The Journey

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

It was a dark and stormy night when my journey started.

It seriously was an ice storm in central Wisconsin on February 18, 2009, at 2 a.m. I know this for a fact as it was the day my first grandson came home from the hospital. I was unable to sleep so I started reading an Oprah Magazine (I’m not a fan) and there was an article with Maria Shriver interviewing the poet Mary Oliver. To be clear I’m also not a fan of poetry so it shook me to my core when I read this poem, ironically entitled The Journey–which I did not realize until this year.

This poem spoke to me so deeply that I knew my life was about to change, but I had no idea to what extent. I tore it out and took it to work and kept it in a manila file folder. I don’t remember what I named the file but I know it’s content ended up being my divorce file. But that took another two years to realize. There were two more significant events before I actually took the first steps to save my life.

The next event was the birth of my granddaughter, Adele. It was a hot and steamy night in Chicago two months before her due date and she was already in a long surgery to save her life that night. I was again shaken to my core. I had not even come to terms with my own impending death, let alone my children’s or their children’s. Again, it was clear that I was not living an authentic life and changes needed to be made but I was in another crisis for a brother and there was no room for my life, I was fighting and praying for theirs.

Once life returned to “normal”  I knew the time as close. Deciding to take my mother and daughter on discover our roots trip I was using the time to reflect on my internal strife when my daughter looked at me with no knowledge of my thoughts and asked me what I was going to do about my marriage, and walked away.

It was time to save my life. I could never have anticipated all the highs and lows of the next eight years. Buying and selling my dream house to live “Homefree.” Winning an award for my work at the White House and a year later in the worst job of my career. My father dying and my grandaughter thriving. Traveling and moving to Colorado. Moving from my role of daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother to role model of someone living their life fully and from a place of joy and abundance. 

I undertook a hero’s journey to save my life and I don’t regret one step of the way. I had no way of knowing that my journey would take 10 years. And now, I feel inspired to inspire others. To be honest and authentic about my journey to save the life of another. 


Ally Ally In Come Free

The goal of Hide and Seek and other beloved childhood games to get Homefree or to Homebase. It is the place of safety where there are no surprises. It is the end of the game.

As adults buying and owning a house and a home is the ultimate goal. Of course, this makes sense from a financial point of view and provides stability for our families. A house can also be a safety net, but is the game over once we get the house? What about when the children leave and the family no longer requires that stability? What happens when they get their own houses?

Several years ago, post-divorce, I bought the sweetest little house and it meant all of those things to me–I felt safe, and that I was creating stability for my children, and decorating filled my time.

In the spring of 2016, I took an online financial coaching class that had us take a serious look at how we spent our money. It was a different way of looking at our income and spending than a financial advisor would have you do. As I went through the course I realized two profound things.

  1. I was deferring my lifelong dreams of travel and independence for safety and security.
  2. Most of my disposable income was spent post-mortgage payment–on the house upkeep and taxes.

I began to see the possibility of achieving dreams by letting go of safety–and the house. At first, I called it the homeless plan, it was later suggested that I call it the Homefree Plan. I dreamt if I were truly brave, I would try living “home free” for a year. This would require selling the house, quitting the job and leaving my community and more importantly, my family.

So much fun to dream about and tell everyone–but internally I had no intention of pursuing it. Here is the big lesson. If you make plans with the universe and go so far as to set dates when things will happen with your coaches, guides and accountability partners. They will happen whether it is your way, or whether it happens to you. The Hero’s Journey as defined by Joseph Campbell can be a call to action or a call to adventure, but it will happen over and over again. It is much more exciting to heed the call to adventure.

In the summer of 2017, one of my guides told me the travel was inevitable and that I should go home and pack up the basement and prepare the house for sale. Three weeks later the basement flooded–and no I had not heeded her advice. As I watched bins float by with no idea what they contained except burdens to move, I realized I was ready to let go of homeownership. Several weeks after the basement was restored, I found myself telling a friend the house was hers if she wanted to buy it. Surprising myself most of all.

Still, I was not committed to the plan internally, only externally. Yet I was working with Holly Bull of Center for Interim Programs, making serious plans to leave, but was terrified. I was a responsible child. I was a responsible parent. Yet, things kept happening to keep me on track. In January 2018 I learned that the foundation I was working for was merging later in the spring.

Now the house was sold and the job was ending and I found myself torn between making safe plans and taking a journey into the unknown. 

I was blessed to have a friend call me out, she knew my heart’s desire and she knew I was scared. What she didn’t know for sure is that when challenged I will rise to the occasion and seek the truth and the path less traveled.

And so I did. I’ve now been home free for a year and a half. Everything I own fits in a storage unit and I live in a different state and have traveled easily, alone and with friends. I now have a home base instead of a home and it is all I need for now. I no longer need to seek safety–but sometimes still wobble towards it. I am blessed to have many guides who keep me on my path.

And while Eat, Pray Love may have become trite, I find this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert to be so powerful.

“I’ve come to believe that there exists in the universe something I call “The Physics of The Quest” — a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum. And the rule of Quest Physics maybe goes like this: “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.” Or so I’ve come to believe.”

Many truths have unfolded for me including a knowing that safety can keep us small. That journeys can be chosen or thrust upon us. That we grow by letting go. That we can play roles, or be role models. And freedom comes in many ways when we play the game of life.