celebrate the steps

It’s occurred to me that I *never* celebrate the little victories in my life. Why is that? Is it because they feel so inadequate that I don’t deserve a happy dance? Taking the time out to recognize my little accomplishments feels like a waste of time. Maybe by doing so, I slow myself down. Is it that I decide to celebrate later, and then push on without a period to reflect on the achievement?

life isn’t a race

When I was seventeen years old, I joined a 3-week biking tour of northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (“The Way of Saint James”) pilgrimage. After traveling to the French/Spanish border in the Pyrenees Mountains, we cycled ~450km west through the Pyrenees Mountains along the coast to our destination: Santiago de Compostela. Our daily trek ranged from 10km to 55km.

The first day, I donned my cycling gear (including the only helmet my mother could find at Wal-Mart in 1992, which was a dead ringer for the ones worn on the old TV show “CHiPs“, down to the sliding sepia visor), strapped my panniers on the back rack, and ensured my water bottle was appropriately filled per guides’ instructions.

After tucking my map behind the front handlebars, off I went.

To this day that first leg of the trip is a bit fuzzy. I was fully prepared, but had forgotten to actually drink the water. By the time another girl and I hobbled up one of the countless hills at mile marker 30, dehydration had hit so hard I couldn’t think straight.

A woman waved to us from her flower-draped adobe oasis at the summit. I stumbled off my bike at her front step, and gratefully accepted cold water and a shady seat. We were still there when our leader topped the crest at the tail end of our group. He collected us and herded us down the hill to the hotel where we were staying that evening.

never again left behind

After that day, each leg was a race. I ruled! Every morning I ducked my head and rode as hard and as fast as I could (sucking down water like a camel) to the next stopping point. No more weakness. No more suffering. The first one there got dibs on the best hotel room. The hot shower.

Of course, I rode 450km through the loveliest mountain country in Spain, and have just a vague memory of it. I remember the towns where we stayed, sure… dagger shopping in Toledo and eating a roasted pig’s hoof and eyeball (though, the live snail was still the worst… all that crunchy sand hidden in the sliminess! :shudders:). Rolling out of bed at dawn on a rest day to watch the 1992 Olympic torch pass by on its way to Barcelona. I am still awestruck picturing the giant cross of the basilica at the Valle de los Caídos outside of Madrid…

But the Spanish vineyards? The herds of sheep dotting the hillsides? The rock walls and the birds and the clouds and the coast and the towns and the music? No. Not so much.

Apparently I haven’t learned much in the 19 years since. I still hurry along, intent on the goal instead of the path itself.

What would happen if I start patting myself on the back when I water the garden, and again after weeding my snap pea plants, instead of only when I eat the peas after two months?

Doing so probably won’t increase the harvest… but I expect I’ll enjoy it more.

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