Sunday, 28 December 2014


My reflection on this year is going to be short, for me, and based on something I've learned about myself.  In the hope it might just help someone else. 

I've read some fabulous Nurture posts and am, as ever, heartened by how many of us love our job. I found many resonated with the deep love and slight sense of being overwhelmed that I feel about our profession.  The other fabulous thing that comes through so many is the joy and laughter that we get to experience with students and colleagues. What a privilege it is to experience the joy and the pain. It's no booth with a telephone and PC. 

I'll call my reflection 'the sponge.' As caring professionals you may just recognise the concepts. 

I used to be a standard car washing sponge. I threw myself at the job and all of the human stuff. I sponged up all of the pools of emotion &  the bits of grit where I dropped on the gravel and I kept on sponging. Rather than taking time to refresh & wring out I'd keep plunging myself back into that bucket. The water got murkier as term went on and invariably a week before the holidays I'd feel ill. I'd limp through the last week heavily and then spend a week or so wrung out. 

A couple of years ago I learned that I couldn't go on doing that as I'd become so poorly my doctor was worried. So I streamlined myself into a bath sponge. I'd make sure I didn't try & mop up too much, especially for others.  I gave myself time, recognised what needed sponging & what didn't and was as kind to myself as I could be. 

This past year I've noticed something though. I get a lot out of being the sponge. I want to sponge things up for others. I like to feel needed, it makes me feel like I'm somewhere doing something.  Making things less hard, less sad. I like to do that in my personal life and at work. I want to help as well and to make a difference.  The difference last year though was that I had someone very close to me ill and my friend died. I'm close to her mum and she's become a good friend.  I am close enough to both of them for them to be really honest about how help from others feels, knowing I wouldn't be hurt. 

By the way at least if you are a sponge your help is offered.  When things get really bad there is often no one there. Even close friends can find it impossible to be around because of how the circumstances make them feel.  That's important to interject at this point! 

This year I realised I need to think a bit more before I offer help. Not about me but about the other person.  As in plan to be helpful rather than just sponge. 

I've learned that helping is listening quietly, or just being there.  Not loads of advice about what to do. A cheery word or a laugh, a funny memory.  Not a deluge of how sad and unfair life can be. Empathy is helpful, but not if it only reminds me of a story about myself!  If it's something I've never been through I have learned that 'I can't imagine' is a lot more helpful than 'I understand.'

Very unhelpful phrases include 'you need to' 'what are you going to do about' 'it'll feel better in time' and 'other people that have been through this say'

It is also untrue that a positive attitude heals an unwell mind or body.  Reassurance that it's normal and ok not to feel ok when things are terrible is much more helpful than assurances that attempts to look on the bright side will make things better.  

This year I'm going to be a bumper pack of makeup sponges. Helping to even the surface, wipe up errors and improve the general outlook as much as I can.  Throwing away the used up sponge & whipping a fresh one out of the bag as needed. 

Sponging up loads and then wringing yourself out isn't healthy or helpful for you or anyone else.  I hope the lessons I learned this year about what is helpful help others too.  I also hope I continue to learn in 2015.  

Thank you to my main 2 sources, I'm sure you know who you are!  Also thank you all of you that are around for me. Always appreciated.