29 Things I Have Learned

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Hello, in honour of turning 29 today (what!) I came up with 29 things that I have learned so far, which may be of use to you. I’m hoping for a low-key celebration involving family, Gap coffee co, friend catch ups and hopefully cake.

  1. Worry is pointless. Though that barely stops me. Worry unsettles your mind and really takes over. Stop worrying! Easier said than done and I struggle with this every day.
  2. In times of hard stuff, self care is important! I know it’s a buzz word at the moment. But I love when people say ‘Be gentle with yourself’ You really should. I like lattes and cake in pretty cafes, getting lost in a book, spending time with life giving people and the occasional massage.
  3. TRUST YOUR GUT. It can be hard to do, but deep down you know. Please listen.
  4. A loving family is priceless. When everything has gone terribly wrong, they are there for me. So many people don’t have that and I’m grateful.
  5. Hard and horrible life events can be overcome. Things are changing daily. Stuff is happening behind the scenes. Trust, take another step.
  6. Josh Ritter is the best songwriter in the whole world.
  7. You don’t have to be nice to men on public transport or customers in work who are being inappropriate/ in your personal space or making you feel uncomfortable.
  8. Kindness is so, so important. And you will get it back if you give it away.
  9. Reading is a magical gift. Words can soothe, distract, educate, amaze.
  10. Social media is exciting, addictive and fascinating. It can be a major curse too. A necessary evil. Be careful.
  11. It’s ok not to know what you want to do with your life. I feel upset and confused about this all the time. But enjoy the journey and keep moving forward. If you can’t see where to go next, bloom where you are planted.
  12. Grannies are so very special. My Granny Mc was my biggest fan. My Granny Breslin had the most amazing story and raised a big, beautiful family. I lost them both in 2017. But I feel them with me, and love doesn’t go away.
  13. Being a bridesmaid is a beautiful honour.
  14. If you don’t ask for and demand respect in a relationship, you won’t always get it.
  15. RuPaul’s Drag Race is the only and best trash TV that I watch (on Netflix). The transformation of men into beautiful drag queens is amazing. And it’s so quotable. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Truth, queen.
  16. The days are long but the years are short.
  17. Big families are cool. I always say it’s only good at Christmas, but I think as a support system even for future it’s a definite comfort.
  18. The truth is the truth, even if everyone else believes a lie.
  19. We are all addicted to our phones. It’s so bad for human connection. And won’t end well.
  20. Giving your time to someone is one of the most powerful and special gifts you can give. Children and romantic partners will especially appreciate it.
  21. Walking away from busy roads, preferably in nature is a zillion times better than walking along a main road, when ‘out for a walk.’ Walking is great for getting out of your head a bit.
  22. I know I will probably go on about it forever, but a personal, old fashioned letter in the post is both beautiful to receive and joyful to post.
  23. “Was she crazy? Or did he make her crazy?” Oh I hated when my friend said this, in response to how a boy I cared about described his ex. She is so right though. I have definitely acted so crazy, but only in response to upsetting and disrespectful behaviour pushing me over the edge.
  24. Going out for breakfast is such a lovely way to cheer yourself up and ease into the day. Underrated.
  25. If a door is completely shut in your face, no matter how disappointed or upset you may be, trust that God will open another.
  26. Life is a balance of holding on and letting go – Rumi
  27. If you don’t go out of your comfort zone, it gets smaller and smaller. If you step outside every day, eventually it stretches until you’re doing things you never thought possible. (I have this is theory but not often practice)
  28. I should always try to write more. I have taken to writing down thoughts and feelings, but I’d love to finally start writing something properly.
  29. I have arrived at this age, 29, feeling rather defeated. It’s been rough the last month especially. Truly don’t know where or what I would be without people who love, support and don’t judge me too harshly. I have almost descended into cliches and quotations here, but I’m taking one day at a time, trying to see the next step. I’m home again, in every sense of the word. This birthday seems scary and very serious but I’m also grateful for a new start. A fresh year, what could be nicer?

Thank you for the birthday visit! I can scarcely believe I am 29. Comparison is the thief of joy so I’m not comparing myself to any other person, at least for today. I’m healthy and I’m loved. I hope you have a beautiful day, maybe we can celebrate soon. Much love x

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How to Be Champion

I love Sarah Millican. Yes she’s a ‘dirty bitch’ as my Mum says (she loves it!) But she’s also so real, wise, FUNNY and is outspoken about the world’s beauty standards/ sexism. She maybe doesn’t match up to what is deemed beautiful or fashionable by the Instagram generation but she has learned not to give a crap (except literal IBS craps that she describes in detail!) and she encourages all of us to do the same.

