Monday, January 4, 2016

The Perks of being Pick Pocketed

Today my wallet was stolen somewhere between the Hidalgo and Chapultepec metro stations in Mexico City. I adored that wallet. Bright yellow and made for travel. Spaces for boarding passes and passports and any other fun things I gathered along the way. A Christmas present from my mother along with a travel scarf and new coral luggage. We had quite a few adventures together in just one short year. Seattle. Phoenix. Chicago. Boston three times. Connecticut. Missouri. Oklahoma. Florida. A move to Guadalajara. And finally, a grand, New Year's adventure to Mexico City.
We explored the city together for two, almost three days. Museums. Broadway musicals. Fancy malls. Crowded city streets. All day bus tours.
Our final adventure together began at the Museum of Modern Art in the city center.
Today is Sunday. A lovely day for city strolls and wandering in and out of museums for free. I hadn't had coffee yet. I'm sure that has something to do with this whole situation. I wandered the rooms painted a steel blue that was somehow still soft and got lost in the museum and the paintings just as one should in these sorts of places.
Impressionistic, surrealistic, abstract. An exhibit dedicated to modern painters and all of the glorious artistic styles they dared introduce to our world. For a while I wandered alongside my forever friend, Susanita (which I call her affectionately). We chatted about things we liked in the paintings and about the artists. Eventually we drifted apart and assumed we would wander our way back to each other as we usually do in these cases.
And so I found myself at the end.
The last room.
A bench in the center. I love that they put benches in art galleries. I don't think nearly enough people take advantage of them. I, on the other hand, almost always do. Never have I left an art gallery uninspired. Even if I disliked every painting I saw, still I am overcome with the desire to write. That in itself is interesting. My art, I believe, is the written word. Crafting them and stringing them together in just the right order and with just the right sounds. But despite the art form, art inspires art.
So, I sat.
I had been jotting down the names of paintings I liked and wanted to look up at a later time on the backside of my boarding pass from Atlanta to Mexico City. This is not unusual for me. Random thoughts on random slips of paper tucked in random spaces that mean nothing to anyone else and a whole lot to me. Before I knew it, the words were flowing. This desire for the world to experience all of the beauty there is to be had and to pass along this passion for art and beauty to those after me.

When we got off the metro in Chapultepec, I was famished. I hadn't eaten all day and so we walked to a little fruit stand where I decided a bunch of grapes would be the perfect snack for leisurely walking through a lovely city park on a Sunday afternoon. This in itself was a small miracle. In retrospect, I've never been more thankful for hunger. Had I not been starving in that moment, had we eaten breakfast as planned earlier that morning, I would not have reached into my oversized bag in search of my bright yellow wallet. Of course when I reached for my wallet, my hand did not find it. However, I almost always lose things inside of my enormous purses and considering it had been a long while since I carried a bag that size, I decided to take a closer look inside.
You cannot miss this wallet. It is large and it is neon yellow.
Of course someone stole it. Easy peasy.
I took a breath and asked Susanita to double check my bag.
 It was most certainly not there. Retracing my steps took about 30 seconds and then my heart sank because I knew.
I had purchased my metro ticket and returned my wallet to my bag taking extra care to zip it up since Susanita had reminded me the night before. But the station had been more than crowded and I was literally shoved onto a train with my arms in the air attempting to hold onto something so I wouldn't fall. I felt people against me and I wanted to grab my purse but was physically unable to do so. I said to my friend as we exited that particular train, "I haven't been that close to making out with someone in a really long time." So I am not exaggerating the proximity in the least.
I should have grabbed my purse. I know these things happen. Especially here. But I trust people. I like to trust people. And of course it wasn't going to happen to me.
As I began to process and accept the circumstances, I began thinking through the things inside of my bright yellow wallet. What did they take and what did I need to do now? I made some calls attempting to cancel cards and trying to remember what new errands would be added to my to do list upon my return to Guadalajara. And what I realized in that moment shouldn't have surprised me, but somehow it did.
I really wasn't concerned with the cards and the ID (which perhaps I should have been more so) I was more saddened by the loss of a little drawing from my God daughter that I carry with me always and an old flight pass with art museum ramblings on the back and mostly my bright yellow travel companion.
I figure I have made it 27 years with lots of traveling packed in and managed not to be robbed. That's not an awful ratio. If I get pick pocketed once every 27 years or so, I will be doing just fine. Of course it's annoying and inconvenient to be robbed. But I encountered no violence or danger, and by the grace of God I had decided to leave my passport and other important information in my suitcase at the hotel. I had removed all of my Christmas gift cards (minus a fully loaded Starbucks card that I am a little peeved about) and for some reason they decided not to take my phone which would have been an easy grab as well. And what's more, it happened in my final hours of adventuring. I realized very quickly that there was a lot to be thankful for in the way things had happened. In fact, more to be thankful for than to be worried or upset about.
Isn't that usually the case though? I believe deeply that there is always something-usually multiple things-to be grateful for even in the darkest of circumstances. This was certainly not the darkest circumstance I had ever encountered and thus I knew immediately and innately that there must be may things to be grateful for. I also knew I must find them quickly before the negativity threatened to choke the whole experience.
I don't think it's ironic in the least what I wrote on the boarding pass that was left in my neon yellow wallet when it was stolen in the metro. In fact, I think it was the perfect message to leave a pick pocketer in a wallet of their choice. Of course this is the second time I am writing it, so it may not be as eloquent. But then again, with the added experience that followed, perhaps it will be even more so.

