Saturday, 9 March 2013

A Special Birthday

Some birthdays are special.  The number itself need not be all defining, what’s important is that some occasions mark a turning point, a ‘coming of age’, a reminder that it isn’t the “years in your life” but the “life in your years” that count.

I’ve recently had such a birthday.  And I’m happy to say I felt content to reflect that, with respect to my life, that’s very much been the case.

I may not have achieved (yet) everything I would like.   But if I had wouldn’t I be dead?

I may not always feel I’m where I most want to be (even should be).  But doesn’t it keep you young to hunger after the next goal?

Whatever I may be lacking… my life has been rich with curiosity, learning, adventure, travel, friendship, love, talent, challenges, accomplishment, entertainment and self-development... and there seems little sign of that changing.  So my special birthday was a day to feel satisfied, to feel good to be alive.

Of course I’d like to take ten years off; while still knowing what I know now.  Most of the time I think, speak and behave as if I really am ten years younger than my damned birth-certificate attests.  And most of the time people believe it to be true.  But actually that’s how I felt at the last significant birthday, so no doubt I’ll still feel that way when I’m 100.  

The point is that age means very different things to different people, and I have never been defined or limited by it and I have no intention of letting that change.  I only need think about my mother who is more healthy, independent and vibrant than most of the people in her decade.   I know it’s her attitude to life, as well as good health and personal strength, which allow her to thrive as she does, despite the endurance of difficulties and heartaches, and I thank God for her example (and genes).   

In the end it comes down to being open and happy.  If you wake up every morning with a default to be happy and interested, to thank God, Fate or Mother Nature (or whomever or whatever you believe in) then even after unhappy or horrible chapters, challenges and disappointments, you will find your way back to that place.  Life is a gift - too brutally torn from many too early - so ultimately it’s churlish not to take the time to remind ourselves of this fact and to re-appraise, re-focus and re-celebrate all there is in our lives to celebrate. 

I’ve decided the whole of 2013 is a year to re-affirm my love of life, and happily I have the excuse/plan to meet friends in different places around the world this year to celebrate my special birthday on an ongoing basis.  It’s a good way, I figure, to avoid getting hung up on the ‘number’ going up…

As I said to my little sister on the eve of my birthday, having just had my hair done so waves of red were sparkling in the light, “I may not have a lot of money at the moment… I may be (essentially) single… but I’m talented and hot.  So all good really.”  

Well, seriously, if you can’t have everything… which one does have to remind oneself sometimes… then, seriously, would you rather be rich and not hot?! 

Riches, or preferably an artistic comeback, could come in time…

But if you date, and hang out with, the wide range of people I do, then keeping yourself fit and well-tuned is important.  And anyway, an essential part of being an artist or performer is about striving to be your best.

So, I started my special day chatting to my beloved mother in Australia and listening to my beautiful five year old niece, Frankie Jean, and her brother Harry, giggling and singing Happy Birthday on the telephone.  As FJ and I share our birthday and a wealth of important moments, this was deeply touching.  Next I had coffee and cheeky cake with my agent and friend, Tim, in a Jamie Oliver cafe.  “I feel conscious you’re in a new country and away from your family today” he said, “and I’m sorry we can’t go out to dinner… but you’re on stage tonight, which is where you belong, you were born to perform”.  Lovely.  Very happy with that. 

I then rehearsed most of the day, with only one friend in the cast knowing it was my birthday.  Adam also took me out for tea and presents before we started work which was unexpected and gorgeous.  Then my friend Jane sent a bottle of Moët & Chandon backstage thirty minutes before curtain, so I ‘fessed up’ to the rest of the cast:  “no, I am not a diva, don’t be jealous, it’s my birthday!”    

I then forgot about it until we took our final bows and my friends in the audience started to whistle.  I moved out of the dressing room as quickly as possible and arrived in the bar to find a dozen friends (who’d all somehow found each other in the crowd, irrespective of the fact that some of them had never met) and I was surrounded by hugs, laughter, flowers, presents and champagne.  I felt loved and encouraged – like I was in the right place at the right time, however much I may not have expected that to be a fringe theatre in London.

I was on a high so we partied long and hard that night.  I came home to messages, cards and some delightful surprise deliveries; the flowering lilies and roses have my apartment still smelling like a florist.  I then went away for a weekend with the girls where we laughed and told silly stories and laughed again.  I had the most romantic 'first time' story... and the most envy provoking 'younger lover' story... but not, as it happens, the most scandalous stories.  (But hush, what goes on tour stays on tour!)     
I also have quite a few 'birthday dinners' and 'weekends away' still in the diary, to celebrate with different people in the UK, before catching up with other mates in the spring and summer for further adventures.  Just some of those destinations include, Shropshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, France, Ireland, Spain, Italy (of course) and, hopefully, New York or some other mid-globe, exotic location which is neither too far from Australia or London!

The plan is simply to keep the positive momentum going, professionally and personally.  This is the year I will get some projects close to my heart advanced.  It will be the year, I hope, that quite a few threads I’m working on will come together.  It is a chapter to be embraced, for one thing experience and maturity gives you is the right to be liberated from the things which don’t enhance your life. 

Years ago an acting colleague told me Ann-Margret once said to him: "a woman should wear her experience around her neck like a string of pearls”.  Ok, I’m not a twin-set-and-pearls gal in the literal sense, my style is too ebullient, but I like the principal.  I have a most beautiful cousin, inside and out, and if anyone I’ve met exhibits that kind of elegance, it’s her.  She has enough grace to be a Princess or First Lady.  Right now she is fighting a serious battle for her health, and I pray her quiet strength and integrity will carry her through unscathed. 

For none of us know what’s around the corner.  So young or old, single or married, rich or poor, we must use and develop what we have, and be responsive and generous around the opportunities, kindness and love we meet on the way.  

For one thing age has taught me is that life is not a dress rehearsal.  And if you want "life in your years" you cannot tip-toe around the edges.  You have to grab it with both hands and all the passion, honesty and resilience you can muster.

As for my birthday, friends, loved ones, wherever you are in the world, grazie e tanti auguri!