Tag Archives: life

Stilt Town

resource image

Is this our world today? Everything that we thought was stable and would never change has changed. Nothing is for certain anymore. Words and phrases that were unknown or unfamiliar to us just six months ago dominate our daily conversations.

Who else has left the house and then suddenly reaslised that they have forgotten their mask? – not their keys, purse or phone although we do still forget them too but not with such consequences. I did this only yesterday. However, as most of you will now have, I had a spare mask in my bag…in fact two of them. I am building up quite a collection  to suit my mood:

  • the cat print one for planned trips
  • the one with ‘goodbye’ in Kazakh for walking along the street
  • the one I have hand crocheted (close knit with a pocket for additional filter) for meeting friends
  • the blue one to match a different colour palette
  • the pack of surgical ones that are in every bag and pocket
  • the one with large covid type virus cartoons and the message ‘if you can read this you are too close’ for days when I just cannot be bothered

I also have a face shield – thought would be good for communicating with people. It is only when you cannot see someone’s facial expressions that you realise how much you actually read faces. Having said that, you can still read an amazing amount from eyes. However the shield is really only an additional protection along with a mask. I have seen some masks on Amazon with a clear plastic part at the mouth – for working with children, this would be essential.

Of course the other challenge is for those who wear glasses or if the sun is actually out and sunglasses are needed – they mist up from your breath, your hot steamy breath seeping out from your mask. I remember from my scuba diving days that you could stop your mask from steaming up by spitting in it…wonder if the same would work with glasses?

I do wonder in amazement at how quickly we have adapted to this new normal life. Sure, we are all still living on a roller coaster of covid emotions but somehow we are carrying on. The stilts of our lives might have seemed precarious when we realised that our world was having to redefine ‘normal’ but they are actually strong and flexible.


Controlling the Weather

resource image

During these times of uncertainty I make sure that I take some time for myself everyday to refocus and remember that although there are things I cannot control, there are many things I can.

This is a technique that I was teaching our children earlier this year – who would have thought that it would be such a valuable tool for all. The steps are easily remembered as they make the acronym APPLE:

A – acknowledge: the first step is to notice what is happening within yourself, a body scan is a good way to first recognise that you have feelings of uncertainty or anxiety that is different. Stop, scan and acknowledge.

P – pause: by acknowledging that we have feelings of uncertainty or anxiety we can give yourself the time to pause – not react as we might have panicking or taking our unexplained emotion out on others.

P- pull back: remind yourself that this is ‘the worry’ talking and this is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling and not to believe everything that your mind is trying to tell you. Thoughts are not statements or facts, they are only thoughts.

L – let go: keeping in mind that these are thoughts, not statements or facts, you do not have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud. Blow them away as you would the seeds from a dandelion clock.

E – explore: bring yourself to the present moment because at this moment all is well. Focus on your breathing:  imagine you are holding a flower and breathe in it’s amazing scent. As you breathe conduct another body scan or try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and then return to what you were doing before you felt the worry.

We need to be kind to ourselves as well as those around us. There will be days when we go through rollercoaster emotions when the smallest thing will frustrate and anger us and then, like dominoes, other things will make us react in a way that is not rational.



resource image

For the past four years I have been living and working  in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan. Nur-Sultan lies in the north of this vast country amidst the wide-ranging and almost endlessly flat Siberian Steppe. This, along with being right in the middle of the largest land mass on Earth makes for very cold winters and hot summers. Although this past winter has not been the coldest it did come early with a huge amount of snow and lots of grey cloudy days. It is only in the past weeks that signs of spring have been showing themselves. I am very fortunate to live beside the river looking over to one of the city’s many parks so I have a ringside seat – especially in these times of quarantine – to watch life come back to the land. Today in the middle of April the river is back to a reflective glassy surface and there are hints of the palest green on some of the trees. Grass is sprouting, bulbs are pushing through the dry earth – we are no longer trapped in a frozen wasteland. The days of being trapped in a monochrome land are over for another year. However we are trapped in a different way, all be it for our own safety and the safety of our communities. The time will come when we will be able to emerge from our hibernation but we will need to continue to be patient and be kind to ourselves and those around us.


