About Paula

I'm just a soul whose intentions are good, oh lord please don't let me be misunderstood! I'm thrilled to get comments and opinions, but remember to play nice.

dusk reflection…

As night falls on this beautiful day, I’d like to send you to sleep with these words swimming in your head. Deepak Chopra said that every child should stand in front of a mirror, look deep into their eyes and say these three things. He says that a light appears in their faces as the words sink in.

I think we’d all benefit from the same advice. 

*Nobody is above me or below me.

*I am immune to criticism.

*I am fearless.

Say it, believe it, live it.

Love, light and sweet dreams to you all 

bidding farewell to the slanty shanty…

…aka selling the dream

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It was the late summer of 2004, when at 29 years of age, with some self pressure to fulfil the plan of owning my own house by age 30, that I found it. I had taken a day off work to go and see some different houses on the Dublin commuter belt which meant I’d widened my search into Meath. Finances and buying it solo meant that any hope I had of home ownership in or near my job or parents in Dublin was not an option. That week a pile of brochures had arrived in the door and I had a general idea of where I was going to go. As I was about to leave that morning, the post arrived, and sure enough it was another brochure – estate agents at the time of the boom fell over themselves to show you their portfolio if you displayed even an inkling of interest. As I glanced mindlessly over the pictures that all started to look the same, a loose page fell to the floor. And there is was – a cottage on an acre that had just come on their books. It was a bit further away than I’d wanted, but I quickly overlooked that. The picture had been taken on a dull day, I could tell, but the bright white of the cottage against the backdrop of dark green grass called to me. As a complete person of impulse, I decided before I even saw it that it was going to be mine.

I remember following the estate agent in my car, up a country road just outside the town of Oldcastle. The house was in Newcastle. I liked the way it sounded. We pulled up outside a little rusty whitewashed gate, surrounded by high hedges and trees. I love trees. Driving in through the gates, I was immediately captivated by what I saw. It was green. So much green. It had trees, lilac, hawthorn, elder, crab apple to name a few, and there was an amazing lush field that stretched out the side from the cottage with more trees along the far border. This place had obviously been much loved since its birth in the 1950’s, as there were three different secret gardens with an assortment of trees and hedges and flowers, which I later came to know were planted with such an appreciation of flowers, that there was never a season of the year where there wasn’t something beautiful in bloom. I imagined taking my morning coffee at a little marble table nestled in this special place before I’d even gotten out of my car.  At that moment I didn’t care what the house was like. I couldn’t believe that this huge piece of land could be mine. I’d own land. I’d be a landowner. I would be someone. I made an offer that day.

 

Everything became a bit blurry after that. Things seemed to happen in space above me. Various parties exchanging money that had never even touched my hands. But it was happening, and one afternoon in the early autumn of the same year, I collected my keys. I remember driving up and entering the newly emptied cottage. It was cold inside. No electricity – well it had, but I didn’t know anything at the time about trip switches and the like!! I remember that I lit a cederwood candle on the kitchen counter, and poured tea from a flask I had brought with me, and standing there, trying to let it sink in that this was my house. Mine. And I thought about something my grandmother once said – “Once you have the keys to your own house it doesn’t matter if you only have one chair to sit on when you close the front door”.

I walked the lenght and breadth of the acre I now owned over the next few months, and I wandered around the outbuildings, consisting of a concrete shed, a barna shed and a little shed housing the central heating. Everyday after that as I arrived ‘home’ from my sometimes 2 hour drive from work and closed the gate behind me,  I felt like I had stepped out of the real world, which at the time was stressful and hectic, to a little sliver of heaven.

Over the next couple of months I discovered what it really felt like to be a homeowner! Bills. And lots of them. Insurance, oil, coal, paint, bins, more paint (because I accidently painted my whole bathroom in gloss…say nothing). I lived on pasta pesto with feta cheese, big glasses of red wine and videos of A Touch of Frost for the longest time (cooking wasn’t really my thing back then…).

