Paradise: Lost Connection

Young explorer with machete finding a vintage telephone in the jungle.

Ok, it has been awhile since I wrote a blog post and it is mostly because I live in a time warp. It might be that living here in Cost Rica when the sun sets and rises at the same time each day you can just get lost in the rhythm. Paradise has it’s own timetable and no matter how hard I try to stay on task, live with my Day-Timer loaded to the gills, I simply cannot do it. I could be on a publishing deadline that feels like the thin line between life and death and find that I have been staring at the Toucans in the tree outside my window for a half hour. Costa Rica is a drug.

So, I thought to write about all the things that can derail you here in Costa Rica. Things like the big weather, car repair nightmares that define what it is to have a car in Costa Rica, living without a dryer and hanging out your clothes for days in and out of rain showers, my addiction to farmer’s markets and even about jellyfish when snorkeling, but alas, I am writing about the Internet. The Internet for us here in Costa Rica is the true test of one’s patience and fortitude. It tests your true metal.

My entire Internet life in the USA was a breeze. If something broke the Genius Bar at Apple did magic in a day. If the Internet went down in the mountains of Colorado it was up in no time. I depended on connectivity like I depended on the sun rising and setting. But, not so, here in a developing country. The Internet, just like absolutely everything else, is subservient to mother nature and repairmen who are never for any reason in a hurry about anything.

We get storms every day. One storm can boot you off the Internet for days. And then there is no talking to your children, no being punctual with clients on Skype, no surfing the web for an answer to how to get rid of ticks on the dog your are fostering, and no watching Netflix and keeping up with your new obsession: Legends. It all comes to a grinding halt. The parrots keep squawking and the breezes keep blowing but that little circle in the middle of your computer screen that keeps spinning and spinning, just keeps on spinning.

So fixing a Wi-Fi tower is not like in the USA. They have to use machetes here. I think you get the picture. So, patience is what this ongoing debacle breeds. You end up having to, by no choice of your own, just allow for the possibility that even if the internet is down, work will get done, people will find you, deadlines will get met and life will go on. Pura Vida.

woman on beach 2

My IV Drip

valium

I had surgery once where I thought the panic attack would kill me before the surgery did. I clung to the nurse’s arm and squeaked out, “I need a Valium”. Now, let me say that I don’t take valium, nor have I ever. But I saw all the shows on TV for decades where that little pill seemed to be all too friendly with women to help them sleep, manage stress or simply just check out from being a Stepford Wife. My nurse said, “Oh, honey, we’ve got something far better than that for you,” as she hooked me to an IV drip and I was out in LA LA land in four seconds.

Costa Rica is my IV drip.

I arrived here in a hurry.   I arrived here living a hurried, fast paced type A life. I had no clue how to do it otherwise. And pretty much upon landing, setting my toes deep in the hot sand and sipping agua de pipa, I unplugged from a power source that in almost every way, I had become addicted to.

Suddenly, I was drifting off to a deep sleep at 8pm once the blackest curtain of dark was drawn over the jungle, precisely at 6pm. For a girl who had never thought to see 4am, I was up with the first spark of pink light. My gate slowed, my needs of the day thinned out like plucking weeds from an overgrown garden, to reveal the fact that I could get it all done today, or maybe get it done manana. It did not matter.

Now, five months later, I am not only type B, but I am not concerned with moving to any particular destination in my day. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I work, I see a dozen clients a week on Skype, edit a half-dozen books, write my own stories and yet there is no inner coil of tension from the decades of living in urban life and off a grid of energy that never shuts down. I can be in the thick of writing a scene and not lose my place when I pause to watch the scarlet Macaws fly over. I just take the bliss of that moment and pump it all into the next sentence I write.

Here there is no need for Valium, or vodka tonics, or having to read Eckhart Tolle for the hundredth time on how to be here now. I am here now. Nature requires it and her grid of energy is so powerful that unless you let her reboot you, you will simply go back to where you traveled from.

Nature is my drug of choice. Nature never leaves me with a hangover in life. She simply returns me to the rhythm that is innately humane.

