How about just getting it out there? Straight talking. I mean the real stuff, not the superficial guff that barely resonates. Take it deep.

Don’t know whether it’s the nosy journalist in me, or that I’m just plain nosy, but I love nothing more than rich conversation. Asking the question then sitting back and letting both listeners on the side of my head take it all in, every syllable.

Pull on a thread and let it wander wherever it takes you. Of course, those type of conversations only work when it cuts both ways. To be allowed in and dive deep you also have to give something. And that’s ok, because after all its only then that you are being true to yourself.

I’ve lost count of the times sitting in company and you just know we’re all making noise for the sake of it. When you’re thinking of the next question before you’ve asked the previous one, you know it’s time to make your exit. To swim so shallow means the depths of exhilaration below are always out of reach. Down there, in amongst it, that’s where we want to be.

But to get there, it takes at least two to tango. Yes, we can lean on the sociable sort who can blether for fun in any company, but often the meaningful stuff is only garnered when one to one.

Where has this chapter spilled out from? Hard to tell. Might be that I have a doctor’s appointment I’ve taken six weeks to build up the courage to book – and therefore much of the above has been a conversation within my own head.

But more than that, lockdown 3.0 has caught me. It really has. I never thought it could. So long as we stayed healthy, I was happy enough under the new existence. It wasn’t a million miles from the status quo for an individual with tight family and friends and who has worked from the kitchen table for over a decade.

However, something was suppressing. It still is. Then Conor and I had to go into another stint of self-isolation recently and I flipped. One day after school restarting, I had to pull the wee guy off the field again. “Why can I not go to school and be with my friends, daddy?”

Should be easy to answer these days (for we all are under the Covid spell) but it broke my heart. And sent me spiralling. I was genuinely in a spin for the wee guy. And selfishly I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. How the f**k am I going to manage work, I’m a sh*t home-schooling teacher, Conor’s already falling behind…I’m done with this. Such inspired thoughts!

And god love my parents, they’d literally do anything for us all. They came up and tried reassurance from the back garden. I couldn’t even muster words. Still in my pyjamas somewhere around midday and I simply mumbled and nodded from the top step, then turned on my heels through the conservatory door with the shopping they’d kindly brought without a word or explanation. 

Why could I not open up? Why could I not articulate the true thoughts coursing through my body? My compass had shifted and I was all at sea. But the ripple effect left others close to me all washed up and completely unsure of my direction – and that was unfair.

Thankfully the storm passed quickly, and we were back on a level, though it doesn’t take much to go off course these days. And thankfully there was time to take stock. The wee guy, Paddy (the dog) and I made several escapes near nightfall to Tollymore (oops, did I just admit that!) and it was good for the soul. The home-schooling was still a disaster, but we hugged more than ever that week. That was more than enough to get us through. That and Conor’s infectious giggles. 

Pretty sure I’ve digressed plenty here, but hopefully the message is visible amongst the clutter. Be true with your thoughts and speak of them freely, but just as important, have the ability to listen well and be listened to.

Go deep and swim with freedom.

Caption: Conor enjoying his favourite pastime climbing trees in his favourite place, Tollymore

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