I am now less than 100 kilometers from Santiago de Compostela, in the town of Portomarin, Galicia. Today I spent some time talking to an American who joined his girlfriend in Leon, about 320 kilometers from Santiago. Talking to him, I could tell that my experience of the Camino has evolved substantially over the course of the last 700 kilometers.
I am currently dealing with blisters on the bottoms of both feet and inflamed tendons in the lower part of my left leg. This is not new. In fact, this is the third or fourth round of these kinds of issues. At earlier stages of the Camino, these problems were a source of discouragement and suffering. In each case, the physical pain eventually went away. But then, a few days later, new problems would arise.
This time, however, there is a difference. While my physical pain is actually the same, if not greater, my reaction to it is different. In the early stages, when physical pain would present itself, I would experience the additional trauma of stress. I was worried about whether I would be able to continue to deal with this pain. And not knowing how long it would last costed me great amounts of emotional energy.
The way I react now is entirely less involved. I would not call it toughness. In fact, I don’t know what to call it other than a sort of lack of appreciation.
While the blisters and the tendons are there every time I take a step, reminding me that they are sore, I just don’t care as much. I don’t dwell on how long the pain will last or whether it will go away. I merely recognize that in the present moment, it’s not unbearable, and so I take another step.
Enough steps like that, and I finally reach a point where that voice in my head that tells me to worry or stress out about my discomfort goes quiet. And with that, the kilometers are not kilometers any more. They are just a series of steps, each of which may or may not be slightly annoyed by some physical ailment. In each case the physical pain is bearable. Whether or not that will be the case for the next step is irrelevant to the present step.
I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed the idea, but for now that’s the best I can explain it. I can attest that it is a liberating feeling.
Here are some pictures of Galicia, a very different part of Spain: