This post is coming to you very late. I’ve been recovering from my return home yesterday: up at 7:00 a.m. in Shannon, Ireland, 12:30 flight from Shannon to the States—Newark Airport, five-hour layover there, 70 minute flight from Newark to Raleigh-Durham Airport, and finally home and to bed at 11:00. Twenty-one long hours from rising in Shannon until bedtime back home. There are days that challenge all your coping resources. Of course that’s true of traveling and everyday life; some days things just pile on.
I started out traveling on September 8th with my cousin. We joined a bus tour with a total of sixteen travelers for six days in the Hebrides of Scotland. After that, Kim and I flew to Dublin where we spent three days. Last Tuesday morning, Kim flew back to the States and I took the train from the Heuston Station in Dublin to Galway, then a bus to the village of Doolin– that overlooks the Atlantic.
This was the first solo journey I’d taken since 2018; it was my first as a divorced woman. Before, as a married woman, I was anchored to a husband back home, part of a couple. My awareness of being alone, of being without a mate, a husband–hit me on this trip in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I’d thought since my purpose for going to Scotland was to join Kim in spreading her mother’s ashes over Skye– that would be enough.
On our bus tour, there were four married couples (one who’d brought their daughter), one older woman who was widowed, a mother and her three daughters, my cousin, Kim–who is married, and me. It had been hard to watch the couples– seemingly enjoying the adventure with their mate, doing what I thought I’d be doing at this point in life. Kim had asked me in August of 2019 to join her–when I was still married. It would be like other trips where I’d gone without my husband; he would be at home, I would still feel grounded as ‘part of a couple.’
It’s not like I’m not around couples at other times. The difference on the bus trip was that we were in close quarters with them for six days— the fact that they were couples was ‘in my face.’ When we made stops at the beach, I’d see them walking hand in hand. Later, they seemed to be enjoying their candlelight dinner conversation in the restaurant. There was no escaping the difference in their situation and mine. It all pressed in hard over that week. Amid the beautiful sites of the Hebrides, I held visions of these couples– at least how they were outwardly; you never know how things really are-only how you perceive them to be.
On Tuesday, after a long travel day– I hit a low point. I discovered that the B & B that had been booked for me was a long, hilly walk from the village. I’d seen from my brief time in the area that walking could be dangerous with having to stay on the wrong side of the road, cars driving fast on the left of those narrow lanes, coming up so close behind that you felt they were going to run you down.
I took a cab to-and-from Doolin to eat dinner that first night and the driver, the only one who would come, had overcharged me. He told me a festival was going on in a nearby village and all the other drivers were there. Ironically, it was a Matchmaking festival with a professional matchmaker on site for consultation. Later, I told Mary Fitzgerald, the owner of the B & B, maybe I should have gone there!
Back in my room after returning from dinner, I felt very disheartened. That doubting voice, that often sneaks in when I’m tired said, “Why didn’t you check more closely about getting around in this village? You made a mistake to come here.”
I felt like I would have to just endure the next two days instead of being able to enjoy my journey. I felt the weight of the trip, the energy it takes to travel and make all the transitions in a new place bearing down on me. My feelings of being alone, of not being in a couple, that had so gripped me during the bus tour was added to my mental mix.
One of the things that’s helped me the most whenever I go through a low mood is music; it’s been my constant aide throughout the divorce, as well as through other crisis times in my life. Without my Alexa, I pulled out my laptop and fired up YouTube. The song that came up, “Praise You in This Storm” sung by Casting Crowns, a Christian group, seemed appropriate. While the song speaks in broader terms than my individual storm, that night it was my downpour I was dealing with. I struggled with the Bible’s exhortations to be thankful, to trust, to praise God in all situations. Listening to the words, I realized I didn’t have to feel it 100%; it was first a matter of my behavior:
“And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm“
Alone, not sharing a room or a tour bus, my heart let go and I sobbed and sobbed.
Then the words,
“No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
Though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm.”
(written by Bemie Herms and John Mark Hull)
After a while, I got it out, the tension and the tears. I knew part of being overwhelmed was being tired and a good night’s sleep would make me better by morning.
