Dia de Los Muertos Season: Calavera for Mike Torres

17 Oct


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In the motherland, El Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated on November 1 and 2 each year. This holiday has helped to make me less afraid of death and I love the way people compose “calaveras” for those who are both here and gone from this earth. Calaveras are obituaries done in verse-style. Most times these verses are hilarious, a little sarcastic, and done in fun to honor a person, dead or alive.

My friend and journalist PEDRO CHAVEZ totally wrote an awesome ‘calavera’ for my Dad Mike Torres that I must share with y’all:

 

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“As promised, here’s a calavera for Mike Torres, old friend, damn good musician, and founder of a great band. From the City of Lathrop, no less. Saludos.”  –Pedro Chavezpedro chavez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Torres
Q.E.P.D.

Desde Lathrop emanaban
Sus canciones, sus tonadas,
Era banda de familia,
En la sangre la llevaban.

El líder del tal conjunto
Fue un músico bigotón,
Mike Torres él se llamaba,
De su grupo fue el patrón.

La pelona disgustada
Le dijo ya me cansaron
Tus cumbias y tus tejanas,
Ahora bailas conmigo
Pa’ que conozcas lo bueno,
Moviendo huesos y canas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing 101 Challenge: A Day At The Park: Inner Chingona Attitude Adjustment

12 Oct

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With all that has been happening with Mama, I am way behind on my Writing 101 Challenges but, now that I am on overnight watch with Mom, it is a great time for me to work on my writing.  Today’s Challenge is “Death to Adverbs” and getting descriptive by doing the following exercise:

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

I was beyond stressed out with all that is happening with Mama so I decided that, I had to, although at first,  I did not want to, go for a walk in the open air.  Usually, I’m pretty motivated to walk off my stress, today though, I was in a bit of a funk.  I had spent the past 24 hours completely unglued, tired, angry, crying and, what’s worse, taking it out on EVERYONE.  So today I was ASKED to get the heck out of the house for a couple of hours.

As I got to the park, I had this assignment in mind.  It was late afternoon and there was a mixture of heat and a little humidity in the air so I knew that I would be sweating it out LOL so I stayed in the Jeep for about 30 minutes because I “had” to pluck my eyebrows, puro procrastination was more like it.

 

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Finally, I got out of the Jeep and as I did my stretches, I heard the mixture of laughter shrieks of little kids playing in the park playground.  One little girl called out to “Mama Vero” to watch her as she climbed up one the playground structures.   Some of the kids were trying to out-do each other on the swings to see who could fly higher.

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As I continued walking on the path around the park, the most delicious breeze blew onto my face and all I could do was say “aaaaah“!   The breeze continued to envelop itself around me, cooling me off and refreshing me instantly.  To my right, I heard shouts in Spanish and the referee’s whistle  as a soccer game was in full effect, the majority of the spectators could be seen on their smartphones instead of watching the game LOL.    To my left, I saw about 4 or 5 East Indian gentlemen sitting on the benches in the shade talking.  What struck me was the different shapes of their turbans, as I have no idea of the significance, the only thing I could gather was that different generations must wear different types of turbans and there was also a little boy, turbanless,  sitting with them who smiled at me as I passed by.

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Further up were a bunch of young girls and boys playing basketball and, because isn’t there always one close by when you need it?  A taco truck and a ‘palatero‘ a Mexican ice cream vendor.  As I made the turn toward my Jeep, the setting sun felt hot on my back and I saw a sign stating that the route I had just walked was a half a mile long.  So I adjusted my headphones and put my car keys into my secret hiding place and calculated that, if I were to walk 3 miles that I would need to walk this route 5 more times.

With every lap, I started to get out of my funk, to feel my stress leaving my body, to stop being so edgy and angry, and I decided that my attitude had indeed adjusted and that I would be able to go home and offer much-needed support to Mom, Dad and my siblings instead of BEING THE PROBLEM.

