This year, personally and professionally, has been amazingly full. And I guess what characterises it to me, amongst all the many years up until now, is that I seem to have been perpetually active. Always thinking, always doing. Not just the minimum expected, but always on the go. Tackling this. Planning that. Like Baldrick, in “Blackadder”, frequently working through the next “Cunning Plan”.
This time, 12 months ago, I had just returned from a rare solo trip away, to my Hometown Adelaide, for my 30-year school reunion. As I have previously described, the highlight for me was the chance to once more see two favourite teachers, and have the chance to thank them for the impact they had on my young life.
Also at this exact time last year, a colleague and I were encouraged to stand up and be counted at school, to stop hiding behind our part-time status and, in my case “Dumb blonde” persona, and make our voices heard, setting out our passions, visions, and plans for our school Music Department.
On the family front, we had just bought our first ever home, and so spent the Summer vacation time sorting, sifting, downsizing and then boxing and moving our goods and chattels from one location to the next. Fairly well filling up this “holiday” time, leaving little room for relaxation or refreshment – for when I wasn’t busy, I felt guilty for not being so.
The 2015 academic year has been one of drive, achievement and growth, of frustration, worry and irritation, but also of a number of victories snatched from the jaws of defeat.
Certain frustrating situations have pushed me to take action, to not settle for second best, to realise that sometimes short-term pain is worth it for longer-term gain. I have agonised, stressed, talked through, argued, pushed, bargained, fought for a number of things which have been important – to me, to people close to me, for the greater good – or that’s how I have looked at it.
And some days it has been really hard. But every day I have taken a deep breath and kept going, and tried to make positive choices for good.
Along this journey (although this is a word much over-used by television “Reality” programs) I have been upheld, strengthened and supported by a handful of friends who have patiently listened, tolerated, guided, advised, had their shoulder cried on and administered coffee.
To these people I owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Through what has been a tumultuous year I have also discovered much about myself: who I am, what makes me tick, and what is important to me.
And I have become braver.
A strange thing to say, I suppose, for a 40-something female, but I think we all hide behind the too-hard basket. Things we want to do, we’d like to do, have perhaps even made a start on, but have never quite taken that final step.
So this year I did.
Pushed through an unsatisfactory workplace situation which had become a thorn in my flesh, building over literally years. But finally to a satisfactory resolution, bringing peace in many quarters. (Although causing some strain and upset in the process).
Made a flying weekend visit to Adelaide to see my 92-year old former piano teacher and his family, in a celebration of all they had given to their students’ lives over half a century.
Looked up (also in Adelaide) a mentor of mine from University days. We had lunch and I had the chance to thank him for his influence on my younger life.
Reconnected by email, by phone and in person with a few significant people from the past in a meaningful way.
Given something of myself and my time to establish some new friendships which have become a significant part of my life and, when needed, support network.
During all of this, still managing to keep the home fires burning (food on the table, dishes and laundry washed, children sent to school daily), church commitments (even when there hasn’t been our regular church building to frequent) and rocking up to my “Day Job” on a regular basis.
The last month has been crazy busy, with many of the day-to-day commitments plus Term 4 events coinciding. Our absurdly early Christmas Concert on Monday 23rd November all went off well, although God played with us with storms threatening and an ambiguous weather forecast, making a tricky decision to be indoors or out…we tempted fate (so I thought) with outdoors and for part of the day I was convinced this was the wrong call, and the heavens would open and it would be all cancelled mid-way (as had happened once before) but it was all “All right on the Night”.
The remainder of the week was spent stocktaking, cleaning, consolidating and moving everything that could be moved out of our Music Department, due for Redecoration over the break.
And so, all of a sudden, the school year is at an end. The students’ last day of term was 27th November, which my children are pretty happy about, as at their old State Primary school, the kids are still there until 11th December. (A touch of Schadenfreude, methinks.)
Little Mr. Cricket tragic James (who has a mathematical brain) has calculated he is now on holiday for EXACTLY 2 months – between breaking up on Friday 27th November and when Term 1, 2016 resumes (27th January) when he will be – shock – in Year 5.
Over these last months, I seem to have been on perpetual “High Alert”. The classic “Flight or Fight” stress response, I suppose.
And I seem to have received a lot of good advice lately.
From one wise friend, some historic quotes:
“Answers to prayer often come in unexpected ways. We pray, for instance, for a certain virtue; but God seldom delivers Christian virtues all wrapped in a package and ready for use. Rather He puts us in situations where, by His help, we can develop those virtues.” C.R.Findley
“I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.” Anonymous
Her own thought:
Take heart–you have all you need within you, beginning with your Faith and your family…
Frequent counsel at work when I get out of my proverbial tree:
“Don’t worry about things which are beyond your pay grade”
And from a trusted friend, who knows me well:
Take heart Kylie. Sometimes you need to stop rowing to see which way the current is going. Take a breather. Change is often difficult, but it will be good.
This last thought reminds me of one of my favourite movies, “The Truman Show”. Maybe the reason I first liked it was as an aficionado of Daytime soaps, given the plot features a long-running serial. It really spoke to me, however, as a most thoughtful foray into the nature of reality, and how we largely believe what we see, but how that oftentimes is not the whole picture.
Those who know the film will remember (I will try not to be a “Spoiler” here) that the world of the main character, Truman, and the greater – true – reality collide literally with a bump in the closing frames of the film. (I well recommend a viewing, if you haven’t seen it).
But I’ve realised that I have been so accustomed to always be working on this or that project, this or that cunning plan, or stressing, or worrying, that, like Truman, the “Full Stop” has taken me by surprise.
And I have realised something else too – that I rather enjoy, thrive on all this activity.
That often the work “beyond my pay grade” is what I like doing most. Teasing out tricky situations. Working on and resolving problems. Putting together jigsaw puzzles. Grand plans dreamed, worked on and refined. Without all this to occupy me, I feel like my little rowing boat is somewhat adrift.
In the words of the song made famous by Dusty Springfield: “I just don’t know what to do with myself”.
(Which was part of Dusty – The Original Pop Diva, an Australian “Jukebox musical” based on the British singer’s life, which my daughter and I enjoyed recently. The title picture above features cast members Deon Spann and Chris O’Leary).
So what now?
Time to listen to my own advice – which I give out to hardworking others – to “Slow Down and Smell the Roses”.
Focus on my family and those who have supported and upheld me throughout this challenging year.
Sharing frustrations, upset and tears.
Sharing love, laughter and joy.