Memories through a Photograph – Innocence Lost

Every once in a while I come across this picture. I have a few pictures from this night in 1986. I always had a camera handy to capture anything and everything. I’ve probably captured too many memories that most would like to forget. But, the more times that I have come across this image, I try to look for something deeper than just people posing to have their picture taken. I guess I try to look for the innocence or at least remember it or try to remember what it felt like. The innocence of that girl to the far right that was so stoked to be there because she had a crush on the guy next to her. The innocence of a night that a few acquaintances, that had only known each other for a few months, were getting together before she left to go back to her hometown in Texas. The innocence that would quickly disappear in a matter of hours because of the consumption of alcohol. The innocence taken from that girl that night. Did she have any inclination that a few hours later she’d be violated and her innocence would be taken from her?

The guy, Scott, that usually wore a tall blue mohawk and would skate up and down Sheffield Avenue, now had the same silly grin as she and was putting his arm somewhat around her to make her feel comfortable being in front of the camera. She was so happy. But, she was probably really uncomfortable on the inside because she didn’t know how to make sense of what was going on with the two people to the far left. The guy to the far left, she had been dating for the whole time that she was back in Chicago while staying with her two sisters. This was her second trip out there. She was only 16 and had dropped out of high school back in Klein, Texas. She’d come and stay with her sisters because it was hard to live with her alcoholic mother back in Texas. She and that guy had only recently, days before, broken it off. They had been dating for over a month. One night, heavily intoxicated, she came back to her sisters’ place after getting in a fight with him. She didn’t want to see him anymore because of his frustration with her not putting out. She had never had sex before. She liked him, but not in that way or maybe she just wasn’t ready. This was the first guy that she had ever dated and now, he was dating one of her sisters.

When I’ve seen this picture in the last few years, I can only imagine how many mixed emotions I was feeling that night. I still didn’t know how to make sense of much in my life, much less my emotions and new experiences. The only way I learned to cope was to either isolate myself in my bedroom, while diving into my depression, or drink too much. That night I drank too much. I remember just a short period of time after arriving at the cute guy with the mohawk and his roommate’s place.

I have a few pictures. I have a few minutes of memory after arriving, about a minute or two in the middle of the night, and the next morning when I got up to find myself naked next to a guy (Scott’s roommate) naked. I remember looking frantically, but quietly, for my clothes and my purse. I didn’t want to wake up this guy next to me that I remembered was on top of me in the middle of the night, naked, trying to put his penis somewhere down there, in me. At the time, I still hadn’t even known that a penis goes into a vagina. I was 16 going on 12. All I remembered was that what he was doing to me, hurt. The pain is probably what sobered me up briefly out of my blacked-out, passed-out self. I remember him grabbing for my hand to help him, and instead I was moaning in agony and was moving my hand up to his chest to try to push him off of me, before I just passed out again.

I had known hurt, sadness, and violence before. I had seen people that said they loved one another, but hurt each other like people that love each other shouldn’t. But, there was still a little bit of innocence when I look at myself in this picture before it was taken away from me. The world was still not yet completely cold,  dark and viciously mean.

All I can think of is how clueless I was. Clueless that someone would do something like that to another. Clueless of what had happened. Was that what sex was?

My 16 year old self, may have been clueless of what had happened (sex, rape) because not only had I never experienced sex, but it was also foggy from all the drinking I had done. It was like flashes of images of that night that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. I remember that morning feeling horrified as I finally put on what clothes of mine I could find and as I was trying to leave I ran into Scott in the living room. I was so embarrassment and shameful to see him. What he must had thought. Did he think that I had been a willing participant?

I said many times, over the following decades, of how it had happened and that thankfully I was passed out for most of it. That because of this, it really didn’t affect me as much as all the other things that had happened to me before that night and what would happen in the years that followed. But is that true?

Did the girl in that picture fully realized how colder, detached, and broken her heart had become after that night? Did she see the lingering consequences that night left in her to lead her into darker and more painful experiences in the following years to come?

She walked in as a little girl, saddened at times by what her life had given her so far, but was still hopeful that life might get better. And, in a matter of hours, she had walked out of those guys’ apartment into a world that was beyond her comprehension and her soul was too fragile to fully ever wanting to understand. At least through seeing this image over the years, I can now come to some acknowledgement of how much that night truly affected me and can connect some of the pieces of when and where it did encourage years and incidents of more abuse or disrespect. 

 

#rape #Daterape #rapesurvivor #teenrape

Loving My Long Hair

I love my long hair. I used to really love having short hair, also. When I was a child I remember my mom having my dad take me and one of my sisters to the barbershop to get our hair cut. We had long hair and my mom had a hard time brushing through it in the morning before school. We’d always scream and cry out, saying it hurt. It probably hurt because she was brushing it so harshly. So, she ended up having my dad take us to get it cut. I remember crying hysterically at the barbershop. Since about that time, maybe the age of five to about 17 years old, I would have either really short hair or shoulder length hair. I learn to like short hair but I don’t think I always looked the cutest with it. Then when I was 16 I shaved all my hair off except my bangs. I really loved that style at that time. Or maybe I just loved how brave I was to do it, especially in such a conservative state like Texas and city like the suburbs of Houston, where we lived. I arrived in California with that haircut and actually a lot of people liked it. But after growing it out, it was rare that I cut it to shoulder length. There were times that I did and I think the last time was in 2008. But cutting it short, later in life, I’d always regret it. There’s also been times that I’ve cut my hair off because I’ve been upset over a guy. Not like a Britney Spears moment, well maybe a little, but it has always been more like a freedom to rebel against what men preferred or what society considers beautiful.

grace

So it was funny this week, dealing with what happened on my birthday (see the blog post – Happy 51) that I had two dreams about cutting my hair. One dream was that I shaved it all off and the other dream was that I cut it to just above my shoulders. I don’t know if they were dreams or nightmares because I did wake up in the morning with the thought of, oh my god what did I do! Thankfully they were just dreams. But, I think my psyche was reminding me of those things I used to do when I got dumped or felt some sadness over a guy. I also think my psyche was telling me, Hey, that’s not you anymore! Look at what you did not do! He’s not that important!
In the end, I really truly love my locks. May be annoyed to keep my hair down all the time or style it, but I truly do love my long hair and will never let some guy come between me and my hair.

 

#longhair #breakups #britneyspears #britneyspearsshavedhead #gratitude #itwasonlyadream #lovemyhair #longcurlyhair

Happy 51st!

Did I get dumped on my birthday? Some might say that is questionable.
Do I feel like I got dumped on my birthday? YES!

It was going to be a beautiful day today and I guess it still will be. But, I cried today.

I cried today, like a lot, because of love. Children of Alcoholics only want be loved. We never truly felt loved by our parents. So deep down inside of us we’ve never had it unless we found it later on in our teenage years, or 20s, or 30s, or 40s. But I’m 51. I’ve been involved. I’ve had relationships, but I’ve never been with somebody that truly loved me or wanted to be committed to me. The two relationships I had, only one called me his girlfriend toward the end of our relationship and the other use to joke to others about me being his wife, but never had ever talked to me about a commitment. But neither of these, were the type of relationships where you date, officially make it exclusive (probably because if they were caught seeing other people they could say that we weren’t really a couple. One did say that to me!), and ever even led to the words, I love you. So, for five decades, well, maybe the last 20 years, I learned to love myself. My son also loved me and my family loved me as much as they could with their own dysfunction and definition of what love is. But, as I learned what true love is and being loved was, I wanted it.  The only true love I’ve ever felt is from my son. And, there’s a human part of us that needs someone else to love us besides ourselves and our own family.

