Wednesday, 4 January 2012

This is Your Life!

Shakespeare once wrote “All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.” (As You Like It)

Many years ago, there used to be a television show in England called This Is Your Life. The host  would surprise a celebrity; take them to a TV studio and in front of an audience read through the highlights of their life. Throughout the show, people who had played a part in this person’s life would be brought out to meet them, reminisce of the old times and provide interesting anecdotes about the person. The show always concluded with the host presenting the person with a big red book and uttering the immortal words “This is Your Life”.

My friend Jillian recently asked when her life became like a movie and this started me thinking. If our lives were to be compared with a movie, or indeed a play or a book, what would our story be? Would it be a comedy, a tragedy, a thriller, a romance or a story of inspiration, courage and triumph over adversity? In our lifetime we will get to play many different roles; child, sibling, parent, aunt or uncle, employee, grandparent, friend – the list is endless, but when the day comes that we look back on an account of our lives, what will the title of our story be?

As a fan of Shakespeare’s works, I amused myself by wondering which of his works would most accurately describe my own life. Would it be Much Ado about Nothing, which whilst once of my favourite plays, is not, I hope going to be the sum total of my life. Would it be A Comedy of Errors, which does seem to reflect a lot of how my life has been – although not always so comical. At the very least, I concluded I hoped it would be a case of All’s Well That Ends own sort of happily ever after ending.

....”Aren’t those wonderful words to begin a story? “Once upon a time” promises something: a story of adventure and romance, a story of princesses and princes. It may include tales of courage, hope, and everlasting love. In many of these stories, nice overcomes mean and good overcomes evil. But perhaps most of all, I love it when we turn to the last page and our eyes reach the final lines and we see the enchanting words “And they lived happily ever after.”
Isn’t that what we all desire: to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories; to triumph over adversity; to experience life in all its beauty; and, in the end, to live happily ever after?
For a moment, think back about your favourite fairy tale. In that story the main character may be a princess or a peasant; she might be a mermaid or a milkmaid, a ruler or a servant. You will find one thing all have in common: they must overcome adversity.
Cinderella has to endure her wicked stepmother and evil stepsisters. She is compelled to suffer long hours of servitude and ridicule.
In “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle becomes a captive to a frightful-looking beast in order to save her father. She sacrifices her home and family, all she holds dear, to spend several months in the beast’s castle.
In the tale “Rumpelstiltskin,” a poor miller promises the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king immediately sends for her and locks her in a room with a mound of straw and a spinning wheel. Later in the story she faces the danger of losing her firstborn child unless she can guess the name of the magical creature who helped her in this impossible task.
In each of these stories, Cinderella, Belle, and the miller’s daughter have to experience sadness and trial before they can reach their “happily ever after.” Think about it. Has there ever been a person who did not have to go through his or her own dark valley of temptation, trial, and sorrow?
Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity. Why must all experience sadness and tragedy? Why could we not simply live in bliss and peace, each day filled with wonder, joy, and love?

Without opposition in all things, we could not discern the sweet from the bitter. Would the marathon runner feel the triumph of finishing the race had she not felt the pain of the hours of pushing against her limits? Would the pianist feel the joy of mastering an intricate sonata without the painstaking hours of practice?
In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way.  (Dieter. F. Uchtdorf – Your Own Happily Ever After)

Dead Poets Society has to be one of my all time favourite films, it is full of wonderful quotes mainly from the teacher Mr Keating, who inspires his students in the spirit of Carpe Diem, to make the most of opportunities that come their way, to step out and discover things for themselves – to seize the day!

“To quote from Whitman; Oh me! Oh life! Of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” (Dead Poets Society)

Although we may not always have a say in what plots lie ahead in the story of our lives, we can do something about how we respond to them. We can decide what our verse, our book or our film will be and although we may not be able to choose our ending, we can decide on whether or not it is happy.

You are writing your life story now, choose your own adventure and seize the day!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

One More Dawn , One Year On.........