I had to get used to the dark again. It was pitch black at night. Pitch. Black. I was used to the outside lighting from the prison that was next to my parents house, filling my bedroom with a constant hazey glow when we turned out the lights at bedtime. So I slept with little tealights burning on the fire hearth for some time.

I had to get used to the peace. Wonderful beautiful peace, filled only with sounds of birdsong and distant donkeys and horses. But that meant I had to get used to the noises. New noises. The strange eerie noises I’d hear in the middle of the silent night. I spent many nights awake – quite terrified in fact –  just listening.

I also had mice. I’d never had mice so that meant I then had hysteria. And hysterical phonecalls to my mother. But then after the guts of a bottle of vodka with a friend one night, we caught those little furry things, and I met my first neighbours since moving in, because there was no way on earth that I was releasing them back into the wild by myself, and my (useless) friend was worse than I was, so Cathal did it. My neighbours husband that I introduced myself to at about 11pm that night by banging his door down and telling him my prediciment. He brought his flashlight out the road with this fairly drunk excitable new neighbour of his and solved all the mouse related problems of my life that night. Cathal and his wife Nova are the nicest people on this planet, and I’ve been blessed that our friendship has stood the test of time and distance. They are super neighbours.

Then there were parties. Quite a lot of them. There were painting parties and pulling walls down parties, there was of course the mouse removal party, some lovely intimate parties, and of course wild dancing and singing parties, where the cd player never stopped spinning, with almost all of them ending with me dancing in my field, singing ‘The Age of Aquarius’ whilst holding a citronella candle (I wasn’t used to bugs back then either…). Im sure it was at one of these parties that my best friend Micheal Ryan deemed my house the slanty shanty, and took my favourite picture (above) of my house.

I had great plans for this place. Wild wonderful plans. Think the contents of John Seymours book ‘The NEW Complete Book of Self Sufficienty’ combined with the work the earth goddess Colette O’Neill has done over at Bealtaine Cottage and you get my drift. But the universe had other plans.

That Christmas, I met my husband to be on the Aran Islands.

So here we are, 13 years later.

I’m now fulfilling those wild plans on Inis Oirr, this amazing beautiful island that truly holds my heart. The same plans I had all those years ago whilst sipping tea in the evening sun at the cottage, whilst watching foxes and hedgehogs visiting my garden at dusk, and alas my cottage is up for sale.

Its been for sale for two years now, and I’ve often wondered why nobody has snatched it up in this time. But deep down I know why. Its because its story hadn’t been told. Every home, every house has a story to be told, and this is me telling the story of my slanty shanty. Telling the houses’ own story. Letting it go. My dear friend Louise said to me one evening, you know as soon as you release it it will go. Of course she was right. So I release you. I’ve moved on. It’s your turn now.

These days the hedges are tall and overgorwn, you can hardly see the gate. The flowers are buried deep under weeds, birds have planted elder trees that have now grown rapidly over the last couple of years in places where there were none. And my field is now wild and overgrown, where once hay bales used to sit and horses use to graze. But even now, when I visit, I can still sense its heartbeat.

So dear universe, here I stand and I hope that whoever the new owner may be, or whatever plans they may have, that they find the love that I left there for them, and dance at least once naked under the stars in my field of dreams.

listing info:

https://www.myhome.ie/residential/brochure/newcastle-oldcastle-co-meath/3051658

 

 

 

 

 

 

fly me to the moon…

“Business is Business! Everyday, all around the country, deals are made behind closed doors. Names signed on dotted lines followed by congratulatory handshakes or maybe a good ol’ pat on the back, and possibly a martini afterwards. These deals used to be orchestrated by ‘business’ men. You know those men in suits that somehow seem disconnected from the real world. Most of the time these deals are mundane, business type arrangements, but ultimately the outcome is to make one party wealthier than the other. Power.
I worked in Baggot Street in Dublin for a number of years, so I was very central to the high flying business and government district. I saw these business men in suits EVERYWHERE! And I saw ministers and leaders of our country hobnobbing too. They would often emerge from those big glistening office blocks that lined that area at coffee time, and in a wave would disappear back into them as quickly, only to again return to the light of day for their lunches, big guffawing, drink buying, back slapping lunches. I wondered what they actually did all day, these business men in suits and law makers with their briefcases, making their deals behind closed doors. But now I do know what they did, as we all do. They made bad decisions. They made bad deals. Deals that have this country in the current situation we are in, and decisions that have all been made with blatant disregard for anyone outside of those rooms. And sometimes that doesn’t become more apparent than when you live on a small island off the west coast of Ireland.

