Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The following is the full text from my plenary presentation at the IFS annual conference, that I delivered on Saturday morning, October 28, 2017.

Good morning. I want to start by acknowledging how overwhelming it feels to parts of me to be given the opportunity to speak for my parts that have been wounded by, and are healing from racism. I frequently have a part that worries about finding the words to fill a space of time. Today however, the concern falls more to: how can I Even Begin, to offer the context for what I want to get across, in just a few short minutes? 

I am Palestinian. Even saying that feels charged. Forever, I have had a part that has felt it necessary to say, “I am half Palestinian.” Or to make a joke out of it and say, I’m half WASP and half Camel. As a kid growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in a largely white upper middle class suburb of Utica, NY, being Palestinian was not something that was emphasized by either of my parents. I do not recall as a young person ever feeling pride when telling people that I was “half Palestinian.” It was not something that was hidden, but it certainly was not celebrated, or offered much historical context for me as to what it means to be Palestinian. There were stories about my father and his long multi-phased journey of how he got to Ithaca, NY; the heart-break his family experienced as he left as a teenager, by himself for a far away land; the sweet romantic story that he loved to tell of how he met my mom; but not a lot around the Why of his departure from his birth home.

A very notable moment in my family history came when my older brother and I began producing grandchildren, and, all of a sudden my father became the Palestinian grandfather. My four children, who grew up in close proximity to their grandfather, became proud Palestinians. It was at this time for me, alongside my own children, that I began to more fully claim being Palestinian. Instead of being embarrassed by being so much browner than my mother and most of my white friends, there came an opening of possibility that that might Not be so bad; maybe it was even Ok.  So today I stand in front of you and let you know:  I am Palestinian. I can claim it fully. I can also claim fully that I am British; I am Welsh; I am a smattering of other northern European ancestors. And yes, I am Palestinian.

Fast forward to a year ago. Last years Saturday morning plenary at this very same IFS annual conference, many of you will remember, offered a panel of extraordinary and brilliant Self-Lead loving beings, many of whom are here speaking again this morning; all of whom spoke with amazing eloquence for their marginalized, oppressed, and wounded parts. Listening to and taking in their offerings was a profound experience for me. And yet, as everyone else was leaving and exclaiming their awe and parting for their morning workshops, there were tears that I could not hold back as I left that session a year ago. Those tears came from my parts who  experienced the absence of a Palestinian voice on that stage as a repeat of the pervasive and deliberate elimination of all things and wounds Palestinian by so many other powerful institutions that surround our daily existence.  A deliberate and familiar choice my parts have come to expect of the erasure of the Palestinian experience. My parts felt again that same familiar de-selection from this community that I have strongly chosen to align with, and from whom I have learned so much about unburdening, healing, and loving. The oversight, as my parts perceived it a year ago, was now coming from the very community that has offered Me the tools and resources for This Palestinians healing, tools that have given me so much greater access to my own personal truths and wisdom. In the relatively short space of time since I began my IFS training, I have effectively used these tools in the service of healthier relationships and a life that feels more content and complete than I have previously known. My parts that teared up last year were confused and hurt. And now, I get to stand in front of you and speak for my Palestinian parts, and their ongoing healing.

As I do that, there are a couple of things that feel worthy of being named. First, the demographic that I represent, is not a demographic that is well represented in this room. Second, the demographic that I represent, is not all that well represented in most rooms that you’ll randomly walk into in this country. And, the demographic that I represent today is frequently misrepresented and misunderstood by those who are not Palestinian. That being said, I do not wish to, nor can I, represent all Palestinians. Just as with any other group of people, we are diverse, and I am just and only one. And yet, I am grateful to offer you a small window, into my world. Another important thing that needs to be named, is that there is a significant Jewish representation in this room. And, because I am Palestinian, I make a distinction between White Privilege, and Jewish Privilege. I’ll also name, that I have parts that are exceedingly aware, that the concept of Jewish privilege may be a challenge to some of you. And, of course: all Parts are welcome. That’s why we are here. It is however, important that I speak for my part that feels the Jewish privilege that belongs to my friends and colleagues, and that my Palestinian parts can never experience. And, It Is Important that discrepancy be named. My parts that hurt and feel invisible, have come here as much as anything so they can be named, and hence, be less invisible.

