I grew up on the prairies with my Pakistani parents. In the 80’s. I was tall, muscular, dark skinned, big smiled, hairy with wild eyes and wilder hair. The only other Pakistani girls I knew were in Edmonton. My dad’s best friend’s daughters, who we saw extremely infrequently. So I came by my feelings of separateness quite honestly. Even if I wanted to go unnoticed, I was like a giant birthday candle in the middle of a cake, cheerfully melting myself all over the place naively fading into nothing.

There are similarities to everyone’s gravitational pull to the earth and one another. Our lives are connected inextricably on mental, physical, emotional, and psychic planes. We all know this. Deepak has dumbed it down. 

I drank for the first time when I was just eleven years old. I was at the farm of a friend who I was often with. The farm was my second home, since my place was always filled with my brother’s friends with the television on. I actually didn’t get offered to watch what I would like to see on t.v. until I lived with my best friend in college. She also taught me to say goodnight. Every night she would wish me goodnight. I loved that, and wondered how I missed that slight acknowledgment of another person for my whole life until then.

We weren’t sneaking booze to determine the taste. It was for effect. 

When you force a ball into the hands of a child whose proclivity is to paint, you are innocently trying to force ideals. Make the individual, sensitive one know what it means to suck, play on a team, lose, and play together. But if you do it for their whole childhood, you can end up with a kid who thinks they suck at life. They lose confidence.  Many Picassos spent their youth striking out at home plate and somewhere making a fallacious conclusion that this was somehow failing.

Homogenous environments with one type of person can be extremely creatively stifling. Being different was so painful but at some point, it helped take away my embarrassment. Somehow I started just dressing the way I wanted, which was rather ostentatious in a classroom full of plaid shirted, blue jean wearing farm kids. And they somehow just embraced me. When we all look back at childhood, there is a level of awkwardness and discomfort with ourselves that is almost a rite of passage. 

There was all a lot of fun as well. So many things about my upbringing were remarkably sound and comforting. I spent a lot of time in nature. We were always up to something, and all the moms and dads in the village knew us by name. They would love us, reprimand us, and feed us, and send us home like we were all related. Our teachers were all especially encouraging. By the time I was in Junior High School, I developed a deep and enduring friendship with Jennifer. She lived just a kilometer out of town, and a dirt road separated my house from her farm. It was there I learned how to clean and cook and take care of others. Her mom was like a mom to me. She dragged me everywhere with her kids – camping, figure skating camp. Those were some of the best memories I hold from childhood. When things got hard, Margaret was there for me, always.

PROMPT: Stop reading, take a breath and recall someone from childhood who loved you. If you have a Higher Power, allow them into this vision of the person and send them love. If not, just think positively about this person while you breathe and picture them in your mind for 10 full seconds.

NOW: How do you feel?

This Friday Surrender Living Women’s Circle, 7pm on zoom, it’s a love offering and donations are gratefully accepted.

contact Sabrina 4035963464 or surrenderliving@gmail.com to register.

Tuesday is SHE WAS gratitude poetry workshop, 7pm, $35 includes the book, shipping, and 1.5 hr of time with me. You will leave with a full heart and a poem for a woman you love.

Please join us at facebook.com/surrenderliving 

If you are reading this, then something remarkable has occurred. I have overcome my fear and inadequacy to share some of myself with the world.  I just got the confidence to start actually reading my poetry to my group I have attended for several years. 

A lot of my childhood included never doing anything I wasn’t good at. This included most everything, given I didn’t have experience with much. I couldn’t find the correlation between learning something new, getting experience with it, and then succeeding. I wanted to instantly know how to do it. So what this led to was an attitude of quitting, “If I don’t like it, I will just quit.” 

The perfectionist odour of this stinking thinking followed me into young adulthood, where I quit friends I didn’t like, in his era defining work “Generation X” Douglas Copeland talks about this phenomena. If this marriage doesn’t work out, I’ll just get divorced. That level of commitment gets you everywhere in life until you wake up 40, alone, and living in mid-sized conservative city sameness. 

 Seems the only thing I have never been able to quit is giving up on the fact that belonging only comes to me in the form of outright accepting that I’m an oddball. Something I fail to conceive fully to this day, in spite of Stevie Wonder impersonations and dark poems.

I was put in the world for purposes I could not easily accept, and those around me couldn’t easily understand. Along with my penis envy, imagination, intelligence and perfectionism, was the deep longing. The longing most women fill with dreams of their wedding day, their babies, building lives amongst life long friends. The longing most men fill with making pots of money, finding their wife. For me this longing was never properly handled. I can blame that on external influences, or whatever, but the truth of the matter was that longing like mine was so completely different, I never even realized it.

I never thought I was valid and a deep longing of my heart still today is to be relevant. Heard. And make positive change. My writing of the work, She Was, did that for me like nothing before ever has.

What would you like to do if you could overcome your fear around doing it?

Not everyone’s version of a good Thursday night is the same. I went to an online seminar about grief and loss. This would be several of my friend’s version of hell. Not me. I always loved the power of shared experience. No one knows like someone who knows.

