I am officially exhausted. I could complain all day long about how tired, achey and breathless I am. Everything is a massive effort. I get spurts of energy and then I try to do too much because all I’m really motivated to do is nest, and then I’m tired halfway through a job.
This is the third time I’ve done this, and I think it’s been the most tiring of all. I know how lucky I am. I know how many people would love to be in this position. I know how privileged I am.
But I am just. so. tired.
Back when I was working in Louis Vuitton I spent some time one summer working in Birmingham. I’d never been to Birmingham before I agreed to work there and I didn’t know much about it. Many of the (mainly female) staff were Muslim and we bonded over a realisation that our mothers might be from vastly different cultures but their mothering was not. One woman said many times that it was deeply reassuring that Irish and Pakistani mothers were so alike.
Some of them wore headcoverings at work. Most did not. Some explained that they wore headcoverings for different reasons and occasions. Some were deeply devout Muslims, some weren’t. Some spoke of their parents’ plans for their marriages and the arranged marriages of brothers and sisters. I felt I had to preface any questions with a lighthearted (at least I hope that’s how it sounded) quip about it being interesting to hear about other people’s cultures. It was interesting, and eye opening, and made me question a lot of the assumptions I hadn’t questioned before about women and their choices and their obligations and restrictions.
Many women don’t need to be told by others that they’re being oppressed. Maybe they’re not being oppressed. Maybe they like dressing a certain way. Maybe they don’t need opinion pieces from white men to tell them they’re like letter boxes. Maybe we should all stop making assumptions about women’s clothes. Oppression comes in many forms. More tolerance for intolerance is one such form.
These women weren’t letter boxes. They were funny, and difficult to work with sometimes, and boring, and we had disagreements, and we had misunderstandings. Just like I did and do and will do with the people I work with now. Women make all sorts of choices every day about every aspect of their lives. What they choose to wear is their choice. We don’t need laws to tell us how to dress.
I’ve been in my current role for ten years now. It’s the longest time I’ve spent in a job. I flitted around from job to job after college. I had no big or concrete plans and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I chose my college course for practical reasons, and the fact it let me have a little more variety than other ones offered at the time. I was too afraid to change my reliable part-time job that helped me pay for my social life so I ended up drifting into the same sector I’d always worked in after graduation.
I liked my jobs. I didn’t love them. They weren’t particularly stimulating or challenging most of the time and I don’t think I saw myself in the sector in the long-term, but I needed to earn money and I was good at what I did so I stuck with them. I then drifted into another sector for a year and at the end of that year landed the job I’m in now. It’s probably been the best use of my skills for the past decade. It’s secure, stable, and mainly enjoyable.
Today, for the first time in a very long time, my mind drifted into ‘What if’ territory. What if I had planned my career more carefully? What if I’d sought more guidance? What if I’d studied something else? What if I’d been more open to opportunities in one particular role? What if I had taken more risks? What if I hadn’t let a personality clash stop me from learning more? What if, no matter what I did, I would have ended up here anyway?
Ten years ago I wasn’t married. I wouldn’t have met my husband if I hadn’t taken this job, because we met at a party one of my colleagues hosted after I’d been in the job for a year. I wouldn’t have my children. I was living a very different life. I was a lot more confident in some ways, and a lot more insecure and unhappy in many, many others.
I’m glad I’ve had the experiences I’ve had. It’s hard not to wonder ‘What if’ though. I wonder ‘What if I’m here for another ten years, and then another, and another and then I retire? Is this it?’, and that freaks me out a little.
The new season of The Handmaid’s Tale arrived on our screens last week and we watched episodes one and two in quick succession. It’s really difficult, if not impossible to think about the road to the 25th May while watching. It’s hard to escape the referendum anyway, with every pole holding multiple posters and endless coverage in the media.
The show is also making me reflect on what I used to think and how and why that changed. It’s hard to look back on a version of yourself you don’t like. It’s hard to figure out which bits are things you had no control over and which you should be held to account for. Growing up in Ireland generally involved some version of christianity being rubbed into your psyche from before you even knew what it was.
