Episode 7: Vanessa Matir – Joy in Choosing Yourself, Queer Momma-Writer Style
Transcribed by Giselle Flores Alvarado
Short Hand Transcription Legend:
** – asterisks represent actions and descriptions of when something is said without the running conversationational tone.
“” – quotations represent phrases that are quoted from the past or referencing a specific title/topic.
Bolded – bolded words are words said with verbal emphasis
Italicized – Words said in Spanish
🎵 – music notes represent audio cues being played
[Upbeat theme music plays] It’s a Revolution
Gabby: On this week’s episode we’re talking to one of my best friends, we’re talking to Vanessa Matir about how to find joy in being unmothered
[arrow sound effect]
Vanessa: Looking at my healing and understanding that I repeated the cycle I learned from my mother. Love me, please love me. And you know I was falling for emotionally unavailable people.
Vanessa: Because you will repeat these cycles ‘till you stop
[arrow sound effect}
Gabby: Hello! I’m Gabby Rivera, the butch Godmomma to all you your children and the one that taught Titi Perra how to use the snapchats. And this is Joy Revolution! The podcast that asks: How do you prioritize Joy?
[Theme music ends]
Gabby: Oh my goodness! Mi Gente! Today, today the most magnificent person is here to talk with me. I I know I always say that but today it’s especially true. This person is a New York City based writer, educator; she is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings. We’re talking to a five year VONA/Voices Fellow, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, The Rumpus, Bitch Magazine, New York Bestseller-Best Selling anthology Not the Bad edited by Roxanne Gay. She is also the creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop and The Writing the Motherwound Movement. [Vanessa: yes, yes] She is the person I call when a story is stuck in the back of my throat and she is always the one that reminds me to go back to the page. She’s my writing patronus and sister in spirit. Please give a big Joy Revolution to Vanessa Martir. Vanessa, please, will you tell everyone, in your own words, who you are, what, if any, pronouns you’re using today, and what you do.
Vanessa: Uh, Vanessa Martir, she/her. Uhh What do I do? I am a writer. Umm, I am an educator. I love teaching, I love working with writers umm, emerging writers, seasoned writers. I love helping people, umm write their stories, create their stories. You know, the journey of their stories, umm it’s not just I like learn in the process. I do believe that educating should be a symbiotic relationship. Like I should grow as much as the writer is growing. If I have not grown or if the writer hasn’t grown, then I have failed. I have failed.
Gabby: I mean I just think that’s a beautiful way to move through the world.
Gabby: To always understand that the people around you can offer you as much as you can offer them.
Vanessa: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean I’ve been thinking about joy a lot. You know.
Vanessa: I had, umm we’ve talked, I had a pretty traumatic experience happen to me two and half weeks ago. My daughter was in an accident. And I’m okay with sharing it now. I hadn’t shared it. Umm but, it was- it could have ended up bad. But it didn’t, you know? Umm, I am blessed, she is blessed. But it is still traumatic to know that something could have happened to my kid. And I have been her caretaker in a whole different way. Like babygirl can’t- now can get around on crutches- but had to have surgery. So I have been real deliberate about joy and self care and in a different way. Even if I’m making it up as I go. But also, it’s made me aware of the methods I already have in place. Like my garden.
Gabby: Let’s talk about this garden though.
Vanessa: I’m always here for gardens! I have a deck for the first time. [Gabby: mhmm] Like ever. Growin up my mother had a garden in the backyard. And it’s interesting now, to have a garden and to understand now what the garden meant to her. Mami had a garden in, you know, the 1980’s Bushwick,Brooklyn. Which, you know, Bushwick Brooklyn is now real different from what it used to be. Now there’s, you know, $15 burger bars and yoga studios. And there’s trash can on every corner.
Gabby: Oh my god! Fucking Brooklyn!
Vanessa: I know! [Gabby laughs] Like I’m from Bushwick! Oh my god! No no no, I’m not from that Bushwick. [Gabby laughs]. But now to have this garden is- now I understand in a whole different way what it did for my mother back then.
Gabby: V I’ve known you for so long that I can feel your energy, right? [Vanessa: yes] And I know that this like- you have been through some stuff in the last couple of weeks. [Vanessa: Exhales deeply, yes] And that’s why we’re here, right. [Vanessa: yes] We’re here and we’re gonna move right into it, we’re gonna move right through it. We got over a decade of friendship under our belt. Do I even have a belt on? Under our fajas, under our tetas. Wherever, we got all that friendship there. Umm and we’ve seen each other through some things.
Vanessa: We have.
Gabby: Some unemployment, some being broke, we’ve both experienced tremendous grief.
