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Planting Seeds

By: Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire, Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
April 07, 2022

A teaching for the spring season from Joanne Okimawininew Dallaire (iskwao/woman), Elder (Ke Shay Hayo) and Senior Advisor, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

Hello. Wacheeya *speaks in Cree. I just said “hello, my name is Shadow Hawk Woman;” that's my traditional name. I'm Wolf Clan and my ancestry hails from Attawapiskat.

So I'd like to say a couple of things today: happy spring and what the heck is going on? It's like you know there's been so much emphasis put on getting back to the university, and being excited about spring that I think we are excited about both of those things, but both of those things cause us to pause and look.

You know, one of the things that I'm noticing with people, I'm hearing and feeling myself is kind of this internal conundrum that I've created this internal conflict that has been created for us around now we are to embrace all that we were taught to fear for the last two years.

So how do we do that? Well, we think “oh, this will be great”, and then we start thinking about travelling on TTC, you know.

“But what about meetings, what about this, what about that?” I got comfortable at home and now I have to think about coming back into the office and how comfortable am I with that.

Am I supposed to be excited? I should be more excited than what I'm really feeling. I shouldn't be feeling dread.

This and move forward, I should be happy with this. it’s spring, it’s time to get out, but am I really comfortable getting out there and going out and meeting with people with my mask off, like really.

So, once again we have this internal conflict of excitement versus fear and I think what's important for us to remember is; they are going to go hand in hand and that says it will be because we're all excited about trying to get back to some sort of normalcy, about getting out there and seeing friends and family again and laughing and to sharing our time and our energies and our thoughts with people and, at the same time in the back of our mind, is it really safe yes.

And all we can do, and once again I keep saying this, but I'm going to say it again, is practice our own personal PPE, if you don't feel comfortable, then don't. If you don't feel comfortable sitting with people with their mask off keep yours on, you know there's no formula, excuse me, even though we may be trying to find a formula there's no magic formula for how we do any of this.

Because it's been such a transition from one thing to another.

But what I do know for sure works, is where we focus our energy, where we focus our thoughts and those fears are natural and normal and come to the surface, to help us really assess things well.

But a lot of these fears: F-E-A-R fears are: false evidence appearing real.

And those fears are silenced by the truth. So, “oh my God, this good, what about, what about them”, we always worrying about what other people are doing.

Just remind yourself, not your circus, not your monkeys. You don't have to worry about what anybody else is doing, take care of yourself, keep yourself protected. You know, do all the things that you need to do as we ease into this coming back into our outside world, the world around us.

Now, have equated it to you know we'd all like to jump in but actually it's a big cold lake that we got to walk in to tippy toe im.

For start toes in, our ankles and then back to my knees and then you know below our waist hits the water that's the worst part.

And then we walk a little bit further than we could dive in but that's a process that's a process of dealing with kind of the shocks and the realities of you know, doing this again, you know, are the rocks slippery, have I got my footing?

And really what you need to do is give yourself time, to adjust, you know come in, maybe coming in, for a full day is too much.

Maybe at the beginning, you know you're not going to ride the TTC and when everybody else is coming in, maybe you're going to wait and arrive an hour later.

And you know go home an hour earlier and do that extra two hours at home or whatever it is, you need to do, find a way to make the scheduling that you want to have happen work for you.

And until we get some more trust and more level of comfort about moving about in our world freely again, we can't expect this to just come off in a shower in the morning and disappear with workflows that we put on and head into the office, that's not going to happen.

It's too convoluted, it's too mixed message, so please be kind with yourself, be gentle with yourself as you wander back and forth and.

You're going to come to work and you're going to miss the comforts of being at home next to your fridge and your coffee pot, the dogs and whatever and just being in an environment that’s safe, and you know it's there; it’s a transition.

Please talk to other people about what you're feeling, don't sit with it quietly because if you're thinking it, you can bet that other people are thinking it too.

And sometimes you know we can come together in groups and have conversations and work our way through all the gobbledygook.

To get around to reminding ourselves what our focus is, and that's taking care of ourselves doing what we gotta do from day to day and instead assessment, you know I have fibromyalgia I have arthritis.

And there's been lots of times when I went into work when I really was not able to go to work, this was before the pandemic.

And it was just so excruciatingly uncomfortable, but I didn't want to tell people that I was dealing with this. Well now I'm more than comfortable with having accommodations. Because I need accommodations and there's nothing wrong with accommodations; that's why we have policies and procedures and all kinds of things around accommodations.

So I'm sure that your manager will work with you, and whatever accommodation, you may need so that you can get back to the university feeling comfortable and that isn't going to happen because somebody says it should happen, it's going to happen with the process.

Once again, I think one of the most important tools that I've ever been taught to us or been told to us was journaling and it doesn't have to be in a formal journal, it can be on a piece of paper just writing your thoughts down. Any of those fears that are rumbling around in your head, any of the things that you're worrying about, jot them down on paper. It doesn't get rid of them, but it gets them out of floating around in your head and getting in your way during the day.

