Staying Sane in Corona Times

It must’ve happened over a thousand times before Coronavirus. I was the victim of some ghosting and a little too much “left-on-seen” by average people I lowered my standards for. But, isn’t it life? La vie… ¡la vida! Then, it graduated from being a reasonably demanding person to life actually pressing down on me, and all of a sudden, I had bigger fish to fry. And that’s when I remembered that some things in life are reeeeally insignificant in our lifetime.

The COVID-19 era has left us in a complete state of stupefaction. Most of us can’t even seem to come to terms with this situation or find a medium. Personally, I’m better than I was eight months ago (which reminds me; I can’t believe it’s almost been a year?). But this doesn’t mean I’ve fully healed. Not the whole truth.

However, keeping a mentally healthy approach has been a priority of mine since as soon as I learned what was at stakes. You can’t quite function in this society without proper cognition. Can you make it? Yes. Will you be taken seriously and considered “sane” if you lose it a little? Probably not. (And, on second thought, who cares, right?)

The pandemic has affected a lot of people physically and emotionally. I’ve written about things we could do/things that I do to not lose my sh*t completely, but I feel like you can never overshare something that is so important.

And, with that in mind, I’d like to begin by saying that music helps a lot.

What’s your favorite tune? Happy or sad — do not hesitate to play it! If it’s sad, it’ll definitely help you scream out the pain; if it’s happy, you’ll dance it away. You can’t lose either way.

Keep in touch with those who bring out the best in you. There’s this quote that says, “Stay close to people who feel like sunshine.” I’ve never found anything truer. Surrounding myself with positive energy has helped me make it through every Monday-thru-Friday week. No time for the naysayers; no time for the Debbie Downers; no time for people who’ve brought you down in any way in life at all.

Do some sort of physical activities. Especially now with winter in the Northern Hemisphere (or the Southern part, if you’re reading this later), don’t stay inside. Winter kills! Have you heard of SAD season? It used to kill me, but not anymore. A SAD and COVID season combination is a recipe for perfect disaster. Go outside!

Consider light therapy if you can’t get any sun exposure, but please save yourself. Don’t hide under the blankets. Although, I must say, if you’re having a rough day where, under the blanket is where it’s at, by all means, do that.

There are so many things happening right now that you can do and safely go to and have some fun, always wearing a mask, of course, to kind of live life with a little normalcy again. I know that some places in the United States are acting like the virus is over ( ahem — I’m looking at you, Miami!) So, perhaps steer clear of some of those places and opt to be a responsible citizen. Also, stay informed.

Life in Corona Season hasn’t been the easiest, but it doesn’t have to be a complete lockdown. It’s simply not good for your mental health. Find a way to breathe, literally and figuratively! You can live it up safely, still. I’m pushing through and I’m sure you can do it, too. I’m rooting for you.

These tough times shall pass and I hope you can stay sane until then.

Somebody Rev Up His Engine

The car smelled like bad news as soon as I stepped in. I would credit my intuition, but it was more like something I’ve learned from experience combined with statistics — the fact that, when it comes to this transportation service, the ratings don’t lie. I found comfort in knowing that it’d be a short ride, though.

Then, about three minutes later (it must’ve been three minutes or less into our trip), as he pulled up to an intersection, the car just shut off.

Face buried in my phone I only looked up because he said:

“Uh oh.”

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

To which, very nonchalantly he responded, “We…might not make it to your destination.”

Wait, what?!

I dropped everything and paid close attention. I’d never had or would ever expect any driver to ever give me such warning.

It didn’t immediately occur to me that maybe something was wrong with the engine or that he was out of gas or something. As the daughter of a professional worst-case-scenario thinker, the thought of “is this when I get kidnapped?” briefly crossed my mind. (Actually, that might be a standard “being a woman” thought.) I’ve pondered on some worst-case scenarios myself before, when riding with strangers, but this was so ridiculous it was (kind of) hilarious.

