Afterthought

Sometimes we forget. Forget how hard it is for us humans to walk around in this imperfect, fleshy cloak. And yet, we are expert at remembering faults and imperfections. Disagreement and tensions, playing victim, or laying blame.

It is easy to tempt the devil, powder and preen the wrong in something, make it shine brightest. Mount our hurts and greviences like trophies to the wall. What is harder is to find the merit, to be faithful to the good. In ourselves and others.

A day can be filled with a dialogue of criticism, doubt, labeling and first reactions, the ebb of flow of our minds, the drip feed of corrosion and cynicism bedding down. And like weevils in the flour, the only solution, is to throw the whole bag out and start again. Least it infect and taint all the efforts made by you and others.

Life does not lend itself to reflection. And the less we know ourselves, the less we change. Preoccupied with the practicalities of the day-to-day, we forget that we are ever evolving creatures. Astounding , malleable and free. And that we have a responsibility to that capacity, in ourselves and in others. Time spent sitting alone, in silence, in not wasteful or unimportant. It is vital.

Samuel Johnston said “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

We all keep ourselves captive in small ways.  Never letting the possible breath and grow in case we fall into foolishness. But sit and scheme for a minute. Grant yourself that indulgence. What is it you really want? What do you desire for those you love, your family, your friends, yourself?  Let the impossible take precedent. Give it a name, inflate it with hope. Do it everyday without prejudice. Believe in the others and yourself, without naivety, fully acknowledging we are clay vessels, that leak and crack.

Lie in wait, see what unfurls from the bed of silence. Leaving the noise to rattle on unnoticed.

And then, when you see it clearly, as you will and as you must.  Do it.

The Shitty Committee

I ordered business cards. For networking purposes. But mostly because I fear the wraith of my friend Louise, who insists I take myself ‘seriously’. Because, let’s face it nobody else will. She lovely really and very attractive.

And I dithered for ages over the “Job Title” bit on my business card. I’ve had no real job, as in a paid job, for over a decade. It is real job obviously.  Just not one you can put on a C.V. So, I’ve been busy wiping noses, and bums and expulsions that defy description off skirting boards. And I’m sure a lot of women have this problem when they try and take themselves ‘seriously’. And not just those of us with unreal jobs either.

Anyhow, as I hovered over the keyboard, fingers poised. The ‘shitty committee’ appeared. A phrase my friend Jill used to describe the tendency we have to concentrate on the bad and negative and never on the good and positive. And the conversation went something like this.

Me “I’ll just put down writer, playwright, blogger, actress, covers all the bases”

Snorting and then choking sounds from the dark side of my brain, followed by heavy Darth Vader breathing. .

Also Me “HAHA hHilarious, I’m weeping!  Oh God, I think I’ve done myself a damage, herniated something, you know, down there.  Look, you’re a gobshite, you can’t do any of those things, you can’t do anything right, get over yourself. Oh and we might need to see a Gynaecologist”

Me “Eh excuse me, smart arse. I’ve been short-listed for lots of things. You would do kindly to remember that. I just directed and wrote a one-act comedy play, where people, real people, sober people, including my friend Anne-Marie and MY mother, laughed”

More choking and wheezing sounds, accompanied by high pitched squealing and leg slapping.

Still Me “Yeah yeah laugh away, but you know it’s true. I was in a film that played in the Dublin Film Festival. So I’m putting down writer, and playwright. And I’m also putting down actress. It’s entirely legitimate, I have an IMDB listing thingie and everything, just takes a while to find”

Also Me “The Big Brother house mates have IMDB listings, along with those eejits from Naked Dating, all you need is a personality disorder and daddy issues to have one of those. No actual talent, so yeah, fair enough, you’re listing is perfectly feasible.

Me “I’m not listening to you, you’re like a rain cloud full of pig droppings, useless messy and unwanted”

Puts fingers in ears and hums, loudly.

Also Me “I know you can hear me. And those other people you mentioned, they felt sorry for you, with your attention seeking notions. And lest we forget, you played a pyjama wearing, psychopathic weapon with breathing problems and grey skin, in THAT film. Hardly a stretch. I mean, you’re wearing pyjamas right now, and seriously, what is that crap on your face?”

Me “It’s a homemade avocado and oatmeal face mask. I got the recipe off Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog. Well Listowel is not a notion. That is like a very big deal. I got short listed for that! ”

Also Me “It was an essay writing competition you twat. Only twats write essays for fun. And only twats read Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog. And what about yer one, last week, who messaged your Facebook blog, direct-mailed your inbox and said your stuff was shite? You should listen to her, now she’s got a bit of sense, have you got any crisps? I’m starved”

Me “Feck off, you’re not eating my crisps, certainly not the fancy balsamic vinegar ones. Yeah well, SHE was just one person. There were lots of people who said nice encouraging things. I got a card congratulating me. I proper one, not one a cheap toilet paper one from Euro giant. Get away from the crisps! Who said you could pour yourself a glass of wine?”

Also Me “Jaysus wept woman!  Those crisps are bleeding stale! I’ve scratched my soft palate, I’ve got a lisp now! Better not be permanent. What about all those people who unliked your self-indulgent shitty blog”

Me “They are not stale crisps. They are expensive, exclusive and made from lentils, healthy crisps. The unlikes, were a mere handful, par for the course”

Also Me “Well a handful of people have good taste, unlike these woeful crisps. Lentils? Is the blood supply to your frontal lobe constricted? Because your lentil crisps taste like desiccated cow manure. Buy normal snack food you asshat? And what about the message, about your duplicate WordPress blog?  The long-winded comment, highlighting all the magnificent ways in which you are shite. That was brilliant. Really well written actually, like angry troll poetry”

Me “I don’t care what you say, I’m listing those things as my job title, STOP getting crumbs on my bloody fecking carpet! Why are eating them if you don’t like them? Don’t spit that out! Did you spit in my fireplace? You are disgusting”

Also Me “I nearly hacked my spleen up, those lentil chippings are satanic. Anyhow, you’ve been at home for ages and ages, doing nothing, breast-feeding sprogs, flushing toilets, growing hair in the wrong places, and just letting your brain rot – and letting yourself, you know, go. Can I make myself a sandwich?”

Me “Right that’s it, get out, get of my brain, right now”

Also Me “Nope, my brain too, you’ll have to fight me for it. And I want a sandwich, did I mention you’ve put on weight?”

Me “The weight might have something to do with you wanting a sandwich at 10.30 on a Friday night!”

And on it raged. Back and forth. Until eventually I just hit enter I hoped and prayed my spellings were correct, and my grammar wasn’t obviously wrong. I felt in leaving the back of the card blank, people could at least use my ‘business card’ for doodling, or cleaning their teeth with.

Anyhow, my point is. We all have that voice in our head. And no matter what horrible thing another person says to you. The most abusive and toxic attacks are self-inflicted. But I also think you should hear those voices, let them shout at you, that way you can argue with them. You won’t always win. But each little battle is worth it. Helping you hone in on your humility, and increasing your genuine self-worth. Moving away from a dependency on validation. Letting you see what you are good at, whilst never losing sight of the need to get better.

 

Summer School

And they’re off like greased greyhounds at the butchers counter. The kids that is. Himself is home conveniently late tonight and the Girl Child and Boy Child have finished with formal education for the next nine weeks. NINE WEEKS.

It’s been precisely 7 hours since school finished, during which time.

We’ve had one failed attempt at hair dye (blue)

One human face ( not mine)  stuck to a sliding a door, with PVC glue.

A tantrum ( not mine) over a fortune cookie being wrong, ironically enough.

And a united and persistent plea for a puppy, or pony. Using a kazoo.

