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To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

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This is Your Song

Last night, I went to see The National in the O2. They were amazing. Matt Berninger’s voice sounded just like it does on their albums. And he really got into the performance.

The person with me commented: “They don’t write songs for the public, they write songs for themselves.” This really rang true. The lead singer appeared to let go when he was on stage. It was like he was losing himself in his passion, exposing his darkest thoughts and deepest emotions, sharing his heart with all of us. It felt raw and honest.

We could only get seated tickets, which was fine as The National’s music is quite relaxing. But there was no dancing or jumping in our section of the arena. However, after a while, the energy of the musicians rippled into the crowd. The woman in front of us started raising her hand and standing after each song. The man beside me played air guitar. And I swayed and roared in appreciation.

I gazed at a beautiful visual behind the band of the ocean and a sun-streaked sky. I was brought back to times when I swam in the sea or bobbed on a boat. I had felt free and alive.

I thought: How often do we experience these things in our everyday lives? When do we allow ourselves to let go and become one with that joy, that aliveness?

Perhaps when we drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex or go on holidays. Or when we attend gigs like this one. We connect with that passion when we witness someone living their dream, when another human being lets us in to the honesty and depth of their authentic selves.

We become truly present. We enjoy all of our senses. And we give ourselves permission to be free, even if just for one day, one night, one moment…

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Self-hatred: the boogeyman beneath the bed

Self-hatred is rarely spoken about. You dare not breathe its existence because you don’t wish to acknowledge its dark presence. You wouldn’t dream of admitting that it plagues you because you presume that everybody else is free of this scary demon. Yet it is evident in many people’s lives. You may not have witnessed the tornado but you can watch the footage of the carnage it has caused.

Self-hatred is very real. Why else do you eat until you throw up? Or drink until you’ve lost your loved ones? Why do you gamble away all of your possessions? Or do so many drugs that you repeatedly fling yourself into life-threatening situations?

As you read this, you may be thinking that you’re one of the lucky ones. You must not hate yourself because you don’t suffer from such a horrid addiction. However, some of us keep the self-hatred at bay by pretending that we’re perfect, and engaging in other less visibly destructive behaviours. We strive to win self-imposed challenges. We educate ourselves. We go to work every day and earn lots of money. We exercise. We score a wonderful partner and raise a family.

Sounds idyllic, right? But how many of you are terrified that you’ll be found out? That others will discover that you are not as perfect as you’ve portrayed yourself to be? If you were sure of yourself, you wouldn’t be so insecure about your partner’s possible infidelities, or the prospect of your peers hating you. You wouldn’t dread the impending disaster of old age, when you’ll no longer be fit and beautiful, when there will be no more reason for anyone to love you. Because you don’t love yourself. If you loved yourself unconditionally, you wouldn’t be so afraid to stop (doing, giving, achieving) in case the self-image you have so carefully constructed implodes and you are left with nothing.

The moment any of these suppressants are removed from your life, the monster of self-hatred rears its ugly head. You lose your job. Your partner leaves you or your children move out. You’re too old to play sport and you’re not as attractive as you used to be. You spiral into a deep depression. You hate yourself.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped the clutches of this awful affliction, I will describe to you what it is to hate yourself. It is the worst kind of agitation. You cry a never-ending river of tears. You want to smash the mirror and claw at your arms. You tell yourself that you’re no good, that your life isn’t worth living, that you’re a burden on your loved ones, that you’ll never get better, that you want to die.

If you’re feeling so lost and confused that you don’t know which way to turn, if you don’t know what to do to make this pain go away, and you have no idea how to silence this ogre of self-hatred, this is very good news indeed. It means that you are no longer willing or able to suppress these frightening feelings. You have nowhere left to run and hide. Know that you are just about to reach the summit of a long and arduous climb. Possibility stretches out to the horizon and beyond. Yes, it’s scary to be so high up but the view from here is a promise of beauty and peace.

