Today I will head home from my work visit to Mexico City.
It is good time to write out some of my travel mantras, as reminders to myself to enjoy the journey.
That’s the first one, actually: Enjoy the journey.
Here’s another one I like: Remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. There are struggles we may not see, that may affect others’ behavior.
The best one, when stress or anxiety come up is: Breathe, just breathe. It is all okay.
When I am practicing mindful awareness of my surroundings, I also like to remind myself of all that I am grateful for: the opportunity to travel, a kind word or smile I may receive as a gift from a stranger, and a life in which I am privileged to see into the window of other cultures as part of my work.
It is early and I am gathering up my things into my suitcase and backpack to begin the journey home from Guadalajara through Atlanta today.
I have a familiar mix of joy and trepidation as I double check the drawers and closet, make sure I have not left behind any possessions. It will be a long travel day, as Delta does not do direct flights back to MSP. But I am left with a sense of completion and relief as well: I accomplished my missions for the week, and now I can return to the comfort of home, with my husband and kitties.
Home is such a joy after being on the road. By yesterday my brain was feeling “cooked” and I am eager to get some good sleep at home. I will be grateful for access to my kitchen, and all of those small but significant comforts of home. I will be most grateful to have conversations with my husband – I really missed him this week. I am grateful for the opportunities I have to travel, and they make returing home even more precious.
Here’s wishing you a happy weekend. Take care and enjoy noticing and observing as you travel your journey in life. Do not forget that other people are fighting their own battles and that kindness, love and compassion are good travel companions, more necessary than anything else you carry.
I write this entry after venturing down to the lobby to get coffee to bring back to my room. I really love travel, and I always enjoy visiting Mexico, but my introvert self can get a little over-stimulated with all the meetings, people, traffic, noise, etc. Part of my survival strategy involves using the hotel room as a personal sanctuary some of the time.
It was a long day, yesterday but a productive one. We held four interviews for the position we have open in the Mexico office, and all candidates had their merits. Each was quite different from the others, so my colleague and I will have to think on it, and consider which qualities are the most important for this particular role.
After returning to the hotel around 7:30 I ordered room service and did a little writing and reflecting in my journal while listening to some podcasts. For those of you who are “foodies” I give you a photo of my tacos de pollo con tocino. I have never had chicken and BACON in tacos before, and I will definitely do that again someday.
I had intended to wind down early after dinner, but for some reason while writing, something “broke open” in my brain, or perhaps my soul had some insight that had been buried under the surface. It was about a dream I am writing up for my coaching assignment, and I realized it had gotten buried under the weight of expectations for my life.
My colleague had asked me a question earlier in the day that reminded me how I’d shared that dream with others on my team, that I want to go on a honeymoon in Europe with my husband. Originally we had planned to take a month off work for our 1-year anniversary to spend at least 3 weeks traveling in the U.K. and Spain specifically, with a little connecting trip through France along the way. I have been to the Netherlands and to Switzerland on work trips, and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. But that is not the same as traveling with a loved one and having shared adventures.
I had really gotten excited about that possibility, and was dreaming up the details, and somehow that dream got sidetracked. After the wedding, when we talked about it, I felt some pressure to instead work on saving for a house. (Not really from my husband, but more from family, who want us to be responsible and not frivolous.) I realize buying a house is a dream for a lot of people but last night as I was writing, something dislodged in my brain and I realized that on a one-year time horizon, that is not my dream.
I still want to travel with my husband in Europe, and I want to have this experience together earlier rather than later in our lives. For me, since I have bought and sold homes twice, to me that is not a dream, it feels more like a societal obligation. While parts of me know that eventually it is something I may enjoy, right now it does not feel like a priority.
So while I had intended to wind down last night, my brain actually cranked up to examine: why did I let go of that dream so easily? What is stopping us from returning to it? Is it too late to re-engage in that planning? I realized the thought of it excites me and gets my pulse racing a bit.
In contrast, when I consider buying a home, my feeling is kind of a “trapped” one, which may be telling me something. While I tried to calm my thought, meditating, playing soothing music, and the like, I ended up not dropping off until 3 a.m. so I am running on less than 4 hours sleep today. Oy. Well, I have done this in plenty of times in my life. Though it is not ideal, I will be very gentle with myself and it will be okay.
Travel is a joy to me despite knowing that my introvert self needs to take restorative breaks and to have “sanctuary” in a part of each day. There is a sense of creativity, of possibility, of observation and reflection about the world that gets activated by my travels.
