It is time to put one foot in front of the other, one step, then another, and another. It is not a race nor are there points for speed or time to one's destination. There is not a finish line or a trophy waiting for you. You can go as short or long of a distance as your heart and soul desires or as far as your physical condition will allow. You can jump on a bicycle, a horse or walk; you can carry your gear or ship it ahead to your next destination without judgment on any choices you make along the way. The choice is yours and yours alone. There is a wide range of reasons why people embark on these pilgrimages form all walks of life, various religions, countries and so on. Whatever the reason -explainable or unexplainable to oneself or others- it is a journey far beyond many others imagination. For myself it is simply a matter of deep spiritual self satisfaction, mind cleansing- and if only for a period of time, during and afterwards, allowing me to live with my demands. It is to me what psychologists have been unable to accomplish with me for so many years.
In 2016 I embarked on the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances) not fully knowing why, at a time and point in my life where the world felt like it was caving in on me, I was doing this! To be frank, I expected to say this was just too hard for my vast injuries, state of mind and thought I was very quickly going to figure out that this was a very stupid idea, and go back home. Nonetheless, I started and decided I would at least try. I put one foot in front of the other very slowly but convinced myself that I needed to try, still not knowing why.
The first days were extremely miserable and in my mind I knew I was doomed for failure at whatever it was I was seeking. Days passed, then a week, a couple of weeks and then, finally as I journeyed along one day on a very long stretch of road and realized that no one else was around, I began to have this overwhelming feeling of forlornness. Unable to comprehend why this feeling was happening, or where this feeling was coming from, I found myself looking for a spot to hide from any pilgrims that may be soon approaching, as I’d lost control of my emotions and knew I was about to break. Surely an old hardcore, tough Marine with 30 years of active duty was not going to loose control now! Well, I won’t go into those details, however, after a long pause under good cover and a poor tree taking the brunt of my anger as I unleashed emotions from deep within my soul, I emerged with a great sense of relief and a sensation that I had just untied myself from a weight so heavy I’d been carrying. Suddenly I had an urge to see what was between there and the next stop and further, I had a clear understanding of where I was headed and what I was doing. In the course of this pilgrimage I had at least two more melt downs, which were in so many ways the best therapy one could have. I stopped at every church, cathedral and chapel that was within eyesight or within a reasonable distance of my path. I spent time in them in prayer, and spent time taking in the beauty of them all. I spoke with priests, monks and many pilgrims. I was looking at the journey in a whole new light. Even through the very toughest of days, I was just happy to be alive and though in lots of physical pain, I was emerged in a whole new world.
I now have this unexplainable desire to do what I am told I cannot! My body was then and is now broken down and beaten, it was while in the Marines. However, times where I should not have been out a on a force march, like attacking a hillside, patrolling jungles and deserts, hitting the beaches, carrying a rucksack, weapons and ammunition, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft, or scuba diving when I was hurt, sick or broken, "bed rest or days off" were never an option. As we used to say and I am sure still say, you can have my weapon when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I cannot recall one time where someone said take a break from this or that in the Marines until you get better. I am guilty of not having done this with others while in leadership positions. I will endure the aches and pains at a snails pace if need be until that day comes.
I have been given a way to cope with my life and somewhat sleep at night, a way to recharge my batteries and continue to live and see the world for what it's worth. It is not easy by any means, lots of pain killers, meds and yes, slow, easy pace and MyWay, one day at a time one step after the other will get me to the other end.