Beautifully Broken – The Great Canadian Woman

September 14, 2020

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Tawny Stowe

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Beautifully Broken

I once had someone hand me a song and say THIS IS YOU. The song was called “beautifully broken” by Government Mule. I was about 25 at the time, already married and divorced and well into a journey of abusing my body with alcohol, drugs, and sex. When the beautiful human presented this to me, I was taken aback. I neither viewed myself as beautiful nor broken, at least not at that time in my life. 

During those years of my life, I felt defiant, determined, depressed, lonely, and very lost. I spent the next ten years in intense pain, internal suffering, and running. I ran across three continents over 6 years and did anything I could to just keep moving. 

I believe I was running to avoid feeling broken. 

I dabbled in Reiki, Astrology, Self-Help and I kept receiving the message that I wasn’t broken, I was on a journey. I choose to chase the journey and ignore any idea of being broken.  How could somebody who was broken be the top sales rep for the Yellow Pages, become a Flight attendant just for the hell of it, learn to belly dance and speak Spanish just because I could, or travel the world and get paid for it? These accomplishments continued to aid me in justifying my success, despite my pain and internal suffering.

Eventually, this running away from myself brought me to my knees. One day, I just couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I had a million pounds of pressure on my entire body. I was living on a horse farm in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, in peak tourist season and suddenly I couldn’t move. I was too proud to tell anyone how much pain I was in. I felt the pain of disappointing my team and my boss far outweighed my personal pain and so I pushed through. 

I managed to complete the season burning out my adrenals and increasing inflammation to such an extent that I developed a type of anemia and Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease entered my life in 2011 and was the first point of breaking that began to let light in. It took me until 2019 to fully grasp where light was shining and what I could do with it, and it was a key turning point either way.

When you learn you have a disease, you have a couple of roads to take. I am quite feisty and so I tend to seldom take anything lying down. Curious about the root cause, I began to grow my own garden. I started to learn about plants and food systems and get reacquainted with the seasons. This started a ball of momentum and I found myself enrolling in school to understand large scale food production and got my diploma in Agriculture Production. 

Always willing to look for solutions, my agriculture diploma showed me more problems. I was distraught and depressed until I discovered Permaculture, or permanent agriculture, which broke open more of me.  This became another tipping point in the long road to healing.

Permaculture is largely based on slow movements and viewing things as a whole rather than individual parts. It is rooted in Indigenous wisdom of a way to interact with the Earth while caring deeply for humans for all to thrive. The more time I spent with my hands in the dirt, the more I began to heal. The gardens led me to herbs and eventually to an herbalist. I soon became immersed with the idea that plants and herbs were more than just medicine for the physical body; they were for the soul to heal too.

The more I worked with plants, the more I realized how much internal pain I was in, and sadly the more I tried to numb. It was as if the plants became my mirrors, and sometimes I couldn’t bear the reflection.  When I veered away from the plants, I would get sick. 

Feisty has two ends of the spectrum:  one is determined to learn, grow, and heal no matter what life throws at you, and the other is sheer stubbornness to push through no matter what the expense. Although I began to realize the plants were what held me and kept me feeling whole, I wasn’t quite ready or able to heal. That would take an entire rebirthing after the physical birth of my son.

I didn’t know it at the time, but there was an ancestral reason for why being in cities, being devoid of rivers and forests, and spending too much time indoors was contributing to my pain and dis-ease. It was sometime in 2011 when my family finally came out of the closet. My great uncle decided to dig into our family lineage. He went down a rabbit hole and uncovered that his mother (my great grandmother) was Metis. We had NO idea. Great Grandma Alice had left Saskatchewan and vowed to never tell anyone of the Indigenous truth. 

