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Dear Florida Man – America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

Straight out of the gate, I am going to let you know that this is not the type of article I usually write.  Normally, I am very careful to avoid voicing my political opinions on this blog.  I try to stay in my lane as it were.  Gun violence is definitely not my usual scope.  However, a headline caught my attention this morning that made my heart hurt.  It had such an affect on me, that I cannot stay silent.  It was this.

“Florida lawmakers to approve bill allowing teachers to be armed.”

There is so much wrong with these ten words, that I scarcely know where to begin.

Gun violence is a huge problem in America.  It’s a problem I thought I understood the scale of, until I went to research this piece.  In the month of April alone, there were 35 mass shootings.  That is more than 1 per day.  I struggle to wrap my mind around this, as I scan the seemingly unending list of numbered but unnamed victims.  So far this year, 120 people have lost their lives in mass shooting events.  Hundreds more have been injured.

I don’t know why this phenomenon has come about.  In the 20 years since Columbine, mass shootings have become literally a daily event.  I can’t tell you why this is.  Neither can I speculate as to why this seems to be a uniquely American problem.  I don’t know what the answer is.  I do, however, know what the answer is not.  More guns.

The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns, is akin to thinking the obesity crisis can be solved with more cheese burgers.  It is ludicrous.

As I read this story on the RTE website, I felt my stomach turn.  My morning coffee soured on my tongue.  I experienced a deep sense of foreshadowing, and all I could think was how long will it be before we see a headline reading “Florida teacher shoots unarmed student.”

I understand that, as Americans, your right to bear arms is protected under your constitution.  Similarly, I understand that a lot of you are fiercely protective of this right.  For many American people guns are a part of life.  But what about your child’s rights?

Surely a child’s right to be educated without terror should be just as inalienable.  It makes me incredibly sad to think of the lasting impact the trauma of gun violence will have on the survivors.  However, the ripple effect goes far farther than I think we realise yet.

The kids in school now are the first generation of children who have had to deal with this crisis as part of their reality.  They are the first who have had to practice drills, and make their way through metal detectors.  They are constantly reminded that the threat of violence is very real.  I honestly cannot imagine trying to survive in such a high stress situation.  Let alone trying to learn in it.

These kids are in their formative years.  The time spent sitting in classrooms and fooling around in the hallways will absolutely shape the adults they will become.  How can they hope to grow into trusting, whole hearted adults when they spend the years between 5 and 18 facing clear and present danger every single day?  Your children are growing up in a warzone.  Unfortunately, there will be no refugee status for them.

On March 15th, New Zealand had a mass shooting incident of its own.  Within one week, their Prime Minister had taken steps to ban automatic weapons.  America, and in particular Florida, seems to be taking the exact opposite approach.  Putting guns in the hands of those who may never ordinarily have owned them.

Teachers, educators, those responsible for nurturing your young child’s mind and imagination.  Those responsible for empowering your son or daughter to reach their potential, will now be able to literally end their life.  I have dealt with angry, bad tempered teachers in my time, but I never had to worry about them shooting me.

It is not a question of if an innocent child gets caught in the crossfire, or if a stressed-out teacher mistakes a child reaching for a cell phone for an attack.  It is a question of when.  Under the new legislation, teachers would be required to undertake 144 hours of training before carrying guns, but that doesn’t reassure me.

The internet is littered with “Florida Man” memes.  We all like to joke about the crazy, surreal things that go on there.  Somehow, I don’t think that particular Florida Man headline would evoke the same response.

There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second-best time is now.  Some would argue that American gun laws should have been tightened up on April 21st 1999.  I would count myself among them.  However, it’s not too late.  The time to to speak up and take whatever action we can, is now.

This outrageously wanton loss of life is becoming part of our culture, we cannot allow ourselves to be numb to it.  We need to stand up and fight for every child’s right to come home from school.  We owe them that much at least.  Be well xxx

Articles

Being Enough

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.        –  C.P. Cavafy

Do you ever get the feeling that you should be farther along your path than you are?  Do you ever get frustrated by set backs?  Do you tire of hearing yourself talk about starting over, again?  Yeah?  So do I.

As I sit writing this, it is “Blue Monday.”  I am looking out at a black night.  Neither of these however, is the source of my malaise.  I feel depressed and down due to the sisyphus condition I find myself in.  The near constant roundabout of a little progress followed by a big backslide, has started to wear me down.  Just like in the Greek myth, I am beginning to wonder if I am destined to carry the same load up hill for all eternity.

