In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day 2015, ATG is exploring “All Things Irish” for the next couple weeks. Below ATG contributor Laura O’Neil reflects on the meaning of the “Luck of the Irish.” Stay tuned for more!
Familiar especially to those of Irish descent, both young and old, is the Irish Blessing displayed in part as a photo in this week’s Rose’s Ridge post about Irish American culture:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand
These words adorned not one but two walls in my grandmother’s house. They never really meant that much to me when I was younger, but with each passing year, they have come to be a calming source of inspiration, reminding me to keep on moving along, to continue hoping, and to have faith that even if it doesn’t seem possible, things will fall into place.
In many ways, this passage – wishing as it does for good fortune and strength through the twists and turns of life – embodies the attitude behind the “Luck of the Irish” that is so commonly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day – one of brushing off any bad luck and finding all that is good in our lives.
Interestingly, you can argue that the Irish have not necessarily been the most “lucky” bunch. Having suffered from a 6-year potato famine that began in 1845, millions of Irish emigrated to the United States, only to face even more obstacles while working to assimilate into American culture (see Rose’s Ridge for Mr. O’Connor’s anecdote).
Even in the midst of oppression and “bad luck”, there’s no doubt that perseverance, resiliency, and maybe a dash of Irish wit helped the Irish survive, and eventually prosper – a lesson to which we can certainly all relate.
Surely we have all experienced a “famine” of our own. Be it a famine of something tangible – like food, money, or friends and family – or of something emotional or mental – such as happiness, strength, motivation or hope – we have likely all suffered from a “shortage” of something to some degree.
While some “famines” are the result of tragedies and unfortunate circumstances beyond our control, it seems that, at times, we too can be guilty of creating our own times of darkness. After all, as humans, we tend to latch on to what’s lacking and ignore, or even take for granted, prosperity. Why? Sometimes, we do it because it’s easy. What’s even easier, however, is getting stuck in a rut of negativity.
But we can change.
I learned this last summer while completing the “100 Happy Days” challenge by posting my “happy moments” on Instagram each day, for 100 days in a row. While I knew the goal of acknowledging one thing each day that made me happy was attainable, it certainly wasn’t easy.
When I would see the sun rise during an early morning run in Boston, it was easy to feel happy, to notice a blessing, to feel inspired. On other days, it was brutal. I’m talking googling-“way to make yourself happy”-just-to-find-something-to-be-thankful-for kind of brutal.
But, as the days wore on from July to October, I noticed a change. It wasn’t that I was suddenly happy all the time. Rather, I was focused on finding something happy, so I was more apt to dismiss frustrations I ran into; they served no purpose in reaching my goal. And, at the end of the 100 days, though I stopped my daily public posts, I had developed a fairly solid habit of not resting until there was something to be happy about.
Then the winter came. Through several feet of snow, weekend after weekend inside, and wearing too many layers for too many days, it was a downright struggle to maintain the constant search for something positive. What’s there to be positive about when it’s dark in the morning, freezing during the day, dark at night, and you’ve binged on Netflix to the point of no return?
Well, I’m here to tell you there definitely is something.
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.
After getting into my car one day last week to leave work at a time much later than expected, I called my dad. I immediately mentioned, in a less-than-pleasant tone that I was just leaving work and he immediately said, “Well, I guess you’re lucky to be leaving.”
It struck me at that moment that this is precisely the attitude adjustment that we must call upon in the face of every day frustrations. And, according to Urban dictionary’s definition, that’s what the “Luck of the Irish” is all about: looking at the bright side, finding the good, imagining how something could have been worse to minimize negative tendencies.
So, there may still be a lot of snow out there, but it’s melting. It’s chilly, but it was colder last week! There are hints of luck at nearly every turn, bits of good fortune in every mishap, and rays of sunshine in every dark moment – our job is to be keen on noticing them and to embrace them, even those that are seemingly diminutive.
It’s often said that everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. So, starting March 17th, Irish by blood or not, I challenge you, embracers of ATG, to approach one frustration everyday with the wit and attitude of the Irish. Find the rainbow, force a smile, laugh at a roadblock. If it rains and you left your sunroof open, think “well, at least I didn’t leave my iPhone in the car.” Or, if you’re (im)patiently waiting for Chrome or Firefox to load the latest ATG post, remind yourself of how different your life would be without the internet.
Make the little things count; see the glass half full. It just might help you get out of a rut. And with time, it’ll be easier and easier to be positive, leaving you to wonder how you ever experienced life any other way.
An Old Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
Laura O’Neil is currently the senior accountant at Acceleron Pharma in Cambridge, Massachusetts and previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers after graduating from the College of the Holy Cross. She is licensed as a Certified Public Accountant, an avid distance runner, and a lover of baking and algebra. Her true passions include laughing, reflection, understanding human behavior, and making others smile. In a perfect world, she would spend every sunny summer day on the coast of southern Maine with a lobster roll in hand.