The monsters under the bed

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Every day I wonder if I made the right decision by moving back home. Yes, there are many wonderful, new and positive things happening in the community, but there are also the same old negative and unhealthy habits that I left so I could get away from them.

​In my last blog post, I spoke of lateral violence and the poison that this behavior injects into the community. Coming home after being away for so many years means having to face that monster all over again. It’s disheartening to see that it hasn’t changed much. Coming home also means having to face personal monsters (family dysfunction) and the historical roots of oppression that have had long lingering effects on generations of families in the Aboriginal population.

​Indian Residential schools, political battles, racism, ignorance, apathy, denial and in-fighting are all ugly things I can’t avoid anymore, especially now that I am living and working in such a small community. Living in Toronto, it was easy for me to go to work, do my job and then leave, disappear into the city and go home.

​It’s not like that here and I feel that I stick out like a sore thumb. That is just one of many reasons why I have doubts about my decision. Do I really want to deal with all this stuff all over again? Do I really want to expose my children to all the things that made me leave in the first place?

​If I’m going to be really honest, I would have to say that no, I don’t want to deal with it all over again. But I’m a different person now than I was when I left. I have skills, I have experience, I have something to contribute and something to say and I don’t want to let my old fear and my doubts silence the Voice I fought so hard to reclaim.

​The fact is that I chose to come back here because I felt compelled to do so and I firmly believe that this is where I am meant to be, right here, right now. All the negative stuff might still be here and the monsters are lingering under my bed and in the closets, but I’m a stronger person than I was before and better equipped to look those monsters in the eye and scare them off for good.

I’m all grown up now.

An antidote for Lateral Violence

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I have been away from my home community for several years. I have had the opportunity to see and do a lot of things. I have travelled and lived abroad, and I have worked in the urban Aboriginal community for a long time and learned a lot of things I probably would have never known had I not left my home.

Returning home, I have eyes that see clearer and wider and I think I can recognize certain things that other community members might not see because they are so enmeshed in…well, the community.

I’ve had my share of gossip and back stabbing. I not only experienced it here where I grew up, but also in my workplace where I almost let the lateral violence destroy me. If you don’t know the term, please check out this link for a quick description on what it is. This behaviour occurs in other groups of people as well, but for this purpose, I am focusing on the Aboriginal population.

In short, lateral violence is basically when a historically oppressed group of people start to act out rage, anger and frustration on each other.  This shows up as gossip, blaming, shaming and back stabbing. It contributes to marriage breakdowns, loss of jobs, alcoholism and drug addiction, just to name a few. This in turn, keeps each other down and perpetuates a vicious cycle of mental, emotional and spiritual violence.

One of the sad things that I have learned since moving back home is that lateral violence is a way of life up here. I won’t say everyone, but a lot of people have never known any other way of relating to others except to tease, blame, shame and gossip about those they don’t like or are jealous of. Even my children have experienced this behavior from other children in the community. This in particular really angers me as we always hear our elders say that our children are our future, so shouldn’t we be teaching them about being open and honest and acting with empathy and integrity?

I have also encountered this since moving back home. It’s a fine line to tread between doing the right thing and unknowingly participating in this invisible poison. It seems like an uphill battle to try and undo the damage that has been done.

I’m not perfect either and I don’t know all the answers. I do know that it takes more than one person and more than just ignoring it to put a stop to it. Already I have had to confront someone who was whispering untruths about me behind my back. I did my best to be straight up but not mean about it. It was scary but I’m glad I did it when I first caught wind of it. I expect a much different outcome in my relationship with this person now that I confronted it head on. I hope the outcome is positive.

It doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but I think confronting it in a good way makes a profound difference. The damage done by lateral violence can’t be changed overnight especially when most people don’t see what it is because they are right in the thick of it. Those of us that do see it and know the difference, will humbly continue to do the powerful work of pointing it out and saying so.

A sense of belonging

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I just started my fourth week of my new job and so far I can say that I love it. I can’t get into too much details, but basically my work mandate is Violence Against Women which embodies individual counseling, advocacy and educational group programs. Our mandate is for Aboriginal/First Nations women, however we are inclusive and our services are open to all women who need it.

Besides my new job, there have been a few blips on my radar with our move and the kids getting used to our new lives away from the city, but all in all it’s going really well.

It’s kind of weird being back home. When I first left here several years ago, I walked out of my parents house with two bags and the clothes on my back vowing to never come back to live. I felt even more strongly about this after I had my own kids, thinking that raising them off the reserve was better for them. In many ways, this was the best choice for my children and for me. I love my home, however if you know anything about the history of colonization and First Nations in Canada, you will know that life on a native reserve can be fraught with trauma and heartbreak. I certainly experienced this growing up here and what parent doesn’t want to protect their children from that?

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But I think I have let my own personal trauma cloud my vision for many years, and now after being away from here for so long, I have returned and I see things differently. Yes, there are some problems, but I think we are fortunate because my First Nation community is not isolated (which I think has a lot to do with problems like alcoholism and drug addiction), we have a huge land base, economically things are on the upswing and our leadership is modern and progressive. I am proud of where I am from and it feels like the right place for me to be right now. I think I have something of value to contribute.

Basically, what I am saying is that things have changed for the better and are continuing to evolve into bigger and better things. I feel hopeful and optimistic.

I have attended some community functions and it feels good to be back. It’s also good to be amongst my huge extended family, and it’s great to see my kids experience the outdoors the way I did when I was a child.

I enjoy and need my family, and for the first time in my life I realize that not only do I also enjoy and need my community around me, but that my community might actually need me too…

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All photos are my own, taken and edited on my iPhone5. Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/bearheartwoman

Full moon reflections

Faithful orbit...

Faithful orbit…

I have not done any writing in a long time. Now that I have started my new job and my kids are in school, I need make some time for writing again. I’m kind of lost without it.

Our big move is in process and we are getting used to our new life out of the city. We have all had some little blips to deal with. We were all happy and excited about the move in the beginning, but now that we are getting used to our new routines, job, school and friends (or lack of), reality sets in and some challenges have come up.

At the moment, it’s mostly my son who is having a hard time adjusting. He was doing great at first but now he is having a difficult time at school. It mainly has to do with the fact that he has no one to play with at recess and he is bored and lonely. The last two days he has cried about not wanting to go to school. Obviously this is very concerning for me, so I sent a note to his teacher this morning. I haven’t heard from her yet so I can only hope that he gave it to her and that she was able to address the situation. No parent wants to see their child cry because they have no friends.

My daughter is doing better. She had a situation over the weekend with someone who she thought was her friend. Honestly, I was cautious with this child from the beginning and her behavior last weekend confirmed my suspicions. I know this is harsh to say about a child, but for some very complicated reasons, she is not to be trusted. But since we live in the same community, they get on the school bus together and are in the same class, my daughter has to learn how to deal with her in a good way so there won’t be problems at school. My girl is very emotionally mature,intelligent and empathetic. I am confident that she will learn this tough lesson. It’s hard enough for adults to deal with this let alone an eleven year old child. Once again I am reminded of the bitter life lesson of keeping your friends close, but keeping your enemies closer. It’s not nice but sometimes that’s the way it is.

I have to keep reminding myself of all the positive reasons for why I made the decision to move up here. Changes, even really really good ones are not without some wrinkles to iron out.

Perhaps it is this full moon that is playing tricks on us and magnifying all of our emotions…

An unexpected but positive change…

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I first moved to Toronto 15 years ago to leave the past behind me and start a fresh, new life. The city has been good to me and I have found everything I ever wanted – a home, a loving partner, two beautiful children, an amazing career and wonderful friends. Just three months ago, I had no idea that my life could change so much in such a short period of time…

We’re moving out of Toronto to my (very small) home community in Northern Ontario. I promise to write more about this in another blog post.

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Our new home is not that faraway, about a 4 hour drive north of Toronto, but this a huge change for my family. It all happened rather unexpected and fast, but it’s happening and we have started the process of relocating. I’m excited and looking forward to our new life.

I’m also a little sad to be leaving this beautiful city that has been so good to me over the years. There are a lot of things about living here that I love and will miss, but when I see how happy my kids are to be with their grandparents and extended family, I know that moving back home is the right thing to do.

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I’m even more sad about leaving the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the years. It’s true, I don’t have the support of extended family here in the city, but I have the support of a small group of friends which has made living here so great. I look forward to coming back often to visit.

