I was 16 and sitting in my art class. The boy I was madly in love with, in the way your 16 year old giddy heart can only love, leaned across the table and asked ‘So do you actually believe in “The One” Caitríona?’
I was delirious. My pupils dilated, I felt faint, churning sick, beautiful and achingly aware of my Hammerite braces. I wanted to run or else make a Bronte leap into his arms. This was it, he feels it, and he knows he is north-west Donegal’s Burton to my Taylor.
He wants to take my hand as we step into my lobster-like vision of us sailing through a cotton cream life where we end up in the kind of home where our kids roll their eyes every time we dance around our grey-haired cosy kitchen to ‘Memories are made of this.’ And we laugh and remember when our joints didn’t hurt as much or when we made love like insatiable, insane creatures or wished we had started saving for our pensions earlier. And we are blissfully entwined as each other’s soulmate in the memory of what was and what could be.
‘Because that is absolute nonsense.’ Burton delivered the blow.
‘It’s outrageous to think there is only one person out there for someone and that you happen to meet them in school, or in your office. It’s all just circumstance.’
He proceeded to give me quite a lengthy and logical speech on why my Utopian vision was absolute rubbish. I argued back with my steadfast belief that there was actually only one ‘one’ for everyone and continued to believe this lobster was my lobster for another very messy few years. Of course, he wasn’t. But I often think of that conversation when I hear people talking about soulmates and how my own fizzy heart has heaved and sighed and roared over the years at the very thought of such sweet, kindred magic.
If you are lucky you will lose and find a lot of soulmates over your life. This might sound strange, but even in their loss, something will change, or you will forever be changed, in the wake of the glorious light and half-lights our soulmates bring.
I used to think this was a bad thing. Like when my heart turned inwards like my Claddagh ring when the man I actually thought was my soulmate and I broke up after six years together. Or when my gentle Nana died. Or when our puppy had to be put down. All heavy, mournful, sad things. But they all happened. And in the squinty light peeping through the tunnel of their aftermath, they had all been lessons. These great loves and family and friends and pets and books and music and events that affect our lives are all our soulmates. They touch your soul and leave you, if you’re lucky, better, or smarter, or lovelier, or happier. Sometimes sadder too if they leave, but it is never forever.
Ultimately, all these things are our soulmates because they touch your soul. The real soulmate you have is you.
Anam chara ~ Friend for your soul
The Gaeilge for soulmate is ‘Anamchara’ which translates directly as ‘friend for the soul’ or ‘soul friend.’ A friend is a very precious thing and I am lucky to have some exceptional ones. You tell them things you don’t tell anyone. You act differently with an old friend from childhood, than with a new friend and neither of these are bad things. Your old friends know what you looked like before you discovered tweezers and loved you all the same because they hadn’t either. Your old friends know the firsts of everything; first love, first exam results, first disco, first excruciating break-up, first terrible choice in combats and string tops when you thought you looked like one of the All Saints. And they love you all the same. Your new friends come into your life after you might have worked somewhere, or travelled somewhere, or married their brother, or met them through your child’s crèche. They are now stitched into your life in a different, but just as meaningful way because you are now a little more different, but a lot more you. You laugh at different things with different friends, you are more vulnerable with different friends, and you show more patience with different friends, you allow yourself to be loved with different friends. You have friends you are pretty sure you would take a mild to serious virus for and others not so much. But you have stitched them into your soul for a reason, and my God, that is something to treasure.
When I was about 12 I realised I was not as funny as I thought I was and I blame my Mom entirely. She is the kindest person I know, so she had been laughing at every terrible joke or quip I made for my entire life. She laughed because she loved me, because she is my soulmate. Your family are your soulmates. I know what my father is saying with his heart sometimes when he cannot find the words, or can feel that same heart bursting when I tell him about some inconsequential achievement. Love is the soul of family and my parents have always taught me the importance of family. Your family are your bedrock. Your family are the ones you will always be your ugly and beautiful self with. Your family are the life and breath of you and a wispy, unseen chord hums between you all. You can fight and rage and fall out and hurt and scream but there is no fiercer love than that of family.
I love sleep. I love the delicious feeling of the cold sheets after a long day and the wriggly slip to get your toes to the bottom of the bed. We sleep to rest and let our bodies recover from today and prepare for tomorrow. We are nourishing our soul. See how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep? Soul rehab.
The heart and soul are often mentioned in the same breath. Usually because one does not really work without the other, and when you fall madly in love your soul is yelling ‘Careful!’ Because it knows when you have got that guy in your soul, it is the most wonderful thing that will ever happen but it is trying to protect you. Though the fall may be great if it does not work, the risk is always worth it for a romantic soulmate. A love for all the ages will make your soul sing and when you know, you just know.
I got my first puppy when I was 13 and she was a teeny, impossibly adorable Golden Retriever that we called Major. She became my best pal. She nudged her cold nose into my ribs and refused to leave me alone when I was sick, or got a bad result in Maths again, or the boy I loved started ‘going’ with the other girl in my class. She licked my face and hands like a frantic lunatic when I came home from school and ruined at least 20 pairs of tights with her eager, scratchy paws. She gave love, and loyalty in exchange for food mostly, without question. She had to be put down after six months and my heart broke in a way that was only soothed when I spoke to someone else who owned or lost a pet. The house rang empty for weeks until we eventually got another dog. Pets are soul soothers, never underestimate how smart they are.
Do what you love. It will fulfil you, enrich your each and every day and your soul will thank you for it.
Art and other lovely things
Van Morrison is my soulmate. I remember the first time I heard ‘Saint Dominic’s Preview’ and being as equally happy as I was livid as I knew I was too young to marry him (well almost) and totally overwhelmed with how he sang my soul. How the hell did he know me so well? I met others along the way. My first ‘Dolly beag’ who I had for far too long as my bedtime and daytime companion and best friend even after her poor head fell off because I dragged her everywhere. Emily Bronte, Coco Chanel, Otis Redding, Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Raymond Blanc, Edna O’Brien, Nuala O’Faoláin, Hamlet, Nigel Slater, Seamus Heaney, Maria Callas, Paul Brady, Joan Didion, Leonardo Di Caprio, Paul McCartney, Roald Dahl and whoever invented prawn cocktail. I am convinced all these people would be my best pal if I met them because whatever little thing they shared with the world went into my soul.
When I turn around the foot of Errigal mountain in Donegal, on the last huff of the journey home from Dublin, there is a view that emerges over the Poison Glen of Dún Lúiche as you see the full expanse of Gaoth Dobhair opening up its rugged, wild and heathery heart to say ‘Hello, peata beag, welcome home.’ I’m fortunate enough to be from this place. The people are as wild and romantic and lovely as its rocky outcrops. My soul is besotted with it. I know how lucky I am to be so connected with my homeplace. This place is bursting rich with music, song and literature, and our Gaeilge affects our accent and our personality. We are all a bit mad, but lovely too. Donegal people are lucky enough and smug enough to tell you, this place is the rhythm of their soul.
I often think my brother’s soulmate is soccer. He lights up like a funfair on LSD when his favourite team are playing and if Ireland are playing, forget it. Since he was a little boy jumping up and down over Quinn or Townsend or McGrath he’s been smitten with sport and if he could have painted himself green just to make Jack Charlton happy, he would have. That love is with him forever and I absolutely adore the look he gets when he is shouting and roaring like the world is ending when the Donegal GAA football team are playing in Croke Park, along with the rest of the county. Or when Long scored that goal. This is the soil of your soul, the footprint of your parish of your town or your country etched like an ‘I heart this team forever’ on your heart. There is no script to what might happen to the love story in sport, they might win or lose, they might break your heart a thousand times, but they will always be in your soul and nobody loves them quite like you do.
You are your own soulmate
You are steering your own canoe. Or in my case it’s a shabby dinghy that’s been left at the back of the shed with a few love hearts painted on the raggy canvas and it’s called ‘Cyprus Avenue’ and filled with cheese, a few Double Deckers and the White album. But I am happy in my dinghy. Nobody completes you except yourself, but the pieces in your life can make you whole. The soul is a wonderful thing that is the first and last to tell you what is right for you so try to listen, it often whispers or might knock you about the head in frustration, but it only wants what is best for you. You are your own soulmate.