Music and More

Happy New Year from a man  who accepts that "new" isn't necessarily any different than the old.  I hope all my loved ones roll into new perspectives.  So I am wishing those who surround me a Happy New Perspective.  This seems to be when life becomes really interesting.   I am thankful for so much this year, but there a day in November for that.  I feel full of love, but there is a day in February for that.  I am grateful for all the gifts in my life, and there was a day for that, it just passed.  So I feel upside down.  I have nothing to write about.  No worries that motivate the creative words.  My Family is well, my friends are well, my lifestyle is well, and my habits are well.  There is no good byes left unsaid.  This New Year isn't leading to much newness just a continuation of fullness.  Love is a powerful perspective.  It makes good byes understandable.  When applied to self it makes the future as valuable as the past.  So there is not necessarily an old year, but I can wish you a blessed New Year.  Bessos and Be Good!

Reflexion Dos: I am a human, disguised as Latino

Dear Elena and Veronica,
I left you for three weeks this summer to be curious.  I came to Mexico because when I was your age I called myself Mexican.  I called myself Mexican because it helped me be accepted into groups that seemed more accepting, similar, and understanding of me.  As an adult I am challenging myself to uncover the realities undiscovered from carelessly calling myself Mexican.  Being a counselor has helped me grow and trust my curiosity.  Today as a mental health professional I felt compelled to see what healing means in the Mexican identity.  I found Curanderismo.  I have spent a lot of time discerning what it means for me to have called myself Mexican and with it I have encountered a humanistic style of healing that Latinos call Curanderismo.
The curiosity for Mexico is tied to my desire to replenish the decreased connection we have to our traditions, especially the healing qualities.  I hope to be a productive member of our community, ethnicity, and humanity.  The pull to Mexico is around the imbalance teetering ethnic peoples towards poverty, particularly discrimination for Mexicans.  The motivation for this trip is the shrinking visibility for our ties to Mexican traditions that our grandparents relied on.  This investigation is a way for me to learn how to address the distinction between being New Mexican and Mexican while also enhancing my perspectives on wellness.  There is also a hope to decrease the disparity between those that have access to healing and others left to endure without medicines or wellness.  This trip is serving my need to become a better counselor and enhance my identity.
Over the years my declared Mexican heritage meshed into my identity and served me, but now I am beginning to see how it limits me.  It is a piece of an identity I have worn.  My identity has been a way to distinguish myself from some, align with others, and declare to many who I think I am.  I am excited to share with you that the curiosity for and exposure to other cultures is giving me understanding of how identities can be binding, adaptable and living.
I came to Mexico to learn more about an ancient and traditional form of healing called Curanderismo.  There are numerous types of curanderos.  Along with the many types, are the unique styles that each curandero can have, like a fingerprint.  Curanderismo is a way of healing that requires the use of four elements, fire, water, plants, and air.  It is a form of medicine that incorporates knowledge, trust, and instinct.  It is a form of medicine that connects divine uncertainty with intricate insight into observable cures.  It is a magical demonstration of how nature provides the elements and energies to ensure our bodies function appropriately.  Curanderismo is more about being connected to wellness and symbiosis than it is to being Mexican.
I came to Mexico to witness aspects of how Curanderismo is used.  I came with hopes of learning more about a community of health care professionals that functioned off the grid.  The grid being for profit, providing an alternative motivation I like to think of as, for passion.  This trip has allowed me to indulge in the spectrum of my own illnesses.  I feel like I am walking away with acceptance that Curanderismo is not a panacea.  What I witnessed cannot be encapsulated by words, because what happened during my trip was cosmic.  How do you put cosmic into words?
I feel like I can only hint at what Curanderismo is.  Curanderismo is the attention to harmony.  Curanderismo is the practices and aspires for an ultimate respect for others.  If Jesus Christ were to come back I believe he would smile at the lifestyle of the Curandero.  If Buddha were to stumble across a Curandera he would likely smile.  There seems to be a grace from what I see as divinity that shines on the practices of Curanderismo.  The experiences I had from the cleansings called Limpias, messages called Sobrados, and sweat session in a Temezcal, helps me see the nature of healing. It helps me connect with what seems to be the universal and primal desire to live.  There also are aspects that can be pragmatic and even scientific.
The practical components to Curanderismo that make up this attention to harmony are the pedagogy, techniques, and its social ability.  Curanderismo has not found its way into the colonial form of teaching.  There is not a formal curriculum like in contemporary healing practices.  It is taught generationally from an elder to a youth.  Usually, a curandero will see the gift of healing in a person and an invitation will be presented to them.  The process is not a vocation.  Curanderismo is a gift and choice to pursue the learning necessary to share the individual’s gift with the world.
The learning is by immersion.  The student is a mentee. The lessons are a legacy of plant knowledge combined with techniques to bring together the Devine, the patient, an altar, and elements.  The gathering of plants is an art in itself.  Special attention to the dignity of the plant is taught to ensure a dignified respect for the plants life and contribution to its destined healing.  The healing process is encapsulated by a special technique geared uniquely to address an ailment.  The Curandero and their mentees recite a pattern, a choreographed ritual, stirring energy, in trust that healing will happen.
The ritual is the technique and so are the Curanderos prescriptions.  The unification of the sickened with the prescribed elements is orchestrated by the curandero in an ancient set of intentional steps.  There is intense intimacy with a call for gratitude.  This is a prayer, an intention, or request for concentration.  The ingredients for healing are unified.  The air is made visible with incents.  The plants are made permeable.  The fluids are intoxicating and diffused by the curandero to be applied completely, covering all areas.  The body becomes grounded into the floor and body alignment is necessary so that energy flows without obstacles or impediment.  The process is the doctor, the healer, the medicine, and the science.
The social science is in the generational observations that help communities learn and teach the effects that surrounding plants have on wellness.  The tradition transcends culture and becomes the formula.  The idea of Curanderismo seen as a gift is the harmony and respect that creates ecosystems.  The intimacy and connection between participants shows that there is social science in the application.  The patient and the Curandero are crossing the belief in individualism to share energy.  The experience seems to conduct a transfer of medicine in the form of minerals, chemicals, fluids, inhalants, poetry of words leading to thoughts being converted to neuro transmissions, and lastly the discharge of barriers to relief.
That is a summary of what I can describe.  There is so much to share.  The plant knowledge can be lifetime of learning.  The rituals require commitment for learning.  The Practice is a powerful responsibility that should be performed under careful observation and supervision.  The final piece of the process, I can describe.
I am altered.  I gained insight into areas of my identity that can heal, need healing, be shared, and clarity for what I can pursue to nurture a better me.  I am validating ideas around healing and illness that feel foreign.  Professionally they seem marginalized.  Despite the lack of knowledge and familiarity, I recognize I have a talent for sensing these ideas.
The ideas I have seem like artifacts and waypoints left by ancestors, tucked away in passages, that they expected me to cross.  I once felt a strong anger that these ideas were perceived to lack value in the modern world.  I had bitterness that the world and technologies were depreciating them.  I encountered a heavy discouragement, but most importantly, I found hope for these lessons during my time in Oaxaca.
Before finding my path into the mental health world I was constantly being told who I should be. I felt like I was being corralled into how I should participate in the world.  Most things I was taught I believed to be concrete.  I had emptiness because people that looked like me rarely had answers to my question.  How come the world is unfair in too many places?  How come health is a luxury?  What is my worth?  With the encounters I am having with Curanderismo, my questions are coming to life, becoming visible, and at a pace that is letting me absorb.
The ideas I am describing are still formulating in my thoughts.  This paper gives me a great opportunity to organize them.  The curanderos have taught me that healing comes through my senses.  I take my medicine through the senses.  Some raw ideas can be that what I hear feeds my thoughts.  What I see heightens my understanding of reality.  What I touch connects me.  What I taste I consume and becomes me.  The aromas around me inform me of where I am and what surrounds me.  My thoughts and ideas are valuable and need to be shared.  
Because of this visit, its experiences, and training I am expanding my definition of illness and even considering defining my own.  My medicine is in my curiosity.  What I need to heal is revealed in my fears.  I don't have to take classes for pedagogy of lessons that are as rampant as the rain or as accessible as the seasons.  I don't have to earn my spot, apply, and hope I can participate.  I am capable of healing.  I can be responsible with power.  I will be respectful of fears.  I will guide you and teach what you want to learn.  This is an invitation.  There is no obligation to be healed or to learn to heal.  It will always be here, waiting like a flower to be smelled, touched, admired, possibly tasted, and listened to.  I wish for you to investigate your contribution and consumptions.  I ask that you learn balance and trust.
You are loved!  

