60 Laps – 60 lessons

So, as I write this, my 60th birthday is just over a week away. To mark the event I have spent some time thinking about what 60 laps around the sun has taught me. 

What you see below is a collection of anecdotes & wisdom that I am pleased to pass onto you. 

I have done the most dangerous thing of putting names to some of the points. Please don’t be offended if you read them and think that your name should on this one or that one; truth is, I just kind of went with what popped into my head. It is also true that many of the people I’ve mentioned could have been in more than one category. 

So here is a brief run through some of the things that 60 laps around the sun has taught me. Feel free to tell me what your favourite is, or feel free to write one or two of your own pieces of wisdom.

  1. My brothers and sisters are part of my DNA and I theirs. I have no adequate words to describe my depth of love, admiration and just plain thanks for their positive presence in my life. From driving all over Victoria with my brother George, with one music cassette (Glenn Campbell), to delivering bread with my brother James, Neil Diamond blasting away from the van at 5 in the morning, to the seemingly endless musical education and encouragement from Pat; not forgetting my two beautiful sisters Annie & Helen who have cared for me as only a big sister could. Special mentions to the in-laws; Moz, Janet, Fran, Angela & the late John. Each one special and appreciated in their own way. 
  2. My mum and dad have a tremendous legacy that continues to grow to this day. I didn’t really get a hold on what it cost them to leave Scotland for a new life in Australia, until I made the journey to Scotland myself in 2011. The realisation as it dawned on me had some weight and brought to bear a new found humility derived from what I had inherited. 
  3. Walking through the airport gate in Edinburgh remains one of the most significant moments of my life. Waiting for me on the other side was a collection of Aunts and Cousins many of whom I had heard about all my life but not yet met. Every meal included a “welcome home” toast. Even though we had hardly communicated with each other over the course of our lives to date, the bond was palpable. What points 1 – 3 have taught me? Family is valuable and a thing to be cherished, worth working on, worth repairing. 
  4. I’ve learned to spot people that I can’t rely on, from being burned by people that I thought I could rely on.
  5. Credibility is a powerful currency to trade with
  6. The Catholic Church May never recover from its current crisis of credibility
  7. Courage comes in many forms and is always inspiring when you notice it: nods to Helena and Jay, Dave & Leigh, Terry and Andrea, my nephew Pat and his wife Clare, Annie Mac, my brother Pat and his wife Janet, and of course, the irrepressible Stevie Wills.
  8. Musical soulmates are possibly the best kind of soulmates. Nods to Mark Rombout, Sarah Jonno, Dale Powers, Rod Wilson, Rose Sexton, Rachel Hook.
  9. Not having grown up knowing my cousins, I have spent the last 15 years revelling in the new found relationship. Blood has crossed thousands of miles but it remains an intact and vital connection 
  10. There are friends that you don’t get to spend as much time with as you would like, but when you cross paths again, the friendship remains deep, strong and undiminished by distance and time; nods to Maria and Jean, Dave and Brenda, Deb and Harold, Andy and Kath, Rob and Cheryl, John and Kaz, Angie & Andrew, Jo P, . There are many more. The good yardstick for this is to make a list of people that you don’t see that often, that you would like to have a meal with and that you would be sorry when that meal was over.
  11. My wife is an amazing human being on so many levels. She is kind, generous, intelligent, driven, a mother of great sacrifice who fiercely loves her clan. 
  12. Health is not to be taken for granted. Parkinson’s Sucks
  13. There are people who treat ill health as a road block, and others who use it as a stepping stone. No greater example of this than the late Jim Stallard. He became a quadriplegic late in life and used his “setback” to become a powerful advocate for some of the poorest people on the planet. 
  14. Mainstream religion is all but lost on me.
  15. Not all Catholic priests are paedophiles. I know many priests. I have known some who crossed that terrible line and deserve everything that’s coming their way in this life and the next. I also know many many more who are good kind gentle people who genuinely serve their people as only true pastors can. Lesson; stereotypes can be very dangerous. Nods to Wayne, credibility and honour intact.
  16. There are extraordinary people that you come across in life who don’t fit into any particular category, but leave an indelible mark on you. You just want to be around them. I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors/friends/colleagues who fit this bill; Fr Wally Sylvester, Phil Lawson, Barry Moran, Pat Jackson, David Atkins, RVC Elders, Greg Eva and of course, Andy & Jo. 
  17. All Things Mollica; my wife is one of 6 siblings, all female (she is also a twin). I love my extended clan. The rare occasions that we get to spend together are precious. Each one of the Mollica girls are kind and generous to a fault, and have (amongst other things) devoted their lives to raising beautiful families. A special mention here to my brothers by law. They are special men of the highest order.   
  18. I used to think of myself as funny…. UNTIL, I spent time with my cousins especially George & John. 
