Have you ever had a crush on someone? Were you embarrassed? And do you think it was healthy?

We’ve all played the lead role in a drama ladened with angst, sweaty palms, racing heart and the inability to concentrate on anything or anyone else except the object of our desire. Crushes are be extremely embarrassing, and can be difficult to imagine that all this cringe worthy behavior has a purpose and is actually good for us – at least most of the time.

Crushes have more to do with fantasy than reality. We can be taken unaware when Cupid strikes, suddenly becoming self conscious around someone you find attractive. Why it happens is a bit of a mystery. It tells more about the admirer than the admired.

So in its purest sense, a crush is a form of parasocial relationship; a one sided relationship where you have feelings for someone else but these feelings are not reciprocated.

So what goes on in our heads? The feeling of infatuation or love that crushes feel is real. It’s said that when we are in love that the stress and reward system in our brain works over time. The same could possibly be true when we have a crush. The feel good chemical is released making us excitable, chatty and probably explains why we blurt out unimaginable embarrassing things. This is exemplified by the mortifying line “I carried a watermelon” in Dirty Dancing.

It’s thought that when you’re in love or lust the stress and rewards system in our brain are working overtime and the same is possibly true when having a crush .

When your brain is examined by an MRI someone in Love tents to have a high activity in the limbic area (I asked a brain consultant) so perhaps this is the area we refer to if we trust our head over our hearts when it comes to finding a partner! The limbic system is associated with addiction, this might explain how getting over a crush can be tough, and some of us hold a torch for years.

Why do we have crushes anyway?

Is there a higher purpose to having a crush other than it makes us feel good. Parasocial relationships in adolescents can be important. This can allow the adolescent to explore who they are, sexually and understand what attracts them in a safe way. Plus they are not going to get hurt like in a relationship.

However it’s very important to distinguish between imagining what a relationship would be like, and having a crush with the intention of exploring a relationship.

Most of us have dated the wrong type of person, and had our heard broken as a result. Crushes can ensure this doesn’t happen. This person (the crush) is the right person because you idolize them, there going to be who you want them to be, it’s kinda like a training ground for a proper relationship in the future. Adolescent crushes are health in my opinion and teenagers shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

In adulthood things are a little more difficult. Our evolutionary history suggests we are not a monogamous species. So crushes could be a way to identify a future or additional partner to meet our needs, or could be that the adult is stuck in adolescent mode or it could be a getaway behavior that leads to cheating.

To finalize, I think crushes are harmless. It can help reduce loneliness and boost confidence. Crushes could help reinvigorate a stake relationship.

I’d encourage people to recognize that they are idealizing their crush. You can’t control who you have a crush on, just enjoy it.

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Donatello’s Maynooth

Italian Food is all about the ingredients, it’s not fussy it’s not fancy.

Last Tuesday I met my sister and my niece for lunch. They took me to Donatello’s. The room is nice and big, decorated simply but cosy. The service was welcoming and polite.

I ordered there rustic lunch board meal at €13. I had the mussels, 6inch pizza and rosemary potatoes. I couldn’t fault anything. I asked for the pizza to be spicy and it was perfect. Since il primo closed in Dublin I have struggled to find a nice Italian restaurant and Donatello’s matched it. I’m really looking forward to going back.

Marriage. Do we need to do this?

Marriage made a lot of sense years ago. Let’s go back to the Victorian Era, when most women didn’t have the same rights and roles as men, and were effectively “private property” a societal legacy that still influences our tradition of the bride walking down the aisle and taking her husbands last name.

Women needed financial security as they didn’t have access to the work force and men needed an heir. We prettied it up by calling it “love”

So does marriage still play a role now? Women don’t need financial security as women have the same rights as men and yes I agree the whole reproduction thing still exists but do we need to get married for this reason ?

This blog is about long term monogamous, cohabiting couples and I’m not comparing marriage to bachelorhood or single parents. Why are we still getting married?

There are 3 arguments to look at

  1. The Taxes argument
  2. The children argument
  3. The commitment argument

The taxes argument: usually isn’t valid. People mention this argument when they want to skip out of the emotional part of this and try and make them selves believe that they are making a logical decision. But most people don’t benefit from this.

