Opportunities and Inner Guidance

In my life I have turned to others for guidance through books, the printed word, for only by doing so have I been able to access the wisdom of people here before me. The great teachers of the ages and many others over their lifetimes, with their searches and experiences have asked the same questions that I do and found the answers.

Reading books that inspire, teach and show me what courage is, what truth really means, what struggles I have in common with others and how I can find what I am meant to do with my life, gives me hope.

A great quote will lift my spirits and mind towards some sort of meaningful existence. It shields me against the otherwise mundane routine I find myself living.

The activity of getting to know myself through others and their printed words has always been a settling thing to me. It can be my magic carpet ride out of my day to day structure and away to future plans where I can reach a goal that has some purpose, some meaning, some sense to it.

I trust in that within me, which I know to be the way I need to live my life. Some people think I’m strange, I accept I’m not the average person. I know I have choices on the way I live my life and I know I make choices. Something’s can be changed and something’s cannot be changed. Either way I make a choice. I know when I make a choice it’s not about gaining power it’s about gaining or retaining balance. Balance for me, that within me, the inner me, that peace, is completely necessary to me, as necessary as the air I breathe.

I have creative power yet I sometimes cannot speak to fully articulate my meaning. By nature I ponder. In writing I can ponder, it’s acceptable.

Finding reasons for anything makes no difference. The ‘why’ is not important. It is what it is and I only need to know that and nothing else. It saves my energy for the really important stuff.

All circumstances contain for me a lesson; I learn from everything – it’s just sometimes hard to figure which lesson. At times I feel like I am a private investigator, my client is me. “Investigating me”.

It is this sense of knowing that I have allowed all my life to guide me in the directions I have taken. I have often been told I am a very open person, recently a very old friend announced “There is nothing wrong with you Mary, you are just passionate.” Sadly this did not feel like a complement, I was not asking what was wrong with me.

I’m not shut down, I know that and sometimes I say exactly what I think, exactly how I see it or exactly how it is, good or bad, the facts are…

I was always aware of this sense of knowing that I had, but not completely aware of the power it held. It was just an innate trust that I trusted, I had always trusted and by sheer instinct I followed. Perhaps I was lazy, it was there why not.

Recently this awareness has grown and I am adjusting to the fact that it will not go away.

Almost four years ago I made a decision to return to University. The reasons I had are my reasons and I have no reason to justify my reasons. However to illustrate something I list my reasons or reasoning for making this choice:

1. My Darling daughter, then at age 29, told me that it was my fault she did not have a degree, so I thought hum ‘I’ll show you missy’. I did not take her comment personally, she is a cleaver girl and as such she does whatever she wants to do. As do most of us. That she never found it riveting to study more than she needed to, never surprised me. She learnt easily and in other ways. However I felt that at double her age I could show her by example that you can do anything, at any age, and the thing is…you only have to want to do it.

2. I’ve always wanted a Degree. Goodness only knows why, it’s not that big a deal.

3. I thought that maybe it would be a good way to spark up my brain. In my life, like a lot of other people, I’ve noticed, I have not always made the best decisions, even with the use of my sense of the inner me and knowing system.

4. Oh, I was completely over the whole nine-to-five work thing.

5. I wanted to go to University and be a full-time student, more than anything else, at that time.

The go to University decision came from the question “What do I want to do?” And the answer to that one question is number 5, as above. Shouldn’t it have been 1 and only 1?

The rest were just justifications, weight and extra reasons of no real value. They may have been pointers, however I feel I have been conditioned to supply further reasons; I had to have more value than simply this is what I want to do.

I know that I listened to that ‘inner me’ when I went with number 5, the only real answer to my question.

Like my daughter, I see that I do whatever I want to do as well.

“Ouch” when you start to own that trait. It sounds so darn selfish. But is it?

It is not selfish to want to achieve something. It is not selfish to do what we want to do – providing we are not harming ourselves or others. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, it is not selfish to recognise our own needs. I think there are still huge misunderstandings around what constitutes being selfish.

To achieve what I wanted a large portion of my selfishness was sacrificed. All that darn study took a lot of time. No social life, no reading books of my choice, no doing what I wanted to do at all really. It was always which assignment first, what next.

Anything worth having requires sacrifice, every parent can just think about having children. No further discussions required on that one.

The fact that I wanted to do something needed no add-on, no reason or justification. There were practical reasons that sat below those listed. Reasons like was it safe and legal. Those are more valid reasons for making the decision – I never thought of those until this very minute. It’s a given to me that I am not going to do something that I know to be a risk to my safety or harm to others, albeit I am a risk taker. I have no desire to break the law; jail has never been on my “to do” list.

Then the money question could I afford to pull off not working for a few years. Money means little to me and if I have it I have no problem spending it. So that one was sorted quickly.

Also the timing was a factor, it was perfect for me to get this degree, at this time. I knew this was my opportunity to get this degree off my “to do” list. I think it is often difficult to see our opportunities as they present. I like lists; the thing is, I feel compelled to fill them up. I like having something in all the boxes.

I had my answer and it was interlocked into my ‘knowing’ and this ‘inner me’, which is that unconditional surrender to what you really know you want and need to do, without any violation of the rights of others. I never want to cause any damage to humanity. Opportunities are sensed, I think.

I have read much about consciousness. I see consciousness as a quality within each of us that allows the inner me and our awareness of that inner me to flourish.

