Peter and I have lived in some pretty amazing cities throughout our lives. Chicago being just one of them. We’ve both lived in the D.C. area, Austin, and a year in Jerusalem. On our own we’ve lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Twin Cities, Baltimore, Lafayette … I could keep going, we we’re quite the roamers in our younger days.
Sadly, neither one of us gave ourselves the opportunity to really (I mean, really) explore these cities while we lived there.
After all, the task of exploration requires a lot of effort for us. Pack up the gear for the day, make sure we have plenty of cash, water and snacks, change of clothes for the kids. (For those Murphy’s law moments that always seem to happen while out.) Lift and shove the stroller, with two children sitting in it, on and off the train. Maneuver through the heavy foot traffic of the city just to find that one restaurant that we’ve been hearing about for ages. It’s a schlep.
In fact, one could call exploration a discipline. The task of moving outside of our comfort zone to see what’s beyond the view right in front of us requires effort, and hope … that there is something out there that’s actually worth discovering.
I have a vivid memory. Years ago while living in Ft. Lauderdale I went for a run through my neighborhood. I needed the workout to help me process my feelings. I was really jealous. A friend of mine was in a very happy and loving relationship with a man. I felt sorry for myself. I wanted to know where my happy love affair was too.
After I finished my run, I chose to stretch out by the pond near my condo. The sun was setting and the pond seemed inviting, at first. Upon closer inspection though, this body of water was teeming with gnats and smelled like rotting fish.
I stood there stretching my calves thinking about how this pond was all I could see, but I knew that not even three miles away there was a peaceful beach that offered the softest white sand swept up in turquoise waters.
It felt like a fitting metaphor for my life. In a quick act of determination, I set my heart towards hope. Just because all I could see was that ugly pond, didn’t mean the ocean wasn’t there waiting for me. I knew that someday I would explore that part of life, if I could only find my way to it.
Today, I ask myself am I staring at the pond in front of me forgetting that there’s a beautiful beach just beyond sight? Am I stuck in my routine of daily living, forgetting that there’s an amazing city just a quick train ride away?
Am I neglecting the responsibility of nurturing my life because I’m afraid of what will happen when I leave my comfort zone? Am I reveling in my sadness because it takes too much effort to commit to the work of happiness? These are all questions I’m exploring right now.
I must take time to search out my heart in order to move forward. Where does my sorrow come from? What’s the root? What does my joy come from? What’s the source? Exploration of the soul is not for everyone. Self-awareness is hard, because the answers we find when we are really seeking truth can be thrilling, or scary as hell, or a key to our personal growth and healing.
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” - T.S. Elliot
On the theme of exploration, and with our year anniversary of living in Chicagoland just around the corner, Peter and I took the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful 80 degree August day with our family. We hopped on the train, and headed into our thriving and gorgeous city, Chicago. (As you can see, I threw in some pictures of our day for good measure.)
So, here’s to exploration, both the tangible and intangible. Sometimes you’ve got to take your eyes off the pond, and head towards the beach. Even when it’s hard to get there.