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New Day

Like a lot of people today, I was talking with a friend about the death of Carrie Fisher. We reminisced that Star Wars was, for each of us, the first time we’d ever seen a movie in a theater. I was six years old. The whole family dressed up for the occasion, and my Dad drove us ALL the way to the Continental theater, a whopping twenty miles from our home in Arvada, to see it. I remember my tiny person feeling even tinier in the huge theater, all those people all around us, every seat filled, the boom of the soundtrack reverberating in my belly, and my brother clasping his hands over his ears to keep it at bay. And the feeling, seeing the huge letters on a giant screen during the opening crawl, and the whole movie, really, that something important and magical was happening, but I didn’t understand quite what it was at the time.

I am experiencing that same feeling now, one of anticipation and wonder. Though, much to the dismay of some, I’m sure, it’s not about Rogue One. Though, on a metaphorical level, it does involve light sabering the crap out of demons, personal and otherwise. When I am finished with this task, my wild hope is that the change will be the stuff of magic, and I will be largely free from these heavy burdens. As I wrote here, I vowed to disallow abusive people into my home or heart. It has been months, and it remains easier said than done. It is arduous, painful work, alienating, too. There are many forces against me in this. They are my family. They are my friends. What are you doing? How could you? Sea sickness is imminent for gosh sakes, Colleen. Quit rocking the fucking boat!

But I have already started and cannot stop, if only for my own delicate soul. I refuse to have my heart trampled, yet again, by my own idiot compassion*. I deserve better than that, truly, finally. The greatest challenge lies in the fact that the people I am excluding are people who (save one) have shown me great kindness and generosity. They’ve given me wonderful gifts, care, opportunities, a bed in their home. But they have also belittled me, the hubster, our marriage, our way of life, blamed me for their problems, tried to shame me into doing their bidding. And thusly it gets tricky. How much is okay? Do I give a second, third, fourth chance? Where do I draw the line?

Here. Right here. Now. This is why:

When I go with the status quo, and allow the abuse (however small) to continue, people still like me. Still speak to me. Still think I am good and generous and kind. But I suffer.  Words reverberate, a rain of fist blows, one after another after another. I sometimes want to die.

When I rock the boat, the abuse stops, and is replaced by an eerie quiet. The silence of anger and rejection, that I could be so unkind, ungrateful. I am left, the tiny girl of my childhood, watching Star Wars in a theater alone. But wait! The hubster is there, always, because I treat him the way I want to be treated, kindly, lovingly, with dashes of silliness and great care. Now that the theater is empty, we gallop around, light sabers and blasters, the FORCE with us. We laugh. Darth Vader frightens us and we hold hands. This is better. This is good, right, and true.

Good golly, yes. Keep rocking the boat!

<<<>>>

*From Pema Chodron – Idiot compassion refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s whats called enabling.

When you get clear on this kind of thing, setting good boundaries and so forth, you know that if someone is violent, for instance, and is being violent towards you —to use that as the example— it’s not the compassionate thing to keep allowing that to happen, allowing someone to keep being able to feed their violence and their aggression. So of course, they’re going to freak out and be extremely upset. And it will be quite difficult for you to go through the process of actually leaving the situation. But that’s the compassionate thing to do.

It’s the compassionate thing to do for yourself, because you’re part of that dynamic, and before you always stayed. So now you’re going to do something frightening, groundless, and quite different. But it’s the compassionate thing to do for yourself, rather than stay in a demeaning, destructive, abusive relationship.

And it’s the most compassionate thing you can do for them, too. They will certainly not thank you for it, and they will certainly not be glad. They’ll go through a lot. But if there’s any chance for them to wake up or start to work on their side of the problem, their abusive behavior or whatever it might be, that’s the only chance, is for you to actually draw the line and get out of there.

We all know a lot of stories of people who had to hit that kind of bottom, where the people that they loved stopped giving them the wrong kind of compassion and just walked out. Then sometimes that wakes a person up and they start to do what they need to do.

Another great (and relatively short!) read on idiot compassion can be found here.

 

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Almost there…

Morning

The first full day of my stay, that helicopter from the DAPL side flew in low circles for hours, observing the camp.

More than 500 members of the Clergy came from all over the world. The banner is from Virginia. The man speaking above was from Polynesia.

A ten minute walk from my car, this hill was the only place I had cell reception. I was mostly out of reach.

An upside down flag is a sign of distress.

More than 300 flags from different Native Nations line the boundaries and entry as a sign of support.

There were many efforts at intimidation. This SUV from the DAPL side was in lock step with me and three others as we walked the boundary. A host of men with binoculars observing the camp, day in day out. In addition to the helicopter circling camp in daylight hours, a plane with its lights off circled throughout the night. They also had bright spotlights shining on the camp from dusk to dawn.

Burned Army dump trucks on “our” side but believed (though not confirmed) to be the work of DAPL, and some person’s effort to make them peaceful.

