OK. That was hard. And to be honest, it’s still hard. And I’ve barely sent it out into the world yet! Writing my first novella changed me. I am not the same. Actually, I have no idea who I am right now. And for someone like me, that’s always a good sign.
In writing Ma Llorona, ghosts I had long forgotten came home to nest. They came home to speak and remind me of who I am. They came home because I am home. And I need home. Like Coyolxauhqui’s Stone rising from the bowels of Mexico City, my torn up self rose to remind me of how sacrifice, both personal and historical have been profound points of lesson, and that to become whole again, I must call in ALL of me. I am going through a time in which I am finally ready to face who I am in the world and the level of risk that has always been close at hand. I am able to see from an empowered place how I have been repeatedly sacrificed and how I have sacrificed myself. I know I am not alone. I know that there are many more folks out in the world like me and I know there are many young people who are like me too. Silenced. Watching. Waiting.
Ma Llorona marks a shift in me. My voice and my vulnerability no longer frighten me. Or at least not enough to quiet me right now. So I’m going to lay it on the line. I’m going to share some of my ghosts and how fucking hard it was to face them and write this novella. I’m sharing because I believe in me. I believe in my voice and my creativity to heal me. Which means I believe in you too. I really believe if someone as messy as me can make it through, you can too.
So here’s to ghosts! Here’s to vulnerability! And silence and voice! And everything we have to learn together. And sacrifice.
And here’s to the stories that want to flow through us.
I write not because I’m good. I write because it heals me. I publish myself not because I’m good. I publish because it could heal others like me. But writing is veryveryhard for me still. Silence and nonverbal communication have been my saving grace. If not for painting I don’t know how I would have survived. But there’s something to writing that I must face. I’m compelled. Since I was 13.
When I was 7 I had a head injury. Coma, brain damage, seizures. They decided to heavily medicate me for 2 years on Dilatin and Phenobarbitol. I have no idea what the lasting and real impact of all of this is. I do know that as I began working on the numerous drafts of my manuscript I was faced with an electric, multidimensional choppiness. I felt like I was at sea and any moment the huge ship I was steering would tip and disappear beneath an uncontrollable pattern. I felt damaged and messy. From a distance I could sense the places that wanted to throw everything down and be silent again, but instead a new voice lifted me up from inside. You can smooth these stormy waters. You can sail free and easy. You can be heard. It’s ok to be learning. It’s ok to be seen in process. You have only to relax and let the story find its way. Stay the course. You can do this.
I have a storyteller self that began rising a few years back. I won’t reveal her name yet, but she’s been a great teacher. It was her voice that I heard when I began writing Ma Llorona, but I had to look up what perspective I was using in order to maintain it. I realized I had no idea what I was doing, just that I was doing it. What kind of crazy confidence is that? And why did I suddenly have it?! I don’t have a BA. No MA. No PhD. And here I was using 3rd person omniscient, which makes perfect sense, but apparently is very difficult to maintain and not very many people use it. I could easily fall. But I didn’t care. I continued to walk that tight rope with a ferocity that shook my tutu!
Brain damaged, uneducated. Precarious.
University was a tragedy. Being disowned by my family for being queer aligned with other past abuses. When I lost my funding I dropped out of school and began my lifelong healing journey. Eventually I ended up homeless, sleeping on the garage floor of someone I barely knew at the time. Until finally me and my partner at the time found a condemned house nearby and convinced the owners to rent it to us. Home. It’s been like that all my adult life. Living on the edge. Difficult to rest down. Nowhere that belongs to me. I’m not as close to the edge as I once was, but it’s still near. And now I have a kid! And living in San Francisco is crazy!
Homeless past, poor, artist. Never going to make it. Always on the edge.
Every time I felt a ghost rise, a voice as loving and kind rose with it. Like partners they danced through me. Ghost. Love. Ghost. Love.
I did a lot of crying, but it felt like a new dance. A new kind of embodiment. Not the cheerleader I’ve been in the past, always positive, always willing to go the extra mile, find the beauty. I watched that part of me die. Now I am more angry. More present. Stronger in a way that feels unfamiliar and less charming.
More than ever, I don’t want to be perfect by outside standards. I don’t want to tell stories that have to hit marks that were never meant to be hit by someone like me. Queer. Chicanx. Cis woman. Femme. I want to be strong, but I want to be me. And I want to inspire others like me to be their selves.
Damaged. Uneducated. Unwanted. Homeless. Queer. Poor.
Because coming into voice isn’t about the arc of the story. It’s not about the punctuation or maintaining perspective. It’s about letting our own power flow through us for our own good. It’s about listening to ourselves and believing that we deserve to be heard. It’s about self. And power. And truth.
I can’t explain how challenging it was for me to smooth this story out.
Repeatedly I had to face myself. I had to own my experiences and my limitations. I had to invite my vulnerabilities in and say, well hell, here I am.
By the end I had become familiar with my own crazy internal terrain and some kind of WALL that I had built up to keep part of me from telling my story and getting it out into the world. There’s a scrambling system that I’ll probably still have to negotiate for awhile, but that’s ok.
I’m learning my way around. My heart is strong with me now and I believe this day is mine.
Thank you Ma Llorona for flowing through me. Thank you creative force for showing me my vulnerabilities and honing my greatest art, myself. Thank you Western Society for rejecting me until I understand that only true power rises and the time for change is now. Blessings OUT, xomaya
Ma Llorona is available through Reflection Press.