Tag Archives: motivation

The Importance of My New Hair Cut!

Since every human and their dog is giving life lessons these days, I thought I’d share my latest little piece of wisdom.

Neglect your hair long enough and when you finally get it cut, you’ll look like an absolute movie star!

I should know. My transformation’s been so dramatic, I’m off to Hollywood. Move over Nicole! Trouble has arrived!

Not that I intentionally neglected my crowning glory. Indeed, after all the wows I’d had after my last haircut and being told I looked ten years younger, I can’t believe I let it go. Indeed, I should’ve booked straight in for my next appointment before I’d even left the salon. “See you in six weeks”, instead of turning up six months later.

Why is it so?

Indeed, to be precise…why wasn’t it so?

How should I know? What makes you think I have all the answers? Don’t be silly! I was only given the questions. Someone else, only goodness knows where, has all the answers. That’s their responsibility.

However, there’s one question I can answer.

That is, why did I finally get my hair cut today when I’d managed to avoid it for so long?

DSC_9519.JPG

Straight from the salon….an SLR Selfie. Not ideal!

I mean any sane, normal person gets their haircut for Christmas and for my role as Stage Mum. There was her big audition for The Sound of Music, her appearance in School Spectacular (albeit as a speck in a huge choir) and the end of year concerts. Aren’t I supposed to dress the part as well, darling?!!

Well, apparently my script got lost in the mail. Or, so I believe!

My hair was sadly and repeatedly neglected. Indeed, you could say that I barely even knew it was there but I’m sure I would’ve known if it wasn’t. At least, EVENTUALLY!

My justification is that if I could’ve dropped my hair off at the dry cleaners and picked it up that afternoon, I would have done it. Moreover, it wasn’t my fault that my hairdresser moved and I couldn’t quite find her again. As we all know, changing hairdressers is more serious than swapping lovers because nobody else quite knows how to cover up all those things you’re covering up in quite the same way. Do they?!!

Sorry! Yet again, I digress.

There is one very simple reason that I’ve had my haircut this week.

kids school uniform

The ghosts of school years’ past. The kids in their old uniforms.

It’s called the start of the New SCHOOL Year. With the start of the new school year, I’m putting my best foot forward and leaving that other foot well and truly left behind. I know I’ve just given a perfect description of the splits but I’m still hopeful.

As we all know, you can ride your moral high horse through New Year’s Eve and renounce New Year’s resolutions. However, you can’t get away with such outright rebellion or   even apathy, when it comes to your New SCHOOL Year Resolutions.

You see, schools have not only invented reports to test the students and keep them accountable, they’re also for the parents. I’m not saying that you get marked when you do your kid’s project because as we all know, you didn’t do it. You let your kid sink or swim through their own efforts. All you did was provide a set of floaties, a life raft, a bucket hat and some sunscreen. That’s right. You might also have set flags up at the beach and gone on surf patrol. No! You’re definitely not that interfering parent!

No! It’s your job as parent to provide the optimal conditions for your kid to reach their ultimate potential and if you can give them a rocket boost along the way, why not?

However, while you might hear about parents’ hot-housing their kids, what you don’t hear about quite so much is how parents’ sabotage their kid’s future through neglect, disorganisation, mis-management and all the usual things you find in your average workplace or home.

I don’t want to be that parent.

I also don’t want to be that parent who has let themselves go either. Not that I need to be that fashion plate exuding wealth and success but there’s a happy medium.

Indeed, when the kids start at their new schools this week, we just want to blend in with the Joneses…no more, no less.

However, that in itself takes an incredible amount of work behind the scenes and definitely no dashing back into town the night before like we used to.

This year we have lists on lists on lists and yet I still have that awful sinking feeling that I’ve forgotten something.

This afternoon as I was catching the train back from Sydney, I ended up writing about three poems about having the guts to believe in myself. Know I can do this because I can. I know I can! I am prepared. We are prepared and now all we need to do is make the final preparations. It’s not that hard. The kids have been going to school in some capacity for seven years. Although the schools have changed and high school is a whole new ball game, we can do this and I know it. I have to switch off that annoying little voice which keeps trying to undermine me and stand tall. I also have to stop it running completely amok throwing things all around the room and cowering in the corner. Let my stronger, more sensible self prevail.

So, I had my haircut. My new haircut may or may not win friends and influence people but it’s helped me feel better. More organised. On the ball. That has to be worth something.

Now, we just need to get the kids’ haircuts organised. BUT first things first…

I’m sure you know what I mean!

Or, perhaps your kids have never scratched their scruffy heads!

Something to look forward to…or maybe not!

Yet, these indestructible critters seem to be a hidden bonus of “community”. Hugging friends, feeling your child rest their head on your shoulder while reading a book and knowing the nits are on the march but reading on regardless.

