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I had to remind myself to struggle, and struggle hard today.
Isn’t it amazing that when adversity hits you, it hits you and winds you. It’s often sudden, complete, and catches you breathless. Your self-talk becomes focused, petty, and acidic. You get tunnel-vision. There is heat all around you, and blood pounding in your ears.
I read an errant Facebook post today which cut me to the core, and I was caught off-balance. NOTHING about the rest of my day had changed except for that one sentence, accompanied by that one photo. But it shook me, and I realised it was my values and my sense of self-worth being shaken.
And I had to remind myself to struggle. Struggle, and struggle hard. You’re underwater now, but you’ll fight your way to the surface, break through, and breathe. You don’t quite know how you’ll get there, but air will fill your lungs again. And it will feel empowering and awesome. Your wings will work, and you will fly. Your day was fine before your read those words, and saw that picture. You will find your equilibrium again.
More importantly, YOU ARE NOT PERFECT.
That seems so utterly counter-intuitive to write, but reminding myself that I am NOT perfect gives me permission to have emotional “wiggle-room”. I need reminding that I am indeed human, and I cannot be everything to everyone, or myself. I will NOT have it perfect, and I will NOT be perfect.
And after I flail heatedly and argue with myself internally, and the red-hot spark of anger has died away, I find myself on steadier ground. I realise and remember all the things that make me real and complete. I remember how much I add to the world, and how WORHTY I am.
I remember that I am a living, breathing, blessed, creative, thinking, real, loving, and present.
I am here, and I stand my own ground, worthy and beautiful. Not because of what I have, but just because I BREATHE, I LIVE, and I am a HUMAN-BEING.
Struggle is RIGHT. Without struggle, emotional or otherwise, my wings become weak, I forget how to scramble and fight, my heart would forget how to work. And I would never know gratitude. The love and joy of life that sets me alight.
Oh, let me cry hot tears of frustration! That my heart beats and works!
For it is in struggle that I remember all the things that are real and true to me, and how very lucky I am to have all that I have.
Imperfect set of experiences and tools that they are, they are mine, and they are perfectly beautiful. So shining with worth and merit, they are blinding.
And so am I.
A little dose of whimsy + wisdom for today.
A tremendous + significant step in care for my Grandmamma; after several years of home care, she has agreed to make the move to assisted care. The last 5 years have been a measure of courage and creativity for my whole family, Mum, Dad, rellies far + wide, Robs, Em, and myself, where we have leaned on each other to figure out each challenge.
I had just over 2 weeks looking after my Grandmamma in January this year to allow Mum + Dad to travel and have a break. And whilst it was a blessed two weeks where every good luck angel was looking over me and absolutely everything went right, I felt like I was walking a tightrope every day and mentally on-call for every one of those 17 days.
And that’s what my Mum + Dad have been doing for close to 5 years.
This “yes” has been the work of struggle, compassion, grace, and love. My Grandmamma will be the first in our entire family to enter into assisted care, and she HAD to be the one to say “yes”. In doing so, she has totally blazed a trail for future generations, but will also be grieving the cultural aspect and love of family members looking after her for her final years.
For me, I’m crying tears of compassion for her “yes”, but also tears of joy for my Mum and Dad. I cannot even BEGIN to describe how light I feel, and the incredible flood of possibilities that keep popping up in my mind. That Mum and Dad can now grab a coffee anytime they want. They can go walking together over the weekend. They can wake up whenever they want. They’ll still wake up at the crack of dawn and have done 3 loads of washing before 6:30am, but whatever, the point is, they still CAN. I can watch my beautiful Mum actually – POSSIBLY – learn to spend some time on herself, and my skinny, quiet, generous-hearted Dad take a cup of tea and read without being interrupted, or wondering challenge he’ll have to solve next. I can spend time with my parents without them being mentally elsewhere from fatigue + worry.
They have booked their first impulsive interstate trip to Melbourne in…forever.
They’ll be able to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Canada.
I am so HAPPY and LIGHT right now.
The other total crack-up is that Calvary have NO-EFFING-IDEA what they have signed up for with my tough + feisty Grandmamma. Oh, she will have them ON THEIR FEET. She will demand chopsticks and tell them off for under-seasoning the food. She can still give me a sound yelling-at when I am not coming up to scratch and being “too Western for my own good, with my teaching job, and car, and…!”
She yells good. I want to grow up to be like her.
Darling Girl, who aches with hope, here is what I say to you:
Fill the room with ALL of you. Not pretentiously, but without apology.
Speak with every ounce of who you are.
Succeed. Oh, succeed because it is your life’s path.
Speak. Because you have so much to say that is innate and bursting forth. Speak all of your words, not just the ones that are curated.
Live, not clinically, not withholding, but FULLY. Messily, Completely. Utterly. Totally. Fully.
