|Written by Nick Metcalf,
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Sometimes 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
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.