Olivia O’Leary: The only currency in your life is time, don’t let others dictate it

The Women’s Podcast Nollaig na Mban special features music, chat and epiphanies from three wise women

Guests at The Women’s Podcast Nollaig na Mban event from left to right Simone George, Clara Rose Thornton, Roisin Ingle and Olivia O’Leary. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Guests at The Women’s Podcast Nollaig na Mban event from left to right Simone George, Clara Rose Thornton, Roisin Ingle and Olivia O’Leary. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

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“When you get older, you realise that the only currency you have in your life is time, and if you are allowing other people to dictate your time, you’re handing out the most precious thing in your life. And I’m not going to do it anymore,” broadcaster and journalist Olivia O’Leary told Roisin Ingle in the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast.

“Women are brought up to please people. I don’t remember my mother saying, ‘Tell them all to get stuffed and do what you like.’”

O’Leary said she spent much of her life pleasing people and saying yes, until she “got to a stage where I didn’t have time to wash my knickers”.

Her epiphany was learning to say “no”, and she spoke about it during a live event on Nollaig na mBan, or Women’s Christmas.

Traditionally a day off for women after the work that went into Christmas Day, Nollaig na mBan falls on January 6th, known in the Christian calendar as the feast of the epiphany.

O’Leary joined two other wise women to talk about epiphanies in their lives: lawyer and activist Simone George and spoken word artist and broadcaster Clara Rose Thornton.

George told the story of an accident that paralysed her fiancé, the blind athlete and adventurer Mark Pollock, four weeks before their planned wedding in 2010. She took a year off work to care for him and had “an acute identity crisis”.

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“As a woman born in the 70s you’re encouraged to value yourself based on competing in the workplace and your profession and your intellectual capability. The minute caregiving comes into it, it isn’t valued in the same way,” she said.

Her epiphany was realising “there is a great power in two, and that power is there only if one isn’t standing behind the other”.

Now, when she hears the adage, “Behind every great man there’s a great woman,” she says: “You get far more done if you stand side by side”.

The pair are working to find a cure for spinal injury.

An epiphany for Thornton was realising “you just can’t be nice to everyone”.

“Women are taught to be accommodating – we’re taught to be nice. Men are taught to go through the world strong and with tunnel vision, head down,” she said.

“That’s being a boss. That’s being respectable. But you know what? We can do that too.”

Also in the episode, journalist-turned-stand-up comedian Maxine Jones talked about how turning 60 prompted her to start navel gazing, a “joke in the west” yet “recognised by cultures and philosophers elsewhere as the source of the soul and the centre of all life energy”.

The podcast also features live music by The Evertides, a three-part harmony group of classically-trained musicians.

The Women’s Podcast question of the week is in keeping with the theme: What are your own epiphanies or “a-ha” moments?

Listeners are invited to tweet their answers to the question of the week @ITWomensPodcast, post to our Facebook page or email thewomenspodcast@irishtimes.com.

Individual episodes of the podcast are available on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher and on irishtimes.com.

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