Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Things die all year 'round

Dead Mouse in front of our town house
Tiny stiff claws curled up
beneath its whiskers
Soft gray fur almost...
so small you could cup it in your hands.
And keep it as a little pet.  If it were alive.  
We've just come back from my aunt's burial
Tiny stiff hands curled up under her chin.
Like a mouse.  Or a fetus.
"Why do more people die in April?"
I ask my husband on the way to the burial
(I'm thinking of my father.)
"Didn't you say that once?"
"People die all year round."
he answers.
Thinking of I don't know what.
I don't cry when they
lower her coffin into the grave.
I look around to see if things look different.
I don't feel more alive.
I don't feel much of anything.
Not even fear.
Just a very distant dread.
As soft as a leaf falling on the ground.
As soft as a wire floating on my neurons.
Last night I had a strange dream.
A family was looking for their lost pet.
What does it look like, I asked.
It's a rat they replied.
They found it.
Running between the trees.
As large as a cat.
As docile as a mouse.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Happy Pill

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the writer compares anti-depressants to cold medicine.  They are both, she claims,  symptoms of wanting a "quick fix" to life's problems.    I agree with most of the arguments in her article. As a practicing Buddhist and a woman of Jewish descent, I completely get that "life is suffering." I agree that only by confronting our problems do we advance and grow.  I'm no escapist, although I don't believe that wallowing in my own muck does me or anybody else much good.  I take cold medicine to relieve the symptoms of a temporary illness.  Yes, the faster it works the better.  But,  my decision two years ago to begin to take an anti-depressant felt nothing like my occasional decision to swallow some Nyquil.  For years, maybe decades, my symptoms of depression were vague and did not seem "classic."  I also believed that masking the symptoms of psychological or emotional distress was akin to avoidance, a kind of irresponsibility.  Moreover,  my moods seemed related to hormones and life circumstances.   I still enjoyed most things that I had enjoyed in the past.  I laughed and cried.  If I didn't laugh as much as I would have liked, who was to say I cried too often?  I spent countless hours on the telephone talking with my sister, who, with infinite patience, listened to my pain, my despair.  I also spent countless hours in a chair talking and crying to various therapists, figured some things out and discovered ways of coping with my moods.  There were also issues that not only I,  but all women suffered from in society: lack of respect, taking on too much,  living in a society that expects everything of women and gives back little.  I rejected the notion that woman should be "nice" and that anger in women was "wrong."  I read Harriet Lerner's The Dance of Anger as though I would find a way, like Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves,  to embrace my anger and befriend it from a distance. In my Buddhist practice, I chanted to channel my rage and discover what lay beneath.  Chanting was often successful. Chanting and my practice in the Buddhist lay organization uncovered the deep sadness and disappointment I felt in my life.  It gave me the courage and support to make positive changes in my life, to begin a career, to follow some of my dreams, to develop enduring friendships.  Still, the pain wouldn't go away.  At it's worst, the depression felt like a toxin flowing through my bloodstream.  It felt physical as though a material treatment might help.  So, I tried St. John's Wort, Bach's Rescue Remedy; sugar, caffeine and dairy free diets. None of these seemed to work although the healthier diets and exercise certainly helped.   Finally, over the course of a couple of years,  I went to two psychiatrists to inquire about medication.  Both times I left the sessions feeling like medication just wasn't for me.   I  continued to exercise regularly.  I went back into therapy and this time got to the root of what I really wanted, the yearning to be closer to people, to friends and, more than anything, to family.  So, leaving a job I love and thanks to a husband who was also ready for a change, I moved back to New York.  It felt like a dream. My husband and I were thrilled to be living in a lovely, rural area and I was delighted to be no further than two hours from most of my siblings and my mother.  Until circumstances, my life, caught up with me again, and I broke apart.  Everything was wrong.  Everything was my fault. The anxiety and despair that was always hovering near the surface emerged without respite.  Depression's best companion, the monster of self loathing, was exhausting for its persistence and persuasiveness.  I hit bottom on Thanksgiving day several months after the move.  In the car, on the way to my mother's house, we took a different route on my suggestion.  We were lost,  I was sure, but my  husband was convinced we could find our way.  I began to lash out at him with the fury of a typhoon.  Our daughter sat in the back seat and observed quietly.  As my rage finally spent itself out, I said blankly:  "I think I need to go on medication."  Our wise, then 20 year old daughter replied:  "I think so, too."  That was it, I told my sister a few days later on the phone.  I've had enough.  They've had enough.  A couple of weeks later my husband agreed to accompany me to the psychiatrist's office.  He was the only doctor in the area who could see me so soon because he scheduled appointments beginning at 6 a.m.  My husband drove me along the dark, winding road on the 12 mile ride to the office.  I was nervous about getting lost, but we found our way. As usual.  Sometimes I wonder how my husband managed to stay with me all those years.  I'm not saying that I was always completely at fault.  But, now that I see more clearly the effect that depression has on the family, I wonder if I would have been able to withstand it all.  That moment when I was sure we were lost on the way to my mother's house and my husband was sure we would find the way may hold the clue.  He may have been always sure, even when the road was dark, that we would find our way.

