Self-care group part two: Anger and hope

Self-care group part two: Anger and hope

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. sostarselfcare@gmail.com 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 sostarselfcare@gmail.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.

March review/April preview

March review/April preview

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 TumblrThis 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!

January Preview

I’ve spent the last couple days mapping out my immediate upcoming projects. It’s pretty exciting, and there are many things coming up that you can be part of!
Check these projects, collaborations, and events out, and get in touch with me if there’s anything that piques your interest.
  • I’m launching a book club for parents, stepparents, and caregivers of autistic kids. We’ll be reading books by autistic authors, and recentering the conversation about what autistic kids need away from neurotypical experts, to autistic experts. I feel like this is a critical counter to the standard approach, and it’s important to me because both of my stepkids are autistic. I want to do the best that I can for them, and that means listening to autistic adults. You can get involved by sending me a message and letting me know you want in. Unlike most of my work, this one will be in person. We’ll be meeting once a month-ish at my home, so space is limited. However, I’ll 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 this blog.
  • I’m collaborating on the creation of a resource for extroverts, addressing self-care and mental health, since so much of the available self-care and mental health writing assumes introversion, or assumes that being outgoing and social is incompatible with depression or suicidality. You can get involved by sending me a message. Our first in-person round table discussion is coming up on Saturday, and there will be a second in-person round table discussion later on. You can participate online (in text or skype interviews), in person (in one-on-one interviews or round table discussions), or some combination of these. I am particularly interested in talking with folks whose experience of extroversion has been impacted by cultural norms that don’t leave space for extroversion. (For example, autistic folks are assumed to be inherently introverted, and so are many Asian folks, while Black and Indigenous women are interpreted as “angry” or irrational if they’re extroverted, and women in general often find it difficult to be accepted as extroverts without being shamed for being “gossipy,” “loud,” or other unacceptable things.)
  • I’m collaborating with my brilliant sibling, Domini Packer, to create a resource for survivors and supporters following sexual assault, to help build and sustain networks of support following a crisis. You can get involved by sending me a message. We’re meeting with people one on one to chat, and also talking with folks online. This is going to turn into a zine (or similar), with stories, resources, and action plans for survivors and supporters following sexual assault. We noticed a pretty big gap in the available resources, and a lot of “lean on your community” without a lot of insight into what that looks like, how to ask for what you need, how to keep boundaries between yourself and your supporters. And for supporters, a lot of “believe them, be there for them” without a lot of information about how to do self-care during the crisis so you don’t end up burning out (or worse, turning around and leaning back on the person who has just been through a trauma), how to maintain boundaries with the person you’re supporting, how to reach out for your own support in safe and respectful ways. We’re going to attempt to fill that gap a bit. I’m also interested in talking with professionals who would like to contribute. (This one is coming up quickly, so get in touch asap if you want to be involved.)
  • I’m working on a resource to help folks navigate those “Bad Gender Feels” days. This project is in the germination stage, but I am starting to meet with folks to talk about what would be helpful and what they’d like to see included in a resource like this. This resource will also include information for parents and other supporters of trans and gender non-conforming kids who want to help them get through those dysphoric days.
  • Possibilities Calgary events are running on the third Tuesday of each month at Loft 112 in Calgary’s East Village, and are always free to attend. Every month has a theme, and our in-person discussion becomes the framework for a shareable, downloadable, free resource booklet. You can participate at the conversations, or by sending your ideas or suggestions once the monthly topic is announced. (January is Winter Self-Care for Weary Queers.)
  • The Self-Care Salons are running every month on the first or second Sunday at Loft 112 in the East Village. The cost is $50, sliding scale is available. Every month includes an in-depth conversation and a resource book. 10% of the profit from the Self-Care Salon goes to the Awo Taan Healing Lodge. (In January, Vincci Tsui, RD will be facilitating a discussion about food, health, and bodies that is size-inclusive, anti-diet, fatphobia-challenging – Self-Care Salon: Bodies, Food, and Health.)
  • Bridges and Boundaries: Social Self-Care will be launching Jan 22. It’s a 6-week online course focusing on building tools for social self-care. The cost is $150, sliding scale is available, and it’s going to be awesome. You can sign up by sending me a message.
  • You can also get involved by supporting my Patreon. And at the $10/month level, I’ll write you a post on the self-care topic of your choice. My Patreon supporters are the reason I’m able to put so much time and effort into developing resources that are comprehensive, inclusive, and available for free.
  • And, lastly, my self-care and narrative coaching (for individuals and relationships) is on sale until the end of January. You can check out my services on my Facebook page (I’m in the process of updating this website to be up to date), or you can just send me an email! A single session ($150) is 10% off, a package of 3 ($400) is 15% off, and a package of 10 ($1200) is 20% off.

