Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 360

Today I took some time to drive past my old house in the town of Elizabeth, Colorado. Of all the places I've lived, I've only considered two of them home. This house was one of them. The rest, and there have been many, have all felt like stops along the way. Believe it or not, I lived in this house for only 8 years, but it was the longest I'd ever lived anywhere. I loved the place. It nurtured my soul. When I sold it, I left a little piece of me behind. As I drove past it slowly today, noticing what had changed and what had remained the same, I felt that little piece of me. Left behind, but not completely forgotten. I remembered who I had been, I thought of the friends who had helped to make the house a home, I allowed the memories to surround me - good and bad. But really, there were no bad memories. They were all good. Because that's how the past works for me. The bad is always overshadowed by the good.

That period of my life was a great example of my natural ability to use the Law of Attraction to get exactly what I wanted, without even knowing what I was doing. Before I lived there, I'd regularly tell my friends how I wanted a house in the country, with some land. I wanted a cowboy, a couple horses and a really cool dog, and I got it all, exactly how I asked for it. I had no idea how it would all arrive. I just worried about the "what" and let the "how" take care of itself. Sound familiar? But I was only scratching the surface of what I truly desired down deep in my soul.

I understand now how the house symbolized my attempt to live a more grounded lifestyle. Soon after buying that house in the country on some land, I met Bryan, who I would soon settle down with and later marry. Together we bought a couple horses and we got a really cool dog - which somehow turned into four really cool dogs. But I was never good at being settled. I never wanted to stay home, although I was always happy to return. Bryan and I traveled many days out of each year, mostly road trips to rodeos in some small town somewhere. It didn't matter to me where we went as long as we were going somewhere.

I have dug deeper over the past few years. What I wanted back then is not what I want anymore. That doesn't mean there was anything wrong with it. After all, it's what led me to this moment in time. That period of my life was just a stop along the way, which took place, ironically, in a house I considered home. I've lived my life in a series of ironies like that. I've gotten used to it. It suits me.

I can't wait to see what the future holds over the next two months, especially now that I have seen that I am the one that creates it. I wonder what I want for myself. Stay tuned to find out.

"You don't attract what you want, you attract what you are." ~Dr. Wayne Dyer

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 354

At this time a year ago, I was experiencing a lot of hurt, sadness and confusion. I wasn't sure how to handle all of those emotions, but looking back, I wasn't handling them well, that's for sure. I was overwhelmed in negativity. People I expected to have my back, were suddenly sticking a knife in it instead. It was a lonely time for me. A time to learn life's lessons and to discover who my true friends were. And a time when new friends and new opportunities made their way into my life, filling the void that had been left in my heart, and offering suggestions and support from fresh perspectives.

One of these suggestions came from Mari, exactly a year ago today. It was an article on the benefits of walking. It discussed how walking not only helped to trim and tone the body, it also helped to clear the mind. I remember thinking that I'd try anything to "escape" from the sadness I was feeling. That very day, I went for a short walk through the surrounding neighborhoods. I'm not sure how much I felt like it helped to clear my mind, but I made a promise to myself to get out and walk at least 3 times a week. Of course, as you can guess, that didn't happen. I've never been good at the follow-through when it comes to making the commitment to exercise. Life got in the way, and the time it took to get out of the house and go for a walk just wasn't a priority.

Who knew that 10 short days after receiving that article and taking that first walk, I would make a decision that would change the next year of my life in ways I never could have imagined. On April 27, 2012, I made the decision to walk the Camino de Santiago. I officially began preparing for the adventure less than a week later, on May 1. After looking at the calendar, and thinking long and hard about when I was going to embark on this adventure, I set the target date for a year later. May 1, 2013. I have never prepared for anything for a full year. I am a very spontaneous person. Too much planning and preparation causes me to lose interest. I want to just make the plan, and go. In fact, I came very close to setting a date in September of 2012, which would have given me just 4 months to get ready. Something told me that wouldn't be enough time. A year seemed reasonable. And so, a year it was.

