oznorIt is incredible how much a small dog can disrupt a life. This was not what I believed. Quite the opposite: ‘She’s so tiny: she’ll be no problem, make no noise, disturb not… Just a small dog.’ I should have looked more closely at the matter. After all, a flea in the wrong place –like an ear, for example- can raise havoc… But, as usual, I didn’t… think that is. I didn’t think she would make much difference. I didn’t even think about not thinking.

It was the merry month of May (couldn’t resist the cliché!) and I was off on a much awaited trip to the volcanic Isle of Lanzarote in the Canaries off the coast of Africa with my friend, Tamara. I did the usual, which is to drive to Madrid, stay over one or two nights depending on what I had to do and then fly from there leaving my car with the magnificent service that picks it up at the terminal when I leave and has it washed and waiting for me at the terminal door when I arrive. On my first morning in Madrid I decided to walk from my hotel (my home in Madrid, I call it) down to the park near where I used to live. It’s a lovely park, full of friendly people and their dogs, and cozy cafés where one can hang out for a cuppa or two. The day was bright (it seldom isn’t in Madrid) so I took a long stroll around the park. Up towards the playing fields I ran into a man with his small dog. It was so cute I reached down to pet it and, as I did, the small dog flipped over onto her (I could then see it was a female) back and started to writhe in the dust with what could only be termed extreme delight. I scratched her velvety soft belly and laughed.oznor

“Do you have a dog?” the owner asked. I confirmed and he said: “Oh. I was hoping… You see, I need to find her a new owner. I can’t take care of her; I work all day and most of the night and she is always alone; it’s not fair.”

I looked down at the little beige and white thing still scratching her back in the sand. She stopped for a moment and looked back with the cutest pair of big, round brown eyes set in a button of a face. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll find someone,” I said, “she is sooo cute. If I didn’t already have a dog… But give me your phone number and I’ll ask amongst my friends” (I had a friend in mind already). And that was it. We smiled; said ‘good-day’ and both went on our ways.

When I got back to the hotel and was about to message my friend telling her about the dog, I realized it would be necessary to have a picture of her and not just the description IMG-20180516-WA0006‘adorable, little jack-russellish doggie with joyful personality’. So I Whatsapp-ed the owner registered under Loli-dog (her name plus ‘dog’) on my phone asking him to send me a photograph. A few moments later, I received the following picture which I promptly sent off to my friend with a note: “This little long-haired mostly Jackie is about 4 years old, has all her vacs and her chip. She is adorable, loving, sweet and so tender. Her owner can no longer keep her and I would take her but I fear Salomé would be so jealous. I thought of you…”

She said she would think about it and that was the last I heard. I was off to Lanzarote.

Lanzarote was all and more than expected. I loved the island, its enormous lava fields, it’s volcano-cones, the starkness of it, and I enjoyed the visit with Tamara. All in all we had a splendid time. On the first day, I showed Tamara the davphoto of the little dog. “Isn’t she cute?” I said, “I can’t stop thinking about her.” Tamara predicted that I would end up with her, but I said ‘no’, I had enough with Salomé. Tamara was right. Every once in a while I would pull out my phone and gaze into Loli’s eyes and with the excuse of finding her a new owner I showed everyone the photo, not only during the trip but also once I got back home. This went on for two weeks while I lamely looked for someone to take her. It took precisely those two weeks for madness to settle in. At the end of May I messaged the owner of Loli-dog asking if he still wanted to give her away. There was no answer. I began to feel an inkling of disappointment in my stomach. I messaged again asking if he had given her away: still no answer. 24 hours went by and I began to panic so that, when the message that she was still available finally came in, any doubt or dithering had completely disappeared.

On the 1st of June I loaded Salomé in the car and we drove to Madrid. The test of fire would be Salomé accepting her, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible, but somehow I knew deep down that Salomé would: Loli was so tiny, so offenseless and so submissive that she would pose no problem in Salomé’s preferred pecking order which, of course, was Me First.

