Humans of Dublin

“I exited bankruptcy in July 2016 and was questioned on RTE news about what would now change. ‘Nothing’ I said and it was true at the time. If anything I was in a harder place than when the banks repossessed my home and my business collapsed six years ago. I was heart-broken and good for nothing. I wrote an article about homelessness in the Irish Times and the next day a friend offered me a cottage to rent. One year later it feels like home. My tiny cottage sits snugly in the hills overlooking the pretty village of Shillelagh. I have work in PR and as a freelance journalist. I pay my bills. I even go out to dinner on occasion. I have never been happier. My children live nearby and they are amazing young women. I get up each morning with gratitude in my heart. I have put the survival mode behind me and I am shining now. Every human being deserves to shine and this time is mine.”

LINK

Desperately seeking …Me!

First published in the Irish Independent on May 18, 2016

We are a nation of lost souls. We have swapped the security blanket of religion for the cold harsh light of truth. We wander like bewildered two-year-olds lost in a grocery store. What began like a moment of freedom has swiftly translated into a terrifying ordeal. We have three choices: stay out in the cold, embrace it even; return to our mother’s arms and the refuge that lies within. Or we can seek new truths, new comforts.

 jordan belfort

The latter choice, the era of self-enlightenment is truly upon us. It is the new drug of the thinking classes, the opiate we choose in the search for fulfilment. We had become a nation of fast food snackers and now we need substance.

The route to enlightenment has many paths. Last year, I attended a Jordan Belfort seminar – he of the Wolf of Wall Street fame. The seminar was aimed at making money but he caught the mood of the audience at an early stage.

Jordan scanned the crowd and sympathetically called us out. We were there to learn how to make money but he ringed our wings by calling on our pain. No one with a successful business attends a motivational sales seminar by Jordan Belfort, pictured below. Instead, injured souls seeking assurance gather to hear the magic patter. If the lottery is a poor man’s tax, then motivational sales seminars are an aspiring (or is that failing?) entrepreneur’s levy.

Jordan’s heart-spring moment was when he explained why some people were ducks and some were eagles. No one wants to be a duck, not even the ducks. Belfort told some funny stories about the duck mentality and in a move splendidly focused for the Irish audience, spoke movingly and compassionately about how a lot of the eagles in the audience had taken a beating in the recession.

How we had been flattened and lacked certainty. How we had begun thinking like ducks but that was okay because it didn’t mean we were ducks. The very fact that we were here today meant we were so, not ducks, oh no, but eagles about to get a new lease of life. And everyone clapped and everyone believed they had a chance to win the lottery.

Last month, I attended the Landmark Forum, a pathway to personal development and sometimes dismissively termed a cult, a case which it energetically rebuts. It may have some of the appearances of a sect; it focuses on obedience, it demands commitment and it extracts promises from its participants. It practises secrecy in some parts and full-on proselytising in others. It does not advertise its wares, but uses the Forum members to bring in new members.

Personal development is a different kettle of fish to financial development. For one, the end goal is a lot more significant and for another, it is possible without the intervention of external and random forces. It is possible. And this is the foundation of the Forum – the possible.

The course unfolds under three non-stop days of intense training. Then there is the sharing – the even more intense bonds formed through people sharing at the deepest level of their lives. It felt like being in the trenches; there was nothing too base to be shared and nothing too insignificant to be celebrated.

It may sound as though this is a transitional, gradual process but in fact it happens very fast. At 10.30 on day one, I shed my first tear. However, I had already laughed – big guffaws of laughter – at least an hour before. It had become a family event very quickly, only we moved from the trauma to the resolution at the speed of light.

Does that sound a little mad? It is a little mad.

Taking part in the Forum was a rollercoaster of a ride. Aside from the tears, the laughter and the sharing, there was plenty of anger. It is not easy to tear people apart without breaking a few long-held beliefs and opinions. But when the silence surged softly backward when the plunging hooves were gone, we looked at each other and we were all good. We were our word. We were made man, re-made man.

Just recently, I attended the funeral of my father’s best friend.

They are both now in the Summerlands, as they say in these parts, hotly discussing the politics of the day no doubt, going to the bookies or sharing a laugh. To my surprise, I found a resurgence of traditional comfort; maybe my seeking had re-opened a door backwards as well as forwards.

His son, a fine musician and lecturer in music, invited a Trinity choir to sing in the stalls. Being a Protestant service, we had many fine hymns. Being a Protestant service, the congregation all sang the hymns lustily, myself more so than anyone.