The thing is, there’s something I don’t do, which maybe I should, but just don’t love the idea — and that is drive in Miami. I’ve lived in this city long enough to have picked up the pace of the bad drivers all around me and go with their flow. But the truth is I’ve already witnessed more than enough accidents and it terrifies me.

Instead, I’ve relied on other drivers to move around. Like I have in the past, living in big cities where the problem was a horrible parking situation, these days I take the train, ride with friends, get on trolleys, and of course I use services like Uber and Lyft. Though I like to believe it’s a better option, these last two are not necessarily any safer.

The driver, in this episode, started giving me all sorts of excuses as to why the car was losing power. “This is a rental,” he said, “from Uber, but it’s crap, it’s not a good car…” But he kept saying we might not make it and it made me anxious. As if I couldn’t just get out and leave

It was just weird, so I asked him to take local roads in case his car didn’t make it. I also started making conversations with the guy because, you know, I’d better started the negotiations! [Laughs nervously]

This was actually not the first time I found myself in a similarly awkward situation with an Uber/Lyft driver. At that moment, I remembered how one time I was going from Southern Jersey to Philadelphia. It may sound like a long trip, but it’s not if you know your US geography. Essentially, I was just going across the bridge. Upon realizing my destination, the driver sort of freaked out and started searching for something in the console and in the glove compartment.

Not finding what he was looking for, he said, “I don’t have any cash for the toll, do you?” When I told him I didn’t have cash, he asked if we could stop at his bank to see if his deposit had “cleared.” “I keep refreshing my account, but nothing shows up,” he said. Inside, I was crying. It found it funny, until I thought, well, here’s someone who is really, really trying to make ends meet and it was just sad.

Like the deposit-driver, the bad-engine-driver seemed to be struggling, too, as he couldn’t decide if the car was turning off due to gas or a bad engine — and I never looked at the tank to confirm.

I feel bad that they have to spend money to make little money. But as a passenger who is paying to simply get to her destination without drama or complications, I expect better. I hope that these drivers are better prepared to take on their job.

Those drivers both had something in common, though: low ratings. I ignored the flags on both occasions, but it is in fact one rule of mine to not proceed with a driver who has bad reviews.

In the end, and though barely, we made it to my destination and the driver apologized. But I’m certain we’ll never meet again.

Tales of a Friendzoned Night of Champagne

“Here’s to a fun night!” she raises her glass.

But the only thing he raises in response is an eyebrow. Studying the bottle now planted on the table, he tightens his lips, holding back a laugh.

“What’s the matter?” she asks.

“You wanna walk around with that?”

Puzzled, she glances at the bottle and right back at him. “It’s legal…”

“Cheap champagne? It should be illegal.”

“Your vodka isn’t all that either,” she refutes his disapproval. “Not like we’re finishing the whole bottle anyway… I knew we’d prob’ly get too drunk to appreciate the good sh—t.”

“Let’s just finish it up before we get to the park.”

“God, you’re such a poser…”

****

“How are you drunk before me?”

“I’m not.”

“You’re wasted.”

“I love you.”

“Ohhkayy, here we go, love you, too,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“No, like, I’m in love with you.”

“See, told ya you’re wasted.”

“We should be together.”

“Nonsense, you’re my best friend.”

“But I’m in love with you.”

“You need to sober up.”

“I really am—why don’t you love me? I’m in love with you!”

“First, you act like a d*ck and criticize my champagne choice and now you’re in love with me? Make up your mind.”

“How’s that related?”

“It’s getting late, let’s get out of here.”

“I wanna f—k you.”

She freezes. Her eyes shut as she tries to regain self-control. “What did you just say?”

“I wanna—”

“Never mind, don’t! We’re friends, for f—k’s sake, shut up.”

****

Her exasperated heavy breathing makes the cab driver slightly turn his head and it embarrasses her. So she looks out the window and sits back to calm her breathing.

