Friendship Bras… Does Yours Still Fit?

This year has been weird. And the whole idea of friendship has been weird too.

Many of us will say that we’ve had friendships change, for better and for worse.

We’ve tightened our circles. We’ve made new friends. (Isn’t the tinterweb amazing in fairness?)

We’ve been chatting to strangers online and some really fun connections have been made. Some of us have made an effort. Most of us have retreated into our own wee worlds and only let a few in. Maybe you’ve had zoom calls or been in Wattsapp chats or messenger groups. Maybe you’ve removed yourself from chats that you found to be zapping the life out of you.

The list of ways that we have been dealing with social interaction, or lack thereof, is infinite.

And we’re all different.

I’ve been through enough “friendships” in my lifetime to know that they don’t always last.

We’ve all had friends not reply to our calls or messages.

We’ve all had the message group that has stopped pinging.

We’ve all had the realisation that we’ve not been invited to something.

We’ve all had the friends who’ve unfollowed or deleted us.

We’ve all had the friend who took themselves out of the message group for some reason.

I’m sure every one of you reading this can empathise with some of this. Maybe you’ve reassessed who your friends are. Maybe you’ve been hurt. Maybe you’ve felt left out. Maybe you’re the friend who has cut ties with someone.

I saw a meme about friends last week announcing that If they don’t check in on you, they’re not worth your time….” or something to that effect. So many people were commenting and agreeing…

BUT

In the past year, we have all been through so much.

Most of us have literally had to put all of our energy into keeping things going. Or “between the ditches” as one of my mates says.

And for most of us, our priorities changed.

We’ve all coped, (and not coped), differently.

And maybe the friend who “cut you out” or “didn’t bother about you”, just couldn’t. Maybe they just had a million other things happening and you weren’t a priority.

It may seem harsh, but the reality is that no one owes us anything.

No one is required to message or call or include us in anything.

Everyone has been fighting their own battles for the past year and yes, there may be relationships that will need effort to be rekindled and rejuvenated, that will eventually be OK again.

But maybe there are relationships that were intended to fizzle out.

So maybe, let them go?

Friendship is a two way thing. If there isn’t effort from both sides, it won’t work.

Everyone comes into our lives for a reason, and if they leave, they might have left memories. They might have left scars or hurt. But even those people teach us something, either about people, or about ourselves.

I care deeply about people I let into my life.

I try hard to make people feel valued and cared about.

But if I think for one second that I am upsetting or having a negative impact on someone’s life, I feel sad.

I don’t get annoyed if someone removes me from their circle or from social media. If what I say or post makes someone feel badly, then I’m pretty damn proud of them for hitting block. Or whatever button they press.

We all got caught up in the glamour of all of the friendships and social circles in the chaos of pre-covid life. And I think many of us blurred the lines a bit.

We called people we really didn’t know very well, “friends”.

We called acquaintances from events or different communities we were in, “friends”.

We have the added complication of social media where genuine and brilliant connections CAN and are formed. But until the person you’re connecting with has seen you at your best and at your worst, should we really call them “friends”?

We all define friends differently.

I have a very small and very tight little circle. I’m so very lucky. There are three ladies who have been in my life for many, many years. I have one or two buddies who I adore and who give me such joy in our conversations. I’ve always been open to making new friends, even as an adult. But I try not to confuse all of the different ‘types’ of friends.

True friends are like a favourite Bra; the ones we go to for comfort. The ones we don’t need to put on frills for. The ones who have been in your drawer for so long, it would be empty without them. They’re safe, comfy and supportive. And they might not be worn every single day, but they’re our go-to every time. And they don’t need matching knickers. They’re perfectly fabulous all on their own. These are your friends.

Yes it’s nice to have the fancy, frilly, sexy or sassy boobie-baskets in the drawer for different occasions or “events”, and they’re just as fabulous, but only worn the odd time. They are for certain outfits, or have certain functions, or make us feel a certain way. These are your acquaintances; you pals.

Then there is the bra that broke on you, or whose wire snapped and stabbed you in the ribs… or that left marks on because it really just didn’t fit properly. But you keep it in the drawer just to remind yourself not to wear it again and not to buy that particular brand again. These are your lessons learned.

