I started this blog with the intent of writing about the human relationship with place. I have spent hours writing of the beauty of Gustavus and Glacier Bay, the community of people who still feel like family, and the love I hold for my home and more than human neighbors. I have written of the pain of divorce and separating from place and community.
Over the past few months, I have sent emails to a friend I parted on less than sustainable terms when I made my final move from Gustavus this past January. When I was offered a job in Massachusetts and knew I would be moving, I had entertained hopes of renting my house to this friend. For months, emails were sent back and forth, always with things left up in the air. In the end, the prospect was too scary for me to enter into, and the abusive, verbal berating I received from the third party potential renter sealed the deal.
I have never received a response to these emails, which have been my attempts to send positive energy and love and forgiveness. I have heard word via the Gustavus grapevine that the third party person expended energy communicating with people around town about what an awful human being I was.
Yesterday, I finally received a one-liner. It wasn’t mean. It wasn’t friendly. It was abiotic. Nevertheless, it sent me reeling.
I posted two “updates” on Facebook in an effort to reach out and find support from my virtual community.
Post #1: I have been trying to send loving energy to people in my life whose feelings I have hurt or who have hurt me in the past. What do you do when they just send negative energy in return? Practice energy Aikido and pretend it doesn’t make you sad?
Post #2: Or let go and focus on the people who love you?
The response came within moments, with words of love and wisdom from a dear friend I met my freshman year in college.
I sent one final email to my friend of old, filled with words of love and remorse, and I left for the ever cooling waters of Walden Pond.
Upon my return from my weekly meditation, I sat down to write, fully intent on purging the negative thoughts that continue to grip me since leaving Gustavus a year ago today with descriptions of the negative things I experienced during my time there.
Before opening a blank document, I decided to check my many email accounts. I opened Yahoo. Nothing there. Gmail. Still nothing. Facebook. Jackpot!
I could feel love, support, and wisdom travel from the many posts from people who care about me beyond the virtual realm and into my own heart.
I read a book called Synchronicity for one of the foundational courses in the Prescott PhD program. In it, the author writes of the response he nearly instantaneous response received from the universe when he channeled his own desire for a change to happen in his life. Since then, I have observed this energy exchange in my own life, and I have come to pay attention and listen closely to them, for they can be subtle and can take on forms you do not anticipate.
It seems a propos that I should once again be hit with painful memories of a place I left one year ago today. I left at the start of a month of transition. October. Moving month for the fairies. I can feel change around me even in a cityscape.
When I left Gustavus, I packed my car as full as was possible given that I was traveling with an additional human and canine companion. I think I knew that I would not be returning after my furlough. It had been a painful year. I was newly divorced. I had just barely survived the spring and summer months my status at my job had gone from most valued to most threatening employee.
In this journey toward self-sustainability, I have made many discoveries. A recent epiphany occurred when I looked at the table of contents from a book on feminist theory I have been reading and found myself in it.
Here it is:
Introduction: To the Other Side of Silence
THE WAYS OF KNOWING
2 Received Knowledge: Listening to the Voices of Others
3 Subjective Knowledge: The Inner Voice
4 Subjective Knowledge: The Quest for Self
5 Procedural Knowledge: The Voice of Reason
6 Procedural Knowledge: Separate and Connected Knowing
7 Constructed Knowledge: Integrating the Voices
For years, I have accepted situations and unethical and unkind treatment. There were times when I recognized the unhealthy influence on my level of sustainability. There were other times when I did not. Hindsight is a funny thing and paints clarity onto many blurry images from our past.
I began with relatively silent acceptance of this treatment. It was something I needed to endure for whatever the end goal of the time—a permanent job, for example. Sure, I complained to my partner and a select few friends and family members. But the face I showed the world was one of acceptance.
It wasn’t until I started the Prescott PhD program and began learning that sustainability meant far more than making the world a cleaner, healthier planet in an environmental context. From this realization came deeper discoveries that have led me in varying degrees of change in mind, body, and physical location to my living room in Lowell, writing a dissertation on my own journey toward self-sustainability.
I started with the realization that my job was unsustainable. I resigned from my seasonal position. I put energy into the universe that I needed to make a change. The universe responded. I was offered a permanent job in Alaska.
So began the tentative end to my silence.
Listening to the Voices of Others
I continued this journey by looking within. I saw musicians perform at open mic in Gustavus, and I felt an intense desire to be up on the stage. I started playing music. I started listening to friends, who sensed that all was not what it seemed in my marriage.
I participated in Story-to-Song for the first time and told a seemingly simple story that had resurfaced many times over the years to the forefront of my thoughts. After writing a song, I began to realize the story was about more than it seemed. It was about the silent sacrifice I made in my relationships with people in my life, particularly lovers. I left my husband.
The Inner Voice
Finding my inner voice was a tricky and messy process. I smoked many clove cigarettes, drank more than my fair share of wine and vodka tonics, and wept in my corner office. I woke up in the night panic-stricken. I worried that every single person in my community was judging me.
The Quest for Self
I went to a training for permanent NPS employees at the Grand Canyon. At this training, the staff told us to advocate for ourselves and our careers because no one else would do it for us. They told us to go forth and effect cultural change in the NPS and at our workplace.
So I did. I went back and requested the trainings I had been told were to be included in my job description. Granted, I got a bit carried away and listed a number of conferences and workshops I would like to attend, imagining a conversation would follow. What followed was a Venn diagram being drawn out for me to demonstrate my lack of dedication to my job and preference for prioritizing “college.”
I was labeled a “problem employee” and required to write out and turn in everything I accomplished on an hourly basis at work. I was told that I had “lost my way” and that it was necessary to “get me back in line.”
The Voice of Reason
The funny thing—funny in hindsight, at least—was that I felt as though I was finally finding my way for the first time in my life. I think I was finally beginning to learn a way of intuitive knowing.
Part of this way finding and intuitive knowing has been to recognize and find ways to either distance myself physically or through energy Aikido from the people who treat me in ways that are unhealthy and that do not fit my definition of how one human being should treat another.
It has meant traveling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars. It has meant taking anti-depression and anxiety pills to help me breath and to lessen the tightness in my chest.
It has also meant discovering the people who truly love and support me in my ever-growing global community.
To these individuals—I hope you know who you are—I send much of the love and gratitude in my heart.
To those I have hurt along this messy, ungraceful path, I send some of the remaining love.
To those who have hurt me, whether in their own self-defense or out of fear or malicious intent, I send love and forgiveness and the hope that you find peace and sanctuary.
I keep the rest of the love for those with whom I have yet to cross paths, for I know that my journey is far from over.
And I thank the gods that love is a renewable resource!
Joseph Jaworski. (1998). Synchronicity: The inner path of leadership. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Mary Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York, NY: Basic Books, Inc.