The other day I responded to a post about politics and said:
I feel like the last couple years have really pushed me away from the faith I had in electoral politics, and there are times when I feel so much grief for losing that thread of hope. Most of the time I am thankful, because letting go of that opens up space to do other things and to imagine other ways of making change, but sometimes it does feel like a loss, and it is a feeling of grief.
Maybe there needs to be a little collective narrative projects for newly disillusioned folks to talk about this grief, which really doesn’t have a lot of space for expression.
Well, here is that little collective narrative project!
Over the next few weeks (until November 8), I’ll be collecting stories about our feelings about politics in 2019.
Submit your piece of poetry, art, or non-fiction by emailing me at email@example.com. Submissions will ideally not be more than 1000 words, but, as with all of these projects, I’m flexible.
If you are struggling with how to express your feelings or what to write, there are a few options. You can get in touch with me and we can have a chat that will hopefully help you clarify what you want to express, or you can use the following narrative questions to guide your writing:
When you think about the current state of electoral politics, what are the feelings that are evoked?
Are these feelings the same, similar, or not at all similar to feelings that you used to have about electoral politics?
If your feelings have changed, do you remember a specific experience or story that contributed to this change?
What do you miss about your earlier feelings, if there has been a change?
Do you have a sense of grief or disillusionment?
What are you grieving?
What feels like it is lost or more distant?
Do you have a sense of what you wish or hope that electoral politics could be like?
What does this hope say about what you value?
Where does this hope come from – are there particular political histories or thinkers who have inspired and nurtured this hope?
What do you hold onto when difficult feelings about politics arise for you? What, or who, keeps you going?
What are the actions that you are taking in your life that align with your hopes and values?
Have you ever had a moment of realizing the elected officials or the institutions of power were not responding in alignment with your values, and taking some kind of action? This action may be as small as reaching out to an LGBTQIA2+ friend when legislation threatens our safety, or it may be something like reading the 291 Calls to Justice in the MMIWG Final Report, or getting involved in community organizing and protests. People are never passive recipients of harm and trauma, and I would like to include stories of response in this zine!
My hope is that, regardless of the outcome of the Canadian federal election that is happening today, this zine will bring together stories of how we are continuing to do work in our communities, how we are continuing to hold onto our values despite our feelings of disillusionment and grief over the state of politics. I hope that it will bring our voices together, and give us a sense of how we can move forward together, organizing together, supporting each other, doing the work of responding to the problems in our lives regardless of the politicians who hold so much power (and the corporations who hold even more).
I’m looking forward to your contribution!
(Although this zine is inspired by the Canadian federal election, contributions are welcome from anyone. These feelings about politics span so many spaces.)
Collecting the self-care posts that I shared over the course of the April 16 election day.
It’s Election Day in Alberta! I’m going to be sharing self-care prompts throughout the day. We’ll be back to a more regular schedule of posting tomorrow. It’s first thing in the morning in Alberta, and I imagine that some folks are already awake and sitting with the intensity of this election. If you’re up, and you’re sitting next to an anxiety gremlin, join me in breathing for a moment. Not a “breathing exercise,” just a breath. I know sometimes that’s really challenging, for a variety of reasons that might include anxiety, or panic, or allergies, or congestion, or chronic health concerns. Whatever the breath feels like, just notice it. If you can breathe with some intentionality, do that. Can you bring the breath deeper? Can you feel where it goes on its own, or where it feels like it needs to be? Sometimes anxiety sits in the middle of my belly, and a breath helps. Sometimes my shoulders tighten up really tight, and a breath helps. Sometimes being told to breathe is just annoying. What’s it like for you, today?
Our second self-care prompt for Election Day in Alberta. Have you had anything to eat yet today? Are you hungry? Check in with yourself. Lots of folks will be volunteering today, working at polling stations or driving folks to polling stations or doing other important jobs. If that’s you, can you throw a snack in your bag on the way out? If you’re dealing with the emotional intensity of today and it’s making it hard to eat, what might help? Have you experienced emotional intensity like this before? How did you get through that time?
