A Perpetual Work in Progress

Massive lessons being learned by me at the moment. I am in transition again. So much movement in my life, and so much trying to be and do everything. You can only ever disappoint when you try to be everything to everyone.

Hmmm … I didn’t mean to underline, but there you have it. The first salient point in this post lol.

My whole life, I felt small. I felt like I had no worth unless I was doing and being for others. As I reflect, that core belief is what has always landed me in trouble during my adult life. And it is ultimately the belief that has lead me here to be able to smash through it. Gingerly lol.

Obviously, that belief started in childhood. I don’t hold others responsible for it – it was my perception (mis-perception) of the trauma I encountered. The same trauma that has made me who I am (who I like – an empowered, resilient, and beautiful woman – a little proud I can say that without any challenge or awkwardness).

Last weekend, I hit a snag on Sunday. I forgot I had organised to go to the beach and then catch up with one of my very closest people. I was too tired. Soul tired. I slept ALL day.

I knew I had to make changes.

I couldn’t keep watching people live their lives – explore the world, see family and friends, do stuff – whilst the vast majority of what I did was work. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I just realised last Sunday, that I also love not working. It’s as simple as that.

I am most present and most liberated when I am doing any sort of healing work, be it with others or on my own self. Healing, and all that means, is my highest value and the reason I am on this Earth at this time – to empower and inspire others to be their best selves.

When I am not engaged in this work, I am not as buoyant.

This work takes many forms: tutoring, workshops, clients, writing, videos with Renee, and connections. And I’m sure there is more. It is my whole self.

But there needs to be a balance within the healing work.

And because of my ‘fear’ of disappointing people, my inability to say no for the same reason, all connected to my belief that my worth is connected to what I do for others, I have run out of mojo already this year.

When I’m working in my balance, I am energised. When I’m working out of balance, I become soul tired.

I’ve made difficult decisions this week, had difficult conversations, and the world hasn’t imploded. I still woke up this morning. People are managing to live their lives. Not much seems to have changed.

However, I have. As someone said to me yesterday, “It’s good you are setting boundaries, Tina. We would keep taking as long as you were still giving.”

As a person who has experienced trauma, standing up for what I want and being supported in that and not being belittled or punished, has been empowering.

The world didn’t end when I set some boundaries. People are disappointed, but we are all still functioning. The difference now, my needs are being met too.

And I AM worth that.

The Hard Lessons – Shame

Third post in this series that started this morning with a mid post breakdown.

I mowed the lawn after the last (second) post. The cortisol moved through my body, I sweated heaps, showered and vomited, and after my shower, I felt cleaner and the cortisol had subsided enough that I knew taking time out and just being, with some meditation later on, would bring my body back to balance. Oh, and eating food with nutrients. Plus a coke or chocolate (this part is not nutritionally sound and a habit I need to break – just not today – don’t judge).

I have worked hard to dissolve the actual abuse triggers. I realised this as I pushed the mower through the grass. This isn’t about the sexual abuse itself. I am grateful to those people for my abuse; I have posted about that before, and this trigger hadn’t changed that. This is about the impact that the trauma of my childhood made. This is about my automatic reactions to things and having to work through every trigger as it comes up.

And that’s okay. Three hours after the incident, I am lying on the lounge, feeling much better, empowered and fully feeling that my mission to empower others is my soul work for this lifetime. So, I’m good.

I want to talk about the shame though. Receiving those messages made me feel like I had done something wrong.

Maybe I shouldn’t have replied. Maybe I said the wrong thing. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough.

Intellectually, I know otherwise. Trauma is a funny thing though. And trauma is not intellectual.

Posting my initial Facebook post yesterday made me feel vulnerable; I was worried that people would judge me, blame me, hold me responsible. I was worried that people would say, and I shit you not, that I am ugly and no one would look twice at me, how many tickets have you got on yourself. I posted anyway.

I wasn’t letting irrational fears guide my choices – this is real growth for me. Trauma is fear based and very hard to ignore or move through. It requires feeling the vulnerability and dealing with the shame.

