I wrote in my last post about the essential role Forgiveness played in my Grief Recovery Journey. And I’ve worked incredibly hard at it. But if I’m entirely truthful, I have still struggled to forgive God/The Divine/The Universe/Whatever You Want to Call It for allowing two of the people I’ve loved most in the world to suffer and die the way they did. ALERT: This is not a religious post, so if you’re thinking about chiming in about faith and spirituality, or with any religious platitudes, you can back that truck up right now. Go on, back it up. I’ll wait. A little more. Yep, okay we’re good.
Just like those I visited in Scotland, Ireland has many ancient sacred sites that I wanted to see. Without a car, that was next to impossible. I got a great referral to Teresa Collins, a psychic medium who does private tours of sacred sites, and booked a day with her. With decision making fatigue setting in, I decided to go with the flow. And in a “hey show me watcha got” move I let her choose our itinerary based upon what she thought I needed most. I just knew I wanted to go somewhere interesting that most people don’t get to see. She picked me up in Kilkenny bright and early and we headed out to Kildare to explore the sites associated with St. Brigid. Not the stone circles I was anticipating, but still fascinating, so coolio.
We visited some beautiful places, but the best part was the surprise meeting she’d set up for me with Sister Mary of the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland. I’m not Catholic, and the only things I know about the Catholic faith are what my beautiful friend A.E. has taught me over the last few years. I knew nothing about Brigid (Saint or Goddess) except for what I crammed the two days before our tour. I won’t go into details since this was a profoundly moving experience for me, but it was a quantum leap forward in my grief recovery. All I know is I left with peace, love, and forgiveness in my heart and a Sister Mary hug to go with it. I’d say Teresa knew exactly what I needed.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce
St. Brigid of Kildare was born in the mid-5th century. She was a spiritual leader, peacemaker, and an advocate for the poor. She also bridged the pre-Christian Celtic and Christian Celtic Spirit, establishing monasteries for both men and women. Unusual for her time, she also held a leadership role in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The Solas Bhríde Centre is close to both St. Brigid’s well and St. Brigid’s Cathedral, the original site of the monestary. The Centre and Hermitages are unique for many reasons, one of which is their commitment to protecting the environment. The facility uses 0% fossil fuels, being powered by wind, solar and ice tubes. Ice tubes were new to me, but the simplistic explanation I took away was that it works similar to the warm coils in the back of the freezer, only in this case it’s the reverse. The ice tubes provide heat. Pretty cool stuff.
Contact The Brigidine Sisters for an appointment if you’re interested in learning more about what they do or want to book a stay in the hermitages.
IRISH NATIONAL STUD
I’d seen the Irish National Stud on a map of Ireland as I was preparing to leave Scotland. I thought it was funny, and even made jokes about how us single ladies would appreciate it if all maps were so clearly labeled. Whomp Whomp. Guess you had to have been there.
The National Stud is where Ireland’s prized stallions are stabled and live a life of luxury in a stall larger than my first apartment. It is amazing. In addition to the stables, there are beautiful gardens onsite available to tour. If you’re in Kildare, don’t miss it. Oh, and just in case you aren’t used to being around prize stallions worth more than your entire stock portfolio, standing at the edge of the paddock exclaiming, “Ooh look at the pretty horseys,” is not how you look cool.
THE JAPANESE GARDENS
I’ve seen a lot of Japanese gardens in my life, and the one at Kildare is one of my all time favorites. Definitely in my Top 5 if not tied for first place. Designed by Tassa Eida in 1906, this garden packs a lot into a small space. The garden represents the journey of life we all must take, and walking the symbolic paths from birth through death is like being transported into a Japanese poem. I almost cried at the end when I reached the Hill of Mourning. i’m so glad I ended up here in the fall since that’s when Japanese gardens are at their most beautiful.
ST. FIACHRA’S GARDEN
A tribute to Ireland’s natural beauty, St. Fiachra’s Garden is almost wild compared to the formality of the Japanese Garden. Take the time to stroll through and find the fairy gardens and sculptures hidden in the trees. You can even walk through a reproduction beehive shaped stone monastic cell, which you can still find ruins of all over Ireland.
Just like my visit to Cork, I didn’t put much thought or research into choosing Kilkenny as a destination, beyond the fact that it was in the general path of my return to Belfast. My friends had visited recently and couldn’t say enough good things about it. Good enough for me! Sometimes going into life with no expectations leaves you open for the best kind of surprises, and I’ve continued to luck out. Although, you really can’t go wrong anywhere in Ireland.
