On Hope

The following is a very short piece I wrote on the topic ‘hope,’ which was the theme of the Women Who Write’s February meeting. (A wonderful monthly group that started last year.) I had been despairing on the facebook page that maybe I wasn’t a woman who writes. I began to worry and run out of time and I even took to twitter to ask people what hope meant to them. I was glad to have the discussions with people, and I ended up being really emotional in a good way! Hope is one of my favourites.

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I find hope in the usual places; crossed fingers and candles for job applications, a fresh notebook, an unopened letter. First messages, meetings, coffees. Anywhere there is possibility. The new year and spring time are hope’s favourite dates in the calendar.

I’d like to deliver hope to the unusual places too.  Oh, to stand at the end of the bridge like a gatekeeper. And place a little parcel of hope in the pocket of any son or daughter who feels they can’t go on. It would warm their heart and slow their feet. It would provide just enough light to see a way through for the next few hours, until the next phone call, the next conversation. It would whisper of love, family, friends and future.

My 7-year-old brother said hope is waiting for something that you are looking forward to. My colleague said hope is not quite a wish, not a strong as a prayer, but a strong want.  My philosophical friend said somewhat pessimistically, ‘…of little use in and of itself: can be as stifling and paralysing as it can be inspiring to action. Grasped at in a void, you’ll probably take nothing more than self-delusion and disappointment from it.’ In these hopeful conversations, I heard the story of a young woman who died last year, after a battle with brain cancer which spanned her whole adult life. She somehow managed to stay positive through years of pain and setbacks. Ten years ago she named her miracle baby Hope. Now her friend says he can’t think of Hope without thinking of Emma.

In these treacherous Trump times lies are being told. You’re not good enough. You don’t belong. You can’t cope.  A foundation of faith, hope and love is vital. Of these beautiful triplets love may be the greatest, but there is a lot to be said for hope.

Another Blogiversary: 6 Years

I am proud and amazed to note that today January 27 marks the SIXTH Anniversary of this blog, Life, Lyrics and Lemon Cake. I can’t tell you the comfort and connection I have received from writing and getting feedback from my little thoughts and words. Thank you so much for reading, whether you are old or new! It’s meant so much.

I have talked about it before, but I still remember clearly the ‘launch’ of my blog in Melrose Street 2011, my second year at Queen’s University. When my housemates (and besties!) were so supportive and meticulously went through and commented on all the blog posts I had been secretly publishing.

I have never had a ‘niche’ for my topics. It’s made it harder but I just try to be honest and maybe write something that will help someone, or make them think ‘me too.’ So it can be difficult if I’m feeling a bit down or not myself. My lovely good friend Ruth mentioned that I hadn’t been blogging much lately and I voiced my fear that I didn’t want negativity to leak into my posts.  I like to be positive and helpful and I didn’t really feel up to it. I hope that can change soon! The writing sometimes helps in and of itself.

I was so inspired by female bloggers back in the day, and as a person who really wishes to WRITE blogging seemed attractive. I’m glad I did it.

My friend Aisling suggested I choose 6 significant posts. I had a little wander down memory lane. It’s strange as always to see mentions and traces of old flames, for example and I almost have the urge to purge like one does with facebook! But this is all part of my story and perhaps better to be preserved in full. Do you know I have had a few recent requests not to be written about recently too. Ooh the power!

I didn’t put too much thought into this, just trusted my gut and highlighted 6 posts that I feel proud of or are worth a mention again. Also those archives are vast! And a little scary, ha. 6 posts for 6 years!

  1. Traps 

This is an article that almost broke my rule of no ranting. But I think it’s very appropriate in this week with all the amazing feminism examples around us. Just really about not having to be nice to creeps when they have you cornered! I have linked to an excellent article by Daisy Buchanan.

2. Slow Burning: The Electric Michelangelo

I like to read, and therefore write book reviews, and this was one that really stood out last year. I still have a quote pinned to my wall. ‘But sometimes what choice have we? Life conspires to plant us in the funniest of gardens, where the trees need an especial form of tending.’ Beautiful book by Sarah Hall

3. Send Some Happy

There are actually several posts regarding one of my favourite subjects and past times, snail mail! Really enjoyed collaborating with Zoe on this.  See? The friends you make through blogging. Like minded letter writers!

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4. Josh Ritter! On Meeting Your Heroes

Hey, we couldn’t do this without mentioning THE reason for the ‘Lyrics’ in LLL? This made me smile to read how excited I was. Still so proud to be Josh’s biggest fan. I was very proud of my more recent celebration of the main man’s 40th birthday. Keep on rocking, Josh!

5. Ode to 15 Journo Students

An important time in my life, that NCTJ accredited Journalism course that I left my job for in 2013. A lot changed for me that year. I got to test out my writing skills in a different way, I drank an awful lot and I made a few firm friends.

6. Trust Your Gut

A somewhat scary, raw one for me to post. But I had to do it. Some of it maybe is too much, and things have changed a little, but this lesson was a hard one learned over many years of trying and failing to be happy within relationships. I really hope it was able to help someone!

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Are there any posts that have stood out to you? Is there anything you would like to see?

So, lets all have a slice of lemon cake and a coffee the next chance we get, and thank you sincerely from my heart to yours for your support for these 6 years. It means the world to me when people mention my blog in ‘real life’ or even old fashioned comments. And I feel better for having this little corner of the internet and a connection with you.

 

Hello 2017

Happy New Year, blog. I’m full of hope, as ever. I really like the feeling on New Year’s Eve especially, and the promise of a bright clean new year full of possibilities. Thank you so much for reading in 2016. It’s been sporadic enough, I know. Perhaps I will try not let fear hold me back in 2017. My desire/ reluctance to write is laced with fear I think. Also, I have said it before but I like that my blog is my one link to writing when there is nothing else going on.

This year I have went to a few warm, funny, gifted meetings with Women Who Write. I have done a bit of freelance feature writing with a local newspaper, got some decent blog posts in, and wrote many a letter (snail mail!) for my friends and family. There was also a lot of writing involved in my Mammy’s recent 50th birthday celebrations, which went sooo well and she loved.

Today I read and was inspired by this article on Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year.

I got a little sad before I went to party with my two best friends last night. Yes. 3 person party. It was amazing. Just basically this: that I have been stuck in a rut for a few years and EVERY new year I hope that things will start falling into place. They have not so far! But don’t get me wrong I am extremely grateful to have a job, a brilliant family, wonderful friends and a good life. And my hoping is unfazed. I have to adjust my attitude, I know. I often have the feeling that I need to DO SOMETHING but I am still figuring out what.

I have been single for almost a whole year now, which is a first for adult me. I am not sure that I have made the most of it at all, but I definitely needed this time. I’m not pining for someone, although I do talk a good deal, and I think I am comfortable being on my own for now. I joke that my bullshit detector is finally working after all these years. I think I am going to be able to work out quite quickly if someone is just not treating me with enough respect, or I can’t see it going somewhere. The way of the world is not usually the way that I roll! So it’s difficult, it is, but relationships are important to me. And playing the game is not something I’m willing to do, soz.

Well that kind of went off on a tangent, but I am glad I was able to write something, however small, to start off the year. Thanks again for reading. A very, very happy and hopeful 2017 to you.

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From The Gate of the Year by Minnie Louise Haskins. 

 

 

 

P.S Look at these persoanlised blog earrings my beautiful bride to be Ruth got me for Christmas. I love them! So thoughtful. ❤

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The power of words. A ramble.

I work in a shop at present. A book shop, mostly, but also newspapers and magazines and lots of stationery for Back to School.  I get a little defensive when people judge me. All my work friends seem to be doing second degrees or other courses and I feel left behind a lot. I don’t like to be negative here but I kind of wanted to share this experience.

On Saturday I was serving customers and an elderly lady with a stern manner and a white bob bought the Daily Mail. She pointed out the front page and agreed wholeheartedly with Theresa May bringing back grammar schools. She seemed to press the point and said ‘All my children went to grammar school, it’s not about your upbringing it’s about how hard you work.’ She really seemed to be trying to judge me or something so I said truthfully, I went to a grammar school. In all seriousness, she looked at me, smiled, and asked ‘What happened to you?’ I was so shocked, and so disheartened. My fears coming true. I don’t even know what I said back, I listed my achievements like degree and Journalism qualification, and she still smirked and made me feel like absolute rubbish. The rest of the exchange was horrible, and she went away with a big smile on her face. I really hope she feels better about herself by trying to tear someone down. Even if, and especially if I didn’t have ANY qualifications, what right had she to judge someone?

On Saturday night after too many gins I stood crying outside the bar to my Book Manager, about this and general life insecurities. I wish hateful people didn’t have the power to make me feel like this. I wish they and more importantly, I didn’t compare myself to all my friends, siblings and colleagues who are ‘winning’ at life when I seem to be floundering or stopped dead.

I will go through surges of applying for jobs in Belfast, Edinburgh, but in truth I have no focus, I don’t know what to apply for and I get so bummed out with the rejections that come about 2 months later if ever.

When a colleague who is about the same age as me but who’s been with the company for a long time, got engaged recently and now has a fantastic new job, I was so, so happy for him, but also I was jealous. Or more, just felt terrible about how I was doing. And that’s horribly selfish and I don’t want to feel like that.