They’re a sign of true love!

If you have kids going back to school soon, I wish you all the best for the New School Year!

May the Force be with you!

xx Rowena

May the force be with you

A Magical New Year!

Being the New Year, I’ll need to reintroduce myself now that I’ve lost weight, finally become chocolate and sugar-free and have been exercising with such focused determination that I can now do the four minute mile straight up a vertical hill.

Of course, I’m doing all this while juggling husband, kids, dogs, home renovations and simply pressing the almighty “Write” button on my laptop and hey presto, the long awaited Book Project is not only finished, it’s been published. I’m now touring the globe on my book tour.

Darlings, this isn’t just your average ordinary book tour. Not free appearances at suburban libraries where you’ve got to be thankful that they’ve stocked your book so your audience can borrow it for free.

No, we’re talking Prime Time TV, the glossies,  newspapers and of course, there’s a movie in the pipeline.

All this magically happened when the clock struck midnight and a little bird poked it’s head out through the door and said: “cuckoo!”

Reality check!

Rather…

cinderella 2

Cinderella woke up with a nasty bang on the head. Still had all her age-old bad habits intact. No weight loss. No new found fitness. Indeed, the evidence was telling. There was even a half-eaten box of chocolates by her side, which she promptly scoffed with a burp.

AND…there definitely was no a magic wand!

Just her self.

Billy Field – Bad Habits

When I get the urge
I just got to splurge
I’m a slave to all my desires
Well I’m in a mess
Because I can’t repress all of these
Bad habits

 

These bad habits are the downside of persistence!

After all, Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, in 2016 I’m committed to change.

Yet, while identifying where you are and where you’d like to be is a good start, more importantly you need to work out HOW you’re going to get from A to B. What is it going to take? I’m talking about the nitty gritty.

No more thinking, writing, talking, philosophising about it.

Just do it!

Problem – Solution.

So, “running on time” starts looking something like:

  1. Buy a new watch.
  2. Use an alarm.
  3. Use a diary/calendar.
  4. Make lunch the night before

Unfortunately, if your bad habits are anything like mine, you’ll have quite a lot of work to do. Feeling overwhelmed, it’s all too easy to give up before you even get started.

So, instead of trying to build Rome in a day, choose one thing and get moving. Even if you only move a a few degrees away from where you started, things have changed. You’re heading in a different direction.

Our New Year’s project involves renovating our son’s bedroom. He’s about to start high school, which is a time where you particularly want them to feel comfortable to home and for their room to become some kind of oasis. He’ll be studying out in the office or kitchen most likely but he’ll still need to make space for his books etc. We also want to his room to be his happy place where he can unwind and process stuff.

DSC_9124.JPG

Our Boy Scout Leaving home in FULL uniform at 4.30 this morning.

This morning, he left for the Scout Jamboree and will be gone for 12 days. We ran the colour scheme by him beforehand and have cleared his room out, sugar-soaped the walls and plastered a few nasty spots and will be undercoating tomorrow. He’ll have light blue walls, white trim and door a couple of red shelves. It will be a vast improvement.

I am hoping that being better organised and having a space which he’ll love and take pride in, will be good for his self-esteem. Help him feel loved. We are certainly working hard enough. It’s a lot of hard work and we don’t have a TV crew helping us out. Of course, we could ask for some help but you can’t fit a lot of people in the room either. We’d easily end up painting each other and tripping over the dogs all at once.

Meanwhile, the dogs are looking rather put out. We’ve moved most of Mister’s things into the lounge room and their space has shrunk dramatically. I think Bilbo is seriously thinking of taking over Mister’s room. Thinks it’s a wonderful kennel with its garden views…a great vantage point for keeping an eye out for the postman, garbage truck, anyone on a bike and anyone who dares walk their dog past our house. As you could appreciate, he has a long list of things which he considers “intruders”.

I am still putting together my goals and strategies for 2016. With both kids starting at different new schools, once they get settled, I’ll have a better idea of where I’m placed. It’s an important year for them and I’m more than happy to work around them. That said, they’re expected to work. They have been having quite an easy run but you’ve got to start growing up, taking responsibility and being part of the team some time.

Although getting the kids more organised isn’t directly working on my own goals, it will make a phenomenal difference if I’m not chasing their missing tails!

Shock horror! I might even manage to get from A to B.

Oh what a feeling!

How is the New Year going in your household?

Well, I hope. It doesn’t all have to be about making plans either. Lounging beside the pool drinking cocktails should never be scoffed at!

