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  

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!

I Close My Eyes and Jump

angel-81392_1280Goodness gracious what a week!

I had always imagined that when days arrive that will change my life, they would be huge and dramatic. Maybe fireworks and heavenly choirs, marching bands and trumpets, a boom or two of thunder and lightning splitting the sky.

But what really happened was an unprecedented overwhelming wave of peace, and then deep, deep inside I heard a quiet, loving voice say very firmly “No, enough. It is time now”.

And the decision that had to be made wasn’t scary. I have no doubts about the way forward, and indeed it seems to be the most natural, normal thing in the world.

So, what actually happened is that this week I resigned from my well-paid job to devote my life to coaching and training, to helping people get happy (and therefore successful) quickly and easily, and to have fun doing it using a combination of comedy and cutting edge science (for those that don’t know me I’m also an actor and comedian).

Just to re-emphasise, on Tuesday I had a six-figure, relatively safe government job, and now, after I work my notice, in about 3.5 weeks time I’ll be working for my own business Elegant Concepts Group.

What I’ve done goes against all conventional wisdom. Women my age (52) find it increasingly difficult to get decent work in the corporate sector, and those who tread cautiously would say that it really isn’t the time to be striking out on one’s own.

However, here’s the crux of the matter; for the past 30-odd years – most of my working life – I’ve been suppressing who I really am in order to fit into the ‘corporate box’. I’ve been living a double life; appearing on stage either in theatre or comedy in the evening and by day I’ve been hiding my true passions to fit in with everyone else, and in the process I’ve been exhausting myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have also been disappointing myself for not standing up for whatever oddity I feel I must be.

I have often looked with envy at people who love their 9 to 5 jobs and wished for some of the peace of mind they seem to have. But maybe they too are hiding their passions in some way to fit in with what our society asks of us. I know that for me, as I’ve got older, it has been increasingly difficult.

And then I had the health scares of the past couple of months (see previous post) to bring me to very sharp awareness of the fragility and transient nature of our time here on earth.

The key has been a question of alignment. I’ve been out of alignment and not living my values, and yet that is what I ask my clients to do, to live according to their values. How can I ask that of them when I haven’t done it myself?  That non-alignment has probably been at the basis of my health and stress problems. I can hear my old Scottish mum’s voice in my head “Ye cannay be the servant of two masters.” And that’s why I’m now giving up on one and following, with such a happy heart, the other.

I have the advantage of a fabulously supportive husband, my lovely Steven, who in his own quiet way has been pointing out my fierce defence of this middling stance for some time. And now I’ve stepped out of no-man’s-land and made the commitment he is with me all the way.

So, here goes. The countdown is on. I have my methodology and content that I want, no – need – to deliver, my products for individuals and corporates are almost ready, and even in the past few days opportunities have opened up that I would never have even noticed before. The Universe responds.

I close my eyes,

I take a big breath, and

JUMP!

The Leonies in Your Life

wisdom-92901_640  In the rush of the week the lesson became clear. As the days clicked by towards the weekend the drama stepped up a notch and I had a choice; observe it and sail above it, or be caught up within it and feel it deplete my inner resources.

Hey, I’m not perfect so of course I reacted at first, instead of responding, and spent some time swimming in those metaphorical shark infested waters until my fabulous coach reached out to me from the ether.

Leonie Lomax is remarkably intuitive with her clients. She seems to take a snapshot of your energy and then can tell, whether by what you do or what you say, even if it’s just a status on Facebook, when things are getting out of balance.

It was a one line pm that just said “How are you, Maggie? Xx”

Yet again Leonie’s intuition had kicked in when I needed her most. It’s happened before on quite a few occasions where the archly placed seemingly casual enquiry hits the bullseye and the words and feelings tumble out of my mouth or from my fingers onto the keyboard.

Leonie came into my life only a few months ago after I’d put out a call for some coaching, but her support on a practical and spiritual level has helped support me through some of the toughest periods and biggest changes I’ve seen in recent years. She’s a true coach; she never tells me what to do but her questions are keys that unlock the answers I have within. She truly cares for her clients and the difference that she can make to people’s lives.

As I said, it was an interesting week. I was reminded of the value of not being caught up in drama, I was reminded of the value of my wonderful coach Leonie, and while I no longer practice Christianity exclusively (I’ll take wisdom from wherever I can find it) I was reminded of a phrase from the gospels my mum used to quote: “Be in the world but not of the world.” I can see the value in that now, from this viewpoint.

My wishes for you this week; sail above the drama, expect wisdom in the most surprising and delightfully unexpected places, and give thanks and gratitude for all of the Leonies in your life.

What Looks Like the End is Actually the Beginning

adelaide sunsetLast week I had a rare privilege. I got to see what it could be like if my life was coming to a close.

It was all a bit dramatic – I wasn’t feeling good after a bout of pneumonia and my GP took one look at me, slapped me on the surgery’s ECG machine and called an ambulance.

