Eat your dinner there, like a good girl

I’m a bona fidé people pleaser.

I was the kid who slowly chewed through the utter abomination that was grainy boiled-in-their-jackets grey potatoes, swimming in butter to make them closer to edible. I hated potatoes. And butter. But the neighbours had cooked them and I wanted them to tell me I was a great girl for eating all my dinner.

I was the kid who studied hard and got straight As, but never stopped to think about what she loved to do. But, hey, the teachers and the parents seemed happy.

More recently, I was the girl who got into such an absolute tizz trying to figure out which career path was the most likely to lead to a “great aul’ job” that she dropped out of one university course to hop into the next, terrified that she’d miss out on doing the ‘right’ thing.

My parents always told me to do what makes me happy, but I always looked to them for that little nod of approval. If I thought I was making them proud, I’d do it. There’s a newspaper clipping of me from primary school (my interview debut in the Leinster Leader), saying I want to be a doctor or a solicitor when I grow up. Hadn’t a clue what either involved, just knew they were good jobs *air quotes*.

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There I am, happy little head on me, pre-power career notions

Veering off the course that’s expected of you can be terrifying. I’ve tentatively moved towards doing more of the things I love to do- writing, taking photographs, travelling, learning more about global development and psychology, yoga….I’m coming around to the idea that it’s ok for me to want a life that’s abundant on my terms. But, ladies and gentlemen, there will be naysayers. Sweet baby Jesus will there be naysayers.

‘You want more flexibility in your life? What? Sure where would you be going?’

‘Eh, you’re not thinking of going back to college again are you? You’ll never be on good money! You need to put the head down and keep working’

‘I’m telling you, freelancing is utter bullshit. Working for yourself is the most stressful thing EVER.’

‘Just get a good job! Who cares if you hate it as long as the money’s good? Then you can enjoy your life outside it.’

Most of this stemmed from a ‘So what are you up to now?’ question, to which I replied that I was doing a yoga teacher training and that my masters might allow me to do some freelance consultancy work. I said nothing about quitting my current job. Or upping and leaving to invest bit coin in Hawaiian unicorn farms. Yet down poured the shit storm.

I’ve always looked to others for approval. My first thought was “Oh shit…they’re right. I sound like a floaty indecisive crazy bitch! What am I thinking?! Who do I think I am?!”. Then the dust settled a bit. Then I got angry at myself for thinking that. Then I got angry at the naysayers. Then I cried. I proper ugly cried. But then…then there was another feeling. Something that felt like a blurry outline of determination. And for the first time I can remember, ever, I said “Fuck that” to that shit.

Where will I go if I listen to all that? Probably not the places I want to. I’m still totally unsure where these new paths lead but even the thought of heading in their general direction makes me giddy. So I’ma go with that. We’ve got to at least try. The world would be a far darker place if we all waited for universal approval before we did the things that made our little hearts do the macarena.

Because if you base your self-worth on what everyone else thinks of you, you hand all your power over to other people and become dependent on a source outside of yourself for validation. Then you wind up chasing after something you have no control over, and should that something suddenly place its focus somewhere else, or change its mind and decide you’re no longer very interesting, you end up with a full-blown identity crisis.”
Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

If we wait till we’re ready…

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

Hugh Laurie (Good man, Hugh)

I remember a report card from primary school. The only thing that had a little tick in the ‘Fair’ box (as opposed to ‘Good’, ‘Very Good’ or ‘Excellent’) was P.E.. This was disastrous for an already dedicated perfectionist. Yes, I knew I couldn’t solo a ball and, yes, I knew I couldn’t handle a hurl and sliotar to save my life. But still. It kind of hurt. From then on, I made up my mind that academics were my strong suit. Sporty, I was not.

In our tiny rural school, I was the only girl in a class of six. Sport, as far as I could see it, was limited to Gaelic football and hurling, neither of which I had an ounce of interest in. In fairness, I tomboyed my way through climbing trees and building treehouses and playing guns, but I couldn’t fake my way through sporting pursuits.  The boys didn’t leave me out, bless them, but they knew where to put me for damage control. ‘Dee, you’re in goals, right?’ Right. And I  even saved a few, too.

Fast forward to secondary school where I discovered that other sports actually existed. I played and (shocker) genuinely liked volleyball and basketball. But I still wasn’t convinced. Between comparing the size of my ample thighs to the sizes of the thighs of my friends who did athletics and my formative experience in the go-in-goals years, I knew my talents lay elsewhere.

