It happens in stages, messy ones. It’s like the end of a relationship. You’ve gotten used to some things, but only when the end is nearing do you consciously acknowledge them—like, knowing if the car breaks down you can ring them and they’ll listen to you moan and then organise getting it fixed, or even the far away plans you made that kept you stitched together. When you finally acknowledge the ending, there is a flurry of action to validate the intention. The intention of moving on and finally, the looking back and seeing things you never saw before then.
The garment unstitched takes new form.
I opened the elongated box and looked inside. I remember wandering through Woodies, B & Q, Atlantic Homecare looking for the perfect Christmas Tree once I had made the decision not to buy natural ones anymore. It had taken two weekends of searching and bopping to the Jingle Bell Rock down the aisles, before I found it. It was called the Black Forest Tree with Snow. The crack in the base reminded me of Christmas Eve, 2014, when, filled with blind rage I picked it up, fully decorated and threw it outside.
When I telephoned the charity shop to tell them of the list of articles I had to donate, asking which ones they would like, I told them about the crack in the base. They said they would take everything I had, so, I packed up the car the next day with the items that would not serve a new future and drove to the shop. I went in and a woman immediately came over to me, asking if she could assist. I told her I had the items in the car if she wanted to open up the store room.
“I’m sorry” she said, “but you can’t just walk in here expecting to dump your stuff, we’re very bu..”
I interjected loudly and firmly. “That’s why, one I telephoned to ask if you wanted the items and two, asked if today was okay to drop them off”.
She was taken aback at first but quickly composed herself and advised me that I should have pointed this out to her.
“When a member of staff told me she was writing it in the diary so whoever was on would know I was coming—I made the assumption it would have been read” I said—with tone.
She turned on her heel and went to the diary and returned suitably contrite.
On inspecting the items she asked was I really sure I wanted to give all of it away. I said I was certain. She asked why.
“I’m leaving Ireland, these things belong to a different time” I said.
“Extraordinary, you are the fourth person this month [of a certain age, if you don’t mind me saying] to tell me they are leaving this country” she said with an enthusiasm that comes from trying to erase something.
Stepping outside, I winced thinking about the woman who had become so mentally unstitched three years previously and how my grey matter had taken on new form since.
From the first page, I was drawn in. The style, the content, and her unapologetic and very honest way of seeing the world—made me keep turning the pages. The Accidental Soldier; A Memoir of Service and Sacrifice in the Israeli Defense Forces by Dorit Sasson.
When I was too tired to read anymore, I recalled an anti-racism meeting I had attended. I thought about my contribution, how I had expressed a belief that there was a significant number of people who were unaware of the existence of Direct Provision both in Ireland and around the world, mainstream media just don’t report on it, and likened it to the significant number of Israelis who were unaware of what was happening to Palestinian land and how perhaps taking the model shown in the documentary Disturbing the Peace, might be something to consider—the response to which was to enthusiastically change the subject and the Palestinian woman sitting beside him looked relieved and Lucky K, agreed with me.
When I picked up the book again, reading Dorit’s descriptions and thoughts, I felt once again ‘part of’ and comforted that someone else was expressing the same love for a place that I also felt, in my bones. Part of my identity was formed in reading the works of Jewish Philosophers, my faith in human nature has been renewed more times by those in the Jewish faith than any other. I won’t deny there were moments I shut down personal thoughts because I just wanted to know Dorit’s feelings—a task I found extremely difficult during certain points in the book.
Difficult, because I remember my emotional unstitching when I finally found the capacity to look at the Palestinian side. The Palestinian Story. A story that broke me inside and made me feel like a traitor. But, as I filled up with knowledge, my emotional landscape began to take new form.
As the MeToo hashtag unfolded itself on Twitter I was glued to it, drinking the words as though I had stumbled across an oasis. It validated my own experiences, showed me the character of people I have met over and over again in my life. Viewing it from my new emotional and mental form, at times felt surreal. I recognised emotions and knew, because they had opened up and spewed them out on a public forum, a new unstitching was occurring, one that would eventually bring them to a new form and it uplifted me. I felt ‘a part of’.
Women sharing their experience, created a global solidarity—a heightened awareness of what we are capable of enduring. A reminder of our strength, how it is we who drown in consequence, not power and authority. But, there were those who shared, strategically, to place themselves centre stage, women who I would willingly label manipulative. As someone who has known narcissism intimately, restraining myself from public commentary was a challenge. But. There was no beneficial outcome to me doing so. I disengaged and moved on, reminding myself that action does not always make intention transparent.
In tandem to the hashtag, Tom Humphries, an Irish sports writer, was handed a two and half year sentence for grooming and defiling a minor. There was uproar and moral indignation, which I found empty and lacking in authenticity. The structure of the law needs to change and if concern was genuine the discussion would have included women who work in the legal profession, speaking of how or if it was already being addressed. Those who go through the meat grinder have little energy left to fight for its unstitching and those who have not had the experience are rarely interested in investing energy into it. Sometimes it feels like we are waiting for leadership with an inbuilt moral compass and those who volunteer are dragged by their own lives.
The Director of Public Prosecutions is proceeding with my case under the new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. Sometimes we can only do what we have the capacity to do at any given time in our lives. That capacity expands and deepens when you have the privilege of support.
This year was the first year that there were no Halloween decorations, no carved pumpkin or pretend ones. I have always enjoyed marking time with occasion, so it felt weird, but I didn’t permit myself to dwell too much on it—just a fleeting hope that my witch was decorating someone else’s home now. The boxes lie open on the floor, being filled slowly. The dresser I fell in love with is half empty now, being used as a ‘maybe’ space. All action that validates my moving on, but also a slow unstitching from the subconscious future I thought would be here—slow, because these kinds of operations are messy. The place I call home now feels like a waiting room with just a little too much visual chaos for my liking, but still.
There are theories trundling around my brain that I want to develop, but I have put them on the long finger to focus on studying and learning my new language, so for now, I just have a lot of scribbles in my notebooks. I have a separate one for action plans. My schedule of action. I am not depending on or sharing this journey with anyone so I am relatively confident it will proceed with few delays.
Transition feels to me like a loss of momentum—where the known and the unknown meet, staring at each other awkwardly. I am a solver, a person who seeks to resolve. The transitional state envelops me with a redundancy—offset with a new hopefulness. Hope. Hope, the thing with feathers. I thought about Tracy and her son with special needs, living in sub-standard accommodation, wishing and hoping for her forever home, instead of planning new memories. When I finished reading her blog, I formulated a plan. Call out for someone to gift a parcel of earth to her, get onto Uplift and ask them to cast out a net, requesting an architect, gardeners, builders, electricians, painters and decorators and we would all come together and construct a purpose built home for her and her boys, sprinkled with hope, and landscape a beautiful garden with brightly coloured swings and roundabouts—and we could all walk away with the knowledge we did something good for a fellow human being. Just because we could.
And for that half an hour, I felt an elation—remembered the eight thousand three hundred and seventy four people without a home, then quickly unstitched myself from it knowing that I must stay focused on where I am going, the emotional unstitching felt more like a rip, but I knew it was necessary.
It appeared like Jesus to many. The letter. Ten working days after I had questioned the legality of the acquisition of mortgage debt in my book. The letter stated that the fund was now owned by another company—they didn’t say that this now blockaded me from challenging the purchase of the debt. Little everyday miracles that are available only to those who live in the Land of No Consequences.
This made me think of the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, also a popular humanitarian. He was honoured this year with Peru’s highest award – the Order of the Sun. But my admiration for him has depleted over the course of the year solely based on his refusal to respond to my question “have you got the power to dissolve the current government if the will of the people demanded it?”
I still like his poetry though. Not Angela Merkel. I mean I have never warmed to her as a person. I don’t think she writes poetry. Mrs. Merkel is a good leader though, I recognise that. My admiration for her increased when after meeting a gay couple and hearing about the impact administrative obstacles had on their relationship—she opened the vote to parliament to recognise same-sex marriage, stating honestly that although she was not in agreement, it was not her right to enforce her personal beliefs on others.
That takes integrity and courage, which reminded me of poet and activist Erin Fornhoff, who recently revealed the name of her sexual harasser. I remember the second time I saw her perform her work, instinctively knowing she was ‘holding back, that this experience still sat at the back of her throat. She is a delicious, charming and genuine human (who recently launched her debut poetry collection, Hymns To The Reckless). I have a feeling now that she has stepped into her own fire, the birds that take flight from her mouth will resemble golden eagles. An American who found her nest in Ireland.
I like to listen to and admire other women’s needlepoint—so I opened another story in my new book. Female Lines, New Writing from Women in Northern Ireland.
I had only walked about a mile and the sweat was pumping off me. Feeling dizzy and disorientated, I decided to cut the outing short and go home. A week nursing the flu and new abscesses had felt over-indulgent. I popped three Disprin with an effervescent Zinc tablet and passed out on the couch and dreamt of Ava Twomey, now living in Holland with her mother. On waking, I thought about all the big effendis I have met through the years, snorting lines of cocaine at weekend parties, to unwind from the stress of holding power and humiliating others—but a young girl who needs medicinal cannabis has to become a health exile, unstitched from her family, her siblings because the pharmaceutical business doesn’t want to lose revenue and the government doesn’t want to lose their support.
Everyday, there are people, stitching and unstitching, making decisions and entering transitionary waiting rooms, wishing instead of planning—people holding on tight to those they are emotionally invested in because to look at them critically would mean introspection, perhaps an acknowledgement that their ability to judge character is flawed, and just maybe, right now, they don’t have that capacity. That is why I have huge respect for Donal Og Cusack, who stood up and acknowledged that writing a reference for Tom Humphries was a failure in judgement, and then followed his intention with action by resigning from the Board of Sports Ireland.
The reference writing shit goes on everywhere. Businesses who issue one liners, simply stating when you started and when you finished with them might appear like a new trend, but the actual truth is that this is to prevent them from being publicly called out or sued. Now, the boys club ring each other and have a bit of ol chat, recommending people they like, and because it isn't in writing, everything is grand.
Supporting people you like personally, does not indicate good character. Stepping away and supporting someone you are not emotionally stitched to, does. I have only met two people in the whole of my life who stepped out of their emotional support circle to stand with another—and I have met a lot of people in my life.
This is why we need rules, policies, regulations, laws—structures that circumvent personal bias and a precarious dependency on trusting people's honour. And right now, all of these structures lean in favour of men and the elite.
When you have a leader, a true leader, one with vision, one who wishes to bring all the people forward—something extraordinary happens. The individual begins to see promise, begins to engage in self-improvement, begins to appreciate community—dreams bigger, becomes more productive, which in turn contributes to the greater good, the whole.
A young man called Leo, a prime minister, responds to ministers of his cabinet expressing a desire to go to North Korea on a mission of peace by saying “I don’t want anything beastly to happen to them over there”,
you instinctively know you’re listening to a child who thinks he lives in One Hundred Acre Wood with Christopher Robin, a place where Teddy Bears have picnics everyday…
and you look back and see the amazing humans, grassroot citizens leading themselves towards change . #AnotherIreland - and know that all is not lost.
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears