On this day

I am an emotional being. Super emotional. Sometimes terribly. In the past I’ve let my emotions whirl me. Tsunami me. Straight consume me. I’m working on that. I’m working on taking control of my emotions and not allowing them to control me.

I’m realizing that my resistance to my emotions is the reason they’ve had such a strong hold on me. It’s true that what you resist persists. At least that’s been my experience.

I’ve had to be strong in this life of mine. Becoming a mujer sola, through trial and error, made me adopt this I got-this-always, I-can’t-let-these-feelings-get-me-down attitude. So I learned to be strong. Stoic, even. No matter what happened, I handled it. Being homeless. Having my heart broken. Feeling alone. Unsupported. Having to figure things out for myself, by myself. I handled it. I didn’t think I had a choice. But this served me, then. I’ve been able to do so much in and with my life. It’s how I was able to create this life. Become a writer and teacher. Become a single parent. Become a woman. But this isn’t serving me anymore. And if I’ve realized anything this past year, these past few years, it’s that I’m not alone. That emotion and vulnerability aren’t weakness. In fact, it’s brave. The epitome of brave for this woman. And allowing myself to be that frees me of the weight of it. I can feel without being consumed. Without being broken and shaken by it.

It’s not perfection I seek. It’s freedom. Freedom from the pain I’ve inflicted on myself by not letting myself be who I am. Experience what I have to to evolve and grow. Freedom, y’all. Freedom.

I’ve always run from my emotions though the truth is that there is no running from what you’re feeling. Ever. You can avoid. You can keep yourself busy. You can distract yourself. You can toil away at whatever it is you pick, but the feelings will remain. And they’ll come roiling back when you finally stop and sit. Like a rabid, hungry pitbull let off his leash in a chicken coop. Yeah, that’s when you’re fucked. That’s when I’ve been fucked.

Just recently I realized that I hadn’t really grieved over the loss of my mother, Millie. Millie wasn’t my biological mother but she had such a huge influence over my life. This has been the greatest loss of my life. And I never grieved her.

When I got the call on that cold Tuesday in March, 2005, I collapsed. Fell deadweight onto my couch. “Oh my God, Millie.” My brother snapped me out of it. “Vanessa, Mami.”

The hospice couldn’t reach mom. She was on the train underground, commuting to the hospice. I was the second one on the list

So, I had to get myself together, dress my six month-old daughter, with my trembling hands, tears falling like water. I had to go take care of mom who had been Millie’s partner for almost thirty years.

Mom got to have a moment with Millie alone. I didn’t.

I got to hug her body, now cold to the touch. I got to kiss her lifeless cheek. But I didn’t get to have a moment with her alone.

Maybe this is selfish of me. Maybe this sounds ridiculous. It isn’t.

Millie was, still is, my mother. She showed me love. When I hear her voice in my head, it’s always encouraging and loving and supportive and tender.

When I hear my biological mother’s voice in my head, it’s the total opposite.

I became an orphan when Millie died. So not grieving her has been a weight on this soft heart of mine for seven years.

Maybe it’s why I write about her so much. Why everyone close to me knows who she is. Was.

Maybe that’s why today, the day before her birthday, the day before she would have turned 62, I am writing about her. I am feeling her around me. In me. So close.

I can see her chipped tooth that she got fixed in her 40s. I was so mad at her for it, I didn’t even acknowledge it. “No me ves el diente, negra?” I pursed my lips. “Why’d you fix it?” “Porque esa cosa era fea.” “No, it wasn’t Millie. It was a part of you.” She waved her hand like she always did when she felt like I didn’t understand her. Like she was swatting a fly away.

Today, I feel her. I can feel her hugs. Her double rolled belly, so soft I would push myself into it, even as an adult.

I can feel her rubbing my belly when I was pregnant, crying, “Ay, no la voy a llegar a conocer.” She did get to meet my daughter. Her granddaughter who called her “Uma,” when she was just four months old. No one believed it but I did. She did say Uma when Milllie was cooing at her, trying to get her to say, “Grandma.” She so wanted to be called Grandma.

Months after Millie died, I got confirmation.

Vasia was sitting on her high chair watching a Baby Einstein video. I was in the other room, preparing her lunch. The video had just finished when I heard Vasia giggling. “Uma, Uma, Uma.” She laughed.

I ran to the livingroom, breathless. Scared. Confused. But happy, in a very strange way. Vasia was staring at a corner, laughing.

Millie was there. She’s always been there. She still is.


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