I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Cried, Then I Cried Again. The Aftermath Of An Election

I cried on elections night. Not out of defeat for a candidate. The tears were for disbelief for having elected a man to office whose campaign promoted everything I reject, the same things our society as a whole rejects: bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia. It was disbelief and disappointment in seeing the man who, for months, undermined so much of the values we hold dear win.
It was not fear of the enforcement of his promised policies. It was sadness for all of us who allowed a message of hate to gain acceptance.
The logical part of me rejected the outcome of the votes. The promises to fix what is wrong coming from a man who does much of what is wrong (doesn’t pay taxes, hires undocumented immigrants below minimum wage) is the equivalent of hiring an addiction counselor who is deep in heroin.
Regardless, I don’t fear the policies as I fear the impact his message and how it was assimilated would have on those who seemed targeted by it, whether that was his intent or not.
For that I cried.
I knew the message disseminated during the presidential campaign by the now president elect had spoken to the low feelings of many. Those emotions that were dormant and by no means new nor created by this man, had been locked away and restricted as our society moved away from racism and injustice. His message gave the okay, the green light to unleash what we have fought to avoid for years. His message opened the gate and allowed them to fly free.

I cried that night.
It is that feeling you get when something terrible has happened.
That feeling cannot be explained. It is one of those “must be there” to understand it. “Must feel it” to know it.
And I know it. I have felt it.
As an immigrant, I have never felt discriminated, but I am well acquainted with a lesser feeling, that of “classism”. I grew up in a developing Country where social and economic status equals importance. A person is treated – or was treated back when I grew up – according to the rank their family had in society. I live now in a county of the United States that, because of its prominent classism, reminds me of my birthland. I am used to being talked over in a meeting, being interrupted in the middle of my sentence. My ideas, as brilliant as they may be, require much more emphasis than my counterparts. At times, I require a high-profile person by my side to be taken seriously. I deal with it. It comes with the territory.  I don’t belong to the right social class to expect differently.
But I’ve never dealt with open prejudice until now.
In the land of the free, a land of immigrants, I’ve been told in recent months to “speak English. This is America” as I carry on a private conversation.
I cried the night of the elections for the all of that, and then I cried again a day later.
It was not when I saw the anticipated acts of harassment done on to minorities. Muslim women being removed of their hijab, cars driving through black neighborhoods screaming “cotton picker” and the “N” word. Immigrants waking up to signs on their windshield telling them deportation was their future. Kids told in school by classmates to go back to their country. Not even when I saw the graffiti proclaiming white supremacy. I didn’t cry then.
It was when, after posting a question on social media, an unrelated comment told me “maybe u should think about relocating” That message illustrated in black and white what I felt. It made it real. It drove it home.
Under the dark cloud that this nasty campaign left behind, and the message it conveyed, some people will be glad to let me know that my rights are not the same as anybody else’s. I am different. I am a minority. If I don’t agree, I should leave. My right to express my opinion has been taken away.
But I have that right. I have earned it and I claim it, and legally no one can take it away from me. Nonetheless, some, as the person in the comment will make every effort to remind those of us who dare disagree that we are different, different to what they are.

Before this election, I was glad my children were intelligent, good hearted, good human beings, and I was confident our society would appreciate them for those attributes. I am now glad my kids are Caucasian, they speak with no accent. I am happy for that now.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Until The Shadow Goes Away

