I am three months into preparation to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (aka The Way of St. James) beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ending at Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I still have several months of preparations to make…but am now, today, making my intention public.
Four years ago, my son gave me a movie, “The Way” with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. The movie follows the journey of a father that walks The Camino de Santiago for his son. Touching, riveting…and for me…and instant intuitive punch in my soul that I needed to go on that walk, that God has something waiting for me there. His truth, a lesson, my mission…something.
I started thinking of the Camino, but then, had a second brain surgery, a traumatic event with my daughter, a cross country move. Basically, life got a little crazy. My plan was to go with my son. But like I said, other events intervened. Our family was hit with illness, trauma and a trial process that took all of our focus. At the same time, my husband started a new job and honestly, with no support system to fall back on, our marriage all but disintegrated. I dug myself into a self-protective burrow and stayed there. I took on a new job that thankfully sucked all of the energy out of my body and soul every day, a protective layer of stress that continued to protect me from dealing with all that life had dished out to me. Chaos was my drug of choice. Safety lived in focusing everywhere in my life except where I needed to focus…on myself.
That was until my husband and I went to counseling. Our marriage was in trouble and despite loving each other very much, it was beyond our abilities to “fix it”. So… it began. Marriage counseling led to grief counseling…which led to what you may think of as a Pandora’s box of dealing with issues I had been so busy surviving that I never allowed myself to feel them, grieve for and heal from them. Before I knew it, I was smack in the middle of a rigorous, viscerally painful, physically depleting journey through being a victim, grieving for losses and finally, the path to healing.
I am still healing. We, my husband and family, are still healing. Now, that my mind has been cleared of old, childhood cobwebs that clouded every corner of thought, every decision, every action, every feeling…I am actually able to feel healing in all areas of my life. I feel the clouds in my mind lifting and there is more spring in my step. I am becoming whole.
So, in December 2016, as I set forth to plan out my goals for 2017,the Camino kept coming to mind. I kept pushing it away and writing down other goals, easier goals, goals that didn’t scare the shit out of me: finish my book, improve my health and fitness, learn a new language. Somehow, the Camino would flash before my eyes as I wrote and would continually brush it aside. Finally, the Camino won. I opened my planner to the “Goals” page and wrote it down. “Walk the Camino de Santiago this year”. Instantly, it felt right. I walked downstairs told my husband. He is my biggest cheerleader.
At the present moment, I am planning, training, buying gear, mentally preparing for an almost 500 mile walk through France and Spain. I am physically expecting and diligently working on a miracle. My body is not great physical shape at the moment. I need to lose weight, increase my stamina, strengthen my neck and elongate the muscles on the left side of my back. I have zero backpacking experience. I have never been athletic and I am frankly scared as hell. The logistics of training my body for this are daunting. The idea of having a backpack on my back for so long is a little intimidating, but I am determined and focused on this goal.
So, this is what I do know: The Camino is calling me. God has something there for me and I am going to find it. My son is not going. He hasn’t expressed interest int he Camino in a few years. We haven’t discussed it…I don’t have the words to explain how I feel about it. What I can verbalize is this. The Camino is calling me. I am going alone. I need to be there starting the trek alone. Currently, the plan is for my husband to meet me there around the midpoint and finish with me, but the beginning, the most difficult part, the scariest part, this part is for me.
Over the past year I have learned that the only person who can really protect me, care for me and be there for me is, well, me. All others may fall away. Well-meaning friends and family may not agree with the methods and steps I have taken to heal my life, but at the end of each day, I know I took up for myself that day. I did not abandon myself. I did not give in to fear, habit or intimidation. I love and cherish myself and my body. Other people in my life are like one of two ways I think of icing: Either a delightfully decadent addition to something that I happily enjoy or a poison-filled substance that can cause a toothache, causing me to avoid it all costs.
I am blessed, chosen, strong and free. I pattern my life every day to reach the following six core desired feelings and somehow everyday events arise that bring these feelings into my life: audacious, affluent, authentic, at ease, agile and alchemistic. Slowly, I am putting one foot in front of the other that will lead me to Spain, where I will be at ease, while I walk audaciously on that treasured old pilgrimage. My body will be agile. I will feel affluent in mind, body and spirit. The alchemy of my surroundings will maintain an air of magic and I will know the same thing I know now: I am authentically me and I have never in my life been more happy to have such an awesome life.
I don’t know how many girls from small town Mississippi have walked the Camino, or how many people with Chiari Malformation and scoliosis, brain surgery survivors, cancer survivors, sexual and emotional abuse survivors or how many nurses, moms, wives, sisters or daughters. I am certain many have gone before me and many will go after I have long completed my mission. What I do know is this- I walk this for myself and for all of us. All of us who have been told either verbally or non-verbally that we “can’t” do something, all of us that have been held back, overlooked, silenced, oppressed or cast aside. We matter. We are strong. We can do anything we believe we can. The only real limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.
As Glenn Sisk said to me a few years ago, when asking his advice about believing in myself, “It’s all between the ears.” Truer words were never spoken. Thank you Glenn.
I will continue to post about my preparations along the way.
Until then…my wish for you is that you will be brave and truly live your story.