If you have reached this point, it is time to confront your self-hatred. Really look at it. Gaze into the jaws you had so feared. What is it trying to tell you? Stare into the swirling fire of its eyes. What do you see reflected there? Ask for its name. You might be surprised to learn that it is not called self-hatred after all. Really listen to what it tells you. Then thank this strange creature for roaring loud enough for you to finally hear it.

Why do you think you hate yourself? Why do you feel you deserve such violence? Figure out if these thoughts have really, one hundred per cent, come from you. Maybe you took on a misguided belief system at a young age. This might have come from society or loved ones. For many years, you held their beliefs as your own. Perhaps, now, because they don’t ring true for you and you’re straining against them, you’re beginning to doubt yourself. You fear the unknown. And this fear turns into hate, which you are directing at the only person who will take it- yourself.

It is extremely painful to question all that you have known. You (and those around you) may not want to hear the answers you come up with. Perhaps you don’t belong in third level education or behind a desk or in front of a computer. You might not fancy the type of people you think you should. Perhaps you have been living a lie for your entire life.

It is possible that you took on a distorted image of yourself as a child. I’m only deserving of love if I behave in a certain way. But this was your perception seen through the eyes of a child. You are no longer three years old! You are an adult. You can change the rules. Isn’t that liberating?

The world doesn’t have to be a difficult, hostile, scary place. You don’t have to work so hard to be allowed to feel okay. You can enjoy life, find out what you’re passionate about, laugh, and have fun. You can learn to love yourself, not for how much you work, how many compliments you receive, or how many miles you run a day. Love yourself for the radiance of your spirit. That bright ball of light and colour that goes beyond form and structure and makes you who you are. And every time you silently scream the sick song of self-hatred, remember that vibrant energy within. And smile. Because you are going to do things differently.

Homeopathy: getting “worse” before you get better

Not a lot of people know what homeopathy is. Others immediately dismiss it, deeming it daft or calling it “witchcraft”. And then there are those who have seen homeopathy in action. These people begin to understand how it works and witness how it can heal.

 

A few years ago, I was introduced to a couple of very talented homeopaths, who are part of a wonderful holistic centre (The Lifeflow Centre). I attended, mainly because of depression, but also for the extremely uncomfortable, painful, and all too regular kidney infections that I’d been afflicted by. If possible, I also wanted a boost of energy. And if they could sort out any of my many other problems, that was cool too. I’m delighted to report that my energy started to increase, my confidence has never been better, and I have a brighter outlook on life. My world is lit up with possibility now. As if all that isn’t enough, the kidney infections have ceased. My periods are regular for the first time ever, as are my bowels. My skin, hair and eyes have more lustre and sparkle. And the dermatitis that had plagued me from the tender age of 10 has almost completely disappeared! I am no longer taking any medication (I used to be on antidepressants and the pill, and I have used many steroid creams over the years for my skin. And, like most people, I popped painkillers whenever a hangover, headache or period pain came my way).

My aunt is another example of how homeopathy can improve someone’s quality of life. Before introducing herself to this alternative medicine, she was taking 17 tablets daily! These included antidepressants, sedatives, sleeping tablets, steroid creams for the psoriasis that covered her entire body, pills for her bowels, and for blood pressure, cholesterol, fluid, stomach ulcers, diverticulitis, arrhythmia, and vertigo. Now, she doesn’t take one single pill. And she didn’t drop dead, like the doctors had her believe. The psoriasis is completely gone. She’s looking better than she ever did and she’s a lot more relaxed. Her enjoyment of life has increased dramatically. She is more alive. Her vital force has been reignited.

Homeopathy fascinates me. I attend a full day of class, twice a month, which is given by four homeopaths, who are so passionate about their work that they don’t even charge for the course. I read books on the subject, sit in on cases with a homeopath whenever I get the chance, speak to people who have used homeopathy, and observe, with interest, my own journey.

