You will never get the ass you want, sitting on the ass you have,” quipped Trisha Lewis at our Women & Agriculture Conference in Sligo last week. The 600-strong crowd erupted into howls of laughter. Trisha’s weight-loss journey is being followed on Instagram by what she described as 80,000 close friends. Although Trisha was specifically talking about exactly what she referenced (the size of her backside), these words could be taken as advisory in several aspects of life. By that I mean to achieve something you have to take that first step and take action and a personal responsibility for your own future.
Trisha was just one of many speakers to make the audience laugh. Our own Mairead Lavery’s description of her career journey also encouraged a belly laugh on many occasions. However, there were also some very poignant moments that led to tears and not laughter.
Dr Eddie Murphy of Operation Transformation fame asked the audience could they identify the five basic human emotions. These are fear, sadness, disgust, anger and joy. I am sure that even if someone couldn’t name them when asked, they most certainly will have identified with the feelings over the course of the day. When he asked the question, I immediately though of the Pixar film Inside Out. In this children’s movie, which makes me cry every single time I watch it, the five major emotions live in the mind of a pre-teen girl called Riley. Throughout the movie, the emotions personified as different coloured characters all work to guide and protect her. Although it may appear that these are mostly negative emotions, the movie points to how they are all equally as important as each other. And when Vicky Phelan spoke from our stage, at various points, I felt them all.
I felt fear of getting sick in this country. I felt sadness for all the people that have suffered as a result of the cervical check scandal. The Taoiseach’s apology was played in advance of Vicky’s talk and he referred to “our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. To the men who lost the centre of their lives and the single fathers and grandparents. To the children who will always have a gaping hole in their lives”. I felt sadness for my own family, who lost Brig, a sister and daughter from cancer, perhaps never to know what role her misdiagnosis played.
I felt disgust in our health service for the lack of accountability and I felt anger that the State failed to act. But Vicky herself says she feels happiness. Although psychologists say that joy and happiness are not the same thing. What she described is both – happiness being an emotion that is externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places and events. She has found happiness from helping people. Joy, they say, comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are. I don’t know how else to describe Vicky’s statement that although she is terminally ill, she has found a meaning in her life through this campaign.
I started with Trisha and I will finish with Trisha – her Instagram page is called Trisha’s Transformation and I think that the conference was transformative. A lady attending said to me: “I retired yesterday and I couldn’t think of a better conference to be at today to inspire my next steps.” And that comment – that brought me joy.