What to do when you feel powerless.

Last month I was given the opportunity to spend 2 days with the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC). Some of my favorite peoples work there and I love, not just their mission, but the way they move in the world.

The training was meant to be a conversation about how the staff at the MDRC could practice Militant Self-Care while shifting into work with the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and experiencing an increase in the number of times they may encounter sexual violence while serving their clients.

Feelings of overwhelm and powerlessness are common when working on the front lines of any move to end violence because, frankly, there’s so much we simply cannot control. We often know the intimate ways that people are being harmed, their unique vulnerabilities, and how the system is not set up to protect them, heal them, or offer them justice. And, on top of it all, we don’t always have the power to change any of that.

In preparation for this workshop, I googled ‘what to do when you feel powerless.’

Seriously. I did. Google is my favorite consultant.

And guess what I found?

If the goal that is important to people is control, then in situations in which people do not have power, they should seek situations that give them more choices. In situations in which people have limited choices, they should seek power.

Initially, I had suggested that they create a parking lot in their office for gaps in services that they identify to help them decided where to shift their programs or their funding asks in the future. Sometimes a response plan can help us keep moving. Choices.

What we did next was the real game changer because it helped the team focus on where they did have power.

I facilitated an activity where we discussed all of the things they could control. It was beautiful. Maybe someday they’ll share it with you. I encouraged them to hang it up somewhere visible in a nice frame.

It included things like;

  • having control over the messages they share and boosting the signal of voices that are made invisible by ableism and white supremacy
  • not replicating the harm of systems of oppression in their work
  • pushing back on funding restrictions that are not in the best interest of their clients.

In the end, we all stood back, took a deep breath, and smiled. I told them,

Look at how you do this work. There are things you don’t have control over but never forget this list. Hang it up somewhere so that you can remember that you are powerful. Not everyone is doing the work like this and I think that’s so special.

Power. Let’s not shy away from using it for good where we have it. Power can manifest as a boot on someone’s neck or the hand that throws it off.

A group of 6 people that are intergenerational and racially diverse. There are 4 people in the back of the group. From left to right, a black woman smiles and is wearing a black sweater and grey patterned shirt, one white women wearing glasses and her dark brown hair in a bun smiles, another white woman smiles with her brown hair up in a bun, and a white older man in a button down shirt and jeans. In the front is an older woman with white hair and glasses. She's wearing a turquoise shirt and glasses. A brown skinned woman wears a flowered sun dress, jean jacket and gold jewelry with curly hair smiles.

Maybe your office could benefit from this exercise. How good would it feel to focus on what you do have control over and why the way you work is so powerful? Or maybe this could be a conversation about the way you want to be doing this work. Maybe you need to spend time together thinking about your values and the way they are or are not showing up in your organizational moves.

Call me, maybe.

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PS – While I have you here, check out the Disability Visibility Project here and while you’re there, get your Ableism is Trash coffee mug, tote or t-shirt. Winter is coming so I opted for the mug but you do you.

Teen-Led Program Training with GGE

I had the pleasure of visiting Girls for Gender Equity and facilitating a training on Teen-led Programming.

Girls for Gender Equity is in Brooklyn and as soon as I hit the door, the energy of the place lifted me. I was traveling soon after the death of a beloved family member and feeling a little frayed at all ends. I also fell on the sidewalk before I got there.

It was a 4-minute walk. Life happens to all of us, folx.

But as soon as I got there the team bandaged me up and the views from inside the office and outside the windows inspired me to rally. As you can see, they intentionally lift of women of color and it felt good to be in a space with powerful elder activists on the wall.

Their Executive Director Joann is everything. As important as this training was to their goals, she pulled me aside and assured me that everything could happen at the pace that I needed. They were ready to skip it all to make room for my grief. You don’t find that kind of community everywhere, people.

We moved into the training space listening to Janelle Monae and eating fresh fruit and quiche.

As I started to facilitate the training, it became very clear that Girls for Gender Equity is fully equipped with what they need to make the shifts in programming that they want to. Each staff member shared concerns from a space of first wanting to do no harm. They also shared openly times in the past where they felt ill-equipped to deal with a situation but managed to rise to the occasion.

This training was a skill share and the beginning of a collaborative relationship between The Firecracker Foundation and GGE.

