The person I most like to be analytical and self deprecating with is my sister. She can take it. She tells me to reframe. Everyone could benefit from a conversation with her. She's who I go to when I need to dissect the hard topics that I wake up obsessing about. I'll ask tons of questions, and she'll sister us through via text or wine or coffee. All useful vices since the Davey sisters are a strong cup of coffee. So come here, if you can relate or need some sistering yourself. There'll be lots of laughter and a whole lot of reframing as we work our way through some of life's big and small stuff together.
What were we just saying?
We were sort of checking in on what we're gonna do about those bugs that are laying eggs on your lovely white chairs out there in the field.
And then you said, life finds a way.
Yeah, it was like a really deep line from Jurassic Park.
Actually, it is a really good line. And it's, it's remarkably true. It's like weird larva or larvae.
I know, I'm staring at them right now. And I'm thinking, I thought that what they were sitting on was like glue as a part of the chair. But now you're telling me that's actually from them?
That's just the collection of eggs, yeah, and how they pool. We've discovered some excellent nature at the farm this weekend. A massive caterpillar on a grapevine, that was
like the size of my whole two thumbs.
Your arm. And then, I confess, I snipped it.
Because I have learned from my fellow farmers that's a strategy with caterpillars, you have to get rid of them, just full on cut them off.
Well, because then it'll just do damage somewhere else.
I think you probably could. But yeah, maybe they would crawl back. I think we're trying to eliminate that population.
No, I'm into that. I think there's something nice about cutting something off.
And there is an invasive Caterpillar in Ontario apparently. That's a shout out to my sister in law who's an environmentalist, she knows these things. So I thought it was that caterpillar. Also I wanted to tell you that I invited mom to be on the podcast. And she was a firm No.
Like, truly firm No?
She was like, “No way.” I was talking about it with someone and they were like, well, that'd be great. And I thought it would be great, because she is who we learned to ask all our questions from. 100% was not even going to consider it.
You know, I take it as a win that she listens. If she's listening to us, mom, if you're there, thanks. Because that's just encouraging unto itself. But that doesn't totally surprise me that she'd say no, it's a vulnerable thing to be sitting here staring into your eyes, telling you all of my…
This part doesn't feel that vulnerable, but later when we dig into stuff, or when you see it out in the world and know that you've said that…
That's true. It does bring about reflection. There’s much reflection. In a good way. I'd much rather be doing this than not, now that we started. Remember, I said that. Before that I really didn't know if I get into this, this whole talking to you, but then recording it so that the world can hear my thoughts. But now I'm less concerned about what the world is thinking. Because it's not like it's the world, it's just a few folk who, you know, listen and download or whatever. But like, it's more about that we've now had to arrange our schedules so that we can definitively have like a good hour to talk, which now that school is back is hard. So we're actually investing in ourselves, as a relationship.
To force ourselves to be together, to have these conversations.
Yeah. I remember when the pandemic had hit last school year, and everything had closed. I was all there was that one tiny part of me was like, Okay, well then I'll get to walk with Becca again, because we had to do these walks. At the beginning of the pandemic, we’d walk, but in the second round, we didn't because our kids were on slightly different school schedules. So because Violet was like 20 minutes before Frankie would have to come on, we could never find a window. And so I could never walk with you. I think in that lockdown, I saw you less than I had in a long time.
This is a nice intentional rendezvous.
Yeah, it's intentional.
It's good to get together because I was thinking about dark thoughts. Well, the happy thoughts that we all have, the persistent thoughts, because—I forget even what happened this week, but I just struck how, you know, I can wake up in the morning, there's an email that is challenging, or whatever it is. And lately, my mind will will just say, “You're so stupid, and so ugly,” or something really crazy. It's disproportionate…
to the thing that triggered the thought.
Yeah, like, it's, it's just an email or whatever, but it's just like, my mind will go to this heavy negative spot. It's just flits in. And what do you think of that?
Well, I guess as you…
I mean, it's a bad thought.
Yeah, no, that sounds like a bad thought. My big sister hat’s popping on here. I'm going okay, how are we going to reframe this?
Are you surprised at that? Or you're like, “I've known you long enough?”
No. I don't know that it surprises me. It makes me sad. Cause I don't want that for you, obviously. But I mean, I had a kid this week, just write me a little note about how the whole world is gonna end. And he was not surprised by that, because all people are horrible. And I mean, he's only 17. So this is how he thinks, how he sees the universe. Really low.
And did he want anything from you on that note, or he just needed to share it?
