Living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato gifted us a friendship with Nancy G. Shapiro–Author, Life Coach, Advocate of Calm and an overall lovely person.
While I was recovering from major surgery, Nancy came to visit me at our home with a goodie bag of home remedies.
More notable than the items themselves was Nancy’s calm presence and healing energy.
It comes to me as no surprise that she has authored a poignant and dearly-needed book in today’s world, The Book of Calm: Clarity, Compassion, and Choice in a Turbulent World.
I am honored to share with our Los O’Gradys in Mexico readers an excerpt from Nancy’s book, featuring some of my husband Frank’s very real and very raw thoughts on a life well lived.
*Parts of this essay were originally published in The Book of Calm by Nancy G. Shapiro
Listening to Your Own Story
I’ve lived in San Miguel de Allende twice, the first time for over five years, currently for almost a decade. San Miguel is a World Heritage site and much-loved city in the central high desert of Mexico. Its large expatriate population began with the arrival of American GIs who came here after WWII and enrolled in the two local art schools using their GI Bill benefits. The flow of foreigners hasn’t stopped since, resulting in a population in continual flux, changing with the seasons and other, less definable cycles.
Expats often speak of a more relaxed lifestyle, with more community and more time for family—in stark contrast to the 21st century’s assertion that all problems and challenges can be resolved through economic means, resulting in the mind-numbing story of dedication to work, busy-ness, consumption of goods, and a subsequent loss of values once widely appreciated, respected, and practiced. The families I spoke with while gathering stories for my book had a conscious awareness that something was amiss or missing in their former lives, something that compelled them to move and create their own version of a life well lived.
Frank O’Grady’s words were some of the most poignant, an example of the conscious self-awareness necessary to take such action:
“I’ve lived death in every form imaginable”~Frank O’Grady
“I’m a dreamer,” said Frank, a San Diego fireman for twenty-five years. “I’ve lived death in every form imaginable; it’s a soundtrack of blood and screams inside of me. Old people just wanting a human there while they die, babies who never even got started, the critically ill dying after wasting away for years, the addicts. None of them able to live their dreams. I have a responsibility in this life to live as if every day is my last because, in all reality, it is. My wife and I both retired early, left the rat race, and moved to a Mexico beach town several years ago when our twins were young. Then we moved to San Miguel, and now we’re back at the beach. The kids are thriving. The beach is what nurtures us, warm water surf, the freedom. If I don’t live my dreams and seek the beauty, who will do it for me? No one.”
The creation of a life full of meaning, values, and the richness of choice doesn’t mean one has to pack up and leave a place for years at a time. Or at all. Generation after generation, change occurs within families, cultures, and countries when what was ‘known and correct’ is transformed by chaos and upheaval, or by innovative progress and relative calm.
As the poet Rilke reminds us:
Again and again some people in the crowd wake up,
They have no ground in the crowd,
And they emerge according to much broader laws.
They carry strange customs with them
And demand room for bold gestures.
The future speaks ruthlessly through them.
Sometimes letting go of what was once called home, passing forward one’s belongings and starting again is exactly what is needed when one ‘wakes up.’ My husband and I seem to get itchy feet and hearts every seven years or so. We are looking at travel trailers, and have no idea what is coming our way, only that something new is calling us.
Officially seniors now, our years add up to one hundred thirty-three years on this planet. What we’ve learned in those years is that we are ongoing creations—work, homes, places, our ideas of who we are and what we need have changed many times over. For change is inevitable, and embracing the shifts that come our way gives our actions a spunky energy and creative zing. We love and laugh more than ever, and are curious and excited to create another version of our lives filled with all we value and know to be true for us. As Frank says, “If I don’t live my dreams and seek the beauty, who will do it for me?”
The Book of Calm by Nancy G. Shapiro is available on Amazon. Nancy is a professional Certified Coach, writer, and workshop leader; her expertise is in supporting people through the inevitable shifts of personal and professional transitions while celebrating their resiliency, spirit, and wisdom.
If you would like to order Nancy’s book for yourself or a loved one, click on the cover image below:
*Living in truth is the highest form of self-empowerment*
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