Tag Archives: losing

Courageous Ballerinas Out In The Arena.

Courage isn’t something you usually associate with ballerinas. The usual gamut of adjectives includes: “beautiful”, “gracious”, “exquisite”, “the swan”. Yet, there’s also that sense of speechless awe. How could they possibly move like that?

However, there’s a whole other set of words which go on behind the scenes. These include: grit, sheer bloody-minded determination, perseverance, incredible organisation and impeccably presentation. I also remember a funny comment… ballerinas sweat. Indeed, they might even smell, which I still find rather hard to believe.

Of course, this is all a world away from the jewellery box ballerina I was entranced with as a little girl. I carefully turned the silver winder at the back and opened the lid. Hey presto! There she was twirling around to Love Story. I was bedazzled. In my case, my admiration didn’t perform some kind of magic and turn a clumsy elephant into a ballerina. However, I was recently reading through my old diary, and it seems a pair of dress-up ballet slippers I bought for Miss when she was three, sowed the seed of her lifelong dream.

Miss age 5.

Anyway, the reason I’m back here posting yet another photo of Miss in her ballet tutu, is that I wanted to acknowledge the latest. Last Thursday, Miss competed in the solos at the Sydney Eisteddfod for the first time. While it mightn’t be a huge deal, it’s the biggest and most prestigious eisteddfod in NSW, and an intimidating juggernaut. So, it’s a good step forward. Moreover, like everything else, the extended covid lockdowns we’ve had impacted on the Eisteddfod making this significant step all the more daunting not just for her but also for us. We’ve been living in our home bubble for so long, it’s almost too comfortable. Added to that, we live about 1-2 hours drive away depending on the traffic. So, it’s hardly next door, and it was in an unfamiliar part of Sydney. This added quite an extra layer of stress, although we had a good run and phew! There was parking on site.

Yet, what I hadn’t anticipated was that the most stressful moment of the competition -and it didn’t even involve our daughter! Indeed, it was a complete stranger. As this young woman was dancing, the satin ribbon on her pointe shoe came undone and started flapping around her ankle like an evil serpent threatening to strike.

Being the consummate professional (albeit only 16 years old), this young woman kept smiling and kept going and going. I was amazed! The entire time my eyes were glued to her and my heart was in my stomach. I was so worried she was going to trip and have a really nasty accident. It was clear everyone around me was feeling it as well. I know dance mums get a bad wrap, but there was so much love and compassion for that young woman. However, she didn’t fall, and kept working her way through her routine spinning and leaping across the stage with this infuriating ribbon dangling from her ankle. Geoff thought she was aware of where the ribbon was, but it was subtle. I congratulated her when I saw her afterwards, because I figured getting through that made her a true champion.

Meanwhile, our daughter was backstage and she had her own crisis. She suddenly heard her music playing and thought she’d missed her cue to go on. The thing is, that when you’re in a studio, the pieces of music for your dances are yours alone. It’s as good as having your name plastered on the front. You own it, and hearing that music is always your cue to go on. However, at the Sydney Eisteddfod, there were something like 60 dancers competing just in the ballet solo section alone, and quite a few dancers were using the same piece of music. So, your music wasn’t your music anymore.

I can just imagine her dealing with all of that backstage when she’s already feeling it. Hearing her music at the wrong time must’ve hit her like an electric shock. However, to be fair, while we had the big board in the auditorium clearly showing which number was next, I don’t think they had that backstage. I just saw a few people hovering with clip boards near the door, and to compound the confusion, audience was going in and out.

No doubt there were endless other overcomings throughout the day, and although they might not rate a mention on the adjudicator’s sheet, are possibly even more noteworthy.

She also competed in her lyrical solo.

As it turned out, Miss didn’t place in the competition, but she scored well and with a lot of these things, you usually clock the first one up to experience.

However, I would like to congratulate her and everybody else who enters into these competitions for putting themselves through all the stress and rigmarole and actually entering the arena.

Indeed, I like to pass on this encouraging quote from —Theodore Roosevelt
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Have you or your family been involved in dance or something similar and gone through competitions and eisteddfods? Do you have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

V- Victory…Quotes A to Z Challenge.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious

triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to

rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor

suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that

knows not victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Today, we up to the letter V and that’s a V for Victory…a phrase which some might recall from WWII and I’m looking forward to experiencing victory when I finally get this book finished and published, even though that is still a way off.

