A paper for those of us a little older…
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Full Circle by Gail Linklater

By way of introduction let me say, I’m that crazy old lady who lives in the bush with 7 cats and 2 dogs. I talk to the birds, have over 20 wind chimes and have become proficient with a slingshot.
I wasn’t always a crazy old lady. I wasn’t always old and often I wasn’t a lady. But, crazy, most of my life I have considered myself crazy. Most of my life people have tried to convince me see things differently than I do.
For years I worried about my sanity. I worried that others would find out and lock me away. I became very adept at passing for sane. The truth is I have seldom seen the world and people the way others describe them. Delusional? Paranoid?
I don’t want to be a ‘mom basher’ but it really is my mother’s fault. She taught me to think for myself: ‘If everyone else jumped out a window would you jump out, too?” She taught me to treat everyone kindly and not to judge others. She taught me to look for similarities with others and not for differences. She said I didn’t have to like everyone but I had to treat everyone with kindness. Of course, she also said, that I was never to hit anyone unless they hit me first then I better darned well hit last.
So you see, it was mom’s fault! I grew up abhorring bullies. What can I say? I hated the haters! I bullied the bullies! It didn’t matter who you were, adult or child, if you hit someone in my presence, I hit last. And that is where I learned to be sneaky. In order to get in the last hit with someone with more power, you have to be sneaky. And I felt justified!
With some maturity, I recognized my twisted justifications for ill actions towards bullies and came to believe that even bullies deserved kindness. More importantly, I deserved the personal well-being and peace of mind that comes with doing no harm.
My mother gave me the passion and the skills for being a strong advocate. Being an advocate, I developed a degree of tenacity and a certain desire to understand. For both my mother’s and my sake, let me add here and now, I only use these skills for the power of good! I became a social worker!!!
Years later I went to university and became a social worker. Then years later, with awareness gained through living life, meeting like-minded people who appeared pretty sane, and through suffering and learning I became an even better social worker.
Having had 2 careers in the north: the first as a teacher in the early 70’s and more recently as a social worker providing crisis response to northern Nishinawbek communities I want to use my white middleclass privilege to shed light on northern issues.
I helped detour traffic from the corner of Memorial and Harbour Expressway December 5 in support of the Dakotas pipeline protest. One of the key themes throughout this protest has been “water is life.” Yet most of the northern Reserves do not have drinkable water. Even following the boil water advisory, the water is discoloured and has a taste. Last week, while up north I bought water: 2 litres for $9.15. On a 6 day visit I went through 4 jugs of water. Not affordable for families of local people.
Water is life. Water is a human right. Yet many people in Canada do not have potable water. Where are the media? Where are the protests?
Elders with limited mobility live in old wooden houses heated by wood stoves. They know, and they say they know, if there is ever a fire, they will not get out alive. Where are the media? Where are the protests?
Recently, I was in a northern community for a funeral of a very young girl. Four chiefs were in the room. Three Nishinawbek ministers were in the room. Three crisis teams were in the community providing on-site practical support. And visitors from many communities were in the room. That is northern reality. When there is a crisis, when there is a tragedy, people come to love and support. They bring money and food.
I hope to use this column as the means to inform others about the northern realities; the daily realities; the big and the small realities; the happy and the sad realities. Just be aware that these realities are filtered through the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual eyes of a crazy old white woman who lives in the bush with 7 cats and 2 dogs and talks to birds.