The Leg

They do so much for us, you know? They provide stability. They carry us for untold distances. They propel us through the door for our first job interview, hustle us around the bases, help us lift heavy boxes. I’ve used mine to run down the driveway to check the mail, with an exuberant puppy barking at my heels. I’ve used them to drive a car, to stand at the stove to cook dinner, to take a long, hot shower after a hard night of waiting tables. I’ve used them to shimmy my way across the dance floor, to kick a heavy bag, to coax a lover into submission. I’ve used them to walk out of the apartment one last time, leaving a broken-hearted man in my wake. I’ve used them to build a life that I’m proud to call my own. They’re useful, these legs.

At night, sitting on the couch, I put my legs up on the ottoman and cross my ankles. My toes are constantly wiggling – I have trouble standing still. In a month’s time, I’ll be using them to walk across a foreign country, exploring terrain I’ve only seen in photographs. Tomorrow, I’ll use my legs to run a few miles, and to lift weights at the gym. Tomorrow, in a hospital 853 miles away from my front door, my father will have his leg cut off.

It is not the end of a life to lose a limb. But it’s a change. The end of something uniquely yours. None of us on the outside will be able to understand exactly what it is like for him to be losing a piece of his body. Not even those who’ve been in the same situation, really. After all, they had their own memories with their own limbs. Who else but him to remember those nubby, threadbare socks? The way the sewing machine treadle vibrated and thrummed as he sewed upholstery? The crunching of leaves along the paths at Camp Bonner, or getting drenched in ice cold water while rafting down the Nantahala? Who else to remember the rash that grew, year by year, expanding from a small dime to encompassing his entire limb? The pain of the gout in his toes, or the mysterious hardening of his skin? The final infection that he kept quiet for weeks, until it was too late to save his leg?

He will survive, and hopefully he will thrive. A prosthetic leg will let him sew, and woodwork, and cook, and drive. He might even feel better than he has in years. After the surgery. After saying goodbye. And right now he’s not in the mood to do what the doctors tell him they must. He’s heartbroken at the thought of never crunching another leaf, or sewing another cushion.

So now it’s my turn to bear the weight. To help him stand straight and imagine a future where there’s something left to hope for. They do so much for us, you know? I only hope I can return the favor.

Laboring Along

Two weeks ago yesterday I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and put on medication. So far, the experience has actually been pretty positive. I’ve been able to think clearly for the first time in years. My resting heart rate has gone down, which I’m hoping will mean that my blood pressure, overall, has gone down as well (we’ll see at the next checkup). My emotional eating has decreased, and I’ve lost a little weight. I’m napping a bit more, but I do adore a good afternoon snooze, so I’m not counting that as a negative. The only downside that I’ve experienced thus far is that I’m not really inspired to write, I’m guessing since writing has always been my way of clearing my head. Now that I don’t need as much clearing, I find the idea of writing to be somewhat of a chore. I’m thinking that’s going to be temporary, since I loved to write long before I lost my mind, but it’s still a bit daunting to consider the work I’d need to put in to force myself to feel interest in this old beloved pastime. I should probably put some thought into getting to love punctuation again, too, huh?

There’s another big thing that’s going on in my life right now that I’m not at all sure how to talk about. My father is really sick, and in the hospital. My parents live in NC, and I’m here in New Orleans, and it feels wrong to not be with them right now. I asked him if he wanted me to come home, and he was uncharacteristically negative about it. Then my mom got really stressed out when I asked if she wanted me to come home. It’s a really weird position, because if she was sick, he’d want me home yesterday. Of the two, he’s the one that’s more focused on family togetherness. He’s the one that’s vocal about missing me (typically). Now that he’s sick, and sleeping through his days at the hospital between surgeries, I feel like I should be there, but I also know there’s nothing I can do, he wouldn’t know that I’m there, and she’d just be even more stressed to feel like she had to take care of him AND me. So for now I’m staying away and getting my news through the grapevine. It’s frustrating. I want my dad to know I love him, and I can’t even talk to him on the phone now because he’s feeling so poorly. My relatives are probably judging me, but I can’t carry their issues and my own.

