Photo by Pauline Campos

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can’t do the work required to care for ourselves if we don’t value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society’s complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don’t sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I’m working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I’m almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I’m almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?

 
Wishing Her True Girl Body Pride

Photo by Pauline Campos

She was two when she first asked me where babies come from. Without knowing where I was going to go with it, I pointed up and watched her her head tilt up for her eyes to focus on the night sky above.

“The stars,” I said.

Her entire being lit up upon hearing these words and she snuggled up against me “Tell me more, mama.”

A wish sat upon a star, looking down at the world below.

A woman sat in the cool night air, her head tilted up at just the right angle for the wish to watch as she closed her eyes and began to move her lips, speaking words the wish could feel but could not hear. When the woman stood up and went back inside her home, the wish smiled in that way that only wishes do. If the woman had come back out and looked up at the sky in the exact spot where she’d been looking just moments before, she would have been awestruck to see how brilliantly the star now twinkled against the night sky. For it’s a little-known fact that a star’s ability to shine is directly related to the happiness the wish sitting upon it is experiencing.

I don’t remember not knowing that my mother was a senior inb high school when she got pregnant with me. Or that she got married right after graduation and had me instead of letting her parents talk her into an abortion.

I don’t remember not thinking I was an accident. That I was never meant to be. That her life could have been different.

I hold my daughter close and tell her that she was meant to be.

 

The wish’s star was positively glowing.

It was finally her turn.

The wish had lost track of how long she sat upon her star, joyously watching as other wishes were called upon each night. When it was their turn, each wish would smile and wave to those still waiting to be called upon. And then, once they were, in the moment just before they stepped off their respective stars, they’d shine brighter than any other in the sky. And then the wish would fall, leaving a trail of light in its wake as it made its way down to the earth, ready to become someone’s something.

 

I wasn’t planned. I wasn’t wished for.

I just…was.

Maybe a wish would become a playful little puppy for a sweet little boy, or perhaps a wish would imaging what it would become as it fell, purring to its heart’s content as its dreamer got fitted it with a pretty pink collar. Or maybe a wish was meant to be a rainstorm for a thirsty flower, or maybe a wish trailed off into a beautiful nothingness, its only calling from its dreamer being the precious opportunity to see a falling star.

 

I’ve never felt that accidentally coming into existence gave me the right to feel worthy of the air I breathe or space in which I reside. Keep in mind that my mother never made me feel guilty for being born. She loves me and the four surprises that came after me. We all know that. I just can’t shake the feeling that I never should have been and that’s not her fault. It’s just the way my brain works.

 

 And while all the forms a wish might take once breathed into life are great and noble, this wish was making her star positively beam from the happiness radiating from within, for hers was a very special journey.

 “What kind of journey was it, Mama?” the little girl asked her mother, already knowing the answer and smiling a sleepy smile as she began to fall into a dream.

Because once upon a time an accident purposely wished on a star and a miracle happened. I thank almost every day for being my wish. usually as I am tucking her into bed at night. She thanks me for wishing her true. And then she smiles as she drifts off into dreams.

 

 
Photo credit: Pauline Campos

Photo credit: Pauline Campos

This girl.

She drives me insane.

Pushes every button.

Tries to work every angle.

Won’t take no for an answer.

She’s gonna be one hell of a #chingona one day.

But right now, my job is remind her daily that mama makes the rules and her job is to follow them. She can keep pushing. I don’t want her to ever stop because that’s the signal she’s stopped believing in the power of her voice.

The goal is this — and I tell her this often — you can ask me why, but not until after you’ve done as you have been told. That shows respect and tells me you’re still as smart as you think you are. Ask my why before and you’re telling me that you’re weighing you’re options; trying to decide if not obeying is worth the consequence.

Mama’s not playing that game.

And she gets it.

I know this because tomorrow, we will have this conversation again.

I look forward to it.

 

Update on the #ChingonaFest Project podcast: We’re now shooting for early next week for the official launch of the first episode. Probably Monday or Tuesday. Until then, stay strong, my friends.

 

Repeat after me.

I am…Redefined

I am a

Chingona.

A Hell-Raiser.

A Bitch who takes no offense when you call me

the very word hurled at me as an insult.

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My smile confuses

You.

My thanks steals

The wind in your sails and cools my

Cheeks.

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This is where I leave you,

Blinking and reassessing, only because

I don’t feel like wasting my time waiting for you to figure out

I never needed anyone’s approval

to

move

Forward

But my own.

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This is

My Journey.

As I define it

I define myself.

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I lay the foundation for

The tomorrow’s during which

My sons and daughters

Will search for their own words;

Their own

Ways.  I am

A Chingona.

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I am not

Perfect. I am my own story

Being Written with Words

I

Choose

to use.

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Words Redefined.

Turns out…

I never needed

Anyone’s approval but

My Own.

wondereliana

Permission Granted.

The ChingonaFest Project Podcast with Pauline Campos is coming. Hopefully maybe tomorrow. I run on Mexican Time, which means I’m usually behind of and ahead of myself, and usually at the same time. Stay tuned in by connecting with me on the ChingonaFest Project Facebook Fan Page, and on twitter and instagram because you love me. It’s okay, I love you, too, in a totally We’ve Never Met But Would Probably Be Besties kind of way. Oh and all that art? It’s mine. I’m on Etsy with my Mexican in Maine shop, but I’m holding the ChingonFest branded art for a lil’ something special that involves me, you, the podcast, and community exclusives. *winks*

 

My BFF Heather always says I am best when speaking only if I haven’t rehearsed. Apparently, planning I guess, is just a reason for me to self-censor, and that jut takes away all the good parts, so I try to do that as little as possible.

So here’s the plan for the Big Thing I’ve been dreaming up for a few years now:

- Weekly #ChingonaFest Project Google Hangouts at 2 p.m. EST on Sundays

- Weekly podcast stemming from the original G+ show

- Conquer the world, preferably by next Monday.

 

 


 

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