My New Year's Resolutions, And How I'm Sticking to Them

The month that feels like 100 months is almost over, so it's time I take a breather to talk about New Year's Resolutions. In between travel, work projects and moving apartments, it's been a challenge to stop and have a talk with myself about what I want to get out of 2018.

But, here we are, list at hand, and if you're like me and waited until the last minute to get your sh*t together then I hope this inspires your list, too. One helpful tool I used was a New York Times piece about setting resolutions by looking at the habits you want to change and addressing the root cause.

I also decided to take a little bit of a tweaked approach -- inspired by my dear friend Chelsea Henriquez -- where I have 5 themes to address alongside 5 statements, or mantras, that I am going to incorporate into my daily life. Without further ado:

Resolutions

  1. Connected Mind: Working in media means I'm constantly glued to my phone (you're welcome for my speedy texts back!) and this year I'm making an effort to connect more with my mind over the screen. I started by creating a ritual space in my new home that's going to solely be used for disconnecting. It's a little nook with Affirmators!, healing crystals, a journal, greenery and more. All of this to feel more connected and grounded, understanding myself in ways I hadn't done so before.
  2. Family and Relationships: Last year, I spent a lot of time and energy learning to love myself fully. It was important. I had come off of a relationship that left me with significant identity and self-confidence issues, and needed to remind myself of who I was -- and who I could be. This year, I want to take all that self-love and apply it to my family and friendships. That means: I'm calling more, I'm appreciating more, and I'm finding new ways to connect with people. 
  3. Food for Life: For the last 4 years I've been struggling with issues from IBS to H. Pylori, now working through SIBO. What all this science talk has led me to realize is how much all of my chronic issues -- in the gut and beyond -- are affected by what I eat. This is the year to take charge of diet choices, learn as much as I can about nutrition, and apply it to life my best, and healthiest, life.
  4. Financial Health: I'm a millennial, I'm in that sensitive financial time of my life where I am making money and learning how to better spend and manage it. That starts with being transparent about the state of my wallet. I created this document to help guide me and take a look at all my money talk (you can download and save or copy into your own Google Sheet). Everything from how much I earn, how much I save, how much I pay, where I'm in debt, etc. The formulas and goals sections are incredibly helpful to getting a better grasp on my finances.
  5. Climate Change: If you don't believe global warming is real, this is moment to press the unfollow button. Whatever your level of belief is to the human effect on climate, I'm happy to take a listen and learn more, but I can't sit here and continue to disrespect our planet any longer. This is the year I learn more, but I'm taking the small step and cutting out plastic bags completely. That means I'm shopping with my Apolis Bag and going reusable everything when I make the grocery store trip.

Statements

  1. I am enough: This is the year to entirely stop judging myself. Progress is my new perfection, and as long as I'm giving my best that is enough. I will not wait for someone or something to validate the person I am. Because I know, and love, the person I am.
  2. I am strong: Taking this one physical and mental. I am focusing on nourishing my body with what it needs to perform and sustain my lifestyle. That means I am engaging more in physical activity, practicing a clean diet, and working my brain muscle so that I don't sweat the small stuff. 
  3. I am balanced: It's not just my diet that's staying balanced this year, it's also the way I live my life. I work hard, I play hard. I make time for me, I make time for others. I connect, I disconnect. And I am more mindful of all these things. 
  4. Trust the process: There will be ups and downs, like with any year, so as long as I trust that all things are happening for a reason (*yawn*), then all things will fall into place. This also plays into my newfound self-confidence and acknowledgement of my support system.
  5. To whom much is given, much is required: This has been a mantra of mine for a while, and I'm elevating it more and more each year. I consider myself a very fortunate person, so I know I have a duty to give back and leave things -- and people -- better than I found them. For every blessing that comes my way, I've got to send the universe something right back at it.

How to Keep Them?

  1. Write them down, literally. It wasn't until I sat down to write my list that they truly started to register. I had a visual reminder of the promise I was making to myself.
  2. Make them achievable, realistic. No one likes to be let down, including you by you. Don't make a resolution that isn't realistic and you won't be able to handle. Make it challenging if you want the thrill of that, but don't set yourself up for failure either.
  3. Find commonalities with friends. Two is better than one! And a way to make sure you're keeping these promises is to collaborate with friends who are asking similar things of themselves.
  4. Make small steps to kick them off, then try one by one. Somewhere along my college education I learned that "going cold turkey" doesn't work. It's the same for resolutions. If you ask a lot out of yourself on day one, you're likely to burn out or get discouraged and miss out on completing your promises. Make a dent on each one, and work each month to further elevate what you're doing.
  5. Find ways to keep yourself accountable. When it's you measuring you, you have to create systems to keep yourself in check. Whether that means keeping a journal, a reward system, or a "do good when you mess up system," little treats can condition you to staying on track. For example, every time I use a plastic bag (by accident, or force), I am donating $5 to the Environmental Defense Fund.

But truly, these goals, intentions, statements, tips and tricks, etc., are all to just encourage me to raise my vibration this year.

What are your New Year's Resolutions for 2018?

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“Tu Cuba”: Embarking on a Life-Changing Family Reunion

My mom’s Ecuadorian and my dad’s Cuban – well, kind of Spanish too...He was born there but, you know, fled to Spain. I guess you can just call me Hispanic.”

For more than two decades, that’s what a typical introduction to my culture sounded like. Because of multiple visits, I’d always felt connected to the Ecuadorian third of me. If you asked me about Cuba, all I could say is I didn’t know much other than the fact that my dad was born in 1959 – the year of La Revolución - and packed his bags to move to Spain where he would meet the rest of his family. All this changed after embarking on the inaugural CubaOne trip to the mysterious island; and for me, it was the first time I would be able to meet my paternal grandmother.

Lissette Calveiro Cuban American

For half a century, many Cubans – my father included – refused to return to the island they once called home. In La Habana, tensions were high, standard of living was low, and families were broken up throughout the process of the Cuban Revolution. When I thought about Cuba, I didn’t think of it as a place that was only 90 miles away. Cuba was enigmatic. La Habana wasn’t just a place on a map I hadn’t traveled to, yet, but a missing piece in my family’s history.

My mother’s side of her ‘American Dream’ story is easy to tell. As a single mom in the early 90s, she applied for U.S. residency and packed her bags to move to the states. She went from being a teacher, to being a decorator and worked endlessly to build a life for her household. My father’s side of the story was made up of the bits and pieces I could gather through family discussions or his one-off rants about why he left Cuba.

He was born in the cusp of the Cuban Revolution and lived in Playa, La Habana until the early 80s. His brother, Roberto Calveiro, was involved in the 1980 Canimar River Massacre where a group of young Cubans attempted to hijack an excursion boat with intentions to escape to Miami. After the Cuban government captured the boat and incarcerated his 15-year-old brother, my father then became a target for Cuban government officials. His life would never be the same, and so he fled to Madrid, Spain with a residency. His eyes were set on reaching U.S. soil so he trekked through Europe until he illegally hopped on a flight from London to Miami to seek political refuge. He succeeded, and then settled in Miami to work in the tourism industry. With tears in his eyes, he tells a story of running off the plane to wrap himself around an American flag screaming, “freedom!”

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Despite being on the side of Cuban Americans who didn’t want diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, I always had a curiosity for what it would be like to visit. I didn’t want to go on a trip to sit on the beach in Varaderos or take selfies in El Prado, I hoped that I could find a way to visit with the most authentic experience. I was seeking a path that would give me a 360-degree view of Cuba, while allowing me to build connections with my peers on the island. Scrolling through my social media networks, I found the answer: this program by millennials and for millennials with a mission to take Cuban Americans on the trip of a lifetime.

CubaOne Foundation offers a new generation of Cuban Americans the opportunity to give back to Cuba, build relationships with the Cuban people, and explore their heritage through high-impact trips to the island. The “Tu Cuba” program wants Cuban Americans to visit Cuba, experience it, talk about it, and think about what a new relationship with Cuba means for them and their communities in the U.S.

“We believe that taking young Cuban Americans to Cuba to engage with the Cuban people will allow for a deeper understanding of identity and family heritage,” says their founding team. “We hope that our participants in these trips will form a committed alumni network that translates their experience into ongoing conversation within their communities and spark a discourse that will foster informed advocates for the Cuban people in the years to come.”

After countless of stories from friends and family about both the oppression and beauty of the island, I wanted to be able to go and make a story for myself. I wanted to see the sights and sounds of La Habana, but I wanted to do it from a conscious and meaningful standpoint. And most importantly, I wanted to turn black and white photos of my grandmother into colorful memories I could pass on to my children and theirs.

