11 years of research, thought and discovery
Like all writers, I find the best way to process my feelings is to simply write my way to balance. Below are pieces I don’t plan on submitting for publication.
“Mother Abbess: Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems.”
Sound of Music
Another first for me after Frankenstein. Yes, I’ve seen the Sound Of Music before in any form. There is plenty to hate. It’s a bit archaic in roles. But also it’s a film ultimately about expression. How much music matters. How to express our feelings and how to stand true in our values. Probably quite a good one for humanity to experience right now.
How many are using home to hide? How many are reemerging to truth?
And as the weeks roll on – we still live in a world where others passions are sustaining us all. But we are still not encouraged to have our own. To sing our own hearts. Still, the focus remains on the maths and the most boring of school. Who determines the weighting of learning? Which subjects matter more.
You can come out into nature – but that doesn’t mean you match it. The beauty or the power. The Terns after their long flight from Africa have been safely netted and yet you stamp through. The sea rages and yet you paddle with lack of concern for the depths.
There is so much out of sync right now. None of it resolved in school. There is a deep divide in the city. The self-worth gap I’ve always known is there in new technicolour ways. If you don’t love yourself – How can you care for others? There’s such a strong correlation in handwashing and self-worth. Mask wearing and defiance.
Are you the same people who didn’t feel represented in school? The ones we argue over correcting your work? You feel like pawns in a twisted game. I’m reminded why I started out to speak for the students. Just like the Lorax who spoke for the trees.
Now we need people to speak for them all. The frontline, the undervalued, the one’s lacking self-worth, nature. Gaps of all sorts that still haven’t been filled. The students who grow into teens who riot.
The baby fish have doubled in size in a week – Do you care?
Naoisé 26th May 2020
Navigating the Maze
“We are only as blind as we want to be”
People don’t know what to do when they meet now – they end up looking like meerkats. Only more awkward.
As children go back to school – it looks similar to something in a really bad sci-fi film. Without the social interaction, I’m left to wonder what the purpose of school might be? Not education – that’s a different question. But what can you gain in a glass cubicle opposed to a screen?
If we aren’t renewing the hamster wheel for everyone. Is it not time to stop and ask what our children need? There are people who’ve enjoyed this time at home with their children. Weird and all as they may seem to others. We know free-range eggs taste better. Are healthier. Why must we insist on factory farming young minds? Again it’s the corporations deciding that we don’t need offices. Not us. It’s all in the margins – not the humanity. And I’ve been asking for years “why are we building more offices?” Ones that we need to travel too? And gradually the cars reemerge on the roads and I wonder – did you see the nature bloom?
It’s as if all the inequalities are laid out fresh to pick over. The ones that seemed better in all the clutter. Race and gender continue being the two biggies. But social economics are in there too and all too often still correlate.
I still can’t read the dark. The soul searching of others. I can only focus on the beauty left behind from a past generations. Gibran didn’t write for his time. And Rachel Carson never lived to see the awareness. There is so much ugly on show now. I wonder will we really look? Or will we just shuffle it around some more and go back to a ‘new normal’.
But I see glimmers of hope. I get asked to help for what I do. I’m seen in a new way. Until now all too often many came to search for what they thought they wanted or needed. The guise of success or the distraction from the suffering. Few asked me to do my real work. They didn’t even know they needed it until now. But yes, If you understand yourself better you’ll probably find it easier to navigate your way out of this new maze.
I write in my journal each morning – ‘this is your time’. It was a phrase that was repeated to me over and over by those close at the start. Almost 4 months have passed. And yes, it feels true at last. Unicorn season has arrived.
Sometimes you don’t need the loudest voice but the longest.
Naoisé 20th May 2020
Strolls and random thoughts
“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all”
Both Sides Now
My new soundtrack to the sunsets. It’s perfect. And the water is warmer to walk in.
I saw two seagulls sitting on a car roof today talking – “will they ever eat out again you reckon?” , “I’m sick of raw fish – I haven’t had chips or a danish in weeks now.”
I saw the morning meet and greet of dogs with social distancing. A woman obviously stops outside a fence every morning with her dog to say hello to the one inside – She was like “anyone would think I’m mad talkin’ to a dog?” I assured her I got it.
These are the random thoughts which go through my mind. The small interactions we’ve all missed. I’ve a new facemask – it’s got a dog face. People are friendlier now. Is a smiley dog less threatening? Or is it just I look ridiculous and that’s more comforting? Engaging smiles.
Naoisé 15th May 2020
Understanding in the madness
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It’s only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie
A source of amusement for me has been the phone-a-fix-line that my Dad’s phone has begun to resemble as the weeks trundle on. The machines break and he offers CPR over the phone. Not just for his speciality of washing machines but also roller shutters and even cars.
Is this where I got my need to fix things? Why did I have to pick people? You can’t fix people.
I realise now that instead of seeking inspiration in cafes. I’m trawling social media. But for the comments on articles. The human interaction. The reaction. The inspiration I miss from public spaces. It’s taken me 7 weeks to realise why I’m on social media more. It’s not the memes or what I share to help. It’s the creation from the normal. Or what others are seeking to be so. Nothing feels normal anymore. This isn’t bad. Not everyone would agree.
