With A Little Help From My Friends

It’s my favourite time of the year, but since I write about this every single danged year, I think I’m going to spare you this time and just, well, mention it. The light. Oh the beautiful, endless luminosity, the nights full of blossom scents and pleasure. It’s so bloody sensual and sexy.

I guess I should give you all an update on the house. In short, it’s going well and ticking along, and looking more and more like I’ll be moved in before August. In the meantime, I’m doing unsibylle-ish things such as picking out colours to paint the rooms and buying a sofa. It’s going to be so pretty!

I could also use some help. I’ll probably start on the last weekend in June or the first in July, and spend Friday evenings and Sundays during the day painting. I love painting, but it’s more fun in company! So if any of my Irish friends could spare me a few hours some day, please send me a text or email, or a PM on Facebook and we’ll sort something out.

Apart from all that, I’m working. And while I still enjoy my job and love, love my business(es) work, there’s just so much of it. Way too much, to be honest, and it still isn’t enough and will have to increase before I can leave the job. I tell myself it’s only going to be till the end of the year (hopefully), but gods, am I tired.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, in fact, everything is going according to plan. It’s just, the plan was to work like a maniac, and I’m beginning to realise that five months without time off is a lot less fun than it sounds.

What keeps up my spirits, apart from my lovely friends (who visit me and keep me from becoming isolated – truly don’t know what I’d do without them!) and thinking of my house, is that I’m counting down the weeks to the Pogorelich recital in Hamburg in August and my three weeks in Vienna in September (I’ll be studying my hagish ass off, but I’ll be outrageously happy doing it). Today it’s exactly 13 weeks to go to the recital, in case anyone’s interested. Yes, I’m counting.

I’m also stubbornly insisting on one day off per week, and while I usually cheat and sneak in a few hours of work in the morning, I do go to Mayo almost every single Saturday to wander around Ballinrobe and then do a round of archery in Massbrook. It’s even more ridiculously beautiful there at this time of the year, with the rhododenron blossoming all over the place.

IMG_0516

I don’t nearly practice the piano as much as I’d like to, and I skip more of my morning workouts than I’m comfortable with. Something’s gotta give, and while I don’t like it, I try to just go with it and repeat “only until the end of the year” in my head.

This sounds a lot more grim than I feel. It’s not easy, but it’s joyful, and the overload is temporary. When all else fails, there’s always Chopin. I recently read Alan Walker’s biography of him, and I didn’t think I could love Chopin any more, but I do. Here’s the waltz I’ve been practising, played to perfection by Kissin:

And now I’ll go to bed. It’s ten, but still light. By the time I wake up, it’ll be light again. Bliss.

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In Which I Get Scared

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Photo by Milada Vigerova

Nah, not really.

Maybe a little. When things are amazing, and everything keeps happening, I sometimes feel a little queasy, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. And right now the good news keep on coming (more about this a few paragraphs further down).

I just wrote about it on my Facebook page: It’s the “Upper Limit” Gay Hendricks talks about in The Big Leap (highly recommended). Basically, we tend to sabotage ourselves when things feel too good, because we subconsciously want to get back to the level of happiness we’re used to. And in order to prevent this, you have to train yourself to raise your happiness baseline, so to speak.

This is at the core of my work as a Coach. I call it “increasing one’s capacity for happiness”. It’s not something you suddenly get and then know once and for all, it’s more of an ongoing thing. I’m pleased to announce that I am getting better at it!

And boy, do I get a lot of practice these days. So which news do you want first, the crazy shit or the really crazy shit? Let’s start with the crazy.

In September, I’ll spend three weeks in Vienna to do an intensive course in Croatian for beginners. Yay! People keep asking: “Why Croatian?” and I keep asking back: “Why not?” If you’re one of those who insist on a proper reasoning, here it is:

  • I love learning things.
  • I love languages.
  • I’ve never studied any Slavic language, ever.
  • I tend to learn “niche” languages (Norwegian, anyone?).
  • I live in a wet, windy country, so it makes sense that I’d pick the language of a warm, sunny place. And a gorgeous one with incredible nature (see above) and rich history.
  • Helena tells me that Croatian is a great way to get by in the entire region, not just Croatia itself. Win!
  • I keep reading about new Croatian writers who produce these amazing books that are never translated into any other language.

Are these enough reasons for you? There are more, of course, but my most to-the-point answer to the question “Why learn Croatian?” is: Because I can. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than learning something new. I’ll do it for the sheer, wild joy of it.

As a bonus, I’ll be in Vienna! Woohoo! I’ve already booked a temporary flat with a piano in it, and I’ve also paid for it. It’s all in the budget, and yes, that scares me too at times, but right now everything, including the solicitor handling the mortgage and house stuff, is budgeted and paid for.

In case you were wondering, the house has been approved by the bank and so it’s only a matter for the solicitors now. If all goes well, I’ll move in late July, only to disappear to Vienna in September to study Croatian! Ha! I think it sounds perfect, and it makes me so happy I feel slightly drunk from it.

