No machismo en mi casa: My man does all the housework

Unlike most women, I am childless by choice at age 42 after a decade of traveling solo in Central America. I am an intensely independent woman who loves her freedom and gets off on an insatiable thirst for adventure. I don’t want to be tied down, which means I probably don’t want to get pregnant. After moving a year ago from tropical-wet Belize to the tropical-arid Oaxaca coast of Mexico, my sensual wetness dried up almost entirely when I looked around at the paucity of potential suitors. I told myself that I’d given up on having a Mexican boyfriend, as much as I’d given up on the Belizean men: all they wanted were babies and a dutiful housewife. No, thanks. I’ve got other plans.

Like one in four women, I have been the target of physical and verbal abuse by former male partners, ranging from near-death by strangulation to invectives and subtle manipulation, leaving me with many dramatic stories to tell. After two decades of downright failures and otherwise mere approximations at shacking up with a good guy, I am now partnered with a peaceful Mexican man who is not abusive. He is far beyond the “machismo” male typically associated with his culture, as depicted in the recent drama film “Roma”, which illustrates the plight of two Mexican women partnered with machismo Mexican men. Things don’t go swimmingly for either of them, as they are relegated to single motherhood and shouldering the heavy load of daily housework, not excluding the task of shoveling up dog poop from the driveway, and, to top that off, being abused and disrespected on a daily basis. On the contrary, my Mexican man is not at all like these “pendejos” (jerks), although there seem to be plenty of them to go around.

With my preference for long hours of voluntary solitude, meditation, yoga and constant travel to new places, I simply don’t fit the profile that most Latino men seem to prefer—kitchen-bound and pregnant. A year after making the bold move to live and work full time in Mexico, I am delighted that these cultural norms don’t apply to my current partnership with a strapping, middle-aged Mexican man, a fisherman and lover of the sea, born and raised on the Oaxaca coast. He owns and operates a coconut palm tree-shaded hotel and restaurant that he built himself on the beach. He has an impressively full range of useful, practical skills: lifeguard, construction worker, landscaper, plumber, electrician, cook, housekeeper…. This dude defies the stereotypes about Mexican men: He’s not into soccer, and he seems happy doing all the housework—cooking, cleaning, shopping, and more. Don’t get me wrong; he is a straight male with a healthy, intact libido. Again, don’t get me wrong; this guy is by no means an opportunist, using me for a green card to the US, a place he says he’d be crazy to go, unless he were to be overcome by his own death wish. Neither living nor visiting the US interests him in the least bit, and I join him whole-heartedly in our shared preference to live and work south of Trump’s hostile border wall.

I’m a white Caucasian American transplant to this rural part of Mexico, where smiling, brown people in sombreros abound in a land of delicious tacos and Corona beer. Needless to say, my whiteness stands out in our small community, especially when I’m arm-in-arm with my handsome, dark partner. We capture the attention of our neighbors, mostly divorced Mexican women who stare as we stroll by, silently stewing in jealousy and wishing they too could find a “good man”, as I hope someday they do. Maybe then, we would get fewer envy-laden glares from the local women. We are the “chisme” (talk of the town) in our newfound cohabiting happiness.

Evidently, our relationship is fascinating to these women, because they can’t imagine a man voluntarily doing all the chores. My guy knows he’s under the watchful eye of our catty neighbors, but he doesn’t care. At sunrise he takes out the trash and sweeps the front walkway, while I don jogging gear and enjoy a half hour jaunt up and down the length of the beach with our dog before heading to work all day. As soon as I return home, he (and the dog) are there to greet me at the door with a resplendent smile, dinner already cooking on the stove and the laundry done. He has folded my clothes in a neat pile by my bedside. I have gotten into the habit of showing up with a cold bottle of beer at the end of the day to “reward” him for his domestic triumph and show my appreciation for his readiness to rebel against his own culture’s norms.

