Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Tuesday, January 13 2015
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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jpeg_pic.jpgSometimes being a urban Indian ainít easy cause we gotta exist along many edges of the world. Itís winter in Minnesota now. Itís that time of year that we Ė Native people Ė are storytelling. Most of our stories include a trickster character. The trickster is the protagonist, or the main character, in our stories that teach us important life lessons. Itís through the tricksterís adventures that we learn about the world around us, our relationship to everything and how we conduct ourselves.

Itís also that time of year that those of us who make New Yearís Resolutions are doing them. Myself and others will be spend time reviewing our last year. We remember what occurred. We recall the lessons we've learned. We hold onto the sweet moments we experienced. We lovingly remember those we lost. We do this assessment in an effort to establish our personal goals for the year.

Socrates said, "An unexamined life isn't worth living.Ē OK. I know, I know, Socrates is a Greek philosopher. I share it because this quote is my life anthem. I'm one of those people who works at changing patterns of toxic or unhealthy behavior. Iím a self-help book junkie. Itís important to me to not share generational trauma with my kids. Iím doing my part at ensuring the generations that follow me can live different lives.

I'm told that it takes 21 days of consistent behavior change for a new pattern to be integrated. Iíve learned for myself that I learn from other people. People love to share their stories with me. It is a trait that I appreciate because I learn from them. I wholeheartedly listen to them and use their knowledge. Everyone teaches me something about the world around me.

We have a rich tradition of storytelling and an oral history. For the Lakota, it is the Winter Count. It is the time of year that we identify the most memorable event that occurred and draw it on a buffalo hide. Intertwined with this tradition is story telling. Stories are told to teach morals, conduct, history and to impart knowledge to each generation.

Over time, I talk myself out of the "new" change. Some examples of behavior change that Iíve tried over the years include: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, establishing clear boundaries with people, managing my expectations and living within my financial means.

Unfortunately by Spring, all of my New Yearís Resolutions have become something different. I've rationalized some away; Iím too busy, I don't know enough, I couldnít integrate a new pattern of behavior. I justify why I wasnít successful. I learn with each attempt.

Even in my failure there are lessons to be learned. What Iíve come to know is that when I fail then I become hard on myself. My internal dialogue includes: "I shoulda known bettter;Ē ďI coulda did this;Ē ďI coulda did that;Ē "I'm too old to learn anything new;Ē ďYou can't teach an old dog new tricks;Ē ďIt's just the way I am;Ē and ďMy family has always done it this way, so why should I change it now.Ē Iíve learned this slow progression of thoughts doesnít allow new behavior to take hold. I become my own trickster.

Behavior change is difficult. What Iíve learned over the years I exist as multicultural person who has to balance many different worldviews. I have to honor the oral traditions and teachings that I was raised in and that sustains me as a Native person. We impart our culture in this way. In contrast, I have to honor who I am as a western-educated person who works in a large institution. I have to understand how change influences each of my core beliefs. Ultimately, it requires that I be patient with myself as I integrate new ways of being in the world. It takes time.

What does this all mean? It means that in order to continue to thrive in the world as it exists now then we must learn to incorporate all parts of ourselves. We honor those lessons our ancestors impart to us. We honor those formal lessons that are taught to us at school, so that we can survive in the world as it is. It is important to learn to balance these notions. We find what works for ourselves, but we integrate those lessons in such a way that our culture can survive. Itís imperative to who we are in the 21st century.

I hope as you spend this time reflecting, hearing our stories, or re-learning important lessons during this brisk Minnesota cold. I hope you focus on the positive changes in your life, remember lovingly your accomplishments, maintain hope and believe that the New Year is a continuation of you realizing your greatness. Ultimately remember this, do what your ancestors would be proud of.

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