Maybe the "thousand" word is a bit of an embellishment. This picture might not tell exactly a thousand stories, but it does tell a few!
Yesterday was a big day, starting with an alarm in the 4's (where are emoticons when you need them?) I am building my business and getting up in the 4's is sometimes what it takes. I had to make it into the heart of Melbourne city for a meeting by 8.15am and I predicted (correctly) that I would be fighting every other commuter for a spot on the road. I got there on time and the meeting went well. In fairness, they did offer to dial me in, but I knew 100% that I needed to attend this meeting face to face to make the true and real human connections I believe are so important. Genuine connections with people are what I live for, and I'm glad I made the effort. It was great to connect with a team of fun people, even if the meeting was rescheduled to a VERY early time slot to work around that one demanding team member - DAVID you know who you are ;) !
To maximise the effectiveness of my travel time, I arranged a session with a business mentor Kim and we met in the suburbs. How is it that people can be looking at the same set of circumstances and see things so differently?! It was invigorating talking to Kim about my experience, history and skillset, and how she could see strategies and directions jumping out here there and everywhere, that I had not identified. I'm so glad we are all unique, because we can each bring so much to others in helping them see things from a different or new perspective.
Inspired, and with my mind moving at a thousand k's an hour (there's that thousand word again - don't exactly know how to measure the speed of brain activity?!) I tripped back across regional Victoria to Echuca to visit a special woman whom I have a dynamic relationship with. One of the things we do is schedule time for purposeful conversations in which we share our struggles and "real life" and she has asked me to impart on her some of my more experienced knowledge and perspective. I have more years under my belt than she does (insert exasperated, ageing emoticon) and it's a privilege that she sets aside time to share and wants to listen and hear from me.
As luck - or maybe misfortune? - would have it my bestie phoned me to advise she had just been admitted to hospital in Echuca. (This is not a usual occurrence!) I told her I had a piece of good news for her that she may not have been expecting; she would have an AWESOME visitor within the hour because I wasn't far away. I headed to buy her a treat to take in as a gift and sat and spent some time with her. There was plenty of laughter and it was a happy visit (she will be ok, so all is well).
By the time I drove home and walked in the door to my family at 6pm I was physically and mentally tired. One of my boys was at cricket training, my husband was about to leave for work and it was the usual happy/busy/family chaos. I phoned a trusty friend and neighbour who happily did the cricket pick up for me, so I found myself with a bit of time to sit and chat to the kids.
With my feet up on my favourite coffee table that has my favourite wooden letters on it L O V E , I figured I should take some sort of artistic photo for instagram as a means of reflecting on a busy but fruitful day. My daughter promptly informed me that the lighting wasn't good enough so took me to her bed, along with my favourite letters, and "insta-styled" the photo. My story and take on insta-styling is simple - I don't like it that much (no prizes for guessing that when you look at my insta account). I'm anti all the styling because it's not genuine to me, there's a sense of pretending that "this is how it looks". And my main message is about being real, learning to live among the mess and difficulties in life, and helping each other to navigate these. I don't like pretending! HOWEVER my business mentor (and others) have assured me if I want to grow a business and succeed with marketing I need to think differently about "styling" - not viewing it as fakeness but as genuine marketing of a genuine service that I have genuine expertise in! So here is my styled photo of me making an effort to take this advice on board.
The other hidden stories in the photo:
: don't look too closely my legs aren't recently shaved or moisturised.
: my toenail polish looks VERY shabby - I care about my appearance....somewhat.
: there is dodgy skin on my big toe which my podiatrist daughter gives me HEAPS for.
: the ugly blisters on my little toes are from some psycho walking partners - you know who you are!
In summary, this photo shows my feet up after a busy day. My feet aren't the prettiest and I am happy not to pretend that they are, but will put some "style" effort in because I care about my business, about the people I help, and offering REAL and GENUINE solutions. I enjoyed having my feet up because I felt grateful for the gamut of people in my life who I am connected with and make my life so full. I am thankful for early business meetings with genuine people, for mentors and mentees, for besties, for family, for friends and even for psycho walking partners!
However it is that you and I are connected - family, friends, business - I thankyou for the part you play in my life.
Control. Who doesn't want it? The more control I have, the more likely I am to get what I want, and what I need, therefore the happier I will be. If I can control my life circumstances, I can predict my future and life outcomes and I can do away with that inconvenient beast called "uncertainty". If I can control my calorie intake I will (SURELY??) lose weight. If I can control the size of my task list, I will feel calmer. If I can control the chaos in my household, I will feel less stressed. If ONLY I could control the children in my household, then I would feel less stressed! And wow, if I could show more self-control I can only imagine the goals I would be kicking.
