29 Reflections Over 29 Years

The evolution of getting ready: from a red silk robe to an emerald jumpsuit.

It’s my 29th birthday. After I post this, it’s my plan to sleep in, wake up, work out, head to the post office, then the dentist. In the evening I’ll cook my favorite meal and my favorite cookies and call it a day. I’ve been catching up with people and resting lots – it feels good.

  1. Environment matters – so does Vitamin D. “We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them.” Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness. Ever since moving to San Diego in September of 2018 I haven’t experienced a single depressive episode. When I lived in Rochester, I was a shut in inside an apartment on Park Ave. When I wasn’t traveling for work, I was in my apartment, by myself and never went outside. My greatest desire was to move to a location where I felt alive. I had numerous people tell me that it wouldn’t matter where I lived under the phrase of “you are where you’re at”. I had spent 2 years in isolation at that point and all I had mostly done was look within – intensely. I knew all I needed to do was change environments. I made the move regardless of what people said and I’ve been the happiest since.
  2. What other people think about me is none of my business. Is it my midheaven in Aries? What other people say or think about me is none of my business. I don’t want to arrive at my deathbed regretting the life I lived because I lived my life catering to the opinions of others. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”
  3. Reveling in my insignificance is a healing practice. I love standing in front of the ocean or getting lost in a forest with large trees. When I encounter a physical space that I can’t perceive in its entirety,  I feel small. That feeling of smallness is often a reminder that I’m a bit of embodied energy living on a planet within a solar system within one of billions of galaxies in what could be an ever expanding universe. What if there is more than one universe? My existence means nothing. And this realization fills my little heart with peace and joy. I’m just passing through and experiencing what it means to be embodied. WOW.
  4. Certainty is death. Change is the only constant. Up until about the age of 25, I spent most of my life attempting to find solid ground – somewhere, anywhere. I wanted something in life to be certain. In 2016 (when I was 25 about to turn 26), my life came crashing down, again, but this time in a way that I thought wasn’t survivable. It was then that I surrendered to the idea that change was the only constant. The only solid safety I was going to find in this lifetime didn’t come from something external but from my heart within. My deep inner world explorations led me to find comfort in the concept of death. Everything ends including our lives. That certainty is sufficient for me.
  5. Emotions are information. I’ve often been told that I’m “too logical”. And there is nothing further from the truth than that statement. I feel everything intensely. Feelings consume me. I feel everything down to my bones, in the deepest parts of my soul. Yet, I rarely make decisions from an emotional space. When emotions arise, I ask them questions: What are you trying to tell me? What valuable information does this reaction possess? When making a decision, I take a myriad of evidence into account. Feelings are one of the avenues of information – they’re evidence. But they’re not the ONLY form evidence. There is data, human behavior, patterns, etc.
  6. Sometimes you need a break from reality. I’d like to preface this by saying that I take pride in my ability to control my emotions (Refer to #5). This year, for the first time in life, I experienced a total loss of control over my emotions triggered by someone I knew in my childhood. I experienced a break from reality. I vividly remember waking up one morning in a state of complete rage. I wanted him dead.  I wanted to drive to his apartment, drive his car into the Pacific, and then set his apartment on fire. I was willing to throw my life away. I wanted to destroy everything in sight. I ran and ran and ran. I went to the ocean. I got a massage. I went to yoga. At 10PM that night, I found myself on the 5 North with no clear end destination. Around 1AM, I called Nick. In his true sage ways, he asked, “Are you willing to throw away the brightness of your future because of the actions of one fuckup? Let him go and go be.” The next day, I texted him that I wanted him the fuck out of my life. This is the first time in my life that I communicated something important to someone via text. I always prefer to see people face to face for important matters – I just knew I didn’t have the discipline to not lose my shit on him without ruining my life in the process. This was the scariest day of my life. I found myself so immersed in my rage that I couldn’t control it – not acting on my desires in that moment sucked the life-force out of me. This was also the most healing moment of 2019 for me. After the sea of rage passed, I thought of my father. When I was tiny, my father would often have bouts of rage where he would destroy everything and hit everything that was in his way. From beating me to throwing the dog down a couple flights of stairs to trashing the entire kitchen and living room. In that moment I asked myself: is this how papi felt all the time? This is just how I felt ONCE and it  sucked the energy out of me- I can’t imagine feeling that way on the regular. In that moment, I felt a sense of deep empathy and compassion for my father. This doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it certainly helped me understand and in the process heal a deep wound.
  7. You can’t control how others behave and live their lives. You can only control your own actions and behaviors. By the time I left home at 17, I deeply understood that my parents weren’t going to change. If I wanted my life and circumstances to change, I had to take matters into my own hands.  Learning this truth at an early age has saved me a good amount of heartache and time waste in my adult years. During my adolescence, I remember my greatest wish being that my parents would change. I wanted my dad to go to therapy to sort out his anger management issues. I wanted my mom to go to therapy to learn how to be assertive and how to use her voice. I saw so much potential in them both – I just knew they lacked the tools. I myself have been in therapy since I was 13 and I think it’s honestly what saved my life. When I was 13, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. On top of going to a clinic, I also had to go to therapy. Two years later, we had the first (and only) family therapy session. The session after my family therapy session was the day my therapist told me the first two sentences above. Some people will never change, but you as an individual can change. From that point forward, we started working on acceptance and on giving me the tools to make it on my own.
  8. Coffee is not the answer. I love the taste and aroma of coffee, but I can’t have it. When I drink coffee, I have a hard time focusing, staying still, and emotionally grounded. It starts with me shaking and sweating followed by increased heart palpitations and feelings of lightheadedness. Not sure why I can’t metabolize it properly. What do I do for energy? I sleep lol. And on days that I have an especially erratic travel day, I just convince myself to push-through until I can give my body proper sleep.
  9. Alcohol is not the answer either. I’ve been on and off experimenting with this one for years. I have found that if I have more than two alcoholic drinks in a night, I will wake up the next morning wanting to be dead and feeling as if I lost all meaningful connection with the world around me. I only drink a few times a year and I try to keep my drinking to stuff I actually like – like tequila and champagne. Why would I drink something I don’t like the taste of? Not sure why this drug affects my neurotransmitters and neural pathways in the way that it does. I don’t need a solution though – I don’t need to be downing shots of tequila to feel happy.
  10. Sweat is the answer. I think that exercise is the greatest gift of embodiment. Do you mean to tell me that I can use my organic machine to sweat and it’ll make me feel really good? OMG. It also helps me focus, feel less anxious, and feel like I can tackle difficult tasks.
  11. The first 8 years of my life were magical and gave me an incredible foundation for the rest of my life. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Born in Mayagüez and raised in Moca (Aceitunas). Growing up I spent most of my time with my nanny (a woman who took care of me), my maternal grandmother, and my maternal aunt. These were all strong and empathetic women that taught me how to exist in the world. They encouraged me to get lost in my imagination, but also taught me how to take action in the physical world. Imagination has to be coupled with action for your “dreams to come true”. I vividly remember how much time I spent outdoors picking mangoes and avocados off the floor, from our backyard. We also had a a palm tree, green beans, achiote, and rows of plantain trees next door. My parents other land had an orange tree. My great grandmother’s house had mamey fruit and corazón fruit. My grandma’s house had puma rosa fruit. My nanny’s house had a mandarin tree – they were so sweet! My nanny’s house also had a magical garden with herbs and spices. She also had an aloe plant. I used to take the leaves and play with their gel – it was my favorite! My nanny could cure anyone of any malady with the teas she made from her garden. About once a week my nanny and I would go to a little store around the corner from her house to get eggs. The eggs all resided in an open space in the back of the store. There were some free-roaming chickens that lived there and would lay eggs. We would go to the backyard of the store and pick the eggs we wanted. On the way back, we would stop at Doña Ita’s house. Doña Ita would bake all the time. She would share her goods with the neighborhood. I always used to