We live (and sleep) together in biracial bliss, but our daily paid work obliges us to fill very different roles. Every day, while he stays home, tends to his hotel guests and handles all the housework, maintenance and repairs, among other odd jobs; I earn a steady paycheck in pesos. He does all the heavy lifting and sweats profusely in the intense tropical heat, while I take on a more “intellectual” role in our dynamic duo. I enjoy the privilege of a Mexican version of the ivory tower of academia, comfortably ensconced most of the day writing and reading in my cozy office whenever I’m not teaching Mexican university students how to read, speak and write as fluently as possible in English.

I am proud of our mutually agreed upon division of labor. We have achieved a collaborative effort to earn a respectable, decent living in a part of the world where the average household income is around $500 US dollars. (Yes, you read that correctly: five-hundred US dollars. Per month. And we live comfortably on that amount). Even if I were not here, my man would be financially stable without me, and vice versa. I have a Master’s degree and a diverse, marketable skill set; he has his own thriving business in a popular tourist destination. And he definitely wouldn’t miss my help around the house. I tell him half-jokingly, “you cook the food; I’ll buy the groceries.” Mostly, I’m serious about that. I don’t take to the kitchen very readily, and if I do, I put away the clean dishes and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

To make our partnership all the more countercultural, he doesn’t even get jealous when I put my hands all over other men’s bodies, which I enjoy doing several times a week. (Seriously!) As a licensed, certified massage therapist, I have butt-naked men in close quarters regularly, and I deliver up what I know to be a wallop of professionally delivered relief from stress and tension, with absolutely no sex involved or solicited by neither me nor my clients. Most working class people in Mexico—myself included—rely on more than one skill set and find ways to live resourcefully. In addition to my daily work at the university, I enjoy my side gig as a massage therapist in this small community, where rumors spread quickly. If I were not entirely professional in my therapeutic services, everyone here would know within an hour or two. My partner actually encourages me to keep rubbing on his friends, because we both knows it helps them, and he knows how much I love to give massages. Eventually, he says, I will be able to open my own business here. I can help you, he tells me. While I am grateful for his help, I know I can do that myself. I’m fluent in Spanish, highly skilled and not afraid to go out and get what I want.

I knew within a month or so of moving here that I didn’t want a typical Mexican male as a partner. That’s why I chose him. He has already fulfilled his biological imperative to procreate: He has two grown sons and a five-year-old granddaughter, in addition to three thriving businesses. So far, he seems to need nothing from me other than my companionship. As a career-oriented, ambitious woman who spends over an hour every day in advanced yoga postures and eschews the ephemeral, I need a man who isn’t afraid to sweep or do the laundry. When I clock out of my full-time university gig, I want to come home to a happy partner, a clean house and a cooked dinner. (I sound like such a misogynist…. Wait. I’m a woman!) Achieving such an atypical domestic arrangement is my own dream come true, and it stretches the limits of what I thought were possible with any man, let alone a Mexican.

Last night when I got home late from work, he had an enormous plate of oysters on display with sliced limes that he picked from the backyard, and the oysters?—well, they are plentiful here in the Pacific Ocean along the Oaxaca coastline, and he is happy to do the precarious work of maneuvering the rocks and dangerous current to select the best ones, pry them open and clean them out. Oysters can only be eaten by sucking and slurping, and yes, they definitely get you in the mood. Loaded with milky white juices rich in vitamins and minerals, oysters are a natural aphrodisiac.

Today he’s going fishing, and for dinner, he says, we’ll have fresh fish with steamed vegetables. After dinner, I’ll give him a massage on the veranda under the coconut palm trees. I’d say I’ve got it made in a tropical paradise with the man of my dreams, and I have no doubt he’d say the same about me (in Spanish). After all, we live on Playa del Amor (the Beach of Love), and there is plenty of love to be made every day.

https://youtu.be/rs6Y4kZ8qtw

Advertisements

Things seem to get better with age

“Just because something is old and used doesn’t mean you have to go out and replace it with a new one.” — Sodaiho Harvey Hilbert

When I was in graduate school I joined an order of Zen Buddhist practitioners who gathered twice annually in the snow-covered mountains of New Mexico for a silent meditation retreat. Our beloved abbot, a PhD professor at the university, guided the retreat and gave the kind of wisdom-laden, spiritual “dharma” talks that had us all sitting with straight backs on the edges of our buckwheat-filled zazen cushions, eager students wanting to be filled to the brim with new insight and green tea on Japanese style trays.

