Sunday, October 18, 2020


by Gary Stamper

If all goes well, I will be landing in Panama City at 1:58 in the morning on Tuesday, November 3rd. I anticipate an easy tour through Panamanian Customs in spite of having to take a COVID test before I can enter the country. I could have arrived at a better time for almost twice the money.  I must be on the pauper flight.

The test will cost me $30. I could have taken a test in the U.S. (at a cost of $180), but if I failed, I understandably would not be allowed on the airplane and would have to reschedule everything including airline flights. lodging reservations, attorney, and immigration appointments. Because of the care I've taken, including what I consider to be my successful COVID immunity regimen and extreme self-isolation, I really don't anticipate that happening.

I'm sure my daughter's friends think I'm a completely anti-social liberal, paranoid, or both, but social distancing and masks don't seem to apply in Texas unless you're in a store where it's required by law but often ignored. At 75, I'm okay with being cautious to a fault.

IF, on the outside chance I were to test positive upon arrival, Panama would require me to quarantine for seven days in a hotel room that they would pay for, but even that's a much better outcome than not getting there.

About That Mixture of Excitement and Fear... 

I'm not sleeping as well as I'd like. Part of it is age, but I normally don't have a problem falling back to sleep. I have a technique I developed that generally allows me to fall asleep in about 30 seconds (yes, it used to piss off sleeping partners). But then there's that anti-meditation monkey mind that is particularly busy in times of stress, and no one can doubt that even without moving to another country, these are probably the most stressful times many of us have ever experienced.

I accept the inability to sometimes quiet my mind between the hours of 3am to 6am in spite of twenty years of meditation. It doesn't happen often (maybe a couple times a week), but when it does, my mind races with all of the things I have to do and what I'm afraid I might miss. It's obviously a bit of overwhelm, and I miss having a partner that I could experience and share the stress with,  as well as the division of responsibilities, although I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Of those 2-3 nights a week when my monkey mind is in full bloom, two out of three times I'm generally able to quiet my mind and fall back to sleep.  When I can't, I accept it and get up and do something productive. It doesn't matter what, but I try to address the "why" of my racing mind and if I can't hone in on it, I go to my task list and find something that needs to be done and just get busy. Nothing like a little concentration and accomplishment to quiet me down.

So what's going on that's contributing to this mix of excitement and fear, self-exploration wants to know?

Well, of course, leaving the country I was born in and having lived what I consider to have been an extraordinary life would be stressful under the best of conditions, and these are not the best of conditions, some external, some internal. Let's examine the external conditions first.

Politics and Worldviews

Let's start with the obvious: The world is still in the midst of a pandemic. As of this writing, the US is averaging more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases a day, and 10 states reported their highest single-day case counts last Friday. Now, only two states, Hawaii and Vermont, are seeing a significant improvement in their numbers. It’s the same story in Europe. 'Nuff said...

If you're a regular reader of my FB page or this blog, you probably know where I stand politically and philosophically. The U.S. has always been an imperfect democracy and depending on one's race, gender, and economic standing, we'll each have a different perspective on how imperfect. Regardless of any of the above three criteria, perspectives can change with developing our ability to feel and experience compassion and empathy. 

That we, as a nation led by a narcissistic psychopath who lacks both compassion or empathy (don't forget integrity), stand where we are today, breaks my heart. As a privileged white male, I completely understand that my perspective is limited, and that to a degree, my ability to move away from the political pathologies, are in some ways, indicative of that white privilege. I am grateful that I've had the opportunities I've had growing up and living here, but am also intensely aware that a lot of people around the world have not had positive "accidents of birth."

Under "normal" circumstances (whatever the fuck those are), I might have been willing to stay and "fight for my country," but there other "circumstances" at play, my age notwithstanding. Long time readers of my work will understand how man-made climate change has also affected my decisions. From a global perspective and as an American citizen, I realize that while I'm also a victim of, but more responsible for, human-caused global Climate Change than most people.

Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

My long-time readers will also be aware that I believe that we reached the point of no return of being able to "fix" the climate damage we've caused in the latter part of the first decade of this century.  That means that nothing we can possibly do at this point can reverse the damage that industrial civilization has caused. Even if we were to stop all contributions to climate change today, this juggernaut of successive tipping points of "irreversible feedback loops"  will continue to grow and heat up for at least another 10,000 years.

