Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ouch! What a difference a place makes...



What did I need? A sign?




I fell into a hole yesterday. I'm exaggerating, really, it was just a broken place in the sidewalk but I had a flash of insight, which is why I' m writing about it here. The fall was accompanied by one of those deja vu (familiar and unpleasant) experiences where an event seems to be repeated but the second time it happens, you realize that your reaction is completely different. The first time I fell into a hole occurred after moving into a new house in Puerto Rico when I was ready to return to my morning jogging/walking routine. Early one day, I was following my bliss and turned down a quiet tropical side street.


I noticed a large Victorian house to my right that was set in the middle of a lush green yard filled with slightly overgrown but cultivated plants. (It looked like this photo of a sub-tropical Victorian home in Springfield, Georgia.) My mind, still thinking about the possible residents of this romantic looking early 20th century home, was jarred by the view of a new condominium building project. Reflecting about the possible demolition of the entire area, I was suddenly almost knee deep in a small hole. While the sensation of a burning pain started to shock my system, I realized that the accident happened because someone did not replace a cover. The metal oval cutout, which looked like a miniature manhole cover, was suppose to fit in the sidewalk. It was part of the local water meter system. As I painfully replaced the metal piece over the gaping hole, I became increasingly angry. While limping home, I indignantly, thought of the irresponsible person who left the cover off. "How dare they just leave a trap for someone to fall in! In the states, the water company would be sued or someone would be held accountable for this irresponsible slovenly work." Of course later, I realized that sometimes people who are not employed by the government, take off the water covers to tamper with the meter readings. I also discovered that heavy rain damages the cement and frequently the covers do not fit properly. Consequently, a foot trap could be made even though the water gage seems to be safe and covered.

Another confession, sometimes, when I was younger, I was told that I had my head in the clouds and this was supported by incidental facts. Once while driving on the scenic panoramic route on California's coastal highway 1, I was so captivated and excited by the view that I nearly drove off the cliff! Talk about entering the moment! Yesterday, I fell into a little hole, a broken place in the sidewalk, really, and I did not get injured.
Thinking now, I remember that I had sprained my ankle exactly twice in my life, and I had to be rushed to the emergency room. The first incident happened because I was riding on the butterfly handlebars of a new pink Schwinn bike that my younger brother was steering. (I was twelve.) I was thrilled with the fun loving ride until my foot got caught in the spokes of the front wheel. The second time, was when I was sitting on the wheel cover of the tractor my father was driving and, again, my foot got caught in the wheel. It was a much bigger wheel this time and considerably more frightening! (I was still twelve.) In both incidents, I remember the face of the driver, my brother and my dad, looking pained and guilty. I confess, I felt seriously sorry for myself both times.

Yesterday's incident repeatedly returns to my mind because of my difference in thought. Immediately after falling, I thought, "Watch more carefully, next time. You have to notice where you are placing your foot." (Of course, I didn't feel pain for long this time either.) What am I saying here? First, another story...

When I moved to Puerto Rico, my department director patiently listened to my complaints about the rule breaking Puerto Rican population. I am a bit ashamed to admit to it now but it bothered me that people would park their cars everywhere and sometimes even block my car from leaving because of double parking. People would park on the sidewalks and if there was space enough, they would park in the middle lane between parking spaces; worse yet, after the first transgressor, cars would line up there, too, creating a middle lane behind the legally parked vehicles. My director patiently listened to my frustration and explanation about being late to class because I was trapped and say, "Yes, this is a small island." I was supposed to infer that people didn't have a choice but to break the rules. Since then, I've learned that these rule are flexible and subject to interpretation by the drivers. Basically, if you're willing to get a possible but rarely given ticket, it's acceptable to break the law because there is no where to legally park. After all, whose fault is it?

Yesterday, I fell in a hole and I realized my orientation had changed. I no longer took it for granted that people would do their duty and repair what is broken. I accepted that I needed to look out for myself in this life. I know I can't prevent every incident from occurring but I noticed that I have accepted responsibility for my own well being. Before I fell yesterday, I didn't even know that I expected others to look out for me or that I would nurse resentment about other people's shortcomings. I realized that thinking and focusing on someone's behavior (rather than my own) resulted in my victimization. It is only because of being so completely immersed in another culture that I can see my own cultural beliefs about how life is suppose to function. This statement about belief is not to say that everyone in my home culture would think exactly the way I do (or did that is.) Also, I am not saying that the Puerto Rican culture is a behavioral model to emulate. I am just saying that when you are pressured to think about what you take for granted, some valuable insight can be gained.

Now dear Blogger friends, here is Cher before all of her cosmetic improvements (-sorry Cher but it's okay to show your age a little bit) singing the romantic classic, What a Difference a Day Makes, which is the song I kept hearing while drafting this reflection. What does that lyric have to do with what I'm thinking about? Maybe my mind made the simple adjustment I'm recommending to you, just change the word "day" to "place" and I think we almost have a thematic fit. ;-)





48 comments:

  1. Our perceptions do change, don't they?

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  2. HDD (Charmaine), absolutely. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. What a shame you live on the other side of the planet.
    We have a lot in common. Are you sure I didn't write that post?
    Feet caught in wheels, not looking where you are going, daydreaming.....
    Your previous perceptions are often mine. Like you, i am learning (slowly) to see things in a different light.
    Resentment is a toxic emotion and a waste of peace.( So many battles I fight with resentment) Groan...

    Glad you have had a musical adventure, that is bringing a smile to my dial :D xx

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  4. I am officially hooked! I love having my head up in the big fluffy white clouds! Who wants to stare at the cement all day:)

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  5. Thanks so much for dropping by to see us!! I've enjoyed perusing your interesting blog and am certain I shall return. And you are welcome over at our place anytime.

    And didn't Cher look so much better..before!!

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  6. Natalie, sympatico, Natalie, I'm enjoying your ups and downs at Musings from the Deep,too. How can I forget your usurper neighbors and their loud evangelical meetings, while on the other side of your house you have to endure the vencinos' arguments in your front yard! Add to that the trials and joys with your five little (and big) ones. Plus, I enjoy your undying crush on your clever husband and those remarkable illustrated colorful journals.(Your daughter's too) And I get to go Down Under to see/experience it all. I feel lucky. <3
    BTW I love you all, dear blogger buddies.

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  7. Marie Reed, what a joy that you came over! I still can't get that boogie guy to download. When I saw your vintage postcard blog and that open sunshine face, I hoped you would visit! Thanks for becomming an Oasis reader, I look forward to many friendly visits from both of our blog sides. XX

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  8. Edward and you are certainly welcome to come over here anytime. We are dog (and cat) friendly at Oasis; although, we sometimes have to separate the species for "life preservation" reasons. (Wild dogs are difficult to train.) Your art and poetry are lovely. :-)

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  9. Darling Cynthia I have a little something for you in my blog. Would you care to visit?

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  10. What a lovely blog.! I can relate on many levels..alas including falling into holes. I found you through The Pink Cowboy...with whom I am now a bit in love...I too wish you were a bit geographically closer...but I conrfess so is thought and spirit in common great.
    I enjoy exchanging blog links with bloggers where a connection is felt. Please stop by for a visit at Psyche Connections and let me know if you have an interest. There is a recent post on creativity that you may find of intersest Toward that goal I am adding my name to your blog..as follower...hope that is ok!

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  11. Every now and then when this (still) broken arm is aching (like it is right now) I replay that moment of falling. I do know what you mean about changing the thought process. I'd like to blame the wet leaves but I know it was really my decision to wear those dangerous shoes. And also - I find it exhausting to re-train my brain when I'm in another country. It happens involuntarily over time though, as you've experienced. I tend to fight it a bit because it makes me feel as though I'm losing me. If I give into it I feel controlled, which is silly but I've found that it's just a stepping stone to accepting the rhythm of another culture.
    Hope you're okay! I see you didn't hurt the old brain!
    Catherine

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  12. Thank you The Pink Cowboy, for the lovely award. I do my part soon!

    Catherine, I'm so sorry your arm is aching today, I send you unlimited thoughts of healing energy. <3 I know what you mean about the experience of losing yourself in another culture. Sometimes I feel like a little child, not quite able to relate at a "grown up" level. Since I've been here in Puerto Rico for 13 years, I have learned to love this country though. I have discovered aspects of myself that never would have come to light without this challenge. Don't worry about the fall, it was so minor! It was the insight I had that made me write about it. Dearest Catherine, I'm sending much affection your way...with a big wish for your happiness <3 !

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  13. The Pink Cowboy, I left off the word "will", maybe now the sentence makes sense. I <3 U !

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  14. Linda of Psyche Connections, so glad you came by, I checked out your blog and it is fabulous! I posted your video at the bottom of this Oasis page so that more people can enjoy it. It really speaks to the child in me, the one who wanted to be an artist. I've added you to my blog roll so we can follow each other's blogs. <3!

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  15. Cynthia......thank you so much for stopping by The Porch, it's always open to both new and old friends.

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  16. Carol- Your southern hospitality is appreciated!

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  17. Well written and very amusing blog! I also read your post about O'Bama. Many countries claim to be the country where his ancestors are from.
    The Dutch: "He is from Friesland( Northern province of the Netherlands) as his name ends on "ma" like in Obbema, a wellknown Frysian family".
    The Irish:'He is Irish: his name is O'Bama".
    The Australian Aboriginals:"He is Aboriginal of the Bama, which means people".

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  18. Reader Wil, thanks for your visit. I wonder if anyone is making a list about all of the claims. I find it facinating that we seek blood connections...it's as if we are somehow different ---a new identity---if we are related by blood. I'm guilty of this, too. (-especially with my distant Cherokee connections.)
    Thank you for your writing complements...sometimes I feel insecure...confession!!!@

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  19. Hi Cynthia... Your blog is really interesting. I enjoyed this post - your insight is amazing. Falling into a hole can to a lot for a person, can't it? I fell into a bit of a metaphorical hole myself when I developed a chronic illness - and that has made me really pay attention to the things I value. Like you, I take less for grated now.

    Cool blog. I look forward to reading more. Take care!

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  20. Yes, nothing like living in a different culture to get a clearer look at one's own.
    Years ago I went to a boarding school where one new girl prefaced EVERY remark with, "At my old school............."
    She drove us mad.
    Thus British or US perceptions of the world shattered by the realitiesin other places.
    Hope you are feeling OK after stumbling??

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  21. thank you so much for stopping by the blog! sorry about my bluntness with the shoes but you will be happy to know that i LOVE both wedges and flip flops. we all make mistakes so don't worry. it's about owning your mistakes and making yourself fabulous. i hope puerto rico is amazing, i've heard beautiful things!!


    take care!

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  22. Eliazbeth, as you know, culture is wrapped up in identity...or should I say through? Still I think I am fine even with all of the holes I've fallen in! I've learned to climb and swim out of them as necessary. Oh dear, I'm losing control of my metaphors!

    Yes, it would drive me mad too if I left my reality in the states...I feel as though I'm more of a world citizen now. Still raised in the US but much more accepting of difference...Did you notice I started reading "A House in Fez"? Your other blog has gotten me interested in Morocco. Are you going to make a book out of that experience...I mean a nonfiction type book?

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  23. Elizabeth, sorry about the typo on your name!

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  24. Penny Lane, thanks for coming over to Oasis. I would like to know what you've heard about Puerto Rico. I'll work on the shoes :-) !!

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  25. Charli, Thanks for your nice compliments ... isn't life a challenge? I hope your healthy and well. <3

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  26. Dear Cynthia,
    I loved reading this posting. There is something incredibly enlightening about living in a foreign culture, all your preconceptions get to be questioned and your expectations of people change. Imagine how narrow your experience of people would be if you had remained in the same town all your life?
    We grow so much when we notice how we react to similar circumstances in a different way.

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  27. you remind me of Kelly in your ability to analyze and dissect the small steps in your consciousness and awareness about things. Interesting observation. To me, I think both are true: people need to be sensitive as to whether what they do may adversely effect others and each one of us must take responsibility for our share in what happens to us.

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  28. Sorry about the stumble and I'm very glad you didn't drive off the cliff. Phew! I totally fell on Friday while carrying way to much laundry - almost into a hole, I missed the step down. Thankfully the towels kept me from bonking my head. I have no excuse for not paying attention!

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  29. Cynthia,
    You answer everyone. That is great but it must take a lot of time. What is Cher doing with her tongue when she isn't singing?
    I think you are right about culture changes providing insight, but they are also identity forming. Identity is a product of social interactions.
    I know the houses you are talking about. There were two of them on the beach, but somehow hidden. I have thought about them occasionally. Rubén and I discovered them on a walk. I sort of assumed they were gone. I would love to know the history of those houses.

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  30. Dianne, I would so enjoy your insight about life in Africa. When you wrote about your encounters with the homeless, I wondered how you resolved the experience. Do you still get challenged and do you feel any sort of pressure? I looked into your new website. How did you make it look so professional? I was trying to make something there but I couldn't figure out how to actually write text. sigh...another time...I hope someone answers your question about the mechanics of selling your paintings through the site. I'm ignorant but wouldn't it be some ebay-ish kind of arrangement? Thanks for your visit, dear Dianne. <3 :-)

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  31. Sukipoet, I agree that we have to be responsible for our actions, too. It's the habit of blame that I was thinking about. You have such a balanced perspective in life, so calm. Thanks for reading my reflection.

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  32. JBA, so glad that you didn't seriously hurt yourself. I skipped out on my laundry duties this weekend. Maybe I could say it was preventative...ur...I didn't want to risk falling! <3

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  33. hey Oasis, I haven't been in the blog since I got back from the States. I know how it feels to fall down, one feels like a fool. I've had a cast 4 times in my life from age 14 to one year ago. I 'm a space cadet and I do walk on cloud nine. We have to focus when we walk especially when we walk on Puerto Rican sidewalks and streets, they are not maintained at all plus rain ruins them
    cheers,
    D

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  34. Mark, so what your saying, in part, is that I am being changed by living here. As you know, I have been told that I'm becoming Puerto Rican. So now I'm thinking about that...I have so many ~~who I am~~ touchstones. Just being older and parenting older children makes me feel like my mother...or the way my mother felt to me...it's a bit like my memory as it is re-lived through me makes me re-know who I am...I don't think I really am that culturally different...only in understanding other's in a another "more Puerto Rican" way.

    My children feel more American in their orientation too. My daughter said to me today, "I'm so glad that I have parents who are from both cultures. That way I don't get pressured to be "Puerto Rican" or "American". I can be how I want."

    We moved here when she was 3.6 years old. It's only now that I notice she throws in a Spanish word of exasperation or excitement when she's speaking in English. It seems to be related to feelings of peer-belonging. Of course she's bilingual...it just that the languages are separate...also for my son. Identity is an interesting subject. Thanks for getting me thinking about it. <3

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  35. D. of Energizeyourlife, We get so rushed and preoccupied. I'm sure the ground here actually moves. Just put a stationary camera and film for a week and I bet the ground will seem as if it were reaching up to stretch and lie back down again! It cracks up and almost causes us to as well! Thanks for the visit! <3

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  36. The Pink Cowboy would not mind having a pink Schwinn bicycle. Love this post. I know deep inside that people cannot follow the rules when they do not make any sense to them. Modern Puerto Rico was built following an urban model that came from North America. The "matrix" is quite different. Puerto Rico is not only a small island, it is also very rugged in its topography, it is tropical and overpopulated. Nothing wrong with that. But when you find foreign solutions for local problems then it all becomes incoherent. We become aggravated and defensive. This post got me thinking about Puerto Rico its history and its psychology as a country. It is complex, I must admit. It is never an easy topic for me, I'm ambivalent about the way things are going down there. As a Puerto Rican I am concerned. I missed your posts, I'm glad you are back.

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  37. Thank you Pink Cowboy for your thoughts, I will think about the cultural insights today....

    If I had a pink Schwinn bike I would give it to you :-)

    My city life is full force right now...I'm trying to balance my time better so I can continue writing during the week. I loved your 'boogie down' post yesterday.<3

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  38. Listening to Cher sing was just the wake up I needed!

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  39. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have enjoyed browsing through yours and will make sure you are a part of my daily reads

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  40. I too enjoyed your blog and your reflections on life and will be back for more :)
    Thank you for the comments on mine.

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  41. Marie Reed, Glad you enjoyed (?) her...she's always facinated me for some reason. Did you get your bike?

    Katherine, thanks for coming over, I just read about Kings Cake! Sounds like fun.

    Janice, Thank you for coming over, I do hope you return.

    Thank you all dear bloggers for your engaging comments.

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  42. Oh Cynthia - I hear what you say! What a difference a day, a year or even a night can make. But isn't it great that our ideas and our perceptions are constantly changing. I hope you didn't hurt yourself and I hope that your head will often, if not always, be in the clouds, xv.

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  43. Thank you, Vicki, for your validation about cloudy thoughts and heads turned up...I enjoy being dreamy but the practical me is kind of bossy! I always enjoy your visits!:-)

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  44. Ouch! I had a similar experience – I walked into wet cement after taking a Chemistry exam. Did you know that is why manhole covers are usually round: so they don’t fall in, are easy to move and fit properly? I hope you aren’t in pain.

    Congratulations on your award above – well deserved.

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  45. Sarah, Thanks for reading my experience. No I didn´t know that was the reason the manhole covers are round...I still don´t understand why they would fit better if they are round vs square...hum...I´m fine really...it was the thought that counted...er...the though that was running through my mind that is! Thank you for your congratulations and I hope your talk went well.

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  46. Sarah, Does it hurt to step into wet cement? Did you fall? It sounds like a movie plot event. I hope you were fine.

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  47. Cynthia, thanks for your comment and please don't feel insecure. It's what I did almost all my life, and now I think that I do what I think is right, without feeling guilty or insecure.

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