Preserve, by James Keaney

As well as appearing in our launch concert, James Keaney took the role of Colm in Xanadu Online Theatre’s production of “Riders to the Sea” in December 2020, as well as taking on several roles front of house and behind the scenes in both the theatre and the arts centre. Today we are showcasing him on the arts centre for the second time with his new piece Preserve. Do all James’ track titles start with P? Follow him on Youtube and Soundcloud (and on Notes From Xanadu, of course) to find out!

Please note: this video contains flashing images.

 

The Duck, by Jackson Lara

Episode Two of The Prison Podcasts is a tale that is known to correctional officers and prisoners alike. This time, Jackson is telling the story from the point of view of an inmate, so make sure to bear that in mind while listening!

(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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Philipa Farley

Wheels Within Wheels – Part II

I hope you enjoyed Part I of this little series on the Wheel of Life.  Now that we have an idea of what the Wheel can do for us, we need to look at how to start using it.  This is going to require some introspection!

First, you need to decide the part of your life to which you will apply the Wheel of Life.  Will it be an overview of where you’re at as a person?  Will it be for a specific part of your life – maybe an important relationship?  Will you use it to aim for a promotion at work?

When you have decided the scope of the application, you’re going to look at the 8 sections you’ll be assessing on the wheel.  Obviously, these 8 sections depend on the scope of the application you have decided.  To recap, for a general overview, the 8 sections would be something like: {bullet points}

  • Business and Career
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Family and Friends
  • Romance
  • Personal Development
  • Fun and Recreation
  • Contribution to society

On my Wheel of Life, which is in the pie style, I have the following 8 sections:

  • Work and Career
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Family and Friends
  • Significant Other
  • Personal Development
  • Fun and Recreation
  • Physical Environment

Before we start dreaming of our 10/10 life, we need to set a time scope on this Wheel.  I do one for a year, and then assess at each quarter.  So, to make my year scope, I decide what represents 10/10 at the end of 12 months. and then I assess where I’m at now.  At the beginning of each quarter, I then assess how far I am and make adjustments to my specific goals and processes.

The next part of the process can be the really hard part.  This is where you need to identify or dream up for yourself what a 10/10 life would look like in each section of your Wheel of Life.  In the time frame you’ve set (3 months, a year, three years, whatever is appropriate), what is a 10/10 life in Work and Career?  For me currently, it would be having a solid customer pipeline (thanks for messing with that, corona!).  While I get great referrals, that are mostly word of mouth, from current and past clients or colleagues, it makes me nervous that we don’t have a stream of clients from tried and tested marketing and advertising.  To get a 10/10 would be a huge achievement, and probably not quite realistic in 12 months, but I felt that this year we could make significant strides in this direction.  I’d be happy if we got to a 7/10 by the end of the year.  For those of you who don’t know me, I run my own company, so these goals wouldn’t be related to a promotion in my own position.

What is a 10/10 in Finance?  This can be quite a tough question, as it depends on how hands-on you are with your own personal situation.  Would you bring family financial planning into this?  Would you consider your retirement years?  Do you need to learn more about different aspects of your personal finance?  A goal of mine 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.  Last year I achieved putting into place various life covers based on our potential needs.

What would a 10/10 be for Fun and Recreation? To be honest, this is probably the hardest section for me.  I love working, but my love of working isn’t conducive to a healthy work/life balance.  I constantly mark myself quite low in this section, and I battle to achieve higher scores.  This is where I have to work the hardest.  I’m a mom of two who are now 9 and 7 years old.  Who I was 10 years ago is not who I am today.  Some days, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to have fun.  Although, maybe that’s lockdown talking!  What is fun for you?  Do you have a hobby or an amateur skill you’d like to work on for your own pleasure?  Where are you at with that now?

And so on, and so forth.  I’ll spare you an essay on each section.  The first time you go through this exercise (of looking at your level 10 life), you might take a while to work it out, so set aside a decent chunk of time for this.