Love & Best Wishes!

xx Rowena

PS: If you’d like to see the Sydney Fireworks, click here:

Sydney Fireworks: A Prelude to Midnight: How we spent NYE:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/sydney-fireworks-a-prelude-to-midnight/

Sydney’s Magnificent Midnight Fireworks:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/happy-new-year-sydney/

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re also generally trying to downsize a bit and create some space for future growth. Otherwise, we’re all just going to end up stunted. It’s like trying to grow and expand inside a sardine tin. It’s just not going to happen.

 

 

The Wisdom of Christopher Robin: Quotes Day 3

“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”.

A.A. Milne- Christopher Robin.

The real Christopher Robin and Poo9h Bear.

The real Christopher Robin and Poo9h Bear.

I really had to put a bit of thought into choosing my last quote for this challenge. Being a lover of motivational quotes, I naturally have quite a swag to choose from.

Lately, I’ve really become conscious of just how much most of us under-estimate our abilities, sell ourselves short and ultimately kill off all sorts of opportunities far better than any bully ever could.

Knowing we have this responsibility is liberating in a sense but also a heavy load. Despite the twists and turns of fate, the many ups and downs, setbacks and disappointments, we are often much more capable than we realise.

This is why I also love the song: “Try”: While this song might havfe been about love, it’s subsequently been used to represent just about any challenge.

But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

-“Try” by Pink. www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTCDVfMz15M

Many thanks to our friend Melinda from purpleslobinrecovery, who has nominated us for this Challenge. Melinda blogs about her journey from slob to clean queen, and her ongoing battle with the Clutter Fairies, who we think must be related to the Slapstyx Goblins!

Thank you to Annabelle Franklin from https://annabellefranklinauthor.wordpress.com/ who nominated me for the challenge.

Rules of the Challenge

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you
  • Publish 3 quotes on 3 consecutive days on your blog. It can be your own, or from a book, movie or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers to carry on this endeavour

I would like to nominate:

  1. A Momma’s View: https://amommasview.wordpress.com/
  2. Alex Hurst: http://alex-hurst.com/
  3. Diana at Part-Time Monster http://parttimemonster.com/

I hope you’ve all enjoyed these quotes and felt uplifted by them. Now, it’s time to actually pump them through the heart and convert them into some form of action…even change.

Good luck!

xx Rowena

Grappling With Fear… the Making of Courage.

What is your greatest fear?

Today, we move onto the second question in the Proust Questionnaire, a tool many writers use to develop their character’s back story. Since I am the main character of the Book Project, I am going through the Proust Questionnaire myself and loving it.

While there are times most of us might struggle with even the concept of happiness (question 1), I’m sure most of us know fear. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, you could be well have your very own A-Z of fears, which you could could rattle off in a jiffy.

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

When I first started thinking about fear, I started revisiting those dreadful moments where I was completely paralyzed and clearly an emotional wreck. However, the more I worked through fear, I came to appreciate that fear is an inherent ingredient in its flip side…courage.

After all, without fear we can not be brave.

Consequently, instead of denigrating fear as an emotion and seeing it as purely negative, we can also re-brand it as a positive, uplifting emotion. That through embracing fear, challenge and overcoming hurdles, we find our inner strength and experience personal growth.

Getting back to answering the question at hand, of course, I could easily give you a simple one or two word response but where’s the fun in that? As much as I don’t really feel like exploring fear in all it’s goosepimpled glory, looking fear in the face and really feeling those emotions, that is the essence of writing.Immersing yourself into the character, the experience until you live and breathe through it’s heart, lungs and soul.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

After all, writing, good writing, is not about skating over the top of the iceberg. No, it’s about diving deep and dealing with the unexpressed, the hard to comprehend, those feelings which are so incredibly painful that any sane sole would stay well and truly away. Yet, we plow on. We can’t leave those pages unturned…despite the personal cost!

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.”

Christopher Reeve

While I posted a wide range of photos to show my happiest moments, my most fearful moments haven’t really been photographed and even if they were, they wouldn’t necessarily show the inner mechanics of fear which are perhaps concealed behind a seemingly calm veneer, a nervous smile or talking a thousand miles an hour to somehow calm my nerves.

However, when I truly think of fear, utter panic and all those alarm bells going off at once, there’s no greater representation of that enormous fear than Munch’s: The Scream. I actually have it near my desk, waiting to be framed and stuck on the wall. You see, I know that scream, the freak out very, very well.

Yet, although fear is portrayed as a bad thing and something to be avoided, fear is also part of any new experience, especially one which really stretches and challenges us, taking us out of our comfort zones creating growth.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

One of my greatest personal triumphs was skiing down Perisher’s Front Valley with my ski instructor despite having a life-threatening, disabling auto-immune disease which attacks my muscles and lungs. I still remember standing at the top of the mountain gripping onto the edge by the skin of my toes, totally overwhelmed by a tsunami of fear. At the same time, I’d joined up with the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association and my instructor was well-trained and experienced at enabling people like me to ski as independently as possible but with support. Probably the very worst part of it was looking over the edge and seeing how small the village was down below and how the car park was full of “ants” and I felt like I was about to fly off the edge of a cliff into abyss.

