There’s a line in the movie Fight Club where Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Dundon states  “ The things you own end up owning you.” Now I’ve always known on an intellectual level that this is true, but it’s not until recently that I’ve felt on an emotional level just how true it is. You can see it all the time – possessions getting in the way of living. Parents chastising their kids for gettting mucky, not allowing them creative play in case they dirty themselves or, even worse, the house up. “Your good clothes! Your good shoes! The good carpet!” Just who are we trying to impress and what are we trying to prove?

Obviously there’s nothing inherently wrong with possessions, after all they are just things. But all too often we allow them power to determine just how how we live.  We can feel that what we own is a projection of who we are. But of course, I’m not my car, or my house, or my outfit. Possessions are just matter: manifestations derived from the real cogs we allow to govern us and strip away our freedom: our ideologies, our beliefs about ourselves and of course the big dude behind it all -the media, foisting images of lifestyles and crap upon us that keep us locked in an unending cycle of consumersm and untenable desires. And what does a mass of matter in the shape of things, do for us anyway?  Complicates our lives – that’s what. Do we really need a wardrobe full of twenty dresses and as many shirts? Does it really matter if the windows aren’t gleaming?

I’ve recently been reading about a project being undertaken by two thirty something American guys who call themselves The Minimalists. In the name of experiencing real freedom these guys took the decision to declutter their lives in twentyone days. Packing away all of their wordly possessions (including toothbrushes!) into boxes, they proceeded to only take out only what they needed each day. Apparently by day eleven they had unpacked everything they needed to live by.  And as they pointed out “Its amazing the things you think you need that you don’t really need.”

But how can minimalising your life assist you in finding freedom?  What does it bring you freedom from? According to The Minimalists it brings freedom from fear, freedom from worry, freedom from overwhelm, freedom from guilt and freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom. Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I readily admit that I’m an accumulator of “things”. I regularly use my possessions, clothes, fashion etc to express who I am. But I can appreciate the value of such insight.  I don’t know if I’d have the balls to take it as far as The Minimalists – I haven’t reached a stage where I could happily shed the egotistical habits and compulsions that go hand with ownership, but I definitely get where they’re coming from. Then again, as they quite rightly stress, you can’t half do it, you either are a minimalist or you aren’t.

Nonetheless, it’s true that the control our belongings exert over us varies from person to person. I’d say that on a first world spectrum from zero to ten, I’m about a five.  However if my life circumstances were different I could have been much nearer the top end of that scale. The short audio doc attached tells such a story. This is the story of ‘Marge’ from Dublin’s inner city. Marge, having been brought up in an impoverished tenement became totally neurotic about keeping her own family home as spotless as possible. That is until a terrible thing happened….

Musingjoc-RTE-The Curious Ear

Musingjoc-RTE-The-Curious-Ear – Listen HERE

Marge was interviewed by Jane O’Connor

The Curious Ear is produced by Ronan Kelly

‘Documentary on One is the home of Irish radio documentaries and the largest library of documentary podcasts available anywhere in the world. We tell stories in sound, mostly Irish ones, and each documentary tells its own story’

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The Irish Tingle

The Irish Tingle

“ Water is a great leveller.” My Mother used to say.

What the hell does she mean by that?  I hear you ask. Well I guess what she meant was that when you’re feeling out of kilter or imbalanced emotionally, that submerging onesself in water would readdress this imbalance and help put everything back in some perspective. Now you might think that advice and insight such as this, would emerge from a being who was a great swimmer of the seas or one of those hardcore “January day” amphibious beings. But no you’d be wrong because all my Mother’s water adventures really just lay in her taking a lava temperatured bath every day, and wallowing in it “hippo- like” for an hour or two ( she’d kill me for saying that if she was still alive!) Nonetheless her sentiment was correct.

Having yesterday taken my first swim in the Irish Sea this year I can vouch for her great observation. For the first time in a while, without the use of alcohol or any other substances, I felt great.

What is it about the Irish summer that makes it so revitalising? Yes I’ve done the holidays on the Med, grilling myself in the sun, starved of all fluids, squinting at my book through sun induced tears mixed with a bit of sun lotion for extra sting. But I have to say that there’s something about sitting on half empty Irish beaches, denying grey clouds, flask of tea and egg sandwiches, camping chairs and a bit of craic that I just love. And the beauty of it all is that we still get in for a swim! It doesn’t matter that it’s grey and swirling. You get in, face contorted, shrieking as if being tortured and then 5 minutes later” ahhs” and  “oohs” and enticements to the cowards on the shore with their dubious expressions, about how gorgeous the water really is. And it really is. You feel like you’re accomplishing something more than a gentle breast stroke in the Med. Pah! You feel like you’re doing something phenomenal even. Exhileration on a different level, and a sense of bonding and knowing with those who’ve entered that cold swirl with you. What else as simple, can do that for you?

Then back out to the stripey windbreaker to try and get some modesty, drying yourself with a threadbare seventies print towel (you can only just still see the print). They only seem to have those towels still in existence in Ireland. None of your fluffy primaried coloured shit that you get on your packagers. No a good threadbare cotton that gives a good rough dry with all the sand still stuck on the still damp body!  I love it, love it, love it.!  The Irish tingle.  Throwing on the hoodie and opening the flask for another cup of tea. The smell of those wild shrubs that grow near the beach. Man it’s so good.

And there’s something about the light. You can’t beat the light. And when that grey breaks for one minute in the hour, we all look up as Ra’s rays flow through; we bask and heat up like lizards, smile at one another and know that it is worth it!

