#ChingonaFest: More than We Are

An Artist Trading Card of mine. Make your dreams a reality. I'm not new here. In fact, I'm what some of you may refer to as a veteran blogger (but I'm not really. I know a few who've been doing this way longer). But before I was a blogger with a column in one of my favorite magazines, I was a writer with a dream.

It was a simple dream, really. I was eight when I decided I was going to write books one day and maybe 10 when I dug my (obviously clueless) heels in and selected Canadian middle-grade author Gordon Kormon as my basis for having my own books on the shelves by the time I was 13. That's how he did it and it seemed simple enough. Write a full-length middle grade novel for an English assignment and blow the socks off my teacher who would then prep the manuscript for me to send to publishing houses and wait for the offers to start rolling in.

Seemed easy enough, right? Seemed would be the key word here.

An original Ink Drawing: Show of Strength

I could lie and say I totally rocked my pie in the sky three-Year- Plan but it wouldn't even be a good lie. And to be honest, I'm pretty sure the chocolate-flavored angst that followed the year I turned 13 and realized I had failed at life, consequently sending me spiraling into my first midlife-crisis, is the kind of angst every good writer needs tucked up inside. This is the kind of inner-artistic-creative-crazy IAMTHEBESTWRITEREVER tempered, naturally with Doubt (IAMTHEWORSTWRITEREVER) and a smidgen of necessary self-righteousness (thoseASSHOLESdon'tknowTALENTDammit!), that I think most writers would refer to as our inner drive. It's the source of our creativity and the reason we keep going when agents tell us our platform sucks because a platform that doesn't exist usually does. As do the platforms that aren't big enough to guarantee 10,000 copies sold if a publisher were to bite.

Sleepy Moon Series: Moon # 4 of 15.

Honestly, it's pure ego that keeps those of us with vision boards and high school classmates to impress at the next reunion from just saying Fuck It and changing our name to Snooki before querying again because platforms mean name recognition and publicity, not innate writing ability and Stop Looking at me Like That. I didn't  say I think Snooki can't write or ask the Gods of all Things Literary why agents don't just stop telling us that we need anything other than a reality show, a bump it, and a good spray tan because Really? No, my friends. I didn't say anything of the sort.

That would be unprofessional.

*Nods head solemnly*

Another ATC/ACEO card. I love making these and using bits of Kathy Murillo's paper from her Michael's line in my work.

What I said was that I didn't get a book deal the first time out the gate 'cuz I was 13 and nowhere near ready to be published. What I did get was secure in my identity as a writer. I called my friends at 11 p.m. at night on school days with my newest essay on Life and All Things Hormonal, freshly typed out on my new typewriter, and read to them the words that formed the path I was (and still am) dead-set on following. That's all well and good, except that in telling myself I was a writer, I inadvertently also told myself that I was only a writer.

Imagine my surprise when I sat down just last year to hand draw a set of animal note cards for a homeschool lesson and The Husband -- all sweet and surprised-like -- told me that my drawing didn't suck. High praise, you guys. High praise.

But it was enough to send me into an entirely new direction, complete with watercolor pencils and acid-free drawing paper and an etsy shop in which I sometimes remember to post my latest little creation. Even with art being commissioned by friends and strangers alike and the occasional sale from the artsy things I did manage to post, I still had a really hard time referring to myself as an artist. And don't even get me started on the inner-struggle I wasted five minutes on regarding the Being a Photographer thing. I am a writer, remember? I couldn't possibly be more than that because that's all I had ever allowed myself to be. Until, at least, I accidentally remembered I wasn't too shabby at this drawing and painting and mixed media thing and stopped telling myself I couldn't be more than I thought I was.

Original Mixed Media: Autobiography by Pauline Campos

We can all be more than we are because we already are more than we realize, usually. All we need to do is own our own potential.

