Saturday, March 30, 2013

Always Go For Something Better

The public transportation between Boquete and the closest large town, David, is a fleet of old yellow Blue Bird school buses. When the little vans that serve as the main “bus” transportation in the mountains around Boquete are getting ready to leave, they honk their horns over and over again so everyone will get on board. All public transportation has two workers: the driver, and the guy who keeps track of when you got on, where you get off and how much you owe for the ride. They curl their collected fares around one finger: the dollars (they use American money here, although they also call them Balboa) are folded in half the long way, and folded around the ring finger of their left hands, in order by denomination.
These are many of the little things I love about Panama, the things that are easy to forget when I start to settle in. I don’t want to forget them, and I also want to make sure it’s obvious, since so often all I’m writing about is the inner struggle: I absolutely ADORE living here.
My new little house is at the back of a housing development called Los Pinos. That means I have neighbors whose houses are behind and uphill from mine; I look out on trees and mountains, and on the sunrise, but I am not isolated and alone. People stop and offer me rides and introduce themselves; the landlady introduced me to a woman who now pays me to make her meals, and a neighbor with a huge sweet Rottweiler may hire me to cater her housewarming party.  
All because I chose something better.
I have realized that as soon as I stopped fighting and simply accepted what I wanted and needed for myself, it has been much easier. As soon as I stopped trying to justify my decisions, as soon as I stopped trying to fit myself in someone else’s truth and simply tried to live my life as authentically as possible, the peace and quiet I was looking for arrived, followed by opportunity. 
I am making friends, being introduced to new people, and having a fabulous time. I am also getting a lot done, both in discovering what I want and need for myself, and also in writing. Even if not all the lessons are easy ones, its seems that letting go has made it all even easier.
This isn’t a deep and thoughtful post, invisible audience, but I needed you to know: by listening to my gut and to my heart, deciding to surround myself with people who uplift me and teach me things, and actually doing what I want instead of what I thought I should do, I have found an incredibly wonderful joyful existence. Regardless of the introspection that usually comes out on my blog, I don’t want you to be mistaken: I am infinitely, amazingly happy.

Love and cup overfloweth kisses,

Friday, March 22, 2013

Choosing to be Authentically Me

“I read your blog. I loved it. It felt so real; so authentic. You talk about the things that all of us experience and yet no one really says out loud. It’s wonderful.”

My new friend Jemma and I were sitting at a restaurant on Boca Brava Island, on Panama’s Pacific coast. We were eating yucca fries and drinking fresh tropical juices. As it always does, it made me incredibly happy to hear that someone had read my blog and enjoyed it; even more so that it sounded authentic, because that has recently been an important part of what I write here: that it presents me: the truly, deeply, unequivocally human Morgan.

I thanked her, and I told her something that I have felt hesitant to share, and yet have been telling people anyway, as if my mouth has attached itself to my heart instead of my head.

“I’ve been writing my book as fiction, but the truth is it’s going to be based on my life, whether I present it as fiction or not. It’s starting to feel important to me that I write and present it exactly as it is: my life and experiences, as I have understood them.”

Of course, she said. Not as simply as that, but that is what I heard, and what surfaced in my mind as I explained to her. Of course it has to be a memoir. Of course the only way I can even pretend to live authentically is to present my story authentically. Of course.

As I step further onto the path I have sought for myself, the easier it seems to be to consider this possibility. The more space and time I have to think about what I want and need, the more it becomes clear that my need is to tell my story: all parts of it, the joys and sorrows; the large and small everyday miracles; the pain, anger and betrayal; the realizations that came along with each of these emotions, and the eventual ability to let them go.

This realization could not have come without my final decision to stop worrying about what people think, because that is the only thing that has stopped me from writing this book already: how others will react to what I have to say, about myself, and about them as part of my story.

I am less worried about what others would say about me, because it is my story. I can take responsibility and appreciate that not everyone is going to agree with what I say; what I have learned; what I need for myself to feel fulfilled and joyous in my existence. I have learned that the hard way, and I am not letting go of the lesson.

What worries me more is something I have only imagined I have any control over: how others will interpret what I have to say about them as part of my story.

I have often wondered at the courage that Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and now Cheryl Strayed (Wild) exhibited by writing such raw accounts of their lives in their books. To me, it seems that they were able to discuss their relationships and interactions in a way that made it clear that they valued and honored the people in their lives, even when the lessons they learned from them were hard ones; even when heartbreak was the result. I’m not sure how those actual people feel about what was written about them, and yet I find myself compelled to try for the same idea: to present the things I have learned from people without laying blame at their feet.

This is important for two reasons. One – and most important – because I don’t blame anyone for what has happened to me anymore. That would make me a victim, and I am tired of giving away my happiness and power to others by making them the reason for my actions. Two, I have realized that every single person in my life has been put there to teach me something. Often it was not the lesson I wanted to learn, and rarely was it the way I wanted to learn it, but all in all I have come to the point where I realize that I can take what I have given and use it to make my life what I want it to be, or I can hold the pieces up as excuses for why I’m not somewhere else. I feel more empowered by the first option: it allows me to take responsibility for myself and own who and where I am today.

I have to let go, invisible audience. I could write the most loving, amazing account of someone and they could be insulted; I could rip the same person apart and find that they thrive on the attention. I can’t control that. All I can really control is myself. I can only hope that my humanness will come across in my writing in a way that will show I am not out to hurt anyone; that being included in my story at all means that you have made a deep and lasting impact on me that I found worthy of sharing. I have to remember that it is my story, after all, and I have a right to tell it.

I have decided to write authentically, in first person, telling my life as my own, and I have to trust that if I do it from the heart, from a place of love instead of a place of revenge or victimization, the people that it is supposed to touch will be touched. As much as I wish I could keep anyone else from reading it, anyone who would not understand, there is only one way to do so: to not write it at all.

In my search for authenticity, there is no room for that kind of silence.

Love and authentic kisses


Thursday, March 14, 2013

You Can’t Know What You Don’t Know

Last summer I was working in the kitchen at an ashram in British Columbia, and I got put in charge of hard boiling a bunch of eggs. Someone explained to me how to do it, but I misunderstood, and basically didn’t cook them long enough, then didn’t test one to see if it was done. All of them came back to us from the guests, soupy and raw.
Every time someone mentioned those damn eggs in the kitchen after that, I would leave the room crying. I don’t eat hardboiled eggs, so I’d never made them before, and since I thought I was doing it right, it didn’t even occur to me to crack one open. It was supposedly a fool-proof recipe, but I didn’t do one vital step: put the eggs in the water first, THEN bring it to a boil; once it’s boiling, set the timer for eight minutes.
I beat myself up for days, and beat myself up again whenever we were having hard-boiled eggs and the subject of the raw batch came up. I was much harder on myself than anyone else was on me: the cook in the kitchen that day took responsibility and forgave me; the person in charge of the kitchen was surprised when I brought it up as something that I was still mortified about months later. I was hard on myself the way that I have always been: I was beating myself up for not knowing something that I didn’t already know.
Yes, I should have tested an egg. However, the bigger problem is not even what happened, but how I continued to berate myself for not knowing something I had never been taught. It seems that even though I learned how to hard boil eggs, I am still working on the bigger lesson: accepting that I can’t know something until I learn it, and that  sometimes it’s not an easy lesson.
For years I have been beating myself up for things that I could only learn through experience: that I am not happy in 9-5 jobs; that I need more space than most; that I can’t speak fluent Spanish until I’ve misspoken and embarrassed myself over and over and over again. However, the biggest one that I have learned recently is that I cannot know what the right living situation is until I’ve tried it.
I am getting ready to move for a third time since coming to Panama. For various reasons the places that I have moved into have not been the right places. The hardest part about this for me is that it seems like a great idea when I am planning it out, and yet something isn’t right when I start to settle in. If I were the only one involved in these decisions it would be easier, but it tears me apart to let someone else down. The same thing happened when I went back to Wenatchee after spending the summer serving undercooked eggs to yogis in Canada: I thought Wenatchee was where I wanted to stay, until I was there and I realized it wasn’t.
This ties into a bigger realization that I have had that I try to plan for every eventuality in advance. Although sometimes this can be helpful – like carrying jumper cables in a car – sometimes it limits me, because I am always planning for the worst possible scenario. It limits me because I will only enter a situation if I can guess the outcome, then I beat myself up if the outcome is not one I predicted, and have made plans for.
I miss out on so much this way, invisible audience! How can I fully step into the adventure I am living here if I expect myself to know in advance what I want, when I haven’t ever been in this situation before? How much do I miss if I’m not willing to let myself learn the process without judgment along the way?  A lot. The answer is A LOT.
A friend’s mom told me once that there is a concept in yoga called neti neti. Although when I look up the actual meaning it’s not exactly what I understood when it was explained to me, I nevertheless took much comfort in the original explanation. She told me that neti neti means “not this, nor this;” that the only way to find what I am is by figuring out what I am not.
This is most likely a life-long process, and yet it applies first and foremost to today. Today, I know more than I did yesterday about what I want and need. Today, I am choosing to use that information to build a life that feels comfortable for me. Today, I am working on not berating myself for picking out a brick for my home and hauling it all the way up the hill to put in the foundations only to find that it doesn’t fit. Instead, I will be grateful for the knowledge that the brick gave me, and know that it’s all part of the process of learning to build.

Love and learning kisses

Sunday, March 3, 2013

This, Or Something Better

I have had to come to terms with something lately that is more than a little uncomfortable to admit: I can be very manipulative.
Although I don’t necessarily do this on purpose, I will often present only enough information to make me look good. I fail to mention the pieces of the puzzle that will show that I have very little money, that I am afraid, or that I am not as happy as I think I should be in any given situation.
There is a huge difference between maintaining a positive attitude and drowning in your own hidden anguish. More than that, however, there is a very important difference between being authentic and  hiding the parts of yourself that make people wonder why you’re taking the hard way if it doesn’t seem to make any sense.
I have moved off the island, invisible audience. For all the positive things I presented that were my daily reality, there were many I didn’t mention. By themselves, they hardly seemed to add up to a legitimate reason to leave, and yet when I finally decided to go, I couldn’t even bring myself to stay one more night.
The decision has been coming for awhile, even as I wrote about the wonders of living there. I found myself agonizing about whether to stay, not because I thought I should be there, but because I wondered how on earth I would explain my need to leave.
Then I realized what I was doing.
I was walking around, scratching the bug bites on my legs and arms until I bled, waiting for the worker to show up to take me to the mainland for hours past when he said he’d be there, spending more money on transportation costs than I expected, and having less access to fresh fruits and vegetables than I needed. I kept thinking, “How will I explain this to all the people that I have painted such a beautiful picture for? How do I unspin the web I have spun?”
It’s my money, my time, my dream, and yet I was gathering courage to ask your permission, invisible audience. As much as I appreciate you, my decisions should have nothing to do with you. It is none of my business what anyone thinks of me, remember?
I have to admit that it’s hard for me to not incorporate other peoples’ opinions into my decisions. The volume seems to be turned up on hearing what others say, and often it drowns out my own ability to hear myself think. For this reason, I need more physical space than most; I need more time alone than many, purely to let my own voice fill the silence around me.
Part of my agreement with myself about coming here was to stop with the double speak and learn to live more authentically. It’s not easy, invisible audience. Its seems I’m going to have to keep practicing, but today is a large step in the process. Today, I will tell you that I am living in a hostel. I’m in a dorm room with 10 other people because it’s cheaper. I am searching for another place to live. I am hoping to find something that fits my needs: cheap, quiet, inspirational. I already have some leads, but no real idea on how it will all play out.
Before I left the States I went to listen to a speaker. She talked about how a friend tried to explain to her what life should actually look like; that God – or the Universe, or whatever you want to call it – wanted to give her what she wanted. “He doesn’t want you to suffer, Ellen,” her friend said. “Your choices are this, or something better.”
Boquete, Panama
I am now in Boquete, in the mountains near Panama’s only volcano, in a coffee-growing region. It is beautiful here: there’s a river that runs straight out of the mountains and through town. There are no bars on the windows – a rarity in a Central American town – and a lot of expats. I am not clear how my future will play out, and I’m slightly uncomfortable with this. At the same time, I am tired of staying somewhere, suppressing my desire to move away from anything that doesn’t serve me, simply because it will be hard to explain. I am experimenting not only with presenting myself authentically, but following my heart where it leads me, without fear or hesitation. In fact, I have found that when I leave others out of it, the fear and hesitation stay away, too.
So here I am, invisible audience. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay. All I know is that for now, it feels good to be here. Today, I’m going to choose this feeling, or something better.

Love and better kisses,