Carol A. Hand
In the past, waiting for a response from others was always the hardest part of completing any initiative for me. When I created something to share with others, it was often an experiment to try something new. I wondered if and how others would respond. I remember sharing this with my graduate advisor when I handed in exam papers. “I always wonder if what I write or say will make sense to others. Is it brilliant, confusing, or merely mediocre?” His response was slow. “Your work is so – it’s so – interdisciplinary.” That didn’t really address my anxiety.
When I submitted my first ever play for review a few days ago, the same questions surfaced. And then I realized that my reason for writing and submitting this work, and other works before it, was not really about others’ reactions. Sharing stories, ideas, and possibilities about crucial issues past, present and future is an attempt to inspire productive dialogue and constructive changes.
I hope the play will make a difference for at least some of the reviewers. Maybe it will even be selected as one of the plays that will be performed for an audience. But once submitted, what happens next is not something I can control. So why should I be concerned? It’s a diversion from the more important question I should be asking, “What’s next?”
Photo: An unidentified perennial in my hummingbird garden – early July 2015
If you breathe your spirit and heart into what you do, how others respond is really not the most important consideration. You’ve done what you can to share something meaningful. In this case, what I tried to do was to honor the words and experiences of others who trusted me to share their stories in hopes that their suffering might help others. Those who have followed my blog faithfully for the past couple of years would recognize some of the stories highlighted in the play. Uncle Raymond and Auntie Lucille share their early childhood experiences within their Ojibwe reservation community. They describe how these and later childhood experiences affected them throughout their lives, and the ways in which the lives of the next generations were influenced as well.
The title of the play comes from the words Auntie Lucille whispered in my ear when I was visiting the elders’ center during lunch nine months after my study began – “You wouldn’t want to hear my story.” Her warning that it wasn’t a happy story proved true. She was removed from her family and community when she was nine and spent the next nine years in an abusive White foster home far from the reservation. Yet her story is distressingly similar to that of so many Native American children throughout the centuries of continuing colonial oppression. Child removal and out-placement practices still continue today.
Uncle Raymond’s contrasting story demonstrates that there have always been effective culturally appropriate alternatives to keep children safe in their own tribal communities.
I don’t want to spoil the suspense by sharing the ending. But I can say that the ending brought healing tears to my eyes while it warmed my heart with hope. I have no way of guessing how it will affect the reviewers. Regardless of what they say, I am grateful for the important things I learned as a result of trying something that took me outside of my comfort zone. I’m also deeply grateful to Diane Lefer at Nobody Wakes Up Pretty for the encouragement to try. (Chi miigwetch, Diane. I have learned so much from your blog, books, and televised interviews.)
I promise to let you all know what happens with the play. In the meantime, I send my gratitude and best wishes to all.
Photo: The hummingbird garden – August 12, 2015
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