LETTUCE, MOMMY-HUGS AND MEMORIES

Mom 80Funny how some moments stick in one’s mind forever. I was just making myself a salad for lunch and every time I make a salad I remember my mother. Not all of her, just one precise incident, one small moment in time. It must have been in the ‘60s, we were at my parent’s weekend house in Valle de Bravo –a small lakeside town in the wooded hills of the State of Mexico about three hours’ drive from Mexico City- and they had invited a Norwegian couple with whom they had been friends (and neighbors) for years: Ella and Ivar. My mother set about preparing dinner and Ella offered to help (I was in the living room talking to my father, I think). Suddenly my mother stomped out of the kitchen; she was livid, her thin face all screwed up into a grimace, her boney hands tightened into little fists.

“She sliced the lettuce! How can she be so dumb? Lettuce for salad should be torn not sliced!” She seemed beside herself with rage. I remember being shocked not that my mother was mad (a state she often found herself in), but that she could get so upset over such a small detail. What in earth did it matter if lettuce for salad was sliced with a knife into even pieces or torn by hand into uneven pieces? I don’t suppose anything came of my mother’s tantrum that night because I remember nothing more about the evening, but even today I can never prepare lettuce for salad (tearing it, of course) without thinking of my mother and her rather absurd anger that one evening, and when I slice the endive that I usually include in my salads, I wonder if she would have thought I should tear it also.

I must admit that my mother getting angry was something that happened more often than I like to remember. One of my early “traumas” stemmed from the yelling fights between my parents after they had had a couple of evening cocktails. I remember my mother saying once that she never slept so well as after a fight with my father (she would stomp off to the bedroom and lock the door leaving him to sleep in the living room or library).

Strangely enough, the fondest memory I have of my mother is precisely of her getting angry. It comes from when she was much older, in a nursing home in Madrid, Spain, and completely gaga. Senile dementia had stolen her capacity to speak and to understand all but the simplest of phrases, such as ‘Would you like some ice cream?’ The only thing she seemed to have not forgotten was how to get mad. Some days when I would go to visit her in the residence, she would see me come through the door and her face would screw up into a grimace of anger and her hands would tighten into those two little angular fists that seemed to say she was ready for a fight. She would glare down and off to the side as I stepped into the room.

“Are you angry, Mother?” I would query gently, smiling to myself and her whole body would tighten even more like a spring forced to twist against its natural coil. “Ok then, I’ll just sit here beside you for a moment and wait,” I’d say, taking the empty chair to her right. We’d sit there in silence for about three minutes and then she would stand up, take two steps, sit herself down on my waiting knees, lift her legs so I could pass my arm beneath them, and cuddle up to my neck like a child. She weighed no more than 47 kilos by then, so holding her thus was easy and delightful. All the love that many times I had failed to feel for my mother previously would flow through me at those moments and I would melt with tenderness for that head-strong, demanding, spoiled woman who had given me life. She… Life… gave me that most precious memory that even today –more than eleven years after her death- I cannot remember without feeling tears of joy filling my eyes and without my heart swelling with love. It is strange, perhaps, that this should have been her parting gift, seeing as she had seldom been physically demonstrative towards me before. As a matter of fact, I have very few –if any- memories of physical closeness with my mother except this incredible present of her final years.

When I was 50 (my mother would have been 77) and recently divorced from alcohol, cigarettes and my husband, I went into a prolonged period of psycho-therapy and discovered that I, much like my mother, was filled with rage and that 99% of this fury was directed against what I saw as the spoiled, selfish, egocentric adolescent of a mother I had. I remember entire sessions with the therapist, me insisting that I hated my mother and she gently suggesting that, actually, I loved her. Little by little, I worked through the anger, learning to place limits, to not allow her manipulation and to see her as the aging, frightened, lonely woman she was. Then something happened that changed our relationship forever.

She had dropped by my house and was about to leave when suddenly into my head and out of my mouth came the following words: “I want a Mommy-hug”. She looked at me obviously bewildered. I stood there in front of her waiting. By that time, she had shrunken quite a bit and I was around 6-8 cms taller than she was; I could have easily taken her in my arms forcibly and done the hugging, but that wasn’t what I wanted. “Give me a real Mommy-hug” I insisted opening my arms but not moving towards her. She cautiously and stiffly lifted her arms and placed her wrists at the height of my waist, giving a little squeeze.

“No,” I stated firmly, “I want a Mommy-hug, a really real Mommy-hug.” She moved a little bit closer so that her forearms could sort of bend behind my waist but she still was centimeters away from the bulk of my body. I felt a slight increase in the pressure, but whatever it was, it was so far from a hearty hug that I repeated with even more emphasis: “No! A Real Mommy-Hug!”

With that, she suddenly moved in close, entwined her whole arms around my waist as I put mine around her shoulders and we hugged a real hug. I have no explanation for what happened in that instant. I can only describe it like a lightning-bolt of energy passing between us through the whole length of our bodies. I don’t even know if she felt it too, but I was left speechless. She quickly let go and stepped back, mumbled something and headed for the door. I couldn’t even move, fixed in place by the memory running through my body of what had just happened. I heard her car drive away, but still I stood there, glowing with the absolute realization that I loved my mother, and that what had passed between us could only be the intense discharge of the energy of that love so strongly denied.

A few minutes later, I was still standing there or close by, when I heard her car pull up again. Then I heard the car door open, and her feet rapidly mounting the steps to my door. Suddenly a small morsel of paper was slipped under the door, and her steps descended again, the car door closed and she drove off. I moved to pick up the paper. Written on it, in pencil and in her neat, measured script I read:

        That hug was the most important that has ever happened to me in my life.

That was all, nothing more: no gushing, no overstatement, just sixteen simple words expressing –perhaps- her painful, lifelong incapacity of physical closeness with her daughter. From that day on, every time I saw my mother, I would adopt a mischievous expression on my face, tilt my head and laughingly say: “Oh boy, oh boy: time for a Mommy-hug”, and we would move easily into each other’s arms laughing.

A short time later, my mother began to lose her cognizance and over a period of eleven years she slowly left. In the beginning, it was not easy for either of us because she was terrified and I was intensely and selfishly working on rebuilding my life, but we did the best we could as we all always do. Those eleven years, during which I was responsible for making my mother’s life as easy as possible given the circumstances, were a gift. I never brought her to live with me (as my brother had suggested the moment he knew her mind was going, to which I countered that he might consider having her move in with him, thus ending the conversation) because I had decided that I had a right to love my mother and I knew that if I burdened my new life with her ever increasing care, I would end up closer to murder than affection. While in Mexico, I hired the best help I could so that she was always seen to, accompanied and cared for while living in her own abode. When I moved to Madrid and brought her with me, she was placed in the best nursing home available, only six blocks from my home so that I could visit as often as possible. I know I did the best I could and, therefore, I have no regrets. And I asked the Universe, God, the Cosmos or whatever you wish to call that which governs our existence on this plane, that if it was possible I wanted to be with her when she passed. That wish was miraculously granted as I have written about in another place and will not repeat here.