grace lozadaSo, my birthday is going to be a full day of fun. I’m going to ride my bike to have lunch with my son and his girlfriend at the beach and have dinner with a longtime girlfriend that I’ve known since we were teenagers. I will still do these things, even though I am upset. But like most birthdays, a part of me didn’t want to be alone tonight. So, I texted someone that I’ve been seeing and talking to for a few months now. No, I don’t want a relationship with him, maybe down the road, but I do like him. I like him a lot and I don’t get like this over many men I meet. I do like spending time with him. If I could change a few things about him, he’d definitely be somebody I truly wanted in a person. After we first met, he said that he wasn’t looking for a relationship at that time, which was fine with me until I met him. The vibe was good, the conversation was good, who he was and his interests were were good. I was kind of taken back by it clicking so well between us. Overtime I realized it was the qualities that I liked and wanted in a man. I enjoyed keeping in touch with him. So until that person, my person, showed up with hopefully some of the same qualities and engagement, he had, he would do – I thought! But, I did like him a lot. So, this birthday morning I text him to see what he was up to tonight, and I got this long winded text about how we couldn’t see each other anymore, that he was looking for serious relationship now, and wanted to build on that and having a family of his own, etc. etc. I loved his honesty and thanked him for it. But as soon as our text ended, I started to cry. And then I started to cry some more. The crying wasn’t because he wasn’t available. At that very moment it was because why couldn’t someone like him, or anybody decent, have ever come along in my life.

I was yet reminded again of what I don’t have and what I’ve never had. I am beginning to resent the 7 1/2 years I wasted on someone in my 20s into early 30s. I knew I was never going to make a future with that guy, but I wasted so many years on him. The resentment is huge at times like this. And there is this little smart, healed, part of my intellect that knows even if I didn’t waste those years on that guy that I still wasn’t ready to have a decent, respectful, loving, nurturing, kind man in my life. But, the resentment and the time wasted is still there. And then for 6 1/2 years after that, I didn’t date or meet anyone. I was too busy raising my son on my own and trying to unravel that relationship. I was trying to learn from it. And then after all that time, I got involved with an addict and for a year and a half it was great at times and it was turbulent at times. Then he, that I thought was the love of my life (just if he could get sober like he had done before), and probably the only man I’ve really loved, died. And after that, I take another nine years gaining weight, not wanting to date, having intimacy issues because I don’t want to love another man, that I finally now get to the point that I can love again, want to be loved, and know what type of person I want in my life.

Life just seems to pass me by so quickly in this department. And the thing that brings me back to tears is that all I ever wanted was for someone to finally love me in that way. To make it official, to try to be my partner in life, to say, I love you and don’t want to be without you.

So, I’m not devastated over this guy (I don’t think. Well, maybe just a little.), but I’m just yet reminded again that there’s a little part of me that yearns for love like that and from someone like him.

Now it’s time to get myself together, I have to ride my bike out to the beach and meet up with my son and his girlfriend for lunch. The tears may flow, but I am trying to remind myself of how lovable I am, how beautiful life is, and how I will hold onto the fact that I believe, hope, my person will eventually find me.

birthday flowersIt hurts when time and time again though it feels like you keep getting your heart broken or you keep on falling short in the end of not getting that love that you want so badly. As a child of an alcoholic, a moment like this triggers all those unwanted feelings of no self-worth, no love, no value, and no nurturing that occurred in your childhood. Or, at least the inconsistency of it. You craved for any love from your parent or parents. You wanted to be enough. You wanted to be more important than the drug or the alcohol or the chaos. You just wanted to be loved. So when you feel like once again someone that you like doesn’t love you or like you enough to see what could develop, it brings up all those feelings. Even the, why not me. What is wrong with me, is asked.

Nothing is wrong with me. I know that. Yes, I’ve wasted a lot of time on people that didn’t deserve me or weren’t going to be healthy relationships anyway. Also, for so long I wasn’t healed when it came to this. I needed to unpack all that and learn from it, too. Also, like my girlfriend reminded me – I was handling shit; raising a child on my own and putting myself through school. Nothing is wrong with anybody. ACoAs (Adult Children of Alcoholics) are lovable and some can be the most giving and empathetic people out there because they have been through a lot. You may have done a lot of healing, you may have learned to love your inner child, you may know your own self-worth, but the fact is that it still hurts when someone turns away from you. Those feelings come back, even if it’s for like me, just for a few minutes or hours. But as a friend reminded me on this day, as I said to her and cried, it does get easier and it doesn’t hurt as bad or as long. relationship goals

I will hold onto this today – You know who you are! You know you’re lovable, you know you have strength that other people don’t have because they haven’t gone through the shit you have gone through, you know you have compassion and empathy and you know you have a lot of love to give. It’s just taking you a little longer to find love and the right person.

I will keep reminding myself that I wasn’t ready for a healthy relationship back then. I will stop resenting the time I wasted. I was healing, recovering, and just taking care of business.

Love will come. That healthy love that I deserve. I just have to have faith in that.

 

 

* This was written on Sunday, my actual birthday (March 7th). See previous post, https://wp.me/p4g3TO-uG to read about the guy that sent me the text written about in this blog post. I believe I’ve mentioned him in other posts prior, too. And by the way, he had no idea it was my birthday. He was very sweet and apologetic about what he was texting. Unfortunately for me, another sweet quality (thoughtfulness) he has.

#relationships #relationshipgoals #readyforlove #childrenofalcoholics

Overcoming Intimacy Issues after a Loss

Matt passed away in November of 2011. After his passing, within 2 years, I gained 30lbs. I was distraught and this was the time that I probably began with a new bought of depression. I hadn’t seriously been depressed in close to 15 years. The last time I had had suicidal thoughts was when Tupac died. Now it was the end of 2011 and I had lost the one man, the only man, I had ever seen as a possible husband.

A few years after his death, I tried to date. But it only surmounted to me getting pleasure for an instant. Sometimes I wouldn’t even let the man I was with finish. I was not equipped to open my heart again. I was fragile. I didn’t want to get close again to anyone. I didn’t want to fall for someone and ever feel the pain of them leaving, whether it be in death or just not wanting to be with me. I felt I couldn’t bare it. I also, somewhat, didn’t want to love another. I only wanted to love Matt until the day I died. Even if he was no longer here.

In 2018, the depression grew into suicidal thoughts. For months I walked through some of my days, inside and out, envisioning how I could hang myself. My son had moved out the year prior. Had graduated from UCLA, had a great job, and moved in with his girlfriend. I had been drifting in and out of accounting jobs and unemployment. I continuously was being taking to court by my son’s father to battle with him on the arrears in the child support he owed me. I had never really dealt with the emotional pain he had conflicted upon me and my son all those years. (He had never been in the picture or had helped financially). I was single and just hated where my life was. I wasn’t grieving as much anymore, but it did come back in waves. I don’t think I had dealt enough over losing Matt and all the other issues that were arising, that it all made my depression get to the point that I was now suicidal. Thankfully, I seeked helped toward the end of 2018 and by January 2019 I was back in therapy. I recovered from the depression and went to Adult Children of Alcoholic meetings for the first time in my life. I continued with my therapy and dove into my intimacy issues. I never really had intimacy issues before. Before Matt, I had not been fully open to a committed relationship, but I was always monogamous. Once I’d like a boy, I liked him and could see no other. But, my childhood kept me away from ever wanting marriage. I had thought and was scarred that I would have a relationship like my parents. It had only been until my late 30s, lots of therapy, lots of reading, and lots of self analyzing, that I knew it didn’t have to be the case with me. I am not the unhealed, volatile person my parents were. And then Matt happened.

As I continued my therapy, I dated. And little by little I got better.

