After 3+ months of being away, Juan and I returned to Panama [just the two of us] for 5 days and nights of pure reunion love with dear friends and our old neighborhood. We were finally back in Casco Viejo, and I could not have been happier. We returned primarily for the wedding of two best friends which was taking place in Casco. It was the perfect celebratory backdrop for a return “home”. We stayed with best friends, we ate with best friends, drank, danced, laughed, strolled, caught up, hardly looked at the clock, and picked up right where we’d left off. Without skipping a beat, we were back in the heat, the familiarity, the inside jokes, the sounds and sights and smells and the comfort of company and surroundings that will always be unlike any other place for me. It didn’t take going back to realize I was homesick for it, but being there in Casco Viejo did feel like I had returned to a part of myself that I had left behind and was so relieved to see again.
Guatemala is gradually becoming my home, and I am truly happy here for so many reasons. However, there has been a part of me which is more reserved, a little more apprehensive to fully embrace it with open arms yet. I haven’t pushed the matter and have more or less waited in the wings to see what unfolds without trying to force it. But from the outside in, I’ve watched myself be more protective of myself and my heart. Somehow, my return to Casco Viejo helped me to love Guatemala even that much more. Somehow, my return to Panama made me realize that I CAN have my heart in more than one place, one home. And actually, the truth is that I don’t really have a choice in the matter so I may as well find an authentic peace in that truth. When a person lives, grows their family, accepts and adores a place the way I did Casco Viejo, they must know that upon leaving they are also leaving a part of themselves behind. Just as so much of me ‘exists’ in California, so much of me now too ‘exists’ in Panama.
I have always believed in the expression that “home is where the heart is” and I do believe that when a person is present in their surroundings they can always create a feeling of home. I’ve also believed since starting my own family that “home is wherever I’m with you”. With my husband, my son and my family next to me, I do feel at home no matter where I may be physically. But now that I have a bit more experience, wisdom, time, and retrospect under my belt, I would also borrow the words of Miriam Adeney to encapsulate the concept of home:
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
So now, at the ripe old age of 35, I can accept that I may never really be completely home in a definitive sense again, and that is alright with me. That concept is something that has happened as a result of living abroad, and I now want to scream from the rooftops just how LUCKY I feel to have scattered pieces of my heart along the way. Although they may be proverbial ‘pieces’ I leave them there wholeheartedly. From where it all began in California, my heart is in the Bay Area, there are bits in England, dashes in Italy, in Panama, and now in Guatemala. Over the last few months, I have realized that my personal definition of living means to be fully present in all experiences, in making a difference, in learning, loving and being loved by those I share my life with in all the places I have and will ever call home.
The most beautiful part of all, is that our hearts are infinite which means home can be infinite as well.