Saturday, November 27, 2010

The other side of winning...a Magpie tale

How many times we obsess with the idea of being the best, of getting somewhere before anybody, to be first place of anything. Some humans are competitive by nature; other, feel the need to be recognized.

First Place. Gold Medal. Employee of the Year. World Champion. Titles and places rewarded by the ultimate glory, a prize, recognition and honor. Have we ever considered that in order to win somebody has to lose?

Before the miracle of 2004, when the RedSox came back from hell after being down 3 games to 0 against the Yankees, not just to catch up but to win the playoffs and then been the MLB World Champions, 86 years had passed. It was in 1918 when Boston was the crowned world champ for the last time. Between 1918 and 2004 great players joined in, some of them recognized as amazing sports legends, who started and ended their professional career believing in the RedSox, been a diehard BoSox. Ted Williams played 19 seasons, twice interrupted to be on duty as a pilot for the Marines, all 19 with the RedSox; Carl Yastrzemski lived his 23 years as a professional baseball player with the Sox. Jim Rice, another big one, dedicated his life from 1974 to 1989 to the same team. All of them have things in common: not just they were baseball phenomenon and hall of famers, but they are the perfect image of what it takes to belong to a team in heart and soul. They also share the fact of NEVER have won a World Series, holding the trophy, getting a ring. That’s what I call to have guts…to remain standing and supporting the same team, season after season, with the head up and the hope that next year would be the year. It never happened for them. From 2004 history changed for the RedSox; the team harvested triumphs over the foundation created by the tears and sweat of the loyal and consistent predecessors that never gave up despite the non-winning fact. That is baseball… that is the spirit of believing, that is the magic that keeps us fighting.

Every day we wake up knowing that every year, from April to October, there will be another season full of hope, with the possibility of reaching the goal; but, what is the real goal anyway? Winning? A ring? That is the ultimate prize, a free pass to be labeled as big ones; but at the end of the day, the greatest accomplishment was to feel, to live passionately what we enjoy the most. To suck in the energetic reminder that the end has not been written, we can change it, we can believe that it will happen and that during the process of discovering the future, we can totally live by the edge of our sits knowing that IT CAN BE DONE.

It is important to keep focused on the objective, of course. But if while working on it we don’t enjoy the ups and downs by living each step towards it with full intensity, if we allow one single thought of mediocrity while trying, if we don’t recognize our vulnerability at the end to enjoy the glory or to cry for our failures, then the magic is gone. Is living by some book; living considering that we may not make it. Is living just to live; and in life, like in baseball, the game is not over until is over…and sometimes we win when we lose.

This is a Magpie tale - Mag 42 - for other Magpie tales click  Magpie tales

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 31

Giving thanks shouldn’t be just an act for one day or a reaction to one action. It brings enrichment to our hearts, is a demonstration of loyalty and affection...being thankful is a way of living.

Life according to me, lesson 30

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time after time...a Magpie tale

 I couldn't help to think about time when looking at this image: a roman numeral, an aged bottle of wine, the clear marks of time on the walls, the blury edges of time... such an abstract, complex, intense, yet ephemeral and fragile concept...

time invested
time wasted
time expected
time needed for perfection
time stopping during moments of affliction
time flying when enjoying good times...
time magically expanding when we think there is no time!

This has been an incredible busy and intense week for me in many I decided to use a post written early this year, that I particulary love and that captures the essence of what this image represents for me.
_______~~ _______
Vancouver, B.C. Canada, February 6th 2010
Vancouver has always been a city with a lot of meaning for me. It was my first international travel destination, it is the city my best friend calls home and when she moved here, I came visit, sometimes just for a weekend, to be part of her setting up process; it was my honeymoon destination and a place where I feel welcome and safe.
This time I’m here on a business trip in a Vancouver almost ready to host the 2010 Winter Olympics. I’m staying with my friend as usual and going for work with her for ten days, weekend included. Ten days already planned based on a daily routine with a constant layout that can be summarized like this:

06:45 – wake up, brush teeth, wash face, take shower and get dressed
07:30 – finish hair and makeup – no time for mascara, take it with you
07:35 – making bed, drink my glass of water and grab cell phone and purse
07:40 – rush out to catch the bus; don’t forget the take out cup of coffee!
07:46 – taking bus to sky train station
08:05 – sky train to Burrard station; get the Metro or 24 daily papers
08:30 – get off the train, walk to the office; too crowded! Take the emergency stairs
09:00 – more coffee and oatmeal; back to desk
11:55 - lunch brake
13:05 – back from lunch
16:55 – taking off to catch sky train back
17:37 – get off on 22nd street station to catch the 410 bus
18:00 – home for dinner; eat, clean and get ready for the after work activity of the day.

