Guest Post – Arlene; Post Camino

As many of you know, Arlene – who is a regular on this blog – recently returned from her second Camino. It was a deeply moving experience for her.

Here she shares those experiences with us…

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO 2013

I dedicated this, my 2013 Camino to my deceased husband, Peter, the father of my children.  Pete died far too young, he was only 46 years old when he was taken from this world. 

Prior to his death, we had been going through some difficult times, our relationship was very strained. We were barely speaking to each other; in fact it seems our only words were angry, cross, and defensive.

Then he was taken. There were no more angry words, there was no more bickering, there simply was NO MORE.

As you can imagine, I have carried so much guilt and regret since that day 19 years ago. I wish I had not been so stubborn, so stuck in the mire of blame. He passed before we could resolve our problems. I have felt guilty and regretted my stubbornness since that day. He passed away and I never got to tell him how sorry I was and still am.

Last year when I walked the Camino, I simply walked the Camino. I didn’t have any specific reason or purpose, this year my intention was to walk in honor of my deceased husband. To walk for his understanding and his forgiveness, to walk so I would be able to forgive myself, so I can finally stop carrying the heaviness of this guilt.

Because of my purpose this year, I chose to walk the Camino solo, alone with own thoughts.  I met others who I would chat with for a while. I did encounter most of these people repeatedly along the Way, sometimes I would walk with one or the other of them for a good part of the day, other times I would prefer to walk alone.

I stayed in hotels and casas rural to insure my solitude.  I most always am a very social person, I like being around people. But the purpose of this Camino was to make peace with events in my past and I needed to be alone to be successful in achieving my purpose.

I set my daily goals to stretch my comfortable walking distances so that I would be tired by the time I reached my destination.  I ate the menu del dia when I arrived at my destination, usually about 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon.  After eating, I returned to my room showered, got ready for the next day, wrote in my journal, blogged and then meditated until I was ready to go to sleep.

I didn’t join the other pilgrims in the evening, nor did I drink more than a glass or two of wine with the menu each day. I simply thought those activities would interfere with the purpose of my Camino.

After I had been walking for some time, actually approaching the town of Foncebadon, I broke down and cried like a baby.  I was very thankful the walk was shrouded in mist and I was alone, the other Peregrinos didn’t notice my tears.

Finally I started to release some of my guilt! Maybe my healing had begun. I left Foncebadon after a hot cup of cafe con leche and made my way to the Cruz de Ferro. At the cross I left two stones, one for me and another for Pete then climbed down the stone pile and got back in the queue to place the stones my friends had asked me to place for them.

Oddly, it was on the walk immediately after the Cruz de Ferro that my knee began to bother me. I am unsure if it had anything to do with releasing my guilt, or simply because the descent was extremely challenging. I suppose I will never know.

I continued on my way to Santiago, sometimes crying, sometimes smiling and sometimes laughing while I relived my life with Pete.  It seemed to me the Camino was working its magic, I was beginning to let go of my guilt.

By the time I reached Galicia, the rainy weather had all of my attention. It was very hard walking in the rain, I was continuously struggling to get my poncho on and off and the gators were bothering my legs. My knee was also hurting all the time now.

Finally I walked into the square in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and broke down sobbing. Thankfully right in front of me stood a fellow from England I had walked and talked with on several occasions. He hugged me as I wept, when I looked up, he was weeping too.

We both cried for a while and then walked to the Pilgrim’s Office together for our Compostela.  I understand arrival at the Cathedral has different effects on individuals. For me it was unbelievably emotional.

At the Pilgrim’s Office, I explained to the representative I had walked in honor of my deceased husband and received my Compostela in my name “Vicarie Pro” my husband’s name. 

The next day at the Pilgrim’s Mass, I again experienced the uncontrollable crying I had when I entered Santiago de Compostela. I’m sure I wasn’t the only pilgrim crying though. 

All of my tears and the Camino de Santiago have helped me release the anger and guilt I had related to my husband’s death. I believe I achieved the result I was hoping to attain by walking the Camino and would walk another Camino in a “New York Minute”.

The Camino may not be for everybody. It may not help solve everyone’s problems. But I do believe it gives time to pray and contemplate. It strips unnecessary items from you and reduces your needs to the most elemental – food, water, and a bed to sleep in.

The most important thing the Camino gave to me in 2013 was time to reflect and clear the slate.

¡Ultreia y Vaya con Dios!

Arlene's selfie copy Arlene's compostela copy

83 thoughts on “Guest Post – Arlene; Post Camino

    • Hi Andrea,

      I think sharing the past is another step in accepting what happened and moving forward. This Camino was very important to me and I am so grateful for the result it effected.

      I am very thankful to Bill for the creation of this safe place to be able to openly and comfortably discuss my feelings. I know the readers and contributors to the blog are supportive and wonderful people.

      Arlene

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      • Arlene –

        I feel very privileged to be able to provide this special place for people such as yourself.

        Your account today will stay with many people for a long time.

        Bill

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        • Bill,

          I want to repeat again – thank you for this wonderful venue! And thank you for being the special person you are!

          I love you and my PGS family, I feel safe here. A woman could not ask for more than that.

          Once again, thank you for asking me to share my Camino experience.

          Arlene

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          • Bill,
            We sure will have fun in April. That’s a given!
            A book about the tour, how fun – surely a varied cast of characters. It’s bound to be a best seller, I’m sure.
            Arlene

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          • Well, already I’ve got several wonderful characters.

            Including Sister! ESPECIALLY Sister!

            So that’s a good starter.

            Also, one of the top literary agents here has read my book, and really liked it – said she laughed out loud several times! – and is now passing it onto some publishers she thinks might be interested.

            So we’ll see what happens

            Bill

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          • Bill,

            I loved the book, I read it on the flight to Madrid and then again on the way back to the States. It should be published, I’m sure it will get picked up. Good things come to good people!

            I still have to write my review on amazon, promise I’ll get to that tomorrow or the next day.

            Arlene

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          • Thanks Arlene –

            I’ve always wanted to write a book that can be read on a plane!!

            Seriously.

            That means the writing is effortless. Which is so damn hard to do.

            A review would be great, and very much appreciated.

            Bill

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          • Bill,
            I truly enjoyed every word, and yes there were times I, too, was laughing out loud.

            On my way back to the States, when all the towns and sights were fresh in my mind, the read was so enjoyable. I put myself right behind you on the Camino, or next to, or in front of you. I could taste the cafe con leche and the toastadas again. I knew what sights and towns were coming next. I re-lived my Camino experience on the plane from Madrid (without all the tears, though).

            Great read, great book.
            Arlene

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          • Arlene –

            you’ve written the review already!!

            😀

            Thank you.

            The thing about journalism, then screenwriting, is that neither of them allow the use of descriptive prose. So that was a whole new field for me to learn. With a film camera, it’s easy! With words, it’s damn hard.

            Bill

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          • Bill,

            Seems to me that you got the lesson spot on. Your writing is so very entertaining, descriptive as well as humorous. I can’t sing “The Way, My Way” praises loud enough! I’m a fan!

            Write on, my friend, write on!

            Arlene

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          • Bill,
            The food blog is good, right up my alley. I’m a foodie. I love all types of food, down home cooking to gourmet. I especially like peasant food, tastefully nutritious, yum. One of my dream jobs would have been writing restaurant reviews for Gourmet or Bon Apetit Magazine

            My blog started out as Thoughts, Adventures and Maybe Some Recipes, then morphed to just Thoughts and Adventures with the main topic being the Camino.

            I’m looking forward to your posts on the food blog. I enjoyed the first post.

            Arlene

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          • Bill,
            When I read Anthony Bourdain, I laughed out loud (well as out loud as laryngitis will allow) and clapped my hands. Now that is a dream job!!!!!
            Arlene

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          • Bill – the foul mouth might be a bit of a problem, but I’m sure you could master it 🙂 – Arlene

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          • The thing about Bourdain, he’s such a good writer.

            His scripts are amazing.

            The other night I watched a “behind the scenes” episode, and he actually seems like a really nice guy, and very professional.

            Bill

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          • He seems to be very knowledgeable, but not in a show-offy kind of way.

            I just lap up all his shows. He makes me laugh, and the producers have been able to come up with a format which also is a great travelogue.

            I think it’s very clever stuff.

            Jennifer didn’t like him at first – she though he was too macho-strutting and misogynistic. But she’s come around – and I think he’s softened as the series has progressed.

            He’s still very male oriented though. The other night I was watching an episode where he was in Istanbul, and he was having a “wet” hamburger – some kind of Turkish street food. He described it as like having sloppy sex. What other food show would allow the presenter to say something as outrageous as that?

            Bill

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          • Bill,
            I haven’t seen his shows in a while. It seems they disappeared off the line up here in Tucson. And I surely didn’t see the one with the “sloppy sex” episode.
            As far as macho-strutting, oh yes but misogynstic, I didn’t get that from him. Male oriented, absolutely, but that’s his charm, he appeals to those who like the “bad boy” type.
            I almost always remember the famous scene from “Tom Jones” when I watch him eating. Oops, probably shouldn’t go there.
            Arlene

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          • yes, you’re probably right – he certainly didn’t come across as misogynistic in the behind the scenes. he was very respectful to the young female production assistant, who seemed to adore him.

            he is very much the bad boy though, and that’s what gives him his charm – unlike gordon ramsay, who seems to be angry all the time!

            Bill

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          • I haven’t seen much of Gordon Ramsay, his angry persona isn’t at all charming or endearing in my eyes. I actually haven’t watched much television lately at all. Before the Camino, I was busy working and training and then being away almost 2 months, and now I haven’t turned the television on since I got home. – Arlene

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          • Jennifer and I are addicted to US tv drama.

            We have just finished watching the first two seasons of THE SHIELD – before that we finished all of BREAKING BAD, before that THE KILLING, then BROADCHURCH (UK) and all of SPOOKS (again, UK)

            There is some very fine TV drama being produced right now.

            Bill

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          • Pre-Camino, when I found the time, I was catching up on episodes of HBO’s Treme and Showtime’s the Borgias. I must get back into them now that I’m home.
            My son is watching Sons of Anarchy, so every evening while I was in NJ I saw a few episodes of that. I must say it wasn’t too bad once I got into it. And his wife was following Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, so I got a taste of that also. – Arlene

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      • Oh, Arlene, I so felt for you when I read your story and am so glad you were able to relieve some of the sorrows that had burdened you for so long. Go forth and enjoy life without that burden. I can’t wait to hear your stories when you do the Portuguese walk with all your PGS mates!! You rock, girl 🙂 Britta

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        • Britta,
          Thanks for your support while I was on the Camino, it meant a lot. Thanks for your support here on the blog also.
          This Camino was so good for me, so very needed. The end result is I feel like I have been given my life back, I have finally been able to forgive myself and come to terms with the past.
          And yes, the Camino Portuguese will be great, I’m sure! I hope I have time to blog along the Way.
          Arlene

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  1. Arlene, how beautiful and so glad you shared. Love your compostela, same date as mine, 1 year prior. I now understand your choosing Hotels and Casa Rurales, I had wondered. I know from my own account, I felt very isolate resting that way. Big Hug across the miles, Light and Love Ingrid

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    • Julie,
      It was easy to share my Camino with such a wonderful, supportive group of people. Thanks for the hug!
      Love,
      Arlene

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    • Debbie,
      You cannot know how much the support from this blog and the forum means to me. Thank you!
      Arlene

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  2. Hi Arlene,
    Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I read your very moving post. Thank you for sharing your Camino story so beautifully.
    Love to you, Janet

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    • Janet,
      Once the tears were shed by me, the forgiveness came. Tears can be so cleansing, and now I can smile.
      Thanks for the love,
      Arlene

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    • Thanks Julian,
      This venue is so full of wonderful caring people. I’m glad you are one of those special people.
      Arlene

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  3. Arlene, I’m so happy to hear that you have been able to release some of the negative feelings you have been carrying for so long. They are a burden no one deserves to bear.Many people judge the depth of our love for the deceased by the sorrow or guilt we carry, and that is deeply wrong in so many ways. I believe, and I’m sure you know in your heart, that Peter doesn’t want you to feel this way. The best tribute you can give to him, to honour his memory, is to feel happiness when you think about the time you shared together , and to recall the love you first felt with a light and grateful heart.

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    • Sister,
      What you say is exactly what the Camino allowed me to experience. But I believe I needed the Camino, the solitude and the time to figure that all out.
      My children and their wives were very touched when they saw my Compostela, I will have proper copies made of the Compostela and Peter’s credencials for both families to have.
      Arlene

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      • I think that’s a beautiful idea, and a wonderful way to honour the Camino that you walked for Peter, in his memory. I so admire what you have done, Arlene, and I’m touched by the honesty with which you share your experience. I will be walking with my own goodbyes to say in April, and I will be remembering the words you have written here.

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        • Sister,
          Should arriving in Santiago effect you the way it effected me, I will be there for you to hold onto like my Camino friend was there for me. I know you will be there for me should I need you.
          Sister, Santiago de Compostela is a very spiritual place and the pilgrimage itself is so spiritual, I think that is why St. James keeps calling me back.
          Arlene

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  4. Dear Arlene,

    Wonderful, heartfelt insights to what the Camino gave to you and how you honored the Camino. I’m very moved and happy for your peace.

    Nancy

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      • Hi Arlene and Welcome Home,

        As I sit here with tears running down my face, I am feeling so much joy for you and your great accomplishment. I just know that Peter forgives you and wants you to be happy because I see in your face a woman whose light is again shining through. As was said in some earlier blogs we must also forgive ourselves in order to keep moving forward so the time has come to let go and live!!

        Sending love your way,

        Jill

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        • Jill,
          This Camino was unbelievable.

          I sorted through, processed and discarded all the anger and guilt I have felt for so long. I now am able to look on the good parts of my marriage to Peter and the happy times we shared together. The Camino gave me that, and for that I am so very, very thankful.

          My PGS family is so supportive and loving, I don’t think I would have felt this capable of opening up anywhere else, not even on my own blog.

          I’m sending love right back to you,
          Arlene

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          • Arlene –

            it’s wonderful you say that about this blog.

            It’s extraordinary people like you that make it special.

            The response to your post has been incredible. A testament to your courage, openness, and trust.

            Bill

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  5. Arlene, thank you for your offer of comfort-I am very touched that you would offer to be there for me, and I hope I can express that to you as we walk, somehow. I am always here for you, now and always. Don’t feel you have to wait for Portugal before you reach out. Its part of our PGS to be present for each other-but I think you know that! 😉

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    • Sister,
      From the start, it was very obvious to me that you are there for any and all of us whenever we feel the need. There is no need for you to express gratitude to me for offering to be a support for you should you need it. I know you are here for me, now and always as you say.
      I am sure we will have many pleasant walks together this Camino Portuguese. I have sensed a true sympatico between us from the very beginning. I look forward to meeting you in person.
      Arlene

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  6. Twenty years is a long time to carry those feelings of guilt and regret, but how great that you were able to address them at last. I hope that your next camino can be focused on the present and future.
    – Clare

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    • Oh Clare,
      Who knows what the next Camino will bring. Only the Camino, I think. Maybe it will show me the Prince on the White Stallion, you know I’m dreaming, don’t you?

      Whatever, it has to show me, I’m ready. I do know that I will be working on a mosaic mural in the little town of Ventosa post Portuguese Camino 2014. I have been commissioned to create a 24 ft by 6 foot tall mosaic on the wall of the Hotel Las Aquedas.

      But thankfully the guilt over my husband’s death is gone and I now am able to remember the good times, the happy times, the wonderful times I had with him.

      Arlene

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  7. you wondered what this Camino would do for you and I think now you know..it took courage to walk again and it took more courage to write this blog…..blessings now go paint that mural Les

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    • Les,
      Thanks for being there for me as I trekked along the Way. Your support was greatly appreciated and needed.
      Shoot me an email, it’s been a while, I’m home now.
      Arlene

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  8. Arlene,

    It takes strength to turn loose of the shadows of the past. We all have them in one form or the other. I am glad to see that your were able to release your burden. Steve

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    • Steve,
      This Camino was so cathartic for me. I feel like a new person. All the tears I shed from Foncebadon onwards to Santiago washed away the guilt and ill feelings I have harbored for all these years.
      The Camino is magic!
      Thanks for all your likes on my blog posts and all the comments you left me. They were very much appreciated. You helped keep me going!
      Arlene

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      • I love “cathartic”. It is so healing. Acknowledging past hurts, guilts, and pain is cathartic. Nothing was as cathartic to me following the tragic and sudden death of my second wife then to openly acknowledge and talk about our life and her death. It was healing as the Camino was healing for you. You were brave as it is not always easy to look back honestly. Good for you.
        Steve

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        • Again Steve, thanks so much for the encouraging words. You are a good friend/PGS sibling! – Arlene

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  9. Arlene, your story is so touching, in so many ways. I showed it to Maggie and it brought her to tears. Thank you for sharing it with us, and may your life be enriched even more. Maggie and Peter

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    • Peter and Maggie,
      Thanks for the kind words. It was fun following behind you on the Camino, I read each and every one of your blog posts.
      My experience was magical for the release it has afforded me. Who knows what the Camino will give to us? But one thing for sure, it will give us exactly what we need when we need it.
      Arlene

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  10. Hi Arlene –
    Thank you for such a deeply moving and beautifully expressed post. Like many of your PGS siblings who’ve commented above, I too shed many tears reading it.
    You’ve shown a lot of courage to face the emotional pain that has surrounded you for many years head-on – the way you must feel now would be incredible. Truly wonderful.
    With love –
    Jenny xo

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    • Jenny,
      I do feel wonderfully liberated now. It is amazing to see the magic the Camino can work if we let it. Thank you for your kind words.
      Lovingly,
      Arlene

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  11. Arlene, thankyou for sharing this very moving, open and ‘from the heart’ post. My heart goes out to you for bearing the burden of grief and guilt for so long. So sorry I wasn’t there to give you big hugs in Obradeiro Plaza but I am sending them across the miles right now.
    May God truly bless you as you begin a new phase of your journey. Enjoy the inner peace and gratitude.
    Prayers and blessings
    Anne

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    • Anne,
      Thank you for your friendship. I guess it wasn’t meant for us to meet in the Plaza this time. But know that I have received the hugs and blessings from afar and they feel wonderful!
      Arlene

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  12. Hi Arlene, Mike and I enjoyed following you and you were informative but not revealing in your experience as you were on the Camino. Which I am sure was intentional, but it is precious that you opened up here and let us into the deeper workings of your heart, mind and soul. Thank you for sharing, it was very moving. Xo
    Kathryn

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    • Kathryn,

      While on Camino I had many followers of my blog because of my Charity Walk for the Wildlife Center and many former co-workers, sometimes people I didn’t even know. I wanted to keep my very personal reasons and experiences to myself during that time.

      Bill, being as intuitive as he is, sensed early on from my posts that this Camino had a very profound purpose and meaning for me. Upon my departure from Santiago he asked if I would post a guest blog.

      It is a funny thing about this PGS blog as well as the forum; I feel very safe and protected; I agreed to share my Camino with my PGS siblings, who just happen to be a wonderful, kind and supportive group of people. I think all the comments to my post reveal how wonderful you all are!

      Thank you so much for your and Mike’s support of me along the Way, it really meant a lot to me.

      Hugs,
      Arlene

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  13. Arlene, it would have been impossible for anyone reading your very moving post not to share a tear. I’m so happy that you were able to release some of the guilt and anger that you had carried around for so long and I hope one day that I too can experience the magic of the Camino. Carry the magic you felt this year in your heart for a fantastic trip next April with Bill, Jennifer and everyone else that will be on your trip.

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    • Hi Fran,
      The magic that was given on this Camino will always be carried with me. I know the Portuguese Camino will be fantastic and a lot of fun, I can feel it in my bones.
      I hope you, too, get to experience that Camino magic some day in the near future.
      Thanks for your thoughtful words.
      Arlene

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  14. It’s all been said in response to your courageous and bone-core honest sharing. You honor us all. Now go forth with sunshine on your face and a spring in your step and may joy greet you every morning.

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    • Barbara,
      What a beautiful comment, thank you. Yes, I will keep a smile on my face as well as a spring in my step, I feel like a new woman.
      Arlene

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