I drove from Myrtle Beach, SC, to Washington, DC, yesterday. This is the most extended road trip of my life, eleven days. We’ve gone from West Chester, OH, to Myrtle Beach for five days, then another six days in Washington, DC, where I am a featured speaker at the IANDS conference, teaching a workshop, and hosting a luncheon.
Kayla flew from Ohio to DC to join us for the next several days. I met her in the hotel lobby and brought her to the room. I’m fortunate that my 26-year-old daughter likes to hang out with us and see what I do. She joined us for the Helping Parents Heal conference in Phoenix last year.
It’s all very surreal. As we checked into the hotel yesterday, I ran into Angela Harris, Director of IANDS Groups and Events. We’ve spoken many times, been on camera together, and emailed dozens of times. But I’ve never met her in person. Then, I met Chris Kito, a young man I interviewed for my program. A gentleman in the elevator told me he had signed up for my workshop. Yippee! That’s at least one. Peter Panagore and I greeted each other like old friends, though this was the first time we’d been in a room together. Peter gave me a tip about Whole Foods, a block away, for dinner. I found Kimberly Clark Sharpe at Whole Foods, where we were each grabbing dinner. She’s a fantastic speaker who’s been on the show twice. A few other people I’ve never met stopped me and introduced themselves.
I woke around 12:30 AM with the oddest feeling this is not real. I wondered if I was in a dream. This is not possible. I fell back asleep and had one of those lucid dreams where I was testing the reality of it. Yes, the ground felt solid to my hands and feet. The sun felt warm. The colors were bright. It seemed real. Yet, it was all only happening in my head. When I awoke, I reminded myself that everything that happens “only” happens in our heads. We have sensory input- optical nerves, auditory nerves, sense of touch; you know the rest- that run from our sense organs to our brains where the physical “reality out there” is translated into electrical signals that are then translated into experiences, colors, sounds, etc. in our brains. But we never directly experience a reality outside of ourselves. In a sense, the whole experience of life only happens “in our heads.”
Me, speaking at IANDS, a featured speaker? Eight years after Shayna’s passing and four years after starting Grief 2 Growth, I’m in a place I could never have imagined. That little shy boy who was deathly afraid of death and scared to open his mouth in front of other people is five-plus decades later addressing an international conference and sharing what he’s learned throughout his time here. That’s crazier than any dream I could have.