I Have Nothing, Yet I Have Everything

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When I arrived at the grocery cashier to pay for my items.  I had cash, but not enough to pay for the groceries.  I needed like $10 and change that would be charged to my ATM card.    And then, just like that, my ATM card was declined.

Luckily, I ended up having cash in my purse.  That was GodJesusVirgenOfG working it for me.  As I left the store with my groceries, I was calm on the outside.  On the inside, a war was raging.  I was near tears…of embarrassment, anger, frustration.  Oh and I did that feeling sorry for myself thing too.   Whyyyyyy?  Again?  You name it, I thought it.

However, by the time I arrived to the Jeep, my fit was over, I remember hitting the steering wheel a couple of times to get out the remaining rage and then I was done.  It was time to have my ‘Come to Jesus’ Moment.  I turned on my music and Sting’s song “Fragile” comes on, perfect song to get me thinking.  Granted, “Fragile” deals with the destruction of our planet, and my issues are but a speck on the face of the earth.  Somehow this realization makes my dilemma more manageable.  I have been thinking for the past couple of hours now, as I cooked dinner for Dad in this super-intense heat, kept repeating the song, I sweated out my rage, and willed myself not to take out my mess on my Dad.  You’ll be proud of me, I did not yell at him at all.   Now as I sit here writing, barely two hours later, ready to connect with JesusGodVirgenOfG to help me out of this desmadre, I’m proud of myself that I have taken more responsibility for my fit-throwing life and, at this moment, I know only one thing:  I have nothing, yet I have everything.

I don’t remember being this financially challenged EVER.  I also don’t remember being this CALM about it either.  When I decided to live my life “freelance” style,  I was nervous.  Gone was the security, gone was the majority of my disposable income, but, happily, gone was that gnawing feeling that something was either left undone or not done right at all after a weekend of events.  In my business, something seemingly innocent like finding pictures of a banner not hung just so was cause for straight-up alarm and could make my Mondays feel like I was being rolled over on coals of fire and could convert a perfect event into the latest nightmare.

Best decision I ever made?  As pobre as I am at this moment, I believe I made the right decision.   My personal drama made it necessary for me to step back from my industry, and, once I had a summer completely off, where I no longer had to work every single weekend, every holiday, and arrive late or miss events with my family, I knew that GodJesusVirgenOfG had put the more important things of life in front of my face:  familia, friends, writing, rest, and relaxation.

I tell my media and event colleagues that I am not the Carmen of back in the day:  the one who SLEPT at work, living and breathing events 24/7 to make events happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I can and do kick ass at the events that I choose to work on, I will never lose that competitive drive completely I guess.  However,  I also remember the Carmen who would work when she was beyond exhausted and almost drove off the Sunol Grade before she, thankfully,  woke up, I remember having to make the very painful decision to leave one job after another in search of my peace.    Little by little, I’ve reconnected with my familia/friends and now live a relatively peaceful life.

Now that my priorities have completely changed, I still need to be able to get over myself and re-do my financial life.  First,  I am done screaming ‘SonsaTontaPendeja‘ at myself – there is no way that I have been the first (or the last) person to have an ATM card declined.  Second, I gain nothing by blaming others for my lack of feria.  Third, it is essential that I get my sense of aventada-ness and hustle back front and center and do what I have always done:  worked it from the minute I put it in writing.   This is not the place for my InnerChillona…it is time to completely work it as my InnerChingona would do.  Find income. Invest in my future. Create more savings. Keep Working That Budget.

My business is seasonal.  As I have no millionario or sugar daddy waiting in the wings with a bolsa de dinero (cash), it is imperative that I get back on my own two feet in order to survive today as well as the slow period (November thru February).  I am intelligent, resourceful, with marketable skills that would be an asset to many.  Now I have to get my huevos together and these suggestions have helped me… maybe they’ll help you as well.

From Ginger Dean, Founder of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Funds’

How Do I Get Back And Stand On My Two Feet? 

Self-sufficiency is sexy.

Go back to school. Start there. Did you finish college or high school? Do you want to go back to graduate school? What are you passionate about that requires a degree or certificate? Do you need to go back to school? These are all questions that you have to ask yourself if your path to returning to the work force involves going back to school.  For me, it’s all about closing the circle:  Passing the State Interpreter Exam and I have already started researching getting a second BA Degree in Spanish from all of the units that I took at SFSU for Interpretation and Translation, I also want to take some basic design classes to keep up with the young uns in Marketing.  