Laniem
The one place in my house that’s never dusty

If that wasn’t crazy enough for you, here comes the really bonkers stuff: I’m looking to transition out of my daytime job. Yes, I know I’ve talked about doing this for years, but I’m actually building multiple streams of income now. Remember The Bilinguist? That’s one of them. And I’m building my Coaching business – my calling, my purpose – more than ever.

It’s not set in stone yet – after going broke once in my life, I’m not going to leave my job unless I’m certain that I’ll earn enough money, reliably, every single month including holidays and Christmas – but if all goes as planned, I’ll no longer be an employee this time next year.

Don’t worry about me saying this in public: My manager knows and is cheering me on, and I’ve also told him that I love the job and wouldn’t consider it hardship to stay on for another while if it turns out I can’t quite live on my business(es) yet. There’s no fixed timeline yet, and I’m welcome to stay or go (there’s a Clash song in there somewhere).

The reason why this is important is that whilst I work from home, I’m only allowed to do my job from Ireland. But with my own business, I can work from wherever I have an internet connection, and that means fulfilling my other crazy dream: that of spending a few months every year in Vienna. If all goes well, I’ll start next year! Then again, it might well take another few years to materialise, and that would be fine, too. I know it’s going to happen eventually.

I’m slightly hyperventilating from all the happiness! I want to include you into this, so please feel me reaching through the computer and hugging you right now. I hope this isn’t weird? I just want to spread my joy, and I hope you’re having a wonderful Bealtaine, the beginning of my favourite time of the year, the “luminous weeks”, and the sexiest, most ecstatic and beautiful month there is.

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Lady Of The Manor

House

I may have bought a house.

When I say “may”, I mean that I have agreed to buy it, and the seller has agreed to sell. This being Ireland, it’ll be anything from six weeks to six months until the banks and the solicitors have pushed sufficient amounts of paper around, and all sorts of things could still go wrong.

So, I probably shouldn’t be shouting it out to the world just yet. But then again, I think I’m perfectly capable of letting you know if it does fall through, and that everyone who reads this is intelligent enough to get it. This is real life. Shit happens.

Having said that, I have a good feeling about this. I mean, just look at it! Isn’t it so pretty? It’s in perfect condition too, and the sellers are a local family whom I’ve met and instantly clicked with. We liked each other, which is why I immediately offered the maximum of what I could afford, and they agreed to it although it was less than what they had been asking for (and what the house is worth, quite frankly).

In other words, I got a bargain. If and when the sale is done, when I’ve painted the rooms and moved in, I’ll of course provide more pictures. It’s just so lovely, wooden floors everywhere, a woodburning stove in the living room… Also, insulated to the nines, which is important in Ireland where heating fuel costs a fortune. And it has a lovely big garden, too. The best part is, it’s in South Co Mayo, exactly where I wanted to end up but didn’t think I could afford anything! It’s like a dream.

In short, I’m a very happy hag! Any good thought mojo you might be inclined to send for a swift and painless buying process, is now gratefully accepted.

I’ve some more news, though. After spending slightly more on the house than I’d been hoping to spend (much as it’s totally worth it), I realised that I’ll need to earn some extra money, pronto. My Coaching biz is ticking along, but I’ve also been doing additional work in the last year or so, and I’ve decided to take that to the next level and “make it official” as something like a second business.

It’s not new, exactly. In fact, this is what I’ve done since university days, and never really stopped doing because I just love teaching and I love languages.

Meet The Bilinguist!

(that’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed)

I know a lot of talented people who write books – both fictional and non-fictional – or have blogs and websites and whatnot. Well, here I am offering my language services in both English and German. Please spread the word! And let me know if you have any project in mind. Nothing’s too small, I promise, and my prices are very competitive.

Or do you know anyone who’d like to learn German? Here’s your chance, no matter where in the world you’re based. I have over 20 years of experience of teaching German as a foreign language, beginners to advanced, at universities and private language schools.

In Massbrook, with Sandy and Ali

It all feels so right, you know? It’s an insane amount of work, on top of a daytime job, but both my businesses are based on my passions, they’re what I love doing and do really well. It’s “happy work”.

Of course, I do need to get out, too. Thankfully, my friends have got my back; when I put out the word that I’m more or less grounded at home, they rallied and announced visits, and they came. And I jealously guard my Mayo-days which are usually spent alone in the woods but these days sometimes include company – such as Sandy and Ali, as seen in the picture above, and the folks who came to shoot with my club a few weeks ago. I made a short video about it, actually, here it is. Enjoy!

 

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5-Oh, Vienna, And You

The Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera) The Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera)

This post contains an invite and stories. They’re connected. The invite is for you, and the stories are of my recent trip to Vienna, where you’re invited to. Let me explain.

Next February (13.02.2020), I’ll turn 50. I’ve decided to spend “half time” (on my journey to the 100 years I’m determined to reach) in my favourite city in the world, and also to invite absolutely everyone I know. I’m not sure about the details yet, but the 13th will be a Thursday, and of course the following day is Valentine’s Day, so in case you’re part of a couple, you should definitely bring your partner, because Vienna is hands down the best place to be in love. Seriously, forget Paris.

