Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NAPF Workshop, Part II - Nuclear Sleeping Pills

On the first full day of the workshop, president of the The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, David Krieger came to speak to us. He is a very gentle and soft-spoken man, but with a strength of will and character that has served him well ever since he first refused to participate in the war in Vietnam. Although the odds were stacked against him, much as they are now, he won that struggle and I would like to think he's going to win this struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons as well.

Although I cannot remember everything he said, what I do know is that he helped me to understand that at its core, Nuclear Deterrence theory holds No Regard for Life, whatsoever. I have concluded that the very fact that nuclear weapons exist in our world is really a testament to our general desperation and frustration with our inability to "all get along" on this planet we call "Home".

As I have now had the chance to consider this further, I feel there is something I can share from my personal experience, that might help make sense of why we still have nuclear weapons scattered all over the world.

To preface this rather personal sharing, I will acknowledge that I am making myself vulnerable here. Even though the events described below took place over 20 years ago for me, they are going to be "new and present" for my readers, and may influence opinions of me in the present as well. Though I can control what I write, I cannot control people's responses, and, since I'm pretty certain I will be writing more about my life story in the future, I have decided to just go ahead and get this part of it "out there".

I will also add though, as difficult as the experience was for me, there were many, many pivotal insights that I gained as a consequence, some I will elaborate on in near future blogs. Furthermore, I was able to process the whole experience very thoroughly shortly afterwards by having the opportunity, along with about 15-20 other women, to read Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The fact that the experience was so "fresh" for me made Este's teachings on "recognizing predators" and making the transition from "naive innocent" to "wise innocent" (among many other things) that much more relevant and profoundly life changing for me.

Finally, as I learned from going through the workshop, and watching another attendee come forward and share authentically from his own depths parts of himself that he had otherwise kept hidden from others, I have come to appreciate that when one person does that it can often give others the courage and even the very "method" for doing the same. Hopefully, in my sharing this somewhat darker experience of my life, others will find the courage to be more open as well, if they need to. As I am fond of saying: It's good to "keep all the balls on the water" (and I'll explain more about that, in a future blog : )).

* * * * * * * *

When I was in my mid twenties, I started my first job in sewing manufacturing with a company in Montana.  I was initially assigned to work a "box-tacker" machine, and with Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance under my belt, I developed a relationship with that machine and managed to keep it running better than anyone else in the plant ever had.

Not sure if that was the only reason, but I soon drew the attention of the owner of the company and he would come to talk with me off and on as I worked. Within a relatively short time, maybe as little as two or three weeks, he asked me if I would be interested in taking over the management position as the manager at the time was getting ready to resign due to "health problems".

Even though I had absolutely no experience in management, I accepted his offer. I had just been through a "revolution" in my approach to diet, which had raised my energy levels considerably above my previous "normal", so, as I told him: "I might not know anything about management, but I [did] know how to eat right!" The rest...I would just have to figure out as I went along.

Once I became manager, of necessity, the owner and I ended up spending more and more time together, reviewing product designs and production schedules. He had a childish awe of my creative sewing skills and I really felt I could do whatever he asked me to, in part because he had so much faith in me. As time went on, I found myself more and more attracted to him and, in spite of the fact that he was married, I let myself "fall in love with him".

As he later let me know, at least the attraction part was mutual, and on more than one occasion over the next several weeks and months, we were intimate with one another.

Looking back now, I can see how "dysfunctional" the whole relationship really was. But, at the time, I was still quite naive in spite of my age. It had really not been all that long since my mother had gone into the mental hospital. I was still "recovering" from the many years of social isolation her paranoia had imposed on both of us. More importantly though, I was still vulnerable to "predators" because of my still very deep needs for love and appreciation, especially from men.

A few weeks into our "affair", we hired a new employee, a woman even younger than myself.  She was also quite bright and a capable sewer.  What's more, though, she was very Observant, and began to pick-up on the "signs" that neither the owner nor I were discreet enough to hide.  Again, in my naiveté, I did not see what she was up to until it was too late. Before long, I started to become "old news" to my employer. He started giving less and less of his attention to me, even with respect to work issues, and more and more to her.

I was still "in love" with him though, and bent on "loving no matter what", so I began channeling all of that energy into my work, putting in more and more hours as the weeks went by. It did not cost him any more because I was on a salary, but it definitely ended up costing me.

Consequently, it wasn't very long before I started to burn out, both emotionally and physically. After a trip to Atlanta, Georgia for the "Bobbin Show"- the annual sewing manufacturer's convention, where I worked hard every day to network and establish new contacts with various suppliers - I came back hoping to take a few days off to "recover".  However, as far as my employer was concerned, my trip to the "Bobbin Show" had been a vacation for me, and so he couldn't understand why I would want or need to take any additional time off. In other words, whether it was a conscious choice on his part or not, he was not listening to me, let alone hearing me.

With mounting exhaustion and feelings of helplessness, I realized the only way I was going to get any time off was to quit, but I really did not want to do that, because I really liked the job, and I needed the job to support myself. As had been the case, and would continue to be the case for many years ahead, I did not have any "back-up" - no one else I could rely on for practical support - except myself.

So, I pushed on until, one day, in the break room, one of the other employees let me know that the new girl was out to get my position and "talking to the owner behind my back", as well as causing or suggesting  problems that she was blaming on me. It seemed they were both just waiting for me to quit.

