“Fresh Eyes”


Day 14

Well, Kym summed up yesterday afternoon so well with this statement: “this is a death march.” It was 97°, and we were walking into the city of Burgos for what seems like forever. We left the quaint countryside for the metropolitan scene and complete 2/3 of this 251 mile journey. My daily average step count is 35,000, and I am overjoyed that my knee is holding up just fine. Sore feet is given at the end of the day. Kym and I have both got heat rashes on  our calves. The “lemonade” is that the hot sun is usually at our backs. 🙂 

So now today is a rest day, which I’m doing one time per week, and Kym has just left via bus to return to Madrid, and Mark, Miles and Ruby are now on a train headed to Burgos! Both kids have gotten their braces off while I’ve been gone over these last two weeks, and I’m kind of stunned at how grown-up they look now. For me, I get really caught up in the day-to-day living, and can struggle to sometimes step back and see the bigger-picture changes. This time away and the post-braces look has really let me step back and see their growth, their uniqueness, and how they are finding their way in the world. They are incredible, really.

Here is something I’ve learned: I really love variety. 24 years ago, when Mark and I had around-the-world plane tickets, I remember a poignant moment when we were sitting in New Zealand in a grassy park. “I’m bored. We are having this amazing adventure, and for some ridiculous reason, I’m bored and have lost my spark.” So the next day, we separated ways for two weeks where he traveled north and I traveled south. and I was immediately reignited. So here’s what I learned: I need alone time. Connection is one of my top values, but when I don’t have breaks from being with others, I tend to lose myself. I am an extrovert but with strong needs for introversion. When I don’t have a long time, I become passive and lose one of my other top values, which is taking initiative.  The other thing I learned was this: being that I love novelty so much, sometimes I need to work harder to find it when so much seems the same. I mention that now, because I had a similar moment on this trip. One morning I woke up with this feeling of “same walk, different day.” And the beauty was that I recognized it, and with this, I was able to make change. First, I talked about this crappy feeling with someone who loves me. I could hear my coach, Andrea, in my head say “Julie, there you go again. Trying to figure out everything on your own, in your own head.” So by speaking it into the world to Kym, I could  take it from the background of my mind, and put it into the forefront. And anytime I do that, I can see a path forward better. With my desire for renewed curiosity and “fresh eyes,”  I started thinking about all the different and unique things I could seek out and focus on.

Bridges, the language, town entrance signs, food, doors, door knobs, geometric patterns, subtle differences in each field, Camino signage, the diversity of backpacks, animals, weed ID in my plant App, vegetable gardens, tractors, conversations with other travelers, cafes, cathedrals, murals, clouds, the history, bathroom signs, the number of people with knee braces or a KT tape… the list is endless. With this, and seeking some alone time daily, I am rekindled! 

With this pilgrimage trail dating as far back as the ninth century, it is commonly viewed & utilized as a retreat for spiritual growth. I have been saying that my goal on this walk is: to have no goals. But that doesn’t exactly capture what I mean. My at-home life is so full of goalsetting and planning and strategizing. And it absolutely serves me and I wouldn’t change it. But here, I am experimenting with letting goals and interests unfold. And to really listen. To be present.  But to also realize that this moment is fleeting, and whatever the feeling (good or bad), it will pass.  the consistent experience that I’m going far is: deep relaxation.

Another thing I’ve had a chance to really learn in real time, is the four stages of team dynamics, forming, storming, norming and performing. Around day four with both Bizzy, and then in the next week, Kym,  we had some good conversation that took us from storming norming. A true testament to living through the stages and not trying to avoid: if we have trust and empathy in a relationship, we can have incredible depth, connection, and work through all things. Now knowing that, stay tuned for four days from now, to see how things are going with the family. 🙂

Another thing I’ve learned in real time is what incredible gratitude looks like. Both Kym and Bizzy could be world leaders in the subject. They stop, they notice, and they really feel it.

So we are at the two hour countdown until I see my family, and I’m so very excited. Once completing the 17. 1 mile trek into town yesterday, Kym & I relaxed in the air-conditioning, and then I delighted in taking my one week old salt-stained clothes to the laundromat. We enjoyed a few “aguas con gas” (bubbly water) and decided to skip out on the tapas-style dinners and hit the grocery store for tomatoes/avocado/Dijon mustard/baguette. Thank you to Dawn and Suzanne, two American “pilgrims” from Texas who gave us the great idea!  After sleeping in luxuriously until 8 AM, I had a breakfast of croissant, toast, a peach, cafe con leche, a piece of sheep cheese. And a tortilla (not to be confused with the flat circular thing that wraps a burrito; it’s egg and potato quiche that is the most common food in all the cafés, and you’re lucky if you find one with vegetables). Back in Flagtaff I have a smoothie as a late-morning breakfast: here I am a completely different beast. 

 The best things I packed: sunscreen/sun hat/sunglasses, hydration bladder, knee compression sock, Google Translate app, and a lacrosse ball to work on sore muscles. And a US/Spain plug adapter, although I left the first one in an outlet, and Bizzy gave me her extra, and then I left hers in another outlet! Luckily I just bought another one this morning for two Euros. Apparently due to the sleepiness of my mornings and the snugness with which they fit into the outlet (so I pull out my cord & call it good) , it is the breadcrumb trail that I am leaving across northern Spain. What I wouldn’t bring next time: rain pants. And anything that makes me hot.

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