I was excited as I started my last lap around the park.   Parents were starting to pack up their blankets and children from the playground and getting into cars.   As always is the case, I heard one little kid crying because he wanted to keep playing and did not want to go home, I heard conversations about picking up pizza for dinner, and I started to hear the sounds of doors opening and closing and motors starting.   The breeze still had the same “aaaaah” effect on me as I passed that side of the park.  The soccer game was still going on but now it must have been interesting because the spectators were totally into the game and off of their smartphones!  The benches which held the East Indian gentlemen were now empty and I found myself looking around to see if I could see them walking thru the park, no such luck.  The kids playing basketball had finished their game and were now ending their day with another teen ritual, posing for selfies LOL.  I saw the palatero driving away on his bicycle with his ice cream, as there would be no more business at the park for that day, and the taco truck was still there waiting until the last of the futbol games were over.

I got to my Jeep, again did my stretches, and drove back down the street to the Ranch and back to help care for Mama.   This was an awesome break and I didn’t know how much I needed this until I was driving home!

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My assignment was to try to be as descriptive as possible without using adverbs or words that end in ‘ly’ — did I do OK?  Were you able to experience what I had based on my descriptions?  I’d love your comments….

Turning the Tables: Letting Go

6 Oct

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It’s here. We are that point. The one thing that all adult children fear. The one phone call that adult children are afraid to receive. The one conversation that we all dread. This is the day where we struggle between feeling hopeful and feeling hopeless. The day that our parents are getting ready to leave us.

Within the past 24 hours I have vacillated between screaming out in frustration because I want things to go a certain way, let’s get to a hospital, let’s get extra help in the house, let’s figure out a plan, let’s, let’s, let’s, LET’S do something to right now:  beyond sad and struggling to find resignation and acceptance for the inevitable.   I’ve always been afraid of goodbyes – and some very important people in my life passed without me able to say goodbye to them, much less say what I wanted to say to them.

Our collective hearts were broken today at 3:20pm when my mother told us how she wanted to continue living out the rest of her life on this earth.  On the one hand, she was so peaceful that it became impossible to fight her decision.  So, as I sit here calm one minute, crying the next, I realize that my mother has given us an incredible gift:  the chance to be with her as she goes on to her final journey.   I am so afraid of letting go of her, what if she wants to come back? what if she gets scared? what if she feels lonely? what if? what if?   The best part of it all is that Mom is completely alert and completely sure of what she is doing…she sat us down and told us her wishes and told us all that she loved us.

So many people go thru their entire lives without feeling a parent’s love, respect, and approval.   My siblings and I KNOW what our parents think of us, they have both told us how proud they are of us and how much they love us.   Their love and support will get us thru the very hard times to come as we learn to accept Mama’s wishes and to, as Mama always says, to let go and let God.

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This writer on her work

29 Sep

ctorres716:

Sometimes our voices must be heard, no matter how it comes out. I like this cleverly written blog entry…most def, Inner Chingona approved reading material on Writing. #VanessaMartir’sBlog

Originally posted on Vanessa Martir's Blog:

Years ago, an ex (the drug dealer I dated while a student at Columbia University) told me “You ain’t goin’ out” when he overheard me talking to a friend on the phone about our plans for the weekend. I was folding our freshly washed laundry on our bed. Clothes that I’d sorted, carried down four flights of stairs, washed, dried, bagged and carried up those four flights by myself.

He sprayed himself with his Dolce and Gabbana cologne and glared at me, “You heard me, right?” I stared back at him, poker faced. He walked out without another word.

I hadn’t planned on going out. I wanted to stay home to spend time with him, or at least that was the plan until he ran his mouth. That Friday night, I made dinner then dressed up extra cute in jeans, crop top, Kangol and pumps. I made a show of…

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What? Que QUE? … To Wave or Not Wave The Flag

19 Sep

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There are ways to get your point across and be understood in a professional and respectful way.  And then…there is the SonsaTontaPendeja way…

HAD to post this video of Southern California Realtor Tressy Capps, gotta give it to her, she totally went there, she’s pretty brave to go up to a random household in the barrio to tell them how she feels as she asks them to take down the Mexican flag. More power to the woman in the house…who, in her broken English, tries to tell this lost soul that, not only does she have the Mexican flag in the yard, that she also has an American flag.  Both women, most def, brought out their Inner Chingona, albeit misguided on the part of Ms. Capps.

