Articles

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

Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 33

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep33-momspos-and-breastfeeding/

n this weeks episode Fitty talks about mothers on social media who preach about their miraculous methods and whether or not they are effective, while Fatty talks to us about her experience so far as a new mother and the area of breastfeeding.

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Articles

Can You See Me Now?

“As a child, which parent did you crave love from the most, your mother or your father?”  Easy.  My Father, 100%.  “What did you have to be to get that love?”  I had to be exceptional.  Anyone who has seen Tony Robbins documentary “I am Not Your Guru” will recognise these questions.

I am painfully aware of how much I craved my daddy’s love as a child, and indeed as an adult.  However, it has taken a lot of soul searching and a good smattering of therapy to get to the truth of how deeply this has affected me.  Before I continue, I want to clear something up.  I know my father loves me on an intellectual level.  However, this is not the same thing as feeling it.  Neither is it a substitute for feeling seen or heard.  Recognised or acknowledged.  I ask for your love and patience gentle reader as I attempt to shine a light on my truth as I have come to know it.

In The Beginning:

My parents met as teenagers, and they loved each other in the way you only can when you are that age.  Passionately and irrationally, in very much an “us against the world,” kind of way.  They were still impossibly young when they had me and three years later, my sister.

By the time my mother was 21 she found herself married and raising two children in a country which was in the grips of a recession.  To this day I am in awe of how good a job she did keeping us alive.  We were fed and clothed.  Our mother kept us insulated as best she could.  She was determined to prove that despite her tender years, she could be a great mother, and she was.  She still is.

There wasn’t a huge amount of time for cuddles and kisses in her life.  Having not grown up with them herself, they seemed unimportant.  Dad was different.  He was definitely a hugger, and so, although he probably spent one tenth of the time with us that mom did, it was his lap I coveted.

Achievement, especially academic, was highly praised.  I remember to this day how my father would boast about how his daughter (me) could read the Irish Times by age three.  You would swear I was publishing the thing myself the way he went on about it.  I learned from an early age that excellence would be rewarded.  If I could bring home first the gold stars and later the As, I would (maybe) receive the cherished hugs and praise I so desperately needed.

I learned at age 37, how much this desire for recognition, this need to be seen, has shaped my life.

The Good:

In Tony’s documentary he says that we can’t blame the past for the bad things, without also thanking it for the good.  So here goes.

For most of my school life I was an over achiever.  I loved to be praised and commended.  If there was an award to be had or a prize up for grabs I wanted it.  In fact, during the time of greatest disruption in my life, the year we spent living in California, I was awarded with the President’s Award for Academic Excellence.  Fancy huh?

This continued on into my working life.  From my first job in a newsagents to this very day.  I always wanted to excel.  It didn’t matter how high or low the stakes were, I was compelled to win.  I remember my McDonald’s days.  On busy Saturdays the managers, who were just a few years older than I was, would run competitions.  They would challenge us to see who could serve the most customers in an hour.  The prize was usually a chocolate bar.

Of course, I knew this was an irrelevant honour.  I was pretty sure we were being manipulated into trying to clear the queues faster, but I didn’t care.  I had to win.  Every week there would be a similar competition.  Each time I would do my damnedest to take home the chocolate.

As the years passed, chocolate bars were replaced with employee of the month plaques and promotions.   My competitive edge continued to be sharpened.  Recognition was a drug to me.  Without this addiction, I doubt I would have continued to claw my way up the career ladder.  The dopamine hits fueled my ambition.

The Bad:

The downside of wanting to be brilliant at everything you do, is that you get disappointed a lot.  There are many things I have attempted and promptly found out I suck at.  This is, of course, normal.  Very few people are naturally gifted at even one thing, let alone everything they try!

The problem with me is, I don’t have the patience for learning.  I want to go directly to Mayfair.  If I can collect £200 on my way, even better.  Seriously?  What do you mean I have to practice for hours and hours just so I can play Twinkle Twinkle.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  Nobody will celebrate that achievement, not even me.  I will still be in withdrawals.

This has lead to me developing a very bad habit.  I drop things which I don’t immediately perfect.  Which, let’s face it, is most things.  As a child I begged my mother to enroll me in activities.  She would sign me up, pay the fees and buy the accouterments.  Only for me to quit as soon as I realised I wasn’t going to be the best.

As I have gotten older, I have become a little better at sticking with things.  After all, I can’t exactly up and quit every job just because I haven’t mastered it on day one.  It is still struggle though.  I still want to be perfect every time.  I hate failing, finishing last and God forbid having to ask for help.  That dopamine rush still hits me anytime my coach high fives me, or my boss says good job.

The Ugly:

Here we are at the part of the story I really didn’t want to write.  This is the part which makes me experience hot shame when I think of it.  That only means it is the part that most needs to be told.

I cannot deal with being ignored or given the silent treatment.  For most of my life I have only felt I existed when I was being seen by other people.  This has caused me to act in ways that I am not proud of.  It has caused me to allow people to treat me badly.

When I was a teenager, I had a group of girlfriends.  All the other girls seemed to constantly be in relationships.  Although I dated a lot, I always ended up single.  I was desperate to have a boyfriend.  I wanted someone special in my life.  Someone to truly see me.  I suffered many humiliations during those years.  I attempted to make myself as appealing as possible.  Tried to be “low maintenance.”  Not asking for too much.  I am sure that I am not unique in this.  Many young women (and men) have probably had similar experiences.

One of the most crushing examples of this came in my first year of college.  I was attending a City Centre college and there were always social events being organised.  One such event was a traffic light ball.  The idea behind it is that each attendee wears a coloured badge.  Green if you are single any ready to mingle.  Orange if you’re open to meeting someone.  Red if you’re not looking.  Needless to say I was GREEN!!

The night was drawing to a close and I was yet to hook up with anyone.  Disconsolate, I sidled up to the bar to order myself another Smirnoff Ice.  To my complete shock, the barman started chatting to me.  His name was Tony.  He was absolutely gorgeous.  Totally out of my league.  At the end of the night he asked for my number and of course I gave it to him.  He called soon after and we began dating.

Tony seemed so cosmopolitan.  Not only was he working in a nightclub, but he was living in an apartment in town.  I was quickly besotted.  We had been out a few times when we met one day for lunch.  After the meal we went back to the apartment he shared with a few people.  (If memory serves, there were about 6 of them living in a one bedroom flat, maybe not so glamourous after all.)  We spent the afternoon kissing on his bed.  I was in heaven.  I felt like one of the Sex in The City girls.

His roommates began to trickle home and he introduced me to them.   Then said he needed to go get his hair cut and that I should wait in the apartment.  “Okay,” I said.  Time went by and I began to get uncomfortable with his unfriendly roommates.  About 2 hours later, his female roommate took a phone call and excused herself.  When she came back in she looked at me and said “that was Tony, he’s not coming back.  He said you should leave.”

I will never forget the way she looked at me.  “Poor cow,” was written all over her face.  I managed to get out of the flat without bursting into tears, barely.  Throughout the hour long bus journey home, I cried.  Trying to ignore the inquiring glances from strangers.

I wish I could tell you that was the end of the story.  That I managed to retain the last shreds of my dignity, but alas that was not the case.  I called him and text him incessantly.  I needed to hear him tell me why.  How could he just abandon me like that?  How could everything be great one minute and over the next?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  In my quest for “closure.,” I am surprised the poor guy didn’t file for a restraining order.  It was totally over the top.

Many years have passed since Tony’s haircut, but I am not much better at handling these types of situations.  Silence and withdrawal are the most painful things for me to deal with.  They feel like the ultimate betrayal.

My husband is definitely not the shouting type.  When we first started dating, we had disagreements like every couple getting to know each other.  His response was to walk away from the row, clear this head, be rational.  Mine was the total opposite.  The more silent he became, the more I raged.  I would shout, scream, throw things and ultimately do whatever it took to get a reaction.  Whatever it took to be seen.

Here and now:

If I am to be completely honest about it, this need to be seen, to be acknowledged, has been at the root of almost every action I have taken in my life.  It is what drives me to try to be successful in my career.  It is the motivation behind this blog and my podcast.  The need is also what causes me to flirt, dance on bars (literally,) chase after people who have zero interest and a whole host of other unhealthy and destructive behaviours.

For most of my life, I have been like the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Existing only through the eyes of others.  If you see me, and respond to me, no matter how negatively, I am real.  When you ignore me and overlook me, I am not.

There are many reasons I have cited as to explain why I decided to start therapy.  I wanted help with my anxiety.  I wanted to gain clarity on my purpose in life.  A little more confidence would be good.  All of these reasons are valid ones, but they are not the whole truth.

What really drove me to reach out for help, was being exhausted.  Tying so much of my self worth into other people’s opinions of me and actions towards me, was wearing me out.  I was sick of letting other people control whether I had the best day ever, or plunged into despair.  I wanted to feel like I exist, independently.

There have been so many tears.  Sometimes I feel in danger of dissolving as I try to work my way through all of this.  But slowly, I am beginning to feel like it might just be working.  Little by little I am focusing less on others.  I am less reliant on them for validation and acceptance.  As the weeks unfold, I am beginning to see myself.

