Own Your Introversion 

“Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak and observe more than you know.” ~ Michaela Chung

I’ve always know that I’m an introvert. So when I took the Myers-Briggs questionnaire as part of a work-related exercise, it came as no surprise to me that I am classed as an INFJ personality-type. This table should explain that term to anyone unfamiliar with it: 

Source: Wikipedia

I didn’t really think about it until lately, when a former college classmate had taken the questionnaire and asked me about my results. I told him that I was an INFJ and that I fully accepted this description of me. He seemed surprised, as an extrovert himself, that I considered myself introverted. I suppose, on the surface, I appear very comfortable in company and I am able to make idle small-talk with the best of them (topics of choice: the weather, whatever Trump has done this week, the rising cost of saffron), but I know myself that I am much more comfortable either by myself or with a small group of people whom I know well. It was what he said next that really sums up the misconception about introverts: 

It’s just… aren’t introverts…like…a little weird and awkward? 

Full disclosure: Yes, I can be a little weird and awkward. And there’s nothing wrong with that (okay, so I probably should be supervised using adult scissors and I definitely shouldn’t be left alone with your boss, but that’s just common sense). But come on, I’m not some bumbling Hugh Grant archetype who can’t string a coherent sentence together without peeing myself.

Although I can relate to this so much. Dammit Hugh.


Introverts aren’t socially inept idiots. While we may not embrace social gatherings with the same enthusiasm as our extroverted counterparts, it doesn’t mean we don’t like or even enjoy them from time to time. It also doesn’t mean that we’re incapable of conversing with others in a meaningful way. Introverts tend to listen to and really think about what you are saying. It is only when one is quiet that you can really listen. We are contemplative and reflective. That is not necessarily a sign of shyness and most definitely not a sign of weakness. 

I want to banish the misconception that introverts are somehow ineffectual loners who loathe human contact. You can be introverted and lead a fulfilling, successful life. You can work and socialise like any other person. You value your own company because it allows you time to think, to reflect, to create, to be.

Being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Sometimes, I feel most lonely in a room full of people because a situation like that often prevents deep, meaningful communication. Conversations at social gatherings can be inanely superficial. 

I’ve grown to love my own company. I love the silence of it (well, I’m sometimes silent… there are those days I get my Celine Dion on…). I love listening to my inner voice in that silence… although she’s usually telling me that she wants fro yo and a Storage Wars marathon. 


So I’m choosing to own my introversion. I’m not ashamed of it, and you shouldn’t be either. In fact, without this aspect of  my personality, I don’t think I would be blogging. It’s allowed me to be a much more introspective person and that’s key to personal blogging really, isn’t it? That and cats…lots of cats. 

So tell me about your personality; are you an introvert? Or are you more extroverted? (nothing wrong with that, of course *awkwardly bumps you on the arm*) 

Come tell me in the comments! 

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The Woman I am Not

“What did you do at the weekend Jane?”

I am surrounded by five women I work with, all eating kale salads or spreading avocado on crackers. I suddenly feel that my chicken and stuffing sandwich on white bread with a side of crisps looks embarrassingly out of place. I hesitate. Should I tell them that my boyfriend and I watched the 2000 WWF Royal Rumble while eating kebabs? Given that the majority of them probably spent their Saturday attending their bikram yoga classes, I choose to lie:

“Erm, I went on a cycle.” I had doubted that they would have been as enthused about The Rock’s victory that year as I had been. I sat there, frustrated with myself. Why lie? Was the truth really so embarrassing? I knew the issue I had wasn’t with the women surrounding me, it was with myself. Over the past few months, I had started to feel… abnormal. These women were everything I had envisaged I would be as a woman in my thirties: they knew the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot, they had children whom they took to ballet, they were all slim, fit and attractive and had an air of maturity about them that was slightly intimidating. Don’t get me wrong; they treated me very well. It wasn’t anything they consciously did that made me feel uncomfortable in their presence. I guess it was what they didn’t do.

Compared to them, I felt like a silly, immature little girl who would never have life figured out. I spend my free time playing PlayStation games, watching horror movies and rugby, eating Nutella out of a jar, teaching my cats The Macarena and sending decidedly ridiculous Snapchats to my friends. Maturity wasn’t the issue, however. Besides all evidence to the contrary, I am actually pretty mature….

Well, okay… I know when to be mature. So that wasn’t what bothered me. The issue was what these women represented to me. They represented an ideal of feminism I felt so alienated from. They reminded me that I was quite far away from being the graceful, high-heel wearing, hummus-eating, almond milk-drinking lady I had once envisioned I would magically become. They reminded me of the woman I am not; the woman I would never be.

