Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 2017

April hits me in the face like a ton of bricks.
Is that the expression?
I actually don't know how April hits me, but it does.
The nerve!
Bright white sunlight touching everything like winter didn't happened.
The impertinence of life in spite of death.
Why do flowers keep blooming?
Why do trees and weeds and moss continue to grow?
--Because they don't care, because life doesn't care that you don't believe in it.
It believes in itself.
This display makes me very uncomfortable.
Spring makes me want to cry and shout: What about finality? What about surrender?
Let me hibernate and don't be pushy April.
Let the delicate pleasures line up one by one, let me handle one at a time.
Let me see my boys wearing sandals and playing outside.
Let me stroll hand in hand with my family and go somewhere without having to be there.
Let me write about the wind until it dies down and no longer moves the tower of my confidence.
Be my friend April.
Please move slowly.
Hearts sometimes have a hard time gripping the road and taking turns.
Hearts are not always good at carrying heavy weight.
Every April I want to die and be born, and every April I want my brother to come back.
April hits me in the face and in the heart.

Friday, March 10, 2017


So the melanoma thing happened. I was cut up and stitched, all went well, "good as new".
I did not feel too bad after the first couple of days after the diagnosis. The impertinent, irreverent need to make fun of tragedy (that runs in the Duran Ribas family) compels me to make jokes that involve saying "now that I am a cancer patient". Today, two weeks later, I calmly observe in me what looks like a low grade depression. Why? All went well. "I am ok" I repeat. The best way I have found to explain the possible cause of this "sadness" is saying that I am mourning the loss of my "integrity". I was never cut up before now. I never had stitches. Ok, there is the one small surgery in the breast for a biopsy when everything went well. No stitches though, just glue and that amazing sedative that makes you want to get more sedative. This time around I feel that there has been serious tampering with "the vehicle". "The vehicle" that carries my soul around got a scar. Now, as Joaquin clearly pointed, scars are cool. I agree. But here is the thing: There is a portion of my skin that was taken away, removed, biopsied, thrown out. A piece of me is just gone. I feel the tightness in my cheek. I worry when I yawn or sneeze or want to LOL. My guess is that most of the tightness will decrease, the scar itself will fade quite a bit (note to self: Think of alternative story for the scar, melanoma is not cool).  I worry about the constant follow ups and check ups and more worry. Here is the other thing, this is -once again- the breaching of the distance between "horrible things that could happen" and "horrible things that do happen". This event reminds me of mortality, of death, of inevitability, of the brevity of life, of the imperative to live every day as it is the last, because it could be. Here is where I feel I am putting the finger on what bothers me: I am getting old, which is frankly a privilege considering what goes one in the world. But the thing that bothers older people, and that has started bothering me, is that death is what comes next. It is like the feeling you have when you realize the only way out of the pregnancy is giving birth. Only in the case of death, things are just so... boring?... scary?... nothing?.... who knows... I think that I am not afraid to die. After all, if there is an afterlife I know plenty of people there. But it is my belief that there is no such thing as an afterlife, and all we have is here and now. The low grade depression is because I want to hug my kids and my husband, I want to smell the spring (not in February though!), I want to do it all, but then I realize that I've done it all, except for perhaps visit some 100 countries that I still want to visit. I've done it all but not write more scientific research. I've done it all, but not help all my students understand science and the value of facts and critical thinking. I've done it all but I have not delivered my children to their own adult lives. So, have I done it all? And this is where the light and the darkness meet. This is everyone's place of struggle. Probably what the psychoanalysts called Eros and Thanatos. The life instinct, the death instinct. We are caught up in the middle.
This melanoma event has hit once again the reset button. What am I doing? Am I happy? Do I life gratefully? Do I live a useful life? It will probably take a few weeks to evaluate this, regroup, restart, move on. I might not choose to reincarnate, the Dalai Lama might not either. "Everything is ok".

This old post (originally written in 2014)

Not everything happens for a reason. The fair world view may fuel people to think that way. Many stories are about how if you "hadn't been to that place, that particular day" or if you "hadn't made that turn, or change your routine" then you would not have met an important person in your life or made a life changing decision, etc, etc.
But for some of us, that stopped believing that there is order in the world, things are simpler. Perhaps devoid of magic, but fantastic just the same. Fundamentally the world is random and chaotic. It is hard to predict many things. Whatever order exists is created by humans. The protestant work ethic so popular in the US, which often times annihilates the human spirit and severs the parts of life that are not work related (most notably leisure and art) also shows how the chaos can be tamed. The order is not imposed from above, from a unique source of infinite wisdom. The order is created from beneath by hard working people with good intentions and sometimes successful plans.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Muere Alvaro de Jesús Durán Orozco (Papi). Sesenta y un años. Aviador. Visionario. Alcohólico.