Now I am near the age my mother was when we had our first hug, progressing through my own 70’s and I begin to contemplate (still, I hope, at some distance) the wrapping up of my personal story. I cannot say that I have done a better job than my mother at mothering because I doubt very much that I have. But fortunately now I know –just as I hope that she did- that I have done the best I could, always and that I love my children just as much as my mother loved me which –in the end- turned out to be more than enough.

 

 

FOOT-IN-MOUTH DISEASE AND FOUL WEATHER

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Now that I am almost totally recovered from my latest bout of Foot-in-Mouth disease thanks to eating a lot of Crow, I can turn my mind and my writing to other matters of more immediate importance.

But before I do, allow me to say that Foot-in-Mouth disease has been with me always, sort of like cold sores or pimples which are hard to avoid getting at some time in your life if you are human. For some strange reason, I never learned to keep my mouth shut, or that Silence was Golden, or that words once spoken (or written as is often my case) could not be taken back, or any of that adult wisdom which is so generously spooned out to young-uns. This doesn’t mean I can’t keep a secret; I am actually an excellent secret-keeper. If someone says to me: “Please don’t tell anyone what I am about to tell you,” I will put the forthcoming information in the forget-it box and never recall it again. My friends can attest to that. But if you do not give me those specific instructions when you share something with me, you run the risk of it appearing in a conversation later on or –more likely- in a blog-post, a letter, or even in a posthumous diary my children choose to publish. Everything is fodder for the beast of creativity and when it lets loose, there is little room for contemplation of dire consequences. My kids, now-a-days, come up with TMI (too much information) when my telling of a story exceeds the proper amount of editing, because they are used to my always adding more details than needed.cof

Now, on to other things such as the weather. The weather has been more than ghastly. It has been frightful, dreadful, horrendous, hideous, grisly, revolting, repulsive and downright gross! Having completely skipped over the need to produce a few frosts to kill vermin and mites (we had but three days below zero in November), winter has proceeded to weep its eyes out in drizzles, in torrents, in scattered drops, in mizzling mists (sort of like the kind of moisture spray you can buy to humidify your face)… nonstop! Apart from making Salome’s and my daily walks a kind of torture by water, the extreme humidity has cofprovoked a very early spring.

Yesterday it rained almost all day –give or take an hour or two around noon- and today we have even more. The Weather Man announced that our region was on Orange Alert (which is about stage three on a Def Com scale of 4) for flooding and the map of France was 98% grey with raindrops all through it. Thursday we had what had to be the most beautiful day in a cofmonth, during which the sun pushed its way through the clouds for at least two hours and no rain fell. But before and after that it has been one storm front after another, accompanied most times by strong winds that uproot trees from water-logged soil, topple lamp-posts, and strew the streets with dead leaves and branches. Even the roosters and hens are oznorwater-logged.

It’s not even the end of January and the daffodils are coming up, the camellias are blooming, lawns are filled with dandelions and the white and yellow polka dots of paquerettes (usually not seen until around Paques or Easter oznorweek) and I just sighted several printemps (the definite spring flower) peeping out under the bushes in a flower bed and even a lonely violet. And the temperature, apart from seldom going below 9ºC, pushes up to 13º, 14º and 15ºC during the day even without the help of sunlight. It seems that if we had sun, we would have summer already! And then there are some who deny the problem of climate change (won’t mention any names because of oznorthat F-in-M disease which could catch up with me next time I want to visit my son in Los Angeles).

Every once in a while I pause in my writing and turn to glance out the window only to certify that the rain keeps on falling. Oh well, it is Sunday, after all, and I have a couple of good movies to watch, so… until it is time for Salomé to go out again, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain (to the tune of ‘Let it snow…’)

FORGIVENESS, OR WHEN THE UNIVERSE CLOSES A DOOR, IT ALWAYS OPENS A WINDOW

In my last post I spoke of forgiving myself, but recent events have made me think about forgiveness in and of itself. I have come to believe, through personal experience, that the best definition of forgiveness is the one that Byron Katie gives: “Forgiveness is the realization that what you thought happened, didn’t.”

This is true: if I believe someone has done something wrong to me, I can question the belief that they did it to me which invariably leads me to see quite plainly that it had nothing to do with me and it was only I, myself, taking it personally that caused the pain. If someone hits, insults or in some way tries to harm me, I can understand that they are doing the best they can in that moment with what they are believing about me or about themselves (they are striking out against the person they believe me to be, not who I really am). This, of course, doesn’t mean that I will stick around and let them continue abusing me or themselves, but understanding that they are doing the best they can with what they believe in the moment, allows me to see that it has nothing to do with me and therefore there is nothing to forgive.

Voilà an example:

I had quit drinking –let´s say- three months earlier, in other words I still wasn’t emotionally very sober. My mother came over to our house (I was still married then) for supper and she came through the door gaily announcing to my husband: “Fernando, your drinking partner is here because Brianda no longer drinks.” I flew into a red rage MAMA–doubly so, because my husband couldn’t understand what I was so angry about- said a couple of nasty things in a loud voice and stomped off to the bedroom. The thought was: ‘How can she be so cruel’, obviously to me. That scene alone sufficed for years to prove to me how unloving my mother was which, of course, was one of the reasons I was so messed up.

It wasn’t till years later, many years later (after my mother had died, actually), that I questioned that belief, thinking it was time to forgive her. The thought was: she was being cruel. As I viewed the scene, in my mind’s eye, first holding the thought (still rage) and then without the thought (sudden realization and laughter), I saw clearly that her entering announcement had nothing to do with me. It was my mother being her usual flirtatious, playful, man-attracting self that always wanted attention (but only all of it). As I watched the scene play over again and again in my mind’s eye, I felt a wave of love for my mother, a smile spread across my face and a mad desire to run and embrace her took hold of me. I felt so sorry I had treated her badly at that moment. It was then I realized that there was nothing to forgive, there never had been. There was a sadness in my work that day for, when I turned the thought around (I was being cruel to her) I could definitely see that I had been, attacking her directly with every intention of hurting her. But The Work freed me. It freed me to love my mother with all my heart which is my birth right.

Even forgiving myself is understanding that there is nothing to forgive: I can’t know to do any better than I know to do in each moment; when I raged out at my mother, I was still believing all my thoughts. It would be many years before I was freed from this. So when I said in the previous post that I forgave myself, it actually was saying that I1944-1 Poughkeepsie25042014 (2) realized I had done the best I knew how to do with the information I had at the moment and that now, with new information, I would hopefully not repeat the mistake. Slate wiped clean.

So this is what Katie means when she says that forgiveness is understanding that there is nothing to forgive; that we are all, in every moment, doing the best we can with what we believe.

Unfortunately, the person who supposedly (the harm is done, she said, but never specified where or how) suffered the wrong I unwittingly committed, does not feel the same way. For her there is no forgiveness possible. I would not know this for sure (although I suspected it would be so, knowing this person) until yesterday morning when I worked up enough courage to walk into town and enter the café where we gather.

cofAs far as the group went, there was only one person (whom I will call our local Drama Queen because she is always in a state of righteous anger about something somewhere she has found wrong) in the Café and I walked over to say hello. Before I could reach her, she swung around on her barstool and told me she was furious with me because I had fought with the other member of the group and therefore she –the person I had fought with- wouldn’t be coming to the coffee group any more as long as I was there, and therefore the Drama Queen would never see her again. I politely, but firmly, set the story right (I did not fight with her, I made a mistake and she was apparently hurt by it) and told her not to worry, that it would be me quitting the group so the other friend could come. I realized, in that moment, that I had made a decision.

The ironic thing about this scene is that the person whom I hurt and was not going to come to the café any more, can’t stand the Drama Queen who was so bitterly lamenting that she would never see her again (something ridiculous as they live in the same town and if they were friends they could visit each other; but they are not even friends). Anyway, I sat alone and drank my coffee and then left.

WINDOWStrangely, as I walked home, the thought of not going to the café every morning for coffee didn’t weigh me down; on the contrary, I felt lighter. Inside, there was a conviction that the Universe never closes a door without opening a window, and all of a sudden I began looking forward to what might come next. Yes, during the afternoon, I had a couple of down-thoughts (I won’t have the group to buy presents for when I travel any more, and there will be no birthday celebration for me on the 1st of August this year) and a slight feeling of loss swept through my chest thinking of the friend who will not forgive, but on the whole I felt pretty good. During the afternoon, I wrote to the coffee group and explained the situation without going into details, and announced that I would be retiring from the group out of respect for the ‘injured’ party who had been there long before me.

One friend answered, it was the artist and sculptress. She jokingly suggested that instead of a café group we form a restaurant group and invited me to join her and some painter friends for lunch the following day (today). I gratefully accepted, and there it was: new beginnings. Added to that, a dear friend who reads my blog, alerted by the last post, emailed me to let me know she was there if I needed anything. That felt so sweet that grateful tears filled my eyes.

img_5192This morning I went to another café (where the coffee is slightly more expensive but much, much better) and had a jolly conversation with a woman who was visiting from a nearby village (in French!). Then at noon, I met the Artist lady and her friends, spent a delightful two hours and had a delicious lunch. C’est la vie, what to do, that’s life!

I MADE A MISTAKE…

You will stumble.                                                                                                                              You will fall and bruise yourself. You will feel like giving up.

The path won’t always seem clear.

But remember, friend: You are forever on the path.                                                                         Losing the path is part of the path. Forgetting the path is part of the path.

Your true path cannot be lost.                                                                                                      Your true path is wherever you are.      (Jeff Foster)

 

So I made a mistake…  no doubt about it, a big mistake, something that apparently hurt another person, or at least they think so and have told me in so many words that they are very disappointed in me. I am not going to talk about the mistake as such, but rather about its effect on me. I know everyone has made mistakes and I am sure I am not the only one who has reacted in the manner I am about to describe.

I had no idea I had erred until this person called me on the phone, said that they were furious with me and told me why. At that moment, I saw the mistake, the big one. I felt as if the bottom of my life had just dropped out and everything I held dear was draining away. The sinking feeling was accompanied by the realization of my absolute powerlessness: the mistake had been made, there was nothing that could change it, it was already in the past, soldered there for all of eternity.

I immediately said I was sorry, that I had meant no harm, that they were absolutely right and I was responsible and how could I make it right. As the mistake was in writing, I offered to erase what had been written, although as that person so rightly pointed out, I could not erase what had already been read: the harm was done (according to them).

Anyway, I did what I could to correct the uncorrectable and then asked if there was anything else I could do. The answer was once more that this person was very disappointed in me and that the harm was already done. It sounded pretty final.

There was nothing left to do but to live with the MISTAKE, which is punishment enough as everyone must well know. So for two days now, I have been living with the mistake. Of course, living with it seemed –at first- like doom: there was nothing I could do, nothing that would change what had been done, nothing to avoid being rejected by everyone who had contact with this person if they decided to inform (warn) their friends. The feeling of doom –which was so disastrous that it made me contemplate the possibility of having to move away from my beloved little village-, was followed by a devastating feeling of shame. All I wanted was a hole to crawl into, and it didn’t have to be very big, given the diminished state in which I found myself.

But something was different from other times when making a mistake had seemed like the end of the world. There was a part of me that stepped outside of the bowed and shameful me, and looked on kindly, perhaps even embraced me at a given moment. So warm was this embrace that sweet tears would fill my eyes and help me get past the sinking feeling and back into the living world.

During these two days, days that felt like I was mourning the death of someone dear (myself, no doubt), that larger presence never left me and every time I took a dive into the depths of despair, there would be a hand there and a kind of soft knowledge that nothing happens but for the best. I can’t count the times I have felt tears coming and dribbling down my cheeks and in each instance that other presence would patiently wait, holding me until the feeling of unworthiness passed.

Then today she/it, asked the question: “You shouldn’t have made a mistake, is that true?” and I couldn’t find a ‘yes’, because it happened. I looked hard at my state of mind immediately before and right after “making the mistake” and saw clearly that –not only was there no intention (that was obvious and that is why it is called a mistake) – but neither was here any thought whatsoever that there might be a mistake contained in my action: in other words, it was as irreflexive as it was irresponsible: a ‘disaster’ produced in a child’s irreflexive action. It wasn’t only that I meant no harm, but rather that it never occurred to me to think harm or good might come of my action: it was just an action, an action without a future such as children perform. I can add all the “should-have’s” I want to it but they didn’t exist in the moment. There was only excitement, the excitement of a ‘child’ who discovers something and wishes to share it with others. As I realized this, she/it asked another question: Did you make amends? ‘Absolutely!’ I answered, ‘in the instant in which I realized the mistake, and I offered to make more if there were any more demanded.’ Did you understand clearly what the mistake was so that you won’t make it ever again if you can help it? ‘Oh yes!!!’ I cried, feeling completely certain that nothing like that would ever happen again from my conscious mind. Then your work is done – she/it said- and you don’t need that person’s forgiveness, you need your own, which is the only one that will set you free.

In that instant I knew she/it was right: I had to forgive myself for being human… No, much more: I had to love myself for being so human as to make blatant mistakes… and survive. Suddenly a weight was lifted from me and once more tears filled my eyes, but this time they were tears of understanding and love and tenderness. I realized finally that if the other person wanted to stay in a place of insisting that what had happened shouldn’t have happened (unforgiving), that was their problem. And what is more, I knew that I couldn’t be sure a greater good wouldn’t come from this ‘mistake’ both for the other person and for myself (mine has already come, I think I have learned an important lesson), so I am watching and waiting. At any rate, my experience is that this is always the case, but only always.

 

WHAT TO DO?

Dream. In last night’s dream, I was at some kind of gathering and this girl was attempting to work with her therapist who was trying all sorts of complicated stuff that I could see wasn’t doing the trick. In a given moment, I turned to the girl and asked: “What do you want?” She looked ghost-stricken: “What do I want?” “Yes,” I said, “what do you want?”

