When I planned my topics for December, I had intended to create an ethical gift guide one week. I then realized how many people put out gift guides, and that some of them are really fantastic. My favorites were Cali Wolf’s gift guide featuring Indigenous companies and artisans, Catherine’s Feminist Gift Guide, and Scraping Raisins Ethical gift guide. They really covered it guys.
I’m going to keep bucking the system, and talk about Presence instead of presents. My feelings around Christmas have changed a lot since I’ve become an adult. I’m not sure when the tide turned, but at some point in my adult life my emotional association with Christmas went from joy and hygge to overwhelm.
I’m still processing why this is, and carefully tracing the themes of joy and connection through my holidays. Last year, I was at the peak of my seasonal depression, and looking at making a major job change. I mentioned last week that the entire gifting process was incredibly overwhelming, and that’s true. What I loved the most about the holiday was packing up and visiting my family for what we call “Thristmas”, a mix of Thanksgiving and Christmas that has come to be celebrated the weekend before Christmas.
Visiting my family is a time out of sorts. Everything runs on a different timeline when it takes twenty minutes to get to the grocery store. There is nothing else for me to do than what I’m doing right that moment when I’m there. There is nowhere else for me to be. The more I’ve been able to integrate the challenging parts of my childhood and adolescence, the more I’ve savored going home.
I think we savor each other more now too. My book will go into more detail about some of the challenges we all faced when I moved out (shameless plug), but with all the life we have lived, just being together (usually) feels like an exhale. The biggest gift they give me is their presence. They allow me to feel safe and seen.
I get a two to three day window into my growing nieces and nephews, and the worlds they are unfurling. I treasure making memories with them. Seeing their art, projects, reading them books, baking cookies, and cuddling.
Low hummed carols, and late night catch ups are presence to me. Sharing mediocre coffee at the diner we’ve gone to for years is presence to me. Hugging mom and dad after that six plus hour drive, that is presence to me.
My first Christmas morning with Chris in our apartment, with the fire crackling on our flat screen thanks to Netflix, did have some gifts, but I mostly remember feeling warm and held.
My first Christmas away from home, my mom sent me twelve days of Christmas packages that made me feel remembered and loved. (side note, if you’re living away from home for the first time at nineteen, just go home for Christmas.)
There’s something about the question “do you have a wishlist this year?” that cheapens all this presence for me. Wish lists aren’t bad. Presents aren’t bad.
But I’ll take presence over presents every time.
As soon as the days start to shorten, and the shadows lengthen, my internal world goes on high alert, looking for signs of the depression monster.
I start pulling out my light box in the mornings. I double down on my rituals. I pay attention to how long my low moods last, and if they are situational. When we enter daylight savings time, I move from code yellow to code orange.
Any of you who deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder know this dance.
This year, my anxiety was high going into the fall. Last winter was one of my worst. Simply getting out of bed and going to work in the morning took so much energy. The holidays were stressful. Receiving (and finding room for) gifts was especially overwhelming. The energy of thinking of things to go on a gift list for myself (and for Chris) was just not existent. I recently wrote on Instagram about this season - that I wasn't only depressed, but I was mourning many things. This fall, I wondered how much had changed. I wondered if my growth would sustain me through my hardest season. I wondered if I would be able to enjoy the holidays.
I read a lot this year, and one of my favorite books was "Learning to Walk in the Dark" by Barbara Brown Taylor. I listened to the audiobook for free through our local library.
So much of this book stuck with me. First there was the fact that just listening to Barbara is soothing. However I would say that two major concepts impacted me. Seeking understanding, instead of running and hiding from my personal dark, and the value of preserving physical darkness.
I've combatted my anxiety this fall with these mantras.
I will embrace slow
I will celebrate the light when I can
I will become friends with the dark
We follow and celebrate all the seasons in nature it seems, except winter. Sure, there's winter sports and holidays. That's not what I mean.
In Spring, we watch for the first flowers. We smell the damp earth, and savor every extra minute of light we get at the end of our days.
In Summer, we soak in sun and ocean. We revel in the warmth, listen to the tree frogs and cicadas at night.
In Autumn, we harvest. We smell the crispness in the air, and pull out our sweaters and jackets. We have bonfires, rake leaves, bake pies, and carve pumpkins.
And in winter, when Nature rests, we have one of our busiest human seasons. We bake, we shop, we gift, we plan, we work.
We never stop.
Nature reminds us with the short days, with the cold nights to rest. But we keep going. This resistance to slowing down is something that has greatly contributed to my winter blues. I've always greatly felt the need to slow down, and also the push to do all the things.
Here are a few ways I'm choosing to slow down this winter:
Only blogging once a week vs three times - definitely through the winter, and potentially until my book is done.
Minimizing gifting (both receiving and giving)
Only putting up the decorations I really want to see, and not over extending myself with outdoor lights etc.
Not going to stores (online shopping FTW)
Minimizing my screen time - I have done this since before the fall, but not taking my phone to bed with me has greatly increased my sleep quality. I plug my phone in downstairs, and my fitbit is my alarm. I fall asleep better because I'm not scrolling, and I actually get out of bed in the morning because I'm not distracted.
Taking a couple additional days off work.
Part of me feels like it's impossible to really embrace the qualities of Winter in our society. We must always be busy, working, hustling to fund our lives and provide for our families. But that's when I remind myself, that we only need to create a little space.
How are you creating space to slow down this winter?
