Who the hell am I?

I was at a dinner party the other night and because I was drinking, I can’t even remember how we got on the subject of writing. I must have mentioned writing something because the next thing I heard was, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” What? No. I mumbled something about Human Resources and waited for the subject to change.

That got me thinking about labels and presumptions. I sometimes run but I am not a runner. I have owned and ridden horses but I am not a rider. Some yoga poses help my back but I am not a yogi. I’ve been writing since elementary school but I am definitely not a writer.

As I prepared for my move to Mexico, I decided I wouldn’t even think about work until after the first of the year. However, my resume was updated within a couple days of *finally* having wifi. I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m kind of stressing about just exactly what I will do. Perhaps the most logical course of action would be to look for a remote Human Resources position or do some consulting. Accounting is always a good fallback since I’ve been doing that for decades. But really? It truly is as boring as it sounds.

I just happen to be surrounded by creative people. These are people who have identities. They have won awards. I am not one of them. I’m the person who makes sure everyone gets paid accurately and on time. I create budgets and forecasts. I’m the person who impatiently waits for the creative types to get their shit together. I am painfully aware of the difference.

Leaving the US was to some an enormous leap of faith. People think I’m batshit crazy but it still feels like the sane thing to do. Now I wonder if I have another seemingly unsafe choice to make. I’ve spent a lot of time defining who I am not. This may be my chance to finally decide who I am.

When Anxiety is Chasing You

Anxiety can be triggered by something or it can be triggered by nothing. What was fine five minutes ago is now one hundred percent not fine. I can go from zero to eleven in two seconds but getting from eleven back to zero can easily take two days…or longer.

I underestimated the amount of stress and anxiety I would feel in the process of simplifying my life but Mexico is growing on me. It seems like I solve a new mystery every week and I mostly don’t get lost when wandering around the neighborhood. I’ve developed systems for dealing with household issues and have learned how to pay Mexican utilities online. It’s been like going through childhood all over again but adulting in Mexico is possible.

It is imperative that this experience be a positive one. Dwelling on every bump in the road is simply not an option so I found myself squashing it all. Back in the box. Ignore. Deny. Pretend. That it caught up to me should be a surprise to exactly no one. I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t countering the stress. I had a couple rough nights as a result. All of the nerves in my back felt like they were on fire. Every single sound grated on every exposed nerve. I only slept for a couple hours and that certainly didn’t help my outlook.

The anxiety medication I take is old school and the dosage can be modified to counter mood fluctuations without severe side effects. After the dogs insisted upon eating breakfast this morning, I allowed myself an extra half of a pill. It made me dizzy for a while but it also stopped the buzzing. After lunch, I was able to take a stroll around the very hilly neighborhood. I’m writing this next to a pool with a beautiful view of the ocean.

If you’re daydreaming about attacking a heavy bag at the gym and you aren’t sure where the rage is coming from, say so. Stop trying to hide it. People around you can tell something is wrong and they will naturally think it’s about them. It’s okay to say you don’t know why you need to be scraped off the ceiling. Take some time to regroup. If you know what you need, tell someone. Don’t let the pressure build.

People always say we have to take care of ourselves but sometimes it’s hard to know what that even means. For me, it means not procrastinating until I find myself at eleven. Organizing your mind and emotions is just like de-cluttering your home. If you do a little work every day, it won’t seem like an overwhelming obstacle. Don’t let dirty dishes pile up in your head space.

Afraid to Ask What’s Next

Here’s a recap of my Mexico drama thus far: Weeks without wifi. Weeks without trash pickup. Locked out of the house and rescued by the internet guy who knew a guy. Days without running water. Honestly, I have to carry buckets of water from the kitchen to the washer even when the water is “on” because the pressure in the line that feeds it is virtually nonexistent. So that’s my arm workout. Anyway, most of this has taken place when the boyfriend is gone so it’s been my shit to deal with…alone in a foreign country.

