He came across us behind my house in the nature reserve – a place untouched by chemicals or insecticides or anything that resembled anything other than nature. Ever. It’s beautiful up there; all cowslips, orchids, meadowland; the most divine place you could imagine. Me and a fellow BPD friend had gone for a walk and were sitting in the sunshine, on a bench in the flowers, listening to the birds and watching the butterflies. We’d been talking for twenty minutes about our past suicide attempts, the pain of life, the future. We wondered if we had a purpose in life. We were lost and we were chained to our diagnosis. We knew that much.
He walked up the steep slope on the old miners path that leads across the nature reserve and on through the Peak District, up towards the Scottish borders if you stick on it long enough. He had a small orange backpack. I guessed he was barely twenty five. He smiled at us: a real smile. Something I don’t get often enough, and especially not from strangers.
“Hey,” I said. “You look like you’ve walked further than us.”
“Ha.” He walked over to us, still smiling. “You could say that. Actually I’ve been walking for forty three days now.”
“I started at Lands End and I’ve been kinda all over. I sleep in the wild….I just….walk the land. It’s a sort of pilgrimage to freedom.”
We talked more, and he told us he hadn’t eaten for four days, had traveled the whole time with no money, and only accepted food if it was offered. He was possibly the most serene person I’ve ever met. Totally lucid, totally calm, and completely happy. I said I’d run and get him some food but he declined, saying he’d walk another twenty miles over the hills today and see what it held for him. I told him Freedom was something I’d always looked for. He seemed to get what I was saying because he took some time to look us up and down and come to a decision.
“Do you mind if I give you a little piece of paper with some things written on it?”
“Not at all.”
“It’s just I don’t give them out to everybody….but you two…” he tailed off.
He reached into a waterproof pocket and handed me a small square of paper. It fluttered out of my hand in a sudden warm breeze and I reached into the wild flowers to pick it up. He smiled at us, then said, “Meeting you has been nourishment for me. I wish you both good luck on your own travels.” It felt like a blessing.
Then he turned and walked up into the top of the meadow and was lost to sight over the brow of the hill. We looked at each other in the sunlight.
“What just happened?”
“I don’t know, but if someone came along now and told me that was an Angel, or some weird shit like that I wouldn’t argue with them.”
“What’s on the paper?”
I read it slowly. And when I’d finished I couldn’t think of anything more calming and reassuring to say to two people with BPD sitting on a bench talking about their own horrors. It was as if he’d been sent from some Karmic place to tell us the Gods will make everything ok. I didn’t know his name, and I’d never see him again. He wasn’t selling anything, refused money from us, and food, and his face was the most serene picture of total love and acceptance I’d ever seen. Without a doubt, this was the kind of spiritual experience that entire religious movements are built upon.
I read the words on the paper aloud. In the sunshine they made sense. In the context of our journeys they made sense. They just made so much fucking sense for every reason. For a brief moment, the pain had gone, replaced by something much, much better.
Here are those words –
“I am a wanderer, a pilgrim. Walking without money and only the few items I carry, sustained through the kindness of others. Unaffiliated with any group or organisation and free from any teaching or dogma, I share a simple message as I walk, an encouragement for courage, an invitation for inquiry.
What is freedom? Can it be willed, gained or lost? Is it in wealth, possessions or circumstance? If so what happens when these things change? Is freedom a thought, an idea or an experience? Is it in the past, future or the present? Is it of the world within?
I challenge you to bravely meet life in each moment, willingly and gratefully meet hurt, joy, love, loss, pain, pleasure or whatever life offers you and know that which is free in meeting it. That which is beyond the conditions of the world, that which is always free.
Rather than a destination or a goal, freedom is a way of being and is always ours to choose regardless of history, race, gender, or personal situation. I invite you to make this choice, exploring, shedding and transcending the prisons and limitations we have created individually and collectively and coming to know that which is always free.
Thank you for your kindness.”
Freedom. Isn’t that what we’re all searching for?
Good luck to all of you, on all of your travels and with all of your searching. We/YOU deserve to find freedom. We’re all, just simply, pilgrims on our Borderline Personality Disorder path. And we can find a beautiful destination. Love to all of you.