And so it went, day after day; a detailed schedule, minute by minute. It was stressful for me, it was like having to make it happen or else… or so it felt. Until I realized the issue was not the plan or the activities or even commuting to work; it was the fact that I was aware of each single moment and how long every single activity took (or should I say how much time was assigned to perform each task). It was the same old things I usually do, only thoroughly documented.

I now know how long it takes to lather and repeat, or to floss and rinse, or the difference in time between a pony tale and hair half way up. I even confirmed that coffee gets cold in 37 minutes, that time goes by quickly if you are looking for 6 down based on the first letter of 6 across. That I can eat dinner in 23 minutes; that 15 minutes of reading mean 10 pages for an adult and 3 pages for a six year old; that a bridal shower can last less than an hour, cheese tray and wine drinking included.

I learned that life is full of wasted minutes we don’t really know where they were used or what for; that we are capable of managing even the smallest things if we really need or want to. It’s all about control and awareness, plans and timelines, with no room for the unplanned. It is a matter of perspective and choices. I realized that my lifestyle is different only because is mine, my own rules my own plan. The layout might not be the same but the content is.

Sometimes, I don’t want to know where time went; I like being open for the unexpected, but love the idea of making every moment count, without having to count every moment.

After having the chance of being part of the life of a Vancouverite, one thing is for sure: I admire and love my best friend even more.
This is a Magpie tale - Mag 41 - for other Magpie tales click  Magpie tales

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1 4 7

In the darkness of an early Monday morning, his presence I felt. He was getting ready for an anticipated and most feared procedure, based on several studies, hundreds of allergic episodes and three closed-relatives respiratory failure deaths. He was as ready as someone can be to check in to a hospital for a severe deviated septum surgery.

Paperwork was done. The kind receptionists made us sign all the documents and consents and gave us further instructions along with the “welcome” package: a plastic bag with a pair of sleepers, a pillow, small soap and shampoo, a box of tissues, one bottle of water and a universal TV remote…it felt so depressing to receive some sort of primary need items in a “gift” bag; I wonder how difficult could it be to arrange an “all-inclusive” room instead… a matter of taste, I guess.

It was 7: 30 AM sharp and he was ready to go – fully prepared in his butt-less gown and blue elastic hat. He was not scared, he was confident and we said good bye. The surgery was going to last approximately 4 hours; I let him go… he took half my heart and soul with him.

I had a lot of plans, very good mental plans to spend my waiting hours in a productive way; it was good at first: replied a few emails, held one conference call while drinking my first cup of coffee; all that took more or less 1 hour out of the 4. Family arrived to check on him, no news were good news we all concluded. It was in the loneliness of a cold room 147 where we waited… and waited for the next 3 hours. It was room 147 the place assigned by the hospital for his recovery. In my mind, I was going to use those long hours to write a magpie (I had lots of ideas for last week’s prompt: from a grandma tribute to an art dealer tale; a chocolate factory medallion to a time travel charm), to catch up with my reading, to find the cure for cancer. It is amazing how hard our mind plays us when we try to use it in a productive way. All of it good intentions, nothing really happened; I couldn’t concentrate, I had no head to think or to reason or to settle down. I was nervous in a non-obvious way. There’s no such a thing as a routine procedure when it comes to general anesthesia.

Finally, I heard his name thru the speakers – he was in the post-surgery recovery area. I flew there as fast as I could. His face was the face of a tender little boy; he was still coming out of the chemical-induced deep dream, his eyes were watery, his nose was covered with a bloody bandage and he was mumbling; I was relieved yet my heart was melting for seeing him like this… so vulnerable, scared, and almost helpless. He was back to me. I was there for him. I felt like crying. The surgery was a total success, said the doctor. Nothing went wrong, he fixed everything. After two hours of monitoring, we went together to room 147, our home for the next 24 hours.