For the last couple of years, this island has been in defence mode. Fighting off the tide that was hurtling our way. It seemed it was relatively untouched by the banking collapse, but experienced the fall out with the drop in tourism and the reduction in our visitors’ buying power. But locals carried on and did what they did best, worked as hard as they could when they could. That, the island could handle. However it was the underhanded behind closed door deals that seemed to have side swiped us. Have a little Google search for ‘galway bay fish farm’ for example and you’ll be quick to find a plethora of information regarding the colossal ‘organic’ fish farm they are trying to locate just off our island. Of course this is a million dollar deal for them, them being BIM, and of course it has almost complete government backing, but it highlights how little regard they have for consequences, caring little for the absolute detremental effect it would have on Galway Bay and in particular Inis Oirr, the environment or the people. This deal was all in hand, ready to go ahead, just awaiting the dotted line signing. And it took the islanders, maybe a few to begin with, but an army of them now to say ‘hold on a minute’ this is our home, and then the movement started, and the fight began.

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As it stands Islanders and Galwegians have been fighting tooth and nail for three years to stop this from going ahead. Losing seaweed rights was another stressor for the islanders, who had been harvesting their own plots of seaweeds for years and now faced the news that these were to be sold off to a Canadian company. And lets not forget Iour neighbouring island Inis Meain, who has been in the news of late, with the fear of losing their school because the government wouldn’t provide funding for a second teacher, only to be given a lifeline by a private insurance company, Zurich, who stepped in to sponsor that second teacher. But the latest shock, and the hardest it seems, to hit us as a community, was the news that Aer Arann, the islands plane service for over 40 years, had not been successful in their tender and will cease to operate from next month, with the 4 year contract going to Executive Helicopters! The shock of this has rippled through the island for days, and not just Inis Oirr. Inis Meain and Inis Mor are also reeling from this decision. To the deal makers, this is probably a savvy high five move. I’m sure ministers were delighted to think that a helicopter would be quite fitting for them in any future trips to the island. And judging by some genuine comments I’ve read on social media about this, some people don’t seem to understand why the locals are so upset by it all, thinking plane, helicopter, whats the problem. Here’s the problem. There are people outside these rooms that deals are made in. And people matter.

Yesterday the island fell silent. People left en masse, on boats and planes, to attend a protest in Galway at the Connemara Coast hotel, and then over to the ministerial offices. Young little faces behind home made placards, old weathered faces, needing no placards at all because you know they’ve been fighting for the islands since they themselves were young. Island business’ closed, and business’ in Connemara and Galway also turned out to show their support in fighting for a reversal of what seems to be the most absurd decision. And the message was simple.

Credit: Gerry Foley UTV

Credit: Gerry Foley UTV

“Nil aon Arainn gan Aer Arann” – Theres no Aran, without Aer Arann.

