You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
This feels DAMN FINE. So fine, that I even used CAPITAL LETTERS in my title, which those of you who have been following me for a while know I don’t usually do!
Embracing the pink + every other colour now, but these small words are HEARD by young girls.
As a kid, I most wanted to hear the words, “resourceful, creative, joyful, loving, compassionate, and courageous.”
Oh, and I got “stubborn” and “argumentative” growing up as well. Still rocking those, but as “determined” and “articulate”.
I don’t want to admit it, but generally, I like things to look nice. Ordered. Pretty.
But actually, there are many times in my life where this sense of order + “perfectness” impacts on the pure messy joy that I can experience.
It doesn’t affect me negatively, I still have the same outcome, but I lose just a tiny bit of joy and sparkle, curiosity and unexpected learning.
Interestingly, I am very good at supporting “good learning chaos” in the classroom. I have faith in my ability to drive that. But for me? Somehow the idea of routine equals maximum production. When did I become such a machine?!
For example, last year I had a favourite mug. Nothing wrong with that, except that I have 18 other gorgeous, brightly patterned, colourful, all-shapes-and-sizes mugs waiting to be used. The problem was I was all for not creating any additional work and securing a predictable outcome. And you could trace it back to my plunger-coffee brewing skills!
On the surface, I was a creature of habit. Flip that, and I was playing it safe. In my cup usage. Which no doubt meant in some other aspects of my world.
So this year, after cleaning for Chinese New Year, I started using every single other mug I owned, no matter how awkward to use, how it put my milk + coffee proportions out of whack, no matter how hard to balance, no matter how quickly my coffee cooled down. I put up with the inconvenience and lack of predictability for the sake of a new experience.
This all seems totally ridiculous when you think, “It’s ONLY A FRICKIN’ MUG!”
But it becomes a very big deal when you apply that sense of daring and risk and change to what I do in the classroom, what I read, who I talk to, the conversations I’m willing to engage in, what movies I watch, and how I approach life.
Am I willing to be a teacher different to what I’ve done in the past? I’m an effective teacher…but I wonder what else I can do? I win the day through connection + building a strong rapport with my students. What about pushing harder on grit + excellence?
When I am tired or overwhelmed by school, I go back to old familiar books, movies, and tv show because they don’t cost me anything emotionally. I don’t have to pay close attention. What if I traded one hour of mindless “re-whatever-ing” for 15 minutes of pushing out of my comfort zone?
I have cooked the same dozen or so healthy meals and lunches for school for the past year. Not because I don’t love cooking with a passion, but because – and GET THIS – I don’t want the extra wash-up and unpredictability of time use when I try new recipes! Oh my goodness. Cracking open the recipe books now. What is a kitchen for but to create joyful mess and experience new tastes + cuisines?
I solve problems by being perceptive, articulating my side, and then peace-making. One project I know myself to be engaging in this year is “warrior training”; staying with a problem and leaning into a difficult conversation more readily than walking the other way. It will be more uncomfortable and unpredictable, but I just wonder what it would be like to stay present and create authentic ripples, rather than not. I want to get better at close-range combat, well, here’s my chance.
So that “regular mug”?
For the sake of pushing up against bento-boxed perfect for all-over-the-table imperfect + present.
I was thinking about the concept of self-worth today, not in terms of how effectively we set boundaries, but what we actually do to follow through with them. I see myself as a comfortable and developing boundary-setter; I need time to consider a situation, consider what I need versus the greater good, and then decide what I am comfortable with and what my boundaries are. I also line up my decision-making with my values, which, I have found to my equal joy and frustration, are continually evolving. Values are elusive things that are continually shifting ever-so-slightly, constantly becoming more defined as you gain life experience. For example, one of my values is to be kind. This then grew into, “Be kind where possible, and if that is not possible, be accurate and honest.” The addendum to that was, “And if all of that is impossible, then don’t say anything at all.”
I like my values. They have formed me into a compassionate, imaginative, articulate, courageous, and determined woman with a blood-linked desire to grow.
