Thursday, May 07, 2009

new dog in the casa

Churchill's Black Dog has been paying an unwelcome visit for about two days.

Not a full-blown, fang-baring attack, mind you. Just an awareness that things were not as they should be. Heavy chest. Vague sense of forboding.

And that old familiar panting and growling that depression is merely part of the human condition.

An idiot could have predicted that something like this would occur. I left a very comfortable life and exchanged it for exactly what I wanted -- waking every morning not knowing how I am going to get through the day.

Then add the fact that Darrel and I have been holed up in the house for almost a full week just trying to get ourselves oriented.

But, just as Annie promised: the sun did come out on Wednesday.

I drove over to Barra de Navidad to meet with the local Rotary club. As a former Rotarian, I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people with a common sense of community.

The meeting was fine. But that is not where I felt the change.

On the way over, I turned on the CD. The music does not matter. The result does. I literally felt my spirit lifting with each chorded lyric.

When I returned home, I found Marta diligently at work cleaning up the weekly ravages of living so close to the sea.

She is an employee who strives to please. But, our inability to communicate has been a mutual pain for both of us.

She stopped for a moment to talk. And, amazingly, I understood the big points. I now know where she was born and raised. In turn, having just returned with my constancia in hand, I explained my FM3 process to her -- badly.

But we were actually exchanging ideas. I felt my spirit lift one more level.

Ann Lamott once wrote of a healing moment between two very different people:

I can't imagine anything but music that could have brought about this alchemy. Maybe it's because music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We're walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn't get to any other way.

I agree with Ann that music is a great healer. But successfully starting to break through a language barrier shares the same essential alchemy.

Have I now learned Spanish? Of course not. What I have learned is that it is not something to fear, but something that offers a great prize at the end.

I have often admired Winston Churchill's choice of the term "black dog" to describe his dark depressions. It is really a term of hope.

Dogs, after all, even though they have minds and wills of their own, are creatures that can be trained and controlled. Or simply be locked up.

In my case, the dog was as good natured as the benificent Professor Jiggs. And the dark dog is now gone. But I am not putting away his leash.

Not just yet.


Unknown said...

Don't forget NPR has great free music sessions that range from classical to rock. You know the jazz thing did it for me. You are going to make it, Steve! A word of caution about romantic tutors. I had a tutor this fall, and we spent more time talking about our lives in ENGLISH than anything else. Jorge and I had a great time, but I learned very little Spanish from him. Just a word of caution.

Calypso said...

Hombre - If you are not questioning, you are not alive. Every motion comes with a question - is this the right thing to be doing or to have done?

Enjoy and live in the moment and the rest of it will work itself out without any help from you ;-)

I remember many feelings of detachment when I was first in Mexico by myself.

As you suggest music helps; and quiet. Take large doses of both and call me in the morning...

Calypso said...

My last sentence didn't take?

It read:

You can always come here and help me lay some bricks - my mind and mortar set for today.

Islagringo said...

Sunshine. Get more sunshine and it will turn that black dog into a cute little white puppy! Trust me.

Christine said...

Have you considered hiring a driver who speaks a little but not too much English to take you on small trips of exploration every week? It would be a Spanish imersion coupled with an adventure with, perhaps,the ritual of a cerveza and a little meal before heading home.

Nancy said...

This is a huge change for you, not just retirement and separation from your many activities but moving to such a different place.

Take it easy on yourself, as people said to me early on "poco a poco" Prepare a few things you'd like to talk to the maid about, review the words so you do better. Getting enrolled in classes would give you positive direction, too.

I agree with you with music, too. There's some great latin music out there that can help you with the language, too.

Eat well, fruit, sunshine, walking, laughing, calling people back in the US that you miss...

You'll be fine, hang in there.

jennifer rose said...

Drugs. Better living through chemistry is the best solution.

Babs said...

Ahh the music. Remeber how aghast I was when you said you hadn't listened to music in mumble something years.
SO glad for once, someone listened to me - ha!

