The other day while you were reading a post on Rebelle Society, “redemption song: the imperfect wonder of you,” you remembered the terrible things you’ve done to yourself and others. The callous things you’ve said, the worst ones having been to yourself. It all came rushing back like a slideshow in your head. You thought about this year and how pummeled you’ve felt. You thought about love. You thought about the great love you lost this year. Your brother. Superman. You thought about his memorial at his place of residence a few weeks after his death. You pulled his case worker aside to thank her for what she’d done for him. She talked to you about his struggles. About how much he loved you. About how he didn’t feel he deserved to be loved. The man who taught you so much about love didn’t feel he deserved to be loved. That’s when you realized it, as you remembered, sitting on your bed, on your birthday weekend, in your red room, that you don’t feel you deserve to be loved. It was like a punch in the gut. A karate chop to the trachea. A two by four to the chest plate.
You don’t deserve to be loved.
But you do. You know this in your mind, but your heart is another matter.
You know the love you give. You know the work you do, with so much love. You know how you hold your little girl to your chest when she’s sick, and even when she’s not, you cradle her, you rock her, even though she’s almost as tall as you. Even though she’s starting to fit into your shoes.
You know how much you give your students. You hold their hands when they tell you the stories that roil their insides. You hold them when they cry. You guide them through their writing, reminding them that their stories need to be, deserve to be told. You remind them that writing is work and it’s so very hard, but the rewards are countless.
You share your heart in so many ways, Vanessa. This year, you learned how to cry. How to cry loud and hard, whenever the crying was needed, whenever your heart needed to be cleansed. This year you learned to let yourself be vulnerable in a way you thought impossible. This year you learned that the question and the answer and the everything is love. It’s what matters, V. It’s always been what matters. You’ve chronicled this journey of discovery and grief and devastation in your blogs. You’ve written about it all. You’ve shared because it’s what you do, you share, you open up your heart and show the world the way it pumps and aches and loves and hopes and wonders. This is you, Vanessa. It’s always been you.
To my younger self, thank you. Thank you for being so resilient and so driven. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for making these profound decisions that you knew would shape you though you didn’t know how. Thank you for knowing you could fail and doing it anyway. Thank you for never believing that you couldn’t. Thank you for wanting more, for striving for more, for doing and going and making it happen. Thank you, just thank you.
I forgive you, my love. I forgive you for not loving yourself enough to walk away. For selling yourself short. For wanting love so bad that you didn’t think to really look to see that what was being offered wasn’t love.
I forgive you for when you were so hurt, you were cruel.
I forgive you for when you lashed out and didn’t think about who you were hurting or why.
I forgive you for that self-talk that battered you in ways no outsider could. I forgive you for believing all that shit that was fed to you. I forgive you for thinking you weren’t enough. That maybe if you did this or that, or were this or that, he would love you. I forgive you for falling in love with the same emotionally unavailable man time and time again. Different body, same man. Over and over. I forgive you for torturing yourself, for obsessing, for damaging yourself the way you have. I forgive you for it all, my love. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. Did you hear me? I forgive you.
In a world that tells you you are not enough, that you are unworthy and dispensable, self-love is a radical act. Revolutionary, even. It’s time to be a revolutionary, mi amor.
That realization the other day was not an easy one. It’s hard to face the things you’ve done and the person you’ve been because you haven’t felt worthy of love. The relationships you’ve been in, romantic and otherwise, that did not serve you. Where you were treated badly and unfairly, cheated on and lied to and led on and talked about and deceived and broken down. That’s not who you are now and that’s not what you deserve. It’s time to be a revolutionary, V.
All of this has brought you here, to this moment, in your kitchen, a picture of you and your brother from last Christmas on your left, to your right a picture of your family when you were kids, you, Carlos, Dee and Mom. See that little girl in the picture staring back at you, her eyes smiling, her tongue sticking out playfully, it’s time to love her, Vanessa.
It’s time you see what mom said that time she showed someone that picture: “Vanessa was always big. Even when she was little, she was big.” It’s time that you realize that you are in fact worthy of love. It’s time for you to stop this cycle so your nena doesn’t continue it. Now, V, now’s the time to be a revolutionary.
It’s time to unpack where that idea came from, that you aren’t worthy of love. As a kid, you didn’t feel mami or papi loved you. But you’re an adult now. You know ma was so hurt, so broken, she couldn’t love you the way you needed. She confessed that to you on the cruise, while you were watching the full moon sparkle on the water, a thousand stars like the universe was here on earth, she said, “Yo era tan rebelde. Tu pagastes por esa rebeldía. Perdoname hija, yo se que te hice mal.” She held you and you cried together. She’s held you so much this year. It’s time for you to see that love has always been there, even when it was disguised or blocked by a pain so devastating, you wonder how mom survived it. V, it’s time for you to be a revolutionary.
It’s time to stop telling yourself that nobody wanted you. Yes, mami was on birth control when you were conceived. Pero, you being who you are, you, just an egg then, fought those hormones that didn’t want you to be fertilized. You made your passage and you clung to mom’s womb. And when papi tried to kick you out of her, you held on. And when the doctor’s told mami that you were going to be born with all sorts of health issues and mom refused to abort you, you held on. And when you were born sickly, you held on. And when you were months old and the doctors told mom to say goodbye because you weren’t going to make it, you held on. You’ve always held on. It’s time to hold on in a whole different way, V. Darling, now’s your time to be a revolutionary.
It’s time for you to see past the pain and the hurt of this life and remember the love. Remember how and when you’ve made beauty out of distortion. Remember the little girl you were and remember your daughter. That little girl whose eyes can melt whatever tantrum you’re having. That little girl who sang to you recently on a day you missed your brother so bad, it felt like you were sinking and you were so afraid that you wouldn’t be able to climb back out. She put your head on her shoulder and said, “It’s okay, mami. Cry.” Then she started singing the song you’ve been singing to her since she was in your belly: “You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off of you. You be like heaven to touch…” When you see her, remember that she is amazingly beautiful and courageous and creative and compassionate because of you. Remember that she chose you to be her mom. Remember that a soul like hers would never have chosen you if you weren’t worthy of love. Vanessa, it’s time to be a revolutionary, for you, for her, for all the little girls.
It’s time to start undoing that lie that you are not worthy of love. This work will take time. It will take effort. It will make you cry and remember things that you would rather not remember, but, darling, haven’t you been on this journey for this past decade of writing your memoir? You can do this, just like you’ve done everything you set your mind and heart to. Vanessa, it’s time to be a revolutionary.
It’s time to remember your inner goddess and honor her and coddle her and worship her and dote on her and love her. Love her fiercely. Thank her. Thank her profusely. Raise her up, above the ugly untruth that you are not worthy. Because, Vanessa, you are. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of trust. You are worthy of adoration.
Vanessa, my love, you fierce mujer who loves so hard and cares so much and hopes beyond hope and believes beyond belief, it is time for you to give yourself what you give the world. It’s time for you to be a revolutionary.
I love you,