The heartbreak and abuse that Metis suffered out West was something she wanted to leave behind. Alice left broken. She was hurting and desperate for a new way of living. She moved from everything that she knew and she tried to become “normal”. About 11 years into her “normal” and three kids later, she broke again. This time she left everything including her children and ran to the woods. These are my interpretations of her journey, she has long passed without ever speaking a word of her struggles.  When she ran, she went back to the lakes and rivers, something I only now am beginning to truly understand.

Our ancestors were one with the land. 

They roamed the rivers to trade and they hunted the plains as a family. They married the customs of their community as well as the people within it. They were never alone. 

When I learned of our connection to the river and lakes, to the land and to the seasons, I finally gave myself permission to acknowledge that longing inside of me that has always known where I belong. It is not alone and it is not in a city. 

As I learned about what life in the plains was like and how important reading the seasons and working with nature was to survival, I gave myself permission to throw myself into Permaculture and being one with the Earth. I gave myself permission to eat foods that were more inline with how my family ate through the seasons and this is where my healing finally began: permission to be me. 

As we explored my great grandmother’s lineage, we unravelled that we are distantly related to both Louis Riel and Cuthbert Grant. This is a powerful line (and historically mis-represented according to the Metis) of determined, healing activists. Learning that Cuthbert Grant chose peace, that he knew laws and politics and he used them to found a settlement brings tears of hope and joy to my cheeks. I was stunned to learn that Cutherbert Grant became a skilled medic, and began using medicine to care for his people. What I loved even more was the re-telling of how he could be both a political activist in high society and simply one of his kin when not representing them (much learning of Louis Riel and Cuthbert Grant comes from Jean Teillet and her book: The North-West is our Mother). 

Learning about my past cracked open my present. Once again I began to break open.

As I continue to give myself permission to acknowledge my lineage, my past, my journey and my present, I finally have come to terms with this idea of being “beautifully broken”.  Celiac disease, Permaculture, Metis heritage, Covid-19, black lives matter and now the homeschool movement continues to break me. 

I am breaking open in so many ways that I never imagined possible.  

I have discovered that for me, it is possible to be broken while simultaneously understanding there is nothing to fix. I do not wish to fix or undo all the ways I am breaking. This breaking apart is essential to allowing the light to get through. 

As the world continues to change, I ask myself what would Cuthbert do? I believe he would care deeply. He would care enough to take action and he would use his privilege to support and care for those he deemed family. I believe that he would apply medicine to the wounds of his people’s mind, body and souls to not only ensure their survival, but to empower them to go forward and continue his work as an activist for the love of the land and its people. This is in my blood too. 

I believe I am here with this bestowed gift to see in the dark, this powerful lineage coursing through my veins to help create a generation of healing activists. I believe I am here to help illuminate the light that is seeping in between the many cracks of our lives. It is in these cracks that the remembering of the connection of the mind-body-soul comes to light and where we embody our own true wisdom. 

When we allow ourselves to let the light in, we can lead from the heart and become healing activists with the same passion to care for the Earth and all of its People.  

13 replies on “Beautifully Broken”

Such a powerful storey filled with deep truths. You are a gift to our world, and I look forward to watching your journey continue to unfold.

Beautiful! You are an amazing role model and inspiration to so many! Thank you for staying open and curious and sharing your learning and journey with us!

Wow❤️ This is beyond beautiful. I feel broken in so many ways. You sharing this gives me hope that there it is possible to overcome my fears and push through the barriers. Physical/Mental and Emotional.
Thank you so much for sharing!

Wow Tawny, such beauty fills the pages of your life. You are a truly amazing friend who shares life lessons and knowledge of simple living, showing the rest of the world it can be done. I’m so excited to be part of your circle.

This brought tears to my eyes.
“One with the land” 💓
Your words evoke so much truth. We are all wholeheartedly connected to the earth. It’s time to remember this connection and return during the “breaking”.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

So beautiful! I feel we all get broken along the way, in different ways and aspects of life through different traumas that we experience ajd we need someone like you to help guide us to just accepting the broken as a part of us not something we need to fix! Thank you!

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