And if that doesn't work, I suggest talking to yourself like you would your crazy talented and inspiring BFFs who you swear to God you are going to bitch-slap if they don't stop minimizing themselves and their talents and just say Thank You for once because Dammit, that's what you do when someone pays you a compliment, already. Honestly, it's like we can't create enough variations on the "I look good? But look at this ASS! No way, Bestie, YOU LOOK GOOD!' 'Really? BUT THIS TUMMY FLAB!'" bullshit we seamlessly fall into when trying to compliment our Best Amigas. Why can't we just learn to shut up and take a fucking compliment?

Good Hair Day. Photo by Pauline Campos

We can pay them forward all day long and we mean them when we say them to the women we care about. Which makes me think I had the "Stop Defining Yourself Through Other People's Eyes" thing wrong. Maybe we need to do the exact opposite, if the Other People are the ones telling us that we are Beautiful, Smart, Important, Talented, Funny, Inspiring, and Chingona to the hilt, that is. Maybe it's the perspective change that we need because we've been brainwashed to always see ourselves as Less Than because Celebrating Ourselves is seen as improper and stuck up  --  which is complete and utter bullshit, y'all.

Bull...

Shit.

So maybe the trick is to start with changing the inner dialogue and swapping our own internal Critical Tia for that of a good friend. Look in the mirror and let HER tell YOU why you are All Things Fabulous. You'll know you're doing it wrong if you suck at being a friend and tell your besties that they suck at that thing that they secretly think they might be sort of good at. If that's the case, I'm betting your friendship circle totally gets bigger if you give my way a try. You can thank me later.

A Mile in Her Shoes. Photo by Pauline Campos

Obviously, I eventually got over myself -- at least in this particular case -- and that was a good thing. I'm still a writer. But now, I'm more. And I like it that way.

Now it's your turn. I don't often ask for comments on my writing here, but the point of this Aha! Moment of mine is that we all could use a reminder here and there to swing our hips a bit more confidentially and to stop playing the Humble Card because Self-Pride is entirely underrated. Whether you are a proud member of the #ChingonaFest community or a writer, blogger, or fledgling underwater basket weaver, you are always more and capable of so much more than which you give yourself credit. Always Celebrate Who You Are. No One Else is Going to Do It For You. That's one of my most popular Chingonafest quotes, and for good reason. We are too often told that , as women and, for many of us, as women of color, that we aren't supposed to be anything but humble and unsure of ourselves outside of cultural and societal dictates.

I'm a writer. An Artist. A Mother. Wife. Sister. Daughter. Photographer. Friend.

I'm creative, driven, bull-headed, caring, bitchy, sarcastic, and sassy.

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I'm that and I'm more and I'm ready to be open to the possibilities of what and who I may become tomorrow and proud of who I was yesterday, just as I am of myself and my capabilities today. And this is where I leave the ball in your court.

Tell me, amigas...

Who are YOU?

 

Catching in the Rye (in Spanglish)

If The Catcher in the Rye had a sequel based on a Spanglish-speaking Mexican-American homeschooling, allergic to everything, eating-disordered writer mama of one, I’d be a happy girl. Because then, at least, I could just hand people a copy of the book when they ask how I’m doing.

‘Fine?” That’s usually a lie.

“My cat just got ran over, thanks for asking,” could possibly be the truth, but when people ask other people how they are doing, no one really expects an honest answer if honesty means replying with anything other than “fine.” Except  I don’t have a cat. I do have three dogs, though. And a kid. And two websites and an agent and a manuscript sitting in a file because I don’t have a platform big enough to stand on and wonder if I ever will.

This isn’t a Poor Me post. Don’t get your violins out, folks. This is a Truth post; one in which I step out behind the bullshit and tell you that fine is a lie and that I miss my nonexistent cat because I am, in short, a fraud. Not the Push Up Bra and Spanx Coming Off On the Third Date kind of fraud, mind you, but the Holden Caulfield kind in which I find myself standing in the middle of the high school cafeteria, holding my lunch tray, not sure where to sit because I have no idea where I really belong.