The children argument: it’s said that a 2 parent home is better for kids. But there is nothing to say that the parents need to be married.

The commitment argument: wow, there is a lot in this one. A famous magazine wrote something once, and it went something like this “declaring your love in front of all your family and friends in a formal ceremony and signing your marriage license that seals the deal is meaningful” now let me translate that, it’s harder to leave when everyone identifies you as been part of a married couple.

Marriage has become a status symbol. This is evident in “same sex marriage” marriage is about external validation. The assumption that marriage not only gives them a bundle of rights but also a privileged position . People marry to show their family and friends how well their lives are going even if they know it’s not going to last forever. Unfortunately our desire for acceptance and respect in society runs that deep. People say they get married for security, it makes it more difficult to leave. But that’s false security as contracts can be broken. With security we get comfortable and when we get comfortable we get lazy, and we all know relationships take work and been lazy is top of the list why couples divorce. I know people will say ” we know this, relationships take work” and my response is “why the contract ? Who don’t you trust? You or your partner?

When people tell me that they marry for “love” that just translates to “I don’t want to be alone”

I would much rather leave the door open for my partner to come back because he wants to not because of a legal contract that says he had to.

We love things more when we call them “ours” you evaluate kitchen equipment more positively after you buy it. You evaluate your job more positively after you accept it. You evaluate your college more positively after you have been accepted. Gamblers evaluate their horses more positively after they leave the betting window rather than when they approach it, and voters evaluate their candidates more positively after they cast their vote. A kettle, a job, college, a horse and a TD are all just fine and dandy but when they become our kettle, job, college, horse and TD they are instantly finer and dandier. It’s like when you hear people say ” my wedding day was the happiest day of my life” it’s not about having married “the one” its about having married.

It’s a fact that if you commit to something orally or in writing your more likely to honor it.

So where are we? We recognize that we desire social acceptance, false sense of security and love things more after we call them ours. So the question is, what do we do? What does this mean for marriage? The answer I guess really depends on our goals and values. What makes us happy?

If you value social acceptance (with family, friends, professionals and or religious groups) then just get married and do whatever it takes to stay married. But if you value more deeper happiness then you have to take a more complex approach. If you think you can have both and only pursue one, your wrong unless you are defining “happiness” as “social acceptance”

Deeper happiness means that we know that they only thing we control is ourselves. And everything changes, people change. Contracts mean very little to the human spirit. Deeper happiness means we view people as people and not parts to complete the picture of “the perfect life”

What makes us happy is focusing on what we can control (which is ourselves) and committing (ourselves) to our partner and loving them hard every day.

The only thing we control is ourselves. Marriage is about commitment, but it does start and finish with our own. And after that we just need to respect our partners as their own person, separate from us who commit to us, but not by a contract but by choice.

Should marriage licenses be renewed ?

If a marriage license had an expiration date do you think couples would treat each other different?

There are so many licenses that need to be renewed, dog license, TV license, fishing license, driving license. But not a marriage license. I believe this is the one license that should be renewed.

Do you think that after a few years that a couple should prove that they are successful in their marriage and have to renew their license?

Now I agree this is written with a little tongue-in-cheek, but think of the possibility’s. I’m also aware that a brand new batch of legal issues would have to be addressed, but I also think its an interesting subject to ponder with regards to the quality of the marriage. Would the marriage years lived together be different? What behavioral changes would the couples make if they knew their marriage had a chance of not been renewed? Would they treat their partner as they did before marriage ? (You know “the honeymoon period” “the golden time”) where everything is sweetness and light and romance fills the air and the couple know that their marriage is going to be the best marriage EVER!

So let’s entertain me and say that the license is a renewable one. How long should it be valid before its renewed? Every year? Every two years? Everyone will have their own personal opinion on this time frame. But I think it should be every 5 years. The first couple of years couples are just getting use to been married. They would need time to settle into this. If after 5 years they decide to renew the license they could have another wedding ceremony, a party, another honeymoon or simply just renew their marriage license.

