The Horror of Today

I would say 75% of my friends on Facebook are parents. I know because all I see are a never ending parade of pictures of them with their children every time I’m online. Pictures of teeth lost, of birthdays and swim lessons and first and last days of school. Memories and love all documented for the world to see.

Now, I’m not assuming that many of them don’t care about what’s going on because of their lack of comment on FB. However, the lack of commentary in a public forum on the abhorrent practice that is going on right now is concerning enough. One would think that something as relatable as having a family would be something that could unite parents into doing what’s best for the child.

I’m not a parent and I’m quite frankly sick to my stomach.

Lately, I literally cannot decide what I need to be more outraged by with this current administration and I’m starting to get pretty fatigued, as I’m sure you all are. But we can’t just stop caring, especially when it’s as fundamentally a human rights violation as SEPARATING PARENTS AND THEIR CHILDREN. Whatever you believe on immigration and the rights of immigrants, this practice is WRONG. Christian-defined wrong, Islamic-defined wrong, Judaism-defined wrong, ALL RELIGIONS-defined wrong.

There is no middle ground here on deciding the morality of this practice. IT IS WRONG.

Dozens of “Families Belong Together” rallies are planned for Thursday, June 14, to protest the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Above, a rally on June 1 in Manhattan. Spencer Platt/Getty Images 

The fact that something that is also fundamental to our country, like separation of church and state, is also being ignored by this current administration is killing me. How dare our Attorney General use the Bible to justify any piece of this atrocious practice. HOW DARE ANY OF YOU TRY TO JUSTIFY THIS BY SAYING IT’S ABOUT DEMOCRATS AND LOOPHOLES IN POLICY AND RELIGION AND IT’S JUST ENFORCEMENT OF LAW.

Seriously, Fuck You.

I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling ready to shut down entirely. I’m sensing that depressive fog start to take shape and hover over my body and when that happens in full, there is no hope, no fun, just a vast sense of nothingness. I’m clinging to my job like there’s no tomorrow because at least through my work, I get to help, I get to connect students to their community, and I get to see first hand how knowledge can change lives.

If you’re a parent, I hope that you stop to think about if you had been born a different race, a different SES, in a different country with a different language, how separating your child from you could damage everything and everyone. I hope just as a human being you can and want to put yourselves fully in someone else’s shoes to understand their struggles and challenges. The ability to do that is called empathy, and the world could use much more of it.

We have survived as a human species this long because of our ability and desire to co-exist. Our earth is absolutely not going to be around forever because we’ve clearly already destroyed that. I hate to think our collective recognition and appreciation of our shared humanity is also on its way to extinction. Some of my colleagues, friends, and loved ones are rightly horrified about the state of current events and want to do something, anything to help. But my main concern is that not everyone is as deeply enraged as they should be.

I thought we were all better than this.

♥, VB

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Hi There

Long time, no talk to. I just wanted to stop by and say hi and say I’m sorry for being MIA here. It’s not you, it’s me. It was 2017, it was politics, it was anxiety, it was exhaustion, it was everything. I had and still have a lot to say about the things that transpired last year, but whenever I sat down at my blog to write, I found myself tired. Unmotivated to share. Unwilling to talk.

Believe me, I had those conversations in person, but not often and not with everyone, because honestly, I just didn’t have the stamina. There was so much about last year that bothered and hurt me and kept me so angry and scared. Personally, it was a wonderful year; I taught my two classes, had a lot of fun with family and friends, and really cemented my bond with my husband after a shaky first year of marriage.

But the world, man, the world just grinded me in its teeth and I felt all the negative emotions.

I donated, I read, I got off of social media for about 8 months (except for Instagram). I did the small things I could to keep my sanity, but every time I even briefly looked at CNN or Washington Post or NY Times or BBC, I just felt my resolve crumble and I would have to build myself up all over again. So I just stayed focused on my small world and turned inwards.

I know the cycle of life pretty well by now: personally and professionally, those waves usually don’t coincide because when one is up, the other is down. Not so this past year! My relationship with Timmy made amazing strides forward and now I can finally see what people mean when they say marriage is fun. It is now and it’s definitely something I treasure more than anything. Professionally, I made even more strides towards my overall career goals, and as soon as I felt myself start to lag or bore with my routine, fate intervened and has provided me with even more amazing pathways.

