Courage over fear…

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At the beginning of this year, I said that my ‘word’ for 2013 would be more of a phrase. Courage over fear. We’re now almost at the end of 2013. This year has been such a blur, and as we head into Christmas week I cannot believe it has been 2 years since we got the call that my friend had been found dead on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps it was the Olympics, perhaps it was realising that whether I like it or not, as a Girlguiding leader I am a role model for the girls I work with – for good or for ill! I just remember looking out the bucket list, and looking at my wall. As I gazed at the wise words from two of my favourite authors, I realised that I need to start applying the wisdom rather than just acknowledging it.

I have not failed this year.

There are things I hoped to do that I didn’t get done – my ALQ is yet to be completed and I never got my Open College Network coursework all handed in.

But I did start coming up with ideas for a children’s story based on my two reindeer who never went back into the box with all the Christmas decorations and sat on my chest of drawers all year instead. I applied for a dream job with British Gymnastics. I didn’t get it, but I went for it without regrets. I worked up the courage to do a spacehop for charity and was overwhelmed with the support I got. I got people collecting Active Kids vouchers for our Guide unit and friends were kind enough to post me vouchers from as far away as Northern Ireland to help us. I investigated universities and finally took the plunge of submitting an application, even allowing a few friends to know I was applying despite my fears of rejection. I gave a guy my number when he asked me out after we got chatting on the bus one day. I did ring my friend Kathy in a panic almost straight away after, because I have pretty tight boundaries now when it comes to guys given my history until I know that they know they are in the ‘friend zone’. I handed in a pieces of work I knew I hadn’t had time to do my best on instead of simply quitting my degree. I applied to go to a winter school in Germany. I went on long road trips with people I don’t know very well yet. I went rock climbing – twice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things that I considered doing and didn’t because of being unsure or not having the time or money to do it. But as I look back, I realise that I have come farther this year than I have since being in Australia 6 years ago.

There are a lot of things I’m afraid of still. But I remember that courage is not the absence of fear, it’s the bravery in facing fears.

Next year I hope to do my best in Germany and not be too afraid of me getting ill or others getting ill. I hope to use my time out of uni wisely. I hope to get my ALQ finished. I hope to get a new kitchen in my flat and to start saving for a car. I hope to meet up with Rebecca and Holly in York. I hope to catch up with friends like Nicola and Sinead that I didn’t get to see in person this year. I would like to go visit my friend while she is studying in Paris. I would love to do some more rock climbing. I would love to do a dance class. I would love to try and learn some more sign language. I would like to help grow Girlguiding. And I’d like to see more films (I am gutted that Kill Your Darlings is not showing in any of the Edinburgh cinemas now).

I lost two grandparents this year and two close family friends – all to cancer.

That, and remembering that the boy I spent my first formative years with who I said I would marry when we grew up has already been gone from this earth for two years…reminds me that I need to keep pushing to do all I can to make the world a better place. To enjoy life as much as I can. I don’t know when my time will be up, nor when any of my loved ones could be taken.

So here’s to 2014 when it comes, and making the rest of our lives, the best of our lives!

Blogember: Favourite Inspiring Quote.

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To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight…and never stop fighting. 

-E.E. Cummings

Eek, how do I possibly choose, we we all know that I have a whole wall of these (and I realise that I’ve not done a ‘quote of week’ post in MONTHS). But really I know what to choose, because lt is the quote that goes out at the bottom of every e-mail I send (unless I’m using Phoebe phone). But I don’t think there could be anything that is closer to the truth.

Everyday we battle with people, media and culture telling us who we need to be. How we should look. What music we should like. What we should buy. What is good or bad art. Who we should aspire to.

And the majority of it is complete and utter bollocks!

The world is so rich when we are ourselves and respect each other despite our different thoughts, looks, choices, personalities, likes and dislikes.

We are so much healthier and at peace when we embrace who we are and have confidence in that.

That’s why I have to continually make those daily choices to say ‘this is who I am‘ and I don’t want to be anybody other than me.

Quote of the Week – Week 30

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Several years ago, I went on a training course to learn how to be a better trainer. One of the lessons that stayed with me that weekend was that there is a difference between teaching and learning.

All of us learn in a variety of ways, and all of us will have different approaches that will work better for us. For example, I’m very much a kinesthetic learner. I learn by doing. I have to do it over and over before I can achieve a skill, but once it’s in there – it’s stuck!

For example, some kids in my dance class were great at learning a dance routine on the spot. I had to practice it over and over. Break it down. Practice it. Break down the next part. Practice it. Put the two parts together. Practice it….and so on. The girls who learned the dance quickly would have forgotten it. Even more than 15 years on, I can still remember some of my exam and performance dance routines.

A lot of educators like to teach. Teaching is quite easy in a way. Pick your style, choose your material, share your information with the class and done!

It is a whole different thing to facilitate learning. Learning requires you to use a range of styles. It requires you to give space and time for people to process, and hand out a whole bunch of extra pointers for the people who speed through it. It means you have to let people make mistakes. You have to give people the opportunity to fail in order to let them succeed.

I often hear stories of people making choices to protect their children – from peer pressure, from drugs, from boys, from ideas. I understand why they do it. But I worry how their kids will grow to be successful adults who learn how to make good choices and how to apply them to their life. Teaching is not enough – we all need the opportunity to learn to make that link between teaching and application.

Imagine if someone had just taught me driving theory, and asked me to sit a test telling them how to switch a car on, list the stages of parallel parking and changing gears. For sure, maybe I could tell them all about the mechanical engineering of gear changing and clutches and get an ‘A’. But would that mean I could just jump in the car and be an excellent driver?

The same goes for life. I can know that I should wear a condom when having sex if I don’t want an STI. I can know that it’s not good for my health or safety if I get drunk. I can know that it’s not good to marry a guy who is dishonest or abusive. I can know that different clothing styles are more flattering for different body shapes.

But it’s practice that helps me navigate how to bring up the topic of birth control with a sexual partner. It’s when I got drunk that I had to learn the lessons that just having one drink is what works best for me. It’s being in a relationship with a guy and watching examples of healthy relationships that helps me learn the skills to love and communication. And it’s trying on clothes and looking in a mirror that helps me discover what works and what looks awful. Oh, and it was going out in a car and trying it myself gradually taking more risk that helped me to learn the skill of driving. I wouldn’t have learned if I’d been sitting in the passenger seat all those lessons!

It’s tough to allow people the opportunity to learn and not just try to control people. Especially sometimes, when we care about someone. We want to protect them from mistakes – so we can try make decisions for them or manipulate them to influence their decision.  Or we try and ‘fix it’ for them. But how will they ever learn if we don’t let them make the decision and face up to the consequences?

I’d argue that they won’t learn.

What lessons did you have to learn that people couldn’t just teach you?

Quote of the Week – Week 26

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A few years ago, my friend Rebecca did her first ‘blog party’, and I was honoured when she asked me contribute to it. The theme was ‘Careers Week’ and she got many of her blogging friends to share about their chosen careers and how they got into them.

10 11 years ago, my friend sent me a yearbook questionnaire, and one of the questions was ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’. My answer was ‘Probably in a school teaching geography wondering why I didn’t become a lawyer‘. When I wrote that response, I was in my first semester studying for an M.A. in Human Geography, but I thought I wanted was to be a lawyer. I’ll admit it was because I watched those who worked in law and was in awe of their fancy houses, wonderful holidays, the posh balls and charity events. The respect they seemed to get from people. Oh, and I totally had this fantasy of being Ally McBeal or Elle Woods, I think! I looked at how hard they worked and thought it would be worth it.

Let’s cue to a few months later when I studied 3 law courses at university.

I was bored out my head. I was great at the logical stuff like Contract Law, but crap at things like Delict. In fact I never did pass my exam in Delict though I was amused by one of the scenarios in the exam which involved ‘Zippy, Bungle and George’. Clearly a very bored law professor with a sense of humour wrote that one. My friends studying the law would conscientiously study away each week, and I tried, I really did, but I just didn’t care enough.

