Reasons to join my Patreon: when I get super busy and forget to make the review/preview posts public until 2/3 of the way through the month, you’ll have already read it, so it won’t matter! And you’ll get access to the behind-the-scenes review/preview content that gets edited out of the public posts.
Alright! This post is way late, but better late than never! Want the recap on September, and what I thought October would look like? Here it is! (October has turned out quite a bit busier than this anticipated, but that’s a story for a different post.)
21 days ago, when this was first written, it was October 1.
On September 30, the Tender Year ended. This is a huge thing – the Tender Year has been a full year-long project, and I feel… I feel a lot of things at this ending! But I also feel like this project ended at a moment when I am mid-marathon, and so it has just dropped out of my life but I don’t have time to pause and honour that. I can’t take a couple days to process, sit with what I’ve learned and how this project has changed me. So, my goal is that I will take this time… eventually. I’m not sure when.
But that’s forward to the preview, so let’s start with the review.
Early in September, I spent a whole day with Michelle Robinson and her family. I didn’t write a post about this, but this was an incredible experience. I had reached out to Michelle because I have been exploring my own spiritual practices, and had a question:
If it is true that my spirituality is connected to being present in the physical world, connected to nature in some way (which I have learned that it is),
And it is true that I am a settler on this land that I am connected to,
And it is true that plants are part of my spirituality,
And it is true that some plants are part of Indigenous spirituality, which I have no right to,
And bringing in non-indigenous plant species is tied to colonialism and could be further violence against the land,
Then how do I practice my spirituality respectfully – honouring the plants that are here on this land where I am a settler, without appropriating in ways that perpetuate ongoing colonial violence.
This is an ongoing process of exploration, and I am thankful to Michelle for her part in helping me figure this out. You can read more about this in the Patreon post, but it doesn’t feel right to share it more publicly at this time.
I also spent a lot of time working on my practice innovation project for the Masters program. I hadn’t narrowed down my focus between “using narrative practices to navigate ‘too much of a good thing’ experiences” and “using narrative practices with polyamorous communities” even last month, but in September I realized that I really did have to make a decision so that I could start writing the final paper.
I picked polyamory, for a few reasons:
First, I’ll continue the other project regardless, just a bit slower. So it didn’t feel like a very high-stakes decision, since I know that I will end up doing both.
Second, I am helping coordinate the Horizons: Conference on Polyamory and Non-monogamies in November, so it made sense to get two uses out of one project – the oral presentation that I’ll give in Adelaide at the end of this month, I will also give (though slightly expanded) in Calgary in November.
And third, I am really keen to expand the pool of resources for therapists working with the polyamorous community, because right now it is deeply lacking and this has real and tangible impacts on polyamorous folks who are looking for support.
So, to this end, I conducted both interviews and narrative therapy sessions on the topic of polyamory. I wish that I’d had more narrative therapy sessions, but that’s just not how it worked out. I really do need to figure out my marketing – I posted the call for participants once, and then never re-shared it. *facepalm*
I did 38 hours of narrative therapy this month, which is still shy of my goal, but getting there.
For those of you who are curious or interested, I do still have some of the “37 for $37” narrative sessions available (this was a promotion I ran for my birthday – charging $37 for a session in honour of my 37th birthday).
(Mid-October update: I did not write my paper on polyamory at all. I wrote it on using narrative practices to respond to the current political situation, and that is also what I’ll be presenting on at the teaching block.)
Events and Groups
September was full of events.
I planned to run the Resilience self-care salon with my sister on Sept 9, though nobody showed up, so we just chatted. I’m really looking forward to collaborations with Domini, so keep an eye for those coming in the future.
I ran the Possibilities discussion event, with the topic of “how we got through,” on Sept 18 and it was phenomenal. I am still working on pulling the resource based on our discussion together (and am leaning to a simple blog post rather than a full PDF, just because these projects accumulate faster than I can finish them!). I really loved this conversation, and some parts of it have stuck with me all month. You can read one of my reflections on this conversation in this long Facebook post. (I feel like I should be pulling more of those posts into blog posts, but I haven’t figured out a flow for that yet.)
I also ran the Bi+ Visibility Event on September 23, and it was amazing. We had a panel discussion that I was really proud of, lots of people attended and seemed to have a great time, the informational postcards turned out great, and the poetry event was small but lovely. I would like to write up a blog post about this, but haven’t had time because…
I woke up September 24, looked at the news, and realized that the following week was going to be horrific. So I threw together an impromptu self-care support group for anyone who wanted to join (we ended up with 10 participants). All week, from the 24th to the 30th, I sent out two emails each day checking in. We also had two online group chats, and one in-person tea-and-pastries chat yesterday morning. This was a really successful experience, in my opinion (and based on the feedback I’ve gotten), and at the conversation yesterday we talked about how to extend this work into the coming year, since with all of the elections coming up, it is likely to be stressful AF. I have ideas about how to do that, and I’ll write about those when we talk about October. I am also considering taking the emails and turning them into a little downloadable PDF that could be used as a “do-it-yourself” one-week self-care support. (Mid-October update: this group is what developed into the project I wrote my paper on, which Patreon supporters have access to!)
The last event of the month was the coffee chat for the Very Professional: Marginalized Professionals group. This happened on Sept 29, and I’m planning on these to be monthly. There is also a secret Facebook group (to maintain people’s privacy), so if you’d like to be added to that, let me know! I am still working out the logistics of how this group will run, but the original idea was that it would be a subscription-based support group for professionals (meaning people in “professional” careers, where the heavy expectations of gendered/abled/educated/classed/raced professionalism come into play).
I wrote one paper for the Masters program (which hasn’t been graded yet), and most definitely did not keep up with my other writing goals. At all.
