I remember a lesson I had as a young woman, being taught how to receive a compliment. When someone compliments us, our most natural thing to do is to brush it off, deny it, minimise it, like this:
I was just doing my job
It wasn’t anything special
Anyone would have done the same
It was nothing
But I was taught, by a wise woman, to simply say, Thank you.
Smile, bite your tongue, grit your teeth against the discomfort, and just accept the compliment.
Now, 30 years later, I reflect and realise that was one of the foundations of my ability now to acknowledge what I’m good at.
You are a taonga, a treasure of value
There have been other influences along the way, like the boss who would koha or “gift” me to other teams or projects because, Shelly can write that for you, or, Shelly can facilitate that process, or, Let’s have Shelly run that workshop.
I’m not a huge fan of hers or anything but this song speaks to me. And it makes me think about the women I love who have all said to me recently that they’re doubting themselves, that their confidence is low.
I’m told she wrote it a few days before a suicide attempt. And the line that gets me says:
I feel stupid when I sing
This young woman, with a well-established career and a list of songs that have topped the charts, this young woman who has made a career out of singing, at the moment she wrote this song, had lost confidence in her abilities.
I feel stupid when I sing.
Nobody’s listening to me.
You are normal (and amazing!)
It reminded me that crises of confidence are NORMAL.
No matter how good you are at what you do. No matter how much evidence there is of your success. No matter how many times you’ve felt confident in your skills and abilities, there will still be days when you can’t connect with that knowing.
And when you have one of those days I hope you’ll remember this little love note from me.
I hope that when that bitter taste of self-doubt lingers that you’ll remember.
Everybody feels that way sometimes.
It’ll pass. It’s just one of those days.
And your fears and self-doubt are not truth. They’re just thoughts.
Jules & [email protected]: unsurprisingly and yet still so impressively, they’ve knuckled down and got shit done! The resilience, resourcefulness and tenacity of our women-in-dairy is stunning, and worthy of celebration!
I’ve had the privilege in the last 12 months of watching my 2 youngest daughters very rapidly transition into high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults. It happened so fast. I didn’t realise it was coming like that.
One minute I had a 15- and 16-year-old at high school.
The next minute I had:
a 17-year-old licenced driver with her first car, milking full time at a job she got for herself, coming home each day with eyes sparkling and covered in cowshit, and
a 16-year-old paying cash for a late-model 150cc motorbike on her birthday, organising every aspect of the process, from the research through to the courses and tests and insurance.
They both want independence. They’re both resourceful and capable.
It’s terrifying and glorious.
But that’s all context for what I really want to write today.
I want to talk about risks, resilience, and preparedness.
Risks, resilience, and being prepared
I experienced some of that “terrifying and glorious” at the beginning of this year. Here’s how it went.
I had just got off the phone with my youngest.
I was on another island, hundreds of kilometres from her. And she was just about to take her new motorbike for a spin around our neighbourhood.
There were risks involved in this exercise.
I was confident that she was prepared.
And because of that, both she and I had a good idea of a range of possible outcomes, and were prepared for those.
Being prepared for any possible outcomes is one of the fundamentals of resilience.
How to get prepared
Here’s how she prepared.
The day of her 16th birthday was the day she picked up her motorbike. She got online and organised insurance. The same day, she sat and passed her written driver’s licence test. Then she took a skills course to make sure she was prepared to handle the bike.
And now she was ready to go for a ride.
She was home alone. No one was there to see her off or supervise or welcome her back and debrief after the ride.
I was shitting myself.
Here’s how we prepared.
The phone conversation went like this:
Me: OK, let’s just run through a couple of scenarios before you head out, since no one’s there with you.
Me: What happens if you drop the bike?
(She has once already, and it’s pretty heavy, and she’s not a big kid. She needed help to pick it up.)
Her: I’ll try to pick it up, first. But if I can’t, I’ll call Papa.
(Thank goodness for amazing grandparents – my dad used to train Ministry of Transport Motorbike Officers.)
Me: Yup, perfect. You might be able to pick it up. But before you call Papa, look around. Can you see anyone outside their house? Can you see a house that looks like someone’s home? If there’s someone nearby who looks strong enough to help, ask them first.
Her: Oh, ok, yup.
Me: OK, now what if the worst happens and you crash into something, or a car bumps you or something?
Her: I call the police.
Me: Well yep, if it’s bad enough, sure. But let’s say you crash into a parked car. You don’t need to call the police right then. What do you think you can do?
Her: Go into the house where the car is parked and try to see if someone’s home. Is that the kind of answer you’re looking for?
