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Little poignant moment today; I packed away my baton. Four years with the Senior Concert Band, and for an ensemble I didn’t even WANT to direct and fought hard NOT to get in my first year at Pulteney (yes, really! 🤣), I have absolutely fallen in love with the intricacies of looking after this ensemble.
Thank you for the opportunity to stretch myself as a director at this level and as a result, learn to love the craft.
Onwards to new and exciting things with my brand new shiny choirs for 2019! 😊
Madly running around this morning trying to locate a missing Concert Band kiddie for the Remembrance Day service and I happened to look over at our perpetually-late, never-quite-groomed-to-our-satisfaction, more-laid-back-than-a-drunk-lizard Sir Year 11, and said:
“It’s WAAAAAAAY more fun when it’s not you, hey?!”
The return grin was wide + genuine.
Just come back from Year 11 Solo Performances with the absolute joy of being a spectator in the audience, not a care in the world in terms of piano accompaniment + marking, and just being able to cheer on my soon-to-be Class of 2019 music kiddies and get excited about their potential.
A very nervous Sir Year 11 was presenting his first vocal program having made the change over from trumpet. Part of the nerves was how Dad would react, and my heart just went out to him, wanting him to nail this performance.
I happened to be sitting in front of Sir Year 11’s parents. Dad leaned over to Mum excitedly and said, “Hey! He’s got a good voice!”
And if looks could kill, his Mum’s would have. She responded, stage whisper: “Yes, DEAR, your son DOES have a GOOD VOICE.”
Sir Year 11’s Dad, somewhat defeated: “WHAT?! It was a compliment!”
Kid, I think you’re gonna be fine next year. 😁
Comfortable with Discomfort
How do people get comfortable with discomfort?
How do people engage mindfully with challenging discourse, differences of opinions, aggressive interactions, and high emotions whilst maintaining a joyful, resilient and open heart, but a strong backbone?
It’s something I have been consciously practising this year, partly to develop my ability to stay in discomfort with a level head, but partly because I have had no choice. It’s been spirit-ruffling, enlightening, uncomfortable, and stretching. I always think I am doing crap and very often FEEL crap, when I also instinctively know that I am doing the best job possible.
The need to work with integrity drives this desire to engage with the challenging, but it doesn’t come easy. I am often caught at a crossroads when I find myself the only one standing with one side of the opinion, and the rest of the people around me swept up by the momentum of the argument, or a personality which bulldozes. I am not a bulldozer. Words have meaning and merit to me. What simply is “shooting the breeze” or “meaningless rubbish” and falls by the wayside for others affects me until I make peace with it and decide I am done. I am not a needless “hanger-on” person; words and feelings simply have purpose, merit and meaning to me. In fact, I am working hard to let go when conversations are done and expired. And the relief is immense. It’s healthy and wholehearted. But again, never done carelessly without necessary attention and thought.
How do I then learn to walk in integrity, connect with the challenge knowing that it will affect me deeply, and repair myself that I may walk into difference + disagreement with a calm and clear head?
Many of my friends, colleagues and family members think I can do this instinctively. But it doesn’t come naturally for me. If anything, it comes particularly unnaturally, with me having to sit in excruciating discomfort as I work through the framework of each problem and decide what action I need to take. Not what I WANT to take, not what would feel nice and comfortable for me. But what I NEED to do.
It’s times like this I HATE having a moral compass, because when you have stuck with this north-facing pin of integrity, you do not feel RIGHT until you’ve arrived at the course of action which you know is right. And often, the right decision affords personal peace, but it comes with an emotional mountain to climb first; a conversation which requires rehearsing, losing 3 hours sleep, spending the day before dipping in and out of worry, going back over ideas and ground until you are satisfied. There is no easy way to coexist with a moral compass and be a vulnerable, joyful person of integrity.
It WRINGS THE FUCKING LIFE out of you.
But there is no other way.
You need to do it.
So here’s the question: How does everyone else get comfortable with discomfort?
I’m not talking about deodorising a workplace or situation where everything is hunky-dory and annoyingly, superficially “fine”. I don’t buy in for that. I welcome safe discussion and discourse. I WANT accuracy for where I stand and what I do. But too often, pride and ego get in the way, and safe discussion without incidental power-over is impossible. And it breaks my heart, because I am no weakling. I just don’t want to be unnecessarily hurt by thoughtless, pride-driven conversation.
