When I was little I remember my grandfather saying to my cousin, as he was struggling with something “are you a man or a mouse?!” My cousin was around eight at the time, and I remember feeling feelings I could not quite understand at the time. Feelings which I now have the words for, like a sense of injustice, anger, protectiveness. I wanted to scream “he’s a boy, he’s a boy! don’t call him a mouse!” But I was only five, barely a girl myself.
A man and a boy, my Papa and my godson bonding over a meal
The power of words is always a fascination for me. Words like boy, girl, man and womanare the ones on my mind right now. I am wondering why society thinks it’s okay for adult women to have a ‘Girls’ Night Out’ or celebrate by singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” or why that big scene in the film “Notting Hill” where Julia Roberts’ character is embraced when she says to Hugh Grant’s character: “I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy…asking him to love her.” Or why it’s perfectly acceptable for a grown man to refer to the woman in his life as ‘my girl’ when the converse situation of a woman referring to the man in her life as ‘my boy’ has such strong Oedipal undertones.
Why does the same culture make room for the girl in every woman but strongly exclude the boy in every man? We can make room for the ‘boy’ when referring to boyish charm and looks, but never when referring to the person himself. In another Western culture, the concepts of lads and laddy-ness are accepted and embraced. Men can get together and enjoy the same levity and silliness women do at their girls’ nights out. I like this a lot. There is enough pressure to perform, provide and ‘man up.’
My adorable nephews
And while I am pretty sure the term ‘that’s my boy’ shall be reserved for mothers speaking with pride about their sons, I hope no boy or man ever has to confront the daunting question my cousin faced. Ever. It broke the boy’s spirits and I am pretty sure it would break a grown man’s spirits just the same. I especially, selfishly hope my darling nephews never have to face this question, not even for the flashest flash of a moment. Surely, boys wanna have fun too.
There’s a war going on just underneath my skin
a quiet, harrowing war of the unspeakable
a war unfought. Never lost, never won
A mole under my left eye, eternal tear
weeping for a flock of Japanese soldiers
who killed my husbands but spared my skin
Under my knee, a gash from a weary fall
of grandfathers who marched to their death
then lived to see their liberation from the Japanese
Dynasties of fabric seeking the perfect lotus
feet bend my arches into breaking, making
each step excruciating
On my left cheek, a disapproving brother’s signature
marked in acid, proud announcement to the world
little sister is a dirty girl not worthy of dowry
Beneath my breasts, lungs damaged in the fall
down the well in the woods when fathers
wanted only Chinese baby boys
A thousand bastard mongrel babies fathered by friars
cysts in my left ovary now severed by a doctor
marking forever the female parts of my childless body
The cries trapped in the voiceless throats
Of grandmothers forced into sex slavery by Japanese soldiers
became a lump on my forearm, my world war 2 purple heart
In the dead of night, even today you still hear
Banshee, Magdalene, Maria Clara, Puta, Virgin, Witch,
There, just there. There’s a war going on.
So here’s the thing we all know. We all have our breaking points, and yes we all break down in big ways and small ways. We might not admit this publicly but we all know it to be true somewhere deep within the honest spaces. But even if we break, and every time we break we realize this: we are indeed unbreakable. We know this to be true because here we stand, whole. Cracks and all, but whole. We break down, we give up and by crossing these thresholds, we break through.
Unbreakable me, all of three.
Every time I have hit breaking point, no matter how big or small, I have found solace in the recoil into the quiet comfort of my broken parts. I have found humility and grace in the examination of my brokenness and healing that ensues. I have then found strength in reconfiguring, rebuilding – as I try to stay true to the light that makes me who I am. Every scraped knee, lost tooth, broken heart, broken promise…every broken dream, broken trust, broken wing…really, they have not broken me. They have kept me honest and made me strong.
Breakable me, unbroken at forty.
In my fortieth year I hope to still have the same pure light that keeps me fired up and whole. And the broken parts that continue to grow, repair, make room – they will either be the death of me or the beauty of me. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. So yes, I am breakable. And in this breakability, I have come to the audacious finding that I am unbreakable. No one can break me but myself. And when I give room to break, a transformation happens. Sometimes it is a big deal, and sometimes it is just a nudge. But always, it is a beautiful thing.
You remember that song from your childhood, the one that goes “…when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall//and down will come baby//cradle and all.” Upon reflection it is a rather sobering thought. That I am thinking about this now has little to do with the jet lag I am having trouble shaking. It has more to do with questions that have come up in recent conversations. We are often told to be flexible, to be nimble and open. To accept changes, to face challenges. And while these are all worthy pieces of advice, there is also something to be said about recognizing one’s limits and knowing how far one can go. In the first place, if you knew that the bough could not take the baby’s weight, why put the baby on the bough to begin with?
