The Wizard of Us

How do you react when somebody mentions one of your favorite books of all times in the most random circumstances? Where does your mind go considering that is one of the most spiritual enlightening books you have ever read? What if this story let’s you confront your own ideas about magic?

I am not talking about potions and bewitching spells. Rather, I am referring to the magical encounters that give us goosebumps, to the synchronicities, to the sparks that begin with a kiss, in the rejoice found in the perfection of watching a baby sleep, in a stranger’s smile in the moment you must need it. I have always believed in magic and cherish it, not as a way to  avoid reality but to elevate our existence by believing there is something greater than ourselves that we can’t explain and  that its only mission could be to make ours lives brighter and fuller. 

So came the casual reference today to the Wizard of Oz. It was not about the search for courage, heart, brain or home; it was about the moment the curtains opened up and revealed the big Wizard of Oz, the one expected to solve everybody’s problems with his gigantic, powerful skills, was actually a big fraud. 

The transformations Dorothy, Tin man, Lion and Scarecrow go through were initiated by their belief that the Wizard would magically solve all their problems and make their dreams come true. Little did they know that all the obstacles they found on their path would allow them to earn what they so much longed for. Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? We work our asses off for what we truly believe in.

For a moment I imagine the group of odd main characters alongside Toto the dog walking the brick yellow road, their arms interlaced and singing. On their path they meet a personal coach that tells them they need to establish their goals and design clear steps to reach them. Suddenly a Secret fan comes up and suggests that if they just visualize what they want no doubt those things will materialize. Not long after, an influencer shows with her phone on hand and tell them the path is hard but never stop dreaming.  


I am sure that if Dorothy and friends follow all of the previous recommendations they will certainly achieve their goals: Dorothy will go back to Kansas, The Lion will get its courage, Tin man its heart and Scarecrow a brilliant brain. But it seems to me that would make for a very boring book. Heroes are not made when they follow their very careful detail plans. Heroes are made when they don’t have other choice than jumping on the road of transformation even when the future is not clear, even what they think is their ultimate goal ends up being an Emerald City with a fraudulent wizard. Heroes face each obstacle and remain vulnerable when it is apparent they will not succeed. They know how to reroute when things are not what they envision. They use their brains and their hearts and they follow yellow brick roads that lead them to unexpected destinations.  

When I don’t think I can continue there is one thing that saves me: magic. 

Heroes are made when plans gets out of hand. So what is a hero or a Dorothy suppose to do? Take a journal and write their next 10 steps or create a vision board? Nothing wrong with that. The more with can control the safer we feel. But I can only think of one thing that in my personal experience has kept me going when blows keep coming up; when regardless of my careful planning, unplanned obstacles are the word of the day; when I feel like a lost Dorothy and I don’t trust I have either the heart, the brain or the courage to keep going.  When I don’t think I can continue there is one thing that saves me: magic.  Those things that I can’t explain; that belief that there is something bigger than myself; it is the trust that even when I am in a path that I don’t recognize I will get to the place that was destined for me; that I will find wicked witches but also wonderful Good Witches of the South; that I will have friends to sing along in the difficult passes; it is the belief that I will eventually arrive to an Emerald city where everything is beautiful and shiny.


And yet, sometimes the curtains open up and reveal that what we believe to hold the key to our dreams is a total farce. But that is not the end of the magic; that is the beginning of a new path in which we discover  the magic is part of us. We are the wizards, we are the heroes. We still get goosebumps and the sparks, and the bliss and the joy at its superlative state, because nothing beats the magic of relying on the certainty of the uncertain and the beauty of what we can’t control. 


After all, we all want to go back home, even if we are not the same we were when we left. Hopefully, we are not the same. We are braver, wiser and more courageous we have ever been and still grateful that when we close our eyes we will experience magic. No yellow brick roads needed, no ruby sleepers, no shows because we are heroes and wizards. Our own wizards with magic to spare, with goosebumps and chills, and hearts that lighten up when we know that after a long journey we are back home. 

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up? I have to admit I always enjoyed that question. The thing is that I was a weird kid. I just knew from a very young age what I wanted to be. Since I was 4, I would always have an adult ask me “so, what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I would say in my serious 4 going-on-forty’s voice  “I want to be a painter and a writer” And they would say “You are cute.  Do you mean like a teacher, or a mom, an astronaut. “No, I want to be a painter and a writer.”

