Emotional Constipation

This is story 2 of 9 of my Tatay’s Series. This is my way of honoring Tatay’s life and legacy. It wouldn’t be right if I DIDN’T give him his own series and avoided writing about his passing all together. But I’m also aware that this is something I need to do for myself – to put my grief, anger, and emotions all out on the table, instead of distracting myself with work and other things to avoid the reality that he’s gone.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

I’ve always considered myself very close to my Tatay, “Tatay Jack,” as I grew up calling him. I’ve always looked at him like he was a living relic because of his old age. 98! The things he witnessed and lived through always intrigued me. How he carried himself, how his mind worked thinking things through, where he came from, and how he grew up was so fascinating to me. He was 98 years old, but I expected 98 more. As naïve as it sounds, I never pictured my life without him. Of course I knew that with his old age, and given the life expectancy of your average person, it was childish and absurd to think that we would be on Earth together for as long as I lived. But, it was still my train of thought. To me, he lived against all odds, he was invincible.

With time, Tatay’s health started to decline little by little, and then drastically throughout the pandemic. When we would visit him, I couldn’t help but look at him with a heavy heart and wonder to myself how much time he actually had left with us. I know that’s a wretched way of thinking, but my brain was already mentally preparing my heart for the worst. At the same time, it made me cherish the times we went to see him even more because I knew time was not on our side. We all knew it was going to come one day, but I didn’t want that day to be now – or ever for that matter. But I knew I had to come to terms with the reality of life and death.

I expected to be an absolute wreck because I know myself to be a very emotional person when it comes to death. I expected myself to be more obviously distraught, crying at just the thought of him, and a ball of nerves and emotions. Instead, I find myself numb, withdrawn, and avoiding my feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly sad, angry, and grieving, but my response to the passing of my Tatay is not the reaction I had prepared myself for. I find myself grieving in waves.

After receiving news of Tatay’s death, it’s like I was watching a movie, a total out of body experience. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion, like it wasn’t even reality. As a family, we all had to process his death, but also go immediately into planning mode for his service. I found it easier to busy myself with tasks like writing his eulogy and looking through pictures to send to my sister to put on his slideshow than to deal with my sorrow and anger. For me, I didn’t have time to be sad. My main concern was capturing Tatay’s life in the best way possible for his eulogy and doing my part in giving him the best service, because that’s what he deserved.

Coincidently, Tatay passed a day before my last day of work before a 2 week long summer break. I was looking forward to this break for so long to finally unwind and relax. I soon realized that I would be using these 2 weeks off to mourn and bury my grandfather. Trying to make light of the situation, I would tell people closest to me that at least I had two weeks off of work to deal with his passing, oppose to grieving while still having to work 8-5 Monday through Friday. Christian and I had planned a week long stay in SoCal to visit his family before Tatay passed. Our Airbnb was non-refundable, so I decided to go for a couple of days instead of a full week to not entirely waste our money. The plan was for me to go to SoCal for a couple days and cut the trip short so I could be present for all of Tatay’s services, and Christian left SoCal shortly after me so he could be there in time for Tatay’s funeral.

It was such a whirlwind of emotions. I was happy that I was on summer break, but I was so sad that it was under these circumstances. On my last day of work I got my nails done at the salon to prepare for my long anticipated vacation, even though all I could think about was the fact that Tatay wasn’t here anymore. I tried to force myself to get excited for the trip and have it be something to take my mind off of my reality for a while. I picked white for my manicure and pedicure so when I came back from SoCal, I was – dare I say – “funeral ready.” My aunts wanted all of us to wear white the day of his funeral.

The whole time I was in SoCal, I knew I had to write my speech that I would read during his viewing service. I brought my laptop and everything with me to type it up. But I couldn’t find the motivation to pull out my laptop and get started. Instead, I was mentally writing it in my head, drafting down nothing. I stalled on writing my speech because that would crystalize my reality – Tatay is gone, this is your last goodbye. So I stalled and stalled some more until I was back in the Bay Area. There was so much I wanted to say, so many memories I wanted to include, so many points I wanted to make, but no words on my screen. All that stood before me was a blinking cursor.

I procrastinated for so long, but it got to a point where I had to finish the speech because his viewing service was less than 24 hours away. This is part of the reason why I decided to write a series for Tatay. I had so much to say, but knew that his viewing wasn’t the place or the time. I wanted to go in depth about some topics and give my honest feelings about my grief, but I knew it probably wasn’t the appropriate setting for it. So I made the speech short and sweet, brushing over the topics I wanted to rant about. Thinking about it now, that probably added to my repression.

The viewing and the funeral was such an emotional rollercoaster. I’d have intense sadness that would result in audible weeping and uncontrollable crying. But then there would be other instances where I’d just have this out of body experience and just be seeing things play out right before my eyes. My grief was coming in waves, and I didn’t know how to let it all out. I felt as though I had an on/ off button for my emotions, but I had no control over it. As they lowered Tatay’s casket into the ground, I remember feeling completely numb. I didn’t cry, I didn’t look away, I just thought to myself, “damn. This is really happening.” I felt emotionally constipated. I had that feeling in my throat where I knew my soul wanted me to cry more tears to relieve my sadness, but nothing was coming out.

