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How do we stop the stigma without speaking out?

‘How do we stop the stigma without speaking out?’

I read this quote today, in a fiction book called ‘Playing Nice’ by JP Delaney.  It struck me, and it struck me hard.

I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum… I have stayed silent when REAL abuse was happening.  And, weirdly, since I was raped, I have spoken out publicly, ‘exposed’ as it were, people who didn’t actually do anything abusive, but who treated women inappropriately. (I’ve deleted all posts since)  I have also spoken publicly about being raped… but the man is still walking free, hidden.

It’s like I have this new anger about injustices against women.  Yes, everything I posted was true.  But does it matter? 

It’s not really them that I am mad at.  I mean, at the time, maybe I rolled my eyes, or said ‘what are you doing?’ or just passed it off.

It’s only after I was raped these things bothered me (most happened before I was raped), and I don’t think I ever thought of any of those incidents again… until they came up ‘after’. Good god, my rape – that whole month actually – has nearly become a ‘B.C/A.D’ experience in my own life.

The thing is, though there is a level of ‘wrong’ in all of the things I ‘outed’, the person I am really angry with is my rapist.  But, my tolerance for wrongdoing against women is at zero.  

Somehow, all the anger I have towards the man who raped me, comes out ‘exposing’ these other men.  Yes, their actions were wrong, on a level.  But really – at the time, I laughed off most of them (the advances on my then 14 year old daughter by a 25 year old colleague being the exception… that made me mad, even then!  Bring on Mama Bear!)

I recognise my anger at these indecencies is probably out of proportion, because I was raped.  But, as I write this, I have to ask… why did I laugh them off in the first place?

I don’t really know the answer.  I mean, in some senses, being politically correct has gone to such extremes.  Like, changing the words to ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’… come on!  But, really, we haven’t quite touched the CORE.

Another weird thing is, I have been date raped before being raped by a stranger. I am not lessening the trauma of date rape, but for me, even though I persistently said no, it was not as traumatising.  Perhaps BECAUSE I said no.  Perhaps, at least mentally, I had clearly drawn the line – and afterwards, called them on their actions face to face (and subsequently blocked them).  Even though they raped me, I had some sense of power in clearly saying ‘no’, and afterwards, verbalising that what they did was directly against my consent.

With the stranger who raped me, I didn’t have any of those luxuries.  He drugged me, so the initial rape (which resulted in bruises all over my body, cigarette burn marks on my arm, my ring stolen, and not being able to sit down without pain for a week) was done while I was unconscious.  He raped me again in the morning – I was conscious, but definitely still under the influence of the drugs.  I was passive while he raped me.  Complacent.  Compliant.  Dead.

I think that is the real difference.  I didn’t have a voice.

I still feel dead.  I have not yet fully recovered from all of the traumas of September 2019 (losing my Grandma, Dad and best guy friend – to suicide – in the same month I was raped)

But now, I do have a voice.  The problem is, I’ve been using it to expose indiscretions.  When, I WANT to use it against violations.  My rapist is a ghost… I don’t even know his name.  I don’t know where he is.  I don’t know anything about him.  

I want to use my voice – but I want to use it against him and people like him.  Against REAL injustice.  Against rape. Against abuse.

Women need a voice

I’ve had a lot of messages since my post about being raped.  Most said I am brave for talking openly. Too many were from women who have also been sexually assaulted.  

Why is it considered brave to talk about being raped?  It isn’t considered brave if someone talks about having their house broken into, their car stolen or being physically attacked. That is considered a fair response.  Someone did something totally wrong, against the moral code of society, and talking about it…. well, it keeps us all safer. Right?

The difference is shame.  There’s a stigma with rape.  A very wrong stigma. A stigma that says somehow the woman was at fault.  I believe this is part of the reason that women don’t speak up.

Women need a voice.  Women need to be believed. Women need to be treated better. 

There is so much talk towards women about being safe, not taking a drink from strangers, not wearing certain clothes, not being fun or flirtatious.  No matter what you wore, drank or laughed at – it was not your fault.

I think the reason I can talk about my experience is partly due to the fact that I was on my way to my Dad’s funeral.  Relevance? I looked HORRIBLE!! Sadly, had it happened when I was dressed cute and ‘feeling sexy’, I would have blamed myself and not been able to share so openly. 

When I was raped, I looked like hell.  I looked at least 20 years older than I am. I had been crying for 3 days straight.  

Women need a voice.  It’s hard for women to speak up about the things that have happened to them, because, as women – and society – we blame ourselves where no blame is due.  

If you looked horrible or if you looked hot, if you were young or if you were old, if you knew the person or didn’t…. it was NOT your fault.

Women need to be supported in sharing their stories, so that ten years from now, if someone shares a story, they don’t have the same number of friends contacting them because they experienced the same thing.  Abuse thrives in secrecy, and dies in honesty




The Reality of Trauma – Loss and Rape

This blog started out as a blog to inspire positivity.  The name itself ‘Dream and Pursue’ is reminiscent of dreaming big, following those dreams and making them a reality.   I started it shortly after I separated, and I believed that. I believed anything was possible. Sometimes, people would tell me different, even friends I deemed close, but I believed I was smart.  I was motivated. So long as I focused on the positive, worked hard and let that infiltrate my being, I’d succeed and be happy.

It worked, for a while.  

The problem with life is that we don’t have control over it.  As much as we’d like to. And as much as I always believed ‘You create your own destiny’

Sometimes things happen that are completely out of your control.  And they can shake you, change you, to the core.

In the end of August, my Grandma died, My Dad died, I was raped – violently, by a complete stranger – on my way to my Dad’s funeral, and then my best guy friend committed suicide a couple of weeks later.

I went into shock.  I was able to focus on my Dad’s funeral and my family while I was home – somehow decompartmentalising the rape (although I did go to the pharmacy and get a morning after pill, and googled like crazy when I was alone – there was no emotion attached).  I even came home to Ireland and went to the British Hairdressing Awards – I probably drank more than I normally would, but I was happy and in full on hostess mode. I went back to work, but my memory started failing me. I wasn’t functioning well at work.  I did have a job that was high-demand, and I had previously thrived in that. One day, on my way to work, I drove past the Cork Rape Crisis Centre.

I thought to myself, “I should probably be tested for STD’s”. It was a practical thought.  Again, no emotion. I carried on to the office, and when the work-day was done, I phoned them.  I don’t even remember the phone call, but I remember hanging up and bursting into tears.

Within the week, I took a leave of absence from work.  Although I remember my first visit to the rape crisis centre, while I waited for the therapist, I was working ‘like a boss’.  She came in, and said something like ‘look at you, taking over the world’. Part of me was still able to compartmentalise. That didn’t last long.

I didn’t even recognise myself.  I fell into such a dark place. Where I had always enjoyed dressing cute, getting my nails and eyelashes done, doing my makeup and hair.  All of a sudden, none of that mattered. Where I had always been outgoing and loved people, I became a hermit. Where I had always been career-driven, I didn’t even care if I had money for food.  I barely left my house, and when I did, I wore my sons’ sweatshirts and my gym pants – no makeup. Part of me didn’t care or have the energy, and part of me felt safer, not feeling attractive.

I’m six months in now – it’s March.  All of this happened in September (my Grandma and Dad dying within the last 10 days of August).  Most of this time has been spent ‘trying to get back to myself’. I still haven’t been able to focus on each individual event, or grieve properly.  I lost myself. I felt like my soul and personality were taken from my body, but my body was left, still living, but not.  

Sometimes I felt like I was subsisting – no emotions, just going through life.  Other times I felt incredible sadness and despair. Only recently, within the last 10 days, have I started to feel anger.  This is foreign to me, and scary. I have reacted in ways I wouldn’t normally.

Mind you, there are other things that have happened since those traumas.  I won’t go into them here, mainly for the sake of people I care for that would be affected.  But it has seemed like every time I have gotten my head above water, some ‘god’ or whoever controls the universe, was playing whack-a-mole with me.

I can’t handle stress like I used to.  Things that may have upset me pre-September, now send me into a very dark spiral.  OR the contrast, some things that would have normally upset me, I’m so detached from the last few months.  Like I don’t care about anything.