You could make a four-day weekend out of it. And because a trip like this requires advance planning, taking time off work etc, I’m telling you now, nearly 11 months in advance. I’m fully aware there might be 5 or 50 people showing up. I’m good either way, just know this: If you do come, you will get hag-hugged! There’s simply no way around that.

Read on to get a taste of the most magical city on earth. It’s steeped in the history of an entire continent (Habsburg empire, anyone?), art, theatre, music… you name it. Most major cities have one famous opera house, and/or world class theatre, and/or concert hall. Vienna has two of each of these, and that’s not counting the many excellent smaller stages and art galleries and museums and the sheer beauty of the architecture – look up anywhere and see artwork and sculpture on the sides of houses – the excellent food and drink, and the unique wry humour of the Viennese, who like to appear grouchy at first glance but really have huge hearts.

Yes, I'd love to go to that concert and hear Liszt playing live! Yes, I’d love to go to that concert and hear Liszt playing live! Alas for being nearly 150 years late.

I made it a musical trip this time, but please remember that Vienna is also the city of Gustav Klimt and much of the Art Nouveau movement of the Fin de Siècle. This is where Hofmannsthal and Schnitzler wrote their works and so many more lived and worked.

On my first evening, I felt a little lonely because my dear Kati, who was going to go to the opera with me to see Figaro, caught pneumonia of all things. I went on my own and sold her ticket to a Korean conductor who lives in the US and was stranded in Vienna for a night because his connecting flight got delayed. We spent all our time before the opera and during the breaks chatting about music – it was one of those Vienna encounters that happen all the time there. In between, we admired the view from our seats, from where we could see the entire orchestra and the conductor, as well as having a perfect view of the stage.

View of the audience and orchestra from my seat View of the audience and orchestra from my seat

The production was incredible, just the right mix between modern and traditional, and the singers were all excellent, in particular Cherubino, the Comtessa and Figaro himself. Thoroughly enchanted, but knackered after only three hours of sleep the previous night, I went straight to the hotel afterwards, still humming “Voi Che Sapete“.

I’d decided that after over 10 years away, I had every right to call myself a tourist again (forget for a moment that I used to live in and around Vienna for over six years), and so I went sightseeing the next day. First came the house where Schubert was born, where I was just about moved to tears listening to a recording of the “Wanderer Fantasie” played by Anatol Ugorski (note to self, look up more of Ugorski’s albums).

At Schubert's birthplace At Schubert’s birthplace

Then I went on to one of Mozart’s apartments in Vienna. What I love most about all these is the handwritten originals of famous pieces that are on display there. On Tuesday at Beethoven’s house, I even saw an early version of my favourite sonata. As well as an actual lock of Ludwig’s hair, which I found strangely touching.

Then there are the historical instruments, of course. Check out the five pedals!

This belonged to Schubert's brother This belonged to Schubert’s brother

In the afternoon, just when my feet began to protest, I met Tom for dinner and drinks and a good long chat and putting the world to rights. I almost forgot to take pictures but Tom remembered – this is us outside the Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral) which stands right in the centre of Vienna.

With Tom With Tom

The entire trip was like closing a wound from the past, putting yet another piece of my life’s puzzle back into place (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read yesterday’s post). I reconnected with friends, re-visited places I loved, and basked in the most incredible music. Bliss!

The undisputed highlight of the trip was the recital of my other all-time favourite pianist (yes, I have two!), Evgeny Kissin. I knew I had a good seat but nearly fainted when I realised that I was actually in the front row, by the piano and just a little to the left, so I could see his hands. The piano was so close that when he stood to bow, I could have stretched out my hand and touched him.

The view from my seat! The view from my seat!

The people in the seats around mine were lovely and the perfect company for this. Kissin is just so unbelievably good, it’s almost surreal. I’ve never had such a close view of a pianist’s technique and I drank it all in, trying to take mental notes whilst being completely ravished by the beauty of the music. He played Chopin, Schumann, Debussy, and Scriabin, and I loved all of it, but the Scriabin (the very short 4th sonata) was probably my favourite.

The entire Musikverein was on their feet applauding every time he reappeared, and we got him to play four encores! And still it was all over way too quickly.

Beyond happy, just before the recital. Beyond happy, just before the recital.

To top it all off, I ran into him afterwards, and managed to thank him and exchange a few words! He’s friendly, unassuming, and funny, and I couldn’t help thinking that it wouldn’t make a difference to his playing if he wasn’t, but it’s still nice to know that the guy who’s probably the most ingenious pianist alive at this time, is also a lovely person.

This post is way too long already, so I’ll leave it at that. Go and plan your visit! You’ll be pleased to find that Vienna is a very affordable city to stay in as well. I paid all of 135 EUR for four nights in a simple, but clean 3-star hotel.

See you in February 2020!

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Oh, Maestro

The lovely crowd at my birthday dinner in February The lovely crowd at my birthday dinner in February

I was going to tell you all about it.

And then I didn’t.