take six cupcakes to bring to my parents. I thought that if I brought them something, they would feel less stressed. My dad’s best friend had a goat farm – they produced milk and cheese. The goats lived in acres and acres of land. They were so happy. I remember feeding the baby goats and becoming sad because I couldn’t bring them home. Across the street from where I lived, there was empty, open land with no end in sight. Per my dad’s uncle, there were no properties on the land until you got to the next town over. On this land were cows, chickens, and snakes that I would often spend my time trying to befriend. On the other side of town, lived my mom’s two uncles. They lived in a little shack on land that collectively belonged to the family. This land also stretched onto the next town over. It was here that I first saw a Puerto Rican boa and her baby on a tree. I didn’t encounter the concept of animal or big business farms until I moved to the United States. Growing up everything was about co-existence and living off of the land. The town where I grew up in was very poor, yet people were very happy. Just to give you some perspective, in 2017, the median annual income in the town I grew up in was $12, 215 USD (Puerto Rico is an American territory, we use the US dollar). Though there was monetary poverty, there was soul richness. My upbringing gifted me with something no amount of money can buy: A deep relationship with the Earth.
  12. The ocean is life. My earliest memory of the ocean was at age of 4. I’m sure I must have gone before then – I just can’t remember. I mean, I grew up on an island! The ocean was only a 20 minute drive away from us. My dad used to scuba dive and tell me tales of the world beneath the surface of the sea. On my first memorable trip to the ocean, my dad showed me a starfish. He then showed me a starfish with a missing limb. I became concerned – he told me it was going to be fine. I started to learn that the ocean was almost like a world within our world. I was both terrified and fascinated by waves and sharks. I thought sea urchins were cool. My dad once had a sea urchin stuck on his foot and the entire time I was enthralled by the creature – unconcerned with his safety. I was interested by fish and how their eyes didn’t face one direction. I was convinced that jelly fish weren’t of earthly ancestry. The smell of the salty sea was comforting. The sounds of waves crashing against rock was calming. I viewed the ocean as a deity-like entity from pretty early on. I still haven’t outgrown my perception of the ocean. It’s magic.
  13. The village is the most protective entity against the harsh realities of the human experience. It wasn’t until we relocated to the states and became a nuclear family that we started experiencing difficulties. My upbringing was magical because I had access to a village. Everyone played a role in everyone else’s life.
  14. Forgiveness is something you do for your own peace of mind. Learning to forgive and forge forward it’s what has allowed me to continue to grow emotionally. If I were to spend my time in “but he, but she, but they….”, I would never accomplish nor complete anything. Be it that you didn’t know how to set boundaries or you violated your own established boundaries, learn how to forgive yourself above all. We all fuck up. It is in our erring that we learn. Yes, there might be times that someone will continue pushing and take advantage of your kindness and empathy. In those circumstances, take responsibility for your part in the process, forgive yourself for allowing it, and forgive the other person in order to set yourself free. Then there are times that people will strip power away from you for their own gain – physical abuse, rape ,etc. I have found in instances where I have felt powerless, I have often needed support from others to learn how to forgive. Forgiveness is a process and not an event. Someone doesn’t have to be in your presence or even alive for forgiveness to take place. And remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are making excuses for someone else’s behavior. To forgive is to release the hold that a particular situation has on your human experience.
  15. Rickey T. Whenever I’m having A DAY, I simply go to Rickey T’s instagram page and voila! Problem solved lol.
  16. Owning your shadow is the only way to live in the light. Carl Jung once said, “Until you make the unconscious, conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” I spend a lot of time in introspection and transversing the internal landscape of my shadow. I want to know my weaknesses, my shortcomings, and my failures as intimately as possible. Once you own your less that perfect human components (1) you will make better choices and (2) it won’t hurt as much when used against you.
  17. Be interested more than trying to be interesting. I’ve often been told that I’m charming or a joy or sweet or a great conversationalist. Is it that Cancer Ascendant? I’m legitimately fascinated by people. I’d rather hear someone’s story than my own. Especially when traveling, I want to collect stories – whether it’s the person sitting next to me on a flight, my uber driver, the cashier at a store – I’m interested in learning how it is that we all survive.
