Dear Caretaker,

cropped-img_16721.jpgDear Caretaker,

Please be patient.

When your loved one is crying or sad or feeling misunderstood, please just listen to her.

Please don’t tell her to calm down, to relax.

Above all, please don’t tell her to look at the positives in her life. Unless she’s complaining  every single day, be assured that it is more than likely that she can see the positives in her life, it’s just that she’s human and she has bad days too. Only hers are intensified because she’s got that little extra that she’s going through.

Just ask her what she would like from you, it’s very possible that what she wants is very simple. It might be that all she wants is a call at midday or to watch a movie on Netflix on Friday nights or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Sunday breakfast. Don’t complicate yourself trying to impress her with something “better.” If you do that she will not have felt listened to. Only do that “better” thing if you’ve done the simple thing she asked for.

Be a shoulder for her to cry on, that’s it. Don’t lecture her on how she should feel, that will only make her feel worse, guilty even.

Many times she’ll be hard to deal with, she’ll cry for no reason, or at least it’ll seem that way but she’ll know why she’s crying, she just might not know how to explain it

It’s the pain

It’s the changes she’s trying to make that don’t seem to work

It’s that she doesn’t feel understood

It’s the fear of this illness not ever going away, or showing up again in the future

It’s that she’s trying so hard but sometimes it’s all just too much

It’s that she feels her faith slipping through her hands

It’s that she didn’t know it was going to be this hard

It’s the pain, the anger, the fear, the frustration

It’s the sleepless nights, the sleepy days

The side effects,

Sometimes, it may even be happiness

Or sentimental joy

So, Caretaker, please be patient

and know that she is grateful for everything you do for her.

Thank you!

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Post-Surgery

It’s been a week and a few days since surgery. I am finally able to type longer than two lines. I’ve been trying to continue the Shit That Happened story but I’m either too much in pain or too knocked out from the pain killers to stay focused. Yesterday I had my third post-surgery appointment this week, they took out three drains! But I still have two and they still don’t let me sleep comfortably.

Next week’s appointment is the good one, that’s when they take out (hopefully) the last two drains. Maybe it’ll be only one that they take out but if they do one, that’s progress. Right now, the wires wrapped around the tubes keep stabbing at my sides making me want to constantly scratch but of course it’s not possible. For someone who’s never had surgery, all this is new and a pain in the butt.

I’m able to raise my left arm higher now, a bit faster. My right arm still hurts, the underarm especially. The pain is changing as the days go by and little by little I have more sensation in the skin around my breast, although it’s a strange kind of sensation, tingly, nervous.

I’m thinking, hoping, that next week will be a better writing time.

Me and My Crew

I had read somewhere that we are not our thought and in some way it had made sense but recently, talking to Nina and her having me name my thoughts has really helped make that message clear, that we are not our thoughts. Let me explain. So this is what I’ve done: I’ve named my thoughts and their names are some of the Chespirito characters.

For example El Chavo is the fearful one, he feels lonely and misunderstood. When I talk to him, I let him know he’s not alone, that he’s got a family that loves and cares for him and most importantly that he’s got me. I have to remind him that it’s okay to be happy. It’s all gonna be okay 🙂

Then there’s Doña Florinda, she thinks she’s better and criticizes everyone, including me. Talking to her is a little hard because I tend to want to put her down so she sees that she’s got flaws too but then I remember that by putting her down she’ll only scream louder. What I try to do instead is to tell her that I love her. I hug her and tell her she’s got a good eye for detail and to please help me see all the pretty things she can find. She loves doing that.

Don Ramon is the angry one, he gets angry very easily and the only way he releases it is by throwing a tantrum. He thinks he’s tough but in reality he feels very scared. In Comm 103 I learned that anger is actually rooted in fear: we are either afraid of losing something we have (i.e. respect, family, house, etc.) or we’re afraid we won’t get something we want (i.e. respect, family, house, etc.) So when I talk to him I have to ask a lot of questions. I ask him what it is he’s afraid of and why. Whatever the answer is, I try very hard to reason with him because most of the time, it not all of the time, his anger (fear) is not rooted in reason. Then I tell him I love him.

El Profesor Girafales, he’s cool but he thinks he knows everything, he has a hard time asking for help. I still have a hard time hearing him when he speaks but I’m practicing.

All these characters can be very stubborn, especially because I just started talking to them, they’re not used to it. It’s a conversation I have to remember to have when they start speaking up. Sometimes I forget and they slowly start taking me into their world where it becomes a little hard to get out. Once I’m in there I have to really put my conversational skills into practice so that they’ll let me out. Other times, I catch them just as they’re starting and as stubborn as they are, they do eventually listen. I threw Cantinflas in there because he translates for me so that I don’t take them too seriously. When Cantinflas translates, things seems funnier, like not such a big deal.

And then there’s my baby, Lancha. I love her. She’s the one who loves to sit and read a book, she likes to draw and paint and take quiet walks all by herself. She has a very wild imagination which is why she loves to write, so she can get all her ideas down on paper. She’s not held back or worried about what people think. She’s just happy to be herself. Lancha has a very big heart, she makes me feel tender and loving, I feel like hugging her all the time. Sometimes she just feels like singing and dancing but she’s still a little shy about coming out of her cocoon so I have to gently give her a little push. She does come out but only where she feels safe. I remind her that the world is safe, she can be Lancha or Sexy-Chimoltrufia-Lancha whenever and wherever she wants. She’s practicing.

With all of these, I’m practicing on being loving and patient, it’s a practice, it’s hard work but it’s very worth it.

Love,

Mom

 

Mexican . . . American (or ni de aquí ni de allá)

It’s kind of a strange in-between, neither fully Mexican nor fully American. Being Mexican American means being neither from here nor there.

It’s being lost in translation.

It means celebrating Mexican traditions in an American kind of way and celebrating American traditions in a Mexicano kind of way.

Santa Claus in Christmas and tamales in Thanksgiving.

It means admiring your ancestors from a distance, putting them on a t-shirt, in a poem, a poster – in English.

It means being taught to be honest like Abe and humilde like Benito Juárez.

It means learning about César Chávez – our only Mexican American relative in a textbook.

It means being a gringa over there and a Mexican over here.

It’s loving La Revolución and being appalled by La Conquista.

It’s loving flapper dresses and poodle skirts and hating slavery.

It’s Vicente Fernandez and Mariah Carey both on the same playlist.

It’s not being able to choose between a hamburger and a torta de milanesa.

It means proudly and freely navigating two languages.

It’s being at home here and being at home there.

La Vecindad in the Desert

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for the past couple of weeks now and my loss for words has kept me away. Writing and deleting. Writing and deleting. I’ve been trying to write something smart, something impactful but it never came. Each time I typed something up and reread it, it felt forced. That’s what happens when you try too hard, it feels forced and artificial. So . . . now here I am again trying to post, trying to not force myself and trying to quiet down the fearful voice that keeps nagging at me. Here’s my next try at blog posting . . . just me and the beginning of my day.
This morning I found myself walking in the middle of a green desert. I drove a few blocks out behind my house and came to a nice surprise. At the end of a cul-de-sac was the entrance to open desert. The heavy rains have turned our usual browns and grays into greens, light and dark. The harsh and unbroken dirt has opened up for the rivers of water that search for outlets. In front of me bunnies dart from bush to bush. I think they’re cute and try to make myself silent and invisible as I get closer, they think I want to hurt them and run away from me. If they only knew that I, too, am scared to get too close. I keep walking and they keep hopping, both of us curious but from afar. My legs hurt as they step up and then down on the miniature mountain of dirt, immediately I think about having to go through it again on my way back and wonder when the pain will subside, chemotherapy ended three weeks ago. The joshua trees are particularly interesting today, maybe it’s that the sky is clear and the sun is just the right amount of bright. Maybe it’s the billions of raindrops that have fallen on them. Of maybe it’s just me trying to actively find beauty. Something, anything to get me out of La Vecindad.
La Vecindad is what I’ve decided to call the voices in my head in an effort to try and separate myself from them. “You are not your thoughts,” they say so this is what I’ve decided to do: visualize the characters in La Vecindad and hopefully put some distance between my thoughts and myself. La Vecindad literally means The Neighborhood but spoken in Spanish the word vecindad brings up an image of people coming together to gossip about the goings on of the neighborhood that inevitably creates chaos. However, the vecindad that I am referring to is one that is composed of a set of unique characters in the Mexican comedy show, El Chavo del Ocho. Each character is a voice in my head, they talk and talk but now that I have named them I can take control of my response to eat one of them. There’s the angry Don Ramon, shallow Doña Florinda, smart but conservative Professor Girafales, greedy Kiko, mean Chilindrina, all-about-me Popis, and of course fearful and naive Chavo. Sometimes it’s only one of them making a racket up there, other times a two people conversation but there are those times when they decide to throw a party and I can’t seem to figure out what is going on or who I need to talk to.
That’s what happened yesterday, there was a party going on up in La Vecindad and I couldn’t get them to quiet down. I took myself away but because they were still up this morning I decided to distract them by changing up our usual walking route. I pulled out my phone, swiped left and started shooting. In the distance I notice my neighbor’s house. Amused for having found the desert we’ve been staring at for months from behind the locked gate of our neighborhood, I snapped a picture and sent it to my husband. A fallen joshua tree peaks my interest. An odorous purple flowered plant calls to me and I follow. A coyote hiding behind a row of joshua trees makes my heart beat a little faster but settles down as I get closer and realize it’s only the stump of a tree. A couple more pictures and it’s time to go, my legs tell me. It’s only been about fifteen minutes but for my legs its seems as though it’s been an hour. They’ve been fifteen minutes well spent.

Because leaving breadcrumbs on the sidewalk would be useless, I try to take note of the streets as I drive home from the desert. There’s really not much that will come from my trying, my inner compass is off center and always makes me lost.

Tomorrow when I try to find the desert again who knows where I might end up.

 

Finally! Chemo is over!

It is! Can you believe it? Yes, I still have to wait for the side effects to subside but that should only take a couple of weeks. Although, you know what I’ve noticed? That my body seems to have gotten used to the chemo infusion every three weeks because just a few days before the third week my mouth starts to feel tender. We’ll see how it goes this time but I’ll try not to think about it too much so that I’m not bringing it on with my thoughts. Anyway, I wanted to let you know how I feel about chemotherapy and the fact that I’m done with it.

First of all, I think I was fortunate in that I thought I was going to go through 16 rounds of it. That’s what I was expecting and trying to get ready for – sixteen! So when, on my fourth round, the nurse said, “Only two more to go!” with a big smile, it felt like a HUGE relief. Not only that but it felt like it went by soooo much faster. I have to admit though, that the last two were the hardest because I knew that I only had two more to go and it seemed that the hands on the clock just wouldn’t go fast enough. But it finally came and no, it’s not over because I still need to go through a Herceptin infusion every three weeks and of course, surgery but I’ll jump through that hoop when I get to it. Right now I want to enjoy the fact that I no longer have to go through the upset stomach and the tired legs and tender mouth and especially, the tasteless food. That’s what I’m happy about right now.

I also want to tell you that I could not be more grateful and fortunate to have the family that God gave me. I’ve had all the support that anybody could want and for that I’m grateful. I know there have been days when it didn’t seem that way, when the housework put me in a bad mood or when your brothers’ screaming was too much or you made me mad or when your dad was too sensitive and made me mad too, it may have seemed as though I couldn’t see the good that was happening in our home or like all of this was going to be so much harder than anybody would have thought but believe I was trying hard every single day. And look at us! We’ve made it through the first part and we’re alive and happy and sometimes mad or sad or whatever but isn’t that every family? And considering what we have been through these past months, I’d say we’re doing awesomely (how do you like my new word?) well, don’t you think?

The last thing I wanted to tell you is that I’ve decided to start a new blog. Remember how you though one my new journals was going to be about the current political/social situation? (Yes, I do NOT want to write his name) Well, no the journal hasn’t been completely about that but I do have to mention it every once in a while. But what you and the journal made me think was that what I want to say, I want to say to others not just to myself. I have a lot of thoughts about everything that is going on and not so much politically but socially because that’s what makes my head feel blubbered. So, yeah, that’s one of the reasons I started the new blog. Another reason is that I needed a platform for my writing because I’ve been stuck with your grandma’s story and haven’t been able to write much about anything else. I need a place where I feel like my writing is serving some sort of purpose. If you go right now, to the new blog ,you’ll notice that I haven’t written about anything serious yet, that’s because I’m a “test the waters first” kind of person, you know that. Besides, writing essays takes a while and although I enjoy writing them, they are not easy to write but you know that already don’t you?

There you go! that’s what’s going on right now and what I hope you take from this is that gratitude is very important. Always be grateful for the little, the medium, and the big people, things and situations that life gives you. Being grateful for the little things though (food, water, warm showers, the window in your room, sight, touch, sound, taste, smell, etc.), that is especially important because it keeps you attentive, grounded, and happy. It takes practice but it is doable, believe me 🙂

As always, I love you very much!

Mom

 

P.S. The new blog address is: esperanzabeltranblog.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a Children's Book is not Easy but it's Fun!

So this weekend I went to my second class with Laura Lacamàra at the Writing Pad. There are nights when, after I’ve read to Gael, he still can’t seem to get to sleep and to get him to relax I either sing him a children’s song or make up a story or a song on the spot. He likes it when I make up songs and stories. In fact, he loves my stories and I love it when he responds positively to them: laughter, questioning, loving, understanding, etc. He particularly likes one about a boy who carries with his favorite book with him everywhere he goes. The book is huge but only he knows what the huge book says and he refuses to share it with anybody, especially not with his little cousin who keeps pestering him about it. But finally, one day she just wears him down and he reads the book to his little cousin. The little boy opens the huge book and begins to read the one word: Fart! Now, keep in mind, Gael is five years old and his current favorite funny words are fart and poop and pee.

Anyway, long story short, my reasoning when Gael enjoys my stories is: I’m good, I should really write a children’s book – at least one. So when the opportunity to take a children’s book writing class I just felt like I HAD to take it. And honestly, there’s always been a bit of a desire in me to write a children’s book. I love to illustrate and I love to write, what better way to combine my two loves!

The class has been quite eye opening. I’ve tried before to write a story for children but it’s not easy. Laura has  really broken it down for us and I’ve been able to turn that real life wrestling story of mine into a child friendly story. By the end of the class we will have a dummy book that we will read to an audience of small children. I love kids but they can be brutally honest and that’s scary. Gael is gonna come with me and he’s the one I want to impress, I’m really hoping he likes my story cause if he doesn’t it’ll be back to the drawing board, which I probably wouldn’t mind but still I just want my son to see this dummy book turn into an actual book so that he can proudly that his mom did that.

I think we parents want our kids to proud of us just as much as our kids want us to be proud of them don’t we? So, I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here, make my kids proud but honestly, I hope that they already are . . .

Until next week!

Esperanza Beltrán