Educating Rita, and me

Educating Rita, and me

We love theatre, movies and TV shows because they tell our stories.

When we see ourselves and our lives reflected back at us we know we’re not alone in our experiences, we feel connection with both the story and its writer, and life, for a while, seems to make more sense.

There’s a movie called “Educating Rita,” (written by one of my favourite writers, Willie Russell!), which has meant so much to me from the first time I saw it at the movies, with my mum.

It stars Michael Caine as a university professor and Julie Walters as Rita who comes from a working class family. In Rita’s family people don’t go to University. They leave school and get a job and that’s it, and if you are a woman, you get married, have children and resign yourself to your lot in life.

Rita is a hairdresser, married to a bloke who wants her to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to. She is hungry for education and feels there is so much more to life. Her studies begin to separate her from her family, because none of the others have trodden that path and they can’t seem to understand her need to fill that hunger, that curiosity.

In one tellingly emotional scene Rita is in the pub on a Saturday night with her family and they all begin to have a sing along in the pub. You can hear Rita’s voice narrating over the top of the scene, and she looks over and she sees her mum’s face. Her mum looks so miserable, so heart-breakingly sad.

In that moment Rita realises that her mum harbours all those same feelings for getting more out of life, and that she’s squashed those feelings down to fit in with the expectations of other people. Rita realises there are tears on her mum’s face, and says, ‘Why are you crying, Mother’, to which her mum replies “There must be better songs to sing than this.”

I can remember seeing that movie for the first time with my mum. I was 22 years old. I was also in the final stages of a four-year hairdressing apprenticeship and I too felt that ache for life to be something more, to sing a better song than this. I found myself sobbing there in the cinema, because right up there on that huge screen was my experience.

Then I turned to mum and she was crying too, because she also remembered her hopes and dreams that had been halted by life, and for a few moments we weren’t divided by generations, by history, a world war and the advent of feminism. We were simply women, equal in our hopes for a life well lived.

I recently saw a production of Educating Rita here in Adelaide and it blew me away. Stunningly, simply produced, directed and acted. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

The great news is that this production is being given another outing due to the first run being totally sold out and I cannot recommend it enough. It has Lauren Renee and James McCluskey-Garcia in the roles of Rita and Frank, with direction by Nathan Quadrio of IpSkip Productions.

It runs next week, Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 April at The Bakehouse Theatre and tickets are only $18.

If you love to see a great story well-told, go see it.  I promise you, it’s a wonderful night of theatre.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

“Turn and face the strange”

We talk about the phases of life coming and going like the seasons, but that’s not really true, is it?

We know that as autumn ends and winter begins that if we keep going and don’t get careless and die, then sure as the sun rises we will see spring, summer and then another autumn. But life’s phases don’t ever come again. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

I think that is what makes them so scary; we get used to the known and we fear the new because it is unknown, and no matter how hard we wish it, the past will never return. We can create a present and future that is just as good or even better, but we can never relive the past, except in memory.

The week I originally wrote this post my son, our youngest, left home to make his own way in the world, and at the same time we sold the home in which he grew up. This house had one job… and it performed it beautifully.

In my life I leapt from parental home to flat share to reckless first marriage, the only positive result of which was said young man. After that came emigration, divorce and new marriage complete with grown up stepsons, and all the time raising son and looking after elderly Dad.

Now, Dad has passed and son is out on his own, and without the blessed yoke of our caregiving duties, my husband and I are slightly nonplussed as to exactly who we are and what we want. We’re a pair of senior delinquents blinking in the freedom of the sunshine like those chimps released from the science labs.

Looks like we’ll have to go find ourselves, hon.

The Martian Theory

The Martian Theory

I’ve never felt like I totally belonged here on earth.

I’ve always been slightly bemused, and felt alien towards most of life’s game rules. As a result I’m often puzzled, frequently amused and mostly lost (but not always in a bad way).

