We were running late. Still, I pressed ‘Pause’ to kiss my boys goodbye and watch them leave for school. (I wrote about ‘pressing pause’ in last week’s newsletter.

Evan gave me a hug that without words said: “Don’t worry, Mama, we’ll be OK.” He got into his car and drove away.

“I’ll see you Monday evening. Text me and call me anytime!” I shouted to Blais before the doors closed behind him.

I had talked to them about whom to call in case of an emergency and left them a little note reminding them to wash the dishes and wipe off the kitchen counters daily. This was the first time I was leaving them alone while I went out of town for work. Alone. No family or friends to stay in the house with them. “We have two drivers and two credit cards,” they said as they made plans on which healthy takeout food they’ll order while I’m gone.

David Langley, who is playing Christmas concerts with me, was already waiting in the car. “He understands how important this is,” I thought as I went upstairs and knocked on Dante’s door. I didn’t expect him to be up. After all, he is home on a college break.

“You are leaving?” he asked as I cupped his face in my hands like I used to do when he was a tiny toddler, and as I still do every time we part. I kissed his cheek, “See you Monday night. Thank you for being so responsible and helping me out this weekend.”

I rushed downstairs and remembered one more thing (well, three actually): I put the string of Christmas lights in the living room on a timer; started the dishwasher and placed an Advent Calendar on the kitchen counter.

“This will make them smile” I thought as a wave of sadness mixed with gratitude and nostalgia formed somewhere in my core, tightened my abs, my chest, my throat and squeezed itself out through my tear ducts.

I pulled a magic marker out of the ‘everything drawer’ and wrote on the plastic cover of the chocolate-filled calendar box: Start on Sunday! I wanted to add something about switching days and including me on the list, but I changed my mind. They are still my little boys. And I have my own Advent Calendar of Gifts that keep on giving…

I took a deep breath. A breath of gratitude. Then I left.
“Let’s go!” I told David, who was calmly waiting for me. But before I got into the car, I ran to the mailbox and pulled out a pile of holiday catalogs and bills (bills are good for redirecting anxiety, although I do not recommend that method 🙂

The first thing I opened had a quote by Walt Whitman: “Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?” (from “Song of the Open Road”)
I Googled the rest of it (I used to read a lot of poetry and always enjoyed Whitman)…

“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me….
…Strong and content I travel the open road.”
“(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,…
…I carry them with me wherever I go…
… I’m fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return)”

Right there before me were eight hours of open road, of ‘pause’ from chores and everyday worries: a lot of time to take a journey inward and reflect…

I thought how every journey starts with leaving – something, somewhere or someone behind. It starts with goodbyes and tears and fear of the unknown.

Every journey starts with our willingness to trust that the unknown path ahead is as safe and filled with grace and love as is the memory of all that brought us to this point.

And even though staying wrapped in a blanket of the familiar might be a lot more appealing, I hope today (and every day) you can journey a little bit further into the depths of you. I hope today (and each day of the Advent) you can journey a little bit deeper into compassion and love.

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