So there. Friends are bras.

All different style and sizes; Some a good fit, some not so good. Some to be kept forever, some to be worn by someone else. Some to be admired and appreciated for their style and beauty, but some that really just weren’t your style.

And when we realise that not all bra CAN fit us, and that indeed we won’t always be the right fit for the bra, we can appreciate that sometimes, gently removing the bra, popping it in the recycle bag and wishing it all the better boobies in the world, is the only way forward.

Yes, there will be some people who have disappointed us or hurt us this past year, but actually, the only person who controls YOUR disappointment or hurt, is YOU.

And maybe we’ve been the “friend” doing the disappointing?

If you’ve felt ignored by someone, ring them. Say hi. Maybe they’re feeling the same way about you.

But remember that only person who owes you anything, is yourself. And if someone needs to remove you, that’s their right. None of us should wear an uncomfortable bra.

And none of us need to stay in “friendships” that really, really aren’t.

Mumpty, Mumpty Sat on the Wall…

Mumpty Mumpty, up there on the wall…
You look at your babies, both now grown so tall
That their uniforms probably won’t even fit
When we finally get ourselves out of this shit.

You look at the table, the mess on the floor,
The toys that are trailing right out the hall door.
You look at the school books, still sitting in piles
You see your to-do list that still goes for miles.

You stare at the laptop, then set it aside,
For you know all the work that awaits you inside.
You fight off the constant attacks of the guilt
That now sit on your shoulders and won’t seem to quit.

You listen to questions, to snaps and to fights
You wonder how many more hours until night
When you’ll finally get your wee darlings to bed
When in dreams, you would tuck them in, kissing their heads,

Before putting your feet up and watching TV.,
But these days that simply won’t happen you see,
For once your kids finally succumb to their sleep
It’s time to start working and trying to keep
Up with zoomcalls and emails and missed calls and work,
All the things that one simply can’t do while we burp
Our baby on our knee, or are wiping a bum.
While trying a failing to work out a sum
That we possibly learned ourselves while in 3rd class
But that now we don’t understand, nor would we pass
Our son’s Irish exam or his History or sciences
And we wonder while stuffing more socks in appliances
How much of this stuff we have learned but forget
How much of it really was needed, and yet
We feel like a failure for not being able
To answer the questions being fired from the table
Like missiles and bombs that might make us explode
And the dishwasher’s beeping to signal its load
Is all done. It needs emptied and does the machine
And speaking of empty, the fridge needs restocked
For breakfast, break, lunch and dinner are all round the clock.

While washing the dishes, we’re answering calls
We’re hitting our deadlines and cursing our walls
That we’re all sick of seeing. We long for normality
Where work is for work and where home is for family.

Where hours are set for the parts of our lives
That are suddenly jumbled together like knives
In a drawer that’s a mess, where nothing is found,
Where as parents we can’t keep our feet on the ground.

We’re doing our best, but we’re doing too much.
We’re tired and stressed and our brains are like mush.
We’re trying to be parents and workers and teachers
To be friends to our children and support our teenagers

But stop. Take a minute and gather your thoughts.
Who says that we have to keep joining the dots?
We can’t do it all. It’s impossible really
To try to do everything we once did so easily.

And who is it really that’s making these rules
That we all have to manage to mix work and school?
We can’t do it all. It can fall asunder
We’re breaking ourselves with the pressure we’re under.

Our children need school, of that there’s no doubt
And they’ll get back there soon and with glee we’ll all shout.
There’s light at the end of this tunnel, you’ll see.
And soon, all of this will be just memories,

But now, in the meantime, go easy on you.
And remember there’s only so much you can do.

Maria Rushe
February 2021

The “Great” Outdoors – It Really Is.

The Great Outdoors

It’s not just “great” because it’s huge and gargantuous, it’s “great” in so many more ways than that.

Mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys… Our imagination takes us straight to the visuals of national parks and sweeping mountain ranges when we hear the words “The Great Outdoors”.

But the phrase has taken on new meaning for us in the past 10 months. Not the “outdoors” bit – the “Great” bit.

