Sunday, May 27th, 2018

CUMBERSOME WITH A TOUCH OF FINESSE

My life has been out of sync with a kind of finesse to it, meaning that it was so cumbersome in so many ways, there seemed to be design to it, a kind of artistic flair.

Mexico was just plain irritating. I had two GI infections which is not at all like turista. The symptoms are fatigue, dizziness and stomach ache. It starts out subtle and takes a while to realize you are sleeping six hours a day!!! To see a doctor seems like climbing Mount Everest. Taxi to doctor, taxi to lab, taxi back to doctor, taxi to pharmacy, taxi back to doctor, taxi to lab again. Finally, I stay awake all day.

So I had to take a few taxis, so what?  Well. Our street which is really a little alley is ugly. It’s always been ugly—stones and trash and an empty lot across from us owned by the past president of Mexico who fences it off and lets it run wild. (I love that the neighborhood just cuts hole in the fence and make paths that are helpful short cuts. Do not fence us out!! So we were thrilled to hear our street would be repaired and new sewer put in.

The work began. The communication was sparse. The road was to be impassable for three months. No cars. And then the phone company decided to do work as well.We had twelve foot mounds of dirt and gravel to travail to get to the corner. Our gate was now four feet above the road. Two ditches were dug in parallel that were four feet deep. Each household had their version of a bridge/plank/ or corrugated tin to get across the abyss. . I fell twice and slashed my leg. I love to be plucky, but getting groceries from the taxi at the corner over the hills and through the dales of stone and gravel to our gate, walking the planks and then carrying up the 40 stairs to the kitchen lost its pioneer challenge  fast.

I decided that sequestering was the best choice. . So I signed up to write a book in nine weeks, except that I put a trip to Maine in the middle of the nine weeks (bumping suit cases over the planks and stacks of stones (progress of a kind). Let’s just say I finally sat down at my Mexico office desk  back in Mexico with just three weeks left to write the book in order to go  take to a three day workshop in DC for editing and review.  I spat out a book (which I have yet to read) and left for Maine to head next to DC.

My computer gave up the ghost. It had no display. The workshop demanded a manuscript in Word on a computer.  I had pledged to watch my daughter’s daughter. She and I spent a day in the Apple store. She wins the ‘good kid” award of the year. I finally bought a new computer, they transferred the content the next day and I was off to DC. Never shut your eyes and just point and buy a computer and go to a workshop that demands familiarity with said computer. Even the USB thingies are different. What do you know! Word doesn’t magically appear. It has to be magically downloaded. Laugh all you souls who are not 74. My tech anxiety makes me whimper. My vision for it is great. The difference between the two define cumbersome for me.

The barriers to ease and getting things done continues.My purse strap will get elegantly caught on a door knob in a way that would be impossible to do deliberately.  Needed appointments collide with fantastic cancellations and changes. The topper was I called my Oregon daughter to ask her to come to Brussels with me and then to Paris. She has wanted to take a trip with me for a long time. Her voice sounded funny and told me she appreciated me asking and would get back to me. Odd. I expected a little delight. Then I got her email telling me she was leaving the following to go to Paris with her mother-in-law!!!  See what I mean? That is art. That being out of sync has finesse. Artfully awful.

I have just come out of a staycation thinking I would luxuriate and read for pleasure. It was, instead, somewhere in between the life of an invalid or a woman in an old bathrobe with a cigarette in her hand wandering listlessly as she slipped into slovenly bliss.  I watch daily triple episodes of House trying to get to get to his final self- destruction or salvation.

I sit as I write at the chiropractor, healing my Mexico fall. I just came out of four days of watching my five year old granddaughter. I had to function and function well, so I did. (But still haven’t won one game of Sorry.)  But the days stayed “bumpety” which is what we call days, when we lose shoes, Elsa’s dress and our favorite book and most of all when we drop things and have to pick them up over and over and over. We prefer “yes” days when we say “yes” to everything and everything says “yes” to us.

And I am heading to “yes”.  “Yes,” here I come.  I’m ready for you. My arms are open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Brooding

Boy, it’s hard to stay true to Truth Burping. It’s so tempting to put a good spin on life. And I do have plenty to good spin about. But today the thought that is in my head is “brooding”.I love words. I trust them. I thought maybe I just wanted a break to muse which has a nice meditative quality to it. “Oh, I think I’ll just gently muse about my life. But no, I trust my unconscious and it just won’t let go of “brooding”.

And wouldn’t you know it, the definition is “deep unhappiness of thought”. Darn. Or “feeling sad, worried, or angry for a long time”. Yikes! Where did my joy go? I prefer the definition, “engaged in deep thought”. Some dictionaries focus more on how a person looks rather than how they feel. Merriam Webster talks about being serious and sad. Bingo. I am serious and sad right now. I carry a lot a lot a lot of joy. That’s my default position but I am sad and serious today. Here’s why.

I am not sure how I want to spend my time and that irritation is trumping my joy. Writing (with deadlines) is demanding and takes time. I love it. I love this. This is my truth place. I’m already slipping away from brooding as I write. I love my kids and grandchildren and some live very far away. Mexico is good, very good. We have an entire alternate life here, which takes us away from our other alternate life and home. Reading is essential to my breathing. Lots of reading.

This could be all an embarrassment of riches except for one thing.I have a major deadline approaching that burdens me. It’s called death. (Are we still having fun?) It looms. I have ten more truly productive years—if I want to produce!! Am I morbid? No realistic.