It is absolutely terrifying.  At times I feel so vulnerable I could throw up.  Like a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis with still wet wings, I am desperately unsure of myself.  One thing I am sure of however, is that what I had been doing before now was not working for me.  I was harming myself in a million tiny ways.  It is time to stop that now.  Time to try something new.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you keep getting what you’re getting.”  There is great power in those words.  If we don’t like the path we are on, we have the power to change course.  A deviation of a single degree, can have a massive impact on your destination over time.

Be well.  I see you xxx

 

 

 

Articles

Sister Sister

You have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Hardly surprising.  I was just three when mom brought you home.  For 34 years you have been the one constant.  As kids, you were my shadow.  Even though I bemoaned you “breathing on me.”  As we grew up, we fought like cat and dog, but we always made up.  There were times when I screamed that I hated you.  Times when we drove each other to tears.  We certainly haven’t always agreed.  But I always knew you would be in my corner when push came to shove.

For much of the time growing up, it was just us two.  Our mother described us as chalk and cheese.  Totally dissimilar in every way.  However, whether we were jumping on the bed, planning our future business empire or trying to figure out how to get out of trouble, we were always in it together.  I thought of you as an extension of myself.  I figured I knew you inside and out.  How wrong I was.

Eight months ago we went for our routine manicures.  Afterwards, you sat me down in your living room and told me you were going to have a baby.  To be strictly accurate, you gifted me a mug with the word Auntie on it, and watched as I struggled to connect the dots.  I couldn’t process it.  I had always known you would have kids someday and I had no doubt you would be an incredible mother but, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  My baby sister was having a baby.

In the weeks and months that followed, I watched you embark on an amazing adventure.  It was an absolute privilege to be allowed to be on the periphery as your life was changing in such a profound way.  At each stage of your pregnancy you were presented with new challenges.  It was a strange dichotomy.  One half of me wanted to be able to do it for you.  To take the pain and uncertainty away, even for a little while.  The other half was blown away by how strong and capable you were.  How unflinching.  To put it simply, I was in awe.

Don’t get me wrong, we still had a few sharp words and disagreements.  It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime after all.  But it was wonderful to see you so full of passion and purpose as the new life grew inside you.

In time we found out that you would be having a baby girl.  That was the icing on the cake for me.  (At last I would have an outlet for my Hello Kitty obsession.)  Of course, you knew I wouldn’t have minded either way.  I really just wanted you both safe and healthy.  However, I appreciate you thinking pink none the less.

As your due date approached, we were all full of anxiety.  I still couldn’t really believe that you would actually be having a baby soon.  We all eagerly awaited your daughter’s arrival, and if our impatience made you feel pressurised, I am truly sorry.  With everything you were going through, you never flaked on our project and as much as it must have been a giant hassle you kept me in the loop every step of the way.

I made the decision long ago not to have children of my own.  I almost feel like there was an unspoken agreement between us.  You unselfishly allowed me to be as involved as I could be.  Knowing it would be the closest thing to a baby of my own.  I will be forever grateful to you for that.  Even when you went into labour, you went out of your way to keep me in the loop.  I needn’t have worried about being the last to know.

When at last Amelia was born, she changed all our lives forever.  I was given the privilege of being among the very first to meet her.  I would not be surprised if I am being referred to as Arwen the usurper in some circles.  As I held her the first time, I felt such as rush of love for her.  So much love can only be accommodated by growing a new heart.  I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for you.

Your daughter is incredible.  Perfect in every way and strong like her mother.  It’s amazing to watch her little personality begin to come through.  No words will ever be able to describe how proud I am of you and of her.  Our little tribe has a new member.  My dearest wish for her is that she always feels as loved as she is.

Be well xxx

Articles

Donegal Revisited

Some of you might remember that last year I was in Donegal, with my husband and our German Shepherd, Annie.  We had an amazing time.  So good, in fact, that we booked the same house for the same week this year.  I couldn’t wait to get back there.  I spent the weeks running up to it day dreaming about all the lovely, long walks we would take, and reminiscing about the bright blue skies we had had.  I found myself buying the same wine we had last year, and planning to hit up the same eateries.  I was essentially trying to recreate what had been a truly fabulous few days.

I should know better.  I should know by now that when you try to recreate an experience it never really works out.  It’s like when you have a great meal in a restaurant, and when you go back the chef is out sick and you end up with cold beans on toast!  I am so familiar with this recreation disappointment that I normally try to avoid encountering it.  However, where Donegal was concerned we decided to take the risk, and I am glad we did.

We loaded up the car, popped the puppy (all 40kgs of her) into the back seat and off we went.  With a stop for a bite of lunch, the drive took about 6 hours.  We arrived in the early evening and got settled in right away.  We sent out for pizza, the same one we’d had last year, naturally, and set about the serious business of relaxing.  Annie was so much more chilled out this time.  Last year she insisted on walking backwards around the place for the first day or two.  There was no moon walking this time and she seemed right at home.

