For many a'year I've been wanting to try to explain why St. Patrick's Day is my favorite holiday (note: this title is often shared with Christmas), but knew I couldn't do it justice.
This year is no exception, but I figured what the hell; I would try it anyway.
People who don't know me well usually react one way when I freak out about St. Patrick's Day every March: a joking elbow to my ribs and eyebrows raised while giving me a slightly obnoxious grin, "You like to 'celebrate', huh?" And while I'm not entirely sure I've ever refused a shot of whiskey in my life, this couldn't be further from the real reasons, which are threefold.
Aon! I don't have an exact date when I started recovery from my eating disorder, but I mark it by this month. The first March, when I had decided to get better and was seeking some intense treatment, I (while walking into the grocery store, no less) was suddenly struck with the nearness of everything. It was like I had gone through so many years where I didn't even realize how awesome March was and then suddenly, here it was in front of me. Fresh air, vigor, and hope.
Nine years later and every time March rolls around, I feel the exact same way. Rejuvenated and unstoppable.
Dó! There was a long, long time where I didn’t like myself, a number of traits in particular. But as I began working through things, I was able to see that a lot of those traits aligned with those from this really beautiful, charming, and magical heritage of mine. And maybe that meant parts of me were beautiful, charming and a bit magical, too.
For instance, I’ve always been a bit loud and I can’t remember a time (unless I was a wee lass) where that didn’t bother me. It always seemed to happen without my noticing it and I could never understand why I couldn’t keep my voice at a normal human decimal range. When I was ill, I overcompensated and became perfectly and acceptably quiet. But now I realize my loudness always comes from an exuberance of being around people I love, of being wholly happy in the moment, of being so overcome with joyous contentment that I have to get it out some way or another or I would just break apart. Of giving back, I guess. So, while it’s not necessarily the ‘gift of gab’, there are very few quiet Irishmen I’ve come across…
My temper was another thing. Anger was one of the “Bad” emotions for my eating disorder because it was scary, it could make me say things that were unmeasured that maybe no one could love me for, it was often explosive, uncontrollable, and powerful. All of which can be frightening to me. And yet, I still happily remember the first time I let myself be angry for the first time after 10 years of my disorder: I was playing hockey, something pissed me off and, rather than stewing on the bench like usual, I skated over and all of the sudden I just broke the shit out of my stick across the boards. This huge flare of emotion and it startled me - this blazing Irish temper; it startled everyone on the bench, too. But no body thought of me any differently and I still have that broken stick saved as a reminder.
Regardless, my temper can still get me into trouble and I try to keep it in check but, usually, when I am all Irish fire (as my husband calls it) it’s because I’m passionate about something. And passion in life is very important to me - even if it’s about beer league hockey.
Stubbornness is a big one. I am irritatingly stubborn. After one of the daily occurrences where I had done something that prompted my husband (God bless him) to comment on it, I responded with “I’m not stubborn, I’m just capable.” Regardless, I think I’ve always liked this about me. I know this trait directly saved me from my eating disorder because I dug my heels in and just decided I was going to get better.
I think this is why I catch myself saying, “I’m Irish” a lot these days. Because I’ve not only been able to accept the aforementioned, but because they also have become some my favorite things about myself. And that’s really really cool to me. To now love things I used to hate. To think that a bit of me might belong to this island of magical, charming, spirited people.
Trí. I love St. Patrick’s Day because it’s like a gift. It’s like a day just for me. Where my mind is quiet. And this one is the hardest to describe of three. No matter how many ways I’ve written it down, worked it out in my head, or tried to phrase it, it is falls frustratingly short. But here goes: the rest of my love for it is about being alive. Because, when you shake off all the other shit, what a glorious thing it is. To be alive. And some days I run and run across the earth as fast as I can, not caring how far or fast I go. And some days I sit on the back porch during a thunderstorm and watch how lightning can be different colors. Some days I breathe in this great, big earth and myself and the people and creatures and things I love so dearly in the world.
But then there’s this one day - this one really special day - where I turn up Irish music really, really loud and dance and dance, and I look around the room at, or think about, my most favorite people – people who have seen me and still love me back. And I am the loudest I have ever been; in laughter and in words and in spirit. And yes, usually then I will pour a shot of whiskey and say my favorite Irish prayer because… God… isn’t it a wonder just to be alive.