Before making this life changing move to Panama my focus was mostly on the ‘getting here’ part of the move. Preparing to exit, leaving my salon, selling things, saying sooooo many heart wrenching goodbyes, Sigh…and, making decisions on how and when to make the move happen. I didn’t have any way of knowing just what it would be like to live my life without the things I was leaving. How could I possibly even expect to know what this new life would be like? Although, to be honest, the ‘not knowing’ part of this life change was part of the Adventure. I was really looking forward to the experience of everything being new and different! And, boy…I have not been disappointed in that respect! hah! You know what they say about being careful what you wish for? Well… I wished for ‘different’ and this new life, living as an expat in Panama, is all I wanted and much much more! (Big Smile!) But still, even as I enjoy soaking up all this ’newness’, the significance of not having a career and all that goes with it, (and what effect that would have on my psyche) is something that’s been kinda hard for me at times. It might have been much easier had I left a career and a life that wasn’t rewarding or if I’d ran from a life that I was trying to escape from. But I loved my career, my friends, my home, and the place I lived. Naturally making my transition at times bittersweet.
Lucky for us we made this move after having spent many years, seven to be exact, planning and researching and we’ve found our relocation to be incredibly wonderful in so many ways. We made this move with much mindful consideration and anticipated, as much as possible, all the adjustments we’d need to make. Needless to say, no matter where I had decided to retire to, the act of retiring and ending a rewarding career, as well as leaving a home I loved, is one that naturally requires much adjustment. All this to say, this feeling I’m having of needing to find something in my new life that feeds my soul would be a reality no matter where I lived. I think it may be, for me anyways, sort of a balance of different things that Im looking for in my life here in Boquete. As apposed to one single thing in my life that feeds my soul. And up until recently I just hadn’t quite found all the parts of all the things I needed to create that feeling of balance . And, who knows, I think what I’m trying to process with these words is that for me my ‘new normal’ could simply be a stream of different experiences that ebb and flow . I don’t really know quite yet, but, I do know this…..I’m in a huge place of transition and even though I’m still finding my way a little over two years into this Adventure, the important truth is that I’m enjoying the process. It is a very real possibility that the new ’ normal’ for me may be a life of never ending newness! Hey, that doesn’t sound too bad!
From the very start of this adventure of moving to Panama I’ve been telling myself that I’d eventually need to find ’something’ that gives my life ‘purpose’. I really haven’t defined exactly what ‘purpose’ actually means to me, only to say that beyond a doubt its something I need in my life. I’ve always had something in my life that I could work really hard at and feel deeply proud of. Something that, at the end of the day I felt good about having contributed something of substance. As you know Scott and I have been incredibly busy building our home. And, there has been much in this process that has made me feel great. We’ve spent time together designing the casita and the workshop and especially the main house. I love the design part of building. It’s creative and its collaborative which we both, Scott and I, find equally exhilarating. As a couple we find great pleasure and connection in this process of creating our home. Shopping for all the materials is like a treasure hunt for us. The light fixtures, the plumbing fixtures, all the tile and natural stone that we both love, all the very personal touches that makes our house a reflection of us, this draws us together and thrills us to no end. If you ever come to our home, you really get a sense of who we are just by the design of our home. For us, this construction project is a very real expression of who we are as a couple as well as as individuals. As we’ve completed all the parts of the project that I can really feel productive with, I find myself feeling a bit adrift at times. Scott’s in his element while I often feel like a sidekick with not much more to contribute besides being an errand girl. I don’t know about you but running errands doesn’t exactly feed my soul or make me feel like I’m accomplishing much.
I’ve pondered this subject of feeling ‘adrift’ off and on this entire two years that I’ve lived here in Panama. I think I may have spent more time considering what will feed my soul and what will give me a feeling of purpose than I ever have in any other time in my life. I dont recall thinking about this when I was younger and just beginning to consider what I might do as my career when I grew up. That’s kinda funny, huh? I just sorta feel as though I fell into my career and then It seems as though life just ‘happened’ as it should. With little actual intent on my part. Did I have these same nagging thoughts in my head when I was at the cusp of my adult life? No. But, now, at the second phase of my adult life I find myself quietly wondering what I’ll do with myself. What will I do or what will enter my life to give me a rewarding sense of purpose now that I’ve finished with what I was doing so far with my life.
I wonder about others who find themselves at the beginning of this next phase. Do most other people who enter into their retirement have a plan in place? Do others have a direction and an idea of how to maintain or create or find a feeling of purpose? When you’ve spent so much of your life already enjoying a daily sense of gratification and purpose, how does one continue to have that same feeling after you’ve walked away from it? When you retire and begin again what do you expect to do with your days? Especially since I’ve made the move into retirement a bit earlier than most people do, I’ve found myself becoming more and more aware of the fact that Its not just that I ‘want’ to find a new center, but that its really very ‘necessary’ if I’m to remain healthy, happy and satisfied with my days.
