A Good Death

How do you want to die? It’s a question that inspires some to grab a sand shovel, dig a hole and stick their heads in it — which, less metaphorically, is a possible answer to the question. But the more we ask this simple yet deeply complicated and personal question, the more its answer will probably determine the difference between a life that ends peacefully or regretfully.  –David G. Allan, The Wisdom Project, CNN

Death and the meaning of life are two subjects we can obsess over at 18 or 80, but that seem to move to the forefront of our thoughts at mid age. We expect to face the death of our parents and steel ourselves for that shattering call. We expect some of our friends, lovers, ex-lovers, may go gently, or not, into that good night. But if you’re like me, you don’t expect the grim reaper will come knocking at your own door any time soon. Instead, it’s the meaning of life, the meaning of MY life and how I hope to live it, that occupy my thoughts.
In his insightful writing for The Wisdom Project, David G. Allan shares books and films on the subject, as well as his own ‘good death’ checklist, because after all, “Our ultimate goal,” he quotes Dr. Atul Gawande in Being Mortal, “is not a good death, but a good life to the very end.” Here’s to that.

Experience Happy

“You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá, than someone who also happens to have bought a big screen TV”. So writes Jay Cassano in his article for FastCompany called ‘The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things‘. “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences. We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

Needless to say at this point in my life, I was very intrigued by Jay’s article and started to think more deeply about what brings me happiness, what brings my partner happiness, and how I plan to spend my humble resources and precious time in the years ahead.

Leaving the rat race behind

For health reasons, I stepped out of the rat race fairly early, making my break for ‘freedom’ at 55. Freedom from running a company and its inherent stresses. Freedom from a mild case of keeping up with the Joneses. Freedom from perceived expectations by others. I had to clear out my life of ‘stuff’ and make a break to Mexico to do it, but once the stuff was gone, I really didn’t miss it.

To be honest, I purged my wordly goods but I did not do a Cat Stevens and give up everything. I kept some of my art and books—the ones that speak to me and bring me joy every time I look at them. I kept a handful of loyal clients who fed me work, allowing me to maintain a gravitas for a time, while I sorted out my life. I kept my apartment in case this ‘running off to join the circus’ thing didn’t pan out. I kept my rose coloured glasses.

Living the dream

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

From the moment I started talking about my desire to radically change my life and go live in another country where I had no friends, didn’t speak the language, and zero clue what I was going to do, people starting saying, “Wow, you are living THE DREAM.” As if THE DREAM existed in some altruistic place and I was off to live it. They didn’t say, “Wow, you are living YOUR dream”. A subtle, yet powerful difference in my mind.

As I am a ‘leap first, navel gaze later’ kind of person, I became intrigued by this collective concept of THE DREAM. To quell my curiosity, I approached people whom I thought would respond, and asked them these three questions:

  1. What does ‘living the dream’ mean to you?
  2. Are you ‘living the dream’?
  3. If not, what is holding you back?

Some people responded with, “Wow, let me get back to you on that”, and quietly unfriended me. Some went into full on avoidance (who knew I was carrying such a loaded gun?), but many sent me very thoughtful responses on one or all three questions.

For the next few weeks I am going to share, anonymously, some answers to this question of living the dream, and hope that you are as inspired as I am, to formulate your own answer. Here’s the first one:

To me, living the dream is not at all about where I live, how much money I have, my lifestyle or anything like that. For me, it would be all about my internal life. A few of the things living the dream means to me are:

• Living in the moment. Being fully present to the present.
• Being immune to fear of the future.
• Being impossible to offend. When I am in my true self you can’t offend me because I know my truth and your opinion about me is your opinion and external to my experience.
• Living joyfully. Laughing lots, mostly at myself.
• Living gratefully. Giving back what I can.
• Learning to love without the expectation of being loved in return or even being liked in return. I think this is perhaps the hardest thing a person can learn. I hope to get there more consistently.
• Being loved.
• Using my talents productively. Realizing I have talents.
• Recognizing their limits. Loving myself.

