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

That! Is My Answer

Someone once reached an uncharted part of me…
Only one time …
Ever…
Finally!

lovebirds

Someone dived deeply into my needs and said I will fight for them. I will be the salve that fills them.

I can do that.  I will do that – because you are so fucking worth it.

That!

It was that –  that ignited a visceral, cellular level response revealing a deeply buried gratitude effervescing in complete joy to the surface of my being.  For him.

It would take that to have me soaring after eagles again.
It’s what separates punks from the men,
The heroes from the ... weak.
It takes that for me to feel loved,
And safe,
And secure.

It’s that…
that I want
and need…
Still.
It was always,

That.

Why would I settle for anything else, ever again?
Settle for what?

Nothing, less than – that.

RL

The end of tributes… I lay down tobacco today to finish the healing.

Half-Breed to Metis – My Return from a ‘Savage’ Wilderness; PART 1

(Originally partially posted in 2013 and revised 2016)

My name is Pipisiw.  That’s what my grandmother called me. I’ve loved her, all my life, even though she died when I was three yrs. old.  I sometimes imagine I can remember hearing her call out to me… “Pi-piiii-siww”.

Now it makes me smile, but after she died, when I grew a little older, I came to hate that name.  I hated when my mother or uncles would call me by it. It came to represent all that was shameful to me about myself.

metis-bear blue-edged2That shame was really about my childhood and it was deep and even unconscious. I blamed most of it on the fact that I had been born of “Indian” ancestry.

Whether or not being Indigenous actually was the overall reason for the issues didn’t really matter because it was what was driven home to me as a child. Whatever bad that happened, was mostly because of that, regardless of where we were.

Neighbours, strangers and even friends reinforced that belief by at times calling me racist names or treating me with a certain disdain reserved for those considered lesser. I overheard countless comments on the general uselessness of Indians.

As an adult, it was astounding to hear occasional comments in my business world that continued those views. I’d thought the more educated could be held to a higher standard of decency in general.

Although communications was always a major role in my jobs, and most definitely, a full-on accusation as a child, I never spoke up when anyone said anything like that.  Along with the shame I carried was a belief that, for the most part, those comments were true. I’d come to believe we were lesser and despite innate defensiveness, my heart still carried it.

It took decades and a long look back for me to heal enough from those wounds to feel like I could truly stand up in recognition of my history and my own people.  I made that recognition statement by applying for Metis status.  I didn’t have a home band to call my own for the Cree/Nehiyaw side of our family, but I did I qualify for our Metis recognition.

My decision to apply was partly spurred by much of what I’d read in the papers and on social media over the last decade on how Indigenous issues are somehow an old idea and we should all be over it by now.  I’d hear a voice in the back of my head saying, that’s complete bullshit; no one tells anyone to get over the Jewish holocaust, what about ours? And why then, does this continent still have government departments to oversee the ‘Indians’? Then that voice asked, so where’s your voice in this?

There was a burning anger building in me and it fueled me to face my fears and delve into my past to answer that question. When I did, I still got butterflies that a broad, official declaration, ‘I am Cree, I am Metis’, would somehow affect me negatively.  In the end, the sense of injustice overwhelmed the fear; if anyone were to come for me and my boy, I’d rather go with that than live in shame any more.  Mostly though, I was able to stand up with pride by finally learning I did not come from some shame-filled abyss. None of us did.

It’s true that there are many issues that need attending to in Indigenous communities, the road of healing from the consequences of long-term colonialist oppression is still too long. Part of that healing needs far more awareness by most North Americans that those same oppressive systems are still in place today.

On the personal side of it, I really wonder if any community can truly fully grow if its foundation is unintentionally made flimsy by too many of us that feel like I did, sub-par and lost in a kind of black hole.

It took that long trek into the past to climb out of that hole.  I had no idea that walk would be over three centuries long and the first steps began with some of my earliest memories of being an “indian” child.

Those earliest recollections of being told what I was, not by family, but other people who were around us was normal and many of those lessons were taught in school. In class, among the typical stories and songs we all regularly sang were things like, “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians”, (apparently still popular with the uninformed). Right up there with Three Blind Mice. Hard to imagine that changed to 10 little Irish or Jewish boys.

