MY CONFESSION(s): I’m actually proud of myself – shhhh! / I think I’ve had a breakthrough – shhhh! / I think my ego and my inability to self forgive are connected – shhhhITE!

Sitting at a short table near my short bed in a small room with short ceilings, short doorways and narrow windows on the top floor of a former Benedictine monastery founded in the 10th century, is the perfect place to contemplate what just happened. img_4365

From my wee window (now say it like Mike Myers from So I Married An Axe Murderer) I could hear the sound of a busker playing the Galician gaita (Spanish bagpipes) below me, as I looked out over the hills toward the West. The land didn’t seem to want to release it’s grip on the clouds below. img_4364

About 100 metres behind me was the building that has been my physical destination for the last 800 KM’s – the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. Seven weeks earlier, I began my journey from St. Jean Pied du Port, France and for 49 days I walked more than ever, contemplated more than ever, cried more than ever and talked less than ever. (Well, at least since I could formulate enough words to get myself into trouble.)

I began this journey as a broken man. However, a few days before I finished The Camino, something happened inside me. Light began to find its way in through the cracks. Interesting timing, possibly even psychosomatic. We’ll see. But since Light is what I’ve actually been “looking for” I’m thinking I should probably ride this wave of positivity instead of taking my usual “wait and see” / spiritual gift of pessimism attitude. I’ve rolled like that for far too long and I’m starting to wonder if it’s been a complete waste of time and energy. Heck – maybe this Light penetrating my soul might even decide to stay a while this time.img_4413

At least long enough to begin an internal photosynthesis of sorts. Heck, maybe the Light might begin to grow to the point of having no more room, so it’s forced to leak out of me? I’ve seen this happen in others, but it’s been a long time since anything but stinky cynicism has leaked out of me.

The few days before reaching Santiago, it felt like I was almost running towards the finish line. Originally, the plan was to arrive in Santiago on my 50th birthday (November 30th). But in the words of Control Agent, Maxwell Smart from the TV series “Get Smart” – “Missed it by that much!” I arrived wayyy earlier than expected. (That hasn’t happened to me in a very, very long time 🙂

Walking with others because I wanted to hear their stories, meant that I had to walk when they walked. So I ended up walking further and faster than I had originally planned, because for me – story is everything.

The scenery has been fantastic, img_3537

c1fe01fb-a267-45ae-917a-a5bc70c2fc5dbut listening to people’s journeys has been much more fantastic-er.    (Is too a real word!)

Museums? Meh. img_4250
Churches and cathedrals? Meh. img_4292
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ff30744d-7acd-4e6a-a6d3-ea143961bc74

44df8c60-0b8c-4548-9ebc-6de2a9350897Villages, towns & cities? Meh. 96a859c6-3ed1-4c24-acca-c6405812a569 83ad5e19-a1bf-4e5e-a43a-d136aeabd4f8 ddb50e8b-0cd7-4142-afa6-e47e13149bae
And yes – compared to the lives of those I’ve walked with along The Way… even the food? Meh. (I don’t do food pics but here’s a special one!)img_4348

Arriving in Santiago on November 18th was an emotionally cathartic experience and I’m trying to figure out why. Why did I weep (AGAIN) when I reached the cathedral? Church doesn’t do it for me and certainly at this point, I’m sort of sick of Spanish cathedrals. But all I could do was sit in the ancient square, face the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, eat stale bread and cry. img_4418

(Thanks to a fellow pilgrim for capturing this moment.)

 

It’s certainly not like I believe that I’ve somehow won God’s favour by walking this ancient trail or that I’ve purged myself of sin by imposing some great penance on my body. If there is a God, I don’t believe that he gives a holy grunt about whether I walk a long way to somewhere. I would hope that this God might be slightly more interested in walking alongside of me, somehow. And showing up, somehow. And listening to new heartbeats of humility and authenticity and vulnerability along The Way – somehow.

So why was I overwhelmed at the end of this great walk?

Maybe, because I DID IT?
I can’t tell you how many times I played through in my mind the logistics of quitting and flying back home as I walked and walked and walked and walked. It’s been a rare thing for me to set a goal and then see it through to the point of being able to realize my accomplishment and reap the rewards of stickability. Throughout my life I’ve pursued so many things, then quit before I could reap from my investments. Even way back at the beginning – with my family, then school, then jobs, then the family funeral business, then football, then being a camp program director, then trying to become a firefighter, then a pastor. And all along, relationships have been quit on by yours truly as well. And finally, I even quit on something that I was the proudest of, because it was the one thing I had held onto the longest and with pride – parenting.

But on Friday November 18th, 2016, I finished walking from France, across Northern Spain on one of the oldest pilgrimages in the world.
I DID IT! And I’ve actually begun to already reap some benefits of this accomplishment. It feels amazing!img_4274

Maybe, because IT HURT?

Physical Pain: Every single day, something hurt.
My knees have been bad for a long time, so walking downhill, especially in the mountains, was a tad… let’s just say that I had to be extra careful not to let any potty words escape. (Yes, even when I was all by myself!) My shoulders and neck would scream at me daily. My toes have been swollen, throbbing and numb almost from the beginning. One toenail is black. My baby toes have completely reshaped themselves and have layers upon layers of callused skin. Even during the last day of walking, I had to stop every 20 minutes because of back spasms. There wasn‘t a day without pain. Even sleeping provided little respite. (However, I am completely aware just how blessed I am to be able to do what I’ve just done. Meeting pilgrims with Multiple Sclerosis or A.L.S. or even stupid shin splints was a daily reminder to “suck it up buttercup!”)

Emotional Pain: Every single day, something hurt.
A friend from Scotland sent me an email letting me know that she was reading my posts. I asked her if she wanted this dead man’s rope after I was done with it! I’m quite certain that the good folks from the city where the most suicidal songs have ever been written (Nashville) could use my emotional rants as fodder for a few tunes. Seriously! WHO CRIES THAT MUCH? Trust me, I can totally relate to everyone who read my posts and said, “DUDE! Grow a pair will ya!”

Spiritual Pain: Every single day, something hurt.
I haven’t really talked much about this part of my journey but the truth is that I am still yearning for a tangible, relational encounter from my Heavenly Father – if it’s possible for the Creator to tangibly interact with the created in a way that a father would communicate his love to his child. Simply. Clearly. And in a way that the child would know without a doubt that the Father does indeed love his child.

Not blessings – I don’t want Daddy’s stuff.
Not signs – I don’t want to have to guess/hope that God was behind certain unusual scenarios. (Example: Was it God that mysteriously put an arrow in the sky as I approached Santiago, or was I just so used to following the Camino arrows for seven weeks that I simply saw what I wanted to see? a0987232-a798-4880-8b94-9e5a6d9f259d

(BTW – the vast majority of pilgrims that I met, spoke of being spiritual but not religious. And hardly anyone – I actually can’t think of even one right now – was walking The Camino in search of God or hoping to strengthen their relationship with God. Those that did speak of spirituality were quite content creating their own code with their own moral guidelines and their own variations of what god is or isn’t. It’s almost as though everyone was inventing their own “new” religions because those that have been around for a thousand years or more just don’t seem to have exactly what they’re looking for. No one actually knew WHAT they’re looking for. They did know that whatever is already here, can’t be IT.)

Or, maybe I was overcome with emotion at the end of my pilgrimage because it feels like I’ve finally broken through a ceiling that I’ve been hitting my head on for years?
But have I? Evidence of growth is growth. And growth needs time. At this point all I know is that each day, for the last 49 days, I walked forward. And each day, I left something behind. And the more I walked, the further behind me those somethings got.

The inability to forgive myself and my ongoing issues with ego, both seem to be inextricably linked. I think I’ve become excruciatingly more aware of my ego agenda and how I’ve allowed it to permeate and impact far too many relationships, including loving myself. However, I am beginning to feel the unfamiliar release of self forgiveness and it seems to be impacting my ego awareness. It’s a start. But I wonder, can ego ever be controlled? Is ego ever a good thing? Maybe the only way for ego to be defeated is if something else takes it’s place?

Anyway… the bottom line is that I’m looking forward to getting home and hopefully being less of a judgmental, selfish ass. (BTW – Thank you to all those pilgrims who spent time with me. You helped show me how far from grace I’ve wandered.)

And here’s irony fer ya… the year I decide to walk The Camino, the cathedral is BEING REPAIRED! LOL img_4419

Then, I discover that Pope Francis (the only Pope I’ve ever prayed for – FOR not TO) declared 2016 A Holy Year Of Mercy. He said that the Holy Year is a response to the world’s need for a “revolution of tenderness” from which “justice and all the rest derives.”

The metaphors are just ripe fer the pickin’ y’all!

