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  • Matthew Davies

The Wisdom of Luisa Madrigal

Harper Alice Davies is six years old and anyone who knows me, knows that she is the light of my life. One of the best things about having children, is that you get to re-experience many things, reframed through the eyes of a little person. A great passion of mine has always been music, so I've sought to expose Harper to as much music as possible, as often as possible, and slowly but surely she finds the things she loves and asks for them to be added to her playlist (for reference, songs on Beany's Favourites at present include Country Roads by John Denver, Higher Love by Steve Winwood, On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, TNT by AC/DC and The Science of Selling Yourself Short by Less Than Jake). A theme of all of her favourites is storytelling; she pays attention to the lyrics in a way that I never expected from someone so young. This has led to some fascinating, if challenging conversations about everything from the life and death of Vincent van Gogh, to Blackbirds learning to fly with broken wings, to what it means to be blinded by the grace of God. It also leads to conversations that I don't tell her mother about, when She's Got Balls by AC/DC comes on shuffle and I explain that it's about strong women and then move the conversation on to an interesting looking tree outside the window!


In among all of the 'dad's influences' songs that she likes, however, there's a strong thread of Disney songs; from the classics all the way up to the modern day. This includes the soundtrack from their latest film Encanto, which we saw twice in the first five days of release, such is Harper's love of cinema (actually, it's more a reflection of her love of popcorn - she'd go and see The Shining if she thought there were snacks on offer!) Encanto tells the story of a magical house, in which each member of the Madrigal family has a magic power, from incredible hearing, to being able to make plants grow, to shapeshifting. One of the characters, Luisa, has superhuman strength (the biggest biceps in Disney history, apparently!) and carries all of the burdens of her family. She's Harper's favourite!


Luisa sings a song called Surface Pressure, in which she explores the facade of strength that she's forced to put up, and the pressure that lies behind this, as well as it's consequences. Harper picked up on the idea of a straw breaking a camel's back from the line "A flaw or a crack / the straw in the stack / that break's the camel's back" and wanted to know more. I explained that it was a common saying which describes a minor action which causes an unpredictably large reaction and how things, while seemingly small and manageable when you take them individually, can add up and lead to outcomes that you don't expect. She seemed satisfied and asked for a Werther's Original.


Later in the day I was coaching a client; a Head Teacher I've worked with for a few months. The conversation was around the small but cumulating pressures that have mounted up over time for the client. Just doing the core job and doing it well. Dealing with the effects of Covid on self, team, pupils, family, community. Juggling the demands that staff absences and self-isolations have created. Staying abreast of changing rules and regulations. Managing and maintaining your own health - physical and mental. Planning and strategising for the future. Doubting yourself. Communicating your vision in a way that gets others onboard and spreads the load. All of that, without the many challenges that home life, hobbies and habits throw into the mix.


The academic year breaks soon - Christmas is almost upon us, and often, especially on LinkedIn, you could be mistaken for thinking holidays are about getting lots done. Visit these friends and families. Finish decorating this room. Sort the garden, tidy our the wardrobe, clear the attic. Finish that project, read those twelve books. And for some people, that's how they like to spend their time away from work; immerse themselves in other things as a means of recharge. But that's not what holidays have to be like. They exist to recharge, refresh, rest and gain perspective. To reap the rewards of the work we put in through the year, and to ensure that the time we DO spend in work, is fruitful. Are you taking time off over the festive period, and, if so, how are you spending it? In speaking up and being heard, Luisa finally gets a break, stretched out in a hammock, sipping on a Pina Colada. What do you need to do before your next holiday to make sure that it delivers exactly what you need?

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