Good Job!

Criticism makes me cringe. There, I’ve said it.

I’m a Life Coach and a businesswoman who should be taking constructive feedback and up-cycling it into a highly successful career. But I don’t want it.

Well, the fully mature adult who’s hiding in there somewhere wants it. But the vulnerable, exposed, raw part of me is dominant right now and it’s trembling.

My partner joined in on one of my meditation classes for the first time this morning. Afterwards, I scanned his face for signs of relaxation and enjoyment (or discomfort and disappointment).

He gave me some constructive feedback. I took it in and then withdrew.

I am a perfectionist when it comes to my classes (okay, not just my classes). I get anxious beforehand, hoping that no noise will disturb the peace, praying that the internet connection will do its job, that I’ll do a good job, and that my clients are happy.

I once held it together while holding an online meditation class for a multinational company during a thunderstorm with a leak in the room. But that’s less meditation and relaxation and more disaster management.

I work hard and prepare well. I know I’m good at what I do.

But I also know that I could be better. And the way that I could become better is to care a little less. To be more present. To relax and enjoy. Exactly what I’m instructing my participants to do.

However, I’m hyper-critical of my mistakes and I’m hyper-sensitive to criticism from others. Work and preparation are excellent but I’ve been trying to control the uncontrollable (others, the internet, the weather) and it’s making me sweat.

I think of my sister who has worked in kitchens. If a dish wasn’t perfect, the head chef would fling it across the room, smashing crockery and wasting ingredients. My sister didn’t take it personally.

We come from the same household. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I take it on the chin? Constructive criticism is GOOD for me and for my career.

As I sit with my discomfort, I know that logically my partner is right. I’ve even thought the same myself. And by taking his comment on board, it will make my meditation classes better.

I also understand that this hits deeper than the adult reasoning mind can deal with. This is a further confrontation for a small hopeful child who just doesn’t need any more criticism and “could be betters”.

The people who love you the most tend to want you to be the best that you can be. So that you can live the life of your dreams, so that you don’t have to suffer.

But never being able to relax with my performance, my appearance and my achievements has taken its toll. And I need to relax.

I shouldn’t care so much what others think. But what others think is what keeps me in business.

As I write this now, I realise that what’s more important is how I make my clients feel. And that’s less about perfection and more about the energy, the vibe and the self that I bring to each session.

One of the questions I asked a class last night was:

“During these winter months in lockdown, what is it that you need in order for you to be able to rest and connect to inner stillness?”

An animal approaching hibernation knows exactly what it needs to collect, where it needs to go and how it needs to be so that it can switch off and conserve energy. So that in springtime, it emerges bright and energised.

The answer that came to me was:

“Meditate. Do nothing. Just be.”

I’ve been teaching meditation and mindfulness for many years now and I go through phases of meditating. I find it challenging to sit in silence without being consumed by thoughts.

I’m always reading on the topics of personal development and spirituality, listening to podcasts and attending workshops. But good old fashioned sitting in stillness and being has been a very rare activity for this meditation teacher. Embarrassing.

Do you want to know the feedback my partner gave me?

“Talk less. Leave space for the person to settle into the present moment.”

In other words, MORE STILLNESS. Damnit. And this coming from the guy who just attended his very first meditation class.

First things first. I honoured the inner child who just wants to show mammy and daddy her newest creation and for them to gush over it. I felt all of the feelings and cried.

Then I emerged from my self-protecting cocoon (curled up in a blanket) energised and inspired. I do need more silence and stillness.

Firstly, with myself. And that will naturally enter into my classes.

It can be hard to gauge the pace and energy of a class where all you can see are blank screens so I will have to remind myself that I don’t have to fill in all of those blanks with language.

Once I become comfortable with discomfort and stop resisting everything I encounter in the present moment, then my mind, my body, my heart and my soul will become still.

More peace. And more enjoyment. For me. And for my clients.

So what did I do when I decided that I need to meditate, be still and just be? I wrote a blog post.

I will meditate today, I promise.

Images: lifeunscriptedministries and wikimedia

Dark Corners

Cackling into the depths of a teacup,

Everything yellow.

