HOPE

I sat with a wise woman once. She spoke about people who lose hope.  It might only be transitory but can prove fatal. It might be continuous and unrelenting and pernicious and prove fatal. It can be intermittent but still fatal. For the loss of hope to become permanent only requires that the person cannot see beyond that loss. But the wise woman also told me of an expression oft used in such hopeless situations. This too will pass.

This too will pass. That could be said of many things. Things that pass include seasons without fail, people who curtail, wishes that just derail, dreams that set sail and desires that never unveil.  Other things to pass are met with more welcome goodbyes, enmities that interrupt, wars that erupt, hate that volupts, cruelty that fillups and vile noxious views that corrupt. All things can pass and while some we may mourn, yet for others we may bless ourselves and walk on quickly, pleased that the gods have spared us for another day, another fight.

Knowing that things are transitory is our biggest defence against the loss of hope, ironically. It makes the beautiful more wonderful, special and wanted. It makes the darkest hour bearable. The hour before the dawn is the most dark but it is followed by the light, if we but stay.

Here is a lyric. Stay, just a little bit longer. This is the secret to surviving the loss of hope. Hanging about, even when hope is lost. Do not underestimate the devastation the loss of hope can wreck upon a person. Hanging about is very brave and much misunderstood. Just being can be so tough.

People say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I agree. But I say back to them, you have to take into account the collateral damage. It is not as though anyone can walk through life without getting a few scars but really serious injuries, the kind that will not kill you, can leave you maimed and changed.  It’s akin to the road traffic fatalities, often quoted in conjunction with suicides, where the numbers with life changing injuries are not counted.

What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger.  However, it may also kill bits of you, shed body parts with abandon, pieces of you that you might have preferred, given the choice, to hang on to. I think strangely of ears, flesh, breasts, fingers when I say this. Arbitrary but quite important body parts, parts you would not voluntarily give up, unless on that crass and horrible Saw Trilogy, but enough said there.

Having said all that, I must harken back to the film Calendar Girls. John Clarke, the character who died of cancer at the centre of the film, asked this to be read at the Women’s Institute.  “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious. Then very quickly they all go to seed.”

We need to embrace the changes that befall us, that we create, that our friends and family wrought upon us. We need to know that our beauty lies in our accepting those changes and calling them our own, living through them, and naming them as who we are. Even as childbirth marks a mother, we need to know that when we come past the delirium of birth, we can celebrate its effect upon us.

I think we need to know that this too will pass when hope is in very short supply, that staying a little bit longer, just hanging around can make a difference, and that while we are not killed, we may expect to lose bits, gain scars, and show our humanity. And then in the greatest triumph that humankind can offer, we can live despite all this, love in the midst of it, and comfort and support others in the same way of it. It is called the human condition and it is to be shared.

I believe I am more beautiful now for my scars than before, more beautiful for the changes in my body and mind than before. More courageous in my beliefs, more passionate in my views and more compassionate in my attempt to understand this world than before.

This is why I stay. This is why I know things will pass, good, bad and indifferent. This is why I know my blooming means different things to different people. That my love is only growing and my right to life on this planet is secured. And if I hit a loss of hope, that I know, this too will pass.

 

Debt, Survival and Hope – please view and share

My friends at SETV asked me if I would talk to camera about my journey so far in debt. I know I am only in the middle. I have not finished my journey. I am still in hock to the banks for more than €1million, my home is repossessed, my business gone, my possessions sold save for a ten year old American Fridge Freeze from my old house, and while that is very good at keeping food cold, it is less reliable as a place to live lol 🙂

I have learnt one thing on this journey, which is far from over, that while worries may assail us on all sides, it is also vital to live even as we struggle. We will not get back the years that debt may steal from us, so the only alternative is to live like crazy, seize the day and love, and breathe, and hope, and be. Always be.