Vanessa: We have
Gabby: Tremendous loss, okay. And still at the same time, like you were one of the first people, [Gabby laughs]You were magnificent to me, because you’re somebody that just just like I’m a writer. [Vanessa: yup] And that’s it. And this BS 9 to 5 that I have, I appreciate it, but I gotta go. And you know what, I’m gonna go on my own time. And you were a single mom, and you know, it’s like you won the lotto and were like I’m out! I’m gonna go live my dreams. It was like regular life V was saying I’m taking control of this narrative. Yeah I’m a latina, single mom; yeah Imma leave this job and Imma go fulfill my dreams. V, like, that is legendary.
Vanessa: 9 years it lasted. 9 years May 28th. You know, I’m unmothered. My mother, you know, my mother was in and out of my life. We don’t have much of a relationship. You know, she showed up during this time because my mother is good in crisis. You know, that’s a whole different conversation. But, you know, she’s not a constant. Umm, so I think having lost that early, made me less afraid. [Gabby: mmm]. Because I lost my foundation and all the primordial wound.I didn’t have that person that was always supposed to be there. [Gabby: right] So it was me. So once I lost that, you know, I quit my job. That shit was easy. [Gabby: yeah]. Even if I was terrified. Like compared to what I had been through, it was easy. And I also, I wanted to teach my daughter through example. That like that whole idea, do as I do- do as say I not as I do, that’s bullshit. It does not work.
Gabby: That’s patriarchy
Vanessa: Right! Like I wanted her to see through me that she could live her dream even if it was hard. [Gabby: yes] And you know, I wasn’t happy. I was working in this job, a non-profit, I was writing, I was editing, and I co-wrote a book for them, but you know, I was in a space that- they didn’t appreciate me, they didn’t, you know, like I remember introducing- telling them like you have to start speaking to latinx, this was before latinx, [Gabby: right], Latino population, like you have to start paying attention and to say that oh latino’s don’t go online.
Gabby: Wow! Wow wow wow!
Gabby: WOW! [Vanessa: laughs]
Vanessa: And of course, the next day I came with like all this data, but no matter what data I gave her, it was clear what she saw. No matter what I did, it was then, it become about her, it was about me, what do I want to do, what fulfills me. So I actually– I was co-writing a book, and umm, I gave myself enough time to finish the project and I gave myself three months, I gave them, I resigned, I’m resigning on this day, and really what I was doing was putting fire under own my ass.
I met with every writer I knew, every educator I knew, because I really wanted to teach. And that’s when I created Writing Our Lives. Umm I am obsessed enamored with personal story, you know, like writing our stories. The canon does not represent us. You know, the canon is like maybe two or three people of color. [Gabby: Is it?] No, maybe one.
Gabby: Are there finally two of us?
Vanessa: No maybe there’s one. [Gabby laughs] You know, like Toni Morrison. Right, but, if you think about it, the cannon I never saw saw myself in stories. Also this whole idea that our stories don’t matter, our truth, you know, my love is creative nonfiction and I am an obsessive person so I study creative nonfiction, did I know what I was doing? No! I figured it out but I have figured it out now partnering with different organizations [Gabby: oh yeah] now I’m online do you know him and I just decided I want to do something and I did it. Umm It’s interesting because my mothers like that’s always been you.
When I told my mom that I was quitting, I waited till we were outside so that I could run if anything. Cuz my mother is real with that like good backhand umm and I was like I am quitting my job. And the first thing she said, DAUGHTERS NAME, and I was like DAUGHTERS NAME my daughter you know that. And I was like, you know, she’ll be fine, you know, health insurance through her dad, and you know, I have some money saved. I have shit saved.
Gabby: I remember
Vanessa: You should know that. I have shit saved.
Gabby: You were just like, I’m doing it.
Vanessa: She was like Bueno you’ve always been like that when you make a decision you do it. And it’s true, and I’ve been doing it nine years
Gabby: Before you were saying our stories are not canon.
Vanessa: No, they’re not
Gabby: Let’s talk about it. If someone’s listening in and they’re like a man like that cannon, what does that mean, that our stories aren’t cannon.
Vanessa: Cannon is what’s taught. Cannon is, you know, the writers that people always go to, to teach. That they’re like, you’re a writer you should read them. Usually dead white men. Right? Shakespear, Keats. Etc etc. I don’t want to list them for you. [Gabby laughs]. Fuck em’ writers yo. Like, respectfully, but no not respectfully. Fuck that.
You know, our stories matter too.
Gabby: Listen like, [Gabby laughs], You know that was brave, okay we say that, I say that to you, out of this tremendous love for you. Not because I’m like oh God, you should have been lesser than. I say brave, because I have been scared. [Vanessa: Right]. The leap to stay, to be an artist, to be a writer, to like, people look at– when you’re like oh I’m a writer, grown ass people look at you like ha ha ha ha that’s so great so you must be starving [Vanessa: right] or naïve.
