Stitch ‘n’ Bitch at Xanadu

In another first for us in 2021, we will be holding a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch on Thursday, 18 February, at 7.30 pm, in one of the rooms of Xanadu Online Theatre.  For those who haven’t heard the term before, a Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is when people get together to work on their various projects while having a natter and a bit of craic at the same time.

The Xanadu Stitch ‘n’ Bitch will be hosted by Aoife Flood, a highly experience knitter, who will be on-hand to answer any questions and offer help; beginners are welcome.  You don’t have to be knitting though: you can crochet, embroider, sew, or do any other craftwork you may have underway.

The event will be co-hosted by Notes From Xanadu Artistic Director Mary Tynan.  If you wish to attend, please register by emailing notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.  See you there!

Testing Times

So you’ve been feeling a tad Covid.

So you order a test, which arrives.

First off, they give you a three D cardboard box net to construct.

Great, you’re right at the top of your game. Love origami.

Not sure what it’s testing for though? Spatial awareness?

Then a series of bags and containers that have to be assembled very carefully in a specific order, Russian doll-like, when you do the actual test. Weird, I thought I’d already started, and then I notice in the book of instructions – that was in the bag – that I shouldn’t open the bag without washing my hands for 20 seconds, and that I should also clean all the surfaces before I get them out, but I haven’t finished the box; but then I shouldn’t have started, because I’ve got to clean everything first. How the fuck am I meant to know that, as, to read it, I’ve had to open the bag? So now I clean everything because it’s wrong. Could have Covid on it. So I go back and I wipe everything and I think I’d better finish the box, or maybe not? Maybe I should unfold and start all over again, in case I’ve missed something in the instructions? When I do read the instructions, I say “thank goodness I didn’t just see the big cotton bug and stick it up my nose and throat,” and then it tells me to do that anyway, but it must be an hour before the collection at our priority letter box, and we mustn’t touch anything with the cotton bud apart from two and half centimeters up my nose and the back of my throat. By this time I’m feeling so much better: I mean I’ve made the box, laid everything out and I’ve cleaned everything three time,s and I’ve learnt a lot about my area and where our priority post boxes aren’t, probably super spreading all the while. So then I find the link to the you tube video – which is handily in the booklet – so much easier to click on a link in paper instruction booklet – or rather it isn’t – but I manage to type it and link to Ali, the nice man who explains everything handily and simpl,y including which things might not be in the kit they’ve sent me. He says he know it’s a bit fiddly and frustrating but not too much he hopes, as I guess I could be feverish and confused at this point. He then reminds me to wash my hands for twenty seconds exactly. I nearly scald myself with the tap, but guess that’ll kill Covid as well. He also shows me how to stick a cotton bud in my throat and up my nose without touching anything else with the fabric. This all needs to go into the tube with liquid, and I must snap off the handle and close the tube without contaminating the contents. At this point I have a headache and have discovered how to stimulate a gagging reflex from the back of my throat without touching anything else. But have I rubbed my tonsils, and who knew they weren’t the dangly bits, for fecks sake? Also, this is where it goes into a second tube-  that I don’t have – and into two bags: one labelled bio hazard and the other with a pinch seal. All in a specific order, which is then all packaged in my handcrafted origami box, which has a special seal sticker that is in the bag in the box. Bollocks; still, it’s all part of a test, so I backtrack and seal the box thankfully with all the contents. I’m now running late for the priority collection, so in my feverish and somewhat confused state I, masked to the eyeball, stagger to the priority post box, narrowly evading non-socially-distancing pedestrians who ring the post box.

I then wait for three days. For a result which by the time it arrives; merely confirms the obvious: that I’m positive. Never has positive seemed so negative or vice versa.

But the test is still not over, as I now get sent a link for feedback to ‘test and trace’ (not ‘track n’ trace’)? Guess they’ve changed the name in case someone asks about the missing twelve and and a half billion.  But to give them feedback I have to set an account with a password, so I offer my best password effort, and of course it’s found wanting, not strong enough. So I try a random selection of letters, symbols and punctuation. No, that won’t do, too short. I lengthen it and, oh no, it’s too sequential, so I try another and another. But they’re all sequences. Yes, surely that is the nature of a password. It has a beginning and a middle and an end. Finally, randomly, it accepts something.

What have I learnt?

That I wish hadn’t started.

I also know, two days after I need to know, that I can stop self-isolating, that is, if I haven’t developed another symptom, maybe confusion?