At around Grade 5, at 10 yrs old, I remember being more conscious of learning about how those Indians who kept getting in the way of the settlers were really quite awful. It was that year that my relationship to those awful Indians was cemented after an incident with a non-Indigenous friend.  It’s here where I really started my journey back to the beginning…

“Get out of here, you filthy little Indian”!  The echo of those words screeched at me when I was 10 yrs. old never left the recesses of my heart. I was chased out of the home of my best friend by her mother, who accused me of doing something to dirty her home. I don’t remember the exact details of the crime, but I remember being very confused; I remember being made to feel dirty and small.

I ran from her and with each step my humiliation and devastation deepened.  Her words continued to boom loudly behind me as I raced up the street.  She made sure that everyone knew what I really was. She very nearly made sure I’d know what I was for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been called some pejorative statement about my ancestry.   I heard them before I even began school: half-breed, squaw, redskin, savage…  The incidences lessened around 11 or 12 yrs. of age.  By then we’d learned to call each other squaw and savages anyway.

The name calling decreased more when I was about 15 yrs. old.  I’m guessing it was because it was becoming more largely politically incorrect in the late 1970’s. It wasn’t a daily or even weekly event anymore, but I wouldn’t be completely free of it at any time in my life, so far.

As I aged people would often ask me what I was and in return I would ask, what do you think?  They would give me all kinds of guesses, usually something Mediterranean, sometimes Eastern European, or even Eurasian when I moved to the coast.  I would always tell them, yes, that is correct – good guess!

One time someone asked me if I was Greek.  Of course, I said.  Well, what’s your name then?  Oh great, I had to come up with a Greek name.  I just barely found out what tzatziki was!  My panicking wit managed to squeeze out, “Athena” – that goddess of love kind of thing.   “Athena what”?  Oh, good grief!   “Acropolis, I am Athena Acropolis”!

I’m pretty sure it was then that he knew I was lying, but I just kept eating my tzatziki and pita as though it had been the first solid food fed to me as a baby by my definitely Greek parents…

Click here to read Part 2 – …What a search through history solved and  finally gave me… and it didn’t include a Greek anything…

RL

With great gratitude to Dick Garneau, whose years of work compiling centuries of First Nations & Metis journal entries led me to more family discoveries than I ever dreamed I’d find. Hiy hiy, Dick. Thank you for your amazing work and generosity. May many others be as blessed as my family was with his work.  http://metis-history.info

A short note just to add some context to how the Stereotypes began:
21 things you may not know about the Indian Act – The Indian Act has been in place for 140 years:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/21-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-indian-act-1.3533613
Artwork credit: Bear/Woman portion- Bear: Clan Mother, 2012  Jordan Thompson, mohawk-art-design.com;  Metis addition – Robyn Lawson

With a Little Help From My Friends; Karen Kelt, “In Pursuit Of Normal & Stirrup Pants”

While I’m off restoring my inner warrior, some friends have stepped up to bat to help me out by sharing some pretty amazing stories of growing triumphs of their own. 

This guest story is from a dear friend of mine who has been, and continues to be, on a remarkable and sometimes unrecognizable, journey of  transformation …

I went on my first diet in grade 5, at about 10 yrs old.  I wasn’t huge; I just needed to lose 10 lbs or so – ‘to be normal’.  My mom bribed me with a pair of the then popular stirrup pants because, “you can’t wear those if you’re heavy”.  Of course I did it.  Starved myself and lost the weight, but it only creeped back over the next few months plus another 10 lbs.

Karenpic 1 BeforeI only ever wanted to be normal.  It’s been my goal for as long as I can remember.  I didn’t need to be thin or beautiful, just normal.  What I wanted now was for people not to stare at me as I walked through the mall.  To avoid having children at the grocery store or hair salon ask their mothers, “Why is that lady so fat?”   To be able to go on a bike ride or run around on the soccer field with my kids.  Things that “normal” people do.

Of course, that was then and my idea of ‘normal’ has changed drastically since I started this journey…

There was never any reason for it, the constant weight gain.  I came from an amazing, loving family who had high expectations of me, but nothing crazy.  The truth is, I just love food and hate exercise.  Always have, always will.  Unfortunately, I eat when I’m happy, sad, or stressed.

quotation mark 1When I’d go on a diet , it wasn’t just my stomach aching for food, but my heart tooquotation mark 2.

I’ve gained and lost hundreds of pounds and had asked for help so many times, it was embarrassing.  The answer was always, “Why don’t you try weight watchers and cut out the fried food.”  Um, thanks for that…why didn’t I think of that?  In fact, I was always an extremely healthy eater.  I just ate too much, too often.