If you know my family at all, you know my mom loves traditions. We had a program for every holiday when I was growing up. The program was a mashup of worship service and seminar, and it lasted all day. As a kid, I was mostly interested in the food at Thanksgiving, and less in reading the Thanksgiving proclamation, poems about the Pilgrims, or sitting at the table for two hours while we all shared five things we were thankful for. There was one story I did particularly like, called “The Town of Thanks”, but other than that I just wanted stuffing. Looking back,I appreciate the effort involved and the community she was trying to build, although I still mainly want to eat stuffing on Thanksgiving, sorry Mom.
I thought I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of the first thanksgiving, and America's origin story. Then, I started doing some research and reading about the history of Indigenous peoples. We have this habit as humans to focus intensely on the parts of the story that relate to us. The pilgrims (or those who came soon after the pilgrims) are many of our ancestors. We feel a visceral connection and national pride when we think about our forefathers paving the way for the freedoms and privileges we now enjoy. The part that “Indians” play in our national narrative has been reduced to that of a guest at an ancient meal. They conveniently fade from view in our stories after this, other than as tropes and caricatures.
Is it any surprise that the Indigenous peoples of this land have different perspectives of historical events? The story stays the same, but the landscape shifts when we consider them as the main characters, instead of a cameo appearance.
I’d love if you would humor me for a minute, and see how it feels in your mind and in your body to not be cast as the main character. Pay attention to that feeling. Notice how it informs your thoughts and decisions. Does it feel unsettling? Wrong even? Think on that as we move forward.
I don’t know about you, but even with all of the history and understanding I had of the Immigrant / Settler side of the first Thanksgiving, I always imagined more Pilgrims than Indians. Yet, Edward Winslow's records state that only Fifty three pilgrims had survived at this point, and Massasoit brought at least ninety men to the feast.
Historically, it's doubtful that the Native Americans were actually invited to the first Thanksgiving. The common conjecture from several historians, including Tim Turner, (Cherokee, manager of Plimoth Plantation’s Wampanoag Homesite and co-owner of Native Plymouth Tours) is that Massasoit and his warriors heard the Pilgrims “exercising of arms” and came ready to aide their new allies in a fight.
When they found a feast instead of a fight, they became the most gracious guests. This feast was the celebration of a tenuous peace treaty. The Pilgrims, unaccustomed to agriculture or hunting for survival were vulnerable, and the numbers of Wampanoag people had greatly diminished due to an outbreak of disease. (A gift from European predecessors of the Pilgrims who also enslaved Indigenous peoples and took them back to Europe in 1614, four years before the Puritans landed.) Both peoples had cultural harvest celebrations, so this was a natural connection point.
It only follows that the Pilgrims didn’t have enough food for triple their number, and Massasoit sent his hunters out to bring game and supplement the banquet.
I grew up believing the Puritans came to America and fought for religious freedom, having themselves been outcasts of the English Theocracy. However much of their theology was decidedly harmful to anyone believing differently. The theocratic society they came from also sailed to the New (to them) World. They had learned well how to politicize and weaponize religion.
England had very recently colonized Ireland, as well as led crusades through the middle east. Their form of conquest was practiced there, and also came with the Separatists, who carried out horrific acts of terror in the name of a Prince of Peace. The Salem Witch Trials are another example of this dynamic. After a couple short seasons and a tenuous peace, the Puritans forgot the hospitality and forgiveness of the Wampanoags. They began to dehumanize their Native neighbors for their differences in culture, faith, and skin color.
Dehumanization was necessary to justify the genocide that soon followed in pursuit of land and power.
I find it sad and ironic that in our religious history of Christianity, those who had no understanding of our faith carried it out better than those that professed it.
Brene Brown talks about the dangers of dehumanization in her book “Braving the Wilderness” and I find her work applicable in this story. In this excerpt, she makes the point that dehumanization begins with language. If you’re ready for a shock (and to fall down the rabbit hole) look up the statements about Native American peoples from our founding fathers. It’s convenient that Thomas Jefferson is most well known for penning
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” and the fight against “taxation without representation”.
Less the complaint that “(The King) has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
Dehumanizing language is embedded in the very framework of our oldest and most revered political documents, and that was just the beginning. It’s also likely that Thomas Jefferson was referencing the Proclamation line of 1763, which was an undertaking of the Crown to limit westward expansion, and come to an agreement with the Indigenous peoples on set boundaries. Our revolutionary war was a revolt on unjust taxation, but a sinister shadow of unchecked pursuit of power through land came behind the rally cry of “Liberty and Justice for All.”
I looked up a map, and was amazed at where the Proclamation line fell:
In less than 100 years, from our independence from England in 1776, to 1846 the United States acquired the lower 48 states. Before colonization, there were roughly estimated to be between 50 and 100 million Indigenous peoples and an estimated 562 autonomous nations. This was after Columbus and other explorers had brought diseases and taken ships full of captives back to Europe. In America today, with all our cities and urban development, we have approximately 325 million people. So the number of Indigenous peoples living here before us was potentially a full third of the our current population.
The UN Genocide convention was formed after the holocaust, and defines genocide as “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
This was developed long after the US was fully colonized. However, I haven’t found any other definition that more accurately describes the ways in which Europe and then colonists wrested land and culture from the first inhabitants. In memorandums of war and historical documents words like “extermination” and the phrase “leave none alive” are used to instruct the killing of Indigenous tribes. Indigenous women have been forcibly sterilized - as recently as 2017. Native children were often stolen from their families and given to settlers through adoption as an effort to squelch Indigenous heritage, say nothing of the boarding schools that required them to cut their hair and denounce their former identities. These are all forms of genocide that have been committed against Native peoples.