			

Welcome to Prison, by Jackson Lara

Welcome to Episode One of The Prison Podcasts. We asked Jackson to tell us a little bit about his experience working in prisons, and it turns out he has an awful lot of stories! Welcome to prison!

(Please note: this piece contains some instances of strong language.)

Jackson Lara spent nine years working in men’s medium to high security prisons in New Mexico.  He first started as a correctional officer, then used his teaching credential to teach GED material to men preparing for the GED test.

 

Philipa Farley

Welcome to 2021

Merry New Year to all of you!  I went AWOL for a good reason there – to be revealed in the next column as The Most Socially Awkward Thing I Did in 2020 and Ever.*  In any case, here we are.  Locked down.  Again.  The third time over.  Well, it’s more like the second time, as the time before this didn’t really count.  Or did it?  Time is a bit hazy at the moment.  I find my mind reverts back to our Southern Hemisphere, South African calendar in a Clockwork Orange-type blip from time to time.  Is it the start of the school year? Is it the end?  What’s happening?  It feels like July, but it’s not.  Will summer ever come back?  If I start posting pictures of crossed out I I I Is send help!

At least this time I’m allowed alcohol.  Counting down the days till my Kahlua arrives.  I plan on making copious amounts of Dom Pedros.**  The older children have asked for banana bread.  This is such old news for me, I’ve decided that we’re clearing a shelf in our front entrance little room which is as cold as a fridge.***  This shelf will be dedicated to all things baking.  I’m going full Martha Stewart this round of lockdown – minus the securities fraud and Snoop Dogg collab.  Expect a slew of overnight and two day fermented yeast baked good pictures if you follow me on Instagram.****

Other coping slash distraction mechanisms include binge watching series.  Schitt’s Creek has opened up a world of meme-age.*****  We’re onto Brooklyn 99 now.  It’s making me regret not going into the police service and becoming a detective (that is one of my lesser-known regrets – I think I would have made a very good detective.  I also have a queue of schmaltzy 90s and 2000s romantic comedies to get through; Sweet Home Alabama ticked off that list.  Mental chewing gum is where it is at.

Seriously though, what are you doing to cope?  Retail therapy is dire.  No more middle aisle shopping at Aldi and Lidl.  Who the fuck classified that as not essential?  Can we have a word, please and thank you?  I’m still on Amazon – yes, with my Prime account intact.  I spent a couple of days doing calculations and comparisons with .de; shipping is a monster, yoh!  Still cheaper on Prime.  And for those of you buy-local loyalists, the money I save buying on Prime gets spent on (Michael McIntyre Voice) spicey bags (normal voice) at the village takeaway.  My version of shop local.******

In any case, fuck Brexit.  Really.  I don’t say much about it publicly, but I am sad it actually happened.  I’m sad for all that could have been and now never will be.  I’m sad for people who believe they’re so much better than everybody else that they put walls up, slam doors shut, and retreat.  Small people with small minds.  Nationalism turned disease.  There, I said it.  Ugh.  In protest, I check out my items on Amazon one by one,******* while I watch my romcoms, eating alcoholic milkshakes and dreaming of UBI and communal gardens.

Welcome to 2021, everybody.  The year we all eat less and walk more.  Or not.

 

*As in EVER.
**Discovered this is a Very South African thing.  Basically, adult milkshakes.  Double cream, ice cream, and whiskey whizzed up together.  Can substitute whiskey for Kahlua, Baileys, Frangelico, etc.  I might try a chocolate/orange combo.
***We could right now skate on our swimming pool.  Yes, the above ground pool is still up.  Totally ran out of fucks to give.
****Don’t follow me on Instagram.  Most vanilla happy-snap account ever – more for my own amusement.  Twitter is where it’s at – JustCallMePips.
*****David Rose is a gift.
******Just go with it.
*******Avoid VAT and import duties: tick with Prime.  You’re welcome.

Opportunity

Once again Ian Macnaughton moves away from the column format, also with prose poetry, but this time on the sardonic side.

Opportunity
Take it from me
it’s the key.
You
See it
Everywhere
And in everything.
Someone else’s grief is your opportunity
So take it
Don’t hesitate
Cause if you don’t
I will grasp it with both hands and milk it
Because anyone who tells you that’s wrong is a killjoy
Life is for the taking
You, we, all of us choose our destiny
The proles see this corona virus as a sentence, a ball and chain.
But really it’s the dogs bollocks, it’s the wings.
See it the right way and you will go far.
So
Set up that delivery service for the shielded
Start buying up the PPE
The textile machinists for masks
The cemetery plots or the crematorium
Or maybe just shares in Amazon and Netflix
Because if you don’t someone else will….


