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.
That’s my Sunday ramble for the week!
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.
Image – Pinterest.
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,
I’ll tick that box though…. sooner or later.
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.
That time I left the restaurant for fear of what would start.
That time I text to cancel even though it broke my heart.
That time you looked straight through me and I knew you thought I’d lied.
That time I hid the truth from you to save my foolish pride.
It’s not that I don’t want to be there.
It couldn’t be further from the truth.
It’s just I have this other thing I simply cannot mute.
It hovers all around me and sometimes calls my name.
Reminds me of just how quickly a situation can change.
I know it won’t make sense to you. That’s ok and not the point.
I just need you to know those times were not my fault…
I sit in my writing room to see a motivational quote on almost everything. “Dream Big”, “Believe in your Dreams”, “You Got this”. I could go on but you get the idea! I look to another part of my writing room and see a map of the world with countries I’ve visited scratched out but more notably I’m looking at all the places I still want to see. I think about my personal life and am happy with some aspects but then there are parts that I want to change but in order to do that I need to do a number of other things. Those things happen to take time and patience, something I’m lacking!
At some point over the last two or so weeks I’ve had a few of those moments where you have realisations. You know the kind.. the wow, when did I become an adult and actually have to make decisions that could really influence my future, or hmmm, I’m turning thirty in a few months I should probably think about X, Y & Z. Now please don’t think this is the first time in my life when I realise I’m making important decisions and that I am only now able to calculate my age because it’s not. However, it is one of those moments when things really hit home, properly sink in and leave you feeling a bit more cautious in your decision making.
I would say I’ve always been an ambitious person. If I set myself a goal more often than not I will get there sooner or later but I think about all the things I want to do across the various parts of my life and think how am I going to do all that. I want to travel the world, have a great profession, get married and have a family, be a published author, buy my own home, be fit and healthy both mentally and physically, be financially secure, I want my down time and my social life. I suppose ultimately It’s about managing my time the right way making sure I set aside time for each area that is important to me but nonetheless I can’t help but think how do people do it all. I won’t overthink it because that could be disheartening but so far I think I’m not doing too bad a job at chipping away at that list. A lot of the areas are a work in progress so I suppose it’s just baby steps on each front. Every hour I spend writing is a step closer, every plane I board is a step further and every decision will hopefully bring me in the right direction.
No, I haven’t completely forgotten about my blog but the poor thing does get neglected from time to time. It’s a crime I am definitely guilty of. I vowed at the beginning of the year that I would write something for my website at least once a week and typical to any new years resolution it fell apart somewhat quickly. Despite that however, I am still writing various bits and pieces even if life gets in the way.
Working a full time job while trying to write on the side can be tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I know nothing worth having ever comes easy and I am old enough and bold enough to know that I respect my writing enough that I will always have it be a constant in my life. That’s partially the reason the tattoo is there after all. A not so subtle reminder to remember what I always fall back on, to acknowledge the times it has got me through and to strive to keep connecting with people through words. Trying to convey similarities in experiences and finding common ground and understanding with people is one of the reasons I love writing. I think if we all spoke honestly we’d probably find a lot more common ground with others but that’s another post entirely. So while I enjoy writing, and it’s definitely a massive part of who I am, you still have to go to the desk and write, even though there are times when you would rather not. Discipline with this has been an issue for me in the past with writing. I think that’s why it took me until age 27 to have the light bulb moment where I realised how influential writing has been to me since the age of about 8.
Aside from work I had been away for a break to Kos, Greece in June. It was a fantastic holiday! I hope to have that piece in the Evening Echo shortly so I won’t speak too much about it here. I think the main reason the website is always pushed to the back burner and particularly in the last few months is because I am working on a book. I started “Growing Pains” in March of this year and although still very much a work in progress it’s something I am excited and terrified about all at the same time. The book is going to be a collection of poems. That’s all I will say for the moment because it is still an infant in my eyes and is no where near ready to face the big bad world! Writing a book isn’t something I had ever thought I could do until a year or so ago and particularly when I completed a writing course on memoir. Something else planned for that too but I think it will be a much bigger animal or at least a very different one!
With that in mind I am going to end this post and get back to the infant!
Something I have been hearing a lot about lately is how as humans we latch on to certain aspects of ourselves to form an identity and create a storyline for ourselves. I think the point of creating the storyline is to then help us to make sense of our lives, the path we are on and to bring some kind of knowledge and understanding into what is otherwise a confusing time on earth. We think we need these storylines to get through life because without them… who are we? Not having that sense of identity can be very unsettling and off putting so we continue to create and weave this tale so we can feel more comfortable in knowing who we are.
Taking myself as an example, I was once in a counselling session and was explaining how I felt about grief. I felt like I was stuck and that I wanted to get to the next part but something just wouldn’t let me. I had no idea what that thing was. If I tried to pinpoint or visualise it there was nothing there. That next step was a part of grief I hadn’t reached before, acceptance. I knew I was ready to accept it and move on. It didn’t mean I was forgetting, it just meant being a bit more at peace and allowing myself to live without always being dragged back to the loss. It transpired that the reason I was subconsciously not allowing myself to move forward was because I didn’t know who I would be if I didn’t have the burden of grief to carry with me. The loss had been a huge part of my identity from the age of twelve so here I was in my late twenties wanting to move on but not knowing why I couldn’t. It made perfect sense to me and I had never had that realisation before, they were right. I had no idea who I was without that loss as it had formed such a huge part of my life and there was something about that that was a little unsettling. I think we like to think that we all know ourselves inside out and that we always know exactly why we are the way we are but the reality is sometimes you don’t, and what’s more is, that’s ok.
There are parts of ourselves that we think we have to be all the time because without that feeling, activity or experience who are we? I can see it happening a little now to myself with migraine because they have become more prevalent in recent years. My mom said to me the other day when I was thinking out loud about something and I worried how it might impact on my migraine and my mom responded with but you don’t even know if you are going to still be getting them then, they may stop. My response was dismissive in a yeah… sure kind of manner because migraine has become part of my identity now but that doesn’t mean it will be this dominant forever. Things shape and mould us but don’t have to define us. Instead of sticking to my old storylines I am going to try and create some new ones, or better yet, not write any and see what happens. Not knowing everything about ourselves and where we are going can’t be that frightening.. can it?
Images – Bing Images (2009 Lisa Slavid)