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Vibrant Ireland

Shadows into Light, and Celebrating Women at Nollaig na mBan

Sometimes you feel fenced in by darkness. But the light does slowly return. There can be value to be found in both..

Sometimes you feel fenced in by darkness. But the light does slowly return. There can be value woven in both..

From the shadows into the light

It’s a journey that all of us take part in at Winter, simply by living and breathing on our planet as it slowly begins to spend more time facing the sun after the Solstice. For those of us whose Winter Solstice is in December, the holiday season elaborates on the basic physical fact of this extending time of light and imbues it with extended facets of meaning. In Ireland many of our megalithic prehistoric sites elaborately mark this change, illustrating how this returning of light has been hugely significant to humans for over 5,000 years.

The Journey

The journey from shadow into light has been especially resonating with me these past two years as I have struggled to cope with marriage breakdown, serious family illness, my own physical illnesses, disabilities and operations, financial pressures, the loss of my dearly cherished dogs, 2 house moves, and my ensuing mental health struggles. By the spring of 2016 I became unable to cope with even seemingly simple things, as the ‘you could hardly make it up’ crazy medium and major stressors kept on coming out of the blue. I started to have severe anxiety and panic attacks about small things like making and receiving ANY phone calls, texts, emails, social media or post, and also with writing more than a single short sentence for any reason, as well as over the bigger challenges I was facing in life. It was painful and confusing, and I was scared to death.

I was trying to make peace with the darkness whilst also staying open for the return of the light, but it often felt as if at every turn fate placed another painful obstacle in my path. I also knew I was not helping by beating myself up about things, but it was hard to break out the chaotic spiral of anxiety and panic, decorated with lashings of piercing guilt about things left undone.


What helped?

(I should say *helps*– I’m still in recovery, and I know also that life will continue to be a dance of dark and light.)

The support of loved ones and friends. Do let them know how you are feeling.

Counselling (I ended up doing 3 rounds with 2 different counsellors. One may suit you better than another. If after a few sessions you really don’t feel it is for you, see if you can try a different counselor. It can be worth it.) There can be a waiting list for counselling if you are going through the Medical Card, so do talk to your GP to get on the list as soon as you can. 

An 8 week structured mindfulness class. I took one taught by Erica at Mindfulness Kilkenny. Highly recommend.

The book True Refuge and the podcasts by Tara Brach (the class above, book and podcasts were true lifelines for me in times of deep heartbreak.)

Art therapy. 

Supportive physicians. It is important you have a  primary doctor you are happy with; my tip is to try to find one such when you are well, as the stress of doing so when unwell can be an extra burden. 

Spending time immersed in nature. Free, and yet so valuable. 

Plenty of time and a safe space to cocoon and grieve/rant/rest/heal. Things cannot be rushed, no matter how much we need and want them to be fixed/over more quickly. 

Cooking. Preparing foods from scratch, reading excellent food writers, being inspired by & armchair travelling via recipes from all over the world, and foraging for local wild ingredients all provide me with a no-pressure creative outlet. Additional benefits are healthier eating and saving money! The cooking became even more do-able when I received a Kenwood Chef as an early Christmas; chopping veg and repeated stirring were no longer hindered by triggering my neck-arm problems. If you also have these issues, try a Chef! It opened up a whole new world of possibility for me. 

Keeping in mind that setbacks will happen, and that is normal.

Remembering that nothing lasts forever, not even the shite. 


Reaching for the light in the darkness.

In thinking about who held out the light for me over the past two years, as either friends, family, or professionals, I realize the majority of them were women. So I think that it is fitting, now at the time of extending light and my returning ability to *gently* reactivate Vibrant Ireland, that my first venture back be to share a special woman-celebrating event.

Nollaig na mBan, Illuminated

This coming weekend, Friday the 5th to Sunday the 8th of January, to coincide with the Irish tradition of Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas), Illuminate Herstory  is lighting up Ireland, and also encouraging us at home to light up in order to celebrate the amazing women in our lives, communities, and history.

“Illuminate Herstory is a new light projection festival to celebrate women and girls, illuminating the country with images of women when the Christmas lights go out over the weekend of Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Little Christmas) on the 5 – 8th January 2017. From the shadows into the light, we will share women’s stories from our families, communities, tales of lost national heroines and women who we admire around the world.”

Events for Women’s Christmas

There will be illuminations and events in several counties across Ireland, and you can find the events listed here. If you are on MOBILE, look for the little plus sign at the top right of the page, and click that to see the listings. It took me ages to figure that out on my phone, so I thought I’d share that tip in case you might be the same 🙂 Women’s Christmas is on the 6th of January each year, and it’s a time for women to take a day for themselves, gather, laugh, chat and make merry. A tradition worth keeping!

To celebrate Nollaig na mBan I will be with some of the dear women friends who helped to keep me going. I’ll be at the Zwartbles Ireland farm, where I often found comfort, solace and strength via my irreplaceable friend Suzanna and her animals. Happy Women’s Christmas! And for those of you who also wish to take part in #IlluminateHerstory, here are some ideas:

I will likely share some photos on @VibrantIreland’s Twitter, and I also reactivated the Instagram, but I’m not quite up to re-activating the Vibrant Ireland Facebook page just yet. I’m nearly wrecked from trying to remember how to post an article up on this here website! It looks like several things need fixing on the site, too… I’ll try and figure it out all in good time, no panic 😀

Happy 2017, may it be kind to us all. XX

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