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.

Loud Noises

So Many Voices

Getting louder and louder

Loud Noises

Trying to rise above

Forgetting that we are people

Forgetting that we are more than what is on a census

Forgetting that they are not an expert in everything

Scream with voice

Scream as they type

Scream with their fist in the air

But silent when they see or feel microaggressions

Silent when their fellow person needs help when their voice has been silence

Silent when comes to doing the work

But are the first to speak up when they have no part in the conversation

Instead of listening to those that live it

With different experiences

Different thoughts

And different motivators

Not able to admit when they don’t know everything

Not able to admit that this is not their experience

Not able to admit when they are wrong

That although they may be oppressed as well, their oppression is different

We are not all the “American Boy” prototype

With Khaki pants and a polo shirt for sure

However their differences and mine and your differences do not make us the experts in understanding all

But as the loud noises

get louder and louder

They continue to believe they are like

Clarissa and know it all

Instead of working to understand

Instead of working to silent

And instead of working to listen

They choose to scream to prove a point that is already gone

And click and tap and push on their hate and insecurities to flame a gaslight

Loud noises

Getting louder and louder

But say nothing

My Shield

When I step on the scale
I try to play tricks
If I stand on one foot
If I stand on the side

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll weigh less
Maybe, just maybe, that number will validate me
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel better

About the shield of a body that has few protective layers
Layers that make it the strongest, yet weakest
This imperfectly, perfect body of mine

This layer for when I was bigger than all the girls in my class
This layer for when I wasn’t Mexican or White enough to sit or play with you
This layer for when my boyfriend didn’t take no for an answer
And I confused it for love
And this layer for the self-hate I tell myself in my darkest moments
Yet, smile through

It’s a shield that brings people in, but stops them from getting too close
But then gets mad when the boy I’m dating stops calling, gets engaged, and has a baby by a woman out of no where

It’s the loneliest of shields
But sometimes it can be the best of shields
This imperfectly, perfect body of mine

I’ll never not be the bigger girl
But I got hair and body that many pay millions to a plastic surgeon for
The scars on my knee from two knee surgery
Show my warrior spirit
The nose I got from the Queen of my Nana, that I once called a witch nose
Show the spirts that guide me

And this butt of mine
I’ll sometimes catch it in a mirror and ask myself
“Girl, have you been doing squats?”

The shield of my body
Has a few colorful layers
That make it weak and strong

This layer can talk to anyone
This layer loves the sound of her feet when she runs
This layer got herself a Masters degree
This layer moved across the country with a home or a job for the dream of laughs

My shield, while dented and imperfectly perfect, is the only shield I got
And while I’ll pick and tear it a part
Shows my journey more than any number on scale will

This shield of mine has protective and color layers
Imperfectly, Perfect
Strong and weak

This shield is me.

 

 

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.

Moments That Change You

About this time every year I think of where I was in 2011. Just got out of a bad relationship, dealing with the deaths of my grandfather, dog, uncle and graduating grad school. A lot of events happened in 2011 that I honestly block out, and it wasn’t until recently do I recall those moments.One big one would change my life. A beautiful soul named Jose came to teach a corporate improv workshop at my job. It was my first real job, and while some of my coworkers were not into what was happening, I was like this is cool let’s try it. And with this moment, the next 6 years led me to Chicago and improv.
Improv has changed me for the better. It allowed me to explore my art, and has allowed me to meet people I didn’t know I wanted, but needed. On my way home tonight, I wondered what my life would have been without that moment and I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t be in Chicago. Maybe married. Maybe a mom. Probably a director position in corporate America. All beautiful goals and things, but feel I would be mostly tired and searching for meaning around something I wasn’t passionate about. 
With improv, it’s opened doors for me to explore other forms of art like storytelling, poetry, and writing. It’s given me positions like directing I never thought I would do. While I’m not making a living with my art at this time, in the last year I’ve been looking at ways that it can go in that direction and help people. 
Improv has also brought me my Chicago artist community and friends. I spent many years wondering what was wrong with me. Meeting them, I know I’m imperfectly, perfect and that my feelings are valid. Nothing is wrong with me.
I believe Jose walking in that room was suppose to happen as a choice in my life. And I ran through that door to the life I chose.

Also that Phoenix Summer heat tho.

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.