The Process of Remembering / by Simone Johnson

by Alexis Saenz

Growing up I’ve always felt lost and unsure of who I was. Being a multi-racial woman, raised in a white household affected me in more ways than I had ever realized. I struggled with my identity and was constantly confused, as I was always being told what I was… “You’re white washed!” “You’re ghetto.” “You’re not Latina or Native American. You don’t even speak Spanish.” “Your parents look white.” “Why do you act so Latina?” It was a constant battle. As I grew into adulthood, I still felt this sense of uneasiness and feeling of being lost.

It wasn’t until I started exploring my spirituality, trying to find myself within colonized religion, that my friend finally said, “Lex, you need to come to Sun Dance.”

I went to my first Sun Dance ceremony in Rosebud, South Dakota with the Lakota Tribe 5 years ago. Once I attended Sun Dance, I started to feel like I had finally found myself and a sense of home.

Sun Dance is our new year ceremony that takes place every August at Crowdog’s Paradise, “the center of the center of the universe,” as Grandpa Crowdog puts it. As our sacrifice to the Creator, we fast from food and water for 4 days, dancing under the sun in prayer. It’s a beautiful and powerful ceremony that I hold sacred to my heart. I knew that I had Indigenous roots and always felt more connected to my Latina community. Experiencing this just affirmed that even more for me. Sun Dance felt like I was finally home.

Sun Dance at Crowdog’s Paradise in Rosebud, South Dakota

Sun Dance at Crowdog’s Paradise in Rosebud, South Dakota

In the beginning of 2017, I started feeling a shift, as I was beginning to fall into societal norms and pressures, becoming someone I knew I did not want to be.

I turned 25 and chopped all of my hair off because I felt I needed to start new. I thought I was headed in the right direction. Then in July 2017, my boyfriend of four and a half years had decided he wanted to move back home (as he had moved to LA to be with me.) Through that transition, I was not the supportive and loving girlfriend I knew I could be. There were many things I needed to work on within myself that I was not able to do while in a relationship with him. Knowing this man would never let me go, because he didn’t understand the self-growth that I so desperately needed, I decided to end things. Once again, I found myself lost.

I had never felt more alone in my life. What I didn’t understand then, was that, in the words of Rupi Kaur, “loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.” In this time, I continued to look outside instead of within because I was scared of being alone. I was continually pushed away, not by coincidence, and was forced to be alone. I had to really sit with myself and try to start to understand myself and what this change was that I was so scared of.

Photograph from the vignette, Birth Trauma, in the video, The Process of Remembering

Photograph from the vignette, Birth Trauma, in the video, The Process of Remembering

In November 2017, I was officially diagnosed with depression. I had frequently gone through really rough, dark waves since I was a child and never really understood them. I was spinning out of control in my relationships with friends, drinking, spending days in bed, not eating and feeling sorry for myself. A major shift occurred when the one person I confided in the most pushed me away. I knew something had to change. I sought out other alternative to Western medicine. I knew that this depression did not define me.

I began yoga and the first day I walked in and laid down on my mat, I started crying and thanked myself for beginning to take a step in the right direction.

Video projects flashed through my head as I laid on that mat and I realized they all had a similar concept surrounding self-love. I decided I was going to do a self-love project to help me heal, re-ground, understand, learn, recreate and fall in love with myself. I also journaled, even when I didn’t want to. I meditated and spent a lot of time by myself dealing with the hard stuff. There were times I would pry myself out of bed to go to yoga, crying on the way there, because I knew that after I would feel a little bit better. There was someone in there, in my subconscious, fighting for me. My whole life I was told I was a fighter. Looking back now, I’ve always fought for everything, relationships, rights, fairness. But this was, by far, the best and most rewarding thing to fight for, myself.

IIYC at Mi Vida Su Vida, December 2017

IIYC at Mi Vida Su Vida, December 2017

The IIYC has a program called, Mi Vida Su Vida, which we adopted from our mentor organization, Sisters of Color United for Education (SOCUE). The members of the council attended and experienced this program for the first time in December 2017. This program was exactly what I needed to propel me even further into understanding.

alexis-saenz-process-of-remembering.jpg

With all of these experiences came great healing.

“Before we are born, we know who we are, where we come from, who our Creator is. Once we are born into this life, we forget all of that and our entire process of life is remembering who we are.”

With all of these experiences came great healing. As we spoke about identity, it really hit my heart. A wise Indigenous elder once said, “Before we are born, we know who we are, where we come from, who our Creator is. Once we are born into this life, we forget all of that and our entire process of life is remembering who we are, where we come from and who our Creator is.” This gave me so much clarity. As tears streamed down my face, I knew this gift of wisdom was all a part of my process of remembering who I was. This is what inspired the title for my project and changed my life.

The Process of Remembering is my short film about remembering, learning and understanding who I am in this world. Eight visuals were entwined together to create this film. They are all versions of me, which I have moved through to get to where I am today. Since creating The Process of Remembering, I have continued to realize and learn more and more from that process. I hope that people watching the film will be inspired to remember who they are and continue going through their processes with fortitude. As long as I am breathing and the Creator continues to challenge me in this life I will continue to overcome, I will speak my truth, seek the truth and heal through my art. We all must.

The Process of Remembering is going on tour!

The Process of Remembering is going on tour starting in April of 2019. The tour includes a screening of the film with live performances that stem from this work and a chance for attendees to experience the Sisters of Color United for Education & IIYC workshop, Mi Vida Su Vida. Through this workshop we will work to navigate the questions and challenges that enable us to understand how we cultivate self love by returning to our roots.

The tour kicks off in Denver, Colorado on April 11th & 12th. Additional cities include, Taos, San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas, St. Paul and Los Angeles. My team is seeking donations to fund the 2019 tour. Expenses including, travel, food and lodging for performers traveling to all cities, the production crew, and equipment. Visit The Process of Remembering website to learn more about the tour.

You may make a donation to the tour here.