What I Learned from Jumping out of a Plane

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive

Similarities

Jumping out of a plane is a lot like giving birth – it is an overwhelming sensory experience, it is painful (not physically, just on the wallet), and in both instances you ask yourself ‘what the heck was I thinking?’

 

The Top 40 Bucket List

A tandem skydive was the very last activity in my year of ticking off 40 bucket list items to celebrate my significant birthday milestone during 2016. I was happy to end the bucket list on such a high note (literally) but I was also kicking myself that I had not done the skydive much earlier in the year.

In fact, that is one of the main things I learned from jumping out of a plane – if you are really scared of something you should try and do it sooner rather than later. Anticipation can multiply your fears into a spider web of worry and stress, unless you manage them well (as I guess you should try to do for labour and birth). I didn’t just have a one hour drive and the twenty minute plane ride to think about the jump, but almost 365 days to stew on it.

So I would like to share with you some things I learned from jumping out of a plane. Then if you ever decide to do something as ridiculous as strapping yourself to a stranger and leaving a functioning aircraft at 13,000 feet above the Earth’s surface, you would have benefitted from my insights beforehand.

 

Wisdom from Two Miles Up

Firstly, as they say ‘eat that frog’. If something seems daunting, do it as soon as you can. Do not procrastinate. You will either not do it at all or do it with so many scary thoughts inside you that you won’t enjoy the experience. I am almost a bit jealous of the guy who turned up at the skydiving spot with a blindfold on and was told by his gleeful friends that he was getting a tandem jump for his birthday.

Setting deadlines is ultra important if you want to do things. I set a goal to tick 40 things off my bucket list during the calendar year of 2016. I jumped out of a plane on the 30th December, one day before my deadline. Yes it was self-imposed. And no one would care if I jumped out on the 1st January 2017. But I would. As I had completed the rest of the list and there was a deadline looming, completing the jump became more important than the fear.

Stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while is really good for you. And there are not a lot of things in this world that are further out of your comfort zone than jumping out of a plane. Afterwards, I felt like a superhero.

People ask me what I was thinking during 45 seconds of free-fall and I don’t really know. I can tell you what I was NOT thinking about and that was my inbox. Jumping out of a plane reminds us to live in the present moment, which is what everyone needs more of in this frantic world. Although from now on, I can remind myself of this with my feet firmly on the ground.

Perhaps the most surprising learning was now I have done a tandem skydive, other things seem less frightening. Since then I have seen a film (‘The Cabin in the Woods’) that I previously decided was too terrifying to watch. I am looking forward to where my newfound courage takes me – I may one day be quite okay being in close quarters with a spider.

 

Best Year Ever

Completing the bucket list, and especially the skydive, contributed to 2016 being the best year of my life (so far). I was trying to work out what made it so great and came up with a few reasons.

Firstly, I designed the bucket list to cover many things I had wanted to do for some time. I felt in control of my own life, and that is a rarity these days. Also, the whole idea took some planning and hard work to execute and when I put time and effort into things I often feel more satisfied. I was probably better off than the guy who got the surprise tandem jump gift after all. Plus as I set myself a challenge and told everyone about it I built discipline, confidence and integrity. These are attributes I always want more of and I hope they rub off onto my children too.

 

Fun

And in case this is getting too ‘rah-rah’ motivational for you, what I would really like my children and others to learn from all this is that life is for living.

So live it.

Have some fun.

This is not a selfish sentiment. It is actually the complete opposite. Doing something that fills you up inside and gives you a boost of joy makes you happier and this is then spread to your loved ones and the world at large.

So jump out of plane and save the world.

Jumping out of a Plane Blog Post - Julie Skydive 2

 

 

Surprising Lessons from NaNoWriMo

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - Julie the Writer at a Cafe

NaNoWriMo – No, it’s Not a Rude Word

I have just written ‘The End’ on the first draft of my very first novel. I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month. This is a mouthful so it gets abbreviated to NaNoWriMo, which really is only slightly less of a mouthful. Each year, in November, thousands of writers all around the world take up the challenge to write a 50,000 word (approximately 180 page) novel for NaNoWriMo.

I can now count myself as a NaNoWriMo ‘winner’. Winners succeed in getting 50,000 words written before the end of the month. Other participants have varying levels of success up to that magic number.

The point is quantity of words, possibly organised in sentences and paragraphs and hopefully in some semblance of a story with characters, settings, dialogue and maybe even a plot. You are to ignore your inner editor and critic and plough on regardless. Just get those words down. My silly little romance may never be seen by anyone else but it more or less contained these essential elements that make it a complete work of fiction.