My errant thought today was to do with kindness. I have always made it cost “more” to me when an apology is being made. That is, when I can see there has been genuine suffering and remorse, and someone I value is making an apology, I accept it quickly and readily, almost to take the pain and suffering away. Why? Because, I figure, if they’re sorry enough to make an apology, they must really be sorry about the action that caused it. I also see it as a good mark against my own character, “Oh, there’s Annie, so easy-going, and ready to let things go!”
But the thing is, generally I’m not that girl. I’m not that easy-going girl. Forgiving, playful, and joyful, yes, but forgetful and easy-going? No. I like checking things out. I like understanding the inner workings + motivations of people. It’s what makes me the teacher I am today. It’s my super-power.
But then there’s the shadow-side; it’s also my kryptonite. I think that I can predict good behaviour, and I have an unfailing ability to see the best in people. Sometimes, I have to protect my ready compassion + optimism my fencing people out until I can observe them a little longer. And why should I apologise for my own values? If I forgive, and I DO forgive well, I want it to be because some new understanding has been reached, some border crossed to a new level of connection…or moving on.
And the “AH-HA!” moment I had today?
If I continue to let people easily off the hook just because I feel sorry for them without proper conversation + examination of the issue, then who gets cheapened? Whose boundaries get worn down?
I am taking away value from myself by allowing people off the hook the moment they start anything that seems like a compassionate apology. Small everyday moments, no worries. But disagreements or hurts that go against my values? I shouldn’t let those go so easily.
And what will that mean?
I need to be more courageous.
I need to step into the place of discomfort and examine the situation and have the conversation with the person apologising. I need to redefine and realign the relationship and the value.
And I need to treat myself with the grace and value that I deserve. I need to hold people accountable. Which means engaging in conversation with them about the issue.
The apology need not be a blood-bath. It can be real, informative, and calm. It can be the most connective conversation, transforming two people.
But I need to hold myself with higher integrity in how I accept apologies and how they look alongside my value of compassion + kindness.
“Education can radically change the trajectory of a child’s life. It can transform the possibilities of what a child can become and achieve.”
“To all the children out there, I want you to understand from my story … [that] suffering doesn’t define you, what other people say to you or call you doesn’t define you — what you choose to do with the opportunities you’ve got, that’s what defines you.”
[Eddie Woo, 2018 Australia’s Local Hero Award]
We had opening assembly today for students to collect timetables + get settled before Term 1 starts in earnest next week. I’m moving on up with my Year 11 Kennion-Miller kiddies and have a small mob of boys who range from “rat-bag” to “code-red, high alert, yell-at-the-walls” frustration level.
One of my “high alert” sirs spotted me walking into assembly, GRINNED at me, started waving excitedly and then remembered he wasn’t supposed to be so excited about seeing me after break, so promptly dropped his arm mid-wave and tried to look nonchalant.
Truthfully? I’m so excited to have my tutor group back again. So glad to see them all looking healthy + relaxed, even with impending frustrations to come.
I did it. Ladies and gentlemen, I did what I set out to make a habit of in 2018, today. In the flesh. In real-time.
I. DID. IT.
I was trying to explain to a colleague how disappointed I was with the resources I had been given. I was not complaining or whinging, there was an end in sight, I wasn’t burdening or ranting, and I just needed 30-seconds to be disappointed before moving on and finding a solution. I asked for her time, she said, “Yep, no worries!”
At the end of my debrief, she said, “Well, it’s all about how you look at it! You’ve just got to be more positive about it!”
She wasn’t being unfair at all. But have you seen the trail of dust I leave behind? It’s flavoured with that much eff-ing positivity, you could grow unicorns and fairies out of it.
I was asking for empathy, not a rah-rah cheer-squad pom-pom dance.
And what disappointed me even more was that she was someone who has asked me for the same sort of compassion and empathy, which I have gladly given, or tried to do my best to give. Her words felt like a sympathetic slap in the face. A backwards glance, when I was actually trying to calmly articulate disappointment.
Here’s where it gets magical.
Rather than brightly thanking her for her time, walking away, and stewing for a while afterward, I stood my ground.
