Going Back For A Visit For The First Time…

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Going back where? Going back to California. We’ve been gone for nearly 14 months. Sigh… Can I be honest? I’m feeling a bit torn between excited and a little nervous about this first trip back to our old stomping grounds. I don’t really know why…but maybe by the time I finish writing this post I’ll have figured it out.

We’ll be in California for 10 days. Our biggest mission is to meet with the shipping company at our storage unit in San Jose and oversee the packing of all our belongings that have been patiently awaiting this day. We’re hoping this will take up only three or four of our days . But we also have to deal with a bunch of paperwork and things that we need to take to the shredder and dispose of. Do I really need to hold onto 30 years of tax returns? I think not. And it might be okay to let go of all those carefully filed receipts for the remodel we did on the house in Los Altos. I may not need to ship old PG&E bills and Water and Garbage bills either. I think the coast is clear to dump all those papers in that big shredder and just walk away…or runnnnn! Hah! The other job we have amidst the packing is to hold back a few things that we’ve decided are not absolutely essential to bring, just in case all our goodies don’t quite fit in the shipping container. We have a list of items that we will then need to figure out what to do with. Anyone wanna have a garage sale?

We had expected this trip back to California to happen much sooner than now. Back when we were such hopeful new-bee’s we had no idea how much more time it would actually take to jump through all the residency visa hoops here in Panama. Scott & I have a tendency to be ‘planners’. We make a plan and we march towards our goal and if its up to us we make it happen. But here in Panama, we’ve had to learn (and continue to learn) to just chill a little bit when we make a plan in our little heads. It’s best for us to expect things to work out differently than we plan. If we just plan to have our plans foiled we wont get frustrated or disappointed and that wonderful ‘tranquilo’ mindset can continue to be our companion! Hah! We’re slowly beginning to learn not to count on our plans to work out exactly as we anticipate, ever. And learning to be okay with that fact, not getting impatient and angry and especially frustrated every time things don’t end up working out exactly how we planned. Most everything just gets done at a much different pace here, not always at ‘our’ pace, although….hopefully someday soon, our “pace” will be in sync with Panama’s ‘pace’ which will make life much easier.

So now, It seems like, suddenly we’ve been away from California, the place we used to call, ‘home’, for a little over a year. And now that we have our airline tickets bought and the rental car and hotels all set up, my tummy has butterflies, for some unknown reason. Well, maybe not completely ‘unknown’. To be honest I have some theories as to why those butterflies are cruising around my tummy making me feel strangely nervous. Partly it’s because I wonder what It’ll be like to be a ‘visitor’ in a place that’s always been my home. It’s an unusual feeling for me to return to the Bay Area and to know that we don’t live there anymore. Aside from the people, who we are looking forward to seeing, we have nothing there. No job, no home, no car, no place that’s ‘ours’. It’s not our ‘home’ anymore. Which is exactly what we chose, don’t get me wrong… I’m not expressing regret, just simply saying that our first visit back will feel a little odd.

It’s a strange realization ,when I think about the fact, that life in California has gone on without me. And that my life has gone on without all the people I know. People who I used to share experiences with and a similar life with have kept on living their same lives without me, as I’ve moved on to a totally different life without them. Sigh. They may have changed, I know I must have changed. Although to be honest I feel mostly the same. Does that mean that they’re ‘mostly the same’ as well? Maybe so, but maybe not. And still, the fact remains, Scott and I chose to leave a lifestyle of which we once had in common with everyone we know. We decided we didn’t want the same life that all the people we know and care about work so hard to have. We changed our minds and headed down a path that’s taken us far away from everyone and everything that once was familiar and once was ‘home’ to us.

Before we decided to expatriate and scale back our life and the way in which we live it, we had so much in common with everyone we know. So much of our day to day lives revolved around spending most of our waking hours in supporting the life we had created. For a long time we found satisfaction in our life, just as our friends still do. But we hit a wall at some point and began to feel something that might be called disillusionment. While our peers and family members are obviously where they belong and find great pleasure in the life that they have embraced, we wanted and even needed a change. This need to change took us far away from all the people we were once in sync with. As soon as the idea to leave and pursue a different path other than the one we were on entered our heads there was no shaking it. The thought of totally changing the way we lived our lives , imagining how we would do it all differently, drew us further and further away from the life we had built in California.

It’s an odd thing to suddenly find yourself in such a different mindset than most of those around you. One minute our lives are right in line with everyone around us and the next we’re just done, done with the rat race and prepared to bail on the ‘norm’, and search out an altogether different ‘norm’. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit, it wasn’t ‘suddenly’. Not to us anyways, we had been talking and dreaming quietly for a long time before we began to slowly leak our idea to our friends and family. Even though most everyone’s initial reaction to our idea was one of wonder and skepticism, it didn’t take long before they realized we were seriously going to make it happen.

