Looking At It All

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly
is they sense that once hate is gone they will be forced to deal with their own pain

James Baldwin

These days I don’t sense any prejudice in me.  Thirty years ago, however, I lived in Lethbridge, Alberta, near Canada’s largest Indian reserve.  (That’s what we called them back then.  Today they are appropriately referred to as First Nation reserves.)  Galt Gardens, our downtown park, was often well populated with “drunken Indians”, and my dislike of them hung on me like a stink.  I considered myself a humane fellow … but I made exceptions.

What I didn’t get at the time was that I too was addicted.  Not to alcohol or drugs, but to nose drops.  A squeeze bottle of Otrivin was essential equipment in my daily life.  A spray would open up my nasal passages briefly but would soon close them again.  I had a problem, one that I was essentially numb to.  “Carry on happily, Bruce.”

For perhaps ten years in the early 2000’s, I was addicted to sleeping pills.  As a teacher, I’d had many sleepless Sunday nights.  My doctor suggested that I add a second brand of sleeping pill for awhile.  I agreed, and soldiered on, taking three pills every night.  I didn’t realize that my mental dullness was impacting life at work and at home with Jody.  I eventually woke up, so to speak, and began a long weaning off the meds – one half of a pill less every month.

Although my prejudice against aboriginal folks declined over the years (and I don’t see any now), I look back and wonder whether it would have been there so strongly if I had been willing to look myself in the mirror and tell the truth – about nose drops, about lying to people when I was too sacred to tell the truth, about standing a girl up on a date …  I could go on.

During the last year, one reality about being a Zoom host presented itself.  I wasn’t very good at it.  The difference was that finally I could look my deficit in the eye.  “This is true, and I can improve.”  Which I’ve done.

There will be more moments of falling short, of not getting the job done.  I promise to go to the mirror … and to nod.  “This is what’s true right now.  It won’t be forever, but it is now.”

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