This is for anyone dealing with debt. God bless! xx

View VIDEO here

and please let me know what you think 🙂

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My week on @Ireland – my parting message

What an amazing week. I will write about my lovely time as the curator of the @Ireland account tomorrow but I am running out the door now and so I just want to ask people who follow the account to look at this presentation I did on debt, survival and hope.

http://bcove.me/i68kpnpg  or click on the icon on www.SouthEastTelevision.ie

This is a talk I did with SouthEast Television called I wonder – about debt,survival and hope

I really put my heart and soul into this. I think it is important. I am passionate about not being ashamed at failing financially. Neither should you be – if you have the misfortune to be down on your luck.

God bless!

 

Remember – This too will pass…

 

Fear versus Courage

I first discovered fear when I was about eleven years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’d had the usual childhood in which I was frightened by scary stories at bedtime, imagined monsters under the bed and once a particularly thrilling piece in Enid Blyton’s Five go to Finniston Farm. The scene which scared the pants off me was a mysterious face at the window at night. Truth be told, that idea can still give me the willies. And as a codicil, that particular expression, the give one the willies, comes from the Willow tree, often associated with sadness, graveyards and fear. There, I never knew that either until I wrote that line and had to go and google it, for it looked so strange on paper.

But true fear happened when my younger brother and I visited family friends one summer. The other family were holidaying about an hour outside of Dublin and my parents were invited to visit for the day. The other family had a boy who was a year or two older than me, and he had a number of covert magazines. These magazines, he had purchased with his own money, were hidden under his mattress but he allowed me to view them. Now before you begin to worry, they were not pornographic magazines, but scary ones. Magazines I had never seen the like of before. There were monsters, murders, dark lanes, bodies and all sorts of horrible tales. They were very life like, for all that the pages were inhabited by Frankenstein-like creatures. It was very believable and there was no woodcutter to save little Red Riding Hood.

Going home that night, as my father drove in the darkness, I remember being curled up in the back of the car. Normally, a late drive home, often a factor when we were in the country, was an occasion for sleeping, tired after our day’s activities. Normally I would have slept, as indeed my brother was doing beside me. But I had seen horrors in those pages, creatures that could not be beaten and evil that throbbed in the night. I remember looking through the two front seats and watching the arc of light from the headlights frame the trees growing either side of the road. A perfect circle of light as the car powered forward. Once, I would have been content and happy, but now I knew there might very well be a monster, a giant, just outside the catch of the headlights, perhaps standing twice as high as the trees and possessing hands and a maw that could snatch up the car and destroy us all. That was the first night that I knew my parents could not save me from that monster and my safe world pierced forever.

 

I discovered courage as I left childhood behind. The things we do as a child are based on inquisitiveness and curiosity and energy. There is little self-awareness to hold us back. If we want something we ask, if we see a dog we must stroke we do so, if we want to say hello to another child, we do. Gradually, we grow and that confidence fades. We have to gird up our loins to do the things we want. As our lack of inhibition falls away, so too does our ability to be brave and seek what we desire anyway. We still step up to the mark, sit exams, make new friends, attend new schools and learn new tasks, but it takes effort. When do we know we have courage? At what point can we call it that. Unless we go to war, life throws smaller hurdles at us and we typically don’t have that going over the top challenge. I remember once reading of a captain in World War One who brought a football to the trenches. He aim was to kick the ball over and follow when the whistles gave the command to attack. The poor fellow kicked the ball, followed on over the top and was killed moments later. How tragic his sum of courage.

I have a few moments to call my own, my football episodes but with happier outcomes, but the one I recall the most vividly happened on my honeymoon. No, it was not the courage to marry a man I would later divorce, or is that foolishness, but to go scuba diving. And it was not the scuba diving in itself but the manner. First let me explain that due to a normal Irish childhood for people of my generation I could not really swim. I could do the breaststoke but with my face out of the water – not to protect any makeup or hair – but to keep the water off my face. To this day, when I shower I hate my head to be directly under the water flow. In fact, there is, or perhaps was, a famous swimming instructor in France. He would take his non-swimming adults and for their first couple of lessons they practiced putting their heads into bowls of water placed on tables. Only when they could successfully submerge their faces on dry land, did he continue to the pool itself. Of course, maybe I should have spent more time bobbing apples at Halloween as a kid.

