I have been wanting to participate in / witness The Day of the Dead in Mexico for many years.
The joyful sacredness (a heady mix) had intrigued me and attracted me profoundly.
I have never been guided to honor or even formally relate to people who have passed on. Growing up, I attended my grandpa's and my grandma's funerals, and neither one felt quite right. Notably absent were some big Essences. Later on, when my dad died, then my other grandma and finally my mom, pretty much nothing was done. No joint grieving, no acknowledement. The latter being fully my own "fault." I could have, I should have. I didn't know how. I held her hand while she flew out of her body, and then The Men in Suits came to get her body and wheeled it into a white van.
A couple of days later I got back on the plane.
This is not to say that I have not privately related. I have had evening-long conversations with my grandma. I have felt my dad more tangibly after he died than for decades before. My mom... we're still dancing with how we're going to do this.
All this to say: here I am this year, and in my own way I want to humbly and respectfully catch a morsel of what I sense as being an important, very important celebration.
Whether we go to a parade, or paint faces or simply create our own altar, I am already feeling the sweetness of it.
A few days ago, my friend sent me this schedule, and because you too might want to join in on this Gift, I am sharing it with you here. I am sending it to you as is, with its whimsical internet translation. Note: in this case, papas are parents, not potatoes. But you would have figured it out.
Here's to sacred joy, to saying yes, and to saying THANK YOU for those who allow us to do things a new way, a way that we have not yet learned.
My white candle is lit and beautiful. I am going to walk down the river and see if I can find a white flower. I think I know a lonely soul.
Fact: I have been back in Mexico for about three weeks and have experienced more stress than the previous three months I spent in the States.
Those three months on the island, in the US, were like honey butter. Even though I worked my butt off (put the house on the market as an FSBO, showed the house, sold the house, and then emptied the house, as well as enjoyed quite a bit of time with coaching clients), it was restful as heck. Things worked effortlessly, the roads were made of some kind of special smooth concrete, the water was hot and strong, I'm pretty sure that the dishwasher thanked me every time I loaded it, and people were on time, amazingly doing just what they said they would.
It was a balm to my nervous system and good god did I need it.
Back here, Mexico gave me pretty much zero buffer time before showing me its bright, loud colors.
The house was not ready, the air was hot, and the roads were still full of holes.
The girls and I stayed in an Airbnb I had booked for a few days "just in case." The second night, Tiji disappeared. She came back the next day and by then, with the help of a few conversations with the house crew about "mañana" I could already feel my nerves' newly smoothed edges starting to fray just a little.
When our time at the Airbnb came to an end, I booked another one. That day I learned that there was a leak under the house and that all the plumbing would have to be redone, which is no small task over here.
But we were right by the beach and most mornings got to spend time with toes and paws in the sand.
A few days passed, a lot of "mañanas" were thrown my way, some progress was made and I decided that we were moving in, whether I had to poop in a bucket or not (god please god...) Solar panels were up and there was air conditioning in the bedroom. I was told I could use the water sparingly. The place still looked a little like a construction site, even though less and less by the hour.
My girlfriend did me the huge favor of spending the first night with me and she did a lot of "look how nice this is!" which was lovely. Me, I was frozen and could not feel anything good. When she pointed out to the lightning bugs - inside and outside - and then came out of the kitchen onto the patio with a made-up cup of coffee (a site I had been visioning since we broke ground 8 months ago), I started to thaw a little.
The dark of night was pretty dark and I felt we were very far away from anything, anyone. We were.
I wondered how I would do on my own the next night.
Life took care of that question by throwing a hurricane our way the next day and this time, it was my turn to go spend the night at her place, a village away, where we prepared and huddled under the blankets. We could barely find any news about Roslyn and by 2 am, things were blowing pretty hard. We calculated that the storm would make landfall in a couple of hours and well, she says I snored through the whole thing.
In the morning, I wanted to get back to my house and see how things were. Thank goodness my car was still where I had left it, but my friend's steep road was a mess. Deep canyons, crevices of mud, and general mayhem. Her neighbor was kind enough to drive my car down the road and I made my way back towards the countryside, where I knew three river beds would await me.
No way to cross.
The normally tiny river was roaring, the current speeding past us, and I knew that I would neither risk it by car nor by foot/paws.
A woman carrying bags and dry shoes was hoping to get home also. Her husband and kid were on the other side of four river crossings and we decided to make the trek together. Esperanza, Lila and I. It sounded like the beginning of an adventure and it sure felt like one.
