Stepping Out with Hope


January is a month that is punctuated with sadness in my personal life and for that reason I seriously considered taking the month off from blogging ~ something I did last year.

I suspect that many personal bloggers feel like I do and don’t want to be either dumping their sadness on others, or blogging away pretending that everything is great ~ causing a major dose of cognitive dissonance.

The decision to blog on has proved to be a quite a revelation on a number of fronts. Firstly, the support from fellow bloggers when I have poured out my soul has been very comforting and healing and I thank you all very much for your comments.

Secondly, even though January is punctuated with sadnesses for me, the very act of blogging, especially around my words for the year, Stepping Out, has made me look at the present and also beyond just me.

Thus far, January has been fraught with many horrors on a global level and the events in Paris last week seem to call for a collective response, unity and connection of some sort.

And while all this has been unfolding, the snowdrops that grow under the Monkey Puzzle tree which looks in at me as I type here in the study in this little corner of Ireland, have been pushing their way up to the light in the bravest of brave ways.

They greeted me this morning, showing white. These are the flowers that my mother adored and which will forever be associated with her in my mind.

But they are also symbols of the bravery and hope that we all need as we navigate our way through January and beyond.

How I wish the world could/would stand arm in arm beneath the Monkey Puzzle and read William Wordsworth’s profound words in unison:


Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

(William Wordsworth 1819)


‘Early Retirement’ and Heart’s Desire ~ a Couple of Weeks On

I’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the waves of wise, sincere, encouraging and heartfelt responses that I’ve received to my recent  posts here and here about deciding to take ‘early retirement’ in the face of not being able to secure suitable employment over the last four years or so.

There has been so much food for thought in these responses and I’ve been amazed at the extent to which they have been echoing in my mind and seeking to be processed.

I wrote about knocking on doors and even building new ones to knock on, but then someone mentioned ‘avenues’ and that opened up all sorts of new space.  You’d find it hard to believe how many avenues I’ve glimpsed over the last few weeks, from tiny driveways up to ordinary houses to paths in the woods and even pathless woods! There are just so many different angles on this …..

And then, another piece of advice was to Go with what your heart desires most, Jean, and don’t look back. 

This has played and played on my mind, especially as I decided to do a major clean-out of my ‘study’ and kept coming on former ‘work’ stuff from both social research and teaching ~ which meant more to me than I can even begin to describe.

It may seem strange but the most stubborn single sheet of paper that refused to be shredded was this one which I revised and revised and used as a working  Hand-Out with my Open University students ahead of their exams for each of the ten years I had them.


Its impact reminds me so much of the immortal words of  Seamus Heaney in Postscript:

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

It also makes me think of how ‘early retirement’ is very much like an examination.

Yes, Make sure that you answer the question asked.

Now the shredder is purring so I’d best go and give it the Hand-Out!