Hearing the Gods in the quiet (or, holy fuck, is THIS what it’s like to be normal? + upcoming #mypolytheism stuff)

Classes started earlier this September, so I’ve been caught up in something I’ve never been caught up in before: a calm, manageable life.

I’m a Master’s student in my second year of theology – doing a master’s thesis and grad school applications, no less. I’ve got a job, I’m battling mental illness (depression and anxiety, although I am grateful to say that a balance of medication and therapy is working wonders for me), and I’ve got my share of trials and tribulations. However, I changed a lot of things in my life, which in turn changed just one thing in my life: being kind to, and understanding with, myself. And that has made ALL the difference.

College stress culture is unreal (especially in graduate school). There is an expectation, a standard, of exhaustion. We’re judged by how exhausted we are; the measure of our hard work is calculated with the hours of sleeplessness, the amount of stress and sickness that burdens us. And we wear these things like badges, brandish them in competitions: “You think staying up for two nights is crazy? I remember I once spent 80 hours awake and I didn’t even stop to take a shit!” Last year was debilitating for me because I was still in this mindset; taking on too many things at once, and not resting (or seeking professional help), I went through very dangerous stages of burn-out, exhaustion, and lifelessness that almost cost me my life. Twice.

So it is beautifully strange to sit in my room and be able to BREATHE – to be quiet, to be at peace, to have control over my workload and not be overwhelmed by it. I have been so used to the tumult and chaos of my life that, in this quiet calm, I struggle to hear the Voices of my Gods (although I have a feeling this is the clearest I’ve ever heard Them!). I space out my assignments over several days, always taking time to do three things: to have at least two or three hours of down-time a day, to sleep a full nine hours every night, and to do all of my work at the university instead of in my room. I’m setting habits, getting into a routine, and getting shit done. And it feels fucking amazing – hell, it feels unreal. I am still fighting the impulses of my brain interpreting peace and quiet as a warning sign that something has to be done, but I’m getting there.

I’m being kind to myself, too. Sometimes I’m working at 1000%. My brain is clear and I’m ready to work. And sometimes I wake up and I’m functioning at 70%, where my words get stuck, or it just takes me a little longer to get something done, or my brain just doesn’t process very quickly. Instead of punishing myself, I remind myself that I am not a machine that has to work at 1000% efficiency always – I schedule the amount of work I CAN do and, whatever I cannot do, I save it for tomorrow. Challenging myself doesn’t mean that I have to whip myself to work – it means understanding my limits and discerning whether I should push it just a little bit or not at all.

This has fucking changed my life. Thanks be to the Gods, who brought me here and made me finally understand this. An especial thanks to Loki, who burned everything that was in my way… including myself.

So this is why I’ve been quiet. I’ve been adjusting to the rhythm, learning how to work with myself instead of against myself. I’m recalibrating my godphone, so to speak, and I can already feel that the bonds with my Gods (particularly Cernunnos and Loki) will be changing and deepening immensely. For Them I am eternally grateful, and I am happy that I am having this time of peace and productivity as I get to where I need to me.

In the coming days I’m going to try something new and scary: doing video logs of topics (such as #mypolytheism!) and uploading them on Youtube. I think I am much more eloquent and refined on paper but, hell, ya don’t know till ya try. With the #mypolytheism submission, I’ve found that all of the components of #mypolytheism (from my interpretation) are too much for one blog post. Ergo the philosophy of spacing them out!

Basically, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m excited. I’m really, really excited.

Stay tuned!

Ser Mujer, Ser Latina: A Cuban-American’s Letter to Her Past “White Girl” Self

Dear Laura,

You are not a white girl.

You have never been a white girl. You never will be.

Yep, now you’re looking at me with wide eyes. You’re not outraged – you’re confused. What? What do you mean, I’m not white? I’m really pale.

See, that’s the thing. I know why you’re confused – because you don’t know what you are just yet. You don’t see it yet, but it’s there: that you’ve assimilated into White American society, that you’ve assimilated into White American society’s standards of what constitutes a white girl and what constitutes a Latina.

You feel it, don’t you? The feeling that you don’t belong at the table laden with arroz con frijoles negros, with carne de puerco, with ensalada y tomates y yuca.

You feel like a poser, don’t you, when you speak Spanish with your padres y abuelos, even when it was your first and only language for years? When your accent, when you speak Spanish, carries the distinct timpano of Cuban Spanish?

You feel that you don’t belong in la sawesera in Miami: in the community where all the signs are in Spanish, where two languages breed a third, where everyone is loud and cordial and talks about Cuba all the time – where the stoplight is the greenlight for people selling flowers, bottles of water, fruits to try to make a living – where music blares from ever car, there’s a cafeteria and un bakery at every estop.

