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Out there - Coping with life in the emotional jungle

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Around 2,600 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year

Around 2,600 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year

Around 2,600 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Ireland every year

I have a date with the doctor. I wake up early on Saturday morning feeling rested. I scamper to the mirror and see a pair of bright eyes shining with hope staring back at me. I feel very proud of myself.

No, of course I don't. Instead I pull the towel I have tied around my eyes away and squint in horror. I slouch towards the bathroom mirror. The ball looking back at me isn't skin colour or face shape. It tastes like an animal slept in my mouth.

I am late to meet friends at a stupidly busy food market crammed with tourists photographing pigs on spits and lining up to buy overpriced sausages. Everywhere you look it's pig, pig, pig. Finally we find a non-pigmeat option and organic cider that tastes just like regular cider, only flat. Despite my foul mood, my friends make me laugh.

At 4pm I leave them to have a disco nap. At 8pm, dressed for a night out but fit for bed, I am sitting under a tree waiting for the doctor. He arrives and frowns at the cigarette in my hand. "I'm in a bad mood", he announces. I consider saying something sexy like, "let's see what I do to make it better", but then I realise I'm not Sharon Stone and stop myself. He leads the way to a bar and I prance after him like a remote control toy trying to negotiate cobblestones in heels. Inside the bar things do not improve. He barely touches his drink, I knock mine back. The conversation is stilted. When things turn awkward I suggest we leave.

Outside, the taciturn doctor suddenly feels talkative. "After our first date" he explains, "I felt you were girlfriend material, but now I'm not so sure". His mouth keeps moving but I tune out. I'm fascinated by what 'girlfriend material' means. Does it involve a series of tests, like seeing how kind you can be to elderly aunties at weddings? Or your ability to decorate pies freehand or how sympathetic you sound on the phone when your boyfriend gets locked out of the house? He keeps talking but I decide to walk away. I might not be girlfriend material, but I'm no bloody doormat.

Katy Harrington

My parenting skills questioned once more

It would appear I've made a complete bags of it all. According to my kids, that is. I was sitting watching telly with my son the other day. The one who moved out six months ago and still comes home to wash and dry his clothes every weekend.

Anyway, we got to chatting about the rather feisty relationship he had with his siblings when they were small. He seems to have a selective memory. As did my daughter when I called her in to vouch for my parenting skills. She sided with him more than I expected. Seemingly if somebody came to me with a complaint, I put my head in my hands and moaned. "Oh Jesus, Jesus, I've been out at work all day. Just leave me alone and settle your own fights". They would both win awards for mimicry. And that's the reason they thumped each other. My inability to sort them out as well as cook a meal, make lunches, get uniforms ready….

My daughter recalled at least five times in France when we had to stop at a garage to get green paper from the loo to wipe her bloody nose. The hardness of the paper has remained with her more than the bloody nose. She's prone to exaggeration. It happened once. As her brother rightly pointed out, we would have brought softer paper with us if it was a regular occurrence. She also bemoaned the knife throwing incident when a steak knife hit her in the chest.

Again from her brother. It would appear it was my fault again for allowing small children to eat with steak knives in the first place. He claimed we were making him out to be somebody who should have been in Mountjoy and his pugilistic tendencies were solely brought about by my lack of fairness. It seems he had no option but to resort to violence. I point out it would have been St Patrick's Institution for young offenders. My daughter denies she goaded him. It would appear they all have selective memories except me.

Now, if I was an unfair mother, why are they still hanging around?

Eleanor Goggin

It's so much harder to fake it after forty

Say what you will about social media, but it does facilitate the most amazing moments of chatty randomness. It was 7.15 am in Dublin, Beloved and the Girlchild were thumping around upstairs, having each waited as loooooong as possible in bed before they absolutely had to get up. I was in the kitchen with the hound, cooking breakfast and cobbling together lunch.  It was 1.15 am in Belize and my very loved friend of over 30 years was trying to sell furniture online prior to a move. And somehow, over thousands of miles and somewhere in between her furniture and my dropped scones, we were engulfed in an existential wave.

I remarked that it was weird at our (middle) age how many of us had got tetchy. Maybe, I posited, it was because we didn't like who we had chosen to be. Ah but, pinged back from Belize, are we who we chose to be or what we ended up being? My logic was that we choose tribes, types we want to be aligned with, hers was that sometimes life makes those decisions for us.

Perhaps not everyone dreams of being special, but a lot of people do and 35 to 40 is the average age of realising that you are ordinary. You might, of course, still get famous or rich or discover the secret of alchemy or whatever your particular dream of special is, but by 35 it's starting to feel unlikely. This is it. People deal with this relative bombshell differently.

There's usually some kind of mid-life crisis moment, the mild form is Zumba, the extreme form is abandoning your spouse and children, and then you decide to either make peace or make changes. That's sort of where we were going with people being who they had found themselves being or who they had decided to be. Fortysomething is the age of True Colours, it's when faking starts to get difficult. I don't know if we run out of steam or run out of delusion but finding it hard to fake to others is one thing, finding it hard to fake to yourself can be devastating.

But people still have to have breakfast.

Aine O'Connor

Sunday Independent