Tag Archives: Breaking Free

Going Off Her Meds and Heading for Mexico

“Breaking Up With My Meds” is the first post of a new series of incredibly brave articles drolly titled “Going Off.”  Diana Spechler is the writer, and her column appears in The New York Times, under the category Anxiety. The last two paragraphs grabbed me. They talk about our modern society’s yearning “to become spotless on the inside,” a flute tune that resonates with the drum I’ve been beating for some time — our need to reclaim the original definition of virginity.

“I wish I could meet that young woman,” I thought at the time. “She is a real live virgin.” I promptly forgot her name.

It is the magic of the Writers Conference of San Miguel de Allende that Sunday afternoon, yesterday, standing in the gardens of the Hotel Real de Minas, I asked a new acquaintance what she wrote. “I’ve just begun a series for The New York Times,” she answered, “about going off my meds for depression.”

And so begins a friendship, Facebook and otherwise. Diana Spechler. You should remember her name.

“Honorary Virgins”

“Honorary virgins.” The phrase has stuck in my head ever since I read it last Friday in The New York Times. It had to do with Republicans who will probably be swept into office today. “The fact that they aren’t incumbents is a technicality,” Russell Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers explains. “They still have a lot of political experience.”

The quote caught my attention because I’m always on the lookout for good virgin references.  My own book is Virgin Territory: How I Found My Inner Guadalupe. But I set this quote aside at the time, because frankly, I just didn’t want to get into the whole political scene. That’s one of the reasons we moved four years ago to Mexico, where the Virgin of Guadalupe is everywhere. We were just tired of the fight – tired of the polarization, the rhetoric, and the battles being waged on so many levels and on so many fronts. Yes, we voted for Obama, and No, we didn’t expect the world to be transformed by his presence. We did expect to see a few new faces in the administration on the financial front. That didn’t happen. But I’m still grateful he was elected. It was transformational for the country in the mere fact that it was done. It was proof that a majority of Americans are looking for a new way of doing things. Obama, if he is not re-elected in 2012, will be able to play with more freedom on the world stage than he could as President of the United States. Like Jimmy Carter, the presidency may serve for him as a springboard to greater accomplishments. It may be one of many accomplishments for which Obama will be known.

“Being known” is what draws me to that phrase “honorary virgin.” There is, as I’m sure we’re all aware, a Biblical sense of that word, as in “And Adam knew Eve, and she conceived.” Carnal knowledge is what we associate with losing virginity. But that’s the kind of virginity that deals in technicalities. The concept of virginity that I’ve been touting is that of the original meaning of the Greek word translated virgin. That would be someone who was “one-in-herself,” a complete entity, undefined by any relationship other than the original one she had with her Creator. It was this kind of virginity that Mary expressed when she said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord!” She didn’t say, “What are Mom and Dad going to think?” or “How is this going to play down at the temple?”

I’d like to reclaim my own virginity. I don’t want to be known as somebody’s daughter, somebody’s wife, or somebody’s mother. I don’t want to be solely identified by any carnal relationship, real or metaphorical. And that includes, in particular, the body politic. Don’t shove me in a corner and stick me with the name of Republican, Democrat, or anything else. Looking at the options offered, I feel my mental knees slamming shut. You don’t know me! You can’t know me!

I grew up attending church, so I’m hardwired with Bible language. The Sunday service I went to always ended with the same verse from First John, which included these words: “Therefore the world knoweth us not.” It came on the heels of words by Mary Baker Eddy that said that right here and now, we were not material beings, but spiritual.  I had a real Aha! moment a few years back when I read about the practice of using acronyms for legal charges in Victorian England. So when someone was arrested for engaging the services of a prostitute we do not find the entire entry, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” but just the first letter of each word. “Aha!” I saw. “It’s only when I lose sight of who I really am, and identify myself as some body, or with some “body” of thought, that I get, ahem, known.”

The people of the United States, the citizens who pay taxes and have seen Wall Street and the banks bailed out, have been well and truly known. Many would indeed use that f-word.  And still we get promises that So-and-so running for such-and-such knows how we feel. In all due respect you don’t know how I feel. But that’s not to say I don’t want to be known.  I just want it to be more. I’ve voted, but I honestly don’t think that the seeds of what I as a person, or we as a nation will become lie in what goes on in Washington. We’ve been there, done that, and done it over and over again. Right now we’ve been used, violated, and left on the side of the road. No mortal hero, congressional, senatorial or presidential is going to fix that.

One manner of dealing with trauma, the most common, is dissociation. People seal themselves off, isolate the hurt, find ways, consciously or not, to avoid thinking about it. That’s another reason I left the country. But being broken can also mean being broken open. I refer with tongue in cheek to “My Inner Guadalupe.” It’s a euphemism, inspired by my new surroundings, for that open place inside of each of us that’s ready for new things. I’m wondering if we’re ready as Americans for that “new thing.” Are we ready, rather than being the all-knowledgeable, all knowing, to open up and be, well, virginal?