In the dream, I felt good about having fired such a pointed question. The girl then asked me if she could have a session with me and I said “Fine, this afternoon”. Then I went out into the street, passed a very elegant office building and went in thinking that if one of the elegant offices wasn’t in use I could give her the session there and impress her. While I was talking to the clerk to arrange it, I changed my mind and remembered that I worked really well out of my own apartment.

The scene changed and I was in –apparently- my apartment (didn’t look familiar) and the girl arrived; other people –perhaps her friends- were present to watch. She came with a dog, a puppy, and I had a dog; in the dream there seemed to be several dogs. There was a lot of confusion, bustle and noise that wasn’t allowing me to start the session, so I asked everyone to help get the dogs and ‘children’ (there were little children running around) out of the room.

Somehow, clearing the room wasn’t possible and a lot of time was lost trying to do so. Then when we were about to begin, the girl began talking to someone with long blond hair -apparently her travel agent- who was helping her fill in a Visa form. I insisted she pay attention, but she said she had to fill in the Visa form because she was planning a trip. Then she asked if she would have to pay for the session anyway and I said ‘Of course’, and immediately thought of the example of renting a hotel room and not using it, but having to pay for it anyway. Then I turned and said to her:

“You see: you don’t know what you want.” And with that avouchment, I awoke.

Of course, I am both the therapist and the girl in the dream. I am both asking ‘what I want’ and not knowing ‘what I want’, which in real life leads me to fill the time with ‘friends’ (FB, games, what I call ‘wasting time’), a dog and a trip (Visa) without answering the question. Now that I am reading again (I mean reading literature, real published books), persistently, I see writers who WRITE, and publish (internet is not publishing, its electronic grafitti according to someone I overheard once) and do it well. I see my impossibility and fruitlessness in the writing field. I read: “A writer sits down every day and does it; first drafts are always shitty”… I jot down ideas, begin useless pages that never continue, copy quotes that ‘inspire’ me… and still I do not write, not a book. Actually, I haven’t written anything bookable since I stopped drinking 26 years ago; whatever I have published after that has been just a ‘refrito’ as we say in Mexico: a refrying of things already written before. And my blog, everyday stuff, nothing serious. Therefore if I ask: Do I want to write? I would have to say that it seems not, at least not professionally.

So the question remains: ‘What do I want?’ From the above I can deduce that I want to DO something that gives my life meaning… and whatever that might be, to be valid it would have to be recognized by others… And there’s the “rub” as our old friend, Shakespeare, said.

So it would seem that what I want is to give my today life some meaning (in the eyes of others, of course, and therefore in mine) and playing solitaire in its diverse forms to whittle away the hours is not generally what one is remembered for all through Sin títuloposterity! Like: “Oh, you remember Brianda? She was an A-1 Solitaire player, beat the computer every time! Incredible” or even in the present: “Hi, how is that fantastic game of solitaire going? Still winning? You must come and give us a conference sometime on how you do it. Everyone will be so thrilled. Have you ever considered giving a TED talk?” No, not exactly what playing solitaire gets you, although I do win an uncountable amount of imaginary coins.

My blog sometimes gets me some nice, almost immediate recognition from the one or two people who read it and deign to comment, which is certainly a ‘timely’ improvement over books that take years to write, idem to publish and receive at least half as much negative feedback as positive.

oznorAnd it is obvious that the FB page I started (A GRAIN of SAND) was to be noticed and applauded as the initiator of a world-changing movement (¡Ha!) with millions of followers placing their grain of sand for the betterment of the planet. Sometimes I make myself sick of myself (yes, the repetition is on purpose)! Just yesterday, when I took my morning walk, the world was so absolutely perfect that I could find not one thing do-able to ‘improve’ it. However, I must admit that looking for something to do in that sense made me really appreciate the beauty of the morning washed clean by the night’s rain and sparkling as I had not seen for more than a week.

This morning I gave myself permission to pass over the possibility of picking up multiple pieces of trash in the gutters along my way and actually gifted me with a beautiful, freshcof head of lettuce from the Saturday market. Then, as if this were not enough to make my day, I stopped to chat with an acquaintance who was tending to her flowering red camellia. We exchanged a few platitudes about Nature’s confusion what with the weather seeming like spring when winter was still upon us, and she handed me –over the fence- two lovely camellia buds that she had obviously picked for her own living room. So, admittedly, the world had just made me a better place.

mdeSo the dream is speaking to me, it is telling me to stop and look and answer the question… or perhaps to ask other questions such as: ‘I need to know what I want… is that true?’ Or, as Byron Katie would say, ‘What I want is what is’… How do I know that? Because that is what is… Sometimes I feel like saying: ‘Shut-up, Katie!’

But no, her voice is loud and clear in my e-mail box: “The original stressful thought is the thought of an “I”. Before that thought, there was peace. A thought is born out of nothing and instantly goes back to where it came from. If you look before, between, and after your thoughts, you’ll see that there is only a vast openness. That’s the space of don’t-know. It’s who we really are. It’s the source of everything, it contains everything: life and death, beginning, middle and end.”

But coming back to ME… I am still quite entangled with my “I” that is constantly asking me what I want to do, in the waking and the dreaming worlds. So I say to myself: “Look around: what do other people do?” And I find that they do exactly as I do: carry on with life as best they can and be thankful for having so much that is undeserved.

 

 

 

ARROGANCE, DEPRESSION, THE WHOLE ENCHILADA…

 

It was definitely a stroke of arrogance that made me write out a sign that reads: “WHAT CAN I DO TODAY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”, like that, in redcof letters, and pin it on my door to remind me as I leave the apartment that I have a debt with existence and that I can actually do something about it. How do I know it was arrogance? Because immediately after placing said sign in the designated place, I went to Facebook and found a video progressively describing, first the planets, then the stars, then the galaxies, and finally the infinite universes in the MULTIVERSE, which brought tears to my eyes and led me to ‘share’ it under the heading: “…and then there is me…”  (https://www.facebook.com/100008390564556/videos/2053435061612826/).  Did I get the imagesW9SQ371Wmessage and leave well enough alone? You know damn well I didn’t! No! Actually, I completely ignored the message -which in no uncertain terms showed me my actual importance- and began to feel all puffed up and proud of my act of generosity in wanting to do my part in making the world a better place, Me… Yes, the same me.

As a matter of fact, I began feeling so good about it, that there was a moment of euphoria (always a bad sign) during which I convinced myself that my idea was so good it was actually worth sharing. Supposing –the argument in my head went-, just supposing that my little brainstorm was sooo inspiring as to get others to do the same, as to start a movement, as to actually influence the state of affairs of the world. I began to get excited, to feel importantme (yup, same one). So I went back to Facebook and clicked on the ‘create a Facebook page’, images 2or whatever it’s called, button; I thought up a name (A GRAIN of SAND) without imagining that there probably were umpteen pages with that same name and similar purposes already on Facebook; I looked for a photograph of a beach and cut it down to size for the page; and I wrote out what seemed to me to be a purpose (do small acts that better the world and record them on the page). Then I happily ticked off everyone on my “friends” list and asked them to like and join the page. There was a ‘rush’, a ripple of excitement and self-importance as I pushed the fleeting thought of a million followers to the back of my mind (it interfered with my assumed humility) and saw the world being transformed because of my one simple inspiration.

