Shameless

I know it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, there will always be people who will ridicule you. They’ll talk about you, jeer, dismiss, and even attempt to undermine you. A good number of times, one will endure that from their own family. I’ve encountered all of that and I suppose I could always be a target for that mentality at any time and in any place. That’s just the really shitty side of life. That side comes from people who have yet to really dig deep into their own issues. What I’ve learned about that is, I’m not obligated to stay in that place with them – no matter who they are.

Despite a lifetime of being told it was a fruitless endeavor, there was good reason why I headed back 20 years ago to the community of my childhood. The fact that the community happened to be Indigenous was both inconsequential and utterly life saving.

I’d spent years looking for ways to understand why there was such a messed-up history that wrecked my nuclear family. Yes, it’s wonderful that much of the generation after mine has made great strides in the efforts of home ownership and good jobs, but behind all of that is that big black hole that still trails us. None of that is resolved by a good job, a nice home, an education, nor in running across or from the country. I did all of that first.

That black hole was borne in place of my familial history when I was taught my community, my relatives, my grandmothers and grandfathers were the cause of our life’s woes. Much like they are still said to be the bane of Canada and ‘its purse strings’. Because of that, I was meant to deny my own heritage and I followed through with it, like many in my immediate family still do.

I did my best to be a good Canadian woman who strives to be a success. Except, when your foundation is based in a self-loathing that no one, including myself, seemed to understand, all that hard work can go up in smoke as quickly as it takes to get into a really bad relationship or receive a phone call that informs you are seriously ill. Those were my turning points.

I’d spent years trying to figure out the basis of that self-loathing. Counseling helped me deal with emotional ups and downs and during the moments when it would intensify to unbearable, but in too many instances, it only served to confuse me further. Applying standard accredited counseling services to an Indigenous inter-generational trauma survivor was woefully inadequate and sometimes even more harmful.

An example was a group therapy effort where I was advised the point of my issues was a deep internal desire to be in a sexual relationship with the woman who had driven me to the ‘retreat’. Another was asking me to not only re-create a scene of sexual abuse, but to do it in front of an entire group. I left any support services for quite a while after the work of that eye-crossing frustration. Therapy created in absence of truth, the truth – still mostly unknown to all even today, is just more marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

When those old moments of inexplicable fears arose again, I turned to other methods of coping. Art projects, writing, loads of volunteering or Al-Anon – which was great support, but incomplete. Then I went back to the idea that a super, new job title was the answer after all. Three additional years of corporate abuse dispelled that notion for good.

As it turned out, underneath it all, I did know what I feared most– being seen for who I really was. That was one of the concepts they’d told me about years before, but the thing is, that was wrong too. Because as it is for most, it really all boiled down to being seen for all that had happened to me – and my mother, and her mother – for generations, and for what I’d done in all the processes to cope with that.

So, despite all that running, in the end, I edged my way back to that place I feared most – that black hole. To the source of all the pain and rage and searing sadness. To that place that is my Indigeneity. To that place where apparently, any value as a realized human is only partial for us, according to school, neighbors, Canadian politics, and the punitive digs by a few of my own chosen relationships.

I was never going to know about me until I saw the real me, the whole me, desperately in need of being heard by anyone who could truly know the very real and distinct intricacies of the Indigenous journey in Canada – and that sure as hell wasn’t on the couch of a Freudian-oriented psychiatrist.

It could only be found back among my own, with my own relations where they knew what I was saying with only a third of the words. Where they knew what I was feeling without having to provide every denigrating detail, and far more importantly, they knew everything behind the whys. They carried the key and it was what I needed to finally fill in that hole of debilitation.

I wrote this because despite reams of paper trails to show what this journey entailed and why I am where I am today, I am still in the line of fire for derision. Despite the triumph of being armed with the understanding of my own culture and its incredible value, I am now ridiculed for standing up for it, even from some family.

Canada has claimed dominion over many of us, and I understand the ease of giving in, but I carry centuries worth of family knowledge. That history matters. I understand exactly why the events that occurred happened. I understand them on multiple levels and that’s what killed the shame that was never mine to carry in the first place. I stand up for my mother and my grandmothers because I am them and I was always meant to embrace that.

