Yesterday was a big day with different flavors of bigness taking turns showing themselves from the moment I woke up.
The house was going to get finished.
I could tell my contractor was intent on having his guys walk out by nighttime and take their tools away. I could tell he was also intent on doing it well and leaving no details unturned.
On my end, it translated to trips to the paint store (I somehow chose the wrong paint last week), a three-hour round trip to the city to pick up materials, and coming home to cook lunch for two of the guys who hadn't eaten, waiting for the windows and door people who didn't show up - and more.
There was a "we're getting this done today" energy and I was going to do whatever I could to support it. To me, that also included baking a key lime pie for the guys to take home.
At the very last minute, in the dark, it was noticed that two things got overlooked and instead of letting them be, freshly cleaned tools came out to play again, and with patience, focus, and good mood, they got done. It was 8:00 on a Saturday night, at the end of a long week of work.
By the time I drove them to their place a mile or so away, the house was 99.8% done. There are about five more little things that they will do next week I believe. Then the door and windows people, a potential change of water heater by a new plumber, and a long list of stuff that I need to do myself, including spreading a whole lot of gravel. Then, I'm guessing there will always be projects, which is fun.
But last night I went to bed knowing that for the first time in weeks, I was going to have the house to myself when I woke up. As much as it's been a sweet routine to share my mornings and days with the creative energy and company of the guys, I am really ready to BE here, to be in my home, not in a construction site.
I could feel the shift, it was palpable and it asked for my attention.
I curled up on the couch, Lila and Tiji by my side and I let myself truly be home for the first time.
It has been nine months, almost to the day, since we broke ground.
February 25th. A day after Russia invaded Ukraine (it's an odd fact and when I think about the tough days of my house journey, this odd fact always puts me back in gratitude perspective) and besides raising my children it has been my biggest life lesson.
So yes, on the soft purple couch, feeling it all. Allowing myself to truly move in.
In the morning I would clean up the yard, adjust a few things, and BE here.
And then, Creativity gave a tiny little knock on the door.
It whispered "Banana leaves." Followed by a very specific mind image.
Oooooooooh. Yes. I see. I see and I like what I see.
Banana leaves, these ever-changing beauties that caught my heart the day I moved into the tiny jungly-garden in the village almost two years ago. They enchant me, delight me and I love having many of them in my yard.
Creativity showed me a mind-image me how delightful it would be to paint some lighter pink colored Banana Leaves on the casita's one soft pink side wall. I saw it and I loved it. And I would do it.
YES and thank you.
To bed I went, looked up a few images of Banana Leaves designs, and fell asleep.
Before the sky turned light this morning I was walking around the yard and into the casita.
"No one is coming to work on the house today." These words felt like a soothing massage.
That's when I saw it.
On the back wall of the casita, pretty much exactly the way I had seen it in my mind, just on a different wall, the shadows. The perfect Banana Leaves shadows.
I stared at them, took them in, knowing they would go away as soon as the sun rose over the jungle mountain. I felt that maybe they would even go away if I touched them. But they didn't. I caressed them carefully and they stayed right there.
"My" idea. My Banana Leaves shadow. Hours after I had been gifted the sweet inspiration, the sweet assignment.
It was like a collaboration, a partnership. It was so special. It was a quiet, magical welcome home Gift.
But there was another Gift. The biggest Gift.
The water treatment plant.
Days before buying the land, I had asked what that strange white building was, in the back of the big field. It didn't look like a home but also, it didn't look like anything else I could recognize. I was told that it was the water treatment plant, one of two in the village and that it was closed indefinitely and would only re-open if it got fixed, as it had been malfunctioning.
I was concerned about noise and the neighbors assured me that no, it had never made much noise at all. Good. White noise drives me crazy. I bought the land.
Weeks later, the water treatment plant re-opened and I have been at war with it ever since. Physical war when it spilled black water way close to my home last spring (this was one heck of a hard week) and psychologically because pretty much every day since, I have wished it would just go away. I am at war with the way it makes the air smell twice a day, I am at war with the way it looks and I am certainly at war with the way its lights don't turn off at night. I want it to go away, as immature as it sounds.
