Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Good Lord Willin’ and The Creek Don’t Rise

The Good Lord Willin’ and The Creek Don’t Rise
            Ai-yi-yi, but I had a difficult day. My theory is that misery is contagious. My neighbor Ted from Edmonton was griping about the rock bottom value of the Canadian dollar, which has been on a steady decline for weeks. Frank on the other side of my door kept up a steady whine (steady decline-steady whine—that’s called internal rhyme) about the plunging value of his investments. Both of them moaned about the rising cost of living in Mazatlan.

            I stood in my doorway and listen to the men natter and fuss. I don’t have a business like Ted, two pensions like Frank or even a skinny investment portfolio. Usually I smile and nod and ignore their negativity. Generally I know that my simple life is right for me. And most of the time I celebrate what I see as the healthy economic growth in Mazatlan.

            But today I caught a bad case of the “poor-me virus”. There is no medicinal cure or magical inoculation. The disease is lethal. It starts out on a gentle but slippery slope and often involves comparing my insides with your outsides. I always lose. My monthly pension is a two digit fraction of Frank’s. I have no net worth and can no longer physically “work” like Ted, who, in his 80’s, still climbs on a tractor and runs his gravel business.

            After a couple comparisons in which I, predictably, come out on the short end, then I play the “what if” game. This game can take one around the world of disasters, natural and self-made. What if I get the Big C? What if there is a world war? What if we fall into the sea with an earthquake? What if drought and plant disease create such a food shortage that we all starve to death? Or worst of all—What if I can no longer afford my little casita and have to live in a cardboard box under the bridge, scrounging food from garbage cans?

            So that is how I play that game. The first solution, of course, is “don’t play the game”. So I must get some sort of pay-back, some sick satisfaction from playing. Fortunately the game never lasts long.

            I called my daughter. “I sure wish I’d made better financial decisions. If only I had been a business person instead of an artist.” (Obviously I’m still infected with the disease.)

            She flat out refuses to play my game. “Cripes, Mom, look at the life you have, living in the sub-tropics. By the way it is minus 31 F with a north wind gusting to 38pmh. Look at the adventures you’ve had. You’ve traveled all over the US and Canada. Now you are hopping buses all over Mexico. You’ve spent time in India, China and Japan. You’ve directed how many plays. Look at all the friends you have. You’ve enjoyed yourself in ways most people never get to experience. . .”

            “Okay, okay, I get the picture.”

Immediately I thought back to a woman I met years and years ago who gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life. I was at her house talking about recovering her favorite chair. In the process she began telling me about the death of her husband, tears running down her face. Her pain was so fresh, the details of her story so vivid, so bitter, that my heart hurt for her. “My dear woman,” I said, taking her hand in mine. “When did your husband die?”

“It will be twenty-three years ago in August,” she replied.

That took the wind out of my sails. My heavens, I remember thinking, this woman has never moved past that day in August, nor, does she want to move.

Like a lot of life-lessons, I get to learn this one over and over again: Love the life you have instead of the life you lost. Or the life you left. Or the life you thought you should have had instead.

I am a very lucky woman. I put on my shoes, grabbed my bag and headed out the door to get some fresh air, a bit of exercise, café con leche at the Rincon and a different perspective on my day. I have enough!

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

February 7, 2016

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