Unless you live on an island, remote or otherwise, then you’ve really no idea how important it is to have a direct connection to the mainland. We have a boat service, and it’s a great one. Leaving the island twice daily, and some extra sailings during the summer. But to travel into Galway for an errand that may only take one hour for example, you’re talking a round trip of twelve hours. There are older islanders that are unable to travel by boat, but with the plane they can make it into important hospital appointments that they would without a doubt not attend. New mothers, I’ve been one three times, on leaving hospital can be home on the island with their newborns within ten minutes. Emergency situations that occur, that are unable to be dealt with by the rescue service, will be handled by Aer Arann if at all possible. Blood tests can be sent out on the plane by the local doctor within the required time limit on them, the vet can travel to the other islands, and teachers can travel within the day to posts that otherwise would be left unfilled, another worrying concern for the future of the islands. But this is nothing. The amount of stories of people making it home for Christmas when Aer Arann went above and beyond to ensure they were home with their families when the weather was so bad the boat was completely cancelled, or when flights laden with boxes of food arrived again due to the weather affecting the cargo boat service from Galway, or the plane flying as soon as it was bright enough to bring a pregnant mother of twins to the mainland, which she maintains saved their lives. Sure even on my own wedding, Aer Arann managed to get all my flowers AND my harp for my musician here on time. And lets not forget the people. These are the heart of the service, the ones that know you by name, will monitor the cancellation list for you, will ring you when they think there may not be a flight later, to ensure you get off the island, or home as often the case is, that will make sure you’re driven to the boat when they’ve waited as long as they could to see if there was a fly window, the ones that make you feel at ease when they get on board to pilot the plane for the short, but spectacular trip. Ultimately lets not forget the people. Because a service is only as good as the people that provide it, and for our island, it doesn’t get much better than Aer Arann. A service worthy enough to make a neighbour of mine choose it as her dissertation for her degree in 2005.

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There is a petition here, that you can sign to add your voice. And you can also contact the ministers in charge of this fiasco. There is so much information out there, but also not out there, more to the point, which is becoming more obvious by the reluctance of Paschal Donohoe or Joe McHugh to come out and really say why this is happening, what was the exact deal that went on behind the doors. But we’re slowly getting there, which can be seen by this opinion piece by David McWilliams .They’re fluffing around it all, hardly even paying lip service, but ultimately they are just slowly hitting nails into the coffin of disconnection that will be carried by all the islands and rural communities across the country by these decisions. I shudder to think of what is ahead of us if this is how the government is treating us now, in a run up to an election.

This is our transport service and its vital.

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But if this deal goes ahead, then you may fly me to the moon, and most certainly not in a bloody helicopter!

 

the plight of Sandine…

It was April a year ago when the dolphin arrived in the pier of Inis Oirr. Now I’m sure she’d probably been there before, Doolin isn’t that far away, but it was the first time I’d seen her. As the boat rounded the corner, TQM shouted up to me from the front of the boat as he was throwing the ropes to the lads , “did you see the dolphin?” It was more for the benefit of the kids, but I was just as giddy. We watched over the edge, waiting, and then up she came with a big blow of sea spray and with one fluid movement her curvy body went back under. It was thrilling. I immediately loved her. The kids were jumping and squealing at the sight of her. And she seemed to revel in it, coming up more frequently to her audience. We stayed there a little while longer and the talk was all about her when the kids went to bed that night. That evening I walked back down alone – there was nobody else about, and I stood at the rails just watching and waiting to see if i could catch a glimpse again. And sure enough after a few minutes, there she was. I wondered how long she would stay. It was a perfect scene.

The talk amongst the islanders was that this was Dusty, a notoriously aggressive dolphin from Doolin. Then there were some people who remembered a dolphin from a few years ago that used to frequent the island, and that dolphin had been named Sandy. So some thought that maybe it was her. So with all the talk about whether it could be Dusty or in fact Sandy, one day at the slip on the beach, my little girl saw her and shouted ‘mammy – its Sandine’ – and since then that’s who she has been to us.

She had stayed around a few weeks at this stage, and it became a habit of mine to walk around the block by the pier most nights just to see her slowly rise and fall into the sea. Something about the size of her, or her presence or her energy, for want of a better word, made me feel safe. She was stunning. The talk was all about the dolphin, but it seemed there was something more worrying in the distance. Unfortunately Sandine came with baggage, and not all of it good.

