LOVE; Instructions not included…

IMG_0046Dear daughter and sons, you are growing fast, and someday you’ll have to conquer a little monster that lives in your heart; LOVE. I don’t raise children, nor teens, … I’m ultimately raising adults. So buckle up, read this, understand it, and get it right. Learn to love love (not a typo, think verb and noun), with all its flaws, daggers, and magic. I pray you will be peaceful, happy adults, and love plays a big role in those two factors. Understand it from the beginning.

Nobody is a genius at love. Nobody has written instructions; it is too volatile a feeling to be anchored to the shore of one’s heart with a step by step layout; How impersonal. So these are not instructions, but a guideline of FIVE factors that make up love. Don’t forget* these factors come from my point of view, and I stand in the middle of a successful marriage; So which came first, the good marriage, or these factors? The chicken or the egg? I wish for you a marriage like mine, I wish for all your generation the same. This is my attempt as a mother to try to create happier and more lasting unions among a growing generation – aiming big here, I know. 🙂

This is what I know about love… It is both difficult and magical. A successful relationship (marriage, union, partnership, or dating) is the hardest thing to keep up, especially when kids are already involved (you already know I don’t sugarcoat anything for you, right?)

I promise you heartbreaks; don’t let this catch you by surprise and break you, just know these will come. Some parts of love are fairytales, some are not; your heart will scar, become stronger, and you will move on; I promise this too. Quick sidenote* You can’t anchor someone to your heart; you can’t force them to love you. You see, free will is indomitable, and that’s where love lives. This is the part about love that hurts; when that someone wants to leave, but you fail to let them go. Let.Them.Go. The right person for you will be effortless, you will know the difference.

Ok, on to my five factors… passion, intimacy, admiration, respect, and tolerance.

Pop-up math quiz* What happens when you only give 20% of each of these five factors? You DON’T get a whole, you still only get 20% of love. You must give 100% of each factor to sustain 100% love. And since love is mutual, both you and your partner must give their 100% EACH. Because 50%+50% equals only 50%. Do I make my math clear?

What do these factors mean? Passion, intimacy, admiration, respect, tolerance. To keep things simple, I will use him and her interchangeably; but know that everything will apply to both.

Passion… the chemistry between two people. Physically and personality wise. You will magically know if it’s there or not. And you’ll want to hang on to that person if it’s there. BUT this is only one fraction of love… so don’t jump into “you’re the love of my life” yet, even though it’ll feel like it.

Intimacy… The closeness two people hold among each other. Can you speak to each other in a comfortable whisper; can you have a small conversation like that? Can you sit in comfortable silence, and hold each other; just hold? Do you know what makes him tick with anger, happiness, sadness, and passion? Do you know her troubles, and are you comfortable with them? Better yet, is she comfortable telling you her troubles (friend and family woes, personal stuff, financial hardships, anything). Do you know how she likes you to hold her hand, or hug her when you’re in public? Can you look at each others’ eyes and silently share something between ONLY you– not on social media (even if you’re in the middle of a crowded room)? How much deeper do you know this special person compared to his family and friends? And are you comfortable keeping that depth between you for the rest of your life? This is intimacy.

Admiration… We’ve talked about the first two (passion and intimacy) which will be the beginning of any relationship. The next three factors (admiration, respect, tolerance), are the ones desperately needed to sustain a relationship through the hardships that usually crumble love to pieces; and with it, broken hearts, broken families, broken lives. When you meet that person you want to “keep”, you must find something to admire in him – and stick to it. A personality trait, a career trait, a discipline trait, anything that strikes you. You see, when you admire someone, you automatically respect. I admire the way your dad always wakes up early to head to work – it’s dedication as a man to his family, and his responsibilities. A
nd because of this, I respect him as a man and leader of us as a couple, as a father, and as a physician.

Respect… Love turns into respect; true love, the tolerant and lasting kind. There will be hard times where every bit of passion, intimacy, and admiration will be tested. We are all imperfect, different, and flawed. When these hard times come (and they will), search your memory for that which you admire in her, and put your focus into it. No relationship is ever perfect. It is a CHOICE to hang on to each other. You’ve already made it as far as passion, intimacy, and admiration; respect comes next, and it doesn’t come alone, it holds hands with tolerance. Trust yourselves in the decision you’ve taken to hang on to each other, and choose to tolerate those imperfections, by focusing on the positive – that which you admire.

Tolerance… Have you understood how he works under pressure, under love, under financial troubles, under pure joy? Can you look beyond her flaws and trust your decision to love what IS perfect to you? Not 100% of a person is ever going to be perfect, it doesn’t mean you give it all up when the first flaw hits you. Tolerance means you BOTH have the maturity to look past that because you know the person you chose to love has beautiful qualities as well, which you will get to see if you hang on to what you DO admire, with passion, intimacy and respect. Love goes full circle.

When you learn to understand love, you know you can expect perfect moments, you will make beautiful memories, you will remember your intimate details and cherish them. Hang on to every bit of that, you will need to dig it up when love begins to fade, when hardships threaten your union, or your vows. Love love (verb, noun); with all its flaws, daggers, and magic. You chose that partner, trust your choice, go back to your memories, and make them work for as long as you both live. Because it is particularly during the hard times, that you are stronger together, even though it won’t feel like it… you are always stronger together.

A Happy Marriage

Today marks fourteen years since our “I do’s.” And I can confidently say, we were not “in love” when we married… keep reading.

A couple of months or years of getting to know someone is hardly enough to guess what he/she will become later in life. So, I stood solid at my 24 years of age, with a cold and calculated list of things I wanted in the man I would marry; same language, same religion, similar culture, his parents were still married, he had traveled and lived in the same places, killer good looks, and we both liked stinky cheese and fine wine. Daniel checked off all points, as I checked off his list as well. I was so proud of this “list” and of finding him.

Our marriage evolved through bumps, peaks, crevices, ups and downs. And yes, my list was holding steady, but we had one thing that neither of us planned for… good luck. I remember telling my mother in law once “Daniel and I have never had a fight, nor argument.” We had been married for eight years already.

She answered, “because Daniel knows when to keep quiet.” This was not meant to sound sarcastic, she’s not like that. It was purely a mother/daughter conversation; we respect each other greatly. And do you how important that answer was? It was the explanation why my entire list checked off when I was 24. It was the reason we could calm down and reason with each other, and respect each other, it was the reason I finally FELL IN LOVE with my husband after eight years. He was a patient man. STILL IS.

TRUE LOVE = RESPECT.

Here’s to more  years “in love”, more laughter, more family time, more redecorating, more movie nights, more wine nights, more big decisions, more small decisions, more gratitude… and just enough happiness to never take our luck for granted.

Thank you Daniel, for being my greatest teacher of life and love. Happy 14th anniversary. To many more.

 

Tiny Copy Cats…

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Yesterday searching through older pics, I came across a gem I saved for a rainy day.

This photo above says so much, especially if you were there, as I was.

We were walking through Old San Juan, a visit to the island of Puerto Rico. And we stopped at this gorgeous, ancient chapel. My mom, an incredibly spiritual soul, immediately left our side and kneeled; Inviting peace around her. I was about to do the same, except my son Luca moved quicker. He copied his grandma in a matter of a split second. He didn’t look up nor around to search for approval, he was just helping grandma pray for peace, or gratitude, or whatever golden nugget lies in his heart.

Our children are not blank canvases at birth, I’ve said this before. But what we do greatly influences who they become and how they become. They are always watching. A gentle reminder to mommy. 🙂

Contents May Burst…#Mammograms

I shoot her a hollow smile, but it goes down in flames, for she’s already smelled my reeking fear of the torture chamber. No smile will save me now; I’d already asked the mammographer to change equipment, because I wanted the 3D version. I delay her schedule. Brilliant me. Note to self: never piss-off the mammographer. NEVER.

I plan an escape route. I have three doors to choose from, each one decorated with a terrifying radioactive skull on it. So I choose to be smart and sit still. Plus… it’s too late anyway. I’m already being compressed slammed between two plates with the full force of the industrial revolution behind it. At this point I just hope I don’t slip, or my breast would be permanently fossilized onto the radioactive plates. The birdies circling my head hold up red signs: “warning, contents may burst under pressure.” Psh-yeah… no kidding.

“Hold your breath,” she says casually.

What breath?! Not an ounce of oxygen left, I swear, she knocked the air right out of me! Not even enough left to scream with agony. There is something archaic about a process in which you hear flesh snap, crackle, pop. Gentlemen, I invite you to try it. An adrenaline rush, really.

And while those precious cells are crushed and mutilated, there’s a heavy dose of radioactivity taking a picture of you. #Notaselfie. An image of a Dachshund’s sad, floppy ears pops-up in my brain. Except they’re not ears. Yup… that’s probably what they’ll look like after this.

I wait for twenty excruciating minutes. “All clear,” says the technician, radiology report in hand. She’s my friend again, but I’m still scared of shooting her another smile. So I leave before she sees the tears sliding down my cheeks. Mixed tears of physical pain and gratitude.