In practical terms, get yourself a notebook, and dedicate a page to each section describing what your level 10 life looks like.  Then, draw up your first Wheel of Life, and get ready to score your current status out of 10, compared to what your level 10 looks like.

In the next part of this little series, we’ll talk about how to set and assess goals that will help you achieve that level 10 life.

Pearly Moon, by Suzanne Ledwith

Described by Hot Press as having the voice of an angel, Suzanne Ledwith is a multimedia artist from Mullingar. She was introduced to the acoustic guitar in her youth. ” I remember Mary (Tynan) showing me how to play Romanza on the guitar, for which I am very grateful, as it was the first time I every played a guitar, and I discovered a life long passion. In her teenage years a chance meeting led to her being asked to join a band. Not seeing any reason to say no, she said yes, and Dreams of ID was formed with Patricia Raleigh (electric guitar) and subsequently Monica Raleigh (bass) and Paul Muligan (drums). Eventually this morphed into Suzanne performing solo.

For the past number of years she’s been developing a different style from the early pop/rock focus of the band. Her style reflects an interest in Irish music, world music, folk and classical music. She’s been working with Donal Lunny for a number of years on an album, which is finally coming to a not-too-hasty conclusion (Suzanne’s words). Suzanne says that working full-time as a teacher in the further education sector leaves little space to make her passion for composing, writing, singing and playing guitar more than a hobby. “I am grateful to Mary Tynan for contacting me and inviting me to contribute to her wonderful online space for artists. We are lucky to have you Mary.”

Here she performs her haunting composition “Pearly Moon.” Additional instruments played by Donal Lunny. Notes From Xanadu is very lucky to have you, Suzanne!

All of Me, performed by Autumn Black

“Hi my name is Autumn Black.  I enjoy writing original songs and covering others on guitar.  I love playing guitar because it’s a way I can express myself and it helps me smile when I’m down.”

 

All in the Body

An acquaintance with Myalgic Encephomyelitis, on telling a friend about her condition, was asked, almost reflexively “Do you really have ME or is it just depression?”  The same woman had to change doctor at her NHS practice recently (her regular doctor being on long-term sick leave).  The new doctor expressed great surprise that her condition had not been cured by anti-depressants (but was otherwise sympathetic).  These two incidents exemplify two of the main issues raised in Angela Kennedy’s excellent book: firstly that chronic illnesses for which no clear medical cause is identifiable are often classed by medical practitioners as psychogenic (psychosomatic), and secondly the detrimental effects such classification can have on the patient’s treatment, not only medically, but by society at large.

To a large extent this work is a literature review, or perhaps a meta-analysis, of existing and previous research.  Which is all to the good, as a large amount of the extant results seem to have been misreported and misinterpreted by the (popular and scientific) press.  Although Angela focuses on ME/CFS, the conclusions are applicable to a much wider range of conditions.  Of interest is the fact that (or so it seems to me), a disproportionate amount of the case studies, both historically and more recently, are those of women.  Ms Kennedy gives an interesting personal account of how her GP informed her in no uncertain terms that she was having a “hysterical pregnancy” when she attended the surgery after having completed a home pregnancy test.  Her ‘hysterical’ son is now a grown man!

The book begins by pointing out the fallacies associated with psychogenic explanations: the reason for a condition being “medically unexplained” is usually down to limitations with current medical knowledge.  Attaching such terminology to certain diseases can also lead to shutting down further avenues of investigation, often with severely detrimental results.  A convincing argument in the introduction is that: “The present lack of critical examination of this conjecture (that ME is a modern version of neurasthenia) is also not a reason to accept this conjecture: no scholarship has yet been performed to suggest CFS and ME are not caused by demonic possession, for example, but this should not mean therefore that they are caused by such, even if such a reason might be ‘persuasive’ to some.”