I am not bothered by what public figures say no matter how opposed to my ideology they might be. I welcome the opportunity to explore new ideas and entertain diverse thoughts. Your voice, your opinions, or that of the celebrities don’t bother me. It is that “shadow” that festers as a byproduct of it resembling a volatile gas awaiting a crack in the window to leak in that pushes me away.
When it finds that escape, when that shadow is out and negative feelings are running wild, it becomes difficult to express an opinion that can in any way be deemed controversial or simply against the parameters already set by your beliefs. Parameters that are now voiced out by that “shadow”.
The shadow is like an evil child. You must keep it guarded, surveyed, and never out of your sight, because once you open the gate there is no stopping it, it will run loose causing a chaos.
You’ll marvel at it. Is this really part of you? Are these your thoughts? You might be proud, or it might scare you, and there is no way to stop it. You let it loose.
And it’s okay. You might lose some friends. Some whom you know you have insulted, but you won’t apologize because there is no apology needed. Your shadow spoke its mind, and you will become acquainted even if briefly with others who have also let their evil child loose and who will appreciate you.
They will empower you. The more vehement and even vicious they are, the more validated you’ll feel. If anyone dares challenge you, you will unleash more of your child wrath. That will teach them.
How dare anyone, anyway?
You have the right to post anything even if offensive against those who don’t think like you. You’ll call them names and disagree. After all, your shadow is speaking the truth, and you know you are right. They are all wrong and as such deserving of the insults.
You might make a concession and privately tell someone “It’s not about you” when you notice the evil child has gone overboard in the insulting phase.
But you won’t take a step back now. You’ve gone too far to take it back.
There will be people like me who will hesitate to post a comment after seeing your come backs to those who don’t agree with you. I’ll stay away from those who call women C—t, and I will stay away from your posts if offensive. And I will hope that this is just a phase. That the shadow you let loose will go back inside not be seen until the next election realizing perhaps that you did not convince anyone. In the meantime, I’ll scroll down and ignore you, and if it gets that bad, I’ll unfollow you until you can put that evil child back in the dark. Only then I might start enjoying you again and remember why we were friends in the first place.  

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Rose Colored Glasses

Three years ago I drove my daughter to ICU after a sudden diagnosis of Diabetes Type 1. It was more than a scary experience to watch my child surrounded by medical doctors. It was a moment that changed me and the way I looked at life and people. At the very least, it provided the objectivity I had been avoiding.  I removed the rose colored glasses I worn all my life.

My brother and sister in law rushed to meet me in the parking lot around midnight after they found out that my daughter had been admitted.  A bottle of wine in the back seat purchased on their way there gave me a moment of relaxation. Minutes later I would sneak them in the ICU to see her.
I woke up curled up in a chair to the voice of a nurse: “Mrs. Loor, take this pillow. You’ll sleep better”.
My phone rang in the early hours of that first morning in the hospital. “How you take your coffee?” My new friend asked. “What else do you need? I’m on my way” Friendship is not measured by the time we’ve known each other but by the times we are there for each other. I learned that that day.
My coworkers took turns to meet me in the lobby. A cup of coffee, a card, a note. Their hugs lifted me up in those uncertain hours.
I waited for the rest of my family to come during the five days my child was in the hospital. They never did. Some of my close friends replied with a quick text never to follow up again. The man I dated didn’t find time to visit me. I’d choose never to see him after that.
Meanwhile, I watched my daughter endure her new routine. Her smile warmed up the room as she learned to use the needles that will accompany her for a long time if not the rest of her life. She had no complaints, not even after learning that her dad wouldn’t shorten his vacation to be by her side. Her resilience, her faith, was a ray of light in the darkness I felt.
I learned a lot from that kid that week. I learned to stand on my own and count my own blessings. I learned to appreciate what is given to me and I learned to accept and to let go.
I am always learning from the kid I’m supposed to teach. That’s how lucky I am.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

I Saw You

I don’t know I should feel bad about seeing you and not feeling anything.
I don’t know that I should feel good about seeing you and not feeling anything.
I don’t know how I should feel. I did notice you. There is that.
I thought you would last forever, but forevers have a deadline.
Maybe it was because the memory I kept of you was greater than reality.
Or maybe I let go.
That is sad, isn’t it?
Maybe I made you be who you never were and like all statutes you fell too.
No wrong on your part, I’m who created you.
I’m who let go.

Friday, September 02, 2016

I Am The Daugher Of An Illegal Alien

I am the daughter of an illegal immigrant.

