Have you ever experienced a moment that slapped you straight in to reality? A moment of self-awareness so sudden that you didn’t realize you had even stopped breathing? A jaw-dropping run-of-the-mill fact that sent you in to momentary denial? I’m sure you have quite the story to tell and I would love to hear all about it over some coffee someday.
But mine was at 6:30 this morning and I’m still feeling the effects. I was in the car driving the hubby and myself to the bus stop. Of course I was driving. When am I NOT driving? Either way, I had the radio tuned in to the Z-Morning Zoo show with Elvis Duran and the gang. Love them. And then IT happened. They read off their routine daily celebrity birthday list. Who cares, right? And I normally wouldn’t care. No big deal. We all have one of those.
But today, TODAY, this year… Madonna turned 58. 58! Fifty-eight!!! My reaction? If you didn’t already guess, I hope I’ve captured the essence of the moment here… First, an instantaneous gasp. Next, with my mouth still open I furrow my brows in disbelief. Then I let out the following… “What? What?! No way! Noooo! She can’t be 58. No! She’s 58? No! Ughhh! Damn it honey! (As I look at the hubby and I hit the steering wheel and laugh. He’s also laughing. I continue, as I’m somewhat pouting in the process) My goodness (as I shake my head side to side and my shoulders drop and my posture slumps), she’s f’ing 58! You know what this means Hun? (as I resume a high pitch) Do you?! I’m going to be 58 soon. Yeah, it’s coming and it’s coming quick. That’s going to be me. Arghhhh!!! It just got real here. Damn it!”.
A comical moment for sure. And even more comical for the spectator of this mini morning breakdown. Here’s the thing…she was my Virgin and Material Girl. She nudged me to Express Yourself. I’d daydream of being someone’s Lucky Star. I pictured myself on La Isla Bonita. My heartstrings tugged for Papa Don’t Preach. I crossed the Borderline. Felt like everyday was a Holiday. I’d fall to my knees and bellow out Like A Prayer and practiced in front of a mirror how to Vogue.
For 30 years her music made me dance like no one was watching. For 30 years her continuous transformations proved that we can always change in to better versions of our prior selves. She was never afraid to say what was on her mind. She fought for what she believed in and she took risks to reach her goals. And during all this time, she seemed to embrace a youthful spirit despite the years darting by.
But this number, 58, was just a reminder that I have to get moving. I have to hustle to enjoy and experience all that I could. That I have goals I still want to reach. I will not waste my time on other people’s drama or expectations of what I should be. That I can’t waste time thinking there is always enough time. Because time rushes by, and my 45 today will be my 58 tomorrow. I will continue to be strong, fearless and fight for what I want until then. I will continue to enjoy even the little things. I will both laugh and cry with unparalleled emotion. I will enjoy life, people and what this earth has to offer. I will live, sing and dance like no one AND everyone is watching, shouldn’t matter.
And I will always remember that “Poor is the man (or woman) whose pleasures depend on the permission of another” — Justify My Love.
My thoughts are like unplanned and uninvited guests. They usually pop in when I’m on my own during a relaxing drive. For some people it’s a stroll through the park as they contemplate the sights and sounds of nature. For others it may be a long soak in the tub as the lit wick of a candle dances in the dimness of the room. Sure, those seem to be an open door policy as well, but given that I find myself driving everyday to and fro from the daycare, during that daily hour it can get very busy and noisy up in my head. Personally, I dread the To-Do list thoughts like home repairs or shopping for back to school supplies. I prefer to shove those out and jot them down on paper to keep them from pacing around in my head. Then there are the thoughts that if allowed to put its feet up and stay awhile can be quite enlightening. On Friday, during my usual drive, a humorous and somewhat questionable bit of advice handed to me way back in my 20’s opened the door and walked right in. It caused not only a chuckle to escape, but it seemed to be an open call to many other pieces of advice I’ve received in my lifetime. From the profound to the useless. People will gratuitously provide us with information that we can consider either genius or just plain stupid, having acquired it from either tradition or experience. Many have stayed with me throughout the years. Some I’ll keep alive, while others I’ll make sure to keep buried forever.
Here are some I’m willing to share with the world. Some may be equally helpful to you as they were for me, while others just provide simple entertainment. Please share some of your lifetime favorites at the end of this post. My door is always open to good, weird, funny but effective advice.