Control is an interesting concept because it's one of those struggles in life we need to find a balance in (a Wellbalance may I say?!). Control is a good thing. It's a positive thing to strive for order, organisation and calm within our lives. But it's a negative thing when we are so stuck in our need for order, organisation and calm (or whatever else it may be that is driving us), that we cannot be flexible and we must control others to achieve the outcome we need, at all costs.
"Others" are a frustrating concept when it comes to control! "Others" are unpredictable, and they may prevent us from achieving our goal through their rampant desire to exert their own choice - how rude! Best to limit their impact on the equation as much as possible, and how do we do this? How do I do this? Well, for example, if I have a need for order, quiet and tidiness within my home (this may or may not be a hypothetical scenario) maybe I might feel very irritated when someone turns the TV up loud, and maybe I might yell at my boys for their incessant running around and playing (again, how rude of young boys, to be running around and playing?!) or maybe I might feel overwhelmed and grumpy when I walk in and see mess all over the kitchen bench.
Actually, I can admit to being culprit to every one of these. I do have a strong desire for calm, but over the years I have had to learn to ADJUST MY EXPECTATIONS. I am sure you are highly intelligent and quicker to catch on than me, but it took me quite some time, and a few children later, to realise that expecting calm and order in a household where I am also expecting healthy children to grow, is not a correlating formula! Controlling the chaos was not only being unfair to active children, but it was actually impeding my other goal of raising well adjusted kids! Not only could I not have both, I had to acknowledge that my expectations were unreasonable - calmness is not usually the norm for active, growing, learning, loving families - and attempting to control children was and still is, a fine line that I had to learn to walk. Controlling our kids is a MUST at times, particularly when they are young and need our protection and guidance for their own safety. Controlling them as they get older is a constant process of re-evaluation as we gradually release our reigns in order to allow them to take over.
Every self-aware parent walks this fine line. I have coffee with a great bunch of girlfriends most Friday mornings and we are all Mums. This morning we were sharing some of our concerns and worries about our teenage kids. Now; where worry enters, there fear enters also. And fear is a strong and powerful motivator in all of our lives. How much we allow our own fears to impact our behaviour is a conversation for an entire book, but fear is a very common variable when we are talking about formulas of control.
Could there be any more fear involved when we are considering parents and their children? As a parent, I'm not sure what worse thing could happen in my life than something bad happening to one of my children. Fear is a huge motivator when we consider the reasons for parents attempting to control their teenagers (or even young adult children....and fully grown adult children....believe it or not I have seen it). The problem is, that if we allow our fear of "what might happen" to our children to dominate our choices and behaviour as a parent, we would hardly let our children do anything!! This is particularly the case when they are teenagers and actively exploring the world to develop their own sense of identity.
Healthy parents enable their children to build capacity to take more and more control of their own lives by making their own decisions. Healthy parents understand that healthy children (and eventually healthy adults) need to have the opportunity to make good and bad decisions so that they can learn from their mistakes and grow. Good parents aim to develop their children to a point when they are in charge of making all their own decisions, and in their adulthood might rely on Mum and Dad for guidance, but do not receive wilful direction from Mum or Dad (through overt power or covert manipulation). Doing the best for our children means deciding what is SAFE to allow them to make a decision on, encouraging them to make that decision, and allowing them to experience the consequences and learn from those consequences - good and bad.
Determining what is a SAFE decision depends on their age and capacity and the likely outcome ie. if there is a likely bad outcome, that bad outcome needs to serve as a healthy lesson. If the possible bad outcome could be a serious, negative traumatic event, that's our cue as good parents to say "I'm sorry, but I'm the parent, and right now for your own safety, I am taking control."
So what do we when we feel like our urge to control is overwhelming? We need to take a step back and make an assessment of the situation and ourselves and determine 1. Whether this situation warrants us taking control. 2. What is motivating us to want to take control, and 3. What we are likely to achieve by taking control.
Does the situation warrant our control? If there is a situation in your teenagers life where you can see a possible negative outcome, talk to them about it, build their capacity to understand and see the situation for what it is. Build their capacity to identify multiple perspectives, options and outcomes. Take control if you need to and it's possible. If it's not possible, then increase your control through the channels of influence that you have ie. communication, providing information, providing motivation. (Motivation could be through reward OR through restriction of your child's relevant currency. Currency is the "thing" that your child wants/enjoys and either having it or not having it will motivate them to shift their attitude or behaviour.)