I must have been ready to hear what my Zen master had to teach, because over a decade later, his wisdom-filled words still resonate like the sound of the metal gong that is struck throughout the day to signal a shift in attention.

My master was a perfect one for my twenty-something body, as I was (and still am, to some degree), an avid runner. During my graduate school days, I didn’t feel quite right unless I ran at least 3 miles daily. In keeping with Zen Buddhist teachings, this of course could not remain permanent in my now 40-something-year-old body, though I have managed to live up to my master’s behest: “Decades from now,” he said to me, “I want you to come back to this monastery and do yoga on my porch.”

(I couldn’t respond to him at the time, because we were in a silent retreat). Let’s just say his words made a deep impression on me, and I wished very much to live up to it.

Sodaiho had us all running together for miles and competing in regional competitions where we sported our Zen-consciousness t-shirts that said “Stillness in Motion”. He cheered us on at the finish line because he always finished first, to our amazement. We were proud to be his students, and I’m sure he inspired me to keep striving for … well, come to think of it, nothing.

I mean, that was the whole point of running. To be in a state of motion without getting anywhere at all. To realize that the finish line was no different than each footfall during the race to nowhere. To be here… now.

So, I suppose that’s why I still go jogging years later, to practice stillness in motion, which is why I keep practicing yoga postures. It’s all a metaphor for life. No matter what the circumstances, don’t identify with your posture (attitudes, beliefs, opinions) and definitely don’t expect it to stay the same forever. (Have you ever been in a headstand posture before?)

Things change. They break, fall apart, go away, reappear, and get repaired. People. Things. Relationships. Jobs. Every. Thing. Changes. Constantly.

This morning, by the end of my jog, I discovered that my running shoes had worn out completely. I jogged the rest of the way home with my toes sticking out, socks getting soggy in the puddles. I smiled and remembered Sodaiho’s wise words during our retreat: “Just because something gets old doesn’t mean you have to go out and replace it with a new one.”

I’ve been using the same pair of old sneakers for 5 years and I’ve literally run them into the ground. I think they’re beyond repair. But I held onto them and used them until I couldn’t anymore. Why replace them with a shinier, newer brand? Like wine and cheese, most things seem to get better with age.

I’m learning to consider how this teaching applies to my significant relationships. I might be better at keeping sneakers than partners. I think that’s worth some deeper introspection. I’ve been discussing this with my neighbor, a wise and respected elder in my community. He’s taught me things that are more valuable than all the gold in the world.

In the folly of our youthfulness, we can forget the value of spending time with our elders, listening to their wisdom. When we know it all, pride could prevent us from appreciating the good that comes with age and experience.

This post is dedicated to my teacher, Sodaiho. (It’s because of you that my running shoes got so worn out). I’m still practicing. What else is there to do?

Call me crazy (I don’t care): I consider it a compliment

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” —Krishnamurti

I’m not mentally handicapped and no one has declared me to be mentally ill, though I’ve been evaluated by licensed professionals. My accolades, among other accomplishments of merit, would indicate that I’m highly intelligent: I was valedictorian of both my high school and college class, which means that I graduated with the highest academic achievements of my classes and delivered the valedictory speech at my graduation ceremonies. I’ve written and published over a dozen books.

I’d like to think that my intelligence would port over into all aspects of my life, including relationships, but history would demonstrate that I’ve fallen short in that area. I suppose that’s one reason I’m still alive: I have more opportunities to learn and grow, at least in terms of relationships. But then, I know a lot of smart people who are challenged in relating well to others, probably because our brains have the capacity to entertain, ponder and originate far more ideas, concepts and theories than most other people. For those of us whose minds are firing at the speed of light, we typically don’t relate well to others.

Consider the bell curve. For those on the far end of the spectrum, we are fewer in number. We prefer to spend time alone. We tend to isolate ourselves. We are geniuses. Prodigies. Anomalies.

