Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Response to Kevin Powell's Open Letter to Chris Brown


I'm sure you get this a lot and I don't even know if you'll read this, but after reading your open letter to Chris Brown, I was so incredibly grateful that I really felt I had to reach out. I am a 30-year old Latina 6-time assault survivor and a healer. The first time I was violated, I was 5 years old and the last time I was violated I was 26. I grew up in a home with a wonderful father who treated feelings like they were poison. He did not speak to me for six months after my last assault, and it took quite the journey to place him squarely in my life again. I can truly say that the work was worth it.

His ease with anger and alienation to his pain created my total lack of ease with anger at any level. So much so that when it came time for me to be angry at my attackers, I had an awful self-imploding reaction. It has been many years of therapy and a lot of diving into the ugly before I've been able to really claim my full emotional spectrum. And no matter how I fight it, there is constant learning that being a survivor is a life long process.

In any event, I wanted to thank you for a few reasons. One, I absolutely understand the courage it takes to be truly introspective about a life long battle with the scars of trauma. In that way, I feel like so many of us are in a fox hole together in our are enduring journey to self-healing, we're in a fox hole and so many times in that journey you feel alone. I can only imagine you may know what I'm talking about when I say that its the art of learning that the valleys should be relished instead of avoided or accepted that you find peace. That learning, as painful as it can be, is salvation. Every. Time. When your trauma happens young, your brain is wired in a different way, and you have to fight the perceptions of right and wrong built in your head from the beginning of your cognition.

Many years ago, I was sitting in a group of teenagers, much less healed than I currently am, and I had a young man admit in a session to punching a hole in a wall and pressuring a girl into intercourse after she had refused him. He had listened to my survivors story and admitted this racked with such guilt, he had not understood until that moment, what he had done. He loved and respected me and that connected him to a larger narrative of women and the crosses we carry. Now all the damage in me yelled so loud around the need to scold or chastise, in fact many of the young women in the group were already ready to verbally lacerate him. What came next, I can only see as God's divine hand, as my heart opened up and I allowed my love to say that I saw him as whole and flawed and redeemable. I told him the first step to his own healing was admitting and owning that shame but that the second step to his healing was going to be admitting the pain that causes any being to seek value in external gratification. That self-medication and the denial of that can cause such anger, that anger can then cause such guilt. Guilt is an albatross around the neck of a healing spirit.

It is of this young man I thought of as I read your letter to Chris Brown. Admittedly, in the way you can with celebrities, I felt indignant about him and his anger until reading your letter. And when the GMA interview aired my first thought was "She'll always have to live with having been a victim, it is only right that you live knowing the pain of being seen as a predator". And I never factored in the truly broken spirit and pain of a young man who would react in such ways to someone he loved. He was not a human to me, he was, as you so eloquently pointed out, the face of every attacker in my history.

It occurs to me that a part of being a healer is the empathy you are blessed with and the ability to extend love to every last unhealed soul. While we make choices around whose healing we participate in, I feel like we are bound to a coda that has us at very least see the humanity in our brothers and sisters. Thank you for reminding me that these brothers and sisters exist everywhere and that this love is something we put into the universe. Whether we know them or not.

I have watched so many of my brothers, especially the brown and black men in my life, fight their emotional body. As if this fight could render into submission hearts that strong. I have watched men I loved medicate on drugs, alcohol, sex, and in some cases even medicate with me as their drug of the moment. I have watched them run from themselves at full speeds, hoping they could get away from both their better and worst angels. I say this because my last piece of gratitude in this overly long letter is for being a man that is okay with not running anymore. The more there are of you, the more I know my brothers will understand the peace that happens when you stop running. I am convinced that my ability to truly feel safe in the world as a woman is tied to the end of that running. So thanks.

Warm regards and more appreciation than I can possibly put into words.

