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I have no idea the scope of my joy. It comes forth when I think there is nothing left, it fills the crevices of darkness with light, like water finding tiny gaps in mountain faces.
I will do everything possible to give voice and life to this persistent joy.
I will create each day, with the wild abandon of the free in my heart, knowing the creativity spurns forth the most unknown and untapped of understandings and reflections. I will see what is truly bothering me and giving me joy within my creation…teaching, composing, writing, loving, caring, living. It is all creation.
I will cry, oh I will cry! Cleansing my strong heart of all the anguish and pain that an unknowing world might put upon me.
I will sing with a voice so utterly mine, the air around me will change.
I will love with a heart gritty and real, wild and honest. I will love with a playfulness and an honesty that will unravel both myself and the ones being loved.
I will fill the world with more colour than I can handle.
Because joy is an entity and spirit that needs keeping alive, and I will do everything with a vital truth and realness that will be astonishing even to me.
Because we must take care of the joyful ones, the silent warriors that choose to live with the grace of joy, even in a world which does not always welcome it.
We must celebrate those who look as if everything is pure and easy, because it takes great courage to be exquisitely joyful.
I will do everything I can to bring forth this joy!
“When are you happiest? When are you the MOST alive?”
I am happiest when I’m in the middle of one of those intensive moments of back-and-forth, when I’m about three quarters of the way through the year with my Year 12s, or my Grammarphones Choir, or any other class or ensemble, and I’m right up to my armpits in rapid-fire teaching. Eyes are open, ears are alert, and it is all a continuous thread of learning, communication, ideas, spark…repeating, repeating, repeating…all rapid-fire, built on intense trust and love. Super-focused. The playful, and the fun, and the foundation-building are all there in the background, but it’s solid, honest, satisfying work of the soul and mind, all at once. Those vibrant and intense moments of discussion and discourse, seeing understanding and skills multiply exponentially, seeing things thread themselves together in magical succession…this is when I’m most alive.
In my family…
Around the circular dinner table when we are all yelling at each other over a meal, and we are yelling because that’s how we talk to each other when we’re happy. The crazy mass gatherings of so many faces, all on their individual timeline of life, cross-culture, cross-generation, crossing ideas and dreams. And I am at the magical and weighty crossroad between old and new, at the First Generation pitstop. It is HARD, so hard, to cross this bridge sometimes and to continually reach back and forth. But it is MAGICAL, and an honour to be here…this, here, is where I am most alive.
In the quiet moments…
The very end of Henley Jetty, swaying slightly in the breeze. The very ordinary 6:30am coffees with my Dad in Sydney when the whole family was over to celebrate my brother + sister-in-law getting married. Re-reading familiar books so that I could almost repeat entire sentences and they smell + feel like familiar sweaters, ragged, warm and wonderful. The stillness after a performance, coupled with the the electric buzz all through me. The sweet moments of conversation between myself and my closest friends, when there are moments where we are suffocated by flying words, punctuated by moments of silence. Random, silly silence. And it’s just comfortable. Looking up in a darkened living room after composing or writing, and realising the sun has left me to my cacophony of creative thoughts. That there is time. This, is where I am most alive.
When I am caught with a sudden awareness, learning, or moment of understanding, and I STRUGGLE against it for a while; a moment, a few hours, a few days, weeks, months…and then I decide to face it. Armed with tea, friends, words, journal, beach, stillness, and time, I make the journey. I cry and laugh, often at the same time. But when I arrive, it is unmistakable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some ya-ya sisterhood reborn experience, it is crazy-arse, hard struggle. And I cling to the safety barriers like a terrified cat, claws in, yowling. I often don’t like where I’ve arrived. But then, some sort of grace happens, and I realise I’ve hit truth. Everything relaxes. The rubble rebuilds. I’m on solid ground again, and it’s new ground. Truth that’s humbling and amazing. The aliveness that I feel after one of these periods of struggle is extraordinary.
More often than I would like, I doubt if the way that I teach is the right way. I know, oh, I KNOW, that I am one of those “kind” teachers. Said like the word “nerd”, I rock it 99% of the time, and fully believe in it…but sometimes, when I am exhausted, I am left wondering about the validity of the final 1%. But I know that this is me to the core; this is how I teach. My values are strong and my commitment to excellence, unwavering and unmistakable. Sure, there will moments where great citizens of the world are crafted from being bulldozed and shamed into submission. And good on the martyrs who beat the life and joy out of these fine upstanding citizens of the world to create them. But let me ask you this; these amazing people, when they thank their “teachers” for making them who they are, will they thank them for how they made them feel in the process? How much they loved them? How much they respected them? Or how much it cost them? This will never be me. I don’t have it in my DNA, it’s never worked for me, or my students while I’m in the driving seat. It just HAS to be possible to reach excellence through loving kindness. When I have revealed some part of a student or person to themselves that they did not know existed, but I see it, I cannot begin to describe the slow burn of life and joy that glows within me.
This is when I am happiest.
And this one.
Things will move and change.
“Don’t hurry, but don’t stop.”
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.
Chinese New Year cleaning has started.
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.
So I am in project “Re-Read All The Great Reads” (as well as reading All The New Reads in parallel, yes this is what happens when I have a brain again!) and this is first cab off the rank, first e-book off the e-shelf, the indomitable and awesome work of Brené Brown: “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”.
And her work reminds me of everything I want to be as a teacher and person, and all the values + ideas I need to simply MARINATE in before I walk into next year. You know, good moral flavouring.
We all are so unbelievably rich and blessed, but we so rarely see it all the time. How many of you have longed for that extra sweater, or that new book or lipstick, or that pair of shoes, notwithstanding all the beautiful clothes, books, and belongings you already have?
I am so guilty of this. Particularly at the end of a long week of teacher, and especially so when it’s been a challenging one where I have felt less than awesome. That tiny little extra trinket might make me feel a little better, no matter if I’m saving or on a budget!
But something amazing happens when you’re saving, or you’re consciously making decisions about how you spend your money, time, and energies. How many times have we any of us worn a beautiful sweater until it is ragged around the sleeves and smells of safety and home?
How many of us have used every beautiful piece of fruit or vegetable in our kitchens in ingenious ways, and savoured every mouthful? Brewed a fragrant cup of coffee with cream, rather than throwing one down, tasteless, from a takeaway cup? How many of us have re-read books with the same safety as walking down a known lane, but actually seen and felt the different nuances, and fallen in love with the words, the story, and found new understandings?
There is so much richness and beauty around us if we only look. We all have so much. So, so much. In possessions, in time, in love, and in life. Why should we want so much more only to dispose of it? What if we were to look deeply at what we have and create time for discovering new delight?
And achingly and poignantly, how many of us have loved and cared for a relationship or friendship like that raggedy worn sweater that smells like home? Or how many of us are guilty of skimming over the surface with superficial conversation and connection, in search of something shinier to catch our attention, rather than really, truely listening and loving?
When you really treasure something and give it time, care, or attention, extraordinary richness and joy can be found. We are all so extraordinarily rich and blessed, if we only could see it. There is so much value in simplicity, and seeing the value in the things we have, loving them with tenderness and new eyes.