Fast-forward two months later, and I’m walking off a charter plane into José Martí International Airport. The trip took us through picture-perfect foliage in Pinar del Rio, a convertible tour of La Habana landmarks, people-to-people connections in off-the-tourist-path neighborhoods like Regla, vibrant alleys of El Callejón de Hamel, eating cajitas in el Malecon, networking events with young entrepreneurs at the Ludwig Foundation, and visits to a myriad of local businesses and paladares owned by Cubans with a self-employment license. We built networks that would stretch beyond 90 miles and curated lifelong bonds within the cohort and the Cuban people we interacted with. The itinerary was built to offer us a vibrant experience of the island, while letting us freely explore “the other side” so many of our parents talk to us about.

On the third day, I took a trip to the concrete suburb of Alamar to meet my grandmother for the first time. I was at a loss for emotions before arriving to meet her. What does she look like? Will she like me? What if we have nothing to talk about? My mind was running at a million miles an hour and I didn’t know when it would stop. And it did. Every question I had fleeted the moment I saw my grandmother’s smiling face from her balcony. I ran upstairs and hugged her like I knew her my whole life. She looked and me and jokingly said “you’re too skinny,” and that’s when I knew I finally found my Cuban Abuela.

Growing up in Miami, I’d been surrounded by Cuban grandmothers my whole life. But I never connected with the fact that my very own was a 30-minute plane ride away and, for a while, I couldn’t actually get to her. We shared photos, conversations and, of course, a delicious Cuban meal together. Getting to know her was definitely like finding a missing puzzle piece in my dad’s story and finally being able to put it together to complete mystory.

Lissette Calveiro Cuba.jpg

Before meeting her I had just finished a walking tour of La Habana Vieja, where we saw a sharp contrast between the tourist-facing zones and the residential alleys where things were in less than average condition. When I stepped out the vehicle in my grandmother’s neighborhood, I was devastated to see that her living conditions, too, were nowhere near perfect. Because of this, my first tough question to her was “why did you stay?” Her answer was similar to the other locals’ answers: this is my home, this is my community and, though things could always be better, it is mine .

She talked to me a lot about food shortages, and less about issues with the Cuban government – my expectation of where her complaints would lie. It made me realize that I wasn’t coming to Cuba with an open mind; I was coming with an American mind. It was easy to get lost in this “we are better off because #democracy” mentality and thought I knew the problems they were facing and solutions to better their situation.

Example? I was expecting Cubans to be very behind in business, agriculture and technology because they physically didn’t have the advanced tools or resources that other countries do. I was surprised to see that though they didn’t have fancy machines or widespread public internet, they definitely had the ideas and “Cuban Way” of getting similar things done. The Conoce Cuba app is basically our version of Yelp!

There are things that can be vastly improved, like any other country including our own, but if I didn’t start looking at this trip with an open mind I would then never learn about Cuba today. This knowledge of the island could only be gained through relationships and genuine interactions on the island. This realization completely changed my mind about what I thought about Cuban-American diplomatic relations.

If you ask me what I think about Cuba now, I’d say it’s a symbol of resilience. Everything that I saw, felt and realized about my trip went back to this idea of “bouncing back” and “staying strong” regardless of the situation. Those who fled, had to begin again in a new country and those who stayed had to adjust to a new way of life.

“Things function interestingly around here, but they function,” said a local business owner.

When I first came back, I thought, “nothing’s changed I’m still Hispanic.” But over time an interesting shift has happened. I went from trying to stay out of the complicated Cuba conversation to being armed with a personal experience on the island that would help engage in dialogue between the two cultures.

I went on this trip looking for answers, but I came back with more questions. While Cuba now is definitely far from perfect, it was incredible to see the feeling of resilience and community that overpowered the island. It reminded me of what happens when a person loses one of their five senses; the other ones become stronger. I’ve never seen neighbors and strangers care and support each other more than the Cuban people.

Though I went with intentions to connect with my grandmother and father’s side of the story, my visit to Cuba was like being welcomed into one giant, 11 million people sized, familia.

To learn more about CubaOne Foundation’s “Tu Cuba” program or to donate and make this trip possible for many other young Cuban Americans, please visit www.cubaone.org.

And I Will Try to Fix You

On November 15, 2012 I received a phone call.

Sister: Well.

Me: What?

Sister: Mom’s results are in.

Me: And…?

Sister: She has cancer.

