I wanted to share the link to my latest piece for the Huffington Post blog. Teachings about life, death and karma from my soon to be 19-year-old cat Bootsy. Hope you benefit from reading it. Please feel free to comment and share.
For the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on the things that have occurred in my life during the summer months. I have had the most extraordinary opportunity to visit Tucson, Arizona for a few days on a scholarship two weeks ago. Upon my return to the East coast, my heart and soul has been enlightened to such a degree that I am in the process of evaluating what is truly important to me and vital as I embark on a brand new chapter of life. What I have come to understand at this point of my journey is that success is a result of our relationship with our environment and that all things that make up our surroundings directly impact our lives.
While in Arizona I met the most amazing people and an even more amazing man who is a professor of law at Arizona state college. The two of us had a chance to sit apart and away from the other students who were afforded the Morris K. Udall scholarship opportunity. As I began to express the fears and concerns that I had with moving forward with my education and career, I felt as though I was speaking with one of my best friends. The insight he was able to impart into my life is worth more to me than the scholarship money for school. I not only learned how to effectively interact in group settings with individuals whose position on specific issues were different than my own, I learned the significance of various projects students are involved with that help in protecting our planet. Many of the students at the scholarship orientation are environmentalists who travel the world working on different initiatives to help with global warming. There were also students studying to be environmental lawyers and students who are studying to be lawyers that specialize in Indian law. There was also a period of time where I was able to learn about how some Native American tribes are working together to provide their Nations with the insight and tools to be self-sufficient sovereign nations. These Native American tribes not only exist in America but thrive despite the injustice experienced as a result of decisions made by the American government.
As a creative writer, when I returned home all I wanted to do is sit down and document everything I learned, my feelings, and I wanted to figure out a way to thank everyone responsible for this opportunity. The way I would do this is to write a poem about my experience. It is taking me a while to finish the three poems that I have begun writing because there is so much that I want to tell but I haven’t found the words to accurately describe this inexpressible feeling that I have. During this creative debate with myself, I learned of news that has both contributed to my experience in Arizona, and has helped me to find the words to explain my feelings and what I’ve learned. The news has also forced me to remember how important our own lives are to our community. The news about the loss within our community has a great impact because in a few days, the Shinnecock Nation will be engaged in our annual Labor Day weekend Pow Wow.
This is a time where we as a nation remember the triumphs and the challenges faced through the year. MS Elizabeth Haile; Chi Chi as she is fondly known has always as far as I can remember , performed the Lord’s Prayer in our Algonquin language every day during the four days of our Pow Wow celebration. Now as the Shinnecock Nation remembers the life and legacy of one of our elders, I wanted to write a piece that highlights the legacy of our elders and ancestors, our relationships with one another, our responsibility to the environment, and our reverence for the Creator. As a Native American woman, I take pride in teaching my daughter the importance of all things that contribute to our success throughout life. What I know to be truth is a truth that will stay with me for eternity and is the principle thing that Indian Americans teach our youth. This is what we call respect for the seven generations. Although my concept of the 7 generations differs from what many in the Indian community teach, the revelation I’ve gotten is what helps me be a better teacher for the generations to come.
Just as the human body is off kilter when something goes wrong with its smallest member such as the toe, our lives can be off kilter when we do not acknowledge the vital part all things play in our lives and the importance of the part these things play. It is our responsibility to protect and take care of our 7 generations. The challenge of our readers today is to think consciously about the 7 generations in your life and how you can work to protect all 7 generations. As you reflect on the importance of your 7 generations, think of what happens when one of these generations is forgotten about and how it will affect not just your journey, but the generations to come. My hope is that this time of reflection will empower us all to be catalysts for positive change. As always, I wish all reading and enjoying this piece a joyous and peaceful journey. Love is Love 2015 – Eternity
Indigenous people are people who meditate on the essential things ahead of us. We have always held culture and history close to our hearts and these jewels rest in our thoughts. To us the 7 Generations are our legacy and is why we have endured for centuries long. Honor and reverence for the Creator, the Great Spirit is what keeps our culture alive and strong. We the indigenous people esteem Mother earth highly, the matriarch and sustainer of life and society. We are reminded of our ancestors that have gone on before us. We remember their struggles and strength even as we fight the fight of faith that is tedious. The elders of our tribe are our tradition bearers. As we protect and provide for our elders, we rely on their knowledge, wisdom and insight to guide us. As a tribal unit, we are a people who are an extended family. When I care for my brother, my brother can better care for me. We as the Nation of indigenous people look forward into the future. The life lessons that have been learned prepare us to be history teachers. With joy and excitement in our eyes, we watch our children carry our traditions on with pride. These beautiful Native traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. Our aboriginal customs teach our youth the importance and respect for all creation. There is excellent honor given to our children’s children. We are always mindful of the honor and respect that must be given. Our future generations, our children’s children are the product of our culture and history that is cherished. We refuse to allow reverence for our elders, ancestors, Mother Earth, and the Creator to perish. The story of the 7 generations is simply a story about the circle of life, which is continuous. This is a story of love, honor, and respect for all things that contribute to all of our success. As we live, we learn and grow strong through every struggle. We learn that all decisions made affect us all as a people. Our 7 Generations, our circle of life is never ending and as we grab tightly the hands of another, we all have our place in this never ending circle. The circle of life is not complete without all seven generations. For the number seven is the number of completion.