And didn’t. And postponed it. And just “didn’t find the time”. And then I realised, this stuff is way too personal. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I wear my heart on my sleeve; I’m not afraid to be vulnerable and share, and yet, that’s only true to a certain extent.

The real inner workings of this hag are only known to a very small number of select people. Through my business presence alone, I’m a fairly public person, and I believe in authenticity, I’ve never been interested in presenting a perfect facade just for marketing reasons. What you see and read is who I am. At the same time, for this exact reason – because so much is so public – there needs to be an inner core of privacy that I simply don’t share online.

I’ll have to find a way to write about these past four weeks so it’s authentic and true, without baring that which I’m not willing to make public. This requires a modicum of history, so here goes.

On two occasions, I’ve kicked people out of my life. Both were indirect results of trauma I didn’t know I carried. Heck, I only realised I’ve lived through abuse and ended up traumatised from it, about five months ago, twenty years after it happened! Because I wasn’t physically abused and didn’t end up in a shelter, I thought I was fine. And didn’t notice that I’d been robbed of my self-esteem and was drifting into a series of terrible decisions, self-sabotage and what I call soul-amputation – cutting off things, and people, from my life, and pretending they’d never been there.

When I began to heal from several years of light depression in 2015, I started peeling back the layers, reconnected with friends, rediscovered passions, and found new friends and passions. I thought that was the extent of the work, but when I stumbled on that trauma from 20 years ago, I realised that there was more work left to do, older friends and passions to recover. This process is still very much ongoing, and I don’t actually need to go into the details, because the insight from it all is enough:

I need all parts of myself. I don’t get to pick and choose what to leave behind. Of course, toxic people and situations that were clearly unhealthy for me, can and should be kicked out of my life. But I’ve been in the habit of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and then throwing the entire bath after it, and the house too.

[Here’s the part where I keep details private].

The results of this process – although it’s far from complete – have been nothing short of dramatic. I’m manifesting an avalanche of blessings, everything’s falling into place magically.

First of these was my trip to Germany a month ago. I visited my dad and stayed with my lovely friends, catching up and talking until the late evening, and then in the morning I got the train to Nuremberg. I’d been in a state of hyper-excitement and tension for weeks leading up to it, there was just so much emotion involved. The first time I went to a recital again since Eveline’s death in 2011, had to be this one, and I had to go on my own because I’d never see Ivo Pogorelich with anyone else. I had a good ticket but managed to grab an even better seat in the second row, just to the left, so I could see his hands and he was only 10-12 ft away.

Beyond excited on my way to the concert hall Beyond excited on my way to the concert hall

My expectations were sky-high, but he still blew them out of the water. I’d completely forgotten how magical it is to have him playing live right in front of me, and he absolutely killed me with the Mozart Adagio (click the link for a one-minute sample; you’ll see what I mean), which I’ve been practising myself recently, and especially the Liszt sonata. Both with the Liszt and the Schumann Symphonic Etudes, he even improved on his own earlier recordings of them, something I didn’t think possible. I was struggling to process it all; he still does that to me 31 years later (this link is my story of how it all started and why he’s so important to me).

He signed CDs afterwards, but I didn’t join the queue. Maybe I should have. I did watch him for a bit, being his usual cordial self (where people get this BS that he’s arrogant, I don’t know. I’ve met him before, many years ago, and he’s never been anything but exceedingly friendly), and I just wanted to hug him. I’m so bloody grateful that he’s still around, still doing this, still putting up with the circus people stage around him. It means so much. Maybe I’ll get to tell him one day.

The Maestro signing CDs after the recital The Maestro signing CDs after the recital

Just like it had happened during my “coming back to life” in 2016, I had to wade through a lot of darkness in the wake of the intense emotion of that evening. It took me almost a week to come out the other side, but come out I did – just in time for the next magical manifestation:

I’ve been approved for a mortgage! If you’ve known me for a while, know of the financial breakdown it took me over a decade to recover from (by learning to manage my finances and paying back every last cent I owed without writing off anything) and my previous, failed attempts of getting a mortgage at my age and with only one income (as opposed to, a couple sharing), will be able to fathom the enormity of this. Renting in Ireland is excruciating, expensive, and insecure – I’ve moved house every 1-3 years since I arrived here. Now I’ll be a home owner!

I’m about as mature as a five-year-old about this, so I shall insist on people referring to me as Lady of the Manor (“of the Hovel”, more like, to tell the truth). I haven’t got anything yet but have put in an offer on a house I love. It’s doubtful that I’ll get it, and I keep repeating to myself, “this or something better will come along”. I’ll keep you updated, obviously!

The third manifestation was my trip to Vienna that I’ve just returned from on Tuesday. It was actually a series of incredible manifestations, and I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and dedicate a separate blog entry to it, because this actually concerns – you. Yes, you! Stay tuned and make sure you read it.

Now I’m back and thankfully there’s no blackness this time, just happiness. I also promptly manifested something else! See, after the incredible experience in Nuremberg, I was very interested to see the announcement that Ivo Pogorelich is going to be part of the Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival this August, with a recital in Hamburg. The problem is that only category tickets were available at first, where they assign you a seat, and I’m not buying blind! So I decided to risk it and wait until seat tickets became available on the 15th (yesterday).