Fist was the guy that I dated and as soon as we were intimate, things were different from the last men I had been with over these last few years. I wasn’t so keen on him I thought at first, but the sex was okay. I let him finish too and I loved finally sleeping next to someone. I liked how he would reach over for me, but as I told my therapist, I loved that feeling, just not from him. I dated him for a few months, but only had sex with him that one time in the beginning. In the end, there were some extreme anxiety issues and lying on his part that I ended that. The next time I was with someone, the sex was again good. I actually liked the bear hugs and touches in the night from him.  Progress! There was just an age issue. He was ten years younger and didn’t have kids yet, but wanted them. I was already in my late 40s. So, I ended that one, too. Both guys were quite upset or maybe pissed off at me that I ended it, but I saw things that either I or they would have problems with down the road.

Then a pandemic hit in March of 2020. Dating during a pandemic was not going to be easy. Dating had always been extremely difficult for me. But, now I had to now maneuver between being single, isolated, not catching a deadly disease, and swimming through a sea of online profiles where some men would take anyone, just not be alone, or some men that had no care in the world over catching COVID-19. I needed to find someone in the in-between. I met one man during the beginning of the riots and protests. I think I just needed an adult to hang out with, take in all that was being blasted over every t.v. channel and possibly see if there could be a connection that could lead into something. I wasn’t into him. He was the kind of guy that seemed good on paper, but we weren’t really compatible and I just wasn’t attracted to him. I went out to dinner with another man, obviously outdoor dining because that’s what you do during a pandemic. It didn’t go beyond that. I’m glad he wanted to see someone closer (he lived over an hour away) because during dinner he’d ask me questions, but would never let me finish answering them.

 

Then it was August. A few months into this world-wide crisis. I was still isolating by myself. Beach bike paths had opened back up, so I was spending my long weekends bike riding. I was working from home. I had only seen my son once, briefly. I hadn’t seen friends or any other family because we were all being safe. Online dating was going nowhere. I was on Bumble and subscribed, just to see who had swiped right. I couldn’t believe and was amused by all the younger guys that had swiped right. My history of who I’ve ever been involved with consisted of guys that were my age or only guys that were a few years older.

And there he was. Blondie. Some could say, he had a dark blonde or just blonde hair. Beautiful wavy hair. Nice eyes. Sweet lips. Drummer. I love musicians and love music. (And, Matt was a drummer). Cyclist. (I had gone from consistently biking, but not wanting to be a full cyclist for years, to now seeing cycling and cyclists as HOT). I liked the profile, but only thought to myself, at least maybe he could be a fling during these challenging times. Nothing more because he was way too young. A little more than 10 years younger. But, not too young to be my child! I wouldn’t be attracted to someone who looked like a boy. He was definitely a man.

We chose to have dinner at his place. He lived in downtown L.A. in one of those high rises that had great views of the mountains and westside. He sent me pics of the sunset as we text. I googled him just to make sure he was who he said he was. I went over. We talked and talked. I went over many times out on his balcony to take pictures. The first time I told him how, why, I was walking slowly because I was scarred of heights. He jokingly grabbed my arms like to nudge me closer to the edge. But it was just enough not to scare me and enough for him to touch me and grab me back. I like it. We ordered in. He had gone earlier to grab wine. While he had been trying to pick it up, he had texted me what kind I liked. He had gotten three different bottles because he wasn’t sure which I would like. We ate, talked for hours. It flowed so easily. He even mentioned how easy it was to talk to me and be around me. As it was getting late and I was getting ready to leave, he kissed me. That was it. I was in. It went better than I had expected it to. I liked his profile, but couldn’t imagine that I would like him like this. Like really like him. I hadn’t felt like this since Matt had passed. The next few days we texted. But, then it went sideways when one time he hadn’t text me back, not just immediately, but almost a whole day without texting me back. I text him that he could at least say he wasn’t interested instead of what I thought, he had ghosted me. He was confused. Said he was out of town. And, then I didn’t hear anything for over a month. I can’t remember how we got back in touch. Maybe it was because I was searching again for a website designer. The night we spent together, he had mentioned that he also did websites, among other things. I told him that I had needed someone to redesign mine. As he redesigned my website, he started flirting again. We continued flirting over the phone and I asked him to come over many times. By November he had caught Covid-19. At least he thought it was Covid. I was getting tired of his calls and texts and me asking to come over that in December after another wanting to see me implying text, I said no more. I was fed up. I felt like I was begging. If he wanted to see me, he’d see me. He seemed upset. He had reminded me of all that he was going through the last few months (a lot of family issues), then he was sick, and all the stress he was under. Those were his last words to me then and that it sucks that he missed his chance. But that he would stop. Stop continuing this virtual flirting that I felt never went anywhere. He even apologized if he had made me upset.

We could be professional adults. We continued with my web design. Mostly through email and phone calls. When we spoke it was like speaking to a friend. Someone I had know for years. But, that is how it had always felt like with him. Even the first night we met. In the back of my head, or truly my heart, there was still an ache of wanting to see what could be.

When I like someone, I like someone. Not that madly in love kinda stuff. I just like what I like and when I like someone, I like someone. I don’t find it all the time. I’m very picky. But when I like someone, I want them around and want to nestled under them. And, I really like him. I was attracted to him. I liked everything I knew about him. I loved how we were together. It had taken me years to get here, but here I was. Recovered from my intimacy issues. Wanting him in my life, even though I agreed to him that we can keep it causal. He didn’t want a full blown relationship. I wanted anything I could get. Hoping that he’d eventually want a relationship with me. Even if it was for a few years.

relationshipsBut in the end, it didn’t work out. We had started talking again, flirting in the beginning of February. I had take a hiatus from online dating, but was back on. I sat back and thought of all the exposure I might be facing if I met someone for coffee, dinner, or a bike ride. What if I expose myself and the conversation sucks, what if the kissing sucks, what if the sex sucks. I opted to reach out to him. I made the first move by asking him if he was still single. He was. We texted over a week and then he finally came over. It was like six months had not passed. It was still like we had known each other forever. He left in the morning and I went on my bike ride. For more than two weeks there were some text messages. Then, I felt disengagement. I was again tired of chasing. Begging as I had put it the last time he was over. He said that he kinda liked it. I didn’t. I wanted to be wanted.

It’s okay that it ended. Yes, I am a little hurt and sad about it. I wish it could have been something more or that it lasted longer. And, he was so much more to me than what I said to a girlfriend recently. He was the first man in 9 years that I hoped, deep down, to have a relationship with. He was the first man that I no longer had intimacy problems with. He was the first man in a long time that I saw I could be compatible with and have a good, loving relationship with. When I think back on the brief time we spent, I will only think of it in the nicest of ways because it showed me my growth and healing and of the type of person I want in my life.

 

#readyforlove #findinglove #readyforarelationship

Growth thru a Pandemic – Seeing the Beauty on the Outside

Looking beautiful on the outside is what makes some have status in this world. Some people perceive that everything is great and perfect, as long as you are beautiful. Doors open up for the beautiful people. They seem to get further in life than some of their counterparts. But, how true is it that beautiful people seem to have it all and how long can beautiful people hold onto their beauty? Beauty usually fades. And in my experience, is beauty that important? I’ve known some very beautiful people that are either mean or empty inside, are narcissistic, or really just don’t care about anything or anyone else. So, how important is beauty?

I thing about me is that I never really saw the beautiful person looking back at me in the mirror. It was important as a child to portray the appearance of perfection and be as pretty as can be. But for me, I thought I could never achieve being really beautiful. I was never told that I was beautiful or pretty. I just don’t think it was something said in our family. Once in awhile in my late teens and twenties, I’d see that I looked good, but never really saw it and felt it at it’s full extent. Only rare and fleeting moments did I feel that confidence that came with my appearance.

As a pre-teen too many of us females are indoctrinated to wear makeup. We are told by society and advertising companies that we must cover our faces with makeup, style our hair, manicure our nails, buy the named brand clothes because that’s what beautiful females do. (I won’t even get started on how fit and skinny we all should be.) So for me, I’d make sure that I had a full face or at least put on mascara and lipstick on to just go to the market or run errands. I’d never wear any sweats. I always dressed to impress or at least try to look cute. Anywhere I’d go, I definitely put a lot of effort to glam up and do what I could to appear beautiful or at least for me, to look at least half decent as I could.