So, on honeymoon in Fiji, we had lessons in the pool. Two in total lasting about twenty minutes each. The Fijians are a very relaxed race. Then on the third day we rose at dawn and were driven to the beach. We boarded a motor boat no longer than ten feet long with our two guides. We suited up.  We motored out to the reef. It was a grey morning, early enough for the sky to be still white and the sea a shimmering grey. There were very little waves but as we chugged out there were more, indicating the presence of the reef below, far below. It was then that our guide said we had to fall backwards into the water off the edge of the boat. The horrors that came on me. I could not and still cannot jump into water when I can see what I am doing, We were far out on a grey sea, that was choppy now over the reef. I could not see the shoreline. I just knew we were on the ocean. My ex went first and exploded into the water. I was left. I had minutes to think. If I did not do something soon, then it was over. I pulled the courage from the bottom of my very sick stomach, took a breath through the awkward breathing apparatus and fell backwards into the water.  For a moment it was all water and noise and my turning over in the water. Then I steadied myself and I was fine. We went to forty foot deep that day and I will never forget it. Darned if I can remember what we saw, just what I felt. When we returned to our hotel, still early about nine in the morning, we both had steak for breakfast. It seemed fitting. I’d already lived three lives, four days and ten mini heart attacks in that short dive!

 

So, I am not sure what means but I would like to finish with the immortal words of my favourite writer Spike Milligan:

Things that go bump in the night

Should not really give one a fright

It’s the hole in the ear that let’s in the fear

That and the absence of light!

 

Be brave my friends!

I’ve hit Rock Bottom and I’m Really Happy

It’s official. In November I hit rock bottom. The bailiffs came to my office to seize my goods. Only they gave me a stay of execution for a week. I have to say it was the toughest week of my life: the toughest week in a run of five years of very tough weeks.

I am glad to say that on that Friday in November the stay was extended and the threat removed. I am glad to say my eldest daughter does not need to leave school and get a job as a groom to support her broken mother. I am so very glad to see the back of that week.

And I’m even better than glad, I’m actually really happy because I have hit rock bottom and as everyone knows, once you hit the bottom, the only way is up.

Over the past five years I have hit so many lows, you’d have thought I was limbo dancer trying desperately to get under that bar. And each time, it moved a little lower. I’m pretty flexible and springy but there is a limit, and even elastic can snap.

So, when I went into meltdown during that terrible week, my brain cells all curled up and I could not cope any more. I cried a river. I put one foot in front of the other and I made steps that followed one another. But only physically. Emotionally and mentally I was stony broke.

And then the noose was released and I spluttered back to life. And even better than that, I sucked in great big lungfuls of air and coughed and hawked and breathed.

Over the past five years I have repeated a mantra: Ever onwards and upwards, maybe sideways but never backwards. But despite this mantra, I knew I was often going backwards. I could not help it: there were forces stronger than me. I may have kept my head above water but I was not progressing in a forward motion. Far from it. I was being swept out on a rip tide that refused to let me go, to let me be. And sometimes the shoreline seemed very far away and impossible to reach.

So when the bailiffs came, and more importantly then went, that week, I suddenly realised that I had indeed hit rock bottom. There was no more harm that could happen to me. There were no more bad things to suck me down, I was down as far as I could go.

To survive a visit of the bailiffs is a huge thing. It is the last huge thing in my spiraling descent. I am jumping up and down on Terra firma now; rock bottom is a hard place but great for jumping up. It’s not the funny quicksand of hard times, it’s not the soft uncertain foundation of worrying times, and it’s not the gooey mess of troubling times. It is rock bottom and therefore very solid and rock-like and bottomed out.

The week after the bailiffs came and went, and stayed gone, I was very, very happy. And two months later I remain in that happy, upbeat place.

I am jumping up and down on my rock bottom and the earth is not shaking or giving way or crumbling. It is rock solid rock bottom. And really, the only way is up!

 

PS (And please don’t tell me how far up it is! Law of gravity and life suggests my ascent may be tougher and longer than the rapid descent, but I think I was polite to those on the way down, so maybe that will conversely help on the way back up!)