He was just sharing it. So I mean, part of that process is sharing, right? But it was interesting, because as I think of him, and even as I'm hearing you and you actually started by saying heavy thoughts—it does actually make me think of a book I used to teach called Weight by Jeanette Winterson. And it was a really neat book because it was part of a series where a bunch of different authors were asked to take some sort of Greek myth, and then grow it into some new iteration of that text. And so Winterson—British author, I've long enjoyed her work—
…she was the one from our quote. Yeah, remember a couple episodes ago? Yeah.
“Written on the body.” Right. That’s a title one of her books. The myth that she took was the myth of Atlas and Heracles. And it's about how Atlas is tasked by the gods to hold up the world, right? So the heaviness of this massive task that only he can do. And it's only he can do it until he connects with Heracles, who actually is the only other God who's strong enough to bear this burden for him. So they could potentially share a burden. And at one point in the book, I remember very distinctly—because I used to teach this to my students—I remember this little image of Heracles swatting away a thought wasp. He called it a thought wasp, that he literally tried to swat out of his head. It was of course about him offering care to Atlas, he didn't want to. He just wanted to do his own thing. He didn't want to be carrying the weight of the world. He was really aware that what Atlas was bearing was too much. So instead of wanting to be a helper, he wanted to run away from that. It’s that thought wasp image that’s long stuck with me. When you describe even just looking at an email early in the morning, like many self care types—who I tell you I don't follow, but I've read enough—I know that they would say don't make the first thing you do, “Check your phone.” All these practices that we know we should do, but the weight of our creative endeavors, the weight of our job. I know that when I open my phone in the morning, I'm gonna have eight emails from school just to tell me who are my online kids that day, things like that. So the weight of the world is just constantly there. So how do we protect ourselves from it? I think one, obviously, we can set up our boundaries or whatever, but to really follow through on those I'm finding hard. So I really feel with you. And secondly, the thought wasp thing, I think it's real.
Yeah, that's such an interesting image. Also, I ate a bee. A couple of weekends ago, it fell in my green juice. I was talking to my mom and we're having a good chat, and then all of a sudden it was in my mouth. And then you pulled the stinger off my tongue, Nat.
It was actually the craziest moment because you came running in from the porch with your mouth wide open, and you've just got like, your tongue out. All I could see was this thing.
You could see it in there? How big is the stinger?
Really quite long.
Sitting on my tongue like dagger?
Sort of angled actually. So it was like about as long as my pinky fingernail. It was long. So that's why I could quite easily grab it and yank it. I felt quite happy that I was able to do that for you, and perhaps there was some satisfaction in removing it.
Because in your other life, you were an aesthetician right?
It's true. There are other things I like to do. Prune people’s eyebrows.
And just so you know, Nat is the one that removes all the facial hair in the family.
I'm really good with wax, it's a thing I enjoy. I take some pleasure with the finished product.
She likes to rip.
Well, I like getting to the end result.
Okay, but I was gonna say that was like a thought wasp in my mouth.
Hmm. There is so much there that I'm not actually ready to try and move into some sort of crazy mentor—
You could make links like nobody's business.
But it is interesting that it literally happened to you, and that it was seemingly symbolic.
I think it seems like thought wasps come in waves. And that there are recurring ones for each of us. Do you think that's true? Dads has expressed in sermons that he has struggled with negative self talk. Is it an Irish thing? They can go pretty low.
Or at least the people we've encountered.
I don't feel like negative self talk is as much of your struggle. Is it? Is that just universal? And it's just the the quality or the specific line that we say to ourselves, is what shifts?
I guess my answer would be I definitely think it's…
…it's as real for you as it is for me, it's just different?
I think it's different in that maybe I have made a definitive practice to try and swat the wasp away before it takes too deep a hold. I've also been very able, in that my job requires that I have a very specific schedule. I mean, a teacher doesn't really have the mental space and freedom to ruminate. As an artist, you're required to give yourself that space, because how else can you really truly create work? I mean, I was saying yesterday on our walk, right, I was talking about friends, colleagues, one who literally had to retire to actually finish her doctorate. Because her PhD was not going to get finished while she was teaching full time, like it just wasn't going to happen for her. So she literally had to leave the profession to finish her work to write big thoughts. It does take space, and teachers aren't given much space. So it's not like I have a ton of space to be sitting in.
Examining your thought wasps from every angle.
They might in there, but they're kind of drunk. Didn’t Clifford say yesterday that all the the wasps are moving so slowly because they're drunk on the fruit of the apples? All my thoughts are just meandering through my head. I definitely would say that imposter syndrome for me is a real thing, in terms of where I fit with my own writing. I've published lots of things, I've got a good set of things in academic journals over the past ten or twelve years. I should be able to look at my CV and go, “Good job Nat.”
