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Think P!NK

Last weekend my best friend and I boarded a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Glasgow.  We were on our way to see P!NK.  We had tried and failed to get tickets for her Dublin show, so my friend’s husband treated us to tickets for the show in Scotland.

The trip was organised months ago, and I should have been eagerly anticipating it.  But, as often happens with these things, the closer it got, the more the little gremlins inside my head started piping up.  Saying things like “work is so busy right now, I can’t really afford the time off.”  Or “my house is a tip, I could really do with getting it sorted out.”

There was never a chance that I was going to cancel, but these nagging thoughts threatened to ruin the experience for me before it had even begun.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go.  It was that anxiety or apathy was trying to find an excuse for me to stay home.  Because let’s face it, that’s always the easier option!

As soon as we arrived at the airport and ordered a drink I started to relax.  All the annoying niggles began to fade away.  The weekend was a great success.  The show itself was amazing, and we had a blast for the whole weekend.  We sampled Glasgow’s gay bars and casinos.  Neither of which we had actually set out to do.  Furthermore, it reminded me of a few important things.

Something old

My travel companion has been my best friend since we were 16.  That’s not today or yesterday!  We have literally been through everything together.  From family drama to being bridesmaid at each other’s wedding.  She knows me better than I know myself at times.

In recent weeks, I had been feeling a little sad.  There wasn’t anything specific I could put this down to.  But I suspect being in therapy had made me a bit raw.  Last week in particular, I was struggling and the only way I can think of describing it is as being heart sick.  The feeling of unexplained loss and unnamed longing.

Spending 48 hours in the company of someone who knows me so well and loves me warts and all has been like a balm.  As we stood among tens of thousands of people, singing tunelessly and drinking Tennants out of plastic glasses, I began to feel like myself again.

It’s becoming obvious to me that when we are at our lowest, being around people who just get us is so important.  They don’t need to do anything or say anything, other than offer to hold your drink while you pop to the loo.  When you feel that you are barely able to recognise yourself, it helps to be reassured that you are still who you used to be.

Something new

As we waited to board our flight home yesterday evening, I was tired from two late nights, and perhaps a tiny bit too much alcohol.  But deep down I felt revived.  Being in a new city, having a change of scene and getting away from it all, had restored me.  Had we gone to the Dublin concert, it would have been the same artist, and the same show.  The effect, however, would have been different.  It would not have been a “new” experience and could not have been so uplifting.  The mind loves novelty and it thrives on it.

Also, we often underestimate how much confidence can be gained from doing something new.  Navigating a strange city and managing the logistics can make you feel very accomplished.  (Remind me to tell you about getting lost in Rome another time!)

Girls just wanna have fun

One of the reasons I am in counselling is because I am having what I am calling an “Existential Crisis.”  I am trying to figure out my purpose in life and what I want to do when I grow up.  I find myself thinking “there has to be more to life than this” on a regular basis.

This issue is exacerbated by my awareness that I am not getting any younger.  I will be 38 this year, and I can’t help feeling like it’s all getting away from me.  I am sure a lot of people go through this as they approach midlife, and it is a season that will eventually pass.

Until that happens, it is really nice to be reminded that I am still capable of having fun.  That I am not too old to try new things or to enjoy myself.  It was so lovely to see traces of my younger self alive and well.  Maybe it’s not too late?

It turns out that as much as I tried to talk myself out of this trip, it was exactly what I needed.  The next time you find yourself thinking that you can’t be bothered to do something fun, or telling yourself it’s too much hassle, ask yourself, “is this my anxiety talking?”  “Am I stuck in a rut?”  Try to figure out what exactly is making you feel that way.  If you genuinely don’t want to do the thing, that’s fine.  However, if it’s a case that avoiding adventure has become your default, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.

Unfortunately, when we are struggling, we are often tempted to pull away from people and avoid trying new things.  This only leads to greater feelings of isolation and boredom, which in turn breed further struggle.  It’s a vicious cycle and one that can seem impossible to get out of when you are in the middle of it.  I try to think of it is as bicycle wheel spinning.  All it takes is a small rod in the spokes to interrupt it.

Of course two nights away hasn’t solved all my problems.  I still don’t have the answers.  However, I have been given a glimpse of what lies beyond this, and the assurance that if I can keep persuading myself to put one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get there.  In short, I feel better and you can’t put a price on that.  Be well xxx

 

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Feminism is Not a Dirty Word

For the longest time, I resisted identifying as a feminist.  I felt it was almost a dirty word.  The label seemed to suggest an instigator, a trouble maker, a boat rocker.  None of which I wanted to be known as.  Besides, who was I, in all of my educated, white privilege to bemoan my lot in life?  How dare I cry bias, when I was afforded opportunities, so many others are denied?

Growing up, a strong sense of fairness was instilled in me.  A belief in meritocracy.  When I started my career, I had no reason to doubt that if I kept my head down, I would be rewarded.  Surely effort would be recognised above all else?  Anything else defies logic.