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

TS. Eliot

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

Vincent Van Gogh

Eventually, after a few falls and needing to stop to catch my breath, we arrived at the bottom. It didn’t feel like the exuberant triumph I’d expected but I’d pulled off my dream. Fulfilled a goal. Moreover, as much as I was afraid, I didn’t let that fear stop me from truly living. From seizing the day with both hands and swinging from the chandelier, even if my joy was, at best, subdued.

At the same time, I must confess that I haven’t skied down Front Valley a second time. That view from the top and the steepness of the slope was too much but I’ve subsequently skied through Happy Valley a few times and this time decided not to look down. Plus, my instructors carried my skis and boots back while I could the chairlift. (So you don’t have to go through fearful situations alone!)

“Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

I was also terrified when I was having my first session of chemo. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it’s pretty scary having toxic stuff pumped into your veins…even if it is in a hospital. I half expected my veins to blow up, which naturally didn’t happen and I didn’t throw up or lose my hair either. I was suddenly somehow “lucky”.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

However, another important aspect of going through fear and surviving those nasty experiences is that we develop resilience and we start developing the skills and attitudes which enable us to overcomes adversity not just now and then but every day. After all, life is all about tackling ups and downs and standing only makes you stagnant.

“By adversity are wrought the greatest works of admiration, and all the fair examples of renown, out of distress and misery are grown.”

Samuel Daniel

So, even when fear is completely and utterly justifiable in a situation, the monstrous picture your imagination paints is often far worse than reality and you somehow manage not only to survive but feel a bit victorious…a real sense of achievement.

“To him who is in fear everything rustles.”

Sophocles

Phobias are a different story. A phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. Phobias come in all shapes and sizes but spiders, snakes, mice, heights are a few classics. While it is good to have a healthy respect for deadly critters(trust me Australia has more than its share of these!!), being terrified of these things and letting them get in the way of living is a different story.

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them”.

Andre Gide

Jaws...even the theme music inspired dread.

Jaws…even the theme music inspired dread.

At the same time, fear can also be protective and what might be a phobia can also be a real and very life-threatening. It’s not something to simply shrug off and ignore. I’ve never been scared of sharks but lately there’s been a string of shark attacks on Australia’s East Coast. Indeed, there’s been 13 shark attacks in New South Wales in 2015*. We’ll be off to Byron Bay again soon, which is right near a few of these attacks and it really is questionable whether we should swim in these shark infested waters. Do we love swimming that much? I don’t think so but I will seek local advice when we get there. To me, this is just being sensible…the same way I would go swimming with croco9diles in the Northern Territory.

“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.”

Rabindranath Tagore

The more I considered fear, the more I came to realise that fear was also coupled with courage, especially when we face our fears, instead of fleeing to the hills. Being prepared, having some training, tools etc obviously increases the likelihood of victory and a good outcome.

“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

What are your thoughts about fear and the interplay between fear and courage?

xx Rowena

Sources:

https://taronga.org.au/conservation/conservation-science-research/australian-shark-attack-file/2015

19,963 Views…The Countdown to 20,000 Is On!!

No doubt, we have all experienced that sense as bloggers, that we are only talking to ourselves and that no one is reading our stuff at all.
Well, late last year, I finally clocked up 10,000 views on Beyond the Flow and the possibility of reaching 20,000 views felt like a pipe dream.

However, in the last 6 months, I have managed to build up those 10,000 views which had taken me two years to build up before. That is such a wonderful feeling…a real breakthrough. Sure, it’s not shooting a rocket into space or being the first woman to walk upon the moon but for me it’s a blast. Indeed, I’m so excited that I wanted to share this final countdown with you. You who aren’t just “my readers” because this place is more of a community and a sharing of words and ideas…a pond.

So, I wanted you to be thinking of me as the countdown continues and I’m thinking today could indeed be the day.

I can’t wait. Hang on. There’s a champagne cork heading your way!

xx Rowena

Blank Parenting

Yesterday, I was pretty stoked when I put a white board up in my son’s room. This wasn’t a new idea. Indeed, their whiteboards have been stacked up on top of each other in our kitchen no doubt sprouting cobwebs after I’d appropriated them for my writing.

Yes, like so many best intentions, the whiteboards had been derailed and I guess you could say that the track crew has been leaning on their shovels for more then an extended lunch break!

Anyway, there was just one unexpected hitch. What on earth was I going to put on it?

What with this empty white board screaming out at me,  my mind went blank in what was probably a rare case of writer’s block.

Of course, I could’ve just left it up to him. After all, it is HIS room, HIS whitebard and ultimately “HIS life”.

But, no man is an island…especially a child who is still growing up and needing, at the very least, a bit of steering if not a total re-direction. If your kids play Minecraft of similar no further explanation is required!!

Fed up raving at the kids like a rabid dog,  I was tempted to simply repeat the list of actions which has been laminated and parked on the kitchen table to ticked off.

However, I also wondered whether I should write some encouraging messages on it. That it should be a happy board, not a grumpy one.

I ev en wondered whether writing “I love you” would probably have a much better impact than “make your bed, tidy your room. Have you done your homework? Stop hitting your sister!” Don’t you think?!!

Besides, if he feels loved, he might just do all of the above because he feels valued, appreciated and wants to be part of the team.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I’m sceptical too!

Yet, as much as you might be loved, what matters is that you feel loved and too often that gets lost in the translation. So, a few reminders, even if they seem a little cheesy, wouldn’t go astray.

At this point, I started to wish Mr Squiggle was still around and he could come and help me out. He’d know exactly what to do. As for me, I’m still feeling overwhelmed because, like so many of us, I am so caught up with getting it right.Indeed, too right and dare I mention the p word… perfectionistic!

Mr Squiggle...I still love the little guy. He was incredible!

Mr Squiggle…I still love the little guy. He was incredible!

If you are not Australian or of a certain age, you won’t have heard of Mr Squiggle. So, here’s a quick introduction.

Mr Squiggle was a marionette with a pencil for a nose, who visited his friends from his home at 93 Crater Crescent on the Moon, flying in his pet rocket (named Rocket). Mr Squiggle was a cheery, scatter-brained character who would often be distracted and would occasionally go for “space-walks”, and his assistant would need to calm him down to get him to focus on the task of drawing.

Mr. Squiggle was created by Norman Hetherington, and the character first appeared on the Children’s TV Club on ABC TV but was spun off into his own programme which first aired on 1 July 1959. Children wrote in with their “squiggles” and Mr. Squiggle would turn them into recognisable drawings by connecting lines with his pencil nose. More often than not, the picture would be drawn upside down and then Mr. Squiggle would gleefully declare: “Upside down! Upside down!” – asking his assistant to turn the picture the right way up and reveal the completed drawing.

The last episode went to air just over 40 years after the first, on 9 July 1999.

So, inspired by Mr Squiggle, I could draw Mister a picture. I could even draw a picture of him. He’d love that and indeed, he’d probably like to draw on there himself. Have some fun!

I could also say I love you.

Moreover, being an 11 year old boy, I also opted for a joke:

“What does a computer do when it’s too hot?”
“It opens Windows”.

I am also going to write important reminders on there. Not just pick up your putrid socks and undies and put them in the basket but “Scouts Tonight”.

If all of this fails, I might just have to resort to employing Mr Squiggle’s enigmatic co-star, Bill blackboard. Bill, who was a rather grumpy, cantankerous character who contrasted well with Mr Squiggle’s friendly, dithering creativity, could well have been the inspiration behind Grumpy Cat and certainly could use a motivational coach.This grumpy blackboard’s catch phrase was: “Hurry Up”.

The rather cantankerous Bill Blackboard.

The rather cantankerous Bill Blackboard.

I hate to admit it but Bill Blackboard could well be impersonating me on a weekday morning!!

Anyway, here’s my end product:

The finished Whiteboard: a joke, a drawing and love from Mummy!

The finished Whiteboard: a joke, a drawing and love from Mummy!

The joke went down very well but when my daughter saw it, she said my writing was too big and it didn’t have anything he needed to do on it. So, Miss 9 was instructed to re-do it but leave my picture alone. This was her contribution:

I should have waited for Miss 9 to get home from school. She did a great job with the whiteboard. She even added the date.

I should have waited for Miss 9 to get home from school. She did a great job with the whiteboard. She even added the date.She left my drawing alone.

All this goes to show that I can take a mole hill and turn it into a mountain and truly stress myself out in the process. It also shows that I need to consult the kids more in the decision-making process and that they can make some veryt useful contributions. After all, they’re growing up!

By the way, in a previous post I wrote about moving on some of the toys the kids have outgrown to make way for growth. Although the car bed is still parked in the lounge room, the dolls’ house left today. I am not only proud of Miss for being able to let it go but she also used her knowledge of knots from cub scouts to tie the dolls’ house on my friend’s roof racks. Well done! Very impressed!

xx Rowena

N is for Neuroplasticity: Changing Your Life.

