The Camino One Year After

28 03 2019

It’s so hard to believe that my Camino began one year ago today. One year ago today I finished cramming the last items into my backpack. Despite the days, weeks and months I spent hemming and hawing over what to bring, weighing and reweighing each and every item both literally and mentally, I had to finally bite the bullet and get on with it.

Despite all the weeks of prep there were still piles of papers and tax paperwork leaving their residual husks lying there on the table like a guilty secret that needed to be swept under the rug. But there was no more delaying the journey. No matter the best of intentions there were things undone, and these included my mental state. The stress of heading out for five weeks had been looming like the low hum of a light bulb about to burn out. The buzzing was audible but most of the time I could ignore it. But now it was making me anxious. The adrenaline coursing through me had me trembling as I rushed about the house trying to tidy it as much as possible so that my husband wouldn’t have to stare at the detritus strewn about for more than a month. There was excitement at the core of the anticipation, but it was iced with doubt and fear. Happy would not be how I’d describe it.

You would think taking the first steps of the Camino de Santiago would feel empowering. I keep hearing a running loop of quotes about steps, those you’d most likely find on a paperweight or inspirational poster at your doctor’s office. I cannot seem to think of the ending of any of them… “One small step for man…”, “The journey of a lifetime begins…”, but I don’t feel particularly inspired and I am sobbing as I walk to the first leg of my long journey. It feels more like I’m being ripped from the comfort of my daily life. I ponder why am I doing this. Where’s the “abort mission” button? How can I turn around? Maybe I’ll just fly to Barcelona as planned and spend a few weeks traveling throughout Europe. I’ve got connections from being in the wine business. I could just go visit all my winemaker friends, villas in Tuscany, chateaux in France.

But there’s my friend Suzy who’ll be waiting for me in Barcelona. Mind you I’ve only actually met her once at a songwriting conference in Nashville. And then there’s this pack and gear that I’ve spent countless hours collecting and obsessing over. Hours and hours of reading chats that debate how many pairs of socks and underwear I’ll be allotted (I’ve exceeded that with three each). And there are all my friends and supporters I never knew I had who I’ve been bragging to about this grand journey. I’ve told them I’d walk for them or their loved ones. Some have sent monetary gifts of support and some have sent photos of loved ones.

But most importantly there are those out there that I couldn’t promise I’d walk for them, at least not in person. I will walk for my loved ones who have passed so that they will find peace. I walk for troubled living souls so that they are soothed. Most of all I will walk for myself. May I find peace with these souls departed and near.

I understand that somehow I’ve found myself lost and must walk through the undergrowth and brush to get out. It would be easier to stay in the little fort I’ve created. Covered in spiny thorns and branches it protects me, but it’s dark in the safety of that cocoon. It gets tight sometimes when I struggle and sometimes hard to breathe. So I will walk.

I expect that the sun will warm me, the rain will cleanse me and the fresh air will fill my lungs and come forth with song. So no, it is too late to give up now.

I get some hugs from friends and compose myself as the ferry pulls back from the dock. I’m comforted knowing that there’s no turning back now.

Incredible in retrospect to see myself that day, a mere child so naive to what was just around the corner, fresh and wide eyed and yes very scared. With one year under my belt here I laugh to myself thinking how different my outlook is. I know now that this journey will never be over, but the Camino was the realignment I needed. It’s like I’d been trodding along for 46 years until someone grabbed my shoulders from behind and turned my body 180 degrees towards them. They held me and looked me right in the eyes as I looked at them in surprise and they said,”Hey not there, there…” and pointed off to my left shoulder. A little reset that took 33 days and more than 500 miles. But really the hardest steps were those before I got to St. Jean Pied de Port. The fact that I didn’t turn to that spirit guide and say “No buddy, I’m all good” and turn back to my previously selected route.

That was the hardest part, to tell my rational, logical mind “So I had this crazy idea! A really quiet thought has been tiptoeing around up here and whispering to me and I think it’s my calling or purpose or something so you’re off duty for the next few months cuz we are dropping everything to walk across Spain.”

Some days it still feels like it was a dream. Or was I awake on The Way and in a dream now? When I can I try to bridge the chasm between Camino life and my life today as much as I can.

I wish all the peregrinos of 2019 the very best. May you travel safely and receive the gifts that wait for you along your journey. Buen Camino!

Read blog post from a year ago https://wp.me/phJxm-pP

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