I have found nothing new, many people have discovered the same as I am discovering. I trusted this sense of knowing as the best answer to my question at that time. When I applied to University I was accepted. When things align easily I figure they are pointing the direction that is best for me.

In the past it was always where to find the time, the money and the energy, obstacles. I could no longer run for cover on this one opportunity.

I have my degree now and my inner me guided me not only to the decision but along the way this sense of knowing held me to this goal. Getting the degree at times gave me grief, staying with it took some will power yet at no time did I ever think I would give up or not get it. Somehow I always found the best solution to get me over another hurdle. Now with inner confidence I can say I was given an opportunity, I sensed it was one to take and I took it.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2016

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What do I want?

That burning question.

I don’t want power – I want ability. The ability to change the world, just a little, while I’m here.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2015

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As I stand in the garden a Bull Ant bites me on my foot, ‘ouch’. I ponder about their nest, which the gardener has disturbed. The ant’s race around looking for a new place to settle, a fresh start or at least an end to the war, which appears to have bombed their home. I wonder what they are thinking, or if they think.

As I watch the massive amount of Ant activity going on I am thinking that some will be confused, some will be focused and some will be waiting to see what has happened before becoming confused and focused. Some will get stuck, buried alive or trampled by the disturber.

Thinking that through I see there is not much difference in our communities of human activities. We all keep busy until a war breaks out either in the home or outside of it. We all race around trying to settle or to find a fresh start, when forced to. Some of us dig-in, so to speak, refuse to accept any disturbance is happening and some get stuck in the trenches.

Getting stuck in the trenches is of particular personal interest to me. As I watch one large Ant go round and round I wonder if what he is searching for can be found. I wonder if what he works for is satisfying and I wonder if he knows he’s exposed and vulnerable. I can see he is searching, I can see he works hard and I can see he is vulnerable.

Ants work together to support their communities – we humans have a lot to learn from that. Ant societies parallels with human societies in many ways and the way they work together I find inspiring. I continue to watch this flurry of activity, as my foot throbs from the bite, they seem amazing to me. I feel like I am looking down on another life and wonder if some higher being than myself is also looking down on my life, thinking in the same tone, that I am the Ant to them.

I am still working out what I am searching for. All the things we are told are important in our life, like family, have been slowly stripped out of my life. My parents have died. I’m divorced; I live a far distance from my two adult children. They are as independent as I am so we rarely see each other. The ritual of seeing each other is less important to me than talking to them and I do that. My siblings were also stripped out of my life when our parents died and money became the focus, not support for each other. I ponder that at least Ants don’t have to contend with money. In our human world it brings on a whole gambit of problems; and delights. If the Ants have no money problems I wonder what is their reward. Is the reward of living a life enough?

I wonder what do Ants do to bring meaning to their lives? It looks to me to be only hard work to their struggle for existence. I wonder if they love what they do and I wonder have they found what brings meaning and just how closely they see themselves as vulnerable in the trenches of their lives.

Ants thrive almost anywhere and most science facts I read puts that down to the social qualities and their ability to change – they are resilient and resourceful.

I have three words that I attached to myself years ago, mainly due to applying for jobs I was asked to consider my qualities so I decided, my choice, I was enthusiastic (because almost everyone told me that I was), resourceful because I was able to cope and learn; resilient because I was still here!

As I ponder where the Rid cream is to put on my still throbbing foot I also wonder where am I stuck and how vulnerable am I?

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2015

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The single most important thing to me is sharing. That has taken me considerable time to work out !

When I get something I really get it, up to that point I need a base to understand things and with that base I build brick by brick until I get it. That’s just how it is for me and I like that about me because I know that once I know, I know.

I find not sharing odd, really I do. I know people who cannot even share a simple “Good Morning” a gesture that acknowledges the simple existence of another person. I have worked in an office where for four days I never uttered a single word.

I live alone so it occurred to me that I actually never uttered a word in four whole days. That was a record for me. I would not have believed that I could leave my home and go to work and not utter a word. This went on in drips and drabs a few days here and there until I was asked a work question one day at the office and I had to stop and think how to string a sentence together.

My time in this workplace had to be limited. I would become fixed like this, if I stayed, this I knew. Sadly, I stayed just a bit too long and saw myself changing, I resigned the same day. That in itself was a risk, I had no other job.

My awareness has increased over the last few years so when I say “I saw myself changing” – I mean that cringe moment when you start to behave like people you don’t want to imitate and somehow you are standing outside yourself and looking down at yourself and that other self is saying ‘Oh No’.

I know the work I do can be solitary work. I like to be given my work and left alone to do it. I don’t like zero communication, guessing and looking at people next to me who wear earphones as they sit and do their solitary work. My dislike of earphones has increased a hundred times. I have noticed as office morale deteriorates, the earphone usage increases. I still hold in my mind the picture of one girl’s look of frustration as I try to get her attention to ask a question. She pulled the plug out of one ear and gave me “the look”, she would not say a word. Shocked, I forgot the question. Is she at work or not? That becomes my new question…oh but that one I cannot ask.

For me communication is a given. In my family, we fought over who was going to talk next, we were loud and bold. We laughed and cried. The whole idea that we don’t need to communicate anything just completely flaws me. There is so much I cannot know and if nobody is willing to tell me – how does that work! Work itself must suffer, the quality compromised, what for? The sake of saving a few words.

