2023 Retrospective on Longing for Sunflowers

Image shows a hand holding a brass-gold sunflower locket on a chain in the sun. In the background you can see a beach, blue sky and blue sea

It has been 10 years since I first started a blog, Longing for Sunflowers, as a recent graduate of 24- today, I am 34 years old.

It is fascinating to look back at this time capsule and see how much life has changed- in one post from 2018 I was excited about the potential of a film few had yet heard of called Black Panther– most of the beloved late night cafes that formed an important part of our youth, including Accents, have since closed.

I can see, looking back, the pressure I put on myself to be happy, and to be always “in the light”-something that afflicts us more when we are young. It was a time before Inside Out showed us how unrealistic this pursuit is and the importance of sadness, when mental health was just beginning to be publicly discussed and accepted, and when opening up about it was seen as genuinely courageous at best, or weak, oversharing or attention-seeking at worst. There was no concept of taking “a mental health day,” or the little such things that have now gratefully seeped into our culture.

Some of the posts are hard for me to read, particularly “My Story” and “My Tumultuous Relationship with Public Toilets-” both of which delve into the decade of my youth, from 13 to 23, which was largely lost to major depressive disorder. It is a shock to remember how I used to feel on a daily basis, how much mental energy I used in fighting to stay alive. I have healed so much since those days to the point where I no longer recognise that suffering young girl, and feel nothing but compassion for her. To have come from a place where “I would cry as I pulled at my miserable limbs, throwing my “useless”, disabled body around in anger, ripping up shreds of newspaper in an attempt to calm myself down,” every day when I came home from school, to the woman I am now, so comfortable in my body and proud to be disabled that I am organising and leading Ireland’s first Disability Pride and Power Parade- see here– is hard to believe. The teenager who wrote “Soon you will be free” on the walls of the toilet in secondary school where she used to hide to eat her lunch and cry is indeed free at last, and has lived such a beautiful life since.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ feminist classic Women Who Run With the Wolves, offers Jungian interpretations and retellings of myths and folktales. One of these, the Mexican ghost story La Llorona, is reinterpreted to symbolise pollution of the creative stream or flow. La Llorona, the ghost woman of the weeping willow, trails her tendrils and drags her withered knuckles through the waters, wailing for her lost children. Estés’ interprets this as a cautionary tale inviting us to recover from the stream our own lost children, the creative brain-children and dreams which we tossed aside and let drown. Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way calls these aborted brain-children our “creative U-turns.”

Longing for Sunflowers is one of my lost creative brain-children. I abandoned this child in the stormy waters of 2017, the year I went to study veterinary nursing, only going back to post two more articles in 2018 during my Journalism MA, and nothing in the six years that followed. Part of the reason was that I no longer wanted to be associated with that pain and my old suffering self, to have a constant reminder of the years I had lost, and how much catching up I had to do because of it. I created a new writer’s website here which reflects my growth in other areas.

But recently a friend changed my mind- in the writing group we started with my dear friends from college, including the same Liz who featured in “My Tumultuous Relationship with Public Toilets,” it was our friend Nuala who told me how much she had loved Longing for Sunflowers. She lives in London now, but the last time she visited me in Ireland in our favourite place, Chester Beatty, she gave me the beautiful sunflower pendant you see in the image above. Knowing that someone had deeply connected to it made me return to my neglected creative self, the old wounds, and to see that I had abandoned what was a very raw and worthy piece of my soul.

Estés wrote:

“If we were to abuse our children, Social Services would show up at our doors. If we were to abuse our pets, the Humane Society would come to take us away. But there is no Creativity Patrol or Soul Police to intervene if we insist on starving our own souls.”

And making the necessary time for our creative lives is indeed a soul-saving act. I am learning to say, as Estes says we must: “I love my creative life more than I love cooperating with my own oppression.”

So I have decided to return to water the sunflowers, alongside the pieces of me and my activism that are now flourishing because, alongside aid from the universe and the people who show up along the way, I consistently dedicated thousands of hours to nurturing them.

What creative brain-children have you abused and neglected? Is there a chance for you to save them and in doing so, recover and tend to a lost part of your soul?

Surya Namaskar

Image shows a close-up of praying feet, with brown skin, on a pink yoga mat with a dreamcatcher motif in black

This piece was chosen for the Irish Writer’s Centre’s Breaking Ground Programme and performed in the IWC.

The photo above, “Praying Feet”, shows my own feet and yoga mat

I unfurl the yoga mat for the first time that day. It is soft and spongy and the deep burgundy-pink of beetroot stains. To me it smells faintly of jasmine and petroleum. I lay my hands flat on its slightly sticky surface, fingers widely spaced, and move into cat–cow, Marjaryasana Bidalasana, stretching my neck out high on the cat. Air moves into my lungs, into my very bronchioles, and I feel the muscles of my chest begin to stretch out like the wings of a bird. 

I stumble on the low lunge. I always do. High Lunge, Tree Pose, Vrikshasana, Dancer, Natarajasana –and most of the Standing Warriors – are off-limits to me. But whether alone or on the beach, it does not bother me.

The only times it did were in classes, in Yogahub or the Yoga Studio in Phibsboro. I remember the women with their Lululemon tank tops, the tiny smiles on their faces whenever they saw me stumble, a survival-of-the-fittest pride in themselves as they held their contorted limbs out behind them, wilfully suppressing the alien body’s tremors. These were the same women who could be seen waiting outside for the early morning hot yoga classes, carrying their Chilly’s water bottles, ready to break into a sweat and learn poses to re-enact on the beach the next month in Bali – alongside photos of plant-based smoothie bowls for Insta leverage. 

I struggle to accept that this heavily diluted, white-hybrid thing that has emerged in the West is, in fact, just like me – appreciated by white people for its exoticized appeal, divorced entirely from its root.

So much of myself and my body is uninhabitable, contested territory. On the yoga mat, I am just a soul, muscle, bone and breath.

There are so few spaces in which I can safely exist, away from the transfiguring stares of society. The pain of such compounded Otherness is overwhelming.

I know no language but that of the Coloniser.

Even though I am a singer, I do not have the vocal flexibility to hum my father’s favourite song, ‘Khabi Khabi’, nor any of the songs of my heritage. I cannot evoke an oral historical tradition like the sean-nós singers of Ireland. I have no history.

I have never seen anyone who looks like me, all of me, on television.


When I was a child, I refused to wear my splints. I wouldn’t do any of the leg exercises I was told to do by the nice lady at Cerebral Palsy Ireland. I didn’t want to be seen as anything but ‘normal’.

While the other children were doing PE outside in the playground, I preferred to stay alone in the classroom, finding solace in books. In them, I did not have to confront the limitations of clumsy, clunky flesh that would not work to my will. I did not have to face the disappointment of never being able to soar like the wind just by using my legs, to jump or climb a mountain.

I felt that my body was broken, an unfit vehicle for the size of my spirit. It could not possibly carry me through life, so I found my wings within a life of thoughts, rather than of sensations.

And then that, too, failed me. Through adolescence and young adulthood, it was all-too easy to access a fragmented universe of suffering.

Broken body, broken mind, broken spirit, dislocated from existence.


Perhaps the thing that started me back to wholeness, to reclaiming my body-being, was the sea.

I approached it first like a timid lover, wary of being annihilated by the power of the Other, swept up and lost in its depths or crushed to powdery shell. It took a while to learn to catch my breath after the shock of slamming into ice but, once immersed, I felt like a new-born baby: weightless, buoyant and effortlessly free. Here, in the water, my body could do whatever I wanted it to; I could walk; I could jump; I could almost run.

After the sea, it was sex. Raw, all-embracing sex that made me feel that my body could indeed climb mountains and fall from the precipice of them, floating back down to the land, thrumming with electricity.

And after sex, it was singing and the voice – roaring myself into being, roaring myself free – whether at protests with disabled and non-disabled comrades; or with my multicultural choir, singing in forty different languages, not truly understanding the words, but understanding everything that mattered.

My body was just a body like all others, unique in form and functionality.

And I practised being one with it every day, every morning, on the yoga mat.


Surya namaskar.

She does not understand the word

Will never know its origin

But right now, in this moment,

She is the word,

The whole word

Stretching to heaven

Delayed Birth: A Warning

Image shows a picture of the moon white with grey shadows on its surface against a black sky

This story was based on an archetypal dream and published in the literary journal for horror and magical realism, Mama Grande Press, all the way back in 2012.

It can still be viewed online here: Mama Grande Issue 2

The moon that night was larger than she had ever seen it before; it shone through her bedroom window like a nightlight in the darkness, this smooth and luminous pearl of a moon.

She lay in bed, lulled into a half-sleep by the sibilant hush of the trees tossing their leaves in the wind outside. All the while this young woman with dark hair strewn loosely across her face and her arms wrapped gently round her belly,

was thinking of the child she carried inside her.

