“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another - and ourselves.”
My new life began on a Sunday. The date was 7 September 2014.
I pulled up the car in the evening-time at Inchydoney Beach in West Cork after a long drive from Dublin. My sons aged 13 and 11 at the time and I had packed a couple of bags and hockey sticks into the car and headed off that morning. We were not off on a holiday to the seaside. But I felt a sense of excitement and adventure as if we were. This was no holiday because we were never going back. This was the start of a fresh new chapter in our lives. There was no detailed planning. All I knew was that the previous Wednesday, just 4 days earlier, a secondary school in West Cork had agreed to give my 13 year old son a place in First Year. I had phoned them only days earlier asking if there was any chance of a space. A student had accepted a place and then not shown up so they could take him. My other son was in 6th class in a Dublin school at the time and I had no school in West Cork arranged for him but trusted something would work out. I had purchased a house only 6 months previously in Dublin and had obtained planning permission to do a major renovation on it. In the meantime we were living in a rented house.
I started the packing on the night before we left when the boys were gone to bed. By the time they woke I had our belongings packed into about 90 cardboard boxes and a couple of bags. We took the bags with us and left all the boxes behind. We had no house to go to in West Cork so the boxes would have to stay in Dublin for now. We had no friends or relatives in West Cork to stay with so we stayed at Inchydoney Hotel for that first night. The next day I visited a local school and the principal kindly agreed to take my younger boy – and handed me a spare uniform from Lost & Found that hadn’t been claimed! He could start the next day. Things were working out well! Then I went to visit a house up for rent in Kinsale, took one look at the magnificient views down to the historic Charles Fort and paid the deposit there and then. In 24 hours we had secured a one year lease on a house and a school place. We stayed on at the hotel for another few nights and then got the key to the house in Kinsale. The Universe moves to make things happen when you are on the right track I firmly believe! I sold the house I had bought in Dublin without having spent one night in it and then in May 2015 a house came to market overlooking Inchydoney Beach. Back to where we had started. Perched high on a hill it was love at first sight and I made an offer, which was accepted. I had found the place my heart could call home and where I could put down roots at last.
So what made us leave our lives in Dublin on what appears to be a whim? People spend more time planning and preparing for a week’s holiday than I did for a family relocation. I had been in Dublin 23 years, having moved there at 18 to attend UCD, so had many friends living there. But I had a deep yearning inside me to start life anew, to reinvent myself. God knows I was no stranger to change, sudden change and I believe that is why I found it so easy to uproot and to make swift decisions. Also I had no sense of attachment to the house I had purchased although I had put a lot of time into working with an architect and meeting with builders. I lost my sense of attachment to ‘things’ back in 2008. That’s when the seismic change in my life happened that would make ever other change that came after it seem easy. On a single day in November 2008 my husband died and my career of 14 years ended. To say my world shattered doesn’t really capture the sense of shock and bewilderment that engulfed me. I had been with my husband since the night I met him at a work function age 23. We worked in the same bank but different sections of it. Roll forward 6 years and we were married, living the ‘dream life’, two solid careers in finance, two kids and a house in South Dublin. Conforming nicely with society’s expectations; working crazy long hours offset by a couple of holidays abroad every year, a couple of golf memberships and weekends away in nice country hotels. But deep down it didn’t feel like we were living a dream life at all. My husband was ambitious and high-achieving and had been promoted to Finance Director. I was keeping the show on the road at home and holding down a demanding job. It was a tight juggling act thrown into disarray whenever the kids got sick and couldn’t go to crèche or school and the strain on both of us in terms of declining health began to show. But like so many other couples you just keep on pushing through, your eye firmly fixed on the lie-in you tell yourself you will get on Sunday before the next crazy week kicks off again. With two small kids the lie-in rarely happened but it was a fantasy that helped you to keep you going!
We were both running on empty. My digestive system was showing signs of being out of whack brought on by erratic eating, skipping meals then loading up on chocolate and anything sugar-laden I could get my hands on. My husband was having low moods. He put it down to tiredness, to the relentless demands of the job. It seemed plausible. I urged him to go to the doctor. He said he needed sleep not a doctor. I was so caught up in trying to hold it all together – work, the boys and running the house – I let it be but a distance was growing between us. On a cold Wednesday morning in November I dropped the boys to the local school and came home to put on a load of washing before going into work. An hour earlier my husband had asked me to phone his workplace to say he wouldn’t be coming in as he was sick which I did. I ran upstairs to see if there was anything he wanted me to bring up to him before I left for work. I didn’t make it as far as our bedroom. At first I thought he had fallen and went to lift him. His body felt so heavy – a dead weight as people say. Then I realized what he had done. My heart racing I checked his pulse but there was none. An ambulance quickly arrived and they attached a heart monitor but it was too late. Soon after the police doctor arrived and pronounced him dead. Then the detailed probing by the Gardai began. What had happened to him they wanted to know. I wasn’t coherent, I was in deep shock. I couldn’t get my own head around it never mind answer their questions. Had I had the presence of mind I would have told them that he had followed all of society’s rules, performing well at school, top of his class in Leaving Cert, a UCD graduate at age 20 and a stellar career in finance. Married to someone also high-achieving who had played by the rules and run herself into the ground trying to keep it all going. In short the answer was that in line with societal norms he had lived a life of material success and spiritual emptiness. Our two boys aged 7 and 6 had to be told their father wasn’t coming home, ever again. His cold body was in the morgue at a nearby hospital by the time they got in from school. Their sorrow and sobbing when I told them their father had died was heart-wrenching. It was beyond doubt the worst thing I have ever experienced. We had paid way too high a price for outward success, for living life in the fast lane.
I never went back to my old career. I figured the world didn’t need another accountant, for now I was needed at home and in time I would find a new direction career-wise. We pieced our lives slowly back together with the help of some good people around us. We made a life – of sorts – but I felt I was only existing. I felt empty inside when I was truthful with myself. Other times the busyness of single parenting kept me from thinking about how I was feeling. When the possibility arose of moving to West Cork to live beside the sea and to live a simpler life close to nature where I could do some writing and feel inspired by the raw beauty of the place I jumped on it.