On the Couch with Graeme Macfarlane

Graeme Macfarlane Arts Review On the CouchWho is Graeme Macfarlane?
I am a human ‘being’. That is being a father, a singer, a friend and so much more. I am so many things and many more at once. I am a boy from suburbia who won a singing competition and took paths in life he never expected. I am someone who is passionate and committed to my projects and plans. I feel defined by choosing how to live my life. I’m often a risk taker (no bungee jumping as yet, but you never know). My mum always said life is what you make it and I think she was right!

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I really enjoy where I find myself now. I am also open to exploring new things. Every experience I have seems to have value. For me it is not so much about doing things differently but more about embracing new experiences as they come along. Even the challenging ones. Fortunately, I always have the freedom to choose how I experience them.

Who inspires you and why?
It’s the everyday unsung heroes. Recently, I had a fall and cut my leg in the process. It has needed to be dressed every third day by a nurse. The nurse has spent considerable time and loving effort in cleaning and redressing the wound. Miraculously my leg is healing quicker than expected. I know this may not seem like such a heroic act, but I see it as part of all the many miracles in a day. In reality she is simply doing her job. She is always incredibly busy when I’m there as she deals with crying babies and enquiring doctors etc. What stands out for me is her healing intention and the way she fully identifies and connects with her patients. I feel valued in that. It inspires me to pass it on. It’s the inspiration of unsung heroes as they go about their work and express empathy in all its many forms.

What would you do to make a difference in the world? 
I do believe in the power of one! In order to make a difference, I firstly need to accept myself and others. For me, making a difference is mostly about meaningful contact. I find I am able to do this in many simple ways. For example, I love taking the dog down to visit my father in the nursing home. The great thing about dogs is that they give you unconditional love. I can see my father’s spirit lift when the dog comes in. Not only does the dog cheer my father but also many of the other elderly people, he wags his tail at. So thanks Oscar, you also help to make a difference in the world.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
Maybe I haven’t discovered my favourite holiday destination as yet. I am planning to do more travelling soon. I would like to walk the Camino Di Santiago with a friend. I imagine there would be something uplifting about walking and completing this ancient Spanish pilgrimage.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why? 
Well, if they haven’t been to the Opera House I would naturally take them. It is a very special building. I often look out my dressing room window and think – wow!  Where would you find a better location for an opera house!

What are you currently reading?
I have recently finished reading A Bird on My Shoulder by Lucy Palmer. It is a very beautifully written memoir. It is an honest and thoughtful account of finding meaning where none seemed to be.

What are you currently listening to?
I recently put on a DVD of Lang Lang (pianist) playing at Carnegie hall. He is incredible to watch as well as to listen to.  As he plays, it appears like he is in a dream. I watch his eyes gently close as he goes into this euphoric state. As I’m observing and experiencing his passionate and heartfelt playing, I can hear myself saying – ‘I’ll have what he’s having’ – I feel a little like the woman in the diner from that very well-known movie.

Happiness is?
For me, happiness is basically a choice. It’s choosing to drop a fishing line over a salty river mouth. It’s feeling the dog try and snuggle in a little closer as I sit here writing. Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean that if something difficult comes along I deflect it. I own what is going on but at the same time I don’t allow myself to be a victim of the circumstance. It means I don’t need to tell myself I’ll be happy when my health improves, I win the lottery, buy a new house or get a good job, etc. If I’m here right now, then all my needs have been met otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I can celebrate that moment. I’m still breathing! I imagine that to love and be loved is the essence of happiness. It’s true that in order to know happiness I need experience sadness. It provides the context. Interestingly, my sadness (especially around loss) can sometimes remind me of how much I have loved.

What does the future hold for you?
What the future holds for me seems to be very much related to whatever I’m doing now. A project that I’m really enjoying at the moment is renovating my dad’s old house. My creative ideas are overflowing. I’m making the most of it and expect to see something new and fresh at the end. As I take on these new projects I can see that the future brings with it more opportunity for me to express me. That sounds endlessly exciting!

Graeme can currently be seen in Opera Australia’s productions of La Boheme (until 24 March), and Tosca (until 31 March), and the upcoming productions of Parsifal (9 – 14 August), Madama Butterfly (24 October – 4 November), and The Merry Widow (15 – 25 November). For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.

Image: Graeme Macfarlane