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    Once upon a time…no, just kidding… It was exactly three years ago, when I moved into my new flat. The very first moment I saw it, I knew – it is my place to recover. Since then, I’ve lived every inch of that place. The balcony in particular. 

    Plants never grew around me. When I was a girl, I had few cactuses and that was it. But they dried. 

    My mother, on the other hand,  grew a blooming cascades on our balcony. I recall the photos so well, of her, surrounded by those flowers. I rarely saw her proud. Then, I did. She loved geraniums and petunias. I couldn’t stand them.

    No flowers have ever bloomed in my flat. When I moved to Warsaw, or earlier, when we bought a house with my dad – never ever did anything grow. I’d never lived in a house before. Approaching the garden was as far from my world as lack of diversity is nowadays. It was my dad then who after a while befriended gardening, flower pots, bushes, the beautiful pine tree in front or the vines at the back. 

    All flowers would die in my flat. When I moved to Warsaw, I tried. With tall ones, already fully prepared for the battle. Nope. Or with petunias and geraniums – thought this might work. Nope. No wonder there though, but I had to learn the hard way. 

    Then, I moved. Literally, I moved every inch of me. Inside out. Back and forth, top to bottom. I once saw a framed quote put on my cousin’s wall saying: „I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going. Are you going with me?” That’s how life was for me then. I constantly asked Life – Are you going with me? I asked my Body, my Mind – are you going with me? I wasn’t always sure. A lot of those days I’d spend on trainings – yes the ones led by Marek, from this post: A FAREWELL

    My plants never grew. Until I grew. I remember well the first one. It was a tiny ivy – I’ve always liked the name. And I heard Ivy is a strong one, a fighter, a thriving paragon. Well, let’s see how she (yep… saw her as a she) handles me. I remember even better the moment when I went to buy some soil and a new pot as my Ivy grew out of her old one. I learnt how to take care of her – the right amount of water, the watering frequency, the amount of light – not so obvious at all to me. Then what to do with my Ivy in the winter to let her rest. 

    We begun to cooperate, learn our routines, moods, co-existing in our environment.

    My Ivy grew, survived another winter, stayed throughout hot summers and cold winters. She now is the biggest plant on my balcony, residing in the corner in the biggest pot I could find, enjoying the shade and light breeze, currently growing so fast and so untamed…

     

    The IvyGirl

     

    I had never been able to keep a plant alive. I have had my Ivy for three years now. 

    And my boxtree, and my citrus tree, who went to hell and back with me. Currently blooming like never before. He lost his leaves at the beginning. But endured – his will to fight is immense, he holds for a while and then…the unstoppable power unleashed. My Citrus impresses me so much, and every day. I love him. 

    LemonTree

    And the herbs… oh, the herbs – that is such a big deal. To me, herbs were the weakest… how wrong was I! The are on the flow now, so strong-minded now. I’ve two mints – one decided to die a little at first, but then we had a serious conversation about not letting go, my mint decided to flourish…and the second one, well I didn’t have to tell him twice! This mint is having his way in everything. Strong, overwhelming, willing.

     

    Diversity

    They are accompanied by thyme. Thyme was so shy at the beginning, as if on a halt. Holding his breath, a bit anxious what is this house about here… Now, he grows steadily, constantly, mildly, always knowing how to reach the right amount of sun. 

     

    We also have flowers now. I mean like real flower flowers, with colorful petals and everything – M had an idea to bind them together – with one rack to climb. The red and the pink. Just starting that journey now.

    TheDuet

    I didn’t know how to cherish plants. I learnt. The hard way. But I learnt. And I’m so grateful for that. I still need to learn their power of recovery and not giving up. 

    Another one is Kindness – still a lesson to learn, but I can see that my kindness and mindfulness with the plants is crucial, never just a rule, more of an adjustment, careful watch, love. After all, as Brene Brown says, „Clear is Kind” –  but that’s a whole another story… 

     

    Are your fingers green?

     

    P.S. I also love the movie The Life of Pi

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    I write when I feel I have something to say, something important. Not just anything. On the other hand, I realize regularity is the key if you really want to connect with this one-sided communication mode called blog. And I’m torn. I haven’t written here for a long time now although there was so much much going on. Or maybe that’s why. Sometimes I simply feel a story worth telling needs space, time, nurture. Perhaps, giving myself the permission for that time and space was my biggest lesson in recent weeks. Perhaps. Or a major setback, no idea yet… 

    Nevertheless… Oh, I love that phrase, I repeat it to my Students on writing classes over and over again… you should see their faces! Anyhow (another one…), so anyhow, I’ve recently found myself sitting in my favorite spot in our flat – the balcony, on my dream deckchair (it’s one of my weaknesses – deckchairs), sipping chilled Prosecco, with tears in my eyes.  Then I decided. 