There are other projects coming up that aren’t collaborations or events, too. Blog posts and other plans for creating new work, mapping out my content focus for the year. 2017 focused on wholeness and integration, and 2018 will focus on hope. I’m in the process of figuring out what that means, and how to bring that focus into my various pieces of work.

I’m also working on pulling some of my work off of Facebook and making it accessible elsewhere. I’ll be shifting my Tender Year posts into a new blog (and cross-posting with Facebook), and once that’s up and running, I’ll share the link here. I’ll also be posting more of my self-care content onto my Tiffany Sostar blog so that people can read it without being on Facebook.

And, perhaps most exciting for me, two major projects are lurching up to speed:

  • the book I’ve been talking about and writing about and thinking about for ages is happening and I’ve started to pull the content together for it, so watch for updates on the 100 Love Letters book coming throughout this year, and,
  • I’m 83% certain I’ll be doing the Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work this year at the Dulwich Centre (I’ve been accepted into the program, and now I just need to sort out funding – yikes!)

And one major project is just starting to simmer more assertively:

  • I’m putting together my speaker event wish list, and starting to think about restarting the UnConference Series and bringing people in for events (Avery Alder is at the top of my wish list, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to bring her in for a weekend workshop on transformative gaming sometime this year).

2018 is going to be about continuing to do what I love, learning how to do it more sustainably and effectively, and working with my communities to develop strategies and resources for resilience and hope. It’s going to be good.

December Self-Care Salon: Narratives of Self-Care

December Self-Care Salon: Narratives of Self-Care

Image description – The green leaves of a succulent with a pink flower. Text reads Self-Care Salon: Narratives of Self-Care. Dec 10 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm, Loft 112. RSVP today.

Welcome to the Self-Care Salon!

Each month, we’ll meet for tea and snacks and discussion – an opportunity to take a deep dive into a specific self-care topic, with space for your questions and insights.

Each self-care salon will include a short presentation by a community expert – someone who can speak from their own experience about a self-care related topic. “Expertise” in this context is a broad and inclusive word, not limited to folks with letters after their names or professional designations, and recognizing the expertise that we each gain over the course of our lives. If you’re interested in presenting, get in touch!

For our inaugural Self-Care Salon we’ll be talking about “narratives of self-care” –  what the common perception of self-care is, how it’s discussed in mainstream culture and in activist circles, how marginalized communities can practice self-care and what our stories of self-care include, and what narratives of self-care we’d like to see more often.

Following the presentation by Tiffany Sostar, we’ll have an hour for discussion, including any questions you have about the topic (or about other self-care topics), and then time to chat, network, and work on our self-care plans. Each month you’ll get a resource pack with worksheets, suggestions for further reading, and a self-care plan for you to fill out for the coming month.

These workshops are intended to be as accessible as possible. The space is wheelchair accessible (through the back door), with a separate space for folks who are experiencing sensory overwhelm to chill out, and gluten-free and vegan snack options.

The cost for the workshop is $50 or pay-what-you-want. Nobody will be turned away for financial reasons. The first two workshops will be offered at a discount, because the holiday season is often a time of financial strain even for those of us who are not dealing with economic insecurity. Tickets are available here.

Sustainable and ethical self-care is not possible without intentional and compassionate community care, and the Indigenous communities whose land we live on are often forgotten. These workshops take place on Treaty 7 land, and the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Tsuutina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. This land is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

10% of the proceeds from the December workshop will be given to the Awo Taan Healing Lodge.