Tuesday 9 February 2021

Saint Brigid and decision making

 St. Brigid's day on February first brings mixed emotions. That mother of Spring lambs and medicinal herbal healer stirs something deep inside me, in my bones, my lungs, my cold toes. 

Practically every year since I was a child, February 1st has felt like an encounter with a dual personality mother figure. There is a mother who claps me across the head and tells me to get with it, smarten up, get a job, live in the real world, be realistic and face facts. She tells me I'm not good enough, asks me what exactly have I been doing with my time and energy and intelligence since Christmas left us. She questions my past decisions, making me doubt every decision I've ever made. Why do I bring these difficulties upon myself with wrong turns, giving up, moving too fast, diving in too deeply? Why is almost every year a repetition of the same story? Why do I move house, find a job, stay, learn, work, save and leave only to start all over again?

Anxiety fills the cavity in my chest, competing for space where my lungs and delicate heart live. A faked diaphragm breath expands out from my middle chest and then when my breast bone is sufficiently puffed out, I choke, hold trying to suck in more air and then give up with a deflated exhale. I'm overwhelmed, I'll say. My chest feels tight. I can't get the air in. For a few weeks from Christmas, this feeling of stuckness grows and spreads. I start each Monday in January trying to do my best and be productive and on time and alert. I try to remember to not leave the wrapper from the packet of almonds on the countertop and to put the dishwasher on and the cap back on the toothpaste (and to make my own toothpaste instead of this one that we have in a disgusting plastic tube full of flouride). By Wednesday, I can feel the tension creep in. By Friday, my yawning stretches into the day time and by Sunday afternoon, there is no more space left in chest and I cry to flood the cavity and hope for a refresh come Monday morning.

For approximately five weeks at the beginning of every year (I've only realised the pattern this morning), this pain and worry and fear grows inside me and I spend that time trying to make it go away with my productivity and self improvement. St. Brigid's day comes along and I believe things will magically change and I will somehow feel the benefits of winter slowly shifting to spring, and be released from this pain and have my clarity back. And then one week later, I start to read the signs.

Years ago, I saw a post on instagram of an illustration of a loveable and fat black laborador barking ferociously at a man with a caption that read "depression: when the black dog comes calling" and I thought to myself that this was the most ridiculous analogy of depression and challenging mental health I had seen in a long time because all I wanted to do was give the dopy dog a hug and tell him it was ok and have a cuddle on front of a warm fire until the fear went away. Then I adopted Inis and he taught me more about my emotions and mental state and how to love than any mental health post. His main lesson was to love and hug and embrace the feelings rather than running away in the opposite direction, wired and weary from fleeing the scene. 

Every year brings with it new opportunities for change. For a young women who has been told that she can be anything and has a gift for learning and adapting easily, opportunity scares the life out of me. A born philosopher, never satisfied with the answer to "why?", I am terrified by all my options. This phobia is swiftly followed by lists. I can guarantee you that if you found a list inside an old book in my childhood bedroom or buried in a box in the attic and compared it with the many post-its I've been compiling the last few weeks in hurried scribble, the contents would all be the same. And when I read these lists, I am filled with guilt for not having gone through with most of them, fear at what would happen if I were to seriously pick even one of them and a deep sense of loss and grief at my ignored soul for pushing her down every time she tried to push out through my lungs and breath.

You see, the other mother figure is Brid, the native Celtic Goddess. She protects newly birthed lambs and cares for injured birds. She takes her time walking barefoot through forested dewy lands, collecting herbs for teas to calm and nurture, for poultices to heal and smiles knowingly at the beauty of every day life. She is creative and sings and writes, paints and grows. She speaks to the bees and whispers to seedlings. She ignites and brings flames to forgotten dried wood. She tells me things, things that make up my list.

The be realistic mother tells me to contact an accountant, make a business plan, send my CV, follow up with the recruiter, get fit, save, don't be stupid trying to be self employed when what you really need to know is that you can pay the bills.