Don’t make space for a job, a misguided hope, a cultural implication, a relationship, a child, or anything else that is not there. Darling Girl, your heart, soul, and life will stretch to accommodate those if and when they arrives. Because that’s how life works!
If you live like this, in the ghosting of a hope, then you are living in deficit, and on misplaced reality. My beautiful, sweet, strong, gritty one, you live NOW, not for a time in the past or in the future, and certainly not on something that is grounded in only “what ifs”.
Travel. My God, travel and see all that you can, because you have the freedom and license to right now. You are only you at present, and it is absolutely right and true without being selfish. Travel and step into the world, as it fully embraces you as you are. Not as a wife, a mother, a partner, but as all of you.
Travel because it is embedded in the human spirit, that very curiosity that inspires and fires all of the imagination and softens us to humanity, whilst setting us alight. The need to be free, even when you have your own place in the world, is as real as breathing.
Feel. With every ounce of you heart, not just the spare corners, and certainly not just the safe ones. Whilst you get to pick how your mind responds, you cannot tap human emotion. The heart yearns for what it yearns for, to be connected. Do not hold back because you don’t feel you’ve earned the right because you are NOT something.
You are allowed to fall in love with children and be a mother even if you are not a mother. You love with intensity even if you are not in a relationship. You are borne of love, and it is yours to live. You are a woman of the world, and you affect it, and interact with it, any way you choose.
Life will keep moving and you will need to be a part of the change, fleeting, slow, circular, sudden, it is all impermanent.
You can cry, and laugh, and shriek, and run, and dance without any fear that you need to be a little more quiet; you do not need to earn the right to be human.
You already have. Completely. Humanity is a birthright.
Do not let that gloriously beating, beautiful heart stop or harden.
Cry your tears.
Feel your grief.
Celebrate your joy.
Share your love.
Walk through it with integrity and authenticity.
Grief never leaves our cells, we just learn to carry it better. We are all grieving something, either graciously or not. But nor will the absolute, unquenchable desire to live ever leave us either.
Which will you respond to? The fear of being hurt, or the fear of not fully living?
Make new meaning every day.
Change is in the minute, on every breath. Hold too tight, and you will only find pain.
Darling Girl, I love you more than you will ever know.
Today, I was asked by Tiny Little Plucky Miss Year 7 to be her “safe teacher”. I didn’t even realise that was a possible thing to be until today.
So I said, “I would be honoured to be!
…uh, what do I need to do for you?!”
She wanted a female teacher to check-in with as she travelled through school, life, puberty, friendships, and “just because”, if and when she needed it. She has a male home group teacher who is fabulous but, in her words, “Probably doesn’t want to talk periods!”
The outright humour + PLUCK of this kid! Man, I was laughing and my heart was over-flowing.
Because this gorgeous, feisty, vibrant, amazing little kiddie has autoimmune disease. She’s pint-sized for her age. She has monthly infusions to be able to just “do life”. Her family are EXTRAORDINARY. She is beloved. If she takes a beating out in the quadrangle, all the Year 7 boys rally up and are incredibly protective of her, demanding apologies on her behalf. She WANTS every ounce of every day that she is energetic enough to be present for.
There are loads of other female teachers she sees far more often + could have picked for the job. Why me?!
“Because you being small hasn’t stopped you doing your thing. You ARE big, even if you’re small. And you love every Year 7 in my class, even those that don’t want to be loved.”
OH MY FREAKIN’ GOD. My heart is exploding right now, and I just want to hug this tiny dot of a kid breathless and say:
“KID, YOU’RE ALREADY DOING ALL OF THAT!”
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.
Isn’t it extraordinary that when we look back to our most influential teachers and mentors, they are the same age as when they taught us? That they have somehow remained suspended in mid-air and time, exactly as they were when we were 11 years old, or high school, or university?
What force granted us the means to stamp them into a moment of time? Shouldn’t we apply the same grace as they gave us, and allow them to grow as well?
I think of my most treasured mentors, who filled me with such confidence, love, and joy for my learning, and seemed so limitless and wise. I am 10, 15, 20 years older and in the middle of my own teaching career, and I have learned + fallen, failed and grown. I’ve changed; why should I think they haven’t?
Why shouldn’t I allow them greater wisdom, tenderness, and the passing of time?
It’s so easy to think of them as timeless, and limitless, but they are people on the same continuum, growing, changing, and being affected by life. It’s the same story I preach to all my students, and yet I catch myself forgetting to apply that insight and grace to my own teachers, parents, mentors.
No-one is limitless.
And when you allow that humanity, they become more scarily fragile and vulnerable, but all the more beautiful and touchable.
And I guess that’s the lesson I am teaching to my students as well; that as bright and as energised as I am, I, too, am not limitless. I am beautifully, touchably human.
