Seven weeks from last night, I board a plane to Paris and will arrive at St. Jean Pied de Port the next day to start my six-week hike along the Way of St. James, or the sacred pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago. Along with my 15-pound backpack of essentials, I bring along some of the anxiety and grief I’ve experienced this year. I suspect it will accompany me for part of the trip, but I’m hoping to unload it at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of St. James the Apostle are buried.
The anxiety is a result of waking up from my slumber, which happened at some point in 2017. I never intended this to happen. I was perfectly fine remaining in my goody-two-shoes box, a constricted space of no alcohol, caffeine, or gluten — a way of existing, not living, where I silenced my voice to avoid any confrontation and steered the ship far away from the job of getting to know myself, hearing my own voice, and using it.
I wasn’t ready to own my story. Who wants to wake up and feel the hurt you’ve accumulated over the years? I wasn’t ready to recognize the abuse of power in certain situations that forced me to alter my life in ways I didn’t want to. I was afraid to get mad, as I said in the last post.
It was easier to keep on sleeping – even if my mood was fragile. But I definitely woke up. And my life hasn’t been the same since. It’s tempting to assign the feeling of aliveness to the various circumstances in which I first felt it, but my higher conscious knows that I can pursue a sense of wholeness in myself and with my higher power, independent of anything else.
That’s why I’m walking Camino – to discover the fire of life within me and to gain a closer view of God’s grace in my life. Why else would a shopaholic who sleeps with three pillows at night trek 500 miles across Spain with only one change of clothes? I’m certain I will discover pieces of aliveness within me as I walk the trail in solitude and in communion with other pilgrims, as well as be able to process the grief associated with some of my losses.
“We could never learn how to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world,” wrote Helen Keller. My anxiety and tears led me to Camino. It is there I hope to piece together the debris of trauma from my life, assemble it into one stunning work of art, set it aside, and say, “Yes, that’s real. It happened, but it doesn’t define me.” I hope to be able to feel God’s redemptive power in my life, the ability to make myself new in faith.
I want to fully heal, as I never have in all my years of therapy, and allow myself to feel the anger that has been stored in my cells for 40 years. I want to scream as I walk the sacred path, and stop at certain points on the trail to cry on my knees. I want to bond with fellow pilgrims who are walking similar journeys of pain. And I want to arrive at Santiago and feel peace for the first time in my life.
Rainer Marie Rilke once said, “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
I have so many questions for which I desire answers. I know that Camino won’t answer all of them. At the very least, I hope to find hints of aliveness within myself and to know God a little better, so that I can let go of the addictions I’ve formed to fill in the cavities of my soul. I hope to grieve the false sources of aliveness and heal myself and let God heal me, arriving at some kind of wholeness, maybe even to return home a little lighter.