Energy tingles and pops,

Floorboards swirling watercolours.

I hunker down,

I’ve never been in this part of my house before.

Patterns in walls, the road brightens,

Plants shine happy,

Fairytale weather.

An otherworldly trio,

Celtic goblins under a bridge.

The hairs on my arms bristle like swaying seaweed,

Diving into the crease of an elbow.

I stretch in the frame of a doorway,

The duvet thrums.

Trees spike with the wind and rush towards us,

They love us.

Bamboo green and soft like paintbrushes,

The same underwater.

Leathered skin and pores,

An elephant’s eye.

A continuum of snakes and seahorses,

A centipede in a dirty bathroom.

Slime, bones, Chernobyl,

Unseen, unwanted.

An ever-flowing fountain,

Don’t hold it, give.

I feel the music beneath me,

Jolts of insight.

If I think I am, I am.

Stop thinking.

Different ages and journeys yet she is me.

Too square or wild and rugged?

Dancing around a campfire.

Nothing matters.

It’s all there. Choose wisely.

All my life anxious. Why? Poor child.

I feel so alone.

He lies beside me. A smile. A clam.

Puzzle pieces slotting into cosiness.

Third eye bursting.

Punching the air. I could do with tears.

An angel, a light, a fairy.

Thank you.

The window is naked,

Birds and stars in the night.

Afraid to feel then don’t want it to end.

Food. Clingfilm. I make the bed.

Order makes me feel safe.

Resist. Control. I can’t.

I don’t want. I want so hard.

Perfection. Trying. That’s not your way.

Built the only way I knew how.

Lie in the dusty earth. I never want to get up.

Give up. Let go. Let go.

Start from the beginning.

I don’t know anything.

There’s a flower. And it’s white.

Image: Tumblr

Only for the Lockdown 6

List number six of things that may not have happened if it hadn’t been for the Lockdown:

  • My most expensive non-essential spending is on Amazon downloads for the Kindle.
  • I lay out on the grass reading under a big ball of sun and in the time I relaxed there, a spider’s web formed and attached itself to the Kindle. I marvelled at miraculous nature while simultaneously breaking my Kindle free with utmost haste.
  • It used to annoy me when people would walk on the wrong side of the road. Until a friend suggested that I be the person to cross the road “no matter who’s right or wrong”. Now, I’m skilled at zigzagging walks and cycles. And it still annoys me.
  • TodayFM’s Dermot and Dave are ghosting us. They’re adding €50 to the pot each day that nobody guesses what the letters ‘WMM’ stand for. We message them with unique answers every single morning and they’ve never once called us. They spoke to a lady who guessed “What matters most” when it had ALREADY BEEN GUESSED! “Where’s Magic Mike?” was surely worth a call. Or “Where’s my monocle?” We’re saving “Wank me, Mary” for a rainy day.
  • My boyfriend spent a morning bombarding me with terrible jokes, which he read from his smartphone. “Why was the pineapple blushing? Because it saw the salad dressing.” Groan. “What happens to grapes when you step on them? They whine.” Ugh. My personal favourite was: “Why did the banana go out with a prune? Because he couldn’t find a date!” Haha! “Did you just google ‘Jokes about fruit’,” I wondered. “Of course not,” he retorted. “I googled ‘Fruit Jokes’.” I grabbed the phone and typed in ‘Jokes about vegetables’. They were much worse.
  • I spent a quarter of a weekend perving over old holiday photos and videos. What I’d give to be kayaking in Halong Bay or kissing my nephew’s round cheeks.
  • Spent a Sunday evening in bed listening to my newly-discovered GABA podcast, which is like my very own personalised wet dream: a sexy euphony of poetry, music and meditation. I felt I’d explode at the beauty, at the intensity, at the artistry… I glanced over at my boyfriend, who was lying back beside me, headphones in, playing Call of Duty on his phone. His cheeks were full of suppressed laughter at my podcast choice. I tickled him, told him to F off and turned away from the faint sounds of machine gun-fire in his ears.
  • Phase One of “Reopening Ireland” was rolled out today. Already people are reaching out to meet up. Part of me feels excited. Another part doubts that I can make time. My schedule is fairly packed already what with Zoom classes, breathwork, daily exercise, books to read, three solid meals per day…
  • My boyfriend moaned, “I’d love to go to the pub!” Radio silence my end. He tried again: “Imagine going to a party!” “What kind of party,” I relented. “Any kind. Imagine the drinks! Imagine having conversations! With people!” Silence again. What I was thinking was: “I can work from home. I attend classes via Zoom. I feel unstyled and… padded. I’m not party-ready! Until you can hand me a cocktail in front of an Aegean sunset, don’t talk to me about easing restrictions!”

