I recently came across an article about Keith Fleming where he set out the 10 things that had changed his life. It had me wondering what my own ten things would be.
Now I’m sure there are many more than ten things that have altered my life so this is really a highlights list (in true Oscar’s style there are many people, places and things that haven’t made the list that I am hugely grateful for). Anyway, without further ado, here they are!
1. My heart operation when I was 5.
I had a hole in my heart between the ventricles repaired and was able to live a much more normal life than the one I’d had before. I am so grateful to the doctors, nurses and surgeons who took such amazing care of me as well as the additional grandparents I gathered on the cardiology ward!
Learning to read opened up my world when I was a child, especially as I was not able to be as active as other children. Inside a book I could be and do whatever I wanted.
3. Creative Writing
I loved to write stories as a child and had a whole world filled with winged horses that I used to venture into whenever I wanted.
I took books on tape into hospital with my prized cassette recorder. Watership Down kept me company when I was recovering in hospital and remains one of my favourite books. Peter Capaldi recently did a great recording of it that my son adored.
5. Miss Pattison and Edith Henstead
My childhood drama and acting teachers, both very different in personality! Edith was my first teacher and was very effusive and encouraging, though sometimes bewildered by my sometimes macabre choices of prose - (1984 rat scene…) I was always a bit intimidated by Miss Patt and she was slow to give praise but, oh, how I knew I had earned it! One of my favourite pieces of praise was when her other students met me and said, “Are you the one who gave her goosebumps?” Knowing I had that effect on her was wonderful. I can still hear her voice in my head now when I am swallowing words or missing the shaping consonants - she really was a stickler and did me a huge favour by being so.
6. The Priory Theatre, Kenilworth
This was my local amateur theatre and I spent many, many happy hours there working behind the scenes, talking to people over drinks, rehearsing and performing. That was where I really first came to perform and had a wonderful year where I played Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Jane Eyre, while studying for A-Levels. We also did a really fun production of “And So to Bed” in the grounds of Warwick Castle, quite a feat to compete with the peacocks!
I came to yoga when I was first working in the City. The time I spent connecting with my body, breathing and learning to be at some kind of peace with myself was a saviour to me. I still practice yoga now. And now I have, mostly, stopped comparing myself and my ability to get into postures, while instead remaining curious about and grateful for the wonderful body I have been given to inhabit.
8. My Family
My husband and my children gave me the impetus, the stability and the support to pursue my dream of being an actor, leaving behind my financial career and embarking on a wild adventure. It is a huge privilege to share my life with them and watch their lives unfold around me.
I began meditating when I left drama school. I was utterly bewildered and didn’t know what to do next, so I tried doing nothing. At the end of meditating I would then do what I wanted to do in that moment and it has led me to where I am now. I have now been meditating for nearly 8 years and see the mindfulness I practice then seeping into other areas of my life. It helps me to focus when I’m narrating. It helps me keep my (sometimes explosive) temper in check when I feel under pressure and it guides me to understand who I am and what I want to do.
This year, during the pandemic, I have been particularly aware of how lucky I am to have a life at all, to have the chance to learn what I love, to spend time with friends and family, to have people who love me, to have people I love. I am grateful for every second of it, however challenging, and adore being part of this eternal dance.
Do you have a list of ten things, I would love to hear them.