Anonymous said...

Steve, keep sharing these kinds of posts with us. It's refreshing to hear about your emotional ups and downs; makes an organized guy come through as human and vulnerable.

BTW, your quote about music is right on point. Music is closely connected to language. Tones, rhythm, repetition, tempo, pitch and nuance define both music and language.

I'll never forget the moment when I finally "got" the past subjunctive. It had nothing to do with the rules I'd learned from a book. One day it simply "sounded" right to use "ara" and "iera" endings. My musical genes told me so. Rely on your honed musical ear as you listen and speak Spanish.


Anonymous said...

If you start feeling abit down, scroll down to the photo of you
in the hammock and repeat after me:
"Wow, those are some fine looking legs!" It's been working for me.
Try it.

Felipe Zapata said...

A sense of community is virtually nonexistent in Mexico. It´s one of our primary cultural and economic problems. The notion of sacrificing for the "common good" is an alien concept.

Business connection is not a foreign concept, however, and I´d place a big bet that each of your Mexican Rotarians have joined 100 percent for that reason. In Mexico, you are whom you know.

Now that club may actually do good deeds (I pray so), but they will be incidental, side effects.

Yes, I know American Rotarians join for business connections too, but not 100 percent. At least I hope not.

I tried to leave a comment earlier, but it seemed not to fly. But if it did, the following will be a repetition. Do forgive.

Regarding your funk, you are locked into Melaque for six months, it seems. You will feel far more comfortable and be far happier in San Miguel. Get thee there at the earliest opportunity. It is your kind of Mexico, as it is the best Mexico for most Americans. There is nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Steve, unfortunately drug wars, pig flu, and a horrible economy have added to the ghost town atmosphere in Mexico right now. Add to that, off-season, bad weather, remote location, no restaurants open and it's a tough way to begin your new life.

I love Mexican culture, be it crowds at taco trucks in the square or the mix of locals and expats partying together into the night with music streaming from the restaurants, bars and street corners. I find it necessary to have an interesting conversation in English with an eccentric expat as a relief valve for my struggling in Spanish all day.

Please remember that Sayulita, San Miguel, Patzcuaro are not dirty words.

I could never spend a day in Cabo San Lucas but could probably spend the rest of my life and bank account in (gasp) San Miguel. Even Felipe Zapata sneaks over there form time to time.

You deserve some luxury and convinces in you retired days. Go get'em.


Chrissy y Keith said...

Considering all the changes you have been through recently, I would say your are doing very well. I would expect the same type of feelings from most of us humans. That's why God gave us His promises. Our emotions can mess us up. I went through this when we moved from Alaska to Arizona. Although we were not changing our country, we may well have been considering the differences. My 22 year old cat was dieing and I knew she would have her last days here. So on top of the excitement of a new Big Town with sun, I was also greiving the loss of my home, family, friends the inpending loss of a pet that I had had longer than my husband. I had to learn to drive in traffic lots of changes. And for the first time I wasnt working. I felt I had lost my identity. So Steve it has been 8 years and I still dont feel at home, but I have learned to cope with some of these feelings and most of them have long since been replaced with good stuff. I know you will get your land legs soon.

Steve Cotton said...

Laurie -- I have enough issues in my life without combining romance and language tutoring. I understand the increased incentive. But the cost of romance is too high for most good investments.

Calypso -- I see that you have employed the Churchillian remedy for idleness: building a wall. I find hammock swinging gets me the same result. Thanks for the reminders.

Islandgringo -- Went to Manzanillo today and had lunch with New Beginnings. Sun and friendship. No better prescription.

Christine -- Interesting idea.

Nancy -- I am actually doing fine. There just seems to be so much to be done. Learning to take things one at a time is going to be tough.

Jennifer -- A good night's sleep would be a good start.

Babs -- Yup. You were the main voice to get me back to music. I am analyzing away again.