I won’t go into much detail about the history or principles of homeopathy because that is readily available on the internet. I want to talk more about how to proceed once you’ve decided you want to go down the natural route of getting better. However, I will introduce you to the concept. The principles of homeopathy were first proposed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago. While conducting  an experiment, Hahnemann took four units of Peruvian bark twice a day, for several days. He began to develop symptoms identical to those of malaria without coming down with the disease. This led him to the conclusion that effective drugs must produce symptoms in healthy people that are similar to the diseases they will be expected to treat. Six years after the experiment, he formulated the theory of homeopathy.¹

Today, this principle is known as the “Law of Similars” and is the basis for the use of the term homeopathy (“similar suffering”). The idea of treating “like with like” can be explained further. For example, drinking too much coffee can cause agitation, sleeplessness, and even palpitations but, when made into the homeopathic remedy Coffea, it is used to treat all these problems. You may have come across this concept in conventional medicine, for example, the stimulant Rilatin being used to treat ADHD, or small doses of allergens such as pollen being used to desensitise allergic patients. However, one major difference in homeopathy is that substances are used in such tiny doses that they are completely non-toxic.²

How does a homeopath know what remedy to use? Think of it like this. We are all made up of energy. Within us, we hold on to every type of energy that has existed on the planet since the start of time, which may make more sense to you after watching this clip.

We access the energy of an animal for times when we need to exhibit aggressive behaviour. We need the energy of a mineral for the structure that we require in our lives. We tap into the energy of a plant to access our sensitivity. However, it is when we become stuck in one of these energies that we get into trouble, and this is when illness arises.

The job of the homeopath is to discover which energy you are stuck in. He/she will then give you a tiny dose of that energy (treating like with like) to blast you out of it. Imagine being stuck in a groove of a record, going over and over the same thing and not being able to get out of it. The homeopathic remedy will lift you out of that groove and move you on. This becomes apparent when you have taken a deep homeopathic remedy. You suddenly feel as if you have arisen above the problems you once thought you were forever trapped in, and you are now looking down on them impassively. When you are no longer caught right in the middle of them, they don’t have as much power over you.

The Sankaran method of homeopathic case-taking is an excellent way for a homeopath to find an individual source (or constitutional) remedy. This method was devised by an Indian homeopath, Rajan Sankaran. The homeopath focuses on the descriptions the patient gives of his/her pain, the sensations experienced in their dreams, and the language the person uses to speak about their passions and fears. Hearing these sensations enables the homeopath to recognise which remedy is needed. This is a very deep and powerful form of homeopathy and I have seen it cure disease and change lives for the better.

Rather than suppress symptoms, as is the norm with conventional medicine, homeopathy gets to the root cause of disease and pushes it out. We can go no further without explaining Hering’s Law of Cure. Healing takes place from top to bottom, from the inside to the out, from greater organs to lesser organs, and in the reverse order in which the symptoms appeared. Watch this for a simple explanation. 

We live in a society that’s obsessed with doing, achieving, and keeping busy. As a result, we demand quick fixes. Conventional medicine speedily suppresses symptoms but it doesn’t get rid of them completely. The disease must go somewhere so it burrows deeper into the body. If you have a rash on your skin, be thankful that it is located on your most external organ, where it cannot harm you as much. However, if you decide you want to get rid of it quickly, you may be prescribed steroids. These drugs will remove the visible symptom from the skin, but will push the disease inwards. Personally, I would rather not take a drug that merely suppresses symptoms, upsets my stomach and puts pressure on my liver.

Alternatively, if you use homeopathy to treat disease, your experience will be very different. Because of Hering’s Law of Cure, once you’ve started a remedy, you will briefly revisit your symptoms in the reverse order in which they appeared. You may develop a rash or get diarrhoea (which is good as the toxins are being pushed out of your body). The pain in your hip may come back for a short period, as will the kidney infection. The earache you often suffered with as a child will return for a short time too. Remind yourself that this is an excellent indication that the homeopath has found a good remedy for you and that things are happening in perfect order.

Hahnemann stated that life is based on the vital force within us. Once the vital force is in harmony, it keeps us healthy. An irritation of this, however, leads to illness. The homeopath’s primary function is to fire up the vital force in each of his patients. And the manner of achieving this will be different for every single person. Mohinder Singh Jus (2006) explains that homeopathy perceives the individual root of disease. In order to be able to do this, one must explore the personality of each patient. Holistic medicine concentrates on the person as a whole. A homeopath will therefore examine the patient’s mental, emotional and physical state so he/she can discover what is upsetting the vital force.

