Grey Matter

Grey Matter

For what it’s worth,
I can’t think of anything more vibrant,
More techni-coloured, spirit-soaring, smile-inducing and bright, than
Freeing yourself from the box-room cosy complex
That nothing you do will ever amount to anything.

Because it’s the easiest thing in the world
To do nothing.
It’s the easiest thing in the world
To let the greyness win.
Surrendering. Submitting.
Settling for a semi-faded filter,
When all your life your soul chose bold.

Deserving something, should not be a question.
Looking to others for an answer, losing ourselves to find
A pre-determined one?
No.
You have the answer already.
The greyness comes along to fool you.
Fight it. Go and do the thing
You have convinced yourself nobody will notice.
Because you’re right –
Nobody will notice.
The mental struggle it takes –
To put on socks.
The wide-eyed forehead-creasing terror
Of answering the phone
“HELLO? YES THIS IS HER.”

…and gradually, you smile.
Connection. Communication.
That’s what kills the greyness.
The belief that despite your reservations
And pale skin
And ginger hair
And natural disposition to think it doesn’t matter anyway
 – The colours do suit you after all.

Hati Hati.

It’s funny.
There’s a sliver of glass wedged in the ball of my foot,
But that’s not why I’m upset.
Physical restrictions have rarely prevented me from moving forwards.
Touching wood, I steady my gaze.
I wipe the windows to my world, the glass that is nowadays so easily shattered.
Even paradise has its monsoon, and today has been dense.

A mother calls out to her son over the squawking, cooing, twittering and ticking sounds of this Indonesian afternoon,
The French words as alien to me as banana leaves and outdoor showers.
A weekend of waning energy, one 6am sunrise from missing it entirely.
A break. A rest.
A language barrier higher than the volcano summitted just last week.

“Hati-hati” – Watch your heart.
Wait.

All in good time.

Baile Átha Cliath

A middle aged woman shamelessly pouts for a selfie
 As she sits alone outside Butler’s;
 A fleeting insight into the Dublin of today,
 Broken buskers saluting wealthy suits and the hurried.

The invisible homeless.
 The ghosts who wander into coffee shops, where they’re sure they lost a euro,
 while college students scrounge to buy a pint for 6.
 A winding path where the people flow like veins
 Pulsing through the streets that never change.

It is the people who keep the city.
 The people, the flow;
 The unreliable bus service disrupting scheduled meals,
 Low blood sugars fueling angry drivers, and
 A haste to get everywhere before the next shower bursts.

The infectious desire to travel,
 As tourists stare in awe at doors you’ve never noticed before,
 Experiencing your city as a pin on a map
 -Where you’ve never pinned it at all.

Rooftops between the canal and the river;
 A refuge from the Georgian mansions that remain
 Stubborn in their depth, reluctant to relate to the redbrick-terraced hipsters
 That craftily have cycled their way to the forefront of the ‘culture’.

You jaywalk; a term on erasmus from America as we try it out across O’Connell bridge,
 The space between the Heineken building and the island in the middle a no-man’s land as you feel you’re
 Traversing the centre of Ireland.

The centre of my world;
 For up until today it is all I have known.
 A metal spike with no function seeing all
 While you see yourself in it’s base, longing in vain to catch a glimpse from the top,
 To be privy to a view it has been constructed to prevent.

All too soon I will be gone;
 Shunning the gloom of Winter in Dublin,
 Missing only the familiar; I will acclimatize again.
 To write, to learn, to build understanding –
 To glean from another city the self this one has given me.

“Sean – ‘Nótions'”

Sceolán na mara
Ag léimt ar bhád
Ag glacadh na saoirse
Atá uainn ar fad

Ní suaimhneach nó stuamach,
Cuimhnítear a fhréamh,
An t-aer uilig lachtach,
Le focail nár thréig

Le teanga is tonnta,
Mór-thimpeall is tríd,
An t-aistear is faide,
Dá bfheicfid ariamh,

Céad bliain ar aghaidh
Is cuid eile le teacht
An sceolán a lean
Boladh beatha amach

Thar ‘oceans’, thar sáile,
‘Nós na nglúinte sin romhainn,
Ach ‘notions’ mar chúis leis,
An dúil faoi lánseol.

