As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column for the Waterford News & Star
IT’S that time of the year when we look forward. Even more so at the beginning of a new decade.
But that allows for quite a bit of looking back too. Where were you in 2010? What were you up to?
I was still in my full time job, driving around the country setting up and supporting community projects to thrive. I had just about kept a quiet space for my art but had never written anything except the odd report to a Government Department about progress and grants. My Dad was still alive, although fading with every day.
It seems like such a long time ago. Now at the beginning of 2020 I have retired from a job that took me away from home every day. In 2011 I set up a blog space online where I can gather my creativity. And unbelievably I am writing a column in this paper!
‘Connect is chosen by a rural neighbour, courage by a woman continuing in education, save by a farmer friend.’
What were you up to then? Do you think about life in that way; looking back and then, looking forward. For the last 10 years, probably because I began to keep notebooks of thoughts and ideas, I decided to pick a word at the beginning of each year. It wasn’t a New Year resolution as such, it’s so hard to stick to those things.
Instead I would close my eyes and imagine a word that might point me in the direction of ideas, an experiment or a wakeup call. When I turned 60 I chose pilgrimage and part of that year I decided to travel around Greece with that in mind. It was like a pilgrimage into the next phase of life. I had a wonderful year after that and Greece was the perfect place to explore the past and plan for the future.
Looking back, the oddest word I ever chose was inkling. I think the idea was that I only had the barest hunch about what that year would bring. Sure enough my world was turned upside down a few times and inklings were all I had to hold onto about how to solve the problems I was dealing with. You don’t have to know everything I told myself. But you don’t know nothing either! You only have shady inklings that will possibly lead you in the right direction.
Because I spent five days in a corridor in University Hospital Waterford in 2019, my year was turned upside down. It was an unexpected emergency kind of thing, an infection that was going very wrong. My word for 2019 had been rooted. It was about a quiet kind of strength, like a large tree. I guess that kind of thinking stood to me, as instead of falling apart in that limbo of hospital life, I began to write about my experiences there.
This was the closest I have ever been to going viral on social media. Social media can be pretty bizarre at the best of times, but when you tap into a well of upset and grief the mind truly boggles as to how deep a well it is. Besides the press and radio, there were all the contacts from other patients and their relatives who just knew from personal experience the territory of Emergency Departments, trolleys on corridors and the anxiety of waiting.
I knew I was going to get better, although I’ve joined that merry band of older people with bits and bobs giving up the ghost and wearing out. My friends and I now start all conversations with what Maeve Binchy used to call the “organ recital” sharing how all our mutual war wounds are doing.
It’s only recently I think that the gravity of my situation hit me. It is taking longer than I thought for the full joy of life to return. Soooooo when I got to thinking about 2020 I went looking for “get up and go” words. Hilariously they tend to have the least used letter in the alphabet in them. The letter Z.
Zing, zip, zest, zeal, buzz, jazz, and my favourite at the moment pizzazz. I am visualising, not a glitz and glamour kind of pizzazz, but more a bouncy, full of life, blood rushing to the head kind of pizzazz. One way or another it makes me smile for now and will do nicely.
Friends are joining in. Connect is chosen by a rural neighbour, courage by a woman continuing in education, save by a farmer friend. Chutzpah by a woman putting herself forward in political life, lightly by another. These are leading to great conversations between us. What would you choose? Gwan gwan gwan! Make a shortlist, have a think, have fun.
It costs nothing but imagination.
Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com