Start a business. Along the same lines of going back to school, what are you passionate about? Do you see a need in the market that hasn’t been filled? How can you work to fill that need while creating income for yourself? This can include producing your own stuff to sell on Etsy or Ebay as well.  My ideas are good, my ideas fill a need, a lot of this is already in progress, now it’s get the hell out of my own way and really make this happen.   This is the scariest part of moving forward, because there’s nothing left to say, it’s time to work it.

Renew or update your skills. If you’re in a field like myself, then you’ll need to make sure that applicable licenses or certifications are always up to date as allowing them to lapse costs more time and money. Talk to the licensing or certification board within your field and find out what you need to do in order to maintain your skills in this area. If you plan on applying to jobs that require a license or certification then you’ll need to make sure this is up to date. Attend workshops and conferences in an effort to remain up to date with the current trends in your field as well. This also gives you the opportunity to network with others.  My goal of passing the State Interpreter Exam is still very much real and I’ve now added other skills and licenses/certifications that I will need in order to become competitive in my own business.  Pobre or not, I am willing to invest in my new future.

Find Your Sisterhood of Success AKA “Personal Board Of Advisors”

Who supports you professionally when it’s time to make hard professional decisions? Do you have a group of women or even one woman who you can turn to? I take that back, it doesn’t have to be a woman. Anyone who supports you and is able to provide professional guidance will do.  Women are more successful when they have mentors guiding them both personally and professionally. Especially when women mentor women. Great things happen!  This one I loooooove!  I’ve had what I call my Personal Focus Group for years… tons of friends/colegas who are experts in my industry, good friends, in business for themselves, and my badasses who work it Corporate America, Government, and the Latino community.  I’ve also started reaching out to those who can help me as I navigate my way to my new future.  

All of the above is true investment in my future which will require un chingo de hustle and all of the confidence that I can muster.   Can you believe that I actually had a conference call for another contract after my ATM declined, a sign for sure…it may be just what I need right now and the only way that I will know for sure is to put my butt right back out there and pray that JesusGodVirgenOfG see things my way.

Sometimes it take losing everything to realize that all is not lost, even though, at this moment, I have nothing (material), yet I have everything  – family, opportunities, creativity, and dare I say it, confidence.

It’s about time.

Confidently working toward that day when the ATM always goes through LOL.

 

 

Challenge out of the NoLonjaZone, Phase II

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The journey out of the NoLonjaZone has completed its first phase. I finished the health challenge from May15-June15 where I drank no soda, drank 1 gallon of water per day, did 20 minutes of exercise, ate when I was hungry and tried to cut down on emotional eating. What did I learn?

I learned that I am able to finish what I start.  Not perfectly, but I did complete my goal.  Eventually, I hope to be able to finish e v e r y t h i n g  I start.    For all of my “me” time speeches, it was not that easy to carve out time for myself and for my health.  Now that I’ve completed this challenge, I feel much better physically that I did on May 15th.  I have got to keep making time for my health, especially when I do not feel like working out that day/night.  Every time I walk, jump rope, run, exercise, I always feel better once I’m done…it’s the getting started that I struggle with.

My challenges have been with making time to exercise on the weekends.  If I have an event, my energy is focused on making sure I’m 100 percent into arriving on time, doing the job, and getting home at a decent hour and working out hasn’t been factored in that much.  At least not yet anyway.   The emotional eating was difficult to combat at first but now I’ve tried drinking water when I say that I’m hungry because, many times, I may be just thirsty or bored.   And you better MOVE out of my way when I am hungry LOL.   Drinking the water is getting easier and I swear that I have drunk a lot of the big bottled water in the house just by myself.   It’s easier to drink a lot of water especially in this heat and you will need to become accustomed to using the bathroom a LOT.

Talking about my progress has been what has kept me accountable to the friends who have wanted to take the health challenge as well.  It actually motivates me to keep going knowing that others are with me on the journey of living healthier.  Since my exercise of choice has been walking, I’m really glad that, years ago, I would look for places to walk anywhere along my commute routes so it’s been fun revisiting all of my walking spots.

Focusing on my health has moved off of the back burner in my life.   Taking charge of my health is empowering and I feel like it’s the first step in getting all areas of my life together.     My self-confidence had taken a beating and I have, only now, started to step out of that misery into my life now.  However, my life and my confidence are still out of sync. So unsettling.  Especially as I was always blessed with confidence and with the huevos to make things happen in my life always.  I look forward to stop living my life tentatively and hanging out with my good friend and ally:  confidence.  Making time for myself to work out, to eat better, to live healthier is the only way that I can think of to get my confidence back.