If we never communicated to each other we would all still be sitting around in the open building fires and looking for food, in all the wrong places. Sure we can follow what others have done and that is fine, no problems there. Oh, what if the others found those poison berries and we eat them as well and then we saw the others, not well, oh dear, we have followed the wrong person!!! Damn! We all make mistakes and blindly following others can be a big mistake.

Being given the ability to think allows us the use of thinking, at least every now and then. Like walking, we need to do it to keep the ability. If we “think” we can get jobs anywhere anytime because we trust in our own abilities to work things out – enough to know we are not going to be eating those poison berries.

I’m learning to think with awareness. Now I have this new found awareness I can’t make it go away, sometimes I wish I could. I was happy in my Rose Coloured glasses.

Sharing is not just about dividing up your lunch, if necessary that is good, to me sharing encompasses all things. Sharing information, knowledge, skills, a laugh, a story, a “Good Morning” and “Enjoy your evening” anything that reaches out to someone and brings him or her into your life. Because…I think we need that connection to each other. Well, I do.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2015

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An Ordinary Life

In July 2012 I returned to University to prove to myself that I had the commitment it takes to stay with a plan, among other things.

It was meant to take just 18 months. I ran over time, so like me.

The plan was to study full time. It was a gift to myself to take 2 years off work. Head down, do the study, get a piece of paper and watch for the other results this might bring to my life.

Was I trying to show the world that I was clever? There were many drivers behind the plan. I always knew I was clever, now I understand I am clever in my unique way. Each of us have our unique ways to manoeuvre a path through our lives of learning and gaining knowledge.

You cannot frame clever, it is not a piece of paper. It is not a high IQ, it is not what someone else thinks of you. Clever is what you think of you.

Clever is looking at your fears and looking at who you are. There is nothing to add or subtract. It is what it is.

So I ran over time, it took me twice as long, and a bit. I have all the reasons succinctly written down, I’ve learnt how to do that. Does it matter?

I am a thinker and I ponder on things and I potter around, I am easily distracted, staying with anything can be, at times, extremely challenging for me and that does not matter. I am who I am and each of us have similarities and differences. What matters, to me, is generosity of the heart, kindness of the word and joy which abounds from within.

I got to the point where I knew and understood (having both those things inline can be problematic for me as well) that getting this degree was not going to change my life. I was aware that I was already creating my life, all my life I have been creating my life. That is what we do. Regardless of that I did choose to stay with my plan.

The degree was just a tick box. Yes I have this, tick. Now which is the next box I can tick? I sometimes feel like I am becoming a computer, a program is running my life. According to how many boxes I can tick and how quickly………..I win……..what? This is so not how I want to live my life. I need meaning and purpose and no degree can provide that to me. This meaning and purpose is something I already have in me, somewhere within, it is there, has always been there and will always be there. It requires no maintenance, no upkeep, no cost, no degree, no education at all in fact. I can tap into it whenever I want to, it does not close down, not even for Christmas. I don’t need a plan to achieve it, I don’t have to pay a monthly fee. It is the I am of me.

However, the knowledge the education provides, at a practical level, is great. Also I have learnt how to use my brain differently. To make better decisions, did I need to? That was part of the original plan and time will tell that result.

I have worked in between the study and got sent some harsh life lessons doing that. I enjoy the ordinary life I have. In doing all these things I have learnt much and gained valuable knowledge about me and about people in general. The human connection we share, as people, the commonality.

Therefore, as they say in the world of Maths, I have spent 3 years doing exactly as I wanted to do and loved every minute of it, i.e. my ordinary life will continue and I will make sure I love every minute of that as well. I think I have the i.e. and the therefore back to front, in the world of Math’s that is a big mistake. In my life there are no real mistakes, no failures because I am doing the very best I know how to do and that’s how it is for each and everyone of us.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2015

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Everything has a purpose

Every workplace has taught me something,

Every relationship has forced me to grow,

Every friend has given me something, whether they know that or not,

Every child is unique and special,

Every day I remind myself how much I don’t know and that right now, I am here.

Tomorrow I shall be somewhere else.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2014

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This Girl

This Girl

This girl is bouncing around in her skin. When the spring energy was all around I felt as if I would start sprouting new leaves any day. As long as I don’t sprout any facial hair or calories I am bound to keep the skip in my step.

What is it that makes me feel so happy? I have to say that I am inclined to feeling happy, but I know unhappiness to.

I’m on my own. I have no family nearby. My children are interstate and overseas. If I was so inclined I could feel sorry for myself.

I was sick for three long days this spring. I felt weak and fragile all over, including emotionally. I was alone, and nobody knows me in this new city I have moved to. Oh, that is not entirely true, I have some friends here, and they would have come to help me had I asked, but they live a distance away and I did not want to bother them. I expected to live.

Being sick I wanted that Jeanie in a bottle to go to the shops and buy me lemonade and talk to the chemist whom I was sure would be able to suggest something that could stop the pain. Heavy drugs usually work for me. Taking the pain away has always seemed the logical solution to me. I wanted that Jeanie model I could yell at and order around to ‘just do it!’ Even though that’s the Nike saying for running, I love it as a good all-rounder.  I doubt I have ever used it, but I have thought it when I have politely asked someone to do something, and when they complain, in my heart, I am yelling at them, ‘just do it!’

