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I think my desiderata for 2018 is going to be this:
That I will walk into each day challenging EVERY shame and scarcity gremlin that comes my way.
That I will lean IN, rather than close up, when adversity bubbles up, and when joy prevails.
That I will care deeply and tenderly, joyfully and playfully, for myself. And from this deep nourishment and love, I hope that all the other types of love and connection will flourish.
This holidays has been an oasis of time. I thought it would be a walk in the park, and such a relaxing and wonderful time of reflection. OH. MY. GOD, did I have that wrong. While some days were, other days I did what can only be described as TOTAL AND ABSOLUTE battle with all my gremlins, demons, and scarcity-mongers of 2017. The thing is, I’m pretty vigilant with all of this. I’m facing the North Star. I take care of my emotional well-being and I am lifted up by so much honest and genuine love.
But I also knew that with the stretch of time uninterrupted by choral camps, school preparation, and assessments, I had an extraordinary opportunity to sink into some of the processing and reflection that needed to happen to fully experience and understand the events of the past year. The interactions, the intensity of work, and every single time that I’ve asked for more from myself. Time may have soothed them, or life has simply gotten interesting and active, and taken my mind off them, and I think I am okay. Letting each story rise up and present itself…excruciating and exquisite. Effing-hell. I felt like I was on a roller-coaster ride some days.
The intensity of some of the questions I had to look at made me reverberate all over, and there were some days where all I could do was breathe through the anger and pain. Waves of anxiety and questioning coursed through me in a way that I’d never experienced all year, and for many years, in fact. Opening up that deep well and looking in is not kiddie-work. It’s hard-won badassery. It’s exhausting.
And when you crossover and navigate through, which you somehow always do, there is sort of a simple, deep peace. You feel like you have run a marathon over 3 hours without lifting a finger, and then the next thing that you do, the next conversation you have, is imbued with such laughingly deep joy that it seems ridiculous. I guess that is the extremes of joy and grief.
I can also see that it is impossible to do this sort of reflection during a school term; there is no way that you can process so many thoughts and events without it burning a hole in your energy levels, not to mention the concentration and love required, to keep up with the daily demands of teaching.
But this time, this blessed time. I’ve HATED some days of it, not gonna lie! But this oasis of time I have received, where I’ve read + soothed, talked and reflected, loved and embedded myself in, cleaned and cooked, and then read some more…thank you.
Saw this quote. Needed to share.
Truer words were never written; we cannot be teachers and flourish in this profession alone. You would be kidding yourself if you thought it possible. Being a solitary teacher is like being plant that has just enough of everything, but nothing extra. The tangible energy in exchange of ideas and information which can only happen between teachers in conversation is like the plant that spreads like wildfire, bursting into flower. Ideas take on a life and courage of their own through this sort of “teacher posse” support network.
Dare to connect, join in the conversation, be a little afraid, a little playful…and LEARN.
This is the greatest!
I feel like I’ve travelled the world twice over in terms of my moral compass lately. It always happens at the end of a long year, the moment I get off the treadmill and the spinning stops, and my heart recalibrates and I find equilibrium, it happens. That stomach-flipping wondering the borders on aimless wandering, except that I’m stupidly busy with family + Christmas + holidays. I always think I’m MORE fine than I am, so utterly happy to be on holidays, and then it HITS. It’s like going off sugar + caffeine, those first few days SUCK. I’m antsy and unsettled. Even though I have plenty keeping me busy, there is nothing keeping me from ME, and for the first time in 10 weeks, or even a full year, I really have to face myself.
Mostly, I like myself very much. I work hard to live joyfully, authentically, work hard, and to be grateful and humble in my footsteps. Colourful, but humble. But for some reason when I’m not intensively planning, conducting, and teaching, and I have to sit still with the reflections of the year, the first few days are always intensely challenging. I feel like I’m in a total tailspin as to how I anchor myself, how I spend my time, what is important, what I need. Then day by day, I rediscover what is required.