This year, 2015, has taught me many things about the past challenges that I’ve overcome. After battling many years with various health problems, this August marks the 5th anniversary of a successful double transplant. Because of this, I have also had the awesome opportunity to go back to school, and complete my associates degree in Social Work. I will pursue a bachelors degree in Psychology this fall. My daughter Summersnow will begin her first year as a high school student and every single day I am reminded of when she was the smallest kid in her pre-school class. Although Summer is still the smallest kid in the Southampton high school class of 2019, she is and has always been a child with a huge heart and a personality to match. Some say she is a lot like her mother in that respect and I would certainly have to agree. As I reflect on every one of the many milestones in my life, I am reminded of the struggles, the times of uncertainty, and finally the many achievements afforded me. I have never been the type of person who looks at things through a narrow window; rather I have always paid attention to the minor details and the “bay window” of life. I enjoy thinking about and recording those occasions in my life that stick out the most.
I recently had a debate with a good friend about my insistence that my daughter get her first job. “This is her summer and she should be able to enjoy it”, explains my friend. Even though I was in total agreement with my friend, I had to explain that Summer getting a job was not just about her making her own money. My intention for Summer getting a job is to teach her the importance of responsibility as she embarks on another chapter of life. Although my daughter has chores she is responsible for around the house, I refuse to pay her because my philosophy is that when she becomes old enough to live on her own, no one is going to pay her to take care of her house. One of the most important things that I know to teach my daughter as she grows into a beautiful young woman, is the importance of what society has no clue about… which is process.
As we are confronted with a culture I like to call the “microwave mentality” or the “Burger King” have it your way society, we rarely find individuals who appreciate this thing we call process. Perhaps technology is partly to blame because we’ve also lost the beauty of patience. If a “text” message isn’t answered immediately, we jump to conclusions about the one who has received the message. It’s even sad to say, but we have lost our ability to appreciate the importance of communication and all because we’ve become so accustomed to a lifestyle that avoids process at any cost. I mean, “processed” foods are the leading cause of the health epidemic in America today along with our lack of exercise.
The reason why I felt an urgency to write this poetic creation called “Purpose hidden in the process” was really to remind myself of the achievements that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy. I thought about my life and everything that I’ve been through and I am always reminded of what it took for me to finally be in a place where I can say that embracing the process was the best thing that I’ve done. The photos that I chose for this piece illustrates that nature is one of our greatest teachers about process.
Even if I had three wishes given to me by a genie in a lamp or if I had super powers where I could snap my fingers to make things appear right before my eyes, I don’t think I’d use them unless I really had to. This is because since I’ve learned to appreciate the process that bought me to where I am today, I also appreciate the achievements more. I know as well that Summer will appreciate the first items bought with her first check from her new job much more than the items that her mom and dad purchase for her. So this week’s challenge is to assess every circumstance that confronts you and embrace the process that will bring you to that place of victory. Wishing all of our readers peace, manifold blessings, and a smooth journey to your place of absolute success! Love is Love 2015
Purpose hidden in the process
The struggle to begin followed by the desire to end and right in the middle is the one thing we need to embrace…….process. Never fully understanding the purpose, we’ve gone through life involved with no focus. There comes a time, there comes a place where we assess the fundamental tools that determine access to the ultimate goal. This is where we discover teachings that highlight the vital importance of purpose hidden in process.
Without knowledge of purpose, corruption is sure to occur. Often times involuntary, the ignorant abuse still exists. For we’ve never learned to appreciate process being overwhelmed by the race. Eyes have not heard, ears have not seen, because purpose is exclusive to the dream. A dream fulfilled differs from a dream deferred in that the hope found in destiny gives truth to reality, at least eventually.