From my Mother…
At the young age of 20, I was about to be married and I was a virgin. The night before my wedding, my mother who had never spoken to me about sex which means I never received “The Talk”, had now offered up the following…. (original advice was given in Spanish) … “Make sure to have either tissues, wet wipes or a hand towel on your nightstand since having sex can get messy and you may be too tired to go wash up”. She told me to trust her. Yuck! Was this my “Talk”? Unfortunately I had nowhere to hide.
“A sincere smile is the best beauty tool you’ll ever own”.
“Don’t accept anything anyone tells you as truth. Always ask for proof”. I wish I had taken this bit of advice early on in my life.
“Let go of the negative stuff and hold on tight to the positive”.
“Don’t wash your hair everyday. It’ll dry it out”.
“Sit up straight”.
“Beware of men that feel a need to sell themselves like a used car salesman. Beware of men that remind you how great they are or how lucky you are to be with them. Let their actions speak for their true nature”.
From my Aunt…
“Never lend out money to family or friends without a written and signed contract”.
“Never invest in a brand new car. A used car does the job just fine”.
“Forget the rainy day. Save, save, save, for when the storm comes”.
“Hire a lawyer to settle your ownership of your house”. This one proved to be my saving grace.
“Don’t judge others if you want to be accepted as you are”.
“Take care of yourself first so you can then take care of others”.
From my Boss…
“If you want something done immediately make sure to NEVER use the term ASAP”.
“Go home. You can finish this tomorrow”.
From my Husband…
“Who cares what others think. Be yourself. To the hell with everyone else”.
“Find what you love to do and do it”. This replayed in my head a million times, then this blog was born.
“Stop cleaning and relax”. Yeah right!
To an article I asked him to critique before I posted it up… “It’s good, but not great”. This always pushes me to strive for great.
“These shoes would look great on you”. I bought the shoes.
“Never stop learning”.
From an ex-boyfriend…
“Let him speak first. Wait your turn without interruption. Then you can go in for the kill with all information in hand”. His advice to me when I had to go to a child custody court hearing.
From a total stranger…
“I can tell by looking at you that you are NOT completely Puerto Rican. Go research your ancestry”. I’ll be doing a DNA test soon for my ancestry percentages, but this stranger was right after I did some digging. I’ll share the results after I complete the test.
From a friend…
“Keep writing”. So simple but exactly what I needed to hear.
“Rub the steering wheel twice around to the left, once around to the right and ask the Parking God to guide us to a spot, and now go straight. Trust me.”. I laughed but humored her. Then screamed when there was a spot waiting for us instantly. Take note we were driving around for quite some time and just wanted to get on the beach. Hysterical, eerie and weird!
From my seven-year old…
“Mommy, you need to brush your teeth. Your breath smells bad”. I had coffee breath. Kids are brutally honest.
Now how can I go on after THAT?! Share some of yours below.
Would you say that you are one of the many people today that lean heavily on the statement… “everything happens for a reason”, especially after an emotional event? Attaching a meaning to a traumatic moment seems to help many cope with the shock that trickles in quickly thereafter. Although I could empathize with this very “protective” behavior, I do not believe the mainstream superstition behind this claim. But I will admit that I have an ability to work out a lesson nonetheless; a “what’s the moral to this story” from almost anything that has occurred in my life. We can all thank our favorite childhood fables like The Boy that Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood for instilling that useful habit. After each relationship, I’ve learned how to make better partner options. After each uncomfortable call with a debt collector, I’ve learned better budgeting skills. After each medical scare I’ve learned how to take better care of myself. Even after burning toast a few times, I get to “know the settings” of each new toaster allowing me to achieve a perfectly golden brown slice. Aside from the toast, these experiences have provided very valuable lessons that have changed my life … although my oldest toast-lovin’ son will beg to differ on the latter. He says I make the best buttered toast. Now there’s an accolade you don’t often come across.
I’m very comforted by the fact that I personally bear the control to draw out the lesson (or lessons) from all that happens, and NOT that every event was set, destined or allowed to happen to provide me with a lesson or test.
Think about that for a minute. Imagine IF for just one second I was wrong.