One of the most important things that I have learned through my process of preparing to speak here this morning, is a clearer understanding of the requisite and complex entwining of my Personal and Legacy Burdens. These burdens travel closely and are not always distinguishable, one from the other. The protectors that manage my personally felt burdens, carry a deep historical context, and are guarding and protecting me in my personal life and relationships, Even as they may stem from an historical context. An historical context, mind you, that this Palestinian has barely directly experienced in her lifetime. And, the fact of that, “barely directly experienced” context, too brings it’s own series of burdens. 

As I spend time putting the legacy, the personal, the room I am standing in, and the audience to whom I am speaking in context, the reminder now is:  The burden I speak of is a burden of invisibility. There are other burdens that travel with it: irrelevance, erasure, and betrayal should be named; yet the burden of invisibility is this mornings’ driver. In my lifetime, it has not been lost on me that I can have trouble finding my voice. Yet, preparing to speak here today, has not just highlighted, but has put an enormous Shining spotlight, on just how pervasive and deep, the confusion of, “Is it Ok to speak?” can be.     I believe my plenary panel can attest to that for you!    It has never been difficult to recognize a gendered burden of needing to be sweet, agreeable, and kind. I now also recognize the layers of burdening associated with the wounds and polarizations of being Palestinian that contribute to the challenge of finding my voice. 

Significantly, there is a polarization between my Palestinian Part that has been well taught to do things quietly, politely, and without a whole lot of fanfare, or challenging of anyone, and a more activist Palestinian Part that wants to Scream Out the egregious injustices that have been committed upon us.  This activist part wants to set straight so many misunderstandings and untruths about who the Palestinians are, and would offer an important, little heard historical context of how we have come to our plight. My gentle, “keep your mouth shut Donna,” part who quickly defers to other voices, understands that being generous and likeable allows relationship to grow and flourish. If any of you have ever befriended a Palestinian, you understand just how deeply this can run in Palestinian blood. The Palestinians are some of the most generous and hospitable people you will ever in your lifetime meet. For instance, you need to be careful telling a Palestinian woman that you like her jewelry; she might just take it off and try to gift it to you. The more assertive activist part of me knows, however, that if she never has a voice or significance she will never be seen. On a global level the result of such silencing is genocide. Personally, the result of such silence is a Profound and Lonely disconnection that carries the mantra: “they don’t get it, they don’t get it, they will never get it.”

Self-Leadership brings a humane understanding to the healing that is being sought between communities of conflict and unbalanced power differentials. Actively exploring and witnessing my parts over the last several months in preparation for this morning has offered me greater clarity, and helped me to understand things that I have felt, but have not previously understood very well. There are difficult dialogues that need to happen; and by rights have begun happening in this community. Speaking for the Unbalanced power differentials is an Essential piece in healing and shifting the differential. I have parts that deeply long for more Palestinian voices in IFS spaces.  And, I am extraordinarily grateful to be here.  Thank you for your kind, generous, open-hearted listening.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Longings

It is the season of so much nostalgia and tradition; again.  Funny how it creeps up on me sooner and sooner each year.  As I contemplate Christmas this year, longings are the sugarplums that dance in my head.  It is the metaphor that continues to capture me.  Christmas, the holiday of so much consumption, is also the holiday of reconnecting with those whom we hold most dear.  In a very cynical analysis, this season of consumption that is so directed towards children, teaches our young at the earliest and most tender age, that there is never enough.  We stir our children’s longings for what they don’t or cannot have, and for what someone else determines they most need, training within our babies, this sense of being incomplete, not good enough.   And, it seems that this feeling of inadequacy, of not being or having enough, continues to be profoundly familiar.