No matter how much I meditated or begged, no Jeanie appeared, not even a bottle appeared. By day three, I went to the shops. Of course, the walk in the sun was good for me. The shops are all nicely grouped nearby and have all I need. The chemist gave me something and the lemonade was excellent.

The next day I woke up feeling almost back to my normal self and could not wait to get out for a few hours in the beautiful spring weather where the trees were showing off their new growth. I wanted to hop and jump down the sidewalk like a rabbit, but I am way too old to do so.

So I ponder in my minds wardrobe the same thought that has been hanging there for years what is it that makes someone feel happy? I have wondered this for all the years I can remember, and that’s a significant amount now.

A long time ago I discovered for myself that I cannot make anyone happy.

I cannot make you happy … only you can. I cannot change anyone. I cannot even teach anyone anything.

I continue to adjust my own thinking as there is no end to this continual shifting of the sand beneath my feet. As mentioned there are times when I could feel rather sorry for myself and then I ask ‘why would I do that?’

The self-discovery that I cannot delegate to another person the responsibility to ‘be happy‘ makes me sad.

I cannot force that on someone, nor can I give it as a gift to anyone. I would give an arm, leg, lung, or whatever it took to make a few specific people “happy”.  Just happy. It does not seem such a big ask, does it? I don’t think so. I would even ask the just do it Jeanie in the bottle politely if that would do it. I would do anything. Anything.

I have found, no Jeanie has ever appeared. No amount of prayer made any difference. No amount of giving made any difference. No amount of anything I could do has changed the shape of someone’s mind. Each of us design and select the map of our mind.

I believe that it is our own exaggeration that sets our minds on a course, for better or worse. I am all I have. I am starting to figure, that’s okay, in reality (wherever the hell that place is), and it has always been that way. I am, therefore, I am.

So although we are all “I am” in a sense we each belong only to ourselves. Yet we cannot live in separateness. I think, we are so connected to each other that without love and support something in us will die. We depend on each other for skills we do not have. I cannot bake bread.

I would like to help a few others. I attempt to reach out to others, and some chose to slap me down, try to put me in my place – as if they can actually do that ! Whatever people do is done to protect their own fragile selves.

I know this from first hand experience when I get scared, I run.

What I want to do is help both myself and others. As this girl and the woman are learning, I can make an immense difference by saying or doing just the right thing at just the right time. Of course, understanding what the right thing is and when the time is right being the hard part. Applying that to the right individual is often far too complicated a mission to get just right.

I have read and heard that the perfect universal response is not to judge the anger and fear just say, “Thank you for telling me that.” This may be correct, but wait, there’s more…

I once worked with a girl who had obviously done some sort of course in communication skills as her response to everything, and I mean everything, was always, “I hear what you are saying.”This prattle she would use became maddening. It was clearly a learned response that held no meaning to her or anyone she said it to. It was as if she was turning on a light switch or doing some mundane, everyday task as she patiently said these words. It was the saddest form of communication I had ever witnessed.

Now I am aware I am being judgmental here.! I am even understanding that what we might regard as praise “oh that’s good” is also a judgment.

So I don’t want to do that, yet we do all do that.

However, comparison is the theatre of learning.

I am telling a tale to emphasise a point, I hope.

Finding a way to convey the message that I am grateful to someone who has shared with me their thoughts and feelings can be difficult. Especially if, their thoughts and feelings are producing irritation or fear in me as an automatic reaction.

To listen without judgment, takes practice. Once a phrase becomes a catchphrase it is worthless. Everyone has read the same book and knows what you are doing. Plus, it is not from your heart, it is not from you, it is from the book and everyone can tell.

Sure I confess that I have, at times, used a book phrase to get me out of trouble. I have said the words, “Thank you for telling me that the…” and they have worked. But I know that unless I start to feel that phrase, it will stop being effective. Once I start to feel what lies within that phrase, I will find my own way of conveying the same message.

I think, it is a sense of compassion or empathy that you must be able to feel. A way to  show ‘I am not judging you so thank you so much for telling me how you feel, I value that and I hear that’. I try to feel the pain within the person as they feel it, not as I might consider.

Recently I was judged by someone, yeah really. Oh quite a few actually, it seemed most unfair to me. At least four people, that I noticed, made extremely fast judgments based on one or two things I said or did. It can be terribly difficult  to know I am being judged and not show anger. Each person took a different path on judging me, variety hey, each person went on the attack. Took me a few days each time to shake off the anger shock, like an electric current it was to me. I did not want their anger to descend on me, but it can be a task to get rid of the anger that people toss so freely about.

So there you have it, this girl feels happy, again, and I’m sharing that with you. I have no anger or fear, at this moment anyway; and for that I am grateful.

I know the inner joy I feel so often already provides me with everything I need. Being sick for a few days, it’s nothing. I know that if I could somehow bottle this inner joy I feel I would be the Jeanie in the bottle. I’d be rich beyond my grasp and very busy indeed. We all want this. I would give it freely if only I could.

Maybe being grateful and simply accepting the things that happen as being part of life is all anyone needs to do.

I don’t think that I did anything to make this joy inside me happen. I can’t take the credit.

I find so many things are beyond my control. I think it is everyone’s birthright to feel a sense of joy each day, but this is not what I am seeing or hearing.

