They say that every seven years we’re recreated, that scientifically, our cells completely regenerate and we’re a whole new person.
It’s been seven years since my life blew apart. I had lost myself and nearly lost my husband. That woman whom I had failed to acknowledge over the last seven years had been neglected and ignored in a flurry of dirty diapers and 3am feedings. That passionate, effervescent girl who longed to travel and create had been missing for so long that I hardly remembered her. She seemed to have been replaced with an angry and beleagured wretch with tired eyes, messy hair and stained clothes who drank too much wine and spent her nights alone feeling sorry for herself.
I desperately missed my family and was exhausted by the drama of a nine month separation but I felt that if I jumped right back into my marriage, I would be jumping back into the same constraints and problems without healing or changing. I was afraid that if I relinquished my freedom I would lose the opportunity to travel on my own forever. After an uneasy reconciliation with my husband, I took one last desperate attempt to reconnect with my grieving soul in a green country halfway around the world.
Ireland has been calling to me since I was a child. I remember the first time I heard Irish music. I danced and danced until I cried with ecstatic joy. I couldn’t have been more than nine or ten. And when I discovered their art, I was hooked and spent hours as a teenager trying to work out the complicated knots and patterns.
So I ran to the magical land of Eire, and I fell in love with a country that felt like home, although I had never been there before. I explored its monuments, walked quietly through crumbling ruins, and enjoyed more than one pint of Guinness in its charming pubs. That month was also hard and painful and lonely, but I found myself indeed. I discovered that I was no longer merely that girl. I was also a mother, with an amazing husband and precious children. I had not lost her; she had simply metamorphosed into a whole new person who was not less than before but more. I realized that I didn’t have to give her up; I just had to start to acknowledge her quiet voice again.
Here I am again, another seven years later. I feel whole, new, and reborn. My relationship with my husband is flourishing…much stronger than before, and my children are brilliant, confident, respectful human beings who never fail to amaze me. I have my own little business that is so much more successful than I ever imagined. I’m happy, and my life is full but too full. Burnout is threatening to overwhelm me. That girl is shouting at me once more, trying to get my attention. This time, I know that I have to listen before I fall apart again.
Ireland has imprinted herself indelibly on my heart, and I have to go. I miss her like a lover. So I book a trip. This time, I want to immerse myself in her secret places. I want to avoid the rush of tourists and absorb the landscape instead of rushing from one landmark to the next. I want to know Ireland more intimately, and I want to experience the silence and solitude that my current life is lacking so desperately. I decide that I will walk around the Dingle Peninsula, following the Dingle Way, a 179 km trail through dramatically changing scenery. It crosses through picturesque villages, down quiet boreens (the narrow, winding passageways which pass for roads in the backcountry of Ireland), and rolling farmland, through bogs and over the foothills of Mount Brandon, ending in long stretches of white sand beaches with turquoise water stretching farther than the eye can see. Some of the finest archaeological sites in Ireland can be seen along the trail. Standing stones, ogham stones and beehive huts stand side by side with crumbling stone huts and modern farmhouses, evidence of the many generations of people who have called this island home. Standing inside a bramble covered fairy ring, it’s easy to imagine that the “little people” once inhabited this magical place.
(From my journal, September 19, 2016)
I have mixed feelings and my heart is in my throat as the plane taxis down the runway. I can see my little family slowly walking away from the terminal, hand in hand. I feel a rush of regret, seeing them all together and I’m so instantly alone. As the plane speeds up and lifts off, my stomach flips and I have an intense feeling of panic. What am I doing? I hate flying! Who do I think I am, going to another country by myself?! How selfish can I be? We are told that it’s good to get comfortable and settle down. Buy a big house, a new car, and save your money…All of the questions that others have raised, an accusing tone, or an arched eyebrow, suggesting that a “good wife” a “good mother” would never dream of doing such a thing. For a moment I believe them and I want off that plane. The smell of stale Naugahyde, breath mints and diesel fills my nostrils, the nauseating combination increasing the unease in my roiling stomach. As the little 19-seater bobs around in the sky, each gust of wind blows it this way and that and each pocket of turbulence feels like impending disaster. My white knuckles grip the seat arms and I fight to keep my breathing regular. Finally, as we clear the mountaintops and level off, the feeling of panic subsides, replaced with wonder at the beauty all around me. Mist veiled glaciers and snow-covered peaks spread out below me, revealing the majesty of the place I call home. I quickly seize my journal, and try to capture the feeling in words:
‘I look below me
Rivers of ice ripple
in the cold blue’