What is my “legacy”?

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I used to believe that legacies were about children and inheritance of heirlooms and antique furniture. I used to believe legacies were for the rich and famous like Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. I used to believe a lot of things that I don’t anymore, am I jaded, more experienced, older, maturer? I scoff whilst writing this in a cynical inwardly way. Like only I understand the joke, only my inner voice understands what that means; or inner child, as the psychologists or mindfulness community might say.

I travelled abroad recently and had this notion to bring my books, my journals and downloaded a few podcasts to really keep my mind active and engaged intellectually. (I scoff again) Did I read any of them, no. I stayed present to the moment, had pockets of beautiful conversations with some inspiring individuals and exercised hard, well hard for me. Whilst away I believed I would be discovering all these different paths of who I was (existential questioning we all do), what was I to learn on this solo travel. So much of what I learned was seeping its way through upon my return home and not abroad at all. I realised many things about myself, I don’t like the cold, I acclimatise really quickly to the exotic weather (yes, I have many continents in my blood line), I love travelling and it was freeing to do it alone. #yesmyboyfriendapproved and #noididntneedhisapproval
What I realised is that I had taken on the weight and woes of my family and I was discovering who I was in the process. A journey that will never end until my last breath.

So, back to legacies, I started working with the Ben Kinsella Trust and Head Held High just before Christmas on a programme called ‘The Best You’.
Sometimes, I believe, in life we have these serendipitous moments which we either listen to or ignore; what I call the ‘universal alignments’. I’ve been turning the volume low for the last few years without trusting the universe to let things happen. (Now, I know that might sound a bit whacko but most people who know me, knows that I am spiritual). When others come first before your needs, it takes a life changing experience to allow you the time to re-assess your needs are a priority and that is not selfish!

So, ‘The Best You’ programme is motivational for teenagers to get them thinking about their futures, how they can make different choices to protect themselves and to discuss the prevalent rise of knife crime. I worked with an amazing woman, Tash, who has been doing this work for six years and it really shows. There are so many moments in my life where I feel so damn lucky to meet people who not only inspire me right to my core but also I feel so privilege to see how committed, passionate and caring they are in their work, and Tash is one of them.
There’s no time for ego, this isn’t about us, this is about them! I have cried more over this programme and felt so deeply from my soul, than I ever have in crying out of sadness or anger.

The programme started in January, all the teenagers in the group knew people who had  been affected by knife crime or they themselves had been affected by knife crime. The programme had seven teenagers take part, lasted for six weeks, took place in their school with a visit to the Ben Kinsella exhibition.

Was I affected? Yes, every week I went into the classroom, and then onto my full-time job. On my second week, I sent a text to Tash to say how much respect and admiration I had for her knowing how long she had done this work for. I then asked my work colleague if I could have a hug. I cried on my colleague’s shoulder and felt two things “hope” and “progress”. I could see the cogs starting to turn, the pennies dropping, the trickle of change, you could feel the shift in the room when someone had been honest and vulnerable. Every week everyone came, they didn’t have to participate, they didn’t have to attend, the class wasn’t compulsory but every week we saw the same faces and kept reminding them of the reasons we were there. We were there for them, to open their eyes to who they could be, accepting responsibility for their choices, having the opportunities to change their responses to situations.
I felt very much this was a learning experience for me too, what was I doing to be the best person in my life, for my partner, for my family and friends; applying those things that I was saying was tough. I learned things from my friends which questioned who I was in the friendship and staying open and receptive is one of the hardest parts of being human; to not judge and to not be offended.

Today, in our last session together, I was sad that I was not going to be there next week. One of the lads said “why was the programme not going on for longer?” and I felt Tash and I had done our job in that they could see the benefit of this type of work. I felt like all those podcasts I had listened to where they ask the interviewee “what advice would you give your younger self”, I felt like this was my opportunity, I had had six weeks to impart my wisdom, life experience and emotional maturity but I couldn’t find the words and I’m more “story-teller” than “short and concise” type of person. How can you know what to say that relates to the work you are doing, how can you say all the things you wish you could say without the abbreviations and use all the expletives the schools deny you of. How can we make a change in the short one and half hour class that we get?

When you work with someone who gives you the space to lead part of the session and lets you run with a personal experience, all I can say is today was a heart opener. I shared something that even some of my close friends don’t even know about but laying one’s heart out there is not weak, it’s strength in being able to be vulnerable and open. Brene Brown’s Ted Talk covers this on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. I left the space like I always have with two words in my mind and heart, ‘Hope’ and ‘Progress’.

