The Next Chapter: Narrative therapy group

The Next Chapter: Narrative therapy group

February can be a hard month for folks who have had a romantic relationship end.

The Next Chapter is a four-week narrative therapy group designed for folks who are figuring out what comes next after a major relationship upheaval.

Space is limited to 6 participants, and all meetings will be held on Zoom, Saturdays from 10:30-12 pm Mountain Time. This is a queer, trans, disability, and polyamory welcoming group.

The cost is $160 ($40 per 90-minute session). Register by email.

Week 1 – Introduction: Where we are and how we got here.
This week will include introducing ourselves, getting to know each other, and talking about our ideas of self and relationship – what it means to be a good or successful person and how our experiences in relationships, including when relationships end, influence how we experience ourselves.

Week 2 – Character study: Who we are and what matters to us
This week we will be talking about what matters to us in relationships, and what it is about ourselves that we value, what might have become obscured or not seen in the relationship that has ended, what we want the people around us to see and know about us.

Week 3 – Plot points: Mapping our way forward after a relationship ends
This week will be a mapping exercise! We’ll use the ‘migration of identity’ narrative therapy practice to figure out where we want to go next.

Week 4 – Conclusion: Skills we’re taking into our next chapter
In addition to naming the skills and hopes we’re taking forward, this week will include an opportunity to reflect back to each other what is moving and meaningful in the stories we’ve learned about each other (in narrative therapy terms, a definitional ceremony).

‘How we are avoiding misgendering’ follow-up

The conversation on December 11 was so lovely. It felt good to be in community, speaking about how we try to take care of trans and non-binary people in our lives (for many of us, that includes our own selves). 

One participant wrote afterward and said, “it was the most generative convo I have had in such a while and felt so good to be apart of <3!!” 

I received the transcript back from Shara (they are always such an important part of this work!) and have started pulling out themes and quotes to get started on the collective document. 

The thing I’ve been thinking about most often since is how important relationships are in this work:

  • Our relationships with ourselves (our own experience of gender, our own learning and unlearning of gender expectations and the gender binary, our own safety as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts)
  • Our relationships with trans and non-binary community (our families, our partners, our friends, our communities, the people we don’t know but with whom we still want to be in solidarity, the safety of those people as we decide whether to speak up or not in various contexts and how we choose to speak when we do, the legacy of trans and non-binary advocacy we join when we act in solidarity)
  • Our relationships with people who may be acting in alignment with gender essentialism, cisnormativity, or even transphobia (these may also be our families, our partners, our friends and communities!)
  • And even our relationships with ideas and ideals, values and hopes, curiosities and possibilities.

The original topic was “how we avoid misgendering others”, and I had imagined a conversation about how we’ve unlearned our own cisnormative habits and the skills and strategies we’ve developed for our own internal relationship with gender and gendering. I’d like to talk more about that, still, but in the conversation on the 11th we ended up speaking more about how we respond when we witness misgendering, which is a related (but also very different) thing.

We talked quite a bit about the barriers that get in the way of acting in solidarity, and part of this conversation was bringing some nuance to the idea of what ‘acting in solidarity’ can mean. It is not a binary or a single correct answer – there are always a variety of actions available, and when we determine which action we take, there are many relevant factors. We are always responding based on our position in the specific context, which means thinking about things like – are we the person being misgendered, or are we witnessing someone else being misgendered? what is our relationship with the person engaged in misgendering? what do we know of their values and hopes – if they are someone who cares about not misgendering, then correcting them is almost always the right call, but if they are someone who will become angry, we have to consider what the fall-out or backlash will be, and whether that will compromise our or someone else’s safety. In those instances, other actions, like texting to check in with someone, or finding something affirming to do later, might be the better option. These can be uncomfortable calculations, because it can feel like failure, and I hope that one generative outcome of this work is that we find ways to speak about our desires to be in solidarity and to avoid misgendering and to respond to misgendering with compassion and rigor. 

I’m going to get started on the collective document soon, and will be sharing the draft here.

If you would like to contribute, there are many ways you can do this!