One of the things they wanted me to bring to the table is a conversation about the kind of #militantselfcare required to sustain working with teen survivors of sexual violence. Not only are the team at GGE practicing lots of healthy self-care personally but they practice collectively.

Important: They have a DAILY DANCE PARTY.  If you want to dance with them, it happens at 3:45 p.m. every day. Synchronize your watches.

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I left the GGE team sending them best wishes as they step into their power and their well-honed insights as empathetic humans bringing their best to the movement.

Follow them on Instagram @ggenyc!

Bless,

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PS – Did you know that The Firecracker Foundation is hiring? We totally are! Click here for details and please share it with your family and friends.

PPS – Did you know that we are hosting a Healthy Sex(uality) Workshop on September, 29th?! Well. Now you do. Click here for more info.

We Are All The Velociraptor Sometimes.

In this month’s Open Letter, I made the following claim;

When it comes to boundaries, people can be like velociraptors..jpg

It’s true.

Velociraptors do not respect boundaries. They actively avoid them and work skillfully to get around them. Even people with the best of intentions can step all over your boundaries. I also wrote about the many ways people can react to being asked to respect your boundaries. See: Temper Tantrum

 

Sometimes when someone says, “Please respect this boundary.”

I hear, “You hate me. You don’t want to be with me. You think I am terrible and awful and fugly.”

This seemed like a good time to bring back the word ‘fugly’.

It’s easy to recognize the velociraptors in others. It’s not so easy to understand why we start tapping electric fences for weakness when someone asks us for a little space.

*SIGH* Thank God for therapy, #amiright.

We are all the velociraptor sometimes. 

Love & Electric Fences,

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PS – Sign up for my Open Letters and get a FREE gift from yours truly. <3

 

 

Vacation is over.

giphy (2)And there will be sorrow across the lands. It is time to report to your office. Even if you LOVE your job, going from living on sugar cookies, wine and cheese while watching movies and playing with new toys can
be jarring.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to make this week less awful:

Make a plan. Get your planner out and review what’s coming around the bend. Take out your highlighter and block off time for lunch, breaks and the 2 times a day you’re committed to checking your email. Yes, twice. That’s all you need.

Eat well. Pack your lunch. Pack several lunches. Put snacks together for the week. No one on the planet functions well hungry. Why spend your day feeling like a cranky toddler with a case of the hangry? Plan to eat. Your body will thank you. Your coworkers will too.

Get some rest. Speaking of cranky, go to bed at a decent hour. It’s really over and staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning won’t bring your vacation back. It will just make you tired and miserable for your first day back to professional reality. Get yourself comfy and sleep like it’s your part-time gig.

Pace yourself. If you happen to be an overachiever (like me), the starting line can feel super sexy. It’s all shiny and new. The race is just riddled with endless possibilities. You can jump tall buildings in one leap or whatever. No. You can’t. You can only jump normal. You still only have 24 hours in a day and only 8 of them are for work. This is a relay not a sprint. Take it easy Jesse Owens.

Bring the magic. I’m not talking about casting spells here. I’m talking about bringing an amulet to the table. I love to take reminders of my amazing holiday with me when I’m about to step back into the hustle of
my day job. I love my Glacier National Park coffee mug. It reminds me of Lake McDonald and the mountains I woke up to behind it. Grab a little magic to take with you.

You are going to be awesome. And 10384660_10154555950065626_4027924760770639560_nremember, there’s always the weekend.

Love,

 

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PS – For more tips on #militantselfcare head on over to the Facebook group and click JOIN.

 

Thank You Note

Dear ones,

Thank you for reading my stories, thoughts and feelings. Your readership has given me the gift of confidence in my words. Your comments, likes and shares encouraged me to keep telling stories. This blog was a stepping stone in discovering the treasure that is my written words. Thank you.

My life has evolved.

You’ve seen the changes. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ve seen my children grow. You’ve watched my relationships thrive, struggle, end or become more weatherproof. You’ve seen me advocate freely and build a nonprofit that is a reflection of what I would have wanted for myself as a child.

You’ve seen my snapshots.

It’s time for this blog to make a transitional move. It is time to reserve my words for publishing. There’s only so much time in a writer’s day and I’m already managing an organization that has quickly become bigger than me. I need to focus on those things that will serve my dreams for the future.

