This has been the busiest summer of my working career (hence, the somewhat sporadic blogging – sorry about that!). I’ve given up much to it, in order to complete some very important projects and start a new business at the same time. A sailing vacation – lost to business travel. Time with friends and family spent working instead. My deck, hammock, and hot tub just calling out to be enjoyed, but empty – the weather hasn’t quite cooperated either, but still.
This last week took it to a new dimension. I had an opportunity to be involved in something I consider very important – be the facilitator for the start of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. As part of the Superfund cleanup, chemicals and nuclear wastes are being dealt with in such a way that they will reduce risks to human health and contain the wastes and chemicals that have been released. This process, in contrast, is intended to restore the natural environment and the natural resources that have been damaged at Hanford over the past 70 years.
In service to the river, the salmon, the groundwater for future generations, the sage-steppe habitat, the Indian nations that have used this area for thousands of years, eight agencies and tribes met together to take the first step down this path – hiring a contractor to look at the vast amounts of data that exist, figure out what more we need to know, and give us the first look at what natural resources have been damaged so we can set about restoring them. The US Dept. of Energy has the unenviable position of being at once the agency responsible for the legacy of contamination, cleaning it up, and restoring it.
So, over four days, and many days spent preparing for this workshop, we charted the future course. It was my pleasure (and hard work) to facilitate this event, which meant many hours before, during, and after the workshops each day to keep it running smoothly and efficiently, anticipate problems (we had some big ones, like lack of funding and decades of distrust), and try to think of ways to help others find their solutions.
As the week went on, I became more and more exhausted. I always found that I had the energy for the workshops, and just enough to do the prep work, but then I started sleeping for 10 hours a night and battling daily migraines. This has been a constant problem throughout my career, but at least that means I’m used to it and usually no-one can tell the difference – I’ve learned ways to cope and compensate.
Reflecting back on this event, we met all our goals and then some. I feel I did a good job, and everyone seems happy with the outcome. It was one of the longer, more difficult, and more meaningful events I have conducted in a very long time, just as I embark on a full-time career doing this kind of work.
It’s as if my physical struggles are my personal gift to the process. I know now I can do the work well. While sometimes I wonder how much better it would be if I had the energy and stamina of a “normal” person, I am who I am, and I will continue to give what I can. If it comes at the cost of a few headaches and lost days, so be it.