I call the way I brought my son up ‘The Martian Theory’. It was the best way I knew to explain to him about how life works here. I didn’t want to go the way of my parents and their hardline catholicism. Not that I’m criticising, they did the best they could and imagination, wine and a few exorcisms dealt with my own personal residue of that time of my life. For my son, though, I treated him as a visitor plopped on to the earth and it was my job to teach him the rules of the game here on this beautiful planet.

In essence, I steered away from things being labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and stuck more to appropriateness and resourcefulness. For instance, it’s better for everyone if we cooperate, have compassion and don’t be dicks to each other. It seemed to work for him, he’s turned out to be a nice person all round.

We’re all metaphorical Martians. We’re spirits conveyed by meatsuits, travelling through space and time on a beautiful planet that’s hurtling at 1040 mile per hour.

Life is fragile. Let’s not be dicks.

A Letter I Wish I Could Deliver

A Letter I Wish I Could Deliver

Dear 16 year old me,

I would have thought that by the time I was 55 that I would have it all sussed by now, but it seems not to be the case. I still don’t really have a clue what I’m doing, so I’m writing to you to say a few things about stuff I’ve picked up along the way, that I’m still learning, and what I wished I’d known waaay back there in 1977.

  1. You are a survivor. Good on you for your strength and your silliness.
  2. You are a beautiful creative soul; a trusting pure soul who looks only for the best in others and delights when she finds it. You are a prize and those around you should be worthy of that. Be careful because there will be some who are not. They will take your trust and abuse it. Do not hesitate to say goodbye to these people. They do not understand your essence. Wish them well and then turn and continue on your own path.
  3. You are strong. You have come through so much and you will go through so much, and yet despite it all you will always prevail.
  4. Did I say that you are beautiful? Just saying it again for good measure. Not enough people have told you this. In fact the person you needed to hear it from the most said quite opposite, horrible things. She was scared and angry and she took it out on you. What she did was wrong and she betrayed her position every time she abused it. So, you must learn to know this truth, and you must breathe it in and keep that thought, glowing rose pink enveloping your heart.
  5. You don’t have to be a good girl all the time. Just because up til now not being compliant has meant nasty repercussions in the form of emotional and physical abuse it won’t always be like this. Protect your essence and don’t let it be wiped away. Some of your sweetest memories will be from the times you didn’t do what you were told – look forward to them!
  6. You always have choices – even if at times it doesn’t seem like you do. This is where I wish I could reach back in time to take you, my dearest 16 year old bewildered, displaced and sad self, and show you that you do have options and choices, and tell you that you do not have to believe or comply with all that you are told.
  7. You have a good heart and a strong moral compass. Trust it more, listen to it more and trust yourself.
  8. Give yourself a break. You have been through more in your 16 years than many people have in a lifetime. Don’t feel sad at your feelings of separation from others who have not experienced all those things. Instead accept it. Your wisdom and maturity have been accelerated by all those events and those who have been through the same as you will recognise their fellow traveler and you will keep a sweet and rarefied company with them.
  9. You have insight. You realised early on that no matter what the cataclysm or disaster, that life goes on and the world keeps turning. There is no shame in moving on from a dark situation that could not be mended – or even in choosing not to mend a bad situation – remember that thing about choices? As much as you may want to you cannot step off the world. However you can deal with it the best way you know how, and that is usually to dance, to sing and to laugh and laugh and laugh.
  10. Never listen to people – often men – who will tell you that it is unladylike to swear. Fuck them! Remember that guy one night who, because you used your sharp wit in conversation, warned you that your “mouth would get you into trouble one day”? Well ignore him and his ilk. Never dim your light in any respect just to accommodate dull-witted trolls. They do not understand the beauty of banter, the gloriousness of the craic, the exquisiteness of the well placed curse or the basic principle of equal human rights. The men in your life, if they love you, will not censure you for swearing or tell you to be silent because you are singing or laughing. If anyone in your life does this, tell them to fuck off!

You are good, you are beautiful, you are strong and you are true.

With love,

From me (you) xxxx

Decision Making Sucks!

