Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

The Odyssey “Home”

An inward path back from adversity…

I have felt like Odysseus in Homer’s The Odyssey for the past six weeks or so, navigating a myriad of medical tests, anxiety, loss of sleep, physical depletion, setbacks, loss of way, and a whole bunch of hurry-up-and-wait. For Odysseus, during the sack of the city of Troy, the Greek army desecrated the temples and altars of the gods, angering the gods. Upon the departure of the Greek army, a fierce storm caused by the gods scattered the Greek fleet. Odysseus and his men were blown off course, and this began a 10-year struggle to return to Ithaca, his home. To the place he most desires to return, as it represents home, love for his family, his queen, and the end to a long, arduous journey.

In The Odyssey, we walk the final six weeks of this ten-year journey home from the Trojan War. While I have not been making my return home from the Trojan War, angered any gods, or sailed across an ocean, the past six weeks have been an odyssey of sorts for me. My symptoms knocked me off my steady, routine course, and left me adrift and directionless. Worse, I kind of lost my bearings with God. It came quietly, but suddenly, and I didn’t have any idea what to do about it. Until this week in one of the daily meditations from Franciscan friar, Father Richard Rohr, when I read of what he refers to as a “spiritual homesickness.”

Dr. Brene Brown, shame researcher, author, and storyteller describes “spiritual homesickness” this way:

“Spiritual homesickness has become an almost daily dulling grief. It is not depression or exhaustion. It is an uncomfortable knowing that I am coming to the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. I am leaving and arriving. There’s fear, but there’s also joyful anticipation.”

Facing the uncertainty of my health set me on a course of unknowing. As an ACEs survivor, being blown off course and out of control is a deeply frightening cliff to find myself falling from without a parachute. My personal sense of belonging felt forgotten. To me, in that moment, there was nothing joyful about this anticipation.

I experienced an uptick in night terrors, physical and emotional exhaustion, withdrawal from those closest to me, easy anger or annoyance, and raging fear and anxiety welling up inside me. What my psyche needs is a medical resolution. Without it, I was in limbo, with no airbag to arrest my falls or wings to lift me above the pain. I longed to find that place within not touched by fear, anxiety or loneliness, a simple place of wholeness.

But the truth is, I needed to fall off the cliff. I needed to be so afraid, that the only relief would be in surrendering to the moment. But ohmygosh, it was hard living in that liminal moment.

I reminded myself that it is through the pain that we learn the most. In the giving in and giving up. Release and reconcile. Pause and breathe. As Brene said: “I am coming to the end of one thing and the beginning of the next.  I am leaving and arriving.” In that leaving, I am finding my own belonging. My connection. My home. My sense of belonging may have been forgotten, but deep inside I knew it was not lost.

Dr. Brown, goes on to describe the wilderness we must walk through to find a belonging to ourselves:

“Belonging so fully to yourself that you are willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared.”

Surely, Odysseus stood in that wilderness as he braved his long wandering. His long voyage home.

I admit standing alone in the untamed wilderness of my mental imagination felt desperately dangerous. With it feeling so life-threatening, the intellectual part of my brain knew I needed to traverse those paths where snakes slither, bears prowl, and lions pounce; because, in my heart of hearts, I believed there was a place that exists within me that is home. A place that I am safe. I am not sick. I am loved. I am.

Many times, in these past days, with tenderness, I allowed myself to quietly explore those roads less traveled, as poet Robert Frost describes. The roads that asked the questions I did not want to ask and invited all possible answers to have a seat in my heart. All the answers were welcomed, embraced, and then lovingly held before being released into the ether. It was in the quiet of these hours, as I sat with my desire to find in the Greek words, nostos and alga, a balance between homecoming and pain, accompanied only by my breath, the moment, and a deep surrender, that I felt this unyielding longing. That longing beckoned me to the home that exists only inside of me. Alone, with the sweet symphony of birdcalls, I touched it. I saw it. I knew.

I am not alone. Deep, deep inside our beings is where our belonging emerges from.  Not outside. Not with any group. Deep, deep inside each of us. This is and always will be the source of our true belonging.

I wish this all-knowing would stay permanently. As many of you know from reading my book, finding I, A Journey of Repair, and these weekly newsletters, I have had these enlightened moments in my life; but like my healing, they come, have tremendous impact, and then are forgotten as new life experiences distract me from the all-knowing. Does this ever happen with you? Please let me know in the comments below.

While I still am awaiting results from the myriad of medical tests, dealing with a body that (much to my dismay) seems to be embracing the vicissitudes of my advancing age, and yearning for the healing of my broken family, I am holding onto the moments of knowing revealed to me in those quiet moments alone in the dark. That home accompanies me as I drive the dreaded I-35 corridor, as I dive terrified into the glorious University pool, walk hand in hand with my grandchildren as they face their own uncertain health issues, pick up the phone to an unknown number, and wait and wait for the doctor to call. You see, there is a place inside where I am whole. Where I can embrace all things my life continues to bless me with. A place deep inside where I am so grateful for every minute of every day and for every one of you.

Father Richard Rohr in his Daily Meditation from The Center for Action and Contemplation likens Odysseus’s (and our) return home this way:

“Like Odysseus, we leave from Ithaca and we come back to Ithaca, but now it is fully home because all is included and nothing is wasted or hated: even the dark parts are used in our favor. All is forgiven. What else could homecoming be?”

Poet and philosopher, David Whyte wrote this poem called The Sun. This is only an excerpt, but it expresses my wish and my gratitude for each day, each moment, each one of you as together we search and find our own belonging.

… I want to walk
through life   
amazed and inarticulate 
with thanks….

I want to know   
when I lean down to the lilies   
by the water   
and feel their small and   
perfect reflection   
on my face….    

I want to know   
what I am   
and what I am    
involved with by loving   
this world   
as I do….  

I want to be found by love,   
… I want to come alive   
in the holiness   
of that belonging.

Take time this week, friends, to sit in stillness. In the quiet, listen for that knowing, that belonging, that homecoming deep, deep inside of you. Allow it to fill you with peace, ease, and joy, tenderly reminding that you are not alone. You are home.

Until next time, friends.

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  1. Thank you, again, Bess. I’m always moved by hour ability and willingness to “expose yourself,” so to speak, so openly. Please know that you are an inspiration to us all. Sorry for the delay, I just received this, and two other posts, on Friday. Hope you’re feeling better. Hugs.

    1. Thank you, Ken.

      I am humbled by your kind words. My prayer is that these newsletters touch others and help in the knowing we are not alone in our daily struggles.

  2. This is so dear. I totally “get it” and love your willingness to be in it, vulnerable, pretty much stark naked here in your writing.

    Hope your reports bring added peace and comfort.

    Carey Sipp

    1. Thank you, Carey!

      This means more than I can express. May we all feel safe enough to be vulnerable.


  3. Thank you for sharing your spiritual homesickness with us! We must all live through the dark night of the soul, I am praying this is temporary as most are. But nonetheless, I thank you for putting beautiful words to that feeling.

  4. Love this reflection Bess! The quotes are perfect to augment your beautiful description of the perhaps not-so-beautiful odyssey you share here. Yes, I also have these cyclical orbits of engaging in my spiritual practices (and swim workouts) and then missing or falling away–lately for longer than I want! Homecoming to them feels good. Thank you for reminding me that it is all part of the path. Always, begin again.

    1. Yes. Begin again. Thank you for sharing, Melanie, with me and all of us. We can always try again. ❤️

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