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No Hay Peor Ciego Que El Que No Quiere Ver February 9, 2010

Posted by JMA in Dichos.
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No One Is More Blind Than The One Who Refuses To See

I never really understood this saying completely.  How can someone who is not blind actually see less than someone who is?  Well in fact this statement is very true as I have come to realize.  Not because we close our eyes and pretend not to see, at least not literally – more so because we choose to see what we want.  As when people say Love is blind.

Of course love itself is not blind.  If it were perhaps we would have a lower divorce rate and people would always forgive based on how much they love the person who hurt them.  We don’t live in a society where everyone forgives.  In fact, sometimes the act of forgiveness is viewed as a sign of weakness in an individual.  How many men/women have not been encouraged to leave their partners immediately after an infidelity by their peers and confidants without so much as a second thought?  Not that in some instances that decision is not merited, but whatever happened to independent thinking and laying all the cards on the table before rushing into a decision.  Be that as it may, when we fall in love we are blind.

We don’t see the negative attributes of our partners.  Instead we focus on the thrill of getting to know them, the first kiss, the first time, their unique little quirks that make us love them more.  And why not?  After all the beginning of a relationship is one of the most exciting things to experience in life.  Especially when it leads to a deeper, more committed partnership between two people.  Yet in this honeymoon phase of any relationship each half of the couple is putting their best foot forward.  Insecurities and the fear of rejection make us watch what we say, how we dress, how we eat, what friends and family members we bring our new love around.  Ultimately creating an altered sense of who we are and how we behave to the other person.  That’s why the real test of love is finding out whether you can live with your significant other. 

That’s when you find out he doesn’t really cook, she doesn’t bathe every day, he releases gas out of both ends at any given moment, she doesn’t shave her legs or her moustache very often, and of course that we as men always leave the toilet seat up.  If these were your most serious surprises upon unpacking your lover count your blessings.  Unfortunately for a lot of others when the honeymoon is over and the address is now shared, the discovery they make is that they never really knew their partner.  At that moment you realize all the little things you dismissed as insignificant were actually tell-tell signs you should have paid attention to.  Now you have a decision to make. 

Those who leave, move on…sometimes after a long and painful mourning period for the lost relationship.  It is those who stay who are at risk of becoming blind. 

Over the past several months I met a lot of strong, smart, independent men and women who at one point or another had been through very toxic relationships in which their partners verbally and/or physically abused them, and they put up with it – some for so many years that it was difficult for them to imagine any other reality.  What struck me most about our conversations, at the shelters where they now live, is how easily these folks recounted being knocked unconscious on multiple occasions, constantly being degraded in front of their children, and so many other horrible accounts they had to share.  One lady laughed the whole time as she went on and on about how every week her boyfriend would beat her up at the home they shared with their children.  I don’t honestly believe she thought it was funny, but this reaction was the only thing that kept her from crying at how long she had put up with his abuse (10 years).  When I asked them why they had put up with their partner’s abuse for so long all of them had the same response:  “I never thought it was that bad.”

Like the blind person who cannot physically see, these people were so blinded by their “love” and dependence on the other person that they could not see what was actually being done to them.   

And so this saying that I have heard so many times now truly makes sense to me.  As we celebrate love this Valentine’s Day let’s keep our blindness in check. 

Legacy Of A Legend February 3, 2010

Posted by JMA in Prose.
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In life she was a legend; in death her legacy will continue through her spirit

Last week I went to my grandmother’s funeral in Mexico.  It had been more than six years since I’d last been to the country in which both my parents were born.  Every year I’d come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t afford to go or didn’t have the vacation time to take off from my job.  The truth is I wasn’t interested in going. 

The reason for that escapes me now, but driving into those celestial Sierra Madre Mountains last week shook me to the core in a way that I hadn’t been in a long while.  My soul felt connected to those long stretches of land – that even though more modern still recalled my youth – as if though I had arrived back home.  Every mile we drove a more profound longing for embracing the land in which my summers as a child were spent grew deeper.  The feeling was so intense that despite over 24 hours of not sleeping I could not bring my body to rest.

As we drove through Saltillo, Matehuala and then into San Luis Potosi the anticipation of arriving into Cerritos made my spirit twitch and turn with nervous ambiguity.  Finally we arrived at the small rural area where all of my family descends from (El Sauz, Cerritos, San Luis Potosi, Mexico).  Despite the newly paved roads time had all but stood still.  My grandmother’s home was just as I remembered.  With one significant exception of course – she was no longer standing at the entrance of her kitchen awaiting each one of her grandchildren to file in so she could shower us with embraces and love.

Instead, my mother stood waiting for her seven children and husband to express our deepest regrets for Mamatule’s departure.  I never really understood why she was called Mamatule if her name was actually Maria Getrudes Maldonado Torres, but it felt right to call her that.  After 96 long years of life that had often been controversial and painstakingly difficult my grandmother lay in her former guestroom looking more beautiful and calm than I had ever remembered.  Outside dozens of grandchildren, children, and other acquaintances held each other and tried to console one another from the pain of knowing that she would never again take another breathe among us.