It’s easy to assume, and many history books may lead us to believe that the New World was basically uninhabited and there for claiming. That was far from the case. Colonization and settling the US territories cost the lives of Indigenous men, women, and children in the millions. Their civilizations brought us many staples we still enjoy to this day, like the cultivation of corn, beans, and their complex trails and roadways. It’s sad we didn’t also learn their understanding of sustainable game management, forestry, and horticulture, or honor their humanity and cultural identity.
Numbering those with Native descent is hard, especially since many have been naturalized and their heritage has been suppressed. However the rough estimate currently is 5.2 million, 22% of which live on reservations.
Native tribes that supported Britain in the revolutionary war (many looking to preserve their lands and heritage) were hunted afterwards with a vengeance. George Washington’s orders are on record to General John Sullivan, who commanded 5,000 troops to oversee “...the total destruction and devastation of [the Indian] settlements and capture as many prisoners as possible.”
Fast forward to the time of Abraham Lincoln, known for his progressive (for the 1800s) views of equality, and even he withheld money from Sioux to fund a war, while colonies already were taking over their land in Minnesota. When a military clash inevitably happened, he sentenced 39 Native Americans to be hung in the largest mass hanging of our country’s history. And yet, he was the founder of Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
Juan Gonzalez of Boston rekindles a small fire — the smoke symbolizing a ritual for healing and a connection with the "creator." He has been attending this day of mourning for 30 years. "We feel the pain of the Wampanoag," said Gonzalez. United American Indians of New England gather for the National Day of Mourning across from Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, MA on Thursday, November 25, 2010. The day signifies the deaths of American Indians at the hands of early settlers and colonists and the independence of American Indians. Boston Globe Boston Globe via Getty Images
It’s not surprising to me that now, many Indigenous peoples see Thanksgiving as a day of mourning. Many of us descended from settlers and immigrants, enjoy the nostalgia in the birth of a country brimming with wealth and opportunity. But many others understand it as the foreshadowing of genocide and generational trauma they are still working to heal.
So where do we go from here? What do we actually DO with this information? I’m not suggesting we forgo the turkey, stuffing, or thankfulness. I am suggesting that in 2018 maybe it’s time to bring some awareness to the main characters of the First Thanksgiving, and how things have gone for them since.
I suggest that those of us who identify as Christian research and understand how our faith has been weaponized by colonization, and remember that the sins of our fathers are visited on us. How often do we prioritize the thing we want, whether it’s land, power, or security, over the REAL tenets of our faith, and the humanity of others?
I suggest we raise our awareness of dehumanizing language being accepted in our current culture, and commit to calling it out, and not spreading it. (Yes, memes count here!)
I suggest we actively work to support Indigenous artists, non-profits, and foundations in understanding and empathy of their history and resilience. (Check out my post that details specific organizations supporting Indigenous women and combating violence against them)
I suggest that we research the tribes whose land we now occupy, that we travel on, and look for ways to honor their history. (I currently live on Quinnipiac land.)
I suggest that we learn to navigate the vast chasm between the discomfort of deepening our understanding, and the constant threat of physical harm and oppression our ignorance creates for Indigenous Americans and other people of color.
I suggest that we read books by Indigenous authors, follow Indigenous peoples on social media, and actively work to educate ourselves around a topic that has been silenced for centuries.
This Thanksgiving, I am humbled by the story of Massasoit. A plague had just decimated his people, another number had been shipped off as slaves. And yet he still offered the struggling pilgrims aide. They had raided new, sacred graves of his people, and yet he offered peace.
I mourn how our ancestors and founding fathers repaid Native kindnesses. It disturbs and unnerves me that my country was built out of the decimation of Indigenous peoples. I get a bit nauseous when I remember the faith I practice gained political strength and power through the same events. Sometimes, when we thank God for our freedom to practice our religion during church services I get a chill. I wonder if that's what we really mean, or if we are actually grateful that our religion holds unholy social and political power.
I think I was 15 or so when I started trying to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with organized Christianity.
I read “Blue Like Jazz”, and I found the first description of faith that felt like home. Don Miller is witty and conversational, but above all authentic and vulnerable. As I was writing this post, I kept remembering Don’s story about building a confession booth during Ren Fayre at Reed College.
For those of you not familiar, Don and his friends confessed to the students of Reed. They confessed their own bias, times they had been unloving, as well as more expansive collective sins like the crusades. As Don explains to his first visitor:
“What are you confessing?” he asked.
I shook my head and looked at the ground. “Everything,” I told him.
“Explain.” he said.
“There’s a lot, I will keep it short,” I started. “Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute me. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus did not mix His spirituality with politics. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know Him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, you know.”
“It’s all right, man” Jake said, very tenderly. His eyes were starting to water.
“Well, I said, clearing my throat, “I am sorry for all of that.”
“I forgive you” Jake said. And he meant it”
Don goes on to say that over 100 students participated, and it opened doors for community outreach and growth like they had never seen before, on one of the most secular campuses in the US.
Maybe another thing that we can do to heal our collective histories is set aside our egos, our tightly held national narratives, and confess*.
I would like to thank Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz for her brilliant and detailed work in her books:
"An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States" and
"All The Real Indians Died Off, and twenty other myths about Native Americans"
they have inspired me to research further and greatly informed this post.