And shortly after his funeral, life went “back to normal,” and work started back up again. Only 2 weeks had passed, but I felt like a completely different person. The day Tatay died, I was telling everyone that I was okay, that my family and I were expecting his departure. It took me 2 weeks to realize that I actually wasn’t okay. On the outside, I was continuing with day to day tasks, keeping up with work, doing everything I did before Tatay passed. But on the inside, I was bursting at the seams with emotions, yet at the same time, empty and emotionless. The more I wanted to simmer in my grief and heartache, the colder I got. I couldn’t figure it out. Internally I felt emotionally constipated. And my gut feeling was telling me that all of my buried emotions were about to burst out and surface at a time when I least expected it. I didn’t know that out of all things, my manicure and pedicure would be the thing to set me off. Yup, nail polish is what made me crack.

I usually change my manicure color every week. I have my own gel curating machine at home and a ton of gel nail polish sets. I get tired of my manicures pretty quickly, and the moment I see a chip in my nail polish, I’ll take it as a sign to peel those bad boys off and change the color. My manicures last at most, 1.5 weeks, and that’s part of the reason why I do my own nails and rarely get them professionally done because ain’t nobody have time or money for all of that. I have no problem taking off a manicure and switching it up, it’s something I’ve been doing for years. But the manicure I got the day after Tatay passed was different. I was clinging onto that manicure for dear life.

I refused to change my white gel manicure. It was done with salon gel nail polish, so to be fair and honest, they did last way longer than my gel nail polish that I get from Amazon. This manicure was on week number 3, going on 4. I realized that I was getting fixated on changing my manicure, but brushed it off. “I’ll deal with that later when it actually comes time to change it,” I thought to myself. It’s the longest manicure that has ever lasted on my hands. My nails were growing out, and it was definitely time to change the color. But I was so hesitant. Why? Because time.

For me, seeing my nails growing out and doing a new manicure meant that time was passing. This is obviously a given, but in my head, my manicure was a measurement of time. Since I got it the day after Tatay passed and picked a color that was appropriate for his funeral, to me, changing the color meant significant time had passed since he left the physical world. My nail polish color is something so small and irrelevant, and I didn’t expect to be so fixated on the concept of what changing the color meant to me. Changing my manicure meant that time was passing, that his death was no longer “recent,” that time was moving forward and there was nothing I could do about it. I burst out into tears and started wailing.

I knew I had a lot of emotions that I had to sort through to cope with Tatay’s death. Grief is a tricky thing. One day you think you’re okay, and then another day you’re in complete shambles. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m worried that I’ll forget him. Writing this series is my way of letting it all out. I know I have to sort out all of my grief and lay it all out on the table or I’m just going to keep avoiding these feelings.

I’ve had enough of the emotional constipation…

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom

How do you define success, and how will you know when you have it?

Growing up, we all invision what our future will be like. In our daydreams we always think of a happy scenario, the “dream” life, where we’re successful, happy, and probably rich. This prompt is a loaded question, and I thought about how my answer would differ at different stages of my life.

If I were to answer this in 2013, it would be completely different than my answer now. It would probably be along the lines of : stay in college, transfer to San Francisco State, earn my degree, save money. For the longest time, graduating college was the only goal that mattered. And when I finally achieved that goal, that’s when I fell into my post-grad blues.

Keeping my mind on one goal kept me motivated. I wanted it, and I wanted it bad. The thing was though, once I achieved it, I had nothing else to look forward to. What now? I’ve always kind’ve been like that though. I make one goal thee goal, the HBIC of goals at the moment. I do that because I know myself well enough to know that if I overwhelm myself with multiple big goals at a time, I’ll feel swamped with “to do’s.”

So, I do one goal at a time. Graduating college was how I would define success in 2013. And I did it! It is to date the greatest accomplishment I’ve achieved. And I tried to grasp that proud feeling for as long as I could. Because I knew, eventually, the feeling would fade away, and I would have to draft out my next move for success.

And that’s kind’ve where I’m at now. It’s 2020, and my answer to what success is is completely different. Being a college graduate and coming up with my next goal has me stuck. Before this, there always seemed to be a clear path on what to do next. You know, graduate high school, go to college, graduate. All my goals have always been education based. So when I was no longer in the school setting, I had to re-evaluate what my goals were going to be.

You guys have followed me through my post-grad depression journey, and I’m pretty unsure what road to take. There is no “clear” path anymore. The endless possibilities excite most, but to me, I’m overwhelmed. I’m an overthinker, a planner, a whole jumble of nerves and uncertainty.

But one thing that has never changed, it is the fact that I want to remain authentic and true to self. I bring this up to a lot of my close friends. In journalism, you have to work your way up the ladder. I’ve realized while applying to some entry level jobs, that the journalism jobs that are in my range have nothing to do with my end goal. And I apply to some jobs, and after rejection after rejection, 1 job reached out. I was so thrilled that finally something bit back.

After much thought, I didn’t follow through with the next step. Why? Because it had completely nothing to do with what I wanted to use my degree for. It was ironic that I desperately wanted a journalism writing job, but when a writing job came, I couldn’t follow through with it. I was totally capable of the job, it was writing, but more so for a company maintaining their brand. That’s not me. I want to write for a purpose. To inspire. To share stories with meaning.

I don’t ever want to be a sellout for a check. That’s just not me. And sometimes it frustrates me. Because I know I need to work my way up the journalism ladder, but there has to be another way… where I’m starting from the bottom, but still feel fufilled in my writing. That day will come. Hopefully soon.

As cliché as this sounds, success to me nowadays is being happy. Genuinely happy. I want to be happy in life, in my job, in my decisions. Success to me is staying true to myself while being financially stable. Sucess to me is trying and taking chances on things that scare me, because I don’t want to think 20 years from now “what if.” Success to me is keeping up with the people I want to maintain a relationship with. Success to me nowadays isn’t anything material.

Of course, I dream of the day I have a car, own a house, and have a career I love that puts food on the table for my family. Who doesn’t want that? Not those things exactly, but stability and success in general. As I get older, the more I realize this : at the end of the day, as long as I’m happy with my decision, and I remain true to myself, it doesn’t really matter if others think I’m successful or not. Being happy and confident in my decisions is success.

How will I know when I achieve it? This is tough to answer. For me, I feel like I don’t simmer in my success for long. I achieve it, I get it done, and then I scramble onto the next task, the next goal, my next dream. I realized, while trying to answer this prompt, that I don’t celebrate my successes, because I’m too busy stressing over what comes after.

When I graduated, that was pretty easy to determine “when I had it.” I literally got my degree and was finally done with school. I walked those stages and milked my time on Oracle Park’s big screen TV. But its a little tricky to determine success on things that aren’t so black and white.

The thing is, our definition / goal of success is forever changing. My answer today may not be my same answer in 10 years. But I hope it is the same answer since happiness is very important. A part of success is realizing how far you’ve come, and simmering in the moment. That’s something I know I definitely need to work on. Being in the moment and celebrating little victories in life. I get so caught up in the bigger picture that I fear I’ll just keep pushing for the future without looking or realizing I’m knocking out mini goals along the way. I tend to miss the baby steps and just want to fast forward to the top.

But that’s not how it works. Even though that’s how I’ve been dealing with goals. I have the mentality of “well I’ll celebrate and slow down and be happy when everything I want is accomplished.” And I realized that that’s such a sad way of living. Because during all that time, I’m thinking that happiness and being proud of myself will come years down the road. Having “everything together” takes years, and to be honest the list never ends. And then what? I’ll never be happy and proud? bLAck pARty has a song entitled “Bloom,” for which this post is named.

“I hope your flowers bloom,” he repeats and repeats. “I hope you grow up to be everything you want to, I hope your flowers bloom…”

Like flowers, success and fulfilling goals just doesn’t grow over night. You spend days, weeks, months, years, planting your seeds and watering them, caring for them, until your flowers bloom. That’s the same for goals. You just don’t achieve great things over night. You have to work towards them, baby step by baby step. And we should acknowledge those baby steps.

As I grow older, I’m realizing that the most important thing is true happiness. Money don’t mean shit if you feel like shit inside. For me, the job that can pay me 6 figures ain’t shit if I feel like a corporate sellout and that I’m losing sense of my values and beliefs. I have a vision of what kind of writer I want to be. My success may come with struggle – oh, it’ll definitely come with struggle – but as long as I feel fulfilled in my work, and I feel like my purpose is being served, that’s all that really matters to me. Of course, we all want to be successful and make money. But not at the expense of my happiness.

These flowers have been blooming and growing in my backyard for as long as I can remember. Today, I went outside to take a picture of them for this blog. I asked my dad, “how long have these been here?!” For I haven’t really noticed them or remembered them being this vibrant and plentiful growing up.

“They’ve always been there!” My dad said, “You just probably never noticed because the bushes were always in the way.”

He cut down the bushes in our backyard during the Shelter in Place. He’s right. I knew the flowers were there, I just never really noticed or cared about them my 25 years of living in this house. But since my dad cut out the bushes, I noticed how abundant the flowers were. The flowers had more room to grow, to flourish, to bloom. Over the years, sometimes they bloomed, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they weren’t getting water, sometimes the weather wasn’t agreeing (that happens in the very foggy Bay Area), but sometimes, everything aligns and these flowers bloomed.

The bushes my dad cut down blocked these growing flowers for the longest. Its all I ever saw from my bedroom window. Today, I stepped out into our backyard for the first time in a hot minute. I saw plants that were once so tiny, tower over my parents as they fried fish in the backyard. I saw everything that the bushes were covering all these years. All these plants and flowers blooming and growing this whole time. That’s how I feel about the mini baby goals we crush to achieve our main goal. They get overshadowed by the big main bitch – the bushes – and nobody really stops to look past and see that what was once a seed is now growing and flourishing.

I hope the same for not only myself, but for all my readers. I hope whatever goals you are planting and watering, working towards everyday, I hope you achieve it. And when you achieve it, I hope you celebrate how far you’ve come. I hope your flowers bloom. 🥀🌸