New Year’s Eve is a mixed bag of feelings. If it’s been an amazing year, we often share our nine greatest photos and tell everyone how grateful we are for this beautiful life. We might even get together with real life friends or travel to our favorite city and party like it’s 1999. But what happens when you get to New Year’s Eve and you feel like you’ve come up short? What do you put on your Instagram or Facebook status then? And how do you recover, dust yourself off and clean the slate for the next year?
I don’t know but I will suggest that maybe a good starting point is telling the truth and being ok with it. I’ll start by saying that even though this year certainly had some highs, I spent much of it feeling lost, confused, scared, and discouraged – both because of our collective struggle as a country and experiences I encountered on my personal journey.
I always keep a journal, it’s my lifeline and a big part of my spiritual practice. It’s halfway empty this year because it’s been hard to write through some of these feelings. But I was reading it, as I always do this time of year, and I found some really good stuff! So, I’d like to share two major insights from my writing. They have given me a sense of hope and made me very thankful for my past self!
Walking myself through the mud
I found this pattern in my writing of how I walk myself through the mud to a place of stillness. I realized that if I have the capacity to do this, I will always be ok.
1) Complete frustration, confusion, sadness, complaining but also admitting and sitting with my pain 2) Questioning and acknowledging my contribution to the problem or conflict 3) Taking time to be grateful, seeing the full picture 4) Surrendering, being ok with uncertainty, giving myself permission to rest and move on
Affirmations to keep me from imploding
In one entry, after about three pages of complaining. I willed myself into gratitude, gave thanks, and wrote this list. Thank you past self!
I will breathe
I can only be who I am in this moment
I am worthy of authentic and fulfilling artistic expression
I am exactly the shape, size and volume that I need to be
I am beautiful even when I don’t believe it
I am gifted
I am a gift
I have all that I need to sift through the mess and chatter in my mind and find my truth
I will be ok with giving only what I can and resting/recharging when I need to
I am a dedicated, present, and loving mother
I give from an overflowing sense of abundance of self and spirit
It has been a year since I have been able to find the words to share on this blog. I shared among a group of educators of color and white allies this evening that those of us engaged in the work of humanity are feeling burned out and voiceless. So in hopes of finding my voice in the silence, I thought I’d go back and read the why behind this blog. My own words have reinvigorated me so….jumping back in!
Welcome to my blog! This is a place to…
practice courage, vulnerability, openness, introspection, and awareness
explore the lens with which I see the world as a human being, educator, artist, mother, spouse, sister, daughter, friend
challenge old paradigms about education, family, race, and culture
honor identity and difference through empathic exchange with myself and others
to be one more voice for change towards a more loving, diverse, inclusive world in all spaces including our homes, classrooms, places of worship, and hearts
With this blog, I am joining converging global conversations around hard topics that affect our families, schools, and communities every day. I am not joining these conversations as an expert but as a human being who is willing to see things as they are – despite the pain and discomfort that they may cause – and take small daily steps to make a difference.
I hope that my words will connect with you in some way. Thanks for reading!
It was 1:25, no recess, still no rain, probably some funky energetic residue from the supermoon and in comes my last class of the day. Three children in tears. Many with pouty faces. The rest, indifferent and disconnected. So I had two choices. Tell them to get it together and keep it moving or engage. If you know me, you already know I chose the latter. It turned out, there had been a lot of unkindness among friends in the moments just before my class. So I improvised.
Me: I can tell you’re not ok. If you’re not ok, I’m not ok. So we’ll start Spanish in a few minutes. For now, let’s take a moment to feel our feelings. Anyone want to share?
Student: All alone. Now I don’t have friends in this class anymore.
Me: So what do you think could help right now?
Me: I know! Let’s make a kindness circle.
We proceeded to make a kindness circle and each child said something kind or gave a compliment to the friend to their right. Each child said thank you without being prompted.
Then…this was my favorite!!!
WE TOOK DEEP LOVE BREATHS. ❤ THEN LET THE LOVE BACK OUT INTO THE WORLD.❤
About six love breaths later, our vibration was different, spirits lifted, and we were able to continue working. Sometimes you just have to pause, be still, be kind, inhale love, and exhale it back out into the world.
As millions of other people across the nation, I am still processing the emotions of this week’s election. I have stayed largely quiet on social media and found that conversations with my close friends in person or on the phone have been the most healing in this time. In addition to connections with the humans in my life, I have been reading! And reading… And reading… Not responding, simply reading to understand and begin making some connections. Here are five articles that I found most helpful as an educator.
