The summer before the pandemic hit I felt the pull of the Camino de Santiago —The Way of Saint James — a 500-mile journey – a pilgrimage – across northern Spain that ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Deeply missing our life of travels in the military, deeply depressed, fat, and in need of motivation, I felt a stirring of hope inside whenever I considered taking this very long walk. I could picture myself praying and lighting candles in dozens of churches, large and small along the way. And the people I would meet! I talked to my husband about it and made plans to go in April 2021. My desire was to walk solo,but I loved the idea of going with one of my cousins or a close friend.
The adventure I craved was second to the deep desire I had to have uninterrupted hours, days, and weeks to keep my heart open to God, open to change; to finally feel like I belonged in the Church that adopted me in 2016 after I left Protestantism. After a few years of study and prayer, I joyfully joined the Catholic Church. I was in no way treated like an interloper but sure felt like one. I had a Catholic heart, Protestant thoughts, and no peace. My heart has stayed restless and dark with occasional glimpses of God’s grace that I don’t deserve. Sometimes it feels like depression steals your soul.
Plan in place, I bought new walking shoes, downloaded Duolingo to my phone to learn Spanish, and bought a copy of Moon’s Camino de Santiago. Pacing myself, to start, I walked a couple miles a few times a week on our nearby nature trails and was quickly sidelined by my chronic plantar fasciitis. I did all the things one should do in this condition, but the pain didn’t go away and hasn’t gone away. I mostly walk on the ball of my foot now and it’s always painful to touch. I know I will need surgery – I do have a bone spur as well – but will not go in for evaluation until I lose enough weight so that the first thing the doctor says to me isn’t lose weight.
I know it will probably be another few years before the coronavirus is no more of a threat than the flu, but I’ve allowed myself to start thinking about Spain again. I re-started Duolingo (I hit a 60-day streak tonight) and will soon break out the Spanish program I bought last year. (I had also been wanting to learn Spanish to better communicate with people in my volunteer work). It’s not easy learning a language at my age. My memory is absolutely useless most of the time. Just tonight I teared up in frustration as I made the same mistake over and over. I just have to keep at it — something will stick.