The convergence of a theme emerged last week in ways too coincidental to ignore. Alternatively, it’s completely possible that once a seed is planted, you begin to see it grow in many aspects of your life and is less coincidence than thematic, if only for a short time. Regardless, at dinner with close friends, the upcoming road trip was discussed when one friend offered that she was envious of our plans to drive to Alaska and then to Panama, reflecting that she was happy to envision more time with grandchildren and lead the relatively quiet life she leads but believing that she “should” want more travel and exploration as part of her future.
Justice, Equity and Dignity
Later in the week, due to circumstances too tangential to this blog to mention here, Roque shared with me that he has led his life according to three principals: justice, equity and dignity. With all of the time that we have spent together, and with the myriad conversations and topics we have discussed, it seemed somewhat remarkable that Roque never shared this before with me – at least, in this particular way. If you knew Roque, it would be no surprise to hear him articulate these specific principals since he walks the talk in every fiber of his being. What was most intriguing to me about his articulation was how much this resonated with me in connection with the earlier “should” conversation when my friend mentioned her envy about the trip that Roque and I are planning.
Discarding the “Shoulds”
To me, among the most important aspects of our impending retirement and road trip, including the plan to expatriate to Panama, is that we have largely discarded the “should” from our thinking and focused on our lodestars. And while Roque’s principals of justice, equity and dignity may seem somewhat disconnected from the concept of “should” or, frankly, expatriating to Panama via an overland adventure, they struck a chord with me by how important it is to be guided by an internal compass and how retirement, if not before, is a perfect time to discard the “shoulds.”
Roque’s guiding principals suggest an outward approach to those who he has sought to serve but they can and, of course, are, his internal guideposts as well. I might choose different words or, even, different principals. But whatever they are, they have guided me in all that I do and all that I am, much as they do for everyone else. My connection with Roque, his with me, and with the people who are dear and important to us, are cemented by our lodestars and the power of those connections are, I believe, stronger or weaker depending upon how closely our lodestars match with others in our lives. I see this in nearly every interaction I have and it helps me to understand why I feel the powerful connections to near-strangers and, sometimes, the distance I have with close relatives and co-workers with whom I spent enormous periods of time.
Alongside these principals, however, at least for me, has always been the “should.” The “should” has often competed with my internal lodestars and, perhaps embarrassingly, has sometimes taken over – not to the compromise of any of those principals I hold dear – but certainly when it comes to being true to myself.
With my friends who have apologized for how long it’s been since we saw each other, I have always said that no apology is necessary, further noting that the way that we spend our lives is often the best snapshot on what we truly value the most. Whether it is family, career, leisure activities or nothing at all, I think that we might benefit by paying more attention to the things that actually drive us rather than some sense of “should” coming from external sources.
Whether the “shoulds” come to us because of our birth order, or because we are products of our generation, or due to our gender, it is worth reminding ourselves that whatever leads us internally requires no apologies. I say this, in part, with the hope that if I repeat this mantra often enough, I will believe it more fervently with every reciting. If Roque and I followed our “shoulds,” it likely would not have resulted in a decision to expatriate or to overland to Alaska and Panama. Roque has admonished me from time to time that what I characterize as “selfishness” is more self-focus. That resonates for me, even if I am still trying it on for size, since self-focus requires serious inward attention to those things that drive me and fulfill my soul.
Whether one prefers the company of grandchildren, or the excitement of the unseen road, or the peace of time at home with family and friends, we should listen carefully to our inner voices and substitute the compelling driving forces within for those things that we allow to influence our considered and careful pursuits.
Roque and I are unsure how it will feel to be on the road, away from familiar things and the people who are the cornerstones of our footing. But for us, this feels like the right thing to do. If it does not evolve into what we are hoping for, we can always turn back. For those who are not so impelled, I offer this blog to travel virtually with us.