cup runneth over

What do you take for granted?

Moving to Mexico has done a lot to change my assumptions and expectations. Some of what I needed to shift stemmed from my Type-A characteristics. Some of what I had to shift was due to where and how I was raised. I learned that nothing is perfect. I learned that things do not happen in my timing. I learned my privilege of being an educated Caucasian woman. I learned how what I thought were struggles and challenges were nothing in comparison to what others went through.

It wasn’t until Mexico that I really experienced firsthand how blessed I am in this lifetime. My family did not have much money, but I have learned we had much more than so many others. My family did not have a wall of college degrees, and yet we have more and better education than many. Just having consistent water and electricity, having a reliable car to drive, having money for some little extras, raises my quality of life above so many others. I also learned how this comfort I enjoy makes it more difficult for me to handle challenges. Over the past few years, I have learned my privilege, become grateful for those things I often overlook, and strive to provide empathy and support to others.

my cup runneth over
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

To help you have this same experience of gratitude for things we take for granted, I have written this piece to take you step-by-step through my journey to receive the covid vaccine. My intention is to just report the facts as I perceived them. As you read through the piece, notice how many things surprise and shock you. What do you take for granted?

DISCLAIMER: Although this post will share my experience with getting the Pfizer covid vaccine in Mexico, this post is not about any country, covid, the vaccine, or any other controversy. If you want to debate these things, maybe you want to explore why you want to express hate instead of gratitude.

The vaccine rollout in Mexico started December 2020 and was solely for medical professionals and front-line workers. The vaccine became available to those over 60 years old in February 2021. Starting in March, I began checking the government site to see when the vaccine was opened to my age group. I had access to a computer and internet. I was not worried because I was not at risk and I had a trip planned to the United States later in the year where I could obtain the vaccine. During 2020 and while waiting for the vaccine, I continued to work from home. The weather was pleasant and I had access to multiple safe walks through the mountains. I could order food online and pick it up with my own vehicle.

At the end of April, my health insurance agent – who is more of a health consultant – told me that the online portal for vaccine registration had opened up for my age group. I can afford health insurance. I was able to use my computer and internet to access the site. My Spanish language skills were sufficient, sometimes with help from an online translator, to register. The registration stated someone would call me with an appointment. I have a cellphone that I can charge and receive calls on.

I don’t remember if my neighbor or my insurance agent or both told me that vaccines would begin to be distributed the week of May 18th. On a neighborhood Whatsapp chat that I can access through the internet on my phone and I can access because I can pay the monthly fees to live in this community, I learned that others in my age group were receiving the vaccine. I was fortunate to have the time and ability to research how others obtained the vaccine. Had I not, I would still be waiting for a phone call.

I followed up with friends and neighbors who received the vaccine. One gave me the number of a man who offers to register individuals for the vaccine and provide them early times, for a small fee. Another provided the URL where I could sign up for an appointment.  The site only had appointments for that day, Sunday, at 5pm. I signed myself and my husband up and we immediately left in our car to go to the site. Upon arrival, we were told that they were out of vaccines. We provided our information and were told we would receive a call. Our only inconvenience was a wasted hour. Had we not had our own car, it would have cost us an Uber ride which may have been equal to the average half-day’s wages. If we could not have paid that, the local bus would not have gotten us to the location before it closed.

Monday morning, 8:45am, I received a call that we could receive the vaccine at a different location this morning at 9am. Again, we were fortunate enough to have our own vehicle and the money to pay for gas to get us to the location. We are also fortunate enough to have flexibility in our work to rearrange our day to accommodate this unexpected appointment. Some individuals could not have the ability to change their schedule nor afford to miss work.

When I registered on the initial website, it provided me with forms to download, fill out, and bring to the appointment. I had access to and could afford to have these printed out. I am able to read and write in Spanish to fill out the form. Other, Mexicans and expatriates, at the vaccination center did not have that ability. Staff and others receiving the vaccine who knew English asked if we had any questions and if we understood everything. They also assisted others who could not fill out their forms.

