Thought Processing

Ever since I was about ten or eleven I had a thing about taking time to think about what was going on in my life – all dimensions of it – and tended to get very unsettled if I wasn’t able to step back and process what had been happening. I had life categorised into key aspects like: family health, my studies, tennis, friendships, money, peace in Ireland and the world. It was unusual to find that everything was going great at the same time but it was also reassuring to find that it was highly unusual to find that all aspects were in a complete mess.

I used to write a lot back then in big notebooks and always felt much better when I had caught up with myself- so to speak.

I remember asking a few friends who were a bit older than me if they felt the need to do the same and they looked at me as if I was totally mad. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone since in case I get the same reaction ( I’ve learned not to give a damn now if people think I’m daft) but thought processing/ or the lack of it has been playing on my mind of late as I know I have been dodging a lot of what has been going on because it can all be a bit hard to take in and deal with.

However, I kinda know it’s time to face up to unprocessed thoughts when sleep is all broken and my greatest desire is to walk faster than the speed of thought. The latter is definitely good for fitness and for de-stressing in the short term but it’s no way to be carrying on day in, day out, as I perceive it.

I suspect that half the world is grappling with trying to come to terms with the multiplicity of changes that have occurred in the last year or so. The pandemic is one huge matter but clearly everyone has additional things going on in their lives and the pandemic is most definitely not impacting on everyone in the same ways.

So, how are you all doing in terms of thought processing? Was it something you felt the need to do before these strange times or did you simply live, live, live?

Also, how are you dealing with thought processes now in the midst of the pandemic especially if your ‘normal’ round has been turned upside down and inside out either directly or indirectly by the virus or by something else entirely?

Thinking Time

Learnings from the Pandemic

The biggest thing I have learned from the pandemic so far is how different people are. I always recognised this but it’s become more and more obvious as layers of life have been peeled away.

Clearly, people have been affected very differently by the pandemc in terms of suffering and that has to be fully recognised. Also, some have gained in economic terms, at least, whilst others have been hit very badly.

But, what I am really talking about is the way in which the pandemic has revealed very real differences in how we deal with adversity and uncertainty.

What is important for one person, such as physical appearance, make be entirely irrelevant to another. Big divides have emerged in relation to those who put self-interest and freedom above collective interest and concern for global wellbeing.

Coping mechanisms vary hugely. Some are keeping busy busy to try and stay afloat while others are treading water and just going with the flow.

Some find that their identity is almost under attack whereas others are more confident about who they are.

Some have to read every single piece that is written and spoken about every aspect of the virus while others have switched off.

Some are full of hope while others are much more cautious.

Some are enjoying the lockdowns while others are living in dread of every moment.

Some are suffering desperately because of the extent to which the virus has pretty much taken over the health services; others are oblivious.

Some are living in the moment while others have wandered to the past or into the future.

In other words, we have to get to grips with the fact that people, including people we thought we knew well, may be perceiving and experiencing the pandemic very differently to us and we somehow have to find a way to cope with that or else the divisions could get dangerously deep.

Who knows how much this pandemic will change lives and perspectives forever or will society return to where it was as if by reset button and trundle on.

It seems important to me that we learn from this time, if only to leave a legacy for those coming after us who may well have to go through something similar.

Little Ireland

I worked on the last census of population here in Ireland and am acutely aware that Ireland has a population of just under 5 million people.

We’re in the news for all the worst reasons at the moment as we have shot up to first place in the world in terms of incidence of Covid 19.

We pride ourselves on being leaders in things like banning smoking in public buildings; getting rid of free plastic bags; having world class sportsmen and women like Katie Taylor, The O’Donovan Brothers, Sonia O’Sullivan; producing great poets like W.B. Yeats, musicians like U2 and, of course, having the most magnificent scenery imaginable.

This current Covid situation is awful and is something we didn’t ever expect as we had been managing pretty well up to the start of the year.

Being a small country may be an advantage in terms of trying to get a grip on things as there is still a reasonably strong sense of community and people tend to be fairly connected to each other. We have had tough times before and come through thanks, in part, to our sense of humour and deepseated ‘it’ll be okay’ attitude.

We just have to pull together more than we’ve done in a long time and become leaders in the very best sense in this Covid morass.

A kite needs to be tied down in order to fly. I learned how important restrictions can sometimes be in order to experience freedom.

Damien Rice, Irish Musician

Lockdown 3, Ireland

Ireland has gone into a very hard Lockdown yet again as Covid is rampaging out of control here. It is a scary time, especially to see our town making headlines for being a place with a huge spike in cases.

The lifting of a lot of restrictions to ensure that Christmas wasn’t cancelled seemed shortsighted then and an act of madness now.

It was hoped that people would take ‘personal responsibility,’ and I know plenty who did but unfortunately many didn’t and now we are seeing daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising drastically and healhcare settings pushed to bursting point.

It’s hard to understand how such trust can be placed in people to act responsibly. Maybe, the sociologist in me comes creeping out at times like this and memories of those classes on Social Order and Social Conflict that highlighted such different perspectives on how the world works.

My heart goes out to exhausted healthcare and other workers who are trying to deal with the very ill from Covid and other illnesses which haven’t miraculously gone away. And my heart bleeds for those who, through no fault of their own, have ended up hardly able to breathe or who have died.

Maybe, I am hard but I have little sympathy for those who went off meeting lots of people and who now find themselves in difficulty.

And, as for ‘Covid fatigue,’ the term even drives me nuts. Of course, we all want to be rid of this thing but being all upset because you can’t go to a big booze up just doesn’t cut it with me.