Then I realized that –as I was administering the page and inviting everyone to share- I should begin by writing what I had done that day ‘to make the world a better place’. And that was when reality stepped back in. What had I done, precisely, to make the world a better place? Blank… Lamely I wrote that ‘I had started the Facebook page as my oneedf grain of sand’. It sounded so presumptuous! Then I remembered I had picked up some empty beer cans that somebody –probably a group of young men out on the town which in Salies is not very exciting- had left on the lawn of a nearby nursing home, so I noted that down, but instead of the expected feel-good (me… look what I did!!!), I experienced the act as useless. After all, there was undoubtedly someone in charge of the green areas around the nursing home as the grass was cut and the bushes trimmed, so I was just doing what someone else would do when he or she came around. Lamely, I added that my grain of sand that day included smiling at everyone I passed on the street on my way to coffee in the morning. That cinched it. By that time, I was feeling miserable, lower than low. After all, I can smile at people because I have the advantage of living in a small town; if I did that in a big city, like Madrid or Paris, I would probably be considered looney rather than ‘kind’ or plain indecent. I know: I’ve tried it.imagesNQF3S8VV

I clicked ‘Publish’ and saw my lame ‘contribution’ go up on the page and suddenly everything that had inflated, deflated; my chest caved in, my stomach twisted up. Who… just who did I think I was. If I had known how to erase the whole thing I would have in that moment, but the invitation sent out was being responded to by loving people who perhaps didn’t see how ridiculous I was or did and just wanted to make me feel better, and I had no idea how to eliminate everything anyway (I hadn’t even known how to create it adequately and somehow had made a ‘commercial’ page which FB kept asking me to promote). I went to bed that evening feeling lonely and useless and ridiculous, in other words: totally depressed. Nightmares of frustration and despair populated my sleeping hours to the point where it was a relief to wake up.

026 (2)This morning I realized that the only way to make the world a better place today was to take care of myself, so I let myself have a little cry hugging me tightly all the while, finally smiled at my innocence, told myself that the silly FB page would do no one any harm, not even me and set off for my morning coffee with faithful Salomé who –in her dog world- does not suffer from these insane flights of ego (up and down, always up and then down). On the way, what did I see but a little grain of sand for me to add to the world’s beach: the wind –which has continued to blow all day- had swept the black garbage bagcof out of one of the town’s blue waste baskets (light blue is the Béarnaise color and shows up in most of the public fixtures) where I was about to place the poo-bag I had used to clean up after Salomé. I placed the poo-bag on the ground, picked up the black plastic garbage bag –which was empty- and replaced it in the light blue waste basket; cofthen I put the poo-bag inside to weigh it down.

My contribution to making the world a better place, I thought to myself, smiling as I continued my walk noticing at every step how absolutely perfect the world is without me tending to it.

cof

 

XMAS, HOLIDAYS, TRAVEL AND NEW YEAR’S EVE

It is January 1, 2018 and I am sitting in my small apartment in Salies de Béarn thinking about writing this piece to begin the year. I am happy. It is pouring rain, the wind is howling around with a tempest called “Carmen” which will continue all through the week; according to the weather man there is no chance we will see the sun until Sunday (how appropriate!) and today is only Monday. And I am happy and peaceful.

cofTwo days ago (that would be the 30th of December, 2017) I awoke at 9:30 in the morning in the small hotel where I always stay in Madrid. It was a beautiful, sunny day so I decided that, in spite of possible jet-lag, I would make the 6 hour drive home that very day. But there was nocof

jet-lag and the drive was easy, and I even went the extra 10 kilometers to pick up Salomé before heading home.

The no-jet-lag was definitely a surprise, but perhaps I should start at the beginning.

This year my son had invited the whole family to spend Christmas at his house in Lake Tahoe. After enjoying two days in Madrid, where I was treated to the most incredible oznorsunset over the city, I flew to Los Angeles on the 19th of December and spent the night in my son’s house in Malibu; the following day, we (my son, his wife, me, three grandchildren and their little dog) drove in two cars to Lake Tahoe (10 hours); it was snowing when we arrived (delightful). To make a long story short, a couple of days later my daughter and two more grandchildren arrived, one of them with his girlfriend. By that time we were 10; one other grandson –who had to work over Xmas- spent three days with us before returning to L.A. My son’s eldest male offspring arrived on the 25th with his girlfriend making us an even dozen.

IMG-20171224-WA0026Now consider that I spend 99 percent of my time living alone in a small apartment with a dog that doesn’t even bark; I hardly ever put on music and the only sound I hear is when I watch a movie or while talking with someone over Skype. I am my own boss: I eat, play and sleep when I want, what I want and with or without whomever I want. So the idea of spending 9 days with 12 other people –no matter how close to my heart they are- was daunting to say the least. Would I be able to stand it? Would I get irritated? Would I find myself running off to hide in my room most of the time? Were there going to be fights, unpleasantness, criticisms… I admit I was, at moments, a bit frazzled.

However, once there I began to have the time of my life. Yes, at moments the noise levelIMG-20171223-WA0010 was daunting with no one listening and everyone talking at once in voices that got louder and louder as everyone strove to dominate the general mayhem, and occasionally I found myself going hoarse in my effort to get a message across and finally giving up; I admit that –added to this- the constant musical background without which modern generations seem unable to live seemed absolutely unnecessary as it was never actually listened to. (I am tempted to remember that in my days and those of my parents, we put on music and then sat down and actually listened to it without talking. Music constituted an art form to be enjoyed of and by itself. Today, I’m afraid, people appreciate music the way my mother appreciated the Louvre, a museum she went through in less than 15 cofminutes.) The day everyone went skiing and I stayed home alone, my son asked if I wanted him to put on some music for me (he kindly thought that it might make me feel less lonely, as if being alone ever made me feel lonely) and I said “most certainly not!” and proceeded to enjoy the absolute silence.

Except for that one day, I spent every waking moment with the family: helping in the kitchen, making the gravy for the turkey, washing the dishes, playing table games with my grandchildren, shopping for food, petting or walking the dogs, fixing my own breakfast, mixing granola to share with the grandchildren or just sitting and watching and listening to my cofwonderful, beautiful family. I don’t remember a happier Christmas in my whole life, and it wasn’t at all about presents. Yes, presents were given, but somehow they weren’t the center of attention; they were almost like an afterthought. Much more important were the conversations, the hugs, the caresses, the games we played and all the times I got the giggles with one cofgrandchild or another. Everyone participated in the preparation of meals and I loved just being one more cog in the machinery of cooking and cleaning up.