After 28 years of yo-yo dieting, using every program, supplement, clinic and cabbage soup recipe, someone gave me the courage to do something different.  My two sisters-in-law, to whom I will always be grateful, finally stopped tiptoeing around the problem by stating outright that I needed medical help.  I’d already known this, but I was always just too scared of what people would think to make the call.

From the time I finally did make that call, I spent over 18 months on a wait list before I was contacted again for an orientation about my options. It took another 6 months of several follow-up appointments, journaling, exercise, counselling and more before I was approved for the surgery I’d chosen.

On February 5th 2015, I had gastric sleeve surgery.  I weighed 280 lbs after already losing 20 lbs by then.  They cut out most of my stomach and left a pouch about the size of a banana.  Yes, it was painful, but I had a goal and normal finally felt like it was within my reach.

quotation mark 1One of the most interesting things I found after surgery was that I learned I had never truly felt full before.  The feeling in my chest, even after swallowing only small amounts of liquids now, was a completely unknown sensation.  I’d honestly never felt full in all my 39 yearsquotation mark 2

The results since have been amazing physically, emotionally and in general growth.  From my orientation of August 2014 to September 2015, I lost a total of 135 lbs, most since February 5th.

The transformation was apparently equally startling. I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t recognize me and the looks of shock on their faces was comical.  Quite a few people literally did not recognize me; they thought I was my own sister.

Karenpic 2

From August 2014 to September 2015, I lost a total of 135 lbs

Shock aside, I’ve seen something beautiful happen too.  When I show my before and after pictures to the people who really know me and love me, they are always surprised that I was ever that big.  The one thing I’ve learned is that those people never saw the outward person that I was always embarrassed about.  They just saw me.

The extended pluses:  I can now do any exercise I want.  My debilitating back pain is gone.  I don’t need an afternoon nap.  I walk in public and don’t constantly wonder what all those staring people are thinking of me.  I really don’t care anymore, which is weird for me.  I’ve always cared.  Always worried about what everyone else thinks.  I’m also more comfortable around my husband in our more intimate situations.  That’s a huge step for me.  I even gained the courage to apply for and get a new job.

Reality check – it’s not about perfection…

Karenpic 1 AfterYou’d think with all this joyous news I‘d be happy, complete, & unconcerned about the future.  Well, the reality is that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Despite the overall success, I have one unusual drawback. I am still constantly bombarded with hunger and cravings – gnawing, painful hunger.  Like my stomach is trying to eat itself, and while I am now more able, exercise is a daily mental struggle.  I wish I was one of those people who started loving it, but I’m not.

Worse than all of that, is the fear.  I am terrified of gaining the weight back and having everyone know I failed.  After all the amazing people who helped and supported me, is it possible that I could allow my brain to derail me?

But, in a way, isn’t this what normal is?  Aren’t we all afraid of failing…no matter what our goal or accomplishment? If only we could learn and truly believe success isn’t about a number on the scale, the level of education we’ve achieved, or the amount of money we have in the bank.

And so, this is the next goal for me.  Learning to be happy with Karen, regardless of how much I weigh, or more importantly, what other people think of me.  This is what should be ‘normal’.

-Karen Kelt

Weird Normal & Cancer Envy; Part One of Bear With Me

Friends, Ed & E called. They were concerned, curious mostly about the intensity and/or emotional topics on my recent posts, and because I’ve been missing in action.

Bear With Me 4I have been quieter in general, but to address some of their concern, I explained that I usually write about my or other’s experiences in the way they felt at the time of the occurrences. It gives the impression they all happened recently, but really they could have happened yesterday or thirty years ago.

I do mix them up because while they make the point that I want, it also protects people who may need shielding.  I also just like to indulge in a little mystery for fun.

Admittedly, the events of late are not all related to that fun; they have been more unusually taxing. So yes, I’ve been more reserved in my activities and have expressed more personal poignancy in my posts.

I manage a rare disease within my daily routine. For the most part everything about me seems pretty normal, except for when this disease bounces my world into chaos.

To explain the beast in 10 words or less – it’s an inflammation-based disease of all kinds of irritation, but mainly it unpredictably interferes with organ function and defies prognosis.  It’s a pick an organ, any organ to screw with when it’s bored or cranky, kind of bastard. I call these visits by it, the ‘big ones’.

Friends may observe it has pounced by my newly inhibited movement, or noticeable weight loss, or I might be hospitalized for months engaged in hand to hand combat with the Grim Reaper. Sometimes he’s content to just gnaw on a limb for a few weeks.