For me, I can count on having an awareness during the holiday season of feeling that something relationally is missing.  A relationship that didn’t materialize, or maybe one that disappointed.  It feels quietly sad, and I hold it tenderly, within.  Others step up and fill the vacancy, and yet, there is a poignancy of something not being quite right.   Longing, not always for material things, and yet Christmas places the emphasis squarely on the material.   Every year that passes I try to move away from the consumptive part of the holiday, just a little.  Yet, there remains a feeling of being empty handed if I don’t have gifts wrapped up under the tree, or if there’s nothing in hand as I show up at a festive gathering.  Am I enough?  What do I have to give?  How can I sufficiently show my own sensitivity and caring?

And, there’s also this amazing nostalgia that comes with this the grand finale holiday that ends one year and begins another.   I listen to the familiar songs, and thoroughly enjoy the festive, cheery brightness they bring, never tiring of them.  I find myself wondering; do I enjoy them so, because they are genuinely good music, or is it this soft sentimental place within me that just wants to melt and feel the Peace, Love, and Joy of the season?  My heart weeps, as I reminisce my own familiar longings.  My heart sings as I delight in gratitude for the loves that are mine and always present.  The tears and singing join, and I appreciate that the longing and the gratitude intersect somewhere, where the difference is so  ill-defined, as to disappear.  The longing IS the love, and without some degree of disappointment and loss, I would not feel its’ depth.   The holidays bring our sentimental eager vulnerable hearts to a place of great opening.  Here’s hoping that you find a place to share that opening with deep gratitude.  And, that any losses that are felt are reminders of the greatness of your Love that is always present.    May the Peace, Joy, and Love of the Season be yours, Always.  Donna

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Therapists Quest for Therapy

One of the challenges, or possibly in turns, indulgences, of being a therapist is the absolute necessity of doing the work oneself.  Right. I must figure out how to become the client. I have understood this requirement of my chosen field from well before I entered graduate school. And, as I have progressed through school, and some years through working with clients, multiple trainings, etc. this essential aspect has only been confirmed and re-confirmed.  I have taken the responsibility of, "doing the work", very seriously and could tell some pretty interesting stories about what that means in terms of encounters with other therapists. Very delicate business, being a therapist in search of a therapist. Suffice to say that I have figured out at the very least that I am not going to hire locally.  So, I have discovered some locals willing to do co-therapy with me, who are actually very good counselors, though not formally trained therapists (thank you to the amazing RC community in Syracuse, NY, and to my favorite local kindergarten teacher and counselor!).  And, when I need a more formally trained therapist, I have found myself, on the road.  Going on the road, and paying top dollar for therapy can be a bit risky.  And when it doesn’t work; very disappointing.  Though, it absolutely beats firing your local small town colleagues!

After having recently attended a professional workshop, I decided that the presenter might just be a good person to approach to help me satisfy my longing to experience really good professional therapy.  Not being entirely certain how he would feel about taking me on as a client, with some trepidation, I asked.  And so it begins, the edging of personal and professional.  He affirms that indeed it would be fine.  Do I use my personal or professional email?  Do I intercept our client therapist sessions, with therapist therapist questions?  All of a sudden I am really a client.  It was such a fascinating shift to move from never really feeling quite safe enough, to finally actually allowing a therapeutic relationship to happen.  I do know what a good therapeutic relationship feels like on the therapists end, but now all of a sudden, I am a real client.  What to do!  Nothing to do but to drink it in.  And so I do, for three 2 hour sessions in the space of three days.  A little like being on a retreat, I knew I was going to be in for a bit of intensity.  And yet, as on retreat, you can never really know what will come of it, until it comes.

Some highlights: 

This huge sense and depth of feeling my looooonnnnnging.  Words cannot even describe, and I am not even sure I have fully wrapped myself around this.  But, I have a serious and deep respect for what longing is, and the many dimensions of its existence in my life.  Not the least of which, it has no doubt made the search for the right therapist an important quest.