The next day, in much the same fashion as last year, we set out for a long walk along the beach.  The humans hit 10,000 steps with ease, and the dog must have clocked up about 50,000!  She even had a little tussle with another dog at one stage.  When we got back to the house we were all worn out but happy.  It’s amazing the restorative effect the sea air can have on the soul.  That night, however, we noticed that Annie was limping a little.  She had no doubt overdone it, so we resigned ourselves to taking it a little easier.

As it happened, the weather was pretty miserable for the rest of our stay, so were we not anywhere near as active as we had been last year.  Initially I was a bit upset about it.  This wasn’t the plan.  I wanted to whine about how it wasn’t “the same,” but I didn’t.  I decided to re-frame it.  If I spent all my time thinking about what the trip wasn’t, I would be missing out on what it was.  I won’t be getting another break for ages and I didn’t want to waste it, even if it wasn’t going exactly to plan.  Just because it wasn’t the same, didn’t mean it couldn’t be great.  In the end, it turned out to be just what we needed.  A few quiet days away to rest and spend some quality time with our furry baby.

I am sure we all have a tendency to succumb to this way of thinking.  Our plan hasn’t worked out exactly as we wanted it to, so it’s all ruined.  We get so caught up with chasing the fantasy, that we risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Sometimes, as Ryan Holiday says in his brilliant book, “The Obstacle is The Way.”

I will give you an example.  My sister and I started recording a Podcast a few weeks back.  My younger brother is acting as producer, editor and general “making it all happen guy.”  None of us have a notion of what we are doing, but when has that ever stopped me!  We were pretty happy with how the first few episodes went, but there was an issue with the sound, that we couldn’t quite get to the bottom of.  It was really irritating, as it was making the Podcast seem less polished than we wanted.  We sat down last week to record and my poor brother’s computer decided to have a complete melt down.  No amount of ctrl+alt+delete could persuade it to cooperate.

Eventually we decided to fly up to my sister’s house and get her computer to use instead.  Of course her machine didn’t have the software we had been using, and we when tried to install it, we got nowhere.  At this stage we were all getting tired and more than a little frustrated.  We managed to find different software, downloaded it and praise the seven, it actually worked!  What’s more, we didn’t have the issues with the sound anymore.

The problem had been with the software all along, but of course we just assumed it was something we were doing wrong due to our lack of expertise.  If we hadn’t had the computer malfunction, we might never have figured it out.  What seemed like a complete disaster at the time, ended up being a big help.  Proving that good can come from just about any situation if you allow yourself to be open to it.  Be well xxx

Articles

Something Old, Something New!

I have been tinkering with this blog for almost 3 years now.  It has become a dear friend and trusted confidant.  Over the years it has allowed me to express myself in ways I hadn’t known possible.  A little while ago, I entered a blogging competition and honestly had zero expectations.  I am shocked, amazed and humbled beyond belief to have made it to the final in the health and wellness category.  Thank you to everyone who has visited the blog since it started.  You guys are awesome.

I can’t help but remember back to when it was just an idea.  I had thought about it for so long.  Hmming and hawing, second guessing and procrastinating.  I worried so much about how it would be received.  What would people say?  What would they think?  I can’t speak to what they might be thinking, but as of yet I have not received any negative feedback.  I was prepared for trolls, but they have remained under their bridges up till now anyway!

Recently, my sister and I started a Podcast.  As always when I take on a new project, I was filled with trepidation and fear.  Imagining every eventuality and doing a fair amount of catastrophizing.  As I write this, we have two episodes aired.  A new episode will drop every Monday.  Naturally we have experienced some teething problems and are learning A LOT.  The learning curve is a steep one, but not insurmountable.  Astonishingly, nothing catastrophic has befallen us so far.  I am usually a solo flier, and it has been so nice to have my sister on this adventure with me.  My brother is producing the show for us, so it’s pretty much a family affair.

The Podcast is in a similar vein to the blog.  We talk about health, fitness and lifestyle and try to get to the truth behind some of the myths.  We also talk about food a lot, and anything else we stumble across.  It is all done with the honesty you have come to expect from me.  We are on all the major platforms.  I would love you to check it out, Fitty and Fatty

That’s enough of the shameless self promotion.

What I really wanted to say in this post is that incredible things do happen.  If you put yourself out there and take a chance.  Opportunity does knock, but only if you leave the porch light on.  If there’s something you have been wanting to do for ages, please go and do it.  If it doesn’t work out, so what?  If it does, who knows where it could take you!  And if you end up being up for an award, please let me know.  Be well xxx

PS.  For anyone looking for an update on Scroll Free September.  It has been going well.  I am not struggling at all really.  This blog automagically uploads to the Facebook page, so I promise I haven’t been cheating.