Three years ago, I didn’t have any. My life in California had fallen apart and I found myself in France at the foot of the Pyrenees on a wet-gray morning with a 35 pound pack on my back and the foolish idea that if I walked across Spain I might be able to come to terms with the ghosts that haunted me and make peace with myself.

Or better yet find a cliff somewhere along the way that would make a fall seem like an accident.

I never found that cliff, so Instead I decided to start walking, and I blogged about it every night. Here’s what I posted that first night:

“What brought me here? I guess the same things that brought me to my knees back home in Southern California- The dissolution of a 21 year marriage that taught me how to hate, the teetering of my first real relationship after being separated that had taught me how to love again, and a gnawing feeling in my gut that after more than half a century on this earth I was still lost…”.

Walking across Spain on an ancient pilgrimage route called the Camino de Santiago didn’t provide me with the epiphany I was hoping for, but it was the catalyst, the beginning of a journey of reflection, and in the end, healing.

With this blog, I’ll be sharing some anecdotes, stories, and observations I made in my blog while walking across Spain, along with some research, tools, and methods I used to begin healing from the emotional scars of the past.

I hope you choose to walk along-side me (you can follow me at the top of the page), or at the very least, that this blog may start you out on your own journey of discovery, and healing.

1. Hope

 I’ve struggled with having hope. There are times when my sight is clouded by the darkness of negativity, and hope is nowhere to be found. It’s usually hidden behind a wall of self-pity. I have no real reason to feel sorry for myself, in fact, I should probably be shot for being so self-absorbed. But I guess this is how we begin to look for answers- by digging deep, going inside. The problem is, we often spend too much time there.

Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, usually good things. So why do some of us lose hope? Well, that’s a complex emotional issue, different for each of us. Maybe it’s because life isn’t meeting our expectations. Maybe it’s because something pushes us to live in the past, worry to much about the future, which removes us from engaging in the present moment. For me, I guess it was due to the dramatic changes in my world, and my lack of emotional readiness to deal with those changes. Life was rushing at me with all guns blazing and a cattle prod zeroing in on my ass.

But that was awhile ago. Now if I find myself beginning to lose hope, I try to walk outside and look at every aspect of what I see and think how goddamned miraculous it is that we even exist, standing on this ball of rock and gas hurtling through the cosmos.

I also remind myself, when I see someone who life hasn’t treated as well (a homeless dude, someone with a physical handicap), of how lucky I am. If a guy with polio is out there shuffling around, dragging his feet and making a go of it, what’s my excuse?

To watch a video of a guy who shouldn’t have hope but does, click here).

2. Love

First, to fall in love with ourselves. Second, to fall in love with life. After that, maybe (if you’re ready) to fall in love with someone else. I can tell you from experience if you don’t love yourself, it’s impossible to genuinely fall in love with someone else. I think the difficulty we have in loving ourselves stems from insecurity, shame, and feelings that we aren’t worthy of the love of others.

In his post “Your Fear Of Looking Stupid Is Making You Look Stupid”,Benjamin Hardy references Joyce Meyer who, in her book “Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone”, explains that the need for approval stems from insecurity, which is often the product of some form of abuse — physical, verbal or emotional.

I know from my own experience that this is true. I was already insecure, having learned to hate myself when I was an adolescent. When I stumbled into marriage, even though the union resulted in a successful partnership for the most part, it didn’t rid me of the deep seeds of insecurity. After the recession when the “going got tough”, emotional abuse reared it’s ugly head and I learned to be ashamed of, and hate myself even more.

Hardy goes on to say: “The addiction for approval is fueled by unhealthy emotions: guilt, shame, and anger. None of these emotions are a healthy foundation for creating relationships with yourself or other people.” Jungian analysts call shame the swampland of the soul. Brene’ Brown has been studying shame and it’s offspring, vulnerability, forever. Here’s her Ted Talk on shame.

3. Potato chips/ice cream

No explanation necessary. But here’s a list of regional (United States) potato chips you’ve never heard of.

4. Friends

Your friends really do want you in their lives. That’s why they’re your friends.

When I went to Spain, it was easy to leave everyone behind. I thought no one would miss me, and that no one cared about me because I didn’t give a fuck about myself. If you don’t care about yourself, you cant conceive of why anyone else would care about you.

The voice in the back of your head who spews out this bullshit is actually trying to protect you, but with outdated weapons he/she was armed with long ago. It’s like the voice is trying to destroy the Death Star with a slingshot (more on this in a later post).

This voice in the back of your head is negative self-talk, habits you learn from “life” (parents, siblings, other fucked up people), habits that we cling to, and define ourselves by. Here’s a place to start to find out more.

5. Death

Death is going to happen. But in light of it, life is unbearably precious, brilliant, and beautiful. It should be our goal to recognize this, to try and embrace feeling this way about life, every day we’re stumbling around on this mortal coil.

It’s our job to become responsible for our happiness, our own lives. It’s our purpose to LIVE, to be engaged with life instead of recoiling due to the habits we’ve formed from convincing ourselves that we suck.

To quote one of my favorite movies (“Harold and Maude”, where a 79-year-old concentration camp survivor teaches a 20 year old how to live life) “L.I.V.E, LIVE! Otherwise, you’ve got nothing to talk about in the locker room”.

“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.”

-Sleeping at Last

To watch a 2 minute video about my walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, click here.