At some point for some pilgrims, the Camino becomes less about the physical path and more about an inner journey of personal significance. Although the specific details differ for each person, this interior Camino involves coming face-to-face with one’s own Achilles heel and an attempt to resolve the issues underneath it.
That thing you’ve been hiding or avoiding most of your life? There’s enough space on the Camino for that to show up and even heal – if you allow it.
My core issue was this: Am I allowed to be myself?
I know everyone grapples with this question, but it has paralyzed me. My dual intention of anticipating others’ needs yet wanting to be authentic is a struggle—especially when the two desires conflict. I’d been dancing around and ignoring this issue for years, and it was coming to light during my final days in Spain.
Is it really okay to take up space in the world? Am I really allowed to want what I want?
In the short amount of time I spent with Meg, she helped me uncover my authentic, playful, open, and loving nature. The experience of being met and accepted for whatever I said or did, free of judgment, was utterly liberating for me.
The catch was that I didn’t know how to be this way without her. Feeling so free in another’s presence was such an uncommon experience that I believed she was the cause of my liberation. I had only just gotten a glimpse of how to be completely myself and I feared I would lose it again forever when she left. The idea of letting her go brought on utter panic.
But that’s the role of a Camino archangel—to bring you to the brink of your core issue, give you a glimpse of what’s possible, and then set you free to achieve it on your own. I know this now, but at the time, I was beside myself, barely breathing, desperately panicked at the idea of losing her.
Meg had never been mine to keep. I had to honor her journey and free her from this role. She had her own path to tread, but knowing this didn’t mean it was easy.
* * *
In contrast to the beautiful dawning day, a storm was roiling inside of me.
With growing dread, I watched as Meg loaded up her pack. She needed an early start; while I was staying on in Finisterre for a rest day, Meg was leaving to walk the 33km (20.5mi) to Muxía in a single day. This had always been the plan, but I couldn’t believe the inevitable moment had arrived.
In a trance, I walked down the pensión‘s three flights of stairs behind her. Just outside the door, we stood face-to-face on the thick stone step.
I was profoundly aware that this was my last chance to tell her how I felt, yet the whole truth held the potential of a grenade that could blow my life into unrecognizable fragments.
With the seconds running out, I stammered my thanks for our shared journey, close to tears, making the deliberate choice to withhold my truth. Meg and I hugged, and she stepped away, giving me a radiant smile. I watched as she disappeared down the narrow streets of Finisterre.
And then it was over. Door closed.
I walked back up our three flights of stairs feeling numb. Bereft. Empty. What have I done? I couldn’t believe I had let her go without saying a word about my feelings. I wanted to scream at this lifelong limitation. Why can’t I speak my truth! Why didn’t I say anything?
Back in my room, I sat down on my bed and hugged my pillow. She’s gone. You fool.
I felt my inner world collapse. Despite the incredible experiences I’d had on the Camino – inspiring people, generous angels, and gorgeous scenery – nothing mattered to me in that moment except the thought that I had lost my one opportunity at happiness.
You idiot. You will never be happy. I felt stunned. Desolate. I couldn’t even cry.
Looking for a distraction from my grief, I took a long shower. Once clean and dressed, I sat on the bed with a map of Finisterre. I needed to move, to get outside. Slowly, I made a plan. I considered the festival going on in the waterfront plaza, and also needed to check out the bus schedule and get more cough medicine. I read Breirley’s description of the church in town and decided to visit it.
Then, with a jolt, I realized that I had never thrown my heart rock into the waves while Meg and I had been out the day before. This was crucial. I’d need to find a beach on which to do this final ritual. All told, it wasn’t an ambitious itinerary, but it would distract me from the ache of missing Meg.
The astonishing thing was that, despite my belief that all hope was gone, the Divine continued to provide for me and support me. Camino angels were looking out for me—as they had my entire journey. Just because I had lost sight of them didn’t mean they stopped working their magic.
Have you heard the expression, “If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans”? The Universe had other ideas for me.
It was Sunday and a festival weekend, and I soon discovered that both the pharmacy and the bus station were closed. I started to worry about my worsening cough and my uncertain departure time the next day. My sudden preoccupation with schedules was an abrupt change from the go-with-the-flow energy of my pilgrimage.
I walked around the festival, looking in the colorful tents selling handmade soaps, jewelry, toys, nuts, and other baubles. I wanted to get presents for everyone at home, but nothing seemed right. I found a necklace for myself, but mostly felt grouchy and sad. I gave up on shopping.
My mood took a turn for the better when I found an honest-to-goodness pizzeria. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that I had been obsessed with pizza for weeks but had found nothing to sate my cravings. Having skipped breakfast, I was famished and ordered a whole pie just for myself.
Let me tell you: It was amazing. The pizza crust was heaven—just the right combination of crisp and chewy. The sauce was perfection. And the cheese? Oh, my lord! It was manna; hot, gooey strings of cheese stretched out with each bite. With a bottle of orange Fanta, I was beginning to approach something resembling contentment.
I was chowing down on my third slice when a familiar face appeared before me, smiling.
He visited with me, smoking his cigarette, and I invited him to sit in the wrought-iron chair opposite. When I offered him some pizza, he seemed hesitant, but I assured him that I could not eat it all myself. Convinced, he helped himself to a slice. The wafting smoke made my coughing worse, but I was happy to have his company.
“Where is your friend?” He asked, unknowingly poking at a tender issue.
“She is walking to Muxía today.” My face must have given me away.
“Do you want to go look for her?” he asked.
“Look for her?” I was confused. She wasn’t lost, just gone forever.
“Sí, we can find her with my car. It would be una sorpresa.”
Surprised by his offer, I tried to be logical and presented him with good reasons not to do it: she would be hard to locate and was very likely still walking. Besides, I planned to see the church and then go to the beach.
He waved his hand dismissively.
“Let’s go. You will see Muxía and surprise your friend,” he said, as if he had nothing else in the world to do but go wild-goose chasing after pilgrims.
I was tired, sickly, and probably as low as I had felt on my entire journey, yet here was a lifeline. All the shops I needed were closed anyway. Visiting the church and beach could wait. And unlike myself in that moment, Moisés knew how to say yes to life.
So I agreed.
And if you’re keeping count, Moisés became a Camino angel for the third time in three days.
(To be continued…)