This road I’ve been traveling on for the better of most of my life has brought to me sorrow and happiness. It has also given me strength, courage, compassion, passion and deep love for many. What it has also brought is a heightened sensitivity which at times is of value and other times a detriment. The traveling pilgrim has learned that sensitivity is not weakness. Although others may view it as such. I have had to stand in my truth numerous times and remind myself that I am not weak. I have sat in despair because I did not value my worth. I have let others steal my power and set me back. This past year as I prepared for the pilgrimage, when I tell you a lot of dirt has been kicked in my face as I hike, is an analogy of how much spirit, the Universe and my angels had to continually remind me of my truth and my worth. There is enormous strength that runs through my bones. I have been knocked down more times then I care to think about. I have buried incidences, comments and actions of others thinking it would be easier then facing it all. But the direction my life took three years ago has changed all of the dialogue that has run through my head. My sensitivity, my worth, my truths all lie now in every pebble I have kicked over this past year on the trails. My boots held me up and my poles pushed me. My backpack made me comfortable knowing help was near if I needed it. My water bottle sustained me so I could walk further and go deeper inside of myself. It may all sound funny to some how a hiker can go out with more then the intention of hiking but rather the intention of finding themselves. And that I have. And what I give back now, as time approaches to be with my teammates, is my heightened sensitivity for all of them. This is not weakness. This is strength. I bring all I have to this. I have prepared for this and am ready to step into what a pilgrim is and give back to many that have held me up when I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. To the ones who love me and tell me I inspire them, I carry you close with me and thank you for your kind words. And always always to my children who without them there is no me and my first reason I began my advocacy work.
Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination. ~Swami Sivananda
My reasons for beginning this journey of advocacy: 21 years ago today I lost my dad. June 5th, 1998. Just 17 months before that I lost my mom. I was their caregiver. Losing them both in such a short amount of time bore a hole in my heart. I wanted to do more. So I jumped into the world of advocating. As my children grew my reasons grew surrounding them. Each cause having significant meaning to me. And then 10 Mountains 10 Years became my life. For the next 13 years I would be involved with this project. I have had to step away from it due to personal reasons but I was always rallying the team on with whatever they were doing. My life was a losing battle for a bit and became impossible for me to do anything. But I came back. Stronger in a lot of ways. So I had loses but many gains. Especially right now. Being in the throes of leaving for Italy with the Temple Project, gathering with new teammates, relishing in the landscape we will be hiking, I am truly blessed. Becoming an advocate was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Passion drives me. Strength keeps me going. And the love of my children and friends inspires me.
I began writing at a very young age. Poetry was my favorite thing. Then I began to journal. Back then I didn’t have a typewriter or computer or even an I-Phone. I wrote everything by hand. I have so many journals packed away. So many things no one has ever read or seen. With the age of technology it has made it easier for me to write. I had a laptop that had a Word program that I began writing in. Then I discovered WordPress and began a Blog. That was back in 2008. I have since used this as my platform to write. Currently I have an entire book sitting in my Blog which one day I will publish. The name “Silent Recovery “. I began writing again but not on the topic that Silent Recovery is. It resides in the same Blog but under the name of “The Way of the Pilgrim “. I began to write again after almost three years. It’s another facet of who I am. I believed that I wouldn’t be able to ever write again. Now I know I’m not an expert and I don’t expect anyone to read what I write, but through all my years of doing so I’ve found I’ve helped many and that is my purpose of writing. If my audience was but one and I helped them and in turn with the knowledge I try to send out they passed on to another, a ripple effect occurs. That makes me happy. What I write about is based on my experiences and how I’ve gotten through them. When I decided on The Way of the Pilgrim chapters, I had been training for almost nine months preparing for this journey. It opened me up. My brain was on overload most nights trying to piece everything together that I was going through at this time. Being in the gym and out on the trails hiking lent so much clarity. My creative juices began to flow again and I was able to write. I break this book into chapters. They are not full chapters but rather shorter versions of an experience I’ve gone through. The preparation for the pilgrimage has given me so much. It has first and foremost brought me back to the self I thought I lost. It has me looking at my inner self as well as my health. Exercise has always been important to me but I even stepped away from that for some time. Life sent me in a different direction that warranted my attention in other areas. But preparing for the pilgrimage brought me right back into the physical and mental. The journey has been a gift that just keeps giving. Writing eases my mind after a long day so to be able to write again has also truly been a gift. It is just a little over two weeks that I leave for the pilgrimage. A time of reflection, awareness, acceptance, exposure. The Temple Project/Pilgrimage to Enlightenment Documentary is my sole purpose. The reasons that my journey has evolved as it has. I may write about it and truly try to find the right words to explain but in the end the true meaning is to fight for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and give them hope for a better tomorrow. I know if what I write catch’s someone’s eye that can spread the importance of this project we have a better chance to be noticed and heard. I thank you once again if any one of you have done this. Here’s to writing it out. May my words be with you.
A writer writes for pleasure. They also write for information. Or they write to inspire, encourage or help others. I like to think I fall into the last category because I love to help others. When I share what I write its because it has a message to those that may be going through the same thing and either feel alone with it or stuck with what to do next. I don’t claim to have all the answers but what I bring to the table is many life experiences that I have come through and want to share to help others. As most know, I am leaving on June 18th for Italy on a pilgrimage of 100 miles through Sicily to draw awareness and funding and research for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. I am an advocate who is very passionate about this project and these causes. I began writing about the pilgrimage in March. It is my experience with what it has done to me physically and mentally to prepare for this journey. Each chapter tells of what is going on in my life as a result of my training and preparation. A pilgrimage, if any of you have ever been on one, is a journey of self realization, spirituality, religious, to pay homage or respect. You really get out what you put into it. So I am a pilgrim. I believe I have been a pilgrim most of my life but had no road long enough to travel to find my answers. I began writing about the before journey because so much has come up while I am training/hiking. Each time I go out to hike the trees talk to me. The dirt below my boots guide me. I am very connected to mother earth and all of her messages she sends. This has been one of the greatest signs she sent my way. Giving me the trails and the strength and the passion to pound dirt and full fill what my destiny is. Some of us know what we were brought here for. I am always seeking. I know my passions and desires. I have not always believed in myself enough to pursue most of them. But this, the pilgrimage, the journey, the project, the advocacy, helping others…….it’s mine. And that is why I write about it because I am experiencing what it is to make this happen. What it is to accomplish a long hike or what it is to run out of money when you still need more gear, or what it’s like to burn out from it all. It’s here for the next pilgrim that comes along, or for anyone on their own similar journey of self discovery. It may not make sense to many but for the ones who know me know that I need to write it all out because each word makes it more and more a reality to someone who is doubting themselves. I always say to someone that asks how can I do these things. I say if I can do this, you can do this. And if you need help believing in yourself I will help you with that. There isn’t anything you can’t do if you just put your mind to it. It’s not all about physically doing something. Our minds create blockages from our dreams coming true. When you clear your mind and strengthen it, your whole persona will allow for your dreams to come true. I taught my children this. When I look at them as grown adults with lives of their own, I smile because they are my greatest gifts and my greatest accomplishments. So if you are following my journey thus far I thank you. I will continue to write as things appear to me and words flow. The pilgrimage in Italy will be an experience of mind, body, spirit for me so I will be writing much along the way. I’m not the first pilgrim to write their story and I won’t be the last. But this is my story and I hope it helps someone along the way.
“What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing you need to do”. Ralph Waldo Emerson
RWE said it well. The very thing I fear the most is what I need to do next. It’s not just one thing either. But I go at it one thing at a time. I know everyone has fears. I am not special here for having fears. The fears I’m talking about are the ones that paralyze you. I’m not sure of the percentage of people that have that kind. I fall into that percentage. I have several paralyzing fears. If you know me you would think with the things I’ve done in my life that this wouldn’t be the case. But it is and even writing about it has put fear in me. I write my experiences in hopes if someone else is feeling the same way they won’t feel so alone. I’ve read many things on fear and the common denominator is to look fear in the eye and go do the thing you fear. That is a very blanket statement to me. Even condescending, to say the least. It is not that easy. Steps must be taken. I am taking said steps. Each day I try to look these fears in the eye and remedy them. I’ve even went for it, and failed at it. It’s not easy. I’m not going to lie. Fear is my worst enemy right now. I have attached so many reasons as to why I shouldn’t do certain things. Some may be legitimate but others are just my learned experience of what fear is. And the idea that the situations must be right to overcome the fear. Paralyzing fear is not just one thing. It is a layer of things. Each layer has to be addressed. Each one overcome. And at times more layers appear so more time is needed. I do jump in a lot with fear based things. And I do succeed. That is why I continue to grow and learn that we are all a work in progress no matter what we may be facing in our life. We can only show up to do the work if indeed we acknowledge that the work needs to be done. We can be encouraged and even have our hand held through it but ultimately it has to come from within us to accomplish overcoming the fear. This is true of a lot of things in life. It can work with many different scenarios. Acknowledge. Accept. Acclimate. Do these three things and see how the fear begins to grow smaller. Once you acclimate, becoming accustomed to the fear, make it your friend. Talk to it like it was a person you love. Self love teaches us this which goes hand in hand with fears. Layers. Paralyzing fears sounds very scary. Sometimes they are. I literally begin to hyperventilate. Anxiety kicks in. Cold sweat. Even a feeling I’m going to pass out. Do I know how to pull myself out of this? Yes because I’m not one to let it happen so I seek ways to end it. But it’s only the emotions of the fear I’ve conquered not the fear itself, yet. The journey of becoming a pilgrim and the journey that lies ahead of me as a pilgrim will bring me face to face with these fears. This is my journey of facing my fears. I have walked alone so much in my life through all of my journeys. In the sense of inner work. The way of the pilgrim has been my way for a very long time. I have never been on a pilgrimage but now I will be on one. Am I afraid? No. I will look fear in the eye when ever it appears on this trail and do what I need to do to end it so when I return home I can do what scares me the most. Do I have fears surrounding writing this out for others to see? Yes. But those that know me know that I write to feel so others can heal. And as long as I can put down words I will continue to address things that others hide from so they know they are not alone.
The gifts of being or becoming a pilgrim just keep showing up everyday. One of the gifts I speak of is the fulfillment of a wish my dad had and that was to go to his birthplace, Italy, one day. Sadly he never did but I am going so I will fulfill his dream. My fathers family, Bencivengo, are from Naples. Neopolitan. Family members have gotten our crest with the history that surrounds our name. Bencivenga (Benvenuto) what I am told our name originated from, which means Welcome. A small village town that still remembers the name. I won’t be in Naples. I will be in Sicily but it will still be something for my dad’s memory. Growing up Italian in a predominately Italian neighborhood was interesting to say the least. Family gatherings. Sauce and meatballs every Sunday with Italian bread from the best bakery in Chambersburg, donned Little Italy. Relatives talking with their hands. Lol. Children learn from example so of course I too talk with my hands. Being in the middle of nine brothers arguing, oh wait they were just talking, as this little girl sat on daddy’s lap. I was daddy’s little girl. Whenever he went somewhere he always took me. There was unspoken love between my father and I. Back in the day many were afraid of the fathers. They disciplined. They were the bread winners, the patriarchs. My dad tried. I look back now and see that he lived amongst a family very strong willed but he always lead with a gentle heart. How he loved my mom, I loved that the most, and how he loved me and my sister and brother. What we lacked in money we gained in love. I became my parents caregiver for five years. My mom would pass first. Next to my dad in bed. He would not let go of her hand. His Queen was gone. The love of his life. At that moment my heart broke for him. How will he ever get through this? He was also ill at the time. For the next 17 months I continued to take care of my dad. Each day I could see the light going out in him. I would be taking care of his every need. He would cry and I would comfort. We would talk more then we ever had. He was scared mostly. This strong Italian man I remember was confined to a bed with his little girl taking care of him. I always told him, like I told my mom also, it was an honor to care for them both. A deep thank you for a beautiful childhood and love that I felt run through me everyday. The era was different growing up. The landscape, beliefs, but my parents always did the best they could with what they had to assure me and my siblings were ok. So June 8th is my dad’s birthday. He died shy two days of his 81st birthday. 17 months after my mom. He was reunited with his queen. And now they both come to me when I need them. I will travel in June which I think is pretty symbolic. I will carry my dad in my heart as I hike the landscape. I feel blessed already because I know he will be pushing me on if I falter. Being on this journey has so many meanings. This one daddy, is for you and about you. I love you. Give mommy a kiss for me. ~ Eileen the Jelly Bean
My mind races most nights. I have insomnia. It has been going on now since March. I lay here thinking of every scenario going on in my life. The good, the bad and the ugly. I know right now I should only be focusing on the good. When I do that things seem to move along smoothly. But life isn’t like that. At least not for me. Since I began writing about my journey leading up to the Pilgrimage a lot of things have come up. I have been cracked wide open. Let’s get one thing out in the open first. I am not living in the past. Although it may sound like I am because I say things have come up, it is the farthest from the truth. What is coming up is unresolved emotions caused by recent occurrences in my life and life in general. Maybe they are emotions that I felt in the past when things went horribly wrong in my life but they are not those incidences that have created these emotions. I am someone that questions life. The why’s and if’s and how comes. The why nots and let’s give it a try. The no expectations, go for it, free spirited aging hippie. Will I be alone, find my true soulmate? Others believe I will. I believe I will. More questions. When? How? Will they accept me for where I’m at right now in my life? Will they cheer me on with my endeavors? Will they become part of my endeavors as I would of theirs? I thought for a second a few months back someone had shown up. But it wasn’t the case so it left me with even more questions. What did I do? What did I say? Am I too much of this and not enough of that? Not pretty enough or, I know I’m not young so I guess I questioned am I too old. I am not wallowing. I am sharing my journey. Letting anyone who places themselves on this road know that our emotions come into play in a huge way. The many hikes and the mental preparation and the gathering of everything to take along with has me taking inventory on everything. I’m not saying everyone goes through this. I can only write what is mine. I’ve become even more sensitive to how others feel. I feel my intuition has increased and my desire to help others has increased. This pilgrimage is about enlightenment so could it be my soul is being ignited in that direction? There has been moments of sorrow for no apparent reason but give it an hour or two and I get bad news. I call something out first thing in the morning based on my intuition and it plays out in front of my eyes in the course of the day. I’ve had these things happen before and I was able to be ok with them. This time they seem to be coming at me more and more. Which could be why I have insomnia. My mind just won’t settle thinking about everything. Questioning once again my life. I never thought I would be alone at my age. I never thought my life, at the same time, would be so blessed with this opportunity to journey as a pilgrim. The ego is having its way with me. I’m a paradox. I’m a rebel. I’m a truth seeker and a lover of all. I may continue to have insomnia and keep questioning myself and all that is happening but the one thing I won’t do is lay down my sword. I will continue to slay the unwanted thoughts and conquer this journey I am on. And when the time is right, the things I wish for, the things I continue to manifest, will all make an appearance. Patience grasshopper…..patience.