Except that last week, the concert had sold out completely. Argh! I resigned myself to it but still decided to give them a call on the 15th to check if there’s a waiting list I could get onto.

It took me over two hours to get through to them, the lines were so busy. And the guy said he had one ticket left, actually, but only one (in a hall with 2,100 seats!). “Where?” I asked, fully expecting it to be somewhere in the back.

He said: “On the podium, next to the piano.”

How likely was that to happen? I’m incredibly happy but also awe-struck and beyond grateful. I’ve known this state of effortless bliss and manifestation before, and it’s something you never forget. I’ll always recognise it immediately. This is the vibration of “flow”, and while I know I’ll never manage to stay in this permanently – I’m not some enlightened Buddha person – I’ll aim for it as much as I can.

And I’m absolutely basking in it while it lasts. Today, I’m in need of some grounding, so I’ll be off to the woods with my bow now.

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Kermit The Hag

Mount Nephin
Nephin this week

Me darlin’s. Life’s the best, and the biggest twat at the same time.

So I’ve developed symptoms of osteoarthritis in my hands. That’s the non-rheumatic arthritis, folks, the one that comes from a loss of the cartilage which usually cushions two bones meeting in a joint. Usually this happens to older people – unless, of course, you happen to have done a lifetime of practising the piano and a decade or two of extremely typing-intensive jobs as well as a few years of gaming. You know, the way I have.

Before I continue: Please, please note that I’m not looking for medical advice. I’m very well looked after and know exactly what I’m doing (doctor, physio, home treatment, supplements etc etc). People mean well, but it’s extremely tiring to explain over and over why I’m doing what I’m doing, why I’m not doing what they suggest, and why I’m not even open to hearing anything else anymore. It’s exhausting, and I’m not willing to talk about it for longer than it takes to keep you in the loop of what’s going on. Okay? Thank you.

It sucks, no question. But it’s early days and I still have a chance to protect what cartilage I have left. Right now, my main problem is that the OA came paired with carpal tunnel and cramping muscles in my hands – whether as a side effect or from being rusty after not practising for so long, I’m not sure. I’ve checked my technique, which has of course suffered from not practising for 15 years, but it’s not bad enough to warrant this. So I have to force myself to take it slowly. For a while, I practised no more than 5-10 minutes a day, which is completely ridiculous – it’s about enough to warm up, not to progress on anything. Argh.

So now I’ve extended it to 2 x 15-20 minutes. And even that is hard to stick to, especially as I’ve started practising a waltz by Chopin, my favourite composer. It feels like coming home to play Chopin again. And when it’s time to be sensible, it’s like I’m re-enacting that good-Kermit, bad-Kermit meme, talking to myself (as Oscar Wilde said, at least it’s intelligent conversation):

Kermit

Me: That’s it, now stop and get up.

Other Me: But.

M: Hands are hurting.

OM: I still miss that d-sharp occasionally. I need to practise until I hit it every time, otherwise the wrong note will sink in and then I’ll struggle with it for weeks.

M: Get. Up. You need to ice your hands. Or maybe: Make hot chocolate, ice your hands and listen to Ivo Pogorelich playing the “Tempest” sonata. How’s that?

OM: Deal.

M: Great.

OM: But first I’ll play it through one more time.

Like I mentioned before, I’m learning to see the pain as guidance, rather than annoying, and I actually manage this most of the time. And I’m just so happy to be at the piano again at all.

earrings
My new earrings

Other decisions had to be made: No more gaming for me, and swords are out for good. I’m also discovering lots of things that aren’t good for my finger knuckles, such as carrying grocery bags – ouch! Strictly speaking, I probably shouldn’t draw a bow either, but I’ll give up archery over my cold, dead body. I won’t train daily anymore and only shoot for myself, not competitively, once a week or so in Massbrook. But I’ll keep doing it.

And since it’s my first post of 2019, here’s a list of what was great in 2018:

  • I paid back the absolute last of my debts. That meant that I couldn’t travel or buy anything until October, but gods was it worth it. Feels great to have an actual net worth again, and a budget for things like travel.
  • I stepped up my Coaching, got clear on why I’ve been put on this planet and found amazing friends who are solo entrepreneurs, too. It makes the world of a difference.
  • I got a different position in my daytime job, with hours that suit me so much better. Cue happier hag and better business hours.
  • I reconnected with some long-lost friends. This is still a work in progress. It feels like the last of the healing from my “dark years”, but this one reaches a lot further back. One day I might blog about it, right now I’m not ready to share on that level. Suffice it to say that it concerns trauma I’ve been carrying since my short and ill-advised marriage. It feels great putting the last of the pieces back together.
  • I got a piano! I’m practising again!
  • I also found an exercise routine I can actually stick with. No more start-and-stop, I’ve been at it for 8 months and there’s no end in sight.

My plans and goals for 2019 are secret, apart from those I’ve already shared: Travelling to meet old friends and beloved places again, and to see some of my favourite musicians live. It’s already an amazing year!