If you aren’t already seeing @thejessicajanzen ripping it up on Insta and FB, I highly encourage you to do so. linktr.ee/jsjanzen

She talked using visual illustrations of a few things she’s lost over the years: identity as a fitness expert and single woman, relationships, hopes and dreams, things you like to do, jobs, covid losses, and her biggest loss was her baby. I found this totally impactful.

She was able to take the pain of losing him and turned her, “Why God, why?!” into, “So now what?!” and that helped her take the pain to create change. This woman has raised a million dollars for the hospital where her son died. And what I instantly loved about her was how she was authentically herself when she talked about her own journey with suicide.

The 1% tweaks can change our lives forever. I have a friend going on a journey with psychedelics and hopes it will be the “answer” to her trauma and hurt. It’s never one thing. The magic bullet only comes in the  form of something painful or traumatic. The fix, the cure, the hope, the reconstruction is daily work. A marathon, never a sprint.

More of Jessica’s suggestions:

  • Write out one small thing you can do to improve a pain point.
  • Write out positive thoughts you can actually believe.
  • Listen to the nudges you get in your heart. Follow them.

Accept your grief – cultivate joy & healthy habits – why your table matters (who you sit with) – authenticity – pain as purpose – dream big … rinse and repeat

And sit with it. You must honour your grief like a house guest and know that it will leave.

Some of Jessica’s resources: Motherless Daughters, Dr. Caroline Leaf, Atomic Habits by James Clear

For myself – and anyone else profoundly affected by loss – that’s one great evening.

Join me and my gang of joy machines at facebook.com/surrenderliving

Michelle Andrishak of WOW Women In Business posted about the importance of mentorship yesterday and tagged me saying, “don’t ignore this!”. I then heard from Canadian icon k.d. lang, my childhood hero, on Twitter! Her mom taught me Grade 2, and was a mentor to my mom. Mr Rogers once accepted a lifetime achievement award, and encouraged everyone to sit quietly for a few minutes and think about someone who changed them for the better. I like to call these people my “champions”, or Aunties.

Yesterday I thought so much about Audrey Lang, my Grade 2 teacher. My parents learned about the culture and norms of the country through people like her. Audrey – k.d.’s mom and mine worked together at Consort School , and she was a great source of strength and guidance as mom parented me, a child so different to herself.

Then later in the day I learned from JoOutLoud and Bobbi-Jo Elizabeth, two other aunties teaching me about activism and creativity and invincible, authentic living. Whether it’s business, or parenting, or culture, or making art, or getting sober, we are called to remember our “aunties” and to be aunties.

Mentorship is a really lovely part of life, whatever you’re trying to do. Auntying is true joy. Thank you to the Lang family for mentorship, love and guidance, near and far. I did enjoy reflecting on the greatness of those who show others the way.

 

This photo was a chance meeting at an airport k.d. reshared with me. From left to right: k.d. lang, my mom, Dorothy Samuel, her mentor (my Gr. 2 teacher) Audrey Lang, my eldest brother Aqil Samuel

 

 

Below is my appeal to the RDPS Board to have Pride Week. I submitted it as an Aunty at large. To send your letter of support for Pride Week, please email info@rdpsd.ab.ca before March 10.

Feb. 26/2021

 

To the hardworking board of Red Deer Public Schools,

My name is Sabrina Samuel, and I joined the Central Alberta Pride Society last year at this time as a reaction to the City of Red Deer’s vote against banning a proven form of child abuse: Gay Conversion Therapy. My heart broke as I drew nearer to people exposed to all forms, from extreme physical torture, to psychological abuses to “ungay” them as children. 

My beloved second grade teacher, Audrey Lang had a gay child that changed my life. She was a singer by the name of k.d. Lang. The first form of activism and advocacy I saw was her stand as a young vegetarian in the heart of cattle country saying “meat stinks”. 

This caused our welcome sign proclaiming, “Consort: Home of k.d. Lang”  to be defaced with the words “Eat Beef Dyke” sprayed across it. I felt so alone in my feelings about that as a child. Some village women went and washed it off, and the press came. 

I learned what standing up entailed, even when it meant standing against the environment in which you were raised. 

As newcomers to Canada, my father wanted me to stay away from that controversy, although all I wanted was to join in to correct the injustice. Unfortunately, several people with less power than you as board members felt the way my father did. He couldn’t get involved, and feared his child and family may be hurt in the crossfire.  

The ethnic diversity of young students is also another case for Pride, rather than diversity days. Children like me coming from countries with oppressive regimes towards women and sexual minorities need to be educated on sexual and gender diversity in Canada. Other intersecting identities fall under the Progressive Pride flag with brown and black stripes for BIPOC people.  

I believe strongly in the power of formalized education as a means of gaining greater understanding, so the board allowed me to start working on a committee to achieve that end. It has been an illuminating personal experience sitting with some of the most incredible activists, artists, educators and citizens from the region who amplify and expound on growing up gay in an ultra-conservative backdrop.

Of everyone I chatted to, I would say the expertise of Dr. Kristopher Wells – whose work you are all familiar with developing Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy – was the most compelling argument for Pride Week. Diversity Week is the least effective way to promote Diversity and Inclusion. 

I hope you reconsider your position, and take into account your own policies backing what was a quite simple request. Please find a little less wordy explanation of my position below. 

 

Pride Week 

 

Pride Week is for the meek,

not eating lunch alone

 

The rainbow burst

With the last, first 

The unicorn ice cream cone

 

Pride stops suicide and helps our self esteem

It shows us the realization, 

Of the Pink Shirt Day Dream

 

Pride is unity, strength and celebration

what joy to the hurt it could bring 

 

So let’s Enjoy Pride at school

and

let the little k.d.’s sing

 

Respectfully,

Aunty Sabby

 

I was struck by the huge need for PRIDE here in Red Deer, Alberta, a city of 100,000 people. I had to accept my own sexuality and motives would be on display and I would be under scrutiny joining Central Alberta Pride Society (CAPS), but I was motivated.

I saw Red Deer city council vote down BANNING gay conversion therapy. My aunty instincts went into complete overdrive. What I learned about gay conversion therapy was astonishing: religious institutions and psychological practises have geared entire programs, camps and sessions towards “praying away the gay” and “ungaying” children using physically, emotionally and psychologically damaging practises.

Some members of the gay community told me of horrifying electro-shock applied to genitals while watching porn to burn out their same-sex desires. Others were forced to take inventory, and then confess all their breaches of sexual desire and contact to their church elders. These are only a few examples of the atrocities still legal in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

I wanted to help change these things. Of course, I believe education is the key to understanding.

So now with “PRIDE WEEK” being proposed and “DIVERSITY WEEK” being chosen instead by school board trustees, I am again motivated through education to provide understanding.

Central Alberta PRIDE celebrates sexual and gender diversity. It makes the world a safer place for kids who are sexually different from the hetero norm: kids who are bullied, confused, suicidal and needing the most love. Instead of hating who they are, these kiddos get to wave their flags of belonging and celebrate their brave lives with “PRIDE”, while kids from all backgrounds get to walk with them for a more inclusive learning ecosystem.

Being who you are takes courage, especially when you are met with challenges like this. When you are being watered down, pushed aside and overlooked, you need others to bring you back to your feet. I want every kid in this place to know I want them to stand and shine. And they will not be standing alone, but surrounded by others who want to celebrate them.

Here’s a few easy ways to help gay kids in Central Alberta:

Communicate with the RDPS trustees to have PRIDE Week: 403-343-1405

Sign the petition

Join us: facebook.com/reddeerpridedays

IG: @centralalbertapride

Buy fundraising swag and take a pic wearing it for your social channels. 

Join the conversation by leaving your respectful opinion in the comments. Sharing is caring.

 

Thank you to the brilliant and wise Vicki Fox-Smith from CMHA Central Alberta for sitting in conversation to chat about the importance of peer support, intergenerational trauma, mental health education and more.

 

 

I admire and respect teachers in a new way since following the work of luminaries like Shelley Moore (@fivemooreminutes) , Jesse Thistle (facebook.com/thistlejesse) , Lori Mac (twitter.com/@MrsMacsKinders)

Education is completely different from even 10 years ago, and the name of the game is mental health. When I see these amazing people setting the stage for transparency, vulnerability and ownership of our own stories it makes me want to do better and be better for the next generation.

Like so many, I don’t want the next generation to suffer the way I did. And take heart: with people like Laura Louise Vangen, they are not going to.

Here she is, a mother and educator giving us crucial information on navigating the health care system, school system and self care in the midst of it all.

 

January 2021 Brings new challenges. Live your Surrender with like minds in all areas of your life. These small women’s groups are designed to help you and sustain you in improving your head/heart/home/hustle and hope.

Head – You can live well with freedom from addictions – substances, toxic relationships, disordered eating, and more. Mental illness, grief and loss can all be managed. Become willing to expand and feel your feelings in a safe place.

Trauma from grief and loss can cause defects in personality, but also unlocks the door to your assets.
Then let’s see how our healing then grows our:
Heart – What do you absolutely LOVE to do? Don’t know your passions? We’ve got you. Mindfulness and yoga fall under this category too.
Home – let’s make our outer environments reflect our inner awareness. You don’t need a lot of money or time to make your surroundings functional and get energy flowing properly.
Hustle – we are all pinched a little extra during covid. What can we do to monetize our passions into sidehustles, learn about saving and spending to change our money energy?
Hope – our stories, connection to others, gratitude, prayer and meditation, yoga off the mat, and mindfulness.
This is once/week, 1.5hr for 8 weeks.
Free:
*private FB group to share progress and lift each other up.
Easy, interesting challenge results get posted here too.
*pre-recorded yoga to enjoy when your schedule allows
*recordings from amazing people about topics like: guilt, shame, covid coping, humour, peace and more…
$160 – 1.5 hr/week for 8 weeks – this is a sliding scale. Talk to me about options if you are interested, but this is more than what’s available to you at this time. Willingness and commitment are as essential as self-support.
Image may contain: 1 person, standing, child, sky, outdoor and nature

This one is good. If you have been through something in your life that hurt the trajectory, you must listen to this.

Jill Drader is so many things. From our hearts to yours.