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.

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

Fold, Scrunch or…

 

My life turned into a joke at the weekend – literally!

We’ve all heard that old gag about the person being in a public toilet cubicle and the person in the next cubicle says “Hello?”

And the gag teller replies with ‘Hello’ and starts conversing with the other cubicle dweller only to be talked over, as it turns out other cubicle dweller is on the phone.

Well there was me at the weekend having to quickly and unexpectedly use a public convenience.

There was I, sitting, all systems operating, so to speak, when I discovered there was no toilet paper in the holder!

EEEEK! I was definitely in a bit of a pickle.

Then I heard someone take up residence in the next cubicle!  Brilliant! Saved!

I enquired with a hesitant but loud enough “Hello?”

My voice echoed off the 1970s tiling.

No response.

I repeated “Hello?” this time a bit louder.

Silence.

I thought “Bitch is ignoring me”.

And then a few seconds later came the sound I longed to hear as she said “Hello?”

Relief flooded over me and with thankfulness I said “Oh hi, do you have any toilet paper in that cubicle you can spare?”

But the end of my sentence was cut off as she said “Hi, yeh, I’m here, I’m just in the toilet, I’ll meet you at Coles in a minute.” into her phone, and continued to have a full blown conversation while sitting on the potty!

Bitch.

There I was, totally alone, no handbag (and resultant residue of tissues and receipts that may have come in handy) and no idea of how to get out of the situation.

Let’s just say that I’m now intimate with the number and quality of layers of paper it takes to make up a loo roll tube.

The difference between this event being a disaster and an amusing anecdote is mindset. Over the years I’ve trained my mind to look for the humour in everything as I scan life for material in writing and performing stand-up comedy, but the by-product is the discovery of how wonderful a humorous re-frame of life can be in coping with life’s lumps and bumps.

Both laughter and tears are responses to stressful situations – they each release tension in either one way or another. If we choose to respond in tears and sadness it closes down our options and leaves us without choice, a victim of circumstance.

If we choose laughter (which can also involve tears, but of a different kind) it takes away the power the situation may have had over us, we keep our sovereignty of life and we retain the ability to make positive choices in how to get under, over, past or through the situation with significantly less stress and sadness.

And that includes being stuck in a ‘situation’ in a toilet cubicle with no toilet paper. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones in that cubicle. I thought, ‘what would Indy do?’ And you can bet I was also thinking “Possible comedy material!” – after all, most comedy is born out of someone else’s pain!

So, after all that, I have one question for you;

Do you fold, scrunch… or scrape?

I conduct courses and workshops teaching how to speak with  influence and authority, and to develop your powers of humour and comedy for pleasure, public speaking and life coping skills.

The next Comedy Course for Beginners starts in Adelaide on 15 October – email me on maggie@funnyfarm.net.au for details

The next workshop The Power of Comedy in Business will take place in Melbourne on 25 October – for details click this link  

What a Ride!

 

FF with FBOne of the things that you don’t expect when you give up the day job is the massive internal, personal changes that start to happen as you start out on your journey working full time in your own business.

First there is the good stuff – the massive increase in passion and purpose. It’s perfectly normal to start working at 6am in your nightie in front of the computer because your brain is racing and you need to get it all downloaded and in print on the screen before it melts like the springtime snow.

As you ease out of your employee mindset (not easy when you’ve been one for thirty-something years) you gain a new sense of yourself, of the things you achieve, the things you create and the changes you make in peoples lives with the stuff you have to offer.

Then there’s the darker side; the self doubt, the financial insecurity, the worry of not knowing how this story ends. These thoughts are hard taskmasters but they are also a gift. They force you to develop resilience, to dig deep and really earn your stripes as someone who is bringing something new to the world that will benefit the world. This life game is not for wimps!

One of the mental tussles I’ve been going through is how to actually bring that stuff to the world in a way that makes sense for me and my clients. In other words – what’s my niche? I’ve been doing ok as a generalist coach and trainer but I knew my message and my vehicle for delivering all these goodies needed honing. My lovely coach Leonie explained that it was like giving birth and ideas, like babies, need an incubation period.

Well, just like an expectant mother – and just as wise Leonie had said – it has taken almost nine months before I got well and truly whacked on the head with the ‘obvious stick’! Let me explain; all my life I’ve been a Communication junkie. I worked in Corporate Communications for 25 years and carried on parallel careers in theatre and comedy as well as becoming a coach and an accredited NLP practitioner. After much reflection I realised that it was no different now, and my passion continues to be how we speak to ourselves, how we speak to the world and how we speak to each other.

So the upshot of it all is I’ll be channeling my coaching and training through the mediums (media!) that I know and love best:

  • More Than Words – Powerful presentation coaching.
  • The Funny Farm – Stand up Comedy for Beginners
  • The Joy Protocol – comedy shows
  • Personal and Business Coaching

It’s very exciting because as soon as I knew exactly how I wanted to do all these things, exactly the right people showed up in my life to make it all happen and it’s happening soon!

As Bill Hicks said, this life is just a ride, and what a crazy wonderful ride it is!

Top 3 Emotions of my First Week in Business

maggie1 Last week I finished up in my day job. After commencing coaching and NLP studies last year and working part time on my coaching, training and comedy business, I’m putting out my shingle for the business on a full time basis. I’m using my experience of 25 years in corporate communications, 23 years in theatre and 12 years in stand-up comedy to teach people and organisations how to be clinically, chronically happy.

