Archive for love

Love, labor, lost

Posted in New York with tags , , , on September 17, 2013 by ana

It’s been a long time since I sat down to write. I stopped writing because I started to feel like the posts I was writing were getting repetitive but also because I decided to move to New York, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about writing that down. When I realized I had to move it felt like if I wrote it I had somehow given up on Paris. So I didn’t write at all and now so many things have happened that is hard to know where to begin. So here is where I left off. During my last two months in Paris I

– finished my five weeks of pastry school.

– had a fling with a boy from LA visiting Paris. We went dancing, ate palmiers from different bakeries in the Marais for breakfast, kissed in the middle of the street late at night, and had an oyster bacchanalia.

– moved, again.

-spent a quiet, magical christmas eve with my mom.

-felt sad to be alone on New Year’s but danced until five in the morning at Rosa Boneheur with some fabulous frenchy friends.

-walked myself home in the rain from Parc Butte Chaumont to Chatelet at five in the morning on New Year’s day.

-spent afternoons in Montmarte with my friend Joey going for arepas or to the movies after buying candy from a chubby french lady who wore her hair in two braids.

-went to San Sebastian with my friend Kelly. Where I made dessert for my friends supper club and ate so much delicious food that I still think about.

-had a magical night at the Louvre watching the Marina Abramovic documentary.

-had the most perfect going away party in my friend Cleo’s insane hotel room overlooking the Tuileries with the Eiffel Tower twinkling at a distance.

I decided to move to New York as I finished my written exam for pastry school. The same voice that said I should move to Europe popped back in my head and said, what are you thinking trying to open a business in Paris there is still so much you need to learn. Grow up. Go home.

I wish I had kept up my writing because so many memories of those last month are coming back as I type this. Including how strange and comforting it felt to go to the embassy when I had to get some papers signed. How many ham and cheese galette with a bowl of cider lunches I had mourning my departure, how the sun never came out for the entire month of January and I spent 90 percent of that month completely alone walking along the seine, watching movies in my apartment, and trekking to Monoprix.

I miss Paris. I think about it almost every other day. I miss the rhythm, my friends, the supermarket. I was never a girl who dreamed of going to Paris. I was just a girl who wanted to live in Europe and in the end Paris completely stole my heart. Sometimes I can’t believe I did it. It seems like a dream. Like a movie of someone else’s life. Others I can’t believe I didn’t try harder to stay.

But as soon as I arrived in NY it felt like the right decision was made. NY welcomed me with the open arms of an old friend. She said, welcome back, pull up a chair, stay a while, stay forever perhaps.  Many times in the last seven months I wanted to write something here but didn’t. Now it feels like too many details to fill in. Within a week of being back I had a job and a great apartment. What ensued since has been intense, endurance building, at times extremely lovely and rewarding, and at others sad and maddening.

There was a boy and for a brief second I thought- wow! But in the end he had many pieces but not all the right ones. It was amateur hour on my part. I got burned. I felt foolish. And all of it by my own hand. Dealing with that part and looking at myself in both an introspective and forgiving way has proven to be a hard task.  Specially because I feel lonely and it vexes me.
I’m not sure how to make peace with the feeling and with how my choices have deposited me in them. I have chosen a career that gives me a weird schedule. I have moved many times leaving behind communities I loved and built. I can only be me but what am I doing right and what am I doing wrong. The only word I can think of that perfectly describe how I feel is abysmal. Not because I feel extremely bad. I feel simply bad but it carries a tunnel like feel to it.
Is it all the changes and transitions that have ocurred in the last two years that leave me feeling unstable? Is it my looming birthday?  My biological clock? The simple desire to share my life with someone?  This part of my life is driving me bananas in a way it never did when I was younger. And I know I have to reseign myself to it but it is incredibly hard. I felt like this around my last birthday too- a weepy, needy puddle. I have never been that girl but I feel such deep frustration at life not giving me what I think I need and it feels helpless.

One of the biggest lessons as of late has been that things are not a choice that once made just happens. Patience, discipline, commitment these are not words that once chosen one suddenly embodies. I don’t know why I always thought that and why I never believed myself capable of them. These words, these choices, along with many others occur as a constant dialogue. We don’t wake up everyday feeling these feelings but rather, often but not always, need to go looking for them within us. Sometimes they become second nature and sometimes we need to find stronger, clearer definitions of them.

I have worked harder these last months than I ever have in my life. I have never been poorer. And I have come to the realization that it makes sense (somewhat) that people in kitchens make so little. It’s a test of endurance and love.
Right now, as I write this, I feel such deep sadness and loneliness. Maybe it’s because I can’t stop thinking of my sister who is in rehab, and I feel such sorrow, confusion, anger, and despair that I can barely talk about it. Or maybe it’s because I started a new job, and like any new job, it’s not exactly how I envisioned and I hoped it would be.
Right now, and for the last few weeks, there is a darkness that I can not seem to shake. I’m tired of these moments but know there is nothing to do but live them. I think this is a test of surrender. To just have faith, to will myself to have faith, that I will fall in love again, that I will find a life and community in NY, that I won’t always be broke or feel lost.  I am longing to weather these storms and feel a sense of triumph and accomplishment but all I can do right now is put my head down and work.

