“How is it that some celebrities, whom the average person would believe to have all the popularity a human being could want, still admit to feeling lonely? It is quite naïve to assume that popularity is the remedy for loneliness. Loneliness does not necessarily equal physical solitude; it is the inability to be oneself and rightfully represented as oneself.” ―Criss Jami
Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?
I was exceptionally lucky to be gifted with my writing voice relatively young. Being vocal with the written word is something that runs in my family, but for years, I kept things bottled up and didn’t have a lot to say. Being told “Write what you know, think, and feel.” is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.
Having amassed 27 years of writing experience does something to a person. It makes you reflect back on the very early stages of who you were as a writer. I was so far from refined, it wasn’t even funny, but no one ever is. You can be writing for 50 years and there is still something to be learned each day. Writing is the gift that keeps on giving.
Sourcing inspiration can come from things you witness, experience, and simply living each day. We all have different stories to tell, yet it is based on a single common denominator; living.
I do like to stick to what I know. Facts and opinions are my bread and butter, and to some extent, they will always be at the core of everything I do. Fiction allows me to breathe new life into something that always plays itself out inside my head, much like a big budget film. I find myself enchanted and intrigued by all of the characters, all of whom are inspired by actual people in my life or people no longer in my life. With books, characters are often more relatable than a glammed up actress with false lashes on or the male lead sporting very obvious eyeliner (unless it’s Johnny Depp, in which case we sort of expect it.), but on paper, things flow differently. There are things that can be conveyed with the written word that can never be conveyed any other way.
Memories are often beautifully conveyed with words. As is common for me during this time of year, I look back on family members that have passed away and I can recall their mannerisms, voice, and the stories they used to tell.
My Great-Uncle Charlie was a solid storyteller. He would talk about his travels, his experience in the military, and he was so exceptionally bright that even in his 80’s, the stories could very easily take you back in history. For several years I would spend damn near every Saturday afternoon with him, and he always had stories to tell. At the end of his life, he paid me the most beautiful of compliments. It was like being seen by someone for the very first time, only now, he had a different type of clarity. I will never forget how precious that moment was or how it made me feel.
He was present the day I was offered a position at Morgan Stanley to be a stockbroker. I asked his thoughts on the decision, something I very rarely do, because I thought the idea was slightly ludicrous. He told me I had to choose to do what would ultimately make me happy, not what someone else thought I should do with my life. After much deliberation, I decided not to take the job. I believed in listening to his advice. I made my decision after he had passed away, and by doing so I was able to continue on a path that isn’t for everyone, but is very clearly my own.
Writing was my first true creative outlet. It was always my thoughts and voice, but it was, even from the start, way ahead of its time. Perhaps that is telling.
I have often been accused, even on this platform, of being “too this” or “too that”. The truth is, on my “regular” blog, I am way too tame. I see it each day, and it annoys me. I no longer post my work there, because I feel like it has been tainted in some way and even though I have worked on it for two years, I feel like stepping back from it and only posting things there that I deem appropriate is okay. So if you’re reading this, know that I’m not “too anything” here. I am myself. I won’t ever let anyone diminish that strength again, or attempt to take who I am from me with negative words. I need no one’s approval or acceptance, just my own. .
Is the pen mightier than the sword? Sometimes. What I have learned is that my pen IS my sword, and vice versa. It is my weapon of choice, of skill, of convenience, or complete and utter ease. My father used to say I could sell ice to Eskimos during the worst Winter ever, all with what I had to say. Maybe that is true, but having the skill to properly utilize words is one of the most precious gifts a person can have. It’s not a gift everyone is granted with. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s talent, but often times, it’s a blend of the two.
If my “sword” is too much for you, please, by all means, walk away. But for those of you who stay; You’re in for a fun ride!
copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Coming Out of The Ancestral “Closet”
I find it more than a little appalling that in 2014, I am still being asked “What are you?” Not “What religion are you?” or your average, inappropriate social questions, which, by my standards, are still rude. No, it’s always been “What ARE you?”, with such profound emphasis, as if I am my own species. It’s become ridiculous, and as we’ve established, I am not a patient woman.
Growing up in New York City; a small, fair skinned, dark blue eyed, dark haired child, I was utterly adorable. I have pictures to prove it. My peaches & cream complected, blonde, hazel eyed mother was very clear in my genes, but so was my olive skinned, raven haired, dark brown eyed father. I was clearly a genetic mix of my parents and maternal Grandparents. For years, my eyes had that perfect Asian up-tilt, a gift of my Tribal Siberian and Mongolian ancestry, something that I now enhance with carefully applied eyeliner when I have the patience to do so. I was about six years old when they changed in color from dark blue to hazel. It normally doesn’t take such a long period of time for a child’s eye color to change.
Where am I going with this? Well, I will tell you. I’ve known for about 8 years now that I am indeed part Latina. I have absolutely no reason to hide it or not discuss it if it comes up in conversation, especially now that Spain and Portugal are allowing Jews to return for citizenship. I have to say, I was very sorely tempted to pack my bags and leave.
Growing up, everyone assumed I was either 100% Puerto Rican or 100% Italian. I am neither. In fact, I’m not 100% anything. I am so blended, I should have my own flag. My Latina roots come from Spain (Zaragoza) and Argentina (Buenos Aires).
Several months ago, while filling out some forms I checked the Caucasian box, as I’ve done my entire life, and followed up with Hispanic on the second portion of the form. It is truly the first time I’d ever done it, but I simply felt like not putting it down was to lie, and it bothered me, so I checked the box proudly. The woman handling the paperwork looked at me immediately and said “You’re Sephardic?!”, with such utter disbelief as she looked at the color of my skin and eyes, that I glanced up briefly from filling out the forms and said “I am Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Russian Siberian, and Jewish Asian.” In truth, that’s not even the half of it, but it was short and to the point. I didn’t owe her an explanation of my lineage, but I’d be damned if I was going to be treated any differently.
Really, why the hell does anyone give a shit?! Why did she? I later found out that as an immigrant to this country, she did not want anyone knowing she was Sephardic. I was slightly astounded, but anyone who is at an age where their Grandparents or parents may have died during the Holocaust is probably still hiding what they are. Having been born here, I suppose I do not feel the need to hide. I’ve never felt the need to do so, not ancestrally or religiously.
People tend to forget that Latinas come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are blonde and blue eyed, some are more like me, and others are dark haired, dark eyed, and always look naturally tan. I cannot tan to save my life, and since I detest sun damage and the sun on a whole, I religiously wear sun protection. Some of us speak Ladino, Yiddish, Spanish, Portuguese, or older versions of various languages. Some of my cousins, also Sephardic, speak French (My brother does, I do not.). I grew up in a bilingual home, my closest family friends did too, and they all spoke Spanish. I spent years studying other languages, and am now teaching my brother Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish. I understand languages I don’t speak, but I base that on the fact that some of them are incredibly similar. I have been trying to learn Swedish for a couple of years now. Not for any other reason than I think it’s beautiful when spoken. Welsh is next on my list.
I’m a great observer of others, but I try very hard not to judge people based on race or religion. Everyone is an individual. If you treat me like shit, I am not going to judge your ethnic background for that, just you. If you treat me well, I’m not going to automatically assume that everyone like you will show the same kindness and respect.
I have friends from all walks of life, and I accept and respect them for their individuality. I don’t care where a person is from, so long as we treat each other with respect and courtesy. Most of the people in my life who are closest to me are not American born or American citizens (though I can now say for a fact that more are). Two of my best friends are Israeli and German. My boyfriend holds dual citizenship. He is Welsh born, returns to Wales several times a year to visit older relatives, but is not an American citizen. His parents and siblings are not American citizens either, but they’re some of the loveliest people, and to me, that’s all that matters.
I have a friend who, for damn near our entire friendship, would openly declare herself Hispanic “From SPAIN!”, she’d tell people loudly. She’s also part Cherokee, which shows. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, but now that our friendship has declined so badly, I have noticed more and more that she is embracing the fact that her ancestry is actually Mexican. It’s always been pretty evident to me, but would I ever have said a word to her about it? No. That’s disrespectful. That’s like catching me on a dumb day and then pointing out that I have some Polish ancestry. It’s rude and it’s not something you say or do.
I think what bothered me the most about her saying it so often is that people would ask her if she was Hawaiian, saying that she looked “exotic”, and I’d then think of Stefanie, one of my best friends, who is Native Hawaiian. There’s a definite difference, not just in looks, but in so much more. She is not simply born and raised there, you can see her Hawaiian and Japanese ancestry in her hair, eyes, skin, and beauty. It shines like a beacon. Her Italian mother, we often joke, barely got a gene in. Between her and her siblings, she is the one who most looks like her father’s side of the family. For the previously aforementioned friend, ancestry and honoring it is clearly a big issue, so I never, ever tried to make her feel uncomfortable, nor did I ever press her on it. I feel it is something to honor and show respect, not hide from or deny, but that’s me and my otherworldly view since I’m still being asked “What ARE you?”
The next time someone says that to me, I might very well declare myself a vampire, purchase a really cool pair of colored contacts from Italy, and not say a word to anyone ever again, until the sun sets. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers, do they not?
So, this is me. Part Latina. Owning it, not ashamed, remembering to use my Spanish instead of forgetting that I can speak it, completely unconcerned if my honoring it bothers someone else. It’s my genes, my ancestry, and if you’ve taken issue with it, fuck off!
“Coming Out Of The Ancestral ‘Closet’” is copyright © 2014 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC., and was originally published on July 7th, 2014. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.