The time quarantining makes you really have that time to think. It gives you the time to work on things, evaluate what is important and what is really necessary. I’ve been working a lot on my health and fitness – more than usual and being consistent with it because there is not much else to do. Not to be skinny, but to be healthy, strong, and lose unnecessary pounds. I’ve also been getting my apartment just how I like it, at least as much as I can because the owners won’t really let me renovate, so at least I can redecorate. I work from home now, also. There’s no need to get fully dressed and put on makeup. I live by myself, too. So, for the most part, that is my life during Covid. I get out to bike ride and occasionally go to the grocery store. But most of the time have things delivered. And recently, I’ve finally stopped giving a fuck about my appearance when I go out. If I’m going to the grocery store, I do shower or bathe, do my hair usually just nicely pulling it up or back, I might put on some mascara. But, my face will be half covered with a mask, so how important does makeup really matter? Who am I going to bump into? Also, if I’m riding my bike for 20-30 some miles, can you imagine sweating as much as I do during those rides and having a full face of makeup? I can’t even imagine the acne that I would get if I wore foundation. The amount of exercise that I am doing  is enough for breakouts.

So at some point, during this time quarantining and lots of spare time to think, I’ve come across old pictures of myself. There’s been times in the past that I’ve seen old pictures of myself and thought that I was cute, but it wasn’t until this last year when I thought of why I never really saw how beautiful (and skinny) I truly was, especially in my twenties. Why had I never really felt and seen it?

My childhood, the things that happened to my self-esteem, the criticism, the low self-worth, what had penetrated into my consciousness and subconsciousness through images in magazines and commercials on what the perfect female looks like, played a part on me not really seeing the woman, the girl, in the mirror for what she was. I had recognized on an intellectual level as I got older that all these things were reasons why I didn’t have confidence on my outer appearance. I could see a pretty face looking back at me in the mirror, but just didn’t truly feel it. I unraveled why this was, why I didn’t see and feel pretty (and skinny) enough, and wrote about it in my memoir, Evolving to Grace. I wrote about how some of the people and experiences I endured, contributed to this. I understood what happens to a child that is brought up in a home of addiction, that we judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem and self worth, that appearance and perfection was everything to us as a family and especially to my mother. If you looked a certain way, then the real dysfunction and ugliness of what life was really like wouldn’t be seen. You portray beauty which then means your life is beautiful. I even shared with a close friend of mine recently how when we were living in Houston, prior to me moving to California, and my head was shaved all around, except for the top, and I was dressing what I consider now edgy (maybe a little new wave/punkish. It was 1985-86) that my mom needed to go to the mall and I wanted to join her and my sister. My mom told me that I could not go if I looked the way that I looked. Now mind you, we lived in a suburb of Houston in the 80s. That area was very conservative. My mom still carried herself well, cared what she wore, that she had makeup on, etc. She had always reminded us of her 19 inch waist she had when she married our father. She wanted her family to be perfect which we were clearly not. And here I was, being trendy, rebellious and punkish. I had style, but the people of Klein, Texas thought people like me just did drugs and were trouble-makers. Mind you, the drugs didn’t come until years later. Then for many years a sister of mine had told me of how ugly and fat I was. And, the boys that never liked me, just confirmed that I was not beautiful. So, my experiences were always telling me in my childhood that I was not beautiful or even pretty. 

The very first times that I remember being told that I was beautiful began when I was 16. I was walking to work in Chicago and a homeless women said to me that I was too beautiful to walk with my head down and that I should always walk with my head up. Then, the next time when I was 24, Tupac said that I was beautiful. And a few weeks later, Mr. Laker Guy would say how beautiful I looked. Despite hearing this, I would never truly feel or think to myself, that I was beautiful. Now, decades later, I didn’t think any of them were lying and I was more stunned than anything when they said it because it was never said to me. And, for years I never knew how to respond. I don’t even think I ever said thank you. But at the time, in my heart, unfortunately, I just thought they were saying it to be nice.

Over the years it was easier to build up my value – my strengths on who I was on the inside. Affirmations would help with this. Therapy also help. Accomplishments would help. Acknowledgment of all the things I had overcome and was dealing with, like raising my son all on my own with no support, putting myself through school, coming from the childhood that I had come from, enduring the loss of my virginity to a rape, and the verbal and physical abuse I endured, all without being a complete wreck, helped me value myself extremely. Also, I loved that even though I was a little broken, my heart wasn’t. I cared for others and put my son first. It gave me pride and confidence on what I was capable of and who I was on the inside.

I think it is important to see yourself truly, inside and out, but also to be humble about it. We all have beautiful attributes on the outside, some more than others, but that’s okay. Our smile, our eyes, our skin tone, great cheek bones, great hair. For me, it took longer to really see that person in the mirror and say, There is beauty there. She is pretty. She doesn’t need a pound of makeup on to show that. I may not be perfect, win any pageant awards, be on the cover of some fashion or fitness magazines, but I am beautiful on the inside and out.

I will try to remember this and work on feeling this every single day, just so that I can build up my self-esteem and self worth.

Hope you do, too!

Overcoming the Fear of Speaking Up

I’ve lived in fear of speaking up most of my life. I’ve only challenged it sometimes. Covid and quarantining makes you really have time to think. It gives you the time to work on things about yourself that you may want to change or the things about your life that you may want to overcome. Speaking up or writing about anything and putting it out there for the whole world to see, without fear, is something I struggle with.fearful

Fear. It’s hard to be a writer and to be fearful. As a writer, knowing that fear will hold you back, is a hard thing to tackle and overcome. I write a lot about personal or private experiences and my thoughts or opinions on many matters. I am not scared of sharing. 

scared

Though, I am scared of retaliation or backlash or just plain physical harm or threats because doing so. A friend and I recently spoke about speaking up. We both come from addicted childhoods. Alcoholism. Never being allowed to speak up is a condition that comes from growing up in a household that had alcoholism in it. We are supposed to be seen and not heard. You can never rock the boat in a household where anything can set off the alcoholic or the other adult that has to maintain some kind of household that has to deal with an adult that is constantly making a wreck of their lives. So, when I was speaking with my friend, I had mentioned to her that I was in fear of a physical response more than anything. Sometimes I have also felt guilty, too. Even guilty of speaking up when I was hurting. As most adult children of alcoholics do, we swallow everything and try to remain silent. We bury our feelings, our thoughts, our words.

Never being able to speak up was hard. Because for the most part, if you spoke up or confronted anything, you’d sometimes get hurt. A slap could come from anybody. If someone didn’t like what you had to say even if you were being honest, you could be backhanded. Even from a sibling. So, I learned to never be confrontational. Yes sometimes I slipped up, regurgitated my thoughts, but I am only human and it was rare for me to do so.  

speaking upSo now as an adult, I have navigated to try to learn how to speak up without fear of harm and in a more civil manner than shouting or fighting, which is what I saw growing up. It’s hard to learn something you were never taught, so it has been challenging at times, but necessary. We must speak up when something is wrong, we must speak up and ask for a raise at work, we must speak up in court when you’re battling someone that keeps lying and doesn’t want to pay you child support, we must speak up and say what we are looking for in a relationship, and we must speak up on how we expect to be spoken to or treated. But, when I write and have written over the years my fear comes from people’s thoughts and opinions on how I should not say something about something or someone, even though time has passed and I hold no resentment. I cannot help it if they are in so much fear of secrets being revealed, their own shame for things they’ve done, or just that they like to maintain an image that is clearly perfection. None of us are perfect. Time has passed and people have learned and grown. But, some of us are trying to speak up to break the silence, break the cycle of keeping secrets and toxicity, tell others that they are not alone, and heal by sharing and talking to one another.

This fear that I have keeps me back. I’m scared of what will happen to me. The fear is based on physical harm more than anything. It’s just what I was trained as a child, not necessarily that it would happen as an adult. Let me tell you, the PTSD is real, but at least nowadays I am aware what the panic is and where it comes from. The physical harm could happen, but more than likely it wouldn’t. So it’s been hard to overcome this fear of physical harm coming from speaking your truth. But this morning in the rarest of moments that I’ve had, I know that I need to challenge this fear and stop being scared and hiding. I cannot be scared of what someone might do. I cannot be scared of what could happen. Fear in some cases, is irrational and it is holding me back as a writer. I must let go and live my life to the fullest.

Without fear there is only abundance. Without fear there is only freedom. Without fear there is only true fulfillment and happiness.
I will live this day and the rest, moving forward, walking through fear and not let it hold me back.

Adios 2020. Hello 2021!

2020 is over and I was reflecting on this tough year through my pictures.
A little year ago, at the end of 2019, I was so looking forward to 2020, which was going to end with a trip to my homeland, Peru. Things were going so well and the upcoming year looked so eventful and promising. But, one thing that life has taught me, over and over again, is that a lot is out of my control and that I should remember that I can get through mostly anything.
The year started off great. On the 1st day I started my commitment to regaining my health and dedication to be consistent with exercise. I challenged myself every weekend doing 5-7 mile walks at the beach and I actually stuck to it . My birthday at the beginning of March found me traveling to one of my favorite places, Santa Barbara. My son and his girlfriend even came up to spend the day with me. The original plan wasn’t Santa Barbara though. But, there was so much talk about a virus that was taking so many lives overseas and beyond and countries were starting to close down, trying to lessen the spread of a disease that was brand new. Within days of returning from my trip to SB, a complete shutdown and panic was setting in on Los Angeles and the world. We left work early on a Thursday with the intent to work from home for at least the coming week. I rushed to the market to fill up on groceries and any essentials. All week long we had heard about stores being emptied and toilet paper was scarce. For the time being my physical wellness had to wait. I was worried about how my mental wellness was going to take the thought of a deadly virus which had no cure or even remedy. It was only two years earlier that my depression reappeared after being gone for over a decade and a half. I had worked so hard in 2019 on myself and I didn’t want panic to make my life dark again. The worry of death was definitely going to be tested. I had so much I still wanted to see, so much I still wanted to do. I didn’t want to go yet or especially leave my son too early. Covid-19 was testing me. I quarantined by myself and didn’t even venture to a store or get delivery for over three weeks. I zoomed briefly with my therapist, but I was well aware after 1-2 meetings that now was not the time to dive into issues that still needed to be healed. The best thing for me was to try to make the best of my time and stay positive. But bike/beach paths were closed. The fear of venturing out to come across some who was unmasked frightened me. Just like weeks earlier with Italy and most of Europe, New York and Los Angeles and other cities across the country, everything had to wait. Life had stopped as we knew it and our daily lives were at a standstill.
Within a few months, I learned how to protect myself. I learned to work through my fear of dying too soon. I learned that even though I like to be alone, I don’t like to be lonely. I learned that I can be very resourceful and know how to stay busy and alone. I probably already knew that, but not to the level of weeks on end. 2020
Thankfully I kept working Monday-Thursday, just now from home. I easily gave up the occasional eating out. I picked up the commitment to myself at the beginning of the year and as soon as the beach paths opened up, I got back on my bike. I and the rest of the country dealt with the heartache that even in 2020 to some, black lives don’t matter. I embraced my son’s maturity and mind to take this virus seriously (he has asthma). I also felt proud that he protested and stood for the fact that Black Lives Matter and that he finally understood what his mom had warned him about for so long – that not everyone will see beyond his skin color and that even in 2020 his life doesn’t matter to some. I learned on a deeper level that I can truly commit to something. I was finally conquering my diet and was working off the 30lbs I gained after Matt’s death in 2011. 2020 was also the year that I fully got over my intimacy issues. Little by little over the prior two years, I was feeling like I was almost there, but not fully. I had put up a wall after Matt’s death, and really wasn’t sure if I was going to entirely want to love again. And, even though the man that taught me that I am over my heart being closed off didn’t work out, I learned through our one night together and weeks of communication that I could love again and I want to be fully loved.

Grace Lozada Author
Oh 2020, you kept me busy with having me dive deeper to see what I was capable of, what I did and did not love about myself and living situation, and so much more. I read more, I stimulated my brain more with word puzzles, I listened to more music, I got to witness a Congolese man being baptized in his final days during a baptism that was performed by people from the Congo, I kept up my love of taking pictures, and I pushed myself further on my bike rides. Another good thing that came out of meeting that man. He had said to me, “I bet you can ride further “. So I did, doubling my distance at times. I now do 25-30+ miles on my bike! I learned that I can easily adjust into new routines. Maybe when things get back to being better than they are now, I’ll look forward to my old routines finding their way into my new routines. I learned that I truly enjoy myself and still can amuse myself on my bike rides, taking pictures, or while just feeding the birds at the beach. My strengths, vulnerability, and perseverance is undeniable and if anything I wish to truly hold onto when I look back at 2020 is how much my child grew in this year and how grateful I am of my life and whom I have become. I look forward to this next year and the next, and the next after that, and the next after that! I’ll never take my life for granted.

The Aftermath

Grief, Sex, and Love

After Matt passed, almost nine years ago, I thankfully was unemployed. I would have never been able to work after he died. It was hard enough to get my son to school; it was a 20+ minute drive from where we lived. I wasn’t able to sleep. I’d sit up in my bed, scouring the web to find either something someone would write about him that I hadn’t heard about, or looking for a picture of him that I had never seen before. When I look back now, I was trying to hold onto him. I was trying to hold onto a ghost.

I didn’t turn to family, friends, men, or booze. I soothed my grief with more than my usual long hot baths, where all I did was cry, not wanting to be here without him. I didn’t know how I’d be here without him. I didn’t want to be here without him. But I wanted, and needed, to be here for my son. The love I had for my son was bigger than what I felt for Matt and what I felt for myself.

I found quick pleasure in red velvet cake slices, sometimes having two a day. I found moments of forgetting what I had lost, through my son’s laughter, stories, conversations, or smile.

After a month of Matt’s passing, I picked up the handwritten, and typed, manuscript of my memoir that he told me he would love to read one day. I pieced it together and dove right into finishing the book I had started when I was 22 years old, nineteen years earlier.

For almost 2 years, this was my life. I gained 30lbs, from the grief of Matt dying and from reliving and rereading my difficult childhood in my memoir. It could have been worse. I could have been in a bar every afternoon.

After I was done writing my book, it took me about another year and a half, to edit and re-edit my memoir.

The only person I did see, from time to time, was Matt’s mother. I found comfort in speaking to someone about Matt. I still felt close to him and felt his presence with me. loss

By 2013, I was working. I sometimes tried to get out of my isolation either by meeting up with friends, going to the beach, or going outside to exercise. I also sometimes tried to move on and date. I wanted to try to find pleasure in being with another. If anything, I at least needed sex. But, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to.

Matt had passed at the end of 2011 and from 2013-2019, I slept with 4 or 5 men. I was disconnected. I put up a wall around my heart. I didn’t want to love anyone else. I didn’t want to be touched by anyone else. I didn’t want to connect with anyone else. Matt felt like my destiny and that was a hard thing to stop feeling.

