Leaving the bunker

Until just now, internet interruptions have kept me from posting my whole piece. Here is the text.

For all intents and purposes, during the past year, most of us have been living in bunkers. From my sporadic posts, most readers of CHANGES IN OUR LIVES are aware that this has not been an easy time for me. Like many women, I thrive on being around others. To be shut in and too anxious to even go for a walk around the neighborhood is not an experience I want to repeat.

Nonetheless, in some odd ways, I can see that the pandemic has been good for me. First off, it has forced me to re-evaluate what is most important in my life. And at the top of the list stands my husband. We’ve been together for 45 years, and over that time, we have both developed our own interests. I have my writing, painting and a group of close friends. Jorge likes getting together at the cafe with his long-time buddies and they spend hours remembering the exploits of their youth. He also enjoys his historical research and chronicling. For years, we’ve been so preoccupied with our kids, other people, our college, as well as many more pursuits, and I realise that we did not give each other as much attention as we should have.

When the pandemic began, we had no idea that we would be one another’s mainstay for more than a year. But once the media started talking about second and third waves, we understood that the seclusion would go on and on. Jorge and I looked at each other, and I think we both silently thought the same thing – It’s you and me Babe.

Most days we saw no one else. At first this seemed like a novelty. We sat for long periods of time on the living room sofa and reviewed “the days of our lives”. It was amazing how we remember 45 years of ups and downs from such different perspectives. Jorge could recall every detail of what happened on significant occasions – how we happened to be doing whatever, who was with us, and what we ate. I had crystal clear memories of how we all felt, what we wore, if it was hot, or not-too-bad, who was irritated, and who was happy.

We cooked up a storm, we made plans for the future. But by the third month of lockdown, our weight had gone up and our spirits had bogged down. Long silences filled our days. We started sleeping more. Sometimes two siestas. And of course, we watched lots of Netflix.

About 5 months into our forced exile from society, we became obsessed with classifying our 1,000s and 1,000s of photos. We took about a week removing them from 30 albums. Our working styles are totally different, and soon we both got frustrated, because just as our memories are from different perspectives, we also approach tasks from unlike viewpoints.

I wanted to sort by people. All the pictures of our immediate family got put into one pile. Another pile had those with only Jorge and me. Just Jorge, just me, just Carlos, just Maggie. You can imagine. Before long I had dozens of wobbly stacks of photographs spread out on two large tables. At first Jorge tried to change my system, but he soon left me alone. And guess what? Months later, I am still plugging away.  In fits and starts, of course.

Fits and starts is my motto and not just with the photos. I apply it to my painting, my writing, cleaning and sewing. What can I say?

Re-organising the kitchen, all the closets, purging the 20 year-old, three sizes too small clothes from our wardrobes, and replanting much of the garden are other make-work projects that had various degrees of success and failure.

After a summer of non-stop torrential rain, we had the roof re-surfaced, the house got painted inside and out, the dining room chairs finally received new covers.

By Christmas, we were fit to be tied. We felt sick about not seeing our daughter who had moved to Los Angeles just before the pandemic began. Our son and girlfriend could not visit often because they worried about infecting us. At Christmas time, we could not host the IWC tea. There would be no big turkey dinner with family and friends.

The New Year rolled around and many of our friends who spend the winter in Yucatan had to stay put in cold Canada or the Trump-crazed USA.  We did not have a tour to some lovely place that we could look forward to. But news of the vaccine looked promising. Maybe by the spring we would get “jabbed”?

And now it is May, Jorge and I have received our first vaccination, and we feel much better. We are still using our masks, avoiding crowds, washing hands, using sanitizer and keeping our distance from others, but we don’t sense so much fear. We both look forward to the second dose later this month

But not everyone we know, along with millions of anonymous others are jumping into line for their shots. The Anti-vax vice squad is all too active recruiting – What a thorny issue – I know my opinion doesn’t sit well with the “respect my rights” crowd. But mine should be respected too. We need to find a way to pull together on this. What do you think?

What’s on your mind Joanna?

I wish facebook would come up with a new prompt for members who are on the verge of posting.  Maybe something like this:

Joanna (or whatever your name is) have you thought carefully about what you are going to write here?

You don’t need to share anyone’s opinion but what you offer for the entire planet to read should be carefully thought out. You don’t need to try and win a popularity contest, but you should try not to be rude. Don’t you think?

However, as it stands now, “What’s on your mind?” is what we all get. Truly FB doesn’t care what’s on our minds. They want our first sentences to contain some key words the gobots can identify. Then they can file our choices into one of their categories, enter everything, and then move on to the next “post-er”, or should I say, “post-ee”?

With varying daily success, I attempt to keep positive and optimistic. But as a business owner in Mexico I know that getting our population vaccinated is the first step on the road to economic recovery.  Vaccination is a Herculean task, but it is more and more urgent every day.

The recovery of our economy is dependent on so many variables and our entire society is going to need more creativity, more flexibility, more determination and more patience than ever before. I am bracing myself because even though this has been a year like no other, politics and jockeying for the most advantageous position has not stopped. As a nation we have not understood the need for cohesiveness.

