When was the last time you were brought to your knees?
Literally or figuratively?
There is you, in one corner.
And there is that next step that you need to take, in the other corner, looking more like your opponent than your ally. You know you have to get yourself up and take it, but that next step seems so impossible, or you are just so tired, disappointed, overwhelmed, exhausted, defeated, and you just do not, I tell you, do not have it in you to even move.
When at that crazy crossroads, how do you find the strength to go on?
I just got back from a trip to Spain, with my daughter Maggie and a group of parents, kids, and teachers. We hiked the Camino de Santiago, in Galicia, the northwest part of Spain, which is a centuries-old pilgrimage, with pre-Christian roots, that leads to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. We travelled 115 kilometers in 6 days.
And yes, it was a pilgrimage.
There is no other way to describe the sense of being utterly lost, and utterly found.
I am not what you might call an experienced hiker.
Walking around New York City thinking I walk a lot is not hiking.
Not even close.
Hiking is to walking like a river is to a puddle. No comparison.
Honestly, at the end of each day I did not know if I could finish, and my feet felt like little sandbags attached to wooden sticks.
Beforehand, I was picturing a merry walk with friends, la la, ha ha, whee, as we strolled arm in arm in the sunshine.
This was not the case.
The rain is Spain has not stayed mainly on the plain.
Spain is having the wettest spring in history, with triple the rainfall. There is flooding everywhere, including the Camino. So our little band of pilgrims were slogging through freezing rain, mud, streams, every day, sometimes all day, sometimes parts of the day, hail storms, thunder, and lightning. We had to squat to pee on roadsides. We would stop for a quick lunch, lifesaving cafe con leche and then, march on.
My hiking boots were soaked and could not dry.
Blisters had to be taped up on my feet and Maggie’s feet.
Some of our group were taken out, feet blistered so badly, they could not complete the hike.
But, amazingly enough, as wrecked as I thought I was, my body would restore over night, and I could go on.
I forced myself to stretch and do push-ups and sit-ups each morning so I could unwind my muscles and keep a strong core.
I would plug in my iPod and play my theme song.
“Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
I have been obsessed with this song for months. It took me through the whole pilgrimage that was the launch of Spring Mastery. And now, this pilgrimage.
As I am sure you know and have experienced, there is always one day—one moment of one day—on which all the preceding days rest, and on which all the following days depend.
How do we show up inside that one moment of that one day?
Do we haul our ass up from our tired, disappointed, overwhelmed, exhausted, defeated corner and head over to the corner where our next step lies?
Let me take you inside my moment:
So, it is day five of bad weather. We are at about 109 kilometers. My everything is soaking wet, including my underwear. I have walked past my limit about 20 miles ago. In the last days, I have been through pelting hail, rain, thunder, and watched the path under me turn into a muddy stream. I am hiking alone, but my buddies Nick and Kenny see me and wait up for me. I have had “Under Pressure” on repeat for the last hour, since I am busy learning the words for an upcoming entrance at Mastery. Nick knows that I am working on the song and asks me, just at the right moment, to tell him the lyrics. I offer to sing them. Figuring it will be good practice for my upcoming debut this weekend…
We are slogging up a hill, and I launch, a cappella:
Pressure, pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man asks for
That burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Umm bah bah bay
And the lyrics seize me. This song is my life. Right now. I give it my all. I channel Freddie.
It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out
Pray tomorrow takes me higher
Pressure on people
People on streets
Day day day
Kick my brains ’round the floor
These are the days
It never rains but it pours
Can you believe these words?
Turned away from it all
Like a blind man
Sat on the fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love
But it’s so slashed and torn
(Why, why, whhhhhyyyy??)
Love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
And then, finally, my forlorn, exhausted heart cracking open, breathless from the hill, I choke out this verse:
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love
Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For the people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is ourselves under pressure
And just as I finish my emotional rendition, with Nick and Kenny tearing up as we climb, Nick and I see a tractor, hauling logs, roll past us. And the license plate on the tractor says, “Love.”
We get a sign from the GPS on the back of a tractor.
“Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.”
Which is really what a pilgrimage is for.
And a pilgrimage is a journey of spiritual significance. It can be a journey to an actual location, like the Camino, or it can be a metaphorical journey, which tests our own beliefs and faith in ourselves. Every time we hit that “I can’t go on” place, we are on a pilgrimage of sorts. And the faith to continue comes from accepting the dare—from love, herself—to change our way of caring about ourselves.
I am such a rebel that it’s always gotta be a dare that brings the best out of me, and pulls me out of my doldrums into that next step.
And the thought of love as the one who dares us, pleases the shizz out of me.
And the dare to change my way of caring about myself inspired me to cross the finish line and make it all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
So did my daughter, Maggie.
I am so proud of her.
When we arrived at the Cathedral, the tradition is to go up to the altar and hug the golden statue of St. James. I hugged him so hard and hung on his jewel encrusted neck like he was my long lost lover, and I am damn sure he hugged me back.
There is no better feeling than being pressed into a new iteration of yourself, and accepting the dare to say, “YES!”
Every woman faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge in her life at one point or another. We fall to our knees in grief, disappointment, despair… We resist our darkness or feel overcome by it, when really, it holds our most potent power. So I dare you to do the last thing you feel like doing in that precise make-or-break moment. I dare you…to party. Decide that wherever you are is the right place to be. It’s one of the founding principles of Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts, and you can get the full explication here (see page 5), in the first chapter of my book, Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts:
There is so much power in traveling abroad.
I loved this trip, and I can’t wait until next month when I get to take my entire Creation Course to Paris!
I am delighted about the intimacy of this group and the personal connections we have with each other. I can’t wait for all the conversations we are about to have. And how perfect- I just came back from a Christian pilgrimage, and now I am off to the Courtesan’s Journey!
In the comments below, I’d love to know, what do you do when you are “under pressure”?
Where in your life are you pressed against your ability to go on, and take that next step—right now?
And who else is a Queen fan?
If you know another woman who’s been feeling under pressure lately, please share this post. And remember, those feelings of exhaustion, defeat, disappointment, or overwhelm that we all face aren’t bad any more than a thunderstorm is bad—once you get your foul-weather gear and rain boots on, and keep putting one foot in front of the other (even when your destination is nowhere in sight), you get to splash in the puddles—even sing in the rain…
With so much love and pleasure,
P.S. Enrollment is officially open for Virtual Pleasure Boot Camp 2013! If you’re serious about your studies of the Womanly Arts and Tools and want in-depth training in forming brilliant-cut diamonds from any pressure that befalls you, check out all the details here. We’re offering a special Early Bird savings for the first 75 contenders…
P.P.S If you liked this blog, here’s an ample serving of my travel adventures:
Tanzania: “Does your truth hurt?”
Morocco: “A Page from Mama’s Moroccan Travel Diary”
Denmark (video): “Emergency Brags from Mama Gena”
California (video): “Mama’s Video Diary”