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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

The Conditioning

Happy Settler New Year to those celebrating that. I'm just coming back from a long deep work and reflective session that wasn't long enough until I realized spending that much time alone at the fire was dangerous, is dangerous.

It's been around 2.5 weeks that I've had off of dealing with the 2018 Kamloopa production. The show portion of it ended in Oct but the fire doesn't go out then. I and some of the Fire company have been visiting or sitting at the fire, cooling ourselves off from the energy and heat it brought to us, tending to the embers.

The conditions for building the Fire were good, the conditions for igniting the fire were high and the conditions for putting out the Fire are not ideal. I'm bearing witness to just how much heat is still coming off of her and humbled that I grossly under estimated the energy and time it's going to take to safely put her out.

We're also working under a Euro-centric method that is a lonely process for the Fire Creator and or Artistic Leadership. Which means that it's dangerous and I was conscious of that but when you're doing that work and entranced in a fire, we can loose perspective, calibration and ourselves. We can know of problems and still make those mistakes being conscious of them, especially when the method is not supportive to healthy conditioning.

What is conditioning? When I looked it up it said "the circumstances affecting the way in which people live or work, especially with regard to their safety or well-being."

This past month has been overwhelming with challenges and opportunities and that can sometimes be a lethal combination for someone working against their own sometimes negative conditioning.

As an Indigenous women my conditioning, for many reasons, including playground theory (which I think of as how we were treated by our peers as children), patriarchy, racism - socially and internal, sexism and the closer that is colonization, has positioned me to feel inferior and tries and succeeds a lot of the time at making me feel like that. That I'm not worthy of having my voice heard, needs met and actions adhered to. My conditioning, in complete transparency, as my baseline is putting myself down by a colonial and patriarchal brainwashing that makes me believe I have no right to exercise my power - which basically means that I struggle to advocate for my own needs.

This is colonial oppression at it's finest, its systemic cultural genocide at it's peak, the Canadian government and the status quo holders have systematically designed and maintain this seizure of Indigenous matriarchal power to tactically eradicate me, us.

Making Indigenous women feel inferior and disseminating Settler ideologies that make the "good people" like you reading this, uphold these systems, that's the Canadian governments number one objective. Which makes me enemy of the state #1. So me fucking up and feeling terrible is their deliverable.

So when I go on about creating methods outside of the Settler paradigm and colonial state it's because if I work within it, I'm complicit in maintaining systems that are designed to kill me and I think that's fucked because I want to live.

So now we have an understanding of how my conditioning has come to be and I can share how it manifests and lives within me.

Confidently asserting my honest unaccommodating self doesn't come natural to me. It's uncomfortable and because of the current societal conditions, when I do exert my needs because I am not a cis white man or a Settler of some kind, systems and environments and the majority of people are purposefully not conditioned to understand me and I'm left feeling alone in my positionality.

The conditioning that I'm working against is working against 28 years of bad habits. Now, if you've played sports or more specifically coached sports, it would be like trying to change an athletes habit after decades of them doing something in a particular way. The cognitive and muscle memory is deeply embedded into them and it's a fraught disposition and so is mine.

For me, personally, these past 4 years has felt like learning to speak a new language, it's as if I had to learn to write with my opposite hand. When you do those two things you're literally constricted to your capacity which is at first sloppy, slow and mistaken a lot of the time.

When I was learning Spanish I'd always say can you please say that again and slow down and when I needed to say something fast or in an emergency I'd revert back to my original conditioning, my first one English. Same thing if you needed to fill out a bunch of papers - you'd revert to your old writing habit, your dominant hand and way of being and conditioning.

Another example is like when an actor takes on an accent and they seem pretty consistent and you're digging it, buying it and then the emotional part comes and away goes the confident and accurate accent. I've seen it with A-List celebs in movies, on stage, everywhere I've rarely seen an actor hit peak emotion and maintain the accent because they are working against a lifetime of conditioning and muscle and cognitive memory and no amount of rehearsing is going to compete with that.

If I move to fast, or too many things come at me especially emotionally, which has happened this past month, I revert to the dominant colonial, muscle and cognitive memory of self sabotaging myself, I burn myself, I lose the accent I adhere to the conditioning of the Settlers.

Point colonial state.

It's really challenging to work against everyday, it's exhausting and I fuck up. And then I'm pissed that I'm having to do this work and society is doing so fucking little to evolve or understand and that I have to write this fucking blog to explain it. Then I'm resentful and mad which is just feeding into the original conditioning. Then I get sad and embarrassed and then live in shame, which leads to anxiety, negative self talk and depression.

It's challenging to say the very fucking least.

But this isn't my first rodeo of fucking up. It's happening way less though, like years between instances where I might shame myself into making myself invisible. I've learned that I have to be really generous with myself because now a days when I hold the flame too long and burn myself, I acknoeledge that I was courageous enough to ignite it and hold it and that vulnerability is the truest mark of courage for me. It's all we've got.

Brene Brown whose a research storyteller has really taught me this, she calls it "being in the arena" and she's taught me to work against the conditioning of shame which can sometimes happen when we fall in the arena. Aaaaaaaanddd boyyyyyyy was I in the arena these past 8 - 16 months, I was triple shifting and on my 9th period, 15th inning, in a quadruple overtime, refusing to tap out, neglecting assistance and or because of inherited systems there wasn't anyone to relieve me of the work. Because of the conditioning of the theatrical environments, I found myself coachless a lot of the time, chopping the wood, stocking the shed, maintaining the fire ultimately alone. And yes that was like 5 different sports references and a fire analogy - I'm burned, tired.

What my years of working towards whole heatedly living has taught me is that I've recognized that I was and I am not alone, my conditioning has just made me believe that and or make me think that I deserve to be alone. And that is false. I have many people I can count on and turn to, I just have to work on conditioning myself to remember that.

To slow down, especially when new environments and opportunities arise because that's new ground for my re-conditioning and that puts me in a vulnerable situation, I will have no muscle and cognitive memory to guide me and that's "exciting" from an observers point of view but from mine, it's terrifying. Those environments are ripe for me to fall on my face.

Brown states that by being in the arena, choosing vulnerability in work or in love we have to remember that failure is inevitable, in many ways and nuances and I forgot that. I hadn't fallen on my face for so long that I forgot I would. I've got to remember that's what being in the arena means and understanding how important failure is for the "rumbling and reckoning" that Brown speaks about when you're picking yourself up. She also states that the antidote to shame is empathy and exposure, shame loves a dark place to fester and grow and I won't give in to that. I won't because I wont let the state try to eradicate me and I won't let them take my power anymore.

So, I didn't make any fucking new years resolutions this Settler year but since I fucked up so royally so early on, here goes:

1. I will not let environments, other people or systems define or impact how I feel about myself and who I am. That's not up for negotiation anymore, I'm fucking awesome because trying and failing makes us that.

2. I will unequivocally work to always state my needs by honouring the truth of my emotions. I will passionately, curiously and accountable investigate my feelings and regulate them by transforming them and not transmitting or off loading them.

3. I will fail and I will get back up and love myself more for it.

Happy fucking New Year.

with respect and humility and love for myself and for my people.


p.s Pippa Mackie and I are doing this rad show on Monday Jan 14 and you should come! Event details here. And you can buy tickets here. I swear it's going to be a lot more of this truth telling and vulnerability. I'm a pretty open book in these environments and we'd love to hear from you. Gathering, connecting eradicating shame, focusing on love, lets do it slaxts (friends).

p.p.s For vibes sake, I listened to this song on repeat when I wrote this.

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