I have come to learn that this belief is so common among women, it has been given a name.  Tiara syndrome.  Lots of women believe, as I did, that if you work hard, and keep your nose clean, good things will be bestowed upon you.  We shouldn’t need to kick and scream for what we deserve.  “Be a good girl, try a little harder,” as Alanis would say.

Furthermore, I had the idea that if I should ever speak up about gender issues, either for myself or on behalf of my female colleagues, that I would be vilified.  So, I put up far more than I should have.  When my male boss called me a “smart cookie,” I let it slide.  I played small and made nice.  Never daring to ask for the raises or vie for the promotions.

In my first ever “grown up job” I was harassed by a male colleague.  He persistently made lewd comments and behaved in a way that made me so uncomfortable, I dreaded going to work.  When I eventually plucked up the courage to complain, my request was simple.  I just didn’t want to sit within ogling distance of him.  The complaint was handled badly.  I was made to feel like it was my fault.  That I had encouraged him, or that I should have just kept quiet.  I was only 21 when this happened and it was an early lesson that speaking up won’t get you anywhere.

Over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time reading and listening to audio books.  Two titles that have made me re-evaluate my stance on feminism are “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and “That’s What She Said” by Joanne Lipman.  Both of these excellent books tackle the thorny issue of gender equality, and it is important to note, neither bash men.

Working my way through these books the seed of an idea began to take hold in my mind.  Equal does not have to mean the same.  We can accept that there are differences between the sexes, and still insist on fair and equal treatment.  We can begin to see these differences as complimentary rather than contrary.

Both authors also converge on the idea that in order to close the gender gap, we need men.  Women cannot go it alone.  Without the advocacy of men, we are on a road to nowhere.  We women are in a double bind.  By not speaking up, we get nowhere.  But when we do speak up, we risk reciprocity.  It kind of reminds me of the movies when the sane person is accused of being crazy.  Anything that he says or does to prove his sanity after that, only serves to make him look crazier.

It is an awkward dichotomy for me personally.  I want to play with the big boys, but I don’t want to be there simply to make up the numbers.  This issue came up recently, when there was a social media kick back about a nutrition conference.  Of the panel of ten speakers, only one was female.  This incited a lot of backlash in the community, with several people threatening to boycott the event.

My feelings about this were really complicated.  I must admit that when I initially saw the promotional posters, I failed to notice the male to female ratio.  I have been telling myself that it’s a non-issue for so long, I have become blind to it.  When I started to become aware of the outrage it had caused my reaction was “who cares whether the speakers are male or female?”  I want to listen to the most qualified and influential people in the industry.  It matters not a jot whether they are men or women.

However, my thinking was fundamentally flawed.  My argument would only be valid if speaking opportunities were awarded on merit alone.  The level of heterogeneity among the panel would suggest this is not the case.  Apart from the single white female speaker, the rest of the panel is made up of white men.  It would seem statistically unlikely that the best and the brightest in the field, all fall into this category.

This situation is not unique.  From orchestras to operating theatres, women continue to be under represented.  I am the first to admit I don’t know what the answer is to gender inequality, but burying my head in the sand and pretending it’s not my problem, certainly isn’t going to help.  I once heard someone say “if you’re not an activist, you’re an in-activist.”  Every time we see inequality and ignore it, we widen the gap.  I know I have been guilty of this in the past and I want to apologise to the next generation of women for failing to forge a path for them.  I will do better.   Be well xxx

Articles

Finding My Personal Legend

Write Right Now?

They say there’s a book inside everyone.  What they don’t comment on, however, is whether the book is any good or not.  Having spent the last number of years dabbling in blogging, with some degree of success, I decided to try writing fiction.

Short stories, I thought, would be a good place to begin.  Then when I had enough of them written, I could publish them as a book.  Super.  There was only one problem.  It turns out I am not terribly good at writing fiction.

I have made a couple of attempts, and so far the results have been fair to middling at best.  It is reminding me of the time when I first wanted to try to get fit.  I decided to try to attempt running.  Assuming that it would come naturally.  I had only made it about 50 meters, when I realised my folly.  With little choice, I swallowed my shame and returned home and back to the drawing board.

Writing, is proving to track a similar course.  I was so sure it would come easily to me.  That in a matter of months I would be on the best sellers list!  Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift.

Each story I have written as either been terribly generic or more auto-biographical than a short story should be.  I am beginning to wonder if I lack imagination, or creativity, or both.  Maybe it just isn’t for me?

Throughout the last few months, there has been no shortage of uncertainty in my life.  Writing, I felt, was the one thing I could rely on.  It was the one are in my life with plenty of scope.  The possibilities were endless and there was no shortage of potential.  Could I have been misguided?

The Hidden Legend

I have been listening to The Alchemist on audio book.  It is read by Jeremy Irons and his dulcet tones are so incredibly soothing.  The book itself is gorgeous.  It is a real work of art.  In it, Paulo Coelho, talks about your “personal legend.”  He counsels that when you really want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen for you.  It is a wonderfully powerful message, but every time he repeats it, I want to scream “but what if I don’t know what I want?”  “What if I never find my personal legend.”