Did I have doubts? Of course I did. Every once in a while my enthusiasm would sour and I would think ‘Oh dear, what am I doing?’ But the much needed voice of wisdom did not kick in loud enough and on the following day I found myself standing in a veterinarian’s office in Madrid signing the proper papers, buying a sweet, pink leash and walking off with two dogs instead of one.

oznorSalomé behaved superbly: she simply ignored the rat that I plopped into the car beside her, looking the other way and not even bothering to sniff the newcomer. LoliPop (yes I had already renamed her), on the other hand, immediately became a ball of fluff and terror and absconded rapidly under the front seat convinced that she was being dog-napped. I knew exactly how she felt as it is impossible to forget the absolute fear experienced when one is forcibly removed from one’s usual life and held captive by strangers[1]. If I had been thinking logically, I would have left her under the seat but her fear pained me and I wanted her to know she was safe. So with extreme care and unheard of contortions of my own poor body, I extricated her and placed her on the seat. She trembled and looked away through my whole explanation of how happy we were going to be and, when I let go, she immediately dove under the seat again. After the third time I had to get down on my hands and knees and twist my body so that I could somehow get my arms under the seat and ease her out without harming her (but not without harming me). I finally managed to attach the leash to the head-rest in a manner that didn’t allow her to reach the floor of the car. By this time, I was suffering from a back ache from all the exertion. To add to my frustrations, Salomé, seeing that the newcomer was getting all the attention, decided that she wasn’t going to jump into the car on her own and sat decidedly down on the pavement by the door. I pulled and coaxed and scolded to no avail and finally had to pick her up (all 8 and ½ kilos of her) and plop her in her seat. Add to the unexpected challenge of caring for two dogs, doing the almost 1100 kms of Salies-Madrid-Salies in two days (one day down, next day back) and, I was exhausted by the time I got home.

mdeIn spite of her small size, LoliPop became an immediate problem. Her fear wouldn’t allow her a normal doggie behavior: eating, playing, cuddling, sleeping. Rather her existence became trembling, cowering and hiding. Our first tour around the garden to pee, was a disaster. In spite of having lived in a city (on a small and thus quiet street), Loli was totally unaccustomed to the rumblings and clankings of the trucks that roar by my building (which I have managed to white out so that they no longer bother me) and was terrified. Fortunately I had her on a leash so she couldn’t dive into the shrubbery where she would have been inaccessible, but peeing and pooing were definitely out of the question. Walking into town was the same problem: every car that honked, every motorbike, every heavy truck slamming by was a motive of panic. The poor dog lived in terror.

Following that, we had the dilemma of the bed… my bed under which she dove the moment she discovered it. She is very small, especially when she curls up into a terrified little ball, and the bed is 140cms wide so it was impossible to get her out. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been a problem except that the bed seemed to tickle her ears so she shook her head every five minutes producing a flapping-scraping sound that wasn’t going to let me sleep. When coaxing and pleading didn’t do the job, I had to recur to the broomstick, thus terrifying her more. Once I had her out, I stuffed access to the under-bed with every cushion in the house.

To make things worse the second night home there was a thunder and lightning storm asoznor I have seldom experienced. Even I was scared and Salomé and Lolipop were quaking their little hearts out. I ended up with both of them in my bed, all three of us huddled under the covers, until the war-storm was over.

It seemed that every sudden sound would send poor Loli scuttering for cover: if I dropped my keys or banged a plate in the sink or allowed a pen to roll off my desk the little dog scrambled under any place that offered shelter. On our third day walking into town, she appeared to be starting to grow accustomed to the street sounds and was a bit calmer, and then France won the World Cup and all hell of honking and clanging and fireworks broke loose and I thought she was going to have a heart attack. I had to carry her all the way home, covering her ears.

The whole ruckus convinced her that outside was a very dangerous place so she decided it was safer to pee and poo inside. Seeing as this was not acceptable, I further frightened the poor creature by yelling and waving hysterically, and carrying her two floors down to the garden.