*Something I think we Christians can get wrong about confession is the expectation of forgiveness. God may forgive us, but people are never required to. Confession isn't a means to rid ourselves of guilt or discomfort. Confession is acknowledgement of wrong and causing harm.
Long ago, well, twelve years ago to be more exact, my Good Friend Chris Wooding and I had debates on the merits of romance. He was a staunch defender, I the cynical opposition. The joke is on me because I eventually married him. However, I still carry a healthy amount of realism when it comes to getting all twitterpated and dousing our brains in dopamine. Today, I decided to let you in on my inner rant world with one of my biggest pet peeves: "Romantic" movies. I'm warning you now. If you love "The Notebook" you might want to skip this post. I'm not hating on you enjoying a movie, I'm just.... hating on the movie.
I have a few beefs with movies typically labeled as Romance.
The first: All's fair in love. Codependence, Emotional abuse, Manipulation, and Gaslighting are all romantic if you choose the right setting, time period, and music.
I apparently disagree with 80% of movie makers who seem to think healthy, consensual relationships between two adults with full autonomy aren't interesting. You don't need that crazy misunderstanding that would never actually happen plot line, I promise. It's just lazy writing.
There are a few TV couples whose depth of character development and relationships I would like to laud.
Marshall and Lily from How I Met Your Mother,
Turk and Carla, from Scrubs,
and believe it or not, I ship Deadpool and his girlfriend too.
A superhero movie holds way more spark and romance than any iteration of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever had, think about that.
The second: You may have seen me gearing up for this in #1 - Misunderstandings blown way out of proportion, and juvenile disagreements. There is enough drama, hurt, and hard ish in life without resorting to the plot where Love Interest A sees Love Interest B out with Attractive Stranger and twenty minutes of angst and hurt feelings ensue over nothing because Attractive Stranger is Love Interest B's family member.
Please just stop.
The third: The Terminal Illness. Movies based on historical events get a free pass here, but in general the movies that involve gut wrenching heartache for no reason, again, really? This is what you resort to? If I want a full empath meltdown I don't need "romance" movies, I can just watch the news.
The fourth: Movies that expect me to empathize with people suffering the fallout of their own bad decisions. "The Notebook" is a top contender here for me. I don't feel bad that you don't have love in your life if you chose a superficial relationship over deep connection. Imagine how short that movie would be if the characters were self aware, had mutual respect, and personal boundaries? In case you forgot, this is Allie's "I'm engaged to someone else, but I'm still in love with you so you can't really move on" face.
Oh, also, Serendipity. "Let's NOT exchange numbers, and wander around New York, wasting 90 minutes of our viewers time before we magically bump into each other again and live happily ever after."
Maybe I just have a different definition of Romance.
When I think of *actual* romantic movies, a few come to mind.
The first, an older movie, "What Dreams May Come".
Robin Williams pursues his love through the *afterlife* to rescue her from her own personal hell. I love so much about this movie. I love how he supports his wife through her mental illness after the loss of their children. I love how he knows exactly what to do and say to restore her. This movie has depth. While most of it takes place in an imagined afterlife, there's so much reality. The grief and loss pictured are what so many of us have dealt with on various levels, not to mention mental illness. These issues are the ones we walk through.
"This is one of my favorite movies for so many reasons. It is laced with loss, but also two people who refuse to give up on each other through it. After the first loss, their relationship is tested to it's limit, Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) learns an important lesson. He learns about presence. In an iconic quote he says:
"That's when I realized I'm part of the problem. Not because I remind you. But because I couldn't join you. So I left you alone. Don't give up, okay?"
Later, he puts action behind his understanding, joining his wife in her own personal hell and showing her she's not alone. That's romance.
Next up: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Chris and I started this movie thinking it would be a romcom with Bradley Cooper and Jlaw. I'm really glad we were wrong, because this movie has sooo much depth. I loved that the two of them, who were working through their own mental health diagnoses, had more self awareness and clearer understanding of their lives than the rest of the characters in the movie. The supporting characters all had their own challenges as well, but they weren't facing them. I liked that this was realistic, Bradley Coopers character spent most of the movie hung up on his ex, but he shows personal growth in moving through those feelings and finding healing. They do end up together, but it's not overblown or insanely dramatic.
The last one, is more of the oddball, and definitely not a movie that even specifically features romance, but I really appreciated the dynamics: "Wish I Was Here"
This movie was crowdfunded and directed by Zach Braff. It tackles tough topics like the financial weight of a family, finding identity and fulfillment as adults, intimacy in marriage, the vulnerability and limited time available to reconcile with aging parents, and more. I know some people didn't like that it doesn't have a huge story arc. It doesn't start with Some Huge Problem and end with Happily Ever After. But it shows my favorite thing, growth. I especially appreciated the aspects of marriage it highlighted. Kate Hudson's character is working full time to support her husband, (Zach Braff) a struggling actor. Again, these are the challenges people face. Aging parents with terminal diagnosis. Estranged family. Shifts in personal identity.
To me, romance isn't just a dopamine hit. Romance is showing up for each other, day in and day out. Romance is working on *ourselves* and committing to authenticity and vulnerability with our partners. Romance is knowing the quirks, smiling over inside jokes, and experiencing those moments that yes, sometimes take your breath away. There's enough story here for unlimited movies, books, and TV shows. Hollywood, you've already shown us you can step it up. We're waiting.
