Maybe I was hungry. Maybe I was tired. Maybe I was just ready to have some space from the 3 musketeers we’d been since the beginning in St Jean.
I just know I felt angry.
The scenery and weather couldn’t have been more glorious. It was a breezy day, with the sun playing between the clouds. We’d stopped at the wine fountain at the Irache monastery which made us grin with the sheer generosity and silliness of it.
But as we walked away from there, I could feel this angry tension in me, pulling tighter and tighter. I slowed my pace way down and watched the girls drift into the distance, getting smaller and smaller. This gave me the vital space be introspective. At first, I thought I was angry at them. They’re cramping my style, I thought, but that wasn’t true. I was allowing group-think to cloud my true intention to walk the Camino alone. It’s not their fault you’re compromising what you want, I realized.
And isn’t this always the way with me? Settling for what others want – Katrin’s speedy pace, Marisela’s love of sightseeing… and then feeling resentful for not getting what I want. For not showing up and at least advocating for what I want.
“How come no one asks me what I want?” I wondered angrily. Then I started to cry because I remembered: No one knows I need anything! I don’t speak up because at some point I figured out that the only way to feel safe was to not need anyone. So no one asks.
With a comfortable distance from my friends, I started to think about this life-long conundrum.
“To risk sharing what I want,” I thought. “Means to risk upsetting the apple cart of our little trio – and in my normal life, I risk the relationships I hold most dear. I don’t trust that it’s safe for me to be that vulnerable. So I say the most diplomatic thing and the result is that no one knows me. And when they say they love me, I don’t believe them because they only know a shadow of who I am.”
By this time, I’m crying… all the feelings of loneliness catching up with me and truly grieving. All the while, I’m chewing a rustic cheese sandwich and sipping the red wine from the fountain. A sad and pathetic sight. Fortunately, the path was skimming the edge of a wheat field and bordered by woods and no one could see me except God.
So it was a good opportunity — though I was surprised to find myself having a conversation with him – to bring up the issue.
“How did it get like this? I feel so lonely all the time.” I walked and snuffled, listening to the silence that lingered.
And I heard a response, as clear as the voice of my best friend, “Because you won’t let anyone in.” No judgment or condemnation. Just a simple, sad truth.
Surprised to have gotten a response, I said back, “But it’s not safe! It’s not safe to let anyone in!”
Now I was incredulous and angry.
“Bad things happen when I let people in,” I continued. “Why would I open myself up and risk my heart when it hurts so much to be ignored? To not be met? To put my heart out there and get so much less in return? I can’t do it. It hurts too much.”
I heard, “I know.”
And my anger dissolved into sadness and I sobbed. God wasn’t making me wrong for feeling this way. I felt heard.
I walked with the dawning realization that as long I choose to keep others out, to withhold my truth, that I would always feel lonely. It was just true. Repeatedly doing the same thing yields the same unhappy results.
“At some point, you’re going to get tired of feeling lonely, Jen.”
“When you’re really tired of that feeling, you’ll do something new. You’ll be ready then.”
“But how will I go there? I can’t even imagine. How can I trust? And risk?”
“You could start with Me.”
My stomach jolted. “That’s the scariest of all. I barely know you.”
And then something wordless happened: A divinely-inspired image came to my mind of two swirling spirits. They didn’t have a body exactly, they looked more like who we are when we’re not attached to our human bodies, swirling around one another regarding the other.
I was shown these two spirit bodies, loving and whole, come together and touch – and in that touch something magical happened between them. It was beautiful — there were colors and a radiant feeling of unity and love. They met, spirit to spirit.
Stunned by the vision I asked, “That’s possible?”
“But I’m going to have to trust you if it’s going to happen. I have to choose it.”
I walked and considered this offer for a few moments.
“Okay. I agree.”
Although there was no response, I felt spacious, radiant love around me.
“I trust you, even though it makes no rational sense. I want love and deep connection in my life. So I’m choosing to trust you.”
I could feel more radiant love coming at me. I softened.
“I’m always with you. Lean on me.”
And I could feel myself being held in the palm of his hand. Completely safe, yet completely free.
My tears stopped and I felt lighter than I had in years. I felt peaceful.
So I kept walking.
As I reflect back on that day, I realize that it was a defining moment on my Camino. After that, I became more aware of being true to myself and being honest with people. I took space when I wanted it – even when I felt afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. I asked for what I wanted more bravely than I had in the past. I shared from my heart to others and listened as intently. I talked to God more and reminded myself that I was resting in his palm. I did what I could and left the rest up to the Divine.
By the time I’d walked to the ocean, I felt more me than I ever had in my life. Something in me healed that day.
Which reminds me of a poem that undoes me every time I read it:
The Well by David Whyte
Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of having drunk from a well,
for remembering the long drought
that preceded your arrival and the years
walking in a desert landscape of surfaces
looking for a spring hidden from you for so long
that even wanting to find it now had gone
from your mind until you only remembered
the hard pilgrimage that brought you here
the thirst that caught in your throat
the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love
you remembered but had never fully wanted
for yourself, until finally after years of making
the long trek to get here it was as if your whole
achievement had become the thirst itself.
But the miracle had come simply
from allowing yourself to know
that you had found it, that this time
someone walking out into the clean air
from far inside you had decided not to walk
past it anymore; the miracle had come
at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said, and the tears you shed
and the memory you held and the realization
that in this silence you no longer had to keep
your eyes and ears averted from the place
that could save you, that you had been given
the strength to let go of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self that brought you here, walking
with her bent back, her bowed head
and her careful explanations
No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up, shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you deserved
what you loved all along, as if just
remembering the taste of that clear cool
spring could lift up your face and set you free.
If I can remember in the day-to-day chaos and if I can remember in the midst the angry push-pull of fear and blame, I will stop and remember to give up my careful explanations for the well that never runs dry.