All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust. ― J.M. Barrie

Posted in Italy, paris with tags , , , on September 13, 2012 by ana

I’m packing for what will be the first of two moves this month. I have been home from Italy for two weeks but the trip feels like it was a few months ago. All in all, the trip was wonderful, and so much of it is engraved in me. There were sweet parts and sexy bits. There was silliness and sadness. There was restless sleep, afternoon naps, tanning in the garden, and lots of iced tea. We spent hours reading cookbooks and watching British food shows on dvd. There was pizza and french fries at a beloved pizza parlor, cooking and dancing in the kitchen, and a five am bottle of wine, and toast with butter and honey for me, one night when no one could sleep. I tried to stay light but failed often.

My first time in Lecce I was so present.  This time I was often in my head; many times without even realizing it.  It was, all at once, refreshing, fun, inspiring, relaxing, and difficult to be there. But I wouldn’t change it. There is something magnectic about Lecce that feels very grounding to me. I think it has to do with the stones the old city is built from. The way they hold the dry heat. The walls feel like they are holding you.

The first night I was there, last summer with my mom, neither one of us knew what to make of the place. There was something  simple but also mysterious about it. We lost ourselves in the maze-like streets of the old city, which have no sidewalks. The streets were still packed at midnight, and it reminded me of something my friend Trish had told me was one of her favorite parts of living in Eritrea. She said that in Asmara people went for walks at a certain time of the evening to greet each other and convey messages.

In so many ways Lecce steals my heart. This time as I walked around I kept telling myself, just breath all of it in and  bring it back to Paris with you. I returned home inspired and excited, and then a week later it all went to shit. The guy in Italy is lovely in so many ways but there is something missing; an emotional vulnerability. It’s like it is almost there but not quite, not ever. Ours is the dance of the constant mixed signal. Both from me to him and him to me. Face to face it is lovely.  Apart it is wretched. That coupled with the search for a new apartment, a dwindling bank account, and the natural fear of starting a new business I just felt completely miserable last week. The night before we found our new place, I looked out the window at the Paris skyline and just freaked out. I felt alone and scared. I just kept thinking, this has to work. I’m taking the good kinds of risks. My heart is in this. It just has to work.

I wrote Stevie an email and said, just tell me everything is going to be okay. I just needed some reaffirmation and a little transcontinental, transatlantic hand holding. When I was in LA freaking out about Paris I realized that what I needed was to create my life in Paris. To create a routine- yoga classes, Sunday markets, morning meditations.

After Steves wrote back, I woke up the next day feeling a bit more grounded but still pretty anxious. Then in class it occurred to me that the next part of the Paris puzzle was to create more stability. A lightbulb went off, and I did what every good New Yorker does. I got myself some storage space. Words can not express how much peace a tiny closet with a padlock has brought to my life.

Then, of course, shortly after an apartment was found. A really nice place, albeit for two months, but it has a pool right across the street and really high ceilings.  It’s not available until October, thus the two moves in one month, but it will be perfect for fall.

With that all sorted, the Italian guy and all the emotions I feel about him came back to rattle me. I think there is so much of what I want in a man in him. It’s like a carrot that gets dangled in front of me and it makes me crazy. But the answer to this part of my journey is the same answer that has always been there. This is about me and making for myself the life of my dreams. Italy is like Neverland. So, I guess that makes me Wendy. In the end Wendy leaves Neverland and decides to grow up. I think it is the same for me. It doesn’t change how I feel about him. He has been incredibly catalistic in my life. And that has to be enough. How can that not be enough? That is huge.

My last morning in Lecce I had breakfast with a friend before my flight. He picked me up at five am and drove me to the airport. It was still dark, and he talked about his sister and his mom. At the airport we happily ate shitty pastries and talked about Game of Thrones before saying goodbye. I love that in this small city so far from anything I know live people that I adore. That is amazing. I dislike that I try to hold on to it, change it, posses it. I hope to one day  make peace with that  because I want to be that kind of person. I want to love with out trying to posses or change.

The last part, that I have figured out so far,  of creating stability in Paris is taking better care of myself. The last two years have brought long streaks of being in self-destruction mode. Not self-destruction in a super terrible way but in that way that heartache can make you drink too much, smoke too much, and either eat too much or not at all. I think there is a time and place for that kind of living but I’ve had my share of it and it is time to be done with it. I’m turning 39 in a little under a month and a half.  I want to feel better than I ever have, and I want a baby.  It took me so long to figure out what it is I want in my life but it is so clear to me now. I want a business, a child, and a partner. I think for a long time I looked to making my life with someone as an extension of what I wanted to make of my life but I don’t think that is now the case. In truth I don’t think that would ever make me happy.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea ~ ee cumings

Posted in paris with tags , , , on May 22, 2012 by ana

Lost in boy thoughts I yell to my roommate from the kitchen, “tell me not to write!”