This is a ‘What?QueQUE?‘ moment if there ever was one. Do you wonder why la Tressy is now in hiding?  At least she says “thank you” after she insults this woman in her home, that’s something.  Jeez…

See it for yourself:

 

Writing 101 Challenge: Serial Loss

19 Sep

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Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  This is an exercize on doing serial writing, that is writing about something in a series – so more to come…

 

The negative side of FEAR used to rule my life.  I used to be afraid of so many things, many of these things unknowns or things that hadn’t even happened yet and, there I was, all miedosa/afraid, so many times I would work myself up so much that I became immobile and unable to do anything.  F-E-A-R  Forgetting Everything And Running has done little to help me move forward and achieving any of the goals that I have set for myself.   I am the oldest in my fam so I had really no one before me to show me the way.  I remember my first days in kindergarten, I was so afraid to be without my familia and my sister especially that I was literally sick and cried every day for months.  I remember my kindergarten teacher being so insensitive that I finally stopped talking altogether.  Reports would come in that I was very withdrawn and there was a huge concern as to why I wouldn’t talk in class.  I spent the majority of recess inside as a punishment for not speaking in class.   Once I got to First Grade, it was night and day.  I had a great teacher and, from that point on, no one would have ever believed that I was so depressed and withdrawn.  Although I did do much better, a good part of the fear and the pressure of being the first, the one that had to do well, etc.  stayed with me for years and years.  Living with fear seemed easier at the time…

After many years and some crazy and intense life experiences, it became less important for me to be the example for my siblings, to be the one who always succeeded, to the first at anything.  My years of trying to be perfect were completely out of fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of everything.   My familia, especially, were the ones to remind me that everyone makes mistakes, that I am no different.  That the recent years of bad luck and negativity would only be changed if I lost this crazyass desire to please everyone and to learn how to face life instead of run from it.  Once I learned how to befriend the positive side of fear,  I started to see F-E-A-R as Face Everything And Rise…but this did not happen overnight…

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Writing 101: 3 Important Songs Help Me Commit to a Writing Practice

16 Sep

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The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.

– Natalie Goldberg

Today it’s all about learning how to commit to practicing writing on a daily basis. The goal for today is to write for 15 minutes without stopping as I answer the following question:

 

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

 

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Regular readers of Carmen’s Blog know that I love music! I have put the timer on for this 15-minute writing challenge and I’ll bet I have no problem to talk about music LOL. Should I talk about music in Spanish? music in English? songs that make me sad? happy? creative? motivated?  Music lovers KNOW that the hard part will be in choosing the songs, there are soooo many!

You know that we come from a musical family so we had been around music for our entire lives and were heavily influenced by music from our musician father, and mother whose musical tastes ran the gamut from English to Spanish. So we know all about trios, Javier Solis, Miguel Aceves Mejia, Patsy Cline, Eydie Gorme, Nat King Cole, oldies and some straight-up cool jams like “Tighten Up” , “Groove Me” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” which our Ita loved.   We Torres’ also spent a lot of time with our Grijalva cousins and they, as my brother Marty says, really blew our minds music wize. They loved and exposed us to soooo much music that we still love today.

Song 1: “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” Stevie Wonder

I’ll never forget the first time that I heard this song. We Torres’ were all lil ones then and just learning about what kind of music that WE liked. This was one of the first songs that I heard English words sung, some Spanish words spoken, “todo ‘ta bien chevere”, and this definite and unique Latino vibe. I had never heard the piano played in that riff/melody/progression before and it was soooo cool to instinctively relate to this style of music. It was the first time I heard anything that sounded like salsa in my life. Who knew that I’d grow into this major salsa fan? I wasn’t the only Torres either to love this song, ALL of my siblings love this song. It’s so fun to watch the different reactions from each of us: my brothers immediately start air playing their instruments of choice, keyboards and drums. My sisters get that pout going as they nod their head in time to the music.  I had to call sis LG, accomplished musician and salsa fan that she is, tells me that this very distinctive intro is call a “montuno” piano riff.  I remember this song being one of our Torres Fam Approved Songs then and now.