If I can get to a place where those things describe me, I’ll definitely be living the dream. When I have moments of being there, I am living the dream now.
What’s holding me back? Well my copious imperfections for the most part.  But I’m actually sort of pleased with some of the progress I’ve made in the past few years. And other than that, you know … blah blah blah.
Oh you mean that living the dream. Well then, I’d say a castle in southern France.

What does ‘living the dream’ mean to you? I’d love to hear from you. Send me a confidential email to alisonwattie@gmail.com and unless you say otherwise, I’ll add your voice to the conversation – anonymously of course. 

 

 

25 things I love about Merida

Living in flip flops. The tropical flora and fauna. Forty minutes from the sea. Music everywhere.
Heading to yoga at Bunker

Heading to yoga at Bunker

New friends
Bunker yoga Merida
My sister
Strangers who greet me everyday with a smile
The birds in the early morning, the light in the early evening
Warm nights

Fantastic and cheap street food
Shopping at the colourful local markets
The zocalos crammed with Meridians, tourists, entertainers, crafts and food
Sunday afternoon dancing and taquitos at Santa Lucia
The art, craft and culture of the Yucatan

A gentler pace of life
Swimming in the cenotes
The humidity on my skin
Exploring Mexico
Old colonial homes with their pasta tiles, soaring ceilings and beautiful light
Road trips with no agenda
Long lunches at Beautiful Haciendas
Skinny dipping in the pool
Being immersed in learning a new language
No snow

If I’m a blogger, am I a writer?

I have taken up writing a blog along with 158 million estimated bloggers who believe they have something to say that someone other than their mom wants to read.

I started writing a blog when I left my country of origin and drove 7,000 kilometres to ‘live my dream’. The blog was a way to let family and friends know I hadn’t been murdered along the way, but more importantly, the blog became my new best friend. You see, I had left my friends and family behind, not because they were starting to annoy me, but because I wanted my life to change*. This change left a massive hole in the nurturing, supportive friends department, hence the blog where I could wax poetically, muse philosophically, and rant tirelessly with my new BFF.

At first it was a one-way arrow, all energy out with zero reciprocation. I had a handful of Followers (the biblical reference not lost on me despite my atheism), all related to me but I didn’t care. At least I thought I didn’t.

When I received my first “So and So, totally unrelated to you thinks you’re pretty awesome” I realized how fragile my ego was. I tentatively clicked the link provided just to see who this stalker was (admittedly I didn’t ‘get’ the blog concept yet) and lo and behold, here was a person who wrote “Well, how cool are you?!”

That tiny bit of encouragement was all I needed to keep writing. It also illuminated two very important things for me:
1. I was in desperate need of affirmation at this point in my life and
2. Maybe I did care that someone other than my mom thought I had something meaningful to say

I still don’t call myself a writer but who knows…if I get enough “So and so thinks you’re pretty awesome”, maybe one day I will be.

*Nothing changes if nothing changes, my mom always says. She is the master of the understatement.