My Mammy is right, as she mostly is. I need to concentrate on all the things I have, and not pine for things I don’t. Apart from people leaving all over the shop, the people I work with in the humble shop have become really good friends and support and I’m truly grateful to have them in my life. I have been asked to do a really interesting bit of freelance which I am having extreme anxiety about after so long, but really chuffed to be asked to do and appreciate the flexibility I am allowed.

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Although I know I could be doing more, I am choosing to hope and to trust and to try to live my life in the moment. I try to make a difference where I am, and keep an open heart. What else can I do when I’m not sure what I’m doing. I obsess about being 27 but I am blessed and that’s still young (isn’t it?) and I know I can do a little good for those around me.

I’m surrounded by good people, and beautiful friends and family. Really I want to thank people for being so kind and patient with little broken record me. And encourage anyone who feels like giving up, or that they aren’t keeping up. You’re good enough, no matter what you do, it’s who you are that’s important and all your human interactions. Be someone who builds people up, and doesn’t tear them down.

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Birthday Bubble

I turned 27 on Saturday, and am somewhat disturbed by this. However, after two nights out I think I have hit a bit of a depressive stage today. I have been feeling so loved and spoiled all weekend I thought I would let it spill into a blog post.

I had to work on my birthday, just from 2-7 (27!) and I did try to swap it, alas. But in the morning I was spoiled with a coconut cream finger, and many paper creations from Ellen and Jacob. Well really just Ellen. Jacob gave me 70 cents from the windowsill. Ellen who is 9’s masterpiece was a big map with a 3D library, a ‘gorgeous garden’ made from a Graze Box and our house complete with 10 family members. There was a really cute note on it saying I didn’t have to keep it if it was too big.

After my sweaty shift manning the stationery department, I rushed home and enlisted my lovely visiting Belfast sister to do my hair and make up which was happy days for me. She had bought me some lovely make up from Soap and Glory which we tried out. We have become really good friends of late. We don’t contact each other that much when she’s not at home, but we have late night chats and laughs when she’s back, we are weirdly similar and different, and herself and her boyfriend are so good to me and our family.

I got several lovely cards and packages, and because people know I love snail mail they probably feel under pressure, but they are not and it was a lovely surprise. Thank you Ruth, Mammy, Abbye and L! Too kind and generous. What funny, pretty birthday parcels.

Caoimhe and me had already had quite a good week of events, she got me a ticket to Lisa Hannigan in Belfast for last Sunday, which was beautiful and then we had the time of our lives at Sarah Millican on Tuesday! Still laughing about that. We are both more and more determined to make the most of it and it is working out well for now!

So, I was ultimately late to my own birthday night, but five of us went to Claire’s house to have a few drinks including pink prosecco before heading out. Two are friends for 16 years, one about 8 years and one is a new friend.

We got carried away and had such a laugh, and a serious conversation about sexism in the workplace. We celebrated being 27, some being single, that pHD, we took selfies and learned about snapchat. And this is what is so important to me about friendship, and in particular female friendship (one of my favourite subjects and indeed things) all of us have difficult things happening in our lives, some really hard stuff for some of my best friends that I know of, but there is just a constant circle of support, and closeness and yes, love. This often gives way to the best laughs, and teasing. There is nothing like it. We left it so late to go out that we weren’t sure where to go, but you know what? It didn’t matter. We got a wee corner to dance in and everyone was happy and I mostly remember laughing!

Aisling, the George to my Fred had sent me this quote which I love;

The best kind of friendships are fierce lady friendships where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and think the other deserves the world.

We met some interesting people as we weaved our way home, and my friends looked after me really well! Plenty to tease me about in future, I am sure but that’s ok!

I dragged myself out of bed after a few hours to do the Foyle Hospice Walk/Run and it wasn’t that pretty, but it was for a good cause and I got to see Ruth and baby Luke and properly meet her sisters and mum so it was all good.

A power nap and some Chinese food later, Claire and Aisling decided on Sunday Sips so away we went again! Quieter drinks in Claire’s and the bar later. But we all felt happy and I really appreciated the friendship and the love bubble.

I think I just really wanted to get my gratitude on, and really appreciate all the kindness that has been shown to me over the last few days, but really all the time with these girls! Again as I always say, I am at a bit of a funny place in my life, and I at least thought I would be married off by this stage, and making a bit more money but I really am trying to be appreciative of the wonderful gifts that I do have, and keep hoping. I did have a huge disappointment, and a mysterious bouquet of flowers within a week so I guess anything could happen, ha.

This could be our year! And I will get by with a little help from my friends.

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Trust Your Gut

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Perfect illustration from Bryony Attenburrow

A few short weeks ago, I would have avoided reading this piece, or anything similar. I wouldn’t have clicked the link or wanted to face the truth.

It seems one’s body knows when things aren’t right, it tries to tell you time and time again, and it is possible to quash the feelings, to get on with it, to ignore the niggle. I’m the biggest worrier in the world. I’m constantly teased about it by the people who know me. But a gut feeling is different to the twisty tummy worries that come and go.

Relationships are the thing that get me in the gut. And when you have a good connection with someone it becomes very difficult to face the flickering warnings in your heart. I’d go as far as to say that it takes a certain amount of bravery. Especially when the future is unknown.

I had to hurt someone I care a great deal about. I had to go into my retail job trying not to cry, and hoping people would know without me having to tell them. I’m a bit lonely, at a bit of a loose end. I’m 26. I’m not a teenager. Something spookily similar has happened to me already. But my gut is calm again, for the first time in a long time.

I have a desire to marry, and to have children. This is so important to me that I want to be as happy as possible and absolutely ‘love in a bucket’. Marriage is difficult enough without serious doubts.

I fear most people, most women? Settle. I always thought of settling as ‘I’m unhappy, this isn’t what I want but I’m going to go ahead with it for whatever reason. Baby/security/money etc.’

But it’s more ‘I’m quite happy, I really like/fancy this person. He’s really good to me. We have a good time. We’re similar. Maybe I wouldn’t find anyone else.’ While feeling that something isn’t quite adding up inside.

There’s a dull dread when people get engaged. It’s hard to feel happy for people you love who are happily putting rings on fingers. This is terrible. I was so grumpy when my brother got engaged and I even cried, and it wasn’t jealousy. I wanted everyone to freeze until I was happy, I was ready, until I was at their level.

Maybe you’re thinking, how dare she expect anything more than a decent man who loves her? But if my body was quietly warning no, no, no- how could I ignore it? I have faith enough to believe that there’s someone out there just for me. My mammy’s been praying for him since I was a little girl. I want to love as deeply as I’m loved. I want a sureness, a yes-ness, an excitement to move forward that flows into everything else.  Yes, it is a lot to ask for. But I deserve it. You deserve it.

Listen to your gut.

 

p.s I wrote this to try to make sense of things. I thought my experience might help someone. I really, really don’t wish to hurt anyone. Please let me know if you have any issues.

Cobblestones

As the aeroplane took off, leaving the wondrous city of Prague behind, the two passengers either side of me retrieved journals and new notebooks from cabin luggage and began writing furiously. One happened to be my handsome happy man (who was using my pen) and had an idea for a novel based on the 14th, 15th, 16th Century architecture and churches we had soft-stepped into, open-mouthed in wonder. I had taken to praying for my nearest and dearest in each magnificent structure whereas he had eyes only for the art.

The lady in the pretty Aztec dress and South of Ireland lilt to my right bent over her journal, covering it with her hand any time I as much looked out the window. She crunched an apple and seemed to be filling in diary entries or appointments from several months before. I wondered.

Having no use for my pen, my ideas seeming to have dried up this long, long time I began reading my novel ‘In the Name of Love’ by Patrick Smith. Said handsome man looked up from his backwards notebook (leftie) to comment on how fast I was flicking pages. In this time of confusion and felt stagnation I am soaking up words all the faster in order to arm myself.

The first three days of my six day trip to Prague were spent worrying. Worrying about going back, my career non-starter, my decisions, my still living at home, people’s opinions. I think my friends want to shake me I have been in this boat forever.

I lit candles in the Sedlec Bone Church and took a pew before the Child of Prague. I bantered about teaching and other sensible steps I have no urge to take with my travel partner and tried to see what I wanted to be.

A bone and skull pyramid, plague bodies in Bone Church, Kutna Hora.
A bone and skull pyramid, plague bodies in Bone Church, Kutna Hora.

I gave up and tried to count my blessings which are many, I appreciated the cobbles, the huge Cathedrals and rich cemeteries. I enjoyed the holiday canoodles, the mini apartment we shared with a bathroom each, our balcony with a view of red tiled towers and roofs. We had a go at the Czech cuisine of Beef goulash and Fallow deer and potato dumplings galore. We took a train and a tour, we shared a carriage with a Canadian girl and an Australian couple whose travels were far greater than ours. But willed the loud Australian not to probe on ‘what I did.’

I listened to stories and history and gazed at beautiful things, tried and tested and sipped, smiled and laughed and whispered and hoped. I think I might be coming across self obsessed and whiny and that so isn’t my aim. I’m trying to reawaken my blog and get used to writing again, also keep my eyes and my heart open and hope.

Vysehrad Cemetery
Vysehrad Cemetery

I was sad to leave the beautiful sun soaked cultural Czech Republic and I am craving a return already. So as I tuck my trusty bum bag away until my next trip (!) and smile at my trinkets and photos, I take this last unexpected day before returning to the bookshop where I work. I try to get my thoughts in order and my heart in the right place. I ask you to be patient with me. I’m experiencing and living and slightly restless. I will get there or at least find the words use my talents and enjoy the journey.

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