“Tell you not to write?”

“Yes,” I say, “because I was doing fine but now I just want to write him.”

The moment passes. The desire to say I miss you, to say this is harder than I thought it would be is shut down by fear. This is a good thing. Staying away is a good thing. Doubt comes in the form of – what’s the point, to what end, and if I did write would he hate me a little for not letting it go? The next thought that follows is he has forgotten me and then maybe it meant more to me than him. But then I think I am too much in my head. I’m being such a girl.

All of this because as I walked up the stairs an image, an imagined image, popped in my head. Out of nowhere in my mind I saw him walking up the stairs to my apartment the first time we had sex. I sprinted up the stairs. I tried to leave the thought behind but it caught up to me as I read an ee cumings poem on someone’s blog. And then I remembered  walking home from the metro that day. The play between being excited and staying present, telling myself that there was plenty of time for the list of things I wanted to do- shower, brush my teeth, tidy the apartment, find music and have a few minutes to kick back and relax. Now that I’ve written it down, all those thoughts have lost their power and become a lovely moment and nothing else. Writing is amazing that way.

In the past couple of days the work, language, money panic has slightly subsided and I’m feeling more like myself again.  It still feels like I’m in the middle of a mid-October leaf storm or on the white water rafting part of the program or the free fall part of the jump but I’m starting to think, I can handle this. I’ve remembered a crucial bit. Sanity is always found in returning to myself. Somehow that got lost in the last month and a half of late nights, out-of-town guests and farewells. That has always been the answer or at the very least a big part of it.

It is also true that I would be lost with out my friends- the ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night if necessary. Still, the answer, my answer, is always the same- read, write, cut images and glue them on paper, cook (and now bake).  There has always been behavior, in my part that is less than healthy when things feel shaky. And it is also true that when I’m almost at the edge I find my way back to a healthier day to day. Yes, there is often now a sadness in the morning when I first open my eyes. That has been there since almost two years ago next July. But I’ve always been good at shaking it off with my first cup of coffee.

It’s raining in Paris. All month long brief stints of sunshine seem to promise summer but not yet, not yet, not yet. Things are slowly changing. French is opening up to me a bit. My ear hears words and my brain understands them without translating them to Spanish or English. More and more I feel trepidation when I write because it feels more exposing than it ever has. I suspect that is a good thing. I must be getting closer to what I need to be doing if it feels scary. And as Lili pointed out the other day lots of small changes add up to some big ones.

“At this time last year,’ she said, “you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You hadn’t decided to move to Paris. You hadn’t taken your trip to Italy. You weren’t even baking. Think of all the incredible things that happened in one year.”

And except for that momentary staircase flash and the minutes after, I’m having a pretty good day. Thanks in part to a Sam Shepard interview in the guardian, a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman, an essay by Anne Lamont, a paragraph about cake batter in Michael Rhulman’s Ratio, a bit of a conversation with Angelo Badalamenti about the sound of Twin Peaks that I listened to on Nicolas Jaar’s essential mix for BBC radio, two Mark Strand poems, a kitchenaid mixer, a batch (finally!) of really good dark chocolate cayenne cookies that leave behind a mellow heat reminiscent of a first kiss, and the realization that if all I want is just beyond my hand’s reach maybe I just need to put down my arms and walk towards it.

 

We need in love to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it. ~Rilke

Posted in paris with tags , , on April 21, 2012 by ana

Oh, life. I have been in a weepy panic  for the last two days as a result of many things… money, language obstacles, baking frustrations, too much partying, glimpses of falling for someone.

Cleo came to town last week with her friend Rob. It was so amazing to have her here. We had so much fun. Spent our days walking around, drinking beer in cafes, going to Versailles. She met my friends, we cooked dinner, and went out to Candelaria. Every night was soaked in wine. Friday was so far one of my favorite days in Paris. I met my friend Charlie at the market in the late morning. We bought cheese, olives, white asparagus and babaganoush for a party that night. The day was sunny, a rare thing these days. I was hung over but happy. After the market I met Cleo and we went to Merci for lunch and the Isabel Marant sample-sale after. I bought a beautiful dress I can’t really afford. Charlie texted that this boy, a painter I had hooked up with, might come to the party. It gave me a small thrill. I had met him a few weeks before during an afternoon and evening of  frolicking, good music, and alcohol. We had kissed on the street late at night. A few days later he came over to my apartment. We had talked and laughed and rolled around for hours then gone for a walk by the canal.

Friday night Cleo, Rob, Iris and I  went to a few galleries with Charlie then went back to his house for the champagne blitz. I have yet to go to a party at his house where the night doesn’t end up being dusted in glitter.  The music was fantastic, the dim lights dusky with smoke, and the bubbly flowed and flowed. When the painter boy walked in I had such a nice buzz and felt girly and pretty. Cleo and Iris said he couldn’t take his eyes of me, and I was so giddy and a little nervous. I was happy that they met him because it’s always nice when your friends can put a face to your stories. I kept winking at him. We stood by the window, smoked a cigarette, and talked. Eventually the  party moved to some brief dancing in the Marais and  debauchery at the duplex. Everyone around seemed light and happy. It was crowded, and I talked with some cute gay boys from Brazil. The boy and I stepped outside and kissed on the street, where we had first kissed. At the end of the night we left in search of a cab and shared a ride with an English couple that had managed to hail the only cab around. We rode with them all the way to  St. Germain and back. It felt like we went on a little trip.  The boy told me some of his stories, one in particular was very sad. He had begun to tell me that afternoon at my house but had stopped. I think he needed to tell someone. In the morning I left his home feeling sort of undone.