Welcome to N for neuroplasticity on the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme for the challenge is: A Few of My Favourite Things and while neuroplasticity might seem left-field, I really want you to follow me on this journey because the power of neuroplasticity has radically changed my life and understanding how it works, can help you as well. You can read an overview of my journey in my About page here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can appreciate that neurplasticity might sound intimidating and be a trigger to flick to another blog, it is not as complex or mentally challenging as you might think. Nor is it some wafty, unproven fad. It’s a proven, scientific process, which has been championed by Canadian psychiatrist, Dr Norman Doidge through his two books: The Brain which Changes Itself and The Brain’s way of Healing.

In other words, it’s not a fairy story.

Neuroplasticity is really quite a simple concept when you explain it properly and when you harness its strength, you like me, will experience absolutely miraculous change. Unfortunately, you will still experience those “stubborn mules” which prove stubbornly resistant. However, at least, you know you’ve done your best to try and move them!

From what I’ve learned about neuroplasticity, we shouldn’t just be teaching kids the 3Rs but also how we learn. Some basics on how the brain works such as “use it or lose it” and how “practice perfects”. That our success or failure is based less on innate talent than hard work and that it takes a lot of hours…at least 10,000 to be precise, to even have a chance of making it to the top of our field. That success just doesn’t arrive on a silver platter.

Of course, some people have been blessed with bigger, faster engines but if they leave them in the shed, they’ll soon be overtaken by apparent snail power and left behind.

If you and your kids can get a grasp on how this works, you’ll never look back. You’ll still have ups and downs but you will be more empowered and skilled-up to tackle them more effectively. There’s little doubt you’ll be working harder but I guarantee you that whatever you apply yourself to, will see results. It’s as simple as:

1+1 = 2

It’s not rocket science.

Perhaps, the simplicity of it all is what stops people from having a go. We’d much rather put our faith in a much more complicated, mystical route than sticking to potentially tedious, repetitious practice and hard work…going over and over and over our mistakes until we have overcome them and “got it”.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

Diagram showing brain activation while playing the violin.

As a musician, I’ve experienced this first hand. Instead of playing my favourite sections of a piece over and over again, my teacher gets me reworking the rough bits and playing them over and over again. She doesn’t say: “Play it again, Sam”. Being somewhat of a slavedriver, albeit a very nice one, she says: “I want you to play that section 10-20 times a day to get it right”. This sort of detailed practice is quite foreign to me as I just want to get up there and play, especially to an audience but you can’t do that straight away. It might be a year’s worth of practice on that one piece of music to bring it to the level of perfection where it can be performed. That’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes. However, once I have reached that long-awaited moment of victory, it’s like nothing else. A real eureka moment and I’m running down the street naked like Archemedes carrying my violin. Well, not quite but you get my drift!

What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. He writes “that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!” Indeed, our brain is constantly remoulding and fine-tuning itself.

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

Neuroplasticity and Acceptance.

At the start of 2012 after a serious health scare, I set a personal challenge. I applied neuroplasticity to the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

-Reinhold Niebuhr

You see, since forever, people have been telling me to accept things and quoted that prayer. Yet,  the trouble was that I simply didn’t know what I could change and what I had to accept and that’s what I decided to put to the test. I didn’t really set out with any clear cut goals but I was needing to lose some weight, which is a tough call when you’re taking prednisone AKA the “fat drug”.

It was during this time that I heard about brain plasticity and also the 10,000 hour rule and so what I was starting to appreciate was that I wasn’t set in stone. That all these words I used to describe myself, both the good and the bad, weren’t indeed words tattoed on my forehead which couldn’t be changed. They were more like stepping stones or train stops on a journey. I didn’t have to stay there. I could apply a bit of elbow grease and I could move on. Indeed, I was now in the driver’s seat and with the accelerator pushed to the floor, I was flying.

That was until I drove straight into pneumonia followed by a flare up of my auto-immune disease, which really was attacking my lungs this time and threatening my very existence.

Yes, neuroplasticity couldn’t fix everything.

However, my lungs have also responded to the same kind of repetitive practice and hard work which I’d applied to practicing my violin, except in this case I focused on building up my healthy lung cells instead of focusing on the damage and limitations. My lung volumes have since increased from a recorded low of 43% to 62% and are currently stable. In a sense it was a miracle and also the result of medical intervention but it also takes ongoing hard work.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to start walking before that all important tide comes in and puts me out of business.

Living in a tidal zone really reinforces the need to carpe diem seize the day because “the tide waits for no (hu)man.”

Xx Rowena

PS When school goes back next week, I’ll be having to reacquaint myself with my violin. It has been rather neglected of late and I don’t want to lose the progress I’ve made!!

Sources

http://www.normandoidge.com/

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

Accepting the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award

I would like to thank Phoebe from Musings of  Puppydoc http://phoebemd.com/2015/01/05/blog-awards/ for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Bloggers Award.

