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!