What if I were to tell you that I very recently spent one month, alone in the beautiful Italian hill town of Assisi and that I can only remember the name of one restaurant and two shops and very few other of these types of details? Would you think me a complete dullard? What if I were to tell you that I was moved by a force that was beyond my control as I made plans to leave my home, that once I started the process, nothing stood in my way? Not even my husband. He totally got it. What if I were to tell you that I had a specific intention for this trip and I could never use the word ”vacation” as I made my plans? Nor could I use it during my stay. What if I were to tell you that this was, instead, a ”journey” and that it was necessary for me to make this journey, alone, at the exact time and to the exact place that I did?
My mother died in July. Her’s was a battle royale against the indignities and discomforts of reproductive cancer. I was the everything person to her and my 90 year old father. I managed her care and lent my life to them for as long as it took for her to allow her death. What if I were to tell you that I had not one, but two surgeries during that intense period of chaos, both of them preventive? Both of them statements. I was not going to die of the same illness despite the risk factors stacked against me. What if I were to tell you that I needed time? Time to recover. Time to heal, physically and emotionally. Time to get stop crying out loud. Time to not have to explain why I was crying out loud. Time to regain confidence in my ability to live my own life, to restore self-efficacy. Time to breathe, pray, walk, listen, and to seek teachers who would guide me, inspire me and tell me that I need not feel guilty about being alive after my mother’s suffering and my father’s entrance into his own uncharted waters. What if I were to tell you that all of this would not be possible had I stayed home seeking the same? Home, where I am constantly making demands of myself. Clean the house, cook the meal, fill out papers, file papers, do laundry……and, with the few remaining minutes, perform a ruthless act of engagement in a creative pursuit. What if I were to tell you that my plan was to place myself in a world where none of this would matter, miles away from my home, a completely different time zone.? No calendar, a broken wristwatch, limited phone access. The only tools taken on this journey were my camera and my notebook computer. What if I were to tell you that I wrote an essay every day and took three thousand pictures, most of them of details, things I noticed and wanted to recall later? What if I were to tell you that every day, instead of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, I walked, climbed hills, met personal goals, and met the ”teachers”?
What if I were to tell you that I filled my time with new acquaintances, people who understood who I was and why I was there. People who pulled the right words from depths I could only imagine.? Souls, sharing my space. Artists, writers, poets, each pointing the way to the next., each affirming that it was good and just to live and enjoy the process.
So, I remember people and their contributions, each in exquisite detail, not gift shops or restaurants. I recall beautiful artwork, most of it in places of prayer or contemplation. I recall moments and hours, times well spent. I remember that I never felt lonely and that I always felt supported. I remember that I always felt alive and well and…..
What if I were to tell you that I really was never alone?
What if I were to tell you that my mother accompanied me on my journey and that at times, my grandmother joined us?
What if I were to tell you that I took myself on a journey that I am sure my mother always wanted to take and that she made it all happen?
I’m telling you.