Natural Rights

A few weeks ago I saw a movie that dealt with a very patriarchal culture in which women were stuck to do not what they wanted with their lives, but what their husbands wanted them to do. Mental, verbal and physical abuse was the norm and eventually the women are so beat down by all the abuse that they stop fighting for their natural rights, the right to govern their own lives and to do as they please. I am specifically leaving out the specific culture that this movie was about because I don’t want to seem to be pointing a finger at that culture as if to say “you guys are terrible, people!” because I don’t think that’s true. There are many patriarchal societies in the world in which women are meant to shut their mouths and obey the man, whether that be their father, brother or husband. This is not to say that women can’t be abusers either, for that would be a lie. In the movie, the husband at first seemed to be so nice and loving to his wife, only to do a complete 180 and become abusive in a way that it hurt to watch, even beating her in public. Even some of the women that had been born in that culture and knew no better sided with the men in believing women should be submissive and obedient.

I think that we all are individuals and we all have rights to do as we please (as long as it’s lawful, of course) in order to lead rich and happy lives, and I don’t mean rich as in full of money, although that would be nice wouldn’t it? When a person exercises their natural rights you can be rich in that you can have a good connection with your own person and that allows you to connect with others to have meaningful relationships which can only help lead a good existence. If another person claims they love you they should love you as you are and not try to lead or control your life for you, what kind of life is that? It’s not easy to get out of a bad relationship, especially if you are surrounding by people that agree with the bad set-up of one person controlling the other, but as soon as you stop believing that that kind of manipulative behavior is wrong and that you should give in and follow along like everyone else, you’ve lost the fight for life. You deserve to live the life you want to live, it’s out there for you to take, no one should try to bring you down or control you to do only what they think is best. Live your best life, fighting for it is the most heroic thing you can do for yourself, never give up.

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Wisdom of the Tree

In my backyard there is a medium-sized tree; in the spring this tree blossoms with beautiful, soft white flowers. My not sure what type of tree this is, but I decided that I would sit down with this tree on a humid, cloudy and stormy looking Saturday and ask this tree for guidance on a personal issue. The gentle tree was kind enough to give me guidance in the form of a story.

The tree was once nothing but a seed, small and vulnerable, but determined to one day be a wise tree. It waited and gathered strength in the dark, damp dirt. It waited for the right time and temperature and gathered nutrients from the Earth. When it was ready, a tiny sprout broke through the shell of the seed and reached towards the Earth’s surface, ready to be exposed to the fresh and open air. As the sprout reached skyward, its roots dug deeper into the Earth, spreading until they got a firm foundation set for its growth as a tree.

At any point in its growth and life it could be ravished by a disease or natural disaster, or suffer from malnutrition and drought. The tree knew what its path in life was and knew that it would need to be strong against the natural fluctuations in climate and temperature, in food availability and the actions imposed on it by humans. The tree is now firm in the ground, many days and nights later; its knows how to survive each season and it continues living, each year giving birth to beautiful flowers and serving as a sanctuary for the birds of the area. It stands witness to our daily lives, allows us to put bird feeders in its branches and gives us shade from the blistering summer sun. It waits to tell its story and in return for listening, it gives me guidance.

Listen. The tree told that I have gotten past the seedling stage and that I am now on my way to becoming a wise tree, but I have allowed the negative influence of the outside world to stunt me on my path. I am no longer growing and it’s even worse than simply not growing; I’m retreating into a dark and cavernous place where no light can reach me. It is as if I am in a drought crisis and the sun no longer shines which means that I am not getting what I need to do life’s basic functions. If I stay in this no-good place I will eventually not be able to survive and will become like a withered and dead tree. The flowers that once blossomed; the good thoughts and goals and positives outlooks on life can once again be brought back to life. How? How can I do this, I ask the tree. For a moment, there is silence from the tree as I wait for my response. I feel the breeze on my skin; hear the birds chirping and the wind rustling the tree’s branches, I can even smell a nearby neighbor grilling some meat. I close my eyes and concentrate.

The answer is inside of me, in my strength. At finding this out, I’m slightly taken aback. It would seem that I have no strength and that I am weak for falling so far from my healthy state and falling prey to the negative. I have no strength, I say. I am scared. The tree reminds me that I was just like a seedling once. I had the strength to make it through the initiations that I have encountered to make it to where I am today. I have veered off my path; this is not uncommon, I am only human but I can find my way again. I must face was is plaguing me and let it know that I may be afraid, but I am gathering strength from my foundation (my family and friends) to combat its power over me.

The tree’s branches are full of little chirping birds now. So full of life, and I realize that I want to be full of life so badly. I can’t let myself continue to slip away; I need to continue growing as a person. The last thing the tree gives to me is courage; it lets me know that I can do it and that nothing is standing in my way of getting better but my own self. You can do it, the tree tells me. I can do it, I repeat. I can do it.

 

 

 

Fears

Everyone is scared of something, even that person you know that claims nothing causes their heart to beat faster, palms to become sweaty and make them either freeze in terror or run in the other direction for their mommy. Unfortunately, sometimes the things we are afraid of are unavoidable. It would be so much more convenient to be scared of kangaroos than cats.

Usually our fears and phobias stem from traumatic experiences we’ve had. One of my fears is commonly shared by many: the fear of being the center of unwanted attention due to something humiliating I’ve done. I’ve probably had too many experiences with this because I can’t bring any specific memory to the surface. Actually…I can, but I’d rather not relive humiliating experiences if I don’t have to.