Eating was also a problem because she couldn’t stop being scared and vigilant long enough to put her head in the dish. I finally figured out that she needed protection and put her bowl under a table. There she could eat, although it has taken her well into two months to finish a dish in one go.

oznorOne day I realized that I was tiptoeing around the house, being very careful not to drop or knock over anything and suddenly I understood that this was the wrong approach. I purposely let a spoon drop on the tile floor of the kitchen and followed the loud clatter soothingly saying: “It’s all right Loli, it is just a noise and noise won’t hurt us”, and other platitudes like this, always directing an even voice towards her but without drawing near. After a few days, she was much calmer and had accepted a certain amount of routine noises.

Little by little she is falling into our routine even though noises are still her bugaboo. Today I let her off the leash in the park thinking there would be no disturbing noises. Then someone closed a window in the distance and her head and ears went up. I took a step towards her, another window was closed and she was off running as fast as she could (and she can run really fast) in the opposite direction of the sound with me racing after her screaming her name and dragging poor Salomé behind. Fortunately, she cofstopped at the first street crossing (her previous owner had disciplined her to do that) and I was able to put her leash back on. Salomé is getting deaf but Loli can hear a pin drop; sometimes I wish it were the other way around.

Apparently no one has ever played with Loli and she is frightened if I throw a ball for Salomé. One day, at the beginning, she approached a squeaky toy dog which –naturally- squeaked as she picked it up. She dropped it as if it had been a bee that stung her and hadn’t gone near the toy basket since. However, for the first time yesterday she approached it and, after digging around for a few minutes, appeared with a bright pink ball in her mouth. It was the smallest ball in the basket and had been given me by a neighbor precisely for her, but until that moment she had been afraid of it. I watched as she carried it gingerly in her mouth and jumped up onto her chair where she proceeded to chew gently on it for a while before losing oznorinterest. It’s a beginning.

So a small dog has disrupted my routine, and she has also brought me great pleasure as I see her slowly adopting to a new and probably kinder life. Salomé mostly ignores her, but she doesn’t seem to mind having her around and I am finding her a delightful addition to my little family.


[1] The experience of my kidnapping in Mexico is told at length in my novel, Eleven Days, a translation of the original Spanish version: Once días… y algo más.


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.



1939-6 Trip home SS Manhattan15042014 (4)My Mother was beautiful. She was a New York model way back in the 30’s. My grandmother used to take her to work so no man would tempt her away. My grandmother always talked about how beautiful my Mother was. “When she walked into a room” she would say, “everyone would turn around to look at her.” She was really beautiful. There was a photograph of her in a long dress, the clinging kind, sleeveless and with a v-neck, not a crease or wave, it clung to her body like a swim suit, her head is slightly turned, one knee just barely bent, she is looking at something off in the distance, perhaps just above the horizon, I can see the photograph in my mind as if I had it in front of me today. My Mother was beautiful. My Father said it too. He would look at her as she came towards him across the room; he didn’t have to say it. His eyes, his face said it over and over: your Mother is beautiful. My friends would say it: your Mother is really beautiful, the boys, they would say it. Fifty years later, someone I knew then said to me: your Mother was really beautiful: he remembered, fifty years later. She was that beautiful. I remember her back in the 50’ies when wide circular skirts were in, putting on a dress with a circular skirt. “Twirl for me, Mommy”, and she would spin around, the skirt flying out in a perfect circle around her, showing me her long, slim legs and the silk white panties that were worn then, up to the waist and with little legs that went down a couple of inches. She was beautiful.

In the living room, she would dance with my Father. Round and round, floating in his arms, perfectly in tune with each step, her head slightly thrown back, tilting from side to 1958-2-jan-helens-house-4side as she followed his perfect rhythm. Beautiful. I used to brush her hair. I used to watch her put on her makeup. I never tired of looking at her. There seemed to be no one else in the world; the whole space was taken up by my Mother’s beauty. There was none left for me.

I was not beautiful. I was intelligent. My Grandmother said I was intelligent. She had said that about my aunt too, my Mother’s sister: my Mother was beautiful, my Aunt was intelligent. My Grandmother did things like that: she labeled people, situations, happenings. Opinionated. My Grandmother was opinionated and her opinion was that my Mother was beautiful and my Aunt was intelligent. I discovered later that my Mother was also intelligent. My Aunt was screwed-up, her life was shitty, she was not intelligent or beautiful. Her daughter was not the favorite granddaughter, I was the favorite maybe because my Mother was beautiful and my Grandmother couldn’t stop looking at her either. It seems that no one could.