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Waaaaaaaaaaah!

piano
My new (used) piano

After careful deliberation, I decided that the above was the most appropriate title for this post. Oh man, if only you knew.

I got my piano! See the above picture. It’s fairly crappy, and yet, for the price it’s actually quite decent, and best of all, it’s mine! I considered borrowing the money to buy it, but then decided to use my own money. Which feels fantastic.

The incredibly painful process of trying to recover some of my former skill has begun. I was prepared for this, which doesn’t make it any less horrible. At the same time, it’s sheer bliss simply being at a piano again, and it brings up all kinds of memories, good and bad, from the first three decades of my life. I now get to sort through which parts of me I’ll keep and which I’ve definitely outgrown and therefore won’t pick up again.

Having my own money has other advantages, too. In the aftermath of paying back my last loans, I can once again use my salary for stuff like savings and books. I also have a travel budget!

Remember the “I want to go to the Maldives” travel post a few months ago? And then the “I’m going to get a piano again” post? It feels like I’m now combining both, on a mission to regain even more pieces of myself.

I already told you about my trip to Vienna in March. Holy smokes, the excitement! And now that I’ve actually got a piano again, and cry and curse and do horrible boring but necessary etudes to try and coax my fingers into moving again, I use listening to music as an antidote. Kissin is definitely my No. 1 pianist these days, but I’ve got other favourites to rediscover again.

In the course of that I realised that my first love among pianists, Ivo Pogorelich, is actually going to play a recital in Nuremberg in February. When I call him my first love, I mean that literally: When I was 18 and other girls in my class had posters of rockstars in their rooms, I had an album cover (this was vinyl, so a fair size) with his face pinned on the wall over my piano. He was and remains the most unusual of living classical pianists and a category of his own, and when I saw that recital announced for a Sunday four days after my 49th birthday, I started doing some rapid maths.

Long story short, I’m going to fly to Germany where I’ll see my dad and stay with my friends the first night, then take the train to Nuremberg and go to the recital, stay at a small hotel, and then go back on the train in the morning. I’ll visit dad one more time and then fly back home.

My travel budget is now spoken for up to and including June 2019, haha!

To say that I’m excited is the understatement of the century. I’m positively vibrating in ecstasy. This is my birthday present to myself, exactly 31 years after Eveline gave me the ticket to my first Pogorelich recital for my 18th birthday (yes, she was “only” my piano teacher and not yet a close personal friend at the time. Did I mention she was amazing?). I came home as though bludgeoned; the experience completely revolutionised my understanding of music and changed the course of my life.

Just listen to this.

I feel like I’m about to come full circle. As other circles are closing, too: This multi-passionate is realising what “passions first” truly means. I’m exercising and getting stronger. I do traditional archery at the most beautiful range ever. I practice the piano and listen to music. I dance, freestyle on my own and Salsa with Salsa Bay Galway. I coach wild spirits to break up with “busy” and focus on what lights them up. I feed the wild birds and am planning on creating a paradise for them once I get my own place.

I no longer swing swords, but then I do have a chronic injury, and maybe there’s a reason why I can no longer do an activity that can and does lead to hand/finger injuries on occasion (hello – piano!). There are other passions which are parked right now, gaming for example, because being a multi-passionate always means focusing on a few passions at a time. It’s just the way we roll (and maintain a semblance of sanity).

79 days to go! I wish I could fast-forward the time. Or hibernate. Wake me the day before my birthday, all right?

In reality, I’ve lots to do until then. You should join me at Wild Spirits Coaching, by the way, I’m planning a stress-free holidays challenge and lots of goodies. Join up on www.wildspiritscoaching.com (fill in the form in “Wild Freebies” or take 10 minutes to do the free Life Audit, and then fill in that form) so you won’t miss it.

I’m off to practice some more. Grounding, what’s that? I’m floating somewhere up there.

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Return To The Heart

Eveline, Vienna 1997

The above picture shows one of the two most influential people in my life (outside of family). Eveline was my piano teacher throughout my childhood and adolescence, and later became a dear friend. She taught me pretty much everything I know about the piano and was an amazing teacher. And when I was in my 20s, we’d frequently visit each other and go on adventures, “stalking” our favourite pianists, slipping into rehearsals where we had no business being present, and sneaking into the back entrance of concert halls to get a handshake and perhaps an autograph (Eveline), and basically faint from being so smitten (me).

I’ll never forget her. She had vast knowledge, strong opinions, and a dry, deadpan sense of humour that still cracks me up whenever I think back. There’s been an Eveline-shaped hole in my heart ever since her untimely death in 2011.

Music is one of the few constants in my life. Being a multi-passionate, I’ve often moved from one shiny thing to the next, and still do. But I’ve always loved music and I’ve always loved the piano more than anything else in the world. If anyone had told me when I was growing up, that there would be a time, years even, without me even practising, I’d have laughed at them.