This morning, thankfully, I do not have meetings so I am going to the office around 11:30, after some time to gather my thoughts and plan for the rest of the week. I have appointments with colleagues over lunch and in the afternoon. Self-care in advance will ensure I can be fully present with them.
I am struck with this incredible sense of privilege and gratitude for the life I live and the opportunities I have. While my choices in life may be unconventional, I know that denying or ignoring my dreams does not serve me or anyone else. We cannot always articulate the reasons for our deep desires because they come from somewhere within our souls. When we do not honor them, or work toward them, something within us dies.
You all know the expression: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. It really means that you can turn the circumstances of your life into opportunities.
On my Monday trip to Mexico, I ended up in a bit of a situation – my flight arrived 30 minutes after the appointed time. When I reached Cancun, which was my intermediate stop on the way to Mexico City (I know, I know: I usually fly through Atlanta) I discovered the next flight was in a different terminal. Then I discovered that the shuttle between the terminals only runs once every 20 minutes, which meant I would definitely miss my connection.
In the “olden” days as I will call them (before I started meditating and actively managing my emotions) I would have had a mini panic attack. I’d missed my flight, my cell phone wasn’t working and I was in a foreign country. Ack!!!
But this time around, I told myself: when I get to the terminal I will explain what happen and surely Delta will help me get booked on the next flight. There have to be several a day from Cancun to Mexico City. Sure enough, that was what happened. I’m not sure of Sky Priority status mattered or helped, but I did find some kind people right away who helped me get on the next flight which was due to leave 2 hours after the originally scheduled one.
I was left with actual time to have a late lunch or an early dinner, whatever you want to call it. I ordered my favorites: ceviche and guacamole and just settled in for an hour at the airport while waiting for the next flight. There was no panic, I didn’t stress over the hours of time I would miss. In fact, arriving in Mexico City around 7:45 instead of 5:45 means there will be considerably less traffic. There was no real harm done.
Later that night I had a chance to practice more mindful trip behavior as well. It turns out the taxi from the airport took me to the wrong hotel. My colleague had assumed I was going to the other address, so she told me “Colonia Escandon” rather than the location I had booked which was “Colonia San Jose.” So there was a difference in what I had paid at the airport versus the total amount due.
The driver was very kind about it, explained that I could pay him the difference. Only I didn’t have any pesos, and he did not have a credit card reader. Fortunately the hotel had an ATM, so I was able to get some local currency to pay him the difference.
These may seem like unremarkable incidents to a frequent traveler, and they are in many respects. But in my less mature days, either incident would have sent me into a mild panic (my mind racing to: “What the F*** am I going to do?”) instead of just calmly figuring out a solution to the problem.
Perhaps I am giving my meditation practice more credit than it deserves for this sense of peace and calm I have while traveling. It could be that I am a mature traveler, I know sometimes things go wrong. I focus on what I can control, not what I cannot. But I still think mindfulness practice has allowed me to slow down and think more calmly in situations that used to put me into a tailspin.
Reason enough for me to keep practicing every day. Have a great one, friends!
I am in Mexico City today to conduct three interviews for our clinical research specialist opening in the local office here. I also get to visit with a colleague who is no longer in my group but is one of my favorite people in my company. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with her, and she agreed to help with the interviews.
It will be a busy Tuesday but I wanted to check in and say: if you have never been to a big city that is constantly alive and awake, come to Mexico City. You think New York City has options? Pshaw! It has nothing on this city. I’m serious! I am in Colonia Napoles which is a nice part of the city, near where my office is located, and the neighborhood of Frida Kahlo, apparently.
I started reflecting on the fact that having a U.S. passport is a privilege I should not take for granted. Then I started thinking of all the potential leadership development projects I could undertake with various Mexicanas and other Latinas I know. I got really excited thinking about this possibility and a little chill down my spine.
Oh, I have to pay attention to those signs. And I do. It is good right now that I have a job that affords me the luxury of traveling down here. I do not take that for granted. I’m starting to re-frame what I am doing and think about other ways I can execute my personal life goals in a way that is meaningful to me.
Cheers & have a great week. If you love Mexico as much as I do, check out my previous post on this topic which has better pics. Adios, amigos/as!
You can look it up on You-Tube if you have not heard it in a while. I looked it up recently because I could not remember all the lyrics.
I don’t like the line about “sleepy señorita” with eyes on fire. That feeds into a cultural stereotype that rings dissonant and untrue to all the non-sleepy Mexicanas I know, that work harder than 99% of the Americanos I know. But other than that, Taylor’s song is a dreamy fantasy on his idea of what Mexico must be like:
Woh, down in Mexico, I’ve never really been so I don’t really know.
