Cultural Autobiography

Sun. December 23, 2007
Categories: Uncategorized

A little about myself. WASP father (a blond, blue-eyed Marine from Kentucky), Mexican mother. Raised Protestant, attended private Lutheran elementary school, then public.  Childhood memories: watching old Hollywood movies with my mother, who was raised in L.A.: wanting to dance with Fred Astaire, be like Bette Davis or Katherine Hepburn, marry Clark Gable, and adored I Love Lucy, and the usual shows until Star Trek  captured my curiosity and intellect, as well as my emotions.

In  my teens, the Civil Rights Act had been enacted by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, meaning that racial segregation was outlawed during my childhood, but rights were still being denied. There was, therefore, a large increase of riots as well as crime. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were shot. The Vietnam War was going on and in 1970, while I was in junior high school, the Kent State protests occurred along with the shocking news of the shooting of college students by the National Guard.

Halfway Up The Stairs

I mainstreamed on television, pop radio and newspapers: Dylan, Baez, Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. but more importantly, the Grateful Dead. Through music I learned about love and war, being so restricted at home that I did not dare to protest with my friends. I personally saw the damage then called shellshock (my uncle from the Korean War) and later in life with an ex-Green Beret lover (that was very intense). Meanwhile, at home, bluegrass and barbeque.

 

Musical Influences

I was aware of the 60’s – 70’s as a time when the Pentecostal and Evangelical movements were growing.  I accepted Jesus into my heart, my family became born again Christians, and the Jesus Movement had an influence on us. My conversion took many twists and turns: my questioning served to open the door to the study of church-denied thoughts:

Religion and Intellectual Influences

Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, and Neopaganism were taboo  subjects and as I was going to hell, as my father said, but at least the trip was going to be interesting. Today, my vision is more Integral because the beliefs I hold currently are both Christian, Buddhist and, primarily, Vedantist. At 25, I was initiated into the Hindu Vedanta tradition by Swami Swahananda and was earnest for monasticism until I turned 30, the final decision point. It was in the jacuzzi at the Y in Montecito, CA that my final decision was made. No. The easy life was not for me although I longed for an idealized community to live in. In retrospect, spiritual communities can be politically suspect places.  Now I would be thrilled to build a straw bale house, preferably in New Mexico. I don’t know if that dream will ever come true. I’ll settle for a nice tree house somewhere, or even a tiny house.

Travels

The ex-Green Beret lover once named my process (the giving up my freedom) as “castration” and he said I did it to myself when I mainstreamed from wild girl into corporate culture at 30. But, I argued,  I was raised with the ethic of hard work. After 24 long years, the income from the aerospace company placed me in a secure,  middle class salary range. I had a perch to look down and around from.  After the long desired layoff due to downsizing, I live modestly (similar to my parents). Ah, regrets: it can be useful to look back and ponder, and think how I should have lived life differently. The toil was, and is, most likely inevitable if you want to have anything meaningful in the end to look back on. In spite of my fears and because of my bravery, I am satisfied with most of my choices.

Work Life

Body-wise, my development was normal until my teens when things got crazy. I developed a thyroid disorder (I suspect due to an early abortion) and then an auto accident left me with a concussion along with a retinal detachment that was later repaired at 25 (in the meantime, I went on a journey to Israel, then moved to Portland and tried to work there, only to return home for surgery and recovery). In my twenties, even though I went to acupuncture school and should have known better how to take care of myself, I experienced gallstones and still bear the long scar on my abdomen. Since taking up yoga, I have been healthy. I loved living at a mountain ashram for 7 years while at the same time driving into the city daily to work, and got a college degree to boot. A better life could not be had, although at the time I didn’t know it. I was just trying to stay alive. My major discomfort historically has been environmental sensitivity! Only moving to a city with fresher air has helped. More recently, I have taken up regular bike-riding, and I supplement wisely.

I Love Yoga

Retrospectively, taboos relating to sexism and racism were loosening up. I was, and still am, inspired by feminists who have fought for our sexual rights.  Roe v. Wade in 1973 was historic, and I am so grateful. The Supreme Court decided our right to privacy was protected under the 14th Amendment. Unlike battles being fought today, State restrictions were unheard of. I am hugely thankful that I was born and raised in California with a refuge like Planned Parenthood always nearby. It has been the only place in this culture where I have felt safe, protected and cared for as a woman regardless of whether I was pregnant or not.

Also, there was antipathy towards the Chicano Movement by my mother, a sentiment that does not convey her deep love of Mexicans and their culture. That was confusing. There were over one million Chicanos in Los Angeles according to the first attempt to identify the entire Hispanic origin population in 1970 (U.S. Census, 2002) and I felt that I did not want to be identified as such. People would often ask me where I came from, since I had olive toned skin and different eyes and I felt very unattractive. I never knew which group I belonged in, or even where.  I remember the focus was on not being Mexican, unaware that I did not look the part entirely. I preferred to identify with my father’s English background. Even though my mother taught Spanish in the Lutheran elementary school we attended she did not speak it to us. Strange aversion. But by avoiding machismo, I bumped into Michael Moore’s “stupid white man” patriarchy. Aren’t they all different versions of the same thing? Nevertheless, I tried to make peace with my background and flew my mother to Mexico to visit my grandfather one last time; and then flew my father to Kentucky to meet my hillbilly relatives living in the hollow of the mountains where they once farmed (and where the corporations claimed the coal). An acquaintance once cleverly called me a ‘hicspic’.  All of what I have said here informs how I see myself and influences my practice. I have always stood at a crossroads, culturally speaking.

 

Fun

Comments are closed.