I swear a crow just sang to Zoë Keating. It worked.
So what have I been struggling to understand? Roles. What happens when they change? When we lose ours? I expect the escalation we’ve seen in abuse. But also it makes up the complex tapestry of distance between the generations. We’ve spent so long as humanity seeking equality – balance within the two by two.
Top moments for me in the last few weeks – A child named for a life on Mars. The need for other sane people to tell you not to drink bleach. What’s worse the suggestion? Or the need for someone else to tell you it’s a bad idea? The breath hole cut in the front of a face mask. The armed guard for a barbershop. We need haircuts that badly? We all need to book log cabins in the wilderness when this is over? The need to get on a germ-filled plane to fly to the sun? We have sun. This is the wishlist after lockdown?
We are all in the starting stales waiting in anticipation of rushing back to ‘normal’ – Why?
And I want to think about why gender roles have not balanced for humanity in the midst of all that? No wonder I can’t write or think. Or see the future. I can’t understand. I can’t fix. Is this why Marie Curie focused on radioactive elements?
Most of what is gained is still not by choice. The closing of the ozone hole. The blue skies and Himalayas glory. The work life balance. The office space not renewed. The lack of travel. The localisation of economies. The exams gone. That one created the most cheer. Will there be a new way to see the brilliance of young minds? Will learning become a love rather than a chore once more? The most unlikely people are growing vegetables. Ones who never found time to cook them before. Life skills being learnt once more. How can we not have had the time for these? Will creches go too?
I think I’ll stick to Zoë Keating and the crows for a while longer. It’s not the time for big questions. Even small ones – why can’t you just wear a facemask? Holeless.
Naoisé 13th May 2020
As I couldn’t read for years. I’m still playing catchup. I missed the classics growing up. I never knew Frankenstein was about being different. About needing to be loved.
To watch the show to the backdrop of such a powerful Supermoon. Feels potent for our times. No one can be immune to the transformation possible now. Good or bad.
“If I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear!”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Doesn’t everyone just want to be loved for their most authentic self? To be seen for who they are. Truly? And accepted in this version.
It was as if in a way Frankenstein arrived with an innocence. A unique set of values-driven from the most poetic works he’d learn to speak from. His expression was based on the ideals. And then he became the monster others could only view him for.
“I could not understand why men who knew all about good and evil could hate and kill each other.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
How many people become the monster because they feel this is what is expected? How many spend their time changing to suit? How many can say they are the same person to all? That they are consistent?
I was reminded in conversation yesterday that what I find most draining is false. I always know when others lie. I struggle to sit in a space when someone has false tonality. Yes, I’m that much of a tuning fork. Which is ideal for work – but sometimes I wish there was a special coating to block it all out. To create off days in the mix.
When people write back to me and say “it’s very authentic.” I want to ask – “what other way is there to be?” How can I be anything but myself? Is this a gift or a curse? Would the world relate to me more if I could change shape?
Can the world ever love Frankenstein and not create a monster?
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Is this the choice some make? The one which seems so alien when you have such a strong North? Is this why we stage tests for unconditional love?
We can’t all see the scars, falseness or reality. We’re not all searching for the truth inside. We aren’t all focusing on the potential. Some of us are playing games more than ever. We’re all afraid to be judged. It’s why we spend so much time perfecting the outer skin?
Naoisé 7th May 2020
Possibility in small moments of feeling
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
As someone who is always seeking potential, I’m drawn to focus on nature now. It offers the most positive tangible outcome.
The depths of darkness within humanity have never been so much on show. The inequalities I’ve always known have their own show.
Our clapping and cheering for the front line feel akin to throwing confetti on a battlefield.
I can’t read the writers who normally speak my language. Appeal to my soul. Who see the depths of both light and dark. It’s too easy now to focus on the dark. I alternate between reading the mindless imaging of crime writers – to re-reading those books which gave me such hope in the past.
So in all this unrest, I’m watching the birds. Marvelling at the clearness of the ocean. And reading the dreams set down by those who wanted us to stop.
We may not have stopped by choice. But nature is not fussy. It’ll take whatever we give.
All I’ve listened to this week is the rather unsustainable argument that school needs to be opened again for children’s mental health. I’ve never heard such utter rubbish. There are many I know who’ve stepped off the grid happily. By choice. They are only missing their tennis lessons now. Most other external activities arrive online.
We only want to go back to school to fill the void. Or more worryingly to reduce the child abuse. Distance offers hope. And yet I know how many new skills are possible from this time. What potential is held for a new generation.
Education only served to kill the environmentalist in me. It’s taken a pandemic for me to go back. Embrace the reasons I was allured to learning.
So I’m drawn once more to read the words of those who’ve created change. Who’ve stayed optimistic in the face of such adversity.
What does it take for possibility? The ability to stay and treasure the small moments. To really look around.
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.”
Will families ever have so much time together again? How hard is it for them to all stop and feel. To allow the emotions to roll through. To not punch out.