Once, the aforementioned athletics girls convinced me to go for a run with them on the Curragh. I thought my lungs were going to fucking burst. I was twenty shades of beetroot, my heels erupted in glorious blisters and I slipped in sheep shit. Twice. Every so often, they’d call back ‘Ok, slow jog!’ as some kind of a gesture of understanding and concern. Why they didn’t end it all was beyond me. Were they enjoying the pain? Sadist athletes. They liked it, they said. Felt great, actually, they said. And so, I crossed ‘running’ off the list of things I could do. My body just wasn’t made for it.

All this has come flooding back to the forefront of my awareness. This week , I’m right back there in the thick of it all. Because, after months of deliberations, I’ve signed up to do a Yoga Teacher Training Course and all I can think about is the fact that the one time I tried to do a handstand in school, I gave myself concussion. I’m terrified that I’ll walk into this course and they’ll find me out. “Do this pose as this noted yogi of Instagram is demonstrating beautifully in this picture”, they’ll say. I’ll fall over. “Aha! You’re a non-sporty!” They’ll escort me to the door. I’ll weep into my matcha latté.

What I’m trying to think about is the fact that I love yoga and that I’m doing this to deepen my own practice. I’m trying to think about the fact that it made me fall in love with moving my body. That it gave my the confidence to start surfing and running (ok, slow jogging) because, turns out, my body can do far more then I give it credit for. I’m trying to think about how yoga taught me to be grateful for my body at a time when I couldn’t have been any harder on it. It taught me to soften. I’m trying to think about how it gently eased me towards developing the strength I needed to overcome the helplessness I felt in body and mind after getting a Superbastardvirus (not a medical term) in Thailand. And I’d like to spread that around a bit (the positive benefits of yoga, not the virus).

Dee bike
Cycling a tandem bike = double the sporting kudos

All the while, the affirmed non-sporty me, is screaming “Eh…YOU’RE NOT READY!!!” Truth is, recovering perfectionist that I am, I’ll never be ready.  And that realisation is what made me enrol. I’ve had a tentative flick through some of the books on my reading list and, weirdly, I’ve been rumbled. I saw a quote from Yogi Bhajan that only went and said “By our stumbling, the world is perfected.” Oh.

So much of what I love about yoga is the sense of compassion it evokes. Sit with the resistance, listen to your body, be gentle… The self-compassion bit is what I’m trying to get on board with. Practice what you preach has never felt more relevant. Maybe it isn’t all about those handstands (but maybe I could do one if I changed the script in my head). Watch this space/ put cushions in this space.

 

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my Dad

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Dad,

I drove past the road that leads to your grave today. It hit me all over again. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that feeling…like I’ve missed the last step on the stairs. All of a sudden, I’m submerged in your absence. My mind flashes to the night we got the phone call,  to the panic. My whole body clenches with the pain of it all. But, somehow, the intensity fades again. This grief thing is a strange one.

I didn’t drive down the road. It’s been a year and I haven’t laid eyes on your grave since the day your coffin went into it. I don’t want to. I keep saying I’ll wait for a sunny day so it feels lighter. Yesterday was sunny and I kept going. And then the guilt happened.

The thing is, I don’t feel like that’s where you are now. I wouldn’t feel like I’d be going to visit you. To me, you live in the scraps of your handwritten notes about interesting things you heard on Radio One, in the nails you hammered into the shed in such a way that the trellis would stop falling forward, in the thing you made to stop the washing machine from shaking, in the newspaper cuttings you kept of us, in the time you drove me to my last exam at 6am so I’d have extra time to study, in your music, in the stories of the photographs we have and in the photographs I took of the scars on your hand. I can still feel you smiling at me when I look at the last picture I took. It was too real to look at for so long but now, it’s like a warm blanket. Sometimes, I forget it’s a photo-it’s like you’re about to burst out laughing. The emotion catches in my throat when I think I can’t remember your laugh properly, but I see you laughing in the kitchen and pull it back to myself again. That photograph, my memories, are where you are now.

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I kept driving and we went to the Sugarloaf and climbed it. Did you ever climb it? I could see where you grew up from there and I showed Steve. I could see across the bay to Killiney, where you and Mam took me on my first boat ride and I screamed my two-year-old head off. I told Steve the story you told me and we laughed. I remembered you better from there.

Love you,

Dee