My son is missing part of his brain.  This might sound unrelated, but bear with me.  When I was pregnant, the doctors said he would die at birth, or if he lived, he would only live for a few days.  And yet, he lived. And thrived. He was seen by so many neurologists and specialists in the early days, but they eventually told me that my son was advanced for his age,and had they not had the brain scan, nobody may have ever known of his condition.  I told the doctor of all I had been reading online – it was all hopeless and dark. He told me, “Naomi, people write when they are desperate. When they are hurting. When things are going okay, people don’t go online. For the very reason that things are going ok”

I have been diagnosed with PTSD.  I’ve looked online for cases of people who have had PTSD and then reverted to their normal lives. I couldn’t find any.  I believe that is for the same reason my doctor told me years ago “When things are going ok, people don’t go online”

I haven’t yet made it to the end of the tunnel.  I’m not back to my pre-September self – although at times, I see glimpses.

But, I want to be two things – I want to help give women a voice, to de-stigmatise rape and trauma, and I want to be the source that shows ‘Thing can be okay – even amazing – despite hell”.  I don’t want it to be some shallow ‘positive thinking’ sense of okay. I want it to be real amazing. Despite real hell. I’m not there yet. But I invite you on my journey….

We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.

I am reading a book by Carl Jung at the moment, ‘Modern Man in search of a soul’. The book has impacted me, and caused me to read about Carl Jung.  One person wrote that the most common complaint his patients brought him is ‘I am stuck’ – mind you, this was in the time of the Great Depression, when people had big families and lost their work.  Stresses were real. Jung’s answer to getting out of this place of feeling stuck was to ‘play like a child’


This stirred something in me.  I have had a very difficult few months, battling severe depression and darkness that I didn’t know existed.  It has felt like my personality has been broken, or stolen. Like my soul was taken from my body and I was left with this shell.  This hermit-like subsistence that is so far from the ‘me’ I know. However, the happy moments I have had have all been when I was with my children – goofing around, playing, singing, dancing – or on holiday with my friend, also in a playful, holiday mode.


I’ve constantly been saying lately ‘I’m happiest when I’m with my children’.  This undoubtedly comes from the fact that I love them more than anything else in the world.  However, this ‘solution’ Jung offers to the dilemma of feeling stuck resonates, that it may also be because they play.  We play. They bring out the silly, fun side. Sometimes by conscious choice, because I don’t want them growing up with me the way I’ve been feeling the past months.  And that conscious choice to be silly, to laugh, to sing, to dance, to goof around – has made me genuinely happy in those moments.


This poses the thought that play is essential.  Vital. And motivates me to look for ways to incorporate play and fun in my every day life.


So ‘fun’ isn’t a frivolous diversion, but a necessary, vital part of life… or perhaps, path to life

The scariest week of my life

I had what I consider a life changing experience.  It was not fun and it was very scary.  But there’s always something about the difficult seasons in life that changes you for good.

I got a concussion.

This girl accidentally knocked me backwards off a platform – I fell straight back onto my head and cracked it open.  The days that followed were the scariest days of my life.  The first day I knew I wasn’t myself.  I felt confused.  Things that are commonplace to me were difficult and took far, far longer than normal.  The next day my speech was affected.  I wasn’t able to speak properly, and when I did speak, I would forget words or use words incorrectly.  I forgot some major things in my life, things about my kids which surprised and horrified me. Talking exhausted me – to the point my body would shut down and I’d need to sleep. It was like being teleported into the mind of a 95 year old.

I was sent to the hospital twice.  My brain scans and bloods came back clear and the doctor said though my symptoms are scary, they are very normal for concussion patients.  I was put on bed rest and told not to read or go on screens or do anything cognitively stimulating.  What the heck do you do on bed rest if you can’t read or go on screens?!  I’ve learned all too acutely that my walls need a fresh coat of paint!

When you are in something, it feels like it is going to last forever.  It’s a very powerless, very scary feeling.