I knew it was important to get myself out there and that maybe the hurt would lessen if there was somebody that came into my life. I wanted to try to be hopeful, maybe something would bloom, but all that happened was that I would get what I wanted (as far as sex went). I sometimes would not even let them finish. I was cold afterwards. No hugs. No sleepovers. My feelings afterward were – OK, now don’t touch me, I gotta go. There was actually one guy in 2018 that I dated several times and only kissed, but after two weeks he wanted to know where this was going which freaked me out. He said he was ready to have someone fully in his life. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him. So, that ended.

But to know something about me after Matt passed, I had mostly met guys with the sole intention of having sex. Once I realized I had issues with intimacy, I made a more conscious effort for it to not be just about that. I usually don’t want to always have sex on the first date. I’ve dated a few times in the last two years where I didn’t have sex. intimacyBut, sometimes the need to have that pleasure, not just orgasm, but to really enjoy kissing and being kissed, to wrap your arms around another, is what I longed for.

During these years, the longest I worked at one company was almost 2 years. My patience would wear thin when it came to people and their toxicity, stupidity, or lack of humanity. Death wakes up what is in your heart and soul. And, the way people go on and on about little things that are going to be irrelevant in the end, or the way people chase money and are greedy, or how people aren’t kind or compassionate to a stranger that is obviously struggling, is always magnified for me when I lose a loved one.

Eventually, over the years, I found the grief to be bearable and it would only show it’s self a couple times a year. I found joy in my son’s success. He went away to college for two years. And, then he moved back home when he transferred to UCLA. For the most part, I was starting to feel somewhat back to normal.

Or, so I thought.
By 2018, my suicidal thoughts came back. I think the passing of Matt, rewriting, rereading, and going over my past for completing my book, the fact that I hated doing accounting, wasn’t following my passion – photography, and that I didn’t have someone in my life (or relationships figured out) brought back my suicidal depression. It sucked because it had almost been 20 years that I hadn’t been suicidal or for the most part, depressed.

Two other things that may have also had a part to play in triggering my suicidal thoughts were the passing of my dad in December 2016 (we hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years because I had removed myself from my mom’s narcissism and alcoholism the week Matt passed) and when Chester Bennington killed himself. Let’s just say, that one hit me hard.

So in 2018, I was trying to take care of myself. I was trying to market my book. I was trying to pursue my passion – photography. I was even flown out to New York City to be on the Kathy Lee and Hoda show for the “Pitch Your Passion“ episode. But, what I was also sometimes doing at home while either in my room or walking around my neighborhood was, thinking of where I could hang myself from. Trees? Anywhere in my apartment? I did try time and again to talk myself out of thinking about it because I had to live.

By the end of 2018, I had stopped trying to conjure up a full-proof way of hanging myself. I reached out and sought therapy. In January 2019, I was back in therapy. By July 2019, I was in ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholic) meetings for the first time in my life. Also in mid to late 2019, I dated this one guy. I had actually let him stay the night, one night. I liked how it felt when he reached for me in the middle of the night and in the morning, but I didn’t feel that I wanted it from him. I just liked how it felt, the touch of someone reaching for me. I missed that feeling. The next guy I was with at the beginning of 2020, it felt great to be held by him. There was no longer that, oh gosh, don’t touch me feeling. It was now, yes, embrace me. Hold onto me as long as you’d like. But, I ended that because we were in different places in our lives. Then last month, I met someone who I enjoyed having sex with and wanted to see more of. That hadn’t happened in a long time. I was ready to have someone in my life again or at least ready to see what could develop.

relationships

Grief is hard on everybody. But, when you are either in a relationship with someone or like me, saw that Matt was the first person I had ever seen marrying, it is hard to let go or put that love in a box, on a shelf, in your closet. Sex is natural and we all need that intimacy and connection. Love is harder when you’ve lost someone you thought you would love for forever. But, life is mysterious. For people like me, we think and we feel like we cannot get through the tough shit the universe throws at us. And yet time and time again, in the end, if we just hold on, breathe, and seek help, we find a newer us. We are much stronger and unbreakable than we give ourselves credit for. We must always remember that!

Stay strong, stay sweet, and know you are not alone!

Relationship Problems of an ACoA

Being an adult child of an alcoholic can be multifaceted. Why did my mom become an alcoholic? I’m not sure that anyone can say that there is just one thing that makes someone an addict. I believe it is a number of things.

As far as the character of defects she had were – insecurities (she was short and got teased about it), unresolved trauma of her dad passing when she was just in her twenties, jealousy, anger, not being good enough (at least one of her sisters would make her feel unworthy), she didn’t have friends until later in her years because her parents didn’t allow her to school until later so it was hard for her to socialize, confusion on sex/male and female relationships (keep in mind, she was very young and throughout her life probably heard about and couldn’t understand what happened to Lina. Lina Medina was only three years older than my mom and was around the family), and the neglect and possible abuse that occurred.

I’m not here to analyze my mother or diagnose her. But, I am here to know and understand how her own unhealed wounds played out in her life that would eventually have an impact on me and my life. We can’t understand why we do things or believe what we believe without unpacking our childhood to see what we were told, taught, and just saw from those closest around us.

Between 1973 and the end of 1979, we lived in Ohio. Having just migrated from Peru, things were very different, especially culturally. The one who did not take this well was my mom. It heightened all of her own underlying issues, especially her drinking. Once my dad got a job and began to travel for work, things got worse. I grew up learning about infidelity before I knew what the word meant. I heard about affairs, him being on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro with his mistress (his secretary). I’d see the fighting that would occur, especially when he’d get back into town and she was drunk. In my head, my memories, it seemed like they were constantly fighting about this. At an early age, I would ask my mom, “Do I have to get married?” She would say back to me, “You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to.” Now years later, take a step back. Throughout the years, she brought this up. This seemed to be said more than once between my mother and I, to the point that she would mention it from time to time. And, she doesn’t have the greatest memory. So, I am not sure if she just found it cute or that she found it relieving because then I’d be independent which she never was. I don’t think she ever wanted to get married but had to because that is what women did in her time.

When you take a step back, the only thing I can say that I was truly saying is – if this is what it means to be married, I don’t want to ever get married. And so until I was around the age of 38, even though I loved monogamy, I didn’t want to get married because I was fearful of having a marriage like my parents.

It took a lot of soul-searching and therapy, to realize that I am not my parents nor my mom and therefore will not necessarily have a marriage life like theirs.

Now the impact of all those times I heard what a cheater my dad was. He may have or may have not cheated. I’m not here to judge. But, what that put into my head, into my psyche, was that all men cheat. And, that’s how I lived. On one hand, I didn’t ever want to get married because I thought that it would be volatile and if I didn’t get married, it wouldn’t hurt as much because if whomever I’m with cheats, at least then I can walk away.

So, as a teenager through to my 30s, I was actually with men that never wanted to get close enough to me as to ever talk about marriage and for the most part, they saw other women while seeing me (or I believed they were cheating because that is what all men do). Even though this was my thought process, it hurt just as much. It felt like it broke me at times. It felt like I could and would never be loved enough. Throughout the years of working on myself and healing many aspects from my childhood, relationships, especially with the opposite sex, was and always felt like it was going to be a part of me that was going to be unresolved, unfixed, unhealed.

But like I mentioned earlier, little by little, my thought of me and marriage changed. I saw that I am different, a separate person than my mother, and therefore won’t have a marriage like hers. I rarely, if at all, drink. I like to analyze myself and think of why something might be the way it is or where people might be coming from (their perspective). And, I like to problem solve and I can talk things out, rationally without screaming or fighting. So, marriage – yes. If it happens, I am open to it with the right person.

Cheating on the other hand.

All men cheat. That is what they do. When they are not with you, they are with another woman. This mindset would take a few more years until that lightbulb moment would happen. Like many times before when I uncovered the end of the thread or the beginning of the thread that would unravel most of my unhealed trauma – defects of character – I carried for so long and would have a starting point to pool at that thread, to unravel these misconceptions I was taught or interpreted as a child. This week that happened on – men that cheat and when they are not with you, they are obviously with another woman.