I’ve always been a fan of the outdoors. When you grow up on a farm in Donegal, you don’t really have any other option. But even as an adult, with my farm duties minimised to a few days a year helping the Daddy out, the outdoors is somewhere we try to spend a lot of time.

Family fundays are (were) always outdoors

We’re one of those families. Even long before we had heard the word “lockdown”, Sundays were our Fun-days and usually involved a beach or a forest or a hike up something. And on the odd day where we found ourselves Kiddy free, we liked to climb the odd mountain. Yes, for fun.

Muckish was the last mountain we climbed in June last year, once restrictions allowed us to drive to it!

So now we’re obviously missing being able to adventure throughout our beautiful county, but ironically, never before have I enjoyed the outdoors so much. Nor have I ever needed it so much. It’s no longer just for Sundays. It’s become a daily requirement in my life. And in Himself’s life and certainly in the girls’ lives.

We can’t go far. The garden is plenty big for the girls to run free and living in the sticks (as they say) means that we can walk or run on a few different roads within our 5k.

Last week, I turned left instead of right for the first time and ended up running on a road I probably haven’t been on in 25 years. I never need to drive it. It was like travelling to Narnia, bringing me past a farm on which I spent many a day playing as a child (Dad kept cattle there) and past homes of people I haven’t seen since National school. How quickly we get set in our ways eh? I’ll be running that road more often. It made me smile.

A different road within my 5k brought back memories

I’ve never been so glad to be able to get outdoors. Even on the days where I can’t get out for a run, if it’s too slippy, or I’m too busy, I make a point of going outdoors. Even if it’s only to walk around the house a few times, or to stand in the garden. Coat on , cuppa in hand and out I go. Because in our current situation, the outdoors is indeed great. Even if you’re only going as far as your back step.

It’s “great” because it’s fresh. Deep breaths of cold air, your face stinging from the temperature change as you step outside, your exhalations evaporating in clouds at your face… it’s rejuvenating.

It’s calming. It’s soothing. It’s relaxing and refreshing. Sometimes, it’s the only place we can escape the constant noise and chaos of our precious children. I can tolerate the noise of my two a WHOLE lot more when we’re outside! (Not sure I can say the same for the neighbours. They sometimes sound like there are 38 of them.)

But seriously, there is something magical about fresh air and what it can do. No it can’t solve our problems or change things, but it can allow us to see them differently. And sometimes, getting outdoors gives us the opportunity to process them that we can not get when surrounded by noise and washing machines and bleeping devices and work piles on the kitchen tables and all the “things” that need done, yesterday.

And so while we’re stuck within our respective 5kms and for most of us, Errigal and Muckish are only visible in the distance or on our phones, we can still get outdoors and let it help us feel better.

We might not feel “great”, but one thing is certain, even a 5 minute breather in the outdoors, will leave you feeling a whole lot better than if you DON’T set foot outside.

And that is all it takes. Open door. Step out. Hello Outdoors. It’s great!

So yes. I can’t wait to explore again; to climb mountains and go on hikes and run a different road. But if nothing else, I’ve learned that they don’t call it the “Great outdoors” just because it’s big and vast.

It’s “great”, whether you’re standing at the foot of a mountain, or walking around your garden, or leaning on your car in your street, or hugging a cuppa on your doorstep.

Step outdoors, just for a few minutes a day. Trust me. It’s great.

Here We Go Again…

What a week it’s been eh?

We’re all feeling a bit incredulous really. This past few days, it’s felt like we are slowly sliding into chaos once again.

  We’re trying to adapt to all of the changes that are coming at us faster than Sonic the bloody Hedgehog, while trying to maintain a “calm” in front of our kids. 

 And with the indecisiveness, “we will , we won’t, we might-iness” of our Government, we can be forgiven for wondering what the actual feck is going on.

Once again, we’re back to working, whether at work or online, all while minding and homeschooling our kids, trying to keep them occupied and fed and generally trying to do eleventy billion jobs from our kitchen tables. 

And this time, we don’t have the long sunny evenings or unusually warm weather to soften the blow.  