Here's the irony:  after at least five years of not wanting to take antidepressants because of the fear of side-effects, the belief that I was really okay and that my circumstances needed to change, not my chemistry, after finally understanding that I was better on Cymbalta, I am weaning off them.  Not by choice.  It seems I am one of the few who may suffer from a rare side-effect: closed angle-closure which could lead to an closed angle attack of glaucoma which could cause blindness.  Who would think, who could have known?  So, now I'm on 20 mg. and the same old thoughts and feelings start seeping into my brain...the same behavior.  I kicked my dog the other day because I felt irritated by her bark.  She looked up at me, more in shock than pain, and I felt the same shame, the same total lack of control over myself that I had pre-Cymbalta.  The monster in the mirror.

September 29th. 2015
I've been on 20 mg. for about a month now.  Yesterday, I was sitting in the rain garden on campus.  A blue jay took a bath in the water.  First he dipped in.  Then, with so much joy, he went back in, full body this time, exhilirated by the cold and clean...and my eyes teared up with the joy and wonder and beauty, he fanned his tail as if to show off and I thought "why not?" I would too if I were a beautiful blue jay.
That evening, when I got home, I was so mad at my husband that I nagged him for the rest of the evening.
This is me on a low dosage: depressed and sentimental, touched by the beautiful in nature (Nature) and enraged by the injustices, pettiness of life.  Emotional.

January 12, 2016

I have been off of Cymbalta for almost a month.  Yes, I am more emotional.  And I am forced to deal with my problems because they just seem more severe.  My sister shared an op ed piece from the New York Times entitled Medicating Women{s Feelings.  It reminded me of the feminism that I used to know and love, the feminism that embraces what it means to be a woman.  Because meaning is what I am seeking not necessarily the truth.  The truth about anti depressants is elusive and subjective.  I can only try and cope with my life now without them. 

January 26th, 2016

The worst part about being off Cymbalta are the "anger attacks."  A thought or worry will enter my head and then I cannot stop worrying about it and getting anxious.  If the worry has to do with my husband (we need more money or his car needs maintenance for example) then he is the target of my anger.  I do not stop with "I'm angry and want you to take care of this."  It's "my whole world is collapsing, I have no control and I'm at the end of my rope."  It was so much easier to reign myself in when I took Cymbalta.  After an attack, what's almost worse, are the feelings of guilt and regret for lashing out.  This morning I was chanting about this incident.  I realized I feel so overwhelmed by my circumstances.  I do not think there is anything wrong with medication that helps calm those feelings while I cannot do anything about the situation.  Therapy can help.  It never helped me the way Cymbalta did, however.  No matter how many realizations or coping techniques I have used over the years, the "burn and crash"  is not worth the energy.  And often it's wasted energy.