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Revelations and Resolutions (I am a sinner)


Whilst pondering painfully over my lack of  productive progress in life (despite managing to complete my previous blog), the pressure of doing nothing (or at least very little over the past 2 years)  built almost to a breakdown last week (no exaggeration).

However, having being emotionally pushed (face fucked) to the wall, I had a revelation.

I’d always prided myself on being the queen ponderer and quite the philosopher, when suddenly I realised that there was no real area of my life  (from housework to documentary making) that is being completed properly. This was a huge surprise for someone like me who imagined that they knew themselves intimately. There was a “perfect storm like” synchronicity of events that lead to this awakening:


Firstly was the obvious build up of stress and pressure that had been building slowly in my head from my constant lack of  productive action. Secondly, my youngest teenage daughter had gone away to Irish college for 3 weeks, and I realised that my role as a mother in it’s present form is coming to an end (a role which is very comfortable to fall back on when you’re not living up to your own personal potential). And finally it was my birthday, I was 38 – only 2 years till 40 and what had I done with my life (for me alone)? “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?” my being screamed.


From incomplete audio docs, half finished canvases, to rooms and cupboards full of boxes and useless stuff at home. A general lack of ordiliness and cleanliness pervaded every orifice, which I rightly understood in that moment to be a manifestation of my brain. Rather than being a philosopher I concluded; Jane you are a LAZY BITCH!  The realisation was actually quite liberating. What kind of spoiled mess had I let my self and life turn into?


In tandem with this, was a growing knowledge that I have been wasting money.  This waste of money; whether it be through just forgetting to bring bags doing  grocery shopping (and hence thoughtlessly buying plastic bags for 22 cent each) or just willy nilly buying plastic bottles of drinking water for whatever they cost (amongst a host of other wasteful acts)  showed a lack of respect both for money, myself, and the rest of humanity and life.

This was not a new thing. I remembered my Mother nagging the usual motherly quips as I carelessly squandered things as a teenager, “Jane be sure to marry a rich man.”

“Of course” I’d think smugly, “sure it doesn’t matter if I do or don’t, because I am destined for great things and riches myself!  If some lucky sucker is interesting enough to come along for the ride, then lucky him.”

And of course I didn’t marry a rich man, but I don’t care. And not because he’s some poor churchmouse but I love him so much.  No, rather it’s because I love him dearly, he’s an average earner, but still I spend way beyond my means and have a lovely life– except they’re really his means, because he’s the earner! In other words I haven’t learned or earned too much on the financial side of life, and have been only too happy to shirk off the financial responsibility onto someone else.

(I’d like to note here, before I get too hard on myself, that I still have made infinite valuable contributions to our family and home life).


So, to recap, here were my revelations, a) I was a lazy bitch, not necessarily a philosopher,  and b) Waste and laziness are intrinsically linked. Waste is laze in all of it’s forms.  You might think “sure yeh, I’ve always known that, it’s obvious!” I would have thought that it would have been obvious to me too. But it wasn’t and it hit me hard.

So, in the midst of all the fear and inertia that had brought me to this point, I had to resolve something. How could I start to extract myself from the shitty web I’d cast over myself?  After much soul searching I came up with 2 resolutions: I resolved to COMPLETE.  I resolved not to WASTE.


On the completion front, I am going to finish what I have already started. From the unfinished audio docs to the hotpress full of  fossilised sheets. They will be done. They will get completed. And not only will they be done but I will try and show some reverence to the labour and time that I give them. In other words I will try and be present.


I will combat the wasteful nature of myself into a more productive and hence mindful person. I will not buy what I won’t use! I will not buy what I can do without. I will not use or buy that which I can improvise upon and use or consume in a similar fashion. This is not because I am turning into Scrooge. This is because I am developing respect.

Nor will I waste time, the worst form of waste. Hours wasted unproductively in front of screen watching crap* Hours spent on the phone talking crap. Hours worrying; thinking crap.


I can feel myself feeling better already. I cannot unlearn what has been revealed to me last week. A sense of productive urgency is exposing itself to me and a sense of presence is unfurling in my consciousness. I believe these two resolutions will have a massive impact on my life. I feel at nearly forty I am growing up.





*note that hours sat in front of a screen watching something brilliant such as the TV drama Breaking Bad is not waste but merely appreciating great art and hopefully learning something from it.  However at 4am on your fourth succesive episode, then that’s where greed sneaks its ugly head in! But that’s another blog.


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Dates and Procrastination

Yesterday, the 13th June, was my Mother’s birthday. Having procrastinated about creating a blog I figured that it was a good day to start one. All being well she would hopefully be casting currents of creative energy and positivity in my direction. I didn’t do it. She would have been 57.

In my arrogance I never thought I would be one for dates when loved ones died. How the hell would I have known that? Turns out dates are a big thing for me (and turns out I never really knew what it was to have someone really close die). Not surprising really when you consider that I grew up in a household dominated by astrological superstitions. I’d thought the latter day scientist in me had banished such dichhotomies.

But I see it there, her little plaque, taken from her coffin, 22nd September 2010, another date of huge significance – the death date, the unknown date of huge personal significance that we are not privy to during life.

And so yesterday Mam’s birthday  took it’s slightly heavy toll. But not today, today I start my blog. I don’t know where you are mam but if you can reign down your will in order that I get over this period of procrastination, for once I won’t be telling you to get off my back and “I’ll do it!”, I’ll just say thanks and I love you too.

To listen to a relevant audio piece about my relationship with my mother and her last few years. Please listen to this short audio documentary I produced with RTE last year.

Click HERE – The Curious Ear: Groundhog and Mirror Jane O’Connor’s story of her final years with her mother.

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