The vaccinations were administered at a school. I was able to walk from the front entrance to a staging area, to the room where the vaccines were given, to an outdoor waiting area to watch for side effects, through a back entrance, and then the two blocks back to our car. I saw elderly individuals being brought in taxis and assisted into the center. I am grateful I can walk, navigate stairs, and sit outside without discomfort.

The vaccination center was being run by the Red Cross, the marines, and a health organization. Hand sanitizer was provided to everyone entering the school. Everyone had some sort of face covering, although not all actually covered both the nose and mouth. Needles were new and the shot area was cleaned before injection. The medical staff did not wear gloves. In the waiting area, we were seated about six inches apart.

Everyone being vaccinated followed the same protocol. We saw three people we knew also being vaccinated: one a highly educated wealthy Mexican, one an American boat captain, and one a Mexican store clerk. All filled out the same forms. All stood in line. All receive the vaccine free.

We were told we would be called in a month for our second vaccine. If there are any issues receiving it in Mexico, we have a trip planned to the United States where we could receive the second vaccine.

Afterward, I shared on our community chat the steps we took so others could do the same.

Six years ago, I would not have handled this process as well. I would have wanted everything to be clearly communicated and for the process to be easy and seamless. What we experienced would have been stressful because I would have had different expectations. Thankfully, I flowed through the process. When there was a roadblock, I accepted it and looked for an alternative. I waited. I stood in line. I was patient.

I am grateful for the ability to:

  • Walk, see and hear.  
  • Read and write, in two languages.
  • Get where I want, when I want, how I want.
  • Receive information from and support my neighbors.
  • Communicate electronically and telephonically.
  • Pay for what I need when I need it.
  • Receive water, electricity, and internet to my home.
  • Accept things as they are.
  • Learn and continue to grow.

What do you take for granted? What are you grateful for?

handling covid-19

Dealing with the Fear of Uncertainty

At an online work meeting the other day, management shared this graphic which was found on LinkedIn. The message is beautiful, but unfortunately the author of the graphic could not be found. The graphic is focused on the current pandemic, yet the message can be applied to our lives in general.

who do I choose to be during the Covid-19

Over the last month or so, if I am going to be absolutely honest, I have been wavering between the fear, learning and growth zones. Two weeks before our state announced official stay-at-home requirements, I fell into the fear zone. The unknown tends to send us into fear. In the States, fear transformed into lack of toilet paper – for whatever reason. Being in a hurricane zone, it was funny to watch how like myself, my neighbors prepared for the virus like we would a hurricane. We stockpiled water and food. I saw lines at the gas stations. Our fears from previous storms, made us act similar ways – even though surviving a tropical storm is very different than surviving a virus.

Isn’t it interesting how our fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of others’ actions – makes us act in unhelpful ways? After leaving the hoarding phase, I noticed my tendency to use food (usually bad-for-me “comfort” food) and distraction (Candy Crush / Netflix) to make me feel better. If it did do anything to alleviate or dampen my fear, the affect was usually short-lived and often caused more issues than it solved. My unconscious mind thinks coffee, chocolate, and binge-watching are the easier, softer way to reduce my fear. All it really does is puts fear on a pause button, and then fear comes back with a vengeance once the pacifier is removed.

The seemingly easier, softer way is in the fear zone – sharing information (without fact checking), hoarding, blaming others, and drowning overthinking-brains in alcohol or carbs. Unfortunately, no matter what is going on, this does not work. What does work is when we can move into the learning or the growth zones.

These zones are full of acceptance, surrender, compassion, and conscious action. This is where we stop fighting reality and learn instead the power of accepting what is really going on. We surrender to the new reality and surrender our misguided belief that we can control the uncontrollable. We stop having pity-parties for ourselves and begin look to who we can help. Sometimes we are able to help in big ways as in the case of the front-line healthcare workers, sometimes it is an action like delivering food to shut-ins or those without work, and sometimes it just means picking up the phone and connecting with someone who needs to hear a friend’s voice.

The difference is that in the fear zone we are avoiding reality and believe we can control the uncontrollable. In the learning and growth zones, we accept reality and act on what is within our means to affect.