All the things connecting with good physical health I have no problems with; good diet, sleep and rest are all easy for me, and I am lucky in this capacity. But I find myself emotionally a little stiff and sore, a little awkward and strange, even though outwardly I am so joyfully happy and there are celebrations all around me.
The most ridiculous things get under my skin; things that NEVER bother me all of a sudden do. What did that comment mean? That’s a ridiculous post. And the most ridiculous of all; why didn’t that get more likes?! This NEVER, EVER bothers me and I am so utterly and completely happy to stay in my own lane for the other 51-and-a-half weeks of the year that to even feel like this seems so ridiculously petty to me. And yet I dive, and I find myself stuck, and in the process of having to unstick myself.
And I find, unequivocally, that “fast-emotion”, like fast-food, doesn’t cut it anymore. I need to the slow rise of hard-won love and grace to feed me deeply. I need to lean into every single one of those emotional cuts and sores that have long since scabbed-over, but I haven’t really taken the time to examine. I need to lean into wonderfully healing conversation. And I need to to COURAGE [verb]. I need to practise “couraging” every single day, in ways that I haven’t needed to when the work-hum is buzzing loud in my ears.
The thing is, it’s easy to feel validated when you’re working hard. It’s easy to hide behind work when you are seemingly working hard. It’s much harder to hide when there is no work to hide behind.
So you sit, with all the scars and disappointments, and you look at them. You sit and hate them for a bit, and engage in time-wasting and soul-sucking staring matches. “Why isn’t anyone calling?” to, “Why do I have to be the first one to organise everything”, to the classic, “That was awesome, where’s the acknowledgement and thank you?!”
You remember, so abruptly and haltingly, that you are indeed NOT perfect, and that elevated sense of self you had while you were in The Hum of Work needs to be shelved for the time being. You learn that slothing it for the whole day makes you equally as unhappy as counting all your faults.
The compass regains, the equilibrium slowly rises. And you find little whispers a creativity in mind, heart, and self slowly creep forward, and the need for approval melts away, the jabs against pride and ego become mellowed, and you face things that you had no idea how to face a few weeks back. You ask the hard questions in the safety of love and time. You may not have all the answers, that’s okay. But you dared to ask anyhow. Your ability to sit with pain and discomfort, like an unwanted guest, rises.
The lane that you were walking on seem so much more like home. Your home. You’re at ease with yourself and the smell of your own weirdness. Without being glib, you are sure and real again, and that old light from inside you starts resonating.
Suddenly you are more YOU than what the world thinks of you, and grace, in all its wondrous ways, has worked its healing magic.
Thank you for the struggle of living, and the exquisite joy of life and grace.
At a time of year where we are both joyful and tired in spirit and soul, let us love gently, passionately, and love well.
There is only love. Even when there is divide, there is love in the way we communicate and relate to each other.
Are you happy with how this year has gone? I both love and am turned upside-down emotionally by this time of year as it’s a time of deep reflection. Have I done all I can, been the best I can be, loved where I am able?
And as I journal, and the words thread themselves into heartfelt sentences on the page, I remember that I am utterly human, that I will fail, but that there is always a second change.
Take those chances, love, reach out, be courageous…life is only tiny little steps of daring, captured in fleeting moments of joy.
Oh, LEAN into those. With every ounce of courage and vulnerability that you can.
I’m overwhelmed today, so unexpectedly.
Overwhelmed by the love + support around me, which I say thank you for, over and over. It affects me deeply, lifts me up, and means so much. It gives me the courage to be all that I can be, without apology or sacrifice.
Today, and everything about it, reminded me in full force that words count, actions matter, character is seen, and love is unmistakable. That you can NEVER UNDERESTIMATE what you might be contributing to the world, andhow everything that you are changes and affects the people around you, always more than you realise.
We celebrated the beautiful Ruth Howley today; her work and extraordinary contribution to Pulteney, her generosity of spirit, her compassion towards others, and her diligence in leadership + teaching.
