Pilgrim in Residence: David Fulton (part two)
Last week we left David Fulton as he began his first day on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Read my introduction of him and more about the first part of his journey here. And now, the journey continues…
P.S. David will finish his story and reflection in his final post next week, Sunday, October 20 (update: read part three here).
I couldn’t believe it–I was actually on the Camino. After the years of dreaming, and the months of preparing, the towns began to fly by–Roncesvalles, Pamplona, Logrono, Santa Domingo. And then, the blisters came.
At first the Camino was easy. Our pace was light to moderate. Yet even though I had broken in my boots, invested in good socks, and tried to hold a steady pace, the blisters still came. First it was the left foot, then the right. Then, not thinking too clearly and accepting weakness, I decided to pop them with a non-sterile safety pin, drain the pus, and then ripped the skin off leaving nothing but a fresh pink (and very vulnerable) layer of skin. What is even crazier is that I kept walking on it. Well–more or less hobbling, really.
And that’s when it hit me–what was I thinking? I came on this journey to slow down and here I was not even listening to my body, which was clearly asking for rest.
Isn’t it fascinating how disconnected we can become from ourselves? We can make choices to stay with ourselves, or leave ourselves. Why would I do force myself to move forward? To be a purist and claim to have walked every step of the Camino? Even if it’s infected?
The Camino was asking me to rest my feet. So I made the decision 12 days in that I would take a bus to Burgos (a beautiful city) and rest my feet. Everyone else in my Camino family was urging me to do this. Why was I being so stubborn? I could have toughed it out, but what does that get me in the end? Just another thing to boost my own sense of ego and pride.
If anything, I needed to be humbled, broken, and to kindly offer care to those broken parts of my soul. The funny thing is, that is also what I needed internally–to pause to take inventory of my loneliness and grief, and offer kind care to those broken parts that were left so long ago. I needed to say to myself, “Of course you feel that way. Your story is one of pain and redemption.”
Stopping to care for my foot led me inside my story, and challenged me to offer care to myself. Kindness and care–such a strange ideas that we often fail to realize we can provide to ourselves. But we can actually serve ourselves the gospel, too (literally, “good news”). To offer the fragile, unwanted, weak, and neglected parts of ourselves good news is to finally give them what they wanted all along–a voice. My foot eventually healed, my younger self was offered care, and soon I was back on the trail.
The days began to blend together. The towns started to look the same. After a while, you get into a ritual. You know or recognize most of the people you see on the path each day. Perhaps this is what is so enchanting about the Camino. You walk; you get coffee; you walk some more. You meet and talk to amazing people. You walk. You check into an Albergue (hostel). You shower; do laundry; drink beer. You explore the town (if there is a town); have dinner with friends. There’s wine, there’s laughter. You sleep, you wake up. And then, you repeat.
We talk of therapy providing a frame. We establish that sessions will be 50 minutes. I sit here, the client sits there. Sessions begin by asking the client what they would like to talk about that day. It becomes predictable and the common first session anxiety begins to diminish over time with ritual and routine. A frame makes us feel secure. When we were growing up as kids we needed a frame in order to make sense of our world. In fact, this is what good parenting offers–the frame establishes the boundaries. Then we can navigate our world from within the safety of these boundaries.
In many ways, the Camino was like a good parent or therapist. It established rituals of care and community. It gave space for contemplation, but also space for community. The tone was set every day. And on most days, it looked the same.
Leon, Astorga, O’Cebreiro–the towns kept passing us by. Memories of leaving my stone atop Cruz de Ferro, the highest point of the Camino, still brings up emotion. This stone is representative of the pilgrim’s burdens. You should have seen the pile of rocks there. We all left lighter that day. We all needed too.
But passing through Cruz de Ferro also meant that our Camino was coming to an end. Signs counting down the kilometers to Santiago began to become more frequent displaying the inevitable–the Camino ending. We were in the home stretch, and sadness gripped my heart. I didn’t want this experience to come to an end. But with great excitement and a taste of sadness, I saw the Cathedral in the distance.
My journey was moments from being over. Yet in many ways, it felt like it was just beginning.
How do you establish a framework for rituals of care and community in your life?
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David is a psychotherapist and a CrossFit instructor in Seattle, and loves to explore the connection between body, mind, and soul. You can learn more about his work at davidpfulton.com and follow him on twitter here: @davidpfulton.