To put this in context: When I almost died of pneumonia at 19 and was only released from hospital for Easter on the condition that I strictly kept to my bed, I waited until my parents went out grocery shopping, and then staggered to my piano to play. Years later, when I had a broken shoulderblade, I took my arm out of the sling bandage so I could practice, until there was an audible “crack” and jarring pain. I could literally not live without playing. It was my life.

The picture of Eveline was taken in a flat in Vienna where I lived for a few months after getting my M.A. in Frankfurt. I spent the summer there before moving on to Romania to teach at two universities in Iasi. My most important criterion for choosing a flat was that it had to have a piano. This is me at the place in Vienna, probably playing my favourite piece of all time, a Nocturne by Chopin:

In Vienna, 1997

But it all started way earlier. Here’s me at around age 16 or so, practising with my school friend Sandra, also one of Eveline’s pupils. We often played four-handed pieces together.

Sandra (foreground) and me at the piano, ca. 1986

I always had a piano, although I didn’t always practise very regularly, for example during the last years of my M.A. when I was working to make ends meet and studying at the same time. But I never gave up on it. I needed that sensual feeling of the cool keys under my hands, and the full-body experience of playing, the keys with my hands and the pedals with my feet.

Until the early 2000s, when I ran into financial trouble – you may have heard the story – and couldn’t even afford having a piano any longer. Then came the move back to Ireland and working 16 hours a day to dig myself out (which I managed, by the way), and after that followed the depression and the “dark years”, when my only ray of light was coaching and my inspiring clients, as well as the coaching qualification I got.

And then I re-emerged in 2015 and began the long journey of healing. Like I said in my last post: I’m amazed that three years later, I’m still putting together the pieces. I feel like this is the last one, the most important one.

Many years ago, and once again in my magic city Vienna, I discovered the best pianos in the world. This is completely subjective – there are quite a few excellent brands, and which one a player prefers, depends pretty much on personal taste. When I first touched an August Förster piano, I fell in love, instantly and irrevocably. It’s got the most amazing attack/”feel” to it, soft as velvet and yet crystal clear, and it sounds, oh man, out of this world.

Here’s my dream piano:

Piano by August Förster

The problem is that it costs about 14,000 EUR including transport to Ireland. Which isn’t expensive, by the way. These pianos are built by hand by highly trained craftsmen in an insanely painstaking process. It’s worth every cent, but I still don’t have 14 grand lying around, as my dear Inga puts it. So I thought I’d get to it after I buy my own house and can save up for something else again.

The point of this post – yes, there is one! – is that I realised I can’t afford to put off playing any longer, just because I can’t afford the piano of my dreams just yet. I’ll still buy it one day, perhaps 3-5 years from now, but I need to get back into practising, and pronto. I need to, if I want to have any hope of recovering a degree of my lost skill. And I definitely need to in order to complete the healing of my heart and soul and life. Nothing matters more than this.

And so I started researching and found that there’s a small but fine and very well-run piano store just down the road in Athenry! Where I found a decent, beautifully restored second-hand piano for just over two grand. It’ll do me very well for recovering my skill and practising for the next few years.

I’m no longer waiting for life to happen. I’m alive now. When I move out (and hopefully into my own place), I’ll pay for professional transport of the piano. It’s affordable, and worth it. And I’m practically vibrating with excitement and anticipation. Pictures will follow once it’s arrived!

For now, here’s the piano I learned to play on, in my parent’s house. Another excellent German manufacturer (just like Förster), Schimmel.

Me at my parents’, with my gorgeous old Schimmel piano

Soon, I’ll be complete again.

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Vienna By Night

Wien bei Nacht (Vienna By Night), by Reinhard Fendrich

(pleeeaaaaase, read to the end, this isn’t just about one subject)

Being a bird person, I’m not talking about “birthing” something when I describe a new thing I bring into the world. No, it feels more like I’m a hen sitting on her eggs, incubating not a fluffy feathery chick (although, come to think of it… they are very cute), but my own work.

I’m all kinds of fed up.

I’m also all kinds of happy and on fire with joy.

It’s one heck of a mix, I’m telling ya. So the story is, I’m carrying this amazing message into the world, of doing what lights you up and not just thinking about it and going: “One day, I’ll…” and shit, but actually feeling the joy of putting it into practice. And it’s transformational for my clients and a huge privilege for me to witness and help with.

But. It’s not happening fast enough. I’m not a patient hag. I’ve dreamt for long enough, I need this stuff to manifest already, dammit (I feel like this cartoon of the buddhist whose apprentice goes: “Come on, blissful detachment – I haven’t got all day!”). Most importantly, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m capable of so much more.

Coaching is the way it is for a reason. That reason is because it just works. And yet, there are new ways being discovered all the time, and I’m an innovator by nature. It’s dangerous to come into a new discipline and try to revolutionise it all before learning the ins and outs of the existing system, but I’m rather familiar and comfortable with the coaching toolkit and so I feel ready to… well… break new ground.

I currently have a week off work and it’s frustrating because I know I need at least another week to even begin developing this. There’s nothing worse than never getting to what I need to do! This is exactly why I’ve talked about growing my biz for so long and up to about six months ago, never really taken consistent action.