I am now on phase two of my Camino and continuing to walk another 100+ KM’s towards my geographical and metaphorical end – Finisterre. The Romans used to believe that this peninsula was the “end of the world” because they simply ran out of land as they followed the setting sun.

The end of the world – a perfect place to celebrate my 50th birthday! And to stop walking!

As is so often the case, someone else has been able to capture what I’m trying to say, FAR better than I. Have a listen to Dead Man’s Rope by Sting from the album Sacred Love. It’s my Camino theme song. (If you use a streaming music site, find it there and listen to the professionally produced version. If not, here is a raw live version.)

LYRICS

A million footsteps, this left foot drags behind my right
But I keep walking, from daybreak ’til the falling night
And as days turn into weeks and years
And years turned into lifetimes
I just kept walking, like I’ve been walking for a thousand years

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,

If you’re walking to escape, to escape from your affliction
You’d be walking in a great circle, a circle of addiction
Did you ever wonder what you’d been carrying since the world was black?
You see yourself in a looking glass with a tombstone on your back

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

Now I’m suspended between my darkest fears and dearest hope
Yes I’ve been walking, now I’m hanging from a dead man’s rope
With hell below me, and heaven in the sky above
I’ve been walking, I’ve been walking away from Jesus’ love

Walk away in emptiness, walk away in sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away in anger, walk away in pain
Walk away from life itself, walk into the rain

All this wandering has led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
I’m just hanging here in space

The shadows fall
Around my bed
When the hand of an angel,
The hand of an angel is reaching down above my bed

All this wandering have led me to this place
Inside the well of my memory, sweet rain of forgiveness
Now I’m walking in His grace
I’m walking in His footsteps
Walking in His footsteps,
Walking in His footsteps

All the days of my life I will walk with you
All the days of my life I will talk with you
All the days of my life I will share with you
All the days of my life I will bear with you

Walk away from emptiness, walk away from sorrow,
Walk away from yesterday, walk away tomorrow,
Walk away from anger, walk away from pain
Walk away from anguish, walk into the rain
.

NOW YOU KNOW WHY THIS IS MY CAMINO SONG!

15 thoughts on “MY CONFESSION(s): I’m actually proud of myself – shhhh! / I think I’ve had a breakthrough – shhhh! / I think my ego and my inability to self forgive are connected – shhhhITE!

  1. Ruby Neumann

    Wow.. a beautiful song. I found it on Youtube and read through the lyrics on your post as Sting sang in the background.

    What an amazing journey it would be if all we did was walk… Walk with Jesus, walk with others… just walk. Walking hand in hand with a loving Father who’s only desire is to walk with us every day.

    There’s no need to wear ourselves out with running or sprinting… Just walk.

    Thanks for sharing the journey with those of us that can only dream of walking that far and through such beautiful scenery and meeting such amazing people.

    Happy Birthday… when it comes….

    Ruby from Calmar Alberta

    Reply
  2. Nicola

    Congratulations Drew! You should be so proud of yourself! That is quite an accomplishment! When I commented in a previous post about you ” finding what you are looking for”, I genuinely meant it. I wasn’t making a sarcastic remark from “Disneyworld” as you put it. ( you ASS!) Lol
    I was referring to this light that you found! So happy for you!
    Still can’t believe YOU of all people didn’t speak for that length of time…wow! Safe travels home..can’t wait to hear all about it!

    Reply
  3. Nate Walter

    I’ve really appreciated your processing light and darkness – never more than I read in this post. And it reminds me of a great set of lyrics – Emphasis is the song, by Sleeping at Last:

    “But the sweetest thing I ever heard
    Is that I don’t have to have the answers,
    Just a little light to call my own.

    Though it pales in comparison
    to the over-arching shadows,
    a speck of light can reignite the sun,
    and swallow darkness whole.”

    Look it up and listen to it. The whole thing is wonderful.

    I think to a large degree most of us have an inherent hope that this speck of light can overcome that overwhelming darkness. Sometimes we even see someone or something that makes us think it’s possible. I hope this journey helps you see more and more of that light. Because even based on your blog alone, I think you do see it all around you – even if you can’t ignore the very real darkness that is also there.

    Reply
  4. Kelita Haverland

    Congratulations and well done my friend. You’re an inspiration. I love reading about the brokenness. It’s hard but the only WAY is THROUGH. Thanks for your insights and honesty. With love
    K

    Reply

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