You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
I am reflecting upon 2018 and drawing out the themes I would like to follow in 2019. The amazing thing is this; while I set out to do some investigative work on what threads I would like to develop, the themes themselves chose me. I never gave that statement much weight and thought it so clichéd when people referred to their main body of work, or significant moment of enlightenment, as something which “sought them out.” But here I am, being sought about by 5 main themes for 2019, themes which I grappled with or eluded me, fascinated me or challenged me, and I gravitated to these instinctively. How do I know this? I made a starting-point list a few weeks ago, put it away, made another today, and found the original one. They were freakishly word for word, right down to some of the starter dot-points.
There are 5 themes, and today, I am going to explore CONNECTION.
I would like myself to know that I can be tired AND connected. That tiredness is no excuse not to connect deeply, to reach out, to soften, to communicate. As in introvert and as a performing arts teacher, where music teaching is like a high-contact Olympic sport played on a daily basis, my tiredness + need to be away from all the noise can be overwhelming. But I’d like to ask myself to articulate. Put things into words, particularly the tiredness and stress that I am feeling. I can be tired AND connected.
Keep in conversation, don’t avoid. I didn’t realise it, but there are days where I am so on a mission, or so peopled-out, that I do not invite conversation. I can keep a conversation short by setting my boundaries compassionately and warmly, but clearly. I don’t have to avoid. I am being small and petty by avoiding others. When we teach, we’re in a world which brings us in contact with such an extraordinary variety of personalities and people. Learn to take the responsibility for drawing clear boundaries, and don’t take the easy route of looking down and walking fast. Engage, because we are all walking in the same direction.
Look up. Look people in the eye when you have a conversation, that is such a powerful way to say, “I care, and you matter.” Again, I didn’t realise this, but the worthiness and connection which flows from one person to another begins with a conversation that is unhurried, even if it’s brief, and with proper eye contact. When I am in a hurry, I rush things and I don’t look up. In that sense, I’m not really seeing the other person. Even more sadly, I am not allowing myself to be truly seen. Get better with my words, go gently, but firmly. But look up.
I am not perfect, and I need to remember that. I am not perfect, God knows I’m not. But how many times do I haul myself over the coals for decisions I’ve made wishing that I was. I am not perfect, and I need to know this and own it. And from this, I need to allow myself to be clumsy, goofy, awkward, but ultimately, marvellously human + connected. In the times and situations where I find it the MOST challenging to tap into that side of myself, the more I need it. Remember that.
Invite people in for them. Just because you’d like to hear how they are going. By all means, invite people in and build networks because of their skills and ideas. But also just because. No one is too busy to do that. Not all the time, but at least a little, as a regular practice each day.
Keep in conversation with myself. I get so good at getting on the work treadmill, that I forget I am supposed to be a living, breathing human with feelings and vulnerabilities, not a machine. I have a tendency to be a machine, and then I am a procrastinating goddess of laziness masked in busy-work. I would like to get better at articulating exactly what is bothering me, or which direction I need to go.
Habit. When I work, or complete a task, it is not through just fear, or because my job demands it. Unless there are absolutely no redeeming factors and it’s a case of “get her done!”, then I’d like to put value on what I do. This makes things a whole lot scarier, but that what creates real connection with myself, my work, and the people I am working with. I do this automatically with my students and my teaching, but it surprises me how long it takes me to connect with things like choral commissions + personal ventures. Partly because I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes and the ideas won’t come, but mostly because I haven’t figured out how to connect with the work, or the course of action. For example, once I look deeply at the commission, the choir or the students I am writing for, and once I get used to polishing and creating in that little pocket of imaginings + creativity, there is value…and true connection.
Finally, I need to reach in and connect with myself. I remember times when I have been playful and silly, serious and affecting, electric and commanding, joyful and authentic, and I realise that life is a whole heap more meaningful if I am connected to myself. Challenge + adversity present more clearly if I have a pathway back into my heart, and there is no avoiding looking deeply at myself no matter what I am up against.
Reach in, take my heart by the hand, and walk side by side with it. It’s the very least and most important thing I can do myself, to love myself as I would a dear friend.
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.
Original post by Harmony Scott.
Photo by Ed Freeman
I’ve come to this belief that, if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in his real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man.
And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I’ll show you a guy who’s done his work and a man who doesn’t derive his power from controlling and fixing everything. – Brene Brown
It’s funny how life reminds you, in no uncertain terms, how very human you are.
There are so many days I can happily work in solitude, “introverting” to my heart’s content, creating ideas, composing, writing, reading.
And then there are other days where I am crawling out of my skin with anxious, dissatisfied angst, and multi-tasking seems like the simple option, because that’s how many tabs are open in my mind. And I desperately need human connection.
I actually don’t remember a day where I’ve absolutely slept the day away, EVER. Except today. Today felt like the longest day ever. I went in for my annual check-up today and fainted after my blood test and felt so absolutely stupid and alone. What it made me think about in no uncertain terms was the love and support around me that I don’t lean on enough. I have so much support and love around me and do I use it? NO. Nowhere NEAR what I realise I could be, after a day like today.