An allegory to illustrate the story of process goes somewhat like this. “Seeds planted in good soil must grow down before they grow up. Moisture from the heavens, sustenance from mother earth, and life from Creator begins; to the eyes of the sower, life gives no evidence. For we understand that the purpose of process is for fruit to be made manifest. The seed takes root, is grounded, strengthened, and becomes infallible proof. Farmers then protect progress from the enemies whose desire is to divorce us from our process. For every process comes an opposing purpose that blurs our focus.
What we’ve learned from this thing called process is that its purpose is to teach the importance of patience, the necessity of commitment, and pride in achievement. When we give purpose to our process, we learn that its ultimate purpose is to give birth to eternal success, a plentiful harvest, and to offer a return on time, joy, and wisdom as a purposeful investment. For we’ve learned that there can be no true success void of its process…
As July concludes and August approaches, these are the thoughts and observations that are coming through me:
I had the privilege of being a keynote speaker at the national gathering of The Bereaved Parents of the USA in Connecticut this past weekend. I ended my speech by issuing the two-part challenge of Meesha Johnson ( with her permission), which was part of a beautifully crafted and heartfelt piece for my blog titled Left Undone. The line that resonated with me the most for my speech was:
Celebrate the life of those around you as well because the gift of life doesn’t just happen to us, the gift of life happens through us.
I ended my speech by suggesting to those in attendance that if we are able to celebrate the gift of another’s life through us, then we can be one with ourselves ,one in our grief and one with each other. That is my gentle wish for all of us who are involved in the human experience.
I know I am not the same person that I was prior to my daughter Jeannine’s death. I am not the same person that I was five minutes ago. The process of metamorphosis is truly ongoing.
During this upcoming year, I am going to reflect on the adventures in my life that I am willing to experience, including the service opportunities that I choose to embrace. There are many categories in my life that need to be honored at this stage of my life.
There are days when I marvel at how I have lived so long , so fast.
As I get older , my quest for wholeness trumps my quest for happiness.
It isn’t the size of an organization that matters; it is the ability of its leaders to make you feel welcomed and truly a part of things that matters. Sadly, many in a position of leadership don’t get that. The ones that do get it are the ones I choose to associate with as I get older.
My friend John, a retired military man gave me one of the best object lessons that I have ever received. He told me that the difference between being merely mediocre and outstanding was attention to detail. Sadly, many in a position of leadership don’t get that either.
I identify with Atul Gawande’s definition of courage, because of my own life experiences and my experience working with substance users and individuals with emotional health challenges.I think one fear that inhibits the development of courage is the fear of change. Though desirable, change represents a departure from what is familiar, even if it is chaos. In situations that demand change our faith and hope must be stronger than our fear.
I have developed a deep respect for nature and for all forms of human life.It wasn’t always that way, but catastrophic loss tends to change ones perspective. I am also grateful to all of my spiritual teachers, mentors and friends who have been instrumental in my shift in thinking.
Over the years I have discovered that it is the unofficial reasons rather than the official ones that drive certain decisions. Another example of life as illusion masquerading as truth.
For a man to conquer himself, is the first and noblest of victories. -Plato-Found this quote on a friend’s Facebook page this morning.I continue to embrace the challenge.
The best and probably the longest journey that one will encounter throughout his/her lifetime is the journey to both find and determine one’s destiny. I for one have come to the realization that we as living, thinking, loving creations of promise possess the power to define our destiny. Although there have been some times throughout my journey where I felt powerless, there was always a knowing that I did possess the power to be and go wherever my imagination would take me. It was all a matter of believing in something much bigger than myself and not allowing my circumstances to dictate my destiny.
One way in which I’ve learned to overcome the challenges that I am confronted with is what I call, self-reflection. Self-reflection is my way of keeping everything in its proper perspective. There are times that I am discouraged and frustrated by life and by the things that I seem to have no control over. This is when self-reflection plays an essential part of my journey. When I take the focus off of me and off of my situations, I broaden my capacity to receive the understanding needed to continue on with confidence. Reflection is simply taking a moment to think about the times and instances that have bought us to the place of now, the place where we are today. This American culture is so inundated with progress and with winning the “rat race” that we have forgotten to take time to remember how we’ve gotten to where we are. Most importantly, we’ve forgotten to remember and appreciate the obstacles or the opportunities where we are equipped to grow in faith and in courage. Imagine if the challenges of today or tomorrow are our first experiences with confrontation. I have to be brutally honest and say that we don’t exist. Our first ever obstacle that every living, breathing person is confronted with is being born. A new born infant has never had the experience of seeing the light of day or being held by another human being. We have all had to learn fairly quickly to adapt and maneuver in a world, a new environment that is foreign to us. This brand new process is life’s initiation or better yet; our introduction to the journey to our destiny. No one was smart enough to write a handbook or an owner’s manual showing the best route to our destiny because no one has figured it out yet. We are responsible for journaling and remembering the steps we needed to take to get where we want to be. Since our destiny cannot be located on Google maps, it stands to reason why we are responsible for mapping out our journey, reflecting on the places we’ve been, and deciding on purpose to learn from our experiences. We must learn again to appreciate the process involved in life’s journey to our destiny.
The poem that I’ve entitled “Sunsets on the shore” expresses the reality that outside of ourselves, there are lessons in nature that teach us about life. The photo that accompanies my poem is a picture of a parcel of land that belongs to the Shinnecock Nation. To many it is a beautiful sunset on the shores of the beautiful beaches in the Hamptons. To me and to my fellow tribal members, this picture represents the gift of land the creator has blessed us with and that our ancestors died for. On the days that I am overwhelmed by life, I go and sit at the beach and just listen to the sounds of creation. For me, my land and the reality confronted by my ancestors ministers a deeper truth that will forever dominate over my current obstacles. This truth is that just as the sun rises on the shores of our beautiful lands the sun shall set every day. Just as many adverse situations in our lives shall arise, they shall set or be settled. How we respond to our situations will determine our outcome. Sometimes it takes reflection on the order found in nature to give order to our lives. Every obstacle that we are confronted with has a purpose and an order but we have to give it a purpose, otherwise it will produce disorder.
Before I end my note to the readers, I have to be honest and say that even when I get frustrated by life, I find myself wanting to take the easy way out and give up. There is always this small still voice that reminds me what would happen if I gave up every time I wanted to give up. I then start to think and reflect on the good times as well as the bad times. The truth is that I learned more during the dark times in my life because it was the darkest times of my life, the hardest times during my journey that taught me that I am bigger than my circumstances and that all I need is the will to overcome. Lastly, I would like to present all of our readers today with yet another challenge. I would like to challenge everyone that is dealing with a situation that may seem beyond human control to stop and reflect or remember what it took to overcome the last obstacle that you were confronted with. Think about the people who came to encourage you and from the outside looking in, were able to show you something you couldn’t see as you were in that dark place. The last thing I challenge you to think about is the one person who may be confronted with a situation that is darker and harder than your circumstance. Life is a true testimony of what we choose to focus on and how we choose to respond in situations we cannot control…Wishing all of our readers a week, month, year filled with peace and destiny manifest!
By Meesha Johnson
Gazing above the sky’s beautiful abyss is a constant reminder of LOVE’S certain joy and happiness. As brilliant pastel colors blur the heavens above one can only think of what’s gone and what’s to come ,for it is confirmed that another day is done while yesterday’s experience remains. Today’s presence abounds, and tomorrow’s future, while still uncertain, hopes of opportunity. We refrain from fear because the sultry day almost gone is comforted by a gentle breeze that whispers “just hold on.”
Beneath bare feet are remnants of childhood memories of these indigenous lands. The rigid shells of the oyster and smoother rocks once held in innocent hands ,the same ones that uncover crab shells hidden in damp sands. Marvelous sounds of waves crashing to shore while Ospreys and hawks sing in unison as part of a choir, or perhaps they are just in search of one who hears what the future has in store.
Directly across the Indian reserve man made constructs ignorant of the creator’s concepts held in trust evidence of worlds separated by an absolute truth held in our ancestors’ eyes. Yesterday’s reality becomes today’s proof as tomorrow’s destiny is an inheritance slightly obscure when compared to their outside.
Yet from within there is a history of pride never to be denied by those who believe. For this we know, life is similar to seasons and tides and although darkness of hatred and uncertainty of lies may come, they shall not abide. For just as the sun sets the sun must rise again on our Stony shores…
Greetings to the readers! What a perfect day for a celebration! Today marks the birth day of a very special friend who transitioned to the spirit realm some time ago. My friend would have been 37 years old today and I’m sure that if he were still here, there would be a party somewhere to remind all tribal members that this is the day that Jason was born. On April 28, 2012, there was a horrific accident that occurred here on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation that took the lives of two of our Warriors. Although this accident left many of our tribal members with a dark void, there are some who have made the choice to celebrate the lives and the potential of the two young men. As I think back on that day, I too remember feeling betrayed but not really sure by what or whom. I think that often times death or the things we don’t understand has a way of making us feel as though we have no control when we are confronted with situations such as this. The truth is that we have more control than we even know or think we do when we are confronted by adverse circumstances in our lives. When I think about the personality of the two young men, I smile because I think of all of the good times had as a community. I am reminded as well that even during the darkest and during the hardest of times, I am very blessed to be a part of a community that instinctively pulls together to grieve and comfort one another. I see as well that we come together to celebrate the accomplishments that we as individuals make because we are all one.
The poem that I have written entitled “left undone” was my way of gaining control of a situation that I had absolutely no control over. This is a poem that was written after the accident and after reading it, I thought to myself that although I didn’t see it then, I certainly employed a level of control by channeling negative energy in a positive way. I realized that this was a choice that I was able to make and must choose to make every time I am confronted by situations where it feels like control is limited. If one takes gasoline for example, we can see that gasoline can be channeled or used to give power to an automobile. Gasoline can also be used to cause destruction. Gasoline may just sit sedentary and never be used to do anything. Regardless of how it is used, the potential of gasoline doesn’t change.
There are two things that I would like to challenge our readers to do today and every day when you think about it. Challenge number 1 is to evaluate the potential and the control you have in every situation that you are confronted with. Decide to channel the control and the potential you see in a positive way. The second challenge that I shall present us all with is to make the choice to celebrate life. I have always been told and I know from my own experience that life is a gift. What we decide to do with the gift of life is up to us. Celebrate the life of those around you as well because the gift of life doesn’t just happen to us, the gift of life happens through us. Wishing you all an extraordinary day full of peace and a successful journey…Love is love 2015 – Eternity
Gone from this earth with so much left undone
One last chance we needed, just one
If only we knew what tomorrow would bring
So many things that we would have done right without even thinking
Gone with so much left undone
I never got that one chance to tell you just how much you meant to me
I always thought that tomorrow it could be
Gone with so much left undone
I never would have thought that our kids would grow up like you and me
I always thought that your daughter would play with my son
Gone with so much left undone
I never told you how much I admired your style and your smile
I always thought that one day while talking and laughing as we normally do, I would tell you
Mad at me and asking why it took such a long while
Gone with so much left undone
Even now as I think and reminisce, thoughts fill my head of that kiss
A kiss of life left upon this earth for all to behold
Now that you are gone, warm memories suddenly turn cold
So much left for us to say and do
I am still here and the one thing missing is you
This question I ask not sure directed at whom
But what now is there left for us to do
Gone with so much left undone
I never got the chance to show all that you taught me
I always thought that with time I would do or say something and you could see
So many things that we learned from one another
You are not just a friend, but a brother
So much potential in both of us
Suddenly awakened from this nightmare I can see that all is not lost
Your memory, talent, your life is your legacy
Through me you live on, this is what to expect from me
You may have left us with so much left undone but I see an opportunity to pursue
You have left me now with so much to do and this I promise you
Beautiful memories of life and love live in my heart and mind
Gone from this world but not from me because comfort in your memory I always find.
With a face of joy, excitement and with a most striking smile, she glides on her brand new moccasins. Her petite size 6 feet fit the brand new moccasins magnificently and absolutely perfect. The moccasins are a dark tan color with beautiful fringe hanging down the sides and going all the way around the top of them. The tops of the moccasins are also accented with beautiful beadwork that gives the moccasins a hint of elegance. Inside of the moccasins is soft warm fur from a rabbit. “Wow, they fit my foot just like a warm pair of gloves”. As she stands to take a few steps, the moccasins make her feel as if she were walking on clouds. “Thank you Meema.” Meema is Sparrow Whitecloud’s grandmother. Sparrow Whitecloud is a young Native princess just about to come upon her 13th birthday in a few days. Her Meema has made her a brand new pair of moccasins for her birthday and because of how much Sparrow has grown in just a year. “You know Sparrow, if you keep growing at this rate, you will have to finally learn how to make your own moccasins soon.” Sparrow smirks and says, “I promise Meema to learn how to make my very own moccasins before it’s too late. I am just glad to get rid of my old muddy moccasins.” As Sparrow sets her old dilapidated moccasins off to the side, she starts to tinker around with her brand new moccasins. During this time also, Sparrow’s Meema begins to put away all of her sewing materials. She puts away the raw Hyde and her beading needles in a safe place. Sewing is not just a craft for Meema; it is a passion of hers as well. She takes much pride in her work mostly because of what has been passed down to her by her elders and family. As Meema thinks about the comment that Sparrow has just made about her old moccasins, she sees this as an opportunity to pass down some of the wisdom from her ancestors to her granddaughter.
After putting away all of the sewing materials and cleaning up, Meema begins to put a huge pot on the stove in preparation to make a bit of venison stew. Once the ingredients are put together in enticing arrangements of deliciousness, Sparrow walks into the kitchen being mesmerized by the smell. “What are you cooking Meema?” asked Sparrow. “I am putting together some stew for supper and it should be ready in a couple of hours.” “Well I can’t wait to have some Meema because I am so hungry and my brand new moccasins are making me feel like a new person says Sparrow as she is dancing around gazing at the boiling pot on the stove. As Meema looks up at Sparrow still dancing and smiling in her new moccasins, Meema asks, Excuse me young lady, but where are your moccasins?” Coming to a screeching halt, she responds by saying, “I put them in a bag to put in the trash later on today.” With a disappointed look on her face Meema says to Sparrow, “Absolutely not! I want you to go and get your moccasins and meet me in the other room for a talk.” Then as Sparrow walks away in search of her moccasins, she is confused and upset because clearly she has troubled her Meema.
After a few moments, both Sparrow and Meema sit down on the couch. “I am so sorry Meema for what I said about my moccasins.” Meema responds with a smile and says, “I don’t want you to be sorry, I want you to understand the importance of remembering and respecting the things that you are blessed with. Now take your moccasins out of that bag and look at them closely and tell me what you see.” Sparrow spends a couple of seconds looking at her moccasins and notices the worn out leather and the dirty fringe that once was a beautiful tan color. There are also a couple of holes on the soles of the moccasins. Sparrow then begins to tell her Meema about what she sees. “Now I want you to close your eyes and think about how these moccasins have bought you to the place of needing new moccasins. Ask yourself if your old moccasins served their purpose and if you didn’t have those old moccasins, what would you do?” Sparrow begins to think about the many walks home from school during the spring season. After a nice refreshing cleansing rain, she remembers the countless times she and her cousins would go puddle jumping. She also remembered back during the winter season. She thinks about the times it was so cold outside and there was snow on the ground, her moccasins always kept her feet nice and warm while making snowmen in the yard. Sparrow remembered back to this one time during the summer when she went to the beach swimming with her friends. One of her good friends left her moccasins too close to the shore and as the tide came in; her moccasins got washed into the water. There was another time that Sparrow remembered in the autumn season where she and her mother went to pick potatoes and vegetables in the garden. Sparrow and her mother spent most of the day harvesting the vegetables in preparation for the Harvest moon ball. She and her mom had a great day together laughing and talking about how much fun they would have at the ball. When they were done, her hands and moccasins were so full of dirt that when she put a little bit of water on her moccasins, the dirt soon turned into mud. Sparrow then began to laugh at the memories that her muddy moccasins bought. “I remember a lot of good things that happened in these moccasins Meema, but I also remember a lot of bad things that happened too.” Meema nodded in agreement and said to Sparrow “Yes, but what else do you notice.” “Nothing said Sparrow. “Well I notice that even though you had both good and not so good memories in those moccasins, the times came and left, but your moccasins are still here. They may not look as beautiful as the day you first got them, they are still here and the damage is proof of how they did what they were supposed to do. “When I was a young girl, I remember how my mother, cousins, aunties and other members of the tribe would sit and teach the young people how to make their own moccasins and regalia for the Pow Wow. We always had a great time laughing and remembering the seasons and times spent getting prepared to create new memories. Back then before we could learn how to make our own moccasins, we had to tell the elders of the Tribe what we had learned that year. After talking and laughing with us, the elders gave us a jewel.” Wow said Sparrow; you mean to tell me the elders of the tribe gave you brand new jewelry just to learn how to make moccasins? Meema let out a loud chuckle, “No silly, I mean the elders told us something that we as children kept with us forever.” “Well what was that” asked Sparrow. “The elders of the tribe told us that our experiences in life both good and bad are meant for us to respect the past and where we have been, to appreciate the present and where we are, and lastly to teach us how to pursue with diligence and passion your goals and the future.” “Wow, that is amazing and beautiful Meema. I love you and thank you for my jewel of wisdom.” Sparrow then gets up to head toward her room. After a bit of shuffling around in the back, Sparrow meets Meema in the kitchen stirring and tasting the stew. “The stew is almost ready. Maybe in another 45 minutes or so it will be done.” Meema then starts to prepare her famous homemade biscuits. Meema then puts the pieces of dough in the oven while the pot of stew simmers on the stove. As Meema turns around, she sees Sparrow heading back to the other room. Sparrow then begins to go through Meema’s sewing materials. Meema then heads toward the room where Sparrow is rummaging through the sewing materials. Meema then asks Sparrow what she is doing. “I figured that since you gave me my jewel, it is only right that I begin to learn how to make my own moccasins Meema. Sparrow turns to face her Meema and she holds up her old moccasins. “Rather than make a new pair of moccasins, I want to clean and restore my old moccasins. I am going to keep them forever and one day I will give someone else my jewel too.”