Quiero que este día quede en el pasado. 
Que se llene de polvo de años y pierda poder.
Pero este día se va a aparecer 
-sin anunciar- en muchos presentes futuros.
La cara fea de la muerte. 
Esperando la muerte de mi padre desde que tenía 5 años. 
Hoy finalmente llegó.
No por ser tan anunciada menos dolorosa. 
Hoy murió toda esperanza, hoy murió todo “tal vez”.
Su vida un constante desperdicio de genio. 
Una exuberancia de inteligencia sumergida en alcohol. 
Sus sueños eran grandes pero sus miedos le ganaban todas las veces.
Verlo vivir fué como ver un accidente en cámara lenta. 
Una visión que ha durado desde que tengo memoria hasta ahora. 
Él en estado de suicidio permanente. 
Nosotros testigos forzados. 
Sujetos del dolor. De querer y creer. De pedir y esperar. 
Negociando un final feliz que nunca llegó.
El amor todo lo cura, y ahora -sin su presencia terrena- el amor también todo lo perdona. 
Adiós Pa. 
Estás en cada avión y en las canciones de los Beatles. 
Estás en mi espejo en las mañanas, estás en mi nombre y estás donde ya nada duele. 
La paz con nosotros. El amor con nosotros.

Setiembre 20, 2014. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Canción de los cuarentas...

como las flores.
Poco a poco perder la lozanía,
perder la flexibilidad.
Ver como los bordes se arrugan y los colores se opacan...
Tratar de amar la flor seca y olvidarse de la primavera
-Donde todo era fragante-.
Cobijarse con páginas de libros 
(para preservarse).
Alejarse de la luz y del agua,
Y lamentar una vez haber estado adicta a la luz y al agua.
Marchitarse inexorablemente
De afuera hacia adentro...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Lose not heart"

Amazing words written by J.D. Salinger, whom I've never read,  and uttered by my brilliant friend Carissa who turns facts into storytelling knitting details into amazing tales that you never want to end.
Salinger wrote those letters to a fan and aspiring writer who had a piece rejected by the New Yorker.
But how can you lose not heart?
How can you simultaneously pour yourself into something and protect yourself from loss and disappointment? How can you at once produce and let go?
For all the complaining that is done about aging, I find it comforting that some things do get better with time. Sometimes, for instance, we don't need to answer questions right away.
Sometimes we can figure out temporary answers, impermanent answers, imperfect answers.  And they will have to do. Because it also becomes clear that the only way is up and ahead. That every setback is only that. Ultimately the cycles move and the tides change, and the only constant thing is permutation. It is wisely said in Spanish "más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo", the devil's knowledge comes from age, not from being the devil.
So tomorrow, when the wheels start spinning again, I won't lose heart, or impulse, or hope, or time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Instructions for moving on

First, pretend that it is not happening to you. At least not the "you-you" the one at the core of your self.  This crisis is at the perimeter of you, not at the core. That is an important thing to remember.

Second, pack your belongings unemotionally. You knew this day would come. The fact that you thought you were leaving to a better place should not change the pleasure of removing yourself from a place where you are not appreciated. This is a good time to remember all of those things that you told your students regarding "depressive realism" and how realistic people tend to get depressed. Don't be realistic now, it is not the right time.
Instead, choose the other explanations that kind people have provided to you: "You will find something", "Something better will come along". Hey, it works in romantic relationships, it should apply to jobs as well. Think of yourself as being "free", happily "unattached" remember how exciting it is to have options. If having options makes you uneasy and lost, then remember it is not the time to be realistic or completely true to your feelings. There will be time for that, you know, in the future.

Third, focus on the things that you can do and actually do them. This is the time to prepare to run that 5K. This is the time to write all of those articles. This is the time to think big thoughts. Cleaning up the house it is definitively going to be possible -or at least not impossible- now. Enjoy again the simple things that made you happy before you started having dreams of being productive, self-sufficient or a professor. Remember the joy of watching t.v. Perhaps spending the summer with your family will be fuel for the fall job search.

Fourth and last. Leave this chapter of your life with your chin up. Utter pejorative adjectives in your head directed to the people that do not appreciate you enough, and leave the premises happily like a cowboy that walks toward the sunset. There are better pastures on the other side. That side that you will create for yourself. You had signed up for evolution long time ago. This is just one more phase of it. A weird one. Like the time when cute tadpoles get legs and look weird because they are not yet frogs.

Start being a frog now.