I can’t be EVERYTHING. Even after a day like today, where I am decimated by my own body, I come home in the afternoon and start making lists of all the things I need to do, the groceries I need to buy, the emergency meals I need to make, and the planning I need to do.
And yet, when I got over the fact that I certainly wouldn’t be doing any of that, one of the most soul-nourishing things I did today was sleep, on and off, for the remaining 6 hours of the day. My body renewed its strength, and I felt better and stronger.
I do not think I am Super Girl, and nor am I vain enough to think I can do it all on my own. But really, honestly, except for moments like today, I don’t really believe it or practice the humility of that understanding.
But I am vulnerable, and it’s moments like today which are needed to absolutely drive the point home. I am made simple, small and humbled by my body and the end point of my capacity. Apparently, I do need help, and when I least expect it. I need to remember to be tender and reach out, DESPITE all the imperfect answers and responses of the world and the people around me, including the ones I love so dearly who disappoint me, as I must them. To connect, despite the let downs and imperfections.
I need to get COMFORTABLE with DISCOMFORT.
Today also reminded me of how strong the human mind is. It reminded me to ask, “so what CAN I do?”
Rather than what’s NOT possible, what can I do right now, with the energy that I have? What can I create or produce? Where is my limit? What can I write in half and hour? How can I connect?
This is not the “create-the-list-of-an-impossible-day” martyrdom, this is “realistic courage”.
And I am reminded, as a person, teacher, musician, and creative, that life NEVER EVER gives you vast stretches of time in which to complete or create ANYTHING. Become a parent? You’re parenting in the gaps and pining for the longer stretches and glad when you get them. Composing? Sure, you might get the coveted Sunday afternoon, but sure as hell Inspiration will be playing hooky and giving you the shits. You have to catch the tiny pockets of time with a little bit of determination. You have to fight a little harder and decide you’d like to focus and grab that little gift of time and ask:
What can I do in this moment?
I feel like I am on some sort of holiday course for “emotional warrior” training right now. Every question that I have not asked, have put on hold, or not faced properly because there wasn’t the time or space is coming up right now. In WAVES. Which is good, because I have the time to think about all of the yammering, noisy questions jostling for my attention because I’m not consumed by teaching, but it’s also bloody exhausting!
So here’s my thought for today:
Whatever is scary, new, interesting, or different, walk TOWARDS it. Take a step in the direction which scares you, and is counterintuitive. Have the conversation with yourself, step-by-step, and talk yourself through the steps. You are NOT too big and mighty for that, in fact, in your clarity and gentleness is real courage. Speak your fears and frame the words into new understandings. All the times you were too tired, too busy, too distracted, too important? Maybe there was a whiff of truth in all of that but in the end, were you being really truthful? Or was it fear that is showing its face again, and dictating how you reacted to life around you? Break through the waves of scarcity. Things will get busy, manic even, but you too will survive. You will figure it out, if not now, then soon, because I have faith in your abilities. Walking purposely and thoughtfully, having a rhyme and reason, is a unique sort of peace. Having clarity is one of the greatest untold joys of life.
Oh, I love this!
I don’t start every day excited, as excited by life as I usually am. And I don’t mind at all that I feel the full gamut of feelings; it somehow makes me feel more grounded, even if it is uncomfortable. But a conversation I’ve had regularly with myself recently, especially toward the end of Term 3 when I am “Secondary Music Teacher Exhausted”, an exhaustion like no other, has been, “Why take that extra step?”
Especially when it seems like it doesn’t matter, or no-one cares, or that the joy is belittled, or that it seems like the gesture is not valued. Or that it costs way too much of the precious energy that I have left, that I’m literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to get to. Why EVEN?
Because that is the very definition of life.
It’s the very defining feature of being alive and human.
I don’t mean that anyone should push to the extremes of their limits every day, and to jump hurdles that should never be jumped. I mean to say that extra caring word, make the extra gesture, the little moment of connection and love and too often we stuff back into our pockets because, well, “they won’t value it anyways.” Or that there might be that horrible awkwardness of a tender moment somehow marooned on a desert island in the middle of the hustle of a day.
Well, get stuck on that island. Hijack a little bit of the relentless pace, and build a pontoon. The little awkward moments are the fleeting moments of being purely alive and human!
How often have you been on the receiving end of one of those leaps of faith? When someone went out of their way to come to you when you looked and appeared okay, but really REALLY, you so much appreciated their care?
Now reverse it.
Be that little fairy sometimes. Because you don’t know HOW MUCH people need tender-awkwardness in this world.
The dorky-tender shall rise up!
I took a “whumping” today. I did EIGHT hours of piano sight-reading for a full run of a musical today. But that wasn’t the “whumping” part. I said yes to it wholeheartedly, even though I knew it would be hard, nay, I knew that it would SUCK. I knew I’d be working hard, I knew that I wouldn’t know the show well enough to be able to really support and help those darling students, who desperately needed to have that strong support. But I did the absolute best that I could, and I knew this.