There’s no selfies or “let’s keep in touch” but there were “thank yous” and a hug. Priceless! I’d been thinking all week what my parting words would be and this was them “I want to meet you in the street in 4-5 years time, shake your hand and hear you tell me what you have been doing. I don’t want to see you on the newspaper because you’ve become a victim”.  I am sad not to be going in next week and shaking each one of their hands and saying hello. I am sad that six weeks doesn’t feel like enough time but I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with them, to be inspired by them and to set goals for myself because of them.

So, I come back to legacies, is this my legacy or theirs? I think it’s our legacies that we create and hope we pass on. I have hope in the future of the next generation.

Thank you Ben Kinsella Trust, thank you to Head Held High and to Patrice.

 

Acceptance

After completing Mastin Kipp’s 40 day ‘Claim Your Power’, I wondered if I would feel enlightened with my “Creator”, ecstatic in the my “action steps” approach to following my goals and dreams; and quit my day job. Was I excited that my relationships with my partner and family were about to elevate to the next level?
I felt the anti-climax of when an acting tour finishes and you know you’re going back to reality, the next acting job hasn’t come along yet and you have to go back to those faces in your regular job which either you dislike or the job is soul crushing.

Do I listen or read these self-development, self-empowering books because I want to find the answer to what I’m not doing right, seeking the reasons why I have not moved further along in life, to listen/read to another person tell me if I’m not “working to my goals once a week, it’s a dead dream”. Is it about my dreams?

I figured through this process it’s about my approach to everything and just like juggling human nature and the personalities of friends or the dynamics of work colleagues; it’s my approach to life.

My dad was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year, I looked at the research to prove to myself I understood the levels, the stages, the ways in which this debilitating condition can take over. It’s a slow burn of fire dying out on a summer’s day, at its height it’s beautiful, powerful and sometimes uncontainable and at it’s low it’s ash blowing in the wind returning to the motherland. What am I doing about it? I’m trying to control it, the doctor is trying to control it and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel unhappy and alone. Is that strange? The support from the NHS has been great, the support from my partner has been incredible.

I’m able to take my Dad to acting classes, memory cafes, dance and fitness classes (with the help of another reluctant family member). We have got him a diary so he can write things in to remind himself of what he’s doing daily and who he’s spending time with.
The biggest impact and stress for me is knowing which are the important parts, hospital/doctor appointments etc. Since my Dad came home from Mauritius in 2014, the last four years have been applying to the council for a home, sorting his pension out, him being diagnosed with prostate cancer and then this year dementia. I wonder if life has it in for me but it’s not me it’s happening to, it’s him. I cry and want to scream and shout at the world “why is it all on me?” and it’s because somewhere along the journey, I have become the responsible adult in all situations, and the roles have reversed.  I wonder how I can put yourself first, stay on top of my health and deal with anymore? I can’t and I have to get on and find the time when I can. It’s not about complaining, it’s allowing yourself to feel frustrated and not beating yourself up for the guilt that is totally out of your control, and out of your hands.

So, back to the book, what has it taught me in isolation to this area of my life, “Acceptance”. A really difficult area to understand in it’s full limited, restrictive layers unless you understand yourself to a degree. “Acceptance” is the most enlightening area of my life right now. I find it difficult because it brings its friends “control” and “judgement” to back itself up every time but it’s my fears of this that has been difficult to acknowledge. Accepting, what I cannot change, the future. But I can change the here and now by looking at it through a different lens. I never thought I’d be talking to my Dad about his “After Care Plan”, they are ask questions, you’ve never been prepared to ask your parents before, “How do you want to receive NHS treatment, do you want to be resuscitated, do you want the doctors to give you all the medications available” and so on. About his Will and what he wants to leave to people, about all sorts, and i am glad to say thank gawd I found out about the Death cafe, because it helps to talk about death openly.

All my Dad can hear when I ask him about his personal life and history is suspicion, and he asks “why? Why is it difficult to see loved ones suffer, it’s because the conflict starts with ourselves, our views, opinions, judgements, influences. The reality is he cannot change, he’s not a man that understands how to to talk about his emotions and never really understood others. He’s complicated and has a limited view of the world because he doesn’t really engage in conversation to know who people are or understand the world around him.  So, if anyone had to change, it was down to me, I don’t want to be the dutiful daughter anymore, I don’t want to pat myself on the back and say “I was there when he really needed me”. I want to be more than this, so I realised it was time to create new memories, however short lived they might be.

