Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Build-ups for Grown-ups :)

Did I mention I'm not completely there with resilience yet? I'm still working on being the best version of me, and there are still moments that surprise me. Even when they shouldn't.

As you might have seen in my blog previously, I have always struggled with my weight. It's hard because of the physical and health factors, but it's also hard because it's one thing that I just don't seem to be able to get control of. When you're the kind of person that likes to be in control. That is tough.

Last night, I had a talk with a very wise lady who knows a lot about health and well-being. I could tell that she was really interested in helping me. Through our conversation, I figured out that when it comes to my weight, it seems that self-esteem is part of the problem (although, I think I've always known that). I really don't know why that is; I grew up in a stable, loving home without any real trauma in my childhood. It's perhaps just something that's wired a bit funny in my brain. 

Anyway, this lovely lady picked up on the fact that I'm a bit negative on myself. She suggested that I put up a post on Facebook asking for affirmations. My first thoughts were all negative: "that sounds like stupid attention-seeking behaviour"; "what if no one responds"; "is that really an authentic thing to do"; " wouldn't it seem a little needy". Which is of course why I had to do it. Right there and then, before I talked myself out of it. Even then, I drafted my post a couple of times, removing the "I'm sorry to bother you" and the "you don't have to if you don't want to" and "I know this seems silly" elements that I added.

Here's what they said...
I was absolutely blown away by the response. More than 50 people took a moment to say something nice about me. Stuff I kinda knew, but also stuff that I never realised that people noticed or liked about me. It was an absolutely amazing feeling to read these responses. This is the kind of stuff that people never get to hear. I'm so lucky!

As I thought about it even more, it struck me as odd that we don't do this for each other more often. As a primary school teacher, I (and most teachers I know) engaged my students in these kinds of feel-good activities: write something nice about your buddy/classmate/partner; anonymous kindness notes; etc. We also occasionally do it with each other in schools via 'secret buddy' programs, etc. But really, we hardly ever do seek validation or positive feedback from others. Sometimes, the only time people say nice things about us is after we're dead. And what good is that?!

And then, if and when we do receive positive feedback or compliments, we find it really hard to receive them. We laugh them off or make a joke; or wonder what the other person's motive is. Or is that just me? According to Guy Winch, compliments can make people with low self-esteem uncomfortable as they contradict a person's own feelings about themselves. Hmmmmm...

Anyway, for me it was a wonderful exercise. These comments made me feel lovely. But also gave me some more things to think about and work on. One person said to me "...the best way of improving your esteem is to not only listen and smile at all the beautiful things people have said... But to then truly believe them and transform all of this to your inner voice." That's my next challenge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” - Robert Byrne

One of the things that many people do is live a life of purpose. Feeling like what you do means something can be very empowering. 

For a few years now, I've taken a great deal of satisfaction from doing things that give me a sense of purpose. Sometimes I wonder if it's a stage that I've gotten to. I also wonder if it's a stage that everyone gets to. Does everyone get to the point where they get more joy and fulfilment out of doing things that mean something than doing things for money or instant gratification? Do some people do it from their childhood? Do some people never get to that stage? 

It's not that I've always been selfish and now I'm not. I've always enjoyed things like buying presents for people or feeding people. But now, it's a deeper drive. In fact, I'm at the point where I wish I could work in my paid employment less so that I can spend more time doing volunteer stuff. 

It all started when our family first started getting seriously into LEGO. We attended the first Brick Expo in 2010 and by 2012 we were entering our own models in the exhibition. And then I started helping out. Now I'm on the organising committee. Yes, we love LEGO, but the thing I love about it the most is that we're supporting a charity. I get such a buzz out of watching the kids (and adults) enjoy the exhibits, but also handing over our donation each year. 

Me and one of the 501st Legion at Brick Expo. They do great stuff with purpose too!
If I could do more I would. And I probably will one day, when financial pressures ease off a little. It's funny, I find myself looking forward to retirement not so that I can sit around, but so that I can do more. 

I don't know if it adds to my resilience, but surely the feeling of well-being that I get out of this must contribute to my overall mental health. 

What do you do that makes you feel good? What gives you a sense of purpose?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Social Media for Money Seminar

In late June, I went to a fascinating seminar designed for bloggers and social media users. It was designed to help us find ways to make money from social media. I'm not really in it for the money (at this point, though I am working up to some things!), but I still picked up some excellent tips and even some new skills. I thought I knew everything there is to know about social media!

Ironically, I've never intended this particular blog to be a money making one, but this is my 'me' blog, where I can be a bit creative and have fun. So I thought I'd post my response here.

The presentation below is created in Haiku Deck, one of my favourite online tools. I love it because it's easy to use and visual, and all images come from Creative Commons sources. I was going to create my own images, but I just ran out of time!

The seminar was presented by the very clever Kylie Travers and Travis Longmore (and friends), of Occasio Enterprises. If you're ever looking for a little help with social media stuff (among other things), I can definitely recommend them!

A seminar in June, it was on a Sunday, They packed so much into the program that day. - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Just be real

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” 

― May Sarton

A couple of years ago, I was talking to my friend/boss, about people. I mentioned that I was finding it difficult to warm to a mutual acquaintance; mainly because I couldn't read them (I've always thought I was pretty good at 'reading' people). He said "it's because you are authentic, and you expect other people to be too."
When I thought about it a bit, I realised he was right. I'm one of those 'what you see is what you get' people. Even in my 'trying to fit in' moments in my teens, I was still reasonably...me. I slapped on the occasional face full of makeup and took part in a few questionable activities, but never really did anything that made me out to be something I wasn't.
It doesn't always work out the best for me. I'm not as exciting as I might be if I manufactured more of a personality (and scintillating conversation isn't my strongest suit), which tends to mean that I'm overlooked in many a social situation. But it works for me, because I can usually maintain my sense of integrity and morals.

And yes, I've always valued that in other people; hence the problem with warming to the 'fakies'. I'm a pretty easygoing person, and there isn't much about people that I don't like, but one thing that consistently puts me off is when people aren't authentic.
I like flowers. What you see is what you get. Photo by me. 
Unfortunately, I've met a few of them. From the 'air-kissers' that profess their joy at seeing you and then move on as soon as someone more interesting comes along; to the ones you know are hiding something; to the worst ones: the ones that have a different story from one day to the next. I don't know why it gets to me so much. Maybe because I can't see who they really are and that bothers me.

What is the value in being authentic? Am I worried about nothing? Should we expect people to lay themselves bare? Is it OK to put on masks, to hide little parts of ourselves? Is it a defensive mechanism?
And what level is acceptable? How can we come to know people, accept them as friends, colleagues, lovers, if they are not the person that we think they are?

Or am I reading too much into this? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Yes you are. Yes you can.

Number one on my developing resilience list is self-esteem. And it's probably the one that is the hardest for me.

I've always had pretty low self-esteem, which (and this may come across as vain) is odd considering I grew up in a happy, supportive household, am in a pretty happy (now - we've had our moments!) relationship, did well in school and work and have always been pretty successful at the things I've tried. I have been overweight pretty much my entire life, which I guess probably has something to do with it. But sometimes I think my low self-esteem is odd.

For example, when I went to uni (the first time, in my late 20s), almost every assignment I handed in was definitely a fail. Or so I thought. But most of the time I got distinctions and high distinctions. And now, when my friends do something nice for me, I'm always surprised. Not because I think they're assholes, but because I never think they like me as much as they probably do. What's with that?!

So, when it's come to building my resilience, I've had to work on self-esteem more than most things. This article outlines 10 steps for developing self-esteem, and it's good advice!

Being the kind of weirdo that I am, a lot of my self-esteem has come through giving myself huge challenges. Like becoming a Sh'Bam instructor for example.
My dancing shoes!

I've written about Sh'Bam before. Funnily enough, that post was also related to well-being.
Sh'Bam for me is enormously challenging but also enormously rewarding. Challenging, because I have absolutely no training in dance (just a good sense of rhythm and good muscle memory), and also because all the other instructors are at least 20 kilos lighter than me (I must not compare myself to others!).
But rewarding, because it makes me feel so good to do it (another tick in the improving self-esteem box), it keeps me active and pretty fit (and another tick), and I get amazing feedback from people, which helps me develop my positive self-talk. I'm one of those people that thrives on external feedback (both positive and constructive).
People that do my classes tell me: "The other instructors are great [[and they totally are], but you make it accessible. You make me feel like I can do it." And they tell me how funny I am. Because I love to clown around in my classes.
How wonderful this is for my self-esteem! Now that I'm finally listening to it all! For a while I was too focused on what was different about me. Now I try and focus on my strengths.

