About a year ago I saw a post about a United Methodist clergy pilgrimage to Spain to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago. I wanted to go but there were two major obstacles:
- I’m not clergy.
- I was leaving one job without another one lined up yet and I was fairly certain I wouldn’t have the vacation time to go.
So, I let the idea go.
In December at a holiday party, I overheard my mom say she planned to walk the Camino and my ears perked up. I asked more questions and realized this was the trip I wanted to go on. She said they had more spots and I should ask if I join the group. Brad fully supported the idea, the money was available and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go with my mom. So, I asked the leader if I could go and he said yes. One obstacle down!
Although I have a significant amount of paid time off at my new job, I didn’t think there was any way my supervisors would approve me taking off three weeks before I was in the job a year. However, I asked and they said yes. Second obstacle overcome!
Now back to the question: why the Camino?
In many ways this feels like the completion of my sabbatical in 2016. It took me almost two months to settle into the time set apart. I struggled with my identity – who am I if I’m not working full time? Who am I if people don’t need me? How do I get the most out of each moment and not waste this time I’ve been given? It was actually quite stressful for a while. But, I began to let go and settle into my “enoughness” without working all the time or feeling like the youth ministry was all dependent on me. And, as soon as I began to feel comfortable with my sabbatical, I got a call from my doctor telling me about my infertility.
The last month of my time away was lived moment by moment, hour by hour. I was in shock and disbelief; I was heart-broken. I was no longer focused on the purpose of my sabbatical – to let go, discern and plan next steps in my career. Instead I just wanted to stare at the TV all day or sleep or cry. I delayed my return to work which upset some people. I didn’t immediately take on some of the work I said I would when I returned and that frustrated some people. The end of my sabbatical was painful and I never really felt like I had closure.
I’m hoping my time walking in Spain will provide that closure. I’m hoping hours of walking will provide more healing. I’m hoping time with my mom, clergy and strangers along the way will be part of the closing conversations I wish I had during the last month of my sabbatical.
I’m not expecting the Camino to be magic pill that fixes everything – although I do hear that the Camino provides what you need along the way. I’m not expecting my grief to disappear. However, I am expecting to walk every day and during those walks, I am expecting to feel at peace with the moment I’m in. The focus of my days will be: wake up, eat, walk, eat, stop, shower, eat, sleep. It almost seems too simple. Surely there must be more than that…but I’m not sure there is. I’ll be returning to the basics, which is where I often long to be.
I long for a space where I only need a few items of clothes. I long for a space where I just need one kind of soap. I long for a space where aside from walking, my only other options are read, write, listen, and talk (and eat!). I long for simplicity.
I love my life and my home and my “things” but at times it all feels like too much. An opportunity like walking the Camino allows me the opportunity to let go of all of those things for a time without forcing my husband or dog to do the same. This opportunity allows me the open space I crave.
I don’t know how I’ll be changed when I return from the Camino, but I know I’ll be changed in some way. I don’t have any expectations on what that will look like. Unlike my sabbatical, this time I’m able to let go a little sooner. I’m able to let myself follow the Way and experience it with each step I take. The Camino doesn’t start in a week when I land in Spain – it started in December when I said yes to going. I’ve already learned so much – I can’t imagine what might be in store for me when I do arrive in Spain.