It seems as though from the beginning, there has been some sort of something going on with the men working on this project, or their family. Starting with the original owner, Jose Luis, who died days after selling me the land.
In the last couple of weeks, we have been dealing with a nephew with a scary tumor, and a baby boy who slipped after his bath and got hurt. On one hand, life happens. And maybe if this was in the US I would never even have known about it. But here, I do. I do because these guys stop everything and go wherever they need to be to handle, comfort, support or fund-raise. And often, they got together because there is a bond between them that I am understanding more and more.
As both of these latest injuries arose (and that's after a sudden death, and a murder) I wondered if there wasn't something wrong with the place. Was I not supposed to here? Is there a curse? Anything I should worry about?
I scanned my intuition, the way I felt over there, my conversations with the land.
No. Nothing. I couldn't pick up a bit of weirdness.
Telling my daughter about it, she too said that she felt good over there. And then she said "You know, what I am noticing is that this is happening to men. Even all the relatives, the baby are males. Do you think there is some male energy needing to be healed?"
Well, I have to say that the place feels very male. Not just because my crew is all males but everyone around is pretty much a man also.
A couple of days later, a girlfriend and I made our way over there at sunset, after the day's work. We brought a stick of palo santo, lit it, and spoke some healing prayer words.
A soon as we could see the wisp of smoke for the palo santo, a dragonfly flew right by us, then fluttered in and out of each of the open rooms. I had never seen a dragonfly over there.
We gave our thanks to the land and to the trees and to the rivers. We asked for this home to be a place of Joy and Safety for all the humans and animals who would enter it for an hour or for years.
The dragonfly kept on dancing.
Dragonflies feel magical to me. And very feminine.
The last time a dragonfly had graced me with what seemed like a truly intentional visit was in August of 2017. I had been invited to speak at a Goddess Summit, days before taking off for a six-month solo trip to Europe that had me feeling some trepidation. A dragonfly had arrived and flown-danced in front of me the whole time I spoke, back and forth, back and forth. It was both unsettling and reassuring and after the speech, I made sure other people had seen it too. They had, and they too had been mesmerized by it.
In animal medicine, the Dragonfly is about the breaking of illusions, especially those illusions that prevent growth and maturity. As I was about to embark on that long trip, I was not yet aware of the illusions that were about to get shattered. But shattered they were.
In almost every part of the world, the Dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization.
To me, the visit spoke of magic, of believing in magic and in beauty and in whimsy.
Finding me again at a time of trepidation, of adventure, I believe it had come to tell me that all would be well. And to remind me to trust.
Since, we have learned that both the nephew and the baby are going to be okay. And I am learning to soften, to flow more, to trust.
Change, Transformation and Adaptability.
Nests of Twigs & Tiles of Alchemy
Jorge said that I could go shopping for tiles.
It was like the gunfire at the beginning of a race, the one I had been waiting for since the first day we drew chalk in the dirt.
Go buy tiles! In Mexico!!!
Yeah, baby. I was READY.
With the direction to a tile shop an hour away, off I went, ready to pick between boxes and boxes of hand-rolled, hand-fired and hand-painted tiles. Just the way I had dreamed of.
I drove out of the jungle road and under its still miraculously green canopy, and through the next town.
Because I had wanted to for over a year, I made a stop at a roadside store in front of which sit enormous creations made of twigs. ENORMOUS. I had wondered if they were as big as they looked, and I had wondered how much they cost. It was time to find out.
Hand-made of twigs and upon closer inspection, rebars, these chairs/beds/lamps and more were even more beautiful close-up. These beautiful, unusual objects asking for reverence, I stepped into the outdoor, tarp-covered store as into a church.
In the back, I found Reginaldo creating yet one more piece of magic. We talked for a while, he showed me a hanging bed he and his boss had been working on, said that he could create whatever I wanted.
I wanted the hanging nest and I wanted to build a second story just so that I could hang it there and fall asleep swinging from its womb while being watched over by the jungle. I wanted everyone I love to spend a night in it.
