Image description: Top panel, angry cat. Bottom panel, small flower growing beside a heart. Text reads: self-care group part two: anger and hope. one week facilitated community care group. Oct 8-14. firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
The first round of the self-care group was a success.
The news has not gotten easier, so we’re back for another week of daily check-ins, two group chats, and one in-person coffee for the Calgary folks.
The goal of this group* is to collect our skills and insider knowledges – those ways of surviving, caring for ourselves and each other, navigating hard times and deep injustices that we have learned – and to share those with each other. To create opportunities for connection, to foster solidarity and a sense of agency and action, and to hold space for the many different true stories of our current experience. Our hope *and* our anger. Our despair *and* our resilience.
You can participate in this group even if you don’t ever share anything. The opportunity to share is there, but there is no expectation.
You can expect narrative-informed questions to invite you into exploring your own story, links to resources, cute pictures, and some overly wordy rambling from me.
This group is open to anyone, regardless of location.
Register by sending me a message here, or an email at email@example.com.
Participation in this group is by optional donation.
* There is another goal, which is this: I have switched my focus for my major project in the Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program. I will still be working on narrative therapy and polyamory, but for now, I am going to focus on how narrative practices can help us navigate this current political context. Keep an eye on the Facebook page and this blog for event updates.
It’s Monday morning.
If your news feed is anything like mine, it is a rough Monday morning. I couldn’t even get through half the political news before I felt like giving up and going back to bed. I know I’m not the only one.
And I know that I have shareable skills.
And I know that YOU have shareable skills, also!
Let’s put those skills together and keep everybody afloat.
So, I’m going to try something new for this week!
If you’re having a tough time, send me a message with your email address.
I’m going to run a one-week self-care survival group, starting today.
We’ll have twice-a-day self-care check-ins, a group chat twice this week, and one Calgary in-person meet-up (though you’re welcome to participate from out of town, also!).
For those of you who participated in the 3-week self-compassion course last year, this will follow a similar format in terms of checking in with each other, and I’ll also be drawing on my narrative therapy training for this.
It’s a Full Moon tonight, it’s the only week in the next long while that I don’t have any assignments due or big events on the horizon, and the news is terrible – perfect timing to pull a new project together.
Participation in this group is by optional donation.
Good morning, friends and supporters and new acquaintances!
This is our monthly review/preview post. These posts are one way that I keep myself accountable to my patrons (and my own goals), and they also offer people who might want to participate in my ongoing collective projects an opportunity to see what’s going on.
March was a busy and rewarding month – I spent three weeks in Australia, attending the Advanced Narrative Practices teaching block for my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. It was an incredible experience. I really felt like I was at home with my colleagues – I felt like I fit in, and that what I had to contribute was welcome in the space. There are a bunch of collaborations simmering, and I feel like the choice to do this Masters program, even with the cost and stress, was the right one.
Now, the projects! I’m going to try a new format for this post, with the goal of prioritizing my collaborative projects and welcoming new contributors.
So, first, open calls for contributors and participants! These are the projects that are currently in process and open to participation. If you want to get involved, get in touch with me! You can email me, find me on Facebook, or be involved by supporting the Patreon. I do most of this work without any funding or financial gain, and my patrons make that possible.
Extroversion and Mental Health – This project has been percolating for a while, and the initial interviews have been really exciting. My goal for this project is a multi-media resource with validation and support for people who experience themselves as extroverts and struggle with doing self-care and managing challenges like depression, anxiety, or suicidality. The reason this project feels important is because so much mental health content seems to assume introversion, and so many cultural norms equate extroversion with resilience and strength. The multi-media piece is because the extroverts I’ve spoken with so far have consistently commented on video and audio being easier to engage with than pure text, so I’m branching out my resource generation skills and I’m going to learn how to do video! And audio! It’s going to be exciting. Do you want to get involved? I am interested in talking with folks who identify themselves as extroverted (sometimes or all the time), and particularly folks whose extroversion intersects with marginalized identities or neurodivergences – autistic extroverts, fat extroverts, depressed and anxious extroverts, BIPOC extroverts, and all those other folks whose bodies and selves are excluded, dismissed, or expected to be quiet. (This project will overlap with the Quiet Crew collaboration, which you can read about further on!) You can participate online via a skype or text interview, in person in either one-on-one or (if there’s interest) group interviews/conversations, remotely by sending me your thoughts on the topic freeform, or by answering a questionnaire (which isn’t designed yet, so if that’s your pick, just let me know and I’ll get that put together!) I will also be looking for folks who want to do audio or video interviews or segments.