The moments in between these time-outs are the same as most – work, growing kids, growing me, up days, down days, and once in a while even surviving catastrophic days unrelated to my health.

This fall, previously written about on the loss of someone I loved, and the pain of a betrayal, played into that old myth that these sort of events come in threes.

So, in the midst of the hell, number three showed up, in the form of another scary, frustrating flare-up. It would take another post to detail it and I’d rather leave it at saying I acquired a painful syndrome that they say will take a couple of years to unwind. It also triggered a former crisis. Let the good times roll.

Of course, I’m scared. Yes it troubles me, and yes, I’ve cried. Navigating pain is tricky business & each of these events makes me feel just a little bit or a lot bit, lost at times. There is a real aura of alone because I am in some ways, the least of which is that I have never met anyone who has my disease.

Not that I wish for someone else to have it for company.  It can stir up a weird head space though.  I’ve actually envied cancer patients.  They have so much support, myriad services and immediate sympathy.  And ready understanding.

Once I walked out of a private ‘washroom for disabled’ and a woman waved her cane and loudly castigated me, “You should know this room is for the disabled!”

I’d used the privacy to deal with a temporary drainage bag attached into my belly. I only stared at her, feeling indignant embarrassment as I brushed past her. I wish I would have said something to puncture her presumptions and I still can’t believe I didn’t…

That experience was too new for me to think fast enough.  Maybe.  Probably, I was drugged. I’d later considered wearing a scarf to cover my hair – chemo hair-loss style – whenever I was struck by the big ones. I eventually got over that and earned another level of psyche strength; I definitely don’t feel obligated to always explain myself anymore.

Which leads me toward the point of this post. Well, it will somewhere down the line.

Hindsight is 20/20 when measuring growth through adversity, but when awesome reader/friends, Rebekah Ingram & Randall Willis, zinged me with some gorgeous insight, there was an intriguing moment of ‘aha’!

Their views pointed me to observing the growth & changes in me as they are occurring. Maybe we call it 10/10 forevision. This means I’m paying attention to what’s going on in my feelings, body & spirit now, during these trials, rather than surviving and processing later.

Along with mom & dad flying across the country to hug & assist me, I believe applying this new aspect could, in some ways, help me heal a little faster.

It’s another work in progress, but I look forward to seeing what’s being brought to me and through me with this new process. I’ll start in gratitude to these friends for sharing their caring hearts at just the right time.

 

Yes, I am That Confident – Up Yours!

Oh Snap 2“Well you can’t fix stupid either and you proved that”!!  That intended insult was lobbed at me in a Facebook note about a year and a half ago.  It was from someone who had at most a few superficial conversations with me and certainly no chat about the issue that was at hand at that time. Not that really knowing me, nor that person having full knowledge of the details then changes the bottom line.

I admit I was somewhat shocked at that charged-up energy coming at me. There are all kinds of ways to respond, but at the time I was more engrossed in the issue that precipitated the results of her research and it didn’t really register.

I re-read the post later and when I came across those words again, I actually ended up smiling. They reminded me of a personal motto that I used to say to people: “I hope I’m the dumbest one in the room”.  In return I usually got a look like maybe they had just found her.  What I really meant was that regardless of whatever activity or endeavor I was involved in, I wanted whomever else I was working with to be that much wiser, knowledgeable, and creative than me.  I was sure that would get me the opportunity to learn something great, and hopefully a lot of it.  Yes, I do know what that shot’s intention was, but I know myself well enough to be confident in what I may or may not be.

That exchange had interesting timing. Some friends and I had been having conversations about self- esteem, particularly in girls, and the often misinterpreted difference between assertiveness & confidence and self-centeredness & aggression. There are many examples of how these characteristics are practised, but in these chats we narrowed the issue down to the ability to stand up for oneself. It’s this point we felt that usually illustrates most of the differences between those two approaches.

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”.  No one better cross me or else! Ohhh snap! Or – Oh 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, patience levels.

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 includes offering genuine apologies.  I’ve also noticed that people who cannot apologize are masters at becoming the victim in all their stories.

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

In the interest of full disclosure:  some time after sending the note, my ‘insulter’s’ defense was that she responded to something that she interpreted as being negatively said about her.  I did my best to reassure that this was far from the case, noting that the discussion in play wasn’t even about her.  No matter, once her reaction was on the table for all to see, the never-intended reason became fact for her forever.  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.

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 is far more to the depth of these issues and their needs 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