I am creating new memories of fun. I never thought of my Dad as a scared, frightened, and stressed man knowing that life is coming to a close. Maybe we never really think about the time when our bodies will start to close down, and stop working in the way we hope it always will. How do you admit, you can’t remember people, places, things? How do you talk about death when you’ve never really discussed it with family?

I am really lucky to still have my Dad, he isn’t an extreme case at the moment, he still remembers, still gets about, still cognitive. I have to find ways in which he can answer questions that are too much for him all at once. I sat with him yesterday whilst putting on a TENS machine for his achy muscles and played some music from different periods of our lives and showed him old photographs. A simple action but really worth putting the time in. I recalled that all through my life at home, two of the most prominent memories I grew up with was music and photo albums. Dad had created those memories for us and now it was time to remind him of those memories and create new ones for him. It is time to have fun with him whilst I still can and because whatever time I have left, I don’t want it to be about appointments, doctors, medication and duty.

Upstart – Mia’s sprint

My time of the morning, cool crisp wind in my face. No fucker bothering me or pushing me to challenge myself.  A few familiar faces pass, we do what we always do, jog by without acknowledgement. Sunday, my day, my time. Church day, their time. He’s praying for me,  gotta push my brother outta my head. Mia – this is your time!

Tune – “you better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it…”

I wanna try some MMA, soon. The fight will be over soon. “Mia, focus. This isn’t just any fight, this is a fight that could change your career, take you to another level”. Do I care? Really, do I? Course, I wanna win…come on Mia no complaining. “You’re lucky, you’re good”. So, what I know I’m good. Don’t get arrogant, why fucking not! I’m not saying I’m the best, but I know I can be.

Fucking doooog, can’t you see I’m running. Why stop here, you fucking little shit! “Sorry”, I wanna kick your ass right now and your fucking stupid little yappy gremlin. Ahhh my knee. Breathe, its fucking hurting, not another injury. “Fucking dog, put it on a leash on next time”. My opponent is staring at me with those disapproving but up for the challenge eyes, my pride already on the floor, walk away Mia, walk away…aaaaaahrrrrhhhhhhh!

Maria thanks the Eminem ‘Lose yourself’ lyrics. Great track to work out to!

‘What If’…scenario

What if…

This blog has been in the making for three weeks, I’ve edited it, re-edited it, the new draft didn’t save and with so much happening politically at work one’s perspective has been affected.

So, without further ado, two things have been on my mind recently due to being ill (the mortality clock starts ticking, let alone the biological clock) and a video I watched on youtube. I thought I would attempt to tackle both in the same ‘What if’ scenario as they are connected.

The first scenario is ‘what if’ I had two days to live (ok most people have one in their scenario, but this is mine and I am feeling generous) what would I do? Well for a start, I wouldn’t sleep, why would I sleep or as some people would say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. (Whoever invented that saying should be shot!) I would spend time with loved ones and friends. Now, being a generous, loving person (modest too) I considered I’d make amends with people whom I’ve had tiffs with in the past…and then I thought fuck it, why would I waste time and energy on those who didn’t give a shit about me. Besides, how do you heal that baggage over hours if you couldn’t do it when you had days and weeks, I wouldn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me and I certainly would want to be two-faced. Instead, I would spend it with those whom I loved.

I would make films, short ones and post them on fb, twitter, LinkedIn (my legacy…ha ha ha). I am now filled with awe and wonder at the different spaces/places in London (or wherever I decided to live out my final hours) to visit. I would ask those whom I love to share the journey, even for an hour, just be with me. (Would I be disappointed at those who couldn’t be there? No, life is a journey and it evolves, adapts, grows and my path isn’t for everybody. It doesn’t mean they don’t care or don’t love me, but ego would have to STFU as there wouldn’t be time or room for both of us).

I would want to wake up in a swanky hotel, have sex in a King size bed and have everything on the breakfast menu (even if its to sample pure indulgence, it’s my last moments). I will dip into the Fifty shades of grey…hell yeah, (and more of course) if it was the last time my lover and I would spend together. Most people forget to mention this in their ‘what if’ scenario, but what the hell, these are my last two days on the physical plane, there’s no time to waste on contemplating.

