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.

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!

There Must Be Better Songs to Sing than This

Yesterday I watched the movie Educating Rita.

It’s written by Willy Russell who also wrote Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. I love his work – it’s rare to see a man who can write so well for women.

I last saw the movie around 1984 or ‘85. I remember it because I watched it with my mum.

As the movie unfolded before us we became uncomfortable to a certain extent. While I wasn’t married like Rita in the movie, I was attempting to move from having no qualifications to speak of to studying first some O levels and Highers and then gain entry to a degree course in Communications. (I’d been taken out of school as soon as my parents could do so after I’d turned 16 in Australia to return with them to Scotland).

I’d been successful in that, despite the intake for my chosen course’s year being only 18 places and only two places in the UK offering the course – Liverpool University and my own uni, now grandly called Glasgow Caledonian University – back then it was just Glesga Tech.

So, there’s me and mum sitting and watching the movie, the irony of it all not escaping us (she had also had her ambitions thwarted as a young woman, denied the chance of study and steered towards tailoring as it would bring in money).

There’s a scene where Rita has joined her husband and family in the pub. It’s at a moment where she feels she belongs in neither world – not that of her working class roots nor that of her new world at University. Everyone in the pub is having a sing-along, including her family, about how content they are and how they have everything they need. Rita feels she can’t join in. She turns and sees her mum who also seems unhappy, and has also stopped singing.

Her mum says one line. “There must be better songs to sing than this.”

At that point both my mum and I looked at each other, and both of us were in tears.

How true that had been for both of us. We were each in our own way spending our lives looking for better songs to sing than those we’d already become familiar with. I was still in that stage of studies where it was easy to be made to feel I was getting ‘above myself’. Apart from my cousin Kathleen, no one in our family had gone to higher studies or chased academia in any way. My dad would ask why I couldn’t just be like everyone else and get a job in a factory.

I was the daughter of trades people – my dad a baker and mum a tailoress. They in turn had been the children of unskilled labourers and I’ve traced my ancestors back far enough to know that my grandparents were the first in their own families to be able to read and write. In gaining that ability they were able to begin to exert choices, and tracing that skill all the way down the generations to tertiary education it was still all about the same thing – choice and the right to exercise it.

At 17 I’d been coerced into a hairdressing apprenticeship for four years by my parents. They thought it was for the best but it was never what I really wanted to do. However in doing it I’d got mum off my back to a certain extent. It was something ‘to fall back on’ but the day my apprenticeship finished was the day my hairdressing career finished, and after a brief stint in retail and a bout of depression it was academia that saved my sanity.

Watching the movie again reminded me of that pivotal point in my life, where a seemingly mad choice (the first of many) had been the right choice, where the courage had been supplied from somewhere to take a step outside of the known into the unknown.

I have a picture in my office of Frank Zappa with his hair in bunches. There’s a quote attributed to him on the bottom that says “Without deviation from the norm progress is not possible.”

There’s a little bit of Rita in all of us who want something better than we have been dealt. When was the last time you gave her a bit of attention? Maybe it’s time to let her free and have her way.

Here’s to all of us to continue to have the courage to deviate from the norm, to discover new worlds and to continue to progress throughout our lives.

Still Standing

It would seem that once again life is showing me that it conspires to provide everything needed for progress – whatever you define that progress to be.

Since my last post around about the middle of February ( I think) I’ve undergone some pretty massive changes in my life. We had the Three Stuffed Mums season at the Adelaide Fringe that went until mid-March. At the same time, at the beginning of March I left my job at a place I felt very much at home and in an occupation that I’ve been undertaking for the past 24 or so years and took up a new post in a new organisation. It has been a challenging move and yet one that I’m amazed that I feel so comfortable with. I’m learning loads about myself, about my passions and about the job. In short, I’m having fun!

The show’s season went well and part of the reason that I haven’t been blogging here is because, with our marketing budget of zero I decided to try to get the word out about the show by blogging almost daily on the Talkfringe website. While I’d love to give you a rundown of the season, maybe its best if I just repost my final blog there that sums up everything the season meant to us. So, here it is below:

GOODNIGHT AND GOODBYE

The Three Stuffed Mums – myself, Kate Burr and Kehau Jackson -took our traditional last night of the Fringe off and repaired to the excellent dining facilities of The Maid for a lovely dinner with Candace, our sound person, Mike Pitman, our musical director and our partners Steven and Glynn. Unfortunately Jeff, Kate’s husband, was home with a poorly toddler Lily (get well soon little Lil!).
It was a fitting end to an arduous season. Along with all the other Fringe acts we coped with boiling temperatures, flooding rains, the whine of the V8s and the competition from the Festival, Womad, Clipsal and the extra 180 or so shows who were all competing for the punters’ money.
But we did it, we got here. 17 shows over four weeks, dodgy reviews, good reviews, audiences who were quiet, raucous, drunk, sober – you name it. We were refining our standup from the first performance to the last, we were punching the air when we came in on time and professing to do better on the odd occasion we over ran by a few minutes. We saw the birth of a new comedy duo – Ajit Daliwahl and Amy Manuel as Ajitating Amy – and celebrated the legacy of now-passed but forever with us comedy legend Dave Grant.
This Fringe helped us to live life to the full for four glorious weeks, to put ourselves and our skills on the line, to spread laughs and for a short while to help others forget their worries. I can’t think of any higher calling than that of the jester, the comic, the (hopefully) wise fool. We hold a mirror to our selves and to our world, and in laughing at the hard stuff, the bad stuff, we remove its power over us.
Goodnight and goodbye Adelaide Fringe 2012. Seeya next time.
Maggie x

 

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!

An Intriguing Challenge

It’s been a massive week in some respects, not least in the realisation that I need to remember more frequently to count my blessings and that what I want is actually where I am.

It sounds simple but if you’ve spent the best part of your life trying to get to somewhere better, the autopilot kicks in and the impulse is to relentlessly move forward despite the terrain about you being your desired destination.

So, a new challenge for me – learn how to stop and enjoy what you’ve been striving for when you realise you got there – and its an intriguing challenge.

It seems to mirror my main philosophical/spiritual guide, the Tao Te Ching in its focus on the small, the familiar, and in the eyes of the world the very tame, aspects and issues of our lives to become our real teachers. And yet it isn’t small – the contrast between momentum and control, mirrored in the practice of tai chi is subtle, yet profound.

Swinging kinetic movement is fun and gives at least the appearance of change and progress. Small, controlled and smooth movement appears to be unchanging, too slow for our modern tastes, stasis. But in these small slow movements new universes unfold.

I observe the movement of my hand as it waves across my field of vision. Its slow smooth action allows me to see the wrinkles and lines in my skin, observe the muscles containing their movement to my will, the colour and pigmentation, lines of blood vessels, calloused and smooth spots.

And so it is with life. The slowing down is allowing me to observe in closer quarters the beauty, both temporal and spiritual, that I may have missed in all of my activity.

This slowing of the pace, I do believe I like it.

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In some ways connected with the above thoughts, this week I performed what I intend to be my last standup comedy gig. It was a spot to help entertain some of the 500 volunteers who provide such necessary services to people in the community where I work. It was a privilege to be there and a good one on which to step down.
Comedy has given a lot to me over the past eight years – not least some great friends – and taught me much. I don’t know what happens from here, just that it seems like the right time to close that particular door, so thankyou to everyone who’s helped me, performed with me, and come to see me. Its been a lot of fun.

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If you’re interested in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu there’s a great translation by Stephen Mitchell at:
http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html
Its my favourite translation and a copy of it sits on my desk at work for quick reference.

Have a great week, everyone!