Follow the Insomniac

I can’t sleep, again.

Insomnia is getting the better of me.

And I’m sick again – flu in February; mumps in March; tonsillitis in April.

Every time I try to get fit; healthy; motivated; organised or deal with our fertility and my mental health, I fall ill again.

So if you have tips on building an immune system, do let me know.

Also, follow my videos Instagram ( Dotty Rocker ) and Facebook (Off My Dotty Rocker ).

Also, if the puppy poops in the house once more I might actually shout st her cute ass.

Goodnight, ha ha, not really. 🐘

Peace of Mind

I’m not one to revisit places I’ve been to on holidays: feeling like there is always something more out there; something else to see; somewhere better to see and experience. By nature, I’m constantly moving on to the next thing which could either be because A. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge or B. because I have the attention capabilities of an Irish Setter (I’m looking at you George Weasley ). However, Ashley Park, just outside Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, has drawn Husband-to-Be and I back twice already (we also wanted to go last summer but it was so busy with weddings we couldn’t find a date that suited). John and I went last February, almost a exactly a year ago, and despite the season, the grounds are refined in their starkness; glorious in their early snowdrop bleakness.

The Main House is a gorgeous yet creakily authentic Victorian style villa: its green and white façade and wrap-around veranda look almost Colonial. With its white wrought iron love seat swing on the lawn overlooking the lake with its little island on which stands a play castle ruin, draws the eye and the heart. Taking the row boat out on the lake is always pure and wholesome family fun, or delightfully romantic.

Attached to the Main House is the most beautiful Marquee all set up for a wedding in modern luxury with a 1920s palm tree café feel, again overlooking the wide expanse of lake glittered with fairy lights on the ancient trees;  the moon illuminating the still water.

There are ten coach house cottages or suites which are completely different in character to the Main House and the original cottages, yet somehow they manage to feature Victorian references with gigantic pieces of stunning art – even Frieda Kahlo appears, hovering above a staircase in all her breath taking vibrancy.

But our favourite, the dotey little Gardener’s Cottage, in which we have now spent two idyllic weekends, trumps all of the rest for us.

It’s far from perfect- the walls are authentic in their unevenness; the beams exposed as long lost great oak trees, probably from the estate, and although there is electric heating, in order to be truly warm, you must build your fire in the stove. I have never felt such simple satisfaction as when I built a roaring open flame fire with NO firelighters and just a bit of old paper; twigs from the storm blown woodland and plentious amounts of estate logs and local turf. The cottage, a ground floor kitchen/dining area/living room/extra bed space soon grew so warm that we were opening doors, in January, at night time. Of course, given the aesthetically pleasing, symmetrical walled garden and the moonlit lake, nobody much minded. Especially two of our dogs – Elsie and CJ – who were most cordially invited by the gracious Margaret and PJ, our hosts. The spiral iron wrought staircase was only just mastered by Elsie, our sheepdog, an hour before check out (which was 2 1/2 hours later than specified as “there was no rush as there was nobody checking in to the cottage today”. CJ managed the stairs on night one, although I would urge caution after a few gins!

I have long struggled with anxiety and depression; as have many in my family. We do not have thousands to spend on family getaways or holidays. Nor do we have the time – both John and running successful businesses as well as John having a full time job; our daughter is in college and our five year old spends a week’s salary on Lego every month. We also have six dogs and three cats (all rescues) to support. We do try to get away every couple of months however: a weekend in London with the cousins; an annual few days in Europe for Eighteen Year Old’s birthday or just to explore Friend (which to be honest, I have been woefully unadventured in compared to my English betrothed – figures, doesn’t it? We never appreciate what we have). But this place, Ashley Park, brings to me a serenity; a glow of acceptance of all that I have in my life; the glory of natural Ireland; a Yeatsian kind of love for my homeland; a stillness in my mind that no amount of prescription anti-anxiety meds can induce.

If you are going to book an a getaway – no wifi; no network coverage; no TV; no distractions – just you – book Ashley Park.

Dotty 💋

Relax? Great Advice

So, I got my period. Not fucking pregnant again. I honestly feel like I’ve failed the womanhood test.

Such is my sense of failure that we nearly ended up with dog Number 7 today. The maternal void must be filled. Eighteen Year Old is self-sufficient with friends; college; teaching and romantic affairs. Five Year Old has his own lovely mum and only needs me to be a stepmom/fun auntie type figure.

I mean, I knew the likelihood of getting pregnant last month was slim: I took a break from Clomid so as not to be a misery guts over Christmas (and way hey, I was still stressed to the absolute max – see previous posts) but I’ve heard so many anecdotes about women becoming pregnant when they “were on a break”: “not thinking about it” or ‘just having fun” that I secretly hoped that maybe, just maybe, the month when I was drinking gin and not really exercising might just be the month that my ovaries were lulled into a false sense of fertility and found themselves and their mother uterus unexpectedly expecting.

But alas, no,

I’m pissed off. And sad. And angry. And embarrassed. And guilty.

And absolutely sick to the empty womb of seeing other women who are pregnant.

Does this make me a bad person; a terrible feminist? Or just human?

Answers on a postcard please.

Dotty 💋

The Little Thing Cliché

The christmas tree is gone to the attic for eleven months and the house, although untidy has some semblance of normality. I’ve been trying to take a mental note of all the women who haven mentioned to me over the last few days who have expressed their eagerness to get the festive season over and move on. I mean, nobody is excited about January – who can get excited about the two dreariest months of the year falling consecutively after a season of indulgence. My birthday is in January, the 25th, and Husband-to-Be’s is the 18th, the two weeks of the year when everybody is waiting to get paid and nobody feels like celebrating because when you’re broke and cold who wants to party? Not that I’d want to party anymore, even New Year’s Eve consisted of H-to-B; me; the dogs and cats and a bottle of Tanqueray. We banged saucepans with wooden spoons at the front front door at midnight which was a tradition of the older people on the block where I grew up (I’d love to know the origins of this if anyone’s heard of it?). Long gone are the days of glammed up nights out: it’s not that I’m too old, it’s just that I’m happy to be at home with my crew. I used to feel guilty about not wanting to go out – I should; I might be missing out; it’s good to socialise I’d beat myself up but these days, no thanks, once in a blue moon is good enough for me.

Maybe that’s because we have six dogs and they are the best snugglers on the planet. Currently i am trying to type with the smallest, the Spaniel, resting on my right arm while the Sheepdog snoozes on a cushion beside me. The Retriever is standing on the dining table waiting for H-to-B to get back from the grocery shop. The irish Setter has his head in the five year old’s lap and the Whippet is curled up being anti-social in an arm chair on his own. There are two kittens roaming around somewhere, liek;y to either pounce on your head or swirl themselves into a ball on your chest. the eighteen year old is drinking th elast of her white wine and Snapchatting. to Story 3 is playing in the background.

Thsi day next week, h-to-B will be in from work; I’ll be heading to yoga with the Eighteen year old and the five YEar old will be finishing his important junior Infant homework while his dad cooks dinner. I’ll have made it through the first two days back at work and it will seem like christmas never happened. We’ll all be concurrently wishing for snow and Spring so that we can eith er have a few more days at home in our PJs or able to get out and enjoy the stretch in the evenings.

We are all always “moving on” to the next phase. No matter how much we look aforward to a holiday or the weekend; we’re always thnking of getting through to the next Bank Holiday or Valentine’s Day; Easter or the summer break. We spent a month gearing up for Christmas adn then I was releived whne it was over. we’re heading to London this weekend and then back to wirk; we are going on a short family break on the weekend of my birthday and then I’ll have to plan something else to look forward to. but in between, it’s the monday nights when we watch Universoty Challenge together; yoga classes; morning walks on the beach; claases that I teach that give me the “good class buzz”; the laughs with the Eighteeen Year old and the silliness with the Five Year Old and the snuggles from  the dogs that keep us going. And getting my front door repainted and ticking things off the endless To Do List that give you a lift, as my nana would say.