It turned out that Sandine was and is in fact Dusty. As I enquired about the ‘horror’ stories from Doolin where she had seemingly caused some serious damage to swimmers in the area by hurtling at them at breakneck speeds and hitting them with her beak, the stories that had people talking to Joe,  I was also told the other stories of people trying to grab her and ride her and most disgustingly pouring alcohol down her blowhole. These were stories that didn’t seem to hit the headlines. Local people obviously and rightly had their concerns. But I really think everyone thought that she’d head back off to Doolin eventually. But it didn’t happen. She liked it here. And so she decided to stay.

Living so close to the pier, I’d pass by it, and the beach daily. I used to love the early morning beach visits I’d have with my little lady after picking up a coffee in the shop. And we’d watch her come right in to the slip as the tractors lowered the fishing boat trailers into the water for a days work. She loved this part of the day, you could tell, as no matter where she was, as soon as she heard the distinct clattering of metal on concrete she’d be over in a flash. She was big and strong and wicked fast and an absolute sight to behold.  I spoke to some of our local fishermen, asking about whether the dolphin was eating their fish – worried too in case it would be another reason for people not wanting her around. They said that she’d be out beside them the whole day but wouldn’t eat a single thing they’d throw to her. I laughed that she was getting her sushi elsewhere, and I sighed a little relief that she wasn’t depleting the islands fish quota! And I’d often return in the evening to watch her again, this time neglecting whatever she was doing to entertain herself and coming to escort the fishing boats or little currachs back into the slip – it was like she was finishing up her job for the night, just like the fishermen!

Even though the tourist season hadn’t kicked off fully, I was beginning to notice the presence of a number of people around the area. People who would spend endless hours in deep waters swimming with Sandine, some that would just stand there like herons waiting to take pictures, and one in particular who went into the water with homemade devices strapped onto himself in order to swim and appear more dolphinlike I imagine! These were Sandine’s fans, and some would say friends, and they brought spectators. Then the tourists started arriving. They would get off the boats and line up along the pier. They wanted to see the dolphin, to touch her and they wanted to swim with her. More and more crowds gathered around the steps of the pier, where there was a permanent show of dolphin interaction. Television crews, deep sea diving photography, interviews – it was all go on and around where she was. It was a circus. I didn’t go near the beach last summer and only went to the pier if I really had to. I had a fear. I had a fear that people would push things to far, as often they do in extreme situations, and that something bad was going to happen. I didn’t want to be on duty the whole time while I was supposed to be enjoying sunny days with my babies, telling people of the dolphins warning signs, or the safest depth to go in as far as, or not to try and grab her, or telling drunk stags not to be jumping off the pier. I had stories filter back to me of someone having to go to hospital or getting bumped in the leg or back. I dreaded to hear that. I just wished she was left alone. I heard the other stories too, of people deliberately trying to grab her fin or not heeding her splashing tail or her open beak and ending up getting shunted out of the water. People were complaining that they couldn’t swim, that the dolphin was becoming a nuisance. People believed it was their right to swim in that water, overlooking the fact that the dolphin lives there. I understood both sides of the argument. Last year was drama. Then the visitors left.

I’ve learned a lot about dolphins over the past winter, and in particular Sandine. I’ve learned her warning signs. I can tell if she is stressed, spending long periods of time scouring the sea floor especially if there are other pods of dolphins around or basking sharks in the area. Did you know that other pods are not particularly open to solitary dolphins? That’s why she is alone. Sometimes another solitary dolphin comes along and for a couple of days there is some fantastic displays of synchronised swimming and breeching, and I often hope that she find’s a true love and swims off into the sunset, but it never happens, I just find her a day or two later, back swimming alone out around the buoys. I’ve learned she likes playing games. I’ve learned she brings you gifts of seaweed and bottles and dead things. I’ve seen her hurl herself out of the water in an explosion of seaweed on stormy days – you know, just having the craic with herself.  I’ve learned that she blows bubbles when she is happy. And farts from her blowhole too  – indeed! But I’ve also learned in the past year that ultimately she is in trouble. And I know the reason why.

People.

