Blog#99 – Desperately Seeking

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Dear Readers,

It’s been two months since I last wrote. I’m hoping life hasn’t been half as challenging for you during this time as it has been for me. If it has, then I’m sorry and I hope you’ve been getting the support you need. Whatever has been going on for you, I hope you’re finding the time to take good care of yourself.

Avoiding writing

I’ve been avoiding writing a blog because I didn’t want to depress any of you with my woes. Most of you will know how I try hard to be a ray of a light on a dark day and do my best to look on the bright side. But life doesn’t always behave in the way we’d like it to. It’s oftentimes like an unruly puppy dog that we love to bits but that can frustrate the hell out of us when it refuses to bend to our will. The saving grace is that we are drawn to the cuteness and promise of love that the puppy dog represents so we persevere with our efforts to train it and keep it safe.

Rejection and disappointment

2024 has been a year of many challenges for me already. I’m quietly praying that things will improve as we progress through the second quarter. It’s been one rejection and disappointment after the next, so far. While I know that these two painful things are an inevitable part of life, it hasn’t been easy. My motto since a young age has always been ‘pray not for an easy life; pray to be strong’ and it has been standing me in good stead as I discover strengths that I didn’t even know I had!

Accountable to you

Without wanting to bore you with the details of the challenges that I’ve faced, I do want to be honest. It’s funny how my blog is much easier to write when I’m feeling on top of everything, celebrating my aliveness and bursting with a desire to share it with you all in the hope that it rubs off on you too. But these past couple of months have seen me failing more often than succeeding hence why I avoided writing my latest blog. The fact that I have you, my loyal subscribers, to be somehow accountable to has been on my mind. I’ve been wondering what to do. Should I open up and tell you about how absolutely shitty things have been, or should I not burden you with my plight? As I write I am seeing that there is merit in unburdening myself because it is helping me to make sense of what’s been ailing me. I am also thinking that you have the choice of whether to continue reading or simply deleting this. So, I will continue. I realise that my blog entitled ‘Love is….’ touched on some of the things that were troubling me back in February, and I shared with you my ongoing battles with the meddlesome monkeys on my shoulder. I loved the feedback and encouragement you sent me then. I learnt that I definitely am not alone. So, thank you to those of you who took the time to write back.

Happier times

In March I heard that one of my loving aunts in Ireland had been moved to a hospice in Dublin because her illness was finally getting the better of her. She had battled with breast cancer since first being diagnosed in her fifties. It had been four years since I’d last seen her. COVID saw to it that we didn’t make our usual family pilgrimage back to the homeland and by the time travel restrictions were lifted, well, the kids had exams and other important things going on, so we couldn’t prioritise the 15,000km journey back to see our extended family. I felt enormous guilt. As soon as I was told that my aunt had just months to live, I knew I had to get back. I needed her to hear from me how grateful we are as a family for the love and care she extended to us every time we came to Ireland. Our usual route back during those happier times was Perth – Dubai – Dublin. My uncle was always waiting for us at the airport and would bring us back to their house near the Phoenix Park where the heart-warming aroma of freshly baked soda bread and other delicious fare awaited us. That was so typical of my aunt’s kind Irish heart. My kids loved it there. They loved being made a fuss of, being asked a thousand questions about their lives in Australia and being able to play outside in the garden in the late night light of summer. For those of you who have never been to Australia, where we live on the west coast sunset times vary between 5.30pm in the winter and 7.30pm in the summer. Imagine the novelty for a child to have the day extended to after 10pm at night!

Taken on Easter Sunday

I booked a ticket only to learn the following day that those ‘months to live’ had been downgraded to ‘days to live’ and so I found myself on an urgent flight back on Easter Saturday. I landed in Dublin on the afternoon of Easter Sunday after 28 hours of travelling. I went straight to the hospice where it soon became evident that my beautiful aunt was about to leave us. I got there just in time to tell her what she meant to us and how we will carry her in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Then she passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family. As a Catholic woman of unwavering faith, Sheelagh couldn’t have asked for a more important day than Easter Sunday on which to be taken from this life.

