I find myself wondering lately if I’ve changed much since my move to Panamá? I mean, my life has obviously changed in dramatic ways! But, how about Me? In what ways have I changed? In many ways I know I’m the same ol’ Holly. Before making this life changing move to Central America I thought to myself, “ If I want to… I can ‘re-define’ myself when I move to Panamá!”. No one there will know me and so I can begin again and choose to be ‘different’ if I like. But, have I done that? Have I taken on some new persona that’s not at all the same as the “Holly” who lived in Los Altos? Is my personality any different or my likes and dislikes, have they changed? Nah…not really … But, how I live my life from day to day is nothing at all even remotely similar to my days of living in California. So much has changed in that regard, which was the whole point in moving. Why make such a dramatic move to such an incredibly different place if I wanted sameness? I mean that seems sorta stupid, doesn’t it? To move to a different country and then be surprised or disappointed in any way that life here is all so unfamiliar and strange? So, of course life itself is a bundle of massive change, obviously. But my question to myself today is, “What about me has changed?” Can you make such a massive change in your life and not change just a little as a person? I would hope not!
Let me see…. as I ponder this question I have to look at a few of the more obvious things specifically about ‘me’ that I know have changed. The first thing that comes to mind is my physical appearance. While I still have the same red, curly, wild hair, I gotta admit It has taken on a bit more of a life of its own these days. A huge factor is this reality is the most amazing change about me now. I have noted to myself that I sometimes go DAYS without really looking at myself in a mirror! Gasp!!! I know, shocking coming from a woman who spent nearly 30 years standing in front of a mirror. My physical appearance has been a huge focus for me my entire life. I’ve told you I grew up with a father who was in the beauty business. I grew up spending lots time in hair salons. And, my father was obsessed with his opinion that my sister and I were a reflection of his success as a stylist. He believed if we looked bad it made him look bad. So from an early age we were expected to present ourselves as stylish young woman. Then as an adult my career path went in the same direction as his and I’ve just always spent tons of energy caring about how I look. Releasing this one thing has given me the opportunity and freedom to embrace a new perspective of myself that comes more from my own quiet reflections than from the vision of who I see in the mirror. This one change may seem minor to you but for me its been a change that is liberating in so many ways.
Dont get me wrong, my lack of mirror gazing these days in no way means that I no longer care about how I look. That’s just silly! But, a big change for me and truth be told, a massive feeling of freedom, has been my escape from the constant concern of being fashionable and looking my best all the time. I love this change. There have been moments in this last three years of living here when I suddenly realize, “Gasp! I haven’t even looked at myself today!” I dash out in the early morning to drive down the hill to pick up our workers and never even think for one second about what I look like before I go. If I have to go to the market for groceries or run errands in town I may take a quick peek, make sure I’m dressed appropriately for town, but appropriate for town here has a total different definition than appropriate for the salon. Here, I make sure I remember to wear the right shoes for the uneven walking on the crappy, rocky, pothole ridden streets in town. Its down right dangerous to wear a flimsy pair of flip flops in town. I make sure I wear shoes that have a closed toe and some sort of ankle support. And, if its the rainy season a pair of rain boots will keep my feet dry. These considerations for my choice of footwear have nothing at all to do with how fashionable I look, and more about the practicality of my day and where I’m going. Not worrying about how “in style” my outfit is has been a whole new world for me and one I’m enjoying immensely. Instead of considering my choice of outfit for the day my mind is considering how I will communicate what I need in Spanish to people I come into contact with in town. Learning Spanish is all-consuming sometimes. How will I tell the guys when I pick them up this morning that I need to go buy gas before driving back up the hill? “Tengo que comprar gasolina”.
Another seemingly trite change in me is one change my former colleagues in the salon will swoon with shock over…(maybe you should sit down before reading this part)… Okay , here it goes….I have not once put on make-up since living here in the mountains of Panama! Yep! You read that right! I’ve worn a full face of make up since I was in junior high school. I’ve always had an enormous collection of make up and I’ve never in my life not worn it everyday! But, from my first morning here in this new life of mine, make up has not been a part of it! No mascara, no eye shadow, no concealer, not foundation, no blush no eyeliner! NADA! ZILCH! NONE! Whew! What a refreshing change this has been. I will admit to having put on a tad bit of lip gloss a couple of times when I felt like being ‘fancy’, but other than that, my face has been naked for three years! Now, thats what I call a change and my dad is turning in his grave, I know it!!! Sorry dad! hah!
So, this new life here in Panama has brought on a few little changes … but, one other change that I’m a little hesitant to write about on such a public forum is something many woman will disapprove of. Many men may raise an eyebrow and wonder what the big deal is. And, I don’t know why this particular change has taken place other than, this new life of mine is my opportunity to embrace freedom! Freedom from the mirror, freedom from make-up and now I’m about to admit to you that this new me has totally abandoned bras! GASP!! yes! Its true!!! For some reason, I’ve become a wild Bra-less, make-up less woman here in Panamá! I did not plan to turn into such a wild woman! It just sorta happened. When I lived in the Bay Area and worked so hard everyday the first thing I would do when I got home from the salon was to take off that binding piece of fabric and embrace my freedom for the evening! Its so darn uncomfortable and I for one feel so good to have just gotten accustomed to being comfortable everyday, all day! I’m not ashamed…..but I’m ever so comfy!
I have a feeling I have more to say on the subject of change. Because there’s certainly more change, deeper change, that’s taken place in my life than just me letting myself relax and let go of so much focus on my physical appearance . The whole reason I got to thinking about this was because of a recent realization I had. A quiet change of opinion or outlook has taken place, and I’ve come to realize that I no longer place my own opinion or judgment on things that are different from what I know. My easy acceptance of things that, in the past, I would have been shocked about or may have thought were terrible or even wrong is a refreshing change. Early on in my life living here in Central America I remember I shed tears of sympathy for certain things I’d seen that I have since come to realize need not be pitied in that way. There’s been a shift in my way of understanding the culture here and my knee jerk feelings of needing to ‘fix’ things I thought needed fixing has dissipated. My American sensibilities just are not always right or better and I think its an important change that is making me a better person in many ways. This one change that has been slowly an gradually seeping into my way of thinking is something I’d like to talk more about….