Helpers Along the Way

What makes a trip memorable isn’t always the destination one arrives at, but the assistance one receives from strangers along the way.  This was the case for me this past week.  I have been in America for two weeks.  Although I am from America, I haven’t lived here in nearly 10 years.  This trip had many facets to it, and was tightly booked.  I had planned that each component would go according to plan.  Family visits in NYC and Philly, an energy psychology conference in Maryland.  In addition, part of my journey included heading to Arizona to empty out my storage via donations and preparation for shipment to Spain.  Going through one’s belongings of items you have put aside for years is a difficult feat.  It’s physically and psychologically draining.  But I had assistance from some strangers.  

I was lucky enough to have my mom join me for this adventure, and used miles for our flight from Philly to Phoenix.  Because we were using miles, the layover I landed was a 6 hour wait! I reckoned this would be do-able with my annual one day passes to use with United, but when we got to the United Club a sign was posted stating “no one day passes.”  I thought I would risk it, and an exception would be made.  A staff member obliged and offered a simple “why not?”  He let us in.  As we sat in the lounge and grabbed breakfast, I conjured to further chance my luck.  I asked a staff member if we could be bumped to an earlier flight, and she squeezed down our six hour layover to 90 minutes.  She warned us there was a possibility our luggage wouldn’t make it.  But luck continued and our luggage arrived on time.  Travel blessings were abound. With each small level of assistance, I thanked the universe for all the help along the way from these everyday angels.  

After landing in Phoenix, grabbing lunch, we headed straight to work at a storage facility in Tempe.  I had zero plan of where we were going to donate all these belongings and furniture.  Our hybrid rental car was only mid size.  The local Goodwill took all donations, but they did not have the availability pick items up.  I didn’t know how people sold or gave away items anymore.  Craigslist?  Facebook Marketplace?  There wasn’t enough time to list each item and sell it.

But on our first day at the storage facility, a fellow storage neighbor walked by and chatted with us.  My mom offered her a massage chair I was donating.   She responded with a quick and exuberant “yes!”  We informed her, I had numerous other items I would be giving away.  She said she would take all of them, and she did.  Throughout the week, Roberta was there at moments when we needed her.  My mom said in some ways she was like an angel, you asked for her and she was right there in the storage facility ready to pick up an item.  In total we spent 20 hours in three days sorting through this storage, and this would have been even longer if we didn’t have Roberta’s assistance.  

It amazes me how help can be there when you need it, and it comes from the unexpected.  With each person we met and assisted us along the journey, I gave them one of these Gratitude Puzo/Bella Cards.  It’s a small simple way to offer gratitude, but it is tangible and memorable.  I stayed in that positive zone: offering kindness, receiving kindness, offering gratitude.  The cycle continues.  

Life may not always work out as smoothly and seamlessly as this, but sometimes the kindness of strangers may surprise us.  All we have to do is ask, be willing to receive.  And also know that it is our mission as humans to pay that back forward with others, in one way or another. 

Returning to Your Homeland

         I am embarking on a several week trip to America.  It’s my first time going to the states since I moved to Spain, and probably the longest period I haven’t travelled anywhere since the pandemic.  Six months.  I can’t help but wonder, where is home?

         This summer marks ten years that I have lived outside of America, via the United Kingdom, France, and now Spain.  A new friend I met in Europe reminded me that “you are not American, you are a world citizen.”  At first, I wanted to disagree with him.  My upbringing was in America, I have an American accent, my family is there, I own a home there.  Of course I am American, a multiracial American.  But as I got on the plane in Lisbon today (my layover from Malaga), I am surrounded by American accents.  It’s awkward.  I feel I don’t fit in.  Do these people understand me?  Were they just on holiday, taking a dream vacation?  Or  are they like me just visiting America too?  This is my life.  Staff members and passport control are asking how long I have been in Europe.  I respond by pulling out my visa.  Perhaps I am a global citizen.  

         I realize maybe we don’t have to choose.  We are not one or the other.  We can be all.  My friend recently bought a home in Michigan.  We are from the Midwest, and I asked her will she give up her home in New York and totally move to this new home in Michigan.  She doesn’t know.   She too, also feels both are home: East Coast and the Midwest.  You don’t have to choose one or the other.  There is reality you can be both.  It reminds me of my racial identity.  Years ago, when growing up and taking standardized tests, I had to choose my race when filling out the form. I informed the teacher, I wasn’t just one answer.  But there was little cultural sensitivity at the time and in small time Ohio.  She forced me to choose one.  Do I choose how others define me?  Do I change the response each time, letting each parent be represented?  Do I opt out and not answer?  Why must we conform?  

         After ten years of living overseas, and for ten years prior to that living in various parts of America, I realize all parts are me.  An Ohio Cali Hawaiian Philly New York American citizen.  That is okay.  Do not allow others to define you. You have a choice in this.  I am returning to the country I was born in, but now I realize it’s part of me.  Not all of me. 

My Current Life Courses

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

―  Henry Ford

This week, I found myself enrolled in 3 courses, facilitating 1, and have paused 1.  No, I’m not a graduate student.  I am a 44 year old female who is transitioning out of my field of being a clinical psychologist and stepping into the unknown world of creating my own path. Although I received my doctorate nearly 20 years ago, I am continuously learning.  I realize in the past my learning was about the attainment of a degree.  I took various classes that would afford me a spot in college, then graduate school, then the right internship.   After getting my license in clinical psychology and having full time employment, it was all about getting certificates in everything from hypnosis, reiki, sound healing, EMDR, executive coaching, labyrinth facilitation, Internal Family Systems, Gottman trained marital therapy, Diversity and Inclusion, 500 hour yoga certificates.  The list goes on, and although I admit initially I did it because my jobs had so much funding in ongoing education and continuing credits, I maxed it out annually.  Today I have no job, and find myself seeking more knowledge. 

But now I have the freedom to choose, without a job paying for it, what am I enrolled in? 

A course about the Black Madonna by Dr. Christena Cleveland.  It’s described as a virtual pilgrimage to explore how the Dark Divine Mother can heal and help us, and how we can view ourselves as sacred.  It’s taught by a female social psychologist and theologian. 

Another course I am getting psychology credit for is Self-Compassion, a class created by Dr. Kristen Neff, a clinical psychologist.  This includes Buddhist and mindfulness principles as a way to make friends and care for ourselves.

In the midst of this, I signed up for a pilgrimage course e-course by Phil Cousineau who is a filmmaker, mythologist, and retreat facilitator.  He previously was mentored by my favorite mythologist Joseph Campbell and therefore this class is focused on how to be intentional with each trip we take and facilitate these types of reflective spiritual inquires when leading others.  

The course I am facilitating, which I seem to do annually, is The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  This is all about reclaiming our creativity, and although I facilitate it, I also participate in it and the majority of the exercises.   My only class on pause, due to scheduling, is Flamenco , taught by a local Malguena in complete Spanish. 

Black Madonna, Pilgrimage, Compassion, Art, and a tad of Flamenco.  

If I were to capture who I am right now in five classes this would be it.  But the thing is, I am not doing these classes right now to check  them off a list.  I want to embed the lessons in my body.  It’s the integration that takes time.  

What classes in life are you currently enrolled in?  How would you sum up who you are in five classes?