For the past 15 years I have been self-employed as a Handy Person. Lately, its not my favorite thing to talk about. Its not that I am not proud of my business and its not just that I’m burnt out on lugging my tools around and climbing up and down my step ladder. There’s a lot to like about being Handy Tam and I am deeply grateful for having been able to learn handy skills and acquire tools. I try to not take my strong able body for granted. My favorite thing about my job has always been the connections I’ve made with folks in my neighborhood and around Boston. As my neighborhood changes and as rental units turn into million dollar condos, these connections seem to be harder to find. As the industrial revolution amps up, as people move faster and faster, I have found that this culture moves way too fast for me. I suddenly have found that I actually can’t keep up. Its not a new realization…I’ve always moved fairly slow and even had the nickname Tam Turtle as a kid. But lately, this fast-paced disconnecting flailing energy is becoming unbearable for me. I find us humans to be way too loud and I often have to put my hands over my ears when I walk down the street amongst the sirens and truck engines. I try to do what I can on my micro level to not add to the “noise”. I try to practice vigilant discernment about who I will work for, who I will spend time with and how I will engage online, in person, and in nature. As I retreat further, I am finding deeper connections, healing, and restoration among and with the more-than-human world.
I started this blog when I decided to hike the Long Trail of Vermont. My main impetus for hiking the Long Trail was to find quiet. When I started this hike (at Journeys End by the Canadian/Vermont Border) my ears strained to hear in the muffled quiet of the deep northern forest. My ears rang constantly and I heard sounds and chatter that my brain created. I heard lots of music in the distance that wasn’t there. I knew it wasn’t there but I still listened to it. This is what damaged hearing sounds like. But in everyday urban life, it seems impossible to distinguish this ringing in our ears for those of us who don’t experience a break from the constant buzz of our industrial civilization. As I write this, I notice the cacophony outside my window of planes, cars, car horns, yell-talking, leaf blowers, and the low hum of my computer.
I am always asking what I can do, what I can bring and how I can stay alive in this one magical blink of an eye life that we have without causing inevitable harm and without adding to the “noise”. My western conditioning once had led me to believe that the earth and nature is here merely as a resource for humans. I don’t like to come out as Handy Tam because sometimes I can see the desperation on people’s faces as well as the flicker of people’s brains waves as they scan their files for their list of broken things in their homes and stop seeing me as a fellow being but as a product they need to buy.
When I was young, I would foam at the mouth to help fix anything anytime for anyone no matter how condescending, entitled or unappreciative they were. I worked in homes that maybe weren’t safe for me to be in. I just wanted to make as much money as I could so that I could be free. Ironic. But now I’m so sensitive to being perceived as simply a resource. A cash transaction is no longer enough for me. Having worked in giant homes where the kitchens are filled with untouched stainless steel appliances, I feel lost and disconnected. I work for people who have full time staff in their houses. I work for families who don’t walk their own dogs, or mow their own lawns, or do their own laundry, or cook their own meals, or barely hold their own babies because they are too busy making as much money as possible. Some folks are too busy to simply acknowledge me a being in their home. I find I am less able to work in these environments. They feel toxic and my brain literally stops being able to read a tape measure. So part of my self care has been to mostly just work for friends at lower rates where there is connection present. I say “no” to many Handy Tam inquiries. I think I’m just listening to my intuition but I don’t trust myself completely. I am currently trying to not stress out financially and trust in the trees that I will be okay and this will all work out. I keep asking the earth for support. I know I have the skills to make money but my heart is not on board with Handy Tam right now so I’m trying to be gentle cause I absolutely need Handy Tam in order to support this next cycle of life as I continue to ask what can I bring and how can I be of service and live authentically.
In April 2016 I discovered Shinrin-yoku and wrote about it in this post. After returning from the Long Trail one year ago, a series of challenging life events led to me to pursue a deeper understanding of Forest Bathing and I started to imagine how I could incorporate this into my life. I decided I wanted to be able to offer this healing and restorative practice to as many people as possible from all perspectives and upon looking for community and resources about this, I found a Certification Program with an Association. This program is less than five years old has felt completely out of my budget. I have taken a risk and invested all my money and a huge amount of my time into this. I attended a week-long Intensive Training in the Berkshires this past July that was completely life altering and broke me open in profound ways. I am now currently in month two of a six month Practicum working on a series of monthly assignments with the support of my fellow cohort that I trained with, a mentor, a co-mentor and a private facebook group of other Guides. Last week I was invited to speak with my LGBTQ Elders about Forest Therapy at Rainbow Lifelong Learning Institute which offers free educational programs and social activities for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender seniors to build and strengthen community. I got to present about Forest Therapy with one of my amazing trainers from the Association. It gave me so much validation that I am on this path now.
I am going to start guiding Forest Therapy Walks this Saturday.
My New Website is Toadstoolwalks.com
I hope you will join me for a walk sometime!