Nicaragua

NicaraguaA woman is definitely a creature of the moon.
If you disagree, you haven’t spent enough time with one.
So there I was, sitting in a third story pagoda, staring at the sky.
My feathered headdress blowing in the wind, tickling my cheek. The ocean quietly pushed against a black sand beach below, lulling me into bliss.
For a second, I forgot where I was. Then the chaos of 11 women squeezing into a ceremonial circle snapped me into the present.
It was a full moon in Sagittarius tonight and I was dying to bask in its glow, set my intentions for the next cycle and absorb its life and love.
Instead, girls are giggling, spilling wine, complaining and the ritual candles keep blowing out. Jenn had planned a full moon ceremony for us in Nicaragua. And I was so excited.
If I could worship the moon, I would. But that would be silly. I can love it, respect it, commune with it. But I know that the moon is my equal.
I had landed in Nicaragua the day before with no plan and no cell service. This is by far the most unprepared trip on my part to date. I wasn’t sure where Nicaragua was or what currency they use. I also had no idea that my flight was hours after the other girls’ arrival.
A stranger informed me that Stacy, my host, had sent him to retrieve me. I was relieved to see him, after coming around to the idea of having to sleep in the airport.
Armando, my driver, then notified me that I would stay at his house for the night and he would drive me to the beach house, and the girls, the next day.
I was in awe that every house on his block had a large enclosing wall, topped with barbed wire. He also had an armed guard meet us at the gate. Little did I know, this would be the most peaceful night I enjoyed in Nicaragua.
To get to the beach house, we drove through dry farmlands, scattered with crude housing and roaming livestock. There were horses and carts everywhere, but these were not a tourist attraction. Two electric gates through acres of teak and poplar trees sat a grand white house with no address and an alluring ocean on the other side.
When we arrived the girls were drinking and chatting, scattered throughout the open downstairs.
They were beautiful. Many of them knew each other through modeling. So I immediately shrank into my goofy/intellectual self. There was no way I fit into this group, by my looks alone.
So this night we are having our full moon celebration. To release things that no longer serve us and move forward in our lives. Sharing these statements with a group of strangers fascinated me. These strong beautiful women had their struggles, their weaknesses and their heart breaks. It connected us and helped me to extend love and compassion.
From there- meaty meals that I couldn’t eat, lack of sleep from thousands of insects in my bedroom, and walking into building pressure from existing friendships, things grew intense.
Then we surfed.
There was a hotel about an hours drive from the beach house that catered to surfers and let you rent boards. It was just our group when we arrived. Everyone started drinking and settling in, and then the surfers came. Men appeared out of the water by the handfuls.
I have never seen women so open and aggressive towards men, and it intimidated the crap out of me.
I surfed, met two sweet little locals, Avi and Miguel, that would swim out with me and cheer me on.
Only 4 out of 11 went. By the time our group got back from surfing, the others were drunk and surrounded by shirtless men from all over the world. It looked like a scene from ancient Babylon, before the Old Testament. When women stood in their sexuality and were revered by all as powerful beings.
I was not comfortable joining in, so I perched at the bar and decided to connect with Stacy, my host. She invited me on this incredible trip, and we had never met. Not only is she externally tall and beautiful, her soul oozes from every pore on her body. She is transparent and alive, and in pain. She seeks to soothe her agony by mothering and caring for others. Her love and compassion are endless, and yet, I felt so much pain coming from her.
From time to time I meet people I connect with instantly and deeply. Even writing this, I miss her.
We then moved into a hotel in Granada. At this point I’m sick, not drinking and avoiding all the tension in the group.
There were fights over money, meltdowns, curses, tears, you name it.
But in this I realized just how uncomfortable I am in conflict. I can’t sit with it. I’m a fixer or a runner. I either want to solve the issue or run away from a person anytime there is complaining. And women don’t work that way.
When we are uncomfortable or sad, we just want to be heard and seen. Every woman knows the outcome and has the key to solving her own problems. She needs companionship and empathy. And in this, I failed. I secluded myself from the group or immediately offered solutions when there was discord. And I’m sorry.
Tuesday, we walked through meager houses and brightly painted concrete buildings of Granada to reach Hogar De Los Ninas, a home for girls. Nicaragua had a level of poverty that I have never been so close to, even as a traveler. These girls took refuge in the care of local nuns and either didn’t have parents or their parents could not afford them.
