Life Stories

Hello from LBJ!

I woke up one day and I was in LBJ (you like that rhyme?)

Not sure how I got here. I can tell you the steps I took along the way though, and the emotional forces that drove those steps. It all started with waking up to the world of social justice and wanting to create such a large wave that no one would be able to go back to being the same. No business could continue as usual.

Sadly, I’m not Hercules and have not been able to produce such a force. I have been able, however, to keep walking.

My waking up happened about twenty years ago and it preceded the other waking up, the one where you realize that you have to be the change (sorry for the cliché!). In my fighting-for-justice journey I met someone, a shaman actually, who was able to read my chart using the Mayan calendar. He told me all kinds of encouraging things about me, but then he said that I had to go heal myself. I was charged to walk away from the struggle and to go be happy. “Go play!”

That was a monumental order. As a survivor of extremism, I didn’t have the wiring to just think of myself and enjoy life. Everything about it was foreign! If those words would have come from a privileged white person I would have rejected them outright, but being that they came from an indigenous person in the heart of the fight, I knew I had to obey.

So off I went to learn to play. This required me to let go of a million layers of guilt and shame, and this in turn required me to pull up the bones of the cult in which I was raised and analyze them one by one.

Forgiveness for self. Forgiveness for people who hurt me. Mostly, though, forgiveness for people who hurt the ones I love. When you hurt the ones I love, this is where my dragon fire truly comes out! Can’t scorch the earth though! (I’m not Daenerys.)

Training your dragons is a long journey. It takes looking deeper into the soul of humanity and seeing that we are all broken. We are all fighting to survive. We are all trying to be something worth remembering. We need our inherent dignity to be recognized – and not because we have achieved anything or because of some social standing, but because we are human. Our spirits fight against expression straitjackets. The world makes rebels of us. Surrounding people, afraid of what lies on the other side of mutiny, try to suppress the budding voices. Some of these sink back under the soil; some declare war. Still others go underground only to grow deeper and deeper roots.

Living in these underground tunnels can cause one to forget what daylight is like. And so it happens, you can end up one day at LBJ and not know how you got there. I can show you the tunnels that I used; they had a very zig-zag pattern. Sometimes they took turns away from the direction I knew I needed to go. This was always uncomfortable.

We are conditioned to think that we must be on a steady rise and do nothing but climb. No time for rest, for valleys of enjoyment, for forgetting the world for a moment. Even years later, I still could not fully live out the shaman’s orders. This is hard because of the endless nature of social guilt – with all the social justice wars being waged, how can you just think of yourself?? This background noise, even when one is removed far from the struggle, still persists.

To be at peace, one has to completely let go. The fight. The journey. All the things you thought you were going to do. The Sandia Mountain was the perfect place for such a surrender! It is filled with the spirits of the ancestors that know a deeper truth. A non-westernized way of fighting. Use the force.

The ancestors are alive and well. They live inside of us and are happy to speak through us. As indigenous, we carry this in our DNA. Some need to remember. Many need to be re-awakened. The fight for indigenous freedom, justice and rights can be won through the deeper rumblings of the soul of who we truly are. Once afoot, no force will be able to match our strength. No amount of money, guns or twisted policy would be able to suppress us again.

Back to how I got here. In the superficial world, the one that can be measured and weighed, the one that many call the real world, I took steps that people needed to see so they could believe that I was on the right path. Everyone needs a sign. It’s hard to believe in a person’s word if they have nothing of “value” to show. (Value being something measurable in the accepted real world.) Truth is, I needed signs also. The real world matters to me – a lot! I love measurable realities. You know how things work by the results they produce. That’s a finite thing that us humans can understand. We need those kinds of blocks.

I’ve adopted real-world measuring sticks a long time ago, in fact. I used them to measure cult reality against actual reality and found my own way to become un-brainwashed. I was ruthless. No belief system could survive that didn’t pass the fires of real-worldness. The voice of the ancestors had no qualms with this. They were right there with real world. Go this way. Don’t do that. Don’t trust that person. Etc. It all matters because of the effect they have is in the world where you live out your dreams, where you struggle to survive, where you hope to find a place to sit comfortably. The real world.

So in this real world I did things like getting a job and sticking to it (no matter how much ptsd wanted to sink me). Then I decided to finish school so I could get a better job, one in which I could also find a way to make a difference in the real world. I also did tons of intangible things like making friends with anyone and everyone and, because I was already set on the journey of forgiving humanity for all its errors, no one could do wrong in my eyes. I was always a safe place. This made me have lots and lots of friends. Some of these friends had mountains of experience in the real world and pointed me in the right direction. So I followed the trail and ended up getting accepted at Cornell. It never occurred to me that I was going to apply until the day of.

Sometimes people pegged me as an elitist. The accusation would make me blink a lot from incomprehension. Others tagged me as a social climber. I didn’t even know there was a ladder to climb! Of course those opinions were sidelined.

After graduating I found myself back in Austin. Because I had made a vow to “never again work for a company that profits off the suffering of human beings and animals” a lot of places were off limits in terms of getting a job. Working for the Texas government to help improve K-12 education was a perfect place though. I still love what I learned there! The Attorney General’s office was also appropriate. But because both these jobs were kind of admin-ish, it was easy for me to get bored. I wanted to be out in the fields, hopefully in a war zone, keeping people from killing each other.

As it turns out, LBJ is the perfect place to look at the effects of civil conflict policy, actions and reactions. All the things that have been tried. What works, what doesn’t. What people believe. What is the deeper history behind it all? This is so fascinating! So, I don’t know how I got here, but I can tell you I could not have planned for a better place!

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