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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Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day

Who is this ‘Valentine’ person telling everyone to buy flowers one day of the year? A friend of mine did way better than flowers this year. Shayne carved ‘his and her’ initials in a love heart on a tree in his backyard. He then took a photo of his artwork, had it developed and put it in a lovely frame for his girlfriend. On the back of the frame he wrote down the latitude and longitude of the tree’s location. This made finding the tree part of the magic. Using her mobile phone GPS (it is called ‘Geocache’), she can go and find the tree, which will lead her straight to Shayne’s place. His heart is hers. Now she can sit at work and type the numbers into Google Maps and see their tree whenever she wants to. How cool is that?  This girl has to feel special.

Making your special person feel special is not about buying flowers on Valentine’s Day, we all know that. It almost seems disgraceful that we need to be reminded to do something special for the ones we love. I dislike the commercialisation of such things. However, had I received flowers, I would have been jumping up and down with joy!

With no special person in my life there was not even a hint of anything resembling romance for me this Valentine’s Day. No such luck.

I was big on saying, “Oh it’s all so commercial.” waving it off as something I did not need. What I didn’t realise was that I was failing myself big time by not allowing anyone the opportunity to tell me what I meant to them.

So, to my friend Shayne, you have now set a precedent. You best start thinking about the many years ahead with your lady and never forget to make sure she knows just how much she means to you. Of course it cuts both ways. This lady might be feeling, ‘What can I do to top that?’

I have no suggestions for her, but I did read in a magazine recently that you can buy a man anything that a 10-year-old boy likes.  Don’t you just love that? The article was written by a man. He justifies his article with the theory that receiving childish presents make men feel young again.

My friend Shayne is still young and off enjoying his romantic journey. Meanwhile, I am trying to recapture my youth and I don’t see that as working. Sure I want to feel young again. I want to be wooed again and have someone make me feel like I am the only other person on the planet.

Someone asked me this week, “Do you feel like you need to do everything?” I like to give things my full consideration, so I am still pondering on this one. I guess I do like to do everything, but not all the washing up.

At times I feel like I will not have enough of my lifetime left to do the things I still want to do. These things are nothing special. I don’t have a wish list or a bucket list. I don’t need to climb a mountain or see the sunset over a beach inFiji. I have my sunset here each day. I do, however, have my own personal challenges, which are my mountains to climb anytime I wish to do so. All I have to do is take that first step to what is waiting just around the corner.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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It’s called living

It’s called living

Yet another roller coaster has pulled up to give me a whirl around. I had noticed a small white spot on my lip. It was as white as if someone had painted it on there. It had been on my lip for months. I had tried to peel it off without reward. Thanks to my lipstick lessons, I was noticing it everyday. I don’t visit my doctor too often, but I had added a note on my wonderful iPhone.

The week started with a day off and doctors appointment, which is never a good way to start a week. Whatever else I had to talk to the doctor about faded incomparably when he looked at my lip. “Oh dear” I heard him say. “Oh God!” I heard myself say.  Next the doctor asks, “How long has that been there?” … hmm … “A few months now.” I answer. I was in to see a skin specialist by Friday that week. Remarkable I know.

My doctor told me that any white growth on a lip is often skin cancer. I commenced a history of cancer 15 months ago with a pimple on my eyebrow.

The skin specialist, a lovely man, sat down in front of me and pulled a face by twisting up his lips and said, “Do this.” I looked at him and said, “I don’t think I can pull a face like that.”  Then he pulled my lip down to see the spot better. He tried to pick it off as well. I thought ‘Aha! I was on the right track with that then!’ His suggestion was to use a scalpel and cut it out … now. Only a small needle in the lip to numb the area and off it comes. “Okay.” I say.  “Let’s do it.”

Oh my God! That doctor should be a car salesman. The mentioned small needle in the lip was not small. It was huge and very, very painful. The nurse suggested he was a bit mean. A bit mean? Had I been able to speak, he would have had one hell of a blasting.  My lip was swelling. Yeah, he knew what he was doing. I couldn’t speak. Memories of my ex-husband with all his jokes about sewing my lips together come flooding back and I worry, had he used his settlement money to pay this doctor to do this to me?

