Life in Time

Oh here we go! Thought I’d write about procrastination this week and guess what? Yes, I see those nodding heads. I immediately headed for the fridge while clutching the TV remote.

What? Why? Is it just me?

If this doesn’t happen to you, please read no further. You’ve no doubt got all your ducks in a row and none of them are tardy, overdue, missing in action or masters of ‘winging it’.

According to my Myers Briggs ENFP personality type, I work best in bursts. Sounds fine, but I look at the other personalities who work steadily with the ‘delayed gratification’ default in their DNA, and I feel cheated somehow.

My ‘burst approach to accomplishing tasks’ often gives me sleepless nights, a churning stomach and a creative chaos of ideas like a mini tornado spinning me out in mind and body. I have many memories over the years of handing in assignments at the very last minute, after pulling all -nighters, to write thousands of words in a well-crafted, reasoned, coherent fashion. The good girl in me (she gives me a hard time on this one) refused to ask for extensions. I couldn’t bear the tension or self-recrimination.

I know! It’s a battle for some of us.

You can always tell a procrastinator. They’ve got all the books on time management, margins, finding rhythms, big rocks, you can do it, etc. still untouched on their bookshelves. And you know why of course! Oh, and they may also have ‘A Round-toit’ hanging above their desk, given by a well-meaning ‘steady as she goes’, worker friend.

I’d love to say I’m getting better at dealing with this ‘natural bent’ of mine. There are times when I’ve recognised my habit and set aside time to engage in the planning, preparation and formulation of the activity well before the due date. Often though, when I do that, I change things at the last-minute, tweaking, refining or totally reworking what I’m presenting.

But today, with a speaking engagement tomorrow, that I’ve known about for weeks, I yet again sat down in front of the computer, staring at the blank page until I found the creative burst, ‘drip under pressure moment’, that cheekily turns up in these circumstances, giving me energy and inspiration.

I could try to give advice on this one, but in reality, it is what it is and I’m up for suggestions. My challenge to myself is:

I don’t want to procrastinate on important things that are linked to my passion and purpose.

I want to grow in my awareness and capacity to choose well in each precious moment of life.

I don’t want to procrastinate in any area of life that will enrich me, or those I love.

 I want to notice when anxiety or doubt blocks me from having a go, taking action, risking something new or tackling a tough issue.  

I want to fully celebrate(still getting the job done-even in bursts) and enjoy my remaining moments of this God-given gift of life, beautifully set in the bounds of time.  

Ecc 3:11 NIV
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Happy Families – A game of comparisons

I attended a parenting course many years ago and apart from the mind-numbing rigidity of the rules-based strategy they espoused, I came away with a bit of advice that has stuck with me through the years.

‘If you want happy kids, focus on creating a happy marriage.’

It’s simple and yes, a little simplistic, but there is a gold thread of truth in this statement.

There are no, one-size fits all formulas, or magic tricks to raising happy healthy kids. We instinctively know that, yet strangely we often believe everyone else seems to have found the solution. In parenting, perhaps more than any other role in life, we buy into playing the comparison game to excess. From the moment a baby is born, many parents start the endless measuring, comparing and judging as to whether the child is ahead or behind in achieving those ‘vital’ milestones of development. Parents who play this game aspire for above average, will grudgingly accept ‘normal’ but are often left confused and dismayed with anything less than that. Somehow, a parent’s identity, value and effectiveness is linked to this freshly-hatched little person who, must prove to the world in each stage of life, that we’ve ‘done good’ in raising them.

Some of us feel secret relief when another parent confesses to having a troubled teen. At least ours isn’t that bad! We can feel a niggling shame and guilt when our child is the one in trouble at school most days. We try hard to duck and weave while other parents’ eyes are on us as we rush through the school carpark.

I have experienced all those emotions if I’m to be honest. In our family we ranged from having a child who was the ‘teacher’s pet,’ the ‘good kid,’ to having teachers lining up in the foyer of the school wanting to vent at me as they battled to deal with our ‘class clown, always in detention,’ child. We also had a child who quietly slipped on through in his usual, ‘don’t notice me, I don’t want to make any waves,’ style.

At the time my reactions probably landed somewhere between humiliation and smug satisfaction, but as realists we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t take credit for the ‘teacher’s pet’ and avoid taking responsibility for the one who made the teachers work harder to earn their money every day.

I look back now and know that the bigger issue for us as parents was to ensure our children knew they were loved, accepted, treasured and respected. Why? That’s what my husband and I wanted for us in our relationship too. We sought to honour their unique personalities and ways of seeing and dealing with the world. Our job was not to create clones, not crush, but shape their uniqueness, helping them deal with the situations where they didn’t always find safe landings.

We sought and still do, despite major and minor hiccups, (’cause that’s life) to provide a loving safe space, where we as a couple intentionally invest in our shared relationship. Our focus has been on ‘fighting’ to keep it as healthy as possible in every season and stage of our lives together. For the most part, we’ve been very happily married and we hold no ‘smug satisfaction’ in that at all. One of life’s miracles is ‘to have and to hold until death do us part.’ Sometimes it’s just not possible.

