#6

i don’t care who gets the ring

who wears it

who has the lamps and the cleaning supplies and

don’t you know there are hearts now everywhere?

like the kind that said hellooooo

and after a long yawn

and that the stuff is no longer here

i don’t care

split it a million ways and could all be moved to the garbage dump

swimming in the Pacific gyre

sea of memories of times when they just sat

or spoke to tell story

and my heart goes up up

up up

rate goes up up

up

increase the value of the living beings i once (still do?) knew

as each inch of carpet is dissected like delicacy

everything has it’s price

but it won’t bring them back

neither will the picture frame

the desk

The vacuum

neither will the claims and tears and arguments of what a human heart is capable of feeling

that she didn’t have a limit on how much she put out

as did he

as did she

as did all of them

and my blood boils when i think of how we devour the unimportance of

what’s left

dilated and honed in pupils my heart beats at rebellious pace

to high pitched scream

in order to be grounded once again

in the midst of this greedy confusion

i hate

talking

about

this stuff

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Commitment

I took a trip to Minnesota recently that came with a lot of unexpected detours. I went to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday and as the second stop on the Jwanouskos Ramos Wedding Celebration Tour.

We had an amazing time seeing the beautiful lakes and forest areas. So green compared to California! However, the time was sadly overshadowed by my grandmother's decline in health.

She was a strong woman with a huge heart — one that unfortunately was born with a defect. Her breathing became more and more difficult during the time we arrived such that she was admitted to the hospital the day after we flew in.

She knew. We all knew what was next. Though I tried to avoid the conversations and the subtle shifts, she was dying. In my head, her death was something that would happen way far off. Not when I was there. As time went on, it was clear she wasn't leaving the hospital. So the best we could do is make her comfortable.

Maybe it's the wrong segue, but I depended on my practices during this time. I have her and my weary family members lomi lomi massage. As the pain medications wore off, I sang her Ka Lei Aloha I Na Kupuna – a Hawaiian chant and lullaby that Brent and I sang for the new expectant mothers preparing for birth. It is a song about being surrounded by the love of the ancestors and understanding that you too are part of that love. I talked to her about my tai chi practice and the book on Russian breathing systems I was reading. I read her my poetry. I talked to her about the business Brent and I hope to create. I talked to her about my step daughter — who she told me to give the beanie babies in her basement. And I practiced yoga in the early hours of the morning to the rhythm of her strong yet forced breathing. I even was able to bind in Marichasana D on my tight side. I think it was even the day or day before she transitioned on.

My Grandma taught me so much about pain, death, and family during this time. I tried my best as a visitor from California to be there and be grounded, be compassionate for my family. And it was hard to do that. It was hard to see them come apart at the scenes and feel like though you wanted to, you couldn't. As if something kept you from it.

I was named after my Grandma and she was one of the strongest ladies I knew, who got things done. She didn't fuss or make a big deal about it. She was a nurse and she was used to long hard hours and endless self sacrifice. At the same time, she was fun and laughed a lot while she called you on your shit. Up until the last days she was talking, she was cracking jokes and speaking her mind.

She transitioned on surrounded by her family and so much love. I knew by the end of the week I was in the exact spot I needed to be and I was giving what I was meant to give.

In the days that followed, I didn't know what to do or how to help. So I began my day with yoga and tai chi. I figured that maybe if I could keep steady, my family could keep steady.

My family on my mom's side is a range personalities and A LOT of feminine energy. For some reason, people look at me and they go, "well of course Barbara does this crazy artistic thing that we couldn't think of or do." And I just am so adamant that the answer to that is, "yes! You can do it. You are capable of more that how you see yourself!" I probably get to be a little airy fairy for people if I start talking about it, so I try to just hold my tongue and not say anything unless people ask me.

But then the strangest thing happened… People started asking me about meditation, tai chi, yoga, eating vegetarian, art, music, storytelling, social justice, keeping in shape, martial arts and breathing. What? Me?

"I just do what I do."

