“Quietly go to work on your own self-awareness. If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” – Hua hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu
To begin there was nothing but happiness, joy and lightness. No deity, no sin, no reward, no punishment and no regulation. The hue of my mother’s skin and its softness–her perfect dark brown and my father’s rough hands. He would toss me around like I was a little boy–I was always the roughest, always a tomboy as a child. Even now from time to time. Mami told me he didn’t hold us often when we were infants because he thought he would break us. He probably would have; to me he was the strongest human on the planet. I remember being a toddler always with him and his friends. They would treat me like one of the boys. In Panama he and his best friend were so close and similar that I would call them both Papi–never distinguishing between the two. I would climb all over Papi and he would spin me around, pin me in his legs–which to me were like iron bars and hold me there for a long time as I struggled to get out as he watched TV in his bed–each time thinking I was stronger than he was, always growing fast and strong, like he used to say. I could never escape though, I couldn’t escape his love. Mami would sit me down every few days between her legs. She’s the epitome of femininity–like a hairless puppy. (Not like me, so much like my father in how I walk, sit, gesture and hairy everywhere–especially my belly.) No, Mami doesn’t have any hair on her legs or her chin, very little under her arms, skin as smooth as a baby, complexion perfect. Mami would pick out my afro first, grease my scalp, little braids with shiny clips or big plaits with bolitas at the base (Black American girls called them bobos, I used to think that was weird). There was only love between her legs where I used to sit. She made me beautiful–negra linda. She gave me comfort. She seldom lost her temper. She loved me when my actions would have made me unlovable to anyone else. She breathes tenderness and kindness, patience and beauty. As I child their love was my only religion.
As I got older I learned that I was inherently bad, sinful. But it wasn’t necessarily my fault–we’re all just born that way. It was, however, my fault that I remained a dirty stain in the eyes of God. So I listened and it all became true. Our thoughts make everything true. I would be punished. I knew that my body was sinful–it gave me way too much pleasure to be ‘holy.’ And as I got older and became a beginning adult–university made me question everything, challenged my outlook and suddenly I was unsure of it all. Of God. Of the Devil. Of my shame. Of my Sins. Of my Purpose or any purpose for that matter. Too, nothing seemed worth living. I was lost. But always there was love. There has always been boat loads, buckets of love every step of the way in my life. From unsuspecting places, a steady, committed love of a mother, a father, an entire family, close friends, a partner, a lover who would forgive and take care of me–see me only as my highest self no matter how badly I treated him, no matter how much in ego I acted–no matter how much I couldn’t forgive myself and suffered for so long. There was a darkness that covered the happiness, joy and lightness–a darkness that obscured what I thought was ‘God’ in me.
But as the witness emerged, the light got brighter once again. The many fears that have been instilled since childhood come up again as questions rather than threats. They are questions I have the answers to. Choices. They come up for me still in solitude. In time it all became clearer. I’ve never revealed this to anyone but starting maybe around early puberty I would have this recurring dream: I would be in a car with my parents, driving along a dark road (which is odd because my parents couldn’t drive and wouldn’t learn or even have a car for another 10 years). There was always a fog and the darkness was so thick we could never see beyond just a few feet. Rarely were there cars coming in the opposite direction and for the most part the ride was quiet. The double yellow line seemed to stretch into forever and even though it was frightening, I felt completely safe and in comfort because my mother was there with me. Suddenly a flash of light would appear. It was quick and sharp and the car would stop and there would no longer be my mother there to protect me. I could no longer feel her presence. I run out of the car and into the darkness, full of panic, dread, fear, shame and guilt. God took her away from me and I was so sinful that he left me behind. I fall to my knees, not wanting to open my eyes, terrified of what I’d see, afraid that if I opened them I would die or continue to live in this darkness. My spirit empty and cold and me now unable to feel any feelings of love or goodness, instead to be cursed and deserted–I screamed and cried for her; and then I screamed and cried to be forgiven. I would continue to have that dream for many years. I used to think that it was because of the scary message of Jesus returning that I heard yelled at me from pulpits as a child, but now I see that story and dream is only a metaphor.
When I wake up in the morning there are a few things that I can do no matter what. They change the energy of my entire day–help me not to panic, remind me that fear is an emotion rooted in the desire to control, teaches me gratitude. If I have them, I place a flower at eye level where I’ll wake up. It’s the first thing I see when I open my eyes and it reminds me of all that is perfect in the universe. I can’t have negative emotions when I look at that much beauty, no matter how hard I try. If I have time, I write a few sentences about what I’m grateful for. Sometimes it ends up being a whole page, sometimes a short paragraph–I might just be happy that I got up early enough to make pancakes–I write that down. Other times, if I’m lucky enough to wake up next to someone I care about then I want to make love. Morning sex is my favorite kind of sex, it isn’t tainted with my perceptions of a lover’s actions or words the night/day before; I haven’t yet settled into my “to-do list” way of thinking that drags me out of enjoying my time spent living; morning sex is the purest kind, you are completely in spirit when you wake up–there hasn’t been enough time to put on your armor of ego and self-importance, your protective mask or your intelligence. So that every kiss and touch and stroke is from the purest part of that person to you and pleasure is experienced like a child again. It’s joyful and happy and good. Sunlight bounces off the wall of the building across my window, his body brown like earth and his touch and his smell familiar from the night before and his strength overwhelming makes me a prisoner. Lips search in the dark because we’re both too close to sleep to open our eyes but too wide awake to ignore each others’ bodies any longer. The petals open more and more–the closer it comes to dying the more beautiful it becomes. My hands trace the muscles along the top of his back, squeeze his arms, but mostly I watch the perfection that is that body then I close my eyes, burrow my head in the space between his neck and his shoulder and leave the panic there. Because my religion of late must be love.