Camino: On Drafting a New Contract and Opening My Heart


In less than 24 hours, I embark to walk Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James, a 500-mile trek across Spain associated with healing. When I made the plans, I questioned whether or not I would have the courage to go through it. I bought fully-refundable tickets to give myself options to bow out. During my last doctor’s visit, I was half hoping she would say that I wasn’t healthy enough to walk it.

I have also been tempted to make the pilgrimage a work trip. First I spent hours on a book proposal, outlining in detail what I would learn along the way. Then I pitched a series of columns on my adventure. Finally, I dreamed up a documentary about the pursuit of hope and healing. I hurried to Best Buy to buy the Osmo Mobile 2 to hold my phone so I could capture every minute. As I stared at it, I realized it was just another way of opting out of the hard work that needs to be done – facing my demons and feeling uncomfortable as I meet my naked self, without distractions.

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, this year has been one of transformation and change, of letting go and rebirth. I feel as though I have done the work of 30 years of psychotherapy in the last nine months. I’m not sure I have ever cried so hard or wrestled as intensely with such a range of different emotions. I’ve uncovered the source of patterns of behavior and thought that lead to pain, and I’ve touched my own power and heard my own truth for the first time in my life.

One of the most powerful exercises has been to draft a contract that I signed at birth – a way of being and operating in the world that has led to suffering. Mine began:

I, Theresa Lynn Johnson, promise to meet the needs of those around me to the best of my ability, even when doing so means sacrificing my own needs. I vow to put others before me every day, silencing my own wants in order to satisfy theirs and to make them feel as comfortable as possible. I shall abide by this contract in sickness and in health, even if it results in chronic depression and anxiety. I shall muster through the angst and distress to meet my obligations, looking to the next life as the only way to achieve the freedom I desire.

The work of Camino, my intention with every step I take on the path, is to draft a new contract. I started today:

I, Therese Borchard, agree to adhere to my own truth in word and in action to the best of my ability every day. I vow to live according to my own wisdom even if it doesn’t align with the philosophies and belief of influential people in my life, to risk their rejection in order to be true to myself. I surrender the urge to please others in order to keep order in my life. I agree to tolerate chaos and discomfort if it leads to peace, to trudge the uneven and winding path to serenity, even if it provokes temporary discord. I promise to pay attention to the sources of joy in my life and to chase that joy and aliveness with the same determination and drive that I pursue my work ambitions. I promise to be good myself, to treat myself like the royalty that I am.

Anais Nin once wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”

That day has arrived for me. And I can only hope that the blossoming will continue with each step on the sacred path of Camino.

I won’t be posting here for six weeks because I’m serious about unplugging and soaking up the experience in its fullest. However, I will be praying for all of you – and especially those readers who have reached out to me in pain. I will pray for peace and joy for you, too.

Talk to you in June!

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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26 Responses
  1. Michael Yuda

    This will be such an awesome experience for you! And I love the change from the original contract to the new one. I will be thinking of you and looking forward to hearing all about it!!!

  2. Renata

    Will be thinking about you and praying every single day for you. Go with expectant faith!

    You may not be writing to us, your faithful readers, but you’ll surely be in our hearts and prayers during this precious pilgrimage.

    Tomorrow is the Eastern Orthodox Easter. How fitting to embark this Sunday.

    God watch over you and grant you His healing peace and presence and joy!

  3. Diane

    Your sacred self travels the Camino…the real, truthful, full self.
    Prayers will be with you, make no doubt. Please allow any pain to disperse
    in places of your choosing.
    May the Lord bless you, sweet , courageous girl and may He keep you always
    in the place of your joy.
    I am with you in connection.

  4. Kate

    God bless you Therese. May good St. James be with you on the path, interceding for your healing and peace. We are praying for you. Be safe and be well

  5. Connie Mills

    Dear Therese, I too feel I have finally gained some insight of my truth. I am the bipolar blonde. I thought it was humorous naming myself as such..and most recently…not so funny anymore. I am 61 and been BP since very young. I have loved, lost, and condemned mybeautifulself over the years. A 22 year marriage cost me knowing my 2 incredible Sons now 25 and 30…and they are angry too. To keep this short, I began running while in the UK at 40. I remember the first time getting through “the wall” at the end of my 1st 5k. There was another runner took my arm and guided me over the finish when I thought my body was going to implode as he too wanted to see me finish and would not accept anything less. I love you as you have helped me cross that line to awareness Therese. Finding your posts when I bravely retired my flip phone a few mos ago has changed my life. That and quitting pot after 20 plus years. I don’t wanna be dead anymore. I’m sure it will taunt me again but I now know it’s not real. You will speak tongues at some points of your walk and I got your arm girl. Can’t wait to read all about it.

  6. sistermarykathleen roth

    Happy Holy Pilgrimage, Therese! Thank you in advance for your prayers and fortitude! May Jesus and Mary be with you every moment along the Way! God bless you!

  7. Mary

    Good luck Therese!! I support and honor your commitment to unplug. I will pray you find peace and strength. Please let us know all about your journey when you return!!

  8. Rose

    Thank you for always sharing your truth. Your contracts resonate with me deeply and brought me to tears. I will be keeping you in my thoughts during your walk. Ever onward.

  9. Mary Hogarth

    Dear Therese,

    Wishing you many healing blessings as you embark on this wonderful adventure! I will be praying for you daily. Know that you are a bright light in the darkness of so many, and mostly that you are loved just as you are. With each step you take, may God bless you fully and always.
    Can’t wait to hear all about it!
    With love and gratitude,

  10. Toshinori Kawasseh

    I was a pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela many years ago. Let the magic of Camino de Santiago touch you from deep within to without.

    Always follow your dreams and fight for them with faith… May love always be your guide in every moment of your life.

    Enjoy your wonderful journey. Good luck!

  11. Laura

    Best wishes to you, Therese, on your special voyage…it sounds marvelous! I will be praying for your spiritual healing and growth. ❤️

  12. Cynthia S Alden

    Bravo, Theresa! What an experience, one that will continue to reveal itself & you long after it’s over.

  13. Nicole Sheppard

    Way to go Therese! We are so proud of you, and cannot wait to hear about it when you are done. You are an inspiration. Thank you for all you do.

  14. Jenny

    Thinking of you Therese on your journey and immensely looking forward to reading all about your time
    & journey in beautiful spain. Just trying to keep faith, discovered the work of psychologist Lindsay Gibson recently and experiencing so much clarity from the affirmation “The truth will set you free,” including being only truthful to ourselves, writing, reading and talking with safe others without layers of self- sabotaging defences from learned behaviour. Truth can be so liberating you feel it immediately and a sense of unburdened, even among the extreme emotional pain, fear & guilt. That’s the real authentic us & it feels good to know it’s there, what we are capable of.
    Best Wishes to all.

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