Well, it is time for another personal ‘Notes and Scribbles’ moment from me.
Living, working and writing in Peru has been a deepening, emotional, challenging, humbling, at times draining, at times energising, growth-enhancing time.
I am full of gratitude towards Stefan, Nina, Jose (a work colleague of Stefan’s), and both Nina’s and Jose’s families. I have been shown so much generosity and friendship from them all. I have great respect for the work and lives of Stefan and Nina, and I am amazed, yet again, with the trust they have placed in me. Like Peggy, they have given me intimate access to their lives and taken the time to tell me their stories, hunt through 100’s of photographs, and edit what I have written. Their lives are full of 101 things to do, yet they have still dedicated the time and energy to embrace my writing. Nina has even given me a new nickname, Amandita, which I love.
It has been amazing for me to witness Peggy’s life and then witness Stefan and Nina’s lives. They have the same goal and yet their paths towards that goal are very different; the same ends, but via different means. These different approaches are influenced both by environmental circumstances and innate character. Peru sets different parameters to California, but likewise the character of Stefan is different to the character of Peggy. Why argue over nature or nurture; they both exist hand in hand throughout our lives. This reminds me that all paths are valid. There is never just one correct way to do something; all our tributaries flow in different channels. One day they will inevitably meet and flow to the same ocean but we do not have to force them to run in the same channel to get there.
What strikes me also, is seeing that they are united by the simple fact that they are all doing what is within their capacity to do, in the unique way that they can do it. Underlying their different approaches, and different strengths and weaknesses, they have the same passion and the same striving to live lives which will impact positively on the world. They are at one and the same time uniquely different and united in intention.
This is teaching me about choice and about judgement. What does it mean to make choices in life? Who do I choose to be, what do I choose to do with my life, are my choices aligned with my strengths, are my choices made with an intention towards growth, are my choices made with an awareness of what they will give me and what I will give out to others as a result? The last year of my life has all been about choices… Choosing to stop dancing and teaching, choosing whether to head towards conservation or psychology, choosing to write, choosing to embark on this madcap project. Choices in life are very risky, but if we don’t make them we stagnate. Being in Peru has been teaching me to affirm and challenge my own choices, to accept that I am doing what I can do in the way that I am capable of, and to find my own unique channel to flow in.
Attempting not to judge is a harder lesson. There are people I have met and experiences I have had, which I have not written about on this blog, where my initial reaction would be to judge the people or situations involved. Judge a person rude, ego-bound or ignorant maybe, or a situation ugly or beautiful…. In Peru especially, society is so divided with such stark contrasts, that judgement arises within me far too easily. But when I remind myself that we are all simply doing what we can, with whatever means we’ve got at our disposal in any given moment… then judgement becomes superfluous. We make choices based on where we are at inside ourselves and what we have learnt so far in life; how can we do anything else?
… Peggy is doing what she can, Stefan is doing what he can, I am doing what I can. I am fortunate to be in a place where I can base my choices on an underlying life-affirming world view. Some people are in a place where their choices are based on less positive undercurrents. How can I judge someone their actions when they are simply a consequence of where that person is at? In my world view we are all capable of both darkness and light, and have all at some point in our journeys committed dark-filled actions. To judge someone as wrong is as ridiculous as judging a caterpillar to be wrong just because it has not yet transformed into a butterfly… But I know it will take me the rest of this life and probably many more to practise the art of non-judgment!
Peru has certainly been transformative for me. I have a sense of ‘there’s no going back’ inside me. I know the next chapter in my life will be very different to the previous one. I am still finding out where my path will go based on what are my skills and aptitudes are, but the drive towards helping others and this planet is getting stronger. Stronger and purer I hope; there’s less need or should in the mix and more pure wanting and intuitive feeling.
Witnessing the contamination of the ocean in Peru, the corruption present in everyday life, the poverty level of factions within the population, and the huge problem of over-population, strengthens my sense that conservation is not and cannot ever be a purely environmental endeavour. Unless we solve our human problems on all levels, i.e. individuals, families, communities, corporations, countries, globally… we will never ‘save the planet’. And quite simply put, if we were all truly psychologically healthy and happy human beings we would not be making such a right muck up of this planet and there would be no need for conservation.
So for me, the way forward is no longer about choosing between writing, psychology and conservation, but rather, discerning where my strengths lie to work in any of these areas and, potentially, finding a way to blend them all. Can I use my writing to encourage people to connect with their psychological and spiritual selves, can I use my writing to encourage people to connect with the natural world? Do I have the necessary skill level to write and, if not, how else can I apply myself? If I could ask an angel what my greatest strengths are and how I can best use them in this world what would the angel say…?
… Lots of questions, not all the answers yet but I have faith that I will find answers as I go. It is clear to me that although this phase of my life may have begun about a year ago, it is still very much in its early stages…
So endeth Amandita’s personal reflection moment! Right now I am in chilled out Boston which is relaxing even in rush hour. I’ve had a great few days staying with some lovely Couchsurfers, one of which, Lesli, is about to be pastry chef in a new veggie cafe in Boston called Veggie Galaxy. I’ve had a wonderful day off visiting Boston Harbor Islands and later today I head up the coast towards Grand Manan Island to work for and write about Laurie Murison at Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station. En route, I hope to write the next part of the Feral Girl story and then we shall see what further whale stories I can bring you from Canada on the last leg of this venture…
And after that, well that’s anyone’s guess!