When we moved to Spain, it was a whole new start to lives that already had 50 years under their belts. It was like being born again. No, not in the 1970’s American religious sense. But in the way that new beginnings can change everything. The writer, poet, philosopher and ex-priest John O’Donohue said it best.
There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginnings might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.
Our moving here was the beginning of many beginnings living in Spain. I have always run towards change. So it couldn’t be any other way. And we have embraced each one, even though by definition beginnings are also endings. But this adventure filled with new beginnings has been a lifesaver for me. A restless soul, I have always searched for my place in the world. And now, I think I have found it.
One of John O’Donohue’s most famous works is Anam Cara. It is the Celtic idea of a Soul Friend. Someone who is important in your spiritual development. A friendship that transcends the physical world and strikes at the heart of what it means to be someone’s guide. This is not just the person you have drinks with or go shopping. It’s a person who knows you, the light and the darkness, and embraces and celebrates both equally. Unconditionally, A true kindred spirit. A very rare gem.
I had a friend in the US decades ago. He lost his very important job as the CEO of a big company. When I heard the news I immediately drove to his home, but upon arrival I saw that there were just a couple of people there. Only a few days before they had thrown a ‘small’ dinner party with over 50 of their closest friends on the beautiful terrace of their estate. The guests were happy to drink his very expensive wine and eat the sumptuously prepared meal. When I remarked to him that I was shocked none of the others had turned up to console him, he smiled and squeezed my hand.
‘Kelli, in this life I find that I’m lucky if I can count my true friends on one hand.’
I was young back then. I couldn’t believe this could be true. But now I am wiser, and I know exactly what he means.
The older I get, the pickier I am with whom I am friendly. And even more discerning with those for whom I would use the term ‘friend.’ But, since moving to Spain I have found deeper friendships than I thought possible. People who are like branches from the same cosmic tree. As though my soul and my heart recognizes them from a place far away. A memory just beyond my fingertips. But it embraces them immediately, because it sees its own reflection.
I was chatting with a friend here the other day. We were talking about the difference between friendships here and those back home. How you could have mostly acquaintances there, but few deep friendships. Because you were busy and they were busy, and you didn’t really think about it. Or there was some weird sense of competition. The antithesis of true friendship. You would never have exposed your deepest fears or insecurities, or the darkest secrets of your heart. But here, it’s not like that. Here, my friendships are like frozen concentrated orange juice. The number of friends are fewer but the friendships are infinitely deeper. The bullshit is stripped away. Pretense isn’t a factor. We are all at our most vulnerable because we choose to be. We don’t have time to mess about with petty nonsense, gossip, or competition. And, it means we are more open to sharing, and to listening to each other’s hearts – both the light and the dark. To accept all of it without judgement or the need to fix each other. I find the power of such friendships is immeasurable.
I think few people ever feel accepted just as they are. Because to feel that, we have to expose ourselves. We must take the ultimate risk. To not only show ourselves to others, but to show ourselves to ourselves. Perhaps it is the freedom of such a big adventure that facilitates this. You leave your baggage back across an ocean, and take the opportunity to be you, perhaps for the first time ever.
Maybe this is why I have been so drawn to the Camino, like a gravitational force. People who undertake such a monumental challenge are looking for something. A new beginning. The ultimate risk. No matter where they come from. Pilgrimage makes beggars of kings and kings of beggars. And by the time they reach our house on The Way the bullshit is stripped away. The masks are long gone. They are, perhaps for the first time in their lives, themselves. Vulnerable. Open. Free. And when they walk into Santiago they are ready for another new beginning.
I think my old friend from decades ago was right. These days, I can count my soul friends on one hand. But in that I am very lucky. Because with them I can truly be myself. And, at this point in my life I don’t need anything more.
4 thoughts on “Beginning Again”
Love this and have been thinking about something similar lately. Been talking about showing vulnerability as a way to build deeper friendships, to my teenage kids lately. Social media is not helping 😦 Amazing the number of people who self medicate with various substances, or seek therapy, or just suffer, to try and deal with not having enough/any of these “soul friends”. (I’m not against therapy at all, but recognize the power of deep friendship to potentially be a less transactional and still useful mechanism). I too yearn for more of these friendships and worry we will have difficulty creating them when we eventually move to Spain… But as you say, it’s not as if they are so easy to build in the states, either. I like the idea of change being a catalyst for forging these deeper connections.
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You make a great point a out social media. Jeff and I talked about this after he read what I wrote. With social media it’s about #bestlife. Filters and fake smiles. Not being real or vulnerable. Trying to appear perfect doesn’t deepen friendships. It isolates us from ourselves and others out of fear of rejection for our true selves. The younger generation suffers from anxiety and depression and its no wonder. Social media pressure to be perfect.
I hope when you move here you will find what we have found. Embracing the perfect imperfections in ourselves and others is a recipe for greater contentment. And a soul family we know we can depend on.
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Well said 🥰
💞 that is one of the things I have loved about travel. In the moment of exchanging words with someone we are unlikely to ever see again, we can be ourselves free and clear.
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