(tap-tap) Is this thing on?

I’m back!

Back on terra firma, back in my own home, in my own bed, and feeling so so so grateful for so many things–life, love, and my blessed pillow. The seven-week backwards journey from Finisterre to Saint Jean Pied de Port was wonderful, weird, and full of characters, stories, and insights I’m eager to share.

At the end of my first Camino in 2013, I’d left a piece of myself–like a few spiritual ribs or a soulful femur–out at Fistera’s lighthouse, overlooking the moody Atlantic. For three years, these very real parts of me have sat out on the windswept rocks like a forgotten umbrella, waiting to be reclaimed.

The last time I was there, my life felt split in two, as I faced an immense decision about who I was to be in the world. We all come to this point eventually: Do I keep investing energy in keeping up the act or finally risk being myself? Should I keep playing the role of peacemaker and chameleon, or could I be the authentic, trusting, happy, loving, open person I discovered myself to be as I walked across Spain? I really didn’t know how I could do the latter without upsetting friends, business partners, family. So I set aside a vital, newly-discovered sense of self that windy June day.

On this return, I went back to that very place to reclaim my abandoned parts. I went to become whole again, completely–and then walk with my full, real self back to where I had started in France. Most of all, I walked back across Spain in order to bring this loving, authentic self home–back to my life, my friendships, my work, my family, my marriage. It was finally time.

And this I have done, I’m happy to say.

What a journey! I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Truthfully, I’m a little rusty on the technology front! I seem to have forgotten how to type. It’s been eight weeks since I’ve spent more than ten minutes on social media. In fact, my email account was temporarily suspended halfway through my walk due to “suspicious activity” (it was me, using coin-op computers along the Way). It was a surprising relief to be tech-free for so long.

Anyway, rest assured: my reverse Camino tales, insights, joys, frustrations, and reflections are all on their way… in time. Just like on the Camino.

In the meantime, please know how grateful I am to you. Thank you so much for your comments, thoughts, prayers, love, support, and enthusiasm for this spiritual adventure that is the Camino. Thank you for cheering me on–and in some cases, cheering up my wife, Mary, in my absence. To be held in your mind and heart for so long is a gift to me, and I thank you. I hope your life is unfolding in love and trust.

Sending much love and Camino dust,
Jen

Leaving

What do you say after your bags are packed, money is transferred for two months of bills, the boarding passes are printed, and you have tomorrow’s clothes in a neatly-folded pile waiting to be worn before the sun is up?

What does it mean to shed a house-worth of stuff, two jobs, countless names and roles, so that everything left fits into a fifteen-pound pack?

Honestly, the only thing I can think is that it’s a little bit like what death must be like. A final parting wave and then—nothing. No roles. No to-dos. No more appointments. And perhaps, the same promise of unending joy. Don’t we all eventually run out of time? This feels like a practice run.

When you go, those who are left get a chance to say how much you were loved, how much you gave, and what a difference you made while you were here. I leave in less than twelve hours, but for weeks  I’ve heard things like, “You’re so inspiring!” and “We’re going to miss you.” and “May you be blessed on this journey and find everything you’re seeking.” and “I love you.” Something about my departure is inspiring loved ones to pause and say the heartfelt things we don’t usually. Me too.

Why do I wait? Why do we hold back? I want to remember this poignancy every day: Speak from the heart. Tell the truth. Take the risk.

In the end, there’s nothing left but love. None of the stuff matters.

Here’s what I know: the spaciousness of the days ahead call to me. The friends I’ve yet to meet are out there already walking towards Santiago. The Holy Door is open, waiting for me to walk through and receive mercy. And after, there will be only weeks of days of walking in reflection, in joy, and in occasional confusion as I find my way in reverse.

And when the walking is done, I will have a home to come to, a devoted wife (who, by the way, will update my blog with excerpts from my emails home), and many loves and interests and good work to do. I’m excited to finally see and understand down to my bones that the pilgrimage truly doesn’t end. Only the venue changes.

Think of me in your prayers, and I will do the same. Until next time.

Buen camino, y’all.