I am not writing this because I want to host my own pity party.  Or to elicit sympathy from my readers.  Instead, I write because I promised you and myself, almost exactly three years ago, that I would always be authentic.  It is extremely tempting to show only the highlights.  To invite you in, only when my house is tidy and everything is in order.  However to do that, would be to fail to honour the relationship we have built.  The trust you show me, each time you turn up to read my words.

Late last year, I was invited to resign from my job.  I watched a career that I had spent over a decade building crumble in the space of a single conversation.  The words “you’re not right for the job,” have echoed in my mind many times since then.  Reverberating and repeating.  Their message clear, you are not enough.

I had always known that a lot of my self worth was tied up with my job.  I am a natural striver, always obsessed with the next thing.  An upward career trajectory was good way for me to channel this.  What I had not known, was that when the label of accountant, professional and general good girl was taken away from me, I would struggle to recognise myself.

I wish I could tell you that this was limited to my professional life, but sadly that is not the case.  I am routinely plagued by the curse of more.  If I am fit, I want to be fitter.  If I am thin, I want to lose more weight.  When I fail it is all my fault and when I succeed it has nothing to do with me.

Lately I been doing some writing for another blog.  A couple of weeks back, I did an interview with an up and coming athlete.  My editor messaged me the day after it was published to let me know it had been the most read interview on the site.  As a writer this should have thrilled me.  Instead I immediately started to catalogue all of the possible explanations for the article’s popularity that didn’t involve its author.  Conversely, when we publish an article of mine that doesn’t do so well, I am crushed.  My inner demons launch into a chorus of “you’re not good enough, why would you even try?”

Daring Greatly

I have a small library of personal development literature at home.  I have just finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Rarely has a book so profoundly affected me.  I was literally moved to tears as I listened to her telling her stories.  Her struggle to connect with vulnerability seemed to mirror my own almost exactly.

In her book, she asks so many important questions.  But the one that struck me the hardest was this;  In a world where enough is never enough, how can we cultivate a sense of worthiness?  How can we learn to feel loved and lovable in a culture that values exhaustion and burn out over communication and connection?

I remember as a child and even into adulthood challenging both of my parents.  I distinctly recall screaming at them “Why can’t you just be proud of me!”  They would always assure me that they were.  As I look back, I can see that was the truth.  The chronic need for achievement came from inside me.  Any words of support and encouragement they gave me were at best, a temporary balm.

As I have gone through life, the need for approval, the desire to be seen has remained.  However, now it is not just my parents that I seek it from.  The need to be relevant, to feel like I am enough, has brought me to some dark and dangerous places.  I am caught in the vicious cycle of “I will be happy when… ” When my blog is a success.  It won an award and still I wasn’t soothed.  When the podcast reaches more listeners.  How many will it take?  When I am doing well at work.  I am now a finance manager, and “successful” by any objective measure, but still nothing.

It is slowly dawning on me, with the help of those supporting me, that the feeling of being enough will never come from outside.  It will not come from being athletic.  It will not come packaged in skinny jeans.  A good hair day, an orgasm, or a promotion will not conjure it.  It can only come from within me.  A truly terrifying prospect.

Becoming Enough

As I draft this post, the words of an Alanis Morissette song have been going through my head.

I’d be productive and still it would not come
I’d be celebrated still it would not come
I’d be the hero and still it would not come
I’d renunciate and still it would not come

I take comfort from knowing that if someone as wealthy, talented and accomplished as she can have these same sentiments, perhaps it is merely part of the human condition?  Maybe we all have demons to slay.  Perhaps the hardest thing is to set down the need for pleasing and perfecting, to just allow ourselves to be.

I know that I have a lot more work to do in this area.  I have enlisted the help of a therapist as I set about unlearning the habits of a lifetime.  Over the past few years I have driven myself to the point of exhaustion several times.  The “not enough” feeling is impossible to out run.  The only solution is to try to meet it head on.

I am committed to dealing with the shame that losing my job brought.  To shining a big, bright light on it.  Because shame loves the dark.  It delights in festering in unlit corners, gaining strength and power.  As I try to shed the pounds I gained when I was eating my feelings and too depressed to exercise, I am determined not to allow my self worth to depend on this.

At various stages of my life I have weighed less than 50kgs and over 80kg.  I was not happy with my body at any stage.  I am going to turn that narrative on its head.  If my weight can’t make me happy, why should I let it make me unhappy?  Brene Brown tells us that when we own our story, we get to write the ending.  That fills me with great hope.

I am imperfect.  I have flaws beyond counting.  But yet, I am worthy.  I am capable of giving love and receiving it in return.  I have gifts to offer this world.  I will enter the arena and fight.  Overcoming these demons may turn out to be my life’s work.  I will learn to be okay with that.  I will not hurry the journey at all.  Be well xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles

Powering Up For 2019

As the start of my second week in my new job dawned, I was determined to hit the ground running.  I went to bed reasonably early (not something I am usually very good at) and awoke refreshed and ready to face the day.  I battled the traffic and managed to arrive at my desk in good time.  Yay me!  No sooner had I made my morning coffee, than the lights went out.  Power cut.

It came back after about an hour, so at least we weren’t sitting in the dark (a tiny bit awkward with virtual strangers.)  However, there was a further delay before our IT systems recovered.  I started to become irritated by the interruption.  I had a to do list as long as the M50.  Besides, even though we were all in the same boat, I didn’t want to seem like I was wasting time.

The frustration quickly melted into amusement as I couldn’t help smile at the irony.  It served as a timely reminder that try as we might, we cannot control everything.  There will always be times that despite the best laid plans, everything goes tits up.

As the year draws to a close, I always like to reflect on the past 12 months.  This morning’s outage pretty much sums up the entire year for me.  2018 has been one false start after another.  It has been tempting at times to throw my hands up and shout “what’s the bloody point?”  It has taken no small amount of effort to pick myself and dust myself off.

In the words Kipling, of one of my favourite poets,

“If you can make one heap of all your winnings, and risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, and lose, and start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”

When you think about it, that is exactly what happens when you look for a new job.  You accumulate all your experience and skills, your winnings, and risk it in the hopes of obtaining something better.  You sacrifice your security, and your comfort and take a giant leap into the unknown.  Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my career hasn’t been the only tumultuous part of my life in recent months.  I am very much the type of person who needs stability and routine.  If one area of my life is in discord, the rest of it will inevitably follow suit.

I am loath to admit the amount of weight I have put on since this time last year.  My fitness levels have also taken a huge back slide.  In all honesty, I am very much looking forward to January and the natural reset point it always brings.

As I write this, I have a plan in place to get myself back to a level of fitness that I can be happy with.  Tomorrow evening, I am joining a Crossfit gym.  I know it probably sounds crazy to start a health kick Christmas week, but I have been putting this off long enough.  Plus, I know if I delay it any further, chances are I will talk myself out of it.

It can be difficult when not only have you failed to make progress, but you have actually gone backwards, not to feel like a failure.  It is hard not to look back with rose tinted glasses, to a time when you were slimmer, fitter or just generally had it more together.  However, if there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are peaks and valleys in life.  Progress is definitely non-linear.

With a shiny New Year on the horizon, I take comfort in the fact that I have a plan in place, and that I have walked this road before.  I know that following in old footsteps is always easier than trying to forge a new path.

Another lesson that is beginning to take root is that I am not my weight.  I am not my dress size or my body fat percentage.  Neither am I the job title I hold or my bank account balance.  Of course, it is easy to “know” these things on a rational level.  It is another thing entirely to actually feel it.

I spent more than three decades allowing these things to define me.  So much so that when I was unemployed, albeit briefly, I was surprised that people still wanted to be around me.  They sought me out and looked to me for my opinion.  They asked me for help and tasked me with projects.  The value they placed in me wasn’t tied up in my employment status.  Why then did I allow a temporary career set back to impact my confidence levels so profoundly?

I know it’s hackneyed, but I firmly believe that things to happen for a reason.  Events of the recent past are not far enough behind me yet, for me to have perspective in my rear-view mirror.  Their lessons will only begin to take shape in time.  In the meantime, I am very hopeful about the future.  I eagerly anticipate a few months of relative calm in which to get to work on myself.

In truth, we never know what is around the corner.  As prepared and ready as we think we are, there is always something which could potentially upset our little apple cart on the horizon.  All we can do is keep going.  Keep putting one foot in front of the other in the general direction of our goals.  Keep hoping the lights don’t go out.  Be well xxx