And as I try to get my own head around this new situation in my own house, I’m trying to remember the things that worked (and that did NOT work) for me last time we were in this type of lockdown. 

One thing that became VERY clear to us last March, was that Homeschooling was NOT something that we were successful at.  Trying to pivot your business online and trying to teach online for the first time ever, after almost 20 years of standing in an actual classroom, meant that finding time to sit with our girls to “homeschool” was impossible.  

 I felt like crap about it to start.  How is it that a teacher, for God’s sake, couldn’t manage to educate her own children?  Disgraceful… 

And then I copped myself on.  I couldn’t do it.  I was trying to make up a whole new version of my job AND we were trying to keep our family business alive.  And it’s going to be the same this time to be honest. (Also, I could teach Shakespeare to a duck, but 3rd class maths? Nope!)

I will get them to do some of the work their angels of teachers send, but it’ll be done within the realms of OUR ability and only as long as it isn’t adding more stress to our lives. 

Here we go again I suppose. 

One of the biggest mistakes that loads of us made last time, was to think that we had to do it all.  Think about it…

There aren’t enough hours to combine the 6/7 hours your kids spend at school, with the 8/10 hours you work, the few hours you need for cooking, cleaning etc… never mind homework, exercise and trying to stay on top of things.  You’re trying to fit about 30 hours of “stuff” into a 24 hour day.  When do you sleep Mammy?

It’s not physically possible to do it all. 

SO choose what you NEED to do and do that. 

Give yourself a break.  We’re in a global pandemic.  

Here are some things that work for me. 

  1. Routine:  Make a plan for the week, just as you would if you were all getting up to go to work/school.  For me, I tend to get up at 6am as usual to do a few hours of school work before the girls get up and then a few more in the afternoon.  I’ll allocate a time for the kids to do some school work.  The girls will have playtime and downtime and bedtime will remain as normal as possible. And they’ll know that Mammy and Daddy still have to work for certain hours.
  1. Eating:  If your kids are anything like mine, they’re ALWAYS hungry.  I’m going to try to keep the idea of “breaktime” and “lunchtime” etc going at home.  Otherwise, Princess’s bum will be stuck out of the fridge constantly. 
  1. Get dressed:  seems obvious, and yet it’s so easy to stay in the pjs.  But from tomorrow, it’s up, shower and get dressed. Just without heels or makeup. See the positives where you can!
  1. Don’t overdo the Mary Poppins act:  I’ve already seen social media influencers who have done 3 weeks worth of arts and crafts activities in the first 2 days of no school.  Calm yourselves.  Let the kids play. Let them be bored. Let them read or draw.  Put on their coats and open the door if you can!  Not every activity needs to be organised or planned. Save those for the really long rainy days where they are genuinely bored or need cheered up.
  1. Follow people who inspire you:  Social Media has been a dark place this past few months.  Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down or overwhelmed. Switch off the phone. And try to have a switch off time in the evening.  And only follow people who are making you smile. Please learn to use the unfollow/mute button on accounts that make you doubt what a Queen you are. 
  1. Keep active:   We’ll train together every morning with our Rushe Fitness members and most days, I’ll try to get out for a run/walk. Sometimes, just getting OUT is amazing.  While it’s cold and slippy, it’s still gorgeous out there. Go for a walk or jog.  Fresh air is good for everyone. Get as much as you can.  If you’re used to training but can’t do it alone, join us for our online programme which you can follow from your home at a time that suits you.
We run Opti-Mum, Ireland’s leading at home training system for Mums
  1. Read:  If you’re like me, you’ll have a pile of started and unread books in the house.  Put down the phone and start to read.  Let your kids see you do it.  Have a “reading time” block in the day where you all sit and read. Monkey see, Monkey do.
  1. Cook:  Again, most of us cook functionally and conveniently.  Rather than firing on the slowcooker or  cooking in a hurry, set your inner Nigella alight and get chopping.  Let the kids cook too.  They love it.  And if you have a few of those “Betty” quick brownies in the press for the really long days, you’re winning at life AND you have something sweet and tasty for your cuppa.
  1. Stay in touch:  For many of us who are used to social interaction with colleagues or clients, the sudden isolation and lack of communication can be upsetting.  Talk to each other.  Message friends. Set up messenger groups with people who you would usually see each day and check in on each other.  Make phonecalls.  Pick up the phone and call someone rather than always messaging.  Some people might not hear another voice from one end of the day to the next.  Communicate.
  1. Stay positive:  yeah it’s easy to say isn’t it? But it’s hard to do. We all have good days and bad days. But go easy on yourself.  You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be upset.  Grief and fear are not signs of weakness.  In order to deal with things, we first have to process it; to let it sink in. So allow yourself time to process.  Then, look for the positives and focus on those.