Given that the cost of the hanging bed is about 50% more than building a real bedroom, I am going to wait and ponder this for a while. Not dismissing. Pondering. Filing.
I walked out of the workshop/store filled once more with the awe I feel when in the presence of artists and artisans who excel at their craft. It always hugs a deep place inside of me.
It was time to find my tiles and the beauty within them.
I made the required U-turn (still not 100% sure how to navigate these) and parked my super dusty Mitsu in front of a not-so-quaint store. A few steps up and I was in the middle of a squeaky clean showroom full of toilets and sinks, very Home Depot like.
Three women were sitting around a desk and barely looked up when I entered. Not seeing any tiles, I asked one of them for the pisos de regadera and was reluctantly shown a wall of very uninspiring samples.
I was super bummed.
Essence mismatch!!! I wanted to scream. Who the heck is trying to take my dream away??
Instead I called Jorge and asked him where else I could go, given that these here tiles were quite feas, ugly.
Always calm, he gave me the directions to another store and once I got there I was told that this store had closed a year ago.
No way. I may have been waiting ten years for this day. Whether I was aware of it or not, I may have been waiting a decade for the invitation to go-buy-tiles-for-your-house-in-Mexico. And now, this? No way.
Time to get serious and grab a bit of independence.
Enters Señor Google.
With less than three clicks, I have the address of an "azulejos" store. A place where they would surely have the boxes and boxes of hand-rolled, hand-fired and hand painted tiles I had dreamed of. And it turns out, less than 15 minutes away.
I park in front of a store that looks just right to me. A little dusty, a big ceramic sign outside wooden doors. Closed wooden doors. The store is closed.
But there is a phone number. Hand painted beautifully on an oval ceramic tile, bordered with the classic shade of blue that often graces these tiles, there is a number. Which I call, holding very little hope that someone is going to pick up. But they do! He does. The owner of the store picks up the phone, says something about his secretary having had to leave town due to an emergency, and tells me that the will be over in 15 minutes.
YAY! Of course, I have been here long enough to be sceptical about his secretary even existing or him arriving within 15 minutes. But it is possible that he will arrive within half an hour to an hour and so I decide to wait.
Because dang... Azulejos.
Azulejos is an Arabic word and while these hand painted tiles are predominently used in Spain and Portugal, I love love love them and I am ready to share my home with a whole bunch of them.
When I see the gentleman arrive I am almost disbelieving that he going to let me in.
He is kind and helpful as he opens the door and ushers me into his sanctuary. Tiles everywhere. Exquisite tiles. The kind that make me want to touch them and smell them and take them home with me.
I tell him what I need. I tell him how many I need. I tell him the budget Jorge sent me with.
And he tells me that these tiles are going to cost about ten times my budget.
I am not surprised. Jorge knew what he was doing when he sent me to "the ugly store." Our agreement from the start was that he would build me this house for under $25,000. While we have agreed to add a few touches here and there (my goodness I am so glad I splurged for the brick ceiling and the extra 2 meters for the studio), we are both very aware of the budget. And it does not include Azulejos all over the bathroom.
It's ok. I have years of experience in doing alchemy with budgets. I am the Queen of Money Pirouettes and this would not be the first time I would create beauty out of pesos.
I will just get a few accent pieces! is my solution, as I start devouring the walls of samples, hoping to pick out a dozen of this one and a dozen of that one.
Except it does not work like this. Azulejos come in cases. Cases of tiles which are not exactly the same but definitely born from the same hands. Cases which I can't afford at this time.
But like I say... pirouettes. Where is the sweet spot between the deep pleasure of having these gems in my home and staying on budget?
That's when the gentleman shows me a little room to the side, a little room I immediately decide is a secret room. Just for me and for other Alchemists-Pirouette-Makers. There, on the floor, are several boxes of mismatched tiles. Small ones, tiny ones, oddly shaped ones. It's like the puppy shelter of Azulejos. The dejected, the not-quite-normal, the leftovers, the lost ones, the wanderers, the expats.
