This week I wasn’t sure what to write about. I could have gone for something heavy but instead I am going to keep it light this week. The start of the week really was a case of pathetic fallacy for me and probably so many others in Ireland. We were drowned from endless rain and winds that seemed like they would blow the house down much like the wolf in the 3 little pigs. It was dismal outside and reflected exactly how I was feeling about the leaking of 9 more weeks of lockdown. Having watched Micháel Martin on the 6 O clock news this week I was deflated sitting on the couch as he confirmed that we are indeed not going or doing anything until at least April 5th. The speech was long overdue to a nation completely and utterly fatigued from restrictions particularly as this weekend marks one year since the first case of covid was confirmed in the Republic. However, as the week went on, and indeed this morning, some brighter skies have found their way here. The difference it makes to see some sunshine is keeping me going these days. Not only does it keep us encouraged to get out and keep walking but it just makes it easier to be in this state of limbo.
The fake nails have become a fixture for me the last 2 weeks. Again, something so small is giving me a little lift. I’ll be the first to admit that working from home everyday has led to me getting stuck in a bit of a rut. I looked in my wardrobe recently and had actually forgotten half the clothes I owned. Normally, I would be picking out bits and pieces to wear to the office but since that has stopped I have been in rotation with the same leggings, hoodies and the occasional pair of jeans! Putting on make up, fake nails and a pair of heels every now and then reminds me of a time when we had the luxury of going for dinner in a restaurant, meeting friends or imagine even going for a dance. Seems like another life right about now. This period of restrictions or lockdown 3.0 as these lockdowns have become known has seen the biggest impact on the mental health of so many people and despite the reminders that there is help out there for people you just have to wonder is it going to cut it? Are those supports enough?
This week was one where I struggled a bit with concentration. I walked a lot.. Normally I would probably walk 5 out of the 7 days but this week was every day. The brighter evenings have given me a glimmer of hope of a different time but overall I have to admit I am struggling with remaining positive. It is difficult to remain patient with everything, the vaccine roll out seems to be crawling but I obviously understand there are going to be issues with supply and demand. I am frustrated with the government in terms of travel laws with new variants and the every day person here abiding to restrictions while their own mental health diminishes is just not good enough in my eyes. I was speaking with a friend during the week and we both described how we feel like life is just on hold and that in 2022 we’ll look back and wonder where the last 2 years went and what we did. It is becoming increasingly difficult to have faith in the authorities when there are rumours of leaks of a further 9 week lockdown. It is ridiculous. I don’t see people abiding by it if I am honest.
Anyway, on another note this week I began a poetry writing workshop run by Cork County Council. The poet who is running it is Matthew Geden and there are 15 of us in the course. I have to admit this is something which is very far outside of my comfort zone. I shy away from writing situations where by work is openly critiqued in front of you despite me knowing it will be good for me as a writer. Nonetheless I read something out over Zoom. I think that made it a bit easier actually, I just looked down at the paper and read it having the comfort of knowing I was the only one physically in the room. There are a further 9 weeks, every Friday evening so I am curious as to how I will find it as the weeks go on. It was a bit intimidating listening to others speak so confidently and articulate their thoughts so well. They seemed like seasoned professionals while I floundered like the newbie that I am in this setting! Either way, I was very proud of myself for reading out a piece that had been written in 10 minutes. By no means a masterpiece but a memory on paper for sure!
I am sitting on my bed listening to Today FM, looking at the combo of white roses and pink tulips I got this morning and watching the rain relentlessly fall! Yes, Valentines Day is here and I am looking forward to a day of very little. It will involve spending the morning working on my writing, the afternoon watching the rugby and seeing my Mom and dinner probably followed by 2 episodes of my new obsession of Drive to Survive – the Formula 1 show on Netfllix.
This week I wanted to do a piece on taking a chance every now and then. Sometimes we can be afraid to put ourselves out there. The fear of rejection particularly when you are trying to break into media and have your voice heard can be daunting. After all, you are just one in many many aspiring writers who is trying to get noticed. There have been a few times in the past when I have gotten to the door of media companies, knocked, gotten an answer but never quite got my foot in the door. It is very frustrating because as cheesy as it sounds media has always been the industry I have constantly gone back to. I don’t know what it is about it but I just want to write and reach people. I love writing about my own experiences and when I find that someone has read the piece and I have managed to capture not just my experience but also theirs. That means something! It makes us realise that we can connect on a level we were afraid to before. Writing is my way of talking about the things that sometimes we are afraid to talk out loud about.