When the moment my departure came, I realized that I would have loved to stay another four or five days until after New Year’s; I feared I would be terribly sad upon leaving. Apart from separating from the family, I had booked myself 26 hours of travel which made the prospect even less promising. But then I did something I had never done, and everything was perfect. I left without leaving. From the moment I stepped into the Uber car for my drive to the Reno airport, I began documenting my trip by taking photos and then sending them by Whatsapp to the family site so that every moment of the trip I was still with them and they were with me.cof

There was the picture of Lake Tahoe from the mountain top as we drove towards Reno; (below which I wrote “I still see you!!”); then cofan image of sprawling Los Angeles right before landing.

In the terminal, where I had a 7 hour layover, the “I Love L.A.” oznorsign over a store in the airport, the moving belt where I waited for my luggage, my suitcase coming down the chute and then the two matching bags standing side by side were all recorded and duly sent. I kept taking pictures and sending the info of my progress coftowards home, and this way, I realized that I hadn’t really left, I could still imagine each member of my family hearing the ‘ding’ of his or her phone, gazing at the screen and connecting with me upon receiving the photo.

My hours in L.A. airport became pictures of what I ate in the VIP lounge, of a hat on a stand outside a store which read: “I can’t Adult today” which was exactly how I was feeling in my playful mood; there were pictures of other coftravelers crossing my path; of a frozen yoghurt I treated myself to in memory of another time when I had shared one at the same stand with my daughter and granddaughter; of me reclining in a comfy chair; of the moving walkway where I cofstrolled back and forth to get my exercise of the day; of the luminous Iberia sign announcing that the flight would leave on time and that boarding was to begin at 8:50p.m. It became a game in which I was the only player and I was having a great time. I knew the other family members would be looking at different moments and soburst felt connected to them even if there made no comments: they were busy still having their own fun. But I was taking them with me at the same time: there was no way I was letting go.

sdrThere is a picture of the people ahead of me going down the jet way onto the plane; and of me in my seat with my feet up, followed by a shot of L.A. lights on takeoff. mde

Then I settled into my usual routine on long flights: supper and then a sleeping pill. I awoke 5 hours later perfectly rested, took a picture of the moon over the wing against a beautiful blue skycof and sent it to the family. Still in touch. I followed with a snapshot of the porthole, wing and a bed of clouds below; and finally of the London landing fieldcof at Heathrow the evening of the 29th as I sat in the plane for over 30 minutes waiting for a slot to disembark and fearing I would miss my connection to Madrid. Finally, after the usual race through Heathrow airport convinced that I would never make it, I sent a photo showing my boarding gate as closed (panic) and then one discovering that they had changed the

 

oznor

gate and my flight to Madrid was delayed. Plenty of time to board. Once more, a selfie of me sitting in my seat for the final leg of the

oznor

journey. By the time we took off, I had been travelling for 24 hours although, by clock time, I would lose a total of 9 hours in the transit. I landed in Madrid an hour and a half later (which by the clock was two hours and a half because of the time difference), picked up cofmy car and drove to the hotel, arriving exactly 27 hours after leaving Tahoe; I was –by then- quite tired. The last two pictures I sent were of a bowl of hot soup I had in the restaurant for supper with the caption: “warm soup for good little girls”, and my hotel room. Then I crashed.

And yet, I was not home. The following morning (after sleeping 9 whole hours) I hopped in my car and took off, continuing mysdr

pictorial journal with photos of the fog filled highway, and then the clear skies once leaving the central part of Spain, a photo ofsdr

my luncheon salad and detox juice in a place called Quintalapalla, and finally the picture of little Salomé on the car seat beside me which appears at the beginning of this post, and the sunset from my bedroom window. I was home.

I sent a message of thanks to my family for the wonderful, wonderful holiday and unpacked. Surprisingly enough I have neither suffered from jetlag nor from sadness or solitude. Everything about the trip was so perfect, even the way I ended it; where would sadness fit in? It turns out that nowhere! WHAT A WAY TO END 2017!!!

SPAM AND SPOOF MAIL

I find my spam mail getting more interesting every day. I am either offered sex in varying degrees of extreme -although they have my gender wrong-, bitcoins (a lot of bitcoins) as a fast track to getting stinking rich, or a sure-fire way to avoid funeral expenses by planning ahead (this is getting more and more frequent since I turned 75… maybe somebody is on to me).

I wouldn’t mind the sex spam except they obviously don’t know –or don’t care- that my name is Spanish and that Spanish names ending in “a” pertain to females. Instead of a great ‘suck’ or very liberal Russian ‘ladies’, or totally uninhibited anal sex, they could offer me a delightful dinner date in a nice restaurant with someone tall, dark and handsome; dancing later and then a good snuggle including sex if I was in the mood. That might get my interest, especially the ‘good dinner’ part. Another catcher would be afternoon coffee and ice-cream with a slim, tall, good-looking intellectual who has read my books and finds them incredible and wants nothing more than to talk to me about them before we have sex or instead of sex… depending. That would be a clincher: it is so hard to find a man interested in what a woman does.

As for bitcoins, I admit to liking money or rather, the kind of life-style that money can allow me, but bitcoins??? I had to look them up on Wikipedia for –although I had heard of them- I really had no idea how they worked. Even Wiki was not very helpful: a cryptocurrency? The first decentralized digital currency? “…the system works without a central repository or single administrator. The network is peer-to-peer and transactions take place between users directly through the use of cryptography, without an intermediary…” The transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a blockchain… Ok, you lost me. I still remember the marvel of sticking a plastic card in a box with a screen, punching in a bunch of numbers (including the amount of cash you wanted) and getting a nice wad of bills (euros, dollars, even Mexican pesos) in your greedy little paw: now that is magic! I love it when my purse is heavy with coins and my wallet fat with bills; and, yes, I have done bank transfers where the money never actually materializes but rather is just a series of numbers passing from one supposed ‘account’ to another; and, yes, I know that those numbers on my balance sheet are not actually kept in a box in the bank I use… but still, cryptocurrency? And yes, I am conscious that a 50€ bill is nothing but a worthless piece of paper to which we have attached a belief (that it is valuable), and that is supposedly (but not really) backed up by a metal (gold) to which we have also attached a belief (that it is valuable, more so –say- than tin) and that all these beliefs have no reality to them, but bitcoins… that is going to take some getting used to. So send me spam about how you are going to give me 100€ or 100,000€ because my e-mail was pulled out of a hat, but don’t offer me bitcoins if you want me to read your spam (I won’t read the other either, but you will tempt me).

And funeral expenses… well, let me see. The last time I talked about anything to do with funerals was with my son. He asked me what I wanted done with my ‘remains’ when I died. I didn’t even have to think: “Whatever you need to do with them” I replied. “If you need some kind of ceremony, then that’s fine with me; if not, that’s fine with me also. I… what I consider ‘I’ won’t be there, so whatever you decide to do with the ‘remains’ to make yourself and your sister more comfortable with my parting that is what you should do.” After all, I wasn’t about to ask for an elaborate funeral seeing as my father’s ashes –except a small amount my mother kept in a pouch to be mixed with hers when she died- went to fertilize a tree on a property that I later sold; they did a marvellous job until an extreme frost one spring killed the tree. My mother’s ashes –except for a soup spoonful that went into the pouch- were placed in a large flower pot holding a decorative ficus tree. (This was not a good idea and I do not suggest you do it with my ashes or anyone’s for that matter, because the water that gathers in the dish under the plant… smells awful.) When I moved to France, I gave the tree to a friend; it eventually died after a few years. The small pouch with the remaining parental ashes and a stone to make sure it sank ended up in Lake Tahoe where they had been as newlyweds; the gesture was for me: it gave me any closure I might have still needed.