An dúchas níos dlúithe
Nuair nach mbrúitear é,
An nádúr i dtaisce,
Á chosaint ón gcé

Nach linne an t-uisce?
Nach linne an lae?
Cé eile a scaipfidh
An teanga, an scéal

Ná sceolán ar sheachran
Ar thalamh nár sheas
A leithéid ariamh ar
-ní bheidh sé ar ais.

‘My Super Sweet’ 1916

“My Super Sweet 1916”

A game of ‘who doth dare
To step upon streets guns have hounded,
Never have I felt
More isolated yet surrounded.

Language. Country. My own self;
It all froze on the line.
Irish girl in Ho Chi Minh’;
A headline of our Times;

Drawing stares and looks as pale skin
Took aback a driver,
Walking out, her independence
Bursting from inside her.

An extra vehicle with feet
And legs instead of wheels,
We steered away and took our land
Through crossfires and fields

From those who didn’t understand;
Confused, misheard inflections,
A language provides insight,
Understanding, and connection.

It’s within all our chemistry;
To share and seek direction,
But whatever way you look at it;
No leader sells perfection.

Without precursors, bloodtests, or a
Steady flow of income,
The land we sought, remained the same
Held us, as we held ransom.

But a bullet’s only bloody
if it reaches where it’s aimed,
And Sunday may be sunny still
if we just played the game,

Click’ and ‘click’, those fifty years
Passed by in echoed rounds,
Another decade, maybe five,
Made heroes of the hounds

A template for the ‘work-from-home
Convenience of now,
Potential seen as fact and not
The questionable ‘how’?

Determined as the vehicles
That race East Asian roads,
Our little country rebuilt what
A constant fear erodes.

Rationing what few reserves
Remained; ‘ár lá, ár saoirse’,
As hope became a daily bread
We preserved faith and reason

Grand old Dukes and Earls and Leaders
Marched their men to fight,
While clerks and tailors crossed-out tactics
Threefold overnight;

A world within a paling land,
A word replaced- a meaning;
Names of those we lost are still
Proclaimed on banners streaming.

One hundred years,
One hundred anniversaries of might;
One hundred times,
One might have bowed to gold way out of sight,

And as for me, I’m just relieved,
I’ve reached the other side;
My language and my country
Safe, to spread further our pride.

Friday

A middle aged woman shamelessly pouts for a selfie
As she sits alone outside Butler’s;
A fleeting insight into the Dublin of today,
Broken buskers saluting wealthy suits and the hurried.

The invisible homeless.
The ghosts who wander into coffee shops, where they’re sure they lost a euro, while college students scrounge to buy a pint for 6.
A winding path where the people flow like veins
Pulsing through the streets that never change.

It is the people who keep the city.
The people, the flow;
The unreliable bus service disrupting scheduled meals,
Low blood sugars fueling angry drivers, and
A haste to get everywhere before the next shower bursts.

The infectious desire to travel,
As tourists stare in awe at doors you’ve never noticed before,
Experiencing your city as a pin on a map
-Where you’ve never pinned it at all.

Rooftops between the canal and the river;
A refuge from the Georgian mansions that remain
Stubborn in their depth, reluctant to relate to the redbrick-terraced hipsters
That craftily have cycled their way to the forefront of the ‘culture’.

 You jaywalk; a term on erasmus from America as we try it out across O’Connell bridge,
The space between the Heineken building and the island in the middle a no-man’s land as you feel you’re
Traversing the centre of Ireland.

 The centre of my world;
For up until today it is all I have known.
A metal spike with no function seeing all
While you see yourself in it’s base, longing in vain to catch a glimpse from the top,
To be privy to a view it has been constructed to prevent.