But we're not going to turn everything off, because that would mean the end of civilization and life as we know it.  Not doing anything, which is what we're doing now, also means the end of civilization and life as we know it. Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

I'm no longer willing to fight "losing battles." What I am willing to do is to try to be a model for how to make the most of what we have left and that is to live with as much grace and integrity as possible. Does this mean the end of humanity or all life on the planet? Possibly, but I won't address that here. What is irrefutable is that no matter who wins the election, life is going to drastically change for all of us. How fast it happens is the question...

For me, I'm choosing the way I want my life to change, consequences, and all. So are you, consciously or unconsciously. as always, not choosing is a choice.

Internal Fears: the "Biggie"

More difficult to flesh out are the internal fears that exist in each of us and I'm no different from anyone else with mine, except these are my fears... what shows up for me in the internal realm, the shadows, the hidden parts that we don't want to face.  As someone who works with men and the light and the dark shadow of masculine (and feminine) archetypes, I may have a bit of a head start on these compared to most.

When doing shadow work, we typically look at the dark shadows of ourselves, but, yes, there are light shadows, too. These are often self-limiting beliefs that prevent us from realizing how big we can be! Many men are more afraid of failing than anything else. This comes from being told things like "you'll never amount to anything,"  "you're no good,"  and "you're stupid" or "evil" by our primary caretakers, teachers, religious, and other authority figures.  

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (see Hobbes and Locke) believed that men were inherently evil and that they should be ruled by absolute kings whose absolute authority could not be questioned as men were incapable of ruling themselves. The Hobbes and Locke political debate continues today and somewhat explains the major differences between liberal and conservatives. Shadows of the light are often created by people who haven't done enough work around their own dark shadows.

I have my own "light" shadow about not being "good enough." It shows up in later stages of decisions I've made that others think are "stupid" or "careless" (like moving to Panama). "Who do you think you are?" is one I've sometimes heard.  Another I've heard is "all my friends laugh at you behind your back." These kinds of statements - which are actually projections - are designed to keep you in "your place." Once I got over the shock that someone I loved and supposedly loved me, would try to hurt me this way, I quickly realized that the statement was bullshit and that it said so much more about them than it did about me.

My most powerful shadow is around money and finances and I've been working on this for a long time. I've never worked a job that had a retirement program. And since I've been self-employed for much of my life, I've always done what I wanted to do, even if it meant making less money and not being able (rather, not wanting) to save for retirement, So while my SS is thankfully higher than the national average, it's also more than enough to live comfortably in Panama... but not in the U.S., and I'd rather live a comfortable middle-class life in a Caribbean beach town in Panama than be poor anywhere the U.S.... or anywhere else, frankly! 

I've been living off savings plus Social Security for about three years, but my move to Napa from Asheville for almost two years was a huge and expensive mistake, and I'm using what's left of my savings to get to Panama. What if I have an emergency that requires me to use more of my savings? I'm not shipping a lot to Panama, but all in all, it's going to cost me about $6k to move what I want to take with me, including my art. 

Could I have done it for less? Yes. But while experts suggest leaving everything behind and starting over, what I'm taking is a big part of who I am and I'm not running away from me.

One last thing about shadow: Our shadows are deeply embedded in us and they never really go away. They are part of who we are. Then why do the work, you ask? While shadow never goes away, recognizing and facing them provides us with an opportunity. The opportunity is that when shadow comes up and I recognize it, I'm no longer at its mercy. It no longer controls me and I have a choice: I can either fall victim to the emotions it might raise, or I can acknowledge it and just let it go. You can choose how to respond instead of being in a reactive mode.

I'll probably have more sleepless nights before I'm settled into my new home, but I recognize what's going on and can act accordingly... and hey, it's just a few hours of sleeplessness now and then. I'd still be doing the same thing if I were to stay. I'd just be a lot poorer.

Read More about my Journey in previous and future posts and follow me by scrolling on the column to the right to "follow me."


Anyaa said...

Interesting, vulnerable, raw and intelligent Gary... thank you for sharing your process with us all. As always, I am rooting for you, sending out prayers for safe passage, and look forward to hearing about or reading the next chapter! Love ya lots!

Joe L said...

Great post, Gary. I admire your intelligent take on things, your willingness to face your own shadow, and your courage in starting over again in a foreign land. I don't know much about Panama, but I'm sure you've done your research. Portugal is of more interest to me, although at the present moment, "you can't get there from here." Anyway, I wish you all the best, and please do keep us posted.