Lawyers could see this as a loss of potential income. Bare with me! If a couple did decide to divorce before their marriage license expired then the divorce proceedings would go on as before and divorce lawyers still make their bank trying to unite the angry couple. Of course if the couple decide after 5 years not to renew their license then the marriage legally dissolves and the couple divide all the goodies that they acquired in their marriage. Yes of course lawyers could still be needed for this part so the advent of a marriage license renewal should not put them off. Would this result in a better marriage between the two if they can resolve their issues? Would this make a better “end of marriage” scenario if they decide not to renew?

But I’m much more interested in what happens in the marriage between renewals . How will the marriage proceed during the interim? Would the couple act differently towards each other? Would they treat each other with more reverence? Would it feel more like they are dating rather than they are “stuck” with each other? How would it effect their behavior? Would it be better?

Could the fact that they must renew their license make for a better more rewarding , happy marriage? That’s the question for me because I’ve seen so many people living in misery while been married and I know so many people that have been divorced. It just seems clear to me that something needs to done to jumpstart the change. The status quo does not seem to be working at all.

So for whatever it’s worth, I certainly think it’s worth pondering. Let’s face it unhappy marriages are rampant these days and the fallout affects us all. Unhappy marriages make for unhappy people and unhappy homes. Unhappy marriages are unhealthy. If having a marriage license that had to be renewed would someone make happier people, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Nothing lasts forever and if people must get married (and in my next blog I’ll tell you why I don’t think people should get married at all) shouldn’t it be a renewable contract.

What is the opposite of loneliness?

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness yet, but if we did, I would say that’s what I want in my life!

There really are only two profound tragedies of the human condition: Impermanence is one and Loneliness is the other. Impermanence is a tragedy of time, loneliness is a tragedy of space. Today I’m going to concentrate on Loneliness, and attempt to find its “opposite”.

We really must define the word “loneliness” before we can attempt to find the opposite. Loneliness is commonly articulated as the sensational byproduct of been physically, emotionally or mentally alone, or a mix of the above. So let’s take an example….you start a new job, you know nobody, you feel like a curious interloper from another planet thrown into a foreign culture. That’s close to Loneliness but still not quite right. You see real loneliness runs a lot deeper than that. It’s when you feel alone even when you aren’t actually alone. Let me explain.

Loneliness is about feeling like you don’t know anybody but more of a feeling like nobody knows you. So how does this manifest itself?

Do you describe your relationship with the world as a car in second gear? Loneliness is an unfulfilled desire for a connection with other humans. A loathing and resignation that directed inward…… kinda like an electrical voltage that sparks a connection but reversed and turned upon itself , paralyzing you the way a taser would.

Everyone loves wit, a compliment or good news. Bring enough of it to enough people and you’ll make them feel warm and fuzzy all over. (Its a great feeling) These are nearly a bullet proof way to be likable. Humans love to be made feel good. It’s a natural thing. Have you done this? Iv done this often…. in fact it is my default setting making people smile and laugh and then vanish into the ether.

I suspect you will believe me that this makes me a hit at parties and social gatherings, and also surprisingly awkward. Here’s the thing….A lot of likable people are completely lonely.

Now let’s talk social media. We craft these social networks and (supposedly) gleefully overshare in the hopes that somebody, anybody will relate to us. We need the connection. Your network could be one, two or three thousand people that you consider friends, or sought out an avalanche of hearts and likes on a professionally candid photo, or a status that doubles as an epic description of your success. Occasionally you will receive the validation and it momentarily makes you feel less lonely. But when all reaction is current, and all reaction is superficial , self loathing and self doubt and the other two horse men of the self- apocalypse ride into our virtual town. Is this a precursor for becoming less lonely?

Your so vulnerable and brave my friends say to me. It takes a lot of courage to bleed onto the keyboard for all to see.

Ahh….. but the masses have been dubbed. What I choose to share with people isn’t an expression of any sort of emotional vulnerability. I am broadcasting, a far less emotional or risky endeavor than conversation. Broadcasting things probably makes you worth listing to, but only a conversation can confirm to people that your worth knowing. So to become someone worth knowing this requires reciprocity and vulnerability. It also requires actual investment of emotional capital into people you wish to know. And there’s only a fixed amount allotted for distribution, in a deeper way than taking 15 seconds to “like” and comment .

