• Skimming the surface, looking for vision

    New food for thought this week as Iím researching and gluing ideas together to develop plans that I hope one day will reach fruition. One of those thoughts is examining what ďdecolonizationĒ means to me. Not so much the definition of decolonization, but what that looks like inside myself. How dig away layers and address my colonial mindset. How did that happen and how to change it.

    So heres the thing, I believe strongly that we need vision for our lives. A place to work towards. That includes every aspect of ourselves. Our spirituality if you will, our way of living, our ways we interact with others and ourselves. I think of vision on micro and macro level. Big change for the people but big change for myself too.

    I think really looking at colonial impacts on the inside is challenging. It means thinking through what societal norms are that forced into being within my own thought process. What outside influences have created these thought processes in my life? Where did they come from and how do they influence how I think?

    An example for me, is the influence of christianity and the church. Which if you didnít know, we grew up in the church. Which of course varied depending on my dadís philosophy and doctrine. But it did have a deep influence on the way I think from then to now.

    Heres the thing, I donít hate christianity by any means. I just question how religion can be put into a container so to speak. Religion isnít even the right word I would use for what I believe now a days on a deep level. Its critical thinking, combined with teachings, layered with perspectives from people Iíve met, visited with and listened to in my travels. It ceremonies, healings and other ďthingsĒ that I canít even explain without sounding crazy. To take it further, for me its examining how I pray, how I think in addressing the spiritual world, how I talk about the understanding I have of life/spirituality. Christianity is something I question since I feel like its had a big influence on our people in a variety of ways. Personally it forces me to look at myself on a deep spiritual level and make the effort to rethink my own way of being. Change the way I pray, the way I focus while Iím praying. Its many things.

    Part of the decolonization convo I often have with myself, is sometimes making a list. This used to be a very painful and emotional process to create a list of things I need to work on to change the way my mind thinks. It would bring back those child-like feelings of ďits not my faultĒ or just plain sadness in knowing being adopted Iíve lost out on years to learn from my own people. Now its not so heavy. Its more a deeper critical analysis. I havenít made a list so far. Iím just skimming the surface for now. Since the last few weeks have been really emotionally heavy and draining. Which means good and Ďabout timeí but makes me tired out. I donít know if the list is needed. I think its more about looking inside more often, being good enough to do that, and continually assessing if I am changing for the better.

    I think though growing up as an outsider to the ďindian world,Ē did expose me more to euro-centric ways of thinking. I was completely immersed in a non-native world from birth to the age of 16. Sometimes though in examining this, it becomes hard to separate the emotional baggage from the impacts on the way I think and act. I instead of critical thinking about key events that have changed me, I think about the abuse, neglect and sad feelings; getting the two mixed up. Therefore not actually being affective in what I sought out to do.

    I battle social norms alot in my head. Its a constant. I donít think that is just me, I think we all do it to some degree because social norms are ideas that society as whole accepts. For example, going to university is how you get a good job in this world or how everyone should be married and have 2.5 children. Things like that. I would argue we are taught to be consumers and to be focused on only getting ourselves ahead. Success is being famous and rich in whatever field of work you choose to go into. It for me means being materialist and selfish. Both are things I struggle with. I struggle with not defining success by accepted social norm ideas. That no, I am the uneducated and the path Iíve taken is very different than what society tells me to do. I am not married, nor have children. Which as women are the accepted things a woman does. Which totally frustrates me. Beyond challenging the social norms, I want to get them out of my head. I want to be able see what has been ingrained in my mind. Thats the real challenge.

    Vision to me is thinking beyond myself. Thinking deep into the future. Looking at myself as part a large whole. An individual yes, but part of a likeminded movement. This means thinking about what it means to decolonize. So here it goes: its working on myself to be a better person and heal from the past; its thinking about the future of my family and what it means to be a good relative; it means figuring out how to be a part of solutions to the many challenges our people face. Really though its something small like seeing my dadís community create a fifteen year plan for basic self sufficiency or sustainable development- basic things like food security, housing, energy and water. Its working towards the sacred dreams Iíve been given and in turn learning as much as I can to bring back to my family one day. It means thinking about the work that I do through non-profits- assessing it constantly. Its many things.

    I hope though honestly I will live to be an ole ole lady one day and see the success of visions we all have. The impacts of movements across the lands. Really truthfully, that we are no longer dependent on systems that have failed. That we have figured out as a people-serious change; hopefully that we have changed the face of Canada and its citizens. That the way we live has drastically changed for the better whatever that looks like. I hope in my life to make a contribution to the whole, to be a part of something greater than myself.

  • What the Water knows...

    Serious business taking things apart. Iíve been working on facing the thing I fear most which is my mind. Iíve been seeing a therapist for a couple months now. I have some goals and things I want to learn.

    First was figuring out what the hell was going on. Well thats pretty simple once I looked at all the evidence. I needed to relive my emotional memories. Challenge not to fall apart while this happens.

    New ideas this week. First, there is nothing wrong with feeling. Its a human part of all of us. Second, when youíre someone like me who can shut off my emotions at the drop of a hat, when you begin to feel again-it opens a dam.

    So dealing with an ever gushing flow of feelings means emotions; which brings tears and sadness. Its draining. Makes you feel completely out of control too. I could be watching a show and see something completely unrelated, then lose it. Its not a great feeling to have no control over when the feelings decide to come out. But its not a bad thing. Period.

    When you close off yourself for so long, there is a balance. Which means Iím okay with being a little gushy for now. Not all the time though. At the same time I donít want close or shut down the emotions like I did in the past. Thats the problem. I live in a world of extremes emotionally. Its either feel nothing or feel everything. There is no balance- yet.

    Its interesting though, what I understand is the emotions tied with childhood trauma can be rage. I donít rage, my rage is always translated into depression. I figure its because when I was little, I internalized everything as way to survive. I could shut off and black out what I couldnít handle. Granted I donít black out anything now, which is a good thing. Most times I can internalize whats going on. Is that a good thing though? When you put things inside you that donít belong, such as rage, sadness and hurt feelings -they can make you sick. Other times taking in things and putting them deep down inside means beating yourself up and taking out the hurt and pain on yourself. The problem is that I donít have to survive like I did when I was child, its time to learn new ways to deal.

    Lately as in the past few years, I havenít been so good at it. Which means feelings leaking out here and there as I try to maintain. I hate that. Since most of the time it means people around me have to deal with my anger or unpleasantness. Its not like I can explain, ďHey, Iíve got trauma deep down inside, its taking everything to keep it there. I have too much on my plate to deal with right now and Iím barely able to maintain my usual self. Sorry Iím such a jerk.Ē I doubt most people I know or work with would get that. Part of it too, is associating feeling or being emotional with weakness; or due to my ingrained internalization that it would mean over exposure to people I may not know or trust.

    Thats a big part of the adoption thing for me too. Trust, commitment and feeling safe. I have avoided dealing with my emotional memories for a long time. I think its because sub-consciously I have no stability or structure in my life. For the past five years or more, my life has been chaos. Iíve been on and off homeless; living out of a car, or have a place to stay with no clue for how long this time. I realize my mind will only unleash the memories I need to get through when I am safe, stable and feel okay enough physically. Thats the lesson learned from my perceived mental breakdown when I was 19. My mind knew it was a safe time to trigger the memories coming back. Iíve reached that goal for the time, being able to create for myself a safe place, a home to rest my weary heart at.

