Another Voice: Yellowstone, Pt. 3-Practicing These Principles In All My Affairs

Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.
Albert Schweitzer
Courage to Change, Dec. 9, p.344

Manual for living

If I were to have a tombstone, that is the quote I’d want on it. It has been my mantra for, oh I don’t know, 15-20 years. Through my time in the rooms of recovery, I’ve realized how many examples have influenced me, good, bad and somewhere in between.

The folks to whom I’ve been most attracted are those who live principled lives…not perfect, but principled. Sharon has been writing about the Principles of AA; I want to talk about the principles that have become mine through the study and practice of the Twelve Steps, Traditions, and Concepts. But beyond having principles, it’s living them.

Mine include faith, trust, honesty, open mindedness, willingness, humility, awareness, acceptance, action, gratitude, attitude, and service. By keeping those front and center, my life is much more manageable. I’m grateful that I had these to guide me as I navigated the challenges Yellowstone presented.

Peace

I had faith that my Higher Power would be with me through the entire journey. I trusted that I had sufficient program to face the challenges put before me, so long as I used the tools. I tried to be honest in my dealings and open minded as challenges presented themselves. I prayed to be aware of my defects and assets, to accept what was presented, and to act when I thought it appropriate. By having an attitude of gratitude, I was better able to keep people, events and things in proper perspective.

Was I always centered and serene? Hell no! But neither did I go flying around the room backward. I took my inventory; I called my sponsor and recovery friends; I read our literature; I prayed and meditated; I tried to keep the focus on me and not on others.

Calm

Acting on principle is sorta like praying for me. It becomes a more conscious choice for me in stressful or unfamiliar situations. That held true in Yellowstone. When I was presented the opportunity to work at Old Faithful, when I was learning my job, when I was interrogated about the questionable actions of a fellow employee and friend, when my roommate was struggling to hang onto her job, when I was interviewed for a more demanding and higher paying position, when I was required to work in unfamiliar areas, when I got a new roommate for the last two weeks I was there, when I was dealing with a health concern, when I was met with financial shortfalls, each of these gave me the chance to act on my principles…not my inclinations.

For me, the nicest thing about being principled is that my internal life is serene. Now, that doesn’t mean that I never am anxious, make mistakes, choose badly, or hurt someone. It does mean, however, that I know I can recover from such missteps, let go, and move on. What a gift!

Serenity

Another Voice: Yellowstone, Pt. 2-Blessings

Wyoming thru my windshield

So, if my summer experience at Yellowstone was so challenging, just why exactly do I want to return? Simple…all the blessings I received.

They started with my 1650-mile drive out there. I love getting behind the wheel of my car and striking out on a trip. This one featured amazing countryside, and how could I have not felt blessed when I was able to stay with family and friends, enjoying great company AND free lodging?

Heritage Park
Junction City, KS

Typically, however, my trips don’t include dipsy-dos through interstate mediuns, as this one did on I-70 in Junction City, Kansas. Not only was a high-speed crash avoided, neither I nor my car suffered any damage. I also got to see a lovely, quaint small town as my brand-new GPS directed me to the nearest Firestone so I could make certain my 100,000 mile Focus was indeed okay. (I’d resisted buying a GPS prior to this trip. Glad I listened to that little voice urging me to get one.). Oh, and the fellow who started the whole thing because he didn’t notice me passing him at 75 mph as he yielded for merging traffic into my lane? He actually pulled onto the shoulder and waited to see if I was okay. What a thoughtful, kind gesture, and it greatly eased my aftershock.

Now, about the amazing scenery…wow.

Catching wind

From the windmills in Kansas, to the Rockies in Colorado, to the red rocks of Wyoming, to the vistas of the Gallatin National Forest, to the magnificence of the Grand Tetons, and to the geysers, terraces, canyons, rivers, meadows, hot springs, mud pots, valleys, caldera, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain ranges of Yellowstone, the variety and beauty of terrain and geology provided unceasing daily blessings. These were enhanced as the the vibrant green of summer changed to the subtle bronze, burgundy, straw and mocha of autumn.

Firehole River, Sept. 2012

The cloud formations, sunrises, sunsets, moon and stars were glorious. One of my more unique experiences was during the Perseid meteor shower when several of us were stretched out on the benches at Old Faithful listening to the geyser erupt as we gazed at the stars. Even more memorable was an exquisite double rainbow I witnessed as Old Faithful erupted. And then there was my awe while driving early the morning of August 31, watching both the blue moon set in front of me and the first blush of color from the rising sun in my rearview mirror. Wow, wow, and wow!

Double parked

And then there are the critters! Though I didn’t see lions or tigers, I did spot a grizzly (bear, not NBA player), as well as coyote, moose, elk, deer, bison, bald eagle, osprey, heron, pelican, swan, big horn sheep, pronghorn sheep, badger, ground squirrels, butterflies, lizards and snakes. Hearing the coyotes howl at night was haunting, and having bison wander pretty much anywhere they wanted was unexpected. I wish I could post the video I took of a large herd of bison fording the Lamar River, but a picture will have to suffice. It was straight out of a John Wayne movie.

