Everything seems different.

Apocalyptic, catastrophic, alarmingly surreal.

These are the days of the unprecedented. Unrivaled as an infectious collective memory, boundless as a global war zone, the kind that takes us to ground zero.

Days of sorrow, distance, dizzying haze, solitary confinement.  Mental analysis paralysis.

This is the curse of The Corona Virus, the pandemic calamity that is sweeping lives by the hundreds of thousands, dragging the world’s economy by trillions, tearing our present hopes and plans, all while flaunting a crown as if wanting us to bow and curtsy. 

Isolation our only armor, eyes wide open, doors closed shut, the only contact is thyself. 

Add resistance to fear. The writing is on your wall. There’s no way out, dare to dive in, see what you fix. Solo.

Worrying loops of watching and waiting. Let me dream that curve go flat.

Mental symptoms turn physical on me.  Does it happen to you too? Will this fear go away? Will we see the light of day?

We know we will. 

We are on our way.  Staying home. 

This is the time to be stronger together, particularly because we are apart.

Can’t you feel it?  Remember last month? Don’t you miss us? Need to hug me?  Do you want to pray together?  I do.

But I want to be better before we meet again. I want to be a better me so that we can be a better we. I want to honor the dead with a legacy for life. I want us to turn the ugly shadow of disease into a universal sea of faith in better times to come.  

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men, Hemingway wrote.  

Ask any Italian, Spaniard, American, South American or Asian who lost loved ones.  It could have been you. Ask all the international exhausted healthcare workers or generous business donors if they know the nationality or the political affiliations of humanity when there are minutes left to save lives.  

They don’t. They rise above. They think big. They embrace humanity as one.

This is the grandiosity of the human spirit – God-given, unbiased, unprejudiced, universal, never fragile but faithful till the end.

Can we meet there?

Don’t think twice. 2020 is hindsight.

Messages come to us in many ways. My latest came through the coffee to go window of my Latin Cafe.

I had recently started a corporate opportunity that everyone thought had potential, only to end abruptly right at the end of a never-before-experienced, three-month-testing deadline dismissal.

The day after this demoralizing experience, and regardless of how broken I felt, I headed to my holy grail of morning glory, the Latin Cafe window in my Brickell neighborhood where I order my daily dose of Cuban coffee, my morning nectar.

I placed my order as usual, and the woman manning the window asked me how was work. My reply was as brief as my outlook that morning: “Over.”

She told me to sit down in one of the tables right across the window, and that she would be happy to serve me.  I insisted that there was no need for her to to go out of her way, but she was resolute, and since she’s also the one who makes the best coffee in the place, I thought it was in my best interest to say yes. This was no morning to make matters worse.

Minutes later, she approached my table, placed my tiny cup of caffeine octane on its center, and respectfully told me to be positive, not elaborating much in case I did not want to engage in conversation. I thanked her, told her that I appreciated her gesture, and thought that would be the end of it.

Not a chance. I was out of work, not my new friend.  She had a story to deploy, a mega dose of sweetened caffeine for my soul.

“I don’t know if you know about me,” she said, even as customers were lining at her coffee window, surprisingly not in a rush that morning.

Time stood still as she focused her eyes on mine.

“Do you see those buildings behind you?” she asked me, pointing to the high-rise Brickell buildings in construction right behind my back.  “I used to work there,” she said. “I managed construction projects, I had a secretary, and a big stack of papers on my desk. I worked so hard, managing offices where things also ended for me,” she went on. “Nobody really cared about me, my hard work, my time, until one day I said enough of this. No more.”

My eyes were watery. My heart in my throat. Her story resonated. Does it ring a bell or a fire alarm?

Read on, it gets even better.

“You see me doing coffee, right?” she pressed on.  “What would people think of me, right?  I don’t care.  I love it, I come here every morning happy, I like working with my people, and my customers are very generous with me. I work half-day, then I go swimming, and at home I do my own thing!  It may be a bit less money, but I am free.”

In my case, years of successful corporate experience with outstanding performance reviews and recommendations seemed like an illusory past after the low blow of my dismissal. I recall the  moment as an emotional tsunami at the core of my “not good enough” fault zone, one of mortals’ most dreaded fears, to be found out, to be good at nothing, disapproval, labeling one’s strengths as non-existent.  I felt my body sank, drowning into the depths of insanity, all of it questioning if I had gone mad, if I had made my years of professional seniority, sacrifice, and glory all up.

Fortunately, I did not. My corporate history, my stellar recommendations, and my successful tribe, speak for me. My formative amazing years with brilliant mentors  reached an temporary halt, literally yesterday, bringing me to the arena — an personal ground zero, an ego crush, a life-kicking fracture, yet a jump-start to my intentions and personal joy which had been on life support for weeks, trapped in a cubicle, accepting the unacceptable.

Little did I know that the dismissal that felt shocking, embarrassing, humiliating, and so shameful, came to me to unveil the purpose-honoring person I am today.

God bless you.

“Look at you Mami!,” my Latin Cafe server smiled as if questioning my wistful look. “You are a beautiful woman, do something creative — go for art — you are probably very good at it, write a book girl!”

All of it prophetic, particularly knowing that what I love to do is precisely what she mentioned, what you see in this website, in the words of those who know me and motivate me, my gift – an eye that beautifies. I am a curator of the extraordinary, a photographer, a style house, a voice to write, a spellbinder. I am an artist.

I am no longer the woman in the corporate cubicle. I seek exciting climates that resonate, rewarding creative fields to write a well-deserved glorious chapter.

Here, my empowering server delivered her glorious closing remark.

“The people who we think have so much power with our paychecks in those offices? Most of them don’t have it, and I don’t want to be like them.” And do you know why?,” she asked as she took two tiny steps closer to my table. “Because they don’t know how to live.”

And just like that, she manifested my current mantra, Oprah Winfrey’s most treasured teaching from Gary Zukav’s The Seat of the Soul : “When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment.”

Up to this day, I had never taken the time to read the uniform name tag of the lovely server I now hug, respect, and refer to as my friend.

Her name is Wendy. And rightly so, the meaning of her name is “friend.”

By having a clear intention and living on purpose to her calling, she is her best friend.

Shouldn’t we all? Isn’t this one of life’s best friendly reminders?

Perhaps is a favorite word. Its meaning, phonetics, and the wisdom behind those who prefer it for the same reasons that I do. For all one knows – it could be, it may be, it may surprise you.

Perhaps surprised me this week, proving itself timely, patient, wise, forever healing.

And perhaps had it, that a loved one out of desperation to win an argument during a dinner discussion by the beach, mentioned a name that does not belong near the ocean. The name of a sick mind that I am proud to have survived.

I knew it had to do with perhaps.

Grabbing the unnamed memory by its horns, I seized the moment and paved the way for my next morning, the day to have my conversation, the minute to find the truth behind a lifelong doubt.

My morning showed up. Salty breeze on my back, sun on my shoulders, sandy moss under my feet, ocean waves crashing in and out of me. I walked towards the question. Fear holding on to yesterday, my spirit honoring today.

The doubt dies today. I had to ask the question, I had to bear the answer.

I had to perhaps. And I did.

I asked and the doubt died washing me clean, safe, free.

The fear, the past, the scars, all healed by the sea.

An open sky now lives in me. And in us.

Perhaps threw me a winning dice.

The timing of closure.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the campaign held every October globally to increase breast cancer awareness and raise funds for its cure, just ended. For most women, the fight to fight the disease never ends. Fear fuels it. Ask the girl in us.

To this date, I have been fortunate not to have breast cancer. And I have been equally blessed to love women who have faced the disease with the guts reserved for those who get the news firsthand empty handed.

I am not sure if I have a family history of breast cancer, but I definitely have a fear history of breast cancer. Full-blown. This is why I am here, to share my race away from breast cancer fear.