Financial Self-Care Under Capitalism – This project is well underway now, and I’m in the process of arranging interviews, collecting questionnaire responses, and figuring out what this project might look like in its final form. What I am picturing right now is a multi-part project – a downloadable PDF resource (my specialty!) and an ongoing Tumblr project, Nopenomics, that you can read about further on. If you want to participate in this project, we can chat online or in-person, you can send me your thoughts freeform, or you can answer a questionnaire (which has been created, so it can be in your inbox today!). I am particularly interested in hearing from people who are struggling financially, and I am not going to be creating a “stop eating avocado toast” resource – this is meant to be an exploration of how we survive under the abuses of capitalism, and how we resist the harmful individualizing narratives around money that often ignore the structural issues and injustices that so many of us our dealing with. Issues of intergenerational poverty and financial disadvantage, which are so real for Black and Indigenous folks, and also issues of chronic underemployment and housing insecurity, which are so prevalent for many trans and queer folks, will all be acknowledged. This resource is meant to be an honouring of the ways in which we on the margins weave our thin threads into safety nets to keep ourselves and each other alive, and the ways in which we use our money in ways that may not make sense within neoliberal middle-class economics, but do help us keep our heads above water enough to get a gasp of air.
Self-Care for Queer Geeks – This is the resource that accompanies the March Possibilities event. Since I wasn’t at that event, and it was a small event (it was actually only Scott!), I’m collecting interviews and insight from a wider audience. If you identify as queer, and as a geek, I want to talk with you! I’m interested in how we navigate geek spaces – fandoms, video games, groups, etc. – and in how we find and support and create and engage with queer-inclusive content. How do we take care of ourselves, how do we take care of each other, and how do we subvert the heteronormative, trans antagonistic, and misogynist toxicity of many geek spaces. (I have also reached out to Avery Alder to ask if she’d be willing to do an interview for this resource, but she is a busy person so I don’t know if it will work out! If there are other creators you think I should reach out to, or that you can connect me with, let me know!) Opportunities to contribute are pretty standard – in person, online, freeform, or answering a questionnaire (which is in process now and will be ready to send out by Monday).
Feminism from the Margins – This is the project launched last month with my amazing friend Dulcinea Lapis. We’re looking for contributors who want to speak back to the cis white feminism that was so glaringly on display in many International Women’s Day events. This is a year-long project, and we’ll be posting each month, on the 8th, as a way to extend the IWD conversation both in scope (including more marginalized voices, such as trans women, women of colour, non-binary folks, sex workers, and others) and in duration (lasting a whole year rather than contained to one day). I put up the April contribution on the 8th – it’s an open letter to marginalized feminists by Michelle Dang, and it is fantastic. We are still looking for contributors, so if you’re interested, get in touch!
Getting Through the Bad Gender Feels – This is another project that is just starting to gain some momentum. I am interested in speaking with anyone who is trans, non-binary, two-spirit, or otherwise not cisgender (though I do also wonder about including some of the bad gender feels that can happen even to cis folks – am on the fence, and open to your thoughts). If you’d like to contribute or participate in this project, let me know! I’m still working on what format it will take, but I’m starting to collect ideas, interviews, and information.
And then, upcoming events! Here’s where you can find me, online and in-person.
April 8. Sunday morning is the Self-Care Salon! This month we’re talking about self-care for professionals on the margins, and my guest presenter will be Jonathan Griffith, a queer lawyer specializing in family law. We’ll be meeting at Loft 112, from 10:30-12:30, and this will be a special brunch event. (Keep an eye open for the May salon on May 6, it will be part-two in the 3-part series I’m presenting with Pedrom Nasiri, and next month we’ll be talking about polyamory for marginalized folks.)