 

 

Song 2: “El Raton” Fania All Stars

This was probably the first salsa song that I heard and loved instantly. Of course, we heard this song through our Grijalva cousins and I went out and bought the Fania All Stars “Latin*Soul*Rock” Live album.   It was the first time that I had ever heard salsa giant Cheo Feliciano sing and loved that he put in some English into the song as I was still learning how to speak and understand Spanish.  Also, this was the first music in Spanish that I heard that wasn’t Mexican so their accents and phrasing sounded so different how I spoke.  Only years later, did I ‘get it’ that, in this song, that all of the super heavy weights, the creators of modern Salsa, legends were all playing together!   I would listen to the album for hours on end.   I was so young that, by the time I was of concert-going age, the Fania All Stars had pretty much broken up and a lot of these guys were on their own and became legendary salseros in their own right:  Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Cheo and of course, my favorite Ruben Blades.  I’ve seen many of these guys in concert but would have LOVED to see THIS particular show all all of them on stage together.  I’ve always been a fan of ‘salsa dura’, this type of salsa is so on the beat, solid, not too slow if you want to dance, with very tight musical arrangements.   I’m a huge fan of the vocalists especially and love to hear the inventive ways that they work it singing lead and with ‘coros’.  Fania All Stars’ music still stands up after all of this time and is also on the list of Torres Fam Approved Songs.

 

 

Song 3:  “The Golden Time of Day”  Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Love love love this song!  I got to know Maze’s music years after it came out.  My siblings knew and loved all of their songs and sis Kiki, especially, loves her Frankie.  The one thing that I always got from this music was that it was ‘groovin’ music to chill out to while at home or in the yard, music to cruise to, music to party to.  Being an event planner, I had always envisioned a huge outdoor event where people were kicking back having a good time.  But, once I got into the words of the song, I really started to LOVE it.   I love this time of day, the sun really is golden, it starts cooling down if it’s been hot all day, the world starts winding down and relaxing.  So much of my life has revolved around events that end around this time of day, so I can usually be found driving home during the golden time of day.  I cannot tell you how many gorgeous sunsets I’ve been able to experience at the wheel of my Jeep – it’s the absolute perfect way for me to wind down!   I’ve been lucky enough to see him in concert and, there is nothing like being there to experience “The Golden Time of Day” LIVE…to see thousands of people groove and sing the song word for word is amazing, now I know that I am not the only one who loves this song!

 

Ok, so it’s been about 20 minutes since I started this post and my hands hurt LOL but in a good way…I love music and I love talking about music!  I’ve attached videos of my three song choices – hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.

>>>WHAT THREE SONGS DO IT FOR YOU?????

 

 

Writing 101 Challenge Day 2: A Room with a View

16 Sep

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A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

– Joan Didion

 

Regular readers of my blog know that I am always in search of finding my Inner Chingona — inner peace if you will. Sometimes it is much easier to find myself, or better yet, hear myself in certain places. Day 2 of Today’s Writing 101 Challenge is to describe such a place…

The most relaxing places for me are always around the water. Crazy since I never learned to swim!  Water feels so cool, cool water that refreshes instantly upon touch.  When it’s hot outside, running my hands through water, splashing it onto my face, throwing my shoes off to put my feet into the water, love it!

A few years ago, I had just moved back to California and was going through an incredibly stressful time readjusting and read that getting out in nature would settle my nerves and relax me.  I remembered from my time in Colorado that the views were so incredible.  I used to say that it was hard to have a bad attitude when surrounded by beautiful scenery.   As I drove, I would look up and see the awesome snow-capped Rocky Mountains daily and my attitude would be placed in check.

Upon returning to California, I had still not found anything in nature that had the same effect on me as Colorado had.  So one day I was working and decided that I had to get out of the office for a while.  I wanted to find nature so I looked online and found that there was a beach close by.   Ok, so how to get there?  Public transportation was not an option as I only had a limited amount of time.  Driving there?  I was nervous as I hadn’t been in San Francisco that long and to get in the car and drive across the city in the middle of the day was daunting.  Especially in the beginning, as I seemed to get lost, really lost, every time I got into the car.

But off into the car I went, directions in hand, both hands on the wheel, and excited as I started this new adventure.   Although there was really only one way to head to the beach, I went off of my directions so that I wouldn’t get lost.  Finally, I see the sign with an arrow pointing toward the beach.  It was a long street to the beach and, every time I got to a stop sign or stoplight,  I would think to myself, ‘am I going the right way?’  At one of the stop lights, as I look up, and I think I see the beach.  As I’d never driven toward a beach, I didn’t know what to look for.  I was still far enough away that it was like I was looking into an illusion.  What did I see?  It looked like the blue sky and the water merged to form this awesome blue wall.  I remember saying, ‘wow’ and could feel my heart pounding as I got closer and closer.

I could now smell the beach air and could see the waves moving back and forth as I drove closer to the beach.  You better know that I wanted to jump out of that car and run to the water but there was so much traffic.  Finally, I get to the beach, park the car, and realize that I am so not dressed for the beach and had no towels, blankets, or anything to sit on but I did find a book, some chanclas/flipflops, and my music — threw it all into a bag and walked onto the warm, dry, sand toward the water.  The sand was so heavy that I couldn’t run it at first.  Once I got close to the water, I threw my bag down and, once I felt the water flow over my feet, I was instantly calmed.  I stood there for a very long time letting the waves soothe my feet, my nerves, my stress, and my bad attitude.   The sound of the waves began to lull me into a pleasant trance as well and wouldn’t you know it?  I could actually hear myself THINK!

After sitting there for a while, I decided to go for a walk before heading back to the office.  I put the music on and off I went, as I looked back, my car was farther and farther away and I was having the time of my life.  After walking and walking, I turned back toward the car and was amazed to see that I had walked really far and the time had passed, so much so, that it looked like the sun was going down!

I got to witness an incredible sunset on the beach that day and, by the time I got back into my car, my attitude had completely adjusted, I was calm, relaxed, and ready to finish my work projects before I left for home that night.    On this day, I lost one of my chanclas and found my inner Chingona for the first time.   I remember making a promise to myself as I drove back into the City, that I would visit the Beach as much as possible.   I now have a bunch of places I love to walk near the water but this beach remains one of my favorites because it was the first of many escapes — OCEAN BEACH in San Francisco…

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Writing 101 Challenge Day 1: Unblock the Mind

15 Sep

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Writing Challenge Day 1:  This entry may not be that organized as my assignment was to Unblock the Mind and to write, just write, for 20 minutes without stopping.  Looking forward to having fun

Today is my first day of Writing 101, where I will be challenged daily to stretch my writing capacity.  What do I  want to learn from this challenge?  I would like to be able to write cleverly and more concise, so that not everything sounds like a rant or a journal entry.  I like to keep journal entries and rants in my personal journal where I write it out in my hand and write out my stress, sadness, joy, etc. until my hand gets tired.  I’ve been so amazed to see the power of writing things down.  Many times, I’m all caught up in the emotion of the moment and I forget what I wrote, it’s like I just needed to release the stress, then I look back and read past entries and am stunned to find that I accomplished this or that goal.

I’ve also been trying to take my writing more seriously and, after a period of writing nothing for months, I now have designated a ‘writing day’ for myself.  I’ve done what I call “copy days” for years in my job — copy days are the designated days that I try to write all of the commercials, promotional announcements, web updates, social media posts, etc. that I need to submit for the week.   I found that once I designated a copy day, that my week was much more efficient and I was able to handle the mountain of other tasks and, as one of my assistants told me once, “no matter where you look in that case, there is always work” referring to my work briefcase.

I would love to be able to translate the excitement that I have for writing into other areas of my life.   Once I start writing, off my fingers go on the keyboard and, the next time I look up, like 3 hours have passed!   For years, although I loved writing, I would discount it, saying to myself that it wasn’t really about anything, that I had more important things to do, that it was boring.  Then I realized that I was seeing the task of writing through others’ eyes, or what I assumed that they thought about writing.   Now it’s so different.  I can actually feel when it’s time to write, it’s like I “have” to write, I guess that means that I’m finally listening to my Inner Chingona voice.  Writing was the first way that I could truly hear myself, what I was thinking, what I want, what I need.  Now it’s all about fine-tuning my passion for writing so that I can learn to develop my writing and take it to the next level.

Inner Chingona on Leaving. Or Staying.

10 Sep

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I always told myself that, as I got myself out of an abusive situation, that I would always try to show others that there is always a way out, that, no matter what your familia, friends and colleagues say, that you leave when you are ready to leave, that you stay until you find your Inner Chingona, get that power back, walk to that door, walk into a new life, and never look back.   I was, most def, one to say that I would leave the minute someone disrespected or abused me.   I was stunned to find that it was not as easy as I thought.    Although I have no physical scars, no importa, the emotional ones have been bigger, bloodier, and hurt more than any slap could.

