Dammit, In Two or More Parts

It has always been so: because I tend to want to please people, my answer to requests is more often “yes” than “no.” The foundation of this need to please is beyond me; people generally do no reciprocate, nor do I earn respect, genuine appreciation, or other benefits of consequence from my willingness to help. Yet I continue to say “yes” far more often than “no.” That’s going to change. I will measure the merits and costs of my responses before I give them. And “no” will become the norm.

I am in the midst of fulfilling an obligation I did not have to accept. In fact, if my plans had not changed out of necessity, I could have ignored the obligation without guilt. But our decision to return to Hot Springs Village instead of embark on a much-desired and, frankly, much-needed road trip left me little room to maneuver. The obligation is this: as “team leader” of a small group of UUVC members, I am responsible for organizing content for and staffing information tables for an Eco-Fair a week from today. In addition, I am to give a 3-minute summary of our group’s purpose and activities. Neither task would be particularly onerous except that the other group members, all of whom said “yes” to participation, seem to have no qualms about ignoring their offers to participate. So, unless I get unexpected offers of help this morning, I will do the project alone. It’s not particularly burdensome, but it’s not something I would have chosen to do. Except I said “yes” to the urging that I be group leader.

The same set of circumstances, with a someone different level of support (thankfully), took place with regard to handling the long range planning committee. The work is not especially burdensome, but I retired seven years early, in part, to escape committee work.

I’ve said all this before. I’ve complained before. I’ve promised, before, to say “no” in future when approached to do things in which I have no interest and for which I have no patience. Yet I’ve failed in my commitment to lose my concern about pleasing others. I seem to have a sense that I will be labeled a monster if I refuse requests for help. And maybe the label would be deserved. And maybe it would be a hurtful label. But at least I would be free of time-sucking tasks that have little to no intrinsic value. I would be free to take road trips without concern that I might be unable to meet annoying obligations. I would be free to return early without worry that an early return obligates me to engage in meeting those annoying obligations. I think I’ve convinced myself this time. I need to get a tattoo on my wrist, advertising my response to requests for help: “No, I Have Other As Yet Unknown Plans.”


I spent some time this morning looking online for rental houses in Ajijic. I found an interesting place on AirBnB, Casa De Schroeder en Ajijic, that can be had for $802 for the entire month of February. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, mirador, views of the lake and the mountains; quite a place. I looked for houses for sale, too, but the cheapest I found in Ajijc was $175,000; it was not particularly attractive. In fact, only those priced above around $300,000 looked appealing to me. I guess I have expensive taste. And I know I have resources like those of an ascetic. Such is life.

Quite apart from my rental/purchase search, I came across a collection of clever bathroom signs depicting men’s and women’s restrooms. While quite clever, I thought the creators of the signs would do well to visit a foreign country where English is not the primary language before settling on the signs. Many of the signs required more than a little thought to figure out what they meant; and without English as one’s primary language, mistakes might easily be made. I don’t think many of us think of such things on a routine basis. Only after visiting another country and seeing different signs for bathrooms do we become aware of how easy it is for “cleverness” to be absolutely confusing for people who don’t speak the language. I realize, of course, many of my fellow countrymen, bigoted pricks that they are, would say it doesn’t matter; “if they come to this country, they ought to speak the language!” Yeah, and if I visit Ethiopia I ought to perfect my Amharic before making the trip. Where in the hell has our human compassion gone? Our human decency? Achhh! I get angry just thinking about it. So, I shan’t think about it any more for the time being.


Speaking of language and Ajijic, it occurs to me that I might want to go someplace else if in my travels I expect to begin to develop fluency in Spanish. Too many people along the north side of Lake Chapala are English speakers; I mean, so many people speak English that Spanish is not urgently required to get by. That’s good and bad.


As I glanced out the side window just now, I noticed a doe wandering by. Then, another one ran by, startled by a car. And then a third and fourth and fifth came down the hillside. I do love watching deer wander by my house. There’s something calming and deeply serene about the movement of deer, even when they are fleeing real or imagined danger.


Time to take a shower and shave. Well, another cup of coffee first while my wife takes her shower. And then off to church. That place that wants me to say “yes” when I want only to say “no, never!”

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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