Random thoughts on a Thursday. I’m okay, just thinking out loud about how far I’ve come and the lessons I’ve learned on this journey.
Two years ago today I was on the receiving end of the private conversation that told me I was going to be a widow and that we needed to stay positive for Dan. This conversation was so private I didn’t tell anyone else about it. It hurt too much to acknowledge. I was auto-enrolled in “how to be a widow” training, which was the name I gave my Widow 101 counseling sessions provided by the cancer clinic. I was in shock and denial. There was no way this f’n diagnosis was correct. They don’t call it practicing medicine for nothing, and I told the doctor as much. I put my big girl panties and my war gear on and attacked cancer the same way I took on any challenge or project. I was Lisa By God Bain and still operating under the belief that I had control and could bend this diagnosis to my will. I put on the “we got this face” for Dan and our family and friends but cried in private every single day. Every. Single. Day.
A year ago today I was at rock bottom, fighting the effects of the PTSD and anxiety that no one warned me could come with grief. Instead of fighting to keep Dan alive, I was waging an internal battle every day to keep myself alive. Or at least breathing, since being alive and living are two very different things. Despite being surrounded and supported and loved by the amazing people in my life, I’d never felt so alone and isolated. I’d lost my will to live.
Today. Today I’m both alive and living. I’m happy and at peace, two feelings I wasn’t sure I’d ever know again. I’ve rediscovered my laugh, my sass, and my hope for the future. I love my life, and I’m grateful for each and every minute of it.
Like I said, just random thoughts about this journey. I’m okay. I’m better than okay. I’m Living Now. For my fellow travelers on our collective grief journeys, please don’t give up hope. Our paths are all different but it does get better. You will heal, even though you may not believe that now.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce
It may sound silly to say a country could sweep you off your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I first visited in the spring, it was enough to make me swoon and put Scotland at the top of my list for this adventure. I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with Scotland itself or if it were because it was the first place I’d felt joy in a long time, but I knew I’d figure it out. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all Scotland, and I love it even more than before.
Here are the top 10 reasons I love this country. Believe me; it was a struggle to narrow it down to 10.
1. The Highlands. I’m afraid photos just don’t do it justice. The majesty and power and magic of the mountains and hills, the glens, and the rivers are enough to make me wish I was a poet or painter or that I had the resources just to get out and walk every last inch of it.
2. The skyscape. If I take any more photos of clouds, my camera may quit on me. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing it. The clouds are ever changing, which alters the light and the colors of everything you see. Time-lapse photography was made just for this.
3. The beaches. Okay, so the beaches here are a little different than the ones I enjoyed growing up in the tropics, but that makes them no less beautiful. The white sand beaches up in the Orkney Isles are crystal blue. And despite the cold wind, I’m already dreaming about going back.
4. The ocean. I’ve spent more time on boats and ferries in the last five weeks than I have in the last five years. Rough or smooth, always cold and windy, I couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite memories of this trip will be holding on for dear life (it was a titch rough that day) on the top deck of the ferry as I headed to the Orkney Isles, laughing like a maniac and keeping an eye out for the infamous whirlpools I’m told can appear.
5. The history. Scotland’s history is deeply rooted in the culture and people. It oozes out of the very earth under your feet and the abundant water that runs through it. Researching my Scottish ancestry made it that much more powerful and personal. Recognizing clan names from both our family trees was like winning the long-lost relatives jackpot, even when I was advised not to tell anyone mine and to use Dan’s instead. (this is hilarious for a number of reasons). And no, it’s not Campbell.
6. The casual vibe. I like getting dressed up as much as the next girl, but when you’re living out of a backpack, it’s convenient to be able to go pretty much anywhere you want in jeans and hiking boots. (The LBD remains packed in the bottom of the suitcase, just in case). No one ever seems to be in a hurry. Scotland may be the most chill place I’ve ever visited. And did I mention super dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome in most bars and cafes, so Fido doesn’t have to be left at home or in the car. Izzy-booboo would be in dog heaven here.