Since the first week of April, my life has been a whirlwind of events which has redefined my history , my present and perhaps my future. These events and teachings are summarized in this piece titled : The Quest for Wholeness that I recently submitted to the Huff Post Blog . Following is some additional thoughts that have come to mind since then.
For me ,living in the present moment is an illusion. The teachings of my past, particularly as it relates to recent discoveries about my father’s side of the family have helped me understand my present choices more fully. It has also helped me to understand the paths that I embraced to get to where I am today.
When we choose to learn from our past and let our history become a teacher to us in the present, a rich part of our life experience has been restored.
Having a context or set of conditions to understand our present day path is crucial to redefining ourselves after catastrophic loss. I have discovered that there has been a history of both child loss and sibling loss on my father’s side of the family. As I have also experienced the death of a child, I believe that this teaching from The Afterlife of Billy Fingersby Annie Kagan, truly applies to me:
We signed up to do this dance together before we were born
Don’t leave any stone unturned in your own personal quest to redefine yourself after catastrophic loss or life altering transitions. The recent rich teachings from my ancestors have really reinforced this point for me.
Truth exists before we become evident of its existence in our own lives.
I am blessed to discover that I have living family on my father Austin Marion Roberts’ side .I look forward to creating new family memories with my cousin Jo Anne. Before I was simply content to be around my “soul family” or those individuals who have had a profound influence on redefining my perspective after my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003.
The universe’s plan is always better than ours.
My father was only in my life for five years ,but I love him more now than I ever have. What he taught me can’t be measured by human law.
I can not overlook the influence of “The Billy Factor,” in my recent life discoveries. The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan was recommended to me by a friend who walks a very sacred path. As she is not one to make spontaneous book recommendations, my curiosity was automatically aroused. I discovered that the book was released on March 1,2013, the 10th angelversary of my daughter Jeannine’s death.Billy danced with addiction during his lifetime. After his death(or rebirth to a new existence) ,he ascended to the status of a highly evolved and wise spirit ,communicating divine truths to his sister on earth. The book validated all of what I believe about the afterlife, but in retrospect did much more. Understanding the context of Billy’s life path prepared me to embrace without judgment the life path that my father and his ancestors chose to walk. In fact ,I was able to fully embrace the gifts of their dysfunction and reclaim a part of my history that I thought was forever lost.
The widespread and seemingly more frequent acts of violence around our country and the world motivated me to reflect on my thirty-year human services career to determine what contributed to me not being a target of violence.
I believe that it was my approach that kept me insulated from violence. My goal was to treat individuals with respect regardless of their background. Respect empowers individuals to choose the course of treatment that is best for them, and enables therapists to present options that might not have been considered. Respect breeds trust. It creates a safe and therapeutic atmosphere for individuals to work through their challenges.
The Importance of Working Together
My late supervisor and mentor, Don Kapes, first taught me the importance of adopting a respectful stance in our interactions with individuals. I was part of an interdisciplinary treatment team that Don supervised. We worked with individuals who had extensive criminal histories, mental health challenges and substance abuse issues. In addition, they had a deep mistrust of authority figures. The first thing that Don impressed upon us is something that I have passed down to other human service professionals: “Do treatment with someone, not to them.”
Level the therapeutic playing field by empowering individuals to have a voice in their treatment. Don taught me that anyone whose voice is honored feels respected, and safe. Silencing the voice of another person not only disempowers them, but also sets the stage for volatile reactions.