So I close my eyes and enhance my calm. I am silently chanting to myself, ‘Enhance your calm Mary. Enhance your calm. Enhance your bloody calm … Do it! Do it NOW!’ Suddenly, I feel so much better. Nothing like a bit of internal yelling at yourself to pull it all together.

The white spot was removed from my lip. It then got stuck on the doctor’s finger and the nurse helped to get “it” into a test tube. Next the doctor tells me he is not going to stitch the lip but, as they do bleed … a lot, he will cauterize it. I was staring at what very much looked like a soldering iron heading straight for my lip. My internal voice demanded, “Shut your eyes Mary!” I could not block my nose though and that has to be the worst smell ever. The smell of burning flesh.

Right, all done. I was allowed to go and confront the bill for all the pleasure and pain. Being alone, as I am, I had to drive myself home, make dinner and clean up – Oh no, I no longer have to do those last 2 things. I either eat out or don’t eat and hire cleaners these days. Oh good I am better off. I only had to drive home. Yep I could do that. You see, people think I don’t have anyone to look after me, but it turns out I look after myself really well. I got home and went to bed. I read a book while my lip was numb with the expectation that by the time the lip’s feeling returns to normal, I’ll be asleep and there isn’t much that wakes me up.

I could have felt sorry for myself, but why bother? My life is what it is and it is called living. There is no point wishing it was any other way and, as I know, it can all change tomorrow. Who knows what is just around that next corner.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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Cut off dates

Cut off dates

I missed the cut off date for wishing anyone a Merry Christmas and then I missed the New Year cut off date as well. I was on an airplane coming home from my holiday on New Years Eve.

I enjoyed reading the cards and newsletters I received both by mail and email on my return from my interstate holiday.

We all need to know that someone cares about us. It is not the words printed on the card. The happy, happy joy stuff, it is that someone knows you do still exist.

All we need is the air that we breathe and someone to care about us. That’s it. That song with those words, has nailed it. Yet, as a society, what I see is less and less people who genuinely give a toss.

Personally, I believe that we are all becoming more and more disconnected from one another. I cannot help but say that what I see is a selfishness of such magnitude that it astounds me. I want to close my eyes, put on my rose-coloured glasses and simply ignore it.

I had noticed it as I sat in airports, travelled on trains, buses and in taxis. Big cities, full of hundreds of thousands of people, can be lonely places. I saw the youth sitting in a group on trains but not talking. They were all texting. What is that about?

I do not fully understand the need to go on Facebook and say “I made a cake today”. I do not fully understand Facebook. Is this just a generational thing?  … Am I getting old? OMG!

My daughter sent me a text message which had the words ‘Not ATM’ in it. After considering she was going to an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine for those of you who don’t know what the common abbreviation means!) or that she was at an ATM, which made no sense. I had to text back and ask what does ATM mean? The response I received was ‘not “at the moment”’.  Hmmm.  It was not a good time at the moment. Okay, so now I know that.

I must be on a huge generational learning curve. I live close to the CBD (by the way that means Central Business District). It’s great because I can walk to work, but I drive a mile to park and walk about 300 metres. I have a pretty good idea now of exactly how far 300 metres is after my interstate holiday.  Do you remember me telling you about my adventures using a GPS and it telling me to turn in 300 metres? Was I glad to get home? Oh yes! I was so grateful to hit Tassie soil. I was so happy to see less concrete, less people, less shops and hear less noise. I love my home.

About four years ago, when I was still a married person, our son gave us a GPS for Christmas. It looked great on the car dash and we felt pleased to have one.  We were up there with modern technology. However, we lived in a rural area and the town had just had its first set of traffic lights installed. We saw this as something terrible. We could handle the highway and the town’s main street so the GPS was never used. When I moved to the big city of Launceston, I took the GPS as I suspected it could be a useful item. Due to feeling like I was in a coma for the first 12 months of being in Launceston, it was much easier to look at the street directory.

Sometimes, I wonder where my life is going and I notice how quickly it is all going. It is rushing by me year after year, at a faster pace than the one before.

