Today will be different

Today will be different. Today I will not wait for a parking space as close as possible to the school to reduce the margin for interaction with parents while leaving me late. Today I will not wear black like I did yesterday, and the day before that. And the day before that. Today I will ignore the box of celebrations my fella thinks he has hidden behind the plastic bags in the bottom cupboard next to the washing machine. Today I will decant one of the many boxes stacked in the living room since our move three months ago. Today I will initiate conversation on home decor starting with curtains to replace the paper ones. With a tone bordering on enthusiasm. I won’t talk about how little the old house was sold for. Or how less than that it is actually worth. I will look towards the future without a backward glance to the past. I will not continue scrolling through pages online after my fella flicks off his bedside light. Or wonder when tone policing starts and irrational defensiveness ends. Or vice versa. Today will be different.

Inspired by Eleanor Flood

Twitter twattle

Half back of a matchbox, half workshop discussion feedback section at the work away day.

That pretty much sums up my Twitter experience so far.

Back-of-matchbox-like in its relentless dedication to the succinct clever quote; workshop discussion feedback-y in its reverence to bullet-pointed summations of the big stuff. The stuff generally beyond control of worker bees to begin with; a reality overshadowed by enough flip-chart papered enthusiasm to provoke ordinary decent lethargic and bitter people to break into spontaneous applause at the end.

Suspending enough disbelief in the order of things to endure an exchange of woeful wisecracks with the super boss in the lunch queue is one thing; hovering over the reply button to your heroes on Twitter, quite another. It’s like nodding to the super super boss up ahead but inches from the lasagne or curry (the truly powerful), only to discover they are waving at the super super super boss three worker bees behind. I’m kidding myself the away day lunch queue is as effective a leveler between folk as it fancies itself to be.

It’s all part of the Weird Evangelical Group Effect (WEGE), first observed at gatherings of neighbours round the touring Child of Prague for a few jams of the rosary back in ’70s Ireland, and subsequently while wearing uncomfortably tight underwear. Every group gathering since those early glory-bes has required a suspension of  disbelief of one variety or another. And Twitter is no different, if slightly more bizarre and colourful in its composition.

School. Work. The ferry to Scotland passenger list. The Brethren of Bono Basher Begrudgers. The Order of Mars Bars. Cheese Appreciation Societies. Repeal The Righteous Campaign. Come Dine With Me Fanclub. Friends of the Stephen Fry Seeking Missile. It’s always the same: the cool flourish, the charismatic are drooled over (by me, cooly), and every so often a guest speaker accidentally lands beside me in the lunch queue and all the best laboured-over one-liners in my head sound like an exclamation mark just farted when released. Round of applause at the end though.  We all really connected.

So, back to the relative chaos of my own desk I retreat thereafter. Vowing to not let it deteriorate into such a mess as before. A fews post at a time, if at all. Forget slow blogging. Welcome to Cluster Blogging. In which spurts of mouthing-off are punctuated by relatively more peaceful periods of silence. That is, if I succeed in suspending enough disbelief in myself.

matchbox

An early Twitter feed from the 1970s

Democracy my arse: A Letter to My Girl

Dear Daughter

In the wake of an inflated reality-TV tangerine being elected to the highest political office on Earth, parents everywhere are feverishly taking to the quill to wax lyrical to their off-spring in an attempt to explain What It All Means.

Since I’m intent on getting through this parenting lark with a dodgy combo of winging it, and occasionally copying other parents’ homework, I’m now going to impart some solemn lessons. That’s right – I’m about to impose unsolicited thoughts on you for future reference. Like you need any more. Fear not, there’s a strong possibility I’ll have figured out the nuclear codes for this blog by the time you stumble on it in my internet history along with questionable dream meaning searches.  So long as I get to unpick a few self-satisfied thoughts aloud to myself, that’s really all that matters.

Overall, I would say the single most important insight gained in the aftermath of the election is a reminder of the power of music as a salve for the soul. When all about you are losing their heads, and your mental microwave has lost its defrosting function, there is surety to be found in the right melody and brevity of word.

I know this is all too much to take on just now. But, one day, when Breda O’Brien’s daughter has been elected Taoiseach, or Gerry Adams has been voted Sinn Fein leader for the 47th time at a tender age of 97, you’ll understand. You’ll finally realise why I spent all this week force-feeding you Bjork on YouTube, and threatening the non-violent atmosphere of the house with indulgent Jeff Buckley-offs with myself. I’m assuming you remain intimately acquainted with the complete oeuvre of Ani DiFranco or I really will have failed spectacularly at child-rearing.

Speaking of guided democracy, is there any other kind? In the olden days, like today *pipe lip-smacks*, columnists and hand-wringers remained divided over the prospect of a toddler taking up tenure in the White House, but all agreed the appointment was ultimately a consequence of democracy.

This is just a more respectable refusal to admit they’re not as clever as they think they are. Unlike me, who is always right, and Suspected All Along that the election was an act of sheer recklessness than of democracy. I know – I should have my own radio show to shout at.

As residents of Norn Iron, we know all about democracy. We’re governed by a power-sharing executive with a party that has the same leadership in place since the 1970s. Since James Callaghan was PM, Margaret Thatcher was leader of the opposition, Jimmy Carter was President and Jack Lynch was Taoiseach. That is a longevity that does not happen in democratic politics. But we the people are free to choose between it or the threat of conflict. That’s democracy.