Your sister in the fox hole,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Feel Babies! Feel! The Art of Deep Sea Diving

I read a book once that said the American narrative is "Good and getting better" and that this narrative taints our history books and doesn't really allow for all of the complexities and flavors to come through. If the stories that are being told do not reflect this narrative, then they get silenced. I've come to wonder whether or not this is a very cultural American view of the world or just every peoples view; I can see how that robs us of people, stories, and worth all the time.

I recently saw the CEO of my org do this session on failure that really struck me. Her basic message was one I had been trying to work out in my head for awhile. Failure is a necessity in a fully lived life. She said if we only accepted or avoided failures than we encouraged living that was tepid. Our peaks can only go as high as our valley's and as a result both get shrunken. On the other hand, if we failed deeply and relished the failure, the learning from the ultimate valley's created massive peaks in our living experience. (She had visuals that make this easier to express, haha)

I think a tepid relationship to failure ties into a tepid avoidance of the dark in our worlds and I think it's why we get so fascinated with pieces of art that are particularly dark, because they dare to go places where we normally put firm boundaries, but I digress.

As an assault survivor I can say that the avoidance of the dark stymied my healing for a very long time. The thing with being a survivor is that you actually CAN'T avoid it. It sneaks up on you in increments and pieces numbing or darkening your life. So then, you're faced with a choice, do I live a numbed and slightly sadder (for some slightly angrier) existence or do I dive into the pool of dark emotions and allow sadness, grief, and anger to be a visceral part of my living?

I have found that as I do, I may be in iteration 5 or 6 of diving back in to the scary parts, living becomes more vibrant, richer, and more full of gratitude. I feel the anger or sadness and thus feeling hours liberated from it and doused in gratitude for the warm and beautiful world that surrounds me, is a better high than I can bring myself to articulate in words. I am so aware that if I avoided the dark, my ability to see the light would be limited. So constricted with the pain that it would be hazy at best.

I've worked with a lot of kids and its taught me so much about our shared human experience. Mostly, they say what adults don't like to admit, and I appreciate the candor around it. In this time, a major theme pops back up over and over again when it comes to healing. Many of them have conceived success as "not hurting". And this, to me, is the major disservice that we do our collected community. We let so many of our little creations grow up believing that the goal is to not fail, hurt, be mad, or sad. In reality, this is exactly the existence we should wish for them. One of great joy and great pain which means life has been full of great living.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in rooms of adults and kids where I just want to scream out "FEEL my darlings! Feel!" I mean, I don't cause part of communicating is finding ways to be heard and the crazy lady screaming is rarely heard. haha. But the emotion is there.

I hate the thought of cauterizing a heart/spirit, especially as carelessly and unintentionally as we do. It really is such a different deal when someone makes a choice around this and says "No, actually, this is the life I want." vs stumbling into half living believing there is no other choice.

Of course, I can also see that this emotional meandering and self-indulgence is a luxury of the safe. When you have created a world as safe as mine, you can dive back into the dark, you know life rafts and life guards exist all around you. So thank you my lovely friends for giving me such a safe place to go deep sea diving in. It is allowing me to ingest more and more that I am not broken, just human.

Boy that humanity guys, it will get you huh? This overriding want to be animatronic when we are flesh. When did we put such a premium on being unaffected? When did that make us grown ups? What I know, and I admit that is very little, is that all of my favorite people have gone deep sea diving. They have dived so deep that the pain/anger/frustration/sadness/indignance/grief is no longer a trophy that gives them exemptions in how they treat themselves or their loved ones. They don't use booze, sex, drugs, church, kids, or anything else to avoid the tide of emotion at their perimeter. They swim and it is just another emotion(s) in the many that they get to feel as a part of living.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don't Ask Don't Tell, The DREAM Act, The Defense Bill, and how we all got screwed

I'm fairly annoyed with the coverage of yesterday's Senate vote and so I decided to bullet point why I'm as annoyed as I am because I sincerely can't get over how bad the reporting around it is. I will state facts and then opinions because they are two very different things.

1) This was not the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bill
Facts: The bill was a defense bill. It asked the country to spend $740 billion on the defense of our country. Now whether or not you agree with that money being spent on armed forces is a a whole other issue. Two things were tagged onto the bill last minute (this particular bill has been in the pipe for awhile).

