Patience grasshopper. Today is a day when restlessness bordering on anxiety surrounds me. Was it the extra cup of coffee? The shot of espresso? Both? In the Pacific Northwest, restlessness happens every time the sun shines. When there is a peek-a-boo of blue sky between clouds. Today is sunny.
Patience is waiting for the return of “normal” during this era of a microscopic virus making scrambled eggs out of life as we knew it. What other unseen-by-the-naked-eye things take over your life? Thoughts of far off lands you can’t visit right now? Thoughts of an ancestor you wish you had met or a relative who passed away when you were a kid and you wish you could talk to now as an adult? Thoughts of where your next paycheck may come from? Where will you next meal come from?
I don’t know why I am restless today. My main guess is too many thoughts swirling around in my head. I want to organize these thoughts like I did to my t-shirt drawer when I was furloughed last year. How do I Marie Kondo my thoughts? Did she write a book about that yet? Today is one of those days where Reconnection part 1 or part 2 don’t work. I don’t want to do a meditation while sitting, walking or lying down. My skin pulsates with too much energy. So what do I do? What could you do?
I have an alter in my office. It is my adaptation of an ofrenda, alters that are traditionally done in early November to observe the Dia de los Muertos. Mine is year round. My patron saint, Saint Francis hangs above it. As does San Miguel Archangel. There is a candle. A tiny bottle of silver rum by Havana Club. An incense burner. A small wood carving of Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre (Cuba’s patron saint), that sits on a shell. Pictures of my relatives who have passed away surround the small ofrenda. My dad. My maternal grandmother’s parents who I knew, Abuelo Chevo and Abuela Patria. My maternal grandmother and grandfather – Tata and Abuelo Daniel. My beloved cat Mona. And my most favorite relative ever – Tio Danny – who passed away from complications of HIV/AIDS when I was seventeen.
Remembering and honoring my ancestors grounds me. It became part of my process as a memoirist. It is part of my search for identity. As I long to belong in a country that only became a land where my father died, ten-days before my 43rd birthday. It is with the ritual of looking at their pictures, lighting a candle, recalling memories, and burning incense that calms me. I realize I am the product of their struggle, of their fight for survival.
Knowing my heritage through remembering my relatives who have passed. By researching my genealogy to trace the movement of my ancestors from Spain and Africa to the New World and from Eastern Europe to Germany. It is my DNA that binds me to countries whose food and music tempt me and whose people I look nothing like.
My ancestors suffered through pandemics, genocide, revolutions, famine, and war. I am who I am in part to their struggles. They survived their struggles, which were much worse than mine. I can deal with the temporary anxiety and restlessness because I can’t travel or go sit in a local cafe or bar right now. If I can prevent one premature death of someone else’s relative so they can have that conversation they always wanted, then I’ll keep finding ways to prevent anxiety.
It is no coincidence that trees are used to illustrate a family’s lineage or the cycles of life. Trees roots grow deep into the soil and the branches reach through the atmosphere. There is a sense of past or death and future or life. Darkness and light.
In this challenging time, when we feel unrooted or uprooted, the simple act of remembering those who came before us, of tracing your family’s journey through time, you can find not only your roots to hold on to, but the light of the branches whose leaves are blooming right now during this season of spring. All we have to do is be patient, watch the sun cross the sky, stay home and we will all be healthy. Tomorrow we will be one day closer to our new normal. And one day we will become the survivors who our descendants will honor.
If you are inclined, write your thoughts about those who came before you into a note app, or into a notebook. I like the physical activity of pen to journal. If you only have your phone app, try to rewrite it into a journal at a later time. Keep these thoughts in a sacred place. But if you write about your family history please share with the next generation and with any relatives who may be in need of a little rootedness.
With love and respect.