And if they don’t do that, then they’ll say something like, ahh you know just one of these weekends I’m gonna get around to writing my book and it’s like, yeah OK, you just take that weekend Sally. Good luck on your [Gabby laughs] It is like dismissive.
Vanessa: It is.
Gabby: And so to me, there is like tremendous agency and power in a Dominican Honduran babe femme queen from Brooklyn with her daughter against all odds being like you could take a 9 to 5 and I’m just gonna do me. And I’m going to build a workshop that encourages other people of color and just other writers in new york to write their lives because this canon no longer serves me
Vanessa: No it doesn’t
Gabby: And that to me, like, what we got, a couple years between us, a little older, a little younger? So I ‘ve always looked at you like I said, writing patronus, spirit sister. Like, uuh, light and a path, you know. And to see you do it I was like, it can be done, it can be done so magnificently and like I want it.
I’m glad you feel comfortable talking about Vasia because that is–was another element of me being like I love Vanessa Martir because everywhere you went, you brought Vasia. Every open mic
Gabby: Every poetry slam. The classes you couldn’t get a sitter, even when you could, get a sitter Vasia would be like no no I want to see Gabby so we’re gonna go. She was everywhere. Can you talk about like the decision to just be like yeah she’s coming, that’s it. Vasia and me. We’re here.
Vanessa: Well first of all, you know I’m not domincan, right?
Gabby: Did I say Domincan?
Vanessa: You did. It’s all good. Boriqua and Hondurena. My daughter is part domincan.
Gabby: Okay okay okay. [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: That whole writing patronus like I have the whole Harry Potter thing, I’m gonna use it forever. [Gabby laughs]
Gabby: Put it on your resume.
Vanessa: Thats dope. Ummm, I mean I said I wanted Vasia not just to witness but to be a part of the journey and to see through me. And what better way to see through me than to witness it with her own eyes.
Gabby: To see her mother.
Vanessa: Right. You know I got shit for bringing Vasia, sometimes though, right? [Deep breath]
Gabby: That’s because people are mother phobic, children phobic, hateful ass
Vanessa: They don’t get what it is to be a single mom in the world.
I write around the motherwound and like I understand that mothers are not supported, we are not. You know, so they don’t get I am at a bar with my kid. I’m not having a drink even if I am, like women and mothers are judged in a whole different way you know. And it was necessity and sometimes it wasn’t necessity. I want to bring my kid along.
I wanted her to see what she can do with her life. I wanted her to get permission from us, from people like us and to see what we could do. And what better way than to witness it herself. You know, but I did get shit. People made comments, and you know me that did not go well for them.
Gabby: Listen [Gabby laughs], this is a very calm Vanessa Martir.
Vanessa: Oh yeah.
Gabby: There is like the Bushwick, Brooklyn V that if you even accidentally side eyed– Listen, it’s just [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: I’ve calmed down in my age though. But, there are moments where i’m like, all the education, all that shit will be pushed to the side and you’ll get Bushwick V. Te lo mereces, what did you do?
Gabby: You do, Writing the Mother Wound. What is a mother wound? And like let’s talk about the class. I’m curious if folks are writing from such deep, deep place, like where do you find joy in that. So what is a mother wound?
Vanessa: So the mother wound is, you’re taught, it’s very fascinating because we’re taught to sacrifice ourselves at the altar of la madre. Right? Literally con La Virgen. Right? You know I think especially people of color of color like you don’t speak badly of your mom.
Vanessa: You do not. Your mother could do whatever and she’s still a saint. And if you even even look at her funny. But what about those of us for whom mother was not that. You know, I left at 13 years old, I never moved back. Like I’ve been on my own for a long time and that’s something that I have to write about. Umm so I got so much shit about it that it made me be like there’s something there. But also, specifically when my brother passed away. It’s been six years now. Wow, right? [Gabby: Wow]. They don’t tell you that when somebody dies, that grief is going to unleash these griefs that you’ve been carrying. They don’t tell you that.
Gabby: They don’t tell you how even to handle an inch of grief.
Vanessa: Not at all. We are not taught. And I think that’s also attached to like–we’ve lost all our rituals around grief.
Gabby: Yo, yes. Right? Listen, just for a second because I think this is tremendous too. My grief from one side of my other family was like, oh there’s been a death, let’s drink. [Vanessa: right.] Let’s drink and you know maybe there’s some ritual in that but it’s like drink and drink and drink and then cry out your feelings.
Vanessa: And then and then how long does that last?
Gabby: And then everything‘s Okay!