This is a country that still must answer for my family and so many others who are still swept away in the daily mixed messages of what it means to be Indigenous within it. It’s a horrible shame those messages remain; it’s devastating to know they’re still being internalized at all.

RL

When Robyns Soar

“Mom – mom come here now – a crow just grabbed a robin in the air!” I ran to the front window to join my son, who was staring wide-eyed at what was taking place in our front yard. There was indeed a crow with a robin in its claws, but they were now on the grass. The robin was struggling under the crow as it tightened its grip and then began to peck at the smaller bird with brute force.  Within minutes, a carpet of grey and red feathers covered my lawn.

I watched the crow continue to peck at it until all movement briefly stopped. Then the crow picked up its victim to carry it to the middle of our street – presumably because the harder paved surface made it easier to dig into flesh. That’s only a guess, as is why my response, even while horrified, was to grab my camera. I kept clicking and recording every motion of the bird’s devouring power. It didn’t take long to reduce the robin to a few small ribbons of red flesh, which it then picked up again and flew off with.

I stayed at that window quite a while after, until that early spring day started to darken. I know I was dumbfounded at what I’d witnessed and by the sheer amount of feathers laying from one end of my yard to the other. How could so many feathers come from one tiny little bird? It wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the ‘cold, hard facts of nature’, but there was an additional layer to the feelings this time. As the event faded, I was filled with a sense of dark foreboding.

Hindsight, of course can play into the narrative of any thoughts, but what was to follow within my own world not very long after, made it seem like that feeling wasn’t really all that out of line after all.

In a matter of months and over the next 3 years, I endured the loss of someone I adored beyond measure, part of the centre of my world, next to my son; followed by a devastating and punishing betrayal by someone I’d loved and leaned on while coping; and serious health crises over 2 years that would ultimately break me down to my own demise, albeit only momentarily. Beware the truthful tales of bad news descending in threes.

I know those events are whole stories of their own, but I wrote about them through the journey. I don’t much feel the need to recount the details now. In some ways, they almost seem like a lifetime ago. They were centre stage, but part of the play was the way those birds continued to star in revealing what was to come.

The next spring, my son and I went for a walk along a river. As we were talking, we were suddenly interrupted by a flash of black that passed right in front of us. It was a crow speeding toward the tree line to our left and it was being quickly pursued by a very vociferous little robin. My son and I looked at each other and we both reacted to that unexpected turn in events with a deep inner, ‘Whoa’.

That wasn’t the end though. As we went further, we next saw that little robin chasing after another bird, but this time it was 2 hawks! I know I was very relieved I wasn’t the only one seeing this. Who would believe me? Dare I even tell you that the last time we saw that little fierce fireball, she was chasing after an eagle? Well, she did. I don’t know if it was a she; it just felt right to assume that.

Of course, I pondered and wondered about the amazing activity of that day for some time. I also took solace in it. It seemed to confirm for me, that even though I was in the midst of major recovery on several levels, I would be fine and perhaps in some ways, even far mightier.

The experiences of those years had completely broken me and I needed to hold onto something bigger than me to keep moving forward. It wasn’t long after that, the resources I needed to begin the healing on all levels fell into place and I was on my way to becoming this newest version of me.

This brings us to this year… The edges of all that pain have been buffered and eased. I’m still regaining my physical strength, but I’ve made great strides in that. The rawness of my world has been tempered with understanding through grief therapy, and my re-connection to the teachings of my culture has pulled me through what I think (hope) is the last of the intergenerational wounds that left me vulnerable to a particular kind of predation. It’s a lifetime’s work, I know. I still have some way to go, but I know where to turn when any circumstances arrive to test my abilities. This is major healing weaponry.