My youngest son who is to turn 4 in a few months comes to mind. Some know my experience with him, but I’ll fill you in. When I was about 6 months pregnant, my munchkin was diagnosed with TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). In a nutshell, a fluke in his arteries. They were flipped from their normal position. Simply put… he could survive “normally” inside of me since I was breathing for him, but he would not survive in the real world without having to undergo open heart surgery for an arterial switch immediately after being born. We had already gone through 2 rounds of IVF to create him, now we had to keep him alive.
When I look back at the moment I shared the medical news with others, an outpouring of emotional suggestions came with it. Pray to god was the most popular. Pray to Jehovah for strength and comfort. Some even went as far to assure me that “everything will be alright”. There were other reminders sent my way… “Jehovah doesn’t abandon those that serve him” and “God does not test us beyond what we can handle”.
We set out for the best surgeon for this procedure. We carried on until the memorable day that my son came in to this world. I couldn’t even touch his newborn skin since they had to rush him away to get him hooked up to a breathing tube and stabilize him. I saw him for only 2 seconds then I was left in that room, alone, to contemplate all that had happened to lead up to this moment and to meditate on all that we would about to experience.
Fast forward … my son survived it, and so did we. So, does that mean that everyone was right? Everything WAS going to be alright? God did not abandon us? He gave us the strength needed?
What lessons did I make sure to pull from this experience?
If what others or what the bible teaches is correct, I would have to rest on the fact that God had tested us. He tested us with the life of an unborn child. An innocent baby. A human life. Sure, it wasn’t beyond what I could handle, but it does not minimize the lack of moral standing of testing someone with the life of another.
I gained strength in the love I had for my son. I gained strength as all parents do when it means having to protect their young. We had insisted on creating him, no way we were giving up now.
Prayer did not help save my son. A cardiologist that detected the condition early on did. A team of doctors that came together. A surgeon did. His skill and experience in this procedure gave my son a chance of survival. And a blood transfusion is what sealed that deal. Even though the surgery itself was a success, a child that small and new could not generate enough blood on his own to bring up his levels. And according to the religious organization I once belonged to, that action in itself is going against god, so obviously, god did not save my son, nor was god with us.
That morality and a sense to do good and what’s right comes from within and from logical thought. Not through the hundreds of different teachings and beliefs in the world.
Seeing my son’s scar is a constant reminder to live, to explore, to learn and to grow. And saving my son’s life was the moral thing to do, the right thing to do, the human and loving thing to do. And how dare anyone try to tell me or guilt me in to thinking otherwise.
Many times we coast through life blinded to the lessons waiting at the end of each moment. Despite being slighted, they simmer there for as long as it takes us to collect them for later consumption. And it’s a good thing, since allowing a lesson to shift our thoughts for personal growth is only possible when we are good and ready. I’m at a point in my life that I make sure to meditate after each experience to pull as many lessons possible I can from it…you know…for safe keeping. By doing this, I ensure that my experience was both a memorable one as well as purposeful, no matter how small or insignificant the moment seemed.
This weekend was surely a purposeful one. The type of trip that I knew would be an “Eat, Pray, Love” revelation (except not alone) even before it started. So, as I sit here on the plane going through some heavy turbulence, I reflect back on the last couple of days.
This was a well deserved and long overdue trip with my girlfriend of 18 years. Just the two of us away from our respective lives, offices, and families.
Friendship: A time to bond, reminisce, uplift, gossip, vent, and laugh. One where we could remember who we were, how far we’ve come, discuss where we both missed the mark and help each other see where we hit the target. A time to catch up and ask questions and realize that sometimes you don’t always know someone as much as you thought. What a beautiful opportunity… to know you could keep learning things about those most important to you. That who you were and who they were 18 years ago, or 10 years ago or even 5 years ago is not the same person in it’s entirety, but that the essence of what has kept our relationship as strong as it has through all these years, is still unquestionably in tact, and we allow these new revelations to keep the friendship fresh and exciting. “How did I not know that” or “did you tell me that and I just forgot” can be common questions among all types of relationships, be it friends, lovers or family. I take what I know, or reminded, or recently learned and embrace the details as another little charm to our friendship bracelet. And who doesn’t love those cute little charms, that create such a sweet sound when mixed all together.
This trip also enlightened me toward…..well, ME!
