How can I keep from singing?
“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”
When dreams are shattered, we search for meaning in the rubble. 10 years ago this week, my hope of one day bringing a state of the art cinema to my hometown was realised. So many painstaking hours had led to this moment – meetings with planners, architects, potential cinema operators, builders, engineers… Movies@Gorey opened on the last week of May 2010. This was the first in a series of leisure developments that I had planned for the 6 acre site. The cinema was to be the springboard for a modern recreational amenity for Gorey and its people. But I sensed then what I now know. The economic tide was turning. There was nowhere to hide.
There are moments in life when the lights go out, when everything you once lived for fades into the ether and you are left alone to make sense of it all. When you invest your energies into something that means everything to you, it is so hard to step aside and surrender to the forces that have made it impossible for you to drive on further. You exhaust all avenues until you stare in the face the reality that you’ve come as far as you can go. The next few years were tough – dealing with retention issues with the cinema operator whilst at the same time negotiating the sale of the site, and ultimately my home in Waterford, so that I could be free to ‘kick on’ with the rest of my life. On May 13th, 2015, Elaine and myself started a new life together in Tramore. We have not looked back! Right now, 10 years on, life feels good.
It can be hard to withstand the fury of the elements when you’re wading through the torrent. Fate can appear cruel and merciless and we, the broken protagonists, become idle spectators to our very own story played out before us. Our cadence weakens under the strain, our song all but disappears. There were days I struggled to rise, to persevere with my PhD, to prepare and lead workshops with the Peace Choir, to hang on in there when my spirit waned. Yet, something kept me going. A voice cried out from within, stirring me to believe all over again and driving me onwards in search of purpose. I guess in those times when our souls are laid bare, we have a choice to make – to step back from the world for a while or to slowly pick up the pieces and rise again. I think I chose both!
When I look back, I do so not in regret but with quiet satisfaction that this dream did come to pass. You discover a lot about yourself when the tide turns. Life nudges you into a space where you begin to see more clearly. Rock bottom can open the pores of your humanity to what really matters. Your antennae are more finely tuned. You gravitate towards the people you know will give you that lift when you need it most. It could be an unexpected visit, an invite for a round of golf or a meal together, someone unknown dropping off some home cooking to your doorstep, a wee text that reminds you of a core truth you need to hear… empathy of this kind is priceless. Your true friends believe in you when you’re most inclined to doubt yourself. Melodies of the soul soar through the night to guide us home.
The universe too takes on a whole new meaning as we come out the other side. I think it was Nietzche who said that “those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” I was once the bemused onlooker. I was never one to slow down before. I lived life at a pace and was at my happiest when I was on the move. In the stillness though, you hear the music in the simplest of things. That bench on the Doneraile overlooking the bay in Tramore opened up a whole new world. Here, by the water’s edge, once strained chords yield to the harmonic movement of the changing tides. As the waves roll to shore with steadfast ease, you sense the force that sent you here and feel the need to serve it.
All our lives have been thrown off track over the last few months in ways we could never have imagined. It would be so much easier if we knew for certain when this pandemic would all end. Life has taught me not to give in to negativity and doubt. Hope in its grittiest form triumphs in those very situations that threaten its existence. Believe in a new dawn, a new day. No matter how dark the night is, daybreak will follow. Take a step back and clear your head. Tap into your creative juices, dare to believe again and slowly plot a new course to reflect the opportunities this moment presents. It may mean a slight shift away from what served you well in the past. Hoist the sails, open up to the elements and keep a gentle hold of the reins. Your destiny is not shaped by you alone. Trust in the universe to steer you to where you are meant to be.
I was sent a beautiful mystical piece by a friend over the weekend that stirred something in me. ‘If this time’, written by Fermoy man Kevin McCormack, lights up the way for all of us to follow long after these strange and uncertain days have passed. If it was not for the times we are in, Kevin would never have been inspired to write this piece and we, the readers, would never have discovered it. Proof perhaps that hope endures even when tested most. Keep that spark within you alive. You too have your song to sing.
If this time…
If this time has taught me anything, it is that the tiny spec in this universe that we occupy, is both wonderful and wondrous, and, if we allow it to, the beauty around us can unlock the beauty within us; and teach us far more than our schooling ever did.
If this time has taught me anything, it is that success, and how we measure it, needs to be re-defined, and that the only person to whom you should ever compare yourself is who you were yesterday…Be kind to yourself – if you are doing your best, you are doing enough.
If this time has taught me anything, it is that it is more important now than ever before to see the world through your own eyes. Begin by looking at yourself – look honestly and gently. Look inward with compassion and kindness and look outward with humility and appreciation.
If this time has taught me anything, it is this: If true love conquers everything, then self-love gives it the fortitude to do so. Know that you are more than your scars – know that every wound in you that has healed along the way has taught you what it is to fight back; and to start again from where you are, with what you’ve got, without seeking the approval of others and know that self-love is not vanity.
If this time has taught me anything it is this: HOPE matters, and we cannot live without it. This time has taught me that HOPE is not a wish, nor a desire for things to be different. It is a course of action, a combination of mind and heart. The future can be better and can be brighter, and we each have the power within us to make it so. There will be challenges to face along the way, to which there are many solutions. There is a source of resilience deep within us all.
If this time does not teach us that time itself is precious, then we will have missed the lesson. The lesson that never before have the past and the future been so irrelevant and that the quest to ‘find ourselves’ has been fruitless to now; only because we’ve been searching in all the wrong places.
We are here, we are now. We are each and every breath we take. Every day is a gift – a gift to begin again, and to grasp with both hands, the fresh opportunity to learn, unlearn and re-learn. If this time………..is not wasted.
(Excerpts from ‘If this time’ written by Kevin McCormack)
(Special thanks also to Vivek da Silva & Aiveen Mullally for their inspiration along the way)
Dr. Phil Brennan and his wife Elaine invite you to share in one of their specially tailored ‘time-out’ experiences in Ireland’s South East once we are free to set out on our Caminos again. For now, we feel it’s best to spread a little calm through our reflections, music, photos and virtual Taizé evenings that we post online. The rest we return to when the time is right. The Waterford Camino experience blends walks and cycles, motivational talks and music. For further information, check out our website on waterfordcamino.com or email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org