Naoisé May 1st 2020
Dress rehearsal for living
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”
That quote was saved in my journal 3 years ago today. I always feel ahead. Lost in the ether but wondering when others will start to ask questions. Not even the right questions. I don’t think there are right answers. I once wrote; “I’m an educationalist who doesn’t need the right answer.”
The themes this week for me have been – how so many have poured their souls into work to never live to see the results. Good or bad. Finished or unfinished. How fitting for a time when we fear losing so many pioneers before their prime. Some of them have needed to wait decades for their day.
I’ve distracted my woes by absorbing as much online culture from across the globe. Using the time zones to advantage.
I’ve often joked that I don’t know where unicorns hang out. Last night, I had a clear sighting as nearly 5,000 hung out at Universe In Verse. Streamed from New York. It was this vibrantly awake gathering. Merging science and expression to honour Rachel Carson.
And yet I have this sense that many are only changing for now. This is temporary. We’ll go back to normal soon.
What iteration of life can you dream up this week? How are we going to create abnormal in normal? Because for some of us, the unicorns, this isn’t that for from normal you know. Except we cut our own hair now.
This isn’t a dress rehearsal for living. It’s an invitation to a new show. A simpler one. One with more unicorn gathering to honour those pioneers who didn’t live to see us all awake.
Please don’t go back to sleep.
Naoisé 26th April 2020
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
Dedicating books means a lot to me. I’ve discovered after two years of writing that if I dedicate a book to you it’s because you’ve helped me in some way to recognise a piece of my own soul. One that I’ve taken for granted. Somehow in seeing what I admire in you – I learn to value a part of myself. I’d not done this for the last one in the current set yet. But yesterday I wrote the following which seems so fitting as we approach Earth Day.
“Reading Reason for Hope by Dr Jane Goodall as I started writing the first book in this series was pivotal. She was the first scientist who I felt had the balance between science and spiritualism. A key that I needed to bring them together in myself. I’d spent too long turning my back on my own scientific grounding. Which is ironic since it was My Life With Chimpanzees which helped me ground my early work when I first started my own school. She’s helped me to come full circle within myself. Bringing two different parts to make a whole. I hope my words will help some of you to do the same. But Dr Jane Goodall has been my teacher. Thank you.”
And it’s not just any Earth Day – This one has a different vibe. How much more conscious are we? Who’d have ever thought oil could lose its value? That goats would take over towns and monkeys would riot? That dolphins would be rescued from our beaches? Two months on this is starting to resemble the reset I’d hoped for.
But I’ve always been in awe of those people who work in conservation. Fighting a diminishing world. My oceanography background has taught me to look below the surface. For the true meaning of behaviour. The true value of education. I always compare my work to peeling an onion. But how do you get up each day – Fresh. To face such adversity. Such destruction? Such loss? That’s all so much in your face? I’ve always had such admiration for these people who can do this task. And do it with such optimism.
How? How do you spend a lifetime seeing the worst of humans and still think the best is possible?
I expect the answer lies in concentrating on the small victories. Holding each one in your heart. Till the next. Knowing they all add up like compound interest. But with a greater value.
There have been so many victories. Big and small. That 11 years on I’m almost unable to recall them all apart. Of course, each one adds to knowledge to help the next. But I’m starting to enjoy this space where all the stories merge.
This is a time of true merging – balance. We are balancing every aspect of our lives. Our work, our family. Our hopes, our sorrows. Our choices, our impacts. Our inner and outer worlds. I’ve spent two years writing about our core. I still believe more than ever when this core is whole, our contribution is clean. It’s unconditional. This is the best possible for me.
Maybe it feels terrifying to some to sit in silence. To stay put. To feel so contained. But the gaps are showing. And maybe it’s only when we see what’s missing we start to seek a whole? An internal core. One that doesn’t need to be filled in every form. That doesn’t cost the Earth.
Naoisé 22nd April 2020
“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” Khalil Gibran
It’s almost 7 weeks since I’ve been in the city. Since I’ve left my home for more than to buy food. I’ve joked not much has changed in my life – except food shopping is potentially life-threatening.
I’m still not craving anything except for the world to be a better place. For humans to be a better people.
I can’t help but chart the ebbs and flows of narration. It can be simply summed up – if you have a self-absorbed boring pointless life out of quarantine. It’ll look the same in lockdown. If you are craving a holiday from now – it’s probably not an abnormal feeling. If you don’t have equality in your relationship. That probably looks worse now too. If there are children in the mix, one of you is feeling aggrieved doing more than your fair share. If you don’t normally go for a walk on the beach. You’re probably the one stamping along in despair unable to smile and say hello. You’re only out because you haven’t got anything better to do. If you spend hours with a fishing rod happily. You’re still out from sunrise to sunset. I’ve seen you now as soon as the fishing season has started. You’ve been waiting for the season to arrive while others are still oblivious of the swallows.
And now anyone who says you can gain productive, harmony and happiness right now is a very unpopular bread of being. I can still achieve this though only when next doors dogs shut up. Because I’ve nowhere to go to get away. No escape. As I read story after story I’m left with a sense that this is how many feel about their own children. Was I really the only child capable of self-entertainment?
