Last week, when 2020 was approaching I felt the need to exchange the baton so to speak. I did my 19 for 19 and felt good about rounding out the year in pictures, but there was still something missing. This is it.
For many the closure of one year is a celebration of accomplishments, a look at where ideas and dreams fell flat and a moment of gratitude. For others it means donning a sparkly dress and a glass of bubbly. For others, it means something totally beyond these two ideas. And finally - a reminder that no two people are alike and not all calendars are either. We have the 12 month January-December one, the Chinese calendar which will celebrate New Year on Saturday, Jan, 25 (yes, I looked it up) and then there is the teacher calendar that basically goes from summer to summer. Finally, we have the calendar of the person who is ill. It goes from treatment to treatment. There is no right way (or time) to ring in the New Year and I am glad I procrastinated on this post until this very moment, because yesterday I got clear on a few things.
I always like to have some words to root me for any given year. I create my own definitions for them and like to put them in areas that pop op on the daily. Post it’s, posters, phone covers, ya know.
Last years words looked like this:
Can’s: Can’s are can’ts that are flipped on their head. While an inversion is fun, it’s also immobilizing. When can’ts are flipped on their heads, I can walk (or run) around them and get on with my CANS. Hell Yeahs!: A Hell Yeah! happens in the millisecond when your head and heart agree one way or another. A Hell Yeah! lets me know when I should, or shouldn’t do a thing.
Teamwork:I have someone’s back, someone has mine. We ask the important questions and know - we are on working together. No fixed destination, it’s not about where we’re going. It’s why.
Creativity: Ideas in motion.
Roots: Getting out of my head and into my feet. A reminder that growth happens from the bottom up.
While I still feel a connection to these words and will revisit this list from time to time. I have new words for 2020 and I came up with all of them on my bike ride yesterday. I have travelled a lot in my short life, but if you ask me where my favorite place in the world is, my response will be, “on my bike.” It’s true. Yesterdays ride was 38km up, up, up. It was cold, it was difficult, my legs felt like lead, but I loved every minute of it. Here are my words for 2020, in order of my thought process during the 2.5 hour ride.
Breathless: Both beauty and grit that leaves us gasping for air and grateful to have it.
Up: Just like the movie; seeking the wildest adventure. Or - that gnarly hill.
Aero: The path of least resistance.
Lean: Lean in. Lean on. Lean back. Lean body.
These words light me up very much. I am aware that there’s nothing about community or relationships or authenticity, but I think these words are going to spring me out of a 2019 that I confess was exhausting. While I work on bringing my best energy to the table, my relationships, connections and self can only be improved as well.
This is the first time that I have begun a free write with absolutely no idea what was going to come out. I did take the leap and press the timer and figured that it would take me somewhere. I guess it is that idea of taking the first step, setting yourself into motion and that will, by default, bring you somewhere. Maybe that is what 2019 has been about after all. I haven’t had the same time to plan and think ahead, but I have found myself trying things on and seeing how it goes. A bit scarier than carefully planning the next step and possible pitfalls and outcomes, but without a doubt, lots of learning along the way.
Here are a few places where I took one step that helped shape where I am today, as we forge into a new year and new decade (this is debatable, but I think it is).
I trained for my first big race since 2015. Instead of easing back into running, I was convinced by my father-in-law to start with a half-marathon. Each Monday morning, as I set out for my training runs, I felt a sensation of coming home, coming back to the girl I was when I first started running. I was nervous at the starting line, that I would be slower and that quite possibly I had bitten off more than I could chew. As I crossed the finish line at the end of the race, almost every body part hurt, but it was faster than I could have ever imagined my comeback to be. Fueled by the first race and feeling stronger than I had in years, I committed to a second half-marathon in 2019. All those mornings of crawling out of bed to start with one step and then another paid off. In my second race, I crushed my personal best time. At 41, I was faster than I had ever been.
My husband and I took a 17 day trip, leaving my son in the loving care of his grandparents and nanny. Before I became a mom, I had mom idols that seemed to balance perfectly their lives as a mother and also as themselves. I mentally promised myself that I would be just like that. I would be able to thrive as a loving mom and also as myself, no guilt attached. However, shortly after Oliver was born (probably about 10 minutes) that all changed. I realized that it would be hard to be away from that tiny human, that balance and guilt-free parenting does not exist. However, in June of 2019, I took a step out the door to go on an adventure and to explore the world with my husband, my friends and probably most importantly myself. It was incredible. But, it was a new incredible. I did enjoy every last bite of hummus and reveled in the mornings that I didn’t need to get up to do anything other than attend to my needs. All that happened while missing my son almost viscerally. I don’t think you can ever attain a balance while embarking on the journey of parenting, but maybe the idea of it holds some value.
