Tomorrow I return home from a trip visiting family and doing business in Argentina. During the last 2 weeks, my normally hectic pace of life has slowed. I have been "forced" to spend time, rethink and realign myself with goals that had been long tucked away. Being in this country does that to me. I am almost shamed out of my scheduled digital technology coma and forced to behave like a human being.
This trip allowed me to not only reflect on my relationships here with relatives, but also with the city of Buenos Aires itself. I left Argentina when I was about 1 1/2 years old. Growing up, I always felt a bit out of place both in the states and here in Argentina. My parents had heavy Spanish accents, the food in my lunch bag was never just a "PB&J" and my clothes were always a bit different than my classmates. We came back to Buenos Aires about once a year to visit. It was always a whirlwind. I rarely had time to tour the city as my time was mostly taken up visiting relatives' homes and drinking mate.
My last few visits here to Argentina though, I have had time to walk through the streets of Buenos Aires alone, and really take in the sites. This city was once called "The Paris of South America." The old buildings and its architecture are so grand. Truly, it will take your breath away. Through years of bad luck, or maybe it is good, there are many, many things that have been worn but left unaltered. So, while you might see an exquisite 100-year-old building covered with graffiti, you also might be lucky enough to see the original brass door handles.
I think sometimes, I get tied up in how "new" or "perfect" something needs to be. I am self-conscious about not being "put together" or "hip" enough. I don't buy something if there is a scratch on it, I wouldn't dream of buying a phone a "few models old," and god forbid my shoes or underwear have a hole in them. Then, I come here and see this gorgeous city that through the decades of scuffing and hits, still shows its beauty in crystallized gems such as a worn tile pathway or 90-year-old brass handle bars. There are old homes here that are accented with gorgeous balconies and floor to ceiling windows. The chills it has given me to walk along and notice these things…. they are untouched, unaltered, and seemingly perfect just as they are. If one walks by and just sees the cracks in the stucco, or the missing frame or worn marble, they miss out on something so fundamental. Waiting and expecting only the pristine and flawless sets one up for a capitalistic catastrophe. When one is only seeking consumption and perfection one is surely on a road to their personal hell.
These hints of beauty are untouched perfect imperfections. If I can see it this plainly in a building or a street corner, maybe I can allow this in myself.
I do not think I am alone in the brutal art of "beating myself up." Growing up as an immigrant, I had many things to feel awkward about. As a teenager, I had issues with weight and my skin. I always felt like I wasn't enough just as I was. I wasted countless hours wishing, hoping and forcing things to be different rather than respecting "what is." Now as an adult, I have witnessed client after client, do the same. They come into my office and lament on how they are not "perfect." They confess that they were not adhering to a strict diet plan, they hate their body or their genes were less than ideal. So much energy put into what was wrong rather than mining the present for the perfection that is there as well.
If I can be moved to tears over a window made of curved hand blown glass, in a run down building, then maybe I can forgive the misstep I made with a co-worker. When I have stopped to see myself within the human experience as is, without comparison or judgment, I can develop empathy and self-love. If I can highlight a well-made decision rather than the careless path, healing may begin. Maybe then, if patience is allowed, fragmented pieces can come together and one can be whole again.