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Gathering our Wisdom

By: Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
February 08, 2022

A teaching regarding forgiveness from Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire (iskwao/woman), Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

Wacheeya and hello everyone. It's nice to be here in your presence.

I just wanted to come on and talk about forgiveness today, and what that kind of means for me, and hopefully what I'm sharing with you will help you as well.

One of the things in my healing journey that I had to do, which was probably one of the hardest things to do, was to forgive myself. Because when I first heard of that concept, I didn't know what I needed to forgive myself for. And you know it's kind of; we haven't done anything about pandemic but you know you have to forgive yourself for believing you needed to know how to handle the pandemic. That you needed to know how to have all the answers for your partner, your friends, your kids, co-workers, your bosses. Everybody's so frustrated that they don't have the answers to give.

And so we have to forgive ourselves, for we're just human we don't have the answers, we've bought into this false belief that if we get education, if we get enough knowledge, then we'll have all the answers, well, we have the answers, maybe for a while we got educated.

But then there's the rest of life.

And, most of us come limping into this world of public life, believing that geez, who I am is not good enough or they find out this or find out that maybe they won't like me, we come in kind of with a deficit approach.

Instead of recognizing that you know, anything we have in our past, anything that we've done to get through this is all, anything we’re going through now, it’s just a part, an experience of who we are. It adds to the completeness of who we know. It adds to hopefully building our self-confidence. That regardless of what happens in life, we're going to put our best foot forward.

You know we're coming up almost to a two-year anniversary of this pandemic. None of us, none of us ever fathomed that we’d be here today.

First it was two weeks. And then, it was a month, and then the dates just get being moved around, the numbers kept getting higher and higher, we're starting to get a hold of it, then we got these variants.

So as much as we may love to have the answers. COVID’s been a very humbling experience for us.

I want to talk about what it feels like to not have the answers.

To constantly have to say I don't know I don't know I wish I knew I wish I could help I wish I could change I wish I could alleviate your fears; that takes an incredible toll on us when we're the go-to people for those answers.

Whether it's from our kids, from friends, partners, family, peers. People that we look up to for the answers they don't have the answers they're feeling the same thing they're looking at other people that they look up to and when all is said and done, we're all just flopping around like fish out of water.

We're all just trying to figure out what the heck is going on here. So we got to cut ourselves some slack.

You know, one of the things I've realized, is that I have so much on my mind that I have to make a lot of notes. You know, I have to walk around with pen and paper almost everywhere. And so that's what I'm doing right now, as I'm looking at my notes. You know, we fail to understand I think how much courage it has taken us to get here.

Because we never thought we'd be here, but this is the most difficult two years that the world, and certainly Canada has ever looked at, and certainly at my life, I've never experienced anything like this.

But we just kept putting one foot in front of the other, facing our fears, listening to information without surrounding ourselves with all the horrible numbers.

And we've got, there's a lot of wisdom. Wisdom is simply learning from your experience.

And I think, if nothing else, we've been forced to learn from these experiences, that we are much more humble, we should be much more humble.

Because we really don't know, we're all just doing the very best that we can do.

And I think sometimes we get frustrated with each other, because somebody else doesn't have the answers when we go to them. I was looking somewhere doing our research and it's just awful. Yeah it is but don't live in the awful.

Forgive yourself for believing that you have to have the answers — move into acceptance.

Acceptance is different than letting, go surrendering is different than letting go, left to surrender to the fact; and accept the fact.

That we're doing the very best we can, and we're getting through this. And we have to work extra hard and that seems a bit odd, but we do have to work extra hard to feel the happiness, to find things to celebrate. But that's what we have to do more than ever, we have to keep an emotional balance in our life. More than ever we need to pay attention to our emotional wellbeing, so we can enter into the emotional space of someone else full and ready to listen. We don't have to do anything we just have to listen. Being a good ally, being a good friend, partner, parent, co-worker leader is learning to really listen. That's all we want, we want a compassionate ear to just hear us out, not coming back at us with positives or that'll get better, but just to really listen.

And then I always try to ask that person. What do they think they need to do to make right here, right now, better? Because, when we look past now or past week or two from now and we get into that what if what if, and a lot of our jobs are looking at what ifs, When did we do this when we come back when can we start planning class all of that.

So we've got enough time with that you have to forgive yourself, for not knowing how to deal with all this pressure, not knowing how to say no, when you know there's so much work to be done feeling guilty about when you do say no.

But we have to say no, we can't we can't do that, right now, we have to reach out and support each other, ask for help, ask for assistance is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength.

We don't have to do this alone.

Then we have to help ourselves come on the other side of that is you know this last two years has taught me that you know change is powerful. I don't like it, I never like change, nobody does, like routine inconsistency, we feel comfortable in that.

But change is really powerful and I really believe in the human ability to handle change and I'm seeing it everywhere.

You know nobody's ever when we handle something that doesn't mean we're smiling wistfully enjoying every moment, but it means that we're managing it.

You know we've for a long time have believed that we could conquer anything, well yeah we can, we have to learn to manage ourselves during that. Let's help ourselves deal with what we're really feeling.

Help ourselves manage the fact that I'm feeling down but wow we're here, you know we've got all the power we need right here, right now celebrating the now looking around your room looking at the people in front of you and capturing those memories building memories doing silly things some of the silly things that than I do now it's like it's outside of my normal comfort box, but sometimes we need to do silly things around the House just to have some fun.

But most of all, I have to forgive myself for not having the answers, I have to forgive the people that I look to for the answers for not having the answers.

I just have to find, deep down inside the belief that humanity is going to get through this and we are.

And that, if we learn to appreciate ourselves with all our picadillos and celebrate the things that we're good at, then we can offer that to other people.

Everybody is really doing the best they can. Please remember that, please be kind to yourself, have the courage to give yourself forgiveness and have the courage to celebrate the life that you've been given.

I hope that you find these words help and touch you in some way. I struggle with some days being very *ugh* (exclamation of aversion/ disgust).

And as I've mentioned in other other teachings here, I have a plan of how to help myself with those various stages, so your focus needs to be on taking care of you so that you can do all those other things you love to do.

Take care, be well until we talk again, I say chi miigwetch (traditional Cree salutation).