I once attached my heart to a man after seeing him cry as he told me about the day his dog was euthanized, a decade before.
What I saw as his tender heart spoke straight to mine, and what I understood as his depth of feelings won me over.
Years later, the same man berated me for wanting to postpone our Sunday breakfast by an hour so that I may go support a friend as she took her own dog for a last, heartbreaking visit to the vet.
This man often teared up when hearing about acts of kindness - yet was reliably sharply unpleasant to waiters and waitresses.
I have a dozen examples of what I considered crazy-making inconsistencies of this flavor, over the years. Some of them unsettling.
They puzzled me and I often wondered what I was missing, what I was not understanding. Really: what was wrong with me?
How could someone who felt so much ... feel so little?
Over time, too many forays on that not-so-sensitive side took their toll and I eventually took my own heart back. Something I do neither well nor fast.
But still, I did not understand.
Until just a couple of months ago, in my kitchen. While making breakfast.
We were discussing a movie we had watched the night before and I was grappling with trying to figure out what had been clearly missing for me, from a movie that seemed to have touched so many people.
Thats when my son, while making fresh orange juice said: “well, it’s important to not confuse depth and sentimentality.”
Depth and sentimentality.
Bam! That was it.
Not only did it explain what was missing for me in the movie, but it shone a big bright flashlight on that other nagging question.
In the early days of that long ago relationship, I had confused the two. I had confused depth and sentimentality.
I had seen the sentimentality, had kissed the tears, and had decided that surely, they were merely the tip of a big, miles-deep glorious iceberg of depth and empathy.
“it’s important to not confuse depth and sentimentality.”
I love this. I love distinctions that make us stop and think. And then stop and think about our own actions, our own ways of being in the world.
Ever since that conversation, I’ve been checking in with myself when my heart does a little stirring.
“Is this depth or sentimentality?”
Not judging, not making one good and the other one bad.
Just simply, importantly, not confusing the two.
And definitely not making big decisions based on that confusion.
Here’s to Clarity, to learning, to growing - and to being darn nice to waitresses.
My sister arrives tomorrow, for a week.
We have planned this time together since before I left and because my place is so small, she has booked a sweet little two-bedroom casita, only a block away from me.
Her place looked super cute, with two bedrooms and a swimming pool. Also, it is a "real house," compared with my well... charming tiny shack.
We have been looking forward to being neighbors, exploring the village together, me getting to play tourist with her, and indulging in restaurants and cafes.
A couple of days ago, in response to hearing me express some tiredness over the perennial dustiness of my place, combined with a yearning for a "normal" shower she asked me if I would do her a favor. I think she sensed that after six-weeks, I was ready for a change.
"Here's what I'd like" - she started. "I would really like it if I could start my official stay at the Airbnb a few days earlier and you could go in and add some personal touches, maybe some fruits or something. Making it feel, homey, you know? So that when I got there on Sunday, it would already feel lived-in and cozy for me." To which she added: "And if you wanted to take a shower and a dip in the pool and maybe sleep there a couple of nights, that would be nice too."
So smooth, isn't she?
So because how could I turn down doing her such a big favor, yesterday found me walking several times from my place to hers and back, carrying baskets of food, my laptop, and my yoga mat, Lila wondering what the heck we were up to, now.
There was definitely a touch of Mexican Beverly Hillbillies in the air.
The pool is divine. The shower is tiled, with great water pressure and a seemingly unlimited number of temperature options, at a fingertip. The towels soft and huge. What really got me was when I turned on the kitchen sink to wash the dishes: I immediately had hot water rushing out of the faucet.
So here we are, couches, oven and all.
So glad I could do her this solid favor.
I just hope I don't get too soft.
On the phone with my sister yesterday, I decide to walk across the street and put a couple of bottles in the recycling bin. Phone to my ear, I open the small gate and find myself face to face with a man.
He is the gentleman who walks around the village selling pretty bamboo blinds.
I have seen him before and several times I have considered asking him how much he charges.
Suddenly, here he is, in the process of readjusting his load around his shoulders and now intent on selling me something.
I'm on the phone and in a different mode.
But like I say, he is intent.
Follows a conversation between the two of us, my sister chuckling on the other end of the phone (while correcting my Spanish grammar) - me assuring him that I do not need any blinds, him assuring me that I do.
Knowing very well it wasn't a good strategy, I enquire about the cost.
Roughly the equivalent of one day of my food budget.
While I ponder this fact, he seems to intuitively pick up on the whole food theme because he switches his topic from how much I do need the blinds to how much he needs food. He is hungry. He really wants to eat.
That's when I know I'm done for. He wants to eat. I have food in my fridge. Looks like the next day's food budget is going to him.
Plus didn't I say just yesterday how much I wanted to cover an ugly spot in my yard? Win-win, I guess.
Minutes later, off the phone and still not having dropped off my recycling, I am precariously perched on a chair hanging the blinds using a couple pieces of twine.
That's when I hear him again, over the fence. He's back and telling me what a good deal he would give me if I wanted to buy three more.
This time, I am strong and he hears it in my voice. He says adios and walks away.
My redecorating done, I turn around for a good look and I love it.
I love it so much that I may find him today and buy two more.
I have plenty of fruit in the fridge.