Archive for November, 2014

Dream big…

November 27th, 2014 | Comments Off on Dream big…

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting on our front lawn with my best friend who lived about two blocks away and telling her with conviction that it was possible for us to build a tunnel underneath our suburb, linking our houses, a la the Famous Five.

She said it wasn’t.

‘Anything is possible!’ I sang, like I was in the Sound of Music.

She said, ‘Not this.’

Fast forward about thirty-five years and I was floundering in a soup of helplessness after my daughter’s best friend Neala was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Neala was admitted immediately for a two-month stay in hospital ahead of a three year treatment program and first things first. Posters of Harry Styles in the oncology ward:

I was desperately trying to think of ways to help. Practical things. Casseroles etc.

‘You know what Neala needs?’ I said to my kids. ‘One of Harry Styles’ bandanas for when her hair falls out.’

Entire Tumblr blogs are dedicated to Harry’s bandana collection. Surely he can spare one?

How hard could it possibly be to convince the most popular boy in the world to strip off a bandana and mail it to us here in Jerra, unwashed and reeking of pop-star… (and yes, maybe I was slightly high at the time on the buzz of writing my novel, Unrequited, in which an ordinary girl catches the eye of the world’s biggest pop star).

My kids looked at me the way my best friend did when we were five.

They said, ‘Niall Horan’s half-eaten piece of toast was auctioned for one hundred thousand dollars.’

I didn’t understand what that had to do with anything.

‘Mum – Neala would love that. It would be the coolest thing ever. But it’s never going to happen. One Direction is flooded with requests like this for cancer patients. Harry has 23 million followers on Twitter. They make $75 million a year…’

Neala would love that.

‘Does anyone know Harry Styles?’ I typed into Facebook, knowing it was simply a matter of digging around and uncovering six degrees of separation.

PING! Private message from a friend whose husband works with someone in the entertainment industry who had met them. Two minutes into the quest and only two degrees of separation to go!

So I wrote very compelling email…

Fast forward seven months.

Dream big. Assume the best of people. xx

 

It’s not a Problem Competition

1131820One of the business networking groups I belong to on Facebook has nearly thirteen thousand members. This week it was announced that the group would be moved to another online portal, and a small charge would be introduced.

Despite the professional way that the announcement was handled and followed up, there was mass freak-out. People complained. They boycotted. They formed splinter groups.

Above and below these comments in my news feed was a calm discussion from a friend in the close-knit online mums’ group I’ve loved being a part of for about five years. This particular mum is separated from her husband and was seeking advice on how they can share care of their two children under five.

There was no ranting. No ‘it’s not fair!’ No whinging about her lot. Just measured discussion about how to work through this considerable change and adapt to it.

The other day some friends and I were talking about some of our problems. There’s some really stressful stuff going on, and one of the group said that others’ problems ‘put hers into perspective’.

I suggested to her that it’s not a Problem Competition. There’s no ‘My problem is harder than yours…’ We all have our own struggles, perspectives, contexts and different coping mechanisms. It’s true that some people deal better with pressure than others. It’s true that some are their own worst enemies.

It’s true that some focus on everything that’s going wrong, create drama and make things more difficult for themselves and others, while others suffer unimaginable pain and rise above it.

I had a brief interaction on Saturday at a local pool with another mum, who I met sitting on the water’s edge. It had been a particularly difficult week for me with my little boy. He’s four, and pretty full-on at the moment. His dad’s been overseas but I don’t think that’s why.

I was taken aside by his play-school teacher to say he’d taken a plastic cricket bat off another child and attempted to swipe him with it… GAH! (I’ve been at this parenting gig for sixteen years and this is a first for me.)

The mum at the pool had a little boy with her, too. He was furious about the water temperature. He was furious about everything, really. She told me in the first two minutes that he had autism (which I’d already guessed). It was twenty minutes of watching her contend beautifully with a seriously challenging situation.

Then she asked me where my own children were. I looked over at my little boy, splashing happily in the pool with his step-sister. For a few moments I felt ashamed about thinking he was ‘difficult’ during the week.

Then I remembered it’s not a competition. It’s okay to have had a trying week, even when others deal with much worse, most of the time. My tough week with a little boy might be combined with a heap of unrelated other stressors, unseen to outsiders. No-one knows the assortment of challenges each of us have at any one time.

My daughter had to fill out an application for leadership positions in Year 11 this week. One of the questions asked about her top personal qualities, and she chose resilience as #1. For sixteen years I’ve pondered the qualities I’d love her to have, and that’s the one that will see her through.

Because change happens. Online forums move. Couples separate. Children have special needs.

Those challenges are not created equal—not by any stretch. But they’re equally real for different people, who have unequally different abilities to cope with them.

I think we can use the perspective of ‘it could be worse’ to strengthen us in difficult times. We don’t necessarily need to expect it to abolish our struggles altogether.