When people, out of love and kindness, pointed out that George was probably a bot or a Nigerian catfish scammer, my brain told me that I was stupid and I should have known that (how, I don’t know). I felt significantly more shame. I am still unwriting this shame narrative. It will take time.

I think my belly weight is the shame manifested physically. This is really important for me to realise because that knowledge will empower me to lose my excess weight. I thought it was the abuse that caused the weight. I think it is actually unresolved shame. I think my underlying narrative is a strong shame narrative that I fight against.

I now own that I’m an amazing teacher. It took me years to not feel like I was being conceited and to stand in that truth. When I said it to some people, they tried to shame me out of it, but I refused to be shamed.

I now own that I’m a very attractive woman – and the belly twinges – I am, I argue with my belly. I’m not model beautiful, but I’m gorgeous. I am me, wholly and proudly, and shame only has the power to make me buckle, not drop.

Trauma is insidious. It told us we weren’t valuable, we weren’t important, we were disposable, unworthy, undeserving. Trauma is wrong though. And my trauma and my healing is the legacy I will leave this world.

There is more to say. I’m not sure what it is at this point. But I am so grateful for being able to express my self, grateful for having a medium to express myself in, grateful to have the courage to acknowledge the shame publicly, and grateful that I empower myself to stand in my truth.

Vulnerability

I plugged my USB into my laptop four and a half minutes ago. Brene Brown's Vulnerability TED Talk came on, and I'm now fighting the urge to fight back tears. Let them flow, Tina, let them flow.

Weird response, you might think. And, yes, I would usually agree. The tears pricked as Brene said that whilst she wanted to get her work out to the world, a part of her has worked hard to engineer staying small.

My tears pricked because I noticed how much I have grown. This resonated with me this time last year; that fear of abundance, of an audience, of people bearing witness to my life, in its totality. This means, the bad shameful stuff as well as the weird and the good.

We are, all of us, a whole package.

People have told me (and god love all of you who have because you have empowered me even further) that they respect the courage I show to post my life on the internet. It has taken me a long time to see this courage they speak of, but they are right. For me, I've always replied that whilst I know there is an audience reading, I don't really know there is an audience reading.

When I write, I write mostly for myself: what is it that I need to most hear to empower me to heal, to process, to grow. Sometimes I write for a particular person, to validate their experience or response, sometimes I write to expose or to teach, but mostly it is for myself. As Beyoncé sings, I was here; a record that I existed and that I live.

Back to being small, this was me. I wanted my 'wisdom' out there, I wanted to be seen, I wanted to be noticed, but not really. Because what if people don't get it, or don't like me, or think I'm weird, or think I'm a fool.

Yep. What if.

Who cares.

My truth is my truth. And my truth can change, and can grow, and that is okay.

I don't necessarily want to be big. But, I do want to be. And, just being now, is enough. I trust that I will put things out there and the consequences will be what they will be. My foundation is strong and won't be shaken.

I think I feel a little nervous about my book on my healing journey through sexual abuse (as part of a traumatic childhood). Maybe a little vulnerability and a little shame lingering, and I think that's okay. We all go through stuff as children that impacts who we become, positive and negative, and it's okay. The first step in healing is acknowledging this. As Dr Phil says, You can't fix what you don't acknowledge.

So, acknowledgement comes first. We each need to hold our head up high and speak our truth. Acknowledge what happened, acknowledge the impact, acknowledge the desire to change, to grow, to bloom.

None of us deserve to feel small. Our experiences and who we are, are significant. And valid. We don't need to justify or validate them for others, our knowing is enough.

And, our desire to be big does not serve us in the telling of our truth, because if we desire to be big we stop being authentic, and we start to behave to please others rather than to serve our own higher interests. And this is disingenuous.

We can only heal when we acknowledge what has been 'done' to us (marked this way because I believe we choose) and acknowledge the impact it has made, good and bad. And, truly own ourselves in every sense. And, when we reach that point, it no longer matters whether we are big, or have an audience, or are noticed, because we come to knowing that we are enough, just as we are.

This did not end or go where I expected it might. I hope you get something from it; I'm almost ready to write.

🙏🏻🦋

Using Brene 

Yes. I’m sorry. I am still her disciple. In case you’re not up to date, I’m referring to Brene Brown. 