I parked my car and met Esperanza on the muddy path. By then, I had been told how to bypass the first river bed by walking on the highway a little ways. Single file, off we went the three of us. We didn't know how we would negotiate river beds number 2 and 3 (and 4, in her case) but we were pretty happy to be on the other side of the first big hurdle.
It was hot, it was humid. I was definitely back in Mexico.
Then, following our instincts (or did someone clue us in... I can't remember. It feels like a month ago), we took a left turn where we would normally cross the rivers on the right. This landed us in the middle of a private little neighborhood and Esperanza was nervous about that. She called out over and over again: "Señora! Buenas Dias!" Me, I was more nervous about the dogs. In the end, the main task was neither the dogs nor the señoras, but instead how to find our way out of there. I thought I saw the exit, but it was covered in vines and looked as though it hadn't been used in months. We walked around and around, she called out morning greetings and I held a stick in my hand just in case. Finally, I heard someone laugh and turned around to see one of my neighbors (this guy seems to always show up just as I am about to lose my s***) looking at us with a huge grin and a small bag full of groceries. "THIS is the exit!" He is pointing to the wire fence covered in flowers and vines.
Ok. Let's do this.
Esperanza looks at me and I can hear her thoughts. How do we climb the fence?? She has a point, especially considering that Lila is looking at it questioningly too. But also, I can see the roof of my house over the tall grass and I am not stopping at a little bit of wire.
Again, as if to convince myself, and then convince both Lila and Esperanza (of what... I am not sure), I say: Ok, let's do this. In Spanish this time.
And there he is again, my neighbor savior. Holding the bottom string of barbed wire high enough that with a little push, Lila is soon on the other side. Next, I am crawling under, thanking all the stars in the sky that I did decide to wear underwear that morning. Just as my friend laughs and says "Estamos in Mexico!" as if we were all having such a good time. I grab Esperanza's shoes, bags, and hand, and somehow, just like that, we are all on the good side of three river beds.
Son of a gun. It's not even 9:30am.
I am soooo tempted to walk to my house. I can see the roof, I can see that the sail that covers the patio is detached at one corner, I can almost feel Tiji whom I left under the bed the night before with lots of food and water.
But. Esperanza. She still has one river to go and I'm not leaving her until she's at least in sight of her house.
So we wave goodbye to our guide and with Lila looking from me to the path that leads home, and back again, not getting why we would ever want to go anywhere else, we take the road to the left and keep walking. It's hot as heck.
Arrived at the last river, Esperanza points to her house where her husband and son are waiting, maybe 100 feet away. On the other side of a really roaring river. No way we're crossing this one - and she tells me that there is no way around. "I just have to wait," she says.
How can I leave her? My morning-after-the-hurricane adventure companion.
She tells me to go, that she's almost home. That seeing her family makes it ok.
I hesitate and then tell her that I am going to go to my house and bring her some water and fruits so that she can wait more comfortably.
Lila and I turn around and start the way back, but before long we see another neighbor and she asks me what I am doing. I explain. She tells me that she will give me some water to take to Esperanza so I don't have to walk so much. A few minutes later I am going back to the river with fresh water, apples, bananas, and an invitation to stop by on the way back for some more goodies for me.
When I get to the river, Esperanza is gone.
I am guessing she found a way and is now home with her family.
Passing by my new friend's home, she tells me to keep the apples and bananas and loads me up with pumpkins, cucumbers, and three huge lemons.
Then Lila and I can finally make our way home.
Everything looks good, no trees down. Calm.
I put the key in the door, so looking forward to sitting on the couch and taking a deep breath - and open the door to what is now a shallow swimming pool.
What a freaking morning.
After hours of sweeping the water away (a surprisingly satisfying activity), in the quiet of no electricity humming and the calm that does come after the storm, I hear from my girlfriend and she tells me that some people in the next village over are trying to clean up feet and feet of mud in their homes. Clothes gone, mattresses gone. Mud everywhere.
As is often the case here, I get "feeling whiplash" and go from being inconvenienced and tired to being grateful, so grateful.
It took about three more days before the energy subsided and crazy stuff came back down to a mild roar. These were big days, some of them without electricity, with my car on the other side of the rivers and then with Lila not feeling well and not even interested in the beautiful mess I made by spilling a whole bag of cat food onto the floor. It was not fun and it was so very real.
