As Many Impossible Things As Possible — By Jennifer Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico North America

As Many Impossible Things As Possible — By Jennifer Shipp

Lydian. On the border between here and Elsewhere.

It’s been just a little over two years since we did a major excursion out into the world. I don’t count moving to Mexico as a travel excursion because this is now “Home”. We never intended for this much time to pass, but we didn’t have a choice. Our construction project demanded our constant attention. For a long time, we thought we’d travel the PanAmerican Highway as our first Big Trip out of Mexico, but all of us decided that we wanted to go somewhere with a new foreign language since Spanish isn’t so foreign to us anymore.

The last time we traveled abroad was to India. This year, we’re going for 3 months to Southeast Asia. We’ll land in Singapore, let the jetlag wear off in Malaysia, and then go east to Borneo, then north to Burma and Thailand, and then down to Indonesia (probably…that part isn’t booked yet).

We’re taking only carry-on bags with us on this trip, which is new for us. I mean, AirAsia only allows bags less than 7 kilograms as carry-ons (even my purse weighs more than 7 kg), so I suppose we’ll have to check our bags for those flights, but in any case, we’ll be carrying a lot less than we did before. Living in Mexico has boosted our confidence in terms of finding the things we need abroad. In the United States, there’s this sense that if you leave the safety of the country’s borders that you won’t be able to survive. That you’re leaving behind all these things that you need and won’t be able to find elsewhere. But moving to Mexico has taught me that actually, I don’t need very much. I need sunlight. I need healthy food. I need shelter. I need clean water. I need clothes. All of these things are available pretty much everywhere in the world in one form or another. I guess, as Americans, we were addicted to certain aspects of our lives that weren’t as scarce as we thought they were.

That’s not to say that Mexico has been a kind or a loving teacher. Or that the boost of confidence came without tribulation.

When we did Sapito last year at the Summer Solstice, all of us breathed in the smoke and then fell backward. For John and me, the experience was almost silent. I made small noises. John made no noise at all. Lydian thrashed around like she was being exorcised. Her voice was distant and strange. She kicked around and the group had to gather around her to keep her from hurting herself. I liken our move here to Mexico to that experience in that the people who have watched us make this move had no sense of what was going on inside our lives. And I couldn’t describe it because it was so utterly strange at times. The experience was almost entirely internal, discreet, relatively quiet, but mostly excruciating. And important. Lydian, as an 18-year-old, has made the most dramatic changes because she’s had no choice. For her, moving to Mexico meant dating in Spanish, texting in Spanish, working in Spanish, and figuring out how to have fun…in Spanish.

She moved out and she lives by herself now. She has several jobs. And her identity wavers because she has no one to compare herself to. She has to build her sense of self from sheer imagination and I know it’s hard. But she’s doing it and it’s good for her.

John and I have at times felt like our lives were coming apart at the seams. Our patience has been tried beyond the limits of anything I ever thought possible. Each day over the past year has been filled with miscellaneous bits of nonsense. Nonsense that was nonsense until it started to become distantly sensical. From distantly sensical, the nonsense has evolved into “givens”: things we now take for granted as The-Way-It-Is. Slowly, we’ve traded in the sense of One Place for the sense of Another Place. We’ve retained quite a lot of the bits and pieces of what we believe to be true as Americans, I’m sure, but I can’t tell you just what. The transition was like smoking Sapito. John and I made a few squeaks and sighs, fell into a deep pit of nothingness for an eternity, dissolved, and then emerged with this new way of seeing things.

Lydian’s path has been more difficult, but also more interesting. She encounters machismo and it chafes her, but it’s really no match for a woman like her and she knows it. She’s tried on many hats since she’s been here, teaching English, working for realtors as a graphic designer, playing music professionally, doing sales, and now property management. She dates, but she’s picky. And mostly she just likes to go dancing. Her brain is more malleable so she’s adapted more thoroughly to this place, but she’s young so she has a hard time teasing apart what’s hard because it’s a foreign culture and what’s hard because she’s 18.

But anyway, as Americans, we once carried a lot on our backs. As Mexican-Americans, the load is quite a bit lighter.

I talk to a lot of people who envy our way of life…the traveling, the ability to work from wherever we are, that sort of thing. A lot of these people are weighed down by things like loans, credit card debt, home loans, student loans, that sort of thing. Mexicans also fall into this trap. They get loans too. I always tell people that loans are the anti-thesis of travel. Loans are the anti-thesis of freedom. This is a summary-statement that I’ve crafted out of much careful consideration about what people need in order to heal their lives. Not everyone wants to escape from the daily grind. Not all people’s lives need healing. But while many people don’t dream of leaving their day job in favor of travel, those who do often feel like it just isn’t possible. But it is. Anything is possible.

We’re not “jungle-people”, but there are many Impossible Things going on in the rainforests of South America.

People travel to see what they’ve never imagined. It’s easier to believe that Impossible Things are actually Possible Things after you’ve seen a shaman working magic in the rainforest, or after you’ve crossed paths by sheer chance with some long lost friend from the past on a lonely backroad in a rural city in Morocco. After you’ve survived for a time off of manna from heaven, it’s easier to believe that there is an intelligent design undergirding our lives. This maybe isn’t the reason that motivates all perpetual travelers to leave it all behind, but it’s our reason why. I want to hold as many Impossible Things as possible in my hands before I die.

I want to know people who’ve held Impossible Things in their hands.

And carrying less makes it easier to get to the Impossible Things and the other people who have seen and experienced them.

