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I am an unashamed plane fanatic.
I know nothing about cars, and have zero interest in anything else technological, except that it will function the way I need. I have the most basic understanding of how to fix things. I am average in all things IT. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, I love planes.
I live near an airport. With my music teacher’s ears, I can tell from anywhere in the house what sort of plane is flying overhead; regional, domestic, or international. And if it’s an international flight, there is just enough time for me to drop whatever I am doing, fly out the door, and catch the magnificent underbelly of the plane soaring over my home, arms-outstretched, almost able to be sucked up the the force of it.
So when a plane was safely landed in the Hudson River on January 15th 2009, I knew that this was extraordinary. As has been said so many times over, and as I had learned through my incidental “plane-reading”, people don’t survive water landings. But when the extraordinary-ness of the event had settled, there was something far more extraordinary that captured my attention, and that was the very person of Captain Chesley Sullenberger.
What an amazing man of discipline, courage, and purpose. His life has not been perfect; he’s faced as much adversity and hardship as anybody else, yet he carries himself with quiet grace and dignity. His words are governed by humility and authority, both, and when he speaks, you want to listen. Nothing he does is extravagant, and the way he has handled the tidal wave of attention from the rest of the world whilst quietly threading together the lives of his wife and children has been gracious, and tiring, and adaptive.
What is most extraordinary to me is that he didn’t ask for any of this, and yet he has said to the media that this is something he adapted to, and has learned to do so for the greater good. I don’t know that I would have had that courage! I would have been battening down the doors and hiding in full introvert mode, and unable to meet the needs and requests of so many families, who needed to express their gratitude. He assumed this role, one that takes its toll on himself and his family, for the good of the public, for the education of others in the aviation world, and the wider community.
He takes time to examine both sides of a story, even if he has strong opinions on his part. He is constantly curious about, humbled, and invigorated by his craft – flying – and has been so since age 5. How many people know that sense of dedication and service? How many people can claim that sort of discipline, purpose, and complete love of learning in life? His love for his wife and daughters is quiet and absolute, there is no fanfare. He is not a doormat, his opinions are formed from a basis of knowledge gleaned from constant learning and refinement of his understanding of events, situations, and technologies. His words have so much quiet essence and power.
And while this event happen 9 years ago, and I have no connection whatsoever except in my love of planes, I am absolutely and completely inspired. The quiet dedication and purpose that goes against everything that is so flamboyant and loud in our world. That simple words and intelligence can cut through as powerfully as anything raucous. That this life in the spotlight is one that thousands of people covet, and Sully would give anything NOT to be living. And yet he has taken responsibility for his new-chosen role.
And I think to myself, would I have the courage?
Am I living every corner of my life, with courage and grit, using every talent and opportunity presented to me, even if I am afraid and do not like the hand I have been dealt?
It’s easy to live your life when it’s to your own parameters. Anyone can do that. But to walk with grace when you have a situation that you don’t want, and to live it with courage and give what you have been called to give, even if it is hard and takes it out of you?
Oh, I hope that I have the courage to do that.
Thank you for your example of grace and courage, Sully.
Thank you, that no-one can see or hear what I think, because what I actually say sometimes is vastly different!
An excellent reminder that teenagers need to practise emotional literacy as a skill, and we as teachers need to model healthy emotional problem-solving behaviours to the students under our care.
Is there anything more beautiful than a person just being?
All that they can be, in only the way they can. It doesn’t matter if they are loud, quick, quirky, serene, intellectual, energetic, or not…it just doesn’t matter, because when a person is in their full essence, busy filling their minutes and breaths with purely being themselves to the highest order, a fire and heat comes off them.
Suddenly quiet compassion is breathtakingly powerful, and suddenly effervescent joy is simply humility with sparkle. There are people who can walk with every arrow pointed at them, every speech mark, and every neon sign, and all we feel is disinterest, or disgust. And then there are people who walk into a room, so generously and quietly, that the force of their human-ness is absolutely unmistakeable.
Being in a room with them, I can feel my heart beat faster, and my soul expand. With what, I sometimes wonder, a trust in humanity? It’s amazing how these people provide the milestones for hope.
So please, just be. In the larger scheme of things, the world needs the very best, the most beautiful, the most unpolished and impractical, and the most absolute version of you.
Instruction from me to Year 6s: “Nobody gets to start until every group has at least one girl, one guy, and someone you don’t normally work with!”
Sir Year 6, urgently to Year 6 guy comrades: “Quick! Guys! We gotta get a girl! SOMEBODY GET A GIRL!”
Oh my goodness. First tears of laughter for 2017.