As strange as it sounds, you should be thankful to your disease for pointing out that something is wrong and that you need to change. If you don’t make the necessary adjustments, the disease will keep coming back, no matter how many drugs you take or operations you have. Until you let go of the control, shame, anger, fear, resentment, blame, or whatever it is that’s eating away at you, you will not heal. Thankfully, a good homeopathic remedy will allow your mind to expand and your attitude to shift so that you will adapt to a healthier way of thinking, thus making it easier for you to change. The remedy will also relax you and allow you to finally accept yourself for the way you are, causing the guilt and shame you’ve been dragging around to dissipate.

Understandably, some people grow impatient or get scared when they are being treated with homeopathy. They wonder how long it’s going to take and they fear the return of old symptoms. Here are some tips to follow when you make the switch to homeopathy:

1) Be patient

It takes time but know that you are getting better. Be thankful that you are using a natural medicine that is not going to fill your body with chemicals and harmful side-effects. Remind yourself of Hering’s Law of Cure and take note of the symptoms you are experiencing.

2) Rest

If you are one of the many who constantly pushes yourself, this is going to be very hard for you. However, how hard you are on yourself is probably one of the main reasons why you are sick. A good homeopathic remedy will make you very tired. If you feel like you’re walking through mud and you can barely move any of your limbs, that is a good sign. Your energy is now flowing to your most important organs in order to heal them. So, it’s in your interest, and in the interest of your vital organs, to rest as much as possible.

3) Treat your homeopath like a doctor

Keep in contact with your homeopath as you journey through Hering’s Law of Cure. And if you’re feeling seriously agitated or have any doubts or questions, pay him/her another visit. A good homeopath will want to keep tabs on your progress and he/she may need to administer more medicine or adjust the potency or remedy.

4) Don’t panic

You may feel worse than you ever did and more tired than you thought possible, but don’t panic. Others may urge you to go back to the doctor and because this medicine is so new to you, you may be inclined to agree with them. But give homeopathy a chance. Contact your homeopath. Seek out support from people who’ve already been treated with homeopathic medicine. Give it time. You’ll soon realise that you needed to go through the tiredness and that brief reoccurrence of symptoms in order to heal.

5) Reclaim your power

Take the power back into your own hands. Most of us have grown up in a society that looks up to doctors, surgeons and consultants. Many of us live in extreme fear of tests and results. We take drugs without question. We pump our bodies with antibiotics, steroids, painkillers, and much more. We presume that the man in the white coat knows best. Who are we to question the reasons for taking this medicine and its potential side effects? So, why not educate yourself on medicine, both conventional and natural?

Some of you have been using homeopathy without even being aware of it. Perhaps you have already used Calendula and Arnica for cuts and bruising. Why not take this self-medication further by investing in a homeopathic first aid kit?You’ll save a fortune on doctors’ visits. Start getting rid of your pains and sicknesses by searching the easy-to-use handbook for your symptoms and treating accordingly. I once had such a bad headache, I could hardly see. I made up a homeopathic remedy and drank it down. The headache disappeared in seconds! Children do very well on homeopathic medicine. They love the autonomy that comes with finding medicines for themselves. Homeopathy is also very effective in treating animals. For a deeper constitutional remedy, however, consult a homeopath.

Many people scoff at homeopathy. They dismiss it before trying it for themselves. They wonder why it is not more popular. It is in the interest of rich doctors and powerful pharmaceuticals for homeopathy not to become recognised as a valid, effective medicine. I might ask why so many people believe so strongly in conventional medicine. Can you honestly tell me that you know exactly how a painkiller works? Or an antidepressant? Yet, many of us swallow them without thought. We rarely ponder on where the pain goes or what side effects the drugs will have.