Xanadu Reading Challenge – January 2021

One of the lovely things about being an online arts centre is that Notes can Xanadu can feature writing and literature alongside other art forms.  With this in mind, we have created a reading challenge for 2021.  Each month there will be a theme, with several sub-categories, and the challenge is to read one or more books each month to fit the topic.  Feel free to add sub-categories, the only rule is that one book each month should be a new read.  The entire challenge can be downloaded in pdf format here.  We also have an Excel spreadsheet, thanks to Karin Hammarstrom, one of our participants, which you can also download, and use to track your progress.

Every month, we’ll introduce the theme and sub-categories in a post like this, and also give some reading suggestions.  Please leave a comment and tell us what you are reading, and whether you are enjoying it, or any other information that you would like to share with your fellow readers.

The theme for January is New Beginnings.

Sub-categories:

  • a book published in 2020 or 2021
  • a book given to you as a present (or bought with a book token) in the last couple of months
  • a book about a new hobby or interest
  • a book to do with a New Year’s resolution
  • a New Age book

Reading suggestions:

I’m reading:

The Lady of the Lake by Andrzej Sapkowski, received as a Christmas present in 2019.

Come back next month for our February suggestions, and don’t forget to leave a comment below to tell us how you got on in January!  Happy reading!

Update: it’s been suggested that we have a live, in-person discussion group once a month (online) to discuss what we’ve been reading – if that’s something you would be interested in, please comment below, or email notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

Art, by James Guinnevan Seymour

James Guinnevan Seymour is an Irish artist and illustrator who has just returned home after living in South Korea and Vietnam for 12 years. He is a graduate of Limerick School of Art and Design and since his graduation in 2003 has had over 30 exhibitions with the majority of them as a member of the I.A.C (International Artists of Corea (Korea)) and Limerick Printmakers Ireland. He has also had a handful of exhibitions in America as well as some published work in a number of magazines, newspapers as well as for independent comic book companies. He is currently living in Co Mayo with his wife and two kids and is currently illustrating for two independent comic books as well as working on some personal projects.  James also runs the independent publishing company Red Skull Press.

You can follow James on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, email him on guinevan25@hotmail.com or visit his online store.

 

See No Evil

 

Draw Pilgrim

 

I’m Gonna Make A Monkey Out Of You

 

Byzantium

 

Speak No Evil

 

The Monster

 

Theatre at Home for Christmas

Fancy a trip to the theatre this December? In contrast to the usual visit to the pantomime, Xanadu Online Theatre invites you to watch an alternative Christmas show from the comfort of your own home – all you need is a computer and an internet connection.

Started in May 2020, Notes From Xanadu is, as far as can be seen, the first online arts centre in the English-speaking world.  Since its beginning, it has attracted visitors from countless countries on six different continents (we’re still trying to crack Antartica)! On 23 September, we launched Xanadu Online Theatre with a variety concert featuring artists from two different continents and three timezones.  December sees the debut performances from our in-house theatre company, with a double bill of classic tragedy and comedy: Riders to the Sea by J M Synge and The Proposal by Anton Chekhov.  Tickets are free of charge, but limited, and must be booked in advance at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/theatre-at-home-for-christmas-tickets-129660125927.  Admission is per connection, not per person, so you can have as many people watching with you as you like.  More details are available at the website at theatre.notesfromxanadu.org.

The arts centre and the theatre are the brain children of Mary Tynan, a chronically-ill, disabled creative living in the West of Ireland.  For interviews please contact Mary on notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com.

Why Lockdown has been a Lifeline for me, by Mary Tynan

Lockdown may have made life smaller for many people, but it made mine bigger.

Unlike most people, I wasn’t that upset when the first coronavirus lockdown began.  As far as I could see, it wasn’t going to make much difference to my life.  But I was wrong: it made my life better.

As a chronically ill, disabled person (I suffer from the neurological condition (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) living alone in a rural location, I had long been used to spending most of my time alone.  Many weeks, if I didn’t visit a shop, I didn’t see anyone.  And shopping was becoming harder – I had already begun the transition to grocery delivery before the pandemic.  I connected with people mostly via telephone or, more and more as time went on, via the web.

