I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just jump in. I’m going to try to capture everything, but won’t.
My wife and I moved to Canmore, Alberta back in 2001. For over 15 years – although not without our struggles – it was home. We purchased a place to live, built relationships and careers, routines. We said goodbye to friends, both through the transient nature of the population and also due to accidents and the loss of life. We adopted dogs and cats and lost the same, and adopted more. In most aspects, life was as normal as it is anywhere.
We decided to leave for a variety of reasons. The cost of living was increasingly prohibitive, and the population turned from and adventurer’s town to a retirement community for the wealthy and white. The town grew an inflated sense of self-importance and we felt marginalized. It’s also inhumanely cold in the Rockies, and we wanted to follow passions to grow our own food and live simpler, lives. I was becoming disenchanted with my career as well. I was the IT Manager for the school board there, and supported the entire division almost single-handed. I tried to have one of my staff members fired, but wasn’t able to because of a union. Because I supported him, when I left he couldn’t handle the environment and the school board gave him a package to leave. This took 4 months for them to do. Anyway, I could go on with this for ever, but it’s just complaining.
My last year in the school board was horrible. If anyone asked me what I did on any given day I would have struggled to tell them. I thought it was the toxic environment, but now that I’m free of it and still feeling the same way, I think that maybe I was in the midst of a significant depression. Chicken and egg, I guess. I left that position happily; I just couldn’t have done it anymore. When my resignation was announced at the start of the year staff gathering, a crowd of 700’ish staff gave a collective gasp and a standing ovation to me. Their respect and admiration for me was mutual.
We arrived on our small piece of land in the country September 2017. Our house that was being built was supposed to be done by the end of December, but we ended up living in a 5th wheel throughout the winter and moved into our house in July. I suffer in winters in the best of situations. Being completely isolated, I didn’t (don’t) even know where to begin looking for work. I think of the different places that I could work and my stomach aches. There’s much of me that worries I’m no longer employable, both because of skills but also because I’m simply stuck by inertia. Once in a while I feel hopeful about my business, but hope isn’t something I’m very familiar with overall. We had planned on becoming involved with organizations in town like the cycling association, but the idea of being social is crippling.
My whole life I’ve felt like I’ve had great potential, but only potential. Those who have known me have respected my intelligence, empathy and emotional insights. I don’t, as those things have done very little for me. It’s difficult to act on one’s potential when deep down, I don’t believe that any effort is of any lasting importance. I question our value here, although I’m smart enough to realize that we do matter in some greater scheme of things.
Before leaving Canmore a friend introduced me to Shin-rin yuko. She challenged me to leave my cell phone behind for a period of time everyday and go for a walk in the woods. I started doing this, and as I learned from a Metis friend in Canmore, I would leave tobacco as a symbol of my gratitude. I would stand in the woods below the mountains and give a prayer of thanks for that moment of peace and ask for the strength to carry it with me through my days. But there was a sadness with all of this, a sense of isolation, of not belonging, and not understanding. There are so many people in the world that do horrible things and get along just fine. Why can’t someone like myself who tries to do good be rewarded too? Intellectually I understand that my life is pretty damn good, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m grateful for all the things that I have, and guilty for not being able to appreciate it more. Although I’ve always been a drinker, I consume on a more consistent basis than I ever have. At the end of the days, with the sun lowering in the sky, I walk out sadly into the forest with our dogs running around, and I still pray there, and I still ask for more for those who don’t have it, and I watch darkness consume the world with me at the centre of it.