Life in Paradox

I’ve always admired California Wildflowers that adorn the dry hillsides in the spring and summer months. They grow in spite of the little rain we are gifted or the fact of anyone wanting them there, much like a weed, but they are so strikingly beautiful that they are left to flourish for a few treasured months out of the year. I particularly love the California Poppy’s that always seem to create a sea of tangerine dreams that are nearly impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced them. My fondest memory of them was when growing up, my family and I used to take trips to Mammoth in the Sierra Nevada’s, and on the seemingly endless car ride we would pass fields of vibrant poppies on the highway in the middle of nowhere that stretched for miles. I remember trying to sketch them in small notebooks but the graphite on my flat page never quite did them justice. The vast fields of lush flowers burned like a bright wildfire piercing through the landscape, only to find juxtaposition against the daunting edifices of the great Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. And it wasn’t because they were well kept or anyone even cared if they were there, they were just there defying laws of nature and making onlookers believe that elements of magic are in fact very real.

My parents a couple months ago, scattered wildflower seeds in a stretch of soil in front of our house and the untamable flowers seemed to pop up overnight. The poppies are particularly incredible, and recently, as my mom and I were walking past them, she said “did you know they close up at night?” I paused in that moment and took a harder look at the flowers. This simple fact I had never realized about these flowers I love so much made them seem even more magical to me.

It’s amazing how much has changed in a little over a month’s time (since my last post), I began working a full time job in which I feel inspired every day and have regained a sense of purpose and direction in my life which I have truly never felt before in this way. I am making the commute to LA from Ventura (60-70 miles one way) about three times per week which is wearing on me, but I’m thinking (hoping) my perseverance will pay off, which it already has in a lot of ways. The reward of feeling inspired is enough in itself. It’s kind of a paradoxical life where part of me is safe in sunny Ventura and the other half of me wants to roam the unruly streets of Los Angeles, however, if they unite in one place they don’t feel entirely whole.

As I move forward in this new chapter of my life, I can fully look back and see past mistakes and shape them into learning experiences. Especially in the past year. I had this incredible realization the other day that “Wow, I have grown up.” And in no way am I as intelligent as I make myself seem or wise by any means, but this quantitative collection of experiences and knowledge has lead me to decide to write a book of memoirs showcasing experiences (for lack of a better word) of the first 25 years of my life or my silver anniversary (haha).

As I grow more and more into adulthood, and hatch from the shell of my reckless youth, I see myself how I was and how I am (sounds like the lyric of a Cranberries song from the 90s lol). Not really from a given time but maybe in a relationship perspective and what I valued, or maybe when I felt the most self-loathing versus how I am choosing to live and view myself now. At the risk of sounding utterly ridiculous, I feel like I am an excellent metaphor of a California Poppy as they are a paradox. I, like the flowers, continue to bloom beautifully proving to the world my inherent value because of my vibrant and indistinguishable beauty. (I know this sounds sickeningly vein but please stay with me here). However, this beauty dampens the value of the resilience these seemingly weak flowers must endure in order to remain something worth looking at. I am a poppy.

This month I have watched my mother go from bad to worse and lose most luxuries of living in which most of us call everyday menial tasks like going to the grocery store, walking the dog or even washing your hair on your own. I haven’t been able to truly face what is going on until now really because it’s so much different to be able to take emotion to pen and paper (hypothetically) than to actually recognize what is really happening, in your life, in that moment. Watching her everyday struggle is like having a razor blade chip away at little pieces of of my heart knowing that soon it will be completely mangled and not something anyone would truly want to have. Tonight, I had to fight to hold back tears while I helped her wash her hair in the kitchen sink, knowing how much she feels stripped of so much of her power to be and do things on her own. To me, she is still so powerful, how could you ever see your mother as something other than that?

*For the record, she is not able to wash her hair normally in the shower because she has an iv medication that was surgically inserted into her chest that cannot get wet under any circumstances.

But in these moments of despair I remember my somewhat silly “poppy paradox” and realize that there are even smaller luxuries in life that we forget to enjoy every day. Like laughing with your family at dinner, feeling the sun on your face during a hike and really feeling what it’s like to have someone truly love you.

I sometimes have an internal battle with my own paradox as the role I have been outwardly prescribed to play in this world is a blonde, pretty, young, straight female- things I identify with but don’t feel define me. These contrast with the multi-faceted person I feel I know to be true to my character that unfortunately is not told well by storytellers in power in our society today. In film, beauty and charisma automatically equate to happiness or, if the character is unhappy, there is always some sort of solution to her silly woes (usually always involving a man) because why would she ever have to deal with anything challenging because she’s pretty? Queue all my favorite heroins in movies: Katarina in 10 Things I Hate About You, The Princess Bride, Penny Lane, or even Cher in Clueless. All blonde, all their woes are solved by men… And to further prove this point that it’s not solely a white girl prob I give you the examples of Brandy in Cinderella waiting for her prince, Jennifer Hudson pinning for a lover who just upgraded to Beyoncé in Dreamgirls, Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard, and even Teresa in my favorite telenovela La Reina Del Sur. I think I’ve given enough of a variety to prove my point, but I won’t get into that now… The other end of the spectrum is, if you have any real human feeling as a female in film you are treated as some kind of a black sheep excommunicated from normal functioning society like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. Where it’s apparent that she’s hot, but you stay away because you know she’s “crazy” and you’re not really sure how blonde her hair is… The day there are multiple representations of the female/human experience represented in mainstream film will be a huge triumph because mental health is not something to be ashamed of. Okay feminist rant OUT… (much like Obama’s mic drop).

I was recently able to open up to a friend about “the darkness,” which is something I think we all possess in our deepest and darkest corners of our soul. However, through this experience with my mom I have seen the brightest, kindest illuminating lights of people’s souls which is somewhat of a paradox as well. Because in the dark, you can always find light and even though I don’t believe in God in a traditional sense, I feel a higher power in the universe is rooting for my family and I by granting us compassion and love by a network of fantastically giving people we would have not been blessed with otherwise.

This weekend my mom will be attending my college graduation with my family which is something none of us even dreamed would be happening several months ago. It will be most symbolic in that sense, that I can share something that is a milestone in both our lives and means so much to her.

Thank you all for your continued love and support. I don’t discount any of it.

X Aly



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