Sunday, March 5, 2017

This Gypsy's Path to Simplicity

There is something to be said about simplifying life. My recent life had gotten much too complicated. I felt like I was drowning in anxiety. It wasn’t one specific thing that sent me to the brink. It was all of it.

I am a polarity of sorts. Two people in one. A social butterfly, I thrive on nurturing friendships. I love this part of myself. It’s brought amazing people into my life. I know so many talented, thoughtful, purposeful individuals who I feel absolute gratitude to call my community. I love the excitement, purpose and stress of throwing parties and inviting everyone I know. It’s so fulfilling to see my home full of friends enjoying themselves and to watch a swarm of kids frolicking and chasing each other in party delight. Cultivating friendships one-on-one is important to me as well. Late night text conversations, working out, drinks out, karaoke, book club, play dates and coffee dates…all of these things fill me up. Yet, I am also a recluse. These social engagements can drain me. You see, there’s another side of me that thrives in silence. That finds equal joy in no obligations. There is something so entirely satisfying about staying at home for an entire day with no communications or commitments besides spending the day with my kids. I find true difficulty in attaining balance between these two sides of myself. I don’t sleep much, I relish the quiet of nighttime, but I pay for my lack of sleep with exhaustion and moodiness.

Only a few of my wonderful people. Why don't I take more pictures with my friends?
My life in California is so complicated. It’s not just the social engagements, it’s everything. It’s the classes for my kids, it’s my commitments to their schools, it’s keeping my husband happy, my home and car clean, getting enough exercise, eating right, and in all honesty; it’s the consumerism and social media.

I don’t know if it’s just in Southern California, but I feel like I am relentlessly spending and constantly facing wanting to support my friends in their financial endeavors. Everyone is spending money and everyone is trying to make money. Is it just me or has multilevel marketing gone to a whole new level these days? No offense to those doing it, I totally get it; we all need to make money and we are certainly all spending it. But why do I need all of this stuff? Why do I need that anti-wrinkle cream, those vitamins and nutrition shakes, a million pairs of soft leggings, and more shoes and clothes than I can even wear? Need them? Deep down, I don’t even really want them. And my kids, my goodness; how many times I’ve shaken my head in horror at their innocent, but rampant blind consumerism.

There is a Berenstein Bears book called, Get The Gimmies. It tells the story of how Brother and Sister Bear end up with a bad case of the galloping greedy gimmies, and let me tell you, my kids have them. It’s my own fault, I love them and want to make them happy; and those Beanie Boos are so darn cute. Well, for at least twenty minutes until we hit the next store. Recently, my daughter scrambled greedily before literally baring her teeth and growling after a piñata burst at a birthday party. I don’t think anyone else noticed, but my heart palpitated a little with concern. Yeesh!

The worst part is that I wrote my graduate thesis on consumerism and the effects it has on both the psyche and international human rights. I know better, yet I still do it. I still buy, buy, buy.
Our complicated lives and consumerism are a huge part of modern American culture. It’s how we live and it is what it is. But let me tell you, it sure is nice to step away and simplify things.

I found myself pondering this week if perhaps I am on a happy high of ignorance; looking at things from a high plateau and not seeing the details that make life complicated here. I suppose, my ignorance is bliss to a certain degree. I imagine it helps that I don’t speak the language perfectly and that I don’t know or understand the intricate histories of the people in this small town.

But overall, it is more simple here. There are two gas stations in town, by gas station, I mean, they syphon fuel out of a barrel that they drove in from the city. There is no municipal electricity and there are no phone lines. Water comes every other day. There are no banks here and the closest grocery store is over an hour away. There are five abbarotes (small stores) in town. They sell food and each store seems have something the other stores don’t have. The fruit and veggie assortment is fairly grim; squash, carrots, russet potatoes, iceberg lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and chili peppers. They don’t sell toys. In fact, I am not entirely sure where to buy toys in town. You know what? Neither of my kids have asked for a new toy since we moved here.

Our sweet little painted rock valentines from this year 💘

I threw a little valentine’s day party right before we left California, it was wonderful. Friends came out to support us. It was particularly important for our five-year-old daughter, who has been throwing a valentine’s day party since before she was two-years-old. She was struggling a little with the transition of leaving. It wasn’t the fanciest party I have ever thrown, nothing homemade, but it was fun. Normally, I would provide carafes of drinking water and homemade maple sweetened lemonade with mason jars as cups. Healthy and environmentally friendly! But for this party I bought drinks fifteen minutes before it began. I bought some Hansons soda, Honest Juice pouches, and a couple of jugs of organic lemonade. At the end of the party, my husband handed out the leftover juice pouches to our guests and one mom said, “my kids don’t drink juice.” Guilt washed over me and a whole conversation sped through my mind.

Oh god! I give my kids too much juice. I am a terrible mother. What was I thinking serving soda and juice at this party? Some of the parents must think I am a terrible person! Geeze, really? Her kids don’t drink juice? Really? Do they only drink water? Have they ever had juice? If they have, are they obsessed with it since they don’t get it?

