What’s Your Normal?

Almost a year ago, I sat here on this very sofa, in much the same cross-legged position, and I wrote about how I needed to find balance in living with my husband and our children in my house. All together. All the time. I expressed the opinion that it often feels as if I operate better solo, and I vouchsafed that, in spite of this fact, I loved having us all together in a home of our own; I just needed to find a way to balance the seemingly endless company with the solitude that I desperately seem to need.

Now, this evening, I am sitting here and, while I still concur with the general findings of my musings at that time, I find I have something to add. An important something – for me at least – that deserves to be said; that needs to be acknowledged. It is a something that struck me last Friday when I was off work sick – which seems to the only time I ever have the house to myself – and, though the words took a while to fully come through, I eventually had a bit of a Eureka moment. (An Eureka moment? Dunno. Anyway.) It’s quite simple, and it’s probably quite obvious, but then things often are from a distance, aren’t they?

My realisation (and I mean my real, astonishingly clear, brain-freezingly important realisation) is that living with other people is not my normal way of life. The reason that I find it difficult is that I have done it so rarely in my life, and it really is something I need to be gentle with myself about. I blithely toddled into being a married woman  again just over two years ago, and totally ignored the fact that the last time that I shared my living space with another adult full time was when I lived at home with my mother – and that was at least fourteen years ago, and only for about four or five months. I shared a house with people in my final year in college in ’99 but I had my own huge room and I wasn’t part of their gang of friends; D and I shared the same house when we were living together/married before, but he always worked nights so for at least five nights a week, I had the place to myself. (I’m not including the children in this because, somehow, for this issue, they don’t count.) TRM never lived with me so that doesn’t count either.

I’m an only child, of only children. My mother and I are solitary sorts by nature. We like other people for a while, but we get exhausted by them very quickly – the more so as we age, I suspect. My father is Mr. Gregarious, but he is quite happy to live on his own if he can meet people of an evening for pints, or for dinner, and he no longer needs the constant company that he thrived on in his working days two decades and more ago. People find me odd because I have the hermit compulsion quite strongly within me; I am deliriously happy to lock myself away from everyone and everything for a weekend, and not talking to anyone at all from Friday at 5pm to Monday at 8.30am is my kind of heaven. There used to be time for me to do that, but that came to an end when we became a two-adult family again. I did really well for the first year or so, until Christmas rolled around when I descended into a fog of depression. All of a sudden, even though I had been looking forward to Christmas for the first time in possibly ever, I got sucked into a major gloom and couldn’t get out.  I have been in varying states of grey since then, and I wonder now if I am feeling stuck because, subconsciously, I have no room to manoeuvre. I also feel that there’s a very strong chance that my at-home only sleeping-verging-on-narcolepsy may well be another subconscious escape mechanism. Everywhere I turn there is another human being taking up my precious space and oxygen! I think I have also finally realised that I do not have to be immediately rational about this feeling, although it would nice to become so in time.

I am making my way through Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star and this is one of the things that has arisen for me. I think it was also the thrill of an illicit afternoon one day last week, spent entirely alone with my headphones and my book in Starbucks, that made me realise what I have been so very desperately missing. (The fact that I left work early on day because I was feeling horrendous – cold, sore throat, stuffed up head, etc. – and realised that I couldn’t go home without spending the rest of the afternoon running around after other people, never mind being able to just give into being sick and go to bed, made me pause for thought.) Settled at a table with my salted caramel mocha, Ms. Beck, and Rudimental, I realised that it was one of those occasions where I could feel the blood rushing through my veins with sheer exhilaration. If you had offered me a free round trip to anywhere else in the world at that moment in time, I wouldn’t’ve taken you up on it. Not even if it was my own bed which, two hours previously, I had almost been crying for! I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, and it felt like a long time since that had been the case. (Which, upon reflection, isn’t very fair given that I spent a wonderful Saturday with my best friend in Glastonbury the weekend before that so, y’know, probably a bit spoilt overall but moving along….!) The secret to it all, I think, it the no other people bit. That is what so much of it hinges on, and maybe why I am so unhinged. Whatever the case may be, I have made myself a promise. It involves me, and a coffee shop (because, at the moment, this seems to be the sort of environment that I crave: homely yet anonymous, I suppose) and at least one hour a week of whatever feels best, consciously acknowledged as Me Time where no one else is invited, or wanted, or required. And perhaps, if I give myself this time, in this way, changing the components as desired, I will, in time, make it back into balance with my home life.

