Dublin, Ireland: beer, boys & bulmers

Our first full day in Ireland turned out wonderfully well. It was a pretty relaxed day. We got up at the late hour of 9:30, which was amazing in and of itself. We chummed about for a while and booked our next couple hostels, and then headed out on the town.

Naturally, we decided to do what needed to be done when in Dublin: head to the Guinness factory!

It was actually called the Guinness Storehouse, and it was a really interesting place, with seven levels of brewery fun-ness, and a taste test here and a free pint there – and even though the last taste I wanted in my mouth in the middle of the afternoon was a Guinness, it was still a great time. We learned a lot about… Guinness.

Afterward, we headed back towards the hostel for lunch, but then decided to stop in at a little pub along the way. The special of Seafood Chowder and brown bread caught my eye, and before we knew it we were tucked in a corner drinking Bulmer’s and eating delicious food. It was really nice, and Kara had a huge crush on the bartender, who sadly left mid-meal.  Boo to that.

We grabbed a quick nap before heading out to pubs – over to the hotspot which is the Temple Bar area. The first bar had fantastic, authentic Irish folk music, but also had a sketchy old, old guy who kept following me around and spitting in my eye. The next bar was a bit more rowdy, with less authentic music, but we stayed there the longest. It was an interesting people-watching bar, and I made the mistake of singling out the biggest bum in the bar – I just know how to pick ‘em! Honestly, he might have been homeless.

On to the next bar. Finally, we ended up in The Temple Bar itself, where we were instantly greeted by a middle-aged man with no sense of personal space and plenty of alcohol already in his system. I simply had no tolerance and walked away, which I’m learning is less rude and more self-preserving than I once thought. As we walk away, however, Kara and I got stopped by this group of guys who we inevitably ended up talking to for the rest of the night. It was innocent, it was interesting, and I let them know that they were the nicest group of men we’ve met on this entire trip, which is absolutely true. We really haven’t had much luck meeting nice people, especially nice people of the opposite sex. So it was very refreshing, and definitely a nice start to our two weeks in this beautiful country. ☺ I’m looking forward, as I believe Kara is, as well, to the more rural places in West Ireland, and the sense of peace and poetry that such places bring with them.

Tomorrow we pick up our car from the airport, which we will have for the rest of the trip, so that’s fantastic. It’s nice to have a place to put our stuff, and… if necessary, a place to crash. Haha. Need to consider all our options. ☺

On the way back from the bars, Kara and I talked about relationships, and all that comes along with them. It’s always a tough subject for me, which is hard for me to accept since love and relationships have always meant the world to me. But now… things are different. I get very anxious talking about past hurts and pain, and even though I have a good handle on everything that has happened to me in the past four years, it is also a conflicting thing for me. I understand, though, that I need to place a bit more faith in God and the plans he has for me. If I am meant to love again, he will ensure my safety and my strength.

I just can’t imagine a world without love.

Dublin: Dreams & Deliberations

Tonight is definitely one of those nights when the only place I want to be is: HOME. It’s just been a really long day, and Kara and I are back to having absolutely nothing planned. So we’re left to stumble into random, smelly hostels and try to find a place to stay. I definitely had these days while on my Americana trip, as well, and they were never fun. Those were the days I ended up being hungry and tired and sleeping in my car. Here, however, in another country, and with another person, it’s a different story.

Yet here we are, at Paddy Wagon Hostel, in Dublin, Ireland. I may be hungry and tired, but at least I’m clean and safe. Of course, all I wanted was a hot shower, but instead I got the type of shower that you have to press down on a button for water to run, so it’s more of a battle of wit and skill rather than a relaxing time to unwind.

And I miss Bill and Katie- I’m not going to lie. I even miss our sketchy little cabin in the woods, because we were all together, and we were happy. I don’t know whether I have ever known such camaraderie and kindness.

I guess now all I really want is a week straight in a lovely cottage in County Clare. For some reason, Kara gets really annoyed when I mention John O’Donohue, but I have to admit, he is definitely one of the reasons I am still believing in anything beautiful in this world. And the thought of being in the land he loved… it means the world to me. If I really get to visit his grave site (we found the location), I will be beyond honored. However, simply to be in County Clare and West Ireland – it will mean so very much to me, and I am anxious to be on its soil. A place that cultivated such a soul, heart, and mind as that man – is undoubtedly a place of palpable power and purity.