On Wednesday, Mary had made a fire in the dining room. She had prepared a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs and country ham, homemade berry scones with butter and jam, and my own little French press pot of coffee. I savored the food while watching the flames dancing in the small fireplace. I resolved to step forward and believe that just like in previous solo journeys, God would bless me and the people in my path; that had been my intention in the past, and nothing had changed that.
I set out on the long walk into the village and down to the pier where I’d catch the ferry on Thursday to the Aaron Islands. Since I’d reserved a spot on the first sailing, I needed to know how long it would take to walk there. From the dock, I continued my day of walking to the trail near the Cliffs of Moher. What splendor all around me with the Atlantic on one side and hills with cows and horses on the other. I met a couple from the Netherlands and we stopped to take pictures and to chat about our travel in Ireland, our shared experience that makes strangers new friends.
Later in the afternoon, I caught the bus to the Cliffs of Moher. The clouds moved in and I’d just barely seen the Cliffs when a light drizzle began to fall. Soon, the rain was steady and the wind picked up and I took cover inside the Visitors’ Center. I watched the time closely because there was only one bus remaining for the day. Just to be sure, I went back out to the bus stop so I wouldn’t miss my ride.
There was a covered breezeway area near the bus stop. A staff member worked inside the ticket booth next to the walk. Sheltered from the rain, I walked up and down the breezeway to pass the time. When the wind picked up I caught the eye of the man in the booth and said, “Nice weather we’re having.”
He nodded and continued what he was doing. The next time I passed, he’d stopped what he was doing and said, “Sorry for being rude and not speaking. I was finishing the count for the day.”
“Oh, you weren’t rude,” I responded. “You’re just doing your job and I’m on holiday–just pacing while I wait for the bus.”
He had short salt-and-pepper hair and an easy smile.
“Yeah, I’m getting some time off in October,” he said. “Lookin’ forward to it–going to New York.”
He went on to explain that his girlfriend’s father had recently died and he lived in NYC.
“I’m going to join her there,” he continued. “We’ll get to take in some of the sites.”
He talked about their plans and then added, “I didn’t expect to ever be in this situation. I’ve been divorced for seven years and really didn’t know that I’d have anyone after that.”
He shared about how she was someone from his community and how they’d started going out. He hadn’t ever tried online dating and was interested in my description of how it was alike and different from dating the ‘olde-fashioned’ way. He said he was fifty-seven so his wasn’t as olde-fashioned as mine!
We talked about the impact on our grown children. He looked sad when he told about how his ex-wife and her friends had turned his sons against him. They hadn’t spoken with him in almost a year.
“I’m sorry that’s happened,” I told him. “When I realized I would be losing my marriage, I vowed that I couldn’t lose my family. Their father and I needed to do everything possible to keep the communication going with our sons. Now, we can be together as a family–even though he and I are divorced.”
A group of college-aged kids soon began arriving for the 6:30 bus.
I kept talking with the man who said his name was “Patrick” and then he asked me mine.
When we talked about the challenges of being single, he agreed that watching couples at dinner together when you were alone, had been one of the hardest things. I told him about my six days on the bus and how the couples had gotten to me.
“You seem like a really nice lady,” he said. “I think you’re going to meet the right one, when you least expect it. That’s what happened to me.”
He had to finish up his tasks for the day. I watched the group of students gathering near the bus stop.
Patrick came out to close the gate to the entrance. He came over to me and gave me a sideways hug.
“Best of luck, Connie,” he said. “Nice talking’ with ya.
“You have fun in New York with your sweetie,” I told him and he smiled, then turned and walked away.
Patrick the Irishman had been the person in my path that had encouraged me on that rainy day. I hope I had done the same for him.
The next day when I was at the Aran Islands, I was browsing in a gift store. I came across a card that caught my eye. It featured a well-known Bible verse from Ecclesiates 3:1. It seemed like the perfect reminder of Patrick’s words to me the day before:
“For Every Thing There is a Season and a
Time for every Purpose Under Heaven.”
On that rainy day at the Cliff’s bus stop, and on the sunny day that followed in the Aran Islands, I was reminded of hope — in God who holds my tears and is faithful to provide. I’m thankful for Patrick, the one who was in my path.
Blessings to you all,