Be good

Veteran's Day Hangover

I got a Veteran's Day Hangover.  I waited all day to share my thoughts so that our soldiers could have a day of reverence.  But it left me to think about how much do we actually appreciate our veteran's? 
I find it helpful to celebrate and critically reflect.  I celebrated privately yesterday and acknowledged the ways that demonstrate gratitude for our soldiers, but today I look at the shadow side of Veteran's day.


It gets pretty dangerous or unpopular to criticize the military or veterans, especially on veteran's day.  So I didn't.  What I will do is share in the truest form of appreciation I know of, participation.  For what have and do veteran's sacrifice for?  We each have our understanding for what this is.  For me it is a responsibility to become an intelligent citizen and participate with equal passion to sustain a symbiosis between prosperity and service. 


I think the greatest gift the military complex has provided me is the opportunity to be a citizen with a collection of rights that when used with compassion and passion will likely be influential.  What I see us as a community forget to do, maybe lack interest in, or don't know how to do, is look beyond the superficial gratitude. I don't think we delve into the principled responsibility we owe our soldiers to live in a way that is adaptive or symbiotic to keeping other wars or operations from being needed.  If we have unconscious appreciation for our military I think we have dogmatic patriotism.  Patriotism is dangerous when we have no idea what the policy our country is projecting.  So trying not to be a dogmatic patriot, I think the first step for me is to continue to hold myself accountable to how I balance my own passionate service.  Am I being responsible with my life, choices, and freedom.

I am soul-dier, who has always felt a passion for making decisions and performing with dignity.  Complexly, dignity is a perspective and perception.  I am not a soldier and cannot speak about war.  I can only respect what soldiers have done to provide me a lifestyle to participate in community with minimal fear and restriction.  Until we have a political system with competent and passionate participants that put the guy next to them before themselves or their fortunes we will rely on dogmatic patriotism to show gratitude for our military.  Most veterans I know don't need a thank you, they need me to carry out my end of the bargain, and fulfill my duty to be a competent and reverent American.

A Letter of Confirmation

I've never really considered how profound it is to be asked to confirm, the responsibility to reinforce someone in a choice.  I have asked and been asked to participate in a confirmation ritual.  I don't put that on my resume.  I can't submit that as a write off on my tax return.  I don't share it on a first date.  But I can recall it when I am discouraged, stressed, and doubtful.  

I am not much of an apologetic, evangelist, or preacher.  I appreciate the way of Francis of Assisi.  I trust my life, imperfect and radical, to be my explanation of my faith.  I breach the walls of sensibility and dance in the clutches of paradox's vortexes.  I put faith in forgiveness.  I am learning to trust being gentle.  I am accepting that power is not strength, and being strong does not help me carry, lift, or move heavy topics.  I am not valuable, I am expendable, and yet I am still significant.

My daughter made her confirmation last summer.  I wrote the following letter for her.  I came across it while cleaning out some other writing off my iPad.  I was pleased with how far I have come as a father, a friend, and confirming believer in Christ.  It gets easier and easier to be faithful as my journey leads me further into maturity.  I was inspired by it and hope you are challenged by it too.

Daughters,
Life gets really difficult and beautifully challenging.  You may want to take short cuts, find pleasures, and take the easier routes.  I don't blame you.  This is the beauty of choice.  You have chosen to be a believer in Jesus Christ,  A person and God, who asks you to find the divine route, find joy, and take the peaceful route.  I hope you value what your contribution to the world can be.
There will be a time when you will need to see your life as serving a purpose for ideas, concepts, and situations greater than yourself.  As you grow you will become aware of how significant every emotion, moment, and incident can be.  You are my motivation for loving others.  I learned to love myself because it was watching you grow where I realized I am living so you can have a good understanding of love.  I have learned to love so that I might show you through my love for you what love looks like.  As you know, I fail, I am irritating, I am silly, I am embarrassing, and I am awkward.  I hope you know it is what trying to love looks like.
I would like you to know that my goal as a dad is to learn to love you despite anything you could possibly do to deserve it. That is a fancy way of saying that I am learning how to love you no matter what. I am really thoughtful about how to challenge you because there are going to be situations in life that will push you to the limits of being able to love. When you come to the point of not being able to love I want you to know that you are touching your humanity, it isn't failure. I also want you to know that God's love doesn't have limits and neither does Her grace.
If you never reach points that test your ability to love, then figure out how to take a couple more risks.  I am very proud of your choice to commit and confirm your Faith in God. I hope you understand that God is unknowable and yet just a prayer away.
I hope that you are courageous enough to find God beyond the Catholic catechism and open yourself to understanding how the people of the world have seen God.  I hope you continue to recognize the power, the beauty, and the soul nutrition that comes with the Eucharist.  I'd like you to discover that the church is not so much a building, can exist without an organization, and is more a way of living.
I'd like you to know that paradox is an important concept that will help you understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ.  I want you to understand that pain is part of life, suffering doesn't have to be, and there is a difference between the two.  I hope you believe that you are just as valuable as your neighbor and never believe that you are worth more then anyone else. I do hope you understand that I think of you as a priority and precious.
You are worth as much as anyone else but you are uniquely valuable to me.  
Hope you find this message helpful someday.




Reflexion Uno: My observation of distinction

There is sadness that comes from the realization that changing the world on the grand scale is not in the cards for me.  Not in the way I romanticized.  This makes growing older a little more frustrating. What is not frustrating is knowing I found what appears to be a faith.  It is a faith that reminds me that learning is the work of undoing judgments, comparison, and conclusions.  Education is not the sole source of learning and knowing is not necessarily intelligence. Sharing is my evidence of being learned.  I have grown beyond believing that melanin levels in skin significantly affect people's preference, and it is not the only source of discrimination. As proof, I've heard that some blind have a disdain for those who can see.
  Walking around the Mexico City reminds me humans find or create difference. I have to wonder why would an elite forgo the emotions and excitement of being seen as the best, when as people we believe in differences between each other, possibly as a way of feeling valued.  Where does this sense of value grow or get fed?


