How to build self-belief and not die with regrets

Photo by Edu Lauton

Photo by Edu Lauton

This day six years ago, I was walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras in France. It was day nine of my Via Francigena pilgrimage and my longest walking day yet.

With few accommodation options between the two towns and still uncertain if I could make it to Rome within my 90-day Schengen visa, I felt that I had little choice but to walk the 38.5 kilometres between the two towns — and that was the shorter route; if I followed the guidebook exactly I would have walked an extra 14 kilometres. Ouch and no thank you to 52.5 kilometres.

It took me 10 hours to walk the 38.5 kilometres to Arras. I had two deep blisters on my toes that burned, arch and heel pain, and then my hips went into a spasm. The pain was excruciating. It took me an hour to walk the last 2 kilometres into Arras. Actually, it was more like a shuffle.

When I was a kid, I seemed to have the words “I can’t” pre-programmed into me and spilling off my lips whenever things got tough.

Learning (and struggling) to tie my shoelaces, I’d tell my dad, “I can’t.”

Going on a long bike ride with my dad and brother: “I can’t” make it up the hill. “I can’t” make it home; it’s too far.

My dad was ever patient and calm. He told me many times that there’s no such thing as can’t. He taught me to read the book, The Little Engine That Could whose mantra was “I think I can.”

I get it now.

I can’t usually means I don’t want to.  It can also mean I don’t know how to yet or this is really hard for me and I’m scared of failing or even just plan I won’t.

I’ve had many people tell me that they could never do what I did and walk the Via Francigena, especially alone. I never believe them because broken down to its simplest component it is just walking, one step after the other. Unless you are affected by a disability, you can most likely walk. It’s just a question of whether you have the desire and motivation to walk so far and on your own.

I was a solo pilgrim walking the Via Francigena.  I had only myself to urge me on and there really wasn’t any room for I can’t.

My mantra that day walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras and every time the going got tough was I” can do it.” On repeat.

I can do it. I can do it
. I can do it. I can do it.

I repeated this over and over until I did it; I arrived in Arras. When I was saying I can do it, there was no room for I can’t.

The pain and the struggle faded away not long after arriving and flopping down on the bed in my hotel room in Arras. All these years later, I still remember that day and that I was in so much pain but the pain itself now just resembles a large grey cloud that hovered above me as I walked. I don’t feel the physical pain in my body and even if I did, I would walk the whole Via Francigena again in a heartbeat.

The Via Francigena tested me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t arrive in Rome as the same person that set out from Canterbury. My bank account may have been lower but I was far richer in all my being; deeper, wiser, stronger and with a reinforced faith that I was guided and supported by life. I still receive gifts from this journey all these years later.

Lewis Carroll has been quoted as saying:

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

Whatever it is that your heart longs for, whether it is an adventure, to learn a new skill, leave a career and start a new one, take a risk and find a way out of your comfort zone , find your way to say yes.

You can do anything you put your mind to and energy into.

Maybe you aren’t destined to be Luciano Pavarotti or an Olympic gold medallist or maybe you are and don’t know it yet…but how will you ever find out what you are capable of if you don’t try.

Imagine if Pavarotti told himself he couldn’t sing and believed it!

If you are ever in doubt that you can do what you really want to do, then borrow the Little Engine Who Could’s mantra, “I think I can, I think I can” or even my mantra: “I can do it.” Say it over and over even if you don’t believe it at first. It will still help put positive I can energy into your system.

If you’re not sure if it’s worth the risk, and if you’re still scared and struggling to take the first step then reach out to me. Working through fear and self-doubt is my specialty.

With love and courage,

Kym
xx

PS Here’s a few snaps from that hard walking day: in sunshine, a rain-free moment, in the midst of raining wearing Kermit my green poncho, my friends the cows, a lot of potatoes and the avenue of trees.

What if you just let yourself be a little crazy

Last weekend I attended a course on working with your spirit team including angels and guides. As our teacher went around the room asking each individual what they wanted to get out of the weekend, a shared concern emerged that I too shared: What if people think I’m crazy?

The underlying fear is that if people really knew what I thought or who I am that I could be judged, shunned, rejected, ostracised, abandoned or shamed. This fear keeps us hiding, conforming, wearing masks and pretending to be someone that we’re not.  It can keep us stuck in outdated roles and delay us from living the life that we’re destined to live.

There are many ways I hold back my inner crazy around other people.

Sometimes I feel so moved by life that I want to break out into spontaneous movement or dance in public but I don’t.  What would people think?