There was so much joy coming out of these dazzling little girls. I made a promise to myself to come back with a stronger Spanish vocabulary than “What is your favorite color?” and “Do you want to play?”.
Words were not necessary to see their personalities. Some were attention seekers, some mischievous, some shy. My tour guide through the home was Alexandra. She had a guard up and was carefully watching me. She is a tomboy that loves stars and cracking jokes. She took my hand and slowly showed me all of the things around their home that she cares about. I would’ve loved to hear her story. I just have to trust that she is safe and that she has so much love and power.
Wednesday was wonderful. I had coffee against a hot pink wall, overlooking a crystal clear pool and Spanish inspired architecture. This was my first day wandering off without a chaperone. I found myself at Pure, a new age spa and health center. After my Swedish massage I requested Reiki, an energy healing service. I had never experienced it before and had no idea what to expect.
I was sitting in a dark meditation room looking out over an atrium of tropical plants and hammocks. My meditation was simple, since I had no headphones or music. I had a voice bubble up “Your problem is not with manifesting your desires, it’s with believing you deserve it.”
Not having much time to think on that, I moved into my spa services. For Reiki, in Spanish, my caregiver asked what I wanted to focus on. I immediately said “Mi corazon.” Green is the color of my heart chakra, everyone needs to give and receive more love, right?
She had a cloth over my eyes and never touched my body. I would feel warmth on my throat, a twitch here and there, and a tightness around my navel. When I came around she looked exhausted and was speaking very quickly, so I didn’t understand her. I did catch “…amarillo, muy rapido.”. Yellow is my third chakra and my power center where I manifest and create from. My “I do”.
Strange. It linked up with the voice from my meditation. A green smoothie and a stroll through cobble stoned streets, Jenny relayed a moment she had in meditation. It was a voice that said “You cannot manifest what you feel you do not deserve.”, but she was positive the words were not for her.
It comes in threes, okay, I’m listening.
That day was filled with joy, connection, laughter and adventure. I finally fell in love with Nicaragua.
Jenny and I explored an old cathedral, with grandiose mosaics and incredible murals being painted on the ceilings.
I sat in the back row, bowed my head and prayed “I want the life I’m supposed to live, and I want to be wild.”
I wasn’t sure why I prayed the last part, so I had to really think about it.
Wild for me is not loud and outrageous. It’s solid, it’s present. It is sitting in every moment with a powerful knowing of oneself.
Not letting opinions, expectations or emotions rule you. It is true power.
Central Park of Granada held an outdoor market just outside the cathedral. The colors and movement immediately turned me on. Between haggling with an old seamstress over table cloths, flirting with a local artisan and being gifted a rosary bracelet from an elderly painter- I connected.
I wanted more.
At dinner, Jenny and I indulged a bottle of champagne each and giggled over messaging a tarot reader and boys we’ve met.
In our drunken bliss, we wanted to dance.
I didn’t give any thought to what I looked or smelled like. We sang along to Journey and salsa’ed our asses off with a group of vibrant locals and barefoot tourists. My dress and hair, heavy with sweat.
It was perfect.
Leaving seemed so sad, but I left knowing I’d be back and I would be more.

My Story

imageMy mother was the most disturbed person I have ever known, and she chose love.
So do I.
I am finally accepting that I was raised in an extreme case of abuse.
Physical, sexual, emotional and mental.
If you tried to talk to me about this 2 years ago, I wouldn’t acknowledge  it. I was numb, disconnected, unfeeling. I deflected and downplayed. And drank.
I lived entirely in my head.
“Insecure people couldn’t be alone.” I loved being alone. I got lost in wine and fiction books.
“People who were abused lived under a dark, crazy cloud.” I smiled and laughed. That’s not me.
Except I wasn’t me, not entirely.
From my experience, if you shut off pain, you also shut off pleasure. And when you can’t feel  anything, you search for feelings externally. I loved to drink. And to masturbate.
My anxiety was disabling in high school. Everything terrified me. I was looking for connection and love, but also an outlet for my rage and grief.
So I ran my mouth and dressed weird, but my upbringing still stopped me from being “bad”. I still wanted to be good. I never did drugs, but I pretended I had to impress my  other angry, rebellious friends. And yet, I was also drawn to the religious and holy crowd. Never quite fitting in to either.
