I have mentioned previously that in my groups class we take run an actual mutual aid support group made up of the members of class and every week to class members get to co-facilitate the group together with a predetermined topic. Last night was our last night of group and it also happened to be my night to co-facilitate. Our topic was loss.
When I initially was assigned to be the last group and given the topic of loss nothing about this rattled me. I was doing the group with a close friend we had both done groups before, and I was well versed in the topic of loss thanks to prior experiences.. it was going to be fine.
Well a lot had changed since the beginning of the semester. For starters my friend was no longer in the class so I had been assigned a new partner, someone I had never worked with before and whom I did not know at all. On top of that we were going the week after the most contentious election in recent history.
My new partner was fabulous. I could tell the moment I met up with her to discuss a game plan. We were going to work together just fine. We came up with ideas for questions to fall back if needed we started brainstorming about ice breakers and how to close the session out. The ice breaker was particularly tricky.. a lot of my go-to ice breakers had already been used earlier on in the semester by other co-facilitators. I even went so far as to read a book about ice breakers for ideas.. They all felt so forced and cheesy to me though.
The concern about having to go right after election week really started to grow over the weekend.. I had not been on social media much as I was giving myself a break from all the negativity so I did not know that a rift was beginning to form within our cohort online. Apparently a few members of our cohort had voted for Trump, totally their right, and one in particular seemed to becoming more and more vocal with their opinions about how the rest of the country, who did not vote for Trump, was responding to his win. I am sure a lot of people saw this kind of thing happening on their feed, FB has become a bit of a trash can since the election unfortunately.
So this person was apparently making comments on other members of the cohort’s posts about protests that are going on, or articles they would post.. It didn’t sound good. One of my friends that I went to dinner with mentioned that this person had started making unwanted comments on one of her posts and was not backing down. This person in question is known for being outspoken, personally I have always seen this as a strength because I have never seen them take it to a negative place, but it seems like right now it was getting very negative and hostile. I would brush all of this off as none of my business, and did for the most part, my only concern is that some of this people that now seem to be feuding a bit are in my groups class. I started to get nervous..
Is this going to bleed into class? Is this going to bleed into the group I have to co-facilitate? Do I feel that I am able to hold space for a discussion that could come out of this? I did not know any of the answers to these questions.
So our anxiety leading up to the day of class was our lack of an ice breaker and not knowing what the hell to expect from the class. I mean the topic is loss, many people are feeling a definite loss associated with the outcome of the election (myself included), we could be in for a heavy conversation. At this point I did not know how I ever felt so confident at the beginning of the semester.
Then I woke up yesterday morning and had a moment of clarity in my morning meditation.
What have I been saying since last week? Turn up your light, be an example of love, do whatever it is you do – sing, dance, paint.. Paint. That is what I do. I am an artist. That is one way I can turn up my light, suddenly I knew exactly what to do for the ice breaker and it would also address the negative energy that might be present.
I called my partner, shared my idea, we brainstormed together and both agreed this was a great way to go. I thought about bringing in my own art supplies but decided I did not want everyone using my personal stuff and getting their energy on it. So I ran by the art store, got some cheapo acrylics, brushes, and a canvas.
At the beginning of class we invited everyone up to the front of class where we had set up the canvas, paints, and brushes. We asked everyone to paint a little something on the canvas that speaks to how they are currently feeling, the energy they are bringing to group tonight, or just a little something that they feel represents them.
It was great! Everyone was laughing and painting. Some were very thoughtful and used lots of colors, others made a little mark and were done. Everyone responded to it in their own way, which was great because it created such diversity on the canvas. There were peace signs, flowers, hearts, suns, inspiring words like “empower you” and “breathe”.. The group member who I was a bit concerned about, the one who seems to be struggling with other members of the cohort, painted something that I thought was very telling.. It was a big “equal” sign with a line through it. It was a bold red and was by far the largest symbol painted on the canvas.
At the end of group we processed our painting and what everyone thought. Some people asked questions about some of the symbols they were seeing, a question was asked about the big red symbol.. The group member who painted it blurted almost explosively that it stands for “unequal” because that is how they feel about society right now essentially. That group member did not participate in group last night but by opening the floor to creative expression at the beginning we were still able to give that member a voice, maybe in a way that felt a bit safer for them to express themselves. I feel good about that. I also hope that all the peace, love, and flowers present next to their symbol helped it to feel balanced, and in turn helped this person feel balanced.
Politics did not bleed into group. Group went well. At the end was passed around self-care stickers for everyone to pick from, they were a big hit too. I cannot control how everyone experienced our group last night but I know I turned up my light. I realized that being able to hold space for others starts with being able to hold space for yourself.
In a little while I will be leaving for internship. I am walking into this day with continued commitment to turn up my light and be an example of love.