Friday, August 23, 2013

What AM I Running From?

"Walking and walking across the world he will gradually find consolation, and one day, when he is too fatigued to take another step, he will realize that he cannot escape sorrow, he will have to tame it so it doesn’t harass him.” 

~ Isabel Allende, Island Beneath the Sea

Hello, invisible audience. Long time no talk. It’s been a whirlwind month for me: I was in a show at the beginning of August through the local English-speaking theater, that we then took on tour to a beach town near Panama City, and I took the opportunity to go visit some friends then pick up my dad. He came in time to see my last show, then I spent the next 10 days showing him the best that Panama had to offer in Panama City and near Boquete.

It’s interesting to see your life through another’s eyes, especially when that person is your father on his first trip to see your new home. In some ways I am sure my existence surprised him with its simplicity -- "Geez, you live way the heck up here. Don't you want to live closer to town, or think about getting a car?" -- and in some ways I think he was impressed with the comfort that I live in for spending so little each month.  More than any of that, I like to hope he felt somewhat comforted by knowing that I have carved my own little niche here.

“Do you know where you’ll go next?” he asked one day, over yet another cup of local coffee. “And when?”

“No,” I said. 

No, I don’t know, because I don’t currently have a desire to go anywhere. No, I don’t know, because suddenly the thought of carrying everything with me and traipsing around on a bus through unfamiliar territory sounds more tiring than it’s worth. No, because I like where I am, and I’m not ready to leave.

This could change. Up to this point, it has changed regularly for me. Even if I’ve stayed in a general area, I have not lived in a single house, apartment or other shelter for more than a year since I went to college when I was 18.

I don’t want to leave. One of my co-actors, the lead in the show, pointed out to me that valley Boquete is in is shaped like a cradle: it’s a nest, it is comforting, sheltered, and quiet. She said this on the night before she left; I agreed, and unlike other times in my life when friends have left on a new adventure, I have no desire to pick up and go, too.

“What are you running from, Morgan?”

I’ve heard this a lot in my life, and depending on how tired or angry I was, my answer changed, as did the amount of venom in my retort. As much as I have been angered by this question and would deny its validity, I would find myself asking it, too, in the dark of night, staring at the ceiling of yet another room that I found myself restless in. What was I running from, and have I lost it now, or just managed to find a better hiding place for awhile?

As always, I think my answer could change with my mood, but for now I’m feeling introspective and calm, so my answer is the same: introspective, detached, and calm.

I was running from me. I was running from the part of me that was unable to say no, unable to say that I was tired, that I was overwhelmed, that I felt I didn’t have the strength to be all the things I had always presented myself as. I was running from a life I built that was not sustainable, that did not allow enough time for me, and did not honor what I wanted and needed: a star-studded sky, the ability to hear the wind in the trees, and, in that silence, the ability to hear the small voice in my heart that can be so easily drowned out by any other voice.

Over the last month and a half, I have gone from near hysterics – and one time, actual hysterical tears that were so long and violent that the next morning a local coffee shop owner asked me if I was taking anything for the terrible congestion that made my face look swollen – to a calm serenity. Suddenly, the questions that I have been asking myself forever seem to be unraveling, and one day not too many days ago, I realized that for days I had felt something that I can only call contentment. I say that hesitatingly, because it is not a natural state for me, and that is the only word I have found that comes even close to something I can tie to the feeling.

Yes, I have been happy here, but happiness is a fleeting emotion that cannot withstand the deep questions and soul-searching; it is a state that suspends itself when confronted with deeper questions about who I am and what I want from my life, not to mention how I’ll fund that journey. Contentment, on the other hand, seems to have appeared as a magic carpet that both happiness and sorrow have landed upon and yet keeps them and me afloat: it is not an endorphin-rush high with an inevitable crash, instead it is simply realizing that I have asked for this, all of it: the time to soul-search, the capability to look deep, the words to bring the feelings to light, and the ability to recognize what I am doing is incredibly important to whomever I become in the future. I do not have to suffer for my revelations; I can simply have them, know that my fears and walls have served me in the past, and now I have the time to examine those walls to see how they were built, and dismantle them, one brick at a time. There is contentment in that, even at the times that it is painful; even when what I uncover is not something that I can be happy about in the moment. Instead, I can recognize that unleashing these demons that have been eating at me for years – self-doubt, self-criticism, perfectionism – will ultimately lead to more happiness and contentment in the future, much like  ripping off a band aid to allow the wound to heal in the open air.

I have been going back and typing up my journal, and one of the overarching themes from the past year is exhaustion. I am tired of living a life that doesn’t feel like mine, I am tired of being unable to say no, I am tired of hiding who I am, I am so very tired

In Boquete, I have found a place to rest. I have found a place to stay put awhile and write a book where I unburden myself not only of the last year, but also of the years that preceded it: all the pain I caused myself and others, all the fears I lived by, all the times I put down what I wanted and needed in favor of what I thought I was supposed to do, despite the fact that no one said out loud that I was supposed to do it. It seems that I perhaps have finally run out of steam: that finally, after all my running, escaping, and searching, I have found something worth standing still for. As Isabel Allende so aptly named it in her book, it is the need to tame the sorrow so that it will not harass me; it is the point where I can look at what has dragged me down and finally let it go, to sink to the bottom as I ricochet to the top, no longer held underwater by old burdens, ideas and emotions. It is realizing that I can stay here if I want to, and bask in the gentle swaying comfort of this place forever, and that maybe – just maybe – this place has become an inner sanctuary that can now always be my home wherever I am, instead of a mythical land that I am always striving to reach. 

Love and run-free kisses,
Morgan