Life is often classified by its big momentous occasions – the weddings; births; new houses; Christmases; holidays; promotions; successes and glitzy nights out, but in fact, it’s the tiny things that make it all bearable. I’d bet even JK Rowling loves that first crocus of the year; that first sip of a cold drink at the end of a long week; that first kiss when your man walks in the door; that text to say your daughter aced her assisgnment; the picture the Five Year Old draws of you with crazy red curly hair; the first lick of the day from your doggo.

As bad as life can get sometimes; as hard and traumatic and lonely and dark, i’m lucky enough to be able to appreciate the little things. Everything that has happened in my life: rape; marriage breakdown; absent fathers; chronic migraine; heartache; depression and complete breakdown; miscarriage and financial ruin – I am still blessed to have the people I love with me whenever that flake of snow falls this winter.

The F Word

Today, I did a terrible thing (another one!): I bailed on our annual school friends’ Christmas reunion lunch. We used to do dinners and big nights out but these days we are all too tired for raving clubbing and raging hangovers. Also, most of us have kids and many are expecting or have just given birth.

Which leads me on to a seldom discussed and still somewhat taboo subject, although we are getting better as a society in talking about our fertility issues.

Fertility. There I said it. Conceiving; pregnancy; abortion; miscarriages and loss; stillbirth and birth.

I’ve been quite open with those I know about our wish to have another child; I think sometimes my honesty can come as a surprise and sometimes people probably think I’m looking for sympathy; but that doesn’t bother me. I genuinely believe that we need to be completely transparent about our struggles with everything from depression to rape; toxic masculinity to fertility.

We are lucky enough to have one child each – both healthy and happy and loved but our desire to make our family bigger and open our hearts even further to another baby (or two) is, if not an obsession, something we would really love. The problem is we can’t seem to have a successful pregnancy “stick” – we’ve had a few near hits but alas, after eighteen months of no contraception and three months of Clomid (which is a bitch on my hormones and skin and mood – but more about that another day), we have nada to show for it, in terms of procreating together at least, although the trying has been lots of fun and in a way, I think it’s brought us closer and closer together.

I can’t say that I not being able to produce a kiddo has negatively affected our lives to an excessive point but it does get me down, frequently if not often. And today was one of those days when I felt “other’ and perhaps, “less” than my women friends who are currently pregnant or recently postpartum. More recently than my almost 19 years out of the maternity hospital. I got pregnant so unwittingly when I was 18; now, when I’m finally ready to be a mother, I can’t. I’m not fitting into the conventional mould and it pisses me off. I don’t for a second begrudge other women their successful pregnancies, but let’s be honest, there is that voice that asks “why the fuck can’t I get pregnant?!”

Now, that I’ve broached the subject, there could be a floodgate of fertility posts – be warned.

If you’d like to share your experiences, please do get in touch.

At least I’ve been able to drink copious amounts of gin over Christmas though, right?

Dot 💋

 

 

Supermom (Not)

I read this today and boy, did it resonate. I started thinking about the joy I feel when preparing our home for Christmas yet the inordinate amount of pressure under which I put myself to make it perfect. I’d bet the majority of you do too – the preparation on the house  cleaning and decorating; the grocery list; the gift list to find something thoughtful and meaningful to show just how much you really care; the hair and nail appointments; sparkly dresses and perfectly contoured smiling faces. Familiar?

Once, when the matriarch of our family, my Nana, was in her forties, she turned over the table on Christmas Day: dinner half eaten, and told them all to fuck off and that Christmas was over. She also pulled down the Christmas tree and threw it out in the back garden. The festivities were well and truly over. Although that story became something of a legend in my family – unreal; of a time that had long since passed and was only partially understood by the women in the family in possession of an equally short fuse, I can now totally see, as I approach my 40s, how you get to the point when you’re just fucking done with pleasing everyone, and what’s more, being in competition with yourself.

Here’s what it’s like to live with me over the holiday season, as told, firstly by my 18 year old daughter:

Christmas is a stressful time for everyone. Now, throw in one set of relatives that don’t want to be here, another who belittle you and your family, 6 dogs, 2 cats, an 18 year old daughter with anxiety and a fucking elf on the goddamn shelf. I think, taking all of this into account, Mother handled it quite nicely. Sure there was the outburst over Christmas Dinner (warranted in my opinion) and her constant companion; the sweeping brush. Mother, once being a social butterfly during my childhood has now become a crazy woman who lives in a cave like a bloody hermit. She would much prefer a quiet Christmas with nobody around to dirty her floors or crowd the counter top with dishes. Cleaning and tidying is a control thing for her: the state and presentation of our home is one thing she has control over and she exerts it to her fullest ability. I know Mother inside and out, her tiny quirks and movements that show the DepressionLevel of the day. I can tell before she even wakes up what type of day it’s going to be and this Christmas, I had to be on extra alert to make sure that the Christmas stress didn’t get to her. Then again, a lot of that was out of my control too.

 

And from my Husband-to-Be:

It’s a strange, wonderfully contradictory world to live with Dotty over the holiday season. As she said herself she put on a lot of pressure regarding the decorations, tree, atmosphere and environment. But then she’ll state honestly that she just wants to spend time with the family. Certainly I put pressure on myself regarding the food as I do the majority of the cooking so I understand the (wasted) energy we put into things that don’t really matter. Dotty works very hard throughout the year and deserves her time off. I think sometimes she doesn’t know what to do with her free time except sleep, clean and complain about the cleaning. This holiday season started off similar with adorning the house with 4 trees and an amount of LED lights that should be illegal with me moaning about the decoration budget. The big day ended with fewer guests than planned and more leftover meat than is reasonable. So I’m more than happy for a simpler Christmas, just with the same generous cheese budget. I wasn’t there for the row, but I’m sure it was justified. She’s currently napping on the couch on her daughter’s lap, foolishly leaving the cheese in the fridge unguarded. So if you’ll excuse me, Mr Jacobs and I have plans for any and all cheeses left.

Husband-to-Be old me that he had written his piece and of course, I wasn’t listening and came in a half hour later and asked if he had written it. He had done it while I was asleep. Says it all really.

Take Down the Tree

My life is pretty great these days: I’m no longer the raging basket case that I was a few years ago; I’ve managed to carve out a career for myself that I love; I have a wonderful happy family life and a lovely home. I always look forward to Christmas in a big way but every year, almost every year, I find it wanting and it usually turns into a big fat ball of stress.

The amount of money that our family spent on the festivities is absolutely ludicrous. The sheer scale of food is obscenely gluttonous. The pains I went to in order to turn the house into a mini version of the Home Alone house. We all got matching pyjamas. I could illuminate a cathedral with the amount of candles. We meticulously wrapped endless gifts that were probably regifted. But now, I am done with mess of it all and I want that bloody tree packed up; the recycling cleared and my body detoxed.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas “perfect”. The endless advertising now lasts almost the entirety of autumn and everyone is smiling and encouraging us to make your season magical. I think women are more susceptible to this external pressure, in general, as we want to make everything special for our families.

But Christmas is hard. Apart from my outburst yesterday which was obviously accumulative in nature, I’ve been feeling like next year needs to be different. I’m going to see if the family will agree to a less commercial; more peaceful experience in a cottage such as the one above as I honestly don’t think I want to expose myself to the stress and perfection seeking of the festive season. What about you? Do you ever want to tell everyone to fuck off and keep it simple?

 

 

Oops, I ruined Christmas…

Merry fucking Christmas from the Mother who couldn’t take anymore.

I’m not sure how many Christmases I’ve hosted for a big number but I won’t be doing it anymore because clearly. I’m not built for it, and nobody would want to come anyway.

Today,  I got to the point when my self-righteousness; my temper and my tongue got the better of me and I fucking lost the plot. I haven’t lost my temper, to this extent, in a while but today, because of the stress of Christmas: possibly a Gin & Tonic;  and years of somebody’s repeated sniping and undermining of my family, I lost control of my calm hostess demeanour; good and polite family member and it all spilled out into vitriol that was ill-timed and overly hostile, yet heartfelt.

Who else has ruined Christmas with their short fuse (actually, I have a relatively long fuse: it takes a lot more these days than it used to to set me off, but these days, when I lose it, I really fucking lose it. And then EVERYONE suffers) ?

I know I shouldn’t have had my outburst today – it was poorly timed (it’s Christmas for Christ’s sake!); ill judged and bitchy – the one thing I never want to be (but often am). But yet, I don’t regret what I said because I feel it all and I know everyone else thinks exactly what I said out loud with my gobshite mouth – everything that I said today has been said  in closed conversation at some point but I was confident that the one person I thought might back me up, did. I shouldn’t be surprised because this person does when it comes to a public display of solidarity: that person is quite willing to support me.

So, if you had a picture perfect; Coca Cola advertisement; diamonds and pearls; huggy kissy family – good for you, but this Christmas, I’m with the Dirt Birds

 

 

Why I am VOTING YES on May 25th

Why I am voting YES on May 25th:
I don’t know what I believe about when exactly human life “begins” – I’m not scientific enough to detach my emotional brain from it. Is it with the eggs present in a baby girls’ ovaries or with a single sperm? Why does it have to be just at the moment when fertilisation occurs if the significant elements are already in existence? Is contraception really abortion? If so, I’m doomed to hell along with most women since the 1970s. I’ve had to take the morning after pill, many times – is that the same thing as abortion then? Indeed, is not having sex a kind of termination of a potential human life?
Even though I am fiercely pro-choice, I have, like many YES voters, strong, inherently maternal emotional reactions to the concept of abortion. Could I do it? I have no idea because the only time I have been in situation where it was an option was when I knew I could cope with a baby despite being just 18 – I was mature and used to looking after small children. It didn’t really matter to me that the father was quite likely to turn out to be useless or that my family were quite conservative at the time (they aren’t now – my 61 year old mother is a feminist icon) or that it was still only 1999 and I knew I’d be the scandal of the town. I gave birth to a baby girl when I was 19 and unmarried: people passed me in the street and refused to talk to me. I’ve been called a “fallen woman” – I’m standing up very straight, in fact, my posture is often complimented, thank you. If I had had an abortion these so called Christian pillars of the community: what would they have said? Nothing, turned a blind eye. I was raped when I was 16 and luckily (can there be anything lucky about being raped?!), I didn’t need to access abortion services. If your daughter was raped, would you force her to carry that pregnancy to term? Would you put her through that? If you could, I suggest some soul searching on your part as her parent.
It doesn’t really matter about me because the bottom line is, it’s none of my business how another woman lives her life. All I can do is try to be a support to any person who might need my help; guidance or experience as a single mother, or as an empathetic human who tries to see life from a vantage point other than my privilege.
I’ve miscarried twice and as it was so early in the pregnancies, I don’t feel in my heart that it was a human life I lost. I would love to have another baby but we are having trouble conceiving – that doesn’t mean that I deny another woman the right to end a pregnancy any more than I begrudge a happy healthy pregnancy; just as nobody can tell me not to take fertility drugs to increase my chances of becoming pregnant. PS I’m not even married, look away extreme right-wingers!
Ireland is complex society trying desperately to free itself from centuries of Catholic theocracy under which women’s babies were literally pulled from their arms and sold to rich Americans by nuns, or worse, left to die and thrown into septic tanks serving as unmarked mass graves. Women and children were systemically abused by the Church and it was illegal to be gay until 1995. Children were designated “illegitimate’ on their birth certificates until 1987. Plenty of Christians have had no problem sending their daughters to England for a termination during the many decades of shame, praying that nobody would find out. The controversial change in our Constitution that Irish women seek is not, as is often propagated by the NO vote, to be allowed to abort their baby at whim (I doubt many do that anyway) but to have the choice to end a FFA pregnancy early; to put their own health and the care of their existing children ahead of a potential life;  for rape and abuse victims to be allowed to move on from their attack and attackers; to allow cancer patients to live by not being forced to carry a pregnancy to full term; to choose what happens inside their bodies and for the rest of their lives, as men do. Women just want you to be pro- women’s lives.
Ireland is often touted as one of the safest countries to give birth – what about Savita? What about the women who every day face an excruciatingly difficult decision about their bodies; mental health and lives; their family’s lives?
Women EVERYWHERE will have abortions – many of whom you know – so why not face up to it and provide for them safely in their own country? Remember that fathers who do not pay maintenance for their children are not chased by the government – they face no repercussions for abandoning a pregnancy or a living child. How is that fair? And remember the 13th Amendment which proves our hypocrisy – it’s legal acceptable to send women abroad for an abortion.
Added in to all this is our post colonial hangover which often involves blaming Britain for our societal issues, and exporting our problems to them: abortions; young people; the unemployed; often the sick, and you have a whole other layer of complex national identity to unravel from its empirical past under first, the British and subsequently, the misogynistic church forced upon us as vulnerable children.
“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone” – Yeats lamented. Thank god it is: visions of old haggard Mother Ireland willing a blood sacrifice from her sons in order to transform her into a beautiful young queen. We can do without that thanks: all the pressure on the woman to be bloody perfect. Yeats: the man who took all the credit for Lady Gregory’s work. Women in this country have too long being elevated onto a symbolic pedestal of unrealistic virginal purity becoming the post-colonial fodder of the new ruling male, Catholic élite. This time we are building our own pedestal and by Pearse, will you hear us shout our truth from it.
This referendum will be passed and it’s been a long time coming for Mná na Éireann. We legislated for divorce and legalised same sex marriage and we will do this too. Ireland is becoming one of the most progressive countries in the world and by the time my 18 year old daughter’s generation comes to be the decision making generation, it will be a liberal; healthy country in which to live your life without an enforced morality built on religious and legislative shame but instead on truth; tolerance and love but with true Christian values of compassion; care and empathy.
Please, for all the women of now and Ireland’s future : VOTE YES!