And I thought – is this really how I want to spend my life – even if at the end I have the resources to have a lot of fun?

I went back to focusing on Geography, and it is a subject I still enjoy and am passionate about. Of course, I found something I had huge amount of interest in and didn’t find it half as hard to make time to study, when I transferred to the College of Medicine. For sure it involved subjects I didn’t enjoy – Health Economics (shudder), statistics (which made me cry) and Sociology (thankfully I had the gift of the waffle) but even within these subjects I found a way to make it interesting as under a fantastic supervisor I began studying women’s health within these remits.

I realised that you could never guarantee you’d even make it to your destination. You never know what is going to happen, and so you’d better make sure you enjoy the journey.

And I did.

Mostly.

These days I’m challenging myself again. Partly with relooking at my bucket list and keeping a check on my attitude. The sacrifices that have come with the job I currently do sometimes feel like they aren’t worth it. There’s no point in giving something of myself if I’m not going to give it cheerfully.

If I die tomorrow, will my friends and family have the comfort of knowing that I had fun and gave everything to the 29 years I’ve been given? I hope so.

And I hope that will remain true no matter how many years I get to use here on earth.

 

Quote of the Week – Week 25

So, this week has been crazy.

I didn’t have time to write a reflection on QOTW.

Especially as I have 1hr 45 mins to shower, wash hair, shave my legs and pack my rucksack. oh, and go to the supermarket for batteries, snacks and baby wipes before I leave for Cornwall.

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That is the quote of the week… (the Gandhi one)

Discuss!

(and have a lovely weekend as I might not get access to internet until Monday night!)

Quote of the Week – Week 24

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There was an interesting question posed in last week’s HodgePodge.

Have you learned more from success or failure?

When I was a student, I started praying to God that he would help me become wiser. I often got told I ‘had a wise head on young shoulders’ but people who came into contact with me, but I’m not very good at believing people’s compliments. There were people I looked up to and respected who just seemed to ooze with wisdom, and I wanted to be like them. But I realised that wisdom is not something you can suddenly attain. It is something you need to actively seek and work on.

There is a book in the bible called the book of Proverbs which was (at least in part) written by a King who asked God to give him wisdom. I think it might be my favourite book in the bible as so much of it needs no interpretation (though cultural context must be remembered as some examples or references are quite bizarre to us 21st century city blossoms). I spent a whole summer studying the book every day underlining key verses and scribbling my thoughts on particular excerpts.

As I’ve grown older, I realised that much of my wisdom has come from experiences. I now realise looking back times when I lacked understanding or chose my words unwisely. It is facing the consequences (or seeing others face consequences) of foolishness that has given me wisdom.

For example, I now know that is unwise for me to have more than one drink of alcohol in an evening. It took me a lot of foolishness to realise that after 2 drinks I go away with the fairies. If I have one drink I can enjoy it and the rest of my evening without ended up crying in a bathroom or saying really stupid things to someone.

I know that I need to sleep. I’m useless without it. I’ve also learned that going to bed earlier when I’m not tired but have to get up earlier than usual does not work for me. That’s taken me about a decade to discover.

It also took me three years to learn that when I have a lot of work to do, the answer is not to continuously work until it’s all been completed. Actually if I don’t take one full day break from all of it, my work suffers. My relationships suffer because if anyone talks to me I’m so stressed out to the point of hysteria, tears and snapping people’s heads off. Funnily enough, taking a day off means that I calm down, rest, regroup and have a much better perspective going back into it.

I wish I could say that I just lived wisely (or that I do live wisely) without having a lot of (repeated) foolishness that led to the realisation that something doesn’t work so well. It’s amazing how you can kid yourself by saying ‘well maybe this time it’ll be ok’. 

The good thing is, if you’re willing to learn from your foolish experiences and apply that knowledge…you’ll gain wisdom!

Quote of the Week – Week 22

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There seems to be a kind of order in the universe…in the movement of the stars and the turning of the earth and the changing of the seasons. But human life is almost pure chaos. Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own rights and feelings, mistaking the motives of others and his own”Katherine Anne Porter

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I find myself frustrated by what I see on my facebook and twitter feed, the way certain stories are reported in the media (or not reported).

