Tag Archives: Featured Posts

Dancing with your Shadow

Your shadow is always there, regardless of where you are. Even in a dark room you cast a shadow on something. It can be behind you, in front of you, beside you, under you and over you. It’s always there, casting itself, a constant companion.

A shadow is more than simply an area you darken; it’s something you carry with you for life. It got me thinking when I saw the (adorable) video of a little girl who was scared to death of her own shadow. A shadow for me is a reminder of what’s there. I have started to think of the whole area of mental health as a shadow of sorts. The shadow is the part you don’t pay much attention to most of the time.

A shadow for me symbolises our low points and our high points and being able to live with it and accept it is important, vitally important. Things will not always be sunny and the sun won’t always be in your face and that’s ok. Sometimes you’ll be gazing down at a long and enduring shadow as it refuses to leave you and sometimes it will be behind you and out of mind.
In my case my shadow is an anxious one. It shouts up ominous words at me and sometimes envelops me in its grip, stifling my every thought. It can be withdrawn, it can be out of sorts and it can be downright rude. On the flip side it can also be loving, happy and carefree. It can also be just ok, getting by and middling the road, nothing too fancy. It all happens and that’s ok.

When I saw that little girl I did briefly consider how ridiculous the whole concept was, I mean, scared of a shadow. But then I stopped being an ass and thought about it. We all have our shadows to fear. The hard part is realising that we control the shadow and what it thinks. Yes, ok, some people will try and get in on it, but you choose how to let them in. Some people will be nasty, they’ll try and bring you down and they’ll try and keep you down. You control their influence. You control how you much you let them interact with you in that manner. On the other side of it you have the people who will feed your shadow with healthy thoughts. They’ll hug it, they’ll embrace it and if you’re lucky enough they’ll even love it. Let the good people in, it’ll be worth it in the end.

The important thing is to not deny your shadow. Don’t pretend it’s not there. If you’re going to accept the laughing and dancing then you have to be willing to accept the crying and the curled up in a ball under a duvet pretending the world doesn’t exist. It exists and you do have to deal with it. Here’s the trick though. Your happy and laughing shadow will usually come with the help of others, but you’re muggy and head wrecking shadow may only go with the help of others.

So what do you do? Well, my advice would be to stop, breath and talk. Go to someone you trust. Go to your partner, go to a friend, go to a family member, go for a walk, go for a shower, go for a cycle, go for a hike, go to a counsellor, do something! It may not shake itself. It’s ok to need help every now and then. We all need a little TLC at times and accepting that can be the hardest thing to do. It’s not shameful or weak. It’s hard and it’s brave.

Accept it, own it and carry on.

I Don’t Believe it!

I don’t. It can be such a devastating phrase. I don’t do this and I definitely don’t do that. It can often define us in such a negative manner. I don’t is very much a character defining phrase, it makes up your beliefs and who you are. However, I would theorise that we can turn I don’t into an empowering phrase. Why just use it to show what we’re limited to? Why not use it to help us!
It’s a psychological thing though you see. It’s all in your head. It’s far easier and much firmer to say you don’t do something and to stick to it then saying you can’t do something or that you shouldn’t do something. For instance; “I shouldn’t have another beer” is usually followed by another beer. Similarly we have; “I can’t stay out too late” which usually leads to coming home in the early hours. Try it the other way now. I don’t drink more than 4 pints and I don’t stay out past half 11. It’s firm, it’s steady and it’s almost a certainty.
I don’t is a solid answer whereas the other answers are all susceptible to suggestion. It’s even easier to convince yourself of what you’re saying. I shouldn’t have dessert versus I don’t have dessert are two massively different answers. One is open to suggestion (the hungry fat voice at the back of your head) while the other is an end to an argument before it has even begun. It’s the difference between leaving with cheesecake and cream all over your face or with the dignity of knowing your pants will still fit in the morning.
So I’m going to give it a go. Here’s an example of some of the things I’m going to try and not do anymore:
I don’t eat dessert. A simple way to try and stop imitating the size of the equator with my waist line. This one should be ok since I’m not a massive dessert fan and the price of dessert is pretty hefty anyway. Besides, if you have Cheesecake as a starter it’s not a dessert, right? NO!
I don’t drink much. Again the wallet is being taken care of here. The hangover too, or rather, lack thereof.
I don’t dwell too much. What’s the point in wondering about what ifs and what could have been? Dwelling on something will only ever make sense if you have a time machine. Pick yourself up and move on. I did that today. Cycled in and forget my wallet and instead of dwelling on it I went to my wife (kind of like a little annoyed baby) and now we’re doing lunch.
I don’t do fizzy. No Coca-Cola. No Fanta. No Club Orange. No Red Bull. No Boost. No sugary carbonated drinks. They may taste nice but they ruin you, in many ways. Consider this: I use Coca Cola to unclog drains. Metal drains. Imagine what that does to your soft tissue.
I don’t curse. This is mostly for the benefit of my beautiful and wonderful daughter. It will be football boots this and cupid stunts that but I will endeavour to trap the words and my lips for fear of an embarrassing shopping trip full of expletives.
So there, there are 4 things I don’t do. It’s a paradigm shifting change. Give it a go. Find some things you don’t like and don’t do them. Everybody has them, the annoying habits and routines they don’t like. Empower yourself, don’t do it!

