With mournful joy she finally lets out her cry
Death has been swallowed up by life
I picked up a plushy Mexican doll from a flawlessly woven basket in a tiny candle shop on Olvera Street. This dainty doll had gaping black eyes, a triangle nose, and sharply upturned red lips that begged for permission to giggle. I was admiring her thready tangerine dress and stringy hair, wondering who’s tough hands made such a lovely little thing, when I turned my head and beheld a wall decorated with a clutter of colorful crucifixes. I inched closer and squeezed the dolly’s torso with both my hands. Never before had a flock of agonized Jesuses gaze at me with such weight. They were all unique, some realistic and bloody, some blue and Picasso-esque, but they were each suffering, dying on that wall in their own artistic way. Handwritten price tags dangled from their tiny nailed hands. I stood there, loving it and being unsure of it at the same time. On the next wall over, a dozen more Virgins-of-Guadalupes floated above a fabulous catacomb of sugar skulls.
My saltwater heart was already dripping from being back in Cali, but in that moment, surrounded by crosses and beautiful Marys, I felt ethereal, caught in a fantasy of palm trees and flamenco dresses. I returned my dolly to her friends in the basket, snagged a pair of Frida Kahlo socks (the queen herself, on my feet! how could I resist?), paid, took one last glance at the crosses, and rushed out with my mom. (we had places to be.)
Back home two weeks later, when I decided to wear my Frida socks to school, I thought about those Jesuses again. Every single day they garnish that wall, watching people waltz through the shop, and then leaving, just like I did. They see all kinds of people, broken and bloody and blue just like them. I stared at Frida and brought my knees to my chest. Jesus, I miss you. I miss the real you. On my carpeted floor at 7 a.m., I felt a fierce longing for change. Something was missing in me. My heart felt like decay, like an empty drawer of dust fairies. I needed it to be swallowed up by life.
These past few months have burned a hole in my heart. I’ve been living for the world and trying to fill myself with passing pleasures and whims that slowly pull me further and further from the peace of Christ. I’ve fallen and tumbled, and only now do I see my bruises. Crosses have kept showing up recently, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
It’s obvious that I’ve been running from it, trying to escape it with every flutter of my gypsy heart. The cross. My cross. I can’t put it any better than Thomas Kempis did: “No matter how you plan things and arrange them to your liking, you still will find something to suffer, either willingly or unwillingly, and so you will always find the cross.” No matter how well we think we are avoiding our raw and utter selves to escape pain, the cross is still there. Everything I suffer–insecurities, anxieties, sorrows, loneliness–these are heavy crosses to carry. I can try to abandon them on the dirty ground and run away, but they always trip me as I flee, becoming heavier each time.
Tonight, I choose to take up my cross: my longing to be loved, to be perfect. I will carry it on my back, realizing that though it should be weighing me down, my acceptance of it and willingness to carry it has made it lighter. I won’t escape this torment, this aching. I want to die right here for Christ. Raise me up to live again. I’m tired of floating through life, ignoring pain, but at the same time ignoring joy, because you can’t have one without the other. It hurts to be trapped in a life of existence, once you realize you are there, to rip your delicate skin from the vicious metal chains to see real life again. I’m slowly getting there. Slowly bringing myself back to real life, starting to listen to the voice of truth. I don’t need to bask in memories anymore. I’m starting over. And it’s a breathless feeling. I can’t wait to start living again.
That night after our quick adventure on Olvera Street, as my mom and I drove wildly through the savage streets of LA, the sky suddenly became a blazing, bloody, beautiful bruise. It was as if the army of skeletal palm trees had bitten and pinched the baby blue haze. We came to a stoplight and I held my arm out the window, asking the California sky to bleed on me, so I could feel the syrupy wetness of vivid pink life. As quick as it had come, the sky bandaged itself in stars and city lights, leaving no trace of the battle it had just fought.
No matter how many times we are stung and gnawed on by our circumstances (or vicious palm trees), we will win only because have a savior who already won. Like the sky we will be swathed with a radiance so divine that the world can’t rob us of it. We are loved, and we are real.
late night blogging with Frida
love love love
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.