I am currently 40,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. (Actually, I am already home, but I did write most of this during my flight which — by the way — was bumped up to first class by either the friendly blue-eyed lady at gate number 84, or the hottie from Aeromexico who claimed he needed to “check” my seat number. Thank you, whoever you are. The mixed nuts, elbow room and Cuba Libre made my day.)
Every time I travel home to the states, then return home to Mexico, it takes me a good week or so to reassimilate. Though not as shocking as it might be were my two homes longitudinally divided and thus separated by multiple time zones, there is no shortage of stimulus for my senses to sort, whether coming or going. It’s little wonder, really – culture shock, as a phenomenon. Can a non-winged species ever truly evolve to the point where traveling 1200 miles in 9 hours feels natural?
This return may prove particularly strange. Not only was my trip abrupt and unexpected, but I am returning home less a grandmother, filled with an ache to be closer to my family and having spent the whole week in a vulnerable state of contemplation about life in general. Nothing like losing your Mema to make you second guess your priorities.
Ahhh, priorities. As always – clear as mud.
It’s hard enough navigating the twists and turns of my mind just keeping up with my own interests. But knowing what’s best for the entire family? For the one in high school and the other in preschool? For the one learning to read and another about to enter the only-slightly-less-painful-to-watch-than-to-live-through middle school years? Whoa. It’s no joke. Any way I slice it, compromise is inevitable and sacrifice is a given.
Here are some of the questions that come up every time I return to the states…
- How long can we “get away” with living in Mexico?
- At what point are the benefits of language acquisition, cultural diversity and an easy-going lifestyle trumped by educational opportunities, retirement savings (as if) and proximity to family?
- If we moved back, would we really see our family that much more anyway? And our friends? Will we all be too busy?
- What of all the things we are supposed to concern ourselves with as “responsible parents,” or to ensure our “financial security.” How much of all that mumbo jumbo matters and how much comes from contrived social models, insurance company propaganda and conventional “wisdom” that our culture has simply bought into?
- Are we doing more good by our kids by showing them the world or harm by not growing roots? Is their alternative education going to be a disadvantage once they reenter public schools?
- Is there any way to live in the states without pumping a quarter of each paycheck into our gas tank? Is it possible to work less and afford to support local food movements and other causes we believe in?
- Is Mexico just an escape? If so, is that a bad thing?
- Is my uncertainty caused by increased clarity or increased fear?
Regardless of the answer to #8, the simple truth is that the answers are not always obvious. Not for any of us. My kids might end up well-adjusted, compassionate and less-consumptive having lived a few years where poverty is undeniable and simplicity is the norm. They could land great jobs one day by speaking two languages. Or, they could resent the fact that we’ve moved them all around, kept them from their friends and wish they’d lived their whole lives in the suburbs. They may forget most of their Spanish and end up working for Monsanto and buy their groceries from Wal-Mart just to rebel. (Surely not though, right?)
I suppose it’s okay that the answers regarding our future are clear as mud. If today offers so much that I can barely keep up, why in the world am I trying to handle tomorrow, too? I can almost hear the omnipotent presence that I imagined as a child — sitting just above the clouds on a magic Persian carpet — chuckling at my pathetic attempts at control, “YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BETH. WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? CHILL OUT AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE, ALREADY. CAN’T YOU SEE I GOT THIS THING COVERED?”
Oh yea, that’s right. I forgot. Again. I’m not supposed to figure it all out. It’s a divine mystery, and a pretty freaking amazing one, at that. All I really need to do is be here now and enjoy the ride. Why is that so hard to remember?
I heard someone say something years ago that has helped me time and again. I tend to forget it, so I have it written down on little notes all over my house. Maybe one day it will sink in so deep that I will quit second guessing myself. Until then, it will remain tacked to my mirrors, above my computer and used as a dual-purpose bookmark…