To keep up actual friendship it requires resources. To be someone worth knowing requires “real” human interaction. You have to have conversations beyond social media. Expressing your differences, changing peoples minds, passionately defending the points that defend our character. Asking for and offering favors. This is what makes this life worth living. Agree?

When we’re lonely what are we craving ? We are craving more connecting NOT more connections!

The opposite of loneliness is intimacy

the act of revealing your whole true self to someone else and having them reciprocate. It is something you can only do one-on-on, face-to-face, soul-to-soul. Intimacy is lots of things, an act of love, an act of self-love, an act of defiance all in one. It’s gritty, emotional, raw, unfiltered, unabashed, unpretentious and even unguarded. It’s like talking about things together. It’s also about being and about becoming things together.

What are we in this world if not connectable interlocking parts? What is-the point in having joy, suffering, talent and wisdom if not to be shared and imparted? A sole is not a silo, a mind is not a mine. We worship, learn, aid, sing, dance, watch, call, visit, fuck, create, talk, run, love, try, read, write to bring ourselves closer. To make whole what we lack in the emptiness of loneliness. I believe a heart unbroken is a life unwatered, and I believe a dream undashed is a life unlived. I also believe….To play safe,to play solo is to play a fools game. We may very well find success in rising above the rest, but we can only win by lifting up others. That requires intimacy. Intimacy requires the courage to make enemies, equally as easily as we make friends.

And this is how we beat back the gray twilight of loneliness and we find ourselves in the company of those we’ve challenged to truly see and accept us for who we are. Its like a game of emotional and intellectual catch where neither drops the ball. It is transcendent, and it is the momentary defeat of our uniquely human tragedy.

How to help ourselves from the mental trap of setbacks

We all know people who greet life’s challenges easily with grit and grace. People who are calm, collective and even-keeled under pressure, approaching worries, fears, life’s struggles and even injustice with magnanimity.

I however have never been one of those people EVER. As your classic overachiever, i’v always had a tendency to equate my self-worth with external validation. At times it has come in rather handy, feeding my ambitious streak by pushing me to work harder. But with me constantly living for the next “gold star” has also let me to process each minor set back, like a major disaster, (almost a feeling of “the world just ended”) filling my brain with dramatic thoughts: I couldn’t do anything right. Everybody hated me. I was always doomed to fail, always.

Maybe you can relate to this kind of unwitting overreaction. Maybe not? It happens when you have a fight with a friend that leaves you convinced that the two of you are over for ever, or when your partner does something hurtful to you to make you believe, just temporarily, that you hate them.

We see this behavior in pop culture and politics – where we are always too quick to categorize these people as good/bad, worthy of admiration or disdain without fully understanding the full situation. We pass judgement. We always pass judgement way too quickly.

The tendency to think in extremes is known in psychology as dichotomous. Another way to describe it is seeing everything as black or white . A common mental error that will distort your perception of reality. Something I suffer with but can handle it much better now. When your in the grips of dichotomous, there’s no room for nuance. You start seeing the world as all or nothing, fixating on how things “should be” or “must be” to the point that you render yourself inflexible to change. But of course you can change. I did. I am!

Ask yourself what objective evidence supports this? How would another view this situation?

Everyone I believe suffers from dichotomous thinking at some point in their life. Just my opinion.

Research has shown that this kind of thinking can lead to a pattern of harmful perfectionism and also low self esteem, with this comes bad judgement and leaves you to misunderstand others peoples emotions. Life is ambitious and complex, you have to appreciate its subtleties to stay happy and sane. We need to be a little bit more realistic and a little less extreme in our thoughts. Agree this is not always an easy task.

Pay attention to your thoughts. If you hear yourself talking in absolutes, negative thinking. Sentences like “this always happens to me” or “it never works out” try to counteract them with a realism rating. Instead of giving marks out of 10, rate your performance out of 100. Doesn’t seem so negative now does it?

