Today would have been the second-year anniversary with my ex. Although we didn’t quite make it to two years as a couple, she was part of my life for more than two years and…I didn’t realize how much of an influence she had on me until she was gone. She has seemingly tainted everything.
Parts of my wardrobe were either gifts from her or they are from activities that we did together. Places we went together, that I still frequent, remind me of her. Some items I use daily are gifts from her. She’s permeated most, if not all, aspects of my life.
I also hadn’t realized until recently that it was never possible for things to end well between us because we hadn’t been on the same wavelength for a long time. So…processing that has been devastating.
A few other things have been difficult to process as well lately.
Tomorrow my cousin would have turned twenty-eight. I wish she was still here with us.
I haven’t really talked about this much, if at all, but my mom is beginning treatment next week for her cancer. She was diagnosed the day after my cousin passed away, so it’s not exactly a new situation. She’s doing well, but what she is enduring is scary and exhausting. This will be her first time doing any type of treatment. Yoga has been helping her tremendously though. She goes to all of my yoga classes and has been practicing pranayama (breathing) and mindfulness in her everyday life, especially when she goes to the doctor. I’m really proud of her.
Then things will become a little sunnier.
A few weeks after she begins treatment, my sister will graduate from college. I’m so proud of my sister, but I can’t believe how fast time flies.
The week after my mom is finished with treatment and after my sister graduates, my family and I are going on a much-needed and well-deserved vacation to Disney to celebrate all of the endings and to welcome the new beginnings.
So…while April may be a difficult month, it’s watering the soil to support growth in May. Hopefully there will be many flowers.
Yesterday was the two-year anniversary of the passing of my cousin.
It had actually slipped my mind that this anniversary was approaching because my sister was preparing to move back to school so I was spending a majority of my time with her and my mom. What caused me to remember the anniversary was that I started thinking about my cousin more than I usually do.
I always think about her…but this was different. She was at the forefront of my mind when I woke up and thoughts of her were affecting my mood more strongly than usual. It wasn’t until a couple days of this that I remembered the anniversary of her death was approaching.
I’ve been practicing strengthening my intuition by simply using it more, so intuitively, I felt that she was reaching out to me. Perhaps she wanted some attention or perhaps I subconsciously wanted to actively remember her, or both. So, I decided to start talking to her.
It may seem a little unusual, it’s a little unusual to talk about it honestly….but it feels right to me.
I talk to her when I’m driving, which is usually to my girlfriend’s house because I don’t really drive anywhere else. The drive is about an hour, thus it’s a decent amount of time to talk to my cousin about what I’ve been up to, thoughts/feelings that I have, and I also ask her some questions. Sometimes she asks me questions.
My cousin was like an older sister to me, so allowing myself to communicate with her is…comforting and familiar. I used to call her frequently and she was always there to provide the insight that only an older sister can offer. I don’t have an older sister, in fact, I am the older sister to my sister, so the relationship I had with my cousin was and still is really special.
Another way that I’ve been remembering and honoring my cousin is by rewatching Freaks and Geeks, which is a show she had told me to watch during my sophomore year of college, and we had talked frequently about it. It’s a perfect show to watch as autumn approaches too.
At the end of the day, the little things I’ve been doing to remember my cousin are more focused on who she was to me when she was alive on Earth rather than focusing on how devastating it is that she is gone and feeling solemn that she isn’t growing with our family anymore.
To me, it’s more important to remember the life one had as well as acknowledging their spirit. It reminds me of some of the African spiritual practices I’ve read about in Jambalaya, which I haven’t finished yet but I highly recommend it. So many cultures have traditions for their ancestors…I want to make my own for my cousin as well as my other ancestors. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet but I will let y’all know what I decide to do!
Please provide me with inspiration! How do you remember and honor your ancestors?
I wrapped up my first week of yoga teacher training on Friday, and tomorrow I am beginning week two. Thus far, the training has been an emotional experience because I keep having to confront my low-confidence. The areas where my confidence has been challenged the most are 1) inversions, or poses where your head is below your heart, and 2) teaching.
I’ve noticed just in my first week of training how most of the time, whether it be in asanas (poses) or in teaching, confidence is essential to success. While physical ability and knowledge are important too, confidence is mandatory. I think this holds true in most areas of life.
