You feel pretty buttoned up. Your writing workshop is coming together like a dream. Twenty-two people. A small city tucked into the mountains of Mexico. You spend months organizing the hotel, the shuttles, sending emails back and forth with participants, extolling the virtues of the magical town; the giant puppets parading the streets, the churches lit up all baby pink at night, bougainvillea crawling the city walls.
You bring in a bad ass teacher from New York, one of your mentors, one of the most inspiring writers you know, and someone you’re grateful to teach alongside.
Weeks before people fly in, you write your opening notes, talking about what it might be like to write in this ancient city, saying things like, “You’ll wake up, you’ll let go. You’ll be asked to step into the mystery.”
You love what you write. It’ll be a great beginning to the workshop. Some people might even take notes as you speak.
And to sweeten the deal, your family is coming to town for Christmas, a week before the workshop. You imagine yourself strolling the square at night with your niece and nephew, your sister, your mother and your oldest daughter. Churches from the 1500’s line the path, violinists spring up behind park benches for impromptu concerts, churros ooze caramel, everyone walks the cobblestone streets in the moonlight with their arms around each other.
You know how to make things nice, so you head to the Church of Immaculate Conception early one foggy morning, weeks before everyone’s arrival, to place an order for Christmas tamales because you’ve heard that the nuns make the best tamales in town. When you push open the heavy church door at 8 am you are met by the quiet eyes of six nuns who are sweeping the sanctuary and who don’t speak English. “Come back Friday,” says the man delivering flowers for the altar.
You order 24 tamales, but from someone else, a woman in town who can use the money and who your new friend from salsa class says is an excellent cook.
For your family, you plan a walking tour of town, a cooking class, and you order flan from the tiny bakery down the lane.
Everything is ready to go, but this piece is about lessons, and most lessons include some loss.
And so, when the workshop is canceled two weeks before everyone flies in because the virus is spreading, and because half the participants are coming from the epicenter in New York, you take a deep breath and re-read your opening remarks. You realize that you wrote them for yourself. Now you are the one who is waking up, letting go and stepping into the mystery. Now you are the one taking notes.
You write apologies. You find a new date. You try to make things right, but in the end, it’s the virus you’re wrestling – which is like getting into the ring with a sumo wrestler who is 17 times your size, and oiled up too. Every time you try to get a hold of him and flip him, you go flying. It’s almost comedic. You know the lesson is surrender, but it’s so hard to give up when you want what you want, when you want what you want…
As for the family, well, you know. No one is getting on a plane from the U.S., plus, your mother and daughter have been exposed back home, so they’re tucking in for a nice quiet Christmas. In a few days your mother will get covid, as will a member of the writing workshop who was set to board a plane.
The first few days are hard. You field emails, cancel plans. You run around trying to catch the falling balls. You hit a wall. People are upset, understandably. This is the American way. You’re used to being able to fix things. It’s not easy to sit with disappointment.
Seems like you should be getting the lesson by now; our third covid winter. But this is a hard one to learn.
You keep the order for the 24 tamales, which will be delivered on Christmas Eve. The woman making the tamales has a daughter with a broken cello, and they don’t have the money to fix it.
A group of Haitian refugees who have crossed the border into Mexico are camping out at a service station in town. You think about those 24 tamales. Two days in a row you set out on foot to try and find the refugees, but Google maps gets you lost each time. You end up donating money instead.
Hands on your chest in bed, you settle in. “It’s okay,” you tell yourself. “You’re okay. You’re getting the hang of it now.”
You don’t get what you want, you get something else – even if you don’t know what that something is, even if it’s disguised in sorrow and loss.
This is not a piece about the tamales. It’s not a piece about Christmas or a workshop that had to be canceled, or even a fast moving virus. You know what this piece is about. It’s not easy to surrender. It’s easy to talk about it, but living it is something else.
Listen to Laurie read the post here:
Beautiful. We all know this place you’re writing from. So sad this unfolded as it did. But I honestly hope you were able to eat, with appreciation (and maybe even delight), at least a couple of the tamales.
Man(woman) makes plans and God laughs
“It’s not easy to sit with disappointment… It’s not easy to surrender… living it is something else.” Thank you for this vulnerable sharing ❤️
Just going through that experience. Bless you and thank you for sharing.
Thank you for letting us in to this lovely expression of your heart and life.
Thank you for sharing and the gift of your words.
Oh Laurie, thank you for writing this now for us to read. A lovely Christmas story, your story. I see the nuns sweeping, a broken chello… My story is a lovely Christmas story too, if I could only see it…a living mystery , day in, day out. Thank you for showing us your way to be true and vulnerable. Wishing you well.
And yet we – no, I – keep on fighting and wrestling and turning my back indignantly. Learning to regroup over and over is exhausting. Maybe I’ll get it right someday and will leap, dancing, over the disappointments. The daily lessons keep ending with, “but at least I’m healthy.” And I guess that’s all we have to hold on to these days. I’ll read your words again soon. They help.
“You realize that you wrote them for yourself.“ Always. Heartbreaking piece. Enjoy a tamale and a churro oozing with caramel for me.
Yes….surrender….this brought tears to my eyes…
Thank you, again and again for opening your heart and pouring it out on the page. And for teaching us to do the same.