I had no idea how to prepare. I remember posting a status on Facebook that said, "How exactly does someone walk 500 miles?" I got many different responses from people, none of them understanding that I was serious. How could they believe I was serious, when I didn't even believe it yet? But rather than focusing on the "how", I focused on the "what". I let the "how" take care of itself, and it did. If I had allowed my mind to be in control of this journey, rather than my soul, I believe I would have failed miserably. I would have gotten in my own way, then made excuses about why I couldn't do what I had planned. And I would have given up. Not a doubt in my mind. My soul was what led me to the decision to walk the Camino. My soul needed to be in charge of getting me there.

Miracles have happened for me over the past year. My life has changed in ways I never thought possible. I am not the same person I was when I started all of this. I still feel that old sting in my heart once in awhile, reminding me of the dark place where this began, but it's more like a memory of the pain than the actual pain itself. I have learned to find gratitude in the difficult moments. I am thankful for those people who are no longer a part of my life, who served their purpose in my journey, and I in theirs. Old friends, good memories, lessons learned. It was all worth it and I'd do it all again, in exactly the same way.

As the article said, walking has helped to clear my mind. It has given me a purpose, a direction, a destination. But I realize now it's not about reaching the destination at all. It's about the act of reaching itself, stretching and expanding my dreams, and thereby, my reality. What I dream, I can do. My success in all of this won't magically arrive when I stand at the doorway to the cathedral in Santiago de Campostela. I have already achieved my success. I have followed a dream. I have looked fear in the eye and let it know it no longer controls my life. I have discovered that I am worth the effort.

"Solvitur ambulando."
It is solved by walking.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 348

A friend recently asked me, "What are you giving up for the Camino?" My response. "Everything." And oh, how I have felt the enormity of that this week. So many goodbyes, so much letting go. Spanish class is over. I'm moving all of my stuff into storage in two days. And I have found my cat a new home where I hope she will be happy. I'm not good at goodbyes, or even see-you-laters. But they are a part of the cycle. Let Go, To Receive. There are blessings that come with all of the loss. For that, for all of it, I am grateful.

Speaking of blessings... With only about 5 or 6 Spanish classes remaining, out of the blue one day, Alex suggested that, together, we start reading his favorite book, 'The Alchemist'. In Spanish. I immediately, jumped at the chance. Throughout all of my Spanish classes, I had never been able to fully let go of my doubt that I was truly able to learn this language, but here I was, ready to read an entire book in Spanish, without a doubt in my mind that I could do it. He said we wouldn't be able to get very far with the little time we had left, but in his opinion, it would be a good experience for me to try.

That day, I went to Barnes & Noble and I bought the Spanish version of the book, then I went home and I re-read the English version, which I had read once before, a few years ago. The first time I read the book, I recognized its symbology and its deeper meaning, but I wasn't fully ready back then for all the book had to offer. This time I was. It is a story of a young man who gives up everything to take a long journey in order to find his purpose in life. Sound familiar? Basically, it's a guidebook teaching me how to do all that I'm about to do. It arrived in my life with perfect timing. Just when I needed, and would appreciate it, the most.

Before my next class with Alex, I began to read the Spanish version. There were things I didn't understand, but for the most part, I was actually reading a book in another language. My confidence level soared. For the first time, I realized the incredible amount of Spanish I had learned in just six months. In class, Alex would read to me, then I would read to him. Then we would talk about the ideas and the spirituality of the book. I was able to discuss deep, philosophical ideas in Spanish. I wasn't perfect at it, and I still needed help, but I got the point across. Not only has the book managed to bring to light some of the things I needed to learn before my trip, it has also convinced me, in the perfect manner, that I do indeed understand Spanish.

Although we both knew we wouldn't get very far in the time we had left, we finished much more than either of us expected. The book is broken into two parts. For some reason it became very important to me to finish Part 1 before my final class was over. I was so proud of myself, when in that final class, we read the last page of Part 1 and closed our books. Sixty-six pages in that short amount of time was impressive. Part 1 was all about the preparation for the journey. The trial and error, the lessons and the letting go. It wasn't hard to recognize the symbology of finishing that part of the book at my last class. Alex had taken me as far as he could. He had helped me to prepare for what was to come, but now it was up to me to take it from there. The journey itself was mine, and mine alone.