Saturday, Cleo, Iris,  Rob and I sat by the Canal and had lunch then walked to a bookstore. That night more friends arrived, High School friends from Puerto Rico. One of them I hadn’t seen in at least ten years. I was so excited to see them but woke up sad on Sunday. Cleo and Rob were leaving that morning. I had barely slept in the past days. Lack of sleep always gives me a brief but intense (is there any other kind) existential crisis. My life has been feeling so sparkly and it hit me hard how transitory things are here as an expat. Most of the people I have met are leaving in the coming months. The boy, in an ironic twist of fate, is moving to LA in two weeks.

The day was cold and gray.  I got home after saying goodbye to Cleo and Rob and cried with my roommate Katie. I had wanted to cry when I left the boy’s house on Saturday morning but I was so dehydrated there were no tears to be shed. I had wanted to cry because Saturday morning there was more I wanted to say but I was too hungover and needed to get back to my friends. I had wanted to cry because it had been so long since I had felt sweetness and connection, since I had felt warmth and tenderness, and sometimes there is nothing like feeling someone else’s skin next to yours. And though I was ready to call it a day and turn myself in for a good night’s sleep I texted him that I knew it was complicated but that I wanted to see him one more time.

I walked  into his tiny garden apartment  knowing I would never see him again but wanting one more night.  In Spanish one of the words for sex is “polvo” which means dust or I suppose in the case of sex may mean to dust. It was a night full of magic dust. We listened to a radio station that played old vinyl records that crackled as Billie Holiday sang. I told him about my past loves and he told me more of his story. It is not mine for me to tell so I won’t share it here. When I told him about Leo and about Italy he said that I set fire inside people. That I had set one in him and that he hoped I found someone really good, who really loved me and could give me all I wanted. We talked about art and baking and writing. We talked about sex, love, learning French, France, Puerto Rico, Africa, and LA. We looked into each others eyes for minutes on end as if playing an unspoken game of blink. Is there a word for when your skin shimmers with electricity while engaged with someone? Surely there must be.

This boy and I are twelve years apart. We told each other it would never be and that we would never forget each other. And like an Erykah Baddu song he said,” maybe we will meet next life.”

“Maybe we know each other from the previous one,” I said.

“Yes, maybe,” he said in his frenchy English.

“I like that,” I said. “Some people come into your life for a brief moment and you never see them again but you carry them with you forever.”

“You already live in my mind and my heart,” he said.

In the morning he went out for croissants and came back with a bag of oranges. He made me juice. He said he couldn’t see me his last week in Paris because he was afraid we would completely bond. Now, writing this, I know he is right.

We had breakfast and talked more about art. He showed me the project he is working on. We took a shower, hugged tightly, and said goodbye. I left his house thinking I had just lived a Parisian dream. It felt perfect. A beginning, a middle, and an end. The afternoon at my house, a few weeks earlier, before I knew anything about him it had felt light and airy. Light and airy is what I wanted but instead it became one of those moments that surprise you, that you can’t quite understand. Why did I meet this person? I walked around for hours in the rain. Maybe hoping to run into him. I texted him that I was sad and that I would never forget him and he wrote back that he had listened to a Gainsbourg song all day and thought of me. That he was sorry that it had to be that way. I wrote back and said that it was perfect. That I just wanted to tell him he had touched my heart before he disappeared completely. And just as I did when I was 26 I cried and listened to a lot of Jeff Buckley. Of course it is hard to let it go, to not be shaken to the core by it. It was like a  movie.

I cried all day with Iris as we walked in search of a mixer for me to buy. I cried as we ate a cookie and drank coffee at Kookaburra, and she sweetly told me mine were better.  We met our friend Caroline for dinner. When I told her about my entanglement she said, “even though in our heads we know better it doesn’t mean somewhere deep in us we don’t wish it could somehow work.”

Italy had written me earlier in the day. And I had written back that it was truly, fully time to let go, that it didn’t do anyone any good to not move on. I told him he had been a great inspiration to me. He told me that meeting me had been important to him and that he would never forget it.

I vacillate between feeling so whole and happy for the experiences just as they are and wanting to keep them close, but holding on to things takes away the quality in them that makes them a celebration of life and turns them into questions and tears. Of course, the residual sadness has to be mourned but then it has to be allowed to swirl under the stars.