We are in weird times.  We are dealing with disappointments and stresses that are unprecedented.  Much of what we are facing is bleak. and yet in the middle of it all, we’re seeing glimpses of hope and finally, an end is in sight. 

Mind yourselves.  Go easy on yourselves.  You are not in competition with anyone.  Do what you need to do, for you. 

Plan B and Banana Bread?

Banana bread; I never actually did get around to baking one.

I did eat a slice that someone else baked, but that was the height of my lockdown success.

Lockdown as we know it has passed, thankfully, and yet there is a new type of lockdown coming at us tonight.

It seems to be a steam train that we can’t stop… maybe using trains as a metaphor is futile here in Donegal. A big bus? A huge tractor… whichever you use, it’s coming at us and the brakes aren’t working.

But as always, with every cloud, we can look for a silver lining. Can’t we? For me, that silver lining is school.

This time, hopefully, lockdown won’t include homeschooling, and with all the luck in the world, will not be as restrictive as the first one. At least with the kids still in school, those of us who work from home can ACTUALLY work, as opposed to trying to work between feeding the kids and you know, parenting?

And those of us with kids of school going age, might actually be able to GO to work as our children will be continuing with school.
Hopefully.

But most importantly, our kids won’t have to go through as much upheaval as we will this time around. And that can only be a positive.

For me, trying to teach from home was the highest height of lows in my almost 20 year career. I hated every single sorry minute of it, and while I did my very best to teach from home for the months of April through to June, I am absolutely not afraid to admit that it almost broke me. Almost.

Despite what some will have you believe, teachers did our best. Damn it we did a good job, but my own children were pretty much ignored for chunks of the day and homeschooling of my OWN daughter did not happen as I tried to keep providing education for my other babbies.

But hey. I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I just don’t ever want to go back to that again. I love being back in school, and as difficult as it is, (and by God it is difficult), being back in classrooms with young people is good for the soul. It’s what teachers AND students need. Teaching is never just about passing knowledge and hitting curriculums. It’s about so much more than that. Masks and all.

So even with the impending restrictions that we face again tonight, hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the constant of school going for everyone.

There was a camaraderie about the last lockdown wasn’t there? All in this together and finding our way through the “New Normal” and all that zoomyjazz?
I wonder however, how much of that is lost.

Because this time is different. We’re all fed up.

We’re all scundered as we say here in Donegal. We’re all disappointed that it’s come to this.
The novelty of Lockdown has well and truly worn off.
And people’s patience is thin.

The seeming contradictions of the plans and restrictions are not helping. If anything, they’re pitching people against each other. And that is the main difference this time.

Why can he do that but I can’t do that?
How is she allowed to do that , but I have to do this?

The list of questions like this is pretty endless right now.

And yet, on we must go. Once more into the abyss I suppose.

The next few weeks will determine the next few months. We all need to buckle down and try to keep the chins up.

We might not have the lovely weather or same sense of newness that wound us together last time round. But we do still have each other and this time, thankfully, our kids will have some semblance of normality.

And if we can all keep that going, and try to remember that we’re all facing this shitstorm together, who knows, we might actually get things back under some control.

I probably still won’t bother baking a banana bread however… I don’t even like banana bread.

But I’ll happily cheer you on as you bake yours.
Because that is how we are going to get past this.
By cheering each other on.

And by letting each other do what we have to do, whether we agree with them or not.

Chins up Chickies.
We’ve got this.

#holdfirm