When Ken Wilson came to speak, I found myself mesmerized when he would read from his work – which meant less notes taken. It was easy to get lost in his works and words! When reading from his works, he no longer was Ken Wilson but the character he was taking the role of.
Ken said he is “drawn to things that create havoc”. I think we are all drawn to stories that are like this – stories that create problems and questions for the audience/reader. Not always does the story solve the problem or answer the questions, but then the audience/reader can make it their own. Applying this to my own future work, I realize that I am similar to Ken – I am constantly in the midst of chaos and yet, my chaotic life has led me to a balance I have found for myself. Yet, as I try to distance myself from my past disorderly life, I immerse myself into new controversial problems such as the topic of my future thesis. Why?
Perhaps by focusing on other problems, I can forget my own. Perhaps I am drawn to havoc, as Ken says. Or even now, I recognize perhaps my disconnect with my family has created a loss of identity that I want to recreate. In doing so, I have found empathy for those who have had their identity taken away. In doing so, I move “back and forth in the stories from yours to theirs” as Ken said. I didn’t even realize I was doing that. Without even acknowledging it, my past stories have created a fidelity (a common theme that has been mentioned by almost all guest speakers) for my future research – to the theme, with the research participants, and with my readers. I am going to be like Ken’s work with Otto Dix – giving voice to someone’s story.
After viewing Ken’s Windblown/Rafales, a lady in the audience said : “How did he get to know this place so well?” This is exactly what I want to accomplish for my thesis. I want to show my research participants/readers that I did connect with their stories, even if through my own. I want them to feel their voices come through my written words. It is through this future work, that I will continue to reestablish my identity I feel I have lost. It is through giving voice, significance, and representation to someone else’s story that I will feel that I have accomplished something in my own story.
This is basically what kept going through in my head yesterday after an asthma attack hit middle of a Spartan Saturday outdoor workout.
“…remember why you started”.
I am fortunate to have my asthma very controlled and it rarely acts up – mostly only when I am getting sick. And I was starting to get a minor cold. That feeling of not being able to breathe is never something I can get used to even after years of asthma. After the attack, I could have quit. My team and coach wouldn’t have judged me. It was a pretty severe attack. But I knew once I had it under control that I could go on and finish if I slowed down and controlled my breathing. So I did it.
It took me pretty much double the time I normally spend on a Saturday workout but I did not quit. I found even trying to slow down was hard for me. I like to take challenges and push myself. I had to remind myself all throughout the long finish of the exercises, that today my challenge was not to push hard. But it was to simply finish the workout.
These workouts are more than just helping me become a healthier person physically. They are helping realize myself mentally too. For me, it isn’t all just about overcoming the obstacles or improving in the workouts. It is how the training for all of this is changing how I think. My brain thinks a lot like the image posted above from Spartan’s Facebook page.
Yesterday, my team and my coach helped push me through. When I decided to continue, they didn’t stop me. Not everyone knew at time that it had happened. Just my coach and a few who saw it happen. I know they watched me to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it and if at any moment, it looked like I was, I know they would have kindly insisted I stop. But when they saw that I was able to continue, very slowly, I heard words of encouragement. I was given high fives. On my last round, I remember hearing my coach say “Just take one step”. I remember laughing sarcastically in my head “I think you mean, just take one breath…” Humour helps when I struggle. But I took one breath and one step. I finished. One hour 47 minutes. Usually a Saturday workout takes one hour or one hour 15 minutes. It may have not been my “fastest” or my “strongest” workout. I may not have had a “PR” – personal record. However, after this workout, I teared up a bit as I felt immensely proud of myself and felt like I just accomplished the best workout ever. Finishing this workout felt better than any other PB or PR I have yet earned. It reminded me of the reasons why I started and why I have been so fortunate to change my life. I never gave up. From the moment I was given a reason to start (testing pre-diabetic in August 2013), I have continued to take one more step and I will continue to take one more stop for the rest of my life. My end goal isn’t just a goal weight anymore. My end goal is a continuous goal of health and fitness and challenging myself. My end goal is continuing to transform myself physically and mentally. My end goal is never quitting.