Woh, Mexico, I guess I’ll have to go.
Next week I will travel to Mexico to interview some clinical research specialist candidates for an open position on my team. I always enjoy visiting, even though I prefer the country-side and the beach to the big city. I feel at home in Mexico in a way, even though my skin is lighter than most people (thanks to my Swedish grandmother) and I am also taller than most people there, at nearly 5’8″.
I guess you could say I have a romance with Mexico. It makes sense. Half of my blood ancestry is from there, and when I speak Spanish, it is with the same accent as my Dad, from whence my language skills arose as a young child. When I speak with my colleagues in Latin America, sometimes they ask me where I am from. I am sure they are thinking: “Her accent sounds authentic, but her grammar sucks! Where the heck did she learn her Spanish?”
Well, perhaps they judge me less harshly than I judge myself. But since it takes me about 48 hours down there to “flip on” the Spanish module in my brain, my grammar usually takes a little while to catch up with my communication intentions. My “lengua materna” – my “mother tongue” is English. Typically for children our mother tongue is our primary language, our base from which other languages can grow, if we speak more than one.
Early in my childhood, I visited Mexico. When I was 1, 3 and 7 we visited during the summers (my parents were teachers). I was “mariposa” and “reinecita” to my grandparents there, butterfly and little queen. Early photographs of me with them show their pride in me. They loved how I looked at my wrist as though there was a watch when people asked me “qué hora son?” (what’s the time?) even before I could really speak. They knew I understood.
When I was 7 years old, my Dad his lost his Mom to cancer (the same year my Mom lost her Father to cancer) and after that, he did not have the heart to visit his home town of Saltillo again for decades. Dad is not fond of airplanes, and he prefers to drive down. I flew down in 2014 to meet him there, while he drove the long journey after a stop in Texas to visit with his sister and her family.
I spent about a week there, and I was fascinated to discover how musically talented my family is, and how beautifully they sing and play the guitar together. My Dad has been a musician for much of his life, playing on weekends and during the summer as a “side gig” even though his main profession was as a bilingual teacher. I wrote before about how my Mom first met him when she studied in Mexico after graduating from college in less than 4 years to teach Spanish.
I called Mom from Mexico during that trip, while I was staying in the duplex where my four of my aunties live. Two of my aunties are nuns, one of them is a widow and one is married with two beautiful children. Mom asked me if now I knew why she fell in love with Dad and his whole family. Indeed I did. They are lovely people, and their hospitality was amazing. I connected with aunts, uncles and cousins I had not known before. Some of us also connected on social media and still stay in touch that way.
Returning to my roots and knowing them better helped me know myself better. I have always been more connected to Minnesota and my Mom’s family. As I keep returning to Mexico periodically for work or vacations, I continue to experience a sense of re-connection within myself. I was born in Wisconsin, and identify myself now as a Minnesotan, having lived more than half my life here if you count summers in my youth.
Yet Mexico continues to call to me, a siren song that enters my consciousness when I consider leaving my current job. I try to imagine what other kind of work would allow me to keep visiting there regularly. This is a kernel I need to keep in mind as I consider my alternatives.
I love exploring many countries, cultures and places. This is one aspect that keeps me in my current position, these precious international travel benefits. But I am especially interested in cultures that speak Spanish, since this is a part of my origin and ancestry as well. My husband and I have plans someday to honeymoon in Europe, but we are saving up for this. I do not like to go into debt now that I am in my 40’s. My husband has always wanted to visit the U.K., as have I (my grandfather on my mother’s side is from Cornwall). I also want to explore the Spanish countryside. Someday perhaps I will get to Sweden to see where my great-grandmother was born.
But a big part of my heart is in Mexico, and will never leave there. My feminist grounding tells me my role in empowering women (and men) I work with currently is a an important investment of my time. Then I consider other ways I can contribute to the country of my ancestors, while bridging the gap in understanding among the people I know here in Minnesota.
I am still figuring out what the next step on the path will look like for me. And some part of me tells me it will not be a well-worn path, but rather one in which I will need to bring a hatchet or some clearing tools to get through dense vegetation. It may need creativity and a clearer vision of what is possible.
I have been consulting mentors, teachers, peers and wise leaders on advice and thoughts about how to think about my future vocation. But ultimately, I will need to enter into the quiet wilderness of my soul to discover what she means to me, this Mexico that calls to me both in sleeping and waking hours.