Eventually, it all turned around and I now sit with a happy pup and cat, in a house that is starting to feel like a beautiful home. Dry, too.
We're in Mexico indeed.
Years ago, I learned a great tool and have been sharing it and using it ever since.
It was passed on to me by a man, a motivational speaker, during a live event. He told us about The Glass of Grape Juice and for those of us who got the message that day, it was a great gift.
This is how it goes. It starts with a question. Stay with me, here.
Visualize that you are sitting at a kitchen table and that on this kitchen table are two objects: a small clear glass filled almost to the rim with dark grape juice and a large pitcher of cold water.
You are being given a simple task: get rid of the grape juice and replace it with the clear water.
Funny thing is, the glass of grape juice is super-glued to the table and the table is bolted to the floor.
During the live event, people were allowed to talk with each other and brainstorm solutions. After a while, we were given the life-changing answer: start pouring water into the small glass and keep pouring until the grape juice overflows onto the table and has eventually been replaced with clear water.
Many of us hadn't thought about this. Possibly because we are wired to not spill stuff, possibly because we think solutions have to be clever and complicated. Possibly because we didn't think it was even possible.
A month ago, during a coaching call, I shared this story with a client. It was easy to make it make sense for her current situation. It often is.
Yesterday, I received a message from a friend who knows this client and she shared with me that The Glass of Grape Juice tool had been so useful to her that it made her cry with gladness to talk about it.
I thanked my friend for telling me this and then it occurred to me that in the last two days, I had been using The Glass of Grape Juice tool also! I had not named it that, I had just done it (when this happens, it's a really good sign that we have internalized the work and it now becomes part of our "Quiet Toolbox." Meaning, we just know which tool to pick up for a given situation, we pick it up, use it, put it back and it feels like no big deal. Until we remember that a year ago, we would have been in crisis mode for the same situation. THIS and more is why I love my work)
Back in Mexico, I walked into a house that is about 80% finished. That's sure better than the way I left it three months ago, but well... it's not done. It definitely still has the energy of a construction site, and after months of moving stuff in the US, I was very, very ready to be "home." Home without debris everywhere, home without people coming in and out, and definitely home with running water. This last part is still to be danced with.
For the first week, staying in an Airbnb at night, I tiptoed around the construction stuff. I walked around it, not sure how to make peace with it. I wanted it all gone and I wanted it all gone now. Which, in Mexico, could be the beginning of a great joke. I was resisting. I was powerless. I felt paralyzed. The more I wanted it, the less things were moving.
The darn Glass of Grape Juice just was not budging.
It felt like a war between "HOME" and "CONSTRUCTION." And the latter was winning.
Three days ago, after writing in my Morning Pages, I got clear on what I could do. I could start pouring water down the darn glass.
And so I did. First, I "took over" the bedroom, which is the room that is pretty much done. I moved all the wires and bits of stuff to the main room and ... I made the bed! I put down some rugs. In the middle of the madness, I carved myself an island of peace. I closed the door. I breathed.
Next, I rolled a few bath towels SPA-style and placed them on the beautiful concrete bathroom shelf.
I could almost feel the house breathing with me.
Then I went out and bought a fridge and plopped it into the main room. It looked funny standing there next to drills and buckets. And I was okay with funny. Eventually, I plugged it in and put a few things in it.
Meanwhile, the electrician did not show up for three days. And for some reason, I felt that I could not move his stuff. That is was ... what? sacred? Until I brought in my bright orange Le Creuset pans and placed them on a shelf under the sink, next to a bunch of plugs. The Glass of Grape Juice was getting clearer and clearer. Next came the stove and that was the final gentle push I needed (along with having talked with my friend earlier and thus having remembered to give a name to the process. I was going full-on Water Pitcher). An hour later, all the electric bits had been placed in a corner, some more rugs were on the floor and things felt darn good.
I had remembered. I had remembered that I had the power, the right, the blessing to pour my water, even if it spilled all over. I had remembered that it was up to me to wring my hands and knock on a door that would not open - to keep trying to push someone who would not be pushed - OR to advocate for my own vision, regain my sovereignty.
Does it make a difference in the way things are moving along, in the way other players are showing up? I believe it does. The energy has shifted.
The Glass of Grape Juice is almost clear and I am planning on sleeping over there Friday night. Somehow.
(PS: I will have one coaching spot available November 1st. If you think that it might be for you, let me know and let's get dancing!)
SCARED OF THE SACRED