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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.