I won’t share it all right now because it hasn’t all transpired and I don’t want to jinx myself, but let’s just say, if things go the way I would like (and have planned for), god, 2018 may be my best year ever, which is hard to say after my 30th year.

So I guess what I wanted to say is I’m sorry I cut you out. It really wasn’t you, it was me. And in 2018, I’m going to use this blog how it was intended: to fill you in on our lives in FL, and the quirky, ridiculous, fun, infuriating, amazing things that happen to Timmy, Floyd, and I on a constant basis. Stay tuned my friends, and let’s make 2018 a fantastic year (which let’s face it, after 2017, can we say there’s no where else but up?)

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♥, VB

Motivation

No, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to update this blog in a long time. Part of it was I had too much to say and the energy required to write it all down was too much. The other part was that life has been more difficult than I’d like to admit this past year and while everyone around us has been like, “Oh great, life milestones, amazing, be happy, you’re going places,” for us it’s felt stifling, stressful, and oh so not amazing a great majority of the time.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining or ungrateful, but the reality of my emotions is far from that. But stress is stress, and in one year, we planned a wedding, got married, bought a house, renovated the house, moved, and tried to find our normal again. Which is so hard when for nearly 2 years straight, you haven’t had a real normal. Timmy moved from Lake Mary to my tiny apartment last January, we were on top of each other all the time, he traveled a lot, and between the wedding planning stress, the house hunting stress, the house buying stress, the renovation stress, the money stress, and then the moving into said house stress, I had literally used up all my coping methods.

I was a ticking time-bomb that went off in January.

The reality of our life is now more normal, more settled, more calm for sure. But that reserve of emotional mess that I had been carrying around and stockpiling just became too much and I broke in a very real way. I was ready to run away and leave this all behind. Which is not at all a very adult way to handle everything, but I was struggling big time. And my partner was struggling in his own way too, and we just weren’t clicking.

I absolutely sank around election time. Trump and the racial hate and misogyny and general hopelessness became the weight that sank me even further, as though the stress of everything else in our lives wasn’t enough. I cried for nearly two weeks straight. I have been off of Facebook since November, about a few days after the election because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I miss it a little, but after the withdrawals wore off, I’m good without it.

I took on an additional class, Human Sexuality, to teach this semester, so my life is really busy and full, but emotionally, it’s been challenging to catch the happy ride back up the downward slope. My back pain has been worse than ever, and after a failed radiofrequency ablation (where they burn the nerves in a particular area), I’ve been depressed about my back and wondering if life can ever feel normal when all I think about is my pain.

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Maybe it’s the January/February/March blues that get us all. Maybe it’s a combination of our stress, Trump for me, and the winter meh that got us. But we’ve been in a dark place, and we keep wavering in and out of it. Lately, more out of it than in it, which is definitely progress.

It certainly helps that all the boxes and wedding gifts have been unpacked. Our house is beautiful and we still have a few more projects to go, like painting a few spots, rescreening our porches, redoing the floors in our garage, but those weren’t necessities to getting settled. We’ll be getting started on those soon enough.

We love our neighborhood and the quiet nature that surrounds us. We are starting to fish on our fishing pier with the addition of new fishing equipment, courtesy of Timmy. My parents came to visit a few weekends ago (which was so needed) and they brought my bike. So the other night Timmy and I biked close to St. Pete Beach (and stumbled through a ridiculous argument, again), then to a local restaurant for drinks and games.

It was awesome and it felt like us.

The sun is out more, and it’s warmer, so me likey. I can’t wait to start spending afternoons after work paddleboarding around the waterways, and really soaking up the mood-improving Vitamin D. And we’ll get there soon.

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But Timmy misses Jake and his dad and James, and I’m missing my friends and family a lot. Timmy and I working on our connection harder than we have before, but we need our support system around us to help ground us. So friends and family, come visit us! We have space, and it’s close to everything. It’s honestly like being on vacation all the time, living in our new house.

It’s just now starting to sync for us. Just now. If we haven’t been reaching out to you as much, be patient because the ground is just now starting to solidify underneath us again. That’s just life, I guess, and I know we’ll get back. It’s always ups and downs, and we just have to have faith and put the work in.

Winter sucks. Trump sucks. Hate sucks. But we will rock again.

♥, VB

 

The Days We Remember

There are moments in your life where you can remember your youth incredibly vividly, as though it happened yesterday. Time moves on yet it’s tinged with sadness as you realize that every day that passes is one more day that separates you from that time of innocence. Then without warning, there is a moment where you realize without a doubt, the door to your youth is closed, never to reopen again.