April 17. Our monthly Possibilities meeting. This month, we’ll be talking about Self-Care and The Closet. We’ll be talking about dominant narratives about the closet, and all the ways in which the closet is complex – it can be oppressive but it can also be freeing, and there are many ways to approach the idea of closets and coming out. At the narrative therapy teaching block, I had the honour of meeting and learning from Sekneh Hammoud-Beckett, whose paper “Azima ila Hayati – an invitation in to my life : narrative conversations about sexual identity” introduces the idea of “inviting in” rather than “coming out,” which can be more culturally resonant for the Muslim youth that she works with. If anyone wants to read this paper ahead of the event, let me know! And as always, I’ll be generating a resource following this conversation and you are welcome to participate in that conversation whether you attend the event or not.
April 23. Trust and Attachment is the latest online course offering, and I am SUPER EXCITED about this course! You can read all about it at the link, but the deets are these: starts April 23, runs for 6 weeks, costs $150 (with sliding scale available and a discount for Patreon supporters). This course grew out of the Bridges and Boundaries course that ran earlier this year, but you do not need to have taken that course to take this one. Register by letting me know that you’re interested!
And now, here are the collaborations and projects that are either theoretical, in the planning stages right now, or coming up in the next month. Many of these ideas were hatched at the teaching block!
I’ll have three assignments due in the Masters program in April – two reflections on readings, and one project outline for my year-long practice innovation project. I have no idea what that project is going to be, but I have many ideas about what it might be. As always, I’ll post my papers for patrons to read.
I’m organizing a sustainability for narrative practitioners group on Slack.
I am coordinating a Dictionary of Delicious Failures collective document. This will involve a bunch of folks (and I’ll be organizing an event in Calgary in May, so keep your peepers peeled for that). Julia, one of my classmates, will be coordinating a similar event in Nepal, and Trina, another narrative practioner, will be coordinating an event in Denmark. Other folks might also join us, but those are the three that are planned.
The Quiet Crew is a group working on bringing together stories of quiet resistance and activism, and challenging the perception of quietness with social anxiety. I met up with one of their members while I was in Adelaide, and we are excited about potential collaborations (particularly when it comes to this project and the extroversion project being two sides of a similar coin – assumptions made about identity based on behaviour).
The Nopenomics Tumblr. This doesn’t exist yet, but it will. A Tumblr open to submissions about all the ways in which we resist, challenge, subvert, fail, and struggle under capitalism. I’m hoping to have a Tumblr + a quarterly zine!
Another classmate would like me to send her 20-ish words that are particularly relevant to the LGBTQIA2S+ communities and she’s going to work with her communities in Mumbai to translate them into three Indian languages. This is part of a project exploring culturally specific experiences of queerness, and it grew out of a conversation she and I had after I collaborated with four of my classmates (all amazing people) to host a presentation and conversation on Judith Butler and gender. You can see the influence of these conversations in the upcoming Possibilities event, and I’m excited to expand my practice to include more awareness of these culturally-specific experiences.
Julia, a classmate and new friend, and I are going to keep in touch regarding mistakes and harm in narrative practice, since we’re both interested in learning how to avoid them (and we’ve both experienced fucking up, haha). Julia, for the record, is just lovely. I am so glad to have met her. She’s also the person who drew the picture of my London Fog octopus, which I shared with patrons in March!
Rosie, another classmate and new friend, and I are … I don’t even know, there are at least ten different potential collaborations. We’re going to keep in touch. They’re going to contribute to the Bad Gender Feels project, for sure, and we’re also considering some kind of trans-continental gender project, bringing their group into conversation with Possibilities and the queer community in Calgary. (Get it? TRANS-continental? Oh my god, I’m hilarious.)
Cheryl White is working on a project about finances, and we’re going to talk about whether her project and my financial self-care under capitalism project might have some collaborative potential. (Cheryl White is one of the core thinkers within narrative therapy, and is the director of the Dulwich Centre and just all around an incredible badass. I really hope this collaboration happens!
