Take Care of Yourself

It’s something that we all say to each other, almost like a cliché, at the end of phone calls or when bidding each other adieu when meeting face-to-face: ‘Take care of yourself’. We say it because we care about the other person, and yet we don’t always follow our own advice.

Correction: that should read, I don’t follow my own advice.

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been crap at looking after myself. And before you go off ringing social services, this never has impacted on my ability to look after my daughter; she’s never gone without. But somewhere along the way I seem to acquired the message that my needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. Perhaps it’s a result of internalised oppression (something I’ve been researching lately for the novel I’m writing), the result of growing up in a world where disability is some sort of ‘other’, a deviation from the norm.

Perhaps I need to re-evaluate what I can realistically achieve. I say that I’m writing a novel, but in truth, I don’t know if I’ll ever get it finished. A friend read what I’ve done so far and gave some great constructive feedback, but warned me what I already knew: that it may be difficult to publish and even more difficult to sell. I’m starting to wonder whether I should’ve stuck to short stories, started small. I’m trying to decide whether I’m in over my head. (He didn’t criticise the story though, which gives me hope).

This feeling of tiredness coincides with the fact that I’m waiting for four new (solid this time) tyres for my wheelchair, as one is quite badly flat. And to be honest, reader, I feel very hard done by this. I like being able to whizz around town from this shop to that, and still have the energy to write rubbish blogs and do other work, and being housebound does not become me. As I said in an earlier blog, the wheelchair has been an invaluable addition to my life. It offers me independence with my daughter and enables me to be both a mother and a writer.

I’m writing this  blog to inform my loyal followers that I probably won’t be around for a few weeks as I’m off, with the help of some great friends, to try and reactivate the entire Independent Living Movement (although if I get the wheelchair back, I’ll have energy to spare!) And to say thank you all for being so amazingly supportive of my ‘writing career’ and for your lovely comments.

That’s it for now. See you soon! Until then, take care of yourselves. I’m off to veg in front of the telly before another hectic week of trying to make a difference, however small, in the world.



Safety in an unsafe world

Today, the sad news broke that 24 year old Karen Buckley was found dead after a three day search. At the time of writing this blog, a man has been arrested for her murder. Karen’s disappearance and subsequent death has saddened everybody: people who are in their twenties who know only too well that they are not immune from her fate; parents who worry about their children who have left the nest and are living in all corners of the world; parents of younger children such as myself despair at how we have brought our children into a world that is so dangerous that we become suspicious of our neighbours and sometimes even those we love.

I was talking to my aunt about this degeneration of modern society, how the world has somehow descended into utter chaos, a world where nobody bats an eyelid at reading about murders, rape, kidnapping, muggings. ‘I find it very sad and disheartening that Ali is growing up in such a horrible world where people don’t give a crap about who they hurt. Drugs and violence everywhere. Things are so much different nowadays.’ My aunt, having one or two more years’ life experience behind her than I do, smiled and said, ‘We have seen the atrocities of Northern Ireland, the muggings and the drug wars have raged on for decades. The only difference is that you now have a child. And when you have a child, the world seems to be a much scarier place, because you suddenly have to protect your child from it.’ These words came to mind as I read the news this morning.

Twenty-four is so young. I try and cast my mind back to what I was like in my twenties. I remember with more than a pang of guilt how I arrogantly screened my mum’s calls because we had fallen out over something trivial, and I didn’t care if she was worried. As a mum now, I’ve no doubt that she was sick with worry. What if something had happened to you? she’d said angrily, her face white from sleepless nights. ‘But nothing did, I’m fine, would you calm the fuck down’ was how I responded to her ‘ridiculous outbursts’. Yeah, I’m really not nice when someone tells me what to do.

As a college student, I went out on the town at every opportunity. I remember being in Blackpool and singing the Irish national anthem at the top of my lungs outside the most British pub I could find (I strongly believe my speech impairment saved my life that night. Incidentally – true story- a man was seriously injured in a fight a couple of yards from the pub, a few hours later. We were so lucky. And so stupid). I remember going to Mojos in Mullingar with a friend and walking/getting a lift on her knee through Mullingar while blind drunk, wading through the throngs leaving the nightclubs. Both of us were probably wearing short skirts at the time. And yet, if we had been attacked, would we have been blamed because we were in short skirts? Or because we had disabilities? Would it have been our fault?

My dad follows this blog (often he’s the only one to leave comments here – hi dad *waves*) and he is probably furious at me for being so reckless and irresponsible. It’s a wonder how he gets any sleep. I’ve tucked my baby up in bed and although I will get up a few times during the night to check her (as you do), I’m reasonably confident she will be okay and not wander off anywhere. When she was younger, we baby-proofed the house, and we put everything sharp/dangerous out of reach and hid washing and dishwasher tablets. Now she is more independent, making friends and slowly moving away from the protective bubble wrap I envelop her in. I have to trust when I leave her with others, such as friends and family, that she will be safe. And I’ve always found that so difficult, but that’s more my problem than anyone else’s. It’s hard sometimes to believe that I’m the same person as that twenty-four year old I described above. How I’ve become so cynical, so untrusting, so guarded in everything I say and do (except for this blog of course).