Surely, at the age of 37. I should have some idea of what I want to be when I grow up?  I have such envy for people I meet who have a clear purpose.  Those among us who know precisely what path they should be on.  Their personal legend might be leading them towards a certain career, a particular sporting ambition or even parenthood.  The destination is not important.  It is the sense of purpose that I crave.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to wake up every morning knowing what you would ultimately like to achieve.  How liberating it must be not having to think about it.  Not to spend sleepless nights worrying if you are doing it right.

Or could it be that this really is all there is?  Perhaps my destiny is playing out exactly as it ought to.  With a career in accountancy and a few entertaining, if ultimately fruitless, hobbies.  Is it “normal” to experience such crises of purpose?  Is it tied in to the onset of middle age?

The Next Thing Next…

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with the “next thing.”  Always seeking out the next opportunity, the shiny new challenge.  Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me to stop.  To sit quietly.  To be still.  To allow the noise and the chaos to fall away, so that the answer might reveal itself.

It’s a strange dichotomy to be happy, yet unfulfilled.  It is something I have had a hard time reconciling myself to.  I have a good job, a loving husband, an amazing family and great friends.  Financial security appears to be within touching distance.  I have been blessed with good health and am privileged to have been born a white woman in a western country.  How dare I want more?  Who am I to seek my personal legend?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has come up several times during the course of my academic career.  I understand that is the self-actualisation need which remains unfulfilled.  I am aware that this can only present itself in the absence of all other need and as such I am grateful for it.  It is the very definition of a first world problem.

In The Achelmist, we meet a crystal merchant, who has an unfulfilled duty to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.  Although he has the money and the opportunity to go, he does not.  Understanding that should he tick that off his bucket list, he would have no reason to keep on living.  Perhaps it is that same phenomenon that keeps so many of us from achieving our ultimate goals.  (Those of us who are lucky enough to have identified them.)  How do we stay motivated to get out of bed, when there is no next thing?

As for me, I am not quite ready to give up on the idea of writing.  I am toying with the idea of taking a creative writing course, as soon as my schedule opens up a bit.  Hopefully in the second half of the year.  Until then, I will keep my eyes and my heart open.  Watching for omens and waiting for the king to direct me towards my treasure.  Be well xxx

 

 

Articles

It Was Written!

When I was 7 years old, I had a school teacher called Mrs. Cronin. I remember at the time thinking she was absolutely ancient. (My parents were very young, so it distorted my views about the age of others.) Looking back, I imagine she must have been about 40. During the course of the year, Mrs. Cronin had given the class a writing assignment, a short story, I think. I distinctly recall how impressed she was with my work and her telling me that I should go into journalism. Of course, that was crazy, 7 year old Arwen was set on becoming a surgeon!

I did not become a doctor in the end, numerous distractions and a spotty academic record put a stop to that. I have, however, tried out lots of other “careers.” I have waited tables, worked in McDonald’s, put in time in a call centre, etc., before eventually deciding to go down the route of accountancy.

Let me tell you a little bit about that decision making process. I was 24 or so, and working a customer service job. We were about to buy our first house, and I realised that I needed to be earning more money. That would mean going back to college, as my English degree didn’t qualify me for a whole lot. I needed a course that I could do part time, as full time education was out of the question. I went through my choices, of which there were all too few, and figured accountancy was as good an option as any. It pays well and I had always been reasonably okay with numbers, so why not?

Fast forward a dozen years, and I find myself fully qualified, and yet struggling to find a job which is the right fit. I had started to ask myself if this was really the right career for me. Shouldn’t I try to spend my days doing something which makes me as happy and fulfilled as teaching Zumba or writing?

Last Thursday night I attended the Blog Awards Ireland. I had entered the competition and miraculously made it to the final. To be 100% honest, having had a tough week, I didn’t really feel like it, but I had bought my costume, so I figured I would go. I figured I would stick around until my category was announced, smile graciously and applaud the winner, before sneaking out the back door.

There were ten bloggers in the final of my category. I didn’t check out the competition, because let’s face it, I didn’t need any more reason to doubt myself. They announced the bronze and silver awards for each category before calling the winner up to the stage. When they announced bronze and silver in Health and Wellness and it wasn’t me, any bit of hope I had drained away, and I started looking towards next year. Imagine my surprise when they announced the winner and it was me.

You could have blown me over with a feather. I was shaking so hard, I could barely walk to the stage. I felt amazing. It was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Now, I just need to figure out if the universe is trying to tell me something. Was Mrs. Cronin right thirty years ago? Was it written? Who knows, but I intend to have fun finding out. Be well xxx

Ps. I didn’t make it to the end of Sober October. I caved on the 24th. I will be starting a 21 Day Sugar Detox in early November so there will be more sobriety then.

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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.