Read an Excerpt
The Road TripA Travel Guide for Life's Journey
By Kathleen Graviano
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Kathleen Graviano
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLife Is a Journey of Mind, Body, and Spirit
You are a child of the universe, no less than the moon and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. —Max Ehrmann
Questions, questions, questions! Life is full of them: Why am I here? Where am I going? And what do I do when I get there? If you are like most of us, you are constantly seeking answers. Sometimes the ride is smooth as we cruise along the highways of life. At other times, we are caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Every so often we hit potholes, or life runs us off into a ditch. The road we journey is unpredictable.
Scholars, philosophers, theologians, and even psychics have given their theories as to why man exists on Earth. One common explanation is that we are here to grow into the best person God calls us to be in the time given to us on Earth. In order to do that, we must take care that our basic needs are met—those of the body, mind, and spirit. Humanity strives daily to meet these needs, which, when in harmony, lead to fulfillment.
We are led by that internal compass that encourages us to pursue and attain those things that will make us physically comfortable. Good, healthy food, fresh water, daily exercise, and suitable shelter allow us to keep physically fit. These things also help promote the intellectual and spiritual development of all of us as human beings.
The fulfilling of our intellectual needs happens quite naturally after our birth. When we emerge onto life's highway, we are given learners' permits. A baby quickly learns what must be done in order to meet his physical and emotional needs. He cries when hungry or when he wants to be held to feel the security of his parents' arms. This begins the cause-and-effect, or trial-and-error, acquisition of knowledge.
It is important to continually feed our intellect. As we mature, we are constantly adding to our knowledge of the world and the people who populate it. We learn lessons that evolve from experiencing the good and bad of what life has to offer.
Pursue an education, whether by attending college or learning a trade. Make the most of your time seeking knowledge, for it is never wasted. Allow the merging of new roads onto your own pathway, and be brave enough to explore them.
Set aside time daily to nurture your intellect. Read something for enjoyment, even ten minutes a day. Find some quiet time to reflect upon the day or meditate on a new piece of information. It will also feed your Spirit.
Nurturing spiritual needs is vital, yet commonly sacrificed for lack of time. Mankind is of the Spirit. It gives us life. We need to spend time in the sanctuary of silence so we can reconnect with its source. It's like pulling over to the side of the road to read your car owner's manual.
When was the last time you drove to a place where you could be by yourself, to listen, to rejuvenate, to breathe in life, unblemished by man? Was it to a tranquil lake or by the pounding ocean surf? Did you ever perch on a log in a still forest and ponder life's mysteries? It is in the quiet times that the Spirit speaks. Make time to listen.
In Your Travel Log
On a daily basis, how do you fulfill the needs of your body, mind, and spirit?
Who in your life helps fill these needs? Explain.
Our Life Begins on Someone Else's Journey
A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. —Lao Tzu
Think of your parents at the time of your birth. Where were they on their own personal journeys when you merged onto their life's path? Being born on the pathway of someone else's journey sets into motion the first set of challenges or privileges that influence an individual's physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual foundation. For example, were you born into poverty or privilege? Were you expected or not expected? Were you wanted or unwanted?
I was a baby boomer, born three years after the end of World War II. My parents were in their early twenties when they married. Both were blue-collar workers. Life was difficult for them. Jobs were scarce and housing was difficult to find with so many men returning from the war, anxious to get on with their lives. We lived in an apartment in a two-family home in Brooklyn. My maternal grandparents, who owned the house, lived downstairs. It was there I learned to love and enjoy life as part of a large extended family. My mom was the oldest of eight siblings who also lived there. My arrival was planned. I was loved, wanted, and encouraged to follow my dreams. Memories of the food and hospitality that spilled from the kitchens of Mom and Grandma still fill my life with such contentment.