Becoming Uncivilized

animals of costa rica

I grew up in the shiny years of American life. Cut my teeth on James Dean movies, the Mouseketeers and a boat load of pie in the sky thinking. I was there when the indoor shopping mall was a concept that would define Americans. I was there when I Love Lucy started being broadcast in color and the fable of Cinderella started dictating the entire value system for girls growing into women. Consumerism, telecommunications, fast food, stress and Starbucks became a definition for living the American dream.

And, admittedly, I went after the picket fence, higher education, financial success and bought the whole nine yards of civilized American life, hook line and sinker. But what I did not know when I became one of the sheep, following the herd, was this: There are profound tradeoffs for having a platinum Visa. Following the norm, the subliminal and not so subtle dictates of a society means that you do not follow other things, namely; intuition, spiritual values, living in the rhythm of nature and following the heart. The two value systems are like oil and water.

But I hear you say: “That’s not true at all! You can rack up credit card debt, climb the ladder of success, shop till you drop and watch reality TV till your eyeballs fall out but you still can be living a passionate, joyful, stress-free and creative spiritual life”. Not.

And although I opted out of the normal American life decades ago, downsized, chose art over money, valued my spiritual beliefs over collective thinking, I still had no idea what tradeoffs my soul was really making to live inside of a culture that is so mesmerizing.   I had no idea what an illusion it all is.

When I came to Costa Rica I arrived as an observer. An observer of a culture not my own. An observer of nature and how subservient to the natural environment we all are. But what I did not know is how the constant presence of nature and beauty can change how you vibrate, think, feel and act. In the USA I was cut off from my natural rhythm, I was a late to sleep and late to rise person, jolting myself into a day with coffee. I was bombarded 24/7 by cell phone towers, electromagnetic overload, unnatural light, traffic, stress and the power coursing through city life left me sleepless all too often. Take all that out of my equation here in a third world country and what’s left is…space. Energetic space. Room for the heart to breath.

So the observer in me watched people living an unhurried life, eat large meals in the morning, take naps in the afternoon. Indigenous people here are never, ever in a hurry and where I am on the Pacific coast there are no traffic lights and simply no traffic. You have to go to bed with sundown and get up at sunrise. Nature gives you no choice. The animals are all living their true nature. Just watch the iguana, the parrot, the cicadas, monkey or jaguar to know that they are true to what makes them unique. Simplicity is Costa Rica. A downsized, small footprint is all there is room for in the jungle and if you listen, watch, feel and smell the reality all around there is no choice but to adapt, flow and merge with the pace and the values inherent in the natural environment.

So people ask why I am still here in Costa Rica, why I stay, why there is nothing about the civilized world I miss (except ice cream). My answer is that living a more uncivilized life has returned me to myself.

sloth

Hopeless in Seattle: A Gypsy Confession

hope

 

I woke up today, a beautiful sparkling day in Costa Rica, mad as a hatter. Then I just found myself crying into my pillow. My heart hurt and I had to wash my face, click on my computer and tell you why.  You read posts about the encounters I have on the road being my own sort of Gypsy.  But sometimes I hit a wall.  Sometimes something gets under my skin and I cannot shake it so I do what is my one great passion.  Write.  And as you know I am a writer, a coach, a ghostwriter and a teacher.  I can take my passion to the four corners of the world if I would like and do my work from anywhere that has a wi-fi cafe.  And I have.  But today the writer in me has a burr under her saddle.

When I started another site I have called Mythotherapy.org nearly a year ago I had three inspirations: To encourage people to tell their stories, to help writers get published and to share what I know about writing, navigating the publishing world and most of all, to honor story as power in the world.  The Gypsy Life blog is a place to tell stories, to share how stories, places and people have changed me entirely.

Most of my clients are first world citizens who enjoy many of the luxuries that most of the planet do not have the opportunity to experience: Clean and free water, electricity, watching a show before bed while eating Ben and Jerry’s, a bed, buying food on every corner, one or two Starbucks coffees in a day and money. I think it’s safe to say that my clients are mostly Caucasian, privileged in my sense of the word and writing is a luxury, sometimes a hobby and most of the time a story that is true in their lives and the telling of it will help others and heal the writer at the same time. All but one storyteller. This is who I want to speak about in this post.