It all happened on the floor of the shower. I was taking a shower, kind of thinking about a guy that I had met weeks prior and couldn’t get out of my head and why we weren’t working out. To know something about me, I’ve never been boy crazy. You know, those kinds of girls that can find so many guys attractive or interesting. I like to say, I’m picky. But, the truth is is that I intuitively need to see or feel that something and for me, that doesn’t happen often. So, this man that I met a few weeks earlier, I was just drawn to him, even prior to meeting him. There was just something about his eyes, his face, that drew me in. Or, maybe it was something else. Maybe he was supposed to be someone that was going to be someone in my life to show me something I needed to see. I believe everything happens for a reason and those that come into your life are meant to come into your life for a reason. I didn’t see it like that at first. All I knew was that I was interested in him.

So, after we met, we hit it off. So, I thought. We texted a few times and then I texted him another time and he didn’t respond. I flipped. Not that bad. Just asked if I should delete him out of my phone? It had only been 24 hours that he hadn’t responded. But, he hadn’t responded, so the things that I thought…He wasn’t interested. He was with someone else. 

Well, thinking about this while taking a shower, I came to realize that I behaved just like my mother would have. Everything in my mindset was my mother’s mindset. It was what I saw in my childhood. The insecurities, the unworthiness, the jealousy, the infidelity. For the last few weeks, all I thought about was that he didn’t get to know me enough. He would like me enough if he’d just get to know me. And, I also thought that he is with somebody else. Even though he told me he worked a lot. My mind went to, he is with somebody else.

So, there I was, beginning to cry, finding myself go to the floor of the bathtub while hot water hit my back. Once I hit the floor, I was bawling. And it all hit me. childhood trauma

My childhood.

The things that were said.

The scenes that were shown.

My childhood mind that interpreted it all.

Epiphany!

That was my parent’s truth, their reality.

Because a man is not by your side, every waking minute does not mean, there is another woman by his side. What about all the times I’m doing things? Out bike riding and being at the beach for hours, meeting with family or friends, running errands, or just hanging out at home alone. Does that mean, that I have another man by my side? No.

So why, all the times before, did my mind go there? I now know why.

But, I now know that I don’t need to think that way or jump to react that that is what is going on. Like, I did weeks before in that stupid text.

Now, I don’t know if this man and I will ever see each other again. But, what I know for sure is that our paths were supposed to cross because he helped me to find this piece of thread that I can unravel and heal and not think all men cheat.

Don’t call me Sexy!

Do I either have no reaction or pretend not to acknowledge when you call me, sexy? Yes. Other times I just cringe when I’m called, sexy.

Maybe it is because I don’t think of myself as sexy. Maybe I truly don’t like or understand the word, sexy, and why it is used. Maybe it is because I lost my virginity to a rape and when I used to (and sometimes still do) hear about rapes it was sometimes considered the female’s fault for what she was doing or wearing. Maybe because I think there’s more to a woman.

female writer

Or, maybe I sometimes see the word sexy as it’s definition:

Definition of sexy

sexually suggestive or stimulating : EROTIC

When I hear the word sexy, I think of sex and to entice.

I hope that 100% of the time, I’m not projecting that nor am I ever trying to come off as trying to do something to you than be myself. If you think that is sexy. No, it’s not.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love sex and I love when someone I’m with is really into me. So, it’s not that I am rigged, hate men, or have trauma. I just think the word sexy is kinda degrading, disrespectful, and gross.

female  author

You can call me beautiful. You can call me gorgeous. You can call me pretty. But please. Never call me sexy.

Stopping Traffic Documentary

Last month I finally sat down and watched the rest of the documentary, Stopping Traffic. I had previously watched the first half a month earlier. I believe that I have had it in my Amazon Prime watch list for more than a year, so it really took some time to muster up the emotions or triggers that I thought may arise. And, I just wanted the appropriate time and headspace to be able to sit through it and take it all in.

If you don’t know my story, somewhere along my journey in my early 20s I became a high-class call girl in Hollywood. It was the early 90s and I had been driving in from Huntington Beach, California with a friend to go to the Roxbury nightclub in West Hollywood. That’s where I met my future pimp. He had apartments over the years that girls would work out of seeing movie producers, executives, doctors, rich international college students, and some other wealthy men. It wasn’t until my girlfriend died that I made the move to Hollywood, unknowingly being lured into this life of prostitution.

It was a hard time in my life because I had never lost someone close to me and I was at a crossing point, of moving back in with my parents which was toxic or moving up to the City of Angels. So, even now 20+ years later, it still affects me.

I wrote about prostitution in college, while I was in the business. It was the impetus of writing my memoir, Evolving to Grace. I have had many large and brief thoughts and discussions on the topic of prostitution. The feelings I have for myself was that prostituting myself ate away at my soul and what little self-worth I had. It even had me dive back into a very familiar mindset, suicidal depression. What’s worse, it even almost got me hurt.

So, it was a big deal to watch this, maybe not just so that I can explore my thoughts again on my own experience, but the real bigger picture which is human trafficking. Were they going to merge prostitution in with human trafficking? I was curious about other people’s thoughts and what they are trying to address. 

Human trafficking has been a huge topic over the last years. The media and organizations have spotlighted the side of human trafficking which includes children being sold for sex. But, human trafficking is much more than that.

Based on the Department of Homeland Security, *Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in the United States. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.

Stopping Traffic, Stopping Traffic documentarythe documentary that can be viewed on Amazon Prime or downloaded on itunes, was focusing on children (including teenagers) sold, whether it be for labor, but typically, mainly for sex. This is by far the worst part of human trafficking and I believe that it is worse than any agency believes. It’s horrible and sad and I think more needs to be done about it. It needs to be spoken more in the mainstream and like the documentary addressed, it’s not just happening over there, in that country. It is happening all over the United States.

While I was in that life, I briefly met some girls that were a little younger than I. I was in my early twenties. I think they were over the age of eighteen, but I can not be for sure. They were girls that had a pimp that had a complete network of girls that traveled from city to city, walking the streets or running ads looking for work. It was very different from my situation. When they spoke about their situation, they made it seem like they were active, willing, participants, but even at my young age, I felt like that really wasn’t the case. There was fear behind their words when they would share their world, their life. Not only fear, but also no way to get out.

Stopping Traffic was a good documentary to show some sides and personal opinions of what can be done to “stopping human trafficking“. I don’t think though that they made a clear enough separate distinction between prostitution that is forced, coerced, and the sex work/trade industry. But, when it came to how and why some children end up being trafficked, they did an excellent job of addressing that. And, the creators and spokespersons on the film gave options on how the viewer can help and be aware.

As far as prostitution goes, there are so many different types of prostitution. Yes, forced or fraudulently coerced of any child and individual should be punished and stopped immediately, but the sex trade/sex work (also prostitution) industry shouldn’t necessarily be woven into human trafficking which I felt the film had a grey area when they spoke about it. It’s a broader picture to explore with many varying levels to it. Maybe for someone to make a documentary about.  

I’ll write more about prostitution and sex work at a later time.

But for now, I suggest watching Stopping Traffic. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

 

* https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/what-human-trafficking

Opening the Wounds – Black Lives Matter

Opening the wounds. Are we finally done tolerating the mistreatment of black people? 
I heard that said by a news-reporter this morning on Good Morning America – ‘Opening the wounds’. These past two weeks have definitely opened up the wounds for me and lots of people. My heart aches, but it also cries with hope.