So what is your particular line? So, you know, if mine is, “I'm stupid and ugly.” That feels so embarrassing to say out loud, because it’s kind of pitiful, but I'm just struck by how that pitiful line will come into my head. So I'm just owning that. But for you, is there a specific line? Like you, you tried for a while and couldn't make it? Is that what it is?
I think that my that my pitiful line is: no one wants me. I do believe that people who are working in the already sort of created boundaries of academic spaces like they have… I'm jumping a little bit here, but just in on LinkedIn, you could see that they have different groups that you can join, right? One of the groups is careers for academics outside of academia, that’s a full group with a million people or something ridiculous. It's not like I'm alone in this in this reality where I went off and did these things. And in my school alone, there are three people who have PhDs.
And Simon has a PhD. Well, it's just such a challenging field, because there's just so few jobs, right?
So I'm not special, nor am I alone. But in my head, somehow, I still go down the road of being a bit self flagellatory. The naïve vision I had for how my process was going to go, I was going to get this degree, and then I was going to make a leap. 15 years in the school board to a new thing. And now I'm 20 years aboard and it looks different.
That was gonna be a clear transition. And this was that life, this is this life.
Yeah. I can do that very well looking for somebody else's story. You can talk to me about what's feeling stressful for you. And I can be like, well, here's how we can work through that. But when it comes to doing it for myself, I find that harder because the part of me that likes to rip the wax off and make a little bit of lip hair go away feels the same about my own story. I wish it could just be smoother. Man, I am an aesthetician at heart.
You want those legs smooth.
So that's probably part of it for me. So it's not really a line, though, right? Like the way that you've got like a line down that you say in your head. I think that's maybe why I don't feel quite the same as like you. You've said that you've heard dad describe like that idea of negative self talk. I think I'm saying those words all the time. Yeah, I think it's just a feeling that’s weighty. That's why the thought wasps thing really resonates for me.
Although it's interesting, because you're such a good teacher that you could… just the challenge of what we want to do, versus what we're called to do, versus where we're gifted, and what we want and struggle towards. Just all that stuff. Because you're so deeply gifted as a teacher. Even our friend, Tamara—Hey, Tam! She's very faithful listener, so she'll definitely tune in. I mean, she was talking about hearing you in the hallway and entertaining your students and dancing for them. You bend over backwards to, to be there for them. It's so beautiful and moving and I think unusual. We were also talking this weekend about the bad English teachers I've had over the years, who were so unengaged. It's so amazing for your students to have you. This isn't really going anywhere except to say that you're there for a reason, I guess. I don't know how that helps. Is that a way to counter a thought wasp? I don't know. Although I kind of hate that. If if you were saying that to me, you're there for a reason.
I think so. I wouldn’t say those words to you. But I think I do. I love what I do. I'm probably good at what I do, because I take energy from those I'm engaging with, and they feed back to me. So the feedback loop is quite positive in those moments. But I think that maybe the thought wasp for me that that buzzes quite insistently is that I'm good at that, but is this everything? I could be good at lots of things. But to feel constrained to only getting to be good at this thing over here—which is a really important and good thing does start to, well, buzz about.
Yeah, cuz you're like, hey world, I have lots of talents. I'm good at this. I won't stop being good at this, but what else can I show you?
Yeah, I mean, how many more people could I potentially help if I was in a different situation. I mean, the doer part of me, right? I definitely am a doer. And that is perhaps another thought wasp of mine. If I really analyze the phrase that I'm not quite ever doing enough. I said to Clifford last night, if we could build a bathtub somehow, or if the world could build me a bathtub where I could quite comfortably keep my bad leg out of the water… I don't love bathtubs, because I get too hot. And it's not that my body got hot, it's that my leg is getting hot, which is stupid and annoying, because if it gets overheated then that's why it swells right? It's all related to heat truly.
Can you feel the heat just enveloping it?
In a bathtub, it's the worst. But I actually want to take a bath because everybody tells me, I watch all of you guys do these baths and feel so calm after them. But I'm in there already feeling too hot. Trying to find a way to like flop my leg over comfortably but it's against the wall so I can't. But then I also start seeing all the things in the bathroom that need to get cleaned. So I can't just sit there. The last time I tried to take a bath, it maybe lasted five minutes and I ended up cleaning the bathtub from within the bathtub. That's what I actually did. I reached out to the cupboard, got a sponge, and just started—like when we used to scrub this scumline at the pool.
We were lifeguards, that was one of our jobs.
I was like well, be 16 again, and own it. So I guess the doer part of me is another thing that I have to counter, because I'm doing a lot in my day-to-day at school, but I also recognize there are so many other things that I could be doing for good, right? Not just cleaning the bathroom, but like doing for good in terms of young people, and access to programs, and all the things that mean something in my head that probably not everybody's thinking about. But that thought wasp can can start to weigh heavy.
The thought wasp that envelops me often is: what progress did I make today? Thinking progress, work progress. That's really the downfall for the artistic process, to be so focused on the progress because I think sometimes you do need to ruminate, you do need to be in a collection phase where you're just gathering ideas and I think this rushing to progress, rushing to write pages—might be a moment to to sit and struggle.
Which you can recognize because you've done it for so long, but that doesn't mean it feels comfortable.
No, it's certainly not comfortable and it's I think it's a battle in my head to be patient. I don't think it's done for you, I don't think you will be in the teaching profession for the next 15 years.
I get to retire in 14, just my number on my paper…
Well I will be interested to see what unfolds for you in these last 14. Just be patient Nat, hold out. Why am I the motivational speaker right now? I think you have kind of served that profession and I think the world is going to serve something back to you, Nat.
Maybe one of my other weighty tasks is to learn to accept the slow reality of what you're saying to me.
I'm reading Miriam Toews’s new book Fight Night. It's so great. It's this grandmother and this granddaughter. The grandmother is Mennonite religious and she's very funny. She talks about how her women prayed for this abusive husband to die, and they prayed for years. There's this line about how it took three years for that prayer to work, for the husband to die. But that’s what I'm thinking, we don't know how long we have to pray for certain things. We do like to pray. I feel like we've been praying for something to open up for you, just to to widen that breadth for you. Because you need it. I mean you're basically stating you're giving so much to your student, but where's Natalie in this? What do you need back? Maybe there's just more prayer to be done. I thought that was just such a beautiful moment in the book because all the women were so frustrated, but so dedicated. I think it that's dedication but frustration, persisting on the road even when you are feeling like you’re falling off the road. I feel like I fall off the road all the time, and you’re trying to pull me back, keep walking. That's an image I have, you know those toppling guys that you see on the road? I don't know how to describe that in words.
That's really good. Those ones that are air blown.
Yeah, and you're like, get back up. What is the way to counter these thought wasps? Conversation. Reframing for one another because we can't reframe often for ourselves.
Right. That student who shared that little thought wasp of his. But maybe, just think for a second, maybe that him sharing it was not reframing yet, but was was starting the process of not being alone with his thoughts. By simply handing that to a teacher. At 17 that's a big win, if you think about it, because it's not like he had to wait until he was in therapy at 40 to start. He felt some instinct in his body and listened to it. So maybe some of it is returning to like my 16 year old lifeguard self and actually listening to my body and saying, okay, what are the things I can do to to counter these thoughts. Because it does feel like life has weighed some of this down, age and time. So there's something youthful about sharing the problem because it's making it new by putting it out in the world.
You know what, Violet came to us last night because we were practicing the piano. She had this challenging section, and she did it, I was so proud of her. But then at the end she she was frustrated that it wasn't perfect. I think this idea that you practice a little bit and you just do what you can in that session, and next time you're going to come back—I think that's just hard as a child. It's hard as an adult.
Something interesting I found in how kids can model for us how to be… Frankie had just shared with me like a day before practicing piano he cried, he was just like “I put a lot of pressure on myself.” I mean, that's a very wise thing to say. I think that probably Violet’s doing something similar. But what was interesting was I was trying to release you from needing help her through her moment, and so I went into the bedroom to sit with her for a second. I recognize that in that moment, she probably didn't actually need me there. I was there, so she knows she's loved. But I think she actually just needed to be alone for a second. By the end of the night, as she emerged from whatever were her feelings, she came over and sat on my lap.
Interesting. She came outside and said auntie Natalie is trying to help me. I want to keep Auntie Natalie in this place. I don't want her trying to help in this way.
Oh, that’s amazing. That is so mature.
I think she wants to keep you in the fun aunt box, because that's such a happy place for her. She wasn't saying all that, but she said Auntie Natalie came over and I don't want that—because I brought you into it. And I said to her, Great, thank you for using your words, thank you for telling me this. She felt it was such a victory for her. But I'm taking that back to your student because it was sharing something simple. For her it's it's such a victory, she has yet to know that the world is going to keep weighing on you and it's going get harder to just simply share and then recover simply. Do you know what I mean? I am so proud of her, but then the dark part of myself is like, You don't know how hard it's going to keep being.
