I truly believe that taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago is a metaphor for an entire life cycle. Upon arrival, everything from the bunk beds to the food is different. I found myself relying on the kindness and goodness of strangers to take care of me. After about three days, like a teen, I had mastered everything. I knew how to check into the hostel, what to eat, and had a few friends. The middle of the journey becomes a bit routine with similar walking distances, rituals, and meals. The end is an end. At the cathedral in Santiago, you stop walking and all of your friends go back to their countries. The trail is filled with adversity, joy, relationships, pain, and a series of lessons around each corner.
We all face adversity throughout life. I remember being devastated after being fired from a job. I was incensed when the CEO said, “It is just a bump in the road.” At the time, it stung like a scorpion. In retrospect, staying with that company was not the place for me to be. In 2001, my father died from alcoholic hepatitis, It was a rotten trench, but at the end of a blurry tunnel, I saw that booze had no place in my life. It put me on the road to sobriety. After the Camino, I broke up with the love of my life. We had been together for four years. On the trail, I realized that it was time to walk alone. It was painful, but had we stayed together, I do not think there would be a book or the glorious moments that have shaped my life for the past 20 months. I have found my purpose and it would never have been discovered in that relationship.
In the thick of the storm, all of these events are unpleasant, filled with pain, self doubt, and can lead to a big pity party. It has taken me fifty years, but I have come to the conclusion that these situations are just cosmic two-by fours smacking us hard in the ass. These stingers are really opportunities to get back on the correct path. When it happens, the pain is tremendous and must be felt and processed over time. In the rear view mirror, they can be blessings.
I do not have the “thank you sir, may I have another” attitude. But the next time the universe chooses to smack my backside, I will try to find the silver lining sooner than later.