Forgiveness. Hope.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Learning and loving everything about myself.

What does it mean to love yourself? To truly love who you are? Not just self acceptance, but truly loving the person you are. Meaning loving the way you think, loving the way you respond in stressful situations, loving the thoughts you have daily, loving the actions you take through your day, through out your life. I can now say I honestly, without a doubt, with no fear, love myself. I love who I am! With all the challenges, heartache, death, betrayal, rejection, struggle, pain – I am growing, I have grown. I’ve grown and I’ve learned to cherish life, each minute, each hour, each new day. I wouldn’t change a thing. I take that back…I would give anything to have my Nicole back. That is the truth. Her death and every challenge I’ve faced has made me realize how precious love, respect, trust, commitment, responsibility and knowledge are.

For years I blamed the doctor.

For years I blamed the man I was married to.

I made myself believe that if only, if only I had a doctor who cared. If only he hadn’t insisted. If only he had offered an alternative.  If only I wasn’t ashamed of who I was and where I came from.

I made myself believe that if only I had a marriage that was void of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.

If only. If only. If only…

When I stopped blaming the doctor and an abusive partner, I started to blame myself. Afterall, I was the only person who could have stopped it all. I was the only person who could have, should have said no. But I didn’t and for years I carried a secret. I carried guilt. I carried shame. I carried pain. I carried a tremendous sense of unworthiness. I carried everything but the one thing I should have and I hated myself for it.

I was pregnant. I found myself in crisis 13 years ago. I was in an abusive, traumatic relationship with the man in my life at the time and I was pregnant for the fifth time. At the time, I was trying to survive. I was trying to hold things together for my 2yr old, my 3yr old, my 7yr old and my 11yr old. How was I pregnant, again? Why? How could we escape now? How can we escape now? All questions I kept asking over and over in my head. I had no family where we lived. I had no friends who I could confide in. I was alone and I had no hope. I made two decisions.

I made it through that time with my four children I thought, in a healthy, strong way. It is only until recently that I’ve realized I’ve never forgiven myself for doing what I did all those years ago. I had failed to truly acknowledge that time in my life. I had buried that time, my actions, and my pain away and never spoke about it. I’ve told one person. One person out of all the people I know. One person knows the entire story beside myself. Even after finally telling someone I still felt unworthy. I still felt that I truly did not deserve goodness, kindness, peace, joy and love.

These last several months I have in a completely genuine, vulnerable way opened up and allowed pain to run its course. I carry no more secrets. I have faced my fears. I have recognized and acknowledged the guilt, shame and hate I’ve had toward myself. I have accepted. I have accepted what I did. With that acceptance hope has begun to flood the void I’ve felt for so long. And there is more…Hope is not alone. There is acceptance. There is desire. There is committment. There is determination. There is motivation. There is action. There is transformation. There is forgiveness. There is chance.

It has taken me more than 13 years to truly learn to love myself. I have and I continue to learn to love myself. I’ve forgiven myself. There is a sense of peace. A sense of balance. There is hope. There is love. Love. Love. Love.

If you are in the midst of a violent marriage, violent relationship and you find yourself pregnant. Know there is hope. Whatever your decision – if you decide to end the pregnancy. If you agree to have yourself sterilized. If you decide to carry your baby full term and keep her/him. If you opt to have your baby adopted. Whatever you decide, KNOW, please KNOW there is always hope and you are valuable, you are good and you deserve love. You are not alone. GAWD, it feels like it. Trust me, I know the feeling but you are not alone. You can ask for help. You do not have to be ashamed.

I am extremely grateful for the following doctors. They have helped me to see endless possibilities. Knowing that the wife of a friend possibly works for one of these doctors was the kindling that reignited my hope and has led to an understanding that whatever the future may hold I am at peace. I have four beautiful, amazingly kind, good-hearted children now ages 15, 16, 20 and 24 and if the future holds a fifth or a sixth I am honored & blessed, and if not, well I am grateful for the chance, for the hope and for forgiveness…balance and peace, always.

Wishing you all a beautiful NEW YEAR filled with new beginnings, endless possibilities, love, joy, peace, forgiveness and hope…

A forever grateful mom,

-J

Hope not for changing the past, but for the future.

Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center – Dr. Charles W. Monteith & Dr. Gary S. Berger  – North Carolina

Center 4 Tubal Reversal – Dr. Eliran Mor – Southern California

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Giving, loving and living…

…sigh. What would you do if you knew how much time you did not have left on this earth? Would you tell your family? Would your heart overflow with gratitude? Would you be kinder? Would you say “I love you” more? Would you forgive yourself? Would you apologize to those you hurt or wronged? Would still allow fear to paralyze you (emotionally and physically). Would you just give up on life and waste the bit of time you do have left? Would you deliberately wound and hurt (get back at physically, emotionally, and spiritually) those who hurt you knowing you would be gone in time and not have to deal with the rotten, bitter, vile, hateful energy you left in the universe?

A few weeks ago while in New Mexico a dear friend shared with me his heartbreakingly sad news. His father was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors shared with the family that he had at best 9-12 months left to live. I was home in New Mexico at the time having had already spent a couple of weeks there to restore balance, take part in ceremony and savour the love and warmth of my family and place. My dear friend took time away from his father’s bedside on Veteran’s day to spend the day with me. I accompanied him on a short road trip as he was to give a Veteran’s day speech in a small community. I look back on that day and I am truly grateful for his time, his willingness to listen, to comfort, to understand and words of wisdom. I appreciate his honesty and perspective and it helped me tremendously. Unfortunately, for him his father slipped away with death the next day. He did not have the 9-12 months the doctors had predicted. There was no more time. Days later I asked him if he was there, with his dad when he slipped away. He shared that he was with him moments before. He said he knew his dad was leaving and he knew what he had to do, so he stepped out of the room. He knew his dad well enough to know that he wanted the time to die alone. I cried.

My mother is the best and the strongest person I know. She is a fighter. She is a survivor. She is my mama. My mother has always been bluntly honest with me when it comes to knowing about the world. She didn’t filter her discussions about love and sex. She told me how different they both are and how easily you can confuse the two. She told me exactly what to expect. She was honest about what I would feel. She was almost completely right about the emotions that came along with it. She was also very honest and open with me about the violence she lived with. She told me about the time she thought she was going to die by his hands. She told me when she decided to leave and never return to that abusive relationship. There are other things she didn’t have to tell me. Through her actions and words I saw first hand how she cared for my grandfather, her father. How he was her everything. I saw first hand her generous heart and kindness when she would take in family who had no place else to go. I saw first hand as I tagged along with her and we would walk to people’s houses and she would sit with them and just listen, listen to them share their stories of their current struggles, pain and grief. Sometimes she would cook them a meal while we were there. She would fry up some potatoes with spam or ground beef and make fresh tortillas. She would tell me to go see if there animals needed water or food. She didn’t have to tell me but I knew I was to be quiet. I knew these visits were not about her or me. I knew that she was GIVING what she had and that was her time.

You’re probably thinking right about now –what is this blog post about? I share the aforementioned because they are both two completely different moments in my life but both have something in common. Time.

I know how much time I don’t have. Because I know, I want every person in my life who has ever had an impact (small or big) to know that I value them and I am truly grateful for them. I want the people in my life to KNOW that they are important, that they matter to me, I care about them and will forever be grateful for them and their time. Through out my life there have been people who have gone out of their way to show me how much they care by gifting me with their time. Some have offered advice, words of encouragement, understanding, patience and simple kindness. Others such as my mama have shared intimate, personal, heartbreaking never told before stories of life to show me that life is good and that people are good. I can still hear her words, “Awéé, you are so good to people. You are good to your sister. You help people and are so trusting. That is how I know you.” Words that have touched me deeply and words that I am so thankful for. My heart melts and I transform into the little chiizi Navajo girl every time my mom calls me, awéé (baby).

Family, friends, co-workers, people I have only had the pleasure of spending a short time with, YOU all have to know you did something for me (in your own unique ways), you touched me and showed me how to be kind. I don’t want to ever be too late and regret not telling you. I am kinder because of YOU. I am full of gratitude because of YOU. I am full of love because of YOU. I tell those I love, “I love you,” everyday because of YOU. There is no fear because I know who I am. I would not and will never, never, never deliberately set out to hurt anyone. If I have I am so sorry. I will and would do all I could to make it right. I truly am grateful for amazingly good-hearted cubs. I am grateful for an amazingly resilient, strong Navajo family. I am truly grateful for my place, the land that heals me. I am grateful for the smiles, words, & warm touches. I will live my life giving, protecting and loving. Giving and protecting the land that has always healed me. Giving, protecting and loving my family, my community, nation (Navajo Nation) and friends. Giving and loving myself.  I have an amazingly beautiful life filled with amazingly beautiful people and places. Thank YOU! Thank YOU! Thank YOU!