Such a beautiful response to this disappointment Laurie. May your words help others of us who have had a similar experience. So much uncertainty, so many opportunities to surrender. thank you. xoxo
“You can’t always get what you want…you get what you need”!and today I needed this post. Thank you.
Thanks for sharing Laurie! Beautifully written and read.
Happy New Year!
Full body goosebumps. Your vulnerability wakes up mine. It invites me to show up rawer, not try to fix it, but sit with it; find the lesson I didn’t ask for, but needed. Thank you for being a light, Laurie. Sending love.
Sorry babe. Sigh. Carry on—-we got no other choice. Sending love and hugs.
Powerfully written, dear Laurie. The thing I notice with a loss like this is that every other big loss in my life hitches a ride on the current loss to harvest its share of grief which I ran from fully expressing at the time. It’s a lot. I feel like getting on a plane to give you a big hug… sending cyber hugs instead 🤗
Powerful. And poignant. We’re in a time when each loss is every loss, when exhaling is an act of courage, because what if we haven’t the strength to summon the next breath?
Laurie, I love how deep you go…all in…24 tamales in making surrender that much harder. Colorful and beautiful writing.
This is so right– it is about surrender. I haven’t seen my sister since 2019; she lives in Europe and I’m in the States and we were supposed to see each other for Christmas, but she got covid. Even when we think we are practiced at surrender, there is more to surrender. Thank you for putting it into such beautiful words, Laurie.
Those last three lines.
So, so many people had made plans and had to change them. This most recent holiday time and across the many months between March 2020 and now. So many disappointments along the way. And, as you ask here Laurie, what have we learned? As our son Alex (who is a young adult living with Down Syndrome) says so simply, and which we know is not so simple a thing to do, “let it go”.
We will be able to get together again, in the future, some time, and it will be all the sweeter because of the disappointments experienced on our way to that reunion.
Sending you much love, joy, peace, good health, patience, and courage for the year ahead!
This is beautiful and of course I knew about Ruby but not about your mom and the workshop. My heart breaks for you and the relentless disappointments and losses this virus is causing. Beautifully expressed as always. Xo
Thank you Laurie for the words I so needed to hear this morning. Gratefully received.
Yes. The surrender. I am with you…laying back and letting the loss snuggle right up against me. Ugh. I hate to have to keep allowing/inviting it back in…and yet I must because here we are. Love you.
Totally something else. And so, so difficult. Thank you Laurie, I feel less alone and that is a lot
This is a wonderful piece of writing and a deeply resonant revelation for me. In the last few months, my life has been a bowling ball thrown my a bad player, zig-zagging wildly down the lane, barely missing the gutters, before side-sliding into the pins, knocking a good few over and leaving the rest in a hopeless split. There’s nothing left to do but, yeah, surrender, damnit!
(If I was home in San Miguel right now instead of hanging out with oncologists and radiologists and surgeons in Oregon, I’d invite you to meet me at El Buen Cafe for a cuppa and a piece of one of Kris’ amazing cakes. Maybe next year.)
Hope your Mom gets better soon! On the upside you do get to eat those 24 delicious tamales. 🙂
Thank you for sharing from your authentic self. . .as you always do. Many plans were dashed this holiday season, so your blogpost will no doubt help others who are dealing with disappointment. Better disappointment than regret.
Wishing you and our other Wild Writers the happiest of new years.
“it’s so hard to give up when you want what you want, when you want what you want…”
Isn’t that the truth? We are living in an amplified version of “[people] plan, God laughs” these days. And I, in all of my to-date good fortune amongst the wreckage of the last couple years, can still be a little indignant when plans need to be canceled or postponed. Thanks for reminding me to have some perspective.
Oh man, talk about having it piled on. You are the Job of Mexico right now baby. I hope that this provides the opening to step into that elusive mystery and acceptance of what is. I love the Tara Brach question: What would it take for me to be content right now? I think I’d wallow a while first before I could even consider contemplating it.
Beautiful piece, Laurie. So thoughtful, wise, sensitive. My, what a time and place we all occupy and your vivid tale captured it well.
beautiful, Laurie. just beautiful. lots of love. so much gratitude.
Beautifully written. I could actually feel the cobblestones under my feet and listen to the pain in your voice. Thank you for the lesson
As always, listening to you read is the highlight of my day. Thanks for sharing your story, so wide open. So real and such a true representation of the human condition.
Yes, all the preparations are not always for the journey that unfolds before us. I hear you
Laurie, thank you for embodying your practice even when you might not want to. Surrender is a humble journey.
24 hungry souls and a broken cello.
What a beautiful piece, Laurie. I’m sorry you had to cancel – again – but I admire the way you pivot so gracefully, and I love reading about it.
I tripped on “bougainvillea crawling” … think I may have sprained something, dammit … definitely won’t be able to cook for a while … send tamales ❤️
p.s. please don’t call me “a creative.”
Mexico is working her magic on you teaching you to move with the wind. Those two dozen tiny pillows of corn will serve as a reminder of your superpowers for years to com.
Thank you for the love you give through the way your eyes see and your mind interprets…the connections you make from the material to the intangible. Sending you so much love.
This post and its core message came at a time in my life when I needed it most. Thank you so much. <3
Oiled sumo wrestling opponent, 17 times your size. Sigh
Thank you for sharing your exquisite writing