Even though he has passed, the fact that John O’Donohue even lived gives me hope. The idea that there are people out there who understand and revere the concepts I have secretly clung to – is so beautiful to me. To find someone, perhaps one day – even one person – who can speak of the landscape and the language of a place, and pull poetry out of the earth – oh… it makes the trek worth trekking.

I can’t imagine returning home. It’s very hard for me to accept, even while simultaneously I am eager for it. It is quite the contradiction.

And I miss love. At the same time, I am terrified and desensitized by it.  I suppose it is O’Donohue’s talk of the ‘anam cara’ that calls to me – that person whose presence in one’s life breaks boundaries and conventions, and transcends this world. I know it is possible – and I have certainly tasted it briefly before; however, in a world so numb and devoid of passion, it is hard to still believe in.

Writing this has made me feel a bit better. Perhaps I can sleep now. I will talk to God for a while, since I have been very silent with Him this past month. And then I will clutch Panda to my side and fall into the world of recovery and Dreams.

Grace Center, Franklin, TN

I have let this go for far too long.

Last Sunday, I attended church with Kelly and Tim – they attend the Grace Center in Franklin, TN. It actually received the “church of the week” award on national television for the way the center helped a sister church by donating over $200,000 to them after their church burnt down. And as they said, “This isn’t a reflection of the wealth of our church, but a reflection of God’s desire for extravagance. He is an extravagant God, and he calls for us to give extravagantly of ourselves.”

It is sentiments like that which have opened my heart back up to the Lord, and completely re-awakened my heart. As the song went today – “I’m falling madly in love with you.” – it feels amazing to fall in love again, and this time with God.

Last week was simply mind-blowing, and it was fascinating to see how different last week’s service was compared to today’s. Kelly assured me that every week is different, and completely dictated by the will of God and what He wishes to accomplish, both with us and through us.

At 9 AM, before the actual church service, there is a time where people can attend the “soaking room” where… well, I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s in a small room, which can hold about 50 people or so, tightly squeezed in there. There are about 30 seats, but beyond that some people lay on the floor, some against the wall; others stand. And what it is…. is… a place… where the Holy Spirit is allowed to come and sit with us, stir us… and create music. There are a few musicians who sit up in the front, and a couple singers, and what happens is a completely improvised music session, led by the Holy Spirit.

If you think that sounds strange, it gets better.

Some people shout out random things like “Amen” or call out to “Jesus!,” while others are moved strongly enough to dance around, or wave streamers/flags. The emotion and presence of Him in the room causes many people to cry, while others laugh out loud, or even start giggling – filled with Joy. It is really fascinating, sometimes overwhelming… always beautiful.

Last week was intense – Kelly told me that it was usually never like that. It got so loud in that room that she almost had to leave, but for me, since it was brand new and I was entering with absolutely no expectations, I was extremely moved. The room was packed, so we sat on the floor, and I was surrounded by interpretative dancers and music and people and I just sat there and my eyes were filled with tears and my heart was filled with God – a feeling I had been without for years now.

Today was more relaxed and much more calm than last week, but it was still intense and beautiful. It was Father’s Day, so some people occasionally spoke into the microphone (and even their words sounded like music) and talked about fathers. One woman came up and almost broke my heart. She started crying at one point, talking about how she was going to “give herself back to God – give herself all over again” – and that would be her gift to Him on Father’s Day. It definitely started my tears – her talking about how God has never lied to her, or taken advantage of her, or hurt her. “You are always faithful to me; you are such a good daddy.” – oh my gosh that almost destroyed me.

The woman who sings in these sessions is named Laura Rhinehart. She has a CD out entitled “The Soaking Room” so I guess she knows what she’s doing. 🙂 Anyways, she has this gorgeous voice, and then the words she speaks inbetween the music are just lovely. Today she said:

“All the things that you long for… are a breath to Him.”

