Rain and Sunshine

It rained last night. There is something about the rain that captivates me. After a night of thunder and lightning, this day is quiet and peaceful. Everything seems to be fresh and clean. The atmosphere feels less heavy. Birds are singing more than usual. The grass looks greener, and the plants seem happier. I’m sitting on my back porch enjoying this Sunday morning and feeling grateful for so many things.

A little bird flies by and lands on the bird feeder placed under a small bird house my father and I built. It reminded me that it provided shelter to a little finch this Spring. There is still rain dancing on the leaves of the Hosta plants. A little ray of sun found its way between the tall Canna plants looking for a drop of rain to sip.

What a contrast from what is going on in the world! Too much death and hate. Is so easy for people to be judgmental these days. Not that it was not going on before, but it has increased; or maybe I am more aware of it. I like my little place, where I can sit in peace and reflect on life and situations to help me grow emotionally and spiritually. For some reason this day feels special. Not sure if it has to do with the rain and the sunshine, or just the fact that I am at peace with myself and others.

There was a time when I wasn’t. And yes, I was judgmental, jumping to conclusions about others and sometimes taking things personal. Not today. I have changed in so many ways! These peaceful days by myself make me feel closer to God. I can hear Him more clearly than having someone tell me what things should mean to me.

After times of conflict, I wish people could experience more of these moments and like the day after the storm, to open their hearts and minds more to receive with hope and expectation the beauty this life has to offer. There is still mysteries and new experiences to discover. I hope I find them all before my life ends.

Chicago

“Don’t color outside the lines”, they said. And I learned to stay confined to those lines. Then, one night I had a dream. In my dream I was in Chicago. Months later I was asked where I wanted to be sent to continue my work. The answer came out of my lips immediately. Like the most natural thing I said “Chicago”, and I remembered the dream. Many people might be scared of the unknown, but I headed up to face the unknown with excitement in anticipation to all the new experiences and mysteries that awaited me in this new State. Unknowingly, I was learning how to step outside the lines and my comfort zone.

I remember… It was July 1, 2004 the date I saw Chicago for the first time. The moment I saw the “beach” I fell in love with the city… I still am. My girls had applied to work at a Summer Camp in NJ. My son stayed behind with his dad in the Island. And there I was, alone in Chicago; emptying 23 boxes that stored my whole life, discarding 19 years of marriage, and chasing a dream. It was a very cold day: 65 degrees. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s not cold at all”, but for someone who had just left the sunny island of Puerto Rico, yes; it was VERY cold. With a sweater on (and every one’s eyes looking at me with a smile) I went on to meet the city.

Living near Wrigley Field was a rare fortune I had yet to discover. The cool breeze, and the happiness I perceived in the air (or was it me?) made me feel comfortable. I remember my first conversation with the girls telling them how much I wanted them to see Chicago. “The city is decorated beautifully with hanging baskets filled with beautiful flowers on both sides of the streets! And there are colorful flags all over the city”, -silence; then laughter clogged the phone line. “Mom, that’s the Pride flag”. I had no idea what they were talking about, but very soon I would understand what all that entailed.

It wasn’t long until I realized that God had been working things out prior to my arrival. As the Greatest Chess Master, he had been moving the right pieces and placing the right people to surround me to help start the much needed healing process in me. In Chicago, I never felt judged. Who I was and what I did was acknowledged with respect and appreciation. Good or bad, Chicago put me in the middle of many experiences that showed me what was like to paint outside the lines.

The Parade – The first Parade I witnessed was quite an experience that helped me understand and love people that live a life painting outside the lines. The Parade was held literally around the apartment complex where I lived. There were many young people participating on the Parade. All of the sudden, someone that knew I was a nurse called me to get over to the entrance of the apartment complex. A young girl had collapsed there. It seemed like she had too much alcohol and probably drugs in her system and it was early in the afternoon. I tried to convince her and her friends to call an ambulance but they refused. I remember seeing them zigzagging all over as they disappeared down the street. People’s eyes tell a story. And their eyes told me a story of sadness, hurt, and desperation. There are many colors on the palette and people chooses the ones that describe their feelings. Regardless of the music, the dancing, and the colorful customs, that day I saw dark blue and grey colors. And my heart hurt.

