Category Archives: Daring greatly

Observations of interactions. Acknowledging my feelings. Reconnecting with authenticity.

Be Gentle

This is my catchphrase to Franki.

Be Gentle…there’s no need to snap the food of my hand.

Be Gentle…that little kid just wants to pat you.

Be Gentle…as the rough and tumble play escalates.

I’m sure Franki has no idea what those words mean. Perhaps it’s the intonation of my voice. An alarm that something isn’t quite right, but an indication to tone the pace, enthusiasm and excitement back (a little).


Curious but gentle

I notice that it’s not only Franki that is learning when and how to be gentle…So am I.

Be Gentle, Deborah….that email doesn’t have to be answered immediately.

Be Gentle, Deborah…it’s not a race to prove you are a strong rider.

Be Gentle, Deborah…there are no prizes for who can hold a boat pose the longest.

As the last 18 months have been trying to show me, I need to learn to be more gentle…with myself, with others.

Living with an AI ravaged bucket, means that if I keep filling the bucket with non-gentle stuff, the bucket overfills rapidly, starts rusting at its seams. It’s unable to do its job…to simply hold. All the good stuff and the bad.

It’s not easy though, and I’ve stumbled several times. When I arrived back home from my honeymoon month in France, my bucket was looked like it had been through the baggage handlers routine. Dents, nicks and gashes I hadn’t recognised. I was indignant.

How did they get there? Who is responsible for this? That’s MY bucket!

When Mr Metamucil completed his 4th Ironman triathlon, I was so happy, relieved and proud. I was also so exhausted, I could feel each bone in my body and could count each and every fibre keeping me together.

It may sound ridiculous, I wasn’t the one who completed a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride and a 42km run…but for me the adrenalin, the anticipation and the 4:30am start kicks my AI bucket to kingdom come.

And so I have to remind myself, “Be Gentle…Deborah.”

So I pick up my bucket and try to restore it.

Slowly. Carefully. Daily.

I’m learning the fine art of bucket repair…the tools, the method, the manner in which I need to do it.

And I keep adding to it, because it’s only early days.

Because that’s my bucket and I’m here to carry it.


The Power of Encouragement

In 1986, there were three things I loved – my 4th grade teacher, Mrs Cronin and her creative writing class, Edward Packard’s Choose Your Own Adventure books and Young Talent Time.

As a sprightly 9 year old, I loved the creative freedom Mrs Cronin provided in her class. I have no idea how many times a week we had creative writing. Nor do I remember how long the class lasted for.

But what I do remember is her brightly coloured clip-on parrot earrings and her endless encouragement and enthusiasm for my first feature length story about important things in a 9 year-olds life – aliens.

I remember the extra time she spent with me. I remember how she encouraged me to use more full stops and less of the conjunctive adverb “then.”

She was the reason I wanted to become a journalist and those early words of encouragement provided focus right up until my second year of a Bachelor in Communications, when I realised I couldn’t write whatever I wanted. It would always be up to the “editor’s discretion”.

Fast forward twenty five years and my career trajectory couldn’t be further from the fertile creative training ground I was provided. There were also no ballet or jazz eisteddfods, I don’t think the bump & grind after several vodka & oranges at 2am count.

There was no creative writing, my distraught scribbles into a diary were never the best example of grammar, and in fact I was being crafted into a rather effective policy and project manager. The power of plain English. With no room for fluff.

But when the leaky bucket fell apart, I started to reassess what I was doing and had to determine what I actually enjoyed; my memories of Mrs Cronin came flooding.

Discovery & Awe

It was a time in my life where I thought I could do anything. When I was encouraged to try anything. Where a mistake meant I could pull out the rubber and fix it. Where I has time to sharpen the HB pencil and think about the next twist in my plot. I would have done anything for Mrs Cronin.

Thankfully the emergence of social media and blogging has reignited the spark. Anyone can write, everyone has a story, even if you’re not that confident.