  19. I have been the recipient of many acts of generosity over the course of my 60 years. This has taken many forms and each time it is a humbling thing. In fact, I don’t think I would be where I am now were it not for the generosity of many people. It has taught me if nothing else, that human nature is intrinsically kind, and it has programmed me to continually look for ways to pay it forward. 
  20. Trauma is inescapable. Trauma is seasonal. You’ve got to learn to ride the waves. 
  21. My Kids are soaringly beautiful humans. I have loved being their dad as they grew; I love being their friend as an adult. I love seeing them with their partners. I love watching them live out their values. And whilst there’s no denying that Bernie & I have had an influence on them, I love watching them own and develop their own unique takes on what they believe to be important in life. 
  22. We have a very musical clan down both the Mollica and McIvor sides. Some have made a famous living out of it; all the muso’s in the clan are so good at what they do. I still love watching/hearing them make music. In my 60 laps around the sun, it’s difficult to express what my own music as well as the music of my clan has done to make me who I am.
  23. Not long after mum died, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews as well as Bernie and my own children, gathered in my lounge room to record a song that I had written about the journey undertaken by my parents. It was a day filled with laughter, emotion, deep love and of course, music. It was a sacred day.
  24. For 13 years Bernie and I lived and worked in a small Christian community. Talk about a place to learn some critical life lessons!!! Other like minded people would volunteer to come and live there for 2 years at a time (some longer, some shorter). I often think of all of the people who did that journey with us. I am still in contact with some of them. (I’m exchanging text messages with one of them as I type this; you know who you are!!) This lifestyle revealed the flaws and strengths in my character like nothing else ever has. When I think of the people who came to live with us, no matter what transpired and no matter how well or how badly it ended, my primary thought each time I think of them is “heroes all”.
  25. There’s nothing like being a musician, releasing a music C.D., and having boxes of unsold CD’s sitting around the house to keep you humble. Two years ago I expanded the humility parameters by writing a book; so I now have boxes of unsold CD’s accompanied by boxes of unsold books. The life lesson from this is to remind me that fame & money aren’t the reasons why I do it, and that every time I think of giving it up, someone else steps onto my path to cheer me on. 
  26. Holding a grudge is hard work. Life is too short for crap like that. (Holding a grudge is like swallowing poison and hoping that the other person suffers.)
  27. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon. I’m grateful for when I’ve been the recipient of peoples forgiveness (see note 24 on living in community), and I am also grateful for the times I have been able to offer such forgiveness.
  28. I am the by product of the patience of many people. My wife & children for starters…
  29. 25 years old is too young to say goodbye to your father. 
  30. Saying goodbye to your mum at any age is a painful thing
  31. Love is the price you pay when someone dies. 
  32. Choosing a musical path that took me down the Gospel music road was not what you would call a good career move.
  33. The Gospel music path chose me
  34. I love the musical journey that my life has taken me on. 
  35. I have a love hate relationship with Christmas Carols. I’d happily play each year; would love for someone else to organise them though.
  36. I have a love hate relationship with large trucks. They’ve put a lot of food on the table but dang, it’s a lot of hard, long, lonely work. 
  37. The industry stereotype of Roadies is by & large a fallacy. The entertainment industry is lots of hard work. My colleagues in this industry are for the most part hard working professionals who are very good at what they do. Many of them are devoted family people who try to make their chosen profession work whilst keeping a family going. 
  38. I still make my wife laugh, one of my greatest achievements
  39. Hearing my wife sing harmonies as she drives along still brings me immense joy
  40. I am grateful to all the people who have believed in me enough to pay me to do stuff. Nods to Geoff & Jenny Knight, Mary Miles, CBM Australia 
  41. It’s difficult at 60 years old to look back & believe how much prominence I (we) gave to Year 12 scores. That season has had little impact on the path that I have taken. A valuable time for sure, but transient at best. 
  42. Next year Bernie and will have been married for 40 years. How wonderful it has been and still is. People sometimes say “marriage is just a piece of paper”; we are living proof that this sells the idea of marriage way short of what it could (dare I say should) be. I am proud that we have navigated the minefield of the last 40 years to be a strongly connected as we are. Heck, it’s 3.40 in the afternoon, I’ve been away for two days and all I can think of right now is “Bernie will be home soon”. What blessing
  43. My sister Helen has a most exquisite dining table in her house. More of a work of art than a table. Without revealing family secrets, let’s just say it was quite expensive. I must admit, I was a little sceptical when she first told me about it. When she explained the “why” I was genuinely moved by her “investment”. It wasn’t an investment for financial gain or for the sake of extravagance; it was however an investment in gathering. We’ve had many meals around this table. (See lesson 44) It is a sacred space
