Finding the Happy

Hi everyone.... wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I blogged. I was so proud of myself in the beginning of my trip for staying on top of it, but the past few weeks have felt very go, go, go, and I seem to never have the downtime to write like I want to; not just here, but also in the personal blog I've been keeping to document my journey. This post is a bit different, and it's been a long time coming... I've had it in my head for weeks, and to be honest, it's changed shape quite a bit since I first wanted to write, but I still wanted to reach out and connect with you guys, and share what's been going on here since April 15th. When I left Cork, I was lucky enough to have a friend from college with me, who accompanied me to my next destination, which was Killarney. We had a fabulous day together that Monday, shopping at the Blarney Woolen Mills and kissing the Blarney Stone, something that's on my life-long bucket list and so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. When we got to Killarney, it was raining like crazy, and so after a few minutes of menu shopping, we chose a restaurant and settled in for a nice meal. We were having good craic together, just the two of us, and since it was raining so hard, we were exhausted, and we were planning on doing the Ring of Kerry the next day, we decided to just stay in at the B&B that night. I think Caty was checking her phone to see what the weather was going to be like that day, and that's when she told me the unthinkable: that a bomb had just gone off at the Boston marathon. She quickly started surfing through different media sites, and it was so new that we literally watched on our phones as it started popping up on CNN and MSNBC. We couldn't believe it. We were shocked, we were upset. We immediately started Facebooking and texting anyone we could think of that might be there, as Marathon Monday is huge in Boston and both of us have friends and family that might be there watching. We left the restaurant and on the way out started somehow talking to two American girls who were walking in. They mentioned they were from Boston, that they went to BU, and we asked them if they had seen the news. They couldn't believe it either and immediately got out their phones to start doing what we had been doing- contacting loved ones. That's when we learned a second bomb had just gone off.

Disbelief. Just utter, complete disbelief is what you feel when something like this happens so close to your home, while you're so far from it. The drive back to the B&B was silence mixed with the obvious questions. Who could do this? How could they do this? How many people do you think are hurt? Will they be okay? Will Boston be okay? Will this absolute evil and madness ever, ever end?

When we got back, we were glued to the television set. We watched the chaos unfold on video playbacks and saw still life pictures that looked like a war zone in Afghanistan, not the streets of Boston. I don't think I'll ever get that image of Jeff Bauman out of my head. I don't think any of us ever will.

I was so glad to have Caty there with me at that moment, because I know she was feeling just as helpless as I was. A few minutes later, though, is when I got another dose of horrible news: my sister wrote to me to let me know that my Uncle Michael had been diagnosed with stage III lung cancer. And at that moment, I was overwhelmed. I was scared. I wanted to scream and cry myself to sleep and just like that, I didn't want Caty there, I just wanted to have a private meltdown and I wanted to sob into my pillow and I wanted to wake up and somehow be at home again with family and friends who would all be safe and cancer-free and Marathon Monday, 2013, would never have happened.

When we woke up the next day, Caty and I had breakfast and of course, the topic of conversation was Boston. It was hard, for days, to talk or think about anything else. But it was also a beautiful day in Ireland, the kind that happens like twice a year here, and so we decided we had to push everything aside and make the most of it. There was nothing we could do from here anyways, so we decided not to be frivolous and waste such a amazing day, which really at that moment felt like a gift from God. We decided to drive the Ring of Kerry, and since we didn't know how long the nice weather would last, we skipped showering and got right into the car with our cameras and set out on the Ring. And every few minutes, we would talk about Boston. We would talk about the victims. And every few stops, we would spend some time sitting on rocks overlooking the ocean, and I would close my eyes, feel the breeze in my hair, and say a silent prayer for the city of Boston and all those in it who had their lives turned upside down.

It's hard to describe the emotions from that day. Sadness? Yes, definitely. Continuing disbelief was also still there. Anger at the bombers, and anger at God, for letting such horrible things happen to good people, innocent people. But there were also moments of that day, several moments, of happiness. Pure happiness. Because I can't describe the beauty of Ireland, and the beauty of the Ring of Kerry, and I was so happy to have a friend to share it with. And I did find myself feeling guilty about the happy moments that day.

After that, things went from bad to bad. A camera of mine ended up in the ocean and I lost some pictures, and a photographer friend who I was supposed to travel with canceled her trip to Ireland. The cancellation was absolutely and completely understandable, and I really was just thrilled she was okay; she was only a mere 100 feet from the second bomb when it went off. Nonetheless, with all these things happening, I missed home and family and friends so much, and I didn't want to be here anymore. At all. And I did start looking at plane tickets home. But to make a long story short (too late) I decided to stay and finish my trip. And I am ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic, that I did. I rode a donkey. Yup, absolutely crazy thing to do because it's so random, but I did. I ended up staying at a working farm in Dingle, which was the coolest experience. I made some new American friends and got to interact with a wild dolphin, up close and personal, which was absolute magic. I took a ferry to the Aran Islands, where I saw some of the most beautiful scenery in Ireland, and where, yes, I met a nice Irish gentleman. I did all of these things that I would have never had the chance to do before, and probably won't again. And even on the crappiest days, the ones where I was still feeling very alone and unsure, I was able to find happiness when I really looked for it. I think it's been a good reminder for myself.... that it may not always be obvious, but it's always there. You just have to find it.

I've still been following the Boston story and I see survivors on the news every day that inspire me beyond words, and so I wanted to take a moment in this post to let everyone know that in order to raise money for the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, I will be placing a gallery of photos I've taken in Ireland up when I return home. Prints will be available in all different sizes, as well as canvas wraps and a few other products, and all proceeds will be donated directly to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center. Now hopefully there will be some prints that will go well in people's homes... I'll have to stop taking so many cow, sheep and horse pictures and focus more on landscapes in my last month here :)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I miss you all more than I could say, and I can't wait to see you in a couple months time. For now, I leave you with a picture of me, happy, enjoying that beautiful day on the Ring of Kerry.