Hey, I’m still here

It’s been a while, but I made it explicitly clear in my last post that I wasn’t going to make any promises about more or regular posting – I said I would post when I post – so, here you go. A post, as not promised, and perfectly timed for no particular time.

How are you doing? Just checking in, like everyone is right now. Naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot – again, like most at the moment. (It probably isn’t very journalistically honest or accurate for me to make these generalisations, but I trust you’ll take it in the colloquially loose way that I intend for it). WordPress updated and so my font is different to the one it used to be when drafting posts. I like this one. It has an old-school, typewriter feel to it, and is slim, which I like in my words. I’m not one for bolding. Italics, yes, I do love a nicely placed italic text, but I’m not a huge lover of the bold text, at least in the literal sense. Bold words – yes. Bold text – meh.

Do you have a daily routine? Have you fallen into one, or was it consciously and intently laid out by you, for you, during shelter-at-home? Either way, I hope you’re happy with it and that it provides you with a healthy mentality of structure and daily ritual. If you don’t have a routine, I hope you are thoroughly enjoying not having one and that the freedom of each hour of each day to do with as you wish in the moment provides for you a sense of excitement about all the little things you do do, whenever it possesses you to do them.

I took this picture on one of my evening strolls. This street is Judah, and the tracks are those of the N Muni line that runs from Ocean Beach to the Ball Park and Caltrain. It’s off-centre, needs to be tilted slightly, but the colours are gorgeous, the ombre sky created by the angle of the setting sun so ideally centred on the point in the horizon where the two streets converge – it will do. Evening strolls have slowly, after much should-I-shouldn’t-I mental deliberation and risk considerations, become part of my daily routine. I maintain, at the very least, 6ft distance from the few people I do pass by and stick to the quieter streets – I’m feeling so very grateful for the neighbourhood I live in in San Francisco; the sunset is known for it’s suburban, beach-town vibes which is just what my soul needs, it being a perk that social distancing is relatively easy here, at least easier than other cities, and other parts of this city.

I’ve been reading a lot. Have you? What have you been reading? I would like all the recommendations. There are two books I read recently, two little books, in which I found such welcome comfort and powerful perspective that has really helped me to hone some ease and serenity during all of this. One was David Foster Wallace’s This is Water; a delightful little book made up of snippets from a commencement speech given by David to students at Kenyon College in May 2005. It takes, literally, twenty minutes or so to read – I recommend it to any and everyone. The other little book was Epictetus’ A Manual for Living. Again, a short but profound read; I want to share some of Epictetus’ messages here in the hopes that they will be welcome sources of wordy comfort for some of you, too.

In speaking with a friend recently I was explaining how it’s difficult not to talk about the very thing we’re all probably so tired of and anxious and worried and bombarded and overwhelmed and frustrated about talking about right now. We’re all doing what we can to take our minds off a very heavy context, which can be difficult, when that context is so very heavy and literally global – it is touching, affecting, and happening to absolutely everyone. So, while these notes on the comforting words I’ve read recently are particularly poignant and helpful and applicable to the current situation we all as humans of a humanity are in right now, they can be honed into our approaches to so many different things that we do and will encounter in our lives, during and after this shelter-at-home when we will press resume on a life that will have catapulted into an entirely changed context, a shift in functioning and atmosphere that we will all need to adjust to and once again settle back into, changed.

In A Manual for Living, Epictetus says,

“When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

It sounds simplistic to say that you cannot change what is happening, or what has happened, but when you really truly understand this it is a huge weight off your shoulders, a heaviness in your mind being eased and relieved. No amount of thinking, pondering, worrying, fretting, is going to change what has happened or what is happening, so let it go. What you can control, however, is how you deal with what is happening. We all must figure out our own ways, the ways that work best for us, the ways that allow us to go on with grace and a sense of calm acceptance and optimism for the relief that will come, eventually. This too, shall pass.

“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

Things are what they are; it is what it is.

So, while…

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, … we can always choose how we respond to them.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

We’re all choosing our own ways. Some are reading, some are writing; some are cooking, some are baking; some are working, some are not; some are working out, some are walking slowly; some are meditating and practicing yoga, others are napping with their children at nap time and doing their best to home-school; some are using their time to organise their belongings, clearing out cupboards and wardrobes and the attic, while others are using the time to clear out their minds, to decompress and digest all that has happened in their lives over the last few years, and while it is a necessary and enforced pause, it is a pause none the less. A healing. A re-set. A rejuvenation, A rest.

We will be going back. We will be pressing un-pause on the world and our lives. It may take some time, but we will be lifted back into the chaos of a once-again dizzyingly fast-paced world. We will suffer huge losses – the loss of lives, of livelihoods, of jobs – and much will need repairing and take time to be built back up to where it once was, but we will get there; we will get there, and further again.

“TAKE GREAT CARE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE WHILE THE WORLD LETS YOU HAVE IT, JUST AS A TRAVELER TAKES CARE OF A ROOM AT AN INN.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

Yours, Ciara D.

Journaling. 18/11/19

I haven’t published anything in a while, but I’ve been writing a lot. I write at least a little bit every day.

Moving from a small town in Ireland to San Francisco in the big US of A, not being in school anymore and having a full time job in an industry I never had any previous experience in, other than being the guest at a restaurant, has meant that I’ve had to really push myself out there, to meet new people and to establish myself as a part of a place I’m so new to. I feel like that major change in my life and my adjusting to it has had an affect on my writing. Not in a negative way; I’m still writing, and as long as I’m still writing, regardless of what or how, that’s the main thing. But my writing has become a lot more introverted. My journals are, of course, like most, for me and my eyes only.

