i’ve lost some things and i’ve found some things since i’ve last written.
i realize it’s been nearly 3 months but i’ve been away awhile and i’ve been processing. wondering if i could find the words to tell a bit of my journey. here goes.
for 8 days in August i walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain (also called The Way of St. James). it’s epic and ancient and has been drawing seekers for centuries for all sorts of reasons. it’s a “bucket list” kind of experience. most who come to walk are looking for something or to become something…different or reformed or at the very least cleansed !! deep down i wanted all of that too.
so, there i was on that misty , cool morning in late summer ready to begin. i had brought with me a longing for adventure, a sense of reverence and a backpack far too heavy.
as i walked, part of me felt like a stranger and part of me felt grounded and familiar. i had grown more certain about some things and confused about a great many more things.
which is a good thing.
not an easy thing though.
it left me feeling a bit lost. yet somehow-in the end- delivered.
feeling stretched in thought and soul and body left me weary and grateful and delivered-all at the same time.
so here is what the miles taught me…
basically, it’s just really hard to keep your shit together after 13-18 mile-long days of hiking. day after day.
by day 2 , i felt plain old. i was in fact the oldest one in our group of 32. my age had never really bothered me…until then. i longed to throw my hair up into an effortless”messy bun” and look beautiful. i wanted ease instead of struggle. i wanted to wriggle out of my imperfect, aging body.
the truth is, everyone was tired, whether young or old. our feet were blistered and knees ached. as we rose each day before the sunrise, we all had to reach down into the strongest and most resilient parts of us. for me, those parts felt anything but beautiful.
all of this made me aware of what really mattered. at first, my make-upless and slightly beaten up appearance wasn’t a big deal , but i struggled to feel like “myself” as the days went on. my skin felt saggy and my hair looked like that of a homeless man. the grey hairs were especially unruly and it pained me to gaze at my reflection in the mirror. so i didn’t. i felt downright ugly. inside and out. ( i’m keeping it real here)
each day i felt more unraveled and stripped and stuck with myself.
yet somehow, amidst the angst i heard the invitation from God…”can you make peace with yourself in this life ?”
i know we all grow old, we age and we have a choice about what we cling to amidst this sacred tension. the truth is…it is NOT an easy thing to sort out…in fact, the words aging gracefully couldn’t be in more contrast. as i walked i had only of sliver of dignity to hold onto…and i had The Camino. the ancient path that had held so many other pilgrims before me-all in search of something. all fellow wrestlers.
and so, i began to see The Camino as a sort of midwife as i walked. moving me toward a deliverance. not a deliverance away from what i didn’t love about myself, but a deliverance unto a deeper level of self-acceptance as i age.
it pushed me out of self-consuming thoughts and into a broader capacity to come to terms with my humanity. after all, the entire role of a midwife is to assist in a birth. and the birth is inevitable…so she merely assists in bringing about- a sort of “giving into”-as the new life is delivered. the whole way through, the midwife holds the laboring mother with firmness and tenderness and affirmation.
in this same way, the Camino held me.
this road of dirt and rocks had held centuries worth of seekers. now it held a strand of pilgrims that i was amongst – all looking and hoping to come out on the other end- somehow changed. so there i was felling ugly and worn and the road held the mess that i was. it wooed me with its beauty and whispered with its winding tendrils-filled with delight and discovery. it undid my fleshly strength with each kilometer i walked…yet with each step i felt more and more delivered unto my truest self. ( the amazing spainish coffee along the way helped greatly in this process too)
at journeys end, i had walked 150 kilometers but knew i was really at a beginning.
i stood on the sacred ground…having been delivered from my own ugliness. i had wrestled with it and owned it and laid it down… oh, and i almost forgot to mention the tears! i cried a good many cleansing tears over it. as i look back, i’m still certain that i would have paid 100 euros for a hairdryer, round brush and a hot bath. but i also understand that discomfort is part of the pilgrimage, in fact it’s the very thing that brings the soul to the end of itself. i also finally get that this IS the very reason people have been coming to walk for centuries.
i had begun this journey believing i would walk away from the parts of myself i didn’t like. but here- at the end- i finally understood that it was far more about receiving those parts with radical self-compassion.
so it was on that well-worn and holy Way…the birth of deep grace became my truest deliverance.
Father, sometimes i don’t know how to pray. i am once again brought to my knees in utter dependence and humility. it is a good place to be but not easy. meet me here and keep peeling away the shame and ugly parts so i can be fully alive to Your healing grace.
leaning into You, xxoo jamie