Self: Spending most of your everyday life surrounded by work, husband, kids and home, you usually conclude that the life you lived prior to having all of these things can’t be enjoyed anymore. That going out for drinks in a dark crowded bar with strangers, staying out until “last call”, trying to have a conversation over the ear-splitting sounds of huge subwoofers, does not fit your “lifestyle” anymore. And hence pops up the adage “I’m just too old for that”, which is a stupidly depressing thought. But, it turns out, we weren’t too old for it after all. We pushed through it reminding each other to relive good old “28” again. We didn’t feel out-of-place. We didn’t feel awkward. We looked great, felt great and we had a blast. And despite feeling every achy bone in my body the next day I wouldn’t take back the night before. But…. I’m happy to say that the issues is not that I’m too old for that lifestyle, the enlightening moment is that I don’t WANT to party that way anymore. I don’t really yearn it or miss it. The realization is that I truly like being who I’ve evolved into now in my 40’s, not because I NEED to live this way, but because I enjoy my new self and along with it the interests that have flourished. I love sitting by the lake and taking in my surroundings, I relish in browsing through antique shops with my husband, I look forward to eating out at new restaurants trying different cuisines. I want to go to quaint art exhibits, and book readings, and exploring tucked away towns. I plan fruit picking outings. Search out winery tours. And finding the perfect cafe that serves gourmet coffee, tea and pastries (none of that typical bakery stuff found on every corner) is like striking gold. And as for you 20-somethings…. just know that you’re never too young for my “lifestyle”.
If I have to pull yet another lesson it will be this…
Other folks: Sure, I was the only one that got away from the normal routine of the every day. And yet, Big O and the boys seemed to have benefited as well. I was excited for Big O to have the bed all to himself and allow the room to get as cold as he liked, without me complaining that I was turning in to an icicle and who could live like this. Not to mention the constant nagging I do for him to turn over in hopes to stop the unrelenting snoring that keeps me up all night. I was relieved that the kids had a chance to have an all-boys weekend without mom constantly reminding them to put their pants on, or that the sofa is NOT a trampoline. They all got to live as freely at home as I did in a hotel room. People (even kids) need time away from each other. They need to realize that life is not always about other people being there with you or for you. Another well-known adage “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” is unmistakably accurate. We all need a break from what we know and need time to miss each other (no, not in a Ross and Rachel kind of way). Time-away allows us all to feel connectedly refreshed and renewed. You just may find it heartwarming to be welcomed back home with the cheers, smiles and kisses as if you’d been away for months instead of just 4 days.
Where I’m at and what I was doing there really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was sitting, feeling the warmth of the sun reflecting in from the window, not even paying attention to what’s going on outside. The view glimmered in the sun and caught the corner of my eye. I turn to the right and squinted ever so slightly. Initially, nothing grand to be seen. Just a run of the mill field of green grass with trees lining the perimeter. Such a pretty, relaxing view though. I love sitting by this window. As I keep turning to catch glimpses of the view I then notice; bright dandelions spread across that grassy field. Sporadic growth, some here, some there; nature has decided their location. They give off a cheery and warm feeling. A “SPRING IS APPROACHING” sign. As children, we were taught to depict the sun in yellow. This color symbolizes summertime warmth. Rubber duckies are always yellow. That “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Smiley face is always displayed in yellow. And so is a perfectly delicious banana. Growing up, my mom always painted our kitchen in yellow. “It’s a happy color”, she’d excuse. And I remembered those dandelions as a child, thinking they were the most beautiful “flower” ever. Pulling one out of the ground ever so gently to use as a tropical accessory in my hair. Something so small, yet made my life more colorful.
And just as someone’s entire life flashes before their eyes when faced with a huge mortality experience, at that moment, straight away I learned a true life lesson (or lessons).
Countless obsessed Americans have decided that this little beauty is more of a nuisance, a tiny irritating pest. Homeowners will cringe at the sight of these popping up amongst their beautifully manicured lawns. They will pull at the root, they will apply weed killer, with determination they will run over them with their mowers. And all because someone, somewhere, at some time decided that the only acceptable form of perfection is a clear green yard. They decided that nature cannot decide or dictate. They themselves will control and manipulate. They will pour out money and invest all energy to acquire the results they have come to accept and conform to. Each lawn striving to look like the one to their right and to their left. An all cohesive, interconnected, organized look. Homeowners will curse the dandelion for being a weed, forgetting, or maybe not even knowing that their perfect grass is too a weed. But ask a child, a person in their purest form, with eyes so clear, not influenced by pre-conceived notions of what is acceptable, which yard they would prefer, and most will choose the one adorned with those happy bright flowers. They see beauty, they see life, they see enjoyment.