I immediately feel at home in the secret room and I ask the gentleman to please give me some time as I look through it all.
As he leaves, I crouch down and settle in. Solitude always helps me connect better. Funny sentence, I guess.
I spent a good long time in the secret room. I touched many tiles with my eyes, my fingers, and with my cheeks. I tried to imagine the hands that made them. Wondered where their families were. And wondered which ones would become part of mine.
After a good while, I walked into the main room holding twenty turquoise tiles, deliciously shaped. And six or seven tiny ones for the kitchen. Precious, all of them.
The gentleman smiled and nodded his approval. Then he wrapped them very carefully and taught me how to transport them. They must always stand, never sit, he said.
To make sure I didn't mess up he followed me to my car and watched me set them gently under my seat. Then he shook my hand and invited me to come back anytime.
I had spent forty dollars. And learned to add a little extra budget for tiles for the next house.
The next house? Yeah... I think this may just be the beginning of an unlikely chapter.
Life's Little Winks
I cherish Life's Little Winks. These tiny messages seemingly meant just for us and remind us that yes, we are on the right path, keep going.
For the last two and a half years, they often come to me in the Form of red hearts, and they are the most welcome of course, when I need a little boost, a hand on the small of my back when I am not sure I am going the right way.
A few days ago, admiring the beautiful dreamy hand-painted ceramic sink my sister gifted me, I turned it sideways and ... what is this?? Right there, barely peeking out from under the rim a small red heart. Cute, perfect. Mine.
Keep going, it tells me. You've got this.
And also: I've got you.
So I do. ♥️
My Sister's Bed - and a Sink
Lila and I just walked home in the dark sweet semi-silence of the sleepy village. Roosters and dogs are calling out to each other and I love knowing that this quiet is in stark contrast with the busyness of the day and days to come as Mexico prepares for the huge enthusiasm of Semana Santa.
We have spent the night a block away, at my sister's, cocooned in the comfort and feat of artisanal craftsmanship of the house she is renting for the week.
Hand-cut and hand-painted tiles, windows and furniture carved of parota wood, cross breezes, and warm hues make this home a scrumptious place to be. And it turns out, to sleep.
Because ... the bed.
Oh, the bed.
And the pillows.
And the sheets.
I had forgotten how dreamy a bed can be, how more than a safe and dry place to sleep a bed can be.
In a way, I had forgotten how much - as much as I love my little cabin - I have been "making do" in the past year and half.
When I first moved in here, I bought a new mattress and mattress cover. I painted the bathroom floor and advocated for hot water. Eventually, I added some rugs and painted shelves a bright shiny turquoise. I colored the lights bulbs yellow and hung pineapples on homemade macrame swings. I made it a home and as such, it has housed many meals, laughter, some tears, several hearts, music, talks, and much love. When Tiji moved in with us, it upped the whole belonging thing several notches.
And, it is still a little bit like camping.
So this contrast has been a blessing as we get to the more detailed part of building the house. So have been my sister's gentle and consistent reminders to not skimp on the Comfort, the Beauty.
To illustrate her point, she and I walked out of a store yesterday, carrying the most enchanting, happy-making hand-painted sink for my bathroom. She bought it for me and I got transported back to an outdoor market, almost ten years ago:
It was my first extended time in Mexico and my cells were ravenous for its Essence, as thought they had called out to them for years and were finally getting an answer. I was high on the colors, the textures, the sounds, the possibilities. I was already heartbroken at the idea of leaving. Seeing a row of the colorful, almost singing bathroom sinks, I turned to my friend and told her: "One day, I am going to have a house to put around one of these sinks."
It took a while, but here it is. Here we are.
So yes, Comfort and Beauty. No skimping. Got it.
Plaster, Smiles and Water
Today again, I stayed away, only connecting with Jorge by phone in case he needed me to make a decision or bring them something.
I stayed away and I stayed in trust and I tried to get comfortable with my new perspective. Also, a tiny bit of indignation made its way up to the surface: how dare they pout because I am holding them accountable for their part of our arrangement?