Today's Reflection:
I wrote this while observing for the first time the significant difference in class, privilege, and status of a group of people who I had, throughout my childhood and adolescence, believed or thought might finally be the homogeneous group of people that would be free of discrimination. In Mexico City, there are distinctions between Latinos. There are what appear to be European descendants, possibly Anglo, but definitely not gringo too.

My observation is that the wealthy in Mexico resemble the wealthy in the United States.  The biggest distinction was that the poor in Mexico look more ailing than the poor in America.  I notice the barriers to quality are the same as in the USA.  The neighborhoods are broken up by property values.  Mortgages or rent have become the new fences and walls guarding or filtering out, what might be biased-ly seen as the less worthy.  Gentrification is still the tactic of the non-violent, less rude, and hungry debutantes.  There is the same opportunity to recognize facades and arrogance.

I also realized that genuine quality in a product is similar to the genuine quality of a person.  I can buy an elite watch, but if it doesn't tell me the time how I need to hear it, then it doesn't have the quality I need.  Just like people who are valued beyond my price range, I may not be able to afford or reciprocate traits for the friendship with an elite person, and I can still meet my need for a healthy friend.  So at what point do I become discriminating and segregating of myself from others.

I realized I am not a peasant, maybe at one time felt like one.  Realizing I come from the stock of the "help", has not helped my self appreciation.  Realizing that I come from the stalk of quality people helps me accept my greatness.  All this reflection and contrast of cultures helps me ask the question, do we work to discriminate or are we also working to distinguish?  Can pushing others away also be understood as pulling towards others we see as having a higher quality?  Discrimination isn't as conveniently simple as race can make it.  There are more factor that can be responsible for how discrimination and prejudice exist.  Keeping with the metaphor of a luxury watch, what I have accepted is that we can all be quality watches.  I see how significant it can be when someone has not developed an authentic understanding for how to tell time. These elitests tend to believe that the luxury watches' time is more accurate.



Old School principles.

The idea of entitlement and privilege haunts the conservative mindset and antagonize the socialist's.  There is an appreciation for the groundwork established by ancestors, it should be valuable, secured.  Some believe there shouldn't be a penalty for benefiting from the foundation of work and success already laid. There might not need to be a penalty, but paying respect to the entire foundation may be necessary.  Who takes the risks?  

There seems to be this idea that successful people found success on their own.  They took the risk.  It may be important to give the old school their props, but what really makes up the old school.  The railroads were laid by millions with investment from many.  Fossil fuels were drilled by millions with technologies from many.  The banking system was nurtured by millions of deposits.  The technological advances were developed by millions of minds.  The culture of industry was paid for in lives, risky working conditions, and daring attitudes from many, not just those who's names are on buildings.  Who worked harder?

Malcolm Gladwell helps me sift through the complexity for success in many of his ethnographies about success stories and rags to riches cultures.  I find this topic a hot topic in the arena of politics because we like to think there is government money and private money, but we don't like to think that public worth if fed by both.  The cost of goods and services distract us from the value of needs and sustainability.  How do we justify work effort? It might not be who expends more energy, ideas, solutions, hours, or cash.  It might be who we prefer to value.  

The urban culture has a term for this, the Old School.  Nothing happens new that wasn't inspired or grounded in the Old School.  So I feel entitled to the attitudes of hope and prosperity, but not the exploits from those who we consider Old School.  I feel the exploits should be reinvested into the public worth not hoarded by dynasties.  I feel giving props is acknowledging with patriotic benefaction for the privilege that comes from being connected and tapped into the Old Schools.  
 

Just a laborer

This is my first encounter with feeling inspired to collaborate with a Saint.

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”?
-Francis of Assisi

Reading this quote can inspire, then as I realize my own sadness around being seen as labor, and not as often, seen as an artist, it doesn't completely help me feel divine.  But, what I have noticed in my evaluation of people's perceptions through their cultures, privilege, and histories, especially my own obligation or rooted ideas to be seen or identified as a "Mexican-American", "Brown", or "Hispanic", is that I have allowed other's preferences and perceptions to define how I am perceived.

I participate in judging one's work, again especially my own.  I establish my own scales of cost and compensation. I determine my own version of what it is to be labor or art.  That scale is used for me and against me.  I cultivate my competencies and doubts from these determinations.  I internalize my worth, alongside my values, and ultimately my social cost.  I have become a judge of quality and economized human worth.

One concept that Francis left out is that when I judge someone's work to be absent of head or heart or both head and heart, I participate in the historic human neurosis, possibly mental disease of bias, prejudice, and economics.  What does it mean to hold an individual in comparison for what they contribute?  What does it mean to use your head or heart?  Is it fair to suggest that some people choose not to use their head and heart?  I wonder about comparison.  I often find it is the root of jealousy.  It seems natural to see comparison as competition.  We, I, have the need to excel and be more alluring.  It might be our reproductive instinct for desirability.  Are we fulfilling our primal instructions to reproduce?  Does distinction drive us to improve or see ourselves as insufficient?  I have a desire to know where I stand among others.  Does my true self need to know this or is it my insecurity that is seeking this out?  So I see this comparison as toxic and hurtful egoism.  Without disregard or disrespect for separating mundane from enchanting,  I have my contribution to this quote.

My contribution would be subtly different.  Those who see the God in someone's work, without comparison, even when done modestly with their hands is an artist.  Those who see Divinity in the distinct quality that  reveals a person's thoughtfulness is an artist. Those who can see beyond jealousy and grandiosity of an individual who combines their labor with thoughtfulness to reveal their heart is an artist.  Lastly when we can begin to look for the hands, head, and heart in all people's contribution we will be artisans.

I hope that one day we, I, will value the produce picker with the same preference as the gourmet chef.  I am working to see the Crossfit games champion as valuable as the dainty homebody.  I am working to see the nuclear physicists as valuable as the janitor who empties the trash.  I desire a day when the carpenter with blistered hands is valued with same reward as the real estate agent with manicured nails.

I idealize about what life would be like when our knowledge won't have a cost on it, and our labor won't be the measure of our social worth.  Who am I to judge someone's worth, much less their cost?

Maybe a better inquiry would be into how modestly can I provide enchanting contributions in community that I am compensated with resources that will not distance my opportunities to thrive from yours?  Or Can I be an artist without keeping you a laborer?  Are you an artist if only the elite can afford to benefit from your work?

The Wound Fears!

Healing hurts.  It takes a certain will power to heal.  The body, the mind, the spirit all get wounded.
A fashioned life-like tree from the tools that destroyed it.
The wound has boundaries.  The boundaries can create pain free zones.  These zones can be crippling.  A paradox exists because being pain free feels a lot like being healthy, but may not necessarily be healthy.  The feeling of bliss may at times be unnoticeably unhealthy.  Calibrating this paradox of comfortable health and painful health is challenging, requiring critical thought about personal perception and perspective with awareness of social norms.  What you see as painless may really be a debilitating comfort zone.  What you see as painful may really be the struggle to break free from illness.  When we function with an idea of health as being a state or condition, it becomes purchasable, definable, or measurable.   When I think of health as living, it becomes a relationship.