It’s true that we could’ve stayed in the states after Trump was elected. It’s true that we left in part because he was elected, but that’s not a political statement per se. John and I went to a hypnotherapist after the election to ask ourselves what to do because we were having a hard time sorting it out and time was ticking away. The hypnotherapist was in favor of us staying in the states. She and I talked at length about it. She was staying. But during my session, I watched high rises go higher. They rose up all around me, higher and higher. So high that they blocked out the sky. And then, I saw everything in a split screen. I was in the midst of this heavy industrial growth, but at the same time I was also sitting on top of a snow-covered mountain. An inner council of elders hung a heart-shaped wreath made of branches above their table and sat quietly staring at me. They had nothing to say in words. My guide told me that I could stay in the states, but that it would be hard for me to be happy if we stayed. The session lasted for nearly two hours, but this message was consistent and solid. It came out over and over again in different metaphorical forms.

John’s session was much more colorful. He saw himself as a soldier many lifetimes ago. He and I were married and he saw us dancing in clothes from sometime in the 1800’s. But then he had to go to war. He looked back and saw me looking back at him. Then, we never saw each other again. This was a pattern that he saw repeated several times through several lifetimes. In this lifetime, he wasn’t going to let that happen again.

In retrospect, our respective hypnotherapy sessions make sense now. In the states, John had to work all the time and so did I. This would’ve gotten worse as the field of technology changes and inflation continues to go up in the states. Still, there was a strong temptation to stay in the U.S. because it would’ve been easier in some respects. We owned a building. We had businesses in the states. We had family there. All our things were there. The familiarity was comfortable.

Moving to Mexico was terrifying. And uncomfortable. It’s been a constant, and unmercifully steep learning curve. But now, nearly two years later, I’m looking back at our lives in the states and it isn’t hard to see the difference, or the benefits of our move. John works 30 hours a week at most now. There’s hope that he could retire completely from doing programming sometime in the near future. Every day when we go up to the sixth floor of this building to lay out and sun ourselves, I remember that it’s winter up north. Our health is about 1000 times better now than it ever was in the U.S. Our social life is almost too active as opposed to nearly non-existent in the states. Traveling is easier too. People are excited to come here to do house-sitting and pet-sitting for us. And there’s an airport only 30 minutes away from us. And I don’t have to worry that the Mexican authorities will take John away from us into an interrogation room as they did in the U.S. when we traveled anywhere other than Europe.

Life gets better when you cross a border. I know this might be a charged statement politically with all the talk of The Wall and everything, but all citizens of all countries (except maybe North Korea), cross borders regularly because life is inevitably freer on the other side. Why? It has to do with government, that ubiquitous thing that most people regard as an absolute necessity. Government—a thing that keeps people “safe”. Strip away some of the public service announcements you’ve seen over the course of your life and stand back from government about 20 paces and you’ll see that government is a hierarchical arrangement of people, and a list of mostly arbitrary rules, nothing more. Government may or may not be functioning to help you, the citizen. Would you really know if it was helping you? Or if it wasn’t? How? Marcus Aurelius wrote a little bit about this sort of thing (he was a reluctant king), but whatever. Most people tend to believe that the opposite of government is anarchy, but I can tell you that, even children without any real knowledge of government will arrange themselves in hierarchies during their 30-minute recess breaks. So anarchy is a theoretical thing that doesn’t actually exist in the real world. Many eons ago, before government, there were tribes and territories. Now, there are governments and borders. Today, the tribal territories that were once well-known by different tribal groups are like the smoke that comes off a stick of incense. Ephemeral. Borders are ephemeral too. And walls don’t matter (The Great Wall of China is a good example). This statement I’m making about government, anarchy, tribes, and territories isn’t political though I believe most people would regard it as such. Can I talk about government without being “political”? To me, it’s not about politics, but rather it’s about a Bandler-type of reframing. It’s about expanding our thinking about what’s right and wrong, about the rules, and their application, and how we restrict ourselves because we’ve been told to do so.

It’s good to follow rules that are good. But what about arbitrary rules that hurt one group of people in order to help others? What about rules that hurt the masses in favor of helping one or two people? And what if you don’t even know which rules you’re following? …do you know which rules you’re following right now?

What if you stand over the incense as it burns and your breath changes the way the smoke bends in the air?

Crossing a border is a magical thing.

Back in my college days, I was enamored with LSD for about a year and a half. Once, I had a bunch of people at my apartment and after dropping acid, I kept forgetting to breathe. I turned off all the lights and lit a candle that flickered gently on the table to calm myself down. The light from the candle was cast into the bedroom through the shadow of a doorway. When I crossed from the light into the dark, I stopped, dumbfounded. Then, I turned and crossed back to the light. “I was there, but now I’m here.” I said. Someone laughed at me, but it was a serious thing to me. Something inside me that I’d never noticed before changed when I crossed that border. I crossed back and forth, back and forth trying to comprehend it.

View from a famous border in Jerusalem. If crossing the border wasn’t important and powerful, the line-in-the-sand would be unnecessary.

So there are pragmatics that are purely algorithmic that I could use to explain why border crossings can benefit people on either side of any given border in the world, but this post isn’t about those details. It’s about belief, but not politics or religion. Not those kinds of beliefs. No. What I’m trying to say here has to do with how you can’t see what you can’t believe. And you can’t believe what seems to be impossible without expanding into territories beyond the border.

I think, in other lifetimes, I’ve crossed borders to run away from things, but it was important to me in this lifetime to cross borders for other reasons. I want to run toward what I want. I don’t want to be weighed down by my fears or by preconceived notions of what I’m supposed to be or to do. I want to be able to take the cold hard math, the rock solid walls, and all that I believe to be impossible and make these things flexible like smoke.

In this lifetime, I want to be seeking, not hiding. I don’t want to stand just in the light or just in the dark.

I want to cross over again and again.

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