Wednesday 14 February 2018

Our Mexican Adventure, Part Four: Far in Miles, Close in Heart and Care

I give myself permission to fully experience whatever comes up during this trip, knowing I am safe.—Martin Baker

Fran is in Mexico right now for dental treatment. I am keeping a journal throughout the trip, and compiling my day-by-day notes into a series of weekly blog posts.

This post covers Fran’s third week in the town of Ajijic in the State of Jalisco, on the north shore of Lake Chapala.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five

Our Mexican Adventure, Part Four: Far in Miles, Close in Heart and Care

Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 7:30 a.m. UK time

Fran still has a bandaid across her nose from the fall she took the other day, but her other injuries seem much healed. Mood-wise, she also appears less drained/down, which bodes well for today, when she has her first dental appointment. Fingers crossed that goes smoothly.

We had two calls yesterday (Tuesday). The first was sitting on a bench down by the lake; the second as she packed for her move to the new apartment where she will stay for the remainder of the trip. A friend helped her move. There was a message for me when I woke this morning to let me know she got there fine.

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 7:30 a.m. UK time

The first day of Fran’s dental work went well yesterday (Wednesday), with fillings to one side of her mouth. The other side will be done on Monday. The periodontal (gum) work will be today (Thursday).

I was surprised Fran was able to talk and eat more or less normally afterwards. We met for a while when she was chilling out in a café after the procedure, and later had a lovely two hour call, back at her new apartment.

Fran took me on a tour of the place but mostly we sat and talked. It was the best call we’ve here and the conversation ranged widely. I held space for Fran to share her stuff, and I got to share mine. I felt listened to, valued, and safe.

Friday, February 9, 2018, 7:35 a.m. UK time

Fran had a very full day yesterday (Thursday) with her periodontal (gum) surgery appointment at eleven her time. We chatted a little beforehand when she went for coffee, and afterwards as she went off to find the pharmacy to get her meds. That was a twenty-five minute walk along the very busy main road. I helped her find an alternative route that wouldn’t be quite so busy.

The surgery itself went well, and she didn’t seem in too much pain or discomfort when we met again later back at the apartment. She wasn’t up for doing too much of the talking, and I got to share some of the details from my day. That included the Mental Health First Aid course at work next month which my lovely boss Judith is keen I should attend. I’d love to, if there are places available.

While we were on our call, there was big thunderstorm, which Fran LOVED! I couldn’t see the flashes of lightning but I could tell them from Fran’s reaction, and soon learned to pause whatever we were talking about. I felt a strong flash of frustration when Fran told me she needed to stop our conversation so she could experience the present (Mexico) moment to the full, but we handled it well.

She was clear about her needs, and my frustration at being “set aside” in favour of a thunderstorm passed as easily as the storm itself eventually did. And I got to experience it too—the sounds of thunder and rain, and Fran’s delighted, awestruck response. Moments like this are what friendship is about.

Saturday, February 10, 2018, 10:15 a.m. UK time

Yesterday (Friday) was a quiet day for Fran in Ajijic, and a busy day for me in the office here in Newcastle! We had a good chat early evening when Fran was out at a restaurant. Our conversation is summarised by something she posted up on Facebook.

Since I have been in Mexico I have taken most of my meals on my own. The beauty of this is that I can truly take in the Mexican food, decorations, and music, noticing what would not be noticed if I had company, and connecting with the servers to the point where they know my name. And I get to share my experiences with Marty, who is always with me even though he is across the sea. It’s great to have a bestest friend!

We looked up how far apart we are geographically. It hadn’t occurred to me that it’s so much more than the usual 3,000 miles, It came back as 8,878 km, which is 5,515 miles! Fran posted that on Facebook too. A friend of ours, Judy, commented: “Interesting! Far in miles, close in heart and care.” That meant a lot because not everyone gets it about distance friendships.

Fran was really tired by the time we got together later, but we had an hour or so on Skype. I read from Outlander, and we talked about suicidality.

Sunday, February 11, 2018, 1:15 p.m. UK time

We had another good video call yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, when I was at the Costa coffee shop at Blackwell’s Books in town. We talked about how she’s been feeling during this trip and about life generally. We continued the theme when we met in the evening, sat together on a bench at the lake side. Fran pointed out a heron. They must be common here because she’s mentioned them a few times. There was also one on one of the murals she showed me the other day.

Fran’s mood has definitely dropped. Depression? Perhaps, although it seems more a natural response to her feelings and thoughts about the trip, and whether she will be up to major travel like this in the future. Is that dream up for her? In part, Mexico was to see how she’d handle a trip like this on her own. I feel she’s done remarkably well, but Fran doesn’t see it that way.

There are things she might do and places she might go, if she had more confidence, or someone to do things with. The bus ride experience put her off trying again. Her fall shook her more than I realised at the time. Typically, I focused more on the physical side of things—the cuts and scrapes—and didn’t factor in how much it shook her self-confidence. That oh so busy main street is an issue too, because of the actual danger involved in crossing it, but also because of the impulses it engenders.

Later, Fran showed me a listing of local events that are on this coming week. Our final week in Mexico. I’m not sure if she’ll want to take any of those up. I hope so. But she did go out with a friend for dinner last night (Saturday night). She just messaged me, “Had a nice time and a nice dinner last night. Great conversations. Thought provoking.”

I’m so glad! Awkwardness and uncertainty in relationships disconcert her and leave her wondering if it’s her fault. Congenial company is exactly what she needs: to connect with people and feel valued and welcome. Isn’t that what we all want?

Monday, February 12, 2018, 7:30 a.m. UK time

On our call early evening yesterday (Sunday) I was delighted to hear what a great time Fran had had the previous evening. The good conversation, and the opportunity to just be herself, seems to have made a big difference. She told me “Generally I think I have fragile self worth.” Well, things like this help reset that perception. Later, she was invited to a local Mexican lady’s 21st birthday party. I’ve not heard yet how that went but I’m hoping and expecting she had a good time.

Later today, she will be back at the dentist for her final work, apart from a final check-up appointment on Thursday.

I spent my Sunday evening working on the new piece for the STOP Suicide website (it takes me so long to write anything!) and this week’s Mexico blog, which I will start putting together tonight.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018, 7:30 a.m. UK time

I didn’t get to see Fran yesterday (Monday) but we did chat on and off through the day. Amongst other things, we touched on her other friendships and mine: those that work and those that don’t so well.

“Why do I keep getting hung up on the people and relationships where it’s hard, or where things break down? It’s okay, Fran, I’m just journaling my thoughts here.”

“I always do this too.”

“Yeah, I was thinking that. The parallels between us and our hang-ups.”

“I’m always trying to win people over. It’s part of my self esteem project.”

“I never feel I live up to other people’s expectations of me. I think I try too hard. Or maybe people expect too much. The relationships that work for me are where I feel at ease to say my stuff, and the other person does too. Where I am not afraid to speak up.”

Fran’s dental work went well, although she needs one further procedure (“I need a crown! My first!”) which will be done on Thursday. She also had a hearing test and has arranged a massage session for tomorrow, so she’s clearly decided to make the most of her final week in Mexico.

In the evening I focused on my writing. I got the Mexico blog ready to go up, apart from this entry I am writing now which I will type up tonight. I also completed—bar final edits and proof-reading—my piece for the STOP Suicide website.

Usually, I am keen for Fran to get back from her trips, but I’d be happy to stay here a bit longer.

“I’m going to miss Ajijic, Fran.”
“Me too.”

There are still five days left: plenty of time for lots to happen. That’s the thing, traveling with Fran, you never quite know what is around the corner. It’s never boring!

Continues here.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five


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