We Alaskans

Embracing the lives of others to combat Alaska's post-holiday darkness

UNALAKLEET — Wearing a black kuspuk with black and white kupaks, topped with his white, thinning hair, Chip read the words. He has always been the most steady and solid man I know. From the time I was a little girl with bobbles holding up my side ponytail, this man of compassion speaks and I listen.

That morning, Chip was quoting a book I must now get my hands on. He spoke words often said by psychologists. The words entered my mind and sunk to my feet, solid. I walked home that afternoon on the ice-covered ground, trying to keep from slipping, and ready to use these words as a foundation to breathe life into my days and combat darkness.

"I know of no more potent killer than isolation," he read.

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. No one in my family does, really. After hearing those words, though, I was resolute to make a few adjustments to my days. But instead of declaring a resolution, let me tell you this.

After the jolly days of Christmas and ringing in New Year's, the filthy buggers arrived — unwelcome creeps that entered my home and settled in. Depressive, plain old muddy crud feelings remained.

Despite yoga, meditation, prayer, eating well and even keeping my house clean with the intention of kicking the buggers out, it wasn't enough to trample thoughts of insignificance, unworthiness and filth — thoughts that have been dark and unwelcome squatters throughout my lifetime. I wanted them to be brief visitors, but I was beginning to feel powerless to shove them out. They sat there smug.

After hearing Chip's words, I realized all the tea drinking and self-help books in the world wouldn't banish them. The cause of my feelings became so clear I felt ridiculous for not understanding for days why the effect was my reality.


Immersed in love

Throughout December — days of lights, candles and singing — I felt light. I was in light and love when together with family and friends and we ate slow-cooked roasts, pickled herring and rice pudding. Feelings of belonging stood with me during the community Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. Feelings of acceptance and joy wrapped around me while enjoying the New Year's fireworks with my dearest friend. I was loved in the moment, enjoying a root beer float made with Dad's homemade ice cream, surrounded by family. The end of 2016 was immersed in love.

Then the holidays were over and I, like many others, tried focusing on work. I spent too much time looking for delight and information — and probably getting misinformation — on Facebook. I spent too much time trying to be saucy, but really just complaining, on Twitter. I closed my curtains when the sun went down and let the ease of my couch strap me down in the evenings.

How quickly the stupid can wise up.

"I know of no more potent killer than isolation," Chip read.

Finally, it clicked. All the yoga, meditation, eating well, writing and cleaning all the corners of my house would not shake the untrue thoughts that sat on my shoulders and slopped over my heart. Unfortunately, these are not enough to throw out the ugly and bring life and meaning into my day — not enough to let the truth of my worthiness fill and balm my soul.

I wanted to untangle thoughts of unworthiness from my heart and release them. And now, thanks to wise people who have the courage to share, these feelings are at bay. I know they're squatting at my door, and I intend to keep them out there.


I visited friends, good friends — the ones with five kids and nieces and nephews who are always over. We talked. We had coffee. We laughed. I won't lie. We gossiped a little. And then when I was leaving one of those five kids wanted to visit. Griffin and I came to this house, had a meal of peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches and apple slices and then made chocolate chip cookies. We read "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" and ate cookies. I brought him home, came back to my house and it felt a bit better. I looked outside and imagined those depressive and filthy feelings outside, qiviting (pouting).

We need others. We need true connectedness. We need to involve our lives with others and allow their lives to be involved in ours. And we must always strengthen our grip on being involved. Involvement and connectedness with others will keep away the assuredness of destruction that isolation brings into our lives.

If I was resolute on making a change in the new year, it would be this: I open myself to be in the lives of others. I welcome others into my own life. I say the words in my mind and feel them in my heart. And I trust that my body and actions will follow where the intentions lead.

Laureli Ivanoff lives in Unalakleet where she's raising her two children, Joe and Sidney. They eat a lot of fish and are very proud of their Yorkiepoo named Pushkin.

Laureli Ivanoff

Laureli Ivanoff, Yup'ik and Inupiaq, is a writer and advocate in Unalakleet where, with her family, she cuts fish and makes seal oil.