Over the past two years I have been getting to know a young man in his twenties from Zimbabwe. He has a story to tell, passion for his people and his family, a large family that his mother is raising, and he has no vehicle to tell his story other than Facebook.   And in my mind the best writers are those who cannot help themselves and have to write, are roused in the night and must jot down ideas or begin a new chapter, dig into a new flash of insight or who have lived through the unthinkable and still possess a light in them and their story of triumph is the medicine the world needs. A writer who does not write as a hobby or a tangential part of life, but sees writing as their life, like breathing, is a very different animal. Emmanuel is one of those writers and storytellers. And he has gotten under my skin.

I grew up in a black and white world of the 50’s. Yes there were pink poodle skirts, bobby socks, diners, 38 records and then came the Beatles, the Vietnam War and chaos and cover-ups. But there was also growing up in the south where an African-American person was a “nigger”, when Brazil nuts were call “nigger toes” in my family, where I grew up with maids and drivers and black gardeners who pruned our hedges and clipped the grass around a four-foot metal lawn ornament of a black man holding a lantern and wearing a butlers outfit. This was my norm as a child. Then it all changed. I saw more sides of the black and white issue, as I became a teen.

My knees buckled as race riots were out of control in Watts. As front-page news was Selma and countless other towns and cities brutally murdering black citizens. I sat with my parents with our aluminum TV trays and Swanson TV dinners in front of a black and white television as JFK was gunned down and began hysterically crying as my parents sipped a vodka tonic and praised the conservatives and bashed the liberals. I became despondent when our government murdered Martin Luther King, and then the same people assassinated Bobby Kennedy. By 17 I was hopeless.

watts

The black and white issue began to eat away at my soul. Why? Because it was a human story for me. It was about people intentionally killing hope. From those days forward I was all about keeping hope alive. My hope, the hope of people in poverty, people who had so much less than me, people who had no future in our country back then because of the color of their skin. As for me I was lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed and wanting for not one thing in life.

Fast forward. I moved from hand writing letters to my congressman on stationary with my embossed initials at the top and mailing it to them by snail mail for eight cents to emailing those letters decades later. The KKK had gone underground and reappeared dressed differently. They were now corporate leaders, governing officials and not very interested in my emails. The Internet opened doors for all of us and there was a new power of the word birthing itself every day in cyberspace. Facebook shattered barriers and became a tool I would come to use religiously. Not because I wanted to simply dazzle the world with photos of my children or inspiring quotes, but because it connected me to stories around the world. I then started a Facebook page called Equilux, all about the dark and the light, all about the not so black and white issues we face. Then I met Emmanuel through Facebook and was instantly transported back to the days of my life at thirteen when life was becoming hopeless.

Emmanuel in his twenties, lives in a country in Africa that is a regime dedicated to keeping people from telling their stories, keeping people in poverty and powerless. Zimbabwe is not necessarily a black and white story though; it is a black and black story that is perpetuated by white values. Emmanuel is one of several children, the oldest, raised with the rest of them by his mother, living a life in a house with dirt floors and tiny brothers and sisters who dream of school and an easier life. Emmanuel is the only one to graduate school and who wants to go to college and follow a dream. His dream is not to get a job in IT and adopt empty western values, his dream is to go to film school so he can tell his story, his mother’s story and the story of his people. Emmanuel knows that is the only power of change for him and for his country; Words, stories and telling his truth.

If you go to Facebook and look Emmanuel Mazivire up, you will see him post photos of his family, his people and say things like “One kind word can change someone’s day” or “Do not judge by appearances, a rich heart may be under a poor coat”. He has not lost hope. So Emmanuel and I started to talk two years ago. He shared some of his writing of a story he wants to submit for a documentary on his mother and all the single mothers raising children in Zimbabwe. I posted about him and tried helping him get a basic video camera, which took six months to reach him because of how they monitor the mail in Africa. He still wishes to find a way to go to film school in the United States, still needs a video camera worthy of a documentary and is working on his writing.