It has been some time since I was in a church and longer still with the benefit of a powerful choir at my right elbow. I reached back into the childhood of my beliefs and the comforts of hymns settled around me like a blanket.

Lame ducks, shared emotions, the endless possibility of humans, and hymns – all are beautiful and empowering and good – but the greatest of these are hymns.

On being an Intersex

In February I was invited to speak at my alma mater in a competition debate.  This was a bolt from the blue.

Thirty years ago I was an undergraduate in Trinity College Dublin. I read History and English, joint honours, and majored in the former. I joined various societies and clubs, but the one that possessed me the most was the College Historical Society, or the oldest college debating society in the world.

Prizes if you can spot me... 30 years ago

Prizes if you can spot me… 30 years ago

I joined the HIST as it is called and sat through many nights of debates, where the cut and thrust of speakers was thrilling. Parliamentary procedure was followed, with rules and bells and points of information from the floor. Imagine my subsequent disappointment when I first watched televised debates in the real parliamentary chamber in Dail Eireann – the speeches were nothing like the wonderful robust displays I remembered from my college days.  Politicians can disappoint is so many ways.

I became a committee member and from there an officer. I debated a little but preferred to witness rather than contribute directly, so I was very surprised to be invited back to speak in a competition last week.

It was the occasion of the honorary members’ debate. I was indeed an honorary member, or hon mems as we are termed, but I had not set foot back in the chamber since I graduated. Even as an HIST officer I had never debated in an actual competition and now I could barely remember the correct way to open my paper.  A quick run through the names speaking did nothing to allay my fears. Everyone else held a medal for debating, most of them were now professors or barristers and there was even a Supreme Court judge part of the adjudicators.

To make matters worse I was a TBC on the speaking order until the week of the debate.

I was allotted a debating partner, a former auditor, medallist and winner of several debating championships. I wondered what he had done to vex the committee to be paired with me. He did not know the answer to this either but was gracious enough to advise me on what to expect.

I had three days to figure out my speech. As part of my preparation, I had my hair cut and took extra care with my makeup. It was a black tie affair and I thought at least if I looked the part…such are the desperate stratagems of a middle-aged  hon mem.

hist

I was up second, presenting the opposition motion. I rose, I spoke and I died. I sadly did not debate. I finished too soon. I quietly gave up my arguments with all the vigour of a retired Sunday school teacher.  When I finished there was polite applause. Then I had to sit through the next ten debaters, blushing as I compared my offering to the subsequent polished contributions.

 

Afterwards I considered my attempt. I knew I could do better. While not a debater, I was also not such a wall flower. I put my request to the Record Secretary, the person responsible for inviting me in the first place. There was a another debate planned before term was over, this time on women’s role in fiction, and as I had written erotica, he felt I might something worthwhile to say.

I wrote to the Auditor and expressed my interest in returning to the scene of the crime. Her reply was classic – She thought my contribution would be most interesting as I was an INTERSEX.

This stumped me. This threw me. I puzzled over her email for hours.

My first thought was my desperate stratagem of looking good had been too good and somehow I had managed to slip into drag queen territory.

My second thought was that I had a good friend who is indeed Intersex (and probably unique in Europe)and maybe they had confused us.

My third thought was that I really only going to be invited back if I was very different and I had struck out again.

I wrote sadly to the Auditor saying I was boringly female, mother to two children and not even lesbian. I waited for her reply.

When it came I laughed out loud for a long time. Predictive text was responsible and far from thinking I was an Intersex, she thought I was interesting.  So now my only question is should I go for the drag queen look or au natural.

 

The jury is still out!

 

 

You can decide if I improved or not…

Inaugural debate (I’m on at 45 minutes)

or Hon Mem debate (I’m on second)

 

Get up and Go – Some Blabs in Advance

Sligo October 17, 2015  #GUAG2015

LIsten to Breifne Earley talking about his Pedal the Planet and whether or not he is a YAMIL (Young-Aged Man in Lycra) in advance of the Get Up and Go Conference in Sligo on October 17

 

 

Get Up and Go – Inspirational conference to come to the NorthWest

Motivational Team includes Puttnam, Breen and Gates

 

An Inspirational Conference aimed at people wanting to make their dreams a reality is being hosted in Sligo on October 17th. The theme is For your dreams and pays homage to Yeats’ home and poetry. The Get Up and Go team have pulled together an amazing and inspiring range of motivational speakers creating a momentous conference in Sligo and the Northwest.