I’ve known her for less than 2 years. This was a friendship + working partnership that totally caught me by surprise by how dear it is to me, and how greatly I value it. You’re not supposed to find a kindred spirit in under 2 years, but sometimes, if you’re incredibly lucky, you just do.
So thank you for being my compass.
Some people walk into the room, and without a word, the room changes momentum, and life, joy, and connection are possible. That’s Ruth.
And that’s what I hope to be.
I have been grappling with forgiveness.
There are so many little understandings + realisations connected to forgiveness that I had no idea about, and the more I read about it and tried to apply it in real-life, the more I found myself uncomfortably challenged, but joyfully liberated.
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the act or the situation, but it does mean applying the maximum amount of compassion possible to a situation. It means seeing the person, people, or situation requiring forgiveness in the most human light possible; seeing all the short-comings and vulnerabilities, all the imperfections and jagged edges, and softening into the pain and grief, the accusation.
The moment you dehumanise a situation, you walk the other way from forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard work. It’s uncomfortable and gritty, and requires tenacious persistence, and equal amounts of peace and solitude. It’s heart and intellect rolled in one, and it requires practise. I’m learning, all the different colours and nuances of forgiveness. It is nowhere near as black and white as I thought, and each time I forgive, I find a new light and shade in my understanding, and another skill in emotional problem-solving in my repertoire.
Forgiveness works really well when you try and do it in steps, or increments. You need to take time out from the intensity of feeling something, and yes, true forgiveness requires walking through it all. All damn lot of it. Every joyful moment, every searing moment of rage, every farewell, every stomach-churning moment of grief. All of the emotions. So it stands to reason that you need to take a break and, you know, maybe have a cup of tea + a Tim Tam, before diving headlong into it all again!
Forgiveness can look different over time, and might need to be done over and over, but each time you do, it definitely becomes easier. Especially if you’ve made sense of it the previous time you “forgave” and you are building upon a strong compass of forgiveness. So forgiveness needs to be done with an excellent understanding of what your own values are, who you are, and what is okay for you. And each time you make progress, or take another step, something becomes freer and easier. You might suddenly miss a person more, or want to hug them a little tighter. There is the old warmth and joy in conversation, rather than just careful politeness. You are more yourself, and there is connection. Because there is trust.
Finally, forgiveness is freedom. It is like finding more lung-space to breathe deeper, because everything is lighter, the air is clearer, and you have wings that move more. There is still ache and stretch in each step, but there is unmistakable freedom. And that freedom spells itself out in each playful word and new conversation built upon trust. Even in the most dire and difficult moments of forgiveness, there is a deep resonant correctness and rightness about the gravity of the situation. Even if another word is not uttered, there is a sense of some sort of equilibrium. Maybe not the restoration of ANYTHING; perhaps things are far too broken for that. But there are new personal understandings, hard won, and a sense of courage, strength and freedom that comes from walking away from a situation, having forgiven.
Forgiving this week for me was unexpected and simple. For months, I had lost connection with a dear friend. We were in touch, but really not. The old trust, the quirky playfulness, the immediate confidence – all replaced by polite conversation. I was holding back. There was a roadblock that I didn’t know how to shift. I was angry and hurt by distance. What did it take to shift things? Courage to articulate it and time. Time needed to pass, I needed to walk through every force of anger and disappointment, and the trust needed to tentatively grow. There needed to be discomfort and struggle. There needed to be “try” from both ends.
But this week, after 6 months of missing one of my dearest friends…I finally, finally want to hug her breathless and share a ridiculous joke with her. I finally also put into words, compassionately and lovingly, how much I missed her, loved her, and was hurt. It took all my courage to name the hurt and to risk the anger and tears. But somehow, we find ourselves on the other side of it all, freer + lighter.
I’ve taken a step toward freedom.
This brought tears to my eyes. Two extraordinary, exceptional young men. The connection and love between them. The quiet sincerity and articulateness of their responses. The fact that they argue! The unmistakeable bond between them.
They are a wonderful example to all.
We all want to be seen, heard, and loved.