October 24th, 2016

I wonder if I'm idealizing the effects of Cymbalta on me.  I don't think so.  I felt more creative, less self-critical and I made better decisions.  I just coped better.  I don't agree with the author of Medicating Women's Feelings that my feelings were a natural part of being a woman.  My life feels like hell a lot of the time.  I have suicidal thoughts and thoughts of self-loathing.  I waste a lot of time just dealing with fear and worry.  I liked myself more.  Of course life was still hard.  And therapy seems like such a waste of time and money.  I'm angry now.  Life hurts more.  And it's too short.

October 26th, 2016

I'm reminded of Flowers for Algernon.  Like I had taken a medicine that allowed me to feel and function more like a normal person.  You could see it in my writing.  The handwriting on the wall.  My sentences were more complete.  They tied together more.  Now, it's hard to get a thought down on paper. Another thing...I've been having stranger dreams.  Still, I'd rather be sleeping most of the time.  Will this stop after menopause?  And how long will I have to wait for that?  I think about how easy my childhood was.   I think of playing records and singing along with them.
The thing about Flowers for Algernon is that the main character is not bothered by his loss of intelligence because once he goes back to who he was he loses the ability to reflect on that.  He's lucky in that way.  But, I can't forget what it felt like.  I can't forget the lighter feeling, the healthier feeling...

March 1st, 2017

The things I dread:  The lack of control.  The fear of fear itself.  Not knowing what to do next.  Meaninglessness.  Being around people I don't want to be with.

March 15th, 2017

Wanting to die.  I was just chanting and the thought "I want to die" just keeps popping into my head.  Then something goes wrong.  Relatively small thing.  A blizzard.  The neighbors get angry because we haven't cleaned off and moved our cars.  I get angry at Enrique for being lazy.  I hate myself because I'm lazy and didn't check when I should have to see if other people were cleaning their cars.  And I had already been thinking earlier "I want to die" and anxious about the day.  And then I feel worse.  I talk to my mother.  I feel bad.  I talk to my sister.  I feel bad.  So, I don't want to talk to anybody.  I just want to die.  Why am I living?  What is the purpose of my life?  Supposedly, Buddhism is supposed to help with these questions.  And yet, I keep thinking of the song from Little Shop of Horrors "I keep asking God what I'm for and He answers 'Gee, I'm not sure.'"  It's hard to hate myself.  To keep making mistakes.  To not know what to do.  I give up.  I want to give up.   If I tried to kill myself, maybe I'd get help.

March 19th, 2017

A little while after that, after really wanting to die, I began to feel better.  Talked with my husband about how upset I was over what happened.  I didn't tell him I wanted to die.  That night, I felt better.  The next day, and the day after that I felt better.  Had more energy.  Didn't want to die.  Had a nice phone conversation with my daughter.  Things were kind of looking up.  Went to a Buddhist meeting today with our Warwick group.  Then I went to therapy.  Or rather, called my therapist.  And, like happens in therapy, I talked about the negative stuff.  And it didn't go well.  I mean I feel okay now.  Just wondering:  maybe I should lie in therapy next time and say:  "you know what?  everything's okay with me now.  I'm fine.  I've figured it ought.  Thank you.  I won't be needing any more sessions."  Or ask her "When can I be done?  When can I say:  "I've had enough, thanks?  Do you really want me to get better?  Do you ever tell a client that they are fine?"  Because I really want another way.  Another medicine or treatment.  I really want to get on with my life.

March 27th, 2017

I just wanted to add an entry when I'm actually feeling okay.  Had an enjoyable spring break last week.  Enjoyed my life.  Saw a friend, my mother and sister.  Went shopping.  Did things for myself and enjoyed them.  My worry now is an upcoming trip to Austin, Texas to see Pablo.  A lot of anxiety about that.  Just take one thing at a time.  Talk to Enrique.  Make a decision.  Make plans.  Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

March 31st, 2017

At home today with the flu.  Yesterday, I felt like sleeping all day and pretty much did.  It felt like I was depressed, although I've never had the kind of depression when you sleep all the time.  But, it felt so good to sleep and I wondered if that was because I'm also depressed.
Things have not been going well with my therapist.  I'm seriously thinking of stopping sessions with her.  I still feel uncomfortable with her.  Therapy is supposed to help me feel better, not worse.  I want to deal with things.  I just don't like it when she rambles on about things in her own life, supposedly to see how it relates to my life.
Just finished reading Patricia Bosworth's memoir.  She did so much in her 20's.  I'm 52 and feel like I'm barely living.  It's my choice, I suppose.  She lived a privileged life, and worked extremely hard.  I lived a privileged life once, too.  Also, worked hard.  Lately, maybe for the past couple of years or so, I feel like I haven't been working that hard.

