Have you ever paid attention to the wear patterns on the soles of your shoes? I’ve been studying mine carefully for a few weeks. At one point I even considered buying new shoes to get me the whole way to Santiago without the soles breaking down. But I decided they would last quite long enough. I notice on my left foot that I drag a bit and the back part of the sole is worn down. I can also see considerable wear on the outside of both shoes. I guess that is just the nature of walking – certain areas take more stress than other areas.
I wonder if that is true with our lives right now as well? Are there areas where I am feeling more stress? Parts of my being where I am breaking down? To be honest, I am not sensing it in too many places. We had a good strong walk today, my Health App reads 15.4 miles. Much of our time was spent just talking with one another, in silence, or listening to music or an audiobook. The weather couldn’t have been better. Cool and crisp much of the day, but not wet at all. It was getting sunny and warm by the end. Right now it is about 65 degrees and clear. We got going early, had our traditional second breakfast at 10:30 a.m. and an early lunch with a fabulous pesto pasta, salad, and apple “pie” (empanada). We ran into a few people we have met along the way and had some good but short conversations and connections. We found our albergue/pension with no problem. No “wear patterns” stand out today.
It would be fair to say our bodies are a little worn. Although I may be stronger, I am having a harder time getting up and going each morning. My clothes are a little worse for wear. One pair of pants has enough stains that I have given up on keeping them. My favorite shirt (I wear it walking about every day) may just be something I let go of when I am done. There is a tradition, now discouraged, that pilgrims walk from Santiago to the Atlantic coast to complete their pilgrimage and burn their clothes when they get there. I won’t be doing that.
I do wonder, however, if there are other areas of stress and wear. The food? So far I haven’t grown tired of it. A new bed each night? The places we have stayed have been mostly clean and comfortable. I do find myself challenged by the language. I make attempts but I don’t really speak Spanish. I find that mastering the accent of a word is often more helpful than knowing lots of vocabulary. The problem is, if people think you are conversant in their language, they say a lot of words to you very fast. So then I feel way out of my element. I feel inadequate and ashamed. It is then that I feel the “wear patterns” and frustration of being in such a different environment.
There are also the wear patterns of my own personality. I am alternately introverted, egotistical, embarrassed, and thoughtless. These qualities are what peeks though when the nicer tread of my more loving self is worn away. Lena is kind and forgiving enough to deal with me quite compassionately. Frankly, I run out of patience for this part of myself. Maybe sometimes my “soul” just gets worn down.
One final thought. The wear patterns I am seeing on my shoes during this Camino are exactly the same wear patterns that I have always seen on my shoes. The struggles I face on the Camino are not different from the challenges I face in all of life. Undertaking this journey does not remove the core of who I am. The problems I faced in Sacramento are the same ones I face in Spain. The Jim I knew before retirement is the same Jim I experience today. The wear patterns of life that emerged on the first 63 years of my journey are the same ones that have popped up in this past month. Weird, huh? Maybe not.