I understand that doing something like this seems perhaps too ambitious or too ridiculous or certainly quite pointless, but that is exactly why I did it. And I must say, I am extremely proud of achieving this big, hairy, audacious goal.

 

The Big 4-0

In the middle of this big challenge, something significant occurred. Yes, the next leader of the free world was elected; there were earthquakes here in New Zealand and around the world and possibly some other major news events that I only caught a whiff of as I was locked in my office. But the most important thing to me was…

I TURNED 40!!!

I wanted to write some sort of blog post on what I had learnt in my first 40 years on this planet but quickly worked out that not only would that be dull, but I can’t remember much of it anyway.

Then I realised that the insights I gained from doing NaNoWriMo were actually the main points of wisdom I wanted to share. Here they are:

 

Goal Setting and All that Blah

That entire goal setting stuff really makes sense. Set a goal, write it down and commit to doing it. I heard about NaNoWriMo seven years ago didn’t make it a must until this year. Seven years – I could have seven novels by now!

Also all that guff that goes along with goal setting – having a deadline (30 November), taking action every day (writing some words even though I would regularly think they were crap), focused commitment (unimportant things like the watching TV, interacting with my family and showering were reduced to a minimum) and rewarding milestones (mmmm chocolate, I have never loved you more) are essential facets to achieving a huge goal.

 

Accountability is Key

When you aim to do something big, hairy or audacious, tell everyone about it. They don’t have to understand or even like it, but by golly they will have a great time holding you accountable to your lofty ambitions.

Doing NaNoWriMo was part of the ‘Top 40 Bucket List’ of 40 bucket list items I am ticking off throughout the calendar year of 2016 to coincide with turning 40. I tell everyone I meet about this list. There was no chance of backing out of NaNoWriMo this year.

Telling people may even mean you get a little support for your wacky endeavors. Here is my public great big THANK YOU to my family and friends and especially to my husband who at various times pulled tiny humans off me while I was tapping at the keyboard and entertained my kids well out of earshot.

But I got a lot more out this challenge than being reminded of how important the goal setting dogma of deadlines, focus, action, rewards and accountability can be. Three of the more unexpected learnings were:

 

State of Flow

Creating something, anything at all, feels great. Sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is fun, but the great feeling comes from being present with your creation. Yes I have written non-fiction books and blogged now for years, but it took writing a big hulk of a novel to really drive this point home.

Being in this state of flow is what humans want and need more of and it is becoming increasingly rare these days with constant distractions only a tap of the finger away. Flow is always there for the taking. In the throes of creativity you can’t help but be in flow, be really present. And it feels amazing.

 

Leap Off the Cliff

It is perfectly okay to start something with absolutely no idea of how the process will go, how it should look or how on earth you are going to finish it. This doesn’t just apply to creative projects, but a lot of things in life. As the old adage states: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes it is better not to have the whole thing perfectly mapped out. Trust the process; let yourself be pleasantly surprised by where the project takes you. I am a very organised person and thought I would have a perfect outline and screeds of character notes before I started NaNoWriMo. In fact all I did was draw a giant mind map which I then proceeded to ignore and instead ‘pantsed’ my way through my novel – essentially wrote it from the top of my head or from my proverbial, if you prefer that image.

After all, the journey never goes exactly how you think anyway, so why try to control it? I thought I would be god-like in maneouvering my characters through the plot, but instead they took on a life of their own and surprised me with things they said and did. I thought writing every day would be a hard slog, but instead I had a really awesome time.

 

Creating IS the Point

Sometimes you just need to create. It doesn’t have to be important, you don’t have to think of a monetary reason for it and you certainly do not need to show it to anyone. As a society we consume, consume, consume, so it is important to re-address that balance by allowing ourselves the gift of pure creativity.

Putting your stamp on the universe, even in some tiny, perhaps frivolous way, not only makes you a better person, fills your tank and allows you to want to contribute in other ways, but makes the world a richer, fuller place for having you and your creation as a part of it.

Sure, all I have is one gigantic Word document sitting on my computer, but it feels darn good.

 

Relearning

I wanted to impart all this newfound wisdom onto my children. But then I realised that tiny humans already know this stuff. They are easily able to be in flow many of the hours of the day – look at how they play, eat, laugh. Kids live entirely in the present. Our 18-month-old daughter, Eloise, does everything without thinking of how to finish it, like climbing up onto the kitchen table. Dylan, at four, spends days at kindergarten creating artwork that no one sees but him, just because he enjoys doing so.