I would like to end this blog entry with this thought. Karen Buckley (who I don’t know and have never met) did not ask for her fate, and neither did anybody else who may have experienced a similar fate. People, young and old, make mistakes, act foolishly, do things that they regret, but nobody deserves to be murdered or hurt for making these mistakes. There will probably never be a world where there will be no need to tell our children ‘Don’t trust strangers. Don’t walk alone or you will get hurt. Always tell somebody about your whereabouts.’ Whatever happened to Karen was not her fault, and we must remember that. Only by exonerating the victim of any responsibility can we ensure that we create a safer world for others, and especially our children.

Just take it easy…!

I’ve been sitting here for the last half hour staring blankly at my laptop, opening website after website, reading dodgy articles on thejournal.ie. That’s not why I sat down. I sat down to finish off a journalism assignment that I started two months ago. This sounds like I’ve been dragging my heels, procrastinating this assignment. I have not. In fact, I have researched four thoroughly different articles, all half-written, because I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to write more. Don’t get me wrong: this information will undoubtedly come in handy on a later date. But this article was going to be amazing. I mean award-winning amazing. That’s not quite what I see when I read it back. I’m now afraid to open it in case I feel an uncontrollable urge to delete the whole lot (again). I’m a relentless perfectionist to the point of neuroticism: in other words, I think I am losing my sanity.

The first half of my life was dominated by people pushing me to achieve my potential. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing at all: if it wasn’t for these people (my parents, teachers, Occupational, physio and speech therapists, etc), there is no way that I would be sitting here in my own house writing this blog. Somewhere along the way, I took over, setting ridiculous standards for myself. I wrote a play in Transition Year and later helped to produce it when it was staged by my classmates, some of whom were less than thrilled when they landed male roles (it was an all-girls school). It took the best part of a month to recover from  the exhaustion and my mental health was in tatters. Did I take it easy that summer? Nah! I instead got a summer job with the Tullamore Tribune, where I worked until two weeks before fifth year started, putting aside the money for a holiday in a feckin respite centre in Roscommon (not Ibiza) a year later. I know what you’re thinking. I’m wild. Woo! Then fifth year saw me abandon all forms of human contact as I threw myself into studying for the Leaving Cert. Worried by the prospect of ending up permanently unemployed, I spent eight hours a night (4-12) studying in Fifth Year, much to the despair of my broken-hearted parents who were actually expecting me to collapse dead on the floor with exhaustion. I have  to do this, I would say to myself. I have to prove to everyone what I am capable of. I will not be defined by my disability.

Somehow, I managed to dodge a prolonged stay in a facility with padded walls and men in little white coats and I made it to Trinity College. Phew, I thought, I can relax now. And I did for the first two years, until my marks counted for something, and guess what? The  old Sarah  came back in third year, and so did that irritating voice. You got a scholarship to study here, for God’s sake. There’s no point in doing things by halves. And without the nagging of my parents and (then) fiancé (now husband) I was free to stay up  working till 2-3am on  essays, presentations and my dissertation. I lived off sugar and cereal like every other student. I would turn up for tutorials, bleary-eyed, wondering which book was being discussed today (I only read a selection of novels. Anyone on that course-and you know who you are- who read every prescribed novel/play please step forward for your gold medal). Although I let my hair down a little, I didn’t exactly have a roaring social life in college. I will admit that I did go on three foreign holidays during my college years with friends from home, but the details of those are a little hazy (though not nearly hazy enough)!!

Earlier this year, I was thirty. Like many, I looked back on the aims I  had set myself for when I reached the  big milestone: have a  Master’s degree in Journalism and be actively working in the field; maybe write a novel or a book of poetry;  do a Masters in Disability Studies. None of these were goals I ever reached, and sometimes I feel as if I’ve let myself slide into complacency. On the other hand, I have such a wonderful husband who supports everything I do and without whom I’d be lost, my daughter who makes me smile from the start of the  day to its end with her hilarious antics and a lovely place to call home. I am so lucky, and it wouldn’t hurt me to stand back and count my blessings every once in a while.

Ugh, look at this blog. Look at the dust on the mantelpiece. Look at the laundry piling up in the back hall. Maybe I’ll do some dusting. Maybe I should fold more clothes. Or maybe I’ll just … take it easy and watch some TV and deal with it all tomorrow. It will be still there tomorrow, along with my unfinished assignment.

Maybe, one day I’ll learn that everyone has their limitations.

That nobody is perfect.

Sometimes I  need to take it easy, and hopefully one day, I’ll be okay with this.