What I am talking about is when integrity does NOT win the day, and you watch as mud-slinging, bulldozer personalities and power-over get top spot? HOW do other people practise being resilient and courageous in this environment? How do you make peace with having to walk into battle, when you didn’t ask to walk into battle? How do you become more capable warriors in navigating shit-storms, without losing yourself? How do you keep your energy levels up? How do you learn to let things go after they are done? When do you know that they are done?
I don’t want total agreement. I want a safe place to put ideas on the table, the be deeply seen and valued, to not have my intrinsic work questioned when I am discussing difficult topics. It’s how we all want to feel.
Seen, valued, and heard, with worthiness which affords us the courage and audacity to have different opinions and creative ideas.
I know that I have instinctively walked this more challenging path all my life, because that’s how I was raised, that is what I am made of to the very core. I am so LUCKY to be lifted in heart and spirit by family and friends, who know me, and know what I do. They know my humility, they know my faults. They know where a should be fighting harder, and they also know where I am gentle in my strength.
For me, I know the cost of this walk of integrity. And I am tired from the heaviness of responsibility. As you know, this comes as UNNATURALLY to me as possible, yet I must do it. How do the great leaders of the world do it? How did Barack + Michelle Obama walk through their presidential term and maintain warmth and humanity, whilst making the hard decisions to guide and shape a nation? How did Nelson Mandela make wisdom and peace from hardship, over and over? Not just for a mere day; but when he least felt like it?
I am asking for some momentum and wind beneath my wings, some advice + wisdom, on how to continue to sustainably walk into challenging situations and understand how to chart a course of action without apology, but without sacrifice.
WOW, today. SUCH a huge example of the quote: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
This morning, I experienced that quote realised in full colour. Playing for a young man who has struggled long and hard throughout his schooling, supported by a small nation of staff, adults, family and friends, and undertaking modified Year 12 Solo Performance with me this year.
He was the pre-music for the whole school assembly, singing “Let It Be”, and quite simply brought the house down. The response was tear-worthy and unprecedented. My heart was beating out of my chest at the piano, and not from nerves. All of it was pure buoyancy and joy at the moment he was creating. 🌟
Thank you so much to the Pulteney community, teachers + students, who have been so open in their support of him this morning. He is walking around believing that Year 12 Solo Performance, and life in general, is possible.
I have to say, tutoring + accompanying for him is VERY much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. Honest-to-God, you really DON’T know what you’re gonna get. It’s an exciting ride from beginning to end, and I think John Lennon + Paul McCartney would have gotten a laugh out of how many viable combinations of words you could get out of Verse 1 alone, when applied to the entire song, INCLUDING the instrumental interlude.
Above all else, I will take care of my heart.
That it beats fully and wholly, with pulse and life.
The thing is, there will always be struggle. But you can rise above that. You can travel through. It will be hard, but you will survive.
But if a heart closes over, if words lose meaning, if emotions are stifled, if life is turned down and muted in colour; then there is no point.
Because there will always be adversity to get through. And it will hurt. But I would much rather hurt at full volume, than to save myself the struggle and feel lukewarm joy. I want every ounce of light and fire of being alive, so very essential, real and complete.
And you know what else?
I look at all the strong and courageous people I admire, all those who work in tandem with their hearts and their values, and all the while, do you know the thing I MOST want to say to them?
You do not have to do this alone.
And incredibly, it’s the thing that I know to be true for myself, and I do for myself, but I do not instinctively turn to as a first point, a first port of call. Why not?
To the beautiful and courageous leaders, the “extraordinary ordinary” people I know, your authenticity and character are unmistakeable. I know that you will walk back into whatever story you are travelling, and keep doing your work. But I reach out so readily to help you feel joy and give light + compassion, support and love, so that you might have the tools to travel and face what you need to. I cannot live your life for you, only you can do that. But I can walk beside you, holding a beacon of light.
So why should I be any different?
Let me ask for help much more freely and readily. Let me tell the story of myself with all my heart. Let me not back away from the details that I cannot articulate, but try harder to find the nuances, the words, and where my true heart lies. Let me check my compass every day.
Let me go against the tide, over and over, for the truth, the very resonance of who I am.
And let me practise this every day, that my heart will become supple with the ability to yearn and reach for love and support in times of adversity.
Because my life, my spirit, and my well-being depend upon it.
Remember this please; above all, keep my heart so brilliantly and wholly alive.