I have found that as a result of reading her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong during the holidays, I have slightly modified the language that I’m using with my kids (students) to assist them in resolving conflict with each other, and to understand their deeper motivations.

Kids will always revert to defensive behaviours when they feel attacked and/or judged and/or threatened. They don’t all have the necessary knowledge to dig deeper than reaction. Having said that, would it be fair to say that most adults struggle with that too? 

I have always asked them to dig deep to resolve the root issue for whatever causes the behaviour, but now I am also teaching them about vulnerability and shame. And it has been quite successful to this point, working very effectively with the principles of Restorative Justice. 

It is also inspiring me to move away from more punitive measures like Formal Cautions of Suspension. We are working together to try to resolve the core cause rather than just bandaiding the symptoms of the cause. 

I hope that it continues to work. And that I don’t become too tired/too busy to use it. 

Using Brene 

Yes. I’m sorry. I am still her disciple. In case you’re not up to date, I’m referring to Brene Brown. 

I have found that as a result of reading her books, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong during the holidays, I have slightly modified the language that I’m using with my kids (students) to assist them in resolving conflict with each other, and to understand their deeper motivations.

Kids will always revert to defensive behaviours when they feel attacked and/or judged and/or threatened. They don’t all have the necessary knowledge to dig deeper than reaction. Having said that, would it be fair to say that most adults struggle with that too? 

I have always asked them to dig deep to resolve the root issue for whatever causes the behaviour, but now I am also teaching them about vulnerability and shame. And it has been quite successful to this point, working very effectively with the principles of Restorative Justice. 

It is also inspiring me to move away from more punitive measures like Formal Cautions of Suspension. We are working together to try to resolve the core cause rather than just bandaiding the symptoms of the cause. 

I hope that it continues to work. And that I don’t become too tired/too busy to use it. 

Dietary Changes 

Last week I posted about my weight loss aims for this year. A weird thing has happened; a series of signs/indicators. 

I was resolute on changing my lifestyle. I started whilst on the cruise and after a six day migraine, I feel significantly better. Wholly better. 

I don’t actually care about my weight. 

This is a huge shift for me from previous attempts at losing weight. 

I care about being healthy. And I think this is a significant shift in focus. 

My Principal organised a free gelato bar at school for our first week back (yes, amazing gesture). I LOVE gelato. And I mean, love. If I could eat gelato all day every day I would be happy for life. 

I didn’t have a single taste. 

I knew that if I had one, I would find excuses to keep going. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depriving myself of the foods I love to eat. I had chocolate yesterday. 

I’m just selecting what I eat more carefully. 

I know my danger foods, the foods that if I start eating, I keep eating. And in these early stages of modifying my lifestyle, these are real danger foods. Gelato, pasta, lollies, bread = danger for Tina. 

I’m keeping stock of what I eat and I am aiming to eat more fruit and more vegetables than anything else. I am drinking more water. I am trying to eat earlier rather than later. I eat when I’m hungry. Thus far, I am mostly succeeding. 

If I go out to eat, and my main isn’t the healthiest option, I won’t have dessert. I’m practicing the everything in moderation cliche. Thus far it is working. 

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight. I don’t care if I’ve lost weight. 

I feel better. I have more energy. My mind is clearer. I want to do more. I don’t feel heavy. I don’t feel weighted down. I feel genuinely happy. And I’m present. 

I think this has been aided because I’m practicing what I gained from reading Daring Greatly and Rising Strong. I’m working on my attitudes more than anything. I acknowledge my emotions as I feel them. If they are negative I am tracing back to the core vulnerability and/or shame. And I am acknowledging that. Just doing that, has made me feel more emotionally still and balanced. This has allowed me to feel and be more present. 

I’m embracing interaction. I’m moving forward. 

I feel good. 

Being Real

I did something today that I found more difficult than I thought it would be. I decided to set boundaries/expectations with my wonderful and accommodating staff in our faculty time using Brene Brown’s adapted model. Basically, you state what is okay and what is not okay. 