Next steps?  I’ve started Round 2 of the Health Challenge with a group of fun and brave individuals who, like me, are ready to take healthy steps our own way, combining health with busy lives, as we move toward the NoLonjaZone.  It’s been a great feeling of accomplishment to finish what I start.  For once.

Let’s do this!  See details below…we’re on this challenge now June 19 thru July 19.

To be continued…

 

 

 

Challenge Yourself Out Of The NoLonjaZone, Phase 1

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I am on Day 21 of a 30-Day Health Challenge.  The goal is to live healthier and  since May 15th thru June 15th, I am drinking no soda, 1 gallon of water per day, 20 minutes of exercise a day, no emotional eating, that is – eat only when hungry, and to try to do one plank for 30 seconds per day.

How has it gone?  It hasn’t been as bad as I thought.  I’ve been walking every single day, I’ve been able to cut down my emotional eating dramatically and actually started to wait for the hunger pangs in my stomach, I tried doing the plank thing for one day and never went back to it LOL.  What I have done instead is do the jump rope, squats and I’ve actually r u n.   The difficult days to work out have been the weekends – this family always seems to have something planned and I have not been that great at managing my time in that regard.   There have also been days when I would be waaaay pissed off because I did not want to work out … but once I would get done with it, I always felt better.

What have I learned so far?  I feel better.  I have been sleeping better.  I have discovered what my weak spots are food-wise, I find that by getting folks to do the challenge with me has kept me motivated and sharing my stories has actually kept me more accountable.   The water has me constantly in the bathroom LOL but I do feel much healthier.  One of my favorite drinks has always been ‘coca con hielo‘ aka a Coke with ice.  It was getting to the point that I had to have at least one with ice daily and I still miss this, especially about 3pm, hey, some people want cafe, I want ‘coca con hielo’.  The ONE weak spot that totally surprised me was that I crave chocolate ice cream like 24/7, maybe it’s a hot-weather thing  but that struggle is real LOL.

Love it that there is a team committed to doing this challenge, some on social media, and the ones who work it via text messages.  Either way, it’s very cool that I am not alone in this challenge.  Also, that I report on my progress daily, no matter how embarrassing, has really been the key to keeping it up.    It’s only a start and, if I make it through this challenge, I will get on another one, it’s time to stop giving power to my insecurity, to silence the voices of those who do not support me, and to embrace living a healthier life – which, by the way, came in handy yesterday when I took a bunch of my godchildren to the beach, including my 2-year old bebitas.  I had more energy and was able to go up a steep shortcut path made of sand without breaking my neck LOL.

At this point, the only thing I can suggest is that you do what you can, when you can and that this is only a start.

The journey continues to the No Lonja Zone. (Lonja = MuffinTop = Gordita-Ness).

In Just One-Thousandth of a Second

 

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It was the middle of the workday and I had to be at an appointment by 4pm in the downtown area.  You know how it is trying to find a parking space in any downtown area at that hour, I was doing the praying thing and ended up at a stoplight right near one of the radio stations I used to call home.  I’m sitting there staring almost into space, not really looking at anyone or anything in particular, lost in thought about when I worked there.

You know how it feels when you think someone is staring at you?   I first looked up at the traffic light, still red, and then I see him standing at the corner.   Still handsome.  Combing his hair differently.  Hands locked with a beautiful blonde, she was taller than him, and he looked really happy.   Now I didn’t expect that he would run over to me or say anything to me but did I expect him to turn all colors of red as he caught my eye for a millisecond? No.  He then turned away and kept his face down.

We were friends for a very short time and got along very well but the timing was off to get into anything serious.   So no goodbyes were said, maybe there’d be a chance to try again in the future.  So when I saw his face again and I didn’t even get what we call the ‘Mexican Hello’ – where you just lift your head as if giving a saludo with your eyes, I felt sad.  But wait, not in the sad that you might think,  I wasn’t thinking in “what if” mode, I was sad because we were friends and it was pretty apparent that he didn’t want to be my friend, at least not in that moment, likely never.

During the couple of intense years where I, or anyone who had any connection to me, received, almost daily, tons of texts, phone calls, postings on social media, emails sent out to colleagues and superiors from Joe in his insane rage; this man was targeted and harassed almost as much as I was.