I knew it in my heart, the same way I also knew that there are things I really, really wanted but they were not in my destiny. Like ballet, for example.


Today I was driving when a memory hit me like lighting. I was probably a sophomore or junior in college and as every Sunday we stayed for hours at the dining table talking about our weeks, our lives, our dreams.  At that moment I was expressing my life plan: what I was going to study, where, timing to reach my goals, how I was going to make a living, what I was going to do in order to sustain my creative endeavors, etc.  I had such a determined plan and I was proud of myself, I felt I was on a roll.

After listening patiently, my dad, always the altruist, blew over my sand castle with just one question.

“Ok, but what do you want to be?” he asked, his arms crossed over his belly and his head tilted back.

“I just told you….I want to….” and I would repeat my plan learned by then to perfection.

“No, I am asking you, what do you really want to be?”


I had to think for a while before answering while he patiently looked at me pushing his glasses with his index fingers the way he always did.  I realized then that a big part of my very specific plan contained steps to help me grow up, but they lacked the essence of what a good life plan needs: a commitment to our dreams.


My life had done a lot of turns. For starters, I ended up living in the only place I always thought I was never going to live in. Note taking: some times the location is irrelevant to the realization of our dreams. I flirted with a lot of creative disciplines, from photography to film, from art teaching to documentarian and I don’t regret any of them. However, today I realized that the answer I ended up giving my dad after all that soul searching (as deep as you can go when you are a teenager) had become my north star.  Today while driving I realized that after I removed all the noise from my plan for trying to make it feasible the answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” has always being the same that when I was four, a passionate teenager or the still-young grown woman I have become. Today I remembered that flame I felt back then and I realized what a lucky girl I am because a big part of that dream had become real. There is still a long path ahead of me with more goals but the dream is still intact.


Maybe that is the reason why I love asking kids that question. Children have a pure connection to their souls that is worth learning from. They know who they want to be. Sometimes the answers come in the form of “this is what my parents want me to be” or “This is what I would do because I am a good girl/boy” and even “this is what I want to achieve.”  None of those answers come close to the truest answer. So without ever realizing it until today, I have become my dad in a way and when somebody tells me their life plans, I want to reply with the only question that can really define our paths: What do you want to be when you grow up?

If you don’t know the answer, just shut up.  The soul knows and it will tell us when we are ready to hear. It does not matter all the ambitious plans we have if it take us away from a true essence. Maybe that is why sometimes I still feel like a kid, because I was given permission to hold on to my dream with the same innocence that children do. 


Today, while driving and reflecting on this I swear I could feel my dad smiling from wherever he is, because I never quit the dream and I am living it. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I heard him asking me and the answer came aloud and clear: “Exactly what I am today.” 


Dedicated to all the parents that give permission to their kids to hold on to their dreams…and specially to mine who were exceptionally good at supporting mine.  





Snoozing problems away

ZZZzzz…

There have been three moments in my life where I have seen this deviation tactic used with such skillful talent. In two out of the three occasions the story did not have a happy ending.

The first time was more than two decades ago. We were riding on a overnight train from Salzburg to Florence. My husband and I were on a cabin by our own when suddenly, after a stop in Venice, a large group of gigantic prostitutes got on with their wigs bleached, their spandex micro-skirts. Three of those enter our cabin and sit near the door. “Dormi, signorina,”  the leader of the pack kept telling me while they held the door close. Suddenly, the carabinieri came in and the three women pretend to be asleep. The policeman had no patience and kept telling them that pretending to be asleep was not going to work. After a few moment when we hardly breathed, the three women stood up and ran out of the cabin. The policeman entered the following cabin where the same plot was reenacted, but at that time, the three prostitutes stood up and surrounded the carabinieriwith their 6fttall bodies and started punching him. Reinforcements were there a minute later and the train suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere, where we saw a group of at least twenty women of the night being kicked off among shouts and a ton of bad Italian swears.