So I told you I would be featuring some fantastic Indigenous women this month, and I'm so excited to introduce you to the first one! Cali is Sičháŋǧu Lakȟóta from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She is a trauma nurse, blogger, and ambassador for Native Women's Wilderness.
Cali details her journey to embracing her heritage on her blog, Through Her Native Eyes. Cali and I originally connected on Instagram. Her posts are beautiful, educational, and heartfelt. Her blog shares her story, Indigenous history, and how to be an ally to Indigenous peoples. I also loved her guest post discussing what it's like traveling as a Native woman, and how we can be respectful of Indigenous peoples and the history of Native lands.
Cali's love for nature and hiking has been essential as she has been called back to her heritage. Now she advocates for diversity and representation in outdoor and hiking industries, and is an ambassador for Native Women's Wilderness.
You may remember Native Women's Wilderness from last weeks post introducing the unique challenges Native Women face, and the fantastic organizations rising to meet those challenges. They are a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
Cali has become a strong advocate for her people, and justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women. I love her story so much. I'm inspired by her concentrated intention and determination to reconnect with and uncover her heritage and cultural traditions. I'm challenged by her calls to action and equity. I relate strongly to her love for the wilderness, and I'm galvanized by her hope.
I was so honored to have Cali answer a few questions for this post!
I loved your post "Being Native in a White World" and how shared so beautifully about your personal history. What has it been like for you more recently as you've been embracing your heritage? Do you feel like it has been a homecoming in a way?
"I feel like I have finally had the honor of truly getting to know myself. There were parts of me that were covered, hidden and ignored for so long. I’ve had a few moments recently where I’m like… “everything makes so much sense now.” I lived a lot of my life unhappy, with no true identity. So growing into my newly reclaimed identity has been life changing for me."
Tell us a little bit about your ambassadorship with Native Womens Wilderness.
"When I was contacted about becoming an ambassador for NWW, it was an obvious yes. I had been growing into my Lakota identity and finding my voice, while simultaneously reconnecting to the outdoors. So to be able to embrace both as they intersect is a huge honor for me. NWW is applying for it’s 501c3 status this year, and we have been focusing on obtaining sponsors so we can provide gear and funding to Native girls and women, sending Native girls and women to outdoor camps and participating in DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) work within the outdoor industry. We have some really exciting and big plans for next year!"
If you could recommend a few resources for my readers and myself to become better educated on Indigenous peoples and their history, what would those be?
"The entire #TravelingWhileNative series on HNTTLABB.
An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz.
Be sure that you are reading books and articles from Native authors."
What does decolonizing mean to you?
"For me, decolonizing has been learning Lakhotiyapi (Lakota language), returning to ceremony and fully embracing my identity as a Lakota winyan (woman)."
How do you and / or the native communities that you're part of generally feel about the Thanksgiving holiday?
"I can’t speak for the entire Native community, but my family has always used this as a time to be together and enjoy good food. I would never want anyone to miss out on family time, but I do think it is important to acknowledge the truth surrounding the day and how it came to be."
Years ago, I read a blog post from Jon Acuff about a phenomenon he titles “The Jesus Juke”. You know that moment you’re having a totally normal conversation, and then someone manages a Christian one up. If you aren’t familiar with this, go read Jon’s post. It’s short, hilarious, and also TRUE.
Sometimes in the past I’ve felt like the month of November is one big Gratitude Juke. It probably doesn’t help that in years past this is also when my seasonal depression has really kicked in. Either way, if you’re realistic about your life, you don’t get to be in the Gratitude Club. (You also don’t get to be in the gratitude club if you don’t post about it on social media. Every day.)
“Gratitude” can easily become a distraction from things in life that we really need to address. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of “Let’s use this month to avoid any emotional labor by admiring each and every sunset!” Sometimes, we are all so damn busy being “grateful” for the sunset, or our warm houses on cold nights, that we forget to see *each other.* This is in the same vein as "There are starving children who would love your meal" guilt trip. Any time shame enters the equation, we've gotten something wrong.
Last week I talked about the importance of having gratitude game, and I do believe that thankfulness is a key component of living out the most wholehearted and authentic expression of ourselves.
But let’s remember a couple key points as we all work to up our gratitude game this month.
Life can be hard, and beautiful.
Thankfulness isn’t a band aid or distraction from hard things in our lives. It tethers us, adds emotional dimension, and keeps us present, but we still need to remember that to heal, we have to feel and deal first. (Thanks Tiffany Roe for that little mantra!)
I liked things about Ann Voskamps book, “One Thousand Gifts” but she also goes down this path. Part of her more radical thankfulness practice was to replace uncomfortable and painful feelings with feelings of gratitude since we supposedly only have room to feel one thing at once. (I’m also not really sure about that.) This is dangerous territory to me.
Just like physical pain is a warning that something is wrong or that we are in danger, our emotional pain and uncomfortable feelings are instructive. They are always telling us something. Finding any way to suppress them puts us in danger of not actually doing our emotional work in order to grow.
Thankfulness is personal.
What we are grateful for can be minute, and meaningful, and that is so personally specific to US. I fully believe in letting people have the things they enjoy. I’m not going to tell you not to post thirty days of thankfulness on social media. I AM going to suggest that celebrating personal thankfulness for circumstances is on a different level from finding thirty people throughout the month to personally thank for their presence in your life.
Let’s use gratitude as a way to nurture connection and relationship instead of using it to steamroll feels.
