Just one tiny taste, that’s all it took. I’d been clean for almost six months but one trip back to the United States for a visit and within days I had backslid, fell off the wagon, returned to some bad habits. After making so much progress I took a couple steps backward. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a good thing I’m now back in Playa del Carmen for some rehab. I’m talking about some real hardcore stuff here – time. Or more specifically my obsession with it.

I struggled mightily when we first got to Mexico with the issue of being on time. In the pre-move to Playa del Carmen days I always considered it a sign of respect of everyone else’s time to show up on time and be somewhere when I said I was going to be there. I hurried everywhere. I got stressed when I wasn’t somewhere on time. I got mad when someone wasn’t where they said they were going to be. The issue of time would cause me great anxiety. I really wanted to slow down, but didn’t know how. If I could have found a class on how to learn how to quit stressing about time I would have probably signed up, added it to the schedule and then worried about making it to class on time.

In Mexico I have found that being on time is much more subjective and a scheduled meeting time is a sliding scale. It was almost painful for me to adjust and took awhile to learn that it had absolutely nothing to do with a lack of respect, it had more to do with a slower pace and a more relaxed lifestyle. People are actually enjoying life so much that they are living in the moment and enjoying what is happening right then and there. So much so that being a few minutes late to the next thing is inherently understood by everyone. Why not enjoy those last few minutes of daylight on the beach? Why not stop and listen to the street performer? Why not stop and pick up some freshly made tortillas from the place on the corner? You might be a few minutes late to meet someone, but they understand. In Playa del Carmen our meals are usually leisurely affairs. Service is slowed down as is the eating. The servers will not actually bring you your bill unless you ask for it. It’s considered rude, like they are trying to hurry you away from their establishment.

Playa food
Why you would want to hurry through a meal that looks this good and tastes even better I have no idea.

I had only been in the United States for a few days before I collapsed into bed one evening after a long day of running from place to place and gave some thought about what was going on. I realized that in the midst of having lunch with a friend I interrupted the conversation to quickly pay the bill (which the server had already brought along with our food because, well, that’s just how it’s done there) to get moving to the next place. What was I doing? That wasn’t what I had imagined the trip to be like, and it also wasn’t the behavior that I had learned living in Mexico that has made me happy and fulfilled.  I realized I was becoming a byproduct (again) of my environment and in a not so healthy way.

Traffic, long checkout lines at the grocery store, a long wait for the food at a a restaurant – those things happen everywhere. I am just struck by the difference in attitude and response to the situation in the U.S. versus in Playa del Carmen. From my personal observation while in Kansas City people just seemed more irritated and angry at these situations and overall at anything that interrupted their schedule and took up some of their time. And for me, that’s just not okay. That’s not what I want and it’s not who I want to be anymore. It’s a big part of why we moved.

In Playa del Carmen we live in an apartment with zero clocks. I actually never even noticed until we had our first visitors from the States who were looking for an alarm clock. Our lives here in Mexico have been built around the premise that we go to bed when we are tired and we get up when we are not. We trust our bodies to tell us what we should be doing and how we should be treating it (of course we don’t always listen to that last part, but we try). On the very rare occasions that we absolutely have to make sure we are up, to catch a flight for example, we’ll use an alarm on our phone. But trust me, we hate that sound so, so much.

Many Alarm Clocks
It’s like my worst nightmare.

On our visit back to Kansas City we tried to cram so much into every single day. I could view that as the best way to make sure I saw everyone I wanted to see and do everything I wanted to do and eat everywhere that I wanted to eat. But in hindsight I could also say that I was so busy trying to make sure I got everything checked off the list that during the times I was together with people I didn’t get to spend enough time talking and listening. Was there quantity? Sure. Was there quality? Sometimes. It was a good trip, it was an eye-opening trip on how much both myself, and Jason have changed, but I now know that I still have some more work to do. But that can probably wait until tomorrow, right now I have to get to the beach.

Playa del Carmen Beach
No clocks in sight.