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Stand your own sacred ground through light and joy, storm and stress, unchanging and quietly courageous.
That’s when you know you burn with a real internal light.
Love how this one is presented, love the crumpled paper, and love the message. 🙂
A bit of a riff on “Stand your sacred ground.”
I have loved this quote forever. But this week, I had the extraordinary and unsettling experience of really living this quote. I thought I understood it, I’ve shared it with my students, I have it written in my journal. But when you actually walk through the very essence of this quote, my goodness, you cannot help but feel full and lifted up to overflowing.
I was preparing a special medley of pieces for the Class of 2017 Valedictory Dinner. My Year 12 Music class and I shared a lesson of laughter sorting through songs that best represented their cohort last term, where they each threw their suggestions into the ring. The most cringe-worthy, memory-stirring, funny, and meme-riddled top 10 numbers were chosen. Over the holidays, I crudely “frankensteined” them together on Sibelius and the Year 12 Valedictory Medley, in all its cringe-worthy glory, was born!
In recent weeks, my poor Year 12 Music class have been madly scrambling to get themselves ready for their final performance moderations. And I have been unrelenting as a teacher. Gone is the Mama Kwokkie, and in place, is “The Smiling Gestapo Kwokkie”; as one of my students fondly describes, “Ms Kwok in this state is like a Disney princess who can ninja kick your ass to the curb.”
Yet despite the intensity of preparation and the lack of time, every single one of my gorgeous Year 12s was invested in this medley. So we made rehearsal time. We scrimped and scrounged 15-minute and 30-minute time-slots when we could miraculously get the crew together to practise, and my 12s came in over weekends, during the holidays, and before and after school to make up the time they missed in lesson with me. To see them come together like this just made my heart double in size.
Putting this score together cost me 15-20 hours of my time over the holidays, but I love arranging, and was glad to take on this special project for this very special crew.
Our challenges started when we weren’t offered a spot to play. Now granted, just because last year’s Year 12 Music class performed as a band, didn’t guarantee us a spot. No worries, go speak with my Head of Performing Arts, ready for it to fall either way, yes or no, take it on the chin. The support was basic at best; go and negotiate with the organiser of the Valedictory Dinner of Head of Senior School and if it’s a yes from them, you’re on. No worries, go do that, and done, done, done! We are on the program.
But somewhere along the line, communications broke down not once, but several times, and there were problems and roadblocks to our musical performance, over and over, through no fault of anyone. So I kept making noise and negotiating, restating, recalibrating. How much could a musical item take from me, and one that I wasn’t even sure was going to be a hit with the Year 12 cohort?
On the day of the Valedictory Dinner, I felt as if I had carried this musical item and my Year 12 Music class one by one through the whole preparation process. I had never wanted so much to throw the towel in and quit on this performance, and I have never quit on any performance. I felt like I had had to fight every step of the way to get this on the program, without actually wanting to fight at all. I am not someone who does things at the last-minute, I’m super-organised and love being that way, I always endeavour to be inclusive in my decision making, and I’m transparent in my teaching. For some reason, this preparation run for this performance felt like a battle the whole way.
But as I sat in on the final Year 12 assembly that morning and looked at the faces of that cohort, I could feel my heart brimming all over again, and the motivation rise up. Specifically, I looked at and for the faces of my beautiful Year 12 Music kiddies, the crazy and hilarious personalities, the big hearts and amazing souls I was working with.
Damn it, I was going to go through with this no matter what.
That evening, when I announced the Valedictory Medley to the Class of 2017 cohort + attending staff, I was shitting myself. My words were clear and witty, but my knees were shaking and I wondered if I’d get over to the keyboard in my heels without tripping over.
And you know what?
WE PLAYED THE ARSE OFF THAT PIECE.
It just went OFF.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a unified expression of connection, enthusiasm, and rowdy joyful singing within group of Year 12s, most of whom are not musos. I couldn’t help it. I was grinning like an idiot all the way through.
Come to the end of the piece, and the room erupted into applause, the joy and appreciation was palpable. My 12s also forgot themselves and were hugging each other, and hugging me, in pure joy and elation, while we were still on stage.
My moment – The Moment – came when I was called forward to collect the gift on behalf of the Music Department. Now, this job is NEVER meant for me, it’s always Head of Performing Arts, but I had done the work this time, so it fell on my shoulders.
So I walked up, with this incredible envelope of love and achievement around me, buoyant from the Year 12s around me, knowing I had gone against the tide and STILL we had performed and given such joy…and I felt a shiver of uncertainty shoot through me. I couldn’t smile. I wasn’t embarrassed or feeling small; it was the sheer amount of battle and adversity I had gone through that made me too exhausted to step into the light, my light. I walked up so serious and totally unlike myself. Why couldn’t I fully lean into this extraordinary moment?
And then I realised. I was at that moment afraid of my own light. It had become so bright through this moment, borne from adversity, that even I didn’t know how to handle such a brilliance.
I took a breath and kept walking, and when I turned around to look at the hundreds of faces in the room, I burst out laughing! I couldn’t contain the relief, the joy, the exuberance, myself, and all that blinding light.
That amazing light that was shining from me. That’s what it feels like to step into it and own it.
Own it like a boss lady.
Have you ever felt vaguely off and sidelined? That somehow, just by walking through your day and trying to do the right things, there are people reacting to you in a slightly “off” manner? That they are not seeing you for who you are, that there is the vaguest whisper of misunderstanding, and you want to explain yourself, but you don’t know how to?
That’s how I feel right now. I know that I’ve walked through today with love, compassion and integrity. But I just feel uncomfortably not right. Like I’m being seen through a filter that I didn’t ask for. Actually, that’s exactly it. I’m being seen through a filter of preconceptions – or misconceptions – that I haven’t asked for, that just slightly put my integrity off kilter. It’s not enough for me to want to explain myself, but it is enough for me to feel a little tired. I know that I have to work a little harder for my true character to shine through, to correct the misconceptions, to step in, to let my actions speak clearly and firmly, to restate my boundaries. All the things that keep you a little on edge.
I wish so much that I didn’t have to.
So I took my slightly-off-key self home tonight and wondered what I would like to do.
First, I’m proud of how I walked through today. I just kept re-drawing the boundaries, over and over, until misconceptions were softened and I was seen. By the end of 3 hours of rehearsal, I could feel the change. I knew I had done the right thing. But the opening credits of today were hard. Walls were up, eyes downcast, and I was uncomfortable without asking to be. I just kept working with the task at hand, all pride and ego aside, quietly holding tight to my compass through the dark.
Should I explain myself? Should I jump right in and bulldoze my way into understanding? Actually, this is my instinct. ME, ME, ME, listen to ME right now, because WHAT YOU’RE THINKING IS WRONG! But I need practise at leaning into discomfort. So I figure this:
My character is as true as they come. If there is a hard line there, it’s meant to be there. The boundaries are hard-won, and my compassion is alive always. What I ask for myself is that I work SO hard to look after MY HEART ONLY. I will NOT look over at the lowered eyes, the misunderstandings, or the slights. I will ONLY walk my steps, live my life, and follow my compass. I will be swayed, oh yes! I’m utterly human! But I will bend in the wind, and then pull myself back on course. I will walk on my path, in my own lane, doing all the things that are what I would choose to do in integrity, compassion, and love. I will match my character over and over.
Because my life and how I live is proof enough of who I am. My LIFE is my EXAMPLE and MESSAGE, and even if that means walking through ache and discomfort for a while, I cannot help but been COMPLETELY SEEN if I do things that I know to be right. I cannot be what I am not, I cannot undo hurts and misunderstandings, I cannot soften hard lines that should be there because they are decisions I have made. But I have a HEART THAT WORKS, and I know that I am constantly learning to be the best version of me that I can. Therefore, let me fill myself up so that I am FULL TO OVERFLOWING, so that there is NO MISTAKE of my intent, my character, and my integrity.