We spent time, lots of time, coming up with a financial plan and we spent 7 years coming up with our plan of ‘where’ to retire. But Ive come to realize I spent almost no time at all coming up with a plan about what I would do with my time in my retired life. Of course I realize its near impossible to really ‘know’ what the possibilities would even be in this new country. How could I come up with a realistic plan when there’s been so much to learn just in terms of ‘how’ to live here. I really don’t beat myself up for not having anything set in stone because from the beginning I’ve had a certain sense of ‘knowing’ that my new retired life would sorta fall into place as it should. I tried not to spend too much time fretting over what I ‘should’ do with my time and just let it morph into some semblance of a life that becomes a reflection of me, of ‘who’ I am. I didn’t want to force my life into a picture of what I had before or to create a feeling of ‘sameness’. I wanted ‘different’. I wanted to let my new retired existence become its own picture of a life unlike anything I could have created with tons of forethought, planning and strategizing on my part. And, yet, at the same time, here I am mulling over all that this life is evolving into. I must say that lately that feeling of being sort of ‘adrift’ has begun to subside.
I attribute my recent ascent into feeling more balance to two things. My new Garden Project and my new Dog, Scruffy! Both these new developments seemed to have entered into my life at the same time. Funny how things like this happen. I went from feeling a little lacking in balance, to feeling a deep sense of gratification and a fullness that’s making me feel so much more in sync with where I want to be in my life. But, I must add, that I wasn’t feeling unhappy, cuz’ who could feel unhappy with so much to be thankful for? (insert big smile here!) I mean, seriously, I can’t even begin to express how completely overjoyed I feel when I think about the circle of friends/family we’ve developed here! Sheesh! Living in a small town where most of the folks we have in our life aren’t busy with jobs makes spending time together much easier. That is when I can get Someone who’s name I won’t mention, to take a little time off! Pfffft! (Retired? Really?) And those who do have to continue working here aren’t totally consumed by all the things that consumed us back in the states. They manage to work and maintain a balance unlike what they would have been able to do in the states. It seems like its just different working in a place where all this crazy nature surrounds us… mountains, flowers, trees, rivers and views of a gloriously beautiful volcano just suck you in, as apposed to getting perpetually sucked into working way too much or drawn to the mall or the media suck that Television is. Add to all that, the commonality that we all have with one another having made a life choice of being wild and crazy expats (some of us crazier than others…wink, wink!) living the life of adventure in the Highlands of Western Panama all together! When meeting a new person up here we instantly have a huge thing in common, our desire to live our lives just a little differently than the majority of the people we’ve known in our lives back ‘home’. From the very first day of our life here in Boquete we’ve felt a sense of belonging and a feeling of ‘rightness’ that we’re in the place we’re meant to be. Our neighbor Alan often says,”We’re all in this together!” And I smile every time I think of his kind, generous face looking at us and raising a glass of wine to toast to this very fact.
That nagging feeling of needing to find my ‘purpose’ seems to be slowly melting away. Did I only need my garden project and my cute new dog to fill me up and make me feel a sense of balance? I don’t know. This new feeling of searching for more to my life than what’s right in front of me could merely be a by-product of this wonderful (sarcasm) time of life called Menopause! Ugh! So, look out folks! I could be right back down that rabbit hole again next month or next week , whining and complaining that “Man! It’s hot in here!” and “Shoot! These jeans have shrunk!” Or….”?!$&!” A myriad of new and slightly confusing emotional and physical changes that seem to have timed themselves to happen exactly when I uprooted myself and totally turned my entire life upside-down! What the heck! May as well do everything all at once, right? hahahahahah! Its no wonder I’m searching to find ‘balance’! Not only has my life changed dramatically, but I seem to be going through some sort of internal womanly change that I’ve watched so many of my friends go through before me. I know I’m not alone in this one, expat or not, we’re all in this one together! hah! Thats for sure!
Thanks for this update Holly. I spend a lot of time thinking about what we will do day to day, especially after the housing (build, rent, buy and remodel) and moving activities/questions/problems are solved or finished.
I see you teaching English to a small group of children on your property in a controlled environment. The other day I read in the paper of a local barber giving free haircuts to kids for the first day of school. It said they do better in school if they feel good about themselves. Food for thought.
Holly, I think what you are expressing is normal for those of us who have retired, only you retired, moved away and changed all of your familiar surroundings. I think you’re doing great and admire your energy and sense of adventure💋
Welcome to panama! We’ve been here 2 years now and love every day of it. We’re at the tip of the Azuero Peninsula. Everything is so different here. I say there is not much going on but always something to do. See us at panamaminute.wordpress.com.