“For younger children, discussions should center on fairness, how we treat each other, and that our classrooms and our country are governed by rules and laws, rules and laws that leaders must also follow. I want older students to examine the America political and economic system more critically, to define the kind of country they want to live in, to think of themselves as active participants in a diverse and democratic community, and also to experience civil discourse with respectful disagreement and views supported by evidence.”
“But safety isn’t enough, and it’s not the only thing our children—and our country—need right now. They desperately need their teachers and parents to tell them the truth: Everything is not OK. We have work to do, and we can do it.”
“Educators sought to channel the energy into lessons on civility, democracy and on America’s system of checks and balances on power, explaining that many of Trump’s policy proposals — love them or hate them — might not come to be without congressional approval.”
I wrote part one of this post a month ago. I know, I’m slow but I make no apologies for my full, exciting, and somewhat frazzled life. Here goes part two…
I D E N T I T Y
“My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly, allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all of my different selves, without the restriction of externally imposed definition.” ~Audre Lorde
I am a woman
I am Latina
I am full figured
I am bilingual
I am a spiritual seeker
I am straight
I am married
I am a mother
I am an artist
I am an intellectual
I am an ambivert
I am evolving
There are few spaces in life where I feel like I can bring all of these identities to the table. One such space is in my relationship with my husband and children. Otherwise, I pick and choose.
Should I be my assimilated or Latina self? My momma or independent working woman self? My skinny wannabe or unapologetically sized 16 self? My straight haired or curly headed self? Which self am I allowed to bring to this place today?
Let me just say that the constant slew of identity related questions a woman goes through on a daily basis is exhausting. Not to mention, if you happen to be a woman of color, the exhaustion goes deeper than any night’s sleep can cure. Yet we still manage to be amazing.
So what happens when we find a place and time when we can turn those questions off and just be? Integration happens. And when integration happens we are unstoppable!
In The Heights was that place for me. It is a story about the complexity of growing up Latino with limited means in the changing landscape of a gentrified neighborhood. Exploring the many layers of my own identity within that context was a deeply meaningful and rewarding experience.
But it is not enough to have a singular experience and go forth with my own life without passing along the wisdom inherent in that moment. I believe the power is in the sharing and in the sharing is the revelation that we are a collective that learns and grows together. That said, I’d like to close with two guiding affirmations that have come from my learning in this season. Feel free to use them if they suit you 😉
I am a whole, complicated, original person. My culture, physical characteristics, communication style, and world view make me who I am. I will bring it ALL with me wherever I go. Any rejection that happens as a result is a clear sign that that place or those people do not align with the whole me.
I will strive to be a person who creates a safe space for people to bring their full selves with integrated identities. I will not simply suspend judgement but I will ask myself hard questions when my bias kicks in. I will seek out people and organizations that align with my desire to create a more equitable and loving world.
Life is a collection of moments created by a series of decisions we make each day. Every so often, one of these moments meets us in a pivotal place of our journey and completely changes the game. IN THE HEIGHTS was one of such moments.
C O U R A G E
Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. ~Brené Brown
The day I accepted the challenge of joining the cast of IN THE HEIGHTS, little did I know that I was on the precipice of something that would transform me in the most unexpected ways. Among my many hats, my favorite is that of performer and here I was in a life defining, paradigm shifting moment: a dream role, breathtaking music, and the most amazing cast and production team.
As performers, we risk getting caught up in the day-to-day, show-to-show, just-another-job grind.
This was different.
In a recent journal entry I wrote: “Let me just say that I am forever impacted and changed by the experience. I have emerged! And it is freaking fantastic!” For one to emerge, it takes guts. It takes the courage to step into the darkest, messiest places of one’s story and allow them to be seen. Here was an opportunity to do so and I seized it.
I left my story out on that stage every night. For the first time, I played a role that was written for me, about me, for my people, and about my people. But the conflicting narratives about myself and how I connected with my culture made it unexpectedly difficult to lean into the depth that this character really needed in order to come to life. I was going to have to reconcile these conflicting narratives and make peace with the parts of my Latinidad that I had rejected. It required courage that drew me inward and the daily practice I needed to make the inner work translate to outer transformation.
Courage is to tell the story of who you are, right? Well I did it. Not only did I do it but each of my cast mates, a group of beautifully gifted people of color, did it as well. IN THE HEIGHTS provided for us a platform from which we would say:
“Hey America, we are here and we matter!”