When your at the height of dichotomous thinking, this is where you can become dangerous to yourself. Your brain automatically will jump into overdrive, this is to protect you from perceived threats. However your not actually in any danger but this is your body’s way of dealing with your thinking. Your body will start to release chemicals like cortisone and adrenaline which pumps up your anxiety, the other functions like decision making, self control and focus, to name a few are shot down and you won’t find them. Something that I do and I find very helpful is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, Also know as a grounding exercise. Engage your 5 senses one at a time. Identify 5 things you can see, 4 sounds, 3 physical sensations, 2 smells and 1 taste that you are experiencing right at that moment.

Once that’s done , we need to get our brain back thinking clearly again. What I do is I will create a counterargument.

What’s our goal? We need to challenge our thoughts, we need to know if what we’re thinking is correct. These are some of the questions I ask myself….

What objective evidence or facts supports this ?

How would another person view this situation?

Are there other angles to consider?

What actions can I take that will help or influence what happens next?

We need a more balanced way of reacting to a situation. Reframing is when we gather other ways at looking at a situation. Fact is: doing this can reduce the potency of whatever false perception that’s causing you stress. Sounds simple and it actually is. If you suffer with dichotomous, the reality is that you need to do these things or life will become very scary, very negative and very lonely.

Remember we have to be nicer to ourselves. Self compassion will increase your capacity to cope with negative emotions. So when your eternal monologue is full of your thoughts about your inadequacy please ask yourself this – Is there a better generous assumption that I can be making right now?

Liberated

Embracing Your Physical Self

It was only in my mid 30’s when I first realised how much my sexuality influences my sense of self. Sex it turns out, was a form of expression I was rather interested in. Oddly enough, that’s when my then partner accused me: “all you care about is sex” He said this because he did not want a sexual component in our relationship at all. A perfectly fine thing, if partners agree. However not an option for me.

The confusion he had over his own feelings about sex in relationships unfortunately triggered a lot of confusion for me. The shame I felt over this was immense- I internalised his words about how valuing sex as highly as an emotion or mental connection was primitive, stupid. I began to deny that I was physical person at all, and a part of me was squared away in a box with a label attached to it saying “do not touch” A far cry from liberation!

Only more recently have I admitted the truth to myself: I am not an idiot for been a physical, sexual human-being. My physicality is an active part of my identity. Now I am rediscovering my body in all new ways. It’s exciting. I am finally paying attention to it, rather than dismissing it out of hand for the “superiority” of my mind. The mind is a powerful thing but living entirely in ones own head is also dangerous. Our true self is something that I think can only really be understood and explored if we are balanced in mind, body and spirit.

It is in this vein that I began to reflect on what “liberation” really means. Its something that gets bandied about quite a lot. We all know someone who after a few beers think they are super woke and sexually free and “get it”. But what does liberation really mean? I guess it might mean so many different things for so many people but here is what I think it means.

Its about Openness

Been open Minded doesn’t come naturally to everyone and fear around the physical realm (the vulnerability required and pressure of “performing” to exceptions) can be daunting. I have friends who can not even say the word “sex” when its not a word we should have a fear of. If you are afraid of the word then how can you be open in the act? People are contradictions, in the end. There are many factors that overlap with sex- culture, sexual orientation, religion, media, just to name a few. We absorb all these things, alongside information about gender roles, along side ageism and ableism and everything else that aims to hold some bodies above others for particular kinds of pleasure. Untangling these things to figure where true desire and pleasure starts and finishes is really rather tricky. However not impossible. But without a sense of been open and ready to explore, real pleasure is very hard to achieve. Almost impossible.

I have done my best to eliminate assumptions about what my body is here to do on this earth. However its here to do many things, not all to do with my sexuality, nor all to do with my thoughts.

Liberation requires openness to begin down the road of discovery.

Its about self awareness

Self-awareness is a challenge in a lot of aspects of life. Let alone in the sexual sphere, where internalised shame can do so much damage. Its not news, that women understand even less about their own pleasure than men often do, what with masturbation being something utterly undiscussed. Shame! And at the same time there is an unreasonable expectation that men are meant to understand it all perfectly (when of course they don’t) which makes it hard for them to ask questions as well. Its the blind leading the blind. Or rather, nobody leading anyone- everyone pretending everything/anything is fine ( and I know all about pretending, but thats another blog) a system that benefits no-one.