So I hopped on a bus and headed off to Kilkenny and new adventure. And it got off to a bit of a rough start. One of the most annoying adjustments to life as a widow for me was learning to take care of stuff Dan used to handle. In addition to being (over) protective of me, Dan would take care of all the junk I hated. In the last year, I’ve been forced to learn to deal with horrible contractors, hire and fire lawyers, fix broken things myself, and remember what day trash gets picked up. In Kilkenny, I added a new one to the list. I’d booked a hotel online, and it was a disaster. Not kidding, it looked like a room you see in an “American tourist murdered here” kinda movie. It doesn’t sound like much, but changing hotels and then fighting the cancellation fee was a big deal for me since Dan would have handled that after taking one look and turning around with a big fat, “Nope!” Yeah, feeling pretty proud of myself right now.
Kilkenny and I got along great. It’s got everything you could want in an Irish town–a castle, lots of shops, restaurants, pubs, its own whiskey guild, and a river that flows through it. Ireland’s medieval capital, Kilkenny is also breathtakingly beautiful and was another spur of the moment decision that turned out to be fantastic.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce
P.S. Just for Brian…Oh My God! They killed Kenny!
River Walk: One of the best green belts I’ve seen outside of Boise. Maybe even better! You can walk for miles along the river on a paved walk, so it’s popular with walkers and dog people. Benches dot the path so you can sit and enjoy the view, along with the occasional sculpture, and beautiful street art when you get to the freeway underpass. A lovely way to start or end each day, although the lights do get turned off early in the fall.
Kilkenny Castle Park: More woodsy than the river walk, the castle park is on the other side of the castle wall from the river. Different vibe, but still easily accessible, and the fall foliage is gorgeous in October! Don’t let ANYONE put you off visiting Ireland in the fall; it may be the prettiest time to go.
The Kilkenny Whiskey Guild: Did you know the first written account of whiskey distillation in Ireland comes from Kilkenny? Guild members commit to stocking a minimum of 60 Irish Whiskeys and providing knowledgeable staff to assist with pairing advice and other recommendations. Look for their sign outside of restaurants and bars.
Savour Kilkenny was just getting started as I was leaving, but I did my Airborne Best to sample as much of the local offerings while I was in town. I blame the whiskey and ice cream for shrinking my pants the week I was there. Totally worth it.
Matt the Millers: Great food, friendly staff, and awesome live music. I got a few new Irish Pot Still whiskey recommendations based on my current favorites. Matt the Millers is a member of the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild and has live music every night. Their Table For One service was consistently superior each time I went, which I can’t say for many pubs and restaurants.
Langton’s Bar and Grill: Langtons supposedly wins Best Irish Pub every year. I haven’t verified that, but the food, service, and live music were phenomenal. It’s comfortable, but the kind of place where I’m Madam for everything, even though I was rocking jeans and a Boise State Broncos tee. Madam likey that a lot. Also a member of the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild, I got some great recommendations for Irish Single Malts.
Murphy’s Ice Cream of Dingle: One of my Irish friends boasted that Murphy’s makes the BEST ice cream in Ireland. He may be right. The Black Forest Gateau made with Tipsy Cherry sorbet was my first experience, and it was heavenly. I went back later (Okay, so it was the same day. Don’t judge me!) for the Irish Coffee made with Jameson’s Whiskey. What magic is this?!? Ice cream and whiskey fell in love and had a beautiful baby, that happens to pair well with a scoop of the sea salt ice cream. This heavenly place also has something called an Ice Cream Intern, which means I’ve been doing life wrong all these years. Tell Padraig I sent you.
I won’t bash a business publicly so my first hotel will remain unnamed, but I do want to give a huge shout out to the River Court Hotel. Despite rolling in looking like a trainwreck after a night of no sleep, they got me a spacious room and let me check in immediately even though it was only 9:00 am. Riverfront views and professional staff made this a win, on top of the fact it was the same price as the dive I’d initially booked and included breakfast each morning. I highly recommend this one if you are going to stay in Kilkenny. Did I mention you have a postcard view of the castle? Oh, and I got to be Madam here too. And you know Madam likey that.
Cork must have read my post about loving storms. And since Ireland is nothing if not hospitable, Storm Brian rolled into town shortly after I did. I don’t mind the rain. I consider myself a pluviophile, and after years of living in the high desert, it was one of the things I was looking forward to most about my time in Ireland. You know how the Inuits are said to have hundreds of words to describe snow? Well in Ireland there must be as many words to describe rain. I’m not sure which one is appropriate to use when it rains so much your umbrella starts to leak so, if you know, please tell me. I still love the rain but am learning to appreciate it from the warm sanctuary of my favorite coffee shop or pub, especially when it’s blowing sideways.
