Monday, December 28, 2020

2021, LET'S DO THIS

 



Some of the themes I will continue to write about in the new year are happiness, mindfulness, movement, gratitude, reflections on climate change, health and childhood trauma. I will also continue to learn  new information daily.  I am excited  to see the possibilities in the new year.  I wonder what upgrades the Tesla will develop.  And what adventures are planned for the space industry.   like everyone on the planet I am looking forward to a COVID vaccine, and people being able to hug each other once again. 

I made some resolutions at the end of 2019. They were pretty much the same as in previous years.   I said I would read 90 books,  but  what actually happened is I spent more time  listening to podcasts and only read about 60 books. I am not going to make resolutions this year  because I am going to continue doing what I've always been doing keeping  an open mind  and learning. 

Inasmuch as we are anticipating that 2021 will be different, we should be prepared for much of the same. And we also should be asking questions like: “How can we thrive in more of the same environment? What can we do differently to ensure we are grateful, happy, and thriving? More importantly, how can we maintain our humanity?”

I am encouraged by teenager Swedish climate activists Greta Thunberg. In her plea on March 15, 2019 she said: “Our house is on fire, I want you to panic.” That simple statement drove 1.6 million young people onto the streets for better climate protection and by extension the survival of 7 billion humans on this planet.

At the end of 2019 I had no idea or even a desire to create a federal charitable foundation, or to produce and host a podcast. But both things happened. These are the two things I am most proud of achieving during a global pandemic. The federal charitable foundation is a continuation of the work that I did as chair of Nechi Institute Center of Indigenous Learning. When I resigned from the Board of Governors in August, I felt my work was incomplete. My desire to help Indigenous people understand and recover from substance abuse was still strong. I couldn't just walk away without having something in that space.

I founded Seventh Generation Indigenous Foundation and Training. (G.I.F.T.) and to help promote the foundation I am producing and hosting the Empathetic Witness podcast. It is inviting people to a conversation to unpack and to begin the process of decolonization on areas that impact Indigenous peoples’ life. I produced three episodes in 2020, one inviting you to a conversation on decolonizing addictions, and another on decolonizing Indigenous adoptions.

I ended the year with a powerful and contentious conversation about decolonizing Indigenous Storytelling with Dr. Betty Bastien Professor of Social Work at the University of Calgary, Alberta. Questions discussed were:

· Does the media like CBC hold some responsibility in perpetuating and promoting self-identifying as Indigenous? In the example of Michelle Latimer we can assume she got a CBC job producing a documentary series – at least in part -- because she claimed to have an Indigenous identity.

· The language we use, and its contexts are important. Are there specific terms that we should be avoiding, and what terms should we use instead?

· When our stories are told from a perspective that is not our own, what harm is it creating?

· If it is an Indigenous person telling these stories on Indigenous themes is a native person that has never lived in the community and who has been raised in a city and never lived a"

typical” indigenous experience in an indigenous community, do they have a right to tell the story? I can think of my granddaughters who live in Hawaii, who have not been raised around my brothers and sisters, who have limited understanding of the challenges we faced, can they at some point in their life if they wanted to write a book, do research, produce documentaries on Indigenous themes and will their work be accepted Some of the themes I will continue in the new year are happiness, mindfulness, movement, gratitude, reflections on climate change, health and childhood trauma.  Once the final podcast has been edited I will post it here.  

I am encouraged by teenager Swedish climate activists Greta Thunberg. In her plea on March 15, 2019 she said: “Our house is on fire, I want you to panic.” That simple statement drove 1.6 million young people onto the streets for better climate protection and by extension the survival of 7 billion humans on this planet.

I ended the year with a powerful and contentious conversation about decolonizing Indigenous Storytelling with Dr. Betty Bastien Professor of Social Work at the University of Calgary, Alberta.   in particular  we discussed the Michelle Latimer   controversy  Questions discussed were:

· Does the media like CBC hold some responsibility in perpetuating and promoting self-identifying as Indigenous? In the example of Michelle Latimer we can assume she got a CBC job producing a documentary series – at least in part -- because she claimed to have an Indigenous identity.

· The language we use, and its contexts are important. Are there specific terms that we should be avoiding, and what terms should we use instead?

· When our stories are told from a perspective that is not our own, what harm is it creating?

