Month: July 2016

My Epic Journey: One Year Later

Have a good trip AVERY

Well, tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the start of my Epic Journey.  One year ago, I pulled out of the driveway in search of God, inner peace, purpose and a new way of life.  As I look back on the ideals I had before I left, I think how foolish I was.  I expected this trip around the country to change my life and change me as a person.  My life has changed as have I as a person, but not because of the physicality of driving around from state to state.  Seeing the largest ball of yarn or the ocean, those things did not create the change I am experiencing today.  It was wonderful to see all the things I saw but much of it left me still wanting for something more.

Over and over again in this blog, I have mentioned how the people I have met have changed me.  That fact is still true.  This journey has allowed me to meet all kinds of people: ex-convicts, possible gang members, homeless people, wanderers, and everything in between.  My perception of people has vastly changed.  I have had the hardest of people look after me, without a request, while I sat alone in a bus station at 3 in the morning.  I have had complete strangers care about me and my well-being in situations I never imagined.  People I would have been afraid of in my old life have shown me compassion without expecting anything in return.  My heart swells just thinking about it.

When I first came up with this crazy idea I was terrified to even speak about it out loud.  I was sure my friends and family would have me committed.  Then I slowly started to feel the waters and found out that everyone was ready to stand with me and show me support I never imagined.  I could never have done this without them.

The people have definitely changed me.  But there has been other aspects to this journey that have changed me also.  Flying without a safety net (or not having a home base any longer) proved to more than I could bear in the beginning, then became more and more of a blessing as time ticked on. I have a home base now, but it is different in ways I still have yet to imagine.  The concept of not owning much, which was scary at first, is something I freely embrace now.  The weight of “things” has lifted and I can breathe again.  Goodbye things, I do not miss you.

I have learned the difference between alone and lonely.  I am alone a lot, and yes, I am lonely sometimes, but I do not have to be both all the time.  Same with sad and depressed, I no longer let the sadness turn into depression.  I have learned that having control over everything is like a prison, you are locked in and there is no way out.  Giving up control, just like giving up things, is the key that unlocks the prison door.  Trying to control everything is just too tiring and it never quite works out.  These are just some of the things I have learned over the past year.

This year has been a year of changes and re-evaluating everything I knew before.  I am still not “there” but I now have the first year under my belt and I survived.  That is a glorious feeling.  Now my heart is open to more possibilities and more opportunities.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring.  This journey is not over by any means, but it is easier to see outside of myself now.  There really is a big world out there and it actually does not revolve around me. I no longer need to carry the burden of having everything in the world depend on me (one of my major misconceptions).  I can now start to live a life that is open, even raw at times, but not closed off because of fears and uncertainty.  Every new day is uncertain, I am learning to embrace it.

Here’s to experiencing more pain, more joy, more love….just more of everything.  It is scary indeed, but worth it every step of the way!

From Ohio to North Carolina….I wonder what’s next?




When Words Hurt

inner beauty

This has been a weird month for some reason.  Out of the blue, with no hint or preview, I was reminded that I am not physically a beautiful person by two separate and unrelated people.  I have been working on not caring what people think of me, but these words hurt.  I tried to brush them off, especially since they were said by people who barely know me but they stayed in my brain and continued to erode away any confidence I had.

I am not sure why these things were said or if I did something to bring them on.  But after stewing over the hurtful words for a couple of days, I have learned a few lessons from the experience.

Firstly, I am reminded that words do indeed hurt.  You can either build someone up with words or completely devastate them.  I knew from past mistakes that this is true, but maybe I needed a refresher course in the evils of a wayward tongue.  Even something said in jest can be hurtful.  I do not want to be that person, I want to be the one who lifts people up.  There is just not enough of that in this world today.

Secondly, I am reminded that no matter how tough I say I am on the outside, I am still affected by other people’s opinions.  That is really a lost cause.  Unless the person is someone who is close to me or someone I care about, I should take the words with a grain of salt.  I should remember that everyone these days has an opinion about everything, including my looks apparently, and they are very willing to share that opinion.  I cannot control or censor what they say, but I can control how I take those words and process them.  Sitting by myself, depressed and lingering over the words is not the choice I want to make when something is said to me.  Can I use the words said to better myself?  If so, then I need to do it and if not, I need to let them wash down the drain like dirty dishwater.

Thirdly, I sometimes forget how easy it is to judge a book by its cover.  I know that is so very clique, but it is true.  I was judged harshly by my cover by people who do not know me.  True beauty comes from a generous and kind heart, it comes from a place of humanity and concern for others, and it comes from a million or so lessons learned the hard way.  Beauty is not skin tone, hair color, fingernail length….it is how you live your life when no one is paying any attention.  It is about how you treat people and how you handle situations.  I forget that for a few days.  I am now reminded of it.

