Category Archives: New Year

Unforgettable moments…..

Dublin is a place that I am lucky to call my home. It is a city that is steeped in literary history and is beloved of many of its inhabitants. Writers have captured Dublin in many forms, but none greater in my opinion than James Joyce in his short story collection “Dubliners”.

This collection is evocative of my city during a particular time, and his stories capture life and society in such a way that I can imagine, smell and feel. Loving a particular author and the way that they write is always subjective, but the way that Joyce captures Dublin is the definitive account of that period for me.

‘The Dead’ is the last story in the collection and recounts the events of an annual party that takes place during the first week in January 1904 in the Morkan sisters house on Ushers Quay in Dublin.

The story provides insights into the guests who come to the house that night to join the annual party, and the central characters are Gabriel Conroy, his wife, and his Aunt’s (the Morkan sisters).

While the story is beautiful, the setting is equally so, as Joyce describes in detail the house and its environs in relation to the city centre.

I have a cousin who lives in a Gothic type Georgian house in County Wicklow. I am fortunate to be a confident and friend of this cousin who is a composer and musician and who, like the Morkan sisters hosts an annual party every Christmas.

Similarities to Joyce’s literary accounts are accidental, but the setting for this yearly party is resonant of the Morkan sister’s in a grand Georgian house with sash windows, high ceilings and candle lit rooms.

Last year I was again at his Christmas party along with the other annual visitors. I feel like a very special guest at this gathering, and I always clear my diary to make myself available. We only ever meet the other guests at this annual bash, but we have all become familiar with each other over the years, and conversations can vary from the easy, to the radical political, and the shouting each other down kind. We know each other well enough now not to take offence.

There are lots of different personalities at that annual table, but music is the common factor that binds us all.

When the cigars were lit after dinner last year, another cousin’s husband (who is a world class concert pianist) took to the piano while we were all still sitting around the candle lit table and began to play……

In a moment that will be forever etched in my memory, he played Clair De Lune by Debussy.

Listening to that beautiful music, whilst sitting in a Georgian room lit by candlelight, surrounded by friends and loved ones, I was transported to Joyce’s Dubliners. I was moved to tears in that moment by the beauty of the music and company that I was in. I pictured myself in the Morkan sister’s house, and realised that while 107 years had passed since Joyce had written about that particular incident, I was having my own pivotal literary experience right there in that moment.

I have revisited this night so often in my mind in the past year, and find solace, peace and tranquillity in the memory, and in the beautiful music that was played and shared amongst the other attending guests.

Life is made up of so many moments, minutes, hours and days. Some are memorable for a variety of reasons, and some are best forgotten. When things happen that bring me pleasure I usually remember them with clarity in the short term, and resolve to record and write about them so that I can reread the details of the event and somehow try to recapture that feeling, that joy that made the particular moment special. I rarely do what I set out to do in this regard, and many moments of pleasure have been lost in the murky clouds of my past. I wish that I could dredge them up like treasure from an ocean bed, to view them once again, but sadly most are lost having never been recorded.

Lessons learned late in life:

1) Record as many events that have occurred in your own lifetime that have made you happy in a diary that is written in your own handwriting.

2) Start a blog in an attempt to recapture those special moments so that they are not lost forever.

Option 2 is the only one available to me at this stage.

The memory of that beautiful night is etched in my mind, and I hope that I will never forget it. I have now faithfully recorded it here so that I can reread it again in the future in case the memory of this wonderful night fades.

Destiny can be about thoughts, feelings and experiences, that without a deliberate attempt to record them can become lost in the moments that slip away….

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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.

People- and the way they touch our hearts and minds….

Meeting someone pivotal in your life is often not greeted by cymbals and drum rolls. Sometimes they just slip in unnoticed and non-assuming, yet they can subliminally change how we think and act in quiet and unobtrusive ways. People like this are like jewels. Colorful treasure in a sometimes grey, monochrome world that can make us sit up and take notice of the beauty and sparkle that is inherent in life.