Image: foodetccooks.com

Blame it on the Lockdown

 

List Five, Feelin’ Alive (And Grumpy)

My fifth list of all the things I may never have experienced if it weren’t for the Lockdown:

  • The night of the Supermoon, 11:15pm. Second cup of tea made, snacks half-eaten, episode of Hollywood on pause, when my boyfriend suggested going for a walk! The part of me that loves her comfort zone (therefore secretly loves the Lockdown also) resisted. But the bullying part of me that believes spontaneity and openness means really living pushed me out the door.
  • We stood before the last Supermoon of 2020 and gazed at its glowing aura. We set our intentions, longing for great things.
  • The area was dark, the night cold. We hungrily inhaled the magnificent aroma of cut grass. A cop car passed and pulled in. I felt watched as I took photographs from the bridge.
  • The following day, I gloried in wearing a string top without having to have a hoody within arm’s reach.
  • I walked slowly and barefoot around the green. I languished in the cool grass, stared at insects and flowers, leaned into the swooshing wind and tilted my face towards a blue square of sky amidst chubby white clouds.
  • That night, we spent the length of a film looking for a film. My boyfriend gave up: “Looking for a good movie on Netflix is like trying to find a contact lens in the ocean.”
  • Pictures of sun drenched holidays and blue-green waters make me ache with yearning.
  • Facebook friend’s post of her children’s paddling pool made me sweat with envy.
  • On Thursday, I felt tired, headachey and unmotivated. I blamed it on the full moon.
  • On Friday, I tried on a skirt and shorts that I wore this time last year. They were very tight. I blamed it on my boyfriend who has regular hankerings for a “sweet touch”. I kept it to myself of course. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you!
  • Yesterday, I was sick and sore and emotional. I blamed it on the time of the month.
  • Today, I’m grumpy and I have energy. Might explain the anger. I forced myself out for a cycle. I bid my boyfriend farewell: “Hopefully I’ll come back a brand new woman,” I muttered apologetically. He looked at me and responded, “Please never come back.” What he meant to say was, “Please never change.” We laughed until I cried.

Image: kindpng.com

Only for the Lockdown 4

Only for the lockdown, I may never have experienced the following:

  • My hair appointment (always booked two months in advance) was cancelled. I texted my hairdresser, desperate for advice on box dyes. She informed me of my colour. Debated doing a patch test. Decided I’d better. It was the “ALLERGIC REACTION MAY CAUSE DEATH” bit that got me. Going to the hospital would be a nightmare! The patch test burned and I was left with a scabby wound. Decided to go gracefully grey.
  • A few weeks later, I purchased a different brand. The patch test stung. How much stinging is dangerous? Maybe I can use this as an opportunity to see how I’d look if I consciously decided not to cover the greys.
  • Took a nail scissors to my hair instead. I wanted a layered look. I sliced off two chunks. I was reminded of that one time I cut a Barbie’s hair and kept having to compensate by shortening the opposite side. Bald Barbie really stood out from the crowd. I put down the scissors.
  • When someone told me that we should try on our jeans every day because tracksuit bottoms/leggins/pyjamas are lying to us,” I was enveloped in a wave of emotion (anxiety, guilt, rage, denial). “That’s the worst idea ever,” I retorted.
  • Did a 20-minute Joe Wicks’ workout. I couldn’t bend over for three days (and counting…)
  • Whenever a TV character walks down a busy street or through a colourful market or into a noisy bar, I mutter: “Before the Corona virus.” Nothing on television really reflects our current reality. And they don’t stream The News on Netflix.
  • Remember how I got my boyfriend into Irish radio? Well, he’s taken to texting Dermot and Dave even without a cash prize motive. He felt the need to share that, according to the Lockdown Personalities they’d discussed, he’s a Bubble BursterThis means that when someone suggests that this will all be over soon, he disagrees: “No pints in pubs or international travel until 2021.” 
  • In case you’re wondering, I’m a Quarantine Queen. I’m the one who sets up all the Zoom catchups and emails on the links. I’ve also completed several meditation-, personal development- and exercise-based challenges. More still to come. And I saw my no-sugar-or-crisps-for-Lent challenge (sacrifice?) right through to the end, despite the apocalyptic vibes.
  • I’ve noticed that whenever I start dancing, my boyfriend drops everything to join me. We wiggle and laugh and get all the lyrics wrong. I look into his eyes and smile, enjoying a rich few minutes’ appreciation for his presence and willingness to put aside whatever he’s doing to be with me in silly abandon.
  • The song finishes. The moment ends. And I’m right back to my multi-challenges and Zoom-ing. Earning my title every goddamn day.