The plight of Sandine is due to people. Now I’m not talking about the jerks that torment her,(that’s a different story) or even the people that are genuinely too scared to go swimming off the beach in case they encounter her – not at all – she’s massive – I certainly wouldn’t go in as far. And I’m not talking about innocent bystanders that have been injured by her for what seems no apparent reason. I’m in fact talking about the people that have befriended her. The people that are her biggest allies and supporters. The ones that have been with her for many many years. In their attempt to try and help her ‘remain’ a dolphin, they have in fact almost domesticated her to a point where she see’s them as her ‘pod’ so tends to be overly aggressive whilst they’re swimming in the water with her. She is expecting the company of humans. But only ‘some’ humans! She is expecting to be entertained and played with. She’s almost narcissistic in her behaviour, which is mirrored in some of the people that hang around with her. It’s ironically by the actions of well intentioned people, who found her and made such soulful connections with her, that we are in a situation that she is now a considerable cause for concern. This concern has now been catapulted into the media due to a recent article written by a well know columnist after he’d been frightened by the dolphins behaviour whilst over here on a break. It was all over my own social media pages, and it was on the radio and had even made the main news on RTE. I hate this kind of publicity. Even though its correct in its content it lacks the benefit of the full story.

So where do we go from here? We have a dolphin, a beautiful, intelligent animal, but a creature who is as unpredicatable as she is wild to the core, who if had been left to her own devices may have in fact gone off to live happily in the deep ocean, who knows?, but has now become dependant on her ‘human dolphins’ for companionship, but she is not human so does not understand the social rules that some people seem to expect of her such as tolerance, self control and keeping her distance. We need to stop blaming her too. The sea is her home, whether people like it or not. This island is such a haven for the people that live here and for the visitors that come every year, and maybe that’s exactly what it is for her too. But it needs to be a safe haven for everyone, and at the minute it’s not. And I think we all know where the solution needs to begin!

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Dear Heart

Síle Looks Up

What is life?

Oh, Maggie May. It’s question after everlasting question.

It is a tumble of words and a throb of sounds; music to lift you and gift you and steal you and fill you. It is the quiet of empty roads, the silence of choice, the smell of night and the pull of the sea.

It is love. It is Mama’s hand on your head all the times you’ll want her, and all the times you won’t. It is Deaide singing through every day of your life; tales of you and yours and all you might do and how you make their hearts stop. It is all of us, here and gone, all of us who are part of you and somewhere with you in the silent flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

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twee, with a touch of cheese…

This year we managed to get away for a whole 3 nights together for a little holiday. And what exotic location do you think we ended up in? Why Co. Clare of course. Our nearest neighbour. Just over there. I can see if from my house. But before you mistake my tone as complaining, I’m going to jump in to say that I absolutely LOVE Clare. Always have. And anytime I’ve gone there (this may have only been the third time in my whole life, for shame) I wonder why I don’t go there more often. And it would be very easy to view a summer break,almost in your own backyard, as not a break at all. But in life, and on holidays it would seem, you get back what you put in. And we threw ourselves completely into being tourists for those three days. Now on the first full day there, my little lady wasn’t well, so the boys went off to the Ailiwee Caves while us girls hung about the hotel and walked around its grounds,followed by a lovely lunch, some time in the indoor play zone and finishing up with a 2 hour nap. This was worth the trip alone – girl time is very precious. But after that, we hit the road and sunk ourselves into the beauty of the Burren. Limestone and Moss, what a combination for the senses…..

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The hotel was The Inn at Dromoland, and the places we went to were : Craggaunowen, The Burren Perfumery, The Aillwee Caves, Caherconnell Stone Fort (and sheep dog trials) and The Burren Nature Sanctuary.

