Brave

One of the bravest things a person can do is to tell the truth.  Especially when it’s a scary, shameful, hidden truth – those truths we keep hidden because we’re scared they will consume and destroy us if they slip out into the world beyond us.  We are certain they will explode the world around us in ways that make the heaviness and pain of carrying our secrets seem preferable. We choose to hide because we believe exposure will slice and dice us like glass. We fear the unknown world of being known.  It terrifies us.

When I look back at my own journey, I suspect that my truth-telling began not so much as an act of bravery but one of desperation.  The cost of hiding had simply become too high.  My truth-telling started when I acknowledged defeat that I wasn’t strong enough to keep carrying the secrets. I couldn’t win against the blackness inside.  All I could do was open my mouth and let the words tumble out. Truth after truth. It didn’t feel anything like bravery in those first days and weeks. It comes, though, when you sit and stare your own truth in the face. When you realize you’ve allowed yourself to be known.  In retrospect you see your own strength and courage.

The_Two_Fridas

The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo, 1939

Women have been telling truths this week.  The brave kind of truth-telling. And the reactions have been extreme – anger, disbelief, shock, disgust, accusatory.  They’ve been asked what took them so long to tell the truth. They’ve been asked why they didn’t stop it in the moment. They’ve been accused of using it for their own advancement.

And they’ve been praised. Most importantly, they’ve opened a door to let other women tell their truths.

I honestly don’t have a clue how you build a world without Harvey Weinsteins (or Jian Ghomeshis). I don’t know what the answer is to transforming a culture so that we don’t admire and excuse and glorify men who abuse and molest and treat women as sexual slabs of meat.  I don’t.

What I know is that we need to open more doors so that women and men who carry hidden secrets can tell their truths too.  I think I can start with that.

Sara Bareilles carried me through more than one bout of truth-telling with this song:

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins

But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

 

Advertisements

Intersectionality

kairos blankets

Today was one of the hardest days I’ve had in a long time. Just a really hard day.

It was hard to be a teacher.

It was hard to be a white settler.

It was hard to be a mother.

It was hard to be a woman.

It was hard to be a survivor of sexual assault.

Today was a hard day.

I’m co-teaching a class called Social Justice in Canada?  It’s proving to be a very challenging experience. I’ve found it hard to know what to teach and how to teach these things. It’s hard to know how to walk my students, these brand new adults, through such complicated and heavy topics. One of the commitments we’ve made as teachers is to hand over the microphone whenever we can to those who are more qualified to tell the stories.  Today that took the form of the Kairos Blanket Exerciseled by the amazing Vicky Boldo.

It’s a word that gets tossed about a lot in academia these days – intersectionality. But I’ve never been so aware of that reality as I was today.  Today, when we watched those babies be sent off to residential school for more than a century, then put into care during the Sixties Scoop, I couldn’t help but be a raging mother.  Literally a raging-with-rage mother.  And when I opened my scroll and read the statistics about missing and murdered women, I couldn’t help but experience a two-pronged devastation and relief – to be so horrified by the loss of so many mothers and sisters and daughters and friends and then to be so grateful that my own stories of assault didn’t end that way.  My own tears fell in abundance right in front of my students.  And then when I listened to my students talk about the guilt and shame of knowing and not knowing this history, I wondered just what I’ve been doing as a teacher and asking myself what I ought to be doing from now on.  I felt protective and proud and nervous for my students.  I felt responsible for their pain.

Today was a hard day. Because a lot of yesterdays were even harder.

url.jpg

Sisterhood and Privilege

I wish I could tell you about this. I wish I had the words to explain how sacred this exhibit is. But I don’t have the words. At least not yet.

18058197_263311804133318_8198159198963416776_n

What I will say is this: if there’s anyway that you can go, please get your precious self to the Kateri school gym to experience Walking with Our Sisters. It could change your life. I’m pretty sure it’s changed mine.

Never before have I felt so strongly the bond of sisterhood – of understanding why being a woman matters and what it is that can bind us together.  And never before have I been so aware of my privilege  – of realizing that I don’t know one single woman who has gone missing or been murdered.  No one in my white, settler family has been touched by the pain and grief that has touched almost every Indigenous family in Canada. That kind of privilege erects barricades that threaten a sisterhood.

Thank you to the women who guided us through the exhibit today. Thank you to Francine who sat on the bench with me while the magnitude of the grief flooded over and through me.  Thank you to the brave women who organize, construct and travel across the country carrying the stories of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women.

Such pain and beauty intertwined.

*All photos from the Facebook page.

 
Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 8.56.18 PM

I’m Sorry

(This is a strange place, my blog. I spend a fair amount of time telling stories of the past I’ve uncovered in the archives. Occasionally I offer a contemporary political rant. Once in a while I spill my guts about my own past. And now here is just a rambling of thoughts that haven’t fully taken shape, certainly aren’t earth-shatteringly brilliant or new, and may mean nothing outside my own head. But as thoughts they continue to grow…)

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Victim-Impact Statements, Formal Government apologies, Consultative Group on the Past, friend-to-friend texts: “I’m sorry”

We don’t say “sorry” to get away from the past. Apologies don’t erase the past. They reinforce it.

I have wounded others. I have lied and offended. I have gossiped and betrayed. I have forgotten about people and cut down others with my words. Intentionally and unintentionally.

I have been wounded by others. I’ve been lied to, gossiped about and betrayed. I have had my body invaded and my heart crushed. Literally, figuratively. Intentionally,  unintentionally.

I’ve seen both sides of that coin and experienced the way one side leads to the other with pain received begetting pain given and back again. It can be a cycle that seems impossible to break. A spiral of wounding.

As humans, we initiate coping mechanisms to help us deal with the pain life seems inevitably to bring. As a child, I learned early on the skill of pushing painful memories just past the edge of my consciousness, careful never to look at pain too directly for fear of being inexorably broken by it.  Internal veils and doors helped hide the wounds. And as a result the memories inside seemed ever-shifting.  As an adult, I feel a tendency to do the same thing – finding it hard to anchor painful memories in place even now.

But I’ve been thinking about how apologies change that tendency.

Apologies don’t hide the past. Apologies bring the past to light, they strip away veils. Apologies act as anchors.

Apologies say – yes, I see what happened. Yes, what happened was real. Yes, what happened was painful. Yes, what happened wasn’t your fault. Apologies by perpetrators say – I take responsibility for that and I ask for forgiveness because I own the way I’ve hurt you.

Apologies can offer definition and substantiveness.  They can stop the doubt-laden shifting that pain creates inside. Apologies can anchor in us a certainty about the legitimacy of our pain. Even when the apology is offered by a witness rather than a perpetrator, the edges of our pain become less blurred. And it becomes easier to release our grip on that pain.

But what do we do when there are no apologies? How do we stop the shifting of our pain when there is no one to say – yes, I see it too? How do we move forward without that anchor? I know that I have missed many apologies over the years – lacking maturity or insight or humility when I ought to have been saying “I’m sorry.” And I know that for many of the wounds I’ve received, I will never know any form of apology or acknowledgment. That is the reality of life in our world. And it’s hard.

“I’m sorry” doesn’t erase the past, it engraves it into the greater story of our histories.

Derry

Derry, Northern Ireland