We have become victims of scaremongering. We are so fearful of dying that when we hear the dramatic news reports on the most recent “pandemic”, we rush to get vaccinated. But how many people suffer horrific side effects and even death from these vaccinations? According to this next clip, conventional medicine is the biggest cause of premature death in the U.S.

When a person is sick, the most important thing that needs to be changed is the mindset that is creating the disease. Listen to the way you describe your symptoms. You complain, “I am constipated” instead of stating, “My bowels are constipated.” Is your body ill? Or are you ill? You are what the homeopath is interested in. Naboru Muramoto explains this beautifully:

“Western medicine divides the human into categories and regards each malfunctioning part as separate from the whole. In the Orient, we believe that it is impossible to isolate a part without considering what effect it will have on the whole. We do not concentrate on the illness, but on the entire body. We do not label disease. Because all diseases come from the same source- an imbalance of energy flow throughout the body.”

To me, homeopathy is synonymous with freedom. It is liberating to remove the pedestal that had been so firmly placed beneath doctors and consultants. To no longer live in fear of a test result. To not have to face going under the knife. To be free of the medication that would only serve to dampen my vital force. And, more importantly, to be released from the mindset that had held me captive for so many years.

References

1. Sing Jus, Mohinder (2006) The Journey of a Disease: A Homeopathic Concept of Suppression and Cure. Kandern: Narayana Verlag.

 

2. The Society of Homeopaths (2011) About Homeopathy.

*The Lifeflow Centre runs an excellent class on health two Saturdays a month.

Dying at the hands of Yes

It’s a pretty dramatic title but every time you say “yes” to doing something you don’t want to do, you’re killing off a part of yourself. You’re telling yourself that you’re not important, that you won’t listen to your wants and needs, and that you don’t value your own opinion.

Take note of how many times you’re asked to do things over the course of one day. It’s mind-boggling. Please come to my party. Will you do my fake tan for me? Could you collect me from the airport? I need you to work late tonight. Would you mind covering my shift on Saturday? Could you baby sit on Friday night? Would you like to go to London this weekend? Do you wanna go for coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks???? You’d gladly do most of these things because you want to help/be nice/have fun. But you simply cannot do all of them, unless you have endless reserves of time, money, energy, and patience.

You must train yourself to pick and choose what you say “yes” to. And, even more importantly, learn how to say “no”. At first, this will be alien to you, so you may have to employ the white lie tactic. You’ll worry that your friends and family will hate or disown you. Realistically, they probably won’t like the new you very much. They certainly won’t recognise this strange creature who puts herself first. Who does she think she is?! But they’ll soon get used to the fact that you have a life and that you’re not willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice.

Learning to say “no” (without feeling guilty) will soon start coming naturally to you because you respect yourself and value your health and happiness. And you’ll find that the less you do of the things you “should”, and the more you do of the things you actually want to, the more present you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy things. And when you decide to help out your nearest and dearest, you’ll be doing it because you want to, and not just out of guilt. Your loved ones will sense a change in you. You’ll be less tired and cranky, your eyes will sparkle, and you’ll laugh more. As a result, people will appreciate your company even more.

Peer pressure is one of the darker sides of not being able to say “no”. Many’s the teenager who starts smoking, drinking, taking drugs, mitching off school, and even bullying other kids because of peer pressure, and because they feel they have to say “yes” to be accepted.

I had the awful habit of saying “yes” to everyone and everything. I wanted to be liked, to be nice, to be cool, and I had (and still do, to a certain extent) the reckless (now more carefree) mentality of Ah sure, why not?! This was particularly evident in my interactions with the opposite sex. I agreed to dates with guys I wasn’t sure I fancied. And things went further than I was ready for on more than one occasion.

Once, I was so drunk that I kissed a guy, then spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet bowl. The persistent fella managed to obtain my phone number from a mutual friend and proceeded to ask me out the following day. I could hardly remember what he looked like and I didn’t even know if I liked him, but I felt bad for ditching him. So I agreed to a date. And then to another and another and another. A few months later, I’d convinced myself that I liked him, even though he was bitter and negative and we fought constantly. Thankfully, it didn’t work out.

