At the beginning of January, I posted about upcoming projects. At the beginning of February, I posted this on my Patreon! If you’d like to see what I’m up to in a more timely manner, I definitely recommend the Patreon. One of the benefits is you’ll see posts theoretically a week early, but actually more like a week and a half, since I am forever struggling with herding those to-doodles. This version of the post is updated to add details that have developed in the last 12 days. Phew! What a moving target life is.
One reason I’m going to keep up with the review/preview posts through 2018 is because I tend to set unrealistic goals for myself, not attain those unrealistic goals, and then feel like a failure. I would like to start documenting my goals and my work, so that I can bring my goal-setting more into alignment with my actual available time, energy, and financial resources.
This will be particularly important in this upcoming year because my Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program starts this month. (Yes!) Update: Today! It starts today! Once I hit publish on this post, I’ll be hopping over to the UofMelbourne site to get started on my readings!
I work with people to help them develop sustainable self-care strategies and to help them make progress on the goals that are important to them. I want to help myself in that way, too. And the first thing I tell almost every client is – start noticing. If a client came to me with my life and asked for help, I would say – Notice what you’re asking of yourself, notice what you’re accomplishing, notice how it feels, notice what choices you’re making to support and care for yourself. See it, name it, make space for it.
So that’s what I’m doing in these monthly posts, and I’m hoping to keep that up throughout this year.
So here’s what I accomplished (and didn’t accomplish) in January, and what’s on tap for February.
– The Caring for Neurodivergent Kids book club has soft-launched. The Facebook group has been created, and the first book has been chosen. We’ll be reading No You Don’t by Sparrow Rose Jones, the author of Unstrange Mind. There is still space available in the book club, so if you’re in Calgary and interested, let me know! Our first meeting will be happening at the end of February. If you’re not in Calgary, or not able to attend, I’ll still be writing up a detailed review of each of the books we read, and those reviews will be posted on my Patreon, and then on the blog. Update: mid-March for the first meeting, so that we have time to read the book, which hasn’t arrived yet.
– The Extroversion and Self-Care/Mental Health resource is progressing slowly. We ran into a few hiccups with scheduling because January was full of migraines and illness for myself and the people I was trying to coordinate with. It’s progressing, though! And there is definitely still opportunity to get involved, if you’re interested. Update: I had an absolutely fantastic interview with someone for this project, and have a refined vision of what kinds of issues to include in the resource. Namely, the expectation placed on extroverts to be perpetually resilient and constantly available.
– The collaboration with my brilliant sibling, Domini Packer, has a name. Well, This Sucks will be a resource to help support that self-care and recovery process for folks following sexual assault – both the survivors and the people supporting them. I’m not 100% ready to reveal the major changes to the plan but trust me when I say… it grew exponentially. It started as a plan for a downloadable resource, similar to other resources I create on specific topics, and over the course of this month, during discussions between Domini and I, and one really fantastic interview with a community member, it grew. And it grew in ways that made my therapist say “wow, that sounds really exciting!” Domini and I are heading out of town for a day of planning, budgeting (yes, it has become a plan that requires a budget), and preliminary-outlining. I’ll have more to share after we get back! Update: Ye gods, is there a lot to share. This will be a whole post.
– The Bad Gender Feels resource is also slowly progressing. Very slowly, but that’s okay.
– The January Possibilities event was great, and the Winter Self-Care for Weary Queers resource was posted earlier this week. In February, we’ll be talking about Self-Care in Queer Relationships. I think the upcoming discussion and resulting resource will be important, and I’m really excited about it.
– The February Self-Care Salon will feature Rein Sastok presenting on self-care for teachers and other child-centric professionals, with the conversation also extending to parents, stepparents, and other carers. To be honest, I have been struggling with the Self-Care Salons – attendance is low, and I have yet to cover the costs of renting the space and paying the guest speakers. Update: This was cancelled. We are still going to generate a resource, to be completed in May, with companion modules for professionals and parents/stepparents/non-parent carers.
– Bridges and Boundaries: Social Self-Care has launched, and I am really happy with how it’s going! I also had the realization, as I finalized the Week Two content earlier this week, that once I’ve run each of the four core courses this year, I will have 200+ pages of work, which could form the backbone of a book on self-care. That’s not something I’m committing to, it’s just sort of floating around in my head as a thing that could happen.
– Speaking of books… the 100 Love Letters book is… still going to be happening. I did make some progress on it this month – I won that package of coaching sessions for writers back in December and I had the first coaching call on January 18. I’ll be slowly (emphasis on slowly, and on low pressure) moving ahead with this project.
– I haven’t made a ton of progress on pulling my work off of Facebook and onto the blog more consistently. For some reason, that extra step just feels overwhelming. I am considering figuring out some kind of content management system that will let me cross-post to multiple platforms at once. But I’m not 100% sure when I’m going to do that so… we’ll see. But I do know that many of my favourite people have fled the mess that is the books of face, and I want to stay connected. It’s simmering in the back of my head. I’ll figure something out, but I’m not sure what or when.
– I started working on the disenfranchised grief project(s). There is a set of grief-related projects that are coming up. One is a resource on sibling loss, and I’m collaborating with a new friend, who has lost a sibling, on that project. We’ve started pulling notes and resources together. Another is on the loss of someone who is addicted or street-involved, because that grief is so complicated by our victim-blaming culture. And the third is a project on anticipatory grief. This is all in the preliminary stages, but I’m including it here because it’s been floating to the front of my mind pretty regularly this month and I’ve spent time and energy on it.
– I’ve kept up with the Tender Year posts, and am posting those on my personal facebook page (almost) every day! I’m really proud of this project, and of the fact the three of us collaborating on the project have stuck with it for 120+ days so far. I don’t know what will come of this work, but I am excited about it either way.
And in terms of new goals and projects for February.
– That Master program thing. I’ll be doing a lot of reading in February, but I won’t have my first written assignment due until early March. Would patrons be interested in hearing about what I’m reading and learning? I will definitely have to slow down on the output of my other writing (look, aiming for sustainability!) and this would be one way to keep up my end of the Patreon deal. (I will still be producing the Possibilities resource and the Patreon reward posts each month, and I’ll still be working on the other resources, just a bit more slowly.)
– I’m going to take one day off every week this month. That’s not an “output” goal but I think it is important to take note of. I had hoped to do that in January and it just fell apart after the … honestly, I only managed it one week in the whole month. So, I’m putting it here as part of the accountability part of this project. Update: Lol. BUT! I am trying. This week, for sure. For sure!
– I have two outstanding Patreon reward posts for January, and one Patreon supporter whose birthday is in February who has asked me to do something super terrifying rather than write them a reward post. So, I’ll be catching up on those two posts and also considering the absolutely mortifying idea of setting up some kind of crowdfunding for the financial gap I’m looking at over the course of this year. I will, even if I don’t set up any crowdfunding, definitely be writing about the process. I think that money shame is a topic I’ll be tackling in February. (And by “tackling” I mean “sidling up to slantwise and with much trepidation.”)
– I’ll be hosting another Smutty Story Circle facilitated writing group for the Calgary Centre for Sex Positive Culture on March 2. (I know that’s not February, but I’ll be doing all the prep in February.)
– I’ll be meeting with a professional grant writer this month to talk about finding some funding for the (suddenly enormous) collaboration with my sister, and possibly for some of my other work. Update: Wednesday! Wish me luck.
And, of course, continuing to post about self-care, including Stick Figure Sunday and Woodland Wednesday, on the Facebook page.
If you want to be involved in any of the collaborative projects, let me know! And if you have any feedback on the projects, or other projects that you’d like to see added to the slow-moving list, let me know that, too!
I really could not be putting as much energy, time, and effort into creating the self-care resources without the support of my Patreon patrons. When I get discouraged, and feel like my work isn’t making a difference because the world is just so sharp these days, the fact that people consider my work worth supporting keeps me going.