I met a man twelve years ago who changed me, fundamentally and quietly without his knowing. We met weekly and exchanged thoughts, philosophies, visions and ideas. He was older than I was and had a broader life experience and education than I had at the time. He spoke to and listened to me, and encouraged me to believe in my aspirations, beliefs and hopes. He supported me as I took the first tentative steps to thinking beyond the person that I was at the time, and he shaded my dreams with pencils of colour and substance.

Looking back, I recognise that I was at a crossroads in my life. My children were in their late teens and were on their own paths of discovery. My job at the time was well paid but I hated it. My husband had his career and was working hard at it. I was approaching my 40’s and I truly didn’t know who I was or where I going to. My life was predictable and mostly enjoyable, but it was lacking something that I couldn’t articulate or name.

This man encouraged me to read the works of great philosophers and writers, and to think deeply about the things that produced joy and happiness for me. He believed in the power of silence and self-reflection and taught me not to feel afraid in the quiet of my mind. Through our weekly discussions we explored what the universe had to offer us as humans and what we could give back.

We debated and argued back and forth about what was meaningful and relevant in a world gone mad with consumerism and greed. We agreed that it was people and how they felt that mattered most when it came to actual living.

I looked forward to our meetings and I was rarely disappointed. We were in a work environment so not all the time was spent chatting, but I loved having time out with this wonderful man learning something new in almost every encounter. He made me think in a way that I had never done before.

Trying to help my husband and children understand the monumental shift that was occurring inside me was difficult, as I was learning to think, to do things differently, and to reflect on where I was on my life’s map. I was also menopausal at the time which may have contributed to their lack of engagement with me as they all thought I was going nuts anyway. My new “Airy Fairy” way of thinking and my constant quoting of this man’s viewpoints made them laugh and dismiss me a lot, although they were never deliberately unkind. They just didn’t get what I was getting.

They didn’t understand the effect that this man was having on my consciousness. Although they listened to me, they didn’t really hear me or understand my new way of thinking. I knew that he did and I simply loved him for it.

I eventually emerged from the menopause mentally intact (although my family may disagree on this issue) and began to slowly build a new individual way of being, hugely influenced by this gentle man.

My thoughts and practices are different now and have been since I knew him. His gentleness continues to affect me in how I view the world and his wisdom will never be forgotten.

I do not see him now and have not for many years. Our paths diverged and we are not in contact. He has absolutely no idea how he influenced and changed my life.

I remember him with fondness, thankfulness and a deep and abiding love. He provided me with a space that allowed me to express my feelings, my doubts, worries and dreams. He listened to me and never judged me. He encouraged me to be quiet in myself and to appreciate the silence that lies within us all. He taught me to accept people with all their frailties and vulnerabilities and to recognise that I have those feelings too.

He has been a kind of guru for me in how I live my life although he would hate to have that title. He believed in the sharing of life’s philosophies, education and knowledge, with the implicit acknowledgement that we have no ownership of them as they were never ours in the first place. I learnt from him that wisdom, kindness and understanding that is passed on is the greatest gift that we as humans can share.

Destiny can teach us about people and the unconsciousness power they have to individually shape our lives.

Spring brings life….

February can hold the chill of winter, but can also herald the promise of spring. I believe that it’s a time to look forward, and to observe all the differences that the changing season brings. A very dear friend of mine recently and sadly said good bye to her beloved mother after nursing her through a debilitating illness that took its toll on her and her whole family. Her death was dreadfully sad, but my friend who has great faith, believes that her mother has gone on to a better place where she will be reunited with loved ones and will not have to endure the struggle of the past few months. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and was attended by the many people who loved this quiet, gentle and lovely lady.

While relaying the sad news of her demise earlier to another friend I was reminded of the youthful and carefree days of my youth where death only happened to “old people”. I remembered the scorn that I poured on my parents habitual reading of the local death notices and how often they would speak of someone who had recently died and their constant attendance at local funerals. They seemed to be forever speaking about dead people and although these people were their contemporaries they were so far removed from me and my young untroubled life that I had little interest in their lives and/or their subsequent deaths.