7. The people. And not just the rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes. (Seriously ladies, you can stop messaging me pictures of rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes). Every single person I met was kind, friendly and welcoming. In Hawaii, we call that the Aloha Spirit and the Scots are pros. Maybe that’s why I felt so immediately at home here. The only rude people I encountered were middle-aged American women, but that’s a post for another day.
8. The ease of transportation. For those days foot power just isn’t enough, you can get almost anywhere by bus or train. For everything else, you can hop on a tour or find a hired driver or a new friend who wants to take you there. It made it really easy to travel solo, especially since I didn’t want to rent a car and drive.
9. The single malts. You had to have known whisky would make this list. I accepted the single malt challenge while I was there. It will probably take me two years but, by the time it’s over, I will have sampled at least one offering from each of the 130 distilleries on my list.
10. The Idaho-ness. I haven’t felt homesick at all for Boise, but since Scotland reminds me so much of Idaho, it’s like I never left. Just like Idaho, Scotland is full of mountains, rivers, and people with a great love of the outdoors, family and friends. So yeah, Scotland reminds me a lot of Idaho, only with better weather.
If you’ve been thinking about visiting Scotland, do it. Don’t wait. And take me with you.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
11. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn, officially making it the coolest country in the world.
Yesterday was the day o’ $hitty news. From the minute I woke up, to right before I went back to bed, the bad news just kept rolling in. It’s happened to me before. Remember that time I screeched at that young man that my life was a bad country music song? ‘member? Yeah, I can’t seem to make myself forget that embarrassing incident either. It went something along the lines of, Daddy died. Husband died. Suicidal. House flooded. Dog died. Legal battles. Someone drank the last of my favorite whiskey. Oh wait, that was me.
That song sucked! And just to remind everyone, I did go back and apologize to that young man who was very gracious about the crazy woman scream-crying at him. Or was it cry-screaming? Whichever.
Well, yesterday’s stream of bad news felt familiar. I woke up to learn the Parkinson’s community back home had lost a wonderful human being and advocate. I’ve been blessed to be a part of this advocacy community since my Dad’s diagnosis. We’re a family. I know they’ve been by my side and had my back from day one, just like I’ve had theirs. We were all in it together, and James Trussell was a pillar many leaned on.
Then, as I started my first cup of coffee, news reports started rolling in about the devasting and horrific loss of life in Las Vegas. I was still reeling from learning about James, and now this? I couldn’t believe the headlines I was seeing. I breathed a sigh of relief with every “safe check-in” that popped up on Facebook, but my chest hurt and it was getting hard to breathe.
My evening wrapped up with the news that Tom Petty had died. A man I’ve never met, but his music has been a big part of my life, so it felt like I knew him. Or that he, at least, knew me. I’ve learned not to ask, “what else can go wrong?”, but c’mon!
I read an article recently that talked about how the grieving have a much harder time dealing with the stress of disasters and other crises. And it’s true. It doesn’t take much to tear open the soft pink scar tissue that’s slowly stitched the pieces of our hearts back together. It comes with the grief territory, and sometimes we have to close up shop and protect ourselves from any more bad news. For some, that means turning off the TV and logging off social media for awhile. A great strategy for everyone, if you ask me. For others, burying yourself in busy stuff can work great. Some of us use inappropriate humor, my personal favorite, as a coping mechanism. Sometimes you just need to be with other people. Whatever works for you, do it.
For the first time since I started this grief journey, I had to deal with this kind of bad news day alone. While I’d typically impose a digital detox, my phone was my only way to connect with my support network, so I kept it on. As I wandered about town, the Vegas tragedy was the topic of conversation in many places. I’m currently in a country with strict gun control, but when people realized I was American, they offered their condolences and their empathy, not their judgment. Maybe I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought. Maybe none of us are.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here, except you don’t have to carry the grief alone. And you don’t have to shoulder the outside grief that sometimes comes our way on days like yesterday. And it’s okay to shut down and hide out and protect yourself. And I love you.
The Wandering Widow
Live now. Dream big. Love fierce.
Over the last few months, I’ve written a lot about going with the flow and trusting my intuition as I navigate this new post-Dan reality. Unfortunately, there isn’t a process map for picking up the pieces and starting over, and I have had to learn to trust my heart to guide me. It’s something I encourage my fellow W’s to do as well. No one knows you, or what you need, as well as your heart does. As much as I try to live that way, every now and again I still need a reminder, and Oban was most certainly a beautiful one.