Pinche collateral damage maldito.  I hate it.  No one deserved to have to put up with pendejadas from such a misguided and emotionally unstable person.   I’ve never expected EVERYone to always give me the benefit of the doubt, everyone’s situation is different.  However, I do know that this man had to change jobs at least once and I know that it is not easy to clear up a professional reputation after this type of nightmare…knowing this makes me sad.  I’ve also had to accept that this will likely not be the last time I have to deal with the after-effects of this past insanity.  There is no way that I could have stopped this madness is what I have to keep telling myself.

So once the light turned green and the Jeep moved forward, I could now feel his eyes on me, I did not try to meet his gaze, I tried very hard to keep my head up, to say a little prayer for his happiness, and, more important, I did not look back.

 

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Man of My Nightmares, Mother of My Dreams

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I was sitting down to dinner with one of my roommates when the doorbell rings. My roommate gets up to answer and it is our landlord, a very nice East Indian gentleman. I had just put a spoonful of papas into my mouth and tried to chew it up really fast before going to the door. “How are you Carmen?” he says, “Fine, what’s up?”, “Would you mind coming with me to the office please”? He didn’t seem that worried and, as the offices were really close to the apartment, we didn’t have much time to talk.

As I walk into the office, he asks me to follow him into the back room. My heart fell to the floor and I was in disbelief with what I saw.  I couldn’t believe that he had done this again, always trying to find me, always showing up at random places.  There he was, tied up like an animal, wearing a red and black checked shirt, one of those flannel ones, as it was cold outside. His head was turned so all I saw, at first, was his black hair. Then he turns around, face full of anger and rage, and then I hear his voice, “get me the f#$% outta here! tell this motherf#$%^&* to let me go!” In desperation, I was screaming, “OMG whyyyyy do you keep doing this!”. My landlord asks me if I want to call the authorities and then tells me that he was going to give this guy enough money to get to Elk Grove (?) and for me not to worry. All the while it is scream and cuss-out city with this man.  All I kept thinking was ‘just get him out of here and out of my life!’

So like a sonsatontapendeja, I let my landlord handle the situation thinking “all is good, he’ll be out of here” and actually go back to my dinner. The doorbell then rings again, and there he is, freed from the ropes that held him a few minutes earlier, and he is not screaming this time.  He quietly informs me that, “This is it.  Either you come back to me or I take matters into my own hands”  I remember being stunned, stunned that he actually showed up at my house again, scared of what he was going to do,  angry that I didn’t just call the police,  wondering where my phone was, do I scream? or not?  In the next second, he puts the gun to his face, pulls the trigger, and blows his face off, blood everywhere.

I woke up crying and completely freakiada that night.  I had been having nightmares for well over a week, every night, every time I woke up and fell back asleep, there would be another graphic, violent way that this person would kill himself.  I was getting worried about these nightmares and afraid to go to sleep.   I called the Crisis Center and, luckily, was able to set up time to speak with someone about my troubled and disruptive nightmares.   Turns out they were flashbacks of very negative, drama-filled, bitter times of my life when I did not yet have a handle on my situation.  I felt lucky that these flashbacks didn’t really occur when I was driving or in an important meeting or anything and was able to get some valuable exercises for working through flashbacks/PTSD and to remind myself of how far I have come from those days of madness.

So, guess what I dreamt last night?

I was at the Ranch in our kitchen.  We were all home as I could hear people talking in the other room and the TV was on a low volume.  I was taking out my small red crock pot  so that I could make beans like usual, and she says to me, “I don’t know about the beans in that crock pot…”  Como si nada, I respond, “you’ve never even tasted anything made in this pot,  how would you know?” ” I just know so make the beans on the stove”  Muttering, I start to prepare beans as she tells me to do so.    On the counter, I see a bunch of vegetables thrown all about and I’m like, “what is all THAT for?”, “I thought that I would make some soup for your Dad too so help me cut the vegetables”.  At first, I almost rolled my eyes, and then, in the middle of the dream, I get the knife to cut up the vegetables and smile at her and my mouth drops open. “Mama!!!!!! I’m not having a nightmare! And you’re HERE!”   There she was, Margaret Torres, looking beautiful, w a l k i n g, no cane or wheelchair in sight, she had a dress on and I could hear the click of her heels.    Mama tells me, “I’m always here, you know that;  you should trust more and stop worrying, I’m always here” and then I woke up!

