St-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the official starting point of the Camino Francés. Pilgrims congregate in this small French town and pick up their “passport” before crossing the Pyrenees en route for Santiago, some 500 miles away.
We each have our own way of preparing for a trip. Some start reading guidebooks weeks before departure time. Others pack a week in advance. My dad used to write a detailed itinerary for each leg of the journey, complete with estimated travel distances and times allotted for picnics and bathroom stops. He would then proceed to keep track of progress while on the road. If you were lucky enough to be picked as the navigator for the day, your main responsibility beyond keeping to the planned route was to write down actual mileage and calculate average speed. At night Dad would take a look at how well his predictions had fared in the face of rain, traffic jams, or sick children. I’m sure he felt better for having planned and prepared. Most of us do.
Me? I’m into lists: a list for clothing, a list for food, and another one for points of interests. I may also jot down a few names and addresses for postcard fun while away. When I first thought of walking a Camino in place my plan was clear: I would take note of events and ideas over a given period of time and use them later for blog posts focusing on self-growth and spiritual empowerment. My journey would be well organized and would unfold in a pleasant and civilized way for my readers’ holy pleasure (as well as my own).
It took less than a week after I shared the news of this pilgrimage for it all to go down the drain in a major Pyrenees-like downpour. An unexpected storm hit and threw me off course, of course. Isn’t that what always happens on a trek through life’s best intentions?
Anxiety symptoms returned. Strong. Writing has been known to affect my nervous system this way. I get dizzy. I feel uncomfortably wired and tense. There’s pressure in my head and heaviness in my heart. I imagine it could be compared to bleeding toes or sore knees after the first day’s hike. Only I have not taken any step yet! Does it mean I am not equipped for this inquiry into Life’s big unknown? Is it more than I can handle? Should I quit now even though I’m not ahead?
I’m sorely tempted. Anything not to feel this way. No one would hold it against me if I changed my mind for health reasons. There’s no shame in accepting one’s limits and choosing to remain in one’s safety zone. There’s nothing wrong about wanting to feel safe and protected from one’s own trying thoughts and doubts.
Yet, isn’t a journey through inner landscapes meant to be challenging at times? Isn’t its purpose to stretch the safety zone from “all that I’m comfortable knowing or not knowing” to “all that I have yet to find out”? It’s not supposed to be a walk in the park but a true pilgrimage of the soul, and the reason I’m scared is because I’m imagining a huge shadow on a white wall and believe it’s real, and this, despite the most careful and well laid plans.
Einstein is credited for defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Maybe it’s time for me to re-enter sane territory and try something new.
Could I be convinced to turn on the light?
The light of faith in myself and in the path, the light of trust in the invisible hands guiding me. Fear does not ask that this adventure end. It asks that it begin, that I not live a life delimited by lists, itineraries, or careful packing, but that I walk on, bravely and steadily, towards “all that I don’t yet know”. The scary shadow is but a pen after all. Resting by a blank page.
I’m not giving up. I’m picking up my passport to wherever this Camino may take me, backpack on one shoulder, fear on the other.
I hope you will join me in praying for clement weather, kind encounters, and a spirited muse.
Passport Stamp [PS] #1 : Sanity is trying something different when the same old does not work.
“We meet fear. We greet the unexpected visitor and listen to what he has to tell us. When fear arrives, something is about to happen.” ― Leigh Bardugo
Maryse Godet Copans © 2017