My last remaining grandparent died in September at the age of 101 and with her, she took my youthful days of no responsibilities, never ending fun, and joyful naivety.

There is something that happens deep inside when you lose your last grandparent. It’s like the ties to the past have been ripped off and that’s it, the link to your history has been irrevocably severed.

As Timmy and I were on our way to a close friend’s wedding on September 25, I looked down at my phone and saw 8 missed calls from my dad. I knew then it had happened.

I have had moments over the last month of incredible mood swings, moving from sheer joy to a sadness that feels deep and unsurmountable, like even if I had the will, the tears might never stop.

Three weeks ago, Timmy and I went to a Mark Knopfler concert in Clearwater. Timmy had seen him the night before in Melbourne and wanted to see him again with me, even though I wasn’t really that familiar with his music. These were emotional nights for him as he remembered his father and their bond over his music. We sat down in a theater that hadn’t been updated since probably 1992. Clearly being the youngest in the room, I looked around and made a passing comment to Timmy, “Look at this sea of white hair.”

Within seconds, I felt the rush of sadness move up my spine, into my throat, and out of my eyes. Overwhelmed. Despondent. Inconsolable. I cried for hours, and as the music played, all I could hear was the sadness in the notes, in the voices, in the harmonies.

I of course have lost people before, some suddenly, some with more preparation. I never knew my mother’s father, but I remember when I was around 2 years old, probably one of my first memories, my mother answering the phone and collapsing into tears, my father rushing to hug her. What my mother ended up sharing with Timmy and I before we left to go to Spain for my Yaya’s funeral was that the phone call was from my uncle telling my mother that her father had died days earlier and they had already buried him.

Imagine coming home from your family’s first trip to Disney World and having that be the first call you take. Before cell phones, emails, instant ways to connect. He hadn’t been able to contact my mother and so the family had to move forward with arrangements. I can’t even begin to understand the depths of grief and guilt my mom went to then.

We lost my father’s parents when I was in college, one right after the other, 9 months apart. My Abuelito had been sick for a few years, colon cancer, and I was able to see him over Christmas break my first year at NYU. He remembered me briefly, one of the few moments of clarity for him, and I’ll never forget his smile as he looked up and recognized me.

But I’ll also never forget his frailty, round the clock assistance, diapered and incoherent, looking so infantile and old at the same time. He passed and without reason or explanation, my sister and I missed his funeral.

My Abuelita, who hadn’t been separated from him since she was nearly 14 years old, was damaged after that. Never again to be the Abuelita I remembered growing up, who so doted on me and at every waking moment, tried to fill me with food and love. She moved through the world slowly and painfully, as though the weight of my Abuelito’s passing hung on her like a heavy cloak.

She passed quickly, had a stroke and was gone by the morning. This time, my family went to Panama together to celebrate her life. She had an open casket, which I refused to see as I knew I would never remember her any other way than dead in a coffin. I could do without that visual.

Looking back, I remember being sad at their passing, thinking how fast they both went. But I also remember not feeling the sadness, not grieving,  but instead saying I was sad, saying I was in grief. At the time, thanks to the antidepressant I was on, I was numb to everything and everyone, unable to shed a single tear for anything. For being homesick. For missing my friends. For 9/11.

And now, I was unable to feel anything for my grandparents, the ones who had sat through my dumb dances and performances in the living room before bedtime. The ones who would play dominoes and copas with me, and who would tell their stories about family and love and history. The ones I saw only a few times every 2-3 years because they lived so far away.

I always had the sense that my father was angry with me for a long time afterwards because of my lack of emotion, which I’m sure he and my mother took for apathy at my grandparents. I had assumed that they realized that due to the antidepressants, I simply couldn’t feel. I hope my dad knows in his heart that I miss them greatly, a void in my heart that can never be patched.

I am grieving over my Yaya in a very different way. First of all, I am actually grieving, which is a huge relief to be able to feel anything at all. But it has also felt like a dam breaking, one from which all of the emotions I couldn’t feel for my abuelitos is hitting me all at once.

Sitting there, in that concert hall with Timmy, I felt like I was drowning.

Grief can sometimes feel like a light breeze, swirling around you and reminding you of its presence. Other times, grief can feel like a lead smock, the kind you wear in an x-ray machine, a weight so heavy that it cements you to your seat, cutting off oxygen, and making you immobile.

My Yaya’s funeral started with an open casket viewing, which I wasn’t prepared for after having spent 7.5 hours in the air, straight to my aunt’s to change clothes, straight to the funeral home. I also chose not to see her so that I could remember her the way I always knew her: white hair in rollers, dressed impeccably, nails done, makeup spotless, ready to impress, even if she was staying home to crochet.

She would come stay with us in Atlanta usually 4-6 months at a time while I was growing up. She would be there, cleaning the house, crocheting, or watching Univision when we got home from school. I remember she always said a prayer before sleeping and she never took her wedding band off.

She had the best stories, like the nudist who constantly invited her to a nude beach in Spain, but to whom she always politely declined. Or her gorgeous legs she said garnered her nonstop compliments when she walked to the market. She laughed with us when we poked fun at her, always when she tried to say anything in English, a language she didn’t understand. When Santa Claus came out as “Sando Khan”, or Disney World as “Sidney Gol”, or Michael Jackson as “Mickey Johso”.

I remember the way she danced when Spanish music came on, her smile when she saw our friends running to greet her, the way she couldn’t stop laughing when my father would crack jokes with her, her nightly beer because she didn’t really like wine, her love, her light.

And now I think of her absence all the time, like the flamenco show we saw last night at Columbia Restaurant. Our wedding that she won’t be at. The fiance she never met. My twin nieces she never held.

When the attacks happened in Paris last weekend, I had finished my TEDxUSFSP talk and was coming out of the ballroom on a high. I checked Facebook on my phone and immediately realized something bad had happened. It wasn’t really until the next day when I had time to read about the attacks that the fear and sadness began to overwhelm me.

Timmy and I headed to the airport for the Auburn vs. UGA game bright and early Saturday morning, and although I couldn’t care less about football, I was there to support him. But I shed tears in the stadium, sitting in the shade, sunglasses on. The whole time I struggled to put down my phone, to remain present, to be in the moment instead of far away in despair and grief.

Because although I didn’t know anyone in Paris, it was too familiar, this relationship I have with death now, it’s too close and too much a part of me. I began losing people I care about at 19 and it hasn’t stopped. 9/11, my grandparents, one high school friend, my best friend, another high school friend, three high school friends, four, five, my grandmother…it never ends.

I remember the panic attacks after Lindsay died, my first real brush with unexpected death. The inability to focus and move through the day normally.

Now, there are moments during the day where I am gripped with such an intense fear of losing my parents, I lose my breath. The anxiety holds me still and I can almost hear my own heart stop.

I miss my Yaya. I miss my friends. I miss my Abuelitos. I miss my childhood in a real visceral way, which is how I know that the door is closed.

I can’t go back.

The grieving never stops. The crying, however, does.

♥, VB

Frustrated Ramblings

I’ve been a little stressed lately. Not because of my life or work or family or friends or Timmy. None of that has been weighing me down, which I can delight in since that’s really the first time I can say that in a long, long time.

No, the things that have been stressing me out have been beyond my control, in the outside world, in the heads and words of the people that share the surface of the earth with me. People I’d really rather just go somewhere else. Away. Because they just suck.

I’ve always been a rather compassionate person, and the older I get, the more I feel. Feel for others like me, but also completely unlike me, and I think that’s a pretty snazzy quality to have. To be able to feel sympathy and empathy, to understand that I’m so small, that I’m just one of millions and billions, that my emotions are what make me different and special and help me to feel connected.

Maybe it’s because I battled depression for many years, and after trying an antidepressant that left me completely numb and absent and disconnected from life, it’s like those emotional abilities have been doubled or quadrupled in the last few years. It’s overwhelming sometimes to 100% understand the sufferings of others, to know that there are injustices in this world that I can do very little about. Yet I’m glad that I can feel these things, that I’m compassionate enough and dedicated enough to the work that I do so I can make any little type of difference I can.

It’s frustrating to see some injustices finally get attention now, things that common sense tells you have been going on forever, but that people have been content to ignore because it’s easier that way sometimes. Things like gender inequality, sexual assault, sexism, racism, bias, etc. blah, blah, blah. Things that mattered a lot to all of us when we were kids. Things that fired us up when we were still innocent enough to see injustice crystal clear.