Onward to October!
I did honour the ending of the Tender Year in one small way – I started a new planner today.
(A planner, open to this week, with a task-pad on it.)
Here’s what’s coming up:
October 5, 8 am: The Art of Narrative Practice essay is due. This is meant to describe, using one exemplary practice story, how I am adapting narrative practice to my specific context. I have gone through at least a dozen different outlines of this, and have no idea how to do this effectively or well. This is worth a significant percentage of my grade, and I am a ball of anxiety. One of my classmates participated in the one-week self-care group and suggested that I should write the essay on that, but since I have to demonstrate how my narrative work shifted a community member’s experience of their problem, or resulted in their feeling more connected to a preferred story of themselves or their lives or their agency within their lives, and I didn’t really do “how is this group impacting you” interviews, I don’t know how to do this. So, I don’t think I will. But it was a big confidence boost to see that a colleague sees me using narrative in innovative and effective ways!
October 8, 8 am: The draft of my Narrative Practice and Research Synthesis paper is due. This is the draft version of my final paper, and although it will not be graded, it is a big deal. And I am definitely not ready. At all. *gulp*
October 14, 1:30-3:30: I’ll be hosting the No spoons left, only knives: Honouring our anger narrative workshop. This is in response to what has been happening in the news in the last couple weeks.
October 15: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I will be resharing the collective document that I generated last year. You can find it here – it is a queer and trans-inclusive resource, and this is still a significant gap in the available resources for families and individuals who have experienced this kind of loss. If you do have a chance to read over it and you would either like to share your story, or make suggestions for content that should be included, let me know. I have set aside 5 hours on the 12th to work on this document.
October 16, 6:30-8:30: I’ll be hosting the Possibilities October discussion, and I have not set a topic yet. Ideas? Things you’d really like to discuss or see a resource (eventually) created about? Let me know. I’m setting up the event tomorrow.
October 17, 9 pm: Get on a plane and fly to Australia. (!!!!!!!)
Sometime during the week of October 29-November 2: 30 minute oral presentation on my practice innovation project
October 29: Submit research poster on the topic of my practice innovation project
October 31: Dinner with the team heading up with trans and queer youth clinic at the family therapy clinic in Adelaide, because Rosie and I have been staying in touch about their work getting this up and running, and the Dulwich Centre has authorized Rosie to hire me as a peer consultant for her work. (I have started to do some of this – there are now two therapists who consult me on topics related to transgender, queer, or polyamorous folks. That’s kind of exciting, hey?!)
So, between now and VERY SOON, I have to get a lot of writing done, come up with both my oral presentation and my poster, host a couple events, and keep up with my narrative therapy sessions (and hopefully book more of those!)
I am also working on another event, which I’d like to run before I leave.
When everything was happening with the Kavanaugh hearings, I wrote to David Denborough and Cheryl White at the Dulwich and said:
I wondered if you have any thoughts about how to pull together some kind of narrative response or project re: what’s happening with yesterday’s hearing and today’s news that Kavanaugh will most likely be confirmed.
I wondered, particularly, if there were any narrative projects or responses to what happened with Anita Hill and how that impacted people? Or other narrative responses to situations where a great injustice has been carried out in very public ways like this. The George Zimmerman trial, similar. It feels like this happens pretty often.
I don’t really know what to look up, in terms of how to find maps, or ideas for projects, or what to do. And I know lots of people are responding – the responses are both crushing and heartening – but I also see that a lot of folks are talking about feeling helpless, unable to act, disconnected from a sense of agency. There is so much hurt this week. (I mean, always. But this week has been particularly hard, as we see the rape apologists just crawling out of the woodwork.)
We are all bystanders, but we are watching something that symbolizes and crystalizes lived experiences. I don’t know how to support myself or my communities in response to this. Particularly after the news of Jeff Flake’s decision to support the nomination this morning. Calling our politicians hasn’t done anything, it seems. I don’t want to individualize responses into simple “self-care” but also… I don’t know what else to do.
And it’s just, my communities are experiencing such intense retraumatizing this week. Yesterday and today especially. And I think, there must be something? I know there are ways to respond. I just don’t know what they are or how to do them. I wondered if you might have an idea, or even just some papers I could read to start thinking about what I could do.
I put together a little “emergency survival” group on Monday and we’ve been doing daily check-ins, but I feel like I want to do something more? I don’t know. I want to do something with my hands other than hold all this grief and fear.
You both have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to putting together responses to crisis and tragedy and so I thought I’d ask about whether you have ideas, or if you know other folks who are working on this that I could support or contribute to their work, or anything like that.
Thank you. Even if there’s nothing, I really appreciate that narrative therapy has given me new ways to think through problems. Your work makes such a difference.
David wrote back and had some really great suggestions for a letter writing event, and some other potential directions for using narrative practice to respond.
I love these suggestions, so I will be putting together an event for folks to collectively view both Dr. Ford’s testimony and also the video of Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher confronting Flake in the elevator, and then facilitate a narrative conversation about this and generate letters that can be shared with Dr. Ford and Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, and also perhaps posted as open letters available to other survivors.
I am still working on the details of this, but I feel strongly that I want to pull this together and that it’s important. And then, going forward, I want to figure out how to create some kind of narrative project that does the work David outlines, of challenging, and making visible, and making visible the resistances to, and that can “problematize dominant gendered discourses of ‘pliability, friendliness, flirtatiousness, sexual availability, forgiveness’.” But that will wait until after I get back from Adelaide.
(Mid-October update: I did run this event, it was fantastic, and I will be writing it up for the next preview/review post!)
A big month past, and a big month ahead.
I do want to say, there are some new Patreon supporters this month and that means so much to me!!!