This post was originally published on Janyary 17, 2013. Two years later and I’m still working on my new beginning. And I’m okay with this because it means I haven’t stopped trying.

 

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A strange thing happened today. I didn’t notice it right away, of course. There was no dramatic realization. No being struck by a figurative lightning bolt. It was more like the rising of the sun…

Slow. Steady. And something that, when you stop to think about it, shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

Sleep has been fitful and restless and mostly non-existent. I was lucky to wake up in time to get Buttercup to her morning pre-ballet/tap class. I didn’t bother bringing a book to read. She upgraded me, you see. A few weeks ago, when she first started, I was timidly asked to remain downstairs in the waiting room while she danced. I’m embarrassed, Mama. Instead of allowing herself to fully relax and enjoy herself with her fellow dancers, I think she had been too focused on my opinion of her performance.

So I waited. And eventually, she asked me to leave my book at home.

I sat in the dance studio with the other mothers while the dancers sues-sused and tapped their happy little hearts out. We smiled and laughed as our daughters delighted in the movement their bodies allow and reveled in their own conspiratorial giggles. We clapped, as a proper audience should at the end of a worthy performance, when the teacher announced the end of the class. Then we helped our happy girls change out of their dance attire and into their street clothes and made our way across the studio to go on with the rest of our days.

That’s when I saw my reflection in the studio mirror. I barely registered what I was looking at….there were too many things to do and think about to concentrate on the size of my ass or what my hips looked like. Hear that? Taking the time to criticize myself would have been a luxury. Buttercup was asking questions and we needed to go to Target and The Husband needed me to pick up a few things at the grocery store before we headed back home and I was trying to remember what they were and…hell. If I don’t have time to read a book or watch trashy T.V. or sleep, do I really have the time to stand in front of a mirror and pick myself apart?

And more importantly, is that how I want to spend the few precious moments I do find for myself? Self-criticism and self-directed body hatred as LUXURY like fine velvets and expensive champagnes and rare jewels and days like tomorrow when I can stay home all day in my pajamas and don’t have to bother with a bra?

I met my own eyes in the mirror once more before leaving the studio and that’s when I saw myself through the light of the new day and realized I had sat in front of a mirror for an hour and only concentrated on my daughter, her happiness, and how I hope she grows up stronger than me.

The woman looking back at me in the mirror was smiling now. Maybe because she realized feelings weigh so much less when shared with others who understand.

Am I fixed yet? No. But it’s a new day.

And that’s a start.

 

Jan 182015
 

This Artist/Writer/Photographer thing is still new territory for me. Fear wasn’t the only reason I held back from just running with it all because, and let’s be honest, it’s gonna be a bitch redesigning business cards. I’ll deal with that later, though. For now, it’s Show and Tell time because I spent entirely too much time making Scrunchy Faces I never selfie’d while over-thinking the Artist Statement portion of a recent art show submission.

I apologize to Instagram for robbing you of the chance to point and laugh.

I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better next time. I promise.

 

Image by Pauline Campos

Mexican in Maine by Pauline Campos

As a mother, I strive to teach my daughter that she can go anywhere…do anything. I want her to know that it’s more important to create her own space rather than try to fit in.
We moved to Maine two years ago and do not blend; our olive tones made more obvious by the white snow covering the ground for most of the year. But we are creating our space. In this photo, my daughter, 7, stands in a barn beneath the princess pinata made by a local woman, also Mexican, for her birthday party.
She is fierce, focused, and stands tall, daring anyone to question her presence, her choices, her right to wear that crown or the cape she says makes her royalty. In this moment, she has claimed her space.

 

Photo by Pauline Campos

As the founder of the #chingonafest community, I strive to empower Latinas to embrace (and celebrate) their true selves and voices in the face of cultural dictates telling us to do otherwise. As Latina Magazine’s #Dimelo advice columnist, I made some waves of my own when a conversation with my daughter turned into a column on Latina.com called “5 Ways to Raise a Chingona”. And as the mother watching this girl grow sure and strong, I hope she never loses the spirit and determination that I was lucky enough to capture in her eyes and her stance when the flash went off.

 

Autobiography by Pauline Campos

Autobiography by Pauline Campos

I was running behind so I forgot to copy and paste this one but basically I said lots of words and then wrapped it up with “This is my story told on canvas.” The end.

 

 

#SheSePuede by Pauline Campos

#SheSePuede by Pauline Campos

My goal and my purpose is to inspire women to embrace and celebrate our voices while forging our own paths — and inspiring the next generation to do the same — despite a culture dictating we do otherwise.
I am the daughter of a Mexican-born father and was raised by my village, including my parents, tias, tios, and Abuelo. I am the mother of a second-generation daughter who is being raised by the girl who grew up to break away from the accepted in order to find myself. I am Chingona. #SheSePuede. Because alone we can, but together, we thrive.

 

 

 

Photo by Pauline Campos

Photo by Pauline Campos

My sink is full of dirty dishes. The house is not Santa Spotless as is my usual. I have tons of gifts still to send out and even more missing from under my tree. I lost our magic Santa key so I told the child I texted Santa the code to the lockbox we save for dog sitter. I didn’t bake one christmas cookie. I only sent out 15 christmas cards.
My usual is 50.
It’s hard work dragging your ass out of bed when there’s no other place you’d rather be, what with missing friends and autoimmune hell running the show.( I got an answer, by the way: psoriasis. The rest of that story will have to wait for another post another day.) But it’s work that must be done when you’re not the star of a one woman show. And my costars demand Christmas cheer and holiday magic.
This is good, because I am doing Christmas even though I’d rather be binge watching bad movies and eating too much ice cream. Pretty sure that depressive, self-indulgent luxury is one every person who agrees to cohabitation loses as soon as Yours  becomes Ours. I’m even telling myself the cluttered mess of a house and the dirty dishes are progress because Instead of staying up until 4 am to scrub the house clean just so I could say I did,  I’m leaving them as they are.

Photo by Pauline Campos

Photo by Pauline Campos

My plans include wrapping a forgotten gift, writing a tiny goodbye note from her Christmas elf in sparkly gel pen in teeny tiny writing, and climbing into bed with The Husband and the child who was too excited to sleep, because Obviously Mom, Who Can Sleep On A Night Like This?
She can, Obviously and Thankyouverymuch, tucked up between heartbeats that sandwich her own. Its the only sound loud enough, I think, to soothe her into an instant dream.

Photo by Pauline Campos

Photo by Pauline Campos

The dishes can wait. I’ve got sleepy hugs waiting. This is progress.
Santa, like chocolate, understands.

 

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.

 

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