This is the time of year where I typically post a business “year in review.” I’ll probably still write it, but I don’t feel like it right now.
Aside from a couple of posts on mental health, I’ve kept this blog “professional.” I have no intention of being unprofessional in this post, but let’s just say that this post is not about business and it’s not written for my clients.
I’m writing it for myself. I’m writing it for people who care about me. I’m writing it for others who can identify.
2018: A Year of Much Wow
I rung in 2018 sometime between midnight and first dawn of the New Year. I don’t remember exactly, but if my typical pattern was true, I probably went to bed around nine or ten, read a book until I feel asleep, woke up to pee sometime during the night, got back in bed, patted my husband, murmured “happy new year,” and then slept late.
I’m a party animal.
In late January my mom coordinated a surprise family get-together for my dad’s 70th birthday. I drove down to Houston, TX (my hometown) and celebrated the World’s Best Dad (truly) with my mom, sister, and her family. He’s not your average “old guy” — as part of his birthday surprise we tried indoor sky-diving for the first time. We also did one of those escape room things.
In March my dad asked me if I might be interested in hiking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile hike through Spain. I’ve always wanted to do an extended hike. Five or six years earlier I’d pondered doing a section of the Appalachian Trail, but life intervened and that trip never materialized. Anyhow, on my dad’s recommendation I watched The Way and then immediately texted him that I was interested in trip.
Spring (and Summer)
Over the next few months my dad and I planned the details of our trip – nailing down the dates, putting together a rough itinerary, buying and organizing gear, etc. We also trained separately (and once or twice together) in the form of lonnnnngggg walks.
Turns out the Camino is a very hilly and often technical hike; My treks through the flats of North Texas didn’t prepare me for it, but that’s a different story.
I don’t do well with conflict. I try to actively avoid it, but sometimes it finds me anyway. The story of what happened doesn’t matter, but the net result was a falling out with one of my best friends. This affected me on multiple levels: deep hurt, extreme anger, sadness, and concern.
I think the biggest sorrow of all was the sudden absence in my life of someone who’d been a daily confidant. I was angry at my friend and didn’t want to speak, but I grieved that relationship all the same.
My continued prep for the Camino looked like this:
- reading a lot of Camino forums
- asking questions on a Camino Facebook group
- reading a great book about another person’s Camino journey (I’m Off Then by Hape Kerkeling)
- talking to others who’d hiked the Camino
- “interviewing” multiple sports bras, technical shirts, and pants
- taking long walks with a weighted pack and my hiking shoes
- making a million trips to REI
I’d weighted everything going into my back and practiced packing/unpacking my supplies (here’s my Camino packing list, if you care. ha!). I felt as ready as I was gonna be.
In September my dad and I set out for the adventure of our lives. Nobody else in the family was crazy enough to join us. I thought this trip would be challenging on every level: physically, emotionally, spiritually. It didn’t let me down in that regard.
In ~25 days spanning five weeks, we hiked 321 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port into Santiago, Spain. It averaged out to ~13 miles, or ~21 kilometers, per day.
We lost some hiking days due to travel and illness. Early in the trip I had some allergies flare up and was unable to get any meds for a few days due to a lack of open Pharmacias in small towns (Medicine is highly regulated in Spain. You can’t buy so much as a Tylenol in a grocery store).
In addition to that, about half-way through the trip my dad and I were waylaid with food poisoning. I’d hoped to lose some weight on this trip, but not like that!
Illness aside, every day was a physical challenge. Early in the trip we experienced mile after shade-free mile under a hot sun. Toward the end of trip the discomfort came from the cold. Fortunately, it only rained on us one day.
I’ve done endurance training for running events in the past, including four half-marathons, but this was a different sort of challenge. Every day, walking a long way was my job, whether I felt like it or not.
It was a mental game to keep chugging along.
Hello, my name is Carrie. I’m 43 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve always lived with a sort of angst that I’m not doing the right thing with my life or that I’m not where I should be. But I don’t have any answers to what I “should be” doing, hence the angst and a perpetual sense of searching mingled with discontent.
I’m at an interesting point in my career. I’ve got more than 20 solid years of experience behind me and I’ve found some level of success (by my definition) in everything I’ve put my hand to. I’m creative, I’m self-motivated, and I’m a hard worker. I’ve got everything I need to continue a successful career. The only hitch is that I haven’t been sure where to direct my energy.
This frustrates me.
I’ve also struggled in my marriage for a while. The emotional toll was very high.
The Camino was an opportunity to ponder big questions about “what’s next” for me, both for my marriage and my career. My hope was that the physical space of the Camino would give clarity.
The Camino has its origins as a spiritual journey. For over 1,000 years it’s served as path for pilgrims to travel to Santiago, where the bones of St. James are (supposedly) buried at the Cathedral de Santiago.