Meanwhile, with the end of the A-Z Challenge only a few days away, I am experiencing a small victory of my own. As you might’ve observed, I’d fallen well behind. However, I’ve managed to catch back up and climb back onto the wagon. I’m giving myself a small pat on the back for that!

This quote leaped out at me today, after spending a good six hours at the local Dance Eisteddfod where our daughter was competing. While I was enjoying the dancing from the front row, I observed victory, defeat and an afternoon of brilliant dancing. Not one of those dancers was hopeless. Yet, they had also raised the bar by putting themselves out there among our local best.  Their own expectations of themselves were incredibly high and they’re at a level where they’re aiming beyond perfect. Their performance also needs to have mood, feeling and that magic X-factor. There’s so much to tackle, that it’s easy to question why you’re doing it. Why didn’t you just stay home?

Indeed, that’s something I’ve asked myself as I’ve put myself through many optional challenges. Why take the hard road when there’s a chance you’ll never make it or won’t be good enough at the end?

Personally, I think that’s part of being human. That we’re meant to keep extending and over-extending ourselves and rising to the challenge rather than living the easy life. That we need a bit of struggle or resistance. That the easy life might not be the good life after all.

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the

future, and live in the only moment of time over which

you have any control: now.”

Denis Waitley

While we’d all like to win, come first, and be victorious, we usually learn more from our failures. That’s something to keep this in mind whenever we face defeat and disappointment, and at least it might lesson its sting.

Lastly, I just wanted to add that sometimes the lesson of defeat is to give up. That we don’t always have what it takes, or we don’t want to put in the required effort to reach the top. This being the case, we can either continue on a less ambitious course, or try our luck elsewhere. It wasn’t meant to be. There’s no shame in that. We’re simply shifting course.

What are your thoughts about victory and defeat? Do you have a favourite quote you’d like to share? Or, perhaps a story about how a significant defeat ultimately helped you to succeed. I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Gloat- Day 2 B& W Photo Challenge.

You have to congratulate me on today’s photo. Not because it’s particularly good and when I think of all the millions on photos on my hard drive, it wasn’t even among the best. However, I did think the Scrabble letters would translate well into black & white.

The real reason you have to congratulate me, is that I didn’t post another B & W dog photo. That I was able to pull myself away from the five beautiful dogs chewing on my socks and feet (well, make that the four pups. Lady is too busy sleeping or growling at micro pups who are still convinced this old cranky puss could still be their friend.)Yes, I was able to think about something else.

Well, I have been thinking of a few other things, such as my Irish Famine Orphan research project. I am researching and writing up the stories of around 25 young women who emigrated from Middle Workhouse, Cork to Sydney onboard the John Knox arriving in 1850. I am approaching this as a you have 25 people in the same boat and what happens when they all get out retrospective social experiment type thingy. To get to the story part, I also have to do the geneology of each woman and not having a huge budget (ie $0.00), I’m doing a lot of sifting and my head has become some kind of tabulating machine process names, dates, deaths. Or, in too many cases, being unable to find who she married and their story ends as soon as they get off the boat. That frustrates me no end, because it could well be these women who have the most exciting stories to tell if only I could find them. I am also a tenacious idiot and won’t give up long after it’s become such a cold case, it’s frozen over. BTW, my 4th Great Grandmother was one of those women hence my interest.

DSC_5696.JPG

Getting back to Scrabble, I managed to spell out GLOAT in a Scrabble match against my husband and son a few months ago. I don’t get to gloat very often when it comes to playing Scrabble against my husband but from memory, I actually won that round. My husband grew up in rural Tasmania and what with all that cold weather in the days before computers and electronics, they played a lot of Scrabble. Indeed, his mother who was a former school teacher, had a massive Webters English Dictionary they used. It’s almost the width of two house bricks.

Our 13 year old son loves playing Scrabble, and wandered into this brutal battleground. Feeling discouraged, I told him that we were training him up so when he played someone else, he’d beat them. I don’t know if that’s the sort of approach you’d find in the parenting textbook. However, my copy must’ve got lost in the mail years ago, because it’s never arrived. How about yours? Do you have one?

Anyway, I have to admit (or more like “confess”), that I was gloating when I finally beat my husband. I knew it was only because he got bad letters, and that he’d soon reclaim his crown. Yet, victory was sweet.

Do you enjoy playing Scrabble or other board games?

BTW I would like to nominate Kathy from Time No Matter to take up the Seven Day Black & White Challenge today.

xx Rowena

Sink or Swim?

This morning I felt very much like Mother Duck when our son competed at his very first swimming carnival.