A year ago, following the encouragement of a dear friend, I started writing a blog. It was to be a way of writing down my thoughts and musings on various themes and topics and also a way to share some of the experiences I had throughout the year. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it, but I hoped it would help to improve my writing and give my thoughts a means to express themselves. Now approaching 8000 hits, it seems that my little blog has caught more than just the interest of a few close friends (even if the biggest search on it seems to be for pictures of Alfie Boe and his wife Sarah!) and I am thankful for the encouragement and support I’ve had to continue writing it.

As I look back over the past year I, like many others I know, can say it has truly been a rollercoaster of a ride. There have been many occasions of sadness and worry, both in my own life and in the lives of those dear to me. There have been some sad events experienced by members of my family this year; death, divorce, long term illness and redundancy being just some of them. I know of quite a few friends who will be starting the year facing difficult challenges in their lives and I’m sure we will all experience some difficulties in this New Year. However, hard as it may be, it is important to learn from these times and face the challenges head on, hoping that they will pass and leave us a stronger and better person. It’s also important to enjoy the happier times and enjoy each opportunity that comes our way. No day in our life will ever be the same and just as I said a year ago, each new dawn brings with it a new day and new opportunities and we should make the most of them. Come What May and Love It!

I have been very fortunate this past year to indulge in my passion for the arts and as I look back, I can count seeing six Shakespeare plays including Patrick Stewart in the Merchant of Venice, Dominic West in Othello, David Tennant in Much Ado About Nothing and my friend Dominic Tighe in Richard III and A Comedy of Errors.  I also attended the 447th birthday celebrations of William Shakespeare in his home town of Stratford on Avon with my nephew Bradley & introduced him to some of the Bard’s work.

I was thrilled to see two light operas; Ruddigore and the Mikado and two operas; Carmen and Fidelio. Three of these productions were performed by the brilliant Opera North and I was delighted to be given the opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at both Carmen and Ruddigore through  social media networking events organised by Leeds based Emma Bearman and also to write an article for her own blog Culture Vultures. The insight I gained from these events gave me a deeper appreciation of all the work involved in putting on a production and the arts as a whole.  Seeing Fidelio, the only opera ever written by my favourite composer Beethoven was one of the hi-lights of my year and although I had been worried that the performance wouldn’t live up to my anticipation, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I was also fortunate to see Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Missa Solemnis performed by the wonderful Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra at the beautiful Lichfield Cathedral. My other musical highlights of the year were The Classic Brit Awards, 25th Anniversary Concert for Phantom of the Opera, A Night with the Phantom (Ramin Karimloo) and also seeing old friends Blake and Thomas Spencer Wortley in concert.  When I see the events listed like this, I realise just how many great opportunities I have had and how lucky I am to have seen them all.

I met some wonderful people in 2011 including some of my favourite West End Stars such as John Owen-Jones, Ramin Karimloo, Hadley Fraser and David Tennant. I have also made some great friends along the way through social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook and as ever, my friends and family are my most treasured blessings. Their unwavering support throughout the year has been a great source of strength to me and I hope that in my own way I have helped them in their own times of difficulties.

I know that things won’t always be easy but I hope that we can all endure the trials we have to face and be there to support others as they face them. My new year’s resolution is to be a better friend and better person; to tell my friends how much I love them and look for ways to make new friends from strangers. One of the books I read this year was The Seventeen Second Miracle by Jason F Wright. It talks about looking for opportunities in your daily life to serve and help others and by doing so change your life and the lives of those you serve in just a few seconds.

As I look ahead to this New Year, I have many hopes for my own future and for my friends. I don’t know if they will come to pass but I look with a renewed determination to do all that I can to make the most of every opportunity, to seize the day and make each day one to remember. A New Year brings with it, new beginnings, new hopes and new opportunities and it is up to us what we do with them.

Tonight’s the night, the world begins again

Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store; one more dawn, one more day, one day more!

Happy New Year!!