Staffrm Transfer 15 – A Black Dog, Self-Care Sunday, WomenED Unconference.

A black dog.


Lena Carter · 4 months ago

Sometimes life takes the wind out of your sails.

Our lovely black dog was run over on Wednesday and died.

We had friends over for dinner and our attention was not in her when she decided to take off for an adventure. Of course, we have done the what-ifs and the self-blame and the remorse but the reality is that it was an accident.

There is now a big, black dog-shaped hole in our lives and we are terribly sad. I know that we have been here before, both with pets and people and that we will feel better. But that does not really help.

I remember that during my training as a therapist, I came across the idea that, far from making us desensitised to death, every bereavement triggers the memory of all of our previous losses.

We need to sit with our sadness, allow it and not censor it.

My son spent almost all of yesterday inconsolable. Nothing I could say seemed to help. I talked of the fact that life is both good and bad, happy and sad. I spoke of rainbows and sunshine after rain.

But mostly I hugged and wiped tears and encouraged him to sleep.

Because sometimes what is needed is sleep and time. Sleep can certainly be the “balm of hurt minds” referred to in Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

“Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

We’ll get there, I know.

But the black dog is very much with us all for the time being.


Lena Carter · 3 months ago

Having been prompted by my wonderful @HealthyToolkitHT friends, I am writing a post on what I will be doing to look after myself today.

First of all, I stayed in bed until 8. Not asleep, granted, but I took time to lay there and breathe to combat the worry-monkeys who wanted me up and doing at 6. Mindful breathing and three good things exercises always work now.

I have moved on a lot from here:…

Secondly, I am writing this from my exercise bike, as I simultaneously pedal and type. For me, a bit of gentle exercise each day is crucial for keeping my vestibular system in order and sending some happy-making dopamine to the right bits of my brain. (Apologies, scientists, but that is my understanding of why I need to do it).

Thirdly, I have left today free of any other commitments so that I can do some work for the week ahead. Yes, for me this IS self-care, even though working for self-care may seem counterintuitive. I have a lot to do at the moment due to staff issues at school and I am only going to keep on top of running my school if I plan well and stay calm.

But my mission to look after myself actually started yesterday. I took 5 minutes at the start of the day to email some colleagues in my authority to ask for some help in doing the work I have to do. Nothing demanded of them except “can you email me a couple of power points, please?”. By the end of the day they had sent what I need, so that part of today’s work will take just an hour instead of three.

And then yesterday I spent the whole day shopping and at the theatre in Glasgow with my daughter. This re-charged me and my brain and was the proper switch-off needed so that today my brain will work better again.

I have a colleague at work who feels it is condescending when he is told to “work smart” instead of “work hard.” I am afraid that for me, it is the only answer.

Also from my bike, (10 mins to go), I am making important connections with my personal learning network through Twitter, @staffrm‍  and other blogs. I have just read this:…

which is a great read in this thread.

So, that’s me, in my own idiosyncratic, self-caring way.

How about you?



Lena Carter · 2 months ago

I should be at the Womened Unconference this weekend.

After wanting desperately to be there last year, I had planned and booked early this year. Hotel and train sorted, plans to meet up with people made, workshop sessions provisionally chosen.

But I am not there.

The last week at work has been really challenging. Long days, high adrenaline situations, tensions to diffuse, children in crisis. The usual stuff of school leadership.

When I got in at 8.30pm on Thursday ready to pack/do the jobs I usually do at the weekend/plan for work on Friday, I realised that perhaps I was being a bit over-optimistic.

And then my husband reminded me that my son was having teeth out on Friday. And I realised. I couldn’t go. The thought of not being there to give him the comfort and support needed after such a painful and potentially traumatic event made me stop in my tracks; I had teeth our for braces when I was about my son’s age and I remember the experience to this day. And it made me realise that I have allowed my priorities to get a bit skewed of late. I have left too much to my husband in terms of home and family. I have allowed the life-work balance scale to tip too much to the side of work.

Although the Unconference would not have been work, it would have prevented me from being with my family when they need me. And in all honesty, it would probably also have prevented me from getting the rest I desperately need this week-end. Six hours on trains, two nights in a hotel and the mad excitement of meeting so many role-models and friends are probably not what I really need today.

So I am at home. Not long ago, the me sitting here would have felt a failure. I would have been beating myself up for not showing up. For letting Hannah down. For not being the superhuman-superwoman that the other women who have shown up are. But today I am not feeling like that.

One thing that being part of #womened has shown me over the last year is that no-one who really understands what #womened is about will judge me for not being there. There is no space in the incredible, supportive network for judgement that might allow our already critical inner chimps to start a party.

Hannah has asked us to reflect on what #womened has done for us over the last year and so my contribution to the Unconference is to tell you this:

1. It allowed me to connect with Mal Krishnasamy and be coached by her over the past year. For me, this has been transformational.

2. It allowed me to connect with Hannah and Caradh and make steps towards creating a #womened network in Scotland. Ours have been baby steps but a phenomenal group of women came together in May and have stayed connected via the #womenedwednesday hashtag.

3. It has helped me to find my tribe, to find my voice and to become more of the authentic leader I need to be. I would have loved some real hugs and real connection today but the virtual support from connections through twitter, staffroom, facebook and email has kept me going over the past year.

4. It has helped me to become about 110% braver.

5. It has made me feel proud of myself.


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