I know I’m supposed to learn something from each part of this journey and, when I think about it, moving through the grief process is a lot like surviving the storm only to face the endless rain and grey skies. Sure, it would be easier to take shelter from the bad weather and hide out, but we’d miss out on so much! We must sometimes force ourselves to get out there anyway, Live Now, and not waste the time we have. We have to find a way to recognize the beauty that is all around us, even when sunlight does not illuminate it or you have to wipe the rain out of your face to see it. Along the way, we might meet new friends, discover new paths, dance with strangers, and have adventures that propel us forward on this journey rain or shine.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
I wasn’t sure what to expect since I hadn’t done much research on Cork before getting there. It was one of those close your eyes and point to the map decisions. In fact, I actually got busted complaining about having to choose where to go next. After an ass chewing from a friend about my bad attitude, I corrected and I’m glad I went. Even at the end of the tourist season and dealing with damage from back-to-back storms, Cork knows how to show a lady a good time. I love college towns, and Cork was no exception. City Centre has a layout that is easy to navigate, even for a Lost Girl like me, and there is something going on every night of the week.
Cork Walks has marked paths around the city so you can get out and stretch your legs. My favorite was along the river, although when I encountered fallen trees in my path, I decided I should probably not walk there again until the storm was over. Death by falling tree is a real possibility in Irish storms.
Just like Belfast, there are shops, restaurants, and pubs everywhere, and due to the weather I probably spent too much time in all of them. Here are a few of my faves.
The Woodford: I always seem to find a favorite pub in every town I visit and tend to go back multiple times. You know I rate everything on Table For One Service, and these guys were awesome! Welcoming, good food, funny, and had my favorite whiskey. Ask for Joel; he’ll take good care of you. And don’t forget to check out the live music.
The Oliver Plunkett: Amazing live music and the food is excellent. Friendly service every time I went in, even when they were busy.
The Frisky Whiskey Bar: Upstairs from Oliver Plunkett, the name alone makes this place a win, and I was relieved they didn’t sell a lotta merch, or I might have ended up with yet another whiskey bar tank top in my collection. They do a traditional Irish dance/music show in the evenings and serve food. And whiskey, of course.
Amicus: They make homemade ice cream every day at Amicus. Despite being in the country for a few weeks, I still hadn’t tried any and had been promised that Ireland’s superior dairy quality made the ice cream amazing. All true. I highly recommend the passion fruit ice cream, which I’m pretty sure was sent down to us from heaven. The rest of the food is also delicious, but I’m still dreaming about that ice cream.
Kinsale: A 45-minute bus ride from Cork, Kinsale is a pretty coastal town with brightly painted houses and cute shops and pubs. Sunday afternoons a lot of shops are closed, so do your homework. Pubs, however, are open, because you have to have your priorities straight.
Cobh: The last stop of the Titanic before it set sail towards its doom. Larger and busier than Kinsale, it too has brightly painted houses, shops, and pubs. My favorite thing was not a pub; it was St. Coleman’s Cathedral. This was a surprise since I usually avoid churches and cathedrals (please reference any of my previous What Not To Say posts about spewing useless religious platitudes at the grieving for the explanation). This giant grey monolith towered above the city but didn’t feel imposing at all. The sweet church bells must have magic in them because they called me in and I couldn’t stop my feet from climbing the hill to get there. After spending time exploring, I had to force myself to leave so I wouldn’t miss my bus.
Blarney: a 15-minute drive from Cork, Blarney Castle is easily accessible. The gardens are the best part and unfortunately closed the day I went due to damage from Storms Ophelia and Brian. If you intend to kiss the Blarney stone (Eww!), you’ll want to bring a lotta hand sanitizer for your lips. And ladies, maybe skip the skirt that day since you’ll be hanging upside down with a stranger holding your knees. Make sure to give yourself enough time to explore the gardens and the walking paths. And call first if you’re visit coincides with a recent storm.
The Jameson’s Distillery in Middleton: Come to mama! You can do the tour, or skip it and do the premier tasting if you’re short on time. It breaks my heart that some of my favorite whiskeys aren’t available in the US, but it’s fun to enjoy them while I’m here. You can also bottle your own, and they’ll do a personalized label for you which makes a lovely gift for the whiskey fan back home. Full bar with some delicious whiskey cocktails and a restaurant onsite.