“Gio” – Meeting “Gio” was quite an experience. He was an expert on painting outside the lines. It was fascinating to me the way he lived his life always on the edge of life. Stepping outside the lines was normal to him, as he continued a family trait that he had learned to follow. He encouraged me to experience life and to embrace every new opportunity coming my way with excitement and gratitude. He encouraged me to travel and to see the other side of life across the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. His relationship with the underworld did not make a difference to me. He was kind, thoughtful, and caring. At least towards me. One night he said to me the same words Melvin Udall said to Carol Connelly in the movie As Good As It Gets: “You make me want to be a better man”. Little I knew that in his desire to be “a better man” he had decided to do things differently prompting him to change and start painting inside the lines.

On my return to the US, I found out he was no longer around. Painting inside the lines cost him his life, or his freedom. Who knows where the truth is? Years have passed and I still think of him. I can think of the colors he shared with me, the different textures of paint he chose to paint his life with, and the many times and ways I saw him painting outside the lines. And I miss him.

“Don’t color outside the lines”, they said. In Chicago I found out that coloring and painting without being confined to the structures and expectations of others bring you closer to experience the beauty of a more meaningful life.

Peace

I found Peace today. She had been hiding in a dark corner of my heart. Actually, I found her next to Happiness. They were both hiding from each other and especially from me the last couple of weeks.

You see, for a while they were part of my life. Like when I made the decision to be in charge of “Me”. Or when I removed many years ago the dead weight of those that just took up space and had nothing to offer. Those that would be holding me back from experiencing life completely.

There was a time when I lived inspired to follow my heart in a moment. And lived to surrender myself only to what my heart desired. But today, today l decided that it was time to welcome Happiness and Peace back into my life.

Today I decided to allow them to run freely through the corridors of my heart. I decided once again that I will be the only one that will matter when a decision is made. And I, only I, will be the important one in the equation.

Do not get confused by my words. I am not selfish. Because the end result of these statements is simple: What I desire, and what my priority is and always will be, is to give myself freely experiencing many forms of love. And in the process, to always make room in my life to foster the only thing that brings meaning and fulfillment: You!

Making The Best Out Of This

“You have breast cancer.” I could see them waiting for my reaction. “Ok”, I said. After being an oncology nurse for several years the news didn’t impact me. And after how my life has turned around and the way things have unfolded around me lately, nothing surprises me anymore. With pathology results, a book on breast cancer, tons of information, and a follow up appointment with a surgeon I headed home. I don’t know if it was denial or laziness, but everything stayed in my car untouched until the day of the appointment.

I met the surgeon couple of weeks later. He explained the biopsy results and asked me what I wanted. But I didn’t know. I went for an MRI guided biopsy and another area showed more cancer cells. “Ok. Definitely, I need a double mastectomy”, I thought. “Let’s make the best out of this. I want reconstruction and a little bigger”, I said. “That’s the spirit”, the nurse said. “I’ll take care of that for you”, the surgeon said.

My friend Lisa called. She took the day off in case I needed her. And I needed her to drive me to the surgery. Next thing I know, I woke up in my bed, at home. I could hear my grandkids laughing and playing in the porch. The baby was laying next to me making me feel useful and happy. I’m blessed in so many ways. Today my trust in God is stronger than ever. No need to ask or tell Him anything. I know He got my back. No matter what may be; Is it a friend by my side, the laughter of my little ones, the love of my family, or bigger boobs (😂), God knows how to make the best out of this new challenge in my life.

Illusions

The weather man announced 55% chance of rain today. Throughout the whole day I’ve been waiting for the clouds to close in and for the rain to start washing away the pain. I’ve been realizing for some time now, how much pain has been trapped inside of me… far too long. Today I have been looking forward for the clouds to join me as I search inside my heart and soul in preparation to the next couple of days.

I recently read this quote: “The day that we would be together would be the best day of my existence. But I’m living each day as my worst, because I know the day I’ve been dreaming of is just an illusion I chose to believe in”. Is it possible to fool yourself into believing that what you’ve been dreaming of will actually happen? I know what you are thinking. I’ve been living each day under the shadow of an illusion. I’ve been living each day with the desire to see all I want, and all I need to be met by others rather than fulfilling them all by my own hand.. I did one time. And lately it seems like I have forgotten how much it cost me be in the position I am today.

I understand now that for some life is an act; a show people choose to put out there for different reasons. Some might do it to get recognition. Others want to demonstrate they are capable of meeting other people’s expectations. Some are just looking for ways to fool others; I call them good actors. There are some that manipulate and use those around them. Me? I prefer to be real. What you see is what you get.

I want to go back to the old days. The days when I lived every day in the moment. No plans or expectations. Not relaying on other people, because people disappoint you and you end up hurting. The days when I left behind what was not adding anything good to my life. The days when I was living for me. I need to take my life back. I need to take every opportunity and live it with great intensity.