Almost three years later, it’s incredible to me that my life is peaceful and relatively drama free and that I made it happen.  It took listening to others tell their stories and learn from them for me to ultimately find my Inner Chingona and heal my way back.   These women taught me that, just because this or that did or did not happen to me, that I was still worthy of love, success, and all things good.   The story below is from an article in today’s THE DAILY BEAST written by ANONYMOUS, it is a powerful account of a woman trying desperately to find her Inner Chingona and make the decision to live instead of merely survive.    I can soooo relate to how this woman felt at times, and, since we never stop learning, I do not know everything there is to know, but I know one thing:  Your Inner Chingona’s voice NEVER lies and has your best interest at heart, if you are in a situation that doesn’t feel right, please LISTEN!!!

This entry is dedicated to all of the women in constant turmoil who are much stronger than they think they are … these women who were there to teach me when I needed them.  I hope that they have been able to get out of their abusive situations and that they are unleashing their Inner Chingona.

 

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>>>reblogged article from The Daily Beast, 9/10/2014<<<

 

I Was Pregnant When He Hit Me. Here’s #WhyIStayed.
Social media is ablaze over the Ray Rice video, wondering why his future wife stayed. For me, like thousands of other abused women, that answer isn’t an easy one.

I was eight weeks pregnant with my second child when my husband hit me.

To be fair, he told me that he would kill me while he throttled my neck, and once I broke free I tried desperately to fight back. Then he hit me. Open hand right across the face, so hard it felt like a punch.

We were about to go to sleep, but I decided to tease him about his weird habit of having the pillow a certain way on the bed. After a few verbal digs about his undiagnosed OCD, I tossed it off the bed as a joke. I thought he would laugh. I was wrong.

As he plopped down on the bed, seemingly as shocked as I was about what had just happened, I ran out into my living room and collapsed on the couch. I cupped my searing left cheek in my hand as I sobbed, muffling my mouth with the other so not to wake my daughter.

I eyed the phone on the table, but every time I got up to dial the police, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I didn’t want him to pay for what he had done to me, and not because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do—but because I didn’t know if that was the best choice.

I’d left my job has a high-powered marketing director to stay home with my children and follow my husband and his transient job around the country, which left me dependent on him for an income. I had no bank account. The car was in his name. I was pregnant, for God’s sake. I’d be taking my children out of their upper-middle-class lifestyle, dumping them into my old childhood bedroom in the home I vowed I’d never return to. A home full of my own painful memories of abuse, my teen years spent trying to figure out a way to get out and never come back. Going home would feel like a failure—or at least, another one.

I thought about driving the 1,000 miles to my mom’s house that night, but I didn’t even know what I would say. How I’d found myself—a smart, beautiful, graduate school-educated woman pregnant with her second child—in a marriage to an abusive husband. Just like her.

Why did I toss his pillow on the ground? If I’d just stopped…it was so stupid. It didn’t take long for the self-blame to start. He’d been stressed about work, a new job and city where we all knew no one. My pregnancy had been a surprise and a challenging one, with days full of migraines and evenings spent in bed, leaving him to care for our oldest after long, grueling days.

… On the outside, a strong woman raising strong daughters, and yet secretly married to a man who I’d castrate with my own bare hands if my girls ended up with anyone like him.

Even though he’d never hit me before, I never felt as though he really loved me. His abusive words slapped me just as hard as his hands did that night, each critique of my poor performance as a stay-at-home mom cutting me down to make him feel better about his own perpetual unhappiness. I imagine that’s how it started with my own mother, too—my dad spewing his own brand of emotional abuse at her and at us. I never actually saw him hit her, but neither did my daughter. Who knew what happened to her behind closed bedroom doors?

I ran through every possible scenario that involved me leaving, and none of them made sense. I felt helpless, idiotic, and completely paralyzed by shame.

A few hours after he hit me, I stormed into our bedroom where he was sleeping and screamed at him, my voice slowly going hoarse from repeating the same words: “You piece of shit. You hit your pregnant wife. You piece of fucking shit.” He lay there, almost catatonic.

