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.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Arrived at Clay and Cori’s on Tuesday, and on Friday we all headed off to the Gulf Coast of Alabama, where we’ve spent the weekend. Clay rented a beautiful condo by the sea, with four bedrooms, for all his family to come and spend a weekend together. I’m honored to be a part of it, and it has definitely been a crash course in the Menard Family. 🙂 And they are a wonderful family indeed.

The first day we got here, I branched off from the group and headed over to the beach. The Gulf of Mexico is so warm and delightful; I’ve never enjoyed swimming in the ocean so much. I usually don’t go into the water, but this time I found myself being drawn into its salty depths, laying on my back and floating over the waves. It was so peaceful. At the same time, I was dealing with a sudden onslaught of anxiety, which had been building and suddenly decided to overwhelm me. I was feeling frustrated, anxious, easily aggravated… all emotions that are uncommon to me, and most uncomfortable. I was able to talk through many of my concerns with Kara S, and then drifted some of them off into the ocean. Afterwards, I lay on the beach and listened to another chapter of Eckhart’s Power of Now, and found myself, once again, transported to another place. Since listening to that passage on Friday, I have been changed, and have been able to not only deal with my anxiety, but more fully enjoy the Present. I have a feeling that these concepts and feelings, if maintained and applied, could change my life forever… fill me up with the Present for the rest of my life.

Today I had a fantastic time with the four kids. We all went swimming, and then later on in the evening they all piled on my bed and looked at the pictures I’ve taken throughout the weekend. It was adorable. They’re all simply wonderful, and make me light up inside. I need to learn to have more patience, however, for children, since when I do take the time to simply BE with them, it’s always delightful.

Cori & Clay’s daughter, Jeanne, is really wonderful, and I’ve had some great conversations with her… I actually wish we could have gone more in-depth, for I think we could really tap into some great things. Her and her husband, Justin, are wonderful to watch… they were married last September, and they are so in love. It helps balance out the other couple (the one with the kids), for their relationship is quite strained, and when I watch them, all of my family and marriage counseling alarms go off. I feel terrible for Clay’s son, since he seems like a really great, and essentially happy, guy… and yet his light is constantly being dimmed.

Of course, marriage has always been a tender issue for me. I have never really seen a “happy, healthy” marriage, and that is a little scary and off-putting. Also, I have never really been in a relationship that improved or enrichened my life. Yesterday, Jeanne, being completely kind and not remotely condescending, said “You’ll find a good guy. They’re out there. And they’re wonderful,” and it’s apparent that Justin is proof of that.

TOMORROW MY MOMMY IS FLYING DOWN!! Cori, Clay and I are picking her up at the New Orleans Airport around 3 tomorrow afternoon. I was nervous for a while, not sure if I was ready to see any of my family members yet, but I think it will go well. It’s been hard for me to consider giving up any of my freedom, as I will have to do now that Mom is not flying home until July 16th. However, I’m learning to accept life as it happens, and stop applying anxiety to things. God always manages to take care of me, impossible ward that I am.

So much more to say, now that I’ve got myself going, but I’ll keep it to myself for now. Tonight, I posted some older photos onto Flickr. Call it homesickness, but I call it “fond remembrance,” since I truly have no desire to return home yet. It was sweet, however, to go through my old photos and give them a place on my Flickr account. I wanted to ensure that they were saved somewhere safe, and also to share them with you all.

Peace & Love

South Carolina

Well, that was a wonderful welcome to the island of Hilton Head, South Carolina. 🙂

I was really nervous, but Sarah welcomed me so nicely, and I felt way more comfortable than I anticipated. I definitely feel like this trip is going to do wonders for my anxiety, and my self-assurance. I barely questioned myself at all this evening. Okay, fine, the shot and the margarita might have helped… but normally nothing ca overpower my feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, especially with people who live in ways I fail at, haha. As I mentioned before – people who have FUN, haha. At least the standardized sort of fun.

Standardized fun. Hm. I’ve been failing that test for years. 😛

On a separate, completely serious note, it’s unbelievable how much my life has changed in a week. I feel like a different person, and I feel like millions of doors have opened up to me – and for the first time in a long time I’m actually excited about walking through them. It’s quite exhilarating. Quite quite.