Now, I only say “yes” to the things I think I’d enjoy, or to the things I have the energy for. I do what feels right for me. Last summer, I thought long and hard about the type of break I wanted. I decided that a relaxing sun holiday in my father’s homeland, with my mother and my sister, was just what I needed.

Antiparos, Greece

Read on for some strategies for getting out of the clutches of Yes:

1) Ask yourself some serious questions

If you find yourself agreeing to help your second cousin twice removed move house, even though you’d packed the car for a trip to the sea-side, and you haven’t seen the woman in 15 years, and she has the largest couch ever known to man, and you put your back out just last week, you need to ask yourself why you’re such a “yes man”. Is it because you desperately need everyone to like you? Is being seen to be nice that important? Are you afraid of becoming a bad person? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, your self-esteem is need of a serious makeover.

2) Let go

If you’re the one who can always be counted upon to say “yes” to every request, plea, and invitation, you’re pretty much guaranteed pain and discomfort. You may observe a tight ball forming in your middle, which is the hurt and disappointment, anger and resentment that’s been building up over the years. You may not even be aware of this but you’re furious that your friends and family are constantly making demands on your time and energy. I’m always running rings around myself for them. And the one time I ask for something, they can’t even bother themselves to help me! They are so selfish! If this sounds familiar, you’ve been a “yes man” for way too long. Just because you don’t think enough of yourself to say “no” once in a while, doesn’t mean that everyone else is such a doormat. Luckily for them. We usually get angriest at people for the behaviour that’s most unlike our own. I’d never act that way! Surprisingly, this could be the behaviour you’re most resisting in yourself. You’d probably love to be able to tell your second cousin twice removed to go eff herself. And you can. In slightly more PC terms. And maybe take some time to chill out first. Acupuncture is great for relieving stress and releasing negative emotions. Alternatively, get a massage. Take a bath. Have a good, long sleep. Relax and let go…

3) Listen to your body

You’ve been asked on a wild girls’ night out. You’re ridiculously hung over and you have to finish a 10,000 word thesis in the morning. But it’s the only night Steph can get a baby sitter and Rebecca needs some cheering up after the break-up and Lorna’s desperate to meet a man. You have to go out! There will always be a million and three excuses as to why you simply have to do something. So, you usually suck it up and say “yes”, even though your body’s crying with exhaustion. Listen to it before you collapse. That should be good enough reason to say “no”.

4) Listen to your gut

Every answer you need to know is within yourself. So, don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t forget to listen. The moment I realised I had put my “yes” days behind me was a few months after graduation when I received an important email from my supervisor. He was wondering if I’d be interested in trying to get my dissertation published as a journal article. He added that it would require more research. I was honoured to have been asked. My work was obviously pretty good. I drooled at the potential prestige and was about to type “yes” when I paused and really thought about it. I hadn’t even been passionate about the subject matter. I had just done it because it had to be done and was relieved when it was all over. Did I really want to do more work on it? The answer was “no”. If I’d listened to my initial gut reaction, I would have immediately known that this definitely wasn’t for me. I struggled momentarily with what others would think. She’s some eejit passing up an opportunity like this! But I ignored my doubts and listened to my gut, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t automatically say “yes”. I was proud of myself.

5) Ban “yes” from your vocabulary for a while

If you say “yes” to absolutely everything, you’re going to get into some serious trouble. In the film Yes Man [SPOILER ALERT], Carl went from living a lack lustre life to becoming a “yes man”. Saying “yes” all the time pushed Carl to learn Korean, get promoted, and fall in love with a quirky musician. He was also robbed, arrested, and beat up. Great plot for a movie but dangerous in real life.

Inspired by Jim Carrey’s shenanigans, I toyed with the idea of saying “yes” to everything for an entire week. That night, I went to the local pub. After saying “yes” to several pints, shots of tequila, and cigarettes (even though I’d quit), a creepy older man, who’d been harassing me for the past two years, asked me to go home with him. I realised that saying “yes” to absolutely everything wasn’t exactly hilarious.