But I’m ruffled up. So ruffled up. Because all that was said to me was, (jokingly, of course, why wouldn’t it be?), “Are you having fun yet?” and, “Makes you really appreciate repetituers, doesn’t it?” I was deflated, even when I knew I shouldn’t be.
And it’s because I wasn’t seen and valued for the sheer courage and pure try that I was putting in that I was so deflated. That is was assumed that, because I work hard and that I’m usually so affirminlyly positive, that I would be okay, that this would be a laugh, that I’m invincible. Oh, DEAR GOD, I am NOT. I weigh it all up and AGAINST the better impetus of my well-prepared, “recovering perfectionist” self, I said yes for the greater good. I said yes because I thought I would be useful and helpful.
Just a slight dig, just a small laugh at my expense. No effing way. NO ONE gets to laugh when I’m being tender. NO ONE puts Beautiful Authentic Vulnerability and Courage in the corner.
Full stop, Baby.
And then something magical happened. I realised I stood independent from anything except my own sense of self-worth and moral compass. I don’t want for the good opinion of this careless individual, I can build my own judgement. I’m not hanging on their every word, and nor do I want for their good opinion. What I WANT is to work hard, and if that happens to line up with their values, well and good.
How free I felt when I realised this. Tired, but very, VERY free.
So let me say, openly, to The World:
Please, take care of the tender-hearted, and know that we are all so much more fragile than we show.
That it takes such courage to be tender and to give of our selves, and of our talents.
That the path to rising up is hard, but it’s the one that I want (lubricated by wine).
Don’t pay out the “courage of try”. Don’t laugh, for God’s sake. It’s too tender and fragile and beautiful.
Notice the humanity; notice the tiredness, the tenderness, the vulnerability.
And for the tender-hearted, continue to be so. The world needs you. The chocolate industry needs you. And the wine industry benefits, too.
I have been whumped, but I have to words to lift up my heart. That I dared to give this 2-dimensional person so much more credit than they deserved…well, let me give that right back to me, baby!
Now that I’ve progressed through half a packet of Haigh’s dark chocolate almonds, I’m moving on to a nice glass of soul-soothing red and an overstuffed, dribbling, cheese quesadilla.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” [Elizabeth Kubler-Ross]
When you forgive, it is for yourself, to release you. Every moment has compassion embedded. I think some of my journeys toward forgiveness have come from walking away from the hurt and the best work, the best living, and the best loving that I am able, with all that I have at that exact moment in time. And then I look back at that snapshot in time and realise the sting has gone out of it, or that things look so very different, and there is understanding borne of time and living life. That I am different, and more emotionally travelled.
The more I live life, the more I realise how unpractised I am at forgiving. I am very curious about it now, because I don’t want it to be an accidental thing; I’d like to have the courage, humanity, and curiosity to consciously walk that path of forgiveness, no matter what the outcome is, for myself and for those I love. For the greater shared humanity. I realise this lack of experience comes from fear, that I am so quick to protect myself from hurt because I am afraid. But I am also too interested and invested in living a good life to NOT want to know how to travel the path of forgiveness more ably. I WONDER about the other side, the crossing over into forgiveness, and realise more and more that it is neither easy, pain-free, or forgetful. It is personal freedom, measured thought, and pure grace.
The older I get, the more deeply human I realise I am, how vulnerable, imperfect, and fallible! How perfectly wondrous, and beautiful I am, too! So when I am confronted with humanity of any kind, I am confronted with the searing and uncomfortable shared humanness of myself and others. How will I react? Differently, I hope, from how I used to.
I do not have to forgive immediately; I certainly cannot forgive if I am in pain. But that I FEEL that pain, and want so very much to walk through it, figure it out, sit with it though it causes me discomfort, knowing that is surely the first step toward loving forgiveness. The other epiphany is that forgiveness is not always gentle; forgiveness can mean boundaries that are protective and unmoving in order to be truly compassionate, and they can mean that the harsh blunt blow of reality is there everyday. It can mean forgiving over and over, even when you think you are done. But that these places of understanding have been arrived at through careful examination? They are the alcoves of grace created by forgiveness.
I am allowed to be tender with myself, to cocoon myself up gently and hold my heart like a candle against a storm, with fierce command and care. But eventually, I must walk the path of forgiveness, have the conversations, and I must unfurl. So, let me keep questioning and examining all of my thoughts, and actions, and be aware of the the times my heart is in discomfort, there is learning to be done. The more that I realise I am so very imperfect, the more free I am to live, and live fully. To live more engrossingly, arms-akimbo, and completely! Whole-heartedly! Let me do the best I am able with the resources I have at that exact moment in time; and if it is not enough, let me try again. For when I own my imperfect humanity, the freedom to my soul is extraordinary. And my will to live is impossible to contain.