Tag Archives: new habits

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?

Re-Purpose & Re-Learn

I like certainty. Knowing what’s going on. What to expect. I like to be able to manage the variations. It’s been my survival mechanism, and one that has served me well.

When that environment changes, it unsettles me.

The bottom of my leaky bucket fell apart in 2012 and there was no management plan. All I was left with was the splintered handle and sheer confusion…what just happened? I have the receipt somewhere, I can get a replacement.

Simple, rustic, functional and a couple of dents for character
Simple, rustic, functional and a couple of dents for character

My bucket design rebuild has been long, well-intentioned but poorly designed. I’ve tried to build more flexibility in the design so I can hold more. Not more weight. More variety. Just like my farmers’ market bag.

In this bag I can throw my apples, lemons and pumpkin at the bottom with no fear that it’s going to drop out of the bottom, but I still have plenty space on top for my more fragile items – the herbs, the wild mushrooms and bright berries.

Unlike my trusty bucket, my farmer market stash looks ‘alive’

Previously I would have crammed as much as I could in my bag, and bucket, to the point it was overflowing. I would struggle to lift it, let alone carry it very far. But I would persevere, this bucket will not beat me!

I’ll be honest, I still struggle with my selection and packing process. In my 20’s I backpacked across North America, where I was dutifully taught to roll my clothes to create more space, avoid daggy creasing and, in my mind, justify those ridiculous heels!

I never learnt the packing technique taught to a check out chick – always assess weight and never trust the plastic bag!

Today, I try to make more conscious decisions. And it starts with what my three priorities for the day. That’s right, only three, and when one is non-negotiable – meals and snacks to keep me fuelled – that leaves me two priorities. Two things I can do, not must, to feel alive – conscious, mindful, engaged.

This often includes walks with Franki with an attempt at mindfulness whilst I am out with her. Observing my feet as they hit the pavement, hearing the leaves rustle in the trees or hearing the cockatoos squawking. Sometimes, the mindfulness simply extends to be alert to what else she has tried to sneak into her mouth.

On a good day, practising a simple 20 minute home yoga sequence feels right and rejuvenating. Walking to my local cafe and catching up on Sunday paper inserts is soothing. I get the sun on my back and a chat with the cafe owners, staff, random dog owners.

On a particularly leaky day, when I cannot bear the 45 stairs I must walk down from my 3rd level apartment to reach the outside world, I lay on the verandah amongst the canopy of the eucalypts and just try to breathe, and remind myself “it’s easy to be heavy, hard to be light.”

Of course on really great days I throw my mantra out the door. Not on purpose, I am just so excited to feel good, pain free (for me).

I am excited that my knees aren’t on fire or that the waves of fatigue haven’t hit, so I take a walk, do some work, eat without chewing properly, hit the local cafe, read a little, google too much and by mid-afternoon it hits me. The adrenalin rush will soon convert to an adrenalin hangover.

I’ve left no space in the market bag for the fragile goods, I’ve crammed it all with the exotic veges I don’t know what to do with, fresh crusty gluten-loaded rolls and those great looking salted caramel macarons that I love so much.

It’s a work in progress. I’m only just working out the right packing technique…and there are days where I simply misjudge quantity for quality.

Surely I’m not the only one?

Postscript: It appears I’m not the only one who uses a top-three priority list, it’s also used as a productivity tool & for peaceful zen…perhaps I’m on to something!