Waiting in The Wings? It's time to show up.

I love going to the theatre or to the movies to become deliciously lost in a story, a song or an emotion. It is a rare gift these days even just to be able to sit still, but if in doing so I also have the opportunity to be stirred or provoked to reflect on my life, then this is an exquisite bonus.

Recently I enjoyed such a delight at the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan, immersed in Noel Coward’s Waiting in the Wings.

Directed by Stephen Pike, it is a beautiful and witty story of friendship, courage and community living.

Nikki Lynne Hunter as Miss Archibald and Ros Engledow as Lotta Bainbridge in Waiting In the Wings
Photo credit – John B. Harvey Stage Whispers

The story is built around the daily interactions of a group of women who have found themselves living in ‘The Wings’, a retirement home for actresses. And as I watched the characters ebb and flow through the joys and challenges of this time in their lives, I found myself once again thinking about my own experience of getting older.

Eeeew. I know.

Yep. Brave.
GIPHY

No really. It’s a good thing to do!

Because recently I have realised that I am no longer afraid of that ageing boogeywoman 🙂

Ironically though, I don’t remember actually being scared of her until she arrived! By which time it was too late to completely fend her off.

Until that moment however, I do remember scoffing at the vanity of older women who saw the need to attempt to do just that. I mean dying your hair. Really. Who will care by then?

So Pfft.

I, would be ageing gracefully thank you very much and wearing my grey hair medal of honour with pride. Content in all I will have achieved by that time, and having no need to look anything other than my completely natural self.

Yes, I know. Ha. Ha. Ha.

But to this arrogant end, throughout my youth I proceeded to spend many a summer with my beautiful cousin Caroline recklessly languishing by the pool and doing our bit to raise the share price of Reef Oil.

Confidently we bounced through life eating chips and drinking beer, with bums and boobs that stayed in our bikinis sans support and an apparently abundant and eternal supply of collagen. Ageing was a loooooong way off.

Until it wasn’t 😬

Yikes.
Via GIPHY

And with that, the boogeywoman skipped off laughing with a whole stack of things I had become quite attached to! You know – clear skin, energy, the ability to sleep through the night without Nurofen and uniform hair colour.

Oh, and temporarily, hope.

And that wily witch had waited until I let down my guard to strike.

She swooped in at that perfect moment in which I was feeling both invincible and exhilarated at having recently triumphed in surviving the first 15 years of intense parenthood.

This was NOT my response to The Youth Robbery.
via GIPHY

Leaving me I’m sure, with a WTF expression tattooed on my forehead and frantically scrambling for the Clairol and some form of exercise that didn’t kill me in the first five minutes.

And for some time, I will admit to lamenting the loss of these things that I’d never given much thought to until they were gone.

And I carried on with quite the bit of bother simultaneously trying to outsmart any further heists whilst attempting to force/pay/trick her into giving all my shit back.

I mean surely this should have worked…..
thanks GIPHY

But ageing is not all about hair, saggy bums, dark spots and wrinkles though of course.

Ah, if ooooonly all its inherent challenges could be as easily rectified via a monthly trip to the salon. Or, to my hairdresser’s occasional chagrin, a $14.99 emergency supermarket purchase.

It has been for me, also about fear, identity, loss, frustration, and resistance.

And a certain kind of grieving. For all those things I was going to do and be, for myself and others.

Getting Old is not for Sissies

Ros Engledow

Indeed Ros. It is not.

Ros Engeldow, plays Lotta Bainbridge in Waiting in the Wings, a woman coming to terms with her career having ended, her place in her family and figuring out what now is most important to her.

Ros herself is a striking ’70 years young’ as my Nanna used to say, who says that “performing is in my DNA “. And I’m so glad that it is.

I watched Ros and the remarkable assembly of local talent in this production tell their stories, and am in awe of the reported combined 520 years of theatre experience before me.

And I was reminded of the beauty and gifts of ageing. And what a tragedy it would be for us to succumb to the view that the best of us was lost with our supple skin and the ability to stay up past midnight.

For me now, ageing is more about wisdom, courage, gratitude, love, strength, and the ability to truly step into myself and my skin and own it all.

And knowing where, how and with whom I wish to spend my life.

Sure, I won’t fib. It would be nice to not have to work so hard to keep my butt upright, and yeah, yeah, of course I am dying my hair.

Lol.
And obviously I look like this as a result…
GIPHY

But I would not trade where I am now, for the equal challenges of my younger self.

So boogeywoman I am enjoying the last laugh, because you were not as clever as you thought. As you sprinted off all smug and all, I threw a booty of all kinds of extra shit in your bag.

So good luck with all that youthful angst, insecurity, uncertainty, self recrimination, doubt and fear.

Bam.

There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection.

Steve Maraboli.

Aaw. Thanks Steve. Whoever you are.

