A Work-in-Progress, Day after Day after Day

26 Sep

You could say I’m stuck in the life of a white, middle-class, 1950’s housewife- minus the valium and fancy appliances. Or some days it feels more like that movie Groundhog Day- where I wake up to the same old monotony, day after day after day. If you’ve never been outside of the U.S., you might not understand how much patience is required. Everything is slower. It’s all a process. All the time.
For me, in addition to being a city girl, raised in the land-of-convenience, I’m a habitual multi-tasking over-achiever. Despite having travelled a lot and learned to (temporarily) go with the flow, I tend to think patience looks great on others, but for me is a really boring, overrated virtue. I catch a glimpse of it in myself from time to time, or in certain contexts (like when I’m teaching, I can be the epitome of patience), but then it slips out of my greedy little hands when I wish for it the most. Such as when trying to accomplish anything in Mexico- aka daily life.  Let me paint a little picture for you.
The first 4 or 5 hours of my day, every day, look like this:
-Get up, shower and get dressed. Go upstairs and put water to boil on the stove.
-Attempt to sweep the puddles of water off of the upstairs floor/porch/roof (whatever you want to call it- the top floor of the house in the part that’s open air)- because it inevitably rained at some point in the night and the concrete is uneven at certain points of the roof (which is flat).
-Put the clothes that didn’t dry yesterday back out on the line. Try to keep an eye on the coffee or it’ll boil over.
-Start washing diapers. Now technically, we have a washer. But it is not a washer like you probably have, or like you have access to at the laundromat down the street from you. It is a washer which sometimes manages to swirl the clothes around a little bit before I have to take them out, potentially scrub on them some more, rinse them, and squeeze as much water as I can out of them. Then I hang them on the line to dry and try to stay close by because it could suddenly start to rain at any moment in the day. Notice I say “start” washing diapers because as you can imagine, all of this is a process and I am also taking care of the baby and potentially still waiting on coffee and other such tasks that I probably shouldn’t bother trying to multitask. Taking care of Lucia means talking to her while I do things, hoping she plays with the giraffe that hangs on her carseat, trying not to feel guilty about letting her sit around in her car seat all morning, putting her in the wrap when she won’t sit alone anymore, feeding her when necessary (which of course is like a giant pause button on all these morning tasks)…. You get the idea. Slow, slow, slow.

clothes rinsing and spin cycles

-Wash the dishes from last night, since it was probably raining when we finished eating dinner, or else it was just dark and we were tired and didn’t feel like it.  (I think it only rains like this about 6 months out of the year?)

the dishwasher

-Coffee is surely ready by now, having boiled for a few minutes and then sat on the stove to let the grounds settle at the bottom. I drink some coffee and start to feel more alive.
-Check and see if we have enough ingredients or appropriate leftovers for almuerzo, which we might call breakfast except it’s late in the morning, around 10 or 11 o’clock. (I note here that this schedule of eating is perfect for me. Thank you, Mexico.) If not, go to the appropriate place to buy whatever. The appropriate place is usually some version of a corner store which is some neighbor’s storefront. Although sometimes you need stuff from the centro, which is a further walk. Not somewhere I’m willing to go in the morning- if I didn’t go in the afternoon then oh well.
-Start cooking, or heating stuff up, etc. Hopefully the woman down the street who makes tortillas by hand has passed by and brought the tortillas for the morning. If not, someone’s gotta go get them.
-Sit down to eat. Feed Lucia first, because she’s probably hungry again by now.
-Wash the dishes.
-Now it’s time to go out and get supplies/food, or run errands or whatever. Hope it doesn’t rain while we’re gone.
-Get back and it’s time to start cooking for la comida, another fairly big meal that happens around 3pm.
This is my morning/early afternoon, more or less every day, over and over. Often Conan’s mom is here and she takes some of these responsibilities, and Conan also does some of them plus some other relevant stuff. Some of this would be a slow process no matter what, by virtue of having a newborn baby. But this gives you an idea of how my time flies, filled with non-glamorous non-adventures. The rest of the afternoon usually holds other non-glamorous and slow tasks as well. This is part of how I end up not having time to write. This is how I end up so often feeling bored and frustrated, like I’ve accomplished nothing in the entire day, despite being busy all day long.
But I guess I accomplish living another day. Raising my daughter another day. Being with family another day. Learning how to navigate another culture, another phase in my life, for yet another day. And maybe I don’t cross off much on my to-do list, but when I accept that this is my life, and not actually some 50’s TV show nightmare I’m going to wake up from, I find moments of joy. I shamelessly sing off-key to music while I wash, despite the neighbors hearing me. I tell stories to Lucia while I cook. I check my facebook while I feed Lucia. I chat with people. I find time to laugh. This is my life, and it’s just how it needs to be, if I can just remember that I’m my own main character. Even if I didn’t write the script, if I don’t always have much control over the circumstances, I decide how I act, and how I’ll live.  And I decide I don’t need Valium or (many) fancy appliances. I throw away my to-do list and decide I’ll put passion into monotony, and that’ll be even better than patience. Even if it takes forever.

5 Responses to “A Work-in-Progress, Day after Day after Day”

  1. Ain't Linda September 26, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    Fact of life: no matter where you live or what you have or who you are or think you are, parenthood is all about the kid. Before you know it, 18 years will have passed and the boredom, the ” my life on hold”, the worry, dirty diapers, malfunctions or any other hassles that life throws at you will have all been worth it , no matter what. You’ll wonder where the time went, because you’ll want to do it again even when you feel guilty that you’re glad it is behind you. It is an enigma. Enjoy it.

  2. fml221 September 26, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Nice look at your day – half of it anyhow. 🙂

    Some of it is just having a baby to take care of, nobody actually gets anything done anywhere when they’re this age. Enjoy that part of it – the singing and so on. When she starts crawling and walking, you’ll get to spend more time chasing after her, keeping one eye on the coffee!

    But you’re so right, you can only control how you react, and that really is what determines the kind of life you have. I’m glad you’re building a life with joy right where you are.

  3. robin conway September 26, 2012 at 11:08 am #

    That feeling of “What did I accomplish?” That’s being a stay-at-home mom! I often feel the same way evev as I am surrounded by modern conveniences. I have fretted that my days are filled with tedious chores—I mean we have to feed them– right! Just remember if your daughter is healthy and happy and near then you are a smashing success!!!!

    • exiletomexico September 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      Thanks! Love the term “smashing success”- it’s making me glow as we speak.

  4. mommy justaddkids September 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Non glamorous non adventures — yeah — I feel you. But then again — I’m doing the deluxe spoiled version of mommydom. Just make sure you get some time to recharge (the answer to, “do you need any help” is always “yes”

    or at least in my book!

    hang in there — G

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