I see Christmas as a time to reflect and New Year as a time to plan. I think about the many Christmases I experienced as a child, growing up and then Christmases when my own children were young. So now I have the opportunity to tell Christmas tales about my kids.

I remember one Christmas in particular when my daughter was around four years old, with her brother who was 19 months younger and she was diligently going through the Christmas presents under the tree at 3am. “Yes this one is for me. Here you open that one.” She was saying to her brother. Of course we could hear none of this. She came into our room and went ‘tap, tap’ on my shoulder. Showing me her cousin’s Christmas gift she asked, “I already have this, why did Santa give me another one?” I then realised what she was doing. Walking out to the Christmas tree, I see that every present is unwrapped. Her brother was sitting there quietly amid the mess. She had seen hers and her brother’s names on everything. We had to find more Christmas paper and rewrap all the gifts for their cousins. Some were so ‘open’, it seemed a lot like second hand gift giving that year. Games had been played.

So now it’s time to think of a plan. First, I have some cards to write in return and phone calls to make to thank the many friends that remain in my life for remembering that I do still exist, even though at times I am not one hundred percent sure myself …

After enjoying the calls and catch ups, reading the newsletters and hearing the stories of others, it really motivates me to think about what I want to do.

I feel a bit like I have missed the cut off date for my life. I ask myself, ’what do you want Mary?’ I honestly don’t know the answer, so I up the ante and ask myself, ’If you were told that you had two years to live, what would you do?’ Still, I am not sure. So I rephrase my question to myself, ’If you did have two years to live, would you still do what you are doing now?’ Hmmm, now I have an honest answer. ’No, I would not.’ So now what am I going to do?

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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Things I will never do again

Things I will never do again

Smoke cigarettes, drink bourbon and eat Caramello Koalas. I guess I have indulged in all three to attain some kind of pain relief. Most people take a holiday, so I will try that this year.

Unfortunately I have to take the Caramello Koalas on holiday with me, attached as they are to my waistline. No doubt I will have trouble getting them to leave. Like an unwanted guest.

How many things in life go according to the plan? I have had a wonderful life so far and I know I have been blessed.  None of those blessings came from any plan. My holiday plans went a bit wobbly as did the six other holidays I have had in my adult lifetime. I’m yet to work out whether I am not big on holidays or just not big on planning? Hmm … something to think about there, into my minds wardrobe that thought goes.

I travelled interstate and hired a car for the first few days. On the last day of having the hire car, I locked the keys in the boot of the hire car. I am a member of my State’s Roadside Assistance organisation. However, because it was a hire car, the associated RAC group interstate, would not help me. The hire car company could arrange to put spare keys in a taxi for me, from about 100 kilometres away. I would be paying for the taxi. Somehow that did not seem the best option. I put my thinking cap on, which took me a while to find as I was in my holiday lost mind mode. I was with my son who seemed to be taking it all in his stride. I had taught him well to go with the flow, this much I was pleased with.

Together, my son and I choose to contact a locksmith. Being so close to Christmas all the locksmiths were busy. I was not the only one with a missing thinking cap. We had no other choice but to wait. The locksmith said he would be about an hour and a half and would phone me when he was on his way. My son and I decided to go off in search of some food and drink. Just as we sat down to eat, the locksmith phoned. We picked up our lunches and run back to the car as the locksmith was then only five minutes away. Oh Joy. The extra compulsory ‘mother and son’ time was indeed worth the cost of the locksmith as we ate our lunch on the bonnet of the hire car saying “A day to remember hey”.

The next morning, still feeling somewhat shattered, other things had also happened yesterday, as they do. I pick myself up, take a deep, deep breath and prepare to start a new day.

I think that going on holiday is just living my life at another location for that particular moment. I was looking forward to the mental rest that comes with ‘being on holiday’. I felt exhausted and knew I needed to recharge before I had a mental melt down.  I say I was in lost mind mode but really I had locked my whole brain away somewhere for the duration of the holiday, on purpose.

