Mapping Our (Collective!) Wellness

By Nathaniel Shara

One of the primary questions behind the FAR Out! project is always:  “What structures can we proactively put in place to meaningfully support ourselves and each other when hard things come up in our lives?” What we know is that– whether we’re talking about a flood or a breakup–  more often than not, we don’t make plans for dealing with the hard stuff until it’s happening.

Inspired by a “Mad Maps” workshop put on by The Icarus Project in 2010, I developed this FAR Out- Wellness Mapping tool for participants in the FAR Out project (and all of us) to do just that.

You are Not Alone Round StickerThe worksheet starts with some space to reflect on what happens for us, personally, when we’re having a hard time. Do I stop sleeping or start sleeping all the time? Eat more than usual, less than usual? Stop taking medications or exercising? Spend hours and hours on the internet without pleasure? Etcetera. There are loads of examples to choose from, as well as plenty of blank spaces to add your own.

Once you’ve spelled out this intimate portrait of what hard times look like, the rest of the worksheet focuses on laying out what helps, what doesn’t help, and what other people in your life might be able to do to be supportive. There’s also a section to spell out what is NOT supportive… which many folks have said was their favorite– and the most useful– part of the process.

After you’ve filled in the worksheet, ask yourself: “What would it be like if my trusted friends and family members had a copy of this sheet of paper? What if I had a copy of their Wellness Maps too?”

While the idea of sharing our answers can feel very vulnerable, I think there also can be something powerful about the idea of meeting each other in the depth of that vulnerability… instead of perpetually feeling like our friends and family only care about us because they don’t know all the things that are on that sheet.

For a lot of folks, this self-reflection alone is a valuable process. And for many of the folks who have shared pieces of this map with their loved ones, it has been a way to open up some new possibilities of receiving meaningful care and support. I’ve also found it to be a powerful group activity among people who are committed to working together or being in relationship to one another over time. Please don’t feel pressured to reveal every last thing on your map, but do ask yourself if there are even a few things on there that you might be willing to share.

Authenticity can build trust. And proactive requests and agreements can often get us further than crisis-based reactivity can. As well intentioned as our friends and family may be, it’s not reasonable to expect that they’ll always be able to read our minds about what kind of support will feel meaningful and relevant to us. Hopefully this activity can be one useful tool among many as we continue to develop a toolbox for building self-determination and interdependence within our communities.

Art by Jacks McNamara.

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Be PROUD the Whole Year Round!

By Michael Henson

Pride season, the annual celebration of all things LGBTQ, sure comes and goes in a flash! All the parties, festivals, rallies, parades, poetry slams, concerts, and other community-spirited events are crammed into one weekend, and then we pack up our feather boas and equality signs and go back to life as normal. And that post-Pride stillness can sure feel like a bummer – after being out in community dancing, marching, and fighting for equality alongside your queer comrades, suddenly you may feel detached or lonely.

But never fear! Opportunities to stay engaged with community abound, especially in places like Seattle. Here is a small sampling of queer community groups that are always looking for new friends:

This is just a small sampling of community organizations for LGBTQ folks in the Seattle area. Hop online and search for an activity or subject that interests you, along with your city name and ‘trans’,‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘queer’, etc. I bet you’ll find the right group for you!

Large group photo of the Rainbow City Gay Band-- with over 80 members sitting on a lawy with their instruments.

BONUS! Connecting with community and building networks of friends will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, AND it can also insulate you from the impacts of abuse and violence. When you have friends to turn to in times of need, you are less vulnerable to many tactics an abuser might use to maintain power and control over you. So get out there and make friends (or maybe meet your next sweetie!) doing something you love, and we’ll all be one step closer to ending abuse in our communities!