I used social media such as Facebook for two main purposes: to keep up with people that I rarely saw, such as friends from my previous life as an actor in London, and to make new friends, especially within the ME and chronic illness communities.  I joined support groups, book clubs and other interest groups; I attended and ran virtual pub quizzes and parties.  I also used the internet for solo activities, such as practising and learning languages on Duolingo, and studying everything from Archaeology to Cyber Security.  I was well-practised at living life online.  What happened early this year is that everyone joined me.

Right at the beginning of Lockdown, some friends and I decided to set up an online school.  Ar Líne Le Chéile was small, and part-time, and wasn’t intended to replace or compete with anything that children were getting from their regular teachers – rather, it was to help combat loneliness and isolation.  In this it succeeded, and our small class of primary school children had formed great friendships by the time we finished in June.  As I was already an experienced teacher, I took an active part in this, the highlight of which was the weekly multidisciplinary lesson where we made virtual visits to such places as the British Museum, NASA and the London Underground.  It was a lovely feeling to have my own class again, for the first time since 2008.  A side effect of this for me was that my old interest in coding was reawakened by a Scratch class run by another teacher (Philipa Farley, the writer of our Farley’s Philosophy column), and I ended up learning the Python programming language during the month of April when Pluralsight offered free courses for a month.

There was so much life online all of a sudden!  Musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and plays from the National Theatre, for example, were available to watch free of charge.  I attended an online 80s concert with a couple of friends, who didn’t know each other previously; we watched in our separate homes and chatted via text at the same time.  I joined an online choir, and played board games with friends all over Ireland via WhatsApp.

I had an online magazine, Notes From Xanadu, predominantly an arts review, which had been semi-dormant over the preceding five years.  I had written a couple of Covid-related articles, and was in the process of revitalising it.  Then I had an idea: instead of relaunching as just a magazine, why not do something novel and create an online arts centre?  I set the date for the May bank holiday weekend, and got in touch with artists of all genres.  Over the four days of the launch we had 20 different features, ranging from writing to opera (world-renowned soprano Ailish Tynan was one of our first contributors) to puppetry.  We had visitors from numerous countries on six continents, and have continued to gain new followers and artists since then.

Although I don’t generally manage to get out much, I always do something for my birthday, whether that’s a restaurant and/or pub visit, or a small party at my house.  I decided not to let the virus stop me this year, and organised my first audio-visual virtual party.  I had guests from as far apart as London and New Mexico, and we played games, performed music, chatted and generally had a “night out.”  Unfortunately, problems with internet connections kept a few people away, but the evening was enough of a success for me to decide to develop a theatre as part of the online arts centre.

On 23 September 2020, Xanadu Online Theatre was born, with a launch concert/variety show featuring artists from three different time zones, and an invited audience from countries stretching from Finland to the US.  Unlike other similar ventures that have begun since Covid 19 gave us the New Normal, which use Zoom and other such platforms, this theatre is embedded in the Notes From Xanadu website and uses the open-source software Jitsi, which very much fits ideologically with the values of the online arts centre.

As part of the launch concert, I decided to perform a short scene with an actor friend in New York, Ash Reddington, and thus I found myself practising my craft as an actor for the first time in almost 6 years.  I have since set up an in-house theatre company, and we are having our first show in December.  Thus, as a result of the virus, I find myself where I thought I would never be again – in the rehearsal room, preparing to act on stage in front of a live audience.

This is the first in a series.  Watch out for accounts of other people’s positive lockdown experience in the coming weeks.

 

We Riders

Here Ian Macnaughton gives us something different from his usual Covid Life column: a piece of prose poetry based on his experience as a delivery rider during the pandemic.

Happen we ride, we  ride, take route pedal
Stepped hard thrust fully stretched down but we are
Free. To be riding, driving through for fee.
Cutting not corner. Slicing wind behind
And through the line. Furrow the holloway,
Grooves cut, burnt friction clattering we take
The back route, the cut through, clear of traffic.
That’s dead, slunk solid, jammed not going,
We gone. Looking back and grinning all way,
Through night and on, passed to the drop (beat),
Hauling rolling, wheels cut through muscle flesh,
Scars deaden, waking to stiff pushed locked legs.
A gap – we  ride it quick. Across darted
past, you hang alone. Our rhythm around
step that lifts again, shifting cogs whir, know
only when ground thrusts back and legs seem bruised.
Brutal, dis-jointed our frame dents no flex,
But take the beak between the thighs, and we,
born in newly strung bones, can translate stride
Into ride, step into schlep, harnessed (beat).
One with the bike, apart moving, mapped mind,
Motor transferred through the limbs as reflex
Involuntary, the will subject to
Wheel, channelled through the app becoming whole,
But still lingers in the surface fuzz a
Soul voice commenting in stream, washing clean
Through, like tears, wet, salty, anger, muted,
In play on the last rake, spit sprayed within
the hollow head of saddled puppet (beat).

