Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I've always loved the Mexican tradition of celebrating those who have gone before but it wasn't until we lived there that we made our own altar.

Represented are our grandparents, our pets, and our friends. We have some of their things as well; a beer for Roger, Zeus's collar, Shelley's jam recipe she sent on a postcard. There's a special dead bread you're supposed to put out as well, but I'm out of space.

The general mood of the day is more one of joy than sorrow, although sorrow is definitely in the mix. When I pass by my altar, mostly I feel connected to those who have passed, but I also still grieve the recent ones. Putting out these photos and decorations brings present for me how much we don't talk about death in our culture. It's so much more acknowledged in Mexico.

Although it falls near Halloween, and the skeleton images are similar to ones you'll see in the States, it's a very different holiday. The graves are meticulously decorated and visited. Picnics are had in the cemetery, and music plays. Fireworks are shot off to guide souls home.

This cemetery in San Miguel de Allende was so old that it didn't seem like anyone now living would have actually known anyone buried here. But all the graves are decorated - even the unmarked ones.

Another sight that impressed me in San Miguel was an altar in the town square. It was for a man who clearly enjoyed his vices, as it featured a bottle of tequila and pack of cigarettes. I was amazed teenagers hadn't absconded with the goods.

But I guess that points to a very different context for death, which was my initial point. A very wise woman taught me that when someone dies, our relationship with them doesn't end, it changes. So in the spirit of Dia de Los Muertos, I invite you to celebrate your loved ones, your ancestors, your pets, and feel sad if you feel sad, but don't back away from the sad. Move through it, until you get to feeling glad they blessed your life. Share about them today. Remember something funny or wonderful they did. And be grateful you have this moment right now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Who's Driving Your Schedule?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about decluttering the schedule. That post prompted an interesting exchange of emails between a reader and me, and she gave permission for me to share it with you. I hope you glean something from it. I know she and I both did!

Q: So in your reconstructed life... do you have lots of time with nothing planned? Or do you have a routine each day? It is beyond what I can imagine that you have maybe one thing to do each day and the rest of the day is yours with nothing on the agenda... Can you provide insight?

A: Girl, I will never have a life with just one thing on the schedule for the day. I'm just not wired up that way! (Maybe if I stopped writing everything down...) But most days are relatively unstructured time-wise, but with a prioritized to do list that I get through as much as I can. I'm fairly disciplined, although when it comes to the creative to dos, I don't try to force it if it ain't there that particular day. And I never get it all done. Too entrepreneurial. Too many ideas and “could dos” floating around to ever feel done. But I certainly do have a sense of accomplishment at the end of most days. And each week I make a plan that tends to give some structure to each day.

Q: I am trying to see the difference… I feel that you have made changes, have more control.... Is it accurate to say you are paced by the things you want to do, rather than doing things/events driven by others? (It does not appear that you have many appointments/meetings that are directed by others.) But you still have a list of things to do, they are just things that are Karen-driven, rather than initiated by others. If this is so, then it could be easy to let the day drift away, if you did not have any intent or purpose or goal? Or am I sounding like a highly scheduled type A?

A: Yes, leaving Phoenix where I had such a large community of friends and associates, immediately freed my schedule from the seemingly thousands of events driven by others, the let's have coffees, let's have dinner, let's have a committee meeting, etc. Both fun and business commitments tended to fill up my schedule. I enjoyed the vast majority of them, but it was so constant.

So now, with a much "quieter" business and a much smaller social circle, my time is a lot more self-directed. I mean, I was the one always saying yes to the many commitments before, but now there's a lot less to say yes or no to, and that makes it easier.

And if I did not have a clear plan, you bet the day would drift.

So Reader, how much of your time is you-driven vs. initiated by others? If it’s mostly the latter, where could you take back some control? And where could you start saying “No”? I look forward to your comments!