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Dreams and Doubts

Sara General

afc12-winter

Winter is here in its cold, icy glory and I see that my last post was in beautiful September!  Wow.  The last few months have been incredibly busy.  I finished another class for the graduate program that I’m in, which included writing a few short assignments, a longer essay and a presentation.  I tried to write a new novel for NaNoWriMo but only made it to around 20,000 words.  And work was busy too – I helped to coordinate a conference, worked on a language program, and worked away at new content for a website.  I also read a lot and attended the Sweetgrass Language Conference.  It was a lot of things to be doing and I enjoyed doing them, but once the holidays started, I realized just how grateful I was that many of these large, intensive projects were behind me.   I decided to write this post because of two very similar dreams I had a few nights ago that have since sent me for a bit of soul searching.  In both of them, I was about do something without being completely ready for it and the feeling of not being ready was a terrible one.

Despite the work on the NaNoWriMo story, I haven’t been feeling like I’ve been doing enough creative writing.  Those who work full-time but are also writers will understand this, I think.  At times, it is a downright painful balancing act and even though I write a lot for my work - creative writing is my favourite kind of writing.  It is also completely different than writing reviews, reflections, essays, proposals, or curriculum. I definitely feed that ideas and creativity are a part of all types of writing, but with creative writing, something else is happening - something very cool.  You aren’t writing to guidelines or writing within parameters or highly stylized forms.  You are writing for creation itself – conjuring, playing, imagining, dreaming, and feeling.  It’s fantastic.   It keeps my spirit alive and happy.  You see, when things slow down like they do around the holidays, I have more time to read the news.  And while I am aware that there are serious things happening in this world – things that I care about deeply, one of the ways that I maintain my own hope is to take this time to play and nourish my creative self.  And the more my own understanding of these issues develops, the more my art evolves and grows.   But time spent away from writing is not fun.  This is when doubt creeps in and for the last few weeks, I feel like there has been quite a bit of doubt lurking around.

I wanted 2013 to be a year where I did the following, as much as I could all of the time:

Write.  Read.  Draw.  Play Piano. Write Music.  Sew.  Imagine.  Blog.  Care.  Tell Stories.  Speak.  Help.  Smile.  Laugh.  Let Go.  Eat Well.  Exercise.  Drink Water.  Honour Treaties.  Listen.  Hear.  Encourage.  Excite. Educate.  Advocate.  Empower. 

Most of these things, I really did do and I think that doing these things, made 2013 one of the happiest and most productive years I’ve had in a long time.  Some of these activities, I still need to learn to do better.  I didn’t really sew anything in 2013 and I didn’t play as much piano as I’d like, but I am grateful that there will be more time to dive into these projects. I plan to have an awesome garden and I’d really like to learn to build a greenhouse.  I still want to lower my carbon footprint and I want to get educated and find my voice on issues like the Northern Gateway pipeline approval. I have always wanted to make an anthology of stories, and I finally acquired the equipment to do so in the way I imagined.  I’ve spent the last few days familiarizing myself with different software and it is everything I thought it would be and more – which is awesome.  Getting to this place feels like I’ve reached an important and pivotal point and it’s not the kind of time where I want to be doubting if I really want to climb the rest of the mountain.

This year, I worked away at trying to make my dreams come true and now, I am finding that I also have to think about what my dreams really are.  For the longest time, I thought I knew. I thought I knew exactly what kind of company/organization I wanted to be apart of and how it would all work.  Now, at the end of a year in which there was a tremendous amount of learning, I find myself wondering if I really do know exactly what my dream is.  I think I know the answer to this question, but this time to reflect is welcome because it will help me hone and re-focus my energies to achieve my goals – especially if they’ve changed a little.  But I have to admit that reflecting makes me a little bit nervous.  I don’t want the time to reflect to open the door to fear, or some other emotion that will make me hesitate too long to take a leap of faith, to reach out, to try to fulfill my purpose or follow my passion.   I see other writers talking or tweeting about this – the fear that you aren’t good enough and that your writing isn’t good enough and I always read their strategies for overcoming this fear because it’s nice to know that fear can be defeated and I’m not alone in being scared from time to time.  After all, I can say without a doubt that the best things in my life have come from being painfully honest, from taking a leap of faith, from making myself vulnerable.  And really, if there was a lesson of the year, it was probably that. If I can learn to extend this lesson into my writing/creative life, I think that would make a good start.