Every now and then my writing gets put on the back burner as I earn a living elsewhere but it continues to be what I always come back to. Constant rejection or lack of responses can make it easy to put the idea of writing on the shelf but I think sometimes you just have to keep going, look for your own opportunities to be heard. It only takes one person to read something you have written and like it, one person to pick up an article and think there could be something more there. Perhaps I am delusional and If I am so be it! But I would encourage everyone to take a chance this week because you never know where your luck is.
So as we get through another week in what has truly become what seems like a never ending cycle of monotony I decided I would try to make more of an effort to post more regularly on my website and try to improve the website itself. So at times these posts may be topic specific and other times it’s quite likely to be a brain dump of thoughts, emotions and anything else that my fingers type. Sometimes I don’t like to think too much but just let the fingers hit whatever keys they are drawn too.
The working week started ok on Monday. I am very lucky to be in a position that I still have my job and am working full time. That is something I am not taking for granted in the current climate. I would be misleading you though if the week was smooth sailing. As many know, I have always suffered with anxiety and I was very much triggered this week by the stories around the Cervical check. Health anxiety is undoubtedly one of the areas of anxiety where I really struggle and although I am aware of it, it can be very difficult to pre-empt when you are about to read, see or hear something which is going to trigger you. I had heard stories on the news on the hour every hour and the following day I read a story on Instagram. The only way to describe it is as if someone or something is punching you in the stomach making you want to vomit and remove the fear which is now lodged in your gut. You then freeze, you know something isn’t quite right, and no matter how many anxiety spirals or panic attacks you may have had it still takes a while to realise what is happening. For 2 hours I recounted symptoms, past test results, doctors visits and any other piece of information I could think of. That evening I collapsed onto my bed mentally and physically drained. I have begun taking medication to help ease my anxiety. It’s something I have avoided for a long time because I was very much afraid of what people thought and if it made me less of a “success” for not being able to manage it on my own despite many other methods I try to use to ease it. I gave in because I am tired. I am exhausted actually from constantly battling and putting out fires in my head. The first time I recall fear and anxiety was when I was 4 years old. I am now 32 and know that the levels of anxiety are unsustainable. I began to think can I have a better quality of life than this? I don’t want to constantly be living in fear. I don’t want it for myself or for my loved ones around me. I know how difficult it can be for the people around us to see people they care about struggling and unable to help so I decided enough. I am only 3 weeks in so at the moment I am still working on seeing what works for me. While I would prefer not to be on medication long term right now I am focusing on trying to get some relief. The struggles of the pandemic have exposed all of our vulnerabilities leaving nowhere to hide, no social environments, no usual routines to distract and complete lack of control over what is gong on around us. For now I try to only focus on the day I am in. I don’t always succeed but.. so be it! Until next week!
As the memorable year of 2020 comes to a close we find ourselves in that old familiar territory of a New Year. It is no surprise that for 2021 we are all hoping for a world more reminiscent of the normality we once knew. The overused phrase of the year “the new normal” is something we are all well accustomed to and while a vaccine brings hope and a bit of light at the end of what has been a very long dark tunnel, I do think that somethings have changed permanently. People have really looked at what it is they want this year and I think the pandemic has prompted us to change things that no longer work for us, to shed the skin we no longer need and move more towards our goals. Perhaps I am speaking out of turn there and should change the sentence to state the pandemic has prompted me. It has allowed me to evaluate where I am going and what I need to do in order to reach my own aspirations. I am still making decisions to hopefully move in that direction but I think getting to where I am now has been the biggest decision. I am nervous but fear can bring great rewards too and I try to remember how some of the best decisions I have made in the past have been the ones that scared me. With that in mind I wish everyone all the best for 2021 and hope I can see everyone who I have not been able to this year in the new one!
When we are young I think we all do what we can to fit in, to make friends and to be accepted. But as we get older and get to know ourselves more it’s important to recognise that what we once found as acceptable behaviour from peers, partners, parents, work colleagues and society in general no longer fits with what we believe in or what we feel we deserve. This is not unreasonable. As people grow and change we sometimes shed layers and while it can be sad and often hard to make those decisions often it is to our benefit.
Boundaries are different for everyone and often vary depending on the relationship you have with the individual(s) and they can be as gentle or extreme as you see fit. Will you ruffle feathers by doing this? Most likely you will but in the grand scheme of things if certain behaviour is impacting on you in a negative way I think the end justifies the means.
Setting boundaries is not something which comes naturally to a lot of us but it is something we can learn to implement. For me personally it took a long time to see when I needed to put these boundaries in place and when to recognise when I had had enough. To be clear, I am thinking about at least 2 different scenarios with very different outcomes but looking back, when I made those decisions and put those boundaries in place much better things came along. I think there is something in believing that when you start putting your own wellbeing as a priority good things follow. That’s not to say that implementing that decision is easy and that there won’t be some kind of backlash but we need to fight against the urge to give in. I have a tendency to try and be perfect and be all things to all people in my life and when I encounter a problem or situation whereby I find that I can’t fulfil that need or solve that problem it becomes very difficult for me to accept and in those circumstances having boundaries and accepting that is very tough. I have to remind myself though that we are not meant to cover all bases and that there will inevitably be times when you have to step back even if it pains you to your very core.