Today is my Mom’s birthday. I want to write about her to honor her today and let her know what she means to me. Mom is my earliest teacher and one of my best teachers. She is an advocate who has always been in my corner, and I am so grateful for her. Mom was the youngest of three siblings in her family, 9 years younger than her older sister and ~4.5 years younger than her brother. She was not spoiled as the youngest, and in fact probably had a tougher road than her siblings in some ways.
I do not know a lot about Mom’s childhood, except stories of mean cousins that bullied her sister, her brother and her. I know she loved to play outdoors (as people in Northern Minnesota tend to do) and that she had a wicked case of poison ivy once. This led to a fierce allergy, and treatment via layers of calamine lotion, which could be scratched off with a hair brush.
Mom attended college in the 60’s and one of my favorite stories was how my Grandma had decided to attend college at that same time as well (when Grandma was in her 50’s). For Mom, college was an expectation, from her parents who knew that education was an asset. She did not love school, but she enjoyed studying music and Spanish. In contrast, Grandma had always wanted to go to college, but raising a family starting at age 23 during the depression did not leave resources to be spent on college. Also: women were not expected nor encouraged to go to college in the 1930’s.
So my mother had to cope with her own mother attending classes with her, and Grandma being absolutely intrigued and engaged with the opportunity. I daresay Grandma was probably a teacher’s pet in some ways. Because this was a path Grandma chose, she wanted to maximize the experience, so she was one of those students who did ALL the reading, and sometimes challenged her professors with her questions. Mom was not quite 18 when she started college, much younger and probably not as devoted.
However, she was devoted enough to study to become a Spanish teacher (and perhaps music as well) and she completed her course work quickly enough to finish in only 3.5 years. Since she finished early, she bravely determined she wanted to go to Mexico in order to study Spanish on a more immersion basis. In 1965 they opted to spend a summer (or maybe a year, I will have to check) there to truly experience the language. Since Mom also wanted to be able to teach her students music someday – songs are a great way to learn a second language – she sought some guitar lessons in the town in Northern Mexico where they lived (Saltillo).
I keep reflecting on what a brave thing this was to do in those days, to go to a foreign country and to sign up for classes in another language! We take for granted in our generation the ability to Google things, to research everything we want to know on the internet. In the 1960’s that just was not a possibility. One had to have a certain amount of trust that things would work out in order to embark on these sorts of adventures. But embark she did, and of course there is a story I may tell at a different time of her meeting my Dad, who was her first (and possibly only) guitar teacher.
There are a good many stories about their time in Mexico, my Mom and my Grandma, and perhaps I will ask Mom if I can write more about those. Suffice it to say, my Mom taught me this early lesson in being brave and following my curiosity, by her early example. Mom has always had a generous heart, and she fell in love not only with my Dad but with his family as well. Not all of my Dad’s sisters liked Mom. After all, he was the oldest brother in a family of 7 girls and 4 boys. The younger ones were particularly suspicious that Mom was going to “kidnap” their beloved brother and take him back to the States with her. Indeed that is the story my Dad sometimes tells, but the storyteller weaves the tale they want to tell.
My Mom taught me to be grateful for what I have, and to express that gratitude openly. To this day, I tend to write thank you notes for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts and most recently, wedding gifts. I do not always get around to this, and usually I feel a bit guilty about that, but I have compassion with myself. It is actually a rare art, hand-writing thank you notes these days, but I am glad it is a practice she instilled in me.
Mom taught me to be kind to people, no matter who they are or what their station in life, and Dad very much reinforced this message as well. She still is one of the kindest and most generous-hearted people I know. I only wish she could be kinder to herself sometimes. She is the type of person you can rely on when you are down, to try to cheer you up. She has deep empathy for the suffering of people, and she is thoughtful about sending cards to friends, in good times and bad. My sister and I thought she should own a greeting card store, she had such a knack for picking out the right card to say just the right thing when it is needed.
After spending a few years teaching after her return from Mexico, and after my Dad got his degree here in the States (a second bachelor’s after his first one completed in Mexico), she decided to stay home. She wanted to raise her family and devote her time to this endeavor. In the 70’s that was a somewhat radical act, given that most women were insisting on working outside the home, even with children. But Mom really wanted to BE a Mom, and I am still grateful for all the time and energy she gave to my sister and me. I could probably write an entire book (and someday I might) on the lessons my Mom has taught me over the years. For now, I just want to express profound gratitude and wish her a happy 73rd birthday. Thank you for everything, Mom.