I packed up and walked out of the small (2 rooms 16 beds) auberges in Zubiri, and across the street to the cafe where I had ran into Kento for I think the 2nd time last year. (Kento was the “Zen Coyote Patron Saint of the Camino” for those who were along for the ride last year).

Rachel, Penny (not her real name;) and I had breakfast together, Penny (not her real name) compromising her vegan sensibilities to partake in one of the local breakfast delicacies, the “tortilla”- not the tortillas I’m used to back in California, more like a quiche/omelette hybrid.

While we were eating Kirsten sat down. I had met her at dinner when I arrived in St. Jean, but hadn’t seen her since then. She was a little down, was questioning herself, why she was there. I only spoke with her a few minutes since I had to go finish and post the previous nights blog, but I figured our paths would cross again during the day.

Paths crossing. It’s kind of funny. Nicholas was my Uber driver to LAX when I left for Spain (well, I went to Paris first, but Ill leave that for a later post). Nicholas is 22. He’s studying to be a pilot. I doubt my parents ever met a 22 year old Jewish kid giving them a ride to the airport studying to be a pilot. That’s what’s one of the cool things about the world today. That and the fact that I can fly to Spain and walk across it, and bitch and post my self-absorbed thoughts to the internet. How beautiful of a world is this?

Nicholas parents had separated when he was eight. His father got custody, and worked hard to give them a home. But then when he was a junior in high school, his father passed away. To make it worse, for some inexplicable reason, his aunt and uncle (his fathers sister and brother) went to court to have him cremated. I’m pretty sure the Jewish culture isn’t hip to cremation.

Nicholas had to go live with his mom. They had a pretty tough time, she found it hard to make ends meet. And Nicholas was pretty depressed about his dad’s death. But he found someone to help. He met a girl about a year after his dad passed. He married her. He says she’s what inspired him to go back to training to be a pilot. She believed in him, so he didn’t mind studying, going to class, and then driving for Uber to make ends meet and see his dream though. Cause that’s what dreams do. And that’s what love does.

Amanda used to do that for me. I actually realized it and thought about it when I’d be writing, creating. And it was as if, in a way, I was doing it to make her proud of me, because she had showed she believed in me when she rescued me, and gave me my life back. Maybe that’s what a muse is. But those days are gone. I’ve only got myself to believe in now.

By the way. Nicholas won the court case to have his father buried instead of cremated. He can now go visit that father that raised him through difficult times, loved him, and gave him everything he could to make him the man he is today. The man I met. The one who’s dreams seem to be coming true.

Just our of Zubiri I climbed a hill and walked on the side of the valley through green glades of trees, with farmland on both sides, rolling up, and down to the river and the valley floor.

After awhile, I walked through a small town, Burguette in the rain, and moved on quickly. The path was dotted with small towns every few kilometers. I ran across one of the many fountains along the way and made a pit stop to fill up my bladder (the plastic kind for hikers) with water. It was quick, I was on my way. If I was in the same state I was in last year (shit bag of chaos) it would have taken twice as long. Crap would’ve fallen out of my bag, I would have lost something, I would have got pissed. But no, It was like a tire change at a pit stop at a Nascar race. Fast, efficient. I moved on.

As far as walking this year, I think about why I’m here. It’s definitely not the same experience. Im much more at peace with myself. So when I ran across Kirsten, I had some sage wisdom to pass on. I say that with a grain of salt of course. But she was in need of some kind words. She had been on the Camino 5 times before, but was doubting being here this year…she was contemplating quitting when she got to Pamplona.

She told me that if anything, this was the year she needed something like the Camino the most. After her husband suddenly left her a year and a half prior, she found herself out of rhythm with her past life because now, there was a profound shift in the foundation of it. But she had found a new milieu, a new life. She had a new job which she enjoyed, with more pay, but more responsibilities and stress. She enjoyed time with her friends, and taking care of and hanging out with her teenage kids. She laughed and shook her head when she mentioned the men she had dated.

I listened and told her about my life, what I had been through, and how the Camino, and writing about it had helped save me. She said she had always thought about writing, but she figured she had nothing to say. Well, this was enough for me to launch into a passionate and animated discourse on writing, life, etc. Things I am such an expert on ;).

It’s kinda weird, but when I discussed these things, my brain and mouth went into overdrive. For what it’s worth, I guess this writing thing is maybe something I should pursue. I told her that everyone has something to say, and that even if you’re only writing for yourself, people like to hear the shit the rest of us are going through. These things we go through are what make us kindred spirits, they are the things that bond us in all of our human-fuckedupedness. They are the things that teach us to stop beating up on ourselves. They are the things that teach us to love.

I left Bridget with that and moved on. I stopped at a lunch place on a river. Penny and Rachel were there so I sat with them for a little while. They finished and got up and left, I stayed to finish my bocadilla, knowing I’d catch them. I waved to Kirsten as I left, she was sitting alone. It didn’t look like my sermon had helped.

As I got closer to Pamplona the Camino ran close to the freeway. I caught Rachel and Penny and we continued on to the town. Since Rachel had done the Camino 5 times (this was her 6th), it was easy just to follow her and Penny to the Auberges in Pamplona, so I did. We paused at the bridge that is the gateway to Pamplona, 

Although even after crossing, one has a few k left to get to the center of town. By now several other pilgrims that I had seen along the way but hadn’t got to know were trudging the final few kilometers to the auberge. 

After showering and washing some clothes. Some old bearded dude who looked like Burl Ives on a bender kept giving me the stink-eye when I checked my clothes in the dryer and didn’t take them out. Obviously, the Camino had not taught him patience yet.

Later I met Rachel and Penny for dinner. We had some tapas (well I did) Rachel had a bocadillo and Penny some pasta. I don’t think it was penne. Drum roll please. Just before we left I saw Kirsten. She was sitting with some new friends, (Bridget and Bernadette) who I had met a few times along the way. She was smiling ear to ear and obviously having a good time.

I’m thinking she decided to continue on. And I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to talk with her on the Camino and possibly help her to make the decision to do so. In case she did decide to wrap it up and go home, I’m still thankful for getting the opportunity to know another soul in this lucid dream we keep insisting is real, called life.

It took a few years for my therapist to convince me I had been emotionally abused. It’s about as easy to teach a platypus to ride a unicycle as it is to get a man to admit to it. We have egos. We are hard wired to be the defenders, the providers, the ones who fend off invaders. The ones who are in charge of survival.

A note here- I’m not one of those fervent believers that thinks that therapy can change the world. I go sporadically, but somewhat consistently (if that makes sense) and have a wonderful therapist. But I’m not saying therapy is for everybody. I believe everyone could benefit from it if they are open to it, but it’s a personal choice.

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier (a therapist who specializes in this) has this to say about it: “Do you believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally abused by women? Believe it. It happens all the time. The stereotype of an abusive relationship is that of a man physically beating a woman. Society has yet to acknowledge the vast number of women who emotionally abuse men.

In fact, the men who are being abused oftentimes don’t realize that their wife’s or girlfriend’s behavior is abusive.They use different terms to describe this behavior like nagging, bossy, difficult, strong-willed, tough, harsh, argumentative, “passionate,” or aggressive, which they always follow up with some excuse such as, “She had a really tough childhood. She was abused.” Lots of people have had less than ideal beginnings, but they don’t take it out on others in their adult relationships.

Men have been brainwashed into believing that it’s normal for women to be irrational, moody, emotional, and demanding. Most men accept these behaviors under the guise that a woman is ‘just expressing her feelings’ and men are uncomfortable with because ‘men aren’t good at expressing their feelings.’ This is ridiculous. This behavior makes men uncomfortable, just as it would make most women on the receiving end of it uncomfortable because it’s abusive.

