International Women’s Day

On this #internationalwomensday, I wanted to post a picture that makes me feel powerful-as I did last year. This picture shows a lot to me, and what I’ve gone through. It was taken a few weeks after I quit my job, and to me shows the first signs of my glow and shine coming back. And while I share a lot of happiness and hope, it hasn’t been easy.

In my journey I’ve made mistakes. Hurt some on the way because I was in pain or learning when and how to communicate effectively. I’ve learned some hard lessons, and continue to do the work everyday. I’ll continue to make mistakes, and hope that those around me will understand.

I also hope to never lose the ability to speak and share my voice. My voice is powerful and helps me speak of good, bad, and change I would like to see in the world. It helps to tell my story and journey. It’s also helped to document what this last year has been and the molding of this year.

I am happier and more of proud of myself than I’ve been in months. Not everything has been roses, but I’m working on myself, my craft, working on projects, trying to better my relationships, and live my best life. And that’s more than I could have imagined 6 months ago.

May you know your glow up and shine are always there.

A letter to myself

Hi Maria,

I won’t ask how you are because you kind of already know. I am writing this letter to you as a reminder for when it gets hard to look back and see how far you’ve come.

A year ago today (technically 02/09/17, but like you haven’t gone to bed yet so whatever) you were laid off from your dream job…correction what you thought was your dream job. You could say you were blindsided. You could say it tapped into your biggest insecurities of not being enough. And probably a billion more things. But it was the biggest blessing to ever happen to you. A blessing of no longer accepting being grateful to have this job.

That is hard to say because you look back on the last year, and most will see the negative. Losing a job. Becoming sick. Starting a new job in an unhealthy environment which you later quit with no backup. However, you also look back and see a bunch of positives. In no particular order:

  1. Started running again
  2. Got an open run with Matt Damon Improv
  3. Strengthen your spirituality
  4. Performed in two sketch shows
  5. Established yourself as a solo performer
  6. Started producing, directing, and teaching
  7. Strengthen your relationship with your mom
  8. Got a roommate
  9. Became closer with friends
  10. Made amazing friends you call family
  11. Opened up more
  12. Chicago Nights
  13. Volunteered
  14. Burlesque
  15. Stopped complaining about lack of representation and did something about it
  16. Your birthday weekend/#ScorpioSeason
  17. Getting paid to travel and perform
  18. Didn’t give up

There are so many things that you are forgetting, but for all the bad times where you just wanted to sleep and not wake up…you woke up and got out of bed. And some days, that was enough. You are enough.

I know Mama, you moved to Chicago to learn improv, but in the three and half years since, you have become a butterfly goddess. Some people will judge and not understand, and that is not your problem. All you truly need to worry about is you and yours. After that, you can’t control everything.

Maria…had you’ve not gotten laid off, who knows what would have happened. Perhaps passed out on the train. Hospital. I don’t know. What I can tell you is someone was looking out for you. They knew your path was better by getting knocked down to get back up.

And yes, they’ll be days where you will want to quit. And there will be days where it’s just too much. And you’ll go through worse. But you cannot give up on yourself.

A year from now, you will be better with a dream life many are afraid to go after. Go to sleep love. You have a whole day of world domination a head of you.

Love,

Maria

Running and Butterfly Goddess

I do my best thinking on my run. Running helps me to clear my head, helps my anxiety, and helps me build my inner and outer strength.

Running is also my reflection time. Reflection on building up a better life for myself, family, and community. What I could have done better. And what are the next steps. All this and more are probably the reasons why I don’t like running with others. This is something to think about as my marathon training becomes higher mileage, but that’s a topic for another day.

After each run, I post on my Instagram about my run. It started as a way to keep people in the loop about my mental health, but it then became a place to keep me accountable and also as a part of my healing. Mental Health is often a topic we sweep under the rug. And when we become sick due to our mental health because we can’t physically see it, we often don’t give it the attention needed or admit we are sick.

It took me months before I could admit I was sick. I knew I was sick when a friend who was suppose to come out for the weekend canceled on me, and I didn’t leave my house or my bed for a weekend. This sounds normal to some, however for me, I am almost never home and if I am, I am working on art or something. But I didn’t admit or do anything about it.