THE BEST PART
I’d started to feel the effects of hauling luggage around for eight weeks and sleeping in some horribly uncomfortable hotel beds. Thanks to Storm Brian I made time to fix that when I found Caroline at Dervish and treated myself to a massage. They take walk-ins, but you can call and schedule an appointment as well. Prices are comparable to what you’d pay in the states.
Killarney was one of the stops I’d made on my spring trip, and I had some unfinished shenanigans that needed my attention. Since I am leaving a lot to chance on this adventure, it made perfect sense to travel from Northern Ireland to about as far South as I could go in one day. Um, no. It’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry because I spent a whole day on trains, trams, and buses. Fortunately, I continue to luck out meeting cool new people on trains, and this travel day was no exception.
It was also the first place on this adventure I was going back to with a big item that needed checking off my list, and I found my closure at a whiskey bar. I know you’re shocked, but I’m convinced all good stories start with whiskey.
When I first visited Killarney in April, I was having a rough time. I was having fun, but crying myself to sleep every night that I was here on this dream vacation without Dan. After two weeks on the road, I was tired of living out of a suitcase. (That sounds hilarious now). I was tired of getting lost everywhere I went. (Also hilarious since Killarney isn’t large enough to get lost in unless you’re like me and getting lost is your superpower).
So there I was, tired, hangry, and couldn’t find my way back to my hotel. To prevent yet another public cryfest, I got angry. I started yelling at Dan (in my head, no need to let ALL the cray-cray hang out) that this was all his fault. I was angry at him for dying. I was angry that he’d made me promise to take this trip anyway. And I was hangry and knew I was going to lose it soon. I yelled at him to find me a place to have a good meal and an even better whiskey, that wasn’t too crowded with tourists at that hour.
Imagine my surprise and relief when I turned the corner and found Murphy’s Whiskey Bar. My lunch was fantastic, and I did get to try a fancy new whiskey. I also noticed a wall of American police patches behind the bar. There were none from Idaho. It felt like Dan had led me to that spot, and that’s where he wanted his last Caldwell PD patch to end up. (I’d found it in a box just before leaving for Europe). So, threads still attached from where I cut it off his uniform, it’s traveled with me ever since I left home. Now it lives at Murphy’s. Somewhere he is laughing that not only is he hanging out in a bar, he’s also hanging out in an Irish whiskey bar with a bunch of other cops.
When you visit Murphy’s on your next trip to Killarney, look up and raise your glass to Dan Bain. I officially close this chapter of the adventure. Cheers. (Details below as usual)
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
THE KILLARNEY PUB CRAWL
Killarney caters to tourists, and you can find live music pretty much every day of the week. I ran out of nights to check it all out.
***PSA: Ordering a Black and Tan or Irish Car Bomb at ANY bar in Ireland makes you an insensitive ass. (If you don’t know why, pick up a freaking history book or google The Troubles). You may be asked to leave. Even if you’re allowed to stay, you’re now embarrassing me. Don’t do it.***
Murphy’s Whiskey Bar: There are two sides to Murphy’s, separated by hotel reception. The cop patches are only on one side (door number three). An excellent choice for lunch or dinner, with an extensive whiskey collection and live music on the weekends. And you can’t forget your opportunity to take a photo of that super sexy Caldwell PD patch for Facebook and Instagram. Tag me so I can send you a virtual high five.
Here’s the scoop on the patches. For my non-American friends, historically many US cops have had Irish heritage and a strong connection to Ireland. One or two patches showed up at the bar one day, and more followed suit. You know how that goes, it then takes on a life of its own. Each patch is a story about how it got there and the person or department it’s connected to. I love that Murphy’s allows them to stay, and that Dan Bain and Caldwell, Idaho (and maybe even me, too) are now part of it.
The Lane Cafe Bar (in the Ross Hotel): If you’re tired of traditional Irish pubs (we’ll have a chat about that later) this contemporary cocktail bar will take good care of you. Good food and a surprisingly large menu considering cocktails in Ireland are limited to two shots.
The Killarney Grand/Liquid Lounge: Live music every night in the traditional bar on the ground floor. Upstairs is a cocktail bar that opens around 11:30 pm with a fantastic piano player.
Reidy’s: Fun place with multiple bars, each with their own theme. Start at the front and keep working your way back until you find a spot you like.