I may not be a beauty by the world’s standards and that is okay.  Looks do not last, they fade like the sunlight at dusk.  I do not want to be remembered for how tiny my pores are or how silky my hair is (neither of which is true of me by the way).  I want to be remembered for trying to become a better person.  I still have a long way to go, but I am, at least, trying.  Does that make me beautiful?  I do not know and, frankly, I am not worried about it.  As Dr. Seuss points out, “I am who I am.” (or maybe it was Popeye.)

I am glad the words were said because it made me lose my confidence for a few days.  It reminded me of a place where I no longer wanted to be.  It was a place of sadness and inner conflict.  That is a place I left behind and it should stay behind.  That place has no place in my present.  I learned that I can be hurt, but there is always something to learn from the sting.  For that I am thankful.

What’s Going On

I try to stay far away from debates about politics, current affairs and religion. There are so many other writers ready to chime in on those subjects.  Seems everyone today has an opinion and is willing to share it. My current lifestyle does not include live television or radio. I am a Netfix and Amazon kinda gal. I only heard about the Dallas shootings a day or so ago through Facebook. So you can see I’m not heavily connected.

But there is one thing I want to know….what’s going on in this world today?  I’m sure my understanding is at a child’s level as I am generally out of the loop. Was there a time when things were better, probably not.

For example, my older sister had cerebral palsy. Before I was born, my family lived in a decent-sized town where my sister could go outside onto the sidewalk and spend time outside. She also went to school. But  she was tormented by neighbor kids because she was disabled. Now this happened in the good old 1950s. The tormenting got so bad my parents packed up the family and moved to the country. There my sister no longer had the option to freely go outside, there were no sidewalks and the small country school was not equipped for disabled people. Those tormentors won some stupid unimportant battle against a disabled girl and her family. My mother often spoke of other parents of handicapped children who did not even let them leave the house for fear of torment.

 The good old days were not always good old days.  Bullies were everywhere.  Human intolerance has been around since day one.  Look at Cain and Abel. Jealousy, hate and envy tore that family apart.  

You would think that Hitler would have taught us a lesson or two of what not to be like. Yet our world seems to be going down a similar path today. I do not believe that anyone’s life is unimportant. They all matter, to coin a currently overused phrase.  But it is true. The rich politicians to the homeless family and everyone in between all have value. Yet we tend to see net worth or education levels as the criteria we use to judge value and respect.  Which is skewed because some of the upper level of people are known liars and dirty dealers. That does not mean their lives do not count just that the gold pedestal they sit on is tarnished.

Everyone fights for their own right which negates another persons rights. Every man for himself leaves no room for tolerance or respect for others. We hate God but that hate is tearing our society apart and is devaluing the person. People scream for change as long as it is good for them. 

As a former self-absorbed person I realize entitlement. My world revolved around me and me only.  I was so worried about me that other people were secondary. That is a hard thing to admit but true it is. Then the bottom fell out of my life and I started to see differently. I realized that my needs were not always the most paramount.  I began to see life through others people’s lives.  There are so many struggling right now, suffering in silence and living without hope. This probably always happened just now the scale of people affected is so much more.  So many people being disrespected.

I will admit it is difficult to love everyone. Some people seem unlovable. But maybe God meant that regardless a person should be shown respect.  Granted there are people so inherently evil they have not earned respect. I do not have an answer for that one. I guess I am talking about the person who works at the dollar store, or the person who gets your sandwich at lunch or any other number of people who may not have a high societal standing. Love them, not necessary. Respect them for their hard work, definitely. 

Maybe what the world needs is not love, but respect. I have learned that not everyone has to think like me. Not everyone has to share my views. But if we can respect one another we open the door to learn from each other. Then change can happen and maybe some of the hate will disappear.  I realize it is a simplistic concept for a very  complicated problem. Maybe it could be a start. 

I am a Christian and I want my religion to make me a better person. Jesus was not racist and He respected all people.  He had a beef with some but I don’t think it shut off His ability to still respect them. Oftentimes He sat with the lowly and discarded people because they had value and deserved respect. My goal is to be more like that.  No more judging a person on outward appearances. But by getting to know the person and paying them their due respect. Will it change the world and stop the violence?  No it will not. But it is a start and, honestly, I have no other ideas so I will do what I can to be kind and respectful to my fellow humans.  

This is just me feeling frustrated because I do not know how to change the world. Too much violence and not enough respect. Something has to give. 

Gratitude Changes Everything

I have lived days in want.

I have lived days in plenty.

I have lived days in plenty of want.

I could not understand, in my previous life, why there was always a huge hole inside of me.  I tried to fill it with things I thought I had to have.  The hole was never satisfied and I always found more things to want.  It was not until I finally realized what was missing that the hole disappeared.  I discovered a little thing called gratitude.