Gipsy (the daughter one of the faculty) and I are going to talk about a potential collaboration between the crip crew in Calgary and her Invisible Disability Warriors here in Adelaide. This was a result of me mentioning that I have a few clients dealing with chronic pain or long-term illness, and wanting to find a way to support them better, and Rosie getting super excited and connecting me with Gipsy. We’ve been in touch, and the first stage of this collaboration will be her sending me the video and booklet that her group of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia folks have created, and then myself and some other folks in Calgary will create an “outsider witness response” document. This is a narrative practice that I learned in Adelaide at the teaching block, and I’m excited to try it out. The second stage of this collaboration might be the Calgary group creating our own booklet and video, and sending it back to Gipsy and her community.
Two of my classmates have trans clients that they’d like help supporting, so both of them will be getting some extra support from me on that – mostly I’m going to send them articles and books to read, but they also wondered if I’d be willing to chat with clients and I said yes. (So, my patrons are supporting me in helping create trans-inclusive therapy settings around the world! I would really love to get involved in more of this kind of work, so I’m hoping that these first two efforts go well.)
And last, but absolutely not least, I’m applying for a Student Engagement Grant from the University of Melbourne, and the project that I’m applying with is the Well, This Sucks project with my sister! (I bet you were wondering where that project would show up in this post. Or maybe you weren’t. But I saved it for last because I am so excited about this!!!!!) The grant application is due April 15, and I’ll be posting my drafts for patrons. 😀
Curious about that project? Check it out:
From the email I sent to David Denborough, when first floating the idea of applying for the grant –
Well, This Sucks. This is a project that I’m collaborating with my sister, Domini, to coordinate. It’s meant to be, in its final form, a collection of “pods” of information for various demographic groups with information on responding to sexual trauma. It was born out of our experience of responding to an assault, and then over the year that followed, tripping over all these gaps in available information and represented voices. We saw a lack of resources for the men who are partnered with people who have been through a sexual trauma, particularly straight cisgender men who are often excluded from most conversations about how to do the emotional work of support. We also saw a lack of resources for more conservative parents who don’t know how to respond or what to say, and end up either saying nothing or falling back on victim blaming narratives. And a lack of resources for supporters who are survivors themselves, navigating the complexity of that. (And that was just in our very immediate circle.)
Then we started looking a bit outside our circle, once we were through the very immediate experience, and realizing how many other voices are missing from so many conversations about this.
What we’re picturing is a web portal that guides people through a series of questions and lands them in a pod of information and resources that is generated collectively by people who share some of their identities or experiences (so, video content and stories from straight cisgender men to welcome other straight cisgender men into a supportive role, and stories and video from men who have experienced assault to create space for other men who are going through the same thing, each in their own pod of information, and so on). The reason we decided on pods was because Domini and I have very different communities – Domini is doing her feminism within more rural conservative communities where issues of queerness, gender, and justice require different language (much more “inviting in” than “coming out” in those spaces!), and I do mine within urban, political queer, trans, and feminist communities that have very different languages and cultural norms. We decided not to try and meet in an uncomfortable middle, but rather honour the diversity of these two very different spaces, and create content that shares a goal of supporting communities following an assault, but doesn’t demand that everyone use the same language or approach the issue in the same way. This was especially important because often the language and norms from my communities is framed as being “better” or “more progressive” than the language and norms from Domini’s communities, but in lived experience this is not always the case. Social justice groups may have all the “right” language, but sometimes they are deeply lacking in compassionate support. Our worry was that if we tried to use language that would feel inclusive of my communities, it would end up feeling alienating for Domini’s communities, and we would lose all the rich insight and experience of folks who can’t speak the Social Justice Warrior dialect and are more “rough around the edges”. (And we also just wouldn’t be able to help them.) So, multiple languages!
Anyway, what I thought for the grant was maybe creating one of the pods! I know that Domini would be keen on the one for straight cis men who are supporters, and that might have some interesting overlap with the masculinities project, too. (I’m partway through reading Michelle Dang’s paper on community responses to sexual assault and she and I will be talking about this project, too!)
I am most excited about this project because my sister is amazing, we’ve been in the planning process for almost a year now, and I think that when this project gets going it is going to be really great. But I’m also somewhat hesitant about it, because it’s huge and it will require a lot of skill, intentionality, and strong supportive partnerships willing to keep us on track and call us in when we fuck up. It’s like… 73% excitement, 21% apprehension, 6% terror.