And as I was so preoccupied with “My Art” recently. I forgot to book several million Summer Camps. Meaning that as “Primary Care Giver” – I have to mother, as in parent. As in find things for them to do. Or, as the ever wise child experts tell us, let them experience boredom.

(Seriously, anyone knows boredom ends in arson. Wanton or accidental. But nevertheless arson) 

And I don’t mean to sound smug, but I already excel at letting my children sample the delights of boredom.

I find the clarion of call. ” I can’t afford that” or ” we have no money” to be great phrases in the ongoing fight against pervasive consumerism. Requiring them to entertain themselves, usually by sampling out mediaeval torture methods on each other. Or playing endless rounds of “get out of my room!”

 

But it’s true, summer time is brimful of opportunity to do all those things I never get time to tackle or think about.

Like clearing out the shed. But on close forensic examination ( a good kick) I realize the pile of junk is actually serving as structural support for the back-end and it’s best not to touch it. Or create any kind of friction around or near it. So I tip toe away.

I might garden, gamely take it up.Lots of people do it, and seem to even like it.  But as I gaze out the back window, I get to thinking, I quite like the wild meadow look, and the defecating cats keep the rats away, from the shed that might fall down and kill someone. Resulting in a highly publicized court case. And there is Marty to think of. The one winged magpie and ongoing motivational metaphor. My back garden is his habitat. And he is wild and injured. And that means, it’s like, OFFICIALLY, a wildlife sanctuary and I can’t mess with that. Nope, that is morally wrong on every level. Like clubbing a baby sea-lion for its pelt. And I can’t bring myself. Because I’m a good person. Flawed but good.

But then I think, I will use my time wisely, get fit this summer. Really fit. Instagram fit. I will.  I’ll go to the gym 4 days a week and do something called a split routine. I downloaded and star-marked it and everything. I can’t understand it, but that never stopped me before. I’ll be an Olympic athlete by time September rolls round. Turn up at the school gate with zero body fat, and impressive guns, and a scorching personal best in the bench press. And then I think.

“Well I ate one of those protein bars today”

With the nutrients, and the vitamins, and the other stuff, with the chocolate all over it,and that’s kinda the same thing. You know, because I’m tired, and I have wild life sanctuary to manage, a listed shed to protect, and children to scold.

So I think, we will just roll with it. Me and the kids will pile into the car, I will threaten and bribe them. We will go to lots of boring places with exhibitions and small print. We will have far too many scones and I will make an endless amount of white bread and cheese sandwiches. Which won’t get eaten. But will get grass in them and sand and biological warfare.

They will outgrow clothes and fads, and become a little more independent.  Take the front door off its hinges. Drive me spare. Make me laugh.

And all the while, make enduring unique memories, which they can bring with them into adulthood, to sustain them and give them something meaty to talk about in their therapist’s session.  And when I,  am no longer Primary Care Giver.

 

 

 

 

The Good Father.

We parked along the Stony side of the road. Tree Rock Mountain. I knew the spot well,  marched up the side of it in the rain when we were younger, myself and the brother. Fed up, whingeing, bickering and wanting to go back. Dragging our feet up as far as the big grey mast, arms extended outwards in penitence. Dublin, below us, heaving and breathing, the lights revolving like molecules under a microscope. Alive and multiplying.

“Here pet, let’s go and walk”

My father was all thick undulating eyebrows when concerned, like a comic book character, overdrawn for emphasis.  A face that went from menace to melancholic in the shade of second. Suggesting it now, the mountain trek, as a place of refuge.

“Lets get some air”

I’d come through the door of the house an hour earlier,  bypassing the common areas, up into my room. The tears weren’t the worst of it. The molten fears had melded together in one sentence. The monster under the bed had hijacked my life in less than 5 seconds. I was 15. I wasn’t good enough.  I wasn’t loved.

