The look on the doctor’s face was more bemused than annoyed as he tried to explain what happened to the centrifuge we were supposed to be bringing to Nicaragua for the clinic. The valuable piece of medical equipment had been confiscated by a leery customs official the day before, and the shifty eyed official wouldn’t release it to us without running it by his boss. Who would be in tomorrow.
Mañana, the official said. Come back mañana.
So a local veterinarian, who understands the language and the local culture, was dispatched the following day to the airport to convince the customs officials that there was nothing untoward about a centrifuge and to please give it back to us. He met with a different and no more accommodating Nicaraguan official, who thought about it for a while before saying, No, you can’t have it.
Well, the vet asked, when can I have it?
Mañana, he said, come back mañana. I never really got how this worked until this experience. The days stretching into the infinite, equipment locked up in an office to lord knows what end, mañana becoming less of a day and more of a concept.Sometime, just not now, and maybe not ever. It’s not so much tomorrow, it’s the idea of tomorrow perhaps being more conducive to our goals.
Frustrating as the experience was for all involved, it’s not a foreign concept to any human. We are experts at procrastination, at remembering things a day after the deadline, of holding onto that bottle of champagne for a *really* special occasion that never materializes, of planning that special trip in our heads if not on our calendars and only committing to it after the chance has gone by.
Anyone who has lived with animals, seen a life arc before you in all too short a time, knows how this works. It doesn’t matter. We still continue to do this to ourselves:
We spend our childhood dreaming of things we can’t do, because we’re too young.
Then we spend our adult lives dreaming of things we won’t do, because of work and kids and life. Mañana, we’ll do these grand things mañana.
And at some point, they again become things we can’t do, because now we’re too old.
(I know I wasn’t the only one cursing out Pixar through my ugly cry when Paradise Falls never materialized for Ellie.)
Somewhere in the middle, if we’re lucky, we can shake ourselves out of our certainty of tomorrow long enough to make mañana today. I’ve been doing this a lot more in the last few years, which I suppose is the natural progression of someone beyond the reckless optimism of youth and not quite ready to acknowledge that old is lurking right there in the wings.
It started with travel. It’s why I signed up for two weeks in Peru one year and another two weeks in Africa the next over the befuddled protests of my husband who wanted to know where I was going (somewhere interesting), with who (strangers that are now friends), and why (Why not?) Because at some point, I’ll know that I can’t.
And while I can’t commit to globetrotting nearly as often as I’d like to, on a smaller scale I’ve decided to take on one mañana a year. Back in 2008, I attempted to train for a marathon and dutifully attended every group run, but my knees gave out at the 18 mile training run and I had to drop out. I can still do a half marathon, I told myself. Later this year, I said.
That was six years ago. A friend from the gym who is at the same point in her life asked me last week if I wanted to join a running club with her to train for a half marathon in August, which seemed like a good goal but maybe for later this year. I’ll think about it, I said, and later that afternoon read this story. If ever there is a sign from the universe to get off your butt and go do something, it’s a 91 year old cancer survivor running a marathon in your backyard while you lament feeling old at a little more than half a century younger.
So I signed up.
We never did get that centrifuge. I learned this in a dusty Central American airport back room: mañana never comes. Today’s it, so do that 5K or learn to make real macarons or take opera lessons or whatever it is you’re sitting on for later. What’s your mañana?