There have been times at work in my day job that I want to suggest we start a meeting with intentional silence so everyone can be completely present and arrive into the space ready to connect and listen but I don’t.  It’s definitely not how things are done there in a very mainstream culture.

Even in my monthly women’s circle that I attend, I can find myself holding back my true voice when we tone. The sound that wants to emerge might be strange, gargled and primal. It might be shocking. Instead, I make a sweet sound that’s “acceptable.”

During the course, we spent some time discussing and unpacking this concept of being crazy and then gave our individual expression of crazy form, first just with movement, and then with movement and sound.

I waved my arms around, threw my head from sided to side, stomped my feet up and down and made “blblblblblbl” sounds as my lips and cheeks wobbled. There wasn’t a moment to be self-conscious because everyone in the room was expressing their own version of crazy.

Expressing my crazy was so joy-filled and empowering. I owned a part of myself that I had personally resisted and shunned. Now with my positive body memory of this experience, I’m less concerned about hiding my crazy self because looking crazy and feeling joyful and free is more important than looking and behaving how others think I should and consequently feeling constricted, soulless, sad and quite frankly, bored.

When we each give expression to our unique essence even when it looks crazy, we help those around us sense it’s safe to be exactly who they are too, even if they think it’s a little crazy.

As Sharon Blackie wrote in If Women Rose Rooted , “There are other ways to belong than those that were handed down to us.”

Our journey in life is to each walk our own path our own way, not the path of others. It is a journey that requires courage and vulnerability, and if by bringing out my inner crazy helps liberate others around me, I’m willing to do that, even if some people around me don’t understand it.

The thing that I’m most passionate about in life is freedom. Freedom within from the chains and beliefs and untended wounds that keep us stuck in repeating patterns and limiting ourselves.  And therefore freedom in the outside world to live and express our unique spirits in the way they want to emerge.

I’m also passionate about supporting others to walk their own path. If you’re interested in bringing more freedom into your life or exploring your inner crazy, I am offering a limited number of free sessions via Skype. Email me at kym@kymwilson.com.au to book a session.

With love and courage,

Kym

xx

After the rain comes sun (and an excerpt from my book)

Looking down at the cemetery on the way into Berceto (Italy) on the Via Francigena

Looking down at the cemetery on the way into Berceto (Italy) on the Via Francigena

It’s been a tough 6 weeks with constant stomach pain, and grief and stress all coming up to be loved and healed.

Last weekend my body voiced its need to rest, heavy and lethargic with no desire to go anywhere or do anything. So I rested at home watching a new favourite series, Call the Midwife. I adore Sister Monica Joan with her poetic, mystical, deeply emotional and wise nature.

Contemplating what I would write about today in light of my current challenges, I remembered when I was walking the Via Francigena, how the ever-changing weather and the mud that clung to my boots tested me almost daily.  And so I felt inspired to share some excerpts from my forthcoming book, The Path We Make.

“After the rain comes sun. It managed to break through the clouds for large parts of the day. I welcomed its warmth on my skin, pausing to bask in the simple pleasure of it. Yet after the rain also comes wet grass and mud. Although my map showed that the canal path continued all the way into Châlons-en-Champagne, I followed the guidebook’s detour via Juvigny and trudged through 500 metres of thick, gunky mud that clung to the soles of my boots, gluing my feet to the ground. I hated the mud to the point of repulsion. I hated how it felt under my feet and I hated getting dirty. After stomping along for a time, I was relieved to turn onto a gravel path, but after 900 metres the gravel led to more wet grass and thick mud. The last 100 metres I walked through were a tangled mess of knee-high grass and blackberry bushes. The Red Beasts were wet again and so were my feet. My soles were clumped with mud and my pants smeared grey-brown. I missed the turn onto Rue St Martin that led to another field, but I didn’t mind walking along the hard bitumen for a while longer. At least my feet weren’t getting wetter or coated in more mud. Two kilometres down the road, I turned onto a gravel track back towards the main trail that became four more kilometres of clay and wet grass.

If I had to choose between walking all day in the rain on bitumen roads or walking in the sunshine on muddy wet tracks, I’m not sure which I would choose. They were both short straws: the bitumen punishingly hard, the rain a pain and the mud just plain repulsive. I tried to find something positive about mud and wet grass but couldn’t. It was annoying and gross and that was all. I was so happy when I finally turned back onto the concrete towpath and scraped the mud off my boots with a small stick. I had never spent this much time outdoors with limited shelter, exposed to whatever weather swept through, and with the need to keep moving. Unlike the week I walked through Tuscany in summer, when it was hot and hot only, I was experiencing four seasons almost every day, often numerous times each day, and it was testing my ability to accept what is.”