And you know the reality right now with the beach invasion and chaos here I don’t have any more constructive hours in the day. I re-recorded several sequences of a 4-minute podcast earlier. Because even 5 consecutive quiet minutes was beyond hope. But then it’s partly my own fault as I got up late.
So this weeks ebb message is how unpopular it is to motivate during a pandemic.
The irony is most of what you are currently achieving is not by choice. If you’d been asked to shut down travel, tourism, manufacturing, inequality and the commute to save the planet – you never would have done so.
If you can package just a lesson or two here;
There is a great economic cost to saving our environment from ourselves. Yes, our lives really have to get simple.
Having children is a great investment of yourself. But they have always been capable of playing by themselves until now. The more you control, micromanage and seek perfection – the more attention needed. There’s a direct correlation.
If you really can’t sit down and make a list of all you’ve done, learnt and achieved in the last few weeks – you better stop making excuses. No matter how unpopular that might be.
I can’t be the only one who’s developed a deep appreciation for the golden moments of calm. I only needed 4 minutes silence this morning and got 44 to write this. Everyone is back from the bottle bank- the most exciting thing we can do.
Naoisé 17th April 2020
Unconditional change not influence
“A little love that slowly
Grows and grows
Not one that comes and goes
That’s all I want from you
A sunny day with hopes up
To the skies
Not a day that comes and
That’s all I want from you
Don’t let me down, oh show
Me that you care
Remember when you give, you
Also get your share
Don’t let me down, I have
No time to wait
Tomorrow might not come
When dreamers dream too late”
That’s All I Want From You
Walking the beach in a rare moment when it’s not invaded by people who don’t even walk Christmas Day – with this song playing on repeat loop. These have become my moments of sanctuary. Every time I cry. No matter how often I’ve cried before. You know it’ll become the soundtrack to now. In years, I’ll hear this song and always think of these days.
Others post endless rubbish on social media to remind them of these times. Their lives have become so automated they think they’ll need the achieve your memories feature to be able to go back. The list of tape on the floor and the queues and barren streets. I think – what are you really feeling? Storing inside?
I know I’m not the only one sitting here hoping against all hope for a new ‘normal’. That you’ll want a new regular. And yet everyone’s biggest concern seems to be when can we all travel again? To where? A new dimension?
My mother wants to know what’s an influencer? Someone society rewards with attention.
I want change. I want to plant seeds for the future. Not have the roses cut today. The ones others toss with little care for quickly they wilt and die. How long they took to bloom.
On the days which are especially hard, I do strange math problems. Ones I instinctively know the answers too. What year did they set up their foundation to take their work out to the world? How old were they? The same age as me. I look at them cocooned – relieved they are safe. Especially, since it’s taken them a lifetime for others to listen. To even know them. There was no fast track too influencer. The message was too big. Too unconventional. What they wanted heard was deeply personal but with no personal gain.
And I’m left with a new hope to add to the list of endless hopes. Will the love grow and grow for the real? Will you share because it’s a true message of change and not a desperate need for attention? Will you ever feel the difference?
Change is internal while influence is external. The internal always takes time.
Naoisé 13th April 2020
Featured on Motherwell – Parenting in the time of coronavirus
Gaps in differences and contradictions
“In the depth of my soul there is
A wordless song – a song that lives
In the seed of my heart.
It refuses to melt with ink on
Parchment; it engulfs my affection
In a transparent cloak and flows,
But not upon my lips.
How can I sing it? I fear it may
Mingle with earthly ether;
To whom shall I sing it? It dwells
In the house of my soul, in fear of
Song of the Soul
I’ve not recorded a podcast of personalities amongst the crisis. Not yet. I need to find a way to do so without my judgements or preferences coming forth. Of course, I have favourites. Everyone does. Anyone who says they don’t is lying. For me, I live in a lesser spotted group of beings. Ones who I suspect are all quietly rocking in a corner. It’s not just our own pain either.
So how do I categorise the neighbours on both sides who turn the idyllic area into woof zone? What’s in your makeup that can’t care about those who share your space? Or notice when your dogs are distressed? But then I have to remind myself that they just don’t think. The funny part is they’d care more about me writing about them than any suffering or nuisance caused.
I similarly need to remind myself that there is a whole portion of people out there who learn by trial and error. They just happen to be discovering right now to cost of themselves and others. That jogging on top of you is suddenly detrimental to all.
So ironically even though extroverts take their lead from the external and introverts from the internal – there is a bit of role reversal in progress now. Or at least maybe it’s more evident than ever. While the extroverts will be more likely along with those analytical souls to strike up conversations on the survival of the fittest. Those internalised introverts will be worrying about everyone else, not just themselves.
Never have our priorities or ways of communicating been so apparent in difference.
Random discovery – even though I fall asleep better to audiobooks I know well. I write better to music I don’t. Which I’m using to muffle the barking.
My life is mostly filled with introverts whose lives have changed little. Except maybe we talk more often about the madness because how else are we going to crow about our differences?
All my heroes continue to share the silver lining. To draw emphasis to the reset. To continue to ask the difficult question – will we really return to ‘normal’ after all this?