Courtney’s: Pulling pints in three centuries, this traditional pub has a cool, down-to-earth vibe. Perfect place for a pint or a whiskey. TIP: the fireplace is en fuego hot, so don’t stand too close unless you want to set your backside on fire.
O’Conners: Another traditional pub, covered with signed dollar bills. O’Conners will have a soft spot in my heart as the place I tried my first Guinness.
The Flesk: Open only for dinner, and I recommend making reservations. A friend suggested this place, and it didn’t disappoint. Excellent seafood and superior service. I wasn’t out of place in my usual jeans and hiking boots, but you would also blend in if you wanted to dress up a little. Thomas was a gracious host, and you’ll have to ask him about the connection with the American Legion.
THE RUGGED STUFF
Last time I was here I wasn’t able to get out and do any hiking. I overcame my reluctance to hike alone because the trails in Killarney National Park desperately needed my footprints. Glad I did because I found one that’s now on my Top Ten. I’d say “check that one off the list” but know I’ll be back for more. The proximity of this beautiful National Park to the center of town is hands-down my favorite thing about Killarney.
You know I hate driving, so the hop on/hop off Red Bus was my best friend to get to and from town to Killarney National Park sites. Torc Waterfall is about a 5-10 minute walk from the parking lot where you get dropped off. Don’t stop there or you’ll miss all the views. There are three looped trails with varying degrees of difficulty and length to choose from, and bathrooms next to the parking lot.
Keep going, and you can follow a trail along the lake past the Muckross House estate. It’s easy, beautiful and it goes for miles. I encountered only one other hiker that day, so it was like we had the lake to ourselves. I loved it so much I went back more than once. The bus will get you back to town when you’re ready.
Want to stay on a paved path but still be in nature? Start at Killarney House and Gardens and continue until you get to the River Walk. Paths are well marked and maintained, and you’ll get to enjoy some up-close views of the red deer and Kerry cows that roam the area. I know towns and cities in the US that would kill to have a natural resource like this.
Unfortunately, all the ocean-faring activities I’d hoped to do wrapped up at the end of September due to weather. Even when you don’t have a hurricane headed your way, the season ends the first part of October. It looks like I have yet another reason to come back. If boating out to the Skellig or Blasket Islands is a high priority for you, be sure to plan accordingly.
I still can’t get over how friendly people are here. When I got into town, my new neighbors picked me up at the train station, took me to the market, and checked on me every day. And I lucked out with the Airbnb jackpot. Great place and the most attentive and friendly host I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something since they’ve all been fantastic.
Everyone I met gave me great tips for dining and suggestions for the next stops on my adventure through Ireland. I don’t know if they make everyone in Killarney kiss the Blarney Stone when they are born, but I’ve heard the best stories since I got here, and been in stitches since everyone also seems to be a comedian. Even the rare cranky ones.
In addition to catering to tourists, Killarney rolls out all the stops for Americans.
Take a jaunting cart ride through Killarney.
Not a cloud in the sky after Hurricane Ophelia blew through Killarney.
BONUS BEACH DAY!
Hurricane Ophelia blew out all the grey weather and my last full day in Killarney dawned with sunny, warm, blue skies. Since I’ve been so openly in love with Scotland’s beaches, one of my Irish friends decided I needed to give Ireland’s a fair shot. Yowzas, I’m torn. I love the Carribean blue and wildness of the beaches in the Orkneys and Hebrides, but being able to run around the beach and watch surfers without a jacket won out for personal enjoyment. I could have stayed forever.
A short drive up to North Kerry made for a fun afternoon of beach hopping. Ballybunion Beach was my favorite of the five with the cliffs, castle ruins, and a long stretch of sandy beach. I’d recommend staying the night, so you don’t have to rush back, but be aware that most restaurants close up shop in October.
Apologies if you could hear the squee from where you were. The promise of the beach can turn me into a five year old.
Derrymore Beach. My first beach in Ireland.
Rattoo Tower is a restored round tower near Ballyduff. Learn more at roundtowers.org
I’m sitting in my living room in Killarney, Ireland watching Hurricane Ophelia roll into town. Not exactly what I thought I’d be doing today, but Mother Nature does what Mother Nature wants, and I’ve learned not to try and fight that. While most tourists (and some locals) are freaking out right now, I’m curled up with my coffee enjoying the show. I can’t EVER see a storm without thinking about Dan. Honestly, I kinda wish I was at the beach right now for a better view. (Don’t worry Mom, I’m not doing it).