For me, the opportunity to write provides healing and joy.

I feel like I’m nine again, without a care in the world.

Looking back I wonder whatever happened to that creative streak. The joy from dancing in sequins, fishnet stockings and $2 Kmart makeup caked up. The hours I spent pouring through each Choose Your Own Adventure book from cover to cover, with all the options explored.

Did it disappear? Was it simply a phase? Had I found more something I was better at? Or did the encouragement stop?

The real question is, does it matter?

I’ve spent so long trying to answer questions – reflect, reject, regurgitate. There are many questions that remain unanswered, particularly when trying to manage the auto-immune rollercoaster, and valiantly searching for answers doesn’t always provide reassurance or peace. It really doesn’t make me feel any better or more satisfied.

But this is what I do know. The power of encouragement.

Whether you’re nine or forty-nine. Whether you’re the giver or the recipient.

The power of self-belief and self-confidence. And the pleasure of reconnecting with joy.

In 1986, Mrs Cronin provided a spark that although temporarily shelved, has been reignited. She taught me that to be good at anything it takes time, trial and a good rubber.

And I’m also pretty sure she let me look over her shoulder to win the Year 4 spelling bee champion, when I was on a tie-breaker. Encouragement of a different sort.

So thank you Mrs Cronin, and thank you to all that provide encouragement, that light a spark. Even if you don’t realise it.

Because whether you’re teaching someone their first letters of an alphabet, or cheering for your loved ones on the sidelines. Your gift is tremendously powerful and rarely forgotten.

The kindest Graffiti
The kindest graffiti @ Ironmanoz,                Port Macquarie

So tell me, who was the first who encouraged you to believe?

Connection is Crucial

One of the things I never expected to lose whilst dealing with auto immune dis-ease was friends.

Not acquaintances or people I had known for a couple of years. But friendships I had developed since my “I’ll travel the world in 18 months and be back”…6 years later. People that I would call if I needed to vent, or needed to go out for a drink….my wing women.

To be clear, it’s not like they all stopped ringing because I was “sick.” In fact, it was quite the opposite. In the early days of diagnosis, the phone would continuously tweet and ring. There was no doubt, that for an emotionally constipated individual, I had clearly had some success maintaining interpersonal relationships.

But as the days become weeks, and weeks become months.

Interest wanes and life resumes for all, except the “sick”

The first 10 weeks of my diagnosis were hell and they were the weeks where I kept to myself the most. My then-partner (now husband) Lee, would answer the phone, respond to friends’ concerns and questions and speak to my mum, who needed an update every 3 hours.

I felt like I was imploding and I didn’t want anyone to see it or for anyone else to have to clean up the mess. It was my long held party trick – hold on and let it all go once no one can see you. I’m pretty sure it also contributed to the rusting of my trusty bucket, the vessel that keeps me together.

I then started to question myself, “Do they even want to hear from me?” “I’ve been a slack friend” or “I don’t want to talk about being sick.”

It’s the same awkward feeling you have when you’re in high school and you’ve started a chat with one of the cool kids, you feel like you’ve made a connection…but of course, no one has witnessed it, and now they’re with their harem of mates….you may as well forget it.

It’s human nature, the need to connect. Researchers at Harvard just released their findings from a 75-year longitudinal study on unearthing the secrets to a happy and purposeful life.

A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world  _ Lois Wyse
A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world
_ Lois Wyse

It appears that connection is crucial. George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study from 1972 to 2004 and wrote a book about it confirmed “the more areas in your life you can make connection, the better.”

The study followed 268 Harvard graduates from 1938-1940, ironically they were all male students. And I suspect in a post Depression era, guys weren’t so keen to chat about their feelings. But it appears the connection with other human beings is the strongest predictor of life satisfaction.

So yesterday I dropped an old friend a text, “Hey Stephen, hope you’re doing well. Has been a while but would be great to catch up when you’re next in town. Catch up soon.”

And today, the phone rang.