They are nearly all introspective introverts too. The positive track that is possible lies in the special beings who are swaddled in attention and character reinforcement at this time. Think of it as the ultimate tonic to bring out the best of development for a subset of young souls. Will they have such a core that they won’t crave the validation in the social selfie in a few years? Have some of the current generations just been too removed from the idea of more is less? Will this be the care button humanity needed to push?
And at last, a fitting song I know has played. I have to stop to listen and digest the apt words;
“When our world falls to pieces
And the moonlight starts to hide
In a million little splinters
In the corners of our mind”
Depth of My Soul
And still, we see the gaps. The individual needs, the society ones. The political spin, the reality. The new rich might be the ability to step off grid and sustain. The spine to say no to what doesn’t feel right. The ability to realise your dogs are driving your meditative neighbours nuts.
But the real contradiction is that it’s the inward who are looking out right now. Not those extroverts so influenced by the external.
Naoisé April 7th 2020
“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” James Baldwin
It’ll be a new season by the time we all emerge again. The last time I dropped off the planet was to spend a month on a research ship. I left in spring and arrived back to summer. I’d become immersed in the clouds as that’s all there was to see. I’ d never known the horizon dipped and rose. Or noticed the sun shone like rays through the clouds. That the sea birds would joy in the slipstreams above the ship. It’s funny when you have less you see more.
Time is doing odd things right now. It’s only a little over a week since for the first time in 11 years I thought – I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. I’ve never had that Sunday dread feeling before. Ever. But especially not since I’ve been working for myself on my passions. I never knew what others felt till that moment. I thought right give it one more week and if it’s not better press reset. So by last Saturday I sat down and created as much open-source material as I could. It was my compromise. A support net for those who wanted it. But an exit out of the disrespect.
Another week on – where are we? Shop assistants shout at you. Others are oblivious. Invincible still. We are reading obituaries. Places we thought of as first world countries are running out of ventilators.
There’s a great divide happening. Those in alignment who are content in their worlds. Those restless who are voicing the inequalities to their lives. Many women are seeing they’ve never had an equal partnership. But suddenly it’s impossible. And then there are those who seem cast off from life. Begging for slots to use food stamps.
We will be any more equal when all of this is finished? I don’t know. I feel helpless. The divide seems cavernous.
But nature continues. Two swans taking up residence. I’m still so conscious of the horizon lifting as the season moves forward.
Naoisé April 2nd 2020
For the next generation
“It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves.” Carl Jung
Will fear take over? Will, we simply create a new generation of safety net minions. Lemmings to go over the cliff?
Will we be afraid to follow our passions? I worry that I’ll meet more and more parents who are pushing for the good serviceable job. The one they feel is so secure. Will all the passion die? Will humanity grow or regress further?
There have been many low moments in the home over the last few weeks. We all take turns. Even Dinky dog has had his bad days. You wouldn’t feel his life has changed much? But he doesn’t understand why people don’t want to say hello. I guess he misses his cafe time too.
One of the hardest conversations I’ve had was my mother crying in angst that we have too much. Will we be struck down in suffering because we do? Her worries that we don’t give enough back. With me assuring all they pour through me, I pour back. And I have over the last few weeks until I couldn’t pour anymore. Till I rocked in the corner.
I’ve been in the odd position of sitting in the middle of the world. Watching and communicating with each country as this has unfolded. I started for Chinese New Year in Singapore. Then my own relations became the epicentre of hell in Italy. Next, I heard the stories of the panic buying from Australia and the UK. I watched on knowing the US was in for the biggest storm imaginable. While those in Singapore seem so compliant they hardly seemed to suffer. The Solomon Islands has remained untouched. Except for a mass exists of the ex-pats threatening the economy. Meanwhile, over in New Zealand, we’ve seen the most personal approach with texts to every citizen and ‘hang-out’ time with the P.M. I’ve watched in pride as Ireland strove to protect their vulnerable early. But equally in horror as those across the water were told to get ready to lose their loved ones. And now I watch as South Africa joins the fry. I never truly appreciated just how global my own connections were until this moment. I see the same patterns of fear; good, bad and ugly. I joke I’ve concentrated on the good and used everything else to write.
Some families have embraced the home. Enjoying the creativity and cooking time. Even in the darkest hours in Italy, we were reminded by one; now you have time to cook all the meals you don’t normally. You can simmer and soak. We suddenly have all the time in the world. I’ve seen a mother teach a child to read a road sign. Another whole family jog the beach. From the littlest of 3.
I’ve spent two years in a writing cave. Now I’ve emerged to talk with more people in weeks rather than months.
But there’s been a dark side too. I’ve never felt so unsafe in every way. I’ve felt pain as I know those I care for suffer jobs loses and financial uncertainty. I’ve worried about the displacement of others from their loved ones. I’ve seen families start out enthusiastically towards the adventure – to only then allow their children to sink into an abyss of TV and Netflix. I worry that becoming a gamer has actually become a viable career choice. While others who offer so much seem to have become worthless overnight. With each countries lockdown, I’ve charted the change in value.
