Thursday, January 26, 2017

Feeling At Home Away From Home

Hello, Invisible Audience.

I have left my cold home and am now in Mexico, enjoying what the locals seem to think is a cold snap of 74 degrees. They’re in sweatshirts; I’m in shorts and a tank top.

I am in Lo de Marcos, a small town on the Pacific Coast about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta and 20 minutes north of Sayulita. I am here because I was asked to come to check out the place and write about it. I wasn’t sure I would like it, but I do – a lot.
Lo de Marcos Beach and Lagoon

The last time I was in Mexico was my ill-fated road trip down the Baja to Ensenada. Many people have told me how much they love that city; that they thought it was beautiful, with a rich culture. I couldn’t see it. Part of it was clearly where I was emotionally, but I am fortunate in that I have traveled to many places in Mexico, and frankly I found Ensenada to be lacking the charm I have found in other Mexican towns like this one.

Lo de Marcos is still a village of sorts. It sits on a small bay on the Pacific Ocean. It has cobble-stoned streets, a well-kept town square, and colorful concrete buildings. There are certainly a fair amount of tourists here – enough that no one blinks an eye when I walk by – but it’s also still a small Mexican town. Most of the signs are in Spanish. For the most part, prices are lower than they would be in a larger tourist town.
Lo de Marcos Main Square

My last trip to Mexico was traumatic to say the least. In fact, I haven’t been abroad since that trip to Ensenada, which is probably some sort of record for me. Although I won’t say the trauma of that trip is the entire reason, I did find myself somewhat nervous as I packed to come here.

When I arrived, however, it felt like I had slipped back into a comfortable pair of shoes. I had a lot of Mexican friends growing up in Manson, and I still find the Mexican dialect the easiest Spanish to understand. The people are warm and welcoming, and the food – the food, invisible audience! – the food is fresh and delicious. Even when my phone wouldn’t work and it took awhile to find my driver, I wasn’t worried. Things always seem to work out for me in Mexico, and this trip is no different.

I love it here, invisible audience. I love the adventure of trying to get even the simplest things accomplished. I love the fact that a waiter will let you sit at a table for as long as you like, because it’s not proper etiquette to bring you the bill before you ask for it. I love that old men and women sit outside their doors on the streets and chat with their neighbors. I love how many people know their neighbors. And, admittedly, I love how I can reinvent myself in a town like this – where I get to present only the parts of myself I want others to know, not all that I am. It is freeing.

I am much different than the last time I was abroad. I am calmer, and more curious. I hide less behind my sunglasses. I speak to people more, and I feel welcome here.
It makes me sad that many of these people would not feel the same if they came to the U.S.  I am sitting in a bar listening to the news; they are talking about Trump’s plans to build a wall. I cannot get behind it, invisible audience. My own personal walls have crumbled over the last several years. While my defenses are stronger, they no longer require a far-reaching barrier to keep everyone out. Instead, I seek only to protect myself from those who have not proven to be trustworthy. Since I have destroyed the walls of my fortress, I have enjoyed life a lot more than I did when I kept absolutely everyone on the outside as a matter of principle. I cannot help but think of this new wall in the same terms.
For now, I will enjoy the time I have in this beautiful country that feels so much like a second home. I am not sure what will happen in the next four years; whether it will be as easy to visit after Trump has implemented more of his policies.

For now, though, I am here, and that wall seems like it’s far, far away.

Love and Lo de Marcos Kisses,


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Listening to My Inner Voice

Hello, Invisible Audience.

It’s sunny today, and a whopping 10 degrees. I am safe and warm, my cat is asleep on the couch, and I’m making sweet potato enchiladas for a potluck tomorrow. Life is good. In fact, life is feeling better this last week than it has in a long, long time.

Right after Christmas, I got sick. On top of pretty awful low back pain that made snow removal – a constant chore this year – incredibly painful, I got the mother of all colds. The outside temperature during my illness was about 7 degrees.

I wallowed. I felt bad for myself; like a petulant child. I wanted the snowplow that cleared my road to stop filling my driveway. I tried to will my car over the berm that snow created after the snow blower died, and got it high-centered instead. It took me almost two hours to dig it out, and that was with the help of a nice man who kindly stopped to assist me…because I wasn’t willing to just fucking call someone and ask for help. Of course I was too discombobulated to ask him for his number so I could take him out for a beer when I had some more time. Add yet another shame spiral to the mix.

I was pissed and resentful and knew that day that every decision I made was making things worse. I had other choices (cancel my reasons for leaving the house, for example, or digging out the driveway with a shovel before trying to back out to the road) but I didn’t take them. I didn’t want to. I was too dead set on proving the idea that I was suffering. So I made myself suffer to make it true.

To say the last couple years have been hard for me is a significant understatement. To say I am better off because of them is an essential truth. I am more myself than I have ever been. I now make choices based on what I want instead of what I think others want from me. I spend money on the priorities I have created. I am learning to appreciate and love my friends for what they give me instead of resenting them for what they cannot give. There is no doubt that my life is in an upward trajectory.

But that doesn’t make it easy all the time. And it does not mean that I’m not allowed to have a shitty, shitty day.

When I was sick, I dealt with a lot of inner guilt and shame because I spent days on end watching Criminal Minds and doing little more than lying around. Yet despite all that guilt, I did it anyway. There was a tiny voice in my head that kept saying, quietly but insistently, “I need rest.” Perhaps that’s the most important thing that has led to all the other more important things I’ve learned these last couple years. When I listen to that voice, despite all the other ones I hear, my life gets better.

I now look back on the last couple years and I see I was listening to that voice. I have ended relationships with people who do not feel supportive. I have fostered friendships with people who want to talk about the things that are on my mind and can hold the space for me as I try to figure things out on my own. I have spent months holed up in various sanctuaries; I have started to emerge only for events that really sound like fun instead of ones I think I “should” attend. I have put down a lot, and picked up other things, but at a much slower place. And frankly, I say no more than I say yes.
That small voice helped me make these changes, even when they felt awful, like a betrayal. The voice has helped me find myself in the midst of a cacophony of expectations -- both real and imagined -- from others. When I listen to that voice, I get better. And more than anything, that voice has told me that it’s ok to take my time to get better.

Today I went for a walk. I bundled up in multiple layers and wandered out into the sparkling snow. For the first time in a long time, it felt magical to be alive. It’s a small feat, but I know it wouldn’t have felt that way if I hadn’t spent multiple days holed up in bed with gallons of hot tea and a lot of naps. If I keep listening to that voice, I know I’ll be able to find my way back here, again and again, even if it requires a lot of rest in the process.