I thought, at first, it was all about missing my house which was so very much my space – and to some degree, that is the case – but I have come to realise that it might in fact be missing the room to breathe, unencumbered by anyone else. There is a strong possibility that Room To Breathe may be my next tattoo: it really is that important to me!

Honey – Two Years.

Two years ago today, my Honey-dog came home to live with us. Two other dogs have joined us in the intervening years, but she is still my baby and my best beloved. I waited thirty-four years to find her and she changed our lives completely.

My little truffle-hunting Moomin-pig

My little truffle-hunting Moomin-pig

She loves her daddy best of all.

She loves her daddy best of all.

Honey with Fudge and Ronnie, her adopted sister and brother. So many smiles!

Honey with Fudge and Ronnie, her adopted sister and brother. So many smiles!

A happy girl after her Adoption day pork pie and scotch egg this evening.

A happy girl after her Adoption Day pork pie and scotch egg this evening.

A Revelation.

To love. To hear. To see, to feel, to empathise, to relate, to reflect, to encourage, to understand, to believe in and with. To listen completely. To hold people and space.

To enjoy. To reveal, to share, to think, to speak. To be still, to revel, to sing, to move, to inhale and exhale. To pay attention. To observe.

To be open. To be honest. To speak up when the spirit moves me and let the words flow through me without sticking. To admit pain and joy, bliss and sorrow. To find balance.

To witness the wonder of All That Is in all the ways that it manifests.


Coming Soon…

In four days, I will be thirty-six. That’s definitely supposed to be Grown Up Territory – I wonder when it will feel that way in here in this little space that I call me? Most of the time now, I feel as if I have things reasonably in hand, but there are inevitably occasions when my inner four year old wants to take over. Does that ever end?

Life is much the same as ever. There are many happinesses in here; so many that I have to pay attention and count them out to really appreciate them. There is also, currently, an intention towards inviting the Universe’s abundance into this space, into my space, into our family. I read a wonderful post that Jo wrote that, as is often the case for me, sounded like it was being written by my wiser, more mature,  grounded self. She is speaking my words here, right down to the ‘we always have enough to get by’ but often by a seeming miracle. I  decided – probably about the same time that she did, and that’s what makes the magic, people- that ‘Just Enough’ was, and is, no longer enough. Time to open up, time break down the self-prophesies and self-harming stories. Time to bring about a new perspective and invite The All to present us with new options and experiences. It can feel treacherous to open up when there is so little leeway in one’s responsible, adult financial pose, but, then again, I was given the gift of seeing a post on Facebook today which said something along the lines of “you must spend your money with the certainty that it will return to you…because it has to.” This reminds me that, when so much around me is going well and bearing fruit, I have found a strange time to lose my trust and faith in the abundance that has always come me when it was needed or asked for. I can do this little by little, step by step, and with an increasing awareness of my self-sabotaging inner monologue, I can amend my focus back into the black and away from the red.

We will be more than OK.

Little Things.

Relative contentment. Tired but sleeping better so starting to feel a bit more human. Aching: hip and shoulder joints of an eighty year old woman; think this will improve over time. Back on the gluten-free train but added dairy-free this time for fun. Would cheerfully maim most humans for a vast mug of tea with milk and three sugars. Detoxing following gluten and increased sugar consumption over the last three months. Losing weight. Able to read again after months of not being able to focus sufficiently. Was scary. Now nice to be able to finish a book when I start it. Strange longing to take my bike out for a bit of a spin. Covered in dogs.

New addition to the Furry Familiars – Oberon: Akita/GSD cross. Quite, quite mental. Large. Incredible cuddle-bug who parades – it’s the only word for it, honestly! – around the house displaying his magnificence. Known as Ronnie…much to confusion of Honey who’s never really sure of her name at the best of times.

