Saturday, February 21, 2009

This has been a memorable week, even more than is usually true in my extraordinary ordinary life ... .

We're in the middle of Black History and at the onset of Womens' History Months; both tend to move me front and center due to my increasingly visible role as a national parks ranger. Since returning from Washington there has been a rise in public interest, furthered by the article published in the S.F. Chronicle just before we left for the Inauguration. I came home to a full calendar of events to which I'd committed before leaving and then spent the last couple of weeks fulfilling those obligations.

Returned late on Thursday evening, so stayed at home on Friday to try to move myself through the time zone glitches and emotional fatigue. On Saturday I'd promised to meet with the Rosie the Riveter Youth Corps -- a group of young high school students for whom I'd done an interview some weeks earlier. They're learning to use media to collect oral histories and I'd been one of their subjects. Today they would be videotaping for a later presentation to the community. Still later (last Saturday) I would be photographed for their project. Easy. Right. It was an unmitigated disaster!

Keep in mind that this on-camera interview was taking place within two days after returning home and before I'd spoken a word to anyone about the experiences in Washington. I'd not even called in to my office on Friday so all of the affect that had built up over the previous week of larger than life experiences was dammed up behind my eyes and in my heart and right in the middle of answering one of my young interviewer's questions I found myself sobbing uncontrollably! Fortunately it came late enough in the interview so that I could simply stop and call it a day. I left the kids looking confused and me -- feeling miserably embarrassed, but hoping that we could have a do-over in a few days when the dust had settled and some kind of normalcy had returned. Offering to come back to re-shoot, I walked to my car across the empty Saturday afternoon school parking lot in the light rain and headed for home dejected but recognizing more fully my very real limitations.

Interestingly enough, they've since decided to not re-shoot the interview. I've agreed as long as they agree not expect me to ever have to watch it. I'm not sure I could bear that, but I'm not persuaded that "keepin' it real" for young people is a bad thing. By mutual agreement, we'll let it stand.

I don't think that I'd realized before the incident that so much pent-up emotion was lying in wait ... and that I really needed to process the experience before I tried to share it.

That's where you come in. It was sitting here at my keyboard that the real debriefing began; culling through the photographs and re-living the moments. I'm not sure what I'd have done had I not been able to share the experience where no one can see the tears or sense my vulnerability ... .