One of the things that simultaneously aggravates and inspires me is the Irish notion of, “It’ll be grand”, of just getting on with it, and making do. It seems so casual and whimsical, but “getting on with it” has made them an incredibly resilient lot.
Despite (or maybe in spite of) the relatively recent excess of privilege that pervades Dublin, throughout this tiny island there is a social undercurrent that I find incredibly empowering. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had to be adaptable, and I’ve believed resilience to be one of my best traits. But, for whatever reason, I find the Irish notion of just getting on with, “it” (whatever “it” may be) admirable, if at times a bit maddening.
It’s simultaneously a way of saying, “Yeah, we’re rich now, but we’ve been poor before, and likely will be again”, and also of saying, “Yeah, times are tough, but they’ll turn. They always have.” But, as an American, it infuriates me to see the Irish simply settle for things (bureaucratic or otherwise) that could be handled more efficiently.
I find myself screaming inside, “How can 4 million people whose ancestors fought so long (and so often) for independence simply give in like this?” But, the longer I stay here, the more I see that that’s mostly about my Americanness.
Out of the polish of the big city, and away from the parts of our lives that have become routinized after four years, we recently got to see a different part of Ireland.
Stopping at a roadside tavern in the middle of the country we watched the local soap opera while the publican (a woman) prepared our roast holiday lunch, with chips of course.
Reading a bit of famine history written on the walls of the old pub, I began to realize how real, how visceral, the history books are to the people who live here. They don’t just, “know someone who knows someone lost I the famine”. Nearly all of them lost family members just a few generations back. They all know people who fled (whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason), or have reasons why they themselves couldn’t leave.
The writing of famine history sits under tasteful abstract paintings inspired by the famine and rendered by a local artist whose family had skin in the game and continues to make a go of it, in spite of the weather, the economy, and in spite of, well, everything.
As I stood in that pub, I listened to three men in the next room laughing, enjoying their lunch pints, and likely having lunch conversation #6b (with today’s laugh at O’Shaughnessy’s expense). And in that moment I realized that despite what we think of it, and all our foolish attempts to dress it up, life goes on, and, ultimately, the best we can do is get on with it.
Ireland has given me that.
Sure, it’ll be grand so.
Dublin, February 2016
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
The Immigrant’s Guide to Hobbies and Activities: The Value of Getting Involved in Your New Home