It was not things my soul craved.  The latest kitchen gadget did not satisfy my desires nor did any of the other must-haves that I bought fill the hole.  I had to lose most everything, except the absolute essentials, and then be thankful for what I had before it all made sense.  

As soon as I was no longer running after things in search of peace, that is when I found peace.  When I no longer longed for the bight and shiny things on television and in the stores, that is when I learned to be thankful for what I had. A funny thing happened then…I began to see the possessions I had left were more than I needed  and I was able to give more away to those who had less than me.  

So now not owning much, I feel like a queen with what I do have.  Before I had so much stuff and I felt like a pauper. That little change in my mindset has completely transformed my life from miserable to overjoyed.  Believe me it is difficult in our society to not get sucked into the thinking that this one more thing will finally make you happy.  I believed the lie for many many years and ran up so much debt.  No wonder I was not happy. It was like being on a treadmill all day, every day with a pretty bauble dangling in front of me  but never being able to obtain it.

Today, I am thankful for what I have and who I know.  Those are the things that make me a wealthy soul.  Mostly I am thankful for being thankful. Gratitude has made me a different person. One I can proudly look at in the mirror in the morning. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to find it!

In a North Carolina State Of Mind

It is funny how life’s curveballs can turn out to be the most amazing happenstances in your life.  Take North Carolina for instance. I never even thought about North Carolina. I vacationed in the Outer Banks some years ago.  I enjoyed myself but once NC was in the rear view I did not give it much thought. 

On my epic journey I dreamt of amazing places like Wyoming, California, Oregon and the like.  Wild places, so I thought, full of awe and wonder.  90% of my memories revolved around Ohio and I was ready to make some new incredible  memories in a land far away from the North Coast of Ohio.

Readers of this blog know that the epic journey turned out to be a different beast than what I thought it would be. I loved what I saw but that indescribable feeling I was looking for never made an appearance to me.  I was waiting to be totally transformed into the person I always wanted to be as if by magic.  Travel, I heard, changes you.  I waited for the change to wash over me to no avail.

Then I end up in the mountains of NC.  All I could see at first were horrible winding roads, no cell reception and brown trees everywhere. It was December and I guess I was expecting something else.  I came to NC expecting to not like it. I was going to put my time in and then go to a magical place….somewhere else.

Then a funny thing happened.  Winter, which was no where near winter in Ohio, turned to spring. The brown lonely looking mountains started to turn a million shades of green. The rivers started to flow and show off their white caps. The air warmed up.  Flowers and plants began to bloom.  The smokiness of the Blue Ridge Mountains went from a dreary appearance to one of awe and splendor.  

Unbeknownst to me, the mountains were healing me. Slowly I started to shed the depression that always accompanied me.  My anxiety was replaced with excitable anticipation of what the day would bring.  I used to shed tears of self-pity, now the tears flow as I look at the splendor that is North Carolina.  When I ride the train to the Nantahala Gorge, the landscape changes every day. The beauty is breathtaking.  Like a lover you could not stand at first, but then came to know and love, that is North Carolina to me.

As I sit in my apartment with the French doors open listening to birds sing and train whistles in the distance, I have come to realize the thing I never considered has become the thing I was aching for.  Thank you Smoky Mountains for opening my eyes and my heart to the possibilities.  North Carolina….who would have guessed?

What….Me Worry?

Most of my life has been spent worrying. I worried that I would lose a loved on, lose my job, run out of money, have health issues, not have a place to live and the list goes on and on.  I worried about things that were possible and I worried about things that were totally improbable.  I lost sleep over the worries.  I made myself sick over the worries.  I missed many joys in life because I was constantly worrying about one thing or another.

I realize that some of the worries did actually come true and some never happened. I have experienced loss of people I loved and, less importantly, lost things.  I have been sick, weak and tired.  Anxiety has been a constant companion.  I have cried alone in the dark as well as in front of friends and strangers as well. There have been days of fire and rain.  I had days I did not think I would make it. But I did. The dark night turned into a day full of light and hope. I have made it through the other side many times by the grace of God.

It’s funny all the worrying did not help me cope or answer one of the problems. I am stronger for the trials but the worry did not add one positive to my life. Worry is like a persistent gnat that continually circles your head to the point of annoyance but with no real purpose.  I no longer want to waste precious time worrying about what might happen. If it happens, I will deal with it.  If it doesn’t happen, I will not have wasted another moment on it.

We all have inner courage that sometimes gets buried under all of life’s burdens and pain. That courage allows us to face the day and whatever it may bring with peace and grace. Once the worry stops, clearer thinking is more of a possibility.  With clearer thinking comes the ability to face our problems and life head on. No more nail biting and wasting time on the negative for me.

Here is to accessing my inner courage and learning to act in faith which brings peace and understanding.  Today I will stand tall, talk with confidence and will feel strong. Worry, be gone from my life today.