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Posted in !General Musings

Just A General Disclaimer

I enjoy sharing memories, whether they’re funny or dark or have a deeper meaning. Since those memories may involve a third party who may, or may not, still be in my life in order to give consent (or feel comfortable with the idea), when writing them in this blog, I will randomize the name of every single person involved. If asked, “was that about me?” I won’t answer. If you think about it, answering would only narrow down the list of suspects and that defeats the point of it all.

“When a writer is born into a family, that family is finished.”
— Czeslaw Milosz

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
— Gloria Steinem

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I write and I understand.”
— Chinese proverb

Posted in !Lessons, !Memories, !Hope, !Family

Every Little Thing Helps

I’ve spoken with mom three times since the hurricane hit the island. This third time, though, made me feel a small sense of relief I didn’t even know I needed until the very end. It was like a shot of happy, one that doesn’t kill your liver. (What d’you know? My horrible humor is slowly coming back.)

There’s finally signal in areas of my hometown, so she doesn’t have to wait to drive out and make a call. Such a silly thing, some might think, but in the age of technology (or, as Hardison would say, Age of the Geek) when you have the ability to talk to someone in a matter of seconds…not being able to talk to your family, of not knowing how they are, well, it gives a whole new name to the word stress.

I realize there were times you’d have to wait weeks to get a letter, and I’m sure in those times they were masters of patience, but I wasn’t born in those times. For that reason (and many more), I wear my stress and anxiety like a warm blanket of banshees. Don’t ask me how that works.

Today was also the first day we were able to talk for longer than usual. She told me about the experience and, I have to say it, I hated the idea of not being there. I wouldn’t have been of much help (…well, maybe some. I’m good at fetching things), but I would’ve been there, you know?

The house wasn’t damaged, but mom told me how it woke her up because of the sounds the wind was making. I’ve lived in PR during a hurricane (George), so I remember the sound of hurricane wind, but based on mom’s description, this was a lot worse. They usually put up wood panels over the windows because the ones on one side of the living room is made of glass. The windows still shook. You could still hear it. And as soon as it passed, mom wanted to check on my grandma who lives two towns over (or one, I can’t remember, it’s been so long).

Mom told me about the trees that got ripped out of the ground, how they drove past land that looked like something had shaved it, and there were power lines hanging low, but they were able to make it to my grandma’s. While she told me she felt cold at the sight of everything, I was already cold. While she put those images in my head, I put them next to images of the places I remember.

Those images of the past looked a lot better than what was being described as the present. I didn’t want to believe it, but I couldn’t not believe it. I had seen it, pictures and videos of it, but I hadn’t seen anything from the routes I remember, of the houses I knew and saw. Hearing it this way, made me see it two ways: as the kid that walked those streets and now, the adult who hasn’t seen them in years.

My grandma was okay, she was cleaning when they got there, since water had gone in through the windows. As each family member reunited, there were material losses, but they were all okay. And then I went from feeling guilty for not being there, to being thankful they were all safe, to feeling horrible because there are people who are still not safe.

Hi! Welcome to my Brain! There is no entrance fee; however, disclaimer alert, I am not the most logical being on the planet.

My mom asked me if I remember the house near my grandma’s, where I used the bathroom once, (to which I should’ve responded, “Of course, my butt always remembers where it has claimed a throne,” but, y’know, not feeling particularly humorous at the time, I just settled for, “Yup, I do!”). Thank goodness they evacuated the nice lady (whose face I remember, but not the name) before the storm, because as it was made of wood, the entire thing collapsed.

Mom also said the central parts of the island are suffering. There’s a town that no one can drive to, the roads completely collapsed. They’re getting aid by helicopter, but that’s about the extent of it, I believe. Mom has an AM radio, but since it is solar powered, it can only go for so long before it has to be charged. Though that might be partly because she used it after charging it for a short while the first time, instead of letting it fully charge. Can’t say I blame her. I would’ve waited half a minute, maybe.

Empathy is a gift, it really is, but it comes with a buttload of fine print (simply put: you feel a lot.)

I think that’s why I’ve avoided articles as much as I have, and have avoided talking about it at length, because the more I do, the more I feel like I’m not doing enough. Which is crazy, I know. I am doing things, I know I am, and the family is helping each other to get through this, but I want to be able to just snap my fingers and make it all okay. I just want fix everything, because I’m unrealistic that way. And the fact that I know I can’t drives me nuts. But, as someone once said, every little bit counts.

I also owe it to Patton Oswalt’s Netflix special (Annihilation) for the words that have helped keep me sane recently (and by “sane”, I mean I’ve been less cranky, and this close to calm.)

It’s chaos, be kind.

Words said by his late wife. And while the words are few, those are words that zap you straight on the forehead. Because that’s it, that’s life, that’s humanity. It’s all chaos (Murphy’s Law, I’m looking at you, twerp), but it would be a whole lot bearable if we were all kind, not just to each other, but to ourselves. And that’s how I’m trying to apply it to myself. That is, I’ve gotten better at not blaming myself for things I can’t mend or control.

It’s chaos, be kind.

Unfortunately, thinking of those words also reminds me of something else I heard that left an impression. There are some taking advantage of the chaos, packages in the mail have been broken into, stores have been robbed, people have been taken advantage of…and while part of me would like to have those people in a room and, well, the rest doesn’t need to be said (I am an enabler of imaginations), to them I also say, “It’s chaos, be kind.” (You turds.)

Posted in !Family, !Hope, !Memories, !My Sweetie

What It Feels Like When You Hope for the Best and Fear the Worst

I can’t even begin to explain everything I’m feeling right now. I can only imagine it’s about the same as every person who has family in Puerto Rico, in Mexico, in Texas, in Florida – in the middle of any and every disaster that leaves you wanting to do everything you can to mend the wheel but you can only watch it as it spins.

I went to bed last night hoping for the best, thinking everything would be okay, and that people would manage to get through the worst. People often do, but there was this tiny voice in the back of my head that couldn’t stop thinking of the people that don’t. I had seen a video with the mayor of San Juan, I saw shelters and I hoped, it would be okay. They’re preparing. Still managed to have a bad dream about it (which I don’t want to talk about.)

Then I woke up this morning and saw a stream of updates, videos and pictures that created a collage in my mind. They pricked my skin with the full force of anxiety and helplessness. I remember sending mom a message but didn’t get a response (still haven’t). I tried calling, but the line was busy. I told myself that was normal. Our landline gets screwy every time it rains (failure in the design of the house, water drips over a certain area where the water lines are) and I read some cell services were completely out.

I somehow got through a day of work. Well, not “somehow”. Friends checked on me, made conversation to keep me sane and amused, and I threw myself into my work. I cried on and off, but I got through the day. I honestly don’t think I’ve stopped crying. As soon as I started, I closed the office door. I didn’t want my sweetie seeing me like that. I knew he’d ask me what was wrong and then that’d be it, I’d be on the floor. I’d be useless.

Sadly, I am one of those people that, if something horrible is happening to me, the moment you ask me if I’m okay, I’m going to show you how not okay I am. Depending on how bad the situation is, I may be able to keep a strained face. I can’t keep a strained face near him, though. Heck, I can’t even not laugh when I try to tell him a joke (I laugh before I even start the joke. Or get to the punchline.)

It didn’t help that every so often, I’d check for updates on the situation, articles, messages—and yet, I kept about the same pace at work. Luckily, I don’t work with the public, which allowed me the ability to continue moving, much like an auto pilot, and cried as I worked. On and off. My sweetie even sent me a message while I was working (he knows not to come into my office…unless the world is ending), just letting me know he was home, and I swallowed everything I felt and summarized it into basic events (to avoid bawling like an idiot. Again) and warned him that if I seemed off, to just avoid me.

Now, I didn’t say this to be mean, he knows. I said it because I know me. Again, asking me how I am during times like these, while appreciated, may evoke a response of a million shattering pieces. I know this. My brain knows this. Previous experiences tell me this. And every time I talked about it, you could be sure, tears happened. (Still waiting for my eyes to dry out.)

It reminds me of a time my mom got so mad at me…because she thought something had happened to me.

I had gone to a retreat with a friend. I didn’t have a cellphone. I was a true introvert so mom wasn’t really used to me going to sleep anywhere else that wasn’t home…and, I later found out, she had a nightmare the day before the retreat was over (it was in our hometown, by the way) that something happened to me. Well, the day the retreat was over, our ride disappeared. So my friend took a ride with someone else, but since I had no one else, the plan was, I’d go with my friend to her place and then call my mom.

Yeah, there’s a saying about plans and their success rate (See: Firefly). We were dropped off, but my friend’s parents weren’t home and she didn’t have a key. My friend managed to use her neighbor’s phone to call her parents, but I (..and prepare to meet the idiocy that was me as a kid) didn’t want to ask someone that I didn’t know for their phone. I thought it’d be too forward. I thought my friend would ask but she didn’t think of it and I figured, it’d be okay.

Once her parents arrived, I had a ride home and came to an odd sight. Our front gates were open. Unlocked. The car wasn’t home. I walked into the living room and saw two plates, baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. Suddenly, I heard the car and as soon as mom got out of the car, she told me to get inside. That was it. And, let me tell you, when your parent tells you to do something in the tone mom said it, I realized something was very, very wrong.

Once she explained to me why she was angry, I was stumped by two thoughts: one, I never thought my mom cared that much (brief explanation: I’ve doubted my worth since the day I was born. That’s a truth too obvious to deny while telling this story, so I have to say it) and two, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal (…yes, you may roll your eyes. I sure did.)

Many years later, I am now understanding the feeling she felt. And I know the moment, the second, she gets to send me a message and tell me she’s okay…well, it’ll go something like this. “Heeey Ani. I’m okay. Everything’s fine.” And I’ll let a sigh of relief and respond with, “Good. I’ve been stressing the fuck out.” And she’ll fuss at me for stressing when she told me yesterday she’d let me know when it was over (x.x I did tell her I’d message her anyway because I. Fuss.) And I’ll remind her of what I told her *points to parenthesis* And she’ll laugh at me, but not a mocking mean laugh, but the kind of laugh you give a toddler who tries to tell you what to do, and if I’m really lucky, she’ll bark at me, “you’re not my mother!” Or, better yet, she’ll remind me she’s part of the generation that could kill their food and cook it without electricity (and survive without Internet for more than a few days).

I’m looking forward to it, honestly. It’s the thread of hope I’m holding on to. And you know, it’s not the only thread. I mean, one thing I’ve always loved and admired about my island, people come together easily. One of the things I liked about the south when I moved here, people are generally nice, they smile at you, they’re polite and warm. That makes it feel like home. Fine, there’s always a handful of people that are as far away from polite as the word can get, but it’s the light in people that shines brightest.

And that’s what I hope, that after the worst has passed, after the water recedes, the people that shine the brightest will take action. It doesn’t matter who they are. It doesn’t matter if they were born there or not. If they have family there or not. The suffering that happened to me today doesn’t belong to only to me, it doesn’t revolve only around my family, it belongs to everyone. I’m pretty sure I can hope enough for all of us.

And to those who have checked up on me, who have stayed in touch, who worry because they know me and know how I can get…I’ll be okay. I’m not alone. None of us are.

Not that long ago, David handed me something to place on the table (I was closest to) and because my hands were busy, I said, “You’re going to have to wait.” To which he responded with, “As long as it takes.” And it was like a brick hit my head (or several) and a sudden relief came over me. Even when I’m at my worst, my most broken, my most emotional, he’s my rock…and also my light bulb because he’s right. Now I have to wait…as long as it takes.