Dear Self, You did it! Congratulations! Don’t forget that dreams come true—quickly sometimes!
This is the first line of a note I mailed myself when I’d reached Santiago de Compostela. I was referring to my dream of walking the Camino, which was conceived and achieved in about six months. Call it beginner’s luck; my second Camino is proving harder to realize.
My husband and I planned to make the Camino again this year, in September — but it’s not going to happen. The adjustment has been difficult; I really, really wanted it. We’re not doing it for positive reasons: my husband started his own business this year, and is already busy. We simply can’t afford to lose a month of productivity, and we decided—together—that it’s more important for clients to have the impression that he’s dedicated to their needs than to go MIA for a month in Spain.
Still, I’m grieving the postponement of my much-anticipated second Camino.
In a way, that’s what has kept me from writing here. While this blog is a way for me to share what I’ve learned with other pilgrims-to-be, it’s also a way for me to psyche myself up for the second round, to keep the lessons fresh in my mind. And this lesson is one of the Camino’s hardest: You are not the boss of the Camino, it’s the boss of you.
If you’ve never taken the Camino before, that’s not going to make much sense. It’s just a trip, right? A vacation with a lot of exercise involved? Wrong. Regardless of your reasons for making the walk, regardless of your faith tradition (or lack thereof), the Camino is a mystical journey. Which means that if you are a control freak like Yours Truly, a maniacal planner and person-with-expectations, you will absolutely be required to surrender all of that. Over and over again, probably.
This is what’s happening to me: a detour, like the one Jim and I accidentally took when we fell asleep on the train that was supposed to take us from Paris to St. Jean Pied-de-Port, where we planned to spend the night acclimating to the altitude before beginning our Camino. Instead, plagued by jet lag, we missed our stop and ended up in a backwater coastal town. The best we could do was wait a few hours, then take a train to Bayonne where we spent the night, then traveled to St. Jean in the morning.
But, if we hadn’t made that mistake, we wouldn’t have wandered the streets of that little coastal town, a drunken Frenchman wouldn’t have serenaded us, I wouldn’t have experienced one of the most triumphant moments in my life (being mistaken on the platform for a French person), and we wouldn’t have seen Bayonne, which I loved.
This is the thing about the Camino: it’s a metaphor for life. One of the pilgrims with whom we walked called it a “miniature life within a life.” Some of the people on your walk will be with you at the end; others will walk by your side for only a little while. There will be trials and moments of transcendent joy. There will be physical and existential pain. There will be beauty, and ugliness. You will be required to learn, you will be required to give something up. You will be given things you neither asked for nor earned. You will experience mercy. The best and worst of yourself will be exposed.
And there will be delays.
But it’s okay; Something Bigger Than You and Beyond Your Comprehension has got your back. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.