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  • Writer's pictureJen Greenway

My Journey Understanding Self

I’ve been watching Joe Millionaire: For Richer or Poorer, have you seen it? It’s terrible. Two men have had issues with their money getting in the way of their dating life. One’s a millionaire, one’s not, the ladies don’t know who’s who until the end. You get it. Anyway, Kurt — the “Average Joe” — claims he wants a wife, but he approaches the entire season alienating the women by going for manipulative Carolyn, only to make a last-minute shift to guarded but kind Amanda. It wasn’t really a surprise when they announced that they had broken up before the season even aired because they wanted different things. Honestly, watching the season it never really looked like Kurt was actually interested in finding a wife, regardless of what he believed. That kind of got me thinking...

2015 was the start of a serious healing journey for me, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Like so many Indigenous individuals, I carry a lot of intergenerational trauma in my suitcase. I allowed it to affect the way that I entered into every relationship I participated in until fairly recently. I kept a portion of myself and my heart purposefully unavailable to the people I loved because I live with the understanding that people have the option to leave at any point, for any reason, even when they love you. For me, the fear that if my own Dad was able to live without us then there was nothing stopping any other person from leaving me when things didn’t work out. To protect my heart and Spirit against that constant fear, I kept most of myself to myself.

It wasn’t until I began to rebuild my relationship with my Dad and have compassion for him and why he and my Mum handled things the way they did that I was able to understand just how closed off I actually was. My worst fear had always been being left behind or left out, but I was intentionally leaving myself behind so I would have something to go back to when I failed. The problem was that everyone moved forward with only half of me, and they could tell. My hesitation and refusal to dive in would breed hesitation and anger in them. We’d fall apart and I’d have that hidden part of me still intact to clean up the mess, unscathed or quickly recovered.

Everything changed in 2015 when I finally worked up the courage to put an end to the protection. I don’t know what shifted in me. I wish there was some aha! moment that I could point my finger to, but I think it was a culmination of repeated failed relationships with the same man who reminded me of my Dad mixed with the realization that he did, in fact, remind me of my Dad. I spent years recreating the scenario of my “Dad” leaving and me hoping I was good enough that he would come back until I learned to see what I was doing. I soaked up lessons from both my Dad leaving and my ex leaving, learned to forgive both men and see them both for who they really were — just people doing what they have to do to learn their own lessons.

Fast forward past our breakup and well into 2016, I had decided that I wasn’t going to allow myself to limit my love anymore and I knew this was the first step to healing my intergenerational trauma and my relationship with my Dad. I turned into a love fountain, giving without thought, but the next relationship I attracted was an even more unhealthy one. No matter how many times he showed me who he was and how he was willing to treat and use me (first as a girlfriend and then as a friend), I refused to close my heart. It was addicting to give love and I didn’t have any frame of reference for what a normal amount a partner or friend is supposed to give or take from you. I’d been so closed for so long! Ultimately, though, it became obvious and I had no choice but to cut him and his behaviour out of my life when it got out of control. It took longer than you might think and part of me is embarrassed that I let him manipulate me for so long. The other part of me is, again, compassionate. He must be starving and I was an all-you-can-eat buffet of love, energy and support. I truly held space in my heart that if I myself could come to understand my own trauma and behaviour in a way that allowed me to stop hurting my loved ones, then he might too.

I was wrong. It was my own journey that I was projecting on him along with the lessons that I had learned. Those lessons had shaped me into the person that I was: someone so used to repressing their love that they didn’t know how to regulate it or direct it to healthy reciprocal relationships. At the pace I was going, I was burning my Spirit and my body out faster than a sparkler. Thankfully, what I didn’t realize at the time was that he was my next lesson, the one that would teach me that you can’t give love unchecked because some people will take and take without replenishing.

I eventually walked away from that relationship sure of myself and sure that I had lots to learn as I cooled off even more. In fact, I still examine that relationship and my reactions to it because I know I haven’t learned it all. If I had, I wouldn’t still be bothered by parts of it. The recovery after that relationship spanned years, multiple cities and left me with an addiction to impulsive, thrill-seeking behaviour on the Land. I solo hiked, jumped fences to scale cliffs, sat on edges to get the perfect pictures...I did everything I could to be alone with that feeling of being pulled into the Land, but I felt it most when I was at the edge of a rockface.

