Recently we have been exploring the American Southwest. I have been captivated by this area, learning about unique plants, animals, people, and their way of life. We visited the Grand Canyon and learned that the Colorado River is an essential resource, providing water, a habitat for wildlife, and the irrigation necessary for the Sonoran Desert people’s food crops, which were instrumental in their survival.
Until exploring the region, I had taken for granted the availability of resources such as food and water which the people of the Sonoran Desert clearly did not. We have learned about the incredible irrigation systems they made in order to get water to their crops for food. Water was life for the desert people and I begin to understand why some of the ruins we have visited may have been abandoned over time. Whether it was water shortages, famine, disease, or war, it’s not hard to imagine that any additional strain on resources could have forced people to leave their incredible cliff dwellings in this beautiful but harsh region.
I am awed by the engineering marvels that exist today. In the 1930’s, the Hoover Dam was created to help tame the raging Colorado River of the southwest, to stop floods in the region that would upset crops, homes, and livelihoods like those downstream in the Sonoran Desert. As my family and I toured the dam, I was captivated by the challenges that were overcome in order to create this structure. Not only is this an iconic structure to learn about, but I think the engineering of it was a fascinating feat! (We enjoyed watching a National Geographic episode on the Hoover Dam, which I highly recommend, LINKED HERE.) Hundreds of people put their lives on the line and a number were lost in the process of building the dam, which would forever change lives of people, animals, and the very land downstream of it. This was the moment when I stopped in my tracks and thought, “What are the dams in my life? What has been created that has forever changed my path forward, for the better or worse?”
Seeing how a well-engineered dam changed the path of a raging river, I began to think about events that changed the course of my own life: going to college, getting married, having a family, changing jobs, and moving across the country. I started to pinpoint moments where I had life-altering things happen.
At the age of twenty-five, I was laid off from my test pilot job due to the airplane no longer being produced. I was disappointed, but this dam was placed in my life, it was not one I created. As things played out, I decided to stay home with our child. I began to find joy in being home and realized my dreams of a flying career could go on pause as I discovered new dreams raising our children. I began to realize that it’s OK to change course and let my life unfold as the winds of change blew me in a new direction and I adjusted my sails.
I also thought about when I was ill for months with an undiagnosed e.coli infection and I could not take care of myself or our children. I then saw the necessity for building dams in my own life, to tame the flood waters I was swimming through. I started being intentional about my health and wellness and became my own advocate. I began to learn about my gut health and how having antibiotics can be both a blessing and a curse. I began to rebuild my health after my infection and gain appreciation for how incredible the body truly is. I began to assess what I needed to be a whole, healthy person again after being sick for so long.
Looking back to nearly a decade ago when I was very ill and had two children under two, I can appreciate the changes that have come since then. The things that flooded my daily life have been altered for a better future. Much like the Hoover Dam, I was intentional about developing the changes in my life to set myself up for success in the future. No longer would the waters of the raging river of life flood my territory. I had put up a dam. I would not be a damsel in distress, I would be damned if I would let the stresses of life drown my future. I learned how to develop personal boundaries with family and friends. I learned that in my twenties, we actually THINK we know who we are, until we get to about thirty and realize that we were just beginning to unravel the life we were born into. Much like the tribes of the southwest region, I can understand the process of digging a canal to direct the water to nourish the crops we plant. I was making the life I wanted and not merely wanting to survive; I want to thrive. Putting up dams in life, redirecting a raging river, and providing for a family is hard work and I’m doing the work.
Sometimes in life, it’s not only a matter of putting up dams, but also realizing that there’s something that needs to change. If your tribe cannot grow food, have water, is experiencing disease or war, it may not be possible to stay. How many times in life do we have friends that suffer a life-altering event such as divorce and suddenly everything is uprooted? The dams of change happen in life. It’s all about embracing the changes, whether you are downstream of a dam placed in your life, or you’re creating a dam to change your future.
What are the dams you have built or changes have you experienced? How has that changed the course of your life?