Today, I re-read a book I read in my early 20s. It was supposed to be a lightweight, warm fuzzy read, like pulling on an old jumper and smelling the neckline as I pulled it over my head. And yet, I found myself inside-out with emotion, seeing and feeling things with the sketchings and experiences of a decade further of life.
Every WORD seemed to shiver with colour; every thought and idea seemed to hold me by the shoulders and ask more of me. It was extraordinary to me that re-reading a book could uncover so many unseen puzzle pieces of sheer feeling and wisdom that I had no capacity to understand when I first read it, and hit me with full force navigating them now.
Like that there MUST be push and pull for love to blossom. And that you absolutely MUST be tender and vulnerable to live life fully, or you miss a moment, a day, a year. And that conventional, “perfect” beauty is nothing on raw beauty, and resonance of a lively spirit from within. That love does not know its own strength, stupidity, or stretch.
And that truly, really truly, the difference between what we want and where we are is “a width of an eyelash”, to quote the marvellous Judy Dench talking to the equally marvellous Maggie Smith. I loved that moment when I first saw it, but I didn’t know how to understand it, now I do. With all my being.
What if I were to ask the questions MORE, rather than waiting to be asked? However courageously I have lived my life yesterday, today brings new opportunities for learning and courage, being and loving. How is it that we think we know ourselves so well, and then in an instant, everything is changed, and we feel like we are seeing for the first time?
The wonder. The fear. The scariness and the joy of it all. I did not realise my own beauty, even though I have lived always striving to walk my own sacred ground. Comfortably, happily, and authentically. Yet STILL, I can shift and grow. I feel like I could dance and resonate five feet either way more than I did before.
Isn’t it amazing how keenly we cling to what gives us history and meaning, how much we need to understand, and want to know ourselves? And isn’t it amazing that we are born with a desire to create, to imagine, to adventure and discover, and to love. And the difference between a life lived to the full, with ragged pages worn from exploring everything, to pristine and safely read pages…is intent.
It’s the will to begin.
The dare to try.
The wonder to what if.
The width of an eyelash.
My goodness, if I have been blessed with a heart + mind, a life and imagination, I am not going to waste a moment more.
So right here and now I’d like say…
Let me have enough challenge in my life to allow me to grow, and my wings to strengthen, but not so much that I cannot know hope. Enough to cultivate tenacity and a vivacious love for life. Let me have enough adventure in me that even when I am afraid, I cannot help but want for the fresh, different winds upon my cheeks, and behind my back. Let me use every ounce of my being to really live, but not be so spent that I am empty, or hardened, or clutching at edges. Let me always be full and grounded, even when I am flying!
Let me see that little moments and catch them, always! That I may be enchanted and delighted, made breathless and still by simple moments of joy, vibrancy, truth, and simplicity. Let me give of my skills and time honestly and easily, and whole-heartedly. That I take care of my mind, heart, and spirit as the most precious things I own, but that I use them freely and completely without holding back. That whatever I choose for this exact moment in time, I choose it with clarity.
Let me hold my life with joy and gratitude; that I have freedom in so many capacities. That I have a voice and an education, that I may form my own opinions, create beautiful things, and carve out understandings, just through my own words + ideas. That I am free in body + spirit. That I am free socially, and in the world that I live in. That I have more than everything I need to live a safe, happy, and productive life. Let me use these gifts to strive for more, that I am always moving forward, in discovery and creation.
Above all, let me remember that there is love, and only love.
Let my love, freely, warmly, deeply, passionately, playfully, and wholly. Let my heart be so alive in what it must feel that the extremes of feeling resonate my body. Let me understand that only through deep grief, will I know soaring joy. Let me take each day to make all that I will, so that there is no question that I am living a good life, the very best that I am able. That I am always able to be affected by the human spirit, and compassionate to the struggle and failings of mankind.
Let me strive to change a little more each day, for that greater good. That I create more joy and light than before I arrived.
Thank you 2016, it’s been a good year, and my heart glows with gratitude + joy. Thank you for asking the very best of me as I welcome 2017.
I am a serial liner-upper-er. It’s just a fancy way of saying I’m meticulous in how I organise things, or slightly OCD, but I cannot help it.
I knew it was a concern when I would do it, without thinking, to other people’s things, and not just my stuff. I’m a high school teacher…I even line up bits and pieces that belong to my students if they’re silly enough to leave it lying around! I order things atop the piano, the veritable lost-property last stop of the Music Centre.
When the kettle boils, I’m lining up my vitamins.
I line up my canisters of tea.
I put my t-shirts in colour order.