I applied for school, finally, and am beginning the program on Monday. I have so many emotions about beginning school again. As an educator, I am also a lifelong learner and so the main emotion is giddiness. However, when I think about why it has taken me so long to finally take the leap to begin my next academic pursuit (this has been on my mind for years), it was most certainly fear that was holding me back. I was worried that I wouldn’t chose the right path. The right path to study. The right path to lead me where I want to go (which is also a bit hazy), but there was a moment when I decided that I need to just try it on, take a leap, take the next step. So, here I go back into a space that I love with a hint of the unknown.
I was racking my brain for the person who wrote a quote about doing the next right thing. It is something that I think about a LOT and I will find the right one, just not in this 30 minutes. But I did find one by Michael J. Fox. Here it is and this is the gist, “Do the right thing, then do the next right thing, and that will lead you to the next right thing after that.” I guess it is about having faith that if you know the next step you take is the right one, eventually it will lead you down the path you need. That is what 2019 was about for me. And now I am taking a huge step right into 2020.
Let’s start here. In Mexico, there isn’t a driving test to get a licence. You pay $40, go to the transit office with a proof of address and an official ID and your licence is ready in about five minutes. It is very convenient. Until it’s not.
I discovered the licence thing during my first year here, when I would see people repeatedly put their right blinker on - and then turn left. Or vice versa. And the old saying landed, “They know not what they do.” Most people here in the city have never had to learn the rules of the road. For that reason, it is unsafe to cross the street on the crosswalk, because for many, the white lines are not understood.
There are also stoplight inconsistencies. You know the delay in lights where your light turns red, and then there are two-three seconds before the opposite light turns green. In Mexico City, we don’t have that delay. One light turns red WHILE the other turns green, and when it does turn green, the person behind you honks (in case you didn’t see it turn green). Add this to the fact that many people driving in Mexico believe that red lights are optional, and intersections take on a whole new meaning.
Many entrances to the highway do not have a space to enter and merge, you just enter the “slow” lane and hope the car behind you will slow down while you accelerate. Most traffic police are on their phones, or passing the “secret book” to the person they pulled over so that they can deposit bribe money into it to pay them off (confession - I have paid it three times). Some days a road is reversed in direction, and others it isn’t, motorcycles have no lane, the potholes are sometimes a foot deep, bus drivers truly believe that they have the right of way 100% of the time, the street signs are often twisted and you can’t tell which way is which, people often walk on the road instead of the sidewalk, there are streets where you’ve seen or heard of muggings so your guard goes up when you are stopped on them, people constantly stop/park in the right hand land of some of the cities busiest streets, and driving 5k can often take over an hour. This list is just a start.
Driving in Mexico, sometimes this means the difference between bread on the table and no bread on the table. In my case, I am becoming more-and-more aware of the privilege I live - and driving is a choice. When you move to a city with 21,000,000 bustling souls, sometimes you just gotta put in a podcast and be grateful you get to listen to the whole thing before you get home.
Bonus! Check out THIS amazing birds eye of the city!
Like it is - According to Vail
Traffic… that word.
You have no idea what that word does to my body and my stress level. My brow begins to furrow, my heart starts to race and unfortunately inappropriate words begin to fly out of my mouth.
The scene. It is Christmas time in Mexico City and I have had a long week at work. All I want is to get back to my house, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the weekend and the season. On my 9.2 km (5.7 miles) commute back that sunny December day, at about 2 hours in, I was at a complete standstill. I could see my building. It was almost taunting me as I sat there helpless. There was nothing I could do. I thought about abandoning my car…
This is how bad it gets.
However, as most things in life, the difficulties often teach us a lesson, if we will let them. What traffic has taught me is that it is all about how we manage and respond to situations that counts.
Sitting in that traffic jam that day, I was livid. Fuming.
I would like to think that if I were in that same traffic jam today, I would relax my shoulders and let go or let it be. It isn’t that I have reached a complete Zen state with traffic these days, but I usually chose to do one of two things:
Avoid it: I sold my car shortly after the Xmas car fiasco. Whether hitching a ride or taking an Uber, I let someone else take the wheel. That shift of not being in the driver’s seat has allowed me to relax and curse less.
Also, I love to walk. If at all possible, I walk instead of driving. In this city, it is usually a time saver. It is also a whole lot healthier.
This may seem extreme, but I also say no to moving far from my house during peak traffic hours. If I have to struggle for hours to get somewhere, I am not going to be in the mood to enjoy it.
Make it your playground, your adventure:
Now, there are some places I have to get to in my car. It is inevitable. I have to get in the car and I have to behind the wheel.
There are moments when I am stuck behind an endless sea of red taillights and my breath begins to quicken. That is when I decide how I want to play. I might call a friend, play a podcast or meditate (eyes wide open, listening to my breath). I try to remember that I will not get anywhere faster the angrier I get.
Big cities mean heart-crushing traffic. However, in Mexico City, like most cities, there is insanely amazing food, a plethora of art exhibits and events and incredible weather for you to enjoy it in.
So, strap on your seatbelt and get out and enjoy life. (I just suggest you do it on the weekend, with less traffic.)