[Tears stream down my face as I stare into the New York City sunset.]

I had been in complete and utter shock. “These things only happen in movies and television,” I thought. I told myself time after time that this, too, shall pass. But I was lying to myself. Something dark took over my soul as I questioned all life around me. How was I supposed to come to terms with the fact that my mother, and best friend’s, life was hanging on a thread?

REWIND.

My grandfather had been admitted into hospital early October because a previous cancer made an attempt to return. Throughout all of this, my mother started to feel very ill but made it her sole mission to care for my grandfather. Even after being released, my grandfather needed personal care and attention since being 89 had started to become a physical obstacle. After obvious symptoms became more pronounced and her weight fell under 100 lbs., it was time to take serious action. She had been admitted to the hospital for one thing, treated, “slightly” diagnosed, tested, tested, waited, tested, re-diagnosed and then finally told that her intestinal tumor was definitely Stage 3 cancer.

In all of this, my life began to crumble around me. My obvious negative attitude began to seep through the pores on my skin and spill all over everything important. Relationships faded, I was on the brink of failing classes, I was unmotivated to work and people got hurt. Even worse than that, I kept all of this to myself.

Until I exploded.

It took a lot for me to realize that if I didn’t call out for help I would drown in my own sorrows. First, I spoke out to professors because school was a priority. They, thankfully, understood and allowed me to makeup missed tests, assignments and were not taken by surprise when I was feeling a bit “under the weather.” One by one, I began to tell the people closest to me. I was afraid that people would think I called for a “pity party” or wanted to use my mom’s illness as an excuse to my wrongdoings. It’s hard for me to admit that I don’t always know how to react to situations that take me by surprise. I did it. Soon after, everything became more real. With denial and anger out of the way, I could now focus on keeping a hopeful and positive outlook on the situation. If my mom could do it through all of the incredible obstacles life put in her path, I could too.

MOTHER WALKING ALONG THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN COAST IN THE GRAND TURK AND CAICOS ISLANDS, 2010.

MOTHER WALKING ALONG THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN COAST IN THE GRAND TURK AND CAICOS ISLANDS, 2010.

She began her chemotherapy right after my last final exam. She was admitted into Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla. to remain under close supervision by the group of doctors that would pull her out of the illness.  Her treatment, she was told, would weaken her immune system terribly and she would have to visit the hospital every day for the next three months to receive radiation. “Sounds good,” she replied with a beautiful smile. See, the thing about my mother is, she has never let anything get in the way of her goals. Whether it was getting me to clean my room, buying a new house, or surviving a dangerous illness, she plowed through with strong character. She told the doctors she needed to finish her chemo by Saturday… because “she had a wedding to dance in.” Seeing her first-born get married was a milestone she wasn’t going to let cancer make a decision for. So, on Dec. 21, 2012, my mother was released from the hospital after her first round of treatment and on Dec. 22, 2012, she put on a charming gown, stood in awe at my sister’s beautiful union, and, of course, danced like there was no tomorrow.

After spending two weeks in my hometown I realized a lot of things were changing and a lot of things were staying wonderfully same. I still fought with my mother over my messy room. I still ignored her conversations about the silliness in my outfit or what chores she needed out of me for the day. But, I am older. I am stronger. I am wiser. And I loved her more and more every second I spent with her. I never know how to express myself around her because “it’s awkward” to talk about your feelings with parents. However, I know that she knows me well enough to know how I feel and why I react the way I do. It’s difficult to see the person that gives you strength become so weak. The tables turned on us quickly but I found means of adjustment.

She is at week three of her treatment; you know, the point where she’s supposed to lose all of her hair, turn yellow in sorrow, and spend her days throwing up in front of the toilet.

None of that is happening. She looks and feels better than ever.

This “obstacle” served as a reminder of all things beautiful in our lives. My priorities shifted. I realized a strong connection with my family and taking care of my personal health were vital to my existence. I found the motivation I had longed for. We’re part of a bigger plan and, the exquisite thing is, we don’t know what it is. In 2013 my mother will become a cancer survivor.

Mom, if you’re reading this, thank you for giving me life and the lessons that come along with it. I love you.

**

Update (Winter 2013): My mother’s tumor has nearly disappeared entirely and she is one week away from finishing her treatment. In early February we will know how much of the disease is left in her body.

Update 2 (Spring 2013): MY MOTHER IS OFFICIALLY A CANCER SURVIVOR!