I’ve learned:

  1.  How bad I am at active relaxation and this is something I am working to change.
  2. How grateful I am for my life, my kids, my friends, my career and my health
  3. This may sound like an echo to point number 2, but I learned how much I love my life. Every single thing about it.  The busyness, chaos, sometimes loneliness, the madness of cooking, cleaning and homework after working, peppered with random dance parties with my kids in the kitchen, work! I love my work!  The mediocre moments.  The fun moments.  The hard working moments.  The simple things like being able to drive to the shop to get groceries.  Or living relatively close to a beach.

Ultimately, having control over my life.  Over my own happiness and my own choices.  Some friends have laughed when I said that I was scared I would be in that state forever.  One friend, Melanie, took me to the hospital – twice.  Saw me at my worst and let me fall asleep on her shoulder.  She may be the only one to understand.  But that feeling of not being in control of my own mind – or speech – was terrifying.  For those few days – those few days that felt like an eternity – I wondered if I would ever be the same again.  I craved the moments I have previously complained about.  The challenges (challenges I only face in pursuit of my dreams), the normalcy, the simplicity of reading a book, or going hiking, or sitting at the beach, or cooking dinner, or whatever else day to day life throws at me.  My overthinking brain!

I love the life I have created.  Sometimes it’s not until you lose something – even for a few days – that you really appreciate it.



P.S. The image I chose doesn’t reflect the fear or powerlessness I felt over the past week.  In contrast, it reflects the fun, happy, carefree times, laughing with friends and enjoying life.  Moments I cherish and am grateful for the opportunity to have more of!  The photostrip format seemed somewhat nostalgic – and fitting.

Here’s to 2019

We are three weeks into January, so perhaps a little late to be saying Happy New Year, but I’ve been all go lately and feel like I’m just settling in to the new year and all it has in store.

I know a lot of people are sick of resolutions, because realistically, every day is a chance to start over and live the life you want.  I love that too – but there’s always something about starting a new year that makes me contemplative.

I was lucky enough to go home for Christmas and New Years.  I just really love being home, especially with my brother and sister-in-law… they are family but also two of my closest friends.  I would absolutely love to have them as part of my day to day life, but nonetheless, just being home and with family was so refreshing!  We spent a week with my Dad and were with him for Christmas.  His health has been bad lately, and seems to be getting worse.  So I really loved having the opportunity to be with him for Christmas and to see him so happy, surrounded by his Grandchildren.  Then we set off for my brother’s house – we had six kids in the house and three adults, so you’d think it would be mayhem, but everybody was just really happy and it was so relaxing and rejuvenating.  I feel like it was the very best way to start 2019!

However, I ate a lot of food and drank a lot of wine, so was scared to step on the scale when I returned home.  I gained a few pounds but felt like I doubled my size… which motivated me to start eating healthy.   I’m only a few weeks in, but I’ve been cooking more and experimenting more with food  – lots of veggies and proteins – and have eaten literally no sugar (except whatever sugar is in wine, as I love wine too much to give it up!)  It hasn’t been hard as I was expecting it to be, I’m enjoying it too much and feel really good.   Plus, when something special is on, I feel no guilt in splurging!  I haven’t been to the gym, but do aim to prioritise that.  I have been doing yoga in my house but it’s not the same… however, I like having goals.  I used to be such a gym bunny and I’d really like to get back to that place.  I just need to prioritise it as my life is very full!

Another goal is to write more.  I posted a short while ago that ‘I’m back’ and am conscious that I haven’t written publicly at all.  However, not a day has gone by where I haven’t spent time writing.  Writing, knowing no other eyes will ever see what I write, is so therapeutic for me.  It helps me to see things in a new light.  I understand things through writing, and feel empowered.  It gives me a new perspective.  Something happened in my life recently where I lost my center, lost my sense of self for a short while – I became more emotional and reactive, I felt hvulnerable and my confidence took a hit.  I didn’t respond gracefully and I didn’t like it.  But life is funny – just like gaining that weight in Canada motivated me to eat better than I have in ages (I’ve always eaten pretty healthfully but have a terrible sweet tooth), losing my center helped me to focus – and find it.  It made me conscious – and drove me to be better.