I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t have sex, I always turned in my homework- why couldn’t I have been loved?
Mix that with being raised by a religious society that views a woman as a servant to her husband. We were created to cater to a man, and man was made in God’s image.
I remember growing up, when I would go stay with other families for extended amounts of time, praying “Please adopt me. Let me stay.” At a remarkably young age I hated my mother and realized I did not know my father.
My dad was this man that came home from work, and as long as I was in my room or outside, I was fine.
I have no memories of my dad in my early childhood. And come to find out, he doesn’t remember  me either.
Abuse doesn’t look like I pictured. It’s not a seedy, antisocial monster dressed in darkness. Sometimes it’s friendly and charismatic. Sometimes it’s a nice person, so out of touch with themselves that they act out on pure emotion, and then block it out. Or make up a story that  sounds pretty in their head and believe it with their whole heart.
My dad was not involved in my life until  I turned 11.
My mother was having another series of paranoid projections and was convinced that I was having sex with my dad. I still didn’t know what sex is at this point.
But what got me was how she treated me. She was sexually abused most of her life. She looked at me with hatred and disgust and said “I know what you’re doing. It will all come  out.”
And she went to the elders.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own judicial system made up of older men that investigate any situation brought to them, then decide your degree of sin and your punishment.
So I had to get interviewed by a panel of extremely misogynistic and uncomfortable men.
I remember crying and being so angry. Back when I could still cry.
Later, my mom had a massive stroke that caused blindness, immobility  and complete dependence on other people.
A lot of the responsibility fell on me, but I hated my mother.
And now I had to feed her and make sure she took her medicine.
Her psychosis worsened at that point.
She was convinced my brother Jon and I were trying to kill her, that I was a whore, and that the world was also out to rape me and steal me away.
She was obsessed with me, and so mean.
She would sit by my bed at night, rocking herself back and forth, watching me sleep. This lasted for months and months.
Until finally they drugged her so hard, she could no longer climb the stairs.
At which point the yelling worsened, to this day I can’t stand yelling.
That’s also when Daniel Ramirez came into the picture. He was 19, I was 12.
He gave me attention, told me he would take me away from it all.
And he started touching my body, and I hated it.
The kissing and being held I loved. After time, I thought I owed him full range of my body in exchange for that.
So at first I fought him, he’d hold me down and seemed to enjoy it when I struggled.
He took what little power I possessed.
My dad found out he was sneaking into my bedroom at night.
I was so relieved an adult knew.
But then my life took a turn.
Eyes were on me. And it was bad.
My dad was an elder in the congregation at the time. I had to sit in front of another panel and describe how far we went, did I initiate, did I orgasm. I was being punished for allowing abuse.
My dad was removed as an elder, and he hated me for it.
He would scream at me, hit me, took away what little freedom I had.
I was so uncomfortable in my own body. I knew I was beautiful. But I had no one to protect me.
So I cut all of my hair off and started to dress like a boy, a weird boy at that. I painted and sketched and read.
At 14, I bought a yoga book and practiced in my bedroom that no longer had a lock.
I gave up meat. And I stuck pretty close to my brother Jon. I was in trouble at the Kingdom Hall, so I wasn’t allowed to partake in activities, and I also wasn’t allowed to hang out or talk to people at school. I was completely isolated.
My dad went into terrorizing mode. He would yell at me to change my hair, be a Witness, act right.
I never got a break, except when he was at work. I was free from 3pm-5pm during the week.
My mom no longer had power over me from a wheelchair, except to say “I’m going to tell dad.”
I had my art, I made friends, I could laugh and listen to music. And my dad was still angry.
Jon started working and having a life, and I was home alone again.
My dad has spyware on the computer, every instant message was read, every email checked.  He would listen in on every phone call.
Constantly breathing down my neck.
I started dating Doug Mann.
It was my second year of high school, and there was a boy that I could share my brokenness with. He was broken too.
I had freedom  from 2:30pm-5:00pm on weekdays to see him, laugh and explore.
By this time my sister was divorced and moved back to Deer Park. I finally had a safe haven with her. My dad was relieved to be rid of me.
And I finally lost my virginity. It was beautiful and sweet and connected. He cared how I felt, and wanted to be good for me.
But Doug had his own demons, and he turned to drugs. I stayed with him over the span of jail and rehab, writing letters and drawing him pictures. For a 16 year old that has never felt love, being separated for 6 months with the promise of love was not a big deal.