I don’t bake. I don’t have children. I hold babies like I’m about to drop kick them for three points. I drink to get tipsy, not because I notice the citrus aroma in whatever white wine I’m drinking. I watch wrestling, reality TV and violent films. I don’t know how to sew. I can’t wear high heels. I don’t enjoy looking at photographs of babies, weddings or curtains. I DON’T KNOW WHAT A TRACKER MORTGAGE IS.

I get in touch with my inner glamour goddess every now and again, but sometimes I need to clean the dog crap in my garden Marilyn.

You’re probably thinking, so what? Aren’t all of the above antiquated stereotypes about women’s interests anyway? Perhaps. But it was difficult to sit amongst these women, day in, day out and not feel so uncomfortable in myself. Whether I liked it or not, these were their interests. Which, of course, they were entitled to. They weren’t the anomaly, I was. I know that I’m not better than these women, and they’re not better than me. I actually liked them very much and they showed me nothing but respect and kindness. It was just that I was so so different to them. But why?

I suppose I can’t really answer that. I know everyone is different, but I was like a black sheep in a sea of pink flamingos*. As time moved on, I begin to accept myself for who I am, and who I am not. Just like they’re not wrong for their personal tastes, I’m not wrong for mine. Okay, so I would prefer to see Stone Cold Steve Austin perform a stunner than look through a book of carpet samples. Each to their own, right? They might appear more traditionally feminine than I do, but so what? We’re all women. Our differences need to be celebrated. They nurture us. They teach us. I cannot be someone I’m not. Why would I force myself to eat avocado or learn how to sew when I just don’t want to. That doesn’t make me any less of a woman.

And what exactly is femininity anyway? It doesn’t necessarily mean pink stilettos and prosecco. I can look to all the wonderful qualities these women at work (and all the women in my life) possess. They are nurturing, they have empathy, they are sensitive and gentle. They are strong. And while I won’t be hitting up the nail salon with any of them anytime soon, I appreciate why they like the things they do. They make them feel happy. Just like Wrestlemania makes me feel happy. 

I do love being a woman. I also love a hell of a lot of random crap: makeup, Jurassic Park movies, owl ornaments, cats, UFC, poetry, flowers, anything involving Hannibal Lecter… I can be a woman and like all of these things. There’s no set of rules that we have to abide by. It’s not like you turn thirteen and have to level up to the next woman level by passing a cross-stitching exam.

Anyway, labels can confine us. They often present us with barriers and prevent our growth. In the traditional sense, no, I’m not very feminine. That’s okay, it would be a little stifling to be defined so easily. In today’s world, gender roles are not as clearly defined. We are being restricted by them less and less. I am as feminine as I am masculine in many ways. Except when it comes to dealing with spiders. Don’t come near me with that shit.

So yeah, I’m going to continue watching Storage Wars with my terribly chipped nail polish and my Seth Rogen donkey laugh. Sure, there isn’t going to be a Disney princess based on me (unless Disney suddenly envisage their princesses with terrible hand-eye coordination and a penchant for leggings) but did Snow White ever knee-slide across a floor while managing not to spill two pints of cider?

Didn’t think so.

*Gives you time to mentally picture that. Enjoy.

Everyone is a Lesson 

Imagine a world where everyone had the exact same opinion about absolutely everything. It’s hard to conceive of, isn’t it? Besides being an unrealistic prospect, it’s also a pretty boring one. 

Lately, I happened across a tweet which said something to the effect of “whoever has x opinion is going to get unfollowed and blocked.” While I can’t remember what the offending opinion was exactly, it was the sentiment of the tweet that stuck with me:

Block out everything you don’t agree with. 

It struck me as an incredibly ignorant, close minded and even petulant statement. Sure, you can surround yourself with people who share similar values and beliefs to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. But to develop a fully open mind, you should also engage with people who challenge you, people whom you can learn from and who can help you grow. Our perspectives and views of the world are often blinkered by our own unconscious bias. It’s healthy to have people around you who will question your beliefs and your motives. Of course, no body should ever have to tolerate intimidation or aggression from someone whose opinion differs from your own, but there is such a thing as an honest, respectful and beneficial debate.

Consider the following:

You are placed in a room with fifty people. You are all asked questions about your political leanings, your religious beliefs or lack thereof, your sexual preferences, your morals, values and personal tastes and your feelings on important socio-political issues. You are then grouped with people according to the similarities in your responses. As you have all more or less the same viewpoints on several potentially contentious and divisive topics, you all probably would get along quite well. Would you learn anything? Maybe. But because you all have quite similar perspectives, it’s unlikely there would be any earth-shattering epiphanies. You would make some new friends, at the very least.

Now imagine you are placed with those people whose answers completely differed from yours. You are encouraged to discuss your reasons for your responses to the questions. It would be difficult, possibly unpleasant. It would be offensive and maybe upsetting. You are encouraged to stay as calm as you can. You begin to express your own viewpoints as best you can, and even teach some of those people things they genuinely didn’t know. They tell you that they will reflect on what you have said. Most importantly, however, you listen. You hear opinions that differ from yours. Huh, you hadn’t thought of that before. Hmm, you think, maybe I was wrong because I just didn’t know enough. You feel your perspective shifting a little and you realise the earth hasn’t suddenly stopped spinning.

It’s not necessarily about being wrong or right. Sure, it can be hard to remain calm when you’re being faced with abhorrent bigotry of any kind. When someone is being genuinely ignorant about a subject they clearly know little about, it can be extremely frustrating. Instead of labelling someone a racist or an ignoramus however, try to educate them. Give them the facts. If they choose to ignore that, then disengage. Sometimes, you just will just not get on with people and that is okay too, but there are plenty of wonderful friendships around the world which have been borne out of difference and disagreement.

Think about and confront your own opinions as much as you can. Ask yourself why they are important to you, whether they are supported by fact or experience or are they motivated mostly by feeling? Are they maybe formed by personal bias? Aim to engage with people whose opinions are different. If you’re a democrat, for example, talk to a republican. Don’t just dismiss them because you don’t agree with their political affiliation. They are a person, just like you, who has probably arrived at their political persuasion for a plethora of reasons. Find out what those are. Maybe they’ll change their mind, maybe you’ll change yours. Maybe nobody will but you will both definitely have learned something about the other side.

It won’t always be easy. You will be challenged and insulted. You might develop even stronger convictions or you might begin to change your mind; both prospects are equally exciting. But think of all the positives: you’ll be more knowledgable on certain topics, you will develop a greater sense of empathy and you may even make new friends (just, eh, hide the knives when they come over). In the word of Amy Poehler:

Limit your “always” and your “nevers”.

So open your mind. You never know what joys you’ll let in.

 

Here’s me using one of these inspiration quotes I decry so much. See, we’re all learning!

This post is more all over the place than 2007 Britney

My poor blog. Seriously. It is so neglected that if it were a person, it would be wearing a burlap sack and banging a tin cup against the bars of the prison I keep it in. Thankfully, it’s not a person. But I must admit, I’ve been less than diligent with my posting. I love blogging. When I first started, I found a part of myself I never really knew existed. It has opened me up in a way that nothing else ever really could have. So I will come back to my blog, clean it up a little and bake it some cookies by way of an apology. I will also eat those cookies because that’s what my blog would want.

Last time I wrote, I discussed my issues with anxiety. While I am feeling a lot better, it is a daily struggle. The medication helps significantly, but I’m frequently exhausted beyond belief. I also suffer from vestibular migraines, which my anxiety medication actually treats. So yay, I guess? All in all, I’m not doing too badly. 

As some of you may know, I’m a secondary school teacher (I teach English and history and a smattering of other things). I’ve just been working part time and am now on school holidays, although I will be acting as a scribe for a student who is unable to write her exams. I actually love doing it. 

I’m still living in my little cottage with my two cats, two dogs and lovely boyfriend. J is working full-time as well as completing his PhD. He is a little unwell at the moment and that’s been another cause for concern. Please send him good thoughts! 

Just reading over this, it all seems a little subdued. I’m actually in a very good place. For me, having a sense of humour has been key to getting through the last year. It wasn’t always easy, but I really do believe the old cliche: laughter is the best medicine. My friends have been amazing in helping me. We just laugh constantly (I mean, we breathe sometimes too) and it helps me no end. 

I recently turned thirty (as I’ve mentioned about a million times!) and instead of the anticipated freak-out, I’m actually really at peace with it all. Really. Ahem. Honestly though, I’m still a silly, slightly crazy, giggling pile of incompetence and that’s okay. I have learned over the years not to take myself so seriously. I’m really learning to be okay with who I am, and who I am not. 

So, in conclusion, here’s what I did last month instead of correcting exam scripts… because necessary. 

Yes

I long for the days that I was able to roll out of bed after a less than sober night and spring into immediate action; cooking my gals a greasy breakfast and cringing with them over our less-than-ladylike antics the previous night. Nowadays, I’m lucky if I can utter anything more than a mono syllable. Springing out of bed post- bender is still nothing but a dream *stares wistfully into the distance* in fact, rolling out of bed and landing on the rug is even a little ambitious. 