They strapped me to a gurney, wheeled me out into the car park and into the ambulance, hooked me up to oxygen and a machine that went ‘beep’.

I felt like a right pillock.

The emergency department was an education. Busy as hell, the guy two cubicles down was telling a mental health worker very eloquently and very graphically about how he was tired of his psychoses and how he would just like to kill everyone please. Shortly afterward he tried to ‘go out for a walk’. It took six security guys with ropes and chains (I kid you not) to haul him back and restrain him. They’d worked up a fair sweat by the time they were finished.

The man across the way was on the gurney because his hip had dislocated. His wife came in to see him. He sounded like a real gentleman until the doctors left and the good natured charmer turned into quite something else. If he had spoken to me the way he conversationally abused his wife it would have been his jaw that was dislocated. Just like Big Ben he had a face for every direction.

Who needs a telly when you have live drama happening all around?

Anyway, I digress.

There I was, now hooked up to another machine that went ‘beep’ and with a cannula in my arm for easy extraction of blood and the process of waiting began.  I had plenty of time to think. What if it was a heart attack, the thing they were testing me for? I had a family history of heart disease so I am in the risk zone. What if I had come close to it being the last day I saw?  I tell you, it fair pulls your life into focus and the things that matter most become very, very clear.

All of a sudden I saw the folly of my hesitation over certain things, the short-sightedness of my tolerance of other things and the stupidity of trading in dreams for security. When you’re at that threshold (or you think you might be in the hallway that leads to the threshold), here’s what mattered most:

  • The people I love
  • The dreams and plans I want to realise
  • The hope that I’d made some contribution to make the world a better place for my presence (which is really a combination of the first two)

That was it. Nothing more mattered except love, connection and contribution. Outside of the context of these three things money meant nothing – everyone looks the same in a hospital gown.

Love, connection, contribution.

Message received.

Nuff sed.

 

Enough To Be Pondering On

Where does your divinity lie?                       

Is it something or someone in the sky you implore in times of need?

Is it something you tap into daily in a conversational style?

Is it something you work with cooperatively, not minding whether it’s god or just the set of physical and metaphysical laws we can’t yet identify?

Is it something you absolutely identify with and use to label yourself and your life as opposed to people who don’t consider themselves ‘spiritual’?

Or is this a stupid question, because after all there is no deity or divinity beyond what we see?

This Coaching journey I’m on, this learning and this helping of people is teaching me so much – about myself and my life, my beliefs and my view of the world.

I’m seeing more and more the divinity in the everyday, the perfection in the flaws and the beauty of humanity and its potential. It seems that divinity, the sacred, is everywhere in general, commonplace in its nature and, paradoxically, nowhere specifically.

Don’t have much more to say than that of a Sunday morning, and it’s probably enough to be pondering on a sunny winter’s day.

Have a great week!

 

The Best is Yet to Come

It has been a while since I’ve blogged again. It has been another time of great change, learning and processing. I’ve begun studies in Coaching and even in just the pre-intake learning, I’m learning so much about myself, about why I do the things I do and how I can take control of them, that I am very excited to be able to take this and so much more forward for the people I currently work with and those I will help in the future.

It’s one of those phases in life where it feels I’ve come home, even though I’ve never actually been here before.

It’s just the same as when I began studies for my degree in Communications, way back in the dark ages of 1985 where there was no such thing as a text book for PR and we learned it from a guy who’d been doing it since the 1950s!

At that time I also felt that I’d come home – the material was exciting and I was discovering new things about myself that I didn’t know I could do. I understood it all so easily and I was fortunate that it translated into a series of great jobs over the past 24 years.

And now my job has changed and I’m more in the business of people, and here I am discovering these studies about maximising the potential of people! And it feels like I’m in my 20s all over again, discovering new worlds and enthusing about it all to anyone who will listen (you included, dear reader!). I feel like a kid in a candy store, with so many goodies to learn about and apply to both myself and anyone who wants my help.

I started my Elegant Souls page on Facebook a few months back. I knew I had managed to improve my life beyond imagination over the past 17 years, mostly through self-taught principles, self help and spiritual books of the New Age flavour. Here’s the passage from Elegant Souls that explains its raison d’etre:

“In August 1994 I was married, eight months pregnant, in a dead end job and a one bedroom flat in Glasgow.
Then one morning I answered a knock at the door to find a policeman with a warrant for my husband’s arrest. My life was in shreds, and the other lies I uncovered that day tore it down even more. I was at the lowest point of my life.
Now in 2012 I’m living in the country of my dreams, in the house of my dreams, in a fantastic marriage to a great guy. I have wonderful friends, I have enjoyed creative and financial success and at age 50 and three quarters I reckon its time I put something back by showing others how they can turn their lives around like I did mine.”

I knew I wanted to help others, and I knew I needed help above and beyond my supportive family and husband. I contacted the lovely Linda Chaousis and she agreed to be my mentor and help me explore the pathway forward.

I came to realise I wanted a methodology behind what I did to help people to short circuit some of the laborious paths I’d taken. I did some research and came up with probably the best coaching school in Australia, The Coaching Institute. I’m totally in tune with the school’s ethos and look forward to completing my studies with this fantastic team.

I’ve started coaching already – both at work and in my out-of-work life –  and I’m looking forward to a trip to Melbourne soon to spend some time with my instructors and fellow students.

I’m now 51 and a bit – the time in my parents’ lives when they were winding down to retirement and settling for whatever they could have. Not me! I’m stepping out into the most exciting time of my life yet – the best is yet to come.

Woo hoo – what a ride!

Gratitude – The Law of Attraction’s Rocket Fuel

I have a fabulous friend and mentor, and when we get together our discussions around everything from business to peoples’ potential and metaphysics can really take us to places of new discovery.

One such discussion took place a few weeks ago that really gave me food for thought. We came around to the subject of  gratitude, and how, when we’re looking to bring about or manifest a situation, if it is visualised in a general atmosphere of gratitude then it tends to lend the whole exercise a power that’s not there without that mindset – I’ve started calling it Rocket Fuel for visualising!

And it’s great to know this, that it works and it can really power a visualisation, but how does it work? These were the things we were discussing when I realised the answer – currency and vacuums!

No, not money and carpet cleaners – let me explain.

When I was a much younger student of Tai Chi and Chi Kung, our Grand Master would teach us that to properly breathe deeply we must not begin on the in-breath, but on the out-breath.

He explained that we need to expel as much of the old air from our lungs as possible, and just when you think it’s all gone, then use your stomach muscles and diaphragm and perhaps even bend over (as in some of the Chi Kung exercises) to expel even more.

This space becomes a bit of a vacuum which then assists in drawing a larger proportion of new air in when you take your big in-breath. Try that two or three times and you’ll actually feel quite giddy because your body isn’t used to all that fresh air – its used to a good proportion of the old stale air.

The other aspect of our discussion about gratitude led me to thinking about energy. Energy isn’t stagnant – it needs to keep on moving to be effective, much like an electrical current.

And that’s when it struck me – conscious gratitude is an outpouring of positive energy from your being-ness to either a specific (God, the Universe etc) or non specific target (the world etc). Where it goes doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the mood and movement of the energy, and that outpouring of positivity then creates a space, like the lungs empty of expelled air.

And because like only draws to like, it creates that space specifically for positivity to enter, and that’s how it rocket fuels your visualisations.

The great bonus of cultivating gratitude is that it has a side benefit – it puts us in a better, nicer and more positive space than we would otherwise be if we were worrying or panicking because if that is what we’re sending out, then that is what  we would get back.

So, next time you find yourself with an air of negativity of whatever type, put it to one side, draw out your gratitude and send it out, creating the space for more good stuff to come right back atcha.

Mothering Your Dreams

The theme of Mothers’ Day and the contemplation of what it is to be a mother, to provide nurture, led me to think about the act of giving birth when it comes to bringing our dreams to life.

There is the moment of fertilisation – that time when an idea takes hold and declares it’s possibility of life outside your heart and head, and from there it takes root. You cogitate over its potential, play with it, work out where it could go and where you would want to take it.

Slowly it grows and takes shape. It begins to have an identity of its own. You may give it a name. It gets to a point where it is so large in your mind that you have to commit to hitting the keyboard.

The first time you write its name on the screen or sheet of paper it seems oddly familiar – it has been living with you for so long that to see it stand there, separate from you, on its own legs, can be quite scary. You wonder – can it have a life?

You probably then continue to develop and grow this dream that has now morphed into a project or series of projects that you’ve devised to bring it about. You put in hours thinking about it and planning. It’s almost like having a love affair – if it really is based in  your passion you will lose  hours to it as you work away without it seeming like actual work. You will start to reference parts of your life to  it that you used to defend from any kind of work or career reference and it will become a part of who you are and what you do, whether it is named or unnamed, every day you walk the earth.

And then one day, when it and you are both ready, you’ll launch it. You’ll cast it at the feet of the world and hope they love it as much as you do, because it has become a part of you and what you’re really doing is putting that part of you out there for the judgement of the world. You’ll worry what friends and family will say if this is a part of you they haven’t seen before. You’ll worry that you will appear foolish or getting above yourself. You’ll worry that you fail.

But that won’t stop you, because it’s born of your passion and a  part of you that hasn’t previously had a voice, so relax. There is no failure, only feedback, and the only fool is one who doesn’t try to push their boundaries to see just what they can achieve.

Believe in yourself and in your dreams – they are your future. Nourish them, nurture them and whether you are man or woman, let the Mother in you birth them to the world. They are your contribution to your community, they are your legacy, and they will keep you sane when everything else seems a bit bonkers.