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Making decisions sucks – and making big decisions sucks big time

You not only want to make the right choice, but you also, underneath it all, want to win by making the right choice, and winning usually means saving yourself from feeling that you’ve stuffed up.

I have a system I’ve used for nearly 20 years when it comes to decision making.

This system hasn’t prevented me from making some beautifully spectacular stuff ups, but there are a lot less of them than there otherwise would have been, and this is how it goes.

 The Power of Three!

It’s all about the threes.

Picture this: you get a great idea, you’re fired up, your heart is racing, your muscles are twitching for action and you want to act on it now!

Don’t.

Do nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Let it go and wave bye bye.

 This may sounds like the wrong thing to do.

But hear me out.

If, the next day, or in a couple of days’ time the same idea comes back to you again, recognise it.

Greet it like a new acquaintance. ‘Hi there! It’s you again. Lovely to see you!’

And then let it go again.

 

Byeeeeeee!

Then, after another passage of time, days, weeks or even months it comes back!

 

Now’s the time to move to stage two.

I’ve learned stage two more recently, and it dovetails beautifully with stage one.

With that persistent little bugger of an idea, now do this:

1. Check in with your head; does it feel zingy, sparkly and light?

2. Check in with your heart; does doing this thing feel light both in weight and in luminosity? Does it make you feel anticipatory, that something good is a-coming?

3. And most importantly, check in with your gut.

That’s the place that will give you the most information.

 

What is your gut telling you?

In Tai Chi and Taoism the belly, round about the navel or where your hands meet when they clasp, is your Dan Tien point.

 

Shitz’n’Giggles

After all, where do you get butterflies if you’re nervous?

Your gut.

From where do you shit yourself in fear?

Your gut.

 

Your Third Brain

Science now tells us what the Taoists have known for five thousand years – your gut is your third brain (yes third!).

You have neural networks in your head, your heart and your gut and your gut is all about self-preservation, courage, and core identity.

 

Leave it!

So, leave that brilliant idea until there have been three check ins with you, and then check that baby in with your head, your heart and your gut.

And, if it still feels great,

Do that thang!

 

Mind Games

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One of the fundamental tools of achieving a joyful life is actually taking the decision to choose joy. In other words, managing our mindset. 

To do that we need to believe that we always have a choice in how we to respond to circumstances.

This is where it gets interesting. Our choices are often dictated by our beliefs and values – but what if our beliefs and values have been chosen for us by someone else?

Step 1 – Beliefs and Values
In fact, many of our B & Vs are actually remnants of what were told was true when we were children.
So, the first thing to do is work out what are actually your beliefs and values and which of them belong to your parents or other authority figures that have been important in our lives.
Then, question them. Do you actually believe them to be true? Or did you just take them on trust?
When I was young it was considered to be a ‘bad thing’ to marry outside your religion. It made some people very angry, and even broke families up. Most people now know that was a sign of the times and not a fundamental truth in itself, and we’ve changed our views and adapted our values accordingly. Now it’s more important to have a loving and supportive partner than insist they share the same beliefs.
It comes down to this; in order to live a more contented life with a good dose of joy, we need to have that joy as one of our highest values, and we need to believe that to be a good thing, an essential thing, a right thing and something that is of our highest priority.

Step 2 – Habits
How we habitually react and respond will change if our values change.