On the way home from dinner Iris said, you have been here two months and you have already had this beautiful thing happen to you. I think Paris is telling you that this is where you need to be. And it does feel like that. It feels like the one door left opened has closed so I can fully step into Paris. My brief French love reminded me of who I want – someone with an open, kind heart, an engaging mind, a great sense of humor, and massive sex appeal. This week from Cleo to my friends from home and everything in between helped me define what it is non-negotiable when it comes to my love life. I want someone who loves me just as I am. All the good bits and the not so good parts. Leo could never do that and Italy wouldn’t allow himself to fall into it. I don’t want to convince anyone that they should love me. I’ve never had to convince my friends. I want love to gravitate to me just as they have.

There is so much more that I could say but that is the gist of it. There are friends still here that I must go meet.  I needed to write it all down because if I don’t write my life is not the same. Our stories are better when shared.

~

 

“Everything is biographical, Lucian Freud says. What we make, why it is made, how we draw a dog, who it is we are drawn to, why we cannot forget. Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border we cross.” – Michael Ondaatje

Dear Paris,

Posted in paris with tags on March 15, 2012 by ana

When I stick my head out the window and see, in the building across the way, a man cooking in his kitchen with his laundry hanging from the window sill, I think I love you.

tears on asphalt

Posted in 38 with tags , on January 21, 2012 by ana

Today, I’m feeling really, really panicky about my move. All I keep thinking is that I only know 1.5 people in Paris. Everywhere I have moved I have always had at least two or three friends that I have known for years and years. I’m not worried about making friends because I know eventually I always do but I’m scared I will feel beyond lonely, that I will hit a million dead ends, that this is all one huge mistake.  What am I doing!!? My french sucks. I’m feeling completely intimidated and lost. I have never been as on my own as I will be. I’m afraid all my money won’t last as much as I need it to. I am terrified.

Of course, I can always reason with the fear. I know I am lucky and if worst comes to worst there are quite a few people who will gladly, happily, and excitedly take me in. I know that everything will fall into place and work out as it is supposed to. I know this in my head, but it feels totally different in my body. Still, nothing in me, no instinct, no thought, no gut feeling is saying don’t do it. It’s just a lot of emotions are coursing through me, and I barely know what to do with them so all I can do is what I need to do- get ready, start sorting through all my stuff, organize all my papers…

I was talking to my  dad  yesterday. He said, “try to get rid of as much stuff as possible. Sell everything but the few books you know you can’t replace and things you will take. It is an act of purification.” He is right. Paring my things down is one of the most appealing parts of moving but getting rid of my books is very difficult, as is letting go of clothes that I love but don’t wear. We attach so much emotional value to our beloved objects. I guess they become symbols of our past, right? Kind of like a map- this is the dress I wore to my 35th birthday dinner at my friend’s beautiful loft, this is the book I picked out in the 9th grade on a trip to the bookstore with my mom.  I love those reminders but I also feel this deep need to empty myself so the new can rush in, so the internal becomes richer.

 

On Monday I saw Leo. It was the second time in the last year and a half that I have seen him.  It’s still bittersweet to see him. We went for a hike. When I met up with him, when I saw him walking towards me smiling, I could literally see him start to well up with joy. That kind of killed me. That we can have such an effect on people. Hiking with Leo was easy, comfortable and that always gets me too. How physically at ease I feel, how normal it feels to be next to him. At one point in the hike it came up that he was changing his phone number and I said to him, ” you can’t change your number. Yours is one of the few numbers I know by heart. What if I need to call someone in an emergency.”

“Maybe, I’ll keep it for you,” he said. Though the thought that he could help me in an emergency from California all the way to France was kind of ridiculous I love that I know that no matter what I can always count on him. We walked and talked for about an hour and a half. While coming down the mountain talking about movies, I realized that Leo and I had always walked side by side, that we had never really sat across from each other in our relationship, that we had never really faced each other. Well, maybe in the very beginning we had.

After the hike Leo asked if I wanted to go for a bite but I had to go. He looked really sad when I said I couldn’t and then he took a deep breath and just blurted, “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.” I told him there was no need because I had forgiven him a long time ago.  He said, ” no, I have to tell you. I’m sorry for being an idiot. I’m sorry I was an asshole. I’m sorry I wasn’t honest. I wasn’t honest with myself. I should have let you go sooner.”

I told him things had ended when they needed to, not sooner or later than they had to. “You are right,” he said. “I know you wanted me to fight for you but I had doubts and I kept hoping they would resolve themselves. And when you said you were leaving I thought I had gotten my answer. I’m sorry for everything.”

The whole thing was so intense. I felt simultaneously present and removed. I told him jokingly, ” I’m done crying over you.” And proceeded to cry in the parking lot. “Why didn’t you tell me you had doubts?” I asked. “Why didn’t you talk to me?”

The summer Leo and I began having serious disaccords his sister had made me super uncomfortable by asking me why I thought her brother hadn’t asked me to marry him. That night was one of the most surreal of my life and really began the disintegration of our relationship. I had felt so uncomfortable. I was incredibly jet-lagged and stuck in a very loud Brazilian bar in Williamsburg. The morning after that night I had woken up and left Cleo’s apartment while everyone slept and walked up and down the whole city sobbing. I didn’t stop crying until I got to LA that night. Hell, I didn’t stop crying until November and that night in the Brazilian bar was early August. In the parking lot, facing Leo’s apology, the taste of that night came back to me.

