Reasons to Stay Alive

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Little book recommendation. A wonderful, comforting and hopeful read by Matt Haig. Have really liked Matt since I read The Humans, and chose it to give away for World Book Night in 2014.

I think this book could really help someone with depression, or someone who loves a person with depression.

Matt had a severe depressive episode when he was 24. He was living in a beautiful part of Ibiza at the time. The book starts here.

I have never been diagnosed with depression but I think I have been at least close to it at several times in my life. Some of Matt’s descriptions could therefore maybe be triggers for people as his experiences were so difficult and at times seeming hopeless that I was afraid I was going to be ‘sucked in.’ I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to say. It’s all because of the great writing.

It’s a really amazing journey and you will feel so much better after taking it.

The things I liked most about the book were the beautiful words, the honesty, the funny and wonderful lists and the book recommendations. I have already bought a book that Matt mentioned for a Christmas present for a friend and I am sure to seek out more. Also he seems a real, fair feminist guy and I loved him for it.

Some of the lists from the book are Things that make me worse, Things that (sometimes) make me better, Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression, Famous People, How to live (forty pieces of advice I find to be helpful but which I don’t always follow), Things I have enjoyed since the time I though I would never enjoy anything again.

The last item on the Reasons to Stay Alive list p.119

10. You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious food you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling. There are books you haven’t read that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for suns by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.

I instagrammed several pages from this book. I found it really inspiring. It is very wise and so hopeful. And I really love the chance to send hope to people who are suffering because there is always hope. And it breaks my heart when people can’t see any.

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Matt Haig. Image from here.

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I think everyone needs an Andrea! And I really want to know more about Matt’s children and how he felt when they were born and stuff. Maybe another book?

Anyway, I greatly recommend this book. It’s quite compact and easy to read, and it might make a life saving Christmas gift to someone. There are so many reasons to stay alive!

Some Christmas stream of consciousness

Christmas retail is kind of killing me. A colleague said to me today while I was mid-rant, ‘You were so nice when you started..’ Ha. It can be an introvert’s nightmare dealing with 3 customer queries at once and constantly being asked questions while you’re pricing items, pushing a trolley of stock or balancing a pile of books. I had a woman prod the stack of books I was carrying in all the right places to stop them falling while quizzing me.

Minimum wage is sucking so much too. Fretting constantly about Christmas presents. I need to be climbing some sort of career ladder and quickly. But again, I’m just not in the headspace and I don’t have the money to move away.

I’m not completely panicking I just wonder sometimes. And think I’m too lackadaisical. I sense my parents are thinking I’m letting it all slip by and I hate that! I do tend to do everyone’s thinking for them though.

If I listen very carefully I can also hear the faint ticking of a clock too. Especially when I count how many Mums there are from my year of school. 8 years ago…

Plenty of writers had a less than glamorous day job, though, right? I don’t dread this job like I did my previous one. And I meet at least one person per day who makes me smile, or even inspires me in some way. I always try to be patient and helpful even if I’m rolling my eyes internally, and I try to listen to my Mum and shine a little light even when I don’t feel like it.

I’m always trying to justify myself, that’s probably why I’m writing this. People are hopefully too busy with their own lives to worry bout mine but please don’t think of me as a waste of an English degree!

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I’m reading a lot, I’m trying to be there for my most precious Mammy who’s own mammy is not doing very well at all. Feeling terribly guilty about that also. I’m in a really good place with G. Just wish I could buy him ten times more for Christmas and his birthday. I’m thinking of my friends so much and looking forward to upcoming things and knowing I could do better there too.

I got asked to read again at Mass by the most lovely nun who phoned my house out of the blue. I did it YEARS ago. I think from 2006-09 or something like that. I kind of saw it as an invitation back to faith which I feel I have moved too far away from sometimes. It gave me comfort but I still haven’t went every week, and guess when my first reading will be? Christmas Morning.

I do apologise for this awfully self centred post. It’s more to ease the writing guilt on top of everything else. From my buzzing worries not much else is rising to the top.

Maybe just a reminder that not everyone’s lives are Instagram perfect. Being kind is the most important. Keep your dreams aflame in your chest. Don’t feel you have to spend a fortune at Christmas. Know that my friends, I love you but it will be a humble Christmas. Hold your loved ones close. Be grateful. I am.

We are all WoW

While it’s still fresh in my mind, I would like to write some words on what a wonderful day I had at the third Women of the World festival to be held  at The Playhouse in my home town of Derry/Londonderry.

I booked the weekend off especially and got the bus into town early, heart a bit heavy with Paris and distracted by many things.

Here’s a wee word from WoW founder, Jude Kelly. The big original Southbank Centre London one – which has now spread to 15 cities in 5 continents.