Then Tropical Storm Raymond happened. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t as bad here as it was in Cabo. It rained for a few days and was pretty fucking miserable being cooped up in the house with the dogs but at least we didn’t lose power and I didn’t need to leave the house for anything. Our house is on a pretty steep hill so I didn’t have to worry about flooding. If I had needed to get to the mercado, however, I probably would have done it on foot because the road was a full-blown muddy river. I made sure my LED lantern batteries were fully charged and was happy I didn’t need them.

Yesterday morning, I was participating in an all-day online Payroll and Human Resources symposium. Gotta get those continuing education credits! Everything was going just fine until the power went off at about 10:30 am. It seemed strange for this to happen on a perfectly still and sunny day but okay.

After a couple hours, I started to worry about whether the bill had been paid because it sounded like my neighbors had power. I was told when I first moved here that the bills are left taped to the gate every two months and if they aren’t paid on time, there is no mercy. They just cut your shit right off. I have received a water bill but nothing for electricity so I contacted the landlord to make sure that wasn’t the problem. So I was running my phone battery down with *maybe* 2G cell data trying to communicate with someone who wasn’t picking up what I was throwing down. Finally, he was able to confirm it had been paid in early October so that wasn’t the problem.

We have solar chargers for electronics but they need to be in the sun for a while before they are ready to start doing their jobs. I can relate. Unfortunately, I ran out of daylight before that happened. I took a drive to charge my phone and possibly avoid a psychotic break but it was essentially a failure on both counts. I let the boyfriend (who is still traveling) know I was conserving my battery and switched to airplane mode. Between my Kindle and the LED lantern, my night was set.

Imagine how thrilled I was to wake up this morning and learn the power was still off. At that point, I began worrying about the food in the fridge and freezer even though I had been careful to only access them when absolutely necessary. We stocked up before the boyfriend left on his trip and that included duck he plans to cook for Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want to deal with replacing a bunch of spoiled food. The solar chargers went up on the roof deck right at sunrise and finally began putting in some work.

There was leftover coffee from yesterday so at least I had something stale to reheat. I was reminded how much fun it is to light a gas stove with a short match. That’s something I hadn’t done in more than 30 years. I wasn’t about to try the oven but I did grab some perishables out of the fridge to minimize the waste. Cooking really isn’t my thing but being high maintenance isn’t always an option.

A guy in an orange vest came by at about 12:30 pm and worked some magic near the electric meter. After 26 hours, I can only assume the food is fine. Every device was promptly connected to its charger. The (now) on-demand webinar has resumed. I am back to my regular level of isolation and I’m afraid to ask what’s next.

Trash in Mexico

Sometimes the smallest victories are the most fulfilling. Today, I am overjoyed with my successful navigation of the garbage collection process in my neighborhood. I don’t even know who I am right now.

I have lived on my own since I was 17 years old. When I was in college, I moved every six months and had it down to a science. What I’m saying is I know how to handle things. There’s a list of providers in every location and you just start contacting them to establish services. Easy! Everyone knows this.

Unfortunately, that is not how things work in my little slice of Baja. I asked my US-based landlord for information about obtaining services (such as trash collection) and he completely ignored my inquiry. Okay. I asked a local and was told some neighborhoods have trash collection and some don’t. I was instructed to watch my neighbors and see if they put trash out by the street. If not, there’s a weekly trash collection site about a mile away that I can use for a suggested donation of 50 pesos. That seemed simple enough.

My hearing is borderline superhuman. Two Fridays ago, I woke up at around 7 am and heard what I absolutely knew was a garbage truck somewhere in the neighborhood. Sure enough, the truck came by at precisely 7:25 (too quickly for me to carry my bags through the gate) and I found myself standing on the porch taking photos of it. I thought I needed to contact the company and set up an account. Stupid American.

I spent that morning furiously Googling all things garbage-related in the area. I learned that garbage is collected by the municipality of La Paz (sort of like a county) and is included in the property taxes so I don’t need to do anything but leave my black bags by the road for pickup each Friday morning. Perfect! I set my alarm for 7 am each Friday, thinking that would give me plenty of time to move the bags outside the gate in time for collection. The alarm is a redundancy; those goddamned roosters down the way will never let me sleep so late.

Last Friday, I was ready! The boyfriend and I started moving bags out to the road and he opened the outdoor trash can to remove the final bag.

Let me talk to you for a moment about maggots. I am not a medical examiner. I have no need to have any knowledge whatsoever of the breeding habits of flies. Mexico apparently thinks otherwise. I’m not sure what kind of flies dominate the Tropic of Cancer but these are not normal flies. There is some strain of a highly evolved, freaskishly prolific fly that can lay an infinite quantity of eggs on any surface. This is a scientific fact.

What we witnessed when he opened that lid was the stuff of horror movies. There were maggots crawling everywhere. I mean *everywhere* and what was seen can never be unseen. I am so incredibly thankful he was still there to handle that issue because we were on the way to the airport and I seriously could not deal with that on my own.

In the short time we spent grossing out over maggots and loading my Jeep, the wild pack of dogs from across the street had torn into a couple of the bags we left by the road. Are you fucking kidding me right now? I needed to get him to Cabo to catch his flight. So there was trash strewn about along the road and we had to leave. The bags went back inside the gate for me to address later. I have no idea what time the truck finally showed up but it was well after 9 am. This will be relevant in a minute.

I could have taken the trash bags to the collection point the next day but I had to stay home and wait for the internet installation. So yes, those nasty-ass trash bags sat another week right inside the gate. Honestly, my anxiety over this situation has been a little intense and I am so proud of my doggos for completely ignoring them.

I kind of want to murder the neighborhood roosters but they saved my ass this morning. They were screaming at one another and when I looked at my phone, I saw it was only 6:30 so I tried to go back to sleep. My alarm was still set for 7:00 so it would be fine. Hahahaha….no. I heard the garbage truck and bolted out of bed. Ladies: Have you ever noticed how long it takes to put on a bra when you’re in a hurry? I ran to the gate and barely got the bags to the road by the time the guys arrived to collect them…at 6:55.

While I was victorious this morning, I am extremely concerned that I need to camp outside my gate like a Black Friday shopper just to accomplish what should be a very routine task. What time will the truck arrive? I have to place the bags in the proper location while avoiding the pack of wild trash-eating dogs. Should we place bets? Should I create a flow chart? How much alcohol should I consume today? I keep seeing the dad in A Christmas Story, whose turkey was eaten by the neighbor dogs when they got into the house. This is going to be a thing, isn’t it?!?

Let There be Internet!

I’ll be the first to admit I have been spoiled by the first world and all of its “problems.” I’ll also tell you I haven’t been this frustrated with internet access since constantly hearing “GOODBYE!” in 1995.

The house we rented in Mexico did not come with internet. At first blush, it didn’t seem like that much of an issue. How hard could it be to order service? Oh honey…let me just tell you.

Telmex is the main ISP in our area. I was told to check their website and see if they service our address. I mean, that sounds easy enough but the Telmex website asks for the neighborhood before giving one an opportunity to enter an address. Our US-based landlord didn’t even have the correct neighborhood listed on the lease so we had some sleuthing to do. My first-world brain still wonders why the ISP doesn’t *know* which addresses belong in each neighborhood of their service area but this is not, in fact, the first world.

With all relevant information obtained, we were able to request installation and received confirmation that a technician would arrive on Monday, October 28. They confirmed the appointment multiple times via telephone but alas, no installation occurred on October 28.

I accidentally made contact with Telmex via Twitter on October 30 and that went about as well as one would expect. They rescheduled for November 2 and no-showed again. The excuse they used when contacted via telephone was that they couldn’t find our house. It’s not like I have a screen shot from Google Maps showing our house in relation to a very well-known landmark a couple blocks away that I could have sent them via DM on Twitter or literally any other platform. That would be crazy.

They rescheduled again for November 7 and no-showed again. With that third strike, they were out. I spent THREE WHOLE DAYS watching for these fools. So I contacted some guy on WhatsApp and he was at our house installing blazing fast internet the very next day.

I had been relying on *maybe* 2G mobile data for weeks. There were people doing work at out house the first week and I couldn’t just leave my dogs there all day while I sat in a coffee shop with my laptop. I didn’t realize just how much I depend on reliable internet access to get through the day. I still remember when AOL was too much trouble because connecting to a free line in Wichita took 30 minutes or longer. I honestly couldn’t understand the appeal.

Fast-forward a couple decades and I’m a full-blown addict. Once my devices were connected to that sweet Wi-Fi, it was like dopamine was being injected directly into my veins. I probably streamed video for a solid seven hours. It was pure binge-watching bliss. I can’t watch everything from Mexico but I can watch a lot.

The lesson in all of this is there is always a workaround. Smile, nod and say, “That’ll be fine.”

Driving Baja

Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway?

We decided to cross the border in Mexicali to save time and money. After being delayed due to a late Amazon package and a bad wheel bearing (not mine), we left Arizona much later than we expected. As a result, the crossing we intended to use was closed for the weekend so we used the busier one on the west side of town.

Being in two vehicles can be a challenge, especially when the leader gets pulled over for an inspection and is extorted to the tune of 3,000 pesos. We sat for a couple hours while they decided what to do with us and the psychotic hound had a panic attack requiring a dose of trazodone. Great start to a nerve wracking drive.

Highway 5 from Mexicali could have been in the US. There was a ton of traffic in San Felipe and the road quickly deteriorated after we left heading south. Little side detours for construction were unpaved and extremely rocky in spots. Some of them included very steep climbs and descents and I thought I would need 4WD a couple times. A large unpaved section that continued for a few miles was a little sketchy, especially considering we were running out of daylight. Views of the mountains and Sea of Cortez were absolutely breathtaking but it was impossible for me to divert my attention to taking photos while driving due to the road conditions. I learned my dogs are not fans of off-roading. My Jeep was absolutely made for those conditions and it would have been fun, had I not been carrying cargo with feelings. I feel like I should get a cheesy t-shirt that says something like “I survived driving Highway 5” but I’m content to settle for bragging rights.

We made it to Highway 1 right before dusk and had no choice but to continue after dark. There were no shoulders and terrible (mostly nonexistent) road markings in most spots. Mountain curves were terrifying after dark. It was impossible to see. We had been up since 4 am and semi-trucks were driving way too fast for the road conditions. We finally made it to a hotel just outside Guerrero Negro at about 10 pm. Lulu wasn’t even talking to me by then.

The lead vehicle lost its fuel pump as we were leaving the next morning so we sat until after lunch and only made it to San Ignacio where we stopped for the night. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful aside from being utterly confused by Mexican towns and whatever rules drivers seem to haphazardly follow. We finally made it to Todos Santos at about 8 pm the next night and my dogs and I were toast. They weren’t listening to anything I was trying to tell them and I was beyond exhausted. We got the keys to our house and completely crashed.

The drive was better and worse than I expected. It is my sincere hope that I never have to do that again.

Untethered

Last Friday was my last day at work. I cannot clearly articulate the relief I felt upon exiting the building. A neighbor caught me while the cargo box was being installed on my Jeep and asked me 20 questions. Among other things, she wanted to know if I’m retiring. I really didn’t have an answer for that, so I told her I am for the time being. I plan to mentally detox from that godforsaken environment until at least the first of the year and then see how I feel.

