Being raised American by my Peruvian mother has always been an out-of-identity experience. I definitely identify more with her culture, than my birth country, and yet there is so much to me that she didn’t understand. It’s the premise of my podcast, Life Lnxx. We don’t necessarily identify with our immediate relatives because we come from thousands of ancestors, mostly not blood related, yet who may be the touchstones of our individuality. So, how do we learn to function for ourselves with the expectations of others who appear to define us? By learning when to be brave for others and courageous for ourselves. Learn more about this from Episode 30, ‘Face Fear Like You Own It‘.
Be Brave In The Wilderness
When I was little, there was a weekly National Geographic show on TV. Everything was network television and freely given. It was a magical show because they were the only ones who had access to the World. So many borders were closed given the global political unrest throughout the globe. And yet, because of Nat Geo, my wanderlust exploded with each passing episode.
We got to see the intimate details of lands and wilderness, up close and personal. Places that we would pull out our globe to determine their location. Even though I had already been to Peru and Machu Picchu by 8 years old, the world remained mystical. Flying over the Andes is exhilarating even at that age. We were very privileged to stay at the only hotel in the valley and it was at the top of the mountain adjacent to the ruins. My brothers and I scrambled wandered freely before any tourists arrived. To this day I won’t go back to avoid replacing that vivid memory of being a goddess there.
Still, National Geographic captured my imagination on their episode of Patagonia. I remember the men climbing vast glaciers and nearly falling into huge crevasses, spiraling peaks piercing the puffy clouds on a bright blue sky, and the vast open plains of the pampas. From that young age, I vowed I would be brave enough to travel there one day to experience it for myself.
As life is, the stars didn’t align for me. When I was a young professional, Argentina was struggling from the aftermath of a dirty dictatorship and then a mutiny. I didn’t dare go alone or even with a girlfriend. My husband, at the time, was not brave enough to accompany me and then babies came along. With children, my perspective on life changed. I wouldn’t risk harming their childhood by choosing me first if I thought I would get another chance at something.
When The Opportunity Rises, Go!
So the day my neighbor stated he was going to Argentina, I boldly invited myself along on this brave adventure. Almost 40 years had passed since I first laid eyes on that country. My parents had visited but I was pregnant with my second child. I saw this as my chance to finally get to the wilderness that captured by heart.
It was 2007 and both my daughters were in high school, loaded with extracurriculars and traveling sport teams. Thankfully, my eldest was driving but I didn’t dare leave them alone for 3 weeks. They make movies about that parental stupidity. More so, I didn’t dare ask my mother for help because she would vehemently disapprove of me, a single mother of 2 daughters, venturing to the bottom of the globe with a single man. And if she found out, then there would be a search team sent to bring me back. I kid you not.
So, I literally snuck out of the country, leaving my young friends in charge and hoping all would be repairable when I returned. Not brave at all. We had a well planned itinerary of how we would traverse that huge country. Names, places and phone numbers were given and my neighbor brought his flip phone since I couldn’t afford the roaming charges. It felt liberating to be on the first leg of an 18 hour trip to the middle of Argentina.
It wasn’t until we arrived at our first hotel, in the town of El Calafate, that we realized we didn’t have to worry about roaming charges on the phone. There was no satellite service, even for the internet. There was no way to call home to let them know we were safe.
Funny thing is, this was the most populated place we would be for the next 3 weeks. We were soon at El Chálten, climbing Mount Fitz Roy, surrounded only by rocks.
No news is good news, right? Not so much.
Can You Be Brave With Your Mother?
Although having no communication, hence, no one bothering you, can be immensely blissful, a nagging concern laid heavy on my mind. My daughters would only contact me in case of emergency but then what if there had been one and I was incommunicado? A couple of weeks had passed and I faced my fear courageously.
By this time we were at the bottom of the world, literally. We couldn’t get to Antarctica because the ice shelf froze over. So, we lingered at the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile before crossing over to the the end of the loneliest road in Argentina, Route 40. For some unknown reason, here, in the heart of frozen fjords and glaciers, the internet worked.
Excitedly I wrote an email to my girls announcing our great feats and pouring out my love for them. Given that I hadn’t done the time zone math and didn’t expect a reply in 2007, I was shocked when the computer pinged back at me. Elated, I opened the reply in hopes of having a “conversation” with my daughters.
Instead, I froze. “Mooooooooom! Grammy knows! What do we do?”. I still have that email. Admittedly, the first thought that came to mind was, “Phewf, at least I’m at the bottom of the world! Sorry, girls.” I know, bad mom, not brave mom.
Apparently, my mother had maintained her regular calling and they couldn’t ward her off with any more excuses. When my mother queried, “Are you lying to your Grammy?” , in her stern, she means it voice, they broke. The last email I received was of desperation. “Mom, she’s coming! What do we do?”
Using all my Six Scenarios towards bravery had not included this one. Major mistake for a well-seasoned first gen navigator. I was up against my worst scenario with my mom: getting caught. At least it wasn’t in person. For as much as her discipline was harsh, seeing the fear in her beautiful dark eyes was heart wrenching.
Scared To Come Home
Thankfully, I got my dad on the other end of the call. He didn’t mince words, I was definitely in trouble. Being 44 years old, I wondered just how late in life I would continue to discipline my girls. It’s exhausting to keep up on the rules. That’s why kids try to wear you down so much.
The only salve was the one hour distance between me and my parents. My girls would have to take the brunt of my mom’s anger and I could slowly ride it out from afar. Still, there came the moment, six months later, when our presence was required for my nephew’s confirmation. I thought this would actually be the perfect opportunity to mend the situation given it was a dedicated profession of faith in the Catholic Church.
As I slid next to my mom in the pew, I didn’t even get acknowledgement. Of all my teenage escapades and single woman adventures, this one had created her worst nightmare: The idea that I had left my girls without her oversight and traveled so far away that something terrifying could have happened, and she would never know. I now knew my limits on pushing my wants before her needs. My crazy adventures would have to wait until she would no longer be threatened by them.
Whereas others may shrug this off as an unnecessary choice, I understood her fear. Having lost her father when she was 2 years old and battled life threatening illnesses, who was I to cause more fear in her life? She deserved peace on her terms for all she had created for our family and provided freely to those struggling.
When Bravery Truly Matters
My daughters would never feel the compassion and humor of her love from anyone else, related or not. I couldn’t interfere in that relationship nor diminish my own. My mother would remain the matriarch, La Reina, and I would do my best to make her life royal to her last breath.
The next year, 2008, the Great Depression hit our industry and traveling was obliterated. I guess my mom had greater ties with the heavens than I ever appreciated. Still, when her end date was given to her in 2011, I received a phone call. “I want to go to New York City.” “Si, vamos, mami!”
That’s when bravery really had to kick in. No glacier crevasses or angry mama scared me as much as the idea of her dying. This beautiful woman with so much vivacity and joy, love of humanity and family, compassion for those who struggled and faith in her religion, deserved every minute of celebration she had left here.
We reveled to her last minute of watching the San Francisco Giants with the 2014 World Series. She kept asking, “Is it still 3-2?”, as Madison Bumgarner gave his ultimate bravery of being the closer on that epic game. I still have to write the letter telling him of the Angel he had on the mound that night.
When I look at the glacier climbing pictures now, I realize she was right. It was ridiculously dangerous and I could have left my own daughters orphaned, causing my mama to relive her childhood pain all over again.
God Bless You, mamacita! I hope you are still looking out for us and keeping us safe.