That’s what I thought we would be. You see, my parents were optimists, they raised me to celebrate other women. They taught me to encourage, support and love other women. I guess I was naïve because I had this crazy idea that there would be a sense of community, a sense of solidarity. I thought we would pass each other in our adult lives with a nod of support and acknowledgement. There are enough men in this world who believe we can’t do what they do. With every bone you pick with me you are proving a sexist, chauvinistic man right. You are showing him that we can’t do it. We can’t even act like a team. If we can’t even support each other how can we expect the opposite sex to give us their provision?
I showed up here one day. I had these crazy ideas about my adult life, it would be different from my teenage years. The juvenile angst and animosity would have melted away and we would finally guide each other. We would celebrate each other’s strengths and help work on each other’s flaws. We would be friends. We would be comrades. We would be human beings.
I didn’t realise that there was a rule-book which some of you played by. This rulebook could not be obtained by someone like me, that, I learned pretty quickly. This rulebook was immense. It dictated all of your interactions with people like me. It taught you to tear me down, wear me down, pick holes in everything from my dress sense to my sense of humour. Just when I thought I understood these toxic rules, these laws which you were guided by, you changed them. That’s right, just when I felt like I had cracked the code, the algorithm changed. You despised me for new reasons. Your insults took a new direction, a new dimension. In some ways, the madness was impressive.
I think, you let your insecurities become something that dictated the direction your life took. This theory makes me sad. You see, a long time ago I made a decision to never punish myself for who I truly am. I took a leap of faith and decided to love myself. You hate me because I lack that self-doubt which plagues you. My unwavering confidence bothers you. It shouldn’t. If anything, it should inspire you. Inspire you to be a better you, a stronger you.
When you want to leave the dark side and celebrate each other, you know where I am, probably dancing at my desk with something sugary in my hand at 10:00am.
A warm and fuzzy guide to surviving the Christmas period after loss. All of my ridiculous tips and advice are to be taken with a giant pinch of salt- to the eyes.
And a lot of it, just joking, mulled wine is a safer bet. This way you just look like you are getting in on the festive spirit and nobody can say anything but! Plus, mulled wine gives you that tingly, fuzzy feeling inside that warms your whole body. Nobody ever got violent on too much mulled wine. Fact. What could go wrong?
- Mince pies.
That’s right, if over-eating doesn’t make you forget the pain of Christmas then nothing will! If you don’t have crumbs all over your hideous Christmas jumper then you aren’t doing it right. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a hefty dental bill and swearing at your scales.
- A healthy dose of denial.
So what you are going to want to do is take all your emotional baggage and put it into a little metaphorical box in your head. Once you’ve done this, go right ahead and pretend it doesn’t exist. This is what healthy people do, right?
- Outbursts of anger.
I mean, why go to hours of counselling when you can just randomly take all your pent-up issues out on those you love most?
Make sure to tell your family and friends repeatedly how shit the holiday season is. Don’t stop there though. Tell them how much you hate the Christmas tree, the music, the decorations, your hideous jumper, the food, your aunt Sally and her dog Scotty. Christmas is the time for honesty and what is more honest than sharing your blatant hatred for the holiday?
One last thing, remember, if you are suffering then everyone else should be too! So spread that misery!
An open letter to the Irish government,
I was looking for the right words to describe what it has been like to watch you all play God with something that you know very little about. I thought the words would be ‘angry’ or ‘exasperated’ but really, what I feel is frustrated and heart-broken. Aside from all of the hard evidence of Orkambi’s physiological effect, it has so much more to offer. You see for you, Orkambi is an annoyance that is costing you a lot of money (much like the solid-gold pensions of Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern) but for so many people: mothers, fathers, brothers, husbands, children, the drug offers hope. If someone had offered me a drug that would improve my mother’s quality of life by even 5% I would have given a limb to ensure she got it. We are talking about the future of many children and adults alike. A drug that could make their day-to-day life easier. Can you put a price on that? You don’t have to sit at the bedside of your struggling child this Christmas eve, watching them fight for every breath. I can never explain just how soul-destroying it is to watch someone you love fade away like that. Don’t let any more CF patients fade away. It took years for organisations like Cystic Fibrosis Ireland fighting tooth and nail for basic facilities, basic healthcare needs and they did it. Don’t make us struggle for another five years before you see the light.
A concerned citizen ashamed of her government and a heartbroken twenty-something who misses her mum.
My mother was one of those painfully optimistic, glass half full kinda people. She could lose a limb and a minute later would immediately comment on how she has three others. I tried to channel that for years. I succeeded for many actually. A few weeks ago as my colleagues were discussing Christmas and I felt bitter. The kind of bitterness you can feel churning in your stomach. It is a disgusting feeling, one my mother would never approve of. You see, on Christmas day last year my gorgeous mother lost her battle to Cystic Fibrosis and on that day I vowed to forget Christmas. My mother loved Christmas cheer. She loved being inside under a fluffy blanket as the frost covered the road outside, she loved the hot drinks while she read her favourite book and the twinkling of the Christmas lights late at night. I loved all of those things too. She loved the streets of NYC on Christmas eve and battling her way through Macy’s to get to the toy section.