Open up to whom? Or should I ask, to what? I find myself tip-toeing around God-talk these days — even another reason for my geographical distance. There are some subjects that are too intimate, too tender for those who are traumatized to articulate, or hash over on talk radio or television in soundbites. That’s why the Psalms have served humanity over millennia. They give us words to express our longings, a means to voice our pain. Confronted with public noise, recorded phone messages, a barrage of advertising and rhetoric, I whisper ancient words. “Behold, you want truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom.” Modern words from The Message put it this way:What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.”

Maybe what we need is not a new Congress or even a new President. Maybe what we need is a midwife.

Practical advice on dealing with bullies

Seems I’m on a campaign these days against bullying. The major part of my recent posts deal with the subject. I didn’t set out to do that, but it just seems pertinent these days, and I don’t think I’ve lost focus from what Virgin Territory and “my Inner Guadalupe” are all about.

“What has standing up to bullies got to do with Guadalupe?” you ask.  Well, remember it was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that Father Hidalgo raised when Mexico was going up against the bully named Spain. In fact revolutionary movements have often raised the image of the Virgin. Virgin qualities — being whole, complete, un-captured, un-invaded, un-broken and intact — are what sustain us against bullies. And some sound practical advice comes in handy as well. Check out this article

Stand up to the Bully named FEAR

The economy here on Jaltemba Bay, the body of water on which sits our adopted home in Guayabitos, has received a one-two punch this year. I hope it’s not down for the count.

First of all, Mexico received more rain last summer than they have EVER received in a summer before. It was record-breaking. Most news stories have focused on the States of Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz. The devastation is heart-wrenching, if one has not become inured to images of soggy humanity across the hemispheres, east and west.

But there was lots of rain here on the central Pacific Coast north of Puerto Vallarta. In fact the northbound two-lane span of the bridge which takes us from here on Jaltemba Bay to there on bigger Banderas Bay washed away completely. Here we are, not quite cut off from the airport, Sam’s Club and COSTCO (I speak with tongue in cheek), but having to expand our timelines to accommodate time spent confined to one lane each direction.

No lives here were lost on a par with Oaxaca or Veracruz, gracias a Dios, as our neighbors remind us.  But being able to make a living has definitely taken a nosedive. Here in the State of Nayarit, for a period of about seven weeks this past summer we received between six and eight inches practically every night. Where does most of that water go? Away! And it carries a lot of infrastructure and landscape with it. “Worse than Kenna,” my friend Chelo intones, nodding her head sadly, referring to the 2002 hurricane from which the local market town of La Penita has never fully recovered. It was only this past winter that further progress was made in clearing the waterfront wreckage from that storm.  Kenna came and went, as giant whirlwinds are wont to do. The rain this past summer was relentless, a slow pummeling of a people and economy that were already on the ropes, weakened by bad press revolving around narcotraficante wars and swine flu.

The bruises from this recent pounding are evident. The main roads into both San Pancho and Sayulita, beach towns to the south of us, are still closed. Access to those towns is by pedestrian footbridge in one case and in the other by a circuitous route that bumps and grinds its way through back streets full of potholes. Gas trucks with fresh water and butane have difficulty supplying their customers. This is not great for tourism.

There’s more. The famous surfing beach at Sayulita that attracts winter crowds of experts as well as wannabes is now a sand bar way off shore.  The stretch of sand in front of Don Pedro’s Restaurant where rows of cobalt blue cabanas and beach chairs used to stand sentry over the surfers are gone. Water laps at the wall right below your “beach side” table.  And the pavement on Highway 200, the artery that connects these beach towns like pendants and beads on a necklace – it can be as unpredictable as that necklace you buy on the beach.  Don’t put a lot of stress on it, or it will break and scatter the pieces it’s supposed to hold together.

Number two punch, actually two short jabs right to the gut, were travel advisories issued by both the Canadian and U. S. governments. There’s nothing like putting an official stamp of approval on a rampant case of heebie-jeebies. Every time there is a shooting in Juarez or Tijuana, ten people or more cancel a trailer park reservation in Guayabitos, La Peñita, or Lo de Marcos, all of them over a thousand miles to the south. Yes there is violence along the border, but it is a rare case indeed when touring motorists are involved. On our two trips crossing the border this summer, we had no problems. We hear the same from the friends who have started trickling back into town. Their stories match ours: The Federales were present at many checkpoints, and all were solicitous that Americans and Canadians feel safe and secure in their travels. In our own case, the immigration official at the Columbia crossing west of Laredo was particularly cordial when he stamped our documents. The cleaning lady had had to go wake him up, as we were the first foreign visitors to come through in several hours. He was overjoyed to see us! And for those who are especially cautious, the Green Angels have offered free escort service to anyone who wants it.

