It is no secret that I have have struggled to be happy these past months.
It worries me, because I am not this person.
Sure I have my moments, but I usually manage to to turn around and see the brighter side of life, to find the underlying positives, even joy. I went back and read some of my previous “Serendipity” Blog entries the other day, and was quite taken with the apparent wisdom of my own previous thoughts and advice (to whoever reads it), not so long ago. I’m not sure I could have written something like “Make me a channel of your peace” or “Joyful Joyful” with such optimism in recent times.
One colleague observed last month: “I don’t remember ever seeing you so unhappy, my friend. Even on a bad day you still laughed”
Another friend gave me a lot of food for thought. Suggested I needed to change focus from what was troubling me, and look for other, perhaps greener pastures. Different horizons. Including this advice:
“Do what you enjoy doing”
So I made a list. Here goes:
“DO WHAT YOU ENJOY DOING” (in no particular order)
- Playing Music
- Making Music
- Making things happen
- Making the impossible, possible
- Giving service to God in time and talents
- Making other people happy
- Solving the problems of the world
- Being a friend, loving others
- Spending time/communicating with those I feel an affinity with
- Sharing Knowledge
- Sharing Experience
- Teaching my children and other people’s children that they can do anything, be anything if they set their hearts on it and work towards it
- Never giving up
When I read back my list I realised a central problem.
“Here’s the thing” (as they say in America). A lot of my list is bound up with, at its best complexion, what I have done within my school role, at certain junctures.
But, in fairness, and importantly, it hasn’t been a constant the whole 7+ years I have been at the school.
A staff member friend there last year described me as “Being Relational” …. not one of my terms, but she observed that I worked best achieving things in combination with others.
And looking back, certain combinations of people and circumstance have made for more or less activity and achievement at certain times. For example, the first and second year I was at the school, three of us in combination fired up all the planning.
Then, on top of the usual range of school things, we did 5 Aged Care concerts and established a Monthly series of performances in the School Library called “Munch with Music” complete with chocolate biscuits.
At the end of one year we threw together a 90-piece choir and took them to a local Shopping Mall on the Wednesday of the last week of school for a Christmas Carols Competition. (We simply said – who wants to come and sing? If you do good, we’ll buy you an ice-cream). So we had a NINETY voice “scratch” choir – combination of Upper Primary and High – at a time when there were no official High School Choirs at the school. The Shopping Centre Judges said we were the best of all the school choirs (and the only ones who brought their own Electric Piano and String Quartet), and awarded us a cash prize. We went to the Food Court on the way to the bus back and bought 90 soft serves at McDonalds. It was a blast. Kids talked about it for years afterwards. That is what we do this for.
In the years since, there has been much growth and success. I’ve challenged and pushed my own Strings kids in various directions – from teaching them the famous “Albinoni Adagio” note by note, to having a great time with the theme to “Game of Thrones” with Electric Violins and Percussion (while carefully calling it by the title of the piece – “Ice and Fire”, so as not to affront anyone wary of the “R” rating of the series). Recently I have started a brand new program at our second campus where I am teaching an entire Year 4 class. In the first few lessons I convinced them that reading music was easy and gave them a history lesson about Guido de Arezzo. We are having a lot of fun together.
Amongst my file of Choral Music stamped “Please Return to Marryatville High School” (Oops) is a faded photocopy of “Rainy Days and Mondays”. Funnily enough, I like Mondays, probably because for many years, Monday has been my day off, but otherwise the song’s sentiment speaks pretty well with my feelings these past 6 months.
“Rainy Days And Mondays”
Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Nothing to do but frown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.
What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong
Feelin’ like I don’t belong
Some kind of lonely clown
Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down.
That there has been just enough change that nothing seems to fit. And that I don’t feel like I belong so much anymore.
Yet, we have some wonderful new people. New music staff teaching Voice, Woodwind, Piano, Brass, Cello, Percussion, Guitar. All with skills and talents and experience and knowledge and musicality to bring and share.
So the question is, where is my place in all this? Do I just take my proverbial Bat and Ball and go home? Or do I step back and try to give it time and try to see if there is a place where I might fit?
