Colombian Coffee with a side of Surrender

It has been really interesting to see the process of control come out and expose itself to me.

I have always considered myself to be a pretty relaxed person, excepting the times when my husband is driving, but that is another blog post in itself. I always considered myself to be relatively laid back and flexible.

Recently, I have learned that I have subtly and deliberately, though subconsciously, controlled everything in my world. And when I can’t exert it, oh boooeeeyyy… it’s not pretty.

This last Christmas, I had the pleasure of traveling to Colombia with my husband – his native country. I finally got to meet the rest of his family who lived there. It’s funny, after two years of marriage, it finally felt cemented when I saw his home of origin.

Back to the point of this post: control.

It started with the coffee. For anyone who knows me, coffee is the one consistent thing I have ever needed. It is the way I start my day, whether or not I drink it, the first thing I do is go to the coffee pot and make myself some coffee. It is the one way that I give to myself, nourish myself, fill myself up before I have to start the day and give to anyone else, my husband included. Seriously… no morning kisses before coffee.

Well, if you’ve ever been to another country, outside of a resort, you’ve probably noticed that their sizes are very different.

Colombia is very different from the US. Colombians have several things they say about Americans. Here are two:

1.       American drink sizes are absolutely gargantuan and ridiculous.

2.       Americans slam the shit out of your car doors. So rude. (More on this later.)

Their coffee sizes are like 4 oz. Ok….. I will gladly get a Venti (20oz) Americano every day of the week - weekends included, when I really don’t need caffeine for any purpose, other than fulfilling my own enjoyment. My husband and I were taken to Juan Valdez by his father and we ordered our drinks. Mine, obviously, was a large.

What I received was that Starbucks children’s size that they used to have, but discontinued because no one would buy that ridiculously small size. Even the kids here have sizes larger than Colombian beverage sizes. I thought, “holy biscuit… this isn’t going to work. We’re here for a whole month. This is going to get rough.”

And it did get rough.

We stayed with my husband’s family the entire month we were gone. We never had a hotel, with our own space, our own shampoo, our own room. There were nights we stayed in a room with ten other people on sheets, comforters and blankets. This is something they call tendidos, which is beautiful. There was one house where we crowded close to thirty sleeping people. They are all about the family, about the community, about sharing, about being together.

There is no such thing as personal space there. The people will crowd up to ten people onto one normal-sized couch. They are sitting on laps, laying across the top of the neckrest while visiting with the other people sitting on the couch, et cetera, et cetera.

It’s a beautiful thing to see, family so connected with each other and familiar – not dry, and uncomfortable, waiting for the obligatory 2-hour visit to be over, cringing at jokes and snide comments from other family members about previous and ongoing disappointments.

My Colombian family wasn’t like that. Everyone was legitimately interested in talking, visiting, cracking jokes – though never meant to hurt -they were always meant to be light and engaging.

So all of this is going on, and it was beautiful, yet it still took some integrating and adjusting on my part to understand. Add the zero downtime to process and integrate, and not being able to fluently speak the language, not understanding all of the differences in culture and what is polite and what is not, food that is completely different – and never having a choice of what I was eating. Even the times that we did go to a restaurant and I had an option, my husband got so annoyed of having to translate all the time, he started just ordering for me.

It was this final thing that caught my attention – I just lost it. I had zero choices I got to make for myself. Normally my day is filled with options, sometimes so much to the point that I get overwhelmed. But this time, when I was really looking forward to a salad, and something light, and not having to eat something out of obligation, my husband ordered me something so heavy, loaded with carbs and meat and all I really wanted was to lighten up. I was so frustrated, I began crying. In public. With his family. It was so embarrassing. I felt like his crazy American wife, who none of them would understand.

I wasn’t able to speak with them, I wasn’t able to present myself as the person I had so carefully and thoughtfully cultivated throughout my life. All they got to see was the way I acted. We didn’t get to speak much, because trying to speak broken Spanish with my husband translating to 30 people at once became so chaotic and unrealistic that I finally just sacrificed the connection I would normally be able to make with anyone in one, not even deep, conversation.

I wasn’t able to convey how smart I was, how funny I am, how thoughtful I can be. I couldn’t even talk about what I do for a living, without some kind of misunderstanding or coming off as an idiot (at least how I felt at the time).

I unwittingly stopped myself from fully enjoying the trip, enjoying his family, and getting to make the connections I desired with his family. I felt so out of control, I lost it. I flipped my lid. I cried at least once per week on this trip. And it has taken months to even understand exactly why. I knew I had no sense of control, but I didn’t understand exactly why that was so important to me.

Just recently, I have been doing some really strong meditations and self-work surrounding this topic of control. At a young age, I decided that I couldn’t trust anyone to take care of me, so I would always find a way to take care of myself.

Here I was launched into a place where I had to rely on my husband’s family for every single need. Things as basic as communication of an idea – I had to rely on everyone around me for. Talk about a spiritual challenge! Here is this controlling princess, placed in a situation where she can’t do one damn thing herself. Not even talk. And she has to accept the help from people who she is desperately trying to appear a certain way to. And surrender.

Surrender. That is the big lesson from this. How do you let go, even when you think you already are letting go and a situation like this presents itself to you? Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this? In a situation that felt so uncomfortable, and vulnerable, that all you could do is either flip out, or surrender and allow what may come?

Amber CastanoComment