I could go on for hours. And I hope to one day write a beautiful story about my entire experience being part of this church for the last two weeks. But the end of the story is this: I am in love with God, again. I hope to keep this in my heart forever this time. Kelly and Tim have taken me into their home for the past ten days, and they have been like family to me; I am honored to know them. Their goodness simply emanates from them, while at the same time they exude a naturalness and a simplicity that makes them very human. Kelly knew from the beginning that she was supposed to take me into her home, and she trusted that feeling, and in doing so has given me a safe haven where I have been able to explore my faith again.

I have been on this road trip journey for over six weeks, and I am finally in a place where I can begin to handle all these questions and emotions I have.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how yoga almost caused me to have a breakdown – and eventually I did break down, in the front seat of my car at five in the morning, panda clutched desperately to my chest. Three weeks ago yoga was too much for me to handle, since I had so much pain residing in my soul and my heart… I had soul pain that took away my breath. Yet one week ago, I sat in that soaking room and was enveloped by the Holy Spirit, and yes I felt pain and yes I felt intensity, but mostly I felt peace, and joy, and completion.

Just to know how far I have come in a few weeks is so encouraging to me. This trip truly is restoring my spirit – and more than that, it is opening up doors for me that I can walk through for the rest of my life.

And as Laura said today:

“Jesus came to take us to the Father.

Jesus is the door.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the door.”

http://gracecenter.us/index.php#home

Savannah, GA – Part 2

Before I continue, I want all my dear readers to know that my idea of drunken debauchery is not nearly enough to make you swoon. And when I discuss my orgiastic, drunken times in Savannah, they are in fact, on the whole, innocent. For me, however, they were overwhelming and far, far out of my league.

I woke up in bed with Angelo the Swiss and Tess. Miraculously, I had no hangover, and other than feeling a bit misplaced, I felt great. Tess, Angelo, Felicia, and I all eventually woke our groggy asses up and headed over to “the island” – a long discussion ensued about what “the island” really was. It is in fact, a number of islands off of Savannah, but the one they mean is the one to which they refer… if that makes any sense. Anyhow, we headed over there to Tess’ mother’s studio, where she teaches yoga. I had never experienced yoga before, although handfuls of people had told me it would be perfect for me, so I was looking forward to a new experience (yes, another).

The hilarity of the moment hit us all as we were sitting outside her mother’s studio, waiting to go in for the yoga class. Tess was sitting on the curb, and the rest of us three were squished on a bench outside the studio. Angelo was in the middle of us two girls. In fact, Angelo was in the middle of us two girls – smoking a cigarette and drinking a Red Bull! Preparing for yoga, apparently, hahaha. Him and his quiet confidence made me smile a lot during our time together.

Tess’ mother was delightful – she was French, and the exotic sound of her voice mixed with the ting-ting music and the smell of lavender was enough to slay anyone. As soon as she started speaking softly about the tenets of yoga- the re-connection with the body, the releasing of pain, etc. – well, I started to cry. It was ridiculous – I almost had to get up and leave so I could sob for a while. We hadn’t even started the yoga part! So that was a sign for me that I was feeling some turmoil in my soul, but I kept myself together and completed the hour. And I really enjoyed it – hope to do more yoga in the future. It is very empowering.

Fast-forward. I don’t have time to relive too much of this.

Tess went to a fashion show with Fletcher, to watch his boyfriend Xavier. Tess looked hot, Fletcher was delightful, I didn’t meet Xavier until later. Meanwhile, Felicia, Angelo, and I went downtown to meet up with three bicyclists who were traveling from Florida to Virginia, on bike – which is totally rad. Yes, totally rad. And they turned out to be exactly that way, as well. Jason was basically incredible, John was yummy and delicious (and no, I don’t know from actual taste), and then there was Andrew.

As soon as I heard his name was Andrew, I was like ‘ugh.’ And if you know me, you know why.

It always happens that way though. And after we all went to a sushi restaurant, had a quick meal in our bright yellow spandex (okay that was just Jason), we returned to Tess’ to get ready to go out for the night. As I’m doing my thing, my phone rings. Everyone’s laughing and having a great time, so I don’t think twice about the random number, or try to analyze the voice on the phone. I ask who it is. “Someone you don’t want to talk to,” he replies, so I say “Why are you calling me if I don’t want to talk to you?” to which he responds that he’s graduating on to the next step in the army, and I go “Holy shit! Why are you calling me!?”