Like autistic people, we can’t help but express—sometimes nonverbally—what we are actually seeing, thinking and feeling. Everyday social interactions become uninteresting and difficult, because most people can’t seem to get beyond superficialities. We tend to relate better to animals and nature.

As a highly intelligent woman who speaks her mind and follows her heart, I’ve been accused of being “crazy” on numerous occasions by people who are not worthy of mention here. I take no offense, because I know that the designation “crazy” bears no real meaning: “Crazy” is a label that is often slapped onto people, especially women, whose ideas, behavior and/or actions stray from the norm. Again, consider the bell curve. For women on the far end of the spectrum, we are fewer in number. We end up alone because there are fewer men who make suitable matches, and we prefer not to compromise. Our standards are … higher than most.

When a woman is considered to be “crazy”, it is most likely due to the fact that she challenges and therefore compels others to question reality. She is courageous enough to examine her assumptions, therefore inciting others to do the same. Willingness to look more profoundly and honestly at oneself and the world inevitably makes one more accountable to self and others. Women, in general, possess the uncanny ability to intuitively “know” things that are beyond the purview of most men. It’s something we do because we nurture life. We are in tune with the cycles of nature.

Women understand the cycles of life more naturally than men, while men often try to control and dominate the natural cycles. Women know this isn’t possible, so we gracefully and graciously stand aside while the men run around asserting themselves, to no effect. Look where it’s gotten us.

When a woman is labelled “crazy”, it’s probably because she doesn’t accept things the way they are…. She probably misbehaves and gets called a “bad girl”… She doesn’t politely say “yes” and follow directions like an automaton. She is probably stubborn, strong-willed and unwilling to accept the status quo. A lot of people probably don’t like her. In the past, she was burned at the stake, whereas in modern times, she gets unfriended on Facebook and smeared on social media.

I know, because I am one of these women. I don’t know whether or not I’d prefer not to be one of these women.

In a patriarchal society marked by gender inequality, men seem to assume that they are in control and pretend to dominate nature. When outspoken women like me take a stand—regardless of how eloquent or compelling our verbal expression—it’s common for us highly intelligent women to be labelled “crazy”, especially those of us who are change-makers: Our words and actions challenge the sociopolitical norms. Women who catalyze change in a patriarchal society will inevitably be vilified, ostracized or, at worst, killed by the sociopathic patriarchy.

It’s been happening for centuries. Consider the Middle Ages. The Salem witchcraft trials. The classic novel, The Scarlet Letter. Women who push the envelope often end up pushed overboard, burned at the stake, or sliced into pieces and buried.

Like the elephant tied to a rope on a stake, perhaps we women have gotten so used to it that we don’t realize we have the strength to break free. For some of us, we’ve given up. We’ve stopped making waves. We’ve gone into hiding. We probably cry a lot. We’re probably accused of being “overly emotional”…. Here, I’d like to reiterate the masterful Krishnamurti’s incisive observation on this topic:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Do I need to convince my readers how and why our society has become profoundly sick? I think not. I surmise that the latest news media can make the case convincingly enough without further commentary. This, incidentally, is why I live the way I do.

I practice “non-participation”, at least politically speaking. I don’t bother keeping up with the news. I make my own news. Every day.

I believe that I make a powerful statement by living the way I do and being who I am.

Since I am living within a profoundly sick society replete with sociopaths all over the world, I realize and accept that I could die any day, at any moment. I could be intentionally or inadvertently killed by a wild animal or, more likely, a member of my own species.

I am proud to be “overly emotional”…. I make a sincere effort to cry and wail as often as possible: Not only is it cathartic, but I believe that it is spiritually uplifting and therefore necessary for anyone who wishes to be honest with themselves about who they are, especially living within a profoundly sick society. Most people can’t handle a woman wailing. It’s easier to simply call her “crazy”… when in actuality, she is the sanest one of all for shedding heartfelt tears.

We women have good reasons to cry and wail. We need to. We ought to. We must express our heartfelt emotion and not suppress our emotion. Perhaps this would serve men, too, but in order to do so, men would need to overcome significant social constructs that limit men from being openly vulnerable and emotionally expressive. Here, I digress.