Dan’s favorite quote while fighting cancer was Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.” The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.” To this day our inner circle still calls him The Storm, and the moniker suited his personality. Maybe we were fated to meet. My Dad called me Hurricane Lisa for years, and together Dan and I were the perfect storm.
After diagnosis, he became a symbol of strength and grace in the face of adversity and a losing battle. But for a few of us that were there that horrible-no-good-very-bad last day, the storm took on a new meaning. Summer storms are common in our part of the country, but typically you’ll see them in the late afternoon or evening. When I woke up that morning I could no longer deny the end was imminent. And it wasn’t like the peaceful BS you see on TV. He fought to stay. He fought so @#$%^&* hard to stay. With me. It was horrific to witness. Unbearable. But as the battle raged within his body, a storm picked up outside. It was surreal. The winds were whipping the trees around and flinging bark and leaves and twigs against the house and the windows as if the storm was trying to get inside. It was powerful enough that a small part of my brain even made a mental note to go out and check for damage later.
Our inner circle was on standby at this point, so most everyone was awake and watching the storm. It mirrored both Dan’s fight to stay, and the agony that was crescendoing through my entire being. And then, with one last breath, The Storm died. All the winds and rain outside stopped instantly. He was gone, carried away on the winds of the storm like a mythic warrior in an ancient tale.
So on days like today when a storm comes visiting, instead of worrying about it, I get a big smile on my face. My Storm is back to remind me that nature will always take its course even if it makes no sense, like a hurricane in Ireland, or a healthy young man dying of a weirdo cancer. He reminds me that love never dies and that in the aftermath of the storm, we have the choice to rebuild stronger than before. And he never lets me forget that while my Storm is gone, I’m still the Hurricane.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Do you remember when my grief counselor told me that if I stopped going to our favorite places or doing the things we loved, it would actually make Dan disappear and not help me feel better? Well, Dan and I had been planning this Harry Potter bucket list trip to Europe for years. We never got farther than planning and dreaming, but we knew that SOMEDAY we were going to go. When Dan realized he wasn’t going to be able to make the trip, he made me promise to go anyway. That promise was one of the many gifts he gave me to help me get through my grief journey.
So I booked the trip and headed out solo. I figured if I were having a bad day I wouldn’t have to mess up anyone else’s itinerary. If I were by myself I wouldn’t have to explain why I was crying or laughing as I thought about him and wished he was there with me. And I underestimated the amount of crying I would do: saying goodbye to my dog; in the airport bar; in the boarding area; on the plane…you get the idea. I lost track of how many times I broke down in tears, but crying myself to sleep alone on our dream vacation became the norm. It’s a good thing I got over crying in public a long time ago, because there was plenty of that too.
But I wasn’t really solo. Dan was there with me, watching out for me and pulling strings. I’m sure he intervened when I was able to get tickets for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, despite it being sold out for a year. And I give him full credit for the unseasonable picture perfect weather every single day that made Ireland look like the tropics! And he sent me little messages to remind me he was there and I was going to be okay.
And I met amazing people, did amazing things, saw amazing things, drank (a lot) of amazing whisk(e)y, and the night before I was supposed to go to Scotland I had a full meltdown and started packing to come home. I’m not sure why that was the trigger, other than visiting Scotland was what we’d talked about the most. We both have Scottish ancestry, and there was just something about Scotland that called to us.
So there I was in my hotel room a blubbering mess trying to figure out what to do. My little sister convinced me to stay, and I’m so glad she did. Scotland was magic. Somehow just crossing the border changed everything. I let go. I felt like I’d come home. It was everything I’d expected…windy, rugged, and beautiful. I’d actually dreamed about Loch Lomond a few months before taking the trip. Imagine my surprise when I got there and recognized it as the place I’d been dreaming of. And as I was standing outside in the highlands, cold wind whipping my hair around, I was laughing like a crazy woman. At that moment, I remembered. I remembered what it felt like to feel joy-pure joy! And happy. And at peace. And with hope for the future. It was like those highland winds ripped off all the grief and survivor guilt baggage I’d been carrying around and I was suddenly weightless. Dramatic, I know, but I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
And here’s the big shocker.
I met someone!
Me. I met me without the weight of the world on my shoulders–the me that is going to not only survive but thrive in this new reality. I met the me that can cry and laugh at the same time and still enjoy life–the me that can look fear and loss in the eye and keep going. I met the me that was the wild crazy laughing woman in the highlands. And I think Dan somehow knew that would happen and that’s why he made me promise to go.
Taking this trip was terrifying, but I’m so glad I did it. And I can’t wait to go back.