Today is my last full day of walking before I trek the final 10K into Santiago in the morning. As you can imagine, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting on the previous 781 kilometers. It feels like I will be processing and metabolizing and understanding all that the Camino worked in me for many days, weeks and months to come. I plan to continue blogging so I will share more as it continues to unfold.
One thing that feels very front and center in the last couple of days is the fresh awareness of how much I need and want relationship in my life. As an introvert, I do enjoy my alone time and feel refreshed and rejuvenated by lots of it. But, if I get too much of it, I really do start to feel a physical-type ache in my soul. Isolation also works very well with the self-protection defenses I’ve learned in an attempt to stay safe emotionally and avoid getting hurt. Of course, this always backfires but it sure makes a great argument for responding to fear in the moment. Even though, I wrote a book about “Friendship For Grownups” it is an ongoing stretching and growing for me .
I’ve been so very grateful for these last lessons I’ve been learning on the Camino. After twelve long, lonely days after Claus left, something broke open a few days ago and I’ve made some great friends and had some of the best times of the whole journey. I’ve been reflecting on the key, critical and integral role relationships have played all along the Way.
Certainly, Claus being the most influential. On Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” there is always a “guide” who enters the myth early and stays with the “hero” long enough to impart and imprint his wisdom but he always has to leave so the hero can internalize this wisdom for herself. Early on in our journey together, Claus commented that it sounded like I had taken this year of traveling to experience an interior journey similar to the book, “Eat, Pray, Love.” I responded that, because he was teaching me so much, he could be my “Richard from Texas.” He grinned and said, “I would rather be Felipe.” I parried quickly with, “How ‘bout we compromise and you just be yourself, ‘Claus from Denmark.’” I didn’t know at that time he would end up being all three – and more. Had our Caminos not intersected on that first evening, I don’t think I would have found “The Way” I was longing to walk but needed a guide to find.
Running into my new friends, Brian and Peri, in Molinaseca (and later in Sarria) was manna in the desert direct from the hand and heart of God. I needed the richness of connection through the depth of conversation. The laughter was a balm to my scorched Meseta soul and the safety and acceptance that proved substantial and trustworthy even after two bottles of wine between us was healing.
All along the way, there were pockets of meaningful connections and conversations over café con leches. Victor, the horse trainer/retired economist who found life again in the simple things. Armando the Brazilian grandfather who is reevaluating his relationship with his adult children. Nick from Australia who wonders if all his degrees have really taught him anything of what’s truly important. Ji Su from Korea who simply feels restless and is walking to find rest. Candace who started in Switzerland and who hiked into Santiago yesterday on her 99th day of walking and plans to take a boat to America with the same hope that has been in the eyes of generations before her. Each of these encounters reminded me how much I love being a Life Coach. I get to do what comes most naturally and make a living from it. Listening. Believing. Seeing. Trusting. Encouraging. So many stories. So many lives. So many similarities between us all.
The most consistent lifeline for me has been my family back home. I created a “Camino Clan” group text before I left and we have kept in constant contact through that thread and blessed FaceTime! Only in the alchemy of family can we grow closer while being so far apart – but it has happened once again.
A few days ago, in the thick of my loneliness pit, Claus challenged me to drop my invisible “No trespassing” sign that I often unconsciously wear and be open to conversations that may begin benign but could lead to the kind of connection that I crave. Once again, his “word in season was like apples of gold.” It was the following evening that I met my new friend, Leanne, and we talked for hours and something in that encounter quieted my nervous system.
It was as if the floodgates were opened. The very next morning, I crossed paths with a young woman I had met the first week and we walked much of the rest of the day together. Last night, I stumbled upon a group of pilgrims I’ve passed many times but we’ve never spoken. I pulled up a chair and joined in the conversation and heard myself laugh so loud and so often that I feared being obnoxious. Who was this person feeling so free around a table with a bunch of strangers?
I’ve saved the best for last – YOU! How can I thank you for walking this journey with me? I have thought of you throughout the day. Eager to share things with you at the end of the day that I’ve seen or heard or thought or felt. Your comments have touched my heart and urged me on more times that I can count. I have felt your love and support and prayers and I know they have carried me at times when I didn’t feel like walking on another kilometer. I am going to miss “talking” to you everyday but I don’t want this relationship to end. I will continue to blog but it will be weekly instead of daily. I’ll try to get on a routine but, in the meantime, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll keep you posted. We still have a couple more days walking the Camino together but I wanted to tell you now – Thank You from the bottom of my heart for your friendship.