My intentions for the future are as follows;

You can expect that I will be writing and that I will be published online. You can expect that I will be published in print too. I will be working on my memoir and a few secret side projects. Outside of family and friends, you will always be the first to know when and where you can read my work. You’ll be able to find short reflections and rejections* here too. Topics will revolve around nonprofit, survivorship, #militantselfcare and every now and again, my family.

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You may also be invited to attend workshops that I create based on lessons I learn along the way.

Which reminds me. There’s still time to sign up for my Militant Self-Care Workshop on December 2, 2015.

I’m getting super professional in my old age.

Sincerely,

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*rejections = things I tried to publish elsewhere but were rejected because some people are just intent on discovering me after I am dead and gone. 

Not quite right.

I arrived wearing yoga pants covered in dog hair and my slippers. The yoga studio is 2 minutes from my house and I was 2 minutes late. I was thirsty and rushed as I unclasped my watch, dropped it into my purse and headed in to select a mat. I grabbed a pink one, took a step forward and stopped. Definitely not pink today. Where’s that black yoga mat?

Yes. Black like my soul.

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I’ve been having trouble getting my feet underneath me since Soulfire 2016. I’ve felt sluggish, disconnected and turned inward. Invitations are lost on me. Pajamas are all I want on my body and my bed is the only place I want to be.

I’m not depressed, I’m emptied out. My charge is depleted. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been trying to do the bare minimum with the hope that my come back is on its way.

Do you hear the upbeat music kicking in? Here it comes! It’s almost…Nope. I’m going back to bed.

I’m laying on my deeply dramatic emo black yoga mat thinking;

I’m just not feeling okay. I’m just not okay with how I’m feeling. I’m not okay with working right now. I’m not feeling quite right. Why can’t I get my mojo back? I’m not feeling okay enough to do much these days.

My thoughts distilled: I am not okay.

I usually take a week off after big time events but this week went awry. I made some commitments that I shouldn’t have and then one of my children had to stay home from school sick. A come back is not in the cards for this week.

Things are not quite where they should be in my soul.

I’m invoking a Do Over for next week that will include auto responses, critical tasks only and loads of leisure time with the people I love the best.

I’m not okay right now but I will be.image

Sincerely,

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PS – This is helping.

Disrupting Your Own Negative Inner Dialogue

Well, that’s what you get?

While gently leaning into a yoga pose and reflecting on my feelings, this is what I heard myself say. I was shocked at the lack of compassion in that voice. A voice that found its origin somewhere inside of myself.

It made me angry. Who even says that? Oh, right. Me.

In the hours leading up to the yoga class, my heart had been aching and I felt like I was going to cry. Two separate events had come careening towards me threatening two different kinds of catastrophe. Although I had managed to fix the problems, I was emotionally spent. Despite my fears of inconsolably crying on a yoga mat in a room full of people, I decided to take all of my feels to a yoga class.

#myfeelsI’m so glad I did. In the process of calling myself on my own bullshit, I learned a few things I thought you could benefit from too.

3 steps to disrupting your own negative inner dialogue.

Quiet your surroundings. Hear yourself speak. Had I not found some quiet time, I may not have ever heard the voice in my head telling me that I deserve to be in pain for choosing to do the work I do. I needed to be on my mat and in my breath to hear that super awful message loud and clear.

Some tips: Go on walks without your iPod. Turn off the radio in your car. Fold laundry without Netflix. Get on your mat and practice or meditate. Journal before bed.

Listen to yourself. What you say to yourself is important. That very simple phrase had the power to prevent me from asking for help or seeking compassion from those around me. If I’m constantly telling myself that I deserve to suffer, than I will suffer. The end.

Tips: When you’re approaching heartaches, obstacles, emotions, what are you saying to yourself? Are you calling yourself nasty names or telling yourself you’re unworthy? Are you saving your compassion for everyone else? Listen for patterns or reoccurring themes.

Challenge yourself. When I heard that phrase float through my mind, I nearly bolted out of my yoga pose. It was mean and unhelpful. Once I challenged it, I found it completely untrue and can now dismiss the thought if it ever comes around again.

Tips: When you hear yourself being negative, challenge the statements that you throw at yourself. Respond with the opposite sentiments. Where there is a lack of compassion, give yourself some loving kindness.

That phrase has now evolved into this one:

“With my heart work comes personal transformation but only when I am brave enough to inspect the wound.”

What will your negative inner dialogue transform into once you challenge it?10421337_10152916021378588_1898813583640583186_n

Sincerely,