Waxing physically and philosically...

After literally years of deliberation, and as a result of some delicate and some less delicate prodding, this blog is my effort to organize - to bring together - my thoughts about my work as a conductor and as a personal trainer, to rant and rave as necessary, to celebrate the little things and the larger moments of brilliance, and to share some conductive magic and life lessons gained through 'waxing physically and philosophically'.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

It makes me sad that so many well intentioned charities and non-profit organisations struggle because they rely on old school models of financial viability - begging, donations, hand outs, grants, and philanthropy -- instead of developing sustainable models of self sufficiency through things like social enterprise and responsible capital ventures. It makes me sad that these organisations are so stuck in this old way of doing things that even in times of financial crisis that threaten their very survival they cannot change. In the same way that a practice like Conductive Education is a paradigm shift from a medical model approach to managing disability, charities learning to think like businesses is a paradigm shift and it makes me sad that there is so little help for charities who need to come around this corner if they are going to survive.

Don't get me wrong - I like the idea of living in a world made of "faith, trust, and pixie dust" as much as the next person. In fact, those who know me well would probably tell you that in my head and in my heart that is the world that I live in, and I would respond by saying that believing in that world influences the way that I choose to move through this world. This world needs people who create potential for "faith, trust, and pixie dust" by creating ways to make important things happen -- and that includes finding ways to cover the costs of whatever these important things are. We don't have to all agree on what those important things are, but we do have to agree that sometimes opportunities need to be created and where appropriate capitalised on, so that more important things in this world can get done -- so that there is more pixie dust to go around. That is my personal definition of entrepreneurship.

For some people, the important thing is about human exploration, getting people to mars; others try to invent things that will make our lives more efficient; some want to influence the world through the establishment of an essential service, for others the important things are to do with music and art. Everyone has their passions and priorities. In my world those important things that need to get done are around helping more people through Conductive Education and through exercise and movement. I've left the non profit sector because I believe that out here in the real world I can build something that will create more pixie dust; in the charity sector I was wasting time waiting for pixie dust, begging for pixie dust, and then having to filter my portion of pixie dust through hoops and red tape and then still bow down to the pixie dust purse holder who dictated how I could use that dust. By this time the pixie dust feels more like regular dust - the sparkle is gone.

I look to people in my field who seem to leave a sparkly trail of pixie dust wherever they go -- people who have created business models that have enabled them to conductively help more people, and to do so on their terms, while adding to the available pool of pixie dust. I always look to them for inspiration, to admire what they have done and created, to admire their work ethic, determinism, and can-do attitude, and to admire their courage to step into this world and to do something different instead of letting themselves wither in dystopia of the other. I look to these conductive entrepreneurs to admire their ability to cherish and uphold the ideals of "faith, trust, and pixie dust while carving their own path of "second star to the right and straight on 'til morning”. 

Thank you conductive entrepreneurs, and thank you J.M Barrie and Peter Pan too!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Don't stop me now...

In just over a week I will be taking Transformations, my personal training and private Conductive Education business, to a new home base, to a brand spanking new facility with sparkling new state of the art equipment, to the new Les Mills gym that will open in Newmarket Auckland in November.  I was asked to apply for this contract -- to bring my combined experience in fitness and disability into this mainstream fitness arena.  It is such an amazing opportunity... for me professionally, for Conductive Education, and most importantly for people with disabilities or health conditions who are tired of being relegated to therapy and rehabilitation environments and church halls.  It is such an amazing opportunity to do something that I'm so passionate about, and I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I am so excited to get started, but as often happens when I'm excited about something I'm also really anxious, really scared.

So scared that I almost talked myself out of the application and interview.  So scared that I'm having to battle my inner fat kid who always comes a-knocking when I'm worried that I'm not good enough for the challenge ahead or that I might possible show that I'm human by dropping a ball as the balls get rolling.  So scared that I've actually taken genuine control of my own health and fitness for the first time in ages.

So yesterday, I was out for a run.  It was very windy, and a little bit rainy, and way too cold for this time of year and the hills seemed steeper than the last time I'd attempted them, but I had set a training target for myself and I went for a run. And today I'm baking brownies for a friend's birthday tomorrow and even though I actually think that I have mastered the fine art of ganache, I haven't licked the spoon to taste because I've taken control of my eating again and I'm feeling so much better or that.  Grant me the courage to to take charge and to change the things I can, something inside me whispers.  

So yesterday, while I was out for a run, and while I was feeling proud of myself for being out there, and in control of myself which is really the only thing I can control, this song came through my speakers...

And while I was running and singing along like a crazy gal, I started to notice that the scared was gone, and that I was feeling happy, and excited.  In this headspace I started to think about my pending opportunity again.  I started to think about the gift of being a conductor, and how as a conductor I have a skill set that makes me an excellent personal trainer.  I can patiently break movements down and teach them over and over again until I am understood until my client learns and I understand that it is my job to do this (thank you Conductive Education);  that when my words aren't enough I can teach with my hands and my voice and my facial expressions; (thank you conductive mentors operating in a language that was not your own); I notice and celebrate the tiniest of achievements and this motivates and instills confidence in my clients (thank you conductive pedagogy); that I know to meet people where they are at and do so honestly and realistically while always looking ahead to I can help them work towards their goals and their next step (thank you AS for teaching me about dynamic potential).

