with Is it ok to fall in love with yourself?
Is that the ego calling? Checking, checking… yes, no, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that these past two weeks since Duc and Sorcha left Vietnam I have been alone here mostly. I’ve met up with a few friends for lunch or a beer. But overall, I’ve been pretty much alone. Last night I realised I’m getting a bit funny in myself. But in a good way. I could be hanging out with way worse. I’ve been, probably, a little more attached to my phone at times, chatting to home mainly and sharing stories on insta. Looking up what’s happening in Palestine and trying at the same time to share and to stay protected. I’m alone here. I wake alone and I go to bed alone. I think about Palestine all the time, we all do and we hope and we hope.
I must protect my mind. I must protect my heart. I must protect my soul. So I can keep fighting the good fight.
Yesterday I spoke to my family online at different stages but besides that I had minimal interaction with people in real life: The lady at the café in the morning, the couple I adore who sell Orange Juice and the girl in the restaurant. No one I know really, and the conversations were minimal. But my Vietnamese is improving everyday and the project I’m working on is going great. So, I’m feeling good. I miss Duc terribly, but we are navigating the waters of long distance for now, and we both know the merits. Plus, it’s only for a few months. The challenge is what makes the story. And our love is more solid than ever.
So, the falling in love with oneself. Where’s that coming from?
It’s a deep and emotional one, that’s hard to put to words. It’s a feeling inside, a slight excitement and awe at the things I’m doing and learning and reliving. I’m tapping into my past a lot with my writing. I’m looking back over me as a 25-year-old who first came to Vietnam. I had only turned 25. I am exploring the memories of that time and reacquainting myself with the younger Ciarna. The idea of who I think the younger me was and then the reality. Something which will never be straightened out; for the past itself is also a mystery and the brain is a funny one. Still, I drive my bike along and I laugh. I remember the young, free me, the me before life and grief. The me before we knew the real damage we are doing as humans. Albeit I was always an activist and always aware of global issues, I feel now the issues are tied to a capitalist system that is falling and failing us. But that’s all for another day.
I am aware how narcissistic this piece of writing is. I spoke to my sister-in-law the other day about narcissus and how we are all now caught in the age of narcissus as we preen and prime ourselves into a form of beauty that is often far from nature. We talked about Botox and fixing one’s bodies. I’m not going to lie. I too have struggled with my image, but I find the greater struggle now is trying to show others their own beauty and power when so many are lost. So, I embrace my beauty as much as I can and part of that is embracing getting older.
I remember when I was younger feeling like I would never ever have a problem with aging. That all the women I adored and idolised were in their 50s. I had older friends and iconised Joan Baez and Janis Ian, both of whom I’d met and loved even more. So, the idea of getting older only excited me. But then when I suddenly hit 40, I really was in a state of shock. More so in how younger people interacted with me and how suddenly, I was one of the only older people out in town. Granted this was just after lockdown and people were staying home. But it was a shock. So, I looked at it, addressed it in whatever way I could and tried to move on.
Little things like never wearing my Kiki earrings because they made me look like a bigger older woman seeped in. Still, I kept on because fuck that shit! Pushing past these niggling ideas about getting older. Noticing that my face was drier, and I would finally have to give in and buy those damned moisturisers etc. Sorry I’ve never moisturised in my life, and I don’t shave my legs. I only shave my arm pits once or twice a year for maintenance. And I’ve done this since before Julia Roberts done it and certainly before all the young twenty-year-olds started… here how many times have I said young? Ah well, it’s all part of what I’m saying. So, by faith of having a feminist mother and my personality type I never really fell for much of the brainwashing in the 90s. I think my eyes were permanently rolled to the top of my head with lad culture and pop culture. Don’t get me wrong, I bought the magazines and watched the TV shows. I listened to the music and went along with diet culture from time to time, but I wasn’t a victim of it, nor a survivor. Just a mere witness who, yes suffered somewhat under it as a bigger woman. But again, fuck that shit was my motto. Sometimes I’d fight harder, and not just for me, for other bigger girls and women who couldn’t speak up for themselves.
But I digress… falling in love with myself.
Honestly, I think its just allowing yourself to be attracted to you and what you do and who you are. Standing naked in the mirror, lifting your belly and saying ‘here bud, you could be a little less jiggly for health’s sake, but oh how I love to watch u jiggle’ or using that darned moisturiser and seeing the benefits.
