“I Resolve to…Understand That The World Goes ‘Round” — #theclosingoftheyear

“I Resolve to…Understand That The World Goes ‘Round” — #theclosingoftheyear

God, how long have I been basking in the glow of hyperbole?

It’s like I don’t know any other way to express myself or view the world. Everything to me is:

Big!

Bold!

Must have!

Must see!

Like!

Post!

Followers!

Retweet!

It’s all just a cover-up, really. This endless search of non-information that clutters my brain, distracting me from the narrative that I really want to express, not just to the world, but to myself. If there is anything to offer as a resolution for 2015, it is to abandon the hyperbole and focus on what matters in defined terms. Fuck these endless social media streams, I want truth again.

I haven’t been too eager to promote many entries on this blog of late. It’s been a combination burn book and teen girl journal for weeks. “This family member talked so much shit about my me!” or “Those family members had the nerve to make it all about them!” or “This date was just another Harry Houdini! Now you see him! Now you don’t!” I bet even Taylor Swift would go, “Fuck bitch. Get a new theme!”

What happened to self-reflection and understanding, to humor and positivity?

What happened to the last third of 2014?

Well, a lot.

John Kander and Fred Ebb composed a song for Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” called “The World Goes ‘Round.” I’ve had it on a loop these last few weeks. It helped shape what I decided to write today, summing up exactly what sort of year many of us experienced in 2014.

Sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re sad
But the world goes ’round…

And sometimes your heart breaks with a deafening sound…
Somebody loses and somebody wins
And one day it’s kicks, then it’s kicks in the shins
But the planet spins,

and the world goes ’round….

I thought a lot about what this closing blog entry of the year should contain. But, as I sit here in my bedroom (More teen girl imagery. That has to go in 2015), I find that I don’t want to replay any of it. I want to focus on the reality that the world will continue to spin — and that hope matters.

imgres

My boss Alan and I got into a rather revealing discussion about hope, an ideal my friend doesn’t seem to think exists.

But I do. I really do.

Hope, like love, has lost its power. It’s a brand. It is a campaign logo.  It has been appropriated by the self-help contingent, those annoying life coaches and magazinespeak spinners. It is that blanket statement too many of us use to cover up our woes, disappointments and our other beautifully weak and frail moments. “Don’t worry. There is always hope.”

Hope, like love and happiness, takes effort. It takes work to NOT let yourself fall prey to the myriad of distractions and stupidities that dominate our daily lives. You can’t use hope blindly. Hope needs to be seen clearly. It isn’t like prayer. “I hope” is not like talking to God. You are talking to yourself. You are being your own source of faith and courage to face the challenges that we face. And the challenges, particularly at this age, will arrive with the efficiency of a high speed train.

Hope, like love, is not for pussies. And hope needs to be taken back from the legion of those wanting to cash in on our gorgeous neuroses for their own gain. Before any of us can begin to understand just how important love is in our lives, we have to reeducate ourselves in the power of hope. Where there is hope, you will find love. You will find them exactly where you left them before you let all the static of modern life cloud your own beliefs and true self.

In a few hours, 2014 will join the album of detritus that is memory. It will be relegated to the tales we tell whenever we reunite. Those who are lost, will be remembered. Those who hurt us will be reviled again, but ultimately forgiven because they just don’t know any better. Those who made us laugh, will make us laugh that much harder. And we will all be glad that we survived to tell the tales again and again.

I also found great comfort in another song, one composed by Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn for the film “Toys,” performed by Wendy & Lisa and Seal. It features this lyric:

This is a Time to be Together
And the Truth is somewhere here
Within our love of People
At the Closing of the Year.

I spent these last months in a state of free fall. I haven’t hit ground yet, but I see it below. I have not lost sight that it is with my family and my family of friends, new and old, here and abroad, where I did find my truth in 2014.

I can’t wait to find out what I will learn in 2015.

Wednesday, December 31. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA.

“Christmas wrapping…” — #bahhumbug

“Bah, humbug” no, that’s too strong
‘Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year’s been a busy blur
Don’t think I have the energy

To add to my already mad rush
Just ’cause it’s ’tis the season
The perfect gift for me would be
Completions and connections left from

Last year, ski shoppin’
Encounter, most interestingimage
Had his number but never the time
Most of ’81 passed along those lines

So deck those halls, trim those trees
Raise up cup’s of Christmas cheer
I just need to catch my breath
Christmas by myself this year

Calendar picture, frozen landscape
Chilled this room for twenty-four days
Evergreens, sparkling snow
Get this winter over with

Flashback to springtime, saw him again
Would’ve been good to go for lunch
Couldn’t agree when we were both free
We tried, we said we’d keep in touch

Didn’t, of course, ’til summertime
Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?
No, this time it was me
Sunburn in the third degree

Now the calendar’s just one page
And, of course, I am excited
Tonight’s the night, but I’ve set my mind
Not to do too much about it

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
But I think, I’ll miss this one this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
But I think, I’ll miss this one this year

Hardly dashing through the snow
‘Cause I bundled up too tight
Last minute have to do
A few cards a few calls

‘Cause it’s “RSVP”
No thanks, no party lights
It’s Christmas eve, gonna relax
Turned down all of my invites

Last fall I had a night to myself
Same guy called, Halloween party
Waited all night for him to show
This time his car wouldn’t go

Forget it, it’s cold, it’s getting late
Trudge on home to celebrate
In a quiet way, unwind
Doing Christmas right this time.

“A&P” has its provided me
With the world’s smallest turkey
Already in the oven, nice and hot
Oh damn! Guess what I forgot?

So on, with the boots, back out in the snow
To the only all-night grocery
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
In the line is that guy I’ve been chasing all year

“I’m spending this one alone,” he said
“Need a break, this year’s been crazy”
I said, “Me too, but why are you?
You mean you forgot cranberries too?”

Then suddenly we laughed and laughed
Caught on to what was happening
That Christmas magic’s brought this tale
To a very happy ending

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Couldn’t miss this one this year
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Couldn’t miss this one this year

 http://youtu.be/nud2TQNahaU

Wedding Bell Blues — #hueytutannaporvida

Wedding Bell Blues — #hueytutannaporvida

“Good morning, everybody. And thank you for being part of this extremely special, and important, occasion.

We are taught that it isn’t the destination, but the journey that defines us. They obviously never met Raul Valadez and Susanna Contreras. It’s been quite a journey, but they were meant to be each other’s destination.

They are defined by the life they’ve built for over 35 years. They are a poignant example of loyalty, patience, honor, and most importantly, love.

In technical terms, they are indeed a partnership. But, those who know them, who shared their joys and tears for these many years, understand them as what they are: as husband and wife – and in ever sense of these words…”

That is as far as I got in writing my wedding notes for Uncle Raul and Aunt Susanna’s nuptials. At 11 am, on a sunny Monday morning in September, my sister called to tell me she passed away.

It was a long day. We sat at the house on Francisquito. We heard the usual sounds, too. Laughing. The kids were running around. Little Abigail was wielding her blankie like she was Shirley Bassey flinging her cape on stage at Royal Albert Hall.  (Google it.) Sydney slapped my face with a new diaper, thinking it’s the funniest thing in the world. (It was.)

There was a lot of hugging. It was good to hear everyone talking. It was good to hear everyone laughing. It was the crying that was hard to watch. It came in in waves, in between the sweetness and calm. For a moment, we felt awkward that we weren’t grieving more. It’s such an extraordinary process.

It isn’t only in movies where we admit it’s a relief when the person we love puts down their arms in their fight against cancer. But isn’t a relief. It hurts. It’s as if you’re being punched in the most tender place on your body with brass knuckles and a blackjack.

Fucking cancer.

Haven’t you had enough this year? How many more people do you need to recruit? Nobody asked for this conflict. Nobody wakes up to say, “I want to join your ranks.” I know at this very moment, another family member is sitting on some floor, laptop open, tapping the keys in an effort to make sense of all this emotion and reality. We are aware that when a military war comes to an end, the survivors’ tale becomes the narrative. It’s that rousing, nationalistic chronicle of victory. But no one wins in the war with cancer. It is all scorched earth.

I want to scream right now. My mind knows that while cancer may rob people of who they love and cherish, compassion and strength should bring those left behind closer together. That hasn’t been the case with us. Wounded pride, insufferable smugness and other examples of self-absorption have tainted our grieving process. It started with one, only to spread outward like a virus.

Sigh.

My mind can’t seem to focus on what is going to happen next. The most I’ve done is scroll through my phone to find all those Instagram moments. I just wanted proof that sad isn’t the only memory I am going to have of “that day.”

The Susanna from 71 weeks ago is not the same aunt from three weeks ago. I don’t want to focus on what we all witnessed “that day.” I choose to focus on the constant in these photos, her smile. Gosh, it’s Osmond sized, sincere and uninhibited. She exuded life, even when life offered things not worth smiling about.

I can’t believe how little time we had with my aunt this year. I’ve been given the task of saying tomorrow’s eulogy, a task she gave me in June. You can deconstruct the gravity of such a request. It didn’t faze me in the least. It went beyond privilege and honor in my mind. She accepted me from day one. How could I not oblige? (Uncle Raul later pulled me aside to make sure I knew just how connected she was to me. I didn’t know, Uncle. I really didn’t know.)

The hard part now is reconciling how we all let the summer go by without pushing for a day to see Raul and Susanna get married. I was in Spain from the end of June through the end of July, but August was a relatively quiet month. We had the cocido brunch, but I could see my aunt was slowing down again. Man, she was determined to make that meal special. And it was, but we avoided the reality a ticking clock was present.

My mom and I made good on our promise to go to the Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino in Primm Valley to see La Sonora Santanera the weekend after Labor Day. Susanna did her best, but we spent most of our time in her hotel room, talking and watching her favorite shows (Hello, “Law & Order”). She would barely eat and she ultimately missed the show. It was apparent to me at this time that her illness had transitioned from a waiting game to signs of a mortal end.

I knew that weekend at Buffalo Bill’s was a gift, but I chose to hide it well. I will never forget the blessing of seeing my uncle and mother look like teenagers again when La Sonora Santanera played the first notes of “La Boa.” I was meant to sit next to my aunt, who gave me “cosqillas” as she smiled that beautiful smile of hers while watching some of the rougher “Special Victims Unit” episodes ever.

A few weeks later, my aunt refused further treatment.

I went to visit her the Wednesday after her decision. My family then spent the following Sunday with her and Raul and the kids. Susanna was in a very frail state, but aware and feisty. She waved at me. I smiled. She needed her rest. But we were elated that Raul had proposed. Again! And she finally said, “Yes.”

After we all made our separate ways home, my cousins and I spent hours texting about when Uncle Raul and Aunt Susanna should get married. It was that Wednesday. No, it was Saturday. Saturday was perfect! Sooner was better. Aunt Susanna wanted to wait two more weeks, but my cousin Alyssa said, No. it was going to be this Saturday. (Aunt Susanna was so annoyed by that decision, exhibiting that fire of hers, but she acquiesced.)

We went through times, date, food, who to invite with an eye set for Saturday, October 4.

Monday, September 29: I was in my office, stealing a few moments to start writing my wedding comments. I had been ordained over the weekend. I wanted to keep my notes brief. We waited such a long time for this moment. Minutes counted now and this wasn’t “The Jorge Wedding Show,” complete with an entrance cue of “Maybe God Is Tryin’ to Tell You Something” from “The Color Purple.” (I won’t lie. I dreamt that.)

I was writing the final phrases, “…as husband and wife – and in ever sense of these words…,” when my sister Lil called to say Aunt Susanna had collapsed and was having trouble breathing. It was the most normal conversation. She’d had similar moments before, but something told me, “Move, bub. Be with your family.”

