The Realities of Emotional Endurance
The statistics for Indigenous people facing challenges and trauma in our lives is significantly higher than for non-Indigenous folx. When I was working for the Ministry of Children and Family, it was widely understood that some of the most vulnerable youth in the province were 2 Spirited non-gender confirming Indigenous young peoples.
I was so deeply impacted by the tenacity of Indigenous young peoples in care - Edith/Indian Friend #1, a character from Kamloopa was a tribute to my deep respect and love for them. My first theatre for young peoples play is another ode to their beauty, resilience and experiences because their lives can be so challenging. It is my community responsibility as a storyteller to give light and attention to those oppressed and marginalized young lives.
It is my firm belief, that the troubles Indigenous peoples face are what makes us the strongest peoples I know and it is a part of who we are but it is not all of what we are.
We are not just where we have been - we are here, in the present, alive and strong.
It's my experience that emotional endurance and building spiritual capacity is something we train for, kinda like weightlifting. You start with lighter weights and then gradually work your way up. I try and tell young people to be mindful of putting themselves into situations that might push their emotional "weight" limit.
I remind myself of this too - and fail often because when you're training, when you're in the arena getting your ass kicked, you sometimes don't realize that you've hit your limit until you're collapsing under it.
A big difference between the lived experiences of Indigenous and non-Indigenous folx is that for the non-Indigenous folx - choosing to be in the arena, to be weightlifting, is a choice - a choice Indigenous folx don't always have.
Life is more often stable and predictable for non-Indigenous folx. So much so that you've got your Lulu's in preparation to go "work on it". You sign up for tough mudder for fun, you have a trustworthy and available group of friends to meet before you go have a challenging conversation. Or you are so privileged that you don't need any of those because you've been afforded the time to do alllll that Work on your own.
A lot of Indigenous peoples lives are not tough mudders you pay for and get a participatory medal at the end - they are our realities where staying alive is the fucking medal.
I am a very privileged Indigenous person and it still feels like sometimes I turn a corner and I'm being forced to jump through a fire or positioned into a conversation that is out of my emotional capacity. Some of us are rolling tires through the mud while also having the impossible societal pressure to stay "clean" while we do it.
I said in something in person in my keynote for GVPTA that I did not write down and that is that I've been attending funerals since I can remember. Indigenous peoples dying at younger ages and at higher rates means that our communities are going to be bearing witness to those deaths, community members like myself.
I've helped bury almost every family member whose died because on the reservation - there ain't no funeral home. The families and the communities dig the graves, cook the food, hold ceremony and bear witness to the transition.
Have you ever helped dig a grave for someone you love?
I was thinking about this the other day and reflecting on how my relationship to the Earth is interrelated with death. From a very young age, it became a part of the ritual to touch the earth when someone was travelling on to the next part of their journey. Since I was about 11 my Father has been teaching me that "We all return", telling me "at the end of your journey Kim, when you return to the Earth, it's just you, so you better damn well be at peace with who you are."
So that's what my life has been, trying to make peace in this life, so that when I go onto the next phase of my journey, I ended this one embodying peace. During deaths and funerals I'm reminded of this very reality with the Tsilhqot'in dirt under my little 10 year old fingernails and dust on my shoes, my relationship with Mother Earth is always all over me.
It's always a bit messy.
What I built in those emotionally challenging moments, was the deep understanding of how important community is to one's health and ability to not just survive but thrive. I know that I'm a privileged Indigenous person because I am, in some areas, able to thrive.
Anyone ever watch that show Alone? That one on the History challenge where survivalists see how long they can live in the wild alone. I remember on one of the seasons a contestant said that the only way to live is to get past the surviving. That you have to build day to day systems to go from surviving to thriving.
I'm working on building those day to day systems and currently I'm dealing with what those contestants are feeling, I feel very alone in it. On boarding well meaning white folx to the diaspora that is me is such complicated laborious work that I just don't even know how to do sometimes - and I think about it all. the. time.
I also hear that from many other Indigenous peoples.
We have people that come into our lives wanting to be "friends" but become inconvenienced by the trouble that can occur by the plight of Indigenous peoples. Finding people that you can have non-physical intimate relations with, to truly be seen, heard and understood, is very very rare.
In my exploration of Indigenous Love, I'm finding that a lot of Indigenous peoples maintain strong relations with their ex's because that time entrenched into our lives gives them an experience that can't be told. So when they hear, get introduced and meet tragedy, they are with us and not observing us. They don't get scared when we crumble under a weight.
Those rare people are there for us time and time again knowing that this is a constant part of our lives and a part of allyship. Being an Indigenous accomplice, a friend, is being there when we're in it no matter how challenging it is for them because they know how scary it is for us.
The significant peoples who know - now is not the time to leave because I've been asked to spot this experience, to bear witness, to help a slaxt/friend get back up because they are in the midst of enduring it.
Most people don't get to that intimate part because they leave and run for more comfortable relations all too soon and or they are no longer a part of our lives because they've positioned themselves out of it by not being able to relate. I don't know how to solve this, I really don't (as I wipe the mud off my face).
I do want to say to those extraordinary people who stay: my deepest love for your assistance and nourishment to Indigenous peoples. Brendon, thank you, limelet - my deepest adoration for you.
I want to make this an invitation, an offer and also and encouragement to yt folx that there are a lot of people who are in real life tough mudders but not on a reality tv show and are dealing with loneliness who could greatly benefit from you leveraging your privilege.
Spend some time reflecting on how you can inconvenience your life to put a blanket over someone's whose jumped through a fire, be a safe place to land with thoughtful and researched foresight. Find your place in decreasing the gap between the understood realities of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples - we need you.
I'm finding that a lot of "woke white people" believe that that wokeness is a destination, something to be unlocked and achieved. I'm here to say that in that mode of thinking, you're on level one. We need to understand that lives are breathing, responsive, evolving and transforming.
That I don't know what I shape I will be in after I've jumped through 3 unexpected fires, sometimes I won't even know I jumped through one until I feel the burning of it after. A part of building this new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folx is holding and committing to that uncomfortable and painful reality.
The act of bearing witness - to truly be there, be present, is an ongoing journey that needs empathy, compassion, integrity and the infinite patience and knowledge that we will always be working to build our emotional endurance and thus falling, so we can both get back up again and again stronger.
This post is to all the non-Indigenous folx spotting their Indigenous slaxts who are doing the constant heavy weight lifting without a choice. Those inconveniencing yourselves to shift your paradigm by humbly empathizing with the relentless realities and experience that is the power of being Indigenous.
Like so many people out there doing that work alot of the time without a thank you - limelet for helping Indigenous peoples for going beyond wokeness and doing the ever evolving Work.
From an Indigenous Love Voyager,
My friend Carla and her family have been in a terrible accident and they have a gofundme happening. Please donate $5 or whatever you can afford, a brutal tragedy has occurred for them and they need our love and support.
p.s In my research for Break I've been diving into Esther Perel and starting with her CBC interview is something I offer.