Now that I have reached a certain age I understand it all now. I am now the same age my parents were when I was a callow youth, and I too feel that sometimes I am surrounded by the never ending rituals of death and funerals. It is the constant never changing cycle of life.

In my youth I believed that life would go on forever- as we all do, and it is only as we get older that we realise that it is not so.

How we make that jump is down to life experience and age, and although it brings its own sadness as we lose those we love, it can be a hugely life defining chapter in our lives if we only realise it and use it to our advantage.

I am so sorry that my dear friend’s mother Mary Sweeney has died and will not see the spring that is coming. I will mourn her loss and I will support my friend through her sad and long bereavement. My own mother is dying so that loss is coming down the tracks for me too.

But I also want to celebrate the fact that I am alive and I am looking forward to this New Year despite the losses that it will inevitably bring.

I am glad to see the crocus bulbs pushing up through the soil, and I am glad to see the early daffodils shaking their beautiful heads as depicted in the wonderful Wordsworth poem… I am glad to see the local birds nesting and feeding their chicks, and I am glad to see the frog spawn in the local ponds. I am glad to see my adult children come to visit me and eat, chat and laugh, and I am glad that I have my dear husband of many years still beside me as a true friend and confidant despite my irritating habits and foibles. I am glad for the many dear friends that I cherish, and I feel beloved by their kindness and affection in return.

Death does surround us and it can be overwhelming at times as we journey through life- losing people that we love. We are the ones that are left for now, and in turn we shall die and be missed and mourned by the callow youths of today.

Life is for living and we all have our day in the sun.

My destiny may be written in the stars-but I haven’t yet worked out its meaning.

New Year – New Beginnings…..

Like many other people I embark on the New Year with a raft of promises to myself and the wider world. “ I will eat healthier food- I will lose weight- I will be kinder to my loved ones- I will learn something new”- etc. etc. etc. Each year begins with heartfelt promises and determination to see these endeavours through to fruition. Some years have started better than others and some promises have been kept. Others have fallen by the way side, but I don’t beat myself up over not keeping them. No one is keeping an eye on me and my promises, they are mine to keep and I am in sole charge of me.

Simple things please me and some of my promises to myself are easy to keep. I always try to remember to say “thank you” to people and to look them in the eye when I am saying it so that they know that I really mean it. It’s a very small thing and takes little effort but I believe that it’s important to acknowledge when someone does something for you that you appreciate and a simple “thank you” is sometimes all that is necessary.

People who work in the service industry are bombarded by rudeness every day, so taking a moment to thank someone and to tell them that you appreciate their kindness is something that I try to do every day either in face to face transactions, on the telephone or via email. There are obviously times when situations do not go according to plan and where difficulties can arise. When speaking with people on telephones who are dealing with queries and the outcome is not what I expect or want, I try to remember that they are only doing their job and may be restricted by particular company policies or rules. I always try to remind them that if I get angry that it is not with them personally but with the restrictive rules/policies of their particular organisation. I think that this is important and I believe that many times it has produced a better outcome than if I had been ranting and raving blaming that person on the phone for not giving me what I wanted/deserved/was entitled to.

We humans are simple creatures. We respond to kindness and love. As children we blossom when we are praised, and with encouragement we strive to be the best that we can be. Telling someone that they have been kind or attentive can produce a feeling of appreciation and an acknowledgement of the effort that has been made for you. This small action can change how we interact with people and can make every positive exchange a better one.

My continued resolution for 2012 is to remember to say “thank you” and mean it, and to tell people how much I appreciate the things that they do for me. This includes my family, my friends and anyone else that I may meet on a day to day basis. I will acknowledge when they are kind and tell them so and I will endeavour to communicate to them how their love/help/assistance/expertise/ has made my life that little bit better.

The American poet Maya Angelou once wrote “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We can all effect change in ourselves but we can be truly altruistic in how we acknowledge others and how we communicate our thanks to them. Simple words that carry a wealth of meaning can make the difference.

Destiny may be shaped by our own hands and hearts…….