I left my office and the comfort of Los Monkeys, but before I made it to the corner of Wilshire and Crenshaw, Lil called back to say aunt Susanna had died.

Saturday, October 4 came and went. Some of us gathered together to honor the wedding day, to just be there for each other. Hearts were heavy, eyes were soggy at times, but spirits remained on high. We were going to honor the legacy of our cherished aunt in our inimitable style. And we did. The exquisite joy on Sydney’s face when she heard the first bars of “All About That Base” solidified why we will never be apart as a family. My aunt made that happen and we promised her achievement would never be in vain. (And, even if that damn Meghan Trainor song is on a perpetual iPod loop, we’ll do it for family.)

I wish I could have honored by aunt’s first request, but I will be delivering her eulogy as promised. I hate letting her down. I wish we had moved faster. But, I take solace that Raul and Susanna did exist in this world as “man and wife.” Life, love, memories was the foundation of their union. The house off Francisquito and Hacienda was their church. And we are all their followers. They made it work their way.

Let no man, or anyone else for that matter, ever tear that asunder.

#hueytutannaporvida #susannacv #lifeisart

Updated on Friday night, October 10, originally written and posted on Wednesday, October 8 from Wayne Avenue Manor. 

The return of Las Hermanas Coraje — #heythere

The return of Las Hermanas Coraje — #heythere

“Hey there. Sorry about your loss…”

That’s all he got. Not a phone call.  Not a personal visit. A text. And that text, perhaps delivered in a show of support, instead felt like a crushing blow to a family already down.

Las Hermanas Coraje did not disappoint this bittersweet week of loss and family bonding. Only one of the Corajes made their way to the house that first, emotionally complex day.

We had been waiting for the other Corajes to make some show of support, offer a comforting gesture, anything. Instead, the Coraje matriarch stayed away, even though she lives just a few blocks away. To date, she’s only limited herself to a single, minute-long conversation the day before my aunt died.

As for Las hermanas C?

After their one-off performances of “The Pendeja Monologues” via phone prior to my aunt’s death, they have resurfaced to exist in a series of brief texts. The best part? These texts felt like they were written between stop lights as they ventured to the next destination in their carefully maintained lives. To be honest, anything more would probably require us using a defibrillator on them.

Just when things couldn’t get any more strained, the younger Coraje was moved to write what is now known as the “Hey There Text” to my grieving uncle. Maybe that “hey there” was just one of those little nudges we give people when we want to be tender in getting their attention? Maybe that “hey there” was how my uncle and the younger Coraje always addressed each other? Maybe it’s a musical cue, a Rosemary Clooney “Hey There?”

Maybe.

I hate texts for this reason. There is no context to feeling! And it is so easy to jump to an irrational conclusion. However, the rules of grief and consolation are very specific. You need to hear a VOICE, see a FACE, not read “HEY THERE…”

But that’s just me…and probably most people with a normal heart.

Whatever their intent, the “Hey There Text” was received as a cold gesture of fulfilling an obligation, not the warmth of a niece offering care and support to her uncle, to all of the family members who are inconsolable. In the end, it’s the one moment that finally unleashed a response text of no longer pent up fury from his daughter.

There it was. In black and misspelled white, but it didn’t matter. The emotion behind each letter registered loud and clear. You could practically hear the keys on a phone being slammed, punctuated by a “send” stroke that screeched “Fuck You!” instead of “whoosh.”

I don’t know what the aftermath will be thanks to this latest salvo of hurt feelings and incredulity. More than likely it will be spun faster than the already tangled web these spiders have created to shield themselves from us.

What happened to los C? Whatever the supposed beef against certain members of the family, fine. That score will be settled in its own time. But why are they offering so little consolation to the man who has been NOTHING but their champion these many years? At the very least, they should honor his grief. God, the level of disrespect and selfishness they’ve shown is staggering. It’s next to impossible not to think, “Yup. They’ve shown their true faces.”

As we reviewed the photo albums that day, searching for photos to illustrate my aunt’s legacy, we noticed a specific narrative in those first books. It wasn’t my own family present in the many pictures reviewed through tears. It was la familia Coraje who dominated the frames.