My mom always says that the biggest gift that you can give someone is your time.  This is so true.  Even for our selves, I think.  Last night in my dreams, I realized that I was scared to be caught off guard when certain things I wanted started to materialize.  But it’s okay – I can help myself get ready.  I can help others get ready too, for the things they want to do with their gifts.  Time.  Acceptance. Patience. Love.  Hope.  These are the gifts that carried me through the darker days of 2013.    They are the things that will help carry me through this time of reflection now.  I’m grateful for that and for knowing that somehow through it all, I will find myself ready for the future. I hope everyone who may for some reason come across these words, has an awesome, peaceful and energizing holiday before 2014 dances into our lives!

Nya:weh and happy holidays!

S

Comfort Zones

Sara General

6a7be-comfortzone

Every once and a while, a kind of invisible drain opens up beneath me, absorbing my energy and inspiration.  When these kinds of things happen, I’m not sure where to turn.  These are the times when I want to write but I am having trouble figuring out what I want to write about.   The times when I want to read new things but I start nearly 5 books before finding something that grabs onto me.  I want to watch a new show, but I find myself backtracking and watching shows that I’ve already watched a million times, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I am starting to realize that the comfort of good entertainment is as intoxicating as it is stifling.  It hasn’t always been this way and I doubt that it will remain this way forever.  But I realize, that I am going through some kind of thing. Some kind of thing where I have a dozen story ideas incubating that need to be released in some form, a dozen work projects that need to be completed, a dozen different experiences that I think would be interesting.  And yet – I’m staying still, not moving.

The world inside my head is simultaneously colourful and grey.  And even though this could sound like a bad thing – it really isn’t.  I feel like I genuinely accept this place that I’m at.  I’m watching these people, authors and artists doing all of these cool and scary things on Twitter.  I’m watching this wonderful and manic energy they have to connect with others.  At times I wonder why I’m not jumping in all over the place myself.  Except that I’m not.  And I’m okay with that.  I decided to stop, to take stock, to pay attention to the many wondrous things that others are doing around me and learn how to get better at doing what I like to do.  And I feel like being willing to take this time and not berate myself for it, is really important.

In the last part of August and the first part of September I worked on editing a story that I had been writing.  It was a wonderful experience and I learned a lot about storytelling from it – much of which has been documented by other writers in many places.  It was my birthday present to myself – to really dedicate the time to work on and finish a project.  Shortly after I did this work, I read this article in Entertainment Weekly with Joss Whedon. In the article Joss talks about teen girl/women characters and describes what he thought was missing from them.  It made me think a great deal about my own characters - who they are, how they’re written and the positions they hold in the story. There’s a lot to say on this subject and I’ve been slowly preparing a bit of a post around one particular question.  What makes a female character awesome?

Finally, I started back to school a few weeks ago.  Education.  I have so much passion for this subject that it overwhelms me.  Even in these times when I am feeling a bit disconnected from the world, the discussion and possibilities in the area of education light me up.  Just how cool can we make our education system, while still helping people find their place in the world, take their place in the universe, and be apart of sustaining peaceable relationships inside of it?  I want to find out.  There are concepts that I think are part of the answers, all of which are already working somewhere, implemented by some brilliant and motivated teacher or school.  Building Communities.  Connecting Ideas.  Transformation.  Sharing.  All of the things I am sometimes the worst at - I can be quite the hermit at times!

I don’t plan to stay that way.  I definitely draw a lot of strength from solitude but I think my comfort zone has moved and my priorities have shifted without me ever realizing that they did, and suddenly, I want to move on and incorporate a new way of doing things.  It's easy to stay still, especially now that I'm all safe in my comfort zone - but it's time to wake back up again.  To share more, more ideas, more writing, in a way that still seems authentically me.  This is all so journal-ly, it’s kind of funny.  I can be such a tortoise sometimes (meaning slow moving - I realize that tortoises are very wonderful and much faster swimmers).  Holding onto things for a long time, deliberating where others dive in.   Talking about doing something and still without actually doing it yet.

