Nick-izms: Rez Born, Urban Raised
Thursday, February 05 2015
Written by Nick Metcalf,
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jpeg_pic.jpgLove, Love, Love, Love

We live in an American society that is obsessed with love. It's plastered everywhere this time of year. Valentineís Day brings out Cupid, heart shaped chocolates, flowers, balloons, cards and music about love. Those of us with children help our kids fill out their Valentineís Day cards to take to school. We may give a gift. We may receive gifts. Everything is about love.

This month I wanted to write about love Ė my understanding of love; how I came to know love; and my experience with love. Iíve learned over the decades that Iíve been on this journey called life that love is easy. We complicate love with popular ideas of what it is, what love should be, how love is manifested, who is allowed to have love, when love is given and how love is given.

Itís important to note here before you continue any further, what you read are my experiences. My experiences and the experiences of other Native people are just as diverse, unique and varied as the people in our community. Both of our experiences are valid, not generalizable and should never be construed as such.

My life-changing experience with love was when my son was born, Hoksicila Cante Ma Yuha (Child of My Heart). When I first saw him, when he took his first breath, I feel deep into parental love. The love of a parent is all consuming, all confusing and scary at times, but wonderful and filled with many moments of joy. This experience profoundly shifted my notions about what I knew about love, and what love could be. It is from this experience that I began to explore love, my experience with it and how I defined love.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic assault. These experiences influenced me and I share this so you can understand how I came to know love. These experiences are not an excuse, nor are they a justification when I failed to return love when it was given to me unconditionally. These experiences are what I needed to heal from so I could experience love.

My traumatic experiences arenít unique. These difficult experiences, if left unresolved, would change how I related to my family, to a friend, to a significant other, to a lover, to community, to the environment and to the Creator, as I define them for myself. It was through therapy and participating in traditional ceremonies that I learned that I am loved, I am loveable, I am deserving of love and love is abundant.

The environment I grew up in taught me about love, most of these lessons are my interpretation and not specifically told to me. My upbringing on a rural, South Dakota reservation taught me about my worth. Reservations are notoriously surrounded by blatant, insidious racism. In my opinion, these issues form how we relate to ourselves and the world around us, at least for me.

Mainstream media influenced my definition of love. I adore love stories and romantic comedies. These stories gave me an example of a life that I tried to relive or recreate. I also grew up in an American society that didnít reflect back to me who I was. I didn't see Native people in media and I interpreted this for myself that I was invisible; therefore, I was not worthy of love.

I grew up entrenched in my family that taught me its values about love. These values they learned from institutions, specifically boarding schools and churches. Part of my family is expressive in showing their love and the other part is not. As an adult, I learned to appreciate the range of love they express. Many of their lessons, Iíve kept.

All of these experiences explain how when someone gave me a little attention I believed that was enough. Also, when someone touched me that I accepted less than what I needed. Any attention became OK; I accepted abuse from people because they only knew love hurt, so they expressed it to me. I craved human connection, I didnít know my worth and I accepted less than. I didnít know the difference between healthy love and harmful love.

It was through western talk therapy and participating in ceremonies that I learned to be a proud Native deserving of healthy love. These processes of reconciliation were important for me to make peace with trauma and misunderstanding. Ultimately, Iím grateful to my kids. Itís their presence that I was urged to define love.

Giving and receiving love is a result of many factors. For some of us, difficult experiences taught us what love isnít. For some of us, love has been good. For some of us, the first breath of our children was our calling to know: love is beautiful.

Love begins with you.

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