WOW attempts to raise and explore all of our concerns whilst also celebrating the huge potential of girls and women to make a different and more successful society for everyone. At WOW we encourage fun, activism, openness to new subject matter and an opportunity to add your voice to the wealth of stories that girls and women of all ages, backgrounds and experiences are sharing. WOW Derry-Londonderry has become a place where people come to meet, celebrate and take action, celebrating the women and girls of the North West and the rest of the world – and taking a frank look at what still stops them from achieving their potential.

The first event I went to was a Welcome to WOW – here the three big names Sandi Toksvig, Kathy Lette and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC were introducing the festival and, being three besties, discussing the importance of female friendship. This was just something I decided to go to, and I was almost moved to tears and laughing out loud. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Kathy Lette, novelist and Baroness Helena Kennedy top amazing lawyer, but hearing their wisdom and wit on a Saturday morning was special and moving, and so heartening. They kept reiterating that female friendship is not a soft, fluffy thing. It is vital to a woman’s life, and relationships may come and go but your friends remain constant and provide such a support throughout life. Sandi, being a major fountain of knowledge told us about female friendships in history that we may not know about. Such as this, which I was so impressed by. Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer, could not get a gig in New York because of the colour of her skin.

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Baroness Helena Kennedy, Sandi Toksvig and Kathy Lette.

 

She knew that of she could play the Mocambo Night Club in the 50’s, her career would be made. The owners refused, saying they did not know what could happen if they allowed her to sing there. Marilyn Monroe called up the owner and said she would take a front table every night that Ella Fitzgerald played if he booked her. And the press would know. He agreed, and Marilyn was there every night.

I was impressed by the wise words, advice and hilarity. I came away deeply appreciating my friends. And hoping I haven’t abandoned them too much. Cause I know I need them!!

I was then delighted that my friend Claire could join me to attend ‘Tools for a Stress Free Life.’ (How me is that?!) and we had a go at affirmations and being money magnets and everything. (Load of happy women had just vacated the room after a Menopause Matters talk!)

We then used the Community Room for a little sit down and a cup of complementary tea and a catch up. The community room was a great new touch for people to continue the conversation. It is really cute and quirky with sofas and mismatched mugs and dress up clothes in the corner.

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We then heard three local women’s personal stories of overcoming huge health, mental health issues and powerful life affirming stories they were. WOW Bites was really inspiring and touching, I loved author Sinead Cox’s story and Grainne McAnee was amazing in her story of overcoming depression. I was really happy to spot more Women of the World that I knew at this event!

Local heroine of mine, Journo and eight times author Claire Allan held a rather apt session in the Green Room, surrounded my light bulb mirrors, about how the media affects women and girl’s self-esteem. I love discussing this rather scary topic, and although I was shy, my friend Caoimhe did a great job discussing the topic with Claire and Divya, a dietetics student. There was one man at this event and much swooning was done when he spoke passionately about how important the whole issue was and how he would make sure his male friends came to WOW in future etc.

This kind of made me realise that in some ways we were preaching to the converted, I know I’d like my man to be introduced to many of the ideas, and have his eyes opened to some of the issues. There really was nothing exclusive or blaming about any of the events. Just truthful and looking for ways forward for everyone! Anyway, men, I think you should come next year for definite!

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In the foyer of The Playhouse there were stalls selling t-shirts and cakes, doing hair, selling Lush Products. Jenni was there with her Little Acorns book stall, selling all the relevant books and SHIFT fanzine,vol.3 in which I have the most cringey poem. I really appreciated Jenni, she was so selfless missing all the events, and so helpful telling us who would be signing what and which were the best books to buy! You should definitely visit her lovely shop in The Yellow Yard.

The two main events were still to go, and I was utterly charmed by Kathy Lette, who is SO glamorous and so funny, and who’s book ‘Courting Trouble’ pokes fun at the shocking way the judicial system has treated rape cases in the past. Her friend and interviewer Helena had read through the book carefully to advise and guide on all the courtroom scenes and we were queuing up to buy the book afterwards. And meet Kathy of course. Kathy opened up about having a son with Autism and she described the hardships, the laughter and the extraordinary thing it is. I love all the by-the-by conversations and side notes and fascinating things that can be discovered when women talk.

We also had tickets for ‘Sandi Toksvig Tells a Yarn’ – with a warning that the show contains live knitting. Basically Sandi went through history to see how women fared. She’s so intelligent it’s a little unnerving. I was afraid she would think us Derry ones not smart. But it was great, and she and the other guests gave of their time voluntarily and that is so admirable.

I am glad these kinds of conversations are happening, that women are getting together to discuss important issues. I was happy that the events allowed myself and my friend to carry on the conversation, and I had to laugh at Claire and me’s avoidance of the same events if we felt it conflicted with our beliefs too much etc.

I have to commend the North West Women’s Collective, Tara Gleeson and everyone involved in bringing the Women of the World festival to the Playhouse so successfully this year. I really adored it, and I know many seeds have been planted and great strength and goodness is spreading.

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