There are two bridges — the old, lower bridge, and the new/current one that is high, high, high above the river. Portomarin, Spain
I don’t often include images here, but this one make for a powerful visual concerning walking through fear and holding off utter panic. These are the two bridges into Portomarin, Spain — a part of the Via Frances Camino de Santiago de Compostella. Notice the older, probably original bridge. That’s not the one I walked across. As I understand it, the original town was located in nice green lowland near the river. It was destroyed by a flood and/or mudslide. The town was rebuilt on the high ground — they even deconstructed and reconstructed the church in the middle of town!
But, alas, when one walks into Portomarin, it is on a walkway alongside the traffic lanes on that high bridge. The water swirls below. There are railings… railings that laughed as I doggedly focussed in front of myself, trying not to think of tripping and falling into traffic or the river while carrying my backpack. The walkway is slightly elevated, just in case I wasn’t high enough already to cause panic to push up so forcefully that I had to practice a breathing meditation to keep it in check.
Walking over Napoleon’s Pass and trying not to lose my footing on the descent into Roncesvalles was nothing – nothing – compared to this flat walk. I knew I might be the last on to descend, but I could take it slowly and hope not to turn an ankle. All would be well. But, successfully crossing this bridge — that was triumph over fear. Susan started ahead of me. No fear of heights for that woman, and even she admitted to feeling a bit dizzy when she looked over the edge at the swirling water. For the first half, I could focus on her backside. But, she got across and headed up the stairs to town while I was still in the middle of the bridge. Breathe! Breathe. Don’t look down. Don’t think what could go wrong. One step. One more step. It’s not slick. Your feet are steady. One more step. You can panic when you get to the other side! Several more steps. Will this never end? Should I climb down to the roadway? A few more steps.
At last, it is over. I feel safe. I feel proud and triumphant. I DID IT!
There are many times in life that I need to call on this memory, especially when I’m unsure of where I am going and if I can do it. (Whatever “it” might be.) If I focus on believing, if I tell myself that I can panic later if I need to, if I remember that I only have to take one step at a time, then I can move on down the road. Maybe I can see Jesus walking in front of me and focus on his backside, his stride to get me moving and keep me going. I can go places and discover all manner of things that fear would try to keep me away from.
Courage — not being unafraid, but crossing the bridge anyway.
I was reading Susan’s musings over at Creo en Dios! and pondering her thoughts on The First Shall Be Last. I have to agree — so often I find myself giving over to someone else’s needs and not listening to myself. The upshot is that I finally am so depleted, so angry, so tired, that there is no way I can put someone or something else before me. There’s no energy left.
To me, it seems that there are ways of being first and last that work better than others. If my goal is to be able to serve others, then I have a responsibility to stay healthy enough to do that. Otherwise, I fail at the primary goal of serving others or just being a good steward of my own resources.
I had a talk with someone last week where I rather felt that I was being selfish when I started it. I owned up to some hurt feelings, which uncovered some other deep-seated anger. But afterward, the air was more clear, and I think we came to understand each other a bit better. I was much more at peace which made it possible for me to hear the other person a bit more clearly without the roar of anger in my ears.
Sad to say, I more often fail to honor my own feelings as I try to make things ok for the other which makes for an un-pretty scene. The second of Jesus’ commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself. If I can’t love myself, how can I possibly know how to love my neighbor?
At the Foot of Knocknarea (Cathie Ryan:The Music of What Happens) is a song about a woman carrying a stones to the top of Knocknarea to leave at Queen Mave’s (sp?) cairn – a stone that bears all her troubles. I’m picking through the stones I’d like to leave at the tomb, or the cross.
One stone is regret (and guilt) over being silent and fearful. Not listening to my soul. Hiding my feelings so deep they were hidden from myself. To be honest, I can’t name those times. I can name a few times when I was brave, wasn’t silent. So – I’ll leave the un-named stones for healing and remember being brave and what it meant.
Many years ago, neighbors and family were at my house for dinner or some such gathering. We were standing in the kitchen. I think my sister and brother in-law were there, and the folks across the street. The conversation had to do with the others recently joining a local club (think a large relative of the whitetail deer). Only the men could/can join as it’s a men’s organization. (I really don’t have as much of a problem with men’s only organizations as maybe I should, because if women need to be free to have sisterhoods, then men probably need brotherhoods…. but that’s an aside to this story. ) They were encouraging my husband to think about becoming a member. The lodge has a nice swimming pool and the kids could go there to swim during out brutally hot summer. And – this is the part that got me rolling – when the kids went there you didn’t have to deal with the blacks like you did /do at the city pool. Something snapped. I heard myself proclaim the “John wouldn’t ever be joining any a racially prejudiced men’s club.” The room went silent. My heart pounded. Then the conversation slowly restarted – on a different topic.
Fear is a powerful thing… overcoming it is also powerful. However, I still need to learn to accept my own spot when I do find my voice…. and not feel guilty about succeeding.