Another of my favourite pieces of literature is “Desiderata” (Latin: “desired things”), a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann.
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” [Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”]
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
Finally, the school semester is at an end and and we have three weeks of holidays. Three weeks to step back and reflect. And reflecting I have done.
I have decided I am so fed up with it all, so fed up with being unhappy, and so fed up with being this miserable person that I don’t want to be. I need to try and regain some equilibrium. The issues I have had this year have taken on far too significant a place in my life. It reminds me of a senior lady I know who sadly suffers with “macular degeneration” who describes having a “blind spot” in the middle of her vision, and only seeing clearly around the edges. Certain problems have become front and centre of my vision and it has gone on for far too long. I have taken steps to try to solve some of these issues, and will continue to attempt resolution through “proper channels” as far as this is possible.
Otherwise I need to take a deep breath and say to myself:
(Which I saw printed on a “hoodie” jacket in a shop yesterday and was tempted to buy it, but figured I could not “get away” with wearing it, lest I offend too many people).
I also realised I need to practice the words of the Serenity prayer further:
Especially the “Accept the things I Cannot Change” part.
I’ve been more than usually reflective and, in the words of the song, what has been bugging me, feeling downright miserable when “Nothin’ is really wrong”. Although I can identify specific recent matters, the consequences on my well-being have been far-reaching. Finally, I think I have realised one central issue. It is that I desperately miss former Boss Lindsay and colleague Claire. Most importantly as people in my life, but then also the close team approach we had to working together, where I was part of everything, included and valued.
What I have recognised is that, as in many aspects of life, the changes in my workplace situation involves aspects of loss, and loss invokes grief. And quite often grief in one situation triggers reaction to grief in situations past, especially where that grief was possibly unresolved.
I have cried more these past few months than in a L-O-N-G time. In contrast, I prided myself that I, the openly emotional one in my “family of origin” managed to hold it together over my Mum’s death in October 2011. I volunteered to read the lengthy Obituary in a packed church, as the last thing I felt I could do for her. Despite my cousin insisting on being “backup”, she stayed in the pew, and I got through the whole thing without wavering.
I didn’t cry for my Mum for a whole year.
So, having been so teary in recent times over much more minor things does seem irrational and almost unfair. But perhaps I am in some strange way balancing the scales. And I have now been grieving and mourning also for more important things, too, that I “should” have done in times past (although I strongly dislike the word “should”).
And things are looking brighter.
Within this period of time there was one real beacon of light. Our beautiful daughter Cassandra confirmed the vows made on her behalf at her baptism 14 years ago.
I only realised, actually, when the occasion of her Confirmation was one week beforehand because my husband assumed that, when he said that it was on “Trinity Sunday” that I knew when that was! Despite the short notice, I tried to make it a bit of special occasion and it was lovely that two of her Godmothers were able to attend, as well as a good friend who had played the organ at her baptism (who then played the last Confirmation hymn with me). We also sang the same setting of the same psalm which had been used on her baptism day. I also managed to rustle up lunch afterwards at a local Surf club overlooking the water, including folk who had some important positive impact on Cassie’s life.
The confirmation day was indeed very healing for me, and also did remind me, that perhaps it has been a mistake to have so much of my “things that make me happy” list centred on a workplace, and people within it.
And that in the same way I gathered up Cassie’s Godmother Miriam and her family (and other special guests Helen and Deon), for that Sunday, I need to make more effort to spend time with such people.
The problem is that other significant people in my life are scattered by geography, or time, or separated by death, and the more I dwell on what has, or who has, made me happy in the past, the more I end up focusing on what I have lost or grieve for, rather than counting my blessings now. Which isn’t helping much.
One last thought.
I’m told my “Passion” for what I do “can be misinterpreted” by some or “can overwhelm people”
Why would this be? Because passion really is not valued?
I guess because being ordinary is easier. Is less threatening.
Is it so bad to be a passionate person? To want more? To want to embrace something outside of the mundane, the everyday? To not just go through the motions of life? To live, to love, to be loved? To be wanted? To be needed? To contribute something more, to create, to achieve, to inspire?
Well, I might be officially middle-aged, but I’m not ready to give up just yet.
So now I need some new plans, new directions.