9 out of 10 foreigners come to Andalusia for one thing and one thing only: The relaxed lifestyle! In our heads we are going to embark on a journey of calm blue skies, siestas and inner peace. And then we fail miserably.
For there's one thing we didn't include in our dreams: that we bring our stress with us. It has been compressed into us, day after day, decade after decade, layer upon layer.
So much so that anything stresses us. We get stressed by stresslessness and we get stressed by peace.
Not only does it drive us from within, with us helplessly running in its treadmill, we can also radiate it - and then, then we bump into 'mañana', also a great force having had centuries to ripen.
Just as our property search here is the culmination of years of dreaming up the perfect house: perfection being that other addiction of ours. So even if we then finally land in the oasis of rural life, the ploughing through renovations and decoration keeps us being more in our old life - than our new one. For we first need perfection, before we can enjoy the view. Once again not being on the same wave length of many an other culture.
Do you recognise the following in yourself?
"How nice that you come visit me! Let me first close this window. Let me first get that chair out of the way. Let me first apologise that the table cloth doesn't match the curtains yet and then first get you a drink. First I will put on some music and, oh, why didn't you let me know that you would come, so that I could have made more rice than the 465.50 grams that my husband and me eat. Let me first quickly prepare my personal very original tapa so that your visit will be memorable and you won't think that I'm a bad host, and then, then we can relax. Oh wait, there's a dog hair on that chair and let me first get that laundry out of the way".
We probably have just reduced our lifespan by another 2 minutes. (And increased our medical bills).
Sometimes you wonder whether we are addicted to organisation, as well as to the just-in-time societies we grew up in. We first need this, before we can do or feel that. And we need time, much time in inland Málaga, before we realise it's our own running that keeps the hamster wheel spinning.
Is it any miracle that the average Andalusian has a life expectancy that is 2 years longer than ours? It could beg the question: who has got their act best together? Who is more free? Let's break it down in a very Aristotelian/northern way: point per point. (A Platonian would just sing about it).
1. The healthy Mañana
What else is 'mañana' than the expression of:
For today the healthy dosis of triggers has been reached. This is the health line in the sand. From here on it's information overload. Tomorrow I will be fresh again and fully yours. Gracias.
And by tomorrow I mean: that moment when I'm fresh again. If that is not tomorrow, then surely one of the days there after. At any rate ASAHP - as soon as healthily possible.
This formidable heat pushes you to walk slowly, in order not to ruin that one good white shirt - and 'mañana' does the same for your one good mind and body.
For many an Andalusian, the laundry hanging there bears no relation to the happiness of the moment. 'How nice that you come and visit me. Which I don't even say for that goes without saying'.
2. The dignified Mañana
Just as a warm, welcoming and festive one - there's also a deep, austere vein running through Andalusian society.
It's a vein of pride, a heightened sense of dignity and independence. Empire having had the time to be digested, lost, understood, purified, and ripened.
The way a village lady can stroll in the middle of the street and block the traffic, you'd think she's the direct descendant of 15th century royalty.
"I will not be pushed or pulled, by nobody, and that includes you. You will not impose your pace or impatience on me. You can try to dump your stress on me, but I reject - as a matter of fact, the more you try the more I will pull up the gates - I'm my own fortress".
3. The rebellious Mañana
One needs to be a very, very strong country and culture if you can cope with 160 million tourists a year, without it changing you too much. So it's good that no region in Europe has been so far away from central control for such a long time, as Andalucia: the rebellious and dignified temperament will not disappear very soon.
According to the British writer Gilles Tremlett*, the Spanish passport should actually say something along the lines of: 'The beholder of this passport is entitled to go anywhere and do anything he/she pleases, the way it pleases him/her'.
Do not forget Spain is the only country on the planet where anarchists actually made it to Parliament - as well as the birthplace of the picaresque novel, the fiction depicturing the roughish hero of low birth who lives by his wits and loves fooling Big Brother. Once a picaro, always a picaro.
"You raise your voice and say it has to happen right now? Then now your spot on the agenda goes from mañana to one week after that".
Zen, the Latin Way
It was the Daila Lama who said:
"Man surprises me. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."
That is nothing but the Asian theory - to the inland Andalusian practise. Very hard workers, very long and hard days in the heat, but never ever forgetting to take a breathe, or celebrate the community and culture.
We know, we know...
We see our region in such a pink, rosy light that we probably need shades in mid-winter (at night, during an eclipse of the moon). For us it's impossible to see a flaw in it - it's a box with a never ending series of gifts in it.
(Isn't that telling though, that one can still be in love with a region just as much as when we first moved to it? 15 years on?)
Anyway it could be a good test:
The next time you feel you are going to be irritated by someone saying 'mañana', you can also see it as someone defending his or her peace of mind as a fortress: "I am the sole and fearless captain of my ship, my time and my feel of well being". It's the precise opposite of being a 'busy fool'. It's stately.
Our grandchildren would say: it's so Coooool.
Happy mañana'ing everyone!
(*) Gilles Tremlett is the writer of 'Ghosts of Spain', a magnificent read packed with insights.