I love with all that I am,

-J

…a beautiful gift. time.

it is so easy to confuse vulnerability for weakness. but why get so caught up with being bigger than life, than your life…than who you really are? recently i have regained an enormous amount of strength and beauty in being exactly who i am. my challenges are nourished by my tears and my tears have allowed those challenges to transform into countless stories and each story shapes who i am. i never viewed my tears as a gift before but what an amazing gift the ability to cry is. countless tears have been my source of comfort. i am grateful to be my own source of comfort. there is an enormous sense of strength in that knowledge. i have beautiful gifts. unique gifts. stories. unique stories. stories of a one of a kind life. stories of a rez girl growing up a tomboy. stories of a rez girl born of a clan, born to run, born to give life, born to lead, born to love, born to live. stories of pain. stories of loss. stories of a naïve, stubborn rez girl transforming into a strong, beautiful, motivated, diné woman who allows herself to be truly seen and understood, just as she is. i know there is beauty and strength (nourished by struggle) in the ability to feel deeply for others and the ability to cherish others over oneself without losing who you are. my strength and beauty come from knowing exactly who i am, knowing where i come from and trusting myself…Sa’ah naaghaii bik’eh hozho. if you are struggling and are hurting believe in yourself. trust yourself. love yourself. be yourself. you will get stronger. cherish time especially if you know how much you don’t have.

may endless happiness, goodness and peace be yours…

-J

Writing and healing…

Love…hope…love….hope

Peace…joy…peace…joy…

Grief…pain…grief…pain

Dark…light…dark…light

Life…Death…Life…Death

New Beginnings…

Shiawéé in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed.

Shiawéé (my baby) in Seattle a few days before she was shot & killed. -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Forever shiawéé

Forever shiawéé -RIP- Nicole Westbrook

Have you ever watched someone you love slowly slip away from your life?

I walked into your room, walked right next to your side, grabbed your hand, leaned over and whispered “Aunty is here, Baby Girl. Aunty is here,” and I gently kissed your forehead. Your hands were so soft and so warm. My lips lingered on your forehead because in that moment you gave me peace and hope. Yes, you…you gave me peace and hope. Seeing you, seeing you fighting for your life gave me hope that you were going to recover and be okay. All I wanted, all we wanted was for you to be okay. I kissed you and I looked at you and your eyes were open fluttering as if trying to tell me something. There was so much rapid eye movement and then there were tears. The nurse told me all the eye movement was due to your brain injury but to this day I know you knew I was there. Shiawéé you knew I was there and you knew mom was coming. I called your mom as I stood next to you. I put the phone to your ear and your heart rate shot up. Your eyes moved even faster as if you were searching, fighting your way back and then the tears streamed out.

Witnessing life slowly slip away from this world is really hard to explain to someone who has not lived it. The phone call at 4am on April 22, 2012 plays over and over in my head as loud and ever present as the life support machine in the hospital room. One is a sound of despair and crying in bitter grief. The other is a meditative pulse, slow and predictable, a humming of breath that resonates in the body through a comforting yet disquieting sound scape.

When someone slips away from your life, slips away with death you are jolted onto a road that will take so many twist and turns, ups and downs, that you feel like your are on the worst roller coaster of your life and the ride never ends. There is nothing you can do to make sense of the moment someone you love slips farther and farther into a world not meant for you at that time.

Wednesday morning when I arrived at the hospital I immediately went to your room and when I walked into your room and saw the doctor, mom and everybody there was no question that your time with us was coming to an end. There was no struggle. Your eyes no longer flickered. They kept you completely covered to keep you warm. The machines did all the breathing. The doctor checked your eyes one last time and made the call. We were all there and we sat with you until the end. None of us had ever witnessed death firsthand (except Aunty Charlene). We all tried to will you back to life, but it was over. Once the struggle ended, you looked so peaceful. Being there when you died was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. No matter how sad, I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to be with you, shiawéé and loving you as you left this world.  You died in peace to meet dy’ in’…the creator. The Diné way is not to hang on after you are gone. They say if we hang on your spirit may attach to a place, something or someone so we are not to bind you to this earth with our grief.  We must wash up, take táádidíín (corn pollen) and go on with life.  I love you so much, Baby Girl.

Writing and healing with the knowledge that new stories are waiting to be written. Recovering, rebuilding, loving and living with peace and a grateful heart.