To engage with life and the world around you, you need to be up for discomfort and struggle. And after a period of intense rest and time away from interaction, that can be the last thing you want. Add to that the very introvertness of my introvert nature, and that’s recipe enough for me to lie on the rug in the middle of my floor and pretend I’m not a teacher.
Every single year, no matter what sort of holidays I have, I always have the irrational thought before going back to school: “I CANNOT DEAL WITH STUDENTS.” Right now, it’s even more basic: “I CANNOT DEAL WITH PEOPLE.”
Why am I so antsy and afraid?!
Am I afraid of the intensity of work? Because I may get hurt? That I don’t think I will survive the roller-coaster that is teaching? Interacting with the staff who give me the shits and drain the life out of me? My own unrelenting standards and expectations? Having less time?
The thing is, these all make sense. And I will survive, one thought and step at a time.
The intensity of work? Yes, it will be intense. I will be in the coalface getting blackened again. But I have done this before, and I have the fitness and ability to do it now. I have the tenacity and determination, and I have been working on my concentration. What I need to remember is how to step out of the intensity of work. To see the little moments and don’t discount them. To hug them tight, because they will sustain me.
That I may get hurt? Of course. I think there are flying shards of glass every day. You wouldn’t be living life if you didn’t step into a shit-storm every once in a while. But I have firm ground under my feet and a quiet confidence. I need to remember that I’ve survived so much, and far worse more capably than I believe. Every day is not supposed to be filled with just all things wonderful and breezy brightness, there is supposed to be some gritty consideration and thinking in there. That’s called living. And I am not perfect. I need to remember that. In living and loving well, I will skin my knees. But my goodness, my survival skills are developing nicely and so is my connection circle of people who love me.
That I won’t survive? Just one foot in front of the other. Look all around you at the people who are surviving, on far less, with more gumption. Take a leaf out of their books and look, learn, and admire. Talk yourself through the stressful moments. You’re allowed to worry and fuss. But don’t stop. Don’t hurry, but don’t stop. And hold a very big flashlight as to what you think is correct for you. Stay in your own lane. When things get crowded, get back in that lane like your life depends upon it.
And oh, the shitty shitty people? Again, we are all one big happy family, and some of those “family members” will give you the shits. Big shits. What sort of person do I want to be? I survived most of 2017 by cocooning myself from the shittiest of shitty people. I’m going to test something new out this year, to see what sort of result it will give me; I’m going to apply grace and lean into the things that scare me, or piss me off. I am going to speak truth and honesty, but with grace and compassion. And I will do it FOR ME, because that’s the sort of person I want to be. When there is a problem, I am going to quietly and courageously stand my ground. I am going to fortify myself with love from everyone around me who really love me for all that I am, strengths, achievements, and weaknesses. In other words, I am going to ruffle some feathers and see if I come out looking and smelling even more authentic.
My own relenting standards? Oooooooh, yes. Somehow, the perfectionist streak in me rears its ugly head when I am on holidays. When I am supposed to be relaxing and getting myself prepared for a new year, this horrible gremlin asserts itself, I think partly because there are no “normal happenings” around me to beat me back into humanness, and I am allowed to be perfectionistic. Relaxed, but perfectionistic. So to this, I tenderly remember that I am an imperfect and worthy human. I’ll have to yell it at myself, but I know that to be true. And telling myself I’m not perfect, putting myself into context, and putting everyone else into context, their words + failings, faults + successes, helps soothe and encourage me immeasurably. I am suddenly able to touch on forgiveness, even if I don’t yet, or can’t go there, and life moves on again. So again, engaging with life is incredibly humbling and normalising. Having time away to reflect is essential, but getting back into it, also just as essential.
Having less time? I think that’s less disposable, aimless time. I need to get very clear about what is important and how I would like to spend my time. One of my biggest time-sucks and numbing of behaviours is scrolling Facebook. When I am stressed out or feeling small, I need to get the hell off Facebook, get the hell back into my lane and engage with something that really sustains me…creatively, musically, personally, humanly. And all of that takes courage. Because Facebook is like the massive scoop of salted caramel ice-cream. It goes down easy. What I’m asking for is something like hot chicken soup, which takes some time to see the healing benefits and is going to take some discipline, but I have to believe + know that it will nourish me more.
I cannot live life being afraid. The more afraid I am, the MORE I need to practise engaging with the world, listening, being mindful, being present. This whole “warrior + happiness training” thing that I have inadvertently engaged in these holidays because I opened up the Pandora’s Box Of Unprocessed Thoughts and Emotions is not to make me feel good right now. It’s to build up a bank so that I have happiness and courage in credit for when the shit hits the fan. For when I am struggling. That is when I look back and realise the catalogue of events I have survived with grace, the endurance and problem-solving skills that I have, and that I can lean HARD on them. The immeasurable joy in my life, and the joy that emanates from me.
My wish for all of you.