My business is going really well – I genuinely love what I do, I love every client that I have and feel very passionate about my work.  I have worked really hard the past six years especially to rebuild my career – I had stayed home with my kids for about 7 years before I separated.  It wasn’t easy, but it has been rewarding.  I can honestly say every step of it has been rewarding and I have had some amazing opportunities and experiences.   But now, I feel like I’m in my niche.  There are times where I wonder how to balance everything, and feel inadequate to do so, but overall, I genuinely love what I do and can’t be more thankful for the opportunity to do what I love, work on exciting projects, and have flexibility in my schedule.

I’ve needed that flexibility lately, so the timing has done well.  My son has been going through a difficult time.  He’s missing a part of his brain… we’ve known this since I was pregnant.  When I was pregnant, they thought he had a condition which was incompatible with life.  I remember back then, questioning if I would have the strength to deliver a baby who wouldn’t live but a few hours.  I remember holding him as a newborn, his face so incredibly perfect, and whispering ‘Please live – don’t leave me’.  And he did – he lived and thrived and grew and was totally asymptomatic most of his life.  For this reason, we didn’t even tell him he was missing part of his brain.  I didn’t want him to feel like he couldn’t do anything.  But over the past few years, some symptoms have manifested, and recently, they’ve been a bit debilitating.  To be fair, of all the cases I have heard of, he is the most high functioning.  But his struggles lately have been very real, and I have had no clue how to give him real help.  This has left me feeling very powerless, as I have begged for help and knocked on every possible door I could find in regards to getting support.  His condition is incredibly rare.  I read somewhere there are between 2 – 5 cases in Ireland.  His Dad has taken some time the last couple of weeks to work with him, and my son has responded very well.  It’s hard for me not to be able to offer the same, however, I am incredibly thankful he is responding well to his Dad and starting to turn a corner.  He’s such a great kid.  He can be so manly and so witty sometimes, and other times, struggle so much.  I guess that could sum up puberty in general!  But seriously, finding help for such an unknown condition – and not knowing what to do myself – has been hard.  The silver lining is that it has helped my ex and I to co-parent in a stronger way, and I credit him that he has stepped up to the plate the last few weeks as I genuinely was at a loss.

On a personal level, I got a new car!  The perfect combination of cute and practical.  I’ve taken a break from dating for a couple of months – this may sound like a simple decision but I have to say, I feel that it is really empowering and freeing and exactly what I need at this stage in life.  Perhaps a bit of an oxymoron, as I genuinely would like to find someone with whom I share a magic connection to have something real.  But at this particular stage in my life, I’m relishing in my singlehood and focusing on me.  (Well, my kids, my career and me 😉 )  I’m reading more – I’ve always loved reading but have let it slip the past couple of months.  I’m traveling more – both with work and for pleasure.  Traveling is one of my favourite things in life!  I just love new experiences and adventures, trying new things and going new places.  I’m enjoying my friends.  Overall, I feel incredibly happy with my life and believe 2019 is going to be a fantastic year!

Despite all the challenges life may throw, I hope all of you feel your strongest, happiest, most fulfilled selves!

I’m back…

It’s been a long time since I have written on here.  In fact, I pretty much forgot about this blog until a few months ago when someone mentioned it to me and asked why I stopped writing.

This blog was therapeutic for me in my first years after my separation.  I was intentionally taking action to be the person I wanted to be, to live the life I wanted to live.  I wrote openly – both in this blog, and even more so privately.  I’ve had people tell me this blog reads like a journal.  Perhaps I am too open.  But this is who I am, and this is who I want to be!

Life can harden you.  I’ve felt this within myself lately – it sometimes feel like the only way to get ahead is to emotionally detach yourself. And that very well may be true.  But I don’t want to.  I want to be soft.  I want to be real.  I want to hope.  I want to believe in the good.  Even if I never get what I could get by being emotionally withdrawn, this is something that is part of me… and important to me.  Never lose yourself to get something.  It’s just not worth it.

Nonetheless, this blog was a catalyst for me.  I love to write and when I write, I see things in a different light.  This blog enabled me to do that.  In all it’s ‘rawness’

But the last few months I found myself falling into survival mode – working like a beast, spending time with my kids, spending time with my friends…but not really spending time on me!

