I’ve been hearing a lot of youth at work use the term “savage” to refer to things that are bad-ass. It bugs the shit out of me considering the history behind this word. Fellow teachers, please help me educate our youth about how this word was used to put down Indigenous peoples and justify exploitation and genocide. The past is not “just in the past” – it has shaped the present. The attitude that Indigenous peoples need Euro-Canadians to “save” them is still embedded in our social institututions – ESPECIALLY in education. Let’s change this together!
I don’t know why drinking coffee from this broken cup makes me so happy. But it does.
When I was ready to pour my coffee this morning, I looked at the cups in dish rack that had dried from yesterday’s batch of dishes and it wasn’t there. Wanting to maintain hope for another few seconds, I averted my gaze from the small pile of dirty dishes next to the sink and opened the cupboard instead.
To my delight, my broken cup sat there, first in line, waiting to be taken and filled with steaming hot coffee. I really did smile, all alone in the kitchen. The kind of smile when I find the book I want/need on a library shelf. The kind of smile I get when I get out of bed and see that I diligently left my moccasins by the bed so I can slip my feet into them and avoid the cold floor. The kind of smile I get when I walk into a café and see the friend I’m meeting already there in advance (like me). The kind of smile I get when I see someone/something I can depend on.
True there are other cups, other books, other footwear, other friends. But that ONE stands out from the rest.
The other 5 cups in the set would hold my coffee equally well. But this one – this one with two little stubs sticking out where there used to be two connecting ends of the cup handle – the one that most other people would have thrown out after they accidentally dropped it a few years before – it diligently sits there among its handled peers and calls out to me. “I will hold your coffee for you even though I’m broken. I may lack a handle, but I’m there for you. You simply need to hold me closer and feel the warmth of your coffee radiate through me and into your hand. Yes, that’s right, hold me close. I’m there for you.”
My friends, this is who we are. We are broken cups. Some of us lack handles. Some of us have chips on our rims. We are broken, but not destroyed. Damaged, but not defective. These cuts and nicks and wrinkles don’t remove our effectiveness. They give us ways to be closer, to hold each other closer, and to be there for each other better.
I love my broken cup. I am a broken cup. I love my friends who are broken cups.
Thomas King, in his 2003 Massey Lectures*, repeatedly said: “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.” This was the first coherent thought I had after finishing Rohinton Mistry‘s A Fine Balance. The few minutes that preceded this coherent thought was spent with my hands on either side of my face, trying to catch my breath. This wasn’t the first time I had spent a few minutes in mini-shock during my involvement with this novel. Indeed, several times throughout my reading experience, I pretty much dropped the book with a gasp, an explosion of intense emotions in the pit of my stomach, and a reflexive hands to face gesture. And each time, shaking my head and bracing myself, I returned to the book.
I know 2016 has been rough on a lot of people, and not just because of all the celebrity deaths. I guess I’m really lucky. I had a great year. Sure, there’s a lot of shit going on in the world and I really feel like the near future will bring stuff worthy of 70s futuristic apocalypse films. But on a personal level, I’ve experienced a lot of great things.
I got a big chunk of my PhD dissertation written, I got to go on one of my dream trips, and I got to create and implement a brand new course in Indigenous Studies at work. On a social level, I’ve continued to strengthen some important friendships – in particular, my relationship to my partner has continued to reach mew heights. On a self growth level, I feel like I’ve made headway in figuring out and pursuing my path.
The near future will need all of our strength and all of our strenghts. So I feel that we all will have a role to play in the figth that is coming our way. I hope to be able to contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy and patriarchy by using my strengths and by encouraging and supporting people around me to do so as well. I also hope to contribute by bringing people together so that we can have each other’s back.
Struggling to blog something today, as indicated here. So I thought I would do something fun that I noticed I did a lot of in the past and pick a random song to trigger memories and stream of consciousness writing. OK, this one wasn’t completely random…it was in my Facebook “on this day” thing. A few years ago, a friend from high school posted it to my wall after I had asked about “that song we did a dance to back in high school.” I had tried to find it online on my own, in vain. But thanks to J., here it was.
I absolutely have to write today. I do this every year during my winter break – I go on a blogging spree. And I really want to maintain the habit year round. I even created an Evernote notebook with blogging ideas. But sometimes I get caught up in wanting my posts to be flawless. Even though I don’t see this as academic writing, I know how the internet works and I know that the slightest flaw, the smallest omission, can raise a shit storm. So sometimes writing up a post seems like a monumental task.
I decided this morning that I was finally going to get to a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while. It involved debunking the arguments of an anti-PC crusader that is using their professional credibility to put down non-binary trans folk. So I started research into their writings and videos so that I could comment on what the person actually wrote and said, rather than what journalists say they wrote or said. 20 minutes into one video interview, I wanted to hurl. I will have to do this in small steps for my own sanity. There is only so much vitriol I can take in one day.
But I HAVE to do this. I have genuine arguments to counter theirs and the capacity to articulate them. My silence on this would contribute to the spread of misinformation and oppressive paternalism. It will be done.
I mostly just want to share this article about the stigma attached to addictions and mental illness in light of some of the 2016 celebrity deaths. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to avoid this stigma. As I’ve written before, I don’t see – or at least I try not to see – addicts, including myself and my parents, as bad or faulty people. And as much as I agree that no one needs to put up with abusive or otherwise harmful behaviours that sometimes arise from addiction, I don’t see the need for the derogatory tone that often accompanies mentions of drug or alcohol use. It may be true that these behaviours kill, but let’s look at the social structure that leads so many to turn to these behaviours to start with. We are a sick society that imposes all kinds of pressures on individuals, most of these pressures being nearly impossible to keep up with. The pressures on wealthy celebrities are different than those on the poor. But the fact that the wealthy are not immune to these pressures is significant.
On a related note, it can be frustrating to a lot of people that so much more attention is paid to celebrity deaths (and addictions and everything else) than to “ordinary” people. But if that attention can help us have conversations about the issues, then that is a good thing. What I really despise, though, is when people embed any kind of stigma in their dislike of a public figure. When Rob Ford was a big deal, for example, there was a lot of sizist commentary and commentary that was based on addiction stigma. You can dislike Rob Ford, and I’ll be right there with you. But when you fat shame and addictions shame, you are not just shaming him – you’re contributing the the stigma of some of these “ordinary” people you are out to protect. And that is not cool.
This article, entitled: “When Can I Say I’ll be Alone Forever?” has been making the rounds on social media. It seems to resonate with a few of my friends. My first reaction was to think of some of my friends and relatives who are quite happy living as “single”. Some of them date, but with no plans to get into what many see as a “committed” relationship. Others don’t date, but surround themselves with friends and chosen family. Yet others lead a more solitary existence. What unites almost all of them is the frustration of dealing with the same kinds of questions the author of the above piece deals with. Unfortunately, so many people refuse to believe that any lifestyle that doesn’t involve the kind of relationship pushed on us from pretty much birth – the monogamous heterosexual domestic, economic, and sexual inter-dependent one that leads to reproduction – is somehow invalid.
On Saturday night, I was lucky enough to see Tanya Tagaq in concert for the second time. The first time had been at the 4th Stage, National Arts Centre in Ottawa, in 2014. It was a very small venue and we were right up against the stage. So I already knew she was intense. This time, the venue was bigger and we were further away. So I was worried that I wouldn’t be as affected.
I was wrong. When she stepped out on stage and said a few words, her presence alone brought a lump to my throat. And as she continued to speak, tears fell before I had time to realize it was happening. So when my partner leaned over and said: “I’m already crying”, I was a bit relieved to hear I wasn’t alone.