We are all one

We are all one
Jennifer Varenchik

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Supersize This!

I know I haven’t written in quite some time. I’ve been trudging through life lately, but now there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s see here, I still have lame people in my life that want to take the wind out of my sails. It wasn’t until I spoke with one of the wisest young women that I know, Miss Leya Hale, that I realized that it’s all just in your mind. I already knew that, but knowing something and acting on something are two completely different things. While at the Stanford pow wow I had a chance to talk to Leya, and she reminded me that once you have control over your mind, then you have control over everything. As my mentor Jeri Brunoe Samson says, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it”. And so, I choose to keep my wind blowing. Funny thing is that as soon as I made that decision, and let go of the drama, a serious weight was lifted off my shoulders. And no sooner did the phone ring and it was Jeri with good news about all kinds of trainings coming up for the summer.

Recently I saw an amazing documentary called Super Size Me http://www.supersizeme.com/. It’s basically about this guy who eats nothing but Mc Donald’s for a month. The movie covers a bunch of other issues, like junk food in schools, advertisement and of course, diet and exercise. It really made me think about fast food. I’m already boycotting Mc Donald’s because they don’t give scholarships to American Indians on account that we are all sooooo rich from the casinos. (visit their website for details http://www.rmhc.org/mission/scholarships/index.html )Yeah, right! I only wish! This ndn girl is going to have to get rich the old fashion way, and it’s called hard work. But I digress. In the Super Size Me movie, the guy almost dies from all the fat and toxins that he is taking in from eating Mc Donald’s.

Which brings me to my point (‘cuz I usually do have one ). With all the negative stuff that has been going on in my life, I feel like I have been on a toxic diet. No, I wasn’t eating fast food everyday- but I wasn’t taking take of myself the best that I could. It was already hard enough for me with these toxic people, but then to not counter that attack with exercise, drinking water and time for me….well, no wonder I was feeling a weight on my shoulders. I do pray every morning when I get up, and through out the course of the day I have my own conversations with my ancestors. But I am now seeing that I wasn’t taking care of the “body” part of the “mind, body, spirit, environment” way, I was actually trying to over compensate in the spirit category, but with no luck.

So, that being said, I am now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a lot of work ahead of me for the summer and I am so excited! I love work, because to me, it’s not work, it more like fun.


Friday, January 30, 2004

Mission NOT Impossible

Today marks the day that I actually had doubts about the work that I am doing for Indian country. Well, not really doubts, but I wondered what it is inside of me that makes me want to do what I am doing. What is it that makes me so determined to make a positive lasting change for our people? I once told a friend of mine that I am on a mission from our ancestors. I think that's what it is, I'm on a mission and I can't rest until I see progress.

The past few weeks have been really busy, both professionally and personally.

First, I am doing my best to adjust to living with my grandmother. It's hard. Somedays I come home ready to work, and end up not working so we can take a walk together or spend time in the kitchen together. I feel a shift in my priorities. My grandma has alztimers, so I treasure every moment that I have with her. And it's hard to see a woman that at one point was so strong, now have difficulty eating her dinner. I find myself wondering how she's doing while I'm out at events. I want to call and check in with the her care givers (she has a day nurse and a night nurse that come everday). I want to be there all the time to supervise, or make sure they are feeding her what she likes, or letting her watch her shows. But it's ok, I'm really learning a lot about myself, even having glimpses of the type of mother I could possibly be.

Next, I have learned a hard lesson. I don't even want to write about it because I can hear my mother and my mentor telling me "I told you so", though they would never actually say that.

I have learned to believe in my abilities. My time is very valuable. When someone needs assistance with a project, I am the first to offer help, but now I am learning that I can actually say "no" and still live. Their project will go on, I don't need to have my hands in everything. Or at least, I need to know that if I am going to help out, that my help should be appreciated. What I bring to the table is worthy, and it's not only worthy, but should be respected.

I've also learned that no matter what, you can't please everyone. Yes, I know, no duh! Until recently, I wanted to make everyone happy. But everyone doesn't like me, in fact there are those that are doing what they can to try and bring me down. You know, the crab syndrome. I know you all know the crab story, about how Indians are like crabs in a bucket, everytime one of us trys to get to the top, our own will be the first to bring us back down. I've always told the youth that I work with that when they encounter gossip, to consider the source. Gossip seems to be the constant in our community, and I no longer bang my head against the wall and wonder what I'm doing working here.

Yes, I got so fed up once that I tried to leave. I said I was going back to corporate- but I couldn't. I couldn't stop working with Native people. I mean, I really couldn't. I tried!

Just this past Tuesday I was speaking with another youth worker who said the same thing, that he sometimes wished he could walk out and go where he was appreciated and paid more money (i.e. a corporate job) - but he couldn't . There is a tie that is holding us to our community. Another youth worker told me he could never get married, he's married to his job. I laughed, but then...he's right. It's like we have this illness that only serving our people can cure. We are addicted to our people!

So back to the gossip....stories will come and go, but I am not leaving. I can't. And I say that knowing that I thought that I could, but I've started to see the path that the Creator has laid out for me. I'm growing and learning, so even if I want to leave, the path will always lead me back to my people.

I remember a conference I went to in Palm Springs in 2002. I was in a workshop where there was a first time presenter and she asked the audience if anyone had some sage, she wanted to pray before she spoke. I wished so badly that I had some with me, but I didn't. Then, this woman came forward and pulled out this bag filled with sage, a ligher and tin foil. I was so taken aback, and I told her "Dang, you're good!". She looked at me and smiled with "I wasn't always this way". She said it takes practice, that it took her years for it to become a habit to always have sage on her. I said that I wanted to be like her, and she told me "you will be".

It's taken me 2 years, but I can't imagine starting a day without praying or heading off to an event with out thanking the Creator. I carry my little bag full of sage, tin foil, a lighter, tobacco and sweetgrass, ready to use if anyone needs it. In fact, I recently was at a funeral in Arizona when I received my first eagle feather. I just stood there, ready to cry, and trying to savor the moment because I always wondered what it would feel like to be given an eagle feather.

I think back to the Jennifer that was in that conference in 2002.....no wonder I didn't have any sage on me. I wasn't focused. I didn't know then that I would become so passionate about changing the world.

I know, sounds crazy, changing the world. But that's what I'm out to do, I want to help heal our people. I may not see it in my lifetime, but I can start building a ladder so more and more "crabs" can escape our bucket.

Well, once again, I thank you for stopping by and reading my random thoughts.
Comments, questions or clarifications-