Normally, I’d protest profusely and be seriously offended if anybody dared to compare me to a duck of any persuasion. While we might all admire a duck gliding effortlessly across the pond, nobody wants to think of themselves as waddling or even vaguely walking like a duck. Rumi associated ducks with gluttony, so eating like a duck isn’t very flattering either!

Where we live there are a lot of ducks and it’s not uncommon to see a mother duck crossing the road with a trail of tiny fluffy duckling behind her. We stop our cars, sometimes breaking quite suddenly to allow yet another mother duck with poor traffic judgement to cross the road. We look out for those tiny, little ducklings but we also take note that ducks don’t always make the best parents. Slowly but almost surely, the number of ducklings diminishes as 10 ducklings goes down to 8 then 6 and then maybe 5 and by the time the ducklings are adolescent, there might only be one or two left. It’s very rare to spot a mother duck with a grown up tribe of “ducklings”.

Anyway, as I said this morning I felt very much like Mother Duck when I sent my son off to his first school swimming carnival and I wanted to ensure my little duckling came home.

You see, my son was signed up to swim 50 metres freestyle and backstroke and it was being held in the big 50 metre pool. He is only eight years old, almost nine and he’s only really swum in this pool once before. That was when he was attempting to complete a 600 metre swim for Nippers and he conked out after 100 metres unable to breathe. We’re still not really sure why he couldn’t breathe but he does get asthma. Not knowing the cause, made it really difficult to know whether he should swim in the carnival or not and I felt I had justified concerns.

Being a school swimming carnival, there were the usual permission slips to sign and this one was quite clear. To compete, your child had to be able to swim 50 metres in racing conditions. You had to actually tick that box and sign on the dotted line. That I’m sure that constitutes a legal document so naturally I took that fairly seriously. I was putting my son’s safety on the line and I didn’t want to get it wrong.

At the same time, I knew that if I did make an error of judgement, that the teachers would fish him out of the water. That was a no brainer. Yet, there was still that element of doubt.

Not that I was catastrophising!

In 2008, a child actually drowned on a school pool excursion in the Blue Mountains and in March last year there was a near drowning at a school swimming carnival in Canberra. I’m sure those teachers loved those students every bit as much as our teachers love our kids. Even with the very best systems and procedures in place, things can go wrong. You just ask those poor mother ducks. I’m sure they thought they were taking fabulous care of their precious little ducklings as they slowly disappeared one by one!

I also have to admit that I didn’t take to water like a duck myself. I thought I was going to drown in the school pool. Admittedly, I was going for my Bronze Medallion and I had to swim a very long way fully clothed and I also have asthma. It was by no means a standard swim but I forgot all of those details while sitting beside the pool having a mild panic attack. I could see my poor little duckling sinking to the very bottom of the pool.

Breathe Ro! Breathe!

Yes, I know I wasn’t swimming but just watching Mister was becoming very, very stressful!

Anyway, we decided to test Mister out on the weekend and give him a bit of practice. We had tried to get into the 50 metre pool to have a run through before the carnival. However, the pool was closed so we headed round to a friend’s pool instead. This was when we found out Mister wasn’t taking his breaths, which could well account for his breathing troubles. So like a true blue swim coach, I was strutting up and down beside the pool: “1…2 breathe. 1… 2 breathe.” It wasn’t easy for him but he completed his 50 metres so we decided to let him compete.

At the same time, we decided to keep the whole thing very low key. We just encouraged him to finish. Anything more was a bonus. Whenever he started talking about getting a place, we gently brought him back. It’s not that we wanted to set low expectations and for him not to try but we just didn’t want him to be disappointed. We really had no idea how he was going to go.

I had been hopeful but this morning, he woke me up with a dreadful foghorn cough and it sounded like he had asthma, croup or both. This didn’t bode well for the big swim and I was feeling more and more protective and concerned. Things weren’t looking good. Should he compete? I was even wondering whether he should be staying home although I said nothing.

But he was really excited and went off to school really, really looking forward to the big carnival. I arrived a bit earlier at the pool and saved him a seat. I do the publicity for the school and much of the photography.

I have to admit that while I was waiting there beside the pool, that 50 metre pool seemed to get bigger and bigger and bigger. It was huge. I couldn’t imagine swimming the full length of it myself let alone an 8 year old. I was pretty sure that I could only dog paddle when I was his age. These were huge expectations and I felt like scooping up my little duckling and taking him well away from the ocean. This pool was no pond!