“You’re too heavy for me to carry you, could you please stay awake for ten minutes?”

“Why don’t you love me?”

“Shut. Up.”

“Can I sleep over?”

“No f—kin’ way.”

This story has no end. She loses a friend to impulses every now and then.

The Art Teacher Who Couldn’t Draw – Excerpt

For my short stories, please visit Books


Once upon a time, I signed up for a foreign program to become a language teacher assistant. The program would allow me to work and live in Europe. I was hired and, despite some doubts, in the end I said, why the heck not?

My role was described as “prepare activities that focused on language and culture (based on the United States, in my case).” Essentially, I had to recreate the American English version of everyday lessons, adding a touch of their own culture. Of course, this was flexible; every school made use of their assistant differently. Piece of cake, I thought.

That was until my first day of work. On my way to the school, I found out that I’d be teaching a subject that was totally out of my expertise.

“How good are you at Art?” asked the principal, with whom I’d car-pool to school every day.

“Oh, I’m pretty bad,” I said, sort of joking, but not really. I was dead serious about the bad part.

I knew where she was going with that question, so I thought I’d let her know in advance. For a second there, I thought she was kidding me, but kidding she was not.

“It’s just that we’re still trying to figure out in what subject you’d be a better fit,” she said. “But you will most likely help with art.”

Art? Art!

What the hell did I even know about art? Not a darn thing.

I got really anxious and then really excited because, “Hey, that could be fun.” I always loved art. Besides, they’re just elementary kids; they won’t know I don’t know what I’m doing, I thought. And I kept calm. After all, I was only “the assistant,” right? It’s not like I was going to be in charge of all the main teacher’s responsibilities.

Well, my wishful thinking didn’t make it too far. There was no further discussion about the matter, and as soon as I stepped into the first classroom for orientation, I was introduced as Miss Art Teacher—sort of. And the next morning, despite the fact that I had not a clue about what I was doing; despite the fact that being an art enthusiast doesn’t make anyone a teacher, I had an art class to report to…as the teacher.


Stay tuned as I revise this old little story to be re-published soon. Yes, it’s a true story!

In the meantime, feel free to check out my little illustrated blog posts.

2020 Resentment and Gratitude

Like every year, we do a little reflection on the year that just went by. But like no other year, that I know of, this year gave us a little extra to think about, learn, be thankful for, perhaps regret, and even love. Here are some of the things that I learned and resented this year.

I found out that it ain’t true, that your heart can’t break when it wasn’t whole to begin with, because the fragments, every broken piece multiplies, actually.

I learned about the agony that sprouts out of a rootless relationship; out of missing something that just isn’t there, that never was, and won’t ever be.

I learned that there’s pure love in me, which even in my consciousness I’ve given to careless hearts, only to watch as it blows up right in my face like confetti.

We’re fragile. I re-learned that for sure. Oh, so fragile

Our existence remains a mystery. We may think we’re here to reproduce and / or “live the life,” but when that life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye, how can that be our only purpose in the universe?

Again and again, we’ve ignored the meaning of it all — it’s all in the little things. Make time for those.

I’m not a gamer, but at times life can feel like a video game, and we’re just collecting brain cells and brand new whole hearts to stay alive and it is hard and the game-over comes easy and fast; while winning, also known as happiness, seems unreachable, implausible.

I learned that if you really want to live it up before something like, say, a virus (?) takes your life, you must keep in mind that every second you spend breathing counts. It shouldn’t be wasted on superficiality and banality but on what adds value to your quality of life.

But I learned the negatives all so well in 2020 that I forced myself to find the positives.

I loved a little harder, too, in spite of my heart. I hugged my loved ones a little tighter. I’ve appreciated my good health more than ever. And I’d like to believe that my caution and self-diagnosed “OCD” have played an important role in keeping me alive so far. (Or just safer? To make this less dramatic.)

