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Verna Bartlett

Lesson 2 – The Wanderer: Moments of Change

Goal: Learn about moments of change that begin to create our healing.

Activity: Listen to Verna Bartlett’s story and review the information and questions presented in this lesson for self-reflection.  Use these links to access the available resources with this lesson:  Verna Bartlett’s Bibliography, Anger Information Sheet, Feelings Resource Sheet, and the Historical Trauma Resource Sheet.

Wandering provides us the answers to our questions.

Domestic Violence and abuses create and support aloneness, poor self-esteem, self loathing, angry behavior, and despair.  It creates orphans of usually talented and social people.

In Lesson #1 we learned about denial of problems and the self loathing that occurs in abused people when they take the responsibility for the family dysfunction.  In Lesson # 2 we will listen to Verna’s story and identify the moments of change that occurred in her life.  We will identify places and supports that change can occur.

Moment of Change #1

Motivation for change is an interesting thing.  Sometimes we must wander through life and have the experiences of life to understand more how to live.  As we enter relationships and choose how we wish to live, we have more information available to us to make decisions.  As we have discussed, patterns of domestic violence often repeat themselves.  Chaos, alcohol use, fighting, cheating, and lying are often parts of these patterns.  Verna shares a very important moment of change that affected her motivation for change.  It is “I’m just tired of this.”

… In speaking of her abusive husband: “He went to work in the morning, and I crawled out of there; my eyes were both closed; my cheekbone was fractured; my nose was broken. I’m just tired of this; you know, being beat up.”   Verna Bartlett

Moment of Change #2

“So I go to my cousin’s graduation, and the speaker was Billy Mills. Now I didn’t have the foggiest who Billy Mills was. I did not know who Billy Mills was; I didn’t know what the Olympics was. I didn’t know much about Plains Indians, and he’s Sioux Indian. And he went to Haskell, an Indian boarding school in Kansas, and then he transferred to the University of Kansas.  But as soon as Billy Mills started talking, something went ‘click’ in my head. Just ‘click.’ And it showed the race. And I was glued to that screen. He was running last, and he moved up, he was mid-way. And I didn’t know how far it was. I didn’t know anything about races. He won the gold medal. I said, “Whoa! I’m going to go to college. I’m going to quit being in welfare. I’m going to do something to help my children and help my people.” Verna Bartlett

Verna went to her cousin’s graduation as a way to support someone she cared about.  She had no knowledge that the speaker would provide her the inspiration for change.  As she listened she found herself listening carefully and emotionally moved by what he accomplished as a Native American man.  She realized that he didn’t settle for being fourth or third or second.  She realized that he won the gold medal as someone that no one knew nor supported.

We call this moment of change, something went ‘click’ in my head”. Often in life a person or story or situation will occur that speaks directly to our heart.  It often cannot be explained or planned for.  It just is.  It is important to give yourself permission to listen and respond to these moments for they can be important times of change.  Verna was touched by Billy Mills’ story and realized that it was important for her to do what he had done.

Moment of Change #3

“…and here I see this article of Billy Mills that says: Don’t Give Up. And I just sat on the floor, and cried and cried and cried. Then the dry heaves hit me; nothing in my stomach but green liver bile. For three days, I threw up. Came down cold turkey, and I called Bernie, and I said, “Bernie, I’m ready to go into treatment, whatever that is.”  Verna Bartlett

We get tested as to how much we want to change.  Verna had begun to make changes in her life as she left domestic violent relationships and had started to go to college.  Even with these big decisions and changes, she continued to drink alcohol.  The alcohol was still a part of her life.  Alcohol is known to “numb” the emotions so that one cannot or does not feel the emotions of shame, confusion, sadness, loneliness, and anger.  This numbing effect protects us from feeling the hurt of these emotions.

Although her healing had begun with powerful steps towards independence and learning, the alcohol was beginning to affect her abilities to continue the healing path.  At a moment of struggle she discovered the message “Don’t Give Up” which stopped her from drinking and guided her to ask for help for her alcoholism.

Moment of Change #4

When we are able to complete a goal many things happen.  Our self-esteem improves and we feel success.  We find joy and happiness.  We are able to learn.  We develop the understanding that we are capable.  We learn that we have the ability to manage our lives.  Verna demonstrates a very important moment of change called, “I stayed. I completed. I learned. I am.”

I stayed there, completed the program. I learned what alcoholism was. I stood up and said, ‘I am an alcoholic.’ I learned to take vitamins.”  Verna Bartlett

Commitment to a choice and being able to follow through with the choice is very empowering to our success and identity of self.  When we are able to stay with a task and succeed, the messages of domestic violence, poor self-esteem, and self loathing are challenged with a more positive understanding of who we are.

Moment of Change #5

“You never get over being a victim, but you learn how to survive. And one of the ways you learn to survive and heal is helping others. So that’s where I am today.”  Verna Bartlett

Helping others is a traditional value.  It is a basic way of walking for Native American people.  When one is affected by domestic violence, there is little ability to help others as the sadness, pain and social isolation consumes one’s life.  Verna demonstrates making the choice of “helping others” as a way to change the old patterns of abuse.

Moments of Change

What change occurred as a result of these moments Verna experienced?

Can you identify moments in your life that represent these moments of change?  If so, what changes did you make?

“I’m just tired of this.”

“Something went ‘click’ in my head”.

Don’t Give Up”

“I stayed. I completed. I learned. I am.”

“Helping others.”