This is it, and I’m announcing it to the world:

You’re going to see (even) less of me for the coming year. I’ll be working almost all the time. By autumn of 2019, if I haven’t made significant progress in my business that makes it feasible that I’ll be able to live off it without a daytime job at some point, I’ll make a change.

Because I no longer want to never have time to spare for people I love. If it doesn’t work, I’ll either stick with my job, or go freelance, or think of something, but I won’t work as much anymore. That’s a promise.

Until then, though, I’ll disappear. And here’s where I hope my friends won’t give up on me. It means I may miss the occasional party. The Gort Community Markets (which kinda died this summer, but are now thankfully being picked up by a bunch of amazing people who’re making a go of it). Workshops, gigs, gatherings. Please don’t forget me, I’m still here. And keep inviting me – if I can make it, I’ll come. And you’re always welcome here, as long as I know a few days in advance. Deal?

To stay sane, I’ll keep walking my talk and working on my own passions, and I’ll also break the 1 1/2 years of no holidays anywhere by actually going to Vienna in March. I know it’s a few months still but gods I’m so bloody excited, I could jump up and down all day! I can’t even begin to describe the emotions flooding me. So many memories. So much I’d clean forgotten in the “dark years”, things that are part of me, of the fabric of my very soul. Music, mostly. In March, I’ll hear Kissin in the Musikverein and see a stellar production of Figaro in the State Opera. Oh gods, I can’t wait.

Check out one of my favourite recordings of Kissin:

Evgeny Kissin playing Liszt’s piano transcription of the Schubert song “Gretchen am Spinnrade”

I’ll write more about Vienna next time, suffice it to say that I can’t believe I’ve existed so long without visiting. This used to be my life. I dislike cities usually, but this is one’s akin to the love of my life. Pure ecstasy.

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My Irresistible Love

Clew Bay
Clew Bay, Co. Mayo

So the “Wanderlust” post I made a while ago? I need to qualify this a little, and at the same time, I can introduce you to the process of a highly emotional person.

When I discovered that I’m actually ready to think of travelling once again, I went overboard and enthusiastically thought: “I’ll see all the things!” That’s how I function. After a while, I calmed down and realised that I don’t really want a package tour to the Maldives. I mean, I’m not ruling it out altogether, but there are about 200 things which are higher on my bucket list.

Instead, I honed in on the things I really love and enjoy. It astonishes me that almost three years after coming out of depression and returning to life, I’m still catching up. Add to that the years of being broke when I simply couldn’t afford doing what I love, and you have a list of stuff I stopped doing almost 15 years ago.

Wanna see?

The first realisation was that there are things I simply can’t do in Ireland, so I’m going to combine travelling with doing stuff I enjoy. One example is music. I used to see Evgeny Kissin live at least once a year, and now it’s been altogether too many years since I heard him live at all.

Thankfully, he’ll play in the Vienna Musikverein in March next year, and so I’ve decided that I’ll spend St. Patrick’s Day in Vienna. I’m currently in the process of contacting my friends in Austria to try and see as many of them as possible. I’ve even found another, stellar concert that I’ll go to while I’m there, Kent Nagano with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, playing among others, Le Sacre Du Printemps (I adore Stravinsky).

The other thing I used to love and have stopped doing is hiking. You may not know this, but in 2002 I sub-let my flat for a month, packed my backpack and set out one morning. I went on to walk about 1/3 of the East-West length of Austria (the link is in German, but there’s a map). I meant to make it all the way to Salzburg on one of Europe’s long-distance hiking paths, but my Achilles tendon started making trouble and so I took the bus and train for the rest of the way. I’ve never forgotten the experience, though, it was profound and has shaped me.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my friend Lee, who told me about the time he did the coast-to-coast walk in the North of England. It sounded amazing and reminded me of when I used to dream about the coast-to-coast walk years ago. This conversation has definitely put it back on the bucket list! I’ve even got a timeline.

In fact, there’s something else. I’ve fallen for a tall, strong and silent type over the past months. I see him from afar every time I go for archery in Massbrook. He’s just gorgeous, and I won’t be able to resist him for much longer:

Mount Nephin
Nephin

I believe it may be too late this year to prepare and get it done, but I’m still making enquiries. It’s a four-hour hike to the summit of Nephin, with very few actual paths, and in winter the top is covered in snow, so I need to be well equipped and able. But I’ve been getting back into shape since June and feel a lot more confident than I used to.

It’s become a goal of its own. In 2016, I decided that at 50 (in 2020), I’ll be in the best shape of my life. And so I’m going to hike up Nephin next year at the latest, and do the coast-to-coast walk in England in 2020, as a celebration of sorts, of reaching the half-way mark to my goal of living to 100 years! Also as proof to myself that I can do it and that I’ve recovered and healed my body and soul.

There’s still a long way to go, figuratively, until I can go this actual long way, so to speak, but I’m getting there. And I love having plans that are aligned with who I am and what I’ve always loved doing!

More about this some other time, I’m going to have lunch and then do some more work now. If you like, would you let me know what you think, as well as what’s on your own bucket list? I’d love to read about it.

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