Spaced All the Time Continuum

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 who 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?


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

Children of the revolution

“Participants in last week’s pro-choice march hang signs around children’s necks proclaiming, “I was a chosen child.” The implications are chilling. “Chosen” has surface connotations of being special, but also the cold wind whispering in your ear: you could have just as easily not been chosen. Your siblings, your flesh and blood, may not have been chosen and therefore are absent forever from your life. Such a slogan screams that adults are all-powerful. They have the right to exclude others from even being defined as human.”

Breda O’Brien, Irish Times Sat 1/10/16

I wondered when the subject of children on protest marches would arise. More specifically, the subjective value-judgements commentators inevitably attach to it. Breda might’ve been left cold by the perceived connotations of the gesture, as is her wont; I just thought it was extraordinarily naff. But I’m sure she’d expect nothing less from an irresponsible pro-choicer like myself who brought her own daughter on the march last year.

She continues…

“Children cannot rationalise abortion in the way adults can. They cannot rationalise taking away a life as a solution.”

As statements of fact, the first will likely be met with broad agreement by anyone who has ever spent a few minutes of their lifetime dabbling in logic. The second will prompt many to ask for clarifications on the meaning of life, whether that includes the life of a sentient woman, the solution to what exactly, and other plentiful well-worn question marks frequently posed by my 4 year-old and her mates over play-doh.

Breda’s contention is not that children shouldn’t be brought on marches  – she brought her own on pro-life rallies – it’s that pro-choice marches are essentially an exercise in compromising the emotional security of those children attending. Where the use of such slogans as ‘chosen child’ is an unequivocal demonstration of how their mother’s love is conditional, and there but for the almighty power of her (presumably) blithe judgement, their own lives might very well have been taken away before they began.

Tell me about it, Breda. Sure our wee one has been milking that one for years, and will continue to do so until it dawns on her around 13 that she didn’t actually ask to be born.

“No parent loves perfectly, but babies bring out a fierce protectiveness in us. The urge to protect the weakest and most helpless is primal. Or at least it used to be.” 

Or at least it is for us pro-life parents, in short. As a pro-life protesting parent, Breda is satisfied with the phased exposure to the principles of the pro-life movement undertaken with her own children. Pro-life protestors, it would seem, have a monopoly on ensuring responsible engagement of children in forms of protest.

“I told them that abortion was a word that they had to trust me to worry about and not to explain until they were much older. “

I’m not sure I feel so confident. When it comes to protecting the innocence of my own girl, and balancing that with the cultivation of a sense of justice and an incremental introduction to the complexities and messiness of life, there is much I won’t be able to guard her from. But such is life.

In time, she will come to learn there are few areas in life that can be unequivocally defined by a single moral perspective. That those holding competing views will always be the last to see their own hypocrisy. And, just as Breda marches alongside children brandishing placards showing foetal remains; the rest of us take our place next to our own diversity of bedfellows and march onward in the hope of reaching a fair destination.

For now, I’m reasonably certain that instilling an awareness of the existence of public disgruntlement, unhappiness among women about the rules that govern them, and their corresponding entitlement to use the public highway to highlight that, will not compromise our girl’s sense of security. She’s been doing it effectively in the hallway since the time she could walk.


What do we want?

Our mothers to be trusted

When do we want it?

Er can we have our crisps now?