Unsure about the onset of winter this year. Or even Autumn. Most unusual for me. Would really love to go on a shopping spree for clothes. Nothing majorly exciting, just jeans and sweaters etc. Unlikely to happen.

Re-learning Lamb love.

Got to see two of my favourite people this month – very happy.


No Way Out?

I lose my temper approximately thirty-five times a day. It’s a thing with me. I’m not proud of it, and I disperse it as safely as I can, but the fact of the matter is that things aggravate me quickly and I have a short fuse. There’s a difference, though, between my short fuse and my anger. I lose my temper a lot but few things in life make me brain-meltingly angry; it takes a while for things to build up to that point, you know. There are a few things, however, that are instant triggers and where my general ‘Live and Let Live’ approach doesn’t so much fall by the wayside as get ambushed, mugged and left for dead at the mercy of the elements.

One of those triggers is a woman’s choice to terminate an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. I have made a point of reading all the points of view, and I have listened to all the arguments and nothing has convinced me that anyone else should have a say in whether or not I continue a pregnancy other than me, and possibly, the father of what will in time become a child.

To have a hope of understanding what I’m saying here, you need to know that I’m not  writing this as a militant feminist or man-hater. I’m not a rabble-rousing hussy and I’ve never been on a Slut Walk – though I admire all who have and think they’re an excellent idea. I quite often aspire to their courage and audacity. No, the only thing you need to know about me is that I am a thirty-five year old woman in full time employment, with a husband and two children. And I have had two abortions, one after each full-term pregnancy. You also need to know that I made the decision to have each termination on my own, and I never doubted myself once. Unlike many women living in Ireland, I understood that I had options, never felt the need to apologise for them and didn’t believe that a pregnancy had to result in an addition to the family. Nor did I feel that it was something that a woman should be ashamed of, or be made to feel ashamed of. In my world view, abortion is a Human Right – yes, in capitals – both for the pregnant woman and that woman’s partner/family/unborn child.

Here’s the thing: I trust myself to know what I am capable of dealing with in life and I am, as a relatively intelligent human being, comfortable with my abilities and strengths, as well as my many flaws and short-comings. As, for example, a legislating politician, the chances are high that you have never met me and, let’s face it, this is unlikely to change. I don’t go to a lot of parliamentary functions and you probably don’t hang out around Oldcourt Park very much. It’s cool; you’ll get no argument from me on that score, after all, we all have our own lives to live. But there, of course, is the crux of the matter. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to eat for lunch, never mind passing laws that could reasonably be said to dictate the next eighteen years of your life. It’s wrong, it’s inexcusable and I wouldn’t stand for it if someone tried to pull that stunt on you.

Come on, think of it for a moment with me. What would you say if someone had the outright cheek to tell you how you should spend your money? How would you respond to someone who inflicted mental anguish on you for nine months or more? Would you feel good if someone told you that your daughter must continue with a pregnancy even though her baby would die within hours of being born? How would you react if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to buy your own house, or go on holiday, or put food on the table for you and your spouse? What would you say to the person who says that your sister can’t follow her desire to go to college but, equally, she should be ashamed to be on social welfare because she can’t get a job, and she can’t afford childcare? Do you believe that all people are emotionally, physically and financially capable of raising a child?

To my mind, when you deny a woman the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, this is what you are telling her. The Irish Government blatantly says  “you are not worthy of sufficient respect or even thought and we do not care about your hopes, your dreams or your future. We know better than you and we will force our will on you whether that means you live your life in poverty, or depression, or if you pass these conditions on to your child. You have no say in your future because you made a mistake and got pregnant and because of some archaic values that the Catholic church drummed into us for years, you will be made to suffer, even if an alternative option exists.” I suppose this should not be a surprise to people who’ve watched Ireland internal record on Women’s Rights generally. Don’t get fooled for a second by our international Human Rights record; if it’s a case of sending a UN peace-keeping force, the Irish are all over it and get endless praise. If it’s promoting better health care or standard of living for its women-folk, or making amends for even some of the cruelties of the past, though, you’re out of luck.