I was so nervous. I’m usually very happy to share my truths with others yet today I felt the full force of vulnerability. Writing is easier than speaking it to a live audience. 

And as uncomfortable as I was, I enjoyed the discomfort because I enjoyed the authenticity. I enjoyed bearing my inner most fears and the knowledge that I’m on a journey to discover who I am. 

As a leader it’s like we should always be in control. And I generally am. But I think that has forced me into playing the role rather than integrating the role into my authentic soul. I was so intent last year on getting my work done that I think I misplaced some of the authenticity of Tina in the process. This year I’m working to integrate the Tina with the leader and hope to become stronger as a result. 

It will be an interesting process, and I am very grateful that I work with people who are willing to indulge my sometimes unorthodox methods and experiments. 

Giving the Self Permission

I woke this morning, firstly at 1.10 am to kids playing knock and run on the cabin doors. Children need leashes. Parents should have licenses. Then at 4 am to go to the toilet. And lastly at 6 am. Tired. A little irritable. I am usually a morning person but today I found out what it was like to not be a morning person. Within an hour I was rebalanced. Gratefully.

At one of those times though, I knew I needed six months to really assess where I am in my life. I have been heading towards this decision for days but I was struggling to give myself permission to say this, out loud, for me. And really feel it. And mean it, wear it, own it.

Having digested so much Brene Brown in the last week, I know that the feeling of potentially ‘giving up’ has brought out a lot of shame type response from me. My internal dialogue has been a little chaotic and bouncy. I couldn’t have my own children, and the fostering process is long and hard, and so it is easier to just give up. People will think I am more of a failure. You’re being selfish if you don’t continue the process. How can you not know what you want. Or who you are. 

You get the drift. And I have been wrestling with these absolutely unreasonable thoughts for days. But I had to own them first. I had to feel them. Explore them. Unpack them.

I am now in the process of releasing them.

But not before they have forced me to question my choices and myself. I have written before about how the process of IVF can completely erode your sense of self because you start living your life in terms of cycles and the two week wait, failure or success. IVF destroys your naiveté, steals your innocence and impacts your sense of hope.

When I chose to get off the roller coaster, I thought that because I owned that decision/choice, I was okay. But I think it was just a first step towards being okay. I think it is also so hard to really process the process because, like in my case, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it who got it. That’s not to say people didn’t try, but unless you’ve struggled with it I think it is very hard to know what to say or what to do. I try to support others now so that they do not feel quite as alone, but I second guess myself too, all of the time. I know that no words take the pain away or minimise it but the acknowledgement that it exists helps. And the permission to make yourself and your healing the priority is vital.

There are still times that I struggle because I am childless but tried to have children. There are still some things that I can’t do. This year was my first Christmas with my nieces and nephews in years. The first Christmas I didn’t choose to be alone. So I am moving forward through the grief.

I think it is also important to give yourself an infinite time frame. Healing cannot be rushed. And I think that sometimes people don’t realise this. And how can they when we don’t stand up and say, “Hey, I’m still grieving. And that’s okay.”

By grieving too, I don’t mean that I am locked up in a room struggling with depression or bad thoughts. Ninety five percent of the time I am really happy (no real data to back that stat up hehe). And I am at peace in my life. There are just some days, or moments in days, when I am not okay. And it is healthy for me to acknowledge that, to own it.

As it is healthy for all of us to acknowledge, explore and own our emotions. We can not live a wholehearted life without being wholly present in our lives, and that means the bad moments as much as the good.

So, Tina has given herself permission to continue on her life quest and take six months off from the fostering process so that she can resolve who she is post IVF. This means that if fostering is in my future, I will be able to enter into the process without any doubt that my reasons are the right reasons. I will not think that maybe there is a small part of me who is fostering to create a surrogate family. There will be no doubt.

Thus far, just the length of the process, indicates it isn’t the right time. For me.

And that’s okay.

 

 

 

 

Timely Reminders

One of my favourite authors is Paulo Coelho. Amongst many other novels, he wrote The Alchemist. I have read it a lot of times, each time highlighting and bookmarking different sections. Brene Brown has become my favourite social scientist (nah, I know no others that instantly spring to mind lol). I am now reading her new book, Rising Strong. 

