Not This Life . . . That Life

Nothing is forever, it was true. - from Miss Jane, A Novel by Brad Watson
Nothing is forever, it was true. – from Miss Jane, A Novel by Brad Watson

I have not posted in a while. I couldn’t.

I lost my endeavor.  I didn’t feel like it.

Besieged is how I have felt. Priorities I carefully chose suddenly began to compete for my energy. The necessities of participating in life (and moments of trying to figure it out what was happening) made even the creative possibilities I set in motion impossible.

I was deprived of clarity.

It happens all of us. Life is like that.

So I began days not with a to-do list but no list at all.

The space that allowed was not my undoing but my deep privilege. It’s been 7 months.

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Ambushed by Desire

What hit me was an intense longing.

I wasn’t unhappy. In fact, life was good.

I live in an appealing place, in a house that sits beautifully on the water’s edge, with a man I love and respect who loves me back more. I bike, have friends, travel and cherish my relationship with my beautiful daughter and her family.

I had determined a path for my work in the future.

There was nothing not to like.

A simple invitation to a place I’d never been began my undoing.

It happened as I walked up a hill in a Mexican mountain town. This strong stir arrived with clear verbal intent. OMG, I want to live here.

I could have blamed the altitude.

“I want to shape my days in a different culture.  I want to better know individuals I’m meeting. I like this walk on dusty cobblestones in this old town where I buy beautiful flowers in the market for not a lot of money, sit in the square and listen to bells, and be the recipient of the shoe shine man’s smile as he deciphers my Spanish.”

(I also like daily living with a maid and gardener – both in the realm of possibility if you live in Mexico.)

I’ve had extended stays of 3 months in Nicaragua, Chile/Argentina, and Ecuador. But this was different. This was about long run – say a couple of years. A semi-permanent or maybe permanent, this to that.

Returning home, I gaze online at real estate in San Miguel de Allende. I have never returned from anywhere and done this.

Where did my longing come from? I do not know. It simply arrived.

I could have archived it. I did not.

It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them. ― George Eliot
It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.
― George Eliot

Longing is Invitation

General malaise, discontent, envy and depression are signs of uneasiness with life.

I didn’t have those so this longing – this heartfelt desire to live differently– felt out of place.

In the last third of my life, I’ve had false starts and fruitless detours. But I had re-ordered and restored myself to an equilibrium that for sure didn’t need stirred up with a grand scheme of packing up and moving.

The idea does not please either my husband or my daughter.

Perhaps, I thought daily, this yearning feeling will go away.

Longing has sharp edges. Longing beckons and stabs.

In longing we move from the known to something we want that is unknown, to somewhere we may know little about and to lovers with whom we’ve spent little time.

Longing transforms a life. Longing can begin with a small inkling or a tiny notion. Longing can clang so loudly it hurts.

We have to be determined to block out noise of an unfulfilled whim or instinct. Perhaps you are good at this. Many of us are.

A good way to keep everything in check is to map out a linear life for your last third of living then relish that safe feeling. I get that.

But life should not feel like you have already arrived.

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You are 2/3rds Done

Perhaps, you think it’s crazy to harbor hopes and dreams in the last twenty years of life, let alone act on them.

I can’t honestly say I blame you. It complicates things and gets you all scaredy-cat.

Here’s what I know. I felt more in the middle or late-middle of life than toward the end. If you think you are half-way done with life, you could be kidding yourself. I was.

But if you are late-50s you are more like 2/3’s done.

This realization will shorten your orbit. (All this is without the disturbing speculation that your health and your death is out of your control.)

Get a good list of your unfulfilled desires up against a realistic timeline of your life that’s relatively small at this point and I guarantee you’ll be far less intimidated about changing up life.

I visited San Miguel four more times to look beneath my infatuation. Was I being ambushed by hype?

I took friends with me and watched as they never felt anything near my euphoria. Some liked it well enough. Others readily packed and won’t return.

Two people who clearly love the lives they created in this place provide solace.

One moved to San Miguel from Atlanta over ten years ago and vibrancy radiates through the ends of her short red hair. The other just sold a home in San Miguel and said, “It’s the worst mistake I’ve ever made.”

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That. I Want That.

Eventually I realize that intense longing has bored a hole into my good life more than once.