Black Lungs from Coal miner
How I treat health will be reflective of what value I have for it.  In the end I am learning to know the value, not cost, of my pain.  I have learned to put myself in pain to connect with health, and am working on distinguishing when my pain is damaging my connection with health.  I am learning to avoid the comfort of profiting from health, while also receiving gratitude from helping others connect with health.  I am having a hard time with connecting with those who use the fear of pain as a way to improve their own quality of life.  I aspire to hold health gently, as if it were lying next to me each night.  I think asking her questions that she may have never been asked before.

Health, can you teach me how to love you...but without the pain?  I think she might say.  To love me is to love yourself, I don't need anything you don't, nor can I do without anything you also need.  The health that I have in my life today has come from both pain and fulfillment.  I have yet to know health without spending a little of both.  The same goes for sickness, I don't hate you, but you seem to bring more pain than joy, and then after really seeing your contribution to life, I see you are a remedy to arrogance, toxic pride, and grandiosity.  I struggle with loving you too.

Luxurious Blessings

I am discouraged by how much I struggle to be Holy, a believer, or faithful.  The more I engage in research, business, technology, and entertainment the more I find myself doubting.  I think God has a way of reminding me that I don't have to leave the world to love the world. 

 I find my doubt is healed by the undeserved blessings I cannot help but be grateful for.  The hard part is having to accept that God might be using my intellect, economics, conveniences, and luxuries to help remind me that divinity may not only be seen in nature.  I am reminded that even in service there is a reward.  Be balanced, don't take more than I need, and have respect are phrases that come to ease my worry after feeling the anxiety of discerning whether I am being blessed or being self-indulgent.  


Returning from a immersion with a team studying, observing, and even some being called to Curanderismo has me, once again, remembering to ask for balance.  Where there is energy, I'll likely find light.  Where there is light I'll likely find heat.  Where there is heat I'll find movement.  Curar!

Embracing the Elements: Curanderismo

Straight up cambios

  Tupac Shakur mentions in rap lyrics that he sees no changes, straight up racist faces, and for a long time I agreed.  Now, with faith, I gotta say, I see straight up changes.  I can't say I lived a thug life. I can't say I have shared in the darkest struggles that humanity or poverty seems to provide.  I don't remember my barrios ever being hazardous, poor, or scary.  As I look back on my barrios from the outskirts, from a different cultural group, I notice that they are perceived as dangerous, poor, and, when the sun goes down, scary.  People are violent in the barrios where I came from, not so much to be bad asses, but to not be seen as weak.  I look on my barrios now and see a whole lotta changes.  I also hold the admission that history hints at plenty of things that appear to lack change.

  I know there are struggles unique to regions, ethnicities, and cultures that can get overwhelmingly discouraging, but what seems to be common is a desperate yearning for worth.  How desirable am I, are you, are we?  What can I gain without giving, aka "efficient"?  Wealthy, healthy, and obedient seem to be the preferred cultures.  These qualities have the highest rank in the realm of worth.  The perception that defines these quality's criteria are biased and even prejudice.  It has become apparent to me that race is a scapegoat, because when I stare into the abyss of discrimination, I see through spiritual eyes, and see that the root of it all is worried peoples trying to keep, find, or validate their worth.

  I think we have a hard time, sanctioning sadness, and it spans across cultures, because it depreciates desirability for most, causing a shrinkage in worth.  Grief seems to carry a stigma of illness.  I think the perception of sadness as a weakness causes people to avoid, fear, and suppress sadness.  I think we fear the lack of productivity and action that can come from being sad.  It makes sense to me that America prides itself on being fit, enduring, capable, and powerful, because there is so much cultural sadness that has been suppressed, avoided, and ignored.  I have found that dignity and integrity, aspects of a person's identity, are cultivated in sadness and cannot be fooled by appearances, but unfortunately the ego is easily fooled.

  There are too many cultures bringing their tired, sick, and huddled masses and aren't or haven't dealt with the grief of saying good bye to the rejecting, displacing, punishing, or deteriorating places that they left behind, or worse were taken from.  Likewise they are not able to have enough time and space to integrate a pride for both their losing culture and their newly adopted Culture's attitudes.  This grief is spread over generations.  Every lineage has a generation struggling with identity, the conquistador, colonist, refugee, slave, pioneer, immigrant, and the transient.

   I did at one time buy into Shakur's perspective that seemed to reflect no changes.  I bought into the idea that things won't change, until I couldn't ignore how they have.  I have my own perspectives that include the noticeable changes.  I look at New Mexico's prisons and see it filling with cholo's faces. I see that discrimination changes too.  Young boys once, over time and their development, rarely afforded an opportunity to taste America's graces, but often expected to know how to reach out with simple willpower.  These vatos locos, raised by parents who stem from a family tree rooted in a legacy of Spanish treasure hunters, then peregrinos, eventually becoming displaced villagers.  People who once upon a time were conquerors, now sit in concrete pens, conquered.  A culture caught by pioneering Americans resting in simplicity, and now dazzled by America's dream while bitterly denying the pain of not really being desired in its reality.

  I cannot yet describe being pulled by an ever growing number of identities, the least of them being American.  I am stuck between countries that never belonged to my ancestors, and yet I am tied to a land that feels like a mother.  I am critical of a country that a majority of people admire.  I am resistant among people hypocritically holding a mindset that understands Christianity but who thrive on lifestyles more fitting of something like capitalistianity.  I struggle with both myself.  I see changes, some fitting my idea of just and often confused by those changes that seem unfair.  I see the dignity in my parent's dilemmas and how they have changed and arrived at their identities.  All this has helped me change my idea of success.

I see that the worth my un-primped barrios carry, because mi jente, my people, are succumbing to the monetary and economic gravity of property values, putting price tags on eloquent bosque views, and corrales around pedestals revealing Sandia sunsets, selling out, figuratively and literally.  Many are continuing to suffer from the disease I like to call worth, including me.

  I am not the same, so I see changes.  The way I look has changed.  The way I see has changed.  The way I love has changed.  The perceptions that matter to me have changed.  I have changed the way I live.  At the same time I still have to live with how so much doesn't seem to change.

Weary Progress

I am a tough person to walk with.  I am constantly toggling my morals.   I make convenient my principles.  I hypocritically set boundaries.  I safely hike into the wild, skirting the ledge of reckless, feeling the vertigo just enough to remember I am still a scared little boy deep in my soul, but with every tragedy, adventure, and fiasco I grow more and more into a man with a child's curiosity and less childishly curious.

I am an even tougher person to run with.  I am not a champion marathoner, but I love the doubt in my mind that wakens when my stiff ankles ache, knees pang, and lungs hesitate.  Early on in life, I recklessly tore into the trails of ambition.  As life piled on stress I learn to run with a driven strategy, but the same running shoes muddied with a victim's blood.  

