I was born February 29, 1968. A leap year baby and true Pisces. From the early age of four, my dream was to become a Super Model. I would gaze in front of the television; sit as close as possible to the screen when the Barbizon modeling commercial would air, “Barbizon, become a model.” ( I would do the voice over.) You had to be thirteen or older to enroll. Every year I grew with anticipation of attending. Until then, I practiced on my own.
I walked from the hallway to the living room balancing books on my head to correct my posture; speak while balancing a pencil in my mouth to improve my diction (I don’t know that it helped); buy magazines and study top models poses. While walking by the magazine racks at the grocery story, I would say, One day, I’m going to be on the cover of every magazine. There wasn’t one single fiber in my body that murmured a shred of doubt . I didn’t have to convince myself, nor recite affirmations, nor visualize my success. I didn’ know that I would grow up to be 5’9″, a size five, and clear the minimum height for high fashion modeling. I was a kid…with a dream…and ZERO doubt. I was going to be a Super Model; on the cover of every magazine and I was going to travel the world! I didn’t tell a soul about my greatest desire. As Deepak Chopra says, “[I only] whispered it to my heart.”
When I turned thirteen, I asked my mother to enroll me in modeling school (which she did). (Thanks Mom!) Right away I was in a fashion show, hair show, and then while at a club (yes, I was at a night club at thirteen with my sister), I was discovered by a man who recruited me to model for him. To add to my luck, he was about to open up his office and wanted to represent me. He offered to help me develop my portfolio and I knew I was about to make all of my dreams come true.
We were one week away from the show when my mother became a born again Christian. That event would radically change the course of our lives. She sat me down at one of the booths in the Mexican restaurant she owned. She said to me, “I need to tell you something Mija.” I looked at her bewildered and asked what it was. She had that look in her eyes that disclosed bad news. She continued, “You know what it is.” Innocently I answered, “No mom I don’t know.” And then the blow…the punch to the stomach came. “You cannot continue to model.” (Pause) “Why?” I demanded. She took a deep breath and said, “Because in that business you either have a lot of money, connections or have to sleep with a lot of men in order to make it. You will never make it. You can fulfill your commitment with this fashion show, but it will be the last one.” And just like some dreams turn into nightmares; in a split second; my dream ended. What my mom didn’t know is that I had already made the connection on my own; without money or having to sleep with anyone. (The man who discovered me [Gus Castaneda] went on to be one of the top names in the fashion industry.) I don’t know how I remember his name and I didn’t know of his success until just now. I never talk about this subject. I didn’t realize that it still hurts and I’m surprised to find my eyes well up with tears. (One shot of Tequila please. In fact, forget it…leave the whole bottle. Ahh!!! That’s why I drink!!!) Ok no Tequila (for now). Moving on.
Following this tragic news, I collapsed into one of the biggest tantrums of my life. I cried. Yelled. Stood up in a fit of rage. Stomped my feet. Walked towards the door fully emerged in sorrow; paused; turned around, looked at my mother and yelled, “I HATE YOU!” My sister chimed in and attempted to defend me but to no avail. And although my short-lived modeling career was over, a far greater irrefutable damage had occurred. The idea, “You will never make it,” was seeded into my consciousness. I didn’t know it then, but I entered into an agreement with my mother… I will never make it. (A note to mom: “Mom, don’t feel bad. It’s ok. I know that at the time, you did what you thought was best. I love you.”)
Don Miguel Ruiz (bestselling author of The Four Agreements) shares the wisdom of the Toltec in four principles. The first, Be Impecable with your Word. Ruiz explains how language is introduced to us as children. We learn (and agree) on naming well mom, “mom” dad “dad” good, bad, etc. Not only do we enter into these agreements of language with our parents, we also enter into contracts with society and ourselves. Just the way I believed I would one day travel the world, I adopted the belief that I would never make it. I didn’t need my mother or anyone else to convince me otherwise. That never ending chatter in my brain, or as Ruiz refers to it, “the Mitote” made sure to remind me every second of every day that my dream was over. It’s as if I had all the Comadres from the block sitting on the porch, gossiping, criticizing and judging me at all times. You’ll never make it. Who does she think she is? What is she wearing? You’re so fat. You’re not good enough. He only wants you for one thing. Jezebel!
The older I got, the stronger those agreements were rooted; hardwiring my brain, and becoming flesh in my body. Every year I gained weight and distanced myself from working in a profession that I wanted. Instead, I opted for drudgery. An office job. A man who beat me. Lack. Depression. More drudgery as I changed careers for another one that I didn’t want.