What happened to people? When did people enjoy ignorance more than knowledge? When did people forget that suffering is awful? When did people become okay with not helping each other out, even when they would absolutely want someone to help them in their time of need? When did people forget what common sense meant?

How did people forget to feel?

At 31 and with chronic back pain that is totally not getting any better, I think about my future as a mother a lot. Clearly time is ticking away, à la My Cousin Vinny style. Pregnancy will be a harsh thing to put my back through in order to feel a love that’s pretty much indescribable. And Lord knows that Timmy would be an awesome dad.

But do I want to have children? Do I want to prepare a child to live in a world where people don’t care if they are hurting? Where people will dismiss their common sense in order to ignore emotions? A world that will allow anyone to be hurt, sexually, emotionally, physically, and then blame that same person for the pain they received?

The more I read the news, the more nauseated I become. Parents being arrested for allowing their children to become independent beings. Because kids who learn to fear the world and learn no common sense, real-world skills totally grow up to be well-functioning adults who don’t make the world more difficult for the rest of us, right?

People up in arms about sick patients being transferred to their city, patients who are citizens of this country, patients who deserve the best care they can get. Even though these outraged people were taught many, many years ago the basics of biology and disease transmission. People who couldn’t have cared less when the same disease was killing Africans because who cares about black people on another continent, right?

People of all races, genders, ethnicities, and education levels being abused, raped, assaulted, and no one truly getting that the fault lies with their attackers, not the attacked. Because who cares about people being violated as long as it’s not you, right?

I am but am still not used to the fact that the work I do, trying to help people get healthy, to lead healthy lives, mentally, physically, sexually, is so fought against by the very people I’m trying to help. The idea of learning how to prevent bad things is common sense, yet people focus on the tiny details that aren’t based in reality. These same people who forgot science as it was taught to us when we were 10 years old. The same people who hate that life is hard yet continue to make decisions and create environments where the default choices are the bad, unhealthy ones.

I understand that I chose a challenging field. Sex education is not something that everyone accepts as a normal part of understanding life. But it is, and if people listened to that common sense voice SCREAMING in their heads, they’d get that what I’m trying to do is help people NOT sleep with people they don’t like because they think that’s what self-esteem is.

I’m helping people NOT get pregnant when they don’t want to be or can’t afford it or don’t have the necessary skills to help a child grow up responsibly. I’m helping people NOT get sick by transmitting or being infected with dangerous, life-altering diseases that can rob them of a future child or even their life. I’m helping people build intimacy within relationships, I’m helping people gain control of their sexuality and have pride in their sexual decisions. I’m helping people understand that love is NOT violence or violation or harm. I’m helping people. Period.

I have found my calling, I know I am fulfilling my life’s purpose, and that makes me very fortunate. I’m so thankful to be on the path I’m on, and only wish that everyone could feel this way. I also recognize those people in my life who have found their niche and are truly rocking their shit out. My friends who are actors, musicians, activists, writers, motivators, educators, healers — you all inspire me. If you are on your path, I support you. I’m proud of you.

I understand that many people haven’t found their calling in life, their true passion, and are therefore miserable little trolls who want to make life harder for everyone else. It’s true, people who are sad and angry want to make others sad and angry in order to feel less alone. But is it really that hard to want to lift people up? It takes less energy to be a beacon of hope than a Debbie Downer.

For those that aren’t on your path, the energy you expend judging others, hindering progress and education, preventing solutions, we all get that you’ve forgotten what human decency looks and feels like. The world would be better served if you searched for your happy. You would clearly be better served if you found your happy.

Happy people don’t lash out, they don’t wish hurt and harm on others, they don’t idly stand by while others suffer. When you forget basic life lessons, how to treat others, how to practice self-control when you feel negative, how not to judge, you make life harder for yourself. You create the exact type of world that you criticize and insult.

And you frustrate me to no end. Because I can’t fix you. I can’t make you learn. I can’t make you listen nor can I make you open your eyes and your heart. I can’t make you want to care.

Which means that I have to do double the good work in order to balance out your negativity. Which creates resentment within me that I’d rather not have in my life. Which makes me pity you because you aren’t experiencing the full, glorious human range of emotions.

So I beg of my rock star friends: Keep doing you. Because when you do you, you increase the happy on earth. You make me proud and you keep my hopes up that there are other good people in the world.

And so ends my frustrated ramblings. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more fun times and weekend shenanigans.

I am, after all, dating Timmy. 🙂

♥, VB