Opinion: It is journalistic malpractice that this is not a part of the conversation. These two amendments were incredibly important and emotionally difficult to see voted down and they were not built into the original form of this bill. I find it absolute hypocrisy that military strength can be such a tenet of the Republican party and a bill meant to spend a large sum of money on that defense won't even be put to a vote. Not voting on this in war time is a dereliction of duty. I also find it hypocrisy that two weeks before a major bill these two very emotionally charged issues are tacked on to a bill. To be clear, I do believe they are a part of our defense. But they knew they didn't have the votes to pass these issues in one bundle and they were put up anyway. They put the hopes of a lot of people that they knew would ultimately be heartbroken. I'm not saying they aren't important issues to put up anyway, I do however think if there is a genuine interest in them, they aren't an after thought but a part of how a bill was crafted and these individual issues can also be put up for a vote. But you know, morale for voting is low and if you're looking to get the base out to vote for the 2010 election, this just may be a way to do it. Make of the choice what you will, but the opportunity to push these individual measures through has been there, and it has not been a priority.

2) The DREAM Act was a part of this bill... lest we forget
Facts: The majority of stories filed today are tagged as "Senate votes against DADT", which really neglects the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act was a measure that was previously sponsored by 11 Republican Senators. It says that kids brought here outside of their own will by their parents, can earn a path to residency by going to college and/or going to the military.

Opinion: If you have a group of kids that want to be educated and serve their country, turning them away because your constituency is voting on you in November and is out for blood, is nothing short of cruel. You have 11 senators that thought this was a good idea before. 11 people have not changed their minds, 11 people have abdicated their duty because they are afraid of losing their jobs.

3) The Senate did not vote down the bill. They didn't even let it come up for a vote.
Fact: The vote yesterday was not to pass or not pass the bill. The vote was to send it to the floor for debate and an official vote in front of the American people.

Opinion: They won't even TALK about it. Are you kidding me? It is one thing to say no. I don't agree with it, but I can't fault you. But to not allow for the measure to even come to a vote is cowardice. It is trying to circumvent the responsibilities you were put in the seats to do. And it allows you to hide.

That is all for now. Just wanted to make sure we had some context for it all. It's a lot juicier for juicier for journalist to keep mentioning Lady Gaga rather than actually talk about what we need to know to be an informed republic. On every side of the aisle, there are not a lot of people doing their jobs. And yet we wake up in the freest country in the entire world another day, with the opportunity to change our world to be that much freer. For that, I'll forever be grateful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hermanitas Introduction to the Vision Space

Mi'ja, I recognize you
I read through your scars and find kinship

With a saddness that could drown a bright moon
You walk wearily through a world that has done you no favors
I want to scream, "Smile, its too soon! It can be better!"
Yet I know from experience, any holler sounds like degradation, no matter the content

You've learned the armor already
You know that to leave your home with any measure of safety
You must brace yourself for the disrespect that is to come your way
From men, whose lack of emotional education, leaves them with sex and anger as expression for every emotion they ever bottled away

Mi'ja, I recognize you
I read through your scars and find possibility

Understand that it has nothing to do with you
Every time they look at you as if your clothes are strewn on the ground
It is the ghosts of what they feel they need to prove
They are looking at what they imagine is comfort, in emptiness they know not how to fill or even name

Understand that on the other side of the armor you hold so dear
Is this world full of light you can barely comprehend
If only there were ways to show you the joy that could dust every moment of your being in this crazy world
A joy so large, so vast, you could not doubt the grace that exists for you when you let the armor go

Mi'ja, I recognize you
I read through your scars and find the path

There is no one in this world that can promise to keep you safe with any measure of certainty, including you
And I would like to say I remember the day this discovery did not fill me with terror
I would like to say I remember a moment, when the cradle of my gifts freed me of my fear
I would like to say to you, that you reach a moment in life, where adventure becomes more important than refuge
But I would be stretching truths past their elasticity

It isn't an epiphany or a realization,
You don't wake up one day knowing and believing the world to be your playground
Your heart doesn't let go of all that hurt in one swoop
Healing is a collection of love, persistance and vision beyond a discipline I knew I had
Yet there it was.