So here I am again – I love to laugh, I love to have new adventures, to live new experiences, to write, to workout, to dance, to read.  And this post is really my public acclimation that I am back.  I purpose to laugh more, go on more adventures, intentionally try more new things, write more, dance again, workout more and read more.  To prioritize the things that make me, me.

Life Changing Lessons from a Fish

Ever have days where you feel like you just can’t make it?  You have dreams and goals, but they just seem out of reach?  Ever want to be a better version of yourself than how you currently feel?

Let me tell you about the African Cychlid Fish. There are two varieties of the male species, the T and NT fish.  The T fish is an alpha male sort, he is bright blue or yellow with striking black bands near his eyes.  He is well endowed, attractive to the female fish and dominates his territory with pride.

 T fish

The NT fish, in contrast, is a dowdy grey, very similar to the female.  He is infertile with shrunken testes, and hides lurking in the shadows.

NT fish

The amazing thing is that NT fish have been known to become T fish.  It isn’t a caterpillar/butterfly thing, it’s not a stage or right of passage. However, it’s possible.  This often happens when an NT fish takes the territory that was previously dominated by a T fish, for whatever reason.  The first change is in the brain – the brain actually changes!  And then, the body follows, the dawdy grey is replaced by a vibrant blue or yellow, the previously shrunken testes are now well endowed – and fertile.

This is such a fabulous analogy of life, and the power of the mind.  I am a firm believer that we create our own reality -both through our mindset and our actions.  The two are intrinsically intertwined.  The NT fish physically transformed by changing his mind, how much  more is possible for us as complex humans?  Everything that we are, everything we do, everything we say is a result of mindset.  And action.

It is an action that triggers the burst in brain growth and physical transformation. Though the bright colours favour the T fish as the Alpha Male among the females, it also makes them more noticable to hungry predators.  Occasionally, a bird will sweep down and take a T fish for his lunch, leaving his territory free.  When an NT takes actual action to move into this territory, THEN, his brain is triggered and his life, as well as appearance, is changed.

The trick is owning one’s mind.  We all have the power to adjust our view point on life.  Have you ever had a really bad day, and then something wonderful happened, and instantly your mood changed?

There are certain triggers we all have.  Gratitude is incredibly powerful.  As are recognising our achievements and accomplishments.  It’s a matter of changing your perspective. And it’s also a matter of stepping into that role.  Acting like the person you want to be.  Working on your goals and dreams – putting in the sweat and fighting the obstacles that stand in your way, carrying on when you feel like you can’t.  And every once in a while, the obstacles seem bigger than you can handle and you feel yourself starting to fade back to a dull lustreless grey… and then you just keep acting like that T fish.  Step into it in your actions and make it your reality.  Other times, you will be presented with an opportunity that feels way bigger than you.  Yes, you’ve worked, you’ve dreamed, you’ve put in the hours, but now that it’s in front of you… can you do it?

The key to success is the marriage of mindset and action.  Own that territory you T-fish! Even if it scares the caviar right out of you!

A personal rant about what it’s really like to be a woman in business

I love my business.  I only just started, but I’m doing what I love and it’s going amazing.  But something happened this week that made me question everything.  If you are a man reading this, it may sound like a stupid or insignificant thing.  If you are a woman, perhaps you will understand.  That may sound sexist, but it’s not.  

The truth is, there are differences between men and women and the challenges we face in life and business.  Men who are accepting of women and respectful of people may be blind to this.  The tide is changing and there are more women in business.  That fact is accepted.  But the reality is quite different.

I went to Dublin earlier this week to cover a conference.  While there, I lumped together as many meetings as possible.  One of my meetings was with a man I had previously met with twice.  I had submitted a strategy and proposal, so since he wanted to meet, I naturally assumed it was to close the deal – or perhaps discuss some tweaks before closing.  

