Several years ago, after a medical “scare”—which I now refer to as an awakening and path toward realignment and enhanced self-love (an ongoing journey)—it was clear to me that I must follow the clues the Universe was giving me and write about my Polish family’s history. I resisted doing it for years, but I finally bit the pierogi and swallowed. Hard.
This was not a tasty endeavor, although the spiritual filling was rich. My family, along with nearly 1 million other Poles, survived Stalin during the 1940s, after all. I would have to collect all of the interviews I conducted with family members and sit with it. All of it. And a lot of it pretty dark and haunting. In a way, I would also have to turn toward the ghosts of my family’s past, many of whom, I felt, must have sensed that I was a creative person. “Oh lookie!” I imagined some of them rejoicing. “Here’s a way back into their Here and Now!” I suspect that wanted back in—for a time …. and only so that they, and their experiences, could be heard and valued and honored. (Note to anybody ever considering writing about or unearthing untold stories of WWII: wear real long and sturdy emotional/spiritual boots. It is not for the faint of heart and the energy frequencies one opens oneself up to is somewhat extraordinary if not mystical and few people in the Here and Now will “get” it and if you start talking about it, you’ll just sound crazy—much like I do, right about now.)
You know, it’s odd, in the retelling of the events of the last few years, because it actually does sound like I am saying: I was visited by ghosts and they gave me clues to write about their experiences. In truth, I feel they gave me much more: Their feelings. Their unresolved feelings—grief, despair, sorrow so deep that reaching out of it would still require a massive drilling into the ethers.
And even that sounds weird, too. Greg, have you just called yourself a kind of therapist—for ghosts?
(I am sure I am make some money on this. Hmmm. No. No. I mustn’t. Wait. Can I?)
Well, real or imagined, it sure felt like I was interacting with folks from “the other side.” Or at least, their energy field.
Coming out the other side of this has been fascinating to observe—when I am grounded. At times, it appears as if my entire world exploded in the process of bringing my family’s story to life in “Grace Revealed” and writing about homeless Polish refugees: My longtime job ended, I left the community in which I was a valuable contributor, I followed the clues the Universe kept tossing me and went from pillar to post, on wild excursions and somehow launched the book in Chicago in early 2015, and managed to spearhead a vigil (and so much more) and so much for those forgotten Poles to commemorate their experiences.
That was last year. It is just now that all of this is integrating in me. I look back and wonder how it all happened; how I managed to bop from home to home, sublet to sublet, brave unemployment, milk my life savings and make it all work.
One word comes to mind: Grace.
Like revered spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, I, too, believe grace is a “substance.” It’s real. It’s tangible. You know when it’s around. And you know when it’s filtering into your life because you have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL OVER IT.
It’s not from you. It’s a gift. (Or … perhaps, akin to a spiritual boomerang you may have tossed up into the stars and forgotten about, and which has suddenly returned to you in bounty.)
So, yes, Grace was what pulled me through the muck of mood swings, the doubts and uncertainties of all of the “What The Hell Am I Doing With My Life Nows?”
Grace, and my immeasurable wealth of friendships and colleagues. For the latter … I now refer to them as angels—the friends who just randomly reached out to see how I was doing, or those who just happened to have a villa on a mountain I can stay at for a few weeks, or an olive orchard on Maui to oversee. I mean, couldn’t concoct all to it. Or maybe I did. Or, rather, maybe it was co-created. Who knows. Weird things like that, yet, all of it, gave me endless opportunities to reflect on the concept of home and place.
What is it? Home?
Is it … as they say, “where the heart is?” Sure. It’s more than a place. It’s internal. It’s how we feel within our own skin; how we feel about ourselves; how we love ourselves. But home is also a physical place. And for some reason, I am blessed with a fascinating journey—not often comfortable—which is giving me ample opportunities to attempt to understand this, integrate what it means to me and get a deeper sense of value of self.
I could have hidden myself in another corporate job and wondered why I was so frustrated. (And I am not implying that all people who work in corporate America are hiding, although, I wonder what all this mad dashing to “arrive” somewhere and “get” something—status, more money, more debt, whatever—is really all about.) However, I opted to take a different path for a time.
I returned to Chicago for some family matters and book-related events in fall of 2015. I thought: “Let’s see if I can live here and be with my family.” Well, you can take the boy out of California, but …
My Chicago friends were kind and gracious as I stumbled emotionally from one “Where I am? What do I? I don’t understand what I am doing here?” to the next. After several months of fulfilling some commitments in Chicago and assessing what might be best, it became clear that it was one thing: Keep moving forward.
And for me, that meant returning west. Some creative work possibilities have sprung up back in California and I decided to head back to check that out. Or … return to Maui and sit on a beach, meditate and be of service to some cool organization. More will be revealed.
On Feb. 1, the day I left Chicago, I was experiencing a wave of doubt and fear. I questioned if I was really going to do it again—embark on another drive across the country and into another “unknown.” So, I went out to the back patio of my Mother’s home and did a very California/Maui thing: I placed my hand on the bricks of the house and said a prayer; “Take care of this woman that is my mother, this house, everything. May it all be filled with grace.”
At that moment, a dog barked. I turned toward the back fence. Standing on its hind legs on the other side of the fence was a white shepard/wolf breed. White. A vision in dog fur. Lovely. I walked over toward the fence. The dog was getting exciting. I asked her name—because, you know, dogs talk back—but I knew who she was.
Yes. A sign.
An angel? Maybe, but definitely a good sign.
We bonded, the dog and I—she loved on me and I felt that the random occurrence was a good indication of the purity and playfulness that might be waiting for me on the road and beyond.
After a tearful goodbye with my Polish mother—dear Lord, it becomes harder to leave our loved ones when we, ourselves, have physically aged—I stopped at a local coffee portal, Pilot Pete’s, at the Elmhurst Train Station. There was a jar on the counter filled with paper.
“What’s that?” I asked twentysomething Pete, the owner.
“It’s a quote. It’s a tip for you—the customers. This way we both get tips.”
I smiled. He reminded me of me when I ran a coffee bar when I was in my twenties.
“Here,” Pete said, “I’ll pull one for you.”
I read the quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
And suddenly … the mental flurry of moving on and having things Make Sense; and the uncertainty of delving into even more uncertainty, and the WTF Brene Brown of it all—BE BRAVE BE BRAVE BE BRAVE; and the insistence of Having To Figure It All Out; and the Now What? a moment of clarity emerged.
Had another ghost—Mark Twain—just told me everything would be more than OK?
I’ll take it.
(More reports from to road to come ….)