I’m not sure if being the oldest of four or being raised with a mezcla of Midwestern/Tejan@/Mexican@ work ethic or just being a plain old human being is a factor in this but, it’s easy for me to get carried away with “work”. “Work” looks different for everybody. For me, I lead with my heart and my work is driven by my passion for social justice, environmental justice, and equity. I love getting young people outdoors! I love fostering community for people of color who care about environmental issues. I am passionate about working towards gender equity. I care deeply about my family; blood and chosen and I love being outside!
Maybe this will resonate for you too. Because my heart drives my work, many times I can get caught up in the grind of preparing for presentations, coordinating meetings, working on organizational change strategies, representing organizations that I work or volunteer for at events, etc. Perhaps being involved in heart work facilitates a faster burnout process if one ignores self-care. By burnout I mean the feeling of exhaustion and frustration that can occur when dealing with an overload of work with effects of neglecting one’s own needs. I come home tired and a little cranky. I don’t sleep as much as I’d like. My diet mostly consists of convenience foods; for me, tortilla chips and salsa. I feel like I never have enough time to do anything well and I rarely have time to play.
In order for me to care for others and give my very best, I need to find time to take care of myself. As I sit and reflect on the things that contribute to fostering balance and inner quietude, I think of the tall conifers swaying in the wind during a walk today through Kubota Gardens with my husband and dog. Ripples of water radiating outwards from a spot in the pond where a bufflehead abruptly vanishes underwater and resurfaces as it feeds underwater. Or, the feeling of warm sunshine on my face while lying on the pebbled shore of Lake Wenatchee last weekend alongside my best girlfriends reveling in each other’s presence in silence underneath the peak of Dirty Face. I can almost smell the cool sweet breeze carrying the scent of Nootka Rose and other wildflowers while hiking the trails of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Starting out in the environmental field in my twenties brings memories of hard physical labor, exhaustion, and joy. The feeling of sore muscles after a day of trail building or invasive plant removal brought me a sense of satisfaction. The mud and sweat streaked on my face, the spiders and twigs in my hair and soil under my fingernails made me happy. As did a hot shower at the end of the day! I realize that time in nature is what I need to be whole.
When I think about the moments where I have been the happiest they center on being outdoors. Even as a child the memories that bring a sense of calm or home for me include walking through my grandma’s garden as she taught me the names of the flowers she planted; peony, marigold, tulip, geranium, black-eyed Susan. Reading books on a blanket lain out in my parent’s backyard, my toes buried in the lush green grass of our lawn. Swinging on the branches of the willow tree in our yard with my brother Louie, seeing who could swing the farthest. When I close my eyes and think back on these memories, I remember joy, giddiness, and a shared feeling of energy and peace. With this sense of calm comes a connection with the world, with myself, and with my heritage.
My Gramma Yolanda taught me the difference between a perennial and a biennial plant. My Gramma Mema taught me to always have Sábila (Aloe Vera) and Manzanilla (Chamomile) in my house. Sábila to sooth burns, bug bites, and skin irritations. Manzanilla to aid with sleep, assuage the symptoms of cough or fever, or to ward of nightmares. My Grampa Luis and Grampa Chável taught me the virtue of hard work outdoors with my hands through the examples they set working outdoors from sun up to sun down to provide for their families. My family has always had ties and connections to the land y cuando estoy afuera, me siento como que estoy con my familia, mis antepasados. I feel that I am reconnected with myself.