Leo looked lonely. I asked if he was sad. I asked if he was lonely but I didn’t say much else. He told me that he loved me. I wanted to tell him that I was afraid that I would never find another person who I would laugh with the way I laughed with him but I didn’t. I didn’t want to open myself up like that. I told him that I loved him back.

“We could have gotten married and had children and been happy,” he said. “But this break up would have always come.” When he said it I knew he was right. The break up now felt completely inevitable. Not only because there was a great philosophical/religious divide between us that would never be bridged but I just want a different type of life, a different type of man by my side. Still, that man, the man that took a ten hour plane ride to be with me and my family for a little over a day when my step-father and my grandmother passed away, was a really good man. And the conversation in the parking lot was really a generous gift.

the ties that bind

Posted in 38, family with tags , , , on November 30, 2011 by ana

Over the long weekend I went to Virginia to visit my cousin Carolina. Going to Virginia always feels like going home. Every summer growing up I stayed at least a month with either my grandmother or my aunt and uncle. Every corner of the house Carolina grew up in is filled with memories. Every time I walk past the guest bathroom, which still has shimmery seventies wallpaper, I remember running in, from a savage game of war with my cousins in the front yard, to fill up water balloons in the sink, and the trouble I got in when I accidentally dropped one on the wood floor. Every time I pass the door to the basement I remember a game of cops and robbers that left me handcuffed to the basement staircase when one of my boy cousins lost the key. In a way, in Virginia, I got to have a kind of suburban life that I never had in Puerto Rico. One where we rode our bikes to the local pool and ran around outside until the sun set late into the night.

Carolina and her husband live in the apartment where my grandmother used to live. This is the apartment where Carolina and I went into the guest bathroom as brunettes one afternoon and emerged a light shade of peroxide copper a half hour later thanks to a bottle of Sun-in we conned someone into buying for us. Across the street from that apartment there used to be a movie theater where I watched E.T. nine times, Annie six, and the first of the Batman movies at least twice. If I stand still long enough I can almost see my grandparents in their bedroom or in the kitchen. Thankfully, the incredibly awkward 8×10 fifth-grade portrait, where I’m wearing a mint green denim vest with a baby pink t-shirt, has been taken down from the wall, and hopefully burned.

Carolina is a year and half older than me.  When we were little we would make our moms buy us the same outfits so we could pretend we were twins but in reality she’s rosy-colored and I’m olive. Her hair is straight and mine is wavy. She’s a skinny-minnie and I’m curvy. And our politics are at opposite ends of the spectrum. When I was little my heart did cartwheels whenever she was around. It still does actually. Sometimes there is nothing lovelier than time spent with someone that has known you your entire life, who knows you through and through, and completely understand the ins and outs of your specific family. And it was wonderful and truly inspiring to see how sweetly her marriage has bonded and evolved as it has navigated hardships and obstacles.

On Sunday we went to see  Gabriela, the daughter of a friend of my mom’s, in an Arthur Miller play. She was intensely good, and I kept thinking of how deep one must dig to unearth something compelling and how much one also has to surrender.

On Monday I went to the zoo in DC by myself and wandered around looking at the elephants, silverback gorillas, and tigers with that mixture of sadness and awe that zoos tend to inspire. I rode the metro and the vertigo inducing escalator of the Adams Morgan station with my fantasies and longing firmly planted across several countries and an ocean, where I have been pretending, somewhat foolishly since the summer, to remember and forget them.

I returned to LA happy and with new shoes but also arguing with my heart. Telling it it was a sucker and a nit-wit for harboring the desire to date someone who wasn’t present and available, for liking someone that feels impossible. I woke up knowing, AGAIN, that is easier to pretend that I don’t like him. It’s just easier to tell myself- let it go- every time I think of him than it is to pine for him. It is better to just hold him in my heart as a catalyst because when we correspond my lust and my ego go crazy, and all I want to hear is, I guess what any girl wants to hear from the guy she likes, that he will do anything to try to be with me because he doesn’t want to be with out me.

All of this has got me thinking about what is solid and grounded. How amazing and guiding it feels to have  fallen in love with my own creative path, for one, and seeing how all the things that interest me begin to combine. Everything in my life is really great right now, really good things are happening. I need to be grateful and not let my inner Veruca Salt tell me otherwise. I struggle to be present but when I’m not I miss the feelings of security, stability, and sensuality that noticing the richness and the details of the moment, and distilling its guiding whispers bring me.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of feet on the ground and flipping yourself upside down.

Posted in 37 with tags , , on September 21, 2011 by ana

Cleo was in town for work. We met for dinner and had a meal of grilled oysters, pickled vegetables, house-cured ham and a burger at my old co-workers very meaty and very popular restaurant, Salt’s Cure. After we went back to her hotel room, which was bigger than any apartment either one of us has ever lived in, and sat in the kitchen drinking wine, sharing a piece of chocolate cake, and talking about love.