If you walk on eggshells around your partner because you’re afraid she’ll flip out on you for minor transgressions or simply because she’s in a bad mood, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If nothing you do, no matter how hard you try pleases her, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she regularly puts you down, criticizes or demeans you you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she shuts you out, gives you the cold shoulder or refuses to have sex with you, you’re experiencing emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is like a cancer that eats away at your psyche until you’re left feeling powerless, worthless, anxious and/or depressed. Most of the time it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it. You explain away the first few tantrums, emotional outbursts and rage episodes. You take her criticisms to heart because you want to please her.

You won’t be able to change her behavior. Why? First, it’s highly unlikely that your girlfriend or wife will see her behavior as abusive … and, most importantly, her abusive behaviors are how she gets what she wants. It’s a learned and highly effective behavioral technique, which, even if she gains awareness about it, will be terribly difficult (if not impossible) for her to break. The goal of an abuser is control and the way they control you is through emotional abuse.

In the last few years I experienced some of the things Tara speaks of. But I have a slightly skewed perspective on the matter, documented in last years blog. It kind of agrees with Tara, but takes it one step further. I think abuse does exist, just as sexual harassment, and a lot of other crimes and misdemeanors that transpire between us humans as, for some reason, we treat other like shit a lot of the time.

I think we’re all just trying to get what we think we deserve by the means we have been taught, usually by our parents. Those methods, or means, are so ingrained that we don’t even realize we’re abusing someone. Partly because the psychological/ emotional makeup of the other person is also part of the equation. Some (like me) can be hurt, devastated by those methods or means. Others, more resilient, might hardly be affected at all.

I’m not trying to make excuses for those that abuse, I’m just trying to understand why they do it. I want to believe that people are basically good. And if there’s any meaning to my universe, that meaning is derived through what we experience, good or bad, how we choose to react emotionally, and if we decide to learn from the experiences and move on. I know I am simplifying, and I certainly am not condoning abuse of any kind. I’m just trying to accept the fact that it happens, and find a way to deal with it. And if you were a fervent follower of last years blog, you know what I always say- What the fuck do I know?

For more information on Dr. Tara Palmatier go to https://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/when-love-hurts-the-emotionally-abused-man/

I had been communicating with Amanda the last half of my walk on the Camino last year. Even though I was accomplishing something (as far as some are concerned) that is a bit extraordinary, I didn’t see it that way. As far as I was concerned, as I noted in my video (click here), I felt that if I could do it, anyone can. Thats pretty much how you gauge everything you do when you don’t think much of yourself.

As I finished the last few days of my walk, she was with me more and more, via text and phone calls. I was happy to have her in my life. So when I got back from Spain, both of our codependence kicked back in (even spending 30 days walking across Spain wasn’t enough to fix it) and we started seeing each other again. But we knew we couldn’t continue as before. We both knew we needed to grow, and the best way to do that was to be apart. But, hey, sometimes life gets in the way.

What’s funny is, early on I had an inkling, a feeling that we were being unhealthy in our relationship- we spent every moment we could with each other. But again, when I look back, in my mind we were helping each other heal.

I was the one who told her that I should probably not be spending as much time there, that maybe that’s why her kids were acting out as much as they were. I did leave for a few days, but was back full time in short order. Who was I to say no? I still needed her just as much as she needed me.

Maybe it just took awhile to sink in. Because eventually, Amanda began to separate herself from me (emotionally), I could feel her moving away. It was best for her, but at that point, unfortunately, it was not in the best interests of me. For some reason, even though I was the one who had recommended we spend less time together months earlier, I was also the one who had a harder time reconciling myself to the new “arrangement”. Looking back, maybe she never really loved me, maybe she was only being weak and needy at the time she grabbed me and wouldn’t let go, and the same goes for me. And maybe we were just thrown together by the forces of the universe to experience life together for awhile and learn from each other. All I know is that what she gave me is truly a gift. And i love her for that.