Really, it was starting to settle inside of me and I was more and more sure that this is going to be part of a new tool kit I had been putting off acquiring. As is often the case when true growth is on its way, I could start to feel some gratitude bubbling up.
Around 5 I drove over expecting to have some solo quiet time.
But Anselmo and Catarino were still there, Anselmo slinging plaster to the walls in a way that told me this wasn't his first time doing so. Again, I was struck by the holiness of watching a seasoned craftsman at work. One splash at a time, one pass of the long flattening tool at a time, the blocks were getting covered, their seams disappearing and the house somehow softening. It was as though he was applying a magical balm that was gently and rhythmically morphing what was a construction project into something new. Something familiar, friendly.
I watched, quietly. And I think they could tell I was touched and once again taken in by their work. Me too, softening. Which in turn softened the air around us and next thing you know, there we were smiling and talking, and well, what the heck?
Then I realized that they were out of water and that while Alberto had told me he would refill the tenaco, something had gone awry with the hoses and nope, they had no water.
Once more, I made my way across the field to ask for water and was told that well, not today. Maybe tomorrow. In the end, I left with an invitation to use the water from his cistern, in the morning.
I informed the guys and they said they would. Or they would drive up the river and fill up their big containers.
As I left, two things came to my mind:
1) Why the heck did we not start with the building of the cistern? We would have had consistent access to water for all these weeks, getting it filled all the way for 1,200 pesos. I called Jorge and mentioned it to him and he said that yes, it would have been a good idea. Hmm... go figure. At least we have a plan for next time.
2) Gratitude for their ease of working on a project where there is no electricity and sometimes no water. Really, they could have walked away (or at the very least, complained) at not having the tools to do their job. Instead, they showed up with a generator one day and then simply went to the river for water another day. That's not something I take for granted.
Once again, this is what I am getting to understand more and more: I am bumping against two distinct Forms of the same Essence. An Essence I am not quite sure what to name, actually. Maybe ... Easygoingness?
This Essence is what so many of us love about Mexico: no stress, it will all work out, no pasa nada, amiga. Coming from the north side of the border, we love drinking in this Easygoingness at every corner, benefiting from some of its Forms. That's part of what makes people fall in love with Mexico and come back over and over again. Especially if we are here as tourists or visitors, we get to drink in that Essence as the local people will talk with us and have all the time in the world to do so, nowhere else to be. It's a lovely Form.
Then, when we live here in a more engaged way, when we try to work, create, build, or otherwise dive in more deeply, we simply bump into the other Forms of the same Essence. And then we don't like it so much. The lateness, the vagueness, the not-showing-up-ness, the whats-the-big-dealness. That's not so lovely anymore. In fact, it can be maddening.
Who am I to complain about the flip side of this Essence I fell in love with? Who am I to say I want the dogs running free but not the dog poop on the sidewalk?
As always over here, I am learning. About this country, its people, and mostly about me.
I am grateful.
A Mind Shift
The next day, I stayed away.
A new mindset was sprouting up and I wasn't going to hinder its process. I felt that it was taking me in the right direction and so I listened.
Jorge said that the money was okay, and I was going to trust that. I was going to trust that he knew what he was telling me and why, I was going to trust that a little distance could be good. I was going to trust him to manage his crew and his budget and his commitment to me.
I knew he had told the guys that I was fed up and that I had suggested to him we look for another crew.
I had a feeling they may not like that.
So I stayed away for the whole day and drove over at 6:30, which is about two hours past the time they normally leave.
But that day, the day I showed up with my family, excited to give my sister a tour for the first time, they were still at work as the sun was starting its descent into the jungle. My guess is Jorge had plenty to do with that.
And as I had predicted, they were not happy with me.
The mood was strange, I barely got an hola back from the three of them and even Jorge seemed a little bit ill at ease. Which I understand because his position is not easy.
But work was getting done and they had begun the plastering process (it will be plaster, then stucco, then paint), which looked quite cool.
