Transparency

When I saw that transparency was the assignment for this week’s post, I sort of drew a blank. I knew I could come up with a visual, but I like for my blog posts to relate to my current life situations. What do I say about being transparent? Then, as I thought about it, I realized that transparency is becoming more and more important to me. I feel the need to just put it out there, say what’s on my mind, and let the chips fall where they may. This kind of freedom has always been sort of elusive to me. The fear of offending, of not being liked, of going too far, has governed me for most of my life. It is only since I retired from running a business that I have fully realized that I no longer have to sell anything to anyone, and that if I do offend someone just by being who I am, then I am probably better off without them in my life.

Today I put a post on FaceBook that was a bit sarcastic about how disgusted I am with most of the people who are currently running for president. This is true. But, this is certainly not the reason I was ready to leave the USA. I was ready to leave because I honestly wanted to live in a different country just for the sake of having a new experience. At nearly 73, I feel I need a big adventure; sort of now or never. Most of the reasons I was ready to leave are very positive ones. I’ve already had a lot to say on this blog about those reasons. One person responded to this post by talking about being proud to be an American. And that phrase has lingered with me this afternoon. To be totally transparent, at this time in history, I am not proud to be an American. I am very aware that most of the rest of the world thinks of America as a spoiled, gun-toting bully. When I look at the situation in America right now and think of what it has the potential to be and what I see it becoming, no, I am not proud of that at all. I can only say that I am glad that the people in Mexico don’t seem to be judging me by Donald Trump and his posse. I see things getting crazier and crazier back in the USA. I am truly appalled that all the choices of candidates for one of the major political parties are so distasteful to me. If this is a choice, God help us. I am sickened by the fact that President Obama has received so much hateful criticism during his successful time in office. So, yes, to be honest, I personally think it is a good time not to be around for what I know is coming. The shit is already hitting the fan. Before it’s over I may have to withdraw from most media, just to stay sane. But, I will keep working on my transparency, and hope that I can somehow inspire others in some small way; not necessarily in some political way, but simply to live as authentically and transparently as possible.

Turn the Page

Our wonderful real estate agents Keith Merrill and Jonny Gleaton put this sign in the yard this morning. This house has been like a friend to me. I have lived here since 1980, and we have devoted so much energy into working on this house while we have been here. The changes have been gradual, mainly happening between 1995 and 2003. The result of each phase has pleased us, and this house has really been our home. But, even though all those things are very true, we are ready to begin a new chapter of our lives in a different place. When we came back to Nashville in April we started to seriously think in a deliberate way about how we wanted to go forward with our future. We both realized that we are ready to live full-time in Mexico, and that is the plan that makes the most sense. Since we are so ready to do this, the sacrifices that have to happen do not feel like a hardship. Of course, we will miss not only this lovely house, but many friends here that we really enjoy,  but the need for this adventure has overshadowed any feelings of nostalgia.

Fred and Pinky and I are really up for it. Once we decided that selling the house as soon as possible was a key to making the rest of the plan work, we spent most of the late spring and summer getting the house in tip-top shape. It took lots of work to clear out decades of stuff that we really don’t want. Everyday was a challenge –bring things down from the attic and go through them, rent a PODS, and have workers in the house constantly. Every drawer, every cabinet, every closet had to be dealt with. Every bookcase and hidey-hole had to give up its secrets. We either gave things away, packed what we wanted to take, or decided it needed to be sold. The criteria for what we will take is simple–do we love it? We had a housing inspector come over when we first started talking with Keith about how to do the sale. We worked down his list and got everything as right as we could get it. That part of the move became an obsession with me. I really have loved this house and I wanted to leave it feeling that it had been cherished. Fred shared these feelings. Once things were as perfect as possible, we put the house on the market.

There was never any doubt that Keith Merrill would be our agent when (and if) we were ready to sell. Keith has been a good friend for years, and he has always loved this house. He proved to be extremely good at what he does. Living in a house that is on the market is an unsettling experience. Things have to be kept in spotless condition, with everything in its place, and you have to be ready to clear out whenever the house is to be shown. We were very grateful to our friend, Arnold Myint, for opening his home to us—it became our “hide-out” when the house was being shown.

And then, this Tuesday, it happened. We got a contract. And, the good news is, they seem to love the house in the same way that we do. (We got this report from Keith. We haven’t actually met them.) But, they did ask if they could keep the porch furniture, which made me quite happy. That porch has been a special place for us, and I love to know that the next people are going to use and enjoy it. Fred and I are both pleased with the way this has all gone down, although I have to confess the time factor was a bit hairy. Everything had taken longer than it should have this summer as far as getting things ready. The plan had been to put it on the market July 15, and it actually went on the market August 25. Fred and I had to schedule the movers to come the week of October 5, so we didn’t have much breathing room. There is still so much to do. Now that the house is sold and the showings have stopped, there is more packing to do. When you move to Mexico you can take one truck load of personal things without paying duty. We have to get our Mexican Residency started. We are selling our Mini-Coopers. (That is one of the sacrifices I was talking about.) There will be an estate sale October 15-17 by a professional, so please don’t ask for early viewings, just come early. The miracle of the estate sale is that I don’t have to do anything. They do it all, from pricing to clean-up. I had really, really dreaded that sale.

So, now this busy summer seems ready itself to shift a gear into early fall. The light that is coming through the front window is different than it was in June. I can feel change in the air. I am ready for it—just as soon as I finish this packing.

