The main reason I left California was that I wanted to figure out where my passions lie and what my life purpose is. I'm little more than a month into a year long (or maybe more) trip and I am getting a lot more out of this experience than I had ever planned. It has taken me quitting my job, saying "goodbye" to a steady career path and staying in a city/town in Mexico that I had never previously heard of (San Cristobal de las Casas) to begin to unpack the issues that I have my entire life with trust, being vulnerable, being affectionate, forgiveness and most of all, accepting love and support from others (and from myself). Almost anyone, including my last therapist (by the way, I really miss our weekly appointments), could tell you that our parents/family/adult influencers/society screw us up and then we spend the rest of our lives either playing out these experiences/dynamics through our relationships and/or trying to forgive, deprogram and rebuild ourselves into the people that we've always dreamed of being. I am still in the process of deprogramming myself. And I'm struggling. This blog post reads as a collection of my reflections that I've woven together over the last month while in San Cristobal.
San Cristobal de las Casas, Chipas, Mexico
So much can happen in less than a months time. My cousin and I traveled together to San Cristobal de Las Casas on October 29th mainly to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos and for the amazing artisanal market of beautifully woven goods. I thought I would spend maybe a week here and then figure out the next place I wanted to be in Mexico. Well, after being here for 24 hours, I knew that I wanted to stay for at least a month to really get a feel for this place and the surrounding area. I ended up renting the very first room I looked at in a house occupied by a sensitive artist/painter, two incredibly talented musicians and a very affectionate, spiritually connected architect (who has become a great friend and mirror for me to better see my areas of growth). This was the most pleasant and easiest experience I've ever had trying to find housing. As far as I'm concerned, this is a HUGE sign that I belong in San Cristobal de las Casas. At least for the time being.
In less than a month, I have participated in my very first Temazcal Ceremony, experienced an intensive weekend Biodanza workshop and now doing weekly Biodanza classes, weekly acupuncture, frequent Tibetan Yoga and meditation, shaved my head, stood up for myself when someone I care about told me I looked less beautiful with a shaved head, bravely confronted and resolved a conflict with a close male that crossed the line with me sexually, saw the most amazing Dia de Los Muertos celebration in a town nearby San Cris, vulnerably accepted love, affection and support from peers (this is tough for me), participated in my first of many Kung Fu classes, got a couple job offers (I'm not sure about either yet), received an Inlakesh Tarot Card Reading that was very enlightening, been inspired and engaged by friends who are running projects in surrounding mountain communities (involving solar cooking, solar heating, water filtration, building sustainable housing and teaching children origami out of palm leaves), sang in front of people without stage freight, spent most of my days not wearing makeup and wandering around in yoga pants while actively not shaving my legs or armpits (wooohooo! down with beauty standards!), developed an obsession with photographing doors/doorways and continuing an my endless quest for THE BEST tacos.
I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to get to know a place that is so different than either place I've lived (Hawaii and California) and I am saddened by a lot of things here. If you asked me before my trip what I thought would be the most emotionally moving thing I would experience here in Mexico, I would've probably said something about the poverty rates being so high and the general lack of access to sufficient jobs (don't get me wrong, these things bother me A LOT). What I didn't anticipate was that I would actually feel more sorry for people of the USA.
Let me explain. Most people here make do with very little. Their tap water is poisoned and contaminated with all kinds of dangerous chemicals, bacteria and parasites (which made me terribly ill for the first week and a half I was here in San Cris- Thank goodness for the lovely herbalists here who helped cure me) and just to get access to what North Americans consider normal housewares, furniture or clothing can be very difficult and cost-prohibitive.
I am confronted daily here with the immense amount of privilege I hold as a white and well-educated Citizen of the USA. I cannot believe all I took for granted while living in the USA, how I always felt like I was missing something and how unhappy I was even after I purchased more crap I "needed". Sadly, most of the things I sold off and gave away when moving out of California are considered luxuries here in Mexico (that, at that point of me preparing for this trip, I considered burdensome). Even my Nalgene water bottle, which I bought as an afterthought at REI before I left the States, is considered a luxury here. I can't believe that I was so stressed about having so much stuff to get rid of when most households here could not even fathom the level of luxury and excess that I was living in as a norm. And I wasn't rich. If I had known what I know now, I would've brought boxes down with me to give all my stuff to the people here.
