An Impact Statement on The Kindness of Strangers and the Love Of Friends

It was never a post I’d expected to write and this is hardly what I’d imagined as a post to mark my blog’s 7th anniversary (March 17th), and with apologies to my regular readers, some of this will be a bit of a repetition of circumstances previously written.

I know most of us never dream we’d write or live through the events I’d laid out. We know terrible things happen, but generally we feel safe that they happen to other people – over there. There is simply any place that helps us hold onto the fantasy that any distance from them is a protective cover for the rest of us.

When I got the call in January that my sister in Arizona was found on her bedroom floor unable to stand or speak properly and the concern revolved around possible strokes, in short order, I went into numb mode. That place where we don’t know what to feel, or maybe there’s too much feeling and there’s an *overwhelmed* switch that’s automatically tripped. We’d just been unwinding the numbing shock of the loss of one of our children only 20 days earlier. Maybe it was just continued numbness.

Some hours into news like this, we realize we must act and then thinking revs up again. What’s needed? Who will do what? When do we do whatever it is we figure we need to do? How can we support her kids? How will we do any of it? Then there are the really hidden thoughts, like, nope, I don’t want to be doing anything. This isn’t happening. This can’t even be real.

But, it is real, and very shortly after, we learned the real issue was a brain tumor. A very nasty, aggressive beast of a tumor. The scans showed it nearly covered a quarter of her brain, literally pushing it to one side. She had emergency surgery within 48 hours of being found on her floor and they were able to take out 99% of it. The surgeon said if she hadn’t made in when she did, it was unlikely she’d have lived another day or two. God, real, is a bitch.

Her cancer is never going away though. That’s a hell of a new normal to adjust to. They hope to help us keep her for up to 18 more months with heavy-duty radiation and chemo over several weeks. The days seem to fly by faster than ever. I avoid morbid activities like looking at calendars and counting back. I’m not always successful.

A rising sense of panic pushes me back to the questions about action. The more recent events of her world make sense now. Like, why did she suddenly quit her job and lose her health insurance and benefits? She couldn’t remember. It didn’t make sense to her either while she attempted to retrace her steps before the surgery. She couldn’t remember anything from 3 months prior. They have no idea how long ago that thing invaded her head.

We clearly had some heavy-duty work to do to sort how she will live until the end of this new normal inevitably. There was no way we could manage this on our own; we put out calls for help. That’s another exercise in faith and hope. When catastrophe strikes and you realize how bound you are in immediate helplessness, fear introduces itself in yet another incarnation. Who would even answer that call? Would anyone and if they did, would it be enough?

It turned out I wasn’t as alone as I’d feared. Friends responded with a generosity I couldn’t have imagined; even from a few that I’d never dreamed would be able to help. Yes, your $5 mattered, just as much as the gifts of $100 or more. I was on a plane within 3 days to get to her. They helped me get to her and hold her. They helped me get to look into her eyes and tell her, I love you. … It’s too hard to describe what all that feels like.

Those caring superheroes helped me get to the myriad mounds of paperwork needed to apply for assistance from myriad areas with their myriad requirements. Let me tell you, I don’t know how any of these agencies expect a patient to manage this. There was no way my sister had the ability to read through all the materials, let alone sort, fill-out and acquire the necessary documentation. Getting to that work alone was a huge step. After that, we’d had most medical and home expenses taken care of until at least the end of April.

How do you describe how much that means? I don’t know how to tell people just how much of a difference, how much of an impact their gifts create. I don’t think it’s possible to thank them at par value, I’m just so grateful that they accept my pitiful attempts anyway.

It was so hard to leave her. I wish it could be me that’s driving her to appointments, or shopping for her groceries, or just sitting next to her while we zone out in sister land in front of Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the services that we got to help her with that much, but I think you know what I mean.

I don’t know what the next steps will be, and we do know the calls for help will continue, for as long as it takes, but we’re taking it one day at a time. These are the experiences that crystalize that notion for us. Day by day, minute by minute. I can only pray that we’ll receive what we need and that we see the beauty there is to see and feel the grace we’re meant to, while we can. One day at a time.

Kininiskimotin, all my relations.

RL

My sister’s fund remains open for any help we can get. I moved platforms from GoFundMe because of issues with getting the funds in a timely manner. While they apologized for the undue stress, I’m not comfortable with continuing with them. The new site is here: https://www.plumfund.com/medical-fund/terminal-hope-not-homelessness–u

For those in Canada who prefer fee-less transactions, I am thrilled to accept e-transfers at blogwoman@outlook.com

Sister, Reva, her son, Jacob, and our beloved step-dad and mom.

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 – on both sides of the equation.

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