Friday, December 30, 2016

2016: Connecting to My Ancestors in Letting Go


Last week, I was in un balneario en Dajabon, especifically el Balneario del Salto en Loma de Cabrera (pictured above). It’s a river, with un salto, and when we got there a bunch of boys were jumping from this place that was pretty high up. I knew I wouldn’t jump when I got there: there was no need to...I just wanted the calm of the river, to feel the wind, to feel connected to this land where my ancestors are from.


Bueno, in the end, I made the decision to jump (of course), but I didn’t jump from the highest mount (ni loca), instead the smallest one. It was so close to the water, like the water was right there. But my fear of heights made me feel like my body just wasn’t going to move to make the jump happen. I wanted to move my feet but they wouldn’t respond to my brain’s command, I pictured the leap in my head but couldn’t make it manifest. The boys around me were yelling “brinca” “tírate ya!”, some of them offering "to help" (smh). It was kind of hilarious and felt like community somehow. I was away from the individualism of the US, where everyone is on their own, where you cheer for yourself and maybe some close friends join you. In this moment here, I had everyone cheering for me.


So, after what felt like an eternity, I took a step forward, and leaped into the water. I lifted my knees to wrap them around my chest while in mid-air but not enough for them to fully reach my chest (reminding me I need practice), and because my knees weren’t close to my chest when I dove into the water, my toes gently graced the floor. This made me wonder how these kids jump from much higher spots without injuring themselves, clearly experts (could Olympians do this here as opposed to in perfect pools that guarantee enough depth?). My knees did reach close my face under water, my body completely giving in to gravity before my arms pointed upwards, my muscles remembering better than my brain the swimming skills I learned from doing this a bazillion times as a kid and teenager. I swam up, and breathed. Feeling this euphoria. I had faced my fear, and jumped. I was surprised that it finally happened. I thought I couldn’t make my feet move enough, my arms felt limp when I was standing on top of the rock staring at the water. And yet no importó, I jumped and it was glorious.


People cheered, some called me pendeja. I was totally being a pendeja, hasta yo misma lo dije “diablo media hora pa tirarme de ahí”. To think I was used to jumping from places that were so ridiculously higher up only 10 years ago...que pasó? Where is this new fear coming from?


I jumped again, quickly. This time without putting too much thought into it, knowing I could do it. But the second time, my feet touched the ground much more and the fear of jumping a third time kicked in again. But I already felt accomplished, so I didn’t jump anymore. (Also, the water was freezing, ya taba bueno de andar metida ahi adentro).


2016 felt like a lot of that for me. Overcoming fears. And respecting my own boundaries, even if it meant some would hate me for it.


This is the year I learned the importance of to letting go and giving in. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of illusions. Letting go of fears. And I know that these are ongoing lessons, and maybe next year will be a lot of the same. But in 2016 this felt especially pronounced.


When the year started, I was in a relationship with someone who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Now I’m walking out of the year single. While this isn’t my first break-up, it feels like the hardest one among many things because we were living together, thankfully we ended on good terms, making the transition smoother though not any less abrupt for me. I was terrified of being single, I felt that staying meant things were going the way that they were supposed to in my life: I was in a stable relationship, stable job, stable career growth. But it was more than just the stability, it was the comfort of knowing I was loved and in him I had community after having lived in the US for 10 years and feeling like my community became too staggered over the years after college to really feel like it existed at all. I had turned him into my rock, from someone to take care of me when I was sick to someone that provided validation in a society where our worth as women is still attached to our relationship status and the size of that cis-male partner’s wallets. Leaving him meant letting go of those expectations, realizing maybe I too will break from tradition and marry older or never marry at all and/or have kids older. And while many will read this and side-eye me because “26 is young”, please understand that there’s pressures to settle down starting from a very young age. Turning 26 for me right when all this was happening, felt like I was getting close to 30 without control over my family life. To think I picked my marriage dress as a child before picking a career (to think too that I made that distinction when picking a career is also something that shouldn’t be forced upon us...we live in a world where our worth is tied to our ability to produce - and for women re-produce-for capitalism)...what a mess!