In case you were wondering, I am incredibly thankful for every one of you that read, comment, DM, and share my blogs. It means the world to me and gets me up at 6am to keep writing.
Thank YOU for your support.
This Friday, I want to share with you a roundup of my favorite things about my week!
While I'm pretty sure I sat in traffic from accidents every day on the way to and from work, I really love seeing the fall color and the trees change along the road and in the medians.
Chris and I are finishing up our basement project, and I am so happy with how it's turning out, and also the fact that it will be DONE.
The SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) Instagram chat I have with a couple of friends. We send silly and unflattering selfies to the group when we're using our light therapy lamps and they make me smile.
My Monstera plant that is growing TWO new leaves right now!
Planning and plotting crafty projects.
Looking into the holiday season with the understanding that I have the autonomy to choose what I show up for and what I sit out. I was so overwhelmed last year at this time, it's great to see personal progress and growth. I am much more hopeful this year.
The content I'm planning for the rest of November and December.
What is your favorite this week? Let me know in the comments!
I LOVE spotlighting amazing women for you all to follow, learn from, and support. Besides thankfulness, November and the Thanksgiving holiday are often when we remember what we know of our roots, and stories of the “First Thanksgiving”. Unfortunately, the mental picture of peoples from vastly different backgrounds sharing a meal and tenuous peace is often where our understanding of Indigenous Americans ends. So this month, I have a treat for you. I am going to link you up with fantastic Indigenous women to follow and learn from. Let’s expand our understanding of and respect for these women together.
Today, I want to share just a little of what I’ve learned as background. For the last couple years I have been actively working to fill my social media feeds with people who are different from me. Originally this started out as resistance to diet culture. I wanted to follow women who looked different from me because I wanted to build new pathways of what “normal” looked like in my brain. But as I followed these other women, and started learning about their lives and struggles, it became something more.
I realized that representation doesn’t only affect our self image through showing us airbrushed and photoshopped versions of reality.
Representation shapes our communal understanding of each other.
To put it more plainly, we understand and assume that most people are like us, the people we know, and those we see represented in media and government. We have more empathy for those people because their stories and lives feel familiar.
I used to think representation wasn’t a big deal, until I started paying attention to those who I really didn’t see represented. They showed me new worlds full of perspectives and histories I had never considered.
Violence against women has been headlining lately. I’m glad to see women gaining their bite, and a movement forming. But Indigenous women have been especially vulnerable to sexual violence for centuries, due to unjust legislation and lack of priority. Non indigenous people visiting a reservation were not chargeable with crimes committed on that reservation until the VAWA act was passed in 2013. 1776 to 2013 held 237 years of crimes (against Indigenous women) that were not able to be prosecuted. As of this year, there are 5,712 missing and / or murdered Native women.
According to the Indian Law & Resource Center;
“In the United States, violence against indigenous women has reached unprecedented levels on tribal lands and in Alaska Native villages. More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced violence, and more than 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence. Alaska Native women continue to suffer the highest rate of forcible sexual assault and have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States. Though available data is limited, the number of missing and murdered American Indian and Alaska Native women and the lack of a diligent and adequate federal response is extremely alarming to indigenous women, tribal governments, and communities. On some reservations, indigenous women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.”
When I first heard these numbers, it was staggering. I thought about how how most of the women that I know have experienced harassment or assault in some way, and that all of us have felt unsafe because of our gender at one point or another. Then I thought about how our “normal” could be so. much. worse. There’s knowing that female genital mutilation and gendercide are still happening on the other side of the globe, and that is terrible. It’s another thing entirely to realize the breadth and nuance of what Indigenous women are facing right here.
Here’s the thing about fighting for equity and equality. We aren’t here, til we are ALL here.
If our version of morality, faith, spirituality, or equality only works for people who look and think like us, we need to do better.
Sometimes that means coming up against hard things in ourselves. We must build the resilience to do this work.
I’m not writing this post to guilt anyone. There are myriad causes that we can (and many times should) be aware of. It can be overwhelming to absorb so much information, and if you’re an empath like me, emotionally exhausting. Resilience is my repeating mantra here.
We do what we can, with the understanding that as we learn our capacity for growth and affecting positive change will increase.
I’m going to leave you with a few really actionable and positive steps to take to improve your understanding and, if you choose, help Indigenous women gain safety.
The first thing we can do, and it’s often free, is educate ourselves. Amnesty USA has a PDF explaining the nuance in legislation that vastly contributes to Indigenous women’s lack of safety.
There are non-profits run by Indigenous peoples to combat violence against Indigenous women like
Native Womens Wilderness is a Native run initiative that inspires and raises the voices of Native Women in the Outdoor Realm. They encourage a healthy lifestyle grounded in the Wilderness, and educate Natives and non-Natives on the rich beauty and heritage of the Ancestral Lands beneath our feet. (adapted from Native Womens Wilderness mission statement.)
The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society is committed to providing shelter and advocacy for individuals victimized by violence. They recognize the necessity of a multi-faceted approach –the need to develop an effective response to systems in our community such as health, criminal justice, and other institutions that minimize violence against woman. They also believe it is necessary to raise community awareness by naming what has happened to them as indigenous women. At the same time, they recognize that responding to systems may or may not make significant institutional changes that will stop violence against women. Therefore, they are also dedicated to exploring and creating actions that will move us toward a social transformation that will allow equity for women.