I look at the me that existed six, three and even one and half months ago and if I had stayed in the USA, that old me would've kept buying more stuff because I "needed" it. And I would've still been unsatisfied. How sad is it that I had so much, but was so unhappy? Despite their struggles, most of the people I have met here in San Cristobal de las Casas, find a way to cultivate joy and happiness. Now, I have only what can fit in my backpack and a purse and I don't feel that I am missing anything. I've adjusted to living with much less and I can honestly say that I am more grateful for the things that I do have (a roof over my head, access to fresh food, a real mattress vs a deteriorating foam pad to sleep on that so many of my friends have, a super comfortable pair of hiking shoes that have become everything shoes and clothes that keep me covered and/or warm). I don't even have a full length mirror. I spend probably less than a minute daily looking at myself in a tiny mirror that is just big enough to see my face. I'm coming to realize that whatever I have, is all that I need and that I can always adjust to less. And if I feel good, I look good.
Ok, and I must say something about Donald Trump. And yes, it's connected to my thoughts above. Donald Trump has said some really shitty things about Mexicans. I'm wondering, has he actually ever hung out with any Mexicans? As I continue to be embraced by all the wonderful locals I have met in San Cristobal de las Casas, I can't help but feel that I would honestly rather hang out with Mexicans than people from the USA. Sorry, but it's the truth. For one thing, I feel safer here in Mexico than in the United States. I feel deeply cared for here. I feel that the people I have come into contact with have done nothing but love me- even when I may have been annoying, blind to my privilege, needy, insensitive and/or hard to understand.
I've spent much of my time here just observing people. In all of my observations, I see people smiling, hugging, kissing each other on the cheek and caring for one another. Strangers wish each other a good day or a good meal. People go out of their way to make life more pleasant for complete strangers. When people ask me how I am doing, they make eye contact and actually listen to my response. People are patient and helpful when I am butchering their native language. Even though it is obvious that I am not from Mexico, not once has anyone here made me feel like I shouldn't be here. They are looking for heart connections. And yes, I know that I can't judge an entire population by a couple places in Mexico, but nearly all of my interactions with people here have been positive. I can't say the same for anywhere that I have been in the United States- even The Bay Area.
Upon arriving in San Cris, I fell very ill with a fever, a stomach thing (I think it was a parasite) and then had crazy allergies (to what, I don't know). People who I had met only once took time out of their day to check up on me and offer their help. I am 100% certain that this would not have been my experience if I was traveling through the United States. It would have taken years of relationship development for me to be treated with that level of dignity and kindness in the United States. If the borders were opened and a mass migration of Mexicans flooded the United States, the current citizens stopped being so xenophobic and racist and allowed themselves to be influenced by Mexican culture, I honestly believe that it would be a positive move forward for us.
And now I get dark with you all.
I spent months excitedly planning the start of this new chapter of life. During the whole process, I really believed that I would be so consumed with travel and all the wonderful things that come with it, that I would just become a happier version of myself. That I would emerge from this cocoon of my old self, a shiny new butterfly- radiating love, wisdom and zen-like, happiness. I assumed this metamorphisis would naturally occur and that I would be blissed out in much of the process.
I am a little more than a month into this journey (left the US on Oct 19th) and I've been slapped in the face with the realization that I *still* must do the necessary (and oftentimes, really fricken hard) work on myself to actually be happy. It appears that I've run away to one of the most amazing towns/cities that I've ever known and I still cannot get away from myself. I am constantly surrounded by incredibly loving people and an immensely rich and inspiring culture of art and music, but my shadow still follows me. Actually, due to the intense light that surrounds me, my shadow is infinitely more pronounced and darker in contrast.
My second week in San Cris, I received a, Inlakesh (Tarot Card) Reading. Before the reading, I asked for some guidance regarding what my purpose is in this life for the world. The cards told me that my purpose is to be of service to the world and the way I accomplish this is by being happy. And that by being happy, I will inspire others to be happy and change the world. At first, I was like, "yes! This is a great purpose in life!". Sounds easy, right? After taking some space to think about all of this, I realized that I actually have no idea how to be happy. Most of my life, I have felt a lot of depression and darkness and I have spent much time trying to love and care for others in hope that I would make a positive difference, which would by default, make me happy.
Well, it hasn't really. I don't know what it means to be happy. I never learned how to be happy. I have always looked at happiness as a general joyful and carefree way of living. But how do I get that? I see all these people around me that seem so lighthearted and joyful. I definitely don't feel that consistently. I feel a lot of emotions deeply, but most of it is turbulent and oftentimes, analytical and anxious. Happiness had always seemed to be something that everyone else mastered and I've spent most of my life trying to "fake it till you make it". Well, I haven't made it, yet. But, I have realized that being happy is more of a continuous practice, rather than a specific, life-lasting, accomplishable, one-time goal. Little by little (poco a poco), I am discovering what it is to be happy.
Mantra: I love you, I forgive you, I bless you, I release you, I thank you.