I’m still going on the pilgrimage in October, though now my plans for afterwards will most likely include a long vacation at home in NC at the end of the year to be with my family. Right now I’m about $700 from meeting my fundraising goal. I told myself that I’d work harder on getting the word out today, but I’m finding that my family situation just has me preoccupied, mentally. I just keep thinking about how my dad is the reason that I love outdoor activities. He gave me my first pair of hiking boots. He taught me how to set up a tent. It’s those initial things that made the idea of hiking 20 miles a day seem fun, and utterly doable.

I’ve always wanted him (both of them) to be proud of me, and I’ve never really felt like I was doing it right. All my life I felt like a screw up, despite being a goody-two-shoes, and graduating with honors, and being independent, and doing everything I could to make sure they’d never have to worry about me. It never seemed good enough, somehow. And then when I first started talking about going on this pilgrimage, neither seemed to care that much. It really hurt my feelings, but I didn’t know how to say that. We’re just so different. I feel permanently on the outside of my family, like I have nothing of worth to say to them, even when it comes to things that mean the world to me. I wish that I knew how to adequately explain to him that he and Mum are the reason that I am doing this. That I’m doing it to find peace in being just me. That I want to prove that I’m still as strong and capable as they envisioned when they had me. To let them know that even though I’m not at all the woman they probably pictured me growing up to be, I’m still that same fat little Anna at heart. I’ve retained my goodness. I love deeply. I still find wonder in the small things. They did a good job. Even if I’m crap at showing it to them directly, they made an OK person who’s doing her best to leave the world a little better than she found it. Who knows, maybe one of them will read this. I hope so.

18 People


Via The Daily Quipple. I absolutely love this artist’s stuff! If you do, too, check out her CafePress store.

Today I’ve been ruminating on gratitude, and how to express it properly. Methods of showing gratitude differ by culture, from simply smiling, to offering flowers or other tokens of appreciation, to reciprocating the original kindness with a gift of equal value. People send thank you cards, or take the time to write personal notes or emails. Sometimes, if the person who did you the original kindness is close enough, simply letting them know that you love them and appreciate them is most appropriate.

I struggle with saying “thank you”. I’m not really sure why, though I know that it has nothing to do with being thankless. In fact, sometimes it’s just being so stunned at the knowledge that someone has actually gone out of their way to be good to me. The shock makes me even more awkward than normal. In fact, that’s what happened the other day. Heather, a fellow member at Iron Tribe, asked me how long I had until I left for Spain. I was so shocked that anyone cared that for a second I forgot when I was leaving. I only stuttered for a second or two, but it seemed like an eternity until I finally spit out the date. Silly, I know – of course people care! – but that’s just what it’s like in this funny little brain of mine.

When it comes to the fundraiser that I’ve been doing to help afford go on pilgrimage, I’m still not sure that I’ve adequately conveyed the intense gratitude I’m feeling towards the 18 people who’ve donated to my dream. So I thought maybe I’d take a chance to say a little something nice about each of you here today. I know that some of you want to remain anonymous, and others might be weirded out by being mentioned in my blog, so I’m not going to name names. You’ll know who you are. Just know that you’re loved.