    Some time two years ago my friend contacted me and asked if she could recommend me to this school she works at, for English, perhaps some minor coaching project, let’s see. 

    I agreed – I trust her, if she thought I’m a fit, I’d go for it! After some meetings and several cups of coffee I found myself supporting some Students with their daily education, English language skills, and the university applications abroad. At first, it was just incidental meetings, some diagnostic work, sometimes a bit of English. Very varied – „yes” I thought „exactly how I like it the most.” Within few months, I had some ideas too how to facilitate some processes within what I was doing. It was a great adventure for few months. 

    And then. suddenly, I as the summer went by and September came, there it was… My own timetable! I had a timetable!

    Let me stop here and elaborate… I haven’t had a timetable or a schedule since… well, I don’t know when…I am a master of my time, that’s how I chose, with all the ups and downs connected with it (and boy, there are many…). If I decide to work long hours, I decide, If I decide not to work, I decide (yeah, like that ever happened…). But still, even for the trainings – it is always a mutual decision when and how, never a timetable…

    So, here I am, with set hours weekly, caught in the middle of a game really. I even got a name from the head of the College… I was the Educational Coach. You know this state of mixed feelings, highly mixed? Like: „Ok, I got it! There’s the change I wanted.” And then: „Oh no, I’m stuck, how on earth am I ever going to blend it into my unsteady work life?”

    It took a while. I’m still not sure if the „while” was short or long. After two weeks all was ready. Actually, I was ready. And then…

    …and them it turned out that my greatest fear was just…a fear. I currently work at a place where change is our daily routine. Where we adjust, sometimes within hours. Where those few stable hours a week became a blessing. 

    The lockdown was and will remain a game-changer. Also for me at the college. But I think in a different way you may suspect. 

    No, we didn’t stop even for a day. This place happened to be more than technically ready for online teaching and learning. Within two hours, the place was empty, everyone sent home with the promise of support and help. And yes, these were the days when the frontdesk girls used their amazing superpowers to aid us all. 

    Strange days spent in front of Skype followed. No A-Levels exams, predicted grades instead, mountains of written assignments, amounting signs of social distancing, tiredness, full house, empty house, no space, too much space… all at once. 

    I will always remember and tell stories about it when I’m gray and old. Stories of this one morning when I was holding classes on resilience, one of our children was randomly shouting words in English with headphones on (yep, online English lessons),  the other one running around the house for PE classes – BT headphones naturally on… and the third one away in the other room occasionally commenting on the poor IT skills of the teacher (seriously, how???) And my M on a morning meeting with his team assigning daily tasks… Crazy place I thought, not clearly remembering if the next one is on Skype, Zoom or Teams… Crazy but a bit of a dream come true too. I loved it! Of course, it was tiring, exhausting even, at times. But the gratitude in the shape of „we are together, we are handing” was and is enough. And real-life resilience lesson for all. 

    This time of online turned out to be a gift that I enjoyed immensely, doing all I can to empower, support, accompany – whatever was the utmost current need. I had a chance to enter the world of a beautiful secret garden leading to grandma’s house, the space where an adorable kitten is the family’s love, the moments when a child wanted to join, when I shared the feeling of pride when deliciously looking buns were ready… I said yes to it all, allowing those I worked with feel comfortable – that’s how I like it, want it… as I praise honesty higher than an ideal image. 

    As days went by, I suddenly (yes, still suddenly) found myself finishing off the classes at my college. The days became warmer, the workload slowly lessened, the summer mood was gradually taking over… 

    And you know what, they did it! I did it! We all did it!

    So, the school year was about to end. Phew I thought, finally… oh, wait, actually, so soon..? Really? That’s it?

    One of them goes to study in the USA, the Other in the UK, another One in Barcelona (BARCELONA!!!!)… We say goodbye, thank you, enjoy the summer, good job, I’m proud…

    And then suddenly I am overwhelmed. My throat goes dry, the voice trembles, my eyes get watery… What the… I’m thinking…. And the Unexpected happens. I got attached. 

    I have no doubt when I say, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all there is to wish for the game-changers, badasses, rulers, visionaries, creators… you certainly changed my way of working, perceiving, planning… 

    May the odds be ever at your favor Dear Friends! And the Unexpected visit you as often as possible…

    Remember, you are worth it!

    We are worth it!

    And you? When was the last time you noticed the Unexpected?

     

    My favourite quote by Oscar Wilde

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    Beautiful photo by Ross Findon, taken from Unsplash

     

    It was supposed to be about skis. Then, about grit itself. Then, I thought it will a good idea to write about the stages one may have once grieving (yes, what we’re going through globally now can be seen as this exactly). Then, again, I went back to the idea of skis…Ideas are plenty in my head, too plenty at times to be honest. It becomes even more complicated when I try to see them in perspective, in context. Of my future readers, of my current situation, of my family’s needs that seem to be sooo overwhelming these days. 

    And then, it figured… the ever present word that I seem to dream about now is… WEBINAR. Webinar as an answer to all the work problems. A webinar to let our clients stay in touch and not forget… a webinar to keep myself busy, a webinar to do a webinar… after all, let’s move on with the digital.

    In the times of insecurity pushed to the limits, a webinar became an answer to everything. Yes, we can do Judo classes for your son online. Yes, you can learn totally new things just by looking at our instructors… Yes, of course there were things you’ve always wanted to acquire! Now’s the time!

    Or, maybe not!?” Whatever you were doing – just carry on” is the other option. Like the English during World War II – just keep calm and carry on.  Routine will help – stick to your routine. Don’t let others destroy it. But remember, be kind – to yourself, to them, help out, support, find time. You’ve plenty of time now, right?

    So, which free webinar do you want? The one to help you stay sane? Or the one to support your online work? Or maybe yoga? Or, none as you should helping your kids out instead with their homeschooling…

    I lost it. Last week I did. It was Thursday afternoon. I was so proud – we got ready the week before. We planned it all. Got the shopping in time for seven days of feeding five people. We rescheduled, prepared for kids’ classes to be taken online, meetings and tutorials too. All was there. And indeed it was a success! That first week went smoothly, with no bigger issues, no major frustration or quarrels over lost connection during social science classes or unstable skype conversation with one of the Clients…We did it I thought! We got a grip, we know how to handle this thing called the lockdown. 

    My ordered new skiing set came. I decided to go big there….Atomic Redster s9, Atomic Redster club sport 130 boots… Again, I thought – yes, my anchor or metaphor if you prefer of endurance and grit is here, nothing can go wrong now! It was a bit of a hustle though, the primary point of collection of the parcel was closed, the DPD courier did a lot to help me out. I was even more grateful – „woow, people are so nice, so graceful in this huge mess.

    But still, I lost it. My poise I mean. Out of the blue, as if on some idle Tuesday afternoon. With no warning.  I am currently working on a grit program, reading about it, doing my research, getting to know growth mindset even better. Still, didn’t protect me from the blues. That’s what I was thinking that Thursday afternoon already spiraling into the depths of doubt. Self-doubt mostly. 

    And then, Friday came. We had a meeting scheduled with my dear friend to discuss… a webinar. What else. The plan is to come up with something that allows us both to share with you the knowledge and expertise we both have  – partly overlapping and partly not at all. These were one of the most demanding two hours that previous week. I believe in this project with all my heart! But that time, my heart was filled with fear. Fear I haven’t addressed being too busy planning, executing, and bragging about it. 

    The webinar became a symbol – a symbol of my fears for my work. We all share that I suppose. Will I have any work? Will we be able to hold certain trainings online? OR will webinars – literally seminars online take over? How will such webinars change the training market? How to restructure my coaching sessions when done online? Will I have any? I’m sure you know such lists can go on and on – we all have them at times. 

    And then, the webinar became a symbol of not doing enough. Maybe I should write more? Maybe I should be more active, maybe… My fear always drags me to the perfectionist in me. I hate it. The perfect Ewa is a lethal weapon. Do you know this state when a small thing triggers a huge reaction? It happens when certain feelings were held hidden for too long, consciously or subconsciously. 

    Well, my webinar meeting became a trigger. The mess on the weekend was…well, messy. Let’s leave it at that. Those honest with themselves, know how it looks like. The messy mess of unexpected but needed burst of feelings usually is nothing even close to pleasant. But here comes the growth mindset and grit again. I learnt the hard way that grit and your mindset will never be that visible in the times of calm and quiet. It’s the moments during AND when coming back to life after a fight, breakdown, panic attack, you name it, that the mindset you have will or will not support you in regaining the balance with lessons learnt.  This part is crucial to me – with lessons learnt! Not just „to forget” but to grow, still, even in the hardest moments. Or maybe especially then! 

    Is that a new part of life for me? No, not at all. But what is new and a lesson learnt to me here is the fact that learning means repeating, reminding, and redoing the whole thing again…sounds ridiculous? Possibly. Sounds obvious? Probably even more. But apparently in my case, I haven’t learnt that lesson yet. The overwhelming presence of COVID-19 made a difference. 

    So, my new mantra is…”I’m an ongoing process…”

    Are you?

     

    Michal, thank you – wouldn’t have done it without you. 

    Annie, I am sure we will celebrate your wedding when the time is right!

     

    To all of you, stay home, stay safe! Have a webinar. Or not!

    IT IS ALWAYS UP TO YOU!

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    During my knee op; photo by Adam Ciereszko (adamciereszko.pl)

     

    Some of us run for health, some for status, to show off, to stay fit. Some, again, to escape, have some time for oneself, become a part of something bigger, a part of a group. 

    In my case, well, to be honest it was a mix I guess. I was fascinated with the amount of people who liked it. I wanted to check for myself.

    So I did. I remember my first run, in Poznan, close to my dad’s home. Then, another one, with a bit less frustration… And suddenly, I was running. Running away. That was my way to get out. Primarily out of my own head. The more I was running away, the better I got at it. Till the moment after my first 10k RunWarsaw, I couldn’t move. The muscles – naturally, I didn’t mind that pain. But my knee was the problem – I broke it skiing a decade earlier. It took a while to get better, a lot of effort, not just mine. After a year I went back to skiing. Yes, it hurt a bit sometimes, but hey, wasn’t that normal when you’re carrying not only your own body but also some additional 11k in the shape of a baby? 

    So, going back to running – here I am, running indeed. Running away or running for the time just for myself, for any break from the spinning thoughts. My getaway, suddenly taken away with the knee that wasn’t working. With the help of my great friend, I ended up in a sports clinic for tests, it turned out that the ligament, ACL, is in fact torn. So now, instead of running I had time to get ready for the op. Another beautiful runaway… Then, getting better after. I did it religiously, day by day. After three months I was back on my feet. Slowly coming  back to my sports life, I took to swimming too. Swimming away….well, why not. 

    A year later, my first half-marathon, in Poznań. I went so well (no, not time-wise, satisfaction-wise) that I didn’t stop…I was sooooo good at this running… I spend whole summer training regularly – stunning surprise to me as I have always had this belief about myself that I am simply unable to be regular at anything. So, why not go faster, bigger, more engaged… I was preparing for my first survival race followed by a second half-marathon that year. Any sane and smart runner will tell you it was far from clever… I know that now, but back then, it didn’t matter. I felt so safe, so far, so… not in my life. 

    While training on he beach, something hurt in my hip, a bit, just slightly, unnoticeably… Like quiet cry „Ewa, maybe not?”. Did I listen? Well, you know the answer, right?

    The survival went great, I had fun, I enjoyed the company of great people, I hurt my hip to the point I couldn’t walk to the car. But surely, I could get on the plane three days later to fly to Cheltenham for yet another run. And to meet my beloved family. Almost anyone has this favourite family member. This aunt, grandpa, cousin… whoever – the one that shows you a different kind of the world, helps to understand what’s going on, tell the family secrets…Well, my family in England has been the One for me. Their place is my safe place. What a combination, running and Cheltenham! A combo. For what? Who cared…

     

    Cheltenham Half finish line; photo by my aunt Debbie Lange

     

    I broke it. The 13.1 miles took almost three hours. I walked, cried, got angry. I was limping already at the start line. I remember strangers talking to me at the finish line „we saw in town, you were suffering, are you ok?”

    The VIP flight home was unforgettable. The pain also. The mess around figuring out what exactly is wrong with my hip too. Altogether it took over twelve months. Hours of physio, diet (I hate diets! I see them as a limitation only unfortunately – still an area to address ;D), four MRIs as no other imaging deciphered the fracture… it was well-hidden. Right in the core of the bone. As if you stuck a tiny needle in it – excruciating pain with no visible cause. 

    This was supposed to be a text about grit. The way Angela Duckworth and her team in Character Lab see it. The way we can practice it with Dr. Dweck’s Growth Mindset. 

    Dr. Duckworth says grit is more important than talent. That having a mission, life philosophy, a greater cause that organise your actions is of great significance. In her book, „Grit. The power of Passion and Perseverance” she also describes what she found as necessary to work on your grit. To me, the most moving part was about acceptance though. The readiness to do boring, repetitive, simple tasks seems to be the core here. The ability to see your actions in a longer time perspective combined with the willingness to sacrifice remains present throughout the whole book. 

    The willingness. To sacrifice. Not the kind of sacrifice that makes a martyr. None of the stories quoted by Angela are of sorrow, they are all about the gritty people who are able to accept and believe in the growth that comes with time. There is a lot about effort and perseverance. 

    Am I a gritty person? I thought I wasn’t. Then, maybe I am. 

    I am certainly gritty when it comes to running. 

    Running away. 

    Gritty at not reading the signs I fear to read. Gritty at pretending.

    At least I was.

    I lost my escape. I cannot run now more than 5k, my hip and, knee for that matter, are in the best condition possible but my urgent need to run away made it impossible for the joints to heal fully. 

    I lost my escape. But most probably gained something far more monumental. My self -awareness.

    Damn, it’s been a hard lesson and an even harder path to follow. 

    But these days, I dare – I have learnt how. I daresay I do not want to run anymore. I want to live my life, be in my life, grittily fight for the growth and truth. Big words, I realise that painfully well. This is where I begin as putting them into aims and action is yet another story…

    #lifeexperience #experiencelife #grit #growthmindset #selfawareness

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