And then, something in me cracked.
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 to modestly fill our bottles with free red wine. We grinned with the sheer generosity and silliness of it.
But as we walked away from there, we reentered the fields and woods of the country side and 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. 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.
“How come no one asks me what I want?” I wondered angrily.
Then I started to cry realizing that no one asks because I don’t speak up. I’d gotten this far in life thinking that the only way to feel safe was to not need anyone. No one knows I need anything.
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 and 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’ve begun crying… all the feelings of loneliness catching up with me and truly grieving. All the while, I was chewing my 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.
“I feel so lonely all the time. How did it get like this?” I walked and snuffled, listening to the silence that lingered.
And I heard a response, a wise, clear voice inside say, “Because you won’t let anyone in.” No judgment or condemnation. Just a simple 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 as I sobbed aloud from the relief of being heard.
The waves of grief washed over me as I continued to walk.
And the realization began to dawn that I would always feel lonely as long I choose to keep others out, to withhold my truth. It was just true. Repeatedly doing the same thing would always yield the same unhappy results.
I wanted more than this.
“At some point, you’re going to get tired of feeling lonely.”
“When you’re really tired of that feeling, you’ll do something different.”
“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.”
How could I trust God/Self/Wisdom?
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 slowed 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 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.
By the time I’d walked to the ocean, I felt more me than I ever had in my life. Something deep in me, something I couldn’t unblock alone, began to heal that day.
I rejoined my friends at the top of the next hill and we shared heart to heart.
This post is an edited version of one I wrote last year.