In the changing area, I find a different set of tears. They carry emotional pain. No need for words, I grab the stranger’s hand and mimic her silent prayer.

Before I leave I make sure my breasts are still attached to my chest, don’t want to drag them behind for a mile. And plan to walk straight into a bee-hive. That’ll plump them up again.

Here’s to hoping for a LESS violent diagnostic screening in the short future. Like, less than a year, please?

Mom, what is magic made of?

My son Luca, redefines “inquisitive mind.” This kid’s questions could fund a career in Existentialist Philosophy.

But I love his curiosity. It’s so basic, it reminds me that I must come down to a 6 yr old’s life when I’m with him. He brings me back, time and time again, to the basic values in life. You will know why at the end of this post.

He stands by me. Quiet. Twirling his fingers… and I know a question is coming. One of those questions that make you split in two: I don’t want to lie to my child, but on the other hand, I want to keep his childhood magical. Wondrous. And I know I am one of his strongest guardians of wonder.

“Mom, how do Santa’s elves fly?” He asks. He gets the answer he expects from me.

“Magic, Luca,” I say. But he’s not impressed.

“And what is magic made of?” He asks. This time, his fingers stop twirling, because this is the important question.

I’m torn with my answer, because I don’t want to lie and create a world that will change (crumble, actually) when he’s older. On the other hand, childhood is SO precious; it is the perfect time to teach wonder… and hope.

What IS magic made of, anyway? How do I explain this to a curious child?

“HOPE, Luca. Magic is made of hope.” I tell him, and explain because his eyebrows still look confused. “Hope is when you wish hard for something to be true. And magic is powered by children’s hope.”

A basic value of humankind; for childhood magic, for those who are ill, for that next big step, or just lifelong happiness. HOPE  is within our control, whatever the outcome may be.

Magic is made of HOPE. We can all create magic in HOPE.

Two time survivor of the Pink War – Never a victim. MY SISTER.

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Two time survivor of the Pink War – Never a victim. MY SISTER. My favorite warrior. My favorite image of strength.

Priscilla was hit with cancer at an early age, 30 yrs. She has been to the edge of eternity and back. She has been through hell. Yes… HELL. Chemo treatments, radiation, surgeries, and wigs. But, she has NEVER been a victim.

Sentimentally, she is untouched by cancer. Unreachable. A speck of dust that she brushed off her shoulder. And that is her power. She didn’t stop to sulk, to cave to an illness that would break her into fragile pieces. It might have bent her, but never broke her.

Among the many life lessons a cancer patient can teach us, this one stuck with me the most… she has never complained. NOT ONCE. How can someone who has been through so much suffering not be angry? She accepted cancer with grace and underwent painful treatments to get well. She never mixed the physical and mental factors of cancer; they were separate items on her agenda. That requires the mighty force of a strong soul. Her strength is worth the weight of the world in gold.

She uplifts other cancer patients through events, and her blog, in which she claims to be allergic to cancer. Just an allergy; you gotta love her. Her attitude towards life should be bottled.

My sister is alive and well. And I… I stop myself every time I’m about to complain about something.

Unstoppable ball of energy, thank you for having the strength to fight the Pink War. Because I love you, and I’m grateful for your life and what you’ve taught me.

Life will be ok.

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At dinner, two nights ago, my daughter asks “Mom, if you could travel to past or future, which would you choose?” Three sets of hopeful eyes now lay on mom’s words of wisdom… gulp.

Oh gosh… you better get this one right, I say to myself. Because, go figure, the kids actually DO pay attention. Scattered – but this is one of those times.

My impulsive answer would be PAST, because I could change my mistakes… now that I know the difference. Most people would answer that. BUT, then again, peeking into the future would be kind of cool. Like a little cheat sheet for what’s coming. THAT would have been my second impulsive answer.

But I did not answer on impulse. I thought, how can my answer have a good influence on my three children. My aim is to prepare them for life as smart and peaceful adults.

“I would choose the FUTURE,” I answer. “NOT because it would tell me what’s going to happen – I don’t want to know,” I stump them with this answer. Truth is… deep inside, I do want to know, but what if it’s awful?

So I choose to appease their heart, and say, “I’d choose to visit the future in order to prove to my older self, that everything will turn out ok. All positive and negative choices we take in present time, shape us into what we become. Every one of those choices counts, they are all important; the good ones and the bad ones.”

I hope I was able to lift some weight from their heart. Their learning curve in early years is exponential compared to that of adults. They have enough to deal with; and I’m trying to let them know, mistakes are manageable, life will be ok.