I have always been aware of death from the time that my brother’s fiance’s family were killed in a car accident caused by drunks. Grandparents, parents, nine year old boy, 9 month old baby. One seven year old girl lived as did my brother’s fiancé. This is when I learned to cherish.

I write this on the date my dad died. I forgot thinking about taxes.Then my daughter texts to say my granddaughter had a bad dream about me—that we were in a bouncy house and I went into a section full of light and she tried to follow me but I was gone. Well, then.

I have two projects with deadlines, people wanting to be clients, five grandchildren I enjoy as people, a husband writing a major tome, a million books to read, beauty to relish and grocery shopping to do.

I am brooding but I now kind of smile as I say that.It’s too important sounding. I want to choose how to spend my life energy with careful choice or go totally random and enjoy the ride. But I’ll probably choose a touch more of denial and go my merry way.

The awareness of finite time can be a pain in the—-neck or a gift to stay awake. Not “or” Both.

I have a very funny story about literal brooding of chickens that involves Hubert Humphrey. Later. I’m too busy brooding with the touch of a smile.

 

 

 

 

0 Comments

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Lovely Pang of Grief

My parents have been dead for twenty-four years. Weird. They had great deaths. And great living.They were quite alive until the very moment of dying. They died easily and within ten days of one another. My mom died on April 5th, my dad on April 15th of the same year.

I have wonderful stories about their deaths—funny and poignant and not terribly sad, which does not mean I was not hit hard. On another day, I will tell the story fully. Today, I’m saying I’m surprised by a wave of grief.

My mom died three minutes after my April 4th birthday so the two milestones are automatically intertwined. Megan’s birthday is three days after the date of my dad’s death. I was just made an officer at Hannaford the year my parents died and never got to tell them.

Some years, I sail right through this crazy first fifteen days of April. Happy, sad, happy, sad, bewildered. This year I have a sharp grief. So I will honor it and be a sad and still.

At their funerals the mantra was, “Oh we had fun.” “Oh we laughed.” I can’t think of a better descant for a life. And I hope, that 24 years after my death, my kids might have a renewed pang of grief missing me.

 

 

0 Comments

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

BEING AT HOME IN TWO CULTURES

I have been attneding the San Miguel Writers Conferencebeing at home in two cultures for the past week. It is a side benefit of living  in San Miguel during February when the conference is held. It started thirteen years ago and is now a major big deal. It is a cross-cultural event and highlighted for me the importance of being at home in two cultures.

People from all over the world come and big names speak. I remember when Margaret Atwood spoke a few years ago. The hotel ballroom was packed (3000 people). Margaret was speaking and all of a sudden a deluge of rain closed down the sound system. There was a bang of thunder and lightening and (for whatever reason) the sound came back on full force. Ms. Atwood paused and looked at the ceiling and said, “I just love punctuation!!” The conference is like that.

I had an odd experience this year. My own cross-cultural confusion paralyzed me. I have been speaking primarily Spanish for the past two months. My social relationships have all been with our Mexican neighbors. I was hit hard by the sudden large block of Americans. I was going to say, “wave” but that word is too gentle. I was suddenly reminded of my cross-cultural work within the global company I worked for–The DelHaize Group. The American companies and leaders were surprised and irritated to learn that they were perceived as arrogant, dominant and loud. I have to admit that this was my experience at the conference.

I  felt shoved aside, invisible and ignored. There was no welcoming accessibility. I would have to be aggressive, intrusive and determined to make contact. (That is what Americans might call friendly.) The networking had a frantic quality of quick skimming to check on the value of the person standing or sitting next to you. I was most comfortable with Mexican participants, an Iranian woman, a Swedish woman and a quirky wonderful woman from New Mexico. I had lost my cultural footing.

This is not a new experience for me. I lived in the jungles of Panama with the Teribe Indian tribe for two years followed by a year in Puerto Rico. I was three years away from the United States. My first moment in a grocery store was a crisis. I had a panic attack in the cereal aisle. So many loud colors and choices screaming at me. I did deep breathing and slowly found my way out of the store, to my parents’ house and took to bed for a week.

I soon go from Mexico to Maine for a two week trip for doctors and book publishing work and to see family there. It will be a familiar and gentle trip. But I am on the same cusp I lived with following my Peace Corps experience. Who, what and where is my home base? I have lived on the edge of two cultures for quite some time. My husband has joined San Miguel this year. He writes a column for the local newspaper, has joined the Rotary Club, a kayak club and a Sufi center. (Yes, he is eclectic to put it mildly.) I say ‘no’ to joining in some kind of loyalty to Maine as  my primary connection.

I think of myself as a global citizen. Almost all of us are whether we want to be or not. I don’t think there is any going back to tight, tight, country boundaries—with or without a Mexican boundary wall. And so we/I have to widen the experience of what is “home”. As a global executive, I had to learn to keep all of my worlds alive and real and not shut one off as I traveled. If I didn’t do that, there was hell to pay when I got “home”.

I have been saying too much “no” to keep things simple and my worlds separate. I am coming out of that kind of retirement. I am committing to a larger “yes”—to complexity and complication and cumbersomeness. And to staying very alive, even if uncomfortable and sometimes homesick without knowing for what home. Being at home in two cultures is an essential modern skill with far flung families/tribes connecting and disconnecting often. The cultures don’t have to be exotically different like Maine and Mexico. Think of family differences particulary as kids marry. Think of bi-racial children. Think of The trick is to not shut off one world to be in the other. Being at home in two cultures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0 Comments

x