April 6th, 2017

Today driving to work I felt sad, but not depressed.  Sad because Ana Lucia and Enrique are on their way to Mexico.  Sad about my life and how very drab it seems to me now.  Although, I am occasionally grateful for the lack of drama, the dullness of everything.  It seems like this is a time to be serious, for the things going on in this world, for the strange, dark tension filling our society.  For the cold Civil War feeling that's ripping through us...the fake normalcy, the ridiculous optimism.  Also, I so much miss my friends in Chicago.  Especially Mary.  And Laura. And only if Bonnie were still alive.
They said, I've read, that it's important to focus on good things that happen.  So, today.  I had a nice lunch with Ana Lucia at home.  And the cat is always cute.  And that lovely student tonight who shut up my colleagues in a minute when he complained, so sweetly! about their comments about trans children.  Sigh.  So beautiful to hear a young person clear and true and unaffected.  What else?  Oh, the nice students in the class I taught tonight.  And just helping students find a book or an article or something.  Just being able to feel useful.

August 15th, 2017

I wish I felt like I did in the last entry. Just dull.  I'm back to feeling suicidal.  It's the little things that set me off.  Little things that seem unsurmountable.  Like the children who play every day outside our house and scream and run around for hours and hours.  This just started a few weeks ago.  My anxiety is through the roof.  And even though I know rationally it's not that bad, I feel as if my world, my sanity is falling apart.  The obsessive thoughts of anger and pain inside my head.  The fighting with myself.  Going home and not wanting to do anything.  Not wanting to be home.  It's like the depression/anger/pain feeds itself.  Or I feed/foment it.  Until it becomes a palpable dread, nausea, anxiety.  And the sort of strange behavior.  How do I explain it?  I'm drained.  Losing weight.  Waking up too early.  It's as though I'm going through something traumatic like an awful divorce, or a death or something.  I'm thinking now...How can I stay away?  Where can I go?  What should I do tonight?  And the next and the next?  And the weekends.  The long, endless hours?  Drugs?  Alcohol?  It won't help.  Can't take antidepressants.  We almost moved to another house in August.  But, I didn't like it.  "Too expensive" I said.  "I'd move there if we had to."  Now, I'm grieving that lost opportunity.  I'm convinced I've just screwed up my life.  If my kids are okay,  sigh...just that goodness for that.  Sigh.  And my faith?  Well, I feel like a failure in that arena as well.  Twenty-eight years of practice, and still doubting.  It seems like I go through these waves of seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, and I want to quit.  Maybe one of the most difficulty things is that it seems there aren't many people I can talk to about it.  I try to visualize what I would like my life to be like.  I can't even do that.  Lee Kie said, "chant about how you want things to be, not the way things are."  I'm afraid to even ask.  I'd like to find a reason to live, meaning in my life or a clear mission.  If my mission is to be happy, well..sigh.  well...

September 19th, 2017

I had a few weeks of feeling okay.  The noise was greatly reduced.  I spent relaxing days and evenings at home.  It was heaven.  And now the noise is increasing and my anxiety came back immediately.  My heart races.  I feel nauseous.  Afraid and at the point of tears.  Suicidal.  What was I going to say?  I had a thought.  Something sort of encouraging.  And I thought this blog would help.  Was I going to say that I want to find a psychiatrist to prescribe something?  Was I going to say...something?

I remember now...I was going to write about my dream last night.  My dream about the cockroaches.  They were in the kitchen and there were so many I started crushing them with my bare hands.  They keep coming back, like my other problems.  And each time they come back I am worse.  Oh, this isn't helping!  I thought it would.  To write this down is not helping.  