What’s your Fuel?

I drive two cars regularly, one an unleaded family wagon and one a diesel hatchback with its routes stretching back to people wagons of old (the less said about that the better, don’t mention the war and all).

Everytime I fill them up I’m fairly fastidious to not mix up the ingredients. For a diesel engine putting unleaded in may not be the end of the world, but the other way another would be a system killing disaster. I’m careful with that. As any good vehicle owner is. I have seen people mess this very basic thing up and for them I wonder how they put their socks on by themselves.

The other day I had a can of red bull and I found myself wondering what the flip (I have a kid now, I can’t curse, well not openly anyway) I was doing. I mean yeah, I was tired, but then I thought about it. Why not just get tea or coffee? Why put that heart palpation causing crap eh, stuff, into my body. I’m careful with my cars, but not myself, that seems sorta stupid really.

Now I’m no Chuck Norris but it seems that since my daughter came along I am way more concerned about what happens to myself. So that’s what got me thinking about that. Realistically an engine is only going to run as smoothly as it can with the right fuel. If you really need proof then fill up with the wrong fuel at the garage the next time you’re in, see how that goes.

So, what does all this mean and what the flip am I, eh, pooping on about? Well I’m going to try something over the next month and the wife will say I’m stealing her ideas. No fast food. No fizzy drinks. No processed meals. Lots of water. Lots of proper home cooking. One coffee a day.

I’m going to see how that goes and I’m going to judge it’s effects by the following areas;

  1. How do I feel?
  2. How do I look?
  3. How much money did I save?

That alone should be a fairly good indication of the effects of giving in to the marketing and buying the red bull.

I invite anyone who reads this to try the same thing and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

Good luck!

5 Reasons to Vote No

There’s a referendum coming up, just in case you didn’t know. The referendum concerns two issues:

  1. Should the age of a Presidential Candidate be lowered from 35 to 21 years of age and;
  2. Should marriage be extended equally to all persons regardless of sex.

The second one, as you would imagine, is gathering more interest. What with it concerning all people having equal rights and all. Here are 5 reasons you should vote No on number 2, maybe even number 1.

  1. You like things just the way they are: Change, why would you change anything at all? You like things the way they are. Everything in its place. Change is scary after all. The fact is that if this passes and we as a country vote Yes then Ireland will slip off the shelf and plunge into the Atlantic…FACT!
  2. Standards of Weddings: If we allow everyone to have equal rights and marry who they love then the fact is that the LGBT community will probably set the standard for Weddings impossibly high. There will be colours and themes that the average Irish man could never dream of or indeed live up to. Look at Panti Bliss for example. That chick knows how to throw a party. Imagine that. Shindigs like the country has never seen before.
  3. Increase in Tourism: Ireland voting No in this referendum will send a clear signal to the world that we are still that country which likes to segregate people, push people to the fringes of society and deny equality to all. We could see an increase in visitors from groups such as the Neo-Nazis, the KKK and perhaps even The Westboro Baptist Church.
  4. Parenting: Voting yes in this referendum might give LGBT people more power to have, raise, adopt and love children of their very own. Two people of the same sex raising a child couldn’t possibly do a good job of that. Never before in human history have we seen two people of the same sex raising a child. Nope, never. It would be a disaster. Like a Mother helping her Daughter raise her child or a Father giving advice to his Son. Imagine a child having two loving Mothers or two adoring Fathers? Awful stuff altogether.
  5. You’re a moron: That’s right. You should definitely vote No if you are a moron. If you believe it is absolutely paramount to deny equality to all people then you should vote no. If you believe that not all people deserve happiness then vote no. If you believe you have the right to interfere in other peoples decisions and who they can marry then vote no.