And thank you too Stephen Pike, The Q and Canberra Repertory for choosing to give us this opportunity to sit in the quiet and calm of Waiting In The Wings to ponder and celebrate all that is wonderful about growing older.

And as Stephen Pike says ” the chance to enjoy the talent of some of Canberra’s most experienced actors, who no longer all get such opportunities to tread the boards”.

And there should be more of it.

For how wonderful it is to see people following their bliss, with such enthusiasm, humour, and generosity.

At any age.

Defying stereotypes, and getting busy.

So, no more waiting in the wings for me or you.

I am so looking forward to the adventure that the rest of ageing has in store for me. As I hope do you.

As Ros so beautifully puts it. It’s all about ” Getting up. Dressing Up. And Showing Up !”

I love it.

And hey, do yourself a favour. In a stroke of genius, Waiting in the Wings is playing now also at Canberra Rep until the 7th of December.

Don’t wait.

Show up 🙂

The Accidental Activist ?

My life as a Social Worker, taught me that little things matter.

Small acts, can make a difference. And small acts done repeatedly or by enough people, can make a big difference.

And whilst I have left the daily activities of Social Work behind, not all of the Social Worker in me has retired. And essentially, as you may have read here, this is why I started The B Side.

I believe too that I was able to move from wanting to do it, to feeling able to, because a lot of people each did one little thing.

In February 2017, I wrote a rather lengthy Facebook post about marriage. 185 people liked it and 67 commented.

This was not something I expected. But this response got me thinking that maybe there were people who might resonate with and benefit from, my experiences and musings.

So not only did I instantly feel supported, I suddenly felt like I could move from WANTING to DOING. And, perhaps still make a difference in the lives of others.

So, I decided to write.

My mission?

To tell stories, and in doing so, provide people with evidence that they can survive anything. Or start again. And maybe even some kind of blueprint with which to do it.

So, could I become an activist?

Challenging aspects of the status quo of my society and times’ ?

(Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017 p 5)

Maybe.

Albeit, accidentally.

Because people liked something I did. And I started to do more of it.

And who knows how much more that could grow.

The Accidental Activist. I like it. I’m going with that.

Photo Bernie Ryan

However as quickly as I started to feel a little warm about where this was going, the chilly wind of criticism blustered in with the phrase ‘Armchair Activism’.

Which, apparently refers to those little things people did for me, and which I do for others, like ‘liking’ and sharing online. The poor cousin it would seem, to real – world activism of ‘putting bodies on the line’

(Whitehead 2018).

A ‘Slacker’ form of Activism?

And to twist that derogatory knife a little more, it is also now referred to as ‘Slacktivism’  – an online form of ‘self -aggrandising politically ineffective activism’ (Cabrera, Matias and Montoya, 2017 p 400 ). Something, which is more about making ourselves look or feel good than actually making a difference. Things which are done easily and ‘performed with little effort’. (Christensen 2011)

Ouch.

I do agree that there will always be a need for action that occurs off line in order to effect change. And that we ought be mindful that ‘true social progress will not occur on social media alone’ ( Cabrera et al 2017 , p12 ).  

However, is it accurate to say that because a thing can be done with less effort, it cannot still be useful or effective?

It’s a bit like saying that ordering my groceries online is not as useful or effective as me traipsing down on foot to the supermarket.

I know which one I prefer.

This week, I talked with Dr Anita Hutchison about this, and in particular, whether digital activism deserves the slacktivism rap it has acquired.

Dr Anita Hutchison
Photo supplied with permission

Dr Hutchison is from the group Doctors Against Violence Toward Women ( DAVTW). A group who are not only raising awareness but successfully recruiting support for change. Including recently the #SackAlanJones movement. Something which has now resulted in over 100 sponsors withdrawing their support from Alan Jones, and a planned review into his breakfast show.

Cover Image

“laptop-woman-03298” by tlcj878 is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Good on you Dr Hutchison and your colleagues and supporters.

What’s wrong with working smarter, not harder anyway?

So Ok, one might once have associated activism with only labour – intensive actions like The Women’s March in 2017, involving 5 million people across 81 nations, (Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017).

2017, Women March
“2017 Women’s March in D.C.” by Polly Irungu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

But one now has to wonder how those 5 million marchers were called to action in the first place and then organised.

I’m going to hazard a guess that it wasn’t via ‘snail mail’.

So thanks to you Dr Hutchison, I’ve been reminded that the little things do matter.

Especially to people like you who might become Accidental Activists as a result.

Because if what I am doing is motivating you to continue your efforts out there (Gong 2015, p99), that’s a slackness I’m happy to live with.

References

Cabrera, N., Matias, C. and Montoya, R. (2017). Activism or slacktivism? The potential and pitfalls of social media in contemporary student activism.  Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 10(4), pp.400-415.

