Be water, my friend
There is a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly with the title ‘Flow’, about the psychology of optimal experience. You are doing something that is easy enough to not have to wreck your brain, hard enough to not bore you to death, successful enough to keep you motivated, imperfect enough to keep you pushing for improvement, and really, there isn’t anything else in the world that you would rather do. If you have never experienced it yourself, I can promise you, there is nothing quite like it. I have experienced flow more than once, also on my journey, but the past year and especially the past half year I lost it somehow.
Some of it may have to do with growing frustration. I want to make better pictures, do more interviews, write more regularly about my experiences on my website, upload more photo’s and find more schools to do presentations. But I find that I don’t even have the time and the energy keep up with daily updates. There is also the constant worry about funding. I am still fully dependent on donations and the amount I receive is still not enough to get by every month. And of course the occasional existential doubt. Is it all worth it? Does anyone really care about what I do? Do I still care? Is it important? Even the Queen quits her job and abdicates, why should I continue? But more about that last one in a later blog.
Another change in the past year was meeting someone that became more to me than I had planned. Knowing that a life on the road is hard to combine with an intimate relationship is fine, until you are in one. Needles to say, it failed, and it confronted me with the limitations of my current way of living. It was not being apart that was the problem - at least, not for me, I have become quite an expert at this - but the necessary communication. I can’t say that she demanded too much, but I simply couldn’t meet her expectations. I won’t bore you with the specifics (besides, it is none of your business), but the break up made me realize something that I hadn’t considered before: that at some point in time it will be impossible for me to keep in touch with everyone I meet on my journey. And I actually may have passed that point without noticing it in the past year.
I now have over 2000 Twitter followers. My Facebook page has more than 1700 subscribers and with my personal account I am connected to over 1300 people. Not all of them contact me regularly, but with every new town I walk into the number of people to stay in touch with grows. I will have to learn how to be more selective and less social (online that is), which is more or less the same as asking me to stop breathing. If there would be no contact with the people I met along the way, then meeting new people every day would become a senseless enterprise. I simply have to put more trust in people’s understanding when I don’t reply immediately.
Paradoxically, the people I am closest to are the last in line to receive prompt answers. I guess that subconsciously, I know that they are the first to understand. And it is true that I haven’t had any real complaints from family and friends, for which I am very grateful. So in some twisted way, not hearing from me is a compliment ‘Those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter’ pretty much sums it up, but it bothers me nonetheless.
Something is wrong when you walk 30 kilometers every other day, but still have the feeling that you don’t have any time for yourself. I don’t have an apartment where I can retire from the world for a while to get myself organized and energized again. This makes it crucial that I can do so while I am walking. But it got to the point where my head was constantly grinding away at all the stuff that still needed to be done and any sound coming from my phone would cause me to panic: another message to answer! I don’t have the ambition to become the first pilgrim in history (or so I assume) with a burn out and although that may sound exaggerated, I was certainly experiencing some form of emotional exhaustion.
It took me two months, but today for the first time I feel like I am getting back on track. For the first time in weeks I can say that I am excited again to continue. I needed the rest and Lisbon has definitely done me good. But I have to make sure I don’t fall in the same trap. There is still a lot to be done in the next few weeks, but I finally feel that I can manage it again.
It is time to bring back the flow. Or like Bruce Lee said: be water, my friend.