I very calmly re-articulated why I was concerned, why this wasn’t just a flippant “just be positive” situation, that I am both persistent and innovative for finding solutions and that what I needed was care and concern, because I am hard enough on myself as it is. I retold my concerns with courage; I told my situation exactly as it stood, while standing my ground.
Her face changed from flippant to listening, she went quiet and took it onboard. And while I know she might have been mildly annoyed that I asked for more time, I am so pleased and proud of how I handled it. I am so glad that I didn’t run away from this small opportunity to create greater understanding.
At the end of the day, it was a small, non life-threatening disappointment that I am now happily trying to brainstorm solutions to. I am in a different mind-frame now.
But I am so proud of myself that I tried again to make myself heard, without apology or sacrifice, within wanting to hurt anyone, just for the need to build a better understanding.
If I am not happy, speak out.
If there is something to be done, then I am “somebody” that “can”.
If there is something to be seen, see it and articulate it.
If I am given plenty to create with, create with wild abandon.
If I am given nothing, I still have a reservoir of creative spirit within me.
If I am pushed to the limits, I will find more stretch in the limits.
If I am given a stage, sing.
If I am silenced, sing.
If I am made small, rise up in spirit. Grow with the complete glory of all that I am.
If I am celebrated, stand with humility and joy on my own sacred ground, in my own light.
Let me know and remember that I am undoing “CAN’T”, and replacing it with love, curiosity, and wonderment.
I ask myself to stand and have a look around, and see what is possible to problem-solve.
I have no idea the greatness of my spirit if I would only try.
Love Liz Gilbert, and so much admire what she has done creatively and personally. It’s not my path to walk in the same way as her, and probably never will be, but I admire that someone so sensitively aware of the world around her can be so free. And that freedom didn’t come naturally, she had to practise over and over. In so many respects, she has lived with a fullness, grittiness, and freedom so much above mine despite what the world decides to say about her. It cannot be easy, to be in constant conversation with yourself and your fears. But so enlightening and exquisite, to know your own heart.
Her words on creativity have inspired me to do the best I can to keep the thread of creating going as I embark on a new school year. I will struggle with tiredness, competing demands, and being a vessel for solving problems, but I would like to try and keep my authentic voice, just a tiny little flame, alive for as much as I can.
Because creativity is as much rest, repose, and a life-source as silence. As necessary as breathing. Create, and you heal some part of the stress and struggle of the day. It is the means to articulate from the soul what you cannot in plain words.
On creativity [Richard Ford]
I say that to you only because whatever you are doing right now is clearly bringing you no pleasure, only pain. Our time on earth is short and should be enjoyed. You should leave this dream behind and go find something else to do with your life.
…however, I will say this. If you happen to discover that after a few years away from your craft, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life – nothing that fascinates you or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that your craft did…well then, I am afraid that you will have no choice but to persevere.”
“I realised that, as a songwriter, the only thing I really do is make jewellery for the inside of other people’s minds. Music is nothing more than decoration for the imagination. And when you come to that realisation, the creative process becomes less tortured and more free. [Tom Waits]
“See over there
A created splendour
Made by one individual
From things residual.”
Just finished reading “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett, made even more dear to me because it was given to me by a wonderful friend for my birthday.
I experienced every scope of feeling in this book; gasps of surprise, shivers of wonder, warm glows of love, pangs of anger and grief, the poignancy of small and simple joys, and the overwhelming anguish of final death.
Don’t you ever think it’s astonishingly wonderful that we get to feel the whole gamut of emotions as humans? That we get to do something so refreshing and cleansing as cry, long slow tears, or laugh with such buoyant joy? That our whole bodies move and are filled with something more divine that just our mortal flesh?
To be able to feel the entire spectrum of feeling, an alphabet of emotion that spills forth is sure the most wonderful blessing that you can have as a mortal human.
To be able to imagine and create scenarios that don’t exist, to understand, to wonder, to hypothesise, and to heal; extraordinary. The highest of human thinking + compassion.
To be able to choose what you do with that force of feeling, and how you will use that moment, the greatest gift of freedom.