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Happy Chinese New Year, with an Aussie footnote. 😁
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.
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.
Watching this video reminded me of something I have been working on all holidays; taking small steps.
In the end, it’s not how much time you have, or how great your project framework or idea. It’s not how foolproof your planning, or how fast you can work.
It’s how determined you are to finish the project. How much you are willing to sit there and work dedicatedly at something that may not feel enlivening, fun, or inspiring all the time, knowing and trusting that there is a rhyme and reason to your work. Knowing that all your little actions and thoughts add up, that you are making progress. Steady, incremental progress. No flashiness, no great neon billboards. Moving a mountain one grain of sand at a time.
Quite frankly, it feels like uninspiring, boring work. But that’s where the patience and determination really kick in. In our world of instant gratification, this is real old-school values and work ethic.
I am working on a large-scale choral commission right now and I have inevitably ended up in the “shit” bellcurve of the whole creative process. I’m trying to resurrect a 16-bar coda that is DOA and couldn’t be resuscitated for all the electrical impulses in the world. But I am stubborn and creatively pig-headed, and I keep slogging away at it, with no result that I am happy with. I’m talking hours of wasted afternoons, hacking away with a blunt knife.
I hate these 16 bars with an unholy passion. And they sit there on my desktop, along with the rest of the epic ruins of my composition, festering.
So I decide to be smarter and kinder to myself, and it. Step back, sharpen my knife, and engage. I take 10 minutes each night to see if I can gently coerce some life back into the final section. I actually sit beside the ruins of my composition and problem-solve. From trying to hammer out a solution, to gently clearing the rubble, brick by brick, note by note, I have clarity. Each afternoon or evening, just 10 minutes. Inevitably what happens is I start getting interested, because it’s a more connective process. I start liking what I am creating and hearing.
After a solid week of 10-minute interventions, I have something which has a framework that resonates of me. That I am happy with. All that stress and worry, when all I needed to do was START and KEEP GOING.
It’s the same with my Chinese New Year cleaning. Each year, we clean our houses from top to bottom to herald in the new year. It’s the clearing of the “old spirits” to allow new luck to flow in, new momentum and life. Anything that hasn’t been cleaned and cleared out allows the previous year’s qi to stagnate, and that part of your life doesn’t grow. So then you get super-superstitious and overly ambitious and want to clear out EVERYTHING immediately. It’s very Marie Kondo, but without the sparking, and definitely without the joy, just the overwhelming enormity of Spray N’ Wipe + paper towels.
I couldn’t face doing even a whole room some days. But I JUST STARTED. One shelf in the pantry, that was 5 minutes. The dust on the skirting of the living room. The wine rack. My clothes. Sort, fold, bundle up the giveaways. All the blankets + pillows. My bookshelves. The bathrooms. The study, the photographs, my choral and piano music. And somehow, quietly, peacefully and miraculously, my whole house is done. I am ready. I am ready to open up my arms and welcome the new year.
It was a curious mixture of flow and determination. There were several days where for both tasks, I really didn’t feel like starting anything, but I did. And when I did, I became involved, engrossed, and quietly interested. There’s a metronomic safety to to what 10 minutes of “just starting” can bring, and you surprise yourself by how much you achieve in those snippets.
It wasn’t muscle work, and it was never full days of intense mental or physical labour.
It was just starting. And continuing. And persisting with quiet determination at a task.
Just finished the acerbic + hilarious 3rd installment to the Sarah Knight trifecta. Read “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck”, and “Get Your Sh*t Together” this year also, LOL-material on interstate flights! Like candied almonds; crack your teeth on the hard-edged wit, and there are little gems of value inside.
What makes it even cooler is that before all the smart-arse banter, she opens with a Dr Seuss quote:
“Today you are YOU!
That is truer than true!
There is no one alive
Who is you-er than YOU!”
Amen to that.
My goodness, this unbelievably articulate card from a Sir Year 10 music renegade, with the bit that totally affects me:
“You are quirky but serious, strong but fair, and truthful yet compassionate and understanding. You have been a rock for me over the last semester particularly, and so supportive and nurturing. You are truly one of a kind. Also, you pull off outfits no one else could!”
What Year 10 sir writes like that, so authentically + articulately?!
I thanked him last night at Lessons + Carols for his beautifully written words and he said, “Well, they’re FAR more articulate on the page!” And then I remembered that he has a stutter. I’ve taught him for 3 years. He just has such good stuff to say that I don’t notice it until I think about it. Amazing.
How does she hold it all on her delicate shoulders?
She mustn’t receive a lot of unfettered, unattached, no-strings kindness at all. She must spend her time wondering why she’s received certain comments, attentions, emails, presents, and it must corrode her soul, no matter how much integrity she holds her heart to. The challenge must be intense, and heart-breaking.
I wonder how she stays connected and open. I wonder how she walks into each day, knowing the battles she must face, but living for the minute, the moment, and the hour, still being present, even though it costs her so much some days?
It must cut so deeply, all those careless words swirling around her, like shards of glass and just as ragged and dangerous to her spirit. And she walks through this shit-storm with grace.
I do not always agree with her. But fear must cut a path that dictates some of her most challenging decisions. Imagine having to work from a place of compassion, surrounded by fear? I couldn’t do it. It would break me. How does she stay whole?
She is a mother. To see that beautiful picture of her at the formal with her son, both arms around him with an open smile, was poignant. How does he walk through each day? How he must be challenged too, with the responsibilities he faces, despite being told to just be normal. There will be fears, compassion, anger, resentments, and maturity above his years from holding this role with his Mum. And she is just a Mum. Yet she cannot be “just a Mum”, with the bad days, and the bad hair, and needing too much coffee. She has to be superhuman. All the time.
She is just a Mum, wife, daughter, woman, sister, friend, who happens to be in an excruciating and gruelling job, which does not offer much forgiveness.
I wonder where she goes when she has a bad day, who she checks in with? I wonder if she socialises with anyone at work? How hard it must be to want to connect, and yet, you are an island. Everyone else is allowed that one human ounce of integrity and humanity, and she is not. How must it feel when the people around you are angry and resentful when she is sick or away, or distant or preoccupied, rather than forgiving and compassionate. What made her so different that we lock her away in an ivory tower? I am grateful that when I am sick, I am allowed to be human. She is only human, please let her be.
She must tell her story over and over, she has to make clear her intent every day with courage because people don’t believe her immediately. How much that must cost. She cannot rely on previous work; the time is always changing around her. How do you even begin to navigate this?
That smile is all the more heartbreaking, because she has to guard herself all the time.
I wish her joy and connection, and a pathway to her heart.
I remind myself that I need to walk that path regularly for myself. I am so grateful that I know my heart.
This is the Class of 2017 Music posse that has made me laugh and cry in equal measures; whom I loved to bits and have worried incessantly over, who have both inspired me and been the bane of my existence, depending upon their state of organisation, and for whom I will treasure the year gone by, that I had the opportunity to get to know such beautiful, different, and individual personalities.
Thank you for lighting up my world at Pulteney, cracking me up, bringing me coffee, frustrating the crap out of me, and allowing me the honour of affecting your lives.
Mama Kwokkie X