I was not beautiful, and that would not have been a problem if I hadn’t wanted to be beautiful. However, I not only wanted to be beautiful, I wanted to be more beautiful than my Mother, but I pretended that being intelligent was more important because from very early on I realized that there was no way in God’s world that I would ever be even half as beautiful as my Mother. So on the outside I poo-poohed physical beauty and sang the glories of intelligence, but when I looked in the mirror, I would have given every iota of intelligence to look like my Mother or better.

My Mother was also thin. She looked to me as if she had the perfect figure. My Father drooled. He said there were Breast-Men and Butt-Men and he was a Breast-Man. My Mother had big breasts and a tiny waist that showed them off. I had a big butt and no breasts and, until I was about twenty, no waist of which to speak. I was so ashamed of my “bee-stings” as my Grandmother called them, that when “sex raised its ugly head” (which was what she attributed adolescent evils to) I was quicker to take off my panties than to unbutton my blouse. There was no way I could be beautiful, not with my Mother around and there was no getting rid of her. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway; she was installed in my head from very, very early on. I had to be intelligent so I worked at it very hard. My Mother, when I was an adolescent, informed me that “Men prefer dumb women”, that was not encouraging, but I had no choice: I couldn’t be the beautiful one. To make things worse, I didn’t even like my Aunt, who was supposed to be the one who had gotten the brains (and all I could see was that she had gotten the neuroses) so I had to find another model to be intelligent like. I might have chosen my Grandmother, who was almost my favorite person on Earth after my Father, but my Father insisted that she was common: “I could never understand how such a lady like your PERICOMother could come from someone so common” he would say.  That didn’t leave many people to choose from, so I ended up wanting to be like my Father: intelligent, and, of course, a man. I don’t have to explain the problems I faced on that front; most girls from my times wanted to be their Fathers. Even my Grandmother, who thought my Mother was the most beautiful thing alive, considered that she did not “deserve” a man as Good as my Father. “Women are devious” she stated without a shadow of a doubt in her voice: “Boys are much better than girls, more up front” and considering that I was her favorite, it was hard to figure out.

Anyway, as anyone can guess by now, at the age of 15 I was one hell of a mess inside while trying desperately to keep up external appearances so no one would catch on. It was around that time that, one evening at home I suggested we order Pizza Pie for dinner.

“Don’t be stupid” my Father said, fulminating me with one of his you-are-the-lowest-form-of-life looks; “ ‘Pizza’, in Italian, means ‘Pie’ so Pizza Pie is redundant” and he launched into an explanation of the origins of pizza, or something like it. When he finished, I assumed a smart-aleck look on my face and, with a wink at my Mother, asked: “Can we at least order the pizza-pie now?”

I thought he was going to go into melt-down under the heat of the rage that invaded him: “You… YOU have the sensitivity of a rhinoceros” he growled and left the room.

I was fixed. That was it. Not intelligent, not beautiful, not a man, not a figure worth commenting on (no bust, all butt): a rhinoceros. Straight and simple: the rest of the ride was downhill until about the age of 50.

By that time, I had forgotten about the problem of not being beautiful, or at least moved it into the darkest corner of the subconscious, and had taken up trying to look at least decent and clean with the wrinkles that had begun to appear on my face and the slight hang that the skin under my chin insisted on having. I had given up on becoming a man all together when I married and had two children, not because I liked the role, but because it was inevitable: it is hard to be the man when you have married one and installed yourself in a house with him and are confronted every morning with the fact of who has the “hardware”.

Life had not gotten any easier given all the “nots” (and you can spell that with a “k” if you like) that had accumulated: not beautiful, not thin, not intelligent, not a man, not a good mother, not a good housewife, not a successful writer… not, not, not. It’s a wonder I could even live with myself, as if I had had a choice.