I would often find myself sick with migraines from stress and pressure of situations only to eventually realise, with the help of a counsellor, that I could relieve some of that pressure just by making different decisions. Easy in theory but after years of patterns being engrained on a daily basis it is not as easy as it seems. Even now I slip back from time to time, I absolutely do. Those times often act as reminders that perhaps I have let my guard down too much, that I have taken on too much or that I feel as though I am being taken advantage of. I would like to think I am better at recognising my limits now and know much more quickly when I need to take a step back no matter what the issue.
My message is, and often it won’t be the easy choice, but learn to spot red flags in people’s behaviour, note them and take them on board, monitor them and when you think no, this is enough, listen to that. It is not selfish to recognise that certain relationships have become overwhelming, aggressive, draining, nasty, unpleasant or whatever the emotion you feel it is. Just note that there are people with whom you will have great, healthy relationships with, ones that will from time to time need work and tweaking and others that unfortunately just don’t serve anything positive any more. Even in those cases it is not that the relationships have not got some fond memories or that they have not served a purpose or been a strong chapter in your life so you can still honour that. It does not mean that you dislike the person (or maybe you do) but just that there has been a shift and that for now you need to create some distance.
I don’t think there are many people who would have anticipated the full impact that Covid 19 would have on our lives. Earlier in the year when the pandemic struck China at first I tried to bury my head in the sand and ignore it, that moved to a gradual acceptance that this was a real problem but it still wasn’t necessarily on my doorstep so to an extent I still hoped that the whole thing would quietly go away but here we are 8 days into full lockdown and we are well and truly feeling the impact.
This experience is like no other I have seen in my lifetime. Sure, there have been other similar instances like foot and mouth, swine flu, SARS and so on but for me there is something very different about this situation. We are working from home, those of us who are lucky enough to still have jobs at this point, we are self isolating, crossing the road to avoid people as we try to find a safe space to walk with 2km of our homes, we are washing on our hands and sanitising until they are dry and raw, we are hopelessly flailing around like fish out of water desperate for this situation to pass so we can breath again. It’s one of those moments where no emotion is the wrong emotion but even that becomes tiresome. So far I have survived this by sticking to the old cliché of one day at a time and that is how I continue to try and get through this bizarre phase of time seeming like it has come to a standstill.
It has opened my eyes to the fact that one simple action can change the world we live in. It can have a drastic impact on the economy, population and on a smaller scale the perspectives and priorities of us as individuals. It has opened my eyes in a very real way that at times nothing is within your control, you can’t stop certain things from happening, you can’t control the actions of others no matter how detrimental that behaviour may be to themselves or society. You can’t always protect the people you care about. It’s something I have always struggled with, the what if’s, the catastrophising, the sheer panic it creates in my body is at times suffocating.
Like most, my concern is not so much me, of course I want to protect myself, but my absolute priority in this is to protect my mother and ensure she’s okay in every aspect. Being separated from her and only being able to communicate over the phone and from the car is the most unnatural thing in the world for me and yet I know this is what is necessary. The woman is a pillar of strength which gives me some comfort but nonetheless I long for this to be over as quickly as possible so we can all breath easy in what at the moment is a very strange world to be living in.
Yesterday morning I walked to the shop before starting my work day at the kitchen table because I had so much excess energy pulsing through me I had to get it out. I listened to the radio while walking and they played some upbeat music in a bid to keep people’s spirits up and to remind them that we will have good days again where we are free to go and come as we please, to hug whoever we want to hug, to go out and dance, to meet friends and loved ones. As I walked I laughed to myself at the absolute absurdity of what is happening and at the same time my eyes welled up with tears on the verge of spilling out and down my cheeks.
I think I speak for everyone when I echo what my Mom said to me earlier this week when she said that after all this we will all have a new appreciation for what we have and I wholeheartedly agree.
It’s been so long since I wrote on this website I can’t even remember. It’s something that always falls on the back burner when I am working on another project or busy doing the day to day tasks.
So after about eighteen months I finally got Growing Pains self published in October 2019. I’d be dishonest if I said it wasn’t a real push at the end. There were so many times when I felt like just not finishing it. This time last year I had just gotten feedback from the editor which confirmed all of my initial fears, that there was plenty wrong with it or at least that was her interpretation, which she is perfectly entitled to. I did pay her to critique it after all. Nonetheless, some of it was harsh and prompted a break of about 4 weeks before I braved looking at the screen again. Once I had found a balance of keeping what I liked and agreeing to changes it gave me a push to keep going.