The Internet is too small

The Internet is too small for me.

What’s that you say, Google?  Seventy-eleven gazillion web pages indexed?  Pah.  That’s kindergarten stuff, a puny collection, about as impressive as Donald “Big Brain” Trump reciting the ten times table.  Sure, there’s lots of info out there: if I search for details of artists who work exclusively in the medium of baby duck faeces, for example, the web will ask me to “please specify type of duck”.  But if I then search for jobs for these envelope-pushing visionaries, the electronic ether smugly reports that it found no matches, suggesting instead that I might be interested in some crudely hand-drawn erotica which clearly violates Disney and Warner Brothers copyrights, as well as the laws of good taste, physics and most civilised nations.

This just isn’t good enough.  Now that we’ve sloshed about a bit on the oily, trash-polluted waters of this ocean of cultural bilgewater, we naturally want to sail on bravely, endlessly, like Detective Columbo in the Santa Maria, further and further over the horizon, chasing that last elusive Wikipedia citation on the episode where Pikachu teams up with Akira to defeat nine (yes, NINE!) Digimon in magic battle.

I want, as a bare minimum, blanket CCTV coverage of every celebrity (defined as min 5MHz, or at least five Mickeyhartes), with MMS alerts to notify me immediately every time they go to the bathroom.  I want 3D walkthroughs of every “ghost” estate of unsold housing in the country, schadenfreude-oozing showcases where our on-screen cadavers or avatars or whatever the hell they’re called can scribble begrudgist graffiti on the virtual walls.

I want jobs websites specifically for waterfowl faecal rendering specialists.  I want 10,000-word reminiscences of every politician in the country from everyone they ever went to school with, also their results, disciplinary records, and scanned PDFs of their homework.  I want insider revelations of every dirty trick used by every single profession, from actuaries to zoologists, to separate people from their money.  I want to download endless hours of whalesong, or at the very least a passable dolphin tribute act, to help my insomnia.  I want pictorial tutorials on how to replace every single part in every single consumer appliance ever made, from cars to electric chairs.  I want to know what the second assistant cameraman on “Metropolis” thought of director Fritz Lang, I want to know how many joints George Harrison smoked while watching Lennon and McCartney squabble over the creation of “Let It Be”, and I want to know exactly where in Upton Park my Uncle Billy stood as he cheered the Hammers on to victory over Ipswich in April 1986.

After all, information wants to be free [(TM) and (C) Selected Sarcasm Corporation 2020. All Rights Reserved].

Plank, by James Keaney

Those of you who were at the launch concert for Xanadu Online Theatre will know James Keaney as a talented pianist, who was the first winner of the Junior Musician of the Year competition at the Galway Music School in 2016. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – James is also a skilled bass player, guitarist and composer. Today he makes his debut on the arts centre with his new piece Plank. You can follow James on Youtube and Soundcloud.

Please note: this video contains flashing images.

 

The New Normal

What the fuck? The new? New, new, new what? Normal? Fuck no! Are you seriously telling me this is new? What, we weren’t governed by a bunch of self entitled, public school, ‘man of the people’ wannabees before this? No, and they couldn’t run a sack race or world beating track and trace before this either, yeah. This is not a revelation to me. Or you, I’m thinking, at least if you have a grasp on whether it’s Sunday or not and who Meghan Markle isn’t?

And have you heard it’s a virus that effects the poor, old, under classed, vulnerable, and ethnically other than white wealthy worse? What are the chances of that eh? Exactly, nothing abnormal or radical or different about this shite. So new that it’s no surprise. It’s exactly what it was before, the old unchanging order. Because, lets face it, the odds have been stacked breathtakingly high against the usual suspects for ever.

The only new is that that bunch of no marks are too incompetent to have worked out how to really squeeze the rest us of yet, even if their incompetent management is ensuring that those with least to lose are losing most. But don’t worry. they soon will have found a way of dodging the bullet – by using the rest of us as a human shield – even if Dominic Bummings and Dido Hardarse do decide to return to producing limp dance music. Because, while they are apparently very bright and see the real picture, they don’t exactly seem to be having the required surgical impact on the virus. They’re not the antidote. You need to worry though. You need to fire your fluffy little minds up about this, because their masters and mistresses are not up to the task of articulating a short sentence let alone killing the new cancer that is consuming our weakened corpse just as they throw away the EU drip.

Internship Available in Marketing and PR

We currently have a vacancy for an intern to work on PR and Marketing for both the arts centre and the theatre.  This is an opportunity to gain experience at the cutting edge of a new and upcoming industry.  The position is part-time, and hours can be fitted around existing work/study/family commitments.  If you have an interest in, and have done some study (either formally or self-taught) in the areas of Marketing, PR or publicity, and would like to be one of the pioneers of this new concept in the arts and performance world, please send a brief introductory email, along with your CV or resume, to mary@notesfromxanadu.org, with Internship as the subject.

Applications for this position are now closed.  Applicants will be contacted shortly.

Adam Driver, by Futzy and the Bitch

Have you had any fantasies during lockdown?  They’re completely harmless, right?  I know Futzy and the Bitch have a strong marriage, so I’m not worried about them at all.

Philipa Farley

Wheels Within Wheels – Part IV

Glad to see you back for the last part of this four part series! In Part 1 we had a look at what the Wheel of Life is about, in Part 2 we had a look at how to start using the Wheel of Life, and in Part 3 we looked at how to set and assess goals. This final part is on how to review and assess your life and goals using the Wheel of Life, changing for the better along the way.

Reading back, I realise I might have missed out a small, but rather vital, piece of information for you. That is, when you’re setting your focus for the year or quarter or month, to pick out two to three things to focus on. So, if we look at our categories for the year – and we’ve scored them in light of what our level 10 life looks like – in order to start achieving balance, we’d likely pick up the two to three lowest scoring categories and assign them highest priority. On my Wheel of Life, my three lowest scoring categories are: Health, Personal Development, and Fun and Recreation. I decided to concentrate on these for 2020. When I set my goals, I make the goals set in these categories a priority. Other goals come second to these.

Practically, we have determined the scope of what we’re doing; we’ve decided on the categories for that scope; and we have set some high level goals for the year. These high level goals have been broken down into goals per quarter and then into actions we can take per month. And now we’ve added a priority to the goals we need to concentrate on.

We want to document a formal review date for the end every month (make it about 5 days before the end), where we evaluate, mark off, strike out or carry over actions to the next month. At the end of every quarter, we want to do similar with our quarterly goals, but at this point assessing if we’ve climbed up closer to our level 10 goal from our current score. At the end of the year, we do the great big review, and see how close we’ve come to achieving balance – with similar enough scores between categories – and to see how close we are to that level 10 life. We like to do some reviews together as a couple or as a family, sometimes informally over dinner. Our work-related reviews might be more formal, as they require a bit more complexity in assessments – they are company goals mixed with personal goals. Personal goal reviews might require you to take some proper time out, alone.

A note on the granular level reviews. You might find at the end of the first or second month that you aren’t getting around to the actions that you set. At that point, you might look at your list of monthly actions and attempt to determine if you were trying to do too much as part of a single action, or if you have not assessed the time you can spend on those actions accurately. Take a step back, and look at your monthly and weekly schedule as a whole. Who gets what proportion of your time? Or, you might look at the black and white in front of you and realise that you actually just don’t want to be doing that. If this is the case, then don’t do it. Make peace with this fact and move on.

Take recreation or hobbies in my case. At the beginning of this year, 2020, the year of all that is Corona, I decided to brush up on my piano playing skills. Again. I thought I’d be able to sneak an hour a couple of times a week while the kids were at school to do this. And then we all laughed together. About halfway into lockdown, I realised that instead of carrying this over as a ‘priority’ task that I was never going to get to, I could shift focus and make sure that I spent at least half an hour to an hour, before I went to sleep, reading novels. This helps me to wind down and shift focus onto something that is not work or family related. I love reading candyfloss time-crime dramas or thrillers. Honestly, it’s as much me-time as piano was ever going to be. I’m not about to be sitting at the Heuston Station piano enthralling all who come and go with my talents, believe you me. It was purely for me to do something different. Reading has the same effect. It is okay to change that specific action of play piano for three hours a week to read for half an hour before bed every night.

