What’s Your Story?
How do we define quality of life? This must mean different things to different people but by and large, I think we could agree that it is a collection of circumstances that brings us pleasure and fulfilment.
I sometimes watch television programs and read magazine articles that depict how little time North American families supposedly spend together. The reports claim that everyone is busy and often each family member has interests that the rest of the family doesn’t even know about. How has this happened and why isn’t it the general norm in Mexico?
I would theorize that economics has a lot to do with it. Many families in the north have at least two full time salaries contributing to the bank account. Add this to the fact that credit is widely available and the temptation to spend, spend, spend is hard to resist. It becomes a vicious circle… more money is needed to pay for “the stuff” and so parents and older children work longer hours to pay for it (or at least to make payments on the credit cards) This results in less time spent together as a family.
In Mexico, not that many people have much disposable income and credit is not so easily had. (Although there is a disturbing trend towards changing this…) At least three quarters of the country’s population live in some degree of necessity. They cannot go out and spend a lot of money because they simply don’t have it. So they stay home and enjoy inexpensive leisurely activities with their extended family. Everyone brings something and a good time is had by all.
Many Mexicans are musical and even if they lack talent they still enjoy singing and strumming on the off key guitar. Most women are phenomenal cooks and I would venture to say that the meals they make for a fiesta could not be had in a restaurant for many times the cost of what they spend in the preparation. A lot of men and women are very creative and they manage to fashion all kinds of decorations, accessories and toys out of practically nothing. I received a handbag once that had been made with candy wrappers and glue and believe me, it looked lovely. A lot of satisfaction is derived from this excellent reusing of what many would simply throw in the trash. This in turn contributes further contentment.
Because many of Mexico’s citizens use public transportation and have to think twice about spending those precious pesos… they walk a lot. Sometimes an older sibling or parent will accompany the children and so this too provides opportunities for lots of great conversations.
Even families that do have means are often happiest when in the company of their family and old friends. They may spend more but usually the crowd they hang with is the same one they’ve always known.
When international residents in Mexico witness this phenomenon, they are often seized with a desire to belong. They emulate their neighbors’ behavior and soon have formed a circle of good friends they can share their days and evenings with.
I believe that in Mexico, we can grow younger… in our thinking and our actions too. There is just so much here to fill the senses and sensibilities. There are markets to shop in, ruins to explore, new foods to taste, music to listen to, beaches to walk along and yes, languages to learn. Exposure to all of this will indeed make you look and feel more youthful and energetic.
A woman I met recently tells me that she did not realize all she was missing. “Before I visited Mexico for the first time, I never had a minute to even think about what I wanted to do. I just put one foot in front of the other, day after day. I was not present in the moment by any means and everyone I knew was in the same boat.
Then I came here to visit a friend. During my time at her house, she invited me to attend the symphony one evening and had joined a card group that would meet the next. There would be breakfast with friends on one midweek morning and at the end of (what used to be) the work week, we’d be having lunch with another group. She read at least a book a week and had all kinds of new opinions and conversation. I decided I wanted that… and now I have it too!”
She told me she completely changed her way of thinking and upon returning to her home town, she immediately began to sell her belongings and set a date for her move. Her children wondered if indeed a move was what she needed. After seeing her determination, they decided a move was in order… but not to Mexico; she belonged on the funny farm! None of this deterred my friend and she has not looked back. She says,
“Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat from a reoccurring nightmare. In this awful dream, I never moved here!”
Not everyone makes such a hasty decision. Plenty of people spend months, even years carrying out a phased move. I happen to agree that this is much more prudent. Yet all the same, my heart jumps for joy at spontaneity.
Now… what’s your story?