I’ve been to Ireland. Yes, I know most of you know that. What does Ireland have to do with this odyssey of mine and how does the experience inform who I am? It seemed appropriate to transition back to this blog with something about my experience with Ireland.
The week before I left two things happened. One, I had an appointment with my oncologist and my cancer marker had gone up. What does that mean? Either the new pill I’m taking isn’t working or it hasn’t started to work yet. I meet with her again next week to find out which is the case. Needless to say, I was bummed, and with that feeling, with that bit of news, my mind can choose to go to all kinds of fearful “what if” scenarios, if allowed. When you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, a tweak of the back in yoga, which can be “mildly irritating" to a practitioner of yoga, becomes “petrifying” to the person living with cancer. Is it just a tweak or does it mean something entirely different? Is that pressure in my head tension, or could it possibly be something…more? Every feeling in the body gets run through an additional system of interpretation. It can be exhausting. My doctor said, “Don’t worry about it, go enjoy yourself in Ireland.” The prospect of being 4,500 miles from home and some minor tweak becoming more and more painful was a little scary; the trauma of last year still fresh in my mind. Maybe I should stay home.
The second thing happened during a meditation one morning a few days after my appointment. Sometimes I write during meditations; sometimes there can be somewhat of a dialogue; and often I don’t know exactly what is written until I attempt to read it afterwards. The writing usually isn’t too legible (I’m reminded of my second grade teacher who gave me the only “D” I ever got and it was in handwriting. Left handers were so unappreciated!) The part that mattered most to me was the very end of the passage. It read:
“You’re in our hands. We’ve got you,” (loving, assuredly said by Other.)
“I choose to live fearlessly, joyously, and lovingly, for however long I’m here - the length of time is in Your hands,” (I wrote in response.)
I felt…comforted, loved, and heard. I also had a motto to hold onto should fear think it might want to jump in my suitcase and come along with me on my trip for the next 2 1/2 weeks…I choose to live fearlessly, joyously, and lovingly!
Well, fear did make the trip and chose to climb out of the suitcase the Sunday morning my mom and I were to get on the plane to Ireland. At her kitchen table I was sipping tea while reading my book. Casually, unconsciously, I stroked my neck with my right hand and felt something. Mid sentence I froze; stroked my neck again. The lymph node in my neck was enlarged. My stomach knotted and I wanted to vomit with the anxiety. Do I have a virus or has cancer spread to my lymph node? There’s that “system of interpretation” kicking in again. Fear was so happy to be dancing on the kitchen table while I fretted and worried about being so far from home. Maybe I should cancel the trip? Mom would understand. What if this turns into something major? What will I do being so far from home? I reminded myself of the motto I was choosing to live by - I live fearlessly, joyously, and lovingly. There are hospitals in Ireland. I’m going on this trip.
Our tour group arrived in Ireland on Monday, boarded a bus, and began the process of making new acquaintances. The first stop on the itinerary was to eat a traditional Irish breakfast at a 400 hundred year old tavern outside of Dublin called the Man O' War. Meanwhile, I was still thinking about my lymph node. It had swollen to the point it was noticeable in the mirror. “It could be a long two weeks,” I thought to myself. Fortunately, I remembered that I had brought my essential oils, and for the next five days, used two of them. After a couple of days, the lymph node returned to normal. Was it due to the oils? Who knows? Who cares! My sense of the situation was that it was the Universe giving me a chance to choose love over fear, which I did; to practice living fearlessly, joyously, and lovingly.
Had I given into fear by canceling the trip, I would have missed out on the preciousness of being with my mom.
Every morning I would turn to her after I had brushed on my eyebrows, “Are you ready for your eyebrows?” She would turn to me, “Yes!” I hunched down to see them as she is shorter now with her almost eighty-six years of living and brushed hers on, too. I couldn’t help but notice the arch of her brows mirrored mine.
Slowly walking in the rain together, she doesn't walk fast anymore, huddled under our tiny travel umbrellas, avoiding puddles and dips in the cement, as we made our way to a museum. "I'm just following your shoes!" she chuckled. She was a trooper, willing to go wherever I wanted.
Sharing a Guinness when neither of us drinks dark beer.
Witnessing a shoving match between two young women on the public bus in Dublin. Again she was willing to try the bus at my suggestion. We got off and hailed a cab back to our hotel. Out of harm’s way, we laughed as we replayed the profanity laced dialogue we had overheard; all due to a struggle over a seat on the bus. We subsequently found out one doesn’t sit upstairs on a public bus in Dublin!
Over a glass of wine at dinner, sharing words, feelings, and thoughts from what life was like for both of us living in our family forty years ago.
Strolling the gardens at Powerscourt arm in arm admiring the scenery. When we would get to the steps I would walk down them first, right in front of her, so if she fell, it would be on me. I didn’t think she would fall, but having me there gave her more confidence.
I gladly was her eyes and ears on the trip. She didn’t have to remember the way from the lobby to our room. She had me. I reminded myself that, often, when Wes drives and I’m the passenger, I don’t remember the way we got to our destination either. She wears two hearing aids, I was her interpreter.
In my fifty-six years of sharing this Earth with her there has never been a time where we had two weeks of just the two of us - no husbands, children, or siblings. We parted six days ago and I miss her still, but I get to always have, as a part of me, our time together. Fear didn’t win. It was relegated to a compartment in my suitcase, forgotten, probably tucked under the dirty laundry somewhere, withering for lack of attention. Instead, joy and love jumped out of the suitcase every morning wondering where and how they were going to get to play that day! Boy did we get to have an adventure!
I lived and continue to live, fearlessly, joyously, and lovingly!
I am so darn lucky!!