I think the photobombing above pretty much sums it all up but I’ve just a little story to finish – At Caherconnell, they have a lovely cafe with a delicious menu, but they also sell their own cheese (beautiful smoked cheese,and a black pepper one, and a garlic and nettle variety) from the sheep that we’d just spent time with outside. I love cheese, so I was stocking up, whilst also getting cappuchino’s, bananas, Ribena and oaty biscuits for the hungry mouths that were waiting for me in the car. In my to-ing and fro-ing, I managed to somehow jump ahead of a man (who had to’d and fro’d back himself to get some cake), so that when the cashier turned to me, she gave a little start, obviously expecting the man she was just serving. I too got a bit of a start, and apologised for skipping ahead. He gave a smile, and said to us ” no worries at all, go ahead, sure you’re much prettier that I am ” I gushed ‘Oh why thank you very much, I think you may have made my day”, and then stopped to check with him “now before I get too delighted with myself” I said laughing, “Are you talking about me or are you talking about her ?” looking in the direction of the the blonde waitress. She started to laugh, and the man was laughing. I told him to go first, as I was feeding the masses and would be there an age and his tea would be cold, so he did, and as he was paying, he commented to me what a nice place it was. And as he was walking off to take a seat, he said “It was lovely to meet you”. “And you” I replied. This whole exchange took all of I’d say two minutes. But in that time a connection was made. Between three strangers. In those two minutes you could see what being kind, being gracious and having a good old laugh could achieve. And I didn’t want to leave it there. I wanted to seal this encounter somehow. So I ran back to the shelf and picked up a little block of cheese. I said to the girl, “you know what, I really feel the need to buy that man some cheese”. She thought it was a lovely thing to do. She also may have thought it was a bit weird, but never said. I walked over to the man’s table as I was leaving and handed him the little brown package – ” Here you go, I got you some of the cheese. It was lovely meeting you, Take care”. He looked at me and was a little surprised (quite possibly thinking I was weird also) but seemed so genuinely happy. And that made me happy. And I left.

Back in the car, as we were setting off, I said to TQM, “I just bought a man some cheese”. He shrugged and said, ‘Of course you did”, as he started to pull away from the verge, as if  I always buy random strangers random shit. But seriously folks, if our little holiday to Clare has thought me anything, it’s never ever shy away from an opportunity to enjoy a bit of Irish twee and to buy somebody a bit of cheese!

 

 

the brave face…

At this moment in time, I’m sure that there are not many people left out there that have not heard about the very sad passing of Robin Williams. I would not like to assume anything about his death, or his life for that matter, or the reasons or explanations that could be offered with regards to the why and how, only to say that it has bittersweetly highlighted two very real things in todays society. And that is Depression and Suicide.

