What are you willing to do?

I feel like I have been holding my breath for the past week. I feel like the burden of these days have settled on my spirit, bringing me little peace of mind, little gentleness of body.

Mind and body are all one.

Our human condition is all one.

We are all one people sharing this one planet walking this one earth, together.

We are One.

Peel back my skin, my blood runs red. My bones are white.

Peel back your skin, your blood runs red. Your bones are white.

Peel back the layers of my story, your story, we were all born of a mother’s womb. Different yet the same.

Our lives entered this world through a force of nature that sometimes feels too mystical, too ephemerally magical to comprehend.

Yet here we are. Walking this one earth. Sharing the same air. The same waters. Lands. Breath.

A friend commented on my FB page this morning that “There is always light after darkness.”

She’s right. The earth turns. The sun rises. Darkness rests. The earth turns. Sun rises….

If we keep our eyes closed, we will never see the light. To see the light, we must step into the darkness with our eyes and heart and minds wide open to its shadows, its hidden mysteries, its beauty.

The lights shines brightest in the darkness. So does truth.

In an email exchange with a friend this morning I commented on how to heal, Indigenous peoples have had to be able to speak the truth of what happened to them.

In my own life, speaking truth has helped me heal from childhood abuse, initmate partner abuse, and from my own misdeeds on this journey called, ‘my life’.

Speaking truth heals.

So does facing it.

And the truth is, non-Indigenous Canadians have struggled to hear the truth and to face our shared history of racism and cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples because… it hurts.

It hurts to think that our forefathers acted with such cruel and callous intent towards those who walked these lands long before the first boatload of settlers arrived.

It hurts to know that, while the motivation behind Residential Schools at the time may have been considered ‘best practices of the day’, (even writing that phrase I am aghast to think it was possible knowing what we know today, but at the time, it is possible it was so) they did little to stop the abuses they uncovered, at the time and during the century and a half of their existence, and continue to take little concrete action to address the truth of the inequities of The Indian Act today which continues to limit the rights and lives of Indigenous peoples.

And it hurts to think this land, this country of which so many of us are proud, believe is a fair and just nation, is not, has never been such, and continues to be not a fair, just and equitable nation for Indigenous, First Nations, Metis, Inuit and many people of colour.

It hurts.

Truth does that sometimes. It hurts.

But when I write it out. When I state unequivocally, we are not a fair, just and equitable nation for all, there is hope. In the face of the truth, I do not have to waste my time defending against it.

In acknowledging it, I open the door to the question… “What am I willing to do about it?” What am I willing to do to dismantle the lies I’ve told, the mistruths we all told to keep the status quo in place, no longer continue to exist? No longer continue to keep those who have been harmed by our inability to bear witness to the truth, can breathe fresh air, drink clean water, live fearlessly on this land that has been their land since long before we arrived.

What am I willing to do about it?

I will speak the truth. I will not hide behind platitudes of “We’re doing our best”. “It takes time to right a ship this large.” “It’s complicated.” “Change doesn’t happen over night.” etcetera. etcetera. etcetera.

It is in our denial, in our shying away from truth, in our dismissal of facts, our refusal to hear the pain and trauma, our habit of casting blame on the victims, to wash away the struggles of many with words like, ‘it’s time to get over it’, or, ‘‘those people. they’ll never change. they’re just dirty, rotten….’, it is in our inability to listen, and hear and be present with the truth, that we become that which we do not want to be, ‘an unfair, unjust and inequitable country.’ A country where the privileges bestowed the majority, simply because of the colour of our skin, give us an inequitable right and access to fresh drinking water, education, safe housing, health care, financial well-being, freedom of speech, justice and so much more.

The light shines brightest in the darkness.

It’s time we cast light on the truth so that we can stand in the darkness of our past, and find our way into a future where all children, all people, no matter the colour of our skin, our faith, our age, our education, our history, the depth of our bank account, or our ‘connections’, have the possibility of living a future free of racism, discrimination and abuse.

A future where our Canada is a just, fair and equitable nation for its people.



The anger comes in waves — this morning’s news shared on CBC that our Federal Government “says it’s not liable for cultural damage caused by Kamloops residential school: court documents”

I use the ‘our’ intentionally. This is our government. We cannot, must not, let them get away with denying the truth.