Art by Tati Ferrigno

Enough’s Enough

Not doing enough.

Not trying hard enough.

Not pushing myself enough.

Not good enough.

Get out of your comfort zone. You have so much potential. If I were you, I’d… You should… Why don’t you?

Not as good as.

Not unique enough.

Not normal enough.

Too much.

Not young enough.

Not skinny enough.

Not pretty enough.

Not smart enough.

Not rich enough.

Not successful enough.

When will I have done enough to relax, to enjoy, to accept and to love?

To let myself be?

When is enough enough?

woman mirror

Art by Ivan Toninato

Only for the Lockdown Part 3

Some things that may never have happened if it wasn’t for the Lockdown:

  • Attended a Beyoncé concert in my living room. We danced, we sang, we drank, we (okay, I) freaked out when Destiny’s Child reunited on stage. We were even able to pause Coachella to go and make popcorn.
  • Only got dressed from the waist up for all my Zoom meetings.
  • When we were given half an hour to be at an apartment viewing, I screamed at my boyfriend, “Get dressed” because who’s ever really DRESSED during the Lockdown?!
  • We struggled into jeans for the first time in weeks. The first thing we did when we got home was pull them straight off again.
  • Experienced time pressure when I had to log in for my one pre-booked Zoom class that day. Felt quite resentful actually. It can be challenging to fit all my self-care activities into one day.
  • Took part in a 21-Day Abundance Challenge, seven consecutive days of Breathwork, a three-day Mindfulness retreat as well as multiple Zoom meetings, classes, catchups and birthday celebrations… My boyfriend hardly ever sees the living room.
  • Took my bike out for the first time in over four years. I felt like the Erasmus student I once was speedwheeling my way to a lake swim or a barbecue or a beer festival.
  • My boyfriend asked me if, just for one hour everything went back to normal, what would I like to do most? I pictured travelling to a sunsetting Greek island and dunking myself in the ocean. “But one hour wouldn’t give you enough time to get there,” he said, stomping on my dream. “You’ve obviously thought about this. What would you do,” I retorted. He replied without hesitation, “Get a haircut.” 

Great Things

She let him do it to her because she didn’t believe she deserved great things.

She went there. She put herself in that situation.

She didn’t expect better. She clutched at what she could get.

Less than. Same as her.

She minimised herself. Packed herself tight. Smuggled her way towards a place called Hope.

Until one day, over the course of a thousand days, she knew better.

The sunlight redecorated. She climbed and she freewheeled.

She felt and she cried. She let go and she gathered herself in.

Underwater, she reclaimed her breath.

Now, she’s learning to breathe on solid ground. Heaving. Healing.

Her chest quakes. Her body vibrates.

Sparks of colour. She sails into spiralling dimensions.

Memories land. The mistakes of a fool. She should have said no.

Force and weakness. It wasn’t her fault.

Longing for love. Settling for being used.

Was she ever an infant snoozing in the curve of her Daddy’s neck?

Or has she always been on high alert? Eyes wide. Mouth shut.

Was love expected?

She forgives herself. Absolves them also.