Now I have to ask permission of my body, starting with my intention, making my way down into my chest, wondering how many breathes I still have left.  They are ready as ever.  On to my hips where the passion lives.  Once the blood flows in these joints, its on!  That doubt that wakens, it is the little person in me that wants to play near the kitchen close to grandma.  It is the part of me that says "here is enough".  It is the part of me that whines "do we have to".  

It is the beaten part of me.  The rejected part of me.  The saddened part of me.  The lonely part of me.  It is the part of me, I now, put right up top, propped on my shoulders, discouraged and all.  I let that part of me sing songs of pity.  I find my will to run in the songs of pity.  I don't run to race.  I don't even think there's a chase.  I don't measure very often.  It uplifts me, and keeps me looking forward. 

Despite my laziness, addictions, abnormalities, and other qualities that set me me unfortunately apart, I am internally magnificent.  I am a flawed creature with an adequate capability to progress, making service an expression of joy.

Maybe its art!

What do I deserve?

What am I doing to deserve what I have?  
What a treacherous question.  When I "people watch" I can't but help but realize that what is really under the covers are my projections.  So when I compare the BMW to the 68' rusted pic up it is actually a sadness for the comfort and convenience I am not willing to strive for, but more importantly know I don't need.  It is awkward because I felt so close to achieving what might be called prosperity by American terms.  I sit wondering what inflamed my desire to find my way back to New Mexico.  I sometimes think about the cliche idea that I made it out.  The "made it out" that validated the hatred that swirls along with the love I have for my home.  What does I was so close mean?

It sadly means I could have lived the dreams my grandparents dreamed for me.  It means I might have fulfilled the hopes my parents hoped.  I could have been accepted and swam in the sea called America.  I might have had the manicured lawn, cleaning lady, and facades that painted me as acceptable.  I might have seemed civil, worthy of invitation to the table of fraternal America.

It also means that I would validate my ancestral self doubt.  I would acknowledge the projections from taburculosis ridden refugees from the eastern metropolises of America that planted the seeds of inferiority into my barrios.  These sick and desperate bodies came with an economy that wasn't superior, but desperate.  Had I stayed on the course of American prosperity I would have drowned the remaining dignity that my New Mexican heritage demanded.  

I was so close to selling my soul to an American shadow.  I walked the edge of prostituting my heritage.  I came dangerously close to abandoning a life of service for a life of worth.  I had grown into an attitude of self health versus a lifestyle of symbiosis.  I almost became so self interested that I left the discouraged and tired people of New Mexico to accept a minuscule role as America's nuclear garbage can.  

I sat with a young woman at a bar and listened while she asked me,"didn't you have any good men in your life"?  I can say with a regulated heart and passionate soul, not only did I have some chignon men in my life, but I was raised and nurtured by the most amazing Chicana women.  

I don't know if I am doing enough to earn what God has blessed me with but I know I could never do enough to repay the privilege gained from the debt my ancestor have paid in doubt, humility, and loyalty to Christ.  I am working really hard to love myself and realize I am still a novice at knowing what love is.

Don't prove...describe

I am close to a year into being a counselor.  I feel more aware of myself than I ever imagined.  I can grasp the contradiction, paradoxes, and hypocrisies I encounter and I don't become as overrun with emotion.  I have grown to be capable of non-judgmentality and value my judgmental characteristics.

I practice empathizing everyday, and it goes only so far.  I get better and better at it with every story, assessment, and observation.  My clients are teaching me to understand that there are rarely the social absolutes that I navigated in my early adulthood.  One  being that if you just work hard enough you can be anything you want.  I know now that some people have subtle or extreme advantage.  Some people have trust funds, others have land grants, others have highly educated parents, some lived in convenient places, and some just look more appealing.  The simple generalizations that once helped me create allies and enemies is now a complex M.C. Escher painting where proving isn't helpful and only describing has any grip.

I drive home every day and people watch.  Asking in my head what did that person do today to earn what they have?  How did that person contribute to others or was it all about getting theirs?  What makes that person fulfilled or are they a sieve?  How come that person needs a BMW to drive the same distance that person with a 68 pick up does?  What goes on in that building that they need landscaping?  What would life be like without business and money?  I accept that what people think what they need is growing and so is there need to feel deserving of everything...me too.

I think about what people spend money on and wonder how interesting and creative their rationality becomes for the waste.  It becomes a way of creatively justifying the hints of immorality to counter any contradiction, upholding and building a reason that fits a socially acceptable category.  I think everyday that if we only took what we need and shared our extras, would we have poverty, heroin addicts, luxury cars, races, fences, hair stylists, airplanes, electrical grids, licensing boards, passports, visas, or nuclear weapons facilities. Would we need social media?  Would we have more gardens than bars?  Would we have community fitness versus elite memberships?   Would we have a healthier industry around health care?  Would be still create economies and products out of wellness?

The brain might function the same way in every human.  The brain might release the same types of hormones, synthesize chemical cocktails in the same way, and grow and die in the same way, but each brain will never experience the same scenarios with the same perceptions.  We cannot ignore the possibility that individual medicine will not be enough to also be a social medicine.  The disease I like to call "worth" manipulates humans into making luxuries into necessities and needs too expensive.

I am learning that there isn't an audience that is looking for a cure but more an industry profiting from the lack of a critical perspective on genuine care of health.  The insurance arena, the pharmaceutical arena, and the marketeers of this modern culture of care seem to saddle up the professionals and ride them, feed them just enough, groom them, and appease them so they can themselves escape the existential tragedy of simplicity.  I don't understand the value in profiting from human fear of suffering or the actually suffering itself.  I have hope in health but not from a business or professional perspective, but from my own change in perspective.  Give to Lovelace what is Lovelace's and trust there is healing that will go beyond policies and coverages.  The illness might be in what we find worth it because where I see money gravitating is in the bank accounts of a new form of unhealthy people who suffer from the disease I call "worth".

I find myself collecting hours of therapeutic moments.    I am guilty of believing I care and then find myself contributing toxically.

I found my People

I finished my first class for fun.  Like nacho libre, sometimes Chancho, when you are a man you take graduate courses with other stretchy minds, for fun.  I finished my first semester of course work dedicated to enriching my mind versus my profitability.

It was just as stressful as in graduate school, and I often found myself wondering why the fuck I do this shit.  Why, fatherhood, two jobs, and school what was I thinking.  Like those self created Crossfit workouts that through the middle I have my throat burning, lower back aching, and physical therapists eagerly waiting. Then the light shines through a crease.  I love seeing the light.  I live for learning.

So what has this layer of life left me with.  What mark is life leaving on my forehead?
I'll start with the soppy poetic shit first.

I see love where hate thrives.  I see blossoms of admiration in fields of envy.  I see sadness when vengeance torques.  I see potential where pools of laziness smolder. I see hope, maybe lost, maybe tossed as prayer, along the glistening tracks of tears.

I have shaped my sadness that once took the shape of anger.  It once looked hardened, and now I've learned it is malleable.

I have harnessed my passion that once scattered like rage.  It has me powering through in symbiotic directions.

I rerouted my doubt that once fueled my cynicism.  I look gracefully on progress and the "no-rep", especially because I'm still breathing.  This means simply that I haven't died yet.  I am turning I can't into i'll get there.