So, what about this spring? Well, for over a week, I’d come home and have the be-gee-zus scared out of me as I walked to my front door. Yet another robin seemed to come out of nowhere. It would dart back and forth across my yard, but not straying beyond the trees of my property line. It would turn this way and that, sometimes even hopping onto the grass and bouncing along, in and out of my hedges. Of course, I grabbed my camera. Strangely, the little bird still wouldn’t move much even as I approached, clicking away. The next day, when I was once again, startled by the little red burst of flight, it suddenly (and finally) dawned on me; there must be a nest close by.  I scoured all the hedges in the front of my house and found – nothing.

I hadn’t been looking close enough. I have a honeysuckle vine on the post at my front door. In that unlikely spot, almost right in front of my eyes the whole time, was one of the sweetest sights I’ve ever seen. When I’d moved a few branches to look for a nest, three enormous beaks with eyes popped up. Utterly adorable, and the sense of renewal within that literal new birth presentation lit up my heart like Christmas lights.

 

I enjoyed their presence for only a few more days after I’d discovered them.  It was a little saddening, on the day I came home and they were all gone, but they did leave that beautiful, perfect little nest. I waited a few more days just to make sure they’d really flown off for good and then I brought the nest in. I moved a small bit of moss on the bottom and I discovered a gift within the gift – a most precious, tiny, glorious blue egg.  I placed it all in a round terrarium vase.

All the events of three years were succinctly re-wrapped in this unexpected bowl of symbolism. I choose to see this as the finishing touch on soothing old hurdles and as acknowledgement of the start of life for me on a whole new level. Certainly affirms the old adage, ‘big things come in small packages’. Oh, isn’t that the truth; the absolute honest truth?

So, here I go again.  A new round has begun. Cheers to small packages. The next time someone says life is for the birds, I’m going to say, “Yup, it sure is, at least, for me”. Thank God, and especially, all my grandmothers.

RL

Minute Misery; Haiku

Forlorn longing sighs
Spring’s promises to Summer
Pivot toward dark

Weak, last ditch appeals to Sun
Spring promised; prolong our youth

RL

Haiku/Tanka

Inspiration & Photo credit: Autumn Alps by Le Drake Noir

 

Deep Thoughts; Worldly Vulnerability

To my friend,

Yes, I know so far 2017 or maybe more like the last decade, has been like a 24 hour rock polisher churning non-stop while stapled to your right temple. Amirite? As if the regular tests of our heart, soul and mettle weren’t already a deep enough line in the sand. Now there’s this load of heavy, huge, ponderous issues topping up our cortisol cups.  Every day blasts us with another dose of how insane our ‘new societal norm’s are becoming, because… Well, mostly because we’re all letting them, but mostly because for now, we don’t know how not to… They expose our vulnerabilities – which of course, drags our discomforts harder over the burning concerns.

panic gif

There is a shake-up going on and we can see it’s world-wide and despite all this unease, I can’t help feeling that underneath it all there is a cleansing abounding. A good one. A shift for the majority, where we see once again, that we’re being moved to something deeper and more meaningful at another level specific to each of us. That there’s more to our purpose than surviving, and even as we know that, perhaps especially more beyond even ‘prospering’.

panic 2

It feels like an intelligent energy that’s being heard and felt by greater numbers that compels us closer to the realization that all is truly connected. We get all caught up in our individual mindsets, but neither are they all that individual in the end. Not in any way we look at it. Whatever we pour forth from our minds is going to affect the person next to us and beyond….old news. But now, new times, renewed remembrances. The time is now to activate what we already know.

panic 3

The other day I woke from a dream where I heard, “Every call for water will eventually get heard”. Seriously, I don’t know what that means, but I felt within it optimism. I think it suggests it’s OK to grasp onto whatever centres us best while we weather the new climatic revolutions and evolutions, whatever they will be. But, act too. Wherever and whenever you are in the presence of that opportunity that shows up. Grab it, if needed learn the ins and outs of it later. It’s in front of you for a reason.

Steady as she goes, my friend(s) and I expect you to prop me up when I slip in the wavery too. Please. In the meantime…

Walmart need anything

RL

 

 

I Know What You Did Last Summer; We’ll Speak No Evil

No, I don’t really know what you did last summer nor the summer before. Not even the summer I originally wrote this, but although circumstances changed for some of us, I know it still speaks to what someone is enduring today. We all cope with painful events, but is it also necessary for them to be hidden, secreted away for whatever sake?