What are our motives? Are we motivated by real or perceived fear? If we think the fear is real, is it based in the best outcome for our child or the best outcome that meets our needs? Are our motives to control more deep seeded, and we fear "letting our child go" for the possibility that they may not come back to us in an emotional sense? Do we need to control because that's where we get our sense of security from, and the reality is our dominance is quashing the character development of others? There are many reasons we are motivated. Take the time to consider what you are hoping to achieve and what you fear may happen if you don't take control.
What are you likely to achieve? If controlling intervention is warranted, hopefully you achieve your child's safety. If there are no serious safety concerns, consider what outcomes negative/positive are likely to come from allowing your teen to make their own choices, and how you can go about educating, inspiring or motivating them toward making good choices. If you do restrict and suffocate them, not only will you cause likely rebellion - which could then lead to increased safety risk - you are also limiting their potential to learn and grow into a functional adult.
Aim to raise a functional adult who has had the opportunity to learn, and who loves and respects you for who you are, and wants your opinion because they know it comes without obligation and strings attached because you love them and want the best for them. Please don't raise kids who allow you to control them because they feel scared, obligated, guilted or manipulated into pleasing you and meeting your needs.
Here's to healthy relationships and healthy teenagers!
This mother's heart is breaking today.
I left home at 5.45am this morning with one very excited son. We had to get him to school to catch the bus in time for his grade 6 Canberra camp. During the half hour drive to school, he talked excitedly to me about the upcoming events he was looking forward to. Never mind the education at Parliament House, he couldn't wait to go on the vertical slide at Questacon!
My heart was quietly pleased, because this is my youngest boy Riley, my slightly anxious child, who is constantly analysing where he fits within the social interactions around him (I wonder where he gets that from?!), sensitive to all that's said and done, and desperately wanting to belong. Don't get me wrong, Riley can be confident given the right circumstances, and his need to belong can lead him astray at times - showing off for peer approval at school, only to get a detention from his teacher! But as a mother, I know his heart, and Riley's heart is soft, gentle and painfully generous. To see him excited, confident and full of positive expectation about camp, my own heart shared his joy.
We pulled up at school and joined the growing throng of excited children, their parents and some siblings in attendance still wearing their pyjamas. While Riley was busy looking to find and connect with his mates, a lot of the kids were on and off the bus saving seats with their bags and jackets, reserving their spot in the social pecking order - the most favoured at the back of the bus, along the continuum to the least favoured at the front. Riley found his friends, who proceeded to tell him that they had already saved their seats together, and that Riley would be "sitting with a total stranger - ha ha", followed by their laughter as though this was innocent fun.
Between this revelation and Riley boarding the bus, I had approximately 15 seconds. He hugged me, and I encouraged him not to worry about the seats, that once they were on the road, everyone would relax and the talking and laughter would be bouncing from one end of the bus to the other. But as he pulled away, and then hugged me again I could see the welts of tears in his eyes. I could do no more for him, and didn't want to make a scene or embarrass him further. He got on, sat up the front of the bus - with another lovely boy I'm sure - but the truth was his mates had left him out cold, and he knew it. He quietly looked out the window and waved gently as the bus departed.
I kept my composure and got to my car before crying a gushing river of a mum's protective tears. No mother wants their child to hurt. Why did mine have to be hurting when he was leaving me for days on end and I could do nothing to reassure or comfort him? Why, why, why, did mates have to treat him like that? The bitterness of the situation struck me because it contrasted so strongly with the sweet relief I had felt only minutes before, when he had been so excited and relaxed to leave.
I could reflect on many things in this post. Building resilience in children. The responsibility we each have of teaching those around us how to treat us, and teaching our children to understand that concept. The value and importance - as hard as it is - of parents stepping back and allowing their children to learn life lessons, without constant parental intervention. The wealth of insight to be gained from a tour of parliament house! Or the depths of appreciation that should come from soberly taking in our national war memorial. But what I will quickly reflect upon is the human capacity to "feather one's own nest", even when it comes at the expense of others.
I don't hate those boys for what they did to Riley. As much as I wish they hadn't done it, I understand them. They too, want to belong, and in their quest to feel the most closely connected, they have enjoyed the extra intimacy and security needed to determine one's position of dominance at the beginning of camp, by leaving someone out. I'm quite sure as even this day wears on, having vied for the top spots and being secure in them, they will have the security to invite Riley in on their terms. Isn't that what we all do? I see this pattern in adults ALL the time. Adults are better and more emotionally equipped at masking their behaviour, but we still vie for positions of dominance, or those positions that will ensure our needs are met first are foremost. And more often than not this comes at the expense of those whom we will ultimately dominate, whether it's by sheer will or simply by default. No, I'm not saying the entire adult world is cruel, but I know that given the right culmination of circumstances, most people - including myself - are capable, and not only capable, but desiring, to secure the next best position. Some are capable of callously capturing it, while others are masters at manipulation and wriggling in there while looking innocent.