Surprisingly enough, after years of psychotherapy and alternative systems that taught you how to hate your father out loud and how to feel superior to your mother then aged 75, at 60 I believed I had undone most if not all the knots and was living a pretty decent and peaceful (if not gloriously happy) life.

Then Chus came along. Chus is short for María Jesús, and María Jesús was only 30 to my 60, had long wavy black hair to my eternally straight, thin blond stuff, and seemed much surer of herself than I had ever felt in my entire life. Chus and I had what I term “our little encounter” when we were thrown together to staff a weekend workshop of the most recent therapy on the market. There I found a plus that gave me an unexpected status: I was a good organizer. Chus had everything else, but she was just about the most disorganized, flighty, unstable person I have ever met and she was supposedly in charge of the event (even though she kept telling everyone that she wasn’t and disappearing to prove it). I was flooded with a sense of my own superiority and set about showing it with how-can-you-be-so-incompetent looks in her direction at every chance, until finally I just took over the whole shebang and set about organizing so that we could pull the event off.

Everything went smoothly in the end, mostly because there was a marvelous team and there wasn’t much to organize as long as someone was willing to coordinate the energy and creativity of the rest. Chus and I did not fight, and ended up hugging and giving each other a big kiss and congratulating each other on the success. It was therefore a surprise when she phoned me about a week later and said: “I have done a worksheet on you and I want to read it to you”. In this therapy, when there is a conflict or resentment, we write our judgments about the other person, question the veracity of the thoughts and judgments and then turn them all around to ourselves; it is very effective. We made a date for the following day and met at the park bench we had agreed upon. Chus read her page. Her judgments about my controlling nature, my power struggles, my unpleasant looks were right on and I could only nod in agreement thankful that we had already solved those issues on our last meeting. On question five, however, one is supposed to list the “disagreeable” things that one thinks about the other person, and I was in for the surprise of my life. Chus was a little uncertain about reading her list, but decided to go ahead and do it just as it was written on her sheet:

“You are controlling, demanding, bossy, old and UGLY” she said turning slightly red on pronouncing the last words. I had no problem with the first four, there was no doubt in my mind that I was all those things, and many more as my ex husband had delighted in confirming during our rather painful divorce (is there any other kind?). But no one in my whole life, not even me, had ever used the word UGLY to describe me. Even “rhinoceros” was not UGLY. And now, there it was.

For a moment it hung there, suspended in the air between us; it echoed in my ears and everything stood still. Then suddenly it burst forth, broke out and entered my chest as if it were an enormous, beautiful, free bird opening everything inside of me for the first time.

“Oh my god!” I gasped. “I’m free.” I felt the wings, I felt the beating of those enormous wings, ugly-ugly-ugly-ugly, taking off inside of me as if my heart would burst with love and joy and freedom. I looked at Chus who was still gasping at how she had dared say such a terrible thing to me, and cried: “Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I finally heard it, that most feared word. What a gift, thank you, thank you…” and I was crying and laughing and hugging her.

“I’m sorry…” she began to stammer, but I stopped her.

“You just gave me the greatest gift I have ever received” I said, knowing that there was no way I could explain or she could understand. But I understood, finally, after 60 years of trying to be more beautiful than I was, of trying to always see myself in the mirror as beautiful, of fearing that someone would find me not-beautiful, of struggling in an ever losing battle, with the frustration and impossibility of being what one is not, I understood: it was so clear, as crystal clear as the tears of joy streaming down my cheeks: She had said I was Ugly, and nothing had changed in or on me; she could have said I was Beautiful and nothing would have changed: I just WAS. What she saw or didn’t see had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. What I saw in the mirror or didn’t see had NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. I was what I was what I was and someone at times would see me as beautiful, and others at other images8k7044mftimes would see me as ugly and others wouldn’t even see me, and NOT ONE CELL IN MY BODY, NOT ONE BREATH IN MY EXISTENCE WOULD CHANGE, EVER. I was just me, and in the moment I heard the word “ugly” that knowledge became an experience that expanded like the wings of the UGLY bird that nested in my chest forever. That, whatever it was, was Being Beautiful. Yes Man!!!