Friday, February 15, 2019

the other side of the border

"You should write this down," he said, "your thoughts, your observations, this seems like the kind of thing you'll want to be able to remember."
Last week, I came back to San Francisco from... San Francisco. I'd spent six days in my dad's Mexican hometown. It was not, as so many assumed, "fun". But it wasn't not fun. Instead, as another friend later told me after listening to my recap, "it sounded so beautiful, and so special that you can connect with that side of you, and it's so close generationally, still." Yes, exactly. It felt like that.

My brother and sister (according to my sister) hadn't been there in 22 years. They hadn't known what to expect. They have not pursued post-grad studies and application of Spanish in my same way I have. I might assume then that the experience we shared might be more poignant to them. For all intensive purposes, they saw and heard, for the first time, the world my dad was born into. While he re-embraced his original norms, they observed with reverent curiosity. I imagine there was some distinct magic in that.

I will also admit, however, that I felt distinctly privileged then to have some familiarity, recalling my last visit and remnants of the nearly annual childhood trips. El rancho always feels far "from home", but it wasn't quite as foreign to my heart. I was able to recognize their experience and that of my father, and dare I suggest, appreciate both.

What was new, this time around, was my full-circle understanding of the following truths:
  • My dad grew up rich: surrounded by extended family, nourishing locally-sourced food, clean air, respect for hard work matched with active leisure (read: soccer) and convivial rest.
  • My dad accepted the fact that he loved his home but wouldn't find the opportunities for financial success that he desired.
  • So my dad left; he haphazardly entered the cruel American grind with a weak grasp of English and the kindness of a few friends/family who'd arrived before him, and he figured that sh** out. I imagine some days, and weeks, and months were harder than others--they had to have been--but he did it. He worked multiple jobs and went to school at night and fell in love with mother and started a family and then his own business. He achieved the American dream. He said so out loud last week, while visiting his parents (who live on the same property where he and his 8 siblings were born, by the way, but with two new houses and a multitude of modern amenities) with his three college-educated children, two of whom also have master's degrees. What's even more amazing, if such a concept is at all possible, is how he built this life with as much generosity of spirit and faith in humanity as he continues to have. My mom sometimes call it naïveté; my father is a flawed man, like any one of us, but how I aspire to embody and pass on such fortitude.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

autumn in portland

Few of us enjoy discomfort. We're stressed after a long day, pour a glass of wine. The news horrifies us, pay less attention. Our head aches, pop a pill. A conversation gets too intimate, we end it and figure out a way to avoid the topic, maybe even the person, thereafter. I'm neither assigning judgment nor claiming I've ever responded differently. Instead, I'm questioning how much of our lives are spent shifting around that which would really challenge us. Growth, as far as I understand it anyway, is uncomfortable.
Mind you, this is coming from the woman who has always opted for the "comfort" of new and anonymous in an unfamiliar city.
It's only natural that our first instinct is to protect ourselves. Survival and such, you know. But a year into life in San Francisco, I fear that many of my fellow inhabitants are confusing self-care with safeguarded withdrawal. The epicenter of American tech and innovation and we've yet to "solve" the homelessness issue; a multi-faceted problem, to be fair, but still. Why and how?
Then again, I'm not sure I have it in me to address the loud silence from some when it comes to our latest Supreme Court appointee because my job requires me to breathe in the space of heartless rhetoric and immigration policy. It's all together awful. Important, too.
And this is before considering what's taking place beyond the U.S. borders.

The horrors of our current reality can be paralyzing. Let's choose action anyway, still. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do something; like vote by Tuesday, November 6th, for example. (Please confirm the precise when and where for you). As for my addressing more personal discomfort–confronting relational discord, letting go of love, establishing new memories in special places such as Portland, I'm working on it... aren't we all? Here's to hoping the growth reveals itself soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Of the few Greek words I adopted over the five day-stay, kalimera was likely the first. Locals exchanged good mornings at all opportunities; on the island of Sifnos especially. And being tourists didn't exempt us. We were welcomed into the singsong-y custom. How could we resist! Why would we want to. 
Earlier this summer (Labor Day, what?!), I declared that Greek island life beats most other scenarios. It does. Thanks to jet lag, we awoke each morning around 7am. We made coffee and had a light breakfast of toasted bread with local jam and the best Greek yogurt I have ever had. Perched above the ocean, we leisurely read books and caught up on the news. We hiked to beaches, rode our Vespa across the island's winding roads, ate our weight in Greek salad and Sifnian cheeses and seemingly all the local specialties.
On my 30th birthday, I set out on my own. I descended the stairs to the Church of the Seven Martyrs and prayed to a God who hasn't heard from me in quite some time. The church bells, tied up so as not to ring in the voracious winds, chimed steadily, three times.
It was all so perfect and special, and aside from those solo moments above, shared with one person with whom I no longer speak.
I neither dreaded nor was I thrilled about turning 30. It just felt fitting, in that ordinary no-frills "ah but of course" kind of way. All those little changes and shifts I'd made consciously (and not) in accepting who I was and what I wanted and how I needed, without apology... 30 suddenly made sense; a milestone of adulthood in and of itself as opposed to the reasons I'd been told.
A lot can happen in three decades lived: Multiple degrees and passport stamps. Stints/lifetimes in cities like New York and Paris and Los Angeles. Collections of passion-fueled and need-based jobs. Romantic love found and lost and sought after, juxtaposed with the evolution of familial bonds (once humanness is fully seen, to the extent that it can be). Friends that stick. Real life evidence that another good morning can be found in each ebb and flow, as perhaps the only thing that's truly "meant to be", for every one of us.