 All too soon I will be gone;
Shunning the gloom of Winter in Dublin,
Missing only the familiar; I will acclimatize again.
To write, to learn, to build understanding –
To glean from another city the self this one has given me.

I Saw A Selection Box in Tesco Today

We’re in the late afternoon of the year,
Rush hour is greying,
The sun’s rays paling like the ever more frequent stray hairs my Mum used to Have me remove;
An insult to some,
But in this season they give way to truer hues.

Even if the frost comes early;
Ski-socks over leggings and my grandmother’s knitting needles working overtime.

Even if the locks become locked in place,
Intermittent as they are in silent segregation of the canal;
Slippery gateways to the other side.

Even if the cold bites hard,
Eating away at the flesh of a forgotten glove;
A harsh reminder that our bodies are not in fact made of steel.

Even if the streets hum with the deafness and subtlety of
The beginnings of a bushfire,
Black ice creeping it’s lethal way under the wheels of shivering passengers.

Even with this, I know for sure;

It won’t be as cold as it was last Winter.

I Didn’t Get A Picture of the Sea Today…

I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
The late Autumn afternoon sun
Glistening on the ridges of the jetstream

 Reluctant to commit any more lines to memory,
Just in case they’d escape me at the source of a pen.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
You’ll just have to take my word,
That the child who’s footprints I followed

Around the rocks as they chased a small dog
Saw the sun higher in the sky than I ever remember it.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
The tenants of thoughts in my head
Refusing to set a timer on the tide of nature’s madness

Finding balance in knowing herself,
Listening to her own ebb and flow and accepting depletion.

 I didn’t get a picture of the sea today,
My strength now contesting that of it’s depth,
A lesson in the way things are and haven’t always been

Meeting the lack of sense with a stubborn persistence
That takes sailors and travellers alike from A to Z.

 I didn’t take a picture of the sea today,
For I have taken enough in my time,
Used and abused the kindest of hands and offers of affection

 My duty now being to give and provide;
Return what’s been lost and salvage what never was let be.

5 Questions That Will Bring You Back to This Moment (and Help You Greet Yourself as an Old Friend)

5 Questions That Will Bring You Back to This Moment (and Help To Greet Yourself as an Old Friend)

‘The time will come when,
With elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

– Love after Love, Derek Walcott

“Come to greet yourself”, they say at the beginning of any good yoga, meditation, or mindfulness practice. Say hello. Greet your mind and body as you would that of a stranger. Consider yourself with the curiosity you would any new aquaintance. Who are you? What kind of books do you like? What’s your favourite food? Are you hungry?

 I’ve recently found taking these steps a very good approach to calming nerves and anxiety, and in coming to terms with issues that often present as larger than they really prove to be. By greeting ourselves in the moment and as a new person we are directly coming into contact with, our current mind and body are brought back to the forefront of our consciousness, and awareness is directed back into the present moment, as opposed to roaming around somewhere inbetween the regretful margharita of last night and the hazy uncertainty of tomorrow’s meeting.

When I ask myself these questions, I try to start at the beginning, and to maintain an open mind right the way through.

  1. Hello…How are you today?’ – this should rarely be as simple as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ answer. Try to elaborate, and really dig deep into your emotional and spiritual state of the given moment.
  2. What is it that you’re currently struggling with/worried about/working on?’ – Again, honesty is key. Be honest and open with yourself, just as you would appreciate the honesty and openness of a friend in need divulging their problems to you. Frivolity should not be an issue. You would not belittle another’s struggles, so why do it to yourself?

             Now sit with that. Sit with yourself, and with your struggle, be it an ill-fitting new pair of shoes or a pending medical examination. Sit side-by-side like two old school chums. Now dig deeper.

