That’s What She Said: The importance of resiliency
- Dawn Dumont | June 10, 2018
Years ago, I watched a movie called the Kama Sutra. It took place in India and had some pretty graphic sex scenes (which is not even the point here but I thought I’d mention for those of you interested in that kind of thing.) The heroine of the movie is married to a rich guy but ends up falling in love with a poor dude. And he ends up getting punished for this with an elephant squashing his head with its foot: Judge, jury and elephant-executioner.
I went to the movie with my East Indian friend and as we were leaving the theatre I was like, “Wow India sure has some interesting punishments. I know crime would go way down here if we had moose crushing people’s heads.” She was not impressed and pointed out that the movie was a movie, not a documentary and it was based in like the sixteenth century.
Anyway, other than being told off for being racially ignorant, a line that stuck with me was from the main character. This woman had lost her home and the love of her life. In a stereotypical movie, she would have been leaking tears like a rez car leaking antifreeze. But she wasn’t. The movie ends with the heroine walking down a trail by herself and saying: “knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go, to be as supple as the wind, and take everything that comes with great courage.”
To me this fit the definition of what it means to be resilient, a quality which all people must have in order to survive and thrive in life.
We moved around when I was little as my mom searched out a good situation. She and my dad had broken up and she was running short on cash. Also, she was in between homes, so my mom had to split up her four kids. Two of us stayed with one aunt to be closer to school, the younger two stayed with a different aunt on the reserve. My mom stayed at her work, working double shifts while she looked for a place for all of us. Being a mom now, I can imagine her walk to the car and how scared she must have been.
I still remember when she walked back into my auntie’s house with my siblings. Her face was glowing and they spilled into the door beside her, their little faces fat with happiness. I know that I pretended to be grown up (I was six) and didn’t run to her but it was one of the happiest moments in my life.
When you hit hard times, you have to use whatever tools are at your disposal to survive and in my mom’s case it was her family, her job and her faith that we’d be okay without her. And we were, though throughout my childhood I brought it up in order to score extra treats, “Remember that time you left us and I was so very sad? ‘member that?” Children are monsters.
I had my own moments to learn resilience. When I was in my twenties, I moved to New York City. There were free concerts and movies in the park. You could go kayaking on the Hudson River for free on Saturdays. If you were fast and sneaky, you could score free food at craft services tables set up on the many movie sets around the city. I am pointing out the free stuff because I spent a lot of my time there unable to find a job in the most expensive city in the world.
When I finally returned to Canada (Edmonton to be specific), I was deeply in debt and contemplating bankruptcy. I even went to the library and read, “Bankruptcy for Dummies.” A title which I found especially fitting. In order to find a job in Edmonton, I had no car so I had to walk to the nearest strip mall for work. I found jobs at HomeSense and Starbucks but got fired because I kept wearing navy slacks instead of black ones. So I found another job at Linens’n’Things stacking coffee makers on top of one another about twenty feet in the air while standing on a staircase with no sides. If it sounds dangerous, that’s because it was. I was making enough money to keep my debt from getting worse but no more than that. So I started looking through Native newspapers for conference listings. Then I would call the organizers and offer myself as an MC. This helped bring in some cash and even led to a job offer which I accepted.
During this time, I felt like humiliation was my best friend because I hung out with him so often. I focussed on the positives: I appreciated how the hard labour took the place of a gym membership and when bosses and the public were rude to me, I blogged about it like my favourite writer, humourist, David Sedaris. This allowed me to see the situation outside of myself; it allowed me to turn a shit-day into a funny story.
The best part of resilience is that it’s a quality that everyone can have. Although I’d argue that First Nations just by virtue of our history and the colonialist shit we have to face on a daily basis, have bucket-loads more than average. But we may bend but we will not break, like that hot chick in the Kama Sutra.