The second time was a few weeks ago. The location: a morning train ride from New York City to Connecticut. The conductor starts asking for tickets when a young guy, high as a cloud and seating two roads in front of us pretended to be asleep. The conductor pushed him and tried to move him before warning him she was going to call the police. As soon as we stopped in the first station, tree police officers get on the train, their guns hanging on their belts. The guy knew he had no more excuses and he got peacefully scorted out of the train. 


Third time is the charmer, they say. Location was a lot more familiar and stationery: home. I walked into the foyer and found the dogs hiding and a very sticky mess on the floor. I lifted my voice - or screamed, however you want to call it- to a certain almost four-year old. “Leo, what did you do? What is this mess?” The boy jumped on the sofa, laid on his back, closed his eyes and started snoring. No more screams after that while I hid my laugh. 


Several lessons were drawn from these three situations: 1. Pretending to be asleep to escape a sticky situation only works 1/3 of the time. 2. Being a conductor can deplete someone’s patience really quickly. 3. American police looks a lot scarier than their Italian counterparts. 4. Prostitutes in Venice are really, really tall. 5. The sleeping technique is an universal tactic 6. If you want to evade your responsibility by pretending to be asleep you’d better be very, very cute.

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What my favorite knight taught me about sand castles

The joys of summer! The sun, the warmth, the lazy days, the sound of the waves, your feet in the sand, a good book on your lap. This is accurate as long as you don’t have a small child with you. In that case, the book never makes it out of your beach bag, the sound of the waves get filtered and you don’t only have your feet in the sand, but part of your body while you are digging for shells and rocks.

I am sure there is a saying out there that mentions that "once an artist, always an artist.” So when I am trying to suck up the beauty of summer at the beach with my youngest child, the artist in me takes over. I delight on the colors and the shape of the waves, I feel the air on my face and the roughness of the sand on my skin. I also feel the itch to do something with my hands; that irresistible and unavoidable call to create. First I want to sketch but I know my son’s idea of fun does not include that. Then I start seeing the pendants that I could make out of shells, but practicality takes over and I abandon the idea soon after. However, there is an activity that satisfies my creativity appetite, helps me build memories with my boy and gives us both hours -who I am kidding? minutes- of entertainment. Let me introduce you to the ancient art of building sand castles.

I take my job seriously and so our castles not only have towers. They have dams on one side, underground rivers of the other, flanked by forts and mountains. A road of shells, flags made out of seaweed. I invest a lot of time and effort into our sand castles as if my life depends on it. They have taught me about gravity and how to take in consideration the tide changes when finding the perfect spot for construction. Of course, I do want to pass the love for the activity on to my youngest son.

Without falling of the stereotypical gender roles, I have to say that my son has a lot more of the physical need to express his energy than his older sisters. My girls, although active and curious girls, would be contained drawing, writing, playing in the sand. Maybe it has nothing to do with their gender but with their birth order, or the fact that he arrived when we were more tired (thanks age gap!) or it might just the way he is. The fact is that invariably of the amount of effort we put into building our sand castles under my proud look of famous architect, every time I look at what we have created with certain sense of achievement, my son comes with a smile on his face and mischievous eyes and says the dreadful words: destroy, destroy! He steps on our castle, fills the dams with sand and levels each tower. Certainly, our definition of fun differs slightly.

Beyond my trying to understand why he finds so much pleasure in destroying our castles while trying to deter him from doing it so early on the game, I decided recently to step on his shoes and see why he finds that part as fun as the building.

Whenever I have brought this topic to discussion among other parents, the often answer (given positively by parents of boys, coincidentally) is a laugh followed by the words “boys, boys, boys....”

I summoned the most analytical side of my artistic being to scrutiny the subject. I soon realized that one of the concepts we tend to forget as we grow older and stop being spontaneous and fresh is that as in anything else in life, in order to create we also need to destroy. In order to create something new, we need to know down the original essence of a material. The canvas needs to be altered, the clay molded. When building a song, there is a group of notes that repeat every so often, very likely in a particular order, until you alter that order to generate a new melody. Otherwise, we fall in the trap of monotony.

Creating implies not only that we say hello to something new, but also that we say goodbye to something old. The problem is that our human nature rejects change as if it is the plague, and creating actually calls us to embrace it. No wonder so many people are afraid of creating something new and prefer to stay anchored to old ideas, relationships that have ran their curses, jobs that do not offer any growth, dull lives where everything seems predictable as the most monotonous melody.