The speakers are all trailblazers, role models and people who inspire. They have had the courage to step outside their comfort zones and followed their dreams into new areas of self-expression, contribution and power. Labour Peer and Filmmaker David Puttnam, Entrepreneur and Secret Millionaire Jim Breen, and life changing, mountain climbing heroine Teena Gates head up a speaker list that will challenge, motivate and change your life. This is one event that you cannot afford to miss.

The Get Up and Go conference is the second annual event organised by the providers of the popular Get Up and Go Diaries which have sold almost 200,000 copies over the past eight years. Up to 500 participants are expected to attend.

We invite you to register and come listen to the following motivators:

Lord David Puttnam – founder of Atticus Education which has been operating since August 2012 and is based in Skibbereen. . Among the institutions to which seminars are being delivered are Griffith Film School in Brisbane, LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore, the University of Sunderland and University College Cork.

Jim Breen  – founder and CEO of PulseLearning. In 2012 he took part in the televised ‘Secret Millionaire’ where he learnt about mental health issues and a Suicide Awareness Group. As a result he set up the Cycle Against Suicide. This year the charity will involve 7,500 cyclists in a sea of orange cycling around the island of Ireland over 14 days.

Padraig O’Maillie – creator of Smacht, an executive training business that motivates people to realise more of their potential. He is the author of the best selling book, Rocking Horse Sh*t which applied coping strategies learnt from a serious illness.

Teena Gates – is a best-selling author, journalist, radio and TV presenter, magazine columnist and adventure blogger who lost 13 stone during a year long journey to find herself. Her belief that you can achieve the impossible if you Dream, Dare and Do has dramatically changed her life and the lives of those around her, as she urges everyone to walk their way to a better future by putting ‘one foot in front of the other’.

Damien Brennan – has a background in hospitality, holding senior positions with Failte Ireland in the NorthWest. Although now retired, he has taken up a new career, that of being a Yeats expert. An immediate past president of the International Yeats Society, he brings coachloads of poetry tourists into his home to talk about Yeats.

Teejay Dowe – is an experienced, energetic and enthusiastic motivational speaker, published author, international coach, Master Neurostrategist and NLP Trainer, TeeJay not only has the right qualifications and credentials to make a difference to you as an individual andyour inbusiness, she will captivate you with her style and leave you feeling inspired and ready to take action for yourselves as individuals and the teams that you work within.

Miriam Byrne – is a true entrepreneur. Told by her teachers not to aim too high, she managed to get an interview with Department of Biochemistry in Oxford – not only did she get the job without a degree, they insisted she studied for one while in the job. Returning to Ireland she worked at UCD before setting up City Analysts. Now in business 17 years, City Analysts has grown to become a leading environmental analysis company. Twenty three people are employed in two laboratories based in Dublin and Shannon.

Breifne Early – is a true example of how going for your dreams can save your life. Five years ago he was suffering with depression, lonely, single, overweight, unhappy and contemplating giving up on life altogether. However, through a series of serendipitous events (and dates) Breifne not only decided not to go through with ending his painful life, but to set about designing a new one and gave himself a target of 10 life-altering challenges to complete over the next 13 months. From there it was but a short hop to pedalling 18,000 miles through 27 countries to raise awareness of Suicide. He is now writing a book on the experience.

 

The conference is MC’d by Claire Rowan – broadcaster, columnist and public speaker.

Claire presents the Consumer Show on Ocean FM every Tuesday, She also presents Sligo County Matters for Irish TV and has contributed on Marian Finucane Show and Ray Darcy’s Show and Newstalk. Claire has been doing the Newspaper Review weekly on RTE’s Morning Edition for the last two years and is currently working on a 7 piece radio documentary which will be aired after Christmas.

In this event you will:

– discover what it takes to make your dreams a reality

– understand that dreams are necessary and valuable as guideposts to our future

– learn how to have your dreams not only survive but thrive in today’s fast moving world

– find out that your dreams may have simply gotten lost in the busy confusion of life

– have an opportunity to reawaken and explore some of your most precious dreams

– get clear on what fears might be stopping you going for your dreams

– see beyond current obstacles to new opportunities that will make your dreams come true.

This one day – ticket only event – will take place in the Clarion Hotel Sligo, on October 17th 2015.

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/get-up-and-go-event-2015-for-your-dreams-tickets-17964748045

Early bird tickets (until the middle of September) are €55.

For more information, please visit http://getupandgoevents.com/