  1. How are you going to ease this struggle? – Are there any immediate solutions available to you? If so, what are they? If not, what precautions or procedures do you need to put in place in order to ease your discomfort? If this requires work or effort on your own part, are you willing to undertake it?
  2. Is it inside of or outside of your control? – So often we concern ourselves with issues and trying to overcome struggles that are ultimately completely outside of our own control. Identifying our stance in relation to these issues is key to overcoming the anxiety and worries that may surround them, and helps maintain an objective mindset when it comes to dealing with others.
  3. Can you do anything to change it right now? – If the issue is a worry concerning something which has either already happened, or not even come to pass yet, there is not a lot that can be done right now to solve it, and so this would signify that it is beyond your control. This thought alone should ease the persistance and immediacy of it, and allow you to sit in the moment, accepting now for what it is. If there is no immediate solution, this thought, worry, or preoccupation is not serving you in the slightest. In fact it is hindering your current moment, your current life. It’s hindering your ability to exist right now, and to be part of the environment around you. In this situation, the best thing to do, is to let it go.

But what if you can’t?

If you can, if you suddenly remember you have an emergency stash of plasters in your bag with which you can remedy the painful heel-cutting shoe, then by all means, do so. If however, like most of us, you would not generally ever think so far ahead as to pack for this kind of situation, you simple have to make do, and sit with the discomfort until such a time arises when you can fix it. It may well be that it’s the sort of issue you will never be in a position to control. If this is the case, then sitting with it is all the more important, to ensure it doesn’t become locked away and stifled amongst the waste-chute contents of the smaller day-to-day problems. Sitting with it and considering it from your current persepective is the most effective way to ease anxiety in the moment, and really to feel your feelings. They are there for a reason. Allowing them to flow freely through you like the air your breathe comes from recognising them when they occur, and accepting their presence, even if the reason or cause behind them may seem unimportant – if it has resulted in the developemt of a certain emotion or feeling, it is most certainly not. Identifying struggles and sitting with them in all their limiting and hindering glory is all part of accepting who we are, and ultimately coming to be comfortable sitting alone with ourselves.

These questions are things I find myself needing to ask myself on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. They help me return to the moment, return to where and who I am in that very minute, and realise that I am nowhere else, and cannot change the fact that I am where I am. It’s a grounding and humbling thought process, that takes careful practice and active engagement to succeed in, yet is so rewarding when dealt with properly.

I’ve always found I revert to a very polite and external version of myself when placed in a situation involving new people and introductions, and in doing so I present elements of myself I wish people to recognise or find attractive. We all do this. In others, we accept immediately what they present us with, a shaking of their hand or other form of salutation allowing us a brief interaction, which we generally accept as it is. If a person is sad, distressed, jovial, or energetic, we generally pick up on this vibe during our brief encounter, and take that for what it is also. Greeting myself every morning in this sense reminds me to accept my own mind, body, spiritual and emotional state for what it is at the time, and allows me to begin to take steps to overcome any issues or struggles I may be presented with that particular day. It requires a constant awareness and ability to pull back and listen to myself, yet it does not take long for the practice to become a habit.

Walcott’s poem is a testament to the importance of being able to sit with oneself in comfort as opposed to losing our energies and emotions getting caught up in worrying about something or someone else. To nourish our bodies we must eat well and regularly, and to nourish our minds we must practice a mindful acceptance of that which is, being kind to ourselves and rejoicing in the time and talents with which we have been afforded. It’s been predicted and prophesized many times that the sun will eventually burn out and cease to support life on earth. And so we are so lucky to have this time, this short handful years, even if it eventually proves to have meant little in the grand scheme of things, we are privelged to have this chance to experience the sun and it’s potential. If the world were to end tomorrow I want to be able to look upon it and say;
‘Yes, there’s the Earth. I lived there’.
Right now all I can do is embrace it for what it is and enjoy the warmth of existing here as a result of the sun’s light. Feasting on my own life and existance feels so good after prolonged undernourishment, and lack of acceptance for what and who I am. I almost feel I owe it to the sun and to those around me to be kind to myself and develop to the best of my potential -after all, it’s exactly what I’d want for and advise any friend to do.