As daughters of the Irish Republic, our bodies are governed by a constitution designed by patriarchal institutions buoyed up on moral absolutes.  That is a reality that doesn’t happen in democratic politics. We the people, might one day be free to choose between it and democracy.  That’s democracy.

As voters against Brexit, even we knew we were struggling to answer a question that wasn’t being asked sincerely. That is an act of grotesque irresponsibility that doesn’t belong in democratic politics. But that’s democracy.

When an electorate is invited to choose between two self-serving business elites (with or without a vagina) chosen to prop up the interests of their respective elite party members, they are expected to balance the interests of everyone. So when the small man who flips the burger votes one way, he will be crucified for turning on the man making the patties who voted the other. That’s democracy.

Love

Ma

Spaced All the Time Continuum

From the archives. For the day that’s in it #WorldMentalHealthDay

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Having bathed himself in glory over his dismissal of the existence of depression, journalist, John Waters, returned to the pages of the Irish Independent last week. Defending his freedom of expression, he expounded his theory on the existence of two clear-cut Irelands: a media-elite driven Dublin, where having personal insults thrown at him on the street is commonplace; and the “real Ireland, where people have lots of different views and engage with each other all the time and see that as being OK”.  That’s right, John. And The Quiet Man was a searing Pulitzer-winning documentary that drilled uncomfortably down into our national psyche.

A similarly crude and potentially wonky view could be formed on depression and the rest of our mental health; or Ireland, as I prefer to call all mental illness. Waters’s comments detonated an avalanche of personal accounts documenting the crippling effects of depression. Few (apart from John, and possibly people outside Dublin) could argue with the bravery and honesty of these men and women in contributing to raising awareness of a condition, which by its paralysing nature, is often impossible to articulate. They had my admiration at their opening lines for the ability to reconcile syntax with severed nerves and to talk openly about open wounds on their mind. I’d give it a go, but would end up referring you to the Blue Nile’s ‘Hats’ and a selection of cakes, preferably under fridge-light.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Ireland, there are people who have lots of different views and engage with each other all the time but are not OK with it at all. So many grown-ups fearing discovery of their winging-it status; the anxiety-ridden worker dreading another day in the office; the comfort-eating mother who has lost all confidence in herself;  the lonely man who can’t stop himself muttering monosyllabic responses in the company of women; the women wanted children, who would’ve made great mothers but didn’t get to be one; the single people constantly excusing their singlehood under the casual interrogation of company without boundaries; the ‘foreign national’ trying to fit in, the crazies, the drop-down pissed, the paranoid, golfers, oddballs, the managerial types, the misfits, the Mumford and Sons fans, those struggling to make ends meet, the lulas, the cheese-haters, the head-the-balls, the bonkers, the traumatised, the beige-wearers, the off-their-rockers, yer wans, yer man, and that one (eye-rolls). Beaten hearts and fractured souls, the reeling, the OCDs, the fuck-right-offs, the dreamless, the hopeless, the who-do-they-think-they-ares, the don’t-go-nears and the never-go-outs. And that’s just my own family. All the functioning folk hovering above emotional collapse who don’t belong under the cover of depression, of a diagnosis, of a word that helpfully nails it. Or who have to endure all the words and amateur diagnostics they could do without.

It’s doubtful there will be a National Hiding in the Toilet in Bewley’s From the World Day (true story) in my lifetime; respectability won’t extend to those chatting to themselves in the frozen food aisle in Tesco. There will never be a certain cachet attached to gymnastic mood-swings or to those so nice to people they’re in danger of giving themselves a groin injury from laughing at nothing. Saintly protection of the feelings of others won’t replace necessary banter and humour. Thank fuck. How weird would that be? We’re all too busy contending with life wherever we be on the spectrum. But maybe, along with rightfully acknowledging the gravity of depression, we might stretch to giving all of them us a break now and again. With incentives, obviously. Bun, anyone?

Possibilities

I prefer going to movies alone.

I prefer to star in life alongside other people.

I prefer a soaking along the Atlantic.

I prefer Keyes to Keynes.

I prefer myself liking myself

to myself disliking everyone else.

I prefer to keep a needle on the record, than just CDs in cases .

I prefer the colour clean.

I prefer not to make a mountain

out of every cliff.

I prefer inceptions.

I prefer to finish, nearly.

I prefer talking to police about something else.

I prefer coast-lined habitations.

I prefer the absurdity of writing to myself

to the absurdity of speaking this to others.

I prefer, where love’s concerned, specific anniversaries

that can be celebrated every year.

I prefer loyalists

who plámás me nothing.

I prefer being mindful to mindfulness.

I prefer the down-to-earth civilians.

I prefer listening to being listened to.

I prefer having some ultimatums.

I prefer the heaven of chaos to the hell of order.

I prefer the what’s not to the what’s hot

I prefer leaving with hugs to arriving to kisses.

I prefer unchopped tales to truncated tweets.

I prefer truthful eyes, since mine are no good at lying.

I prefer writing bureaus.

I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here

to many things I’ve also left unsaid.

I prefer heroes you’ve never heard of

to those most feted figures you have.

I prefer the Time of  Tom Waits to the Time of New York’s Square.

I prefer to not step on the cracks.

I prefer not to ask how and why.

I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility

that persistence has its own way of navigating.

By (mainly) Wislawa Szymborska