I worry the reset I was so enthusiastic about a month ago – now looks like a really bad recoding exercise that will be based in fear and constraint. Will we be so afraid to be freelance? Will once more the arts sector seem a no hope choice? Will we have gained any more true value for education in all this noise?
Will people be any more in alignment with their lives? Because in all of this the key I’ve seen – it’s irrelevant what your path is providing your life is alignment for you to follow your dreams. You live to live not to work. If your life is simple everything is possible. I know lots of content people sitting out this storm. Beavering away in their passions. I know others with security in turmoil. I know plenty of good serviceable jobs gone. Richness has been redefined.
I want the next generation to not be lemmings. But I worry they will look on in all this carnage and be too afraid to be anything else.
Naoisé March 29th 2020
War in my lifetime
“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” George Washington
We all knew we needed to make the world simpler. More local. Less greed. But could we really have imagined before the last few weeks how this would transpire? Humans are best while reactive.
It’s our consciousness that sets us apart from other species. But I often wondered has the gene skipped a few beats?
So it took a virus. Our own perceived importance. And a fair degree of panic to ground the planet. Stop our over complex lives. We’ve seen the best and worst. I made sure my own larder presses were filled three weeks ago. Knowing panic buying would set in and so it did yesterday. I found myself in a supermarket with bare shelves. Buying a few forgotten items for my parents. Feeling prized to buy the last small bag of flour for us to share. The woman working the checkout apologised for the delay and I told her I thought she was coping remarkably well in the madness. She laughed and explained it’s been like this since first thing this morning. “The funny part is I only have one tomato and some ham left in my own fridge.” I offered concern there’d be nothing left for her. She assured me there will be another delivery in the morning. I hope she’s managed to stock her own fridge now.
I joked yesterday as the country closed that people were developing my life. No travel. Working from home. Simpler. Calmer. Meeting people in open spaces for walks. Working online across great distances. At last glimmers of inclusive online interactive education. It makes no odds to me – most who get me are located outside Ireland online. My life doesn’t really look much different. Except now I’m not writing to you from a cafe. I tried earlier in the week but I was so distraught at the lack of care to hygiene I left. I wanted to help keep them open – but not at the cost to my life or others dear to me.
But I’m lucky. My life has already been set up for this reset button. A friend wrote to me yesterday; “introverts have been in training for this for years.” His families life doesn’t look any different today than last week either.
I wrote to another this morning explaining I feel like a proud innovator. His response “Innovators always await their time.” Watching a teacher who did my training, nearly 7 years ago, answer other’s queries on how to make remote learning interactive for really young students. I was more worried about the way the question was put – “how do I work with younger people, for the older ones they can just read on in the books?” The answer made me sucked punch the air. It made 11 years worthwhile in a flash. The response listed all the simple skills at home from cooking to games. This week, I and the teachers I’ve worked with have watched educators grapple to come to terms with what we’ve been doing for years now. I think this is the reset switch I’ve been waiting for. Education will never be seen the same again. It won’t seem strange for me to sit in Ireland and work with people across the globe. It’ll not be questioned that you can “tell enough about them.” Everything I’ve done is now normalised. And the best bit – I wanted parents to feel in control of their child’s education once more. They are since yesterday in Ireland. I’m sure that seems daunting but it’s a change that needed to happen. Families now feel involved once more.
And we’ve not even touched on the diminishing pollution, the lack of travel, the sudden need for less – except the basics. And now we all have a value once more for the basics. How long is it since we’ve felt real gratitude? And our consciousness has been rebooted. Your actions affect everyone. That’s the message over and over. How many people have campaigned for free open health care as a right? How many have seen the need before these weeks? This is humanities reality check.
Of course, there are deep economic consequences on the way. But you know – I can’t help feeling the gap there is going to look a little different too. And if you don’t travel. If you don’t need a holiday from your life. If the world of the future for your children suddenly has different needs. Will there not be a saving? When you go out for coffee you’ll know exactly what you are paying for – someone else’s freedom. You’d forgotten the chain. The links within humanity. Maybe you never even considered them before?
I knew live through a war in my lifetime. If this is it? I can cope. So can you.
Naoisé Friday 13th March 2020
Featured on Motherwell Magazine
Space and despair in the chaos
For the first time in 11 years, I started the week not wanting to help people. Last week, I hit such a wall of despair. I spent much of the weekend crying, simply unable to process most of my feelings. Unable to get clarity on why I feel so disconnected from where others seem to be. To offer the help they sought, would be to just allow them to hide in the mirage of stagnation. Treading sludge in times of such possible upheaval.
More than anything else right now this is a mass culling of ideas. The rules society has felt for too long it needs to follow. This is not an extended study break for students to cram their course. It’s a complete life reevaluation. What life do I want? What life is sustainable? Suddenly careers people once sneered at have become the foundation of a war effort. We don’t all need to go to college to feel whole. This was never the purpose of education.