What I have observed, through my late onset of adolescence, is accepted pity, self-deprecation, and toxic humility have been hard habits to undo.  I look at my cultures similarly and recognize the same paradoxical qualities.  I look at myself not as of a culture but as culture.  I seek out the economy, injustice, balance, and the tangential effects that cause peoples to "be".

I don't have time to prove anymore.  It feels a lot like my remaining life might be to play the instrument I have built myself to be.  I feel like my life will be to contribute where as before it had been to contrive.  I'm not resigning my ability to change or grow.  I have a responsibility to make learning part of my contribution, my song, a melody.

I get to learn now and I feel different,  I feel like an adult.  I am rooting myself in G R A V I T A S.

Sojourn



No words in my heart to speak today.

My heart is basking in a metaphorical and distant sun.

My heart is meditating on the realization that my ego is content, healing, and balancing.

My heart is sipping on the fresh juices, squeezed and dripping from the melee between my insecurities and principles.

I long for nothing more than the continuation of the grace I have right now.

My heart is napping, dreaming of realities that include hardships overcome.

No fantasies to pervert my heart's dreams, only romantic sounds to decorate the already gorgeous set of qualities put in motion by my lifestyle.

Maybe as the sun sets, I'll light a candle for my heart to have just enough light to see the flickering glow of naked hope, a flicker we can dance to.

A heart that is traveling!

Lacking

When I don't know that, how much I have right now, can be all I need, life becomes about what I don't have. Is 'what I want' the trails and passages to my sadness, envy, and fear?  Gratitude for having everything I need, reminds me I am free, lovable, and art.  

How do I help a 12 year old girl and a 15 year old young lady trust this principle, when most adults that inspire them still struggle, filling their lives with superficial spectacles and posting polished personas.  De-colonization can happen, slowly, purely, but not without the pleasure withdraw.  Don't let me catch me Lacking!  

Don't be sell-n-out meaning for happiness. 

E-race-ism

The term white privilege is used to label the contemporary advantage that Anglo lineage has gained from the likes of convenience, legacy, exploration, exploitation, commercialism, education, slavery, genetics, industry, technology, and other factors.  I find that this concept is difficult for some Anglo people to recognize or acknowledge.  As people grow closer and closer to identifying with the colonial concept called 'prosperity' so does the belief in their right to property.  What role does generational advantage (A.K.A privilege) play in the understanding of prosperity?    

I think privilege is a characteristic of competition and life doesn't have to be a matter of winning or losing.  I feel bound to intellectual concepts that promote culturally tainted values like competition and advantage.  I feel like I have missed out on how valuable sharing, collaboration, and vulnerability can be in commerce, education, and technology.  The word privilege points to the corrosive prosperity that very few in the dominant societies care to confront.  Dominant societies, meaning those that participate in luxurious markets or have first world problems.  Prosperous peoples rarely relinquish their desire for prosperity.  How else can we help these self-made believing peoples feel valued?  (Self-made by Franklin's definition and not the definition of Douglass...for which Douglass' definition is more appealing)

Privilege is a strategy of luxury, possibly leading to the understanding of being owed, honored, obliged, or authorized.  I find that this darker quality exists in close minded, fearful, stubborn, aspiring, and dogmatic peoples.  The hard part is that when you put a racial component in the front of such an authoritative word, I see the disservice it does to the commonality that all people suffer from the misuse of privilege.  Even more complex is that the definition for the proper use of privilege is too personal or perceptual.  

I wouldn't disagree if we called white privilege, colonial privilege.  I do find it unfair to many humble and modest Anglos that white privilege has become a blanket condition.  But I have spent many hours and thoughts on how to find peace when dealing with privileged people.  I found that privileged people who live in luxury or thoughtless spending, cannot see themselves as excessive or thoughtless with their resources.  I find the opposite.  Privileged people believe they are bettering the world by bettering themselves.  There is virtue and rational in what luxuries they are participating in.  Privileged people can almost always see themselves as blessed.   Privileged people conjugate with and around similarly privileged people.  Racial privilege is real, but it distracts from the real corrosive privilege that pollutes cultures of people.  

I find that cultural privilege is a formidable concept worth confronting.  I see that racial privilege is far to radioactive to approach.  I think as I have erased the racial component that often precedes privilege, I can encounter truer shared value for life, resources, and technology.  I have also added to the concept of privilege a heavy dose of responsibility.  I have this idea, a faithful belief, to be responsible to questioning and bringing awareness to the irresponsible.  I hope others do the same for me.
Arthur Schatz—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Happy Birthday Cesar Estrada Chavez.  You helped me to prefer responsibility over privilege; service over commerce; and progress over profits!


Trust in Pride

With permission from Cecelia, here is her contribution on the subject of toxicity in the Chicano culture.  First a brief description about Cecelia.  Cecelia and I met at a writing workshop.  I was there with a living hero, Jimmy Santiago Baca.  He allowed me to participate despite never being published or credited as a writer.  Cecelia was there too.  She supported me during a really difficult moment during the conference.  I didn't believe myself to be a writer and I was among professional and aspiring writers.  I was challenged to share my work out loud.

I was asked to read aloud my novice writing.  With my voice trembling in my tentative tone, I read a poem.  It got rocked and I was told my writing wasn't passionate.  I was called out, and I remember it went something like this, "your writing seems to lack passion".  With that statement, woke the calloused part of my soul.

I found an inner passion to describe the sadness I live with.  I told them about the parts of me that skirt around the big dogs because I don't feel I belong.  I have never been asked to read aloud.  I told the group how difficult it is to play passionately because what I am passionate about will provoke and confront their privileged metaphorical Anglo playgrounds.  I have to be somewhat abstract to conceal the sacredness of the moment and those involved.  But I let my educated, learned, and vetted understanding of myself and history propel my passionate, possibly disappointed, perspectives flow.

They came out in a voice that turned from trembling into a shaking near tears fountain of rawness. Out came my thoughts, from the depths of the cellars they have been kept quietly pacing.  Like bunched up New Mexicans at the labor lines waiting for the opportunity to contribute to my cause.  It felt like a petition, and quickly I realized I had spoken my truth.  At the end I found myself embarrassed and ashamed.  I felt like I had no right to be so passionate in someone else's passion playground.

But to sum it up, I described how I hold myself back because it feels like my place.  My place is modest and purpose centered.  I watched my grandmother prepare the best New Mexican food for the richest Anglos in New Mexico, and never ask to be called a chef.  I watched my grandpa build cabinets for several churches in the North Valley of Albuquerque never asking for recognition or profits.  I try to live the same way.

Here I was a wanna be writer among skilled writers just happy to be in the same room as Jimmy Baca.  I couldn't be passionate because I was scared that what I had to say would hurt feelings.  The source of my passion is in their ancestors injustice.  Especially the judgment, maybe jealousy,  I see in how free the Anglo culture is allowed to be proud and loud.  The passion I have is rooted in the paradox of being given opportunity to be great but only knowing how to be modest.

Cecelia and a few other strong Latin writers supported me and best of all shared the feelings.  I had skeena.  I have shared my passion with people who rarely understand and often call me disruptive, cynical, and harsh.  I have had to remind myself that I am a tender person who is a warrior.  I have to keep close the reminder that I was raised not to fight, and not to be afraid to protect myself.  Cecelia ratified my emotions, ideas, and passion.