The sadness quickly turned into joy as memories raced through my mind of the many moments we had shared in this beautiful land.  There was the smell of chocolate-sweetened coffee early in the mornings, her kisses and caresses every time we got in trouble, the countless summer days we had spent racing across her property, and many other unexpected recollections. 

My grandmother was laid to rest on Saturday, January 30, 2010 in the same grave her mother had been decades earlier.  While there, my siblings and I also visited the graves of my other grandparents and the importance of this place finally set in.  As in life, my grandmother had once again brought us all together in her death.  We left that next day before the sun had a chance to peek its head, and while my siblings and I had our share of arguments and altercations while in El Sauz I left that little hideout in the mountains with a new sense of respect for each of my two brothers, my four sisters, my parents, and the rest of my extended family.

I realized that we are all headed toward the same path and that in the end all we can do is accept and love one another.  My hope is that when I die half as many people turn out to honor my life, mistakes and accomplishments.  Grandmother, until we meet again.

Young People With Big Dreams February 3, 2010

Posted by JMA in Work Stuff.
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Until she heard her name called out last Tuesday night at The Salvation Army’s third annual Youth of the Year Scholarship Awards Banquet, Eliana Perez didn’t have any true higher education aspirations. 

The high school student admits she wanted to go to college, but because of her family’s limited resources she had all but given up on her dreams.

Instead Perez foresaw a future for herself of helping her family make ends meet after graduation.  That all changed when, to her surprise, she was awarded third place and a $3,000 scholarship for her entry in this year’s Youth of the Year speech competition put together by The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. 

Immediately her eyes welled up and the idea of attending a four year university became a more plausible reality. 

A Tiempo Malo Buena Cara January 21, 2010

Posted by JMA in Dichos.
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For Difficult Times a Brave Face

A tall order when you really think about it.  How many of us have not faced devastating moments in our lives when we want nothing more than to curl up and forget about the world or stick our heads in the sand and keep it there.  It’s only human nature to want to minimize pain, physical or emotional.

But what about actually facing problems head on without pretense or denial?

Many would say that is the true sign of leadership, guts, confidence or a host of other very affirmative personality traits.  I don’t think so.  Sometimes it takes more guts to face a problem with the drama.  To not wear a brave face.  To embrace and express our heartache and personal pain.

How else would people know to reach out to us?

I’ve had my share of heartache and pain in the first three decades of my life and I’ve also seen the suffering of many others.  Some very near and dear to my heart.  At times our brave faces have made us appear strong and determined to forge ahead regardless of the adversities we were overcoming but more often than not these same masks have kept our pain silent and growing.

The image that immediately comes to mind is my mother crying and yelling at the top of her lungs as she expressed her pain while kicking and gyrating on the floor of our home during my senior year of high school.  I’m still haunted by that episode to this day and when I think of the moment it always makes me want to cry.  Not only because it was difficult to watch, but because in that instant I felt so helpless and hopeless.

For my mother this was the moment she finally realized, after spending every waking hour and penny of her time, that our family would be no match for the judicial system.  My brother would spend two years of his life incarcerated  regardless of what the curanderas and phony lawyers promised.  It was a devastating moment for all of us.  None more so than for my mother and until that point she had been the pillar that kept us together.  We knew she was in pain, but not that it would escalate to this.

The months that followed until he was released she was a shell of her former self refusing to enjoy anything life had to offer  so long as her child remained in that prison.  In a sense she created her own jail cell on the outside.

I’ve learned that sometimes it is just easier to let it out.  To cry until your tears dry up and your throat becomes soar.  And even then, to continue feeling your pain, to accept the sadness and not be ashamed.

Men do cry.  Maybe not often, but when we do it’s like flood of rain that streams, builds into a river and releases us from weeks, months or even years of bent up emotions and sadness.  And when you’re done the feeling is so cathartic.  As if you’ve been through war without having had to raise a fist.

It feels good.

In some instances a brave face may be just what the doctor ordered, but let’s give raw emotion a chance too.

Human Condition in Haiti January 21, 2010

Posted by JMA in Headline News.
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Please be warned this video is very graphic.

How tragic to see so many bodies being buried amidst the rubble of devastation.  Even worse, fathoming the idea of thousands of deceased men, women and children never even being identified, let alone properly buried, by their next of kin.  The main priorities are obviously saving those still breathing, but one can’t help trying to imagine the pain of those who will never know where their loved ones are laid to rest.

The burning of corpses obviously seems too horrible to be true, but the reality is that left out to further decay these bodies will only worsen the already dire conditions of ailing survivors.  The condition of the human race in Haiti reminds us that we are always at the mercy of nature.