Me: Yup, you can, but I was thinking more of your welfare. You’ve just had an accident, and you don’t need to freak out, because you’re not actually alone. I think the answer is pretty much the same as the first one: Do what you can do yourself, look for help nearby, and call Papa if all else fails. Of course, if you’re hurt, call 111.
Her: Oh, ok. Yup.
(She is not a woman of many words, LOL.)
Me: OK, so call me when you get home so I know you’re safe.
Being prepared, mentally, can be the difference between life and death
It’s like drownings at the beach.
In general, people don’t drown because they can’t swim. They drown because they panic, and that means they can’t make resourceful decisions and they get exhausted, FAST.
If, before you (or your kids) went into the water, you thought through some what-ifs, then when one of those things happens, your brain says, OK, this is one of those things we planned for. I know what to do.
And that’s not clickbait. Writing saves lives. Actual lives.
So when accountants bring me in and call my work a soft skill, that fucks me off.
But anyway… that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about my growing list of names of people whose lives my writing has saved. And how you can do the same.
Last year I overheard a conversation about someone’s toddler with severe asthma. They listed a number of incidents where the toddler was in life-threatening situations because they lived too far away from hospital and even an ambulance. They’d had to drive to meet the ambulance on the side of the road a number of times, because waiting could have been fatal.
Every one of those incidents was a situation that could be resolved with a nebuliser in their home.
If they had that, they wouldn’t have needed the hospital or the ambulance. But they had asked their GP multiple times if one would be provided. He had said no.
Enter: your friendly badass rockstar writer.
The power of written records
I knew that
when things are in writing, on record, it’s much harder to say no.
I knew that if you need to advocate for yourself in the medical system, that there’s a powerful approach you can use (thanks, Twitter):
ask for a test or an assessment or a medication or a treatment and the GP says
no, ask them to put your request and their denial of that request on your file.
It means that if, somewhere down the line, it turns out that you were right to make that request and the GP made a wrong call, there’s a record of that. That’s risky for your doctor. It doesn’t look good.
So, often, you asking for that will make them change their mind. Not always. It’s not a guarantee. But if you do it when you need to, then when and if you need it you have evidence to show:
how you’ve been advocating for your
own wellbeing, and
how the system has been responding.
I whipped up a document
So if we go back to the toddler and her asthma, I whipped up a document. I think it took me 17 minutes.
The document was a template which put the family’s request for a nebuliser IN WRITING, and listed recent incidents as evidence to support that request.
The family took the document to the doctor, and HELLO, nebuliser in the home.
Just like that. After months and months of distress and worry.
The document was simple. It was SO FAST for me to throw together.
And so started the actual list of lives my writing has saved.
My list is growing
This week I
added one of my daughters’ names to that list.
I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve written in the last 2 weeks, cc’ing in the universe, to push back against systems that aren’t providing her with the care she needs.
It has been a battle, I tell you.
But every email I’ve written, every time I’ve hit send, I’ve increased the power of my voice in advocating for her.
I’ve created an evidence trail of what’s been happening, what she needs, and HELD THE PEOPLE AND ORGANISATIONS ACCOUNTABLE.
But at the
end of a long day where I’ve added 14 powerful emails to the paper trail
and my daughter is still alive and is the safest she’s been in months, I wanted
to tell you.
Don’t forget that writing saves lives.
A word of caution
kind of writing to be as powerful as possible, you need it to be sharp. And
when I say sharp, I mean:
I’m all about how our thoughts are the only thing we can
control in life.
We have the ability to decide what meaning we’ll attribute to any given thing, which then dictates its impact on us – how we feel about and respond to it.
As I write this I’m facing my first ever Christmas alone. As in, completely alone. On an island. No children, no grandchildren, no Carver Boy, no siblings cousins nieces nephews.
And I gotta tell you, I’m FINE with that.
I plan to go fishing. And nap. And whatever else the fuck I feel like doing. I’m good with this because I choose to be.
I remember 13 years ago, going through court for parenting arrangements with my second ex-husband (aka “custody”), being told by my lawyer that I’d need to let my ex have the kids every second Christmas.
THAT MEANT EVERY SECOND CHRISTMAS ALONE. WITHOUT MY BABIES.
And I thought I would break.
I thought it was the end of the world.
I brought these babies into the world, and waking up to them on Christmas morning and seeing the joy on their faces as they opened presents and ate junk food for breakfast and just basked in the holiday bliss, felt like the meaning of life.
Surely I wouldn’t survive it.
Until, at some stage, probably with the help of a good psychologist, I chose to survive it.
I chose to remove the “meaning of life” bit of Christmas morning
as a mother, and pick another day to be our Christmas. And make that day
whatever I wanted it to be – particularly a sleep in, given that I had been
sleep-deprived for about 11 years at that stage.