Have our children always been happy? Only they can answer that one. I, one day, want to be brave enough to ask them how our marriage ‘for better or for worse,’ impacted them as they grew.

But what we have learned over time is to quit playing the comparison game and focus on building and maintaining a happy, healthy partnership as a couple. We consider our adult children to be dear friends and companions in life. We enjoy their unique personalities and perspectives, we laugh together, face challenges together, listen to each other and learn from each other. We are happy, together.

James 2:13 ‘Mercy triumphs over judgement.’

I am a Teacher

I come to you as a work in process

I bring my childhood past

Can you accept my humanness?

I am a teacher

I come to you as a learner

I bring truth as I perceive it

Can you hold the questions with me?

I am a teacher

I come to you as only one voice

I bring my gift of self

Can you hear the many voices that shape identity?

I am a teacher

I come to you with the charge of “social panacea”

I bring a crowded curriculum

Can you and I withstand unrealistic expectations?

I am a teacher

I come to you with hope

I bring my faith in God

Will you journey with me in the mystery and mess of life?

Di Priest (Written Nov 2005 after reading a poem titled ‘I am a child.’)

Best Life Together

Even before we say ‘I do’ to our ‘perfect match’ we have a question forming in our mind bursting to the surface with the inevitibility of a balloon under water. It can only be supressed for so long.

‘Do I have what it takes to make this work?’

Until we do life together in the raw beauty of ordinary intimacy we have no mirroring reality of our innate vulnerabilities, hidden strengths, crazy making vagaries, (floor-drobe, skid marks in toilet bowls, noisy eating, oh, and toothpaste squeeze), among other virtues and vices.

Often our families of origin have done their best to reward sociable behaviour and monitor with reasonable humour and tolerance the wayward but loveable delinquent or diva.

Social and emotional development in ‘peer central’, also known as ‘school’, shaped or shattered in turn.

Workplaces either reward viability or quietly move you sideways until the door becomes an obvious point of exit due to ‘downsizing’ of course!

We really don’t have a clue how to answer the question. Who could ever know? Where do we honestly intentionally, impartially and intrinsically learn the vital life skills required to make relationships work for the long haul with satisfaction guaranteed?

Many years ago, my then 16 year old son, came to chat about why he’d just broken up with his girl-friend. ‘Mum,’ he said with a sigh, “Im not ready to be emotionally responsible for someone else.”

Where did such ancient wisdom spring from? Old head on young shoulders indeed. But there is a valuable truth here.

When we say ‘I do’, we are agreeing to bring our ‘best self’ to doing life together. We are agreeing to care, support, share, give, receive, be available, vulnerable, real, responsive and so much more. We are committing to be emotionally responsible for ourselves individually and for us as a couple in order to build a mutually satisfying relationship where we thrive individually and together, seeking to create a loving, nurturing and safe environment for a family to flourish.

Instead of the haphazard hope that life has taught you the skills to make a life together work I recommend you invest in a reality check. Discover together the skills needed to last a lifetime.

Sign up today for our ‘Best Life Together Coaching’. Our coaching is designed for each stage of life together. It’s never too late to learn new skills to add some spark to relationships in transition or provide resources to re-ignite relationships in difficulty.

An investment for a lifetime. You and your partner are worth it. Always.

Fake it till you make it – or till they find out!

I genuinely couldn’t work out why or how I landed the job as a Principal of a school many years ago. I felt apologetic and embarrassed when asked what I did. I called myself a ‘small p principal’ just filling in until ‘they’ (always hard to nail who ‘they’ ever was) would realise their mistake in giving me such an opportunity. replacing me with a real Principal who would do the job so much better than I ever could.

It was not the first time I’d felt this way about myself. In so many arenas of life I perceived myself as a ‘wanna be’, never the ‘real deal’; always fearing people’s closer inspection and inevitable disappointment when ‘they’ realised, I wasn’t what ‘they’ expected. This led to an unconscious strategy come pattern of self-sabotage by withdrawing before something even got off the ground such as a friendship, further study, a new venture, a job opportunity, or any risky undertaking where I might be exposed and found wanting. It also led to a pattern of cutting and running when people got too close, or challenges mounted in a situation I would perceive as potentially unmasking my outer layer of well-constructed but fake confidence and capability.

I’ve lived with a constant undercurrent of anxiety in all facets of life. As a wife, mum, daughter, sister, friend, student, employee and so on. I’ve always felt lacking, never enough, not quite the real deal.

I’ve described it as having one foot facing in and one foot facing out of most of my life; poised, alert, ready to run for fear of being unmasked, judged and rejected. I’ve lived with a restlessness, a wariness and weariness, always on guard, anticipating, pre-empting and proving over and over that I truly am not enough.