My house has been officially sold and I have received the proceeds. My departure from Tucson has been delayed by a tardy Amazon package, of all things. I’m fine with an extra night in a hotel but my psychotic hound wants to go home. There currently is no such place. Good luck explaining that to a dog.

All of the stress of preparing for this move and stirring up a ton of dust has wreaked havoc on my skin. I didn’t need a reminder of what being a teenager looked like. I’m also covered in bruises from carrying items in excess of my weight limit. My dogs seem determined to dislocate both shoulders by zigging when they should be zagging. It’s all 100 percent worth it.

My stress level is shrinking along with my to-do list. I feel pretty good about the fact that my biggest problem is Sherman’s continued refusal to do potties while on the leash. My temporary solution is to take them to a dog park a while after their meals so they can have their privacy. That won’t be a viable plan for much longer so I really need Sherman to get on my wavelength.

Speaking of waves, storms are still forming in the Pacific and I really hope we can dodge them on the way down through Baja. I’ve been told I should learn to surf in Scorpion Bay due to the little baby waves, which are the ocean equivalent of a bunny slope. I would love to stop there on the way to my final destination but the weather will decide.

For now, I’m waiting for an Amazon notification and my dogs to finish their afternoon naps. This is easy.

Trapped in a Box

If only the headline were a metaphor.

I may have mentioned the only things I’m taking to Mexico are shoes, clothes, purses, skin care products, and dogs. That doesn’t seem like much but I have quite the stockpile and I drive a Jeep rather than a Suburban. I decided to buy a cargo box for the roof to carry the lighter items so the puppers have more room to stretch out during our trek down to Baja. The box I chose is cavernous and one of the reviews actually showed a grown-ass man fully inside of it for scale.

As is often the case, assembly was a bit tricky. The hinges for this box are at the front so marrying the top and bottom was awkward, given that this thing is 57 inches long. I’m only 61 inches long, ya know? I was able to maneuver the pieces so the hinges lined up but there was a clip that needed to go into a hole right there at the very front to keep the hinges from separating. So that meant I had to climb inside the black plastic box, hold the back of the box up so I could see what I was doing, and also attach this clip with my very sweaty fingers…and a 61-inch wingspan.

Unfortunately, my t-shirt got caught on the lock at the back of the box and I was stuck. I’m not severely claustrophobic but being physically trapped in a black plastic box was a bit alarming. The lock caught my shirt near my left shoulder so I had very little mobility and nearly dislocated my shoulder getting unstuck. I also hyper-extended my dumb thumb. As I was struggling with all of this I was just thinking to myself, “Suffocated in a plastic cargo box…what a fucking way to go.”

Anyway, the goddamned thing is together and ready to mount to the roof rack. I’m just waiting for my surfboard to deliver and I’ll be all set.

I will get through this. *insert ALL of the eyerolls here*

Flipping the Script

For as far back as I can remember, my parents drilled into my tiny little head that it’s rude to make people wait. This has condemned me to a lifetime of being the person who arrives ten minutes early and waits impatiently for everyone else. I was told to stay out of people’s way. This has condemned me to a lifetime of irritation with those who seem to think they’re the only people on Earth and can therefore take up as much space as they like for as long as they like.

Be quiet. Don’t touch anything. Don’t make a mess. I could go on for days.

In less than two weeks, I will no longer be on a schedule. German time does not exist in Mexico so why be in a hurry? I will not worry about my dogs barking. Everyone’s dogs bark. THAT’S THEIR JOB. I will not worry about breaking something that is absolutely replaceable. I will accept beach dust mixing with dog hair and coating every possible surface. I have to release myself from the subdivision mentality. These are the things I keep telling myself.

My current reality is quite different. I’m worried about the things I may have forgotten to worry about. No detail is too small! I’m basically walking around in a perpetually nauseated state at this point. I’m worried about whether or not I’ll be able to turn it all off when I finally arrive at my destination. Because I’m really telling myself that I have to change my entire personality in order to fucking relax.

No problem…it’s on the list.

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