Being Happy in Mérida . . . What Happy Means to Me

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I just woke up from an afternoon nap. The soft tap, tap, tap of rainfall on my window caused me to gently awaken. I listened for a moment and realized I felt happy in Mérida. Then, I got out of bed to open my blinds and curtains to watch. Looking out my upstairs window, over my balcony, and down the street, I had a sense of finally belonging. A feeling I’ve never felt before. Although this feeling was quite strange, it was also comforting at the same time. It’s an odd sensation to feel like you don’t belong anywhere. I went through life almost like an alien with a weird notion that something just wasn’t right. But I could never put my finger on exactly what it was. I just knew I felt it.

That all changed when I moved to Mérida. The magnetism of the earth, the gound I walk upon, is a connection I’m aware of every day. The vibe of the people, their enjoyment for life, is a warmth I feel every day. The culture from the Maya to the Conquistadores, found in the architecture, the gastronomy, the history, is almost overwhelming at times. I feel completely at home.

A friend of mine told me the first year after moving abroad was hard for her. But, she said, watch out for the second year. This could really determine if you will be happy in Mérida. The second year will bring more challenges than you can ever imagine. If you can survive the second year, you are home free. I think that’s exactly what happened today. It’s been 2 years and 5 months to the day since I moved here. Struggling through COVID, trying to learn a new language (with masks, no doubt), attempting to make sense of what was happening in the world that didn’t make any sense at all. These were my daily challenges. Add to that a new relationship . . . well that might make anyone feel awkward in any kind of situation.

But, I’ve endured, overcome, battled, and struggled. By a large contrast, I’m living the life I always imagined. A life of color, of connection, of laughter, of incredible food; this is the place I made my home. Where people’s faces still light up when you say Mérida. I’ve been asked if I will go back to the United States . . . a country that, in this moment, is not united at all. It’s been a year since I was in Dallas and I have no intention of going back.

Undoubtedly, it was a complete shock to me last year walking through the Houston airport. So much so, that I almost missed my flight. It felt like I was in some kind of cyberspace dream. All the ipads at bars and restaurants so people could order their food or drinks gave me an eerie feeling. Strangely, there were no waiters or bartenders, only ipads to further disconnect people from each other. Truthfully, I thought this was an anomaly. So, I continued down the airport into another section to investigate. Nope, this was not an anomaly. It was in 90% of the restaurants and bars in the airport. Even the newstand was self-service. I was both horrified and grateful at the same time.

Horrified that this was really real and grateful that I chose not to live in this completely disconnected way. It was at that moment I made the decision that, unless it was an absolute emergency, I would not return to the U.S. Yes, I miss my family – my sons and my dad and his wife. However, they all have their own lives and I want them to be happy. Yes, I miss my friends and we keep in touch regularly. I feel like I was treading water, trying to find a landing place, for so long. And now that I’ve found it, I don’t want to loose this feeling of security, of home, of happiness.

Speaking of happiness, the only times I was truly happy were when I spent time with my family and friends. Outside of those times, I enjoyed life but I wouldn’t say I was happy. I began to believe there was no such thing as happiness. Being happy was something I read about, people talked about, but apparently it wasn’t for me because I didn’t feel it. And so I settled for being comfortable. I could define comfort when I couldn’t define happy. Yet, over time, the feeling of comfort changed into a feeling of complacency.

I was itchy; things were not quite right. Something was “off” but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was. It was like a burr under your saddle. You may not be able to feel it but the horse sure can. And because he feels it, then you become uncomfortable with his discomfort. When I came on my research trip to Mérida, it was like all of the puzzle pieces finally fit together. Even though I had never visited before, it felt like home.

As I spend more time here, learning new things, discovering Mérida’s secrets, researching historical sites, and feeling an overwhelming connection of love and support with my husband, I can now say I know what happy feels like.

For me, happy in Mérida is:

  • the sound of the scissor sharpener coming down my street
  • waking up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise
  • knowing my sons are comfortable in their lives
  • the cheese vendor cart that sounds like a sick cow, but I love it
  • a feeling of blissful connection to this wonderful place I now call home
  • realizing that I made the choice to have a new life that is completely fulfilling in all ways
  • speaking spanish to the water delivery service guys and they understand me
  • driving through the downtown area and watching all the people coming and going
  • helping others learn about Mérida and the wonderful life that is waiting here
  • listening to Mexican music as I shop for my weekly groceries
  • wandering around the city where I always find at least one surprise
  • being in a loving, supportive, and complete relationship

Obviously, this article is completely personal and written from the heart about finding happy in Mérida. It’s truly my intention to show you that a different life is possible. A life full of joy and pain, a life with ups and downs, a life of contrasts, and a life about making new choices for a better today and tomorrow. If I can do it, so can you!