Then this morning, The Banana Leaves shadows. In the darkness of the very early morning, in the quiet of the jungle, in my first morning truly at home, my feet on the beautiful hand-made clay titles, the water treatment plant sent me a white flag. After months and months of me fighting with it and calling it names and wishing for its disappearance, it picked up a magical brush and created a graceful, precise, and ephemeral rendition of my vision. It partnered with me. It showed me ... something which I am still allowing in all the way. Its bright lights, the ones I have been complaining about, they were making Beauty. Quietly, Whether someone was looking or not.
It said: "You think I'm so ugly. But look. Look what I can do. I can do beauty, too. Just like you."
What happens next, I don't know. But I know that this morning, my most unlikely, unappreciated neighbor has brought me a welcome home Gift. That's probably all I need to know for today.
As I walked out of the casita I saw that just for good measure, in case I had missed it the first time, another extraordinary impermanent artwork was gently resting on the outside wall.
Ever since the hurricane, I have used a new-to-me way to get to and from my house. I discovered this new-to-me way the day after Roslyn re-arranged a few things around here, including the road to my home.
Normally, to get to Casa Sama from the village, you would pass through a couple of dirt roads before dipping under the highway and then crossing three river bends. The whole thing flanked by fields of tall grasses, with the jungle on all sides. Occasionally you would encounter a whole bunch of cows being herded by vaqueros and many dogs. It's a beautiful walk and what attracted me to this area a year ago, until eventually ... well, here I am living in the middle of one of these fields.
But on day 2 of moving here, the wilds winds and huge rain made it so that the first part of the trip is a really messy and unpleasant. So, I use the bypass that has been shown to me, which asks for me to actually cross the highway if I am driving.
Since we are still in the final stage of construction (It is possible that it will be done today or Monday), I make several trips each day. A bag of stucco, la comida, a ride back to town at the end of the day, whatever is needed to support the process, I am on it.
And lately, as I arrive to this one little part at the end of the hilly point of dirt road, the part where I am about to cross the two-lane highway, I think about The Order of Things.
I have to wait for a clearing in both lanes in order to make it to the other side.
On this road, going both ways, there are many trucks, cars, motorcycles, police, all kinds of vehicles zipping by.
When someone is riding with me, I ask them to look to the right and to simply say to me "Si" when that side of the highway, the side going South, is clear. I learned early on to ask for only the tiny two-letter words so as to avoid confusion. It works. If I am alone, my eyes are glued to that part of the road.
THEN, and only when I get the "Si", do I get to see how my side, the northbound side looks. If it is also clear, I press the pedal and haul butt across the road.
The Order of Things.
If the southbound side is not clear, it does not matter AT ALL what the northbound side is doing.
Which means that any energy spent of looking at that side is useless. Possibly stressful. A waste of energy.
I love that. I love knowing The Order of Things. I love focus and I love simple.
So, what comes first?
What has to happen before even a morsel of energy is spent on something else, on the next step?
Also, what is the cost of looking at both lanes at once?
The first time - and the strongest time - I had the knowing that There Had to be a Better Way, I was 36 hours into the birthing of my daughter, my first time giving birth.
I was hours beyond the point of exhaustion and when I finally got the "permission" to push (30+ years later, I have opinions about this word in this context), I knew after one try that every person in the room was not just mistaken but also crazy.
There was no way this baby was going to be born this way, come out this way.
IMPOSSIBLE, I remember thinking.
Followed immediately by "There Has to be a Better Way."
I was almost delirious and thoughts of a hidden zipper, somewhere, were swimming in my crazed mind.
I was also aware that I was thoroughly powerless, at the mercy of possibly well-meaning but certainly misguided adults, including the father of my child. Nowhere to run and certainly zero energy left to explain, to make my case, to bring sense to this madness.
So I pushed. And eventually, I held my baby girl.
No zippers were involved.
This "There Has to be a Better Way" mindset has not always been wrong and over the years has allowed me to come up with some pretty creative solutions. It's been a good friend, really.
I may have grown a bit of an ego edge around it, too. In a Landmark seminar, years ago, I learned about the concept of "Strong Suits" and how they can get in our way. I think about my grandmother Lili and how she used to tell me "tu es bien debrouillarde." meaning that I was super resourceful, could find solutions to most situations. I heard her words loud and clear and eventually they even became part of my vocation, my work as a Life Coach.
And then sometimes, we get humbled.
Life in Mexico has a way to soften our ego's edges.
Twice in the last two weeks, I found myself assessing a situation and quickly declaring that "There Had to be a Better Way." Twice I was given a Gift.