Alee' -- Thanks for the reinforcement. I am constantly amazed at the connection between music and language.

DanaJ -- I love that line.

Fwlipe -- I remember when I started practicing law, a lawyer friend advised my law partner and me to join a large fraternal organization. We joined with notions of community service. Most of the other members thought of it as a drinking club. We soon resigned. I would prefer not to do that again. As for uture moves, we shall see.

Rick -- Ending up in San Miguel would certainly be no worse than ending up as a Walmart greeter. Stranger things have happened. And then I could form my own Gang.

Thanks, Chrissy -- You have put it all in perspective.

Anonymous said...

Given the stress of my occupation (finance) over the last year or so, I have found Mexican music to be oddly cheering. Especially norteños have such lilting, upbeat melodies that even if the words are perhaps something less cheery, they never fail to put me in a better mood.

Once Darrell leaves, you really will be confronted with the full reality of Mexico. Just remember, you (literally) have all the time in the world, and just take it one step at a time.

Meanwhile, remember all of your readers are rooting for you.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Which was quite an adjustment from California, let me assure you.

Kirsten said...

Steve, that is the nice thing about your situation. You are trying something new. If it does not work for you, you can change course and try something else. Staying put for an extended time anywhere is difficult. We keep our house as a home base and have been to various places the last 7 months including, Hawaii, Australia, Phoenix, a Caribbean cruise and time in South Beach, Florida. Then home again. Upon our arrival back home we have had a tough time adjusting because of the cold. So, we are planning our next trips and off we'll go again!! Most likely we'll try traveling somewhere this summer and for sure next winter again. We had our "Black Dog Day" yesterday so I am very familiar with those feelings. They do pass. However, those feelings are telling you something. Listen to your feelings. Nothing is written in stone. I look forward to your blog everyday. Tell Darrel hello. How wonderful you are sharing this experience with your brother. :)

GlorV1 said...

This too shall pass. Everything will fall into place once you are "really" situated. Keep listening to music, you'll be fine. Take care and regards to the darling Professor Jiggs.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- The danger is that I will plug in a Mahler symphony. Who knows where that would lead me.

Kirsten -- Having Darrel here has been a big help. We have not had a chance to do anything like this as adults. He says "Hi" back. I will miss having him around.

Gloria -- Things are falling into place quite nicely. There are just enough circumstances that have come together in one day that I needed a little reality check.

Vanya said...

Hey Steve, Welcome to Melaque! If I remember correctly, it can sometimes be difficult to sleep when you're right on that beach, those waves can be kind of loud! I tried to play some soft music as I went to sleep and even left it on through the night to help with combatting the crashes, sort of a white noise thing. As for the black dog days, I think one of the reasons most people move out of the States (or wherever) is so that we can experience those new things and new ideas that sometimes confuse or frustrate us, otherwise why leave your comfort zone? Everytime I go to get in the shower and theres no water I curse the tinaca and the bomba...At 7AM when the Global Gas goes by and wakes me up Im like,'Really? Why?!!' But this is Mexico and we all knew we would see this folks. :-) Didnt we all sort of want that 'otherness' that we experience in countries foreign to us? At least this is what I tell myself when Im frustrated and honestly, those moments become rarer and rarer each month. Honestly, Id be surprised if you werent feeling a little funky considering you just made a huge life change and its just starting to really settle in that you're here now. I say good for you! As for Marta, it only took a few months for us to get into a groove, I say something in butchered spanish and she helps me sometimes with my tenses and with words that I dont know. And we laugh at my poor attempts together. She has a great sense of humor.
Change is intoxicating! And while San Miguel is a great place, I find it a little too much like the US to really enjoy that 'otherness'. Hang in there!

Steve Cotton said...

Vanya -- Thanks for the greeting. Marta said that someone she worked for read my blog. Now I know who.

We need to meet soon to talk about this adventure that is Mexico. Marta is going to be a great guide for my Spanish portion of the trip.