From when I was born, the desire to dance was instilled in me by my Father.
I have watched him joyfully bounce each new baby on his knee since my youngest sister was born (15 years my junior), reciting the Tarentella and the ‘tillie ti, a tillie ti, a tillie ti, a tillie tee’ jostling and juggling the little grandchild like a bemused, dribbling, rag doll upon his knee. The bambollina was often a bundle of joy, laughing and hiccupping – then also a prisoner, shackled by two large, worn, scratchy hands, keen to be free of the relentless jiggling, high pitched banter and the stench of Carlton Draught.
I can only liken it to a theme park ride that you thought you would enjoy, though once you were on it you were not able to get off until it stopped. In the meantime you suffered dreadfully as you were thrown up and down, uncontrollably, your stomach lurching and your breath stuck in your gullet and screaming was the only relief.
The birth of a new grandchild saw each have their turn of the ‘tillie, tillie’ and then after about one year, there was no more ‘ti’. It all ended because once the baby was able to walk, running was the natural progression and they were much harder to pin down.
In this way the performing arts was introduced into our family from birth.
I was the quiet one, though performance was where I found my voice.
(Though I warn you quando mi venonu i cinque minuti– o mi unchinu i scattelli– watch out! ) (To reach the end of my tether).
Gathering with cousins on special occasions, the adults sat on chairs propped against the wall around the room. The centre piece was the black and white television turned “ON”. I never understood why as soon as there were visitors, we would turn “ON” the television, not “OFF”, and sat around it watching the images, while everyone competed with the audio and each other. I was able to decipher the plot because I became attuned to body language and the art of mime, however frustrated with the inability to fully tune into the program. So us kids created our own play.
The children would gather in another room. Here we set up a stage on the hearth of the heater, the slightly raised platform established the stage, or against the window where the curtains framed the performance area and we would open and close them to pronounce each act. At this young age of about 10, I would facilitate the acts. Each of us had to come up with a dance, or a song and get up in front of our cousins, exhibiting our talents. There was the introducer who would announce each act. We all took our turn and no one seemed to have performance anxiety or suffer stage fright. It was as if it was in our nature to perform.
It’s no surprise then that my major at University was drama, followed by theatre and media. I studied acting because I wanted to be an actress. Though I found myself producing and directing. I seemed to be able to bring a number of elements together to create performances for a paying audience. Not only was I able to audition and direct actors, design sets and find relevant technical support, I was an all rounder, taking care of marketing, front of house and catering single-handedly. For all the efforts of our family gatherings, I intuitively developed these skills with training and experience that have transcended and served each career move.
In my current role as a local government multicultural officer, I develop social concepts, ideas and gather multiple skill sets that bring people together in mutually beneficial experiences that enable positive social cohesion.
With a fresh 2020 – it’s been a rewarding 2019. It’s taken me 20 years to realise that I am not mental and I do not have an illness.
How can one nervous breakdown stop you from realising your true potential? For 20 years!
It was the turn of the millennia that switched my brain to psycho mode. I felt deficient, nervous, uncertain and this constant grating fear. The physical analogy is that it felt like having an itch, an unrelenting rash all over your skin. If you have ever contracted scabies, you’ll know what I mean.
The lesson is not to lie with the unfleeced.
You are not able to see what is under the fibres, deep at the root.
Therefore you find yourself inflicted.
Your sight deterred,
your neurons tainted by a pathway that loops.
How then to undo?
It’s taken me a while to find my health, within which there have been many moments of well – being and joy. I have to admit now that I have no mental illness and instead live with the gratitude of knowing that we are all a little bit mental. Being mental is generally normal. So to get out of my head I need to get into my body. With this knowledge then it’s time to dance!
Here then lies the symbolism of 2020, having the perfect vision for the year ahead.