It’s not all visual though, in fact I think that’s the easy bit to put to words. It’s emotional, its about reconnecting with myself. Being lucky enough to come back to a place that helped form who I am today and quietly observe where I am and how I got here. I wrote 12,000 words. I decided to treat myself to a glass of whiskey and a doob (I’ve not been smoking alone at home) and I sat on the balcony to congratulate me on getting past 10,000 words day by day. It’s been flowing out of me. So, I sat on my balcony and listened to Jazz (music I’ve always disliked) but its good for working. And I’m actually starting to enjoy it, much to Duc’s delight! I listened to it tinkle in the background very low due to neighbours and smoked, looked up at the sky and the giant palm tree.
And then I floated up and moved out and away over the balcony and onto the street. and I looked back. There sitting alone on a balcony under the sky and the tall palm tree sat a woman alone. The dim lights and the twinkling jazz music only enhanced the view, she sat in contemplation as the smoke danced around her and she sipped on her whisky. She was a happy woman, someone content in who she is. The auntie who writes and travels and is married to a wonderful man and painter. A sister and a daughter, a good friend. A good woman who does things her own way. Someone who is friendly and respectful and someone who encompasses the beautiful spirit of two homes. I liked her.
I grew up in Vietnam in some ways, a Vietnam that was healing and a beautiful and with gentle people overall. Friendly and curious. Much like Irish people. I grew up in two cultures that are healing from Famine and War, colonization, and internal conflict. But both are strong, resilient, and most forgiving and friendly. People just want peace and to move on. So, these two cultures live in me. I celebrate both and do my best.
When I’m with younger Vietnamese people and they ask my story – often they will calculate how old they were when I came here. I’ve met a few 25-year-olds and told them I was their age when I came here alone. They all balk at the idea and then when we calculate how old there were when I came – 6 years old – we laugh. It’s been nineteen years this year!! In fact, when I think of it now I came to Vietnam at the end of January 2005!
A friend of mine from the Anti Racism Network in Ireland said to me many years ago ‘who lives here, belongs here’ for me it’s also ‘who loves here, belongs here’
So, I love, and I belong, in myself wherever this vessel takes me. I hope I continue to fall in love with myself at different times in my life. It’s been a decade of hurt and pain in my life since my dad first fell ill but a decade of learning and growing, so looking back at that young woman and seeing where I am now and what she’d think of me, I feel for the first time in a while, she’d be dead proud of me as I am of her… let’s see where this brings us. Forward with love.
Honestly, I wish everyone could do this at some stage in their lives. Step out, look back and love what got you here, the mind, the vessel, the people, and the places. If we all loved a bit better, I think we’d have a better world. It starts at home with yourself and travels out.
This morning I woke with a thought in my head, it’s like all of the dreams and thoughts I’d been having through the night processed into an idea just before I woke.
I must have been thinking about the world and all the fucking depressing shite that is going on at the moment.
So I woke up thinking about how the only thing that can defeat darkness is light. A Strange thought for first thing in the morning. So I have to be filled with hope and light and rise above the shite and try my best to be positive and to fight back with love and with my own form of happiness.
So how do I do this?
My week last week wasn’t a particularly mad or hugely interesting week. I worked late into the night on my jewellery- mainly vaginas, I interviewed with a girl for Totally Dublin Magazine (ok that was pretty cool) and I worked, slept, went to a brilliant gig – Martha Wainwright – Wait hang on a sec I’m writing this and thinking actually last week was pretty interesting. I went to another gig in Jigsaw and danced my arse off and talked and laughed. I also took part in a protest – a woman’s protest the day after Gick Face got into the Shite House and to be honest the protest was grand, but the after effects were amazing! Women and men standing together because we believe that women should be treated equally. Not a far out concept. But to see the amount of people who stood together and marched peacefully was beautiful. Poor America, I am kind of sick of it but this week those who do not stand with the crap let their voices be heard. And I know that we won’t and don’t all agree on everything but for this let’s just stand united and fight back. Fuck dictatorships; fuck evil twisted bastards who have no idea what it’s like to be poor or to suffer needlessly at the hands of a system that should be good to all and not just a tiny percent. Fuck a group of men deciding on women’s bodies – what’s up with that? From the church to the state all decisions being made through a predominately male mind set. I mean the fucking church?! Can you imagine a private group of women that only women could join and be part of deciding on whether men could have something like a vasectomy?!!! Madness!!
The world is coming together and there is a revolution happening. Whether we like it or not, the times they are a changing. But me, I’d rather be faced with seeing a wolf because then I am prepared, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing can blind sight you. So at least with Gick Face we can see the wolf for what he is and prepare. I like wolves so I am sorry to wolves for the comparison.
I really hope we can keep this as peaceful as possible. However should the opportunity come to give auld Gick Face a thump in the head, I could be persuaded.
