On her first birthday I was at work and my boss’s son walked into the room. The face my boss made when he saw his son brought me to my knees. That was it. I could not get up. I cried in the middle of work and did not stop. I was never in a place where I did not want to live, I was just in a place of unbelievable despair, where I did not know if I could survive it. I was heartbroken. It hurt to breathe. My family decided I should seek help. They weren’t sure of how to handle the situation. I could not look anywhere without being reminded of her. I dug her lavender blanket out, the one thing we brought for her to be wrapped in, I slept with it and I cried. I was broken in half. I was grief stricken and not prepared for it. I had no idea it was coming. At least, I had no idea my mind would feel like it snapped me in half. I had no idea that was possible. It was a normal day at work, it was her first birthday but I did not allow myself to think about that. Everything seemed fine except for the fact that the lump in my throat was building from the moment I opened my eyes that morning. And eventually, it broke me.
Our minds are truly incredible. Time is truly incredible. We heal, we grow, we learn, we see and feel. We love. I never respected it. I never respected the true force of mind, body and soul. It does not forget and on her first birthday I had no choice but to grieve. It took over and I was given no choice. None.
I was so alone in this grief, I resented everyone around me for not understanding it. How could they? It was not their fault. There is no timeline for this. We have evolved to where grief is expected to be swift and acutely painful. Not much time should be wasted grieving because everything goes on. Life goes on. Everything is done at a fast rate of speed and so human minds and emotions should be able to keep up. We will see someone grieving and immediately apply the loss to ourselves and how we would handle it better. We have become so disconnected in a world that will grow from human connection. I was expected to be over it by now and no one really wanted to deal with the pain again so, I was outcasted. I was sent away for a week to “heal” at a facility. I had a mental breakdown and “PTSD”. That is what I was told. I gave birth to my daughter in a very traumatic way. I had prepared, and in that preparation for her birth I thought I was also grieving. I was not. I did not heal that week away. I was surrounded by people who were also grieving, or lonely, or lost, and I did not heal. I didn’t. I left pretending to have it together and decided I would take a break. I was really running away. I ran away as far as possibly could.
I decided to pack my bags and go to the place of my birth, Ecuador. I would stay with my grandparents, Abuelos, in the same house they have been in since I was born. I had friends there from going back and forth growing up, I had some money available. I ran away as fast as I could from the painful place I called home. I did not know, I would leave calling Ecuador “home.” I did not know how drastically my life was really changing.
I had no permanent plans. I told myself I would get a job as a makeup artist, start working, living and growing there. I arrived in such a pitiful state, I just wanted to be distracted. I went out with friends and made new ones. I watched the same telenovela with my Abuelitos every night. My spanish was improving every day. I went to the same tienda at the end of the road, where the guard would meet me and escort me to get a pack of cigarettes and my favorite soda. I would sit on the white balcony of my abuelitos house and talk to my abuelito while he read the paper, I would play soccer with the kids in the street. I started talking to a tenant who lived in an apartment my Abuelos leased out. I began to have a routine even though I did not realize it. I would wake up, guard, tienda, kids and wait for the tenant to get home so we could hang out. I would go and get my hair blow dried because it was a thing to do and it was cheap and it made my hair feel incredible. I would spend weekends with my friends and the week days with my Abuelitos. I would check in with Houston. I would speak with my ex.
We spoke quite often, actually. We both knew we could not be together. We had been through too much. Two months after the loss of our daughter, my fiance’s dearest and closest friend, passed away from cancer. My fiance's father was plagued with Parkinson’s Disease, worsening every day. We were surrounded by death. That was too much. We were 25 years old. We had been together on and off since we were 18. We were broken, but somehow very strongly connected. So, we checked in. We did not need to know what was going on at either end of the world, all we wanted to do is hear each others voice. We were the only two people in the world that would understand each other from what we had been through. We had to grieve, but separately. He also needed to grieve. We were no longer 18, and life had hit us tragically fast.
One of my final weekends in Ecuador we went to a small beach town called, Montanita. Everyone had told me that this is the place I needed to go to before I returned to Houston. My money was running out and I knew I would have to make a move soon. We pulled into Mama Cucha Hostel and we were greeted by a man they called, “El Colorado.” There were hammocks and bamboo staircases. I remember someone making the joke that the “gringa”, me, needed the room with the AC unit. I also remember El Colorado’s abuelita coming out saying someone had stolen her marijuana plants that she uses to make her arthritis gel with. When I heard that I thought to myself, “Where am I? These places really do exist” It seemed staged, almost. It was truly beautiful. It was a place that took control of your senses, the musicians playing on the streets were amplified and the smiles on everyone’s faces were wider, the food was better, the alcohol was stronger. Everything was amplified in the most beautiful way.
On one of our last days there, it was decided my friends would take me and a guy from NYC on a boat to see the cliff sides. They told us, it would be the closest thing we can get to the Galapagos. Scenery wise.
El Colorado drove. We drove up and down hills covered in trees. Everywhere I looked there was greenery. It was a long ride but it was beautiful. We arrived to our destination and there was a blue boat, beached on the shore waiting for us. We all climbed aboard and took to the ocean. Within minutes we were nowhere near shore and surrounded by clear water. I would look to the right of the boat and see huge cliff sides. I would see years and years of change and evolution. Time was imprinted all over these cliffs and colors changed along with texture. It was something else. It was a stunning.
I had a moment on this blue boat that I can only describe as a cliche movie montage. Everyone was jumping into the frigid water and swimming to the shore of a rocky sand bed, and in the middle of the ocean on a blue boat, I had a montage.
I went through images of the day I gave birth to my daughter. I went through the phone conversations I had with my ex. I remember thinking back to the people who had touching things to say or do for me after we lost the baby. I thought of the tree that we buried her ashes in and wondered if she was ok. I wondered if she was being watered enough. I thought of myself and how I arrived at this place broken. My desperate attempt to stay away from Houston was fading away and anxiety quickly took it's place. I had to go back. I had to start my life again. I had to do it right. I was picturing myself working, dating, traveling. It was time to grow up. It all hit me at once. I could hear my friends screaming in the cold water while they ran to the shore and I just stared out into the ocean and felt incredibly small. I was so tiny in comparison to the world and all the wonders it has to offer. I would always mourn the ones I loved. I will always think of my daughter and honor the time I had with her. I had let it hurt me and break me, but without even realizing it, it was healing me. She healed me. Ecuador healed me. I, healed me. Time, healed me. People, loved me. Friends, laughed with me. I did not run away to Ecuador, I came to evolve in Ecuador. I came to grieve and mourn and grow. The whole time, the purpose of my stay there was growth and I had no idea, none, until I stood there in the middle of the ocean. Life, real life, sinking into me. I evolved in minutes. The work up to this incredible realization was a year and a couple of months but the actual moment was minutes. Surrounded by evolution, I evolved, on a blue boat.
The one most miraculous and beautiful thing about writing this, looking back and going through all of this again and again in my writing is that I see her more. She was there the entire time. Even when I thought I was running, I was growing. I was healing. I was grieving. I was evolving. This was the moment my grief officially transformed me.