This theme of “confidence” became apparent on the second day of training when I was trying to do an L-handstand. First of all, I did not expect myself to do any types of handstands throughout this training, but I surprised myself by trying it and successfully doing it on the first day with the guidance of the instructor. On Thursday, I attempted to get into the inversion on my own, considering that I’ve been executing it everyday with the help of someone. Unfortunately, when everyone was doing inversions easily, I became nervous and afraid to do it on my own. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I was strong enough, I just didn’t feel confident. Eventually, the instructor helped me but I spent the remainder of the class silently crying. I was upset that I was too afraid to do something I know how to do on my own. On the last day of training that week, during the inversion portion, I had the instructor help me the first time and the second time I got into the inversion on my own!
The doubt I have in my abilities is probably a combination of the unfamiliarity I have with the poses as well as the intimidation I feel toward the challenging postures. A majority of the class consists of dance students, so they are probably more comfortable with contorting their bodies into different shapes and they are also more comfortable with physical challenges. Although I’ve been practicing yoga daily, I haven’t even been doing it for a year yet and aside from yoga, I have not had to be this in-tune with my body. I spent most of college not doing any physical activity. Before college, I played and taught tennis, but that type of physical exertion is so different from dance and yoga.
The second time my confidence was challenged was when I taught my first mini class on sun salutations. Once I thought I messed up in my instruction, my lack of confidence consumed me, causing the rest of my instruction to be quiet and full of uncertainty. I know from my experience with my thesis, job, and public speaking courses that I gain confidence from being an expert and with tons of practice. By the end of the training, I expect to be a confident and loud-spoken teacher.
For my first week of training, I recognize how everything I’m doing is out of my comfort zone, but I am doing it anyway. That in itself is admirable, and I need to give myself more credit. In fact, on the first day of training, one of the dancers found out I wasn’t a dancer so she asked me why I was doing the yoga training. I don’t know if she was asking from a place of cruelty like…why bother doing yoga if you aren’t a dancer? Or if she was asking simply because she just wanted to know how I found out about it and what drew me in but…it’s cool that I don’t have a dance background because I bring something unique to the group as well as to future classes I teach.
I am proud of myself for continuing to try things I’m scared of and for having an adventurous spirit. I’ve never followed an expected path such as being a dancer with a side gig as a yoga instructor or studying economics with a math/finance/stat/accounting/business minor. I studied economics and women’s and gender studies, and I’ve never met anyone else with that combination before. I’m also a “normal” person (a non-dancer) that is aspiring to be a yoga instructor because I wanted to learn more and deepen my own practice that has transformed my life and continues to transform my life. That’s amazing.
Anyway…I want to write a blog at the end of every week to reflect and to set an intention for the upcoming week. I’m doing this specifically for the yoga training to ensure that I gain the most from my experience, but perhaps I’ll continue to do it afterward too.
My intention for the second week is to practice confidence and to meditate on the confidence I want to cultivate. I also want to practice teaching sun salutations and study the asanas so I feel more comfortable with them from a teacher’s perspective.
Do you have any reflections for this past week? What are your intentions for this week?
Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.
I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.
They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.
Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.
After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.
Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.
The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.
I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?
One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.
Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”
Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.
For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.
Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.
The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.
The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).
I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.
How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?
The glossiness of the dark wooden casket reflected my teary-eyed face. I have never cried so much in my life, and I’ve never been so devasted by a death before. Your death was unexpected, not that death is ever really expected…it was an accident.
My mom squeezed my shoulder when she touched the smooth surface of the box in which your body lied. Your sister, your parents, and the rest of your family were all there, desperately trying to connect with you through this touch. Most of us didn’t get to see you one last time before we buried you…because it was an accident. It was probably better that the only memories I have of you are from when you were alive anyway.
My parents did see you in the critical condition you were in though: they were the first ones at the hospital. You wouldn’t have known that though because according to the doctors, you were brain-dead upon impact. My mom said she had clutched your feet when you were lying there, in the hospital bed. Now, we all touch the wooden casket, seeking some form of relief from it. Trying to connect with you.
As my family drove through mountainous farmland on the winding roads to where your body lies, I reflected on how you would have felt about the location. You hated the suburbs, let alone the rural atmosphere of Virginia. You had made it clear that you aspired to be in the city since your decision to attend Pittsburg University, and then later by moving to Jersey City and then to Newark. You were getting closer and closer to Manhattan, but you never had the chance move across the Hudson River.
When my dad parked the car and we ambled out, the entire family encircled your gravestone. It was beautifully engraved, and your mom ensured that you had fresh flowers daily. We prayed, and then we cried, and then we laughed…reminiscing about our lives with you. Honored to have gotten to know you. By connecting with each other about the past, we reconnected with you.
