In an effort to own my narrative and nourish my budding spirituality, I decided to embrace the month of February as the perfect opportunity for me to evaluate and elevate my study and practice of love via Instagram.
Rather than allow myself to get pulled into the cold and sullen drab of winter days or let myself get bogged down by the disappointment and guilt of not being as far as I wanted to be when I started the new year, I’d challenge myself by mixing something I thoroughly enjoy doing (talking history) with something outside of my comfort zone (Instagram).
My primary intention for the month was to build my personal and professional momentum with small daily actions that fortify the sentiment, enhance the performance, and free the expression of my love for self and my fellow humans.
I’m closing out the month looking to celebrate you! In an effort to reach couples whose stories I don’t hear enough of, I’m offering a FREE CUSTOMIZED CEREMONY to a couple with whom I resonate and whose story I want to tell. CLICK HERE for more details and to enter.
I know this all sounds incredibly vague and self-absorbed, but indulge me, if you will, as I offer a piece of myself in the hopes that you better understand my intentions.
Photo by Kate Alison Photography
The Lunar Year of the Pig
Celebrating the Chinese New Year was not something I grew up with as a child, but given my mom’s search for spiritual enlightenment, she immersed herself in Eastern philosophies and shared with us the knowledge and traditions she’d learn about.
I was always into astrology so learning about the Chinese calendar and the associated signs definitely fascinated me. But, I’d say it wasn’t until my 20s when my mom started introducing us to a variety of rituals and practices that aligned with Chinese and other cultures’ spiritual beliefs that made more sense to her (and to me). I followed along with her instructions and enjoyed learning about new ways to call upon the gods/the universe for protection and prosperity, but I left the actual work to my mom.
Today, I’m listening more intently and I’m tuning into what feels right for me. Chinese traditions and culture are not mine, but I gained a deeper appreciation for the ancient teachings that helped my own development and for that I’m grateful.
I believe that my mom’s desire and search for guidance outside of the Catholic faith created pathways of compassion and acceptance that had a direct impact on me and those in my immediate world. For me, right now, I’m embracing the things that make me feel good and connected.
So, this year, I decided that my new New Year moving forward, will be in February. Celebrating the lunar new year in my own personal way felt more meaningful. It carries ties to my past and offers insight into my future. Plus, it offers a much needed respite from the hype of the 1st of January that’s often quickly followed by the winter blues.
I keep the blues away by embracing and celebrating the gifts I’ve received from far away lands and people and look forward to honoring the wedding traditions of the varied cultures that have taken root in our country and made it better. As someone in an intercultural relationship whose also had interfaith unions, I relish stories of disparate worlds merging and new narratives unfolding given all the learning that takes place.
I want to name that for most of my adult life, my feelings about Valentine’s Day have ranged from indifference to loathing mostly because of its overbearing consumerism and its tired ol’ cis-hetero-romantic love humdrum that pervades my daily experience for, at least, the first couple of weeks every year.
Look, I’ve always been a relationship person. As a serial monogamist, I’ve been attached most Valentine’s Days of my adult life. I either celebrated or protested the holiday with a partner depending on their preference. I may not have been a big fan, but the most joyful Valentine’s Days were first celebrations with a new partner or those that followed a legislative win for the LGBTQIA community and celebrated our progress toward full and equitable recognition of our relationships.
The rest were mostly cursory efforts and, if I’m being honest, sometimes led to feelings of inadequacy because gift-giving is not one of my love languages and, therefore, a major area of growth for me. You see, while I can and do put thought into a gift, the pressure of time gets me more often than not and I usually miss executing my vision by a long shot. Unable to conjure up the perfect gift, I instead settle for something that is store bought, practical, and either more expensive than I’d planned for or cheesier than I’d intended.
Here’s the thing, going through the celebratory motions of the holiday out of habit or pressure without actually committing to having an experience of joy and abundance and love may be more detrimental than simply not joining in, but the fact is that you don’t need much to celebrate with your person. You know that. I know that. The big issue is letting go of the pressures and expectations that we put upon ourselves.
Still, this year, I realized that protesting Valentine’s Day and being a grump about it actually robs us of the opportunity to harness our collective energies and uplift the frequency of our world; or, at least, here in the U.S. We could certainly use everybody’s focus to be on our individual, very personal, feelings of love in all its forms.
This year, I spent time with my bae; nothing crazy, but fun and very us. I also took time to meditate in gratitude for ALL the love in my life and ALL the love I know exists in our world. I’m excited to figure out new ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that don’t center around romantic love. I know Galentine’s Day celebrations are common and I think those are great, but I’d love to find ways to celebrate our love for our communities.
Still, I’d love to officiate a Valentine’s Day wedding next year because I’d love the opportunity to be in the spirit of love with the entire nation and use that powerful energy to bless and honor a couple looking for that extra pizazz.
Black History Month
Having one month to celebrate the accomplishments of any group of people is certainly NOT good enough, but it’s also not good if we choose to ignore the opportunities this month offers to honor our national and global heroes.
I’ve always been into history and believe it is important for all of us to find ways to make it resonate so that we can actually learn from it and do better now. I learned in high school that in order to really understand history, I’d have to learn it on my own because the white-washed versions felt like a betrayal - an assault.