So before the sun came up today I was roused by the part of me who after five decades of watching the black and white story, which is really the privileged and underprivileged story, the money and no money story, the entitled and not very entitled story and the turn a blind eye story because it is too inconvenient to know too many inconvenient truths, my heart hurt. Because Emmanuel is one in a sea of young people with stories to tell, dreams to live, love to share and who has very little means of doing so without help, without compassion, without others sharing the load. And like many I am not one to swoop into Zimbabwe on a plane with great video equipment and shoot a doc on Emmanuel and his life. Why? Because, no one can tell the story better than the person who is living it.

And I am one single mother in the world myself, privileged to live my dream, and not wealthy by a long shot. What I can do for and with Emmanuel is help him tell his story, be a voice along side of his, read his writing, coach him for free, share with people who are touched to help with a camera and support him on Facebook. But he needs more. He needs to have the flames of his hope fanned. What power each of us has to do that. He is pushing against all odds even in circumstances you or I would cry uncle to have to face. He needs a mentor, a documentary camera, a plane ticket, help for his mother, his siblings, his story. He needs to go to school, have a patron, get his video into film festivals. He needs me, he needs, you. I do what I can but as Emmanuel knows first hand…it takes a village. He is one person in a sea of stories. But as he posted last week:

few sincere words

So these are my few sincere words. There is an ocean filled with Emmanuel’s in this world, on every street corner, in Mumbai, Russia and New York City. Story is power. The power I chose to use in my world. We hold it in our hands every day and have a choice what to do with that story, sometimes failing to see that words are one of the most powerful tools we all have and only second to the power of the heart. Put the two together and we would all be unstoppable.

Note: If you are interested in knowing more about Emmanuel, helping in any way, running a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for him, buy him a plane ticket, give him your video camera that is documentary worthy, or help me to help him please contact me personally at mayachristobel@gmail.com or write to Emmanuel directly at emmanuelmazivire@gmail.com and visit him on Facebook at Emmanuel Mazivire and send him your support. Become part of the global village.

emmanuel in school

 

Emmanuel doing some teaching.

Your Bucket List

Follow your heart

As a modern day gypsy living from pillar to post was not on my top ten Bucket List items.  I had the following dreams instead: I had things on my list like getting an Oscar, writing a bestseller, seeing the caves of Damanhur, going to Antarctica, and winning the lottery, of course.  But I won the lottery the minute I said yes to my heart and left normal life, as most of us know it.

I have been having a life on the road that is dotted with awe-inspiring, jaw dropping beauty, kind-hearted people, challenging culture shocks, language barriers and physical limitations. I chronicle how different I feel when I live in the city versus what my body changes into when I live in the jungle here in Costa Rica. Not a day anywhere is the same as the day before.

I have grown to know two certainties in my life: That all you can count on is change. And secondly, that love is the only real human currency. Money can in fact, not matter. When I can focus on these two things then fear can’t take a foothold. If every encounter I have is rooted in love and each moment of change is embraced then there is no way to contract from what life dishes out on a daily basis. Everything becomes a way of learning about self and other, about having and not having, about what the soul truly needs in order to thrive.

This is why I am a gypsy. I value experience far above stability and job security. As a result, my mind cannot become entrenched in the cultural mind, cannot feed on bad news, or really run the show in my life at all. Living and navigating by intuition and a spirit of “Yes” is a heart-based matter. Living in the heart takes courage and is a bit like “spelunking” into caves that are dark and unclear with the full knowledge that you are tethered to a large Universe that has only your wellbeing and growth in mind.

But one of the hidden benefits of living a nomadic life with few possession and estimating real wealth as beauty, spirit, new friends, new opportunity and an adventurous spirit, is it changes your physical chemistry. The body is not a vehicle just to get me from one country to the next, but is completely tuned to the vibration at which I live when I am inspired and challenged. Those experiences raise endorphins, change brain chemistry, metabolism, and virtually every cell in the body.

Living as a modern gypsy insists on total integration of mind, body and heart humming forward as one unit with the life battery being the soul. I don’t know how I could go back to living any other way.

bucket list

Tic-Toc Tico

slow

I have been in Costa Rica for one month and time has evaporated, but my ongoing dewy body has not. When time slips away and you forget what day of the week it is, Costa Ricans call it Tico time, Tico, the name for all the people who are Costa Rican. And I am not Costa Rican, so Tico time is a new concept. I know about Island Time from living in Hawaii; that slow lingering pace that comes from being drunk on the smell of Plumeria. But Tico time is all about “manana, manana and manana”.