After the crew left we stayed behind and brainstormed the outdoor kitchen, something I had wanted my sister's eyes on for weeks.
But I felt heavy, sad. This energy was hard on me and of course, it took me pretty darn quickly to what could I have done differently? Short of establishing some rules from the beginning (could I have? Do rules matter? and mostly: how would I have known?) and handling the payroll also from the beginning, I don't think I could have done anything differently.
That night I did some processing, conversing with my triggers, my filters, my fears, and basically stuff that is all mine and which this situation is only shining a light on.
In the end, I came up with a perspective, a new mind shift. Not an easy one but I think one which will serve me well: I do not need friends to build me a house. While I may always hope for and work towards joyful collaboration in everything I touch, I also intend to keep a clear focus on what the object of the collaboration is. In this case: to build a house.
Which we are doing.
Illness and Car Transmission
I felt pretty confident that the electricity topic might just be really close to being taken care of. Which is a huge deal. The last one of the "off-grid trinity" I knew I was going to work with when I started this adventure: Electric, water, sewer. Today, it looks like we have the electric very close to being checked off, the water will either be delivered by truck or some sort of other well-related arrangement, as well as collected from the rain, and the fosa is looking pretty and ready to handle the sewage. Not bad. Actually writing this right now, I allow myself to breathe in the accomplishment of this. Really, two months ago I knew nothing about any of it. Which might be why I moved forward. Naivety is sometimes a great guide towards showing us how strong we can be.
Still. Jorge was working alone and I could tell he had some feelings about it.
Feeling which I was about to catch, possibly in a less calm way than his.
"So... where is everybody?"
"Well, Anselmo's nephew is very sick so he is with him today."
Ugh, I don't like hearing about nephews being very sick..."
"What about Rigo and Catarino?"
"Well, the car's transmission went out so they're fixing it and will be by later."
Not after last week.
It turns out: yes way.
As I shared my feelings of frustration with Jorge, he quietly said to me "I am mad, too" and I heard that he really was not happy about any of it.
Writing about it right now is getting me agitated and I know that it's not going to help. So let's skip the details. We talked about getting a new crew, I offered - then rescinded - to take over the payroll. I went home and said I would return in the afternoon.
When I did, he was still alone - no one else coming today, and when I asked him how I could help he asked me for a hug. And then told me what I most needed to hear: not to worry about the money.
Really, even though I now know way too much about "being told what I want to hear" I don't have much of a choice. I am going to trust him and not worry about the money.
When I asked him what he needed from me, his answer was: a big hug.
On the way home, I saw an old door sitting in someone's yard and made a plan to go check it out tomorrow. Because even though I am going to try to not worry about the money, my single mom radar kicked in and if we need to save money on doors, I bet we can make this one work just fine.
It will be okay. Better than okay.
Enter Tyler and Frank
"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” - Paulo Coelho (whom I have previously asked to be married to in some future life. Maybe. I am now rethinking it a bit)
Having been expertly and lovingly walked towards the road of choosing solar power, two things happened:
1) my friend Destiny asked me if I had ever contacted Tyler. I had no idea who Tyler was so I answered that no, I had not. She reminded me that she had told me about Tyler a while back, and had sent me his phone number. That he is a great guy and knowledgeable about solar installations. No recollection. Which is not a good sign. Or maybe it's a good sign that I reserved this info for a time when I would be fully ready to hear it? I am going to go with the latter because it feels a lot better. Being a good friend, Destiny sent me the number again - a 360 area code number - and within a very short time, I received a message from Tyler saying: "Whazzzzup Washington???" In normal times, which these aren't so much, I may not have found the greeting endearing. Yesterday, it made my heart smile a little.
Tyler, born and raised on Whidbey Island, just a few miles from my US home, was going to meet me and talk solar. In English. This felt purty good.
