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inspiration, life, On writing, Personal

12 things I learned about writing from cheering on a school Netball Team

When I first stood sideline at a netball game I had no idea that I’d end up learning so much about how to approach life and writing.

The last two years I’ve had the chance to go on tournament with my school’s premier netball team as a chaperone/teacher in charge. I’m not a coach, I’ve never even played 😬 I’m the van driver and attendant and school rep and cheerleader.

I’ve learned so much watching the girls and listening to the amazing coach, Rachel Rasmussen. These lessons are life lessons, but being me I connect them most with writing. I’ve listed 12 of them below so we can all benefit from the wisdom gleaned on the sidelines. 

When your head gets all messy that’s when you need to connect with someone.

We’ve all had moments when our own minds become our worst enemy. Confusion and self-doubt muddle our thinking and ability to perform well. Those are the moments when you need to make a connection with a buddy–let them set you straight or support you out of the mess. I do this all the time with my writing. When things are spiralling and I can’t see the trees for the self-doubt, I don’t so much slide as crash into my writing friends’ DMs and let them help me.

When the girls felt like they were flat in their play, the coach told them to buddy up with someone who would become their hype partner. We know what a difference it makes when you have someone in your corner telling you that you’re amazing and you got this.

Back yourself

I’ve learned a few things about netball over the last couple of years but I’m definitely no expert. But what I CAN tell, every time I watch the girls play, is the exact moment when they stop believing. When they stop backing themselves. Every single time that happens it’s a ripple effect. They stop playing well, they pull back, they don’t make the shot. That lack of belief is then reinforced by their actions so they continue to sink downwards in an awful spiral that many of us will be only too sadly familiar with.

The same applies for writing. And, indeed, for life. We need to back ourselves. There are enough obstacles throwing themselves in our path as it is, we can’t afford to be our own obstacle. And just as the cycle of lack of belief leads to reinforcing the idea that we are crap, so backing ourselves can lead to a cycle of positive reinforcement that yes, we’re getting there. I told the girls I could see when they back themselves because then they shine.

We have to back ourselves.

You can’t play at 100% if you haven’t practiced at 100%

If we write like we mean it, if we live with purpose, then the finished product will show that. We have to show up for the trainings. For the practice runs. For the moments when it isn’t going anywhere but we still learn something from it.

And we have to show up with commitment.

Sure, just deciding to commit and putting in a whole assed effort doesn’t mean it will always work out, but it will be better than if you didn’t. And that’s the point.

Don’t say ‘I played bad’. You’re not setting out to play badly. What specifically did you do or not do that you want to and can improve on.

This one hit me hard.

So often we diss ourselves. “This draft is trash”, “I’m so rubbish at this“. That kind of negative self talk is NOT helpful. Yeah, sometimes we need that honest look at ourselves but wallowing in generalised “I’m so crap” doesn’t do anything except a) reinforce that you are not succeeding and b) make you feel terrible. Targeting specific things you tried but that didn’t work, or recognising what you didn’t do that you should have, gives you a plan to go forward. It gives you recognition of what you tried–and that’s important. Acknowledging that we didn’t set out to play badly/write badly/be disorganised, means we can high five ourselves for our efforts while making plans for improvement.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The power of reflection

After each game, the coach gets the team to think and discuss what their goal going in was, did they succeed, how did they play, how did the team do. It’s a round robin which encourages reflection and focus.

Reflecting on what we have done, what we hoped and still hope to do, and how we feel about it, is a great life skill. Reflection is a key aspect of teaching – why did that lesson work? how could I have tried more to get that one student to engage. And I think it’s important that as writers we reflect as well. (More on living a reflective life here).

Looking past the mess to the clean pass

I loved this. This was on court, players looking past the mess and hustle of the defence and attack and seeing the clean pass. It’s SO easy to get stuck on the mess that’s in front of us. The day to day mess of life, of thoughts, self imposed deadlines and plans shifting. Of Covid…

Sometimes we need to look past all the mess to the clean pass – to see a different path or a new option.

And then make the pass.

(more on clearing mental space here)

Encouragement and kindness but honesty overall.

One of the things I most love about watching Rachel coach the team is her manner with the girls. When they’re on the court she alternates between enouragement and praise and “get on the ball! that was our ball! get it back! what are you doing??”. When they come off in between quarters she’s so encouraging. She doesn’t shy away from real talk, fierce talk, after a game or in trainings, but when a player comes off stressed and tired, she says ‘hey that was good, you played that defense well, just need to make sure you keep your feet moving”. The girls respond so well to it because they know that it’s honest – the good and the bad – but they feel supported and like their efforts are acknowledged.