Take some time to review how you are handling this unprecedented situation. Which zone are you spending most of your time in? Don’t attack yourself for spending time in the fear zone; it happens as we are all human. Just use this review to consciously decide where you want to be and how you want to spend your time.

Hang in there. Share your success and struggles with us here.

Photo by whereslugo on Unsplash

What are you learning?

Over the past few weeks, I have spoken to many people who are, rightly so, having a challenging time right now. Being the glass-half-full kind of gal, although I acknowledge we are all going through some significant challenges, I believe this to be an amazing time.

Many of us were sleepwalking through life. We were focused on the future so much we were not in the moment with our friends and family. We were so focused on consumption, competition, and success that we forgot to be grateful. We looked at what we didn’t have, instead of all we do have.

In helping others navigate this time, I compare it to childbirth. The time of birth is filled with pain, stress, blood, sweat, and tears. We are not ourselves. We struggle and yell and want it to be over. We push and push and push until we can feel release. Then it happens. The joy of bringing something new and amazing into the world.

Photo by whereslugo on Unsplash

I truly believe that we are all birthing something new and amazing. We may be part of the greater whole recreating what is important on a grand level or it may be more personal. We may be learning acceptance and releasing unrealistic expectations in our own lives and relationships. Those I see in real pain are the ones who will not accept the new. They want to hold on to old ways and old beliefs which no longer serve anyone. For those people I feel sorry. They are trying to stop the inevitable and it will bring them nothing but hardship.

This is a new time. A time to simplify. A time to connect. A time to be grateful. A time to be in the moment.

Take a moment to look around you and consider, what do you really need? Two months ago, what did you feel you had to have or your life wouldn’t be complete? Was it the newest iPhone, a new car, or the new trend in clothing? How important are those things now? As you sit in your home, how many things look new to you because you had forgotten you had them? How many times have you tried to purchase happiness but found it to be lacking? Interesting how planning for our next meal and ensuring we have medical essentials can help us re-evaluate what we really “need.”

What do you take for granted? Being in a hurricane region puts a different perspective on the quarantine. My neighbors have been through a horrible hurricane that took out buildings, electric, and water supply. Being home with adequate food, water, and electric is a cakewalk for them. We have the basics. We are not scavenging for food or water. Is it an inconvenience and a real hardship for some to not have their source of income? Yes, absolutely. But they have been through worse. I know I am absolutely grateful I have a safe home to write this post plus electricity and internet to send it to you. When we don’t have much, we recognize all we have.

What will we take with us when this is “over”? What are you learning through this? About you and how you approach life? About what you find important? About what you can do differently? I am learning to really, truly be in the moment. To not miss out on an interaction with someone I love. To accept others fully and compassionately. To not negate what I have because I am looking at what’s next. I am learning to be. To live. To experience. To be in the moment. My goal when this is over and we are in the new normal, is that I continue to be present, to be grateful, to help those around me, and to embrace and accept that this is not only enough, but is really all there is.

What is this challenge teaching you? Share with us here.

couple greeting with a hug

You had me at hello

Mexico is just beginning its quarantine as cases here thankfully lag behind other parts of the world. This past week I ran to the utility companies to pay a few months in advance before practicing stay-at-home for the safety of all. It was so funny to see Mexicans who are used to greeting each other warmly and physically, having to keep social distance. I saw more than one couple recognize each other, begin to move in for the hug and single-cheek kiss, then back off awkwardly laughing. In these times, even greeting each other has shifted for all of us.

Lately, I am finding that I am taking that extra moment at the beginning of an email, phone call, or video chat to sincerely ask how someone is. Hopefully I had been doing that regularly with friends and family, but now I am finding that I am doing it with everyone with whom I interact. And I see others doing the same. One beautiful shift as a result of this pandemic is a return to humanity, concern, and compassion.

