“I know that I am a different person than when I first arrived in Ireland, but I’m not sure in exactly what ways.” My new traveling friend met me with a strange, how-can-you-not-know look that indicated he did not believe me.
What you are about to read is my attempt to explain the seven days I spent in Ireland in March 2014. Grab your cup of coffee, make sure the kids are napping or wait until its your lunch hour because this entry – it’s going to be a long one.
First, a little back story. In 2012 I went to Ireland with my dad. We traveled most of Ireland seeing all that we could in the 10 days we were there. When we were driving past Doolin, I instantly knew I would be back to this town one day. Through various situations, circumstances and affirmations from family; I purchased my tickets to finally get back to this town. I did not know what was waiting for me there but something was. Before I left for the trip a plethora of people said “You should watch PS I Love You” before you go. I would also get text messages that would say “Watching PS I Love You and thinking about you and your trip.” So I watched it with a few friends one evening. Not much of that movie actually takes place in Ireland. There are a few scenes; but a lot of it takes place in NYC. However, I felt drawn to the movie and watched it again two nights before I left.
There is a moment when Holly is waiting outside the karaoke bar for her friends and she says “Why does he [Gerry] keep taking me through all these painful memories?” When she said this, I realized the last year, year-and-a-half of my life, Christ had taken me through some very painful memories and brought closure to each question I had in those moments. Even in the week leading up to the trip there were many things that worked themselves out and had an ending. As with Holly, there had been a great healing in the reliving of those memories. Because of this, I was going to Ireland with knowing a chapter had ended and a blank page staring at me.
I could write to about all the wonderful people I met on my journey. About British David who didn’t quite know what to do with the crying American while we were waiting to see if one of our flights would be cancelled. (Thankfully it was not.) There was Michelle who so warmly greeted me at the cottage when I arrived 4 hours later than I had anticipated. There is Patty, Karen and Pat, Michael, motorcyclists Tony and David, musician’s Philip (he’s 6’3”), Brian, and Bill. Christy and Brett from New Hampshire, Jo who had been to over 40 countries, Mary, Moira, Canadian-Irish Justin, Australian’s Joy and Deacon (who met in Abu-Dhabi), the Germans, John the petrol station owner, Swiss friends Dr. Remco and David, the chocolate shop owner who loves country music and longs to visit Nashville, or the french-sweater shop owner who helped me pick out a new sweater, after she got off the phone with her mum. I could tell you about the Asian leprechaun I met whilst hiking to the Cliffs of Moher (aka the Cliffs) or about the guy in the town of Ennis who showed me the preserved bodies of two leprechauns found in the bog near there. I could tell you about Ted! Ted was a 70-year-old man who lost his leg and hip to bone cancer about 30 years ago but made his way down to the pub to sing. He sang me Tennessee Waltz and in between during down drinks he told me about how he survived lung-cancer too.
I could write about the ‘wild’ sheep that lived in my yard, the great ocean view, how comforting the light from the lighthouse was and time I had to ask the person behind me to move the car in front of me because I do not know how to drive a manual car and the road was not big enough for both of us to get through. I could tell you all about these things, however there are other things I need to mention.
My sisters here in Nashville caught wind of the whole PS I Love You thing and wrote me letters. They had spent time seeking Christ to see what encouragements they could leave with me throughout my trip. If you are unaware — I LOVE LETTERS! Love.Them. My journal from these seven days has quickly become one of my most prized possessions because of these letters. And because of what Christ did through them.
He pulled me out, called me away. To be with him. to learn his voice better. To be comforted in the wind, to express his love to new friends, to give of what I had, to be content with what I didn’t. As outlandish as it may sound he wooed me. He taught me to see him in everything. Showed me how simply being myself enabled me to share his love for others. A smile here, an encouragement there, an offer of a ride. All seemingly simple acts that make a person, a stranger, feel at home.
Home. I looked up ‘home’ in the dictionary. It has a lame definition about a physical building along with some other stuff. That does not define home to me. Home is different. It’s a place in your heart. It’s the place you long to be. Home is warm, simple, comfortable, genuine, messy…perfect. Home is a place of belonging.
The Irish often ask tourists “Which part of Ireland is your family from?” Although I know I’m probably 1/32, 1/64th Irish; really I can’t count that. Not over there. So my simple answer was Ireland just feels like home. It is warm (not literally), simple, comfortable, genuine, messy and perfect.
I’m different when I’m there. And I’ve spent the last couple of weeks searching for the right words to describe this difference. The best I can do is to let you know I’m more adventurous, more out-going, more open, less self-aware. I’m more me there.
I can remember moments of being these things here in the States, but those are few and far between. I’m struggling to be that same girl – the Irish Heather – here in Tennessee. Sure there could be a few outside factors that contribute to the Irish Heather – the adventure of traveling, the other tourists who are trying to also figure out how to drive on the left-side of the road, the wit and sarcasm, charm and compassion of the Irish themselves – but it’s not like I can’t be that person every day. It is possible. I am slowly learning to be me, here.
I was talking on the phone with a friend yesterday and she kept asking me if I was ok. I seemed more mellow like I was still struggling with something. Truth is I am. But I am not sure what it is I am struggling with. I feel like in learning to be me, in the saying goodbye to the old and false there is a season of waiting for the new. I hate waiting. Although I know its in the stillness and waiting that strength is gained; I’m still not fan. I would rather being actively pursuing something. But it would be the wrong something.
So I’m learning.
I’m learning that the new, true, created-before-the-world-was-spoken, Irish Heather is going to take time. I caught a glimpse of her in the seven days in Ireland and I have known who she is not in the days since returning. (The contrast is disturbing.)
I am confident the depression I’ve entered since being back will lift. I am confident my identity is being renewed. I am confident that the self-aware, jealous, timid, and controlling Heather is vanishing – although currently she is going kicking and screaming. I’m confident my job or my weight or my smile will not define me; but rather the attitude of my heart. I am hopeful for more dinner parties and more laughter. I am hopeful to provide a space for people to comfortable and where they can rest and be renewed. I am hopeful.
You will see some changes around the blog over the next few months. A new layout, a revision of why I’m doing this, a new identity – if you will. Rebranding…but I’m not a brand. I’m just me. If you are looking to figure out who you are, come on back. Maybe we can help each other.