This week, I am learning how to be peaceful again. I’m trying to remember how it feels not to go about my daily life being hit by random waves of anxiety (some small, others that absolutely took my breath away) wondering whether Ireland would vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment and granting bodily autonomy to those of us in possession of a uterus. Even though we did do so last Friday (by an incredible margin), I have still found myself struggling to break out of the under-siege mentality that I and many others have been living through for the past few months.
Little by little, the judgemental campaign posters are disappearing from our streets and the news cycle is beginning to move on to other subjects – as it always does – but I’ve found that I must constantly remind myself that I can now relax. I need not continue to dwell in the debilitating state of anxiety that has become achingly familiar to me. I need not relive every single incident of misogyny and disrespect that I’ve ever experienced in this country, fearing that this dark undercurrent within our society will overwhelm our basic sense of compassion. It didn’t. We have gained our autonomy. We are free.
This week, I’m trying to regain my own sense of self: to remember who I was before the referendum campaign began. This has been a common refrain among Repeal supporters and campaigners over the last few days. So much of our mental and physical energy has gone into having difficult conversations, knocking on doors, urging new voters to register, donating our time and money to the cause, or advocating the Repeal campaign in any other way we could think of, that we are now exhausted. We barely remember what we used to do with our evenings before this whole thing kicked off.
What were our interests? How do we seamlessly integrate everything we have now learned into our everyday lives? What can we do with the restless energy that has propelled us onwards until now – the energy that has driven us to march, to protest, and to avoid complacency at all costs, lest the momentum of our cause should be lost? There are many urgent issues within Irish society that still need to be addressed. A few examples that immediately spring to mind are income inequality, the homelessness epidemic, and the outrageously inadequate direct provision system that asylum seekers are forced to endure. Many Repeal campaigners have already begun to turn their undivided attention to these issues.
“I know that my own personal route back to serenity will involve spending a great deal of time outdoors. Whenever I have been remotely afraid, stressed out, or upset, nature has always served as a gentle anchor that pulls me right back into my core.”
Summer continues to burst into life all around me. We have been experiencing some wonderful weather lately. After months of dormancy, the rose garden in my beloved Botanic Gardens has begun to produce tiny flower buds. On numerous occasions over the past couple of weeks, I have witnessed the wonderful sight of waterfowl tending to their adorable baby chicks. I know that my own personal route back to serenity will involve spending a great deal of time outdoors. Whenever I have been remotely afraid, stressed out, or upset, nature has always served as a gentle anchor that pulls me right back into my core. It holds a significance that I cannot explain. Words fail me (an annoying state of affairs for a writer, but one that I often experience, nevertheless).
Over the coming days and weeks, I will spend as much time as I can outdoors: enjoying the beautiful sunshine that so rarely visits our shores and revelling in the many delights that this season has to offer.
I want to end this post by sharing a poem called Wild Geese, written by the amazing Mary Oliver. The simple sentiments expressed in this poem fill me with peace every single time I find myself wondering whether I have done / am doing enough, or whether I have been / am being a “good enough” person. I hope it may comfort someone else too.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.