My spirit animals knew before I did, arriving by the dozens two evenings in a row, to flap and caw and bring me to the realization that I had work to do, in North Dakota as a Water Protector.

I had thought about it in early summer but resisted, mostly because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I worked part-time in the Oil and Gas industry in college. Try as we might to be as green as possible, like powering our home with renewables and driving a super fuel efficient car (42 mpg on this trip!), it is still lubed and fueled by oil. I take vacations on air planes. I heat my home with natural gas. What right do I have to take a stand against something so critical to my everyday comfort and being?

It was a gnawing in my belly. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was moved from a location upstream from Bismarck due to the major threat it would pose to the city’s water supply should there be a breach. By doing so, the the Standing Rock Sioux were essentially told that the quality of their water was of little consequence in comparison to the good people who reside in the state capital. I could not abide it, so I went, to offer moral support and help however I could.

It is a 13-14 hour drive from my neck of the woods, so I rose early and drove all day, buoyed by more crows, eagles, hawks, and falcons, flying so near to the car as to make me believe that their wings were propelling me forward. I arrived to a checkpoint spectacle of giant FBI pick-ups, police vans, and flashing lights worthy of a Radiohead concert. Before I was allowed to proceed, a surprisingly kindly police officer (there is much documentation to the contrary) asked me my intentions and glanced through the windows at the contents of my car.

A few minutes down the road, I arrived at the Oceti Sakowin Camp and was greeted with a hearty, “Welcome home!” I cried at this, of course. You know me. Exhausted and exhilarated to finally be there, I fumbled around a bit, listening to the Natives drum and sing, feeling the energy and thrum of so many people united for a common purpose. After a time, and getting the car stuck in an abandoned fire pit (also quickly nullifying my intention of being entirely independent during my stay by having to ask for help getting out, rats!), I found a spot to park the car, which would also serve as my camp: kitchen, changing room, bedroom, dining room, and storage. All in a Mini Cooper!

That night, and every night after, I slept poorly, a function of sleeping on a bucket seat, the cold, and the drone of the small plane flying round and round and round, in constant surveillance of the camp from the DAPL side.

Each morning, shortly before dawn, a booming voice announced, “Wake up relatives, you have work to do. Wake up relatives, you are making history. Wake up peaceful warriors, Mother Earth needs you.” And so we rose. I prayed and meditated each day, first with the 500 members of the clergy who came to show their support, then during the women-led Water Ceremony, and finally during the beautiful Horse and Fire Lighting Ceremony, which also saw the historical (and I believe first time) unification of Native American Tribes for a common purpose.

Every moment was meaningful. I met so many wonderful people and never once felt unsafe. I smoked from a Native’s pipe. I offered tobacco to the water and fire, to strengthen the potency of my prayer, our shared hopes. I worked hard, each day, all day, after prayers until sundown and the camp went mostly dark, sorting and organizing clothing donations, helping people find what they needed, always with a laugh and a smile – a warm coat, a sweater, shoes, a pair of boots, taking only the shortest of breaks to pee and grab a quick bite to eat.

When I felt weary or tired and the compressor on the refrigeration truck wasn’t loudly thrumming, I heard the voice of the camp. A Navajo, come up from New Mexico, who told stories, relayed the daily news, gave big announcements and small, of meetings and decisions, of people offering rides, those who lost or found items, a key, a wallet, a cell phone. He and others sang and drummed after sundown, the camp alive with their unique song. His voice, at once grounding and uplifting, was the absolute highlight of my stay. I am forever grateful to him and our shared bear hugs.

And now, for you, should you wish to go:

  1. Be as self sufficient as possible. Bring all of your own supplies with plenty to share, including water. I was the goofy white lady handing out candy, ear plugs, and packages of baby wipes (there’s no running water or bathing facilities).
  2. It is COLD at night, very cold, and soon enough, it will be cold AND windy all the live-long day. Be prepared. Bring lots of layers. Have super-warm bedding. Keep your water wrapped in bedding to keep from freezing outside.
  3. Like any community, there are a mix of good and not so good people. I left candy and baby wipes outside the Mini, but not a single person took any without me actually giving it to them. Then, a guy, with whom I spent a considerable amount of time helping find pants and a belt, took my water bottle. A woman sorting clothes with me got her backpack stolen. If it is valuable or meaningful to you, keep it on your person or secured in your car or tent.
  4. I was amazed at the number of white people wandering around like tourists. The camp is not an attraction. We, especially as white people, are there to serve and stay out of the way, not vice-versa. Give as much as you can. Don’t be a jerk with your own agenda.
  5. Pick up after yourself; leave no trace. If you camp in a tent, please remove the stakes from the ground upon your departure. Nobody wants to to trip on their way to the toilet in the middle of the night or puncture a tire. Luckily, I found a shovel to dig up the ones careless people left behind.