The rain finally came. But the rain did not take the pain away. However, the atmosphere feels different. It is time to take the trash out, throw all the illusions and all the unrealistic dreams away and start living in the moment again.

Forty Years Too Late

He found me. After so many years he showed up at my front door and invited me for coffee. I was happy to see him. It is always nice to see someone who have been part of your life, even if it was from the distance. He opened the car door and for a moment I stood there unsure of what I was supposed to do. Can you believe it? I was not used to have someone do nice things like that for me. I finally went in and he closed the door. I wonder if he ever noticed my uncertainty.

The Starbucks place was close to the hospital. We went for coffee and reconnected right away. I told him about my life, and he told me about his. It was interesting that we had never engaged in a long conversation until that day. How long has it been since we saw each other? Hmm… I think the last time was in 1979 when we graduated from High School. Love and tragic stories start or include High School, isn’t it? The time went fast and suddenly it was time to go to work. He offered to drop me off at the hospital. It was a nice feeling being cared for by someone else, even it was just to be driven to work.

We made plans to see each other again. That weekend I drove to where he was and offered to help him paint his house before it could be put back on the market. When we finished he invited me for dinner and I went back home. I thought about that day. He seemed happy to show me where he had spent part of his life. I was happy to hear about his lifework and his passion in life.

Two years later after our first encounter I moved to Georgia. It was so nice to finally afford my own place and everything I needed or wanted. New place. New job. New plans. New friends. One day, he found me again. “Passing through Georgia”, he said, as he entered my space. I cooked dinner for a nice friend. I could see how much he enjoyed eating my food. After dinner, we relaxed. We sat back in my living room and began talking of the old days. He then told me of a surprise he had: he was going to be a father! “That is great news!”, I said, “but you never told me that you were married”. “I know…”, he said looking a little embarrassed. But it was ok, because he was a good old friend and I never thought anything of it.

We stayed in contact, and he would tell me all about his son every time I asked him. I enjoyed everything he shared about watching his son grow. He would send me videos of his son laughing, walking, running, and I laughed with him. It was almost as if I had to be part of those moments so important to him. Then I found out why.

One day, he told me that ever since Jr. High all the way to High School he watched me in silence. He remembered how I would fix my hair, and sometimes he remembered specific days and what I was wearing to school. “I’m still in love with you…”, he said. I’m sure he saw the surprise on my face. I was surprised, honored, and afraid all at the same time. I tried to stay away, but he would raise from behind my thoughts as a way to show me how much I liked the idea of having him in my life. He would call. I would answer. Our friendship continued but all of the sudden I would stop communicating, afraid of acknowledging how much I missed talking to him. Four years passed only to be found by him again.

In one of our conversations he told me how his marriage has not been working out for some time. I had known for a while through a mutual HS friend. Like me, he decided to stay in his marriage for the sake of his son. Although I have to say that personally, I don’t think that was a good decision I made. Something struck my heart when he said: “I do not need a Judge to tell me about my responsibilities. I know them very well.” His words showed me what a good man and father he was but I didn’t want to be blamed for something that had not been working out. And that’s why I disappeared again.

Couple months ago he reached out again to see how I was. It was around the same time I had been told of my breast cancer diagnosis. Go figure. Telling him about my diagnosis felt very natural almost as if I had to be honest with him. As if I owed him. My surgery was coming up soon. And then, after hours of driving, he once again showed up at my front door. What a beautiful surprise! He traveled many miles only to spend few hours with me. He invited me for dinner and once again we talked about where we were this time in life. It was a nice feeling. He opened the car door again and the memory of that first time passed through my mind and heart like lightning. There was something different about that day. Or was it me? Maybe this cancer thing had changed the way I see life. Somehow, he had found his way up to my heart. Once inside the car I leaned over and kissed him. We found each other at the entrance door of our hearts and stopped. He drove me home and went back to his life. I don’t know when or if I will see him again. But that night, as I was falling asleep, I realized that love had struck my heart forty years too late.

Bursting In Colors

When I was a little girl I was fascinated by a glass prism I had. I don’t remember how I came about to have it. But I loved every time a ray of sun entered the glass and colors burst out painting the walls all over my room. There was no way to know where the blue, red or yellow would end. I only knew the colors would come out. It was like a moment of celebration I looked forward to with greater expectation every time. Later on, I understood why a single ray of sun could change into multiple colors. I learned of the angles the glass had and how each color would travel at a different speed bending at different times, splitting, and coming out in different colors, instead of all mixed and together in a single ray of white light. Because each color was unique.