I don’t need to teach this, I just have to find a way to not forget it like I did 30-something years ago. And I need to be vigilant to ensure our beautiful tiny humans never lose this essential knowledge at all.

 

References

No Plot? No Problem! – A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days – Chris Batey (USA, 2004)

NOTE: If you wish to see some of the things I have done for the Top 40 Bucket List, friend me on Facebook and look for that photo album

NANOWRIMO Blog Post - NANOWRIMO Winner Screen Shot

 

My Family’s Secret Language

Family Language Blog Post - Playing Cards

The Conk

When I was growing up, in our family, the third game or round we played to work out the overall winner – if for example I won one and my sister one the other – was called ‘The Conk’.

Yes, ‘The Conk’.

I guess it is some shortened form of conqueror but I don’t really know and I am sure if I asked, no one in the family would know either. It was normal thing to say ‘lets play The Conk to decide the winner’.

Unfortunately I had no idea that this phrase was unique to my family’s lexicon and not widely known. After a couple of fierce lunchtime games of 500 with high school friends, suggesting ‘we play The Conk’ was met with lots of serious mocking and laughter.

Teenage humiliation now far behind me, I really like how we had made up words and used them naturally between us. We have even started to do this in my little family with some of the mispronunciations and cute ‘kid-made’ words that Dylan has said.

 

Correct Pronunciation

Like any young child, Dylan often gets words and phrases wrong and not all of these have ended up as part the natural language of our family. Sometimes we make an effort to correct his speech.

So, par-cark has been changed around to car park and bake-cano has slowly been corrected to volcano. I thought it important to teach him not to say ‘eel’ instead of ‘seal’. We are still working on putting an ‘n’ at the start of ninja.

 

Cute but Short-lived

Some of Dylan’s interpretations on words and phrases are too cute and we have repeated them back to him and even used them ourselves sometimes. But over time, they have corrected without much help from us. Cute but short-lived words and phrases uttered by Dylan include:

  • ‘parrot shute’ instead of parachute
  • washing lion for washing line
  • eye growl for eye brow
  • swimming gobbles for swimming goggles
  • flag instead of tag (the label inside a t-shirt)
  • machos for nachos
  • chicken pops for chicken pox

My four and half year old boy can now clearly tell me that he loves me, and that is exceptionally nice to hear. It is just not as cute as the first couple of times when Dylan said “I Bove You Mummy”.

 

Our Family’s (Now Not-So) Secret Language

Some of the things Dylan says have stuck. We have embraced them as a family and now say them as well. Why do we have to use the proper word when Dylan’s altered ones are so much better? I like how we have started our own family traditions. I can not only pass down ‘The Conk’ to my children, but they can pass a unique lexicon onto theirs – a kind of inter-generational secret family language.

So in our home if we play pretend shops and want to buy something, we use our ‘money-dollars’. When we hear an insect buzzing around, it is probably a ‘shoo-fly’. And when there is a loud noise, Dylan goes off to find his ‘ear-mupps’ to wear over his ears.

A few times when either my husband or I were going out, Dylan would ask us in a slightly worried tone ‘but who is going to keep me?’ It took us a while to realise that he was asking who was going to stay at home with him or look after him.

I now think this is a lovely turn of phrase and sums up what he asking perfectly. Well Dylan, who is going to ‘keep’ you? My darling, gorgeous boy, I will always ‘keep’ you.

I would love to hear your ‘kid-made’ words that have made it into your family’s secret language or unique lexicon. Post them in the comments below.

Family Language Blog Post - Money Dollars

 

What Kind of Parent Am I?

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Tiger

Personal Labels

Over the years I have taken a number of personality and behavioural surveys and profiles. You too may have done some of these at work or as part of a team building exercise or perhaps on a lazy afternoon when flicking through an old Cosmo magazine. Here are some of my results:

  • Myers Briggs: ISFJ
  • DISC: C and I dominant
  • Tendency: Upholder
  • Love language: Quality Time
  • Kolbe action style: High on ‘Fact finder’ and ‘Follow through’
  • VIA Strengths: Highest – Love of Learning, Lowest: Humility (well I do write a blog about myself!)

Check out the references to find out your results (note some websites may charge for the report).

Maybe these survey results tell you a lot about me. Or maybe the fact that I absolutely LOVE ticking all those boxes tells you all you need to know. I realise that these are just tools, and that no test sums up me, or anyone else, perfectly. However, I relish in the structure they give and the knowledge that there are other people quite similar to me in this world.