Let me break it down for you a step further: denying a woman easy access to abortion services when she needs them is on the same footing as rape. If rape is about power and control – the forcing of a woman against her will – then making, or keeping, abortion illegal is the same thing. No human being should be made to carry a child to term that they do not want to bear. It’s cruelty, plain and simple. There are myriad reasons why a woman may feel that she doesn’t want to continue a pregnancy and the simply fact is that they are nobody else’s business. End of story.

Most importantly, it’s not just about a woman carrying a pregnancy to term; it’s as much about what happens after that. What comes of pregnancy, after all, is a life, a new human being. Isn’t that human being entitled to certain things too? Because being born is no guarantee of a good life, a good education, health care or, more basic yet, love, shelter, warmth or food. Just because someone in the State senate or the Oireachteas demands you be born doesn’t mean they’re going to give a damn about you when you arrive. So this, ultimately, is my point. Being pro-life is not the same as being Pro-birth. If we believe every foetus is a human life, and that every life is sacred, we must build a society where everyone has access to everything they need in order to live a good life. If we can’t do that, either as politicians or parents, I believe we need to reassess our standpoints. In the meantime, legislate for things that are your business, like crooked bankers and Church authorities ignoring the laws of the countries they practice in. This will help the country. Let women’s conscience decide what they do with their own bodies.

Night Life.

Last night, we did something I had wanted to do for a long time: we went into the city and we walked the streets and absorbed some of the energy of Saturday night in Dublin. It’s been an awfully long time since I did it, and it was such a good feeling to see what I most wanted to see – the wild and beautiful diversity of people out for the night.

It’s been really hot here on the east coast of Ireland for the last week or so. Not by the USA’s standard of hot, but by our standards, very much so. Temperatures have been reaching twenty-seven or twenty-eight degrees and, for me, that’s Hide In The Fridge weather. It makes me sleepy and lethargic, even more so than usual. My brain shuts down and my limbs weaken under the wilting weight of the humidity. The glare of the sun is too much, too bright, for someone who’s favourite time of the day is inevitably very early morning or dusk. I like the in-between times rather than the bright and obvious midday light. Finally, yesterday evening, it cooled down. Everything swung back to a comfortable sort of eighteen degrees or so – which is my kind of t-shirt weather at the best of times – and I finally felt as if I could breathe. I can hardly describe the relief of feeling as if I could move again properly!

The whole city centre seemed like it was exhaling, actually, and there were so many gorgeous people out and about. This was somewhat tempered by the fact that, compared to how it used to be, the city was empty. Driving in at about eight thirty, people were conspicuous by their very absence. I don’t believe I have ever seen Town quieter on a Saturday night. But Temple Bar had a reasonable crowd, and the posters on the hoardings made me as happy as they always do: concerts, comedy gigs, theatre productions, protests, exhibitions – it’s good to see there is still plenty afoot in Dublin, despite its abandoned weekend.

There is something distinct and special about the Saturday night energy. I love people watching and I will be quite delighted to sit in a café during the day and watch the world go by. The thing is though that a different dynamic exists. It’s all a lot more structured, a lot more for show. People have a plan, a schedule, they’ve got appointments to keep and a set list of shops to visit. They have children with them or washing to hang out when they get home; they are, in short, preoccupied. Whereas people on a Saturday night are, generally speaking, looser, freer, more alive to the music and rhythms around them. They’ve done the prep work – fixed the hair, shaved the legs – they’re rocking the new clothes they bought earlier in the day and they’re ready for whatever comes next, but most of them are also OK with whatever’s happening now. They’ve got the buzz, and it’s a wonderful thing to observe.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s also the undeniable entertainment value of women in warm weather going out for the night. The skirts get shorter, the heels get higher, the tops get smaller and smaller. There are the usual orange faces and pink necks, the fake tanned legs and the white hands, the plasters covering the blistered heels. But it’s all good because there’s an underlying hum of excitement that infuses even the passersby with an element of vivacity.

The thing is, I suppose, that it’s like looking at what life should be like. It’s the hum of the Having A Good Time, or at least Expecting To Have A Good Time and, truthfully, what more do any of us want?