Honesty is so important. We can’t improve without honest critique. Fierceness can be appreciated. This is a gif I use often for friends who are needing a push to get writing instead of doomscrolling Twitter:

But that honesty and fierce encouragement has to be tempered with support and kindness. We all know it’s tough, and knowing someone is on your side makes all the difference.

Grinding it out. Yes it gets tough but you can do it. 

One of the last games of the tournament was so hard. It’s been a strange year with Covid 19 and tournaments cancelled and no training. They had about 5 games this season before we went back into lockdown. Luckily, being in New Zealand, we were back out of lockdown pretty soon and cases under enough control to play again. But their game fitness suffered. That didn’t matter – the girls left it all on the court. One player was almost in tears as they played so hard and still didn’t get those goals. But they didn’t give up. They dug deep and kept going.

Writing is hard. Publishing is harder. We got to grind it out. Keep going. Keep pushing. Leave it all on the page.

When it’s hardest is when we have to dig deep, remember why we’re doing it, and keep at it.

It’s okay to lose when you’ve played your hardest.

Our coach is intensely competitive. I’ve seen her on the sideline fully stressed and she hates losing. But, she always says to the team – “I don’t mind the loss when it’s a good hard game.”

Success is not guaranteed just because we work hard. But as my son said to me once when he was about 7: “You shouldn’t be stressed, you should be proud of yourself for working so hard.”

Publishing, life in general actually, is an industry where luck and timing is huge. Quality and skill and hard work are important, but if your work doesn’t resonate with the right people at the right time, it doesn’t matter how many hours you spent revising or learning your craft or polishing the manuscript.

But that’s a good loss. It still hurts (let’s be real it always will) but we can lay it to rest being proud that we did EVERYTHING we could.

I felt that way about my marriage ending to be honest. I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eyes and say that I had tried everything to make it work, to keep our family together. And I feel satisfied that I did. It still hurt, hugely, but I did what I could until I couldn’t.

Acknowledge and celebrate strengths and wins as well as working to improve weaknesses. 

It took me about 16 months to put “Award Winning Writer” in my Twitter bio and I still feel uncomfortable about it. Maybe that’s a kiwi thing – feels too much like bragging. But I think it’s because I know how much more I want to improve and benchmarks I’ve set myself that I haven’t reached yet.

It’s so easy for us to focus on the negative. On the losses, the rejections. But that doesn’t help us emotionally and it isn’t realistic either. There’s so much more to us than our weaknesses or our ‘failures’.

Knowing our strengths means we can play to them.

It’s not personal.

This is a big one.

Playing competitively sometimes you’re left on the bench the whole game, or you’re pulled off and someone else is sent on. It isn’t personal. it’s the coach figuring out what the best play is for that game.

We talk about being rejected as an author but actually it’s a pass. A pass on that project. It isn’t personal. It isn’t a reflection of your worth as a person. It’s just that it isn’t quite right for that person at that time. It isn’t the best play for them.

What did you enjoy?

When the coach asked the girls this after our final game, an intense game we lost by three points, it really struck me. Yes there were tough moments and the outcome wasn’t what they wanted, but what moments did they enjoy?

This is like my happy jar approach, or a gratitude journal. It’s the recognition that there are good and fun things in life even when it’s hard.

There are times when writing can feel a bit like drudgery. But there are still moments we can enjoy. Maybe we enjoyed writing that paragraph when that one perfectly matched song came on the playlist. Maybe a bit of dialogue made us cackle. Maybe we feel proud of that line of description.

Sometimes we forget why we started writing in the first place – because it’s fun and we like it.

I think enjoyment can occasionally get lost once we start taking it seriously and want to be published. At times, the thought of ‘is this marketable? will anyone want it?” sucks all the enjoyment out of it.

I’m primarily a discovery writer. If I plot too much I don’t enjoy the story as much anymore. For a while, I felt I had to make myself outline and plot and structure my writing a certain way – but that’s not really how I write. I have the most fun when I jump around between scenes and jot small things down and find things out as I write.

My new goal is to rediscover my enjoyment and fun, to record what I enjoyed after each writing session.

I hope you find these insights as helpful as I have!

inspiration, life, Personal

Things my Grandmother Taught me

My 99 year old grandmother died last week. She wasn’t your stereotypical kind of grandma. She painted, but she didn’t paint still life or scenery, she painted vivid abstract compositions based on nebulae and quantum physics. She was fierce in her hunt for knowledge and her passion for science and art. She engaged with socialist ideas well before they became hipster.