And then Alex opened his book again and said, "You want to read a little further?" NO! What about the symbolic end I had just so perfectly orchestrated? This isn't how it's supposed to happen. I'd already written the script in my head. This is the fade to black part. But I didn't say any of that. Instead I said, "Sure." We read a few pages into Part 2, and that was that. It was over. El fin. That night, the significance of those extra few pages suddenly became very clear. Although Alex had accompanied me as far as he could, to the end of my Part 1, the tools he had given me over the past six months, would continue with me into my Part 2. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with him and to add him to my list of friends. Because of him, I know more Spanish than I thought possible and I've learned things about backpacking that only someone with his level of experience could teach. This was no coincidence.

It's almost time for me to continue on into the great unknown of Part 2. At the beginning of each class, when it was time to get into the lesson of the day, Alex would say, "Listo?" Ready? And I'd very hesitantly say, "Si....." But you know what? I am ready. I am.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 339

In exactly one month from today, I'll be taking a train from Madrid to Pamplona, a bus from there to Roncesvalles and a taxi the rest of the way into St. Jean Pied-du-Port, where the next day I will officially begin this journey I started a year ago. Not long ago, I woke up knowing that it was time to figure out why I am walking the Camino de Santiago. It was no longer good enough to just say, "I don't know." I realized that while it's OK to go with the flow, there needs to be a purpose directing it. The trick is to direct the flow without restricting it, ultimately giving it more power. Much like a fire hydrant. If you open it up and just let the water flow, it goes everywhere, but accomplishes nothing. But hook a fire hose onto it, direct the power of that flow of water onto a burning building, and suddenly the water has a purpose. The water hasn't changed. It just has a direction.

I have to say that I was enjoying the "I don't know" part of all of this. I had no responsibility to live up to anything. No goal in mind. No goal to reach, but also no goal to miss. In a way, I think I believed that meant if I didn't succeed, it wouldn't matter as much. But no goal = no intention. My Camino deserves to be undertaken with intention. I didn't want to force a purpose on myself. Most importantly, I didn't want to feel that this purpose came from my mind rather than from my soul. I knew that, when the time was right, the purpose would reveal itself to me. And so, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it, or even meditating on it. I just put it in the back of my mind and I waited.

Last night, I was talking with my friend Sandiee. We both seem to be on a parallel path, though not at all the same path. We are experiencing many similar challenges and many similar victories. I can see her over there walking her path, and she can see me over here walking mine, but we are each walking alone. This has been incredibly powerful for each of us. Knowing that there is someone who understands fully what the other is experiencing helps to take the loneliness away. Our talks always reveal amazing insights that seemingly come from nowhere, but are obviously divinely inspired. Last night, as we talked about something totally unrelated, the purpose of my Camino was revealed to me. It was a blinding moment of inspiration. My head began to spin, I got the goosebumps and tears sprang to my eyes. I could barely focus. I may have even interrupted her when I said, "Oh my God. I know why I'm walking the Camino."

The ironic thing is, once I figured it out, I realized I'd been receiving hints all along the way. Many things I have written about in this blog from the beginning were hints to myself. All my life I have been very good at the leap from A to Z. See the big picture, don't focus on the details. In my learning style, as I've mentioned before, I have always been able to leap the learning curve, right up until I began learning Spanish. I had to learn how to learn step-by-step. I tend to procrastinate at things, not handling the little things as they come up, but instead waiting until I am at the edge of the cliff to take action. With this trip, I've had to learn how to prepare step-by-step. Just the other day, in Spanish class (I really need to start calling it Camino class, by the way), Alex asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was overwhelmed by all I had coming up in the next few weeks. He immediately went to the board and began breaking it down into steps. Suddenly it felt more manageable Another time, when I had a mini breakdown in class, thinking I might cut my trip short by starting on the other side of the Pyrenees, he reminded me that I might not be the fastest to get over those mountains, but that I would, indeed, get there. He then wrote me a simple note that said, "Enjoy the steps you are taking to get there." Step-by-step.

I am walking the Camino de Santiago in order to learn to take things step-by-step.

It seems like such a small thing, but yet, it is huge. The leap from A to Z takes away the joy and the lessons of B and C and D... It's time to learn how to slow down and enjoy the steps. While I am more than capable of taking the big leaps, I need to learn to take the small steps. Ironically, the small steps feel more scary to me than the big leaps. But I will get there.


"The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step." ~Lao Tzu