September 28th, 2017

Reading Anne of Green Gables again after so many decades.  It reminds of what I felt like as a child or a young person when I had hope for the future, when my world was simpler and things could be wonderful, magical.  Like looking forward to seeing a play, even in the high school, going to a basketball game, even in the high school, Christmas Eve, or going to NYC.  Going out with friends when I first got my driver's license.  Going to bed happy.  Looking forward to a day.  Dreaming.

December 14th, 2017

I love the shorter days and longer nights.  Sleeping in and being covered and protected by darkness at 5.  Is that a symptom of depression?  Wanting to escape my thoughts and bodily sensations.  I feel very full right parties, over-indulging.  When I was younger I would feel so awful if I overate.  Out of control  As if I had ruined something, done something awful, punished myself.  It's strange that I made such a big deal out of that when I didn't have a weight problem.  It was something else.  I wonder if 20 years from now, I'll feel the same about things I get so upset about now.  I certainly hope so.
I told my therapist about this blog.  It was actually fun to talk about it, because I like the idea.  Especially the "Flowers for Algernon" analogy.  The idea of my mind and feelings becoming undone.  That's how I I'm coming undone.  The therapist thinks that it's not the pill that will cure me.  I disagree.  I read the first entry in this blog and it's the best one.  The most coherent.  The sentences are longer and just better.  And I'm trying to get that flow back into my writing.  I'm trying to write with confidence and aplomb.  It's like I'm checking everything I write now and thinking about it and editing it before it even gets on the paper/screen.
Happiness is so elusive.  I feel the sensation of happiness is as stable as a speck of dust?  Something hanging off the cliff.  Me hanging off the cliff, one foot on and one foot off.  So, I might as well enjoy standing here while I am.

December 21st, 2017

The shortest day of the year.  Would they could all be short now.  I would stay awake for four hours or so and sleep the rest.  I hear there are parts of the world where it is dark almost all the time for months out of the year.  Maybe I could move there?  I wish:  I had somebody in the SGI that I could talk to about how it feels to feel hopeless, and when it feels like praying is useless and how f**** hard it is to tell people about NMRK when I harbor so many doubts in my life.  Oh, to feel hope!  That is my wish: to have hope.  Create some hope, they say.  Okay.  I hope.

I don't want to read this years from now and think "How pathetic!"  So, let me just say that I am not those thoughts and feelings that I just wrote.  I can still smile!  And laugh!  And I have a lot going for me in my life. Really and truly.

December 28th, 2017

For a few days now I've felt okay.  The weather has been bitter cold, Christmas has finally come and gone, and New Years is just a few days away.  So, things are quieter and calmer.  For now.  And I'm trying to be "in the present."  I'm struggling with my faith.  It seems kind of harsh sometimes.  I guess all I really need to keep in mind is "practice for oneself and others."  Not feel bad or guilty.  I've been reading a memoir called "Drinking: a love story" by Caroline Knapp.  A lot of the feelings she talks about that alcohol helps soothe I can really identify with.  Except that it is not the miracle elixir that it is for her.  They say that alcohol makes depression and anxiety worse.  But, it seems to me that before the alcoholism does more harm than good, that it really does seem to help.  It just doesn't work like that for me.  A drink or two does, but not for long and not that much.  And I can't drink when I'm anxious, really anxious.  Anyway, I'm really craving a full-bodied red wine for these cold, cold days.
Yesterday, Enrique and I went to the Frick Collection in Manhattan.  I drove there and back and really didn't mind at all.  We only stayed for a couple of hours.  The weather was so cold, we had no desire to walk around.  I'm glad we went mostly to say that we did.  And that it was beautiful.

January 6th, 2018

It's almost like I'm afraid to feel hopeful because the crash is so bad.  Better to stay down to avoid the fall.  Still, I'll take the moments when I'm feeling okay.  I forced myself to share a NMRK card with a couple of young women today, in a restaurant and in a pet store.  It was okay.  Struggling to overcome myself.  

