The flip side of the coin…

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family”. The opening words of the iconic monologue from the 1996 movie ‘Trainspotting’.

But what choices do we really have when it comes to living?

I believe that life can be a series of accidents and opportunities that are constantly dependent on outside factors that we have absolutely no control over at all.

Take that great job interview that you recently did. You know that you ticked all the boxes. You know that you are qualified for the job. You have the expertise. You presented well on the day and you answered all the questions correctly.

You didn’t get the job.

Outside influences may have played a major part. The Interviewer may not have liked the colour of your hair, or she may have had her best friend’s daughter interviewing later that day. You will never know the reason.

You will go over and over what it was that you did wrong, and never find the answer because it was nothing to do with you, it was to do with someone else making a decision that might affect the rest of your life.

You had decided on a particular path assured in the belief that if you completed A you would progress to B and then on to C. Mapping out our lives is something that we all do. We have goals and aspirations to aim for, and we hope that they will be realised as we all work toward personal fulfilment.

Achievements are celebrated and greater goals are set as we attempt to pilot our way through our lives, providing for our families, setting example by our standards and generally expecting that things will work out the way we want them to because we have worked so hard to make it happen. It’s what we have been taught to do. I cannot visualise my world without order, hope, expectations and dreams.

But life is actually so arbitrary. I realise this now, and it has taken me so long to understand it.

I realise that no matter how qualified I am for a particular job, it’s someone else’s decision as to whether I get it or not.

I realise that being an obedient citizen guarantees me nothing.

I realise that actions and decisions take place that impact on my life all the time and that I have no hand in them.

I realise that most of life is chaotic and unplanned, despite our belief that there is an order to the events that affect us.

I realise that no matter how much I try to protect the people that I love, I cannot keep them safe from harm.

I realise that I have to let go my feelings of desolation because life didn’t work out quite as I had planned it would.

I realise that life can be explained by the simple metaphor of a coin toss.

Heads you live – Tails….

Destiny can just be about flipping the coin of life and accepting where it lands.

2 responses to “The flip side of the coin…

  1. What a lovely and unexpected surprise it was Richard receiving your reply. I remember with clarity the wonderful summers that we as a family spent in your home as you ‘decamped’ to the cottage in the back garden. I remember with fondness your dad Tim, and how he taught me to dig up fresh potatoes from the soil of your back garden, and how to prepare them for eating. The smell of new Irish potatoes always conjures up images of him in my head to this day, and I also remember your mam, Eileen and John. I don’t really remember Marie though as I think that we stayed in another house above the Creamery when she was a child.

    Those summers were halcyon days filled with the fun of the annual carnival, Ballyheigue Castle- which we explored and never got injured climbing up crumbling walls and old turrets, the Grotto, Sonny Roche, ‘Hairy Mollies’ that we gathered in your garden, and running down the back fields to the beach climbing over styles and fences to get there.

    I have so many images from that time in my life Richard, and the years that we holidayed there all blur into one long and blissful memory filled with people and events that are always remembered as being sunny and happy. As a city child, the freedom and safety to roam that I had in Ballyheigue was always appreciated and looked forward to year after year.

    When my own dear dad Sean, died in 1989, I brought his ashes to Kerry Head to scatter them. I called on a few people to say hello and I met Willie O Leary. It was lovely to talk to someone who had known Dad there in the place that he loved despite the sadness of the day. He passed that love of Kerry on to me and I constantly return there over and over again. Every time I visit the beach in Ballyheigue, I am surrounded by the ghosts of my past, but I also hear the laughter and sounds from my childhood and all of those memories are good.

    Please remember me to your mother and to Eileen and John and I will pass your regards on to my own mam who is not doing so well at the moment. She has never fully recovered after the tragic loss of our dear Annie and is now terminally ill with cancer.

    Memories are places that we can escape into when our reality becomes too tough to live in, and I know that mam has memories of Ballyheigue as wonderful as my own are. Your family provided us with the perfect home every year that we filled with our relatives and family. This created the place in our memories that we can escape into when we need to. On behalf of my whole family including the grandparents and uncles and aunts that availed of the comforts of your home- Thank you.
    Please feel free to mail me again…….


  2. Richard hartnett

    My Dear Valerie,
    It is by pure chance i happened on this page on the Web and have learnt of the untimely death of your precious sister Annemarie, i believe she was born the same year as our younger sister Marie. Mum , Eileen and I still speak about those long hot summer days in Ballyheigue when you all came and stayed in our house. My thoughts will be with you all tonight and i will offer a prayer for you . I am so glad your mum is still well. I have just returned to Ireland after working abroad for thirty years, and am living back in Ballyheigue. Would love to catch up some time.

    Love to you all, and my heartfelt sympathy.



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