  1. You’re an amazing artist, and it’s been such a pleasure watching your life and career blossom over the years since we first met. It’s always great to run into you in Chicago, but I wish I got to see more of you. The #1 thing I dig about you: your laugh! I can hear it right now.
  2. I don’t know you very well, but your FB comments are always insightful. It blew my mind (in a good way) when you donated. It was not only very kind of you, but I think it says something really important about the goodness at your core to be supportive of someone you barely know’s dream.
  3. You’re like family to me, and have been since we first met back in college. You always had the coolest stories (I often think about unfortunate, kinda hilarious consequences of that homemade gun), and by far the best advice that I’ve ever gotten. Thank you for believing in me, then and now. You improved my trajectory.
  4. It’s funny having a pen pal in this day and age, but I think we’ve done pretty well at it. I’m really glad that we’re friends, despite the miles and the language barriers (who would have known that English could be SO different on that side of the pond?). It’s been lovely getting to skip the bullshit and getting to know each other’s weird quirks. Also, you’re crazy to donate so much but I REALLY appreciate it. Thank you again. I’ll write back soon – got a weird story for you.
  5. I knew that we would be friends when it came to light that both of us liked seeing movie matinees, alone, with the largest possible drink and popcorn. If I can ever get my act together, we’ll hopefully get to hang out again outside of the gym. Maybe for a Star Trek marathon?
  6. You’re one of the best things to come out of my flirtation with KOCC. You’re such a beautiful light, and I hope that you see what everyone else does. Also hope it isn’t months before I run into you again!
  7. I’m pretty sure that your picture is next to the word “badass” in the dictionary. You and your family have truly changed the course of my life, and I will never be able to thank you enough. The fierce love you have for your family is simply the most inspirational thing that I’ve ever experienced, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re too humble to realize that I’m writing about you. Much, much love.
  8. We met over a dartboard. It was supposed to be an “audition” for a roommate, but it turned into a lifelong friendship. Thank you for always believing in me, but more importantly, thank you for being there, even when you didn’t necessarily get where I was coming from.
  9. What a pleasure to share a car with you to Tribal Wars! You’re one cool lady, and I still can’t believe how much fun that weekend was; thanks for making what could have been an awkward time a total game-changer. Let me know if you wanna switch allegiances and be a Power Snatch next year ;-D
  10. Our classes together are few and far between, but it’s always a blast running into you at the gym! I’m still really grateful for you lending me your shirt that day, too. I was mortified to keep forgetting it, so it meant a lot that you were relaxed about waiting for it. Hope you had fun on your trip, and would love to catch up soon!
  11. You’ve been a fixture of my life in New Orleans for a couple of years now, though we’ve known each other longer. I’m so happy for you in this new transition to a different neighborhood and pace of life. Your inner happiness is shining out of you now in a way I hadn’t seen before. Here’s to many more years of ever-increasing abundance.
  12. At first you were just a big weirdo, but you grew on me. I knew I’d found a friend for life when (insert thing we’ll never talk about here) happened, and it was kind of heartwarming and cute instead of awful. Is it weird that both of us can probably think of a few things to put in that blank? Hmmm. Thanks for putting up with my awkward pauses, suspicious silences, and weird theories, as well as my drunken mumblings and those moody texts. You mean the world to me. Now let’s pretend I never said any of these embarrassing things and go on with our days.
  13. You’re my awesome friend’s cool mom, and though we’ve only met twice, I decided I liked you the first time (and just ask your daughter – that’s a HUGE deal). Thank you for inviting me into your home last Thanksgiving, for being an amazing mother, and for making such gorgeous works of fabric art.
  14. We don’t really gush over our friendship, but that’s kind of a Scorpio thing. I love you and your hubby to pieces, and I hope that we’re friends for the rest of our lives. You’re my all time favorite person to go exploring with, and though I won’t be around for the birthday hike this year, hoping to get to find some new trail or graveyard (or both) with you again sometime very soon.
  15. Love your dry wit and world travel stories. It was a pleasure hanging out with you after Tribal Wars, and I wish you a successful fundraising journey of your own. We don’t know each other well, but it’s obvious you’ve got a big heart. I hope you conquer the world with it.
  16. I don’t get to see you often, but every time we’ve hung out you’ve made me laugh. That’s one of my favorite things in the world, so thank you! I never got to thank you for having me at your house for that kickball team gathering, but it was a great evening and I appreciated your kindness and excellent hostessing skills.
  17. Dinner the other night was fabulous. Thank you! You’re such a kind and attentive person – a truly gracious personality – and I’m beyond pleased to see that you’re heading into this new phase of your life with a sense of adventure (and panache). I dearly appreciate the many kindnesses you’ve paid to me over the years; quite simply, you’ve given me a standard to which to aspire.
  18. Last, but actually first. I’ve known you for longer than anyone else on this list. You shared some of the most precious memories of college with me. It sounds dorky, but I truly feel that sharing a song with other people, taking the time to listen, to layer on sound until the entire song is a perfect little layer cake of notes, builds relationships that go beyond words. Sure a cappella folks might be a little nerdy, but we’re the GOOD kind of nerdy. I’m so happy that we’ve stayed in touch all these years, and I’m even more excited for you and your wife as you welcome a new little voice into the world. Much love.