You feel like you don’t belong because you’re quiet and soft-spoken by nature, because you speak, write, read, understand English perfectly. Because you don’t have tan skin, dark hair, and a Taíno heritage coming out in your cheekbones. Because you don’t get loud and rambunctious and feisty and spicy when you’re angry, because you don’t have an accent when you speak English. Because you’re not hot-blooded. Because you’re six feet tall, broad-shouldered and big-handed, and your face carries a distinctly European look to it. Because your surname isn’t Rodriguez or Gonzalez or Menendez, but a French-Catalan one instead. Because you’re hardworking, sensitive, don’t like parties too much, and watch a lot of BBC shows.

Because you don’t act, look, speak, think like a Latina.

You’re the Latina who passes.


And who taught you that? Who taught you that, because you have none of those qualities, you’re not a Latina? Who dared to tell you what you are and what you are not? Who solidified in you that “Latinx” qualities and “white” qualities were a thing?

When you watch the TV shows where Latina women speak haphazard English, and their accent and language is considered exotic, and they’re tanned with huge tits, and they’re cleaning all the fucking time, and their name is always Consuela or María or Juana, and they’re wearing loud clothing and high heels and don’t have anything more than a Bachelor’s they didn’t finish, and they let themselves be part of the machismo culture you yourself despise, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

When white people step back in shock when they ask you where your parents are from and you say, “They’re Cuban” – when they marvel, “Wow, you speak English so well!” and “I had no idea you were Latina – you don’t look like it!” and “You’re so well-spoken!” – when they ooh and ahh at you like some sort of exotic creature – of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

And when you’re at a party with your family and friends, and they’re laughing and dancing and eating carne asada and drinking whiskey and rum, and you’re in the corner quietly reading a book because you’re an introvert and apparently there is no such thing as a Latinx introvert, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

When you’re with your Gods – when you feel closest to Irish Powers, when you love the Norse deeply, when you feel guilty when your heart blooms in love for Ochún and Yemaya but you know you’re not one of Theirs and They’re not one of yours, of course you’re going to cry and say to yourself, “I’m not Latina, am I?”

Why not?

Why do you have to believe that, when you know that you are? When you know that you are not responsible for the ignorance of white people – for people who do not understand the difference between Hispanic and Latinx, for people who do not understand that Cubans come in all sizes, shapes, colors, from blond-haired and blue-eyed to pitch black, for people who do not understand that the Latinx community is vibrant, diverse, wide and rich with both possibility and reality? Because people do not understand that you really don’t fucking understand when people tell you “You don’t look like a Latina” because Latina isn’t a fucking look?

Because people tell you, “But your surname isn’t in Spanish!” and that’s enough justification for them that you’re not really one of those people – is that enough justification for you?

Why do you subject yourself to this – to being told what you are and you are not by a society that does not understand nor respect you? “You’re not Latina because you have really pale skin.” “You’re not Latina because you speak English perfectly.” “You’re not Latina because you don’t look like one.” “You’re not Latina because you’re really well-behaved, serious, analytical?”

And my, how they treat you as a source of pride. You do, too. That’s what you were taught. You were taught to be proud for passing, for fooling white America.

That look of shock used to satisfy you. “Holy crap, we had no idea you were Cuban-American! Wow!” Then they’d congratulate you for the pleasant surprise you sprung on the them, give you a dollar to thank you for the entertainment, and leave – like you were a a guessing game at a fair.

“Honey, did you see that? She’s Cuban, but her English is so perfect! She got a Bachelor’s in English literature and everything! So smart! Good for her!”

Why do you tell yourself that this behavior is acceptable? Why do you try to tell yourself this as an attempt to be at peace with yourself?

That because you’re intelligent, well-spoken, quiet, reasonable, you couldn’t possibly be a Latina – as if Latinx people couldn’t ever be these things?

That because your European ancestry shines powerfully in the body that your mother and father gave you, because of your Roman nose and strange features and long legs, and because of widespread general ignorance about the extent of Europe’s colonization of South American and the Caribbean, you couldn’t possibly be a Latinx – as if Latinx people all looked the same, as if Europeans could never travel?

That because, when you pass, you don’t have to put up with the bullshit that your Latinx brothers and sisters put up with daily? And you tell yourself, “I have white privilege, technically, and that’s okay.”

And, when white people discover you’re Cuban-American, you become “sooooo ethnic.”

Querida Laurita,

You are not a white girl.

You have never been a white girl. You never will be.

You are Latina. Your parents and grandparents fled from communist Cuba to come to America. They sacrificed everything they had to come here, to have children and grandchildren borne into free soul. They had everything taken away from them by Castro’s government, and they came here and they raised you in Cuban culture.

You are Latina because that is what you are – and no one has the right to tell you that, because you don’t fit their standard of what a Latina is and is not, you’re not what you are.

Eres mujer. Eres Latina.

And by Gods, you will speak all the fucking Spanish you want – hasta hablar por los codos si quieres.

Even if you don’t, you’re still Latina.

That’s how it works, mama. That’s how it works.