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I have been thinking a lot about nuances in language as a starting point for connection, as I’ve been reflecting on my role in caring for and mentoring my Year 11 Tutor Group.
Listening to a conversation between the incredible Brené Brown + Marie Forleo, and Brené said something to effect of:
Don’t ask someone who is in suffering to ‘call if they need anything’. They won’t call. It’s an empty sentiment designed to make us, the helper + supporter, feel better. Ask them instead: ‘What does support for you look like right now?’
And my heart did a backflip.
I realised that I had been asking my students to “call if they needed anything”. I had missed the opportunity for connection every time I said that. I needed to change my words, and therefore my intent, as the beginning point for connection.
The sheer power of language is unmistakeable.
I feel like I’ve caught honesty by the toe and I do not dare let go. I’ve never had such a period of time where my voice, my words, and my written prose have all matched so much. So completely and authentically. This is what I’ve longed for, this level of clarity of thought. I feel like rather than stuffing potato chips by the tri-layer in my mouth, I am savouring a perfect bite. An amuse bouche of life.
I read sentences that make sense, I can hold a thread. I start work, and while inspiration does NOT always follow me, I am sure of my concentration, being able to work well, and that an idea will emerge from the rubble. I am problem-solving with curiosity, rather than hurried alacrity. I am interested. I play the piano and it’s not because I have hurdles to jump, it’s because I am so utterly curious about how this idea sounds with notes, how this phrase forms when under my fingers. I have things to say, clearly and simply. There is a continuous thread of though, borne out of passing through incredible moments of internal noise and doubt. Words have light and shade, conversations feel crystal clear rather than darting, breathless fragments. I can feel traction, pacing, learning, progress.
Thank you for this clarity.
I was thinking today about where I’d like to head in the future. Right now, I’m up to my armpits in secondary school classroom music teaching, and I love it. It’s exactly where I want to be, and I’m happiest in the classroom, no matter how demanding the day, and love connecting + being in conversation with other teachers.
But if I were to ever raise a family, I would never inflict this intensity of full-time teaching upon my children, or my husband or partner. I would rather the be poor and living on a creative shoestring than stretched to the limit with no emotional energy to spend. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment.
So I thought about lecturing, composing full time, working at tertiary level, writing, doing workshops, and at the end of it all, I realised one thing to be true.
It’s not the intensity of work per se; it’s how much connection there is. No matter where I go, there will be demands, even if I step down from full-time. There will always be things competing for my attention, and if it’s not work, then it will be family, friends, my own expectations, creative ideas, community…all of it. All MESSY lot of it! And I realise, now in this little oasis of holidays, that I can only be grateful for this peace when I’ve had intensity of work. I don’t wish maximum loading on anyone; no-one should do that for a period of time.
But life goes in ebbs and flows; there will be mad scrambles and moments of calm, times where you won’t think you’ll make it through another step, and other days where you fly through with energy to spare. The thing is, it ONLY makes sense when there IS that variety and contrast. Joy only happens in the light of grief. Rest and repose only after a period of regular work.
So wherever I go in the future, let there be laughter. Let there be joyful connection that lifts me up and inspires my very authenticity and humanness. Let there be examples of courage and love ALL AROUND ME, EVERY DAY, asking me to be better. Because I can err on the side of caution, joyful as I find myself normally. Let me be moved and shaken by people who are heartfully alive all around me, that I may be alive always, no matter where my place or intensity of work.
Through connection and love, everything has purpose, becomes interesting, has agency, and has resonance. I don’t want to live any other way.
I have an errant thought…
…to master whatever and wherever I am, emotionally + in spirit.
No life is going to be perfect, and no time is going to be ideal. So what if I was able to live, in full colour, every variation of every moment?
No stifling, no hiding.
No pulling, no bleeding.
This cannot be easy. But the lure of this wondrous possibility is too great.
In a moment of scalding anger; know how to soothe and breathe calm.
In a moment of chaos; find a path; know my way back into myself.
In a moment of pure joy; delight in the cascading laughter; revel in the golden droplets, like summer rain.
In a moment tenderness; to hold my heart by the hand, and to walk beside it gently and simply, without question and without sacrifice.
In a moment of hot, rising jealousy; to stand my ground, hear the wind rush around my ears, and know my worth.
In a moment of love; to sink in, to surrender, to be, to breathe.
In a moment of pulling, desperate grief; to find substance and yet to float, to hold and yet drift, both simultaneously, until the wounds are washed clean by sea and time, tears and words. To bathe in love.
In a moment of whimsy; to dance with the spirit! To be raucous and lively, to have cheeks rosied with merriment.
In a moment of anguish; to be still, and to hold the enormity of that reverberating ache, square, secure, with courage.
In a moment of shame, to hold without letting go.
In a moment of wonder, to breathe in, to let time resonate, ripples change the momentum around you, and to smile your own smile for yourself.
To know the words of your own self so that you may write your own story.
Wouldn’t this be an extraordinary way to be?