At her funeral, we all shared our memories of Grandma and some consistent themes came up. Her huge sense of fairness and the importance of equality, the love of knowledge, the loyalty to and importance of family. We talked about how all of these had been passed down through the generations and her 23 descendants.

Today I’m sharing some of the many lessons my Grandma taught me.

Childhood Trauma can Shape you Forever

Grandma lived through the Great Depression. Born in 1920, she was just a child when the Depression hit, her father died, and her family had to leave the big house she loved and move cities to live with extended family. She didn’t live with her mother, but with a cousin whose wife treated her very badly. She had to leave school at 14 and help her family. These early experiences shaped my grandmother deeply, some in sad ways (her fear of being thought ignorant which drove her fierce acquisition of learning in later years) and some in more quirky ones. Grandma could not abide waste. She was known to slip bacon from the motel breakfast into her purse ‘for later’ and couldn’t throw away anything that might end up being useful later.

I didn’t understand a lot of that until I was older. When I heard more of the stories of her life I had a much greater understanding of how she came to be the way she was. It’s so important to remember that people are so often the products of their upbringing and their earliest experiences, and to be kind.

Resist Authority

Not long before she died, Grandma told me about when she was 10, and the woman she stayed with took the roses Grandma had gathered to give to her mother and put them in her own living room. Grandma was as furious as a sad little 10yo deeply missing their mother could be. She told me she went to every corner of that room and stuck her finger in the wallpaper and ripped it down. I nearly cheered.

A story I remember hearing when I was younger and I really hope isn’t apocryphal because I tell it to all my students 😬, is that during the mass protests against the 1981 Springbok Tour, Grandma hit a policeman on the head with her handbag when he was rough with protestors. My grandmother was never one to bow to authority unless she deemed it moral and worth listening to. Even then I doubt she would bow.

Be Yourself even when Others Have Opinions

Grandma was never one to worry too much about the opinions of those she didn’t care for. Certainly not by the time I knew her.

She and her sister opened a fashion store in 1950s Hamilton and shocked many with their glamorous selves. And she was glamorous.

(photo is from her engagement earlier, but STILL so glamorous)

She was a working mother when that was frowned upon. She read about communism (although she did burn her little red book in the backyard in the 60s when anti-communism was at a high). She learned acupuncture and ran a successful clinic in the 1980s in central Auckland. She was always a rationalist and had little patience for sentimentality. She painted her house herself. She had staunch political opinions and was not afraid to discuss them.

Grandma was so very much herself. So much of her childhood always sounded to me as if she was being required to repress her feelings and experiences and I’m so very glad that for most of her life she allowed herself to just simply BE.

Young Women Have Urges

So…. When I was in my early 20s and single, I was visiting grandma when she asked:

“Have you found a nice boyfriend yet?”

“Ah no, some dates but they never last long.”

“Don’t worry you’ll find someone.”

“I’m sure I will.”

her: *looks intently at me* “But, young women have… urges….and it’s quite alright to date someone you aren’t in love with to satisfy those urges.”

me:

I couldn’t believe my grandma was telling me to have one-night stands 😂

You are never too old to create

Grandma taught herself to paint and came up with her own style. She painted and learned and had her first exhibition at the age of 96. It was such a success they brought her back for another the year after. She was still talking of having another exhibition not many months ago.

Three weeks before she died, grandma was still working on her paintings. She still had so many ideas she wanted to try, visions to pursue.

I began writing again in my late thirties, dropped it, and picked it up again a couple of years ago. Knowing that age is no barrier to creativity is endlessly inspiring.

The world will change, and we change with it

Over Grandma’s 99 1/2 years, she witnessed so many things: The Great Depression, the creation of the first welfare state in New Zealand, World War II, the first Atomic Bombs, the rise of second wave feminism, gay rights, first woman Prime Minister in New Zealand, fights for civil rights, the Vietnam War, protests, climate change, the hippy counter culture of the 70s, the rise of computers, televisions, movies, mobile phones, passenger flight, the Moon Landing, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring, 9/11, the #MeToo movement and third wave feminism….

It’s been a huge century, and she saw and experienced so much of it. And I know I said we change with it, and we do, but the essential core of who my grandma was – the loving, curious, determined, creative little girl she was – remained throughout her life.

I was so incredibly blessed to have known her.