“I don’t think we should go out anymore, I think we should be friends”

I’d loved him for about 4 weeks solid. He was the one. But he wasn’t. He’d obviously practiced. He had certainly planned it. He eyes flickered over my shoulder in the direction of the chipper, watching people come and go. His lanky plank of friend hanging onto his bike, a quick get away afterwards.

“You’re real nice and everything, but I think we should just be friends”

“Yeah, sure, Ok”

I tugged at my new grey skirt, and the docs I had barely broken in. Then he hugged me, I could smell his deodorant and the Johnny Blue cigarettes. I wanted to cry. But I wanted him dead. So the moral confusion saved me. As I walked home I could feel the blister forming on my heel.

“Here love, look up there”

Myself and Dad had sat on two cupped rocks, we hadn’t walked far,  it was dusk and I’d forgotten my jacket. The tears and started to a bait, the snot was annoying me.

“That star there, how many Johnny Long Fellows do you think it’s seen come and go”

“Dunno, don’t care”

“Millions of little snots, little bollixes, all gone now, that’s how many”

I sniffed, and leaned into his shoulder, he rubbed a shovel of hand through my hair.

“Don’t be going with pricks who don’t know your worth, and don’t cry any more tears over him”

His heartbeat sounded like an echo in a cave when you leant your head against it.

“We’re friends dad”

“You are not ! a kick up the arse is too good for him”

“I really liked him, I thought he liked me too”

The other hand reached round for a hug. Not tight, just secure, I felt the wool of his jumper, the smell of his work shirt.

“He’s a little bollix, a skinny little bollix, how could you like that? am I raring an eejit?”

 

And I knew Dad was right. I knew it in my heart and my soul, Little Bollix, would be going out with Fiona whateverherfacewas within twenty-four hours.  Meeting at the sweet shop, walking round to the chippers. Cycling round her house like a flea with pedals, trying to get in the door, upstairs, to shatter a heart even further. He did that once with me. Dad, out trimming the hedge with a chainsaw, posing like a horror movie, it switched on, and revving. Little Bollix had stopped short in the driveway, astride his bike, about to call in. Bravado in a bomber jacket.

“Howwa ya, you Mag’s Da, she in?”

Dad stared at him, chainsaw alive and twirling in a figure of eight. Fixed with the same expression he had for next doors cat, when it was stupid enough to try defecating on his front lawn.

Not on my doorstep Sonny Jim. 

There was a minute of staring. A minute of alpha-male posturing and chest heaving.

 

“Will you tell her I called for her?…. please .. Mr Kane”

“I won’t, I’m busy cutting me hedge”

I could see him out the front window of my parents room. I knew then he’d break up with me. I always knew he’d fail the test. I’d discouraged him from calling over, drawing any attention to himself.  But his cheekbones were perfect, and he had ears that lay flush to his skull. And I loved him. Because I was 15 and an eejit.

And a good father knows that, he know when his child is too thick to know any different.

He knows when a teenage boy is a dirt-bag in a school uniform. Who has more regard for the spots on his face, than people in his life.

A good father knows that a brisk walk ,a hug,a strong shoulder, fresh air and even stronger language is the best cure for most matters of the fickle teenage heart.

A good father doesn’t need to explain himself or his motives.

A good father stands in the garden with a chainsaw, on full tilt, growling, and stays that way, until such a time his child knows better.

 

 

 

 

Director

 

I’m not very good at being in charge. I’m far too concerned about hurting peoples’ feelings and wrong footing them in some way. I tend to presume everyone is like me, a human shaped golden retriever in need of encouragement, nice durable things to chew on, and very long walks.

So it’s a vertiginous learning curve. Believing in yourself. Not because you are correct or right –I believe that is what Twitter is for. But because other people place their confidence in you, and that is a huge compliment. Rising to the challenge is no longer an optional choice on the drop-down moral menu.

In truth, I do very little directing in the strict sense, and continue to do absolutely no “being in charge”. My cast are impressively capably human beings. I just needed to turn up and point at things, randomly. So it looks like the ship has a captain.