My life today, and how I choose to live it, is greatly influenced by those early years with all their simplicity. I love to entertain at home and prepare good food. Gathering with family and friends is essential to my happiness. Time passes quickly, and now my husband and I are enjoying our grandchildren, knowing we are making memories the kids will also come to cherish.
In Your Travel Log
Where were your parents on their own journeys when you were born? Include such things as their ages, lifestyle, social influences (of the 1930s, '40s, '50s, '60s, etc.), their relationship with each other, finances, geography, etc.
How did their influence affect your adulthood in terms of what's important to you?
Accept People Where They Are On Their Own Journeys
Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you Encourage me, and I may not forget you. —William Arthur
"Whatever possessed you to do that? It was totally unreasonable to make that decision. You should have asked for advice."
Have you ever caught yourself thinking these comments or even voicing them to another? If you have, you are not alone.
We judge people based on the sum of our own knowledge and the experience that we have gained along our individual path, thinking our acquired wisdom is right and true. Keep in mind, however, that every journey is unique. People are as individual as their fingerprints. Two people may have the same experience at a given time, and yet both will interpret the events and process their impact differently. Both will retain an impression for future reference and recall it with a different interpretation.
Where you meet a person on his or her journey today, will be very different from where it was six years ago or where it will be six years from now. You, as well, will be on a different part of your road trip. The people we encounter and the interactions that those meetings precipitate cause us to learn and grow. We are constantly evolving into a newer make and model. Ideally, we wish that each experience resulted in a positive change or in a more life-giving situation, but life does not always give us what we hope for or pray for or even what we think we deserve. Life is not fair. We learn that lesson quickly. The assortment of life's lessons is sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, and even sometimes bittersweet. All of these tastes are necessary to mold us into the people we are meant to be.
Think for a moment about the highlights of your own personal journey—your childhood, young adulthood, education, marriage, and the challenges and tragedies you've faced up to the present time. This is your story thus far. These are the experiences you draw from when you make decisions. You are the sum of those parts. They will influence how you respond to the world. Therefore, accept people where they are on their journeys. No two people will travel the same roads, make the same turns, encounter the same detours, or arrive unaffected at the same destination. We experience life as we live it. We make decisions based on previous knowledge and what is going on in our lives at a particular time, which is different for every individual. If we can accept this as truth, we will be more understanding of our uniqueness and therefore more tolerant of our differences.
Take, for example, a young man named Tom who brought his fiancée home to meet his family. Tom was born and raised in a small suburb outside New York City, but he had lived and worked in Manhattan for the five years since college graduation. His parents were very conservative. As he was growing up, his dad worked, and Mom stayed home to take care of him and his brother and sister. Life was simple: a house, one car, and a home-cooked meal each night.
Tom's life was very different by the time he met his fiancée, Jennifer, at work. She was a very ambitious young woman, intelligent, motivated, and aggressive in her determination to get to the top of the corporate ladder. Being of the same conviction, Tom was instantly attracted to her.
From the beginning of their courtship, Jennifer had made her goals very clear to Tom. If they did marry, children would come much later, and she would be a working mom. Tom, just as determined to achieve the same goals, agreed.
Tom's parents, realizing the ambition and priorities of their future daughter-in-law, were hesitant to embrace this road map for their son. What they hadn't accepted was that Tom was no longer the same boy who had left home for college. He had grown and evolved into an adult. Now they had all come to the same intersection in life, but each was coming from a different place to share the same roadside stop. They knew nothing of the rutted roads Jennifer had traveled, growing up in poverty—the hungry nights and secondhand clothes. For her, money equaled security. Tom's parents couldn't help but wonder, however, what their son's life would be like. But since it would be his life, not theirs, they must accept and embrace the choices that Tom makes to create his own story.
So accept people where they are on their own journeys if you wish to be part of theirs. You may never understand another's life path. So what? We are all travelers navigating our way to the finish line the best way we can.
In Your Travel Log
In your travels, when has it been necessary to accept a person on his or her own journey, even when it was very different from your own?