    The other side is commitment. I hate committing to anything. Cell phone contracts, leases, loans, anything that means I have to commit. Its scary to me. Nevermind relationships, and building new ones with people. That was always a big challenge. See the root of that is the adoption thing. How can you commit to anything, when the people that were supposed to be there, werenít. They left, abandoned, and abused you. It means that later on I donít trust people easily, and I wouldnít commit to them because that meant be vulnerable to being hurt by them. I built a layer of protection around myself and let few people in. I couldnít let them see me and love them truly.

    Iíve worked really hard to get over those adoption/abused kid feelings around trust, commitment and love. It wasnít easy. The people that helped me were my friends. They didnít let me give up on them and I love them. They see the good, bad and ugly about me and still are my friends. Past relationships helped build trust and heal the deep feelings I had ingrained about love. Things didnít work out in these relationships but they taught me a wealth and helped me heal. I still love those to this day that were there in the ugly times. They saved my life, my perspective and my ability to trust.

    Having someone to reflect on things helped me realize that yep, Iím good at avoiding things. But at least Iíve grown enough to consciously put in place what I need to handle bringing the past back. Thats something. Being able to be open about myself with someone I donít really know is so empowering.

    How to deal with the dam breaking. Ugh. Iím not a really touchy, feely kinda person in the first place. Iím just not sure how to walk around, get work done and be somewhat normal without losing it aka standing there crying or feeling deeply sad. Sometimes I just feel sad. There is nothing that sets it off. I just find myself crying. Donít get me wrong its good since I think this sadness is based on loss, grief and letting go. Its my first step. Just right now its overwhelming, and makes me feel exhausted like Iíll never get enough rest or sleep.

    So hereís what Iím going to try, I have little to no structure in my life. Like I said, before Iím a person of extremes. So hopefully I can do this and not over do it. Ha. Create structure in my life daily. Build order into my life. Create and carve out space to just deal full-on. Other time to work, be human and enjoy life.

    Structure can be good and bad. But I need something or someway to manage the emotions so they too donít control me or make me feel like Iíve lost it. I can see why people donít want to face their hurt feelings. Its hard. It means being vulnerable. It means opening a dam when its easier not too. But thats the point, its no longer easy to keep the dam closed. I canít. I wonít. Keeping the dam closed has destroyed the happy person I once was, it has put strains on friendships and relationships. In someways its helped tear down my self-esteem, since my lashing out, hurting people around me was just a part of the cycle I tried so hard to maintain so I didnít have to look at myself.

    Structure is about building self-esteem too. Rebuilding hope. Rebuilding good. I am working on letting go of guilt, trying to stop the beating up of myself. One of the things I do in the morning is have coffee. Even if Iím running around trying to get out the door. I make time to have my java. Its this time in the morning, I usually go over a mental list of all the things I need to get done in my day. Lately though, Iíd go through the list and then make myself feel bad about every single thing, then I would promptly get nothing done. Which would make me feel worse. I am trapped by myself guilt. Its the most annoying thing.

    So part of my morning is giving myself breathing room. To say to myself, ďIts a new day.Ē Its something so small but that directly changes and challenges the cycle of guilt and beating up myself. Moving on through the day, it means stopping when the self guilt feelings come back; to challenge them directly. I know I must sound like those daily affirmation calendars. I need that though, from myself. I need to know Iím good enough, its okay to fail, or not being everything to everyone. I need that right now.

    Creating space for work and other tasks through-out the day is another part. I want to be able to function without feeling dredged down by my emotional memories. So that I can still do good work. Its easier than it sounds. Since the work is heavy sometimes, painful other times. Everything is interconnected.

    Last task is to create space for beauty in my life. I miss creating. I miss reading, learning, painting, exploring and challenging myself to do things. Like skydiving. Its something Iíve always wanted to do but still havenít yet. Mainly due to being broke but its still on the list. Iím working on it though. Taking time to enjoy creating again. I slowly have images growing in the back of my mind that one day hopefully will come to life. I have words that need writing. Songs that need singing. I canít wait till I can dance again, its true what they say, those jingle dresses can heal you. Without seeing it I have a whole arsenal of weapons to fight back with.

    Water is powerful. It can flow and ebb. It can crush and destroy. It can purify and heal. Thats why I look at my emotions like the water. They will heal me, if I let them. If I donít they will crush me, they keep me in a place of anger, depression and lashing out. Who wants that?

    Its springtime soon, and the thundernation is coming back. Iím excited for their return, I donít feel lonely when they come back. Its strange because they are one of my great fears but I love them with all their power to cleanse, to take away negativity. I look forward to when they come back so I can give away the sadness, the anger, the depression. I can cry in the rain and no one sees. I can hide in them, yet still be alive and feel their power around me-keeping me safe from harm.

    The water has the power to heal just by itself and thats what I need to be like is the water. Flowing and healing through my veins. Then one day I wonít be sad. I wonít feel anger. Depression wonít come back to tie me down cause the water will be there as a great formidable force. Makes so much more sense why everyone fights for the water. We all need it to survive. And its funny since maybe the water is fighting for us. I wonder if the water asks, ďWhy wonít you let me help you?Ē Maybe the water knows what weíve been through and wants to help. How humbling is that.

  • Happy Birthday to me, myself and I

    Okay, okay. This is going to be a very sob story, feel bad for myself pity party sort of post. There I said it. You've been warned!

    Here goes, I hate my birthday! Oh I hate this day. I donít think I always did. As a little child I felt awkward but enjoyed the materialism of it all. The attention. As I got older it just brought more questions. I was always told of my adoption status by my parents, it was kind of unavoidable since Iím pretty darn brown compared to them. I grew up knowing that I was in a different category. If anything as got older the questions began to grow. Ideas good, bad and critical took seed in my mind.

    Now being an adult I try to avoid this day. I think its hard for many different reasons. Mainly cause I donít know much about my actual birth. Iíve heard a few different versions of what happened from my families on both sides. After awhile I just gave up on knowing the full story of my birth. What I do know is that I was put into a foster home for the first three months of my life. Then I was adopted. I donít know when my mom went into labour, who was there, what time I was born, if she held me. If she loved me at that moment. But I think she did. She said she gave me up to have better life and reflecting on what I know about how hard her life I know it was with good intentions. Regardless of what everyone elseís opinion is in my families.

    The other reasons stem from childlike emotions that I really donít like to talk about. Its kinda dumb actually. I wish that my parents remembered my birthday. I donít think Iíve ever heard them wish me a happy birthday. I know its a dumb thing to be sad about.

    Its just awkward in the years since Iíve found my family and tried to build relationships. Iíve been the transparent child that everyone forgets about. On holidays I donít really exist. No one calls or reaches out. It makes me sad to feel so invisible. I understand though, I didnít grow up with them. I donít have a strong bond with my relatives. It would be easy to forget the child you have only recently met. Like I said, these are pretty childish emotions. Normal yes. Now though Iíve tried hard to change my perspective on holidays and traditions. They are what we make them. They are important if we choose. I chose not to celebrate anymore and make other traditions my big days. Like our ceremonies-my new years, christmas, easter and halloween is all in one season and based in one ceremony. Iím choosing to make my special days different for very different reasons.

