Mi Familia Cubana


Today I board a plane and tomorrow (very early) I will be flying to Cuba once again. This will be my fourth trip in as many years. 

Each time I lead a mission trip I get both excited and nervous. As much as I miss being a participant I do not kid myself to know that I am a much better leader than I am follower. That being said, I will easily follow someone who has more experience than I. On this trip, however, I’m it. 

This trip is different. I am taking young adults, there is only one other who has ever been and her first trip was last fall. I am excited for these others to experience Cuba. I am especially excited to introduce my partner to Cuba. 

In therapy yesterday he commented to our therapist that I am more excited to introduce him to my “Cuban family” than I am to my “real family”. This made me terrible sad. It’s not that he doesn’t get it, the whole family estrangement thing, and all he was saying was that these people are really important to me.

For better or worse and much to the dismay of my extended family I have learned to make my own family in life. I would love for my collective parents to meet my partner, but for too many reasons to discuss I cannot. I would love to have a family where I felt accepted for who I am. I would love to have a family who embraced me in a warm and loving way. 

I’m going to stop there because I just wrote and erased several sentences because they just got mean. 

Let’s just say this. I don’t expect the Walton’s, never have, nor do I expect the Brady Bunch, but there is a middle ground between that and David and Bathsheba’s little brood. All this to say, I would love to have the “meet the parents” moment. 

I even married into a family where I thought I would get that. A perfect little progressive family where I would be cherished, and well, that didn’t turn out so well either…

So this little phrase has bothered me since yesterday. There’s a guilt voice that says “how dare you put anyone else above your family”. Then I thought about it. 

I’m excited for Derrick to go to Cuba. I’m excited to have him see the things that I’ve seen and love the people that I love, that’s what you want when you’re in a relationship, you want to share things that are important and life changing with that person. I dream of bringing our kids someday.

But I realized this morning as I awoke from a restless sleep, I am not more excited to have him meet the Cubans I have grown to love more than my family, it’s that, he has already met my family. 

This man to whom I love and am partnered co-parents my children, has met and talked to my sisters and my brothers. They may be blood relation, they may not, but he already knows them. 

Maggie, Gus, Sarah, Melissa, Nick, Tripp, and Jeff. My family. He has already been given the seal of  approval. I love them all and thank them for being part of my real family. 

Now, off to Cuba where I have more mothers and grandmothers than any girl could want (and love every second of it!). 

Side note, they’ve seen his picture, he’s got nothing to worry about except maybe a wandering eye… ūüėČ

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The Stress of It All

In a week I will be in Cuba. The sun will shine, the humility high, the smell of diesel engines everywhere. I will spend a week with my Cuban family and I will be at home.

Cuba has been in the news a lot lately. More and more people are getting to visit. In the long run these tourists will be good or bad for Cubans, depending on how you look at things. This will be my 3rd trip in the last 2 years. The church I serve has a sister church there since 1999.

When I go to Cuba it is like coming home to a family who has done nothing but sit around and missed me. Of course this is not true but it feels that way. I have a Cuban madre (mother), a cuban novio (boyfriend who is at least 70) and hermanos y hermanas (brothers and sisters).

They are people just like we are, they have hopes and dreams just like we do. They carry a burden of abandonment, of hardship, of oppression. But they do not want our pity.

As I prepare I am collecting the usual things – chocolate to bring, extra shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant. Writing a sermon to be translated into Spanish and I am pulling summer clothes from the closet, but what I am most preparing is my soul.

1422399_10203198787072619_1253925515_nWhen I arrive in Cuba I will arrive on a 747 will all the luxuries and technology of a chartered plane. I will walk through a Caribbean airport and security and then into a parking lot full of cars from 1962. I will be greeted with warm hugs and probably more than a few tears will be shed, a sigh of relief will come from my being. I am in good, loving hands.

The rest of week will be rest, visits, food, worship, prayer, travel, and leading “my people” through the journey of their own spirituality. I will be on Cuban time, there’s no hurry, no stress about being late, no worry at all. I will talk to others about hardship, about cancer, about lack of access.

I will probably play volleyball and dance, I will get yelled at for not covering my very pale skin in the sun (the concept of sunscreen is a little hard to explain to some). I will get stares in the marketplace for my skin color and a few colorful calls for the same reason, children will want to touch my hair and skin and I will smile and delight.

I will have no contact with my family and friends for a week, I will be, in a different world. I tell my family, if something happens, just don’t bother trying to contact me, there’s nothing I can do about it. No phone, no internet, nothing distracting you but the person in front of you and the beauty of the world.

In therapy this morning I was describing this world, the problem is not letting go. It’s coming home.

When that plane lands in Miami I thrill and turn my iphone on immediately. I can’t wait to get home and hold¬†my little people¬†and connect with my friends, but when you spend a week away from the stress of life, it’s crushing to come home to it. Credit Cards, finances, work in the second week of Advent, access to everything and anything I want at any moment. Cars, phone, internet, OH MY!

For people who have had pain management you will understand this metaphor- the plane landing is like the pain medication wearing off. Slowly the weight of life returns. The stress of it all feels unbearable.

I am nervous of this feeling. I am scared and anxious about returning home in the midst of Advent, the stress of Christmas. Truth is, it wouldn’t matter,¬†Christmas or not, the abundance of my life is crushing and I need to figure out how to handle¬†it better, period.

Truth is, being in Cuba just holds up the mirror of life. “You do too much,” it says, “slow down, breathe, live.” but in America, that too feels like pressure.