Never sell your hen on a rainy day. Or yourself for that matter!
You will never give a good impression at such a time.
Though it is thought that the best writing comes from those bedraggled days and I have tried, for the sake of mine, to spend some time lurking in the dark side of my life.
But I never manage to stay there for long. After a short time I have scrambled out into the sun again.
You could call me a failed pessimist.
Recently one of my readers made a remark that got me thinking.
DO I write too much of happiness and good deeds and warmheartedness?
Are my posts, though true incidences, too (oh how a writer dreads this word) SENTIMENTAL.
So I thought maybe it is time to give you a glimpse of the part of my life I avoid talking about.
Not my illness and recovery.
They are things I wear patriotically, like a flag of war.
I talk about them in an almost boastful way.
‘Cancer’ I say, ducking my head in false modesty. ‘Oh yes, been there, done that. It was nothing really’ (Oh wonderful me is the message I give)
‘Oh don’t praise me’ I cry. ‘Anyone could do the same’ I shout as though it was some sort of competition.
No! I am talking about where I have failed in love.
But please do not feel sorry for me that I am divorced.
I instigated it!
And don’t feel sorry for me that I was rejected a few times.
It was just bad choice on my part.
And please admire my continued and unceasing ability for choosing unsuitable men.
It is a habit of mine.
I was never any good at love to start with. I never learnt to flirt or to play any games of the mind.
I was too undemanding, too joyous, and definitely not mysterious enough.
I didn’t just wear my heart on my sleeve, I wore it around my neck and everywhere else besides.
But neither was I desperate. I did attract many males and quite unselfconsciously too
Without any hard work on my part they came, maybe not in their hundreds, but there were a fair few.
My cousin who is also my best friend and whom I used to hang out with then and still do, kept count and even remembered names and the places where I met them.
She is good at that. We often reminisce over a glass of wine about our childhood and teenage years.
She will mention the ones who ‘liked’ me.
‘Really? I look amazed ‘I had no idea’.
And I HAD no idea. I wasn’t good at picking up the signals.
Later, when I started working, and while other nurses were choosing their future husbands from the line of young doctors who came our way and were already saving for houses, I was saving for a new bike or a tent or a sleeping bag so I could cycle off exploring and camping in the wilds.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in men (I hooked up with some handsome foreign ones on my cycles) It was just that I had no interest in settling down.
And talking of foreign ones I noted that I never dated an Irish boy in those earlier years. They were always french or german or english and once even american. It was a crafty plan on my part. I could escape them easily if things got too serious.
‘Ooops sorry I have to go home’ I would say hopping on a train or a ship or a plane.
I probably broke a few hearts too.
But back to my divorce.
People remarked when it was over ‘You’ve just been through a divorce! How come you look so happy’?
My answer to that was ‘If you had been in prison for twenty years and had just got out, you would be happy too’
‘If it was like a prison why didn’t you leave before now?’ An assertive friend might ask incredulously.
And I would reply:
‘Because nothing is that simple. Because the mind is a funny thing and self doubt funnier. Because if the stronger is able and so wishes, He can play on the doubts of the gentler. And moulding and weaving the mind so that over the years the gentle becomes less sure and more confused. And it may take some large upheaval in the household. The moving away of children to university for example, to jolt the gentler out of their stupor and cause them to pack a bag and without looking over their shoulder at the house which was for so long their home, to walk down the boreen to the lake one last time and catch a ride to the local solicitors office. And though doubts may cross the mind many times as to what is the best thing to do once the ball is put motion and made to roll there is no going back’.
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
I would add that it had none for the scorned man either and to cut a long story short things got worse before they got better.
And I sort of went into hiding.
My sister was the first to give me sanctuary.
After lending me money to buy a car, she offered me a roof over my head till I found a place of my own.
She and her husband Live in an old workhouse which they have renovated into a superb living and working space.
They are artists who work late into the night.
I am a nurse who due to my early start goes to bed early.
So I asked If I could sleep in one of the stone outbuildings away from the noise of music and paint brushes and other artists who came a calling deep into the night.
My sister wasn’t at all happy but I assured her this is what I wanted.
Eventually she conceded and put in a bed, a locker and a lamp and made it really cosy.
When I woke in the early hours that first morning, the swallows were flying in and out through the gaps in the roof.
As I watched them, tears of self pity rolled down my cheeks.
How had I, a professional person, so good at taking care of others, ended up sleeping in a barn with holes in the roof?.
It was my moment of enlightenment. I had nowhere to go from that moment but up.
And that is what I did. I dried my eyes and got on with my life.
I was going to write a book called ‘moving house five times in a toyota starlet’ but I didn’t have the time.
I was too busy moving house five times in that starlet.
Despite its size, the little car held a lot and I became a common site driving around the country roads with pot plants and chair legs and my artists easel sticking out through the open windows as I sat squashed up against the steering wheel, sometimes mistakenly grabbing a pot handle instead of the gear stick and hoping I wouldn’t meet a herd of cows as at any moment a set of dishes was likely to slide under the brake pad.
One of the loveliest place I found us to live was a wooden house with big windows at the edge of and perched above a bay
It was so close to the water that I could have thrown a stone in from my chair.
The bay was filled with submerged sand banks which were revealed at low tide.
These banks were the playing grounds for seals, whose antics, especially of the younger ones kept me enthralled for hours on end.
As the larger seals lay sunning themselves on the sand, the younger ones showed off cavorting .
Diving and throwing themselves against the tide in a ‘look at me’ way, they cruised up and down in front of their lazy elders.
When their high spirits became too much, one of the bigger bull seals would raise himself from his stupor and propel himself off the sandbank with agility that belied his size and with a mighty splash would give chase.
I was already planning another book after the unwritten toyota one called ‘ A seal swam by my window’.
One day I was doing some sketching in the sun room that looked out across the bay and I saw the smoke of a fire curling up from behind a hill.
I had just got a mobile phone so I picked it up and pressed some numbers.
‘I can see the smoke from your fire from here’ I said excitedly.
‘Come over for a coffee so’ said my friend.
That was the day I thought, this is what normal people do and realised I had lost my sense of what normal was.
But I also knew that I was slowly finding my way back again.
I got out my bike and cycled around the bay and down the hawthorn filled laneway to her house.
Another day I was sitting in my usual seat watching the seals when I saw two canoes making their way across the water. Appearing and disappearing as they navigated their way around the sandbanks.
Realizing they were making for my house, I went down the rickety wooden steps to the shore curious to see who they were.
Friends who had heard about my divorce were coming on a celebratory visit across the bay with a damp cake and a bottle of wine.
Interestingly my divorce hadn’t left me traumatized and man hating.
Far from it. I still loved male company but was just too busy to date again.
And to tell the truth a little scared!
What if I met someone like my ex husband?
But one day I bit the bullet and went in search of a man.
It was my year of online dating
And oh joy of joy I met someone!
But once again I too joyous, too happy, not mysterious enough?
Because nine months later to be precise (yes I counted them)
He broke up with me.
I cried like a teenager for 21 days. Tears dropping on my diary. The ink smudging as I purged my heart on paper
But it was cycling that cured me, Pedalling and painting and writing.
And my daughters.
Ah hell hath no fury than the fury of daughters whose mother has been scorned.
‘How could someone not love you’ My eldest daughter said indignantly. ‘Don’t worry there will be someone else’.
‘Mom you have had a lucky escape’ was the diagnosis of my younger daughter. ‘Don’t worry there is someone for you out there’.
And they were both right.
Because well…..thats another story
So there you have it.
I hope this post was dark and gloomy and unsentimental enough.