But I restrained myself and tried to be encouraging!

While I was waiting, I also realised that I was only an arm’s length from the edge of the pool and could jump in, even fully clothed, if necessary. I know this probably sounds a little crazy but I was on red alert. Make that red alert with a flashing light. I was going to be a good mother duck! My little duckling was going to come out of this swim alive!

Meanwhile, Mister was really excited and was really looking forward to the swim. I know you’re not supposed to run beside the pool but as he was called off to the marshalling area, he was running…just a little bit.

Mister is eight almost nine years old. He is quite capable of crossing a road unassisted and he is able to swim. He is starting to become independent. I am quite happy to let him go most of the time but when it came to this swimming carnival, I just found that I wanted to wrap him up in layers and layers of bubble wrap. As far as I’m concerned, it’s times like this that you have every justification for being a helicopter parent and zooming in right up close to make sure your little duckling isn’t going to drown. That’s just being sensible. I would have felt much more comfortable with him only swimming in the novelty races but he wanted to be stretched. He had shown that he was capable of making the distance. We just didn’t know how his breathing would go

As much as I wanted to protect him, I also knew that parenting is also about letting go. Giving your child enough space to grow, develop and become their own person. Sometimes, you have to take a deep breath, or two or three and all you can do is wave to your little duckling, who really isn’t quite so little anymore and wish them good luck. You are watching by the sidelines or even from home or from work. You can’t keep holding their hand forever.

The race is about to start and I now notice he is in the far lane and so I get out of my seat to take the photos. I am watching the race through the eye of my zoom lens and I am almost right beside the pool. Not to jump in to save him but to get a good shot. I have momentarily relaxed.  I am now the proud Mum and I want to capture this moment forever!

So there I was poised beside the pool with my zoom lens when my heart sinks once again as he climbs up onto the blocks to dive. I was so proud but very fearful. The blocks weren’t that big but they looked big enough and he seemed quite small up there. It was like he was made of glass and he could shatter any minute. These thoughts all seems quite silly in retrospect but I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was his Mum and my little duckling was about to launch into his first swim and anything was possible.

“On your marks, get set…” The whistle blew. I was watching him through the zoom lens and he was keeping pace with the other boys. He was actually swimming quite well and he wasn’t even coming last. I felt a surge of pride and even started to wonder whether he could actually get a place. His stroke was looking good and he was powering through the water. I noticed he was also remembering to breathe. “Good boy! Well done!”

The next thing I knew he was being pulled out of the pool. Not being rescued but at about the halfway mark, he pulled out and was looking a bit short of breath. He was pretty upset… guttered even. He had really wanted to get a place or at least finish but he didn’t make it. I could feel his pain and was pleased to be there with him and him a hug. He hadn’t finished but he had kept pace and I certainly wouldn’t describe him as a bad swimmer. I congratulated him on getting halfway and for having a go.

It was now all about “having a go”.

His friends and other parents were also very encouraging and it was good to see him warm up and slowly feel proud of his efforts. It turned out that a lot of kids in his age group didn’t compete so he actually went quite well!

Now back at the relative safety of my laptop, Mother Duck is feeling quietly more confident about letting her duckling venture out that bit further next time knowing he’s going to be okay…even if he doesn’t make the distance!

I should also say that the school was exceptionally well prepared and were very safety conscious. There were teachers with rescue float thingies walking beside both sides of the pool and I was pretty sure all the teachers had eyes all over their heads. They were very capable and extremely vigilant. As much as I was anxious, the teachers always  had my absolute trust. I knew he’d be fine but that’s the logical left-brain talking and I’m very right-brained.

Working on this post has made me wonder whether I might have been catastrophising just a little…

Anyway, somehow we both managed to survive his first swimming carnival. I’d say we both deserve a gold medal!

xx Rowena

PS I edited this bit out when I was writing my post and thought I should put it back in. When I filled out the permission slip, I actually attached a note about Mister’s breathing problems and then mentioned it when I saw his teacher. At this point, I thought putting him in a lane at the edge of the pool would be a good precaution. That worked well because when he stopped, it was easy for the teacher to help him out of the pool. There was no big drama or rescue. He had a go!

I have also since spoken to his swimming instructor. Apparently, he was swimming too fast in his lesson this week and he needs to slow down a bit at this stage to finish…ie slow and steady wins the race.

As much as I sound like a nervous Nellie in this post, I was pretty together because I had taken these precautions. That still doesn’t mean your heart doesn’t flutter when your boy swims in his first carnival.