There are two curb cuts that provide ample ingress and egress to a giant parking lot at my local gym in Boise, Idaho. While most of the parking spaces are paved, there is an excess unpaved parking lot that leads to a bank parking lot and eventually onto another road. This back road does shorten my commute, but I always get an icky feeling when I take the convenient shortcut. Last week, the bank erected a 100 foot-long bright orange plastic barrier to discourage autos from indulging in this route. The ground was very wet due to heavy recent rains. I was perplexed as cars created fresh muddy ruts while destroying green grass to get around the barrier.
During my 2012 walk on The Camino de Santiago, I imagined the ranks of Romans and millions of pilgrims who crossed before me. I felt an attachment to my predecessors and became charged with the energy they left behind. I was walking in the footsteps of two million people and leaving my own prints as a welcome mat to those who would follow me. Knowing that these people had been here allowed me to feel a connection to a community when none was present. Early in my life, I followed a different path that was plowed by my father and his father.
Beer debuted in my life during Jr. High. The grip was encompassing, but like my father, I was given the functional gene. Good grades and a solid business career masked the disease. During the walk, I began to think about my days in college and how many drunken nights I had wasted being wasted. I did a little accounting and figured that those nights lasted for 24 years! I realized that my adult life really began on the day my dad died and I made a commitment to sobriety. I thought about my father and how he had missed a big opportunity to regain his life on Jan 18, 1964, the exact day his alcoholic dad died and I was born.
When I stopped drinking in 2001, the reflections were quite astounding. I started thinking and feeling again. While stuck in the fog of alcohol, I had no ability to see that it completely permeated my life. I was like a person wrapped in a big wad of blankets who could not feel the chill of winter due to the insulation. Alcohol prevented feelings from penetrating my head, heart, and soul. Booze infiltrated 99% of social occasions and was usually a precursor to most activities. What else would one do at a tailgate party? Dinner without wine…are you kidding? Friday night…bring it on.
Signs and faith in signs were very important throughout my journey. Walking nearly 500 miles through a foreign land without a map, dependent on little yellow arrows, can wrack anyone’s nerves. By letting go of the worry and placing trust in the arrows, I became confident that I would eventually arrive in Santiago. No need to question or overthink these little arrows. There were two times that I lost the Camino, each lasting for less than one kilometer. Within 100 steps, I knew in my head and heart that I was on the wrong path.
For 24 years, I drove through the grass to avoid the obvious orange barrier. For the last 19 years, I pay attention to the signs presented by my inner guidance system. The ride is much smoother.