While sorting through and old box of journals I’d found a letter an old boyfriend had written me fifteen years ago. It was heartfelt and seductive. Written in thin almost translucent paper, typed on a typewriter late at night, it reached out to me with risk and hope. I read it to Cleo. She asked me if I thought that was the kind of letter one only writes when one is young? “I don’t know,” I said, “but you are probably right.”

The last few days I’ve sat at Intelligentsia drinking coffee and writing in my journal. When I was younger, around the time of the boyfriend with the typewriter, I did that every day. Recently, I read some of those old journals. They were celebratory and restless, full of wonderment but also of frustration, of reaching for things and wanting them desperately to be a certain way. From reading my scribbles I can describe the entire decade of my twenties as plucky, hopeful, tentative, and full of doubt. Now I’m just grown up versions of those words.  Over and over I have been plagued by the idea that if I make a mistake I am bad person. That if I don’t get something right away it is worthless, I am worthless. In there lies the seed of my current fears.

Let me just write it one more time in hopes that it will somehow go away. I’m scared to move to Paris. (I am also terribly excited but somehow that is playing second fiddle these days.) It took me a really long time to get a sense of community in Los Angeles, much longer than in New York.  In one city you are moving in your little pod from point A to point B, in the other you are pressed up against strangers everywhere you go. I’m scared that I’m making a mistake by giving up what I have built here.

The other day I sat in my car thinking of something Nicki said.  “If you sit with the emptiness long enough you begin to see it really isn’t empty after all.”  Parked outside of work I tried to feel the emptiness. To get a sense of it without attaching any other emotion to it, without saying it is good or it is bad. What I found, after a while, was that I was hungry. It was something I had never felt before. While getting ready for service at the restaurant I thought, hunger is the proactive version of restless. It is a  compass that has lurked asleep in me somewhere. Hunger is why I have always taken a million classes and workshops. It is why I’m moving. It is why I asked my boss if I could learn to make desserts at the restaurant.

I have done so much work on myself. I just need to trust that everything is exactly as it needs to be. I have to let things happen. Feral attachment to one specific idea has never served me. In the past I have always said, this who I want to be as opposed to looking around me and seeing the beautiful tapestry of things that are already there. Everyday I remind myself to let go of attachment to outcome.

In my dance class all the other girls are fast-flying tinkerbells but somehow I can’t do any of the crazy tricks. The instructor said, “you are very grounded that is why you can’t take flight. It’s a very good thing to be grounded. Just think light.” The other day Stevie, who hates my pole dancing classes but gets why I love them said, “that is why you are still here. You have to flip yourself upside down.” I have always been afraid of handstands and cartwheels. I could never even let go enough to dive in to a pool. She is right. I need to turn things upside down and learn once and for all that my own strength will catch me.

 

And then the sadness returned but it didn’t last

Posted in 37 with tags , , , on June 19, 2011 by ana

I take the 5 to and from work. That part of the freeway, late at night, when there aren’t a lot of cars on the road, and I’m ready to tuck myself away from the day, has come to represent a certain solitude and freedom in my life. How many times in the past months have I cried my heartache out, singing out-of-tune to some song driving home in my car. I wouldn’t quite say I was crying my heart out last night but I was sad. Sometimes when I’m tired I get kind of blue and melancholic. At work I was exhausted, and I missed Leo with a deep longing I hadn’t experienced in a while. It took everything I had not to say fuck it and text him to meet me for a drink. I don’t think I really would have but I wanted to. The thought of how I would feel after stopped me. The pointlessness of it stopped me.

On Friday I had the penultimate project of my therapy workshop.  Each time we do process work it feels to me like I’m removing barnacles from my soul. So that was probably the main reason I felt emotional and exhausted. So much of the investigation, of the work in the workshop, is about finding what holds us back, what the defenses and patterns in our lives are, and for me it has also been about learning to trust, about not being so driven by a timeline, and learning to really believe in myself.

I did my project in my friend Vee’s back deck. The afternoon sun had burned off all of the morning June-gloom haze and butterflies were fluttering about. Part of my project was to build a castle out of cardboard and cover it in glitter to sacrifice  my attachment to fantasy. I listened to Vespertine, which is such a brilliant album about creativity, sexuality, potentiality and dreams. While building the castle I thought about the last time I had spent an afternoon being that messy and carefree, which was probably when I was in summer camp in my early teens. I then was stung by a bee. The crazy thing is that the only time in my life I have ever been stung by a bee was at summer camp. In one of my one-on-one sessions with my therapist we’d talked about hummingbirds going from flower to flower, unknowingly pollinating other plants, and in the process making something magnificent grow. That is what showing up, and doing the work everyday does. Regardless of what the work is, if you do it consistently something grows. That is what bees do too, so later at home, I looked up the symbolic and mythological significance of bees.

Bees also symbolize eloquence , speech, and intelligence . In Hebrew, the word for bee, Dbure, has its origins in the word Dbr, speech.”

