Today is a big day in my memory. On this day 15 years ago our family was involved in a car accident that forever changed our lives. We lived, while many others did not, and were deeply scarred by the event. All of us. We were on the highway going to see family to celebrate Christmas. That event changed the way I travel in the winter and the way I feel about going anywhere. Yesterday as I was walking and waiting for new tires to be put on my car, because I am taking my daughter back to college in a few days, I was reflecting on my attitudes now about traveling and want to share them with you.
There are numerous quotes about traveling and how it’s one of the best things we can do to increase our knowledge. I believe that’s true. Being exposed to different ways of thinking and living opens us up to understand that we are not necessarily the center of the universe and that there are other ways to perceive the world. And, traveling can be challenging. The obvious risk for us are car accidents. It’s also risky to fly. Besides the obvious security issues often flights are delayed or cancelled and when we arrive at our destinations there may be problems with accommodations, weather, etc.
Even after our experience in our car accident, which was the most traumatic event I have ever experienced, I believe the most difficult traveling is to the distant places in our self. Those roads are filled with the most challenging and frightening scenery. It’s uncharted territory, unexplored, seemingly uninhabitable, totally remote and yet, oddly familiar. That’s what I’m discovering fifteen years after our accident. I am becoming fascinated by the mysterious and frightening journey inward. Though in many ways it is much safer than traveling by car on an icy road, it can be much more terrifying. Time and medical help heal our injuries, therapy and care heal our emotional wounds. Healing our souls requires the greatest courage and love.
If traveling in the outer world expands our minds and opens our thinking to new possibilities, traveling in our inner worlds expands our hearts and opens us up to feeling our true and complex world within.
Through my inner travels I’ve grown more compassionate towards my self and others. I have started to truly forgive my self and others and see who I really am through the eyes of an innocent child or tender lover who looks at me with the utmost care, respect and admiration for the many difficult miles I have traveled. They offer me a place to rest and nourish myself like I have never done before. I am coming to love the care and nurturing those places within my self offer me.
I didn’t know there was a path to take. I couldn’t see it. For so many years I couldn’t see what was within me, my self. In our accident we were blinded by a white out. In my inner world I was blinded by what I perceived to be my own darkness. I have come to see that my inner landscape is far more beautiful than anything I could possibly see in the outer world. And I know it’s worth the time and the effort to explore.
So I am traveling lighter these days. I don’t need so much stuff anymore. I don’t fill my suitcases with the need to please and be approved or liked anymore. I don’t carry the fear of failure and of falling apart either because I have discovered it’s only in falling apart that I have learned how to put myself together in the way that is right for me. You see we’re put together by our parents and families, schools and churches synagogues and temples but that’s not really us. Those are other people’s fears and feelings about what we need to be for them to feel okay about themselves.
That’s the baggage we all carry. I don’t want that baggage anymore and I definitely don’t need it. I have thrown most of it away. All of our things fell out of our car when we tumbled over the cliff. At that time I had to let a lot of stuff go. This past year I threw away a whole lot more and am going into this new year with a much lighter load. I’m not carrying the burden of who I am not and who I think I should be. In fact, I’m not really carrying much except a bottle of water and the love of my family and deepest friends because that’s all I really need. I have shed a lot of baggage and I’m sure there is plenty more to let go of but for right now, I’m feeling pretty light.
And grateful to be alive sharing what I have discovered along the way with you.
I leave you with the opening lines from the poem by Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road……………