Thank you so much to my coach, Riley Nadoroznick, yesterday for sticking with me until I finished. Even though it took a very long time. I know you said I didn’t have to thank you but you have a life too and yet, you waited. Also thanks to my teammates yesterday. I may not have replied to all of your encouraging words as I was focusing on my breathing but I couldn’t have found a better family to challenge myself with. If you are local to Regina, and ready to also take that step, check out Conviction Fitness one day. Riley offers so much for people. Online programming for busy people and non local people too! Spartan Pro and Spartan Lite programming… Unfortunately, I think the March/April program is full or almost full but here’s the website to check out and has contact info if you are ready for a new challenge: http://convictionfitness.ca/
Between teaching, running, Spartan training workouts, grad class, and trying to maintain some type of social life (Basically impossible to have time for friends and family but I am balancing it but very precariously…), I rarely have time to plan an outfit before an event. Often, I am going into my closet and whipping something up.
This is exactly what happened today. I came home from my outdoor Spartan workout at 11am, and showered. I have a formal event at 5pm so I decided to make sure one of the 2 dresses I own would work. One was bought in August for a wedding and the second was bought in October for another formal event. I have lost 23 pounds since August and since October, it has been 17 of those 23 pounds. So both dresses were too big.
With an upcoming wedding of a friend on top of tonight’s event, I decided to hit the mall. I always get a sense of anxiety when it comes to clothes shopping. Most people feel excitement. However, 29 years of going into stores and never fitting the mall brand clothing has created this permanent feeling of stress when it comes to clothes shopping.
My past experience at 254 pounds…
I would wait until absolutely necessary to go clothes shopping. Usually that meant clothing wore out or I had gained more weight so need bigger size. In my early 20s, I’d attempt to try to see if I could squeeze into something that fit from Ricki’s or Bootlegger. Either it was so ridiculous, I’d give up. Or I’d leave with something that was obviously too tight but was more embarrassed to admit it by not buying it.
Even the sales people treated me different. They were usually always kind. But often I felt like they were over sympathetic but judging in the background “Why is this fat lady even bothering to try on our clothing?” Often, I had some bad experiences. I was often ignored as they knew I was a useless person to help – how can they help someone who won’t fit in their clothing?
It eventually grew so stressful that I learned the habit of buying clothing by assuming it looked like it may fit. But I was done with changing rooms. I would try on at home and just return it if it didn’t fit. Often my return excuse was “it was too big” even though it was the opposite or “I didn’t like the neck line”. Anything but “it was too small”.
By mid/late 20s, I just gave up and only shopped at one store – Addition Elle. This store was the only place I could find anything that fit. But fit does not mean it makes you feel good. As I started to wear 1x, then 2x, then 3x, and finally 4x (size 18 to size 24), I even hated shopping more. Sure, I could walk in and find anything I wanted but then if someone said “Cool outfit. Where from?” Then I’d have to come up with an answer. Lying means they may go looking for it but telling the truth meant a whole bunch more of shame.
Back to today…
Then I changed my life around with running, working out, healthier eating. My body image and self-esteem have change immensely. But I still struggle with clothes shopping. I get that old me back inside sometimes and I don’t always feel like I should be shopping now at La Senza, Le Chateau, Ricki’s, Reitman’s, Bootlegger, etc…
The experience has changed too.
Let’s look at today.
I went shopping with that old feeling of anxiety. I knew I needed a formal dress so I thought “Le Chateau”. But then part of my mind said “You can’t wear that – nothing will fit.” I tossed that thought out and I walked into the store. I searched around for a bit and the employees were over themselves to help me. I found a dress I fell in love with. I asked to try it in medium and large (threw out the old me that said no no.. extra large…extra large. You can’t fit in anything smaller). The salesman took down the dress but only a large available so I decided to just check it out. I probably wouldn’t fit a medium anyway… (another fat person thought).