In modern psychoanalytical thinking, honey symbolizes the “higher self” , the ultimate consequence of work on one’s inner self. As the result of the transmutation of ephemeral pollen into a delicious food of immortality, honey symbolizes the transformation by initiation, the conversion of the soul, and the complete integration of the person.”*

I mean seriously could anything be a more magical or auspicious? Am I crazy for taking the sting as a wink that I’m on the right path?

When I got home I had a package from Leo with some mail and a cd- Belle & Sebastian Write About Love but all I could see from the cover was just Write About Love, and I thought- well, I am.

The next morning I met up with some old friends, from the summer camp I had been thinking about while making my castle, who were in town. On my way to meeting them I was thinking about community. How often I had shunned it. How much I had hated in High School growing up in such a small, tight-knit community, and how I had come over the years to love that I had. I sat with my friends having coffee, loving how we had shared such a formative experience, how we all shared the memories of running around barefoot, of living practically without electricity, of laying on blankets at night looking at the stars. Then Leo drove by. I caught the tail end of his little convertible. It was the closest I’d come to seeing him since November and it didn’t quite throw me off kilter but it definitely set me on the path to missing him.

All weekend long all these meaningful connections kept dancing around me. One of my camp friends had mentioned the last day of camp, how amazing that last morning was. We would all be woken up super early, while it was still dark, and there would be a path lit with with small flames. We would all silently make our way to the woods or the beach, and there there would be a bonfire and the older campers would be singing Neil Young songs, and we would all sit around the fire and listen to the camp director or a counselor talk about something meaningful to them- community, honesty, love… At dawn we would all say our goodbyes and it would be cold and everyone would be crying. That was the thing about camp. It brought in to my life some of the magic of everyday life- the sitting around watching a sunset, or walking at night with the fireflies kind- which is the best kind. My friend said, “Isn’t it amazing that our camp would do this beautiful ritual. That they would close the summer with a ritual instead of an awards ceremony or something like that.” I had totally forgotten how powerful those morning were. How wild that she would be in town reminding me of it it over the weekend that I had done a personal ritual as part of my workshop.

After coffee, I met up with Stevie. She was getting a mani/pedi, and I desperately needed to cover my grays (which aren’t so many but are noticeably there). We went for lunch after, then spent the rest of the afternoon drinking bubbly, listening to records, and talking about creativity. It was a lovely afternoon, and I was really bummed I had to go to work, which for the most part ended up being light and breezy. That is until I started to crash from the past day and a half. I started feeling so heavy and sad because I realized I had to come to terms with my loss once and for all. I had to make peace with it and let it go. That there could have been so much love between us. That there still was. That it couldn’t work out. That it can’t. That I ultimately don’t want it to. That is the wall that I have, over and over, come up against. Back in September I read a piece in The New York Times that spoke intensely to me. I thought about it last night. And I thought- in love you often have to completely let go of something before you can begin to harbor hope again.

*lune de miel

*modern love

 

 

I can hear you through the floorboards!

Posted in 37 with tags , on June 3, 2011 by ana

My upstairs neighbors have been fighting all morning. I went to lunch, came back and they are still at it. I hear them stomping, yelling at each other, the closet door sliding back and forth. It’s hard to tell what they are saying but their voices accuse and defend. Back and forth, back and forth, then it goes quiet and starts up again. It makes me kind of anxious. I’m so glad that is not my reality right now. I don’t know who my neighbors are. I don’t know if this is what they’re like when they have a row but from downstairs it sounds monumental. The building shakes. The again the building shakes when ever a truck goes by or someone treads heavily. Sometimes it feels like a mini quake, and I worry that the building is flimsy and will collapse on me.

Yesterday I drove through Koreatown. I don’t like to ever think of Koreatown- how I felt when I moved there and when I left. The life I could have had there. Leo and I had applied for the apartment and didn’t get it. I felt for sure it was meant to be our home and a month later the landlord called to say the other tenants, a couple, had moved out. The girl had left the guy. Ha! Foreshadowing, anyone? Guess that apartment was jinxed. Except Leo still lives there. Leo and I had some big fights. I don’t think they were anything like my neighbors but it’s hard to tell when you are on the inside of the fight. It’s one of the worst feelings in the world when you are going at it with someone you love. When you feel some injustice has been done. The last months of our relationship Leo and I had these colossal, draining discussions. I would be happy  never to revisit how they felt ever again but he fight upstairs reminded me of how I felt during that time. As I sat on my floor folding laundry I also felt grateful and relieved that the decision to leave and the majority of the pain that came with it was behind me.

On the drive home from work I thought how sometimes it can be really hard to tell what your relationship is truly like and where it’s going. In all my major relationships the end came rather swiftly and perhaps somewhat unexpectedly. None of them though were as solid and tender as my last one. That one really did have the potential to go the distance. But every single time I have been able to look back and see why they didn’t work. What seems confusing now is that while I was in them, living them, I believed in that union whole-heartedly. So, I guess the question is how do you ever know? And I guess the answer is you never really do. People change, their needs change but you just have to trust that their commitment and love will not waiver.