This prompts a question about breaking points. Do we all have one? And if we assume for a moment that we do, what is the best way to manage a breaking point? On one hand, we can try to be flexible and increase our tolerance. Like athletes building up strength and stamina, we can train hard and get less ‘breakable.’ On the other hand, we can grow increasingly aware of the triggers that bring us close to breaking and avoid them. Like security specialists we can improve our awareness, grow keenly in tune with threats and vulnerabilities to fortify our own sense of ‘unbreakability.’
In my life I can recall five times when I have come close to breaking, and three times where I did in fact break down. As I look back and think about how I have navigated my own breaking points, it is clear that I am more inclined to the second approach. I am more inclined to accept my breaking points and become more aware of how to protect myself from coming close to breaking. I like the idea of a strong, stealth approach to protecting oneself. I also like the zen undertones of increasing awareness. I don’t think any amount of internal flexibility training or tolerance buidling would have better prepared me for those tough breaks in my life.
So I ask you, what is your breaking point, and how do you keep from breaking?
That was when
the first crack in my universe erupted, at
The exact moment the back of your good
hand landed squarely on my left
cheek, the green stone on your
college ring tearing my skin that
didn’t yet know acne or boys’ kisses, drawing
blood so salty my tongue stung, my
eyes went blind and my heart
stopped a bit
So public this
shaming, right there in plain
sight near the number one
Pencils at the back-to-school-
sale, for all to see and hear and
for what, I can no longer
recall. I am sure it did not
matter but only to you and your rigid
rules and sense of authority because I was
Only, this was not
exactly how it happened, you
did not strike with your ringed
hand but with your words, peppered
with daggers of disapproval and
disdain. No mater the honor roll, class
Presidency, varsity volleyball, clean
bedroom. No matter anything
but the rules you laid down as laws
from The father
So long ago now, I
understand this was the only
way you knew how. But still, when
did you become as tall as me? How
did I become older than the man
with the ringed hand? And
How did I finally grow up in
your eyes, almost equal. You
are Father still and l,
Yesterday you returned, back
to old ways only this time, grandfather
to a precocious boy you could not
strike. Though a clenching of the good
hand tells me you may have wanted to. There
will be no more striking–Parents bear no
disdain for children here. His
Mother close by, your
daughter. Her rules are
Big thanks to everyone who has taken a trip with me and walked down these nooks and crannies in stream of consciousness. Apparently we’re on fire. And guess what, these stilettos are just getting started.
2011 fuck it-here we go!
2010 in review:
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 80 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 36mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was March 6th with 89 views. The most popular post that day was The First Bites Are The Deepest.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, these3boys.wordpress.com, slashingtongue.com, digg.com, and mail.yahoo.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for imelda marcos shoe museum, imelda marcos shoes, tish valles, people smile, and strategic stiletto.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
The First Bites Are The Deepest March 2010
The Female Factor: A New Brand of Feminism March 2010
The Last Single Girl: A New Brand of Almost-Fortysomething May 2010
The Places We Find Love December 2010
Remembering Patricia October 2010
I have just put together a playlist for tonight’s fete. My parents are throwing an engagement party for my brother and his fianceé tonight. All at once there are five or more thoughts synapsing…the one I manage to grab hold of revolves around how music marks the passage of time and holds memories for us all at once. As I went through the songs from my archive that have survived five software migrations and six country relocations, I could not help but think about what falls through the cracks.
We have just welcomed a new year and a new decade, a new moon comes in two days, all motion is forward. What can we hold on to as the journey moves us? What do we let go of? What slips through our grasp without our even knowing? With so much holding on to things, so much attention paid to maintaining the status quo is it possible we are weighing down our own flight? Holding back our own trajectory? Why is it so hard to be ‘zen’ about things and let go, trust that what matters will stay? And the rest, well it’s possible the rest has ran its course…that it’s time is up. Just like the songs I didn’t even realize I had lost, if you haven’t missed them yet I highly doubt you’ll be missing them in the future.
- Ultimate spiritual mantra: “f**k it”
On a trip to London I met John C. Parkin who introduced me to the fuck it Way. An award-winning ex-adman, John found his groove in two powerful words: fuck it. He took the Eastern notion of letting and noodled a more active Western voice that remains true to the essence of letting go and letting be. He and his wife, Gaia run The Hill That Breathes where people find their inner fuck it to define the zen that works for them. As if this isn’t trailblazing enough, they now make fuck it chocolate!
So how about this for 2011, then. How about we travel light to make way for our inner strobe-mirror ball-bat signal illumination to blaze. How about we say fuck it to all that has fallen through the cracks and say holler to those that stay close and true. How about a soundtrack to the journey composed entirely of the songs that have stuck, with no remorse or regret for the tunes technology or the movers swallowed. How about less calculating the opportunity vs. loss and more living…with carbs, and alcohol, and chocolate.
Holler, 2011! What you got for me?
Let’s look the future squarely in the face. I’m asking it what it’s got for me. To 2011 I say fuck it. I say yes, absofuckinglutely yes.
Let’s do this.