In reality, he had entirely different intentions.  He started off praising my work.  We met over dinner, and as the meal continued he alternated between far too forward adoring comments to completely condescending and degrading ones.  Often in the same sentence – “When I first met you I thought you were far too hot to work with… but you’ve gained weight”, “I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it, most girls haven’t”.   He actually had the audacity to ask me outright if he could come back to where I was staying.  I told him emphatically no.   I’m intentionally toning down his comments as to write them would be inappropriate.  Despite his horrendous behaviour, he is married.  I left and he said he would help me find a cab, I thanked him and got in… to my horror, he got in the back.  He and the cab driver started engaging in conversation which is terribly degrading to women.  When the cab arrived to where I was staying, I got out and was horrified when a few minutes later he comes running up behind me.  I asked him what he was doing and called him another cab using Hailo, which is thankfully very timely.  He turned to get in the cab and I went inside and closed the door.  Minutes later he starts banging on my door, calling and texting.  I ignored him, but was quite shaken.

As ill fate would have it, he was an attendee at the conference I covered. I was speaking with a gentleman, and he brought coffee for me, which I refused, and then in front of the other gentleman made some comment about us being together the night before, giving a completely wrong impression.  As slapping such people only works in movies, I abruptly excused myself and went as far away as possible.

I can’t describe how this all affected me, but I felt horrible.  Violated.  I started questioning everything – questioning if I could actually handle this, running a business as a woman.  I certainly didn’t want to be treated like that again.  I questioned my personality – I know I am friendly, I laugh a lot and am outgoing, perhaps I shouldn’t be so friendly?  I questioned my appearance  – perhaps I shouldn’t dress in clothes I find cute or keep myself the way I do.  And I questioned quitting.  I looked at job openings.  I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this.  

It’s a bit ironic, as I had gotten into a couple of conversations recently where men (whom I love and respect) were saying that they didn’t see a difference to the challenges that men and women face, they didn’t think women should receive special support in business and felt the journey and challenges of business are essentially the same, regardless of gender.  

The thing is, I understand where they are coming from.  The men I spoke with are incredibly accepting, friendly and respectful people.  They treat women the same as they treat men, in the sense that we are equals.

It reminds me of a time when I lived in Pennsylvania.  I was at the shop with one of my friends who happened to be black.  That fact is completely irrelevant to anything except the point of this story, as diversity is the spice of life, be it skin colour, personality, background or personal interests.  She was a really fun and engaging person who had that unique gift of making people laugh.  One day, we were at a shop and the cashier was very warm and friendly with me, but treated my friend horribly.  She was icy and rude and condescending and made completely inappropriate racist remarks.  I turned to my friend in complete horror – I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears!  My friend just shrugged “It happens all the time”  

I had been friends with this girl for years and yet I was completely oblivious to the fact that racism was still a thing!  Of course, you read horrible stories in history or expect it in the deep south, but never in my life had I witnessed the reality that racism still exists! (Until I moved to the South, but that is an entirely different story!)

I think this is the same with the struggles we face as women.  The people who are most supportive of women in business, are also the most unaware of the secret challenges.

Part of that is our fault.  I can personalise this with what happened on Wednesday.  I didn’t want to tell anybody what happened, as I felt completely ashamed.  I felt somehow he treated me that way because of my personality or the way that I keep myself or what-have-you.  As women, we can be hardest on ourselves.  We internalise and take blame, where no blame is due.  We question ourselves and our motives, wanting to do everything honorably.  When we do, we question if we made the right decision.

At the conference, we created a video.  We wanted soundbites from conference attendees.  We interviewed the first two men we asked.  I had to ask four women before I found one who agreed to be interviewed!  And she was one of a group of four, and the only one in the group that said yes… if with hesitation!   In other words 2 out of 2 men took an opportunity to increase their profile, and one out of 8 women took the same opportunity.  Why is that?

The day after the conference, I met with a lady whom I respect and admire greatly.  She is a successful businesswoman and she helped me with some practical solutions to challenges I was facing.  She listened to me, brainstormed with me and gave me some new ideas.  I felt restored and motivated.  I’m sure a man could have given me the same advice, but in light of the previous days, I found strength in the fact that this woman is friendly, outgoing, beautiful, dresses nicely, and is intelligent and successful.  She’s faced incredible challenges and fought battles to get where she is today.  

