By Carolyn Shields
Written circa 2013
There are two things that I learned about hearts in Dublin—they always want a definite answer, and they are predictable.
My introverted self, for whatever reason, desired to study in Dublin my sophomore year of college. To this day, when I smell cigarette smoke on a damp and chilly morning, I'm taken back to the era of palpable autonomy when the alleys were my home and dreams were being accomplished beneath the Irish skies.
My two best friends, Emily and Male Friend, and I filled our weekends with international travels. We wanted to seize the opportunity and cram in as many castles as we could.
But traveling the world with a young, Catholic guy who took self defense classes to protect you and your friend in case of some brawl in a pub or something? How could I, a crazy romantic, not fall for that?
Once, I needed a break from the city and took the Dart out to the seaside. In Dublin, I would repeatedly slip into the Art Gallery through a side door on Merrion Square West whenever my heart felt a little brittle, but nothing could soothe its sores the way Howth could.
Howth is a fishing village thirteen kilometers north of Dublin and it became my literal breath of fresh air. I sat on the edge of a dock and squinted out at the island before me, sea otters and fish swimming beneath my dangling feet as I sketched what would come to symbolize my personal hope. Feeling restless, I started to walk toward the small village with plummeting cliffs on my shoulder when it started to rain. I snuck through an open gate with a worn path that appeared to go right over the edge. Curious and wet, I followed it, slipping in the Irish grass and realizing I probably should have told Emily where I went for the day so that that they could find my body dashed on the rocks after possible perpetual silence, when, suddenly, I realized that the path ended at a covert, little alcove.
I continued to slip down toward it and took refuge from the rain beneath the rock's overhang. Waves lapped near my feet, and suddenly, my heart was beating to a rhythm of joy. I pulled out the New Testament pocket Bible I carried with me everywhere and began to sing the Psalms to no one but my Lord.
Whenever I felt my heart take a hit, I sought this alcove's solace or my pew at St. Teresa's Catholic Church off of Clarendon Street. It was in this church where I contemplated a fear that few are blessed with: what do I do now that my dreams were being fulfilled? Ever since I was a child, I would study Europe's dynasties and geography in my bed late at night, and now I was busing through remote towns and running in open Irish fields. And having Male Friend kneel beside me at every daily mass, I also had to face the realization that what we are to be given is greater than anything we could ever desire.
Because it would make sense for us to fall in love, I remember thinking. But what God had in store for the later years in my life were greater than anything I could even conceive then.
The life lessons learned while traversing the Emerald Isle cannot be written in a single post, nor can all of the precious memories. I learned how to hold my alcohol, how to hail taxis, I began to read the Bible, fer realz, and that we don't always need a compass.
And I learned to stop trying to write my love story.
Dublin was one of the most beautiful times in my life, and the only care in the world I had at the time were train schedules and airport terminals, but I was plagued with a worrisome heart that no man would ever love me because I couldn't imagine a more beautiful scenario than the one I was in. Because I refused to give God the pen to write my love story. But I had no idea that the following chapters of my life would exceed those beautiful months of writing in my journal in St. Stephen's park watching swans, editing my book at the famous Bewley's Cafe while eating porridge and watching holiday shoppers on Grafton Street, and writing post cards to friends at home.
I've tried to write my own love story. Several times. And I would think, "Top that, God," and He does.
Christ has three answers to our prayers: “Yes, not yet, and I have something better in mind.” Womenfolk, we are once in a lifetime...when was the last time you took a risk?