Even pulling up memories now, I feel waves of bliss and joy.
But he couldn’t stop. He kept going back to jail, and the Doug I knew ceased to exist. He was fried and hardened and a liar.
Then comes Joel, Doug’s childhood friend. We comforted each other in losing Doug and began our broken relationship.
During this span I had moved out at 16, working 2 jobs and trying to finish high school. I ended up using my scholarship money to live day to day.
Joel was abusive. He ripped me apart, set himself above me. But at least he loved me and I had something of my own.
I also found Jesus. I started going to a charismatic Pentecostal church and became a youth pastor and missionary.
I felt clean, reborn.
I was loved and respected, and Joel hated it.
He kept breaking up with me, then showering me with extravagant gifts and groveling.
I also began connecting with my father’s parents. Who were lovely and loved me. I finally found my place in the world. I was spawned from these beautiful, loving people.
And that gave me the courage to stop cycling with Joel and move out of the small town that kept me broken.
My grandparents both passed away within a year of me meeting them.
But I was so lucky to have that year.
I then dated a Jehovah’s Witness that was gay, but couldn’t live it. So I was safe. We could watch Project Runway, shop and eat Oreos in bed.
He proposed marriage and I knew it was time to move on.
Hurricane Ike hit Houston, and I was homeless.
I always had amazing people to take me in.
And that’s how I met Steve.
And that’s how I met Nghia.
I was 20 years old, and he was 31. He saw past my fun girl persona, and my broken was drawn to his broken.
We were never alone, didn’t have sex, even though I wanted to.
By the time I got my first apartment by myself, I was in love with him.
He had money and security and he didn’t mind that my family was crazy and broken.
But it still wasn’t love.
Nghia is like my dad, he believes women are there to serve men and I had to earn his love and my worth.
My parents loved him, my brother Rob even liked him.
When I moved to Dallas and got engaged, I knew it was off.
He would ignore me for days, then rip me apart. And I was isolated again.
All of my friends were in Houston.
I gained weight, hated my job, drank myself to the point of blacking out.
I would visit Houston and no one understood how cool, laid back Nghia could be what I described.
He wouldn’t have sex with me. He acted like he hated me when we were alone, I had to constantly walk on egg shells.
And I was lost and powerless.
I remember the point I broke, quit my job and decided to go to college.
He spanked me, as if I were a child. Told me I was selfish, threw a fit. And concluded he would not support me.
But I dug my heels in.  I was going to take out loans, bar tend, strip. Whatever it took.
He agreed to pay for school, but held it over my head and terrorized me. I had to hide any victories or accomplishments from him, because he would just tear me down.
I  learned to avoid him. Which was easy since he worked nights and weekends.
But it’s hard to find peace and success when I don’t believe it myself and my husband hates me.
Then my mom died. And my body started falling apart.
When my mom passed I didn’t want to tell Nghia at first, I couldn’t handle his reaction.
So I sat crying in my living room, not wanting to be alone, but not wanting to tell my husband.
And all of my feelings towards my mom resurfaced. The hate, the fear, the pain and the joy and the good times.
A few years ago, I finally got to see my mom.
She had all the love in the world for her kids, but could not stop living in her traumas and past.
She loved me unconditionally, however. And I accept that love.
She looked at me deep in the eyes one day and said “I am sorry I wasn’t a good mother to you.”
And I deeply forgave her, and was able to see her and love her completely. I loved her scars, her pain, her weird and her beauty.
And I started, a glimmer, to love myself.
I can pin point the moment self love broke through to me.
I had jumped on a plane to Paris by myself to get away.
I was in an old Catholic church, staring at an altar I didn’t understand and simply prayed “I want to live the life I’m supposed to live.”
And I cried. I broke open.
And I knew I couldn’t go back to my husband. I couldn’t not be me and love me.
I had no money, I was about to lose my job, but I finally allowed happiness into my life.
I stood my ground through Nghia’s threats and usual tactics, which was no easy feat.
I remember when I realized he had no power over me.
I began cutting off ties and detaching myself from this life I never wanted.
And every step I take forward, God or the Universe or whatever you want to call it, has met me, held me, helped me.
This is the beginning of loving myself. No longer deflecting.  I have no more fucks to give. This is a part of me.
This is my starting point.
I want so many things.