I’ve created a little google form for people to contribute asynchronously. You can find that here

We’re also going to have a follow-up conversation in January, and I’ll share that date once it’s set.

You can also email your thoughts to me, or comment here.

The questions in the form are:

  • Is there a particular person you are making this effort on behalf of?
  • What’s important about getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right?
  • How did you learn to care about avoiding misgendering?
  • Who knows that you care about this? (Sometimes we can feel isolated in our efforts, and one goal of this project is to make visible the community around us and the legacy of solidarity that we are part of when we take care in this way.)
  • How do you practice getting people’s pronouns, names, and gender right? (This can include practices you use for yourself, too! When we avoid misgendering, that includes our own precious trans and non-binary selves.)
  • What practices do you have for when you get it wrong?
  • What difference have these acts of care (both for getting it right and responding when you get it wrong) made in your life or the lives of others?
  • What would you want others to know about avoiding misgendering?

You can respond by email or in the form. 

How we are avoiding misgendering

How we are avoiding misgendering

I’ll be hosting a community conversation, along with my excellent pal Zan, on the topic of how we are trying to avoid misgendering (and why, and what difference it makes).

There is so much hostility directed towards trans and gender diverse communities right now, and the actions we take to care for, welcome, affirm, and acknowledge trans folks can often feel small and invisible in the face of so much hostility. But these actions are not small, and our hope is that this conversation will make them more visible, and that by sharing these stories, we can take a stand, together, against transphobia, and alongside trans community members.

This conversation is open to anyone, of any gender, who wants to talk about how they are trying to avoid misgendering. 

This conversation will be taking place on December 11 from 3-4:30 pm mountain time (December 12 from 8:30-10 am Adelaide time). You can register for the conversation here

We will record and transcribe this conversation, and collect the stories into a collective document (probably a zine!) to share with participants and community members, and on the Dulwich Centre’s website as part of this project

Stories will be anonymized if you prefer, and the transcription will be shared back with conversation participants but will not be shared publicly. 

Zan and I have collaborated before, when we worked together on the Non-Binary Superpowers collective document, and the She/he/they/ze/hir: Talking about pronouns and gendered language collective document (with David Denborough).

It’s been a minute since I hosted a conversation like this, and I’m really excited for it. But I also want to acknowledge that this conversation is in response to tragedy and trauma. The actions we take to stand with trans and non-binary folks can be life-saving. The effects of transphobia, homophobia, and refusing to support trans and non-binary folks are horrific.

I want to make something that makes care visible. And I want to be in a space where care is visible. It matters that we make this effort.

Tools for Hard Emotions

Tools for Hard Emotions

This is a post about struggling and reaching out and being met with care. I’m writing it up because sometimes these moments of collective care pass quickly, and I want to document this. Not only to remember that I, personally and specifically, was met with so much wisdom and care but also to share some of the wisdom with anyone else finding themselves in a tough spot. Maybe there is something here that will help you. Maybe you will add to this list of ideas. Maybe you will send it to someone else who needs it. 

Sometimes it is nice to know that even in the hard moments, even when we are really struggling, out there in the world there are other people who have also struggled and who have gotten through. There are a few things that I hold onto when I am at my lowest, and this is one of them – no matter what is happening, someone, somewhere, at some point, has struggled like this. No matter what is happening and no matter how hard it is, I am not truly alone in it. There is a way through. People have made their way through. Maybe that means I can get through, too.

Last month, in the week after Father’s Day, I had a couple of really tough days*. 

In the middle of the worst of it, when I couldn’t get my body to calm, and my chest hurt and my head hurt and I couldn’t catch my breath, I came to facebook and posted. I said, Alright pals, I had some Hard Emotions and now my chest hurts and my head hurts and I can’t make it stop. Hit me with your best tools for soothing that inner “something is hurting me and I can’t make it stop” thing.

My community met me with care.

