Web Toolbar by Wibiya Shelby Rebecca: A new sense of peace

Friday, September 25, 2009

A new sense of peace

I have taken solace in decorating my home. I love to collect objects, especially second-hand. This is one of my favorite groupings.

I haven't written in a while because I've been pondering what I now realize was me decompressing from the end of my graduate coursework at National University, the community organizing campaign, and my two days a week at Elise's preschool--which all ended the same month.

This realization came during a conversation with the director of the American Lung Association's Program Leadership team. I apologized for my lackluster participation of late. She assured me there was no problem and offered some advice.

"What you're going through right now probably has a lot to do with the ending of two huge projects in your life. You need to acknowledge that. It can't just be swept under the rug," she said.

I needed that.

When I was in extreme-busy-mode I was surviving on about four hours (or less) sleep a night and had developed a lump in my throat that my doctor said was a symptom of excessive stress. In fact, even after things settled down (or abruptly ended) in my life, the lump in my throat, literally, stuck around until just a few months ago.

In my earlier posts I feel like I hadn't really come to terms with the fact that I needed this time, this down time, to heal emotionally, and physically, to let my mind stop spinning with a thousand details needing attention, and to figure out my priorities. I began to focus on trying to stay busy almost so I wouldn't have to decompress and face the reality of what I'd been through. Writing this script, for me, as been tremendously healing, and through reflection one really has a chance to learn life lessons.

What I've learned is about the interconnection between humans and the earth; the way we need it rather than the other way around. Before I became a campaign organizer, I hadn't really considered the pluralistic nature of our society; how we all breathe the same air, eat the same food, need a healthy environment to raise our children in, and need each other to take the same care in our environmental health to reap the benefits.

Knowing now how much easier it is to allow toxins into neighborhoods where the people don't have the understanding, the money, or the resources to fight back I see the need for societal changes to make us a more environmentally just and equal society.

Despite that uphill battle I've been struggling with, I've been feeling this sense of peace and of purpose again, and it came in the form of, oddly enough, a few drives in the country and a make-up girlie party earlier this month. I sat in a chair and closed my eyes while my friend put make-up on me. I had almost forgotten about wearing make-up for the past few months, (which I'd worn since I was given permission in the fifth grade). When I came home that day, I took pictures of myself because I felt like I was waking up from hibernation and wanted to document the progress.

Then, I had two job interviews, one with the Sierra Club and the other with a private Christian School. Neither of them were the right fit for me, but I realized then that if I wanted to become a teacher I would become one through persistence and that I needed to set that as a priority. I've come so far as it is and even if the economy is a barrier to finding a job in my current community, I might need to relocate. Somewhere out there I'm needed and I just want to be open to those possibilities rather than wallowing in defeat before the battle has begun.

Then, last but not least, I found out that I was one of two candidates for the Healthy Child Healthy World's Mom on a Mission Award for my work in the community on my No More Tar Roofs campaign. This couldn't have come at a better time because a few days prior I was walking Elise home from school when I came face-to-face with my worst fear—the roofers were back.

I walked down to the storage area behind the pool and confirmed that there was some work going on. The next day, I drove Elise to school and looked around the community for evidence that roofing had begun again. My heart skipped a few beats when I saw a home with roof work underway. It was like a flashback to when tar fumes were part of our daily lives and it brought back all of those memories and fears. That was until I realized that there was no tar, there were no toxic fumes, and the roofing method they were using was the single ply membrane roof that I'd been asking for all along.

I couldn't resist. I jumped out of my car and asked the man who looked to be in charge, "what are you guys doing?" At first he was vague and almost perturbed by all of my questions.

I introduced myself and the realization of who I was hit him and anger shown on his face. We began a conversation that was, actually, quite awkward. Reason being, my campaign to stop the tar roofing had been a huge imposition on the roofing company because they were contracted to complete the job they were given and were unable to finish because of me.

He actually told me he never intended to make anyone sick and apologized. I apologized, too, because I never wanted to cause him problems, but explained my reasoning in that I became ill and was on inhalers for the first time in my life and was sure my daughter was headed toward the same fate. In truth, my campaign wasn't even directed at the roofers at all. My objective was to pressure the corporate owners to decide to switch roofing methods on their own.

"I had to protect my daughter," I said.

"Well, what you did worked," he said.

Even the workers were smiling and happy explaining that they don't get burned anymore, aren't covered in tar, and don't have to breathe toxic fumes.

When I drove away, looking at this clean looking modern roof, with the memories of the hard work that led to this moment fresh in my mind, I became so emotional. I felt like I had come full circle, that I had made a difference, and felt a sense of accomplishment that made it all worthwhile. Not that I don't think about how lucky we are everyday, when I open my windows, or walk Elise to school, because I do and always will be grateful for clean air. I will never take that for granted the rest of my life.

Right after I found out I was one of two candidates for the award I was asked to be a guest blogger at Dr. Greene's green children's website, and the blog writing was a also a good source of healing for me. My hope about sharing my story is that a permanent change will come to fruition. Sometimes we look at the tremendous global crisis and feel helpless. I have found my cause and will never stop until there are legal restrictions on this product.

During the Mom on a Mission interview I was thinking, well, this is an honor to have gotten this far and recognition in and of itself. However, just a few days ago I heard from the Director, Christopher Gavigan, who told me that I was indeed the winner of the award. I am just so honored and grateful.

Sometimes I sit here wondering if I'm worthy of such an honor, but I am so looking forward to the experience and will be sure to share it as soon as possible. Thanks for reading.


  1. Hugs Cousin! I'm glad you are feeling some peace and moving along in your life.

  2. Thanks Melissa. I appreciate your kind words more than you know. Love, Shelby

  3. Your an exellent writer, be an english teacher. :)

  4. Well done for fronting up and explaining :)