It was the first night that I slept well in days, and, as it turned out, Mama still WORKS it for us, of this I am 100% convinced.   I need no man in my dreams, I do, however, need to see my mother sometimes.  The dream was so real.  I haven’t felt this comforted since my mother passed away in 2014.   That I was able to have a conversation with her was so great.   Thanks Mama!  MargaretLivesInMe.

#52essays2017

WHATQueQUE? Did You Say You Want To Break Up? #52essays2017

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Lately, it feels as if I’ve been getting dumped lately.   Friends and somewhat friends have had it with me.  Have had it with me not reciprocating in the relationship, not returning calls, not setting up lunch or dinner, not doing my part I guess. I take full responsibility for my actions and while a couple of friends did not wait for me to give them any type of explanation, others did.

Isn’t it a trip how some folks cannot handle change, the “new” you, and, quite frankly, the fact that you have drifted apart?  I’ve always been the one to stay in contact, to initiate and plan get-togethers, to ‘work it’ with friendships.  Little by little, I started to notice that, if I did nothing, no one else did either.    That, and the fact that every friend and acquaintance was fair game to be harassed by this man, made me withdraw from everyone, little by little.

For many months, I was content to turn within myself as I healed.  I could not even THINK of giving time to anyone else for anything:  friendship, romance, business opportunities, nada.   I did my best to make the obligations that I had left, I did my best to try to be “on” and you better know I had the “fake it until you make it” attitude down pact.  It literally hurt me to spend time with others, I had lost all trust in myself.   I didn’t know how to act anymore around others. It was as if I knew that I would mess anything up that I touched.  I questioned everything about anything, my life was a desmadre.

About this time last year, I started trying to work it again.  Projects were a little bit easier to take on than people if that makes sense.  I know my way around events and projects, interpersonal communication, which had NEVER been a problem for me, was still a major roadblock for me.  When my faith in myself with people began to unravel, I knew that I still had a way to go before I would be completely back.

Fast forward to now:  I am much more confident, ready to work it, and, amazingly, still out of practice with people. To hear myself say this, to see myself write this, to actually think this about myself continues to blow my mind.   So to get the ‘break up’ call from a friend who was furious that I could not meet up with her hurt a little at first … and to know that any explanation would have seemed like an excuse or a justification…even if I was a mess, straight-up broke and had not one dollar to put gasoline in the Jeep to go anywhere that day, that I was not in any shape to be there for anyone.

It gets very easy for me to focus on what I have not done, why I have not done or said this or that, why someone wants to ‘break up’ with me.  But it really is all about that person, and me, setting a boundary, of making a decision of how one wants to be treated.  Just as some folks do not think that I am worth the effort anymore, believe it or not,  is OK,  I actually respect the huevos it takes for someone to tell you your verdades/truth.   I was not the greatest friend, or even a friend to others.  I had very compelling reasons at the time that not everyone will ever understand.  Some won’t wait around for any type of explanation and that is fine.  My challenge will be to learn from these “break-ups” and try to do better by others next time around and hope that they will do the same for me.

The biggest lesson learned here is that NOT EVERYONE IS MEANT TO GO ON YOUR JOURNEY WITH YOU so try to do the right thing, the best way you can.

#52essays2017

 

Fighting Words #52essays2017

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A few years back, when I went to court to confront him for harassment/stalking, the DA had asked me to get statements from anyone who had been directly affected by his actions.  These statements would be presented to the judge to show the level this individual had gone to in order to get to me, get my attention, destroy me, destroy my reputation, to break me.

I had completely forgotten about all of this until I found a SIX page letter written by Mama.  To see her compelling words took me completely back to that time in my life, Mama was partially paralyzed and had to learn how to write all over again with her left hand.   She had always had beautiful handwriting and it was difficult for her to look at her handwriting ever again.  I, on the other hand, had so much admiration for Mama and the strength and committment it took for her to start over from zero.   Aside from learning to write again with her other hand, Mama also had to write much slower and would have to position the pages just so in order to be able to put the words onto the page — for her to be able to write one page could take hours.

Having a stroke might have slowed down Mama physically but not mentally, thank God.  Where Margaret may have been quiet, even shy, when in front of people, she was so eloquent and could WORK IT in writing.   I remember that, sometimes, we Torres5 would be hesitant, almost nervous, to tell Mama about anything we were going thru, at first, because we knew that it would be ON.   But then, we would watch in wonder after turning in one of Mama’s notes to a teacher or to an office.  In spectacular fashion, Margaret handled it for her Torres5 and it was thrilling to watch her, unafraid, fight racism and discrimination, apathy, and more in attempts to get justice for us.   It was very apparent to all of our teachers that NO one messed with Margaret’s children.