Brid's lists are different. Plant a bee friendly garden until you can get bees of your own. I know you think you don't know enough about gardening to share with others but there are things you know instinctually that you can share. You love taking photographs and you see things differently to others - why don't you get back to that again? Why are you hiding all those books on nature and cooking and creativity in the attic? Why do you think you can't write? You could write about Inis, cooking, nature, bees, your stories growing up. You have a wonderful way with words. Projects and memories and growing food and writing are so important to you. Do you remember being creative? Why are you so scared?

I feel ashamed that I'm too scared to listen to her or answer her questions. I know that we need to move out of here mid March and that I need to reorganise my belongings in the attic space before I go but I also know that once I open even one box up there, I'm going to want to cry for the creative child in me trying to break out. I'm too scared to write the book, photograph the waves, keep the bees, make the podcast, write the recipes. I am equally frustrated by how many people are doing all these already and how I will drown in their deep seas.

When I first started Busylittlefoodie, I did it to get the words out of my head and to photograph and cook and eat because I loved the feeling of being in the flow carrying out all those tasks. Then instagram took over and everyone became a blogger and cookbook author, memoir writer and photographer and I drowned even further. I run out of money and worry about being poor and depressed again. I don't believe I have the energy within me to do what my heart longs for. Maybe it's just easier to get a paid job. The last few weeks when I was told I narrowly missed out on office roles, I wasn't all that sad. A lust for having more time to garden and possibly make videos and write sprung up in me, until the fear of poverty drove my back underground. 

When I think about those that inspire me, they are all people who took a chance. They are gardeners or farmers, writers and educators, poets and artists and small business owners. It is not an ideal life, not without its challenges but they believe in themselves enough (even partially) to carry on with what they are doing. Maybe I imagine their level of confidence. Maybe they worked in horrible jobs for years before saving enough to take time out to do what they truly wanted to do all along. I trick myself and the voice inside me, telling her that having a backgarden with veggies is sufficient. Writing a blogpost every now and again will do but every year she is less convinced and now I feel like a fraud.

I can perfectly recall posts here where I listed out all the wonderful things I want to do with my life. And then I get a job and get more anxious and tired and weary and smaller.

I want time and energy to give to my life firstly.

I want to write about Inis and cooking memories, family and mental health, bees and relationships.

I want to have a podcast about mental health

I want to write a cookbook

I want to swim everyday.

I want to grow a beautiful permaculture garden and repair the soil there and show others with kindness and patience.

I want to run retreats for women who are weary, where herbal tea and listening is in abundance.

I want to swim everyday and write about how I feel reborn every single time I walk out of the water.

Mark Manson wrote a post recently about seven unusual questions to ask yourself about your life.

One was "What would make 8 year old you cry"? I remember being eight. We were on a farm, making mud pies in the small woods by our house and granola from scratch and planting veggies and going on adventures picking berries and leaves and pressing flowers and having pancakes for dinner some nights. This list came easily:

I don't swim.

I don't live by the sea.

I spend most of day working indoors.

I don't cook for fun.

I don't write stories/poems.

I'm not an environmentalist.

I don't think I'm making a difference.

The tears afterwards came easily. 

Another question was "What would you do if you had to leave the house everyday?"


Grow in a garden. Swim. Photograph. Write. Help others.

Life is easy in that type of life. There are seasons and time to rest and do. Creativity and production are happening alongside each other.

So why am I so scared? And confused? And scared?

I'm going up to the attic now - to try to remember what I wanted before I was so scared. While I inhale damp cardboard and musty book covers, forgotten notebooks and cherished illustrations, I am going to try to remember the humble bee. She has a purpose but works for the collective, has nestled into thousands upon thousands of flower heads but still buzzes with exhilarated glee when enveloped by a nasturtium head or finds a cluster of borage. I'm going to try to be like the bee.


  1. I relate to do much of this! You'll figure it out. Hopefully we all will. X

  2. You're amazing and I know you can achieve what your heart desires x