Mother, Nehiyaw, Metis, & Itisahwâkan – career communicator. This is my collection of opinions, stories, and the occasional rise to, or fall from, challenge. In other words, it's my party, I can fun if I want to. Artwork by aaronpaquette.net
Five years ago, I went through a set of circumstances similar to what I’ve had to navigate through this year. A year later I had some small moments of reflection that I see are as relevant now as they were then. I can’t help feeling that most of us are at that place now. So, here’s a re-tread of those thoughts. Hiy hiy for this indulgence.
Sooo, did I hear you type the word, cookie?
No matter what kind of curve ball life throws, even those 359 degree ones, there are two things that demand focus in any way they can get it – cookies and bacon.
Okay yes, I’m kidding… it’s whatever requires you to be relevant. In my case, those anchors just happen to be fairly typical – children and animals, not necessarily in that order…and thank you sweet, Geezus for typical anchors.
They see me at my best, and my worst – which they generally run away from – fast, usually to retain the emergency services of a stylist or a good martini mixer, but even so, they will love me again within minutes. If only that were true of the rest of the world…
They do see me cry and rail at times because I don’t often try to shield them from those moments because life is also an awful lot about ‘shite happens’.
My last few posts have reflected some recent hard knocks and I expect I will write in and around those events for a little while too. Writing is a critical component of healing for me, as much as talking things out with my son is needed to help his understandings.
We’ll go over what’s happening to whatever appropriate extent and then, what it’s going to take to cope and keep moving. My Jack seems to understand that, so he pretty much behaves accordingly – he’ll lick my face, then throw a paw at it for priorities – which incidentally are the same as my son’s – cookies and bacon.
My son, on the other hand, seems to have grown some pretty thoughtful insight for his age, which he occasionally jolts me with. He reminds that a laugh is good medicine or that I am forgetting to see my own value, regardless of anyone else’s assessment, and that he’s willing to stand up for me to anyone. It’s those moments that remind me that no matter how hard I’ve been hit by the challenges of life, underneath and overall, I have done some things right.
I’d like to think that I’ve mostly lived for the greater good. I’d like to know that I didn’t live in my own head as much as, or more than, contributing meaningfully to community. I hope that no matter what happens, most will remember me for living, giving, and seeing the worthwhile. I’d like to believe this is true for most of us.
At the end of the day, no matter what kind of day, I hope I will have earned the right to my own share of cookies and bacon. And poutine. God, I really love that stuff, way too much.
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.
I can’t complain too much. Life’s been a whirlwind of some of the coolest experiences of my life and only mildly tempered by my amazing talent to step in it once in a while.
That’s yesterday’s news. Today, it’s about letting go and living for a ha-ha or two. Apologies in advance for any lame jokey joke efforts; the year’s still been a bit long, eh? 🙄
So, if you’ve ever wanted to wish me a broken leg, now’s your chance. I got a couple little acting jobs this year – for a continuation in the life file labeled: Things I never thought I’d do. It’s been loads of fun and this latest one is a Christmas play, natch. It’s an original around the idea of decolonizing Christmas, which may sound bigger than it need.
The simple truth of it is, winter solstice celebrations have occurred all over the world for millennia. Most didn’t look like the current idea of what traditional Christmas looks, not even actual Christmas, and that’s a point worth reviewing. I won’t give away the plot here, but I would wonder what some might guess what a decolonized Christmas would look like?
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.
I do what I can to help where I can, but the truth is that often, if not most of the time, I really don’t feel seen or heard. I feel as effective as a tiny chirp at the back of the cacophony that earns maybe a slight eyebrow raise from some bored listener on Facebook.
I resist the urge to screech louder. We’re supposed to be cautious about over-sharing or zealotry… Even so, I know at times I push that envelope – so bewildered that so few seem to understand or see what I see, even though what I end up screeching about is very much about their world too – equity and equality, corrupt industry and leadership, preserving clean waters… This is OUR world, damn it.
Realistically, of course I know I’m not really an island and I’m definitely not alone in my concerns nor alone on the front lines of a march or rally. Still, while people outside of those rallies, on social media et al, may seem not to notice, I think some, at least do. But what can really be said in response? How many times will people say, yes, I agree, before moving on?
So where do I or anyone else who desire to influence or create change for the better go from there? I suppose it’s at this point that some of us quit and maybe go look for whatever peace is available in our daily survival struggles. Or maybe we push even harder, hoping more serious agitation will move greater numbers. Or maybe like me, regardless of how despondent, quitting is impossible, (trust me, Cree blood is hot!). So, we continue to push for some semblance of balance in all options.
Having said all that, once in a while something happens out of the blue, maybe even something really quite sweet or even astonishing. Like an old friend and Juno Award winner writes a song and he says your efforts inspired him and all you can think is… holay!
What a beautiful event, this unexpected gift from a friend’s heart. He told me I could sing and record it; it’s mine to do with as I wish. Maybe I will sing and record it. Maybe I’ll just sing it with him some day – and I’d love that, but for now, I’d really love to share it with all the other dreamers who dare to strive. We can’t possibly know all who actually see or hear us, but someone is there and maybe, no matter how many, they’re all we’re meant to connect with. Maybe that really is enough…
Is it me, or are holidays as much work as regular ‘ol days? Before I’m reminded that compared to real life problems, this isn’t one of them, let me state – I know, I know. It’s just a little kvetching – I’ll blame it on the climate changing heat, but the planning, the supplies round-up, the prep, then the actual execution to get to that intended utopia – ugh!
I’d thought I’d laze by the water and let the whirlwinds of the last few months recede from my mind like a raft in meditation on a barely conscious flowing river, unleashing my creativity in rapturous waves and thus I would finally finish a script due approximately three weeks ago. Nope. (Sorry, boss).
So, here I am, once again dumped into the realm of life that throws me into the pursuit of the most simple of pleasures – memes! What I get, is what you get 😀 …
That’s all she wrote this holiday, folks. Stay hydrated, wear reasonable sunscreen, dance in moonlight, or whatever the hell it takes to enjoy any part of this latest summer…
…And I’ll get back to the script soon, boss. Just as soon as I finish packing up all the necessities for the beach.