We sat at dinner and she shared her story with me.  I knew after leaving that weekend that I must speak my passions modestly.  I will not be afraid to defend myself, my story, and my perspectives.  I will know that my truth is not necessarily offensive but can incense emotions in others.  It's not my responsibility any longer to wonder how my story will make others feel.

Thank you for the standing along side me.  It has felt for awhile as if my ideas are isolatingly antagonizing.  It is a joy and relief to be in the spirit of great people like Cecelia.

Cecelia  shared the following:

Ron,

This is a reflection on both Toxic Humility and Mistrust of Pride, as I see the two topics inextricably linked - at least in my experience as a Mexican-American woman growing up in southern California in the 50s and 60s.

My father was a strong man, with a humble spirit, and unspoken pride in his heritage, his work ethic and the accomplishments of his children.  He taught me "never draw attention to yourself" as that was arrogant and unnecessary.  He believed that "If you work hard and do what you have signed-on to do, people will notice and they will recognize you and reward you, as appropriate.  You don't need to promote yourself."

I have lived my 65 years of life believing this is true, acting in concert with it and seeing his prediction play out in my own life.  And yet, there have been moments when I too have been unable to take pride in the "magnificent" parts of myself and that has felt uncomfortable and (although I never would have come up with the term myself) "toxically humble."

These posts have shined a light on layers and layers of my being and my identity - for me to reexamine.  I will let you know where that road takes me.  Thank you, Ron.

Cecelia


Mistrust of Pride

"Son I am proud of you", that phrase brought that clinching feeling in my throat, the feeling I had learned as a child to hold tight, to fight back, and endure its cramp.  The feeling that was actually uncomfortable enough to feel like pain.  A feeling that freezes the thoughts.  Back in the moment, on a grass field, busy with parents hustling kids around soccer fields, I think I was 35.  At this point in my life I had found comfort in crying.  Why now was I holding these tears back.  It was a conversation with my dad, that I wasn't prepared to hear.  He followed up describing that he was proud of the path I took after my divorce.  He was proud of the feelings that I was willing to endure.  He was proud that I took my pain seriously.  He shared how many things he did differently.  I wanted to cry.  Even writing this I still hold back tears.

I have a good idea for how to process my suffering, but what I am now being encourage to do is something new.  I am being asked to be proud.  The dysfunction in the catholic Chicano is the lack of emphasis in the ciriculum or catechism about healthy pride.  I actually feel toxic when I start to be appreciated, valued, and honored.  I have shame in being magnificent.

Where did this shame to feel accomplished come from?  There is an overwhelming need to depreciate myself.   I believe there is an aspect of pride that requires modesty and then it can be appropriate.  I feel the need to give glory to God, my parents, my elders, my mentors, my friendships, my dogs, my children, and the academy award list goes on extinguishing any appreciation for the gift I am expressing through the actions deserving gratitude.  But then there comes the mistrust of pride.  Is vanity creeping in?  

My moral compass starts to spin wildly as my navigation panel dials spin recklessly faster and faster until I feel ashamed for doing something wonderful.  My blog, my marriage, my friendships, and my attitudes might be gentler had I somewhere along the way of life been told I'm proud of you.  This was that day.  My dad took a sledge hammer and swung it hard with his words, "I am proud of you", it landed solidly right in the middle of my catholic Chicano ego.  He shattered the cinder block wall that had been hindering my luminescence, like the Berlin Wall coming down, my ability to see my greatness with the blessings and grace from God, is trickling out from the deshreveled concrete jungles.  My ability to feel helpful, worthy, valuable, magnificent, and successful is happening.


Dad, I am proud of you!

Toxic Humility

The New Mexican Chicano has a passionate dedication to suffering toxic humility.  We see it in our addicted and violent populations.  It seems rooted in the soil of our souls.  Its as if we have a responsibility to lower ourselves con dolor. It sprouted for me an obedience, prospering an attitude of subservience.  Toxic humility blossoms leafs of self rejection, like a modest tumble weed uprooted and bouncing from barbed wire fences, when God hoped we grow into succulent cedars.

Most New Mexican communities are Spanish descended with Catholic roots.  Peoples left here, reinventing here, or who fled here.  I am describing people from the 1500's, 1600's, and into the 1700's.  We are of the gringo empire.  We are the spawn of those with ambitions for gold, who landed here, finding refuge in the pinon hills, ponderosa filled rocky ridges, sage brush mesas, and cottonwood infested valles del rios.

We are of a similar ambitious European unsettledness. A branch on the vine of Monarchies with insecure desire for power and control, acting from discontentment, causing masses to migrate, calling it exploration, and eventually conquering.  Most modern New Mexicans cannot recognize their pretentious and imperial beginnings, even though it is paraded in the glorious image of the conquistador.  That glory now lives in the shadows of the new conqueror, the innovative industrial American.  Most New Mexicans find a way to remain loyal to suffering maybe to distract from the diminished Spanish ego.  As if a honorable way to be noticed or respected in this new, foreign, and American way of life.

The conquering Spaniards withered into faith driven humble villagers. They had nothing to offer the royalty, so the withering began and their faith became valuable. And so did the land.  As the mestizo cultures began to dilute the hardened pride of conquering peoples, equally a colonial pride was stirring in the east.  This mountain desert region was only a pit stop to the riches known in the west.  With this desperate form of purpose the subservience was birthed.  This region grew from the isolation of Spanish communities.  Slowly each community displaced with a desperate grasp at having purpose in an American expansion.  Spanish speaking, crucified Christ preaching, my ancestors adapted to desert life, orphaned by Spain.  This desperation is how I can envision the conception of my subservient and maybe toxic humility.

I know the Sangre de Cristos, our regional mountains, for their ability to remain overseers of this regions visitors.  It humbled the indigenous, the conquistador, and now me.  I know their name sake represents my ancestor's faith.

Albeit a subtle hypocrisy, history tells a story of an arrogant Christ focused intimidation. We know the pueblos were coerced.   These mountains smoothed and helped a restless conquering people to tolerate a local lifestyle that looks to have grown symbiotic with pueblos.

The indigenous people were converted into Catholics, for sure not wanting to dismiss their ancestral beliefs, possibly understanding that their lifestyle is more inline with divinity than the conquering evangelists.  But now those communities are equally tired, trying to find a niche in America.  Through the conquest tragedy grew a privileged lifestyle of land grantees, farmers, and shepherds that were coerced into becoming American.  We are now a legacy of people that are enduring, ironically a similar wave of evangelists, squatters, speculators, investors, experimenters, and refugees.  We are now visitors to the richness of the Sangre de Cristos.

The suffocating conqueror privilege and new desperate desire to belong seems to have left us toxically humble.  Humble to point of believing ourselves as destined to suffer in self doubt.  I seem to see this inability to feel appreciated, praised, valued, lovable, and worst worthy of the fruits of the spirit in the New Mexican Chicano people I counsel.  The first person that comes to mind is myself.

