Days before I left for Spain, I had a long overdue coffee with Darwin; pastor, hospice chaplain, giver of care, gentle good soul…and my friend. As usual, we got through the little stuff pretty quickly. Family, work, life in general.
With regard to one subject we were discussing intently, our conversation flowed freely, without judgment. I said to him, “I think I’m finally over that.” He said quickly, though patiently, “Through it.” I looked at him? “You mean you’ve worked through it.” I nodded, “Tell me more.” “Well, you look like you’ve worked through it. Like you’re at peace” I think in those two phrases, he revealed something about me, him, us, being human. It’s something like this…
Whenever I try to get over something, it revisits me. And I do all I can to place it below me, whatever it is, so as to literally get over it. Like I’m above it. Gloriously rising above it. But placing it below me is like making that swallowing motion when I’m scared, worried, upset, or frightened. I’m swallowing the feeling that is welling up within me. I’m not sure it’s instinctive, but over many many years, it has become a regular thing; to hold down what my mind/body/spirit is asking me to feel.
These feelings get held hostage as anger, fear, that pain in my neck, weight, sleeplessness (feel free to add your own symptoms here!). It’s taken a long time for me to realize that I’m both hostage and kidnapper. But in the moment I rarely catch it.
The first day for many Camino Peregrinos (Pilgrims) is a tough walk from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles. 15 miles over the Pyrenees Mountains, with a 10,000 foot ascent and decent. It’s become the thing you do…you just go to Roncesvalles!
About 3/8’s the way up is a 1 building “town” called Orisson. It’s an Albergue, Pilgrim meal restaurant, and adjoining deck overlooking a steep, breathtaking valley in the Pyrenees. I had already decided I wanted to stay in the mountains for the first night; take things slow and easy after jet lag, etc. People looked at me funny when I told them I was stopping in Orisson. When I arrived….having walked from 8:30 am to 11:45 am, I even thought funny of myself. “I can go further. A quick lunch and I can get over this mountain and be in Roncesvalles by 5pm!” I thought.
Like a welcome voice within I heard “Don’t go over it. Go through it.” Translation; if I barrel my way over the mountains I will first completely miss the first gift of the Camino. And second, I’ll miss everything! And I know myself enough to know that I would regret plowing through the miles just so I could get to Roncesvalles. So I stuck with my original plan, checked in at Orisson, drank coffee on the deck, wrote, met new friends, had a glorious “Pilgrim Dinner” with 29 strangers that are strangers no more…and slept.
When I woke, refreshed and ready, I walked through the Pyrenees, not over them. I stopped for sheep crossing the road, drank cafe at roadside stops, sat on the side of a peak to enjoy lunch, and took pictures. I think and hope that it launched a way to be on the Way for the next several weeks. And I hope I bring this way home!
Wherever you’re walking, I invite you to walk through pathways, even obstacles, not over them. Walking over them, you can feel like you’ve finished. Walking through them, you can feel like you’re complete.
“Through, not over.” Thank you Darwin!