    The other part, is the loneliness comes back on my birthday. Since it is a direct reminder I was given away. Iíve always felt lonely. Its not a bad thing. Its just always been there for as long as I can remember. I think its a part of going away from my mom, not being able to have a bond with my relatives and with my mom on deep level. My birthday brings this back. I get sad. I get lonesome for something I will never have. I don't resent my loneliness though. It is a part of me, which I accept.

    I know my friends and family wonít understand why I just want to be alone. Thats usually what I do on my birthday. Is take the day off and lay in bed. I give into my loneliness. I always try to do something nice for myself. One year I stretched a painting I got and that was my present to myself. Another year I bought myself some shoes even though I couldnít really afford them. It was nice.

    It is a day that I canít avoid. It brings back the feelings of loss. Growing up I wouldíve gave my right leg to be with my mom. I wanted to know who I was. In times when things were dark in my life, meeting my mom was the one thing that kept me alive.

    It also forces me to face the feelings of being different. I was always the odd man out growing up. Iíve always had to stand out by myself. Which I now embrace as a good thing but sometimes, like I said -those childlike feelings; somedays I just donít want to be different. Which is kinda funny since I am now rocking a facial tattoo! Lets not talk about that.

    In a time, where being from somewhere is important. Which community you come from creates empowerment in these large movements, I just donít belong. I have no real relationship to the community Iím from. I have a relationship to the land but not the little First Nation that Iím registered with. They wouldnít want me anyways, theres a long story of family history on our rez which translates to we arenít welcome there. Our family at least. This day reminds me of all the times Iíve tried to go home. Back to plains and how it has failed. How I have failed. How I canít go back even though I try and will continue too in the future.

    It just brings back the deep feelings of being lost, floating in the world. Which really if youíre somebody, doing good work, you are deeply connected. I try to keep my connection through various means but Iíll never be one of those people on the frontlines in my community since it is a place that Iím not welcome and honestly I donít know that I would want to be that person. Cause I didnít grow up there. I donít have deep family ties there. None of my generation do. Weíve left and moved to the cities. Therefore I couldnít be that frontline person, it just wouldnít be the right thing to do.

    Okay, there is most of it I think. Usually though, I start the day being sad and feeling lonely. Then it deteriorates into examining all things Iíve ever done wrong, or failed at. It brings out my insecurities and neediness. Which I try my best to keep to myself. Which hence why i like to be alone on this day. Who wants to see that? Yes, Iíve made some huge mistakes ask anyone who knows me, Iím sure they could make you a list. No worries Iím not trying to be all ďself-hatingĒ just keeping it real since weíre all human and do dumb things in our lives. Iíve done a lot. Moving on through this examination on failure goes further down the rabbit hole to the point where I question what am I doing with my life and the whole arenít I supposed to be this and that by this age. It draws out the societal norms that I fight in my mind not to accept. For some reason this day is just one that Iíd rather erase from the calendar. I donít want to celebrate my hurt feelings. Who does that? Ugh!

    I am thankful my mom gave birth to me. She didnít have to. Iím lucky to be here. Iím lucky she loves me. Even when I canít feel it, canít see or know it fully. There are other days where I feel them, my parents close to me. I got my arms and legs tattooed to remind myself I am never alone. That somebody thought about me, you know that 7gen thinking. That my relatives long gone are in my blood, they are all around me. I needed a reminder to honor them daily in my life. To take the edge off the loneliness.

    So there I think my pity party is over. I will try to commit to not hating my birthday. I will try and do something to say thanks for my life instead. I will try not to see my failures illuminated across my mind. Instead reflect about what iíve learned from my mistakes. I will commit to giving thanks. Thats all I can do for now. Is be thankful for my life and all that comes with it. Sometimes its the little things that help you win the battle, its those series of little actions that continue to build good, good behavior, good thoughts and eventually will make the bad good again.

  • Divorcing guilt and other lovely ideas

    How do I say this? I have deep and very conflictual relationship with guilt. If guilt were my partner I would say they wear the pants in our relationship. I have a really weird hang up about guilt.

    I would say it runs my life. Really. It does. Looking back, I think it started with my growing up mom, and the church. I havenít had the time Iíd like to really reflect on this too much. But I do realize how guilt can be good and bad. My mom was so good at the classic guilt trip. She did it in so many numerous ways. Sometimes I donít think it was intentional. It just was a big part of my life. I know I felt bad and guilty in my relationship with my mom at a very young age.

    Sometimes it wasnít her either. I felt bad for her. I felt the need to reassure her. She would at times be on the edge of needing to go back to the psych ward, or be on the edge of a dark place. We knew this growing up. We, meaning my sister and me; worked to figure out her mental state at any given time of the day or night. So that we could adjust with it. This meant knowing she was in a bad place but that we would tell her what we thought she wanted to hear regardless of whether it was true. It meant that sometimes I would feel bad- guilty and shamed that I had to lie to her. Maybe it wasnít a lie. It was just something I said to make it okay. To ensure we were okay. She was okay. Cause there were times where she wasnít okay. The ambulance was called that one time when she tried to do herself in. Or the time she tried to run away when it was minus a million and she was wearing a house coat. Or that time she cried to me to her she was a good mother. It was a lot of things. Different moments. It wasnít that she was the one doing the guilt trips it was me feeling bad for her and guilty because of it. Placating someone or talking them down shouldnít be okay, but we all do it in certain situations to ensure that person is safe.

    The church and our relationship to it growing up really dig guilts claws in deep. Such it seems that the church doctrine that we were taught was really based on guilt, shame and the idea of sin. We were hard core christians growing up, even though now I have a much different understanding of christianity and the church as an institution. Some days I hate the institution cause of its enabling of my dad and other abusers in our lives. Either way the seeds of guilt were laid at a young age. We went to church every sunday, our lives where run by my dads own interpretation of the bible. Its just so strange how big that was in our lives. The first school I went to a christian school. Oh the irony since my parents pulled me out of grade one due to the racism which of course I didnít learn until a later age. My dadís own version of christianity was strange, Iím not quite sure even now what his understanding was. It translated into a very strict sheltered environment. Our music was carefully selected and we were only exposed to christian musicians. We had an old black and white television was monitored so we werenít allowed to watch very many programs since they didnít suit my dads doctrine. I joke about it since we werenít allowed to watch the muppets! Not very much got through to us at home anyways. I used to sneak watch music videos of madonna when they first came out, and I thought I was just the scandalous one. This also meant people in our lives too. Who we associated with was clearly laid out for us. My dad was clear about who approved and if they had any moral actions we should watch out for. Even our neighbors were analyzed. We had friends but of course they were judged and juried by my dad based on their parents. It was a rather strange way to interact with people. But it meant he had complete control over who we played with and interacted with. That control was strict in our lives too within the home. Hence why we were so good at interpreting body language, and emotion signals so we could assess how to act. It was an ongoing dance of cat and mouse. Were the judge, jury and punisher was my dad.

    I realize now after doing endless research about pedophiles, that his need to control and maintain was a deep part of his pathology. One of the things that is clear is the need to condition people around you in order to get away with pedophilia. Which my dad was better at than I thought. We were so controlled in every aspect of our lives we didnít know to question any of it. Since we had little interaction with outside world we didnít know better, we didnít know that our lives were not normal or honestly that there was anything wrong. There was no question. It wasnít until many years after I had left them behind completely that I found out he had a degree in psychology and it all made complete sense. He was a brilliant man, his strategy was predetermined and executed brilliantly.