I live in an average nice community of nice families. We’re privileged to send our children to wonderful schools and numerous extracurricular activities.  We live in a flurry of motion around those needs, our work, and the occasional indulgences for grown-ups.  We live a life of wonderful.  At least, from all appearances that’s what it seems like.

The truth behind this peaceful picture is that life is really not unlike the quiet drama worthy of Wisteria Lane, the street belonging to the now defunct TV show Desperate Housewives.

see-no-evil-speak-no-evil-hear-no-evil

Of our group of housewives, two have just got diagnoses for severe diseases. One is being supported ideally, the other enduring the painful lesson of learning who her real friends are and terribly embarrassed about it. One of us is managing stage 4 cancer. That’s dismal enough, but what’s not so well-known is that she is also enduring painful loneliness caused by friends too afraid to visit anymore. One of us left a husband who drank too much and another got away from her abusive husband. Of course, nobody would ever have guessed that about either of those husbands.

Still more, there are a few of us living in quiet desperation while trying to find ways to re-kindle the strength of our relationships, and there are at least five of us in serious financial jeopardy. Another, utterly crushed by the tragic news that her father, who was out on a stroll, was killed by a stranger for no apparent reason.  Another average year in the neighbourhood except that, unless you’re one of us directly involved, you wouldn’t know it.

We talk easily about certain subjects, other people who are fighting illnesses, etc., but there are other aspects even within that topic that aren’t talked about. These are the subjects that are too awful or too personal.  But what does too personal really mean?  Is ‘too personal’ a masked phrase for ‘must be kept quiet in order to preserve a comfortable, but false, image’?  What is the image? What is the reward for preserving it?

Over the years, life has progressively got just a little more real for many of us.  We all know that happens on an intellectual level, but when it happens to us, we aren’t comfortable talking about it. We may very selectively choose whomever to unburden ourselves to a point. The trials of something breaking down are uncomfortable, often thought to be some kind of failing.

We don’t talk about these ‘failings’ beyond a certain level because?  You fill in the blank, but I’d bet all the answers will boil down to the fear of being judged.  If it’s about inability to cope with discussion, that’s another story, but maybe that’s a walk down the same road too anyway.

All of the events I noted are supposedly out of the ordinary, but I’ve been reconsidering this idea because they are all circumstances that happen every day somewhere near and far. What isn’t obvious, because of pretenses, is that there is virtually no household that hasn’t, or isn’t dealing with something they don’t want the neighbours to know about.

That’s a whole lot of judgment to put to bed. That’s a whole lot of excellent support potential, and think of the amazing advice waiting to be shared. That’s a lot of unrealized hope.

I’m open about my own issues because I’ve been shown that my stories are not unique. My problems are not special, not even the very worst of them. My friends have heard loads about the divorce that never ends, and myriad woes before & since. Whatever feelings I may have had in fear of judgment were, and are, wasted heartache. Secrets degrade every level of our being. The shame and fear I once had, claimed far too much of the precious time I could have had learning and moving on.

I’m not the circumstances that I’m in at the moment.  I am an entire lifetime of experiences that contain many highs in the light with the lows in the dark and murky.  Which ones do you think I’ve learned the most from?

Maybe we need to take it to heart that, when life is getting real with us, we need to start getting real with it.  Let’s stop pretending that we are only as good as our image.  It’s a terribly weak foundation to learn from, or teach how to overcome struggles. We really are all in the same boat, and once in a while we have to share the rowing.

When we share our perceived weaknesses, we learn so much more than we can ever imagine in fear. As we become genuine, we end up twice as strong, and eventually life does become genuinely lighter for us, and in all the places that secrets diminish.

We shall overcome.  Together.

Incidentally, if I ever look like I’m in need of a soothing hot beverage, would you make it the kind over ice, with a twist? Then, let’s talk.