Honoring the Teachings of Others
One of the first individuals that I worked with in the chemical dependency field was a Caucasian veteran of the Vietnam War. He was involved in combat. When he returned to the States, to cope with Post –Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he drowned out the horrors of war with alcohol. During one of our first meetings, he requested to not have staff touch him when waking him. He explained that while in Vietnam many of his fellow soldiers were killed in their sleep.
Consequently, he became a light sleeper. He further disclosed that any physical touch would provoke him to attack, due to his desire for self-preservation. He had no desire to hurt any one else, or continue to fight a war. In retrospect, he was among the first people to teach me about the importance of adopting a peaceful perspective with my fellow man.
I was never a member of the military, but years later I would understand the importance of self- preservation as it played out in my early grief following my daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003.
While revisiting my human service career, I reflected on what needs to be done to achieve global peace. I truly believe that the respect I cultivated with individuals in my care would certainly work towards achieving this objective. Society would first need to buy-in to the belief that prevention of violence and the promotion of peace is the responsibility of everyone. We need to witness and understand each other’s challenges without judgment. The time is now to inspire different perspectives on how we view our fellow man/woman. We are all from the same human DNA; we are all one.
Authoring a Different Ending
For many who have undergone catastrophic loss or other life-altering transitions, the world is not a safe, predictable place. Any uncontrolled and senseless acts of violence reinforce this point. With that in mind, I wish to focus my attention on Eric Garner’s encounter with police that resulted in his death. In the video that I viewed online, I heard Mr. Garner saying very animatedly and demonstratively that: “I did not sell nothing” and “I am minding my business officer (twice) and please just leave me alone.” Demonstrative and loud does not necessarily equate to violence. Mr. Garner was not looking for a violent confrontation, if anything he was looking to avoid it. If one of those officers removed Mr. Garner from the situation and further explored what was going on with him, he may still have gotten arrested. He would however, still be alive. We could be viewing this event as a prototype for peace, rather than as an example of man’s inhumanity to man.
I would love to watch a video of a similar incident with the resolution that I previously described. It would reinforce to the world that solutions motivated by peace are more desirable, permanent and healing, then those solutions clouded by fear, misunderstanding, and a need to exert superiority over our fellow man. It would also illustrate that the best show of force is no force at all.
Here are some things that I have been thinking about since before the start of the New Year:
1) The older I get, the more my past has to teach me. Because of that I don’t label a moment that I experience, as a present moment. It is simply a moment.
2) I was at dinner this past New Years Eve with some friends , when I was asked if I had any resolutions or new things I wanted to experience in 2015. I simply said no,much to everyone’s surprise. I have gotten away from trying to script any experiences for myself, because of the limitations that imposes. I simply prefer to be open to any experience that continues to be a teacher to me.
3) In the 27 years that I worked in substance abuse counseling I never came close to being a victim of physical violence. I think it was because I was respectful in all of my interactions with individuals with substance use disorder and tried to understand what motivated their actions in certain situations.
4) I was in New York earlier in December, at the time that protests were occurring over the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. I was walking in Rockefeller Center on Friday evening with my friend Patty Furino when we came across a black security guard with whom we immediately struck up a conversation. In the course of 15 minutes, we discovered that in the last six years of his life he had challenges resulting from homelessness and the death of his mother due to cancer. Yet he transcended those challenges through hard work, determination and an indomitable resolve. We can discover beauty and grace in the midst of challenging circumstances, all we need to do is commit to discovering it.
5) My encounter in New York reminds me of a line from a song by The Wallflowers: “Behind every face is the mask of another” and that regardless of outward appearance ,we are all cut from the same DNA. We are all truly one.
6) I had a brief dream visit from my daughter Jeannine last night. We were in the kitchen of our home. She looked beautiful and radiant, as I always remembered her . All she said to me is that : “We need to be up tomorrow by 4:00 am.” I haven’t yet searched for the meaning or symbolism of her words. If there is any meaning to her words, it will be revealed to me in time. I was just happy that she wanted to visit.
7) There is truth and the illusion of truth. Both are crucial in shaping our life path.
8) There are individuals who disguise service to others as service to themselves, and there are individuals who are truly about the message and not ego. Learn to know the difference.
9) With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that Jeannine chose me to be her father. With the passage of every year, I am increasingly grateful that my sons Dan and Matt,and Jeannine’s brothers, chose me to be their father.
10) I will end with a great quote that I discovered from a Facebook site called: Let the Wolves Run Free: ” Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others,because the world outside of you is only a reflection of the world inside of you.” I will continue to peck at my shadows.