I met breast cancer in my childhood.

Growing up in my beloved Caracas, Venezuela, I most have eavesdrop the telephone conversations between my mother and the family best friend, our beloved Antonia Cotelo, nicknamed by all as Totó. She was diagnosed with a brain cancer that quickly metastasized into breast cancer in her 50s. During her arduous fight, my mother and her spoke daily about results, treatments, side effects – the ups, the downs, the all.

They did not know, but I heard it all.

My parents welcomed Totó in our home every weekend. From those memories, her beautiful musical voice asking for “las niñas” (the girls) still echoes in my heart, particularly because there was not a single moment where she let her sorrow show when my sister or I were around. Quite the contrary, she was the epitome of love in joy. Till the day she parted, she held her cancer sentence with the grace of a white swan. Her emotional intelligence in the midst of her devastating disease is to be revered.

My last memory of Totó is the face of an angel lost in time, as if searching her way – impeccably made up complexion framing eyes no longer symmetrical and frozen, wondering in limbo hoping to focus. All of it, within a head stylishly wrapped in a colorful scarf, honoring what was still a beautiful mind. That’s what cancer looked like to the girl in me.

Totó left us one rainy Sunday. Years passed by, my life went on, and my womanhood showed up. All of it with growing fears of breast cancer well into my 40s, intensified and out of proportion every time I had breast pain, mammograms, thermography, sonograms, biopsies, the many roads to breast health. I knew how to know but I did not want to know. Sounds familiar?

Then I took charge.

Sick of worrying sick, I saw a renowned specialist in cognitive therapy who nailed the source of my breast cancer fears and healed it with a resounding closing argument: “That’s not your story. That is not how you will go.”

So what’s a girl to do? Wrap up? Not a chance.

A girl helps the girls living in fear, the ones who are afraid to check, the ones who wished they had checked, the ones dying from not knowing, everyone and everybody, so that no woman is the story, so that no woman ever goes this way again.

I have propelled myself into the subject fearlessly forward because I know that the fight starts with the F word to face – Fear.

For starters, I now go to my yearly mammograms knowing that whatever technology and medicine find, we will do our best to cure, because I took preventive charge by checking on time.

And she runs for more.

Last October 14, 2017, I ran the 5K Susan G Komen’s Race for the Cure.

I raced against fear, convinced that what men, women, and girls don’t know is hurting us.

I sprinted for my girls – Kelly, Maria, all of you- we are one in all.

I flew on my angel – Totó guided me well.

We took off and became mean- freaking- cancer-fear-burning machines.

And we won the race.

Ladies and gentlemen hear me out – this is what breast cancer-aware women look like:

Fearless.

Every Time, all caps, no mercy, no maybe – it’s Saturday morning and badass rules here.

Head to Brickell Equinox and watch us endure Tarra Martinez’ Booty Blast class, designed to define, yet endured by mostly women, the kind that defy definition. You’ve been warned.

The club describes the class as “dedicated to the bottom half – glutes, hips, thighs and abs.” I dedicate it to the bottomless.

This is so very beyond a class. A cult comes close. Ask Elderbrook, we dig him.

Tarra starts serving Cola, and yeah, that’s what we are coming for, and yeah, we can tell the difference. She extends a courtesy to the early adopters defining the work as a set of balancing moves meant to “strengthen everything that matters.” A force of gracious will, she steps in her zone – now ours- with an invitingly unabashed “What do you say?”

A descent of the Saturday Booty Tribe, no ordinary methods to round, lift, tight, harden, reduce, increase, and everything else gluteus medium and minimums I have ever tried, apply here. Just as I suspect no ordinary methods have ever applied to anything this tribe has faced. Or at least yours truly.

This is so very beyond the butt. A balancing act, the gravity of my mind.

Grab the toys – the weights, the bands, the ball, the gliders, the block. Yes, that zen-looking yoga block we used to love, until now. Here, the block is the obstacle we step one leg on, all strength on heel, while we bend upper torso and lower body like an accordion, all one compact move, plunging slowly to grab -or strangle- the lazy red ball of shame laying on the ground waiting for our trembling everything to bring it up, only to bring it back down again.

Hello distant floor, can we talk?

Losing your balance has never been so redeeming. We kick ass when we start anew. Laura Walsh’s Cold Front “I don’t want to leave you know” is so à propos on the forgiving background.

“Keep your own pace”, “You are fighting nature!” Tarra howls and echoes, as we endure a dozen of hell-bents, perched on faith, to the count of eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, and that gloriously Tarra branded “and now recoooooover!” We do, only to revisit tough love strapping the mother-torturer yoga loop bands (black here) to squat the self, jump, and squat back again to the count of eternity.

“And now pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse.” And to think that I enlisted here in search of soothing conventional leg isolations. My ass. My burning all. Sciatica, you better get it. Why on earth do I self-impose this ritual every Saturday morning? Because we choose what we master. Up the ante. Every time.

Magalenha plays on. So do we.

No wonder this is one of Equinox busiest classes while one of its hardest – what we say we do, where we step we own, what we saddle, we lead. Girlie grit.

Filled to capacity, floored to endurance, enter at your own glorious risk. And if you do, don’t let the booty name fool you into expecting the conventional class and gals. We certainly look it, but tight ass doesn’t make it here, kick-ass is a pass.

What do you say?

What a difference a week makes. Especially if you counted on a category five hurricane to swipe your hometown and self in pieces.

Last September 10, Hurricane Irma churned the state of Florida making its catastrophic land in the Keys and spreading calamity on through Florida’s southwestern coast, mercifully brushing Miami as a category three hurricane due to land interaction.

Irma was the first major hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005, the strongest Atlantic hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the most threatening in size and strength observed in the Atlantic since Dean in 2007.

Everything about Irma had intensity about it – first, historic, unprecedented, and catastrophic. Ask the damage done to parts of the northeastern Caribbean and Florida during a week of relentless activity.

A day before its expected landfall in Miami, I took cover in the hotel right across my high-rise building in Brickell Avenue for fear of being slammed by a flying crane crashing thru my balcony on a 34th floor. Seeking shelter across my street seemed stupid for some, but being displaced from my original evacuation plan right before a mandatory evacuation, alarming warnings, no gas on tank or open station on sight, and the city airport closed explains my across-the-street diaspora.

What propelled me to make a hotel reservation next door? I did not want to die alone and have my family and friends suffer from my lack of preparation.

As Irma breached our coast unflinchingly, I bunkered at my hotel ballroom located in its fifth floor with no windows around us. Here, the husband of a dear friend, my dog and I bonded with 350 guests during eight hours of uninterrupted angst, electricity, and Wi-Fi, allowing most of us to call, text, and go online to watch images of rising floodwaters rushing thru businesses and residences downstairs; read about cranes crashing down; and hear about window panes turning into projectile glass blades one block from our hotel flying straight into my building.

Irma left Miami mid-afternoon, leaving thousands without power and covering Brickell in one murky and turbid body of restless water. After all the devastation she left in the Caribbean and the Keys, Irma baptized our financial district with a forgiving bath.

Grateful does not even begin to describe it.

A week later, I am lucky to be home with minor damage to my building, power and water restored, a full fridge, and a not-so-distant past stuck in my memory like a wet trunk. Many in my community are still without power, others in Florida and the Caribbean have lost it all, included loved ones. My hope is that with time, life and faith blossoms in all of them with blessings in disguise.

Fallen trees, shattered glass, twisted metals, and huge muddy ponds.

I walked counting blessings – my rock-solid family and lifetime friends who called relentlessly to ensure resources were available and my safety was not compromised. And then, kind souls who I mistakenly referred to as acquaintances kept me in their prayers like close friends do – the very strong connections made during a power-outage.

Hot, humid, and stormy Irma slipstreams gifted me with trails of truth.