Are you thirsty? Have you had anything hydrating to drink yet today? What’s your favourite morning beverage? I’m in Australia today (I voted by special ballot before I left!) and when I’m here, I have a flat white with two sugars in the morning, and I love the apple juice over here. When I’m at home, I have my nesting partner’s amazing coffee – black, with maple syrup. What gets you started in the morning? Stress and anxiety can leave lots of us feeling wrung out. Staying hydrated sometimes helps. Is there anything you could do to remind yourself to stay hydrated today?
I really struggle with the way self-care is talked about in a lot of spaces – the way it’s commodified and individualized, and turned into yet another task for overburdened and marginalized communities to take on. I think that self-care is inextricably linked to community care, and that when we talk about self-care, we have to do it carefully. We have to be conscious of the ways in which self-care advice can actually cause stress and harm, and the ways in which self-care tools are differentially accessible to different communities. However, I also really value the way that people develop self-care strategies in even the most challenging situations! As much as I reject and critique the idea of individualized self-care (the idea that we can single-handedly make ourselves and our contexts better), I also really recognize and honour the ways in which people do exactly that! People are *always* responding to the hard times in their lives and the challenges in front of them. What are your favourite self-care skills or strategies? Is there a particular self-care story that you love to tell, or to remember? My very favourite self-care story is actually a community care story. When I met one of my most cherished friends, she noticed that I had a habit of speaking about myself in unkind ways. She designed basically a training program for me – for weeks, months!, she would check in with me about how my self-talk was going. She wrote me cards, gave me little gifts, and was basically a cheerleader for me as I worked to change that habit of unkind self-talk. I did manage to change that habit, and it was possible because I made it a priority, and because someone saw what was happening for me, and made an effort to support me in making changes towards something I wanted. Have you ever been supported, or offered support, through a process of change? I think that remembering some of these stories of care (self-care and community care) can help us remember how skillful we are at responding to hard times. No matter how today goes, we bring these skills with us.
Do you need to stretch? Sometimes emotional intensity can find a home in our bodies, and we can end up pretty uncomfortable. Where do you store your tension? How’s that part of your body doing right now? Can you give it a little gentle movement?
Whatever happens today, our communities will require care. We have seen that Alberta is not insulated from the kind of hate and cruelty that we’ve watched rise up in the States and in Ontario and across the globe. It will take time and effort to heal, and the process of healing will be an ongoing process because the hurts are also ongoing. I love this article by Shivani Seth on the topic of creating communities and contexts of care. If you need help imagining hopeful and possible futures, I suggest reading this.
Have you had any kind, supportive, one-on-one interactions with another person yet today? Intense emotions can be so isolating, and social media can leave us inundated with social information but isolated from social connection. What do you do when you’re feeling a bit isolated? How did you learn these skills? Are there any skills related to responding to the feeling of isolation that you’d like to practice? Would now be a good time to try out a new way, or a reliable way, of responding to feelings of isolation?
When was the last time you felt something really pleasurable? One of my favourite authors, adrienne maree brown, just published a new book called Pleasure Activism. In it, she includes dozens of essays by a wide range of writers on the topic of pleasure in a variety of contexts. The book is specifically about how pleasure can be, perhaps even must be, part of how we respond to oppression. Is there something you can do for yourself this afternoon that would be pleasurable? Can you find something soothing to touch, or something delicious to taste, or someone cherished to connect with? Is there a small moment of pleasure that you can invite into what may be a difficult and emotional day? You can read an interview with adrienne maree brown here. (Content note on this article for discussion of substance use and sex.) “In order to feel pleasure, you have to feel the whole breadth of your emotional spectrum and how to communicate [your] needs. There’s an aspect of it that’s also about surrender. If you orient [the world] around a collective community of care, then there’s plenty of stuff [available] if we know how to share it. A lot of pleasure activism is also leaning into the simple pleasures of existing, right here, right now.”