I also thing that our egos are constantly obsessed with the idea of accumulating achievements. We love to build, we love to see the accumulation of the steps we have taken previously. Call them diplomas, called them workout sessions or job promotions. We like to see that each step we take takes us closer to our goals. In building a sand castle, I was doing exactly that. But life is rather more like the game I play with my son, where I construct and he destroys, than what I though the game should be: building wonderful structures that we will be able to admire as we step out of the beach, maybe leaving it for others to enjoy and play with.

My son, with his fierce bottomless source of energy and his mischievous giggle taught me a big lesson that day. As an artist and as human being, wouldn’t life be a lot easier if I start seeing my existence as a creation/destruction cycle? If I stop being so attached to the final products and enjoy the process more? if I take courage to knock down the structures that have served its course? If I accept that part of my nature that occasionally just wants to throw some old dishes on the floor?

Among sand castles and dams, that day iI discover that if I want to be a true artist I need to conciliate both side of the creation cycle. I am not sure if that would make me a better artist, in fact, but I am sure somewhere there must be a Harvard study to demonstrate that. What I know is that when I master the subtle of art of detaching from my careful finished products, may it be be a painting or a sand castle, I might find some kind of holy grail called freedom.

Sand castles are only a least sophisticated version of the mandalas that represent the universe in intricate designs made out of sand. It is used as a meditation practice but the climax of the process comes in understanding those are designs meant to disappear, regardless of all the effort put into its creation. I can’t say building sand castles feels like a spiritual practice. But that hot summer day that my son insisted on knocking down the structure we have built in a matter of seconds I was reminded on the importance of detachment, the importance of focusing on the journey rather than the destination and the significance of traveling through this life as light as possible, without the need to carry every brick we have used in the past. After I helped him level down the last part of our castle, we moved down to the playground to keep building new memories together. I almost skipped back because I was so free...who am I kidding? I was just the same person, just a tiny bit more aware of my creative process. I wish all lessons were as easy to grasp, but then I also have to admit that any lesson is usually better served with feet on the sand and sun rays warming our skin.

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Of Hiding and Seeking and Finding Our Inner Voices

HIde-and-seek: the universal game where getting lost is only half  the fun.

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.
— Alan Alda

Recently, my almost four-years old wanted to play hide-and-seek and of course, I obliged. We spent some time in the backyard, taking turns between counting to ten and finding good hiding places. Listening to his infectious laugh when he was either hiding or trying to find me was so adorable! The beauty of playing this game with a toddler is that there is no discretion on what constitutes a good hiding place. Anything would do, even if half your body is exposed. And then, his laugh is so loud that even if he found the perfect camouflage, the giggles would give him away.  To make it even cuter,  if I asked “where could Leo be?” he would scream “here!”  The innocence of children!

The importance of hide-and-seek is that is teaches kids the concept of object permanence. When they first discover the game, babies think that when they put their hands or a blanket over their eyes, things stop existing. By their toddler years, they learn that things or people still exist even when they cannot see them.

But I am not a teacher or a psychologist. I am not as concerned with this game’s developmental advantages other than those that interest me as a mother. However, yesterday in the midst of my son’s giggles and us practicing counting numbers and seeing how fast I could find a spot to hide I realize there is a big lesson for my spirit in this game.

Lately, the intention of my meditations has been concentrated towards connecting with my intuition. I have recently realized that when I stop paying attention to it, anxiety plants a flag in the cavernous terrain of my fears and insecurities. On the other hand, when I am alert to the predicaments of my intuition, I can maintain a very stable, peaceful state of mind.  Consequently, instead of trying to pursue peace, I am concentrating my efforts on cultivating my intuition. It has proven to be a more efficient, holistic and reliable source of calmness.

The other day, while seeing the way my son enjoyed our game, I realized how intuition is a soulful version of hide-and-seek. 