    I donít remember having any sense of remorse or guilt from my dad. He was someone who created the boundaries. He influenced how we acted in public. We knew exactly what was expected of us. Including if we should be compassionate and giving to mom when we would visit her in the hospital. Or in the church, when he would ask for prayers for my family and my moms health issues. I donít think I ever felt guilt from him specifically. It was more a terror or sorts that we should keep him happy.

    The only time I felt some level of remorse or guilt associated with him was one time where he bathed me and read me Aesopís fables to me. I donít remember what happened during that bath time with my dad. But I know to the bone it wasnít right. The situation was all wrong. It ended with him praying and asking for forgiveness of our sins. Thats were the weirdness of guilt and shame comes out, because even being so little I knew somewhere he wasnít supposed to be there. When you are that small though how do you even figure that out? Or question the only people that are consistently in your life.

    Its weird the opposite roles my parents played. But as I understand it, my mom was under his control from the time they met. She was the one who moved around him to some degree until the battle with her mental health took over.

    At this time in my life I know Iíve engrained the shame and the guilt from growing up with my family. Its strange how that happens. I wouldnít say its stockholm syndrome were you defend your abuser. I just internalized the guilt and the shame on a very deep level since its all I knew from a young age. I never knew that as a child you shouldnít feel bad about everything that didnít fit the narrow definition that my dad had as his christian doctrine. I just didnít know.

    Now saying all this, its heavy and kinda ugly. But I think here lies the roots of my never-ending dance with guilt. Shame is something completely different. Since there are things I remember that I still donít talk about with anybody including my therapist that I feel deep deep shame. Iím not ready to go there yet. Especially since it makes me so sad, because really it wasnít my fault. I was too little to understand. It makes me sad even to think about it. Then the anger will appear. Then despair. Low and behold my best friend depression will come out to play. There goes the cycle. But I will be ready soon to go there. I challenge myself to let go of it all.

    Heres the thing about my BFF guilt, Iíve internalized it on such a deep level that I still donít know how to deal with it. Let me give some examples, I feel bad if I think I didnít do a good job in my work, if I couldíve said this or that, or if I think I made a mistake. I beat myself up endlessly about it. If I make a mistake or someone calls me out, I will tear myself apart. No one see this of course, its a very private thing. I am uber critical of myself and big part of that is the constant intertwining of guilt. I know some of this is a very good thing. Self criticism is very important to be a better person. But it becomes unhealthy when you never think you will do something good. You know?

    It wasnít always like this either. Guilt was a very powerful motivator in my life. I would make myself feel bad about this or that, then I would use that energy to change it. Fast. But somehow that powerful motivation has now turned into constant questioning and self guessing. Its gotten so out of control that instead of doing anything about it or being motivated I do nothing. It adds to the many layers of depression. Then creates a new added layer to cycle Iím constantly running. Some days I imagine it like a hampster wheel running fast and going no where.

    It donít change the fact, I constantly feel bad about something. If I didnít send that email out on time, or call this person back or say that one thing. Its overwhelming. I really donít have a solution for it yet.

    The one thing I am trying right now, is to be okay to let myself sleep in. Give myself a new day. Tell myself I shouldnít feel bad about not getting enough done in a day. I should start the day feeling good. Its not easy. Believe you, me. Somedays I can empower that voice of hope other days, hope is a fantasy vacation I will never take.

    Othertimes the guilt becomes introverted by things that I think others see in me. Like that old sell-out idea. I know I work for an NGO. So you definitely could argue I sold out. That I shouldnít get paid to work. I totally get that. That I benefit off the destruction of our way of life. There are so many layers there. Its a challenge to articulate. That idea used to be so motivating because I told myself that means I have to work ten times harder. I canít take frivolous time off. I must work harder. Which honestly I think was good thing. My first line of this thinking was when I lived in Minnesota. I really tried hard to put in all I could and give my best. But now I think things are different. I think part of me believes this on a deep level, which right now Iím not sure is bad, either. Another part of me understands that I should be okay with who I am and what I do. That part fights the part that thinks the non-profit industry is a set up. So I guess Iím not really explaining this well, just to say its a constant internal battle. Sometimes I really do deserve to get called out for real, Iíve royally screwed up in my work and in my life. Other times I guess I just need to be nicer to myself.

    Either way, this is something Iím not quite sure of yet. I still have some thinking to do. I think guilt and I need to get a divorce so we can be friend one day. Iíd like to feel good about what I do, who I am and not beat myself up if I canít be all things. That is not possible. In my life Iíve tried to set high expectations for myself and I will continue to do that. But this time these high expectations are about challenging guilt, addressing shame and pulling back goodness into my life, into my spirit. It is possible to make the bad good again.

  • Trigger This, Trigger That

    So I started seeing a therapist. Mind you, that took me about five years from thinking about it, to researching it, to actually making the call/walking in the door. I walked in the door having some goals. I wanted to figure out how to deal with the triggers. You know the things like sounds, smells, actions that bring me back.

    Heres the thing I figured out lately, I get triggered by events in life. Then I go through the process of remembering events in my life brought on by the trigger. Right now, remembering is like doing a round two with a memory but with emotions. See, what I realized is how much I shut off myself to survive. Disassociation I think is what its called. So when I remember events I go through the emotional memory before I can deal with it. It sounds strange, possibly and I hope Iím explaining it properly. In my mind, Iíve forgotten the parts that I couldnít deal with. People cope differently with trauma. I shut off my emotions. I also completely blacked out what I couldnít deal with.

    So once I got used to my therapist, which has taken a session or two to discuss what I was trying to do and some background. I have to laugh, because I think both of us realized Iíve got a lot on my plate the more I dig around. But If I can set goals, meet those goals and figure out healthy ways to deal with my trauma- I think Iíll be okay.

    In past posts, there is some discussion of realizations, events that triggered me. Now I need to figure if there is a pattern. What to do when this happens. Iím not entirely sure what the answers are to those questions.

    Thinking about it the triggers can be very traumatic events or a smell, the way a man moves. Some donít push me into emotional memory. Some like the smell of a certain toothpaste my dad used, donít do anything anymore. I just have a fast moment, get slightly grossed out and move about my day. But there are other times when I get thrown off by an event in life that brings back emotional memory that I forgot about. A good example is being so hurt that no one stood up for us when we were little. I got so hurt and angry about that. It was so hard to separate the outside myself event that triggered this emotional memory, and what was going on inside myself. The two were not the same, but it forced me to make some choices and stand up. On the flip side it took me out and down for about a year really. I went into a dark place. It took a year to get back from it.

    Thats exactly the problem. When life throughs you traumatic reliving of memories long gone then how do you cope through it. Obviously, Iím not so good at this. Partly cause Iím done coping. I want to get over it. Or rather through it. Not walk around carrying anger, hurt and pain. But be able to be happy, free from guilt and shame. Thats really the goal.

    Heres reality though, I know this will not stop. I will continue to remember over the course of my life. Iím good with that. Its okay. Since that means Iím going somewhere. It might not be pretty but it means Iím getting better.
    What I struggle with is figuring out the patterns. I still donít see one. Maybe thats okay for now. Since to me, internally its a series of events that vary greatly. I just donít want to end up losing my mind literally- like while at the bank, one day. You know? I donít want to create more coping mechanisms, since my work is something I use a lot as an excuse not to deal with my crap. I avoid, avoid, avoid. Since Iím getting old here, Iím obviously good at that. Avoiding. But its time to smarten up, really.

    Iím glad to have some help. My therapist is a really nice person who is an amazing listener. So observant and is so good at noticing all the details. Its hard to go to these sessions but I really appreciate all that they bring me. Iím thankful to be able to do this. I just wish I hadnít taken so long to get to this place. The mirror for me is the most important part, so I can see things that I donít want to, so I see the things I donít like, and figure it all out.

    Some days though, I feel so overwhelmed. Like Iíll never get better. Iíll never feel happy again. Other days, I just cry all the time. Iím so emotional but I donít know why. Like a struggle to fight back. I see it as a battle since if I canít get better than my dad won. The system won. I canít let that happen. I canít let them win. I will not be destroyed by my own mind, my own emotions and the trauma of my childhood that was not my choice or my fault. I refuse to be okay with the present state of myself. Iím not a victim. I have survived them. I am not a statistic. I will beat the odds if I have it my way. Because if I donít who will?

    Part of our job, we learned through Native Youth Movement was to be better than the past generation. Be better people, make more solutions and continue the cycle to achieve health on all levels. Thats our responsibility to continue the work of our parents generation to take back, to heal, and make things right. They pushed so much forward on so many levels but we have to continue that work. The generation we raise up must be better than us. Thats our job to raise children better than us. And so the cycle of healing and taking back our power continues from us into the future...

    I set some goals for myself. One is to be okay with the triggers. Which means not thinking so negatively about those moments. Understanding that this is good. But also being cognizant enough to know that I am being triggered by something. Second is to figure out how to deal with the emotional reliving so that it doesnít shut down my life. What are the things I can do to not delve so deep into depression? Are there things Iím not seeing that are preventing me from moving through the emotional memory, like guilt and shame or self blame? Am I able to see the root cause and deal with emotional memory with out tearing myself apart?

    Things have gotten better, I will admit. The first time this happened. I thought I had lost my mind. I couldnít function, eat or sleep. I just laid there remembering. This lasted I think about six months. I was pretty young at the time, 19 maybe. I didnít know what was going on. I just was sad, angry and listless. I didnít have the first clue what to do or what was happening to me. I just couldnít get out of bed. I couldnít stop my mind from going through its own process. I had no control. When it was done, sort of. I was in a lot better place. Granted that took time to get to that place. But I felt good. I realize sometimes you have to take things apart to be able to rebuild them. I think that what my mind did at that time. Rebuild.

    It makes sense though. After all the years of trying to survive a bad situation you develop coping mechanisms. My problem is once I was out of the situation itself, I continued to cope rather then let go. Be okay. Its not just that either. I mean, I went through a time of realizing I wasnít normal, how we grew up was not normal or healthy. So it took a little while longer to settle into myself. Part of that settling though was back to my old habits and not into a better place.

    The biggest difference between then and now. Is I know its okay to feel. Back then my mind decided I was ready to remember. I didnít, at least not consciously. I hope taking away all the fear I have about remembering will help. Maybe this is all an exercise to get to a place where I donít fear what I donít remember. Who knows. I also didnít know that I could reach out and find help back then. I didnít know this was normal to some degree with people that suffer through childhood trauma. I was ashamed of all that I went through, I wasnít good at hiding it either but I tried my best to cover the darkness and the depth of despair I was really in. Which today, I donít want to cover. I think depression, anger and sadness are healthy feelings, because that is our reality for many of us that have been through trauma in our lives. Its how we choose to deal with it.

    See heres the idea, if I can figure out how to make the road smoother when this happens, see it clearly for what it is-emotional memory, then I should be able to handle these times with clarity. Thats kind of what Iím trying to do. Is create a self awareness plan and prepare better. So as my life continues and the memories come back more often, I will be able to deal. It wonít be so scary. Then maybe Iíll have succeeded in taking back myself. I will no longer be afraid of my own mind, and my own memories.

  • Run Run Run Away

    I donít think I told that run-away story-literally. I forgot that its one of the biggest gutsiest things I challenged myself to do. Hereís the thing its about survival not so much teen rebellion. Which I donít much understand running away for the sake of running away. But then again I lived in sheltered world were we strived to be the fittest we could. You know survival of the fittest. So I just donít know about those ďnormalĒ things since we were far from the norm.

    Anyhow, to start somewhere and not wax poetic; at least to me, myself. I honestly thought about the date I ran away from home and I donít remember. I know it had to be summertime. Since I worked full-time at a burger king. Yep, I slung burgers as a profession when I was 14-16years of age. Iíve always worked. At that time though I wasnít 16 for long. It was summer. The weather was great. I guess I must have been brave. I honestly donít remember convincing myself to go. I am sure I was stressed out, nervous and random other feelings.

    We moved from central Alberta to Penticton, BC when I was ten. I remember distinctly driving through the mountains thinking we would fall off the side, spinning until we hit the bottom of mountain, there blowing up; just like the movies. No, Iíd been there before to the mountains. I just didnít like it. Donít get me wrong its beautiful but its not home. Home was the rolling hills and open skies of the great plains. Its all I knew. It was cold winters with sunlight, northern lights in the nightsky as I played outside.

    I donít remember much about leaving from Alberta to BC. I donít remember packing or leaving. That is erased for now. All I know is I didnít have a place when I got to BC. Things were different. We were unsettled. A lot happened in the short five years we spent in the city between the lakes. Distinctly though at the age of ten, I was unhappy-depressed. I hated my life. I wanted it all to end. Everything swirling out of control.

    There was a lot to leave behind. I donít know what happened behind the scenes. But my family waged a war on my sister. She ran away when she was 16 and my parents didnít let her forget. They challenged every step she took to gain her freedom. It was time rife of conflict. It didnít help going thru early adolescence being a brown girl in white world or the fact I had secrets that had to be hidden. It wasnít that I recalled any of the things we went through. I didnít remember then and I still donít now.

    Somewhere in there, my parents got the bright idea to tell me about what my dad had done. Back story, my dad was convicted of sexually abusing my sister. He got probation and counseling. We never got taken away, no one investigated really. He pleaded guilty, and at the time in Alberta no one had done that. I donít know what he told the courts to make them believe it was a one time deal. He basically got away with it, not with out damage to his reputation. But now if you looked him up you would find nothing. His file is sealed, he wonít ever be on the national abuse registry. That doesnít change that there is way more there than what he was originally charged for. Or the fact he was obsessed with my sister- he later stalked her. I guess in someways I should be glad my life was collateral damage in respect to my sisters. At least from what I can remember now. That could change though as the days go by and as I continue to heal my wounds. I could start remembering all the details. Maybe not. I donít know. Part of the big move was getting us and the whole family out of the jurisdiction of Alberta. Into a new system where of course things took more time in the 90ís to catch up to him. They didnít expect my sister to fight back and for her long battle that she won to gain her freedom.