As soon as I did publish it and people began to hear about it one of the first questions was when are you starting the next one and the truth is the next book idea I have is a much bigger project and will likely take a few years to complete. I am glad that I took the time to go through the process of self publishing as it is a great alternative to the traditional publication route and gives people an opportunity that may not otherwise have.
For the moment I am happy to tip away on articles where I can and look for new writing opportunities all the while trying to promote Growing Pains. It was never about making money off the book. It was always a personal project that for a long time I thought I would never achieve or could achieve and so everything after that is a bonus!
Over the years of writing, albeit sporadic at times, I’ve learned that feedback is an essential part of the journey. To say I was out of practice at putting personal work out there would be an understatement. In school and college days critiques were common and part of the my writing make up, I didn’t really think too much about it. Perhaps because I was just doing a lot of those exercises and essays to tick a box. I like ticking things off lists and if I was to really be honest I think the project I am working on now is possibly another item I want to tick off the list,
I’ve been working on a collection of poems which I am hoping to publish later this year. I thought the hard part would be writing the poems but now that I am at editing and revision stage I know that there is a great deal of work ahead of me. This has evoked everything from impatience and annoyance in me because it means I will take longer to tick that box. Ultimately, this is a good thing but for now I just find it irritating.
As I know the context for every poem, every image and emotion it makes it difficult to accept another persons honest perspective. I’ve had good and bad feedback, some which I was expecting and more which I wasn’t. Nonetheless, even the harshest criticism has something to teach you. You don’t always have to agree with it but you do have to accept that your readers don’t have the same knowledge on these poems as you do and these suggestions and notes are beneficial. They make you look at your own work in another light.
I knew it would be one of the trickier aspects of writing a poetry collection, or any work being published. I attended a course in the Irish Writers Centre last year on self publishing and was warned. Yes, this is your book and you think it’s magical and perfect in every way… but it’s not. Edits are vital. Do not skip them. I thought about it though but just for a second I promise. I am now facing going back through each word that I have written and dissecting it. It’s a bit daunting but it must be done. Today I started that and all I could get through was step 1 – reading the feedback and trying to find the key points I want to take from it. The task of tackling any more than that today is a bit too much so instead I am going to let it marinade for another week and perhaps do some pen to paper work on new ideas instead,
In just under a month I enter my thirties. While I am a little sad to acknowledge that my twenties are soon to be a thing of the past I do welcome some of the things that come with entering a new decade. I marked the occasion by visiting New York with my oldest friend. The trip didn’t disappoint.
My twenties, and most people’s twenties, are a time to explore and figure out what it is you want to do, where you want to be, what you like and dislike in life and so on. I have had many jobs, visited many places, met and lost touch with many people, lived at home and abroad, figured out what my passions are, what my personal strengths and weaknesses are and worked on myself in many ways in the hope of being more a “together” person for my thirties. In recent weeks I had a particularly tough time with my anxiety for many reasons and hit a point that left me feeling like a bit of a failure. I had this notion that I should be passed that now that I am thirty, that I’ve done enough work now to be “perfect”. That has always been the aim. One I now know is not only unreachable but unnecessary.
Something I have to reiterate to myself sometimes is that many things in life are ongoing. I used to think that when I was twenty I’d have all the answers, then when I reached that age I convinced myself… no it’ll be about twenty five. Then I’ll have the house, the husband, the career and all the knowledge in the world. Much to my surprise by twenty five this wasn’t the case either. The secret is when you’re younger you think adults know everything. They’re these wise creatures to which no issue is too complex. Eventually, and I mean eventually, you begin to realise that no one ever really knows exactly what they’re doing. To some extent everyone is guessing as they go along what the next thing to do is. It’s that light bulb moment that makes you feel a bit more at ease.
I still think that a lot of old school social standards and expectations dominate day to day life in terms of timelines and hitting certain milestones at particular points. It’s unfortunate but ultimately I think it is up to us as individuals to change that. One of my aims at the moment is to try not to make any judgements on others even if I completely disagree with their thoughts, actions or decisions they make. I am not saying this is always easy but the least we can do is respect each other even if there are vast differences of opinion. If everyone did this even a few times a day I think society could evolve to be a much more harmonious place.
When I look back on my twenties I am fairly proud of everything I have achieved. I am not exactly where I would like to be in some aspects but that’s ok. Someone in work said this week that he believes age is just a number and he knows people in their twenties who act like they are in their fifties and vice versa. With that in mind I think moving onward is key and allowing yourself to fall every now and then isn’t any kind of negative reflection on where you are. Often we are our own harshest critics so less judgement on ourselves is no harm either.