Tag Archives: independence

Sailing On The Wings of Poesie…

“On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.”

― Rumi

After watching our son sail today, my head is jam-packed with metaphors. Overflowing with adjectives, adverbs and superlatives. Indeed, I’m completely overloaded with words flying in from all directions and creating an almighty traffic jam in my head. Clearly, this is not a good thing, because as any half-decent writer knows, less is more. However, what are we supposed to do when we’re so enchanted by something, an experience, a feeling, an object, that we start spewing out metaphors, adverbs and adjectives like a broken sewerage pipe?

I don’t know. I always overdo it. Indeed, I’m one of the most enthusiastic, upbeat people I know, especially when I’m “sailing” on top of the water, and haven’t hit the deck.

Just to set the scene…The majority of the boats were an Optimus or “Opti”. Another parent described these as “a floating bathtub which uses a towel as a sail”. They’re a great sail boat to start out on because they’re relatively stable, although on the downside, they’re not as fast. Our son was too tall for an Opti and went straight to a Flying 11, which has rather complicated rigging and is a faster, but less stable boat and new recruits are likely to capsize. Indeed, they capsize a lot and usually want to quit!!

However, that’s what I’ll call the technical or business end of sailing, and I was more focused on watching my son and husband work together to get the boat assembled and to actually see Mr sail his boat. However, as much as I aspire to be the perfect Mum, I couldn’t be the passive observer and switch the writer-photographer off. Sailing is a spectacle. It’s an Adrenalin boost. A creative response was inevitable…an occupational hazard.

The skippers assembled on the grass and walked through the muddy bank to launch their boats. I don’t know how many boats were there. However, there were enough to resemble a small fleet and look quite spectacular. Yet, they’re only little and reminded me of hand-made, origami boats. Indeed, I even Googled how to make them when I got home, although I didn’t succeed. That boat didn’t even get a chance to sink!

Getting back to the race… one minute I was watching Geoff help Mr get his boat out, and the next he was gone.The boats had sailed off into the distance and the skippers merged in with the sails. Now, they were nothing more than a patch of white on a blue background.

Yet, I was still watching. Feeling something bubbling up inside but I couldn’t quite channel my thoughts into anything specific.

Sheep…the little white boats now reminded me of sheep… what with being white on the blue background. In hindsight, even I can see this was a bit far-fetched. That I’d inhaled too much magic dust, and my imaginings had gone too far. After all, I doubt whether a sheep can swim, and as for a flock of sheep wading out into the deep, that’s bonkers.  Clearly, I’d had too much sun!

Still, being in serious creative overdrive, I didn’t just stop at sheep analogies. I also thought of dancers in white tutus, which is hardly surprising given that the dance studio is our home away from home. Indeed, sailing reminded me a lot of dancing with sailing being a kind of dance on water. That said, it’s not that graceful when the boom smacks you in the head, or you capsize and you’re wading through the mud to get back.

Hey, did I mention something about clouds? The boats also reminded me of white clouds. However, you’d have to say they’d had a close encounter with a steam roller with a triangular cutting attachment. After all, sails are flat, not round and fluffy.

Okay, I accept the cloud analogy doesn’t fit.

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

Anyway, in case you haven’t worked it out already, I was really pleased and relieved to get down to the sailing club today. Like many parents, my husband and I split up on Saturdays. Geoff does the sailing run, while I do the dance run with our daughter. While this set up is very practical, it means I haven’t seen our son sail in his new boat and they haven’t seen our daughter perform her dance solo. Moreover, each of us is missing out entirely on one child’s universe. Or, at best, we’re skimming past the outer reaches. Indeed, my husband and son missed out on half of the annual dance concert, because he had a big day. Indeed, that afternoon’s sail was just as important to him, as her dance concert was to her. That’s where you need the wisdom of Solomon. Alternatively, you could always clone yourself, so you can be in two places at once. Nothing to it!

By the time I pulled up, Geoff and Mr had got the boat out of bed and it was out on the grass waiting to be set up. Setting up the Flying 11 every week, is a bit like wrestling with an Ikea flat-pack with ropes and sails thrown in for added complexity. Geoff and the Mr almost, almost have their routine down pat and make a great team. Getting the boat ready, is a two person job and it took them some time to get the rigging sorted. Moreover, as these boats have sacrificed stability for speed, it’s frequently capsized. It’s a very challenging boat and the sort of thing “which puts hair on your chest”, as my Dad would say. However, this is the price you pay as a young sailor climbing through the ranks and learning the ropes.