Enormous respect for my clients.  All of a sudden being a real client, and this is not to say I have never before been a real client, I have.  But now as a therapist having gone on this quest, I feel like I have a much greater appreciation for the courage, dedication, and hard work that my clients do.  I would always say that I love my clients, have tremendous respect and gratitude for them, but there is something very humbling that happens as I myself experience getting it right with a colleague, that deepens my appreciation for my clients.  Anyone’s clients for that matter.

Depth of understanding how interwoven I am with the fabric of who my parents are:  In these few hours of therapy, who my parents are, and how their and my woundedness intertwines was offered up on a very pretty silver platter.

An affirmation of myself as a therapist.  It was comforting to receive from a practitioner who created space for me, similarly to how I believe I create space for my clients, and to feel the warmth, nurturance, and safety from that space.

Deeper understandings of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), both as a recipient and a practitioner.  EMDR was an important part of these sessions, and a significant part of what I was experiencing and observing, as both client and therapist.

Finally:  Having traveled a distance, I was lucky enough to find a cabin on a lake to stay in for a couple of nights.  There was a row boat at this cabin.  My previous experience with row boats has been minimal, but very pleasant and happy.  This time around, as I went to get in the boat, I found myself getting confused about how to sit, how to orient the oars, and how to create that wonderful easy row boat experience.  Before I could even get in the boat, I had already bailed about 6” of water out of it; after having made that effort, I was not going to allow a bit of confusion to defeat me.  I got out, went back up to the cabin, found a picture on the internet to orient myself, went back down, got back in, and off I went.  The ride was not perfectly smooth, but there were many metaphors playing in my head, about the nature of my life, my getting to that beautiful spot, and not really quite understanding how to fully work with it.  I had a very lovely, short and somewhat clumsy ride in my boat.  Saw a couple of loons and heard their gorgeous song, and went back to my cabin satisfied, knowing that the ride is never quite the dream you think it will be, but it is still my ride.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Last of Summer, First of Autumn

I recently went on vacation, and had a really wonderful time.  I did not go a huge distance away, did not fill my days with endless exciting new and different activities.  In many respects, I basically did a lot of what I do at home, but I did it on vacation, and hence it was many times easier and more enjoyable.  I rented a small housekeeping cabin in the Adirondacks on a tiny lake a little bit north of Saratoga Springs, NY, and arrived there prepared to do most of my own food preparation (only went out for one meal in 5 days), as well as to hunker down and do some work and some studying.  I took time every day to go outside and either hike, canoe, or swim, but the vast majority of my time was spent inside, reading, and listening to music.   When I am home, the food preparation feels much more tedious; the work reading frequently gets relegated to a time when I am already too tired to keep my eyes open and my attention focused; and even if my client schedule is reasonable, with breaks and time to get things done, it frequently feels like things don’t get done.  Then I am off and running in a cycle of getting down on myself, dragging, and getting even less done.   So I wonder, what is so different about pulling myself out of my home and basically doing what I would be doing at home anyways, that makes it so much easier to do while away in a cabin on a lake, with barely the creature comforts of home?  There is no doubt something to be said for being in a calm quiet secluded and beautiful location.  And yet, it is hard to say that that alone is sufficient to have made the difference. 

I imagine the so good feeling of a relaxing vacation that is not filled with a lot of excessive busy-ness feels good differently for everyone who is lucky enough to be able to take that time.  For me, I do think that isolating a period of time, a space, and limited number of activities takes away some of the bigger overwhelm that happens when I am just home and all of a sudden everything is beckoning, and choosing what comes first becomes so hard that, sometimes anyhow, nothing comes first.   September is now upon us.  The great outdoors is still warm and welcoming.  Schedules re-adjust again as even the world of people who don’t go to school, notice, account for, and accommodate the populations that do.  Again, maybe it is my own personal nostalgia, but there is something about the September air that is uniquely inviting.  Maybe it feels that way, because I am coming off of what has become my traditional August vacation?  Whatever it is, I hope you feel it too, and have a wonderful last of Summer and first of Autumn!