Proverbially speaking, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m honest with myself and therefore I make it possible for other people to be honest with me and maybe with themselves too.

It appears to be my role to hold myself and others accountable to their actions—actions that they otherwise wouldn’t be accountable to, were it not for their happenstance interactions with me. Consider my history: I have played a pivotal role in landing five men in jail and having two men reported to the local police and/or FBI for their unlawful activities. Over the course of my life, I’ve noticed that when people get close to me, whether physically or emotionally, I catalyze some kind of transformation for them, whether it be physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual. I suppose it has something to do with my role as what could be called a “healer”: I fervently hold a clear intention, which I put out to the universe in prayer every morning, to be of utmost service to my fellow humans and to myself.

I remind myself of the female protagonist in Terry Goodkind’s fantasy novel, Wizard’s First Rule. “The Confessor” is the woman from whom anyone can receive redemption by revealing and confessing their most egregious sins. I don’t claim to be a “confessor”, though my history would demonstrate that I’ve played a similar role in the lives of people too numerous to keep count. When I interact with people to any significant degree, I always manage to be some sort of influence in making them accountable to themselves and to the world. I’d like to think this means that I hold myself accountable, but I’m not certain. I think I’m still learning.

An experienced Mayan astrologer once explained to me that my day and time of birth designates me as “Toj”, which means that I am instrumental in rebalancing what would otherwise remain imbalanced. This implies that wherever I show up, everyone’s dirty laundry is bound to come to the surface, be scrubbed clean and aired out. Including my own transgressions. It’s not an easy or envious job, and it’s certainly not glamorous.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I seem to have no choice in the matter. I catalyze transformation, wherever I go, no matter how hard I try not to. It just … happens. It makes for challenging relationships. It’s an unpopular role. Who wants to hang out with the lady who makes you confess your most embarrassing sins? It’s a lonely job, but I suppose somebody’s got to do it. Apparently, somewhere along the way, I volunteered for the job. Since it appears I have no choice in the matter, I might as well make the most of it.

My friend, a fellow therapist, once described her perception of me thus: “You are challenging. You bring stuff up.”

What I assume she meant by this comment is that I have a way of bringing hidden “stuff” to the surface to be looked at. Examined. Questioned. Transformed into something different. I incite change. I know others who seem to do the same, though we are few in number, and we’re not sought out for Saturday night parties. After all, we’re… challenging.

I’m proud of who I am, but, as I’ve already mentioned, it’s not an easy job. I need breaks, which is why I prefer solitude and remote places surrounded by nature. In isolation, I can turn my shit-stirring penchant inward and focus on myself. But in due time, I need other people to act as my mirror. After all, they’re all me, anyway. Where do I end and you begin? If I can see it in you, then I must have it somewhere inside of myself. Ultimately, I’m responsible for myself, which implies that I am responsible for everything I experience, including whatever I observe in others.

I once related these insights to a dear friend of mine who is the author of a historical romance in which the goddess-like female protagonist is imbued with superhuman powers of intuition, beauty, and far-reaching influence.

“I keep sending guys to court and putting them in jail,” I told him, expressing my dismay.

He replied, tongue-in-cheek, “Callin’ court, Queenie?” referring to what he perceives as my “larger-than-self” role as an empowered woman, holding men accountable to their actions within an otherwise imbalanced, patriarchal society. The Confessor.

It’s no wonder that many men—and women who side with them—would prefer to call me “crazy”: It’s easier to invalidate the person who is holding up the mirror than it is to take a good, long, honest look. I know, because I’m guilty of it, too. I confess. And I don’t need a priest to make my confession. I confess of my own accord, within my own heart, which I believe is precisely what “The Confessor” character symbolizes: She is the goddess within all of us; the unconditionally loving female who listens, nurtures and loves us, no matter what. We all need a good dose of her medicine on a daily basis.

I suppose I am capable of offering this kind of medicine, to the extent I’m empowered to do so, with specific people under specific circumstances. I’ve put out my proverbial shingle to wit, and it appears that the universe colludes to support me in my intention to be available as a catalyst for peoples’ inner and outer transformation. My client testimonials speak for themselves.