“That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way is winning.”

Richard Bach, Jonathon Livingston Seagull

Launching Fury

As luck would have it, the weather was perfect…blue skies, sunshine but not the blazing Summer heat. Probably my favourite bit, was watching all the boats get in the water. It was low tide and they needed to wade out quite a way through the mud to launch. I know there was order in there somewhere, and everyone was respectful of each other’s boats. However, I was struck by the kaleidoscope of little boats of varying classes along with their different shaped sails…a real cacophony. Indeed, I know I’ve overdosed on metaphors already, but they were like a flock of sea gulls.

flock of sails

If you peer deeply into the centre of the photo, you can see the fleet.

However, all too quickly, the flock had disappeared out of view, and we weren’t really a part of it anymore.We could just make out a cluster of tiny, white sails in the distance. For some reason, it felt very strange knowing Mr was one of them. I guess I’m so used to seeing anonymous yachts sailing past in the distance and it felt weird to know he was on one of them. Moreover, it’s a bit of a stretch to think of our 14 year old son skippering a boat out on the horizon all by himself. He hasn’t ridden a bike in years and is too young to drive a car, even as a learner. Yet, he was out there by himself, not out in the ocean or the open sea, but close enough. That didn’t worry me at all, because the club has a safety boat and it’s a safe area. It was more the extension of his horizons and by proxy, my own that felt uncomfortable. He wasn’t in the small pond anymore.

That’s one of the great things about sailing for kids. They can experience freedom, a degree of speed, independence and nut things out for themselves without adults hovering over their shoulder. So, while it’s not an inherently safe sport, it’s actually not too bad when you compare it to contact sports, wandering around the neigbourhood or even riding his bike.

Now, I’d still like to write a poem about it. Or, if I could, paint what I saw. However, I photographed the race with my phone and plan to get back there for the last two weeks of the season with a real camera. Open my eyes to absorb what I can. Then, I’m going to try to get in a sail myself!! I made great ballast!

Have you ever been sailing? Or, been a sailing parent? How did it go?

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Compassion: Should you carry their load?

If you have been following my blog over the last couple of days, you will know that I have been participating in a global blogging movement 1000 Voices Writing for Compassion and it went live on Friday for the United Nations Day of Social Justice.  So, I have been spending what time I could over the weekend immersed in compassion, love but also a fair amount of cynicism and hurt..

I have uploaded a few posts but my main contribution was a somewhat humorous post: Compassion Fatigue: A Light Bulb Moment: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/compassion-fatigue-a-light-bulb-moment/

In this post, I warned about the signs of compassion overload, which could leave you at risk of compassion fatigue (which isn’t something to joke about, by the way):

“if you are watching ants lugging heavy loads with more than just a casual eye and indeed considering learning ant language so you can help them more effectively: “Hey, can I give you a lift?” Then, perhaps you have taken compassion just that little bit too far.”

Jen, from Driftwood Gardens http://driftwood-gardens.com/ suggested: “As far as the ant is concerned, my philosophy would not to be help him carry his load, but rather to leave him to his business instead of squashing him underfoot.”

That was a very insightful comment because there is that delicate balance between helping someone and dis-empowering them, which ultimately achieves what it describes. It takes away their independence leaving them unable to look after themselves, even when they might be quite able. Psychologically-speaking, this is known as “learned helplessness” but in everyday speak we call it: “use it or lose it”.

In the Unexpected Journey-Life”, Ameena from Ramblings of a Random quotes:

The best day of your life is the one
on which you decide your life is your own.
No apologies or excuses.
No one to rely on, lean on, blame on.
The gift is yours-
it is an amazing journey- and you alone are responsible
for the quality of it. This is the day
your life really begins. – bob Moawad

You can read more here: https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/unexpected-journey-life/

All this thinking pressed even more buttons inside my think think think tank  and I remembered this excellent pearl of wisdom;

Education: a form of compassion.

Education: a form of compassion.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
-Maimonides

Of course, my daughter looked at this quote and pulled it to bits: “What if their fishing rod breaks?” “What if they have nowhere to cook it?” “What if they wanted to eat something else?”

Gee, I wonder why I’m going grey?