Oliver and I colour-runified!
There are other wonderful things about getting into Sh'Bam. I've made some wonderful friends, my confidence has increased, and I'm also branching out and trying other things I never would have before. Like fun runs and other fitness challenges. I really feel like I'm starting to get a handle on that side of things.

Self-esteem, whether it's poor or excellent, can have such an impact on our well-being. How's yours? And what do you do to improve it?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Developing Resilience

Developing Resilience

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela

When I was teaching in the Educational Psychology unit at UC, I constantly referred to the need to develop resilience. Teaching is a hard job (another thing I said in every single tute, much to my students' amusement!); and time and again I see teachers move out of teaching (or break down) because they are not resilient. As I mentioned in my last post, I left for different reasons, but I could just as easily have quit in my first year.

I truly believe that a positive attitude and resilience will get you through just about anything, and as I promised my nearly-teachers; if they were in teaching for the right reasons, they would be OK if they were also resilient. Below are some points from a handout I gave my students. I will elaborate on these points in future posts, but I hope they will give you some food for thought.

Remind yourself regularly of your strengths and accomplishments.
Self-Esteem by Kiran Foster Under CC BY 2.0
Do something that you believe in, that means something to you.
Get involved in your community.
Do volunteer work.
Cultivate your faith/spirituality (if that’s important to you).

Nurture your relationships with your friends and family.
Find people you can talk to about your problems.
Ask for and accept help.

Anticipate change – especially in education!
Embrace change.
Cultivate a flexible approach.
Learn to adapt to new and surprising situations.

Be hopeful.
Be grateful.
Appreciate the good things in life, no matter how small.
Express all kinds of emotions.
Don’t dwell on only negative emotions.

Health & Well-being
Get enough sleep.
Eat well.
Exercise, stay active.
Make time for fun.

Develop your problem-solving skills.
Puzzle, think.

OK by Horia Varlan Under CC BY 2.0

Set short and long-term goals for yourself.
Do something regularly that contributes to your goals.
Check in your goals regularly.

Keep learning
Some setbacks can be good learning opportunities.

In future posts, I'd like to share with you some of my experiences in developing these areas. I hope they will be of some help to you.

With thanks to the resources listed below for some ideas.

Why Resilience?

“A good half of the art of living is resilience.” 
 -- Alain De Botton

Stand firm by Mel (me!) under CC BY NC SA 2.0

As you can imagine, I am a fairly resilient person. While I wouldn't say that I lead a miserable life, some past experiences with personal and professional hardship, depression, and of course death, have been incredible challenges that I have had to work my way through.

Many people have (and continue to) comment on my 'strength' in the face of Samuel's death. And I've written before about my approach to processing all of it. But I think that a lot of the way I have reacted and continue to react is because of my attitude. I am generally a positive person and actively cultivate my own resilience and well-being.

While I've always been a pretty positive, chirpy type (annoyingly so in my younger days - 'why are you always smiling?!!'), resilience has taken more cultivation. In my first year of teaching I did a professional development session on resilience and I really think it helped me. I had a very difficult class for my first year out, and many times wanted to quit. A combination of pure stubbornness, supportive peers and a caring manager ensured that I didn't.

In the end I did leave teaching, but I don't think it was completely because of a lack of resilience. In the first instance, it was a reaction to my grief: I couldn't face working with kids, and I felt a whole lot of guilt about the time I put into teaching (over my own family and well-being). But since then I've realised that there were other reasons: a need to pursue my passions; trying to balance life and work; and philosophical reasons that would make it difficult for me to return to traditional schools! More about that another time too, perhaps.

Since then, I have actively developed my own resilience, and tried to foster it in my children. It certainly seems to be working for Oliver so far, and I know that I am a much more balanced person too. 

Do you do these things? Are you resilient?