Two more updates: First, I lost one of my paying jobs. This is a big deal, because I was already facing some challenges on that front. I’m applying for more editing work, and renewing my focus on finding ways to get the word out about the coaching business. And second, I am launching an exciting new tarot project. It’ll be separate from this work, so if you’re interested, send me a message and I’ll connect you with that!
Reflections on fear, vulnerability, and persistence.
Mid-March, I set up a spreadsheet to track my content and make these month-in-review posts easier to generate. Scrolling through March’s spreadsheet, I see “persistence” tagged in post after post.
In this post about how to respond when someone hits you square in your most vulnerable spots.
In this post about self-care when you’re totally overwhelmed.
In this blog post about self-care in post-secondary and professional environments.
In this post about celebrating small successes, and in this post about the drudgery of self-care.
In March, I was trying to survive.
In all these posts about persistence there is a stubborn refusal to give in to the exhaustion and hopelessness of the last (long) while. And there is a recognition that self-care is not always about getting to happy, or about thriving, or about living your best life. Sometimes self-care is just about living this life, despite the fact that you can’t even picture your “best life” at the moment. Sometimes self-care is just about persistence.
Do what you need to do to get to tomorrow.
I felt a lot of hopelessness in March – some of the “plot twist” transitions that inspired me to start this work have gotten heavy. Stepparenting is so challenging. Trying to navigate the learning curve, and trying to also integrate my new parental identity (one that does not sit easily or comfortably within my previous narratives).
Our theme week for March was Fear and Vulnerability, inspired by the Ides of March and by my own mental state. I’ll be compiling those seven posts into a longer post later this week, but for now you can read up on them here:
Day 1: Let yourself love what you love. (Yikes!)
Day 2: Trust your gut. (Yiiiiikes!)
Day 3: Sometimes you really are as vulnerable as you feel. How to get through those moments of vulnerability and pain.
Day 4: Invisibility and hypervisibility, and how to hold onto the complex true stories of yourself.
Day 5: Let yourself fail.
Day 6: Recognizing how fear feels in your body, and knowing when fear is disguised as other emotions.
Day 7: Allowing yourself to feel and process fear even when you can’t move past it.
At the end of Fear and Vulnerability week, I did something that felt very vulnerable – I finally announced a seasonal theme (despite having developed themes for every season and totally failing to announce the Winter theme!)
∞ Sharpening the double-edged sword.” The second quarter, from the Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice in June, will focus on the mental self, and the element of air. Inspiration for this campaign comes from the Tarot suit of swords, particularly the Queen of Swords, with her self-awareness, focus, and melancholy. Posts will explore narratives of mental health and neurodivergence, with a series of posts on cognitive traps and maladaptive thought patterns, and how to shift them. This campaign will also focus on healthier approaches to the “positive thinking” trap, and on skills that help us become aware of how our thoughts shape our interpretation of reality.
I’ve shared the first couple posts that fit directly into the theme, in this post about “double-edged sword” traits and accepting both sides, and in announcing the Spring online course (the first in a series of online courses that will follow the seasonal themes for the rest of this year).
If you would like to register for the Spring course – a 6-week course on the topic of expressive writing for mental self-care, at a cost of $60 with sliding scale available, send me an email!
Looking back over the posts for the month of March, I’m struck by how often I talked about persistence, and survival.
This time of year is often challenging – even though the new growth of full spring is on the horizon, we’re still slogging through the mud. Those of us in post-secondary settings (or with kids in school) are struggling with end of term. Papers are due, grades are coming in, everything seems to critical and so final and so urgent.
Many of us are still struggling with the sticky tentacles of seasonal affective disorder, and although the sun returning brings some relief, we’re tired.
And, this year more than most, we are continuing to watch the world dissolve into chaos.
It is overwhelming.
I see the impact of that in my self-care content, and in all the content that I started to write and never finished – the darker posts written on the darker days.
I hinted at some of the darkness and overwhelm in my own life in this post about taking up space. This continues to be a challenging theme in my own personal life, and although I am not really enjoying the challenge presented by constantly having my identity invalidated and erased, I am using it as an opportunity to expand my self-care repertoire and my understanding of how identity threat, and stereotype threat, influences the resources we have available for self-care.