I preach body pride and self-acceptance because for some of us, we can't do the work required to care for ourselves if we don't value ourselves. I encourage you to find your inner chingona, redefine your path on your own terms and to celebrate the hell out of her because no one else is going to do it for you. I say thing like Love Yourself As You Are NOW and Our Daughters are Counting on Us to Get (and Keep) Our Shit Together (And I mean them...for you). I want to mean them for me, too, and I figured that if I shouted it long enough and often enough from my soapbox that I’d start to buy my own bullshit, but that hasn’t happened yet.

That, my friends, pisses me off.

I want to connect and inspire and feel validated for what I say and what I do and what I am hoping to become and I see so many others doing exactly that while I sit back and cheer them on, not sure what I’m doing wrong to keep missing the boat or if the boat’s going to bother coming back to the dock again to give me another chance. I want to speak to women on the same journey and let them know it’s okay to be where we are right now as long as we keep trying because that’s what matters. I want to organize inspiring workshops and a regular conference for women to focus on fixing the mess inside of our own heads because our kids aren’t going to believe in their own self worth if they constantly see us tear ourselves down.

It’s the old airplane analogy: No point in passing out from oxygen deprivation while trying to get our kid’s mask on first if the cabin depressurizes. The only way we can truly be effective role models is if we fight every maternal instinct and put ourselves first for fucking once. Once our heads are clearing from the oxygen-deprived fog can we be there to ensure our children are breathing, safe, and secure in the knowledge that Mommy has her shit together. And this Mommy is busy focusing on raising a future self-respecting bitch who (I hope I hope I hope) will never second guess putting her happiness before society's complex.

Maybe, I think, the boat is on to me. The boat knows I’m a fraud and frauds are not allowed on board. Only passengers who are truly at ease in their own skin who don’t look for and rely on approval and validation outside of themselves are allowed on this boat. I’m not there yet. I used to be. I will be again. But right here, right now, I’m a self-destructive mess who’s best bet it is to just let it all hang out because it’s the truth and it needs to be said.

I don’t have The Answers. I’m not standing at the Finish Line waving the Official Flag of Self-Acceptance because I haven’t run my own race yet. What I do have is a burning desire to share the crazy idea that it’s okay to be a fucking mess. It’s okay to have bad days and worse days and throw a party on the good days because they are so very worthy of celebrating. It’s okay to not love yourself (but want to) yet and it’s okay to talk about the bad in public because if we don’t then no one else will and the world will just continue to assume that “Fine” is the only acceptable answer to be given when they ask how we’re doing and that’s really just a giant disservice for those of us who need to know it’s okay to celebrate The Journey because The Destination is just a little too far away right now.

I’m not fine. In fact, I’m a royal fucking mess. My ADHD and anxiety are triggering my seven-year-old’s anxiety into fodder for her therapy appointments which happens to fall under the Mexicans Don’t Talk About That Sort of Thing category because it’s uncomfortable and much easier to sweep under the rug with the rest of our emotional baggage (like  the whispers about how pregnant the bride really was at the last wedding we went to while we collectively pretended to believe she wasn’t because it matters even though it really shouldn’t). It’s why I told The Husband I wanted yellow gold when he asked what kind of ring I would like when he was fishing for engagement ring hints because that’s what my family wore. It took me ten years to admit I hated yellow gold and really wanted platinum because that shit doesn’t work for me anymore, either.

Away with the rug. Let the dirt fly. And when the dust settles, I’ll still be standing here holding my lunch tray because I’m not sure where to sit because no matter where I choose, I feel like everyone else will judge me for my choice even though none of that should matter. But it does.

And I hate that.

I most decidedly do NOT have my shit together. You need to know that. It’s okay to be a royal fucking mess. You need to know that, too.  I miss my imaginary cat and I have very real cellulite and I have a sweet tooth and a closet eating habit. I don't sleep enough and I am never on time unless a deadline and a paycheck is involved (or someone else is driving the bus.) My yoga mat is my zen place and I'm working my way back to being brave enough to step into the raging quiet inside my head (I'm almost there). I make sad things funny and funny things funnier because that’s how I deal.

I'm almost 37 years old and sans The Husband and the child, the words you see and the words you hear could be the same words I wrote when I was seven, 17, and 27.

All of this is today’s truth.

Now tell me…

How are you doing?