I see writing on blogs saying that the world is becoming more evil. Yet I look at history and see how far we’ve come in lots of ways, and think that maybe it’s not that the world is becoming more evil – it’s that with globalisation we hear some of the stories now rather than many years later. Murder, war, abuse, rape, incest are not new things sadly.

I’ve found myself lately shying away from the label of ‘Christian’ online. I’m terrified that a client or fellow Girlguiding member will find out that I’m ‘one of them’. Sitting last week with my friends, I felt challenged. You know, I used to have courage to be honest on my blog. Even when some of my church leaders questioned whether I should be allowed to lead worship when I confessed that I occasionally struggle and wrestle with my faith, I stood firm and refused to stop being open and honest on my blog.

You see, when people hear I’m a Christian or find out about lifestyle choices I have made personally, they fear I will judge them. And they make assumptions about my values, judgments, beliefs and political viewpoints. So people assume that I don’t believe in evolution and think the earth is 4000 years old, that I’d vote conservative to get abortion made illegal, that I want to ban gay men and lesbian women from youth organisations because I think they’ll abuse kids, that I don’t drink, that I’m sheltered, that I’d be against the ban on religious practice in state schools, that I’m against Hallowe’en, reiki and yoga, that I don’t think women should be bishops, that I’d want my kids to go to private school so they won’t be influenced by non-believing heathen children, that I spend every Sunday praying, that maybe I’m only friends with people so they can know Jesus too, that I wear skirts on Sundays, never use swear words and that I care deeply about the sexual orientation of those in church leadership.

And so before people bother to find out what’s actually true, they assert a stance and act upon it. Their perception twists things I might say as they try to read between the lines of my words and hear what they expect to hear rather than what I’ve actually said.

Last week, two men, angered by what our country has done to innocent people in Afghanistan decided to target a soldier near an Royal Army Barracks in London in broad daylight. They murdered him in the middle of the street and let everyone know it.

Do you know what? I get why they are angry. I don’t think this war is right and wonder if anyone really knows what they are fighting for. For sure our countries have done terrible things over there. As well as things we probably will not hear about until we are old and grey. It doesn’t make what they did in response right though. I also want to know how when 2 muslims set off bombs at a marathon it’s an ‘act of terror’, but when some gunmen start shooting women and children at a parade it’s a ‘shooting’. Aren’t they all acts of terrorism? Should it matter what the belief system behind it is because all of them are trying to assert power and make a statement by physically harming and causing chaos?

Last week, tornadoes ripped through my friend’s hometown, and a Christian preacher said it was what they deserved. Tornadoes were God’s wrath. Really? That’s the way God works?

or why do people calling themselves ‘pro-life’ think it’s terrible for a woman to terminate a pregnancy that is a result of rape or may cause medical harm to the woman, but think that it’s ok to kill a person convicted of a crime? Or  think people should be allowed to kill a person trying to enter their property without permission? I just don’t get it.

But yet, the older I get, the more I watch the world I see the order. I see that thing some call ‘karma’ because the truth always seems to come out eventually. People really do reap what they sow (or more to the point, don’t get the harvest because they never planted the seeds in the first place). I see more kindness and goodness than I do hate and evil despite what the news websites want me to believe.

I realise that these questions and comments I have written here may push people’s buttons. But that’s kinda my point. You might be reading this thinking all sorts of things about me now. You may be mistaking my motives or that of people who will comment below. I may mistake yours.

The nice thing about blogging is we get to read what we want to. No one has to stick around. No one has to be my friend. No one has to agree with all the things I say. People can think what they want to about me. The other nice thing is that if we’re willing, we can be challenged to try thinking a different way – even if at the end we all agree to disagree. And I kinda like what Dudley Field Malone said…because I’ve learned a lot from the people who don’t agree with me! :)

So feel free to disagree with me if you like. Just try to do it kindly and never ever be afraid to clarify and ask questions – it really does prevent that mistaking of motives thing Ms Porter is talking about.

At least I think so. ;)

Quote of the Week – Week 21

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There’s a song that became a bit of an anthem for me during my latter years of university.

Over and over again, Audioslave repeat the words ‘To be yourself is all that you can do

I’ve been reminded of that again this week. Coming back from a course, I was so frustrated, trying to do this week’s assignments and navigating moodle which has my pet peeve of TWO sidebars on opposite sides of it’s page (I’d say sorry if your blog has left and right sidebars, but I’m really not sorry. It messes with my head and it is one of those silly trivial things that drives me round the twist. A bit like people who don’t indicate on roundabouts. Or when I catch people washing dishes in the ‘wrong’ order).

I’m one of the worst for comparing myself to other people. At university I used to get teased by the other women on my course that I had it easy because I could ‘write an essay in 2 days’. This actually wasn’t true. It was just that rather than dividing my time to spend one week on each topic, I’d spend three weeks reading and thinking about all four topics, write a sort of draft notes type thing with quotes and thoughts and then in the final week – I’d have processed my thoughts enough to pull out that essay using those notes. I began to panic that maybe I wasn’t disciplined or working hard enough. While everyone else was in turns or wielding knives when loved ones suggested a break from coursework, I was working a few shifts in clinics, rehearsing for a show and getting 7-8 hours sleep most nights. Never mind that my grades were good – this wasn’t how everyone else was working!

Shamefully it was only a couple of years ago, when we were looking at Myers-Briggs during the inter:act course that I realised that this way of working is common with my ‘personality type’. I know that some find Myers-Briggs constrictive, but for me this knowledge was like affirmation and quite liberating. It was almost like it gave permission to be myself.

And so with that little bit of wisdom, I’ve realised that it takes me a while to process my thoughts and I constantly have about 10 different thoughts percolating at the back of my mind. Possibly more.

And that’s ok.

That’s just how I work!

My analogies to explain things tend to come from examples from American TV shows or stories that I love. I’m a storyteller, and that’s how I work too.

Visually pleasing things to me are simple. I don’t like clutter and things to be squashed together. I don’t do well with lists, and so like to have icons as my view on a computer. I like things to be in order so I can find them easily.

One thing I’ve discovered working in my job, is that it usually happens that the person able to see a client on any given day just so happens to be exactly the right person to see that particular client. We all have different levels of knowledge about particular areas of work, different backgrounds, styles of counselling and working, different personality types. If we were all the same, a good chunk of our clients would lose out.

I’d be a terrible nurse. And that’s ok. I’ve got friends like Rebecca that are great nurses. We need them. But the world needs a Laura Anne type to do youth work and a bit counselling every now and again. Oh, and teach the Macarena to the next generation. I’d be a terrible accountant, but luckily my friend makes the most amazing spreadsheets. Thank God for them, because we need good accountants too. I can’t draw for toffee, but my friend Vicky can. She makes the world more colourful and inspires people with her artwork. I can’t knit, but my friend can created a stuffed owl in a few hours. Sometimes I’m feel like giving up when I fall down, but then I remember the Mini Kahuna and Elastaboy’s abilities to get straight back up and aim for their goal of  adventure when they go tumbling down.

Everyone has a part to play in this big crazy world, and if we try to be someone else – the world misses out on the part we’ve been designed to play!

So.

Listen to Audioslave.

And remember:

To be yourself is all that you can do.

 

Quote of the Week – Week 16

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I’m not sure where this quote came from. I think I got it from a narration of an episode of One Tree Hill. It may have been written by one of their writers, in may have been used by them from a piece of literature as many of their narrations were.

There are times in life where I’ve lost my way on a journey. I’ve made poor choices. I’ve become overwhelmed. I’ve given up and found myself in a well of self pity. Sometimes, I get swept up in a wave of life and land somewhere without really knowing how I got there.

