Happy Indigenous People's Day

I’ve been reading a book called “Journey Through Trauma” by Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PHD.

I’ve often said my songs heal me. I’ve said my songs are my teachers, they are from my wiser self, my omniscient connection, they are beyond me and yet of me. My songs have not only buoyed me, they’ve shot me through life. My songs have rescued me, they challenge and console me.

But I’m not sure they’ve healed me, because I haven’t known what healing is, the work of it, the process of it. Healing is different than trusting my voice and fingers to find and develop a song, healing hinges upon trusting another person. I taught myself music, singing, song writing, painting, and I am teaching myself to write. These skills use parts of my brain and heart that are very strong and dependable. Surviving adversity, loving to work hard, possessing the spirit to overcome failures as well as successes, these qualities are native to me, and I continually cultivate them. But healing is not. I can’t teach myself to go to the unhealed reservoir of my traumas, because I don’t think it can be done alone.

That’s what I’m learning right at this moment, in this country, at this time. As I listened to and read the testimony of Dr. Ford, I felt for her, I’m rooting for her, I’m proud of her accomplishments, the way she brings her knowledge of her field of expertise into her emotional experience, she’s a hero.

Dr. Gretchen Schmelzer says after a country has been at war, and the peace settlement is in place, that’s when the real work begins, and that’s when everyone pulls out. It makes sense. Healing is time consuming, hard, uncomfortable, unglamorous, unexciting and a drain on your resources. Now this does sound like the description of making art, but what is different, again, is healing is done in relationships, the same kind of relationship where the trauma occured.

Trust comes to mind. I do feel Dr Ford leaned on the American people when she testified, and I do feel the media and most of the witnesses, us, held her steady and hold her dear. I feel it’s a good time for victims of sexual abuse, victims of traumatic abuse, to gather the forces of knowledge and support and educate ourselves about healing so we can allow for lasting change.

Indigenous People’s day is a call for acknowledging how wrongly people have been abused and used by other people. The struggle of truth against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. It’s universal, it’s patriotic and it’s personal. America is in essence a country founded so that victims of outrageous abuse could have a safe and prosperous happiness of living their truth. And yet, in manifesting such a noble ideal, so many indigenous people were abused, used and decimated. It’s an unparalleled hypocrisy and it’s going on today.  It’s happening within families, in schools, in neighborhoods and couples. People are susceptible to being abusers because they’ve been abused. People become bullies because they’ve been bullied. People commit war crimes because they haven’t healed. We traumatize each other and we have to heal together or humanity will not evolve, will not change, as a whole. We have to know what the work is and find ways to help each other do it.

When Trauma happens in a family it’s a big deal. It becomes part of the fabric that holds the family together and the knife that cuts it apart. Trauma never goes away, it changes everything and it colors everything. Although the properties of the trauma within a family can change, the call to hear it’s voice is always relevant. Times that by billions within our country, and perhaps that is why the country is so involved with the story of Dr Ford and Judge Kavanagh; it is potentially a healing story, for them and for us.

Healing is not a pat on the head, a cup of tea or a little help; it’s facing the thing that happened and working hard to bring the injured parties back to life. We have to deal, and we have to heal, and we have to do it together.

Happy Indigenous people’s Day.

Sophie B. Hawkins