A Love Adventure Project: Thankful For Panama

image After reading the entries before this one, I do not want it to come across that I am being ungrateful; that this trip was some sort of mistake. Everything about this trip was necessary and just a starting point to the cultivation of self, community, and family.

Growing isn’t painless. Your bones stretch, your muscles ache, and your heart expands. Inclusively, growing with people who are strangers is not always pleasant.

Traveling is challenging. It is not just paradise. It isn’t sand and cold beers. I wasn’t in hotels as a guest. It is still a day. Your body is still human. You have to eat, shower, and be.

I booked Jamaica first for varying reasons, but the main one was to get it out the way. Looking back, Jamaica should have been focused around love and looking forward to newness and change. But, for me who has never traveled to Jamaica, with a six year old child, meeting family I've never met meant that I was unsure and vulnerable. So, I just wanted to get it over with. I wanted Zi to meet her family and run out of there.

I spent a lot of time in Jamaica talking with Zi’s family. Seeing the hardships, re-experiencing my own. Aligning with the poverty and pain and the many generations of absentee and abusive fathers. I sat with THAT a lot. Zi’s grandmother made several remarks about my frowns.

She would catch me in deep thoughts between bites of food, people watching, or just staring at her garden. It wasn’t until I arrived to Panama and the lady who hosted me told me to live in the moment and to take in the beauty that was around me and that was when my sadness started to move towards annoyance.

I consider myself an internal person. I don’t easily get caught up in the external, the ways things look. I mean, I don’t wear makeup. I’ve worn my hair natural –before this natural craze and despite my family’s dismay– and I rock my mustache like it’s a dipped in black gold chain.

This sort of outlook can be beneficial because I am aware in my body and love my body, but it can be harmful to yourself and others when you are in your feelings rather than enjoying the present moment.

Panama wasn’t a planned destination. I didn’t even know my host, Mel, until I got there. We met through a mutual friend and she believed in my project so much that she was willing to let me stay in the place she worked- manicured paradise. Hooked On Panama is a luxury fishing resort. They have their own bar, pool, and hammocks right off of the ocean. It is very different from the surrounding community.

One of my major challenges as a parent is living in the hood, but still exposing Zi to the world. It isn’t necessarily just a financial lesson, but also one rooted in gratitude. Children and even people in my home/community aren’t always privy to the investments I make for Zi. Everything from dance classes, museums, galleries, poetry, technology, and toys, to her graduating Pre-K in one of the most affluent communities in Westchester, makes Zi, I feel, unique.  Zi has seen a wider range of what I saw at her age. She has been around wooden shacks in the mountains of La Vega to a birthday party on a house that has its own street.

The challenge about giving your child a lot is the potential for them to be ungrateful. I don’t think that Zi is operating from any form of malice. She just expects more. The flip side of that is that sometimes I cannot appreciate her abundant mindset, because growing up I was use to not having much, so I’m more grateful than a six year old who thinks she is a princess.

I am not raising Zi like how I was raised. I grew up in the mindset that children are seen and not heard. My mom really struggled raising me because she raised two children single-handedly, on government assistance, and is physically disabled, and on top of that, I was a vocal child or very withdrawn because I felt misunderstood.

I let Zi to say how she feels. And although I allow Zi to be seen and heard, she is still respectful. She can tell me that she hates me, but she cannot name call or raise her voice at me.  I support her in coming up with her own conclusions and understandings (because she is going to do that anyway).

I don’t know what happened to Zi when we were in Jamaica and Panama. I think she was feeling herself too much, but I definitely called my mom to tell her that I was about to put her on a plane back to NY. She was not listening and I was in a space where I wanted to be at peace. I tried reasoning with her. I punished her. But, Zi was being rude to Mel and I was just about through with her mouth. Yea, she is awesome, but I felt like kicking her off of her high horse.

I had to reexamine the ways that I was raising Zi. The people around her. Maybe it was a little bit off balanced. Maybe I was raising her too much like my mother raised me. Maybe she was rebelling because I was being too internal at the moment. Or maybe Zi needed some kids to relate to. The truth was that Zi was acting up and Mel had an opinion about it.

I didn’t view my parenting situation as me having a problem or Zi having a problem. I saw it as all three of us having a problem. Living with people are all about energies and relationships. I feel like too often parents are judged for their kid's personality. I am not saying that I don't have an influence in the good and bad of Zi, but at the same time she is also a separate person who is influenced by the people and the spaces around her. So, I noticed early on that Mel had a very controlling and opinionated spirit. She wanted me to have a certain experience. And in my mind, I am just like let people be. I am not into changing nobody. If you ask me for my opinion, I will give it, but I think it is weird to be like, “this is a spiritual journey for you and I want it to look like this for you.” There is no cookie cutter way for healing to happen and up to this point, I felt like I was being judged because I didn’t parent and heal in a certain way.

I remember coming back to the cabin to grab a towel from the pool and Mel was eating some chips. I didn’t think anything of it until she said, “Why did you have to come see me right now?” A similar incident is when I caught her on her porch looking like she was about to choke a ninja out. She was on Facebook and noticed that annoying feature where friends of friends have access to your pictures. So, she saw that an ex-friend had the potential to see her private photos and she felt ashamed and she asked me if I thought she was overreacting and I was like, “Yeah, it is Facebook!?... And aren’t you writing a memoir? What are you going to do when people from your past come to your readings? What are you going to say? ‘Security, get those people out!’ Or ‘you can buy my book, but don’t read chapter ten or I’m going to mess you up’?”

She bursted from her tears in a huge laugh. I think she noticed that there are some things she is not comfortable with. That there is a path inside of her that she may need to rework and breakthrough. I noticed the same things about myself as a mother, as someone who is internal and hold my silences to myself. I noticed that I need to stand up in my vulnerability and tell people, I am not comfortable with that right now. I noticed the ways that I was being controlling with another friend of mine who is in a major transition and she told me how she felt about something that directly affected me and I judged her.

Panama and Mel were exactly what I needed. It was the quiet oasis that I got to see my reflections in the pool of Mel’s tears. I saw that I need to be more aware of the palms trees, the blue ocean that stretched all the way towards the sky. The lush green of grasses. The horses behind the cabins. The wines behind the bar. I noticed that I needed to say thank you more, to show the appreciation of the workers. The fried fish that was picked the morning before. I forgot to thank god for the struggle and the generosity of nature. I, like Zi, forgot to me grateful.

I needed Panama. I needed to see how I was struggling and where I could grow. I left Panama relieved, knowing what I needed to work on. It gave me peace because I saw myself heading in the direction I needed to be in. To not hide in myself because of fear. To be willing to stand up in the pain and still feel worthy enough to be loved and feel thankful.

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