Well, you're not wrong. It is gonna be hard. As parents we have to find a way to just support them through that. I know, because we've created this podcast time, that we want to talk. But what does it also look like to support Violet or Frankie or whoever through their own reframing process, actually truly giving them the space to just sit in the feeling for a minute. Which we say we honor, but we want to fix it for them.
I know we do, because even when she was crying I was like okay, I said to her, Can we stop that crying? And she said to me, through the tears, Why can’t I cry? Why? I wanted to say, Because you're having a tantrum. But it was so beautiful and perfect. “Why can't I cry?” It challenged me right there, I was like yes you can. You can cry.
Maybe she even wanted to cry alone. That's interesting for me to sort of sit with because I've even learned that with you. There are times when you just need to sit in the feeling of whatever frustration has happened at that point because life is so full of frustrations. The part of me that wants to fix it for you, the reframe lesson—but those trite lessons don't work for you. So I've had to learn another way. Which really I should be applying to me.
Or they can come later. But I wanted to say, did your student just come into class and hand you that note?
No, I had scaffolded, as in I literally kind of created the space for the notes to be given in. I had said to the students, because I have to get to know all of you, I have so many of you, I want to learn your names, but it's better to learn a name with a story. So if you can share with me some sort of story of yourself that you would want me to know, because it's a clean slate, I know nothing about your life. You tell me something about you, that then I can then attach to that name. And it was interesting because most of my kids, I would say, shared funny things, or like celebratory things, are relatively celebratory. You know, I used to steal cars in grade nine but they were always Audi's, that kind of thing.
You were like, good choice.
And now are you a good driver? That's the part that's most important to me. Are we safe on the road together? So that kind of thing. But then then all of a sudden his came in. It was interesting because I'm human and I'm a teacher. I don't necessarily have the time to read every nugget in the moment that I receive it. So I don't think I even read his until the next day. But I was grateful that when I read it he was there. I didn't refer to the notes specifically but in my interaction with him I made a point of just trying to demonstrate care, like how are we today, what's today look like for us, that kind of actually checking in which seemed to be the thing that he was suggesting is missing. If he's feeling alone, then maybe you just want somebody to check in.
Which really goes back to your own thought wasp, which was, Do I matter?
That's probably the heart of mine. That’s the feeling, does my work matter, do my skills matter?
Does anyone see me? I'm gonna go with that for yours. It was something in that vein. But that’s beautiful with your student. We should end with a few motivational phrases. Maybe we can replace those very specific lines, like mine, or the general feeling, and replace it with something else. We know that Brene Brown, from the research, says that gratitude counters much—that's how we can counter negative thoughts. And in Miriam Toews’s book, the grandma says that joy is resistance.
Hmm, that's a great line.
That actually could make me weep when I say it because yes, it is resistance and joy. But why then do I resist the joy? I mean, really, this is all enough right? Family, you and me, hanging out with Violet, chit chatting. It's enough really and but yet there's all this yearning and striving for this more that we don't even really know what it means. What if you were a prof, would that be the answer to everything? You would be in this deeply competitive world and you would still have those feelings. You could have gotten what you wanted. And I think that for myself, when I published my books or when I’m a showrunner on a bigger show, is that going to be the thing that satisfies me? I think we know that we know that's not true. Right? We know we're gonna keep struggling. That's human nature. It will never be enough. Are you with me?
I'm going to return to prayer. I guess I'm thinking that Anne Lamott line—I think you're the one that shared it with me—she just writes, God help me help me help me.
That's the only prayer she ever needs.
But I think that her follow up, which is God, thank you, thank you, thank you, is really key, because the two come together so definitively. The idea of gratitude that you just described from Brene Brown, as so palpably powerful to help us through, is the key thought wasp that has to buzz about.
Is thank you, thank you, thank you.
I mean, wasps and bees are not the same. But the queen bee is the one that like dictates how things go. So we need our biggest line. It's not like the little ones in there don't have some stinging power.
They're real things we need to keep confronting, but the queen bee can…
can sort of pop in there and really dominate the space with: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I think that's a good one. We've brought nature full circle.
Because Nat, you love to sum it up.
I like a neat bow at the end.
I feel like in all of our conversations, actually, I feel like I can just picture you at my front door and we’ve just had some conversation. And no matter how, I can picture you coming back with just one last thing. Just to tie that up, one last period.
I need to wrap it up just a little bit tighter with a little more tape. But I think it's because then the gift I give you is fully wrapped. Now it’s been Indigo wrapped.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I love you Bec.
I love you. Thank you. Thank you. Now you say it. Embody it. And our other prayer, Help me Help me Help me. I love you.