My strength kept me going in times of complete isolation. My job, my hobbies, my independence, my passions — they’ve all played a part. So I’m thankful for my foundation because for some people it’s been incredibly hard. Or harder, I should point out.

Things won’t magically feel “normal” again once that clock hits 12:00 midnight on January 1, 2021. Your problems won’t automatically go away like we’ve just traveled on some time machine (don’t we wish?!). But it will feel like a breath of fresh air for those of us who thought we wouldn’t make it in one piece through these unbelievably challenging times. Guess what? We really got this far.

So raise your glass if you’re still here against all odds and pat yourself on the back because, YOU DID THAT!

In 2021, let’s be intentional on the pursuit of what we really want. Let’s leave our comfort zones. Let’s not take sh*t for granted. Let’s communicate better. Let’s be truer to ourselves. Let’s be decent humans. Let’s have more fun. Let’s be smarter. Let’s chase our dreams. Let’s live like we mean it. Let’s get started.

Relatable Life Lessons

I’m writing a thing I titled 100 Relatable Lessons, which is basically just some words of advice and short phrases for anyone who needs to hear some reassurance, encouragement, or just a giggle. If you’re here you must love words, so why not?! They’re my mantra, which I recycle quite a bit, and they’re both, my “note to self” and advice to others. I save them like a good journaler (nerd alert) and thought I’d share a few.

Hope you like these.

  1. The mystery of life can never be solved, only lived.

  2. A life on repeat mode is fun to no one. Play that record well.

  3. Read a lot. Travel if you can. And question everything. This is how you grow mentally.

  4. We’re just cruising through Earth for free. At least act like you’re interested in the scenery.

  5. Three things not to do when you’re drunk: text, scroll, drive. Stay sober, my friends.

  6. Nobody wants you to make mistakes, but it is inevitable if you really want to live life to the fullest, your way.

  7. Remember that there are always two sides to every story—and a habitual offender.

  8. Some days you get to see every hour of dawn. There’s a shade of “brighter” in each one. Darkness will turn into light. Eventually.

  9. Loneliness can be a dangerous thing: it will have you missing the corners that once trapped you. Find a hobby and some side projects.

  10. By the way, burn the darn bridges if that means you’ll have some peace of mind!

  11. We hold on to the good old memories because it’s in our nature to live for the feel-good stories and the happy endings.

  12. If you’re a human reading this, understand that one part of living may be extended suffering. Get ready to rumble.

  13. Of all the heavy things in the world, whatever ache you carry in your heart, weighs the most. But one thing I know about the human spirit is that it is resilient, it can endure.

  14. Life takes you on the weirdest turns and then expects you to find your way back home on your own.

  15. Not every friendly face is a friend.

  16. A “must-have” today can become obsolete by tomorrow. Don’t get too hung up on people or things.

  17. Follow that which brings you joy and enlightenment.

  18. Today’s a good day to continue working on your dreams.

  19. People will feed you the energy you serve them because, well, what goes around comes around.

  20. Life is too short to settle for NONE of your desires.

  21. Word of advice to protect your sanity on the internet: do not engage with trolls.

  22. Life is such a maze, sometimes you have to pay big money just to find yourself.

  23. If you keep it real, real you will get back.

  24. A woman’s evil ex may be someone else’s best sex. No one really goes to waste.

  25. Those who show you support even though you’re not mainstream—that’s your tribe.

  26. Some days your space will be dark. Find some matches and light sh*t up.

  27. In the end, none of your pretentiousness will even matter. Might as well be real.

  28. You’re a legal citizen of Earth — and nobody can argue with that.

  29. Material things will never impress a grounded woman.

  30. Really terrible things and really good things can never be forgotten. Aim to be the latter.

  31. It’s already been said, but I was sent here to remind you: rejection is just redirection. Stay on track.

  32. We don’t need to tear others down to build ourselves up. So much space, we all can fly.


Check out my other relatable book of phrases: SayEtcétera- Free-verse Poems and Short Stories

Homesick, Evidently


For my books, please go to Books


Eight years ago, I was working and living in Spain, and at some point got really emo about the whole being away from home thing. I wrote this (which I re-posted with some edits) and it’s an honest feeling and reflection of that time.
——

All settled in for the night, home alone.
My clumsy raw lesson plan, all done.
Green salad and scrambled eggs,
the simplest recipe yet before bed.