These fading pictures might as well be bats trapped in amber at this point. Worse, as the paper and chemicals are decomposing in these fragile albums, so are the ties that kept the Coraje bound to my uncle and his family.

We know time is not in big supply in this life, but los C can still turn this around. A mea culpa is not necessary. However, accountability should be on their minds. A show of respect would go a long way, as would an acknowledgment that my uncle was indeed “married” in the spiritual way to my aunt.

As hurt turns to anger turns to retribution, perhaps it is best we all retreat to our corners. Still, something tells me a bell will be rung one more time. Only then will we witness the KO punch that will end this chapter of “Los Hermanas Coraje.”

Hmm. There’s a good use for “Hey there!” followed by “You won’t believe what happens next!”

But truth be told, I realize this entire narrative is causing so much unnecessary pain. My uncle has already lost his soulmate! He doesn’t need to lose more family members through petty displays of poisonous manipulation. It’s so bad, he’s worried the Coraje shenanigans will add my family to the list of the departed.

Rest assured, dear uncle. We’re not going anywhere. Period.

Dammit. It is time for a truce, not pull focus from the devastating loss of my amazing aunt. And no, I don’t want to hear about Emails and other careless whispers delineating “secret meetings” with my already burdened uncle or references to my family as being “instigators,” either. That trick of playing the victim card is as tired as a bunch of aging nags on a barren field. If you aren’t happy with this record? Go to the source, you cowards!

By the way, when you do, it better be face to face. Don’t just send some bullshit text that starts off with “hey there.”

So, here’s a message to all for us: Live the lives you want. Just don’t confuse drama for happiness. (Thanks, Parks & Recreation for that profound truth.)

Wednesday, October 1. Written and posted from Wayne Ave. Manor.

“She’s Gone.” (9.29.14) — #thiswomanswork

“She’s Gone.”  (9.29.14) — #thiswomanswork

I still can’t process yesterday’s events.

Around 4pm on Sunday afternoon, I gave my aunt Susanna a little wave and she waved right back, even offering a trace of a smile. But she was in great pain. It just wasn’t a good day for her. Most times she would rally, and she’d be lucid, funny and fiercely specific.

By 11am on Monday, we were given the news she had passed away. Not even 24 hours.

That’s the simplicity of life and death.

It is safer and easier for me to retreat onto a blank page, but not so easy to fill this space. Is it enough to say that I feel too much? My aunt Susanna was fond of saying “I love you too much.” Is anything ever too much?

We have lost a woman who was more than an aunt to my siblings and I. She was our second mother.

I just know I wanted a little bit more time. We all wanted a little bit more time. Knowing someone you love is going to be gone soon offers little consolation. We were told “two weeks to two months.”

Susanna lived for us for one more week.

That’s all she could give. And we are forever grateful. She was a strong-willed woman. That strength is now passed on to us, her legacy.

My friend and colleague John wrote to me, “Too many strong, beautiful women have left us this year.”

He’s right.

As I drove to work this AM, one of my favorite songs, “This Woman’s Work” came on my iPod. Hearing Kate Bush’s lyrics interpreted and given a striking context by Maxwell gave my feelings a new landscape to roam. I cried, I sang, I felt and loved too much all over again.

I’m sure as these days lead up to her memorial and burial, we will continue to feel too much. Feel and love, because that’s all that matters right now.

Tuesday, September 30.

#SusannaCV


“This Woman’s Work”
Written by Kate Bush — Performed by Maxwell

Pray God you can cope.
I stand outside this woman’s work,
This woman’s world.
Ooh, it’s hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things I should’ve said,
That I never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.

Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.

Give me these moments back.
Give them back to me.
Give me that little kiss.
Give me your hand.

(I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.)

I should be crying, but I just can’t let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking

Of all the things we should’ve said,
That were never said.
All the things we should’ve done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should’ve given,
But I didn’t.

Oh, darling, make it go away.
Just make it go away now.