Quarantine Day 25, Lockdown Day 17…the new normal continues.

We are all beginning to settle into our ‘new normal’ routines with school, work and home life. No one will deny that this has been a very challenging time for everyone. I don’t know about you, but I find it mindboggling yet somewhat comforting all at the same time that the whole world is going through this. I feel as if in some ways I am in a state of suspended animation while nature carries on with it’s awakening into spring. Hour by hour I can watch the river change from mat ice to reflective water. Gulls have come back, cackling in the time just before sunrise, and gathering in groups on the thin ice. Magpies are noisily gathering nest materials and busy pairs of coal tits chirp in the bare branches of the trees outside my window. The ever present pigeons are still taking their daily stroll along the riverside walkway constantly searching for food: no doubt bewildered at where the humans with their bags of bread have gone.

Shoots of green are appearing in the bare earth. Earth that until a couple of weeks ago were covered with deep blankets of snow. Bulbs are pushing through bravely, grass changing from yellow to green and, if you look very carefully, there are buds forming on some trees. The birches are not yet ready to show that they are awake but we know that in a short time they will be covered in bright green leaves shimmering and rustling in the breeze.

Meanwhile we are adapting to our life of confinement. We all understand the reasons and appreciate everything that the local authorities are doing to protect us. We worry about family and friends in different cities and countries yet are helpless to do anything to help or change the situation that we find ourselves in. We are all going to experience many different emotional stages during these times but not necessarily in the same order:

Optimism: This is great; we can spend more time together as a family; I can get all those jobs done that I am always so busy to do; I can learn/improve a skills; start a new hobby.

Determination: You feel less positive but you are determined to keep going and stick to some kind of routine and follow a schedule.

Satisfaction and frustration: Sometimes you get a lot done, other times you just cannot focus on anything or complete anything and you move between these states.

Depression: This is hard. Boredom begins to settle in. Your routine, or lack of routine, might not be working for you. You are restless, cannot concentrate. You reflect more on missing going out or meeting friends and family. You might feel demotivated, hopeless, a sense of despair.

Anger: Anger about the situation, the confinement, the lack of an end. Irritated by others in your house, irritated by the smallest things.

Acceptance: Carry on doing whatever is in your control and letting go of what is not in your control. Remembering that all this is necessary and that you are helping to prevent the spread of this virus.

Up until yesterday I thought I was coping well. I was asked only a few days ago where I thought I was on this diagram. I felt that I was well on the way to the outer rim… but something shook me yesterday and I have no idea what it was. In my role as a leader in a British International School supporting and guiding others is my focus. I send a motivational message to all our WhatsApp groups, remind everyone that I am here to listen. I answer numerous emails reassuring my wonderful team of what a great job they are doing, I continue to be a sounding board for those whose worries impact on our school community but are, in reality, much wider. How much support do I get? Good questions that is relevant for every senior leader whether in a global pandemic or not. Who do you turn to to vent your frustration, your worries, your doubts, self-doubts… I am fortunate that I do have several friends who are teachers and leaders and are willing (sometimes) to listen but everyone’s context is different and points of reference differ. Within my own leadership team there are two people that I know that I can count on – but have I ever really been open and honest with them? Yes, there are times when we can all share our shared challenges.

So what happened yesterday? It was a lovely sunny day…all I have said above stands about spring and the changing views from my window. I just could not shake the blanket of anxiety and stress that I felt around me. Try as I might I could not pin point what, who or why I was feeling this way. And then it lifted – I did nothing different apart from lie down and watch another episode of the Crown. Still self-searching I could find no reason for my feelings previously. I have woken today to a dull, wet morning yet my spirits are lifted and ready for a day or…the same!

How are you coping?