Two screens blink and ping on the desk in front of me. A meeting has started, do I want to join? I login and a group of faces stare at me. They are arranged like the Brady Family at the start of the Brady Bunch tv show.
After some greetings, we launch into the meeting.
In a moment of distraction I look over the a bookshelf and notice my scallop shell. I’m instantly taken back to the Camino. I’m walking across one of the plateaus on the Meseta. The sky is clear and the air is cold in the mid-morning light. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Pause. Exhale. In front of me I see James, Mads and Mikael deep in conversation with an occasional outburst of laughter. My heart is still. All is well with the world. In the next hour or so we will walk into a village and have a cafe con leche and talk and laugh about life and the absurdity of being out here on the Camino. Yes, all is well.
I open my eyes and the Brady’s still stare at me. It can’t be good cognitively to have so many faces staring at you in 2 dimensions. Some days I find it exhausting. More exhausting than walking 25-30km every day?
I enjoy my work as a Lawyer as I’m naturally drawn to helping people and I’m lucky to work with a great team of people. I never walked the Camino to work out what to do with my life. I did meet a lot of pilgrims who were. Several had quit jobs or separated from partners just before starting their walk. I didn’t need or expect an epiphany when I walked into the Plaza del Obradoiro and stared up at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. But that doesn’t make the transition back into life any easier.
When James and I were at Albergue San Miguel in Hospital de Orbiga, apart from doing some excellent painting (read the blog!), I found a book – Returning From Camino by Alexander John Shaia. Even though we were still balls deep into our Camino, I picked it up and thumbed through its pages. At the time it didn’t resonate with me as I was still on Camino.
The book is a practical guide for the pilgrim returning home. It acknowledges that as a pilgrim you have changed and that those at home may not be ready or able to cope with that change.
It offers helpful hints which I won’t go into other than to say that some of it may mean burning your pilgrim clothing. This was something common amongst pilgrims of old, mainly due to the fact that in Ye Olden Days, people stank and probably had lice and bed bugs and syphilis and really needed to start their return journey with clean togs and less scratching of their nether regions.
The other day a few things happened to bring the Camino to the forefront of my mind. I received an invite from Ivar’s Camino page to do a survey about walking the Camino. Then Rob’s Camino YouTube channel did a video about how you feel at the end of the Camino. Then up popped the My Camino The Podcast with James & Leo.
Will you not let a poor pilgrim settle?
All I can say is that after being home for 3 months now, I still haven’t settled fully into daily life. Before the Camino I remember reading that once you finish you will think about the Camino every day. Bollocks, I thought.
Well guess who was wrong?
Each day I think about people and places and laughs and songs and meals and drinks and smells and . . . well, you get the idea.
My body is not entirely settled either. That fall in Roncesvalles was confirmed as a tear to my shoulder when I got home. I’ve been doing physio for the last couple of months to try to sort it out. My Achilles tendinitis has worsened, lending support to the adage – use it or lose it. Yes it was sore on the Camino, but so were all my other leg muscles. My knees also feel sore (my dog I sound like an old man).
I’m not sure if this is a hangover from the Camino, the cold weather back here in Australia, the fact I’m spending hours at a desk each day or a combination of all three. If my body could choose, it would have me walking 25-30km each day. That’s just not practical when I have other responsibilities.
James has settled back into school and life pretty well. He’s playing basketball, studying (nowhere near enough!) and making music.
The other issue that has taken a lot of emotional energy since we returned has been the health of my parents. Mum was taken to hospital and spent about a month there and then another month or so in respite. She got COVID whilst in recovery, leading to feelings of isolation (she didn’t get to farewell my eldest daughter Alex before she headed to Europe to study for 6 months) as well as the horrible nature of the illness itself. Dad has had chemotherapy every week since about late January and that is taking its toll on his body and mind. No child wants to see their parents suffering.
Claire and I have also been setting up a new house since I returned from Camino which has taken a huge amount of work for both of us. Thankfully we’re mostly done.
I spoke to James Sage a week or so back and he said something that really resonated – you can’t live on the Camino, you have to bring what you felt and learned there back into your normal life.
This is great advice. If I were you James, I’d have t-shirts and bumper stickers printed ASAP.
I think the things that I want to live in my everyday life that I lived on the Camino are gratitude for each day, rejoicing in my family and friends (it’s never not a good time for a hug or to laugh together), take each day at a time, let go of the idea you can control that which you can’t and live in the moment (something I struggle with) and, if in doubt, sing Hakuna Matata.
Oh, and perhaps the greatest advice ever – take what you do seriously but don’t take yourself seriously.
Also, big news for our little blog, we hit 2,000 views. Very humbled.
There is some other exciting news coming in the next few weeks too, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Take care. Ultreia & Buen Camino!