Monday, August 19, 2013

Attending to Endings – Put in the Effort & Let go of the Result

Every change is about a gain and a loss, a new beginning, but an ending too. For one door to open, another must close.  It’s important to face the truth of that and get closure on the past so you can move with focus and conviction to the future.

For me, in Peace Corps Mexico, it was about concluding my Viva Viveros project with the Mexican EPA and the women of Zamachihue, and tying up loose ends on my many relationships, secondary projects, and my Mexican life.

But what did closure really mean?  I had the vision of my new DC life all mapped-out; and images of this interim place I would go to decompress were revealing themselves in my journals:

I cracked open my Lonely Planet for the first time in a year and realized ALL of Mexico I’ve missed out on. But really, I did not come here to travel: I came here to work, to learn, to make a life. Now the time is coming for me to explore.  And I’m starting to feel excited about being a traveler in Mexico – with command of the language and comfort with the bus system and all the difficulties lifted off me, lessons I’ve learned the hard way.  I feel ready to takeoff with confidence and wanderlust.

And Oaxaca does seem to be calling. Reading in Kingsolver’s novel about Frida, the Little Oaxacan Queen, has made that place so real, so enticing. I want to touch the textiles and taste the mole and sip the mezcal - enjoy all the things I don’t have here in this hardscrabble, landlocked rincon of Mexico. Yes, I owe it to myself to find it out – to see another Mexico before I go – to know Professor Edgardo’s ‘Many Mexicos.’  And in this exotic place, take the time to write-out this book before I cross the border and get sucked into life in the fast lane, USA. 

I envision a beautiful quiet posada by the sea. I’ve saved up some money. I'll treat myself. After my three buses from Rioverde to DF, I'll catch the puddle-jumper to Puerto Escondido rather than the 12-hour throw-up bus over the Sierra Madres. Hidden Port will be a great place to hide-out.

The map of my ‘heart’s desire’ is unfolding. 

My yearning for this place was strong; but I was not there yet. I had lengthy and multidimensional to-do lists. My calendar printout was packed with trips to the campo, report deadlines, meetings in the capital, and final sessions of my university classes and English salons. It was almost illegible for the schedule change cross-outs, scribbles and arrows. 

It’s one thing to go with the cultural flow when you have two years;  but with two months left, I had no more time for Mexican Time.

We still had 20,000 trees to sell! They were mature and popping out of their bags. If we didn’t close a deal before I left, I was sure the seedlings would wither in the greenhouse, and the Zama Mamas would never realize their return on investment. But our leads were taking us down rat holes - enthusiastic prospects stopped returning phone calls. And after six months jumping through bureaucratic hoops with La Hacienda (the Mexican IRS), we still had not gotten closure on the official tax ID that would make or break the deal with our prime prospect, CONANP, the agency for parks and protected areas.

I found myself drifting to Puerto Escondido, fantasizing about running along the beach, watching the sunset over the Pacific, swimming in the sea and eating fish tacos!

But I had to reign in the fantasy and come back to the reality of here and now. 

Here and now, how the hell would I get it all done? What if I couldn’t?  I definitely wouldn't!  It was time to face the truth.  Coach Leslie helped me with this, first by helping me see all that I HAD done.  I brainstormed a list packed with over 20 big items like:
  • Secured/completed USAID SPA grant funding for Viva Viveros.
  • Created Pyramid Model of Sustainability. Applied/documented along the way.
  • Presented Sustainability workshops for municipal government of Rioverde, citizen’s groups, universities, conferences – to get the word out at broader/system level. 
  • Wrote posts about my experience for Anneseye Blog and published articles for The Piñata.
  • Profesora invitada at at UPSLP school of industrial engineering.
  • Led local community classes and events:  yoga, abs class, English Salon, CODI orphanage soccer balls program, EcoFeria Puente!  
  • Built meaningful friendships with Rita and Sergio, Christina and Flor and Roberto in SLP, Chuya and her daughter Lupita, Ricardo and the folks at Echo-logical, Mike, Drew, Sarah and other PCVs...
Wow, that was a lot. My Peace Crops service had not been a cuerpo de passeo, a stroll in the park, as it was jokingly referred to at PCMX headquarters office, a Mexican play on words.

Leslie helped me thank myself for all that. No matter what happened over the next two months, I would leave my mark on Mexico and the Mexicans on me. And in that small space of acknowledgement and acceptance, I was able to let go of some of the striving. I took a list over 100 to-dos and narrowed it down to 3 big ticket items, following my three-tiered Pyramid of Sustainability Model as a guide:  
  • At the personal level, I was: Being intentional about closing my service and my relationships (both personal and professional) with Appreciation, Grace, Sustainability, and Possibility; acknowledging the sadness, but appreciating everything that I have given and received.
  • At the group/community level I was: Realizing the schedule, remaining focused, not adding any new projects or tasks, recruiting help, preparing and conducting the final three community training sessions in Zamachihue to xfer knowledge on finances, bylaws, sustainable practices, meetings/roles, sales.  And Celebrating!
  • And at the system-level I was: Conducting closing meetings with my Peace Corps bosses and my SEMARNAT counterparts to present the truth of my challenges, accomplishments and recommendations powerfully so this information might serve other/future PCVs and projects.
Yes, there was still a LOT to do.  And I didn’t have full control over making it all come to closure.  But I could really see what was important – and it was not ALL about selling the trees.  It was about the human element.  

It was also about:   Putting it the effort and letting go of the result.

The mantra which helped me through two years of ups and downs in my Peace Corps service would carry me through to the end.

Closure, I learned on this journey, is about accepting things as they are – appreciating all that you did accomplish -  and honoring and celebrating with those who supported and humored you along the way. Then, and only then, are you ready to open up to what’s next.

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