Change Our World

It is always a bittersweet experience to leave our home state of Tassie. It’s certainly not a new experience for us since our first big move to Sydney in the early 80’s. We left then as young newly married adventurers and idealists wanting to change the world. We had no insight into the changes that would occur in and around us over the years of study and preparation for our eventual move to PNG, where we lived and worked for over 8 amazing years. We have returned home a few times with our ever-growing family of sons for various periods of time. We have also left a few times for long seasons of work and life commitments. And now, we are leaving again.

We are aware it does not get any easier to leave, nor do we think it ever will. We love our beautiful home state! It is a gentle place to live. A place we know so well. We have explored so much of this treasure isle, but know there is always another trail to find, another waterfall, mountain, beach or small town to re-discover.

But even more than the natural beauty, there are some amazing people who live here. We have known, loved and been loved by some beautiful people. Family and friends will always be the reason we keep returning to be reminded of who we are, what matters to us and why we leave to continue to ‘change our world’.  Yes, it is no longer about changing the world, but more about us growing, becoming, risking, exploring, learning, listening and loving our world. We are learning how to allow our faith to change us with each new adventure.

Our latest opportunity will be with a church in Canberra where we at C-Change Counselling and Coaching will be providing a gentle ministry of listening with individuals, small groups and leadership to help them grow together as a community of faith people.

We position ourselves as learners and listeners and look forward to being changed yet again in this ministry framework of dialogue.

We’ll be back. Yes, we will.

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.

Transformed Thinking

Love hopes and believes the best.

What we listen to affects

how we connect and relate

to ourselves and others.

We listen to lies about our self

Formed from frail humanity.

Freedom comes when we

Forgive, turn, face the Son

Leaving the past in the past!

We listen to lies about others;

Framed pictures of painful betrayals.

Freedom comes when fears

Are faced and we take heart

Finding both hope and healing.

For we finally understand,

We all listen to the same lies

And all will be healed

By the same truth.

“Father forgive them,

They do not know what they do.”

They live with lies, shaping a reality

Giving brittle illusions of power,

Control, protection, connection.

We reject what we most fear.

Therefore, we first reject ourselves.

The pain of deep disconnection

More than any can bear.

We become a city divided,

Defeated, destroyed.

The gate is unhinged,

Open and torn

As we, with broken hearts,

Hide in a corner dark and small

Afraid to step forward

To claim what is ours,

Our birthright

As sons and daughters of the King.

We are never alone, not ever!

What a comfort He brings

The great “I am,”

The Lover of my soul.

It’s no longer I that live,

but Christ that lives in me!

He died to set me free!

Di Priest ©C-Change 2007

Can’t say no?

Can’t say No!

Couldn’t if I tried

An alarm goes off

And I shrivel up inside

Lungs heat up

And the mind seizes

Heart skips a beat

And my belly freezes

Well worn words

Spill out to betray

“Oh, fine, alright

That’s OK!”

Self loathing foul

Creeps in to taunt

An old foe within

His familiar haunt

Messages so wrong

I always please

Saying yes to all

Isn’t fear a tease?

Am I enough?

Oh, worthless game!

Eyes ever betray

The dance of shame

Wise words said

To self be true

Yet always within

So hard to do

Dianne Priest © June 2006

You are not alone. Here at C-Change we enjoy partnering with people who want to see what life is like on the other side of anxiety, people-pleasing, boundary and self-worth issues.

A good friend once said, “We train people how to treat us.”

I’ve never forgotten those wise words.

More than our Mistakes

Holidaying in South Durras is a delight. A beautiful corner of the world, beaches, sandstone rock formations, bike rides and lovely bush trails to explore.

On one sunny morning over the Easter break we walked through the back of the shack property and down to a path that crossed a creek via a walk bridge.

On the bridge was a father, his son and daughter. The daughter was on one side of the creek and the son in the middle of the bridge anxiously looking over the side where his shiny new rugby ball was floating serenely in the middle of the dark tea tree coloured creek. He was looking dismayed and upset as he looked to his dad who then walked to the other end of the bridge, found a long branch and stood at the edge of the creek guiding the ball back to land with the branch.

As we walked by I heard the young boy make a heartfelt apology to his dad: ‘I’m so sorry dad.’

It was the reply of the father that spoke volumes to me. In a quiet and kind voice he simply said:

‘That’s OK son!’

Phil and I kept walking, but I pondered the scene as I went and reflected that many parents would have responded differently, either out of frustration, annoyance, anger and recrimination. I’ve heard those responses far too often and cringe as I hear parents speak harshly to their children when they make mistakes.

It crushes something inside a child when they are regularly criticised and condemned often for just being a child and childish.

But this father was not perturbed at all. Their walk, yes, interrupted, the ball obviously thrown, missed, who knows. I didn’t see that part.

But I heard the genuine remorse of the child and the genuine love and acceptance of the father and it reminded me of my heavenly Father who is always kind, good and gracious to me. He is never impatient, cross or harshly judging me for my human frailties.

Instead he lovingly accepts me and works with me to deal with the problem together, just as this Father did on a walk with his children. God is bigger, stronger, kinder and more loving towards me than anyone else I have ever and will ever know, and I am grateful for that.

I wonder what voice you hear when you make mistakes, do you hear the voice of an angry parent, or a gracious gentle God who accepts you, loves you and steps in to work with you to put things right.

It changes our lives when we know we are loved and accepted every day no matter what happens.

What price safety?

We received a touching phone call this morning from a close relative living in a nursing home, finding the loneliness of 2020 almost too much to bear.

“I feel like I have no family or friends. I know that’s not true, but day after day with no visitors, not even friends here in the nursing home are allowed to come for a chat and a cuppa in my room. Not wanting to complain but I just feel so low.”

I know there are many who have similar stories, ageing relatives feeling like their nursing home has become a safely sanitised prison where nurses, orderlies and cleaners are all they have to bring some small measure of human connection and brightness to a day.

One friend shared how she tried to arrange for her father to attend a Christmas family dinner in her home, only to be told by well-meaning Rona savvy staff that this year all inmates must stay in the home and are only allowed 1 visitor through the day. And no, the home will certainly not be providing Christmas lunch for the potential visitors as well.

What price safety I wonder?

While we err on the side of caution re physical health and re-elect Premiers to reward them for keeping us safe from the serious health issues associated with the current pandemic, I do wonder how we can support and care for those in our society who are experiencing the emotional, mental and relational impacts that are a direct result of our emphasis on ‘safety.’

It’s like a ‘living death’, sitting day after day alone in a nursing home room and this year of 2020 has made it all the more difficult for families who have been unable to travel across state borders to visit ageing relatives to bring hugs, chatter and comfort.

I hope we can together find ways to provide companionship and care to those in our community who are both alone and lonely, isolated in institutions or apartment blocks in suburbs near us.

Please feel free to contact me at C-Change Counselling and Coaching if you know of anyone who needs support during this difficult time. Together we can creatively and genuinely consider strategies to meet people’s needs.