56 things I’ve learned in my 56 years

Birthdays can be a sobering event, especially for a woman past ’29’. We bemoan the fact that things are slipping, settling and softening, instead of celebrating our hard won freedom. Freedom to be who we really are, without all the angst of our 20s, 30s and 40s, to try something new, even if it embarrasses the hell out of our significant others, to dance like everyone is watching and not give a damn. Don’t get me wrong…I secrectly love that my husband is a little far-sighted, rendering me always 10 years younger in his eyes. And that the Luna/Wattie genes have blessed me with bits I quite like (although the excessive facial hair from my dads side I would willingly give up, oh, and the bunions from my mom).
When it comes to our ‘self’, we all have things we love, hate, battle. We also have a massive capacity to accept what we cannot change (I will never have curly hair) and change what we can (less wine, more yoga). So in homage to my 56 years, here are 56 (and counting), things I’ve learned about myself, in no particular order:
  1. I do not have fat legs
  2. I am better at cooking than I am at baking
  3. I hate working out
  4. I get crabby when I’m anxious and anxious when I’m crabby
  5. Getting a dog at 52 was the 2nd best decision I ever made
  6. Gardening is a great workout and I love getting hot, sweaty and dirty (can I say that in a blog?)
  7. Too much clutter makes me twitchy, and crabby
  8. My sisters are my best friends
  9. My best friends are my sisters
  10. I have an obsessive need to help others with their oxygen mask before I put on my own
  11. I love to write
  12. I hate, HATE, cleaning toilets
  13. I love, LOVE having a muchacha who doesn’t seem to mind cleaning my toilet
  14. My dad thinks I’m a ‘warm fuzzy’ and I finally believe him
  15. Getting cancer was not a gift but it was a catalyst for some pretty great stuff
  16. My mom thinks I consume too much wine and she is right
  17. I hate that I have to drink too much wine to get up and dance
  18. When I get overwhelmed, I do not negotiate well for myself
  19. I am an excellent negotiator for others
  20. It took me 20+ years to notice how blue my moms eyes are
  21. I have regrets, but I hope I’ve learned from them
  22. I will never be a vegan
  23. I love cooking for my vegan friends
  24. I would rather be too hot than too cold
  25. I pretend to like Radiohead but I really just like Thom Yorke
  26. Mashed potatoes and gravy, mmmmmmmmm
  27. Getting a perm does not make me look like I have naturally curly hair, it just makes me look like I have a perm
  28. I look pretty cute bald
  29. I love swimming if the water isn’t too cold
  30. I must have been a glum child because I distinctly remember people telling me all the time to smile
  31. My smile is my best feature
  32. I’m really scared of bears, and sharks
  33. I fall hard for the creative brooding types
  34. I think I’ve gotten more interesting with age
  35. I am not as strong as I thought I was
  36. I like gliding in the slipstream of my extroverted friends
  37. I love reading the newspaper, the real newspaper, not the online kind
  38. I’m pretty good at building creative things
  39. Coffee is almost as good as wine
  40. Learning something new is the key to happiness
  41. Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell and kd lang make me cry
  42. I can’t really sing very well
  43. I get depressed when its grey outside
  44. I can eat my bodily weight in fresh crab
  45. Ditto for sushi
  46. Moving to Mexico was way harder on me than I thought it would be
  47. Not going to art school in Paris was one of my regrets
  48. Not applying to go to art school in Paris was an even bigger one
  49. I’ve met the coolest people in the last 10 years of my life
  50. I am way stronger than I think I am
  51. Always have a room of your own
  52. I need structure as much as I need spontaneity
  53. I don’t know everything
  54. I don’t like being bossed around
  55. Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis does not cause one to get hit by lightning
  56. Making a new life in Mexico with my husband and my dog was the #1 best decision I ever made

Sins of a Blogger

Forgive me blogfather for I have sinned. It has been 45 days since my last post and in the world of blogging, that is apparently the deathknell. It’s not that I’ve had nothing to say. Quite the contrary. I have too much to say, ergo, I’ve started thinking about taking this blogging thing seriously, once I get my shit together of course. I began by researching ‘How to Quit Screwing Around and Become a Real Blogger’. Plus I talked to some people who actually follow real blogs and let me tell you, I’ve been going at this all wrong.

It appears 45 days between posts is not my only sin. Oh no. I’m also too verbose, loquacious, voluble. People don’t like to read (I just read), but they love pictures. And lots of them. My blog titles are all wrong too. “Saving Mama Luna” really should have been titled “How Not to Drown in the Yucatan”. I’m also not linking to other blogs (rectified here thank god, so that’s one sin off my list). I haven’t yet digressed to Plagarizing Other Bloggers although I guess that could happen if I start blogging once a day. I kind of doubt it though. Chucking in one’s life and moving to a foreign country where they speak a foreign language and everything is foreign, is pretty ripe fodder for blogging, I figure.

I just have to find my focus amongst all this stimulation, wax poetically (with pictures of course), and hope that my metatags are in line with my chakras. 

Content suggestions welcome.

 P.S. I had no picture for this blog so here’s a piece of art I made instead 🙂

making art in Merida, hecho a mano

Getting in touch with my inner artist, inspired by living in Merida

La Frontera

Road trips always start with an idea. Most are the garden variety “lets get away for the weekend” type and some more ambitious like, “I’ve always wanted to eat my bodily weight in lobster and I know we live in Alberta but life’s short so lets pack the cat and head to PEI.”