So how do we keep ourselves happy and keep the light on in the darkness?
I went up a mountain and had a sauna in a Sauna wagon with three amazing women and then I jumped into a freezing cold river. That was great and that made me happy. I spent time with people I love; I looked at my husband’s new an amazing painting and cried and I done lots of other lovely things. I have chatted and debated with so many women and men. I am switched on and open minded. I care about people and in return have people who care for me. I interact, communicate, smile, say hello to strangers, love old people and kids, I try my best not to judge, I hate bitching and I am not mean. I try everyday to be as positive as I can and I try to give back as much as I can.
I know I am probably seen as one of those upbeat, jolly, hippy curvy chicks and that I may fall into certain clichés but you know what I am definitely fucking happy with that one.
LOVE IS THE ANSWER SO KEEP HER LIT
Fuck the Patriarchy
Now is our time
If not now then when?
Be not too hard for life is short and nothing is given to man
Take part and know that your voice and your choice matters
We may have taken 10 steps back out of a 100 but we are still 90 steps further on than we were. Don’t lose sight of that because of a few steps back
Remember that those who stood before us and protested and fought allowed for so many of the things that make our lives easier now
Take nothing for granted
Be happy because you can control that. (I once met a woman in Vietnam carrying a heavy load for 14 hours a day, walking in the sunshine all day and selling her goods. She lived in a tiny room with her family and worked her fingers to the bone. I asked her how she managed to be so upbeat, smiling and happy. She told me that the job she was doing is what she had to do every single day for all the waking hours of her day and that if she was unhappy in that job then her whole life would be unhappy. So she chose to be happy because though she was poor, no one could take away from her, her own right to choose, as much as she could, to be happy.)
She chose happiness.... let’s do the same
When the darkness comes creeping, try to remember where the light switch is!
Women are amazing!
Tis a new year and all that lies ahead is filled with wonderment, hope, imagination and let’s be honest a tiny bit of dread over the current political situation, but you know Global politics and all that jazz is a sure fine way of messing with the mind so I will veer away and tell ye a funny story. Really the only way to describe it would be a Bridget Jones moment; albeit I find her irksome, babyish, old fashioned and really quite the fuckin bore. Can someone out there please modernise that female 30something woman who is ill fitted to the social norms, PLEASE!! And for god sakes stop with the self hate and bitching.
Anyway for a lack of a better person to associate my story to I will use Bridget Jones (suggestions of another really appreciated)
It all started last ‘summer’ year when slopping and trudging through the muck at Body and Soul on the Sunday of the poxy rain with my mate Heff, we asked ourselves if we should just pack in and head home. This is something which is absolutely against my rules of festivals. Now I am someone who has worked festivals for years, know the ins and outs and enjoy them immensely. I love the atmosphere and the fact that it’s like a yearly get together of all the coolest cats that I know in Dublin and beyond. So I decided to keep her lit and get into my festival zone. Much laughter, wise cracking, bauldness and a couple of mojitos later we end up at a gold party. I’m wearing shimmering silver as I have absolutely no idea about the gold party. But it was all the craic and then some... Amo on the decks with her beautiful smile, amazing energy and fuckin whip craicin tunage! We dance like little fuckin 18 year olds, rain, smiles and the entire world at our feet. Magical, pure gold magic in the Irish summer rain! Wellies, muck, cans, tunage and gold! I get chatting to two women about abortion as you do and together we rid the world of all dickheaddery and laugh like witches. We talk about feminism, body positivity, kids, life and all the little things in-between. So far so good. Havin’ a whopper time!
Then I sit myself down to roll a joint (legalise it!! I really don’t want to debate weed – it should be legal full stop.) – I know the tobacco is bad for me as are the mojitos I just drank but it’s a festival and a place to be free of all other worries and hassles and dance like no one is watching!
I finish up my rolling and pop the bag (about €9.50 worth) into my bag. When like the flash of a flasher a guard arrives right up beside me and asks me what I have there. I was aware that plain clothes guards were supposed to be floating around and one look into this fella’s face I knew exactly his reason for attending this festival. ‘Well guard’ I said, ‘its weed’.
He took me around the corner into a maze of bushes and luckily my mate is there with the other guard walking behind or I’d have been wondering where this guy was taking me. So I say ‘here you go guard’ and hands him the bag and the joint I had just rolled. The other guard (sound guard) says ‘ah we are not Nazis you can keep that joint’ (ahem legalise it!). So the guard I am talking to (bad guard) asks me why I have the weed. I tell him I like it, it should be legalised and that to be fair I’m standing here talking to him clear as day and obviously no harm to him or anyone. He informs me that it is not legal yet (antiquated laws) and takes my name and address. I had no ID and downright refused to walk back through that muck and mud with a guard in tow to find ID I wasn’t even sure I had for a $9.50 bag of weed. So I called out my name and address twice and super fast so he’d know I weren’t lying and he jots it in his little book in the gickest handwriting ever. I though well that’s that thrown out, little did I guess bad guard has a penchant for reading his own handwriting...
Fast forward about five months to a week before Christmas and another rainy day I get a knock on the door in the morning. I jump up to answer as another bang comes on the door. I am a little irate as everyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person. The guard who I open the door to apologises and hands me a summons to court. I look at her bewildered but somewhere in the back of my mind I do the math. I ask her what it’s for as if I have a thousand convictions and she informs me politely (and dare I say embarrassedly) about Body and Soul and Mary Jane. Well I laughed and told her how ridiculous this was for €9.50 worth of weed (estimated street value). She looked apologetic as I wished her a happy Christmas and bade her get back to her vehicle (see what I did there?) and out of the horrid rain!
So I basically have thee best friends in the world. All of whom agreed that weed should be legalised (who doesn’t at this stage?) and most of who partake in smokage as they would, say in a bottle of vino. These friends, being the legends that they are, all offered to all pitch in the fine if there was one.
No we are edging nearer the Bridget Jones moment.
One of my best friends and fellow gob job nut case is two weeks away from pushing a sprog out her vagina and will not hear of me going to Midlands Ireland GAA Club/Court House alone. Legend. So after a mummy chat over Fumbally eggs with her colleague who is also on maternity leave she pops around to mine to pick me up and head for the lands of middle Ireland and my life of crime.
Tis a lovely fresh January day, the sky is blue, the trees bare and the motorway empty of cars. We own the road and the hour and a half drive is a pleasant one – fixing the world problems, discussing ridiculous baby names, chatting about work and the weather and cows and all the things that pop into our brains. We arrive in Mullingar with an hour to spare and decide to drive into the town and find a spot for tea (and for my friends bladder to empty. We enter the pub and my friend legs it to the loo. I order her a soda and myself an auld Americano. We sit and chat. She asks if I am nervous. I am not (legalise it) and we laugh and chat. I go to the loo just before we are leaving and this is when my Ciarna Bridget Jones moment happens. I am in the loo cubicle and after finishing up open the door and go straight to the sink to wash my hands when next I hear ‘Hey Ciarna!’ I turn my head and see a friend from our old art college days. Who is looking fab and also up the BallyJamesDuff. She asks me why I am in Mullingar and I inform her somewhat embarrassedly that I am up in court for Mary Jane charges. She smiles knowingly (I have shaved pink hair and am still chipping away at the auld art block). I tell her that I am there with a fellow college mate and she should come out and say hi. We exit the bathroom and then comes my Bridget Jones moment.
I stand there pink haired, thirty five years of age and up in the local GAA Club/ Court House for marijuana between my two art college friends who are in full pregnancy bloom and sharing their pregnancy stories and happiness. I stand there squeezed between two bumps and lots of successful happy stories about good jobs and babies and find myself inwardly screaming – but mostly laughing.... yep this is life. I have to elaborate. I have been having major moments of questioning everything baby related recently (since my two best friends got pregnant at the same time – but mostly because of my age and the fact that we don’t want kids at the moment and if we do decide to do it we should now because we are that couple who just can’t conceive without help) Anyway that’s all very long and I’ll discuss it more over time but for now I just had to see the comedy of the moment.
Honestly I laughed. Then as we said goodbye, myself and my friend drove off we laughed some more smiling at life.
So at the court we watched as the judge – or as we had taken to privately calling her – ‘Your Judginess’ admonished, gave out to and generally looked like a disappointed school principal at all who were up before. All beside one- me (legalise it). After a charge of possession of a €50 worth of marijuana (RTE like coverage of the event – how can we trust a system when they lie on such a small and fundamental levels to suit some agenda beyond me?) The judge not looking at me asked me what I had to say. Like a 12 year old I told her I was sorry and that this wouldn’t be happening again. It won’t. She threw it out and on I went with my day.
I learned three lessons from this event
*if you are affected by any of the issues in this story please collect some firelighters, sticks and logs, build a big pile. Throw your issues on top, take out your lighter and burn them fuckers. Now take off your clothes and dance around that mother fucking fire and howl at that beautiful sky!
I plan on writing something every week.
This is the first entry for the first week of January.
Sometimes it will be a poem, sometimes a quote, sometimes a long winded rant and sometimes a bit of a laugh.
Either way I'm giving it a go <3