Friday, August 22, 2014

Counter Culture Shock: Nothing Is Different But Nothing Is The Same

Hello Invisible Audience,

I have just added an option for automatic monthly donations to my blog, and realized I have only written one post for August. That probably doesn’t inspire people to want to donate, now does it?

But what do I have to tell you? So much, and not much. I am sitting in Wenatchee, in the house where I lived before I left for Panama in the first place, and barring the strange traffic ‘updates’ to Wenatchee’s roads, there is little that has changed in the 18 months I have been gone. By that, I mean that much feels the same, even as much is different.

It is both comforting and confusing. It suddenly seems like my life has accordioned – that the two years I was gone and all I have accomplished have become a closed chapter, and a single memory, made more apparent at the health food store today.

“You were in Panama? How long were you gone?”
“Two years.”
“Wow. What were you doing there?”
“Uhh…I was writing a book.”
“How inspiring. Did you finish the book?”

Did I finish the book? Oh Jesus, invisible audience. I have written novels in journal entries, gone from 10,000 visits in five years of blogging to 21,000 in a year and a half. I have written, rewritten, edited, sobbed, laughed, shared my book with a few people, and then, ultimately decided not to publish it. The last time I looked at it, I found myself brought back to a painful, stuck place that I was writing to get out of, and writing it accomplished its task: I finished the book, accordioned my life and closed out a chapter of daily rainbows, sweet tropical fruits and honking and whistling when I walked anywhere, because that is how it works when you’re a woman in Panama.

Back in the U.S., I stood for whole minutes in a health food store, reveling in the joy of being able to find pretty much anything at my fingertips. I have eaten spinach by the handful, texted friends from Panama about the rediscovered wonders of Mexican food and gushing, constant hot water, and tried in vain to summarize what was an amazing couple years that is now over in a way that conveys the value that time deserves to have.

How was it? It was amazing some days, and awful others. The food was often exotic, and other times mundane. The people were amazing and also crazy. It was life, invisible audience, but a different one, with different rules and caring people, although that rarely translated into great customer service.  

This is counter culture shock at its finest. I am enjoying the friendships that picked up right where they left off, the new babies I get to see in real time, the kids that have grown like weeds in my absence, the hot dry summer days of North Central Washington and the beauty of Seattle on sunny days. All this, and yet I still find myself thinking, “it hardly feels different to drive down this road, although the last time I did feels like a lifetime ago.”

And as much as things feel the same, they are different – I am different. People have already commented on it – on this new me, who is less rattled and less capable of being rattled; glowing, still, and not just from my Central American tan.

I want to hold onto it, this new me that has come back to the old me. I want to capture my happiness and hold it close to my chest, and when people ask me, I want to let it burst out at them, without needing to explain in words how different my time abroad has made me. Because from now on, it’s all time abroad: all my time needs to make me more me. I have left the old me behind, and the new me is much more interested in staying new. Glowing, without any of the old fears I left behind when I left here, before my now-finished time in Panama. Time may feel like it has accordioned, but it is still there. I don’t have to be able to explain it for it to be obvious. 

Love and new old kisses

Friday, August 8, 2014

Finding The End of the Rainbow

Oh geez, Invisible Audience,

So much to say…so hard to summarize.

I’ve been making the rounds and saying goodbye to all the people I’ve known in Boquete before I leave, and it suddenly feels like almost two years has gone by in a flash. That, or I’ve been here for a lifetime. It’s all wrapped up in one.

I have passed houses of friends that have moved on, smiled at memories in restaurants, at swimming holes and up hiking trails, and stood on the bridge where I stood on my first day here, bathed in the light of a full moon, and felt something that had been wound too tight inside me start to release and unravel. 

In daylight, many, many days and memories later, I put my hands on the railing, heard the river rushing by below me, and looked up the valley, a completely different person than the one who arrived.

Every piece of the puzzle I received here has felt monumental and essential, and it is hard to believe that I was able to pack all I have learned into such a short time period. I have met so many people who taught me so much: so much about myself, and also about the world and how it could work, if I just got out of my own way -- out of my own head -- and let it.

Linda, my chiropractor but also my friend, may have summarized it best: 

“I am not going to say I will miss you, because that indicates that I will feel the absence of your presence. That’s not true. Instead I will say that I will never forget you, because that is far more accurate. You will always be here with me. It has nothing to do with physical distance.”

I will never forget you, Panama, nor all the people you have brought me. I can’t remember every rainbow anymore, but I will always remember and talk about living in a place with a whole season of rainbows. More than one taxi driver has told me that he has actually driven THROUGH the end of the rainbow, something that science and our Western thinking tells us is absolutely impossible. Then again, many things I thought were impossible have come to fruition here, so it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that the end of the rainbow is something you can find here -- that the proverbial pot of gold may be a metaphor for many other types of treasures that are reachable if you simply let go of the idea that they are not.
“So, you just didn’t like it here enough, huh?”

A lot of people have asked me this question. And the true answer is very simple: I loved it here, until one day I didn’t. And that day stretched on into another and another, and, because it has happened to me many times before, I knew what it meant. I came here to learn something, although it is only now that I know what it was: I came here to rest, rejuvenate and find myself. I spent a blissful couple years here, and now it’s time to go. I have done what I came to do. Whatever is next in this ever-changing and ever-evolving journey, this wild crazy adventure called life, it will happen somewhere else.

I guess that’s all for now. I have a lot to say, but a lot has to go unsaid. When I lived in Spain in my early twenties, I told the people I was studying abroad with that I hated the idea of having to summarize an experience into a sentence, because it could not possibly encompass all the joy, the ecstasy, the grief, the tears, the growth, the laughter and the smiles. So it wouldn’t matter if I wrote volumes about it, invisible audience. As much as words serve me well, they can only describe what happened. They cannot replace it. So just imagine having lived at the end of your own rainbow, perhaps, and then realizing that you can carry that rainbow with you wherever you go. Maybe then you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey. Maybe then the words will be enough.

Love and rainbow kisses