My point has nothing to do with the mom who said it. She is an amazing mother and a wonderful friend and I am sure that she meant nothing by the comment. It’s just that American society is incredibly juxtaposed, it seems like moms are either hyper aware of the food their kids eat or they don’t think about it at all.  I fall someplace in between. I want my kids to be thoughtful about what they eat, but I don’t want them to feel restricted either. More things to balance.

The food situation is interesting here. Nobody is making a judgement on what you or your kids are eating and no one is trying to sell you on the latest health craze. Kids drink juice and eat lollipops. Pretty much nothing is organic. I am someone who only buys organic at home, oddly, I find myself not even caring. I use what’s available. I am mostly grateful that there is a fruit and veggie market that comes to town on Fridays that offers more variety than the stores. We bought pineapple, grapes, apples, and oranges on Friday! Breakfast this weekend has been a fruit fest!! There are three restaurants in town, one seems like it’s always closed. We don’t eat out much. I cook, and I have time to cook because I’m not trying to fit five million things into my day! And so we save money, because I am not grabbing food while on the go. Foods like, sushi, poke, Italian food, Thai food, hamburgers, Chinese food, and all the other varieties of restaurant joy at our fingertips in the United States. (mmmm…now I am hungry.)

Gender Specific Class Schedules
The kids have now been in school for two weeks. El Jardin begins at 9am. It’s wonderful. I’m not stressed about bedtime and managing tired kids in the morning. We are usually up and moving around before the alarm goes off. I have time to make fresh waffles or pouched eggs for breakfast.
The ten minute walk to school is lovely, with endless routes to take. We do need to start leaving the house a bit earlier so that the kids can explore a little, rather than be hurried along. Mondays and Fridays the five year olds arrive an hour early to work on math and reading in order to prep them for their transition into la primaria next year.

Lunch is at 10:45am. At home in California, I would have scrambled to pack their lunch the night before or in the morning, but here, the majority of the parents return to school to say a brief hello while dropping food off. Lunches include quesadillas, stuffed potatoes, sandwiches, tacos, etc., and juice. The kids eat under a cute little palm thatched roof. There are no allergy restrictions. All foods are allowed.

Pick-up is at 2pm. We usually stop for a gumball on the walk home.

Sra. Erica con Lola y Enrique 
I am learning about the school as we go. Sra. Erica handed me an enrollment form last week, to be turned in at my leisure. There is a lot to learn about how things are run and my Spanish is being challenged. There are 27 children ranging three to five-years-old in the class. Homework involves having a conversation with my kids about their day, then I write what they told me and they draw a picture or an example of their lessons in their notebook. Us moms join the kids for yoga on Tuesdays. Each week a mom is scheduled to read a story in class.

Our enrollment form for kindergarten
I attended a meeting this week to discuss the Spring dance, which is happening in three weeks. I got schooled! There were about ten moms sitting in a semi-circle discussing and organizing the dance numbers, stage design, costumes, and food that would be sold at the event. I sat in the middle of the group, swiveled my head back and forth as I attempted to keep up with the tempo of the conversation and take in the social dynamic. It was fascinating and incredibly difficult. I felt a little overwhelmed, but not in the “I can’t breathe, this is all too much,” California way. It was more a, my Spanish sucks and I need to practice more,” type of thing.

Our kids have Mexican names. Lola and Enrique. Lola loves her Mexican name and Enrique is slowly adjusting to his. Lola astounds me. From day one, she jumped into the class with gusto and continues to excel. She says that she understands all of the Spanish spoken to her and she does her best to speak it back. She’s made quick friends and asks to play with her friend Zoe every day after school. Enrique has not been quite as enthusiastic. He likes school, but mostly he likes that he's there with his sister. Apparently he follows her around and only speaks English. Though today, when we were at the store, someone asked him where his dad was in Spanish, he turned to me and asked, “Mama, how do you say 'work' in Spanish?” I was blown away and realized that he understands more than I am giving him credit for. Each day they ask me to teach them more words in Spanish. Tonight we learned how to say “dinosaur roar” in Spanish! Rugido de dinosaurio. 

Life is good here. Relaxed and quiet. I am hearing my thoughts. I am sleeping. I am not spending money and buying things that I don’t need. I miss my community, but imessage works, so I still get to text. I am meditating, writing, and surfing.

I want to bring people here and have them experience the simplicity and the quiet. I want share the beauty of Mexico and Baja. My favorite book on the planet is called Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s all about finding peace within, then sharing how you got it with others, and in sharing, spreading world peace. Hopefully, I can share some of my peace with you.

I hope to post Sundays and Wednesdays as long as the wifi allows it. Stay tuned for Wednesday's post, I intend to discuss Fear and Safety when traveling and living outside the United States. Thank you so much for reading and sharing this gypsy path. If you are inclined, please share with your friends!

Hasta entonces, mas tarde

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