Oban is best known for its single malt distillery, but this Western port has got a lot more than that to offer. The seafood is legendary, and it’s the jumping off point to explore the Hebridean Islands. I did a lot of research for this trip, so before I left home, I’d put it on my list of possible home bases.
But when I passed through Oban a few weeks ago on my way to the Isle of Skye, I found it underwhelming so took it off my list of places to stay. That was shortsighted and dumb. Due to some scheduling limitations, and the encouragement of my friend (and Scotland expert) Gavin, I decided to go back. Yay me! (Or, yay my intuition and Gavin). Out of all the places in Scotland I’ve fallen in love with (which is most of the country), Oban is the one I feel I could put down roots and stay long term. I can’t believe I almost missed out on that.
So my dear W’s, trust your heart. Trust your instincts. Only you can decide where this journey will take you. And wherever that may be, it will be the right place for you.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Since I chose not to drive in Scotland, I relied on public transportation. Oban is a four-hour train ride from Edinburgh. The train ride was incredibly beautiful, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip through the Trossachs. TIP: The earlier you buy your tickets, the less expensive they will be.
I knew I wanted to stay on the Corcoran Esplanade, a short strip of super cute B&Bs right on the water and a five-minute ocean front walk to the center of town. I’d been referred to Kilchrenan House by my B&B Hosts at the Pipers Lodge when I was in Skye. Availability was an issue since I’d waited so long to decide where I wanted to go. So instead of a full week, I was only able to get four days. Four beautiful days! Book early, especially if you want to stay for awhile. I don’t think four days was enough and would have liked at least a week if not two. Frances and Colin are super friendly and welcoming hosts, and you can’t beat the amazing view of the ocean at breakfast, or the sunsets in the evening from the front porch.
If you tried to force me to choose between the ocean and the wooded hills and mountains, I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, in Oban I don’t have to.
The Inner Hebrides:
I decided to do a day tour of Iona, Mull, and Staffa, which are part of the Inner Hebrides. My scheduled tour got canceled due to weather the first day, but I was able to get on one the next day. Good thing, since it was sunny and the ocean was pretty calm.
It was freaking fantastic, although Mull was just a pass-through so shouldn’t be advertised as part of the tour. Staffa is the famous basalt column island that is home to Fingal’s Cave. I wish I’d had several hours here, but did get down to the cave and also had a chance to scramble around up top and enjoy the views.
Iona was stunning. Crystal blue waters, white sand beaches, and the greenest fields I’ve seen outside of Ireland. If you like to hike, you’ll want to spend a whole day here. I’ve already decided on my next visit that I’ll need to overnight on Iona to fully explore the trails.
I’d been advised by fellow travelers to make reservations at EE-USK as soon as I got to Oban, which I did. Wow! The seafood and service were superior. And despite being a Table for One, I was seated at a window table so I could enjoy the best view they had to offer. Top notch, so be prepared to pay for it.
First of all, whisky in Scotland isn’t called Scotch and isn’t spelled with an “e” so please stop messaging me about typos. This whisky woman knows what she is doing.
Now on to the business of single malts. Oban grew up around the distillery. That means it’s an entire town centered on the production of an amazing single malt. It also means that the distillery can’t expand. Their Instagram boasts “great from small, ” and they rock it. Their copper stills are works of art, and I would encourage you to do a tour (even the short one) to check it out. Here science and art come together to make beautiful single malt babies. If you’re a whisky fan, I also recommend doing the four taster, since we can only get one or two of those easily in the US.
Beyond the tour, go across the street to the Oban Whisky and Fine Wine Shop and talk to James. He was able to turn his single malt hobby into a business, which is both cool and makes me a little envious. And he knows his stuff. In addition to the tasters and education, he gave me suggestions on which newer distilleries would be coming online soon, and which whisky bars in Glasgow would likely have the lost and silent stuff on my single malt challenge checklist. And, now that I know the Old and Rare whisky festival is a thing, it’s going on the bucket list.