Should you wish to help:

  1. The camp is in pretty constant need of seasoned fire wood.
  2. Please, do NOT send useless clothing. I was absolutely appalled by the amount received on a daily basis. The Natives have been screwed over a million ways to Sunday, and sending stained undergarments, ripped, torn, and soiled clothing, rumpled prom dresses (really?!), and sexy short-shorts, is, in my view, yet another a slap in the face.
  3. Items to send: thermal underwear, wool socks, work boots, ear plugs, sub-zero sleeping bags, wool hats, gloves (winter and work), winter coats (like you’d wear camping), snow pants, blankets, tents capable of withstanding high winds, rope, heavy duty tarps (not the cheap blue ones), baby wipes, waterproof jackets and pants. Long skirts for women and girls are also in high demand, as they are worn to prayer ceremonies.
  4. For more information, go to ocetisakowincamp.org, including ways to send money.
  5. Be peaceful. Pray for the water protectors. Pray for the people who want the pipeline. Be forgiving.

 

Looky what we did!! Damn. We’ve worked so hard over the past eight months. The only bit left to do in the living room is the light fixture, which is marked by blue tape that we keep forgetting to remove. Ha. I will be taking some more photos for the neon wall, of course. I love neon!

Our new front door, which I absolutely love! It’s actually a shade of turquoise (and matches the cute stool), but it’s looking more baby blue here. The rabbits are coat hooks. The old school tennis racket was my Dad’s, and the painting is the one we bought in Crestone.

Our cool niche shelves, with new brackets. They hold a perfectly well-curated assortment of knick-knacks (my Grandpa carved the eagle and the duck in the photo above this one!), and have a nice view down the hall.

Our bright dining room! The original floor (which was also in the kitchen) was probably my biggest labor nightmare. It was one layer of crappy vinyl, one layer of plywood underlayment held down by about a thousand (I kid you not) one inch staples, and one layer of faux-brick tile under that. Oof, my poor hands.

But NOW, in the morning, the light of the sun warms my back while I eat and read. Happiness. I painted the closet door that terrific orange color to hide how badly beaten up it was. Not a single surface on the main floor was spared an update, and the reason why it took us so damn long.

The kitchen. YOWZA. In the first two photos, you can see where the sink and dishwasher (which when we first turned on the water became GEYSERS) were originally. You can also see that there wasn’t a place for a normal sized refrigerator. The giant window in the third photo was reduced by about a foot because it wasted a whole heck of a lot of wall space. Unless you were a child or a dwarf (Little person? I never know) any cabinet placed below that window would have been waaaay too low. I left the window wall without upper cabinets to avoid having the kitchen feel like a narrow hallway and to show off the hubster’s mad electrician skills. He installed all the cool lights; Restoration Hardware made them, however, every hardwired fixture on the main floor, actually. They’ve got my number.

The best and only view of the hubster’s office for the time being. What you can’t see? Shower doors for the upstairs bathroom. Purdy.

My office! Egads. I love, love, love it. The cool chest of drawers was my grandparents, and the hubster, when he needs a little break from work, sits in the chair next to it (he’s doing it as I type, actually). I like that.

Sanctuary!!

Cusp

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. – Unknown

I am learning, both the potency and urgency of these quotations. A little late in the game, maybe. Maybe right on time. Either way, I’m ready. Ready to have relationships that nourish rather than drain. That uplift rather than crush. That embrace rather than judge.

I am paying C A R E F U L attention. I am listening. Hearing all of your words. Observing all of your actions.

It used to be that I brushed aside small criticisms of my person. Large criticisms, too. Slights. I made excuses. I didn’t believe, without articulating it as such, that I deserved better. That I deserved kindness and respect. That others were more important than me, my thoughts, my feelings.

Times have changed. Show me who you are, and I will believe you NOW, the first time. For some, it may be the 100th. But it will be the last.

These words, seen so clearly, seem a bit harsh to my eyes. But when I look back on the hurts and failed relationships of my past, where I was disrespected and unappreciated, I know I need their simplicity, their clarity.

I’m ready for all the goodness and light I deserve.

See you on the other side. Or maybe not…

For a long time now, the hubster and I haven’t bought each other gifts. We’ve got the love of our dreams and the life we want, so it seemed unnecessary. Until. Until we bought this house and have been working almost every single day for thirteen weeks to fix it up. Knowing that we have about thirteen more. Having that giant dumpster in the back yard for more than two months, big time stinky smelly from a laborer tossing something other than construction waste in it, something oh-so FOUL. Hoping for favorable winds so we could open a window or take a break out back. Yeah, blech.

And then the realization that our birthdays are our FORTY-FIFTH! As a good friend said, halfway to ninety. Holy shit. So we bought a telescope for our mutual delight at star gazing and imagining what if? We looked at Jupiter Wednesday night and three of its moons, Mars, too, from our own, sweet smelling, dumpster-free yard. The wonders of the universe and height of splendor, peeps, the absolute height!

And because I don’t have the attachment for my camera, YET, I snapped photos of my yard gazing while the hubster’s eye was on the sky. Good times, happy nights, and more to come!

Be well…

 

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