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.