I run because … I love food. I must be the only person who fantasies about take-away as they are pounding the pavement. I picture Sweet & Sour Chicken with Egg-fried rice. I picture McDonalds Chicken Burger with large chips. I picture prawn cocktails, steaks, lasagne, bun-burgers and cheese fries. I put one foot in front of the other and think of what I am going to eat as soon as I get home.
I run because … I have a very expensive wardrobe I want to get back into. I can’t wear my temporary pennies wardrobe forever.
I run because … I want to get back home. I intentionally run in a circular circuit, at a time when there is nobody else home, with a dog that gets travel sick in cars. There is only one way home and that is to keep going. I can’t call a taxi as the dog will puke and I’ll have to pay for cleaning. I can’t ring home because there is nobody there. There is no point in turning back half way through my work-out as it is the same distance to the end. There is only one way out. If I want to get home I need to keep on going. Or else sit by the roadside for the rest of my life.
I run because … I’m a little vain.
I run because … I need to exercise the dog. I was conned into purchasing a dog bred for farm work, and then I put it in a garden the size of a postage stamp. Poor chap will go barmy if he is not exercised. Or worse bark all night and chew my new couches.
I run because … I don’t want to be the fat one anymore.
I run because … Doctors tell me that a cardio-workout will give me a healthy heart and prolong my life. Although I come from a family with a tradition of long life, so I am not sure how much past 102 I really want to live.
I run because … I like to dance, and I look better when there is less junk in my trunk.
I run because … It gives me head space and time alone to think my thoughts, listen to my music, be my own self for a little bit.
I run at night because … every family has one member people would prefer would exercise under the shroud of darkness. Red faced, sweat pumping, hair askew (and that is just when I am leaving the house), tethered to the worlds most excited dog on the way out, dragging the lazy mutt behind me on the way back. Darkness is my friend here.
I run because … I wasn’t born this way.
Concentric Circles of Family
I have a strong sense of family. People do not need to be related to me genetically to be in my family, I include close friends as much as siblings in that definition. I belong to them and they belong to me. I am not sure if everyone else in my family feels it, and I am not sure if everyone else needs it, but for me that feeling of being surrounded by people and by support is very important.
I like to imagine the entire clan as my concentric circles of support. I rely heavily on the circles closest to me, but as these circles get further away from me they contain more people, each one I rely on a little less than the previous ring.
In the first circle there is me. I look after me. I make sure I am fed, warm, safe and happy. If I am not one of these things I seek to change it.
Surrounding that is my nuclear family; my husband, son and pets. Together we are a tight little unit of support. There is nothing that one of us could do that would ever stop us loving and caring for each other.
Surrounding that is my original family – my parents and siblings. Around that my in-laws: John’s folks and siblings. Surrounding those is my circle of friends. Around those is our extended families: Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents. And encompassing all of those are acquaintances. That is where the limits of the circles become vague, the population massive and my reliance on each individual minor.
This sense of family is not to say that my family is perfect. They most certainly are not. We all have our foibles; our relationships have positive and negative qualities. We have our grumps, nags, moans and crazy folk, just like every other family. We know how to push each other’s buttons and frequently do. Nobody can wind up a person quicker than a close family member. We have bust-ups and blow-outs, but everything eventually blows over, because at the end of the day, we will always be family and there is nothing that can be done to change that. We will always be there, because we always are there.
However that is not to say that families don’t take work. In order for me to stay protected in my little cocoon of family I actively have to maintain the relationships with the people that inhabit each circle. The circles only provide me a buffer if there are people there to prop them up. If I squeeze the people out of those circles and out of my life then my padded concentric circles become just empty walls. Impenetrable. I can’t get out passed them and nobody can get in. So if for some reason I can’t feed me, keep me warm and safe, keep me happy, then nobody else can get in to help me.
So I make an effort. I lift the phone. I drop a mail. I rarely remember birthdays, so I would be lying to say that I send a card, but I go to the parties I am invited to. I get out of the house, I put myself out there, and I make a conscious effort to stay involved and stay connected. Because I know how much I might need my family.