For me, it seems to be about putting off till tomorrow what you need done today, but it really amounts to a deeply ingrained feeling that nothing at all is urgent; not leaky pipes, broken air conditioners or in my case, having an order in for internet to be installed filed on April 8 and finally being up and running as of just last week. Tico time is when no one gets the job done till they feel like doing it. “We will be out tomorrow, we have the order I promise you and we will be there” was the mantra for over six weeks.

So this is what I have learned from Tico time: Don’t be an ugly American and intimidate anyone or you will get nothing. And, don’t bribe anyone either (which is a customary expectation for some I am finding out) since word will get around that you use money to get what you want. So, why bother worrying since it doesn’t make anything happen any faster? Get used to standing in line or sitting and waiting for your number to be called if you want to pay the electric bill, for lets say maybe four hours. And most of all, simply do not make plans that you are not willing to adjust, more than once. And let’s not even start talking about people getting anywhere on time for just about anything.

So patience, breathing, laughing, waiting and rejoicing when the air conditioner finally works is a daily prayer. Fifty percent of my day is going to be taken up with things I never spent more than a couple of hours on in the States. But with all the aggravation,  I am learning to appreciate everything that comes with Tico time. There is an upside. I walk slower. I don’t hurry or check my watch ever. I cannot afford to get rattled or scowl or complain or get frustrated. So none of that is part of Tico time. As a result of waiting, and trying to be patient, I simply learn to make do, take in what is going on around me, slow down, do with less, be happy with more, and I am more content all the way around. I think the majority of the world who do not live in first world industrialized countries live this way all of the time.

It is a steep un-learning curve here in Costa Rica. For every miracle and flower, rare bird and magnificent thunderous storm there are trade offs. But the trade offs are things I really have come to understand are not really anything essential about life. I can in fact do without an internet signal…the world does not stop revolving and I can simply go down the hill to the Paradiso Café and meet new people, practice my Spanish and use their internet while sipping Costa Rican coffee as the roosters peck around the table. I can do without packaged food, unless I would like to pay $8 for a small container of almond milk. I can do without Pandora and I can do without electricity when there is a storm.   In fact I can do without a whole lot of things that when living in the States I thought were essential.

But what I get to live without is surprisingly liberating:

  • No traffic of any kind and no rush hour. There is nowhere to rush.
  • Movie Theaters. I read old-fashioned books on my Nook.
  • Electro-magnetic bombardment of my body and soul. None here. No wires.
  • Sleepless nights. Without the EM’s, I sleep like a baby.
  • Pollution both chemical and noise. Now that said the cicadas are deafening.
  • Accumulation of things not needed. It is all about simplicity here.
  • Shopping, more shopping and shopping Malls. Need I say more?
  • Road Rage. But let’s talk about the two lane back roads where you pass down the MIDDLE of an unmarked highway.
  • Cops, rarely see them.
  • Speed limits not sure I even know what it is here.
  • Strip Malls thank god.

What I get to live with has become more than wonderful:

  • Unparalleled beauty out my front door
  • Wild and powerful weather every day
  • The sound of the ocean tides coming in and roaring out
  • Kind smiling people most of the time
  • Mother Nature at her finest and in Technicolor
  • Giant papayas for a dollar
  • Coconuts with straws for a buck
  • Fresh everything, and I mean chickens killed at 8am and cooked by 5pm if you eat chicken
  • No clothes, bare feet, living in the water.
  • Fabulous skin from the humidity.
  • Deserted beaches
  • Going to bed at 8:30pm and parrots rousing me at 5am, not so gently
  • Living inside of natures rhythm from sunrise to sunset
  • Being fully present in my body at all times. Having to watch every step I take
  • Learning to live with the Jungle. The Jungle is alive and has rules.
  • Animals, animals and more animals. Have not met a sloth yet but they are everywhere
  • Fruit falling off trees into my lap while I am walking the dog: Starfruit, Mango, Banana and Coconuts
  • Fresh fish, fresh coffee, clean food everywhere.
  • My list here is far longer, but you get the picture.