A wiser woman would know that there’s a lesson to be learned here somewhere right? And that lesson is…I JUST WON’T GO TO BED AT ALL. NO, that’s not it…oh right, I should stop getting unmercifully pissed and learn to drink responsibly. Which, to be fair, I am capable of. My problem is that nowadays I’m lucky if I go on two or three nights out in the whole year, so when I do…well, the four horsemen of the apocalypse actually follow me around, you know, just in case. 

So lesson one of my thirties?? NO MORE DOUBLES. JUST….NO JANE. BAD JANE. 

Say hello to Gatsby! 

This is Gatsby, a bi-colour ragdoll cat that is so cute I can’t even speak in coherent jf dj fdafjnjkzbfuibdafjknjdkanfkjndwfnjdwbc…. see? Gatsby’s owner was re-homing him and I was delighted to be able to give a new home, full of cuddles and duets. Wait, did I say “duets” out loud? That’s between me, Gatsby and Celine Dion. 

Anyway, he has his own Instagram because he is basically my child and I want to be one of those annoying mothers that’s all “look how gorgeous my son is” “look how much his eyes look like mine” etc etc. Anyway, here are some pictures to make you feel inadequate because let’s face it, he is MAJESTIC. 

Do Something Silly

One of the things I’ve learned and accepted about myself since confronting my issues with anxiety is the fact that I over-think absolutely everything. I’m sure those of you reading this who have experienced the same issues will totally relate to what I’m saying. I constantly fear judgement, criticism and ridicule. As a result, I often find myself acting in a manner that really doesn’t feel natural. Sure, we all must act professional and mature in certain circumstances. Sometimes, however, being an adult means we neglect our inner child, or in my case, my inner goof. So I am urging you, dearest reader, to find that silly eejit who lives inside all of us. It’s liberating but above all, it’s fun. Here’s me playing around on Snapchat.

If anyone wants me, I’ll be hurling eggs at passing cars.*

*No I won’t because that’s a) dangerous and b) I’m actually making an omelette.

​​

 

Why I am Not Proud to be Irish Today 

Today, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day; a day where Irish culture and heritage is celebrated in countries all around the world. Here in Ireland, we use it as a day to celebrate and explore our own relationship with our country. We partake in parades and wear shamrocks, a traditional symbol of Irish-ness and our relationship with Saint Patrick. We drink excessive amounts of alcohol, celebrate into the wee hours of the morning with our friends and regret our over-indulgence the following day. In recent years, I have found myself dancing in bars adorned with tricolour flags to traditional Irish music and drinking bad Guinness. But not this year. This year I don’t feel like celebrating. I don’t feel like drunkenly acquiescing with strangers that we do indeed have “a grand little country”. This year, when I think of our history and our relationship with Christianity (which, in essence, is what Saint Patrick’s is at least supposed to be about), I don’t feel a surging sense of pride. 
I feel shame and disgust. 

Our country has had a tortured and somewhat masochistic relationship with Catholicism. In the twentieth century, this relationship with the Catholic Church seemed to be at its zenith. Our most famous Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and later president, Éamon de Valera enshrined the ‘special position’ of the Catholic Church in our country’s constitution. In 1932, the 31st International Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church was held in Dublin and attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators. It is estimated that 25% of the country’s population attended a mass held in Dublin that day. This was truly the apex of the Church’s influence over both culture and politics. Church doctrine seeped its way into all aspects of Irish life. Our schools and hospitals maintained their intrinsic link with the Church. The twentieth century was when the marriage between church and state was really cemented. 

This influence wasn’t just evident in the political sphere, however. The people of Ireland aimed to live their lives according to what they were taught at school and mass by nuns, brothers and priests. An odious sense of piety and sanctimony permeated many societal groups. Sexuality morality among all people was something that bishops and nuns obsessed over. There was, as our current Taoiseach Enda Kenny notes, ‘a morbid fascination with respectability.’ 

Contraception was illegal in Ireland between 1935 and 1980 and families, despite widespread poverty, grew large in keeping with traditional Catholic teachings. Sex outside marriage was considered inherently sinful, however. Of course, it still happened and with contraception not being widely available, many women found themselves in the worst possible situation in a repressive, judgemental and unforgiving society. These women were treated as little better than criminals; shunned by their communities and often sent to Magdalene asylums and so-called “mother and baby homes”. Here, they gave birth to their babies, who were subsequently taken away from them, and often never seen again. In the Magdalene asylums, women were worked like virtual slaves to atone for their grievous sins. 

One such mother and baby home was established in Tuam, County Galway by the Bons Secours religious order. Here, unmarried mothers gave birth to their babies, who were then taken from them and raised in a separate part of the Home by the nuns. The children were often later given up for adoption, and often without the consent of their mothers. For their part, the mothers remained in the Home for a year, working unpaid hours to reimburse the nuns for their “services”. 

Tragically, that isn’t the most infuriating or heartbreaking part of the Home’s sadistic history. It was well-known in the local community that there was an undisclosed number of foetal remains close to the site of The Home, which had been abolished in 1972. It was unclear to many, however, just what a gut-wrenching and shameful story lay behind these remains. Thanks to the tireless work of local historian Catherine Corless, however, the story is public. And now, it cannot be silenced. 

Corless discovered that throughout the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s that 796 babies and young children died at the Home.

796

Although infant mortality rates nationwide were indeed higher in the mid-twentieth century than they are today, this number is still considered abnormally high. The infants’ death certificates stated various medical reasons for their deaths, including tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough and influenza. One thing is evident: these children were not treated like human beings. They were treated as they were perceived: as a remnant of their mother’s sin and sexual immorality. And for that, they were punished. 

The nuns left these children in unmarked mass graves. The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes recently found that the remains were discovered in structure that seems to be “related to the treatment/containment of sewerage  and/or wastewater.” These babies were left to rot in a mass grave, buried without dignity or humanity. 

So today, I don’t celebrate. I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of pride in my nationality. I feel a measure of pride in the sense that justice is finally being sought for these babies, who were never before given a voice. I feel proud of the inimitable Catherine Corless, the woman who never gave up fighting for the defenceless. But I don’t feel proud of my country’s insidious past. I won’t wave a tricolour or drink a pint because I don’t feel like it. I am frankly too disillusioned, too ashamed and too heartbroken. Instead, I will think of the 796 babies lying in the cold ground in County Galway. Babies like Anne Heneghen, who died in 1954 aged 3 months. Or Dermot Gavin who died in 1956, aged 2 weeks. Or Baby Lyons, who died in 1949, aged 5 days. Or Kathleen Murray who died in 1947 aged 3 years. I could go on, but it would take some time. I ask that those of you who read this to please look at this full list of their names. They were invisible while they lived, forgotten and neglected by a society that deemed them an inconvenient truth. 

We cannot and will not ignore them now. 

Anxiety and Me 

Hi everyone! 

Well, it’s been a while. As usual. It’s been a little crazy for me lately…well crazier than usual, anyway. 

So back in December I was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder and put on Zoloft (and xanax to help me sleep). I have been through some rough patches in my life but I have never, ever felt so low. I thought I knew what anxiety was but nope, not until it hit me full force in the face like a wet fish. 

I had to take time off work. I felt alone and helpless. It led to huge strains with my family and with my boyfriend. I never knew what it would feel like to not want to get out of bed, nevermind leave the house. I never knew just how miserable a person could feel; how panicked and how vulnerable. 

The road to recovery will be long and difficult. Maybe I will never fully recover, but I can learn to live with this. I certainly am feeling much better and am able to do many more things now than I could have last month. My boyfriend has been wonderful, my family has been supportive and I’ve had a close friend be there when I needed her. She was also diagnosed with a GAD and we’ve been able to support each other. I think I’ve taken her for granted in the past. It’s only when you hit rock bottom that you really appreciate the genuine friends who don’t hesitate to make you a priority. I hope she feels the same about my friendship. 

The past few weeks have been much better. The first of the month was the one year anniversary of my aunt’s death from cancer. I spent the day with my family and just knowing how close our bond is made me feel really special. So too did the numerous messages from close friends and colleagues who remembered her anniversary. It really was as good a feeling as any pill. Sometimes people really surprise me with how thoughtful they can be. 

So guys, I’m doing well. Really well, in fact. I’m working part-time again and I love my job. I’m taking much better care of my health by exercising and eating well. I’m writing a lot and learning to love my own company. I’m laughing again and playing with my nieces and nephew. I’m running through fields with my dogs (LOL at that mental image) and bopping my cat on the head with her toys. All in all, life is good right now. There will be a time when I’ll struggle again, but I’ll be okay. I will always end up okay.

Who wouldn’t be when they’ve got unicorn slippers? I repeat, UNICORN SLIPPERS 🦄🦄


I hope all of you have been doing well, and if not then feel free to tell me about it. It’s always good to talk, right? Now let’s all have tea and freak out over how adorable my slippers are.