As a child, we mostly went on an annual family holiday from Brisbane to Sydney to be with family there. I only remember taking one other holiday as a child, my memory is looking at a big very old tent. A storm started in the night and my mother started fretting, she did not like storms. When dad wasn’t home, mum would put us under the kitchen table when there was lightning and thunder. Yeah, yeah, weird I know. So in a tent, she was unravelling at top speed. Dad’s decision was that we were simply going to pack up and go home. It was dark. I lost my doll that night and I never forgot that I lost my doll.

Because of my dire need to rest on this holiday, I do.

I would like to think that everyday can be a holiday for me as I am usually a happy-go-lucky person. It does not matter so much to me where I am. What matters to me is that I am happy. Regardless of where I am. Being on holiday or being at home is much the same to me. I am more likely to lock the keys in the boot if using someone else’s car. In my wonderful car the boot does not lock without the central locking, which requires the keys. It’s a clever car and it knows me well. These things happen to me regardless of where I am, so I am as relaxed about living at my son’s as I am at home.

As for the latest in GPS – if I hear the word ‘recalculating’ anytime soon after this ‘driving in the big city’ holiday, I will scream. I am not good at judging distances and the voice tells me turn right in 500 metres as I go sailing past that turn. I am sure I started to hear a sigh (or perhaps that was me sighing), as the voice says “recalculating” for the eighteenth time. The first time was funny, then it became annoying. It took some sweat and tears to get to my destinations. After returning the hire care I used my son’s car, it had a GPS as well. One day on my own I wanted to go a short distance to shop. I love to shop. I spent half the day finding my way back to his place. So much for a quick trip out! When I left for my short distance shopping centre venture, I loved my sons GPS. He had programmed it all up. It got me to the shopping centre quickly and without drama and then all I had to do was press the ‘home’ button – too easy. If only I had trusted it. It took a long time to speak. I figured it was warming up. I had started driving and was at a pivoting moment of decision making. ‘Oh, which motorway was it?’ The machine was not speaking, the cars were all around me and before long I found myself committed to one motorway. Then I realised I had taken the wrong one. I got off the motorway and that’s when the real fun began. The turning and weaving – I wished I had never left the house!

In no time at all, I was in such a mess that I had to lean forward to hear the voice and found myself talking to it, “What? Which way?!” I was meant to take the car out the next day as well, but after my most recent experience, it was a better choice to ask for a lift, particularly when I felt myself sweating just at the very thought of the GPS. So I asked nicely and sure enough my son was happy to drop me off and pick me up again. I don’t visit often so it is all doable.

When on holiday, I always seem to buy more than my suitcase can carry so I post stuff home on day 3. I am away for 18 days. Imagine the post office box at home.

During this holiday there were moments when the voice in my head said, ‘I won’t be doing this again’, which made me think about the shortlist I have on ‘won’t be doing this again ‘  I will never smoke cigarettes, drink bourbon or eat Caramello Koalas.

I am sure I will be able to go on holidays again, even use a GPS. I know I cannot add locking keys in boot of a car to my ‘things I will never do again’ list as it is highly likely that I will do that again.

A week after I return home, my friends Michele and Wayne arrive in Tassie and hired a car. Travelling around a few days later, we chat on the telephone about how their trip is going. In another few days, I get a telephone call blaming me. Michele has locked the keys to their hire car in the boot! A few days after the phone call from Michele, my son sends me a text to say he had friends staying at his place who had just locked their keys in a hire car boot! We swap stories and he says we have started a craze.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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My Girl

My Girl

The year my darling daughter was born I was turning 27, on the day. Oh yes, the nurses were all excited. It was my birthday and I would have my firstborn child on this day. My husband had gone and purchased a new car and wanted me to look out the window – look I have parked it there, have a look. Yeah sure, lovely, now get over here and hold my hand as I am in pain. He and the nurses stayed at the window discussing the car and how lucky I was. ‘Hello! What is wrong with these people?’ was all I could think. I had gone to the hospital about 3am and it was now about 11am.

I was two weeks past the due date and over the whole huge stomach. My husband had been so anxious about getting me to the hospital he had done test runs to work out the shortest route for months. In the last two weeks he had taken to sleeping fully dressed to save time. When I woke him up to suggest maybe I should go to the hospital his reply was, “Thank God”, and away he went into his action plan. Almost forgetting me. When we got to the hospital they said there was no need to panic. I panicked about being sent back home, I cried, “I can’t do this anymore, please let me stay.” So they did.

By 11 am we were all bored and now we had the distraction of this new car to look at. My husband had managed to duck out at 9am and to occupy himself he traded our car for another one. How nice for him. He wanted me to be pleased; he thought he was doing a good thing. “Really? You really thought that?” I asked him, while thinking, ‘Oh God please, please help me here.’

Eventually I was put on a drip to speed up the labour – by now the doctor and nurses would have been thrilled to see me go home. I wasn’t going anywhere and this was not going on for a further two weeks, either.

After I was put on a drip I got to lie on my back for hours. I had monitors all over me and everyone, including me, could watch the pain grow in strength. What a treat, hey? Just what everyone wants. My husband was completely fascinated with this wonderful piece of machinery. “Look, look the needle is going up.” he said. “Hum yes, I see it and actually I can feel it, I have the pain, remember that.” I replied. Like the stupid morons we both were, we asked: “Where will the needle go to on this scale as the birth progresses?” Why would anyone answer that question? The nurses must just love people like us. “Oh, to here.” the nurse pointed – which of course was so far away from where we were I insisted they take it all off me. I was going home now. I had changed my mind.

After that the fun stopped. Each time my husband saw the needle rise he wanted to mention it. Each time he looked like he was going to mention it I glared my now convincing don’t you dare glare. Each wave of pain I got I wanted to kill him. After 16 hours of being in the hospital, about four of which I was on my back and could not move. It was decided, by everyone, that something had to be done. I had a private doctor; in fact he was so private we had barely seen him in the sixteen hours. My husband went looking for him and found the doctor eating his dinner. It was 6pm. My husband insisted he do something to help me as this was getting ridiculous. After his dinner, the doctor dropped in to have a look and discovered, apparently for the first time, that the baby could not move. She was stuck and we would need to do a caesarean. My body frame is small and the baby was in a transverse lie position; she was lying across my stomach and could not turn around as there was not enough space. Really, the doctor should have known this already. I had not changed my body shape in the previous nine months, nor the last sixteen hours of this day. He should have known. I had skipped reading the section about caesarean births as the doctor had given me every indication that all was good and there was no need to worry.

Right now, after hours on this dreadful machine on my back, I was not going to worry and I announced: “You can pull her out of my throat for all I care; just do something.”

She was born at 8pm that night. My husband went as green as the gown they put him in as he slid under the table. I watched as they left him there and kept working on me. I was a complete and utter mess and nothing had gone to plan except we had our beautiful daughter and I can confirm now that she is the most determined person I know. I am sure thinking back on that time how she enjoyed every moment of listening to us while she was saying, “I am stuck you idiots and I cannot get out of here.”

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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The Kingswood

The Kingswood

Somehow, and there is no point in even checking why, my mind of memories takes me to a time I was sitting in Peter’s Holden Kingswood in the front bucket seat on the passenger side. Peter was my boyfriend at the time. We were driving up the coast road, north of Brisbane to the Noosa area for a day at the beach. I was a teenager and in the back seat were our friends Fred and Linda. We did a lot together at the time and enjoyed each other’s company. Peter, Linda and I were smokers.  I was sticking to the seats; it was a hot day and the car did not have air conditioning. The windows were down. I was lighting a cigarette and somehow (once again; who can explain some things that happen?) I set my face on fire. I was alight when I felt the slap on my face. Peter leaned over and started whacking me frantically on the head. I was still a little confused as to what was happening. Had I done something wrong or was I on fire? I was on fire; okay, that established, I can panic. As soon as I start panicking, I lose the ability to do anything else but panic. In that way I am like my Mother.  I seem to lose all function of my brain. I let Peter whack me about until I was out.

It was hours later before I smelt the smell of burnt hair and skin. Maybe my nose had shut down with my brain when the panic button had been hit. I am sure the others smelt it within seconds. The windows were kept down. I could not wait to get into the surf that day.

Peter was driving with one hand at one stage. I have an image in my mind of memories of looking over at him to see how he was driving and dealing with me on fire as well. Dual control.

Once I was “put out” it was time to survey the damage – and laugh. To be honest, that day I did not feel much like laughing. I had lost one eyebrow and one set of eyelashes completely. My Mum and Dad had no idea I smoked. How was I going to explain losing an eyebrow and an eyelash while at the beach for the day?

Part of my fringe was gone as well. Fred was maniacally laughing his way to self-induced committal in the back seat. Linda tried to be supportive, but she too succumbed to fits of the giggles. Her comical effort to restrain laughter almost made me laugh. Almost.

You know how these cringeworthy moments burn so easily into your fragile teenage psyche? This incident was just one of my embarrassing moments.  My fringe, eyebrow and eyelashes had to grow back. I had to face embarrassing weeks to endure “this incident”.

All this talk of “the moment” we hear now; really it is rarely a moment. It can be weeks, months and years.

I have one more eyebrow story in my mind of memories. God only knows how I link these topics. Alphabetically? A few years ago, while interstate I started getting my fair eyebrows tinted and was impressed with the results. When I returned home I went to my usual salon and added a regular eyebrow tint to my list of package maintenance. I like to think of my outer skin as being my packaging. I am somewhere underneath the packaging. It helps me to remember that we are not what we look like – in the beauty industry people come and go and this day I had a newbie. The newbie girl suggested I get my eyebrows waxed. I said I was getting them tinted because they were so fair I could not see them so did she think I needed them waxed? “Yes,” she said with such confidence I agreed to get them waxed.

Then she tinted them. When I came out of the shower the next morning, my husband took one look at me before blurting: “What the hell happened to your eyebrow?” Tripping over my feet to get to the mirror, I was shocked to discover a huge chunk was missing from one eyebrow. Clearly the over-zealous newbie had dripped some wax right in the middle of my brow and tinted over the offending bare patch! Sadly, her camouflage attempt lasted only as long as the next wash.

My first thought, beyond one four-letter word, was that if my husband of 30 years had noticed this, so would the rest of the world.

Yeah, life is just like that. Indubitably.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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Indubitably – it’s one of this man favorite words. He says it so well. I told this man in my life, “I have a plan, you know”; to which he confidently replied, “Indubitably”. He is certain I have a plan, all right.

I am thinking this dismissive, one-word answer which stops further chatter from me is covering up his deep fear of just what my plan is in regards to him.

He may have worked it through enough to know my plan will not be going to print.

This morning the topic of conversation turned to marriage (not any suggestion of us and marriage, just marriage in general) and the lack of confidence he had in the institution. His suggestion was that of dealership that allowed you to trade-in and buy again – a process he had already worked out the fine print for within 10 seconds of having that first thought. The man needs to be in business.

“The idea is you can trade in the model,” he said. “Not on a whim, it has to be honest and you can’t be flippant or blasé about it.”  A “relationship trade-in dealership”. Definitely has a ring to it, hey? “No kicking, there can’t be any kicking on the way to the dealership,” he added, and we laughed.

A relationship dealership, a relationship broker. Then the conversation turned to the seriousness of such a transaction and the paperwork involved.

He knows how to have a laugh at himself and at the experiences we all have. We are unique yet the same in so many ways. We crave relationships and then we find them to be a tricky business with ships sailing towards collision.

My happy tap man is indubitably ready for the business world. He seems to know what he wants – or does he?

But I cannot discuss his mind or feelings – it would be wrong; besides which, I cannot work him out. I am forced to think about my own mind, my mind’s wardrobe of items to be looked through and sorted out. I have a mind wardrobe where I store thoughts that I am still pondering or ones that I just want to leave hanging there for the moment.

To be on your own does offer a certain amount of appeal. I rather like it myself. I like doing what I want, when I want, without criticism. I have not been criticized much in my life.  I was lucky to be a product of wonderful parents and lucky again to pick people in my life who lack the need to criticize.

However right now if I burn the toast nobody is going to tell me I burnt the toast.

Copyright © Mary Willetts 2012

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