Another year is behind us and a fresh new one awaits! Whew! I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to a new beginning. 2017 was a mixture of so much up and down. I don’t like to get into politics, it’s just really not my thing..but I suspect we can all agree that it was quite a divisive year in the U.S. I have a tough time processing all the crap that comes at me via the internet. I’m so glad we don’t watch much television. Being so far away from the states is often hard but stepping away from so much of the media blasts is good for my soul. To be totally honest I don’t miss all that. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I were still working in the salon. Ugh! I’ve never been one to enjoy political debates …yuck, I sure wish things were not so ugly.
This blog began as my way of keeping all my friends and family up to date on our life and how we were settling into our new life at expats. Blogging was my way to keep some small connection to so many people I miss so much. Writing about our move was also a really good way for me to process all the changes I was going through. But, time sorta goes by, life happens and things sorta fade. Seems like my life now isn’t much different or worth really writing about like I felt it was when we first moved to Boquete. I feel somewhat melancholy about this. My enthusiasm for sharing has faded somehow. Shrug.
I’ve put quite a lot of thought into what I should write about. I enjoy writing. In many ways It feels really good to share my insights and my experiences. But, it occurs to me…you’ve heard all about our move, about our process of deciding how and where to move..I’ve written in great detail about our great big construction project up here in the mountains of this beautiful place we now call home. I’ve shared my thoughts about adjusting to living abroad. Learning Spanish, making all new friends, falling in love with so much of what is now just life to me.
So here’s where I share some of the really tough, emotional stuff , you know, the ‘REAL” stuff? My hope is that this part of this post doesn’t sound like whining. If you know me at all you know I never like to whine about my life. I may vent now and then, but when it comes to challenges I face I try like hell to plow through it with as much grace and strength as possible.
So, now your wondering what ‘challenges’ Ive been facing, right? Like I said, this is where sharing my story gets real. And, I’ve touched on these things a little in past blog posts. I think the biggest challenge for me has been redefining myself in my retirement. Not only have I begun an entirely new life in a different country, just walked away from all my friends and family and a huge support system , but Ive ended a successful, very satisfying 30 year career at the same time, and then on top of those very real life changes (as if I needed things to be even more complicated !) I found myself going through menopause! Gasp! Guys, this part may bore you but the women who follow this blog will all agree that this is an epic perfect storm. I wont lie, Ive had and am currently still having, a hard time.
I’ve tried to quietly process what all this means for me. I’ve wanted to remain the strong, independent , successful Holly who I knew myself to be before this move to Central America. But, somehow I seem to have lost touch with that woman. This Holly who is struggling to make it out of a cloud of melancholy and blues is someone who I just don’t know. I find myself being cranky, angry, sad, lonely, and just generally lost inside my own skin. There , Ive said it. Humph!
I’ve really wanted to keep this all to myself. I’ve been through some tough shit in my lifetime (as we all have!) and managed to stand strong and push through it. And Im confident I’ll find my way through this too. I know I’ll eventually see the other side of this time of my life but at the moment Im just not exactly sure who I am. To be honest Im not especially happy with this current Holly. Pathetic and sad, I know… Humph! Im not trying to be a drama queen and as I re-read what Im writing I feel embarrassed. But hey..I gotta be me!
Through the years I’ve been witness to so many of my close friends going through menopause. They all talked about how much their bodies had begun to change. The weight gain, the mood swings, hair loss, troubles sleeping, head aches, depression, inability to drink red wine (gasp!), of course hot flashes and on and on, blah, blah, blah. I always listened to my friends discuss these things with a certain feeling of quiet detachment or possibly denial? That I would ever experience these things they were describing didn’t really seem real to me. Were they just being hypochondriacs? Could so many crazy changes really be happening to them? Nahhhh…in my head I never really thought about what it would be like for me. I guess I thought I would just breeze through it. But…I had to combine it with early retirement and a move to Central America all at once! Hahahah! Good plan Holly! Pfffft!
I dont have a large family, no women to compare notes with. Im the oldest of two girls and My mother had a hysterectomy at a young age and she never went through menopause so I could not ask her what it might be like for me. But, I did listen to all my girlfriends. I remember very vividly now that Its happening to me and I’m aghast to find my body changing in ways I somehow naively didn’t expect! Sheesh!
As if going through so many changes in my body were not enough, my subsequent early retirement and move to Panama has resulted in a total and complete Identity crisis! Cuz’ what the hell! Let’s just dive in and create a total and complete internal storm! As you can see, I haven’t figured this all out yet. Im trying to give myself permission to just “Be”. To let go of expectations I put on myself and to try to focus on being in the ‘moment’. I have this constant internal conversation about what feeds my soul nowadays. And I question What my purpose is now. I haven’t found the answers. But, I promise Im gonna keep on searching and trying to heal this lost soul I have become.
These things I know for sure, I need meaningful connections with girlfriends. I need to feel needed and I need to feel like I am making some sort of contribution to my community. I need a bit of solitude and I need art in my life in some way. And of course I need nature. Being in my garden is one thing that feeds my soul! And my sweet animals feed my soul to no end! I am making a concreted effort to surround myself with these things. These aspects of life are my medicine and Im taking a healthy dose on a regular basis!
I started out here in Boquete really putting a lot of effort into making new friends. Im good at that! I love people, Im pretty outgoing and I have always thought of myself as a good friend. But, I had no clue that I was about to crash and burn emotionally. Somehow, I gradually began to drift into a sort of depression. I say, “sort of” because I really hate to admit to being actually ‘depressed”! I am a firm believer of being optimistic and choosing your reality. But, that belief crashed and burned for me when I slowly began to pull back from social interaction. Not like me at all. I just somehow was totally bewildered by a feeling of just heavy sadness and I just wanted to be alone. I lost a few friends as a result of this need to pull back, one friend in particular who was hurt by my seemingly uncaring treatment of her. A first for me.
How much of my reaction to menopause is related to my simultaneous retirement and move to another country ? I’ll never know. Who knows if I would have had the same emotional meltdown I seem to be experiencing now if I had continued working in the salon? The fact remains, Im here. Im going through it now and I know beyond a doubt I’ll find a way to travel through this time and discover a Holly who is every bit as strong, and happy and confident ,loving, caring, and productive as the one I knew before I moved to Panama and hit menopause! Seriously, I’ll get through it, lots of women go through this and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, this is now a big part of my expat story. Its not only about the good stuff. Making a change such as I chose to make when I moved to Panama comes with so many different and not all easy or predictable challenges. I find myself longing for some sort of purpose and I am searching for that which will feed my soul.
It occurs to me that Ive never really had the opportunity to actually purposefully choose to search out those things. In those early years of establishing myself as an adult I recall feeling as though I were tumbling through my life, sort of just falling into life rather than taking time to intentionally make meaningful choices for myself. Well as Im writing this I realize, I’m pretty fortunate to be in a time of my life when there’s really no hurry. I have an opportunity to begin a fresh new chapter. And although Ive been programmed to feel bad and lost without all the things I worked so hard to have in my former life, somewhere deep down inside I know Im just where I should be. My Adventure is beginning again.
All this to say, gosh, Im having a hard time right now. Im not super happy all the time…but not unhappy with where I am. Ive got some work to do…its not gonna be easy, but in my experience, some of the hardest, most painful periods of my life have always ended up making me a better, stronger, wiser woman.
Happy New Year Everyone!! 2018…wow!