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ABOUT ME

I am curious, creative, serious, playful, super chill, super anxious, queer, nerdy, gendy blendy (gender non-conforming) and a champion of underdogs. My ancestry is Russian and Jewish though I didn't grow up with any religion. I am not religious, I have no personal interest in organized religion but I am spiritual.

I was born in Leningrad (known today as Saint Petersburg) Russia in 1977. My mother and biological father divorced shortly thereafter and my mom left with me for so-called Israel "for a better life." I haven't seen my father since. We have connected a bit here and there over the years but we are strangers. He is an artist, he does watercolor painting for a living. My father wound is a deep one that I grieve when it surfaces. This wound also experiences some healing here and there in the most unexpected ways.

 

I grew up in a small working class immigrant family in a working class neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta. My family was made up of my mother, stepfather, my younger sister and myself. My stepfather, who was also a Russian Jewish immigrant, came into my life when I was a toddler in so-called Israel. He sponsored me and my mom to immigrate to so-called Canada and I became an immigrant twice over at the age of five.

 

My stepfather died when I was 16. This was the first time I experienced liberation. Our relationship was fraught with conflict and I had a lot of anger towards him. I carry a very different kind of father wound from this relationship.

It's easier for me to understand and explain my father wounds than my mother wound. I have a lot of deep, unconditional love for my mother, as well as pain, frustration and confusion. And she has her own mother wound, as intergenerational trauma goes. 

 

My relationship with my mother is complicated and ever evolving. We used to be enmeshed until I started going to therapy.  Slowly, surely and messily over the years, we've been relating as two adult women who like, respect and appreciate eachother and who are figuring out how to do conflict better. It is a slow, transformative and slippery process. My mother is a beautiful, creative, silly, funny, brave, strong and sensitive woman. We are a lot alike. She is a trip and our relationship is quite a ride. I am so grateful for my mom's courage, it is what allows us to repair our dysfunction, bit by bit, and which sometimes feels like one step forward, two steps back.

There's all kinds of stuff that comes with growing up in an immigrant family that I have been peeling back the layers of and feeling my way through. This includes the Inconvenient Truth that no Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island invited my family to live here, which makes us complicit in colonial genocide by living on this land in the way that we do, regardless of when, why or how we arrived here. I believe the same to be true for all immigrants, settlers and anyone else who is not Indigenous to the land they live on. Everyone but Indigenous people are immigrants to Turtle Island and through ongoing colonization, we are behaving as an invasive species.

 

I have no simple or easy answers to this other than knowing for sure that guilt will get us nowhere. Another thing I am certain of is that sensical, effective solutions can only come from centering, privileging and prioritizing Indigenous voices of the land that we live on. I do this whenever and however I am able.

 

I became an auntie in 2016 and again in 2019. I love being an aunt and I'm also heartbroken because I've been missing out on some foundational relationship building with my niece and nephew due to COVID and needing to practice extreme caution because I have a disabled dependent. Playing it safe and erring on the side of caution is how I've had to live through the pandemic and which I continue to do as I write this near the end of 2022 because it's still not over, even though the colonial-capitalist world is behaving as though it is. A recent tweet by @mildanalyst said it best: "The isolation and gaslighting experienced by people who are still taking precautions have reached unprecedented levels. It feels like this part of the pandemic is actually tougher than the beginning."

I married my best friend Shea in 2008. Prior to this I had developed some intimacy and commitment issues which I began unpacking and processing in therapy in my late 20's or early 30's and which I've been able to slowly heal through my marriage because it is my first truly safe and securely attached adult relationship. And of course we have issues and conflicts, because we're human. My younger self naively thought that a good relationship shouldn't take much work. Boi oh boi did I have a lot to learn!

 

I fell in love with Shea for many reasons; one major reason was the stories she would tell me about Congo, an Indian ringneck rescue parrot she had for 11+ years. The way she talked about Congo and the stories she told me painted a picture of an incredibly sweet, funny, loving, intelligent, attuned, kind, loyal and protective person. I was not wrong. Shea is 2-spirited and Indigenous to Turtle Island. She is an incredibly talented musician, vocalist, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist and fierce Indigenous land and water protector and educator. She is my person and she makes me want to be a better person. We are each other's first longest term relationship. 

I wish my family sought out therapy when I was a child or when I was a teen. There was so much important information about being human, parenting and being a family that my family could have ​greatly benefited and thrived from.

I think therapists need to be actively and intentionally working on our own mental, emotional and spiritual growth in order to most effectively serve our clients. I also think we need to take breaks, which I do in between my own therapy because there is actual LIFE to be lived and learned from in between intentional personal growth endeavors.

I have been unmining and decolonizing my mind since my mid 20's. This has been a hard and liberating process. I had a lot to unlearn and I have a long way to go. The older I get, the more radical I become in my anti-colonial ways of understanding and moving through the world. I share some of my personal, professional and political learnings and ponderings on my Instagram page.

Some of my favorite things: camping, campfires, cooking on a campfire, swimming, reading, hammocks, sloths, chipmunks, birds, dogs, buffets, my dear friend Mateo, group therapy, music and art of all kinds. I love playing with my niece and nephew and watching "reality" shows like Married At First Sight, 90 Day Fiance, Love is Blind, Sister Wives, and so on. I also love South Park for a consistently accurate and hilarious take on current events.

I've been taking improv classes for two years and absolutely loving it. It is a delightful and therapeutic space for creativity, absurdity, silliness and play. I feel like improv was a spiritual enema for some emotional constipation I didn't realize I had!

I share a bit about myself here because I appreciate knowing the kind of person the therapists I work with are. It fosters intimacy and trust building when I get to know them as the humans they are, especially considering I am sharing so much of myself with them when I am in the client role.

 

I don't align with the therapist-as-blank-slate approach because therapists are human beings first and foremost, and human beings build trust through mutual vulnerability and authenticity. When I disclose things about myself with clients, I aim to do so from the framework of therapeutic use of self. It feels like a bigger power imbalance for clients to be expected to bare all while knowing nothing about their therapists. That said, there are some folks who like and prefer to know nothing about their therapist, which is absolutely fine, because no matter how much or how little one knows about their therapist, therapy is about the client, and the relationship between client and therapist is what most influences the success of therapy.

Each person I work with is SO different, which I think is absolutely delightful, remarkable and truly magical. Our differences are our superpower, it is what makes us unique rather than bland carbon copies of eachother.

The relationship I build with my clients and the work that we do is sacred to me. I feel very lucky to get to be people's chosen therapist and be entrusted with their stories. I love supporting and witnessing folks in their growth journeys.

 

At the end of the day, I think that therapy, like life, comes down to the practice of Love. What does Love mean to you? I really like how bell hooks puts it: "I define love as a combination of care, knowledge, responsibility, respect, trust and commitment."

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