To all of you, and the many, many more who have touched my life in various ways since the day of my birth – thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for supporting my dream. Thank you for asking how I’m doing. Thank you for helping me hold myself accountable for accomplishing this big, scary, amazing adventure. I still don’t feel like I’ve said it enough, but I guess “thank you” will just have to do for now.

A Little Magic


Today was a good day. After feeling pretty low last night, I decided to kick things off on a positive note today by going to a kirtan session at my local yoga studio. I’d been meaning to check out their Sunday kirtan for awhile now, but just hadn’t found the right time to go. This morning turned out to be the perfect time to try something that I feel could become a regular fixture of my Sundays from here on out. The hour and a half I spent chanting and listening to beautiful live guitar music really soothed my soul, and I walked out of the studio feeling much more calm and at ease than I’ve felt as of late.

After kirtan, I decided to head to my local rock shop to look for some crystals that could help me battle depression and anxiety. I walk by the rock shop often, but haven’t been in in years, even though I love looking at crystals and gems. I’ve really benefited in the past from having just the right crystals around when I needed them, and though I should probably have just saved my money and cleansed my favorite chunk of smoky quartz for use today, I thought it might be nice to add some new tools to my arsenal. As soon as I walked into the shop, I felt a little more at peace.

I ended up looking around for over an hour, just admiring all of the baskets of beautiful shimmering “rocks”. In the end I chose a hunk of lepidolite, known for bringing calm and balance and assisting with times of transition, a small wand of blue kyanite, which helps align the chakras and assists with healing, a bracelet of labradorite, which helps ease depression and addictive traits, and also helps with mystical connection, a bracelet of blue jade, which calms and restores, and a bracelet of rhodolite, which promotes self-worth and spiritual growth, and encourages compassion and kindness.


From top top bottom: Labradorite, Blue Jade, Rhodolite

After the rock shop, I went home and cleaned the house from top to bottom. I’d left my Roomba vacuuming while I was away, so when I got home I scrubbed the floors and dusted everywhere. Then I started going through the stuff in my closet to see if there was anything else that I could put out on the curb in a continuation of clearing out all of the baggage from my old life. I ended up putting out a bunch of shoes, purses, books, and crappy old jewelry, and rearranging my closet significantly. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it felt great to tackle such a big job and see a significant change in the end.

The entire day I’ve felt very calm, and mostly able to ignore the thought of having to go to work in the morning (which NEVER happens – I’m constantly obsessing about work and what’s happening on my various clients’ social media feeds 24/7). It’s been really nice. But the nicest thing of all was that a couple of hours ago, I decided to make a grocery store run. When I was passing the pile of stuff I’d left out on the curb, I noticed that it was now a lot smaller than before, since people had passed and taken the things they wanted from the pile. I also noticed that not all of the books I’d put out were taken; in fact, there were now a few more new books added to the pile that weren’t there to begin with. But that’s not the weirdest thing.

Someone had put a copy of Seven Storey Mountain, by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, right on top of the stack. Not so crazy, until you know that I’ve been wanting to read this book for a couple of years now, but something always keeps me from pulling the trigger and purchasing it. I’ve heard great things about Merton’s writings, and especially this book, which – get this – is cited as a “must read” by many pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. It’s a lovely copy of the book, too. It’s from the late 70’s, and is well-worn and loved. The spine is taped, and the pages are creased and brown. It just feels like the Universe decided to slip me a gift when I most needed it.





Happened across this post last night and it really struck a chord.

Originally posted on freshpaula:

Today I’ve been reading some quotes from Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked all over North America from 1953 until her death in 1981. She walked for peace ~ world peace as well as inner peace.

View original 368 more words

Walking Therapy

In 44 days, I’ll be flying to Paris to start my pilgrimage. I wish I were leaving tomorrow. If I could, I’d wake up tomorrow, walk out the door, and just keep walking.

I’m in a weird place at the moment. I’ve been unhappy with the general state of my life for a few years now, but nothing I do seems to make much of a difference. I have no hope of ever doing any of the things my friends with money can do without thinking – owning a car and a house, a wedding, a child, retirement. I’ve learned to not want any of those things, and yes, my freedom from these things has its advantages, like travel. But having a different path makes it harder and harder to fit into the lives of my best friends. I’m being left behind in every way that seems to count. I imagine it wouldn’t be that bad, except for that most don’t seem to notice. It hurts to be forgotten, but it hurts more to feel like I’ve never said or did anything that was worthwhile enough to make me be remembered.

I’m hoping that the pilgrimage will help me change how I see it, that walking away for a little while will give me some perspective on this messy life. There are so few things that make me happy anymore. It’s a extremely tiresome spot to inhabit. My optimistic side sees me doing something big and good with my life. I want so much to just be GOOD. To make a difference in someone’s life. To not have wasted all of my time posting trivialities on the internet in exchange for my daily bread. But lately I’m struggling to see the possibilities. It’s hard to imagine that anything I’ll ever do will matter to anyone. I feel empty and useless, like all I can do is sit in the corner and watch the world unfold around me. And the things that are unfolding in the world at large make me shudder.

On Monday I’m going to yet another doctor to have yet another conversation about my depression/weight gain/constant fatigue/concentration problems/etc. I always said I wouldn’t want to go on medication, but now I’m crossing my fingers that someone will at least listen to me and give me some options. I want to want to wake up in the morning, even when Spain is not on the itinerary.

Towards the end of his life, when St. Francis was bedridden and dying, he wrote prayers and songs to celebrate God. He regularly sang and recited these inspirational pieces, and had them read to him, to feel better. When I want to feel better, I think about Francis, about the joy in my heart when I experienced the Basilica at Assisi for the first time. I have a strong inner conviction that this journey that I’m on – sadness and all – is for a reason. I’m not smart enough to know exactly what that reason is just yet, but if I’m patient, if I do my best to take care of myself, then walk away with an open mind and a ready heart, the answers will come.

A Weekend’s Worth Of Thoughts

See? I do get a little sun now and then.

See? I do get a little sun now and then.

It’s Sunday night, and all is quiet in my little apartment. The cats are sleeping at my feet, the lights are low (mostly due to the fact that my lamp lightbulbs have both burned out, and they’ve also run out of lightbulbs at my neighborhood store), and I’ve got a million and one little thoughts running around in my brain.

This weekend I went on a short holiday to Crystal Beach, TX, on the Bolivar Peninsula. At just 5 hours’ drive from New Orleans, it’s a great little spot to get away for a few days. The mother of one of my best friends owns a beach house there, and each summer a few of us get together there to catch up. It’s the only time we see each other each year, and it’s always such a pleasant trip. It’s not a gorgeous tropical beach, but there’s water and sand, nice people, lots of local wildlife, and it’s quiet, a great place to think. Plus, there’s an added bonus for a girl who’s pinching pennies in preparation for a month-long trip through Spain: free room and board. We all pitch in for groceries, obviously, but it’s an extremely economical way to get together with friends at the beach.

We’ve been doing this girls’ weekend at the beach for three years now. The cast of characters changes a little each time – last year my friend’s mother couldn’t make it down, and this year the other friend’s little boy wasn’t able to attend – but it’s basically the same. Since we live all over the world, and have drastically different lives, the trip ends up being a miniature Big Chill (sans funeral) each time.

We talk about changes, catch up on who the others are becoming/have become in the interim, and it’s also a great way to mark our personal advances. This year was a particularly big year for change, with new babies on the way, a college graduation, several exciting new jobs, and lots of soul searching to be discussed.