In terms of my health, I was determined to lose weight and get fit this year. Life had other plans for me. There was a shift in focus there, but that shift in focus turned out to be me eating far more healthily than I ever have done, and, through this change, losing weight without that being the focus. Flexibility is key when we look at our higher level goals. We should not be too specific at the top level. Keep the specificity for the monthly (or weekly actions).

Our work goals have had to change drastically since lockdown happened. That required a conscious sitting down with real facts (not media hysteria) and doing a simple SWOT analysis on the facts plus business landscape. Out of this has come a new focus on longer term, higher value retainer clients, versus a bit of a putting out fires for clients approach. My business will be more robust and able to withstand the upcoming Brexit shakes through this move, too. I should have probably done this analysis a year ago with Brexit in mind, but I didn’t. Mistake acknowledged, lesson learned, and changes made.

Before I finish up, I want to note again that this is not a race to reach ten in your various categories. The point of using the Wheel of Life as a personal growth tool is to achieve balance between the different areas of your life and then to level up realistically to reach the life you want to live. You will learn so much about yourself along the way and your life will only be the richer for it.

So, I’m going to end the last part of this four part series with this part of Ryder Carroll’s quote.

“What’s important is figuring out which incomplete Tasks are worth your limited time and energy moving forward. Strike out those that aren’t, and migrate the ones that are.”

If you take anything from this process, take this with you. We all have limited time and energy, and the intention throughout has been to figure out how to spend this limited time and energy in the most productive way we can, in order to choose and achieve what we see as being our best life. I can tell you now that when you start out, what you think is your best life is probably not going to be what you will think it is 6, 9, or 12 months down the line. The beauty of this process is that we learn more about ourselves and what we really cherish and value along the way. Do not be afraid of changing your goals along the way or your focus, BUT make sure you give yourself enough time on something before you make big changes.

This will be my last bit of writing for Mary and Notes From Xanadu for this year. I hope to be back early 2021 with more insights and maybe a few mini lectures.  See you all soon.

Manual? What Manual?

I’m a parent – no, really, it’s true – and let me tell you, no-one could be more shocked than I. Does every father live as I do, in constant dread of the hand on the shoulder and the words “Sorry sir, been a bit of a mix-up”?  Or the inevitable letter from the Department of Ensuring All Destinies Run As They Should (DEADRATS), clarifying that only individuals of the highest mental and emotional calibre are permitted to have children, and that as a Grade-3 Minor Idiot (Category B), I unfortunately don’t qualify?

The lament is often heard that children don’t come with an instruction manual. That sounds reasonable, but it’s total BS coming from a dad. Because dads don’t read manuals anyway. We just pick up the DVD recorder, hedge strimmer, or 15-month-old baby girl, and expect it to operate within specified manufacturing parameters.

But being a dad is incredibly hard. Since I never seem to hear any other dads saying this – they’re too busy romping off with their sons on 6am camping expeditions, or teaching their daughters kung-fu – I assume there was some sort of no-complaining clause in the paperwork that I never received because of the whole mix-up by DEADRATS. Or else those other dads are just better than me.

Maybe, though, they’re not: maybe they’re more like icebergs, just 10% showing above the surface, but underneath, they’re paddling like crazy. Or do I mean swans? Possibly ducks? Hard to say. What is an analogy, after all, but a pig with five legs? The point is, possession doesn’t automatically confer expertise. Just because you own a few kids doesn’t mean you know how to operate them. That takes years – and even then, you’re probably only familiar with a fraction of their functions.

Of course the rewards of parenthood are among the most wonderful experiences this world can offer (and I speak here as someone who has seen the Northern Lights dozens of times, on Youtube). Every evening when I get in from work I’m greeted by stampeding feet and the giddy, affectionate sounds of happiness. But that’s enough about the dog. The kids might look up briefly from the TV too, if I’m lucky.

Sadly, though, there are no DEADRATS watching over us. DEADRATS don’t exist at all, unless, possibly, maybe in the health service somewhere. It’s entirely up to us to make sure things Run As They Should. But as the philosopher-poet Ralph W. Emerson  said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Hard as it is to take advice from a guy whose middle name is Waldo, I think that where parenting is concerned, there’s no other choice.

Philipa Farley

Wheels Within Wheels – Part III

Good to see you here for Part 3 of the Wheel of Life Series!  In Part 1 we had a look at what the Wheel of Life is about and in Part 2 we had a look at how to start using the Wheel of Life.  We looked at how to decide on the eight sections we’d use for assessment and how to work out what a 10/10 life means for us personally in the areas we choose to assess.