And while I was happily running I was able to approach my scared, anxious inner fat kid conductively, from a place of kindness, the way that I believe in approaching my conductive and personal training clients.  We looked at our current health and fitness together; we looked at our disappointment with not being as fit and strong as we once were in the context of a few years of a stressful desk job and made peace with this disappointment so we could start to move forward, and we really thought about our current goals (feeling healthy and well again, exercising habitually, and enjoying that habit) and about how we might be able to judge our current self against those instead of against some imaginary standard that we had no actual motivation or interest in anyway.  One foot in front of the other, one step at a time over hills, through barriers to a place where my inner fat kid was no longer standing between me and my exciting opportunity.  And I let myself and my inner fat kid share in this feeling of excitement -- because after all she and I are in this together.  Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, which means making peace with who I am now, inner fat kid and all, so that I can continue to grow and thrive, something inside of me whispers.

In just over a week I will be taking Transformations, my personal training and private Conductive Education business, to a new home base, to a brand spanking new facility with sparkling new state of the art equipment, to the new Les Mills gym that will open in Newmarket Auckland in November.  It is such an amazing opportunity to do something that I'm so passionate about, and I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I am so excited to get started.

Monday, October 12, 2015

It Takes a Community...

School holidays have just finished here in Auckland, and we are now settling into the last mad dash of fast paced weeks leading into the holiday season and summer.  Normally when working with adults in rehabilitation or fitness settings the timing of the school holidays doesn't really have any impact on service delivery.  However, the lovely community centre where I hire space for my Parkinson's CE group runs a plethora of children's programs during the between term holidays, and my lovely little room is not available so we take a break.

Many of the people attending this group have been coming fairly regularly since last September and all but one -- who is moving out of town -- have signed up for the next term which starts this Friday.   Before we broke up at the end of the school term I surveyed them to find out what they were happy with, what parts of the program they enjoyed the most or found the most useful, what they didn't enjoy, what they struggled with, and what suggestions they have for future sessions.  I gave them the choice of anonymity so that they could be honest and open in their response.

I carefully listed out elements my carefully structured program for my clients to give feedback about in language that was clear and accessible (this is an incredibly intelligent bunch of people -- but that doesn't mean that they know or care what a task series or rhythmic intention is).  I listed things like learning to change position and to stand up fluently, seated exercises, arm and shoulder exercises, fine manipulation and handwriting, speech and facial expressions, walking and balancing activities, memory and concentration work, stretching, and I included the pre-program greeting round and the post program morning tea amongst my activity list.

I list these out because from my perspective each are so important and a lot of planning and thought goes into getting ready to lead a large Parkinson's group.  My clients were all happy with the program and with the balance of the activities and few had suggestions about what they wanted done differently.  They listed outcomes that included better balance and being able to get up from the chair easier or safer, or having less shoulder pain.  But when asked what the most important thing that they got out of the group was, not a single person listed an activity or something mobility related.  You guessed it - psychosocial outcomes were once again featured as the most important.

Here are some of the responses:

"Having Parkinson's feels more normal to me, I see that everybody is affected differently and I don't feel as strange in this group" said one person;

"I have more confidence in myself" said another.

"Realizing that exercise is more pleasant when done with other people" said VW;

"The way the others encourage me" said RH;

"Enjoyment of the group" stated BB, "Oh, and the laughing!"

TM wrote "companionship"; DS noted "fellowship"; JW agreed with one word, "friendship".

Two weeks later, I still get shivers reading these responses.  I feel so proud of this little micro-community, and of the positive and supportive environment that they provide for each other, which allows them to thrive and blossom despite having Parkinson's.  Two weeks later, and that really isn't a very long time, I realize that I miss them.  That I miss the community spirit of this wonderful group and their wives or husbands who often come along; That I miss the laughter, the fun, the games, and the fellowship, and that I'm glad that the school holidays are over and that I look forward to getting my dose of this wonderful community again this Friday morning.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's how you get on the stretcher that counts...

It is never nice to see someone go to hospital by ambulance JW, but now that I know you are home and on the mend I want to tell you, and tell the world, how proud you made me in the moments just before you got into the ambulance.  

I don't want to write about how the colour of your face scared me when we first called the ambulance.  I also don't want to talk about how awesome we must have looked to all passerbys while we were both lying in the mud behind the building near the parking lot waiting for the ambulance.  I don't even want to talk about the great team work and kindness of friends and strangers alike that went into the first aid and into ensuring that though we both were covered in mud we were protected from the hot noonday sun - even though all of these things are worthy of talking about, I have something else to say.

I want to say that you did me, and the conductors you have worked with before me, proud.  You participated in getting up from the ground.  There were three paramedics, myself and my assistant, and four bystanders all trying to give you instructions.  You very clearly told everyone to stop talking because your brain couldn't take in or make sense of so much talk.   In a moment when you were at your near worst, you took control of the situation and told us all what you needed.  When I asked you to focus on just me, you locked in, maintained eye contact with me, and step by step, with one movement rhythmically commanded at a time, we got you sitting on the edge of the stretcher.  The paramedics tried to lie you down.  You said no, it's better if I do it myself, and, exactly as we've practiced week after week getting on and off of the plinth, you swung your legs up and lay yourself down unassisted. 

You made me proud JW; you showed me that you've mastered what we've been doing together over the past couple of years and that it makes life easier for you, that you can use these techniques when it counts, and that they can be used even under imperfect conditions.  I was proud - any conductor would have been proud.  That said, the next time you want to show off a skill, to demonstrate that CE is is about functional mobility, I would really appreciate it under pleasant calm circumstances instead of somewhere between a mud puddle and an ambulance good sir.