Here is an expanded list of the tools people shared (anonymized and consolidated):

  • Jump into the shower (this was shared by lots of folks, and it is one thing that I did for myself that day!)
  • Tap the bone behind your ear
  • Put heat or cool on the back of your neck
  • Use white noise, like ambient starship or forest noises or rain
  • Remember that you will fuck up, like we all do, but you get up and keep trying and that’s all we can ask. You are already making a personalized microverse around you of a just and right and kind and soft world.
  • A purring kitty. Belly rubs.
  • Connection with someone – coffee, walk, dinner… something in person 
  • Connect with a therapist
  • Listen to a soundtrack or playlist that has been created for these times, maybe something you can sing along to, or something that brings specific feelings or memories
  • Making jam
  • Asking someone to hold you close and tight
  • Going for a walk (with yourself, a person, or a furbeast)
  • Videos! Many folks suggested this, and the suggestions included otter videos, videos of tiny edible food being made on tiny functional kitchen sets, the f*ck that meditation video, puppies vs kittens, Great British Baking Show or Nailed It (season 1 episode 6 for cry-laughing), 
  • Havening or TRE. (These are both somatic or psychosensory therapies. Here is some info on havening and here is some info on TRE.)
  • Know that it is useful/helpful to know that you are doing badly. Seeing the hardness is useful.
  • Stop what feels ‘important’ because your own self deserves to be ‘most important’ right now
  • Make some tea
  • Light a candle and wrap yourself in a blanket and spend some time with your little self. Have a conversation asking what you can do to help them feel safe and loved.
  • Roll up in a blanket like a burrito and lay on your stomach on the floor
  • Video games, because you can control those and empower yourself
  • Cosplay (this one reminded me of the Gloom Fairy costumes I used to put on when things were very bad)
  • Write it down and turn it into a poem. Then look through your photos and find one that makes, and if not, take one that could match.
  • Let go in a temporary way if you’re not ready to let go all the way. Give yourself permission to return to the feelings as needed.
  • Going under your bed
  • Saying yes to the hurt, not to the hurting. As in: yes, hurt is visiting. Then host it for a little while. What sort of tea does this hurt like to drink? Is it cold? Would a shower or blanket help? Remember that you are bigger than the hurt. You are the home it is visiting, and there are lots of tools within you to make it as cozy as possible for its stay within you. (Someone else responded to this wisdom by sharing this quote – “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.” Mingyur Rinpoche)
  • Impulse buy something (with a note that the person who shared this isn’t always happy with this strategy – I appreciate being able to share the ‘less preferable’ strategies as well, because sometimes that’s what’s available!)
  • Message a close friend and ask why they are your friend
  • Talk with someone who will listen and care without trying to solve the issue
  • Downward dog or child’s pose, with as much intentional breath as possible

And there was a whole category of strategies related to ‘releasing the energy’. Some ideas for releasing that energy included:

  • walking
  • connecting with someone else
  • screaming
  • crying (maybe in the shower)
  • jumping
  • shaking your body
  • breaking something that can be broken
  • writhing
  • grabbing some clay and smashing it (it is the earth and can hold all the feels, be destroyed and come back)
  • feeling something beneath you and knowing that what is solid can hold you and when you are ready you will hold onto yourself again
  • keening (a low sound with each exhale through loosely pursed lips, like the sound of the wind through a partially open window, or blowing over the top of a pop bottle, changing the pitch up and down as the emotions move through)

Is there anything you would add to this list?

Has anything on this list been helpful to you in the past?

For myself, I got into the shower and cried a lot while listening to Regina Spektor very loud on my phone. It helped. 

Would you like to see this list turned into a zine? I was thinking about making a few more illustrations and printing it, and then I could mail it out to folks who want it. But even if it never gets to paper, it is a great list to have access to. I am thankful.

* This post isn’t about those tough days, but patrons got that little story. You can support my patreon here.

A Weekend at the Existential Dread Club

A Weekend at the Existential Dread Club

Many things are very bad right now.

The first Existential Dread Club conversations happened in July, 2021. Things were bad, then, too.

In those conversations we talked about what was contributing to our experiences of existential dread.