My mother, was an illegal alien. An experienced accountant, she left her country for reasons that were not money related, even if money was not necessarily abundant.
Not every immigrant is destitute, uneducated, low life. Most are not and she certainly wasn’t. But one thing she was:
An illegal alien.
She embraced her status bravely. Working two shifts in factories under difficult conditions where she never made minimum wage. I remember her fingers red with blisters caused by the “long play” records she removed hot from the press. Her tired smile sent in pictures to her family in Colombia walking to a train station in freezing temperatures. I remember the time she worked through the fever of bronchitis unable to take a “sick day” and without seeking medical care because her status didn’t come with health benefits, and seeking them was a red flag for deportation.
I am the daughter of an illegal alien.
An honest, hardworking illegal female immigrant.
Other members of the family followed. All illegal. All worked in similar conditions. All hard working honest people. Under their illegal status, their federal pay check deductions were left behind unable to file IRS return.
Their challenges are not new. Their slow acceptance into this country was not smooth, and that’s not new either. Other groups suffered as much.
I have a hard time thinking that any of them robbed a citizen of a job they would have taken under similar circumstances for less than minimum wage and no benefits. I have as hard of a time believing they received anything they didn’t work hard to get.
They didn’t run back to their country when their status changed. They stayed, invested in the economy and raised a family.
Their lives were not easy. They lived in fear, and they worked hard. And they were grateful. When you have nothing, you are grateful for everything.
It’s difficult to sit back and watch how they are depicted as criminals and to hear about the glamorous easy life they supposedly had as illegal immigrants.  None of it is true, at least not to this immigrant family.
I’ve never been illegal, but I am of an illegal family. It is from them that I learned that deep commitment to work ethics and integrity that now I pass on to my children.
I am the daughter of an illegal alien and I am proud.

Best Medicine

Every fitness magazine will tell you that daily exercise is the best medicine.
Weight loss, low blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease are but the tip of the myriad of benefits.  Research shows that running reduces anxiety and stress and calms your emotions.
Being out there, just you and the road, is therapeutic. It’s being in sync with oneself, it’s peaceful, it’s prayer from within, and at times, it’s ecstasy. I don’t mean to imply that these moments of delight make every run easy, but I can attest to the benefits to the mind and soul.
Running has been my companion in my doggiest days. It was my aid when I fought an illness. It gave me the strength-- more mental than physical-- to go on. During those days, when getting up and lacing the sneakers was difficult, running provided the calm I needed. It has not made life better, nor adversities less, but it certainly has made difficulties more tolerable. If nothing else, running has provided a pause before reacting, and has given me time to think before making a decision.
Let’s face it, if you had a fight with your partner, you won’t love them more after a run, but you’ll be less likely to kill him or her!
There are many other benefits. Just ask Enrique Murillo, addiction counselor. Thirty-four years ago Enrique went for his first run two months after having had his last drink. Alcoholics Anonymous had helped him stop, but he needed a resource to keep him from relapsing. He had to deal with the newly found sense of reality he faced without alcohol, and running was the healthy habit he needed. “It provided the axis for my recovery,” he says.
It doesn’t just happen, though. Murillo stresses that you must embrace it, form the commitment, develop the engagement. Make it a habit that becomes part of yourself. Jesse Bailey, one of the clients Enrique counseled in the RECAP Center in Middletown where he works, agrees. Four years clean, he credits running with the mental strength needed during his struggle. “It was the only time I felt good that first year.
Enrique is documenting his findings. He hopes to prove that of the dozen addicts he has counseled, those who embraced running or walking have remained sober longer. His goal is to demonstrate that an exercise program is an essential part of the recovery phase.
Those who are looking to make a change in their life physically and mentally, start by going for a walk, a jog, sign up for a 5K, and feel the calm and energy flow. Self-prescribe with a dosage of the best medicine there is.


A Good Run

On weekends, I like to start my day early so I can enjoy as many hours as possible. Oddly, weekends and vacations, I wake up the earliest.