Intuition is seeking

Intuition asks us to seek deliberately, to have our eyes, ears, nose, mind and heart open. We may know what or who we are looking for, but the truth is that the reward is not only in what we find, but how we approach the quest. The fun starts in the hunt, and the reason is that we just don’t stumble into things, we search for them. In the game as in its spiritual counterpart, we have to own and want to participate in the quest.  People assume that intuition is some kind of divine information that comes to some chosen, privileged souls. But intuition is not given, is achieved by willingly embarking in the game. 

 

Intuition is taking action

When playing hide-and-seek, one of the players closes her eyes while counting aloud to give enough time to the other players to hide. Although I did not grow up with that tradition, I love when the seeker screams “ready or not, here i come.” What a powerful command! If we were to scream that to the universe, wouldn’t it make us feel powerful? Wouldn’t it make us feel as though we own the quest? This seems–to me–the best way to prepare for the search.

Intuition is patience

Intuition is also like the little kid hiding and waiting to be found. The thrill is knowing someone is looking for us. That is what makes a toddler giggle. It is knowing that even when we hide, the universe will find its way to us. Opportunities will come, and so will love and friendship and fulfillment. We don’t know how long it will take. It all depends on how well we have managed to hide. 

Intuition is trust

Intuition is the ultimate trial of trust. In the same way we are not sure where our playmates are but we are certain they are still part of the game, intuition implies a certainty that we will find something, that there are tons of information in the universe willing to come to our open arms (or eyes, ears, and hopefully hearts).  We don’t know where our knowledge comes from, but we trust it is real. It is knowing with certainty that whatever is hidden still exists even when we cannot see it at the moment or does not seem entirely rational. Intuition only thrives when we give it a safe environment to develop, and the seed of that is trust.

Intuition is playful

As little kids in the playground, we need to remain open and curious in order to develop our intuition. When we take our intuition too seriously, our minds take over, bringing out our darkest fears. As profound as it seems, to be completely in tune with our most intuitive nature requires us to be light and fun, to giggle, to be free, to see life like a game rather than a strategy session.  As we start doing better at that thing called “adulting,”  we become more rigid and serious. In fact, we become so boring that intuition runs away from us in search of more entertaining partners.  

Intuition is a great GPS

When we embark on the search of our fellow playmates during a hide-and-seek game, we don’t know exactly where to look, unless your playmate is a toddler that loves the predictability of a repeat hideout, that is. Most of the time, we have to follow our inner voice while we search in different places. Sometimes, we do not succeed in our first attempt. If that is the case, just like a GPS, we need to recalculate our route to search somewhere else, but unlike a GPS, the whole point of the game is that we don’t know what our final destination is.  Intuition is like the bread crumbs that guide us to enlightenment and to the ultimate attainment of our inner voice, even when the route can take infinite detours.

Intuition brings enlightenment

Maybe, a more accurate name for my son’s favorite game should be “Hide-and-seek-and-you-will-find.” The game is over when we find who (or what) we are looking for. Equally, intuition relays on its findings, most of those getting us closer to enlightenment. By paying attention to our inner voice we take the express route to the small and big answers, to the ones that open our hearts, the ones that take us down new paths and strayed us from the ones that are not meant for us. Intuition is like having an inner voice that tells us where everyone is hiding.We just need to quite the noise so that we can listen to it.

So, if intuition is like a game, why do we stop playing?

As my son and I recently explored the limited amount of hidden places in our backyard, I realized that what made the game really fun is that I was playing with him. It did not matter if we bent the rules, if he skipped a number here and there, if he wanted me to always hide in the same place. Being present and fully aware was what made it such a special moment. An in the middle of our game, hidden behind a playhouse where I could’t even fit, a knowledge hit me as lighting. I heard the inner voice.

“Keep playing, keep looking, hold your place and you will be found.”

And I giggled as a three year old and looked at the cutest boy come up to me and I thought how lucky I was. There are tons of things and pieces of wisdoms that still remained hidden, but there was no doubt in my mind that with intuition as my north, as the bow to my boat, I will find them. So, universe, ready or not, here I come…

The art of setting free

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with a woman from India. She is a very lively, entertaining person and the conversation, besides offering lots of opportunities for a good laugh, was filled with interesting and thought-provoking topics. At one point, she mentioned how her father died a couple of years ago from a chronic illness. I immediately said I was sorry, and I was, I am kind of familiar with that feeling. But she interrupted me with her incredible candor to say a word that was new for me but it resonated in my brain and my chest with the echo that important words carry…

“Moksha.”

