Many of you know I suffer from depression. I think a lot of writers suffer from some mental malaise, though you don't have to be suffering to be a great writer. You don't have to be an overindulgent bar fly. These are just romantic tropes you see in movies. Overly romanticized at that.
Well, I have resolved not to stuff my feelings down with food. It gets me nowhere, and the food coma afterward is not conducive to writing. I mean the depression is bad enough without getting indigestion.
Or reading for that matter. Get the belly full enough, and the only thing I'll be reading is the corner of my pillowcase.
What does all of this have to do with early resolutions? Well, I'm trying hard to beat this depression beyond medication and counseling.
So, I've decided to start some actual life changes. Real ones that stick. Number 1, No Overeating. Easy. Yeah, not really. I'll let you know how that goes.
Here's my favorite: Number 2, Be the Fun Parent!
When I am feeling well and have energy to play, I am the fun parent. But, the negative downers get the best of me. Or can get the best of me, so starting today, I am going to be the fun parent. I sort of started yesterday and went to the pool around 8:00 p.m. Granted, I just sat in the jacuzzi, but my kids loved seeing me there. I also got to talk to my son Antonio and share life stories.
This morning, I was supposed to go Black Friday shopping with the family. I would never do that, but my son really wanted to troll for video games and Funko Pops. Simona, my daughter, could not be roused. That's fine by me. Last time I went Black Friday shopping, I got shopper's remorse and returned EVERYTHING.
Anyway, what does this have to do with writing? Well, everything. And nothing. Or a lot. Putting family first is one of the best pieces of advice I got from Stephen King. That leads to life experiences and more joy. Ergo greater writing energy and flow. I think anyway.
And with that, I'm off to write the back description for Nightmare with a Twist! which has ironically been a nightmare to produce. Don't get me started, or I may just binge eat this knock-off bag of chocolates from Aldis.
“To Thine Own Self Be True.” Who hasn’t heard those words in a White-dominated Western culture? I heard these words, years later when I was getting my Masters in English and thinking about religious life. (Yeah, yeah, laugh it up.) I heard it from a candidate who was taking her vows, and she gave that as the best advice. You want to know what direction you want to take in life? To thine own self be true.
Obvs, myself wanted a husband and kids, or back then, a boyfriend I could bang 24/7. I was too horny and hormonal to be celibate, at the time. Now, I could probably swing it, but it's too late because I'm married. The point is that I needed to know who I was to make the correct choices in life.
That is not so easily done.
There is so much noise. Sad family noise from our past. Even sadder historical noise, tainted with colonization and violence. TV noise. Popular culture noise. The damned noise in our own heads that is a result of the other systematically-produced noise. It used to get so loud in my head, I would yell at myself to “SHUT UP.” Because I had to get shit done and move onto the next task. Never mind that I wasn't dealing with hurts or whatever I needed to deal with instead of working like an idiot!
Now that I’m older, my head is quieter. Partly, it’s because I’m more secure within myself. And yes the anti-depressants help, though they are not magic pills. No pill is.
I started with this quote because as writers, we change over time. As humans, we change over time. And if we are striving to be the best at our craft, shouldn’t we know who we are, especially in relation to others?
You see, one of my life goals is to rehumanize others, especially my students because Capitalism dehumanizes us, makes us individual silos, and breaks connections with others. I know this. I live it. I fight it.
The same goal of humanizing is true for my writing: to show what is human. But, I rarely meditate on who I am. I focus on the after-effects of overwork like migraines and depression and exhaustion. (Or the weepies, which, yes, I have this early morning and am wrestling or dancing with, not sure which because soft emotions are hard for me to process.)
This whole notion of reflecting on how you are struck me as I was listening to Matt Sedillo talk about knowing what was excellent about “your” craft. It hit me again, as Tongo Eisen-Martin was talking about meditating—when not writing. I wondered what to mediate about when not writing, and whether I could actually meditate.
Meditation is hard for me. Self-reflection is too because in the past it used to be a laundry list of all the fucked up things I had done in the past (none of which were major at all, just conflated in my head) and shit I didn’t do, so I kicked my internal ass all the way to the underworld. None of that was productive. None of it.
Now, I am at a point where I have outgrown that shitty guilt that accomplishes nothing. All that negative chatter is useless.
Forgiveness was crucial, and I apologized to everyone I had to. Guess what? They didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about, and here I was carrying all this guilt around for decades. I know I’m not alone in this unproductive habit of carrying trash in our heads and our hearts of stomping on our souls to a nothing pulp. Done nobody else needs to do it. We are champs at making ourselves a quivering mess.
