Cathy Kelly: ‘My inner demons could create their own rugby team’

Life Lessons: Author on learning to trust herself, meditating and remembering a dear friend

Cathy Kelly: “Time and experience have taught me to trust myself, that my wisdom can be my guide.”

Cathy Kelly: “Time and experience have taught me to trust myself, that my wisdom can be my guide.”

 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your life?

Probably fighting my own inner demons, who could create their own rugby team under the banner Believing In Yourself is BAD. I can’t see many people turning out for a match with these guys, but they sure can fight. Time and experience have taught me to trust myself, that my wisdom can be my guide. This has put the demons gently back in their little box and reminded them how small they are in the great scheme of things.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Unfortunately not a pithy one-liner I can tattoo on my arm, and look at in times of stress, although I rather wish it was. Instead, it’s a combination of advice from beloved and wise people who have seen the true me when I could not. Amazing how many of us cannot see our true selves. I used to wonder if I was born with too much empathy because I could see everyone else’s side but not my own, but now, older, wiser, in my 50s, I see what a gift empathy is and how it has made my life so joyous.

What moment changed your life?

Undoubtedly the moment my two beloved sons were born. Watching two small children grow into young men whom I love, admire and am proud of, in whose company I am so utterly happy and myself, is a gift.

Who do you admire most?

She is no longer with us, sadly. Emma Hannigan, my closest friend and a woman I miss every day, went through years of living with cancer in a way I simply cannot imagine anyone else doing. She was funny, brave, wise, loving, able to discuss PARK inhibitor drugs alongside new shoes we’d seen in a newspaper before segueing into a funny story. She hated the concept of people “losing a fight” to cancer in that it implied they had not fought hard enough. Cancer sometimes just wins. End of. Her joy and love for her family kept her going through experiences I would like to think I am strong enough to endure, but I honestly don’t know.

What practical thing do you do to help your personal development?

Meditate. I have a mind like a centrifuge and if only I could plug myself in at night and download some of the good stuff, I’d have to spend half the time at the computer. Meditation helps to slow down the speed of the machine. Yoga and reformer Pilates help too, as does walking in the woods with my dogs. I love trees, the way they communicate with each other and how when you are in the woods, watching the seasons rise and fall, you are reminded of the valuable lesson that we have such a short time here on the planet in a sentient sense before we return to the earth to nourish those same trees.

Where do you return to for a sense of calm?

My home in Wicklow. From my study window I can see the sea from beyond a glorious forest of hardwoods. I have had to turn my desk around because it’s too distracting. Sometimes deer step gently through the fields beyond my house and a pheasant, whom I feel is like a family pet now, stomps around the hedges like a town crier with nobody to listen to him.

What is your worst habit?

Being late.

Do you have an unfulfilled goal?

It’s something I can’t reveal because then everyone would know, wouldn’t they? Every day is a gift, a fresh chance to live, and currently, my unfulfilled goal is being better at admin. I’ve just been told about a new Netflix show with the fabulous Aisling Bea in it, Living With Yourself, where the hero is cloned. I’d love a clone to do my admin.

Cathy Kelly’s 20th novel, The Family Gift, is out now

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