So here we are, entering 2nd anniversary of 2020... jokes. Sort of. Before the international New Year had taken place, I began thinking of creating a vision board as I am horrible with keeping track of goals along with being organized. I also wanted to review the things that have happened since last January. I finding it fascinating how fast the year had gone by, although we spent so much of it at home. And of course, I wonder how all of this experience will translate into my work as an artist, yet still processing so much of it.
Before I go any further, I mentioned the international New Year, as for many different cultures, our New Years take place at different times. Such as for us as Anishinaabe, the new year begins when the first spring blooms for berries blossom. Or so I was taught as a child, and to further that, we don't have 12 months, we have 13 moons in a year. So it is really interesting being part of society and aligning it all. I wonder if why my affinity for ode'imin (strawberries) is because it is truly the start of my new year. When I come across the new shoots during ziigwan as the soil begins to warm, I am absolutely delighted. The fondness of ode'imin grew as I learned the stories of ode'imin or heart berry. Deconstructing the word ode' means heart and -min refers to the berry. The strawberry is so fascinating as you take time to cultivate it, there's lessons learned... the relationship is reciprocal. I have many memories surrounding this fruit from my own childhood and even as a mother.. such as when I was passing on lessons of the birch tree and how to properly harvest the bark. As we finished that harvest, from the corner of my eye in the thick grasses did wild ode'imin appear. I quickly hopped into the thicket, saying thank you to the Creator, then sharing the sweetness and medicine of this berry with my spouse and youngest child.
Moving forward, during the first year of the pandemic, I vividly recall cleaning the strawberry bed in my garden, soon a wetness was falling on them, it wasn't rain, but my eyes. I had been holding in so much sadness within, the relationship I created with this plant was allowing me to grieve. It wasn't just grief that created these tears but also relief to have something familiar and comforting at my knees. I had lost friends to death, some friendships ending in a time when I needed them the most. I know reciprocity lacks throughout society, but I always hoped I had it in relationships no matter the strength of the bond or lack thereof. Though the pandemic had caused a major shift in the world, it made an abrupt stop in my work as an artist, these loss of friendships, deaths, and so forth were shattering enough, I was busy being a mother trying to keep it together for my children. My eldest struggling with severe anxiety and major depression with suicidal ideation hit us months before COVID had, and I didn't know how to help her. I was thankful despite the isolation, that these plants were there to provide the comfort I didn't know I needed.
Oddly, I do believe the pandemic lockdown was a gift in a sense because it gave the quiet my child needed. Long before these struggles hit my child, I would advocate for access to adequate mental health care, and due to this advocacy, I was well aware of the challenges we were facing to find her the support she needs. It is physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting as a mother to watch their child helplessly; I cannot begin to fathom how draining it is for someone that struggles with mental health as she does. And as I try to help her, I need help, guidance and love as well so I can be that strength for her as well as the rest of my family. Although I may not find that in others, its understanding the plants and our environment that helps me heal over and over again. Perhaps like ode'imin, my energy is dormant for sometime, and then flourishes under the right circumstances and provides to others as needed. And for those curious, after everything she has experienced in her young life which I haven't fully disclosed, she is wrapping up her senior year and hopefully graduating rather soon. I see similarities in my own childhood experiences and what she has experienced, I hope that once this moment in her life is completed, she can move on and move forward.
Well, that was an unexpected tangent, but an important one. In a sense perhaps it rolls into the reflections of this past year. I can't pinpoint a lot of specifics to the year of 2021 in this moment. Yet I do know, I've allowed myself to heal from trauma, which is complicated. A year ago, I decided to take a step back from being so vocal in my advocacy on social media, though the work never stopped. I've just approached things differently. Some of those friendships that ended also helped me realign myself, realizing how unhealthy the friendships were. I am far from saying that these individuals are bad or horrible, but I understand just some energies don't mix well. Some can also amplify negative energies. Or you can see their light being diminished by others, refusing to acknowledge what is happening to them. And though we can share what we are witnessing, that is as far as it goes. It is ultimately up to individuals to make choices for themselves. That is where I also deviate into discussing a part of healing that may or not take a lifetime.
Late this spring, I received a message from an old high school friend. We chat sporadically throughout the years, and they're friends with my siblings; so I think nothing of the situation and answer. He starts making small talk and then says, "guess who I'm here with." I believe I held my breath and a surge of negative energy overwhelmed me. I knew what he meant. He meant he was hanging with a former abuser of mine. I stated I don't want to talk to the friend right now and that I do not want to get into this game. Then my phone rang. I was infuriated, I thought it was the friend, and I was prepared to tell him how horrible of a friend he is to do that to me. Instead I heard another voice. My heart sank. I panicked. I was dizzy. I know expletives came from my mouth as I say to never contact me again and that I had made that abundantly clear (and repetitively) over the years. After hanging up, I called my parents in tears, why won't this person stop? It's been 20 years, twenty years, and they won't stop. I moved away, despite hardships as anyone else may experience, I am happy. I am living a good life. I am working hard to break the cycle of intergenerational traumas. I know that's hard for many to accept, thus perhaps why they try to poison it. I know people didn't understand why I reacted that way, but I never talked about the abuse I experienced.