Link to CBC article.

Anything is possible if you are willing to do the hard.

He was in his late forties, early fifties when I met him. Almost black eyes. A crooked smile that moved all the way up to his eyes to push the skin into deep, well-worn lines. He liked to laugh. A quiet laugh that shook his body. He spoke slowly. Measured his words as carefully as the sugar was measured out at the homeless shelter where we met. Sugar is gold in a homeless shelter. He used his sugar wisely.

I’d seen him around the shelter for quite some time. Quite often inebriated. He was always friendly. Laughing. Loquacious.

On the day we officially met, he was sober. Had been for three months he told me proudly. “That’s how I got into this course,” he said. “They wouldn’t let me take it if I was drunk.”

‘This course’ was a three-week job readiness training course the shelter ran to support clients moving on with their lives. I was a guest lecturer, there to give a  half-day workshop on self-esteem.

“What is self-esteem?” I asked the 12 participants.

Someone replied quickly. “Something that’s hard to get.”

“What do you think makes it hard to get?” I asked.

At the end of the long table around which we sat the man with the measured words, considered the question. “I don’t think I ever had any self-esteem,” he said. “Residential school beat out any I might have had when I was a little boy and then, I never got sober enough, until now, to even think I might need some.”

It is the same answer for many First Nations. The attempted purposeful destruction of their culture tore apart their familial, social and spiritual roots. Rootless, they have drifted for years searching for what is missing, what was destroyed, what was stolen from their pasts, what was hidden from their futures.

“I don’t understand it,” he said. “I’m sober. My friends here know I want this. I told ’em it’s important to me. But they keep wanting me to drink with them. To get stoned. Why?”

“Why do you think?” I asked.

He shook his head. Side to side. His body slumped deeper into his chair. “It’s hard. Being sober. My friends. They make fun of me. Tell me I’ve changed. That maybe now I think I’m too good for them.”  He paused. Scrunched up his face. Smiled. “I don’t think I’m too good for them. But I can’t be around drunks. They’re not good for me.”

And we went on to talk about the challenges of sobriety in a community where ‘getting sober’ is both the dream and the nightmare of everyone involved.

“Is it possible that your getting sober, a guy who’s been drunk for 30 years, is a sign that they could do it too? Do you think they’re afraid?”

He laughed. “Of my getting sober? Nah. But they sure as hell are scared of getting sober themselves.”

He wanted to be a role model, he said. To be an example for the youth on the reserve where he could never go back to if he’d not gotten sober. “I’ve got two sons. They’re adults now. Haven’t seen them in years but I want them to see me as a man they can look up to.”

He never got the chance. Three months later a massive heart attack hit, and he took his last breath.

But the memory of our encounter has remained with me. This morning, while reading Ian Munro’s post at Leading Essentially, “When Did “Busy!” Become the Correct answer to How Things are?”, I was reminded of that encounter from several years ago.

Ian suggests we have to Watch how we measure ourselves. Be cognizant of where we are putting our energies, how we are measuring our time. He mentions in a response to a comment from one of his readers that he is coming off his addiction to ‘busy’. He is happier now. More fulfilled in his work, yet, people at his workplace keep asking if he shouldn’t be doing something more urgent.

For Colin, the man at the shelter who had put a lifetime of energy into being drunk and now was committed to sobriety, his courage in taking those steps away from the past, were a reminder to everyone around him that it was possible. In the possibility that Colin represented, their fear wanted only to drag him back so they would not have to face the truth.

Anything is possible if we are willing to do the hard.

The hard work of getting sober, of getting ‘unbusy’, of taking time to stop and smell the roses, to savour the possible in this moment, right now, no matter how frightened we are that if we don’t fill this moment right now with ‘meaningful work’ we will be wasting our lives away.

Colin only had a few months to savour his new life, to lean into his new possibilities. I like to think that in those months he found his meaning not in the past, but in his courage in letting it go. And I like to think he knows that in his life and his willingness to ‘do the hard’, he keeps inspiring me to step beyond my fear of letting go of the well-worn path to soar bravely into possibility.