So I started connecting more with my cousins, aunts, and uncles and on Instagram and Facebook, I'd post snippets of my practice. Mostly because without regular access to my teachers, I wanted to see and understand for myself what I needed to work on.

I even watched a yoga practice session with my brother who lightly chided me for moving too fast. He said to take my time with it.

"Yeah, see, when I was practicing, I loved up dog, you should take your time with it more. You're missing out on that stretch."

My cousin would ask me advice about breathing in yoga and how to get started at home because she wasn't ready to start going to a class. Another two cousins and I bonded over plants and essential oils. She is growing the Oxheart tomatoes that come from my Italian great grandfather (my Grandma Barbara's dad), who loved these tomatoes for sauce and just everything. In fact, my Grandma still has two living older sisters (96 & 106) and she said that the secret to her longevity was to eat tomatoes and have a little brandy every so often.

Here I'd been so secret about these holistic and artistic practices, considering myself to be the family anomaly and just like most things, I was looking myopically. My family was so supportive of me. Not who I tried to be or wanted to become, just everything I was at that moment, they saw as valuable and worth emulating. For that I am eternally grateful.

Part of me wonders about the synchronicity of this experience and wonders what my Grandma may have been trying to say. While I haven't always called or been able to visit, I never doubted for a second that she loved me deeply and truly saw me for who I am.

A couple hours after she passed, I was sitting in the family lounge with my relatives enjoying the memory of her and what she gave us. I was going through my email trying to find something about her ancestry to give to my cousins and I came across a lot of forwards of prayers and wishes and beautiful pictures from her. Then, I came on a direct message from her to me. She saw an email I sent about my upcoming play production and was sending me some money and wishing me luck. Matter of fact, supportive, and loving. I read it and it was a confirmation of everything I already knew.

So, "my practice" has taken a turn because I can longer see it as just for me and a source for my comfort solely. I see my family, my friends watching me and taking something from the one thing I do think I'm okay at — continuing to show up. This has made all the difference to me and propels me forward in dark times so that I can see those faces saying to me that they saw what I did and tried it for themselves.

Thank you and thank you to my beautiful Grandma for showing me how to continue day after day through the hardship with only love to guide you.

❤️

what is it like?

More inspiration writing for the play that is a part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival on the god of nonviolent death, Thanatos.

Incidentally, I’ll be interviewed about the play along with Veronica Tjioe by fellow writer, Jovelyn Richards, who is the host of a radio program on KPFA, Jovelyn’s Boutique. This will be on Wednesday from 3:30-4:00 PM PST, so listen in or check out the archived interview later.

T: What is it like to die… what does it feel like for them? I don’t know… I try to make it painless, or at least, if there is pain, maybe I help them come to terms with it before finally releasing it. The process of death is both quicker and slower than you think. 

Slower because, as you know, every moment in linear time is one step closer to it. To me. Quicker because ultimately, it’s simple. You are here and then you are not here.

The actual moment? I don’t know if it’s painful. I would imagine it is because everything in life lives on a pain scale. But maybe I’m wrong about that, maybe the feeling of death is the opposite of the feeling of life. Maybe what I do is painless.

How would I know that I had died and that I wasn’t just dreaming? See, that is where Sleep and Death — the fact that we’re twins — comes into play. It fools people. It’s calling for one when you mean the other. When you need the other. 

Now that I have started to dream… Vivid dreams as true as day. I wonder what it would be like to live there instead of here. I wonder if my experience is tempered and adulterated by the feeling of waking. Disorienting light. Words that make no sense. Symbols. Birds flying backwards make no sense, but in the dream world it’s just another thing to notice or ignore.

It makes me appreciate the reality we call, “life” much more. Little things, like the way the sun creates a painting that no artistic genius would every be able to put together — every day. The way that water feels. The color of people’s eyes. The sound of footsteps. Wind. Did you know each moment contains so much to be in awe of?

I think some of them miss that.

If anything feels painful, it’s that realization. I could imagine that it’s heartbreaking, which is why all these souls have so much trouble remembering who they are. Only the truly strong would be able to hold even a little of that. It’s no judgement — the weight of experience is just too much after a while. 