I don’t say this to boast; on the contrary, I point this out as a testament to my own courageous journey, which has taken me deep down into my own rabbit hole, through countless wormholes, up into nameless galaxies, and back down again, where I must integrate all I’ve learned along the way. And I keep learning.

Call me crazy; I don’t care. I consider it a compliment. In a society gone terribly awry, I am proud to be an anomaly.

In addition to holding a Master of Arts in Education, I am a Licensed, Certified Massage Therapist with over 1,000 hours of formal training and years of experience. Over the past twenty years of my professional practice, I have seen thousands of clients, most of whom I’ve had the privilege to impact in a significant way beyond the physical. As soon as I placed my hands on one client’s shoulders, she sighed and remarked, “My God, you have such a healing touch. Where does that come from? What is that?”

I appreciated her forthright, sincere feedback.

Without thinking, my first reply was, “Well, I don’t know. If I knew, I don’t think I’d be able to do whatever it is you’re feeling.”

A hollow reed. An empty vessel. I’m just a channel.

I prefer to stay out of my own way. I just… show up and breathe. I just… am who I am, like it or not.

 

On a daily basis, starting with my 4:00 AM meditation, I attempt to examine, observe and empower myself through personal, transformational practices that I believe have served to engender a tremendous amount of inner strength and willpower. The long-term effect is that my influence on the world seems to be… impactful.

I conscientiously and deliberately swim against the stream. I do so because I don’t want to be well adjusted to a society that I believe has gone terribly awry. For me, my spiritual life is purposeful. Practical. Powerful. In my case, a lifesaver.

I consider myself a strong-willed, successful, highly intelligent woman who’s accomplished mostly everything I want to in this lifetime, except for publishing my novel and living in a house of my own, the latter of which appears to be imminent, once I nail together a ladder to climb upstairs into my bedroom loft.

My curriculum vitae attest to the fact that I’m highly intelligent. Even so, in the past twenty years of my adult life, I’ve been accused of not only being crazy, but being mentally ill and generally being ostracized because of how I think differently than most people, and I seem to have the capacity to strongly influence the people around me on an energetic and spiritual level, thereby challenging myself and others.

I’ve given up on being well liked. I’m okay with not fitting in anywhere. I seem to fit in more with the howler monkeys in the tropical jungle than with most humans. I realize that it comes with the territory. I’ve grown to be comfortable with solitude. I’ve actually grown to love and appreciate myself far more than I used to. I accept my role as a change agent. I own my power and I wield it as responsibly as possible. I’ve failed in the past, but hopefully I’ve learned.

I courageously ask myself, “Who am I” and “Why am I here?” as often as possible. I believe that these questions are becoming especially relevant and urgent, not only for myself, but for humanity as a whole: Who am I? Why am I here? What am I here to do, and why?

It appears most people would prefer not to ask these uncomfortable questions; at the very least, most people avoid or deflect them with any one of the myriad distractions available in our modern society.

As for society, I suppose you could say I’ve dropped out. I’ve become somewhat of a recluse, though I still welcome the opportunity to engage with people, as long as they are prepared for the highly probable outcome that something significant will change as a result of our interaction. It’s my honor to play this role.

I’m proud of who I am.

Call me crazy; I don’t care. I consider it a compliment.

Safe

sunrise float in calm sea

Immersed into warm saltwater

The calm sea at sunrise

 

Lie back

Inhale deeply

Chest rises

Torso floats

Legs follow

 

Breath held

Body suspended

Weightless

Head tilted back

Eyes closed

 

Surrendered to stillness

I am safe here, held

I feel you

 

Exhale fully

Breath releases

Head lifts

Chest lowers

Folding at the hips

Legs sink slowly

Feet touch the sand

 

Inhale again 

Chest rises

Torso floats

Feet rise up

Legs follow

 

Breath held

Body suspended

Weightless

Head tilted back

Eyes closed

 

Surrendered to stillness

I am safe here, held

I feel you