I look around, nothing special on my block
already gone out for a long walk.
Don’t feel like going out alone again
even though nights are so lively in Spain

A picture of my nieces and nephew by the TV stand,
placed it there from day one, terribly missing them.

Nostalgia takes over and the good memories
with friends and family are my remedy.
A painting on the wall by a close friend
reminds me of the great times we all spent.

Tears and a lump in my throat,
I choke until some lines I wrote
and I realized I’m not sad,
just really miss them…bad.

The painting: Philadelphia,
a city I called home for so long,
where I spent countless happy times
but where I don’t belong.

I don’t think I miss Philly,
I just miss home.
I’m homesick, evidently,
though I can survive alone.


For my books, please go to Books

Shame In My Game

To check out my latest books, please go here: Books


“Go talk to him!”

I gulped. I hadn’t had enough tequila to even consider such a daring move.

I’d been to so many places around the world, but for some reason, Los Angeles seemed a little intimidating at the time. All the celebrities popping up out of nowhere, and I forcing myself to act like it wasn’t a big deal (when in reality I really wanted to pose for a picture with, say, Jessie J?) — was a little strange.

LA was my first grounds as a newly single woman in a very long time. I didn’t know exactly how to go about it; I had to relearn how to do a lot of things by myself — and making good use of all my sudden freedom was one of them.

I don’t know if I was more astonished, though, by the fact that I’d frozen at the thought of making the first move or that my guy friend was the one suggesting that I did.

“No way,” said I, “what do I even say?”

“Ask for his number, duh!”

Oh, men… They’re wired so differently, aren’t they?

But, “Holy, sh*t.” Was I surprised when, a few minutes later, my friend came back with the dude’s phone number.

The dude in question was an athletically fit and tall, light brown-haired, Californian male actor with a heart-crushing smile that (pardon the cliché) would light up a room. No, seriously; that smile did…at least for me.

I couldn’t even remember the last time someone caught my attention at first sight. He was that striking.

“You’re welcome,” said my friend, and it would be the first time that any of my friends would go and get a phone number for me. I thought it was hilarious. But, “Hey, he’s a handsome man, let’s be real,” said my (did I mention?) uber straight guy friend.

I had my hand over my mouth (and my ear-to-ear grin) the whole time. I was in disbelief. What is happening? I was officially legally single again. What a weird feeling — and how good it felt.

A couple more drinks later, I was loving it. I kept thinking of that Sex and The City line by my favorite singletona, Samantha Jones: “If you’re single, the world is your smorgasbord.”

How true and fun that was…

And still is.

But I was such a Cowardly Lion. Me; the one always encouraging my girlfriends to never be afraid to make a move, suddenly became too old fashioned to practice what I preached, thus, not making an impression on anyone that night.

In the end, I’m glad it didn’t go my way. I wasn’t ready.

For some of us, the fall can be hard and it can hurt us on the way if we stay too long, when it’s probably best if we get our head straight first. That moment in my life was one of those. You don’t always realize it, until years go by (which is kind of f’ed up), but eventually everything falls into place.

Every stage of you is different, but equally meaningful. That’s why we sometimes fictionally “write letters to our younger selves” to correct our gullibility or whatever. * Shrugs *

Meaningless or not, I think we’ll always wish we’d done some things differently, even though it’ll all make sense at some point. So, when in doubt, just go with it.

In my case, even though there was shame in my game from that night in LA, I have no regrets.