Although my daughter makes fun of me because according to her I am buddhist-wannabe and for being a yoga aficionado, I had never heard that word.

The woman, with the same lightness she used when mentioning her kids’ anecdotes, explained the concept. She mentioned that her dad had moved on and in doing so he had been set free from his disease. At the same time, he had liberated his family of the responsibility of  taking care of him while he carried the chronic illness, something they did out of the immense love they professed him. They were bound to his disease because of love. He was set free, emancipated from pain and that was a good thing. Moksha…what a beautiful, complex and selfless concept.


I felt a door opening inside me, as if I had been thrown in a forest where there were lots of fruits to collect. I knew I had to revisit the subject and explore why it has made such an impression on me. I could not stop thinking about it. I guess the fact that there was a word for such a complex process surprised me. But there was also the fact that setting free can a painful and inevitable process that we usually resist. Giving it a name seemed like a call to action to remember that it is actually a very natural notion that sooner or later will require us to act on its premise.


The following day I was distracted with other novelties. I was attending my oldest daughter parent orientation at college.  It should have been an anxious day, after all it is not everyday that we send our first kid away for college. However, while sitting with the other parents I found myself like an outcast.  I am proud we have raised independent kids. I am definitely not a ‘mama-hen”, if anything, I am more of a lioness like in “don’t hurt-my-cubs-or-you-will-have-to-deal-with-me” kind of mom. In fact, my daughter did all the college applications on her own, chose the school that was right for her and after taking a gap year after high school where she has blossomed into a very resourceful, motivated young woman, I know she is more than ready to leave the nest, to experience life, to carve her path, to make choices on her own, to make mistakes, to recalculate her journey. The day of her orientation I was filled with excitement for her more than fear.

 


During lunch, parents had the opportunity to sit down with professors from our kids’  majors. Next to me was a couple who talk incessantly. The kind of couple who speak on stereo: one shutdowns to let the other continue their story, and vice versa. They never let anybody talk because they monopolized the conversation in an orchestrated rhythm of back and forth interruptions. I was observing mostly, somewhat listening and honestly, mildly annoyed with the fact that in the short time we had I would not have the opportunity to ask the questions I had in my mind. Helicopter parents, no doubt. They even chose each of their son’s classes. Me, on the other hand, had been informed by my daughter all of the classes she had enrolled on without my assistance. I had to make a big effort not to judge, reminding myself that every parent is different and there was no good or wrong way to parent. But my mind kept insisting to go there and I kept fighting it. After all, it was clear that time was running down and I would not get another chance to sit down with my daughter’s professors ever again.

Then the loud couple, with their constant worries and intent to kidnap every intent of lunch discussion, told their story. When the woman was pregnant with their son, they were told he was not built for life and if he in fact was born, he only had a 10% chance of surviving. He was born and shortly after he had to had one of his several open heart surgeries. The boy’s heart was in the right side of his body, a very rare condition, and his circulation was inverted as well. Now, at seventeen, he was about to start college and be on his own for the first time. My own heart dropped. I felt so terrible at first for even having judged those parents who had fought for their son’s life and all the after effects of his disease.  Then I felt my eyes filling with tears. What a miraculous and full of hope story! I put myself on their shoes. If you knew your kid had very  small statistically chance of surviving, would you let him go?  What would it take for you to set him free? They were bound to him and his disability  by the love they profess him. Both parents were probably gone through so much together that they became a team who could finish each other sentences. There was “MOKSHA” all over that conversation. Two parents were bound to set their son free. And when we hold something so tight it is very hard to let go.  

I went through my own moksha moment. I had to liberate myself from my bias. I had been through a lot of challenges as a mom and I have known first hand how it feels to suffer when seeing our kids go though terrible pain. I realized that those painful moments have only made my kids stronger and more mature. I did not want that to transform me into an anchor for them. I fought every instinct to become a helicopter parent, and I mostly achieved it. But having won that battle I forgot we are all different and our reactions differ. That moment, excited as I was to imagine my daughter starting her college career in a place where she could thrive, I realized that I am going to miss her terribly too: our conversations, she calling on my shit with her kindest words, challenging my beliefs, her constant efforts to make us all feel special. It is exciting to see her fly on her own but it will be sad too. As independent as she is, I still value our time when we can be together as mother and daughter and most of the time, as two adults.  Deep down, below all that excitement for her future is my need to set her free. And as in death, as in letting a disabled kid leave the nest for the first time, as in realizing our belief system and our biases sometimes need to be shaken and  let go of even when it is painful. Part of my propellers, the ones I was not even aware I had, fell down that day and in gaining that understanding I felt liberated.