I know at this point of realisation (if not earlier) I have two routes, the “ring of optimism” (as someone recently said so eloquently) or “the ring of pessimism”.  Well, the easy route is to freak out, cry “why me”, allow myself to fall into a state of depression, drink heavily, take drugs (hell I’m going to die anyway) blame my parents; the world for being the cause of this scenario. (Of course we are all allowed our moment of breakdown, hell we are entitled to it and only we can decide how long we allow ourselves to stay there).  And then I would look back at all the amazing things I had achieved in my life so far, all the small moments I wouldn’t even had considered or given much thought to. All the details of life that so many of us miss day to day due to inconvenience or our plain irritations. The rain on my face, a smile from a stranger, the sunshine whilst walking to work during a tube strike, a voicemail that I had saved to hear a loved’s voice, a hand in my hand. The architecture of buildings around me, poems on the underground, posters that made me giggle, street art and sculptures that made me think creatively or inspired me, music on my smart phone that moved me, a street that took me back to my childhood.

Would I go to the gym (being health conscious) probably not, but I would want to do something crazy like bungee jump off a cliff, skydive out of a plane, cut my hair for charity (not the hair, I hear you say) or a dance class that would highlight my hopeless co-ordination.

All I know is that I would want my last moments to be filled with laughter, love and as much happiness as humanly possible until I breathed my last breath because truly I knew this day would come. I just never prepared myself for it or maybe I did but ignored the inner voice because I thought I had more time. (It’s precious and short).

This list would be endless but let’s move onto the second scenario.

What would I do ‘If money was no object’? Hmm all this from watching this link by Alan Watts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSyHWMdH9gk

What would I do? Well, I would take care of my family first and foremost so they would not need worry about money again, and hope they would live or begin to live and fulfill their own dreams too. (It’s never too late and it doesn’t matter how old you are).

I would share some of that love with my friends, now how I view money as important. (I am about to use a loving relationship with a partner as an analogy – bear with me on this one) As with love for an individual, there’s a respect and understanding but also a journey of discovery and learning along the way.  All the money in the world will not comfort you if you do not respect it or yourself. (Maybe a little far fetched but it was the best I could come up with at stupid o’clock in the morning).

I would wish to take my closer friends on some of the journey with me, maybe a holiday, maybe a yoga retreat, maybe a massive piss up or all of the above.

I thought I would apply for my 01 Visa and do some acting in the states, go across the world, explore different disciplines in each country but I realise I can do this without a Visa and would I really want to settle in one place. LA doesn’t hold the key to the Acting world like London isn’t the be all and end all of the Acting hub. I want to travel the world, learn about different countries, envelop cultures, eat various foods and meet people. I would write stories, poems, create short films and make a feature film of mine and others’ experiences; maybe based on truth or entirely fiction. I would love to dance, try many styles, do more physical theatre. After breaking my ankle and watching the para olympics, I knew nothing was impossible or hold you back apart from yourself. It’s not an easy mental and physical journey sometimes, but everything is possible with adaptation and support!

I would invest in charitable organisations and look at helping people around the world to understand about communication, love, sharing and discover their own talents and abilities but encourage them to take responsibility of this within their country, village, town etc.

I would look into sustainability and apply this to my life, home, career and eat organically from locally sourced butchers, markets or grow them at home. I would spend more time exploring homeopathic alternatives, practices and medicine.

I would continue my love of working with children, teenagers and adults in every capacity and teach drama to instill confidence, communication, self-esteem, belief in oneself and others. These are the legacies I would wish to leave behind and with people who may not be blood related but who are affected by inspirers, role models of their generations and others.

In all of my ‘what ifs’, I always felt I would be more material, want that miu miu purse, the swanky apartment in each corner of the world and not to say I wouldn’t want to be comfortable but it’s not the same “material” I want anymore. How I feel now is immaterial toward objects, things as it cannot teach me, communicate with me, allow me to grow, develop or love me.

If money were no object, would these really be some of the things that I would do? I ask myself, how many of these things am I doing already?  Do I need more time and money to feel limitless in my objectives, dreams or goals or am I negating the truth that I hold the power to take the initiative to implement these ideas anytime; just like anyone else.

“If you build it, they will come” (Field of Dreams – one of my favourite films). What would you do?