Where am I? Where have I been? Where am I going?

Currently I am experiencing a very exciting time of my life. I have not “officially” announced any of this on FaceBook, as I must wait until the house is officially on the market. So, I’m only sharing this with my fellow bloggers. Fred and I are moving to Mexico in October. I am physically still in Nashville, working hard to get all the details in order. So much to do to make the house as perfect as possible. Not to mention sorting through 35 years of living in this same house…a house that has an attic and a basement. We are getting rid of the things we no longer love, and packing the things we are not ready to do without. There is now a POD in the drive-way, so that is probably a clue to the world as to what is going on. We have located a moving company to take a van of belongings across the border and on to San Miguel. We will soon be going to the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta to start the process on our temporary residency. I am going to have to sell my sweet little red MiniCooper, as I won’t be needing it in Mexico. (We’ll be traveling in the “Meximobile”…the Rav4 that we bought last summer for our 6 month journey.) We have had several parties this summer because we want to spend time with our Nashville friends. I hope that our close friends will visit us in San Miguel because I don’t think we’ll be back here all that much. We had thought of buying a condo here, but Nashville real estate prices have hit the roof and we’d rather spend the money on a swell place there. Plus, owning a place we don’t live in seems like a rather expensive hassle. And, after being quite displeased with the state of things when we returned this spring after renting our house for 6 months, we know we definitely don’t want to be international landlords.

We are ready to start a new chapter and have new experiences. Nashville has been great for us in many ways. We have transformed our house here into a very personal environment that we have loved. At one time, not so long ago, I would have never thought I would ever be ready to leave. But, also, at one time, not so long ago, I would have never thought I’d ever be ready to retire. My work (designing jewelry) meant so much to me, and it had become a big part of my identity. And, this house had also become such a part of my identity as well. It feels a little strange to just walk out of things. But, when you are ready it is a wonderful, liberating experience. The trip for 6 months in Mexico this past year really opened our eyes to how we’d like to spend our lives. Turns out the call to Mexico is much more appealing than staying put. We are ready for something new and adventurous. Fred, who is the cautious one of this pair, is just as ready as I am, and I am very thankful for that.

As I said, physically I am in Nashville. But, spiritually and mentally I am already in San Miguel de Allende, sitting on a park bench, eating street corn.

We’re Not in Nashville Anymore, Pinky

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Who do I want to be in Mexico that I’m not in the USA? This question was asked me by someone I met here at Las Casitas. This man and his wife and dog live in Oaxaca City and were here for a short beach vacation. We were having a chat about living in Mexico, if not full-time, for several months a year. (Up until this year, the longest time we’ve been here has been three weeks.) This question started me thinking about an answer:
I want to be spend time in places that take me, if not out of my comfort zone, at least to another area of it.
I want to see what it’s like to live in another country, specifically Mexico, at least part time.
I want to learn a new language.
I want to never be cold.
I want to approach cooking from seeing what the market has, and learn to make food that reflects the cuisine of another culture.
I want to understand more, and learn to completely suspend my judgments.
I want to be more open to other people.

We are just wrapping up three and a half months in Zipolite, a small beach town on the coast of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Trust me—when you stay this long it stops being a vacation and just becomes life. That means that you will have wonderful days and you will also have problems. There will be people and situations that will try your patience, and you will definitely have to deal with being the foreigner in someone else’s country. Truthfully, I am amazed that the people in Mexico are as nice to Americans as they are, in light of the US attitude about immigration. But, that’s another conversation.
But, you will also see a side of yourself that you haven’t had an opportunity to see. I think I have grown during the past months in several ways. I have learned that I can keep myself busy doing things I enjoy, and I can just sit still. I have learned that I can spend days (24/7) on end with just Fred and Pinky and be very happy, and that Pinky has exceeded my expectations as far as what a wonderful, adaptable traveler she can be.
If you know me, you know that I am a very social person. My social encounters here have been limited and I have learned to process that. I’ve had days when I wanted to stay here forever, and a few moments—not days—when I wanted to hop on the next plane. Because no place is Paradise, and when you stay somewhere for a time you start to see that it is just a place. You become much more aware of the lives of the locals and you really have to stop thinking about how to fix everyone and everything. I have really wanted not to be “the ugly American” here in this part of Mexico that in many ways is pretty primitive. While there are some very sophisticated people here, both Mexican and ex-pat, it is in many ways a very exotic and foreign place, at least to me. I would be kidding myself if I thought I had made anything more than superficial connections with the locals, (Paco and Javier excepted). But, after all, it takes time to connect with people, and is even harder when you only speak a little bit of the same language. I am more motivated than ever to learn Spanish. That has definitely improved, but to really have a conversation I’ve got a long way to go.
One interesting thing I have learned is how much my friends at home mean to me. (Of course, I knew that, but I really get it after being away for a while. I have loved keeping in touch via FaceBook.) I look forward to hanging out on our back porch this summer and hope to find that I don’t have to travel thousands of miles to just turn off my busy brain, sit, and enjoy the natural world around me.
While I am ready to be a home for awhile and enjoy a Nashville summer, I am also more motivated than ever to travel in Mexico and learn more about this beautiful country that seems so different from the USA. But, don’t get me wrong; that’s part of what I’ve always loved about it. So in October we’ll be heading south of the border again. We’ll do a little more exploring next trip. And I’m more certain that we’ll adapt. We’re not in Nashville any more, Pinky.