On my way home that night,  I  became aware I might never become a moksha expert, but at least I was aware of it. Stuck in traffic coming back home  I felt a few teardrops coming down my cheeks. They weren’t tears of apprehension, but rather of happiness for seeing my oldest on her way to building her own life as an incredibly wholesome, profound, kind human being. Everything she is, she has done it on her own. She is free to be who she wants to be. I felt free, as if I was noticing for the first time I did not have shackles, although I never felt motherhood imposed any kind of limitation. The freedom came from inside and it was reinforced with the knowledge that even when I think I know the answers, the universe will always put people on my way to teach me the most beautiful concepts of liberation and expansion.

Moksha today and tomorrow, because the more we love the more we need to set free!

Of Kryptonite and Super Powers

I had never been into super heroes. In fact, I despise them. I don’t like the idea of a character who is invincible. Call it Spider Man, Batman, Jack Bauer, Jason Borne or Jon Snow, if they survive the unsurvivable many times in a row I loose interest on them (well, not in Jon Snow, but that is the exception). Of course, as life loves to play tricks on us and gives of us a double dose of of whatever we despise, I was blessed with a baby boy who loves super heroes. At three and a half he is obsessed with them. One day he is a super hero, next one he is the bad guy. 


I like my character with flaws. The good ones have a dark side, the bad ones never learned to deal with pain. And regardless of the side they identify most with, they will sometimes fail, many time they will succeed. Life is not a string of constant achievements because everyone eventually falls down, a few steps down, a whole wall or into the darkest abyss.


Regardless of our capacity to rise from our ashes, there in an universal feeling that will eventually stops us on our tracks: fear. You are waiting for a diagnosis, you experience a heartbreak, imminent change is approaching, there are more questions than answers, you don’t want to open a door that leads you to an unknown path. There are a million reasons to feel the paralyzing effect of panic. So many times we see ourselves as super heroes; we are in a constant battle to beat obstacles and if we have been lucky enough to be spared many times, we start believing we hold super powers that shields us from failure. We repeat constantly that if we we keep a positive mind, good things will happen. For some, it is the strength of their faith that becomes the safety net that protects them from an evil fall. For others, it is a constant planning that gives them a sense of control. Many others believe the universe always has a master plan.

It does not matter what our pillars are, fear will cripple inside our blanket eventually and hug us with the strength of a boa constrictor. In those moments it is so easy to question all our super powers, because if we were so courageous we would not be defeated by such a earthly kryptonite, right? But fear is natural. Fear is what protects us from great acts of stupidity. Fear is what makes us run when a threat is imminent. If you are attached to your super hero shield, just answer a question: have you ever love with all your heart? Because nothing guarantees that we will be stricken with fear more than love does. If you love somebody (or something) fear will always be present. Fear that that person will not be there one day, that he or she will suffer, that you will not be able to protect them. If we love with all our hearts, fear is always part of the equation. 

So if fear is the kryptonite, then what is the super power that defeats it? I know only one: vulnerability. I am sure I am not the only one that has gone through a lot of s…painful moments in my life. And when I have felt my weakest, there was no power (supernatural or earthly) to help me overcome adversity better than vulnerability. It is knowing that I can be broken, bruised, heavily injured, when I can be on my knees, when I can’t stop crying that I start building myself up. It is by knowing that fear is inevitable that we regain our power because fear constricts, like the boa, but when when we see it straight to the eyes and tell him “I know I am broken now, I know I can fail terribly, I know I can loose what I hold dearest to my heart but I will survive,” that is when fear looses its grip on us. It does not necessarily leave, it can be watching for afar. 