So this is directed to those who love this area, who think of it as a second home. Are you a fair-weather friend? Your second home neighbors miss you! Get into the ring and lend a hand. Mexico wants you here. Mexico needs you here. Yes, flights into Vallarta are full of one week vacationers, but snowbirds from the frozen north — snowbirds who spend months here, not days — are the bread and butter of this coast. These are the people who provide fuel for the local economy, a hitherto growing economy fostering a burgeoning middle class, an economy that provided a buffer and defense against those narcotraficante recruitment posters that ask, “Tired of eating beans and rice? Join us!”

Come on! Do your part. Let’s stand up to the bully named FEAR. If you’re going to throw in the towel, do it on the beach!

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Mexico Road Trips is a site that offers traffic and safety reports. Check them out. They are frank, up front and reliable. Dot and Bill Bell have put more miles on their car traveling Mexico’s highways than anyone else I know – 10,000 miles alone this summer, crossing the border many times.

Saying YES strikes a chord

The advantage of being on the road and talking with live audiences is I get to look in people’s faces and see what makes their eyes light up.  After pointing out that Mary (as in the mother of Jesus)  didn’t respond to the angel’s announcement with, “hmmm, let me think about this,” the concept that “Real virgins say YES” is a real turn on to my feminine listeners.  That’s a light-switch-in-your-thought kind of turn-on I’m talking about — that we each have a divine purpose, a reason for being on the planet at this time. The planet needs us to step up and say YES to our purpose, embrace it and go forward.

We need to be prepared not only mentally and spiritually for the work, but physically as well. My friend Connie Pierce lost 180 pounds when she started saying YES to her divine purpose. She’s a Virgin Territory reader. Here’s her take away….

Young Guadalupes

I wrote Virgin Territory with an older audience in thought — women over fifty “reclaiming virginity” — the ability to say yes to life and move into new experiences.  But I’m surprised to find a growing audience with younger women. I’m not just  talking “younger” as in younger than me, a segment of the population I find distressingly large sometimes. These are women in their twenties or almost twenties. They are remarkable for the life experience they’ve had, and I’m humbled and awed by their eagerness to take that experience and go out to change the world.  I talked with several last Thursday night at Art Six Coffee House near the University of North Texas in Denton. Have a look at the recent blog post of one of the participants. I’d never heard this song, Uncharted, but it sure sounds like Virgin Territory to me!

Out standing in our fields, leaving footprints in the furrows

I just finished reading my friend Connie’s new book My Journey of Real Life Weight Loss: How I lost over 180 Pounds. Unlike the process she went through, the book is  a quick and easy read. But yikes!  Does it ever pack a punch! I happened to read it the same day I attended a local kindergarten graduation here in Mexico. Earnest young dads guided even younger madres with mud clinging to their achy-breaky high heels across a rain-soaked field to watch their offspring — four-year-olds dressed to the nines — promenade and receive certificates. Have a look and read more.

Both events brought home to me the importance families play in forming the concepts we carry of ourselves. Now that’s a muddy field if ever there was one. Don’t we all have stories?! I shared some of mine in the last chapter of Virgin Territory. The responses I received ranged from “Yay!” to “Yikes!” (or something sort of like that.) The fact is, when we start speaking from that Inner Guadalupe place, the terrain can get sticky. Opinions as to family history can vary widely. As Connie points out, “In the end it is our individual thought about something that gives it validation.”

But in her book I hear a Guadalupe cry of pure honesty. She tells a personal saga so many can relate to – the constant self-condemnation, self-depreciation, and heartbreak that comes when we judge ourselves by what others think – or even what we think others might be thinking. How Connie broke free of that imposition and made a bee-line straight for her original Creator is the most important part of her story. Her sense of self-esteem came first. It wasn’t a reward for losing weight. That’s the true and proper order for results that last forever. That goes for so much more than just weight loss, right?

For those who are ready to change their thought as well as their bodies, Connie offers a whole different mirror for self-examination. She’s a pioneer in “virgin territory” of her own. I for one want to give her a resounding, “YAY!”

“YAY!” Connie Pierce’s New Book

I just finished reading my friend Connie’s new book My Journey of Real Life Weight Loss: How I lost over 180 Pounds. It’s a quick and easy read, but, boy, does it pack a punch! I read it the same day I attended a local kindergarten graduation here in Mexico. Both events brought home to me the importance families play in forming the concepts we carry of ourselves. Now that’s a field fertile for discussion. Don’t we all have stories?! I shared some of mine in the last chapter of Virgin Territory. The responses I received ranged from “Yay!” to “Yikes!” When we start speaking from that Inner Guadalupe place, it is bound to make some people uncomfortable.

In her book Connie has raised a Guadalupe cry of pure honesty She tells a personal saga so many can relate to – the constant self-condemnation, self-depreciation, and heartbreak that comes when we judge ourselves by what others think – or even what we think others may be thinking. How she broke free of that imposition is the most important part of this book. Her sense of self-esteem came first. It wasn’t a reward for losing weight. For those who are ready to change their thought as well as their bodies, Connie offers a whole different mirror for self-examination. I for one want to give her a resounding, “YAY!”