Reading this again, I realize that I use a lot of exclamation points. Ha.
DD wrote back and said that he thought this project would be a good fit, so we’re going ahead with the application, and we’ll be generating the content for the pod focused on cis straight men who are supporters/partners of assault survivors. So there will be a call for contributors going out once this is underway!
And that’s that! These posts go up early for patrons (and sometimes never make it onto the blog – sorry, February/March!). There’s a lot happening, even more than is listed here, and I’m excited about it!
Image description: A cup of tea on a purple background, with flowers scattered around it.
Trust and Attachment: A six-week online course exploring how we engage with each other.
Starts April 23. firstname.lastname@example.org to register. tiffanysostar.com.
$150, sliding scale available, discount for Patreon members.
“Delectable tea or deadly poison?”* the question we ask in every encounter.
* Uncle Iroh, Avatar: The Last Airbender 2.2
An exciting thing happened in the Bridges and Boundaries: Social Self-Care course. Part-way through, as the participants engaged with the content and the course flexed to meet the needs that were brought forward, I realized that there was a whole other course that needed to happen. (Well, first I thought it was going to be a one-week extension. Then three weeks. Then, finally, I realized that it needed to be a whole course!)
What we found as we worked through the complexities of building bridges and setting boundaries in order to care for ourselves within our relationships, was that Trust and Attachment were there at every turn.
How do you decide whether to reach out, to build a bridge? Trust. Attachment.
How do you find the ability to set a boundary in a relationship that you want to maintain, and how do you know which boundaries to set? Trust! Attachment!
You need trust – in yourself, in your relationships, in the people you’re engaging with. And you need to feel connected – to have some sense of safe attachment.
Some of the questions that came up in Bridges and Boundaries were about navigating relationships after a foundation-rocking betrayal – when we feel like our ability to trust anyone at all has been eroded or fractured. Some were about how to navigate relationships when we are constantly anxious about being abandoned, when we are looking for rejection and finding it everywhere, when we don’t feel safe in our attachments. Some were about rebuilding trust in specific relationships. And others were about how to build trust internally – how to trust our own selves.
These are all questions I have grappled with in my own life, too.
So this, Trust and Attachment, is the course that grew out of those rich and meaningful questions in Bridges and Boundaries.
It is an extension of the ideas in that first social self-care course, but it’s been designed so that you can take this course whether you took the first course or not. That’s partly because these ideas are so huge that I could run ten courses on social self-care without running into repetitiveness, but it’s also because in between designing Bridges and Boundaries and designing this course, I completed the Advanced Narrative Practices teaching block in my Masters of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. That means I have new skills and new perspectives to bring into this course, and I’m so excited about it!
So, what can you expect?
Well, first of all, there’s going to be some Avatar trivia. Both The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. (The movie doesn’t exist, don’t worry.) But you don’t need to be a big anime fan, and it won’t rely on you knowing the show. I just love the way that the two Avatar series both engage with topics of trust and attachment in fun but nuanced and complex ways. Plus, Uncle Iroh will help us get through. 😉
The course is six-weeks long. You do not need to have taken any of my previous courses. The cost is $150, with sliding scale available and a discount for Patreon supporters. The way sliding scale works in my business is that you do not have to explain or justify your need for it – our society does too much poverty-shaming already. I trust you to know your needs and to know your resources. You’re the expert in your own life, and if you feel that this course is something that would help you, I want to offer that!
Throughout the course, we will be intentionally challenging the idea of “trust issues” and “attachment issues” as problems that exist within us as “broken” or “damaged” people, and we’ll be talking about how these individualizing narratives can contribute to our sense of isolation, powerlessness, and hopelessness. And, importantly, we’ll talk about alternatives.
In Week One, we’ll work on identifying the problem and our responses to it. This will be different for everyone, and the course content will offer writing, art, and conversation prompts to get you thinking about the topics.
In Week Two, we’ll work on deepening our narratives about how we respond to situations that challenge us when it comes to trust or attachment. We’ll identify our specific skills, and trace their histories.
In Week Three, we’re going to tackle trust directly. What are the dominant discourses about trust? What stories do we tell in our media, our cultural expectations, our ideas about ideal relationships, ideal people, ideal behaviours? We’ll talk about our experience of trust, trustworthiness, being trusting, and losing, breaking, or damaging trust.