When I get around my two best friends from college, I tend to fall back into old habits – lots of introversion and introspection. It’s difficult to vocalize what’s going on in my head much of the time, but somehow a little more so when I get around a bunch of vivacious, exciting women. I’m intelligent enough to realize that I have things to add to the conversation, but that’s always in retrospect. When I’m there I struggle to find words, and end up mostly observing, collecting conversation and images, and piecing them together later for further study. This weekend, I seemed to fall even deeper into my thoughts than normal. I’m just now climbing out, really.

Several things happened during the course of the few days that I was away, however:

#1 – Some really great news! More loved ones donated to my Camino fund, and now I’m up to $770 – just $1,230 away from my goal. How amazing is that?!? Thanks to everyone who’s donated, shared, commented, and most of all, to all of you who’ve paid attention and taken the time to talk to me about this major undertaking. Overall, I’m pretty confident and excited, but there’s still a lot of fear hiding under the surface, and it feels great to be able to get out of my head for awhile and talk about this with all of you. So thanks again. I really appreciate your support in all of its many forms.

#2 – Also decided that my blog needed a revamp. I’m going to be working on it more over the coming weeks, but I was tired of the old theme. I’m going to concentrate on getting back to taking photos and spicing the visuals on here up a bit, and I’m also going to shut down my other Camino-related blog and move all of the old posts back here. One other big change is that there’s a new link in the navigation above (“Support Anna’s Camino“) that goes directly to my GoFundMe page – thank you for sharing it with your friends!

#3 – I also had some time to sit on the beach and read this great book that I picked up in Assisi called We Were With Francis. It’s a collection of little stories told by St. Francis’ best friends after he died. I ruminated quite a bit on charity, humility, gratitude, and being humble enough to ask for the things that I need. Seeing as how typing those last few words gives me chest pains, I’m obviously not quite as open as I need to be, lol! While reading, I made a new goal: to memorize the Peace Prayer.

#4 – While I was thinking about the above, I also couldn’t help but return to that stupid Facebook post from the pilgrimage FB group. I need to let it go, as it’s weighing on me for no good reason. I haven’t participated on the page since that post went awry, but I won’t let my pride keep me away much longer from the many, many good people there. However, I have been thinking strongly about how to counteract the kind of negativity that I experienced, and give a chance to other would-be pilgrims who are having trouble funding their trip. To that end, I think I’d like to start a scholarship fund. There are some grants out there for very specific uses (like the American Pilgrims on the Camino scholarships and grants to help train people to become volunteers on the Camino, something I intend to do eventually), but I’d like to target pagans and other non-religious but spiritual people who are searching for something they don’t yet have the words to describe. So I’m going to be putting some brain power towards that while on The Way. Maybe from the proceeds of my book? Or maybe there’s another group out there that would like to participate (or that already has an effort I can help)? Right now there’s way too much going on to think too hard about it, but this is just to put my intentions out there. If you’re listening, Universe, I’m open to suggestions.

#5 – I was also lucky to be spending the weekend with another pilgrim. My friend’s mother walked the Camino a few years ago, and shared her advice with me. First up, after reading what I had to say about the great food and wine opportunities in my Q&A post, she warned me that she’d had a very different experience. She ran into lots of the same options over and over, and was not impressed by the food, in general. So I’m tempering my expectations. But that’s OK since I’m planning to eat lots of basic, healthy things anyway – eggs, cured meat, fruit. One of her suggestions was to pick up almonds dusted in cocoa, for a delicious treat that also gives quick energy. Definitely going to look for those once I get to Spain. She also advised that the Camino always takes something from you, but also provides what you need. She illustrated this with a story about having her toothbrush taken (accidentally) by a pilgrim who picked up the wrong toiletry bag in a dark alburgue. She was so irritated to have no toothbrush or toothpaste that morning, but started walking anyway. After setting out, she went into a cafe to get a coffee and use the restroom, and what should she find there but a toothbrush vending machine?

It’s time to clean my apartment and get some much-needed shuteye. Any thoughts/questions/comments on MY thoughts/questions/comments? I’d love to hear from you :-D

Have a great week!