5 Gifts I Gave Myself In Ireland… that are bound to change my life

The 12 Bens of Conemara National Park seen from Errislannan Manor, County Galway.

The 12 Bens of Conemara National Park seen from Errislannan Manor, County Galway.

As you may know from my last blog post, I’ve been moving through deep grief in the past few months. And even though I’ve been finding wonderful gifts along this journey, grief can be quite crushing. I needed something to help me hit the reset button.

So I went to Ireland for twelve days.

The initial impetus for the trip was to attend the Hay House Writers’ Workshop in Dublin. I decided to then tack-on a stay in Clifden, on the west coast, and simply be and write. So beyond the workshop itself and the goal of working on my book, going to Ireland was my way of leaning into the possibility that I might be ready to plant some seeds for the next phase in my life.

I made no big plans. No desire to sight-see. But what I did do was to spontaneously give myself 5 powerful gifts that I hope to keep, and remind myself of their power for the rest of my life.

These five gifts made my trip absolutely extraordinary. Truly, as I look back on it, the entire trip from beginning to end feels nothing short of magical because of them.

I share these 5 gifts because you might want to apply them to your next trip… or like me, consider bringing them into your daily life, especially if you’re navigating a difficult time.

The 5 gifts:

1. Set an intention

Sitting in the sunshine overlooking Clifden Bay. Just being.

Sitting in the sunshine overlooking Clifden Bay. Just being.

It can be anything: a reset, peace, renewal, clarity. The most powerful intentions are the simplest ones and stated with 1 or 2 words that describe the feeling outcome you want.

My intention was simply to hit the re-set button. To me, that meant a sense of readiness to start a new phase in my life. A sense of being at peace and even starting to feel a bit of positive expectation.

My other intention was to work on my book.

DO: If you can, writing your intention helps it become more alive. It can be an intention for your day, for a project, or an upcoming trip.

2. Allow everything to be perfect - even when it doesn’t look that way

Riding with Jannissa, my sweet Conemara Pony, in Errislannan. Clifden Bay and Clifden Castle in the background.

Riding with Jannissa, my sweet Conemara Pony, in Errislannan. Clifden Bay and Clifden Castle in the background.

The only things I had planned about my trip were: (1) where I’d stay in Dublin, (2) where I’d stay in Clifden, and (3) that I’d go horseback riding on Friday in Cleggan.

I’d planned for a horseback trek out to Omey Island on low tide. Except, on Thursday night, I got a message from the trek guide informing me that the ride for Friday had been cancelled. I was incredibly disappointed! But rather than dwell in my disappointment, I allowed it to be alright. I figured perhaps it was the universe’s way of telling me to spend the day writing.

But the next morning, Cathriona (the owner of Buttermilk Lodge where I was staying,) coordinated another ride for me and even drove me there. I didn’t have to do anything to make it happen. And not only did it end up being the perfect ride for me for a number of reasons, it also provided some important connections for future work!

DO: Let everything unfold exactly as it will and find the perfection in it. The turn of events might surprise you after you’ve decided it’s all perfect.

3. Let people take care of you - even if they’re strangers

Jodie, Jacqueline & Gloria: My new writing mastermind who are no longer strangers :)

Jodie, Jacqueline & Gloria: My new writing mastermind who are no longer strangers :)

Not only did I let Cathriona take care of me by allowing her to arrange my riding excursion and drive me there, but I also received her wonderful care every morning with breakfast, with her wonderful pots of tea and beautifully served dishes.

I was also graciously hosted in Dublin by my friend Patti’s mother in law. And later, when Patti’s sister in law (a complete stranger to me) invited me to spend the last night of my trip at her beautiful Georgian manor, and drive me to the airport the next day, I said yes! She took me to see some of the sights on the north side of Dublin on my last day in Ireland, and she made an extraordinary dinner for her partner and me.

I also got treated to free bus passes when I didn’t have the exact change. I got complimentary drinks after eating at the same restaurant a few days in a row. And I got freebies and treats, left and right, as a result of my deep appreciation for everyone I encountered.

DO: At every turn, whether they are friends or strangers, let people care for you. Give them the pleasure of being able to do something nice for you. Receive it graciously. Feel the shared joy in the experience.

4. Be present to your feelings and your changing needs

The view from Sky Road overlook in Clifden

The view from Sky Road overlook in Clifden

Especially when you’re grieving or need a re-set from life, it’s hugely important to be present to your feelings and your needs. Trying to bury the grief or distracting yourself will only extend the process, and frankly, it’s not a fun one.

At times, while alone, writing in Clifden, I found myself feeling the deep sadness that’s accompanied me these last few months. I cried at the coffeeshop one day, and also on my walk back to Buttermilk Lodge one night after dinner. I didn’t push the feelings aside when they surfaced.

I also noticed when I needed to rent a bike and go for a ride because my writing was getting stale. I honored my desire to go to bed early, even when it meant missing a traditional Irish band, or skipping out on the fascinating Dublin pub scene.

DO: Pay attention and honor yourself. Nothing is more loving than being present to your feelings and meeting your needs.

5. Keep a journal

My daily writing spot at the cafe in Clifden with the view of the bay

My daily writing spot at the cafe in Clifden with the view of the bay

Since I was working on my book, keeping a journal definitely served as a warm-up to loosen the writing ‘muscle.’ But I also generally love journaling while traveling because it helps me record things I might otherwise forget.

Journaling also helped me process all of the feelings, needs, and insights I was having; as well as celebrate all of the wonderful things about the trip and relish the delight they were bringing me.

Journaling serves to slow down our thinking and be able to notice the thoughts and feeling streaming in the background. The awareness helps us move through them and confront thoughts that are self-defeating.

DO: A morning pages or journaling practice whenever things are tough helps you gain great clarity on the stories running in the back of your mind. You then are better able to start telling a new story rather than remaining stuck in the old one.

What’s miraculous about these five gifts?

I can tell you this for certain: they essentially put me in a state of flow where everything about my trip unfolded with ease and perfection. I felt as though I was always held. There was little for me to manage and I tried to control nothing. It was magical.

I believe this is also how we can do life.

I believe in “hard work” but now I think it’s more for the pleasure of the work itself, rather than trying hard to make things happen. I did quite a bit of work in Ireland, but it was 100% pleasurable. When things get stale or challenging, it’s time for a break, a bike ride, or a cup of tea.

I am intending to keep these 5 gifts as part of my life as much as I can. I’ve already caught myself feeling frustrated with my days not unfolding as I’d planned, and reminding myself to allow it to be perfect. In that instant, my resistance melts and I feel so much more at peace. I’ll have to keep testing them and see how I make out :)

But I do encourage you to give them a try, at the very least on your next trip or adventure.