Prompt #73: Insiders & Outsiders
Writing Prompt, May 2023
I am writing to you from Pamplona, where we are taking a layover day on our journey of the Camino Francés. The plan is to hike approximately 550 miles to Santiago de Compostela and then onto the sea. The distance still feels a bit daunting, as we have only hiked about 50 miles, and that seemed like a lot. It would have been a little less, but we took an unexpected detour on Day 2 (otherwise known as getting lost). If you would like to follow along on my Camino adventure, I am posting over on Instagram.
Many people embark on this journey as a faith-based spiritual journey (the end is the supposed tomb of St James) and there are no shortage of Catholic churches and shrines along the way. Some take the trip, searching for themselves. And others still are hoping to let go of something they do not need or no longer serves them.
The religion I subscribe to is that of nature, and the outdoors is my church, but that’s not why I’m doing this trip though the juxtaposition of culture and nature in the Spanish landscape is interesting to be sure. I’m also not searching for myself. I spent a good 20 years traveling around, looking for myself and making a ton of mistakes in the process (and wrote about that in Bad Tourist). But I have been thinking about what I might like to give up, what I have been carrying around that no longer serves me.
As I mentioned in an earlier writing prompt, I went to a hypnotherapist in order to let go of my fear of flying, and I am happy to report, it worked. I have traveled on a number of airplanes since, some through turbulent skies, and I wasn’t afraid the way I used to be. Because of the success of hypnotherapy with the fear of flying, I scheduled another appointment, hoping to let go of the heavy grief I have been carrying since my mom died six years ago. We tried, and finally, the therapist said, “You aren’t ready to let it go yet,” and as soon as she said it, I realized she was right.
But when I started this trek, I wondered what it would mean if I concentrated on letting go of grief. I want to be clear: I do not think grief is something to get over. It’s not like a broken arm that heals and then only sometimes aches in rainy weather. It’s the amputation of an arm. The initial sharp pain may go away, but your arm never grows back. You must learn to live without an arm. And though I have written a book called Animal Bodies about loss and grief, I still haven’t gotten used to my missing arm. In hopes that I can learn to live without it, I have set my journey’s intention: