I'm sitting awake on my 3rd night in Oia, Santorini, where I am at the beginning of a journey which I am taking with my friend Melanie, who is emerssed in the midst of a dream, writing the novel running through her veins (more on that to come later) and I have had this sense for most of the day that I need to write about our friendship because for the whole of the three days we have been in this majestic place my heart has been in shutdown mode.
Arriving in Oia we were met with this amazing sight, this was a place I had been told was in a sense a pilgrimage, a place undescribable, a place only once here, you truly understand what it means to be in Santorini.
But with that we also met an upward, downward, steep, rocky, uneven terrain of carved out stairs, hundreds and hundreds of them leading to our villa. I remember after our guide lead us through the streets of Oia and we reached the corner leading down into our resort Oia Mare I froze. How was I, for the next week, going to navigate up and down this labyrinth of stairs?
I thought I was keeping my cool, mentally and internally telling myself, "this will be ok Sarah, piece of cake" when really, I was petrified. For someone with RP, this was a disaster zone.
Our first night, we waited, we saw the most amazing sunset (nothing will ever again match this) and then we headed out for dinner, Melanie, well equipped with torches leading the way. To get into the heart of Oia the path leads up, and not three steps in, all my fears came flooding in, I began panicing, with each step, I felt less and less confident, I couldnt think straight, the darkness became darker, closed in, the steps flat, the light from the torches dimmer. I kept saying in my mind, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't, I can't". We passed a woman who looked me in the eye, and barked at me "you dont need the torch, its bright enough" and four steps later I fell.
Then the real panic set in. I wanted to go back to the villa, I wanted to jump off the cliff face, I wanted to go home. I knew none of those options were possible, I knew I would not ben able to see to get back to the villa without Melanie leading the way, I couldnt jump off the cliff from fear of falling, and going home was not going to happen even if I tried. I started panicing, banging my forehead with my torch, eyes closed, holding back tears, but so desperately wanting to cry hysterically.
Then I heard this voice over my right shoulder "come on, don't give up, don't let this beat you, keep going" it was Melanie, waiting and encouraging, and believing in me, more than I could ever believe in myself. I still didnt move, but she stood and waited, and after a few minutes and self talk I got up, continued the journey upward to the restaurant. She didnt say anything, she kept going on as though nothing had occured, keeping the situation as normal as possible.
But this was not the end, and all I could think about was after dinner the harder part began, the downward journey. We took the path back down, like two snails, step by step by step and I hated every step, and hated that I could not enjoy any second of the journey and once back in the safety of the villa started thinking again, how can I get out of this place. For the next two days I went into shutdown mode emotionally, meaning, I also became silent, very internal, a nothingness.
Until today, after having a sleepless night, trying to work out how I was going to get out of here, I woke up, got up, had breakfast and as we embarked on our day and for somecreason I thought "take today, one step at a time" and simply thats what I did. The result was, yes I went slower, took longer, became more focused, didnt look up as much, but I felt safer, more connected to the stepping action and made in to the top thinking I will not tumble to my death (not to say that that may not happen in the next few days), but today I felt safe.
As a result I ended up sharing a fantastic day exploring Fira, another part of Santorini, enjoying the company of my beautiful friend. Toward the end of the day, I received an email from my Mum, she said "One does not need to go bungee jumping to have an experience, that it is in the smaller where profound experience occurs" and this made total sense and finally gave me the gateway to express to Melanie how I felt about the falling, and she knew how important it was for her to push me in that moment where I sat on the stairs in the dark, wanting to just run and hide somewhere.
In that moment I literally felt my heart shift. After 20 years of knowing her and having her in my life, she saw me at my most vunerable, and she didn't desert me. I hold so tightly to the importance of not giving showing my complete fear of going blind and suddenly Im in a place where I have to surrender to it. Even though I have had moments of fear in the dark, crowds, new places, stairs, nothing will ever match this, and she got me through this.
So although this is the place where dreams are becoming reality, this is also becoming a place where fears are faced. I am yet again reminded why I am friends with Melanie.......for that I am truly grateful.