This path also meant that I forgive myself for not meeting up to my Masters of the Universe standards, I had fabricated in my head. That too was bullshit. I do believe that is a sin.
These days, my head and my body actually feel lighter. My head isn’t a circus of noise. I can focus on my tasks. I can think the best of others. Still working on thinking the best of myself, but some habits are hard to break and take time.
What does all of this have to do with writing? I think that once you truly get to know yourself, you can dig into what makes your craft YOU. For me, I think part of it has to do with being generous and wanting to make the world better. It has to do with the very same roots that gave me years of basura I had to throw out. My culture is key to who I am with my Spanish and Spanglish weaved into my work. With images from my childhood home, serving as the pillars to my work. Stories from the barrio run through my being. They are my core. They are, and I collect more because the gossip never stops where I’m from. It's like a 3-D telenovela where material never runs out.
And, that’s as far as I’ve gotten in this road to meditation and self-discovery. These are my strengths, but I know there is more. It's must going to take a lot of unpeeling of a hard facade. Now, I won't do this alone. Fuck that. That's what my counselor and friends are for, and yes, God, but the work will get done because I'm mature enough to do it.
Where are you at in your journey of self-reflection and understanding your work? I genuinely want to know.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of featuring Tongo Eisen-Martin in my English 97 class and to the larger Harold Washington community. When you are in the presence of a master, and I am blessed to know a few, you can't help but grow along with others as you listen to their work and words of advice. My students and I learned a lot about writing--and humility. We learned that honing your pen is more important than any accolades or awards. (I dare add, more important than publishing.)
I learned that meditation and self-reflection are key to fine tuning and improving your voice. But really, that deep thinking and internal work can be applied to anything we do in life. Who we are as activists. Who we are as mothers. Who we are as community members.
Listen to Tongo as he describes not only his writing process but his philosophy as a community educator and future goals. We need more cultural workers like these that are trying to make the world better.
Stay tuned, podcast lovers, because I will be streaming the show in my new channel "Fighting Forward for Our Future."
Sally and Sal sit in the back seat of
A Cherry red Camaro
“I promise this won’t hurt”
He breathes in undulating rhythms
Searching her face, poking every slippery place
Like an erratic bee, unable to find the flowery center
Sally’s too busy texting
Blows a thick gum bubble
The screen outlines her smirking face and red “Passion” lips
Swipe He’s a hunk
Swipe Cute cat
Heart that pic of grandma farting
Tweet: “His breath smells like onions and dirty panties”
Sal fumbles with his penis, a penis he calls Rocky
A penis he has bragged has pleasured hundreds of women!
Rocky isn’t really so hard right now
Quickly, he closes his eyes, flipping through images
Images of street races
Epic gaming battles
Doritos with hot sauce
Rocky is up for a challenge again
Sally, chin down
Swipes for an environmental cause
She taps on a tampon ad
TikToks: “The moon is full,” pointing with an erect finger and slurs a booze jingle
Dina Jones posts on YouTube: “Sex for a Penny”
Sally chuckles, takes a selfie
She sways to Dina’s tune, captures every letter every digital reaction
Sal breathes in exasperation, accidentally inserting into her anemic ass
Rocky is hard and the entry is harder
Sally knees up
Unbalances Sal, as she smacks Sal with her jewel encased phone
She’s too busy posting to curse
Pulls her Victoria Secret panties with one swipe
Rocky is soft as a dirty sock
Sal rubs his head, quietly sucking un-macho tears
She grins, holding the phone, and posts a floppy image
In the moonlight the evidence is clear
Rocky isn’t a champ, not even a contender
by Monday, it will go viral, and Sally will be flittering her fingers loving each Like and caressing the phone like an endless promise all the comments will get physical attention fluttering her fingers with a soft moan
fluttering as Sal should have
with her clit--
—had he bothered to learn how
What’s up? In recent months, I’ve been fighting against Covid Racist Apartheid. This activism has kept me energized and motivated to do good for others. My kids have also been home for 10 weeks to keep them safe. To date, their school has had six classes quarantined. All of this is to say that writing and editing have been tough.
But, I am finding my balance again.
This week, I have been meditating on my poetry craft. Journaling about it. Been thinking a lot about the poetry advice from Matt Sedillo about honing your own craft. I have been fascinated by Tongo Eisen-Martin’s meditating about poetry. In short, I’ve been thinking about my writing strengths. I feel and think I am coming into my voice in a way that’s legit.
In fact, all of this work pushed me to revise “Sex Camaro,” now titled “Digital Sex.” I submitted it and two other poems “Jesucristo Santifianos” and “Red Wine, Roque” and was glad to find they had been published by Somos en Escrito Magazine.
The journey continues.