I don’t think I’m alone here, but in sharing this, I hope to break my mould just a little bit and give myself permission to climb out of my comfort zone and move forward!  Let’s see where it takes me.

~Time to swim

S

Waiting Rooms

Sara General

3ecec-doubt

I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room playing the Ocarina of Time and starting to read this book by ekaterina sedia that I've been trying for years to read called 'the secret history of moscow'. It's a waiting room and so it brings all the waiting room quirks along with. But it's also a place where people go to heal and so along with everything, i am keenly aware of the frailty of human health and the importance of tenderness and compassion when trying to help anyone, but especially people who are unwell. It always seems to come out most at times like this. This is the kind of place where every voice pulls at your heart in some way, a place where silent oaths are made and where I remember that even these isolated incidents are probably connected in some manner that only the universe understands and sometimes deigns to share with us. It's one of the ways, the physical ways that peace is balanced and maintained. Health. I know so little about medicines and health from our indigenous perspectives. I'd like to know more so that I could help people. It's an area where two very different ways of healing might complement one another and create a kind of harmony. I hope that everyone here is able to feel better and well. The weather outside is cool and autumn-like. This post will be my first that I wrote remotely, wirelessly, from a hand-held device. Pretty cool. Also, tonight I learned some new Cayuga words. So all in all, I'm feeling pretty fortunate. Nya:weh :) S.

Learning, Libraries and London

Sara General

At this moment, I am filled with a particularly happy and grateful energy and a lot of this has to do with the fact that I am in school.

Today was my first day in the Masters of Professional Education – Leadership in Indigenous Education program at Western University (I should probably note that the formal program name is aboriginal education, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I frequently replace that with indigenous), and even though it’s only the first day, I feel exhilarated by the possibilities that are created when passionate people come together because they care about community, education, learning and teaching.  

Learning is definitely one of the ways that I nourish my spirit and I realize that when I’m in the midst of things, it’s easy to overlook how important carving out the time to think critically and feel deeply about what and how I am structuring the work or the writing that I’m doing.

I’ve been working rather intensively in the areas of education and language for the past year and I can definitely see how my work and my own personal thinking will be positively impacted by the interaction of ideas and conversations I'll get to be apart of in this program.

Ahh. I’ve needed this time and I’m enormously thankful for it now.  

Indigenous Services Center 

I just finished a set of readings and so this is a rather short post but I just had to make a quick one because I was excited and I wanted to share some of that excitement on the blog as a way of recording this part of my learning adventure.

One of my first assignments is to write an autobiography in a colonial context and consider what forces and events have shaped my experience of school over the course of my life.

It should be quite fun to write.

I've included some of the highlights of the day in a few of the pictures above.  The education library was amazing (they have their own Twitter account!), the Indigenous Services Centre was very cool and I absolutely loved that there was a Twitter challenge to faculty members to share their research in 140 characters or less.  I think it would be great to do something similar in my community in the future around education, learning and language.  So many ideas - I look forward to sharing more in the weeks and months to come! 

Nya:weh,

S

Honest and Kind

Sara General

Today is the blog’s one year birthday! Summer Solstice. Solidarity Day. It is also my sister’s anniversary, the last day of school for my wonderful and amazing niece and the start of what is being called Sovereignty Summer. This makes it feel like a day that has many layers and many different ways of being experienced.

I think this is true of many things and over the last year I've noticed that building understanding and being open about these layers often deepens and enriches the experience. So now that a full year has passed, and though none the wiser, I find that I am more in awe of our teachings and the Treaties than ever. I am also more committed to peace and healing than any time prior to now and every day I feel filled with gratitude to be of this universe, moving within it, a part of it. A few weeks ago, I started to write a blog that for various reasons, I didn’t post. But I want to now, because though for the past year I have seen such wonderful things in my community, I also know that there are some painful things that happen here. And I would like to be open about how they make me feel.

Connecting with people is a scary business. This is how I’m feeling today. Tomorrow, I might remember only the good things about connecting and collaborating with others. But right now, in this moment, the only feeling I have is fear and a kind of sadness that comes when you feel like perhaps you’ve lost your way. What is our way? What is my way? What will bring me back from this moment? Talking about my feelings maybe. Knowing that I’m healthy and doing or living in a way that makes sure I am at least trying to find peace in myself. Being honest. Being true to my spirit. Honouring the Treaties.