My International friend (ha) Caoimhe and me saw her live stand up, two years ago? In our hometown and we loved it! Her honesty about her marriage breaking down, her dividing us into flowers or pets, her ACCENT, and bravery all make me love her. Also her sharp risqué wit that had me laughing til I cried.

 

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I’m a proud member of Standard Issue, the online magazine, now podcast Millican started in 2014.

In September, 2014, Standard Issue launched as a smart and witty online magazine for women by women, covering everything that interests women – ie everything. No celebrity tittle tattle, no photo shopping, no calorie counting, no cellulite circling. Just honest, good, interesting and funny writing from a bunch of cracking broads.

Standard Issue will never tell you who to be, what to wear or how to look. We believe that every woman should feel empowered to simply be herself.

I was excited when I saw she had a new autobiography out, How to Be Champion. I devoured it, with plenty of tea and coffee and cake as prescribed, in a couple of days while not wanting it to be over.

Sarah’s description of school was similar to mine, I always felt extremely ugly and I would melt if anyone asked if I had a boyfriend. She was studious and interested and got picked on for that, the reason people are in school!

She’s obviously worked SO HARD to get where she is, and I enjoyed reading about all her different jobs. Even though I still feel like I was stuck in her 19-year-old job at age 28!

Sarah got married at age 22 and the marriage broke down after 7 years. She was absolutely floored, really hit rock bottom, moved back in with her parents, became deeply depressed, but somehow started finding funny elements of the situation and worked on her writing, and somehow stumbled into stand-up comedy which she was made for. She’s wise and smart about the divorce. I think it would be very helpful for someone going through the same thing.

Her achievements are amazing, and she really deserves her success. I hope I can somehow channel her enthusiasm and willingness to work hard and sleep on people’s sofas for maybe writing a novel someday. She somehow gives people extra permission to be themselves while being HILARIOUS of course. I love a book that makes me literally LOL.

She has her priorities right, and in so many ways the Internet…the world does not, and this book is a breath of fresh air for women especially.

I almost did a cry as Sarah would say, when I finished the book. I read someone’s tweet that said ‘It’s a rare thing to find a book that feels like a friend.’ @NaomiPanter

I feel like that too. I just kind of wish she didn’t tell me the thing about hotel kettles. Can’t stop thinking about it.

Show me the way to go Home…

“I just feel so proud of her.” My strong mother said through her tears as we followed the lone bag-piper as he led my Granny Breslin to her final resting place. The song was called Going Home.

90 years on this earth. 1 month and one Mother’s Day she’s been gone.

Barely 2 days she shared with her own mother, who died through complications with birth. In the last maybe 15 years she kept her close to her heart on a photo pendant my dear uncle John bought for her. My Granny didn’t really talk about her mother much until she developed dementia. But it was the biggest pain and loss in her life, and she really could not wait to be reunited with her.

“She’ll be soon after her” they said when little Margaret Burns’ mother died. But 90 years, 14 children and 101 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren later… and what a legacy, what a life.

In one of our kitchen table mammoth tea and talking sessions my sister said “Think how terrified she must have been every time she was pregnant.” And it’s true…Yet she went through it 14 times, with only two of the younger ones born in hospital, the rest at home. Such a brave and selfless woman who just used her life to raise her children with her simple faith, strong morals and a lot of laughter.

My friends, and others who had never met Granny were reduced to tears at the funeral listening to all she had overcome between Derry and Scotland. Her father, a good man, died when she was 12 and herself and her sister found him when they returned from the cinema.

She was then raised by her beloved Aunt Annie in Derry, where both parents were from. “If he’s meant for you, he’ll come into the fireside.” Annie always said. And my Granda did just that, coming into the house to wait for Annie’s son Paddy every Friday night before they went to the pub. One day he asked Annie could he take Margaret to the ‘pictures.’ “You’ll have to ask her yourself.” Annie replied. My Granny was listening on the stairs, delighted.

They lived in a little house in Creggan, paying up for groceries, battling through the riots of the Troubles, and doing a miraculous job of raising 6 girls and 8 boys without murdering any of them!

I have to say, I’m biased, they’re my aunties and uncles, but the Breslins are an absolute credit to my Granny. I’m just so proud to be part of this family, and watching as they handled themselves, their grown up children, all the visitors with such grace and dignity at the wake and funeral. They are a big loving family of absolute characters, and although it was the saddest of circumstances we were delighted to see each other. The wake at times was an almost joyful occasion, which I thought maybe would have upset my mammy but she said it’s exactly what Granny would have wanted. Some of us (mostly cousins) had a drink after the soup and sandwiches of the funeral (I was the only one to volunteer to show my family up) and now we are hoping to organise a big cousins meet-up at least once a year.

Mother’s Day was yesterday, and the first one my own mother has spent without hers. I knew it would be difficult, so I had the idea of a version of my granny’s beloved photo pendant featuring a wee song my granny in her dementia especially liked to sing.

From here.

One of my favourite stories about my Granny, and it was told at the funeral, highlights her very healthy relationship with God. My auntie Eileen once found a piece of scone far from my Granny’s chair and jam dripping from the Sacred Heart picture. “You fairly knew your own mother!” she accused Jesus. Kind of regularly, actually!

She died on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. “She’s a wee lover” my Mammy said as she left to say her final goodbyes.

It comforts us all to think of the first Mother’s Day for two amazing long-suffering women. After 90 years. That’s love.

 

Margaret Breslin

7th October 1926 – 14th February 2017

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.

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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Loose Ending

When I’m not in work, it’s how I’m feeling mostly. At a loose end. Applying for better work positions requires more energy than I feel I have, but I’m constantly worrying about my lack of savings and what people think of me. I fear no one is going to be interested in the person ‘wasting’ their education/training.

Most girls are guilty of neglecting friends when they are in a relationship. I know I am. And then when it ends you don’t want to lean on these friends too much, for fear they think you’re using them. I’m trying not to be too needy but I’m still feeling lonely. Last weekend my beautiful friend Abbye drove up from Belfast and we both stayed at a B&B in town. It was an uplifting, funny adventure. We went for a long lunch with dessert and impassioned catching up, we bought PJs in Primark, we went to a Lego Exhibition in the Nerve Centre, we bought a bottle of gin and plastic wine glasses, we did Crow Stands, we listened to Josh Ritter and Toots and the Maytals and got ready in half an hour, we went to Walled City Brewery and had flight boards of local craft beer, ‘pintxo’s’ and cocktails, talked about EVERYTHING, decided it was a Ventathon 2016 and I didn’t realise how much I needed it!

I had the worst driving lesson on Thursday night. I’m almost regressing. How can I be so forgetful? I’m half convinced I have memory problems. I nearly decided to park it (pardon the pun) for now -I’d never be able to afford a car anyway- but I shall persevere.

I’m trying to be open, and kind, and connect with people. Deep down I know everything is ok. I have a lovely present for my Mum and I’m looking forward to appreciating her tomorrow.

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I seem to be surrounded by people having babies. My friend R is living in Belfast and she had a little boy near the beginning of February, I was up to see her a week or more ago and I just feel fiercely proud of her. He is very beautiful. I’m not really panicking on that end. Yet.

I’m getting so much comfort from the songs of Josh Ritter. He’s always there. I love to find new meanings to the rich lyrics, I’ve used certain lines this week on a 10 year anniversary card, my Mother’s Day card, and my BFF Aisling gave me a wee shout out on a local radio station with ‘Snow is Gone’  and it really cheered me up.

I’m worried I won’t get all the time off I need for wedding related things, and I won’t fit into any bridesmaid dresses.

I never feel I’m doing enough, you know? I feel like everyone else thinks that about me too. I want to just have faith and trust that things will appear, and work out. I’m craving being around friendly faces. I don’t want my job to define me or restrict me, and I don’t want to kill myself looking for the perfect one either.

To my shame I have been writing nothing but blog posts, but I have been reading an awful lot. I’m simultaneously reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and Making it Up as I Go Along by Marian Keyes. One heavy and distressing and over 700 pages, the other light hearted and laugh out loud funny. Books are a major comfort too.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this. I’m sure it’s boring and self centred. I just had to write and kind of sort my feelings out. I’m nothing if not honest.

Today I dyed my hair Honey Chocolate and kind of basked in a patch of sunlight reading and browsing and eating cake based things. And hoping.