2) Having read my last blogpost, a Canadian friend who lives here part of the year put me in touch with a gentleman named Frank, who is also an expert on all things solar. Frank and I chatted and he gave me some great pointers as to what to do and what not to do. Finally, he connected me with a company he recommended warmly. I immediately called and David said that he would have Matias call me. Matias he said, worked close to where I live and had tons of knowledge.
Except that because I have become a little tender about navigating contacts and relationships lately, I am now slightly unnerved by having two great new sources of info. How will I navigate them both? What if I offend one by choosing the other? I am noticing all of this and making a mental note to tackle/wrestle/heal this new way of being before it takes root.
Within minutes I am on the phone with Matias and because the universe is kind I very quickly find out that he and Tyler work in tandem and for the same company!
Tyler arrived right on time at the meeting point and we made our way to the house. There, he explained everything clearly, in English and with ... how do I say this? ... I don't know. I don't really have the words for it ... familiarity? There was no barrier, no cultural Twister game I had to maneuver, no nothing in the way. Weeks ago, had Tyler been my first contact, I would not have noticed and if I had maybe would not have appreciated it. Today, it felt like being in a hot bubble bath with Chet Baker playing in the background while someone baked apple pie in the kitchen.
I needed this.
Especially considering that Jorge was somehow working alone, quietly chiseling the concrete for the electrical lines. On a Tuesday. The day after a "Monday off."
I was glad to have Frank's guiding point with me as Tyler answered a few more questions, shook our hands goodbye, assuring me that he would be in touch shortly, as well as Matias. And that we could do this.
While his car turned up a big cloud of dust leaving the field, I took a breath and made my way to the house to talk with Jorge.
I bet I inhaled a bunch of dust.
Pile #2 - and the Watermelon Talk
Pile #2 has to do with the big decision between
1) connecting to the grid by going through the established process with the CFE
2) installing a fully autonomous solar-powered system.
This decision has been on my mind for weeks and because option 1) could take up to two months it is becoming time to pick a side.
I have talked with many people, gotten quite a bit of information. I think I have a fairly good view of the financial and practical sides of both. And then, the social side, too.
Yesterday I reached out to a friend who knows me well and also knows how to listen, ask questions, and then really hear the answer to these questions. Talking with her got me 99% sure that I am going to go with the solar option, and we got there by weighing the social aspect of the situation.
Financially, they are comparable. Practically, they both have their pluses and minuses. But socially... oh boy.
The day before, while on the phone with a gentleman who could be my "CFE ambassador," and take care of the paperwork and installation, I tell him that I am concerned about being the only person with access to the grid on the small plot of land. I tell him that I want to talk about how to bring it to the whole neighborhood and would like him to advise me on how to do this.
He seems surprised. And then he starts talking about watermelons, which gets me surprised.
He says, as patiently as he can given how weird my idea sounds to him: "Listen Laura. If I go to the store and I buy a watermelon, I don't invite all my neighbors to eat it, do I?"
I see his point and I also see that if a kid walked by as I was eating my watermelon and he looked like he might like a slice, I would for sure offer him one.
That conversation stuck in my mind and I asked him if he could ask the CFE for their blessing on two projects: one for my house only and one for lets' say... 3 or 4 casitas. He quietly said we could.
The next morning, yesterday, I had awakened feeling angsty. The whole watermelon thing was not sitting well with me. OF COURSE, I want to share my watermelon! Of course. But then... how do I do that?
Visions of explaining their options to some of my neighbors (not all of them warm and fuzzy, remember?) had me stressed. One thing I have learned living here and especially in the last two months of building here is that there is a whole lot more than meets the eye when it comes to relationships in this country. Yes for sure, there are a whole lot of smiles and friendliness and warmth. And joy. And also, there is something else, something which I may never understand all the way, something that has to do with a bit of a propensity for gossip and what I would call "unspokens." It is my belief that at this point, I am not equipped to deal with the task of bringing electricity to this piece of land, then sharing it. It is my belief that I could make a huge mess of it and end up in a very uncomfortable situation.