My longing moments always begin with Oh my god because they upend me:

  • OMG, I want get married. (1965 and again in 1981)
  • OMG, I’d like to bike the Pyrenees (ongoing)
  • OMG, I want to have a baby. (1969)
  • OMG, I have to go here. (inspired by pictures to a place I’d never heard of-  Oaxaca, Mexico – 1988)
  • OMG, I’ve got to leave this job and do something else. (early 90s)
  • OMG, I want to get in that sailboat and see how far I can sail it. (In my case, learn to sail it. – 2010)

Action ensued on all of these except for that biking trip to the Pyrenees which is a stretch for my capabilities but I’m not dismissing it. Modified, it could happen.

These longings turn out to be markers of change that made my life bigger and better.

But when you are a mature adult – again let’s say fifty-five or so – it’s a great deal easier to keep living the same life suffused with an understanding that you had your chances and this is what you got.

So you live the life you have.

Nothing wrong with that but it’s not how I’m going to do it.

The longing doesn’t feel out of place anymore. It feels grand.

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Post Script

Thanks to all of you who electronically or in person let me know that you missed my posts.

I am in thoughtful pursuit of getting my desires into reality. I continue to hold to fast to encouraging each of you to live deeply by sharing knowledge, experience, and wisdom from a firm foundation.

Expect shorter posts and a finished book.

I hope you will travel along with me and join in the conversation. I appreciate each one of you.


About Barbara Pagano

Barbara Pagano,Ed.S., author and speaker, influenced over 3,500 executives in organizations to achieve higher performance. She is now on a mission to help individuals extend their career arcs and craft lifestyles of productive longevity.
This entry was posted in Living Your Best 3rd Third of Life, Productive Longevity, Self-Management. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Not This Life . . . That Life

  1. Sabrina O'Jack says:

    Oh Barbara … After you left this evening, I discovered your blog and have stayed up late in order to read it all. I am thrilled to be part of your journey here in San Miguel and grateful you chose my Casita as your first port of call as your adventure here unfolds! Our late day chats have included much of what you wrote, but reading provides a different experience that even the best of conversations rarely match!

    This evening you now have two more friends here in town … so clearly, you are well on your way to making San Miguel home for however long you wish.

    I feel blessed to have you as my guest as you are the wake up call I didn’t know I needed!. I realize now that I have placidly been ‘floating’ through this stage of my life or perhaps it’s more like a gentle and sometimes not so gentle free fall! I believe you landed at my door for a ‘reason’ as you are reminding me that Tempus fugit and I had best pay attention and start meaningfully creating this last third of my life. I have a feeling we’ll talk about it “manana en la manana”!

    Buenos noches

  2. Susan Junot says:

    Barbara – this is the first opportunity I’ve had to read your blog. Very interesting and thought provoking! I evaluate & re-evaluate my life all the time. Sometimes I feel like something is missing (like the grandchild we pray God will bring one day), but mostly I am very comfortably content. I’ll be beginning a brand new career in 3 weeks – at 52 years of age. Looking forward to the challenge!

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Susan, I’ve done some thinking about your comment. My conclusion is that “comfortably content” is very much a part of a well-lived, deeply meaningful life. My own life holds long periods of complete and utter feelings of contentment. When struck with this “longing thing,” I can be utterly astounded (and often dumbstruck) since I have so much to be thankful for. While I don’t ignore the restlessness that longing brings, I don’t jump into changes quickly either. Enjoy your place of ‘comfortably content’ as you check in with yourself. Thanks for your response. Barbara

  3. Ah yes, I know that OMG moment well. I heard it in 1985, when I decided to go to law school at 40+, in 2005 when I first came to San Miguel (and bought a house) and in 2011 when I just had to write a book about living in Mexico (This is Mexico: Tales of Culture and Other Complications). I have never regretted listening to that OMG, nor living in San Miguel. I signed up for your blog — I hope,our paths may cross, perhaps in San Miguel.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Amazing connection you and I will have when we meet in SMA for coffee! Since not all individuals understand how one can “act” on a feeling of “longing” I find your response heartfelt and soothing to my soul. Thanks for following along. I plan to get your book now! Barbara

  4. just scan read several of your blog messages Barbara after seeing your post on Facebook about it.

