- Parent Category: NFIC Columnists & Contributors
- Category: D.J. Vanas
- Published: 16 September 2008
By D.J. Vanas © 2008
News From Indian Country 9-08
You know the feeling of making paper mache with your kids and the sloppy strips of wet paper arent sticking to the balloon and you realize you forgot to add flour?
Or when youre eating at your favorite restaurant, ordered your favorite dish and its good, but something seems off and then you hear the new cook forgot to add basil.
When that secret ingredient is missing, it can unbalance the whole experience. Life is much like this in that we can be happy with our families and careers but allow ourselves to get too busy to incorporate the secret ingredient that makes life even sweeter our friends.
My friend Dave got married recently and it felt like a homecoming that I truly needed. Dave, Bobby, Syuk, Mike, Andy and me reminisced about attending the Air Force Academy and the years spent at Los Angeles Air Force Base, living in Hermosa Beach on the beach. We savored the memories of the sand, the sun and those significant moments in our early lives and careers. We also talked about our current and future goals and dreams.
The irony wasnt lost on me either when I remembered how we all used to worship the sun, had more hair, could play all day, dance all night and would discuss the challenges of dating or living with roommates until the wee hours. After 18 holes of golf, we were all sunburned, one had a hurt arm, another, a sore back. We spent the day discussing the challenges of marriage and living with kids. On the dance floor at the reception, instead of tearing up the rug, I almost tore a ligament in my knee.
My, how times have changed
but our friendships have not. They still run deep and are a source great happiness for me. Sharing time with these people who continue to mean so much was like adding an ingredient to my life I didnt know I was missing.
A similar experience happened at the UNITY Conference a couple weeks ago where 1,000 Native youth gathered from across the country. I saw special people that have inspired, supported and encouraged me for many years now. Dawn Chase was one of the very first clients to hire me so many years ago. Weve remained close friends since and she calls me soonka or little brother. Russ Coker, an inspiration to me, who first beat cancer and then went on to win a Tough Man contest! And Ive known Chance Rush, Pearl Yellowman and Jeri Brunoe since we were all starting off as speakers.
Over the years weve had deep, powerful conversations about personal challenges and those confronting our Native communities, weve shared times with our families and continue to cross paths as we serve Indian Country. And a hug and words of encouragement from the Odawa firecracker, my auntie Bea Shawanda, is always like medicine to my spirit!
Ive been with the friends above through the ups and downs of life through promotions, great achievements, getting our education, new careers, marriages, celebrations, the birth of our children and successes. Weve also been together through deployments, layoffs, divorces, health problems and losing those we love. Theyre the kind of friends that keep you laughing until it hurts and cry with you when that time comes. They have made my life richer and my highest hope is that Ive served them in the same way.
In our Native cultures, we revere the great circle of life birth, growth, gaining wisdom, passing it on to others and then passing into the next world. But in that great circle, I believe there are many smaller circles. Some of these we complete starting and ending a relationship or a job. But some of these smaller circles continue to turn when it comes to lifetime friends and relationships.
Sure, some friends come and go through the years, but the great ones are worthy of treasuring and preserving.
Find friends that inspire your dreams, not expire them for you. I remember critical moments in pursuit of my dreams where my friends would encourage me through fear and get me back on track. I remember talking to my friend Bobby when I was doubtful and reconsidering my decision about leaving the military to pursue the dream Im living today. He said, You only live once better make it count. Go for it. I wonder where Id be today if instead of inspiring my dream, he helped me to expire it, saying something like yeah, thatll be pretty tough if not impossible. Better to play it safe.
Make opportunities to reconnect. Accept that wedding invitation, attend that conference or go on that group vacation you got a call about. And if there arent any opportunities to reconnect, then create them! It can be as simple as a call or e-mail to reconnect or planning a retreat. Its too easy to get too busy and then we start to neglect those secret ingredients that make this journey so fulfilling and fun. In fact, I hope you make a commitment that when youre done reading this article (and youre nearly there) you will reach out to those great friends youve lost touch with or simply have allowed yourself to become too busy to be in touch.
Make a call, shoot an e-mail, set up a lunch or a visit. Dont let your treasured friends drift away. Our lives are less without them.
18th U.S. Office of Personnel Management (Denver, CO)
28-29th Northern Michigan University (Marquette, MI)
3-5th San Diego, CA
12-13th Indigenous Brain Injury Association (HOLD)
15-16th Siletz Self-Sufficiency Program (Lincoln City, OR)
17-21st DCI Tribal LeadershiConference (Honolulu, HI)
22-23rd Native Caring Conference (Coos Bay, OR)