So once I saw this six-page letter, I was amazed because I know that this had to have taken her days to write it.  Then the tears came, tears of anger that my mother had to go thru this stress in her own home because of one stupidasspendejo.  Mama always respected my privacy, never got into my business, and deserved to live her life in privacy and peace.  That this tranquility was taken from her, albeit for a short time, saddens me to this day, she never asked to have her life disrupted, never asked to be involved in this mess.

Through my tears, I started smiling.  Because, in writing this letter to the judge, my mother was doing what she had always done for me, took care of me, stood up for me when I could barely lift my head, had my back, made me stronger, got me through many a day, and made sure that she would contribute to my receiving justice.  More important, seeing this letter made me happy:  it was like Mama was reminding me to get a hold of myself and know my worth.  It was also a confirmation that Mama a l w a y s  had my back and HOW blessed am I to have this in writing?

I’m always grateful for signs:  I needed to see/feel my mother today.   Mama’s words were always powerful and today she reminded me of how far that I have come…and so thankful that I do not live this drama 24/7 anymore.  Because on one fateful day in 2013, one Margaret Mary Torres decided to pick up a pen and put it to paper, to use her words instead of her fists to fight, once again, for justice for her child.

#52essays2017

One, Two, Three, JUMP! #52essays2017

 

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It all started with a jump rope.

I hadn’t jumped rope in many years.

As posted on my social media that day:  “I think I may have found the key to feeling younger and healthier…jump rope. I haven’t done this in many years and am having a blast. I wish I was not in work clothes. Just need to remember that I’m not 10 so I have to take it easy para no darme en la madre. Buying one today. #NoLonjaZone

 

It took me forever to get started, to anticipate the exact moment when I would need to jump over that piece of string. I noticed that when I would think too much about the jump that it became more difficult to do it, and do it on time.  I kept at it and finally I started to get a rhythm going.  But, again, once I thought too much about it, I would stumble and get all caught up in that rope.

Jumping rope taught me a couple of lessons:  one, I was out of shape;  two, I had been living my life so tentatively, hesitating on every detail, living in fear, that I was hopelessly in my own way thus could not move forward.    I decided that maybe jumping rope would move me out of my comfort zone a little. If I listen to the sound of the rope as it hits the ground and then jump, that I might be able to live life without so much hesitation.

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Hesitation is driven by fear:  fear of what is going to happen “if” I do this or that;  fear of what others may think, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of ____, fill in the blank.

I noticed that I was really tentative as I drove this past week, the first week without massive rain.   I had been driving for weeks with hands clenched to the wheel, trying to avoid getting into an accident, trying to avoid potholes that seemed to grow larger with every raindrop, trying to remain patient thru some of the worst traffic ever.   One would think that, once the sun came out, that I would be flying across the freeways, NOT.   Add to this, one of the headlights of the Jeep had gone out after I drove past a deep pothole in the rain…so it was harder to see the road on some of those stormy nights.

Once I noticed how tentative and hesitant I had become, I started trying to get the heck out of my way so that I could do simple things like pay bills, get the headlight fixed, get to where I needed to be on time.   Every time I completed one of these goals, I would feel this massive release of nervous energy from my body, sometimes it would be so intense that I had to take a minute to catch my breath.   it would feel as if chorros were coming on!  Your body really does sense things before you can get your hands around it, I didn’t even realize how much of my life I had started to suppress out of fear.

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It had also been difficult for me to reach out to others lately.  Fear of letting go, of having people see that my life is not perfect and “together”, of having to give before receiving.  Withdrawal had been my refuge for these past couple of years.  It was just easier to step back and not have to talk to anyone, not have to explain anything about this man or his most recent actions, and shield myself from the world.

But, like jumping rope, one has to learn to live life without hesitation.  Not everyone is out to destroy you or your reputation, every decision does not have to be a matter of life or death, and merely existing is not living.  I am open to anything that gets me back on my track in a positive way.  I would have never, ever thought that something so simple as a piece of rope would be part of my InnerChingonaSupportSystem yet here we are.  Can’t wait to buy a sturdy jump rope!   I made one key decision last night:  I told Dad that I wanted him to hit up Home Depot and find me some rope just like the one in the picture LOL and you better know that he’s on it, he even tells me, “mija, you’re gonna need handles too, I’ll find them!”  See?? I reached out to someone (Dad), I made a decision (to jump rope) and did not hesitate, now let’s hope that ‘no me doy en la madre’!    

DON’T HESITATE.  BECAUSE THERE CAN BE SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT HESITATE TO TAKE YOUR CHANCE.

#52essays2017

 

Collateral Damage No More #52essays2017

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#52essays2017

It’s late afternoon, and I am all into the project at hand, headphones on, music playing, I’m 100% focused.  I see my phone light up, and see a familiar phone number, “woooow, it’s Mr. C, and it has been a very long time since I’ve talked to him, should I answer or not?  I don’t know, especially after that last time…”  Pride be damned, the chismosa in me wants to know whassup, so I pick up the phone:  “Hello”, “Hey Carmen how are you doing? I feel really bad about what happened and wanted to apologize for going crazy with the texts and I want to apologize to your friends for getting all up in their faces but you have to understand that I was receiving so many weird texts and calls and I was really tripping and was scared.” 

Story of my life these past couple of years.

Let me explain the incident Mr. C is referring to:   I had sent out a group text and, sin querer, his number was included on the group text.  The message was a positive one, I was updating friends on my life.  I was getting positive responses from all except for Mr. C.  His responses were of the “eff-you” and “who the eff is this” nature.  A text war ensued when, PJ, another friend included on the text,  jumped to my defense and began to tell Mr. C off via text and then all hell broke loose.   I finally texted both PJ and Mr. C separately to ask them to stop with this back and forth texting madness and promptly received an “ok” from PJ and Mr. C replied “eff off“.  That was close to a year ago.

I didn’t even have to ask what types of calls or texts Mr. C had been receiving because I knew exactly whom he had been referring to.  Regular readers of my blog know that I have been completely cyber-abused/harassed by Joe.   You name it, I’ve seen it, you name it, it happened.  The majority of this mess has taken place publicly and online:  thousands of emails, text messages, social media postings.    I just put my head down and tried to weather the storm and get through my life.    It was painfully obvious that this man needed an outlet for his rage and I was the target.

It was one thing to come after me.  But he took it to the next level:  this person transferred his rage and major issues in his life to people totally unrelated to him.  These innocent bystanders became collateral damage in a fight with someone unknown to them, having to deal with receiving posts, emails, text messages that talked about me in the worst and most vile way, and he would tell these people things that I “said” or “thought” about them – friends, colleagues, bosses, family, even people whom he thought I knew, were not immune.

How was I supposed to deal with that?  I had people calling or emailing me, completely freaked out, offended, angry, afraid by these sick messages and calls.  Many people, for different reasons, turned their backs on me.  Some were afraid:  “I have kids, I can’t be worrying that this guy is following you or something”, some were angry:  “why the hell is he contacting my supervisor? Putting this kind of stuff on my work website?; others attributed it to him being straight-up crazy, ‘why is he putting your phone number out there? Why is he putting my phone number out there? Why is he asking me to fire you?

I couldn’t aplogize for something that I had not done and it got to a point where I could tell in a person’s face, voice, text, or email that they had received one of his disturbing messages.  I was forced to experience extreme vulnerability, I had nowhere to hide, everything was out there for the world to see.  It was almost too much to bear.

The things I did to try to prevent any more collateral damage astound me:

I remember that I screamed out this question to Joe, “WHAT. WILL. IT. TAKE. for you to stop calling my job and letting me work?” after being completely overwhelmed by one call after another after another after another to my OFFICE for at least an hour or more day after day.   My co-workers had nothing to do with this, nor did clients or listeners yet they were collateral damage, their day was disrupted by his pendejadas.   I was stunned when he said that he wanted money, and the amount was in the thousands of dollars.   It was not my proudest moment, but I did pay his price.  Did it work?  No.     I was trying so hard to keep it together and trying to show the world that I was fine and dealing with it.  But the thought of him going after others just to get his point across, was enough to keep me in line, to keep me afraid that he would go off on innocent bystanders in my life – my parents, my siblings, my boss, my friends, my colleagues.

I have since learned that there is no rhyme or reason to this type of person’s madness, that he would resort to anything in attempts to control me or my actions.  The twisted goal was to intentionally damage my reputation, my friendships, spread derogatory messages, false rumors, embarrassing me, humiliating me, damaging my self-image, stealing my privacy and my security.