Vanessa: Right! It’s not like growing up when they used to do the novena. Right, where they would pray for 9 days and then every year, for nine years, on the day. That was ritual or like Jewish people that they have Shivah. Like, we lost all of that in colonialism, in immigration, and slavery and all these like terrible things that happened to us. You know, so that’s gone.
Vanessa: Umm, but I wasn’t taught these things. The grief that was unleashed for me was my relationship with my mother. And because I am who I am I went and I started researching and reading everything.
Gabby: I remember. You would tell me, you would text me, you would send me the quotes.
Vanessa: Yeah, yeah. I was reading everything around like antagonistic relationships between mothers and daughters, and narcissistic moms. And all these things, like traumatic relationship with parents. And what I noticed was it was very white and it was cis-heterosexual and I was like wait, what about us? And also like the specific lens, like how does colonialism, slavery, and racism and all these isms,like, affect the motherwound. There’s no- there’s nothing out there.
But actually there is. It’s in literature. Because I’m a writer turn the literature and I read things that I have read before but I read them through the lens of the motherwound. Toni Morrison‘s work is motherwound stuff. Cherry Moraga, umm her work around La Llorona, is motherwound thing. Shakira Diaz- she’s doing a lot of motherwound work.
So, the class, Writing the Motherwound, came from that. [Gabby: right]. Because when I learned something it is my job, it is my duty to share that. So I started writing The Motherwound. Umm, and then I did a Writing the Motherwound Panel at AWP which is Association for Writers Programs, a conference that is once a year that happens in a city every year. And that was last year. No, that was last year, in Portland and it was 300 people in one room.
Gabby: Lord have Mercy.
Vanessa: It was- like oh I cannot describe what that felt like to just see people just keep coming in, you know, and there was no– it was standing room only. There were people outside the door trying to get in. I would see them, like their heads. It was magical in the way that I was like wait it’s not just me. And I also want you to understand that creating ,writing the motherwound was joy for me because I could make something beautiful out of my suffering.
Gabby: That! That is what I wanted to ask!
Gabby: Because not only are you navigating the motherwound and being a mother, but you are saying hello unmothered children, come into this with me. And I am like how do you offer all of them joy too. Where? How?
Vanessa: I mean that’s a process, right? because I mean as writers and even if you like study memory because I told you I’m obsessive. So, when I really fell in love with memoir, I studied memory and the way that memory works. Because why do we remember like the most traumatic experiences? Right, this is the way the brain works and according to psychology a part of the reason why it happens is because it’s a way for you to avoid that happening again.
But we also while these things were happening to us, especially as children- children are very resilient, they will find joy- we have to remember that, right? And the more you write memory, the more you remember. So sometimes, you have to dig through all the trauma to remember the joyful moments
Vanessa: You know for me it was the tree and my brother. My brother me and my brother were, you know, we were, that was, he was my best friend.
Vanessa: You know, umm growing up him and I were bad, we were mischievous. We would do things and my mother would be la Me van a matar! [Gabby: laughs] You know, that was joy. So I had joy. I created joy.
Gabby: And how do you offer it to your students’ joy?
Vanessa: It is a journey for them too because it’s trauma and I also have to remind them that I’m not a therapist.
So, I mean, I’ll give you an example. I had one student who just always talked about her mother in death and her mother‘s death. And I was like what was your mother like in life though. So sometimes you just have to remind them, we have to do it gently and you have to take care of yourself after doing the work. So like, you know, you call it self-care, joy. So for me, you know, hiking, you know, going into the forest and going into natural forest.
Gabby: V, you’re talking about this mad calm. First, first, let me just place you. [Vanessa laughs]. V is fine as hell. Okay, so V is thick, got a body, she’s got the braids, okay, just walking around here blessing everyone. And back in the day V used to take that body and those shorts and some kicks and hike all up through inwood hill park.
Vanessa: I still do it!
Gabby: Jump on a bike [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: Bike into the city
Gabby: Bike 14 miles into the city, come back and be like, yo Gabby you want to come over? I’m making rice, a chicken, frijol, de todo, like.
[Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
Gabby: You were like Wonder Woman to me! And the whole time you have Asia, on one arm! Just holding her up, you riding that bike, you’re hiking.
Vanessa: Exagerada! [Vanessa laughs]
Gabby: Cocinando, you know. Vasia is like, mami can I come down now. Like what’s up you know?
Vanessa: But these were ways I create joy. You know? The biking, the hiking. My love language is acts of service, right? So cooking and there’s something about la cocina, right? And cooking and making these meals and it’s always specific meals that, you know, I create with joy and love. Then I’ll be like some joy and love for you.
Gabby: Oh my god your kitchen! Your kitchen was a joy.