So much for Spam. Spoof is another matter. I actually enjoy getting Spoof mail, especially from a make-believe Paypal or Amazon. I say I enjoy it because catching the pretenders makes me feel smart and then I get to revenge myself by forwarding the spoof mail to the real Paypal or the real Amazon (both of which have ‘Spoof Departments’ at spoof@paypal.com or spoof@amazon.com ) so they can take care of it. It’s sort of like catching the mouse trying to get into the cheese cabinet: Gotcha!

ME TOO

The Silence BreakersTIME MAGAZINE has named the female whistle-blowers on sexual harassment, sexual assault and/or sexual abuse the Person(s) of the Year and I, for one, am immensely pleased. Reading their stories, beginning with Taylor Swift’s, made me conscious not only of the extent to which some men seem to view women as their own personal prey, but also to the courage that each of these women and the thousands that now stand behind them, needed to come forth. It also made me think of my personal experience in this matter.

I was in 4th grade and one or two of the boys seemed to think I was fair game for their habitual torture, which consisted in lifting girls’ skirts and showing their panties. Suddenly it seemed they had chosen me for their victim and at every chance they got they would sweep by pulling up my skirt and whistling or hooting. I remember feeling embarrassed and helpless (our uniform obliged us to wear skirts). It didn’t occur to me to tell on them (fear of disapproval and rejection was stronger than shame) but I did finally come up with a solution: I began wearing shorts under my skirts so that when they pulled it up, there was nothing to see and that gave me the last laugh. That ended their game, and I don’t remember them ever trying to do it again.1956-8 House in Las Brisas (5)

My second experience of ‘sexual harassment was nowhere as innocent as this. When it happened I was probably younger than any of the women who have spoken out. I was 13 and had just begun to develop breasts –something that I tried to hide as best I could. What happened was during our vacations in Acapulco (Mexico) at a house my father had bought in Las Brisas, overlooking the beautiful bay. My grandparents were visiting. That day, my parents, my grandmother and probably my little brother had gone shopping. I stayed home with my grandfather who I had always loved very much. He was one of the persons I had most fun with and we always played gin rummy when he was visiting (he almost always won as the card shark he was, but occasionally I would win and that would feel wonderful).

I was in our swimming pool just fooling around and my grandfather, who had been sitting in a deck chair sipping a highball, stood up and slipped into the water. For a while he floated on his back while I continued swimming and diving (playing dolphin). Then suddenly, I felt a pair of hands come around me from behind and cup my nascent breasts fondling them roughly. I struggled free, scrambled out of the pool and ran to my bedroom where I locked the door. When my mother came home a while later I was huddled on the floor next to the bed still crying. She asked what had happened.

“Arthur” –I had always called him by his name- “grabbed my breasts and squeezed them,” I blurted out. I think my mother hugged me (I don’t remember and she never was very physical) and what she said was, “Don’t pay any attention to it; it’s not important. Old men get that way sometimes.” When I stopped crying, she added: “And please, don’t tell your grandmother; it would make her feel terrible.”

At that time I didn’t see the contradiction between me –the victim- not taking it seriously and my grandmother ‘feeling terrible’; I just did what I was told and said nothing. However, not taking it seriously was not in my power; I simply hid what I felt, but I didn’t ever go near my grandfather again, not –at least- until I was 21. Today I can see that the price I paid for that was to lose my grandfather, my love for him and the fun we had together. Today that makes me sad. However, in the long run, I was fortunate because I was able to forgive him before he died.

At 21 I was married and expecting my first child (who would be born within a month). On our way to Massachusetts, my husband and I spent the night at my grandparent’s apartment in Larchmont (N.Y. State). In the morning, I walked into the kitchen. My Scan0009grandmother was cooking something on the stove and my grandfather was sitting at the table, hunched over. I immediately saw how old he had gotten and my heart softened. I came up behind him, leaned over and hugged him for the first time in 8 years. I put my cheek next to his and whispered ‘I love you, Arthur’ and kissed him on the cheek. We left shortly afterwards and I never saw him again: he died one week before my son’s birth.

Years later, when I was studying to become a writer, one of my first stories would recall this childhood incident. I titled it: “A Time for Sunset”. When it was finished, I sent it off to several magazines but they all returned it without comments, so I put it away and forgot about it. Today, I have no idea where it is, perhaps in a folder stashed away in a closet, or maybe it has gotten lost during one of my many moves. No matter; today it is not an issue and I can even believe that he truly thought I wouldn’t notice. I know in my heart he would not have wanted to hurt me, but a man like him –with multiple addictions (alcohol, gambling, women)- was not the ‘master of his soul’.

Today I can look back and understand better because I no longer believe my thoughts, such as ‘he shouldn’t have touched me’ when it was obvious that that was exactly what he did. I do not know what story my grandfather told himself that permitted him to do that to his young granddaughter (perhaps he thought I wouldn’t notice, that I would think he was playing, I can’t know); I only know that it cost him her love and closeness. I do know, however, the story I told myself: in my innocence, I judged him and found him guilty; it was righteous of me, there was no room for forgiveness or even giving him a second chance. If –as probably was the case- he had judged me too innocent to be aware of his intentions, I had judged him too evil to be forgiven. So, in the long run, it was my judgment that cost me my grandfather.

Years later, I had begun working as a translator to earn money –I was still married- and upon finishing my first translation I went to one of my teachers at the University to ask him to look over it for me and help me correct it. He was a known writer in Mexico at that time and he seemed like the perfect candidate to help me do a good job. When he had finished, he asked straight out if I was going to pay him. It hadn’t occurred to me that he would want to be paid and I was taken aback (besides, it was going to be the first money I had ever earned and I didn’t want to share it). He saw my confusion.

“Ok. You can pay me with a kiss, then,” he said, looking me directly in the eye. I felt flustered and uncomfortable, and when he took my arm to pull me towards him, I quickly leaned in, gave him a peck on the cheek and then sprang back and free from his grasp. Standing up, I lamely thanked him for his help, swung around and walked out. Once more, I felt ashamed, in this case because I had acted like such a child never thinking that he would want something in return for helping me. If my thought at the time was that he had been ‘abusive’, I must also see that in thinking he should do my work for free, I was being abusive. So it is interesting how everything turns around perfectly and teaches me the lesson I need to learn.

sex-harass[1]This is not to say that harassment, abuse or any other sexual manipulation of women by men (or of men by women) should be tolerated. Action must be taken and the wrongs righted both for the victim’s and for the perpetrator’s sakes. An abuser allowed to continue cannot love himself, just as a victim who allows the abuse to continue cannot love herself. Yet the judgments of the abuser that the victim holds to be true will –until questioned and understood- stain his or her view of the world. In my own experience, it is not the punishment of the perpetrator that sets us free, but rather the sincere questioning of our own judgments and beliefs.