I Believe Her

I have been trying to avoid the news of the Ulster Rugby Rape Case (I can’t even bring myself to Google and insert a link here so you’ll have to go searching for the grey and gory details yourself – be warned: it ain’t pretty).

I just can’t cope with the verdict.

Can you cope with the verdict?

It took the jury two hours to reach a decision. Two hours.

There were eight men and four women.

Hands in pockets as they left the courtroom.

The woman’s name and image have appeared widely in public social media groups. Anonymity means little in our digital age.

Have I got these facts right? It’s all a blur – I have actively resisted any information but it gets through, the news, these days.

No Man Is An Island – unless, of course, you’re an island protected by a school of solicitous sharks who predate on those who exist outside the old boys’ network. A young woman on a night out: how many drinks?; how tight were her jeans?; how many kisses?; why no screams?; why did she go back for her phone?; what kind of underwear was she wearing?

She had no chance against them.

No woman has a chance against a justice system so inherently male; masculine; colonial; prejudiced.

Innocent until proven guilty, you say. And now they are proven innocent.

There are the hundreds of thousands who mock and fume that they were ever doubted, son.

The man who raped me would be found innocent too, of that I am sure. There is precious little evidence to verify any of my story apart from the testimony of my best friend; a few post-event notes scribbled on scraps of copy book paper; my parents’ memories of my first breakdown six months later; the notes of my counsellor from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; a lifetime of despair; unworthiness and self-doubt.

But I was raped. I can say that word now. I said the R word without hesitation for the first time in my first counselling session with my potentially new counsellor yesterday: she asked me if she could refer to the incident that occurred when I was sixteen as a “rape” or if I’d prefer “attack” or “assault”. It has never felt like an attack in that the shock horror element of it didn’t hit me until a long time after. I don’t feel like it qualifies as an attack – attack is too sudden, and wasn’t I asking for it?

I doubt that young woman in Belfast felt like it was an “attack” either – she was manipulated and used and coerced into her own rape. But she was raped – the medical evidence supported a guilty verdict; her story has been validated; their messages attested to their misogynistic, entitled hubris.

And that makes sense to me.

And I believe her.

Do you believe me?

Dotty 💋