Falling in Love; Navel Fuzz #3


I’m now back in Guatemala, but I spent Christmas and New Year’s in the States with my family. And I fell in love, again. With everybody.

How can you not fall in love with the dad who walks out into the rain, oblivious to how silly he looked with mother’s bright purple sweatpants worn up to the middle of his pot-belly, and his left pant leg hiked up his calf? Even more so because he was rushing to find that can of tar before his son froze to death waiting on top of the roof, in the storm, to repair the roof?

How can you not fall in love with the aunt who has a knack for raising a fuss in a restaurant, making everyone wonder whether the sauce in our food was thickened with cornstarch or the waiter’s spit?

How can you not fall in love with the little cousins who can now sit with interest, watching the Food Network, instead of fighting to change the channel to Yu-gi-oh or the Power Rangers?

As much drama as there can be in one’s family, there are those quirks that make its members uniquely our own family. As often as I want to scream at them, I laugh with them many times more. Trying to get some of my little cousins out of the house makes negotiating a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine look easy at times, but that just makes those moments more precious.

The days went by fast. And, I look forward to seeing my family again in the summer, when most of my little cousins are either graduating from elementary, middle, or high school. For now, I am recharged and ready to be back in Guatemala and help Ecoquetzal get into a Fair Trade Organization.


Being a volunteer means having a lot of alone time. I’ve noticed that people in Guatemala go to bed early (eight or nine p.m.), and I am the type that considers a full day ends at twelve midnight. So, I usually find myself alone for three or four hours a night. Being alone is scary. You think about things. Ghouls and goblins, sure. Those are scary. But nothing is as scary as when you start thinking about yourself.

I think about what I want to do in the future. I regret about things that I did in the past. I get impatient with the present. Most scary of all, I think about how to change me and the world around me. I mean, who doesn’t notice their weaknesses at some point in their lives? Every day, even? Who doesn’t want to become a better person? I want to be slimmer or more buff. I want to be smarter and prettier. I want to be rich (or richer). I want to love (or be loved). I want to help so-and-so, or save the environment, or establish a self-sustaining community. We all want something or another, and we seek to change ourselves or the situation around us to get it.

Sometimes we are successful. Most of the time we fail and just make things worse. I exercise, for example, because I secretly want to look like one of those male models on those boxer-brief pictures that are wrapped around a pair of Calvin Klein knock-offs being sold at CostCo for $16.99. You’ve seen them: their heads are cut-off at the neck; only their well-defined, chiseled, muscled-body and perfect six-pack (sometimes eight) abs are seen; and that mysterious bulge that marketers use to entice wives and girlfriends to buy a pair for their man. At first, I needed more flesh to work with, so I ate more. I got thick. No “chiseled-ness.” So, I cut back on the food and worked out with more intensity. Then I get man-boobs, my cousins tease me about getting a bra, and my mother wonders how her new daughter would fill out in that floral-print dress. It’s a lose-lose situation. So, why even try?

We seek to change ourselves to become “a better person.” Well, this is what I’ve come to realize about putting effort to change myself: Yoda was wrong. No try, no do. But understand. A very wise man articulates it better:

“[Our] efforts are going to get [us] nowhere. [Our] efforts will only make things worse, as things become worse when you use fire to put out fire. Effort does not lead to growth; effort, whatever the form it may take, whether it be willpower or habit or technique or a spiritual exercise, does not lead to change. At best it leads to repression and a covering over of the root disease. Effort may change the behavior but it does not change the person…

“If [we] would see [ourselves] reflected in the mirror of awareness the way [we] see [ourselves] in a looking glass, that is, accurately, clearly, exactly as it is without the slightest distortion or addition… without any judgment or condemnation, [we] would experience all sorts of marvelous changes coming about in [us]. Only [we] will not be in control of those changes, or be able to plan them in advance, or decide how and when they are to take place. It is this nonjudgmental awareness alone that heals and changes and makes one grow. But in its own way and at its own time.”

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