Vanessa: That small ass kitchen and we always ended up in the kitchen!
Gabby: The tiny tiny kitchen [Gabby laughs] rolling yo, smoking little joints. [Vanessa laughs] You got the plastic bag in the caldero! You know what I mean, because that’s how you made the rice.
Vanessa: That’s old school! I stopped doing it because I read shit about that.
Gabby: What? You what?
Vanessa: I stopped doing the uhh
Gabby: Oh the plastic bag [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: Aluminum foil now
Gabby: We couldn’t tell you nothing about that plastic bag. [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: But then I read
Gabby: Me estan matando [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: So what you do is. The way I make rice- Everybody makes rice different.
Gabby: Here we go.
Vanessa: So you boil the rice first. Equal parts water and rice and you put the rice in. You let it umm- you let the water evaporate. And then you wet the bag, you cut a plastic bag, you wet it and you loosely put it on top of the rice and cover it. That rice will come out [Vanessa snaps] perfect, yo. Has my rice ever!
Vanessa: ¡Perfecto! [Vanessa snaps]
Gabby: You would think that it would be like the plastic would melt. Like cheese on a pizza.
Vanessa: That’s why you wet it.
Gabby: And the plastic would just be sitting there like a hot blanket.
Vanessa: I learned from my abuela. She still makes rice like that.
Gabby: It’s really good to know you stopped putting plastic in your rice.
Vanessa: I learned some wild shit. I was like aye, I gotta stop doing that. [Gabby laughs]
Gabby: You see, you see, this is what i’m talking about. Right, like this is what I’m talking about. We’re in each other‘s kitchens encouraging each other in. And always right at every point there’s been a text that you go back to you.
Gabby: You bring all of this back to Audrey Lord’s Litany of Survival.
Vanessa: oh man, always.
Gabby: So I want to ask about the impact of that piece on you and you always offer it to folks, to me, to people you love, as a bit of hope and like a bit of gritty resilience too.
Vanessa: She says, I can’t quote it, I should know it by heart by now.
Gabby: Our stomachs are full
Vanessa: Yeah when we are full, when we’re full we are afraid of being hungry right? and when everything is beautiful we’re scared that it’s going to fall apart. That’s trauma, right? Because we’ve been there, because we seen trauma, because we suffered, you know? In the end she’s like you know we were never meant to survive. So I always go back to that poem to remind myself I wasn’t meant to survive. But shit, see Lisa right in color purple, I’m here! [Gabby laughs] because I am, I’m here. And we have so much working against us. They’re trying to destroy us out here. Who’s the president, yo?
Gabby: No one. [Vanessa and Gabby laugh]
Vanessa: Well said.
Gabby: No one is president right now. They’re, they’re just folks running around the white house.
Vanessa: It’s wild!
Gabby: Like umm. [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: It’s wild.
Gabby: Fire! Yelling at each other and playing golf. Like I don’t know, it’s a whole- it’s a whole mess of white supremacy,
Vanessa: Right! It’s wild, what’s happening right now. And we still out here doing work. You know, creating podcasts, Joy Revolution podcasts [Gabby laughs], writing, creating classes, touring, doing our thing. Like, that is revolutionary. Right, the fact we’re still pushing and that means we have a lost hope. Like if you get up every morning and you still you pick up a pen or, you know, you make breakfast, that is revolutionary because you are trying to survive. Like, I really believe that.
Gabby: I mean that is the thing that I think that partially saved my life this year, is like remembering that it is one decision. You can- you get up, you make your breakfast, you eat it. That is your decision, that is -you are whole, you are enough, right? [Vanessa: mmm] You then have the fortitude to keep going.
The fortitude to keep going. Then every little moment there after is your choice and it is your right. And you also have the right to sit down and rest.
Gabby: You also have the right to re-energize. You have the right to sit down with your homies and have a joy podcast and say I’m not gonna talk about all the stuff that you’re poisoning me with, that you’re putting in your new cycles for no reason. It’s not serving anybody, it’s not healing us. I am going to deflect and I’m gonna disrupt that by sitting in this room on my dime on my choice with the people that I know that I love and that love me and that are moving in this world with love.
Vanessa: Word. I’m still working on that capitalist notion, because I know that’s capitalism, white supremacy telling me that we always have to work, work, work. You know, and it also comes from poverty, like you know, that immigrant mindset my mother, tu tienes que trabajar. You know, like you know because we’re taught to just like grind, grind, grind.