Here’s a photo of me as a two year old at my Aunt’s wedding in 1968

The dream in which I mattered to them

It was a very sad time for everyone. I had to be strong for my father and his other surviving siblings who, after losing their sister, are now facing the stark reality that they are the generation that is, naturally, next in line to meet our maker. It can’t be easy coming to terms with that. My father is blessed with lots of family around him in Cork, but his surviving sister isn’t so lucky. She took the death of her sister badly. Given that she is my Godmother and has always been the kindest, most supportive person in my life, I felt a duty to go back to her home in Galway and take care of her for a while. It was my time to be give back. I was happy to do that. But here’s the thing. My time in Ireland was limited by my need to be back home in Australia for family and work commitments. I wasn’t there for a holiday. Yet I was left to take care of my aunt in Galway by myself, with no offer of support or company from my own siblings in Cork. They didn’t call me, message me, or make any attempt to see me during my stay. There was a moment where I really felt like I could have murdered a few whiskeys! But drinking would have made everything worse. It was at this point that I woke up from the dream in which I mattered to my family in Cork. For the first time since I left Ireland at the age of 18, I saw how little I figured in their lives. Out of sight, out of mind as they say. All those years of travelling back to Ireland to be a part of something I was desperately seeking, had been in vain. I never really mattered to them.

Punished for leaving

In sharing this experience with some Irish people who also live here in Perth, I learnt that I am not alone. It’s as though we are punished for having left. I remember when I had my first child. I was living in the UK. Nobody came from Ireland to meet my child. My mother had travelled to Sydney to meet her first grandchild back in 1992 shortly after he was born, then she had travelled to London to meet her second grandson the day after he was born but when my son was born in 2005, she never came near me. When my son was six weeks old and I felt strong enough again, I had to take my baby to Ireland so that he could meet his grandparents, aunts, and uncles for the first time. At the time, it never occurred to me how unfair that was. I just accepted that I had to make more of an effort. At an unconscious level, I believed it was because I was a bad person and therefore didn’t deserve to be treated the same as my siblings. But I desperately wanted the love and approval of the matriarch, so I worked hard for it. But it was too late. I had taken my life into my own hands at a young age, and as far as they were concerned, I didn’t belong with them anymore.

The light

But I have seen the light. This trip to Ireland has opened my eyes to where I do belong and who I belong with. After giving what I could of myself to my aunt in Galway, I got on a bus to Dublin, met a gorgeous cousin for a coffee at the airport, before making the long journey back to Perth. I never felt so happy to be back in the arms of my husband and children. They were equally happy to have me home too. It makes me realise how damn lucky I am.

Boundaries…fundamental to wellbeing

So, the hardest thing I have had to do since is to let go of those people who do not love or accept me. I have changed in many ways over the years, but the most growth has been since I stopped drinking five years ago. I have learnt to change the things I don’t like about myself which has helped me to be a better person. I have learnt to accept the things I can’t change, such as the way others see me. And I have learnt about boundaries, something I never understood before. Putting boundaries in place is fundamental for my wellbeing. One of those boundaries is to stop showing up for people who are not interested in my presence. I spent a lifetime desperately seeking my mother’s love and approval, but it never came. I kept trying because I thought it was my fault that it wasn’t forthcoming. I kept trying because I believed that blood was thicker than water. But what the hell does that actually mean??

Family is the people you choose to have around you, people who you accept and love as they are and who love and accept you as you are. If it’s not reciprocated, then it’s not worth your energy. That energy needs to be channelled into life-affirming relationships. It’s important for me to remind myself that not everyone is going to get me, just like I don’t get everyone. And that includes blood relatives.

I have found people who I have a deep connection with. I have true love in my life. I am very grateful. I value my life more now than I ever did. And I thank my Aunty Sheelagh for what she taught me about my own value. RIP beautiful soul. Love, Gill x



Gill Kenny - the Writer & Blogger

About the author – Gill Kenny

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Through my blog, I aim to provide you with a place where you can feel valued by inviting you to share your journey too.  I will regularly have guest writers who wish to share their views or experiences on each topic. I am open to ideas and happy to cover any topics that interest you, so please feel free to share yours with me.

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Love, Gill x