The next morning he apologized, his face pale and flat. He promised to get therapy. And I believed him. He’d never done it before. And how could someone do something like that and then break a promise? I should have stopped at “how could someone do something like that?” but I was in love, or I thought I was in love. Really, I believed I’d have one over on him—a sort of “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” almost literally on his part—and somehow I thought that upper hand might serve me well later on.

Later, I took a photo of my eye with my cellphone, the skin around it still swollen, the whites streaked with popped red veins. “Never forget,” I said to myself as I snapped the shot. And I didn’t. I knew at that point I’d leave him someday, and that I’d know when the time was right. But it wasn’t then.

For months, I did my best to carry on while no therapy appointments were made, no grand apologetic gestures were offered. The memory of that night surfaced in our almost daily arguments. They escalated to yelling and name-calling, but never over the edge he’d crossed that one night. “It was a weird side effect of the cold medicine,” he told me once. “If you hadn’t pushed me…” he said another time. “Abusive husband?!” he’d laugh.

With the distance of time, I slowly lost my power, the gravity of the event getting lighter and lighter until it didn’t seem like a big deal even to me. But I felt like a phony; on the outside, a strong woman raising strong daughters, and yet secretly married to a man who I’d castrate with my own bare hands if my girls ended up with anyone like him.

Then I got pregnant again, the result of the once-every-few-months sexual encounter we would have after a bunch of drinks and a night of my mom’s free babysitting. I felt sick, not from the pregnancy hormones now coursing through my body for a third time but because I knew I’d just pretty much killed my chances of ever leaving.

A single mom with two kids is kind of sexy, I thought, with the option of adding more kids still a possibility. A blended family could be sort of sweet. But a single mom with three kids is like a death sentence, the extra child just enough to make any more kids seem terribly overwhelming.

And a terminated pregnancy just wasn’t an option. My husband’s own religious guilt was enough to rail against even the thought of an abortion, not to mention my own fragility and guilt that I’d somehow be punishing my unborn child for my own poor judgment in staying.

Secretly, I was a little hopeful, believing there was a reason for this baby. I decided that if I was going to make it through the pregnancy, I needed to stop flogging myself with embarrassment. So I harnessed the last bit of power I had from that night and used it to plan my exit strategy.

I went back to work, which was easier than expected thanks to friends still in the business who took my unexplained pleas for an income very seriously. I saved and stockpiled. I schemed. And every time I felt like bringing that night up again in a fight, I imagined the look on his face when I told him I was finally leaving.

I stayed with him for five more years before I could finally bring myself to leave. Yes, five loveless, lonely, but quiet years, mostly due to my own complacency and learned ability to compromise for my kids’ sake and our safety.

But I did leave, my confidence fueled by a growing intolerance for the emotional abuse and neglect and its toll on my ability to be a good mother. People in my life who showed me the possibility of what could be: the friend leaving her own bad relationship and making it through unscathed; the children of a divorced family member, happier than they were when their parents were married; the therapist who looked me straight in the eye and told me that I could survive in this one life I have or I could live it.

I chose living. Finally.

The weight of being a single mom to three children is nothing compared to the shame and guilt I carried on my shoulders, the years I stayed making it heavier and heavier for me to carry. But finally giving myself permission to be angry with him without feeling bad, finally realizing that I was not responsible no matter what he said or I said or anyone else said, gave me the ability to put all that shame where it belonged. On him.

We’re divorced now. Our relationship is barely cordial. Last year he lunged at me with his fist and threatened to kill me again. I didn’t call the police that Halloween night, while my children happily waited outside to trick-or-treat. But I did file a police report the next day, and I made sure he knew about it.

He sees the kids twice a month in his house where he lives with his young new girlfriend. I live alone with my children, dating selectively but hopefully.

It took me many years to realize that it wasn’t about me. Or Janay Palmer. Or any woman who’s ever been hit. It’s about the man who somehow thinks it’s ever OK, and a society that still thinks she must have done something to deserve it. That she pushed him a little too far. That she tossed his pillow on the ground. That she screamed in his face and lunged at him.

And if I hadn’t, if she hadn’t, we could all continue to think that these men aren’t just bad people.

But that’s exactly what they are.

Really, really bad.

 

si me levanto

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