What I know now is I became addicted to vulnerability. After living closed off for so long, followed by a torturous nonreciprocal relationship, all I wanted was the feeling of connection. My Spirit was reaching out desperately for something and I found it through expansive vulnerability. I reached out and the Land reached back. Each whip of wind on the cliffside breathed my tired Spirit back to life, and each touch against the giant Red Cedar and gentle, fragrant Spruce People through the West grounded me.

Within a few years, my autoimmune condition and chronic pain disease began to get a firm grip on my life. My understanding of who I was and my capacity to love were once again challenged, but this time it was my capacity to love myself and my body despite the new limits it began setting for me. Pretty abruptly I lost solo hiking, followed by rock climbing and the intense gym sessions I used to destress myself. It was like having an entirely new body with new limits every day, and being sure of myself became a lot harder.

Sometimes it feels like it’s one thing after another, doesn’t it? And I guess it’s always going to be one thing after another. That’s the point.

I have a lot of lessons and a lot of Knowledge that I’ve asked for. I’ve asked for a lot of growth. Even before I came to this plane and chose this body, I know my Spirit had big plans. The path that I walk is meant to deliver the experience my Spirit needs for that Knowledge, so it seems a bit silly to pray and search for Knowledge and answers, only to be disheartened when I’m given the opportunity to learn. We are in control of the Knowledge we seek and the questions we have, but the catch is that we put so many questions out to the multiverse that it’s impossible to expect answers and lessons in order. How you interpret the experiences you have or the lessons you’re given will ultimately answer different questions and provide different Knowledge depending on who you are at the moment you examine that information. Kind of like how everyone says “hindsight is 20/20,” it’s more like “the same scenario at a different experience level gives you new Knowledge or a completely different lesson.” That’s not as catchy, though.

In order to receive lessons and Knowledge, we have to be willing to connect with our Spirits and embrace the journey of Understanding Self. We have to let go of the colonial notion of control and linear learning/thinking. And we have to be willing to change as we learn more about ourselves and the multiverse. Our lessons expand as we expand, so limiting your growth will only limit what you can learn moving forward. Lastly, we can’t put our lessons onto anyone else’s journey. We can share and pass on Knowledge, but their Spirit has a plan for them and they’ve carved out a path for them. They’ll either listen or they won’t. That should not impact your ability to learn, grow and co-create Knowledge.

I should add that I don’t want to advocate for dangerous behaviour to connect with your Spirit. The way I found my way back to myself isn’t the way that most people will or necessarily should. Plus, maybe you don’t have access to the Land or your physical accessibility is limited. None of that should mean that you can’t connect back to your Spirit. If that’s the case, or you’re just looking for new ways to connect, here is a list of tools I now use to help me on my journey of Understanding Self:

  • Yoga: asking my Spirit for lessons and guidance while I move, and allowing my body to feel what it feels and to talk to me. I’ve cried during Yoga sessions when asking my Spirit to show me what compassion feels like. It’s one of my favourite ways to connect with my Spirit.

  • Meditation and Breathwork

  • Journaling or Vlogging (vlogging and audio recordings are great ways for people with accessibility issues to journal and get their thoughts recorded)

  • Listening to Water or having a meditative bath

  • Asking those close to you to point you in a direction to dig into (keep an open mind. Those who are close to us often know us better than we think and they can tell us things we don’t want to hear. It’s important to listen and examine why that information makes you feel how it does)

  • Speaking openly and honestly about shame and fear with those you trust (or journaling it!)

  • Embracing experiences that make you feel vulnerable (public speaking, letting people into your life, etc.)

Understanding Self never stops. It’s not usually comfortable, but it does open up space for you to view the world from a vantage point of “What can I learn from this?” or “Who am I coming into this situation” and that’s a pretty powerful place to view the world from.



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