Recently I was reminded of a childhood song my children learned in camp. The first few lines are:
Don’t walk in front of me I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend…
When my children were very little, we often used the song as a much-needed diversion during long and boring travels. Taking turns, we tried to outdo each other by changing the verses to something sillier such as, “Don’t hop in front of me.”
The song came back to me in full force this Passover vacation. Israel is a country in full bloom during the intermediate days of the holiday. Israelis often love to take to the forests and hills and glens to hike and camp. This year my husband and I found ourselves on the trail of Nahal Amud, up north.
I could not have ordered a better day. I am reminded of my favorite fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I am a bit like Goldilocks. I have a “perfect” scenario in my head for hiking. The day we traversed Nahal Amud met these expectations. The weather was not too hot and not too cold. The hike was not too hard or too easy. I don’t like to hike on totally deserted trails. Yet, I need my space. If it is too crowded I become crabby. The trails at Nahal Amud were just right.
My husband and I greatly enjoy each other’s company on these rare days we are both off work. Like the song, we enjoy walking next to each other some of the time. But there are also those moments where one of us walks ahead and one lags behind.
As I walked a bit ahead, I found myself lost in thought. I basked in the joy of the moment. Often it is too easy to be “doing” in our rat-race of the twenty-first century with cell phones and emails and constant expectations. My parents taught me well. I am good at writing lists, problem-solving, and checking things off. Yet here, nestled in the solitude amongst the trees, I could just “be.”
Perhaps more than that, I found myself lost in a Jungian moment. As a Jungian psychologist, I am very affected by the symbolic on our path of life. My way of hiking beckoned me to contemplate. We need friendship. We need those moments when we walk next to our friends and family and colleagues. But it is very hard and at times detrimental to always keep pace with others. We must carve out our own individual path in life to feel fulfilled. We must leave our own mark on humanity.
During my trek, I returned to a spiritual discussion I had engaged in with a friend at the Seder. She focused on the collective nature of the Passover experience. We left ancient Egypt as a motley crew of slaves. And we emerged from the desert as a nation. She argued the Seder commemorates most importantly a collective event in our history. I found myself arguing for another perspective. Each year, we are charged by the text of the Haggadah to see ourselves as if we personally left the “straits” of Egypt. In my eyes, it is all too easy for the recitation of the Haggadah to become rote. Like a boring history book of facts, the words of the Seder have the potential to become dry and impersonal when we just see the “collective event” that took place long ago. Instead, we are charged to make a “yearly pilgrimage” inward and free ourselves from the enslaved places inside.
My way of hiking spoke to me. In the words of the children’s song, at times, we need to walk beside each other and build camaraderie and shared history. And sometimes we hop or skip or swim beside other. But in my second half of life, I want to create a new verse. Sometimes we must walk in front and sometimes we must walk behind. And at times, we even stray off the beaten path of humanity and hearken to a deep inner voice of change.