I get into the change room. I put it on effortlessly. I can’t reach all the way to zip up. Old me says “Take it home and hope it fits”. New me “Just ask for help for pete’s sake”. So I opened that privacy door with back unzipped and sales man came running over. “Oh wow…it looks fabulous. Need me to zip it up? Here honey, turn around”. He glides up the zipper and voila. It fits. In all honestly, the medium (though snug) would have fit too but since no medium, and the large looked great, I just decided to buy it. I could always get it taking in for the wedding if needed.
Now my lovely salesman is running around to find a shawl and a clutch as he says I look gorgeous and we should dress this up. I am used to “Sure looks good.” but usually no other attempts to dress me up or style me. It felt kind of nice – even if overwhelming.
Next job was to buy a strapless bra for this dress. Insert old me again for a moment. I literally was sweating. I walked into La Senza. I was originally a 44 DD. La Senza bras for me? Bahahhaha. Ok. Not that I didn’t do it. But even with extender for bra clasp, not really the best bra. I eventually switched to Addition Elle ones. After losing initial chunk of weight, I went down to a 40 D last time I was measured (around one or 1.5 years ago?). I still had to use an extender for the clasp but I could buy La Senza bras.
Today, I decided I better be measured again. The girl helping me was extremely kind and helpful. I held my breath and waited.
Time froze for a moment and I had to quickly get my shit together before I melted into tears of joy and past anxiety of clothes shopping.
Explains why bras have been feeling looser so let’s find me this bra. The lady helped me find a strapless one and once tried on, she offered to see the fit. I would never even allowed for that to be offered when I was 44 DD… I would buy bra and just hope to the heavens it fit and get out of the store quickly.
I have never been able to wear a strapless bra so I told her did feel so unusual but she checked it out and it was fitting proper. She said it is probably my discomfort with the new style as I was never able to before. Yep – she hit that nail dead on the head. So I decided to buy it as she had gone out of her way and even though to me, it still felt odd – it may be the 20ish odd some wears of always having to be obligated to a strapped bra and planning my clothes around my bra and not the other way around.
I left the mall exhausted and with bags of clothes.
Now home, I reflect back and realize the only true issues I had with shopping was my past anxiety and sometimes letting past experiences judge me for today. Clothes shopping can excite you or terrify you. A changing room can be endless amounts of joy and finding great outfits or it can be painful minutes of trying clothing on and on and never finding the fit. It can be a sales person dressing you up and throwing outfits at you to try or it can be the sales person who joins you quietly in your discomfort of clothes shopping and limits the pain by not nagging you with clothing they and you know won’t fit. Clothing and clothes shopping can make you feel like the most beautiful, healthy, inspiring, and strongest person. Or it can beat you down until you don’t feel like you can try anymore – and not just with trying on clothing but with life itself.
I think we live in a world where we cater to those of a certain size. I understand being overweight is not healthy. I am so grateful that I found a way to change it. But the power of retail clothes shopping should not make some people feel powerless and others full of pride. I am not sure how we can change this but just a little story in hopes that someone out there reads it and says one of the following things:
– “She gets it. She changed it…so can I”.
– “Phew – not only just me.”
– “I never knew how hard this was for people overweight. I will try my best to be honest but kind with them”.
If you are the first, you can change. You can do it. I balance multiple juggling balls and I have done it and am doing it every day.
If you are the second one, no – you are definitely not the only one. I hope you know that and you can always reach out to me to chat about it. I was once there.
For the third one, whether you are that “skinnier” friend, sales person, family member – I hated honesty but I needed it at the same time. However, there are certain ways to do it. Just make sure you find that right way as the wrong way can actually make the person not want to try at all.
Thanks for reading.
One of the first things that I was able to grab from tonight’s two speakers was when Kathryn said we have to allow ourselves “Permission to function as witness”. I approached this with how I need to look at my upcoming thesis. My method of narrative inquiry (may end up being autoethnography), allows me to be involved in the story and for my own story to become a part of my research. However, throughout the work, I will be working with others whose stories will also come out in my work. I need to step back and listen – and become a witness to their stories, instead of only thinking of it as a part of my own story.
This connects to what Ned said about how we relate to each other and often try to project ourselves on others around us. I need to be very aware to allow individual stories to not just blend into each other but still hold their own uniqueness.
Ned helped to assure me that I have picked a topic that will be a good task for myself. He said that our work must be fed by what provides you frustration, anxiety, or even fear. My thesis theme is going to surround French as a second language and the balance of reconciliation in a program that makes it difficult to allow other First Nations languages to hold value in our Canadian schools. This is going to be a challenging task as a French educator myself. Currently, this is a conversation discussed quietly between those struggling with the controversial subject but it isn’t something largely discussed for change. So as Ned said, I am going to try and use my thesis to “build something out of nothing”. Right now, the significance of only offering primarily French in schools does not seem like a relevant or urgent matter. But I do believe there is a quiet message hidden within this routine/habit of French education in Canada holding the primary value withing languages in our Canadian schools
My work will also make apparent my own cultural capital, which is something else that triggered me when Ned brought it up. I will be examining a sensitive issue of reconciliation within language programming in Canada, but my lens will definitely come from a white perspective – even though my goal is to bring up questions of this issue in our school language programming. But I still need to “acknowledge it” and perhaps like Ned did, I can “abuse” it to make it something positive for the future. However, I will also have to recognize even when I am abusing my cultural capital as I do believe it is vital to be aware of this in my life.
In an article I found about cultural capital, the authors say that “…some social agents will be ahead of the changes, having developed effective reproduction strategies, while others will stick to the evaluation schemes that once gave themselves or their ancestors their privileges but today are in the course of becoming obsolete” (Annick P. & M. Savage, 2013, p. 254). I want to be a participating strategy in making cultural privileges become obsolete, but to get there, I will have to use my cultural capital to do so. What I mean by this, is that as a white French teacher who is supporting the importance of allowing First Nations language to become a part of our education system as a means of reconciliation – I am allowing other white French educators begin to look at this as well, as well as many others who may read my thesis. I am allowing my privileged culture to support the means on the unprivileged culture to begin to hold value in their language.
Annick and Savage also say that “Cultural production has been through enormous changes, which are of course reflected in the cultural consumption. These changes may imply a certain displacement of how distinction is achieved, with less emphasis on the choices of particular objects and more on the way to relate to these objects” (Annick P. & M. Savage, 2013, p. 257). My hope is to be able to relate the stories I will be collecting in my research in order to open up the possibility for Canadian society to recognize what I hope to approach in my work.
Ned mentioned the word “alchemy” and I had to look it up as when he said it, I first pictured a witch over a pot making a spell. However, it also means “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination”.
I love that definition – my work, my own self, and my future is this exact type of transformation. This transformation is happening as each guest and classmate shares through their story. I am learning about myself…I am taking the first step as Quan quoted in his presentation: “Apprendre a se connaitre est le premier des soins”(Jean de la Fontaine). I am making it a priority to learn in order to know myself.
Another theme discussed by both guests was about blurring fact and fiction as well as how our own narratives come into our work. Kathryn mentioned that our works will “echo our past”. Until the project of our autobiographical narrative, I did not know how much my past stories affect me of today. I knew they did but I was unaware of the extent of it. I had been avoiding it which Kathryn said we cannot do that as our experiences “will inform your sources”. We need to “surrender to it” as there is “truth in fiction”.
Annick P. & M. Savage. (2013) Emerging forms of cultural capital. European Societies, 15:2, 246-267, DOI: 10.1080/14616696.2012.748930
Can find this article on University of Regina library summons: http://www.tandfonline.com.libproxy.uregina.ca:2048/doi/full/10.1080/14616696.2012.748930?scroll=top&needAccess=true
Monday, February 6, 2017
Article: Diving into autoehtnographic narrative inquiry: Uncovering hidden tensions below the surface by Brooke B. Eisenbach
My dog, Ginny, helped me with my homework this week. She wanted to make sure everyone knew that. She even put her head on top of it when she knew I needed a break to get up and move. 😉
Brief Overview of Chapter:
Key Words/Phrases: This week, I am doing key words differently. The key words of this article are shown in the sketch appearing in my synthesis of the article.
1. “Honest autoethnographic exploration generates a lot of fears and self-doubt and emotional pain. Just when you think you can’t stand the pain anymore that’s when the real work begins. Then there is the vulnerability of revealing yourself, not being able to take back what you ‘ve written or having any control over how readers interpret your story.” (Ellis, 2004).
2. “Autoethnographers have responded to these critiques by claiming to be more embodied (Sparkes, 2007), political (Jones, 2005), truthful (Ellis, 2001; Ellis & Bochner, 2000), experimental (Bochner & Ellis, 1996), and reﬂexive (Ellis & Bochner, 2000) ways of doing social science” (Jackson and Mazzei, 2008).
3. “Rather than more and more reﬂexivity that would reveal more and more about the researcher’s ways of knowing, we argue that autoethnographers might question what they ask of voice (or the narrative “I”), confront what they hear and how they hear (their own privilege and authority in listening and telling), and deconstruct why one story is told and not another” (Jackson and Mazzei, 2008).
4. “Bochner explains that autoethnographers need not be concerned with the veracity of the researchers’ own stories as reﬂecting their past experiences; the goal is to produce evocative, therapeutic stories through writing acts that lead to self-discovery and self-creation (Ellis & Bochner, 2000). This positioning of the “researcher as subject” assumes a self who is able to recognize, know, and easily capture the “I” that has had shared experiences with those whom s/he studies” (Jackson and Mazzei, 2008).
**There are so many in the article by Jackson and Mazzei that really connect to me but if I keep posting them, I will give away the whole article. So I will leave these three.
5. “Autoethnography can be defined as a self-narrative that critiques the situatedness of self with others in social contexts” (Spry, 2001).
6. “The autoethnographic text emerges from the researcher’s bodily standpoint as she is continually recognizing and interpreting the residue traces of culture inscribed upon her hide from interacting with others in contexts. This corporeally textual orientation rejects the notion that “lived experience can only be represented indirectly, through quotations from field notes, observations or interviews” (Denzin, 1992, p. 20). In autoethnographic methods, the researcher is the epistemological and ontological nexus upon which the research process turns” (Spry, 2001).
**Again, many more I highlighted but I will let you go read for yourself. 🙂
Recommended related reading(s):
1. Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. (Book).
2. Ellis, C. (2009). Revision: Autoethnographic reflections on life and work. (Book).
2. Jackson, A. Y., & Mazzei, L. A. (2008). Experience and “I” in autoethnography: A deconstruction. (Article available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282217941_Experience_and_I_in_Autoethnography)
3. Spry, T. (2001). Performing autoethnography: An embodied methodological praxis. (Article available here: http://www.nyu.edu/pages/classes/bkg/methods/spry.pdf
**Great read with some poetry too!)
1. Is it possible to lose control of your work when you begin your research?
2. How do you allow your research to become something of its own but also still mean something to you?
3. How do you prepare yourself to disagree with those involved in your work, whether it is your advisor, research participants, review committee, and any others involved?
1. “I was forced to see a reflection of myself in a way I never anticipated” (p. 604).
2. “…I never anticipated I would find myself…defending my identity, choices, and lived experience” (p. 608).
3. “I now have greater respect for the immense vulnerability to which they are exposed in sharing their stories with me. This is something I will never take for granted” (p. 608).
4. “…I can never take it back. My experience is forever exposed to the world, and people will take from it what they will” (p. 609).
My synthesis of article (with educational perspectives):
An image appeared in my head as I read this week’s article. So instead of writing my response this week, I decided to attempt to sketch the image that came to mind. I am no artist and this was challenging but I think it perfectly describes what I connected with in Eisenbach’s article about autoethnography narrative inquiry.
I will briefly explain my sketch.
While reading the article, I imagined myself looking into the edge of a pool – the pool being my future research for my thesis that I begin this summer. In the background, all the mirrors (broken and in different shapes) in my background. These mirrors of my stories do reflect into the pool as well.
The pool has four walls – it involves the participants in my research (whether those who are my research, my advisor, other professors, and readers); the cultural phenomenon that I will be including (reconciliation and truth aspect in French education); the research process; and the final thesis itself. These four walls hold a pool of water that reflects to me.
On the surface I see all the things that will be involved in the process. Most of it not as scary. But below the surface in the darker waters, I also see the more difficult process my work will involve. I cannot avoid these aspects of the work but there are more hidden below the surface and I will have to dive into these waters and release them.
If I do not allow this to happen, I could encounter the same troublesome comment that Eisenbach did in her doctoral defense: “This isn’t the you we see” (p. 606). I want my final work to portray the self that I see of me, who will have changed through the process of the thesis work. I will want those who read my work to see themselves within it too. In order for my work to make a change for education, I have to dive into the waters and allow others to swim in them with me. The stories in my background mirrors will always remain a part of me. But I will come out of the waters a brand new person.
Eventually, my thesis work may become another mirror on my wall. But first, I have to swim!
Eisenbach, B. (2016).Diving into autoehtnographic narrative inquiry: Uncovering hidden tensions below the surface. The Qualitative Report, 21:3, 603-610.
Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Ellis, C. (2009). Revision: Autoethnographic reflections on life and work. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Jackson, A. Y., & Mazzei, L. A. (2008). Experience and “I” in autoethnography: A deconstruction. International Review of Qualitative Research 1(3), 299-318. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282217941_Experience_and_I_in_Autoethnography.
Spry, T. (2001). Performing autoethnography: An embodied methodological praxis. Qualitative Inquiry, 7(6), 706-732. Retrieved from: http://www.nyu.edu/pages/classes/bkg/methods/spry.pdf.
Blair’s stories about her projects really shined a light on how projects do not turn out the way you expect. And how you never quit but you keep working at it. One thing she said that stuck to me was when “you’re trying to put something (maybe non-linear) into image but it isn’t working. So you come back it again and again”. I believe I will be challenged with this problem in my thesis. There will be many issues that revolve around it and it may not come out the way I expect and I may struggle with how to put into one “image” (paper). But I will keep working at it and eventually, it will come out – most likely differently than planned.
Blair mentioned a project about drinking some wine and how surprised she was people were willing to do so. I think this can be a metaphor to telling our stories. Often, we want to offer our audience something that we do not believe they will connect to and we are left surprised when they do want to share in our stories.
When Blair called her recipe project a “Collection of the losses”, I realized that my future thesis may be that as well. But in the losses, my hope is we gain something new and something that we can use for the future. Blair said it is often a challenge in deciding how much of your intent you will reveal and conceal. You do not want to be so closed off that you shut off ideas and connecting to others. But you also do not want to give everything away.
The idea of different perspectives in her coffee mug project was another metaphor that I see applied to stories. In her project, she said some see the mugs/tea cups as funerals and some see tea parties. My stories and my works will always be seen in different perspectives because my audience/reader/research participants will take my story and apply it to their own. This will create a whole new story.
I am really beginning to see stories do not have any endings, but just new beginnings. They are never-ending as once a new reader connects to a story, it becomes a part of their own and they carry it on and pass it on in their own story too. This is similar to what Blair said in respect to her projects: “The work has moved on from that and become something completely different”
I will take Blair’s advice and I am going to learn to let go and let the work speak for itself. I often try to make everything turn out specifically how I imagined it and I see it. But how it comes out will be unpredictable and messy (Snowber), but once I allow it to become free, it will hopefully be a powerful piece of work that continues to live on all that it resonates with.