And obviously in the leadership stakes, there is much for me to improve on. Jigging on one leg whilst trying to look officious, is just one of them.

But it gets you thinking about how you parent. With the play, I sat down most weeks and planned my objective. Little things I wanted to focus on, small areas. A voice lifted, a stronger stance for a particular character. And it dawned on me, I never really do that with my kids. I intend to. But I don’t. I just react a lot, knowing full well it’s less than ideal. Myself and my husband talk about them all the time, their struggles, how we can help, how we feel. We try to approach family life in the most united way possibly. But there is not much in the way of specificity.

And children are not born ready. Neither are parents. One of the most challenging things about parenting is the lack of control. But that’s not say you can’t be in charge. In truth, my parenting challenge is primarily about me, managing myself and my expectations. The need to be perfect. The impossibility of it.

I get crippled with heartbreak when I think my little boy has no real right to SNA hours – but still has a genuine need. A need the school from their meagre resources heroically facilitate. Something I am so grateful for at every turn. And he needs so little, just an activity break every few hours. But he needs it so much. It’s hard to get over the meanness of the state towards our children.

My mind whirls late into the night. How will turn out. Will this undo him or make him. Or both. And I play the exhausting it could be worse game, to convince myself I am overreacting.

And all I can do is my best, love him, reassure him, fight for him, fight with him and mostly, and always, always believe in him. But its’ soul twisting stuff. I have an ache in my arm from dragging him home from school yesterday. A ten minute journey that took 30 minutes, screaming, pinching and kicking as he went into an uncontrollably meltdown, trying to run away. The world and its mother as witness. And the tears in my eyes had nothing to do with shame. Just that my gorgeous, funny, little boy, with his sensory overload was seen with his flaws and struggles on display, like plumage. And plenty of people get it, they have children who struggle, they know it’s just a moment in time. But plenty more will only judge and view his outburst in rigid adult terms. Seeing him as set at a certain point. And I can’t control that. But I hate it.

And I wrestle all the time, trying not to neglect the needs of my daughter. The extra tall preteen, kind and cheeky in equal measure. As she stares into the muggy frog pond of adolescence, with crocodiles lurking under the Lily pads. Because she needs me too. Especially when she is slamming a door in my face. But she is also more resilient and capable than I give her credit for, because I have a tendency to see her in dependent terms. Not independent ones.

And I go back and forth, asking myself

Who is this really about?

Me or them. And it’s not a staunch, either/or situation. Telling the plain truth of family life is not disloyalty. We are culturally brainwashed into compartmentalizing our lives and ourselves.

But family, parenting, It’s about us. All of us, together. Me and my husband, my son and my daughter. And there are lots of families like ours. Muddling along imperfectly. Unpicking the disordered knots. Trying to keep a marriage healthy and a family on track. Or struggling alone. Trying to lead through the darkness with only our hearts for a compass.

And I am never doing as good a job of parenting or marriage (or friendship for that matter) that I wish.

But I’m all my children have. Right now, this is as good as I get, until I get better, which is the whole point of life.

Because it has become increasing  clearer to me, leaders are never born, that is rubbish. No-one is born to lead ( or direct).But children are born to be led, loved and directed. Which it’s something every parent is called to do, regardless of circumstance or strain, and whether I like it or not.

Travel.

e

 

Travel is great, apart, obviously, from the traveling bit. The metaphor life is a journey is never more prescient then when you are stuck on a runway, luxuriating in cattle class, complete with a selection of bovine odours and mooing sounds. Delayed, and waiting for take-off, because the delicate baggage handlers are in a huff.

Bumping, humping, and dragging wheelie bags, nearing snotting yourself on the rolling walkway, then skipping like it was deliberate. Taking off belts, losing your boarding pass at security, losing your six year old in duty free, twice. The throbbing mass of people. The herding, the hurry up and wait. The constant panic that your passport has suddenly expired, even though you’ve checked it 14 times in the last hour. The biting fear they might not believe the young woman in the unsmiling photo was once you, before a full night’s sleep was a myth. It is mind boggling.

And the preteen attempting to break into the line for connecting flights to Toronto, Canada, because you and he, are the most embarrassing human beings, like ever! And you are TOTALLY RUINING her LIFE. And you nod in calm unsurprised agreement, because THAT, as everyone knows, is the entire point of parenting.

Then helpfully, the six year old does his impression of a farting chicken for those gathered in the vicinity. And won’t stop.

Your gurning smile at the check-in clerk, the one with the bulletproof hair, as she weighs your bag. The smug feeling when you pass the 50kg limit test, just. Then feeling pity, as some poor soul, crouched on the ground, unleashes their underwear to world, attempting the last minute alchemy of lightening their luggage.

Oh, and speaking of packing. You always forget something. Like a toothbrush, or patience, or sanity.  And since having children you now get to pack for them too, it’s one of those hidden perks. Or as good as pack, because you have to make sure they have remembered all their needs. And toys, and special blanket. The very blanket that could cause a major security alert due to the rancorous waft being mistaken as subterfuge and chemical weaponry.  And you have to quell the reaching desire to throttle your beloved, as he packs his swimming togs, two pairs of shorts, shaving cream, sports autobiography and sunglasses, and then blithely turns round and asks

“Do we have everything?”

WE?

And you meet people, sitting beside them on planes, opposite them on buses, or leaning over the fridge compartment in the Super Mercado buying Potatas bravas. And you find yourself talking in voice over. Relaying bits of your life in camera pans around your memories. You tell complete strangers things that have lingered in the existential airing cupboard longer than those illuminous sport socks from Lidl. And they have been there for years, because you WILL use them. One day, you will really need to go jogging in the pitch black and they will save your life.

And just as you are getting used to the inexpensive wine, the lazy days, the daily application of factor 50 on two reluctant children, which is nearest any of us will get to wresting a psychotic octopus, and of course, the mosquitos bites. You have to go home. And when you unpack at the other end, your swimming togs are still wet and your washing machine is still broken. But it was still worth the effort.

 

10 Essential summer beauty secrets.

This post is inspired by the innumerable articles and posts that have appeared in my line of vision over the last few weeks. 

  1. Always be bikini ready. Do whatever is required. Remove a rib, glue your mouth together, there is no excuse. Even death. Be the kind of cadaver that can rock a two piece.
  2. There is no such thing as too much false tan. Girl, that glow, needs to glow in the dark.
  3. Also, there is no such thing as a too thick eyebrow. If  you can’t google map those babies. They are not dark enough.
  4. Always make sure to take off ALL your makeup before you go to sleep, using a baby otter. Moisturise with the most expensive product you can find, using something powdered, exotic, and preferably extinct.
  5. Drink lots and lots of water. You can mix the water with hand-spun artisan Gin. And the water can be fizzy, and tonic.
  6. Spend money on a regular manicure and pedicure. At least 50% of your income. Children don’t need shoes during the summer months. Nails must be pristine and perfect, and sharp enough to gut a turkey.
  7. Exercise is vital. But incidental exercise is the best kind of exercise, the kind you do without noticing. This can be achieved through High Intensity Browsing in high-end stores. Envy and coveting of superfluous material goods will raise your heart rate, destroy your soul and burn visceral fat.  Also, trying on clothes, at least two sizes too small, at least twice a week,  makes for  great strength training.
  8. Spend money on underwear. Bras and support pants that have being designed by NASA, which are also bullet proof, but feminine, are best. Remember to hand-wash separately. Using fabric softener and an indentured servant.
  9. Take care of your teeth. The should be bright enough to land a jet plane during a blackout. And they don’t have to be your own.
  10. If you can’t afford any of the above methods. Give up and accept being a crone.