In the midst of my soul suffering famine in a desert of despair, my salvation came. And just like wildflowers bloom in the desert, my three children were born. They came fully equipped with bulldozers and completely obliterated those limiting agreements. I grew strength and a new dream was born. A dream to create good memories for us. A dream of giving them the life that I always longed for. To read them bedtime stories and sing them lullabies. A dream to protect them and protect their dreams, no matter what.
I always laugh when my daughter Brontë explains the cause of her undeniable sparkle. When people ask her, “Why are you so happy?” She responds with her infectious smile, “It’s my momma in me.” She says, “She just gave us so much love. She convinced us that grace and favor are with us wherever we go. She made us believe that nothing was impossible. If we said to her, ‘Momma, I want to be an astronaut and go to the moon.’ She would say, ‘You want to go to the moon Mija, ok, no problem, let me go get you a rocket right now.'”
My son’s career went from playing Poker (he was nine and I was convinced he was going to be a professional poker player) to performing Magic (he performed at the Magic Castle and was featured as Future Stars of Magic. I affirmed that he would be headlining in Vegas). At nineteen, he picked up the guitar, began writing songs, and music became his first love. When he told me he wanted to pursue music as a career, I had a bit of a hesitation (based on my own previous fear) but quickly corrected myself and supported that decision. His single has recently released, Me Vuelas La Cabeza (Anthony Cruz) which is available on Itunes (click on the link above). Although it is a fact that I have been a gypsy mother, my son says to me, “The greatest gift you have given me is that you have always believed in me.”
My baby (Priscilla) opened the gate for us to move to Hollywood after attending an open house to a school of the Arts. From the moment we sat in the theater, I knew both my girls were going to attend. Before they ever auditioned, I had already given my thirty-day notice and secured a new apartment across the street from the school. I said to my girls, “Ok girls, I got us a new apartment, now the rest is up to you.” A friend of mine asked me, “What if one of them doesn’t get in.” My response, “They will.” His rebuttal, “Yeah, but what if one of them doesn’t get in.” My as a matter of fact answer, “They will. And if one doesn’t, she can try next semester, but that’s not going to happen.” Of course, they both got in and are each pursuing careers in film and theater.
As I apply Ruiz’ First Agreement, Be impeccable with your word, I am learning to not only honor my children with agreements of love, peace, and prosperity but to honor myself. Not only am I being watchful of my words, but of my thoughts. Before I vocalize, “I’m such a dumb ass,” I become the observer and press delete. I have entered into a new contract with myself which includes speaking my truth (saying what I really want) and tell myself “I love you” several times a day. I choose kindness towards myself and am fully embracing the space of happiness. When the Victim and her sidekick (Mr. Guilt) show up, I can feel the tug from my body attempting to pull me back into the old familiar mode of despair and attempt to reset my programming to its previous default.
When that happens, (and if it happens to you) remember the words that Jesus said, “Resist no evil.” Don’t vilify yourself and further judge your thoughts for not being more positive. Simply embrace what is. Bring your thoughts into the light of your awareness. And if you want, talk to your body as I do at times and say, “Look body. I know your receptors are feening for the chemicals of stress, anxiety, depression and fear and you are going to try to create a situation (drama) that will cause my brain to release those chemicals, but we are on a journey to re-create ourselves. You might be a little hungry for a while, but I promise, the new version of ourselves will be filled with love and happiness, unlike nothing that we’ve ever know.”
Like Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Just imagine what you can create with impeccability of the word…you can transcend the dream of fear and live a different life.” That life will reflect the way we live within. It will either mirror Heaven on Earth or Hell on Earth. The choice is ours. Let’s choose Heaven.
A letter to my younger self, “Dear Michelle, I look into your eyes and see a universe of possibilities. I see your beauty and know your dreams. You are about to enter into an agreement that will divert you from your purpose, but fear not, I will find you. I will be here to nurse you back to your radiant self. I will remind you that life (God) wants to live through your experience. Together we will enter into new agreements, one that resembles your innocence and freedom. Together we will embrace your dreams; (that are already a reality) journey (and become) enlightenment. I rescind previous contracts of limiting agreements (those known and unknown) and transmute them to love and light. Grace and favor go before you, grace and favor are with you, and grace and favor follow you and your future generations.”
Do you have dreams that may have been broken because of an agreement you’ve made? In honoring your word to others, have you dishonored yourself? Dust off your childhood dreams (and pictures). Go ahead. Enter the world of the past. It may hurt a little, but you will be there to guide your younger-self to the life of freedom you were born to live. Write a letter to you. Remember, be kind. Let the child in you lead. He/She knows the way.
Grace and Favor go before you. Are with you. And follow you.