Brene cited Paulo in the section I read yesterday: 

When you’re on your path, the universe will conspire to help you.

We can apply this to life. If something is happening that is meant to happen, it won’t be necessarily easy, but we will find ways to resolve and clear the obstacles. It may seem easy at times. 

Some things in my life happen quite easily. Teaching for one. However, changing schools not easy at all. And I do know and do believe that that is because I am in the school that I am meant to be working in for me, the kids, the staff, and the broader community. My Masters in Arts happened quite easily. Because I am meant to fulfill my dream of writing (as I am). Vegetarianism comes easily to me; 23 years and going strong. Holidays and travel happen quite easily for me. Working hard comes easily to me, and gives my life and existence purpose.

And I am mostly happy. Happier than most. In my own power more often than not. Feeling fulfilled the vast majority of the time. I love easily and am loved mostly easily. Blessed and living in gratitude all of the time. 

There are worse things to be. 

And so, applying Paulo’s doctrine, letting go of what I do not have becomes easier. It isn’t a cop out. I still have to deal with the grief, like all of us. I still have to work hard to achieve the other things that I am passionate about. The work does not lessen. But my happiness and fulfilment increases. 

I am exactly where I am meant to be. 

And so today, I pose you the question, are you where you are meant to be doing what you are most fulfilled doing.

If so, brilliant! If not, how do we get there? 

❤️

New Zealand Blog thus far

Sunday, 10th January, 2016.

Our last day of just sailing for five or six days; tomorrow morning we will be at Bay of Islands in New Zealand. We do not have a shore excursion booked but rather decided to just get off and explore. I am looking forward to that. The last time (and only other time) that I was in New Zealand we did not come this far north. It was in July 1998 for Airds High School’s Band Tour. And every time I think of the tour I instantly associate the memory with rebellious piercing behaviour (nup, can’t let it go Trace and Mel – hope you are both reading this bit – and Gida, I haven’t forgotten you either).

Ah, memories … like the corners of my mind …

I set myself some homework whilst I was cruising. I have decided that signs can always be read in two distinct yet opposing ways, rendering them unreliable when you are relying on them for some answers. I have decided to keep stock of the signs and see which side is heavier at the end.

I have almost finished reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I spent most of yesterday reading, digesting, percolating, and today needed a break from it. I have highlighted it and made so many notes, setting myself mini-tasks to do as well as highlighting sections that I think would be great for professional learning for school (bad enough I set homework and tasks fir myself on holidays but to also be focusing on setting other people work – atrocious hehe). And Sara, I think you would enjoy reading this book; it’s one of those books that make us better thinkers and ultimately, even better people (like Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic).

The water is a divine blue today, almost purple. I have taken a photo of it against the pale blue sky but I don’t think the photos do it justice. I could do worse than my current workstation too. They change the day in the lifts every day. At first, you have a giggle and think it is cute. By Day Two, it is a necessity. Time is not the same on a cruise as time at home. Trace and I wanted tickets to one of the ice shows so we had to set the alarm this morning, with the change in time due to travel, we were robbed of sleep. But we got our tickets. Oh, and the alarm was set for 8.

I slept reasonably well last night. The motion of the ship swaying is soothing; however, yesterday morning I awoke after a restless sleep due to an insane dream. I have always wanted to surf. I am completely uncoordinated so this is a highly unlikely goal of mine. It is the freedom, and the being at one with the water that I crave. You know when the wave curls over and the surfers glide through the hole (pipe?), well my dream had our cruise liner going through that at an amazing speed (yep, was a gigantic wave) and we were at the front absolutely loving it and yahooing our way through. From both sides we were being inundated by buses, cars, and all sorts of other unlikely things, some forcing us to pull on the brakes and slow down very quickly; fortunately, we never hit anything. It was excitement actualised for me. Loved it. James was convinced it was a premonition for a tsunami that would wipe us out.

I think not.

I’m dodging around Brene. At the moment it has raised more questions than answers for me. The questions it is prompting centre around my motivation for becoming a foster carer, as well as pushing me to focus on the purpose of my life: what do I want to achieve and what do I want to spend my time doing.