I grew up in Church. Going to church every Sunday made us good people. We followed certain rules, dressed up the same way, our thoughts were alike; we belonged to something and were accepted. Later on I learned that we were accepted as long as our thinking was like everybody else. We couldn’t be bent. Being bent meant that we were weak and not like the rest. That would contradict the ideas that had been put in our hearts. We had to be like a single ray of sun, traveling together without ever being disrupted or changed. And as a ray of light, I followed what I thought was expected of me.

As I grew up, I began to discover there were multiple colors in the world, that just like me, could paint the world beautifully. They were different. They traveled at a different speed than me. They bent at any angle life put in front of them, and they kept on shining! How amazing! A different color; a different speed; but coloring the world in beautiful ways. Could that be possible?

One day, I decided to step outside of the painted lines and walked away from the expectations people had for and about me. I realized I was being limited and unable to reach out the fullness of what I was capable of. Actually, God had better expectations for me; much better than what the organization or system had. I had been kept in bondage. Structures were no longer what called my attention or what I needed. Like the people of Israel, I needed to step out into the wilderness in faith and look for what would bring bright colors out of my life and reflect in others as ways to shine more brightly than they ever knew.

The moment my foot stepped outside the lines, I realized I was damaged goods. I had been hurt by a system that was never looking for my own good but for what will work best for it. However, God had a better place for me, where I would be a real agent of change. I searched for different angles in life that would bring the colors that were screaming to be let out of my life. In my quest, I was amazed by rays of light that beautiful people brought outside their life, making every moment a humbling moment. Ever since, I’ve been searching for a more challenging angle in life that would bring out a brighter color than before.

The path I have chosen to walked, has been filled by momentary angles that I have not regretted experiencing. In fact, I have entered each one at my own free will bursting my life in colors I never knew existed. And I will do it all over again…

Unexpected Visit

It’s 7am. With a cup of coffee by my side and the computer on my lap, I’m sitting comfortably on my porch. What am I missing? Music. “I need to have music”, I say to myself. I get up from the comfy chair and get my cellphone. Music keeps my heart content following a different beat every time. On the background I can still hear the birds singing. Their singing always bring a soothing feeling to my soul, no matter what. Regardless of what I’m involved in, I have learned to stop and meditate in the beauty that unpexpected moments bring.

The music starts and I can hear Jack Johnson singing one of the songs that have become one of my favorites these days: “Better Together”.

“Love is the answer.
At least for most of the questions in my heart.
Like: “Why are we here?”, “And where do we go?”,
“And how come it’s so hard?”.
It’s not always easy,
And sometimes life can be deceiving
I’ll tell you one thing:
It’s always better when we’re together.”

The day is cloudy and a little humid with a temperature of 82 degrees that feels like 86. My eyes scan the backyard and I remember when and how each plant ended up there. I’m thankful. Suddenly, a hummingbird enters into my backyard for a visit interrupting my thoughts with its fidgety movements. Of all the birds I know and new ones National Geographic introduces me to occasionally, hummingbirds are and will always be my favorite. He danced around and stopped for a second in front of a white flower. “Any moment now he will kiss the flower’, I said to myself. And my mind starts to wander…

Hummingbirds are tiny and could be missed easily, unless they happen to feel comfortable with you. I’ve had hummingbirds dance in front of my window, as if they were inviting me to join them in a quest into the unknown. With 350 hummingbird species known; each one is unique, beautiful and amazing. Hummingbirds have no sense of smell but a keen eyesight. I wonder if they can see colors we can’t even imagine. I wonder if they can see the color of our heart when we are sad, happy, or simply amazed by their beauty. I wonder if they can see the color of our soul.

Their flight is fascinating. Hummingbirds, like experienced swimmers, stroke their wings forward or backwards in a single dive. In a minute, hummingbirds change the angle of their wings giving them the ability to change direction at any given time. How cool is that? They flap their wings 200 flaps per second and their heart beats more than 1,200 times per minute. They develop strong wings to take them in search of unknown beauty found in unexpected places. I say to myself: “Oh to have strong wings to travel after what makes my heart beat, and go off to that place into your heart my soul desires…”

Hummingbirds lick flowers at a rate of 15 licks per second, and feed on nectar 8 times per hour consuming half of their weight in sugar daily. Like hummingbirds we should look for what makes our heart beat faster prompting us to feed on love and sweetness. The beauty of their prismatic feathers are certainly a unique feature. The colors we see on hummingbirds are determined by the angle they move, the position of the feathers, and the light that shines on them. Once again my mind wanders: “I can be perceived, and described by the colors I project in response to the light that shines on me.” For a moment I stopped to ask myself, what kind of light shines on me and what moves have altered the colors of my life? What kind of beauty, if any, I reflect and people perceive?

