An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent: Journeys (Setting Forth)

During these Sundays in Advent, I am posting a series called Journeys, personal reflections on the season of Advent presented in four parts – Readiness in Memory and Hope, Setting Forth, Verso l’Alto, and The Return. Join me in following in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary as they traveled to Bethlehem and the Wise Men as they followed the star, and let’s reflect on this journey we call life.

The suitcases were packed and standing in a line by the back door; I was in that in-between place of being ready, but not yet going.

I have often said that preparing for a trip is almost as fun as the trip itself. In the months leading up to that pile of luggage by the back door I applied for a brand new passport, purchased some new clothes, and managed to pack everything I needed for a 10-day trip to Italy into a carry-on. For months I gathered maps, read guide books, conducted Google searches, made reservations, and planned daily itineraries; in short, I did everything I could to help guide me into the unknown, and it was terribly exciting to imagine the possibilities and anticipate the adventure.
But it was also all kinds of scary.
A year earlier I had announced on Facebook that my sister and I would be hosting a Girls’ Trip to Italy, and after hosting two information sessions, and after endless phone calls and emails and personal one-on-one meetings, twenty-three women had signed up for an adventure to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. But as excited as I was that my dream of organizing and sponsoring a trip to Italy was becoming a reality, I was also worried about all the things that could go wrong: illness, lost passports, delayed flights, and missed flights. I worried about whether everyone would get along, or if I could deliver on a promise (seeing the Pope, for example), or how I would get everyone around our first free day in Rome where I had booked a tour of the catacombs and, later that evening, dinner and a nighttime tour of the city. I worried about terrorist attacks and railway strikes. There were so, so many things that could go wrong.

But I continued to pack and I continued to plan. And I was both excited and worried.

Then something happened the morning of our departure as I stood between two worlds – the one I was coming from (familiar and safe) and the one I was going to (full of the unknown). As I reached into my purse to check (yet again) if I had my passport, I remembered the Dutch proverb that goes like this: He is who outside his door, already has the hard part of his journey behind him. It's a proverb about taking that first step which, without a doubt, is the hardest step of all.
So that’s exactly what I did – I picked up my suitcase and took that first step out the door, and for the first time in months I was completely and wholly at peace. I was on my way, come what may.

During this Advent as we embark on a journey connecting memory and hope, I am reminded how any journey – spiritual, physical, redemptive, etc. – begins with that first step. It may be the biggest step you may ever have to take, seemingly impossible and impossibly difficult; it may be a hesitant step, or a bold one; it may require a leap of faith. But in the end it's just a step.
And with that one step, you're on your way.

Looking out from my hotel balcony in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast (southern Italy).

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