Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year's End: Appreciation

It's been a busy year and not the most enjoyable, due to a series of family medical crises. I found myself coming and going frequently, and forced to deal at length with some of the very aspects of life back in the U.S. that I moved to Yucatán specifically to avoid. It was exhausting in all senses of the word.

On the surface it was not the best year of my life, but I think that because of the difficulties it has been a year of great personal growth. In mid-November, arriving back from my latest trip north and with most of our family concerns dealt with for now, I looked forward to getting back into a normal routine. What I felt upon arriving home, though, was that every movement seemed difficult, as though my limbs were encased in hardening concrete, every thought cloudy, fogged. I decided to give myself a break, and for a while not to attempt anything I didn't want to do. I haven't gone out a lot, haven't published much on this blog, and the house could use an energetic cleaning.

What I found myself doing these past weeks was enjoying the birds and plants in the back yard, lying on the roof at night to watch the stars, reading, taking more time to talk with my neighbors, and hanging out with my closest friends. I also had plenty of time to sip coffee and think.

What did I think about?

I appreciate my family. We are a lot closer now. We pulled together to manage a difficult situation and I don't think we let the stress hurt our relationships.

I appreciate my friends. It's an old saying that you find out who your friends are when you most need them. How true. Real friendships are rare, and I feel privileged to have a number. Friends like Victor, who took care of the house, paid my bills, and always has time and the interest to listen when I need someone to talk to. Friends like my neighbor Margarita, with whom I have not always seen eye-to-eye, but who insisted upon dropping me off and picking me up at the Mérida end as I made twelve trips through airports this year. Friends like Paul, who let me take breaks on his houseboat when I was in Seattle for two months while my mother underwent exams and then the daily grind of radiation therapy. And quite a few other great friends who accept me just as I am and who really care about people.

I appreciate lessons learned from the sick and the old, the dying and the dead. I wrote about two of these people (Alberto and Alejandro) earlier this year. I spent a lot of 2010 in hospitals and nursing homes, around people suffering from a variety of serious illnesses and who lost loved ones. Witnessing as they managed their lives, interacted with their families and got on with living in spite of everything is inspiring and makes me grateful for all I have. They remind me that the only things that make for true happiness (assuming one has the basic necessities of diet, shelter and health) are the wonders of faith and the spirit, the beauties of nature and human creativity, and the love of friends and family. These are the main things that really matter when it comes to happiness. The rest, a huge proportion of the economy that people worship, "need" and worry about, is just stuff that gets in the way.

I appreciate the peace and civility of the Yucatán. It's not perfect and once in awhile, even after many years here, I still feel like a fish out of water, but it's a supremely secure, friendly and wonderful place to live.

Thinking about all this has helped me to plan for the future and hopefully be prepared to accept gracefully what's to come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Top, a yellow and red poinsettia, known in Mexico as nochebuena. Above, Joseph and the Baby Jesus, by the Yucatecan painter Alberto Castillo Ku, 1920 - 2010.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Living Here: Flojera

I haven't posted anything in this blog for two weeks, and although I have probably fifteen ideas for posts in draft, I can't seem to get one finished. I don't seem to be getting much of anything else done, either, and I don't really care very much.

I think I am suffering from flojera, lethargy. In Mexico, if a person is flojo, that means they are lazy, a layabout. I don't know how common the expression is, and it's not in the dictionary, but I know a couple of people in Mérida who term this condition flojeritis. Lack of energy and interest in work or accomplishment are the primary symptoms of this complaint.

In my case the flojeritis aguda (the acute form of the disease) probably stems from several causes. Three weeks ago I came down with some kind of bug that bothered my stomach and made me tired, and it has persisted for quite awhile.

About that same time I also started having fairly serious problems with my aging laptop that make handling photos and working on the blog extremely tedious and not much fun.

Then along with the longer fall nights we've been having cool mornings. In an airy old stone house like mine, on these mornings it feels really good to pull the blanket over your head and stay in bed a bit later.

And looking back, I took seven fairly major trips in the past year, some of them pretty stressful.

All legitimate reasons to feel a bit flojo. I think my mind and body are just telling me I need a good break.

I don't suffer from flojera too often, because I have enough interesting things to do around here that even on a bad morning I always manage to get up long enough to get started on something. Once up, it doesn't take me long to get involved and forget that I didn't feel very energetic at the outset. Or sometimes, when I feel the symptoms of flojeritis coming on, I just take it easy for a couple of days, stay in and finish reading a book, and let the bug take its course. Then after a bit I find that I want to be outside, and again have the energy to do what I need or want to do.

So I know flojera is just temporary. I've been to the doctor and my stomach is better. I have more energy. I visited the corner hardware and bought a badly-needed new broom and a few household repair items, and for some reason that makes me feel like doing chores around the house. And here I am, almost finished with a post for the blog.

I'm pulling out of it. Think I'll post this and go take on the leaf-strewn patio.