There is a logic to my shoes.
My dresses are in pattern, colour, and season order.
My necklaces decorate the walls.
It’s colourful and vibrant, but there is definitely a fibonacci-esque sequence to my home + life.
And not actually because I think it’s totally necessary, or because I’m completely linked to the idea, it’s just that I must have some sort of Tetris-like inclination for order. I can certainly exist in chaos, and being able to do so effectively is only going to be healthy and necessary in my job…I’m a special interest music secondary classroom music teacher. Life will ALWAYS be some brand of mayhem.
But something happens when I’m waiting for the kettle to boil, calmly lining up my condiments in the fridge, making lists of what I need to do, and doing a whimsical little 5-minute dust…my brain is happy. I’m calmed by the little act of tidying my corner of the world. I’m using that little snippet of time that would otherwise have been a bit of a bob-up-and-down, or blob-around wait for my life-giving cup of tea. Because all the little moments add up, and every little gesture counts.
And while THESE gestures are small, nonsensical, whimsical, and hardly important at all, in the larger scheme of things, put together on a much bigger scale, I can create a little bit of joyful order just by doing a tiny little bit at a time, and not doing it all at once.
Not because I’m order-crazy, or anything. 😉
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” [Elizabeth Kubler-Ross]
When you forgive, it is for yourself, to release you. Every moment has compassion embedded. I think some of my journeys toward forgiveness have come from walking away from the hurt and the best work, the best living, and the best loving that I am able, with all that I have at that exact moment in time. And then I look back at that snapshot in time and realise the sting has gone out of it, or that things look so very different, and there is understanding borne of time and living life. That I am different, and more emotionally travelled.
The more I live life, the more I realise how unpractised I am at forgiving. I am very curious about it now, because I don’t want it to be an accidental thing; I’d like to have the courage, humanity, and curiosity to consciously walk that path of forgiveness, no matter what the outcome is, for myself and for those I love. For the greater shared humanity. I realise this lack of experience comes from fear, that I am so quick to protect myself from hurt because I am afraid. But I am also too interested and invested in living a good life to NOT want to know how to travel the path of forgiveness more ably. I WONDER about the other side, the crossing over into forgiveness, and realise more and more that it is neither easy, pain-free, or forgetful. It is personal freedom, measured thought, and pure grace.
The older I get, the more deeply human I realise I am, how vulnerable, imperfect, and fallible! How perfectly wondrous, and beautiful I am, too! So when I am confronted with humanity of any kind, I am confronted with the searing and uncomfortable shared humanness of myself and others. How will I react? Differently, I hope, from how I used to.
I do not have to forgive immediately; I certainly cannot forgive if I am in pain. But that I FEEL that pain, and want so very much to walk through it, figure it out, sit with it though it causes me discomfort, knowing that is surely the first step toward loving forgiveness. The other epiphany is that forgiveness is not always gentle; forgiveness can mean boundaries that are protective and unmoving in order to be truly compassionate, and they can mean that the harsh blunt blow of reality is there everyday. It can mean forgiving over and over, even when you think you are done. But that these places of understanding have been arrived at through careful examination? They are the alcoves of grace created by forgiveness.
I am allowed to be tender with myself, to cocoon myself up gently and hold my heart like a candle against a storm, with fierce command and care. But eventually, I must walk the path of forgiveness, have the conversations, and I must unfurl. So, let me keep questioning and examining all of my thoughts, and actions, and be aware of the the times my heart is in discomfort, there is learning to be done. The more that I realise I am so very imperfect, the more free I am to live, and live fully. To live more engrossingly, arms-akimbo, and completely! Whole-heartedly! Let me do the best I am able with the resources I have at that exact moment in time; and if it is not enough, let me try again. For when I own my imperfect humanity, the freedom to my soul is extraordinary. And my will to live is impossible to contain.
Two years ago on my last day working in Sydney, I went to the Glebe Markets + found a solid sterling silver “bread-tag” necklace that I loved, simple + quirky, both. But I couldn’t bear to spend the money on it as I’d been paying rent in Sydney as well as mortgage repayments back in Adelaide.
Today, on a whim, I thought I’d go look for it. If it was there, I’d go for it + buy it, if not, no worries.
After 15 minutes of scoping the markets + getting ready to call it quits, I spotted the stall. Same grumpy Japanese-Australian jewellery designer. Same checked shirt. Same “Cash Only” sign. I didn’t dare hope…there it was. Same little necklace, almost exactly 2 years later.
So I got it.
I’ve been smiling all day since. Sometimes you get your little dose of “special”. 🙂