I don’t use the phrase ‘lost’ about whatever faith I used to have, because I don’t think it’s a question of losing anything but rather finding everything. I remember the broadcast of States of Fear, and the tidal wave of abuse cases and the gradual dawning that when the rock was lifted there was an immeasurable amount of horror underneath.
When Offred said Gilead is inside her, I knew exactly what she meant. I wouldn’t be me without my history, but that doesn’t mean I have to celebrate it.
I’m pretty happy about the opinion polls on repealing the eighth amendment. I wish the media would stop calling it the abortion referendum, however-it affects every single pregnancy.
I have continued to obsessively track the Mueller investigation via my subscription to the New York Times (the best money I spend each month), social media and political commentary. Rereading All The President’s Men again might be in order.
I’ve signed up for the Frugalwoods’ frugal challenge for January. It’s a little extreme for me but I would like to work on my finances a bit and January is a birthday, plan free zone for us most years.
I am glad to see the back of 2017, but then I was glad to see the back of 2016 for myriad reasons. I really hope something comes of the Mueller investigation, that we repeal the eighth and that my finances spark a lot of joy this day next year.
Christmas 2008 was not a good one for me. It was the loneliest Christmas I have spent. This had almost nothing to do with the fact that the economic crash had started to shake my life along with everyone else in the country and almost everything to do with how lacking in control of my life I felt at the time. I was single, and very unhappily so, I wasn’t sure about the job I had started six months previously and I had no plans whatsoever for new year’s eve.
I tried focusing on the positive things in my life, like the fact I had a family to celebrate with, I had friends to met up with over the festive season, I had my health, I had a lovely home…..
It didn’t work. I was lonely, and it is not a good place to be. No amount of focusing on the good stuff was a consolation when I knew I was lonely and I couldn’t do much about it. Christmas can be a very emotional and fraught time of year anyway, and I think it concentrated my feelings in a way that just doesn’t happen during other times of the year.
Life is immeasurably better in many ways now. I’m not lonely very often. But I always remember that Christmas. And I think about all the lonely people, whose lives haven’t improved the way mine has. And I hope life gets less lonely for them.
Feeling lonely sucks.
The committee on the eighth amendment, dealing with the (very unexpected, I suspect) recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Ireland’s constitutional guarantee to ensure only those who travel can access abortion, rolls on towards its conclusion in the next week or so. Many of its members have clearly gone on a journey during this process, and hearts and minds have been changed. Most have engaged in a thoughtful, open-minded way, with three notable exceptions.
The committee chairperson, Senator Catherine Noone, has done sterling work and seeing her in action is a reminder to me of just how little I would want to be a politician. I ma far too hot headed and reactionary to ever be as patient as she has been. I’m glad to see the work of other female politicians being recognised too.
Senator Noone reads out a paragraph or two at the start of every meeting, as happens in every other Oireachtas committee meeting, reminding all those present, members and witnesses alike, of their privilege. Politicians speaking have absolute privilege when speaking to either House of the Oireachtas or to a committee convened by the Houses.
Privilege is something that I was reminded of again and again when I watched proceedings and followed updates on Twitter. The privilege of seeing parliamentary processes in action. The privilege of having political representatives who want to engage with the process. The privilege of being a woman of means who can travel for medical care abroad. The privilege of hearing all the arguments play out in public and people slowly coming to the realisation of the horror this amendment has perpetuated.
Privilege comes in many forms. The three men who didn’t want to engage with the process, tried to frustrate the process and didn’t ever intend to change their minds are privileged. They are white. They are Catholic, in a country whose parliament starts every day with a Catholic prayer. They are men. They are Irish. They have never had to weigh up their options on seeing a positive pregnancy test.
They have a very special privilege that many of us will never have. When they speak in the committee, they are absolutely privileged. This means they can say what they like. They can manipulate statistics. They can lie. They can make accusations. They did so, again and again and again. I recognise the importance of privilege in a parliamentary debate, and the importance of the checks and balances of our republic. But seeing three privileged men exercise absolute privilege in defence of a law that kills women is difficult to take.