The Via Francigena pilgrimage tested me deeply and consistently on emotional, physical, spiritual and mental levels.  But for all the challenges, there were many gifts. Here’s another excerpt from my book from when I was walking from Berry-au-Bac to Reims in France. Kermit cloak is the name I gave to my green rain poncho.

“During the day I cursed the weather frequently. Melbourne is renowned for having four seasons in one day, but on this road it was four seasons every hour. Kermit cloak on then off, warm layer off then on again. Repeat, repeat, repeat! As frustrating as the weather was, it had its blessings too. A sudden shower forced me to put Kermit back on and then five minutes later the sun came out scorching, leaving me cursing as I ripped the Kermit off again. I rounded a corner and saw a host of yellow and purple wildflowers glistening in the sun. My cursing turned into cries of amazement.”

Amidst the frustration and trying times can be great beauty. And if there’s no beauty to be seen, don’t lose faith. The weather will eventually change, as will the seasons and the terrain you travel. Keep breathing.

With love and courage

Kym xx

Life: a masterpiece of curiosity

Life: a masterpiece of curiosity

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”—Joseph Campbell

At the moment my writing is going through another phase of floating through a snow dome and so I have been quiet on the blog. There has been some significant change in my inner and outer life and more injury so I must simply wait for the mud to settle before I can write about it. However, I feel inspired to share a small timely insight.

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In Germany with 11 days to go

I have been in Germany for almost 4 whole days now, spending time with my dear friend Ina who I haven't seen since I visited her here in 2011. We met back in 2009 in Phuket where she was my dive instructor for my divemaster course. Although we pretended to be very studious, we spent as much time talking about life as we did diving theory and practising diving skills.  A friendship quickly developed and extended beyond the diving classroom to coffees and beer o'clocks, travel and diving adventures. So far it has stood the test of time and distance with her now living here in Bavaria in Germany with her finace and me in Melbourne.

We have been going with the flow. 

Monday was a couch day as I had only 2 hours sleep in over 27 hours transit and it was raining. On Tuesday, we hiked up to the monastery and biergarten at Andachs where we ate their famous roast pork and meatloaf then walked down to Lake Amersee where we sailed to the otherside and back then browsed the nightmarket with its stalls of jewellery, clothing, wine and local foods. Yesterday we shopped in Augsburg whilst today we hung out by another lake near Friedberg and walked through the local woods. And of course we have been doing lots of talking and catching up whilst drinking lots of coffees.

Sometimes we talk about my pilgrimage, the way I plan to walk, how far it is and the potential risks but I'm not spending a lot of time thinking about it right now. Soon enough the time will come for me to start walking but right now I am just being here in Eurasburg with my friend enjoying what each day has to offer and the wide open spaces, the quiet, the green forests, the fresh air.

I am still riding the rollercoaster of pain from my injured left sacro-iliac joint.

 Some days I am pain-free. Fortunately it was fine the whole way from Melbourne to Munich. Then other days, like yesterday and today, the pain returns and gnaws away from my lower back to my hip and down my left thigh. My walking slows and the pain drains my energy.

I don't know how this journey will unfold. I don't know if I will be able to make it all the way to Jerusalem. Sometimes when the pain is bad I wonder if I will even be able to make it out of Rome. 

But as I learned during my Via Francigena pilgrimage, sometimes its best not to look at the destination but instead to focus on your feet and the next step you have to take. This strategy helped me to climb a lot of tough hills and to keep going on some long, tiring, painful days. 

Sometimes we have to be okay with the not knowing how things will turn out and if we are going to make it and just take the next step anyway.

As I enjoy just being here in Bavaria, I feel the great current of life hold me and take me gently into the day to the next experience then the next. Despite the pain and the uncertainty, I trust and I know, that everything is going to work out just fine - just possibly in ways I could never have expected.

View from Andachs monastery

Me and Ina on the way down from Andachs

The enchanted forest

Paddlesteamer coming in to the pier at Herrsching am Amersee

Castle house by the lake at Herrsching am Amersee

Pier at sunset - Herrsching am Amersee

Tree massage at the night market at Herrsching am Amersee

Lake near Friedberg

Path to the forest in Eurasburg

Enchanted forest in Eurasburg