Day after day walking with Moritz was so fun and so easy. The tree-lined path was well-marked and beautiful. I liked who I was: easy-going, funny, insightful, patient, a good listener. I barely recognized myself!* And he was the same way with me.
Whenever we had a decision to make—when or where to stop, what to buy for snacks—he always said, “As you like.” The only time he insisted on his way was with the bunk beds. “If anyone in my family ever found out that I took the bottom bunk they would never speak to me again!” So that settled that. But for everything else it was, “As you like.”
He never said this in any kind of snarky, grit-your-teeth kind of way, but in a sincere, relaxed way. Of course my reaction was almost always, “No, no—you decide!” These were the only kind of disagreements we had: who was going to be the most polite, the most generous, the most giving.
Well, okay, there was one another time I didn’t get my way. This was the closest we came to a fight. We had reached the wine fountain at Bodegas Irache. This place is famous (and infamous) for have free wine on tap. All we could drink!
But good Pilgrims are not greedy. Good Pilgrims think about their fellow travelers. Plus, no one wants to get the label Pig Pilgrim. Pig Pilgrims use up all the hot water, eat loads of food at the free food stands and don’t leave a donation. At community meals they leave their dirty plates on the table.
You risk getting another label at Bodegas Irache. If you are dehydrated and tank up on the free wine you will then get the label Plastered Pilgrim. So first we drank up our water bottles and then refilled them from the water fountain.
“No, no you first. It’s your cup!”
“But no, I insist!”
“It wouldn’t be proper. After you!”
“No, please. After you.”
Honestly—we sounded exactly like Mac and Tosh, the Loony Tunes gophers who have British accents and are unfailing polite to one another.
I was the one who finally caved in. I took exactly three little sips of the warm rosé. Ick. Moritz did the same and we got a good laugh about how much time we spent arguing over the cup and how little on actually drinking the wine.
I knew we were behaving this way because we were new friends making a good impression, being our best selves. It couldn’t last. Or could it?
Exactly what happens in our close relationships where we get so relaxed with one another that we forget to be polite? (Friendship) What happens when a trait so adorable becomes so annoying? (Marriage) What happens when I no longer put your desire ahead of mine? (Friendship and marriage) And I don’t mean this in any kind of doormat, slavish way but in a loving caring way.
What I want to say here is that I came home and decided to treat everyone as if I had just met them. It changed my behavior enormously. Of course I wasn’t consistent and I found it near impossible with my mother. But the big take-away is that it felt better to say, “As you like,” than “I want it my way.” It was so much easier not to point out a mistake or correct an error. So much less energy to admit my error and laugh it off. It was a kind of loving surrender that felt like a favor to myself. In fact, it felt so good that I felt kind of guilty.
One last thought about “as you like.” It has to be a give and take. Sometimes even after Moritz said, “As you like,” we’d discuss and then we would go with his preference. That made things equal. One person can’t always be the giving one. Each person needs an opportunity to be generous otherwise it can become a power struggle. Then ironically you are demanding in a loud voice, “You eat the last piece of cheese!” (Swear words implied.)
Mac and Tosh would not approve.
*Later on the Camino I became a Peevish Jerk but I’m saving that for another post.