So, when someone asks if you want another drink, which would make it your seventh of the night, and you know if you drink it, you won’t remember the lock-in or the table-dancing or the messy journey home, and you’ll probably wake up some time in the late afternoon, still wearing your stilettos, just say “NO”.

6) What do you want?

Would you like to go for a two-hour walk with your extremely draining neighbour or would you rather take a power nap? Do you want to join the college gang on another trip to Ayia Napa or would you really like to save up for a flight to New Orleans or India? Are you just saying “yes” because it never occurred to you to suggest something of your own? Maybe you’ve been following others for so long that you don’t even know what you enjoy. Now is the time to start exploring your own tastes in food, music, and movies. It’s exciting to finally be able to explore and develop your own personality and passions.

Since I’ve started getting to know myself better, I’ve come to the gleeful conclusion that I like red wine, The Coronas, old man pubs and lemon cupcakes…

theanniescupcakes.com

Living with Overactive Imagination: the highs, the lows, and the completely off-the-wall

Where better to unleash your Overactive Imagination than at Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua?

I was born with an interesting condition known as Overactive Imagination. Even as I type the title of this blog post, I’m wandering off into the mystery mistiness of my imagination… Where did the idiom “off-the-wall” come from? And what kind of wall are we talking here? The bedroom wall? A prison wall? The Great Wall of China? And where is off-the-wall located exactly? Floating in the centre of the room? Hovering in the sky? Tumbling in outer space? Thankfully, Answers.com intervened and explained the origin of the expression: “In certain sports such as handball and racketball, a player hits a ball against the wall. When it comes off the wall, one has no idea where it is going. Therefore, this expression implied unpredictability.” Sometimes, Google is the only reliable medicine for this disorder. If I know I’m about to drift off, inventing my own weird and wonderful meanings for things, I whip open the laptop and hit that Search button.

My Overactive Imagination (or OI, not to be confused with Osteogenesis Imperfecta- a genetic bone disorder commonly referred to as brittle bone disease) was first diagnosed as a young child. I used to pretend to my little brother that our toys could talk. Each had his/her own personality, distinct voice, and best friend. After a number of years, when my brother was becoming slightly more street savvy, he asked me, “Why does your mouth move whenever the toys talk?” I had to think on my feet. I answered: “Their mouths are sewn shut so they have to speak telepathically through me. Duh!” That worked for about another year.

OI is perfect for when you’re interacting with children. When I was 11, a beautiful little sister arrived into our home. She thought I was magic. Seriously! If she got a splinter in her finger, I’d get her to close her eyes and I’d pretend that the needle I used to fish out the splinter was a fairy wand. I was the only one she let near her on those occasions.

OI is also an excellent tool for making you feel better about bad situations. More recently, I lost some of my eyelashes (read here for more details) and wondered if they were going to grow back at all. But, instead of feeling depressed and panicky, I developed a hypothesis. If we were to follow Darwin’s theory of evolution, that we were once fish and have evolved over the years until we’ve turned into good ol’ Homo sapiens, maybe it’s time for us to adapt further for life in the 21st century, and maybe, just maybe, we no longer need eyelashes…

However, like with any disorder, OI has many negative symptoms too, including sleeplessness, paranoia, and insanity. This condition has robbed me of many hours of sleep. I could be so caught up in my fantasies that I don’t even realise that I’ve been lying in bed, wide awake, for the last two and a half hours!

On that note, this past week, I haven’t been nodding off until three/four/even five in the morning. Although there is a perfectly legitimate reason for this (I’ve been busy blogging, drinking cups of tea, and watching episode after episode of Brothers & Sisters), I started to speculate on a more zany reason for my insomnia. According to recent news reports, I am no longer a Gemini. I’ve been this star-sign all my life but now, out of the blue, I’m told I’m a Taurus! This is because the Earth has “wobbled out of alignment with the moon” (you can read the full Daily Mail article here). If the world is changing so radically, maybe that’s why I’ve been unable to sleep, because, going back to Darwin’s theory, Homo sapiens have mutated once again and no longer require at least seven hours’ sleep a night. Or maybe our circadian rhythms are running on different cycles. The whole of society will then need to alter the times we sleep, work, eat, and wind down. Maybe we should be going to bed just before dawn and getting up for work at midday. In that case, the TV watershed should start no earlier than midnight. And midnight feasts will be held as the sun rises…