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Toddler Tantrums and Life Lessons

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Hear me out. I know no-one enjoys a toddler tantrum, but as I drove past a park the other day I saw a mum trying to lift her toddler off the ground. Said toddler clearly didn’t want to leave the park and was embracing gravity for all they were worth.

It struck me all at once how this little scene was in fact a lesson for how to deal with all sorts of people, tantruming or not. I mentioned it to my teen who immediately understood what I meant and why I thought it related to him, and his peers.


Parents lift toddlers all the time. They’re heavy, but moveable. Mostly because they’re all ‘up! up!’, and hold themselves up.

Toddlers who refuse to be lifted are a different story. It’s like they’ve sucked in gravity and it’s holding them bound to the earth. When you finally heave them up, you might get a kick in the stomach for your pains and a screech in your eardrum.


We can try and lift people, and help them, and support them, but sometimes they aren’t ready. Sometimes they’re lying on the ground refusing to get up. Sometimes they’re frightened to get up. They push us away, shout, cover their eyes.

When people want to be lifted, it’s a lot easier.

Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

This isn’t to say that we walk away from them when they’re not wanting the help. That might be necessary for our own wellbeing at times but mostly I think when we have the spoons we want to stick around to help.

What it means is that we can’t save everyone. We can’t always help people who aren’t ready to be helped. Who don’t want us there.

And that isn’t our fault.

It’s not a burden in particular that a teen or child needs to bear when friends or those close to them aren’t ready to be helped. I think it’s an important message to let young people know that they don’t have to be the saviour. They can still try and help, but they need to know that stepping back to look after themselves is okay. Refill the jug. Put your own oxygen mask on first.

The way I see it in teaching is that I can easily help a kid who is struggling in my subject but who wants help and wants to improve. It’s so very much harder when they don’t want to be there at all. Part of the rewards of my job is when, through patience and kindness, I can wait long enough for the student to shift, to be able to sit up and ask to be lifted.

Many people I’m more than happy to wait it out. Be there until they’re ready.

But sometimes we can’t do that, and it’s actually okay.

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When negative emotions overwhelm – 7 suggestions to deal with it

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Emotions are tricksy beasts. Especially the negative ones. They build up until they’re a roiling mess of sobs and anger and UGH lying just under a thin film of ice. At any moment the control can snap, the ice shatter, and everything just cascades out.

Negative emotions are not inherently bad. Sadness can have its place, as can concern and worry. It’s when they layer one on top of each other so you can’t breathe, or when they appear hand in hand with negative self-talk, that the problem starts.

Suggested ways to deal with emotional tsunamis

These are ideas that work for me, or at least can help a little.

One: Write it Out

Maybe because I’m naturally happy writing, but I’ve always written out my emotions. In letters that I don’t send (and some that I do), in diaries, in endless lists and mind maps and jotted notes in planners and bits of refill.

Research shows that writing out your problems and emotions can be just as, if not often more, effective than talking it out. This article explains it well, and this one gives some advice on how to do it. Writing your feelings helps you to structure your thoughts – we naturally think in paragraphs or bullet points when writing. We edit ideas and words and definitions. This earlier post of mine shows the process I often go through. Writing can help me parse my thoughts and reframe my catastrophising.

You don’t need to do regular journalling to benefit from writing out your emotions. To be honest, the most therapeutic benefits I’ve experienced is from simply allowing myself to spill out all the thoughts and fears and demons that sweep down to roost at various times.

Two: Talk With Someone

Although writing can be just as therapeutic in many ways, there’s no doubt for me that talking is important. I think it’s the whole “a burden shared is a burden halved” thing.

Telling someone you trust about your problems, about the emotions threatening to explode out of you or the sneaky ones eating away at your sense of being – that talk can be such a weight lifted off. For me it’s that I’m no longer hiding how I feel. And honesty and openness are, I believe, healing.

Opening up to someone also means you end up with someone else in your corner, someone ready to have your back. And that’s helpful when dealing with either the negative self-talk, or emotions about something you can’t control.

Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

Three: Look! a Squirrel! Distraction Distraction

Honestly? Sometimes we just need to fill our heads with something light and fluffy and different. Baking shows. Comedians (I love Michael McIntyre for this purpose). Golden Buzzer winners. Puppy pictures.

Chris Evans Laughing. No, really. Evidence below.

Told you it is good.

Four: Exercise and Sleep

I know, sometimes sleep is impossible to achieve when those emotions keep you up in the middle of the night, brain whirling, or worse – tears falling. Routines help here. Doing the same thing every evening at the same time can help train your body into falling to sleep mode.

