I walked along the beach in Finisterre picking up a few scallop shells to bring home and wondered if I really would be able to, as Thomas Wolfe said, “… go home again”. Not that I wouldn’t be able to physically go back home again, but I wondered with the changes I was dealing with during this trip and in some cases putting closure to, would constitute enough of a change where, when I got back to my old home and friends, I wouldn’t be the same person I was when I left.
I don’t think this trip had changed me that much. In retrospect, I don’t think the last trip changed me that much either, but it was a catalyst for change, the thing that set me on the road to understanding, and to healing. I had to go back home to experience the life I had been living and sort things out to really start to make any changes.
I walked up by a little cafe that sat at the northern terminus, just above the beach. It looked like a cool, hip little hangout, about the size of a double wide that was missing a wall and a meth lab in the back. It was totally open to the azure sea, a bar to the right and a few tables with people just up from the beach lounging, and drinking wine, Sangria, and beer. I made a note to return for a Sangria and a sunset.
Beyond the cafe was a path that travelled up the side of a short hill and connected with a road that paralleled the coast. I took it and after a short while found my hotel. I had chose to stay in a hotel since my plan was to have a room to myself so I could relax, finish up some writing and transition back to civilization. I checked in and went up to my room which was relatively spacious and simple consisting of a bed, side tables, armoire, and a small T.V hung on the wall that may or may not have worked.
Since I was to spend 2 nights in Finisterra, I had chosen to forestall the last leg of my journey (the walk to the lighthouse and the final mile marker, an easy 5 kilometer round trip) until the next day before getting on a bus back to Santiago, a plane to Madrid, and then after a short respite in a hotel, a 6am flight to Amsterdam then L.A.
So I took a shower, laid down and took a nap. When I woke up, I wasn’t motivated. I felt sort of like when I was in San Sebastian. I just didn’t feel like…getting out and doing anything. It was like I was separate, not a part of the life of this city. Maybe I had grown to dislike larger cities (not that Finisterre was that big, but it did have more the feel of a “city”) preferring the simplicity and benign niceness of the small old towns along the Camino, and the Camino itself.
Finally I gathered some gumption and ventured out to check out the city and get some grub. I walked a short distance into town and purchased a bus ticket for Santiago before heading over to the seafront and sitting outdoors at a table to write a little and eat. It was nice and sunny with intermittent clouds. I just sat and breathed it all in, thinking about how lucky I was to be there at that moment and how my life had changed over the last year.
After a bocadillo, some home made chips and a glass of Rias Brixas Albarino, I walked back to my hotel. I had done enough walking for the day, and although it was early, I decided to go to my room, do a little reading and call it a day.
The next morning I woke refreshed, so I walked over and got some breakfast at a relatively modern cafe that professed to be an “internet cafe”. I got a croissant and cafe con leche and wrote for a few hours, finishing and posting day 3 of this blog. Then I packed up and returned to my hotel and prepared to walk to the Finisterre light house at the “end of the earth”- In Roman times it was believed to be the end of the known world.
Since I was staying one more night, I took most of the unnecessary stuff from my pack, leaving in a modicum of things just to weigh it down. Even though I didn’t need most of it, I wanted to wear my pack and boots and arrive as a true pilgrim and it felt that arriving with a totally empty pack just wasn’t right.
So I threw on my pack and walked out of my hotel and headed west, though the old city. The day was warm and sunny, for me perfect hiking weather.
After getting out of town the Camino was pretty much a path just outside a guardrail that lined the paved two lane road that took tourists in cars to the lighthouse at the ends of the earth.
I got into a rhythm and started to think. I knew this would be my last chance to reflect on the things that had brought me to the Camino both this and last year. And I knew the one lingering thing I hadn’t approached or had chose not to consider this time was the damage Janice had done to me whether she realized it or not. Even now I’ve had a hard time deciding to finally put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard as it were, to write about it.
I knew her treatment of me, and even more so my acceptance of it, my lack of understanding of what was happening, the negative emotional reactions that had built up in me, and the holes in my psyche that were weak (self-esteem, emotional intelligence, a tendency towards codependence) all blended together and got dumped into the shit bag of chaos I was before heading out on the Camino last year.
As I think I mentioned, things fell apart in Janice and my marriage when I closed my company after the recession. I tried hard to find a job like everyone else, but it was difficult for an older guy in a business that is typically ageist and who had no network (I had been running my own company hiring freelance people, mostly out of town). Who knew how important networks would become after the recession?
Janice was a major proponent of me looking for entry level jobs, anything, to provide even a meager income, instead of trying to look for a job in the industry I had experience in. I acquiesced to appease her and to stop the hurt. But even the entry level jobs at Trader Joes, Starbucks, Wells Fargo, etc that I managed to get interviews with weren’t interested, although the independent hiring consultant that interviewed me at Veggie Grill gave me some hope when she told me she brought me in to meet me due to my “amazing resume” but unfortunately couldn’t hire me as I had no experience in the food industry. She had 500 servers to interview who did.
When even these jobs didn’t pan out, I was made to feel even more worthless than I already did, I didn’t really need any help beating myself up. And in looking back, I think that maybe Janice just didn’t have the capacity to empathize with me, or at least didn’t care to. Sure, she was going through her own inner turmoil which I tried to understand and help her with, but she would have none of it, and any discussion we would have would just turn into another fight.
But as I’ve said before, if Janice’ treatment of me was due to the fact that she was simply trying to get what she needs or thinks she deserves by the means she’s been taught, well, she wasn’t much different from a lot of people out there.
In the end, it seems the means justified the end, at least to her. And when it came down to love vs. money, money won out. I don’t even know if her and I even ever really had a truly intimate relationship, or at least an emotionally mature one. But that probably goes for many. You go though life, you never think about these things until, I guess, you’re older and wiser.
As these thought flooded through my head I looked out over the bright azure sea that faded to nothingness, I realized if I wanted to heal those wounds, I had to forgive her. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I looked down at my boots walking their last steps on the Camino, and began to understand that all of the pain and joy and suffering, and everything I had been through over the last few years, were the things that led me to the Camino and afforded me the opportunity to take a fantastic journey that was instrumental in beginning to heal myself.
And i realized if I could take all I had been through, and throw away the hurt and sadness that i was carrying with me due to those things, I could see them in a new light: as lessons. Lessons that have shown me the way to a better understating of myself and my place in the cosmos. And Janice’ treatment of me was instrumental in at least pushing me to take the first steps in this journey, even if it was to hurt like a son of a bitch.
And that is how I began to be able to forgive her. And I didnt’ forgive her because she needed me to. No, I forgave her for me. To set myself free. For forgiveness is simply letting go of the negative emotions, the reactive emotions that you retain due to someone who has hurt you. We’re habitual beings, and if someone hurts us over and over again, the wound gets deeper and deeper, and harder to mend. After time, if someone keeps hurting us, those emotions become so deeply imbedded it’s next to impossible to see them. Unless you do something to shake them out, something like therapy, meditate…or walk the Camino.
Forgiveness allows us to let go, and let’s us regain ourselves, and gets us back on track to loving ourselves, and others. It allows us to not participate in the bad habit of generating the negative emotions (blame and anger) that are conjured up when we are reacting to the person/thing that hurt us. It sets us free.
When you realize, as I’ve posited, that the person who hurt you was just trying to get what he/she thinks he/she needs or deserves by the means they were taught; and when we can truly understand that we matter, no matter what anyone else thinks; and when we can get rid of the insecurities and doubt about ourselves that we all seem to harbor, only then we can rise above the pain others have caused and find the love and strength to forgive both them and ourselves. When you forgive, you have taken control of your life rather than being a victim of it.
I came around a bend in the coast, to a statue of a pilgrim, and I could see the lighthouse in the distance. It was hard to believe that my journey was almost over, or had almost just begun as it were.
I reached the parking lot for the light house which was abuzz with tourists flitting about, laughing, taking selfies, enjoying life on a beautiful, warm sunny summer day at the “end of the earth”. As far as I could tell, I was the only pilgrim there.
I passed the trinket stand where you could buy and stopped to buy a refrigerator magnet for my mom and a scallop shell for Hannah. I headed out towards the lighthouse which was now only a few hundred yards away, and onto the last few steps of the Camino. There was a father taking a picture at the final mile marker. I offered to take one of them, and they returned the favor.
Maybe our lives are all just one big ball of crazy, vibrant, noxious energy swirling around making each and every one of us a little fucked up in our mad search for meaning. Or maybe it’s a classically, traditionally structured world like science tells us, just waiting for us to listen to the words of God to finally convince us to take his word for it and follow suit.
Either way I guess, the constant heartbeat of the universe, the look of joy I see in the eyes of my daughter in pictures from the past, the shudder I feel when my arm brushes up against a woman I love, whispers to me that there is some hope in this crazy place, and that life isn’t just a random game of pinball without any flippers, and that things like faith, hope, and love continue to bloom in me, like a flower hidden in the shade too long, finally able to see the light when the sun shines off a dewey leaf that’s recently fallen to the ground.
In the end, it seems there is only one way, one camino, one road. And that’s the road to love. Follow the arrows. Love yourself, love everyone you meet. Unfettered. Unadulterated. Unconditional. And don’t think too much about it. Don’t worry about the past and the future and the do’s and the don’ts and the consequences and the reactions. Love has a way of figuring that shit out. Grab it and hold it and hug it and squeeze it and kiss it with all you’ve got, if only for that moment. Cause I’m pretty sure at the end of the day those moments are the things that really matter.
‘Cause I’ve been up and down this highway
Far as my eyes can see
No matter how fast I run
I can never seem to get away from me
No matter where I am
I can’t help thinkin’ I’m just a day away
From where I want to be
Now I’m running home baby
Like a river to the sea -Jackson Browne
When I got to the lookout point behind the lighthouse, there were paths leading through the scrub on the rocks that jutted out past the landing, so I jumped over the short barrier and walked down to be as close as I could to the “end of the earth”.
I put on my headphones and heard these words in a song :
You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again.
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen.
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.
With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.
As I stood there overlooking the vast expanse of the Atlantic I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by it all. Overwhelmed by everything that had happened over the last few years: All the things that had brought me to my knees back home, the life that had picked me up and shook me and forced me to my feet, the forces of nature that at first tenderly, then with reckless abandon showed me the way and pushed me down the camino welled up in me and rolled down my cheeks in the form of tears.
The glorious warm wind picked up a little and touched my face lightly drying my skin, carrying with it the echoes of the past. And then after a moment, in barely a whisper, I heard a familiar voice, a voice from the not too distant past and it said:
“Ahh Marcos…you are here, just as you should be”.
“Sometimes we are called to dance on the wild edges of our lives and discover something new, or we have a sense that our lives have grown too small so we need to confront our fears of what is unknown, we need to welcome in strangeness to crack open unfamiliar parts of ourselves and of God.” -Christine Valters Paintner
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” -Brene Brown
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?