On Being Busy

One of the reasons I moved to Mexico in the first place was because I wanted a simpler life. Life in a Canadian city can often be fast-paced, with long work hours and commute times. Winters are cold and unforgiving on both your exposed skin and your car (salted roads are great for traction but not so hot for the paint job). Property taxes are high, rents are high, and Vitamin D deficiency rates are high.

When I began adult life in Canada, almost everyone claimed to be unbelievably busy. It was almost something to be proud of, as if by being busy and not often available made us somewhat more desirable and successful human beings.

I felt bombarded by the pressure to start a family, collect many many material items, pay lots of taxes, and hopefully retire somewhere warm. I was young and childless and I thought there might be something more out there. Even at twenty-five, I knew that if I wanted children someday, I never wanted them to wonder if I had time for them. I didn’t want a marriage relationship to be in competition with careers or activities or stuff.

The idea of moving to a town on the coast was very appealing. From all accounts, life was slower, calmer, and happier in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Busy-ness wasn’t a condition to be celebrated, even if it was a fact of life. Leisure time was valued, and families and relationships took first place.

But guess what? That busy, hectic, non-stop lifestyle I assumed I had avoided when I moved to Mexico? Yeah. It was waiting for me. It was snickering and hovering just on the other side of the door called “Parenthood” and “Responsibility”. And, if I had been paying attention instead of gazing into the soulful eyes of my favorite musician, it was the lifestyle being experienced by people all around me in Puerto Vallarta.

Sure, the view is better. When I take my daughter to her singing classes, I get to sit and watch the ocean while I wait for her. When we do homework, we sometimes sit outside in the garden in the middle of February.

But our family still gets stuck running on that hamster wheel of life, and we forget to walk on the sand and let the sun warm our faces. And sometimes we even wear the busy-ness like a badge, like a prize we get for sacrificing our own needs or desires so that our kids get the best opportunities.

But I’ve determined that I don’t  want to look back on my life and wonder why I didn’t listen more, why I didn’t laugh more, or why I worried so much. So sometimes I sit back and smell the guayabas (at least as wonderful as the roses).

Because Mexico has changed me in all the ways I had hoped it would.

I may still need to wait for hours at the driver’s license agency or the passport office, but I’ll probably spend the time laughing with my husband instead of fuming over the wasted time.

I may still work long hours at my job, but they are hours I enjoy in a job I love.

I may still drive my children to activities like singing lessons or swimming classes, but I’ll enjoy the ocean breeze while I wait.

I may not have gotten the simpler life that I dreamed of when I moved to Mexico, but I believe what I’ve gotten is even better. I may be busy sometimes, but the busy-ness isn’t the part that makes me feel successful or proud. The people in my life make me feel successful and proud, and I’ll never be too busy to remember that.