I haven’t felt much like writing lately. To be honest, I haven’t felt much like anything. The weight of my Camino is bearing down on me; there’s so much to think about, and right now it doesn’t feel like there are enough words in the world to describe what’s going on in my head. The best I can say is that I’ve discovered some difficult truths, and I’ll be working hard to make my inner self and outer self start to match up a bit better from now on.
Since I’m having some trouble explaining my present and (recent) past selves, I thought it might be a good time to discuss where I’m headed. It’s not so much about making resolutions as it is about setting intentions for my growth in days to come. I know who I want to be. It’s all about creating the right path to get there.
- Self Care. I’ve suffered from what should have been debilitating guilt, fear, and anxiety for years. Earlier this year, when depression kicked in, too, I finally went to see a psychiatrist and a therapist. Through a regimen of medication and therapy, I came to realize that I’d been holding on by a thread for far too long. I’d gotten so used to white-knuckling through my days that I didn’t remember what it felt like to be calm and happy anymore. The biggest culprit was that along the way, I’d somehow gotten it into my head that taking care of myself was selfish. I weighed every action’s implications on those around me, and frequently went against my own needs and desires to make sure that others were happy. As a result, I always felt under pressure to take care of the needs of others. Since they were also taking care of their own needs, this left no one to take care of mine. I was being neglected by the one person whose primary duty it is to love me – myself. No more. I deserve better. I deserve kindness and care. Moving forward, I will understand that putting my needs first doesn’t make me a bad person. It helps me to be a strong and happy foundation when other people need to lean on me. It allows me to store up extra reserves of love to pass out to those who need it.
- Compassion. Just as awarding myself compassion has definite rewards, being compassionate to others will help to make the world a better place. I’ve always been empathetic, and sometimes it hurts to see how many people prove their lack of empathy each day on social media feeds, in our government, and in the many acts of violence that have spread across the globe. But I will not let fear take my empathy from me. And I will show compassion to those I meet, even if it’s just a simple smile. I will not let political rhetoric – even if parroted by relatives – get in the way of the simplest of truths. Love is all. It’s a difficult lesson, and one that will take a lifetime to apply.
- Physicality. We’ve been given such an amazing gift, to have bodies that can walk and run and jump, climb and ride and tumble. But most people I know barely use their bodies to do more than get out of bed and walk to the TV. We live out our dreams through the adventures of imaginary characters on our favorite Netflix shows, while meanwhile our bodies, our gifts, wither away. I’ve spent years obsessing over how fat and unattractive I am, about the cellulite that peppers my thighs and the wobbly bits that swing under my arms. Starting to work out at Iron Tribe Fitness in late 2014 gave me a renewed sense of what my body was truly capable of, but the real sea change came during my Camino. No matter how hard I worked out at the gym, my weight was a constant source of shame and remorse. Meanwhile, the simple process of walking across a country changed my body, brought real purpose to my movements, and finally brought some peace to my addled brain. Through walking I learned that loving my body didn’t have to be difficult. In Finisterre, Spain, I climbed down a cliff that jutted into the sea. It wasn’t extremely steep, or the kind of thing that a regular outdoorsy person would call a challenge, but for me it felt quite dangerous, and completely exhilarating. I realized on my way back up the rocks that I’d found a new way I’d like to express myself. In 2016 I’m going to give myself every opportunity to be physical, with no pressure on weight loss or beauty, just a focus on using my body while I’m lucky to have it.
- Passion. I’m my worst critic, and have judged myself unfairly for years. As a result, I’ve made some bad choices because I was doing what I thought everyone wanted me to do – make money, so that one day I could have a house, a car, and a family. For a very long time, I did my very best to ignore the fact that I didn’t want those things. Sure, I would really love to be able to afford a car, but I don’t want to take care of a house, and I have little interest in being a mother. Since childhood, my core passions have always been animals, traveling, and the written word. Just mentioning any of those things makes me feel alive, tingling with magic and possibility. So as of now, I’m pursuing my true self. No more threat of picket fences or diaper rash. Maybe one day I’ll raise foster kids…or foster kittens. I could change my mind, and that’s OK. But it’s also OK if I never do. My choices are valid.
- Simplicity. My boyfriend thinks I’m a little crazy because I keep getting rid of things. I’m constantly selling my belongings on Ebay or Craigslist, and putting boxes of books and games and old knick knacks out on the curb. I simply do not like clutter, and right now I’ve got too many belongings in too small of an apartment to prevent clutter from occurring. Eventually, I’d like to have a house that is minimalist, with only my very favorite (good) art on the walls, and only the necessary furniture and furnishings. Inside, I’m fighting an urge to get rid of it all, to be just one girl and a backpack, walking across the world. On the Camino, I had three outfits, but I only needed one. Here, I have weeks’ worth of clothes. It makes me realize how spoiled we are, and how we’ve been brainwashed into this consumerist life that is destroying the planet, creating class inequity, making us work longer and longer hours for what – a new expensive purse? The latest gadget for our spoiled rotten children? Just looking at all the crap I have sitting around in my house makes me hate how far I’ve gotten from the real path. I’m doing my best not to overreact and throw it all away, because I know that’s not the answer. But in the coming days and weeks and years, I hope to strive for simplicity in my physical and spiritual existence.
- Generosity. It’s a subset of compassion, but it’s still something I yearn to become. A generous person. A person who gives her time, her ear, her love. A person who discovers how best to be of service to her world, in a way that fits her personality and passions. I’ve been working on this one.
The one big, solid goal that I’m undertaking in 2016 is to walk more. A lot more. In fact, I’ve decided to be a super geek and walk to Mordor and back. Yep, someone figured out the mileage that the hobbits travelled in the Lord of the Rings books (roughly 3,404 miles). I’m going to attempt to walk/run the entire thing in 2016, through walking to the gym and back each day, going on runs, walking in Mardi Gras parades, walking on errands and to appointments, and maybe even getting a part time job where more walking is required (like waiting tables – something I always loved, and find myself missing on a regular basis). It’s less than 10 miles a day, which is, in turn, less than a typical day on the Camino. I’m certain that I’m capable of it from a physical standpoint, so now it’s just a matter of finding the right playlist.
So what are your intentions for the new year? Any big resolutions? I’d love to hear what the new year has in store for you!