 

Parenting Labels

So when it comes to parenting, I thought I would also like to try and fit into a category, to find other mamas just like me. All I would need to do is research the key points of the main parenting approaches and slot myself in to the one that resonates the most with me – voila – instant community.

Here are a few I tried on for size. These are major philosophies and I do not want to trivialise their importance, but to keep things short, I have summarised their main tenets into a couple sentences. Check out the references for more information.

 

The Tiger Mother

I initially liked the sound of this – who wouldn’t want to be associated with these majestic beasts? This parenting approach places a huge emphasis on academic success and non-academic structured activities that garner awards such as classical music practice.

Unfortunately I cannot lay claim to being a tiger mother. My four year old now does soccer practice because he told us he wanted to. And my 18 month old daughter has been barely exposed to anything remotely structured as an activity, except for the occasional sing-a-long during Rhymetime at the library.

 

Slow Parenting

I then thought perhaps I am the opposite of the tiger mother – have I embraced ‘Slow Parenting’? This advocates a lot of free play, less toys and places emphasis on a child using their imagination and being out in nature. It sounds idyllic, plus I would love to have less toys cluttering up the house.

The issue I have with ‘Slow Parenting’ is its name. In the 1980’s when I was growing up, this ‘movement’ would have been simply known as ‘Parenting’. I spent many hours on the weekends with my sister and our friends making huts out of the gorse bushes or bamboo strands in our neighbourhood, and I am pretty sure my parents have never heard of ‘Slow Parenting’.

Plus it discourages kids from watching TV so it is ruled out of contention for me on that count alone.

 

Natural Parenting

I love the idea of natural parenting with its emphasis on being as close to your child as possible, natural childbirth and what is best for the environment.

My second child went onto solids via baby-led weaning. Not because I was trying to be a natural parent, but because, well, it was baby-led. Eloise refused mush off a spoon almost straight away.

But I just never could get the hang of baby wearing – I always thought my baby would fall out of the sling. And anyway, I believe I have a life-long ban from this movement for the 100% use of disposable nappies (diapers).

 

Conscious Parenting

With its emphasis on empathy, understanding and tolerance along with self-regulation and mindfulness, ‘Conscious Parenting’ sounds more like an aspiration rather than something I can adhere to 24/7. It seems kind of obvious that we would all want to be conscious parents, but I am fairly sure that people who (although only occasionally) drink wine in the shower are excluded from this category.

 

Good Enough Parenting

So if I give up striving to be the perfect parent should I then instead embrace the concept of ‘Good Enough Parenting’? The basic argument here is that no more striving to be the perfect parent means less stress, which is good for the whole family.

However, this may lead to no attempt to improve us as parents or to develop our kids as potential leaders. I would rather try – and possibly fail – to be a conscious parent, if this is the alternative.

 

Where To From Here?

These are all perfectly valid and legitimate forms of parenting, backed by scientific research and anecdotal stories of parenting success.

But they are just not right for me. Actually that is incorrect. They are all right for me, in different circumstances, but not a single one is exactly the right fit.

Then I realised what I was searching for, the structure I have been craving, is something I have already started creating: I am a ‘CherishMama’.

My website, cherishmama.com is a sanctuary. But for who exactly? This is still evolving, but currently it is for parents like me. Ones who do not fit easily into other parenting categories.

We are an eclectic bunch of flawed Mamas (and Daddies) who cherish the fortunate and privileged position we have of being a parent, but sometimes huff and snarl at our kids. We do strive to do our best, but sometimes end the day by drinking wine in the shower. At last, I have found something that ticks all my boxes.

 

 

References

Myers Briggs: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test

 

DISC: http://www.thediscpersonalitytest.com

 

Tendency: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/03/quiz-are-you-an-upholder-a-questioner-a-rebel-or-an-obliger/

 

Love language: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

 

Kolbe action style: http://www.kolbe.com/why-kolbe/kolbe-wisdom/four-action-modes/

 

VIA Strengths: http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey

 

The Tiger Mother: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_mother

 

Slow Parenting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_parenting#Slow_movement

 

Natural Parenting: http://codenamemama.com/natural-parenting-resources/

 

Conscious Parenting: http://www.teach-through-love.com/conscious-parenting.html

 

Good Enough Parenting: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201512/the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent

Parenting Approach Blog Post - Eloise in Highchair