Tell me, what would have happened during WWII if some of the people decided, “Oh my rights are being trampled. I want my lights to be left on during a blackout, because then I won’t trip or stumble around when I am looking for something. And hey! That shrieking is not a Messerschmitt overheard. All that is fake news.”

That is a bit exaggerated, but let’s look at just three examples concurrent with our 2021 reality:

Mask wearing: Really, what’s the big deal? The masks are somewhat hot and uncomfortable but not that bad. However, many people act as though their basic civil rights have been violated. “This should be MY choice,” they scream.

Social distancing: There’s a bit more acceptance of this but only because it is not too difficult to do. Nonetheless, I was snaking through the COSTCO lineup one day and the security guards were only allowing the card carriers to go inside. Absolutely no companions. As well, not one more person was allowed inside the hallowed halls of consumerism unless someone came out. Again, “MY rights are being denied,” was a common lament.

The Vaccine: It is amazing to me how many people now pretend to be as informed as virologists, epidemiologists, sociologists and psychologists. They have an opinion on every scientific and social nuance associated with “accepting a foreign substance into MY body.”  Yet many of these same people drink alcohol, use “recreational” drugs and smoke. The real scientists say our planet needs to achieve “herd immunity” but again, “Why should I believe this,” the anti-vaxers ask.

Politics is running rampant. Whatever happened to “working together for the “greater good”? The PRI and PAN followers hate AMLO and MORENA. But did they do do such a great job during their most recent 4 decades in power? According to OSCD international development reports, Mexican citizens’ quality of life went from bad to worse:

Mexico ranks above average in civic engagement, but below average in the dimensions of jobs and earnings, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, housing, income and wealth, social connections, work-life balance, personal security, and education and skills.

In other words, lots of complaining and gnashing of teeth, but no consensus that will help to usher in needed changes.

One more point: in Merida, we have been spared much of the organised crime activity that is so destructive and dangerous in other places in Mexico. But without the cooperation of the three levels of government AND the public, I fear we are poised for much worse scenarios.

So, what’s to be done? Starting today how can we all help rather than hinder a turn for the better?

I believe that it is imperative to stop our constant complaining and find some group, a family, or a person in need. We can help and we should. How much you can help and how you can best do so, is between you and your higher self.

But I can emphatically promise you (yes promise you…) that if you become a quiet part of the solution, rather than a loud vocal objector, you will be happier and healthier…  

And so will Mexico.

Bonus: Read more about the vaccines at Yucatan Magazine: https://yucatanmagazine.com/coronavirus-vaccine-to-be-available-in-merida-starting-easter-weekend/?fbclid=IwAR1g0441fGP1GxSDWykCm1o5JReEj4pGdGHITFYyhl6WLyXvzuNIPCIwuuQ

March 8, 2021: International Women’s Day

Strength in Chiapas – photo by Carlos Rosado

I am up early this morning, wondering what will transpire on this day.

A call has been issued by most governments of the world urging “restraint”. Plainly said:

  • Now ladies, let’s be reasonable.
  • Please refrain from defacing public buildings and toppling monuments to macho accomplishments.
  • Dealing with millions of angry women marching in the streets is disturbing, especially on a Monday.
  • Remember COVID is still raging, life is already difficult enough.
  • Let’s try to keep it low-key, eh?

We are urged to:

  • Reflect on progress made.
  • Call for change.
  • Celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

While I agree this is desirable, let’s look at what the “gold standard of human rights” has to say on the topic.

  • According to the most recent studies by the “United Nations”, no country in the world has achieved gender equality
  • The organization has named 2030 as the (magical) year when this is projected to occur.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is the one day (out of 365) when all of us are officially “asked” to recognise women’s accomplishments, “identify” where progress of gender equality is lacking, and to “promote” women’s rights.

Really?

Golly-gee, Guys – profound thinking – but there are two facts that cannot be denied:

  • Playing nice and asking first is NOT getting women any further ahead.
  • If the shoe was on the other foot, International Men’s Day would be a blood bath.

I am not advocating mayhem. I do not think violence is the right recourse. But I am a woman of privilege. I am white-skinned, blonde and blue-eyed. I am educated. I am affluent. I married “a good man” and I have not ever experienced anything “really bad”. I have been spared much of “all that”. Not a high percentage of Earth’s female population can claim this.

But my blue eyes see the world around me. Too many of the women are at the mercy of their male family members. A male hierarchy dictates what they wear, what they say, whether or not they go to school. They are told who they will marry and how many children they will have. Their work is undervalued. Their wealth is not their own. The same men even tell women what God they must worship and obey. If they rebel, the repercussions are major. Physical, emotional and sexual violence cower most. And this does not only happen in “sh _ _ h _ l _ countries”. It happens to a greater or lesser extent everywhere, in every country of the world.

So Guys, if there is madness in “your” streets today, don’t ask WHY women do such things. And if there is none, be grateful you dodged the bullet.

Either way, perhaps it is time to ask what you ARE doing that improves the lives of women. And, what COULD you be doing differently?