Finds them and loves them in their lost imperfection.

Shakes a wand at the past. Enters the moment.

A great one walks towards her, handsome and smiling. He treats her like a princess, like a baby, like an equal, like a dream.

His love takes her by surprise. She delights and she sabotages.

His love is gentle and powerful. It bursts and it blooms.

She melts into his warmth. She understands, she accepts.

She trusts that there’s enough so now she can give.

Today, in the shower, she has the startling revelation that she does deserve great things.

She steps out, naked. Completely herself.

Image: teepublic.com

Only for the Lockdown 2: The Weird and the Wonderful

The following is a list of things that, only for the Lockdown, I may never have experienced:

  • Had a dream in which I questioned the social distancing practices.
  • When my boyfriend said he didn’t remember his dream, I suggested making one up just so he could tell me a story. “I could never lie to you,” he exclaimed. I regretted asking.
  • To get my boyfriend out of bed, I suddenly shouted: “Come on, you’re going to miss the train!” “The train to where,” he asked. “To work,” I tried. “Work doesn’t exist, it’s just an illusion,” was his response. Then he decided that we should start playing the Lotto. We still haven’t bought a ticket.
  • Took out Connect-4. I won every game. “I’d say you’d be really good at chess,” my boyfriend marvelled. We took out a draughts board. I lost every game. I blamed it on the cider I was drinking.
  • We started treating a teddy like a real-live dog.
  • I look forward to going for walks so I can record WhatsApp voiceys to my friends in peace (the adult version of My News).
  • I no longer mind how long things take (phone calls, work on the computer, queues for Tesco, hugs).
  • Am learning how to properly shoot a basketball.
  • When passing another human being, I’m alternating between genuine joy, connection, polite nods, smiles and Hellos then wishing I could clothesline them when they come too close (but that would mean I’d have to touch them).
  • Appreciated springtime to this extent (coloured blossoms, cerulean skies and the coconut scent of a gorse bush).
  • Birdsong is my new favourite soundtrack.
  • As I strolled along the canal this afternoon, I had the urge to bury my face in the swaying reeds. I didn’t. Maybe next week.
  • Stood and watched a starling murmuration. In the distance, they looked like vibrating particles of one entity. Then they swooped overhead, spreading and coming together, making shapes like a celestial Etch A Sketch.

Please share your weird and wonderful Lockdown experiences.

Only for The Lockdown

Only for the “Lockdown” I may never have:

  • Experienced gratitude for being allowed to go for walks.
  • Followed the flight of a swan as far as my eye could see.
  • Witnessed a heron spearing a fish with its beak and thought it was amazing (I’m vegetarian).
  • Had so much quality time with my boyfriend.
  • Got my boyfriend into Irish radio.
  • Convinced my boyfriend to enter the daily radio competition so we’d double our chances.
  • Dragged my boyfriend for his first proper canal walk.
  • Felt surprised when he wanted to walk further than me.
  • Wrote a poem about COVID-19 because all my cousins were doing it.
  • Attended online classes via Zoom.
  • Participated in a Women’s Circle (via Zoom).
  • Attended a Life Coach (via Zoom).
  • Started giving Life Coaching sessions over Zoom.
  • Had video chats with friends, who live within a 30 km radius, using Zoom.
  • Paid for a Zoom subscription.
  • Watched a movie with homemade mini-pizzas, a nice bottle of red and a basin of popcorn on a WEDNESDAY.
  • Listened to a podcast while lying on my bed. Listening to podcasts had only ever been a multi-tasking activity (alongside walking or cooking).
  • Gazed out the bedroom window at a lone star.
  • Listened to the wind in the trees.
  • Had a day-time nap.
  • Enjoyed bringing the bins out and hanging out the washing.
  • Walked all the way to the “Big Tesco” instead of driving and didn’t mind queuing because “Sure, what else would I be doing?”
  • Rejoiced when I spotted eggs in the supermarket.
  • Let my hair go this grey.
  • Reevaluated where I am in my life and what I want.
  • Had all the time in the world to figure it out.
  • Opted to write this list instead.

What have you been doing that you may never have done only for the “Lockdown”?