What were you being invited to see about the person?
What did you learn about yourself?
Every Map Has Its Own Compass
Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that. —Norman Vincent Peale
As we set out on the road of life, we each carry our own internal compass. It is that small inner voice of the Spirit that propels us along our charted course. Every one of us has our own personal road map. Sometimes our roads will take us far from home, and sometimes our destination will be right around the corner. Some paths cross continually throughout a lifetime and some meet only for a brief moment before moving on.
It is human nature to want to draw another's road map. Advice is offered to avoid potholes, ditches, and at times, to prevent a loved one from driving off a cliff. Why wouldn't we want to spare those we love disappointment and heartache? It is during the challenges, however, where the most growth occurs. No one can spare others the lessons that are theirs to learn in this lifetime. We can only be there to comfort one another when we fall and with love raise each other up to walk again—a little stronger, a little wiser.
Parents are among the biggest offenders. They tie up traffic, giving unsolicited advice about the simplest errand. Of course, parents can give loving navigational advice along the way, but we must accept the fact that the kids are preprogrammed. They will do what they need to do and be where they need to be instinctively, moved by the Spirit despite what influence we think we have. All the pleading in the world will not change the plan God has for your child.
Barbara and Sean recall vividly the day their son informed them that he was moving to Texas. He had finished college and had already secured a job there. But he was close with his family and had a tight group of friends. It didn't make any sense that he would just leave. As parents will often do, they spoke to him of the challenges of making such a drastic move.
As they sat in the airport that hot August day, they accepted the fact that this move was part of their son's personal journey. His bags were packed, and he was leaving. They were all starting a new chapter in the book of life. This breaking away would set into motion a series of events that would change their family dynamics forever, for even if he returned, it would not be as the same person. That saddened Barbara and Sean, but at the same time it made them so proud that the young man who stood before them was not afraid to go out and see what life had to offer. After all, isn't that the success of parenting?
Each of us has a dream for our children. We want them to grow up confident in their ability to make lives of their own and become productive members of society. As Barbara and Sean watched their son board the plane that day, they wondered if they had built into him enough character and determination or instilled enough wisdom to meet the challenges that lined the road to his destiny.
Their paths had parted, and he was off on his own yellow brick road. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he would encounter obstacles along the way, and they hoped he would find friends to make travel easier. One thing was certain—life would never be the same for any of them.
Within a year of arriving in Texas, their son met his wife. Now, eight years later, Barbara and Sean are proud grandparents to four beautiful grandchildren.
All of this happened because their son listened to his Spirit and followed where his compass led. Each of us is led where we need to go. No amount of persuasion to the contrary is effective unless it is part of the divine plan.
In Your Travel Log
Write about a decision you made that led you down a different path and brought new people and experiences into your life.
Have there been people in your life who have tried to influence you when it came time to make major decisions about the road you must follow? Explain.
Life Is a Series of Challenges
Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground. —Anonymous
Most people travel the road of life forever searching for that ever-elusive happy ending. But many roads in life are unpaved and winding, with unknown situations waiting around the bend. Challenges press in on our highways, at times forcing us to merge into one lane, slowing progress to a crawl. Some detours are easy to overcome while others are life-altering.
As we get older and somewhat wiser, having had more life experience, we begin to understand that life is difficult. If we face life knowing that our purpose is to overcome obstacles and thereby learn and grow from them, we no longer look at the world as if it owes us something. We begin to see it as our training ground. Disappointments and achievements are the means by which we will grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We begin to see challenges as obstacles we must overcome, that will ultimately make us stronger, rather than as retributions for wrongs we might have committed.
Accepting that life is a series of challenges will make us recognize and appreciate the good that comes our way. We become more conscious of the blessings in our lives, recognizing what we have and not dwelling on what we have not.
Excerpted from The Road Trip by Kathleen Graviano Copyright © 2011 by Kathleen Graviano. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.