“Today, 40 sleeps away, I am looking forward to the simplicity and the time with myself. What a gift it will be to only be responsible for myself and to only really be concerned with my most basic needs. A place to sleep, food to eat, healthy legs to carry me, clothes on my back, and time to put one step in front of the other. And, not to say the Camino is the same as Easter, but I do hope to feel a transformation at the end of this experience. “
-March 15, 2105
Transformation is big word. Not so much in the letters that comprise this idea of change, but in a realized and measurable context – this is a big word. When I arrived back in the states on June 10, 2015 all I really felt was exhaustion. Physical exhaustion, feet that protested with every move, and an unexpected exit from Barcelona that left me feeling like the thing I needed the most was distance from the entire experience.
After a few quiet days with Chris, I went back to work and struggled to find some kind of description or framework for this journey other than to say “it was hard.” Or “I am glad to be home”. I remember saying to someone, “I just need to put it all on a shelf for a while and get back to my life.” I felt the need to focus at work. I was already selfish enough to leave for seven weeks, I didn’t want to be perceived as not taking my re-entry seriously. But also, I think it was a good excuse to not discuss this mammoth experience with my co-workers and friends because I didn’t know how.
I wasn’t sure what it meant. I couldn’t remember why I did it, or justify why it was important. I most certainly could not meet the emotional expectation people had. Emotionally, I was estranged from the experience. I knew when people, expressing their own excitement, asked “How was it?!” what they wanted to hear was “Amazing!” This was a feeling I could not muster. For all of the public and financial support I received, I felt like my truthful response would let people down.
My reality was I needed 10 weeks of physical therapy to walk without severe pain and I there was some guilt about the fact that I didn’t feel how I was supposed to feel – transformed. All of these lovely people were generous (both financial and emotional) and I felt as if my attitude and emotions were in the way of making good on what I owed them. My story.
There have been lots of moments where I have tried to look back and write about the experience. I failed miserably. I have tried to edit the thousands of images and quickly I am either in tears or agitated, and certainly very tired. I went through a lot of effort setting up a website before my departure to chronicle the experience. It was hard technically to connect and frankly, I was so spent at the end of each day, it was too hard to then blog about it all.
So, on that shelf is where my experiences have remained for the last 10 months.
In the past few weeks, my Camino has been on my mind constantly. One year from starting my travels. One year from meeting all of the people I have come to love. One year from all of the incredible sights and landscapes. And one whole year from all of the physical struggle and accomplishment. I have spent the weeks catching up with my Camino family and friends, looking at old pictures and videos, trading stories, and remembering: the good, the bad, and the very ugly. For the first time my statements about “never walking again, I swear!” are turning into “maybe someday” or “maybe next year.”
What I have found are the sentimental feelings I thought I was supposed to have last June. And I realized that the end of the experience was yet to come. The end for me has not meant the day that I arrived in Santiago or the day I arrived home. They say that each pilgrim walks his or her own Camino, and for some the journey begins when the walking is complete. Apparently, this is the case with mine.
It’s the end of April 2016. I am writing again. I have started to edit photos. I have updated the website. And now, the journey is beginning to come into focus.
So here and now, I start the process of telling my story. It remains to be seen if I will feel transformed when I reach the “end” (whatever that means), but for now I am really enjoying the chance to feel it all and begin to understand.