Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes…

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

I’ve just spent my first full week in Mexico, and I thought everyone would enjoy an update. I’d like to especially focus on a particular situation that has been a source of much fruitful Course practice and deeper joining for Patricia and me — a situation that is helping me learn how to be more peaceful in the face of life’s uncertainties.

First a few updates. On the sad side, our cat Chloe, whom we brought from Sedona with her “sister” Sassy, has disappeared.  We think she went out the window, and we are now in the process of putting up notices to see if anyone has found her. Please pray for her safe return.

On the happy side, we’re settling into our home nicely, we’ve had lots of delicious food (so different from American Mexican food), I’ve met a number of Patricia’s wonderful friends, and I’ve started taking Spanish classes (two hours a day, four days a week). Sassy and Patricia’s cat la Kiara have been going through a sometimes rough process of getting to know each other (hisses, growls, and even a few scratches), but they are making progress. We’ve even seen them peacefully on the bed together a few times.

Plus, Patricia and I just did our first presentation together, a class on holy relationships for her weekly Course group (which also includes CCC member Janet Wilson). I presented some of the Course’s teachings on holy relationships, Patricia translated for me, and both of us offered the experiences we’ve had in our holy relationship as real-life examples of what we were teaching. It went wonderfully. People are asking when our next presentation will be!

Now, about that situation I referred to above: To make a long story short, Patricia loaned her truck to Jaime, her housekeeper’s son. She couldn’t find the title for it, but figured it would probably be okay. Unfortunately, the police pulled Jaime over for a minor infraction, and since he didn’t have the title to the truck, they assumed he had stolen it. He has been cleared, but her truck is still in the hands of the law, and Patricia and I are now trying to get it back.

This sounds like it would be easy, but if you think that, you do not understand life in Mexico. Mexican government and law enforcement can be a daunting bureaucratic maze, and though Patricia has plenty of evidence that she owns the truck, she still can’t find the title. No title, no truck.

Thus, we have spent much of our first week together going through a bizarre process that has reminded both of us of Kafka’s The Trial. We go to one office, and they tell us we need to go to another office across town. We go to the other office, and they say we need five copies of this, that, and the other document. We get the copies, return, and then they say we need to go to yet another office across town. We arrive at the office across town, and it is closed for the day. (The previous office doesn’t know the business hours of the next office they send you to.) We go to the bank to pay fees, then go back to the office with the receipt (you usually can’t pay them at the actual office). Even when you have everything they need, they tell you to come back two days later (as we were told on Tuesday). While all of this is going on, the impound lot where the truck is located (or so they tell us — we weren’t allowed to actually see it) is charging more and more for each day the truck remains there. And so it goes. And goes. And goes.

It is a challenging situation, and of course for me the confusion is compounded on several fronts. I’m in a foreign country I’ve never visited before. I’m in a new city I’ve never seen before, full of winding streets and “creative” drivers. I don’t know the language, so I can’t say anything to anyone beyond “¡Buenos días!” and “¡Buenas tardes!” and “¿Dónde está el baño?” (a vital question!). Our office visits consist of Patricia having an animated discussion with some clerk while I stand there looking befuddled — el gringo perplejo. I’m in a position where I can do virtually nothing tangible to help the process.

This is where our Course practice has proven very helpful. Patricia is just getting into part II of the Workbook, so before going out for another day in the bureaucratic labyrinth, we’ve been doing our morning practice periods together, praying and meditating with the day’s lesson. And we’ve had some good lessons lately, considering our situation: lessons like “There is no peace except the peace of God” (review) and “Peace to my mind. Let all my thoughts be still.” And, after watching Monty Python’s Life of Brian the other night, I have to say we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the song the crucified men sang from the cross at the end of that movie: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

The great news is that as a result of our practice, what could be a very frustrating situation has been, for the most part, an occasion for love, forgiveness, and especially laughter. Though the system is incredibly inefficient, most of the actual people who have helped us have been cheerful, kind, understanding, and helpful. We’ve enjoyed getting to know Jaime, who has accompanied us for parts of the process. I think our forgiving attitude toward him, in the face of the fact that his infraction contributed to the mess, has had a positive effect on him. And even when things have gotten difficult, all we’ve had to do is gently remind each other of the lesson or whistle a few bars of that Monty Python song, and we’ve felt peace and joy again. It is our first little adventure together.

That last line captures something else that has truly touched me: Going through this situation together has made it so much easier for both of us. In the holy relationship material in the Text, we read the following:

Forget not that your relationship is one, and so it must be that whatever threatens the peace of one is an equal threat to the other. The power of joining its blessing lies in the fact that it is now impossible for you to experience fear alone, or to attempt to deal with it alone….Yet just as this is impossible, so is it equally impossible that the holy instant come to either of you without the other. And it will come to both at the request of either. (T-18.V.6:3-4, 6-7)

That has been our experience. When Patricia has been especially frustrated by a new roadblock in the process, I have been there to take her hand and console her. When I have been especially overwhelmed by the sheer strangeness (from my perspective) of everything around me, she has been there to take my hand and console me. We have had many beautiful holy instants. Together, with each other’s strong support and the support of our shared spiritual path, we have turned what could be a nightmare into a joyous exercise in forgiveness and deeper joining.

As for me, while I’ve sometimes been frustrated by the slowly grinding gears of life in Mexico, as I said above, it is helping me learn how to be more peaceful in the face of life’s uncertainties. We don’t know what is going to happen next — we still don’t have the truck back — but we know our loving Father is taking care of us. Why get frustrated? Why worry? We have God, the Course, and each other. What more could we want? As we trust in God’s plan and laugh at the constant thwarting of our own plans, I’m reminded of Jimmy Buffet’s song:

Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.