This work is starting to show up in other spaces, and has informed my approach to the duoethnography I’m co-authoring with Mel Carroll, on the topic of non-binary identity formation and expression in relational contexts (both personal relationships – partnering, parenting, befriending – and professional relationships – service providers, colleagues, employers).
In April, starting this coming week, I will be launching Thinking Through Thursdays, a series of posts that focus on “healthier approaches to the ‘positive thinking’ trap, and on skills that help us become aware of our thoughts shape our interpretation of reality.” This series will run until the end of the season. If there’s a cognitive trap or bias that you’d really like to see on addressed on a Thursday, let me know (and give me a week’s notice). Patreon patron requests will be given priority.
I also shared a bunch of links in March. They’re rounded up below.
Resources for expanding your self-care repertoire, from this post about trying something new:
Keaira LaShae’s workout videos are fun and energizing (and a favourite of my best friend) and this video is multigenerational.
Exercises for chronic pain
Resources on decolonizing yoga
Accessible fitness (this is less “how-to at home” and more “how-to as an instructor” but there is such a pervasive notion that fitness is about losing weight and is primarily for bodies that fit the norm – I like how this article challenges all of that
Writing prompts focused on healing
Videogames for self-care
At home spa treatments to help with stress
The Awkward Activist on cooking and self-care
This excellent article on how the author is using self-care to survive while waiting to get into a therapy program. The advice is practical, achievable, and specific.
“But self-care is important – especially for those of us whose mental health isn’t 100%.
It’s basically just committing to look after yourself, treat yourself kindly, and make your wellbeing priority.
Self-care is not a substitute for professional help. But for now, it’s the best thing I can do.” – Ellen Scott
This post, titled “Despair is Not a Strategy: 15 principles of hope,” hit me hard in the feels the day I shared it.
“If you’re out there trying to change your neighborhood, community, city, country, or the world then this is for you. In moments when everything seems hopeless, read this to get your hope on.” – Abby Brockman
And this set of links, shared on Trans Day of Visibility, about self-care for trans and non-binary folks.
This post from the Audre Lorde Project includes further resources and a worksheet. This is not trans-specific, but is trans-inclusive.
Teen Vogue’s article is specifically for trans and non-binary students, but the tips are broadly applicable for non-students.
This list of four resources from Colorlines is excellent, and I included the Colorlines link rather than a link to each resource individually because Colorlines is, itself, such a valuable resource. Only one of the listed resources is trans-specific, but because trans people of colour face experience visibility in such a heightened and vulnerable way, each of these resources is worthwhile if that’s the intersection you’re standing at.
This post from Everyday Feminism is specifically about self-caring through dysphoria, which can be triggered hugely by in/visibility.
This is one person’s list of self-care tools as a non-binary trans person.
Onward, through April!
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This post was available early to my Patreon patrons. If you want to read posts right away, check the Patreon!
Earlier this month, I asked my patrons whether they would appreciate recap posts. Most of the feedback I got was that recaps are most beneficial when they don’t come too frequently, and they offer additional insight. There were also requests to archive and make past content searchable, and I’m working on that. Tagging is one option, if I cross-posted everything from facebook onto this blog. Daily blog updates feel excessive in a way that daily facebook posts don’t, so I’m still working on that.
This is my first recap post. It’s a look back at the posts and topics that came up in January, focusing on themes that emerged frequently, and highlighting the organizations, activists, and bloggers whose work was helpful to me in January. I’m not including links to everything posted, just the ones that really stuck.
My first post of the year was one that I’ve come back repeatedly to over the last six weeks. This post from No Prehensilizing, on the topic of quests vs. resolutions, has changed my own approach to resolutions, both in my personal life and as a coach. When I shared it on Jan 1, I said, “If you want to design a quest for yourself, get in touch with me. That’s a thing I can help with! Side quest or central quest, we can set the intention and make the journey.” That’s still true.
I used this approach when I designed my personal quest for this year.
One of the undercurrents this month was permission – especially permission to be struggling and to give time and energy to self-care. It was a difficult month, with a lot of pressure to up our activism and our involvement.