Part of the questioning process is forcing me to think about whether I am hiding within the fostering, trying to belong to a world that I have never felt fully connected to (I have always regarded myself as different, a bit of a freak – I being the key word there). Am I more scared of being normal or of being abnormal? Am I defining my life and my successes by what I am not rather than by what I am? As a foster carer, will I be able to achieve all of my goals or am I restricting my ability to achieve all of my goals? Which goals are more important to me? Have I grieved my infertility (for want of a better word) journey? Is fostering a balm for that wound? As I said, more questions than answers.

But at least I am finding the courage to ask them.

 

Monday, 11th January, 2016.

 

When remembering the day and date, even from yesterday, requires real concentration.

I woke at 7.30 this morning to a phone call. Tracey asked me if I was awake (yep, I am now) and ordered me to go to my balcony.

By the time I unlocked and pulled open the door, what had been happening outside of her room was happening outside of mine.

The tender boats were being dropped and the pilot was being picked up. But most importantly, a pod of five dolphins was playing in the water.

The majesty!

The balconies of the boat were lined with people oohing and aahing.

  
The view here at Bay of Islands (I keep going to call it the Bay of Pigs) is phenomenal. I have never been this far north. It’s gorgeous. The horizon line marks the purple water we came in from and the water here, shallower, is back to blue/green. Hills face us on this side and rocky outcrops pepper the water, not quite icebergs.

Tracey said that in the inlet ahead of us, masked by the hills, there is another bay with houses cutely lined up as far as you can see land. I wasn’t awake when we came in. Dark clouds are rolling in from behind the hills and the sun is gallantly fighting them off, gallant but futile.

We do not have a shore excursion booked here so I am looking forward to a couple of hours of beauty and exploring. Off to breakfast …

   
 The sun won. On our way back to the ship in the tender boat it became very obvious why New Zealand is known as the land of the long white cloud. Straight ahead of us, spanning the entire length of the horizon, like a curtain, was a long white cloud, protecting Paihai (pie-here) from the rest of the world. Paihai, place of the Waitangi Treaty, is beautiful, picturesque, gorgeous, worth visiting, should be on your bucket list. I would come here again. The Australian equivalent would be Airlie Beach in Queensland but the Maori are treated much better here than the Aboriginals in Australia. There is a true and consistent acknowledgement of Maori heritage and culture here, decades ahead of Australia. Or there appears to be.

Today was the first time Tracey has set foot on the soil of her homeland in thirty five years, and the first time Dave and the boys have set foot on foreign soil. So appropriate that Tracey’s introduction of her homeland to them is their first overseas journey. We had to mark the moment with a photo. They were all under very strict instructions to let me off first so that I could capture the first steps of the family moving forward together. Needless to say, two of the four (I’ll leave it up to those of you that know them to work out which two) “forgot” to follow my instructions. After some quick and firmly barked instructions the photographs were taken and the moment marked.

   
 Tracey managed to coerce me into having a couple of formal photos taken on the ship last night by emphatically stating that when I die I will need a variety of photos in the obligatory powerpoint/film for my funeral. Yep, she did. And yep, it worked. Similarly, today’s photos will become iconic in those times for them too (I hope).

I seem to be getting back into connecting and attuning with crystals. Today I was drawn to Opalite (a man-made stone: opal dust in glass) at the markets here (real markets). This stone encourages one to explore within and all around to learn that even the most unimaginable life goals can be reached, they do not just have to be dreams and Opalite brings peace to all, it is a very beneficial stone to keep in areas where peace and serenity are needed. There are more, equally pertinent. I am going to start using crystals and stones again. I have decided.

Oh, and I got burned; sun definitely winning. Our shuttle bus driver informed us that this is the place that the impact of the ozone layer is felt most acutely. I had read on our information that the UV rate is 8. I probably should have looked into what that actually meant … oops, my bad. Thankfully I brought aloe vera gel.

Tonight after dinner, ice show and then comedian (adults only) – Gordon someone. Last show here before he disembarks and heads to Australia for a tour. Now I have forty five minutes of reading before I shower for dinner.