About 6 weeks ago, I had a tangle with a small step ladder. It won. From roughly Memorial Day to the Fourth of July, I had to stay off my dominant foot. For the bulk of that time, I wore a hardly-sexy and totally-stifling aircast boot. Then last week, when my foot was almost well, I got stung on the arm by a red wasp near my porch.

Me and that wasp apparently have concurrent jurisdiction over my porch. Who knew? I had a nasty allergic reaction to the sting and it caused an icky chain of bodily events.

Usually, when my body is broken or in a funk, I can rely on my mental and spiritual wellness to eventually snap me out of it. But, that’s not been the case lately. One factor has been a season of loss. One factor has been. . . I read and process “the law” for a living (and sometimes also just for fun).

The United States Supreme Court just issued a bunch of decisions. And some of those decisions will undoubtedly hurt people. Some gravely so. And I have been in a mental mini-tailspin over some of these cases, in tandem with these other experiences.

The perfect storm. I have allowed the combination of lack of exercise, that court, and grief from several losses occupy my head space for long enough.

So, today is my Independence Day.

I strapped on my running shoes and started Day One of my post-injury training for an October event. I’m all in. I literally + figuratively pulled off the bandaid this morning. I went 5 miles in the 90 degree Oklahoma sun. Oklahoma hot. Soupy hot.

While I sweated profusely, I also prayed some. Today, I just feel lucky to be alive. I’m happy to have an athlete’s brain that knows I can do more than my body thinks it can. And, I feel blessed to have finally figured out how to really listen to my body — to find that sweet spot that allows me to scale up at a pretty good clip when I decide it’s time. It’s time.

On mile 3, I shed a few tears for 3 friends/relatives we memorialized over the last 10 days. On mile 2, I had some quiet time for the people who want to walk or run 5 miles, but will never be able to again. Or ever. And at some point, I chuckled for my loved ones that have zero desire to EVER do this.

After my workout, I went to water. Not just to cool off, but to deliberately go to water. A total cleanse, the way our ancestors intended.

When I got home, I iced down both feet to ensure that I can do this again tomorrow. Further and faster. And I praised God, Creator, Mother Nature. The light that lives in each of us.

My workout scenery today was not fancy. It was just an asphalt track in rural America. In the heart of the Cherokee Nation. Indian Country. Every person on that track this morning (except for two people) were Native. And those two are part of Native families and communities. A high school student-athlete pushing it really hard to get better and transform herself this summer. Old people just trying to stay healthy. Stay alive.

I soaked up that track and the few people around me. And it just doesn’t matter what 5 people in black robes in a marble building far away have to say about us and this place. This is our home. We will never be erased or stamped out. And every woman and girl on that track is a full human being. And she is loved.

We are undoubtedly in a stretch of really bad road. We have collectively seen this many times before. Our ancestors have won very BIG cases in that same court and once, almost immediately after that “win” – those same ancestors were removed and relocated to this place. Now this place is also sacred to us. We know a whole lot about the “rule of law” and what that has meant for people over time. The good and the very bad.

Our ancestors have also lost BIG in that same court. The pendulum swings back and forth. It’s all a dance. One step forward, two steps back. Resilience. Living our lives. Loving one another. And reminding myself not to yield too much of my headspace to anything for very long.

Today I’m all about pushing back. Pushing back on 6 weeks of necessary bodily inactivity. And pushing back to the bigger picture. The long game. Things across Indian country like #LandBack, yes. But also on the individual and collective level, focusing on #HeadBack and #BodyBack. For me. For you. For those that need us all to be that much stronger.

A fractured tiny bone. A pissed off wasp. The smell of a new baby. A gathering later today to share a meal with the ones that I love. To watch the glee in the eyes of a 14 year old boy as he blows something up in the night sky. We have control over so little, and yet so very much. Simultaneously.

I will celebrate July 4th and all the good things about it. Yes, I know that some of my people were referenced as “Merciless Indian Savages” in the United States Declaration of Independence. Yes, I know that the United States Constitution was conceived of, and written by, a few wealthy white men who did NOT believe (at all) that all men and women were created equally.

Yes, I know that some white men/women and some Cherokee men/women committed absolute horrors in denying human rights and dignity and freedom to generations of people based on racial supremacy. And I know that our governments and courts doubled down to force that hell, pursuant to so-called laws. So many unspeakable traumas. Theft of bodies and theft of land. I will never be able to fully wrap my mind around it.

And I also know this: America is a work-in-progress. Always has been and certainly will be for the foreseeable future. Just as I’m recommitting to making myself stronger, I’ll also do my tiny part to get the United States in shape, too. Vote. Donate money. Donate time. Donate brain power. Pick up litter on the side of the road. Whatever. Do something. Do all that we can.

Mindful of and committed to teaching this whole big imperfect picture, I will focus today on what can be. Be of a right mind. Set aside negatives unless those thoughts are repurposed for inspiration. I will honor those that have laid down their lives for just causes and mourn those that died for unjust ones. And I will celebrate America.

Like my post-workout body, America needs an ice bath, too. Be safe out there and love your people. If harm does come, try to not let it be compounded by self-infliction.

And take it from me: one probably shouldn’t stand on the very top of any ladder — even the small ones.

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