This is a strange thing for me to contemplate because, by nature, this is my thing. In the US, I can organize events, people, life-bettering stuff with my eyes closed. And have fun doing it. Here, I don't think I can.
Also, I am not interested in falling into the trap of thinking that I am so darn special that I can accomplish something that they have been trying to do for a while now: basically, unite the neighborhood. I can follow, I can support but I will try with all my might to not take lead in any of it.
I know that if I bring a transformer to my yard, it will be hours before someone wants to hook up to it, then someone else, then someone else. I had brought that possibility to the gentleman on the phone and he had assured me that this would not work and that my transformer would be too small for that. In other words: no watermelon sharing.
My friend hears me on the phone and she knows me. She hears my stress at the idea of saying no to sharing my watermelon. She hears my stress about the idea of stepping more deeply into a position that is too much for me. For now.
Whew. Combine that with the suspicion that having my own private transformer would make me very much last on the list of who the CFE would help in case of an outage, I am pretty sure we are going solar.
I am not buying a watermelon.
Learning curves and much gratitude for friends who can hear us and know us and bring us back to us.
And looking forward to partnering with the sun, too.
I'm stressed. and there's no other way to say it.
Also, I seem to have lost all tolerance for stress, all strength to handle it.
I have never been a believer in "stress management" but rather in stress removal.
In my classes and during my Retreats, I teach that having a big pile of cow poop in the middle of the living room is not something to manage, get used to, and learn to live with. Instead, I suggest parting with the stinky mess and teaching the cows to use a pasture going forward.
I have a whole bunch of really effective tools to do that.
So here I am, unable to sit with this rather small pile of cow dung and needing to move it out of the house before I lose more sleep or get another small cold.
There are only two main piles of poop I am aware of, and on top of their smell, I carry guilt about the fact that I even get stressed about them. Talk about first-world problems - while living in a third-world country. Talk about the privilege of even having these problems. Don't I read the news? Don't I know people who would love to have these "problems?" None of this help.
Let's get closer. Don't worry, as I said, they are small.
For now, let's just address Pile #1.
The budget and Klaus' voice
We have used more than two-thirds of the budget and it looks to me that we have a lot more work to go before I can call the project complete. I have kept meticulous books and met with Jorge weekly to sync them with his. This is a process I learned while leading Retreats and it just works. Two sets of books, regular check-ins, not much can get out of line or at least not for longer than it would take to catch it and fix it. On my end, I have a paper book (bright orange and looking well used, especially now that Lila decided to gnaw its side) as well as a computer spreadsheet. Jorge's notebook has a big mandala on the front. We're set.
For the last two weeks, in addition to the "materials" and "labor" columns, I have added the "balance" column so that we both are aware of the diminishing number.
Plus 25,000 pesos which I have not mentioned before.
One week into the job, Jorge's work car had died and he had approached me and asked me if I would be willing to lend him 25,000 pesos which he could use as a down payment for a truck he could use to haul materials and make things run better for the job. This money would be added to the house budget, I would simply be paying it in advance.
I think that was my first test and not an easy one.
For personal reasons that I may be ready to share in ten years or never, this triggered the heck out of me. Way more than I could explain to him. It also brought up nicely what Landmark Education™ calls "one of my Strong Suits."
In a short explanation, a "Strong Suit" is a way of being that we identify early in our life as being something we get rewarded for. Often with attention, love, and eventually very possibly with money. Useful stuff. At some point, we get confused between who we truly are and the Strong Suit, and we start to use the darn thing all over the place possibly at the cost of our well-being, authenticity, and even sanity. We get eaten up by something that we were supposed to nibble on.
Note: If you have recently attended Landmark™ or are very familiar with this concept, you may bust me on my summary recalling of what I have found to be a powerful concept.
One of my Strong Suits is Being Helpful/Resourceful and so when I graduated from practicing in the school playgrounds and making it a side offering to all my other businesses (you should have seen me use it on brides ordering a wedding cake when I had a bakery) I eventually built a career out of this baby - as many people do. It comes naturally to me, it's easy, I'm good at it AND I have learned that unless I apply a thick layer of boundaries to it, it will devour me and leave me broke, exhausted, and feeling abandoned. By me, which is the worse of abandonment.