We have to explore, we have to ask questions, we have to experiment. A sense of trust is important, (this can be difficult for some people) and becomes very important if others are involved.

Its about communication

A straight friend of mine told me that he considered sex to be worthwhile even without helping his partner achieve an orgasm. Now I don’t think sex is about orgasm-but orgasm is a fairly important part of it for a lot of people. It is for me. It speaks to the age-old assumptions that female pleasure isn’t quite so important. The partner he imagines as sufficiently pleased by a lack of orgasm is a partner who hasn’t ever spoken for herself. I’d love to know her point of view on this matter. In essence it felt as though there was an assumption about male versus female “needs”. But the reality is what ever gender you are, the needs of your partner are something you must discuss together. And given the huge assumption that exists about male orgasm (that it is “final”-it signals the end point of a heterosexual sexual encounters) its even more important that this is discussed. Orgasm is important, and female orgasm is not so much mysterious as it is undervalued, but the emphasis on male ejacualion is problematic also. The pressure for one partner to dole out pleasure, take pleasure, initiate and finalise the encounter, is far too great a task. However much of this is been dismantled with time. Again, it comes back to peoples expectations and the pressure applied to achieve absolutes that are grounded in stereotype and assumptions, in an arena where absolutes does not exist.

Sensuality is often fluid. The things we like will probably change. Our bodies are not machines, and they don’t always act as we expect them to. We have to learn how to communicate our needs to our partner and give our partner an opportunity to express theirs, in order to experience liberation- completely, and to ensure we don’t suppress our partners, either.

Its about choice

In an excellent episode of the Sexually Liberate Woman podcast, Ev’Yan Whitney Jaliessa Sipress, who at one point in her podcast says:

If you are been fulfilled by vanilla sex, then you should do that. You know what I mean? just because you are a sex educator does not mean that you have to try every flavour in the ice cream shop…..

Mayo

The name originate’s from the Irish “Mhaigh Eo”

The Irish “Mhaigh Eo” translates to “Plain of the Yew Trees” originality from the village of Mayo, known today as Mayo Abbey. The Yew tree is one of the few trees native to Ireland.

Mayo was the birth place of one of the most fearsome and famous Irish pirates. Grace OMally. She captured English ships and stole their cargo.

Some of the best-know stories from early Irish literature came from county Mayo. Tain Bo Flidhais and Táin Bó Cúailnge.

Mayo has some stunning beaches. Here is my favorite. Ballycroy .

The largest Irish Island is off the coast of Mayo. Achill.

There is so much more history in Mayo. Knock, Croagh Patrick, Cèide Fields to make a few. One more of my favorite places to visit is Down Patrick Head.

Fresh Sea Food Lunch

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
Orson Welles

 

I know I go on and on about lunches in Ryans Bar Navan. But it simply is the best lunch in town. Simple honest food that tastes great. The added bonus is the service is fast and efficient. The coffee is great too. Of course a little sing song from Mick Ryan when he passes your table is generally welcome.

Dining by myself or with clients, friends or family Ryans is where I go.

 

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Loop Walks Mayo

In August I was in Mayo and done a couple of the local Loop walks. I really love a good loop walk especially when the views are great. Where better than the Wild Atlantic Way?

The first one was the Erris Loop Walk. Its only 5km but the views were impressive. Its not a hard walk. I done this with my mom so we took it nice and easy and enjoyed each others company and the Wild Atlantic views.

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The next walk was the burrishoole walk. There are a few choices to choose from but I took the longest one, only 10km. Took just over 2hours to complete, some heavy hill climbing in places but the views are worth it.

Its bog tracks, country lanes and stone surfaced tracts. Great views of clew bay and Croagh Patrick as backdrop to the south and Nephew Big mountain range to the north

If you find yourself in Mayo with a few hours to yourself I would definitely recommend these walks. The peace and quite is simply so good for your mind soul and body.