Choices and Changes
I’ve always believed that life is a journey from birth to death on which we are given opportunities to learn and grow.
Who we become, and how our lives turn out depends on the choices we make, and which learning opportunities we accept, which we decide not to pursue.
I think our choices are linked together like a long chain. What we decide at one point, dictates to a degree what our next set of choices will be. The links work together, shaping us into the kind of person we eventually become.
I enjoy reading biographies, and listening to life stories. They remind me how diverse our life choices are, as well as often, how surprising and unexpected the resultant changes can be.
When I reflect on my own life,I often wonder who or where I would be if I had made different choices. I’m sure this occurs to everyone from time to time.
For the past couple of years, I have been engrossed in peoples’ accounts of the Camino. Not one has said they didn’t experience any changes at all – and some are astonishing by the degree of change described.
There are people who, having walked the Camino, went home, quit their jobs, dug up their roots and moved to Spain just to always be close to the Camino, this great agent of change!
I’ve noticed, though, that most of the people I’m learning about have been in the last half of their lives ; whether for economic reasons or otherwise, many pilgrims don’t make it to the Camino until they are older.
Here’s what I’m getting at –
Taking into account what the Camino has taught you about yourself and your life, how do you think that knowledge would have changed the person you became , if you had learned those things when you were younger?
Would you have made the same choices about what you wanted to do with your life, or who you spent it with?How would knowing more about who you are have played out ,if you had known it at the age when you were making life and career choices?
Would you have chosen the same lifestyle? How would the changes brought into your life on the Camino have shaped the choices you made about what you wanted your life to be?
Sister… Thanks for posing this question… Early here… I’m off for Los Arcos. I have thought lots about this so far… I will chew on this today some more…
Peter, I’m looking forward to what you have to say, as always!
Hello Sister, this is a really interesting question, but I think very hard to answer.
I haven’t done my Camino yet (planning it for 2019), but I am sure if I had even known about the Camino and felt led to do it earlier, it would have changed my life into a different direction than the one it took. But I am not unhappy that I didn’t do it earlier, because some good things in my life have come about because of choices that seemed foolish at the time.
For example, if I hadn’t dropped out of university in my youth without completing my degree, I know for sure that a wonderful man who worked with his hands as a carpenter would have been too daunted by a university degree to ask me out. We have now been married over 30 years.
We can’t know how different or how much better our lives would have been if we had walked the Camino earlier. Perhaps we weren’t ready for those changes earlier. The important thing to me is that when I do walk it, I hope I will be open to accept changes in my attitudes and life plans.
Elizabeth, I think what is most important is that the choices we make lead to our happiness, and hopefully contribute to the happiness of others. It sounds to me like that’s exactly what you have done. I’m so glad to hear about your choices and happy marriage. There is nothing more important than love! As long as we are open and listening more with our hearts than with practicalities and transitory concerns, we are bound to make choices that lead us to become the best that we can be. I wish you a wonderful life with your husband, and a wonderful Camino!
I felt better than I have felt in a while today, Sister… But everyday brings new magic. I know tobacco can open doors to Spirit. Not smoking it but offering it. After I stopped at a cafe, to take care of some pressing issues… And had a cafe con leche… And back on the path, I picked up a butt, a woman up ahead of me stubbed out with her toe… I had looked for tobacco on the trail a few days ago but it wasn’t there. Then this morning I had a bit in my palm. I believe in this stuff… Just like I believe a statue of the Virgin Mother can come alive for me and Swallows an Amazons encourage enchantment and Christ the redeemer lives inside me and will take me home. I said… Because the natural is very all powerful out here… Mitakwe Oyasin… All my relations… Just saying it with tobacco flips a switch and all of a sudden, a man is singing a strange song on the other side of the fence and I come upon a smiling woman, hike with the ghost of Spaulding Gray, who I’m still beating myself up about for not coming out and just telling him that No! You can’t kill yourself because you have children, because if you do that, you give your children permission to suicide… Like his own mother did him. He was a friend. Spuddy, he liked being called. I walked with him today. I prayed on him today… it was “who says kaddish for Spuddy Gray, day”, for a while. I got away from him when I started hiking with a happy Spanish family with their jolly whistling young daughter and a nice young Korean woman with good English. At one point, we came upon a young American priest from Kansas with his friend attending. Alb and stole over black cassock, saying mass with Eucharist, chalice, on a bale of hay out in a field… I pointed this out to the family I was with, I waved, Padre waved, we went out were blessed, kneeling in the field… I knew this guys name… From having my ear to the ground, so to speak… Said, you must be father Kerry! How do you know my name? Well, father, all the girls have been talking about you! Anyway… I finished my day by hiking into Los Arcos… Strutting, I should say, listening to Earth Wind and Fire on my little music thing… I don’t usually listen to music on the path… But somebody was talking so loudly on their phone that I quickly passed him, drowning him out. Altogether, another great day on the Camino.
Your question about choices threw me into my victim stuff, which I don’t want to bring up… So I came around to thinking that whatever choices I’ve made in my life to bring myself here on the Camino must have been a lot of the right stuff because this is all very good for me!
I’m so glad you turned away from the victim role,Peter.It sounds like your tobacco blessed the day -I’m mentally sending sweetgrass to bless the days to come as well.I was so crushed when I heard about Spaulding’s choice -I thought for sure in all the ways he’d learned to release his spirits and demons ,he found a way to turn that one around. I miss him. And if in everything your life has brought you, you can face away from.victim memories, you are a victim no longer .Your walkabout self refused to bring him along. I hear joy and blessedness in you, and that in turn blesses both my spirit and my day. Thank you. Your choices have brought you to exactly where you belong -and what could be more perfect?!!
I read your guest blog first thing this morning. And then I went for my training hike and to ponder the question you set forth.
I examined my life’s choices, all of them. Surely, there are some choices that I might have easily bypassed. Some that had painful consequences, but the end result, which is who I am today, probably would not have been the same had I walked the path not chosen.
The Camino brought me peace and allowed me to forgive myself for some of my life’s poor choices. It allowed me to embrace my decisions in life and open my heart to God. I don’t think I was capable of learning those lessons earlier on.
I believe I had to walk the Camino when I walked it. I believe I have to again walk the Camino in a few short weeks and then again in April because I am called to do so.
I strongly believe one is “Called to the Camino”. We cannot decide to walk the Camino without being called to do so. After all, who would want to hike 500 miles in all types of weather, live out of a backpack, walk with all their possessions on their back and sleep in a room with many other pilgrims? I believe only someone who has been “Called” to do such.
I guess in a nutshell, Sister I believe that we have choices to make. But I also believe that we are guided to the proper choice by some higher power or what Bill would call our PGS.
I think you’re right, Arlene. But I pray for all the people who aren’t able to open up and hear their PGS. I think so many of us are blessed to feel we made the right choices and had spiritual support and guidance -and that’s wonderful. Sad though, that not everyone has been as blessed.
Today on the Camino from Castojariz to Fromista I I was thinking about what I have learned from the Camino versus my husband. It is in some ways a totally different experience even though most of it we have been together. So of course what we bring to the camino determines what we are going to take from the Camino! He is mostly a traditional career man, a perfectionist in many ways. He has learned to be more open, softer, accepting and less judgemental. I am a mom of 4, I already do alot of that stuff, but the camino has taught me to relax and accept from others , to think of and for myself and listen to my needs, also that I do not need to be taking care of everything all the time, there are generous people in this world to help me out. This is Just what I was observing for this day! Tomorrow may point out a whole new set of things!
That’s wonderful! The hardest lesson I ever learned was to ask for help when I needed it. It was lifechanging. Im so happy to hear all the affirmation you’re finding on the Camino!
Dear Sister –
My biggest life choice was when I was about 22years old.
I was at Med School, studying to be a doctor. I was also living on Queensland’s Gold Coast, at Mermaid Beach, and I was a very keen surfboard rider. At the time as well I was freelancing as a writer and photographer to Australia’s biggest surfing magazine – Surfing World.
I loved it – surfing and writing and taking photos – more than I loved studying anatomy and biochemistry.
My life changed one day when I was out surfing the morning of a big final end of year exam for medicine. It was biochemistry, which I wasn’t good at, and hated with a passion.
On that particular day the surf was amazing – one of those very special days, and surprisingly, I was the only surfer out. I had the waves all to myself.
I made the decision to stay out surfing, and miss the exam. I made the decision very deliberately, knowing that I would fail the year, and my future career as a doctor would be finito.
But that’s what I did.
My parents fortunately were very patient with me – and my father asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I told him I wanted to write. So I switched my University study across to Arts Law, majoring in Journalism and Mandarine Chinese. I wanted to be a foreign correspondent in Peking.
So, I made a choice that day, out in the waves, and I remember it very clearly. I wonder what my life would have been like had I done that exam, and later graduated as a doctor?
I’m pleased I followed my PGS!
Bill, what a gift to be guided by the water! I’m glad you have kept that memory so clearly. Its a precious thing – as precious as being able to choose what your guides want to lead you to. I’m sure you would have been a successful doctor -not so sure you would have been a happy one.
I miss not being by the sea – but bing in Mudgee here is important foe my wife, because her mum is getting very old now, and she needs to help her. Her mum lives one house over, and her sister lives next door.
It is beautiful here – the town is now a major wine producer, and there are vineyards everywhere.
I would have liked to be a specialist – but I’m pleased things worked out the way they did. Every day I write, and that makes me happy.
I love the sea, but its so long since I have been there! I have always lived close to.water -I need to. Its just part of my soul, my spirit. What kind of specialist would you have chosen to be?
HI Sister –
I liked the Neurologist when I saw him – I think it would be fascinating to see how the neurological system worked.
And the brain.
but psychiatry would be fascinating. That would probably be my pick.
I traveled as a 20-something, then spent 20 years and more getting educated and married, having family, working, etc. Then I was able to start traveling again. My husband isn’t interested in most of the travel I want to do, but he doesn’t mind if I take off, for example on the camino. I have to say that travel now (in my 60s) is VERY different from travel as a young woman. I enjoy it more now and am I am certainly more observant and open now, than then.
Walking the camino as a young woman would have been a very different experience. The biological imperatives alone would have ensured that! I doubt that it would have been a dramatic life-altering event.
I rarely ask myself “what if I had done that, instead of this?” There are infinite variations on what might have ensued. I can’t go back and change, I cannot know what other things might have transpired.
This reminds me of talking with my siblings as a kid, about what we would be like if Mom/Dad had married someone else. Maybe I would have had red hair, for example. But the question is so ridiculously misguided! I wouldn’t be ME if half the genes and/or the life events were different.
And that is the heart of the question, Simply Clare, a mental exercise with a little whimsy thrown in for fun.Since you wouldn’t be you, who might you be?
I wouldn’t be.
I always wondered how others think about this, I have always pondered about life’s choices.
From earliest childhood, I felt that whatever I did, either felt good or bad… not truly knowing why, but in the pit of my stomach.. I would know immediately.
When I look back at my 60 years, there are “forks in the road” that I see and sometimes muse, “what if”.
What If I had had more freedom as a teenager, would I have chosen to move across an ocean to feel free?
What If my father had permitted me to go to University in Vienna, would I have stayed anyway?
What If my mother would have died instead of my father, would I have moved back to Europe?
What If I had been able to full fill one of my dreams of owning a B&B in Ontario, would I have started to travel?
What If I had ignored my parents lawyer to come and see him 5 years after my mothers death – would I have even heard the call of the camino?
These were some of the major forks in the road, and the biggest of course was my decision to immigrate to Canada and to stay after my father’s death. Had I not, I would not have met my husband, would not have the children I have, etc etc
What I do know now is, that having taken those 2 major steps, totally chanced the course of my life – but post Camino, I know that is exactly what I was mend to do….
My past, present and future is tightly connected with this land and the lands of my ancestry in Europe. The Camino plays a major role in it, and by listening to it’s call, has given me peace. I know what my place is in this Universe and what a gift that is.
As to the question, had I walked the Camino earlier in my life, would it have been different… I don’t know, because I never heard of the Camino until 5 years ago, however, I also know now, that I had walked parts a Way of St. James as a child. I just didn’t know then.
No matter who I met walking, no matter how they felt about it at the beginning… everyone was changed. As to the age, I did walk with a few youngsters, 2 young men on and off for quite some time, Brad the Brat and Tristan the Aussie. Both I felt had given themselves the greatest gift by walking the Camino. Tristan and I keep in touch, Brad and I lost sight of each other one morning when all the lessons we needed to teach each other were done, or as I like to think, when the Camino decided that we had learned enough. I walked with 2 young women for a very short while, one I help rescue off the Meseta, and the other one I just prodded along gently when she was ready to quit. One I stay in touch with, the other one miraculously was in Santiago the day I arrived and we were both so happy we had made it – I never knew her name.
I hope that the two I have no contact with took away enough to be able to figure out how to be happy and the other 2 I know they are and did find those answers they were seeking.
The Camino will shower you with gifts as long as you walk with an open heart, accepting and receiving, see what others don’t and hearing what other’s can not.
The trick is to take those gifts with you, back home, back to your life you left behind and now be able to keep on walking your life’s camino, every day, with a better understanding of yourself.
Why go back, well to me it is like Yoga of the Mind, a refresher course, a spiritual Spa, just time to breath and BE.
September 4, will be my anniversary date of when I started my Camino last year. A few weeks ago I had decided I was going to re-open my blog that I abandoned 3 days into the journey. I was going to write each day as if I was walking, and then add a reflective section to it, with the wisdom of having walked to the end.
It’s like being on the Camino all over.. don’t plan… it will not work out as you want. Almost the next day, my mother in law got ill again, and I have been walking a different kind of a camino each day. Away from my family, helping her adjust to her new reality of the last stages of a life. Pre Camino, I would have been so resentful of having to stop all my activities and meetings and social engagements. Post Camino, I feel it is another gift to be able to help her do so, with compassion, tolerance and love.
I have to tell you, this Camino right now, is much more difficult then my walk last year.
To all who are walking now, Buen Camino… I am walking with you. Light and Love, Ingrid
I began my Camino last year on September 4th also. Did you stay in Orisson that evening?
If so, I bet we met.
No Arlene, I stayed in Orisson the night of the 6th. I was behind you following your footsteps.. I had wondered about that too, ever since you have been posting. Ingrid
Ingrid, thank you for taking the time to think this out and set it all down for us. You obviously have a good understanding of the concept of pondering the “what ifs”.I think its a fascinating process that can really lead us to a self knowledge we wouldn’t have otherwise found -so it can be a very fruitful meditation!