There is nothing quite so sobering as the thought that everything you think you have worked for is attached by the most fragile of threads and can disappear in the blink of an eye. Prior to the Coronacoaster, I had become so aware of the futility of slogging at an education system which I no longer believe has the right principles, for a life that I don’t especially relish, so that I can buy useless things that I’m not sure I even like.
After a great deal of suffering loss, feeling the burn-out from teaching, an existential crisis brought on by my Mother’s death from dementia, deep soul searching, self-work, and relentless happiness seeking (incidentally, not to be found on dating apps – hilarity, yes, happiness, no!) – I had decided that life is too short to be living anything less than the one of which I am capable. There were seemingly no road-blocks, only my own thoughts and fears. Then came a shockingly timed loss of my job, along with financial insecurity, and a global pandemic. That’s a motorway pile-up, if ever there was one. No time to wallow…the show must go on! Time to put into action all the lessons I have learned to thrive in the heart of happiness, even amongst the chaos which surrounds us. I had this nagging thought – ‘Nothing shall come of nothing’ so I’d better do something!
My passion has for thirty years been at the heart of teaching, but education, along with health and economics…well, they are no longer the bedrock of a stable world, are they? Disillusioned with tired same old same old and no sight of my longed-for utopia, I turned to my real love – reading and Shakespeare. His take on love, sex, parenting, race, patriarchy, authority, foolish kings, insane politicians and wise children are mesmeric and I soon absorbed the parallels between his experience and ours: surviving a rat-borne-not-bat-borne plague, furiously writing King Lear during his lockdown, shutting down the world as it is/was known, yet the show still having to go on.
I have out-life spanned, by seven years, the great playwright and poet. I have accrued more than a smidgen of wisdom, so these life lessons, from a Ba(r)d-Ass teacher – revitalised and rejuvenated – are worth a read. They will certainly shed a light on your own performance. The great Bard’s plethora of works, both preceding and following King Lear, are full of observations and golden nuggets of advice on ‘How best to live out a good life on this stage’ – it is after all, widely agreed that “all the men and women are merely players…” As a naïve theatre studies student some forty years ago, I took this at its simplest inference, thinking that we thespians are as magnetically drawn to the theatricality on stage as we are to the dramas of life off. But the crux of Shakespeare’s intent was so much deeper.
We should wake up to life, to who we are, to realise that we are director, producer, playwright, we are even the stage on which our roles are performed. We are everything which precedes and follows the act and as such, we have complete authority to script our contentment.
The fourteen chapters of “The Will to Surthrive” use Shakespeare quotes as titles and the lessons we can learn from them, illustrated with some hilarious anecdotes and self-deprecating humour, are underpinned by a lifetime in education, positive psychology, expert certificated mental health awareness, and an informed passion for the theatre and Will.
As this book immortalises in words the condition of my mind, and the tragi-comedies that I have staged, then it is vital to say that in sooth, I know exactly why I have been so sad; as a direct result of the coronavirus and of the events leading up to the lockdown, I have a better understanding of what is truly important to me and so am at peace. My family may be right when they worry that this is the eye of the storm; they have been before. But forced to delve underneath all of the external trappings – all of those things that I believed made me ‘me’ makes for an entertaining and helpful read.
I might just be at the source of true happiness. Now if that is not a reason for reading – and taking a leaf out of – my book, I do not know what is. I hope my journey becomes your guide!