Filomena rose with the sun. There were many things to do this day and she wanted to tackle the hardest one first. Heading out the door, she walked the narrow streets of Campolattaro. A few of her neighbors were already out and about, headed to the market, sweeping the tiny marble steps in front of their houses, or simply standing in the doorways of their homes talking to passersby. She nodded in the direction of a few women who spoke greetings to her as she passed them, not pausing to engage in conversation, wanting to get to the cemetery as quickly as possible. Entering the church grounds, she moved through the opening in the stone wall to the rows of headstones. Walking the familiar path, it wasn’t long before she was at her destination.
Excerpt from my upcoming book on pilgrimage
Filomena was my great-great-great-grandmother. She was born in 1834 and came to America at the age of 72 from Italy to help her widowed son who was living in Pennsylvania, raise his children. Elisa, my great-grandmother, was the oldest of these children. Both Filomena and Elisa were strong women who encountered many challenges in their lives. Elisa was widowed at 30 and left with six young children to raise. But both women were resilient. Filomena and Elisa became role models to me and I took a pilgrimage to Elisa’s house at a time I was feeling a bit lost and uncertain of who I was and what I was made of.
I can’t imagine what Filomena thought as she made the two-week voyage to America traveling in steerage. Never a traveler, she left behind her village to live in a foreign country at an advanced age. And she never looked back. Elisa had to figure out how to provide financially, emotionally, and physically for six children. She not only survived, she thrived, and eventually became the first woman in her family to purchase a home – the home I visited on my pilgrimage.
Who or what are your role models that you look to for strength and inspiration when you are feeling “less than?” Are they family members you never met, as in my case? Or are they friends or relatives with whom you’ve shared your life? Do you draw inspiration from nature or art? From historical or literary figures?
Has anyone ever told you that you were a role model for them? If so, how did that make you feel? Humbled? Overwhelmed? Confused? Unworthy?
Have you ever come out on the upside of a really scary and challenging time to rejoice at the fact that you were still standing, although maybe a little shakily? Did you ever survive something that you feared only to realize that it didn’t have the power over you that you ascribed to it?
You are braver than you realize. You are stronger than you realize. You are more resilient than you realize. And you inspire and touch more people than you probably realize.
I was recently speaking with someone about how my book is in its final stage of proofing. Then it’s onto cover design and formatting – and then printing or converting to an e-book. This person was such a pessimist, telling me not to quit my day job, not to think the book will sell – on and on. And I told this person that it never occurred to me that I couldn’t write and publish a book and that it wouldn’t sell. I didn’t put those limitations on myself. I never set out to write a book – I was compelling to start writing and the book flowed out of me. It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t plotted out which is why I think I was a channel for the words. And – I’ve already begun my second book.
What things have you done that have completely surprised you? What have you done that you never thought possible? Do you see how when you expand your vision and have faith in yourself that anything is possible? Sure, you might falter along the way, you might experience the “one step up, two steps back” phenomena but really – forward is better than stagnant – and anything is better than backward – except when it’s a glance back at two pretty amazing women named Filomena and Elisa.
I changed the name of my Facebook page from Anne Greco Life Coaching to Anne Greco, Writer in advance of the book publication. If you use Facebook, please “like” the page to receive more frequent communications including photos of Elisa and other people and places that are mentioned in the book. It’s also a more direct way for us to interact.
I’ll end with a few lines from a wonderful poem “Instructions” by Neil Gaiman:
Remember your name.
Do not lose hope – what you seek will be found…
Trust your heart, and trust your story…
I wish you joy and peace as we close out February.
P.S. The photograph is of Elisa’s five children in 1916 shortly before the birth of her sixth child – and shortly before her husband passed away. My grandfather, Joseph, is the one without anything on his head.