Times are a changin’ but they always were and always will.



As another year draws to a close, I will not be making any resolutions. I ‘should’ give up Gin, Facebook and Dorritos but my resolution last year was to give up the word ‘should’ so I’m sticking to that.

Actually I’m avoiding FB and Twitter as I’m overloaded with the whole World is Woe monologues that are currently on trend. That, and the happy Xmas shots with lots of false-fixed grins.

The world has turned upside down this year, but the world keeps turning all the same: the terrible predictabilities of Trump, Weinstein, and others; the ongoing balls up of Brexit; the lack of any decent support for people who don’t fit into the nice framework of normal people on Instagram – the refugees, the homeless, the shy.  Some things change, and some things stay the same…the thing is to keep moving.

I grew up in 1970’s and 80’s Belfast.  Every shopping trip involved a physical bag and body search (in every shop) and walking past soldiers with guns in tanks. Yes, that’s tanks. At the top of Great Victoria Street, the Belfast equivalent to Grafton Street.   Before heading into town, my mum and I would casually go over the plans in case there was the usual bomb scare and we got separated, as easily as we ran through the shopping list.  It was completely normal.  Yet look at the change.  I spent a weekend with a pal in Belfast as a tourist earlier this year, and the only shots going on where in the vibrant bars around me.

It used to take me four and a half hours to drive from Dublin to my parent’s house in Belfast, now it takes two. As a child, we used to be stopped at the border on our way to holiday in ‘The South’, searching flashlights waving over me in the back seat, checking I wasn’t a bomb; the boot opened, our holiday packing exposed for all to see; a soldier’s slap on the car roof letting us know we were ok to drive on.  Yet look at the change.  Now when I drive up the M1 and ‘cross into’ Northern Ireland, all I see are the trees and hills of the Cooley Mountains, beauty replacing the beast.

Change is happening all around. The #MeToo exposure is now as normal as bomb scare plans used to be. A year ago that would have been unthinkable. It’s taken a seismic Weinstein-shaped shift to awaken half our community to the fact that the other half have lived under pressure and fear as a normal part of life. Change is happening, some of it good and some of it bad.  But for the world to keep turning, a lot more has to change too.

I want my girls to grow up and not be groped by men who think it’s ok. I want their first kiss to be with an awkward, spotty boy who doesn’t know what he’s doing, rather than a middle aged man who has leered at her since she started her first Saturday job and then corners her one day, like mine was. I want change.

And while we’re at it, changing things for our daughters, I do not want their bodies to be used as forced incubators because this country doesn’t recognise the right for women to be able to choose their own reproductive experiences. I want change.

And some changes are more like natural progressions, transgressions of ageing and growing, but still needing to be embraced.

Once I was held hostage by screaming babies. Now they are pre-teens with full teen potential, they are holding me hostage in another way.  They are taking over my lounge… hogging the fire and watching crap TV when I want to keep them to that glorious bed-time routine of 7pm so I can indulge in great TV and drink Gin. The other night I left them to it, and went to bed with my laptop to watch Netflix with my electric blanket.   

I need to figure out the transition between a decade of parenting young children who have a strict and rigid bedtimes and who actually listen to me, and where there is a clear delineation between their time and my time, and now wanting to go to bed before my eldest has finished watching I’m a Celebrity.  I need to figure out how to carve out my space, and let them carve out theirs, without having too much distance with them.  For years, when I was married, I craved after Virginia Woolf’s Room of my Own to write. I have that now, although now I have growing kids, I need a Room of My Own to write, watch telly and think in peace!  So I did a Trump and built a wall. Only a small one, and Mexicans are welcome, but now they have a room and I have a room.  Sometimes change is necessary.  But building walls of any other sort are not the answer to change.

After years of hostility and pain, we were all finally able to enjoy a family Christmas in our new fractured family form (albeit it with me fortified on proscecco).  It was hard not to compare with the Christmases of old, but they had their problems too. My mum was present in her absence but she was there all the same.  No-one says change is easy.

This year has seen change for me personally too… amazing changes, painful changes, empowering changes.  I’ve got to the stage in my life where my balls are bigger than my breasts, and I feel that whatever winds of changes the next year brings, I’m hope I can embrace them, make them, strive for them, overcome them.

Way back when change was seen as a normal part of life Socrates said it best:  “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

I made a decision to live my life, and for better or worse, that means engaging. Sometimes there will be joy, and sometimes I will get hurt, but least I’m living, not retreating. As a recovering perfectionist, I have freed myself of boxing my life into bullet points and frames.

We spend so much of our lives trying to tick boxes until we arrive at The Day when we have it all worked out.  That day ain’t never coming.  Which is a great thing. Happiness isn’t a destination, its a state of mind. It comes and goes, and that’s ok. Life’s for living, and like all those stupid memes that tell us we deserve love and happiness I know that nothing actually happens for a reason… things just happen. And then you deal with them.  You survive change and you make change. Or you drift. That’s it.  Happy new year.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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