(Adapted from The White Buffalo Calf Woman Society Facebook page)
Mending the Sacred Hoop grew out of regional organizing efforts and a Native women’s advocacy and support group for survivors of domestic violence in Duluth, MN in the 1980s. They began as a Native program operating within the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP), with the goal of changing the way systems and service people respond to American Indian people. Their first funded project was conducting systems advocacy and intervention: organizing a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to domestic violence with Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.
(Adapted from Mending The Sacred Hoop Website)
The Mission of National Indigenous Womens Resource Center is to support and uphold grassroots advocacy by creating and enhancing the capacity of Native communities to end gender based violence through technical assistance, education, public awareness and policy development. NIWRC’s vision is to restore safety of Native women and their communities by upholding the inherent sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. (from NIWRC website)
Native Hope believes in the power of storytelling to dismantle barriers, bring healing, and inspire hope for Native people. Why? Because telling stories of Native struggle and Native strength is a powerful catalyst for unity, generational healing, and personal growth. Each of us has an evolving story which no one else can write. Native Hope believe that healing for Native people starts with a vulnerable recounting of where one has been, where one is today, and where one wants to be tomorrow. That's why we tell stories. (adapted from Native Hope website)
Taking positive action can look like reading these (and other) websites, subscribing to their newsletters, and financially supporting them.
We can expand our mindsets by purposely following, supporting, and learning from Indigenous peoples on social media.
We can respect the sacred things in Indigenous culture, and abstain from degrading them to the level of personal trinkets.
We can make sure that if we buy clothing, jewelry, or household items featuring patterns from Indigenous culture, that they are made by (and the profits of the sale go to) Indigenous artisans.
We can allow the perspectives and histories of the Indigenous communities to show us their communal narratives, teach us, and broaden our mindsets.
If you've read any of my work, you know I'm all about building up other women and boosting their signals. The belief that drives this for me is a conviction that we all need each others gifts. We are not whole, until we are all whole. We haven't arrived until we all have arrived.
We are not safe until we are all safe.
I have just started my journey of learning about and from Indigenous communities and cultures. This post is not about me or my experience. This post is an arrow to the communities and women that I am learning from, so that we can grow together.
I have a dualistic relationship with gratitude. On the one hand, I see it as an important channel for joy and depth of life experience. On the other hand, it can be hard to talk about it without sounding trite and guilt trippy. Don’t worry, we’re gonna talk about that next week in detail. Today, I want to dig into just why thankfulness can be such a game changer.
Although the political landscapes that brought about a national holiday of thankfulness may hold more nuance than we generally discuss, I do love how we as a country turn our attention to gratitude for the better part of a month.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I think “being thankful for what we have” is important, but I also don’t think we can tell EACH OTHER to “be thankful for what you have” without it sounding like we are invalidating challenges others face in their lives. Like the people who tell moms to “treasure every minute!” when all mom wants is an hour of uninterrupted silence. Is childhood precious? Sure. Is it also terrifying and testing for all parents everywhere? I don’t have personal experience but all my case studies come back with an emphatic YES.
Gratitude breaks down into a few facets for me.
The first is that looking for good things in our lives raises our awareness in general. So to be grateful, we have to pay attention.
Maybe a better adage would be “pay attention to what you have.”
Often, this is the part we miss in everyday life, right? Everything becomes so routine that we move through our days without pausing, without checking in with ourselves or with our people. Or, we are so afraid of what we would have to deal with if we paused, we stay busy as a form of numbing ourselves to get through.
But when we numb the hard, we also numb the joyful.
If we want to up our gratitude game but don’t know where to start, I think awareness is the best place. This is something we can practice even if we’re in a frustrating or hard place in life. We can start to pay closer attention to little things.
The second thing that has to be in place for gratitude to flourish, is a healthy dose of realism. I referenced this above, but if I’m using gratitude as a way to try and guilt myself out of uncomfortable or hard feelings, it’s not going to work. We have to give space to the challenges too. We have to be willing to sit with the hard things if we’re going to embody joy in thankfulness.
So it’s not “BE HAPPY, other people have it worse”. It’s “yes, life is hard, but we can also find joy.”
If we use guilt trip gratitude, the whole thing becomes ingenuine. When we acknowledge the hard AND the joyful, we make space for a full spectrum of wholehearted experience.
The last aspect I’m going to touch on today, is gratitude multiplied. Something magical happens when we share our thanks in a genuine manner, without holding back. Some part of thankfulness dies, when it’s not expressed. Think about it this way, if someone expresses thoughtful, authentic thanks for either who you are as a person, or the role you play in their life, how does that make you feel? Usually pretty damn happy, right? But it also strengthens your bond, and makes THEM feel fulfilled and heard when you appreciate their input. Authentic thankfulness is a relationship builder. As an action item, when I think of someone, or am really thankful for either in an act of kindness, presence, time, effort, or intention that they bring our relationship, I work to express that. It makes them feel valued and seen, and when they know that I value and see them, I feel good too.
So gratefulness journals, and 30 days of thankfulness are great challenges, but if you want something different this November, tell a person every day one reason you’re grateful to have them in your life.
Use your gratitude to build that community, and watch your relationships grow. I'm incredibly thankful for a group of bloggers that have come into my life recently. See what they have to share this November!
I’ve had a couple people ask me lately how I schedule everything that I have going, and how I have become so “disciplined” (her word, not mine. haha)
So today, I’m going to let you into the swirling vortex of my creative world. Buckle up!