We are so capable many true ‘human spirit’ stories come forth to remind us that we can overcome so much. I bought and watched a movie called “The Edge” this spring.  I don’t usually buy movies but, I now own hearing aids and living alone gives me no chance to practice wearing them, so I bought a movie. I am going off the track here to diversify and return. In the movie, Anthony Hopkins says, “What one man can do, so can another.”  I think that is a direct quote. It was an enjoyable movie, after a slow start. I did watch it twice as my hearing aids were being adjusted, so my footsteps no longer deafen me. I needed to use the movie as a test as there were bits I did not hear, despite hearing my own heartbeat.

Hey I found it is a noisy world out there. A trip to the local store aged me ten more years when a motorbike went by. I almost left my skin from the sound of it. It has taken me awhile to give in to the hearing aid need. Attending Uni has forced the issue. I am paying a small fortune for this study and want to know I am ‘hearing’ it all. When I asked the University  if I could record the lectures as I had a hearing problem, off they went with tests which resulted in me buying hearing aids. I am not deaf but have significant loss because of the noisy workshop days. Working in the motor repair business for 10 years without any ear protection has damaged my hearing.  Plus, my younger brother was even more spoilt than I was, and our parents allowed him to play his music of the 80’s far too loudly. My room was next to his but when the neighbours across a busy main road complained I felt okay about being annoyed myself.

Coming back on track with that quote “What one man can do, so can another.”  When I feel happy I know that this feeling is available to all. This is despite the obvious fact that sometimes life just sucks. I dislike the saying ‘suck it up’. It somehow immediately creates an annoyance feeling in me. It sounds harsh and abrupt.

It might be okay to suck up a sore toe, a head cold or some minor complaint. Often when we complain it is because we need emotional support. We are in trouble of a different nature and do not want to hear the words “suck it up” because we cannot do this with our feelings. I think maybe people do try to do this, and this is what creates resentment. But that is only my best guess.

I know people who suffer physical pain every day due to car accidents where they were clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time. People suffer through no fault of their own. We can see the pain an accident has caused. We offer our sympathy out freely. When we cannot see the pain that emotions cause we simply dismiss people’s complaints as not valid.

Terrible things happen. We cannot undo some things, we cannot always right wrongs and wrong things happen to all of us, whether we always see them or not, they happen. We all have burdens to bear. Emotional burdens that many people keep cannot be seen.

As spring has turned to summer another year is coming to it’s end, and I have this time to ponder, it had been a busy time since May when I moved to Hobart. I have completed my first semester at full-time University, but most important is this girl remains happy, most of the time, and I am grateful to be where I am and who I am.


Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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Good Advertising

Good Advertising

I have been thinking, that’s a random thing I do.

On this occasion I have been thinking about when I was working as an Auditor and the diverse range of people I got to meet.

The standard practice in Auditing is to check source documents like invoices against entries in an accounting system.

At the premises of one business I was ready to look through the filing system to find what I needed. The system looked straightforward enough, filing in alphabetical order of the expense categories so I went looking under ‘A’ for an advertising expense listed.

When I could not find the invoice for advertising I asked the owner/manager where it might be. He said “Oh, under ‘G'”. It seemed so obvious to him. I had to ask, “Why is it filed under ‘G’?”. His response was simply, “Good advertising”. I also learned that the telephone account was under ‘F’. I didn’t ask.

I would often be asked to go to people’s homes in rural areas. Locating people’s homes in rural areas was difficult at times. Often, I would need to telephone and ask for directions. One time, a woman told me that I could not miss her house as it was the one “where the old pine trees use to be”. The woman found it hard to believe that I did not know where “the pine trees used to be”. She said, “Everyone knows where the pine trees used to be”. Trying to be kind, I asked if the “stumps of the pine trees where still there”. She laughed and said “No”. Explaining that I had never been to the area at all and that it was impossible for me to know where something used to be proved to be the most difficult task of the entire Audit.

Another time I was told that the street I needed to turn down was at the “Telstra building intersection”. The Telstra building, when I found it, was the size of an old outdoor dunny and was painted grey with a Telstra sign about the size of an A4 piece of paper! Driving a car it was easily missed, especially at the speed I drive. Often there was no mobile coverage in the area so I could not telephone to inform them I was lost in the wilderness.

Fun days. I love people and their interaction.  How I ended up in Accounting is yet another one of life’s mysteries.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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It’s a bright and sunny day as I head off to take part in a film production. I am committed to doing my part, whatever that might be. The Director is a highly driven individual. That’s how they should be, isn’t it? But, how would I know? I know nothing about making a film. I agreed to stay committed to this project for three weeks. 21 days. I was out of work and had nothing happening that could not wait for three weeks. The time was available to me plus it was exciting, and I would not be sitting at a desk, so why not?

I have known the Director for 12 months and discussed filmmaking with him many times. I was surprised when he phoned and asked for my help. He said he needed my skills. He said I would add value to the project. I knew he was playing on my ego, and I loved that. It was not a paid role, but my out-of-pocket expenses would be covered and accommodation and food were provided. Plus my name would appear in the credits of the film for whatever role I ended up doing. Besides, I wanted to prove to myself that I could commit to something. I would be at University soon, which needs commitment. Was this, a mini test for me? Who knows why, but I said “Yes!”