Let the world, and all the doubters, see me for all that I am simply through me living my life without apology or sacrifice.
How is it that some people can walk into a room, and somehow the room feels safer and warmer? Or lit up from their very selves?
And you feel warmer and somehow more for being in their presence? That you can share an idea or experience, and it will multiply in feeling and joy?
And how is it that other people, no matter how “correct or fitting” their words, no matter how properly they dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s” just make you want to subtly cross your arms to protect yourself? And that when they are near, you cocoon yourself a little more, verbally or physically?
It’s not that they are blatantly hurtful or negative; there is just something about them and how they talk where you can feel the life leave you, slowly, imperceptibly, drop by drop.
How is that so?
It MUST be to do with character and authenticity. It’s in all the words that are unspoken, it’s in the space between words + noise which builds connection, or keeps you on guard.
Being aware of it is a curious thing. When you’re in the middle of a busy week, especially in teaching, it’s so easy just to hear words. It’s easy enough just to work hard and get the job done.
But then, as today, an errant email about work comes through with just logistics, and I can feel my skin curl just a little because the oasis of calm and safety has been broken and I know I have to step into that world again soon. Not that it’s like going into battle; it’s just an “on guardness” that keeps you a little secure and boundaried, where your full sensitivity and light can’t shine through safely.
And then, there’s the truly beautiful people. When these people walk through the room, your heart expands. Everything relaxes. You might not talk to them, but knowing they are there in the room makes the room lighter, warmer, and safer. A rather wonderful joy and integrity shines from them. Quietly, loudly, playfully, it doesn’t matter. These sorts of people radiate goodness in their own style. They make the time and space around them make sense. They may be the most conventionally ordinary people; nothing fancy, bright, or attention-seeking about them. But everything about them is extraordinary, lit with integrity, warmth, and authenticity. Even on a bad day, you still feel safe within their presence.
Let me endeavour to be one of those people, who change the momentum of the world around me for the better.
I hope that I am the authentic guide, the sort of person who makes people feel safe and secure.
One of my Year 8s asked me if I really liked colour THAT much. Now granted, I wear a lot of colour. Patterns that clash. Stockings and scarves in every shade and hue. I am drawn to spots and stripes like a moth to a beacon of light. But do I like colour THAT much?!
I like colour very much. But the daring and light-hearted ensembles I wear to school are as much for my students as for me. In the outfits that I love wearing to school, I’m just as self-conscious walking around in the supermarket after school for that errant cartoon of milk and 3 carrots that I need!
I think the love of pattern and colour is 70% that I actually LIKE colour, and 30% me taking the mickey out of the dress code in the most creative + playful way possible. All the hemlines are the right length, all the bits are covered, nothing’s hanging out, and I suck at heels. Is 1.5cms a heel? It’s an accidental bit of extra leverage!
But I wear these gorgeous, crazy outfits because I love my students and it’s one of the ways I tell them that they matter. Any teacher who comes in neatly dressed, organised, and on time, ready to interact with an open mind says to the students in no uncertain terms that they matter.
I want them to know that they matter before I even start the lesson. Then in the flow of my words, the humour, and the organisation and preparation, they will see the example that I give them to hopefully inspire them to become good people living good lives.
I love the hilariousness of my Year 6s commenting on my earrings, or giving my scarf + stocking combos a mark out of 10. I feel bright eventually even if I don’t at the start of the day, and believe me, I don’t always roll out of bed feeling ready to tackle the day! My inner introvert screams blue murder some days, sated only by a nice spotted, fit + flare dress and cute blue booties!
But to answer your question, curious Little Miss Year 8, I DO love colour. But I love you lot most of all. And I celebrate the opportunity to affect your lives positively.
Stand your own sacred ground…no one can be exactly all that you are.
No one is here for the same reason as you.
No one has the exact same words, formed by the exact breath.
No one has the same momentum as you.
So celebrate all that you are…you are here, in all your uniqueness + individuality, for a reason.
Stand, with quiet, resonating courage + purpose, on your own sacred ground.
I’m feeding my colour addiction! 😉