I have been a visual artist for over 35 years, a holistic practitioner for 7 years and am studying for a degree in psychotherapy. Writing has been a hobby for many years and books have been one of my greatest loves since I was a girl; I nearly burned the house down more than once, covering my bedside lamp with a towel so I could read past lights out. I could always get lost in books, they took me places I could only dream of. Now I have two half-finished books of my own which are begging to be finished and I feel that itch in my fingers to write and keep writing. Its the only way they are going to give me peace. I write articles and blogs about health and travel. I had a piece published in the Irish Times travel section. I don’t take my writing as seriously as I would like but I do know it is something I will always do and would like to get better and more confident at.
My current project is a memoir of when we left everything to go and live in Italy for two years with our two small children while I was suffering with post-natal depression. It is about the highs and lows of motherhood, moving countries and extremely unconventional psychotherapy methods. “Maybe it was mad. Maybe it was destiny. Plumping for the latter made it a lot easier to disappear off to a part of Italy that most people had never heard of, with two young children, four large suitcases and a lot more ideals than information. We were looking for an adventure – ‘la dolce vita’; the stuff you read about and see in films. What we found was a world of extremes and contradictions: fury and love, freedom and imprisonment, openness and narrow-mindedness, honesty and corruption, beauty and ugliness. We went from joy to bewilderment to despair and back to joy. And that was almost daily. We learned that two cultures both Catholic and both European can think and live as differently as they speak, but most importantly we learned that faith, love and trusting our instincts will always be rewarded, although perhaps not in the way we were anticipating.” (From Chapter 1)
Badmotherland – Letters From The Edge
52 The Lowlands
3rd March 2018
You don’t know me but I feel like I know you. Forgive the presumption in writing you this letter but after reading your diaries at least ten times each (and watching your films which I don’t enjoy quite as much) I feel that we are definitely kindred spirits of a sort in that we both like writing down and sharing our thoughts. Also we seem to have lives which are potentially brilliant but with a tendency to go a bit pear-shaped (a bit like ourselves in the figure department if you don’t mind me saying so).
In fact apart from the fact that you live in London, ‘the big smoke’ as we call it, and I am here in Ballygobackwards in the West of Ireland I think we are quite alike in some ways; our healthy fullness of figure, what I’d call a positive nature and our ability to attract a handsome and decent man (although I have to say my Dermot would beat your fella hands down if you don’t mind me saying so and Bridget I’m a simple woman who wears Penney’s best but I’d like to think I have more sense than to wear some of those clothes.)
I’d love to sit down with you over a bottle or three of wine some evening and have a good old natter but it’s a long time since I had a social life and anyway London is a bit far from Galway. I would send emails but I can’t get my hands on the computer after 3pm when the kids get home from school and anyway I’m a great believer in hand-written communication. I love getting letters, don’t you?
You may be wondering what I wanted to write to you about. Don’t worry I’m not an obsessed fan; actually I didn’t really like you in the second film. That yellow dress was desperate. You’d put on an awful lot of weight, even for you. I’m glad to see from Empire magazine this month that you’ve copped yourself on and are keeping off those carbs, like myself.
Back to the reason for writing this. Well, the other night I had the TV to myself as they were all out watching a hurling match and I was home watching your first film and thinking back to my single days when my life was very like yours. The reason I thought of it was my pink cardigan. You may be thinking ‘what the hell is she on about’ but I’ll explain. Hang on – I’ve just remembered I have to put a wash on because my son has football later and there are no clean shorts… he’ll go ballistic.
I’ll throw this in the post and write again soon.
12th March 2018
Sorry its been so long since the last letter – I cant believe a whole week has gone by. Things went mad after I put the wash on – the dog came in covered in cow shite and I had to give her a bath. Then it was dinner time.
Anyway. Back to the reason for my letters. My dear Bridget, like myself I know you have taken the plunge and started a family. I’m glad it wasn’t that eejit who was the father but the lovely Mr. Darcy and I know it wasn’t planned but after all you’re no spring chicken and those eggs do have a ‘use by’ date. Why I’m writing is that I feel obliged to let you in on a secret which might be helpful – one which was kept from me as it is from every childless person. There is indeed a place beyond the edge of reason. I have visited…regularly. That place I call ‘Badmotherland’; it lies next door to madness, thin border dividing, no guards, easy to cross (especially at night). You know that song which goes ‘How did I get here?’ by that guy in the massive suit? ‘Stop making Sense’ I think it was called. You said it buddy – it stopped making sense a long time ago.
What got me going before I was interrupted was when my twelve-year old daughter walks into the kitchen looking like an Austin Powers glamour girl, wearing a pair of high-heeled beige suede boots with leather tassels – my boots. She’s wrapped in a hot pink cardigan with tasselled edge- my hot pink cardigan. The pink-rimmed sunglasses are her own. She looked amazing, Bridget, and it made me feel like crap.
I remember falling in love with that hot pink cardigan the minute I saw it. It was in a very expensive shop and cost me half a week’s wages but it was made for me. We sashayed together around the inside of most of the nightclubs and trendy pubs in Dublin for the final two years of the 20th century and drew admiring glances which we unfortunately hadn’t the good sense to ignore. Four G&T’s and sixteen years on and here I am Bridget, sitting at a kitchen table in Gort wearing a pair of boys army pyjama bottoms, a pink oversized t shirt which is fraying at the edges and a sloppy sweatshirt watching my daughter looking the essence of cool in my all-time favourite ‘Ain’t I cute’ cardigan that is the very reason she exists.
What I want to know Bridget is – how the hell did this happen?
‘Middle age’ was always something inevitable but far away in the distance– like the hills of the Burren from my house. I could see it out there but it never got any closer. Now all of a sudden I’m there, I’m on that line where everything’s blurry, but not because its far away, it’s because my eyesight is failing. I have to buy reading glasses. My silhouette is also more reminiscent of those distant mountains in the number of curves which seem to have trebled.
Hot pink when you’re young is a sassy ‘I’m a girl’, cheeky kind of colour. Now it’s more like the colour my face goes when carrying the weekly shopping, or worse still, the hue of hormonal mayhem.
On the outside I’m a baggy fraying t-shirt but on the inside I’m still that hot pink cardigan with the funky frill. I haven’t worn that cardigan outside the house in fourteen years. I’ve moved house ten times and filled at least thirty bags of clothes for charity in that time but the hot pink cardigan still hangs in my wardrobe. I can’t give it away. Maybe I’ll lose some weight, maybe I’ll start going out after 9pm again.
‘Can I have my cardigan back when you’ve finished, sweetheart?’ I asked her. Just in case she gets any ideas of keeping it, after all it’s not as if I don’t use it. It makes a lovely bedjacket in the winter.
I’m sure a successful journalist like yourself will still wear hot pink and look great even after having kids. Better than that yellow guna anyhow Bridget! Feel free to write back if you get a chance. You’re probably awful busy now being a working mother. My mother always says women were better off when they didn’t have any choices at all – what do you think?
Brigid (pronounced Breedge just in case you were wondering).