“In my everyday life, I tend to feel that the hard way is THE way (akin to ‘no pain, no gain’) – to wisdom, character growth, adequate engagement, and building greater depth.
In the midst of struggling my way along the Camino – with all the solemnity and intensity of loneliness, despondency and dissatisfaction I often felt – I fervently hoped for something significant or revelatory. Something that justified my journey. Well, there’s a well-known adage along the Camino: ‘the Camino doesn’t give you what you want but what you need.’
Sometimes that saying is meant tongue-in-cheek – such as when you inadvertently fall into step with two fellow countrymen that have a reputation for being obnoxious, and you must learn compassion and graciousness.
Or when you develop pneumonia and dysentery, twist your ankle, are hospitalized, and must slow down.
OR when you are exhausted, sad, and decide to go for an eventide stroll alongside some open fields. And then, a very nearby herd of cows begin following you. Even though you sing ‘Lollipop’ to distract them (complete with a lifelike ‘pop’ sound), even though you stamp your foot and yell to scare them off, they just keep mooing and ambling behind you until you arrive at the closest farm, hope it lodges cows, and try to explain through hand gestures and fits of giggles to whomever lives there why an entire cattle herd is now in their front lawn.
(Note: all of these are true stories from whence I was on the Camino, but only the last one is mine.)
And sometimes that Camino proverb means The Way is different than expected:
I set out, determined to maintain my independence and hold my aloneness, alone. I wanted the space to reflect and cry, to be quiet and silent, to be by myself because I always felt that the hard way was THE way.
But like the pilgrims of yore and now predicted, the Camino gave me not what I wanted but what I needed: delight. And delight in the form of serene beauty; a sense of my spirit returning to me; care and encouragement from friends on the home-front; and thought-filled, adventurous, fun pilgrim-compadres.
And so, I’ve concluded a walking-wisened trio of thoughts:
- It won’t always be hard, and it doesn’t have to be, to be ‘significant.’
- After a sad season and slow healing process, a piece of my spirit has reawakened in me – the piece that rallies fellow pilgrims to jump in the river with me after a sweltering day of hiking; the piece that picks flowers every day and tucks them into my skirt; the piece that wants to discover and know other’s stories; the piece that feels ALIVE.
- These are GOOD things to realize. And good is good.”