Unfortunately, OI can also get you into trouble. When I was 10 years old, I convinced my friend and our five-year-old brothers that heaven perched at the top of one of the hills in Glending Woods. When it wasn’t exactly paradisiacal at the top of that hill, we went from hill to hill in search of my promised land. Hours later, we were totally lost, and my poor eight-month-pregnant mother was desperately searching for us. I managed to convince a group of gun- and knife-wielding men (don’t worry, they were hunting) to drive us to Blessington police station where we were reunited with my frantic mother.

OI also fuels paranoia and negative thinking. If a group of teenagers snigger as you strut by, it’s easy to imagine that they’re mocking your tea-cosy hat or the way you walk. If a loved one is late home, you picture them perishing in freak accidents involving lightning, falling elevators, and other spooky scenarios that even the creators of Lost would deem unbelievable.

On the up side, OI has taken me on countless surprising journeys, far removed from the mundane trappings of every day life. I’ve spent many a boring bus trip, mentally penning romantic stories involving ruggedly handsome strangers, which culminate in declarations of love/lust (depending on my mood) by Mr Sexy (you’d think, with my condition, I’d come up with a more imaginative name), as we lock eyes over a cappuccino/stroll hand-in-hand on moonlit beaches/get jiggy with it.

OI has helped fill me with optimism about upcoming exams and interviews. Before my driving test, I’d already imagined myself whooping with delight as I received the news of my success. Lately, I’ve been imagining the moment the novel I haven’t started writing yet goes into print. I can clearly envisage it beaming out of an Eason’s shop window. I can even see the font used to brandish my name. There are entire self-help books on the subject of the power of visualisation but I’ve already “got it” with my OI.

Living with OI is like residing in a roller coaster car, with constant ups, downs, and moments so wild you’ll have to close your eyes to bear them. Here’s how to make the most of your condition:

1) Drugs are bad, mkay?!

You’re already wired to the moon so you don’t need cans of Red Bull or shots of coffee to get you there. If I were you, I would also avoid alcohol, marijuana, and other hallucinogens.

2) Sleep

There’s no safer place to let your OI run wild than in your dreams. Also, the less tired you are, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between reality and the OI-inspired delusions.

3) Don’t dwell on conspiracy theories

If you’re prone to seizures of OI, stay away from all those conspiracy theories circulating on the net. On that vein, have you seen what happened to Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory? He had his eyelids taped open by a very scary Patrick Stewart. The thought of that alone should put a screeching halt to your crazy musings.

4) Human contact

OI thrives in lonely conditions. So, get out in the real world and connect with those afore-mentioned Homo sapiens. Chatting to real, live people will get you out of your head for a while and you’ll soon feel normal again.

5) Rationalise

As a frightened child, your parents did the rationalising for you. I don’t see any alligators under your bed, love. And the boogeyman definitely isn’t in your wardrobe. Now that you’re an adult, I’m afraid you’re going to have to do it yourself. But don’t worry if you can’t make sense of it on your own, that’s what friends are for. And if you’re still freaking out about glimpsing thieves and aliens in every dark corner of your house, it might be time to consult a professional.

6) Make the most of it

Some people would sell off their spleens for a great imagination. So, hold on to it, polish it, and learn to control it. Think of it as a superpower. Once you master it, you’ll rule the world. You could come up with an original idea for the next best-selling Xbox game or create a wacky blog or start a comic (sci-fi nerds lap that shit up). You could even become the next J. K. Rowling, writing your own series of fantasy children’s books, transforming them into blockbuster movies starring Saoirse Ronan and Jaden Smith, acquiring your very own theme park, being introduced to Ryan Gosling, marrying him… Oops, there I go again…

If you don’t want to wind up like this, follow my tips…