purge

October 29th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

In my various glancing blows with success, I have had the most humbling experience of rising to the level of my own incompetence. These moments of exposure to my own shortcomings and blindspots are seared into my memory along with the moments of professional bliss, those days when projects came to fruition, grants were awarded, awards were granted, or teams carried ideas further than I could have ever dreamed on my own.

I keep the dark days there, in my mental trophy case, as triumphs on par with the days I stood in the sun.

How else would I know the precise tone and timber of my own internal voice? How else would I know the sublime relief of amending a misstep? Would I have ever grown confident enough to take on risk without (extreme) fear and panic?

Today we lost a job lead to crew on a Swan. We don’t know and we may never know why, but the overall negotiation was dysfunctional, and we already understand that we partially dodged a bullet. When I do recover from this – go all the way through the disappointment, shame, reflection, and acceptance – the experience will ultimately go up on that shelf. But before I can do this, there is a bit more to wring from it.

Having had a rather non-linear career well into middle age, I largely missed out on the benefits of performance review from senior professionals. One of the best opportunities I ever had was to attend a Rockwood Leadership Institute training and receive a “360 degree peer review”, which was simultaneously one of the most uncomfortable and valuable experiences of my professional life. From a packet of anonymized feedback on Day 3, I learned that I could be tough on my colleagues (which at times was motivating and other times wearying), that I took professional defeats quite personally, and that I was not very confident doing fundraising.

I saw much of this emanating from a central lie that there is something “less” about my work, so that I have to continuously put in more and minimize what I ask for in return. This has something to do with working while female in mostly male-dominated spaces, as well as formative experiences in the more behind-the-scenes realms of advocacy. Both factors made my work invisible in certain ways, and it became my desire to be a mission-driven magic-maker who needed nothing yet could do everything.

The wheels fell off on that type of thinking long ago.

Today, having side stepped this trajectory, I have somehow taken control of the role of money in my life and the value of time. Financial health has gone from being a topic I dare not speak of to an exciting project I get to unwrap, examine, debate, and tinker with. Day to day, I focus on living with maximum freedom and minimum expense. As we have less stuff, we somehow end up with more time. I am very proud of this, because it was terrifying to change course. I had to trust another person (my husband), which was also new and weird.

I once described this chapter to my Dad as “economic stasis”, which I believe describes it well. But at a certain point, we will have to find a way out of it.

When I work now, I pay close attention to where I feel stress, and where I feel purposeful. What type of work “flow” comes readily, what requires more self discipline, and where I may succumb to procrastination and self-sabotage. I try to compare this info with what professional goals I have left for myself and chart a path from here to there.

In the interest of being totally transparent here, which may or may not be a smart move on such a tumultuous day, my current professional goals are:
1. Work on an expedition or research vessel;
2. Publish more papers, personal writing, and ultimately a book of non-fiction about sea level communities;
3. Live and work in a land management capacity doing conservation (ecosystem, wildlife, foodways, remediation, water quality) at a watershed scale;
4. Be intentional and overt in my commitment to intersectional justice while doing any or all of the above.

When I lay it all out like this, I can see how the opportunity lost today was not a direct link to any of these goals. If I continued to look at it sideways, as I was doing, or if I added a few more items to my list, as I am totally open to doing, it would have made more sense.

What weighs more heavily on me today, is that it definitely lined up with the goals of another person (my husband), who is going through a recovery process of his own.

walkabout

October 12th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I miss dirt. On the boat, I tend to three small potted plants – aloe, basil and parsley. We have a composting toilet, and we separate our kitchen scraps for release to the wild. Its not that I have left the nutrient cycle, its that I miss dirt.

To remedy this, I subscribed to a website called Workaway.com, and began to search for opportunities to work on land. There are a lot of interesting projects out there, many DIYers in need of energetic hands.

My first pick was a APROVACA, a conservation project devoted to the protection and propagation of orchids in Panama. The facility is located in the Valle of Antón, in Cocle province. This valley is an ancient crater with rich soils, diverse agriculture, and fancy estates competing for land use.

They assigned me to the garden of medicinal plants, to clear it of weeds and start making some general order. In exchange, I was housed in their hostel on-site, treated to daily serenades by the frog chorus and fantastic downpours each afternoon onto the tin roofs of the orchid center, and invited to share lunch each day with the group of socios that work with the orchids.

The time was restorative, not just to work in the dirt, but to work with the rest of the group. Even though I wasn’t able to commit to a very long stay, the socios were nonetheless generous with their time, and I could not help but learn constantly. Just being in this space and exploring its nooks and crannies was like medicine. Pura vida.

baptism

August 11th, 2017 § 5 comments § permalink

Water provides us with a freedom that is the main feature of our life right now. Since we got the boat “done”, the sea is the open highway that stretches out before us.

But our “process water”, what we use for cooking, cleaning, and drinking, is our main limitation. Being the smallest boat out here means that we are less insulated from the environment by infrastructure like water makers and large freshwater tanks, and puts us in the company of how most of the world lives, as it turns out.

Even though it’s the rainy season here in Panama, the last few days have been dry, and local reserves were getting low.

A Guna neighbor, Rauliano, paddled up yesterday and discussed with us a plan to accompany one another to the nearest island with piped freshwater. We would tow his cayuco with our boat, and we could all load up on water. At 8 this morning we were scheduled to go.

Still waking up a bit slowly at 7:30, I knew that we had cloud cover. If the sky is clear, our cabin is fully illuminated fully by 6am. #equatorlife

When I poked my head out, I saw those gravid clouds full of delicious sky water. And then I heard Rauliano running up and down his beach with the signaling conch – honking out a code that relays along the strings of other islands like a radio repeater, each one with their own shell. I don’t claim to know what the shell-horn code means in any detail, but I am sure today the main topic was WATER. Far and wide, off in the distance, the shell horn repeaters said, “water, water, water”.

Now, there is rain that wakes up the Capitan (F), and there is rain that wakes up the XO (me). Rain with changes in wind speed or wind direction will get F out of bed at any time, to stand on deck with a headlamp glaring around with all the other capitans. Instead, I have a humidity alarm in my brain, which is connected to whatever dish pan, snorkling gear, or laundry that is in rotation through the cockpit in a never ending cycle of  rinsing and drying. It’s a ballet, really.

This morning’s soft, warm rain, was of my variety. Big fat drops turn the water around us into a grey static, and mini rivulets take shape all over our deck. Our dinghy, and every container we have get “redded up” and deployed for sweetwater catchment, and I know our 8am appointment has hereby been cancelled.

The visibility among the boats and shore was very low, and so I take the opportunity for a head-to-toe scrub down, with actual shampoo in my hair. I cannot tell you enough, dear reader, what a luxury this is. There are many not-glamorous parts of my current lifestyle, but when I am alone washing my hair in warm rain, I gotta say I’m feeling pretty extra.

At a certain point I hear Rauliano again, now freestyling on the shell horn. His family is scurrying around the island doing the same things as me, setting out containers to catch the rain and giving everything a good scrub. Between honks, he is shouting into the rain thanking God in three languages, and cheering the good fortune of the day. We can just barely make each other out, but we exchange international signs of joy, with gesticulations toward the sky and whatever source up there we happen to feel grateful toward.

The rest of the morning was spent with a second coffee, planning a pasta supper tonight (a water–intensive treat!), and washing ALL THE CLOTHES. Our time is extended again.