Mi'ja, I recognize you
I read through your scars and find myself

Reaching to take off the armor or feeling safe is not enough
Getting to the top of the mountain bears little fruit without the view
There are mornings where every smile is a championship and laughter is an all-stars game
I heard it said once love is as much an ability as it is a feeling

Mi'ja, get yourself able.

I am too familiar with worlds dipped in sorrow
And I find every metaphor and smilie for a world of light inadequate
How do I paint you the picture of a freedom so liberating and absolute that fear becomes a triviality
How do I scuplt you a mold so full of grace that you welcome the challenges you used to dread
How could I ever sing you a song so sweet and blissful that you know what its like to be whole

I stand before you a product of the many people, whose happiness I saw but could not figure out
Having read the entries of a life I can barely believe I've lived
At once at ease and apprehensive about the hurdles to come but an absolute certainty in my jumpers ability... and yours

Mi'ja, please know that my humanity does not allow for perfection, and I claim nothing of the sort
I am full of grace and likely the least graceful messenger you may ever meet
And though I can't paint, sculpt or sing you into a vision of completeness
I can stand here with my scars and tell you that it exists for you as it did and does for me
And one day both of us will dance in that vision with our sisters radiant with the music of new dreams we can only start to touch

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marrying Myself

I did the most loving thing I've ever done for myself this weekend. My heart is so completely full right now. As the blessings wash over me and my world feels the impacts of loving out loud, I wanted to write a little about the experience.

Over the holiday’s, I had a thought that went “What do you do when you truly commit to yourself? How do people celebrate commitment?” then I thought, “Well they get married,” I proceeded to think “I can’t marry myself though,” and then decided that being in this wonderfully beautiful space required so much hard work, that a celebration just as big as that very work was exactly what I wanted and I would do this for my birthday.

Getting to the day was a journey, one that I'm sure God was really amused about. I received the gammut of reaction. Some people laughed at the idea, some shared in my joy, others couldn't understand it, and at the end of the day the very thought process that brought up the desire for the event was tested. This was really good for me. I appreciate every last piece of each side of the coin. It made me really firm in my purpose and very introspective about 1) Whether I truly believed in what I was doing, and 2) Whether or not I was ready to do it.

When I thought this up, I think I had this picture in my head around doing this for myself and what that looked like. And step by amazing step, my community of friendship stepped in and took the reins of the big day. I watched as these people, that I loved so dearly, put into action all of the love they had for me. This was also a test actually, because it really made me allow others to love me. Being on the receiving end of that love is not an easy task for most of us. I give it well, but receiving it is a challenge because my relationship to self-worth hasn't always been so great. My friends bought and cooked all the food, set-up the decorations, created schedules, gave directions, tracked the arrival list, created the ceremony, brought the bubbly, and kept me relaxed and laughing. I was bathed, just bathed in love so absolute and thick that my heart nearly exploded from my chest.

I wish I could describe to you the day. It was rich, like a good chocolate cake. There was just so much love there. I loved how much openess there was about love. Unabashed adoration that we all gave each other. It was remarkable. I am so incredibly grateful. Grateful to my friends/family for being so understanding and loving of my flights of fancy. Grateful that they were able to open their hearts to an unorthodox expression of self-love. Grateful for all the work I've done to be in a space that would allow me to actually let-in an event centered around loving myself without having to cut down any piece of it or myself. Grateful to God for the amazingness of his grace to give me this as a foundation in my person.

My best friend in his toast talked about our essential nature. How in its truest form we were meant to exponentially give and receive love, like an undying fountain, regenerating ourselves as we give. This reciprocity was one that I discovered in the last couple of years. Life is a process and I will be chipping away to continuously become better at receiving and giving from authentic places, places that come from wholeness. This weekend I got to celebrate the understanding and clarity that the first leg of the journey provided. I found myself feeling so very healed, and so very free to love and be loved as a result. And let me tell you, it was quite the party.

Recently, I was reading this story by Paulo Cohelo and his preface said something like this... There are builders and gardners in this world. A builder will work up building and dutifully build and cement and labor until their construction is done. They will soon after find themselves trapped in by the very walls they have labored around. A gardner lives in a much more uncertain world. The gardener understands that it will plant much, and not always see the fruits immediately. The gardener struggles much more because they have to constantly survive the harshness of the elements, water, and care for their garden. A gardners work is never done, because it requires constant attention for growth. Then he goes on to say that garndeners can always recognize other gardeners. Each always recognizes that in the growth of each plant lies the growth of the whole world.

Thank you all for being a part of my garden, for allowing me to be a part of yours, for the depth of your love, and your willingness to always push us closer to the beauty and bounty of the gardens we deserve. I am blissed out friends. :)

Monday, February 02, 2009

25 Facts About Yours Truly


Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people, then click publish.)

I was just on the phone with Nia and she says to me “So when are you going to get to do your list of 25 facts about you.” Haha. And here I thought I was going to skate on it. However, I am in a writing mood today, so here goes:

1. I am currently watching the movie Dirty Dancing, that I saw while I was in fourth grade. At the time I had no idea what it meant that Penny was knocked up, but had an audible reaction of “Oh! I get it!” in eighth grade when I found out what it meant. Aw, innocence.

2. I have a playlist on my iPod called “Some of us are Rockstars” and I play it at least once a week and sing to my hearts content hittin all sorts of bad notes, but not really concerned.

3. I also have a playlist called “I feel like dancing with myself right now” and I put on a full on show all the time.

4. I cry at everything. Sad movies, happy movies, kindness, puppies, you know, everything. I just can’t help but be moved by all of the things that make our world beautiful.

5. My favorite Sesame Street character when I was a kid (and you know now) was/is Grover. Something about how neurotic and goofy he was appealed to me.

6. I learned English both from Grover and the “Young and the Restless” and I’ve had a creative vocabulary ever since.

7. I write poetry in secret. I don’t really show it to anyone, and it’s my way of expressing lyrically.

8. I’m going to marry myself in April for my birthday. It took me a long time to be as committed to my happiness as I currently am. I allowed myself to make mistakes, take risks, create boundaries, and make tough decisions. It’s been a journey and I want to commit to myself, and its going to be a great party.

9. The people who know me the best know how truly goofy I am. I don’t really show that side until I’m comfortable.

10. I love jewel tone colors. Red primarily but green, blue, purple, anything that sparkles just makes me want to smile.

11. I love Disneyland. It was the first place I truly got to be a kid. I threw a penny in Snow White’s wishing well every visit from 14 till now at every trip. I was once a tour guide there.

12. I saw my first musical/play at 18. It was RENT and it blew my mind.

13. I absolutely love my cousin Jorge and we’re friends in real life. I mean, my family is pretty great in general, but it’s always felt like he was the first person to believe in everything that I could become. He gave me my first novel (Jonathan Livingston Seagull) and I think it was foundational to how much of a dreamer and doer I became.

14. I have had a lot of people tell me “I’m too emotional” like it’s an expletive. I always wonder what I’m supposed to do with that. I can’t really help having a really strong emotional core, and I think it would probably be pretty toxic to bottle it up. It’s my soft heart, and it’s been through a lot of rough and tumble, I think it’s a miracle it’s still this soft.

15. I’ve been to 11 different countries, but I was 18 before I even got on an airplane.

16. I have this thing for Otis Redding music and I love, love, love that scene in Pretty in Pink where Ducky dances to “Try a Little Tenderness” because it embodies how that song should be performed.

17. I think I’m meant to live in New Orleans and Miami before ever picking a place to settle down in. I just love the quirky bright vibe of those cities.

18. Dolores Park is my favorite place in San Francisco. Nothing beats sitting down with a burrito and a book in Dolores Park.

19. I love running. I never in my whole life thought I would say that. But it’s really a pretty wonderful to have that space for your head.

20. I make really great food, but nothing beats my shrimp cocktail and guacamole.

21. I think about my little brother every morning when I wake-up and pray that his planes fly safely (he’s a pilot)

22. I have phenomenal friends. I love them and they are like my family. They are one of God’s greatest blessings to me.

23. I love Salsa music. My favorite song is by Celia Cruz “La Vida Es Un Carnaval”. Ayyyyy, no hay que llorar, la vida es un carnaval, es mas bello vivir cantando!

24. Rey Faustino Jr. is my best friend in the entire world. I’m glad we met when we were kids, because growing up would have been so much tougher without him.

25. I have rediscovered my love for Clementine’s, I love peeling them and having the juicy sweet pieces pop neatly into my mouth. It’s such a yummy snack. And when I’m feeling really hood with it, I’ll put some Tapatio hot sauce on them. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

Karla and the Beautiful, Tender, Heatbreakingly Remarkable, Very Very Good Year

(Me, peaceful and happy after getting my tattoo)

I moved across the country, healed big over my biggest traumas, I read 19 books, water colored on my rooftop on sunny days, learned how to deal with a snow day. I fell in love. I learned how to wear scarves for function instead of fashion. I experienced 4 seasons in an actual city, not on an mp3. I learned how to run. I forgave my father and was able to have him as an active part of my life. I found function in my little dysfunctional family. I went salsa dancing at least 20 to 30 times. I washed a sad friends feet in honey to remind her that we walk in sweetness. I allowed myself to be devastatingly heartbroken. I picked myself back up again. I made succulent, delicious, mouthwatering mistakes... and meals.

I laughed... a lot.

My little brother got engaged to a wonderful woman, they called me at 3am screaming with their joy and news. She came to visit me and we became sisters. We got a black president! The white guy, he didn't even come close. I saw brown people create and perform their own musical, it won a Tony and my heart. I got a tattoo!!! It means the movement of creation on earth and the will of the creator be done. It reminds me of how God carried me with his blessings from challenge into happiness. He fought along side me against my greatest demons and reminded me I was a warrior. I started active conversations with God. I left the door open for someone and it was the right call.

I let myself be rip roaringly angry and pissy and then I didn't beat myself up about it. I yelled at someone in defense of my heart, because I finally fundamentally understood and followed through with honoring how amazing that heart is and how much it deserves to be both protected AND pushed out on a limb. I danced in my room every week and basically put on a concert for myself all the time. I talked to my best friend - every. single. week. Even though we were very far away from each other, he still celebrates and mourns with me, cause its how we do. I stood up for two of my friends to people who had their head in their ass.

I managed to make myself my biggest project and I enjoyed the work so much, that I re-upped the contract. I made enchiladas, tostadas, guacamole, and Mexican tissue flowers for days - just because it makes me happy. I indulged... in everything. I made a poem with a friend. I wrote my own stories. I honored my story. In the same week, I saw the St. Louis Arch, the Seattle Space Neeedle, and the Lincoln Memorial. I committed, heart and soul to myself, and then asked me to marry me. Save the date cards will be in the mail soon. It was a year of abundance, not perfection. And I am abundantly happy as a result.

I was thinking of what direction I was piloting my story this year, the New Years resolutions and all that; it occurs to me that we must celebrate and as Rey reminded me "savor" every bit of the good parts. This year was probably one of the most blessed years of my life. I'm savoring them. Thank you for playing a part in my story. You fam, you're a blessing. I relish having you and celebrating with you. You are the beautiful treasure of my life. My world is better because of you, in challenge and in joy. I hope this year was as amazing for you as it was for me.

2008, if you were a person, I would hug you, kiss you, make out with you and send you on your way. Thank you for being such an amazing year. I will savor what I have left of you and then joyously welcome your homie 2009. Friends, feel free to savor with me. Its so important.

My full heart to yours,