Author of three collections published by Doire Press, in 2016 - 2018 Susan's poems have appeared, among elsewhere, in: The Cafe Review, Oregan, USA - Gather In, in a Special Irish Edition; Bosom Pals,Ed Marie Cadden (Doire Press, 2017) an anthology entirely in aid of Breast Cancer Research in the National UniveristyHospital, Galway and When They've Grown Another Me in Poetry Ireland Review, Dec 2018. January 2018 has seen her poems Commended in the Gregory O'Donoghue Poetry Competition.

She has been an invited reader of her poems at local readings in Galway, Cork and Dublin and at festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Cuirt International Festival of Literature and Clifden Arts Festival. Her poems have been read on radio.

Susan completed her degree in social science and qualified as a professional social worker in Trinity College, Dublin 1975. She was a psychotherapist, trainer, facilitator and occasional consultant to organisations for over thirty years until her retirement in 2012. Drawing together her writing with her earlier skills she has written interviews and facilitated conversations mediated by poetry. She continues to work on a manuscript relating the story of starting out in poetry and a mid-life move West along with occasional other creative non-fiction pieces.

Her workshop Having a New Conversation: About Dreaming was listed on the The Cuirt International Festival of Literature Programme (2015) and she facilitates similar workshops on a variety of themes, discussed through the medium of poetry, regularly and occasionally in local community settings.

While a founding editor of Skylight 47 Susan interviewed: then Ireland Professor of Poetry, Harry Clifton; Kay Ryan, former US Poet Laureate invited to Ireland by Dromineer Literature Festival and Dani Gill who talks about curating The Cuirt International Literature Festival. Her most recent interview, of Maeve O'Sullivan, appears in The Honest Ulsterman February, 2018.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Rising to the Challenge of Summer.

Solos – whether living, working or otherwise alone - need to be just as creative as parents occupying children, double as much if you’re child-minding alone as well.

At the gates of a play-school last year I met a Grandmother, child-minding for the summer. She was visiting from England and lamenting the absence of activity groups to join. ‘Every group I contact has stopped for the summer months.’ I recommended investigating the Meet-Up site online but, living alone myself, I fully appreciated the challenge she was facing. At least her adult family would return home in the evenings but they’d have their own commitments. She needed a life of her own – temporarily in suspension across the Irish Sea - to complement child-minding and acting adjunct to her younger family, so busy themselves they’d be unlikely to fully appreciate her difficulties which could lead to problems. She could quickly find herself isolated, or at odds with the family she had come to assist with little left to contribute in terms of company after a day of child-minding alone.

Solo, whether through living alone, working alone from home, recently: retired, widowed separated, with a spouse working away or simply absent with their own activities – is a challenge to rise to if you are not to disappear into yourself and feel body-less. Without the synergy of engaging with others, as interested in you as themselves as you collectively engage in a shared enterprise, it takes a lot of creative energy to simply keep on track. Don’t dismiss that as valueless. This creative engagement can have you more consciously weaving life than those who are more engaged. It would be worse were there no challenge to keep you creative. This realisation is a good place to start.

Setting up a structure that works for your day and week, once you’ve practised it for a while, will save you from wasting energy. President Obama bought suits of only two colours, with matching ties for each, when he began his presidency. He wouldn’t have the time or energy to be daily deciding on clothes. I’ve also taken this advice from a seasoned solo traveller heard on radio before I took my first trip away alone to Rome a few weeks ago. ‘Decide beforehand what you will do when you get there, give yourself an itinerary -otherwise, when you arrive, you won’t bother and find yourself wandering aimlessly’. It worked a treat. Tired from simply getting there, it was great to have sought out the city tourist travel bus before I’d even left the station on arrival and to take it up next day without effort. All that was left to decide was where to get off and when to get back on!

Exercise needs to be part of your structure. A daily walk, tai chi or yoga exercises or whatever you fancy yourself. At the worst of times: movement of any kind is a first step back on track – even if it’s walking across the kitchen and stretching before you put the kettle on. Already your brain is re-activated. I love Julia Cameron’s idea of Artist Dates – from the book The Artist’s Way. Choose to visit or do something you wouldn’t normally select and go there, or go somewhere that will stimulate your creative side - and don’t think about creativity as something that is only for artists, it is not. Engage in a project: make something or learn. Wellbeing research indicates that anything that absorbs you to self-forgetfulness leverages happiness and August is a good time to visit special events and put a toe in new waters.

‘Power poses,’ I’ve been known to chant as a mantra on occasions. The research indicating that people who have taken power stances before interviews – hands on hips, leaning on a table with your hands, or punching the air – instead of only sitting curled over to surf the internet on a smart phone before being questioned, not only performed better in their interview but felt better too. Their cortisol levels, associated with stress, were down and testosterone levels up leaving them more sense of agency and action.

Smile, it changes your brain chemistry and there is something to be said for the old adage about the world smiling with you but I wouldn’t rely on it. You need company and it is good to do everything you can to find it but failing that there’s a lot to enjoy and, meanwhile, you’re building resilience, toning muscles readiness to rise to your next challenge – maybe the new group you’ll join in September or the skill you’ll take to the next level when you add it to the familiar friends and activities you enjoy during the rest of the year.

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