June 18 – Home and some answers
I am back home in Chestertown and so glad to be here. I loved my trek, but home is where I need to be. I am tired from my walking labors and jet lag. I look forward to spending some quiet time with John, watching the ospreys and hoping for some hummingbirds. I’ll see Henry and visit with friends this weekend. Despite low energy, I have already made an inventory of garden projects that need my attention in short order. Things sure do grow a lot when you are away for 38 days. It looks as if those projects may have to be done at night, as it’s 92 degrees here at midday and feels like 104 (according to both me and Weather Underground.) I was blessed with cool temps on the Camino, so this heat is a real shock to the system.
Walking 500 miles on the Camino was the longest journey of my life. I travelled through rain, sleet and a little sun and crossed an entire country. I walked alone, made friends and was immersed in a unique international culture. It was a gift to have this time to explore and contemplate.
Many people I met had serious physical pain while walking the Camino. Other than tired feet that found comfort overnight, the Camino caused me no physical pain. But, as most of you know, I brought my pain with me. The loss of Sam and the guilt that I could do nothing to save him were my wounds.
I knew that walking 500 miles would not change the fact that Sam is gone. I just hoped that in some way, by making daily progress toward a goal, focusing my energy, I could find a way to live better and find peace.
So, going back to my questions:
How do I feel about this walk ending?
The first thing that comes to mind is what a relief it was not to have do to my laundry when I arrived in Santiago. After 34 days of wringing and hanging wet clothes (the same set over and over), I was thrilled to pick up a small bag that I had sent to Santiago with fresh clothes and real shampoo. Isn’t it silly, the way the mind can prioritize something as trivial as laundry.
Waking up that morning in Santiago and realizing that I didn’t have to pack up, put my boots on and WALK was a relief. Not because I don’t like walking (I still love it) but just because of the change of pace. Variety is so important in our lives. When I departed on the Camino, it was the newest, most exciting thing I had ever done, but after weeks, it became somewhat routine. There were some mornings on the Camino, particularly, following a difficult day or a bad night, when walking felt like an obligation. Though, after settling into rhythm of walking each morning, it seemed like the right thing to do. The last hour of many days was torture, as painful feet and mental and physical fatigue took over. Sometimes I needed Aretha Franklin and the full gospel choir to keep me going during the last hours of each day, so I put on the headphones and pushed forward. On the Camino you may be in a new place every day, but the routine is similar, walk, eat, sleep, suffer, repeat.
Speaking of eating, I will love trying new food when I travel. We had great meals in San Sebastián and in Santiago. But, on the Camino itself, bland, monotonous and not very healthy were the norm. It was frustrating, but in hindsight, I think the unappealing food served a purpose. Being denied the creature comforts we take for granted (healthy food, clean sheets, dry shoes) is part of the process. The Camino peels life back to the basics. You get just what you need. Rather than finding enjoyment in the quality of the food, you must seek it within yourself and from the company of the new people you meet. There were benefits to that, but I am overjoyed to return to healthy food from the farms of Kent County.
Did I find the answers I was seeking?
I know I will never understand why Sam suffered and died from addiction. So, I came on the Camino hoping to decide for myself what caused his problem, if I contributed to it or if I could have done anything differently to change the outcome. On this trek, I think I have finally talked myself into accepting that it doesn’t matter. There is no benefit to dwelling on the negative. After rolling this around in my mind countless times, I have committed myself to focusing on the good memories of our life together, and there were many. As I have told my friends , “happiness is a choice.” And I have made it.
What will I do differently when I return?
#1 LOOK AFTER MY FRIENDSHIPS
My key takeaway from this trip is the importance of friends. An incredible number of friends have come out to support me on this trip. My friends, John’s friends, Henry’s friends, Sam’s friends, friends I didn’t know I had. The encouragement I received before the trek convinced me that I might be able to do it. The constant expressions of support, as I pushed through day after day, cheered me greatly. The substantial contributions to the CU fund were humbling.
I know that I have often gotten caught up in the responsibilities of life and lost touch with friends. I am grateful to have reconnected with many of you through this journey and am committing myself to not losing those important connections again. Expect to hear from me!
#2 TAKE UP SOME NEW ACTIVITIES
My next promise to myself is not to fall back into the comfort of my old routine. As I have grieved Sam’s death, I have thought it might be helpful to take up some new activities to refocus my mind and energy. This is the crossover point. I’m doing it.
In my Day 17 post, I talked about the appeal of new experiences on the Camino, and I have certainly had those. Going forward, I am committed to keeping it interesting. I may take up: painting, photography, writing, serious yoga, meditation, Bible study…any number of things. (I’m taking suggestions.) I am not saying I’ll like them or be any good at them, but they will be new experiences that will allow me to focus my mind and embrace the wonderful world around me.
#3 HELP SOMEBODY
This trek has taught me that I am strong enough to offer help to others in recovery. I am dedicating myself to hands-on work with individuals and families suffering from substance use disorders. I couldn’t save Sam, but perhaps I can help others find a better path to recovery.
I have enjoyed writing this blog. Though many nights, I composed in the fog of exhaustion, I am glad I did it. The exercise of writing has helped me organize my thoughts as I traveled and it will jog my fading memory, as I recall the details of this trek in the future. Thanks to all of you for listening.
I’ve got one more post coming. Look for it tomorrow or the next day.