  18. Cooking is joy. I spend most of my time traveling which means I spend a lot of time eating stuff that I didn’t make. There’s some good food out there, but there is nothing more joyful than eating the product of your own labor. You get your hands messy, your taste buds sharpened, and permission to create what you please.
  19. Thrifting. I LOVE thrifting. One of my closest friends, Ivanna, taught me the art of thrifting in my early 20s and my life hasn’t been the same since! I have found an incredible number of treasures in searching through piles of stuff that people no longer consider usable, want to get rid of, or even consider trash!
  20. Balance is the reconciliation between action and flow. Between resistance and surrender. When I first started practicing yoga, I was afraid of back bending. Today, backbends are my favorite! This is because of Billy – a former yoga teacher of mine. Billy would often ask questions like: What muscles to do have to engage? What muscles to you have to release? Remember that yoga asana is about the balance of strength and flexibility. It’s not about being silly putty. It’s about finding the middle path. I think this extends off the yoga mat.
  21. Harsh climates breed character. I moved from Puerto Rico to Rochester, NY which is located 90 minutes from the Canadian border (yes! – there’s more to NY state than NYC!). Rochester is located next to (great) Lake Ontario. We get lake effect snow, icy driving conditions, plenty of below zero weather, and killer windchill. The people that live in Rochester are ridiculously real deal. They will get up at 4AM to clean their drive way as well as that of their neighbor and tackle to roads to get to work on time. I feel this way about pretty much anyone that lives in spaces with harsh winters (Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Canada, Russia, etc.)
  22. Ask questions. According to my mama, I’ve been asking really deep questions about meaning since I was tiny. I’ve always wanted to understand the existential ‘why’ in everything. I think a healthy dose of skepticism is useful in not getting into danger when following the call of curiosities, wonderings, and wanderings.
  23. “Goals are a way of postponing the longer look into your soul. Goals substitute for meaning because goals can be achieved but meaning has to be made… Meaning is for losers, only goals matter.” (Douglas Brooks) In one of Professor Brooks recent blog posts, he shared the sentences I just shared above. Checking things off a list feels good and makes me feel happy, but it doesn’t make me fulfilled. Meaning is what makes me feel fulfilled. Meaning nourishes my soul. Meaning is personal – it’s something that we all have to define for ourselves.
  24. Let it in. “It’s not about “letting go.” It’s about letting it in. It’s about letting it deep. It’s about letting it through. It’s about being true to your feelings. It’s about giving your experiences the attention they deserve. And that may take a moment, or it may take years. The trick is not to shame your need to hold on to what has yet to be resolved. “Let it go” is the mantra of the self-avoidant, feigning resolution because they lack the courage or the preparedness to face their feelings. Let’s not play that game. Let’s let things in and through until they are fully and truly ready to shift. Let’s let it grow into the transformation at its heart. We write our story by fully living it. Not by “letting it go” before it’s time.” Jeff Brown
  25. Time is a merciful agent. “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.” William Blake.
  26. Water. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” This is Water, David Foster Wallace – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms2BvRbjOYo
  27. Be gutted. “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it. Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start here.” Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
  28. Delight. Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission. Be on the watch. There are ways out. There is light somewhere. It may not be much light but it beats the darkness. Be on the watch. The gods will offer you chances. Know them. Take them. You can’t beat death but you can beat death in life, sometimes. And the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be. Your life is your life. Know it while you have it. You are marvelous. The gods wait to delight in you.” The Laughing Heart, Charles Bukowski
  29. Love After Love

The time will come

when, with elation

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door in your own mirror

and each will smile at the other’s welcome.

and say, sit here. Eat.

you will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf.

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

{Derek Walcott}

One thought on “29 Reflections Over 29 Years

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