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!

Stuffed Mums Strike Again!

 

How do I describe the afternoon I’ve just experienced?

Along with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues Kate and Kehau I spent the afternoon at Goolwa, a small town south of Adelaide at the mouth of the mighty river Murray, and had the biggest amount of fun. We were there to perform a Three Stuffed Mums show as part of ‘Just Add Water’ – the Country Arts SA Regional Centre for Culture festival that takes the arts to the regions and for a year settles in and works with the people who live locally. A main part of the festival is that projects there should leave a lasting legacy for the community.

Three Stuffed Mums project was to perform our show there and then over a period of a few weeks teach and coach local mums in standup or other ways of telling their own stories with humour. Then at the end we’ll present a showcase with the women performing their work. Today was the show and we’ll conduct the course from May to July.

It had become plain to us that women these days can feel isolated in bringing up children, and that they might not realise we all go through the same challenges. We had women coming to our shows the past two years and saying to us afterwards “Thanks! Now I feel normal!”

As far as stand up goes, this show today has to be one of the highlights of my ten year comedic career. The feeling of over 200 people cacking themselves with laughter at you is rather heady, and even more so that they were mostly women  and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

I had a ball and so did everyone else. And now we have the opportunity to pay so much forward with the course – can’t wait!

Have a great week!

Trusting the Tao

Trusting the Tao

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The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

From Steven Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

The words above have been a very real, very practical lesson for me recently.

We’re getting ready for another great Adelaide Fringe, and I’m writing a new show with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues called Still Stuffed. Its a brand new show, with all new stand up comedy and songs, following on from the great success we had last year.

The songs are fine, they’re all written and being arranged right now. All new stand up – that’s another story. I don’t know how other writers operate but I cannot just sit at a computer and write funny – especially when the funny is for spoken delivery.

For me, that means it has to come from spoken origins. And its not a linear process either. Ideas, or phrases or sentences pop up, that generate further ideas that progress out from that original trigger like the ripples on a pond. The most important thing then is the idea, and the next important things are the words that convey that idea. The words can be swapped around like the idea trying on different outfits, but as long as the idea is intact and still inhabits my mind in its original form, there’s that leeway to play with. And then after a few days of musing (or weeks) it gets commited to screen via the keyboard. The words, if you’re not careful, have a way of pegging the idea down like the guy ropes of a flyaway tent. Done properly they neatly package and deliver the idea concisely, precisely and with punch. Done badly they bog it down and kill it. So you can see where I’m starting from.

So, all of this is to say that you cannot force the process. At the same time you have a deadline called ‘opening night’ looming ahead that tends to focus the mind and has the capacity to instill panic. So, what to do?

Me, I have learned to pick up my copy of the Tao Te Ching to remind myself to chill out and that all will be fine. That calms me enough to trust again that what I need will be delivered as long as I do my part in the process. And when I do, its a kind of self fulfilling prophecy, the ideas flow more freely, the mind is more open to receiving new ideas, not tense with panic, and things start to shake up in good time. And I have to say, things are coming together very nicely re the stand up, much better than I anticipated, actually. Adelaide Fringe 2012, I cannot wait for opening night!

If you’re in the vicinity you should pop down and see our show at The Maid, which also has some great comedy shows not featuring us. Our senior Stuffed Mum, Kehau, runs the venue with an aim to helping new comics put on their first Fringe shows without going into bankruptcy to do it. She and her husband Glynn work their butts off to make sure this happens so they deserve support for that alone, I reckon.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are please support your local artists, take part in your local culture and entertainment, and most of all, have fun!

Have a great week!

Maggie 🙂

NB: When looking for the correct stanzas to illustrate my point about trusting the flow in the writing process, I went to the internet version of the translation and blindly clicked on a chapter number. It turned out to be precisely the best chapter to describe what I was trying to say. Bravo Tao!

The Martian Parenting Style

An interesting train of thought was sparked by Rebecca Dettman’s blog (http://rebeccadettman.com) on how we teach our kids about spirituality.

It’s a good question, because outside of organised religion we don’t have that formal framework as parents, so we’re thrown back on our own experiences, thoughts and the things we’ve come to know that are authentic.

When I had my son, I hadn’t a clue about raising children. The only thing I did know was that I didn’t want him to grow up as I had – so my mum actually did me a favour in the way she brought me up, in showing me what I didn’t want to do.

As I’m a person who loves a certain amount of structure in which to play, I needed a framework, so I coined my philosophy ‘The Martian Parenting Style’.

The basic precept of this was that I would treat my son as if he’d dropped on to the earth from a different planet, and my job was to teach him the rules of the game of life on earth.

This neatly removed the need for the wars between good and evil that I’d had drummed into my catholic childhood, and also the concept of unnecessary guilt.

I taught him that while some things aren’t necessarily ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ they are more or less appropriate in certain situations. One example was swearing – I taught him that swear words are simply that – only words – and that they only have the power you give them yourself. In saying that, they’re not always welcome in the wrong context or situation so one has to be aware of that.

I taught him what I believe about metaphysics, the notion of God, we did guided meditations and visualisations together and then as he grew older and became less inclined to talk about such things, that was the time for me to step back and let him formulate his own philosophy from his own experience and beliefs.

To me this seems so much healthier than blindly accepting someone else’s teachings. By all means accept teachings from those older and wiser who’ve gone before us if they resonate, but do it only after questioning it with an open heart and mind.

Educate our children in ethics, morals and spirituality (if that is part of your experience). Do it early and consistently, and then trust them. Teach them about the stuff they won’t learn at school; relationships, family, rights and responsibilities by demonstrating your values every day, for the rest of your life. It’s the utmost in accountability and be prepared to make mistakes – we all do – but the rewards are supreme.

*************

It’s been a busy week, with stage managing Mother and Son at the Holden Street Theatres, and my first professional after dinner speaking gig for the National History Teachers’ conference at the National Wine Centre, and fitting in work around all that too.

A busy week, but a good week. I was reminded once again of the value of good friends –  not only friends who you love to spend time with, but friends of the heart who encourage you, promote your self-confidence and tell you that “you can do it.”

Friends like these are gold – I really believe they’re sent like signposts to help you on your way.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few friends like that in my life and this week one of them – the wonderful Kehau – shone like a beacon. We’ve been friends for a long time but this week it’s been like our connection has shone even brighter. So, between Kehau pointing the way and my fabulous hubby Steven supporting me and ever so gently encouraging and pushing me from the other side I’ve taken a couple of steps this week to propel the story forward. Reasonably soon I’ll be boring the ears off you about what it is, but for now I’m letting it brew and settle. More on this anon.

Have a great week!

M :o)

 

Let’s Enjoy Ourselves!

Just a short update: we’re three quarters of the way through the Fringe. There’s a show tonight (Saturday) and then Tuesday through Saturday again.

However we look at it, this Fringe has been a huge success for the Three Stuffed Mums. There have been great houses, fantastic audiences and lovely reviews. Even with a week to go we have post-Fringe bookings, some awesome plans in the pipeline and a bundle of songs and sketches awaiting development for the full stage show.

I’ve been having Thursdays and Fridays off during Fringe to accommodate energy levels and it’s worked well. It’s been a good balance, with the normal Monday to Wednesday workdays grounding me and stopping me flying off into Fringeland entirely. It pays to remember that Fringe isn’t the real world and it’s as transient as any of the Tivoli Garden setups in the parklands. It’s beautiful and enchanting when it’s there, but it’s not there for ever. And if you’ve seen our show, you’ll know the Mums are all about keeping it real.

The one thing about the show that has surprised us and blown us away is the sheer joy of it.

We knew we were having fun putting it together, but we didn’t bank on it being this much fun night after night. We also didn’t bank on the sheer joy of our audiences and the great energy they are feeding back to us.

When we talk to them after the show they say things like ‘I’m glad it wasn’t just me thinking that’, and to hear them talking about how it feels better to just be human and flawed, that they feel happier in themselves because they know they’re not alone in feeling how they do and how great it was to see their lives reflected back at them, well it makes your heart swell.

Its exactly what we’ve had underpinning the project all along – helping that connection set up and continue, to get us talking about parenthood with a laugh rather than a psychiatrist, and to know that none of us need to be alone on this journey through parenthood. I say ‘parenthood’ rather than ‘motherhood’ because some of the great feedback has been from the dads who were at first reluctant to come along. Yet,when they did they realised that it is just as applicable to their lives as it is to the mums’.

If you’d like to know more about what the Three Stuffed Mums are about go to http://www.threestuffedmums.com (silly blogspot won’t let me link it!)

Ah, it turns out this hasn’t been as short a blog as I thought it would be! So, heading into the final week of Fringe, lets all enjoy ourselves!

Happy Fringing!