To make the transition into singledom a bit more difficult (though ending a relationship is never easy), my therapist had been urging me for quite some time to not leave my now ex-partner until I graduated from my Master’s program because he claimed that my ex provided the stability necessary for me to push through. THE FUCKING NERVE. Anyway, I believed him for several months, until I finally made the decision to break up independently of his advise, and I walked into his office, and fired him too. He was basically creating the very thoughts that kept me from believing I could do well on my own: this idea that stability and truly human worth comes solely from our ability to think “like a man” (really like the social construct of what we’ve been taught is masculine thought). He was wrong in assuming 1. I couldn’t handle my shit. 2. That things considered “feminine” don’t also bring stability like love, nurture, etc.


I left the home that we were building to move into a shared apartment in a new neighborhood, and in my new home I have found myself alone but never happier to be in this position. The relationship I was in helped me find this peace I’m in now.


I love the new space that I’m creating, and I love that I’m building a home in myself first. I’ve also been re-learning what stability means. Sometimes stability also exists in daily rituals, like writing or going to the gym- it doesn’t only have to exist or be based upon the realms of relationships and finances.


I’m actually holding back tears as I write this, because goddamn this year wasn’t easy but everything was worth it. From having led the planning for two huge events at work, to my research this Summer, things have been beautiful and real.


This year I also created boundaries, and let those boundaries exist. Boundaries for myself, to protect myself, to prevent my triggers. I let myself feel the pain and fears that come with ending relationships, realizing I was giving so much and not getting what I expected in return. This year I realized I have parts of me that are bad too, parts that I need to work on. I’ve hurt, I’ve said hurtful shit, I can be messed up and selfish. In the past, whenever I realized this, I would hide from accountability. Instead I would surrender to negative thoughts and quite literally get close to surrendering to life. I wasn’t ready to stop being a victim to ways in which I myself have been hurt. Now that I’ve healed from that stage in my life (with a reminder that healing isn’t linear), I can focus on being the highest version of myself, instead of solely focusing on not feeling at my lowest.


I’m writing this from Mami’s apartment in Santiago, waiting for my dad and Alcantara family to pick me up to go to Cabarete. While I’m sad to be spending Christmas away from the people I normally spend it with, my mom and maternal sister, I’m happy to be spending time with papi’s family in my home country.


I haven’t spent the holidays out here in a very long time, so it feels like a return to warmth, and a reminder that I’m not on this path alone and that where seeds were planted, trees have grown here, in New York, and beyond.


I’m writing this knowing that it will be the last post on Radical Latina for 2016, and knowing that it will be the last words on the pages of a book that I’ll be printing of all my blog posts (for myself, not to be published), and if I have something else to add from a larger angle is that somehow in all this, I feel I have reivindicado and reclaimed my innate worth not in having a partner nor in having a perfect life, nor in needing validation, but in simply being here as a testament to the resistance of my ancestors. The work that I’m doing for myself spiritually and the community work I did this year is inherently decolonial. In coming back to the Dominican Republic, in hearing the stories of black women in Dajabon from the Dominican Republic and Haiti doing amazing projects, in writing few articles for other publics but all three about black femme musicians reclaiming unapologetic blackness (Carolina Camacho, Beyoncé, Andre Veloz), in letting go of fear and in being willing to check myself, I have felt more powerful and connected to my blackness and brownness than ever before...Because so much of our learned behaviour is a result of our reality as colonial subjects, in healing I'm also decolonizing. To the point where I’m contemplating shedding the Latina label because of its inherent connection to Spain and white supremacy.

Makes it beautiful then to be back en Quisqueya to bring in the new year. And while I know that new year goals are a social construct, meaning that it is never the wrong time to let go of things that are hurting us, or to start new and better habits, it does make it way easier to do this work of restarting collectively. I invite us all to keep letting go, or to jump into the depths of our individual and collective liberation dreams, even when we’re afraid and feeling like pendejos.

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