I was so stoked to receive this award because after all my trials and tribulations, I would like to be able to inspire others to claw their way forward when they go through periods of adversity. If you are ever going through a phase of darkness, know that the sun never sets. That it’s always shining. It’s just they we don’t see it.

Three favourite quotes which have inspired me through times of hardship are:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Calvin Coolidge

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

― Kahlil Gibran

The last quote came from our son’s pre-school teacher. Early childhood had some difficult moments, particularly due due my debilitating health which saw me hospitalised for 7 weeks when Mister was 3 and Miss was 18 months old. Initially, I would cynically snigger to myself that tomorrow would just bring more of the same but the reality was actually quite different. One day actually could be quite different to another.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

The Sun Set Byron Bay

Sun Set Byron Bay

Three things which have inspired me this week or in recent times are:

1) I heard TV interviews with the hostages who survived the terrorist siege in Sydney’s Lindt Cafe in Martin Place and I was incredibly touched and moved by their courage, survival skills and endurance. There were so many inspirational stories but I was particular moved by the thoughfulness of Marcia Mikhael who calm down two of the younger hostages when they had panic attacks and talked through through some relaxation and meditation techniques to calm them down. She also swapped places with them and moved from a very good vantage point where she could have escaped to being next to the gunman.

2) The outpouring of grief and compassion after the terrorist attacks in Martin Place, Sydney and in Paris. It was inspirational to see how good triumphed over evil.

3) I have signed up to be a part of a global blogging movement called #One Thousand Voices Speak for Compassion. where we will write a post about compassion on 20th February, 2015 …the International UN Day of Social Justice. Read more herehttps://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

You will find that many of the bloggers I have nominated live with chronic and serious medical conditions and refer to these on their blogs. I am inspired by their courage though great adversity and the love and encouragement they share.

There are also a few dog blogs on the list. These largely involve stories of dogs who have been rescued and lovingly given a new life yet still carry the emotional scars. There is also a blog about a therapy dog.

Here are the rules for accepting this award (purely voluntary):

1.  Thank the person who nominated you by including a link to his/her blog in your response, and display the award logo on your site.

2.  Nominate 15 other blogs (more or less). Include links to their blogs on your post, and inform them about the nomination.

3.  Mention three things that inspired you the most this week (you can talk about last week’s inspiration too or before that).

My nominations for the VIB award are as follows:

Miniscule Moments of Inspiration: http://www.kathunsworth.com

Bruises You can Touch: http://bruisesyoucantouch.com/

Journeyintopoetry: https://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com

Yvonne Spence – http://yvonnespence.com/

Lizzi Rogers – http://summat2thinkon.wordpress.com/

Poetry Photos and Musings Oh my!    https://poetryphotosandmusingsohmy.wordpress.com/

Butterfly Mumma: http://butterflymumma.com/

Monika and Sam the therapy dog: Tails Around the Ranch: https://tailsaroundtheranch.wordpress.com/

Psychologistmimi: http://psychologistmimi.com/

Behind the White Coat : https://doctorly.wordpress.com/

#1000 Voices for Compassion: http://1000speak.wordpress.com/

Rachel Mankowitz: https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Such Small Hands: https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com/about/

Ali Isaac Storyteller: http://aliisaacstoryteller.com/

Sirena Tales: https://sirenatales.wordpress.com/

Jackie at Lethargic Smiles: https://lethargicsmiles.wordpress.com/

I am Not A Sick Boy: http://iamnotsickboy.com/

Max the Dog: https://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/  ….Max has inspired me with his very cute doggy looks and I now want to visit Hawaii.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

I strayed across this quote today and I’ve stuck it in here the same way you might stick it on your fridge for further consideration. It is so redolent with possibilities as well as slaps across the write. While I passionate carpe diem seize the day, I pretty much try to stuff more than is humanly possible into this day, stay up too late and steal hours from  the next day…a pretty common scenario, I’m sure!!

This quote also talks about starting each day afresh without baggage from the past and while on first thought, this seems  very liberating and “mindful”, I also believe we need to learn from the past or we’re just going to be tripping over both feet and never earning to walk, let alone run!! Yet, we also need freedom and to be unencumered from the past. There is such beauty and potential in an open slate just like a stretch of open sea sparkling like a diamond carpet in the sun.

I would welcome and encourage your thoughts on what really is quite an intriguing quote.

xx Rowena

PS My days of stretching my days beyond midnight are currently numbered. The kids go back to school next week and from then on, it will be all systems go…”Thunderbirds are Go!”

Old Self…New Year: Beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

If you, like me, decided NOT to make any  resolutions at all on NYE, you could also be in for a rude shock. Just because you objected, that doesn’t mean those resolutions won’t come running after you. Now, that NYE is almost a full week behind us and we’ve almost been lulled into a dream, it’s just the right time for the Big Bad Wolf to come knocking on your door when you least expect it:

“Little pig. Little pig! Let me in”.

