What is our capacity?
We won’t know until we push ourselves beyond it!
Last night I clicked send on a series of documents that mark the end of the busiest few months and most productive in my career to date. I know it all started with the idea that I had no plans for the summer and thought I was wide open to do a few things here and there. Although I like to think that I am good with the idea of have a “free summer” — I am not.
Years ago I read a book called: Alice K’s Guide to Life: One Woman’s Quest for Survival, Sanity and the Perfect New Pair of Shoes by Caroline Knapp (1994). She had a list of various ailments that the modern girl suffered from and although many of them made me giggle, one of them named it for me: leisurephobia: the fear of not having plans. At the time when I read the book, I was 25 years old and already I recognized this trend in myself. I didn’t know how to be alone. Many of my friends were getting married and I had just split up from an almost four year relationship and didn’t know what to do with all of my free time. My leisurephobia back then was socially oriented. Now, if I am willing to be honest with myself, it is work oriented. And I have to admit, I have a problem.
In the last few months, beginning in Spring 2017, in addition to having a full time job, I have done the following:
- Co-wrote a 125 hour course with Lisa Neale for the Ontario Principals’ Council on Digital Leadership
- Taught a course on Equitable and Inclusive Leadership for the Ontario Principals’ Council
- Completed a course on Storytelling for Influence from IDEO U
- Developed my own website at debbiedonsky.com
- Co-presented at the CONNECT2017 conference on Developing a System Strategy for Modern Learning
- Did an Ignite Talk with Fair Chance Learning
- Was a guest blogger for Learning and the Brain
- Applied to do a TEDx talk and got selected!!! (That is happening next Thursday September 28th and a link will be added once it is posted!)
- Presented to the Upper Grand DSB about Equity, Inclusion and Understanding White Privilege on behalf of the Ontario Principals’ Council
- Started a new role at Ministry of Education supporting and designing learning for math leadership networks while also finishing my role in the curriculum department at my board
- Attended graphic facilitation training with ThinkLink in preparation for my new role
- Taught a course for Ontario Principals’ Council on Collaborative Inquiry and Digital Portfolio
- Applied to three different boards for leadership positions on their senior teams (so far one interview…no success…still trying)
- Reviewed and completed three practicum assignments for teachers completing their principals’ qualification courses
- Co-planned for a three day face to face session with the Barrie Network focused on Math Leadership and Learning where I did a session on Sketchnoting and co-created my first large scale graphic recording live!
- Co-planned for the Technology Enabled Leadership and Learning Institute
- Presented at the conference with the amazing spicylearning on Storytelling through Social Media: From Personal Branding to School Narratives
- Did three large scale graphic recording boards in three days highlighting the keynotes (Jennifer Casa-Todd, Janette Hughes, and Beth Holland) at the Technology Enabled Leadership and Learning Institute
- Wrote, illustrated and MEMORIZED my TEDx talk!
- Co-developed an Equity Plan for my board
- Co-delivered a workshop on Sketchnoting with Jennifer Giffen at our board’s conference, Great Beginnings
- Presented at a face to face session with the Northwest Region on Ontario in Thunder Bay on Sketchnoting and completed another large scale graphic facilitation on Collaborative Inquiry inspired by Moses Velasco’s presentation
- Sketchnote for Mindshare Ed Tech in response to Brian Aspinall’s blog
- Sketchnote for Mathematics Knowledge Network in partnership with the University of Windsor
I had to start keeping a list. I used my reminders on my phone and at one time I had 10 different assignments I had to complete all due within days of each other. I am sure I have left things off the list too.
I admittedly had moments of being completely overwhelmed.
There were moments I felt completed scared.
There were moments I thought I should give up and say no and just not do it anymore and then, when I was just about to give up, I came across this image about being perfect.
I grapple with the idea of not trying and so I exist in a space which Brené Brown calls living in scarcity. She says: We live in a culture with a strong sense of scarcity. “We wake up in the morning and we say, ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ And we hit the pillow saying, ‘I didn’t get enough done.’” We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough — until we decide that we are. “For me,” says Brown, “the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I’m enough. My kids are enough.” (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/27/brene-brown-people-sick-being-afraid).
Between perfectionism, scarcity and fear of financial stress, I find myself in a perfect storm where saying no to opportunities has become my biggest weakness. There is the constant nagging, fear-based feeling of “what if this was the right opportunity and I didn’t take it and I close a door?”
In the meantime, I keep saying yes. Because what if…
While I am working away, my kids, Rachel and Max have learned that when mommy is at the computer, she isn’t the same person. My husband, Jeff, has learned to pick up the slack when I am in crunch time. They have all shown patience for me in the last few months that is beyond what any family should have to endure. They have listened to me practice my TEDx talk at least 20 times each (except Rach…I think she has heard it 50 times and coached me). They have encouraged me and put her own needs aside so that I can do what I feel driven to do.
And then there are my friends and editors, Rashma Beharry and Mark Strong…who at the drop of the hat read my work, offer suggestions, support me through the stress, the drive, the emotion that sometimes throws up all over the pages of the work that I create…I couldn’t do it without them — their encouragement, belief in me, and the never-ending support to help me believe in who I am and what I want to accomplish.
I am going to stop all this extra stuff for a while and just focus on my new job…oh wait…there is a practicum sitting on my desktop that I have to review and submit for a woman who took the principal qualification course with me! Oh and I have to read someone’s application to the VP process in our board…and…and…and..
Years ago, when my daughter was first born, I was complaining to a friend about how much work I had and she responded by saying, “You know Deb, you complain about it but you just keep taking on more stuff…I think there is a part of you that likes it…” It was in that moment that I realized she was right. I don’t complain about it anymore. I just let my family know that the next…days…weeks…and in this case, months…are going to be really busy and they know to let me do what I have to do because it is who I am. I love challenges. I get anxious trying new things but the feeling after is a sense of deep satisfaction. I think it must be like what those “no fear” people do when they go heli-skiing (something I would never do) or marathon and ironman (two other things I would never do)…we push ourselves not to find our limits but to go beyond them.
I really thought this time I had overdone it but here I am again, at the end of it (for now) feeling deeply satisfied and looking for the next challenge.