Waxing physically and philosically...
Monday, August 31, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015
My sincere congratulations to Lisa for launching her new business,Transformations: Movement for EVERY Body. I wish Lisa every success in her new venture.
I met Lisa in 2003 when my husband and I were invited to take part in a pilot program of Conductive Education. This program was aimed at adults with Cerebral Palsy, and was the first of its kind for adults in Australia.
I had heard about Conductive Education but really did not know what to expect or how the treatment could help me, but at the age of 48, I was willing to try anything that might help me to keep my mobility and independence. Despite being born with Cerebral Palsy, I have always taken great pride in my independence but as I age, my independence has become slowly increasingly difficult to maintain.
It was mid way through my second term of Conductive Education that I began to understand the fundamentals of the treatment. I started to implement much of what I had learnt in Conductive Education to help me in my everyday life. I found myself using controlled breathing and counting in my head when I had difficulty in doing simple tasks. It always works for me.
In December 2010 I made a submission to present a paper at the 7th World Congress on Conductive Education in Hong Kong. My submission titled “Conductive Education Is Not Only For The Young” was accepted and with the support of Lisa and Alexander I travelled to Hong Kong and presented my paper. I was very proud to present my paper and I enjoyed listening to other presenters speaking about the many aspects of Conductive Education.
Unfortunately I do not have access to Conductive Education any longer. I now attend a main stream gym and work out in the swimming pool weekly. In many ways both are similar to Conductive Education but they don’t teach me the tasks I need to remain independent.
I often wonder how different my life would have been if I had access to Conductive Education at a young age
Friday, February 27, 2015
Work has been hectic and a bit stressful over the last while. That may or may not be the subject of a future blog post. Life outside work has been more about exploring, adventuring, and indulging than about maintaining this blog, for which I will not feign apology. In fact, I actually offer the opposite of an apology -- I offer the encouragement to do the same. When life is good, get out there and enjoy it. When things are hectic and stressful, all the more reason to seek what makes you happy and to care for yourself by doing things that offer pleasure, restores balance, and provokes gratitude.
Yes, my time outside work has been about exploring, adventuring, and indulging. But as conductors we are very lucky. Politics and organizational crappiness aside, for most of us our work makes us happy, offers pleasure, and provokes gratitude. On the weekends I love the outdoors -- and New Zealand's outdoor are inspirationally splendid. During the work week my classroom is my sanctuary, my time with clients feeds my soul, and inspires me to be the best that I can be for them and for myself. Working conductively reminds me to celebrate being exposed to the attitude and lifestyle of Conductive Education; it helps me take risks and try new things; it helps me value and appreciate being the best you can be within the context of a set of circumstances or of a moment, and it helps me celebrate even the tiniest of achievements and to remember that tiny achievements add up to more than the sum of their parts. For example...
A small achievement was writing about the benefits of Conductive Education for people with degenerative conditions as part of my dissertation as a student at NICE, and having that shape my practice to this day. A small achievement was opening my colleagues minds to the possibility of opening our services to people with Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions beyond those typically seen in CE. A small achievement was getting a pep talk from conductor Mandy Elliott affirming that I was right to pursue this path. A small achievement was starting to work with people with such conditions, even if at first it was just me providing individual sessions outside of our main programs and groups. The work was too exciting to keep to myself, the clients too outrageously orthofunctional to deny my colleagues the chance to learn and to understand what we could do to support these people. A small achievement was building a service relationship with the relevant association here in New Zealand and being invited to speak to their key workers about what Conductive Education had to offer. A small achievement was being encouraged by the Muscular Dystrophy New Zealand service manager to submit an abstract for this conference and actually finding time to meet the submission deadline. A small achievement was having my abstract accepted for presentation -- and yes, it is a small achievement as in terms of exercise and lifestyle for people with Muscular Dystrophy I didn't have much competition. (I will post my abstract in the comments for those who wish to read it).
A big achievement, bigger than the sum of all of those small achievements - for what it is worth - is seeing Conductive Education represented at an academic, international conference. I have a couple of months to prepare and I would be grateful for any support from the Conductive Community, anecdotal or other, from conductors who have worked with people with neuromuscular conditions beyond the few we typically see in CE and from people with these conditions who have benefitted from CE. Not to be sardonic, but there is a good chance I will be presenting as an independent instead of on behalf of my current organization, so I could use all of the support from the CE community that I can muster.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Sunday, January 26, 2014
You can know she is working on her second university degree, you can see her driving around the neighbourhood in her own car, you can go to her 21st birthday. But suddenly there she is, in another time and another place, confidently introducing herself to a class full of adults, talking about her disability like it is the weather or the cricket, self motivated and focused during the program like all of the other, well, adults. Suddenly there she is sorting herself out, getting up and dressed on her own and going to bed later than me, ordering cocktails or coffees or whatever she wants, checking to make sure I'm okay after a hectic day, and holding her own in conversations about educational psychology and disability reform and politics. There she is at the airport patiently explaining to the desk staff that she is a person requiring assistance and that no she did not require me to accompany her to the departure lounge (!).
It is hard to describe the way I feel about ES. There is respect and awe; respect for the journey (which I hope one day she will write about) that she has taken to get to this stage in her life and awe that despite it all she has turned out so wonderfully. There is pride and gratitude; pride as in I'm so proud to know this person and to introduce her as a friend, pride around seeing what she has become and what she has yet to become and gratitude for what I have learned and experienced by getting to be a part of her journey for the last decade. There is fierce big sister style protectiveness that has pretty much been outgrown and has been replace by friendship. There is the dance that has to be done whenever a relationship grows and changes which can be disconcerting until you remember that this is what people who see each other through life's transitions have to do to move into the next chapters together.
I see her fall on the beach at Takapuna - the first time she has fallen with me in all of our years of walking together - and see her stand up and brush the sand off of her jeans and laugh about getting wet. Years ago falling would have devastated her but now this young woman has learned how to fall without falling to pieces and knows how to bounce instead of break. I find myself wanting to write about her transition, realising that it is not my story to write, and hoping that one day she will tell the world how a fragile and emotionally wrought teenager psychologically trapped by her cerebral palsy finds her way into resiliency and rationality and confidence in adulthood. I listen to how she talks about how she thinks and feels, about the ups and downs of life in the last few months, and can't help but be amazed at how she now rolls with the punches instead of letting them knock her out, how she gives as good as she gets, and how she now understands her own self worth and is willing to fight for it.
She leaves, and the house is quiet, and I settle back into my routines wishing that I'd had a bit more time to talk to her and that work and life weren't so hectic. She leaves but isn't gone, like those wonderful people that dance in and out of your life over years and decades, and I realize that we have both watched each other grow up - and that kind of scares me, and I start to think about all of those other wonderful 'kids' making their way in the world of adults as wonderful young people. I am reminded again how lucky I am to be in a profession that allows me to be on or at least bear witness to these journeys, how lucky I am to be in a profession that allows me to get to know and love so many wonderful people, how lucky I am to be a conductor.
ES, 'I hope you don't mind, that I wrote down in words, how wonderful life is, with you in the world!'
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I can certainly confess that I was a frustrated grumbler in previous places that I worked - and though I am not sorry that I fought for what I thought was right for my participants and for CE, I am sorry that I was not mature enough, or clever enough to to find ways to thrive within organisations that were trying to support me and CE. When I look proudly back at what has been achieved by my baby, the program at Dimes Canada, I realise how impatient I was, wanting everything to be perfect and perfectly my way right away, and that I was not able to see how hard the organisation was working to bring about change or to appreciate how much behind me - and CE - they were and still are. I now realise that I got too frustrated with the teething pains of a new program and too caught up in what I saw as the good fight to engage well with management or to step up and take the reigns even with ample opportunity.
Now, years later in another time and another place, after years of successful private practice, I find myself sitting in a very different position as a managing conductor in an organisation brimming with potential but working through transition. A exciting position within an organisation that has chosen to give a conductor the opportunity to build and shape programs; a tenuous position working with frustrated conductors dissatisfied with previous management; an unfamiliar position within an organisation and a program that I haven't personally built from scratch.
I am emotionally unattached to the history and politics of the organisation but respectful and empathetic to the frustrations of the conductors I am working with and their relationship with what has been, and their resulting demotivation. I do not feel threatened or needing to fight with senior management or board members; I accept they do not necessarily think like conductors but appreciate that they are supportive of seeing our program continue to succeed and grow, and accept that part of my job is to liaise between them and the conductive team. It is an oddly mellow headspace to be honest, an odd combination of bustling passion and excitement and calm clear-headedness that I haven't experienced in any other CE job that I've had.
I have had the opportunity to reflect on how I conduct myself as a managing conductor. As I've said time and time again, and as Andrew told me years ago, being a conductor is not about 'what you do' but about 'how you do everything that you do'. In this job there are times when I'm working as a conductor, and times when I am working as a manager, but I know that when I am wearing my manager hat I still think and feel like a conductor.
I have a general manager that I love working with who I have been blessed to have as a mentor - DB is a compassionate and dedicated manager with vast experience in management, governance, and leadership in non profit, disability, and education organisations. He has given me structure and space to grow and learn, and challenges me to find a way to take this role on my way, conductively, and is patient as I try to find my equilibrium as a conductive manager. I dare say that he is in fact a 'conductive' manager.
I have stopped trying to see conducting and managing as different - in the classroom I conduct my participants, and I the office I conduct myself and my team -- and I assure you conducting conductors is by far the harder of the two.
As in the classroom, I find myself digging my heels in about believing in my team, about expecting the best from my team even when they are under-performing, about believing it is always worth trying to find a way forward even when my team do not see it. I still strongly feel responsible for being part of the solution, and believe that it is possible to find a solution even if I'm not the one to find it. When things haven't gone well I wonder what I haven't done well, what as a manager I should have done better; when things are going well I feel really proud of my team and enjoy their success and the levity it creates in our office.
Even after challenging days or minutes with my team I find myself falling back on an attitude of rugged positivity and tenacious determinism - the very same attitude I have always had with my participants. Even after a challenging day I still come back in the next day ready to try again, and hoping that this might be the day when we find the break through that moves us forward.
I want to be able to find ways to motivate and inspire my team, to give them opportunities to grow and thrive, to figure out how to bring out the best in them, and to learn how to respect them for where they are at. I feel badly when I am not able to create that conductive environment for them, or when they choose not to run with opportunities I think that I have opened. I try to understand my disappointment in myself as a manager who isn't always able to provide an ideal environment or to lift my team in the context of my expectation that as conductors they should be able to create this environment for each other, for our program assistants, and for themselves. I try to balance this by being transparent in my efforts to bring a conductive approach to my management style, hoping that they too will be conductive with themselves and each other outside of the classroom, and wondering if that is an unreasonable thing to hope for.
It has taken me a while to have the confidence to start to voice this. I know that there are going to be days and moments that are better than others and I'm a lot more okay about that than I was a few months ago when I started this job, with bright eyes, bushy tail, and rose tinted glasses. Reflecting conductively helps me remember that as long as I am doing my best in any moment, it is the best that I can do, and thus helps me reflect more kindly on my own successes and challenges. I am so proud to be a part of a profession that has taught me to do everything that I do conductively, and so excited to bring my conductive approach and mindset with me as I step up and into my new role here.