Most importantly, I play to my strengths.
My Meyers Briggs personality type is INTJ, so I’m naturally very analytical and structured. I embrace that as much as I can in my life and creative projects, without letting it smother my inspiration. There’s a corresponding trait to all our natural bents, the thing that happens if they run unchecked. Mine is not leaving room for the unexpected. Once I get a plan in place, I tend to execute it, disregarding anything else that might get in my way. So this last year or so has been one of constantly checking in with myself, to see if my goals are still serving me or if I’m just hustling because they are there.
I value my time as much as I value my money.
I only say yes to events or people that I 100% want to engage with. I don’t believe in “should”. I guard and budget my time more strictly than I guard and budget my bank account if we’re being honest. I also acknowledge that I'm currently in a place where I can afford to do this, and not everyone is. Sometimes financial security is the top priority, but I'm saying that our time holds intrinsic worth in a whole different way than finances do.
I am a huge fan of automation & efficiency.
I automate and maximize the efficiency for absolutely everything I can in my life. For me, this looks like:
Using a grocery delivery service - Grocery shopping used to take a good couple of hours a week for me, plus it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The store and people are overstimulating and overwhelming. It’s an exhausting experience for me as a HSP. Getting my groceries delivered takes me at maxiumum half an hour to put in the order, and about ten minutes to put the groceries away when they come. I just bought myself about 90 minutes of my week back.
While I’m reconsidering this due to some personal work around expression and identity, I don’t get fancy or worry too much about what I wear. For some people this is an act of self expression (and I’m trying to find that part of myself again, so putting a *little* more energy in here) but I have easy, go to things to grab and wear in the morning. I can be dressed and out the door in 15 minutes, which leaves time for me to read or write in the morning before work for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on where I’m working that day, and if I showered the night before.
I like to shower at night because it helps me wind down for bed. It buffers my screen time and my bedtime, and gives me more time in the mornings. I use a lot of dry shampoo, and usually take a longer shower where I wash my hair and such one to two times a week. This cuts the time I spend in the bathroom in half (at least) for five days a week.
My house is pretty gross. I probably clean actively once every month or two, and my husband and I do the regular stuff like laundry and dishes together or we swap off.
I order basically everything online, I very rarely go shop in a store (see my feelings about groceries above.)
I maximize every minute
I have at least a 30 minute commute to work almost every day, and I usually listen to audiobooks and / or mindset podcasts while I drive. I also try to take a walk on lunch and listen to the same, or sit and read if its gross outside. That gives me up to 90 minutes a day where I’m educating myself, 5 days a week. It always feels like there’s more I want to absorb, but that’s quite a chunk of time if you think about it!
This frees up my nights and weekends to mostly do things I really want to do.
I also don’t have kids at this stage of my life. I know that if I were a mom, really everything structural would be out the window because that stage of life will depend heavily on meeting their needs as well. Not that I wouldn’t have similar considerations, but my “ME” time would look different.
When it comes to structuring my creative pursuits, again, I’m naturally really focused and goal oriented. I am motivated to do this stuff. If it wasn’t something I wanted to keep coming back to, it wouldn’t be worth it for me. I think this is a sign of finding my purpose, it’s the thing that won’t leave me alone. It’s the thing I’m scribbling ideas down in my notes on my phone, and on my to do lists at work about. I can put in this initial grind because I feel like I’m doing what I need to be doing, whether one, one hundred, or one thousand people read it.
I do the bulk of my scheduling (and writing) for the week on Saturday mornings. I also usually do self portraits and take photos during this time too if I need to. My husband likes to sleep way in, so this gives me uninterrupted quiet, sometimes from 6-8 hours. I schedule (right now) three blog posts, seven Instagram and Facebook posts (these are usually the same) and an email update every week. I’m still working on ways to get more efficient with this, especially as I am wanting to spend more time working on my book again.
I have topic ideas for all my blog posts and emails written out 2-3 months in advance. I try to leave myself breadcrumb trails and outlines of posts to come back and flesh out, so I rarely feel like I’m starting from scratch. This helps me avoid a block although sometimes that still happens!
I know that for a lot of creatives, this will sound really overwhelming and suffocating. That just means it isn’t your process, and that’s totally fine. This works for me, the analytical, goal oriented, scheduler woman. I work to create pockets of time, and then I have options of what I feel like needs to happen in them. For example before work in the morning, I can either work on writing something for the following week, work on my book, read, journal, or just look off into space. The important thing for me is that I’ve given myself the time to have those options.
I talked about my mantras for creatives a couple weeks ago, and all those have been instrumental for me. I work to surround myself and prioritize things that feed my inner creative. That can look like having houseplants and gardens, listening to inspiring music, and following inspiring creative accounts on social media. (I’m going to be writing about some of my favorites soon!) It can also look like always giving myself the option to take a break and tap out if my structure isn’t working for me.
I am becoming a big believer in personal seasons.
If I know what season I’m in, and I play to that, I’m happy and productive. Here’s the thing, we can only be in one season at once. One season has to die, has to end, to make room for a new one. I have a million interests I’d like to be pursuing right now, but I KNOW it’s my season for creating this space, and I’m 100% in for that. I look for signs of transition, signs that seasons are ending and not serving me in the way they once did. I work to hold them openly and participate with them as they come, instead of expecting myself to always be doing everything.
So that’s the microscopic level of how I find time to create. I hope it’s been helpful!
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.