Going for coffee in the morning before work, to sit by myself with a latte and write in my journal, has become a ritual of mine, and one I intend on continuing. It’s the little rituals we have and continue to practice that are the heartbeat of our everyday lives and the power and importance of them shouldn’t be underestimated. I know that everyone has their own thing, their own way of unravelling themselves, of winding down and grounding and bringing themselves into the present, to analyse where they’re at and how they’re feeling and what is going on in their lives right now, and I’ve come to realise the power that journaling can have in that sense.

Journaling not only allows you to release and let out what it is that is going on in your mind at any given point, it helps you to gain clarity over where you’re at and how you’re feeling while also holding yourself accountable for your day-to-day movements and progress.

I think it was important and beneficial for me to take a break from publishing for a few months, to just focus on writing for myself, but I’m starting to feel that bubble of restlessness again – I’m ready to start on writing projects outside of my personal journals. I’ve applied for some freelance writing positions and got myself a marketing internship with a start-up company that I’m really excited about working with and being a part of in the beginning stages of development.

That’s what’s up with me right now. Lots more posts, updates and other miscellaneous writing pieces to come.

Much love, Ciara D. x

Write letters to friends and family

A few days after moving to San Francisco, I wrote some letter to friends back home in Ireland. There was something about the whole process, physically writing out the words as opposed to just typing them in text, and knowing that it would be at least a week if not longer before my friends received the letters, as opposed to instantly over messenger or whatsapp or snapchat. I really enjoyed it, sending little cards or postcards or stickers that I’d found and thought would make a friend smile.

There’s something about writing. Beyond the therapeutic element, there is an intimacy, that goes deeper than any whatsapp call, than any text or snapchat message could ever go. You’re receiving written words that have been carefully thought through and pondered over and written out in a unique hand that nobody else but the person who you’re receiving the letter from could replicate, at least not exactly. A text message is a digital flick of generic type sent out into a virtual abyss, whereas a letter, words written on pen and paper, is the unique ink of genuine thought – there’s heart in the literally written word that cannot be captured in any other form of communication, not even face to face.

Often people write the things they wish they could say in person, or the things that they wanted to say but couldn’t. That’s why we have infamous love letters, sonnets, songs and poems, all things written that couldn’t be as well said. Sometimes, really a lot of the time, writing can tell us more than verbal speech itself. Even writing personal accounts of events or experiences can help us make sense of our own feelings about them.

I’ve written a few more letters and cards since the first batch. I’ve been sending bits back home to family and friends every once in a while, and I intend to keep it up. It’s a really nice thing, definitely for me, and, I hope, for those that receive the letters too.

Here’s just a little note about the importance of reaching out, about getting and staying in touch with the people that are important to you, whether they are in your life currently or were at some point before.

A Night at the orchestra

Last night I went to see Cork Concert Orchestra’s Mahler 5 concert in City Hall. I am a member of the orchestra, but sadly wasn’t able to take part in this concert due to college, work and personal commitments. It was strange sitting in the audience again – but what an absolute pleasure it was too. The concert was incredible – an astonishing performance by soloist Ioana Petcu playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor and Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64, and of course an impressive rendition of Gustav Maher’s Symphony No.5 by Cork Concert Orchestra themselves, under the conduction of David Brophy. I was not only taken away by the exceptional quality of the performance, and the music itself, but a good friend of mine led secound violins beautifully which added to my passionate enjoyment of the whole experience.

If you’re not into classical or orchestral music you’re probably thinking what the hell is this one rambling on about concertos and symphonies and all that. If you are into classical music, you probably know I’m holding back a little and only synopsising the experience. My love and appreciation for the beauty, importance and magnificence of classical music is a topic for another, much longer post.

I went to the concert with my Mum, and before it we went for dinner in a restaurant I had never been to but certainly hope to return to: ORSO, on Pembroke Street in Cork City. We both had the same main – falafel (the best I’ve ever had) displayed gorgeously on soft flatbread with sweet potato, a delicious sauce I do not know the name of, with slices of house pickle, carrot and something called dukkah (I had to google what this is – it’s a condiment consisting of a blend of herbs, spices and crushed nuts). It was exquisite – the kind of dish you eat slowly, to savour it, because it is that good. With our main we enjoyed a deliciously refreshing cocktail made up of gin, elderflower, lemon juice and Prosecco. For dessert we shared the chocolate board, or as I called it, chocolate lovers porn-on-a-plate (even though it was served, as the name suggests, on a very cool wooden board). There was a thick and velvety chocolate mouse toped with chilli flakes, a honey-comb chocolate brownie with a small dollop of cream and a raspberry compote, a baileys basket with what looked and tasted like whipped white chocolate topped with sliced strawberry, and last but not least a chocolate and peanut butter truffle incased in a chocolate coating. We enjoyed this accompanied by the obligatory after-meal Americano coffee. No, I did not take any pictures – I am not that level of blogger, yet.

Business card I picked up in ORSO – looks to be part of a small group of restaurants under the same owner(s).

I really needed a night like the one I had last night. When you’re going through a rough time, it is easy to retreat into yourself and push people away, or at least avoid being in company with anyone – and sometimes you need to do that, but not for too long. Let people be with you – you don’t need to talk if you don’t want to, even though that is a great thing to do if and when you can, with the right people – but even just surrounding yourself with the people that take you out of yourself for a while.. Call it a distraction if you like, because that is what it is, I guess, but distractions aren’t always a way of avoid something – sometimes, distractions serve as a way to ease the hurt, to ease the blow, of facing something. Allow yourself to hurt, and to be by yourself with that hurt when you feel you need to, but remember that you do not need to hurt alone all of the time.

Ciara D. 24/2/2019