s the company, whether my own or with new smiling and sometimes criticizing faces. As long as I’m open to both, the band will play on…

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“Just think, you’ll get to eat all the ice cream you want!” [cue the overly ecstatic facial expressions and colored balloons falling from the ceiling].

I am 5 days into tonsillectomy recovery and guess what? I haven’t had a single scoop of ice cream. Not that nobody has offered, of course. It’s just that the thought of ice cream sends a wad of mucus up my chest and there it hovers in my throat until I can’t breathe. Options are 1) swallow it, only to have it slowly rise again or 2) hack it up through a raw and tender throat and spit in the trash bin by the bed. Neither are attractive, or comfortable, options. I stick to popsicles.

Although I love popsicles AND vampires, not even these Dracula popsicles make this surgery worthwhile

Apart from the fact that dairy is the last thing one should eat after a surgery like this (milk = phlegm = cough = ouch!), ice cream just is not a motivating enough factor for surgery. So how is it that everyone, including doctors, tries to sell the ice cream happy vibe to tonsil-fearing, pre-op citizens? I’m beginning to wonder if the sales people from Ben & Jerry’s go around taking doctors out to fancy dinners, like in pharmaceutical sales, to boost their sales and consumption. Because really people – ice cream just ain’t worth it!

My theory is simple – this operation is meant for children, and not adults. Only a child could believe that ice cream makes a surgery worthwhile. If someone had promised me a house in the countryside, or a lifetime of perfect health, or even the love of my life (!), then perhaps I would have skipped and sung my way into the Operating Room. But ice cream? I would happily give up a lifetime of gelato to not go through this.

I am not old, but I am not 7 years old either. Previous to surgery I heard various opinions about tonsillectomies, basically broken down into three categories: 1) those who never had them removed 2) those that had them removed as young children, and 3) those who had them removed as adults. The former two said it was a breeze. And I bet you they ate (or recommended) A LOT of ice cream! The latter, however, all said it was extremely painful. A few woman blogged that it was worse than childbirth! And a Spanish friend of mine wrote me saying “when i did it some years ago i wanted to be kill it hurts me a lot!!”

Once again, all evidence points to this being a surgery meant for children. Not adults.

A friend asked me if this was going to be an aggressive surgery. My response was, “Aren’t all surgeries aggressive?” I guess it is true that in the big scope of medical procedures, getting one’s tonsils removed is not that big of deal. Regardless, they put you asleep for a reason. They cut into your throat, where all air, spit, food, beverages and words usually pass by the second. Then they don’t seal the wound. It burns and hurts to swallow, but they tell you the only way to get better is to eat and drink. Then there is that whole ears, nose and throat union – pain in one usually equates pain in the whole trinity. It hurts. Actually, it hurts A LOT. So if anyone hears me scream, trust me, it’s not for ice cream.

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