crystallize your focus

You can’t move forward unless you let go of where you are…

Truer words were never spoken, and yet we hang on to our stuff like velcro in a load of delicate wash. Grudges and failures, grief and blame, regret and losses. Granted, they’re all a part of us, they’ve created and shaped the moments in which we live, and the person that we are today. It’s when we let all of those things stop us from moving forward that they stop serving us. So it’s time to practice some release and detachment.

It’s been a long year and a half down here in Panama. The bloom fell off the rose sometime after my first serious amoeba-parasite episode, when I was doubled over in crippling pain, hooked up to an IV that a nurse inserted at the local clinic and dripping Vit C into my veins in an effort to rally my immune system, and before the concept of a wellness center at the resort community in which I moved to, died with the creator of the project, Sam Taliaferro.

What started off as a dream, an adventure, a “the sky’s the limit” opportunity, turned over the course of a year into illness due to mold and parasites, a lack of things to do in such a small village, and living without. Without berries, veggies, herbs, supplements, access to the simplest things I had taken for granted. You just don’t realize what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Or until it costs $55 in taxes and fees to ship it in from another country. Or until your child wishes for it for Christmas or a birthday and you just can’t make those dreams come true for them.

I shared with a friend the other day that I’m just so damn hungry here! It’s very difficult to find even the most common ingredients, like mushrooms or asparagus, never mind in an organic form. Consuming water and food that is usually contaminated with pesticides, fungicides, bacteria or parasites violates every concept I have about eating healthy. The local area of Chiriqui is known as the bread basket of Panama, providing about 80% of the food for the country. The problem is that most of that 80% is grown under conditions that resemble an explosion of the fertilizer and pesticide aisle of your local Home Depot. You literally cannot drive through the area with your car windows open or the fumes will knock you out. The cancer rates of the field workers are very high, as well as anyone or anything low to the ground, like kids and animals. The life expectancy is not so fabulous, as you can imagine.

It’s a stunningly gorgeous place, Central America, and Panama. The mountains are incredible, the local people are friendly, the rainbows that glimmer in the misty bahareque rains are breath taking. The beaches are deserted and the pace of life is much slower. But the rainy season is unbelievably difficult to live through, there were two months straight this year where we did not see the sun, ever. The mold crept in on little cat feet and took over the house, the furniture, the ceiling, our lungs, our sinuses, our lives. No amount of dehumidification, ceiling fans, or dampness absorbers could put a dent in it. And the kids got sadder and quieter and lonelier, and when one expressed his sadness at missing home, the other expat children engaged in one of the most horrific displays of cyber bullying that I have ever witnessed, joined by a mother, no less. So the time came to take a good look at what life was shaping up to be for the foreseeable future. Life without healthy food, stores that weren’t a seven hour drive away, schools, a healthy social setting for the kids (and me), any reasonable version of healthcare, a constant barrage of food borne illness until we just stopped eating out, and lest we forget, the parasites. The day you can sympathize with your dog for dragging his rear across the carpet is the day you really need to take stock of your life. And it wasn’t the vista hermosa that it had been at the outset. When the downsides outweigh the upsides regarding quality of life, it’s time to change course.

As we failed to settle in, it began to dawn on me that any semblance of a normal life for my children wasn’t possible. And it wasn’t like it was going to be this incredible adventure that would compensate for normalcy. It was just going to sort of be awful. There are only a tiny handful of expats in this area, and the overall feeling of hatred towards the US began to be something that I couldn’t swallow hearing. The doom and darkness had taken it’s toll, and I became ready for something lighter and more hopeful. I struggled. My life has been geared to finding solutions. I’m foremost a left brained engineer who believes that every problem has a solution, with a very healthy hearty dash of right brain intuition thrown in for good balance. It occurred to me one day, that there was no solution to the schooling and social issues for my children here. The local schools were inadequate to meet their educational needs based on the school system that we had left behind in NJ. The private schools required them getting on a bus at 6AM and going to a city down the mountain without knowing the language, which I just was not willing to put them through. So I realized that I was in a predicament, a problem without a solution. How could it be? How could I not be able to fix this? I really spun out of control around it. What would become of them, how would they get a thorough education that did not suck every second from my day to homeschool three kids in three different grades, who would they date, who would they spend their lives with? Nothing. Not an inkling of a solution that involved remaining in the country suggested itself to me. Then there’s the police officer perched with an automatic rifle at the top of the hill checking your papers as you leave town. Whatever socialistic direction the US may be headed in, it’s nowhere near where Panama and your typical third world countries already are.

But unbeknownst to me, the universe was already taking note of my situation and synchronicity was aligning itself to redirect my course. The dream home plans that should have been done during the rainy season got held up because my architect, a wonderful talented woman and mother of two, had some issues to deal with concerning one of her children. Everyone pushed me to yell and demand that the work got done, but a quiet voice in my heart told me to let it be. Honor my architect’s role as a mother and allow her to do what needed to be done for her son, and believe that there truly is a reason for everything. And so it unfolded, the house that should have been built, was not even started. By the time that I should have been putting the finishing touches on my home in the cloud forest, I was instead realizing that this is not where I and my family belonged. That’s how life is. When you pay attention to the quiet spots, you stay on track. When you stop observing and engage in the impetuous chaos, you get further away from your truth.

So what could I do with this mother of all predicaments? Be honest with myself. Acknowledge what had become apparent over time. Painful it is, owning up to the truth. In this strangest of years, 2012, with turmoil culminating throughout the world, I turned from fear, disappointment, anger and escapism, and embraced hope instead. Realistic hope. Yeah, it might not be perfect to go back to the US, but in my heart, I am an Americanand a patriot, not in the sense of the government or politics, but in a sense of the people and spirit, an irrefutable passion that I believe is about to be awakened. And thus, just like that, I let it go. I led with my heart. The darkest night, the longest day, a depth of character, detachment and release that I hadn’t thought myself capable of had ingrained itself in my soul.

Panama will hold a place in my life, but not full time. There is tremendous opportunity here, without a doubt. I hope that the country can honor the responsibility that comes with opportunity and change, and stay a course that is sustainable. Only time will tell.

But here’s the key. During the journey of 2011, avoidance and lying to myself were not options. Only honesty and acknowledgement would set my soul free and allow my heart to embrace the lessons and joys and sorrows that the year had held. So that’s where I began to set myself free to manifest my soul’s purpose.