The beginning of January was full of posts about permission – to start something (Jan 3), to stop something (Jan 3), to drop the ball on your resolutions without giving up on yourself (Jan 5), to be present in your body even when you’re feeling shame (Jan 6), to not know whether it’s self-care or self-sabotage and to trust yourself (Jan 10), to take care of yourself when you’re sick or tired or worn down (Jan 12), and, one that really sticks for me, to heal for yourself and only for yourself, even if your pain makes others uncomfortable (Jan 7).
January was a tough month. The inauguration and resulting political actions, and the weight of the season. I posted about handling conflict in relationships when people are under pressure and dealing with exhaustion.
In addition to my own writing, I shared links to a bunch of excellent resources.
First, Lauren Marie Fleming, whose Bawdy Love project is inspiring, and whose work with creative writing has pushed me in new and exciting directions (who has an essay almost ready to submit to the New York Times “Modern Love” column? This writer!).
And I highly recommend that you spend some time with The Body Is Not An Apology. They write about weight/size, disability, sexuality, gender, mental health, race, and aging. They are doing some fantastic work. They have a strong social media presence, and offer a wealth of resources, including online workshops and courses and a thriving and diverse community of writers and educators.
Rest for Resistance is another resource that I linked this month, and highly recommend. Run by QTPoC Mental Health, they offer resources that centre the experiences of, and are written by, queer and trans people of colour. I wrote about and shared this particular post about productivity and worth, because it’s something I struggle with in my own personal and professional life. (When I shared this post from Rest for Resistance, I also made a donation to support their work. It is too easy to take advantage of the emotional labour of people who are constantly asked to do work in order to educate and support others. Women, femmes, and people of colour face an unfair expectation of free labour, and I don’t want to contribute to that abusive cycle. When I can, I donate to support the people who’s work I’m benefiting from.)
Ginelle Testa’s post, 50 Ways to Practice Self-Care When Your Mental Health is Crap, is a great resource for when it’s hard to even get started on self-care.
Madison Mahdia Lynn’s post, A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up, is fantastic and one that I have come back to repeatedly. Five steps to get from overwhelmed to grounded and ready to step up.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of MuslimGirl.com, and this post (with video) on how to be an ally to Muslim women is relevant and needed right now.
I also wrote a four-part series on the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. Part One, Two, Three, Four. I’m working on combining them into a feature post.
And finally, by far my most popular post this month, was this one from Jan 15 –
This one’s for my chronically ill pals.
You know that story about how you got sick because the universe had a lesson for you?
You know the (usually unspoken) parallel story about how once you learn your lesson, you’ll get better?
You know the secondary parallel story about how if you don’t get better it’s because you haven’t learned your lesson?
And you know how these stories loop back around to another story, that we tell everyone, ill or not, about how if you don’t learn lessons there’s something wrong with you?
That whole anthology of stories is ableist and toxic.
We all have lessons to learn, yes. We’re human, and we grow until we die. That’s what we do.
But you are not being punished for your lack of learning.
There is not something wrong with you if you can’t ace the mythical exam that the universe has theoretically put in front of you in the form of chronic illness.
My fibromyalgia is not a test. (Though it absolutely tests my patience and my ability to be compassionate with myself.)
Your chronic illness, mental or physical, is not a test.
Your cancer is not a test.
You are not being punished, you did not bring this on yourself, you do not have the power to make it go away by being a good enough citizen of the universe.
There are lessons in chronic illness. Powerful, beautiful, annoying lessons. Vulnerability. Rest. Compassion for yourself. The art and artifice of navigating an ableist world while disabled. The self-awareness that comes in when months immobilized on the couch erode your busy-work walls. These are valuable lessons.
But they are not the reason for your illness.
And learning them will not magic the illness away.
And, this is the important part, when you are still sick after learning these lessons, it is *not* because you weren’t a good enough student. That was never your job. That story was a lie.
When you are still sick, it is not because you haven’t learned your lesson well enough.
It is not your fault.
You did not make this happen.