Photo by Chermiti Mohamed on Unsplash

Last fall my cousin who visits South Korean regularly, shared with me how they say hello. If you put 안녕하세요 (annyeong-haseyo) into a translator, it will translate this common South Korean greeting into “hello.” What my cousin explained to me is that the more accurate translation is, “are you at peace?” The literal translation sounds a bit like Yoda, “peace are you doing?” The common response is, “yes” or “yes, are you at peace?” Another common greeting translates to, “have you eaten?”. My cousin wondered if these phrases came about because of the hardships this community has experienced due to South Korea’s long history of war, invasion, and occupation, or perhaps they are the result of the Buddhist influence in the area.

These days I have noticed I have changed my common greeting to, “¿Cómo están tú y tu familia?” or “How are you and your family?” Before getting to business, before bringing up the reason for my call, I am checking in on that person’s mental and physical health and the well-being of their family. Seems like this should be a no-brainer and a common practice, but the fact that I notice I am doing it, means it was not a daily practice. I am also finding myself purposefully reaching out to people to remain connected and to provide support.

Unfortunately, this has made me realize the that although I have slowed down and become more considerate, being constantly and consistently focused on the well-being of those around me is still not innate or second nature for me. I am still challenged, as many of us are, to always focus on what is really important. Over the years, I have focused on titles, accomplishment, checklists, money, accumulation, and success, and each and every time I find that the connection to and health and well-being of friends and family are more important than everything else.

How is this time when most of the world is at rest, affecting what you perceive is important? How is it changing the quality of your connection and communication?

What’s New with You?

Just wanted to check in and see how you are. Anything new happen? Any changes in your daily routine? I am guessing yes, of course you are experiencing one or two changes to your norm.

We are all experiencing changes in our daily life. Change can be scary as our minds like consistency. Change, even good change, can send our minds into panic mode. Add in a little fear of the unknown and our minds jump into overdrive. But you don’t have to let your mind take you down a negative rabbit hole. Check out these tools to help you make the most of these changing times.

Focus on What is True

Much of the pain that we feel right now is fear of the future. Will I or someone I care about get the virus? What will happen? Do I have enough food and supplies in my home? What will happen to my job or my stock portfolio?

Stop. Get in the moment. Notice your body. Do a scan from your feet to your head. Use your body to get into the current moment. Right now, right in this moment, do you have everything you need? Are you fed? Do you have air to breathe? Do you have a loved one nearby or within virtual reach?

We can not predict the future. In fact, how many times have you worried about an outcome that never happened? Every time you feel fearful about what things will look like weeks or months from now. Stop. Come back to your body. Come back to this moment. I find that 99% of the time, things are fine in this moment. Stay in this moment and you can find peace.

Don’t Feed the Fire

The internet is full of fear, worry and catastrophe. Most of this is not created by the professional news media but in the human spread of disinformation. Before you accept or spread what you read, check that it is true, kind, and helpful.

True: Do some research. Did the information come from a trustworthy site? Can it be corroborated by other information sites? Are the experts noted real and trustworthy?  Just because something is posted does not make it true. Do the research.

Kind: Is the information filled with hate speech? Does it attack one group or another? Even if the information is true, if the article is written in a way that creates anger or fear it is no good to anyone.

Helpful: Does the information help others be better prepared? Does it tell them how to seek assistance? Does it calm down frayed nerves? Will your sharing of the information make someone’s life better – or worse?

If what you read is not true, kind, and helpful, do not spread it to others.

Be Smart

We are in a new world. We need to learn new ways to relate in and navigate the world. Focus on being prepared but not in panic mode. As John Oliver said, and I paraphrase (using cleaner language), don’t be so afraid you are drinking bleach and don’t be so smug that this doesn’t affect you that you are licking subway poles. Be somewhere in the middle. Listen to the scientists. Learn how other countries are handling things and emulate their good practices.

In truth, I believe this is an amazing time. It is hard to deny now that we are a global community. It is time to come together with compassion and understanding. It is time to begin sharing and collaborating. We are moving into a new age where we see our undeniable interrelation. Sometimes we need a big shakeup to help us realize where we are off course. Start living a new way in this new world by following the suggestions above. Stay calm and be happy.