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Don’t worry

My new mantra that is pinned to the wall of my cubicle at work…

don't worry

I think it’s brilliant. I should set it up as a screensaver on my phone for quick access when I’m stuck on a crowded subway train, up to my earlobes in anxiety and on the verge of a meltdown.

Petting kitty cats when I get home helps ease the anxiety levels too though. Their gentle purrs somehow makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. Too bad I can’t bring them to work with me…

I'm afraid my Instagram feed may be getting overrun with cat photos. But they are so cute and they make me happy!

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The Big Melt(down)

It’s been awhile since I have updated here. My life has been hectic in recent months and today it finally seems like I might have the time to sit down and have a good rest.

A lot is going on in my life at the moment…

Today I am 41 years old. I woke up this morning to Happy Birthday messages all over my Facebook. The truth is that I completely forgot about my birthday until I checked my phone this morning, which makes it official…I am old enough to not give a shit about my birthday! Yay!

Yesterday I started a new job in a familiar place. Two weeks ago my family and two very nervous cats moved into a new apartment in the city. Seven weeks ago my kids and I packed one bag each of clothing, dropped the cats off at my parents and drove 4 hours south to Toronto to stay with my husband in a hotel room for an undetermined amount of time and start over…again. Eight weeks ago I handed in my resignation for reasons I can’t talk about here.

Today I am sitting in downtown Toronto in my previous place of work, with a new job on my old team. My kids have adjusted to their new schools and being back in the city. There were lots of tears at first and it wasn’t easy, but they are happy again. Our new apartment is fabulous and HUGE and I am looking forward to hosting a dinner party for our friends. The cats were completely freaked out from the move but I can report that they are now happy and comfortable in the new pad. Actually, I was pretty freaked out by the whole thing too, but I am doing much, much better now. (Purrrrrrr)

Oreo and Luna

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This past year has been a long and hard journey. I am not sure why I had to go through it or what kind of lessons I can take from it. I am sure there are many gems of wisdom to gain from the experience but for now I am feeling incredibly grateful that my family and I made it through in one piece and everything has worked out better than I ever hoped for.

Depression still lurks around the corners and threatens to slip in through the cracks under my doorway. I have random anxiety attacks which have been difficult but I am learning to manage them. Despite it, I think I am doing much better than I was earlier this year. At least I don’t feel like a cardboard cut out of myself anymore and I got my feelings back. The problem is, my feelings are BIG and all over the place and I have zero control over them. Crying in public has never been my thing and now I have random outbursts of emotion which is the worst nightmare for a super self-control freak like myself. Yes, I get the lesson here. Putting a lid on your emotions is really, really bad for you. I just wish I can at least wait until I get home to cry over nothing.

But, I am doing better. The desire to write is a good sign of my old self and I look forward to sitting down and putting words together again. I can’t say that I am completely back to normal but honestly, I don’t think I will ever be the same again. Perhaps that is a good thing.

It was a hard year and the past two months have been a roller coaster off all kinds of emotions. The good news is that I am actually feeling real, full emotions again. They may not all be pretty and some of them are downright ugly, but in the midst of the big meltdown of every emotion that ever existed, I am feeling something that is vaguely familiar to me. I think it’s called Happiness.

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How quickly I forget

I talked myself into going for a walk tonight because I was bored. Boredom tends to lead to over thinking, which leads to worry, which leads to anxiety, which leads to…well, you know how that goes.

I’m sure glad I forced myself out the door because it was a beautiful sunset tonight.

I think I remember why I love this little piece of Northern Ontario…

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All photos were taken and edited by me on my iPhone 5.

Follow me on Instagram: @bearheartwoman

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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