During my travels today, I had time in the car to think about things. I thought a lot about human relationships, and the human heart, and the whole blasted thing. And for the first time in forever, I didn’t focus on the past. Strangely enough, I didn’t really think about the future either. I just… thought about the whole thing in general. How we feel, how we hurt, how we pine, how we ache.

And I thought about my personal strengths. I understand that the occasional weakness can allow one to feel a sense of freedom and abandonment, but I am strong, and I have strong, sometimes ridiculously honorable values.

Overall, a good thing.

And I suppose we’ll just leave that at that.

Strangely enough, these blogs, and my pictures, have allowed me to connect most with the people I’ve always wished to connect most with. If that makes any sense.

I guess when you run away and the only remnants of yourself that can be found are floating around in the world wide web in typed words and megapixels, you discover who really cares. Who supports you, and who validates your beauty.

So… you know who you are. And I adore you for it. 🙂

PS. stopped by South of the Border, SC (and from what I could discern it’s actually listed as a town on the map) and…

yeah, really sketched out by that place. LOL.

Interconnectedness, Day 8

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.

– John Muir

Am I supposed to understand the intricacies of the human heart? No, I am not. However, I am willing to keep learning and growing, and each day understanding the world and human relationships a bit more. Or perhaps never understanding, and learning to accept that, as well. Regardless, I find it fascinating how one twist in the strands can tint a moment different shades, and leave you unable to sleep for hours.

But enough of that. I am vacating North Carolina today, and traipsing down to Hilton Head, South Carolina
to see my friend, Sarah, and spend some time with her there. She recently moved, and she seems excited to (a) have a visitor and (b) have that visitor be me. Sarah is someone whom I have known my whole life, but the social networks involved in growing up always kept us a few steps apart. However, when I do spend time with her, I see many more layers to her than meets the eye, and I feel that we have grown to respect and care for each other a good deal, even if it’s often from afar. So it will be nice to get to know each other a little better, and have a little fun. Sarah likes to have fun, and I’m not really accustomed to that, so it will be interesting to do something different, haha.

Last night I had an interview with a company from Beijing, China. A couple weeks ago I sent out an application, interested in teaching English abroad. Corey thinks the idea is stupid, and I can’t help but understand where he’s coming from. 😛 I was thinking – no matter where I spent my coming year, if it was outside Massachusetts, it would be an entire new world for me. So it is not really necessary to displace myself so extremely as to go to China. However, I will give the idea consideration. They were impressed with my resume, and such an experience would only develop me more profoundly.

Yesterday was an invigorating day. I went for another walk (this time for almost 2 hours) behind Corey & Laura’s condo complex. Each day, I find new paths and new pictures… and it’s just amazing how every hour, each minute, holds something new and beautiful. Nature can teach us so many priceless lessons, if we are only willing to pay attention. And judging by my photography, I have definitely been a star student. I can not stop taking pictures, and doing so has made me ridiculously happy. Each time I capture beauty behind the lens, I feel ready to jump out of my skin with happiness. It’s comforting to know that writing isn’t the only medium through which I can paint. 🙂

After my walk, I decided to shower and go see something new in the town of Raleigh, NC. So I put on one of my new dresses (yay, dresses!) and pressed a bunch of numbers on my GPS, and found my way to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It was there that I… learned stuff. Haha. It was nice to take my time and look at the exhibits, and realize that I was far from home, learning stuff. 😛

Following the museum, I made my way to the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University. At first I was unimpressed with the gardens, but then as I wandered further into them, a whole universe of colors and light and smells was opened to me. I took about 600 pictures in two hours (ridiculous, I know). I played with light and colors and my new macro lens, and was basically in heaven. My favorite part was taking off my sandals and feeling the grass and dirt beneath my feet, and finding the hidden secrets of the flowers.

I’m getting stronger every day. Stronger, and happier, and more confident. I even felt pretty yesterday (shock of all shocks!), so we know that this trip has already helped me in many ways. When I left Massachusetts, I couldn’t have been much weaker, in spirit and in song. Already, the layers of my happiness and my hope have begun to warm themselves in the sun. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity to feel alive again.