This first week has produced some interesting insights, so here are the top three things I’m feeling in my first week of working for myself:

 1. Freedom!

I’ve been a faithful wage slave since I was 16. If you take away my four years of study/uni that’s 32 years of getting up in the morning and attending a workplace. Now my workplace is in the spare room and I am totally responsible for how I shape my day, my week and my entire future. The resulting emotions are a mixture of ‘Eeeeek!’, Yay!’, and ‘Really’? It’s only been a week so at night I’m still dreaming that I’m conducting wrap up sessions for my team at work or working through the day to day issues of the office. And then I wake up and realise that’s all in the past now.

 2. Freak out!

Closely related to Freedom, the freak-out in the first week is the gap between the comfort of the schedule of work I’ve mapped out and the knowledge that until the business gets traction then its income will be less than desired (which is actually ok and normal – unearned income is fine as it goes but unsatisfactory in that it doesn’t show me whether I’m doing it right). I’m having to absolutely live what I teach, manage my mindset and take appropriate action, which is all very cool because it’s what I ask my clients to do and if I only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk I’m not being a very good role model.

3. Fun!

I am having the best of fun. I get to be home with the doggies and make hubby a cup of tea when he gets home (he still insists on making dinner). I get the quiet and solitude of working alone when I need to and I get the creative juices going working together with my great partners in comedy and coaching, and I get to go networking regularly, meet new people and strike up new relationships – the best of all worlds. I get to manage my time as I want it and when I go for acting and comedy gigs I don’t have to second guess myself as to whether it would work in ok with the day job .

This ‘self-employment’ thing is an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I’m sure it will be something of a rollercoaster, but at least when the time comes I won’t be left wondering ‘what if’. Whatever happens, this is a time in life that I would not swap for anything!

If you’d like to work with me have a look at www.maggiewood.com.au (new coaching site coming soon) and email me on maggie@elegantconceptsgroup.com

Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

Cutting Ties to the Past

sign-43984_1280Way back in the mists of time, when dinosaurs stalked the earth and the gods still supped with the mortals (so, somewhere around 1978) I used to be an apprentice hairdresser.

Yes, no shit. I spent four years shampooing, cutting, tinting and asking people where they were going for their holidays.

I loved the job. I loved the busy-ness, I loved the creativity and I loved helping people look absolutely smashing. I hated the usual things about being an apprentice – i.e. not having control of what I was doing (hell, I was 17 and like every other 17 year old I knew everything, didn’t I?). I hated drying the stinky perm towels in an ancient dryer because the boss was too mean to launder them more than once a week and I hated the worst job of all – picking the rollers and hairpins out of the piles of swept up hair cuttings at the end of the day. I would do this and dry retch the whole time. ‘Twas shit. I was also scared that one never saw an old hairdresser. Where did they go? I saw the 40 year old ones develop dowagers humps from bending over all the time (now being seen in younger techno geeks), but not older, retirement age ones. It remains a mystery to me.

It was at that time though that I was issued, through my college course (City & Guilds of London Hairdressing Apprenticeship), with my kit for the job. My own personal set of rollers, hairpins, pincurl pins combs brushes and scissors.

To this day I still cut hair. I’ve cut my son’s hair his whole life. He’s 19 now and he’s only been to a hairdresser once (when he was 15, they didn’t do it right, they didn’t understand his white afro like I do). I cut my dad’s hair from when I started til he died in 2008. I cut my mum’s hair till she went to the salon in the sky in ‘95 and I mostly cut my own hair because I cannot be arsed explaining to a hairdresser what I want when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. My husband struggles with this. I think he sees self-done haircuts as a signifier of poverty. Personally, I see them as soothing my need for control.

Anyway, the thing is, I lost my cutting comb.

I do not know what happened, but in the past couple of weeks the comb I use for cutting hair has disappeared. It’s the comb I’ve used since my apprenticeship and it works in perfect harmony with my scissors, which I’ve taken care of and I’ve had since that tender age as an apprentice.

Son needed a haircut but cutting comb is nowhere to be seen. I’m stumped. I cannot use a normal, mere mortal, civilian comb! That just wouldn’t be right. So I had to seek a new one out. EEEk!

In town today I walked into one of those hairdressing suppliers with a fabulously pun-y name like Hairhouse Warehouse or similar, and the chick in charge came up to me, fixed her mascara’ed, lined eyes upon me, and from underneath her product enhanced swept fringe asked if she could help me. I looked straight back and said ‘Yes, I need a cutting comb’. It was as if she’d been told I was the queen in disguise. Her back straightened, her eyes widened and a very respectful sales assistant showed me their range. She obviously recognised a veteran of the trade.

I got the new comb. I regarded it suspiciously. It’s a different shape from the 35 year old one that’s gone missing, but nevertheless I used it this afternoon to cut son’s hair. And oh boy!

This comb with its new shape but still fabulous cutting comb qualities had me cutting faster and more accurately than I have in years. It’s easier to hold and easier to work with the scissors. I finished the cut in record time and I must say I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Which is all a long winded way to say, don’t do what I did. I feared having to use a new comb and I mourned the loss of the old one, when in reality the old one’s just a comb and only has the meaning I give it, and the new comb is a boon to my speed and accuracy.

I had attributed too much of what I did to the old comb. Yes we’ve been through a lot that comb and I, but let’s face it, it’s just a piece of plastic with no feelings and it wouldn’t be very resourceful of me to mourn it, would it?

So, what I say is welcome change, expect things to get even better than before, and as for the past, the good memories (and people) will stay, no matter what. Here’s to another 35 years of cutting!