I’m not prepared to simply hand out study sheets or timetables. I want this to be a whole self-care package. I want to use the time to understand your core self and needs. For those struggling with literacy, it offers the greatest potential to spend the time that has been gained in a really constructive way. We are no longer battling to find a slot in the noise to learn the way we need too. Everyone can learn to read their way. We are not trying to navigate the system to find a way to do this now by stealth. We have space and time. We no longer need to make excuses about who we are and how we learn differently. Everyone does, we’ve just been in denial. We’ve spent so much time needing to fit into the rat race. What’s expected of us. Suddenly nothing is as expected. It’s all been culled. There’s a liberation in that if you want to grasp it. It oddly feels as if we are all emitting the decay of noise from our lives – in order to become more than a half-lived life.
Others find it hard to comprehend why I don’t share my methods with the world. I don’t want to focus on the challenges for each person. Even if I present the best and worst possible for each – I know what you will choose to focus attention on. We have enough ways already to limit people. Those always choose darkness when given options. It’s about helping people see the best of themselves while experiencing as a spectator what wrong turns are possible too. It’s why I’ve spent two years writing in the hopes that others will be able to read their way to their own core.
Now it feels like kicking Pandora’s box open again for everyone. In the legend, she put the lid back on too soon and left hope trapped inside.
23rd March 2020
This is your time
When others tell you what it’d be too pompous to say yourself. When the messages are the same; “It’s your time”, “Everyone will be ready to hear what you been saying.”
I wouldn’t have predicted or wished for such dramatic events. My message has never seemed that far ahead to me. I’m left wondering in a way what has my message been? What have others been hearing?
That having a core sense of self makes you a better human. That knowing who you are and how you tick not only makes you more secure but it stops you hurting future generations. That everyone can learn to read in their own way. That this matters for your core too. That there are no stupid people in the world. That all of this adds to making unconditional love possible. The ultimate truth is that without a core you can’t ever even imagine how unconditional feels.
It’s felt for me that humanity has been outsourcing living for years.
Families have children to not have the time to raise them. I often asked why did they have children? Not a popular question. What values are they demonstrating to them? An even more unpopular one.
Now we are all sitting in our self contained pods in silence re-assesing life.
I feel joy but equal terror too. There are so many dysfunctional pods out there. And innocent lives are at stake. I think dangers within of those isolated are even greater than they are from the virus outside.
My work is nowhere near done. But yes, maybe it’s time for everyone to listen now.
Naoisé 19th March 2020 (Equinox – ultimate balance day)
Writing up 11 years
Getting the keys for my school, The Homework Club, has become a milestone to base my own development. It’s 11 years ago now. If I’d known then what I know now I’m not sure I would have been brimming with enthusiasm that day. It was Chinese New Year too.
As I write this after another session online to the far side of the globe I’m reminded that my biggest purpose is to translate understanding of each other. That it’s almost become my speciality to reward empathy and sensitivity in the world. These skills like me seem currently out of fashion. And I can’t help feeling we will need them more than ever going forward.
I’ve spent not quite two years in a complete frenzy of writing – trying desperately not only to download all I have learnt in 11 years but to find a way to take myself out of the work. 7 books later I think I finally understand me. And now have a tribe of followers who can finally see me too. You have to ditch all those conditioned ideals and expectations to really get me. No wonder so few have until now. I never felt that rare but I guess I’ve joked for years I’m the alien. My biggest lesson has been you can only read me from your own reference point.
One aspect which creates misunderstanding in people about me but which makes me highly accessible to others is my lack of formality. I’ve never needed to hide behind my academic qualifications or speak in high academic prose. One reason I left academia was because of its lack of accessibility which I was a victim of because of my own profound dyslexia. All parents I meet feel intimidated by education. However, this doesn’t mean I have a simple way of seeing the world. And if I’ve created it for others it’s formed by endless research and methodology. I’ve spent my life focusing on how others need to receive communication. How each personality hears slightly differently.
Like me, my books would have been fashionable in the 19th century if philosophy and psychology could have been made accessible. I was delighted to realise recently they do fit at least one box being Novellas in length. Which I love the translation of as being ‘new’ very strong narrative voice. This is exactly what they are but also deeply personal and so open to all. Everyone forgets at some time they are reading a real me and projects. They’ve all grown closer by the end. But every reader tells me they provoke profound thought. Regardless of if they are a farmer, an academic working towards their own doctorate or a parent who dropped out of school at 15. I was fascinated to learn that regardless of their education level many read the books the same way – all taking notes. One person even said they reminded them of proverbs.
I’ve achieved what I set out to do when I started my own school 11 years ago this month after my own doctorate in Physical Oceanography. Independent thought and critical thinking possible for everyone regardless of education status.
To create simple you have to be a true master of understanding. I went to an art exhibition recently where I watched the development of The Irish painter J.B.Yeats’ style. You have to be able to paint to strip back the layers to show the simpler abstract. It was the same for Picasso or Leonardo Da Vinci. In fact, he wrote, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In a world where we have become so used to a mere commentary on life it hard to sell the idea of how philosophy creates a diversity of thinking or links rather than just a presented finished idea. We have got used to instant in every way. We don’t study to form ourselves we do it merely to tick the box. I would argue a good educator shows and helps people experience rather than tell. This is why I have created journeys for the reader. It’s exactly the same way I work with everyone.
Up until now, the only way to truly know me and understand me has been to work with me – now it’s possible to do this by reading me too.