As people on a quest to live our best lives and reach our dreams, we will all face challenges and setbacks.  As women, we face unique challenges.  I find huge strength in the support of other women on similar journeys.
So, if you are a woman on a quest to live your best life, don’t let anybody steal your sparkle! And if they try, it’s a reflection on them, not you.  Much of our success is in our own confidence – it starts in our own minds.  Women are notorious for putting themselves down… stop!  Own the person you want to be and keep going in the direction of your dreams!

“You’re too pretty to be single”

“You’re too pretty to explore life”

Of course nobody would use those words.  How about “You’re too pretty to take time for yourself, to do what you love, to work towards your dreams, to explore new interests”

Chances are you won’t be hearing those words either.

But there is a phrase I’m sure every single girl over the age of 25 has heard more times than they can count: “You’re too pretty to be single.”

I understand this is meant as a compliment.  It’s always irked me.  First of all, I’m not a piece of merchandise sitting on a shelf.  The fact that I am single has nothing to do with my desirability.   I’m personalising this, but the message is true for anybody – if a person is single, it doesn’t mean they are less than desirable.  In fact, I have a lot of respect for people who don’t NEED another person as validation to their own identity.

Being single isn’t a bad thing.  I was married for 12 years.  I got married quite young and have been single for the last three.  Being single is fun.

Of course, I’m a romantic at heart and in love with love.  One day I would definitely like to meet somebody amazing, but in the meanwhile, I’m pretty happy shaping my own amazing life and identity.

There’s a flip side to single life that nobody talks about.  You get to meet new people.  I have met so many people and made some really wonderful friends whom I imagine I never would have gotten to know if I wasn’t single.  Friends of both genders – your relationship with your girl friends is much different when you are single, and in addition to meeting some pretty cool guys, I’ve forged some strong friendships with other single women.

Along this same vein, by living my own life, meeting new people and dating a few guys, I have gained a clearer vision of what I like, how I want to be treated, what qualities matter most and the dynamic I would like to have whenever I do embark on the adventure of a relationship.

When you’re single as a… hmmm… how to identify myself… a 30 something (closer to 40 than 30!), it’s quite different than being single at 20.   The fact that I have kids and have already been married also changes the dynamic.  I’m quite picky.   But the cool thing with that is I actually LIKE everybody I’ve ever dated (including my ex-husband).  So many people speak with such disdain for their exes.  I am friends with all the guys I’ve dated.  I wonder if that would be true if I were so eager to be in a relationship that I didn’t value myself and wasn’t happy in my own skin.   They say in business, what you say ‘no’ to is more important than what you say ‘yes’ to.  The same applies for relationships.  When you are happy in your life and really enjoy your life, you’re happy to hold out for the people you really respect, admire and share a certain spark of magic with.

I’ve had a few incredible ‘stories’ in my single life.  Like the time I had a layover in London and met an American businessman – it played out like a typical rom-com.  He showed me around London, took me to the touristy sites and out for the best sushi in the world. Then I took the subway back to the airport to catch my plane.  Or the time I was in Italy and got my heel stuck in the cobblestone as I was crossing the street.  I looked up and saw a man who looked like he stepped out of a Gucci magazine ad coming towards me.  He helped me with my luggage and took the day off work to show me around Rome.  I’ve had similar movie-like connections here in Ireland, but if I tell those stories, somebody may recognise who I’m talking about!  The point is, there is a freedom and magic about single life.

A guy friend was recently telling me about a wedding he attended.  He said how much he appreciated his girlfriend, because at some point she was tired and decided to go home – telling him to have fun and enjoy the rest of the night.  He said he felt really lucky because many of his guy friends have what he calls “The fun quota” – he said it’s like they are allowed to have a certain amount of fun but if it’s not fully involving their partner, there is a limit.

Us singles don’t have to deal with that!  Yet another bonus to single life is the freedom to spend your time as you wish.  If you want to stay at a wedding party until the end, you do.  If you want to work from 8 am to 11 pm, you do.  If you want to drink a protein drink for dinner and don’t feel like cooking, you don’t cook.  If you want to take an impromptu trip somewhere, you do.

I know being in a relationship is magical and wonderful too.  Being single and in a relationship may sound like opposites… but they are both good!  There are wonderful, magical and beautiful moments to be enjoyed, whatever your relationship status!  Enjoy whichever season you happen to be in.