The Roadmap Home: Your GPS to Inner Peace®

October 19, 2020

Life is a Journey to Find Home

Everyone’s life is a journey. That journey comes with a narrative—how we describe it and the meaning we give each experience. That narrative provides a framework that shapes the way we view the past, live the present, and perceive the future. Journeys, however, do change. Here’s part of my journey.

The first time my father left the family I was six. The second time was for good and I was nine. My mother worked in a factory on the south side of Chicago and with four children to feed, her hands were full. Too full to clean, cook, work, and tend children. Too full to cradle a frightened child or whisper, “I love you” to a broken heart.

Out of desperation, she considered a heart other than her own to pump life into her children. She took my brother, two sisters, and me to visit Mooseheart, a residential childcare facility outside Chicago. Her intention was clear. If she couldn’t care for us, she would explore an alternative.

Even if a moose had a heart attached to its name, I knew it was an orphanage. It wasn’t an awful facility, but it was a disturbing venue for a Sunday excursion in the summer of ‘57. When we toured the grounds, I didn’t get mad, sad, or act bad, even though I was faced with the prospect of leaving the familiar to live in a frightening new place with a group of strangers. I was ready to accept the decision, for I had learned to adapt and accommodate – keys to survival. At that tender age of nine, I didn’t need an orphanage to realize I had lost my home.

Home is about belonging—to a place, a group of people, a wellspring of love. A place where one is comforted, nurtured, and protected. Where one can feel safe and secure and can gather strength in the face of adversity. Most importantly, it’s a place to live one’s truth.

That was not my home. Mine was a place ravaged by my father’s mental illness, domestic violence, blaming parents, and their impending divorce. It was a place riddled with conflict, fear, and anxiety. Home was not a fortress of protection. Rather, it was a crumbling castle with dragons spewing hot flames. I felt insecure and unsafe, and realized later that I had lost a more sacred space—that place of inner knowing where I had inalienable rights—the right to exist, to feel, to think and act, to love and be loved, to express myself and be heard, to see my potential and have it recognized and blessed. That home was clearly lost by the time I visited the orphanage.

To survive my childhood, I learned to shut down. I forgot about that inner knowing and replaced it with voices of anxiety and fear. Becoming orphaned from my sacred truth was the harshest of losses. To manage the fear, grief, anger, and shame simmering underneath, I adopted defenses—silence, avoidance, and suppression, along with a dash of sarcasm and dark humor. I had learned that life was not about love, it was purely survival.

Fortunately, there were slivers of hope. My three siblings as fellow orphans offered some companionship and comfort. As well, my Polish grandmother helped soothe my soul. Her English was poor, so I couldn’t talk about problems, yet she acted as a haven in an ugly firestorm. With her support, my mother, thankfully, made the courageous decision to rear her children for better and for worse.

Though we never moved to that place with the heart of a moose, my anxiety and fear remained. It turned into a faint hum coursing through my veins like electricity, urging me to be alert, ever ready, on edge, because home as I knew it could be stolen in a flash.

I never talked about the humming and carried on as if nothing was wrong. During times of uncertainty and insecurity, the hum would vibrate more intensely, forcing me to be vigilant about any possible threat. I often ignored the hum and followed my mother’s dictum, “Get busy and forget your problems.”

It wasn’t until after I became a psychotherapist that I realized the damage caused by neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Deeper insidious wounds resulted from the ways I adapted and accommodated. No talking, no feeling, no crying, no sign of a whimper, even when my heart was humming with pain. Denial and disconnection were not the best ways to manage wounds, yet without much guidance or direction, it was hard to act otherwise.

Nonetheless, out of our deepest wounds come our greatest gifts. The amazing gift I received from my childhood was a quest. And that quest was to find home.

I discovered that the inner Home, though buried, had not been extinguished. The heartbeat pulsed with a rhythm of life. The sound was often faint, but the message was clear—return to the place of inner knowing. Wake-up calls shook me from my unconscious state. Those bolts of lightning sent tremors rippling through my psyche. The widening fissures in my defense system allowed me to turn my eyes inward past the ruins of old preconceptions and toward the beckoning heart of authentic connection.

Finding the way back demanded that I recognize the calls, liberate the orphan, and awaken from a numbed existence. I had to share stories, release tears, and embrace forgiveness. The healing energy of acceptance and love provided soothing balm on the journey Home.

Home is not the result of finding a place, living with a person, establishing a career, or having material success. Rather, Home resides in the heart and soul and remains with us wherever we go. It endows us with wonderful gifts—to delight in the senses, to experience emotions and feel joy, to exercise our free will, to love and be loved, to express ourselves, to see our true potential and satisfy our dreams.

Welcome Home!

Leonard Szymczak

April 30, 2020

National Superhero Day

April 28 was National Superhero Day. I believe all parents are superheroes. In today’s hectic world, it takes incredible energy to raise children.

Over the years, I’ve been passionate about breaking the cycle of absent fathers in my family. When my children were young, I became a stay-at-home dad. That experience not only altered my life but the lives of my children.

In my TEDx talk, I share my journey where I had to WAKE UP from the pain of being a fatherless son, GROW UP to be the dad I always wanted, and SHOW UP with a superpower—the power of fathering.

 

September 25, 2018

Generosity and the Super Burrito

On generosity scale from one to ten, with one being stingy and ten being generous, where would you place yourself? Normally I see myself at the generosity end of the spectrum. I tip twenty percent in restaurants, donate to charitable causes, and give extra time to friends and clients in need.

However, my idea about generosity was seriously challenged when I recently attended a three-day consciousness-raising workshop in Berkeley, California, where generosity was the theme. I came to realize that the nature of generosity was complex. We can be generous with money but stingy with time, generous with volunteering yet stingy with patience, generous with love but stingy with forgiveness. And if we expect to be loved by acting generous, then generosity becomes a way to obtain love from others.

I faced my own relationship with generosity on the first evening of the workshop when I rode the BART train to Glen Park, where I was staying. Shortly after I arrived at the station, a homeless man in a wheelchair approached me.

“Could you help me out?” the man asked.

Normally, I would’ve said, “No thanks” and walked past him because there are many homeless people in Berkeley. I didn’t want to get involved in a host of problems, but it was especially hard to be stingy with my time since I was attending a workshop on generosity.

I glanced at the bearded man wearing a black stocking cap, then at his left leg in a brace, then at the plastic bags hanging off his wheelchair. I hesitated before asking, “What kind of help do you need?”

I expected him to ask me for a few dollars, but he surprised me. “I don’t want any money,” he said. “I’m diabetic and could use a good meal. Could you help me out?”

I breathed a sigh of relief because I could easily practice generosity. I removed the snacks in my backpack—a bag of almonds and granola bars—and offered them to him.

He shook his head. “I can’t eat those.”

I immediately felt annoyed at the ungrateful man for rejecting my act of charity. He must’ve sensed what I was thinking because he added, “I have no teeth.” Then to prove it, he opened his mouth and showed me that, indeed, he had no teeth.

My annoyance morphed into feeling foolish for judging him. My heart softened. “What can you eat?”

“A burrito,” he said, then pointed across the street at a Mexican restaurant half a block away.

Frankly, it would have been easier to give him some cash and be on my way. After all, I had better things to do—like check my email. But that damn workshop on generosity kept haunting me. “Okay,” I sighed. “I’ll buy you a meal.”

I started walking to the curb to cross the street when I noticed the man struggling with his wheelchair up an incline. I asked, “Do you need help with your wheelchair?”

He glanced up and sighed. “That would be great.”

I grabbed the handles and began pushing him across the street. “What’s your name?

“Lenny.”

I almost stopped in my tracks. When I got over the shock that we shared the same name, I told him, “I’m Leonard, but when I was a boy, friends called me Lenny.”

“Wow.” His eyes opened wide. “What are the chances of two Lennys meeting?”

“Some coincidence, huh?” I said, wondering if Lenny was an undercover angel who appeared in my life to point out my stinginess with compassion for society’s outcasts.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I asked him what he wanted.

“If it’s not too much, a Super Burrito would be great, but without salsa.”

This angel in disguise was now testing to see if I could be super generous.

“Sure,” I finally said.

He picked at his black beard. “Oh, and if it’s not asking too much, could you get me a Coke?”

Here’s where a wave of stinginess hit me. Couldn’t Lenny be satisfied with just a burrito? As I pondered his request, I realized that as a diabetic, he might have needed an intake of sugar—especially if his blood sugar level was low.

I purchased the Super Burrito with a Coke and handed it to Lenny. He offered me a generous toothless smile.

With Lenny clutching his meal, I wheeled him back to the BART station. Though he told me that he didn’t want to eat in the restaurant, I suspected he was embarrassed about eating food without teeth.

“Where will you sleep?”

“In a homeless shelter nearby,” he replied. “But now I have a nice meal.” He thanked me, again and again.

Touched by his gratitude, I told him, “Many people have helped me. I’m paying it forward to another brother.”

Lenny pushed his wheelchair closer and spoke softly. “I’m embarrassed I have to ask for help.”

I could have said the same thing because I don’t like asking for help and feel embarrassed when others go out of their way to help me. Acting as a mirror, Lenny showed me how we were alike.

We shook hands and said a warm goodbye.

As I walked away, I knew my small act of generosity was nothing compared to what Lenny had given me. He taught me that when I’m cut off from the spirit of generosity, I become stingy and emotionally homeless, but when I share love and compassion with other souls, I connect with my inner GPS and find my way home.

 

 

 

September 14, 2018

Reach Out and Extend a Hand

I arrived early at the car repair place so that my car could be serviced. There was a TV in the waiting room, but it wasn’t on. Great, I thought because I could get some writing done. Then a 70-year-old man who was also getting his car serviced walked into the waiting room. He spotted the TV and immediately turned it on. I didn’t want to watch the weather channel; I wanted to write in my journal. Fortunately, the man was called out of the waiting room to the counter. I immediately made an executive decision—I turned off the TV!

Settling back down to peace and quiet, I began journaling. Then the man returned. He glared at the blank TV then at me. Before he could pick up the remote, I told him that when I had moved to California 10 years ago, I decided against having a TV. It opened up my life because I turn to books and other people for stimulation. I got up out of my chair and offered my hand, “Hi, my name’s Leonard.”

After the introduction, Jim and I became the best of friends as we shared our views about politics, talked about our children, shared stories about how our grandparents migrated from Europe, talked about the changes we witnessed in our lives, and on and on it went—until Jim was called to retrieve his car.

When he left, I pondered our interaction. If he hadn’t turned on the TV, and if I hadn’t turned it off, we might never have had a connecting conversation. I’m grateful I reached out and offered a hand.

Reaching out and extending a hand to a stranger can bring unexpected rewards.

March 4, 2017

Are You Out of Your Gourd?

When I was a young boy, I grew some gourds in glass jars. Here’s what I learned.

 

January 8, 2017

Do You Want More Love in Your Life?

When you understand the biology of love and the language of love, you can get more love in your life.

 

Amazon Best Seller!

Find your inner GPS!

Upcoming Events:

Next Presentation

    New events are coming soon.

link to event

Connect With Leonard

Connect With Leonard