Here’s some of what we said in our first meeting conversation;

I don’t know if existential dread is quite the right word for it, but like, a feeling of hopelessness and overwhelm and uncertainty about the future, because it seems like every time we do something to make some kind of progress – like we have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and they generate this phenomenal body of work. We have the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2 Spirit final report and they generate this incredible body of work. And within that body of work, there is so much education, so much emotional labour of Indigenous communities, and then it does nothing! The government does nothing with it and that contributes to my feeling of like, “Why? And how? And what even is the future?”

We went through that historic heatwave just, you know, 10 days ago. And that left me feeling more intensified feelings. I’ve been thinking about what kind of world we’re leaving for the people who come after us, and what we have done to this planet.

I think capitalism and how to actually deal with capitalism so that we can do something about all of these different things. Because there’s not really any incentive under capitalism to stop making money quarterly.

I see a lot of initial momentum towards maybe challenging capitalism, but I fear that this is just people online, on social media saying ‘yes, this sucks,’ but thinking that there’s no actionable things attached to challenging it in any way. And so I fear that it’s this moment where it’s possible but probably not gonna happen. And that’s really tough.

Definitely the general feeling of, like, hopelessness that’s reflected back to me when I chat with folks… it’s a lot.

We talked about friendship and trust and hope, and the effect of feeling hopeless and despairing and lonely. And we talked about what helps.

We talked about not being able to control other people, and how that makes things hard – how the actions we see people taking that cause harm can invite us to feel both responsible and hopeless, and how turning our energies towards the relationships where we can make a difference feels more possible, more hopeful, more generative. In those spaces of relationship, where trust has been developed and care exists, it’s not about control, it’s about influence and connection.

One participant said, “The smallest things we can do are the things that just help us personally, that we can only do for ourselves not to feel so much dread. And then as you get bigger it’s about trying to affect maybe your friends and family. And then it gets to trying to affect society and that’s where it gets bigger and bigger, but it also gets harder and harder.”

A Weekend at the Existential Dread Club is my attempt to widen my circle of influence just a little bit, for just a little while.

I haven’t been doing much organizing lately. I have mostly been hanging on by my fingernails to this life. Doing what feels possible, acknowledging that what feels possible is most often the smallest, most personal thing.

But I feel an intense amount of dread these days.

Things are bad.

Things are so bad, in so many areas.

Issues around the pandemic, and how we are watching ‘the easing of protections’ (to use a phrase from a dear friend) sparked the idea for this second Existential Dread Club event. There is growing existential dread for those of us who are disabled, chronically ill, medically complex, or otherwise at increased medical risk (due to personal factors, sure, but also due to structural factors like medical racism, transphobia, fatphobia).

But between having the idea and actually organizing anything, so much more has happened. War in Ukraine. Floods in Australia. Cost of living shooting up fast enough that people I know and love can’t pay their bills. Texas coming after trans kids and anyone who tries to offer trans affirming care. The ‘convoy’. Anti-mask demonstrations every week.

Everything present in those first conversations, escalating. Colonialism. White supremacy. Climate change. Capitalism.

And alongside all of this, I really miss organizing. I miss facilitating events. I miss conferences and retreats. I miss community spaces and the conversations in those spaces and the documents that grow out of those spaces. I miss being the past version of me who had energy for that kind of work, time for that kind of work, space for it.

So, this is a virtual retreat. A weekend to talk about what we’re afraid of, what we’re holding onto, how we’re getting through.

There will be three facilitated conversations:

Friday, April 1 from 6:30-8 pm MST

Saturday, April 2 from 1:30-3 pm MST

Sunday, April 3 from 10-11:30 am MST

There will also be a set up for the weekend, where we can chat, post messages, maybe have a watch party together on Saturday evening. I’m hoping to capture a little bit of the casual conversation and social connection that I miss so much from facilitating retreats.

There will probably be a writing workshop, too.

You can join for whatever part of the events feels best for you and fits into your schedule. You can register here. There’s no cost, but there’s an option to donate if you want to.

For now, only the three facilitated conversations are formally scheduled, but as we get closer to the weekend, other events will be scheduled.

I think it will be nice.

In an ‘everything is awful’ kind of way.