After reading the many posts which were uploaded for 1000 Speak , I am rethinking how we help others and whether we should be providing long term, intensive assistance. Instead, shouldn’t we be educating and empowering people to find ways around obstacles through education, lateral problem-solving as well as finding ways to draw out and develop their strengths, instead of only seeing weakness and what they can’t do? This way, we can all extend, stretch and become ourselves in every conceivable way instead of being stunted like a bonsai. An oak is meant to be an oak stretching its branches right across the sky. It was never meant to be a table ornament!.

Speaking as a person with a disability and when my auto immune disease flares up, I can become severely debilitated while my meds get increased to sky high levels. I sometimes get angry when I get stretched too far, especially as I have been doing this while parent two young, very active children . However, if I was never stretched, I wouldn’t grow and find out what I’m made of.  In the last few years despite these health issues, I’ve learned the violin and now play in an ensemble and I have also learned to ski. While this seems like a miracle, it was actually the result of incremental small steps, perseverance and persistence.

This seems to point to being stretched enough to challenge but not so far that we snap. Unfortunately, given the lack of support for people living with severe chronic illness or disability (by the way, anyone in the “severe” camp you could well have both) many are currently living in dire straights where even basic food and cleaning requirements are sadly lacking.

When it comes to helping people with perceived weakness, we should never assume they can’t do something, although it might be considerate to politely ask if they need a hand. I’m forever leaving my walking stick behind and am very thankful when people chase me to give it back. I have tripped, injured myself and dropped handfuls of things and appreciated assistance and lauded the “Good Samaritan”. A friend of mine has given the kids lifts to and often from school and friends have also minded the kids when I’ve had medical appointments (I have lots of these). We appreciate meals from friends or Church particularly during rough patches but I am also training my kids to cook and I am adept at cutting corners as well as doing the gourmet thing. I just choose my moments. Meanwhile, I try to give back and I photograph events at the school and write press releases to help out where I can.

After spending time with people with fairly significant physical disabilities, I have been quite surprised by what they can do both in terms of the everyday but also through incredible feats like climbing Mt Everest or completing the Kokoda Track. These achievements actually make me look twice at able bodied people wondering why so many are glued to the couch.

Moreover, when we step in and carry someone else’s load, we not only stop them from growing and reaching their God-given potential but we also stop them from developing resilience. I’m surprised that more people haven’t heard about resilience because from where I sit, it’s that  magic ingredient that allows empowers us to roll up our sleeves and get through adversity.

I loved this definition of resilience:

1.the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
2.ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

However, encouraging and nurturing people to reach their potential doesn’t mean we should cut people who are struggling off without a safety net. Without the financial means to lead a dignified life, which for many people living with chronic illness or disability means a pension. We should never be left to fend for ourselves out on the street. Some of us can’t. We might be able to find ways around hurdles or pull off significant physical challenges for some one-off quest but that is different to what it takes to maintain a full-time job day in day out…especially while juggling medical appointments and procedures which I’ve heard so many describe as “a full-time job” in themselves.

Perhaps, what I’m suggesting is that we offer a hand without taking over or accepting a gracious “no” if our assistance not required. We can also share our resources, I guess through the village which Lizzie Rogers wrote so eloquently about here: . We all have different strengths and weaknesses and by pooling our resources, we can all benefit: T.E.A.M: Together Everybody Achieves More.

At this stage, this post is very much a work-in-progress and me thinking out loud in a bloggy kind of way and so I would really appreciate your ideas and feedback as these ideas are rather complex and probably something that requires more stewing but I wanted get it posted before 1000 Voices for Compassion finally clocks off in an hour’s time.

After over-dosing on love and compassion over the last couple of weeks. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. you can’t overdose on love. Anyway, after all of this good stuff,  I’m feeling 10ft tall…a tree which has outgrown so many, many expectations.

Year after year, the cleansing rains fall and the rejuvenating sun shines through my leaves and warms my soul. My leaves change colour, fall and decay recharging the soil and feeding the worms working unseen. Children climb my twisted branches while their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles shelter under the shade of my lush, green leaves. Families of birds nest in my leaves and sing each morning greeting the dawn. Possums swing from my branches at night and sleep in my hollows by day. Falling acorns spread my mysteries to foreign shores…or at least just further down the street. Sorry, there aren’t any koalas here. I am an oak tree, not a eucalyptus.

