When I was asked to go commercial salmon trolling with my boyfriend and his father, my mind flashed back to the time that I failed miserably at completing a full tree-planting season. They are both very different jobs, but they are very similar in more ways than one. With both jobs you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with the same people day after day; you are working piece work, earning a dollar wage per tree, or per fish in this case; the elements are ultimately in charge; and you have far too much time to think. Keeping my worries to myself, I accepted the offer. After all, I was ready for an adventure and I was ready to get away from my current 9-5.
In the weeks leading up to our departure, I rehashed my days on the cut-block; sweating, feeling lonely, and thinking (mostly negatively) about the daily grind of tree planting. I questioned where I went wrong. I tried to pin point the day I gave up and what had driven me to that moment. I was determined not to have that happen again. I wanted to prove to the crew, and to myself, that I could handle the hard work and the seclusion of the job. I had never forgiven myself for not finishing the last month of that tree planting season. This was a way for me to redeem myself—if only in my own mind.
After the awe of the trip North wore off and we got into the long days of fishing, I felt the negative thoughts creep in. I could be at home enjoying the summer. I could be seeing friends. I could be sleeping more. I could be… At the time, I didn’t realize that thinking negatively was its own form of complaining and I was making my life, and those around me, miserable. I justified my complaints because I was working long hard days and “sacrificing” my summer. I would get up every morning and instantly feel upset with my life. I was beginning to feel the same as I had when I gave up on tree planting. I didn’t know what to do.
We finished our first two-week trip and arrived in Prince Rupert to deliver our catch. I decided to walk up to the bookstore and see if I could find something. I had already finished the two books that I had brought on the trip. The only time when I wasn’t thinking was when I was reading. I walked into the book shop and saw Eckhart Tolle’s latest book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, on display. I walked right past it thinking that I didn’t need to reading something from the self-help section. I searched the stacks and didn’t find anything intriguing. On my way out I decided to pick up the Tolle book and flip through it. I read a couple of random lines and didn’t get much from it until I read the following:
“See if you can catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power.”
The book almost fell to the floor with my lower jaw. I honestly had never considered how my thoughts were creating my reality. I always assumed things were happening to me and I was the “victim.” I felt a sudden separateness from the incessant thoughts in my head. I could differentiate myself as something other than those thoughts and I realized the complete power that gave me.
With a conscious eye, I watched vigilantly over the next few weeks as negative thoughts tried to creep back into my mind. But, once I was able to give myself fully to the present moment, I had no need for them. I assumed power. From time to time, I wonder if I would have been able to make it through the entire fishing season had I not read those words. I like to think (think being the opportune word) that I would have found my inner space in the cresting of a passing Humpback Whale or in the methodical rhythm of the waves on the bow of the boat. I’m okay with the fact that my power grew from the simple words in a book.