Gabby: [Gabby laughs] Yeah, I feel like, it’s like, we got ancestral magic, right? Because, you know, I got in here, I’m like, I’m, you know, Puerto Rican, from the Bronx, you know, you’re like not Dominican. [Gabby and Vanessa laugh] And there’s a magic here, in this, like you know, in being Latinas and like coming from, you know, I don’t wanna- there’s no, obviously there’s no monolithic Latina experience, Dominican, Peruvian experience, but there’s similarities in the sense that lot of our mothers and our aunts and our grandmothers didn’t get to just chill.
Gabby: They didn’t always get to pursue their dreams. My mom wanted me an astronaut, OK. And like being a teacher is amazing, but like she didn’t have a pathway to NASA. You know, she didn’t have that kind of guidance and security, you know. And then here we are, me and you, for me it’s like a generation later, and I get to live how I wanna live.
I get to be in community with you. And we are redefining what it means to be latinas in sisterhood with each other.
Vanessa: Yeah. You know my grandmothers worked from when she was five years old. [Gabby Exahales] You know, it’s wild to think about that.
You know, and my mom, interestingly, When I I told my mother I was a writer, my mother went into- she dug into this bookshelf that she’s had from childhood. Cause you know, they hold onto shit. And I think that’s like poverty and, you know, ummm but my mother dug into this bookcase she took out this like, legal pad. Umm the yellow papers and it was pages of her writing. And I still remember my mother’s hand is so hard that the back of it is like braille, you know, and it was her writing her story.
Vanessa: You know, and I was like, mami, and she was like see mija, yo escribo tambien. And I was like, you’re a writer? And she was like ay no, yo no sé de eso. So I imagine, like what could mother have done if she had access, you know what I mean? Like she’s writing you know I don’t know if she’s writing now, she don’t wanna- she doesn’t talk about it. But I’ll always remember that memory, I’ll always remember that because it’s like what could she have done. Who knows?
Gabby: Who knows?
Vanessa: So it’s privilege and it’s beautiful and it’s hard. Because, that’s not- you can’t miss words like this this is hard as work, it is. To have the audacity to do what we do, and to get the shit that we get sometimes, and somehow always create joy. [Gabby laughs] [Vanessa sighs]
Gabby: Yo, wait. But, let’s do some easy joy, because uuuhh you’re married.
Vanessa: I am!
Gabby: You’re married to a hot ass stud, carpenter
Vanessa: My babe, Katia. She’s domincan. [Gabby sings] electrician.
Gabby: Electrician, my god, talk about a dreamboat.
Vanessa: I know. [Gabby laughs] Energy worker. [Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
Vanessa: Energy worker!
Gabby: Energy worker, yeah. Can I say, can we say, can we…
Vanessa: Yeah, Katia
Gabby: Katia! Katia is treating that body right.
Vanessa: My babe! My boo!
Gabby: Ya’ll don’t even notice, there’s a glow now. [Vanessa laughs] Now, V is remembering , I don’t know what you’re remembering, girl, but it glew you up. [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: She’s, you know, I’m thinking about what- who she’s been, these past few weeks, you know. She’s beautiful, she’s amazing, she’s always been amazing, but we never been through trauma until 2 1/2 weeks ago. And Katia was my rock, my shore, my safe landing. She did not leave me for two days when it all happened. When my daughter was in surgery, I hadn’t eaten and she was like you have to eat.
So she took me outside and she was like you like sopa, and she got me, she got me some soup, we went to this little Domincan spot. I had some sopa and you know she made sure, and then when we came back, when we got the news that the surgery went perfectly, cuz that’s exactly what the surgeon said, you know. That shits terrifying.
You know, she came outside, she knew what I needed, I needed to be under a tree. You know, ummm and I was crying and she saw a slug and she jumped up because this tough woman falls apart when she sees a bug [Gabby and Vanessa laugh].
Vanessa: But she knew that was perfect for me, because I’m nature, like I needed, I needed to see that slug. She was like ughhh, but look the slug. [Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
So Katia is just, you know, the way she shows up, and she’s just beautiful, she’s loving, she’s kind, she’s a pain in my ass, yo, [Gabby laughs], but she’s my pain in the ass.
Vanessa: You know, so that’s joy right there.
Gabby: I love V in love too. Because I’ve seen you all through it and you just would be like man, these dudes ain’t shit, lalala.
Vanessa: Ain’t shit.
Gabby: This other person aint nothing, hahaha, had your little hollodecks, you know what I mean [Vanessa and Gabby laugh]. And then,
Vanessa: You’re gonna get me in trouble.
Gabby: There was Katia! [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: I mean I was single, sans, you know, situationships. Cuz you know, a lot has- for ten years, though.
Vanessa: Ten years.
Gabby: And there’s magic. I’m, I’m just here to like honor and affirm the magic that comes when like queer latinas love on each other, rubbing on those bodies, kissing on each other. And just being like, yo I’m here, I’m in this with you, this is like where our ancestors wanted us to be. I am strong and I am standing here with you cuz of them and our love begets more love.