January 9th, 2018

I miss the way I felt even just a year ago.  Drinking as much tea as I wanted.  Loving where I live. I miss looking forward to things.  Now, I look forward to something and almost immediately dread it's end.

January 12th, 2018

What  I really live in Warwick in that house, 177 Bellvale Lakes Road.

Later this afternoon, listening to a conversation with Daphne Merkin and Dick Cavett about their suffering with depression.  Sigh.  I envy that.  To be brilliant and be able to talk about your depression in a have a wonderful, smart, funny conversation (and at the 92nd Street "Y" with people listening to you, being entertained by your talking about your depression) be able to write and/or interview people and be so interesting.  What does somebody like me, and like so many of us, who aren't especially articulate, intelligent or outstanding in any way have to show others?  Those of us "ordinary" people who are also depressed/anxious?  It seems so selfish to stay inside my head as an ordinary person.  Someone who writes or performs for a living is at least doing something else.  Is making life meaningful through their battles with meaninglessness.

It seems that my "depression" and anxiety have more to do with blaming the world or myself for not getting what I want: the place I want to live, not working hard enough to make my job interesting to me, not pursuing my interests in music and theater more intensely.  I have to find meaning in therapy sessions with a therapist who makes me dredge up things from my childhood, my mostly very happy childhood, to try and figure out why I am so unhappy and negative and anxious.  

January 23rd, 2018

I'm thinking about Daphne Merkin and the courage that it must have taken her to write about her deep depression in a way that is readable.  One can't go on and on about the grayness and despair and expect readers to keep reading.  And one can't go on about the grayness and dread and expect to keep writing about it either.  At some point, it makes more sense to go to sleep or watch television or have a drink.  How do I get myself, to motivate myself to just do something:  to follow through with an idea, to pick up my guitar and play and sing, to go to a poetry workshop.  Or not to keep saying "I don't want to" and just do it because I want to, because it's got to be.  Because it's time.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Border Crossings

Thirty years ago.  You are headed North.   After teaching English in your home town for a while, you decide to head go North for the summer to make some money.  (You can make more money washing dishes in the states than teaching in the public schools in Mexico.) So, you walk to the edge of town and wait for the bus.

Your parents drive you to the airport.  You are headed South.   First time out of the country.   First trip away from your family for any considerable length of time.  You cry on the airplane.  The man sitting next to you says something like "You are 18 and are crying because you'll miss your family?"  He is not sympathetic.  You are too old to be crying on the plane.

You are waiting for the bus.  Trucks speed by blowing dust in your face.  A few Huicholes wait with you.  Suddenly, a man driving a white van stops and asks if you'd like a ride.  You hop in the back with the Huicholes, but he tells you to sit up front with him.  You can't believe he doesn't recognize you.  Surprised and somewhat frightened, you get in.

First you go to Miami for orientation.  One of the group leaders says that the great thing about going away is that you can start over again.  Nobody knows who you were.  Now, you can be whoever you want.  You think that sounds exciting.  A new you.

You think: Doesn't he recognize me?  Your features are just like your grandmothers.  (She called him "cara de nalgas" right to his face. My goodness, that woman had nerve.)  Maybe it's your clothes.  You're dressed like a nice middle-class boy.  Nike sneakers, jeans and a Polo shirt.  He asks you if you are "de afuera."  "Yes." you lie.  "I'm from Guadalajara."  He nods and you chat for a while about the city you've never seen.

Next stop is Tegulcipgulpa.   You will be staying with a host family for a few days.  You will have to use your Spanish now.  In high school Spanish class Mrs. Tafgar made the class conjugate the verbs by copying down what she wrote on the blackboard.  All around the room: yo quiero, tu quieres, Ud. quiere, nosotros queremos, vosotros queres, uds. quieren....I want, you want, we want, they want...

He drives to the terminal in Guadalajara.  He tells the indios "30 pesos" but as you reach for your wallet, he waves his hand.  No charge, he tells you.  He enjoyed your company.  You wonder.  How could that son of a bitch behave like such a gentleman?

