I Remember When…

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Do you ever imagine yourself back in the past? I don’t mean hundreds of years ago. I mean ten or twenty years ago in your own lifetime. Sometimes when I want to remind myself that I’m actually on track and doing well I go back into my headspace and remember how I felt when

When I didn’t have my first book written.

When I stared at a blank page/computer screen and had no idea how to begin writing.

When I sat on Avalon Beach gazing towards a distant shore…America…and wishing I was there where stars and fortunes were made.

When I didn’t have my daughter.

When I wished life would start.

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Me at nineteen

I go back to my younger self and remember the hollow desperation and uncertainty that gnawed at me constantly. I used to imagine all manner of rescue scenarios involving perfect lovers and immaculate looks. I imagined that if I looked like Ava Gardner all of my problems would evaporate. I fantasised that a lover would arrive fully congniscent of my strengths and weaknesses and needs and aspirations and pave the way to happiness and success. I speculated that if I lived in America or England my talent would be celebrated and nurtured and supported.

I imagined that everybody else’s life was easier than mine and I fervently wished I was anybody else but me.

When I didn’t have my daughter.

I am twenty and newly arrived in London. My travelling companion, Jeanette, said I cried in my sleep the night we arrived. It didn’t surprise me. London was so beautiful, so shiny and so full of genius I doubted I would ever find my place in that metropolis. I didn’t have my daughter then and her spirit would have been watching and cheering me on but in those days I was deaf to angelic promptings. That came much later. Within a week of arriving in London, Jeanette got homesick and booked a flight back to Australia. So, I found a flat in Kilburn and set up house with my brother who had started to do extremely well in the world of time-share real estate. I got a job waitressing in a local Greek cafe and went for dozens of auditions. Over the next few months my brother and I seemed to run into Australian friends everywhere we went and many of them spent a night or two on our couch. My industry friends also started arriving, a succession of beautiful girls in the acting, singing and modelling world landed on our doorstep and couch surfed while they explored opportunities in London. My brother was in seventh heaven. I was riddled with even more self-doubt and rage at my inadequacies and the same old mantra looped in my head: If only I had spectacular looks, spectacular talent or a spectacular rescuer.

In the end London was too much for me and after a year I limped home to Australia and the balm of a mother and grandparents whose unflagging faith sustained me through another decade of not much happening.

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This photo was taken a year after I got back from London.

I can still see the hopelessness in my eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I stared at a blank page/computer screen and had no idea how to begin writing.

Fast forward to my daughter.

Still failing at everything else I tried to do, acting, singing, writing, I none-the-less succeeded in giving birth to a Genevra at school aged 7 (2)beautiful child whose enthusiasm for life was infectious and soul-quenching. Throughout the empty years where every avenue terminated in a dead end, my daughter kept me grounded. Her observations – “Mummy, that spider is nervous” “That dog is sad” “Dolphins are clever” – kept me invested in the moment. For her sake I was determined to succeed, show her that a woman could beat the odds. For her sake, I hurdled my self-doubt and developed an attitude of nothing ventured, nothing gained, complete 180 degree turn from the girl who ran away from London. I began to take my writing seriously and as a consequence met that spectre called writers’ block. I spent many agonising hours staring at a blank page or computer screen hoping for inspiration. It took me moving to America to discover that inspiration flows from effort.

But before America…

Naming a demon comes at a cost. But eventually, I had to name the demon. Australia. Many an artist has come to the same conclusion – Australia is no friend to the artistically-inclined. It belittles, exhausts and overlooks its talented sons and daughters. The land of my birth suited me as long as I was filled with self-loathing but when I started to heal I came to loathe Australia and its insatiable appetite for mediocrity in the Arts.

When I sat on Avalon Beach gazing at a distant shore…America…and wishing I was there where stars and fortunes were made.

I remember the day I admitted to myself that I could not stay in Australia, that I had to go back and face the challenge of London or  make the giant leap to America. I felt sick with the realisation that my own country would never give me a chance to shine. It was so difficult because I had a nice life with my daughter. We lived in Sydney’s northern beaches: minimal rent, lots of friends. I had work that paid enough for us to live well, go out with friends and go on holidays. But I had no future and I knew it. I sat on Avalon Beach craving a way to reach that distant shore – America. And then on holiday in Hawaii I met the American dream – tall, stunning, blonde, surfie-musician-builder wearing white jeans and an apple-green silk shirt that matched his eyes. He looked like a cross between Brad Pitt and James Dean. We fell in love and he followed me back to Australia and then promised me America. My daughter and I landed on that longed-for shore in 1993.

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When I didn’t have my first book written.

However back on his own turf my knight in shining armour rusted dramatically. But America glittered and glowed and delivered everything I hoped it would. As my own star rose my marriage fell apart. But in spite of my ragged homelife, opportunities flowed in and my belief in myself grew apace. No longer riddled with self-doubt, America held up a mirror to a woman who was gifted, strong and beautiful and my headspace changed dramatically. But my home-life was deranged and becoming dangerous, the fights escalated to threatened violence and so my daughter and I limped back to Australia, once again to the balm and care of my patient mother. And I sank into another decade of despair in ancient, weather-beaten Australia which provided sanctuary in tandem with spiritual desolation. But in that arid space I wrote Catch the Moon, Mary and produced my first fully-fledged musical, Scheherazade.

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When I wished life would start.

Having at last beaten writers’ block and achieved excellence I believed success would follow as night the day. And so I waited. And waited. And when nothing much happened despair gripped again like winter chill. The space in my head was an icy chamber but in one corner a tiny flame flickered hope.

And then slowly but surely little bursts of applause from people I never dreamed I would meet or get to know. People from all over the world got in touch via Twitter or Facebook and talked about the impact of my book. They told me Catch the Moon, Mary made them think and cry and ultimately restored their faith in themselves just as my leading lady, Mary Granger had. My headspace began to fill with joy that I was able to make a difference through my words. Give hope where there was none, build bridges. The look in my eyes changed from blank to light. Where there had been a reflection of hopelessness now hope shone.

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When I go back to that mental space.

When I go back into that mental space I feel a cold wind, the familiar breath of hollow despair. I remember seeking a sign or a light or a way through to the promised land of success where I firmly believed happiness resided in fragrant drafts of confidence. The land of success would open up other shores, other opportunities. It always felt out of reach and slipping further away as if I had somehow coralled myself in a tiny boat with no oars, adrift and slave to the currents. I truly felt that powerless. Depression gripped like a vice.

 

 

But that flame…

That tiny flame warmed me enough to attempt my own rescue.

Naming the rescuer is as talismanic as naming the demon.

The rescuer’s name was excellence and excellence does not pursue. Excellence must be pursued and the more diligently you chase excellence the stronger your faith in yourself becomes. Your tiny boat suddenly sprouts oars and you can chart your course. I started charting my course when I gave up hoping for rescue and started focusing on my quest for excellence. sistine-chapel-ceiling-creation-of-adam-1510.jpg!Large

There are days…

But still there are days I fall back into the old ways. The light is dim and the rage is a pervasive gloaming. But I am a long way from the girl who cried in her sleep in London and I don’t ever want to go back to that lonely, faithless place in which I have no power and no oars.

Today I have four souls upon whom I can build my faith: my mother, my daughter, my granddaughter and…

 

mum in London

Mum in London in 2017 when we flew over for the reading of Catch the Moon, Mary and my musical, FRED at Tristan Bates Theatre.

My beautiful daughter, Genevra with the greatest gift of all, my grandaughter, Lily.

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                                                And now finally I have me!

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