In Week Four, attachment gets a turn. What are the dominant discourses about attachment? We’ll talk about attachment theory, attachment styles, and our own personal, familial, and cultural narratives of attachment.
In Week Five, we’ll use a specific narrative practice called the Team of Life to identify the people in our lives that support our efforts to develop and sustain safe and fulfilling relationships. (And, as a special in-course bonus offer, if any course participants are interested in a re-membering conversation – a narrative practice that can help us process grief and loss and honour the contributions that people have made to our lives – I’ll be offering one-on-one sessions for that.)
In Week Six, we’ll use another narrative practice and work on “Migrations of Identity” – mapping pathways from the problem we identified in week one, to our preferred ways of being.
Does this sound exciting?
Do you want to explore trust and attachment in ways that are more nuanced and less blaming?
If so, send me a message and register!
The course starts April 23.
Image description: A grey-haired person (me!) holds up a card that says “You’re a Tea-rrific Friend!” and a box that is labeled “Letters to Myself” – these are items from the self-care kits described in this post.
I spent a bit of time today putting together the self-care kits for the Bridge-building Giveaway and the Boundary-setting Giveaway. I’m happy with how they’ve come together, and I think the winners will be getting something worthwhile.
But I found it interesting how much easier it was to put the bridge-building kit together and how few people entered that giveaway, in comparison to how difficult it was to put the boundary-setter kit together and how many people have entered (you can still enter until 9 am Sunday! Just poke through the pictures on my Facebook page to find the giveaway).
There is a lot of external support for bridge-building – card sections, books about friendship and the value of social support, gift books about friendship, a TON of books about romance, heaps of books about family connections. If you want to build bridges, it seems like there’s an almost infinite amount of support.
And although there are folks working on boundaries, and there are books about boundaries, there is just not the same range of material available. And most of the stuff that I would recommend is not easily packed up into a gift box.
I sincerely believe that the bridge side of social self-care is critically important – the willingness to be vulnerable, to ask for support and connection, to reach out after an absence, to recognize our own needs and honour them by seeking connection, to learn what meaningful connection means *for us* and work towards it.
I think this is just as important as the boundary side of social self-care – knowing our limits, recognizing and communicating where we end and others begin, allowing ourselves to step into the risky space of saying “no”, setting limits that allow the kind of expansiveness, spaciousness, and generosity that can only happen when we feel that we have agency and choice.
But I think that it is much easier to talk about building bridges than it is to talk about setting boundaries. I think that we sort of gloss over and ignore the sense of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection that we feel – it doesn’t feel as important to build bridges because, really, there ARE all those books out there, and anyway, what is the point of a bridge when our boundaries are being trampled every single day?
But as I put the kits together, and as I worked on the course content for Bridges and Boundaries: Social Self-Care, which is starting on Monday, I felt sad about this.
I know that in my own life, both bridges AND boundaries are important. I spend so much time not knowing how to connect meaningfully to my communities while operating under the pressures of capitalism, the stress and pain of chronic illness, the fog of depression and anxiety. I do need boundaries, but I need bridges, too. And although there is a wealth of material available, so much of it feels trite, superficial, and steeped in ableism, heteronormativity, and the casual assumption that we are all part of the (vanishingly rare) middle class.
Bridge-building is a skill. Maintaining (and finding!) friendships and other meaningful connections takes effort, and has to happen in combination with boundary work, so that our bridges are safe and life-enhancing. It’s a skill that many of us struggle to learn, because as often as we walk past the card section, how often do we actually feel confident in reaching out to our communities, in being vulnerable, in establishing intimacy that is consensual and brave?
It’s harder to talk about boundaries much of the time, because boundaries are tangled up with feelings of shame, obligation, attachment, fear, and vulnerability. Some of us struggle more with boundaries than bridges. Some of us struggle more with bridges than boundaries. But I think they’re both so important for our social wellbeing, and I think that often when we struggle with one, we’re also struggling with the other.
Hopefully, the course will offer support for both!
(Among the boundary supports I would recommend, which are not easily packed up but thankfully ARE easily shared –