From a man's perspective
This is an e-mail I received from Steve in Montana. He's given me permission to share it with you and I hope it will touch you in the same way it has me:
I have just concluded a wonderful afternoon of reading all twenty-one of your past monthly columns. Thanks so much for taking the time to provide this valuable "real life" information that is not to be found in any Mexico guidebook. Since you appear to enjoy different people's perspectives, I will take the liberty of sharing mine with you under the assumption that you might find it interesting, even though I'm not a woman! If not, I'm confident that your keyboard has a delete key, and that you know how to use it! :-)
At any rate, I'm a 52 year old "baby boomer" like yourself, who is searching for that illusive thing called "happiness." Like you, I had always assumed that happiness was to be found amidst a glittering array of expensive material possessions, and, as a consequence, I have spent the first half my life pursuing this unrecognized illusion. But lately I've begun to view myself as the proverbial donkey who is single-mindedly pursuing a carrot that his master has so cleverly dangled just out of reach!
I was born and raised in San Diego, California. Got drafted in 1968. Flew helicopters in the Vietnam war. Used the GI Bill to get all my flying ratings. Got a job as an airline pilot; Invested my money in Southern California real estate, thanks to the good advice of a friend who was a real estate developer. Watched the value of my real estate grow exponentially, along with the population of my beloved Southern California. And I dutifully acquired all of the requisite expensive material paraphernalia.
Yet happiness was still eluding me. What a rude awakening that was! I had to stop and rethink my most cherished convictions! I came to the conclusion that the only reason happiness was eluding me was because of my fast-paced, stressful lifestyle and my overpopulated, polluted environment. So I quit my job, sold my real estate, dumped my depreciating assets, packed up what was left, and moved to the magnificent Northwest where I was certain to find my elusive dream!
I went from one extreme to the other overnight! I bought a house in the forest on sixty acres in a rural county of ten thousand people where the elk outnumber the citizens! There isn't even a traffic light in the whole county. This is truly God's country! Unfortunately, a native Southern Californian has no idea what real winter is all about! What a shock! At first it was fun, but after six cold and brutal winters it had become much less romantic. I've spent the past three winters planning a move to a more agreeable climate.
They say that happiness is a state-of-mind, and, while I can appreciate the truth in that assertion, I believe that there is much more to happiness than a person's mental outlook. I'm sure you'll agree that environment plays a big part. I am speaking from personal experience!
It certainly appears that you have found the environment that is most conducive to your happiness, and I hope to do the same. It is my fondest desire that the Lake Chapala area will suit my taste in the same way that it has suited yours. Perhaps I will have the pleasure of meeting you someday. Thanks again for the priceless info, it has certainly made my decision much easier.
PS. I'm including an ancient Indian poem for your enjoyment. I hope that you find it as moving as I did. Here it is:
(by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder)
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living;
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are;
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon;
I want to know if you have touched the center of your sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals,
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine and your own,
without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with JOY, mine or your own;
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful,
to be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true;
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul;
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty everyday, and if you can source your life from its presence;
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours or mine,
and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "YES!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have;
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, or how you came to be here;
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where, or what, or with whom you have studied;
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away;
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
I hope you enjoyed it.