In the nightclub dancing with the man tells you "please tell your country to stop supporting the war.  To stop supplying arms to the Contras. We don't want war."  Later somebody tells you "You know they are all married?  It's awful the way they were all dancing with you girls." You feel ashamed.  No.  Confused.

The years of abuse.   The cows his family stole, the men murdered, the women they raped. Your father thrown in jail for daring to speak up.  You, then. Selling paletas in the streets.  Twelve years old and the man of the house.   Now, you cannot think about that. You have to cross the Border.  Now.

"Me gusta mucho el pollo."  (Maybe you say gallina?  You will make mistakes like that all of the time and people will not understand what you are talking about. Why don't we distinguish between a live chicken and a dead one in English?  We don't  serve "cow" for dinner.) Mucho, mucho. You cannot emphasize this enough to your host family in La Ceiba.  They serve you chicken and it's the first thing that has tasted like home since you arrived.  Chicken is a staple in your Jewish home, but of course you can't say "Jewish" because everybody here is Catholic and  the Jews killed Christ.  It was actually the Roman soldiers, your grandmother told you.  But, nobody will believe that.  So you smile and tell them you will happily eat gallina anytime.  You are so excited to be here because you can practice your Spanish and this country is beautiful and everybody is so NICE.  They give you your own room with a private bathroom.   Later you realize that you took that all for granted, that you didn't think twice when the other three teenage daughters share one room.

The tailor says you can stay with him until it's time to cross.  For two weeks you wait until things are arranged.  The driver's licenses claiming your American citizenship take some time.  Meanwhile you go to your AA meetings, read the local papers, catch a movie, try and stay out of trouble.  It's not easy in Nuevo Laredo where the tension is thick, the gangs and the drug trafficking flourish.  You've read Louise Fisher's "Gandhi" so you check out the movie.  It's at least three hours long.  You will watch it more than a dozen times over the next 30 years.

It's July but the schools in Honduras are open.  It's a private Catholic school so they get you and the other Americans uniforms.  The girls wear white dresses.  Your favorite class is literature.  The kind, elderly teacher talks about poetry and even though you cannot understand much, you understand that it is beautiful and more interesting than the other subjects.  During recreo, the girls talk, hold hands and ask to borrow your round, plastic hairbrush.  Later you will think you should have bought a dozen of those brushes for gifts at McCrory's.  Who knew they wouldn't have things like that in La Ceiba?  You gave them cheap "I Love NY" t-shirts which your host sisters never wear.  Things are going pretty well.  You even meet a boy.  He likes you.  You like his green eyes and curly hair.

You are reading the paper in the park.  Every days there is news about the Border.  When to cross, when not to cross.  Suddenly a young man approaches you.  He tells you to give him 100 pesos.  You don't have it.  50 then.  10.  You are broke.  He takes a switchblade out of his pocket and begins to trim his nails.  "I always get what I am after" he tells you.  You look around.  A metal tube is lying on the ground near the bench.  You pick it up and standing there in front of him you say, "Me too."  The young man walks away.

You begin to notice things you hadn't before.  Some families, your host family and your new boyfriend's family have land.  A lot of land.  They take you there.  Miles and miles of land with streams and fields of pineapples and mango trees.  Your host father owns a store in town and he also seems to have many people working for him on this land.  Later, you will learn that these are haciendas.  Sometimes you are walking down the street and you notice things.  The man with no legs who moves around on a square scooter.  He is close to the ground and pushes himself around with his hands.  You can't believe that nobody can afford a wheelchair for him.  You begin to question things.  Why does that nice, elderly literature teacher hate the Communists?

At the border they tell you the id is okay.  Then suddenly it is not.  You are your companions are told to stand aside.  You are separated.  You'll never see them again.  You walk down a corridor and into a room that seems like a prison.  On the way, the immigration official says:  You have a choice.  Admit that this license is fake, or I will throw you into the river.  You look down into the river. As you wait in the holding room, you decide to tell the truth.