It took me a long time to come admit that I was a mentally abusive relationship that it was also physically abusive. I choose not to discuss details publicly and that is my choice. I know many attempt to force the conversation, it isn't to help me heal, but to take advantage of the situation. And those trying to know more I feel are attempting to break me; the behavior is an ugly pattern for some. Which I know is why I struggle in any sort of relationship and have anxiety in social spaces. The abuse extends out into community by predators like this who manipulate others- such as I should be able to visit family, friends and community members without this person's name be brought into a conversation, which would happen a lot. I use to often just respond with a "what a weirdo" because I wasn't comfortable sharing my story. In that moment, I decided to take that power away that attempted to have by being more vocal and I shared on my social media for this person to stop harassing me. Naturally, I had a few people try to inbox me about it in form of an attack or criticize me. What I didn't expect is others who were also abused, harassed, and/or stalked contact me as well. So here I was trying to heal myself but having to be supportive to others. Sadly, the abuser still frequents my family's business establishment- which at this point, is clearly incredibly inappropriate and there is silence by many. I shouldn't have to exploit the abuse and relive the pain I faced to receive respect in wishes that this person just stops making any contact with me or my family. And, I wish others would respect my wishes by stop bringing it up to me- they do not realize they are perpetuating harm as well. Yet again, I do not have control of others, I cannot always control situations, but I have a choice in how I respond. And I will never regret coming forward that I am a survivor, though the details are not for others to know nor do I wish to relive them either.
I didn't expect it would take 20 years to share some of my story, and it only happened due to the continued unwanted contact/stalking taking place. I do hope though by the honesty I have shared, that it will help others to get out of their abusive situations. I am thankful that the frequent nightmares which caused insomnia have subsided after all this time. If I could wish away those experiences, I would, however, it most certainly has helped me be a better human- especially in a world where technology has created it so much easier for abusers to harm others. It helps me take pause, where so many are easily swept into frenzies since it's so much easier to feast on negative energy versus creating positive energies. Without a doubt, my experiences as a child, teenager, and young woman has molded my artwork and my advocacy. I want to ensure we are celebrated and respected as Indigenous women by all, including ourselves. It has taken so much time to love myself, and I want to be sure that others can do the same. While some find what I do mediocre, once again, if my work can be a catalyst for change, I will do what I can within my capacity. Which is an important lesson in itself. For so long, I have given so much energy protecting others that I wasn't protecting myself. It's taken so much time to find balance.
Amongst that, it has been a challenging year career wise in terms of making a livable wage, though the work has not stopped. I still contribute to nonprofits, I volunteer time/advice/knowledge, I am continually developing the small micro business Zazegaa Designs, I am pleasantly surprised at my ability to do digital graphics slowly. Ultimately though, I really turned my time to helping my children as they homeschooled last spring, and help them transition back into school. It hasn't been easy by any means. Thankfully we went with our gut after some professional advice that discouraged us to transfer our child out of the school that was an unhealthy environment for her. She is only a few weeks into the new alternative school and thriving with the new support system. As suicide and mental health issues continue to escalate, it only has become a bigger challenge to find what she needs. I do believe we have her on a better path now. So with that, the vision board I have created is not only for myself but how to help one another in our home as we continue to survive during this pandemic.
I am excited as I am developing my vision board, I already have some of it taking place. Soon, some of my artwork will be up on a billboard for hundreds, if not thousands to see. I hope the work is inspiring and well received. Although, it is about the pandemic and making choices to keep ourselves as well as community safe. So there will be naturally criticisms as well. I just wrapped up a commission and really enjoyed utilizing the new found skills of digital art. I began exploring the world of art; I wanted to work as a curator, but as life would have it, I didn't find the guidance I was seeking long ago, but never gave up that hope. With that said, I am a guest curator and details will come soon. I do have to say that the show is though I hope to be very uplifting is also emotional, and having me process other traumas experienced in my life. I didn't realize how much it would impact me until I began working on some thoughts before we make the announcement. It will be good for me and it will be good for others. Art is an integral part of healing in my life, and so I am thankful that I have so many ways to express myself. I do have to admit the micro business, as fun as it is, I yearn to be in the studio experimenting, painting, and building. There is something important of that fluidity and access to full creative expression versus wondering if something will sell.
With that all this being shared, it is time to take a break, and back to working. So much more to come.
I want to continue to harness good energy, I will continue to walk away from negative energy.
I want light and love to be a constant in my life. I want that for others as well.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Please get vaccinated and get boosters.
Encourage others to do the same.
Please continue to practice good hygiene, wear masks in crowded spaces, be honest about health, and get tested regularly.
Peace and love to all.
Happy New Year
La Bonne Année