Ireland is on the verge of change right now. We have some very draconian traditions and laws which quite simply have no place in the modern world. Love is one of those things you don’t choose, it just happens. To live in a country where you are made to feel like a second class citizen because you are denied a basic right afforded to others must be heart breaking and utterly demoralising.

I became a father recently. My little girl is on the verge of turning 6 months old. I want nothing but happiness for her in her future. If she grows up and decides that she would like to marry the love of her life then I hope she can do so without impediment. It shouldn’t matter if that person is a male or a female, it should only matter that she loves them and that they love her.

I’ll be voting Yes in this election. My generation and the generations before me still refer to people as straight people, gay people, lesbian people, transgender people and bisexual people. Maybe a yes vote will take us one step closer to my Daughters generation just having people. One big group of happy people.

The Sugar Loaf

Like hill walking and hiking but haven’t got a full day to throw at it? Then The Sugar Loaf in County Wicklow is ideal for you (If you live nearby that is).

The Sugar Loaf is a quick climb, not necessarily easy, but quick. It suits all fitness levels. Beginners, intermediates and advanced climbers all enjoy this hike and the views it offers from the peak. Don’t forget to pack a camera and a bit of lunch for the top.

Another benefit of The Sugar Loaf is that you can try out your gear in a controlled environment where you’re not stuck in the wilds of nature. For instance, if you’ve bought a new jacket/pants/boots and you want to check out if they will actually protect you against the elements then this kind of hike may be the place to see if they actually can keep the wind and rain out.

There are many places from where you can start your climb. However, if you are looking to get in a quick hike then I would recommend parking at the car park on the L1031 just off the R755 road to Glendalough. As per usual, don’t leave anything in the car. During peak times (weekends, school holidays etc) the car park will fill up, so try and get there early. If it’s full then exercise patience, there is a good rotation of hill walkers and a space will open up quickly.

There are a few different routes you can take up to the top. Up the front is full of loose shale, so is more challenging. The sides are more hands on and full of rocks to get over.

Where to park and where to climb.
Where to park and where to climb.

The left route as you’re walking up is more straightforward, while the route to your right offers a bit more of a challenge. Whichever route you choose just watch your step. Plenty of bones have been broken on this climb when people stopped paying attention. Yes, it’s a small hike, but that doesn’t mean the wind, the elements or the rocks won’t knock you on your ass.

Once you get to the top all the effort is worth it. The views stretching up and down the coast are breathtaking. You’ll also get to see Dublin and Wicklow from an outstanding perspective. On a good day you may even see down to Wexford and as far as Meath. Look away from the Irish Sea and you’ll see the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, your next step.

Where will you be in 5 years?

This is a question that runs alongside “Tell me your Faults”. Although this one makes a bit more sense. It shows thought and foresight. Have you thought about where you’ll be in 5 years time?

Really though, it’s a rabbit hole of a question, it could go anywhere! It takes on many different connotations as well. Where do you realistically see yourself in 5 years? Where would you like to be in 5 years? If you could be doing anything in 5 years, what would it be? So really, when the question is asked in an interview what are they asking? Do they want the glib response of “busting my ass for you making you more money”? Do they want you to burst out, rip the tie off and exclaim “I’ll be running a bar on a hidden island in Thailand!”. No. No, I don’t think it’s that second one.

So what do you do? Well, sitting back, taking your time and considering your answer is a good start. There’s no universally correct answer to this question. Unfortunately you’ll have to just base it on how the interview is going. Is it a job you could see yourself turning it into a career? If yes, say it. If not, say something you would like to move towards. Whatever you say try and avoid saying “not working here, I’ll move on as quickly as possible actually!”. Unless, ya know, you really don’t want the job, then say that.

The manner in which you answer that question will reflect on the potential investment that the people in front of you are considering placing in your employment. Remember, there are human beings on the other side of the table, so try and be honest without appearing to be insincere or ridiculous.

So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?!

Hiking Tips

I like the auld bit of hiking. The whole thing of getting outdoors and pushing yourself. It’s a great mix of nature and exercise. When you’re doing it you’ll often see other hill-walkers and climbers and you’ll exchange a pleasant hello and maybe a bit of banter. Then you encounter the people who don’t do it as much and you’d almost have to pay them to talk to you.

