Day 1: Saying “Goodbye” to old ghosts.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

I woke up this morning thinking this is it… the journey is really beginning!  One question plagued my mind, “Am I really ready?”  I couldn’t help but take a deep breath and sigh because I knew this journey was destined to change me in ways I can’t predict.

The Quest today is to say, “Goodbye” to the past in order to move forward into the future.  As I arrived in Chicago, it was apparent that in order to move forward with the Quest, I needed to soul search and conduct some spirit modification.  I had to strengthen myself to take on the goals that lay ahead of me.

My journey has taken me back to where it all began, Chicago, IL.  As I face some of these haunting memories that plague my mind, I was able to acknowledge that these are the same memories that drove me to move 2000 miles away in an effort to be free.  What I didn’t realize is that geography can’t erase the difficult memories or thoughts.  So I must return to forgive the past. I must go back, before I can go forward, to let go of those experiences and prepare myself to find out who I am.

As I made my way to my hometown, I felt compelled to take a different route than the one Siri was demanding I go… I listened to whatever message I was being given and headed a different way.  When I took the appropriate off ramp to get to the hotel, once again, I was beckoned to go right, when Siri said left.  As I made the turn, there in front of me was the cemetery where my Grandmother had been buried.  I realized at that moment, that the compelling feeling to take this route did not occur by happenstance.  I drove in and could not remember where it was she was placed to rest.  I called the cemetery office, received the location, and made my way to her gravesite.  I stood there at her grave, feeling humbled because I hadn’t visited in so long.  I felt lost, not knowing why it was that I was there.  I then felt as if she was with me, standing in front of me, and needing to communicate something, but not knowing what that was.  With grave diggers working actively behind me and the cold wind blowing, I simply said that I loved her and I hoped that she would be with me on this journey.” Something told me I would certainly need her guidance.  It was after that very brief, powerful and unexpected visit that I returned to my car and headed to see my sister.

She had a box of personal things I needed to go through and a couple things my Dad left for me.  As I met with my sister and began to open the box, there on the top was a card my Grandmother had given me so long ago. There were 3 pictures of her inside.  With my hands trembling with fear and confusion, I nearly dropped the card.  I was startled by the eerie surprise following the unexpected compulsion I felt to visit her at her grave.  My mind immediately was searching for reasoning on this issue.  Why would my Grandmother, who I rarely think of these days, come to me this way?  Was it simply an acknowledgement of what I was about to embark upon? Was it a reminder to use the moral compass she helped me form and calibrate as I begin this journey?  Perhaps it is both… Whatever the intention or message, I firmly believe that she is with me on this journey and today, there is no greater gift.

Following my visit, I chose to drive around the city of Lombard, Il, my hometown and stop at several places to simply remember the good times and reconcile the questionable ones.  The memories of playing “Kick the Can” and “Ghost in the Graveyard” brought a big smile to my face and I could almost hear the voices of my friends calling out in the darkness… these were times when I was allowed to be a child and enjoy the simple things in life.  I walked the roads that I would ride my bike on, and strolled through the park that my Dad and I would take early morning walks in… it was there that the tears began to fall as I recollected the conversations my Dad and I would have.  We would talk about politics, life’s challenges, and listened to his hopes and dreams for me…. I couldn’t help but think, “Does he see me?  Does he know how his immense strength and courage have brought me here?  What would he say if I told him that my life is brighter because he was in it?”

You see my Dad had many physical pains that were remnants from World War II. He faced brutal challenges during the war and the pain was always there. His back would hurt, and his knees caused him incredible pain most days, but as many might belabor the issue, my Dad remained silent.  He wanted to have a knee replacement but the physicians felt he wasn’t in good enough health to handle the surgery.   And so, he would walk every morning and I would notice that at times he clenched his teeth but was quick to change the subject or simply deny the pain. He taught me that sometimes you just need to fight through the pain and just keep living.  So often we would walk along the trail in the park and I could never truly understand the level of pain he was in. And here I am, facing the same dilemma with my knee. I can say firsthand that his strength and courage to fight through the knee pain was absolutely remarkable.  Like my father before me, I will not let my swollen, angry knee trip me up on my journey. After all, it is just a knee…perhaps this is why were given two legs to stand on!

At the end of my day, I had walked and driven many miles, but went even further down Memory Lane.  I had the courage to face the gut wrenching and painful memories that brought back tears. But amid those dreadful thoughts were remembrances of the good times, the ones I wrongfully chose to forget.  These were the very experiences that shaped who I am today and why it is that I am beginning this mission.  I sat at the park bench where my brothers and I would go to fish… and I let go of the past and all of its dreadful tentacles that kept me from being truly happy.  I have replaced them with “hope”… the hope to be able to remind the world that we have a choice to hold onto or let go of things not beneficial to us in this lifetime.  Moving forward I carry with me my suitcase of memories.  That suitcase can only hold so many… and so, I choose to only hold on to the good ones… no distance can diminish them, no time can erase them, and in the end, they are irreplaceable and hold the deepest value in my life!

Absolutely smiling from this Quest and wondering, “What will tomorrow bring?”

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