Joe succeeded, for a short while.   I was worrying about others so much that I forgot to take care of myself, to rest, to destress, to relax.   When I was completely exhausted and broken down, I had nothing left.  You would think that I would have come to my senses.   But there I went again, de pendeja, trying to change things on my own:  I thought, “I’ll meet up with him and try to talk some sense into him, I’ll make him stop calling my parents’ house all night every night”, what did this accomplish?  An argument that escalated into a fight with him taking the keys out of the ignition of my Jeep and leaving me stranded.  Looking back, this was one of the turning points, I had to ask for help… OMG it was a mixture of feeling utterly mortified and relieved at the same time, there was no point in trying to act as if anymore.  My primo didn’t judge me, thank God, as he helped me call the police, get keys made, all the while talking to me so that I would know that I was not alone and advising me to bring God into the mix so that He could help me get myself together.

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Eventually, I LISTENED as my Inner Chingona stepped in to help lift me:   I finally recognized that, for all of my personal drama, that I was always able to get a job, my reputation might have been a little tarnished but I could still work it.   I saw, firsthand, that my family would never turn their back on me – they might be disappointed or angry with the situation, but always there for me.   Friends and colleagues are, slowly but surely, making their way back.  Many of the conversations are similar to the one I had with Mr. C – where they were afraid, angry, and concerned for their safety.  While some have come back, sadly, others continue to stay away.  I can’t blame them, especially as, to this day, they still receive random filth and sick messages.  All under aliases of course and, what can I do?  I cannot control him or his actions.

Aside from collateral damage suffered by friends, colleagues, and family,  I continue to work on my personal collateral damage.  It is extensive:  loss of confidence, loss of privacy, loss of security, the almost PTSD effects of having all of my business put out there in the most negative, destructive way – flashbacks and nightmares can come back when I least expect it.  It hurts to have to relive some of these things but the ONLY way change happens is if you are willing to peel OFF the layers of hurt, humiliation, anger, and embarrassment as you bring this darkness into the light.

E v e r y t h i n g  is now documented, there’s no other way around it.  Having these receipts helped me get justice when I needed it the first time around. The way I see it, things will catch up to Joe eventually.  I can only deal with my collateral damage and continue to keep moving forward.   Part of the healing is to show others that they are not alone, to tell my story, to help someone break the cycle, to not be afraid to reach out, to show others that, yes, I made some SonsaTontaPendeja choices, yet I have come out on the other side.   Peace and, peace of mind, especially, is the greatest feeling ever.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that I must take care of myself, especially as much of my life and work is handled online and via smartphone.   These tips work for me and will really help you be safe and secure.  Also, I might add, you need to start thinking as an abuser does – abusers go thru great lengths to cover their tracks which makes it difficult for you or the justice system to find them … you can learn how to do this in order to take care of yourself, to have your own back, to stay safe, to have peace of mind.

  1. Change your usernames and passwords frequently.
  2. Block your caller ID on your phone if someone is harassing you.
  3. Turn off GPS location facilities on your computer, camera, and phone.
  4. Use a safe email address. Don’t be afraid to create a new one if you have to.
  5. Do not hesitate to block anyone from your social media sites.
  6. Watch who you add as “friends”, red flags are: sites with no profile picture, no mutual friends, sites that were created the day you receive the friend request, weird names, or names that sound contrived, made up.
  7. Use a safe and public computer (i.e. public library) and do not use any computers that belong to people whom your abuser knows. Don’t lend your computer out to anyone.
  8. Delete your internet history (although digital footprints can never be entirely deleted)
  9. Document any and everything that doesn’t feel safe to you
  10. The most important tip:  If it feels unsafe, LISTEN to your Inner Chingona, do not discount that little voice inside of you, our bodies sense danger before our minds get their hands around it.

 

This was not an easy post to think about or write about mucho menos putting my business out there for the world to see.  I actually started this post a couple of years ago but I never seemed to be able to read what I had written so most of these words have lived in the “drafts” section of this blog.   As I read this completed post, I realized something very powerful:  that I am standing in my truth, stronger, and protected, putting my business out there myself – it no longer feels like someone ripped off all of my clothes, pulled out the rug from under me, and left me thrown to the side of the road to die.  My survival depended on me listening to my gut aka Inner Chingona –to learn how to channel my fear and start the long process of fixing the broken pieces of my life.

It didn’t happen overnight.  But it IS happening.

 

#52essays2017