Going Back To Normal (And Everyone’s Exhausted)

Restrictions are lifting in Ireland, and we’re going back to something like normal. We’re picking up the threads of life that were untouched for so long and sliding back into routines we used to think were immutable until they weren’t. It’s good. We’ve been waiting for this, looking forward to this, and now it’s happening. 

And now we’re tired. I keep hearing it from all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways, and feeling it, too: The old threads of life that were so familiar feel funny in our hands now, and heavier than we remembered. The jobs we used to do and schedules we used to keep feel harder, and somewhat foreign, like running through water. Yes, we’re all happy about life returning to familiar forms. But we’re also exhausted, and it’s showing. 

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The World Needs Your Story

“All dreams deserve to be seen, and all stories deserve to be shared,” said the Netflix ad. “The world needs your story. Show them!” But that wasn’t the real point—it was an ad, after all—so it ended with “Discover the world’s stories.” On Netflix, of course.

But Netflix isn’t showing my story among “the world’s stories.” They don’t have any plans to produce it, either (that I know of). So how will I get my dreams to be seen? How will I get my story to be shared? I need to figure this out. After all, Netflix said, “the world needs your story.” 

Does it, really? Another regular guy doing regular things in regular ways? That’s the story that the world needs? It isn’t as entertaining as the stories they already have. It isn’t as impressive, or interesting, or mysterious, or anything fun like that. There’s a reason Netflix hasn’t called for the rights to my story. Who would want to watch it?

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The Scenes They Leave Out

I don’t know who does the dishes at the Avengers HQ. I don’t know when they eat, or what. I’m also not sure how many bathrooms the Millennium Falcon has, but if I had to guess, it’s probably one small one with drain clogging issues and I bet Han Solo has to wait a long time for Chewbacca to wash his hair. I guess we’ll never know, though, because the movies don’t tell us. Those moments are too ordinary, and we like our movies packed with action. Even the documentaries and true life stories fast forward through most of the ordinary stuff of life, either ignoring it altogether or flashing back to highlights or giving us a few glimpses set to inspiring montage-music. 

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The Importance Of Creating Things That Don’t Last

Birthday cakes are hard work. First there’s the planning, the choosing of flavours and decorations to match the one being celebrated. Then the time comes and there’s the baking, decorating, lighting, singing, and finally eating. Hopefully someone remembered to snap a photo, because once the knife goes in, the culinary work of art is quickly dispersed to paper plates and plastic forks that were created to be used just once, before going to fill the rubbish bin.

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33 Wildflowers

In the weeks we’ve lived in lockdown, we’ve discovered that Parcheesi is a fun game, car parks make good bicycle playgrounds when there aren’t cars in them, and there are paths to walk on near us that we never knew about. Having a 2km travel limit for weeks on end has forced us to be creative, and to look more closely at the familiar things in front of us.

Normally, if we want to see flowers in the Spring, we go to the old mansion house a few minutes away, where the formal walled gardens are open to the public and kept blooming with exotic beauty from around the world. Ever since we moved here, we’ve felt lucky to live near such a place. Now that place is closed. Instead, we walk in the industrial estate.

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The Things We Remember When Normal Life Stops

Normal life evaporated in Ireland today. It’s like the nation caught the virus, and went to bed. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, and the streets are getting quiet (although the shops have been crazy). It feels like the world is turning upside down, burying the life we’re used to and bringing up uncertainty and fear in its place. And the fear is real.

No one knows for sure when this will end, or what it will cost us in lives and livelihoods. We do know this, though: Normal life is good. We already miss it. And maybe that’s a silver lining to these dark clouds – we remember what we love. The steady rhythms of normal life can make us sleepy and distracted, but now we’re awake. Now we remember:

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The Man In 38F

Somewhere over the Atlantic, there’s a metal tube with wings. Inside, a man sits in a seat called 38F, surrounded by strangers. And the strangest thing of all is the fact that he’s a stranger, too. He doesn’t feel like one, because he knows where he came from and where he’s going and why. He knows someone. He knows the man in 38F. At least, he knows him better than he knows any of the people around him.

But they don’t.

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The Small Choices Shape The Big Ones

They say life is full of choices, and they couldn’t be more right. Every moment we’re awake, we’re making a choice of some kind or another: a choice to do what we’re doing instead of something else, to do it joyfully or bitterly, to notice the people around us or use them, to say something or not, to say it one way or another, to wait in silence or fill the time with social media, what to eat, what to wear, how fast to walk, how fast to drive, and so on and on and on. But in the midst of all this half-conscious choosing, a few choices stand out. We know them well. They are The Big Ones:

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Exotic Escapes And Ordinary Days

Summertime. The beaches are calling, and the exotic places of Earth are waiting for me to take a selfie with them. This is the season when we carve out time to put ordinary life on hold, put to-do lists in time out, and let responsibilities rest. For a few days, or a couple of weeks if we can get them, we are free.

…until it’s time to go home and return to ordinary days full of ordinary people and ordinary jobs and food and conversations about traffic and plans for the next holiday. Holidays can be so nice that they can tempt us to see the months and weeks of regular work in between as just a preparation for our next chance to get away. But what if all of this ordinary stuff in between is more than just a savings plan for another escape? What if it’s actually our life? And what are we missing by wishing it away?

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