{"When I have children we will spend Sundays in art museums wandering in and out of rooms and exhibits and sitting on benches to talk about what we see in the pictures. I will giggle with them and enjoy seeing through the eyes of a child once again. I believe it is essential to pass onto our children what we believe and feel in the deepest parts of ourselves. Art. Beauty. Creativity. Passion. Love. These things my children must know. To look into a painting hanging on a wall and be inspired to create or to sit in a concert hall or an open air park and be moved to tears by the music that surrounds. That is what life is about. To be able to open windows and see the world through different lights and shades and colors and textures. Those things make life rich. All of us want to leave something behind, a gift of sorts for those who follow us. I would prefer to leave behind the ability to observe and absorb all of the beauty this world has to offer. The secret to living a rich and colorful life. It is a gift, a talent really. One that too many miss out on taking hold of. 
It's there-the beauty-all around, they just need someone to teach them how to find it and to show them what to do with it once it's found. How to take it all in and pass it through the filter that is them and somehow give it back to their world."}

I am leaving on a plane to Guadalajara this evening with my dear friend, a deeper appreciation for this country and its culture, and the city-soul in me recharged. I am also leaving without my wallet or a single peso to my name. But my final afternoon in this city will not spoil the previous two. The romantic in me will choose still to see the beauty that is here in this place and her people in spite of the one bad egg that got their hands on my yellow wallet.

To see beauty is a choice. For me, it is the choice to survive. When I cease to find-search for if I have to-beauty, I cease to live, for the darkness and negativity will drown me.
The perk of being pick pocketed today is the deep reminder of the understanding that things are things and in the end only the things that we carry in our hearts really matter. For only they can survive whatever setbacks, failures, or hardships come our way.
And besides, experiences are stories to be told. Good ones and bad ones and sometimes a mixture of both. So thanks to SeƱor Pick Pocketer, I left Mexico City with yet another story to share. It's a story of theft and little setbacks, but also one of gratefulness and bright colors and a chance to observe and absorb the beauty in all things.

***End note the day after I was pick pocketed....

Today my Mexican mom graciously found time to accompany me to the bank and help me sort out all of the technical things. We rode a bus together, recounted all that had happened and then she helped me navigate my way through grown up things while I am still learning Spanish. Afterwards, she looked at me and informed me that I was not to argue with what she said next. She was going to take me to the grocery store nearby and I was to buy whatever I needed as if I was shopping with my own money.
My fridge is now full and so is my heart.
It's hard to be in need. I am prideful. I like to give and to help, not to be the one receiving and being helped. Asking for help is hard.
But today I can honestly and most genuinely attest to that beauty that I wrote about on the boarding pass that I left in my bright yellow, stolen wallet. Yes, there are people that make bad choices, but I believe that for every one of those, there are ten more who want to make the right choices. Today, the bad thing that happened to me was more than balanced out by the overwhelming kindness and generosity of a dear friend and the response of prayer and support from my family abroad.
Friends, keep searching for the beauty in places and especially in people. Appreciate it when you find it simply and search for it vigorously when it seems to be absent. I promise you will find it. And when you do, acknowledge it and then share it with the world!

(Final photo taken with my yellow travel buddy carrying our final adventure ticket. It is perfect, I think.) 

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