And so…


San Francisco Olympians Festival– support a new play I’m developing 

I was trying to think of the various ways to share the indiegogo for the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which is ending soon. I came up with a couple things on facebook. Ways to illistrate its importance to me and how it helps to foster an artistic theater community here in San Francisco. Then, today in the eleventh hour, I thought of my blog. 

Normally the way I communicate with you all here reading is by short story and poetry. As you’ve probably already noticed, I’ve been sharing a little something every day and it’s developed into a practice for me. Originally I felt like I needed to carve out something for myself with the lowest possible stakes so that I could share my creativity — specifically creative writing– with more people. I suppose because I get nervous about using my voice some times. I worry what other people think. I do. No excuses, that’s where I’ve been at. But the amazing thing is how using this “little bit a day” approach has helped me improve my confidence and become more self-empowered. 

I started this off because I needed a place where I could write freely. Where the writing could come naturally without any imposition by deadlines or writing contests or grandiose, ambitious ideas about publishing, producing, or rallying for my work in any way, shape or form.

A surprising thing happened.

People started listening.

People started following. Liking my stuff. Commenting and thanking me for doing what I do. This still baffles me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it doesn’t matter. And maybe the discomfort that I feel about it is okay.

I want to let you know that if you’ve read even one word or looked at some of my pictures or found some joy, support, or meaning in anything that I’ve put out there, I am truly grateful and thankful for that. It really does mean more than I can express in words. I’m touched.

So, what’s prompting me to say all this is that if you look at the rest of the site, you’ll see it’s kind of under construction in the sense that I haven’t yet put in plays I’ve written and pictures from productios, readings, etc. I don’t always share what I’ve done or what I’m working on and I want to get better at that. At this point, I feel okay in continuing to move forward and express that even though my hands are shaking, I have a knot in my stomach and it sort of feels like I’m going to cry. Don’t worry, I cry easily. I have tissue. 🙂 

Later on, I’m probably going to either read this and cringe — potentially resisting the urge to delete or make private this post. I may laugh because there’s a part of me even now that recognizes that this is really no big deal. It’s just another step. Even though lately my life has been feeling like I’ve been leveling up and yet struggling to manage that.

All this to say that I do have something to share with you. It’s that I’m co-writing a play with a friend of mine, Julie Jigour, that is inspired by the ancient Greek god, Thanatos, the god of benevolent death. I think of him kind of like the Grim Reaper, but less scary. Like he touches you, you die peacefully perhaps. Anyway, we’re writing this story that we intend to be serialized at some point. It’s a mystery where Thanatos has been having these dream-visions that he shares with his twin, Hypnos. Now Hypnos up until this point has been able to sleep and dream, but something happened to make them not work the way they used to. Julie and I think it has to do with their sisters who are goddesses of violent death. So, in a way, it’s a crime mystery. They need to remedy the past in some type of way. We’re also playing with the idea of alternative timelines/realities and past/future realities as well. 

It’s very complex. Mainly, we’re just trying to go with the flow and be kinda stream of consciousness about it. 

 

crow flying
Thanatos is also known as the black-winged god.
 
That reading will happen October 15th at EXIT Theatre in San Francisco. It’s a part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival and was commissioned by them. So many of you live far a way, but I did want to share that I’m doing this. It’s exciting! 

And if you wanted to support not only mine and Julie’s play, you could do so by giving a gift here, in these last few days.

This festival is not only a great place for community, but it’s brought to life SO many new works and artists. It’s an incredible feat to have done in the past six years andit runs on very minimal costs. It’s one of the few writing opportunities I’ve had that pays me and other artists for creating. Not much, but to even be recognized in this way means a lot. It saysthe work you put into this matters. And it does. Art has the power to change lives…

I’ll leave it there for now, but I am going to try to post more about projects I’m working on. Take this as the start (or a deeper continuation of what already existed, if you prefer) of this endeavor.
Thank you for reading! Thank you for listening!