And THAT is what happens to many when leaving childhood and entering adulthood. We all display it in one form or another, either willfully or unknowingly. We forget the beauty in things, in people, in nature, or we choose to fight against it. A charming old farm-house will be renovated in to a cold modern investment. A curvy woman will nip, tuck, or squeeze while a thin man will spend hours trying to bulk up. A man displaying a tattoo will be categorized, as well as a woman with short spiky hair. She’s too pushy, he’s too effeminate. He’s shy, she’s loud. He’s too contented, she’s money hungry. A man shouldn’t cry, a woman shouldn’t raise her voice. That kid is either too hyperactive, or the other too lethargic. This kid either talks too much, or your teen doesn’t speak much at all. Too short, too tall, too skinny or fat. We all fall under one of these categories. We all know someone who does. We all decide who goes where. We all fight against one or many.
But incredibly, a child will not care if you’re loud. He’ll consider you fun. Pushy? Assertive. Effeminate? Sensitive to others. Tattoos are interesting pictures. Spiky hair is cool. Hyperactive is playful and lethargic is relaxing. The one that talks a lot is social and the one that doesn’t is contemplative. That old farm-house has history, and that modern renovation is sleek. Curvy will provide a hug full of loving comfort, and that slender man is tall and elegant. Can you do that? Can you or I look at everyone and everything through the eyes of a child? I dare you to try this for a week.
It has been said that every weed is technically a plant deemed out-of-place. Deemed by who though? It is a plant considered undesirable. Undesirable to whom? Last I looked, nature has a purpose for EVERY living thing. The lowly unwanted Dandelion when researched is not only beautiful, but is hardy and has useful dietary and medicinal qualities AND is completely edible. Further research and the flower petals are used to make Dandelion wine and coffee. What?!! My next shopping trip for sure will include these in my cart. And of course, here’s the lesson I learned; Research the people you opt to judge before doing so. Don’t be the person to make them or yourself feel out-of-place. Don’t you dare consider someone else or yourself as undesirable. Understand their purpose and accept your own. See their beauty as well as your own. Look for their strengths and learn how to make your own even stronger.
Next lesson; Although a plant, I mentioned before that grass is also considered a weed by many. An acceptable, wanted, sort after and nurtured “weed”. The one knighted even by nature itself to cover the ground we walk on. So all is fine. NO! Of course, humans always step in to direct and decide things their way. Have you ever wondered who cuts the grass on the rolling hills of Ireland? Have you seen the rolling hills of Ireland? No one cuts it. It’s growth and self-maintenance has produced such a breathtaking view. It’s proven that mowing is a destructive practice that stresses the grass because it reduces the amount of leaf tissue available for the production of energy. Cut too low, take it down past it’s breaking point, the grass dies. Dull, poorly adjusted equipment will tear the grass blade, leaving it susceptible to infection and giving your lawn a frayed brownish look. Blah, blah, blah? The correlations are just staring us straight in the face. You MUST see all the parallels here, don’t you?! Adults insist nurturing only what they deem acceptable. They will destroy one another, cutting others down in order to fit them in to their perfect “green” life. And although many people and children do need some “trimming”, but if done incorrectly, if using poorly adjusted equipment; The result? There is nothing left for that person to produce. Their “energy” squashed, extracted, gone. Their beauty now frayed and eroded.
I WANT the happy Dandelion. I want to BE that Dandelion. I want the childhood attributes that come with it. I want to reflect that in my dealings with everyone. I will research you, I will ask you questions, I will get to know you, I will see your beauty and purpose. I will nurture you to grow in your natural state. You have the right to be wine and coffee. I will allow you to be The Rolling Hills of Ireland. And as for the actual Dandelion? I will keep them in my yard for as long as I can, because my children deserve the same memories and lessons I’ve learned through them.