The Stress is real!I am sitting in the Madrid Airport early in a 12 hour layover between Basel, Switzerland and Estella, Spain, a town along the Camino. I will be spending some time with Laida, one of my three Camino Kids. I am looking forward to reconnecting with the Camino and Laida. This is one of the joys of travel.
The joys of travel are interspersed with substantial stresses in between, located sometimes right in the middle of the joys. Sound familiar? Part of the theme I chose for my blog is, “Life is a choice.” Choosing life produces great potential for moments of exhilaration and stresses of equal magnitude. In an exchange of texts with my Son, Micah, after revealing that I was very stressed about the missteps and roadblocks as I changed plans so rapidly, I concluded that I would rather be dealing with these stresses than sitting at home during the summer, bored silly.
I mean that, but when walking back to my hostel late at night completely confused by the lines and arrows on the phone maps, getting turned around in the opposite direction, rescued by a couple of city workers out late cleaning up after an accident, the stress radiates throughout this small body. It was, of course, raining also. It was the Saturday night of a day of colorful parades culminated in partying that had taken many beyond their limits. But I was coming back from an exhilarating concert of Verdi’s Requiem. Eventually, I made it. I survived.
The vast majority of my stresses come from frustration with not having been more thorough and anticipating more of the challenges, preparing more carefully for them. The mistakes trigger bouts of angry self talk. I am my own worst enemy. Mixed in with all that are experiences that make my soul shudder in wonder at the life I am leading. I just don’t seem to get one without the other.
One of those moments when it felt as if the universe was out to get me happened when I walked in the rain to the sheltered spot next to a building in Freiburg where there is wifi to be found. My hostel has none. I needed to phone ATT about my data program. I needed to try to connect with the Freiburg German Language School contact in Barcelona. Both of those calls were important ones that needed to be made. I had heard a small brass ensemble busking in a street a few blocks away earlier in the day. You guessed it! They came with their instruments and set up just feet from me. I managed to finish one of the calls before they started, but there would be no more phone calling while they were there (they played well and it was my kind of music). It was symbolic of the crazy accumulation of large and small frustrations that life brings. All I could do was laugh and go get some ice cream.
I do not claim to be a master of handling stress. I choose to hang on for a while to the mistakes that frustrate me the most so that I can get through them (not around then) and on to doing something, just going on. While I can’t undo the mistakes, I can waste as little time as possible doing nothing while denying my culpability or feeling worthless and instead just get on with doing something, anything, that has even the slightest potential for creating options for ameliorating the situation.
I have thought more than once that I am too old to be doing this, that I have crossed the threshold and need just to go home and immerse myself in the familiar, reducing at least slightly the risks that come with the complexities of International travel. I have doubted again and again the possibility of ever learning to speak German. I have thought maybe it is just time to stop doing all this. But I can’t. I feel fully the pain of the failures and frustrations that come because I am putting myself in difficult situations, but I can’t stop. I realize that that is too categorical a statement. Circumstances may bring me of necessity to stay put, or I may simply decide it is time, but not now.
So, here I sit at midnight Madrid time (and body clock time) waiting for the 9am leg in the flight to Pamplona from Basel. Laida and I have exchanged messages. At the moment we are both making this up as we go along. She just said she will pick me up at the airport tomorrow some time after my scheduled arrival, and we will drive back to Estella, along the Camino. She grew up there and has returned more than a decade later to work in support of groups and people making the Pilgrimage. (We haven’t talked in a long time, so I am not sure how accurate that description is.)
The adventure goes on. What will happen next remains to be seen. Shortly after I see it, I will tell you what I have seen (or maybe post a picture of it on Facebook).