I’m still watching him this amazing beauty floating through my backyard, waiting for the moment he will kiss the white flower. My thoughts are interrupted once again by a quick turn only to see him disappear the same way it appeared; unexpectedly. He leaves me thinking how special hummingbirds are. And the question came dancing, as the speed of the hummingbird dance, back into my heart; only this time to remain and challenge me to reflect a soul filled by beauty, harmony, and love.

Note: Because of the activity they engage daily, no hummingbird has been found to be diabetic. 🙂

The Fire

I once heard the story of a potter who was working the clay intensely. For long hours he shaped the clay, turning it into a beautiful vessel. He then placed it in the fire and waited.

I moved to Georgia in 2010. I loved Chicago and it took me a year to finally make the decision to move. Before moving I did my homework and after inquiring and researching different hospitals in the area, I finally found the one I thought was similar to the one I had been working at and loved in Chicago. The day came and I was on my way to my new place. I had made the decision in my heart that in Georgia I was going to find my forever home. However, things did not go the way I had envisioned.

When I started on my new job, there were many things going on that made me question my decision, and I wanted to go back to Illinois so bad… As I struggled with what I thought was a bad decision, I became angry and was upset all the time. I couldn’t see how I was coming across sometimes, especially at work. With patients, I was ok. But when it came to coworkers and work, I had no patience… and I was getting tired. Keeping up with anger is hard work. In 2012 I completed the masters with a concentration in nurse education and right away was hired at the university as clinical instructor. The future was turning a little brighter, but I still couldn’t see the light.

One day, a new girl started to work in the unit. She was unique. Very different than everybody else. Happy. Bubbly. She didn’t care what people said; and people really tried to make her life difficult. But she owned herself. AC reminded me of the girl I once was; the wild and free girl I used to be before getting hurt by people and a toxic system. Of course we became friends. She introduced me to other amazing girls, and we all became camping buddies. For several years we had an appointment to meet by the lake to spend 2 nights and 3 days sitting by the fire. It wasn’t long before we all realized how deep into the fire we all were.

In different ways, we were all experiencing some kind of hardship, discontent, and hurt. During those days by the lake we laughed, cried, but we also discovered some amazing things about each other. After being exposed for many years to a system that left me wonder if there was any good in me, my friends helped me feel good about myself. Those days made me realize that I had been sitting inside the ring of fire for too long. I couldn’t continue living in anger anymore and had to find a way out. I had to find my voice. And one day, I decided to see the good in the bad. Yes; my previous hospital, place, and friends were amazing; but moving to GA put me in touch with amazing people too.

A little boy saw the potter put the vessel in the fire. After some time he approached the potter and asked him: “When will you know that the vessel is ready?” The potter answered: “When I hit the vessel and I hear it sing, then I will know that it is ready to be removed from the fire.”

I was that vessel. Standing in the middle of the ring of fire, it was my turn to start singing. That day, I made the decision to always look for new opportunities; to see the good, instead of the bad; to look for whatever or whoever was waiting for me to arrive and make a difference. I will look for ways to find my voice and sing.

Stepping Out

Every day life discloses a road filled with smooth and rough moments. Happy and sad moments. Ugly moments and beautiful moments. Embarrassing and proud moments. Moments that make us question the reasons why things happen the way they do. Why are we put in situations that are confusing? Why are we forced to make difficult decisions? However, every moment lived and every little step into the unknown opens up our eyes to beautiful, yet turbulent and unexplained moments. Moments that will be forever part of our life, transforming us into who we are.

There will be instances that will captivate, amaze, or overwhelm us. If we welcome those moments, we will be transformed forever. Because we will discover beauty in everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. Only we can make the decision to either embrace the challenges and evolve, or to remain stagnate and rot. Transformation is not an easy process. It will be painful. Painful memories and unsound habits have grown deep inside our heart becoming part of our soul, need to be pulled from us. As they are eradicated through pain and confusion, we hurt. It is never easy to be brought out of our comfort zone; a zone where we feel safe and unchallenged.

And I ask you today, what makes you vulnerable? What evil have you allowed to grow deep inside of you preventing you from reaching your full potential and dreams? What is rotting inside your soul? What beauty are you keeping to yourself not allowing others to see and love? When we step out from our comfort zone the result will be a life filled with pride and a sense of fulfillment, peace and joy.

And that my friend, will only be the beginning.