The director of the school is warning you not to spend time alone with him.  It is your first boyfriend.  You are 18 and you are so happy.  Why is this nun director acting like this?  She scolds you after discovering that you were sitting together.  Your host mother also tells you that only bad girls spend time at boy's houses.  But, you are so happy there.  His lovely 8 brothers and feel so loved, a warmth you've never felt before.  Nobody will stop you.  You are American.  You are used to getting your way.

You can't go back home.  You are broke and couldn't cross the border.  On your way to Aguascalientes the bus driver tells you how much he misses his family.  He'd like to spend more time with them, he tells you, but he has to work so much.  You give him the box of chocolates that you bought in Nuevo Laredo.  For you and your family, you tell him.  The box of chocolates was not coincidental.  In the self-help section of the bookstore the engineer recommends "Success With a Positive Mental Attitude." He takes you out to lunch. The bus driver doesn't charge you the bus fare. That book will change your life.

You are walking through the streets under the scorching hot sun.  Somehow, as if in a dream, you know the way to his house. You arrive and they tell you( or you tell them) that you feel ill.  You have a high fever.  In a daze, you explain to his sisters that you are bleeding.  You don't know the word for "period" but they understand and give you sanitary napkins.  You'll remember.  The cool breeze. The warm small hands.  His mother in the hammock with the smallest child...blond, brown toddler. The hot tears.  The father never home.  You will remember this and never see any of them again.

You are searching.  For God?  For a purpose.  One thing is for sure.  You cannot go back home with empty pockets.  So, you go with "Plan B."  The members of the church find you housing.  You can't believe your luck.  And even though you refuse it, they insist  and you accept the money they have collected for you.  You don't have to go home with empty pockets.

Coming home.  The world feels so cold.  "She fell in love," the family friend says.  You're wrong, you want to tell her.  I don't love him.  That's not it at all. (Because he doesn't understand you.  You say, your first argument, that you have things to say, feelings muy hondas.  You should have said profundas, because hondas means deep too but in a different way so it probably made no sense at all to him and he tells you that you are very difficult, but even so, he should have understood you. Or pretended to.  You know then that you don't love him.  Just the warm kissing is enough.  It's exactly what you want.)  But, something has changed.   Your are crying dry tears.  The air is cold and dry in the States.

You go back.  Money in your wallet so all is well.  You didn't make it to the States this time, but that was as it should have been.  You teach another year.  Save money to cross again.  And you'll cross this time.  She'll be waiting for you.  You don't know that.  Neither does she.  That you are coming for her.  That you are searching for him.  That your paths will cross.  That the Border will move.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We are consumers of entertainment, but have forgotten how to create our own.  I come home every day and want to watch television.  There isn't much to watch that I find entertaining so I've been renting DVD's of television series.  I want to keep a log of my reactions to entertainment with the hope that I will be able to tap into something creative in myself and maybe even create something of my own.

Last Saturday my mother, sister Sue and daughter and I went to the Barrow Street theater to see "Tribes."  I loved the feeling of being so close to the actors. We sat in the first row in the small theater practically on stage with them, on the same level. I almost held my breath when they brushed by us.  Will we break their concentration?  Should I avoid eye contact?  Do they notice me?  Are they effected by my laughing, crying?  The audience and I are acting with them.  We're more than an audience; we are spectators.  A spectator watches and observes, approves, disapproves.  A spectator has vested something in the performance.  I want the actors to win.  I cheer them on.  I laugh even when I don't understand the joke.  I cry because I am sincerely moved, shaken.  Theater is an interaction.  The television has no smell, no touch.  What did Carlos say about why he doesn't like theater and prefers film?  For the reasons why I prefer theater...I can't remember the word he theater isn't abstract enough?

Live theater demands a little more...unfortunately that usually means more should mean more give and take.  I want to write the words. Or speak them to give them life.  I want to write a sentence that sings.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


My youtube username is: nmurillo1
I created an account last year so I could upload a video which I embedded into one of my LibGuides.
There aren't many interesting library videos out there, in my opinion. I think there should be more animated videos...with monkeys and other cute characters!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New photos

Take a look at some pictures of our trip to Nebraska...if you care.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Now all of my blog readers (??) will be able to instant message me.