No magpie, no reading (my apologies to all my dear fellow bloggers for being absent) or working on paperwork and emails for me these days. We are back home now, living day by day until his full recovery. It is a matter of patience and self-control. I admire him, even more. His face is swollen, his nostrils completely blocked with nasal packing, his eyes red and constantly tearing; I wish I could take his place this week, I know it is not physically possible. But I am going to be part of his process as much as he wants me to be. I am grateful with the wise doctors for doing a good job, for the opportunity given to fix and improve his daily living; I am as proud as I could be for his determination and self-control. But mostly, I am amazed with the fact that we take for granted small natural things like breathing… and how easily it could be damaged.

For my brave one... always with you... forever.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A silent cry for hope

1946 -Tree of hope- by Frida Kahlo
 Caracas, Venezuela November 9th, 2010

This week I am in Caracas again for work. It has been exactly one year since my last visit, and the feeling of uncertainty, insecurity and hopelessness is even greater. People's attitude is decaying; there's no spirit of service in hotels, airports, taxi drivers. They are just doing a job not trying to be better; as if there's nothing more.

The few priviledged ones willing to play the game a so call socialist government dictates are investing in huge hotels, luxury restaurants, fancy car dealerships (A Land Rover average price in Venezuela is 300K USD). A 28-story brand new hotel with state of the art furniture, fixtures, lamps, rectified marble floors and even a vertical garden on their walls... but inside, the common employee areas, such as the bathroom and lockers...perfectly extracted from a prison movie; not only ugly, but degrading. Is not doesn't feel right. Maybe is just me, but it feels... so... sad.

Allow me to re-share  a post written one year ago, also in Caracas...also frustrating. Same country, same feeling...changing slowly...probably for the worse.

Caracas, Venezuela November 4th, 2009
It was early when I arrived. The streets were packed with cars, bikes and people selling stuff, buying stuff, yelling stuff. I had just enough time to take a quick shower, grab a small coffee and head to work. While riding on the back of the car I started to look around, I tried to see beyond the obvious. And then it kicked me: to my left, a magnificent range of mountains covered with a dense and low fog... it was the sadest look of a city pretending everything is all right, trying to believe is going to be fine.
A tree was emerging on one side, covered with white birds. They didn't sing, nor did they move. They were just there looking to the other side of the road, towards a mountain hiding from reality behind the wet hug of a selective fog, that was just covering the beautiful side of the street. The rest, was cristal clear. Or at least it was to me. That's how it felt anyway. The silent cry of a country waiting for it's people to wake up from their collective numbness.

With all due respect to the people of Venezuela...who have been expressing their pain in every word and attitude shared with this little you may regain hope.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The rebel yell..a magpie tale

“Close the doors, sirs! Ladies and gentleman, take your sits, place your bets… the fight is about to start”

Behind the scenes at the Palenque* house they could hear the show was about to start. The rooster’s handlers were all wearing their usual gear: cowboy boots, rough Lee jeans, thick leather belts with oversized silver and gold buckles usually engraved with their proud initials or horse motifs. Resistol hats in beige or elegant black, plaid shirts with pearly buttons and of course, knives in their strap-on cases hanging threatening from their belts.

The beer was flowing while the gamecocks were getting prepared. Tejano music with their typical accordion notes and a pitchy high male voice was flooding the scene. Sharp gaffs were taped to the fighter’s feet, feathers greased and tempers teased to enhance the chance for a good spectacle. These roosters are breed and trained as athletes – cruel caging techniques to build stronger necks and thighs, special diets to develop muscle and the angriest personalities. A life destined to entertain and die in the line of somebody else’s duty.

The first two contestants hit the pit, each one held by their masters… they are presented, provoked by their own mentors by pushing them against each other, tossing aggressive head moves while the feathers of their necks expand in a clear sign of readiness. “Cut them loose!!!” the announcer said and then the fight begins… and continues…and keeps going… bloody fight as if they know there’s money involved. Puncture wounds, bites, scratches, but mostly cuts…until one hits the deadly strike, usually slashing the neck. The fight ends; the winner takes it all… the defeated is dead. The aroused crowd screams bloody murder, the music gets louder and the enthusiastic announcer congratulates the champ.

The final match is ready. The ritual is the same, but one of the fighters is not. Perfect body, shiny black feathers, proud pose, evil eyes… he has a plan. Two contestants are approaching the ring, held as usual by the cocky rooster handlers. It is late, the environment is clouded by cigarette smoke, mumbling gamblers and money…lots of it. Nobody saw it coming. Right before Don Luis had the chance to release it, Evil eyes started the fight: fiery slashing against the handler’s face, ripping and cutting flesh, striking violently to the chest, neck, arms…it was some blood bath, but not the one expected. After finishing with the man, the decided fighter finished its job with the other gamecock, killing it instantly. Standing on top of its dead master, black feathers erected its neck, flapped its wings once more before emitting a loud chant of victory… “He had it coming”, somebody say; now you can open the doors.

*Palenque:   cockfighting ring or cockpit; also used as concert halls, usually held late at night after the fights.
Totally against animal cruelty; based on a popular mexican song:

"Y enmudeció el palenque cuando
un girazo en el redondel
Volando al ras del suelo sin darle tiempo
a don luís soltar
Se le estrello en el pecho
Se le estrello en la cara
Y de fieras cuchilladas la vida le arrebato
Y enmudeció el palenque
cuando el giro enloquecido
Remataba a macarena...
Poniéndose alegre a cantar"

This is a Magpie tale - Mag 39 - for other Magpie tales click  Magpie tales

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Life according to me, lesson 30

Don’t wait too long to wear that special outfit, drink the special wine or say that special thing you know, it won’t fit, somebody else would’ve drank it without you and your words won’t be heard.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Broken links.. a magpie tale

“Some things are meant to stay together because once broken, they cannot bond back again”. I remember this phrase like it was said yesterday. You told me that when we first met as part of a casual conversation that was flowing from baseball to music. It didn’t have much sense then but somehow it gave me the chills.

What happened next is now history: many days of love, joy, laughter, plans…tears, suffering, pain and more. You told me we were going to be together forever…you promised me that. And here I am now, burning inside, so mad, no, not mad… so furious with you and your broken promises; the first out of many other broken things you left me with.

Trust and loyalty … I trusted you, you asked me to! And I wanted to believe. What do I do with your word now that my words won’t reach you? Even if I yell, if I cry out loud, you can’t hear me. Broken trust my dear, is even worse than a broken heart. A heart that no longer beats but only shivers in a desperate attempt to feel alive, to feel something else besides the piercing pain of betrayal.

A pact…yes we had a pact: we would die together…now what? Here I am mourning you with nothing but the frustration and incapacity of not being able to fix the fact that we are no longer together. No matter how hard I try, you are not with me, not even to start a fight, one of those colossal fights driven by our passionate souls that always ended up with such a feeling of inner peace - the sweet sensation of surrendering to our demons and returning from the darkest place holding hands... carrying our hearts.

Time stopped long time ago; I can’t think of anything but many different ways to make you suffer at least one tiny bit of what I’m feeling. If I could only reach you… if you could only hear me… if I could only trade places with you…if you could only see me once again…if life could be in our hands once again.

But death parted us. Loneliness is my companion, eternity my only plan and this cold grave the place you insist to call my new home. This is me, venting out in a futile attempt to ignore the fact that it was ME who left you alone, that I broke our pact… that I let you down.

And yet here you are, like every November, standing by this old tombstone, tidying things up with your sweet and sour new look, wearing all black. Your eye lines are thicker; your tears carved their way. I am so sorry to see you like this. Please dear, don’t comeback. Don’t join the crowd with their music and tacky flowers. Don’t waste your precious energy in fighting for a parking spot or the last buckets of dirty water for the plants. This tradition is way too painful for you and totally pointless for me… I am not here, this is not who I was. Whatever lies underneath this broken stone, is just a sad reminder that at the end we are nothing but dust and worms. What matters honey, what really matters, stayed inside you when I left – in your memories, in your heart, in the familiar smells that rush back our moments, our days, our time. Try to forgive me for breaking apart… for not proving your words… because we are still together, I am always by your side.

To our beloved ones who left us...because this is how I want to remember and would like to be remembered. November 2 - Dia de Muertos (day of the dead)

This is a Magpie tale - Mag 38 - for other Magpie tales click  Magpie tales