Ms Kennedy goes to discuss “problems of psychogenic explanations in action:” the beliefs that certain types of people get certain types of illness, with a particular emphasis on the diagnosis and labelling of people with ME.  The following chapter deals with doctors’ attitudes to such patients, often labelled as “heartsink,” containing some shocking examples of patients labelled as lazy, malingering and hypochondriac.

“Think yourself better” explores the dangers of CBT when put forward as a cure, rather than a coping mechanism for ME, whilst “Consequences of psychogenic explanations” looks into how such explanations can be widely damaging for the patient, both in the hands of the medical profession, as well as at the hands of society at large.

Angela concludes that the trend towards labelling illness as psychogenic is on the increase, and that this is a dangerous direction to be heading in: “(the realities of psychogenic explanations) are most often fallacious in their logic and informed by harmful ideologies.  They cause actual harm in many ways.”

This is a very significant book about a highly important aspect of medicine which has detrimental effects on many of us.  Angela Kennedy has taken what is evident in the literature and research, and reported it in a non-biased way, thus giving us access to serious evidence against the psychogenic theory of illness such as ME/CFS which has been ignored by many other publications, and certainly the popular press.

I advise anyone with an interest in ME, CFS, other neurological or fatigue-related illness, as well as those interested in the whole mind/body connection issue as concerns disease, to read this book.  It can be purchased from www.amazon.co.uk for £17.59.

Mary Tynan

Angela Kennedy Angela Kennedy is a social sciences lecturer and researcher at a number of universities in London, and author of numerous articles, papers and books in lay, professional and academic media over a 30 year career.

Nobody Does It Better

The Diary of a Nobody at the King’s Head Theatre, 20 January 2015 – 14 February 2014

The Diary of a Nobody, the story of Charles Pooter, was published as a series of articles and illustration in Punch during the late 19th Century, and was written by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith.  There have been numerous stage, screen and radio adaptations over the intervening years, often differing wildly in interpretation, for instance Keith Waterhouse’s play, featuring Judy Dench and Michael Williams, told the story from the point of view of Pooter’s wife Carrie.

As would be expected, Rough Haired Pointer have their own take on the story.  This starts with the design (Karina Nakaninsky and Christopher Hone): both set and costumes are constructed to resemble the black and white drawings in the original work.  Secondly, the adaptation and direction (Mary Franklin) splits the action between four characters in an interesting way (the narration, as Pooter, is shared by all four, for instance), and thirdly the sheer madcap mayhem and silliness of the production was extremely refreshing.

The cast consisted of four male actors, which did add slightly to the Pythonesque atmosphere of the piece, although I’m sure it could work equally well with women also.  Jake Curran played Charles Pooter throughout, which lent a much needed anchor to the play, amidst the constantly changing characters around him.  He did an excellent job of conveying both poignancy and humour.  Jordan Mallory-Skinner played Carrie throughout, although he did morph briefly into three other characters.  Again, he gave a sympathetic and amusing portrayal of the character, and, although not dragged up in any way other than the costume and a pair of earrings, at times I found myself forgetting he was not really a woman!

All the remaining characters were played by Geordie Wright and George Fouracres.  Wright did have a main character of sort, in Sarah, the maid, but he played many others also, and Fouracres was continually changing parts, although perhaps his role as Lupin, the Pooters’ son, is the one that most sticks in my mind.  These two actors contributed a lot of the over-the-top hilarity which was a characteristic of the production, and both displayed great comic flair, as indeed did Curran and Mallory-Skinner.  The chaotic fun was enhanced by the staging: little touches such as having the cast pour glasses of rice from a wine bottle and try to drink it, and the postman carrying a letter box with him as well as a letter to put through it.  There was also some audience participation involved.  In addition, there was quite a bit of corpsing, which strangely just made the play even funnier.

The Diary of a Nobody is closing at the King’s Head tonight, so do pop down and see it if you can, or look out for future productions (the current one is a transfer from the White Bear).  For more information, visit www.kingsheadtheatrepub.co.uk  or www.roughhairedpointer.com.

Photographs courtesy of Rocco Redondo

The Diary of a Nobody