Meghan is another brave soul who has taken up the opportunity to write a guest blog.
She lives in Northern New Mexico with her husband. She is a keen cyclist and walker. Here is an excerpt from her blog – Life at Pedal Speed.com.
I love being outside hiking, rafting, skiing, biking, watching sunsets and exploring with Andrew and the dog girls. I love being in my kitchen cooking delicious homemade treats, trying new recipes and spontaneously dancing with Andrew. I love being in the middle of nowhere. New Mexico is a good place for that. I love being at home and spending quiet evenings listening to Miles Davis and planning our next adventures.
The First Step of My Camino
They say that your Camino starts when you decide to do it, and I know mine has already begun.
My Camino began one morning in May as I was lying in bed listening to the daily news on the radio, trying to motivate myself to get ready for work. I had been feeling very lost after some discouraging and what felt like crushing professional experiences.
That morning, tornado victims in Oklahoma were being interviewed on the radio and talking about losing their homes and everything in their lives. As much as I’m not proud to admit it, I lay there thinking about how lucky those people are to get start all over. It only lasted for a moment before shame and guilt flooded me.
I felt terrible for wishing that a tornado would sweep everything away, but it was also an awakening because I realized that I was desperate for a change. I didn’t really want a natural disaster to make it for me though.
I want to make my own decisions despite the comfort of not choosing and not taking action. There is real power in choosing, and losing that power is a lot scarier than making my own decisions. That was the moment I took the first step of my Camino.
I’ve been dreaming about the Camino lately. It’s almost every night. In my dreams, I’m never walking. I’m always in Santiago at the church, and I’ve never finished yet. I’m there knowing that I will be walking soon.
Last night I dreamed that I was inside the church, and I walked over to where the pilgrims receive their compostelas. It was a small room with a counter inside the church. It’s windows were decorated with cement filigree. The pilgrims waited in line patiently.
I looked through the window and saw them standing there and felt overcome with emotion. I was overtaken by the enormity of what they had accomplished, and my heart was filled with emotions. I knew that I would be walking soon too and standing in that line to receive my compostela.
It was a catharsis. I was letting go of years of anger and disappointment and resentment and unhappiness. Years of doing what I’m “supposed to do” and working at at a desk job that isn’t fulfilling. Years of feeling tired and worn out from willing myself to make it through another hour, another day, another week just to make it to the weekend only to do it again on Monday morning.
All of these negative emotions came bubbling up to the surface and I broke down in tears. I woke up crying with tears streaming down my face onto my pillow.
I think often about what it will be like to arrive in Santiago and stand in front of the church. Every time I think about it, dream about it or read about another pilgrim’s account of their arrival, I’m overcome with these same emotions and tears.
It truly feels like I’m letting go of a small piece of what I need to let go each time, and I’m hoping that will clear up some more space for me to accept and learn what I need to as my Camino continues.
Yes, my Camino has already begun, and I look forward to seeing how I change and grow over the next year. I wonder how I will really react and feel after this year of journey. Will arriving in Santiago feel like the end of a journey? I suspect it will feel like a stop along the way. It will have some finality, but really it will just be a major milestone.
I love the way sometimes we are overcome by spirit and can envision new possibilities for ourselves. To me, it always feels like an invitation from God to change direction, enrich both my life and others’.I know I am always free to choose, but this kind of experience that bubbles over with emotion feels like my soul speaking, saying to me that its time for new dreams, time to live instead of just existing.I never resist -I’m too curious, too hungry to know more.Time for becoming, rather than being. I’m so happy for you, Pilgrim, that in spite of the tears, you remain open and willing,hungry for new,beautiful things. Congratulations, and bon Camino
Thank you for your words of comfort and encouragement, Sister. It has taken me a little while to get there but I have stopped resisting and this summer has been full of positive energy, curiosity, pursuing dreams and happiness. It has been a summer of becoming, as you say, rather than being. I feel like you really are spot on when you say that it feels like my soul speaking. Thank you.
Hi, Meghan –
I easily relate to much of what you have written – the vagaries of modern “professional life”, the tension between career (or “job”) and meaningfulness and a desire for more simplicity. Here’s a relevant quote from a favorite essayist/poet/philosopher/farmer that keeps coming back to me almost a year after I finished my walk.
“To make a living doesn’t mean to make a killing, it means to have enough.” (Wendell Berry)
Regarding arrival at the Cathedral, perhaps you could settle for no expectation on that event? My first arrival, about a month after strolling out of SJPP was a non-event for me. “Hunh… I just walked about 500 miles. I’ve never done that before.” Absolutely barren of any further emotion, I separated myself from those who were having extraordinary and wonderful emotional moments. (I did not want to take the risk of fouling a personally sacred atmosphere.)
You may have a “moment”, you may not. It is common to possess the experience but not unanimous.
Perceiving a lack (in myself), I walked onto Muxia, Finisterra and back to SdC. Just a momentary flicker of emotion as I stood in the plaza once again. “Oh, well…..” So, having established the personal emotional range of a damp teacloth, I found a bed and cleaned up.
It ends well, though. Sparing all detail, I’ll just report that the dam broke spectacularly during a chance visit to the Cathedral in the wee hours of the next morning. Clarity on many things arrived in a rush. So akin to putting Niagara Falls through a hypodermic needle that I am actively processing the experience to this day. The Camino goes on for a very long time and you are wise already to know this before you have begun.
Here’s a bit more Wendell Berry – an outdoor-sy person such as yourself might resonate to it.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Brendan, I’ve been trying to find that verse for 14 years,ever since I moved to my house in the woods. About 300 yards from my door is a freshwater marsh, inhabited by a variety of waterfowl, including Great Blue Herons. There is also no ambient light here at night, so when I look up I’m in the Milky Way. I couldn’t stop thinking about that verse, how well it fit with the sounds of the water,the loons, the still night sounds, and those not so still. Its the best spiritual medicine in the world!And its a daily blessing -one I’m happy to share with any blog family members, anytime.
Glad to be of help, Sister! The way the day is going that may be my only positive contribution to the day and I am happy for it.
Great to see you back on the blog.
It was a beautiful post you did before.
And sister, lovely to see you active again after your retreat!
Welcome back! Bill
That’s a beautiful and fantastic poem. I love the line about coming into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. Such a beautiful piece!
One thing I’ve definitely learned from all the research I’ve done is to not have an expectation for my arrival and what it will feel like, although for me, reflecting on it and writing about it now and then being able to compare it to my actual experience is a good exercise for me.
Meghan, this is such a beautiful piece! I can’t wait to hear about your experiences as your Camino continues. When I arrived at the cathedral, I felt a mixture of peace, awe, and sadness. I felt peaceful after walking and thinking and communing with other pilgrims for so long, in awe of everything we had done and of the long history of the walk, and sad that I was going to be done walking soon. People told me that the Camino continues as you go home and make changes in your life based on your experience, and I think that’s the best part! That said, I would love to walk the Camino again, meet more inspirational people, and experience the peace that comes with meditative walking every day. Buen camino!
Meghan is awesome! I love this story. She is a real world friend who I am glad I have met.
Meghan, that was such a beautiful and heart filled post, brave of you to share. I think in bits it resonates with everyone. Thank you.