I love to run. It’s my time to decompress. Sometimes it is my silent prayer. When it’s only me and the road, I find peace, and many times I think of solutions to issues on my mind. But as much as running offers me, most of my runs are only to maintain my fitness level or my mileage. Few are remarkable.
On Sunday I drove to Bethel, New York. I started my run early to avoid the impending daytime heat; the skies were pale grey and the town slept.
The roads were quiet. Animals fed in their farm. A distant rooster greeted the morning sun. Cornfields lined some of the roads of the Vintage Run Half Marathon course I was following.
Ducks, chased by a dog, landed on a pond across the street.
The trees that four months ago were bare were robust now with green leaves that would change to a plenitude of colors by the time of the Vintage Run on October 1st. Their perennial change is a reminder of the cycle of life we cannot escape.
The lack of rain exposed rocks in the streams that normally run full.
I passed two silos standing tall on the green acres of a farm on Old Taylor Road.  Hay bales lay piled alongside the barn. I caught my breath after the long hill and wondered who lived in this remote place bursting with tranquility.
My pace was slow. The heat was rising and my lack of long distance training showed. I timed my walk breaks with the hills, snapping pictures of the gorgeous views that surrounded me. I breathed in this peaceful time alone, so needed in today’s hectic life.  I realized I had not turned on my iPod, but I was glad for the silence to be so in tune with nature.
The town was awakening. Kids in their pajamas ran around in their yards, people walked their dogs, cars emerged heading up to the Woodstock monument. A woman asked how many miles I was running and offered water. “I have only a half mile to go,” I replied. “I can’t hardly make it to the end of my driveway,” she said with a smile. “Neither could I years ago. It’s a matter of giving it a try” I assured her.
I made my final turn and tackled the last hill. I was tired, but felt surprisingly good. I got to my car and waited for the sweat to stop pouring before getting in. I smiled. I was happy.
Sunday was a good run, a peaceful run, a remarkable run. A time away from the steel and concrete of the city. It was about being out there for the simple reason that I could be. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Ring

I see it on their finger as they pass by me. It’s visible when they hold their drink. I don’t think anything of it, but I notice it. It’s obvious.
They are married and not afraid to tell the world.
I like seeing it. I would have liked to see it in the finger of the man to whom I gave a ring during our wedding vows.
Maybe it was too much to ask? Maybe it was too much to wear?
Maybe it didn’t matter.  I wore mine. I was the only one who did in that relationship.
I could have used a reason why it was never worn, a lie perhaps. I could have done without the mocking in front of friends and the outright “I don’t want to”
Funny how simple things dig so deep in our soul.
So deep one day we take our own ring off and walk away.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Show It. Don't Post It.

We had not seen each other in like forever. We both had gotten married within months of each other and since then our communication via letters had become scarce. Well, not mine. I kept writing, but in the rare occasions when I received one of hers, it was brief with the endless promise to write more later, and in every note (they were too brief to be called letters), she reminded me of how immensely happy she was with the wonderful man God had gifted her.

On our first vacation I asked my husband to go with me to visit my friend. Our trip would be short, but enough to catch up.
In spite of the limited days we had, my friend never found time for “us girls” alone. Her hand always resting on her husband’s lap, or sharing a kiss with him, sometimes passionately. In our very few moments alone, perhaps when he went to the bathroom, she reiterated her immense happiness.
I left convinced of her self-proclaimed bliss. Perhaps a little too close, perhaps a little too much PDA, but glad she had found her soul mate and her paradise as she called it. I wonder about me. I was happy, but I never talked about it. Was I not appreciating the cards I was dealt?
Her marriage ended a year later with a list of infidelities by her husband and rocky times she had never disclosed.
Mine lasted 25 years.
Show it. Don’t post it.
It’s a quote I have shared a few times when and after the unrelenting effort some friends put in social media talking about their unbelievable happiness.
Unbelievable. That’s the key word.
When a relationship forces all others in the back burner, when an email from a friend is replied with no more than two lines, when calls and messages are ignored, it’s not a perfect relationship.
You are trapped in an illusion and in the exhausting job of convincing the world of what you are not convinced.
There are no perfect mates. Happiness is made of imperfections, of trial and error moments. It’s made of enough time away to miss one another and sufficient time together to feel confident, but not suffocated.
The (im)perfect mate is an addition and enhancement to your life, not a replacement of it.