What’s in Between the Dash? /Do it Your Way

Francis Sinatra- “My Way”

Today’s experience was unique! I was very frustrated at having to just see a bright yellow screen with no photo of myself in the Google Hangout. If online is challenging, online without seeing faces is extremely annoying. I was a bit angry at Apple (such a finicky laptop for me). I am following a friend’s crucial advice, breaking down and buying a PC (sorry Mac people, it’s not you, it’s me).

The writing exercises are always so centering. I associate things that calm and center my thoughts with the color blue. I feel that sometimes we beat ourselves up if we have not produced work. Dr. Zamora reminds us that introspection as well as marveling at every-day things are great. You can’t see it today but my bracelets are sky-blue. I saw the depth of the hue in one of the bracelets, which has specks of white in it. An ordinary stretch bracelet, no big deal right? I guess that is the thing that goes hand and hand with this pandemic. Appreciating small things…the taste of a clementine, the texture of a crisp apple, fluttering leaves. I used to be too busy to notice such things. I think many of us were. I think that being more grateful will be stay with me. Imagine, something great coming from something horrific as this pandemic? WOW!

The exercise about tweeting about something that brings us joy was very eye-opening. Dr. Zamora does everything with extreme intention. There are no exercises that she gives us that are superfluous. Many posted or referenced family. In my life, my sister’s children (also my Godchildren) bring me immense joy. There is a bond there that no one can break. They make my heart soar. Let’s not wax poetic about motherhood or caretaking. It is not for everyone. This retreat has made me more willing to share things, like a flower that slowly unfurls. So here it is: I am an anxious person; when the kids were babies and even sometimes (to their embarrassment) in their teens (the oldest is 19, middle is 15, youngest is 11), I was overwhelmed with fear. This is similar to Linda’s experience, which she so candidly shared last week. I choose not to be a parent though. Even now that they are older, I am extremely overprotective. My sister has to give me a cue to be more relaxed. If they are sick, I become rife with worry. My sister takes things in stride; she has been a rock in my life. She knows when a cough is serious and when it is just a passing thing. I panic (even now). I start to ask numerous annoying questions. I immediately make tea with lemon. I ask my sister if she should take them to a doctor.

My sister was like a second mother to me when I was little. Plus, she always knew she wanted to have children. For me, it was a passing thought and not a priority. I used to be very self-conscious about people’s opinions. Many people have told me in the past that all women must feel maternal stirrings for their own children (whether that is their biological children or adopted kids). It is part of being a woman. Men have told me this. Excuse me? We are all different; let us enjoy beauty in diversity! Now, I am very open about it (I just don’t like to be public on it on Social Media).

Being a parent is difficult; I see that. However, it is my Godchildren that give me peace. I think of them and I am instantly calmed, transported to a clear blue sky (It is only in their presence, that I become the helicopter aunt; I am better though, though not cured). They are beautiful, special people. They pride I have in them makes my heart swell.

Ok what does it have to do with today? Well, I noticed many people posted photos of or about family members. This reminds me how much people are vital to our life. I consider those in the M.A. program to be “my people” in an important way. I found my tribe. What a blessing!

Today was about finding groups with common sensibilities and values, groups that share a purpose as Dr. Zamora states. Today was much more of a sharing day rather than a writing day. However, I revised my outline for thesis and received some advice that I need to do some serious thinking about cutting things down. I received some good advice from a professor about condensing ideas for my memoir in 5 sentences. I am going to work on this.

Getting back to talking, out of the clear blue, I forgot to sign out of the hangout. What happens? At approximately 11AM, I hear a voice! It’s female. I look. It is Kefah! We have a lovely conversation about social justice, cancel culture, empathy and listening to people’s stories. WOW, I can’t wait for her work to come out. It is going to be good. I then spoke to a friend about how I was brought up. It is all food for my memoir.

Then, the best thing happened. I spoke to Señor Bruce Zehnle who taught me Spanish at Union Catholic in Scotch Plains, NJ. I had emailed him in the middle of the night. Thank you insomniac theater. You are always open! I had to tell him about my excitement about the program. He was a big part of my M.A. journey, because he was counseling me about my initial ambition of getting an M.A. in English literature. He is a wonderful sounding board and he is so supportive. Dr. Zamora knows this, but let’s just say I sometimes get very effusive in emails in the middle of the night! I had to tell Señor about the work I was doing. I had to get his feedback. I had to share my joy about moving forward through fear and anxiety and just doing something even if you STILL feel trepidatious! You can either fold or Forget Everything and Rise! I choose to do the latter, with all of my anxieties, insecurities and hangups! We aren’t perfect people. Just as my memoir is a work in progress, so is my journey. As I long as I do things with integrity and zeal, I will be fine.

Then Señor said something powerful, it’s all in what’s in between the dash. Que dices Señor? No entiendo. Me puedes explicarlo? Si! We are born in Year X, we die in year Y. On our tombstones it reads born Date X (birth day)- Year Y (year of death). This is not a morbid thought. It is a powerful one. It is amazing. I am carpe dieming it with no more excuses. He meant make the most of your life, do what you love! I am a writer. I will be a published author. I am reminded by Meagan T. Mentor’s affirmations as I say this. Words have power. What is in our minds have power. If we constantly succumb to doubt, we drown. It is ok to be fearful. But take whatever talents you have and run with it!

It has been joyful to share my journey with Señor Zehnle. I am also really happy that he is proud of me! He is an icon. Look him up. He taught Spanish in a way that no one else I have seen taught Spanish. An innovator. A trailblazer. In my time there, he used to use hand puppets to teach. He also used to run up and down the aisles of class and shout MAJORRRR TEST. He also made us engage in creative projects. He took us to NYC to see a Flamenco show and to eat dinner at a Spanish restaurant. One rule, no ordering in English. We rose to excellence, because he held us to that standard. He did not underestimate our abilities. I love teachers who do that. It is an ART. Not all can do this! He also held us accountable.

I will be continuing to work on my chapter and he is excited to see it. Today was a day of technological failures, writing, excitement, some laughter, some sarcasm, zeal, and deep encouragement. That’s life that’s what all the people say…..(Sinatra). Today I choose to be riding high in [June]. Señor Zehnle referenced Sinatra. Do it your way!

Published by medeathewriter

Creative writer, lyrical gangster, poet, student of life and an attorney. Speaks Italian and Spanish.

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