The second biggest clue was when I was on a flight from Chicago to Phoenix in March 2017. The flight was very bumpy and we were flying through a storm. When the plane dropped, and said to myself, “I don’t want to die this sad.” I didn’t know why I thought that.

I finally admit I was sick in July 2017. My best friend was in town, and we were at a pizza place in Chicago. I just started having an anxiety attack in the middle of the restaurant and crying. My best friend was trying to help, but there was nothing she could do. My body started tensing and then I couldn’t move. We were finally able to leave, but I was at my worse.

There were other moments that followed and were in between these big three that lead to my mental break. Poor diet. Not taking of myself. Poor work environment. However, these moments stand out because it shows how it gradually got worse. I’ve always had anxiety and depression, but like many, I would move on and keep doing what I was doing. Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results. Something like that.

However, I didn’t acknowledge what years of doing that really hurt me until it physically took a toll on me. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t operate. I felt broken. My mom was the biggest help in my life. She would call doctors, sit on the phone with me, and talk to me. My mom is my angel on earth. With her help, therapy, and my framily, I was able to heal and become better. I started building confidence and merging out of my cocoon.

This is why it probably stung the most when this past weekend, a family member used my anxiety as if was a weakness. The context had nothing to do with my anxiety, but a Facebook post that had gotten out of control. When I tried to put a stop to it all, I was told that “anxiety may not be the issue.” When I said they had crossed a line and not to talk about my mental health, they then said something to the affect of agree. Do not bring up your mental health if you do not want people talking about it.

I am happy to talk about my mental health, but not as a weapon of weakness. The more one tells me to stop, the louder I will become. I do not talk about my mental health for others as burden. I talk about it for myself and to bring awareness. It’s healing for me and hopefully will help more people to talk about their journey and get help. It took me a long time to admit that my mental health was not a weakness. That it was good to talk about it. That I wasn’t crazy. And that I am worthy. It does hurt when someone you love decides to go low when you were trying to figure out what was happening.

It’s taken me a long time to be the person I am today and be so open, both online and off. I never shared hurtful moments like my sexual assault, binge eating, or my anxiety as to not disturb the peace. There were bits and pieces, but I wanted to be liked so much that I kept a lot of it hidden. I didn’t want to be too different than what I already was, and I didn’t want too much attention, even though I craved it.

Along with the bad, I never shared too much of the good like my work ethic, education accomplishments, and positives in relationships which is sad as well because I didn’t want to seem like I was bragging. That I was doing good while my community may not have been.

It’s a common struggle and fear for many when our good and bad gets thrown back at us as if it is a weakness. It’s a poor tactic used to silence when there is nothing else. It’s often a tactic some use against those trying to help them, but when used it doesn’t matter what happened before as it crosses lines.

To those who choose to throw or clap back by using mine/your pain and happiness against me/you is not a reflection of you. It is them.

I almost let it get to me, but I am butterfly goddess.

I am proud of the body that allows me to run, dance, and hug those I care about. I am proud of my mind that allows me to create, think, and build. I am proud of my anxiety and depression as it shows me the depths of hell, but also has taught me tools needed to better my life. I am proud of my voice that allows me to speak, tell my truth, and be a warrior.

I am a proud woman of color, and this world will never shut me down.

I’m a Butterfly

We are all different. We have different opinions and thoughts. We all have different experiences and reasons for our thoughts. I encourage you to share them if you do not agree with me as I am not the expert in everything. However, please do so without name calling, racial slurs, threatening violence, gaslighting, or using personal information against others. We will not always agree, but I hope we can all have discussions and defend each other with a full hearts. I will continue to talk about my opinions, my mental illness, and issues we are facing. I’ve worried too long about wanting to appear normal (whatever that means).

And I’m a Butterfly!

Finding Your Tribe

Growing up, I thought I was the weird one.

At the time, mixed children were not in style, and I didn’t know many. For a lot of my friends I was the darkest or the lightest person they knew. Growing up, people would ask fun questions like which part of your body is white and which part is Mexican ? Why do you have both a menorah and Christmas tree in your house? And where is your mom’s family from. To which I would want to answer:

1) None that you’re going to see

2) Because we like presents

3) California! Damn. But also Guadalajara. But most are legal. My dad’s family are the illegal immigrants. You think Konopken is a real last name? Chances are high they made it up so to not be caught! I have no proof, but anyways.