· If it is an Indigenous person telling these stories on Indigenous themes is a native person that has never lived in the community and who has been raised in a city and never lived a"

typical” indigenous experience in an indigenous community, do they have a right to tell the story? I can think of my granddaughters who live in Hawaii, who have not been raised around my brothers and sisters, who have limited understanding of the challenges we faced, can they at some point in their life if they wanted to write a book, do research, produce documentaries on Indigenous themes and will their work be accepted as authentic? And who has the legitimate right to tell our stories?

· What can we do now to preserve our stories in the most authentic way?

My intention for 2021 is to promote, support and encourage family members to realize their dreams in 2021. My nephew Gitz Crazyboy has been very busy. He published a children's book, and accepted a number of interviews to promote his book, 'Secret of the Stars' from as far away as  Australia. 

2020I am not sad to see you go.  Thank you for teaching me lessons of patients, acceptance and to dig deep to find gratitude in adversity.    it has made me stronger and more determined to be of service to others.  

Saturday, December 19, 2020

DECEMBER 2020 A BRAVE NEW WORLD AWAITS



 

   Reflection on the Year 2020

No one could have predicted what an epic shift 2020 would deliver   I will not focus on the negative aspects of the year.  Enough of that I say.  I will be focusing on our internal power source. It goes without saying that I am not alone in wanting this year to be over! But at the same time, I am a realist.  At the stroke of midnight on 2021 COVID 19 will still be wreaking havoc.  It will not mysteriously disappear, and we can't pretend otherwise.   That said, it has been my longtime belief that how we deal with adversity builds character. 

I am going to write about how I was able to keep my sanity and gratitude in spite of the loss of seven  immediate family members in this past year alone.  It is all about perspective. 

As we go into the New Year will you behave as you did in 2020?  Are there lessons you have learned? Will you be a better version of yourself?  To answer these questions it is helpful if you reflect back on the year as I am doing now.  Look at what you overcame and how you came out at the end of the year more determined, with more strength and with a clear perspective.  Focus on what you have achieved, not what you have lost. 

When was the moment you first realize that "the new normal" would be a description for something that was anything but normal?  Stupid words sprinkled our everyday life, diminishing our freedom.  Words like "new normal," " pivot," "uncertainty" and "social distancing." WTF! 

Like most of us,  it was in March, and COVID was tightening its grip on the world.  Public places began shutting down. We were asked to socially distance to protect those we love. We adapted to the restrictions, albeit with some resistance.  But on the whole we complied. Eventually, weeks turned into months. Now we are approaching the one year mark.  We had no idea how long it would last.  However, I did know nevertheless that a pandemic was going to change the lives of millions of people globally, and unfortunately some did not make it.  

Let me tell you a story  

I survived a pandemic when I was a  toddler,  In the early 1960s I was personally struck by a different global pandemic, polio.  Although a polio vaccine was developed in 1955, before I was born, I got infected, I suspect because I lived in a northern Indigenous community and I had not yet been vaccinated.  I have little memory of that period  of my life.  Fortunately for me I  recovered.  Like many polio survivors it made me resilient and gave me an indomitable spirit and maybe a little stubbornness, which probably stands me in good stead. :)

From all historical accounts it seems that the  human population is reacting exactly as it did in previous pandemics.  As with COVID, polio was caused by a virus. Panic was all-consuming and because it struck children, and as a result all swimming pools, playgrounds, and schools were closed. Hygiene became important, it was  widely believe that the virus was spread through feces because of unclean hands.  Fear and panic swept across the country's like wildfire.  The World Health Organization rapidly worked to develop a vaccine. It was like today's COVID-19.   Humans are a complicated lot and in previous pandemics we behaved out of fear and panic. 

Speaking of which, much of the same reaction is taking place today.  An avalanche of fear and panic has taken over.  In the earlier pandemic there was a resistance to wearing masks too. And then too, usually well-behaved folks began a frenzied buying spree.  This past year, for some reason toilet paper disappeared off the shelves. This was anything but normal.  The next nine months was like living in a movie  and we were the stars in our own drama. 

As far as I can tell there is no hero to save the day.  Only a malicious character who told unbelievable tales and created division, fear and hatred among everybody including families. The deadliest thing he did was to question the science to address the virus. This will go down in history as the deadliest pandemic to face man.  And the worst possible person was there to mishandle the pandemic.