At least I was a bitch (and me being a bitch is like the average person trying to be nice) BUT I tried. Anyways, it was Andrew, which shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me, because he always shows up when I’m either delicate or growing stronger – either way, it’s never good.

Enough of that. A blip in the radar.

Shakespeare in the Park; Forsyth Park, to be exact. Shakespeare on Love, to be precise. Terrible acting, some pretty music, hilarious companions, couple glasses of wine.

River Street, Savannah. Known for it’s bars. Let’s just say I got to know that street well. And I didn’t even drink that much (swear to Jesus) but I ended up on a bench sobbing my eyes out (pent-up from yoga, perhaps?) and eventually with my head in a trash can.

First, and hopefully the last, time that happens.

6:00 AM finally welcomed us back to Tess’ place, where I was numb and definitely sensing the “fight or flight” instinct. All I wanted to do was leave, and I shared this with Jason.

In fact, that was one of my favorite moments from that night. Everyone else had left my car (I drove half of us home) except for Jason and I. Jason, who is about 7 feet, haha, was curled up with my pillow and panda in the passenger seat, almost falling asleep, but being all doe-eyed and trying to talk to me at the same time. It was adorable, and when he asked me if I had a good night, I sort of said no- that it wasn’t my thing. But when I shared that I might be leaving, he assured me that he wasn’t going to let me, that it wasn’t safe, and that he would be very upset if I did.

Looking back, that was incredibly sweet.

Between Jason and Tess luring me into the house and away from the steering wheel, I eventually came inside and got ready for bed (yes, at 6 in the morning). However, not before I quietly returned to my car, put some Patsy Cline on the stereo, curled up myself with panda and my pillow, and sobbed my eyes out. It was one of those rare bouts of sadness, where your soul expands, contracts, and empties out of you into the air around.

It was something I apparently needed.

That night I fell asleep to Tess and Angelo giving each other full-body massages. Oil and all.

I left at 10:30 AM, after a couple hours of sleep.

Disconnection, Day 9

Feeling disconnected today. That feeling where I’m here but my heart is elsewhere and my mind is hithertoforth and my breath is wherewithal…

If you know what I mean.

Just drank a delicious smoothie, which made everything a little bit better. Even though the tip of my tongue hurts. I think I burned it. No, not with the smoothie. Silly.

I have that listless, slightly befuddled, slightly hopeless feeling. I just get this way sometimes, most likely due to my over-analysis of every little thing, and my ability (or is it a curse?) to feel everything perhaps just a tad too acutely.

I’m just going to keep myself on the road, and eventually I’ll find my way. A door will open and I’ll peak inside, and suddenly be giddy with what lays ahead. I simply need to accustom myself to not always knowing what I’m doing, or where I’m going, or how I’m going to get there.

I miss love; I do. I miss the giddy feelings, I miss the grabbing and the kissing and the feeling that the sky is closer than the earth and the earth is closer than my dreams and my dreams are living, breathing entities I can touch and kiss and pull close to my body.

I have so much love to give. And I realize that one day I will have the opportunity to give it, honorably and completely, and (hopefully) to someone worthy of such love.

I’m hoping that Chas doesn’t mind my quoting of a message he sent me on Writer’s Cafe, but I feel the need to post it here, perhaps simply to remind myself of his words.

“I think what I’m hinting at is the same thing I always say when I review your works: Your essence is beautiful. It’s not just that you **have** a gift; you **are** a gift. We’re so lucky to have someone as genuine and artistic and thoughtful as you; I can’t say all the things that you’ve shown me in the two years since I’ve joined Writer’s Cafe (today’s my 2 year “anniversary”, actually). You just capture things with a different essence altogether than I could even think about enjoying.

So thank you. For everything. :)”

The sweetest thing ever. It made my morning to read it. I’ve received messages and had conversations with people lately that have been really inspiring and encouraging. Which is so important right now; if I was doing this all on my own, I would definitely have many more moments of weakness.

What’s next? Not sure. Georgia, then perhaps Florida, perhaps Tennessee. Maybe I’ll stay here for a few more days. I honestly have no idea. I guess partly because I need to allow this feeling to pass. And I wouldn’t mind a nice tan before I went anywhere else, haha. Replace the pasty white ghost look I’m currently sportin’. 😛