And then there are the ones that involve full scale logistical planning that would put an Actuary to shame (I can say this because I know one, an Actuary I mean, and they are not to be trifled with). But I digress, a symptom of 5 days confinement in a small 4×4 ft compartment, aka a 2009 Nissan Frontier crew cab complete with topper and roof rack, which has become home for the next 10 days. Our brand of road trip involved months of sorting, purging, pleading, planning and finally, packing. We were not simply taking a trip as a distraction from our daily grind. We were making a one way trek to a new life, knowing what we left behind was only the beginning. We also knew we were totally fucked if the Mexican customs guy decided my well documented Spanglish packing list was not enough to satisfy his machismo. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We’d been telling people for days that we were leaving, never fully comprehending the enormity of our task. Finally, with the last items stuffed into the truck, the gas tank full and the road tunes cued up, we headed out just as the sun was sinking beneath the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I admit to feeling a bit wistful watching the sky turn from orange to magenta to midnight blue, wondering when I would be back to see this majesty again. We never made it farther then Lethbridge that first night, having hit our emotional and physical wall much earlier than expected. The debate to push on to Great Falls Montana lasted about 3 seconds as Ric realized an exhausted post menopausel woman is also not one to be trifled with.

Crossing the US border the next morning was surprisingly quick given the blue tarp encased ‘mountain’ on the top of our vehicle. And why is it that no matter how innocent ones contents, border crossings make you skittish? “Just driving through, are ya?”, the nice customs lady said, eyeing the blue mountain. “Enjoy your trip!” We thanked the travel gods that our nascent adventure raised no eyebrows, high-fived, and aimed our silver steed for Salt Lake City Utah.

And so begins my saga of the least favorite part of being on the road. ‘Tis not the sketchy gas station bathrooms, or the tedium that sets in despite the scintillating conversationalist sitting next to me. Or the fact that my dog snores. It’s the food. Or lack thereof as evidenced by endless fast food chains lining the highways like vultures on a fence waiting for their next bit of road kill. Looking for a decent place to eat and spending the time to do so is not an option when you’re trying to make Mexico in 5 days. So you settle for the least offensive offerings and check your culinary expectations at the door. For the record, if I ever eat another Taco Bell Bean Burrito again it will mean I have gone to hell. Once into Mexico, this became PemEx hotdogs and V8 for Ric, trail mix, water and the occasional piece of well past it’s ‘best before’ fruit for me.

My saving grace? Three things. Excellent road tunes, newly acquired by my music loving partner in life. Brilliant audiobooks downloaded by yours truly from the Calgary Public Library (big shout out to CPL). And lastly, the world outside my window. Utah south of Salt Lake City, on past the Big Rock Candy Mountain (yes, there really is one), into the canyons surrounding the Grand daddy of them all, was manna from heaven. I started taking pictures with my iphone up to my window, committing a tiny part of each new landscape to memory. Even Iggy perked up occassionaly to take in the view.

A quick tire change in Phoenix (no way was my husband travelling through the two biggest drug cartel states in Mexico with 20% treads), one last night in Rio Rico AZ and we were ready to cross the Mexican border.

Even though we’d done this before, we’d not done it with 2 crates of artwork, countless tupperware buckets, a computer monitor, art printer and a blue mountain atop our vehicle. Nerves were a little frayed and I elected to self prescribe Ativan all around. Iggy just sat there looking bored and wondered what all the fuss was about. We breezed through the documentation part and as we pulled up to the last checkpoint, our luck ran out and we were waived over for inspection. Our Mexican official had obviously had a good night’s sleep and we were his first customers I think. He was smiling and cordial and spoke a little English which didn’t hurt. And despite Mr. Harpers ridiculous Visa requirements for Mehicanos entering Canada, Mexicans like Canadians. “Canadian!”, he said, beaming at our passports. “You are proud!!”.  We heartily agreed, hoping this would allay his need to examine the blue mountain. Or the contents of our crates. It did, and we crossed the border with our hopes high and the sights and sounds of Mexico rising up around us.

Footnote: We arrived 3 days later to Manzanillo, having spent $1200 on gas and road tolls, and logging 4,792 kilometres along the way. We’re here for another few days before we make our final push to Merida ~ and home.