Anyway, time waits for no one and it’s time to quickly upload this before the bell tolls.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: This is a huge and very sensitive topic I’ve bitten off and really addressed on the run. Already, I am coming up with further points.

For all of us, there is an issue of quality of life and finding ways of giving us meaning. So, if we can cut corners in some areas so we can have enough energy or finances to do what matters, that’s sensible. I know a very inspirational person living with a disability who uses a wheelchair, rides a bike and can walk somewhat. Using the chair extends what she can get done but she is still maintaining her fitness and mobility. I used to think you either used a wheelchair or you didn’t not that you could do this juggling act, which is yet another way of empowering the individual!

I also wanted to mention finances for families living with chronic illness. I would estimate that many families with either a sick parent or child are in effect living on half an income. That one parent can’t work and might get some small amount from the government and then the illness chews up the other half of the income and then there’s what’s left and you’d better snaffle that up quick before the kids get hold of it!!

 

 

Hair Wars

When it comes to gripping action and explosive conflict, The Hair Wars way out performs Star Wars. While The Hair Wars might be more of a localised conflict, what it lacks in scale, it more than compensates for in intensity. There is also plenty of “personality”, although It doesn’t have a celebrity cast. The Hair Wars can also get pretty brutal and usually results in some form of hand-to-hand combat, usually between mother and daughter.

The Hair Wars opens with an all too familiar scene:

“You’re not going anywhere looking like that!”

Of course, I’m running late juggling kids, bags, hats and possibly even the family dog, when I finally spot my daughter’s hair. Somewhere in the midst of the morning’s madness, I’d forgotten all about the hair. While I’d had pictured something of a Cindy Brady with perfect pigtails with matching bows, she’s appeared with a bird’s nest perched on top of her head. Moreover, she’s stubbornly refusing to let me brush or even touch it.

My heart’s racing and I’m struggling to breathe. It’s a heart attack. I know I am having a heart attack. This is neither my imagination nor a false alarm either. This is the real thing!

“Who is this girl? I have absolutely no idea which planet she came from! She’s certainly not my daughter. This sapling has most definitely sprouted from someone else’s seed! My daughter would have to be neat and tidy…a miniature version of my taller self.”

Ha! Please don’t split your side laughing!

If your daughter has one of those delicate, very sensitive “princess” scalps and can’t stand brushing her hair or perhaps has very fine hair which knots easily, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Just getting a brush through that hair is the proverbial “Mission Impossible”.

Last year, we had tears, screams and I even tried peeling her hands off the top of her head in my futile attempts to get the brush through it and make my daughter “respectable”. Most of the time, I lost every round of these hair wars. I can’t tell you how many times Miss wore that disgusting “bird’s nest” to school. We’d try detangler…the works. She was in tears. It really hurt. Moreover, the more she resisted, the more tangled, difficult and totally impenetrable her hair became. It was rapidly becoming the enchanted forest!

Now, I can just hear you saying that I should have cut it off. Told her that if she didn’t brush her hair and look after it, that it would go. I did try but I knew myself too well. It’s ultimately counter-productive to make threats you know that not going to carry out. I’ve always been a long hair person. My mother kept my hair short when I was her age and I resented it. How I longed for Rapunzel locks! My own childhood deprivations are, of course, what’s stopped me from dealing with Madam for far too long and shaving it all off with Geoff’s beard trimmer.

Yes, the beard trimmer was tempting especially when the nits invaded the nest. You could just imagine trying to get the nit comb through. She was infested. That battle, for better or worse, resulted in chemical warfare and thank goodness we finally disposed of those blighters. I swear the nits always arrive at the very worst possible time. Fighting nits is never easy but when my muscle disease is playing up, I can barely brush my own hair. The nit comb is out of the question and of course, there’s an absolute population explosion.

Anyway, just when I was at my wits end, a friend of mine shared a very simple solution….a $2.00 plastic blokey hair brush. She also recommended plaiting her hair before bed so it wouldn’t scruff up. I did that a couple of times but now the brush is enough. Success built up on success and she started to get the oils through her hair and for the first time possibly ever, her hair actually looks shiny and healthy. We had a miraculous breakthrough and peace almost echoed through the house.

That was round one of the hair wars resolved with a win for Mum and a win for the girl! However, like all block buster movies, there’s always a sequel.