Sometimes I choose to be last. I choose to think less of the fight for dominance and more of my character development - going without something or having to wait longer for it won't usually hurt me. I know that I'm more than capable, and certainly have done in the past, of vying for top dog, but in deliberately giving it up, I feel a quiet sense of satisfaction and control - I have other priorities. Having the most power, the most material possessions, the most anything, is an unquenchable quest. If you remember to treat others as you would like to be treated, you open up the way for genuine and trusting relationships to form. I have found those type of connections in my life, to be far more sustaining and satisfying than holding any position of influence or title.
I will finish by saying with all my heart that I love you Riley. I know you will have a great time on camp despite the hiccough at the start, and you will grow into a strong yet gentle man one day. Enjoy the vertical slide buddy!
I am often encouraging people to be bold, make themselves vulnerable, put themselves out there with no guarantees. This post is about how I put my money where my mouth is, and practiced what I preach, even though I was VERY scared.
I have been training with the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires Association for 3 football seasons now. Both my sons are umpires and while I was taking them to and from training regularly, I figured I could use the time wisely and brush up on my fitness too, by joining them. I have been training with the central umpires - and have a long history of love for the game - but not been confident to take that first step and officiate a game. It takes courage to put yourself forward, to take control of a game in front of a crowd of people who are invested, and in the middle of 36 strong, physical players.
Last week (with some encouragement from the other umpires) I decided to toughen up, face my fears and suit up ready to blow the whistle in the middle of the oval of a REAL game. My tendency toward perfection (trying to know every conceivable rule, in every conceivable circumstance) I had to throw to the wind - I am never going to be a perfect walking rule book, and if I wait until I am, to umpire my first game, it will never happen! My fear of judgement - of the players and the crowd - and of making a wrong decision, I had to face, acknowledge and accept. My fear of making a fool of myself, and the sense that I'm a fraud - pretending that I can umpire when really I can't - I had to choose to put aside. I was going to do this no matter what...... (except that I didn't tell a soul except my husband about it, so that I could still back out at the last minute!)
I was delegated a 16's game at my local/home recreation reserve. Wow...juniors you might say, that's a relief! But it didn't feel that way to me. Not only are 16/17 year old young men quite large in stature, they can also have some attitude, not to mention half of the local team are many of my closest friend's sons! Nearly all the players know me AND their parents - many of my besties - were going to be in the crowd (insert agonised, stressed emoticon).
As I walked into the pavilion before the game, any type of stealth was rendered absolutely useless, as one of my closest friends - who would probably recognise me in a balaclava - was standing right beside the race. Needless to say she was quite surprised to see me as we had been sitting together for the better part of the day at another football game, and I hadn't mentioned a thing to her! I could live in denial no longer. I was umpiring this game. Everyone now knew it and I would be accountable for it. Aaaaaaagggghhh I felt sick.
To cut to the chase I forgot my whistle - this might seem like a glaringly obvious omission, but to someone who was so stressed she nearly forgot to breathe, a whistle was only a small detail! (there were plenty of spares) - and I fell over after a ball up in the first quarter (here insert mortified emoticon). I threw the ball up and it started coming back over my head as I was running backwards outta there! Needless to say I tried to hightail it too fast backwards and fell flat on my back - in front of my home crowd and friends (did I mention to insert mortified emoticon?!) Thankfully many of them missed the spectacle, but to those that saw it, no doubt it will be the subject of much ribbing for a long time (insert smiley face because it's all in good fun!) But aside from those couple of hiccups I became more and more confident as the game progressed, taking control of a lot of the play! I now know, and have proved to myself, that I'm definitely not a fraud, and I have the belief that I can certainly do this with some more practice. Woo hoo!
So to surmise, I have overcome a huge personal obstacle and am walking forward as a more fearless woman tomorrow! To say I am now fearless would be stupid and untrue, but I am more fearless than I was last week, and will continue to practice making myself vulnerable. I will acknowledge my own inner critic (which hey, aren't we far worse critics of ourselves than anyone else can be?) but will refuse to be held back by it. I am entering the arena of life and am willing to be seen. I might be seen failing on occasion (falling over whilst umpiring isn't as bad as having nobody turn up to one of my Wellbalance seminars). I might be seen making a wrong decision, on the footy field, in life or in business. But I will risk that in the future. Because ultimately I know, that if I fall over again, or worse, I run a seminar and nobody turns up (it hasn't happened yet but I'm sick of living in the fear of it happening) I will recover and it will not be the end for me. I will get up, reassess, change my tact if need be, and move forward, onward and upward to brighter things!