RL

Yes, I am That Confident – Up Yours!

It was 3 years ago that I posted the Facebook rant that launched my blogging career. Sometimes when you feel a little lost and like you need to meet you again, the re-set button can be as easy as looking into your own life archives. I’m fortunate mine was as easy a start as back to this beginning…

“Well you can’t fix stupid either and you proved that”!!  

Actually, although my blogging life has been an incredibly uplifting experience overall,  it blows me away a little that I’ve been insulted through it too from time to time. …But I digress…

That particular insult was lobbed at me in a Facebook note.  It was from someone who’d had only few superficial conversations with me and no involvement in the situation at hand at the time. Not that really knowing me, nor having full knowledge of the details then changes the bottom line.

I admit I was somewhat shocked at that charged-up energy that came at me. There are all kinds of ways to respond, but at the time I was more engrossed in the event that precipitated the results of her research.

I re-read the post later and those words actually ended up making me smile. They reminded me of a personal motto I used to say: “I hope I’m the dumbest one in the room”.  In return I usually got a look like I’d just confirmed that for them.

Peace

What I really meant was that regardless of whatever endeavor I was involved in, I wanted whomever else I was working with to be wiser, more knowledgeable, and more creative than me.  I was sure that would get me an opportunity to learn something, probably something great and hopefully a lot of it.  Yup, not quite that insult’s target, but I know myself well enough to be confident in what I may or may not be.

That event had interesting timing. Some friends and I had been having conversations about self-esteem and the often misinterpreted difference between assertiveness & confidence or self-centeredness & aggression. There are many examples of how these characteristics are practised, but in our chats we narrowed the illustration down to standing up for oneself.

We partially surmised that self-centredness starts with feeling some sense of entitlement or an innate belief that one can do no wrong. The world better be good to me first or the world is gonna hear about it:

“Don’t confuse my personality and my attitude because my personality is ME and my attitude depends on YOU”.

Awww snap! Or – Aw snap!, snap!, snap!- if they are particularly perturbed. This is more of a passive/aggressive or aggressive/aggressive defensiveness beyond my Psych 101 capabilities, or more to the point, my patience levels. Whatever happened to personal responsibility/self control?

On the other hand, real confidence says I will be good to you and if you are unkind in return, I can walk away with my self-respect fully intact without having to bring you down a peg to accomplish that. I would add that that also exhibits dignity, not an unworthy effort and something I wish I could have attached myself to much earlier in life.

Confidence asks how does whatever this is really matter to my life or me? Most of the time, whatever it is doesn’t make a bit of difference to anything.

Confidence also includes the element of humbleness. It says sometimes I may be wrong, but that does not diminish that I am a good and decent person and I will fix what I can fix about it.  By the way, the fixing action begins with offering genuine apologies, followed by genuine efforts to not repeat the offenses. Amazes me to this day, how hard this concept is for some to grasp.

Self-centredness mistakes the element of humbleness in confidence as weakness. That mistake is the weakness that truly exposes lack of self-esteem.

A little follow up: some time after sending that note, my ‘insulter’s’ defense was that she thought something negative was said about her. I did my best to reassure, but no matter, once her reaction was on the world-wide-web for all to see, the never-intended reason became fact for her anyway.  One less Facebook friend.

Too bad she didn’t take the minute to ask me about my intentions before she posted that over-the-top response.

So yes, it was interesting that that whole scenario played out right in the middle of those chats about confidence.  I guess you could say that a couple of us learned more than we were expecting at the time.

There’s far more to the depth of these issues than I can, or care to, note here, but if you were to ask me what would I say in return to that hotly lobbed insult now?  In short: up your self- esteem!

Yours truly,
Hopefully the Dumbest One in the Room

RL

With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 2

While I’m off slaying dragons, some friends have come to bat for me by sharing some pretty amazing survival triumphs of their own. I am so happy and grateful to share them.

This is part 2 of a tale of an amazingly harrowing trip to save one’s sanity along with body by the beloved blog-o-sphere cheering and writing champion, Paul Curran.

If you missed part 1, you missed a LOT… go see it… “The Invisibles, Part 1”

paulcurran2015.-2

I was checked out of the hospital when the internal bleeding had been stopped, and no word on the requested psych eval – it was as if it had fallen into a black hole.

As a dialysis patient a lot of my electronic health records were stored on a server called Oasis – which was a record keeping unit for the dialysis unit. All dialysis employees, including the nursing staff, social workers, etc., had access to Oasis. So when I got back to dialysis, I went to see the social worker to request a psych eval.

She pulled up Oasis and there was the history I’d given to student doctors merely in a psych rotation a few weeks earlier. I was upset; this had only a tangential relationship with dialysis and should not be available for all that staff to view. I objected and asked to see a real psychiatrist – board certified. She told me they did not take patients. This was news to me – after all this was a hospital and they were mandated to provide care and wasn’t mental health as important as physical?

I told the social worker that I needed to talk to a psychiatrist. She hemmed and hawed and said I would have to seek help elsewhere, perhaps with private counselling. I objected and pointed out that the majority of my depression could certainly be attributed to my vast medical treatment and I expected to get help with mental health issues.

After a few weeks the social worker eventually gave in to my insistence and set up an appointment with the dialysis psychiatrist. This gentleman provided services to dialysis patients who were scheduled for a transplant. Such patients were subject to a plethora of tests to make sure they were physically and psychologically fit to receive a new kidney. He took me for a patient just to placate me – it was not his “job” to counsel new patients.

So on the day of the appointment, I decided to be completely honest and open with Dr. Brown as I felt this would be the only way to move forward.

He was very easy to talk to and I made it clear that this meeting was confidential and would not be recorded on Oasis. He agreed. He asked a lot of questions about state of mind and I admitted to drinking excessively, feeling that honesty was the only way to proceed.

He then informed me that he would have to contact the DMV and have my license suspended. I couldn’t believe my ears –  this was supposed to be confidential.

He said that he was required to report anyone who was a threat to himself or others. I was incensed and objected. I told him I only drank at home and never drank and drove.

I told him that I’d come here choosing to trust him and he had broken that trust. I told him that I could never again open up honestly to him because I no longer trusted him; that I was leaving here worse off than when I arrived and I was terminating all contact permanently. At this I left and he looked very guilty.

That was my entire experience with psychiatry. I dealt with the license suspension in a way that caused it to not be a part of the record. That was not easy or cheap and I was angry about every minute I spent worrying about it. But it was done legally and is no longer an issue.

Never again. Never will I trust a ‘professional’ with my life details; never will I seek help or ask for treatment; never will I darken the doorway of a practicing psychiatrist if I have any choice.

Should I ever need medication I will have to break this vow but not until. After 5 years of struggling, I pulled myself out of the depression one little bit at a time.

I am flabbergasted at the complete lack of any help for mental issues; in fact after serious pestering and begging I found myself in worse shape after treatment than before. I am appalled at the treatment or lack thereof offered those who ask for help with mental issues – it is meagre and niggardly and inappropriate and comes with stigma and not as needed.

It actually adds to the problem by being so poor and untimely. Our current offering in Canada to those who ask for help with mental issues is so poor as to actually create stress and a sense of separation and valuelessness.

I am an intelligent, well-educated, middle-aged Canadian with good language skills, personal awareness, former professional manager, local citizen for many decades and hospital connections (social workers, doctors, nursing and advisory and admin staff). I recognized that I was depressed (naturally from illnesses and life changes) and sought mental help to address this situation.

Imagine if someone was not familiar with the system, knew no one, spoke another language, was uncertain of Canadian culture, perhaps with reasoning abilities reduced – how could they ever get help? It is obvious that they could not get help until such time as they ran afoul of the legal system and the situation was totally out of control. At that point so much damage has been done that they would be facing serious consequences including incarceration, a criminal record, serious negative life impact including destruction of family relationships, work ability, reputation, financial ruin, etc.

As far as anyone requesting help for mental issues in Canada – my experience is that they might as well be invisible.

-Paul Curran