However, I didn’t answer any of those questions like I would imagine. In reality, I was the curly hair, Coke bottle glasses, and curvy girl who wanted to fit in so bad with my white friends. But also I wanted my skin a little darker and my valley girl accent to be less when hanging with my brown friends. It brought up feelings of not being enough for anything or any body. Not even myself.

After a while, you learn to adapt by not talking about it, putting your head down, and out working, out shining, and out doing those feelings. That by doing so, maybe they’ll look past my differences. Of course we live in America so why I’ve always worked twice as hard, the result is always half as much for women of color.

With all this, I kept a lot of things bottled up. My eating disorder, whom I was dating, being sexual, loneliness, mental illness to name a few. You wouldn’t have known because I’m an extrovert. I love being around people and experiencing life. However, I didn’t really like being alone because then I would have to hang out with myself and deal with all of this.

When I tried talking to other people about why it stung so much more that my boyfriend is now dating a very white girl, they didn’t understand or didn’t see why. So why am I going to talk about it or anything?

As I said before, you learn to adapt and move on. That you’ll be good wherever you are. And then two years ago, I did a show at Under The Gun that would not only change my creative career, but my life. Allison Reese produced a 6pm Sunday night show called Bits Welcomed. I told a story about destroying a car in Australia and possible hitting a kangaroo.

After the show, I went to get pizza with Allison and she started talking about this show she was doing later that night called Matt Damon Improv. She mentioned that it was a show of all women of color and one white dude that could only repeat words that have already been said. In my head, I was like I want to be a part of this. Maybe she’ll ask me. Allison ask me I am right here!

Allison continued talking about this show and how it would be a one off, maybe a few months. When I saw a break in the conversation I said well if you ever need anyone to play, I would love to. So I got to perform with Matt Damon Improv that night in our first show and many shows there after.

And the shows are great. I love them. However, the shows are secondary to what these women mean to me. They helped and made me laugh me through my anxiety and depression breakdowns including coming to my apartment, picking out clothes so I could make it to shows, eating a lot of food, dancing to dumb songs we’ve made up, self care nights, heartbreaks, and sharing our feelings over bad techno music. They are everything I never knew I needed. They allow me to share without judgement. They allowed me for the first time in years to be proud and happy with who I am. They allowed me to find my voice. They allowed me to be me.

It’s the other 23 hours and 20 minutes that off stage that I love the most. And I hope you one day find people and your tribe.

Summer of 2017

As the sun sets on the last day of summer, I lay sick on my couch. I lay sick reflecting on what happened to me this summer. I also couldn’t handle Being Mary Jane as Mary Jane decides between her new boo and friend.

Anyways, I think about the Summer of 2017.  Chicago in the summmer…you can’t beat it. I wasn’t anticipating that this summer would be the toughest few months I’ve ever faced.

You can say I’ve always had anxiety and depression. It would come in waves and then disappear. Before this summer, I never thought medication was for me or that I wouldn’t want to get out of bed every morning because I got one life and I love. And this summer was filled with so many highs like my sketch show, poetry, walks, brunch, first kisses, Lizzo, cookouts, Matt Damon Improv, and so many new friendships and amazing memories.

But to match the highs came the lowest lows. It’s hard to say what triggered the intense anxiety and physical match of the depression, but I know it intensified, and kept going, when my best friend came to visit. My therapist and my mom, two different people, said my best friend is my safe place. I felt like I could let go with her, and when she went home, I had to deal with it by myself.  One thing I hate is being by myself. I am trying to get better at it, but it’s not my strong trait.

The intense crying came out of no where. When someone asked why are you crying, I couldn’t answer. When I couldn’t go on stage, I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t concentrate at work. My body ached. The thought of showering or brushing my teeth was almost painful. I hated every part of me. I was living in my own hell.

I went to my doctor, who is a saint. She had been mentioning going on medication for a few months now after I broke up with my boyfriend and got laid off in the same week, but I didn’t want to. Maybe she saw the signs before I felt them. However, at this moment I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t care, I needed something. I started on Lexapro, and was doing well for awhile, but like all medication and me, my stomach started to hurt and ache after about a month. I told my doctor, and she suggested tappering off and looking for a physiatrist who could help.