What is the memeing of this?!?! Share your favourite meme. Send a meme to a friend. Post a meme on your page. MEMES! I’ll start. (Memes are *absolutely* my favourite form of quickly accessible self-care.)
This post is a great resource to keep handy. It includes over a dozen questions and self-care prompts. It’s particularly useful if you are feeling intensely distressed, depressed, or suicidal. Getting through election day might be challenging. A lot of folks are scared, angry, and feeling uncertain about the future. Waiting for the result of such an important election, where the stakes are so high and hope has been low, can be overwhelming. I know that saying, “if you need help, reach out” is often trite and unhelpful. Many of us would reach out if we could, but intense emotions can keep us quiet for a wide variety of reasons. If you’re struggling, consider starting with this checklist. If you’re struggling and you feel able to reach out, the Calgary Distress Centre is available 24/7, with text-based support available from 3 pm to 10 pm. https://www.distresscentre.com/ The Edmonton Distress Line is also available. https://edmonton.cmha.ca/programs-services/distress-line/
Have you gotten any fresh air today, or spent any time with plants or animals? Can you find a way to engage with nature? Maybe you can actually go outside. Maybe you can pet an animal. Maybe you can water a houseplant, or look out the window and really notice what the sky looks like, or the plants outside the window. This world is amazing. We are part of this world.
Art can be resistance and response. Creativity can be resistance and response. When was the last time you did something creative or artistic? Could you break out the pencil crayons or the paint or the stickers or the knitting needles and do something creative this evening? Maybe take a cue from some of the folks who have been responding to hateful rhetoric in this election and take some sidewalk chalk out to share some strategic affirmations. Can you do some art that will, to quote my beloved friend Nathan, affirm your pain or support your function? Art can make our lives more possible, can invite us into a moment of agency, action, and creative choice. In the face of terror and overwhelm, this can be powerful. (I am a fan of stick figures, myself.)
One of my cherished friends reminded me last night that being helpful can really help the person doing the helping to feel better. If you’re feeling the emotional intensity of today and it’s starting to wear you down, know that you are not alone. There are a lot of things going on today, a lot of narratives running through many of our minds. It’s a lot. What are your favourite ways to help other people? Do you enjoy baking for friends? Do you like reaching out with a text, or sending a meme, or sharing an article? Do you prefer doing tangible acts, like helping someone tidy their house or running an errand for them? Do you like helping someone reframe a difficult situation that they’re facing? What is your favourite story of yourself as someone who helps? Is there anyone in your life who might need some help today, that you feel you might be able to reach out to? This election has shown us that there is a lot of hate and willingness to cause harm in our province, but it has also shown us that there are so many of us who are willing to step forward and offer help. There are many true stories of this election, and they do not cancel each other out. It has been hard and horrible, and it will continue to be hard and horrible. AND, at the same time, our communities are beautiful and resilient, and will continue to be beautiful and resilient.
This election has felt intense and overwhelming. And I think that part of this intensity, part of this overwhelm, is that this election follows a trajectory that we have been on for a while. We have been witnessing harm, and the escalation of overt acts of hate and aggression, for a long time. We have seen it in the States, and in Ontario, and in the UK, and in many other countries*. For some communities, this has been an unrelenting experience of oppression for many generations. For all of us, the impacts have become more visible, more overt. We see the changes happening in our environmental, economic, and political contexts. I am in Australia to convocate from my Masters of Narrative Therapy and Community Work program. For my final project, I looked at narrative responses to political distress. You can watch that video here. I’m sharing this today because I want to affirm for our communities that we have already been responding to hardship. We have skills that will continue to be available to us. We have cherished values and histories of action. Whatever happens in this election, and in the upcoming federal election, and in the global context – whatever happens, we will continue to respond. We will turn our hopelessness into action. We will weave safety nets for each other and with each other. As G. Willow Wilson says, there may not be a way out, but there is always a way forward. We will find that way forward together.#abvote
* I want to note that this experience of rising hate is *not* universal across our globe. Rwanda, Ethiopia, New Zealand, and many other countries have found a different trajectory. If you want to feel some hope, look up what is happening politically in those three countries. Women in Sudan have been the driving force behind ousting the president and demanding better representation. And even on our own continent, communities are finding ways to map a new path. This story of harm and rising violence is not the only true story of our time.
A while ago, I co-created and participated in the Tender Year project with Nathan Fawaz and Stasha Huntingford. In this project, which was powerful and life-changing for me, we had seven prompts, one per weekday, and we reflected on these prompts every day. On Saturdays, we wrote affirmations. Affirmations for ourselves, for our communities, for the world. We asked, what do you need to hear? What do you need to affirm for yourself or for your people? I struggled with the affirmations (I struggled with all the prompts at different times in the year) but I also found them powerful. So often, affirmations are demanded from people who are struggling, and affirmations are presented as a singular solution to systemic oppression. But when we uncouple affirmations from these ableist and capitalist discourses, they can actually be incredibly powerful. They can affirm for us who we are, what we cherish, where we have been, and how we want to be in the world. They can open up possibilities that feel closed off by the anti-affirmations so many of us are confronted with on a regular basis. What do you need to hear, today, this evening, as the polls close and the long count begins? What do you need to affirm for yourself or for your people? Nathan offers us these as a place to start: “Spend on the world you wish to create.” “Exile nothing.” “Call yourself home.” “Orient towards the possible.” “The possible is an exchange between heart and lungs.” “The possible first feels like relief, and then dares to be joy.” What are your affirmations today?
Is your body feeling nourished right now? Do you need to eat, or have something to drink? It’s been a long day, and lots of us either forget to eat during stressful days, or struggle to eat when the emotional intensity is present. If you’re hungry, or if you know that you need to eat, is there anything you can nourish yourself with? My go-to calorie-intake on stressful days or high-pain days is a London Fog. I appreciate the ritual of making myself a London Fog, and I appreciate that I can get some calories into myself without having to eat anything solid. What are your tricks for days when eating is difficult or inaccessible?
Friends. I see the panic. I feel it, too. If they’re right about the outcome of this election, we will grieve and we will rage and we *will* keep fighting for each other. I know you feel sick. I do, too. Breathe, beloveds. Put your hand on your chest and feel your good heart beating. You are alive. You have done everything you can to keep us and our communities and our kids safe, and now we will figure out what to do next. The outcome hasn’t been determined, the advanced poll votes won’t even be counted until tomorrow. But I know how bad it looks. I love you. We will figure out how to move forward together. You are alive. You are here. You are not alone. Your good heart is beating and you will continue to make a difference in the lives of the vulnerable and hurting. We are not alone. Unstick your tongue from the roof of your mouth. Breathe. Push your shoulders down from your ears. Squeeze your eyes shut for a moment and then open them wide. Let the feelings move through your good and knowledgeable body. Breathe. Find each other. We will weave safety nets for and with each other. There may not be a way out, but there is always a way forward.
How are your nerves right now? Feelin’ a bit frayed? Is there anything accessible that would be soothing for you right now? Although bubble baths and cups of tea won’t solve the world’s problems, there is absolutely sometimes a place for them in offering comfort and a moment of peace.
How was today for you? What is the story of this day? There can be some value in naming our acts of living, and in naming the values that we held close through a difficult time. What choices did you make today? What were the values that informed these choices? What were you valuing when you made the choice? Is there anyone in your life who knows that you made these choices? Who, in your life, would be least surprised to know what your strong values are? Did the choices that you made today make a difference in anyone else’s life, or might it make a difference in someone else’s life to know that you made these choices? What choices did you witness other people making today that align with your values or hopes? What values do you think they were holding onto, that allowed them to make these choices? Will their choices make a difference in your life? We are not passive recipients of trauma or hardship. We are always responding. We can hold onto that truth, no matter what happens in the near future. #abvote