Vulnerability is in a way the anti-shield. It is like being naked of all protection. I always envision it as being dragged by a forceful river and suddenly deciding that we are not going to fight anymore and the moment we calm down is when we discover we can float to the shore. Years ago, my husband fell 35 feet down from a climbing wall. The fall was so quick that he did not even had time to panic. On his mind, somebody was going to stop his rope just moments before he hit the floor on the best The Matrix style (I know, boys and their super powers!) When he hit the floor his ligaments and tendons got injured and took years to heal, but he did not break a single bone. When the doctors x-rayed his whole body, they told him that what saved him was The Matrix image he was playing in his head. Because he trusted somebody was going to save him at the last minute we kept his body relaxed. If on the other hand he would have been (naturally) overcome by fear, his body would have tensed up as a board and he would have shattered many bones and probably not even survived. 

Some of my friends tend to tell me that I am very strong because even in the most difficult moments of my life I keep smiling. Those words actually make me smile because I do know I am as human as I can be. I live with fear and with pain, with love and with hope in the master plan. Fear debilitates me but does not break me. My super power: vulnerability. When I know I am weak, it is when I regain my strength back. So when my son wants me to read him his super heroes book and surprises me by knowing the name of every super hero and every villain with its particular power I imagine I could be in that book too. Not that I would make a very commercial super hero, but I know that no matter the kryptonite I will rise after I fall, and sometimes I would loose too, and that would be OK, and even then I will survive or how Maya Angelou would say…”I'll rise.” In the meantime, I will enjoy the way my son looks at me as if I was the real deal-maximum-invincible-super hero”. After all, that will change once he gets to be a teenager and notice everyone of my flaws. For now, all I have left is to pray that he does not make me dress as cat girl.

Like a fish out of water...an into the frying pan

While on vacation, I stayed by the shore making sand castles with my son. The transparent water brushing our skin, the soft sand on our feet and the shade of a palm tree over us. Next to us, a british man, his fit body adorned with tattoos, was building sand castles with his daughters. We had not crossed words but they seem like a nice, loving family. Suddenly a flapping sound called our attention. About eight feet away from us and to the left of the British family there was a ten-inch white fish with blue stripes that had been (apparently miraculously) being brought out of the water by the mild waves. The fish was flipping and struggling in the sand. The British man used every inch of his fit body to run towards the fish. In the meantime, a local man who worked at the kayak rentals was running towards the fish from the opposite direction. The local man gets to the fish a few seconds before and the British man is obviously relieved. However, the man grabbed the fish and quickly ran away. The British man opened his arms in disbelief and turned to me. “Why did he do that?” he says with a sweet voice. I didn’t know. The truth was that I was kind of shocked as well. When I first saw the fish out of the water I felt bad for it, seeing it ran out of air. The British man repeated the question and shook his head. Suddenly a colleague of the “fish-stealer” was looking at us with a smile on his face. The British guy repeated the question. The man responded with a huge grin on his face, “he was going to make himself a fish sandwich for lunch.”

The British man looked sad and I was thinking the whole scene looked kind of funny. There is no doubt that everybody approaches every situation from a place that is very personal. Some people want to help, others want to fill a physical need. Some see the value of their altruistic nature and others in seizing the opportunities that life freely presents.

 

A fish that is brought to shore is found by a hungry man. Is that synchronicity? A man whose only present worry is to build a sand castle that makes his daughters happy sees a a fish that is drafted to his feet and the savior in him takes over. Sometimes, we have to choose what to do with the unexpected situations that appear in front of us. Usually, there is no wrong or right answer, only choices. However, there is no doubt that if we want to take action, sometimes it is useful to be the fastest runner because opportunities tend to have a fleeting window of success.

 

When I sat down on the beach chair later I saw the British man retelling the story to his family. He was saying how he tried to be a hero although he failed. Then I thought about the local man enjoying his fried fish in between two pieces of bread, sauce dripping on the sides and I smiled. I imagined the story he would be sharing with his friends about how a fish jumped out of the water and practically onto his plate.


I smiled and I thought on how many times I have been like each of the two men. Many other times I have been like the fish as well. And occasionally, I have discovered that when we relax and pay attention to the world around us, life throws coins of wisdom that look like comedy scenes and some time taste like fried fish by the beach.

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