In this part, I’d like to have a look at goal setting and how we assess goals.  I’d also like to look briefly at how to adjust goals along the way.  I’m a great believer in bullet journalling and the philosophy behind the methods used.  Particularly, I love the monthly migration aspect of the bullet journal methodology.  In the words of Ryder Carroll teaching the methodology:

“At the very end of each month, set up a new Monthly Log. Once that’s done, review the pages of the month gone by. Chances are, you didn’t get around to completing all your Tasks. That’s fine! What’s important is figuring out which incomplete Tasks are worth your limited time and energy moving forward. Strike out those that aren’t, and migrate the ones that are.”

and

“It may seem like a lot of effort to have to rewrite all these things, but that’s intentional. This process makes you pause and consider each item. If an entry isn’t even worth the effort to rewrite it, then it’s probably not that important. Get rid of it. The purpose of Migration is to surface what’s worth the effort, become aware of our actions, and to separate the signal from the noise. This is where BuJo shifts from a system, into the practice.”

Part of our goal setting and assessment when using the Wheel of Life, and assessing quarterly (or monthly if you choose to do it this often), would be to examine the goals we’re setting and determining whether the actual goals are moving us toward our level 10 life.  Weed out what isn’t working and try something different.  Always, move forward.

In Part 2, one of the examples I used for a 10/10 for Finance might be to save ten percent of all income into a credit union account and have a cushion of three months expenses built up in a current account.  If I assess myself now, at the start of 3 months, at a 2/10 because I have an actual credit union savings account set up and maybe two weeks of a bit of a slush fund in my current account, then what would it take to get me to a level 10?  Do I have a budget set up where I know what my personal outgoings and incomings are?  Do I need to set this up?  Will I use an app?  Will I use a spreadsheet?  Will I set a weekly or monthly reminder to reconcile my bank account or accounts with this spreadsheet?  Will I assess every outgoing and other spending habits to cut down?  Will I need to set up a standing order on my current account to send over the ten percent on payday to the savings account?  How will I stop myself from spending the three months excess in my current account?  Should I open a savings pocket on the current account and put it there?  And so on.  There are very specific actions that need to be taken to achieve that level 10 goal.  It is up to you to work out how to prioritise actions and how to work out dependencies or prerequisites.

Setting achievable goals depends on many different factors.  It does require you to know yourself.  I’d recommend doing a bit of research (not a lot, don’t get bogged down) on different methodologies for goal setting.  The most common you’ll come across when researching in the personal development context would be SMART goals.  Choose your method wisely, as the last thing you want here is to set unachievable goals that break you down and make you feel like that level 10 is unattainable.  Start with baby steps and increase the goals as you go along.

Once you’ve set your goals, work out a task list of actions that you will need to actually do to achieve your goals.  Set deadlines on those actions.  It might work for you to set higher level goals for the year and then work out in quarters the next level action that needs to be taken.  From those quarterly higher level actions, you would draw down the actual minutiae for completion on a monthly or weekly basis.  Again, write all of this down in your journal.  You could also make use of an app like Microsoft Planner or Trello to set up boards with deadlines that integrates with your calendar so you have reminders on actions.  This might sound like a lot of work, but trust me, very satisfying when you get going.

Personally, I find this type of organisation allows me to maintain some sort of illusion of control over my life!  Covid lockdown sanity retained.

In the next part, we’ll look at how to review the process and pivot or change as needed.  Until then.

 

Call for Actors, Writers, Technicians – Xanadu Theatre

Notes From Xanadu will shortly be opening on online theatre as part of the arts centre.  There will be an in-house theatre company associated with this exciting new venture.  At this point we are calling for expressions of interest from the following:

  • Actors: please send a CV and (small) headshot.
  • Writers: please send a CV and a short example of your writing – a page or two is fine.  We are particularly interested in developing scripts that are specifically written for the medium, ie none of the actors are in the same room as each other.  Bheadh suim againn in obair as Gaeilge freisin.
  • Technicians: are you interested in becoming involved in this emerging art form?  Please send a CV or letter detailing any relevant experience in IT, film, television or theatre.

Applications should be sent to notesfromxanadu@hotmail.com, to arrive no later than 30 September 2020.  Please note that this is a collaboration opportunity, not a job advertisement.  We are an international arts centre that offers free space to artists of all sorts, and have visitors from more than 100 countries in six continents.