Last night I sat down with my dogs and a mug of tea from my mum’s favourite mug. Outside the moonlight hit the frost to create this glittery sheen. The beauty of it hit me hard. What am I doing? I love Christmas. She loved Christmas. Do I want to become one of those people who spends their life avoiding something beautiful because it hurt me once before? That is like vowing never to love again once you have had your heart broken. I don’t want to be that person and my mum would never be that person. Someone told me recently it takes nothing to forgive and forget but it takes constant effort to feel bitter every day. That resonated with me. I don’t want to feel bitter about Christmas. I want to laugh, I want to enjoy, I want to experience like my mum would want me to. I want to stick out my tongue in Time’s Square to catch snowflakes. I want to (badly) sing along to cheery Christmas tunes. I want to be what she was. I want her ridiculous optimism. I want her. That’s not going to happen so this is the next best thing. Because, the thing about my mum was. She suffered. Damn, she really suffered, but you know what? She might just have been the happiest person I had ever known. She was warm and fuzzy. She was a warm hug. She was a shelter in the pouring rain. She was home.
I want that.
One day, I want someone to say that I was the painfully optimistic, happy lunatic they admired.
For now, maybe I will hang those Christmas stockings. All three of them.
‘ It’s too cold outside for angels to fly’.
Is this letter three or four? I can’t bring myself to keep track because with each letter a huge chunk of time has passed. A chunk of time in which I haven’t seen your face or heard your voice. How crazy is that?
I’m angry today. It’s the kind of anger that’s tinged with sadness though so it isn’t very intense. I thought when you left this earth that all the uncertainty would go with you. Isn’t that naïve? You left and so did my opinion on almost everything. I’m stuck in this place I never thought I’d be. The fence. On all things. What am I doing, mum? If there was ever a time in which I desperately needed your guidance it is now. You left me and soon after, so did he. Now, I stand here, shocked like I’ve been in some tragic accident. Winded and bleeding. You see, at first I thought you threw me a lifeline. A loud, unhinged, fun, glittering lifeline. It was right there, handed right to me and I grabbed it with both hands. I was grateful, relieved, I was alive again. I could hear the music and see the blinding lights. I laughed until I cried again and remembered the concept of pleasure.
But then, suddenly, I saw the lights flicker and the music that I once enjoyed seemed brash and a little too loud. I hadn’t anticipated it. You see I thought that it was my life boat, I thought it was the glue that would piece it all back together. I thought, just maybe it was the solution. I realise now that was naïve. I always have been a romantic though, you know that. I wanted this to be it. My silver lining. Now, mum, I’m worried my silver lining will rain on me. I fear that this silver lining is capable of hurting me just as much as the rest of it. Maybe I’ve just been lucky until now. I just don’t know. Are you watching it all? Have you seen the entire thing? Have you seen the exciting beginning and the delicate and sweet climax? Have you seen the end? Is there one? Who am I mum? Is this really me? I pretend to have a hold on it all but it’s slipping away like sand through my fingers.
Dear 2015 me,
Remember the dodgy haircut and bad break up of 2011? Well, 2016 is like that but with an earthquake and tsunami as well. You see, 2016 is the year that almost kills you. It is the year that will hurt you so much that you will want to die. You will want to give up. You’ll think ‘how can I hurt this bad and still have a beating heart?’ There will be days in which you will dance on the edge, flirt with the idea of throwing in the towel. 2016 is your test. I don’t even know where to start. Don’t freak out but that thing that you have been pushing to the back of your mind has happened. I mean the doctors said it would. Your counsellor said it would. Your dad said it would, heck you even said it would (even though we both know you thought it was just a myth or something) well it has happened. She’s gone. But before you freak out, somehow you are still breathing. Your dad will be fine, you will be fine, eventually. You both teeter but you come back. You take some time off from the research but you go back and damn, it is hard. You will flinch every time you hear the words ‘Cystic Fibrosis’. Your heart drops when you have to hear about ‘mortality’ or ‘end-stage disease’ but you normally keep it together. You don’t really ever stop feeling the pain or the confusion but with each passing day you get a little bit of yourself back, the forgotten bits.
Remember that other thing you were constantly torn over? Well, you made a big decision about that too. The difference is, this one feels right, even though it hurts. He knew it all along and you did too. Don’t give that one a second thought, it was a fun and beautiful chapter that naturally came to an end. You will move on without even realising it. You will blink and suddenly be drunk on champagne laughing in a way you never thought you were capable of.
You might get a few more questionable haircuts and be a bit insufferable for a while but you sort of find your centre again. Who knew you were such a badass? You certainly didn’t. Your birthday is a little ropey but that’s okay. You pull it together like you always do. So, brace yourself, the storm is coming and it’s a bad one. Just hang in there until the rain stops and the winds settle. Don’t forget to breathe. One breath at a time.