I was prompted to write this post after I read Ricky Gervais’ post on Facebook, quoted –
“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Robin’s death. He was a lovely man. Even when he wasn’t feeling good he would still be doing his thing and keeping everyone laughing. There will never be another quite like him. RIP”
And there is was. Staring right out at me. Can’t you see it? Its the Brave Face.
“even when he wasn’t feeling good he would still be doing his thing and keeping everyone laughing” – that’s it right there. The Brave Face.
This Brave Face is worn by thousands of people every day. I might even venture to say millions of people, although I’m not statistically informed. It’s the face that says, ‘sure I’m grand’, or ‘ I’m not worried about money’, ‘I don’t care what people think of me, I know I’m a good person’, ‘nobody wants to hear my problems anyway’, ‘ if I say anything they’ll think I’m mad’, ‘ I don’t want everyone knowing I’m on happy tablets’, ‘this mothering thing is easy’. It’s the face that says ‘I’m not depressed”. And it’s time to remove the mask.
In 2005 I went through an extraordinarily stressful time in my job. In hindsight, a lot could have been avoided by just facing up to some issues instead of trying to be everything to everyone. But hindsight is twenty twenty as they say. I’d come home from work and go into my bedroom and collapse onto my bed. I was staying in my mam and dads at that stage. I’d fall asleep. Then I’d get woken by my sister, telling me to get up and have something to eat because it was 8 o’clock in the evening. I’d get up, annoyed usually, because I was so tired, eat something then sit and watch television until it seemed a reasonable time to go to bed.I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and would rudely answer any attempt at polite chit chat. And then I would lie awake in bed, the pit of my stomach raw with worry and pain, my brain feeling like it was going to explode, churning over sequences of events, mostly work related and money related, until eventually my body would overcome my brain and fall into a deep sleep at around 4am, only to be woken abruptly by the alarm a few hours later to get me up for work. I’d go back into work and act like everything was fine, I was going to be grand, I’d work it all out before anyone could notice. The fear of getting into trouble, or of people thinking I couldn’t cope or that I was incompetent was enough to get me through the day until I came home and repeated the cycle all over again.
I went to the doctor. I told her I wasn’t sleeping, I was getting anxiety attacks, crying a lot, couldn’t catch my breath, tired and moody all the time and that I was getting rapid blackouts across my eyes and spells of brain ‘jumping’ that made me suspect and almost fully convince myself that I had a brain tumour. She was lovely. She said that It seemed I was suffering with anxiety related depression. ‘I’m sure I absolutely am not’ – I thought to myself at the time. She explained it all. Serotonin inhibitors and the like. She gave me different options, but maintained that the best was a combination of tablets and counselling.
All of a sudden, I was a person with depression, and on tablets. Did that make me broken? Was I less of a person because of it? Would people think I was mental, and never trust my judgement again? Well I thought I was all of the above, so explained to people close to me that I was taking tablets to alleviate stress and anxiety – it just sounded better to me. But I did what the doctor ordered. I spoke to a counsellor through work, I took my tablets and over a short space of time I was able to look at my work situation for what it was – a situation….at work… not a life or death scenario, just a shit time, and I dealt with the fallout of that, hard as it was, I stuck it out, I stood my ground, I took responsibility and I slept at night. I have to add that it was in this period that I met TQM, so the weekends we spent together on Inis Oirr were incredibly healing – nothing like stepping away from something to see what it truly is. Inis Oirr has my heart.  After about nine months (I hasten to add that I was reviewed by my doctor every three months) I started to actually forget to take my tablets. I took that as my body not needing to remind me to take them, that I’d actually come out the other side. The doctor concurred and I came off them slowly over a couple of weeks. It was done I was no longer ‘depressed”.
Roll on four years ago, and six months after I had my second little man, I went to my doctor in Dublin, (same one as before thankfully – I have to note at this point, it will always be in your best interests to find yourself a good doctor and a good dentist!) I told her that I my brain was working overtime, I was snapping all the time, I was roaring at my toddler out of frustration, then falling into a heap crying afterwards because I was bursting with so much love for my boys, and so much guilt for not being perfect.I was breastfeeding and I was sleep deprived. She said that I was being too hard on myself, that I had an almost 3 year old and a breastfeeding 6 month old, and I was living on an island away from family and friends – without any support, if you would. She said I was superwoman. I laughed. She said I had post natal depression. I gasped slightly, because I was sure whatever it was I was feeling had nothing to do with my boys. I adored them. She said my stores of my happy hormone were depleted. It was tablet time again. I stopped breastfeeding, started taking my tablets, and started writing EVERYTHING down along the lines of ‘The Morning Pages’ from Julia Camerons book, The Artists Way. It was my alternative to counselling when you live on an island. After six months, I started forgetting the tablets again, and slowly and surelyI was off them and I was not depressed anymore.
Last year, I was not pleasant to live with. I was on tablets for 4 months.
A few special people know all this. But I wonder did anyone else guess that I was going through something, or was my Brave Face really that good.
So here is the point to all of this. I’m not ashamed of who I am. I know who I am. People I love, and who love me know who I am. I am not broken. I cannot be fixed. I adore my children, and my family and friends. I need help sometimes. I yell quite a lot, but don’t need tablets. I know my body and I know my mind. I’m lucky. I can read my own signals, even when putting on my brave face. I am the same as anyone else out there that suffers with mental health – whether it’s mild, chronic, post-natal, bi-polar. I will never not be free of depression, it’s in my make-up, but I’m blessed to be supported in my life that I never have to deal with things alone, even if sometimes I bring out the mask.
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You are never alone. Reach out and you will find your light.
Hope you all have a bright tomorrow!
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