When Sandra Kim, Tutor, Healing from Toxic Whiteness recommended reading Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney-Lopez, I did.
This, catapulted me onto an unexpected path.
When Sir Paul Collier recommended reading The Better Angels of Our Nature; Why Violence Has Declined by Dr. Steven Pinker, I did. And recognising it as an epic piece of research and work, I found I was uneasy about its absolutist tone. Wreaking of white male. When I turned my head back, I saw the erasure of women from history, art and religion. When I stood still, I saw the obliteration of Palestine off maps. Criminalising its people for daring to write their own history. I saw Prime Ministers deleting spoken words from record. So I questioned how violence could be measured against that which is unseen. Unacknowledged. But.
This, sharply shifted my focus on violence from personal to panoramic.
When I attained my Certificate in Understanding Economic Development, I sang to an empty space With a rebel yell, she cried more, more, more [Billy Idol]
This, led me to find The Quarterly Journal of Economics. [And I went from wow to irate. For the time it took me to travel the distance to find this knowledge]. In turn, casting new shades of understanding on the Abacus Scandal [when Goldman Sachs began trading against its own clients - a financial instrument designed by a woman, I hasten to add]. A conduct easily equated to how the Irish Government traded against its own citizens with Vulture Funds. The violence of Professional Barbarians.
This pushed me forward to register for Human Rights; The Rights of Refugees [presented by Amnesty International]. The domino effect compelling me to add another course, Understanding and Analysing Public Policy.
When the Center for Media Justice announced Digital Security Training, I jumped at the opportunity to grow my arsenal.
When I received the letter from the Office of the Ombudsman upholding my complaint against the Department of Social Protection, it reminded me that being heard felt like soft rain falling on my face.
When the letter from the Department of Social Protection arrived, apologizing to me for the debacle that had occurred last year and the subsequent anguish caused, together with an assurance that an education piece would ensure that there would be no repeat for others, I felt a deep appreciation for this acknowledgment.
This, served to highlight the importance of everyday activism.
When an email arrived from Lourda, announcing that the 2017 Mayo Pink Cycle, in aid of Breast Cancer Research, was open for registration, I went to delete it. The level of fitness I had worked so hard to achieve was effectively gone. The weight climbing unassisted. In part, a result of prolonged chronic stress layered onto my diagnosis of Clinical Depression. I registered.
This, woke a dormant fury inside me towards the Barbarians.
I needed comfort from a life form that knew. I watched Finding Traction. I listened to podcasts of interviews with her. Nikki Kimball. Ultramarathon Champion. On winning the Mont Blanc Ultra, her male counterpart appeared on the front of seven newspapers – Nikki was given an inset in one, reading, that women had also participated and she won for her group. A woman who once said “I don’t get recognition because I happen to be walking around this earth with a set of tubes instead of a dick”.
[a state of being written in stone. Literally. In c 2400 BC. The Enmetena & Urukagina Cones state that if a woman speaks out of turn her teeth will be smashed out with a brick]
I’m not a champion. But Nikki is open about her battle with Major Depression. She understands the influence hell and misogyny has on achieving goals.
When I slipped on my Merrell Barefoot running shoes, I took off into the night, a true nyctophile, my fat shaking like a plate of jelly sitting on spin cycle, sweating like a hog over a spit, my heart detonating itself out of my chest - and for a split second I thought I might take flight.
This experience caused me to sing And I dream I'm an eagle/And I dream I can spread my wings/
Flying high, high, I'm a bird in the sky [Abba] for the following two days.
When I near the completion of my art project, Birthing Woman, a tribute to Alexandra Kollontai, Christine de Pisan, Hildegard Von Bingen, Murasaki Shikibu, Nur Jahan, Olympes de Gouges, Radclyffe Hall, Empress Wu and the women of the Kenyan Maasai, I tread the stairs in the middle of the night, just to look at her again. In the stillness I decided to enter new territory. For me. To submit her to competition. International.
This first made me feel like Zena the Warrior on Valium.
When my bike skid and my knee hit the concrete with full force I began shaking uncontrollably, my eyes drowning with pain. I stood and said to God fuck this for a game of soldiers and then remounted and continued training. When I got home, I applied a poultice of Witch Hazel and consumed a large number of Tumeric capsules. Then bowed to the Witches and Horses, in gratitude.
When my memoir departed for proofreading, I thanked the elves in my head for the dent I have made in the second book. A collection of new essays. I am filled with a new vigour as I begin to excavate my unburied political self, making new shapes in the dirt.
When I stood, holding my bike at the start line of the Mayo Pink Cycle, the buzz the music the voices over the loudspeakers, the photographer donning a Grab-A-Pussy hat, I smiled without thinking.
When I reached the first hill it was not technical brilliance that prevented me from getting off my bike, but pure unadulterated stubbornness. The payoff the other side. I freewheeled down the hill, lowering my head to the handle bars to pick up speed. My ten year old self flying against the wind. I laughed out loud and thought - I am One Against the Wind.
When I crossed the 51km finish line I felt like I had composed a bar for the Symphony of Success. Grinning stupidly, I thought next year I’ll be back to 111km.
When the lovely young woman gave me my medal, I felt like a visible member of humanity, for the first time in almost three years.
When I began placing my bike onto the car rack, I had a thought. Maybe I’ll be ready for the Ennis Sprint Triathlon in July. Maybe I’ll take my tent and pitch it in Carrigaholt where I can watch the Whales and Dolphins. Maybe I’ll read poetry by the campfire. Maybe I will.
I opened the door and sat into the driver seat. On my divinely sore arse.
Just in time to walk from Darkness into Light. In aid of Pieta House.
The beginning of Green Ribbon month.
When soldiers like me, gather in public spaces to fight, with stories, with words, with pain, the stigma of mental illness. Mental shifts. Mental crisis. Mental trauma.
When we redefine normal. Redefine crazy.
With Righteous Anger I say, Rest In Peace, Dara Quigley.
This, stirs up the fire. Again.
If you need to talk, contact:
Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (suicide, self-harm)
Samaritans 116 123 or email email@example.com
Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)