Náá’ahideeltsééh, – Aunty

It’s time to begin…

“It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am”

The last couple of days have been filled with an overwhelmingly peaceful sense of forgiveness that I never could have imagined, especially at this current moment in my life. I know now…I know today more than ever that being unforgiving and untrusting is not ever going to be who I am. I love and when I love, I love deeply, it’s just who I am. Rejection, departures, death it all hurts, they are all heartbreaking and cause a tremendous, almost unbearable amount of emotional pain. But they will not keep me from being kind, grateful, forgiving, trusting, and loving – from being who I am. The pain that comes from loving so deeply is helping to make me softer, kinder, more compassionate, more trusting and has led me to honor and value life even more.

In the midst of heartbreak. In the midst of constant journal writing and what seems like a constant state of introspection I can see myself again. The last couple of days I’ve said yes to things and people I normally would have said no to. The fear of being alone, of not being balanced, of not being myself is being flooded by joy & gratitude. I’m kinder to myself. I am loving myself as I should have been all along. My life is moving forward. Life is no longer what happens around me it is happening with me, with my full attention and respect. I am grateful for the goodness in each new day.

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?

– J

Thoughts About Changes and New Beginnings

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My sister on October 12, 2005

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Alan (Marshal) Westbrook from Shiprock, New Mexico KIA 10-01-2005

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In memory of my niece, Nicole Westbrook

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Me and the little man of my life, Chad Westbrook (my nephew)

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My little man, C. Westbrook

Marshall Westbrook, a 43-year-old sergeant in the New Mexico National Guard, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded under his Humvee in Iraq on October 1, 2005.

His 41-year-old brother, Kenneth, died in 2009 of injuries he suffered in a firefight in Afghanistan.

On April 22, 2012 a bullet had struck Nicole’s left cheek and shattered her spine. Her heart stopped, depriving her brain of oxygen. Nicole Westbrook’s heartbeat was restored, but she never regained consciousness. On Wednesday morning  April 25, 2012, we watched her die.

My sister Joleen Westbrook has lost her husband Alan, attended his brother Kenneth’s funeral, and braided her daughter Nicole’s hair for the last time as  she lay on her hospital bed declared brain dead.

My sister has been through all this and today I received an amazingly heartfelt message from her titled: I know you’re wondering what will happen in…The next chapter of your life.

She told me to just do my best and to stay strong enough to move ahead, because there are some wonderful rewards waiting for me. She said it won’t make sense right away, but over the course of time answers will come and decisions will be proved to have been the right ones. She said don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up on love.   She said “continue to put things in perspective like you always do.” “You are strong, sister” she said *crying*.

Hands down, watching my sister scream with grief and lose herself has been the most difficult thing that has come with the loss of Alan and Nicole. Alan and Nicole’s death continues to be one of the first things she reminds herself of when she wakes up, and it continues to be one of the last things she thinks about before she falls asleep; it  continues to consume her. But somehow she is able to reach out to me in a way only a sister can and offer me what is left of her heart and love me, dearly.

My sister is one of the strongest people I know and she gives me the strength to keep moving forward, to not settle and accept that I deserve goodness, honesty and true love. She is not perfect and is struggling yet she opens her eyes to each new day and today she touched me.

Thank you sister for loving me…

– J.

Hope forever in our hearts & love that has the power to move us

The commitment of revolutionary love is sustained by preventing nihilism and despair from imposing thier own life-denying inevitability in times of social strife and cultural turmoil. Anchored in narratives of trangression and dissent, love becomes the foundation of hope. In this way, love can never be reduced to personal declarations or pronouncements but exist always in asymmetrical relations of anxiety and resolve, interdependence and singularity. Love, in this Freirean sense, becomes the oxygen of revolution, nourishing the blood of historical memory. It is through reciprocal dialogue that love is able to serve as a form of testimony to those who have struggled and suffered before us, and whose spirit of struggle has survived efforts to extinguish it and remove it from the archives of human achievement…while we often abandon hope, we are never abandoned by hope.  –Peter McLaren, pg. 172 Che Guevara, Paulo Freire and the Pedagogy of Revolution (2000)

The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love. Dr. King distinguished between three kinds of love: eros, “a sort of aesthetic or romantic love”; philia, “affection between friends” and agape, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” He said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”  –The King Center on Nonviolence

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profits motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole of Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalist of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits our with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.  –Martin Luther King, A Time to Break Silence (1967)