Going to university was like that. I sacrificed an awful lot of things I loved to be ‘successful’. I was hardened by the words spoken over me, and even more so by the inactions that spoke louder than the words. The first step was going to a different high school from my peers of Primary 7. I chose my high school. It was a fight to get there. After being bullied for being smart throughout my final years of primary school, I hoped going to a school in a nicer area where there would be kids from ‘good families’ and encouraged uniform (no more snobbiness about my clothes?) would be a great fresh start. Somewhere I could do well. I was so, so wrong. I still remember the time in my first year I got the highest maths marks in the year. There was a girl from one of the catchment schools that had always been the top of the class. People came up to me constantly for days when they found out I’d done better than her. The girl was lovely and congratulated me. She’d done very well too, and I respected her. Her friends however, were disdainful as they believed I shouldn’t have been able to do better than her. Don’t you know she always gets top? they told me. I was dumb, and I badly wanted to fit in and make friends. I lost my reason for doing well, and decided to stop trying to do my best, and just be ‘good enough’ so I wouldn’t get teased or face any negativity. It was only really in my final year that I began to work hard again. By that time, I had enough confidence in myself as a person not to care what my peers thought. Plus I had a good bunch of friends I could count on both in and outside of school. Then I began to fight for marks more out of rebellion and anger than anything else. I may have found my way, but I’m not sure I found my reason for the journey. It became all about getting away from certain people, not about fulfilling ambition or doing the things I loved.

Perhaps that’s why, surrounded by wonderful new friends and grasped a fantastic opportunity, I sat in my university halls in November 2001 bawling my eyes out wondering if I’d made a big mistake. I’d lost my passion – dancing – out of my own choice after fighting so hard for it, and missed it awfully. I didn’t know why I was studying what I was studying and suddenly had no idea what I was doing!

When I surrendered to my stubborn ways, and began to believe in God, things began to change. Prayer (and listening for God’s answers to the things I talked to Him about) began to give me clarity. I began to see the gifts I had that I didn’t know about before. I also began to see my weaknesses more clearly too. My faith helped me find my reason for my journey again, and not to be afraid to take a road less travelled.

Suddenly my destination changed from Geography teacher….to…? (I only knew it was to more informal education and maybe a bit of counselling along the way).

There were confusing detours – like jobs in social care, receptionist in a sexual health clinic. A change from an MA degree to a BSc degree (despite having dropped all science subjects when I was 16) and a move to the medical school. I thought I’d made it to my destination when I met my last boyfriend, got a ‘proper full-time grown-up’ job in Community Education. But no, I was soon back on the journey again…to Australia and then returning to the place I’d ran away from at 17.

I’m still unsure that I know my way for the journey, but I know at this point, I haven’t lost my reason for it.

And as long as I don’t lose my reason, I’m ok with not knowing the way.

:)

Quote of the Week – Week 11

IMGP0612So since the Catholic Church got a new Pope yesterday, I thought it’d be appropriate to use this week to quote from Mother Teresa. Though I didn’t agree with all of her beliefs, what I really admire is her humility and the fact that she ‘walked her talk’. The reason so many people sat up and listened to what she had to say, is because she earned respect of people by living a life of action.

I love Inside the Actors Studio. I am that girl who likes to watch the special features on DVDs and track down interviews with the creators, crew, actors of my favourite shows and films to discover that extra insight behind their creative choices. I kinda want to be an accomplished actor just so I could meet and be interviewed by James Lipton. The last question he asks to all his guests from the famous ‘Pivot’ questionnaire is “If heaven exists what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” One of my favourite answers given in response to this question was from Matt Damon. This is what he told Jim that he hoped God would tell him: “That  all of the suffering that you saw or heard about or knew was happening…that there was a point to it, and here come in the back and I’ll tell you all about it”.

Our world is a mess – most of it caused by us here in the world now and our ancestors being selfish or greedy or vengeful. There’s corruption. There are natural disasters that cause devastation that we previously would have struggled to imagine. There is war. There is evil. There is suffering. Some of it is far away from us. Some of it is just next door.

The problems of our world often don’t have simple solutions. And affect huge amounts of people. Can one person solve them? No. So what’s the point in doing anything if we can’t solve it? we might ask when we are overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity.

And that’s when I remember. We can’t often do HUGE things, especially not on our own. But we can do small things with a lot of love. And that will still make a difference. Much more of a difference than sticking our heads in the sand and doing nothing.