In my next post, I'm going to share some ideas for developing resilience. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Working to live

Never continue in a job you don't enjoy. If you're happy in what you're doing, you'll like yourself, you'll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined.
Johnny Carson

Today I finished up my job at the University of Canberra. There are many reasons (a few of which I'll write about), but the main reason is that I just wasn't happy in it. Part of me making a better life for myself was not staying in situations that were compromising my time, happiness or values. Luckily I had the opportunity to make a change.

When I started there, I really thought that I was destined for academia. I'd done some casual tutoring previously, as well as working with some very inspirational people who also happen to be academics. I was inspired by them and the air of intellect that hung over hallways, conversations, and even casual coffee breaks. I really enjoyed teaching adults and the opportunity to work with the latest research in my field.

Yep, some of it was great (and to be honest I'm not going to go into great detail about much of the stuff that wasn't), but suffice it to say that the novelty wore off this year and I realised that it just wasn't for me. 
One of the big revelations is that I don't think I'm actually cut out for academia after all. Don't get me wrong, I love learning, but I don't think I have the attention span to commit to one field of learning to the exclusion of all others. A colleague mentioned to me today that they couldn't read a novel over their long weekend because they had to read some articles that related to their PhD study. I can't think of anything worse than giving up reading for enjoyment! 

Also, my 'field' (educational technology) doesn't really lend itself to sustained research. 5 years of PhD study is way too long in the technology world!

And, probably the other main reason, I want to do things other than working! When I left teaching in 2010, while it was daunting, it was also a great decision in that it gave me the opportunity to find work-life balance (this is a subject I am extra passionate about, and will write about again). Teachers work way too hard and while office-based staff do too, it's a very different kind of busy. At the uni, while there are many slow, relaxed times, there are also many super-busy times where the world has to come second. And I just can't do that. I have too many fun non-work things to do! I'll tell you about them later too.

So, I left. Luckily I had a job to go to, and to be honest I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't, but I took the opportunity when it came. I wish everyone had the same opportunity. Now I've just gotta work out how to just do the fun things! :)

Good-Yeah 2.0

In my last post, I talked about wanting to keep blogging. But what on Earth should I write about? 

I looked around the web a bit, and there seem to be a few general reasons that people blog:
  • To share their thoughts and opinions
  • To sell a product
  • To help people or make a difference
  • To share a talent or creative flair
I'm not especially creative and I don't think that I'm in it for the money, but I must say that the longtime idealist in me would love to 'make a difference'. But if I'm honest, I got the most satisfaction from sharing my personal journey. As I mentioned previously, this blog was a very effective and important part of processing my grief, but it reached a natural end. I admit that there's probably something odd about wanting to share your thoughts and feelings in a public forum, but I did get a lot out of it.

Apart from that, blogging is a good way for me to regularly practise writing. 

Despite all that, there still wasn't really a clear direction for me and the blog. But the answer came from the title. Good-Yeah. 

Because I made a promise to myself after we lost Sam that I would live better. I would be more healthy, use my time better, make positive changes to my life. I'm still doing that every day. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But some of it is interesting, and some of it would be helpful for other people too. Plus, people are always telling me that the stuff I find on the web (and currently share on Facebook) is really interesting, so I'd like to share some of that here too. As well as interesting stuff happening in my beautiful home town of Canberra.

So I'm going to write about lots of things! But especially, all the things I do to create my 'Good-Yeah' life. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I just want to write!

When I started this particular blog in 2010, it was an important tool in dealing with the grief over the loss of my son, Samuel. And when I started my first blog way back in 2008, I was excited about the possibilities then, too.

And, if you've dropped in to either of those blogs lately, or my failed new garden blog, you'll see that I've alternated between no posts and desperate attempts to write something. Anything!

Because the thing is, I love to write. Ever since I was a kid I've loved writing. It's the way I communicate best (I'm actually a pretty terrible conversationalist!). Drafting a good email, story, how-to document (or even dare I day, brief) is very satisfying to me. I'd like to keep developing that.

The trouble is, each time I have tried to resurrect this blog, there hasn't been a unifying thread. Like there was in the early days. So I start things and they tend to peter out.

But I've got an idea. I think I was close before, but some recent soul-searching (yes, more of it!) has led me to the point where I think I've got something good to say.

So my next post will be dedicated to reinventing Good-Yeah. I hope you'll join me!