The American election of 2020 created a much-needed diversion for a short time. it was short-lived diversion, and the countries around the world prepared for more shutdowns and restrictions.  

I did what I usually do I made up my mind to get through this. I had to watch my reaction to what was happening. And to be a cause in my own life. In other words to take action for my own happiness  and sanity.  What helped me is taking  Being a Leader Leadership course at the beginning of the pandemic.  This course provided me the tools to put into action what I already knew, that it is important to do something for others that is bigger than myself. I created and produced a podcast to start a national conversation on the impact of colonization on indigenous peoples. The last podcast was on  Decolonizing Adoption. 

And I registered for courses and, as an enthusiastic reader I read a number of books on challenging historical periods. The first book I read was The Great Influenza an account of the Spanish flu in 1918, The Children of the Holocaust by Helen Epstein, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl. Frankl's main point is that when one found purpose and meaning to their life it generated happiness and a reason to live and thrive.  These books speak to the triumph over horrific and unspeakable trauma.  Hubby led me to the writing of Italian Holocaust survivor and scientist Primo Levi, what an extraordinary writer!  The common thread that helped people survive and perhaps thrive in these horrific events is their perspective. Frankl's point is when one found purpose and meaning to their life it  went a long way to create happiness and a reason to live.  These accounts speak to triumph over horrific and unspeakable trauma.  It is within all our capacity to overcome  trauma. 

I registered for a couple of courses on compassionate inquiry, how to address trauma in an understanding  and gentle manner.  It made perfect sense to me to start there because as I understood it we were all experiencing collective trauma.   This brings me to our mental health.  How is your mental health?

Having a greater grasp on emotional understanding correlates to increased happiness and satisfaction, along with better management of stress, while a lack of emotional balance has been linked to poor outcomes with physical health issues. The question becomes how can we achieve emotional balance when we don't fully understand what our emotions are telling us.  To that end, I recommend reading Suzanne David's  Emotional Agility, a Wall Street Journal best-selling book.  It describes the psychological skills critical to thriving in times of complexity and change.  Her advice is to not listen to our negative internal chatter.  This can be more difficult than it appears because more often than not it is at an unconscious level. 

As a longtime meditator, I know that you cannot simply tell your mind not to think of stuff.  Our minds are naturally prone to streams of thought.  The primary goal in meditation is to notice when you have started going down a rabbit hole of thoughts and gently bring yourself back to your focus. Most times it is your breath over and over again.   An important skill in meditation I have learned is to accept and not change what is going on internally, to view it with curiosity and to notice it without judgment.  Meditation is a form of mental dexterity. 

To  navigate the pandemic I looked to my Indigenous history for lessons of the past like adaptability.  


to survive one must adapt. This was especially true to people living from the land. Adaptation leads to creativity, growth and survival.  I often reflect on how my Mom who had 16 children did it.  The resilience she must have had.   I manifested my mother's inner strength and resilience and move forward.  My mother lived in a similar tent as in this image when she was first married.  She recounted a story of when she moved into the log cabin my father built just as the first snow was falling. 



2021 may be better, or it could be more of the same.  What will help you through it is to be mindful of how you adapt to whatever may come up.  Humans are survivors.  And no matter what you go through, find gratitude for something in your life even if you don't want to in that moment.  And trust me, life is mysterious and wonderful. You are here for a purpose. Your life will be meaningful, happy even.  Be of service to others.   In DENE law we are each given a life at the time our birth. It is a sacred gift that is given to our parents and grandparents. The happiness you give to others far outweighs any negativity of this pandemic.  We cannot only survive we can absolutely survive and thrive.  Challenging times such as the pandemic can teach us so much about ourselves. It can reveal strengths we didn't know we had.When We emerge from it, we will be stronger, inoculated not only against a virus but all kinds of other  challenges too.

Finally,  my last thoughts on this.  I mistakenly said there were are heros to save the day,  but it goes


without saying it  is important to acknowledge the men and women working in the health profession, nurses doctors, frontline workers. People who in spite of the danger go to work every day so that we can be safe they are the heroes in this pandemic.  Like my lovely niece pediatric nurse,  Presley. 

I leave you with these words:  strength, happiness, gratitude, being blessed, and adaptability.  Let these be your words for 2021.  

Merry Christmas! :) 


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