I remember looking for faces and experiences that resembled mine. I searching through my textbooks for anything that mentioned Peru or South America or Latinos/Hispanics or Gays. If I found anything in those textbooks, they were brief mentions that shared the same message or perspective. It was from the colonizers’ perspective and my books were not modern enough to highlight the major and numerous contributions of non-white immigrants. It generally stopped with the Irish or Italians.
Finally, in college, I took classes that exposed me to books and readings from writers, poets, scholars, and creators that were black and brown and some even queer. I’d started at Hunter College where Audre Lorde, one of my all-time favorite humans, went to school and took a women’s studies poetry class. I forget the name of it, but let’s just say, it was something I knew would be perfect for me. And it was!
I came to read her poems and that of other lesbian poets. I read Zami: A New Spelling of My Name and Sister Outsider and found Audre Lorde instrumental in my reckoning. She helped me formulate some socio-political stances as a woman, as a woman of color, as a lesbian.
It was all very personal and private to start, but as I got older and every time I revisited our Lorde, she offered up a wallop that left me a bit shaken because she was always on-point with her messaging. She provoked and pushed and comforted my disoriented psyche and aching heart as I straddled worlds where pieces of me always felt untouched; unseen.
Unseen and unknown; discardable and unworthy. That’s how I felt. I could feel the weight of that always, but it would take me a while longer for me to verbalize it and begin the work necessary to undo the self-limiting beliefs about who I was and my value in this world.
Fast forward to my life in Philly when I taught 7th and 8th graders Reading English and Language Arts (RELA). The curriculum was subpar as it’d been for me, but way worse. I taught mostly black children and found myself squeezing some history lesson or another every chance I could because my kids were missing some basics, let alone the more nuanced stuff that sometimes feels too big for kids. But the truth is that it never was.
My kids (and I) loved to get into these tangents where they’d connect the dots, gain perspective from each other, and offer very insightful and mature assessments how the past linked up with their now. But what I enjoyed the most was when they’d do their own research after a lesson or discussion and would come back to offer me more of what they’d learned. I loved that part of teaching! I loved watching my kids learn about the major achievements of black people as those were not narratives they saw much of in their textbooks. We did what we could to fill in the gaps, but it wasn’t enough.
Still, truth be told, I stuck with most of the basics too. I didn’t highlight the LGBTQIA heroes within the civil rights movement like I could have, minimizing the queer identities of black leaders by reducing it to a mere mention and didn’t speak of the black leaders in the LGBTQIA movement either. My own queerness was under scrutiny and threat my first year teaching, but even after coming out, I still had to worry about the backlash and about being perceived to have a “gay agenda.” This was 2006.
I failed to teach my kids the way I wished somebody had taught me. I did better, I suppose. I brought my own books and texts to supplement the curriculum and resources provided, but I wasn’t teaching freely like I wanted.
Today, I can do whatever I want and teach or not teach as I wish, but I chose to celebrate Black History Month by building content for Insta so my audience can get to know me. The fact is though, that in the end, it was for me, although I do hope that others get something out of it.
My hope is to officiate a wedding on a date that marks some historical event or in honor of some historical person. Why? Because I wouldn’t be here; I wouldn’t be who I am if our predecessors hadn’t paved the way. And connecting our history to our current triumphs sounds beautiful to me. I’m crossing my fingers there are others who feel the same way.
Thirty-six years ago today, I arrived in the U.S. after a 10-day trek across the Mexican border. That’s right. I’m a “mojadita.” If you don’t know what that means, look it up, the English version is less endearing.
At some point, I’ll share the details of that experience, but let’s just say that everything that is happening in our nation today hurts deeply. I’ve dealt with people’s ignorant views before, but the profoundly anti-immigrant sentiments that are now sanctioned by our leadership is sickening. Sadly, it is NOT surprising. We continue to repeat history because we continue to deny it and I wonder where it all will end.
So, without the omnipotence to control it all, I, once again, go back into myself to meditate and quiet my mind. I seek to dislodge the ANGER that takes hold when I ruminate on the injustice of it all. Once I make room and hold the anger apart and can look at it for what it is, then I can begin to let it go rather than RAGE!
One way I combat my sense of powerlessness with all that is happening is by living my life unapologetically and sharing myself and my story without fear or shame.
My identity as a formerly undocumented immigrant goes unseen and as a result I’ve had to endure ignorant comments and ridiculous backtracking from colleagues and even so-called friends. Whenever I hear immigrant trash-talking, I remind folks that I am an immigrant. When they try to explain that they weren’t referring to me; they meant “those” immigrants, I’m quick to tell them that I was one of “those” immigrants. This is a very uncomfortable experience, which is, too often, made worse by the way the offender seeks out absolution. It’s gross! In the past, I’ve been guilty of saying something to appease them, but not anymore.
I’m not here to argue with bigots. I’m here to dialogue with humans who make mistakes and own them; people who see the error of their ways and want to do and be better. I’m here to connect with folx who see that there is a need for more honest dialogue and a willingness to shift one’s thinking.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve let go of some ideas that haven’t been serving me and I expect to let go of more. But there is one belief that I come back to time and time again -- love is love. That’s it! So, let’s celebrate it together!
With that said, if you are foreign born and in love with a U.S. citizen, it would be my pleasure to write your love story and be part of your new start as a naturalized citizen!!
to enter to win a free customized ceremony.