It has taken me my entire life to allow myself to leap into a new way of living that is not “American” at it’s core ( I will be writing about the extensive ex-pat community later). I have finally given myself the opportunity to learn a new language, to pare down everything I thought I needed in life and make room for what is essential; Sun, surf and the pulsating organism that is a jungle. The jungle is prana, it is the life force of Costa Rica. It is the breath of life and like Eden, it is pure and balanced. I think I didn’t really know that my life in the American fast lane was far too hard for me to achieve balance and equanimity. Peace is much more available here in the rainforest that is Costa Rica.

So, I am ready to tell some tales that will make you laugh and hopefully encourage you to take off your shoes and step out of your life for a while. There is a new you outside your box just waiting for a chance to explore our beautiful world which will simply …rewire you and help you to remember who you are.

sloth

 

 

The Gypsy off Road

gypsy wagon home

 

My Gypsy Blog was started nearly four years ago when I took a leap out of my life as a therapist (and a closet writer), and decided to discover the story of my life…on the road.

 

But one thing I was not prepared for was that if you pack up your life in one tiny car, put your cat on the front seat and open your map and go east, there is no guarantee of getting there. Not when you are open to what happens when you are on the road. There is no promise that you will end up where you think you are going. That seems to be not only true about life in about every way, but true about writing a story. You may decide to go in one direction and end up with a totally different story…writing your life.

 

I have been in almost every state in the U.S. and have wandered my way back to one of my favorite places of all: Colorado. I was on my way north one time and ended up in Oklahoma, I was on my way to NYC and stayed in Asheville NC for a year, I went to visit someone up on the border of Canada and didn’t leave for a year. I decided to settle in Seattle and promptly was called to leave and go back east. I flew to Africa swearing I would never ever leave and landed back in Oklahoma a far cry from Africa. I have set out on so many journeys that my mind had constructed, but in the end, my heart took me places that were unexpected, serendipitous and magical.

 

And then there are the times that are not so magical. Or at least in that sparkly happy-to-be-there kind of way. Travel strips you. It makes it near impossible to be your limited self, to be afraid or get lost. But, in the end, you still get do get afraid and lost and more often than you would like. You run out of money and have to take a job you don’t love. You meet people who are not kind or generous, you make decisions that turn out to be bogus or you stand still at a hundred different crossroads and don’t have one clue which way to go.

That is the story for a writer as well.

 

A good story has all those elements in it: You get lost in the weeds of your own story, you stare at the blank page and have no clue which way to go, you run out of money to pay the electric bill since you never leave your computer long enough to know what time of the month it is, you let someone read your writing and they trash it and you give up at least once a week and you then read the chapter you just wrote and are bored to tears. These are NOT the magical moments for a writer.

 

And I decided to take a new road in my life where that is all I am now doing…I write. I have one magical, fluid, simple ten page day. Then I reread what I wrote and cringe. Rewrite it and smile. I set out to finish some research on a project and it leads me down a new path of thinking. I read a bestseller at noon for a break and realize I am not as good as the author. Then I stumble upon a poem just itching to get out onto the paper and I am hooked on it, I swallow it whole and by 2am I have the making of a great screenplay. This is a writer’s life.

You put all these inevitable experiences for a writer together like a well woven tapestry and you have the landscape that a writer lives in day in and day out. It is just as exciting as going off-road in a four-wheel and getting high into the back-country.

 

I have a new map. It is not the well-worn Road Atlas I have come to depend on when I am on some one lane road in a January snowstorm in North Dakota while I look for Devil’s Tower, it is a map that is born in my heart. I love storytelling and have so many to tell. I love to help others write the story that has been simmering in their psyche for a long time. Writing is just as spectacular an adventure as travel.

 

So I am currently off-road. For the time being the gypsy in me is hunkered down in the snowy mountains of Colorado and I am navigating a new territory. I am mapping my own life in words….I am excited to see where this new road will lead.  Please check often since I will post stories, and gypsy adventures. And hear more about my writing adventures at www.mythotherapy.org.