Christensen, S ( 2011 ) Political activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or political participation by other means? First Monday Journal. Volume 16, number 2.

Crozier-De Rosa, S. and Mackie, V. (2018). Remembering women’s activism. Routledge.

Duke, J. (2019). Alan Jones breakfast show to undergo ‘full review’: Macquarie chairman. [online] The Age. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/alan-jones-breakfast-show-to-undergo-full-review-macquarie-chairman-20190910-p52pqs.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2019].

Gong, R. (2015). Indignation, Inspiration, and Interaction on the Internet: Emotion Work Online in the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 33(1), pp.87-103.

Whitehead, J. (2018). Are You Sitting Comfortably? DIVA Magazine.

Soundtrack for Soundcloud Podcast – ‘Bumbling’ –

https://freemusicarchive.org/genre/Instrumental/?sort=track_date_published&d=1&page=3

Curiosity and Learning – Are THEY the Secret Weapons you need?

Yes, I knooooow it’s Sophia, but Hey, she is right.

Ah yes, that elusive fountain of youth. Fancy it being in our minds after all.

Good to know.

Heaps cheaper than all those other places we are supposed to be able to find it.

I do have another post with more thoughts on ageing coming soon.

But for the moment, I want to share something cool related to Sophia’s thoughts, that I was reminded of yesterday.

I was in Melbourne overnight for a Communications Careers Forum organised by Deakin University. ( Thanks for that btw, Deakin ).

And before my 51 year old butt hit the chair, I’m sure that everyone could see that I was the oldest student there, by at least twenty years.

Ok. Righto. Probably twenty five 🙄.

Despite me wearing my coolest new pair of General Pants cord flairs.

( Trust me. They are just about the coolest pants I’ve ever owned ).

Anyhoo, notwithstanding my cool pants, one could excuse me for feeling self conscious, or that I was a little out of place.

A bit like that time I was in labour and in my haste to reach the spa bath, I ran down the main hospital corridor, dragging my drip behind me.

In the nuddy.

Sorry for that mental image.

Yes, some things you just can’t unsee…
via GIPHY

Anyway, thankfully, back to the seminar.

So, did I feel self conscious and out of place?

The answer is actually a resounding “Nope”.

And this is where we get to the first bit of the cool part.

I love young people. I love the energy, humour, eagerness and enthusiasm that young people exude. I love the many ways their fresh eyes and hearts see the world.

And above all, I love the bravery with which these beautiful young people share their talents, passion and dreams.

Which is why I take every opportunity to support and champion their endeavours. And to hang out within the radius of their infectious enthusiasm. And marinate myself in it.

And in doing so, I close the gap between them and me. As though I never left their world.

And here’s the second bit of the cool part.

Yesterday, I was reminded that in so many ways, I haven’t.

” Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young .”

Henry Ford.

Thanks Henry.

You see, there are many things we cannot change.

However I am, and you are, as young or old, as we choose to be.

That’s right. As we CHOOSE to be.

It really is that simple.

Yes stunned Hollywood GIPHY lady. I sure am.

Yesterday, as I sat in that forum, I realised why I did not feel out of place.

It’s because I more recently committed to ongoing learning, challenging myself, and not seeing myself as ‘done’.

And in choosing to embrace this B Side of my life, I’m now just as much at the start of this new career and chapter, as my younger classmates are at theirs.

So, bam. Age instantly becomes a moot and powerless point.

And ironically, because of this, I am in fact also healthier, physically fitter and more vibrant and youthful than I’ve felt since I was, a teenager.

Quite the bonus!

One of the guest speakers yesterday, Trevor Young of PR Warrior, also echoed the value of ongoing learning and relentless curiosity in our lives and careers.

According to Trevor, without these elements, we will forever struggle.

I’m with you Trevor.

As you all know by now, I lost my mojo in both these departments for quite the while. And a struggle it certainly was.

So to have the ability to entertain them both again, is a joy.

Trevor also said to just ‘get out there and do something’. Because things only happen when we are DOING something. Not when we are waiting to be perfect BEFORE we do something.

And this of course, echoes the mantra of my lecturer Dr Adam Brown

“Learning by Doing. Learning by Doing. Learning. By. Doing”.

It has become entrenched in my psyche. Because I am indeed learning so much, by DOING.

And something you are witnessing as it happens, here at The B Side.

There may be a day when I will look back at some of these posts and cringe a little. However I can tell you that I will never delete them.

Just as Trevor has not on his blog which he started in 2007.

Because like the pencil marks on the doorway that our children continued to stretch past, I too will be able to see how much I’ve grown.

My body may become less fit, and less healthy, as the years progress.

However I choose never to feel old.

And will therefore never be unwelcome at the table of youth 🙂

Yep! That’s me at the table. 🙂