So after an incredibly long, blessedly uneventful day of flying, I got off the airplane and zoomed to baggage claim courtesy of a wheelchair service provided by Aer Lingus Airlines. I picked up my official Rick Steves' travel bag, strapped it on my walker, tipped the wheelchair pusher and headed outside to an overcast sky and an unfamiliar setting.
And I thought: Oh my God, I'm in Ireland. Now what do I do?
Let me explain. I have had two accidents in my life.
a) I was a young and hopeful singer/songwriter on my first national tour when I was hit by a car while walking. I was in Arkansas. The entire tour had to be cancelled and I couldn't drive,
b) I would lie in bed, recovering, thinking about where I would have played that night.
c) But worst of all, now I was afraid to travel.
a) Everything would change 30 years later with the second accident. This accident was much more serious than the first one.
b) with the second one I laid in bed at rehab centers and hospitals and my brother's house for four months, later to go home to near-isolation in my messy and lonely apartment.
c) I daydreamed about open spaces and travel and friends. I hungered for it. I made up lists of where I wanted to travel to. Ireland always topped the list.
d) at some point, somehow, my stars had all aligned and I realized that a trip to Ireland was possible. I had the time, I had the funds, and it was the perfect trip -- a songwriting retreat run by two very good friends that fit my new physical situation perfectly.
a) I announced to my family on Christmas Day that I was going to Ireland. They gave me their full support. They weren't the only ones.
b) I had a full support team. My physical therapist, my physical trainer, my psychologist -- they all took on preparing me to finally step foot on another continent.
c) I made all the arrangements, with Matt who answered my email with "For reals?" I bought a round-trip ticket to Dublin, applied for a passport, and made my plans. Exciting, huh? Until it almost fell apart.
d) In the space of one hour, I was informed that my ticket wouldn't work with my physical condition, my disability checks were being cut off, and I was in danger of losing my job.
1. Drastic times call for drastic measures.
a) For the next week, after my predictable panic, I simply did the actions required. I bought a new ticket, I made sure forms were filled out and delivered and, basically, just did the very best I could. Before I knew it, my sister-in-law was at my door, ready to drop me of at Portland International.
d. I was on a airplane. I was going to Ireland. There was nothing I could do about it now.
a) I am so grateful that I went to Ireland. I thought about what could have happened if if I had decided to stay. I wouldn't have been merely depressed; I would have been devestated and deeply desperate. I would be all those nasty "d" words. It could have been downright dangerous. But what I realize now are what I would have missed by not going
b) I would have missed:
- going to the pub in Donegal town to hear traditional music and witnessing the place get rowdy.
- going with the other retreat members to the local pub with instruments then being called the next day.
- learning that relearning to walk and drinking a lot of Guinness at the pub may not be the best of ideas.
- getting to know my extremely talented new friends attending the songwriting retreat.
- the shades of the color green and the shades of the many, many sheep that are everywhere in County Donegal.
- the music of local songwriter Eunan McGregor and the most beautiful version of "True Colors" as the parting song in a pub.
c) But most of all I would miss what it feels like to go from being someone who didn't know if he would walk or travel again to being a songwriter staring at a different ocean from a different country from a different continent. Just watching that ever changing and moody Atlantic Ocean and making up songs.
song: Sailor Lost at Sea