I had a dream then. One in which I became lucid. I was being chased by a rabid beaver-like creature, on an island, out in the middle of a lake. When I realized I was dreaming, I intentionally leaped with great flying strides to the mainland, thus escaping harm.

Waking with a renewed sense of will and determination, I went to work the next day with a specially designed name-tag that read "Rocki Bellboa" - and, sure enough, when the new girl saw it, she asked me what it meant, and I told her, "It means I'm just going to keep coming back, and keep coming back, and keep coming back."  She immediately rushed to the owner's office.

Shortly thereafter, I was called there myself. The employer said that before I left he wanted me to train the new girl in my position. I was puzzled, as I had only asked, at one point, how much notice he wanted me to give him IF I decided to quit. But I had not decided to do that. He then told me if I were not going to quit, then I was "Fired"...but he still wanted me to train the new girl before I left.

I couldn't get my mind around what had happened. In something of a stupor, I carried out his request, finished my time there, and then proceeded to file for unemployment. But, I found myself spiraling rapidly into one of the deepest depressive episodes of my life. I was not only hurt emotionally, but I had lost my job, a job that was not only a source of income, but a source of great satisfaction for me because of all the creative ways I was able to express my sewing and even my innate management skills.

I felt really, really, hopeless, and helpless, and that's when I began contemplating suicide.

To that end, I eventually went to the store and bought some sleeping pills.

Once back home, I lay alone on my futon pallet bed, just wishing I could stop breathing.

It was in that state of mind and emotion that I heard a "voice in my head", and this is what it said:

"Okay, so you were able to buy the sleeping pills and nobody stopped you." I mentally agreed. "You could probably go back and buy  more if you really wanted to and no one would stop you then either." Again I agreed. "So now you know that you can take your life if you want to and, should things ever get this bad again, or worse, you can end your life any time in the future as well." Another mental nod from me. "But..." the voice continued, "...aren't you just a little bit curious to see how the rest of your life turns out?"

And, with a few moments consideration, to that question, I replied "Yes."

I carried that bottle of sleeping pills with me all the way to Santa Barbara, CA. I kept it as a reminder that my life truly was in my own hands, and I could end it any time I wanted to.  As I have explained in my recent "Why Bother?" blog, I think I have a better understanding of what the Real Consequences of ending my life might be, especially if I end it in the midst of really negative "patterning", so, for the record, I'm not inclined to be doing that. However, that does not change the fact that, in effect, I really could still "check out" any time.

And now I am beginning to think that our stockpiles of nuclear weapons are very much the same kind of "sleeping pills" for all of humanity.     

In much the same way I was struggling with my relationship with my employer, on the whole, we continue to struggle with our relationships with just about everyone, interpersonally, and globally.  Even for the people who are making headway on a small scale, the much greater issues, the truly Global Issues, seem pretty overwhelming, and many feel "helpless" and "hopeless", with no "back-up", just like I did.

Furthermore, we know now, that if it gets really bad, if diplomacy fails, if a couple of psychopathic leaders just go berserk with rage and frustration, or if only a few truly suicidal people (i.e. terrorists) ever get their hands on a nuclear weapon, then they can, in effect, pass out Big Giant Sleeping Pills to humankind, and put us all out of our misery, along with themselves, and the rest of life on this planet!

It begs the question: Why are we All Going Along With This?!?!

Why are we all (or, at least, most of us) so complacent about the fact that Our Lives and the Lives of Everything on this Planet are being effectively controlled, held in the balance, by only a handful of people? That those human beings who are in power are really not that different from the rest of us, except they are even MORE likely to be psychopaths and, therefore, even LESS Capable of caring at all about how much harm they may cause to others, both human and non-human.

Given the stockpiles of  "Nuclear Sleeping Pills" already hidden in "medicine cabinets" all over the world (and, to be honest, this includes nuclear power facilities as well), is there any good reason why we, why Anyone, should be acquiring More?!  Is there a chance, just maybe, that we can find other, less inherently Suicidal ways to satisfy our needs for security (and energy)? Can we find better ideas, more Life Respecting ideas around which we can orient our international foreign policies besides "Nuclear Deterrence" and "The Balance of Power"?

Is anyone just a little bit curious to see what the future might hold for humanity, if we can just get past this "rough patch"?

As for me...I've decided to stick around and see. Thanks to Paul K. Chappell's inspiration among other things, I have finally gotten rid of that bottle of sleeping pills. I have decided to continue to face my own personal challenges, and to grow through those, to become more and more capable of "Waging Peace" in All of my relationships by Being Peace-Full and by Communicating Peace - Fully.

Furthermore, wherever possible, I am going to continue to bring attention to What is Really at Stake in this world, as long as we do not recognize the irrational, paranoid, and basically un-empathetic nature of so many of those in power. These leaders do Not represent "Us". They do not represent the character of Most human beings to be empathetic and cooperative. As psychopaths, they are the "6%ers" at best, and the sooner we realize that, the more effective we can be at shifting the current "security paradigm". Moreover, we can Stop Giving Them the "keys" to all of the "medicine cabinets" all over the world holding all of our "Nuclear Sleeping Pills".

For now, I have Paul K. Chappell and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to thank for giving me more tools to help me in that struggle, and for giving me the motivation to share what I have learned with others, here, and as I continue my bike trek across the country.

To that end, I am going to stay Hope Full AND Curious...and I Hope You Will, Too! : ))

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