A few weeks before shooting the film, the main actor, who I know personally, phoned me to say he was doing auditions for a popular TV Production; he was on his second round. He was getting worried that if he got offered a role in that show the timing would clash. In short, he would not be able to do what I will call “our” production. We were thrilled for him to have such an opportunity on a big production. For him, it would mean regular income in the industry of his choice. It was a leading role. That’s hugely exciting for him.

Where did this leave “us”? We had about 10 to 12 key people in place to give us their time and effort.  It looked likely that our leading man was not going to be available. We had no other option but to cancel, even though we wanted to keep it available. The Director told the other key members and some pulled out right away. Can’t say I blame them.  They had other things to do.

So before we even started this venture we had this ball bouncing, a hiccup, to worry about. Will we get the main actor we want or no main actor at all? This was just the first hiccup as I was soon to discover. Once uncertainty becomes a player, some things bounce right out of control. The Director stopped all the planning. He became so focused on whether it would go ahead or not, that nothing else mattered to him.

Being forever the optimist, I was saying that we should just wait and see what happens. Of course, I had no real idea of the work needed in the pre-production stage. I was working full-time right up to the moment of picking the actors up from the Airport. What did I know right?

I couldn’t believe how busy I was already – before­ my first day! My commitment was to the three weeks on-site. I did not have the time to get involved in it until I got there. I was working in a full-time position and a second job. I told the Director that. But even a driven Director can only do so much by himself. He would phone me and try to upload to me. By “upload”, I mean he wanted me to know things that I needed to do, or do things now which I had no time to do. Then the Director would tell me my only job was to remain “calm”, but it would stress me to know there was so much still to do. That didn’t work for me. For me to be calm, I had to drop all the hot potatoes. So I refused the upload so I could remain calm, so I could continue working two other jobs. I was getting a glimpse that it may take some adjustment on my part to remain calm and be “uploaded” at the same time. I had to ease into this; it was not natural to me to be calm with so much to do. I did not want hot potatoes to juggle, my hands were burning from them, and besides that, it made my head hurt. This should have told me something, shouldn’t it?

From day one, it was clear that I had significant catch up to do. Perhaps I should have taken the “upload” of this weeks, months or even years before now to prepare myself. I should have known that my “upload” was urgently required when I first rejected it.

I suddenly felt enormous compassion for the driven Director. The poor man had such a lot on his plate. Suddenly he had to try to work with people he had largely never met, to create what was rolling around in his head for years, his dream, his film.

Somehow he had managed to find another camera person, another sound person and another lighting person all within a few days.  A few of the original crew could come on board for shorter times during the 21 days.

Day two allowed no time for any catch up. I had five people to consider that day with three more expected in a few more days. Not only did I need to remain “calm” and get them to where they needed to be on time, but I also needed to get food and supplies into the house.  Then I had to think about what else they and the house needed. I had to check the house, for any pre existing damage. We were responsible for any damage and breakages. I had to consider the owner of the house and consider the emotional needs of five truly individual people, four of which I had only met the day before.

As the information overload uploaded in my brain, I was thrilled I was coping. I was remembering all sorts of things that I thought were impossible without all sorts of lists. I had three people who ate only healthy food, one who ate chocolate and one who provided me with a list of her specific needs as she had allergies, so a lot to think about. I only found out about the allergies when talking to her on the telephone a few days before and I did express concerns then.

This film was not worth the health of any individual, at any level. I was not going to have the luxury of time to care for anyone with specific needs. My commitment was to making a film. While her allergies were a problem, her skills were valued and she definitely brought something to the mix. Could it work? This was one of the first questions I asked myself.

This film was a project for the expression of art. We were all meant to learn something and out of the hot potato ash was the hope that with hard work, we could produce something engaging and enjoyable to watch. Tell a story on a screen. A chance to dance in the light of the some success.  On day two, after too many hours filming as the sun was setting, I was asked to get coffee for everyone.  I impressed myself by asking who wanted what without a list. When I got to the girl with the allergies and asked if she wanted a coffee she said, “Haven’t you read the list? I cannot have coffee.”

Hmm, no, I had not had time to read the list. Nor did I see when I might find that time either. Tomorrow’s shooting schedule still had to be checked and printed off for everyone. They wanted that too. All of them, including me.

As multi-skilled as all women are, this one (me) could only physically do one thing at a time. I felt my head at one stage that day was going to self-destruct with the “upload” of what it needed to remember. Trying to hold a conversation on that second day was difficult. To listen, I had to stop thinking about all the current “requests”,  to hear more “requests”. I wondered, briefly, about remembering my own name, should someone ask me. I felt something was going to fall out of my brain. I saw the Faulty Towers scene run before my eyes where John Cleese pretends to pick up something and then asks “Is this a piece of your brain?”

The luxury to give any one thing my full attention was gone. I needed to do so much to get up to speed.  I was starting to go to the happy place of being numb and being numb right now would not help, nor was it an option the Director had allowed.

On day three having received the morning upload, I was a long way from the requisite calm. The girl with the allergies then yelled at me because I was talking too much. She recognized that I was not “calm” so she yelled at me to “SHUT UP!” Sadly for both of us, she was driving a car and I was a passenger that morning.  She stopped the car to give her full attention to yelling at me … right in the middle of the main road. God helps us all! I needed to be calm. So much so that I was ready to jump out of my own skin and run for 20 kilometres …  in any direction, as long as it was away.

Making it back to the house it was time to collect the two actors whilst doing my best to remain calm. I said to the two actors, “Okay let’s go, then we have to be at rehearsals.” We needed to shoot a non-speaking part in a dinghy that afternoon, with rehearsals for another shoot before the dinghy was scheduled.  It was midday by now.  The two main actors had the morning off to sleep in, to look good and to do what actors do. It should have been an easy day, after the preceding two long ones. The young actors took one look at me and asked, “Are you alright?” I answered, “Yeah. Come on, let’s get in the car.” They said, “No.”

They wanted to talk. The main actor was not happy. He demanded a meeting; immediately. So much for shooting any film that day. Apparently they all wanted something better. Oh my God, so did I! But at my age I knew this was just what I had to work with. My magic hat had been tossed away somewhere in my forties. This was the beginning of my lesson on what it takes to stay committed to getting a result. Yes, some things had to change and yes, we had organised a meeting in the day. It was part of my morning upload; we knew we needed to talk to everyone. Some people had to go, some people wanted to change their roles. The Director and I also needed to deliver more than the last few days had allowed for. We knew all this. We just had to take it in our stride, keep “calm” and keep going.

The Director and I knew we had to do some serious ‘wriggle and shake work’ to stay on plan and make a film.  Before any of the ‘wriggle and shake work’ could be done we needed the answer to one question.

The question would be answered by their actions. It was, “Do we have a group of committed people here to work with?” That was the only question we needed the answer to.

When you pass the age of forty you know that many people will “say” what they think you want to hear. You understand that the actions of people tell you more than they might be saying.

The answer out of the chaos eventually. The answer was No, we did not have the commitment needed from this group of people. That was nobody’s fault either. Each person travels his or her own journey. By their actions, the actors chose not to continue.

Before I made my commitment, I asked myself if I could do this. My health is my first commitment to myself. I am committed to staying well both physically and physiologically. Although not in tip-top shape myself, I knew I could work a long day, skip a meal and or get wet if it rained.

Emotionally I am at an age where I roll with the punches. I’ve had plenty of experience in not taking myself too seriously. I know stuff happens which sometimes has nothing to do with me, but it happens to affect me anyway. I believe I have learnt to be emotionally strong. I try to practice that. I do the best I can and that was all that was being asked of me here. Time. I had totally cleared the deck to do this for three weeks; thus I made the commitment. I couldn’t be anymore committed to this project.  This was not going to do me any harm. I knew that. I know myself. So my decision to free myself for these three weeks to be committed to this project was easy. I had freed my time and was emotionally available to comply with the driven Director.  I was happy to do anything that he asked me to do. That was ‘my role’ in helping him make this film. He was running the show, not me. He was funding it, as agreed. He had the vision. He knew what he wanted, he asked for my help , and that was my commitment to him.

The Director knew he was asking a lot of everyone and that he did need more people, more time and more money to pull this off. I think he wanted to break a record or something – his intention was noble. I heard the Director when he said, “We are here to make a film.” I understood that right now my feelings didn’t matter. I could put them on hold or even ignore them.  I was here, right now and committed to making this work for the benefit of each of us, because together, collectively, we could do this.

But hell, that is easy to say and so hard to do. To let go of your feelings and for a moment put yourself in the shoes of another. To see that this is the best today has to offer.  To allow someone some slack to understand I am not perfect, nor are you, and we need to do better than we are doing here, all of us.

The Director and I are staying committed to making this film and other films.  We will find a team and learn from mistakes. We will do this. It’s a project, and the filming is one milestone to get to and to overcome.  There are many more milestones to be mastered in this industry. We knew it was never going to be easy and that it would take a lot of hard work for a substantial amount of time.  Therefore, we view our recent experience as an exercise in pre-production.

The actors and crew went home. I stayed to do the work required to undo the work already done in planning a three-week shoot.  This was the tidy up, the fall out, the hard work behind the scenes stuff. When I got home, I was reading my daily calendar pages of “Insight from the Dalai Lama”. On the critical day, when the plug was pulled, this is what he had to say to me, “The very root of failure in our lives is to think, ‘Oh, how useless and powerless I am!’ It is important to have a strong force of mind, thinking, ‘I can do it’, this not being mixed with pride or any other afflictive emotion.”

For me, each member was as valuable as the other.  I know that I stayed committed to what I said I would do. I dug my heels in and said, “I can do this. I can look past all the things that are not as good as they could be and I can change the things that I am able, one at a time, with consideration and thought.” This brings me to my favourite quote of all time going back to my childhood where it hung on my wall. My father had painted it as a poster for me:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I have lived this brilliant quote, many times and in many ways. On this occasion I realised how difficult it is to be wise. I have satisfied myself that I can be committed to staying with a plan and I am learning all about being calm in a crazy world.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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The Future

The Future

On my way into the office, thinking about the busy day ahead of me, I ran into a cabdriver I had met a while ago.

Just before Christmas I was due to go on my holidays and was at the airport the night before. While there, I asked a taxi driver at the taxi rank outside the airport if he could pick me up the next morning for an early flight I had to catch. The first cabbie in the rank said he could not do an early pick up, I was directed to the taxi behind him. That driver said he could pick me up, and we swapped mobile numbers. Early the next morning I was packed and ready to go when I got a text message. I was thinking ‘Who was this at this hour?’ It was Colin the cabbie. I was impressed. He was organised and making sure I was too. I phoned him when I arrived back as well and we chatted on the drive home from the airport. He was a likeable guy.