Once our friends and family could see that we had checked out mentally and were very seriously moving forward towards this plan to leave the country we got lot’s of wonderful support, albeit some laced with lingering skepticism and concern for our sanity, but support nonetheless. This first year away from our former life and all the people we care about so much has been such a whirlwind of newness. But, somehow the ‘newness’ is beginning to morph into not so ‘new’ and starting to be a ‘new normal’.

As I consider what this trip back to California will be like and I think about being a visitor in a place that not so long ago was ‘home’ I feel strangely, torn , and a little nervous but also a little mournful for the sense of ‘belonging’ that we likely will miss when we go back to our former home as visitors. I’m not sure if I’m articulating accurately, just what I’m trying to say or describe how I’m feeling, or if the words on this screen have made any sense to anyone. Basically, I think what I’m saying is… I don’t really know for sure what it will feel like to go back to our former ‘home’ , it’s yet another ‘first’ for us in this adventure. But one thing I do know is that although our lives and the lives of all our friends and family have gone on in very different directions, the ‘core’ of who we all are is the same, our lives are no longer the same and in a small way neither are any of us. But we have a shared history that will forever connect us.

I’ve had very few experiences like this, where you move to a different location and leave familiar friends and places behind. I’ve had some friends leave, my best friend from my youth moved away long ago and has since made moves to many different locations uprooting her life and beginning again so many times for her husbands career. She and I share a history and know each other at the very core of who we were as young girls and this history makes us very special friends to each other. Sadly, our lives have drifted through the years and we’ve become very different people from those two giggling young girls who called each other everyday to see what we were wearing to school and gossip about other friends and who said what or who did what. Hah! We very seldom catch up but our history will always bond us in a way unlike almost anyone in our lives no matter who may come and go. When we do get to catch up it’s a very heartwarming feeling to hear her voice and to learn about her children and her husband and her life experiences. I savor those times when we find the time to connect and laugh and share a tiny bit of our lives with each other. Friendships like this never go away in spite of geographical distance or lives that are vastly different from one another.

As I’m writing about this and re-reading what I’ve written so far, I just sigh…. we have lot’s of relationships with so many people who love us and care about us. Heck, they even miss us. And I’m certain the warmth of these connections will provide more than enough feelings of ‘belonging’ in a place where we no longer call,’home’. We may no longer have a physical ‘home’ in California but I think home is more about the ‘people’ than the actual structure and the things inside that physical place where you reside.

I suspect I’ll learn from this trip that home is truly where the heart is. That sounds so goofy, and cliche, but thinking about being a visitor in a place that has always been my home has made me sentimental about not what I no longer have in California but what remains and what’s important to me. Which will forever be the people who I love and who love and care about me in return. When I think about California in that way It occurs to me that we have soooooooo much there! So many people who we care about and who will be glad to see us no matter how much time has gone by and how different our lives become. Okay, Butterflies be gone!! I just may be onto something here!

I’ve always had a firm belief in life that so much of our reality is shaped by our choices, how we choose to see the world has so much to do with how satisfying our lives are. We get to ‘choose’ to be happy, sad, lonely, angry, sometimes even sick or healthy, an most definitely Old or Young. Until I finished writing this post my focus on this first visit back to California was on what I no longer have there. Well, I’m choosing to change that thought process and to embrace a different way of thinking. Its just sad to think about it like that, and I refuse to embrace sad, and depressing. I want to be happy and it makes me so happy to focus on all the great relationships that remain for me in my former home. Okay, I feel much better now! Whew! I’m so glad I got that off my chest, now I can have a great trip back to California.

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4 responses »

  1. I know I’ve told you this before, but I love how you think as you write. I feel as if I am inside your head helping you think of all the options. lol Have a wonderful trip back to the states. I know you will enjoy every minute of it. By the way, Kris and her husband are coming to Ometepe to house sit for us in September, so we can visit Cory and Tina in Yosemite. I’m soooo excited!

    • Oh my gosh Debbie!!! Thats soooo exciting about Kris & Joel!!! I’m jealous!!! Isnt it great how things like that always seem to work out so well! They will just love your home and especially all the neighbors! Kris is the kindest, most friendly person you will ever meet! She will make fast friends with everyone on Ometepe! Cant wait to read about it! Love & Hugs!

  2. Wow—a lot of “stuff” flying through your head but I think I can understand some of it. Sounds like you’ve worked through a lot of your questions and concerns about returning to Ca., and yes, it will be a bit “weird” but I’m sure you and Scott will be able to handle it. And probably, when you return to Panama, it may feel a bit “weird” for a tiny bit of time but than you’ll realize that you are truly Home! Wishing you a safe and fun trip!

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