In writing a series of books I obviously went on a journey myself which gave me two profound lessons. The first, in order to truly have my equals in my life I have to honour who I am. I have spent much of my life hiding this reality as I was afraid of the attention it brought, I can’t live in this way any longer. Hiding such a part of my soul for convention. Never wanting too much attention. I have to live in my full presence and be prepared to show this difference to the world. Secondly, I’ve always known that everyone who works with me has the potential to be my equal. To form part of my soul tribe. For this reason, I’ve never seen myself as a teacher. It always implies a gap and I believe in true equality. It’s the place that has been possible for all my readers to reach. The journey I have gone on in writing my books with my first readers. There are volumes in what it has made possible for others.
I just want to reach the place where I can keep writing. Keep creating change without having to explain me. To finally trash that reference point we all have to judge others from. The place where I can be seen for who I am – the same place my readers have reached with me.
Naoisé February 2020
It’s that time of the year for education in the Northern Hemisphere. A time I always reflect not only on all my student’s progress but my own.
This time last year I’d just really embarked on the journey to a be a writer. To fulfil a dream. To pour myself into books to take the need for a physical me out of people’s lives in order to make a difference. Everyone has always assumed I’d set up more schools. More training. But for me, the deep changes start within the mindset of each individual. Their sense of understanding of themselves. Their potential and how to express their dreams openly which have so often been locked inside. Only when you are strong as an individual can you contribute to the world around. Hense I went on a journey to explain the art of the core to people.
Of course, I’m always still working with individuals and always will be. It’s how I continue to grow, develop and learn myself. But I feel my books have the potential to help many people who may not gain access to me. Even the ones who have seem to have taken themselves to a new place through the books.
These books are the most authentic self I’ve ever been. And as a result, I’ve never felt so content as I approach the end of a cycle in one hemisphere.
It seems fitting that this year I know so many more students who are now able to read too.
I have always liked the number 7. This time of the year always makes me reflective as it was the first time of students flooding into The Homework Club in Blanchardstown in 2009. Many of these first cases turned out to be hugely influential in my own journey.
The first parent to ever ring me seeking help had a teenager who had not attended school for months having dropped out of the system. He took classes with us for 6 weeks and did so well in his state exams the school rang his mother with the results wanting to know what had changed. We worked with him for the next 3 years and hence I found myself taking on a huge number of cases with Aspergers Syndrome. I’m now known internationally as an expert in an area I never expected or set out to be.
By the following September even though I set the school up for second level students I found myself taking on the transition age before you start big school. By the following January a year after my craziness to set up my own school with my own teaching methods the youngest students were now 4.
Within this time, I had been encouraged by people to go for a number of awards. These were important to me personally as the first outside validation of my work.
I guess all along the only judge of my work, research and methods have been the result my students have gotten. From these, I have become a top referral for many organisations. I find it sad that in many cases I’m the person who people are sent to when no one else has been able to help them.
Two years after starting the school I realised I needed to convert all my work, experiences and methods into a formal system. This meant the birth of the Purple Learning Project. I have always felt there is a balance between supporting people currently in the system and making real change for the future.
I remember this odd moment of describing the basic Purple Learning method to someone and them asking who’s work it was? What book could they read it in? The answer was none – my head. It’s always been a bit bizarre to be so outside the box. To work in a way that has not existed before. The Homework Club was for me about proving all the wacky ideas in my own head.
Along the way in those years I developed all these ways of working with people with a whole spectrum of conditions including: ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Audio Processing Disorders, Hearing Impairments, Home Schooling, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Confidence, Bullying, Self Harm, Sexuality, Learning Disabilities, Gifted Children, Exam Fears, Child Development, People Development, Team Development, Business Success, Bereavement and so on.
When I started the school I had one main question in my head. Why do no two dyslexics learn the same way? Through working with so many people and conducting interviews which allowed me to create unique profiles for everyone I now have the answer to that question 7 years later.
I now have the recorded patterns of how personality and learning style go together.
I reached the next major crossroad in the school 4 years into the project. The students knew what we did. I collected many of their comments and feedback. It was a magic sense of achievement having created an environment they all loved so much. Hence, the tag line became “Develop Your Love of Learning”. But the parents had no idea in many cases what the project was about. I felt I was missing part of the puzzle. I also felt that many parents had lost involvement in their own children’s education.
Confidence Club was born.
I was also itching to take the projects nationally and internationally. Every time I did a radio interview I would be contacted by all these people rurally in Ireland with no support. Confidence Club has been about supporting students in their own homes, with the support and understanding of their parents.
Along the way, the methods have continued to develop in the background. It feels like a back room factory sometimes. The most significant one being in 2013, Periodic Table of the Development of Results. Nicknamed Purple Success. It brought my science and creative brains together. It is the table of the elements each personality needs to succeed in life. Whether it is a 3-year-old I’m helping to talk or a 5-year-old to read or a business to grow. It always just about people and their personalities.
With all the work I have done to date, my key focus in life still remains to take literacy and intelligence out of the same sentence. Because even after all these years I still remember what the teacher said to me in school at the age of 7.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly