Portaging

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My book club read Orphan Train by, Christina Baker Kline. In the book the Wabanaki Indians are referenced in regards to their portaging. Portaging is the act of carrying a water vessel over land either between two bodies of water or around an obstacle such as rapids in a river. Since they had to carry their vessel as well as their possessions, they had to travel light. They had to determine what was important to keep and what could be left behind.

The lady hosting this meeting asked us to share about a time of transition where we had to decide what to bring, what to leave behind, and what insight we gained. Here is what I shared:

I have experienced some transitions in my life just as all of you have. Like the Wabanaki Indians I have carried a canoe through many of my life journeys. I had to decide what was most important to bring along with me and what I needed to leave behind. Some were easy transitions and some were not.

When faced with decisions during these transitions I was forced to weed out the emotions and circumstances that could hold me back and weigh me down. It was through trial and error that I learned how to define what was actually important and what was necessary to be left behind in order to move forward.

I determined there were three common things that I always brought in my canoe.

  1. Support. At times, these transitions/challenges were overwhelming and I realized in order for me to progress I needed to put my ego aside and ask for help. I thankfully received a lot of love and support from my family and my circle of friends during these times. The various moves from one state to another, the new babies that grew into the challenging teenager years, the ups and downs of marriage, divorce, and death of loved ones became a lighter load when I asked for help.
  2. I had to decide if these transitions were going to make or break me. Determining those factors differed with each transition. For example, I  moved 800 miles away to southeast Texas when I was 19 ½ years old. I was leaving the only home I had ever known, leaving all my friends and family, and headed for a place I knew nothing about. I was young, scared, and lonely. I could have given into those feelings and the ten years I spent in Texas could have been absolutely miserable. However, I chose to make the best of it and as a result I did some much needed growing up, made life-long friends, and created some incredible memories.
  3. Faith. During all of my transitions I relied on my faith to guide me and help me though. There was a time during one of these transitions when I was extremely frustrated, worried, and felt so helpless that I had to step away from my prayer life because I felt my prayers were not being heard. I never lost my faith; I just had to step away for a while until I could make sense of it all. I never fully understood the how and why of that transition but I eventually came to realize how much that particular transition provided a positive influence in my tolerance, empathy, and faith.

I recognize that each one of these life transitions was the beginning of new chapters and I have much to be grateful for.

I have come away from each of these challenges with more courage, resilience, and compassion than I ever thought I could.

As I look toward the unknowns of the future, asking for help, deciding on whether I will allow this transition to make or break me, and relying on my faith will always go into my canoe.

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