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Yesterday my kids started their new school up north and today I am back at work in Toronto for a few days to tie up loose ends before starting my new job. It’s a big change in a short period of time but I am really happy and excited for the move. On the other hand, I am feeling a little bit of sadness with a tinge of regret.

All I can say is that this momentous change is for the best, but still, leaving this beautiful city and saying goodbye to our wonderful friends, is just so bittersweet.

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Time on my hands and guilty pleasures

A piece of the Manitou Islands, Lake Nipissing, Northern Ontario.

A piece of the Manitou Islands, Lake Nipissing, Northern Ontario.

Time moves at a much slower pace when you’re out of the city. I’ve been reminded of this now that I have spent the whole summer up north in my home community. I’m on a three-month medical leave from my job to recover from my surgery this past May, and while the first month or so was rough, I have to say that I have been having the time of my life since then. It’s almost like a dream come true to have so much time on my hands that allows me to enjoy the entire summer in the country with my family. 

You would think that with all this time on my hands that I would be taking more photos and sharing them on Instagram. But my right foot is still quite sore and I can’t put my full weight on it yet, so walking around and climbing over rocks like what I used to do for photos is not possible right now. I expect that it will be several more months before I gain more mobility in my foot. I’m getting better and walking more which feels great.

I’m back in Toronto this week, and the contrast between city life and country life is obvious. I missed the city and I love it here, but I can’t wait to get back to the slower pace of life up in Northern Ontario. With so many things to see and do in the city, all I really want to do is sit by the lake at my parents home and enjoy the quiet scenery. My kids love it up there and also can’t wait to get back to enjoy the rest of the summer outdoors.

This summer, I have been having so much fun that a part of me almost feels guilty for it! Like, is a responsible adult supposed to have this much leisure time and fun every day?! I know it’s crazy to think like that, but I can’t deny that the thought has crossed my mind a few times. My doubts aren’t stopping me though, and I plan on enjoying these last few weeks of summer up north with my family. 

I am loving it up there so much that I am really considering leaving our life in the city for a simpler and more quiet life in the wilds of Northern Ontario. We’ll see…

When a wish really does come true there are no harps and angels

Weeds to wishes

Weeds to wishes

Eleven days ago I checked into a local hospital for scheduled orthopaedic surgery. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, so all is well and I’m now at home recovering. The first few days after my bone surgery were painful, but manageable. I am feeling better and stronger every day and am no longer taking the prescribed pain medication. My doctor expects me to be home and resting for the next five weeks, so I am starting to get myself used to a routine of early to bed, early to rise, reading books, watching Netflix, and my favourite part – afternoon naps. Sounds dreamy doesn’t it?

Actually, truth be told, three days at home and I was bored stiff and missing my evening walks at the lake.  Also, I never thought I would say this but I miss my job. I have three months off from work, doctors orders, but I have already started to have thoughts of going back to work earlier than that. I should probably listen to my doctor.

Also, I miss going out to take pictures. :(

It’s okay though. I’ll be fine. I’m starting to enjoy my new leisure time and my healing and recovery are going well. I get my bandages and stitches out tomorrow.

Thinking back to the day of surgery, as I was laying on the surgery table, the anesthesiologist put the mask on my face and told me to count back from ten until I fell asleep. I think I was too scared to count so I didn’t do that. Instead, I made a wish for an easy and peaceful recovery, and then my eye lids grew heavy and I was out. I awoke just over and hour later in the recovery room to a friendly nurse who stood by my side until I was able to stay awake on my own.

It’s been less than two weeks and I have a long recovery ahead of me, but so far things are going great. The first three days post-surgery were horrid. Oh yes, I have some stories involving opiates, hellish nightmares and entire conversations with the doctor that I don’t remember. But in the days since then, it has been pretty easy. Every day I wake up feeling better and stronger and grateful for my good health. If I believed that wishes always came true, I would say that my wish certainly is in progress.

So recovery is going well and being home to see my kids off to school in the morning and being here for them when they get home in the afternoon, is an added bonus. Being a working mom, this is a small but significant longing I have always had and something I never gave much thought to because I didn’t think it would ever happen. Now I am home for them when they get home from school and we are all loving it.

On second thought, maybe sometimes when your wishes comes true, you really do end up with more than you asked for.

The photo above was taken by me with my iPhone 5. You can follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman or on EyeEm @callmeShebear