My baby, my sweet- child of my womb; you who carry my hopes and dreams: you will never know suffering like mine, I promise you that.

You will not make the same mistakes that I did, no- you are far too strong; I can tell by the force of your kicks. I dampened my own fire, held it back when it would have burned me free-

I held my fire back for others, and so in time, it went out.

But yours will never go out. It will burn with the light of a million stars.

How wonderful it must be to have a heart as pure as yours, one that can trust and love so boldly, without knowledge of pain. My own is so bruised it hurts to the touch, and my mind

is heavy, foggy with darkness and fear. I am weary, and no longer young.

But you- you will come into the world with fresh eyes full of wonder, seeing only magic and beauty around you. All the beautiful things that I ever felt, thought or believed- that is you, and so much more. You will live the life I would have lived if only the world had let me. My child, you are the person I was meant to be.

As soon as she thought this she knew that it was time. A few minutes later her water


It all rushed together; the blazing red streetlights whizzing by in the drive over, the wailing of the ambulance, the stark white of the hospital walls and doctors’ coats- everything coloured by sharp, shocking pain.

Then she was being wheeled through double doors and before she knew it, she was screaming in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and nurses, and pushing with all her might. It felt as if someone were ripping her apart from the inside with a knife.

“Don’t push! Don’t push!” The doctor cried.

“Relax, please! Let the baby come out by itself. She wants to come out, she’s ready. Don’t push her.”

But she couldn’t relax. How long had this baby been growing inside her? God only knew. It was high time for her to get out already. So she pushed as if there was a ticking time bomb between her legs.

And then she stopped. Fear, irrational, began to wash over her.

What if she’s not ready? What if I’m not ready?

The expectant eyes of the doctor and the nurses were on her, waiting. She felt herself


And, ever so slowly, she felt the baby begin to retreat back up inside her, back up to the womb where it was safe.

“Miss Falter, what are you doing? Whatever it is, you must stop it immediately,” the doctor warned. But it was too late; she couldn’t stop the thoughts from rolling in now.

What if my baby is only half-grown? What if she’s ugly? What if she’s so monstrously hideous that it makes people sick just to look at her?

She felt the baby retreat even further.

What will become of me when the baby is born? What if I don’t survive this and only my baby does? What if she’s not strong enough to make it on her own in the world?

– No

We’re not ready. We need more time.

The doctor sighed heavily and began to stand up. The energy went out of the room as in a deflated balloon. One of the nurses smiled sympathetically at her, while another gazed blankly into the distance.

“Well I’m not sure what just happened, Miss Falter, but it looks like yet again there will be no delivery today. I can’t help but feel that you interfered with the process to your own detriment- but not to worry; your baby is ready to come out, and she will do so when the time is right. In the meantime, go home, get plenty of rest, and we will no doubt see you back here again shortly.”

She gave him a weary, apologetic smile, and he patted her kindly on the shoulder as he left the room.


Miss Falter went home that night and waited… and waited. But the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into years, and eventually she forgot what she was waiting for.

Her once swollen bump became a much more inconspicuous little potbelly. The kicking, which had been so fervent in the earlier stages of her pregnancy, gradually grew weaker and weaker until she no longer noticed it.

She carried on living her ordinary life, all the while knowing that she was waiting for something, but she could not for the life of her remember what it was.

Soon she fell in love with a man named Jim and felt that this, this must be what she had been waiting for. But even after they were married, she could not help but think that there was something else that needed to happen, something she needed to find in order to make her life, herself, complete.

Her career took off and in the course of it she received many promotions and accolades, but there was something missing.

Most of the time it didn’t bother her, though; she had become Comfortable Enough. Comfortable Enough with her life, and Comfortable Enough with the waiting.

And then one day she was lying down in her bedroom at night once more, her eyes brimful of moon.

A beautiful, tender melody was playing from somewhere downstairs; Jim must have been listening to classical music again with his nightcap glass of Single Malt Whiskey. The music rushed up in her, vibrant and colourful, kind and forgiving. For a brief moment she remembered that she was a soul, here, alive, for reasons mysterious and unknown. She had a duty to fulfil, but what was it?

Her spirit rose for an instant and she felt it, something both ancient and young stirring within her, something that ached and called for Life.

She sat up in bed and focused intently on it, but though she tried she just couldn’t make sense of the stirring, the rumbling in her gut.

I must be starving, she decided, finally. Better go make myself a sandwich.