A lot of people are in various kinds of pain.The kind of pain I am feeling right now comes from deep in my heart and it manifests itself in different ways, in my back, in my stomach. It’s a kind of pain that is released through tears and dancing, through writing and through watching others create beautiful things. Healing. Healing is hard work. I’ve heard myself say this to other people and I know that I’ve meant it when I said it, but I honestly think I forget how hard it actually is. Especially because I sometimes like to pretend that I am strong and invincible.

But right now, I need to not pretend that I’m all right or that everything is fine - when I’m actually not and it isn’t. As much as I love it here, I’m conflicted by some of the things that happen in this community. I’m conflicted by the fact that I want there to be so much good and there are some bad things that are happening.

I’m conflicted by the fact that I know there are people hurting deeply and  who are often unable to talk freely about what is hurting them or don't feel that they can be their true selves without being shunned. I am conflicted by the cigarette industry. I’m conflicted by the thought of bringing a casino or more gaming here. I’m conflicted by the fact that together we throw out more than we recycle, and we waste more that we repurpose. I’m conflicted because I can read all of these things, both academic and political, that say it is true - we are sovereign.

And we are. And yet, there are things that are not well in our community. All year, as occasionally expressed on this blog I have been heartened by those spirits who have awoken to their purpose and shared their gifts in our community. It makes me more hopeful than ever that we will try to resolve these things for the future. That we won’t let hummers and cigarettes seem more important than clean water, food security, being compassionate for our kids and encouraging our teachers. That we won’t judge each other and that we will be open to hearing other peoples’ points of view. I’ve heard some amazing points of view in my time, short though it’s been. I get that there’s a pot and the kettle. I get that taking a stance sometimes means that it seems like you think you are different, better, and who are you to bring these things up anyways?

But here’s the thing. I know with every fibre of my being that I’m not any better than any other human being on this planet. I’m sometimes the pot and often the kettle. I’ll be them both if it means we can talk about what safety and good ought to mean in our community. It doesn’t terrify me that bad things are happening in our community (okay – it does), but it terrifies me more that we don’t talk about them. And I don't know about anyone else, but when I am tired, overwhelmed and isolated - these are the times when it seems I like to punish myself the most. These are the times when the only answer seems to be to run, run, run away.

But as I’ve been learning about Treaties, some of the things that I’ve heard have been to not judge, to be open and to be patient. Learning things, really learning them takes time. It takes staying. And in time, staying becomes easier and more fulfilling. I’m ready and willing to talk with anyone and I will do my utmost to take care and to try not to hurt.

That was the writing I was doing in the middle of May.  I was grateful to be reminded that you can be positive and still get tired.  And I remembered that when you get tired, there is still so much strength in friends, in family, in people, in communities, in our ways.  It can seem like change is difficult to achieve, but transformation - transformation is possible.  We see it every year with the seasons and kids - kids are amazing at it.  

My favourite picture of the year, bar none :)  

I was writing those thoughts in May and then a little bit of dialogue between characters from my graphic novel came to me and I decided to leave it in here even though it's out of context, but in the moment I had felt the characters were trying to teach me something, about maintaining peace in times of trouble.  

She turned to look at him and he saw what was written on her face.

Walls, everywhere.

These are what I build, she told him.

I am building them high and you won’t be able to get at me.

I am building them so high that you will never be able to find me.

He moved through them and took her in his arms.

“I’m here now,” he whispered to her.

“You can leave them up if you want but I’m already inside and if you need me to, if you want me to - I’ll help you take them down.”

She held on, loved him and tried with all her might to stop being afraid that he didn’t love her back.

So there are a few of my thoughts, none particularly conclusive.  Perhaps they don't need to be anything but honest and kind.  Perhaps it's enough that a commitment is renewed - to strive to share happiness, truth, goodness, creativity and art.  And to hope.  

Pouring your heart out to strangers. Baring your soul to friends. Love. Accept. Forgive. Heal. This is how peace is made. Happy June 21st.   

Gonohkwa,

S