    Anyhow going back to the bright idea, my parents had. One day they sat me down and explained, well he explained how he had abused my sister. I really donít understand to this day why they thought it would be a good idea to tell me details of his sexual abuse. I know some details of the things he said he did. I just remember being angry. If anything I think I left the moment for awhile. You tuned him out. I donít remember the term its called, disassociation maybe. I still do that to some degree but now its changed- I can turn emotions on and off. Maybe telling me had to do with legal issues, or a twelve step kinda idea to make amends. I really donít know. It was one of the most awkward and ugly experiences in my life. Especially since my mom sat there, her sitting there was defending his actions. I think though it just broke my heart in pieces. Shattering anything left that I clung too. I searched for something to keep me okay. To survive them.

    It was a time that I ran. I ran out my pain everyday. I ran until till I couldnít feel anymore. Till my body ached, till my lungs screamed. Then I went home. I spent most of my time back then in my own world creating. I read whatever I could get my hands on. I painted. I wrote poetry. Studied art. Dived fully into architecture. I explored the creative part of myself. Fashion design was a passion. I was so introverted but such wealth of bottomless potential. This time I wrote the darkest I ever had in life. The creation exploration was what saved me from myself. From the deepest darkest depression I think I have ever suffered in my life.

    Part of it, was I really wanted to leave for a long time. Since I was ten, I tried to figure out how I could walk over the mountains back to the homelands. I planned it for so long. I would spend hours looking for a way over those hills-gazing at them. The idea though never left me. I watched my sister battle my parents for her freedom. I admired her will, strength that she never gave them an inch. They played such games, with her and the whole community. But the greatest gift she gave was the idea. It was legal. I didnít have stay there once I was 16. They couldnít make me go home.

    So the idea didnít die. It lay dormant for a few years. I did sneak out with my friends. My greatest escape back then was hanging out with my ďhippyĒ artsy friends. Smoking as much weed as I could. I laugh about it still, since my mom used to tell me I smelled good. We ran around having fun being young. The high helped me cope, it helped me forget and took the edge off the anger, despair and depression.

    In the time I had worked slinging burgers, I figured it out. I had accumulated a few years of up-paid vacation pay, plus my last pay check. I had saved up as much as I could. I slowly packed up what I figured I would take with me. I packed into a bag and threw it out the window. I bought a bus ticket. Looking back I think I had close to three grand in my pocket aka my bank when I left. I wasnít coming back.

    Said my good-byes to friends. In my good-buys, my best friends mom caught me. Threatening to tell my parents. That was one of the first times I had to explain how bad things were at home, what I was running from and where I was going. I lucked out she didnít call my parents at least until after I left. I still feel bad leaving my friends in a position knowing where I was going. That was shitty of me to do.

    One of my happy memories in the weeks before I left, was cutting my hair. It hung down my back long. It also held all my sadness. We got high- my friends and I. We took clippers and shaved it all off. I looked like the Indian curious George. It was the most liberating acts I think Iíve done. I think it was funny since we cut a line straight down the middle of my head. My hair looked like ears. We laughed our guts out.

    I somehow got on the bus. I donít actually remember the journey to bus station or being on the bus itself until I got to Calgary. I figure I must have been high out of my face. Since one of my going away gifts was a enormous bag of weed. I smoked at every stop.

    Honestly, Iím glad I was high. It took the edge off being scared. I was. It was my great escape. Little did I know that my parents would catch up with me in Calgary. I had a few hours lay-over. I sat in the cafe high out of my face. Then out of no where showed my aunt and uncle who lived in Calgary. I wasnít close to them. They were considered the black sheep to some degree. My aunt was adopted like me. Native too. She sat there and talked to me about her thoughts of her family. What it meant to be adopted. That was a really kind thing to do. A moment I guess. Then my parents walked in with cops. I guess being high, I donít have the best recollection of what was said. But I was let go. I left. Somehow, I found the resolve to get on the bus. I donít remember if I was sad, angry or what I felt. Looking back, I donít know how I found the resolve to leave them behind and not give into the guilt, tears and the whole show they put on. I know they loved me. But most of the games they played to maintain I was a pawn in the middle of their game. It felt good to get out of the game. Freedom was calling.

    I arrived in Winnipeg to my sister waiting for me at the bus station. I made it out of there. I donít know what I would done with out her. She was truly the one who raised me and made me a better person. She taught me to never give up. We went to her house in Transcona. It was my first time in Winnipeg. I remember being tired. So tired but tired with relief. The knowledge I was gone now. It was time to make something new of myself.

    We lived, we survived and I am thankful for her believing in me, backing me up to social workers, and never giving up on me. What would I have done with out her? Where would I be? Who would I be.

  • Apology?

    There are many adoptees from many generations using law suits, media, social media to move for a government apology. Just in the last few days Iíve seen media reporting from Manitoba talking about the ďStolen Generations.Ē I support the work that they are doing. For this helps acknowledge and bring to light the ďstolen generationsĒ and the ďgiveawaybabiesĒ which I am the later.

    I think of all the many adoptees Iíve met. Many had the worst kind of stories about abuse, failed adoptions ongoing foster family crisis and the list goes on. There are so many things that are familiar about us; the issues and baggage we carry from being through this process. On the other hand many had ďgoodĒ experiences being adopted, but all had the common thread of deep disconnection and dispossession from who they are.

    From a policy perspective, we know the federal government created a transfer act that moved child social welfare to the provincial level. This also allowed for monies to be transferred per child that was taken into state or provincial care. Policy changes by the federal and provincial government have deep roots in the societal issues our communities face now. Taking into consideration the broad, deep, mired range of injustices that have been inflicted on our people to create present day Canada this can only equal genocide.

    I want to be clear this is my perspective-period. I donít speak for anyone but what is on my mind given many years of thinking about this issue and trying to be a better person.

    I donít want an apology.
    There I said it.

    I want change. Change that is transitional that gets our people from one place to the next. That helps take away the dependence on systems that donít work for us.

    This system has failed. Failed over and over.

    Having said that, I acknowledge there is great work being done out there in terms of ďtaking backĒ First Nations child welfare. I havenít done enough research myself to know the full circle of work. But what I want to challenge is the take over of services and replication of services in place the right answer? I would argue no. A friends mom was one of the founders of a First Nations child welfare organization. There were good people involved with good intentions and hearts. The challenge was the state of our people. The influence of messy politics. The need for more. I could make a list but I wonít. What I will say is that I greatly admire those that are in this work from their heart. Zoongiday Anishinabe. I know that our people are sick from the past and all its ugly trauma. So sometimes this systematic change feels like it is failing our children. There are many cases in very recent times that prove this point. Even when we ďtake backĒ or self govern we canít fix the problems with the state of our communities.

    I really promise I am not trying to hate on those that are working within the system making systematic changes, being the best social workers ever and trying to create political will. I am with you 100% because I know it will take work to change to something better.

    Here is my problem with this process though. I think and believe that systematic change is only as good as the system itself. If we take time to acknowledge how we got here presently, we know that the systems themselves have been created on ideals of inherent racism and those systems facilitated acts of genocide. So no matter how we change them that inherent racism will always be there and at the end of the day it is a system not based on our way of being. The other part is when we take over a system, we take the good and the bad.

    Iíve read and studied about many communities creating models for themselves based on their history, culture and ways of being. Taking back something should be modeled on the best practice we have of ourselves. I hope that every community has the political will, cultural knowledge and good people to make this happen.

    The problem though with the take over process is that we still have to placate to government standards, ideals, and practices. Which I know is changing depending on which part of indian lands we are talking about. It leaves this paternalist taste in my mouth in terms of leaving a system behind that has destroyed the fabric of many communities, and governing systems -the family.

    The residential schools, churches, missions attacked our way of life. A key aspect of who we are is the family unit. The strategy of the state through itís policies, practices, legislation, and acts that broke down our family system to me says it all. It was rather brilliant of them to see that our families were the very fabric of our lives and our children the future. So brilliant that not much has changed. In some provinces and territories of the state of Canada; we have the highest numbers of children in care. I read once that there are more children in care today than ever attended residential school. That says the state of the union for us as First Nations people. We are in drastic trouble.

    Which makes me ever thankful for Cindy Blackstock and others like her. Bringing awareness to these children in care and the horrors of the system theyíve faced. Building political will for these children, speaking for them, fighting for them. Helping take down the system even when the system attacks back. Standing strong for the children present day.

    This I guess for me is why I donít want an apology. There are still so many children in care. So many adopted out. I want to see real change lead by our people -those Zoongiday Anishinabe. I know I donít have any real answers as an individual because Iím an individual. Real change is collective.

    I know alot of people wont agree with me and thats great. Debate is needed in order to figure out how to take back our selves, our communities and re-build families. We need solutions that our our solutions not embedded into a system failure. Long term visionaries, healers, and those that will build are going to lead us.

    While I understand apologies are important for governments to acknowledge publicly, and on the record that they made a mistake. Its really not enough, and honestly it just feels like to little too late considering the state of our children. I think that recognition of this moment that spanned more than three decades of forced removal is really important.

    Can we take a minute to acknowledge the process of apology with residential school survivors? Can we examine what really helped and what was bandaid at best in terms of solutions and healing? Vast monies for compensation was that really effective in righting wrongs?

    I donít want to hate on the residential school apology, I want to examine it to really understand what apology means. What healing means to us. Not for the government or past government policies. The damages have been done to many of us. Some may never recover. Does an apology or compensation make up for that?

    For me its about creating a moment in our communities to examine the problems we have and really create solutions. Maybe this apology will bring forward more stories and help adoptees heal. Thats important and to me more important than some head of state making a speech.

    What will mean more is this government making an apology that guarantees healthy futures for our children. That Cindy Blackstock and the work she is doing is listened to, engaged on and enacted. That there are no more First Nations children that die, experience abuse, and neglect in that child welfare system. That we will take back our children. Even if we donít have perfect intact families, that we will commit to getting there ourselves with or without a system in place. We take that back as individuals, relatives, community members and nations.

  • Messages from the Heart

    In the last few years Iíve made it my mission to be more healthy. I gained 20-30 pounds the last year I was living in Alberta. I had a major gut that just didnít make me happy. I started thinking about diet, health and diabetes, mainly. In the last few years, Iíve tried my best to really change my diet. When I was living in SK and AB I could get bison meat or buffalo. I would try and eat that as my main food. I quit sugar except in natural forms. Quit greasy food and junk food. For the most part. I lost the gut and probably 25 pounds in the process. I started running again. It was a really great time in my life to feel strong and healthy.

    Iíve let that slide here and there. Mainly due to the stress of poverty. It isnít easy to eat really healthy if your arenít a farmer, rancher or have some serious cash flow for organic food. I watch my weight and gut increase as I ate what I could afford. A big part of that is the stress of having to worry about where and when the next bit of money would come in. How to pay the bills and when in my case to pack up to leave. All combined I realized I just live very unhealthy in general.

    This past year I made a commitment to help myself. That includes looking after my health. Finding a place to live. A stable job and so on. In terms of my health its been years since I put myself through the usual bi-annual series of test I used to. Like iron, diabetes, cholesterol, and the list goes on. Iím one of those people that would rather know if something is not right and how, if I need to; fix it.

    So here we are. Iím got a place to live in Ottawa. That was a first. I got some income for a little while-that stress never seems to go away. I survive. But I did go out and go see some doctors for the usual tests. In the process they started asking about family history and that sort of thing.

    To make a long story short- we have heart problems in a big way on my dadís side of the family. I found through doing some research that heart disease is harder to detect in women. Also that most of my uncles have had or should have had triple bi-pass surgery. That is scary. My dad has a severely enlarged heart, several strokes, and other heart related conditions. This has impacted his life in a major way. I got me thinking about what I can do to be pro-active. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

    Iíve had a full organ ultra-sound and now an EKG. From the sounds of it thats just the beginning. Iím lucky to have gotten a doctor that used to live in SK. Heís pretty knowledgeable about the heart and First Nations. He mentioned there is a test for Cree people and heart problems, he said its very common this problem but that there is specific things I can do to be pro-active. More exercise, no smoking and well more exercise. 20-30 mins a day to be exact.

    So I guess I needed a good reminder. But what all this heart stuff brought up is how heart disease robbed me of my chance to meet my grandfather on my dadís side. He died of a massive coronary before I could make it home to meet my family. Due to being adopted out if you didnít know already. Both my parents have serious health conditions. It just makes me angry and well really really sad. Since my parents arenít pro-active when it comes to their health. They are the old school types that ďwalk it off!Ē Which I totally get and do the same thing. But my dad has 8 children and my mom has 5. It has been like pulling teeth to get a real picture of were their health really is. Iím the oldest daughter of both of my parents so part of my role is be there to support my parents. It just feels so unfair that neither thought about the impact their lives have on their children. I know my dadís condition means he could leave at any time. My mom Iím not so sure about. But either way its just not fun knowing that my brothers, and sisters will lose their minds when they leave. Not to mention the impact on my extended family. All because they made the choices they did.

    Those choices are steeped in a number of things. Family culture, impacts of abuse, residential school and so many other factors. I wonder though when we talk about the seventh generation and making change if that means rethinking our relationships to our physical bodies?

    Its really hard to watch your relatives be sick and not be able to do anything about it. Whether they suffer in silence or are in and out of hospitals. Either way, I know healing is not just about the physical body its about the whole. There is a big part of me that is angry and hurt that my relatives didnít make better choices, that they didnít take care of themselves. I know for the most part its not their fault. Its many things. When society tells you through systematic racism and its beaten literally into you- that you are worth less than others because of who you are; then taking care of your health then becomes about self love and self-esteem. Maybe in other ways its about being quiet, respectful, humble and accepting of the circumstance you are in. Many elders I know including my kokum are this way. I know Iím not embodying what they are like with my words but Iím hoping you get the drift. Its just most of the ones who are now gone didnít ever complain, they didnít ask for help, they accepted their circumstance with dignity. But it still frustrates me to no end. Why is okay and acceptable to ďsuffer in silence?Ē

    I guess I just feel sad that I never got the chance to meet my grandfather. Iím angry that so many of my relatives are sick especially with heart related problems. Especially since there is not much I can do for them myself. Then it becomes what I can do for myself? What can I learn from them?

    I really want simple things. Most off to be happy. I want to be healthy for as long as I can. I want to be a grumpy old lady one day who bosses around her grandkids. I donít want to have to deal with serious illnesses at such a young age like my dad- who is in his early early fifties. I want to be like those old people that are kick-ass and who quietly out pace the youth. Many these goals sound dumb or silly. But its really simple to me. Being healthy and health aware of your physical body is preparing for the future as NYM used to talk about back in the day. How are we supposed to be good elders, teachers, parents and relatives if the ones we love are sad and worried about our health?

    Heres to my heart, because as a physical part of me; it maybe diseased or not. I can prevent some of that by diet, exercise and well quitting smoking (which I am NOT ready to even talk about so donít ask me yet.). But as a spiritual being, its about healing my heart, allowing time to be sad, angry and thoughtful about the things going on in my life so that I can learn, take action and hopefully be better.

  • Great Cleansing

    So heres my thoughts lately. Good news: Seeing a therapist was a really big step. That being said, Iím really happy I did it. It feels nice to have someone that is objective and non-judgy to talk about the things I really need to address. Also its really helped me feel on track and not crazy. Cause somedays I get to the point where I question absolutely everything and think, ďOh, my god-Iím losing my mind.Ē So thats a nice added bonus to know Iím not crazy and maybe Iím heading in the right direction.

    My past few weeks were thinking about the winter. In my mind its time of great cleansing. Where the energy of this season changes everything around us. Its time that is hard in many different ways since cleansing is not always gentle. It brings out sickness and sometimes its when people walk on to leave this world. It makes me think too of those facing emotion and mental issues, how depression and other season impacts can worse already difficult situations. Not even considering the holidays and peoples perceptions of them. Myself included in that. But It also really makes me think about the night. How nighttime has a different feeling. A different energy when most of the world is sleeping. I think of winter in the same way and I like it. Challenges and all.

    I think this winter my goal is capitalize on the great cleansing internally, really dig out what I can and let go. Spring will be here soon so I know theres not much time to really really figure out everything. But thats not the point. I realize in my life there are times when it is right to be safe enough to let go. I think now is one of those times.

    Currently Iím really happy with the progress Iím making through therapy. Its really exciting and Iím kind of kicking myself for not doing it sooner. But at the same time I want to be really honest. To say, Iím been really trying not fall back into bad habits. Like using work as an excuse not deal with my own crap. Being okay to step back some. Which is like a holiday in the world of organizing to some degree. But I think now, clearly that if I donít take on more and focus on doing a good job on what I have to do then it will be better quality. I realize how much me not dealing with my own crap impacts how good the quality of my work really is. How I interact with people, how I am all around. I let that side for way to long and that really sucks to know, I shouldíve stepped back some years ago. But hindsight is always 20/20, right?

    The one thing I havenít been good at is really being able to be 100% present in social situations. I really forced myself to participate over christmas in activities instead of staying home on my couch, which I have to say Iím really thankful to have a couch. But the point is Iím still not sociable right now. I donít really know why. Maybe its being in a new community and not really truly knowing people. I think a big part of it, is that my life has been so transient for so long, I donít know how to be a good ďnewĒ kid on the block. I want to be clear though, I came to this city not for a political career but to help myself for a little while. Iím not sure ever when I go somewhere how long Iíll be there for. Its slightly troubling since I never know in year where Iíll be living. But Iím glad to be here. I struggle being here since I really donít know alot of people and being non-sociable makes things more challenging to really participate in things. The one thing thats brought me some comfort in my lonely hours here in this city, is making offerings. Iím shy to even do that publicly. Its a really private thing. But I did go out to the water around here and put down some tobacco to just tell the ancestors and the helpers why Iím here, what my intentions are, to say thanks for letting me be here and to ask them to help me get better. As dumb as that sounds its a comfort. Cause many times I do my little offerings but not full on ceremonies or stuff like that since everywhere you go things are different. Protocol is different. I like to be careful. That said, Iím still not sure whats okay and whats not 100% so my difference is to go make an offering until I can get myself situated.

    In the theme of late nite confession hour, I have to be honest. It was hard the other day. I went to the pow wow here in the city for new years. It was nice but I really forced myself to go. I was so uncomfortable the whole time. I really donít know why. But that was that. I did it though to put on my dress which I havenít had the opportunity to do so and rarely do I ever get to dance. Iím not once of those professional pow wow people so I donít have fancy beadwork or super pretty dresses. But I have what makes me eternally happy. Which is my dress. I have to say though after a long period of not putting it on its a challenge. Over the years I used my dresses when I was in the deep rows of depression. Its a private thing I do when Iím sad or hurting. I dance in my house and let it all out. Which probably would look crazy to see some woman dancing around in her house crying around. But it really really helps. I really believe those dresses are for healing and that dress has snapped me out of some really dark places. The challenge at this little pow wow was not to cry around, especially in front of people. That woulda been something for sure. I like to pray when I dance. I like the feeling I have when I dance that Iím free. Its liberating. Its beautiful and fun. So at that moment I decided to think about all my favorite people. To pray for good things for them. It was a good moment. Funny to have a deep moment with yourself in front of people you donít really know.

    So here things are. Iím feeling better and hopeful that I can do this. I think Iím slowly climbing out of a deep state of depression. Its been along journey and tough battle to really really pull out what the root causes are. I think moving forward my biggest challenge now is to look back and figure out what causes these depression moments or what people like to say triggers them. I look at it this way, if I can figure out what sets it off, then how I deal with what comes up from the past then maybe I can figure out how to deal with things better. So each time I get triggered or start remembering the ugliness of the past I will be better equipped to figure it out and wont end up in nine months of darkness. Heres to hoping. Heres to fighting back. Bring on the spring. (Since I really am not good at being cold!)

  • First Takedown

    So a big part of what Iíve been thinking about for the last few months was what was lost. It was slightly overwhelming. I had a few realizations, other times it was just all out depressing. Hence my state of being.

    So in looking back I forgot about how creative I was as a little girl. You know its those moments that you remember a different part of yourself that maybe dormant. One of the things that I clearly remember when I was little was how I loved to sing. I loved it. It was the biggest part of my creative little self. I remember learning about music composition and other things. That had me creating songs and tunes when I was probably between 5-10 years old. Its a part of me that is long lost. Overshadowed by the need of parents to parade me around as their ďtalentedĒ daughter. I held alot of negativity towards that time in my life for alot of reasons. Mainly just because it was a ďthemĒ thing. I held that part and left the rest behind.

    It makes me sad to have forgotten my song writing little self. Maybe I had talent, maybe not. Who knows. The point is not about my skill- it about taking back the good. Making the bad good, so to speak.

    I realize a big part of my anti-social or whatever you want to call it behavior has alot to do with my voice. I lost my voice. It happened over time through a series of events too long to list here. Once a long time ago my voice was my joy of being. It was the direct line to what I understood at the time as god. It saved me. Now I had let that go.

    Heres my plan. I want to take back what Iíve lost. I want my power back. If my voice was my childhood joy, then anti-social or not Iím going to work to get that part of me back. There thats my empowering statement of the day. Epic speech to self.

    The challenge is many things. I hate attention, I donít like crowds. I only sing karoke for a select few people in my life because I love them. So on paper getting my little voice back is easier than it sounds. Iím not ready to sing in public or perform and perhaps never will. At best Iím the greatest sweat singer ever, since my theory is the ancestors donít mind if Iím slightly off or tone deaf. The shower is another stage Iíve reserved performances for. But honestly this challenge is not one that is going to be easy. But I figure singing is only the tip of the iceberg if I can win this then maybe I win my battle for myself. Good-bye to the ugly and empower the beauty.

    Here is a link to my first recording, its really shaky and a depressing song. But this was the easiest way to meet my own challenge without people!

    https://soundcloud.com/heather-milton-lightening/like-a-stone

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