As I head out for my season in Alaska, I notice a change from last season. I have good old friends but also lots of new ones who examine and live life with a zeal that I feel mirrors my own. I was reluctant to leave.
Last year I was in the throes of costuming the play “Lysistrata” when I got the job in Alaska. I stayed up all night sewing and spent my time attending dress rehearsals right up until I left. When it was time to get on the plane, I was simply carried there by the momentum my busyness had created. My life as I had known it had just experienced a major shift and I didn’t have a lot tethering me to my life in Austin. To get away was completely a "win" situation.
Last season I was hired as an adventure guide/massage therapist/yoga teacher. I drug the bag out of storage that my mother used to pack when she went to Africa and proceeded to fill it with biking gear, kayaking equipment and yoga books. I had to pay a hefty overweight bag charge at the airport.
Both my nature and experience as a guide taught me it was my job to be fully prepared. That role was comfortable for me. I had everything anyone could need and the capability to handle any situation I found myself in. I had rowed big rivers, survived serious horse accidents and led novices through wilderness settings. My most dreaded client was the “needy” one. Nothing irritated me more than the energy suck of the insecure and incapable. My reaction wasn’t the least bit balanced. Of all personality characteristics, I most fervently avoided neediness in anyone and most especially in myself.
Soon it became apparent that I had over packed. The lodge had all the gear and after guiding one day, we all decided that it was physically too much for me to paddle clients around the bay or take them on mountain bike rides and then do massage in the evenings.
I found myself with a lot of time on my hands and started writing. I wanted to record the family stories I had heard from my grandmother and mom. With free time during the day, I finally sat down to the blinking cursor and began, sometimes writing until the early morning hours.
I wanted my story to defend and explain parts of my life. By the time I was finished, I realized that the parts that I wanted to explain were a very small period of time in my life that I had let flavor all the rest. The people who judged me for that time were never going to approve of me no matter what I did, so I let that attachment go and started feeling content with where I had gone from there.
I felt complete with my writing about the time the summer season was over. I signed up for yoga training in Baja and flew home.
There, in addition to practicing yoga ten hours a day and eating nothing but vegetables, rice and fish, yoga school was a lot of self examination. The summer had gotten me to a place where I was ready to delve more deeply. I cried a lot, grieving my parents’ early deaths and my feeling of aloneness in the world. But I also cut myself some slack in life. I allowed myself to be less rigid with plans and other peoples’ expectations of me. I could be flaky and, yes, even needy sometimes.
This season I amazed myself with my packing prowess. Both my checked bag and my carry on were smaller and still had room to spare. My mother’s Africa bag is back in storage where it belongs. My life story takes up exactly the memory today that it should; 500 KB on my laptop’s hard drive.
Because I am more clear, people are more clear with me. Even in LAX people looked me in the eye and smiled. The tall exotic stranger behind me in the TSA line told me in halting English that he loved my “fashion”. I was wearing Converse tennis, jeans and a t-shirt, but I knew what he meant. On the flight from Seattle to Ketchikan I shared a seat row with a Tklinket man who quietly and respectfully hovered over me and made sure I had everything I needed; took my trash, made room and even anticipated when I needed him to let me pass to go to the bathroom. Allowing people to appreciate and help me doesn’t feel like being needy. It feels like the warmth of human kindness.
When I arrived at the Lodge, the owners were welcoming and happy to see me but pulled me aside to tell me that I was different. My energy was stronger and clearer than last year. I know that more of my radiant self shines through now. She has always been bright. She was just weighed down by too much baggage. Flying over the ocean surrounded by mountains and forests, my heart swells with gratitude. I’m traveling a lot lighter these days, which leaves more space to bring in more of the things I love. They continue to show up every day.