Let’s hope there are better times ahead and that everyone will pull their weight and act responsibly and with a little thought for greater society not just me, me me.

This IS going to take time so patience is required like never before.

Showing White

Ireland’s Covid cases have skyrocketed in the last few days and we are headed for a heavy lockdown – due to be announced in a few minutes.

The world feels shaky and fragile in so many ways but today I glimpsed hope under the bare Hydrangea by our garden gate. A clump of darling snowdrops smiled up at me with their fresh green leaves and tiny buds showing white. If ever there was a brave, resilient flower, the snowdrop has to be the winner. Just seeing this beauty emerging from the sodden ground made everything seem so much brighter and it was as if hope had come to rescue a bad situation. Nature has such a precious heart.



Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn’t expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring–

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.

Louise Gluck

Social Distance

I am still having issues about feeling like the invisible woman when I am out walking. I crave social distance and now that my ankle is still very unstable after the sprain, I find it extremely unnerving to have to step off pavements to avoid gaggles of people who clearly never heard of the 2 metre guidance or the concept of single file or just plain manners.

I heard of one approach to achieving a bit of space from a friend of mine who has a big ferocious looking dog. He walks on the inner and has the dog on the outside and finds that people keep a very wide berth.

Maybe I need to rent an Irish Wolfhound or a huge German Shepherd as our dogs don’t do the trick when it comes to scary, scary. Instead, kids come running to ask if they can pet them!

I’d love to hear of any strategies you have found that work for you, apart from screaming or glaring at people, when you are walking alone and wanting that 2 metres.

PS. I see some people pulling up a mask as I approach as if to send out a silent message but as I wear glasses this could lead to some steamy encounters!

PPS.Would singing loudly do the trick as I am a crow? What songs would work best, I wonder …

Tiny Snippet

I find when I’m walking alone that I can’t but overhear bits of conversations that are in full flow among other walkers. I often wish I had a notebook with me to capture some of the gems.

Today, I was out for my constitutional and was very taken with a woman in her forties or so who was being very kind to her dog who seemed to be struggling a bit with age. She was chatting away to him, cajoling him along in the most loving way imaginable. At one point she stopped and said to him: We’re nearly home and you can sleep for the afternooon.

She clearly knew quite a few of the regulars who were out taking the sea air and just as I passed her chatting with a man, also around forty, I heard him saying in a very sincere way:

The least we can do is care for those who raised us.

He was talking in the context of the current lockdown in Ireland as we see Covid cases rocketing.

I am beginning to wonder if there is a certain generation who are more acutely aware of the virus than others. Those are people whose parents are elderly and in one of the most vulnerable categories. The devastation of older people being swept away by the virus in care homes has been harrowing for many here in this country, as elsewhere.

When the ‘elderly person’ is one’s own mother or father, it’s a different thing altogether to being a group of people who are essentially out of sight or seen as being unproductive and in the waiting room of death.

I am well aware that there are fierce arguments about generational prioritising in relation to Covid but I have to say I was very touched by this stranger’s viewpoint as I walked silently by.

Breathing, Brexit and Ballads

It’s Christmas Eve and it doesn’t feel quite like it.

I’ve been practicing breathing exercises I heard a psychologist recommend on the radio the other day as a way of dealing with the uncertainty that the scary rise in Covid cases is giving rise to in the last few days. Breathing slowly and deliberately does help to tone down the anxiety in what seems like a very fragile situation. It looks like we are set for a very heavy lockdown, yet again, as the virus sweeps the country. The ‘break’ to allow Christmas to have some sort of normality associated with it has been pulled back a lot and seems like it is destined to be pulled back further.

My heart goes out to people who are lonely, fearful and miserable tonight and to all the people who are working in hospitals and care homes trying their very best to care for people who are being ravaged by the virus. I know many families who are all split up and also people who have been separated from their elderly relatives for months on end. There are no easy answers, that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, Ireland has heaved a sigh of relief today as the United Kingdom and European Union finally, finally agreed a Withdrawal Deal which will offset some of the worst effects of Brexit on our little country here on the edge of Europe. It’s still unclear exactly how it will all pan out but, at least, it looks like we will be spared mega tariffs and huge problems in relation to trading with our nearest neighbour.

And all the while, I have been haunted today by memories of the great balladeer, Liam Clancy, who I was fortunate enough to see in concert a couple of times. He was some character and the song that has been playing under the surface today is The Dutchman as I remember hearing him sing it with immense feeling here in Waterford during one of his final concerts.

It brings me to the love and connection that can exist when dementia enters a relationship. So many of our most vulnerable older people who have been caught up in the Covid situation have dementia and I really feel tonight and every night for couples who find themselves separated after long years spent together.

Christmas Eve is a night when one cannot but think of one’s parents and tonight I remember so many precious Christmases shared with my late mother and father who I was fortunate enough to have until they were 89 and 91 respectively ( and living just around the corner from me.) They are happily in my heart tonight and I think of them not with sadness but with great love and appreciation.

Live Music …

Christmas is always a time thst I go to a few concerts and carol services but this year it’s different as Covid case numbers have taken off here again.

So, I have taken to watching concerts on TV and am enjoying them greatly.

You might remember that one of my projects during Lockdown 2 was to write thank you letters to people who have really touched my life.

Among those I wrote to was Irish tenor, Finbar Wright, whose concerts have punctuated very emotional times in my life.

I sent the letter ages ago and was utterly chuffed to receive a lovely Christmas card from him the other day. I certainly didn’t expect him to reply as the pleasure has all been mine attending his wonderful performances.

One just never knows what’s around the corner.

Ballyscanlon, Co. Waterford

Stay safe, my friends.