I spent most of my adult life working with individuals and organizations making change. Most of the time the changes were short lived at best. There were those few occasions when the changes that were implemented actually stuck. Those were usually times when the people or organizations were in enough pain to make things happen. Most times people would feel exhilarated during the process and vow to integrate the changes into their lives or organizations, leaving the experience with a renewed sense of living life as a lighter and more fulfilled person. Then life would take over and lessons learned would be lost. Often I would hear from my clients years later that they had finally made a change in their lives and were relating it to some of the things they learned from our time together. Those learnings were put in the back files of their minds and brought out when the time was right.
When I embarked on this journey I came with little expectations of learning profound new life lessons. I was right. The lessons, so far, are ones I knew, had learned before but hadn’t really put into practice. The Camino walk was wonderful, even the two days walking in the rain. One day in the pouring rain! The people I met were incredible. The time alone was relaxed and joyous. Every moment, in fact, was incredible. The lessons of letting go and just seeing life unfold each day was easy. Sure, I didn’t have the pressures of a job or having to consider anyone else’s needs. That is the luxury of growing older. The awareness that the experience before me is the only one I have. Living in the moment seems real because the moments are no longer endless. There isn’t the luxury of thinking, “Oh, I’ll probably be back here again.” Instead it’s the reality of knowing that I may not return to these places in this lifetime.
After my walk I felt a sense of disconnection with the world I was stepping into. Getting to the airport, two flights, and a train to the hotel in Brussels. I realized that I barely spoke all day except for the necessities of getting on planes and trains. I met my sister for a long overdue birthday celebration. Our familiarity with each other was a comforting relief. We spent a few days catching up and headed to Bruges. In the cab to the hotel the driver asked how long we were staying and we replied, just a day and a half. “Oh well, “ he said, “you’ll be back.” We looked at each other with that knowing look that this probably wouldn’t be. We are headed to Barcelona tomorrow, a city I have been to before, with an excitement of seeing it again for the first time. Another wonder of aging, not really remembering all the details of trips past. I have noticed that a layer of film that encompassed me has melted away. That layer that seals in worry and expectations and keeps me from the moment. It’s gone. I’m certain some parts of it will return just to help me get through tough times in life but for now it’s gone. The lessons of living in the moment, at least for this moment, are real. It seems a little foreign to me. Yesterday on the train from Brussels to Bruges, I was not the least bit concerned about when we would get there, how we would get from the station to the hotel, where the hotel was, what the hotel would be like, where we would eat dinner or any details of the day. Instead I listened to my book on tape and looked out the window. I was surprised when we arrived so quickly. Everything worked out. We took a cab, the hotel is so charming, we had a great day exploring Bruges and a wonderful dinner. All this happened without me having to do any more than show up.
These are lessons I’ve know for a long time and wanted to integrate into the fabric of my being. So far, on this trip, it seems to be happening. Maybe it takes the right amount of life experience and the wisdom of age to resurrect the files in my own mind.
I have a little more then two weeks of traveling ahead of me. After 4 days in Barcelona I leave my sister and head to Italy, to Florence and Lucca for a solo journey, then off to Rome to meet my dear and long time friends, Mame and Cliff for a final week of exploring with them. Life is full of wonderful changes at this age. A time of knowing that each moment really does mean something and filling the days, weeks and months with joy and wonderment feels a whole lot better than trying to control any outcomes.
I miss Steve like crazy and that even feels good. To love someone so much that the longing for their presence brings joy and not sadness.
Stay in touch and I will to.
With love and gratitude,