I walked around to the back of the gravestone and noticed the depiction of the city skyline. I remember that I thought…that it looked like the city crossed the Hudson River to come to you.
Happy 27th birthday.
© 2018 Vic Romero
All Rights Reserved.
you will be dumbfounded
your heart will plummet
into the depths of your stomach
as the whole world before you
as if the entire universe
was shoved into a dryer
on someone’s shoulder
you haven’t seen
since you were a newborn
all cluster together,
donning dark colors
touching the glossy wood
of the coffin
the magnitude of death
will feel heavy
need to sit
and your aunt
will comfort you
when you call her up
because you start to forget her voice-
but the line has been disconnected
when her seat at the table for the holidays
year after year
when her sister
has become an only child
when you get older
and she doesn’t-
the passing of time just means
that she’s been gone longer
you will understand
the finality of death
© 2017 Vic Romero – Creative Writing Fall 2017
I randomly decided to listen to a podcast I used to jam to quite a bit called, Truth + Dare. It’s hosted by two women and they talk about real stuff honestly. The one I started listening to yesterday was about how to overcome setbacks. One of the women talked about how they utilize Netflix as a means of distraction rather than actually dealing and working through the challenge.
And then it hit me: I’ve been distracting myself a lot lately. I’m not watching a ton of TV or crocheting just because it’s fun (although it is) but I’m avoiding stuff.
I spent today thinking about this more and I’m avoiding myself. My feelings. I’m trying different activities to temporarily placate my anguish, but I’m not working through it.
After I had a mediocre job interview the other day and was unnecessarily mean to my sweet parents, my sister confronted me and I had my first real talk toward self-improvement.
On December 22nd, my girlfriend unexpectedly had to put her dog, Angel, down.
I accompanied her to the vet, which was two hours away, and the doctor’s prognosis was that the dog had a large tumor across the front of her neck, and she recommended a veterinary hospital to visit.
The following day, we were able to take her dog to the hospital, which was earlier than the original appointment we had had. When my girlfriend put angel in the backseat beside me, she was in worse shape than the day prior. This time she was drooling a ton and wouldn’t even prop herself up; she just lied beside me. I petted her head for a bit while my girlfriend drove, but then after about fifteen minutes, Angel started coughing a lot and had a seizure. She was gagging on her saliva. The rest of the drive to the hospital was very stressful.
I need to work on my confidence. Since my senior year began, it has become more apparent that this is a quality I need to improve. I undermine my capabilities and knowledge, which incites others to do the same. It also leads to me having weak job candidacy and poor interviews.
I feel like my job, which I love, has been contributing significantly to my mood lately cuz it’s been very stressful. We have a new staff and I feel like one new girl is undermining what I’m doing and I’ve been doing this for three years..but yeah it’s hard to rise above things. I feel like I haven’t had to do that in a professional setting before. It’s good practice cuz when it’s my career job, it’s more intense.
But yeah…I’ve been feeling indigo and hard on myself. People have been weird with me too and it’s been affecting my productivity, which is intolerable. I don’t have that kind of time to waste, I’m very busy so I must write it out when things come up so I can release my feelings and move on with my day.
After talking and venting to my girlfriend for a couple of hours yesterday, and then after calling my dad this morning, I feel better. I have support and good advice from people that care about me in my life.
Happy September 1st!
Jeez, I can’t believe it’s already September though. My senior year officially begins on Tuesday, which has caused my anxiety to spike tremendously once again. Unfortunately, my anxiety triggers cold sores on my lips at least once every season…they’re super painful and because tea tree oil is the only effective remedy to treat them, (tea tree oil, if used as frequently as possible throughout the day, tends to prevent cold sores from going through the whole two-week healing process and reduces it to a week or if you’re lucky to catch it early enough, a mere couple of days), my lips become super dry. Every year, I feel like I get them more and more easily, which is frustrating. I used to get them only if I didn’t sleep but now I get them whenever I go from calm to hella anxious and worried. Anyway….
Yes, I’m anxious because of school. I’m also anxious because I just came back from the dermatologist…I got a biopsy and now I have to go back in three months. My mom is currently at the doctor for her cancer…health issues are incredibly anxiety-inducing.
Additionally, it’ll be one year since my cousin passed in two days. I always think about her, but over the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about her more frequently and I have been wanting to talk to her more than I usually do. Her parents planted a tree for her in the city where she was killed yesterday…I wish they had told us about that because I would’ve liked to go. It must’ve been a nice ceremony.