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.
The 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.