And this is where exercise helps too. Not just for working out those emotions and getting those sweet endorphins, but for helping you sleep.

Sleep is so incredibly important for resilience. And resilience is what helps us cope with emotional overwhelm in the long run.

I feel hypocritical advocating exercise when I’m possibly at my unfittest, but I also KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that when I’m fit, exercising, I feel better. I have more energy, I have more confidence, I feel more capable.

Exercise can be as simple as a walk, or some stretches, or dancing in your living room (dancing also gives happy vibes so that’s extra bonus points).

Five: Use Logic

So what I mean here is – I catastrophise. It’s easy to do, especially when those emotions are roiling. Logic makes me stop. I think backwards from the horrific end point my catastrophising has filled my brain with and at each step I question ‘how would THIS have happened?’. In the end, I usually prove to myself that whatever overblown fears my brain has cooked up are unlikely to happen.

If it’s a reasonable fear it’s a bit trickier. That’s when I use logic to tell myself things like; ‘It’s 3am. I literally can’t do anything about [Big Problem] now, so thinking about it will have to wait until tomorrow.” I follow that up with a promise to myself with a set time: ‘I will look at this or think about it at 11am tomorrow.” Middle of the night jotted out lists also help me go back to sleep because I’ve tricked my brain into thinking I’ve dealt with it.

This is reminiscent of ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy where you acknowledge the emotion, assess whether it’s useful, and if it isn’t, ‘thanks Brain but that’s not helpful right now.’ It isn’t about denying emotions, or even about solving them, just recognising that they exist but aren’t necessarily helpful. Then choosing a direction to take that is more helpful. Have a read about it here.

Six: Cry

Pretty self explanatory.

Sometimes we need a good cry.

Those emotions that are roiling under the surface? Sometimes we need to let them out in a safe space so they don’t explode at inopportune moments in ways we regret or are embarrassed by.

Stock up on the tissues and let it all out.

Seven: Be Kind To Yourself

This is kind of my go-to advice for most things really. Let yourself feel the emotions. Don’t beat yourself up for having them. Don’t tell yourself you’re weak for having emotions or for not being able to cope with them. That’s human. And feeling intense emotion is not a bad thing. It probably means you have a strong amount of empathy and empathy generally = good.

Don’t be horrible to yourself.

Give yourself time and space to deal.

Have that cupcake if it will help.

Snuggle in the blanket and feel sorry for yourself.

But also be kind enough to look after yourself – do the things that will help you feel better in the long term, not just in the short term.

That brings me to my final point

Bonus: Seek help if it’s really bad

Seeking help from trained professionals (General Practitioners, Counsellors, Psychiatrists, Psychologists) is never shameful. It isn’t weak. Seeking help is about one of the strongest things you can do. And it’s a big part of being kind to yourself.

I hope that some of these can help, and remember – you are not alone. There are others out there on the rising tide of overwhelming emotion as well. Maybe if we help each other out we can build a life raft that takes us to calmer waters.

happiness, inspiration, life, motivation, Personal, self care, Uncategorized

A decade of Clem – aka has it really been 10 years??

Rollercoasters are pretty cliche for describing a life journey but that’s the image I find myself returning to again and again when trying to pin down the last ten years. Those highs, sometimes reaching such pinnacles that you can feel the drop downward about to hit, leading to twisting paths that have you careening out of control with no idea where you’re headed or why, and the lows *shudder* the terrifying or stomach churning lows where you’re sure this is it–there’s no further to go. And then a jolting lift upward again.

It gets very exhausting.

Then when we factor in the way the world is going…Eeek. Sometimes we want to get off the rollercoaster. Have a break for a bit. You know, a cuppa and a nice cookie and tune out for a while. Look at some cats.

This last decade gave me some mighty lows and some real scares. It was the decade my marriage ended. The decade I had to get used to sharing custody of my children. The decade I had emergency bowel surgery and up to six members of my family in hospital in one year. I gained weight–lost weight–gained it-lost it and, yes, gained it again. I’ve spent thousands of dollars at the dentist and hours in pain. I spent years working myself into burnout and a solid year suffering clinical depression. I lost myself–found me–lost me again. My dogs died. My aunt died. My grandmother died.

Looking at it like that makes me glad I try not to focus on the negative things because there were some major bad things and they hit more than just me. The bad things that hit my friends and family, and the downward spiral so much of the world has sunk into, wraps around me as well.

