Friday, Jun 1, 2018
Can you believe it is June? Six months of this year have gone by…vanished, never to be seen again. What have you done with your time in the first six months of this year? Was it worthy of 180 days of your life? Did those 180 days count for you in meaningful ways? What were your expectations?
I sure am not where I want to be with my presence in the present moments, and I keep striving to do better. How about you? It is a strange realization for me living here in Ecuador when I catch myself not being present. The whole reason I moved here is to engage, connect, and be present in a different cultural experience. This of course is happening; however, there are plenty of times I can be on autopilot and miss the experience I’m in.
Missing my experience living in Ecuador is no different from missing an experience with my kids, or spouse, or family, or colleagues or any number of people and places I can find myself physically present in space and time with, yet not there. So my commitment is to do better being present in my life here in the next 180 days than I did in the first 180. How about you?
Gray Is Just Another Color
I’ve already started putting it into practice. The overcast gray, rainy weather has returned here on the coast. It’s not my favorite, and I am approaching it very differently than from last year. For one, I am still out walking on the beach even though it initially feels “cold”, the mist or light rain is making me damp, and there is not a drop of sunshine to be seen. I’m choosing to be present in this experience, not bitch about it, and instead look for what’s in it.
Guess what? I find I can enjoy myself anyway. The color of the water is muted; the white-capped waves show up differently against the cloudy background of a gray sky; the fisherman out in their boats look as if they are drifting across a monochromic TV screen. I like what I am seeing and experiencing. It isn’t what I prefer, but it is enjoyable and pleasant in the present moment.
I think the difference now is due to my expectations. Last year I was caught off guard. I didn’t expect the sun to disappear for months. This year I am not holding an expectation of sunny days one after another for the next six months.
It doesn’t mean I don’t want them. It only means I may have to go visit other places to have that. So, while I am here…I’m here having the experience in front of me. How many experiences, that could otherwise be enjoyable, are made miserable when we get stuck in our expectations?
When it comes to hanging on to our expectations, living in a foreign country is no different from living where we came from. Unmet expectations are a source of suffering. What are expectations anyway? Ideas of how we want something to be. I don’t think it is wrong to have an expectation of what something will be like. It can give us energy to move toward that thing we want.
The danger is the strength of our grip on an expectation. If I can’t let go of it when it doesn’t materialize, it can trap me. The story of the monkey and the coconut illustrates this. A coconut is chained to the ground. A hole just large enough for a monkey’s open hand is made into the coconut. Rice is put into the coconut.
When the monkey reaches in to get the rice, he makes a fist to hold onto it. He can’t pull his hand out of the coconut. The monkey is set on the idea that he can’t let go of the rice, so he is trapped only because of his own belief. I don’t want to be a trapped monkey, do you? So, as Elsa sang in Frozen…let it go.
Ecuador’s Health Care System
I used Ecuador’s health care system recently. When I say my expectations were not met, I’m being honest. I saw a primary care doctor to have my skin checked for potential cancers and my eyes checked for cataracts. The “exam” consisted of a nurse taking my blood pressure, weighing me, and asking me how tall I am. Then I went into the “exam” room with the primary care doctor,
The room didn’t have an exam table. It had a desk where the doctor sat looking at a computer screen. He asked me what was wrong and I told him, then he started typing on the computer. He told me that I would have to call next month to try to get an appointment to have my eyes checked because all appointments were full with the ophthalmologist for the next four months. No further appointments could be made until the new month started.
He did ask me to lift up my shirt, which I did and I pointed out some spots on my back. He looked at my back from across the desk then started typing on the computer looking for a dermatologist. The same situation existed, all appointments were booked out four months. Call next month to try to get an appointment.
So my expectations of getting these two things taken care of didn’t happen. And unlike the monkey, I let go of it. After seeing the doctor, my friend who was helping me navigate the Spanish through this process told me about an optometrist friend he knew. So we went their for an eye exam and a new prescription for my glasses.
The optometrist was able to tell me from his exam I didn’t have cataracts. This confirmed my suspicion that after 3 years with my current prescription, I just can’t see because my eyes need a stronger lens. My friend also told me about Solca, a hospital system that only deals with cancer treatment. He said I could be examined by a dermatologist there for only $12. So, appointment made…problem of a four month wait solved! I’ll let you know how that experience goes.
This was a good example for me that when I am able to let go of my expectations there becomes room for other things to show up to meet my needs. Definitely an important tool for successful living in Ecuador.