There Has to be a Better Way #1
My girlfriend tells me that some women she knows are moving out of the house they had been renting and selling all their furniture. The hurricane messed up their place and they no longer can live there. She sends me photos of what's available, a white bench catches my eye.
"It's going to be a little walk to get the stuff because the river washed away the road, but we can do it."
Ha. We drive on a rocky road as close as we can get to the house and then we begin what I think will be a short easy walk. Through boulders "This is where their yard used to be," a new dry river bed, more rocks, a bunch of branches, and finally up a set of questionable steps to get to the house, then more steps inside the house. At last, there we are. In a room with a few pieces of furniture which I would love to teleport to my home. My home which suddenly feels as though it is on another planet.
I look around. I lift a night table. The bench. A set of shelves my friend wants. Not super light and like I said... on another planet.
It seems pretty darn impossible for the two of us to pick up the furniture, carry it down the narrow stairs to the outside where the questionable stairs and madness await us.
Nah. There Has to be Another Way. Period.
No way to push this baby out of my body, no way to get this furniture where we want it.
We think. We decide to pick up the lightest piece and shlep it to the car. Then to ask some of the workers we saw down the road if they would move the stuff for us. Carrying that first piece was ridiculous. It felt like half a mile. I was so glad we were going to get someone else to carry the rest.
Except we didn't. The guys were on a job and while they could help us at lunchtime, they couldn't do it then. And "then" is what we needed.
Back to the house. The shock factor has worn off a bit and the weather-ravaged road seems less crazy. Funny how quickly this happens.
We talk and then, having no other option than to go for it or leave the furniture, we decide to go for it. To push.
We made multiple trips. We grunted. We laughed. None of the things that had been on our minds that morning mattered as we watched our feet (both of us in flip flops), and our backs and eventually arranged all the pieces inside my car.
Then there was the matter of unloading it all - that's another whole chapter as my car's back door only opens from the inside and the inside well... the inside was now full - and walking my friend's pieces up her own post hurricane rocky road.
It took us about three hours. Little by little. We did it. No alternate solution, no tricks, no zippers. Just perseverance, a strong desire for the goal, and being good partners. Laughing at ourselves, too.
I love the furniture - and the story that it tells me each time I see it in my home. I love that we did it.
There Has to be a Better Way #2
Life didn't wait very long to give me another opportunity to be humble, to soften my well-honed "There Had to be a Better Way."
It was discovered that my underground water cistern had been leaking. Most likely a combination of it not having been built properly originally, and the earthquake shifting its walls. It had to be repaired.
The initial shock absorbed, it was time to get to it and have it fixed before the roof cistern - the tenaco - ran out of water. We had about a week and Roberto who has been working on my house so beautifully assured me we could do it.
First, the cistern had to be completely emptied and dried. Then the repairs would begin.
Emptying the last 30 cm of water was the job at hand and as I looked down the hole (I hope to never ever have to go down inside) and at the bucket Roberto planned to use, I of course immediately thought "There Has to be a Better Way."
Even though it was not deep, that was still a lot of water to get out of there, to the place where the pump could not reach. This bucket seemed as futile and slow as our four hands and feet carrying the furniture across the river bed.
A Shop Vac. We need a Shop Vac. OR .... a giant straw?? Something. Because this one bucket at a time business? That's plain kooky.
While I am using my mind to swirl around a bunch of Strong Suits options, the bucket is getting filled, walked up the ladder, dumped onto the thirsty plants, and brought back down.
I am still thinking. Searching for The Better Way.
One more bucket.
The next time the bucket gets raised to the top of the ladder, I grab it and I empty it. I lower it down.
Then I get a second bucket and off we go, me emptying one while he fills the other.
Again and again. Finding our rhythm. No words. My back muscles straining to do new moves, my pants getting muddier and muddier.
We take a break for me to have a coaching call and then we are back at it again.
The water is lowering, it is working. As he always knew it would.
When the level is too low to be scooped out, I lower the mop down to him.
And again, I hear my thoughts: this mop business is crazy. There Has to be a Better Way. But quieter this time.
Because I am learning: it is NOT crazy. It is real. It is slow and it works. It is simple.
Four arms and four legs over many rocks and a river bed.
A bucket and a mop down a deep cistern.
A strong body pushing a baby out.
Something about this has affected me, this past week. Living here affects me pretty much every day. It rubs away layers. Layers of arrogance, of fear, really.
It makes my body stronger and my mind quieter, too.