People walk the Camino for many reasons, some of them spiritual, but plenty not. I didn’t view the Camino as a spiritual pilgrimage. That said, I am a Christian. I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that, through his forgiveness, I am able to have a personal relationship with God.
So I prayed.
Mostly I thanked God for the beauty of Spain. Every day brought a different landscape, each beautiful its own right. As I passed people in wheelchairs being carried by friends on the Camino, I thanked God for legs that worked and a body capable of the journey. I thanked God for air conditioning. I thanked God for fresh, cool water. I thanked God for the opportunity to share this trip with my dad.
I also prayed for peace. And clarity.
Still on the Camino…
On October 3rd, my dad and I arrived in Sarria. While the particular Camino route we took (French Way) is 500 miles, a pilgrim only need walk the last ~70 miles to earn a Compostela, or certificate of completion. No more cabs or buses. Come food poisoning or rain storm, we would walk in those final miles.
Per previous arrangement, some dear friends of mine from Fort Worth met us in Sarria and hiked with us for that “home stretch.” The combination of being close to reaching our goal (Santiago) and seeing my friends made me truly home sick for the first time on the trip.
From an emotional perspective, those following days were some of the most challenging on the trip. I think also not having the safety net of a bus or cab increased the emotional pressure to finish this trip on foot (and on schedule – we’d already booked our airfare home).
On October 8th, we hiked the final miles in Santiago. It was not at all what I expected.
From photos (and movie depictions), I figured you crossed the Santiago town limits and there you were, looking at the Cathedral and having this intense emotional release. In reality, once we hit the outskirts of Santiago, we still had a ways to go. Santiago isn’t a small town at all. It’s also rather touristy.
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#day29 Ponte Campaña Mato —> Ribadiso (22.5km). This was our first day to hike in the rain and thankfully it was more toward the light end of the “drizzle to pouring” spectrum. We are within 42km of #Santiago. #homestretch #readytogetthere #caminodesantiago #caminofrances #longhike #journeytosantiago #arewethereyet
There was an additional irony: the Camino is marked with trail markers (typically either yellow arrows or shells) indicating your way. When we finally made it to the heart of old Santiago, there wasn’t a marker to be found. Ha! The four of us stood there by a fountain, looking exhausted and bewildered, wondering which way to go when a more experienced pilgrim approached us and offered to help us find our way.
Thank God for the kindness of fellow pilgrims.
Fort Worth, TX
On October 11, I returned to reality. After living out of a backpack for over a month with a minimum of supplies, returning to a 2,000 sqft home with air conditioning, filtered water, wifi, a kitchen, washer/dryer… well, it felt like abundance. And it was. I was simultaneously thankful for that abundance and aware that I own way more than I need.
It was good to hug my husband. It was sweet to love on my dogs. It was heaven to sleep in my bed again.
At this point I’d reacclimated to the life of a non-pilgrim, though I continued to wrestle with “lessons from the Camino” and try to learn what I could carry from that experience into my normal life.
Outside of work, I spent a lot of time with a handful of friends, seeking their counsel. I also spent more time in therapy (a continuation of therapy, not anything new) processing my life. While the Camino gave me clarity on some things, it wasn’t the Clarity (or clear answers, really) that I’d prayed for.
I struggled, a lot. There were days I barely left the bed. I struggle with depression even when life is fine. When life is not fine, well, extra ugh.
After nearly 14 years of marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce. The details leading up to that are not important (and no one’s business, for that matter), though I will explicitly state “for the record” that he’s a good man who was never abusive or unfaithful. Again, not anyone’s business, but because I still love him and feel protective of him, I wanted to state that clearly.
My heart has ripped in two. I imagine us like Velcro, stuck together. Pulling apart our lives has been very painful, though we wouldn’t have done if it we didn’t think it was the best thing to do.
If the Camino was the most physically challenging thing I’d ever done, then coming home and sorting out my marriage and future have been the most emotionally challenging.
This month has been a whirlwind.
I’ve packed up the part of my life you can put in boxes and have that stored away for when I’m ready. I’ve gathered up my clothes, toothbrush, and other daily essentials (granted, way more than fits in a single backpack) and temporarily moved in with some very kind and generous friends.
I spent the holidays with my parents, who surrounding with me with so much love and nurturing that it overwhelmed me (in a good way).
I’m preparing to ring in the New Year with friends. I’m also preparing to leave on an extended road trip beginning January 6th. I’m fortunate that I can do my job from anywhere with a wi-fi connection. I want to drive out into fresh air, to see new things, explore new places, and see friends along the way.
I don’t know where I’ll land when I’m done. Fort Worth, TX has been my home for 25 years. All of my roots are in Texas. Maybe I’ll be homesick after my travels and ready to get back to Texas. Or maybe I’ll be ready to start over somewhere new.
There’s a mix of excitement and fear as I step out into the unknown. But mostly excitement.
2019 is the year of Carrie’s Grand Adventure.