But – through it all there were highs. I applied for and achieved two promotions. I’ve presented at two local and two national conferences on something I’m passionate about. I took on a mortgage on my own house and I like my house a lot. I have a study with a nice computer to write on. I may have lost my way fitness and health wise after finding it again BUT I’m not going to let that diminish my accomplishment of working hard for it in the first place. I took my kids on holidays.

Writing wise I’m proud of myself. I started the decade with no real intention to write, just a ‘wouldn’t it be cool to write a book one day’ kind of thought. Since 2014 I have written five (unpublished) books, and a host of beginnings of other ideas. I started a blog. I had a story published in an anthology. I entered and won contests. I queried and had full requests. I haven’t got the agent or the publishing deal *yet*, but I’m feeling much, much closer to it than I had thought possible at the beginning of 2010. More importantly (to me, anyway) I began to identify as a writer. Not just a teacher who writes part time. That’s been an important and wonderful shift for me.

It strikes me that one of the things I look back on and am proudest of is often the struggle, or the striving. I’m not just proud I wrote and entered contests, I’m proud that in the middle of severe depression that targeted negativity around my writing, I still wrote. I learned to revise. I had the courage to query and to push the ‘send’ button even though my heart raced and my stomach churned at the thought (and I’m not hyperbolising – I genuinely panicked every time I pushed send on my first 30 or so queries).

I’m so glad I didn’t give in to the panic. I’m so proud I felt the fear and did it anyway.

I am proud I learned to deal with and accept rejection.

I went to school and did my job even as my health and mental wellbeing staggered along. I’m proud that as I tried to balance teaching with parenting and a marriage break up and finding a new passion – I still managed to inspire and touch students’ hearts. That’s what keeps me going back to teaching, the connection to students. I noticed that over this Christmas with my son in hospital. I saw three ex-students working in pharmacies or in the hospital and one of his nurses was the aunt of an ex-student. It makes me feel part of a community.

The most special part of this decade has been my children. Their support and joy and humour and how they’ve learned to deal with pain–all of it has been a privilege to see. Watching them become who they are, the leaps they’ve taken, has been so amazing. I look back and I feel that HERE, with this important job, I did my best. I don’t know what I did to be so blessed, but I do know I’ve tried my hardest to teach my boys about kindness and empathy and social responsibility and awareness of inequality. They might not keep their rooms tidy, but their hearts are huge. I know which I see as a bigger achievement.

I’ve learned so much over this decade. Some of it through experience, some from advice from others, and some from giving advice to others that I’ve realised I should follow myself. I’ve learned that vulnerability terrifies me–until it doesn’t. I’ve learned that my tendency to run away from and avoid big problems CAN be overcome. I’ve learned to appreciate the small beauties of life and that spending time stargazing or stopping to look at the daisies in the field is never time wasted. I’ve learned that humour makes life a gazillion times better. I’ve learned I’m strong, even when I don’t want to be. I’ve learned that I’m worthy of being treated better than I was. I’ve learned that letting others help you and be your cheerleaders doesn’t make you weak. I’ve learned to apply my own oxygen mask first and that boundaries are important-to refill my jug before filling others’. I learned to say No.

When I think back on the good things though, what really made this decade is very clear to me. They are the small things. The conversations with my children. The kindness from strangers. Laughing with old friends. The dewdrops on a rose. I’m so pleased I kept my happy jar going for so much of this decade. Looking back on years of small moments of happiness is such a good reminder that yes there are dark times and sometimes we can’t escape those, but there is goodness and kindness and joy to be found as well.

Ultimately that’s my belief about the world. There is darkness and many (far too many) people living in awful times and facing racist and increasingly authoritarian and elitist power structures. But there is too much kindness and too much hope to give up. Resistance and ally-ship and tagging in to help those who can’t, refusing to lose ground on the progress society has made – those things help make the world a community. And I have met, and taught, too many great kind people to think that the world is all awful. That doesn’t mean I think we can relax. This decade also showed us how much we’ve taken for granted and how desperately bigoted and small minded people cling to their harmful ideals. This is the time that we must pick up the torch and keep pushing, keep striving, keep trying. And not just to save ourselves but to save others.

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I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have the most amazing people in my life: a wonderful family who support and encourage and love me; friends new and old who lift me when I’m down and remind me I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am – that I, in and of myself, am enough.

They are the ones who have made this decade – this turbulent, bizarre, uplifting decade – what it is. They are the ones who have helped me to make me what I am.

And I find, at the end of this decade, I like who I am.