    Interested in the topic of WHAT TO DO WITH THE 3RD 3RD OF LIFE.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      All content is based on research and grounded in a strong foundation of what is currently available on this 3rd 3rd. I am happy that you are here. Let me know if you have specific questions. Barbara

  5. Peggy Fitzpatrick says:

    Barbara,my former cohort in crime…
    You write with such clarity and conviction. I could feel your energy hitting me in the face encouraging me to find and follow my next adventure. You are a wonderful writer!☘️💚☘️

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      The world is big…but small enough that we can still touch each other’s lives despite so many years that pass. Lucky us! Thanks for following along and for your compliments on my writing. If you had offered to cover the sixth grade testing I might have found my voice sooner. 🙂 Barbara

  6. Jayme Hatfield says:

    OMG (haaaah) I just found your blog after googling “when you find yourself culling friends”. I KNEW in your first sentences that you were talking about San Miguel de Allende. Lived in Austin during the creative vortex of the 1970’s-89’s that was Whole Foods, Austin City Limits, etc. I had a shop there and Texas Floods chased me out in 1989— (yes, StevieRayVaughn’s practice house was 3 doors down and I paid my shop rent to Chris Layton his drummer) Sigh. All that you have written in this post was EXACTLY what I have been thinking and feeling. How interesting that I should find you after your hiatus from posting until this April 20. Hmmmmmm..
    However, I don’t have ANY of the same things you have. No hubby, no children, no family just a recent rescue pup I didn’t really want…but perhaps more likely what I needed. Just lost my part time job so now relying on minimal fixed income…restless, still very viable (fit, healthy, and apparently attractive)…and yet, no matter how excellent the skill sets, there is no excellence in a vaccuum. I am isolated culturally, (now friend-ways) and now that I have SERIOUSLY culled some long time relationships both men and women, I wonder what the heck is going on. You hit a lot of my hot buttons. Lots to think about now. Yikes.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Jayme, There a lot of energy in ‘restlessness.’ You recognize so many aspects of where you are. Keep thinking…but don’t get stuck. Hope you will continue to travel along with me.

  7. marnyneedle1 says:

    Beautifully well written, heartfelt and passionate. Keep them coming as you work toward your dream.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Thank you for rolling along with me and my thoughts – on wheels and on this blog. I do so appreciate your response and most especially – your support. Barbara

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Thank you for all of your participation in my life. Appreciate you taking the time to respond. And I appreciate your reference to “work” in the phrase “work toward your dream.” For it is work — with many moving parts to accommodate. Barbara

  8. Saa Fountain says:

    Hi, Barbara. My how glad I am to see your post. I have wondered about the status of your moving to San Miguel. I look forward to us catching up soon.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      What a joy to hear from you. I appreciate your keen aspects on so many of my posts. Love having you as a reader. Barbara

  9. Margery Miller says:

    Darling Barbara,

    I so resonate with what you wrote in the post I received today about longing. My story is, as you know, very different from yours, but I find a similarity.

    My longing had to do with family and a sense of belonging. I spent years searching for the kind of relationship you and your husband have, and each one I tried just didn’t work out for me. After leaving the last one over two years ago, I discovered what I was really looking for by taking a child with me when I left. I couldn’t leave her with her grandfather, as he was truly incapable of parenting, and she was an orphan. And she wanted to come with me.

    My now “adopted” granddaughter has given me such a sense of purpose, belonging and energy!

    My friends thought I was crazy, and few admit that they would even try it. But it works for me!

    And we added another woman to the mix–a sort of adopted daughter who is 36 and started out as a renter of one of our empty bedrooms (she was already a friend of mine who was looking for a change) and became a member of our family. We now have a delightful girl tribe and we rely on each other, counsel each other, and really enjoy our world.

    My young girl is 14 almost 15 and I have watched her transform herself into an amazing young woman. Yes, she’s still a teenager, but her life challenges make her mature beyond her years.

    I am so grateful that I listened to my longing, and also grateful that I opened myself up to see I could fulfill it in a completely different form than I ever imagined.

    I’m turning 70 this year and I feel young, vibrant and so very alive.

    I am excited for you and your journey to San Miguel.

    • Barbara Pagano says:

      Margery, Your journey shares so many of the values that top my list. This beautiful life you create for yourself – no matter what! Thank you for sharing this. Barbara

Would love to hear what you are thinking.