Home on the range

Chief Joseph

Speaking of history (Old westerns are history, right?), I love both history and science, and Yellowstone is all about history and science. Thanks to nightly ranger talks, I learned about the discovery of what was to become the Park, the saga of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians, how Park management has evolved over its 140-year history, the role the railroads played in its development, how tourism in the Park has changed over time, what makes Yellowstone’s geology so unique, and the intricacies of its ecology.

Summer home

Being able to work in the Old Faithful area was also wonderful. It meant that I lived and worked in the most visited area of the Park where I was never bored. I had a multitude of geysers, hot springs, trails, and educational opportunities to explore. Given that I was initially assigned to another location, I realize how blessed I was by the convoluted turn of events that coalesced into my working at the perfect spot for me.

Business dinner

I was also blessed by my work colleagues, the guests I served, and the folks with whom I lived and played. I was fascinated by our differing backgrounds and reasons for being in Yellowstone. Despite my fear of being judged and looking stupid, pretty much everyone with whom I dealt was kind, supportive, patient and respectful. Plus, we shared lots of lots of laughs, good times, and adventures.

Sisters

Without a doubt, my most precious blessings were the visits that I had from friends and family. The most unexpected was discovering that a friend from decades past has a second home not far from the Park. How heart warming it was to reconnect and visit with her! Even better, though, was having my sister visit for a week. Remembering her time there and having her show me her favorite places was priceless.

Of course I want to return to Yellowstone! Though next summer won’t be a repeat of this one, I trust it will be as special in its own right…and also filled with many blessings.

Warning!

P.S. Shoot, I almost forgot one. While traveling I-70 through Kansas on my way home, I was pulled over by a local yokel cop (what is it about me in Kansas?) for doing 10 over and driving in the left lane. BUT, he gave me only a warning. Woohoo!!

Another Voice: Yellowstone, Pt. 1-My Summer Adventure

Forward:  KJ here. You know those times when you’re wondering why in the world you agreed to do something? That would be now for me. Despite a decades-long career as a business writer, I’m terrified by having said “yes” when Sharon asked me to write for her blog while she’s off having a blast in Costa Rica and collecting more fabulous adventures for this blog. What was I thinking??? But, here goes. Sharon will be back no later than next Monday, Nov. 19.

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Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.
Abraham Maslow

Grand Prismatic Spring

“Was it wonderful?” or something along those lines is typically how folks ask about my four months working in Yellowstone National Park.

“Yes,” I reply with a big smile, when I choose not to be forthcoming, but the real answer is, “Sorta….”

The idea for my summer adventure was planted 15 years ago when my sister and I visited Yellowstone for a couple of days. When we realized working there was a possibility, we hatched a plan to try and do that once we retired. She was the trailblazer (isn’t that the older sister’s job??), and I finally followed in her footsteps this year. It really was wonderful, but it was also challenging, discomfiting, awkward, lonely, scary, and painful.

My sister’s pic

You see, two of my biggest fears are being judged and looking stupid. So what possessed me to go to an unfamiliar place and take a job unlike any I’ve ever held, where I knew absolutely no one? Well, it is Yellowstone, after all, which is an amazing, beautiful, endlessly fascinating natural wonder. But beyond the pull of the Park, I had a desire to do something I thought would be fun and outside my box. After all, my sister not only survived it, she thrived. I thought I just might, too. Besides I figured, it wouldn’t kill me, and I could leave if I decided being there wasn’t the right thing for me. You know, it was a growth opportunity….

Old Faithful Lodge where I worked

My job was Guest Services Agent, a.k.a. front desk clerk. Countless times I doubted that I’d ever be good at it. For the first 6 weeks, all I felt was stupid as I struggled to learn the computer system, familiarized myself with the Park’s features, trails, and activities, handled money, and helped guests. Most all of it was on-the-job learning because I received only 4 days of formal training.

My side

In addition to the challenges of the job, I was living dormitory style among complete strangers. Adjusting myself to three others (a roommate and two suitemates) while being clear and kind about my boundaries took work, especially after living alone for 9 years. Oh, and did I mention I’m an introvert who loves her alone time and her privacy?? In other words, I spent a good deal of time nowhere near my comfort zone.

On the way to physical therapy

Finally, financial constraints, work schedule, and an unexpected health issue put constraints on many of the things I wanted to experience. I couldn’t afford to explore the Park and surrounding areas, my always changing work schedule made finding a hiking partner difficult (one generally doesn’t hike alone at Yellowstone), and my health problem required my driving 90 minutes to physical therapy weekly and two hours to doctor’s appointments. Doesn’t sound like the makings of a fun summer does it?

Yet, when I’m asked, “Will you return?” my honest answer is, “Yes.” The insights and reminders I gained about myself, my feeling of accomplishment, a job that I grew to love, the fun I had, and living in Yellowstone for 4 months, comprise one of the high points of my life. If you have something you’ve thought about attempting for a while and you’ve reached the point where you can do it, have at it. I hope it will mean as much to you as my Yellowstone adventure has meant to me.

Beehive Geyser