Vanessa: I have never had someone love me like she loves me. Never.
Well I did, my brother, and Millie. But like, a romantic, never. Like shows up, like I know no matter what. She could be mad at me, you know I have a bad-you know?
Gabby: Wait, you got a temper V?
Vanessa: We both do! [Gabby laughs] She’s a capricorn, let me tell you, capricorns are not easy! You know, I aint easy, I have no delusions about who I am. I am clear, yo no soy facil. [Gabby laughs] I can’t even, it’s not the same as, you know, I’m not easy, it’s yo no soy facil. I’m not!
You know, but, we, we fit. You know, even when we both are like [Vanessa makes angry noise] what you wanna eat? Fine. [Gabby laughs]. You know, we still…
Gabby: You okay? Yeah.
Vanessa: Right?! [Vanessa laughs]
Gabby: What’s wrong? Nothing. [Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
Vanessa: You’ve seen us be like…
Gabby: Actually I’ve seen you. I’ve never seen Katia look at you like that.
Vanessa: Oh she denies it.
Gabby: Katia is just like this, umm I kinda like this, what’s going on? Whatcha need? [Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
Vanessa: She does be like, I like it when you mad.
Gabby: Wait! And, and not to be rude, but, you know, people out here thinking they’ll never get love. And you just said this is the first time you had love like this.
Gabby: If you, will you share with the people, how old you were when you met Katia.
Vanessa: I was thirty-nine. Thirty-Nine.
I’m forty-three, I just, you know, [Vanessa snaps]. I don’t look…
Vanessa: I was thirty-nine.
Gabby: There’s no such thing as time, yo! Love is all around us! When it is your moment, that plane will open up and a fine ass butch named Katia is just gonna drop down.
Vanessa: Stop, not my Katia. [Gabby laughs]
You know what though, I’m clear that- and this is not me self-deprecating this is just me being honest and like looking at my healing and understanding that I repeated the cycle and learned from my mother. Love me, please love me. And you know, I was falling for emotionally unavailable people because you will repeat the cycles until you stop. And stopping is not easy because it requires you to really look at your shit pain and look at what you’re doing.
And what needed to happ- my brother died and that flipped my world and I still remember when I wrote it, I wrote it cause I’m a writer and I process through writing, and I wrote it in the journal, I have, since I was 13 years old falling in love with mirror images of my mother. Unavailable and abusive. And I threw that journal across the room because that mirror was too much.
Vanessa: It’s true! So I realized, and I know it’s- you know ,it’s very cliché, but I had to learn to love myself.
Gabby: I mean, it’s not cliche!
Vanessa: But it’s true.
Gabby: Because we need to have these conversations about love!
Gabby: It’s like, you know what, I got a bare minimum sex education. You gonna get your period, and then boys have sperms, and you know, and keep your legs closed. Right? But like, how to love? How to really and truly be in an honest and authentic love relationship with somebody. That is never even a conversation that I’ve ever had.
Gabby: We’re learning and supporting each other. And you know, when you were, uuuh when you’re going through your stuff and you’re writing out these wounds, Vanessa I’ve seen you, you are also talking to people who are writers, you’re sharing you work, you’re reading your work, so you are processing alone and in community.
Vanessa: Yeah, because I don’t– I think healing can be communal. Some of it is solitary, but I think the idea that healing is all solely solitary is, I think it does a disservice to the world.
Gabby: That’s white supremacy too.
Vanessa: Right, you know. And you know, it’s also like, it’s patriarchy, because, you know, when men do it….right?
Gabby: Do men heal? [Vanessa and Gabby laugh] Do men heal? Anyway but like yo, then we go back to ritual, right?
Gabby: And here we are again, I wanna ask, like, in that ritual, in everything that you’re doing now, especially in these tough moments, like, how have you, and how do you, prioritize joy?
Vanessa: I think one of the things that ummm, there is this quote, that I found in my ritual, I do morning ritual every day, you know, I try to do every day. Most days I do my morning morning pages and I’ll read some pages of something.
Gabby: What do you mean by your morning pages?
Vanessa: Morning pages, I write for a certain time, at a minimum 10 minutes, sometimes, most the time I go over. And it’s just kind like getting stuff out, if there’s dreams ,whatever. I found the beginning of a lot of my stories come out that way. And then I also read something, so I’ve been reading, and I mean I’ve read this book, I turn to this book, it’s my tome, Woman Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Gabby: The original burja
Vanessa: Yeah, oh my goodness. Psychoanalyst, cantadora, as she calls herself. There’s this quote she talks about how nature can help you through, like, moments, and it doesn’t have to, and that’s not the exact quote, I mean I don’t know it off the top of my head, but how these little things are enormous. So it could be like a ladybug, like I don’t know, on a watermelon rind, right? It doesn’t– and how that can help you through so much.
So going out onto the deck, you know, I’m blessed to have a deck and just sitting there -in the- other day -yesterday I sat there and I was just, you know, and blue Jays, just like this morning blue jays woke me up, you know, three of them so of course I started singing three little birds
[Gabby sings Free like Bird by Nelly Furtado with Vanessa]
[Gabby and Vanessa laugh]
Umm, just these little things, paying attention. Looking up and seeing the other day three hawks, you know, just soaring above.
Gabby: It’s always hawks too.
Gabby: We would go on those hikes and write in the woods and there would be hawks. And you know, one of the most like incredible, like really like, universal, natural moments that I had was me and you hiked into Inwood and it has snowed, right? And we found that like clearing with logs and you, of course being like the hippie, bruja you are you had all the seeds. And you sprinkled the seeds in a circle from the snow to the logs and in less than like a few minutes we turned around and we had a circle of birds.
Gabby: And I was like this is wild, I’m in my Timbs, you’re in your Timbs. We got our bubble coats on, you’re hoodie says Inwood, I got a Puerto Rican bandanna on my head and we out here like sleeping beauty, with the birds like twittery, chirpy. [Vanessa laughs] And we’re writing poetry right and no one does- where’s that story, where is that movie, right? The only people who get to be nature writing are like, you know,
Gabby: Those cannon, and that’s the cannon we’re breaking down. And like, I don’t know, just thinking about that I’m asking you how you priority joy. And then in my head, I’m like you’ve seen V, man. V’s got the…
Vanessa: Nature for me is everything.
Gabby: And you pull people in.
Gabby: You just pulled me right in, V. We didn’t know each other from nobody, you didn’t have to be like that with me, you know what I’m saying? And then you did.
Vanessa: I don’t pull everybody in though, you’re special [Gabby and Vanessa laughs]
Gabby: We’re moving like into one of my favorite segments of this. Lighting Joy! [Gabby laughs]
[Spacey transition music]
Gabby: You’re gonna have 30 seconds to answer as many questions about Joy as I can throw at you.
Vanessa: Oh shit.
Gabby: How are we doing with that timer, producer Kat Lazo? Go!
Gabby: What style of poetry would joy be?
Vanessa: Ooo, anaphora
Vanessa: That’s not a style of poetry though
Gabby: You said an afro?
Vanessa: I said anaphora.
Gabby: How many licks does it take to get to joy’s tootsie roll center?
Gabby: What’s joy’s favorite sex position?
Vanessa: Doggy style. [Gabby laughs]
Gabby: If joy were a freestyle song, what would she be?
Vanessa: Oh my god! Uuuhh [Starts to sing: Come into my arms baby]
Gabby: If joy was from Brooklyn, what neighbooh would she be from?
Vanessa: Bushwick, yo!
Gabby: I love that. [Gabby laughs]
Vanessa: Anaphora is not a style of poetry.
Gabby: I was like, an afro is a style of poetry?
Vanessa: No, anaphora, the beginning of a line that repeats. It’s a poetic device.
Gabby: Vanessa, Vanessa
Vanessa: I love you, yo. Thank you for having me.
Remember how we used to talk about, like what we wanted to do, and who we were going to be?
Gabby: Yes. [Gabby giggles]
Vanessa: Isn’t wild that we’re doing it now.
Gabby: And look where we are! We are here with Vanessa Martir, Vanessa Martir.
If you are interested in Vanessa’s work you should go to vanessamartir.com. You can also check out her Writing our Lives workshops. Google that shit. Also the motherwound. And listen, if you haven’t taken a writing class or workshop until you’ve taken one with Vanessa. I put my heart and my soul on that recommendation.
This has been an incredible episode. Vanessa, thank you.
Ya’ll, that’s it. That’s it for this episode, and as always a big, tremendous, thank you to the Joy Revolution fam, we’ve got on audio our god Marcella Carbajal, Julissa Contreras: Studio Manager, [Vanessa cheers] Music genius Angelica M Rodriguez and Producer of my heart forever Kat Lazo.
I’m your host Gabby Rivera. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @quirkyrican and listen, if you haven’t already, remember to jump on the joy ride and subscribe!
Thank you for listening to Joy Revolution, the podcast that asks how do you prioritize joy? Because we’re meant to thrive, not just survive.
[Gabby and Vanessa cheer]
[Outro music plays]
joy revolution w gabby rivera
the podcast that asks “How do you prioritize JOY?”
Because we were meant the thrive, not just survive.
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