So it turns out that learning to be comfortable with the now is not a comfortable experience at all.
I am a planner. I schedule and strategise. I consider all the possible outcomes and respond accordingly. Unfortunately life rarely goes to plan. What happens when you reach a point in life that you can’t strategise or analyse? When you have to give yourself fully to what is happening around you, with no power to change where you find yourself – only how your respond?
Upon graduating, having quit my job, and wrapped up most of my volunteer positions, I had an unprecedented amount of free time… and I hated it. To the point I texted a friend proclaiming my disdain for holidays. I hated feeling I had nothing to add value to my day. I had no hobbies because all my time till then was spent studying, working or sleeping. I didn’t know how to define myself. I loathed the question, “so what are you doing now?”
And I loathed it because the answer was a strange one,
“I’m going for a walk.
Quite a long walk
897km to be exact.”
Let me explain. I’ve decided to become a pilgrim and walk the Camino De Santiago. A historic pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, lovingly known as ‘The Way’, I’ll be walking the Frances way, which stretches from the French Pyrenees to Santiago – then finishing on the Spanish coastline.
Why? Truth be told I’m yet to fully grasp the precise reason why. Coming out of a challenging season a few years ago I thought it might be a good idea. I wanted to step beyond work and study, to explore who I was and what I wanted. Then I told enough people I was going, so that when the time came I actually had to. Life is funny like that! And honestly the thought of it terrified me. The idea of spending that much time with myself isn’t an inviting one – and probably the exact reason I thought I should do it.
The hardest part has been not holding onto well-known rhythms of work. Rhythms that wrap my anxious mind with a warm blanket of certainty and structure. I did well in my studies and had a few job offers coming out of university – which I had to be very intentional in kindly declining. That was an ego hit. I always prided myself on embracing every opportunity, and here I was saying no. All to take myself on a very long walk…alone…in Spain.
Then recently another hit. A few weeks before I was meant to fly out my partner left me. The path I thought I was going to take, with the man I thought I was going to take it with, fell out from beneath me – he decided to leave, and I decided it was all too hard to go alone.
Here was the problem. I had planned this trip for years. Planned to walk the Camino as a means of adventure, self-exploration, and letting go. And when all of that was at it’s most necessitous, I didn’t feel I could do it.
But is that not the point of pilgrimage? Choosing to jump. Choosing to be brave and go when it is most difficult, when you are most vulnerable. Choosing to move beyond defining yourself in work, your relationship, your belongings. To carve out time to undertake something that at any other point in life would be darn near impossible due to work, mortgages, kids…just plain fear!
And believe me that fear is real. I am scared – to say otherwise would be denial of what the Camino is already revealing to me.
I am leaving in a few short days. Going alone; leaving Australia somewhat bruised by life. I don’t speak Spanish. I have never undertaken a trek this long before. I am boarding a plane with an open-ended ticket and no plans, spare to start walking.
This adventure meets me at my most vulnerable – No outcomes to assess, nothing to analyse but myself and the challenge to be fully present to the now. Learning to rely on the present time and place, whatever that may bring.
But if I know anything of myself, I am never one to shy away from a challenge. I find solace in the Joel McKerrow Poem “The Search” . As I step onto the plane I hold onto his words,
“They say that a girl who walks the edges of the world will find herself if she looks for long enough. But to see the beauty of what would be she must turn her face away from what was.”
So I’ll take this journey one step at a time. Uncertain and grey as the path appears. Turning away from what was, grateful for what is, and open to the possibility of what is to come. And trusting, that by the steps I take, I will find my way.
“Run the path, cross the mountains, sail the oceans, turn the corner till you come home into the soft arms of who you truly are.”