• Just Be There

    Dealing with trauma is not fun. Its exhausting. Its one of the most painful experiences to relive all the horrors of past trauma just so you can let go, deal with it and be free. Somedays I thought I would die from the pain. I couldnít go on. Never mind explain to someone what was going on. Its not like I could say ďIím fineĒ or ďits okayĒ because that wasnít the case. I would feel isolated by others just because I knew they didnít have my experience of trauma. Maybe they had good childhoods or were raised in good homes. Whatever it was I know fully that some people could empathize or sympathize but they couldnít fully understand. It was those moments that I just closed myself off. Cause how do you explain something that makes you raw, emotionally drained and that you donít fully understand yourself?

    I realize though throughout these past few years, that I'm not alone. I have a common experience with many. From many places. Childhood trauma is sadly not an unusual thing. Especially when our generation is the first to have not attended residential school. We are coated in the residual of it. We are the survivors of the survivors. I think about my five closest sister friends, everyone of us has been sexually abused, assaulted, raped or all of the above. Not to mention neglect, physical and emotional abuse. It is somewhat staggering to think about what our generation faces in these terms. But statistically the truth is harsh.

    However, living in my world means being connected to many people who live outside the boundaries of our communities and collective understanding. Through the work, through school. Through many places of intersection. Through organizing together. There are so many places and spaces.

    The challenge then becomes how do I articulate that I just canít be here right now? That I canít organize or be apart of the work. My body, mind and spirit have decided I must heal, whether I like it or not. How do you explain I am going through something that is a common experience that many of us carry and deal with in our lives as this first generation who didnít attend residential schools. How its systematic racism that has become internalized and cyclical in our communities. That if I donít deal with it, I wonít stop it from continuing. I wonít be a good relative and that I failed my people but more than that failed my responsibility. How to articulate what Iím going through was a direct result of federal indian policy and IS a part of the continued colonial regime that seeks to profit from our lands? That there is no separation between the social, political and economic even in my very personal life, and healing.

    Its so challenging, because I donít want to be a victim. Iím not asking for sympathy. I know you probably canít understand. Thats okay. Iím not asking you to understand. I just want to be heard. The greatest response is just to be present. To listen. That is all.

    Somedays, its hard to talk about it. Cause if the pain makes me want to die or give up; imagine what thatís like to try and articulate to someone else? The other part is there is such a stigma on healing in our society at large. It can be seen as weakness, or sometimes ďwhy donít you get over it- its in the past,Ē which I wish it was that simple. I want to ďget over itĒ but I canít right now. I have to work it out. It can be some embarrassing to be in that place. To not be ďhigh-functioningĒ and maintaining some sort of normalcy. Thats though how I used to run from it, is maintaining and pretending everything was okay. That made me a mean, angry and ugly person.

    However if Iím letting you know Iím dealing with this, its because you mean something to me and I want you to know Iím not shutting you out. I need time to get through this. I need you to hear me and just be there. Itís hard for me talk to you about it because I feel ashamed and embarrassed by my own trauma at times. I often wonder whats wrong with me and I hope you wonít look down on me or judge me. I feel crazy sometimes. I feel like my world is falling apart. Its scary to talk about that with people that donít have the same experience or have had trauma in their lives. Since there is always the risk you will think Iím a victim or that Iím less than, or not normal.

    The reason I wanted to articulate this, is I realize that Iím not alone. That my own healing is what many of my friends and people closest to me are going through too. That we need to be able to support each other and help articulate these experiences to the outside world -to our own families, partners and love ones. That these are hard conversations to have with ourselves not to mention you, who may not have the same experience. But we want you to hear us, and just be. Not put us in the victim category because it takes a strong person to face our greatest fears. Not to disengage from us because we are dealing with something you canít understand. Just give us time and patience that we will talk about it when we are ready or not. That we will continue to work, organize and be there when we are ready too. That we are not broken but learning to make ourselves better people.

    Healing is not an easy thing. There isnít a roadmap that is laid out for everyone. Iíve realized that therapy helps me apply an approach for living day to day life. Its helped me work out how to deal when I get triggered. Ceremony on the other hand has helped take the raw of the pain out of my soul. It provided a safe space to let go. Where it was and is okay to hurt out loud. There is no judgement there. Combined I donít know if I couldíve survived without both. It only took me a decade to figure that out. But its a process, a road as some have metaphorically called it.

    I just really felt the need today to write about this. Especially since a brother of mine is dealing with his pain, his trauma and his fears. He needs support. I hope that as we un-ravel colonization in our lives and our communities that we can be there for each other. That we can share what has helped us deal. That we can create worlds were healing on deep level is a good and accepted thing. That stigma wonít exist. We will get better and one day we wonít need to heal anymore because the problem doesnít exist. We have defeated it and won.

  • One

    So another bit of thoughts to think about or digest like a good meal. Like a turkey-coma people call it! Ha. Maybe not. Either way as you might know, Iíve been trying to write thoughts or ideas, as they come to me because it helps. Here is the ongoing theme: healing from childhood trauma and really trying to understand or rather live like a ďgood relative.Ē Yes, Iím so learning right now, or rather un-learning, dissecting the negative to make into good. We can do that. Anyhow I wanted to share some thoughts that have brewed for a few days. So here goes.

    If youíve read my other blog posts youíll know that Iím examining my past and all the good, all the bad that comes with it. There are so many layers there. I came to a realization pretty early on that when I remember the past, its not so much the physical memory of I did this or that; it is the emotions of the memory that I relive. The first time this happened it felt as if the world had ended, the place I went to was dark, I thought I wouldnít survive. I did. Now its more about understanding, being okay with and managing to being a functional human being when I remember. I havenít completely figured this out yet. But its getting easier. I donít feel like I want to die or disappear into myself anymore. These moments become clear as moments that I need to pull out and feel completely, then they donít hurt anymore.

    Its just weeks like this though that Iím not sure anymore. See it is like I opened pandoraís box when I let my emotions out to relive these memories so they donít control me, I am not afraid, and I can let go. What I didnít realize that after a long time of not feeling in such a deep way opened these emotions. Like today, I feel things so deeply. Whatever is said, whatever I hear, see, smell. I feel.

    It is frustrating. To feel everything. Even if its not mine. Or if it is to be able to pin point what or where these deep feelings are coming from. Then I remembered being a small child and being this way. Feeling deeply around me. Feeling others as if what they were carrying was my own. I think somewhere I pushed that away cause I couldnít handle to feel my own and others. It overwhelmed me as a child, it was as though I knew people around me even if I didnít want to. In some ways it could be horrifying to see clearly like that. Then when I grew up in order to survive my family, the situation, I didnít feel anymore. I pushed everything away. I survived. I forgot. I moved on into life.

    Knowing though that maybe that was gift to be able to feel others in a deep way makes me wonder now if I shouldnít be ashamed of my feelings. Ashamed of emotions. Since Iíve associated that with weakness. Maybe it is the reverse. The feelings will make me stronger, better, more understanding and kind. They will bring the goodness back, maybe that is the very core of making the ďgood bad.Ē Is to pull the sadness out. They talk about the role of sacred clowns in our ceremonies; make them laugh so they arenít paying attention, then they arenít looking take the sickness away to place where it canít hurt anyone. If that is so, then maybe gifts are gifts right. I know our people teach us to dig deeper, think with your heart not your mind. Awaken your spirit. If so, my spirit is an emotional wreck! Okay maybe not. Its just hard to concentrate when all I can do is feel. Iíve been trying to use music to pull the feelings out, drawing, writing, running. Whatever I can so I can still exist in a ďnormalizedĒ world that doesnít think outside the box. Its okay though. To be here inside that box that society makes. Iím not quite ready to be ďfeelingí the world yet. One day soon I hope all things will fall into balance. I can hug the little girl inside who is so hurt and she wonít hurt anymore. We will be one. Ready to give back to the world. Make the bad good again.

  • Transparent Me

    Positionally or transparency? Both some big-ass words, I know. I think from my own perspective, since these writings are my own words and thoughts; mean understanding who you are, what your privilege is and how you fit into the world or were you stand in the world. This is not a stagnant thing, but hopefully as time goes by and lessons are learned continues to change- the position or place that you stand in. Maybe you could say identity. But I think it is more than that. Its for me being really, really real about myself. Not creating a myth about how great I am but understanding my flaws and mistakes, even misunderstandings about myself put me in a certain place. Okay, so maybe Iím not making a whole lot of sense yet. Let me try and unpack this (as many facilitators I know like to say!)- Ha.

    So first off I want to be honest and say this past two years have been about looking inward. Facing my fears and trying to figure things out. A big part of this process has been me being uncomfortable. You know. Questioning and being critical about myself. I hope in a good way. But lets be real I have a long way to go. I canít say Iím a kinder, more loving person yet. I havenít quite mastered being okay with who I am.

    So heres a part of this that Iíve been wrestling with for the past while. Is questioning how I see the world, why I see it that way and if thatís a good thing. When thinking deeply about positionality or where I stand, I look at my own privileges. Because in the scheme of things I do have privilege. Thats a first thing to think about. What do I have that others donít and that I may take for granted.