It has now been two weeks since George Floyd was killed by a power-driven, racist Minneapolis cop. George Floyd is one of many African-American/Black men that are profiled as aggressive men that we, they, should fear, but as friends have mentioned, he was a gentle giant. His friend that was with him that day and witnessed his murder over the course of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, said that George was trying to defuse the situation. We’ve all seen countless videos of black men being killed by cops, only to have a brief spotlight in the media and a moment of outrage and sadness for what might have led to that happening. But, what’s circulating is that this is different. Or, at least we hope that it is! black lives matter
2020 has been a year that has taken us and the world to the edge of breaking because of the pandemic, having millions lose their jobs, not knowing where to get food to feed themselves or their children, and having us all lockdown for months. There has been time to become more introspective, pushing ourselves to realize what’s important, to slow down and appreciate time with family, learn and realize things we never thought we were capable of doing, and to value our health most of all. It’ll be written in history books. Most of us have grown by this experience and have not known perseverance like this ever before. But, has it taken being in lockdown, having so much time on our hands too really see what’s been going on for black people in the United States and that this is the time we will really make a difference, a serious step towards anti-racism?
Before you start thinking that I’m being pessimistic, I am also hoping with all my heart that there will be more than protests and riots and wanting everyone to think – Okay, what do we do now, how do we really change this, besides saying I’m not racist, I will teach my children to not be racist. That is always the first step. Teach love at an early age. Teach that there is beauty in all people and that everyone is equal and has the ability to do as much as anyone else.
Growing up Latina, new in this country in the 1970s and living in a predominantly white community, I learned about biases and racism early—towards myself, my family, and the less than handful black people in our community. I tell my son that I’m not sure when it started or why. Maybe it was a combination of where we lived in Ohio, being foreigners, and not looking like everyone else that I recognized that it was very obvious that it was not okay being different. And also, that 4 years after we moved to this country we could have been one of many families that sat in front of their TVs and watched Roots. That the combination of these things broke my heart and made me always have empathy, awareness, and sadness towards what people of color, especially black people, have to endure. I understood, to a degree, the racism that they have to deal with. Black people have to deal with a different level of racism and bias that if you are not black, you will never truly understand. Both people of color, brown and black, get held back by many because of judgments or stereotypes. Some people in authority want to just round up Hispanics and send them back to their country, while for black people, people in power are just okay with them being killed.black lives matterAs I wrote before, I’ve been talking with my son about what is going on. He is hunkering down about 30 minutes from me in Los Angeles, living with his girlfriend, and trying not to become a statistic because he has asthma and Covid-19 would not be great for him to catch because of his underlying condition. He is 25 now. And, he is half Haitian. For me, this time and moment now, with George Floyd’s death, the protests and riots are emotional because not only is he half black, but that he finally understands how he is perceived in this world.
A few nights ago, after he wrote a Letter from the Editor piece on what was going on (yes, he’s an Editor, writer, photographer for a huge music conglomerate), I told him, like I have probably shared many times, that I’ve been hoping for an end on how black people are perceived. That my heart has always been with them since an early age. That my best friend in 2nd grade was black and I was heartbroken when I was told that I could no longer be friends with her and that I didn’t care how much darker her mother was (my mom did). That when I saw Star Wars that I couldn’t decide who I had a crush on more, Harrison Ford or Billie Dee Williams – I think Billie Dee won that for many years because of films like Mahogany and Lady Sings the Blues. That I’ve not only been slightly jealous of how beautiful they are, but that I have been captivated for years by the Maasai people in Africa and that I would love to go and photograph them. That when I’d later go to college, I chose to take African American History classes over any other history. That I was thrilled to meet Rev. Jesse Jackson before a Rainbow Coalition event. And when there were talks to end Apartheid in South Africa, I cried. I was beside myself in overwhelming joy when Nelson Mandela was freed, became President of South Africa and that I was able to see him when he came to Los Angeles. I still wear once in awhile the baseball cap I got from that day that represents his prisoner ID number. *”Prisoner 46664″ continues to be used as a reverential title for him.” That when I first met Tupac, that I was not only in awe because he 2Pac, but also that his mother had been a Black Panther. For more than 40 years, my heart has stood beside the African American/Black race. Every time a small coverage was shown of yet another death or mistreatment of someone of color, my heart broke. I voted in favor of some black politicians and wanted desperately at work to do a happy dance every time someone mentioned about President Barack Obama being first elected. I raised my son telling him, warning him, that people and especially cops will single him out just because of the color of his skin. But when we spoke after he posted what he wrote about the injustice of yet another black man being murdered that was obviously not resisting arrest or branded a weapon, that he finally embraces and understands what it means to be a black man in this country. I told him that for me and how he should embrace it, that it is beautiful. Black people are beautiful inside and out. They have given us so much. Our dances, music, sporting events, fashion, art, film, food, comedy, have been highly influenced by them. They have been inventors and scientists, like –

The Three-Light Traffic Light, Invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923

Automatic Elevator Doors, Invented by Alexander Miles in 1887

Electret Microphone, Co-Invented by James E. West in 1964

Carbon Light Bulb Filament, Invented by Lewis Latimer in 1881

Color IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip, Co-Invented by Mark Dean c. 1980 and 1999

Marie Van Brittan Brown – Her original invention consisted of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The finishing touch was an alarm button that, when pressed, would immediately contact the police. Her patent laid the groundwork for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, home security systems, push-button alarm triggers, crime prevention, and traffic monitoring.

Patricia Bath—laser surgical device. Bath is a contemporary inventor and ophthalmologist from Harlem, New York. She is the first black female doctor to receive a medical patent. In 1986, she invented the Laserphaco Probe, which has revolutionized the treatment of cataracts.

Charles Drew—blood bank. created the life-saving concept of large-scale blood banks, starting with research into the storage, processing, and shipment of blood plasma during World War II. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. Drew was born in Washington, D.C. in 1904. As a surgeon, researcher, and inventor, he invented the modern blood banks. Since World War II, his invention has gone on to save thousands of lives.

Frederick Jones—refrigeration machine. Jones was a self-taught engineer with a number of important inventions. His most notable invention was a refrigeration machine used to transport blood, food, and medicine during World War II.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams – In 1893, Dr. Williams became the first surgeon to performed open-heart surgery on a human. His patient, James Cornish, survived. 

Alfred L. Cralle (1862-1920) received US Patent 576,395 in 1897 for an “ice cream mold and disher,” or mechanical ice-cream scoop, which is the basic design still used widely today.

Lloyd A. Hall (1894-1971) developed a method for combining sodium chloride with crystals of sodium nitrite and nitrite to keep nitrogen in the air from spoiling food—a method still used today to preserve meats—and other food preservation techniques. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004 

Lonnie G. Johnson (born 1949) may be most famous for inventing the Super Soaker water gun (US Patent 4,591,071), but he is also a former NASA engineer who now runs his own research and development lab working on clean energy solutions. In February 2017, the Lemelson Center featured him in our Innovative Lives program series, where he talked about his inventive life and varied career. The list goes on and on.

I could continue with so many more, but I just wanted to point out that they are just as accomplished. That they have shown a resilience that no other race could ever endure, while still knowing that all of us have used what they’ve so willing contributed to society.
Yet we sit here now, starting to come out of quarantine for months with another death of a black person by the hands of a cop. It’s 2020. We’ve made more progress and finally, all cops are not getting away with murdering a black man trying to say that either he was resisting arrest or they were in fear of their lives. Have we made progress? Yes. Have more non-black people stood alongside this beautiful race to say no more? Yes. Do I wish with all my being hope, finally, there will be such an enormous shift that people of color will see and get? Yes.
Do we need to do more? YES! black lives matter
This fight to end racism won’t stop here. We must continue to not forget, let our voices and votes count. We must teach our friends, family, community, and children that they are just like anyone else. Probably even more exceptional because they still get up every morning, smile and greet you, hoping that one day their brother or sister won’t become another statistic.

*Wikipedia

#blacklivesmatter #BLM #georgefloyd #justiceforbreonna