My flight touched down in Chicago last night after almost 24 hours of traveling. I am home now, close to six weeks after I left. And while in one sense it is so good to be home – to have a hot shower for as long as I want, use a real towel, sleep in my own bed with clean sheets, walk the streets of my neighborhood in the cool morning light as I head to one of my coffee shops – in the other, it is terrifying. I had six weeks away from the day to day – six weeks of self-discovery, of newness, of walking slowly, of inhabiting silence, of learning to listen to God, to my body, to others, to the world around me. I had six weeks where I did not eat a single meal alone. It was lovely. Six weeks of talking to strangers and finding that we weren’t strangers at all, but family. Six weeks of simplicity – of sharing – of community – of delight.
It has changed me. I feel more free – more myself – less afraid – less isolated. More who I want to be, more who I was made to be. I return tired, but full to overflowing.
And the thing that gives me pause – that scares me more than anything – is that I don’t want to lose that. Now begins the process of learning to walk the Camino here in Chicago. Friends have told me this, and commented on it. I have read that the true Camino begins once you arrive in Santiago, and realize that your entire life is a pilgrimage – and that what matters is not only the destination, but the process of arrival.
I remember returning back to college after spending four months in Nepal and India with WMF, and being terrified that I would slowly forget the lessons I had learned – the relationships I had made – the people I had met – the growth that had happened. And I didn’t want that at all. So I made changes to my life.
That process begins again today. As I look back on this last year, much of it seems covered in fog. I was existing, but not really living. Isolating myself from those who loved me, seeking intimacy and relationship from books and TV and movies and fantasy and imagination… So, time for changes.
I’m not sure yet what those changes will look like. Simplicity. Relationships. Sabbath. Community. Slowness. Grace. Celebration.
But my goal for the Camino was to learn to hear God more clearly so that I might be more closely attuned to the things that really matter upon my return to “normal life.” Now begins the hard work of continuing to walk when there aren’t necessarily yellow arrows spelling out your next destination.
Or maybe I just need to learn to pay a little closer attention to what’s around me…