By Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe
Maybe I’ve lost the run of myself. A midlife crisis? Perhaps. Certainly there are those who’d say so. I suppose it’s not every day that a middle-aged psychotherapist and college lecturer secure in her professional career up and leaves it all behind to follow—what, exactly? Not a passion, not a calling, really. Just more of a feeling.
“I gave up everything to be able to live here for a year. My career, my home, car and even my dog,” I explained to my new friend. She looked at me as though confused, maybe not understanding me.
Living in Ireland was never something I had hoped to do one day before I die, a bucket list item to tick off the wish list of “maybe someday” events. Instead, the idea was one deeply rooted in the connection I have with the tiny town of Dingle, on the southwest coast of Ireland.
It started 20 years ago, on my first visit here. As the plane approached the runway, I saw patchwork green fields speckled with white dots that turned into sheep as the plane came to rest on the tarmac.
I noticed my body relax and soften as tears welled in my eyes. “Home,” I whispered.
Something ancient had stirred deep within and was awakened; a spiritual connection to the place, the history, its people. Some have suggested perhaps a past life. All I know is that every time I’m here I have the exact same experience. I’m not sure I can explain it or even fully understand it yet. It’s sacred, and I feel deeply that I am home here.
Shaking her head, my friend responded, “You’ve given up nothing. You simply made changes to your life to be here. You’ve lost nothing.”
My perception shifted at that moment. I knew that she was part of my path, and would share in this journey with me. It was not chance that led to our meeting. I don’t believe in coincidence. I was meant to connect with her, learn from her and maybe even she, from me.
Living in a different country than most of my family and friends allows for a certain space to notice connection in a new way. My 85-year-old father told me recently that he’s lonely and missed seeing me through Skype after a computer glitch—things he never would’ve said if I hadn’t left. My dear friend whom I haven’t seen in years now makes time to Skype weekly, allowing me not only to see her but to hear her fabulous laugh.
I’m surprised, too, by certain other people who take the time to reach out to me. The woman I worked with for just a short time continues to send cards in the mail just to say hello. An old friend who writes regularly brings a smile to my face every time the post is delivered. A former student somehow makes time in her incredibly busy life to read my blogs and email me with her heartfelt responses, encouraging me to keep writing. The busy vet who is caring for my dog regularly takes time to send me pictures, knowing how much I miss Fergus, while other friends send messages just to say hi. Earlier today, the postman delivered a beautiful crystal gift from two former students wanting to tell me that they miss me.
All of it reminds me just how meaningful a seemingly simple thing can be. In the past I, like many, have had limited connection with people I care about under the excuse of a busy life. It’s now, through these reminders, that I realize just how easy it is to send a quick text, email or voicemail, particularly in this age of technology.
I’m reminded of a quote that pops up on social media from time to time by Robert Tew: “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you or makes you happy.” I always associated that with letting go of negative or toxic people. I understand now that it applies to anything or anyone who no longer brings light into your life, even people you care deeply for and who in turn care for you, but no longer nourish you in healthy ways. This has been a painful lesson for me to learn. Letting go of people I care deeply for with love is heart wrenching, but it opens space and allows for abundance. I am grateful that such abundance is flowing into my life now. I am fortunate, too, to have met this new friend who not only makes sure I have the best photos for the book I’m writing, takes me to places of beauty I otherwise wouldn’t see, but who also inspires me to be my best me every time I speak with her.
People often say I’m lucky to have the opportunity to live here for the year. I find that somewhat offensive, to be honest. I’m not lucky. There was no opportunity that I responded to. I worked hard to make this journey possible. I made some incredibly painful decisions, have had to trust in my intuition, have faith in the universe. I’m proud of my courage to change my life in this way. I have chosen to follow this path, allowing time to reflect, learn more about myself, and my connection in the world. I am grateful for and honored by the people who help me grow and appreciate their presence in my life.
Leaving my friend’s shop, I walk through town to the harbor, absorbing the energy of this place on the breath of the wind. When the wind blows here, which, of course, is most days, the whole town whistles and sings. Standing at the harbor, boats tucked in tightly, side by side for the winter, their sail masts, ropes, and flags come together in a concert of woodwinds and percussion. It’s hauntingly beautiful. I close my eyes, allowing the music of the harbor to sing my soul awake.
Turning to make my way toward home, lower-pitched whistles like those from uilleann pipes blow through gates and fences, adding to the symphony. I wonder if anyone else notices. Or is it one of those everyday sounds that simply fade out of awareness and into the general background noise of the day? Wind blowing out notes of the scale while percussion taps out the beat all in various tones come together in one magical piece of music. Not noise. I giggle, imagining tiny faeries too small to be seen, orchestrating this spontaneous concert.
Sitting at home, I hear the metal signs on the shops along Green Street sway back and forth, joining in like violins, while the wind howls down the chimney, tympani drums. The full orchestra playing together in a brilliant, deeply moving finale.
My bodhrán and rhythm bones sit on the floor next to me, calling to join in. It’s been days since I’ve practiced. Instead, I’ll sit quietly with a warm cup of tea and let the stories of the wind-songs stir the quiet places within, grateful just to be here.
Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe, LCMHC, CCTP is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont. Having recently completed her first memoir, she is living on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland, where she will be writing her second memoir chronicling her time there. She is also a regular contributor to capewomenonline.net magazine. Visit Mary Elizabeth Briscoe at www.m-ebriscoe.com.