So, the truck. The money for the truck.
I knew I was being presented with a pop quiz. I knew it was important that I pass. I knew I needed to step carefully over the danger zone of my Strong Suit and I also knew that I needed to trust again, that it was part of the healing process.
Gerald Jampolsky says that there are only two basic emotions in our lives: Love and Fear. And that one will further our life and the other shrink it.
."I get this, I love this, I have read and given away many copies of his book and yet I was stumped: Which path was the love path? Helping someone or loving myself by protecting myself?
I said yes.
Which is why all of the bookkeeping includes in the margin a little asteric with the number 25,000 next to it.
Back to the budget. We have used more than two-third of it, including the truck loan.
And this scares the hell out of me.
If you have ever spent time in Mexico, you have surely seen many unfinished buildings. Someone ran out of money, momentum, or worse.
I don't want that. And I think that all along the way, I have had a big fear of this happening. In my colonia, there are many unfinished houses. Most of them, actually. I don't want that. I really, really don't want that.
So when I look at what's left to be done, and I look at the amount of money left to do it and I look at my crew's creative hours, I smell a pile of cow poop in the living room and it wakes me up at 3 am.
I have talked with Jorge about it recently and he has always reassured me: "we're good, he says. We're going to make it." This man's calm is something that should be bottled and sold. I take regular whiffs of it and yesterday I needed a bigger dose.
"Are you sure?" I ask him. I look around the site and I want to list all-that-still-needs-to-be-done. And I hear Klaus' voice ("the early phase is quick, it's the latter phase that takes a long time")
"I'm sure." he tells me.
But I kinda want to scream a little bit (see?) and say: But your cost of labor is so high, we are going to run out of money! What are we going to do??
Because truly, his cost of labor IS high. That little number that lives between the cost of materials and what I have handed him out every Friday so far? It is high. High even for a full crew of four people working full time - which does not happen the majority of the time.
Feeling like a brat, I ask: "How do you know?" To which he answers: "Because we have to."
But then there is still the fact that he is having a dentist day on Monday and then the fact that next week is Semana Santa, a holiday possibly bigger than Christmas, over here. And god knows how that will translate for the project. So I ask about that. What is the schedule for next week?
On the spot, he calls a crew meeting about next week. Which he begins by announcing that they only have two weeks to finish the project. To which no one even blinks. Except me. Because really, we have a little bit more than four.
Hmmm ... Jorge? He turns to me and shushes me with a smile. He then asks the guys what they want to do about next week. Do they want Monday off (this, I don't get at all, other than maybe making official the unofficial Monday schedule) or Saturday off? They choose Monday and since Saturday is usually a half-day, it's not a great trade-off, but I am aware that they could have wanted the whole holiday week off, too.
Somehow I am almost certain that what I am watching is theatrics. Something designed to appease me and which may have very little to do with next week's reality. I think I can feel it in my bones. And it makes me a little nauseated.
Then Jorge calls me to the other side of the house "to show me something" and explains to me that he said two weeks to give them pressure. He could almost have winked. Ugh.
I don't know. I don't know what to trust, I don't know what happens if the house is not finished by the time the budget is spent.
I don't know why I can't just relax and trust. I have never built a house. They have. Also, I have no reason not to trust. At least no reason that is personal to this situation.
Meanwhile, last night, three of us walked around the quiet house at dusk and marveled at the ceiling, the now roofed shower area, the plumbing lines (which run under the floor "and what happens if something goes wrong? Do we crack the floor open?" Oh dear...) and how sweet it all feels. We brainstormed ideas, decided to add a skylight above the future bathtub, and soaked in the evening vibes in the country.
Finally: stressing about the budget and the schedule not going to help. I have said what I could say, I have had the talk about it, and I have been told that it would be fine. I want to let this be enough.
Especially since I need my clear mind to focus on Pile #2.
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