Sometimes a chat about mental health doesn’t have to mention mental health to be about mental health. On the 10th September 2014 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide Or Survive (SOS) is an Irish organisation focused on breaking down the stigma associated with mental health issues and are working to build a society where people embrace their mental health wellness. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, for the whole month of September, SOS are running a national campaign called “High Tea & Talk” where they encourage everyone to take time to talk, open up and also listen to those who may need to share a few thoughts. Please do your bit to support them where you can.
I know your eyebrow is raised with doubt, but hear me out.
To be honest, like most true ‘pop’ singers her music and image ‘so of-it’s-time’ dated horribly and I think anyone would be pushed to give an example of her ‘creative genius’, but when I read the negative press surrounding her Pieces of Me Vegas show a year ago, and the fears of her being unable to handle it, it made me stop and think about this often under-estimated young woman.
January 3rd 2008, embroiled in a bitter custody battle, this young mother’s anguish overcame her resolution to follow the law and in a desperate attempt to retain custody of her children she resorted to holding them hostage. Rather than showing compassion for her plight, the circling vultures saw the long awaited fatal falter and swooped in for the spoils. This was not going to be a human-interest story; this was the closing chapter of a celebrity soap opera, bona fide entertainment. Spiteful speculation regarding the stability of her mental health emerged as she began to totter ever faster down the steps of despair. Probable causes of her unhappiness were casually bandied about while musings of a possible suicide attempt were offered up to the highest bidder. With glee, editorials arose noting the devastating impact this would have on her young children. Given that her demise was almost a foregone conclusion, comeback theories seemed like the delusions of sycophants, and yet despite this, she stood back up for another round. Dusting off the ashes, she rose in shimmering Versace; strong and determined.
Britney is not the idea of a perfect role model, but it is her ordinariness and faults which grant her a degree of distinction. Don’t get me wrong, she is no Madame Currie, Rosa Park or Mother Teresa, but neither is she a character in a Disney movie with a perfect princess life. Britney has to strive for the banal and the mundane, the perfection in the daily events which most people take for granted and which she lost at an early age. She is one of the few people who can honestly say that money, fame and talent alone could not make her happy, but rather the people in her life affect her. That is not to paint her blameless for her misery, but rather to point out her fallibility. She is not a self-sufficient rock, capable of creating and sustaining her own joy, she is deeply affected and disaffected by external influences. Despite this, she managed to withstand a tsunami of global condemnation, disapproval and voyeuristic disgust and came out the other side.
However what strikes me most is the nature of that disgust. Britney is not a murderer, a paedophile, or a thug. She did not steal, she did not harm and she did not encourage her fans to follow her actions. All she really did was turn her back on Hollywood and appear ungrateful for her success. Like a teenager of 16, she rebelled against what was expected of her, using the strongest tool in her arsenal to shatter her suffocating image; the world’s media. She parted company with every experienced and controlling elements in her life, ignored all responsibilities and leapt from the ship of moderation. She stayed out late, ate junk food, took drugs and stopped working. Unfortunately for Britney, at 26 she was too old to spin this rebellion as normal teenager angst. She called into question the worth of the Pop Princess lifestyle, the Hollywood Dream and began a search for some other meaning for her life. The backlash was inevitable.
Without the protection of her family, management team or agents, the smear campaign against her went unchallenged. What started as allegations were soon reported as fact, and when the facts were not shocking enough, whispers of a young life quenched prematurely began, a modern day James Dean. Her life became so insubstantial that her death became a source of gossip. What began as innocent rebellion spiraled into unstoppable destruction.
Did she find more? I’m not sure. Like most teenagers she probably spent a lot of time, tears and energy searching for what she already had. But unlike most teenagers, Britney did it while her public life was scrutinized in the world’s media and her private life was picked apart by a federal court. Since her initial breakdown she has slowly rebuilt the lifestyle she so glibly obliterated two years before. She stabilised her home life to create a positive environment for her sons and went back to work. In just 12 months she released a critically acclaimed album, regained her touring fitness and stepped back into a world which had savaged her so completely.
Could I do it? Could you do it? I’m not sure, but I do think that to a degree fight, determination and ambition eclipses her faults like a fabled hero’s bravery. She questioned the status quo and was met with furious wrath and condemnation; a lesser person would have buckled and slunk off to obscurity. A lesser person would not pick themselves up and climb back into the ring for another round. And there she stands, one year later, half way through the tour they said would break her – she is still looking fighting fit to me.