We all know of someone who is negative in their outlook. Nothing is good enough for them. Would it surprise you to know that they probably don’t actually know they’re doing that? Often, for whatever reason they have developed the habit of looking for the negative in life and that’s what they find and report, and call it realism.
In contrast, optimists have developed the habit of looking for the positives in life, and that is what they find and report. This is also realism.
The funny thing is that realism is subjective. One person’s reality is another’s fantasy. It’s actually simple neuroscience; you tell the brain to show you evidence for what you believe and it will do so. Neither the positive nor the negative outlook is any truer than the other, but one is definitely much more resourceful than the other.
Many of us will have grown up in families where it was considered bad form to express too much joy, or affection or even enthusiasm, and so we tempered our feelings to fit in with society.
The problem is, even as we grow into independent adults we may still temper those feelings unnecessarily, and even express disapproval of those around us who are in the habit of expressing happiness. I know that as a child I was often told to ‘calm down’ and that I would be seen as ‘soft’ or ‘simple’ if I expressed joy or enthusiasm.
Think of a time when something happened that made you feel very happy. Did you censor your physical and emotional reaction? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get to work in changing those habits.
If you’re a habitual grump and it’s not working for you, you can change. Rehearse how you would feel and how you will express it the next time something good happens. It needn’t be a leap in the air and a loud ‘Yeeha!’. It could just as easily be a smile and a word of praise, thanks or encouragement.

Step 3 – Be Kind to Yourself
When you choose to live a joyful life It’s the beginning of a long and winding road . 
Like any new skill we’re not going to get it right all of the time and that is just fine.
However, starting on this purposeful road will set you up with the ability to achieve and maintain a greater level of contentment, fulfilment, happiness and joy. In turn that will help safeguard your emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual health, and that is also something we could do with much more of.

Until next time, stay happy. It will intrigue some people, and totally infuriate others!
Maggie x

PS – if you would like a free daily dose of practical joy to kick off your day, follow me on Twitter @thejoyprotocol, or email me with ‘Daily Dose’ in the subject line . 

 

When Joy Can Save Your Life!

When Joy Can Save Your Life!

 Sasha* one of my Stand-Up comedy students had come along to the class under duress.

She could not see the point of it.

Fun?

Why bother when her job, her family and her life in general seemed to be just constantly dragging her down. She felt like she was made of lead and did not feel like trying to make either herself or others laugh.

During the class time, though, something started to shift. As everyone in turn delivered the work they’d been preparing the laughter in the room grew and grew.

When it was Sasha’s turn she just had an all-round gripe at an incident that day with her husband. She really put some feeling into it and her authentic grumpiness and way with words got the entire group laughing.

She felt different. She hadn’t changed anything, not her demeanour, her grumpy mood or her irritation. However the mood and the context of the class had allowed her to not take herself so seriously. Everyone else had taken a part of their life and made it a comedy bit, and now she’d done the same and some sort of alchemical exchange had happened, she was looking at the situation quite differently now and felt herself literally lighten up.

When the world seems to be falling down around you, or even those days when life just seems dull and pointless, the getting of joy can seem to be not only remote, but also not really worth the effort.

Even using the term ‘joy’ often doesn’t help. It seems to conjure an ephemeral, uncatchable smoke-like substance. Joy and happiness can seem to be more like birds that alight on your shoulder and then take off again, totally at whim, with you having no control at all.

The great news is, that is a total fallacy. You can change how you look at things by training your mind to see the world from a particular angle. People who are constantly negative are often people who have just got used to seeing the world in that way – it’s a habit.

When you change the perspective, the angle, then the effect of the world on you changes, and that’s when the magic happens – because when you change your behaviour towards the world it all of a sudden starts to respond differently to you.

It sounds woo woo, but it’s actually plain old neuroscience.

There are some really good reasons why you should cultivate the skills and habits that will bring joy into your life on a regular basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic in the USA a joyful, positive and humorous mindset:

1. Reduces blood pressure,
2. Increases coping skills – especially in times of hardship and stress
3. Heightens psychological and physical well-being
4. Lowers rates of depression and distress
5. Increases the effectiveness of our immune system
6. Reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease (damn good reason to get happy!)

Now that we know this for sure, this changes things. Joy and positivity are no longer a nice ‘extra’ to life; they are now a necessity for our mental, physical and emotional health.

In the next few weeks I’ll send you a series of short articles where we’ll discover practical and actionable ways of bringing more joy and happiness into your life.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and I’d love your feedback –  \n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ” target=”_blank”>email me.

In the meantime, remember, you are unique – just like everyone else!

Keep on shining
Maggie x

*name changed to protect the (previously) grumpy