Some years ago, while in the midst of ‘sweating all the small stuff’ in my role as the self-titled ‘small p principal‘ in a school community, I participated in a 3-year training in the Enneagram. I experienced quite a few ‘ahhah’ moments in the quiet of the nunnery where the gifted gentle trainers taught us through reflection, meditation, oral story-telling and solitude how to recognise and hold for the first time, our true self, our wounded self, our image of God self.  I recognised the Perfectionist; the good girl who strove to measure up, meet expectations yet always seemed to miss the mark. There is much more I could say and for anyone who knows and has worked with the Enneagram, you would agree it is one of the most intimate, wholistic and helpful journeys of self-discovery.

During this time, I was finally given the skill and the courage to come face to face with my ‘inner critic’. I had been introduced to him during a prayer retreat some time ago and I’d dubbed him ‘the crow’.  I recognised him as the cawing strident ugly voice who constantly criticised, condemned, compared and crushed me. Yet seemingly he also protected me, prompted me, proved reality and truth about myself and my capacity in every situation.

He came out from the dark shadowy recesses of my mind and was exposed through the course of the sessions. I wondered why God had waited over half my lifetime to expose this nemesis hidden in my mind. He had done so much damage.

But now was the time to begin the journey, the painful hopeful letting go of this friend/foe.

It has and continues to be the ‘thorn in my side’ work for me.  God has been at work patiently teaching me to daily listen for the Shepherd, to recognise, trust and obey His voice in my life. A voice of ‘perfect love that casts out fear’ every day, every day.  As I write this blog, with niggling fear, because the ‘inner critic’ condemns every sentence, every phrase and even now wants me to hit delete, I know I am not alone in this journey of ‘unworthiness’ of which ‘imposter syndrome’ is a symptom.

Freedom, love, joy, peace and abundance have for many years been elusive. I haven’t deserved them, my ‘crow’ would say, as he reminds me of all my flaws and failings.

A friend once said in response to my ‘crow induced’ self-pity and habitual moaning about not being good enough, “Of course, Di, of course you aren’t enough, nor are you worthy. That’s the whole point of the gospel. That’s what God has been saying since the beginning. We as human beings are not able to live perfect lives, please everyone, measure up, be all that every situation requires. God knows this and gave us His son Jesus to set us free, to live an abundant life now and a life with Him in eternity. It’s nothing you can earn, nothing you need to fix or do. It’s God. It’s all Him.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I knew this. I knew this. But in that moment, my head and heart fully embraced the truth and as for ‘the crow’, well, his voice has for the most part, despite minor skirmishes from time to time, dulled, loosing his claws of control and his harsh pecking of power to steer my course.

I’m learning, still very slowly and haltingly, to enjoy being loved, appreciated, thanked, praised and equally misunderstood, criticised, judged and rejected. It’s all still happening, but how I respond is gradually shifting. I’m still hesitant around risks as I perceive them, still anxious first. But I do enjoy choosing to have a go, make mistakes, develop curiosity, wonder, awe and delight in the myriad moments of ordinary life.

I seriously could write a book. (Back off inner crow! – I could!) There’s so much to be gleaned from honest and open reflection as I have come to understand in the years of living that many of us crazy making humans are blighted/gifted with the ‘inner critic’. One thing I do understand is that this voice has given me an equal and opposite desire and hunger to hear God’s voice, to pursue a faith journey, to long for a fulfilling and satisfying life that I genuinely enjoy in all it’s imperfection.

I’m a teacher, a counsellor (a listener), a writer, a friend, a wife, a mother, a woman of God and most of all I am loved, cherished and treasured. I’m OK.

Hands and Feet

Had the privilege this week of sitting down with some of the team from an amazing organisation called Hands and Feet who are an exciting and innovative group providing local churches with the opportunity to meet the practical needs of the homeless, disadvantaged and disabled in their respective communities.

They resource and equip local churches with access to fresh and pre-prepared food to give to hurting and stuggling people who need a helping hand in their community.

The other exciting venture is to provide opportunity for people in local churches to be trained to work with disabled people providing companionship and care. Hands and Feet are an NDIS provider and will assist churches in developing this capacity for a relevant relational ministry in their local area. It’s quite the no brainer; Hands and Feet will train, fund (participants are paid a wage for this vital work), and manage the whole program for the local church, providing a very relevant and relational ministry for any local church to connect with the needy, vulnerable and sadly invisible people tucked away in suburbs nearby.

They as an organisation have just one problem. So few churches have taken them up on this amazing opportunity. I’m wondering if there is a way we can get the word out, provide the bridging support needed and see local churches open their hearts and minds, use their hands and feet to go out into the community armed with the skills and resources on tap to genuinely meet needs and build relationships with people.

I’m wondering what is blocking this from being picked up by many churches around Australia. Not only does this provide a vital link between churches and needy people in their area, it also provides employment and skilling for people within the church who are looking for work/ministry opportunities.

Please contact me if you would like further information or have any suggestions as to how we can get the word out, inspire local churches and become more relevant and relational in this hurting and broken world.