Stop asking me what my plans are next. I have no freaking clue and I am trying to NOT make plans. Sorry if this makes your life more difficult, but I really need this right now. I am relinquishing control. What happens next will be what needs to happen. I am getting in this inter tube and riding it down a the river. I will explore wherever the river banks me, but I cannot and will not attempt to try and control the current. I'm living in the now, so my home is where ever I happen to be.
It's a very unfamiliar feeling to have no idea what I will be doing or where I will even be in a month. The funny thing is, life has always been like this. Even when I thought I knew where I was going to be or what I would be doing a month later, often, plans changed and I was doing something completely different. I am realizing now that I felt a completely false sense of security signing a lease, putting things into my calendar, buying stuff so I felt "settled" into a place and making plans. The reality of it all is that life has always done it's own thing and I've adjusted to it's randomness. It's funny how many things I previously clung to that produced a false sense in security. And the funny thing is, now that I have no plans, no official lease, barely any stuff and no job, I feel more secure than I've ever felt.
I want to address my (ridiculous) list of things I was freaking out about before I left California. I just read over them again and I laughed out loud. Below is my feedback to the anxious me who wrote my very first blog post.
My feet: I'm not even thinking about my feet. I wear my Solomon Hiking shoes for everything. I even go dancing in them. I went to a birthday party in my "fancy" clothes last night and I wore my wool socks and hiking shoes. Didn't think twice about it. It's cold in San Cris right now, so I only wear my slippers (flip flops, thongs) when its super sunny out. I also wore my hiking shoes to hike. They got the job done. I actually wear them while speed walking to yoga most mornings and I accidentally spilled peanut butter on my right toe (I was trying to eat my pb off a spoon as I walked down the street- I needed some calories!). I haven't cleaned my shoes yet and its been a couple weeks since the pb incident. I just don't care.
My vanity: Well, I shaved my head and I no longer shave my legs or pits. I barely wear makeup and I often sweat a bunch and then go on with the rest of my day meeting random people and not thinking about how I must look a mess. I try not to smell. Sometimes, it is unavoidable. Most of the time, I just don't care.
Sleep: Earplugs. Being so tired that I just pass out and just don't care.
My diet: I could probably be eating more vegetables. I have also started eating bread after more than a year of being gluten-free, which I think is causing me to gain weight and have more acne on my face. Trying to lighten up on my bread consumption, but bread comes with most meals here and it is delicious. I also could cut down on my sugar intake. I have been ferociously hungry all day here so I often grab whatever is near me and eat it because I have cravings. I think all the issues that are coming up and all the work I am doing spiritually on myself is causing me to need more calories. Plus, winter has come and my body craves more food as the cold lingers.
Being shy: I do feel shy sometimes. Especially since I don't speak Spanish fluently yet. I am trying to not get angry with myself for not being fluent after a month of being here. I had the expectation that Spanish would just come back to me very quickly (I spent nearly 6 months in Chile, Argentina and Ecuador about 10 years ago and learned Spanish then). It hasn't quite happened like I expected. I know that I need to be more immersed in Spanish but I keep encountering people who speak english or want to practice their english with me. I try to remind people that I would like to be spoken to in Spanish as much as possible, but sometimes I am super tired and in a rush and just need to get information across as fast as possible. Overall, I am getting much better at understanding Spanish. It's responding and remembering to conjugate verbs correctly that is screwing me up. Especially the tense where I am trying to describe how something would feel in the future. I just took my very first private Spanish lesson with a wonderful teacher who I met through a friend so I am slowly, but surely (poco a poco) picking it back up. Luckily, everyone I have encountered has been super patient with me and most correct me when I need it. Overall, it's difficult to feel shy when I feel so welcomed and embraced by San Cris.
Feeling meaningless: This is actually funny to me now. I'm learning/living that everything and nothing have always/never had meaning. Right now matters. I can plan, I can stress and I can worry, but it will do nothing for me or my life. I am practicing tranquility, patience and letting go of control. I am making the choice to trust that everything will be ok in my life (rather than stress about all the horrible things that could happen). I have given myself permission to just relax into my feelings and the moments to actually ENJOY life. I have given myself permission to lose myself and let the river of life take me where it will. I have given myself permission to be playful and curious- just like a child. I have given myself permission to heal and stop carrying around all of the heavy shit that I've hurt myself with all these years. I deserve to love myself and to be loved by others. Even my dark and not so photogenic parts of my body, soul and brain deserve to be loved by me. All of this is a practice and a process which is continuously changing the way I see the world and connect with others.
I get sad sometimes. I am far away from my family and my loved ones, so I do have quite a few moments where my heart hurts and I am missing people. I am grateful to have people to miss in my life. I am trying to get used to the pain that comes with this as I realize that the more I open to connection with people, the more pain I will feel when I can no longer be with them. Living from the heart is a double-edged sword.