I am my first client.  In reflection, I preferred to uplift myself with validation from others, believing they might believe in me.  When this failed I had no idea how to deal with the endless need to feel worthy.  I forgot that Jesus Christ asked me to live as he lived, free of self depreciation, judgment from and of others, slavery, and free of a toxic humility.  I now hear in my darkest moments, "I believe in you", and I wonder if that is me or Him.

I have grown to see my communities' subtle and gradual crucifixion of "hope in self", worried that this might reflect an overall inability to hope period.  A slow death by punishing the misunderstood and toxically humble masses.  I no longer want to punish toxically humble peoples.  I am for a life of gracefully serving them with spirit so that they recognize the greatness God hoped for them.

Bosque from Ditches!

I turn right onto a road my mom and I traveled almost everyday during my middle childhood.  We made the trip going to school and then wrapping it up with coming home from grandmas.  Today I am a counselor, turning onto this same road to visit a client.  I get to the side street I need to turn on and there they are, the Po Po.

That's the first thought that pops into my head, then the other internal voices chime in with "5-0" and lastly the "La Jura", but I'm unmoved by it.  I turn onto the residential street off the main road.  A street I must of looked down a thousand times as we passed heading home, never even pondering that 32 years later I might be helping here.  I notice a sheriff's vehicle is parked at the intersection. His lights aren't on.  Further up the road several unmarked police SUV's line the road, those lights are.  I look into the sheriff's car and a square jawed, blonde, and buzzed cut county deputy, sits tapping at a mounted laptop.  I looked down the road and something is definitely going down.  I don't know what's happening, and what scares me the most is that I'm not shocked or weary.

I am not judgmental of the poverty that I find myself driving through.  I haven't lived in a poor neighborhood for many years.  But this is where I am from, where I called home.  One of my many homes.  I turn into their apartment parking lot, unaware of how unaffected I am with the situation happening not even 100 meters away.

I get out of the car and ask a young vato with tattoos scattered on his neck, face, and forearms, "is everything cool?"  He shrugs and I get that he didn't know.  I look like I don't belong here.  He is dressed in all baggy black clothes, and has the burque fade.  I just don't fit anymore.  He gets on his cell phone, while pacing, and asks without asking, gesturing. He throws up to me a backwards peace sign, bringing his two fingers to his puckered lips with a quick single head nod.  I know he wants a frajo, a cigarette.  And as if I never left, I respond, "Nah bro" while shaking my head and showing empty hands. I find myself surprised that the accent I put away long ago surfaced so innately.  I only bring it out now for nostalgic reasons.  I am not home and a part of me never left.

Now session complete, I am driving away.  I am leaving the neglected sidewalk-less streets behind. I look back into memories of what my life had looked like, and now, as a visitor.  I'm jolted by how versatile my perceptions have had to be.  I find myself in tune with the progress that I have created.  I am feeling the accomplishments of my family's work.  At the same time I am dealing with the surprise for how numb I was to seeing the chaos, the police vehicles, and raggedness.  It was a norm and that hit home in a self compassionate way.

I got on the freeway leading me to the privileged, blessed, and fortunate neighborhoods.  My heart literally hurt, it hurt with remorse, like if I just learned my girlfriend cheated on me.  I still don't understand the pain.  Maybe I hurt because I can't do anything more than I am right now.  Maybe I hurt because I get to leave and they don't.  I no longer see La Jura surrounding homes near me daily.  The families I work with have to find their way through the viciousness this place can create.

I get to my office having to prepare for my next client, sitting there, amazed at how far my mom and I have come, and I cried.  It wasn't just me and her.  We had a lot of help.  We had so many chances to fail and fortunately we found our way.  I don't like to think of us as rags to riches, but I do know we climbed out of some ditches.  I am now able see how beautiful it is to be apart of the bosque, despite having to spend some time in the muck of the ditches.  I want to say we made it out, but I am more proud to say I found my way back.

A Peace of me writes!

I find this post deliberate, possibly forced, I can't tell yet.  When I write publicly, it's usually inspired by recent emotionally charged events, conversations, or internal struggles.  Today it is because I don't have the time, the space, the ambiance, and the intent.  I am busy, entertained, occupied, and purpose driven. I'm writing because I need to be intentional, grounding myself.  I want to be a writer and therefore I gotta write.  It's like the athlete in me who can't go long without fitness, my body, my pen, my ideas have to flow.  Today I have to siphon words from this stingy condition I find myself in...Peace!  

I have no gripes today, and to write from this lens is exercise. I'm practicing writing passionate words and thoughts without being driven by impulse.  A catalyst that helps my writing is my grief.  Grief heats up my rogue attitudes, invoking my independent principles, helping me respond aroused to the fervent circumstances in my life.  Now, in some joy and comfort, I worry peace is boring.  Peace is calming and I'm learning to write from this frame of reference too.

Can peace bring out the impassioned writer in me?

I'm in my passions daily, I counsel, I exercise, I create, I father, I flirt, I listen, I reach out, I analyze, I solve, I nurture, I play, and it brings out my "internal haters".  I am learning how to modestly share my attainments.  I feel pretentious when I share my success.  I am selling out to my penitent roots.  I am disenfranchising from my "toxic humility", "mistrust of pride", and "embarrassed purity".  Turning the stigma and grinding meaning from these contradictions, will provide me the nutritious motivation to write about my successes.

Bliss in my life foils my sadness' rein.  A sad, argumentative, and terrorizing tendency in me gets worried that joy will let us down again.  Maybe joy will squander the 20 point lead, the 'Bad Ass, confident, know it all' created for me. Maybe that competitor, warrior, and victim in me will have to slop up the blood and gore scattered after peace lets our guard down.  I picture the stoic part of me, doubting and infuriated that happiness is working its way back into my thoughts.  I can feel the under dog in me seething, reminding how frail fails.  My internal protector says, "We always get fucked Estrada, you leave me to pick up the pieces."  Even my loner doesn't want to die alone.

The emotions that awaken when I feel injustice are rooted in my own memories of being unable to win, be valued, be loved, be pursued, be included, and being pleased.  At the same time, these emotions of void become addictive, necessary for survival.  I know more about my tendencies to look for ways that I am weak, disregarded, hated, rejected, excluded, and ignored.  It is where I believe I function best.  It is where I have known how to survive.  I am addicted to an emotional cocktail, my version of the "good fight."  When I find love, the competitor in me gets lonely, and reminds me to look for the intoxicating dazzle of deficiency.  What a hater!

When I venture into bliss, my wounded psyche gets put away.  The competitor in me can't accept acceptance, it needs resistance, it is a pulling dog that needs a harness and sled, not knowing anything but to pull and claw, ripping and gripping.  The champion that I have always tried to be is uncomfortable with atrophy.  My tenacious qualities, are looking at new roll dogs, love and harmony.  The insecure competitor in me is no longer as manipulative.  I rarely ask my joyful side to write.  I won't let you down anger, rage, tenacity, and spite, Peace says, "I can ride the magic giant with passion too."



P.S. - The warrior in me hasn't died just taking turns and learning to share.  I think we will likely all be back andhopefully wiser.

Traditions that Misbehave - Part 2

As a forming adolescent, I built up my identity through a process, taking my cultural loyalty, bathing it in popular trends, and measuring...