I can remember when I became scared of escalators. I was just a little girl and I was in a department store with my mom. It was important for me to always wear matching clothes, my mom and grandma wouldn’t have it otherwise. Clad in a white, crisp t-shirt, denim shorts and white Keds, we found sanctuary from the oppressive California summer heat in that air-conditioned oasis. I still didn’t know how to tie my shoes. It amazes me how children always seem to have their shoelaces caressing dirty floors, instead of nicely looped into bunny ears. For some reason or another, my mom and I were going to go on the escalator to go up to the next level of the store. My white shoelace managed to get caught in between two of the steps of the terrible, whirring escalator. Of course, neither of us had realized this until I tried to step off and fell, it seemed to me that the escalator was trying to eat my foot. People came over to help my mom and the hysterical mess of a girl I’d become. Eventually, some brilliant soul thought of pulling my foot free of the shoe. It was a beautiful marriage of humiliation and horror.

Since then I’ve had thousands, possibly millions, of encounters with escalators. We live in a country that goes out of its way to make sure that convenience is always available. Getting to the next level at the mall by taking the stairs? How prehistoric! Heaven forbid I should break a sweat! Going up escalators is easy for me, it’s going down that remains a problem. I usually have to pause, take a breath and get on fast enough so that my feet are on the same step. I’d managed to remain incident free, until the summer of 2008.

Freshly liberated from high school, I went to Ecuador with my dad and got to visit my paternal grandparents. My grandmother is a social butterfly and loves shopping; it came as no surprise that she wanted to take us on a tour of the three malls in Guayaquil. The most extravagant of them all was four stories high with expensive boutiques and department stores, reviling the mall back home. After spending a few hours in there it was easy to forget the little kids out on the streets trying to make a living selling gum and flowers.

My grandmother has battled many ailments in her life, causing her body to age beyond its years. She almost always walks around with her bony arm linked to someone else’s. While I was there, I became the official arm support.

As we glided up the escalators I couldn’t help thinking about having to come down the same way that we’d gone up. What goes up must come down, right? My heart pounded rhythmically in my ears as I calculated the perfect timing necessary so that both of us could get on fast enough. It would have been impossible for me to detach myself from my grandmother’s strong grip on me in order to hold on to the railing, white knuckled. Relief slowly trickled in as I planted my feet firmly on the third floor; it was easier than I had thought.  Overly confident that I had those escalators under my control, I took my first step on the one that led to the second floor. It didn’t even occur to me to make sure my grandmother was also ready to get on. Unfortunately, to my terror, she wasn’t. I looked up at her, still holding on to my arm and my one foot on the third floor and one descending on the escalator. My legs stretched and I panicked about what would happen when I was stretched to the max. I am not Miss Elastic Girl. My cheeks burned with embarrassment, panic and lack of oxygen. It’s unclear how it happened but she finally let go of my arm and I collapsed on the steps, shaking. Sure enough, a crowd gathered at the base of the escalators, gawking at me.

I felt angry at my grandmother; I wanted to quit being her support post. If she had just let me go, my second nightmare encounter with an escalator wouldn’t have happened. When she stepped off the escalator that day and joined me on the second floor, she just said “What were you thinking? I wasn’t ready!” And that was that.

My grandmother, I concluded, who lived thousands and thousands of miles away from me, didn’t care about me. I realize how silly that is now. If I had simply made sure she was ready or had suggested the elevator, I could have prevented the scene altogether. What it really highlights for me now, looking back at the incident, is that I don’t really know my paternal grandma and how this makes me sad. I would like to sit down with her and get to know her. I would like to hear her story from her lips, not my dad’s. What I would like to say to all those that don’t appreciate the family members that are near to them is that they should! You never know what amazing stories the people related to you have to say or how they really want to get to know you too. With all the scary things happening in the world today, I’d like to say that if something were to happen to me I would have no regrets and that all those that I love would know so. But I don’t think I can say that with certainty, and I know that I can’t say that I have said and done all that I want to in life. So my advice to you and to me is to live life now. Say I love you to those you do love, read a good book, enjoy a quiet moment, dance to your favorite song and laugh with your whole body. Most importantly, don’t let fears bring you down. Escalators are a part of life that I encounter and have to face. It’s such a trivial fear and can easily be replaced by many other fears that I have but that I have to overcome if I want to be my idea of a successful and happy person. Don’t let the terror in the world stop you. Don’t let fear win.

My Personal Manifesto

Update Personal Manifesto

In high school we were asked to write a personal manifesto. Since then I’ve been through a lot, ups and downs, and it makes me smile to look back to what I wrote as my manifesto, my ideas on how I should live. I think that even though I know so much more know than I did when I was 18, I think that I should still keep some of these ideas in life. It’s important to appreciate the simplicities of life and not let tough life experiences make us negative and give up hope in life. Here is the wisdom I gave myself as a senior in high school:

~My Personal Manifesto~

Always look at the positive in the world

Indulge… eat delicious desserts (and meals too!)

Be good to yourself, don’t procrastinate

Blare your favorite song while driving with the windows down

Relax and bake cupcakes

Find moments to reward yourself for your hard work

Laugh until tears roll down your cheeks

Find joy in the simple things in life

Take care of the Earth, it’s very precious

Don’t worry, the tough times give way to better things

Be adventurous, try new things

Love and love others

Give yourself some slack! You are your toughest critic

Travel, immerse yourself in foreign customs and traditions

Lose yourself in a good book

Watch good movies that make you laugh and cry

Keep in contact with all the people that love and care about you

Trust your instincts and respect yourself

Forgive yourself for for mistakes: you’re only human

Take pictures to capture special moments forever

Live today like it’s your last day on Earth

Reading this list makes me want to hug my younger self and say that it’s important to stay true to myself and trust that everything will work out and keep my own words in mind daily. Everyone should take the time to write their own manifesto and put it somewhere that will be seen every day. What would your personal manifesto say?