Over the last week and a half I have had what I would very much consider a life-changing experience. For the first time in my adult life I acted in a play, an experience that opened me up to far more than just a creative side of me, but also to a different world within Boquete, Panama where I currently live.
At the same time as my play was taking place, our Panamanian maid, Fani, who we have come to view as much as a mother as our maid, was visiting the doctors concerned that some pain in her chest and arm may be related to some sort of cancerous growth. While I spent Wednesday performing our first show, two of my housemates were driving her down to David to do whatever they could to help her expedite the process. Fani is a single-mother of 3 children, one of which now lives in Panama City pursuing a career, the other two of which are 14 and 8, and very much in need of her financial and motherly support. She is also 39 years old but looks like she has lived the life of any 3 of us in this house combined.
On Thursday I had a group of 15 friends of mine going to the play (a group which I was supposed to be a part of up until Sunday) and Fani requested a ticket. In spite of the fact that she understood virtually no English at all she wanted to come and see me perform in my absurd Australian accent that I had been walking around the backyard for three days practicing.
After the play I got to do something I had been wanting to do for a long time but didn't know how to approach: give Fani a hug. I thanked her for coming and gave her a hug that was equally disproportionate (the other way around) to what I actually meant by those words. I wanted to tell her that I loved her. I wanted to tell her that I hoped with all of my heart that she would come out of this okay. I wanted to thank her for calling me "el nino" because I'm the youngest in our house, for always giggling and calling my Anna Kendrick background "tu inspiracion," for always having a smile on her face while she wandered around our house attending to our daily messes. I wanted to thank her for becoming a part of our family while still being very much a doting employee. I hoped that she understood in the big hug that I gave her that I wasn't just saying "gracias para venir."
On Monday, the day after I finished the five performances for our play, I was out with a few friends and received the news that tests had come back showing that whatever issues she was having weren't cancerous. I smiled for at least 10 minutes straight.
After a week of having to worry that she might die and leave her kids behind for an uncertain future, a week plagued by sleeplessness to the extent that she asked a housemate if we had any sleeping pills that are completely foreign to her (yay for my ambien being useful), her heavy burdens had been laid to rest. She had been given new life.
The day before I had been hanging out smoking a joint with a few cast mates and one of the older ones, a musician in his 60's, said to us something so simply profound that I immediately wrote it down, "You know what brings me happiness in life: appreciation." The remark was partially inspired by how much he was enjoying the experience of acting for the first time in his life but far moreso how after several shows we went out as a cast to hang out, a cast ranging from age 18 to 65, with a wide variety of backgrounds (aside from that we were all American but one).
Life doesn't require a drastic experience like finding out you don't actually have cancer to stop and appreciate it but for so many it often does. I have found new life out of horrible circumstances, most significantly when I emerged from my first ever bout with horrible depression about a year ago and realized life was something worth living. But I have also found new life out of incredibly amazing experiences, like acting in a play, or going to Coachella and discovering my love for sharing music as a community. It shouldn't have taken Fani potentially having cancer for me to stop to appreciate her role in my life, but to some extent it did.
I want to write about my incredible experience that I had last week in participating in my first ever play but I wanted to make sure this blog showed what I truly appreciate: the love I feel for my family and friends, the love I feel for Fani. I am so thankful that you have found new life, and I am just as thankful that you will be able to continue to share it with us, your gringo family.
This song just happened to be posted in our music group on Facebook on Sunday and seemed all too appropriate:
And a bonus track: