Notes on the Journey

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Already Walking

I've been more aware of walking lately...the way I walk, the pace at which I walk, how it feels, how it impacts my body, how my feet move, how my shoes fit.  This isn't something that would normally take my attention, but I'm going on a very long walk--about 500 miles--relatively soon, so walking has become somewhat of a focus.

One of the things I've come to realize about the way I walk is that I do it quickly.  I tend to rush wherever I'm going.  It's all about getting to wherever I happen to be going, and not wasting any time doing it.  I can hear my mother's voice, "Don't dilly dally!  Come on!  Keep moving!  Let's go!"  Walking anywhere wasn't about anything other than getting there.  There was no discovery or exploration or smelling of the roses; no zigging or zagging or taking the long way 'round.

I actually feel breathless sometimes when I'm walking, like I'm moving so quickly I don't have time to breathe.  Asthma symptoms start to activate and I feel like my energy is being squeezed out of my body.  It takes a great act of will to slow myself down and ground myself back in and feel present.  I only recently became aware that the simple act of walking was so fraught with fear for me.  And that, when I'm walking, I revert to being the slow child who's incurring my mother's wrath; who's forever falling behind and incapable of "catching up" or "keeping up."

I decided to walk to a restaurant close by last night for dinner, and I had to constantly stay in awareness about how fast I was walking.  There seemed to be an added anxiety about crossing the street and I noticed that I would almost run from one curb to the other, hoping the light would stay green until I got there.  It took a lot of energy to monitor my pace and slow myself down and keep breathing.  I was very relieved to reach the restaurant and be able to sit down.  I then realized that I had some anxiety about having to walk home.  When my meal was finished and it was time for the return journey, I had to stop before walking out the door of the restaurant and take a few deep breaths to prepare myself to traverse the few blocks home.

When my sister and I were small, just starting elementary school, my father worked and my mother went to college, and my sister and I had to walk what seemed like a very long way to get to school.  My mom and dad both had to leave the apartment earlier than my sister and I did, so my mom showed me that when the big hand on the clock reached a particular point, it would be time for us to leave.  I was to hold my sister's hand and not let go and, if we walked at a good pace, we would arrive at the school on time.  I would watch the clock like a hawk and make sure we left at the appointed time.  I took the responsibility of getting us to school on time and safely very seriously, and I never wanted to face my mother's anger and upset should we be late or should anything happen on the way.  "Never talk to strangers."  "Never get into anyone's car you don't know."  "Never take anything anyone offers you."  "Never stop anywhere along the way."  The level of vigilance and fear this instilled in me was extreme.

I now realize that all of the patterns of vigilance and fear that were instilled in me as a kid, in regard to walking anywhere, are still operating; have never stopped operating.  And I think it's finally time to give it all a rest.  As much as I would like it if my awareness of these patterns alone would stop them, I know that's not the way things work.  It will take time and further vigilance to break the old patterns and establish new ways of moving in the world.  I'm learning to walk all over again.  Baby steps.  One foot in front of the other.  And, walking The Camino will help me to establish a whole new rhythm and way of being in my body; a new relationship to physicality in general.

As with anything we choose to do, once the decision is made and committed to, the journey begins...even before the first step.  Once we turn ourselves to it, we are in the experience of it.  I realize that I'm already walking The Camino energetically, and that it's already having its way with me, even though I haven't placed a foot on it yet, and won't until September.  I'm grateful for what has called me and for my choice to answer the call.  I'm grateful for the impact of the journey I'm on, for all the ways it's already changing me, and for all the ways it has yet to change me.  And, all I have to do is show up and keep walking.  I can do that.

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