That’s right. The Big Bad Wolf will huff, puff and blow your house down. That is, if you refuse to respond and open the door to constructive change.

I have to admit that I’d seen the Big Bad Wolf out on the horizon but thought I’d got a step ahead by taking up the One Word Challenge: http://myoneword.org/.

Love...my word for 2015.

Love…my word for 2015.

Indeed, you might have read that I have chosen “Love” as my word for 2015https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/new-year-my-one-word-for-2015-and-why-i-cant-leave-2014-behind/

“Love” seemed the only choice for me after the week of horror which took place just before Christmas. After all that hate in one week along with the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 earlier in the year, I really felt we all needed to come together in love to cleanse our world of hate.

In order to do this, we somehow needed to learn to “love our neighbour as ourselves”.

Not just our neighbour either.

We also need to treat our nearest and dearest the way we would like to be treated. Or, better still, by having the empathy to treat them the way they would like to be treated. This is so much more than a platitude. I take this word extremely seriously and see this as no warm, fuzzy, soft option. Indeed, the decision, the commitment, to love is a serious undertaking and also involves a word that I’m seriously not good at…”patience”. I failed patience a long, long time ago.

It also involves stopping, which is another concept I’m not that good at. Stop writing and being busy and spend some quality time with those I love…so easy in theory but surprisingly difficult in practice. We all lead busy lives but eventually that excuse wears thin.

With love as my over-arching word for 2015, I already knew that I had my work cut out for me. That love was a sufficient challenge, goal, personal development project for 2015.

Ha! Like so many of us who make plans and goals, these soon get dashed on the rocks. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t given up on love. It’s just that resolutions for the New Year are slowly but surely finding me and they’re being very insistent. I don’t think I have any choice about doing any of this. It’s sink or swim time and of course, I and the rest of the family are wanting to swim. We don’t want to drown.

So once again, I’m left quoting John Lennon:

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

So while New Year’s Eve has been and gone, we are still on school holidays in Australia and my real NYE will be the 27th January…the night before the kids go back to school. By then, I’ll have to overcome my sins of the past 12 months. I must… especially if I love my kids and I truly want them to reach their true potential. Grow up into themselves, without being stunted. I want my kids to grow up into mighty oaks or even eucalypts… not being constantly cut back and cut back into some imprisoned bonsai which never grows up to reach the sun!

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or "gum" tree.

Our daughter growing into a mighty eucalypt or “gum” tree.

Sure, I was pretty crook last year. You know my story  or can read it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/about/.

While I can justifiably blame the chemo for screwing up my already challenged organisation, I can only blame chemo for so long before I need to act. Do something. As I said, we don’t want to sink…especially in a sea of miscellaneous paperwork and school notes. We want to swim. Be in  the race…not drown.

Improving my health is another non-negotiable this year. This really is something I can’t mess around with.

Now, I’m needing to develop the infrastructure or scaffolding to keep us on track until the chemo brain wears off. These are the sort of tedious changes that eventually get thrust upon you when there is no other choice ie when the Big Bad Wolf has all but gobbled up the sweet little pig.

So while I am also making big plans for my writing, my blog and work in 2015, I’ve also been force to accept these New Year’s nasties:

  1. Develop a detailed schedule and routine to improve organisation and arrive on time.
  2. Keep better track of upcoming events using diary, planner and wall chart.
  3. Lose 10 kilos. This will improve my breathing, reduce the worsening heartburn and improve my general health.
  4. Exercise 3 x per week. This reduces the risk of a respiratory infection…the greatest risk to my health. It will also help to keep me mobile and improve muscle strength.
  5. Declutter the house for an hour a day. I cleaned my desk up recently and I felt so much better. Need to extend those open spaces.

Despite my best intentions, this list of nasties seems to be growing too.

Of course, it goes without saying that I will still be writing, writing, writing. “Working” on my blog and even though my camera is suffering from chronic over-use, I can’t see it sitting home alone either!!

Out Taking Photos

Out Taking Photos

That said, even though I’ve taken these resolutions onboard under duress, that doesn’t mean I have to love them…even if that’s my word for 2015.

Even this ambitious little pig who is building her house out of brick, has to be prepared.

How are things looking for you in the New Year ahead? If you are struggling with it all, how about you listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPtlSF4TlJE

Try

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
[1]

 

All the best with the best laid plans of mice and men and of course, it goes without saying, beware of the Big Bad Wolf!

xx Rowena

[1] Writer(s): Michael Busbee, Michael Ford Busbee, Benjamin West
Copyright: BMG Platinum Songs Us, Hello I Love You Music, Legitimate Efforts Music, Jam Writers Group