Dear Readers and Friends,
This week I have decided to get personal and this is a long one. I ask you to indulge me a bit this week as I feel it is important for me to share my own story with you now, as I begin to develop the next stage for the Social Tinkering concept. This process of creating Social Tinkering, of challenging myself to write to you in this blog, to share with you and connect with you, has been quite the journey and has more depth to it than many will ever know. So, I will share with you part of my story today. Stories are important. They show us where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and where we’re going. Stories teach us many lessons, offer cautionary tales, fill us with laughter and joy, and bring us to tears. I’d like to share with you my story this week, to allow you to get to know me further, but also in the hope that it might help you reflect positively on wherever you are, on the path of your own life. I hope this story will help you to focus and spotlight all the things that are right with you, your own wonderful skills, abilities, and qualities. We too often dig in and get bogged down with the things that are wrong about ourselves instead of focusing on the things that are right about who we are.
Over the past year, I have been fortunate to have a wise teacher enter my life who is teaching me to focus on the things about myself that are right and good, so that I can be unstuck and set free from the negative stories that are not my own truth, but that I have listened to and taken in for far too long. I feel like I will finally be able to move forward wholly as the person I was meant to become.
I have often referred to the general feeling of all of this as Muchness. Have you read Alice in Wonderland? Have you seen the movie?
In 2010 I was living in Jackson, Wyoming and was at the height of my work to achieve a career with the National Forest Service. I worked for the Jackson Ranger District as the Lead River Ranger on the beautiful Wild and Scenic Snake River. It was an honor to hold this position, to be part of the recreation management team there, and to be a caretaker for one of our nation’s most precious resources and most beautiful rivers. This job is not what it sounds like though. I did not raft the river all day every day, I was not a raft guide. I supervised the river crew that managed the river resource, facilities, and over 200,000 visitors who visited the area during the 4-5-month summer season. We dealt with emergency search and rescues and drownings and hypothermia. We monitored the operations of 32 permitted outfitter businesses on a 20 mile stretch of water, we cleaned bathrooms and picked up garbage, repaired facilities, enforced laws, and attempted to educate visitors on how to best share this amazing resource safely and respectfully. It was an incredible job to do, but it could be extremely stressful and we were often yelled at, demeaned, and highly under-appreciated as most public servants are. On top of that, I had a supervisor who was very unpredictable and very difficult to communicate with, as well as upper leadership who was unwilling to confront these difficulties for reasons, I am still not sure of. The person before me left all too soon, as well as those that have come after me. The job was one of those where no one really understood what you actually did or how complicated it all was, even my crew. After I had left, my supervisor emailed me telling me just how much he finally realized that I had done while there, and a friend shared that the District Ranger stated that I was like the cat that kept all the mice at bay, that no one realized how much the cat was around or how much the cat did until it was gone. Despite the challenges, and at times because of the challenges, I am very grateful for this incredibly unique experience.
In addition to my work life, my personal life with my family was really struggling and had been since early childhood, honestly. The short story here is that my parents and I, and even my siblings and I at times, were just never truly in a good place. For my part, I felt like no matter what I said or did, I was always going to be the bad guy in the story and I had no idea what to do with it all anymore. I now understand that what I have gone through in my life is called relational trauma, which is a very deep and complicated twisting of how we see ourselves and our relationships based on critical early relationships not being fully what they need to be, for various and complicated reasons. Whew! That is a very short summary of a very big deal. I am certain many of you can relate one way or the other.
With the combination of everything going on in my personal and work life, I was mentally drowning in it all as if I was being tossed in the chaotic waves of the river I helped to manage. The irony is not lost here. The universe was sending me a message loud and clear. I was becoming bitter and was losing the voice inside myself that told me to keep going, the voice that had told me that I was going to reach my goals despite all the crazy and confusing and maddening struggles.
During the spring of 2010, the film Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, came out in theaters and my husband and I immediately went because I am in love with this story. It got to that part in the film where Lewis Carroll’s words have always struck me. The Mad Hatter said to Alice, “You're not the same as you were before. You were much more... muchier... you've lost your muchness.” Upon hearing this line, I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. I sat in the theater stunned. With one line and incredible wisdom, my favorite character, the Mad Hatter, had put into words how I had been feeling for a long time but couldn’t find the words to describe. I walked out of the theater in a kind of light and drifting fog next to my husband, describing to him how this had impacted me and explaining to him that I’d finally figured it out. I had lost my muchness. I decided right then and there I was going to find it and I would never let anyone ever take it away again.
A year and a half later, we moved across several states to the extremely complicated culture of Utah, where I had my children, and was forced to contemplate and determine how I really felt about many things. Just about a year and a half ago to the day, we moved across the entire country, west to east, to an entirely new culture and place again. In the last 10 years, I have become a mother and a parent twice, almost 3 times. I have left a passionate career-path and chosen to be a stay at home mother (in Utah), which is not an easy transition anywhere. I have worked hard to sustain a successful, now 20-year, marriage. I have done incredibly deep soul searching about my family relations and have made some very, very, difficult decisions regarding them that I know not everyone understands or accepts. I have worked for years on my own and recently with a very wise therapist, to understand, to make sense of, and to heal from the pain of what I now understand to be relational trauma. And it still is not an easy thing to state that I have been through relational trauma. No one wants to admit they struggle with anything related to mental health, even in 2020. The stigma is very strong still in our modern world and we have so far yet to go on this, including myself.
This week I finally found my Muchness. It's been showing up here and there, coming slightly out of hiding more and more, and has finally revealed itself to the full extent. And it is amazing.
This week I am able to focus more energy on my future work and personal journey once again. My kids both started school for the year. My youngest started Kindergarten and is well on her way now. I am no longer needed as a stay at home mother 24/7. This is one of those big life transitions that makes you sit for a bit in between all the running around, and wonder at it all happening around you and in you.
Also, this week, with the assistance and guidance of a very wise therapist, I am finally seeing the end of the tunnel and the light beyond, and feel like I am getting the closure I’ve needed to move on successfully as my whole self.
Many people have helped me and supported me along this path to my Muchness, whether they are aware of this or not. My husband, my children, family members, friends and soul sisters, acquaintances, strangers, people that don’t like me and people I don’t like, intentional and accidental mentors, co-workers, supervisors and many, many more. Although the feeling of aloneness has been persistent throughout my life and one of my biggest struggles, I have never been alone, but neither have I always recognized I was not alone. I now understand this better than ever.
This week I have had two different people write full letters in my honor supporting me in different ways, one was completely unsolicited and unexpected and melted my very being. The other letter I requested as a reference, brought me to tears and truly touched my heart. Seeing their description of me in their words, fills me with an incredibly high level of gratitude for the amazing people I have in my life near and far, as well as for the work I have done to arrive in the space I am in now. My family, friends, and mentors have also shared their honesty, insight, and compliments with me in recent years and in the more distant past, and these have given me the courage over time to be true to myself at a whole new level. Allowing myself to take in these supporter’s words and kindness, allowing myself to truly hear these messages and accept them, has filled my life with happiness and gratitude more than I have ever experienced. I have many things in my life that I can work on to improve and always will. With my village’s support and the growth that has followed, I am now focused on what is right about me instead of what I have been told is wrong. And this is a very big deal.
I have found my Muchness, but I will never be the same as before. I have found my Muchness and it is because I had people challenging me, supporting me and encouraging me, and I let them in and allowed them to be with me. Having a social support network is so critical for us humans. It has taken years for me to understand the depth of this. It is imperative that we see the value in having friendships and meaningful connections, and this is why I have created and am building Social Tinkering. This is the culmination of my journey so far and I realize this is a very personal story I am sharing with you, so I appreciate you coming along for the ride and taking the time to read this. By sharing our stories, we help each other in ways we are aware of and ways we may never know, and this is why I share mine. Perhaps my story today will trigger some thoughts for you that move you forward on your path. Maybe you can strongly relate to my story and this will make you feel less alone knowing other people have these experiences and long processes too. I hope it does and I hope you will continue to seek out and find your people as well, so that they may help you to rise up to reach the very best version of yourself you can be.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for listening. And if you need to find your village, reach out to me as I am happy to help. It’s why I created Social Tinkering, after all.
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to fly?”
~Mia Wasikowska, “Alice” – Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland