At last, hello!
I don’t know about you, but this feels like one of the longest winters ever. I can’t say that I was snowed in for long periods or that my home was lost in winter storms. Thankfully neither of these things is true – although they would help explain my disastrous absence. Instead, it was a winter of family and personal illnesses. Lots of different ones, sometimes neatly, one after the other. Other times, not-at-all-neatly, in an unforgiving cluster. There has been a lot of “coping” and “day-by-day”-ing around these parts!
I am, of course, excited that the spring has sprung and I feel the potential of a dozen new projects all at once. It’s always the same with me when the light gets a bit higher from the horizon and the birds start nesting in my garden. I am distracted trying to do everything all at once and, it would seem, to make up for “lost” time (including the time I lost here with all of you.)
I’ve been reflecting a lot on this twitch in my personality – this expectation for excellence and fulfillment almost all of the time. It’s a lot of pressure! I want a bright and beautiful life as much as anyone, and at the same time I acknowledge that I sometimes have trouble seeing the brilliance. When I’m spending all my energy on staying afloat, it can be hard to manifest any extra magnificence.
It reminds me a lot of walking the camino. I’ve written at length about how difficult I found it – the crowding, the noise, the sheer scale of walking 500 miles not to mention the lack of arch support for my feet! So many other blogs, books, and verbal accounts swoon about how great and amazing it all is, so to admit to anything other than that feels like a personal defeat. It *was* great and amazing…and I also struggled. I won’t go into it all again but one of my trail friends revealed to me afterwards that she was worried about me along the way and thought I pushed myself too hard. Her words caught me by surprise. This isn’t a woman I’d known for years beforehand so I didn’t expect her to share such a personal perspective but as it turns out, she was absolutely right. She spotted it a mile off but I didn’t see it at all.
I didn’t know how to push myself any less. I was so dogged on my vision that I just kept going. I was worried that if I stopped long enough to take stock of my exhaustion, I’d lose the nerve to keep walking and I very much wanted to keep walking.
Was it a joyous way to experience camino? No, not really, but here’s something that not everyone will admit: not every day is about big, expansive joy. I know that jars with what the self-help books say but talk to anyone who’s survived something significant, and they will tell you it’s true.
Sometimes, it is a monumental success to get to the finish line in one piece. For me, that meant getting in out of the elements, having a hot shower, food of some sort, and a clean and secure bed for the night. I couldn’t hack the extra pressure of feeling immense joy and connection with all the universe as well – my hierarchy of needs was pretty inflexible that way! 🙂 Was I selling myself short? Perhaps, but those tough days were a test of my grit and I needed that to keep going. Others around me swooned about what a great time they were having. I took that to heart and then felt even more rubbish about my experience – clearly, I reasoned, I was “failing” when I didn’t feel immense joy from morning to night.
What a load of crap.
So. For all of you preparing for camino here are two small tidbits to do with what you may:
- Someone else’s experience (whether physical, emotional, or whatever) is a changing thing…as is yours. Try not to compare yourself, your ability, or your experience with anyone else’s. It’s a slippery (and speedy) slope to self-righteousness and misery, and it’s a no-win.
- There will be tough days – so acknowledge them now. Like me with the 6 months of winter illness, the tough days are exhausting and bleak, and it can feel like the feel-good happy party has left for good. It hasn’t. When the going gets tough, go back to basics – food, water, shelter, rest. The hierarchy of needs is a basic reminder but sometimes the basics are what’s needed. The other stuff comes after. Cut yourself some slack and acknowledge the days survived in one piece 🙂
More to follow soon, especially now that I have my ID and password unlocked again! Thanks for reading and Buen Camino to you all, irrespective of whether you’re walking!