And once you write them on paper you're actually grounding those thoughts, so that you can come back to them later. Please expect that there is going to be a new level of exhaustion that you haven't felt in a while, because we have forgotten what it feels like to be around a whole lot of other humans. There's a whole energy that we all skew off, that we you know and before we learn to block that kind of zone in our own stuff, put our earbuds in and just focus, we can't do that now, because we have to adjust. So I hear people talking about going into work for half a day and coming home and just being exhausted and have to sleep; very normal.

Just don't put any expectations on yourself unless there's short small increments of time that you know you could do without any issue, this is a fact finding mission, once again, and how am I going to get back into the workforce, how is this going to look for.

And like anything else, this is a very organic process so it's going to evolve, you may think, from this position that you're going to have these concerns, but you may find out that once you get in there maybe you have those concerns, maybe you have those concerns and more or maybe you don't have as many of those concerns, or maybe now you have some new concerns so just get comfortable with the adjustment, this is an adjustment phase.

The other really important thing to hang on to and I talked about this before Is we've: made it.

All of us are here; we've made it. Unfortunately a lot of us have had loss of loved ones, including our fur babies, as well as our humans.

And there's a lot of grief to this and a lot of us will be moving forward without some loved ones that are signed. but they're still with us in spirit and it's really important that we hang on to that fact.

And the other part of this conversation I want to talk about is spring.

And spring and we just did a spring equinox ceremony, had a great turnout for it, spring is the time you know the equinox a day of the equinoxes, the need for balance between day and night, day and night and same thing only different.

And it reminds us that it is time, once again, to waken up and find our balance after resting. Wintertime as a time for most people have less activity, of doing more different activities so it's also adjustment to let go of bad to come into spring. 

Spring is the time when Indigenous people would have come together from various communities to plan what we needed to do. Around hunting, gathering, farming, whatever it was to meet the new unique needs of our communities and that's what we will be doing in Ryerson, we will be coming together having meetings and meeting the needs of our Ryerson.

So spring is also the time to prepare the ground for seeds.

And for things that will grow and so every thought, every action are seeds every time we do something we're planting a seed.

So there's lots of seed preparation, and like seeds and once you remember this, it kind of ties into the first part of the conversation.

You may want flowers, you may want to go back to work, you may want flowers, but you have to plant the seeds for the flowers, you have to plant the seeds for going back to work. And, like the seeds it grows and there's a Buddhist saying that most of the work is done in the dark, when the seed sprouts enough must do the hard journey of breaking through the Earth. To be revealed and continue to grow, so the seeds that were planted and the work that we're going to be doing until we get our footing back at work.

It's about all the growth that seed will be doing underground is we can kind of work our way through the stuff that we need to work, our way through as we continue to find a new norm.

We're not going back to the old norm, life doesn't come with an eraser, we can’t rub what we have experienced, what we've learned and what we've lived throughout our lives; it's forever changed us and how that will look in the long term, remains to be seen.

Hopefully, I hope that we have learned from our time of confinement with self.

That we are far more complex, far more capable, and far more deserving than we ever realized.

And so that we will continue to promote healthcare, mental health, as well as physical health.

If the medical profession could step back for a moment and take a look, they would see if they invested more time, more money in mental health, they would probably have a lot less physical health issues, because those two are very correlated and I know a lot of you have heard that, over the course of your time in confinement with COVID.

So plant those seeds, think about where you want to go, do them short term right now, don't have long term goals gradually.

Increase what you can do in increments, that you could handle them, don't compare yourself to anybody else everybody has their own lens that they're looking through and we've been looking through a trauma-fear-induced lens for two years, so it's going to take time.

For that to kind of settle down for us to have faith in ourselves to be able to handle whatever comes in front of us and the faith in our system to get back to working face faith in our communities.

And face faith in our bigger community of Toronto, and the GTA. That we are going to get back to a place of being able to embrace our life, enjoy our life and look to the future in a way that we haven’t been able to do for the last two years.

So once again my message is, and will always be: to take care of yourself, remember that you are an important integral part of the symbiotic relationship we have with our environment with our universe, we need you need, your thoughts, we need what you give and we need you to feel happy about what it is you're doing in your in your work and in your walk on this Earth.

If you take care of yourself, then you can be there 100% for other people, if you don't take care of yourself, if you put off your self-care to the end of the day, you're probably not going to do it, so this is very simple, not meant to offend, but I want you to get into the habit that everytime you go to the bathroom during the day when you're by yourself, you can ask yourself “how am I emotionally feeling right now?”

And just learn to get in touch with your feelings because that's your authentic self, that's the part that gets ignored and if we've learned anything from this pandemic is the part, we need to finally pay attention to as a community at large.

There are going to be rough times ahead, nobody ever said it was going to be an easy walk it isn't.

But we're all capable and we all have the ability to get through difficult times, and the proof is in the pudding.

I look forward to talking to you again, I am really thrilled that I get the opportunity to share my thoughts, just my thoughts, just an old gal who's learned a lot of ways to go through various problems and I'm hoping, I can shine some light and just let you know that you're you're not alone in whatever you're thinking and feeling.

And that you are very important, thank you very much for listening again and until we meet again next time I say chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, chi miigwetch, aho, all my relations Hiy Hiy. (Traditional Cree salutation)

Thank you.