The Bridge into Santiago

This is a physical bridge but it was also a mental bridge. This was the point where you should know why you did El Camino or, if not know, at least have an idea. I had my reasons, I had my excuses, I still had doubts. I could give you a few reasons. I could make them up for the sake of writing or telling. I know that on more than one occasion I had thought I had found the answer. Really it doesn’t have to be a reason – it has to be whatever you take out of El Camino, not what you went in with.

My Camino began nearly two years ago. It was one of those lightning moments that hits when you are not expecting it. It happened at a Spanish class at the Technical College in Bangor.

This was not a great time for me so I have to say it could have been anything that triggered the feeling that I had to do something. I could have been anywhere and the trigger could have been the wrong one, god knows I’ve had a few of those in my days.

The film we were watching was “The Way” with Martin Sheen and his son Emillio Estevez and while on the Camino I met lots of people, mostly Americans I have to say, who had also been touched by this film.

It’s not particularly spectacular or action-packed and it could be said it was a little bit cheesy but to me the idea was stronger than the actual story itself.

The instant the light went on in my head the butterflies started. I knew this was the thing to do. I have never been that certain of anything in my life, never. This was more down to where I was in my head at this moment than me being sure this would actually work.

As the months turned to weeks and then days my certainty of decision only grew stronger even though my heart and my stomach were not exactly confirming this my head was forcing me on.

I was pinning a lot on this, it had to work. I’ll have to wait to finish this summary to be able to say whether it has or not. You’ll have to be patient with me. I don’t fully know the answer myself yet.

The leaving of my girls and my beautiful AM was tearing me apart. Surely something so good should not make you feel so bad. This feeling was proving to me even more how much I needed to do this. I don’t believe anything important in your life happens easily. You need an element of doubt, trepidation, even fear to understand the importance. The easy decisions I have made before have nearly always been for the simple things in my life, the ones that don’t have an alternative.

My heart was ripped out of my chest as I watched AM stand at the front of the hotel in Dublin as I got the bus to the airport. I didn’t even think I could make this short part of the journey. She disappeared all too quickly and I was alone, really alone amongst hundreds of people in the airport.

At the airport I switched into automatic and tried to concentrate on my flight to stop me dwelling on what I was leaving behind and switch into peregrino mode. Not easy to do as I had nothing to judge by, I was travelling into a completely alien world.

This was the point when I knew this was a different sort of journey. I was in control of everything I was going to do for the next month and, good or bad, it was all up to me.

I think the very fact that I was being “selfish” was a major part of what I believe doing something like this about.

I was being totally selfish and I knew this from minute one. You can’t decide to leave your responsibilities on hold for a month and not be selfish.

I had to do this. There was no real choice. It was for me. There would not have been a me for much longer had I not done this.

When people have said before they were going to find themselves on a journey in their life I am not sure they actually mean themselves. I believe they already know themselves and are just seeking confirmation. Someone who has already made that decision in some way knows they are using that part of their being which is the selfish part. That’s ok.

The selfishness in me was changed by the Camino. Yes, I was being selfish in going in the first place but when you get there everything changes. There are people everywhere that give of themselves. The talking, the sharing and the warmth of strangers re-enforced my belief in humanity. That sounds insincere when I type this but it comes from my heart.

The angels I have spoken about throughout my blogs are part of this humanity, they are real. I know they are real because at every point that I had some sort of issue I experienced a change in me. This is not a sort of religious lecture. This is an explanation of my experience. I can’t say it any other way than it was. It was a changing of me.

I hope that I was someone’s angel. I hope that I had an effect in any sort of a way on someone’s journey. That was what I learned. Be someone’s angel if even just once in your life and you will come away a better person. It’s a win-win scenario.

You don’t have to call them angels and there don’t have to be only seven of them and you don’t have to even believe in the stories I have told. I know I believe in the idea. I don’t pretend to believe that a kitten is an angel but I do know that something changed in an instant for me at that time. So I can call it what I want, I can pretend it was anything I want. I know that when I had these experiences I changed.

I have lots of angels in my life now. Some of them I have had around me for a long time and didn’t really appreciate. Some I have just met and some, I hope, I will meet in the future.

I have changed my life at least three times that I know of. Family, close friends and my recent angels know some of my changes. If I was to believe that there are only seven angels you will meet on your journey then I think that would only leave me a few for the rest of my days. No, there are angels everywhere. You need to look for them by looking at yourself.

I have often said, to the annoyance of some, that I know myself totally. I have said that I know my thoughts and the reason for those thoughts. I know why I do things.

The one thing that proves me wrong is meeting angels. They can totally change your perception of things and can actually change you.

So, I have come to the end. I have come to my reason. I have come to the point of the Camino and of me.

This has been the hardest blog to write because it is not about the things I have done over the course of the last couple of months but it has been about my life in total.

The Camino for me was a way to look into my heart and make decisions and make changes.

My Camino is my Camino. I’m sorry I can’t put that into words that will mean anything to you.

I don’t have “a” reason, I have hundreds of reasons.

I can’t give you a get out, I’m sorry.

As I type this while waiting for the rugby to start the Johnny Cash song “Hurt” is being played. Love that song. The last few lines are sort of apt:-
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way.

I have found my way – I wish you to find yours.

About CJ

Setting out 1st September to walk El Camino. I am walking the French Way and starting at Logroño. My wonderful wife is joining me at Sarria to finish the walk with me.
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