I am now experiencing the worst withdrawals. My hands shake. My skin itches. I can’t remember anything. Focusing has become the hardest thing. My brain zaps. Along with it, my anxiety and depression have gotten worse. It takes my mom and aunt calling me to go run and make it to work. It takes talking to Surena all day on GChat to make sure I am still alive. It takes my roommate asking what I had to eat or planning something to get me out of the house. It takes my friends physically coming to my place to make sure I get to my show because they know I would be worse at home. It takes people texting and calling at all hours and just listen to me cry and try to talk. I feel guilty for every message.

There are days I run through the flowers and there are days where I feel like I am drowning. I don’t blame the medication. I don’t even blame me. My brain and body are trying to heal, and are screaming to be heard. I talk and write about my mental health because I hate the stigma it brings. I am not ashamed of who I am, it’s just something that is a apart of my story. I love talking about what I am going through because maybe it will help someone. Maybe they will feel less alone. Talking may help their love ones understand why they can’t just get over it. Think of it as a broken arm…mental illness will not fix itself overnight.

As this summer comes to a close, what is next? I am still feeling sick as I find the right medication, eating plan, and run. I have an idea of my next moves, but at the same time I don’t. My focus is now my health and faith, and what are the steps to get there.

I hope to look back on this summer, and think I did it. But right now, I am just trying to get to the next moment.

me920

Generation LatinX

For a long time, I’ve always felt other or not enough. Even moving to a city like Chicago, I often felt that I needed to fit a mold of funny or I wouldn’t be picked. It wasn’t until I met the women of Matt Damon Improv and Crimson Wave where I started realizing that my feelings were valid and I didn’t need to be anyone but myself. It was then I started seeing the success I wanted and creating the art I wanted to be a part of. All by just being myself. Along with it, certaib opportunities came my way that I never expected from just being me. One of which is being asked to be one of the directors for Generation LatinX. The show is an all Latinx cast doing the Armando, and being the best versions of themselves.

I am very proud to be a part of this show, Tuesdays starting in October, 10pm at iO Chicago. Below is an interview I did to promote the show where I talk about being Mexican, our portrayal in the media, and if you are my ex…your mama gets a shoutout.

Why Windy Cactus?

Hi! You may not know me unless your my mom who found my blog or my roommate who I am reading this to, but allow me to reintroduce myself.

My name is Maria, and I am proud 30 something woman of color. I’ve been living in Chicago for about three years, and originally from Mesa, Arizona. I tell everyone Phoenix because it’s easier than explaining where Mesa is unless you’re a Chicago Cubs fan. I am currently employed with a 9 to 5 job, and a performer at night with improv, sketch, storytelling, and poetry. You could call that part of my life my 6 to 12 job that fills my passion, but doesn’t pay. It’s a glass half full, bank half empty type of thing.

If you figured out the spoiler of why I called this blog Windy Cactus, then you know it’s a take on the Chicago nickname of the “Windy City” and a symbol of Arizona. If I had to tell you, no worries… you still hold a special place in my heart. I also came up with the name while eating Gluten Free pizza at Giordano’s so take that as you will.

But why a blog? I don’t have the one reason why, but mainly I wanted to provide a sample of everyday life for trying to “make” it as a woman of color. What does “make” it mean? I am not entirely sure, but maybe happiness? But then that’s so vague too.

All I know is I am the ambitious one trying to be happy and excited about her accomplishments. It’s a weird fault of mine to not be happy right now, but looking at what else can we do. I feel often the ambitious person achieves a goal, and moves onto the next big thing. The biggest faults of the ambitious person? Not being able to live within their accomplishments and being proud of themselves for too long. I feel for many people, but especially people of color, being proud for too long is viewed as a negative. That we must keep moving as the struggle can be oh too real.

So what things will I want to write about? The excited side is thinking all the things like body positivity, mental health,  dating, comedy, running, and where I can find time to nap. The strategic side is like let’s focus, man. And I think both are right and valid and will give the full picture.

So here goes all the things.