I think it is fair to say that I am competitive and like to win.
Although I was not conscious of this at the outset, upon reflection, it is now clear to me that I approached my Camino in this way.
No bag would be too heavy for me, no distance too far, I would get up that hill faster than anyone, etc. etc. This was all to my detriment.
Whilst I was taking in the beauty of my surroundings, enjoying the company of my friends and conversing with other pilgrims, it was just on an every day level. Something had to change, but of course I did not realise that…….
About half way through our Camino, at Tricastela, the weather turned and we woke to howling wind and rain. To be honest, I was looking forward to battling the elements – again my ever present competitive streak was on the rise.
With all our weatherproof gear on we did look a sight,
but it was not cold and the bad weather was a welcome relief from the heat of the sun. We had a great day’s walking, stopped at a fantastic Donativo for breakfast and were making great progress towards Sarria, when we came across a small stream swollen by the rain.
Again Mr Competitive came to the fore, thinking I was still 16 and forgetting I had nearly 10kg on my back, I thought I could use my walking poles to vault the stream. Well I made a hash of it, landing partly in the stream. Oh well I thought, only my ego dented. Wrong again!
About 200 metres later, the ankle that had taken the full force of my landing started to complain. I tried to walk through it, but to no avail, and by the time we arrived in Sarria I was a hobbling mess, convinced that it would be the end of my Camino.
The next morning I could hardly put my weight on my ankle without severe pain. Not wanting to drag our group down, I suggested to Liz that she could continue with the others and I would meet them all in Santiago. Her reply was that if I was stopping, so was she! I couldn’t have that, so I strapped my ankle up, took copious amounts of painkillers and took to the road – only 100kms to go!
What happened that day can only be described as an epiphany.
Firstly the technical, thank goodness before the Camino I had learnt how to use walking poles correctly, they became my third leg. The pain from the injury was also bizarre – walking up hill, little pain, walking downhill and it was like hot knives being inserted.
Of course what the injury did do, is slow me down considerably and with all that competitiveness evaporating, it made me think deeply about what a problem this competitive streak had been for me. I truly started to appreciate my surroundings and I felt liberated by the experience. I had a notebook with me and started to write my thoughts. Here are some: –
“It’s the quality of the journey not the speed”
“Take it slow and your wellbeing will grow”
“Open your eyes”
“At 120k God sent me this injury as a test and a gift”
‘The beauty and aura of my wife up ahead just stands out and in harmony with mother nature”
On that day I vowed to change, to slow down and appreciate the gifts that I have and those around me. Try and avoid the consumerism rat race of every day life and live life to the full, by appreciating and helping others.
So thank you Lord for opening my eyes and seeing a better way.
Now the challenge is to live it!
“Blessed are you pilgrim, because you have discovered that an authentic Camino begins when it is completed”