Our lives are a balance of mind, body and spirit. It’s that bargain between the three that keeps us healthy. But what do we do when one of them is not keeping up its part of the bargain?
I walked these very roads back in 2017. And it was challenging, to be sure. Not the least because of the time of year. But I made it from the pain of the Pyrenees, and I felt stronger each day as I got closer to Santiago. On that trip I was working more on my spirit than anything. But this trip is different, in so very many ways.
This time, I am hurting all over. But that is a good thing. My body is awake again. And because of this it reminds me just how much over the past two years I have neglected my body. Perhaps neglect is not the word. Shunned would be more like it. Pretended it didn’t exist.
The anniversary of my dance with the Covid devil is coming up this week. The moment everything changed. There is a before and after in my life now. A demarcation line. Before that I cared for my body. I pampered it with treatments, weekly massages, -icures by the score, exfoliations, and so much more. I loved it all and I felt great.
After Covid, my body failed over and over. It was like a train wreck that you watch in slow motion and you can do nothing about it. Even my friends were fed up. ‘It can’t keep this up. How many more things can happen to you?’ And I was asking the same questions. None of us had the answer. And what bothered me the most was that usually fearless me became afraid. Very afraid, of myself. Afraid of what else my body had in store for me. What time bomb was ticking that I couldn’t see? And when would the next one explode? There seemed to be an endless supply.
My heart and lung problems scared me the most. You can live without a bunch of other pieces of your body, but those two are kind of important.
I coped with all of that by completely disconnecting from my body. I began acting like it didn’t exist. Yes, I took the meds prescribed, but I stopped even looking at anything below my neck unless I was forced to. Even during tests, or the many times I was in the hospital. No more massages or spa treatments. I barely rubbed lotion on my skin in the past year. Like a child who is afraid of monsters under the bed, if I didn’t look at my body nothing else would happen to me. I know that sounds immature and irrational, but its true. And I didn’t really understand the extent to which I had gone until today, a few hundred kilometers into my Camino.
When I started walking this time all alone, I felt like this was a make or break trek, and not because of my knee. I wasn’t really sure if my body would be up to the test. Would I be able to breathe up the hills multiple times a day for days on end? Would my heart stand up to hours of exercise after what it had been through? Yes, I had walked for a few days last September before I tore my meniscus, but this is a marathon of exercise. And it is hard for people half my age. Would my body ultimately let me down, perhaps for the final time?
But so far I am doing it. On day 10. And for the first time in a long time I am having cease fire negotiations with my body. My shunning and pretending it doesn’t exist is over now. Its time to see it again. To look at it honestly and to stop being afraid. To make peace.
This body has fought hard through so many things. I should celebrate her, rather than ignore her. And on this trek she is talking to me all day long. ‘Rest. Drink. Eat. Go for it up that hill! STOP. Just Stop!’ Now, I’m not kidding myself. I am not the person I was before. I have a previous Camino to judge it against. And likely, physically, I never will be again. But on this trip, every day, the ever present specters of fear I have carried for two years is being dropped behind me on the trail. Little by little. And I just know when all three of us walk into Santiago together we’ll be holding hands as equal partners. Mind, body and spirit. Finally free.