The Road We Walk

When I wake up in the morning, sometimes I think, “Today will be the day!”

Today will be the day when the president of the United States says, “See how easy it was? See how easy it was to take a nation and lead its citizens down a path of fear and scapegoating? To prey on your insecurities? See how easy it was to take a nation, desperate for a hero in the age of Marvel Comics movies, and get you to follow me, look up to me, be afraid of me? Did you see how I quickly made our friends into enemies and our enemies into friends? Now do you understand how other countries allow despots to rise to and stay in power?

“Vilifying the other is easy. I showed you that, and you need reflect on your response. Now for the hard part- loving our neighbor. Now that I’ve got your attention, let us work together to find common sense solutions that will bring us together. Let us remember the values that make us who we are. Let us remember our common humanity, knowing that by working together, with and through our differences, we can find common ground for the common good. That is what my leadership is all about.  Life is not a zero-sum game where there are only winners and losers. Life is about becoming, becoming better tomorrow than we were yesterday, seeing the other as ourselves, and walking together.

“I invite you to walk with me down this bumpy road. We make this road by walking, just as we create the world every day by what we say, what we do, and how we treat each other. The power is in our hands to become, to grow together, to share our common humanity.”

Unfortunately, today is not that day.  Maybe tomorrow.

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Becoming Peruvian Part 6

Here’s a quick update on my process here in Peru.

During the last installment of Becoming Peruvian I mentioned that Migraciones would call me during the first week of May.  No one called.  It is now the second week of June and I have yet to receive a call.  Ana Maria contacted the folks at Migraciones and they told her that the call will come.  They also said not to worry if we will be traveling out of the country- if no one answers the phone, they will call back.

Good to know.  I continue to wait.

Will They Be Flowers?

“Will they be flowers? Maybe herbs?” As she asked her fingers played with the new leaves on the young shoots. A new leaf came off in her hand, accidently I supposed. She didn’t seem to notice; I didn’t care to comment.

“Flowers. They are coming along nicely, don’t you think?” I admired the growth, hard won over the course of several weeks.

“Yes, very nicely.”

We turned away from the window box and toward the cozy kitchen table. I poured some coffee. “Cream?”

“No thank you, Maria, I drink my coffee black. How long have the flowers been growing?”  We both sat down.

I added a few drops of cream and watched them bubble back to the top.  “I started a few months ago.” I dribbled a few more drops of cream into my coffee and took a careful sip. “A while back I found that big old window box at a garage sale. I fixed it up and brought it up here to the table by the window. The box is filled with a mixture of potting soil and the extra dirt from the front garden, carried up bag by bag. I bought the seeds and began the nurturing. This third floor apartment has the eastern advantage- fresh sun in the morning yet shaded from the afternoon heat. It took a while to find the right amount of water.” I took another sip.

She looked around. “Yes, you did get one of the better apartments here and you are one of my best tenants. But about the water.” She set down her mug. “That is actually why I stopped by. Next week, well, starting tomorrow, the water will be shut off. I have to re-do the pipes for the radiators and that requires the water to be shut off. There is really no alternative.” She took another sip from her mug.

“Seriously?” I paused, taking in the information. “Couldn’t you have given us more time to make preparations? There are 8 families who live here; no one will have water?”

“I am afraid not. You can gather water in buckets or the bathtub I suppose. You could also move out for a week. I’m not really sure what you’ll do and honestly, it doesn’t matter to me.” She stood up with an air of formalness, brushed off her blouse as if it had been soiled by its presence in my kitchen and walked the 5 steps to the to the door.  Without turning around she said, “I just wanted to let you know.” With one hand on the doorknob she turned her head and added, “Thanks for the coffee.”  She walked out.  The door closed with a click.

Stunned by the news, I took a sip of coffee and stared at her unfinished mug. There on top floated one, delicate leaf.

Stress- Who’s to blame?

I am going to think out loud for a bit…

Recently, I heard a definition of stress that is new for me: Stress is “when the resources of the individual are not sufficient to cope with the demands and pressures of the situation.”  I am troubled by this definition.

To begin, let’s go to an extreme situation.  Imagine a concentration camp where people are being murdered every day.  Does the definition mean that, if only the prisoners had more internal resources they would not have felt stress in that situation?  How about an abusive family?  If only the children had more resources they could cope with the situation of abuse.  Perhaps through mindfulness practices such as breathing and meditation they could deal with being whipped with a belt. Ommmmmm.

Obviously, that was facetious.

But do you see where I am going with this?  It seems that the definition above puts the onus on the individual.  It seems that this definition comes from an individualistic perspective, perhaps an individualistic society.   If only the individual had more internal resources he or she would not feel the stress.  Organizations, systems, structures can do what they want, ask what they want of their people, and if the people cannot cope it is their own fault.  The individuals need more mindfulness training.  It is a perfect set-up for abuse.

I do believe in mindfulness and the power of positive thinking.  Yoga, TM, retreats are positive practices, my positive practices.  I also believe that some systems continue demanding more and more and then try to blame the individual who cannot keep up with or does not want to keep up with the new, the changing demands.  Does the individual have a choice when the demands change?  There is mutual responsibility.

Sometimes the system needs to change.  Sometimes the individual.  Sometimes both.  Whatever causes the stress, we cannot blame the victim alone without looking at the system in which the individual operates.  Sometimes less is more.  Sometimes individuals need to say, “No, I can’t do any more,” without fear of retribution.  Often the systems should not ask.

Becoming Peruvian Part 5

73667208-10B9-4342-A387-487EA9B67BF6Letter in hand we headed to Migraciones today.  The trip only took about 35 minutes, starting at 10:15 A.M., from La Molina; so far so good.

We arrived and quickly found Room 5 on the first floor, it’s the one straight ahead in the back, and I got in line to get my number.  The lady handing out numbers told me to go directly to desk 44, just like the letter said, and not wait for my number to be called.  The security guard told me I had to wait for my number to be called.  I waited.

A few minutes later my number was called by the lady at desk 45.  When I got there I asked Raquel about the letter, Mr. José and desk 44.  She said she could help me… and she did.  She found my file and went through the pages putting sticky notes on many of the pages and asking about “Islay,” the district where Mollendo, Peru is located.  Thankfully, Ana Maria was there to answer the questions.  She asked why I had two different passport numbers (the U.S. changed my number a few years ago) and was satisfied with the answer and my showing her my passport.  She did not ask about the names on the marriage certificate.

Questions answered, she showed me the document she had prepared and asked me to check it for accuracy.  I appreciated that.  Then she handed me a pen and I signed three copies of the document that she had prepared.  Then I marked each of the three pages with my fingerprint, right index finger.  She kept the three copies.  I thanked her and headed toward the door where they checked my backpack to see if I was stealing anything.  I wasn’t.

In two months they will call me to set a time for the ceremony.  Then I will become Peruvian.  Based on previous experience, I am expecting the call in three months, or four.  I hope to be proven wrong in my prediction.  Everyone was very nice and the process is in motion.

¡Viva Perú!