I haven’t written in a while, mostly because I have been feeling worn out, stretched thin, and struggling with feeling disillusioned… again. I notice the more I am in cities and away from nature, the more I am around people and the less time I have to myself, the more I find myself struggling. And dealing with intense physical trauma and pain has left me feeling even more weak and worn thin.
Recently, I heard that Earth Island Institute (EII—an organization I have worked with and partnered with a lot over the years) had decided to host an event on the topic of nuclear energy. The event was highlighting the message of a man who proclaims to be an environmentalist who is pro-nuclear power. This man has done a lot of writing around the environment, but as I told EII, just because someone writes a lot about the environment doesn’t make them an environmentalist anymore than someone writing about Christianity does not make them a Christian. Both are about a practice not just a thought or a book. I met this man in person a long while before he came out being pro-nuclear, and I had no respect for him even then. His profound lack of integrity and racist mentality (although I know he and others would not perceive himself that way and would be highly offended at that critique) in his conversation with me had me leaving the meeting flabbergasted that so many people considered him a respectable and credible environmental leader. And even worse for me around this event was the fact that EII was using his own propaganda about himself to promote the event, giving him credibility he absolutely does not deserve. Furthermore, the event was two white well-off men “debating” nuclear with absolutely no representation of the communities whose lives are absolutely being destroyed by nuclear today from radioactive emissions leaking from power plants, storing of nuclear waste, and mining of the radioactive material used in making nuclear power. And considering the communities most negatively impacted are poor communities and Native communities, having two privileged white men debating an issue that absolutely has a class, race, and cultural impact was perpetuating the ongoing legacy of environmental racism that is sadly all too alive and well even in the world today.
Although I appreciate a lot of the good that EII does, I was sickened, disgusted, saddened, and enraged about this event. I contacted EII immediately to tell them how horrible the event they had created was—especially considering that organizations under their fiscal sponsorship work directly with communities negatively impacted by nuclear. They were highly defensive and did not get my critique. Of course, considering this event was predominantly driven by two very well meaning white men, it was not shocking to me that they didn’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not attacking the fact that they are white nor that they are male. These are men I actually have a lot of care and appreciation for. It is just that I have had to do a whole lot of learning myself around the destructive legacy of white culture and it’s connection to global colonialism and imperialism, and it’s connection to an on-going racism that is often times so hidden and interwoven into all the structures of our society that many do not see it nor understand it when it is pointed out. I have found that those of us who are very well meaning and work hard at making the world a better place, knee-jerk react oftentimes when the lens of racism, sexism, and classism is brought into the conversation.
As a white woman who is committed to healing the wounds on the Earth and in people, I have had to do a lot of hard and painful work around race, class, and gender. And I have a lifetime of learning and working to do around this. So I do not throw these issues around carelessly. I am, however, committed to bringing them forth and calling them out when necessary—especially when it is my well meaning, white allies. Our well meaning-ness can often times get in the way of seeing the bigger and deeper picture. And I include myself in this critique and am aware that I have my own shortcomings
On top of all of this, was my intense and fierce sense of protectiveness of all the generations to come who will inherit our toxic legacy of nuclear waste with a “good luck dealing with our mess” mentality. And I am very present to all the people killed, maimed, and diseased and dying from the Chernobyl meltdown. And to make this already personal issue to me even more personal, I lived across from Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania when it melted down. I was five years old. I got sick. As far as I am aware, I was the only one in my family who did. For days, I felt sick to my stomach, my mouth tasted like I was chewing on copper pennies, and whenever I blinked, I saw spots like what happens from having too many pictures taken with insanely bright lights. Many years ago as I was recalling this, I called my father to make sure I wasn’t making it up that we lived across from TMI when it melted down. I was only 5 after all. My dad said yes indeed we did live across from it, and he was surprised I remembered it. I told him I remembered the above feelings in my body and that is why I remembered it. It was not a mental thing, it was a visceral, physical memory.
So, of course, I am even more outraged around nuclear! It is pro-nuclear people who see children like I was and people like those at Chernobyl as “necessary casualties.” Part of my rage around this issue is my fighting fiercely for the innocent child I was then, and all the innocent people today and children of tomorrow whose lives do not matter to a society addicted to over-consuming and wasting resources, including energy.
Unfortunately, when I did not hear that groups within Earth Island Institute were standing up to EII about this event, I got very triggered because of all the above-mentioned reasons. And I am so used to often being alone in the realm of perceived leadership within the environmental community addressing the hard issues like population, consumption, disposables, and the unnecessary eating of animals for food, I immediately went into my place of, “Oh, great, here I go again—being one of the only people willing to speak up about it and take the backlash that almost always accompanies it.” I misinterpreted hearing nothing to mean that nothing was happening. Because I was also worn, tired, depleted and in pain physically as well, it made me react impulsively and vent publicly out of pain and frustration without doing due diligence ahead of time to be clear on the facts. It is so unlike me. I know better. And I felt horrible when I realized that actually organizations within Earth Island were telling them that they did indeed need to rethink their event. I immediately owned my mistake and the negative impact that had on organizations and people I care about very much. It doesn’t undo my mistake at all. But I did my best to take full responsibility and accountability for my actions.