On a planned drinking night out in late January with my friend Grant, I asked my new cabbie friend Colin if he was working that night. I had his number remember? It turned out he was working and said yes to a double fare to pick us up. He picked me up first and we chatted on the way to Grant’s place. I was thinking, ‘Hmm, I like this man’.  Grant was still sober enough to phone Colin at 1am. Colin dropped me off first on the way home.  I questioned Grant the next day, but he was not sober enough to remember the trip home, or any discussions they might have had about me. I’ll have to put Grant through a vigorous training program if he is going to be helpful in finding me a potential high quality man in the future.

So, as I was saying … I was on my way into the office and I see Colin the cabbie. A million thoughts start rushing through my mind. Thoughts like, ‘What am I wearing?’ and ‘ Should I put my head down and run?’ or do the feigned ‘Oh I’m so calm and relaxed thing’. He was sitting in the taxi depot in the CBD. ‘So that’s a taxi depot?’ I should have sussed this out already. He waved to me. So I went over and asked him out. Why not?

I went onto work and told the girls that I am now really worried about what was happening to my mind as I just asked a cabbie out on a date. Their jaws dropped, and I go, “Yeah I know. A bit cheeky hey?”

Then I explained to them that it was not the first time I’d ever seen the cabbie and that I wasn’t ready for the straitjacket just yet. They could leave it under my desk for a bit longer. I didn’t just wander on over to a taxi rank, eyeball a driver for the first time and then ask him out. No it was not like that at all. I had to check he wasn’t married or attached first.

In my lunch break I put in the Application for Divorce at the Family Court. I was impressed when the fee was less than I expected. I know my soon-to-be ex-husband would not want a refund of the half he paid. I went straight to the theatre and bought two tickets to a local live show of Jesus Christ Superstar that I wanted to see. Two ‘premium seats’ in the 2nd row.

Before I left home to start this now hugely exciting day, I had accepted my offer to attend University. I’ll be moving. My future is in another city. Though I’m still staying in Tasmania, I love this place.

As if all of this in one day had not been enough for me, and it was, I received a phone call the same night. I was made another offer I could not refuse and was thinking, ‘My life is brilliant!’  Except for getting divorced. On a brighter front, I instigated the offers I had received. There is no escaping that I made the offer to the cabbie. Colin was going on a date with me, to the theatre. Sorry Grant, I know it was you who was coming with me until I saw Colin. I know you’ll understand.

I get into my life. I actively do something to make it better. I live it. I risk being rejected, in the most sensible way of course. I put myself out there, in the most sensible way of course. I am not stupid or desperate. I limit my risks. I had made some assessment of the cabbie after all. Limited, I know.

I applied to Uni. How else would they know to offer me a place? I also offered to help someone with a project that is special to them. The project is special to me as well as I had a lot to do with the project in this past year. To be honest, I wanted to be a part of this project. However, it all got too hard, became too stressful and to protect myself I had to decline any further involvement. This is that concept of limiting the risk. I have my line in the sand at which point I can say “No, this is not working.”

Surprised to get the phone call on the night when so much had already happened I listened and discussed the offer put to me. Then I said, “Yes”. The project is a feature film. They shoot here in Tasmania on the East Coast, and I will be there for the shooting schedule of 20 days. Whoo Hoo!

I am not a technical person, so I am staying away from all cameras, lights and such, but happy to help where ever I can. I hope I can add the odd impressive line that comes to me now and then.

Actors are coming in from Sydney. Different ones at different times. I’ll be ferrying people from airports to shooting locations. I’ll be staying with the actors and cooking for them. Well, I’ve promised to shop, but everyone knows I can’t cook! Fruit tastes great here. They are all adults and I am certain they will want to cook their own meals, particularly after they eat one of mine. An opportunity for me, or perhaps a new future? It is extremely exciting and as it turns out I won’t have a job, and I can afford the time to do this.

Oh yeah, this brings me to mentioning that I quit my job after my return from holidays. It was a temporary contract which had been extended once with talk of further extensions. The current end date was 30th March. After my Christmas break, I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted.  I looked at what I was doing I asked myself if I wanted to keep doing it. The answer was no. Too many hours lost, forever sitting at my desk doing the same repetitive tasks for limited income with no change to tasks or income in sight made the choice clear.  Not knowing what I would do when I left, I advised my employer in January that I would not be staying past the end of March. I finish on the 29th of March now, as filming starts on the 30th of March.

As the future always remains ahead of what we see now, I am always amazed when things in my life change.  Times like the separation, and now divorce, from the man who will always hold a large chunk of my past in his kind hands, were difficult to cope with. I feel like I have almost been living in a coma for the past two years doing things but somehow not being attached or involved in my life.

Now I actively plan my life, not only because I can, I must. The excitement of a new venture, creating something from nothing (which is what making a feature film is). Times like working hard to achieve something you can say you have done, like a University degree. I want to be the best I can be, and I am willing to learn, look and listen. Recently, a nice person named Patrick said to me that the past is a great place for reference, but not the place to live. As each moment unfolds before me I move into my future.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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