Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tijuana's International Marathon

When words are both true and kind, they can change the world. ~ Buddha
I ran Tijuana’s marathon these past weekend. International Network of Hearts invited me to join them since they were the featured charity of the run. I was excited to be part of it, for training I need to run as many marathons in the next six months as I can but the most important reason was that I was looking forward to finally meeting one of my heroes. My boyfriend Kevin and I arrived the day before to a full schedule that included catching up with some of my childhood friends, picking up the race package and meetings with the entire team of my next project 25in25 where I am going to attempt to set a record of completing a long course triathlon a day for 25 days from Cancun to San Diego. In early 2014 I will be swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 128 miles and running 26.2 miles a full marathon/ day for 25 days. You are probably wondering a couple of things right now, can it be done? And/or why? As much as I love to run, I love adventure more. It’s getting tough to join the races that I want to do, they fill fast and some are by invitation only. I love that the ultrarunning scene has gone mainstream, after all that is part of being part of the social network community to share my experiences and inspire others to try new things. The disadvantages are of course is that then I am scrambling with everybody else to run races. So is time to find a new sport in the extreme adventure scene, ultratriathlons. If there is one thing that separates me from others isn’t talent or ability but my brain sees things differently. Most people gets discouraged when they see odds like one in a million chances, I think I want to be the ONE! So I quickly get to work. Right now the longest ultratriathlon race is the double deca in Monterrey Mexico, 20 times the distance of an Ironman in 20 days, or 20 in 20 days, everything about it appealed to me, especially when I heard that only one person finishes a year and very few attempt. When I heard the struggles of Alma, the director of INH I knew it was time for a new project to raise funds for her shelter and awareness about human trafficking. I open up about my history of abuse and violence, even as a survivor of human trafficking where I can’t thank God enough for having had the incredible fortune of having escaped before I had been sold. When I talked to Alma about her girls, and Marisol’s story of her incredible journey I spent many sleepless nights wondering why me? Why did I escaped and not Marisol? Our lives would have probably been parallel, I knew that I could never make sense of things, there are is no meaning behind tragedies like that, the only thing I could do was to make something positive out of it. Marisol was sold as a young girl to a man that took her to the USA, having a very sick mother she willingly follow him thinking that she was going there to work to pay for her mother’s medical bills but ended up being sold over and over again for sex as well as becoming her captors sex slave. What breaks my heart is when Marisol talks about going to prison being one of her happiest day, the day she was finally freed from the horrors of her slavery and it was the day she went to prison for a crime her captor committed. Marisol spent 17 years behind bars still deprived of her freedom but compared to the prison she had lived it was paradise. Its being two years until she finally regain her freedom fully, having her sentence reversed and declared innocent with the help of a catholic nun that advocated for her. Finally meeting her after the marathon, her first in freedom, having ran in prison to keep sane, it was incredibly powerful and symbolic for her but bitter sweet for me, I am happy she is finally free from the horror she lived but I also know that it’s difficult to escape the nightmares. My biggest pain is that even though she was a victim, and forced into that lifestyle, she has limited limitations, not because of her abilities but because of our society. The stigma will follow her forever, she will relived the shame and humiliation that sex crimes bring, sex crimes aren’t about sex, they are about taking your dignity away, trying to destroy the very core of human existence. “ You could have escape, obviously you liked it" was one of the comments she heard recently. I admire Marisol's strength, her ability to handle everything so positive and with class. Sitting there across her I felt the closeness that comes with being able to be yourself, to be accepted and understood. I like meeting other victims, I feel less alone, yes even after all these years and my Facebook friends I still feel lonely sometimes. The loneliness that one feels when you are silenced, when you loose your voice and identity because society wants you to be somebody else. " I know what happened to you but I don't want to hear about it" the loneliness one might feel when coming out as gay " I acknowledge you are but I don't want to know anything about it" the shame that that brings, like there is something wrong with us. Marisol and I took turns telling out worse moments like we needed to purge our souls even for a second. Marisol is the strong one, I am the lucky one. Even through all my pain, I had the support of my family, that was always the source of my strength, I don't know if I had not given up if I had been in her shoes. So doing a documentary to hopefully influence a chance is something that at least let's me sleep a bit better a night. Compared to the difficult journey she still has ahead of her my 25 Ironmans in 25 days are a walk in the park in comparison. I will be following the trafficking route from south to north, passing through towns to empower the community, to have each one declare, not in my neighborhood, a very powerful neighborhood watch program. I have faith in humanity, I have faith that Marisol will have plenty of opportunities ahead of her, that she will be celebrated as the amazing survivor she is, a proof that goodness does succeeds against evil and that one day she would not only live an abundant life but she also finds a person that would look into her eyes and say, I am here to chase your nightmares away.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

The last week I have broken down crying for no apparent reason in the oddest places, in my driveway, on a bathroom stall just before my swim. I assumed it had to do with all the training I been doing and the energy that it takes to coordinate the massive effort that it is to pull intense workout out hours on top of all of the other very important and time consuming responsibilities I have, like raising tow very different teens and work. I finally figure out what it was when I pulled my sons travel itinerary for his upcoming trip to Toronto to do the training and ultimately bring his guide dog home. Then and there the overwhelming feeling came rushing. No matter how much I tell myself this is not because is any indication that Karl is getting or will be getting worse, Is just for independence, it just tears me apart. I still hate he is affected by his condition, as much as I did the first time I head the diagnosis. Karl is one of the bravest people I have known and he is also the sweetest. I feel the last few weeks it’s like we are back to the beginning and I am fighting ignorance and discrimination when some places wouldn’t allow him with his dog. Eventually, the gym apologized and is allowing him to bring his guide dog with him, but only when I threaten to sue them and take the story to the press. Luckily Karl was never aware of it but it made me realized that this fight is far from over and he still has a lot of discrimination to overcome. If anything it had renewed my commitment to continue working to raise awareness and funds to help end blindness and visual impairment. Brett Wilson gave generous donations to both cnib and Foundation Fighting Blindness on our behalf and Operations Eyesight Universal was on the running to receive a grant form the Endure Foundation one which I am an ambassador, but this is still not enough. I know that once more, Karl will come home with his dog and make me feel that everything is OK by taking everything with the positive attitude he always has. But as usual, I know I will spend many more sleepless nights figuring out a way to get more donations. Throw in the fact that I also speaking in LA about Running Home and you have a ticking bomb. I still hate the fact that that story exists but I don’t hate it as much as the fact that is still happening. I just watched the news about the rescue of the three women that were held captive. The joy of the families, the horror of the public when they realized that such monster was living near them, then the further victimizing of the brave young girls, “ the door was left unlocked in a couple of occasions and you didn’t escape?” Every time I hear that it breaks my heart that we are still liberating abusers of any responsibility by placing blame on victims, let me make this clear, nobody deserves or wants that. Something else bothers me, what are we doing to prevent this from happening to anybody else? Is not true that we don’t know this is happening, this is happening right now, young girls are being taken against their will and forced into slavery. I am not saying that these young women had it easier but how is that different than the thousands of girls locked into rooms, deprived of their freedom and forced to perform sexual acts. What I don’t understand is why if we are we all not doing more to stop this from happening? I guess you can say that loosing sleep is part of reaching that place in your heart that says “enough” I refuse to stay silent any more. My book seemed to touch a lot of people deeply and I make no apologies, if you think is painful reading detail account of being victimized, try living it. I will never be OK, I have leaned to not only survive and thrive considering my past but make no mistake, there will not a single day will pass that something will take me to the deep pain I felt, the fear and the shame I was made to learn. Luckily for me, I have work so hard in building dreams where once nightmares lived. My frustrations are from being unable to accept limitations from others, or myself, all I know is that I don’t have to accept that the cure for blindness will not be here in time for my son or that human trafficking is such a difficult and complex problem than a single individual fighting to end it will not have a significant impact. Nobody has the right to tell me what my hopes and dreams have to be. In the world I am working towards, my son Karl can see perfectly the face of the woman he will fall in love with and I will never read that an other child or woman disappeared. I made a commitment to my son that day we sat down on my front steps when he was 11 and afraid of what was happening,that I was going to do everything in my power to fight this diagnoses until the end of my days. After that day, I embarked on a journey and there is no turning back. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.