I then contacted EII again to see if they were going to cancel the event after hearing from others that the event as planned was not an appropriate event for them to be hosting. I was very happy to hear they had indeed cancelled the event. Although I know they plan to still do some event around this issue, and I doubt very much that I will like the way they do it even then, my heart is happy to know that it will at least have more representation of the communities whose lives are actually being directly devastated by nuclear energy. I am also very happy to know that Women’s Earth Alliance (www.womensearthalliance.org) and Sacred Lands Film Project (www.sacredland.org) (both organizations I have worked closely with and have a lot of respect for) are now involved in consulting EII on how to have a more honest representation of the real impacts of nuclear energy. I strongly encourage you to check out the work of both WEA and SLFP and consider supporting them financially to insure they can continue with their powerful and important work!
Even with the win of stopping a very bad event from moving forward, I was left feeling disheartened, disillusioned, and disconnected. It made me, yet again, question why I do what I do. I have been seriously considering what it would be for me to stop public speaking all together, to get out of the environmental field, and just do something like be someone’s personal health-food chef on a nice tropical island somewhere. Even after all these years, I still struggle deeply with feeling at odds with the public person I have become. I have never reconciled it, and I have not found peace with it. It is hard for me. I seem to be able to be highly effective at helping others in their lives, work, and life’s work, and yet here I am, all these years later, still struggling with the same issues. I have done so much work, coaching, prayer, taken sabbatical, rearranged how I do events, lessened the amount of events that I do, etc… and still I find myself on “rewind, play” as I call it. Like a song that just keeps playing over and over. I am bored and annoyed at and with myself. And being in the city (even though I am living in a very sweet, beautiful, and loving surrounding) and dealing with a sever injury and challenging healing process makes it even harder for me to find the balance and health I need to thrive.
All too frequently, I struggle with depression and wanting to throw in the towel. I have had enough of hurting from caring. And yet, I know that caring and being in service is what brings meaning to my life, so I feel the irony of it all too poignantly.
In the midst of feeling sad, depressed, and wanting to give up, I had to go to the east coast for a conference. It was supposed to be a part of a block of events which would then lead up to me going to visit my family in Florida and Alabama, but two other major events did not finalize, so now I was having to travel all the way across the country for one event—which I NEVER do! It is not a way to honor the Earth’s resources, nor my own. But by the time the other two events did not finalize, I was already committed to the North Carolina Governor’s Conference for Women, it was a date specific conference, and they were long into promoting my participation. There was no way I was going to cancel on their event because of the break down on my end around logistics.
Late the night before my flight, I went to check in an online, and I found that even though I had specifically more than once told the event organizers that I need an aisle seat, their travel agency had booked me in middle seats for both flights and by this time there were no open aisle seats left.
It seems so small, but it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. See, the thing is, not only am I dealing with intense pain in my knee and need to be able to move it and stretch it, what caused my ligament in my knee to tear in the first place is a degenerative bone diseased in my hips called hip dysplasia which is excruciatingly painful for me if I am confined to small spaces for very long without being able to stretch and move (think rusty ice pick that has been in a fire for a few hours that now is scraping around in your hip socket—and that is not an exaggeration.)
I was so depleted, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, that I had a melt-down, sobbing uncontrollably, and called my manager leaving a blubbering message about how I did not know how I was going to be able to take two entire flights of severe, excruciating pain, and that I was at my last thread, and had just snapped. I was an absolutely pathetic mess.
Then after a good long sobbing session, it seemed to clear a bit of the block out of the way, and I put my “get over yourself and get back to work” hat on, and called the airline, told them of my dilemma, and wouldn’t you know it there were still a couple seats on both flights that were aisle seats that were held just for emergencies like mine and hadn’t been claimed yet. Glory, hallelujah! I started laughing with delight and told the woman she couldn’t possibly even begin to understand what a difference she had just made for me. I thanked her profusely and hung up the phone. And then, I started busting up laughing at myself, and my little melt down drama.
I so very rarely have meltdowns. I struggle frequently with sadness, grief, anger, and cynicism, but I tend to just manage that internally. I have a very long fuse and I almost never “lose it” so to speak. The next morning I chatted with my manager who is also one of my very best friends in the world. I told him I had worked out the problem, and I was sorry for having a melt down on his answering machine, but I thanked him for it and told him it somehow helped me get myself out of my downward spiral spin out.
Then, I walked to BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit public transportation) and took the hour-long ride to the airport, got on the plane and headed out to North Carolina still dealing a little with the aftermath of such an intense week and a half or so, but a little more ready to get myself in the right frame of mind to show up as powerfully as I could for the Women’s Conference.
Plus, I had a friend waiting for me at the hotel whom I have known for around 8 years or so, but whom I have not seen in around 4 years. I was looking forward to reconnecting in person after all these years and that gave me a silver lining in the raining on my parade cloud that had just consumed and drenched me.
When I arrived at the hotel after a very long day of travel, I was greeted with a good, long hug and yummy, organic food and drinks by my friend, which along with a shower, helped revive me. We went out for vegan sushi and saki, which made the world look even brighter. As most people are aware, I am such a push over for good food and drinks. : )
And with that, I think I will end this long, drawn out, overly dramatic, all over the place entry.
A hint for what is next… I LOVED the North Carolina Governor’s Conference for Women. But that will be the next post.
For now, I am beginning a meditation of who would I be if I woke up tomorrow with no memory. It is intriguing me. I want to try to uncover how to rediscover and reinvent myself if possible. Even though I have tried this before, it feels like time to do it again. I am not sure where it will lead. But I imagine I will probably write about it. Because that is what I seem to do…
Although if I reinvent myself, maybe that too will change.
the mess that is me