I AM ‘Coming Home’ to ME

“We shall not cease from exploration and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time… and all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.”
(From Little Gidding, T S Elliot)

The end of the road… now what? (Finesterre, Spain)

Getting divorced and sober at age 57 gave new meaning to the saying, “You can’t go home.” My fear of change kept me attached to this false sense of security and comfort until the pain of not changing was worse than the fear of the unknown. As I severed from the life I had known for 40 years, and engaged the dilemma of purging my past lifestyle and belief systems, I entered what I now call my rite of passage. In this slowly unfolding journey, three distinct stages evolved: Endings, Liminality, and New Beginnings.

My commitments to separate and end my marriage, and to let go of my addiction to alcohol, threw me into the first stage. There had to be an ending before a beginning. The end is where I started. Entering the portal of an eight-year solo ‘vision quest’ to find my authentic voice required a soul-search through many a twist and turn on high and low roads, such as treks to Bermuda, Kauai, Monte Blanc, Peru, Costa Rica, Death Valley, Canada, Vietnam, Bali, New Zealand, and even the foreign land of Mississippi where I was born. Finally, pilgrimages to Rome, Italy on the Via Francigena and to Santiago, Spain on the Camino Primitivo led me into the sacred emptiness of a liminal space I call home at the present moment.

Liminality is the second stage in this ritual marked by the void or threshold between worlds in which the old has passed away and the new has not yet come. This place has a quality of limbo, emptiness, disorientation, and discomfort that are part of the journey into the inner, shadowy places of the heart. It is similar to the feeling I imagine a caterpillar must feel in the middle stage of metamorphosis when inside the chrysalis, a larva is dissolved and broken down in the pupa stage to emerge transformed as a butterfly. Within this container, the trappings of the ego and the old life are shed. Walking into the wilderness of the unknowable as a pilgrim required that I suspend judgments and expectations. I held the tension of confusion and meaninglessness without a timeline of how long this stage might go on. Elimination precedes illumination. All spiritual rebirths require change and real change requires pain.

I entered the liminal space willingly 25 months ago when I gave up my treehouse cottage of five years and flew to Italy four days later. Walking 300 miles in five weeks gave me plenty of silent solo time and space to create a ‘communitas’ or tribe bonded with the common goal of walking. My home away from home became the people I met along ‘The Way.’ We pilgrims or peregrinos are strangers who wander on a spiritual journey. As Mark Nepo observed, “To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” Are we homeless or are we homefree???

“The more people are aware of the problem, the more victims will feel empowered to get the help they need.”
~NC State Senator Terry Van DuynI am not the same person who moved to Asheville 24 years ago, nor is Asheville the same city by any stretch of my imagination.
As I surrendered into the pilgrim lifestyle of walking in an unfamiliar land with all my belongings on my back, eating whatever food was provided, and sleeping in communal hostels and monasteries, the process of dying to my old familiar life took a deeper plunge. Possessions took a low priority. I ate to live instead of living to eat. I let go of my individual need for privacy and welcomed stepping out of my comfort zone—vulnerable —to make new friends from around the world when sometimes the only way we communicated was through smiles, eye contact, laughter, tears, waves and hugs.
My openness and willingness required sewing seeds of courage, trust, and faith as this serendipitous and synchronistic pilgrimage took me from the mundane through the threshold into the miraculous. My body, mind, and soul were tested at times by the challenge of winding up long hills, sore feet, inclement weather, foul moods, and sometimes loneliness. I practiced the art of renewing myself daily as I found my way along the way. It’s true, “you walk the Camino and then the Camino walks you.”

As I reached the cities of Rome and Santiago and the imagined goals of my wanderings were in sight, they were filled with tourists not pilgrims! Was the meaning of my walk the arrival at my destination or was it the journey itself, where each step revealed a piece of the answers I sought? Is my path over? Do I go home? Where is home?

I am not the same person who moved to Asheville 24 years ago, nor is Asheville the same city by any stretch of my imagination. I get lost going downtown! My view of myself has changed, my love for other cultures has expanded as a result of all my travels, and plans for the future are yet to be revealed in the third stage of my new beginnings. However, my love of God’s creation transcends all! I truly have seen more than I remember and I remember more than I’ve seen! Absolutely nothing looks the same.

So… coming home with new eyes and new horizons, what is next? That is the question that all my friends, family, and old employers ask. I can only say that I am on a “need to know” basis with my Higher Power. My answers do not come with timelines or deadlines. This re-entry and re-incorporation is different. My faith in intuition to guide and support me, although the path isn’t clear, has freed me to find delight in the unknown and embrace uncertainty. I am getting out of my head more by living in the present to find the joy of being, and when something feels good I choose it!
“Being must be felt. It can’t be thought,” as Eckhart Tolle reminds us. “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience that you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” Thank God and Eckhart Tolle! I finally get this!

I have come home to Bliss, Wonder and Awe. I live in Shangri-La now, in the World of the Wondrous! Where is that, you ask? The address is heaven on earth in the state of childlike playfulness. It resides within each of us if we just remember to breathe, and BE HERE NOW! Oh sure, I still travel out to the wild edges to explore new frontiers, and my greatest hope for the future is to squeal into heaven on two wheels with my hair on fire and exclaim, “Man, what a wild ride!”

For 30+ years, LaBet Pritchard has been a personal fitness trainer, aqua and yoga therapist, and teardrop trailer traveler before she entered the state of liminality and walked through a vision quest rite of passage, which led her to remember that she is a pilgrim gifted to guide other pilgrims on their journeys by connection, inspiration, and motivation. If you are called to journey, contact LaBet at 828-713-1141. “We are all just walking each other home.” (Ram Dass)

LaBet Pritchard
Written by LaBet Pritchard