 

I AM SAD

disastersSomeone might say “that’s normal” what with hurricanes, earthquakes, mass killings, threats of nuclear war, global warming, Donald Trump, Brexit and terrorist attacks going on all over. And, if the general goings on were not enough, there is personal stuff too that could make me sad.

For example, I have worked with a girl who suffers from something similar to schizophrenia for over 14 years now; I am very fond of her and have been gifted to have her trust. For a while it seemed as if she was getting better with The Work, but suddenly she began having crises and having to be interned. She had gone through all her family and acquaintances with violent paranoia, but somehow I had been spared. I felt her trust was a gift even though I no longer felt I was helping her. Then suddenly it was my turn. She had been obsessing over a man called David for some time and was desperate because he wouldn’t pay attention to her. Then one day, she accused me of having had sex with him. I told her I didn’t even know him, but she was absolutely convinced I was lying. From there, it progressed as mental illness does and the last time we spoke, she was screaming at me to get out from inside her and stop controlling her imagesWDEQQHBRlife. Her language and rage was such that I had to block her from calling me again. This certainly might have made me sad but, although I felt for her, I understood perfectly how her mind had finally taken over completely and attacked the last person she trusted. If there was a lesson for me in that, it was to contemplate the power of the mind, in case I had ever doubted it.

But that wasn’t what made me sad. The other thing happening in my life was with a friend here in France who had begun leaving negative comments on Facebook on everything I published, and sometimes on my friends’ comments on what I had published. After erasing her comments day after day, I finally got tired and decided to save her the bother of even reading me. The first time ever I de-friended someone on imagesUF6PPOI9Facebook. She obviously realized this the next time she tried to go into my page, and sent me an unpleasant message on my cell phone, so she got blocked there too. If I don’t like what someone writes, I stop reading them but I don’t send them sly remarks suggesting that they are mentally deficient or, at the very least, absolutely wrong. I have no hard feelings about this friend, I just wanted to save her the pain of reading what I write and also I prefer not to be perusing her comments.

So none of this was causing my sadness and sad is not normal for me. The only thing I could identify as niggling at my heart was the Cataluña-Spain situation, but that puzzled me too. Yes, I was reading both my Catalan-Spanish and my non-Catalan Spanish friends on Facebook publishing comments that every time got more angry and violent, but the Catalan situation is not something new to me. About 35 years ago, I met a girl in Mexico and when I asked where she was from she said “Barcelona”. “Oh, you’re Spanish!” I exclaimed, to which she replied dryly: “No, I am Catalan.” Later I would find out that, although my friend was very well read in French Literature, she had no idea whatsoever of Spanish Literature and was very surprised to discover how outstanding they were, especially those of the so-called “Siglos de Oro” (Golden Centuries). When I, myself, untitledmoved to Spain I realized how regionalist the country was, and how people tended to identify with their region more than with Spain as a whole. Cataluña was just the most. So, it could come as no surprise to me that what had been just under the surface for so long should suddenly and violently come to light. However, it seemed that this was the cause of my sadness.

Every time I thought of the conflict or read something on Facebook, I could feel the pressure in my chest and the desire to cry out: “Please, please stop it! Be sensible, negotiate, find a solution amenable to all.” I actually felt depressed, and the more I FIGHTthought about it, the more depressed I got. It wasn’t logical. The conflict has nothing to do with me and doesn’t actually affect me in any way. There was no logical reason why it should be affecting me at all. Why couldn’t I find it (on both sides) as absurd or amusing as the Donald’s goings on? But as incomprehensible as it was, I couldn’t let it go. Even if I stopped reading FB or watching the news, the thought of the conflict was constantly in my head, and the more it was, the sadder I got. Not only was I sad, but also the feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming: there was nothing I could do.

Last night I took Salomé (my little schnauzer) out for her evening walk. It was dark and the moon was full; the night was warm. Yet, I couldn’t get enthusiastic or let myself enjoy the walk. The truth was I felt like crying, so finally I let it come out. Tears came to my eyes and rolled down my cheeks and… suddenly the memory arose: I was about 7 years old or maybe more and my parents were fighting –something they did very often. They 1947-2 Minnie the cat and B's b'day02052014 (2)were yelling at each other, I have no idea what they were saying, but I felt every bit of fear, powerlessness and deep sorrow of that little girl. I knew in that instant what it was that Cataluña-vs-Spain was awakening in me, and the painful belief came to the surface: There is no solution and it will never end. I walked the rest of the way home hugging myself and letting that little girl cry her heart out. By the time I got home, the sadness had gone and I felt light and tired.

I didn’t have to question the belief: time had taken care of that for me. There was a solution, and it did end. I smile today as I remember sooo clearly the last two fights that threatened to frighten me. The next to last was one night when my parents were fighting in the kitchen. I was in the living room but I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard my father yell: “Then I want a divorce.” I snapped to attention. The terrible words I had always feared had been spoken. I waited for my mother to yell back but, suddenly, she answered in the calmest and most determined voice I had ever heard her use: “Don’t be ridiculous,” was all she said, and the fight was over. I think we had dinner together later.

The last fight I remember, I was 13 and was in my room in bed. The light was out and I was going to sleep. My parents were in their bedroom fighting as usual and I wasn’t really paying attention. By that time I had understood that their fights never came to anything worse than my father having to sleep on the couch. Then suddenly I heard a smack! and my mother yelled something and my father laughed; and then again: smack! mother yelling and father laughing. When it happened a third time I was convinced that my father was not only hitting my mother but laughing about it. I leapt out of bed, yanked open the door and ran out into the hall. There, I stopped dead in my tracks. My mother was taking every bit of my father’s clothing out of the closet and throwing it into the hallway (that was the smack!) and yelling that he should get out of her bedroom and my father, standing to one side of the bedroom door so as to be out of the line of fire, was cracking up with laughter. At that moment, I joined in his laughter until my mother calmed down and we both set about helping her put all the clothes back in the closet.

1951 -3 Brianda 9yrsI was never again awakened by a fight between my parents and I am sure they had many, but somehow the frightened seven-year-old has always been inside. The last time she awoke was during my daughter’s divorce when her soon to be ex would make angry threats against her. I remember lying curled on the bed sick with nausea the night before she was to move out, when suddenly the little seven year old girl shared another belief with me: My father is going to kill my mother and then kill himself, was what I heard in my head. In that moment, the nausea disappeared and I realized that there was nothing to fear in the present; it had all been a childhood fear that had lain in the pit of my stomach for all those years.

Now, somehow, the apparent impossibility of a peaceful solution in the Catalan-Spain struggle had awoken yet one more time that frightened, powerless little girl. But as I can now see her and be with her, she got so many hugs last night that this morning she was as happy as could be. All the sadness gone, and just astonished once more in the realization of the extremes produced when everyone is believing what they are thinking.