Our sequel: “I can do it myself!”

Of course, fostering independence in your children is critical. Only last weekend, I expanded my efforts in teaching the kids how to cook to a broader effort to help them stand on their own two feet. This means doing as much as they can for themselves and stretching their abilities so they can be independent. I am not their servant and I am certainly not their slave. That said, I also need to back off and stop taking over as well. I need to let them do it. They need to have enough room to make mistakes and learn from them. It is my job to maintain some kind of portable safety barrier around the edge to prevent serious injury. Remember, we all learn best through the bumps and knocks of hardship, not through smooth sailing. Everybody needs to be challenged (Yes, that is a need NOT a want).

Of course, all these ideas are just brilliant at the inspirational, conception phase. Like many good ideas, however, implementation is the real battleground…converting “talk” into “walk”. When it comes to teaching kids a new skill, there’s a lot of planning, trying to see a task from the kid’s point of view and endless deep breathing to cope with whatever happens. I’m just saying you need to be prepared for mistakes and then going into some kind of damage control to manage the consequences. We’re talking potential catastrophes…veritable tsunamis. The sort of stuff that feels like scratching fingernails down a chalk board and you can feel every single cell in your body reacting badly. Of course, you’re no Carol Brady of any persuasion. You are trying to smile and be encouraging and yet the most inhuman of screeches passes out of your lips and your child bursts into tears: “Mummy?????!!!”

Parents aren’t perfect either.

Getting back to the hair…

I’m not that fussy and I’ve never been a girly girl. I can’t French plait or doing anything fancy. I would just like my daughter’s hair to be neat…somewhat neat. No huge bumpy bits at the back sticking out like speed humps.

You can pick when a kid does their own hair. They can see the front okay but the back is tricky. As they put the ponytail together, the top seems to buckle and goes quite bumpy. I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s like some of those home sewers when they burst with pride at their less than perfect creations: “I made it myself” and you half-smile in reply: “I know”.

It’s the same when little kids do their own hair. You just know!

All I’m trying to pull off is a simple ponytail or other acceptable up style with perhaps a few basic clips to hold down all those renegade wispy bits and infuriating growing out fringes, which only I’m sure only ever grow out in time to be cut off again.

Surely, it couldn’t be that hard?!!!!  But…

There are too many bumps. Her hair is caught in the elastic. It’s a shambles. I can’t let her go to school looking like this.

Once again, I remind myself to breathe deeply. Inhale…1,2,3,4…exhale.

As tempting as it is to grab the brush and do her hair myself, if I want her to stand on her own two feet and be independent, that means leaving that hair brush in her less than capable hand. Moreover, I’ll need to gently guide to develop eyes on the back of her head or at least find a mirror to see what they can’t see instead of snatching the brush and simply taking over. Snatching the brush might be a battle and taking over might feel like the answer but you’re actually telling your child that they aren’t good enough. That they can’t do it and they are in fact useless…all over a simple thing like doing their hair. Is this really what you’re intending to do?

For me this morning, as I was about to snatch the brush, a moment of insight suddenly hit. She can’t see the back of her head. She looks at the front and thinks she’s done a great job and she can’t actually see all those infuriating bumps and ripples that drive me mad. So I didn’t actually need to snatch away the brush and take over. She just needed her to feel the back of her head, look in the mirror and she could fix it herself. She is quite capable of doing her own hair. It just needed some refinement.

I must also point out that she is too small to see into our bathroom mirror so when it comes to getting her hair neat and tidy, she really is rather challenged. We’ve been intending to set up a low-flying mirror and we really must get around to it. Give Miss a chance.

Of course, we are only at the very beginning of the hair wars. We are still a few blissful years away from the teenage years. That said, when Miss was only six years old, I had to contend with her infatuation with blond hair. Apparently, she thought she was ugly because she doesn’t have blond hair.

This was obviously a time for a serious life lesson on the importance of acceptance if ever there was one. I thought I might as well shatter all her aspirations. It would take a bucket-load of bleach because like me, her hair really is too dark to go blond without destroying it completely…another lesson in acceptance!

A cousin of mine expanded on this theme with her teenaged daughter. Dying your hair becomes very expensive and blond hair is very high maintenance. As a young person on a young person’s wage, she had to be able to “afford herself”. I noted and filed this advice. This was a keeper.