The first group are grand. They’re friendly and welcoming and usually share the same interests. Mainly being the love of getting out. They’ll also have a common look about them. They’ve got the gear and they genuinely look happy about being out. If you’re planning on getting into hill-walking or climbing the bigger mountains there are a couple of things you should put on a checklist;

  • Clothing: Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Head to any of the many outdoors shops around Ireland and you’re sure to pick up proper pants, t-shirts, jumpers, jackets and socks. They’ll make a big difference to your morale and indeed your safety. In winter time and in cooler weather warm and appropriate clothing could be the difference between a successful climb and an accident. Hats, gloves, scarves should all be in your bag. Bring spares as well. Spare socks and tops are the big ones, but try fit some spare pants in there too.
  • Footwear: Invest in decent boots. Decent boots will pay dividends in protecting your feet and keeping you steady on the rocks. Don’t just buy the cheapest or indeed the most expensive pair. Try them on, see if they support your ankle and the sole of your foot. These two things will be most likely to bother you on a hike. Also, try and make sure they’re waterproof. Mountains and hills tend to have rivers, bogs, large ponds. Soggy socks will ruin your day. Gators are handy too.
  • Equipment: Walking poles are extremely handy. Especially on windy days and on longer hikes. They are very effective in helping you climb and keep your balance. Know how to use them. When you should keep them shorter and when they should be longer. They’ll also make for handy splints if you or one of your party hurts something in a fall or slip. Bring a compass and map and do your best to keep orientated on your hike. Electronic GPS devices are cool and all but can be absolutely useless. Try and do a bit of research on your route as well. Do not rely on your phone for anything but calling for help.
  • First Aid: Bring a basic first aid kit. Plasters, scissors, bandages, that kind of thing. You may not need them but somebody else who is injured may need them. They weigh very little so why not bring them.
  • Supplies: Food and water are the big ones, especially the liquids part. For the longer hikes you will sweat and need hydration so try bring between 1.5 and 3 litres of water. Some lucozade can also be a good pick me up. Soft drinks though are mostly useless and work against your energy levels and hydration. Brings snacks and a main snack for when you reach your peak. Fruit, sandwiches, tins of tuna are all good choices. A hot drink in a flask can also boost you on the trip. Toilet paper. Bring toilet paper. You never know when you’ll need it, but surely it’s one of those things you’d rather not miss having.
  • Talk: Tell people where you’re going and roughly how long you’ll be. That way if you get injured or stranded you shouldn’t be missing for too long. If you’re driving try not to hide your car when you park it, that way people will have a good indication as to where you started.
  • Bag: why bring all that nice dry stuff and then bring a bag that will soak up the water like a sponge. A good waterproof bag will cost you between €30-€50 and will come with a cover for when (WHEN) it rains. Try go for a 33/35 litre bag, they’re the perfect size. Lots of places to put all your stuff.
  • The Weather: The weather rules, you will not beat it. Look at the forecast. If it’s not too bad you’re good to go. If it’s to be particularly poor then maybe choose a different hike or less challenging route.
  • Plan: Have a plan (at least a rough one). Know where you’re going, what to expect, when the sun goes down, the basics really. Plan to bring what you need. Don’t go crazy though, there’s no point lugging a massive pack around if you’re only out for a relaxing hike.

The last time I went hiking with a small group there was a wind warning in effect and on a mountain or a hill you really feel that. I was fine. I was snug in my ski pants, jacket and 2 layers underneath with my hat, gloves and scarf. I was astounded and shocked by the people I saw coming up as I headed back down, the second group of people you encounter on days out. There was one group of ladies with no jacket between them all wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants with flat runners. It was a recipe for disaster and on the way down I could hear it in them.

One lady complained that she couldn’t feel her hands and nearly started crying. I don’t blame her. As she was saying that her friends where leaving her there. Which was in particularly poor form as the one lady with a small bottle of water had passed me already. They were clearly not prepared for the day that was in it and the climb ahead. I also once encountered two hikers who had relied on their GPS, which failed them. They went a long way in the wrong direction. Luckily for them it wasn’t too late to correct their mistake.

In not preparing in even the slightest way they were putting themselves at risk. In doing that they were putting others in harms way. If we’ve seen anything over the past few months it is that there is a network of brave volunteers out there who are prepared and ready to go rescue and help people who get stuck or injured. Yes, sometimes the shit just hits the fan and you need to get help. However, I can’t help but get the feeling that they wouldn’t have to go out so much if people just got the basics right.

So…KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Plan ahead and try avoid the hassle of making the news. Try not to go beyond your abilities. Over time you will be able to do more, but take it easy. Most importantly, get out there and enjoy yourself. Take in the fresh air, the sights and the relaxing feeling that comes with putting your boots on the ground.

Please do share your own tips in the comments below. What would you add in?