But after generations of that proclamation being met with resistance, do you think it was easy to go out there and do that every night? Absolutely not! It took a level of vulnerability and resilience from each person that inspired me every day. During a time when we are being reminded that we are still not considered equals, I joined each of my cast mates as we took our beautiful selves out there to show you who we really are. We took up space. We reclaimed our rhythms. We poured our hearts out. We showed you or hair, our hips, our skin. We told our stories. Unapologetically. That work is what changes hearts, communities, nations.
It was a game changer. I believe it was as much for me as for everyone involved on stage, in the audience, or behind the scenes. That said, I will end with this thought for you:
What’s your game changer?
Make the decision to seek out opportunities to be courageous. You know it’s an opportunity because it will lead you inward, be very uncomfortable, and make you reconsider old paradigms. Seizing such opportunities can be the difference between just existing and truly arriving at one of those moments that changes the game.
On August 11, 2016, I stood in front of the Trinity School faculty and shared my heart for the work of equity and inclusion. Here, you will find the transcript of my opening presentation.
As a nation, we are currently living in times that reflect issues we thought were behind us. Racial inequality, wage gaps for women, housing and development that displace the economically disadvantaged, xenophobic immigration policies, religious intolerance, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community and a very charged political climate are among the various topics we are bombarded with on a daily basis. We are all in this room together and it would seem that there is not much we can do to change this world in which we live. However, I would like to challenge you with the idea that not only is there strength in numbers, the work you do as an individual has power beyond what you can ever imagine.
Just a little over a year ago, I attended what would become one of the most impactful experiences of my life both professionally and personally. Some of you may have heard me talk about the NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute. This was a week of intensive work around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools. During this week, something happened. My blinders flew off! I began to see that culture, race, sexual orientation, religion, ability and all of our otherness has a marked influence on the way we operate in our world, how we see others, and how they view us.
Now here’s the issue. Once you see something that powerful, it’s impossible to unsee it! Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to go back to being the person that never watched the news, that thought people needed to get over the race problem already, that had major biases against my own Latino culture, and rarely voted!!! Yes I admit that before this year, I had only exercised my right to vote twice! Not exactly tell tale signs of someone who feels they have power and voice to contribute to their society. But I cannot go back. So I move forward.
Moving forward means that I am willing to recognize that I have blind spots and stories that have been written for me about myself, my culture, and those that are different from me. Moving forward means I choose to engage with what is real about those stories and what is not. Moving forward means I hurt sometimes when I realize how I’ve contributed to perpetuating stories that oppress and diminish others.
It means I choose to live as authentically as possible and bring all of who I am to my various spaces; school, work, place of worship. Authenticity.
It means I open the door to higher levels of awareness, paying attention to things I may have never noticed before. Awareness.
It means I take action. Not huge world changing, news making kind of news but small decisions everyday. Action.
Opening the door to awareness has sparked a curiosity, which has led me to some of these small decisions. In the past year, I have found myself watching documentaries, participating in conversations about social justice issues with people who don’t look like me, thinking of ways to incorporate cultural appreciation into everything I do in the classroom, and doing what I feel can be the most transformative act of social justice – telling my story. Today I want to close out by sharing a piece that reflects a little of my journey of embracing and reconciling with my culture. It is titled Waking Up Latina.
To wake up Latina means to return to that proud four year old moment when I finally knew all of the lyrics to “Alegre vengo de la montaña, de mi cabaña que alegre está!”
to put on my Bomba skirt for the first time and dance to a drum beat that has lived in my soul for a thousand years
believing that Hispanic is a race, going about life with an ambiguous sense of racial identity
walking into a room and not knowing where I fit, not being white enough or black enough or Latina enough…never enough
learning from a young age that the greatest skill is that of adaptability
arroz con guandules, pernil, y tostones
the joy of connecting with my blackness
the process of accepting my whiteness and acknowledging the privilege of my light skin
a longing to reach for and touch my indigenous roots
praying the rosario before bed and never missing church on Sunday
the pride of my language and the unmatched beauty of a Spanish bolero
an ongoing process of decolonization of my mind and reclaiming of my independence
unraveling a painful and messy history while standing in awe of the resilience and heart of mi gente
mangú con salami y queso frito
falling in love with the curls in my head and realizing that pelo malo doesn’t really exist
having a conversation with another brilliant Latina and rejoicing at the revelation that she is really a mirror
reconciling with all that it means to be who I am
knowing that I stand on the shoulders of fighters, revolutionaries, scholars, and artists
To wake up Latina means that I now become the shoulders. I now become the mirror. And a little girl might say “she looks like me” and instantly know deep within herself that she is more than enough.