  44. The night Angelo passed; Angelo was my father in Law, Bernies’ dad. The day that he passed away, amidst the sorrow & the tears, my sister Helen offered her house, and yes, her table, as a place where the Mollica girls could gather with their mum Gwen, and try to make sense of the events of the day. Helen prepared a meal, lit some candles, and opened her home up to us. I won’t ever forget that night, and the simple meal that we shared around that dining table, and the grace with which my sister welcomed us in to her house. 
  45. Seeing someone take their final breath is a truly sacred and humbling thing. I watched my father breathe his last, I watched Angelo (my father in Law) breathe his last. 
  46. Being asked to play music for someone’s passing is a great honour. I have played many funerals now; some of them were people that I knew, some were as a favour to a friend, even though I didn’t personally know the deceased. It’s odd because I’m usually quite an emotional person so playing music at a sad event is challenging on that level. 
  47. Recording my own music; what a privilege. I have released 5 albums to date. I’ve never really enjoyed commercial success but as an artist, you press on through that and do it because to not create would be a soul destroying path to venture down. One afternoon stands out. We were in the middle of recording a children’s album. An assortment of young people had gathered at Casa Pallotti (where we lived at the time) to spend the day recording with us. Andy Sorenson was there, Dave King and Phil Lawson, Paula Kinsella & Margaret Broderick were there. It was a wonderful day. Andy, (who was producing the album with me) thought that one particular song needed some older male voices to carry it rather than the voices of the children. So, at the end of a long day, the sun was going down, & Andy, Dave & myself were tracking the vocals to a song called “on this night”. At one point I can remember looking across at Dave and Andy and thinking what a special moment this was, singing with my great friend Dave and my musical peer Andy. There have been many such moments. I am grateful for each one of them
  48. Playing live music is a buzz. I’ve played in front of thousands, I’ve played for one person (my mum while she was recovering in hospital, Eddie Pye the day before he passed). I love it; I would like to do more of it.
  49. Loud people need a volume switch
  50. Aggressive people are a conundrum
  51. Discussion is a lost art form. It would be great if people could pursue discussions as a way to discover something not just as an argument that had to be won or lost. 
  52. Pursuing a friendship that’s in trouble can be of great worth or of great waste of time. The trick is to discern what the best response is; walk away or pursue? Hmmm 
  53. Churches that seek to control are their own kind of evil
  54. A friend once told me that “God gave us two ears and one mouth which means that we should do twice as much listening as we do talking”. 60 laps around the sun has taught me that listening is an art form/skill that takes practise and discipline. (Nods to Bruce Wood)
  55. Advice is a dangerous thing to give and receive. Your path is not necessarily my path and vice versa. This is not to say that all advice is good or bad; just that it should be given or received with great caution.
  56. Be very wary of people who use the phrase “God told me” to justify a world view or position. Very wary.
  57. I’ve been privileged to write songs for specific people caught in specific circumstances. Usually, only the subject of the song will get to hear it. I love encouraging people in this way. You get to meditate and consider their specific situation before you commit it to music and lyrics. Maybe one day I’ll release them. It has taught me that there is great value in taking the time to consider the circumstances of another. (Even if you don’t get to write a song about it)
  58. Standing with your church family and surrendering yourself to worship God with them is just about the best thing in the whole world. The good book tells us that God inhabits the praises of his people. I reckon there’s something therapeutic that happens in the transfer when you enter fully into that place. Yes, that’s my life lesson with this one; that worship, real worship is efficacious for the human spirit. 
  59. Speaking of therapeutic value; our dog Jackie is pushing 20 years old. We bought her when our daughter was in the early days of struggling with some stuff. Jackie used to sleep on the end of Sarahs bed, keeping her company and helping to keep the darkness at bay. A pet is a  wonderful member of your family. Her contribution can’t really be measured. (She must know that I am writing about her as she has just sauntered up for a pat)
  60. I have learned to be grateful for my life and my days. Not every day pans out how I would like it. I have had many days of utter darkness mixed in with the light. Each one of them has something to teach me if I have the ears to hear. I am grateful for my faith, for my strengths, for my struggles, for the people around me, for the people that I have loved and lost, for the people I get to make music with, for the pioneering spirit of my parents and for the simple gift of each day. I wish I could do more to make the world a better place; one can only do so much though hey?