Extracts from My Camino Walk – A Way to Healing Chapter 9 by Timothy L. Phillips (IslandCatEditions)
“…….the next significant stopping place is Navarrete, only thirteen kilometres away. However, to travel to the next major refugio in Nájera would be too much for me, so I am quite content with a shorter travelling day.”
“……After our lunch break, we’re ready to begin walking again, but it’s already early afternoon. The challenge is going to be in finding a refugio that’s not already full.
“Despite the urgency to get back on the road quickly, we’re not dissuaded from stopping to play. A teeter-totter in the middle of town beckons, and Jennifer and Michiko have to try it out. They don’t even stop to remove their backpacks. I enjoy watching the spontaneity. If we weren’t so pressed for time, I’d join in. Well, I like to think I would. Having turned sixty shouldn’t present a barrier to being playful. Besides, when I look in the mirror, I don’t see someone of that age.
“There’s something special about adults who can retain a childlike ability to play without any sense of inhibition. Too many people take life with such deadly seriousness and little joy. Like children, we should celebrate the small things: the sun on your skin, the reflections in a pond, the splash puddles make when we jump in them, even a teeter-totter’s highs and lows. Give yourself permission to be silly for a change. Let go. Lighten the load.”
For our dinner, “we (Jennifer, Michiko Isabel and myself) are sharing a table with two Italians who are travelling the Camino by bicycle. During the meal, I remember that this day, May 6, would have been my mother’s ninety-ninth birthday. Her name was Margaret. In a spontaneous act of celebration, I decide to pick up the bill for my fellow pilgrims in her honour.
My mother died at age seventy-eight. Narcissistic and self-absorbed, she wasn’t a good mother. Alcohol would often reduce her to a depressed state, and sometimes when I came home from school, I found her slumped over a table. I never knew whether she’d overdosed on powerful sleeping medication and if I should call for an ambulance.
At the age of eight, I felt it was my sole responsibility to cheer her up and make her happy. She didn’t provide me with many of the things I required emotionally as a child, and even when she was sober, she was highly critical and manipulative.
“…….If I needed her approval, I would do what she requested without considering my own needs. It seemed easier to comply with her wishes rather than assert my own.
“……When she died in 1990, I felt some relief. I experienced guilt admitting that because we’re told to revere and honour our mothers. However, it was as though I had regained my life and was finally free to make my own decisions. I was no longer bound by her spell.
“…..At my mother’s funeral, rather than being a sad event, it provided me with a chance to heal. I was able to reconnect with relatives whom I had not seen for many years and to find common ground and understanding.
“Twenty years later, I am here in Navarrette today celebrating my mother’s life probably for the first time. I had always focused on her maternal deficiencies. Now I’m re-envisioning some of the story so I can thank her for her contribution to who I am today. I have finally let her go with all my love and feel my anger is spent. Even the tears I shed at this celebratory dinner are a lightening of my burden.
Today, I celebrate that my presence here on the Camino has brought me to a place of healing and a greater sense of self-understanding. These eight hundred kilometres are definitely more than just a long, tiring walk.
For this journey, I’ve been attempting to make the physical load as light as possible. However, I now understand that the emotional baggage can be much heavier, although it’s not measured in kilos or pounds. It seemed so normal because I carried it every day.
Sometimes one needs a friend to draw attention to the weight of this invisible baggage. That friend today is the Camino.”