    Part of that is understanding what privileges I have from the way I was raised. Do I have opportunities that other didnít or donít because of being adopted by ďwhite peopleĒ or non-native folks. What does that even mean? Its a hard one for me to think about since sometimes I can only see the disfunction I have from my childhood. So Iím still pondering this.

    Its looking at my position in life relating to my work. One of the things Iíve been thinking about is this idea of change. Not remaining stagnant or replicating awful behaviour. The other part of this is thinking about whether or not I need to be a part of this grand movement for change in the same way. We talk about impacted communities and people speaking for themselves. So if that is the case and the direction that we have agreed to move in. I donít think I should be in the place I am. I have been trying for the most part to take steps back from organizing work. At this point though I donít know that it makes sense to come back. Since Iím not the one that should be ďthe voiceĒ or any voice for that matter since Iím not from an impacted community. If I am to be really real about it, I have little to no connection to my own community. I wasnít raised there and Iím not sure our family is really welcome there. No one is welcoming me or saying you should come home atleast to the rez where we are registered at as far the Indian Act is concerned. So where does that place me? Where do I belong? In terms of the larger movement for change and in terms of the work?

    Iíve thought a lot about home over the years and I keep trying to move back to Saskatchewan. But for some reason things never quite work out or maybe i just didnít try hard enough. Home is an idea that for me is more about being close the land that makes me feel loved and accepted. Its not really about the rez. Since honestly the rez is the rez. For me its not a home, its a forced construct that has been imposed on our people. I donít know if Iíd ever really feel at home in that place. But since Iíve never lived there I guess its all me being an outsider who is making assumptions and being 100% honest about that.

    In terms of accountability its not easy. Since there are people in my life who I am accountable to in many shapes or forms. Its funny since this one memory popped up tonight as I was thinking about all this. I was facilitating a meeting and I offended a dear close friend. She left the meeting without telling me I had offended her. It was awful. On my part it was not a cool thing. So I went to see her that nite and talk to her. Sort things out and apologize for being a jerk. However later in the day before I could go talk to her, her family members slammed me pretty hard on facebook. It was one of those moments where I realized that people i know really donít like me, donít respect me or the work that I do. Honestly they were very blunt about how much of a hypocrite I was. It was a very good thing-their honesty. At the time it hurt and kinda broke my heart. It made me feel super shitty for a long time. But it forced me to question myself. To think about who I am. Really whether or not I was a good person or did any good in this world by the means I was using. This moment in someways stayed with me since I have a bad habit sometimes of deeply internalizing peopleís criticism of me. In other ways its really nice that they did that. Since they were honest with me. I appreciate that. I think it is good to be put in your place when you make mistakes. But what I wonder if Iíve been making years worth of mistakes and no oneís told me otherwise. Which means I really need to dig deep and critically think about when Iíve made mistakes and own them. I donít think Iíve done a good enough job in doing that. It is one of the things I hope to change.

    In terms of where I stand in this world. It means knowing what ďIndian PrivilegeĒ is. What that concept implies and whether or not I fit in this category. I think sometimes its how the concept of class exists in our communities based on who is grassroots and who is not. It maybe about who has access to resources like money, like a job, even a home. It maybe about who has a voice, who is heard or seen. It maybe about who benefits from the systems at be whether government, institutions, ect. I think though its about how we understand power in our own communities.

    I think that I am privileged in someways and in others I am truly alone. Iím not really sure where I sit. Sometimes in these moments where Iím thinking about these things, I wish someone could just tell me and be honest. Even if it hurts or whatever. Other times I push these thoughts away from myself.

    Its funny how being at school and engulfed by academia has really transformed my brain to think about my own privilege. It kinda was a ongoing thing for the past while before I got into school, but school has somehow made it okay to think about it. Strange right, I think its because I really need to understand who I am, what I bring, and what privilege I have in terms of research, and doing work back home. Its challenging. Since being transparent means saying to myself, Iím not from the community that my dad is from. I wasnít raised by my family. I have a deep disconnection to community. Its funny since we talked about being objective in research. One of the people that read my research plans that I submitted to get into school talked about whether or not I could be objective if I was working with my family and back home. (Sidenote, I think of back home as the great plains since that is where I feel alive, its not the rez-fyi). I thought to myself If I need to be objective and defend that sometime in the near future; maybe its about being honest that Iím from there but not from there. Does that make sense?

    The thoughts that keep me up late at nite are about change, decolonization and assimilation. Honestly. I think about these concepts in terms of where we are as people. Where I am and my family is at. I worked on some writing last term about the Indian Act, and federal indian housing policy. It really forced me to relook at history in terms of pre-Canada policy. It really threw me through a loop. It wasnít so much the history itself, since really I know all of this stuff. It was about how blatantly racist the schools of thought were in Europe at the time. It kinda blew my mind that this was considered fact. It really made question the Indian Act. The question I canít seem to wrap my brain around is this- Did the Indian Act work? Its sole purpose was to ďcivilizeĒ or assimilate our people into Canadian society. Part of me really thinks it worked. The other part believes in my soul that sovereignty still lives and breathes in our people. Its these moments where I know at the end of the day it doesnít really matter what I think. Since Iím a part of something greater than myself. But I do really think critically about things like assimilation and decolonization. Because looking at myself means looking at the world around me. Trying to understand where I need to be, what will be healthy for me and how to do my part to make the world better. Since that is my responsibility.

    For now, Iíve decided that I need to change my focus. I put way too much time into work and not into ceremonies. I should be reversing that. As Iíve gotten older Iíve gained responsibility, and thatís been hard to swallow and it still is everyday. I am still in a place of being uncomfortable with myself and part of that is accepting the responsibilities as a honor. Not falling into this strange place were I feel like I donít deserve these honours. That I don't feel good enough. Rather to be humble to learn more, be confident to say I donít know. I just sometimes feel like a little kid even though Iím in the middle of life. I think its mainly because I wasnít raised in ceremony. I ended up here when I was a teenager and Iíve always felt I missed out on so much not being raised like others I know. Its so challenging to try and undo all the ďwhiteĒ habits that are deeply ingrained in me from the adoption process. I canít blame my adoption though for being a selfish person or one that doesnít know how to be kind or loving. I only have myself to blame.

    So I guess that might be a lot to read. Iíve been carrying this around for the last couple months and it weights on my brain but really on my heart. I donít know if I can forgive myself for not being better faster. For not seeing my own privilege and being able to step out of places where I donít belong. Its a learning curve for now. I hope that soon Iíll be able to settle into a place that I feel good about everything. Not stagnant since that is not useful. But a place that is happy and the same time constantly becoming a better person by learning more, undoing more and re-building. Its kinda funny since I hope through school and I can learn to re-build. I mean that in the sense of building solutions from a place of love, kindness and probably not objectivity!

  • Anti-social ME

    Okay, so I have been meaning to write for awhile. I felt the itch and scratch somewhere in my brain. What I couldnít figure out was about what? Then a small series of events happened. Not bad. They just happened.

    So heres the first thing I need to confess. I have bad days sometimes. Like this October, I got randomly triggered by a book I read. Then things came crashing down around me. The good part was it only lasted two weeks. I still managed to be a high functioning member of society. I wasnít completely drawn into that dark place I sometimes go. That was a big deal. Because A.) It means Iím learning to cope better when these things happen and B.) Its not as scary as I once thought-meaning I wasnít going to be locked into a super depression that felt never ending. So thats good news! Yay.

    In the time or rather over the last couple years as this has become an ongoing thing, Iíve drawn into myself. For a couple reasons. I donít want people close to me to have to deal with me when things are not great. Its my problem, its my past, and its my healing. I just donít want to burden someone with all that Iím going through. Its so painful in the moment for me. Why would you want to share that with someone? Friend, lover, relativeÖwhoever. Plus there really is no guarantee they will have any understanding of what its like to face your past or what having a past like mine did to me.

    I donít want your sympathy. I donít want that kind of reaction. Its so disempowering. It makes me feel so small. Because in its own way, sympathy without any understanding feels like what Iím going through is minimalised. Or that Iím a victim. When really for me, this is the hardest thing Iíve ever had to do. Is face the ugly truth.

    I hope I donít sound angry. Because I love my friends, I love my relatives. But there are these times when I just donít let people see this side of me. The ugly truth side.

    I realized though lately, its not just that. Its because I think its ugly. I donít know where I got the idea that dealing with childhood trauma is ugly. Maybe because that is how it makes me feel. The anger, sadness and reliving memories is not pretty. Its painful. Iím not really sure how to make those feelings or the trauma a good thing. I think my own perspective of the ďugly truthĒ is pretty deeply ingrained.

    It gets deeper still. I started to isolate myself when I would remember or get triggered. Which happened over the past few years. Its yes, because I really donít want to burden anyone with this when I myself am barely handling it sometimes. The other reason, is I feel ashamed. Iím supposed to be a strong person, the epitome of my ancestors who survived unspeakable things. But going through this makes me feel weak and at times so useless. I feel shame in that. Other times because I could cry for days. I could lie in bed all day. I donít want people to see this side of me that barely functions.

    On the other hand, I totally get why people going through similar things like me drink or get high. Sometimes I think it would be nice to do that. So I donít have to feel anymore. Thats just not me. Cause what would be the point of facing my fear and then drowning it so I canít feel. I think I did that enough as child, and yes I know its how I survived; but thats part of the problem. Not feeling. Being numb. Or in my case just pretending like everything is okay and walking it off.

    Now though, I realized being so isolated is not healthy. Its probably not a very safe way to live life. Since I realized I donít really have regular contact with a group of friends or relatives on a regular basis. Which means if something bad happened to me, no one would know. No one would think to check either since I kinda overdo it on being independent. Which really is not a good thing.

    I have times like this summer were I was super high functioning and super social. But I kinda let that slide. I realize its because I intentionally isolated myself. I let the ďugly truthĒ live and breathe to the point that my shame of my own trauma affected myself esteem. I donít feel good about myself. Because a part of me is also scared of dealing with my past, Iím scared of how this will affect my life. I donít want anyone to see that. I hide it.

    I think though, that its always been my process. I deal with things on the inside. Which has its good and bad merits. In some situations its a good thing to a have a solid poker face or a stanch walk it off walk. But when that rules your life its not a good thing either. Which I think why writing has really helped me stop internalizing everything, beating myself up and generally being super closed off to the world. Its helped process the things I canít talk about or god forbid share with a real human being!

    In contrast to all this is my face. I have a tattoo on my forehead. You canít miss it. I did it because I had a dream that the spirits marked me and etched this into my face. I didnít do it for a long long time. Since I knew things would never be the same. People stare, say fucked up things, and avert their eyes like Iím a monster. Its funny to being in the east, like when I lived in Ottawa. Indian people would give me dirty looks, mean eyes, stink eye. It was awful. I didnít expect that from other Indian people. Non-Natives I get. Since yeah I know I look different. Different doesnít do well in this world. I didnít think though that I would feel bad about it. My dream was a very special gift and I chose to honour that dream years later. I realize though that one of my greatest weakness is not being a soft, kind person. Like how they talk about, ďwalk gently on the earth.Ē Thats not me. Iím generally known as an angry person or have ďthat kindaĒ reputation. My tattoo though I realized is to teach me to be kind to those that give me dirty looks, who ask me fucked up things, and generally treat me badly. To be graceful and to be like those elder ladies we all know who can kick yer ass but be the most elegant at the same time. I have not even come close to mastering this. Since my anger still gets the best of me. Which happened the other day when I went out with a friend. One day maybe I will be a better, kinder, loving person I hope and not let these little moments affect me. One day!

    Add to this equation, academia. Then all this Iíve been writing about becomes a soup of sorts. Iím working on masters program at the moment focusing on sustainable housing. I want to keep my word and build my dad a home. Its my big dream to build somewhere our family can come too. That is safe and warm. That has love and good feelings. That was made just for us. I started out this fall trying to figure out what I needed to know and examine while Iím in school. So I started looking at the history of the indian act and federal indian housing policy. Granted Iíve pretty much only skimmed the surface. It was quite the traumatizing read! I wasnít thinking I would get triggered by reading eurocentric thought on Indians in the ďnew worldĒ but I did. Man, I was more mad that it affected me! Since this is not new to me, I just had to research and ďproveĒ facts. However, in the process of all this I had to present ideas. Which is fine. Iím totally okay with public speaking and presenting. No biggie. Only problem was I assumed people knew more. It just left me feeling on the defence even though all this history, policy and its impacts on our communities is fact. I wasnít presenting a conspiracy theory or anything that didnít happen. Iíve just felt drained from answering questions. The conversations were really good, really respectful. It wasnít until days later did I realize how tiring all those questions made me. In my defence I did my best to try to be accurate as I could. Overall Iím so blessed with this opportunity since it challenges me to be better in its own way. But it is challenging. I hope not to drown in academia this year. I hope to do a good job and learn what we need to make this house a reality.

    Overall, Iím okay. I just had a few setbacks and few moments of enlightenment. Good or bad enlightenments it doesnít matter. Since it will all lead to the same place. Seeing things for what they really are. Standing full on in front of the mirror. Cause that mirror shows me my bad habits, my ingrained ideas that need to be changed in order to be a better person. Which yes, I havenít figured out the how quite yet. I feel worn out. But I know for a fact Iím getting better. Its super slow, kinda like the UN processes-just kidding. Political joke insert here!

    And yes, I've committed myself to not being so anti-social. Even though I'm so used to just heading out rather than hanging out. I will make more of an effort to not be so closed off from the world. Even if the world doesn't understand me or like me. I can still be a part of it. Haha...or gives me dirty looks while I'm walking down the street! I need to just smile at those people, even though I really really want to tell them off! ha! I will not tell people off, I will not tell people off! Just kidding.

    So if yer reading this, I hope that my thoughts about my own healing help you out. I write because it helps me think, process and face my own self. Because it lightens the load a little bit. Either way, I donít have real answers just new thoughts which eventually lead to thinking differently. Thanks for reading.

  • I chose you...

    They say that you choose your parents, in that time when you are still with our relatives in stars and sky. That when you find them, you fall from the sky and stars into your mother-reborn. I donít think about this statement or story much, but its beautiful. Has much more meaning that just what is implied.

    However, it is days like today where I wish I knew what my parents love felt like. Its strange being a giveaway baby since things are never really what they are. At one point I was a replacement child for the one they (my adopted parents) couldnít have. This didnít mean they didnít love me. Iím sure they did in their own way. Even so though, that love became obscured by neglect and abuse. Which in a little personís mind doesnít make sense. How someone who is supposed to love you, hurts you the most.

    The way I feel about my birth mom? I grew up with her in my head, my heart and my mind always lingering. She and the idea of her. When I met her though, I donít remember feeling loved. I donít remember her embrace. I remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable but with a sigh of relief that I had finally physically found her. I had reconnected to the mystery of who I was. A door closed and one opened.

    It is days like today though that I miss feeling loved. In its purest form. I donít know if she ever held me when I was born, I donít really know what happened. I know my connection to her never ever disappeared. But somedays I wish I knew what its feels like to be loved my own mother. Even though, I know she does. That isnít a question. But I donít know what that feels like in my life or in any physical way.

    I grew up feeling lonesome. There are days like today when that feeling resurfaces. When I feel that I am truly beside myself, with myself, and alone in this world. It is the deepest emptiness. I will feel sad, angry sometimes and other times melancholy. It passes.

    Today though, I just sit here in that feeling. Being okay with it. Since I cannot force anyone to love me the way I want them too. That is not human nature its seems to me. Even though in the past I wanted to be loved by people in my life but they couldn't or wouldnít give me what I thought at the time I needed. Which usually ended in heartbreak. Loss of friendships, loss of partnerships. Loss.

    In returning to the sky people, I guess I chose them-my parents. I have yet to really understand why. My mother is a kind, strong woman and I learn lots from her even if we are not close. My dad is a hard-working kind-hearted man who I feel blessed to know. I am lucky that they are who gave me life. If though, there was greater purpose in choosing my parents, I am puzzled. However, even though my writing and personal reflection seem dark at times, I know the things I have gone through have shaped me-good and bad. I have survived many things. I hope that one day I will have a clearer picture on all of these moving parts but most of all a better me.

  • Floating to the Surface

    Its been awhile. Iíve been busy. Things have changed. Summer was exhausting but beautiful. I only regret I had so little time to do all things I wanted too. Iíve put things out of my head slightly in order to deal with everything that summer brings. Ceremonial responsibilities, family, friends, work-the whole deal. Its been busy. But the good news is Iíve moved on to something new. Which I hope I can do and be fruitful at.

    In my life, change happens rapidly sometimes. I have to take time out to absorb the changes instead of just making it through them. In many cases I wonít. Iíll just exist to get through things. That really needs to change in the long run. For now its been a few months of getting through things. Not in a bad way. I just havenít had time to really work on the things I want to on the inside.

    Its funny though how life can be. I rushed from spring to summer to fall. Moved cities, started a masters degree, couch surfed, survived. I finally settled in and slowed down in October. Then I started reading again. Which is something that brings me joy. Reading and absorbing stories, tales, and ideas.

    However, I started a book that told a story over many generations. Of love. Sacrifice. Many things that really touched a deep place. Since there are these moments where the stories we all have are somehow the same but different. In this story the main character finally reaches the breaking point. His memories break through his assumptions about his past. Its a painful realization that the relationship he had with a formative person was layered with sexual abuse. The relationshipís unhealthiness revealed its true self. The horror of the realization, the recognition, and pain of it are raw. The writer is a brilliant story-teller the end was a rise above situation. But for me a reader, it was a trigger.

    A trigger, yes. One of those things that happen in my life that bring back feelings of the past or bring up feelings I didnít know exist. One of the things Iíve realized is this is going to be a part of my life. Triggers and triggering moments. Its life. Since I want to face this. I donít want to run forever or exist until I canít anymore and lose it. But saying that and surviving these moments are two different things.

    Reading this book and my personal reaction left me weeping in my bed for hours. Caused a few weeks of insomnia. Not because I was thinking about the moment in particular, I was just agitated. What the character went through I can directly relate too. In a deep way. I had my own mini moment of realization of how Iíve covered things up to survive. Since as a little person or even as a grown person the mind figures out the best way to survive. My survival was to forget. For now thats what it seems. But really I think Iíve just hidden things away layered underneath memories. Which is okay. I had to survive back then.

    From that evening which turned into morning through my own tears. I just let those feelings sit there. I understand what my therapist was saying about structure. Yes, I was seeing a therapist for awhile to help me and boy did it ever. Structure in life is being about to function and keep dealing with the pain in healthy ways. Going to school has provided a bit more structure than I think I was looking for! I havenít quite figured out how to manage everything yet but am working on it.

    Essentially though, what this moment with this story and my reaction did was force me to think about the new stage in life Iím at. For the past couple weeks Iíve sort of dealt with it. I run my anger and hurt out now. But I didnít take the time to get the feelings out. Or address the realization Iíd reached in that moment while I read the story of the characterís rude awakening.

    So maybe at the end of the day, I still donít have clear answers. But Iím not so afraid to have mini sessions of losing it like the one a couple weeks ago. I didnít fall apart completely. I made it to class, completed work and was functional. Maybe not to my best potential but I made. It wasnít as scary and earth shattering as it used to be. Thats something.

    The point is I think there are steps we all go through when we are triggered. Iím still figuring out not only how to survive them but really work through it. That being said, Iím not ready to talk about the realization I had. Iím still dissecting and digesting it. Its hard. Because sometimes the feelings that remembering or breaking through bring up are shame, anger, and depression. Its hard to pull apart shame from yourself when its deeply ingrained.

    Shame when its attached to childhood abuse is not my fault. Its just deeply seeded and rooted. Like the feelings of being deeply inadequate. Well its not really that. I think. Its goes back to that ďnot deserving" feeling that for some reason has been hanging around lately. I was in a good place this summer despite the being super busy. But for some reason this one has come back around. I havenít tried to fight it. I just want to learn to take back what belongs to me in healthy way. I mean it- take back. Since feeling good and loving yourself belong to each of us. We all deserve that. No one should be able to take that away. But somehow Iíve let that go over the years. Or maybe not. It was just hidden by a big ego and overt self worth. Either way my ďI donít deserveĒ is back in a big way. It challenges me to find what I need to love myself. I deserve that.

    Anyhow, I continue to battle myself. Its now though that it doesnít feel impossible. It is starting to feel manageable. Liveable. Which two or three years ago I couldnít say that. Even a year ago. I have made some big changes. Iím not ready for a lot of things yet. But Iíll be there soon. Which is exciting. Since when you are in a deep and dark place there is little hope of survival. Iím tired of feeling like Iím drowning. Instead Iíd rather just feel. Even if its painful. Pain doesnít last forever.

    Love I think is the greatest gift humanity has; I have yet to master my own love. But if I can feel it all around me, then I should be able to pull love into my being. Into my life. So that one day that is the anchor, the root and centre of my well-being.

  • Please Live to Fight Another Day

    I think of that young Anishinabeikwe they found today in the river in Winnipeg. It's with great sadness, but also it deeply reminds me of my baby sister. There were so many times she ran away and I couldnít find her. Those moments were scary and stressful. Whatever she though or whatever she was doing didnít matter. It only mattered that she was out there and ok. I donít know if she ever thought about that. But I certainly did. I was lucky that she has incredible good luck, strength and the most stubborn determination Ive ever seen. She survived her youth and now is a young mother of two beautiful children. I feel lucky since I always seemed to find her, hear from her or get word of where she was at the time. Sometimes when it was just to scary, Iíd get a plate of food and offer tobacco to call her spirit. It sounds extreme but it was all I knew to do. Usually within 24-48 Iíd hear of her whereabouts.

    The reason I feel so emotional is this couldíve been any one of my little sisters. Found like that. My sisters grew up hard. They were often in and out of care. Many times neglected or dealing with surviving drunken parties. They grew up and are the picture of resilience that lives in our people. They have struggles as all of us do but they have their own families and are blessed with beautiful children. Which I donít know if I can be thankful enough that they survived their childhoods to become parents greater than our own.

    I think back to the first time my baby sister came to be with me. They brought her directly from the foster home she had been in. She was covered in scabies, lice and eczema. I was so angry that this was the state she was allowed to be in. She was eight years old at the time. We would have daily fights before she went to bed about brushing her teeth that would escalate into her crying, sobbing that she was ugly. I truly believe that those people abused her and punished her. It broke my heart to fight with her and for her. It was the ugliest thing to see someone you love believe that they donít deserve it-love. I donít know if I can forgive those people for how they treated my little sister, she was only 8 years old. A child is supposed to be our greatest gift in this life and she deserves better than that. She deserved a childhood were she was loved, cherished, embraced and comforted.

    My baby sister has had a hard life. She's survived more than I know. Iím proud of her and all that she's accomplished in her short time on this earth. The hardest part about loving her is watching her make choices in life and suffer the consequences. Its not about judging her at all. Its about having to accept the choices she makes even when they are ones that will hurt her in the long run. She has this crazy stubborn stream, which means she doesnít care to listen and just does. I think we are like that really though each in our way. What is hard is not being able to do anything, but do my best to try and support her. I know she struggles with many things but like I said Iím proud of her no matter what she does. Thats the hardest part is loving so hard that it just hurts sometimes. When I canít be there or things happen and I canít do anything to make it better.

    I think about the man they pulled from the river. He was so kind and giving. He reminds me of my mom. She chooses to live with one foot on the streets and one that barely gets by. She knows how to work every part of the system, where to get food on any given day, how get by. She's an expert at surviving some of the meanest situations. I donít know or canít even begin to understand all that she's been through in her life. I know she carries a ton of pain, heartache and hurt. Its what drives her to continue to be addicted to covering the pain, masking it with different substances. I think the thing that hit me hardest about the man they found in the river was how kind he was in his life. He didnít have much, but gave what he had back to community. That reminds me of my mom. She will give you the shirt off her back, if you need it. A place to stay if you have no where to go. She's a kind woman. The kind that you donít see everyday. I think of her often when I realize how selfish a person I am and I should be more like her. Caring and giving. I donít hear from my mom much and neither do many of my relatives. Its scary not knowing if she's okay, how her health is. In talking with my kokum today, its about making our lives better, being better people, dealing with our hurt and pain. So that we can be useful, help ourselves and help others. Its about giving like my mom does. But at the sometime its about not existing in a place of hurt and despair. Which is easier said than done. Facing our pain is probably one of the most difficult things to do.

    My mom got sick a couple years ago. Our family gathered to doctor her. The one clear thing that stood out from this time is you have to want it-a good life. You have to be willing to fight for it. Thats what the ceremony kept saying. Through dreams of each one of us, in the sweat. It was all around us, ďI want to live.Ē It was ironic too, since my mom didnít think anyone would show up for her. I donít think she thought we loved her. It was a family miracle, to have almost all my aunties, uncles and her children show up for her. I think it was one of those times in my life where the love my relatives had for my mom beat the arguments, in-fights and disagreements; it was beautiful and humbling. Because I love her and I love my relatives, it hurts when they suffer, when they are sick, when bad things happen. Again, its about the choice though, to want a good life and to fight for it. I canít make choices for my relatives, I canít make them love themselves but I can see the good in each of them, and love them no matter what.

    So it is with great sadness for those families left behind in Winnipeg, facing the loss of their relatives. It just reminds me of what my own relatives teach me and what I could lose if this were them. To my relatives, I love you. Please live to fight another day.

  • Letter to my Daughter

    Daughter, when I dreamt of you I thought you so strong, so smart, so beautiful.

    Whenever I think of about you, you bring me much happiness. I think about how Iíll teach you to stand up for yourself first then your people. If you do not walk in my steps that is okay. I know whatever you do with yourself you will make me proud.

    I think of the things I will teach you. About your people about our history. The stories since the beginning of time.

    I want to show the ceremonies, the power of acknowledgement. Of the spirit in everything, in us all. The sacredness of every living thing.

    The places we will travel together, the power of our blood. The songs we will sing together.

    I think of you as the ultimate gift, one that I will cherish forever. Even when you journey on your own.

    Daughter I will teach you how to keep ceremony, pass it on to your children. How to open your heart, how to love. How to protect yourself. And how to hide in the land.

    You are already so strong even though you are not born into this world yet. You came to me and spoke to me, held my hand and acknowledged your name. You are so beautiful. You spoke through time to me. I will wait for you to join me.

    Love your mother.

  • 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.

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